How to Rock...The Demo Lesson



As someone who is applying for jobs, I have had the opportunity to complete several demo lessons. If you are applying to a teaching position, chances are you will have a demo lesson in the process (in my experience, it goes interview, demo lesson, superintendent interview). If it's the summer and they don't have access to children (or adults pretending to be children) you might not have to do a demo lesson, especially if they have already seen you teach, let's say as a long term substitute. 

But I've always had to do a demo lesson and from my experience I've picked up some tips:



Have name tags (blank or even better already filled in) before the lesson. 
I have had demo lessons where the children already have name tags, which was awesome, but I've also had two demo lessons where the students didn't have name tags. One was in the summer and the kids were coming from a local day camp and the other was when the students were coming back from PE. 
Let me tell you, the situations where the students had name tags went SO much better. When you know the students names, the students feel welcome and appreciated. They feel acknowledged and you look more professional. I'm fairly good at remembering names, but it takes me about three times of connecting the name with the face to be able to fluently use the students’ name. Which, you guessed it: In one lesson, it led me to only remember one students name by the end of the thirty minute lesson and it was because I kept reprimanding him, which is the worst way of using a student’s name: connecting their bad behavior with name specific attention. The student learns that a teacher saying their name = something bad. 

Have a classroom management strategy. 
Keep it simple, just as a way to call the students back together, to get their attention and to use during transitions. In the past I have used a bell that I ring to get the students attention. The key to using a simple classroom management strategy in a demo lesson is to take time to explicitly teach the strategy to the students. It is completely worth it to take 5 minutes out of a 30 minute lesson to teach how you expect students to respond when you ring the bell (or clap your hands, or say "One two three"). The rest of the lesson runs a lot smoother when you do this. I've had demo lessons where I have forgotten to add the classroom management piece or I brought my bell but was so focused on the lesson that I never took time to explicitly teach the strategy. When it came time to draw the students back together (after a partner share or whole class activity), they heard the bell, quieted down for about a second, then went back to what they were doing. I could tell their mind process was "What's that noise? Okay anyway, I think for the action word we should use...” 
By not clarifying what the bell meant first and having them practice, they didn't see it as a signal. Teaching the students the signal beforehand also puts you in charge and in a place of respect. It sets the expectations and they know the rules. If they don't know the rules, they can't follow them. 
The only thing I wouldn't recommend is doing something too complicated. This is not the time to teach all of the Responsive Classroom or Whole Brain strategies! The key is to Keep It Simple and have it be something that will be useful and usable in the lesson. A bell might work well with older students who are more cued in with environmental clues, but with younger students teaching a chant might work better. 
I recently have started looking more into Whole Brain Teaching (YouTube it: There are many awesome classroom lessons using Whole Brain) and one of the cues I can definitely see using in future demo lessons is Class Yes. Here's how it works: You say "Class" and the students respond "Yes". You alternate on this by Saying "Oh Class" and students respond with "Oh Yes." You can also say "Class, Class, Class!" and the students respond "Yes, Yes, Yes!” By alternating your tone and the exact wording it ensures the students are focused and really paying attention. 

Teach your lesson before the demo lesson.
I don't care if you teach it to your goldfish, your coworker, your family, or to actual students. By running through the lesson before the actual lesson you are able to see what works and what doesn't, see if you are missing any pieces or materials, see the timing of the lesson, and see if the lesson makes sense chronologically. You want to make sure that you work out any issues the lesson has before the lesson. It's also helpful if you choose a lesson you have already taught (or even just part of a lesson you taught before). One of the best demo lessons I taught I based on a lesson from my student teaching. I expanded it a bit to meet the standards and because I was so familiar with the core of the lesson I was able to focus on the classroom management, student engagement and transitions. By practicing beforehand and using material you know, you are more comfortable and more confident (keys to rocking any lesson). 


Stick with the lesson
During my personal teaching experiences (not during demo lessons) sometimes I would think, 'Well, this is going awesome, you know, I'll just skip over the next section!' or 'Hmm. I only have 10 minutes left; I'll just skip to the closure.' 
No. Just no. It won't work. You put that part of the lesson in there for a reason. Okay, yes, sometimes students "get it" quicker then we think but did they really "get it"? The next part of your lesson is usually key to branching to the next part and the next part and...You get the idea. 
What happened with me is when I skipped parts of my lesson when we're into the next section, students have questions or are confused and could have benefited by the cut out part! Or you skip to the closure and the closure makes no sense because you missed part of the lesson!
During the demo lesson, you are with a class you probably don't know, with six or seven adults watching you, and it can be very nerve wracking. That’s why it’s so important to keep calm and stick to the lesson. In my experience, this is not the time to improvise! 
That said, sometimes you do simply run out of time (well, if you didn't practice in front of your goldfish!). In this case, when you realize you only have five minutes left, draw the activity to a close and recap what the students learned, then provide extensions to the students of what they would learn next, basing it on the missing part of the lesson.

Have a copy of the lesson as well as any handouts for each of the observers. Usually the people who have interviewed you are also the people observing you. Sometimes not (in one case only the vice principal interviewed me, but during the observation she was joined by three teachers). I generally print out 10 copies of the lesson just to make sure I have enough. I have never had a demo lesson where I had 10 observers (the largest number was 7) but it's always better to be prepared!


Dress like yourself, but dress aware.  
At one lesson I wore a black maxi skirt. It was with first graders and I knew I would be moving around a lot. Long skirt = covered, right? Except it was a very hot late spring day and I felt like I had wrapped a wool blanket around my legs! 
There is a teacher in my district who works in all four schools in district. She goes from Kindergarten to high school seniors, from state of the art air conditioning to no air conditioning. She always wears these really cute skirts but I couldn't help but wonder: How does she pull that off at the elementary school where sitting in a chair means your knees are somewhere by your chin? Then at the end of the year staff picnic (where everyone else was struggling to get onto the picnic benches and not flash everyone else) she revealed that she wears black spandex shorts under her skirts. The shorts are short enough that you don't see them but they provide coverage so you can feel comfortable you won’t accidentally flash someone. Brilliant!  
That said, I prefer either nice pants, or a semi fitted knee length skirt now for demo lessons: you’re comfortable, but you’re also covered! Win win!  And don't be afraid to let your personality show! Wear colors, prints, etc.! As long as you aren't distracting from the lesson I think your outfit should be something that you like. 

I think underlying all of these is to be organized and be prepared. If you know what you're going to do, doing it is so much easier!

What makes you (or made you) rock your demo lesson? I'd love to hear!




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