If you’re applying for a teaching assistant position, you may be looking for guidance on what to expect at the interview, or advice about how to prepare for teaching assistant interview tasks that you are likely to be set.
There are several types of task that you may be asked to execute, depending on the type of school, and the ages and abilities that you may be working with. Here are some of the most common teaching assistant interview tasks that you may encounter.
General Classroom Observation
One of the most popular tasks that prospective teaching assistants are asked to carry out at an interview is a general classroom observation. This is basically just a trial run to see how you interact with the class teacher and the children in a classroom setting. You won't be expected to prepare anything for this type of task, just turn up and do exactly what you would if you got the job.
Of course, it's important to create the right impression, so there are several things that you need to bear in mind to be at your best.
Firstly, before the lesson begins, speak to the class teacher to find out what you will be required to do, if there is anywhere specific they want you to sit or if there are any key children they want you to keep an eye on. Find out which ability group you will be working with during the independent task and what the work will be.
During the teaching part of the activity, it is part of your role to ensure that everyone stays on task, so be sure to demonstrate your understanding of this by encouraging children who are not paying attention to concentrate fully.
Of course it goes without saying that you must appear approachable and friendly, but professional at all times, with a positive yet firm attitude towards the pupils. Learning the children's names and using them appropriately will definitely make the panel look favourably upon you.
Some schools like to set a written task as part of the interview process. This is a task with two purposes: to discover your level of written English, and to assess your understanding of the role.
For example, you may be asked to write a letter to a parent regarding an issue with a particular pupil, or you may be asked to watch a sample lesson and take notes about a particular pupil's behaviour with suggestions about how you could have intervened within the role of a teaching assistant.
In any written task it is imperative that you pay attention to good sentence structure and grammar as well as excellent punctuation as this is part of the assessment process. You should also ensure that your written task displays a full and comprehensive knowledge of your expected role and is written in a formal and professional tone.
Working With A Small Group – Secondary
If you are applying for a position as a teaching assistant in a secondary school, the kind of task you may be asked to complete is a little different from those that are common in primary schools.
You may be asked to prepare a maths or English activity for a small group of pupils, to achieve a particular objective and to cover certain topics. You should be told the subject and objective of the task in plenty of time for you to prepare, and also the length of the expected observation so that you can provide the correct amount of work.
Be sure to fully research the topic that you will be covering, especially the relevant vocabulary that you will be expected to use. Ensure that you plan your activity thoroughly; with any resources that you are using prepared and ready to go.
It is likely that you may be given a mixed ability group, so ensure that you have differentiated for different ability levels, and think about how you can make the task engaging and clear so that the pupils can easily access the work without confusion and will be encouraged to stay on task.
Working With A Small Group – Primary
If you are applying for a teaching assistant position within a primary school, you may well be asked to work with a small group of pupils on either a literacy or numeracy activity. You may be given a topic with an objective or you may simply be asked to create a short activity of your own devising.
The group will almost certainly be of mixed ability and may well include a child with special educational needs, especially if the position that you have applied for is to work 1:1 with an SEN pupil.
The panel will be looking for several things from this type of task. They want to know how well you can manage behaviour in a small group setting, how you interact with a range of pupils, how well you can differentiate and engage pupils of different abilities, and whether you can make a task interesting and fun.
If possible, choose a task that you have done before and had success with. If this isn't possible, choose something interactive, fun and engaging. The task doesn't need to be too complicated – it is likely to be only around 15 minutes long, but the more active the children can be, the more likely they are to stay on task.
Ensure that your questioning is appropriate to all ability levels and ensure that the more able children can be challenged.
Maintain your professionalism at all times during the observation, be firm, and ensure that everyone participates and completes their task. It is especially important to choose something that is age appropriate but not too challenging.
Whole Class Activity
If you are asked to complete a whole class activity, don't panic! The panel are interested in seeing how well you can interact with the class as a whole, and aren't expecting to see a blinding teaching standard lesson. Usually, you will be asked to choose a book then read the story to the children and use it as a discussion point or as a basis for a simple whole class activity.
The task shouldn't last any longer than 15 minutes, and will focus on your ability to engage with and relate to the children as well as your ability to communicate.
Choose an age appropriate book, prepare some questions for a range of ability levels in advance, and if you have to prepare a short activity, make it interactive and fun to keep the class engaged. Be sure to have all your resources ready to go.
Whichever activities you are asked to complete, it is important to stay calm and focused, and just behave in the classroom as you would if nobody was observing you. Remember that you are trained and capable of doing the job, the trick is to just be yourself and effectively demonstrate your skills to the interviewer.