Moving to Teach in the UK? Here's What You Need to Know

Post by: Prospero | August, 31, 2022
Careers in Education
Overseas Teachers
Supply Teaching
Teaching Strategies

Are you thinking about moving to the UK to teach? The thought of teaching in the UK may feel daunting if you have recently moved from overseas as a teacher. You’ve read about the differences to the curriculum, but what about student behaviour and lesson structure? What is it like to teach in a UK classroom for the first time? In this post, we will look at three key aspects of lesson delivery that you need to get right if you are going to successfully teach in the UK.

moving to teach in the UK

Moving overseas to teach in the UK is now a popular destination for teachers from Canada, USA and Europe.

1) Avoid lecturing or using too much ‘teacher talk’

Students in the UK are not used to sitting and listening for extended periods of time. Allowing students to practice skills independently frees up the teacher to circulate the room and this is incredibly important in order for the teacher’s awareness of all students.

This is not possible if students are being addressed from the front of the class for periods of longer than 10-15 minutes, because students are passive rather than ‘actively learning’.

When circulating, if a teacher discovers that individual students are making mistakes or getting stuck, they can address this on a one-to-one or small group basis, whilst the other students continue. Additionally, adjustments can be made to behaviour by encouraging those who are stuck, giving positive praise to those students doing the right thing, and directing instructions to those who not meeting expectations.

Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning is really important to ensure that you know whether your students have understood the learning. Don’t rely on individual questioning, because it doesn’t give you the opportunity to screen the class for understanding. You can use mini-whiteboards or true/false activities etc. to screen the whole class. It’s tricky to get the students used to this in the first place, but it’s really important that you are able to do this, so it’s worthwhile putting in the effort to train them. And it’s a fun little activity for the kids which is a bit different! 

For more information, read: “How can I use Assessment for Learning in Lessons?”

Assessment for Learning

Using questioning techniques when you teach in the UK

When questioning, it is really important to avoid throwing out questions to the whole room. This is for a few reasons:

  1. Students will shout out if they know the answer because you have not given them clear direction as to HOW they should answer the question.
  2. You are likely only getting responses from the same children who are confident to answer.
  3. Children who do answer are already confident, so it doesn’t give you an idea of whether the class as a whole are understanding the learning.

Once you know the classes’ names, address them first and then the question: ’Name, what do you think…’ Or, ‘put your hands up if you can tell me…’ If you are using a hands-up method, then  ignore students’ answers who shout out: ‘I can’t hear you unless you raise your hand and wait.’ 

2) Always use a ‘do now’ or starter activity

Whether you are working as a day-to-day supply teacher or lesson planning, it’s always a good idea to factor in a 5-10 minute starter activity. ‘Do Now’ activities get children actively thinking from the first moment of the lesson. They are very common when you teach in the UK.

Open-ended challenges that require minimal teacher input are ideal. For example, writing a number on the board and asking students to record as many calculations as possible that give that answer. Do Now activities that don’t require books work well – i.e. using mini whiteboards and pens. This is so everyone can crack on with their learning without having to find books, borrow a ruler etc.

How long should a starter activity last?

Each ‘Do Now’ or starter activity should take a maximum of 10 minutes including the feedback. If the questions are more challenging or require students to write out lengthy answers, then the feedback needs to be short and snappy. The teacher needs to be strict with the timings for this. Whilst students are completing the starter, the teacher should be setting expectations for good behaviour, completing the register and preparing for the start of the lesson.

Using pre-written methods or answers could speed up feedback time and students can quickly mark their own work. Teachers need not spend additional time providing feedback on these activities, and if they are aware of a weakness of the whole class, they can use this in their future planning. It is essential that the lesson content is delivered without delay.

Use a timer really helps the students to come in and settle. Most of the students will have a go at the starter, but there will still a few that don’t join in. Try and address this where possible: ‘thank you Amy, Fred and Kate – I need everyone doing the Do Now. Sophie, that means you too thank you’ etc. just make sure you are not allowing students to choose whether they join in. At least if you have addressed this then they know that you care that they are all doing it. 

For more information, read: How do I start my lessons off right?

3) Provide modelled examples and success criteria

As mentioned, students in England are not used to sitting and listening for extended periods of time (longer than around 10-15 minutes). They will respond better to short, concise examples and then extended time to put this new knowledge into practice. This is sometimes referred to as guided learning. When you teach in the UK, aim to give simple examples of methods to demonstrate the skill students are working on, and plan carefully so that these demonstrate precisely the method students should follow.

Step for Success or ‘Success Criteria’

If a method is complex or requires a number of steps, it is a good idea for the teacher to break this down into sections and teach in steps, allowing students to practice independently between each step. It is crucial for engagement and behaviour management that students are allowed to work on their own questions without the teacher leading them from the board.

Textbooks are a fantastic resource for this, and teachers can simply pre-select questions for students to try and display an example method on the whiteboard whilst the students attempt these. NOTE: This modelled, targeted approach is much more effective than “turn to page 46 of your textbook and complete the questions.”

What about when you need to explain a new learning concept to the whole class?

When you do need to explain a concept and require the classes’ attention for 10+ minutes:

Make sure you demand the attention of everyone and don’t start your explanation before giving all of the students’ eye contact and ensuring they are listening. Ask regular questions of your audience to keep them engaged. Get them to give you all the info and do the explaining by asking questions: ‘Ryan, how many energy parcels do the electrons drop off at each bulb in the series circuit?’ ‘Kenisha, how is this different in the parallel circuit?’ ‘Versace, what’s the difference between how bright the bulbs are in the two circuits?’ ‘Chris, why do you think the bulbs are brighter in the parallel circuit?’ ‘Put your hand up if you think you can explain the difference between the two types of circuit.’ 

Expecting learning to take place by simply sitting and listening is not sufficient: question the students – pick some disruptive ones to give answers to easy questions and then thank them. Get them on side:

  • Check everyone has understood (not by asking “do we understand?” – but with a specific question that tests knowledge).
  • Using a quick true/false check using thumbs up / down is the simplest way to check that everyone has understood. 
  • If there are any misconceptions: ask a student who had it correct to explain to their peers. Again, reducing the need for too much teacher talk.

Use school-provided lessons and resources to teach in the UK

If you are lucky enough to have resources provided by your school, this should make planning much easier as you won’t need to think of all of the activities on your own. Make sure that you use these lessons, but go through them thoroughly the night before (or earlier) to ensure they are suitable for your class. Pre-planned lessons won’t be designed with a specific class in mind, so you will need to make adaptions to ensure the content is suitable. The main things to remember are that your students need:

  1. Precise direction and strictly controlled activities. Students crave structure and need it in order to succeed. Don’t give them freedom with their learning, such as deciding whether to do work in pairs or individually. Give really clear instructions verbally and write these on your slides as well. 
  2. Activities need to be active and make the most of learning time. Students should be DOING something at all points throughout the lesson. Copying down information or making notes on what the teacher is saying does not count as ‘active’ learning.

Thanks for reading our post on tips to teach in the UK. We hope you find the advice useful. Do you have a teaching interview or lesson observation coming up? Here’s how to prepare!

Check out our current vacancies if you’re looking for primary supply teacher jobs or intervention teacher jobs.

If you’d like to have a chat with a friendly consultant, then register your interest and we’ll be in touch!

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