Teaching assistants can be an absolutely blessing in your classroom. However, they can also be a burden if there is a negative relationship or if they are not used properly. Amy recommends ways of working with your teaching assistants to have the most positive outcome for you both and, of course, the best learning environment for your students.
Top Ten Tips for using Teaching Assistants
- Communicate outside the classroom - This could mean emailing them a seating plan or resources in advance or meeting for a quick coffee in the staff room to discuss strategies. A small investment of time before the lesson is well worth it!
- Develop a strategy - Is your teaching assistant attached to a certain pupil? Even if the answer is yes, you can still use them to help others. In fact, attaching teaching assistants to individuals like glue is not always beneficial and can foster a resentful relationship between the student and teaching assistant.
- Consider using your teaching assistant to extend Gifted and Talented. This could include sending them to the library for an open ended research task, or an extension activity.
- Use support groups for the less able. If some students are really struggling, don't be scared to send the with the teaching assistant to another classroom.
- Teaching assistants can be used to give out and collect equipment and resources. However, consider whether this is the best use of their time. Can't pupils do that?
- You can use your teaching assistant for rewards while you focus on discipline. For example, your teaching assistant can go around giving out house points or credits.
- Work together on behaviour. Make sure that you discuss behaviour strategies together and unite! You can use your teaching assistant to escort removed children to another classroom and also to give behaviour warnings provided that you are in agreement about what is acceptable.
- Literacy and Spellings - your teaching assistant can use a whiteboard to write spellings, or correct capital letters in students books.
- Differentiation - Using a teaching assistant to target individuals as support is classed as differentiation. You don't need a differentiated resource every time if it is not appropriate or necessary.
- Use your teaching assistant for other jobs if you need to and if they are willing, as long as they will improve learning. For example, using a teaching assistant to put posters and displays up while children are on task and not in need of help is beneficial because it is improving the learning environment for those students.
Your teaching assistants are such a valuable commodity. Respect them and communicate them. Value them by saying thank you and sharing ideas. Investing time into your relationship with your TA may be the best investment that you make during your academic year!