8 quick ways your classroom “helper” can make a big difference to learning!

Have you got the pleasure of an adult “helper” in your lessons at any point this term? A classroom assistant? A trainee teacher? A parent? A governor? A colleague? A work experience student? If so, you’ll want to keep this month’s Practical Tips Gift handy to make sure you can always maximise their precious presence in your lesson!

Supercharge your Sidekick!

I’ve been in the role of “helper” in classrooms many times for many reasons. When I started my teacher training, I was expected to observe and sometimes vaguely invited to “assist”. I was desperate to help and “add value” to the lesson, but I was never clear – or confident – about exactly what was the best thing for me to do.  Even when I was a parent-helper, a visiting governor, or a peer-coach, it was often difficult to guess how best to support the learning.  I know there will probably have been many occasions when I’ve had a brilliant extra adult in my own classroom who has felt superfluous and under-appreciated. In fact, in my early days as a teacher, I was actually quite nervous about asking a teaching assistant to do something!…

Whether it’s a trainee teacher, a teaching assistant, a parent, or a sixth-form helper, if you‘re lucky enough to find yourself with an aide in your classroom then thank your lucky stars! And if you’re not feeling completely confident about the best way to deploy your super-powered sidekick, here are a few effective ideas you might not have thought of!…


8 quick ways a classroom “helper” can make a big difference to learning


NB: Before you can expect a helper to support the learning they will need the following information:

  • What you’re hoping learners will be better at by the end of the lesson.
  • What you’ll need to see the learners doing in order to know for sure that they’ve achieved the objective.

If possible, give your helper at least one good example of the kind of work you are hoping to see from learners. If relevant, include helpful annotations.


  1. Ask the helper to gather the questions that learners have as they are working. For example, circulate with a notepad and pen, asking questions like, ‘What are you wondering as you do this?’, ‘What part of this are you finding most difficult?’ or ‘What would you like some more help with?’ This valuable information can be brought back to a “WonderWall” or directly to you so that you can use it to inform your subsequent teaching.


  1. Invite your helper to circulate around the classroom, taking care to ascertain who is ‘getting it’, who isn’t and who is finding the work too easy. Ask them to get an idea of which learners are engaged in the task and which are struggling to remain focused. If possible, they should make written notes – either to help inform your teaching during the lesson, or to reflect on afterwards. All of this precious information can be relayed back to you. In essence, your hero-helper can help you assess the impact of your teaching as you teach!


  1. Ask your helper to create some appropriate sentence stems or phrases to get ideas going for learners who may be stuck or slow to get started on a written task.


  1. Invite your helper to pretend they know nothing and ask individual pupils to explain the concepts to them. This will help to ascertain those pupils’ level of understanding, as well as encouraging the pupils to review and consolidate what they know.


  1. Identify pupils with poor attendance or those who have missed previous lessons and ask your helper to re-cap on previous learning with those learners to ensure they are up-to-date and fully understand what’s going on.


6. Ask your helper to act as a chairperson with a particular group during collaborative work to ensure that even the least confident  learners are encouraged to contribute in an enjoyable and non-threatening way.


7. Invite your helper to devise/produce/supervise an irresistible extension task for stretching and challenging “early-finishers”.


8. Ask your helper to listen carefully when you introduce the task to the class, and then convert your instructions into a flow chart, series of pictures, a time line, a time clock or a set of post-it notes for learners who might need further explanation.


Finally, if you ever hear  a colleague say they’ve got an extra adult in their classroom who “just kinda gets in the way”, feel free to hand them this little list, or, better still, pinch their handy helper for your own lessons!

Now it’s your turn! What are your favourite ways to make the most of this precious resource?

Isabella 🙂

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