Preparing for your lesson observation!

Jasmin Choudhury

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Lesson observations are always scary! It does feel a little like you are being watched in a zoo and performing tricks and it is often a stressful time whether you are an experienced or inexperienced teacher. How you do in lesson observations is linked to performance management.


How a teacher delivers his/ her teaching and learning and ensures every child makes progress is a much talked about topic in senior leadership meetings and department meetings. If you were a teacher – twenty years ago, almost everything depended on that one off lesson observation and woe betide if things went wrong!

A bad observation could destroy a teacher completely even though their everyday practice was good and better. Similarly, such an approach celebrated those teachers who could perform under pressure but were not necessarily carrying out consistently good and better teaching each and every day. In recent times, the use of lesson observations has become more sensible.

Evidence of teachers’ performance is collated over time and is one part of the teaching and learning process.

These are then triangulated with book scrutinies, evidence from learning walks, data analyses and the care, guidance and extra support given to the child. (i.e . extra interventions, care plans, individual education plans, specialist teaching). Careful planning preparation will help ensure you have a positive observation!

Here are a few tips that may help you:

  • Planning for the lesson plan ahead of time:
    Check the monitoring schedule well ahead of time and find out when your observation is. (Every day is important in teaching good and better lessons but on that day, you want to be on top form.)

  • The actual lesson plan:
    - This will usually be done a few days ahead. Think about what you will be teaching. Remember, teaching is usually formed of sequences of topics or lessons. So think carefully what that lesson you will be observed in will look like.

    - When actually planning the lesson, think about all your groups and their abilities. In particular, your Pupil Premium children, SEND and low achieving pupils. What will you be doing to ensure that they make good progress in the lesson? How will you know that they are making good and better progress? Be clear on your success criteria.

    - Show your lesson plan to your teaching assistant and parallel teachers and address the feedback that they give you. Teaching assistants are great as they help practitioners simplify things as we can sometimes over think things.

  • Annotations of Plans:
    Annotate your lesson plans and try to do it every day! If you haven’t been doing so – start now. The annotations should take two minutes. Think about each group you are teaching and their next steps.

    They are a chore but they make you reflect on the teaching and learning and streamline you into teaching sharper and more effective lessons.

two teachers discussing-1

  • The Enabling Environment:
    - Look at your learning environment – is it an “enabling environment”?
    - Can children access learning?
    - Do you need to revaluate your seating positions?
    - Do children use the learning walls and visual aids you have created to support them?
    - Is there evidence of pupil voice and reflective learning?
    - Is there work that you have displayed where pupils have shown good progress or resilience?
    - Is there an area where children can go to if they are stuck – like a “learning pit” or a growth  mindset aids?

    Get other teachers to have a look at it and also enter the classroom in different roles- the pupil, the senior leader, the Ofsted inspector. Is it a place where children thrive.

  • Books:
    Keep your books marked and up to date. When the date for lesson observation draws near, it is natural to get a little stressed. By keeping them marked and ready, you can focus on your lesson plan delivery. Children’ s understanding of presenting their work using the school’s standards should be embedded now. Is there a mixture of teacher, pupil and peer feedback?

  • Behaviour management:
    Check how this is going ahead of your lesson plan. Your class should be well versed in routines, being calm and settled when they come into class and should start work readily and follow instructions straight away.

    Use positive praise and have a smiley face or a similar resource at the back to remind you to praise pupils. On the day of the observation, have a smiley face sticker on your hand to help you praise them. When we are stressed, we forget to praise.

  • Voice Moderation and Teacher talk:
    Practise moderating your voice as a form of behaviour management. Try putting a coloured piece of card at the back of your 
    class to remind you. Cut down on teacher talk and use open-ended questions and talk partners to facilitate pupil talk.

  • Using the team approach:
    Use the support of colleagues. Part of the teaching standards is about you driving your own CPD. Check in advance if you can observe a more experienced teacher and if you need support planning – arrange to do so. Try to organise the support well in advance as people are busy and even experienced teachers are usually observed once a term.

teacher book
  • The pupils:
    Make sure your pupils know their targets and next steps. Give them the chance to respond to the feedback you have given, even if you have to create time. You should have had these discussions as part of everyday practice but if you haven’t – make sure they know.

    Talk to them and let them know that they will have visitors in the classroom to have a look at their learning. Don’t tell them you are being observed. Children are great and supportive and try hard on the actual day.

  • The actual day of the observation:
    Be calm and prepared. Get into work early. You should have had everything ready the night before and briefed your teaching assistants.

    -Usually, the observers are senior leaders and they come in pairs so that they can moderate their judgements. (During Ofsted inspections, the headteacher and deputy head are actually observed- this is to check that their judgements on teaching and learning are accurate.)

    -Have two chairs ready and a copy of your annotated lesson plan so that they can see what you are teaching and identify the learning journey.

  • Feedback:
    You should get feedback on the day and written feedback as soon as possible. When you do, reflect and address them readily. If you have a difficult observation, don’t be overwhelmed – it happens!

    You need to think about ways to turn things around and ask for support where necessary. 

Good luck with the lesson! In teaching – it isn’t much to do about luck but more about planning, preparation, refection, resilience, resourcefulness and stamina. If it is a good school people will be there to help you.

Observations are not the only way to develop good and better practice. Regular performance management, appraisals and meetings with your NQT Induction mentor should be supportive and effective with a “developmental and not judgemental” approach.

Moreover, the feedback you get should be precise, measured and achievable and most importantly develop you as a practitioner.

However, if there are teachers who are not performing, then clear planned support must be given and that difficult conversation must be had.

As practitioners, whether we are senior leaders or teachers, we are all bound to the teaching standards which binds us to ensuring every child succeeds no matter what background they come from.



About our Community Expert


Jasmin Choudhury
Community Expert

Jasmin has extensive experience of working in a variety of settings which have included being recruited to work schools in special measures and concern as well as outstanding.

Jasmin has been qualified as a teacher for over 20 years and has been a Deputy Head, working mainly in some of the most deprived and challenging schools in the UK.

Opogo is a community platform designed to help schools attract and retain the talent that’s right for them. Our social hub is packed with rich content from our community experts. And through our ever-evolving Smart Match technology, teachers can be booked for work simply and quickly.

Sign up for FREE