Applying for an Early Years teaching role? Good preparation is key. Together with time spent talking with teachers and staff at the school the most common Early Years interview structure is a 30 minute reading activity with a small group of children.

When preparing for your Early Years interview, it is important to think about the children and how they learn best. Children at this age needs hands on, visual and sensory experiences. Special Educational Needs (SEN) and English as an Additional Language (EAL) children benefit from visual cues and the use of Makaton is a bonus.

Here are some tips and things to consider for acing the interview:

Timings

For a 30 minute session, children shouldn’t be expected to sit still and listen without any interactions for more than 10 minutes. Try making the story interactive, allowing the children to create actions for each character. Using puppets is always fun, or get the children to come up on ‘stage’ and be the characters! Use your imagination to make the experience as interactive as possible.

What are they learning?

In Early Years teaching and learning, Learning Objectives are not always as clear cut as other age groups. However this is the first thing you need to be think about when preparing for a lesson. Use the Development Matters Guidance Material (pdf) to find age appropriate objectives for your group of children. For example, if you decided to focus on children predicting the end of a story, tell the children this. You could say, “We are thinking and talking about how the story might end, using our imagination and having our own ideas” — notice the Characteristic of Effective Learning (see below) at the end of that. Make sure you refer to this throughout the lesson and talk about the learning as it happens. For example, “So you think at the end of the story the giant will eat the little boy! You used your imagination to think of a new ending.”

Characteristics of Effective Learning

The Characteristics of Effective Learning are statutory and there should be a huge emphasis on them in your planning, your lesson and assessment. You may want to put lots of focus on one, for example, “seeking challenge”. Or you may want to have 2 or 3 different characteristics in mind. Either way, you need to make sure it is in the planning and you comment on these learning dispositions throughout the lesson if necessary. Then, importantly, think about it at the assessment stage. Were the children concentrating? Did they give up easily or did they keep on trying? Discuss this with the panel when you’re offered time to reflect after the lesson.

Storytelling

Storytelling is an important part of Early Years reading, writing and communication and language. Reading a familiar story that they already know or using a book with repeated refrains, for example “The Gingerbread Man”, could get children excited to join in and become familiar with the characters, main events and structure of the story. It is also great for children with EAL and SEN when it is combined with visual props. As mentioned earlier, make it interactive and involve the children in the story. Having a big book alongside the storytelling, where you can read some of the words and sentences with your finger is also very effective—not too much of this, keep it fun!

Active listening

What better way for the children to learn the skills of active listening than for you to model it yourself? Make sure you listen to the children, REALLY listen. Look interested, comment on what they say and always stay positive, finding the value in all they have to offer.

Questions

To find out what the children are thinking, plan some open ended questions about the story and really listen. A great way to extend their thinking is through Sustained Shared Thinking. With this, the adult role involves modelling the thinking and a great way to do this is to put ‘I wonder’ at the start of your questions. You might say, “I wonder how the pigs felt when they left their family home…” The aim is to not keep asking lots of questions but for the adult and children to think about the problems in depth, together. It also takes the pressure off the children and makes their answers more genuine. It is great tool to use during play.

Activities

After your 10–15 minutes of storytelling or reading activity, there will be some time for a hands-on activity. Make it fun and take the age of the children into consideration. The book ‘Room on the Broom’ is a great book for rhyme and an example of an activity would be to get the children to make their own wands with sticks and ribbons, encouraging them to have a go at some rhyming spells as you model some funny ones! Be creative and keep it simple.

Some favourite books for Early Years

My favourite books for rhyme
Fox's socks, Room on the broom, Where's MY Teddy? Dinosaur Roar

My favourite books for alliteration
Pass the Jam Jim, Each Peach Pear plum

My favourite books for rhythm
Walking through the jungle, Brown Bear, Brown Bear (Try reading them with a drum!)

My favourite books for repeated refrain
The Gingerbread Man, We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Plenary

A Plenary in Early Years goes on throughout the lesson as you comment on the learning that took place. If it works well it can be recapped at the end of the lesson but it is not always necessary. For example, If the focus was on finding out information from non-fiction books you would discuss the various facts each child learnt and this could be recapped at the end. If the children were focusing on silly rhymes during a role play activity they could share them with the group as and when they think of one whilst the adult, you, places attention on this.

"Even if the lesson didn’t go entirely to plan they’ll love to hear what went into your planning, what you have learnt from it and what you would change next time."

Finally, make sure you know everything about your lesson. Why did you choose this particular story? What Characteristics of Effective Learning were you assessing against? What do you expect your more able children to learn? Why did you use lots of visual cues? Make sure you know the answer to these questions, along with others. You can talk about it after the lesson, noticing what worked and what didn’t. Even if the lesson didn’t go entirely to plan they’ll love to hear what went into your planning, what you have learnt from it and what you would change next time. They will see you as a highly reflective and knowledgeable practitioner. Good luck!


Claire teaches through Zen Educate. Ready to give it a go? Find out more about teaching jobs with Zen Educate

unsplash-logoCelia Ortega