Taking Turns – Supply Teaching Tip

Younger children can find it difficult taking turns. At home some may be allowed to go first each time. It was youngest to oldest in my house for some time and my brother got to go first! Other children may not have experienced turn taking at all. For example, if they are an only child or if they don’t play such games with their parents. It’s a difficult thing to do when your whole body is telling you to go first, be first, and have more than one go at a time. This is especially true when you’re having fun or feeling competitive!

Quoits - a great way to help children learn about taking turnsClassroom teachers often have their own methods of helping the children to ‘take turns nicely’.  For whole group discussions, it is a great idea to let the children know the rules of engagement before they start. Some teachers may go for a particular order, reverse alphabetically, or the way they are naturally sat. Others have ways to randomise, such as throwing a teddy to the next person to show them that it is their turn.  I thought this quoits set might be quite a fun way to do it. You pass a ring round and the children can take their turn if they hook it. [Image contains an affiliate link.] A tighter circle, or a mat to stand on to have your go is recommended for the younger ones. Of course, now I have given you the dilemma of how to organise taking turns with the ring!

Taking Turns – Your top tips

This quite kinaesthetic idea might make some supply teachers recoil in horror. Getting the children to sit quietly and listen to each other is hard enough for some. Consider this however: give them an inch, and they may just be grateful for it, rather than playing you and taking the mile? What do you think? How do you organise the little ones and help them to learn about taking turns? Let us know!


Value in a supply teacher’s ‘one off’ lesson plans

Supply teachers are often faced, for whatever reason, with no planning. SupplyBag.co.uk has a bank of emergency, one-off lesson plans here. I suggest however, that you work on creating your own bank of all-singing, all-dancing lessons, even if only one, in order to increase your confidence, and make you memorable!

Be a supply teacher with added value. You have the benefit of time. You can spend days without supply work, working on your supply teacher ideas.One off supply teacher lesson plans should add value to a child's education

Although I believe that you should never find yourself in a classroom with no planning, if you are, then it’s up to you to make sure the children are educated appropriately that day. You are familiar with the curriculum, take the opportunity to teach outstandingly. Find inspiration in places teachers bound by time and energy restrictions may not have thought of. Think about how you can instil awe and wonder in the children. Excite them. Find a starting point that has them eating out of your hand. Hold their interest, and behaviour management becomes less of an issue.

Being a supply teacher you are in a unique position to add value to a child’s education. Bringing an element of surprise with you, children should look forward to a day with a supply teacher, for very different reasons to those I remember myself! Many, many lesson ideas can be adapted to any year group.

It isn’t a bad idea to plan a whole day’s lessons in advance just in case. Don’t go into too much detail with lesson plans, if there are none left for you I believe the school is in the wrong and it needs to be addressed by senior management promptly, so they shouldn’t be scrutinising any plans you are able to supply. Think of a whole day theme… Think outside of the box. Think about something that you would be not just comfortable teaching, but excited about teaching about. It’s a privilege to be entrusted with a class full of children’s minds for the day… Make the most of it, and be the best educator you can be.

Remembering Children’s Names

by Sharon Wood

Supply teachers can have a hard time. A lot is expected of you as you walk into a strange room, in a strange location, full of strangers! There are many ways to help your day in the alien environment run more smoothly and effectively, and learning the names of the aliens, enhancing communication with them, is one of the best. Read on for top tips.

I have found over the years that nothing leaves a better impression with support staff (and therefore teaching staff!) than me having learnt all the children’s names by first break. I’ve got it down to a fine art now.

It makes an enormous difference to the effectiveness of my voice when I am able to tag the name of a child onto the end of a sentence. Teaching becomes easier, therefore I am more enthusiastic, therefore the children are more enthusiastic, and more learning takes place.

If you know the names of the children, marking work at the end of the lesson/day becomes much more effective too. Use the child’s name when marking, and remark on how well they contributed in the class discussion etc.

Learning Children's Names

Below is a garbled list of things that I do, some stand by themselves, some needing support from the others.

  • Arrive early enough not only to read the lesson plans for the day, but also early enough to get a grip on the classroom layout and to find and use all evidence of children’s names within it.
  • Collect the register early, and read it, and read it again.
  • Look at the names of the children on coat hooks/locker doors/drawers.
  • Look at the star charts, who has the most/least, and do they have teams/table names? It’s easy to learn the group/table names before the children come in and use them effectively.
  • Often younger children will have photographs on the wall, especially in the autumn term, with their names, giving, for example, a character trait/favourite book.
  • Aim to learn the names of five children as they walk through the door, introduce yourself, ask them their name, and commit it to memory (use alphabet/numerical help, physical attributes etc.)
  • Aim to learn another five, and revise those first five, while the children settle down in their chairs. These next five must be seated apart from each other – i.e. one from each table. If you arm yourself with the name of one child per table, you can then address each table separately – ‘Can the children continuing their conversation above me on Rita’s table, please stop now!’ To get a hold of this second lot of names, look at the drawers/coat hooks etc., that they go to, and ask to look at their book as they settle down at their table.
  • Listen to the children. You will hear another five before you take the register just by listening to the first ten children you have addressed. They will say things like ‘I haven’t got my reading log, I left it at Tom’s house last night,’ whilst pointing in Tom’s direction.


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  • Do not pressure yourself into learning any more during the register. Simply use that time to confirm the 15 you now hold in your head. Ask the children to put their hand up when you call their name, before they answer you. Look directly at the child and, after they have said ‘Good Morning Miss,’ you say ‘Good Morning Joe.’ Take in the face of that child now sat in their correct place.
  • Repeat the child’s name every time you talk to them, until you know you know it.
  • When you’re going round the class, red pen in hand, look at the front of the child’s book when you get to them, it’s always got their name on… and use it while you’re talking to them about their work.
  • Test yourself, and let the children know that that’s what you’re doing. At break time/lining up for assembly, let them know you’re about to give yourself a test, get them to stand behind their chairs, and they can only line up if you know their name. They love this game! Make an extra effort to communicate with the children you couldn’t name, after assembly.