Teaching Teachers how to create Magic

Teaching a class is a lot like driving. You learn all the theory, you get the practical experience, you pass the tests and then you finally become fully qualified. Only then you start to really learn what it is all about.

magic speakingOften teachers and teaching assistants are so pressured by the theory side of teaching that they forget about the magic of teaching.

Christopher Emdin, an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, explains excellently in his inspirational video that teachers don’t realise how to captivate their audience through the use of voice, performance and audience participation.

He encourages teachers to go out into the world and visit places of performance, where people are captivated to their speakers e.g. gospel churches and rap concerts.

These speakers are not trained to educate but they do know how to engage and captivate their audience. This is an essential part of being a teacher. Children find it so much easier to learn when their lessons are engaging and they love it when the teacher appears to be having as much fun teaching the lesson as they do learning it.

At Red Box we always try to encourage our supply teachers and teaching assistants to stay positive and to focus on engaging and exciting content. For a wide range of different teaching opportunities in and around London, why not get in touch?

Into Film Scotland

[redbox] school news blogThe Scotland Educational system has recently launched a new programme which will integrate film into the school curriculum in the bid to use films and film making to improve the quality of learning in schools across the country. They hope to utilise films to better communicate the act of learning to children in a more effective way than simply watching a film based off of a study book, or showing an educational film in place of a lesson.

Into Film Scotland

The programme has been backed by the British Film Institute and Education Scotland amongst other organisations. A part of the scheme will allow schools to set up film clubs where they will be able to access a ‘film library’ similar to Netflix or Hulu where they will have free access to thousands of educating films.

Many children are active learners, so instead of reading about history from a history book, or learning a speech on paper, the visual media provided by modern technology today will allow children to absorb far more information than if they tried to read it.

[teachers] film blog

Showing Their Support

The chief executive of the programme; Paul Reeve has stated that as the richest of the educational resources it is only natural to use films and film-making as a way to develop essential learning skills, as well as promoting communication and creativity skills.

He hopes it will have the power to inspire a new generation of thinkers. Even actors are backing the project, such as Film star Ewan McGregor.

RedBox Teachers are always looking for enthusiastic and qualified supply teachers and teaching assistants, plus as we help find accommodation for those commuting to London who wish to live nearer to their designated school, we can find the perfect job for you.

Inspirational Quotes

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” –Nora Roberts

Everyone has had dog days when they would rather just pull the covers up and the blinds back down and hide away from the world than get out of bed and embrace life’s challenges. It can be hard when you are faced with frequent negativity, and as teachers every day can be a struggle, particularly when you are trying to reiterate a difficult lesson.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –C.S. Lewis

However it is important to remember that the job you are doing is a fantastic one. You are helping to cultivate minds, and that is no mean feat. The mind is the greatest gift we have ever been given, and the imagination can take us to places we have never been before, so don’t shirk it!

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”- Gandhi

We hope that this little collection of inspirational quotes from those who have struggled through and made it to the light at the end of the tunnel will help you who are struggling to make that first step. Take the plunge, don’t give up, your pupils are counting on you!


“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”– Abraham Lincoln

[redbox]stars blog

Encouraging Group Discussion

To increase communication between students and to build a sense of community in your class, it is important to engage in regular group discussion. As well as encouraging the asking of questions and group discussion, it also helps to motivate your students to help each other in times of difficulty.

At Red Box Teachers we understand the importance of having a long lasting relationship with your students, whether the duration of your stay is just for a couple of months or on a more permanent basis. It is important for both supply teachers and teaching assistants to be able to quickly gain a sense of respect from their students, but to also help the class to learn and grow as a whole.

In addition to building a sense of community in your students, it also emphasises the idea that asking questions when unsure about a topic is always encouraged, and is not something to avoid. From a very young age we catch on to the belief that ‘being wrong’ is the same as ‘being bad’ when this is not the case. Engaging in the discussion of wrong answers and motivating the students to ask questions when they are concerned or unsure will help to allay these fears of ‘being wrong’ and you will also help your students to relax in class more.

Some good ways of facilitating discussion are:

pollTaking Polls when getting Answers

This is good for a general poll or when asking for a correct answer to a question. General polls are great for finding out new things about your students and can also highlight various areas that you need to focus more on; i.e. spelling or world history.

Finding the correct answer to a question in a poll is a good way of rewarding students for getting the correct answer while avoiding the potential embarrassment for students who happened to be not so lucky on that particular question.

Reiteration of Previous Lessons

By asking the class what you learnt about in a previous lesson it encourages the children to think back to yesterday or to last week and to remember what they had learnt. Repetition of the lesson will also reinforce the teachings of that lesson and encouraging a group discussion about it will help children to work together to fully reiterate what they had learned previously.

As always, careful encouragement and positive reinforcement of correct answers is the key to building a good relationship with your class. Soon they will be eager to participate in discussions, making it far easier for you to teach the class as a whole and later you may even see some shyer members of the class adding their own input to discussions.

Tips on Your First Day at School – Week 2

Last week we spoke about the first day of school, and the importance of being flexible with your lesson plan as well as letting the children get to know a little more about you as a person. So this week we are going to look at engaging with your new class so that you can learn more about them and how they learn best as a group.

Name Learning Exercises


This can be in conjunction with them getting to know you. As you go around the class, ask that each child says their name clearly and also says one fact about themselves. This can be anything from their favourite colour to the latest film they watched to the number of siblings they have. These answers will facilitate discussion, help to break up the tension and will also provide anchoring points in helping you to remember the names of your students.

Sometimes strange questions like: “tell us something about yourself that nobody knew before” can be good or bad. Try to read the tone of the class. This question could be good as students will be eager to think of an original answer, or it can be a bad question as it could cause long periods of silence. Simpler questions are in general better, but try to think up your own.


Teamwork is crucial. Building a sense of community in class will really help when engaging your students in class discussion. If you try to encourage the idea of your class as a ‘team’ by engaging in group activities and encouraging other children to help their peers who seem to be struggling, this will help your relationship with your class as a whole.

Students tend to perform better when you build a sense of community because they will feel more connected to the class and to the instructor. An established sense of community will help students feel more comfortable when they enter your class, which makes it easier for them to concentrate and makes them more receptive to your teachings.

Whether you are looking for full time or part time work, long term or short term, Red Box Teachers has a vast array of jobs suited to you. Plus for more long distance teaching jobs we can arrange supply teacher accommodation in the local area to help you in any way we can.

KS1 and KS2 Subject Guidance


If you have more time to plan in the morning you can choose something that will build on what the children have previously been learning. There are plenty of ideas contained within websites like Primary Resources and Times Educational Supplement (TES), (See list of useful websites). As we all know, you can never fully rely on technology so, just in case, here are a few tried and tested ideas!

Year One/Two


The alphabet word race. Encourage the children to take it in turns to say a word starting with a letter of the alphabet

How will you get across the river? Ask the children to think of as many ways to get across the river as you can. The children can start off giving very simple ideas like, ‘use a boat.’ Then, sometimes with a few prompts to use their imaginations, the idea builds to ideas such as, ‘use rocket boots to fly across!’

Main activities

Recounts. Ask the children to recount what they did at the weekend. I would model this and give them sentence starters to help using: What, Where, When, Who and Why. E.g. ‘At the weekend, I went to…’, ‘I went with…’ ‘We went because…’

Retell a story. With the children read a book and add a little numbered sketch on the board for each part of the story. As a class, use a sentence for each picture to help retell the story. Next, get the children to use these pictures, to tell the story to their partner. The children could then create a sentence for each part of the story for their activity.

Setting Descriptions. Show the children a big picture of a setting and words to help on the board. Try to make it a familiar setting so they have the words to help describe it. Get the children to think about what they can see, hear, smell, touch and taste in the setting. Model the sentences for the children e.g. ‘I can hear…’, ‘I can touch’…Then set the children the task of writing sentences about another setting you put up on the board.

Year Three/Four


Animal Alliteration. Give the children a letter from the alphabet, firstly come up with an animal that starts with that letter, and next come up with a few adjectives and verbs. Finally, put these together e.g. mean mouse munching, malicious moose mimicking. Set the children the challenge with a new letter.

Imaginative nouns. Show the children a picture of a noun e.g. a moon. Now ask the children to come up with as many new ways of seeing a moon as they can e.g. a moon is…an eyebrow, a smile, an earring etc

Main activities

Animal Acrostic poem. Following on from the animal alliteration game, this can then by made into an acrostic poem e.g. an athletic ant acting. A brave bear boxing. A cautious cat cartwheeling. Take this as an opportunity to remind the children of when to use ‘an’ and when to use ‘a’

Setting Description. Choose a picture of a setting that will capture the children’s interest such as a painting by Salvador Dali. Begin by naming the nouns in that setting. When a noun is named ask the children to extend with an adjective and a verb. Have the TA write these onto the board e.g. ‘The melted watched stopped ticking.’ Now pause and explain that we can improve the sentence by adding a connective so the sentence becomes, ‘The melted watch stopped ticking because…’ ask for the children’s ideas, the more inventive the better…so perhaps, ‘because the battery had stopped’ but maybe more interesting, ‘because it was bored.’ Continue in this manner and then show the children a new image and get them to create a series of sentences about the image.

Character Descriptions. Show the children a description you have written of a character e.g. ‘She flies across the night sky on a broomstick. Her hair is as black as the night. Everyone says she is very ugly because she has a wart on her nose. When she cooks anything she uses a large cauldron. Her favourite animals are cats, bats and toads.’ Ask the children if they know who the character is. How did they guess? As a class choose another character to describe using the same sentence starters. Get the children to choose their own character to write about. A fun plenary would then be to get the children to read their character descriptions to one another to see if they can tell which characters they have invented.

Year Five/Six


Quick sentences. Ask the children to think of a number between 5 and 10. Ask the children to share the number they thought of, then on individual whiteboards come up with a sentence that contains that number of words. E.g number= 5 ‘Monkeys swing through the trees. ‘You can make the sentences relate to the topic the children are studying too. So if the topic was Ancient Egypt and the number 4: ‘Canopic jars contain organs.’

Kung Fu punctuation. Teach the children the different actions for each of the punctuation marks e.g. full stop: a punch and a ‘huh’ noise, a comma: a slash through the air and a ‘ssshhh’ sound, an exclamation mark: a line drawn through the air with a ‘shhhh’ sound and then a full stop punch accompanied by a ‘huh’ noise etc. When taught, read through a passage putting in the punctuation in the Kung Fu style.

Main activities

Mr. Zigger and Mr. Zagger. Show the children the video of Mr Zigger and Mr Zagger by Pie Corbett (see the list of useful websites). Watch this a few times and then focus on the part where Mr. Zigger and Mr. Zagger meet. Use this as an opportunity to model how to correctly use speech marks and as a class create a conversation between Mr. Zigger and Mr. Zagger. The children now create their own conversation between the characters.

Playscripts. Take a well known story such as ‘Cinderella’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ Recap on what happens in the story and then write the opening to it in play script format. Model part of it, pointing out and using all the conventions required.

Guided Reading

Do find out what the usual routine is for this subject as there is a great variety of ways this session is delivered across London schools. A session normally lasts around 30 minutes, but some schools this subject may last an hour.

Often, the groups will have a preset book which they will either read independently, answer questions,or complete a short activity on it. The class will usually each have an individual reading book which they may read in the ‘Guided Reading’ session. Some children may listen to the story on CD or go onto the computer to research an aspect of their book.

If nothing has been left for you, use this opportunity to share a book with the class. As the book is read, ask simple comprehension questions and then ask the class to complete a short activity based on the book.

For year one and two, the children may write or tell you what they liked or disliked about the book, act out a favourite part with a partner or draw a part from the story that was read. These activities may also be appropriate for year three classes too.

For the older year groups I would set them something a little more challenging, such as writing a short diary entry from a point of view of one of the characters, creating 5 questions to ask the author about the book which has just been shared or summarising the story.


For children in year one and two, a phonics session is usually about 15o20 minutes, often built in as part of an English session. However, for many schools this session continues into year three too.

Try and discover what phase the children were on and use the session to revise what they had been learning.

There are many different phonic schemes currently being used across London primary schools. One of the most popular is the ‘Jolly Phonics’ programme, see link in ‘Useful Websites’.


In the older year groups, the time taken for phonics is replaced by a spelling session. Again, there is a huge variety across many of the schools but a tried and tested method is to say the word given first. Explain it’s meaning to the children, giving examples of its use in a sentence. Next encourage the children to clap out each syllable as the word is said then draw as many lines on the board as there are syllables. After this, get children to tell you which set of letters should go into each part. Finally, rub out the word from the board, say it again and tell the children to write the word and then put the word into a sentence of their choice. When you see the children are all busy writing their sentence reowrite the word on the board so they can check they were correct. Share examples of sentences created to show comprehension.

A helpful list of spelling and phonics words produced by Bellenden Primary School which is available on ‘Primary Resources’, see link in ‘Useful Websites.’


If no plan or resources are available, here a few tried and tested ideas!


Each of these starters can be adapted according to the different year groups.

Counting aloud. You may use the resource of a counting stick or number square which will be visible in most classrooms to count aloud. Count in 2s, 5s and 10s with year one and two. In 3s, 4s, 6s and 100s with year 3 and 4. In 7s, 8s and 9s with Year 5 and 6. Do count up as well as down. If you find that the class find this easy start from another number e.g. count in 3’s from 1 so: 1, 4, 7, 10, etc…

Shape guessing game. Year one and two; Have a feely bag full of 2D shapes for the children to describe the number of sides that they have. Can the children guess the shape from the number of sides it has. Replace 2D shapes for 3D shapes for year 3 and 4 and extend with asking for the number of edges and vertices. Ask the children in years 5 and 6, to ask questions themselves to determine the shape which it is. Recap on the link between faces, edges and vertices.

Mental addition/subtraction. Have a list of questions using appropriate numbers for each year group to complete in a few minutes. When the children have completed these, ask the children how they solved the problem rather than answer straight away. You will find that children will use different strategies so encourage this but focus on the ones that are most efficient.

My secret number. Explain that you have a number written down on your post it note and the children’s challenge is to discover what it is. You may only answer yes or no and each time a question is asked a tally mark will go on the board. Play this a few times and watch the children improve their use of questioning.

Main activities

Problem Solving. An example of a ‘stand alone’ session is to teach Problem Solving. There is an excellent booklet entitled, ‘Mathematical challenges for more able pupils’ which is freely available by using the link contained within the useful website section. As the title suggests, this booklet was originally designed to stretch higher achievers but is actually great to develop all children’s problem solving skills. Start the session with an introduction to problem solving and then look at solving one problem as a class before setting the activity of solving another in pairs with a piece of squared paper to jot down ideas. I would also show the children how to record the answer and a short explanation of how it was attained.

Maze maps. Teach directional phrases appropriate for each year group e.g. left, right and straight, north, south, east and west or coordinate phrases such as A5, B4, or (1,2), (9,10). Now using this knowledge model how to produce a maze map. Model how to write directions to get out. Children then design their own. For the younger children it has been fun to build the maze a pairs using cubes and then to direct a cube through, taking it in turns to say the directions needed. This does need careful modeling first.

Symmetrical Robots. For year 3 onwards creating symmetrical pictures can be a good stand alone session. Model for the children how to create a symmetrical robot or alien and then the children create one of their own.

KS1 and KS2 Subject Guidance

Foundation Subjects

Stick to the timetable for which lessons the class would normally have. Here are the majority of lessons you may be required to teach; History, Geography, Science, Art and Design, Design Technology (D+T), Personal Social Health Citizenship Education (PSHCE), Physical Education (PE), Music, Religious Education (RE), Information Technology (IT) or even A Modern Foreign Language (MFL). This is not an exhaustive list, however, I have taught sessions on subjects like Philosophy too!

In most schools, if these subjects are not covered in a cross curricular way and taught discreetly, the planning for each half term will already be in place.

If there is no plan in place, you can use one of the recommended websites to find an interesting stand alone session to do or simply use your imagination!

Teaching Acronyms – ATL – Association of Teachers and Lecturers, D+T – Design Technology, EAL – English as an Additional Language, FS – Foundation Stage, IT – Information Technology, IWB – Interactive Whiteboard, KS1 – Key Stage One, KS2 — Key Stage Two, LSA — Learning Support Assistant, MFL – Modern Foreign Language, NASUWT – National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, NUT – National Union of Teachers, PE – Physical Education, PSHCE – Personal Social Health Citizenship Education, RE – Religious Education, SEN – Special Educational Needs, TA – Teaching Assistant, TES – Times Educational Supplement