I was interviewed in my current district over the summer vacation and they asked me to do a demo lesson. There were no students, just a bunch of administrators with clipboards. Where do you even begin to prepare for such a situation? Here are some tips for a great science demo lesson given the ridiculous hurdles that such a lesson presents!
What is a Demo Lesson?
Often, a school that is interviewing teachers for a position will ask their top 2 or 3 candidates to do a “demo lesson” to evaluate style and see if the teacher will fit the culture and community of the school.
We all know demo lessons are farcical. For starters, demo lessons are conducted at the end of the year when there are teacher openings. Students aren’t on their *best* behavior and have, in some cases, seen 3 or 4 demo lessons already. They know it’s not real and they don’t care enough to engage. The candidate teacher is a new face and often has been given little information to prep on.
Sometimes the interviewer will tell the candidate the scope of content the students have mastered, but often it’s a shot in the dark. Should I teach cell structure? Do they already know the rock cycle? Do the students have the requisite background information to be successful at what I’m trying to do?
Candidates must also craft a lesson that is complete – one entire piece of knowledge requiring no prerequisites and no follow up – that encompasses all of the skills an observer wants to see and all of the standards that the students are expected to reach.
It’s ridiculous to imagine that observers will be able to deduce much about teacher style in such a forced atmosphere. The pandemic has added another barrier candidates must hurdle – the virtual demo lesson! In this situation, the teacher is doing her lesson on Zoom. The “students” have no materials and no prior knowledge and they’re probably watching Seinfeld at the same time.
Administrators tell me that the demo lesson is more of an attempt to weed out the obviously unsuitable. Candidates might present well in a resume or in an interview but can’t speak in front of an audience or conduct a class. We all know those indescribable characteristics that make teachers *great* and they are not characteristics that are necessarily obvious in an interview. With that in mind, the content of the lesson is likely less important than the personality of the candidate. Either you’re an *educator* or you’re not, in the eyes of the observers.
Tips for a Successful Demo Lesson
If you want the job, your demo lesson must showcase your talents and convince the observers that you fit the culture of the school. Here are some tips for a great demo lesson in science:
- Dress appropriately. Even if it’s casual Friday, wear business clothes.
- Introduce yourself to your class by name and a quick 10 second summary of who you are. “Hi. My name is Ms. Zee and I’ve been a science teacher for 33 years.”
- Introduce the standard you’re addressing with an “I can” statement. “Today, we’ll be talking about Life Science standard 2-1 which says that, by the end of the period, you’ll be able to make a graph showing how factors affect a population size.”
- Give a mini-lesson on the topic.
- Change the pace by giving opportunities for students to talk to each other such as a Think, Pair, Share.
- Provide a brain break.
- Make sure students collaborate:
- Reinforce your concept by using self-checking worksheets, color by number review, or Boom Cards for practice. They’re a great way to have students practice what they’ve learned with minimal vulnerability yet still providing feedback to you.
- Provide an exit ticket. Be sure to refer to the “I can” statement so students can evaluate how well they’ve achieved the goal of the lesson.
Demo Lesson for LS 2-1
On the high school level, this standard says “Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanation of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.” On the middle school level, it says “Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.” With appropriate modifications, you can use this lesson for anywhere from grades 6-11.
- Introduce the standard you’re addressing with an “I can” statement. “Today, we’ll be talking about Life Science standard 2-1 which says that, by the end of the period, you’ll be able to analyze how different factors affect a population size.”
- Give a mini-lesson on the topic. To address LS 2-1, I wrote a quick slide show and cloze notes combo that will take about 5-10 minutes to finish.
- Provide a brain break. Since you’re doing this demo lesson online, I like the idea of teaching students how to say “Limit” in American sign language, or perhaps having them describe a photo of a large population (maybe a photo like this?) to see what it evokes.
- Student collaborative activity. For a LS 2-1 demo lesson, students can complete a hands on activity in which they analyze a population that is affected by limiting factors. I use a game in which 100 frogs are living in a pond. Through randomly rolling the dice or drawing cards from a pile (depending on whether I’m doing the lesson in person or virtually), the frogs are affected by different limiting factors.
- Provide informal formative assessment as a closure to wrap up the lesson. I use Boom Cards as exit tickets. They’re a great way to have students practice what they’ve learned with minimal vulnerability yet still providing feedback to you. Be sure to refer back to the “I can” statement so students can evaluate how well they’ve achieved the goal of the lesson.
Good luck on your demo lesson! I’m sure you’re going to WOW them! Let me know how it goes!