03/28/2013 by Molly Donovan |

An A+ Sample Lesson: Your 5-Step Guide

classroom of students raising hands

If you’ve been invited to interview on campus, congratulations! This is an opportunity to get your foot in the proverbial (and literal) door. After rigorous pre-visit screening — often complete with a phoneSkype, or conference interview—the on-campus visit is often the last step in a candidate’s path to getting hired.

You already know what to keep in mind when approaching your on-campus interview. One aspect of the day you should be certain to prepare for? The inevitable sample lesson.

In all your conversations with the school’s hiring contact, you’ve done a lot of talking. You’ve discussed your educational philosophies and pedagogies, described your past accomplishments, and shared your goals for the future. What you haven’t done, though, is demonstrated what you do best: teach.

The sample lesson is one of the more important parts of an on-campus interview, and it can be daunting. Your hiring contact will tell you what material you should cover, but it’s up to you to teach it to a new group of kids in front of a set or two of judgmental eyes. When you walk into that classroom, you’ll want to make sure your lesson plan is air-tight. Here’s how.

1. Overplan

Here’s a secret: your sample lesson isn’t so much about the material you cover as it is about the vibe you create in a classroom. Don’t worry as much about drilling the material; focus instead on moving the lesson forward and engaging with the students.

To do that, you’ve got to over-plan. Imagine this cringe-worthy situation: the students aren’t getting as involved as you’d hoped, and you run out of things to say. You don’t want to end early and stand awkwardly for 10 minutes asking if anyone has any questions.

So when you plan your lesson, overdo it. Have a contingency plan in case the kids just won’t bite so you can end naturally, right before the bell, after controlling the discussion for the whole period.

2.  Watch a Pro

If you’re a rookie teacher and haven’t actually led a classroom before, don’t go in cold—make sure you observe a pro. Ask a mentor teacher (or former teacher from your own school days) if you can observe his or her classroom for a day. Take notes on the intangibles: how does the teacher greet the class? How does she silence chatter? How does she tease participation out of a reluctant contributor? Whether they teach math, chemistry, or Mandarin Chinese, good teachers do certain things that make them good. Observe, see what works, and apply those techniques to your own lesson.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

You could go over your lesson in your head all you want and memorize your greeting, intro, and examples. You know exactly when you’re going to ask questions and when you’re going to open the conversation up for discussion.

This is all well and good, but in rehearsing alone, you’re not allowing yourself to expect the unexpected. Recruit “students” to watch your lesson and trip you up. Try teaching your roommate, your significant other, or your mom, and encourage them to ask questions. If you feel sheepish, good—better to struggle through any discomfort before you get to campus.

4. Wear Your Game Face

On the day of the interview, step up your game. It can be nerve-wracking to teach new kids, especially when you’re being critiqued. For that hour, though, forget about the interviewers. Try to imagine them as decorations in the classroom. Instead, focus on the students. Make eye contact. Smile, particularly if you’re nervous—the action might have a psychosomatic effect and trick your brain into confidence. Bring all the zeal and pep you can muster—your positive energy—more, most likely, than your discussion of Byzantine architecture or the Pythagorean theorem—will become ingrained in the memories of the students and the interviewers.

5. Use Names

How are you supposed to learn the names of 15-20 kids you don’t know? Don’t worry—you’re not. But you should try to use students’ names if you can: it will help you connect with them and keep them engaged. If you’re a whiz at name-retention, awesome. If not, ask students to make table tents with their names on them. Call on students by name, and plan activities that keep them involved. This will endear you both to them and to the interviewers, and it will make you feel more in control of your lesson.


Don’t let the pressure of a sample lesson overwhelm you. Practice, practice, practice, bring your positive energy, and focus on the kids. When you remove the pressure, the watching eyes of your interviewers, and the discomfort of your unfamiliar interview clothes, this is just another day of doing what you do best. Don’t worry, teacher: you’ve got this.

Image credit: iStockphoto.com

Back to Blog

Leave a Comment

1 Comment

Andres Eguiguren 3/12/2019 at 12:36am

Some straightforward, logical and useful advice here. Having only had to do demo lessons twice in my career, I wish I had read this before my most recent one!