The #1 task of a teaching assistant is to help students understand instructions and to help guide students through activities. At this level, instructions are not usually said or written; they are shown.
The #2 task of a teaching assistant is to welcome new students, and help them integrate into the class.
The #3 task is to be a second voice in the classroom.
#4 – Assist with occasional administrative tasks
#5 – Support materials re-collection (for re-usable materials)
These are listed in order of importance. Tasks 1 and 2 are the most important; #5 is almost always the lowest priority.
Task #1 – Engage students to promote instruction
Model all passing activities, individual and mingle activities with the instructor, and with individual students
Explaining is not usually an effective way to help students at this level. We need to show them what to do. Even when the instructor models something at the front of the class, students often need to be shown how to apply that modeling.
Picture pass-cards: We pass picture cards around the room in a circle. This can start from any end of the circle, usually a stronger vocabulary student.
* Before/at the beginning of passing activities, remind students to put their pencils down and close their notebooks.
* Ensure that the picture pass-cards keep moving around the room. Engage at any weak point in the circle to keep them flowing.
* Assist the instructor in showing students the gestures and pronunciation for each word.
Note: Pronunciation does not mean that students need to sound like native English speakers. We focus only on helping students hear the difference between commonly confused Level 1/2 vocabulary, such as “daughter” and “doctor”.
Following the last circle:
Handouts: Check to make sure that handouts and homework are making their way around the room, following the same pattern as the last circle of cards
* Ensure that the sign-in sheet keeps moving around the room, following the same pattern as the last circle of cards; writing activities or individual work is the best time.
In mingle activites, students interact with other students, sometimes with people seated around them, or standing up throughout the class. Mingle activities always need to be demonstrated, either with the instructor/ teaching assistant, or with the instructor/TA plus a higher-level listening, speaking or writing student, who is a returning student. After the first demonstration, many students still need to be shown. A returning student may be asked to initially work with a new or lower-ability student, to promote understanding of the instructions.
Help guide students in the classroom:
Depending on student needs, both the instructor and the teaching assistant guide students in the following areas:
Speaking and Listening: Help students remember and pronounce vocabulary words, sometimes with reference to pictures, gestures, real objects or real situations.
Writing: letter formation, capital v. lowercase letters, spelling, spacing between words, end punctuation, the “to be” verb, pronouns and articles.
Reading & Speaking: As more literate students finish writing exercises earlier than other students, help them to pronounce and remember the vocabulary.
Reading & Acting: Guide more literate students in reading through the vocabulary cards, and acting out the vocabulary on each card, as needed based on the student.
Spelling Tiles: Help guide the students in sound/spelling relationships, orientation and positions of letters, naming the names of the letters, and directing them to listen to other students to help them spell the words
Task #2 – Welcome/integrate new students
* Welcome new students as they trickle into the classroom.
* Find out the names of new students, especially their first names. Make sure they are in the right classroom.
* Talk to students who wonder into the classroom, find out if they are ours, and re-direct them if not.
* Find or create name cards for new students. Each name card is created by the instructor or assistant to ensure that the first letter of the name is capitalized and all others are lowercase.
Some new students may need to practice letter formation before moving on to other skills. At a minimum, everyone should start learning to write their names – with correct capital/lowercase – from their first day of class. In very rare cases, students learn only to write the first letter of their first name by the end of their first week.
Task #3 – Be the second voice in the classroom
As students learn & review vocabulary, listening and pronunciation, it helps them to regularly hear a second voice.
The second voice happens:
* When reviewing the letters and the sounds of the alphabet as a class.
* Before students are asked to give routine presentations (reciting the letters, or reciting the letter + the most common sound)
* When vocabulary is introduced or reviewed.
Task #4 – Assist with occasional administrative tasks
Late arrivals & Early departures:
Use the sign-in sheet to track when anyone arrives after 8:30 or leaves before 9:40; just write the time. Otherwise, we’ll just count them as attending the whole class.
Make sure that early departures receive homework.
* Special administrative activities, linked to program funding:
Registration forms: Work with the instructor to guide students in completing registration forms (generally once a quarter)
Refugee documentation: When we receive a note from the office, ask students to provide forms for refugee documents I-94, green cards (or passports with special visa stamps- Afghanistan only). They don’t usually have them on hand. Just keep gently reminding them. When students bring them, take the paperwork to the office, and get assistance from the office to proceed.
CASAS test administration: Work with the instructor or instructors to administer CASAS tests (Reading CASAS and Listening CASAS), distribute and recollect testing materials, and help students find their Listening test rooms (once a quarter for each test).
Administrative activities are important, but often of low immediate priority. They should be done so as not to interrupt teaching and learning activities, unless they are specifically on the agenda for a certain day, such as CASAS day or Registration form day.
Task #5 – Materials collection:
Reusable materials & clearing space:
* Help re-collect re-usable materials, such as the picture cards. However, recollection is absolutely not a priority. The instructor and TA need to focus on getting students started on the next activity, and helping them to understand it.
* If space (often at the front) is needed for the next activity, then clearing that specific space becomes a priority. Sorting or putting away can be done later.
* Big pictures, when stuck to the board, can be pushed to a corner of the board, at or near the end of class or activity. Whenever possible, they should be pushed to a place where they will not interfere with the next activity or the next incoming teacher. The teaching assistant should allow the instructor to collect them after the class.
If you are interested in applying for this position, you are invited to contact me here.