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The first five minutes

PGCE students talking about how they feel in the first five minutes.
You’re basically doing a performance, so before if I’m really nervous, I get a really dry mouth, a really dry throat, and I’m like [SOUND] and I have to give myself a pep talk. Like you can do this, you’re in charge, you’ve got this. And every time I have to do that I have to say no, you’ve got this. You are a teacher. I know, I’m training, but I’ve got to tell myself you are a teacher and get myself in the zone to just be confident and just fake it. If I don’t feel confident, just fake it enough that it looks as if I’m confident even I’m not feeling it and I feel really anxious inside.
The students always line up outside so as soon as I open the door and see them. Then it just all goes away and I’ll feel okay. But it’s just that initial anxiety that I feel every lesson. At the beginning of a lesson you do have some nerves, you have, understandably, some anxiety about standing up in front of a crowd. And that’s true of anyone and any time you have to get up and publicly speak. I tend to sort of switch mode a little bit when I get up in front of the kids.
All of the anxieties and worries that I have before going in, I still have them, but as soon as I get in in front of the crowd it seems to breeze away and I tend to focus on whatever subject material I’m there to teach them. I always greet my students at the door. So I’ll get them all lined up and I’ll go through, have a little chat to each of them. This is what we’re going to do today. Then I’ll hold the door and I’ll come in. And then, I’ll count down. That gets them in their seats, they’re ready. There’s something on the board for them to be doing. And you just need it to just be quiet essentially.
I’ve tried loads of things where I’m like let’s do bingo. It just doesn’t work, they’re too excitable, and it just starts the lesson off with a practical. And it’s like you have to just calm them down, and you have to just get everyone silent. Breathe for a minute, and then carry on with the lesson. I think the best way to start a lesson is to start off prepared. So if you can get into whatever room you’re doing your session in beforehand and and set up any PowerPoint, layout any resources, everything like that.
Get yourself in the zone, take a few minutes just to prepare yourself, then when the kids come in, bright smile on your face, happy, positive, happy to see them, greet them in a friendly welcoming way. And then try and have something for them to be doing straight away cuz the worst thing is if they’re coming in in drips and drabs and they’re all sitting around gossiping, it can be hard to get them back. So even if it’s just a big question to think about, or a picture to look at, or a puzzle to do, something like that just to get them thinking as they start off. Just get them excited about what they’re going to do.

The first five minutes of your STEM activity can be the most daunting. Watch the video above of trainee teachers talking about the first five minutes of a lesson and what they do to make a positive start.


The first five minutes may be quite daunting, but we would encourage you to go into a volunteering activity confident and positive. In this discussion, let’s talk about our main concerns and support each other by sharing our experiences and what we can learn from them.
  • What worries you about the first five minutes of your STEM session?
  • What tips can you take from the trainee teachers’ discussions to ensure that your session has a positive start and runs smoothly?

For some additional guidance, take a look at our Top Tips for Handling Presentation Nerves (PDF).

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Volunteering in the Classroom: Communication Skills for STEM Volunteers

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