I Have a Teaching Assistant for Math! ...but how can we best serve our students?

You just found out that you have a teaching assistant during math for the school year. Awesome!! But you may be asking yourself, what is the BEST way to work together to help your students to grow? A few simple "do"s and "don't"s will get you on the right track.

It can be so tempting to quickly describe the activity you are planning on doing as your TA runs into the room (and let's be real, they are running because TAs are amazing people who are spread sooo thin!) This method sells your plans short and will impact your students in a negative way. This means time taken away from your students as you have a quick chat and it also means that your TA will not have the opportunity to clarify and really understand your plans to the fullest. Plus, you have to go through this same routine each time your TA comes in.

Instead? Find time for a 10 minute appointment once a week. Honestly, that's all the time it will take. You will have peace of mind that your TA knows what is expected in the classroom and your TA will feel comfortable coming into a room knowing just what is in store for them.

Asking a TA to deliver new instruction is a big no-no. First off, your TA is not necessarily a certified teacher. They have not been specifically trained to understand what to look for in students as they are gaining a new skill, how to cut off misconceptions as they emerge and how to connect this new learning to prior instruction you have given. Don't get me wrong, the TAs I have worked with have been amazing and very well could teach the lesson but this is an unfair expectation to have.

Instead? Plan activities, practice pages or math centers that build upon the initial instruction you have given. As an example, take a look at an outline for a sample week of instruction in my math intervention room.

The activities listed as "Instructional Activity" would be the initial instruction delivered by the classroom teacher. The next column over, "Independent Activity", is an activity which reinforces the instructional activity.

When students complete the independent activity in my intervention room, I monitor their work, look for misconceptions and support... but only if needed.

If you have a TA in your room, your students can still enjoy this level of support but you could be freed up to pull another small group, to pull for an assessment, or to teach students in any way necessary.

If you click HERE , you will go to my Google Drive where you will find a free sample of the outline above. You will receive the lesson and all necessary materials for the day 1 instructional activity, independent activity and ticket out the door listed above so that you can try out this format in your classroom.

When there are multiple adults in the classroom it can be very easy for students to look for adult support... and sometimes that means too much adult support! Make sure that you and your TA have a conversation at your weekly meeting in terms of what you would expect your students to try independently and what you anticipate they may need more support on. You may even give your TA some prompts based on the anticipated road blocks in the activity you are assigning. I wrote much more on the topic of independence in THIS blog entry. Allowing and expecting independence is often an overlooked strategy for our learners with the greatest area of need.

And last, but certainly not least, at your weekly meeting make sure to spend 2-3 minutes talking about which students you and your TA noticed performing well on their own and who they noticed might need some additional support. The success that one of you noticed might be directly attributed to something that the other did and it is awesome to have that affirmation! In terms of need, your TA will have unique insight into how your students are doing when they are expected to work independently. Take advantage of this window of insight!! Share what you notice and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate the success together!

Research Based Strategies 

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