Yaaay! Form time. Seriously, it’s my favourite thing, because it’s valuable time, in which I can get to know my students and bond with them. I really, really like it.
My first tip for form time is this: Make a schedule that gives your form structure, and establishes a routine. My routine is the following:
Monday: Silent reading and planner time. The students read a book that they got from the library in silence, and they have their planners on the desk, ready to be signed (Nice, calm start to the week).
Wednesday: Quiz day / Thought for the day (discussion)
Thursday: All about me day. Every week, one of the students gets to tell the class about themselves. They make a presentation about what’s important to them, and what they are all about, and at the end, you ask the class what they’ve learned about the student that they didn’t know about them. If it was a good presentation, give them a merit. My year 7 loved it! Especially the part, where they got to pick the following week’s candidate by pulling their name out of a hat.
Friday: Mindfulness day. Listen to a short meditation, make it very clear that silliness is not tolerated. If they don’t fancy taking part in the meditation, they can colour something in, read, or draw something, but they can’t disrupt.
Make a sign for the door, so that no one gets to disturb the mindfulness session, and turn the lights off / blinds down.
Having this routine in place leaves you enough flexibility for it to not get boring, but also makes sure it doesn’t eat up too much of your time. Here’s a PowerPoint that you can adapt to your needs, and amend every week. It is also great for students on the autistic spectrum, because they appreciate structure, and don’t like sudden changes.
Other form matters
Be interested: I know, there’s a lot to do, and it is overwhelming, but if you do it right, having a form will become one of the highlights of your teaching. Make an effort to be interested in your students. Get to know them. Show them appreciation by going to see their performances once in a while, and praise them for their achievements. Also: know their birthdays and celebrate them. I used to look for a version of ‘Happy birthday’ with their name on YouTube, and we established a cringey tradition of awful birthday songs.
Be aware: Know what happens with your form in other classes. If a student gets behaviour points for not doing their homework, or similar, speak to them, ask them why, and ring home, when complaints from other teachers come in.
Be friendly and approachable: Always say good morning, and wish them a great day, when they leave! I vividly remember thinking: ‘Why doesn’t this teacher even wish us good morning; surely that’s not too much to ask.’ And I still think I was right. We are role models, and saying hello and good bye surely is a form of basic respect for other human beings. Do it with a smile :).
Uniform check: If your school has a school uniform policy, establish a routine of checking the uniform before they go off to their first lesson. Line them up, and check the uniform, tie, lanyard…, no one gets to go before everything looks neat.
Be visible: This should be a general rule at school, always be visible, and sit in line with the door, so people can see you from the outside. This is predominantly a safety measure for you.
Set targets: If someone has developed a habit of not doing their homework, or getting behaviour points, help them by setting targets. Always keep in mind that corrections, and targets are there to help the student. You always want them to become better, and work with them and in their favour. That’s your job as a teacher. So if there are behaviour points, talk to them about it, tell them not to get in trouble next time, and say: ‘Your target is to not get a behaviour point until Friday, and I’ll check’. If they know that someone cares, and will check, there’s more motivation not to screw up again.
Be strict and consistent: I’m not saying be a monster, but have set rules. If someone is late, and I mean anyone, you challenge them, and record their lateness. No exceptions, it’s a rule that applies to everyone.
Seating plan: You can change the seating plan every half term, in order to switch things up a bit, but always have their best interest in mind. Who works well together, who needs to sit close to you, so you can keep an eye on them, etc.
How to be: be assertive, approachable, clear, consistent, kind, interested, on time (!), dress smart, know your pupils, be supportive, have a routine, be positive, have a sense of humour, be for them.