How can teaching assistants help students engage in the classroom?


Teaching assistants play a key role in supporting classroom teachers, as well as helping to engage pupils and aid their development.

There is the full-time equivalent of more than 271,000 teaching assistants working in England, according to the latest government data – the highest figure for more than a decade.

Although teacher assistant jobs won't always be easy, there's always a solution to a challenge. When it comes to boosting engagement in the classroom, there are a few options and we'll take you through them. What's important is to remember that the best methods to use will depend on the students that you're teaching.

From working with pupils on a one-to-one basis, to providing guidance and support when it is needed most, here’s how teaching assistants can boost pupil engagement.

Supporting the classroom teacher

Creating an effective learning environment relies on school staff making students feel comfortable and safe, and TAs provide valuable support to teachers to help make this happen.

TAs have an opportunity to build trust with pupils and to assist with communication so that all tasks and lesson materials can be understood.

This helps to keep pupils focused on the subject matter while minimising any potential disruption to their learning or that of others.

Why communication with teachers is vital

Communication with the teacher and in advance of lessons and practice active listening. This will put you in a better place to answer questions that pupils may have.

Providing clear answers and guidance is crucial when looking to keep pupils engaged, as it ensures they understand what they are being asked to do.

A teacher can also talk through the learning aims of the lesson and provide details of any pupils who may have specific learning requirements and can take this into account when providing answers.

Encourage pupils to discuss their learning

Some TAs will work with individual pupils, while others may work in small groups, but all should be encouraged to talk through what they are learning.

Not only can this highlight areas that pupils might not fully understand, but it can also help to shape future lesson planning if several youngsters are struggling with the same subject matter.

By talking about the work at hand, pupils are also more likely to be focused on learning rather than potentially causing disruption. Edutopia has outlined nine strategies to get students talking that you can put into action in your classroom.

Just be mindful that you will need to tailor the level of questioning to the ability levels of the students, as questions that are too complex could create confusion.

Be prepared to adapt

Lessons don’t always go to plan. So no matter whether you're a graduate teaching assistant or you're a tenured employee, you always need to be ready for the unexpected – there might be a need to adapt the work slightly or to change tasks entirely to keep pupils engaged.

Having a mini whiteboard and pen available can be good for demonstrations, while it can also be used to encourage pupils to think differently about a task.

This can be a particularly engaging means of teaching support, as it can enable pupils to break tasks down into smaller pieces or to explore the theory they are learning in different ways.

It’s best to prompt youngsters rather than provide answers, as that way they are encouraged to discover the subject matter and understand it in their way.

Are you looking for a change in your education career?

Whether you're looking to specialise in special education needs, find a flexible part-time job or a challenging role that will give you the experience you need to progress, we can help you. At Tradewind, we are a specialist teaching assistant recruitment agency and we're passionate about matching education staff with roles where they feel that can have a huge impact. View all teaching assistant jobs, explore SEN teaching assistant roles, or you can submit your CV and your local education recruitment consultant will get in touch with you shortly.