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Application Tips

How to Prepare for the Sample Teaching Lesson During Our Interview

Read tips for how to best prepare for your five-minute sample lesson at your Teach For America interview.

teacher in classroom with papers

By The TFA Editorial Team

September 1, 2018

As interviews approach, applicants are signing up for their interview date, uploading transcripts, and preparing for the sample teaching lesson. One of these actions seems to cause more stress than any other: the sample teaching lesson. A five-minute lesson may seem like a daunting task, but the truth is that it's nothing to worry about.


What can I teach?
Anything! When we say anything, thats really what we mean. Our only guideline is that it needs to be five minutes long and for a grade level between pre-K through 12th. The rest is up to you! We recommend teaching something you enjoy, even if its not academic. Weve seen people teach music, physics, tying your shoelace, and more—the possibilities are endless. The subject doesnt have to be your major or even the subject youre actually interested in teaching if youre invited to the corps. Pick something you like, and have fun with it!

What will the other applicants be doing during my lesson?
The other applicants (and interviewers) will be your students. Youll ask them questions, answer any questions they might have, and teach them your content. 

I’m not an education major. Do I need a lesson plan?
No lesson plan is needed. If you find it helpful, feel free to make one, but your interviewers will not collect it. You dont need any materials or extras for your lesson, unless you want to use something like a handout or a poster—but that’s completely up to you. Just come prepared to share the subject you’re teaching, your objective for the lesson, and the grade level. 

I’m not sure of the grade level my lesson is geared towards.
Your interviewer won’t be looking to make sure your 5th grade lesson is perfectly appropriate for 5th grade. Just make your best guess for the grade level and we bet you won’t be far off. As long as you’re not teaching the ABCs to middle school students, you’ll be fine. 

How strict is the five-minute time limit?
We keep exact track of time to ensure the interview is fair for all of our applicants, no matter where they’re interviewing. Don’t forget that in addition to your five minutes of teaching, all applicants are given one minute for "prep time." Prep time can include passing out papers, sharing files, writing on the whiteboard, etc. It’s up to you to decide how you want to use that one minute. After one minute, your teaching time begins (even if you’re still setting up). After five minutes, your interviewer will let you know your time is up (even if your lesson isn’t over).

We strongly suggest practicing your prep time and your lesson is its entirely. Then, practice it some more to make sure you stay right on time.

What should I bring with me?
You should bring whatever you need for your specific lesson. Since our in-person interviews are held in donated spaces, we can’t guarantee what will be available in your space. You can verify if there’s a whiteboard via the Interview Details & Directions page on the Applicant Center, but if you need crayons or paper or pens for the class, it will be your responsibility to bring them. We can't guarantee that there will be a computer or LCD projector, so plan accordingly. 

How do I plan for a sample lesson if I’m interviewing virtually?
The virtual and in-person sample lessons have the same requirements and standards: you are teaching a five-minute lesson in any subject area to any grade levels pre-K through 12.

The main thing to keep in mind for virtual interviews is to plan your lesson for the virtual format. For example, during your lesson you’ll control the screen of the webinar, and you can share files, programs, or your computer’s desktop. There is a chat feature that allows you to chat with your group of students and a virtual whiteboard that allows you to type and draw and allows your students to do the same. Your students will also watch you on your webcam, but keep in mind your visibility is somewhat limited to what is in frame, so we strongly encourage applicants to utilize the virtual features offered.

No, really—what can I teach?
Anything you’d like—really!