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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

January 30, 2024

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, that’s really what we mean. Our only guideline is that it needs:

  • To be 5 minutes long
  • Indicate the grade you're teaching (Pre-K through 12)
  • Have a specific subject area
  • Include a clear objective. Really think about what you want your "student" to learn in 5 minutes.

The rest is up to you! We recommend teaching something you enjoy, even if it’s not academic. We’ve seen people teach music, physics, tying your shoelace, and more—the possibilities are endless. The subject doesn’t have to be your major or even the subject you’re actually interested in teaching if you’re invited to the corps. Pick something you like, and have fun with it!

How will my interviewer participate during my lesson?

Your interviewer will be your student. You’ll ask them questions, answer any questions they might have, and teach them your content.  Your interviewer will also ask you 2-3 follow up questions at the end of your lesson.   

I’m not an education major. How do I plan for this lesson?  

Your interviewer will not collect a lesson plan from you, but you should spend time considering the grade level you are teaching and planning a lesson that reaches your objective in 5 minutes.  

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 when they’re interviewing. Don’t forget that in addition to your five minutes of teaching, all applicants are given one minute for "prep time." You will share the objective, subject, and grade level of your lesson during the prep time.  Prep time can also include sharing files, writing on the virtual whiteboard, etc. Don’t worry!  Your interviewer will guide you through the timing of your Sample Lesson during the interview. 

How do I plan for a sample lesson if I’m interviewing virtually?

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 interviewer and a virtual whiteboard that allows you to type and draw and allows your "student" to do the same. Your "student" 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.

How long does creating a sample lesson normally take?

Applicants report spending between 1-2 hours planning, preparing, and practicing for their sample lesson prior to their interview. 

No, really—what can I teach?

Anything you’d like—really!



This article was originally published in 2018. The publish date reflects the most recent update.