Whether you love it or hate it, being a form tutor is (for most of us) a part of the job.
The start of a new school year means you are probably facing an extended tutorial session with your form group, so here are our tips for making your life easier.
With a new group…
1. Play a game to learn some names
It’s not just you that needs to learn them – they do too. But how?
There is no need to put students in the uncomfortable position of having to announce anything else about themselves other than their name. We’ve all had that moment of terror where you’re asked to say something interesting about yourself and your mind goes utterly blank – let’s not inflict it on the students!
Sharing your name is fairly non-threatening, and has the advantage of hearing any unusual names pronounced for you.
Here are some ideas for making it a little more fun.
Top tip: Make a quick seating plan sketch and add their names as you go along as a reference sheet. Try and use their name whenever you speak to them.
The idea behind an icebreaker activity is to get people talking. If you can do it naturally, rather than forcing people to participate, they’ll thank you for it! We think a good debate is a great way to do that.
(There’s a weekly debate topic on home4schools.comif you want to keep building their communication skills.)
Here are some of our favourites:
– Is Batman really a hero?
– The school day should start and finish an hour earlier (or an hour later…)
– If I borrow £1,000,000, am I a millionaire?
– Is something boring because of it, or because of you?
You could also play ‘groups and lines‘. Students have to stand in a line or a group (depending on the category) according to a rule you give them. Avoid anything too personal!
In order of birthday (line)
By birth month (group)
By eye colour (group)
By Primary School (group)
By hair length (line)
By pets* (group)
*can get complicated with multiple pets, but it adds to the fun!
You could also play ‘this or that‘. Students have to go to one side of the room or the other, based on their answer.
– Which is better? Indoors or outdoors?
– Watching sports or playing sports?
– Would you rather…. questions work really well for this too.
3. Talk basic expectations.
It’s not the most fun part of the morning, but setting clear expectations for form time is important. Your relationship as their tutor is a slightly different one than as a teacher, so you can be a little more informal. You’ll be starting every day by spending time together, so building a relationship is really important.
You’ll obviously have your own set of rules, but in case you’re looking for inspiration, here are mine:
Rule 1. When someone else is talking, listen. (Covers me as well as the other students that way!)
Rule 2. Do what I ask, when I ask.
Rule 3. Treat others how you would prefer to be treated yourself.
I’ve not found many things those don’t cover.
4. All the obvious questions.
If you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll know that it’s always the same questions from students on the first day.
Can I change options? Are these shoes allowed? Can I sit wherever I like? Which page in the planner is ‘x’ on? Which morning is our assembly?
If you want to save yourself answering them repeatedly, create a quick word doc/ppt to put up with the answers on.
5. Day timings.
If you, your group, or the timings themselves are new, write them up on the side of your whiteboard, and LEAVE THEM THERE for the first week or two. It’ll help everyone out while they get used to them.
You can even mark off that section with electrical/washi tape so they look neat.
Just in case…
6. Behaviour plan
It’s not normally something you have to think about for form time, but with an extended tutorial, you’ll be spending a lot longer with your form on the first day. Especially with a new group, make sure you’ve asked what you should do if you need any behaviour support during that time. It might well be different to the usual departmental structures.
7. Time fillers
Have some activitiesready for early finishers. Odds are, the only bit of writing they’ll do today is to copy their timetable into a planner. The time it takes to do that will differ wildly from student to student, so make sure you plan for that!
8. Get to know them!
Your role as a form tutor is to be their surrogate parent while they’re at school. You’re the first line of defence.
You see them every day, so should be the person who notices if there’s anything wrong with them.
Mental health among teens is a hot topic for a reason. There’s often a lot going on under the surface, and the better you know them, the easier it is to tell when you should be worried about them.
Over at home4schools.com, we have daily activities planned and waiting, so that you’re free to catch up with students if you need to. Even a quick chat can make a huge difference. Grab the chance to chat with them one-to-one, and get to now them a bit better.
Things to ask:
Who lives at home with you? (You’ll learn: Are there any small siblings who cry all night and make them tired? Are mum and dad together? Do they live with parents or carers? Do they have their own room?)
How do you feel about school? Favourite subject? Least favourite? (You’ll learn: Teachers they get on with and those they don’t. Are they likely to try to avoid school? Do they have a particular interest or passion for a subject? Which teachers are most likely to complain to you about them…?)
Who is your best friend? (You’ll learn: Is their best friend at the same school? Are they likely to be in the same classes? You’ll probably figure out pretty quickly whether they’re a good or bad influence. Who is the person they’ll go to if there’s a problem? If you then spot them not talking, you’ll know there’s probably a drama and can keep an eye on them.)
What do you do for lunch? (You’ll learn: Do they have to buy their own at the shops on the way – and are they coming in with 2 cans of Monster, a big bag of Doritos and a big bar of Dairy Milk every day… Do they bring a pack-up? This will often tell you there’s someone who cares enough at home to at least ensure the right food is in, if not make it for them. Do they not even eat? This might be indicative of dangerous diet plans…)
There are plenty of other things to get to know about them, but this gives you a good basic overview of their general wellbeing.
Whether it’s your first form group, or you’ve been doing it forever, I hope you found something useful for making your first day go smoothly. Best of luck!