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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Teaching Assistant (TA) Guide: Prepare for Class

Resources and guidance for teaching assistants (TAs) on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

Quick Tips

•   Make sure you know where the supplies you need are located before the first day of class including copy machines, handouts, projector, white board markers, etc.

•   Before the first day, locate the classroom and check it out.

•   Practice!

Questions and Answers

     How should I prepare?

You want to be prepared prior to the first day of class because you want your first impression to be good. If you are prepared, you will be more relaxed on the first day of class. Be on time for all of your classes. 

Plan your class so that you end on time. Students will stop paying attention once class has ended, even if you have not finished covering the material. 

Know the material you want to cover. Keep current and read, or reread if necessary, all material assigned for class. 

Plan your class sessions with flexibility in mind. Prepare questions to ask the students to engage them in conversation. Create and/or print all material and notes needed for personal reference or for the students prior to class. 

Look at the student roster and familiarize yourself with student names prior to the first class. It will help you start learning names faster. By knowing their names, you can create a better relationship with the students

Practice! Practice your presentation and speaking skills. 

Some of these suggestions are directed more towards TAs who are teaching the material. If you are grading or leading discussion sections, your situation may be different. You may only have to attend lectures, organize labs, and/or have open office hours. Talk to the instructor and see what he or she expects of you.

     How should I organize myself?

Keep track of all your conversations with students. One way is to place all email from them in one folder. Keep track of all your records, printouts, and grades. With printouts you can easily make extra copies if you know where the original is. With grades, you want to make sure only you can view them in order to keep student data confidential. It is important to return assignments promptly. If you are organized, this will be easier. 

     Where can I find the supplies/materials I need?

Talk to the administration office in your department. Talk to office staff to learn how you can make copies, how to borrow the projector, and how to show a movie in class.

      What should I wear?

Wear clothes that you are comfortable in. The more comfortable you feel, the better you teach. That being said, if you like how a suit makes you feel in charge, then wear a suit. If jeans and sweater are more your style, then wear that. Make sure your clothes are clean and neat. And you certainly should not be more casual than the average student. No t-shirts with political statements or slogans, and no pajamas. 

      What are good teaching practices?

Make eye contact with your students when you are lecturing to them. You might encourage them to stay awake if they know you are looking at them. Just make sure you don’t stare. Additionally, walk around the room when you talk. Not only can you dispel any goofing off, if you move to the back of the classroom, students will need to be more engaged and awake to follow you. See “What makes good teaching?” in the "Planning a Class" tab for more specifics. 

What to Wear

This is a good start: PhD Comics. 

Subject Guide

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