Looking ahead: Ideas for being a Form Tutor

As I wrote in a previous blog, being a form tutor is an element of my role that I’ve come to fully appreciate during lockdown. Weekly phonecalls to my Year 8 form have become a highlight of my week and have ensured that I have a stronger relationship than ever with the 30 members of 8.2. I’ve been reminded that being a form tutor really is one of the best parts of the job and so, thinking ahead to September, I wanted to share a couple of ideas for form time and your form group.

1. Establish a culture of reading

We’re all familiar with the myriad benefits of reading for pleasure and independent reading. However, it took me a few years as a form tutor to work out that (unsurprisingly) simply instructing students to read twice a week may ‘get the job done’ but it doesn’t promote the culture of reading that we know is so significant to the attainment and progress of students.

So, how have I tried to establish that culture?

  • Read alongside the students where possible. It can be hard but, where possible, drag yourself away from the emails and admin for 15 minutes to sit and read alongside them- demonstrating to your form that reading is for all and is important even for adults.
  • Create a display of what everybody is reading. I took this fantastic idea from Twitter and it works a treat! Give each student a post-it note to record what they’re reading. If your school operates a points-based reward system, you could reward students each time they change their book.
  • Talk about books as often as possible. When the students are reading, wander around the classroom and stop to ask them what they’re reading, what it’s about and whether they’re enjoying it. So simple and yet so powerful!

2. Create a sense of belonging

In some schools this is easier than others but without a house system and without many inter-form competitions this is something that I was really aware of: how was I going to create a sense of belonging and membership in our form?

I’ve tried a couple of simple things that have really had an impact:

  • Complete a daily challenge together. When I introduced our daily challenge, I did it more for routine then for a sense of belonging but it’s certainly achieved the latter. Each morning, we complete the ‘Daily Set Puzzle’- a free online puzzle where you have to find the matching shapes. Each day we try to beat our best time and needless to say it is a very competitive affair! All of the form group work together, coming up to the board when they think they have an answer and everyone gets involved.
  • See yourself as a member of the form.

    This final one is a little more abstract but hugely significant: ensure that you see yourself as part of the form and not just the teacher attached to the form. I suppose the best way to do this is to get involved wherever possible. When there’s a sports challenge set, get involved if you can. If there’s a maths challenge set, have a go yourself (even if you can’t complete it!). By feeling a sense of belonging yourself, you’re bound to foster this within students too.

Whether you’re returning to a form group in September or taking on a new group, it is a highly enjoyable part of the job and something that shouldn’t be overlooked! What do you do with your form that helps to establish a positive environment and culture within the form? Please comment below with any other ideas!

Kate Stockings is Head of Geography at The Hampstead School having completed her PGCE at the University of Cambridge 2014-2015. She is an author for OUP and has completed her Masters in Education.