Teacher Observation

1. Describe the classroom (grade level, subject, room arrangement, etc.). Are the items on the walls/bulletin boards helpful? Is the room arranged appropriately? Is this a good learning environment? Why or why not?

In Mrs. Read’s 4th grade classroom, the desks are set up in multiple small islands of 4 students. The subject being taught from 1:15 – 2:15 is Math. Specifically today, was adding and subtracting problems with decimals. Since there was work in pairs, it was a good desk arrangement. There were enough gaps between all the islands that the teacher was able to walk around and between to help and observe. The bulletin boards around the room were full of useful information (depending on the lesson), and there was one relevant to today’s work. For collaborative work, I think this was a good learning environment although the kids were quite prone to talking sometimes instead of working.

2. Describe the teacher (teaching style, method of classroom management, teaching philosophy)
What kinds of routines does the teacher use? What teaching strategies does the teacher use? (thought provoking questions, visual displays, demonstrations, use of student names, cooperative learning, learning styles…..)

Mrs. Read used four different ways to call the class to order, get their attention, or stop talking. There was a clapping rhythm, a call and response, a countdown, and an if/then statement. For sample problems and directions, she had what I can only call a Smart TV. It was hooked up to a computer, but she could interact with it like a tablet. She also made use of the chalk board to work through the sample problems as a class. She did one, let the kids do the other three, then solved them together. After introducing and demonstrating the work, she handed out a worksheet for the kids to work on in pairs. While the students were working, she (and I) walked around the room to check that directions were being followed and answer questions.

3. How do students differ from one another? Include gender, ability, motivation, physical attributes, etc. What are some of the ways that these differences may impact teaching and learning processes in the classroom?

Sitting in the corner, I was able to watch two boy-girl pairs work on their problems. Even though they were supposed to be looking over each other’s shoulders, they didn’t really want to get close. They were each very critical of the other as well. Even though he was wrong, the boy told the girl that she was wrong and did the problem incorrectly. The idea of pairing is a good one but the effectiveness was lost on these kids. This particular pair did not work well together so it made the process very slow and aggravating for both. There was too much of a subtle power struggle and not enough collaboration or guidance. This particular activity also has the tendency to slow down the kids who could have worked through it quickly and correctly.

4. Would you consider teaching this subject or at this school? Why or why not?

I will definitely teach math. It’s one of my better subjects. I would probably also be willing to teach at this particular school. The principal and staff are friendly and there seems to be a certain amount of autonomy in the lessons and in the ways things are taught.

5. How are the students/teacher in this class different from your schooling experience at the same age? How are they the same? What experiences have you had in your past that might help you relate to today’s students?

It’s a little bit tough for me to remember details from 4th grade, but I definitely think that the way students behave is very much the same. They can be cruel and critical. They take every opportunity to talk but are perfectly capable of keeping quiet (which they did when they were allowed to start on their homework). They may be more easily distracted now a days but not necessarily. When it comes to teaching style, I think the biggest difference is classroom setup. We always sat in rows that faced the front of the room. Working in small groups didn’t happen in anything but reading. There’s more of an emphasis on collaboration and working together even if the method doesn’t work that well. Mrs. Read’s teaching style of demonstration and emphasis followed by the students working is something very familiar and effective.

6. Often times, the only experience a teacher-in-training has before student teaching (in the last semester of college) is that of a student. Now that the roles have changed and you are considering teaching as a profession, what have you learned about being the teacher from this observation? Has it made you think twice about entering the profession, or helped solidify your decision?

In this instance and most other times, my observations have solidified my desire to teach. What I observed in Mrs. Read’s math class today is something I’m very familiar with. To my husband, it’s called pair programming. The idea is that by having someone watch you work, they can catch mistakes when you make them instead of having the wrong answer and trying to figure out where you went wrong. These kids didn’t understand that benefit. She did explain it to them, but I would have asked probing questions so they could figure out why they work that way and how it helps. (It seems they had used this technique before). As I said earlier, some students didn’t want to get close enough to see the other person’s work. It looked like a lot of students didn’t care. There was one pair of girls who each did the problem and each made different mistakes. If partner B had been watching partner A work like she was supposed to, she might have caught the mistake when it happened. Again, I heard the teacher explain this, but I’m not sure the girls understood. There was also a lot of lower level thinking. When the students were set 2 problems to solve on their own, a lot of them wanted to know if they got it right. Even though they were told to check their work and how to check their work, they just wanted the right answer and asked instead of doing more work. Observing things like this makes me want to do things better and thanks to this class, I believe I know how. All I need is the practice.



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