Last week and this past Monday I had a very unique opportunity that many teachers do not ever have the time to enjoy. I got to travel around with different classes, jumping between different teachers and grade levels to simply observe and be a part of the class for the day. I took a lot of notes and here I would like to share the most interesting or unique events or techniques I observed.
September 15, 2011
6th Grade Language Arts
Environment: Students at large tables, reminiscent of elementary classrooms, lots of color and reminders on the walls, class job / student responsibilities chart, lots of vocabulary everywhere.
- The teacher uses a warm-up strategy called "Caught Ya!" where the students try to catch her mistakes in the warm-up. The warm-up is individual sentences from a story that will go on all year.
- The class only corrects mistakes in green pen rather than in red.
- The students are very interactive and each table uses a whiteboard to come up with answers as a group and respond to the teacher's questions.
- When the teacher reads aloud to the class, the students raise their hands and when called on, ask things like "May I make a prediction?" before stating their question.
- The class was well round down, with a few minutes to spare that was given to the students to chat.
7th Grade Science
- The "organized chaos" was well handled, students were allowed to chat a lot during the class making it their responsibility to get the information if they chose to talk. I noticed from sitting with the students that they are very good at multi-tasking and that they were generally talking about the material anyways when they were chatting.
- The students got very excited when they found grammar or spelling errors in the teacher's work. It was quite funny.
- "If they are working and getting something out of it, I'm okay with the organized chaos." I felt this to be essential.
7th Grade Math about:startpage
"Don't be afraid to bail on the lesson," if it's not working, it probably isn't going to.
7th Grade Spanish
- Probably my favorite thing that I saw done today was a disciplinary measure. The teacher has a chart with each student in every classes' name on the board. Each time a student is misbehaving, the teacher directs the student to mark their name. The student gets up and in front of the class marks their name with an X. If they get to three Xs I believe their is some other disciplinary action. Anyways, the point is that this seems to actually impact how they feel about misbehavior because everyone in all the grades will know who was misbehaving. Additionally, what made me appreciate it the most was that there was an incidence where two students were whispering to each other, only one was caught. Later after class, the other student came to the teacher to say they had been talking too and then went and put a mark next to their name. This ownership and acceptance of responsibility was very interesting to see.
September 19, 2011
8th Grade Math
- Today was exam review day. The teacher not only posted corrections and went over the test but reviewed the previous week. The teacher posted who did and did not have the homework from the last week for the whole class! It was awesome, I really liked the sense of openness and the forcing of responsibility on each student through the utilization of the other students.
- Used the terms "novice," "apprentice," "expert," to describe the students performance as they work towards "mastery."
- Lots of shout-outs: bonus points, highest score on each section, hardest questions, etc.
-Popsicle stick calling cards
- Everyone knows each other's scores, not exactly, but at least their performance, through a mastery board of each standard in the back of the room
- Each student did a reflection handout after reviewing their test scores and the test itself to identify what they did well on and what they need to work on and then to identify strategies to improve.
- When I met with this teacher after class, they shared a very important piece of advice with me. After an observation, when discussing with a teacher what they did in class, focus more on what the students did rather than what the teacher did and didn't do. This can be how the students responded rather than what they responded to. This helps keep the blame off the teacher and keeps them from becoming defensive when you discuss with them.
6th Grade Science
- Class jobs, positions, responsibilities at every table
- This was the only room that I saw that had college ever presently in mind, there are pennants from many schools hanging up above the students from the ceiling. This is so important to remind them of their end goal!
- Because the class is quieter the teacher has a container of "opportunities" which is a popsicle stick with every students' name on it, and mine and the teacher, and when there is a need to answer a question the teacher says "Opportunity please!" and the designated opportunity student draws a stick.
8th Grade Science
- Respond well to "the timer"
- Environment: Classroom is clear and soothing, lights off windows open, very few things on the walls, mature environment
- The teacher gives individual verbal reinforcement to students loud enough so that all students can hear as the teacher walks around while the students are doing quiet individual work.
- The Tableau - After reading a section from the story students choose a single moment to recreate at the front of the room. Then the rest of the class gets to guess what scene it is. It is a "moment frozen in time" to help the students visually remember the story. Afterwards "Show them appreciation please" aka clapping.
- At this school the bell rings every 45 minutes even though some classes are 90 minutes, during the five minute time between the bells aka at 40 and 45 minutes, the teacher allows the students to break and talk. The students love this!
I visited several other classrooms however I was unable to take notes on all of them. I hope that some of these notes and observations will be found useful to some. It was quite a refreshing day and it was really enjoyable to go see what else was out there. The most important thing that I got out of these days personally was that my high school love of science class was renewed and I have been convinced to go ahead and get my dual certification in high school science as well. Life is just so much fun when everything is hands on, I really enjoyed these classes.