Classroom Ethnography

For my class ethnography I observe a third grade classroom. I‘ve chosen to observe classroom reading time with the students. In addition I will use my other observation from other subjects from her class as well. I will not mention the school‘s, teacher and student‘s name and I will use alternative name for students and teacher. Mrs. K is piloting a math program in her classroom and math will be the primary focus throughout her teaching. In addition third grader will take a state math exam later in the school year. I will primarily focus on the classroom routine.

My cooperative teacher is a third grade teacher, Ms. K. Some background on Mrs. K.: Mrs. K has been teaching for 6years. She only has taught at this school. She taught first grade for five years. This is Mrs. K first year teaching third graders.

I consider Mrs. K to be organized. Mrs. K has her materials well label and organized throughout her classroom. Mrs. K desk area also appears organized. Mrs. K shared with me that she begins her school day one hour before the students arrived. This schedule allows her to plan for the day ahead. Mrs. K‘s classroom is rather small but very functional. The students are seated in groups of 6. Each student has their own individual desk that faces each other. Mrs. K has 4 groups of 6 students to an area. She has a total of 24 students in her class. There is room to maneuver between the groups. This seems to work effectively, especially when she needs to walk over to the children and work individual. Before students enter they can expect Mrs. K‘s message and assignments of the day on the board. Mrs. K also posts the HW work sheet from the previous day next to her morning message. Students read the message and know to take out their homework folder which should include a completed worksheet. Mrs. K walks around the room to ensure all students completed this worksheet the night before. While Mrs. K is allowing the students to get ready for the day she prepares her classroom computer to have the school sing the Star Spangle Banner every morning. The students immediately stop what they are working on and all look up at the smart board and sing along with the students on the monitor. After, the teacher uploads a puzzle on to the computer for a group of students to work on it on the smart board. During this time the teacher is able to work with the other students that had difficulties with their homework. Mrs. K allows approximately 6 kids at one time to complete this puzzle activity.

In this classroom the teacher addressed all her students as “Angels” and “Friends”. I did not witnessed Mrs. K using the word good or bad. Often if there was a child that misbehaves Mrs. K will tell the student you are not my friend or you‘re not a good “angel”. Immediately the child will stop what he/she was doing and starts to behave. This type of addressing will be clear to anyone that she is addressing her children as good or bad but using different words.

Some attributes Mrs. K will consider as “bad” for this classroom, will be to interrupt a class lesson. In particular I was able to assist Mrs. K with one child that constantly interrupted the class. I will name this student Nick, throughout my paper. As described previously Mrs. K had her class divided in to 4 groups of 6. Nick was seated farthest from the teacher. Nick also was close to the bathroom. Nick‘s table mates were 4 children with limited English. And 1 child that was often absent. I was able to see her once but she left early and I was unable to interact with this particular students. I found it amazing the setup o this group.

I was able to speak with Mrs. K and asked why this particular arrangement and she shared it is manageable for her when she needs to help them. Mrs. K. felt that having the children grouped together will give her easy access to all the children that needed extra help. I witnessed Nick often disturbing the class and shouting out inappropriate word. But I feel that being near the bathroom he will be often distracted.

For example, other students will go to the bathroom, and when the teacher was not looking, the student will throw something at Nick. Nick‘s response will always be to yell or get up and throw something back at a student. The teacher always reprimands Nick but not the other student. Other times that student used the bathroom, without picking on Nick, was still a cue for Nick to misbehave. I believe that this is a high traffic sitting area. This area is not ideal for someone with difficulties concentrating. This area was also the farthest from the teacher. I wonder why the teacher will find this seating ideal for any students. In addition to the distraction this area promotes, there was a strong urine odor coming from the restrooms.

When altering instruction for the poor/bad student. Mrs. K showed me a system she uses. They often work on the same subject all at once. Students‘ do not get pulled out her classroom (as for Nick, Mrs. K stated there is an evaluation waiting for him). For example for Science, She has worksheet labeled as A O I. A being for the advance students. O for the less advance student and I for the struggling students. Mrs. K stated that with this system Mrs. K is able to have them work in groups. The questions are all the same but the way the question is posed will be different.

For example: After reading a story about a fox student were instructed to work with a partner and complete the following sheets.

Sheet A. The __ jumped___ the ___. (the students will than fill in the blank.) for sheet O The fox jumped ____ the _____. ( the students will than complete the blanks.) the last sheet she will write out the complete sentence and the child has to explain that they read and understood. I especially didn‘t find this system to be effective. When walking around I witnessed the students sharing answer. The students seem to figure out the system and knew who to sit by. This system is also in place with Science and Social Studies. During this system the students were looking forward to work together.

Teacher to student relationships:

Overall, I witnessed the teacher to have positive relationship with most of her students. The student‘s feedback was somewhat positive. A couple of times when students arrived she was so into her work that she was not able to greet the students. Greeting the students I feel is an important part of the students‘ day. The few times that I saw her greet student in the morning she excludes Nick and other students. Nick commented on two occasions about not being greeted.

Teacher: good morning Alan

Nick: what about me?

Teacher: what about you angel?

Nick: you didn‘t say good morning to me.

Teacher: Today Nick you are going to behave...right?

Nick: under his breath...I always behave.

Teacher: excuse...if you have anything to say to me look at me when you talk to me.

Nick: nothing.

As a teacher I hope to start the day on a positive note. Greeting Nick the “misbehave” students like this is reminding him of his misbehaving behavior. Maybe nick today decide to get a clean start and perform well. But the teacher‘s negative response both verbally and nonverbal discourage the student. In addition the teacher to student relationship I witnessed the teacher to have great classroom management. Mrs. K addressed all students individually by their first name or by the last name using Mr. or Mrs. before saying the last name. When teaching a lesson: Mrs. K Remind students about what they've learned previously. Mrs. K uses excellent body language when teaching. For example when reading a book she uses her hands and some facial to demonstrate certain expressions. Ms. K is viewed as the authority in the classroom.

Mrs. K takes the time to explain assignments to the class, although sometimes she leaves students responsible for comprehension. For example, she passed out a handout and explained the instructions once to the class. Any further questions after that she will refuse to answer. Before the announcement she requested all students‘ attention. She always began by explaining that she is only repeating this once. I witnessed students testing Mrs. K by asking her the same question. Or did the students really didn‘t get the first time around? In addition Mrs. K shared with me that she welcomes noise in her classroom. She believes that student should not be told to shut up.

Teacher to parent:

Mrs. K has the whole class‘ attention, except for Nick‘s table. Students provide great feedback. Mrs. K seems to offer very little assistance for extra help. When I ask Mrs. K she stated that the parents are very involved. Mrs. K stated that this is a wealthy community and the student‘s parents are very involved in their learning. Mrs. Kelly showed me a homework folder with comments that she provide to all the parents. The parents return daily sign sheet and comment. This communication is done on a daily or weekly basis. Mrs. K shared that this type of communication easily assists her when the children are behind. I asked her about Mrs. K‘s communication with the Nick‘s parents or the ESL students. Mrs. K stated that there is limited communication but she manages. Nick is currently placed in Foster home, but no further information was provided about Nick. As for the ESL students older siblings reside at the home and they are able to assist with the translation process.

Student to student:

The students seem to have a great relationship. I witnessed some students to be annoyed with Nick‘s behavior but seem to manage. I witnessed the students to even help the ESL students with certain assignments. The students mainly help each other with math problems. When in computer lab and a student‘s is completed with his/her assignment they quickly assist other students. The students always seem to be engaged in activity. During free time the other students interact well with each other. Below is an example of conversation with two students:

Student 1: how do you say my name in mandarin

Student 2: I don‘t know

Student 1: why?

Student 2: I could as my mother to help me.

Student 1: what do you know how to say in mandarin

Student 2: hello, good morning, good afternoon.

Student 1: I want to learn.

This type of behavior displayed showed some great interaction between students to student. Mrs. K stated that she also encourages other students to do the same. Mrs. K. showed me some books that she reads to class about Latin and Asian culture. Mrs. K hopes to have all children learn from each other.

The school is located in Massapequa Park by the water. According to school secretary the area consist of Italian-Americans. The median income for a household in the village was $79,403, and the median income for a family was $86,177.

-- Student Info and Personal information (http://www.longislandschools.com/schools/birch-lane-elementary-school.html)

Throughout the classroom visibly, there was limited materials that reflect ethinic groups.

Mrs. K stated that class completed the book: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Barrett, Jan. I was also able to look through the bins and found a few books that other students are able to read during some down time:

  • Cleary, Beverly Ramona Forever.
  • Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez .
  • Hoang Breaks the Lucky Teapot by Rosemary Breckler.

These three books I felt were books that ESL students were able to relate. It also allowed the other students in the class become familiar with their classmate‘s culture.

Mrs. K does not allow much room for the students to speak any other language than English in the classroom. The class all communicate in English. The ESL students are quieter than many of the other students. Mrs. K rarely calls on to these students. Mrs. K mainly calls on the students that will most likely know the answer to the question. During reading at the carpet the ESL student sit to toward the back. The students are allowed to choose their own sitting. The three times that Mrs. K did reading on the carpet, while I was present, the ESL students sat away from teacher‘s view. I wonder if the student purposely did this to not be called on. Or did these students sense the feeling of not being part of this community. Nick on the other hand sat next to the teacher and often demanded her attention. Nick stands in front of her and taps on Mrs. K when an answer is asked. I could imagine this could be annoying when trying to engage a class of 24. I wonder if the teacher was purposely ignoring Nick to make a statement to him. I believe he should have being called on several times. Both Nick and the ESL students looses out in this type of learning. These students follow direction accurately. Several times I was asked to help Nick understand the assignment, and when working one on one Nick was able to perform well. I asked Mrs. K has Nick been recommended to get evaluated. I suggested that Nick seems to work better with one on one. Mrs. K stated that she is in the process of requesting a Para. On the other hand the ESL students can benefit from group work. These students seem eager to learn but also seemed embarrassed to learn. Mrs. K did very little to include these students. Mrs. K. stated that these students interact well in the playground. Mrs. K feels that a classroom is for learning except during play time.

When assigning classroom duties or leadership duty, Mrs. K always called on boys. For example, Mrs. K has a system in place where she assigned one student to a table where they responsible to make sure the student absent received the classroom work. This included collecting handouts and copying on to their notebook blackboard writing assignment and notes. Each table there was a minimum of 2 females students to a table. In no instance did Mrs. K called on a girl. For line leader or to run errands Mrs. K called on a boy in every instance. In the morning a student takes lunch orders for the day and in 4 instances all boys were picked to complete task.

What conclusions do you draw about this classroom?

  1. what identities are students developing in this classroom? In what ways might you recommend that their identities be shaped differently?
  2. how are students engaged in the practice of the classroom community? In what ways might you recommend that their engagement in practice be different?

I really didn‘t know what to expect when entering Mrs. K classroom. Although there were some disruptions during the activities, they were very few and far between. Mrs. K did a good job in keeping the students on interested in the lesson. Overall the students were in control of their behavior, including the ESL students. I was surprised to see how much some of the students were willing to participate in any particular lesson. Mrs. K kept her students interested and wanting to learn more. Most class that observe the students are usually not eager to participate. I still have many questions on her approach with Nick. Although he was disruptive he was eager to participate and to be present. Nick needs more help than the other students. With the right guidance Nick will be a great student. Participations helps build confidence, something that all students should be expose to. The constant ignoring of Nick can later become negative to Nick‘s self esteem.

In conclusion, Mrs. K provided me good ideas of things I can do to accommodate children in my classrooms, making them feel more like a part of the classroom.

Implications for my own teaching

References

  1. Clark, K F,&Graves, M F(March 2005). Scaffolding students‘ comprehension of text: classroom teachers looking to improve students‘ comprehension should consider three general types of scaffolding. The Reading Teacher 58,6.p.570(11).
  2. RetrievedDecember 01, 2007,fromEducator's Reference http://find.galegroup.com/itx/infomark
  3. Gebhard, M. (1999). Debates in SLA Studies: Redefining Classroom SLA as an Institutional Phenomenon. TESOL Quarterly, 33 (3), 545.

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