Class observation report
In this study, I choose to observe a primary 5 class in NT District. The lesson that aims to improve the confidence level of the students is made up of students who are weak in English. There are 30 students in the class, 17 boys and 13 girls. The gender ratio reduces biasness and made the class an ideal class to study. In the following paragraphs, I will explain how the class was conducted and the teaching methodologies of the teacher.
1. Pre-observation meeting
Before the lesson, I had a meeting with the teacher. We first discussed the contents and objectives of the lesson. The lesson is a speaking class which aims to build students' confidence in speaking. While improving students' speaking ability is important, it is only secondary in this lesson.
Next, we discussed about the activity that the students would do during the class to achieve the objectives. The activity was a game named ‘on board' which would use in the lesson to achieve the objectives. I understand that she uses the PPP model in this lesson. The teacher would play the role of a manager, an organizer and a tutor. She mentioned that this is atypical of her routine teaching which she focuses mainly on the grammar teaching. Furthermore, a writing course is not part of the lesson plan according to the course designed by the English panel.
The classroom has an adequate setting. It is sufficiently lighted, spacious and well furnished. There is a big blackboard in the front of classroom and the room is equipped with latest audio video technology. It has good movie projector with a laser pointer. Computer with the internet connection is another feature of the room. Instructors can use them for effective teaching. There were 30 students in the classroom. Some of them sat at the front, while the others sat near the end of the hall. They were well dispersed and worked independently.
2.1 Recall section
The class lasted about 35 minutes; it started at 11.15 am and ended at 11.50 am. There were two observers in the class, namely the colleagues of the teacher and me. Before the observers came into the class, the teacher announced that the class was ready to begin and instructed students to settle down. Two minutes after, students became quiet and greeted their teacher formally. The teacher shortly introduced the observers to them and asked them to give a warm welcome: we received three rhythmic claps after the teacher signal 'hands ready' to students.
First of all, the teacher did the session to help students to recall the phases they learnt previously by showing them some flash cards and invited students to the stage to read it. There were 7 cards in total, which were ‘a bottle of blackcurrant juice', ‘ a pattern of waffle”, “a bottle of soya bean milk”,” a cup of yogurt” ,”a loaf of bread”, “a bar of chocolate” and “a cup of coffee”. A girl called Mary came to the front of the classroom and pointed at two objects in the flash cards by speaking loudly. After she finished it, teacher praised her instantly and appointed a boy named Mark to draw a happy face on the blackboard below the name of the girl. Following by other students came to the front; they finished recalling all flash cards. When some children were stuck on some words like 'blackcurrant', the teacher provided help quickly by whispering.
After recalling phases, the teacher started to use the projector to show students some sentences which expanded these phrases to a sentence, such as” I want a bar of chocolate”, “this is a loaf of bread”,” my brother is having a cup of yogurt” ect. She invited students to speak in front of class again. However, there were lots of commotions from the students that were not on the stage. When the teacher thought that the class was out of control, she used the order 'hands up' to again bring order to the class. The recalling section lasted about 15 minutes.
2.2 Game section
The game ‘on board' took place around 11.30 am. The teacher grouped students into two large groups by an equal proportion, the left part and the right part, and then appointed Mark to keep record of the scores. She explained the rules explicitly that every group would send a student to the stage; he or she could choose a flash card which picture side faced to other classmates then made a sentence. The mark varied from one to three based on their performance. One mark was given to student who can only point out the object. The student would be awarded two marks if he could make a sentence with the phrase or read the phrase out very loudly. Finally, the students would be awarded three points if the student was able to make a sentence with the phrase and read the phrase out very loudly. However, the teacher did not shut down the computer after introducing the rules and the students could still view the sentence patterns on the screen. Although the medium of the communication for the class was English, the teacher used Cantonese several times in order to discipline the students.
Students were highly motivated at the beginning of the game; many of them volunteered to go first. However, the teacher chose students based on their seating location and every child had an equal opportunity of playing the game. The performance of students varied with their English proficiency. Some of them had difficulty in recognizing words like “waffle” and “blackcurrant”; and some of them failed to articulate clearly which was due to their unfamiliarity of sentence pattern. These students seemed to pay no attention to the sentence pattern on the big screen. Many students willingly provided help when they saw their fellow classmates met difficulty on the stage while others chatted with their friends around them. As the game progressed, the class got more rowdy. Finally, the teacher used the code' hands ready' again to maintain order.
Criteria for scoring changed with time. Initially, the scoring was difficult but the teacher relaxed the rules. Many of students could get 3 marks by turning back to read the sentence on the screen. The teacher began to forbid students looking back when they were standing on the stage. In addition, a number of grammar mistakes like' my brother like drink blackcurrant juice' were not corrected instantly by teacher.
Some students lost their interest in the game. For example, a shy boy near the back of classroom was eager to join the game at the beginning but since his neighbors did not pay attention to his signal of communication, he began to play his textbook by tearing down a few small pieces of pages. In contrast, several more positive students could not wait to show off themselves by speaking loudly, one of them even came to the front of class to correct the mistakes made by the child on the stage. The class was chaotic again and the teacher had to use the order code' hands up' for commanding student to obey the principle of classroom. She warned the student who came to the front by commanding the Mark draw an unhappy face on the right side of black board. At the very last 5 minutes, the teacher accounted the scores of each group and announced the winner following by a short conclusion of this speaking lesson.
3. Post- observation
Few days after the observation, I had a short conversation with the teacher. When I asked about her general feeling of the class, she thought that one activity for the lesson was too dull but she was happy for the progress made. A girl who used to be quite inactive in class commented that the English class was very interesting. The teacher was most satisfied with the encouragement she gave to students, but she was unhappy with only having one activity in the class. She believed that the strength of her teaching was the sufficient interaction with students.
1. The learner
1.1 Attending to the learner
Teacher's attending behavior is important to achieve a successful humanistic learning environment for our students. It has been said that one cannot teach a language - the best one can do is to make the conditions right for learners to learn. Part of these ‘right conditions' involves how the teacher relates to-or attends to-the learners. For this reason, I paid attention to observe the teacher's attending behavior towards the learners: the way the teacher acknowledged, through verbal or non-verbal means, the presence, contribution, and needs of individual learners. In this case, the obvious attending strategies used by teacher were the use of student's names and abundant eye contact with her students. The gender of student was not relevant to the distribution of teacher attention in here whereas the seat arrangement lent itself to a particular spread of teacher attention. The students sat at the back of the classroom did not get the equal attention compared with the students in front and the middle. What I learned from her attending strategies is that we should try to give equal amount of attention to students.
1.2 Learner motivation
Learner motivation whatever it is the instrumental motivation or integrative motivation, its level (high or low) has an impact on expected learner roles. Highly motivated learners are more likely to synchronise their roles willingly with the teacher's role and are more likely to co-operate with the teacher in the various processes involved in classroom learning. Those children who raised their hands for coming to the stage are good evidence. They willingly responded to teacher's questions and passionately involved into the activity.
1.3 Learner level
One objective of this observation is to check whether the teacher accommodates her teaching to the different learning levels of students. A teacher should read the indicators of challenge in order to assess whether the level of difficulty is indeed appropriate. If all students can do an activity easily and accurately then it is probably below the appropriate level of difficulty for this class. Though this class is a weak class in the school, the level of students is not homogenous. The teacher was alerted to the indicators of challenge, which reflected on some aspects that non-comprehension in facial expression, student waiting time before response and first respondent does not offer the correct answer. When students consistently did not quickly and accurately point out the objects or make sentences, she lowered the standard in order to avoid potential frustration of weaker students.
2.1 The teacher's meta-language
The term ‘meta-language' in here means the language a teacher uses to allow the various classroom processes to happen, that is, the language of organizing the classroom. The language use here should be genuinely contextualized, purposeful, communicative and potentially rich in input. For example, according to students' language ability, she avoided using the type of questions that would involve complex response but using yes/no questions like ‘here is a picture of a bottle of blackcurrant juice. Have you seen it before?' and display questions like ‘what is it in the picture? Or what is the sentence on the first raw?' Her language use fulfilled the cognitive and linguistics demands made on the learners.
2.2 The language of feedback to error
Most teachers are aware of feedback in terms of its motivational value: the value of positive feedback and the dis-incentive that negative reinforcement can produce. In this speaking class, the teacher believed that she should not interrupt students in mid-flow to point out a grammatical, lexical or pronunciation error, since to do so would interrupt the communication and drag an activity back to the study of language form or precise meaning. Thus, a number of expressions like ‘my brother like a bar of chocolate' and ‘ there a bottle of yogurt' were accepted by teacher till it were made too many times then she corrected it. I think students benefit more from less intervention in communicative task. However, the timing of teacher interventions should be concerned with the error types and the aim of lesson.
3. Educational climate for learning
Few would now doubt that people learn best when they are relaxed, comfortable, unstressed, interested and involved in what is going on, and motivated to continue. This class impressed me deeply by its anticipative classroom atmosphere. The teacher always used positive reinforcement like smiled, nods, called by name to encourage students even when a child violated the principle of class for attempting to replace his weaker fellow, she did not penalize him. I could see most of children did enjoy this class by their facial expression.
4. Teaching Skills and Strategies
The skill of presenting is important in the repertoire of a language teacher, as learners often look to the teacher to perform this role. As a trainee teacher, two key components of a presentation seem more important to me: The teacher's voice and the physical position of the teacher in the classroom. The former one composes a number of qualities which are audibility, projection, speed, clarity and lack of distortion. During the observation, I noticed the speed of teacher's speech was moderate and her articulation was clear which did not confuse her students. In addition, she stayed on the stage for the whole lesson, but I think that she could go to middle or back of classroom instead.
5.1 Managing group work
Group work requires different teacher skills to transit between different interactive patterns smoothly and efficiently in teacher-led activities. The teacher chose to separate children into two groups which created groups of mixed levels but each group had too many members and no leaders were appointed to help teacher to manage their group members. Consequently, she had to use the principle code ‘hands ready' or ‘are you ready' many times. In my opinion, the teacher could group students into four groups and appoint some group leaders to assist her in monitoring other students.
5.2 Teaching and learning roles
An important aspect of effective teaching is the facility with which a teacher can move in and out of these various roles and enable learners to do likewise. The flexibility itself depends on the teacher's understanding of the purposes of different stages of a lesson and a clear sense of what the various corresponding roles of teachers and learners are. The teacher adapted a focused instructional cycle which was the Presentation-Practice-Production style of lesson. In here, wherever in the lesson the production phase occurred (e.g. children made a sentence), the relative and interconnected roles of teacher and learners remained as facilitator to producer or guide to communicator (e.g. the teacher gave tips for helping weak students). I also think the order of the three ‘P's can vary sometimes, for example, in order to establish with clarity areas of need and motivation, the production stage may come before the presentation.
5.3 Timing and pace
The fact that teaching is itself a contrivance, an event that is structured and planned, means that it is a process affected by the parameters and constraints of time. It is very difficult for trainee teachers to predict the length of the activity. The teacher of this observation set a good example for me to follow. She handled with timing and pace well by considering a number of factors, like the age of the learners, the difficulty of task, and the level of her students.
6. Materials and Resources
The materials use depends on goals, input, activity, roles and setting that the lesson wishes to achieve. The teacher did not prepare any handouts to students in this speaking class but using the flash cards and projector as instructional materials. The materials contained extrinsic value for the affective side of those kids who can use it in their daily life.
7. Lesson Planning
The planning of teaching can be seen as a series of decisions made by a teacher about various elements of a lesson- learners, materials, tasks, etc. the nature of different lesson is various: a lesson devoted to role-play will be different from a writing lesson or one devoted to an analysis of grammar. Based on the observation, I can see that the teaching plan had set up activity that promoted communication, realistically contextualized language, motivated a certain number of students and checked the comprehension, but just as the teacher mentioned in the post-meeting, she did not plan enough activities. Besides that, she did not intend to incorporate speaking as a component into her future classroom teaching, which means that students' confidence in spoken English would not be improved. Thus, the inconsistency of lesson planning was the weakness of her teaching.
Being an observer in the classroom, rather than the teacher, gave me the freedom to look at the lesson from a range of different perspective. For the trainee teacher like me, this freedom is particularly important, it helps teachers gain a better understanding of teaching theories were used in actual lesson. From this observation exercise, I appreciated how the teacher values interaction with her students through game, however her lesson plan is not comprehensive and do not take speaking into her future teachings. I wish that I am able to improve on this area of teaching so that my students will have a more holistic education.