Classroom Observations

The classes I observed are at one school, but involve students from two different schools. This makes starting the class very different. The first group of students, who are from the school I observe, arrive on time, right at the beginning of the period. The other students have to walk from the a nearby school, and usually get there about five minutes into the period. This is handled in two ways, either the first set of students are free to chat among themselves for five minutes, or they would start on a small activity. Once all the students arrive, attendance is taken and the students are given time to ask a few questions about the previous day’s homework. By following a similar procedure each day the students know what to expect, and the disruption of having half the class come in late was avoided.

Lessons usually consist of a short lecture followed by a worksheet or lab. During lectures the teacher calls on students in order to keep their attention and gauge their understanding. If a student is struggling with a problem the teacher takes over and works through the problem with the entire class on the board. During labs and worksheets the teacher wanders throughout the classroom, stopping by to look at students worksheets and answer questions. Moving through the classroom seems effective as the students were rarely of task, however as the periods I have observed have been mostly AP classes, the students want to be there and show less off track behavior as a result.

As I observe a science classroom transitions, especially ones that involve finding lab materials, can be quite a disruption. The three most common transitions I notice are getting lab materials, getting laptops out, and transitioning between the lecture and the worksheet. Lab materials, surprisingly, seem to cause the least disruption. Everything need for the day is located in a 5-gallon bucket at the back of the classroom. After a brief overview of the lab is given one person from each group would go to the back of the classroom and get the bucket. While this meant a little extra prep work for the teacher it ended up being a lot faster than having students get several different items from several different places in the classroom, and more importantly meant there was less cleanup at the end of the lab. Computers are difficult because there is a very limited amount of room in front of the computer cart. This is handled by having one person stand in front of the computer cart and pass computers to everyone else. Finally, the most disruptive transition is between lecture and worksheets. The teacher gives everyone all their labs and homework at the very beginning of the semester in a bound book format, as this supposedly cuts down on the number of papers students lose, but makes it a lot harder when a student inevitably looses his or her entire booklet. I think the books also make transitions a little bit harder because the students usually have to ask a couple times what page they should be on. I think this transition would benefit from the page number being written on the board or on the last slide of the lecture.

Closing is the least consistent part of the class, but usually involves the students starting to put computers or lab materials, if used, away 3ish minutes before the bell. The teacher then usually reminds students of what homework is due the next day and then the students are allowed to remain in their seats talking quietly until the bell. I have never seen the students work right up till the bell.

Of all the strategies that I have observed the one I’m most likely to apply to my future classroom is starting of the day with questions about the homework/previous lesson. This lets students know I’m interested in how they are doing and tells me if there is anything I might need to go over in depth again. Additionally, as science and math usually build upon previous lessons and ideas, having students ask questions at the beginning of the lesson serves as a good way to sneak in a brief review of the previous class without sounding like I’m repeating myself or forgot where we stopped the previous class period.

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