Classroom Observation: Report 2 Teacher Observed: G Observer: Alejandra de Antoni Date: May 19th 2009

Observation Task taken from “Classroom Observation Tasks” (Cambridge University Press)

“The very Process of Observation stimulates self-reflection, as if Observing were a kind of Mirroring.”
(Classroom Power, Classroom Observation Tasks)
Class: 1st Year Intermediate (C School, Buenos Aires City, Argentina) Number of Learners: about 25 Age: 12/13 years old Length of Lesson: 40 minutes Level: Elementary+ / Pre-intermediate Observer: Alejandra de Antoni Teacher Observed: G During the lesson, I answered 23 questions as regards “power” in the classroom, i.e. who decides (the teacher, the students or both?) upon the different elements that play a role in classroom management. Classroom Observation Tasks; Classroom Power; During the Lesson

1. T 2. T

T: teacher Ss: students

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3. T 4. T 5. Students (at the beginning of the course) 6. T & Ss 7. T 8. T % Ss 9. T (in fact, pairs weren’t created, they worked with their partners) 10. T 11. T 12. T 13. T 14. T 15. T 16. T 17. T & Ss 18. T & Ss 19. Ss 20. T 21. T & Ss 22. T & Ss (It was a collaborative correction as a whole class) 23. Ss (The teacher asked them if they wanted to do the writing at home because they were getting really restless and they answered that they wanted to do it in class so as not to do it on their own. Even though the T was not really asking them about the homework, they actually decided upon it because they were not given another activity instead) After the lesson, I will answer some questions (See Appendix) so as to analyse the results of the previous questionnaire. 1. The general tendency is that the teacher is in charge of the decision-making of the classroom most of the times. It does not surprise me at all because it’s the general tendency in large courses (especially secondary school). When it comes to large course and, on top of that, teenagers it’s very difficult to give them the freedom to decide upon the homework, the language topics, the activities and the materials, for example. Unless the students are really eager to learning English and can commit themselves towards that goal, it is very difficult for the teacher to “let them be.” Furthermore, since the teacher is working in and for an institution, it is necessary for her to comply with certain rules and standards. 2. What value is there in letting students…

Classroom Observation: Report 2 Teacher Observed: G Observer: Alejandra de Antoni Date: May 19th 2009

o Choose the topics of the lesson? Well, it’s an excellent way of raising
students’ interests for they will be working on topics they are concerned about. However, this was not the case in this lesson. The topics were chosen by the teacher probably because of a need to comply with the syllabus. Choose the seating arrangement? I think it’s really important for the students to feel that not everything is in the hands of the teacher. It is also a good way of improving pair and group work for they will certainly work better with the ones they get on well with. However, this might lead to excessive and unwanted chatting. But, as it always happens in life, there are risks that we have to be ready to face. Write on the board? Writing on the board, I think, is a great of opportunity for the students to show what they have done. It’s something that, in some way, makes them feel they are “like” the teacher because of being able to write on the board (something that, in general, is reserved exclusively for teachers).

o

o

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Classroom Observation: Report 2 Teacher Observed: G Observer: Alejandra de Antoni Date: May 19th 2009 o Choose the homework? It’s a great way of being sure that they will do it! Most students hate homework so a perfect way of making them do it (we do need them to do some extra practise at home!) is asking them to choose or design the activities (always under our supervision and, of course, keeping in mind that our reason for giving them homework is to make them practise. What we are doing is not leaving aside our aim but trying to find a way of motivating them to do their work). 3. Language used by students during the lesson. If students were given the opportunity (in the context of this particular classroom) to explore issues of their own interest; give their own explanations of language as they understand it; answer some of each other’s questions and repeat and clarify something for their peers, I think that the following will happen:

o Since students’ level is not advanced enough for discussing topics of
their choice, they will be forced to find out ways of adapting real material to make it more comprehensible for them. However, realistic material can sometimes be frustrated in the sense that they may not be able to understand and cope with it. Therefore, to avoid students’ use of their mother tongue to talk about the chosen topics, the teacher needs to help and provide them with comprehensible material about the topics for them to be able to discuss them in English. It is widely known that, when interested and motivated, students learn more easily. If we want to profit from this, we have to be aware of the amount and difficulty of extra work we will have to do to provide them with comprehensible material. It’s a very demanding job but a very rewarding one. In the case of students’ explanations of language, I think that, even though they are not proficient enough to express most of them in English, it’s worth trying! In my personal opinion, I believe that a student’s own explanation of a language form is really more understandable for their peers than one given by the teacher provided that it has been previously checked and approved by the teacher. When students are immersed in the analysis and understanding of the language they can come up with excellent accounts and explanations!  In this particular lesson, both the teacher and the students answered the students’ questions. I think it’s a great idea to have students answer each other’s questions. As it is the case in real life, we do not always get answers from the same person all the time. On the contrary, we always ask different questions to different people and, since we want a communicative classroom, the same should happen in the lesson. Therefore, it will be quite unnatural to ask all the questions to the teacher (even though it is true that the one teaching the language is the teacher not the students). Having students answer each other’s questions is an excellent tool for the teacher to raise their confidence and their concern about what they are learning.

o

o

4. A shift in power: I think that a shift in power (the students’ having more power than the teacher) will bring about changes both in learning processes and possible outcomes. The main characteristics of a classroom in which the students’ are in power will be that it will become an independent one (in contrast with one dependent on the teacher) and that its outcomes will definitely be original and unpredictable ones (if the students decide what to do, how to do it and when to do it the teacher will have no influence and control at all on the results). The main challenge in having such a classroom is how to make sure that students learn what they have to learn when they have to learn it. Such an independent classroom can only be achieved when there is not time constraint and there is not syllabus to comply with. When classroom activity is

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Classroom Observation: Report 2 Teacher Observed: G Observer: Alejandra de Antoni Date: May 19th 2009 restricted by the clock and a syllabus negotiation must take place. The fact that there is a syllabus to follow does not mean that the teacher has the power. There can always be negotiations between the teacher and the students as regards what to do, how to do it and when to do it keeping in mind the time and topic constraints.

5. Teachers and crucial decision-making:
Some teachers feel reluctant to let go some decision-making. But why? I think that, even though some would argue that the teacher must be the only one in power, some others would say that, sometimes, they have to decide upon certain things because they have a syllabus to comply with. Again, I think that negotiation is crucial in this issue. We know that certain topics need to be covered but what we are not told is how they should be covered. So it is there that we give our students the power to decide. There are some things that we have to comply with but there are always some others that can be put in our students’ hands. 6. Risks in handing over some decision-making: The most evident risk when handing over decision-making is that it makes lessons unpredictable, spontaneous and what can be planned is reduced. I think it’s great when you give different groups of students the same activity and you receive different outcomes! It means that you gave them the possibility of doing something personal and unique while, at the same time, they were practising the target language. The main problem comes when you want them to practise something in particular (a tense, for instance) and you cannot control the volume of practice they get with the activity. Sometimes it is very difficult for us to risk practice and accuracy when we know that there is very little time for them to learn what they have to. 7. Who takes the decisions in the classroom? A cross-cultural issue: Whenever there is a clash between the students’ and the teacher’s beliefs as regards classroom power, I think that the best way of dealing with it is talking about it. If I had students that believe that I should take all the decisions all the time, I would let them know why I think it is also important for them to be able to decide on certain matters. I would talk to them about the different issues I discussed in the previous questions and let them know why I believe in the need for their getting involved in the decisions and would also ask them what they think about my beliefs and what their own beliefs are. 8. Learner-generated material. A source of development for the teacher? Using material created by students is, above all, a way of praising our students’ work. Students love it when their works are used and read by others since it makes them feel they did a great job. For the teacher, using their students’ materials is a way of realising that we are not “Gods” of the language but merely guides in our students’ path towards learning English and providers in our students search for different ways of going through that path. It helps us develop as both professionals and people.

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Classroom Observation: Report 2 Teacher Observed: G Observer: Alejandra de Antoni Date: May 19th 2009 Finally, after analysing this particular lesson, here comes the reflection. What did I learn from this experience? Classroom Observation Tasks; Classroom Power; Reflection

I generally share some decision-making with my students. I don’t generally let them decide everything simply because there are some things that have to be done in a certain period of time (this is related to what I explained in points 5 and 6 above). Of course I know that there are certain aims that we should achieve in a certain period of time but, at the same time, I know that we can sometimes negotiate the way in which we are going to do so. I know that sometimes I put at risk some shortterm goals (for instance, practising a certain language topic in a given activity) while letting them decide on the way they will carry out an activity or the topics they are going to talk about. It’s definitely more demanding and risky for us to hand over power but, in the end, it is a lot more rewarding because they will not only enjoy what they are doing but they will also remember it! The key is M & M: Motivating and Memorable!

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Classroom Observation: Report 2 Teacher Observed: G Observer: Alejandra de Antoni Date: May 19th 2009 APPENDIX: Classroom Observation Tasks; Classroom Power; After the Lesson

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