Classroom Description and Observation Focus
The object of my observation was a self-contained classroom-based on 8 boys and 1 girl mixed with grades 3rd,4th, and 5th graders. The class included 8 boys and 1 girl; all the students are taught based on the Individualized Education Program (IEP). The ground for the IEP is the serious emotional disturbance: children demonstrate hyperactivity, lack of attention, immaturity, and impulsiveness.
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The focus of my observation was interpersonal relations and communication within the class, the learning process, and the discipline. Observation aimed to determine how students’ specific needs impact the educational process, and what approach the teacher uses to manage it.
How is space arranged in the classroom?
The classroom space is organized effectively. Students sit at the single desks situated in the center of the room. In case the lesson includes work in pairs, the teacher organizes the space correspondingly. One of the students works with an individual assistant: they sit at the double desk not far from the blackboard. In front of the desks, there is enough space for individual and team performances. The classroom is equipped with a blackboard and a word wall. The word wall is full, and the walls are covered with illustrations, students’ drawings, educational posters, and other learning materials. Behind the desks, there is a space where students can have rest: there are a few chairs, a table, and a bookstand with books, toys, and educational games.
Students have an opportunity to spend their free time after lunch in the yard. They are accompanied by the Instructional Assistant and are not allowed to stay in the yard without her supervision. The students are rarely kept outside the full 20 minutes, as there are attempts to leave the school premises and cases of fighting.
Is the class safe and healthy?
Due to the good organization of the classroom space, it is safe: there are no obstacles for the students’ movement and no unsafe objects. The desks have rounded corners. The room is light and well-ventilated. The negative factor is the misbehaviors demonstrated by some of the students: they get involved in fights that may cause their injuries and those of the other students. Some of the students are often caught with weapons hidden in their clothes and taken into the classroom.
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What kinds of materials are available to children to encourage learning?
Children are allowed to place the new words onto the word wall. There is a poster titled “Hall of fame” where the name of a student who had the best performance during the last month is placed. The second poster is titled “Leader of the Week”: each week, the teacher assigns a student who is responsible for the behavior in the classroom, preparation for the lesson, cleanness of the classroom, etc. Children have an opportunity to play educational games in the classroom; however, they rarely use them.
What kinds of classroom routines do you notice?
Classroom routines are hardly noticed. A student assigned the responsibility of the “leader of the week” observes the cleanness of the desks and the blackboard; however, he/she is not able to influence the discipline in the classroom as supposed by the teacher. The teacher is often interrupted during the instructional time, she has to draw the students’ attention, solve their conflicts, and keep them from leaving the classroom. During the lessons, one of the students works with an individualized assistant who sits together with her and helps her complete the tasks. Students rarely help each other during the lessons or between them.
How is the day scheduled?
The students arrive at about 8:25, and the first lesson begins at 8:30. The class has the following schedule: 1. Reading/Language Arts. 2. Science. 3. Social Studies. 4. Lunch/recess. 5. Gym. 6. Math. 7. Health. The lunch/recess is from 11:45 to 12:30 pm.
Who talks to children? How and when?
During the lessons, the teacher explains the material and instructs the students. Students rarely work in teams, as this may cause conflicts and affect the discipline. The teacher often has to raise her voice to draw attention or stop the misbehavior. During my observation, the students worked in pairs at Reading and Science lessons. Between the lessons, the students have active communication. They mostly interact in small stable groups but sometimes the children from different groups talk or play together. Conflicts often arise during communication.
What levels of play are different children engaged in?
Play is considered to be one of the most interesting and effective ways to learn new material; it helps students get new knowledge, socialize, and have fun. In the observed classroom, the teacher uses play quite carefully – in the course of fulfilling an assignment that implies playing a game, it is very difficult to maintain discipline. Besides, a game can somewhat disperse children’s attention: while being focused on the playing component itself, they overlook learning. Finally, a game contains a big danger of conflicts arising. On the other hand, the game helps children stay not bored with their learning. The teacher chooses games that do not strongly excite children and do not contain the elements of tough competition.
Describe an instructional activity observed
I observed the activity the students fulfilled in pairs during the Science lesson. The lesson was devoted to fish anatomy. After the teacher demonstrated the poster with a fish depicted and explained the fish anatomy, the children had to think about the environment the fish lives in, brainstorm, and answer the questions, “Why a fish has… (a part of the body)”. In the course of the work, it was difficult for children to concentrate, but each of the groups produced several answers. When the teacher was checking the answers, the discipline worsened, each of the pairs wanted to but was not willing to listen to the rest of the students. The teacher raised the voice to keep the discipline.
Describe how the children-‘s socio-emotional needs are met
Despite the children demonstrate hyperactivity and may perceive the environment quite aggressively, they are nevertheless quite touchy and emotionally vulnerable. The teacher has to understand when the situation requires her strictness or backward calmness and understanding. She reacts to fights resolutely and stops them immediately. On the other hand, when she sees that a child needs compassion and emotional support, she finds a way to meet his/her needs. During my observation, she had talks with two students between the lessons.
During the lessons, the teacher also demonstrates resoluteness in maintaining discipline but welcomes the students’ attempts to ask and answer questions. The students are not afraid to make mistakes and express opinions.
How does the teacher manage the classroom?
The teacher does her best to stop the misbehaviors immediately, otherwise, the other children will be involved in it. She tries to gain control of the students and has to raise the voice quite often. She rarely uses jokes, as children get excited and their attention worsens. If a student is distracted with a thing in his/her hand or on the desk, the teacher takes it away. In some cases, she calls security or the children’s parents to help her with control.
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How are different children learning?
On the whole, children are involved in the learning process and work on the offered tasks. However, in some cases, when a child is tired, bored, or distracted, he/she may resist fulfilling an assignment and express his/her displeasure to the teacher. The majority of the students nevertheless enjoy the teacher’s praise and enjoy an opportunity to give a correct answer or demonstrate the result of their work. Most students are quite good at Reading and Language Arts but seem somewhat bored at Math. Two students have low motivation for learning and get tired very quickly. They demonstrated interest only in the Social Studies lesson when the whole class had a discussion.
How does the teacher differentiate for children of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds?
There are children of different cultural backgrounds in the class, but they do not seem to be separated or fail to understand each other. The teacher does not highlight cultural backgrounds to not focus the students’ attention on the fact that they are different.
How does the teacher differentiate for children who have difficulty learning or appear to have a disability?
The teacher’s main task is to keep the students’ attention and involve them in learning. She explains the new material with simple words using interesting comparisons from real life. She prefers to explain the ideas twice using different words so that all the students can comprehend her. During the lessons, the teacher used 1st and 2nd-grade books. In case the students do not cope with a team or individual tasks, she helps them immediately before they get irritated and demonstrate impulsiveness. The student who works with the assistant fulfills the same tasks as the rest of the class.