Cirque du Classroom: Official Grad School Observation #2


Re-reading these observation notes is a bit misleading. This was by far one of the 3 worst class sessions I’ve had this school year. Made exponentially worse by the fact that I had an official observation with my Grad school coach. I remember a few times thinking about either blowing up, or shutting everything down and having the class sit there on “punishment” while we all calmed down enough to continue. BUT, since my coach was there I had to keep powering through and trying to just let the minutes on the clock tick away as I tried to get us to learn the material. Anywho, here are the notes. This observation happened on March 6, 2013. 

Description of Class

When our students entered your classroom, you asked one of the boys to distribute the folders.  A girl asked what you were doing today and you said you were doing “Just Words,” and you had a jam-packed lesson. You asked your students to take out their journals.

You said, “Hello, Everyone.  Welcome to Wednesday.”  You told them that you had projected a picture of a golden retriever and began reading the text, but Natasha asked why you didn’t do the one about the man who fell into the hole and died.  She began explaining what had happened to the man in Florida and you asked her to explain what a sinkhole was.  She did and you added to her explanation.  The class was very interested in what Natasha had said and wanted to know more about sinkholes.

You projected a picture of a sinkhole on the SMARTboard.  One of the girls said she was scared and wanted to know if it could happen in New York.  Janae tried to explain how sinkholes happen by talking about volcanoes.  You said that she was partially correct and explained tectonic plates and how the earth is constantly moving and that what more than likely happened is that one of the open spaces below the ground shifted and the earth got weak and it opened up.

Marsha said if you stare into the sky you could see movement.  The phone rang and you answered it.  You then said that they had their geography and science lesson for the day and that you would try to find something like this for Friday.  You then projected the Launch and said that they had two different prompts. You asked them to either:

1) Write about your last trip.  Where did you go?  What made this trip memorable for you?  If you haven’t gone on a trip recently describe your dream trip.  Where would you go?  What would you do?  Who would you see?

2) Draw your own skyscraper.  What will it look like on the outside?  How many floors are there?  What types of businesses are there?  What types of people live there?  What outrageous features make your skyscraper better then others?

You read the prompts and said that you were setting the timer for five minutes.

At 10:37, Juan came in.  He asked you for a piece of paper and said he is staying but he is not doing this work.

While students were working, you went over to one of the boys and talked to him about how he has been a little drowsy for the last few classes and you were not going to accept it.  You wanted his head up and you wanted him to do work.  He sat up in his seat.

Natasha was talking and not working and you asked her to work.  She asked why she should work since it was Wednesday.  You thanked her for voicing her opinion and asked her to begin working.  Natasha then asked why you weren’t writing.  You said that you had to walk around and make sure everyone was working.  The phone rang and you answered it but it was the wrong number.

The alarm went off and you asked if someone wanted to share.  Marsha said that she went to the Dominican Republic.   She went to different hotels and three different water parks.  And she had to hear her family talk “a whole lot of shit”.  You paraphrased and said she heard her family talk crazy. You asked her questions about her trip and she replied.

Cassie shared next.  She said she went to Holiday Hills and it was a lot of fun.  There were some “big-assed” pools and she went canoeing.  You asked her when she went and she said in June.  You responded by saying that there were a lot of summer trips.

Cassie added that she also went camping in Connecticut and you asked if it was this summer.

Katrina shared next.  Her last trip was to Bush Gardens in Virginia.  She explained that it was like a water park and had lots of buffets.

Janae shared next.  Two weeks ago she went to Atlantic City.  She went shopping and she went on the boardwalk and in the pool. And they went out to eat every morning and they also had dinner out. She added that what she liked best was the shopping.

After Janae shared, you thanked your students for sharing.  You said that you really couldn’t remember the last trip you went on.  Natasha asked you where you wanted to go and you said Tokyo, Japan.

Next you flashed a slide on the SMARTboard with four words.  You quickly took the slide away, but Marcus said the words he had seen:  could, would, should, and been.  You asked the class how to spell those words.  You said that on the last progress check, some of the class got these words incorrect, so you wanted them to write would, could should and been in their journals.  Most of the students began writing.  You went over to a girl on the side, asked her to open her book and write the words.  You told the class that in their mind, they should be thinking about sentences that they could write with those words.

You projected the four words again and told them that they should check to see that they wrote the words correctly in their journals.  You projected, ”plant,” and asked Cassie what the word was.  Then you projected, “plant er” and asked what the base word was.  Your students said plant.  Marcus said –er was a suffix and you asked if it was a vowel suffix or a consonant suffix.  He said vowel.  You asked Cassie how you know if it is a vowel suffix or a consonant suffix and she said “e” is a vowel.  You showed them how you wanted them to mark the base and the suffix and wrote the word “planter,” on the dry erase board. You said they should underline the base word and circle the suffix.

You said that today the class was gong to be learning a lot of new suffixes – six new vowel and consonant suffixes.  You asked what suffixes they have learned so far and Janae said, “est, er, ed, ing, es, s.   Marsha called out ld and ost, but you explained that they were not suffixes.

Marsha kept calling out letters.  Janae asked what you call sh or st but it was difficult to hear because of Marsha.

You projected the word thankful and said that there was a base word and a suffix and asked Janae what the base word was. She said thank.  You asked what the suffix was and she said ful.  You said you wanted them to turn to a new page in their journals and Natasha asked why you were wasting paper.

The next slide was “thankless.”  You asked what the base was and what the suffix was.

The next slide was shipment.  You asked Kareem what the base word was.  He said ship.  You said suffix was ment.  You added that they should write ment in their journals – and they should have full, less, and ment.

You asked Juan if he could cooperate and he  You made a phone call (but I could not hear what you said.)

The next slide was kindness.  You asked what the base word and suffix were and said to write ness in journal.

The slide after that was childish.  After students told you the base word and the suffix, you told them to write ish in their journals.

The final slide was freshen.  A woman came to the door.  Juan said something under his breath and you said that was not necessary.   He got up to leave the class and you went outside the room and spoke to the woman and Juan.

You came back and asked if they got freshen.  They said yes.  You then told them what you wanted to do.  You wanted them to pair up and asked if Natasha and Cynthia could be a pair.  You asked Trevor to come up to sit with Katrina.  Natasha didn’t want to move.  Trevor didn’t want to move.  Someone asked you to start the lesson, but you asked how you could start the lesson if two people didn’t want to move and two people had their heads down.  You asked them what they think you should be doing and said, ‘you guys are really frustrating me today.”  You went over to Kareem and Phillip and said you needed them up.  Phillip got up and left.  At 11:04, you went to the phone and made another phone call.

You said that for each suffix, you were going to give them 60 seconds to come up with as many words as they can with that suffix.  When you started the timer you said you wanted to see how many words they can come up with.

Marsha called you over and said she wanted to ask you a serious question.  She began giggling and asked you if you know the muffin man.  You ignored her question and went over to another student.  You asked who had written down 3 words?  5 words??  Students began sharing words.  Sometimes they said a word that was not a word – like chestful – and you corrected them.

You then gave them 60 seconds for “less” and then asked them to share.  You then moved on to “ment” and started the time.   You asked who had three words and several hands went up.  You asked who had more than three and Cassie raised her hand and said she had four. Janae had basement and punishment.  When Cassie said comment you wrote it on the board and explained why it wasn’t.  You asked what was the base word?  Com wasn’t a base word. You then said you were going to give them three minutes to do the rest of the words – ness, ish and en.

The door opened at 11:14 and Phillip came back into the room.  You asked him to step outside and went outside the door to talk to him.  Natasha got up and went over to Kareem’s desk and threw his book and paper on the floor.  She went back to her seat and he went over to her and threw her pen on the floor.  A woman with a radio and a man came in to the room.  The man looked through the folders in the bookshelf on the side.

When you came back into the room, Natasha said that Kareem threw her pen to the floor and you asked them to go outside to talk to you.  Before you went out, you said that you wanted the class to add as many suffixes as they could to the words on the sheet that you would collect it at the end of the period.  They would receive credit for doing it.

When you came back into the room, you gave Natasha something to write with because she said she no longer had a pen. The bell rang and you reminded your students to put their names on their papers because you were collecting them.

Strengths/ For Further Understanding

Even though the Just Words class is scripted, you began your class with a picture you thought your students would find interesting and a Launch that invited them to write about themselves and share their thoughts, ideas, etc.  You projected a picture of a golden retriever, but when Natasha began talking about sinkholes and the class expressed an interest in hearing about what happened in Florida, you allowed that discussion to take place and googled a picture of a sinkhole to show your class.  By doing this, you showed your students that you value what they are interested in and also took the opportunity to clarify some of their misconceptions about sinkholes.  The launch also showed an interest in them and their lives, and gave them an opportunity to communicate with each other before settling down to business.

It is wonderful that you give your students an opportunity to write about and share their experiences.  I am not sure that all of your students wrote in their journals before sharing.  Since the Just Words class is not a place where they do self-generated writing, it is a good idea to ask them to write in their journals at the start of each class.  Continue to encourage them to write first and talk afterwards, instead of just talking about the prompt.  The more they have the opportunity to write informally about themselves, the more comfortable they will feel about writing in general.

Throughout the period, you gave your students directions for breaking down words into the base and suffix, and then generating lists of words which include suffixes.  Your students all had a handout and you also showed them a series of slides.  I want to suggest that when you switch to a new activity, you always model what you want the to do.  For example, towards the end of the lesson, you gave them a list of words and wanted them to add all of the suffixes that work with those words and some of your students were not sure of what to do.  By writing the word “rest” on the marker board and thinking aloud as you add all of the suffixes that work, your students would clearly see how they should proceed.

I want to commend you on the professional and caring demeanor which which you conduct your class.  During our debrief, we talked about how you were frustrated with your class this period. When you wanted them to work in groups and Trevor and Natasha didn’t want to change their seats, you told the class that they were frustrating you today.  I want you to know that I think you handled all of their frustrating behavior (Juan who did not want to cooperate today, Phillip who left the room when you asked him to pick up his head and work and then came back later on in the period, Marsha asking you if you knew the muffin man, and Natasha complaining that Kareem took her pen) in a very calm manner.  You did not let your students get a rise out of you and you dealt with each situation appropriately.  When necessary, you took the student out of the room to talk to him/her.  You let your students know when their behavior was not appropriate, told them what you expected and continued the lesson.

Your students are very fortunate to have you for their teacher.  You clearly take an interest in who they are and what they need in order to be successful in school.


Read more of my observations here: Observation Notes

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