by Senem Tosun & Elif Paksoy
Description of the Context
My friend Senem and I made our observation in a public primary school in Yenimahalle, Ankara. Our class hours were between 10:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m. for 4th grade students. The proficiency of our class is mixed. That is, there are students at different levels. For example, there are some students whose English background is good because they have studied in a private school and had some extra English classes. However, some are weak, and also in the class, there are 2 students with special needs.
After some difficulties to find a school for observation, we went to this primary school and really liked the class and our mentor, so we decided to observe this class.
The class, 4/B, consists of 25 students, and because the school is just a primary school, it is not so crowded like our class. We observed the teachers’ room slightly and saw that the teachers are busy. I think the ages of primary school students are so important to learn, and so the teachers give very importance to their learning in the best way. This primary school is small and cute with its students, teachers and building. Teachers seem to be experienced. I got this impression because our mentor is so experienced and professional. I would like to work in such a class and school because this type of experience would be good to improve myself at teaching and in my life.
Our mentor is from Ankara and graduated from Eskişehir Anadolu University’s department of English Language Teaching. She has been teaching for 19 years in different types of school. For instance, she hierarchically worked in university, high school, secondary school and primary school. She said she had been doing this profession with pleasure for years. She is really so experienced that it can be understood from her control over the class. However, she may sometimes become a bit harsh. Once, she said she raised her voice in order to make the student aware of his fault. She said that she preferred to use Eclectic Teaching Methods according to the state of the class, and her favorite method was Audio Lingual Method. She loves her students and her profession, as far as we could see.
The classroom atmosphere is generally noisy. The students are so hyperactive and full of energy. They always ask questions which is sometimes unrelated to the subject to their teacher or each other. The teacher and the students enjoy being there because they sometimes have funny moments. However, sometimes there is also tension in the air because the teacher warns them about their grades and behaviors.
If we were a teacher in this class, it would be hard and I would feel exhausted, but we could handle this because we love teaching and children. Being a student in this class is actually fun, but it can be annoying sometimes.
When we entered the school we realized that the stairs in which the English class is found were colored many different numbers and important grammatical structures like on one stair there is ”How old are you?” or the other one says ”I am ten years old”. We also like the design of the English class. There are many posters on the wall which are all related to the subjects in their lessons. We think these visuals are really helpful for their learning. If we were a teacher in that class, we would try to add some more materials such as real life objects that will be related to their subjects. Of course it would be really enjoyable to be a student in that class because as we see there is nice atmosphere in there.
Medium of Instruction: They learn by repeating their teacher and by writing what their teacher writes on the board, but they mostly speak in Turkish. They are not very good at speaking, but they can answer what their teacher asks.
Approaches, Methods and Techniques used in the Class: The mentor teacher uses an eclectic method. For example, we observed that she used some parts of direct method and audio lingual method with songs, repetition or transformation drill. She used some dialogues and made translation of her instructions in order to make students understand her clearly. Furthermore, she focused on question-answer during some activities like dialogues, and she taught concrete vocabulary through demonstration, objects, and pictures; she used many materials to make students get involved in activities. For instance, projection machine is an essential part of class. They reflect some worksheets to the white board and study it. We think it is good to capture students’ attention and make some parts of exercises clear. Our mentor teacher also uses repetition for correct pronunciation of vocabularies, and this is also a technique of Audio-lingual Method, but sometimes it can be boring for students. After a few repetitions, they may write a sentence including that vocabulary by also seeing it on the board.
Types of Materials and Activities used in the Class:
Useful ones: They give a chance to students to enhance their learning and make the lesson more enjoyable.
- Posters and other visuals on the wall
- Listening Activities
- Map for learning countries or continents
- Some additional sources
- Games which are enjoyable activities in the class
Not useful ones: We think some materials or activities that are used in the class are not necessary because they cannot be used for meaningful purposes.
- Their book
The mentor teacher used handouts mostly. She also used songs to make some listening. Their course books are so colorful and full of fun activities such as listening or fill in the blanks. She also used a map to teach the countries. They made some listening activities; first they just listen, second they do the fill in blanks activity while listening, and finally they check their answers. They played a game; by reading their lips’ movements they try to understand what they say. They sometimes used projection to make activity clear. We found them useful because these activities kept them silent and under control during the class. We found a listening activity useless because it is like that they put just check mark to the vocabularies they heard while listening. It was superficial.
During one hour, one of the students wanted to answer the question and stood up. Her voice was so low, and the teacher said to her to speak a bit loudly. Later, she asked her to yell as if she yelled at her brother at home a few times. The student yelled and smiled. The class applauded her. I think it was so encouraging for Elif.
One of the interesting events that I experienced at this school is the questions coming from the students. When we first entered the class, they were really excited as we were. They were also curious about these new guests. Firstly, the teacher introduced us to the class, then she let them ask questions to us. The questions were really interesting. One of them asked us the reason why we choose this job. One of them said we look younger than our real age. The other one asked whether we are good friends or not. Their reactions are so smart and they really know what to do when somebody new comes to class. I am really impressed with their intelligence and attitudes to the situations. Generation Z is coming like a bomb! Another event which I experienced was funny . One day when we were observing the students, one of the students sitting next to me exactly said like ”Teacher siz çok şekersiniz.” I was shocked when I heard this. That was a funny experience for me. They were really intelligent as I said.
Overall Reflection on School Observation
I have understood that teaching is a challenging profession. If you do not love it, it can be very hard to do it. Other than doing it, I need to do it in the best way to raise good students and make the future brighter for the next generation. Patient and controlling students are essential parts to start to teach. We went to Yenimahalle by subway and by bus every Tuesday morning, and I think it was worth our effort because I experienced something important for me.
If I were the teacher of this class, I would try to yell at them less. I think the teacher is a very good teacher, but yelling is scaring for children. I have learnt that children are open to learning English, so it is much easier to teach English to the students at these ages than the ones at older ages. I can use games while teaching as I observed that children love games for any aim.
I think that this school observation is really beneficial for the teacher of future from many perspectives. First of all, it provides us to gain real experience about students. Moreover, it gives us inspiration for how to be a good teacher in the future. It was mostly worth the effort for this observation. I learned that being a teacher is not as easy as we thought. It requires to be patient and also to work continuously without being tired. The most important criteria are loving this job and believing in yourself to do your best for teaching your students. If I were a teacher in this class, I would try to use many different methods or techniques for my students. I would create the best environment for them and apply the up to date approaches that appeal to their learning styles. Finally, I can say that I will do my best to be the best teacher in the future based on these experiences and observations.