A CLASSROOM OBSERVATION
Name of school: P.S. 220
Location: Forest Hills, NY
Name of teacher: Mrs. Fox
Grade Level: Fourth
This observation was particularly exciting for me because I went back to my
elementary school, to my fourth grade classroom, taught by my fourth grade teacher.
The language arts lesson that I observed was a period for the class to read and
record in their journals individually. The methods of doing so were, however, different,
from the way things were done when I was in school. It was explained to me by the
teacher that, now, post-it notes are “the new thing”. They are a more convenient method
of note taking for the students. Instead of trying to remember everything they would like
to, or open up a journal constantly, it is encouraged that the students simply have post-it
notes handy and make notes as they go along. At the end of their reading session, they
simply transfer these notes into their journals and elaborate and clarify as necessary.
To prepare for the math lesson, Mrs. Fox removed a book from the class library,
which was suprising to me. I was a bit confused. The name of the book was Spaghetti
and Meatballs for All, A Mathematical Story by Marilyn Burns. She then preceded to
read the book out loud to the class, pointing out relevant aspects and asking for class
participation in the name of clarification, as she went along. The story was about having
a party and trying to figure out how to fit all the people at the tables evenly. It was a
funny, entertaining book, and a great segway into the math lesson. Mrs. Fox explained to
me that now, everything, is tied into literature. I think that this is a really great, and
beneficial new trend. This way, math isn’t simply thought of as numbers. The children
can relate it back to a book and, therefore, more real-life situations.
The children were then given a math problem to work on. The problem was
written on a big piece of tablet paper. This, I was told, was also a new trend. Teachers
are encouraged to move away from using the blackboard, and towards using this paper.
This way, should a child need to go back to the problem later on in the period, or even in
the year, it will always be there.
Mrs. Fox called on a few volunteers to read the math problem out loud. After
each sentence, she stopped them and asked for the meaning of the sentence. This way,
she was making sure that the class understood everything that was written (in terms of
vocabulary) and also understood the task at hand. This reminded me of a morning lesson.
reading and comprehension could even be taken in venues such as math.
The class then worked cooperatively in pairs to solve the problem. The teachers
stepped back and allowed the children to solve the problem, while she walked around
observing and giving guidance where requested. They recorded their answers on pieces
of paper and were asked not only to write out their work in numbers, but also to draw the
tables out visually have a symbol represent the people at the table. This way, they would
be able to see it numerically and pictorially. When they thought they came to a correct
conclusion, they called the teacher over. She would not simply look at the work and say
whether it was right or wrong, she would ask for an explanation of their thinking
processes and have them tell her how they came to their answer. I thought that this was a
great way to really get them thinking about their thinking (metacognition).
The management style employed by Mrs. Fox was one of authority, but not at the
cost of approachability. It was obvious that she is a professional and has been honing
“her craft” for many years. She knew how to lead the class in an organized fashion, keep
them on task, maintain order, and create an environment conducive to learning. The class
was focussed, and if at any time strayed from this, she was able to bring them right back.
To better accommodate the cooperative, group work, style she employed, Mrs.
Fox has the desks set up in 5 clusters. The desks were not all facing the front of the
classroom. This, to me, was a friendlier, less intimidating environment. There were
books, literally, everywhere around the room. There was a library, but other than that,
there were crates fill of books around the perimeter of the room. The children’s work
was also displayed on the walls throughout the room. There was not an inch of wall not
covered by some type of decoration.
The students seemed focused on their task and eager and determined to do their
work correctly and come to a right answer. If small distractions came about, they were
dealt with, and urged to go back to their work. Mrs. Fox was willing to lend a helping
hand, but it was apparent that she really wanted the children to work out the problems in
Overall, I thought the teaching methods were effective and that the children really
benefitted from the lesson. They were involved and eager. They were challenged, yet
guided. And most of all, I was very excited to see literature being tied in to other facets
of the curriculum.