I met Kim Fish and her friend Jeanne at FLAM and they were so gracious to come to my presentations and talk to me afterwards! During a PD day for their districts, they came to observe my class (on a Friday). It was business as usual in my class. Kim is a Spanish teacher and Jeanne is a French teacher. I loved observing them while they were watching as they seemed to really be enjoying the overall atmosphere of my classes.
My classes were glad to have them and were definitely showing off their fun attitudes and Spanish (as usual).
During class, we had the usual secret code to get it, then talked a little bit about the kids as usual in PQA, and continued with telling their third spoken story. Afterwards, we had PAT and played some games reviewing the story and/or the secret agents book we had just started. Since I have 90 minutes, we have to do a lot of different things!
I asked them to write a reflection after observing and here's what Kim wrote in an email:
November 8, 2015
Thank you so much for allowing me to observe you and your classes on October 23rd. I learned a lot from you and your students.
I want to begin by encouraging you and any other teachers to take the time to observe another instructor as he/she teaches. Observing your teaching methods has energized me to try different techniques in my own classroom. FLAM conferences encourage me as well, but seeing how something is actually carried out in the classroom with live students has given me more confidence to try.
Students were not in your classroom when I first arrived, but I was already learning! All around your classroom were Spanish words: question words, high frequency verbs, colors, places in a a community, numbers, etc, etc. I have some in my own classroom as well, but not nearly as many. I immediately wondered if so many handy phrases would be a crutch to students, and then I thought of how many times I had written the same words over and over on my whiteboard. I decided right then I would follow your example!
The seating arrangement was something else I noticed. Half of the desks were facing one way while the other half were facing the other desks. The division between the two sets of desks was wide, so you were able to walk easily in between. As the class began, you continually walked in the division, engaging as many students as possible, while the desks facing one another allowed many students to see one another as they participated in the conversation.
I have not liked the arrangement of my classroom for the past five years, but not until I saw your setup did I have, I suppose, the energy to change it! I teach in a FACS room, so the kitchen hinders many seating arrangements. I teach in a dome-shaped school, so rounded walls are not easy to work with, plus I share the room with another teacher. After getting permission from the other teacher, the principal, the custodian, and the computer tech, I am allowed to change the arrangement!! There are a few glitches with the placement of my computer, but I believe my classroom will be rearranged by Thanksgiving!
Then your students entered the room, and I immediately noticed the energy, from both you and your students. You engaged your students with stories and funny comments and facial expressions. You were so animated as you spoke to them! I wanted to be in your class! I began to compare my classroom energy to yours, and decided on a few things. One, I don’t have the same personality as you do, unfortunately for my students, but I am animated in different ways. Second, I picked up on a few things you do that save your energy for your students. You use a clicker to advance your projector screen, you use a laser pointer to remind them of words around your room, and you have students doing some of the classroom chores. Using those small pieces of technology and allowing students to do some things for me would give me more energy to use toward teaching.
Your energy and animation definitely affected your students. They were laughing, applauding, and talking (in Spanish!). Not only were they able to add to your stories in the target language, but they also added spontaneous phrases to the conversations like “Es absurdo” or “Es obvio,” which actually made sense in the conversation! I can honestly say that most of the students were enjoying the class. Even if they were not adding to the conversation, they were nodding their heads in agreement or smiling at a funny comment. They were, at the very least, taking in language. It was a joy to watch! I believe the relaxed atmosphere and spontaneous comments will help them be more confident when they actually try to use Spanish outside the classroom.
I was impressed with how engaged your students were in the conversations, but also with how they were able to read the Picasso book at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. I have read books similar to that one with my students, but at the end of the year, and with less ease. You shared with me how you introduced many of the words ahead of time through your stories, which made the task of reading the book less daunting to the students.
You ended your Friday classes with PAT, Preferred Activity Time, that they had earned. I watched as students worked in small groups to answer questions. The group who answered the question correctly first got to play a dart game which earned points for their team. The students loved playing the game.
I know that students love playing games. My students also play games, but they have never had to earn the right to play those games. Your students had to obey class rules and complete class chores before they were allowed to play. You counted up the seconds they earned for each chore completed or rule obeyed, and that is how long they were allowed to play. It makes so much sense! I’m in the process of writing different class rules, creating class responsibilities, and buying stopwatches and games to play in class. I plan to begin using PAT next semester.
Once again, thank you for allowing me to observe your classes. I learned a lot that I can apply to my classes and was energized by the experience!