Recently in Observation of Various Instructional Contexts Category

               For my last observation, I decided to observe an Arabic class because I know Arabic, my native language, and I wanted to see how teachers in a college EFL setting teach it. Thus, I sent an email to one of the instructors to see if I could observe her class. She welcome me and we agreed on a day. The course is ARAB 002, so they learned the alphabets some vocabulary in ARAB 001, and this course is more about vocabulary and grammar. The class meets five days a week: Monday through Friday. There are 3 sections, the instructor teaches two of them. They use a textbook as the basis for the the class curriculum; it has a DVD with it, where you could read and listen to vocabulary and sentences. There many dialects in Arabic, interestingly, the textbook follows the Egyptian dialects, I think because it is well known.
             The day that I came to observe they were starting a new unit. The instructor was in very early to set-up and opening the DVD for the unit's vocabulary . She began the class by saying "good morning" in Arabic. Then, she went over the new vocabulary of the unit. About half an hour passed by going over the vocabulary. She would say each word three times and the student had to repeat them after her. In Arabic, the on vocabulary has different forms (e.g., singular, two-form, plural, feminine and masculine). Thus, the student repeated some words that have same meaning but different forms. To be honest I became bored. It is more like an audio-lingual  approach, which I do not like. I asked the instructor, why she does the repetition, she said, for pronunciation because many English speakers have difficulty with pronunciation in Arabic. I also noticed that the DVD has only Arabic texts, no English translation. I learned later that the book has the translation of all the words, so the teacher does not need to go over the meaning. 
               After they finished repeating the vocabularies, the instructor asked if they have any questions about these words. There was only one student who asked a question about one of the words. Then, she asked every student to say the words, not all just the one he or she come across in turn. The students, in my view, did very well and pronounced the words correctly, some had hard time with words that has sound not in Arabic. Lastly, she let the DVD read questions that include the vocabulary they learned for that day. She would let the DVD repeat the question 3 times. The student had to respond with the correct answer form of each question. I was fascinated to see how good the student are doing, they were able to answer the questions effectively. At the end of class, she reminded them of them of the homework, said, "good bye" in Arabic :)
              Overall, there was not much interaction between the teacher and the students, where she repeat the words and the students had to repeat as well. There were questions and answer, but not as much as it should be. The class is very quiet, where there is not much interaction between students as well. During my observation, the teacher did not implement any activities. I wondered if that the case only for some days or all the time. Also, I wonder how the teacher plans to teach these lessons and are they restricted to the curriculum. Maybe, I should observe a different teacher to see how they both differ. I wanted to meet with the instructor to answer these questions, but, unfortunately, she is busy and won't be able to meet with me.
             I have learned something new from this course, where teaching a foreign language is very challenging, especially, if you have a strict audio-lingual curriculum. I teach young kids (K-1st graders) Arabic, and I can see how frustrating for them to sit and repeat each letters (we just go over the alphabets in this age and some vocabulary). Thus, I developed and found "Arabic Alphabets games," which was fun for them and they learned the alphabets faster than the previous semester. I cannot imagine how am I going to teach Arabic for undergraduate students without some sort of activity that help them learn effectively. This class reminded me of my experience learning English back home, EFL, the same idea and structure was followed, but I learned very little. Is it because of its Arabic as a Foreign Language (AFL) context they do not have activities? Are all Foreign language education is similar to this one and my own experience?  

             The second class I observed is ESL 118. I asked one of my fellow interns, Shiho, if I could come to her class and observe it. Both Shiho and her mentor welcomed me and I was glad to be part for their warm welcome (thank you!).
             As you see from the topic of this blog, big kids. This is the main different I noticed between the class I am observing and this class, where my class are undergraduate students and this class has graduate students who plans to teach. The course teach them the ways in which they could be effective teachers through good pronunciation, dialogic mediation, etc. I did not get the chance to ask for the class syllabus. However, I found more information about this kind of course online. It is for future international teacher assistants (ITA) to improve their speaking and presentation skills. Only students who has taken the American English Communicative Proficiency Test (AEOCPT) will be allowed or not to take the course, depending one how they do. If you look at the information under the course I observed (end of this blog), ESL 118 American Oral English for ITAs III, you will see how different the class from the class I observe, ESL 15 academic writing.
              Before the class starts, I noticed the teacher having a conversation with them about what they did and their family, "adults conversation" Then the the teacher moves on to review what they learned last class, model verbs. She asked them what they are. She wrote on the board as they tell her what they are (e.g., I would, must, if I were you, etc). The students did not have to raise their hands. I was more like a graduate course. She takes her time for theme to think. She also would ask others, beside the ones who always talk, to answer. After the instructor wrote all the model verbs down, she draws a spectrum of strength and weakness, and ask students, "where would these model verbs go on this line?" Again, she wrote down on the board as they answer, and takes her time.
            Then, she moved on to the activity of the day where they had to work in a group and answer the questions in the handout. But first she went over it and explained it. She gave them time to look over it and see if they have any questions. Afterword, put the students in groups of two or three to complete the activity. After they finished, she went over the questions and asked different students/groups to respond. They covered all of the questions. The instructor, at the end of the class, went over the class agenda and the upcoming week plans, where they have presentations and other things to cover. 
          Overall, the class was very different from the one I intern in. The students were taking the class more seriously then my own. They have fun learning, but not joking around :p They do not need class management, because all of them were focus on the lesson and listen carefully to the teacher. My class would talk to one another, sometime listen to music, and it gets really loud if they are not told to be quiet. The students interact with the instructor with more respect and understanding. I think part of it because they are also planning to be teachers, so they know what to expect from their students and they behave that way. They interact with each other, but only before or after class, or during activities.
            I learned many valuable lessons from this class. The older the student the better to control :D Not really because each class and context have different things to encounter. There are positives and negatives of each context. Beside not all older and younger students act the same. I liked the idea of doing a review with the students at the beginning of the class and move on to apply it in an activity. One main element of this observation that I need to work on is to wait and give students time to think--waiting time. She draws on the students ideas rather then giving them the answer in a power point--like what I do. This help them think critically about the content. Lastly, I was fascinated by the atmosphere that the teacher and the students created, they were relaxed and calm--it was very peaceful (relevant to the dove picture :D). For some reasons I do not sense that in my internship class. Is it because they are younger and much louder?

ESL 118/American Oral English for ITAs III
ITA Program score of 230-249 on the AEOCPT or a grade of 'A' required in ESL 117G
In this course students analyze how instructors actually use language to achieve specific purposes or intentions with their students in one-on-one interactions and small group lectures/recitations/discussions. To do this, students will be using the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE), an on-line resource that contains transcripts from various professional interactions across academic disciplines. Students will analyze how teachers explain concepts, ask questions, respond to student questions, and check student understanding as they try to maintain good relationships with their students. Students will develop an awareness of the language used and the contextual variables that influence an instructor's choice of language to communicate his or her intentions. Students will become more aware of university culture in the US, student expectations, and the role of ITAs; learn to "notice" how instructors use English; become more aware of how they use English in academic roles; learn how to explain concepts and go over problems, questions, and/or homework interactively with students individually and in groups, while maintaining rapport and authority; become aware of the concept of 'genre' and differences between academic genres; learn how to negotiate miscommunication with students; learn how an instructor can make grammar and word choices to affect communication (e.g., modals, pronouns, discourse markers)


                   The first instructional observation I did was for the other section of Katya ESL 15 class. She teaches two sections: one at 8:00am and another at 9:45. I teach and observe the first one. Thus, Katya teaches the same thing for both classes and follow the same syllabus ( ESL015_syllabus.docx), but I noticed different things! In terms of students and the context of the class.

                  At the day of my observation, I went to both sections to compare and contrast how the lesson is presented. The lesson was the same one I wrote about in the content blog where Katya shows a clip of Aeon Flux for the student to reflect on. She used the same PowerPoint for that class as well. It was interesting to see how Katya teaches the same lesson and what would she change and why. She has told me that the class meets in Sackett, if you know this building you should know that it does not have any technological support or equipment. Thus, Katya requested to have the class meet, on that day, in a different class so they can watch the movie. I remember from last semester, she used and relied a lot on PPT, however, I noticed she using them less this semester. I asked Katya how she adapts to this kind of class with no technology, maybe just TV :) She told me that she want to try different things without the help of technology because, just like in the second section, a teacher would come across a class that does not have any of these supports. Thus, a teacher needs to be ready for these kinds of situations, by being creative and play with different pedagogy. I agree with her, so I hope I could attain the best teaching without relying on any technological tool.

Top of Form


Bottom of Form

        So, Katya used the same PPT, above, and somewhat the same structure and organization of the previous section. Unlike the first class, this class was very quiet and I noticed the majority are Asian students. The students of the first section were very diverse; maybe this explains the loudness of that class. She started the day by taking attendance and then ask the students to brainstorm on what a reaction paper means and what kind of criteria should it include. The students were barely answering the questions she put forth before the showing the movie clip. She would wait awhile until someone would respond. Interestingly, when they respond they would raise their hand. My sections, the one I observe, just say the answer without raising their hands. After that the students watched the movie, 5 minutes. It was not clear to me whether they liked the movie or not, they were not as expressive as the first section. Thus, she asked them to discuss and answer the questions posted on the PowerPoint as a class. Once they finished, she paired students in order to write a reaction paper where they have to say whether they like it or not and why--along with the other questions posted.

            Overall, I noticed different reactions from the students and from the teacher as well. I can see she has some difficulty engaging the students in the activity, where sometime there is no response, and if there is a response, it would usually be from the one who talk often in the class. Also, the interaction between students were not apparent, maybe two or three students talk with each other, but not like the first section. This observation happened at the fourth week of the semester, so it is not fair to say this class would remain the same through the semester. It will be interesting to see how the students and the teacher change and adapt to the new environment in the long run.

            After this class, I learned that teaching the same lesson of the same course does not just mean repetition. As a teacher, I would need to adapt my teaching according to different context and depending on the students' abilities and interest. Hence, I believe that a teacher cannot be fully ready no matter what he or she does because of the different contexts they will need to encounter and teach

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