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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Effective classroom teaching

By Johanna PerezSpecial to CSMS MagazineCovering Education for CSMS Magazine, I visited Dr. E. Whigham Elementary school in South Miami. This school is fairly new and is near the bay area, close to Black Point Marina and the community of Lakes by The Bay.  I was allowed to visit Mrs. Suarez’ class. Mrs. Suarez is a fourth grade teacher. In her class, I observed four positive aspects in early education: organized classroom, effective teaching, the students’ eagerness to learn and effective classroom management.Mrs. Suarez’ classroom consists of 25 students. There is one ESOL (level 3) student and 1 gifted student. Mrs. Suarez has her classroom arranged in such a way that any ESOL student would easily learn a new word in English the minute they walk in her classroom. The reason is that Mrs. Suarez has labeled, in English, every item and furniture in her classroom. Her students could see the whiteboard easily as all desks are facing the board. Mrs. Suarez’ desks is positioned in such a way that she can monitor all student without any obstruction.  The work materials used by her students are organized and readily available for their use. Mrs. Suarez’ classroom was so well organized that I became acclimated to it upon arrival. A well-organized classroom is one of the many characteristics of an effective teacher.There is only one ESOL students who is Colombian, and I will name him “Jose” in order to conceal his identity. There are no other Colombians in the classroom. However, most of the mainstream students are of Hispanic heritage and can communicate with Jose in Spanish.  Jose appears to be an outgoing child and has made friends with everyone in the classroom.  I did notice Jose correcting Hispanic mainstream students when they incorrectly pronounced a word in Spanish. I asked him if he was in the habit of doing this. “Yes, if they are going to speak Spanish, they should not make themselves look foolish by pronouncing it incorrectly,” he said with a grin. I agree!  One positive intercultural interaction I noticed was an American girl asking Jose how would she ask for the fried plantain that has a garlic sauce. I intervened to help with the translation of the words plantain and garlic in Spanish since she was going to have dinner at a Latin restaurant. Jose took out a sheet of paper, and wrote “tostones y mojo.”  He gave it to the girl and helped her with the pronunciation. “ Do you think I can find these words in the Spanish-English side of the dictionary?” Jose asked me. I said that is a good place to search for definitions and translations of words.  As you can see, Jose is in a healthy learning environment where an ESOL student has the opportunity to interact with students of other Hispanic cultures as well as students of the dominant culture.When it comes to interacting with her students, Mrs. Suarez addresses her class in a professional and caring manner, emphasizing the importance of teamwork.  Mrs. Suarez delivers the reading lesson professionally. This shows that she has good subject knowledge.  Mrs. Suarez encourages students who appear to shy away from answering questions in class discussions by asking them questions. If the student does not know the answer, Mrs. Suarez calls upon another student and asks him or her to help the student with the question. By using this tactic, Mrs. Suarez teaches the students cooperative learning, so that they may study and interact as a team. Mrs. Suarez showed enthusiasm when students participated in class.From the smiles on their faces, you could see that the students like her and accept her as their teacher. Although it is beneficial for Jose to have a Hispanic teacher, Mrs. Suarez encourages him to ask questions in English, and she will only respond to him in English.  When the situation calls for Mrs. Suarez to speak in Spanish, so that Jose would understand a word or concept, Mrs. Suarez uses a maximum of three (3) words in Spanish to help Jose understand.Mrs. Suarez rewards her students with positive remarks, and this makes students eager to participate in class.  Mrs. Suarez also makes it a point to meet with Jose after a lesson to make sure he understands the worksheet or homework assignment.  If she is too busy on any given day, she assigns one of Jose’s Hispanic classmates to make sure Jose understands the lesson and assignments.Ms. Suarez uses the following accommodations and codes for her ESOL students:  A7- Activating Peer Knowledge; B2- Maps or Globe; B16- Labeling; and C1- Peer Buddy (for the pre-productive, early productive, and speech emergent ESOL students).Mrs. Suarez’ lessons are so interesting and creative that students were excited to participate in the class discussion.  When Mrs. Suarez posed a question, almost all students had their hands in the air waiting to be picked for the answer. If the student were to answer incorrectly, Mrs. Suarez gave the student a second chance and a hint to better jolt their memory.  She also gives Jose enough time to put thoughts into words in order to answer a question. I have not seen this type of behavior from a teacher in my previous investigations.Additionally, the students asked questions too, especially Jose. In that, some students were unsure whether the reading lessons were fictional or based on real facts. Students shared their own personal experiences in relation to the reading. This healthy learning environment encourages children to “break out of their shells,” and participate as a team players in their classroom.Addressing Positive Behavior:Ms. Suarez speaks about behavior problems. “The simplest way to address classroom disruptions is to stop them from occurring. As you begin to recognize what sets off problem behavior in your classroom, you can create proactive ways to avert those disruptions,” she said. Mrs. Suarez uses praise for jobs well-done and colored coupons that match up with the levels of the positive behavior chart, which are yellow, blue, and green.  The students are given a maximum of three coupons per day for good behavior, and they can redeem them for prizes on Fridays only.            There are no students absent in Mrs. Suarez’ class on Fridays.  For every ten coupons they have, they can redeem the coupons for 2 prizes. All students have a chance at any of the three grab bags. For Jose, it is the prizes in the green bag he want the most because they are fun prizes. Every time a student misbehaves, a coupon is taken away. Mrs. Suarez records the coupons in case a student misplaces his/her ticket. Mrs. Suarez sends a progress report on Fridays, so that parents can see how their children behaved in school that week.Mrs. Suarez says that the ESOL students benefit more from positive feedback such as praise and an occasional pat on the back.  Also reminding them that their parents will be proud of the accomplishment will also help with positive behavior. Mrs. Suarez communicates with Jose’s parents in Spanish, and also uses bilingual notes when communication is necessary. Mrs. Suarez also agreed that ESOL students are more concerned with being accepted by their peers than by any other type of positive behavior rewards.Addressing Misbehavior:Mrs. Suarez concurs that the basic rules of conduct should be agreed upon throughout the school, and teachers must be responsible for enforcing behavioral norms both in their own particular classes and across the school.  If the students are exposed to the same behavioral rules in every classroom it may make it easier for them to stay focused on good behavior and avoid the temptation to misbehave. Various cultures affect how a student behaves. “Time out” is one good method used in this classroom.Additionally, Mrs. Suarez takes coupons away from students who misbehave.  If the student is too disruptive, she first contacts the parents; and after the second attempt at disciplining, she will send the student to the office. Mrs. Suarez says that in her many years of teaching, she has noticed that Blacks, Hispanics, and the Arabs are more socially inclined, and the “time out” method works well for them. In that it does not allow them to socialize with their peers. Since I did not witness technology used in the classroom other than the overhead projector and a T.V., I asked Mrs. Suarez if she uses technology (visits websites) to help her with classroom management. She says that there are many websites out there that are written by professionals, and there are those that are created on a kitchen counter top.  She has visited Dr. MAC’s Behavior Management Advise and the ProTeacher websites for information regarding classroom management and other classroom related issues. She says there is a plethora of information to help teachers acculturate ESOL students, too.   She finds these websites very informative. But before implementing any of the methods, she consults the principal and assistant principal to make sure that the methods she employs are acceptable.Mrs. Suarez is doing a great job, and I would not change her methods of teaching. However, I did volunteer the following information: In order to make the classroom more multicultural, I would put up posters of the different countries being represented in the classroom. I would also display items that are used by different cultures such as musical instruments, hats, and, toys, etc., and flags of the various countries that makeup the student population. All of these methods would definitely make the classroom multicultural in nature.I have to say that what I learned the most from my visit is that an enthusiastic classroom environment might encourage a child’s eagerness to learn, especially those students who are ESOL. Additionally, knowledgeable teachers, who care for their students and mentor them in a positive way, exemplify effective teaching.  Most importantly, students are eager to learn, and a healthy environment with effective classroom management is the means for a successful education.Note: Johanna Perez is our newest collaborator. She is a writer who lives in Springfield, Illinois.    Also see: A reinforcement to understanding non-verbal communication

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