Last week, I had my second (and final) teaching observation at Huludun Elementary School.
Teaching observations occur once per semester, and for us ETAs who work at two schools, we have one observation at each school. My first observation took place at Fu Chuen last October, just 2 months into the semester.
The observations are conducted by our assigned Fulbright TEFL Trainers, who lead biweekly workshops to improve the teaching quality among ETAs and LETs. This year, Fulbright Taiwan has three TEFL Trainers, all of whom hail from diverse teaching backgrounds and places. Alex taught English with the Peace Corps in Siberia, Lynn taught English in Japan, and Eli, a local, taught English here in Taiwan. In addition, we have one Academic Advisor from Tunghai University, Dr. Liao.
When the date of our second observation was set about one month ago, I realized with some trepidation that Sarah and I were scheduled to teach class 302 for our observation -- aka the noisiest and most rambunctious bunch out of all our 3rd grade classes.
In spite of that, I was relieved that we would be doing our observation with a 3rd grade class as opposed to a 6th grade class (notoriously known for their lack of enthusiasm, partly due to their upcoming graduation). I would take an energetic and loud 3rd grade class over a disinterested class of 6th graders any day. (Speaking of, kudos to the brave souls who teach middle school students for a living. After teaching 6th graders for ~7 months, I can begin to appreciate why people say that "there's a special place in Heaven for middle school teachers.")
Sarah and I designed a lesson based on Pat Hutchins' Rosie's Walk, a picture book about a delightfully oblivious hen named Rosie going about her daily routine with a hungry fox slyly trailing behind her and struggling (unsuccessfully) to catch up to her. The dynamic between Rosie and the fox echoes the Tom & Jerry / Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner cartoons I used to watch as a kid. I highly recommend the story. It's full of colorful pictures and teaches kids useful preposition VOC. Plus it's guaranteed to get laughs out of your students when they see the poor fox's struggles.
Our target VOC words consisted of the following: hen, fox, walk, across, around, past, over, under, through, and dinner. The sentence structures included, "Where is Rosie?" and "Rosie went for a walk _______ the _______." See our lesson plan below!
When Sarah reads stories to her 3rd, 5th, and 6th grade classes, she makes a point of introducing the author to the students and other books that s/he has written. This is to stimulate the students' curiosity and promote a love for reading in general. We also asked the students to explore the book cover (i.e. elicited the names of various animals, objects, and colors from students). When discussing the author, Pat Hutchins, we explained where she is from (the U.K.) and where that is in relation to Taiwan on a world map. Then we showed students a selection of Pat Hutchins' other books. We took an informal poll by asking the students to applaud based on their interest in reading the author's other books (solely judging by the book covers). Unsurprisingly, every class applauded loudest for the same book cover, one that featured colorful monsters and a giant birthday cake. We encouraged them to check out the book from the school library if interested.
After we introduced the VOC using TPR, we played two games to review. First, we played "Teacher Says," a game adapted from "Simon Says" that's great for listening skills and getting the students to move around. It's particularly effective for teaching verbs and imperatives.
Then, we played a game I made called, "Where's Rosie?" Each PPT slide featured a photograph from everyday scenery, such as a crosswalk, a park, a bridge, and so forth. A cartoon image of Rosie the hen was hidden in each scene (the stark contrast between the cartoon image and the real-life scenes usually made the kids laugh), and the aim was for students to answer the questions using the appropriate VOC words in the following sentence, "Rosie went for a walk (preposition) the (place)."
For example, see below:
By the time we got to the story in the lesson, students had many opportunities to review the VOC. Part of the reason I was interested in reading a story for my teaching observation is that I read stories on a weekly basis (alternating between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders) at Fu Chuen Elementary School. At this point in the year, I feel pretty confident in my storytelling abilities, and it's easily one of my favorite things to do with students in class (second being arts & crafts).
Check out some photos our teaching observation here (hover your cursor over the pictures to read the captions!):
Sarah and I were delighted to hear the positive feedback we received from our principal, administrators, and my advisor. For me, this teaching observation marked a significant milestone in my time as a Fulbright ETA. The Fulbright program coordinator at my site, Athena, even recorded a video of our observation, which we were both able to obtain. Watching the video made me feel a sense of pride at what we've accomplished together, the growth I've made as a teacher thus far, and a feeling of early nostalgia since I'll be leaving Taiwan in just a few short months.
I've realized that a successful co-teaching relationship truly boils down to a few things: mutual respect, a mutual commitment to lesson planning and prep, and a mutual love for teaching. There will often be differences in teaching philosophies and classroom management strategies, but as long as there is a mutual level of respect, I truly feel that the teaching relationship can thrive. I'm so grateful to work with Sarah; I'm inspired by her everyday. I regard her as not only a co-teacher, but also as a mentor and friend.