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A Reflection of an English Language Classroom Observation

Introduction

Observation plays a central role in practice teaching This reflection is an empirical study of

classroom observation of two general English lessons that examined the implicit theories of

language and learning that guided the class activities, the teachers’ roles and students roles.

Besides that we also look into the students’ responses in two English Language classrooms. We

found that in both classes, the teachers asked many referential questions than display questions.

Moreover, the teachers’ referential questions elicited longer and syntactically more complex

utterances from the learners. The reasons for this are discussed in the light of the objectives and

pedagogic tasks of the lessons.

Method

The data were collected by observing two 60 minutes general English lessons in SK

Sg.Seluang. General English lessons refer to those given to non-native speakers in order to help

them develop their language skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The class was

composed of 36 pupils. The English proficiency level in the class was intermediate, a level

chosen because there is likely to be more question and answer interaction between the teacher

and the pupils. The teacher was experienced non-native English speaker who had taught English

non-native speakers for over 20 years. She uses materials developed by herself and also

provides by the school for intermediate learners.

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The following three questions were designed to provide a focus for lesson observations and

help with the development of lesson observation tools.

1. What types of language are teachers using to help students negotiate meaning and

understand their environment?

2. How are teachers modeling language and helping young learners to acquire the

target language?

3. How are teachers making learning experiences meaningful and comprehensible for

children in the classroom?

Observation Protocol
We observed in the same classroom at the different days and at different time. We took notes

and photographs, focusing on the teacher behavior related to instruction. Student responses were

recorded to analyze student behavior or learning and to reveal the teacher response in

developing concepts, modeling, and elaborating. In addition to recording the teachers' words,

notice was also made of gestures, body language, and motions. The teacher used magazine and

newspaper during her lesson, these were photographed.

The teacher used the following strategy during her lessons.

i. Look and say

ii. Association

iii. Questioning

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Instruction in learning to listen, speak, read and write in English is the goal. The teacher

used Look and Say during the lesson. This is the technique of students listening to the

teacher and looking at the object or print, then repeating a word or sentence after the

teacher. Children either watch as the teacher points to the words on the chalkboard or

individually point to the print on a page or in a textbook.

Association was used for presenting vocabulary items. The teacher used Association for

synonyms, antonyms, and simple definitions. For example, the following words were

presented through Association:

blossom -- flower (synonym)

diligent -- hardworking (synonym)

fresh -- stale (antonym)

Questioning is another strategy that was used in lessons. The questioning section of the

lessons appeared to be for the purpose of developing thinking processes for concept

formation. While using questions to monitor comprehension was observed in two lessons,

While these exercises that asked students to list, group, label and categorize were

deliberate attempts to increase productive thinking, teacher did not neglect other aspects

of learning that she valued. In the lesson, children were asked to repeat the pairs of

opposites or other answers to the questions. This gave students opportunity to learn

through practice.

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Discussion

Researching the forms and functions of teachers’ questions in secondary school classrooms in

the United Kingdom, Barnes (1969, 1976, cited in Ellis, 1994) distinguished four types of

questions. These were factual questions like what? and when? reasoning questions such as how?

and why? open questions not requiring any reasoning, and finally social questions influencing

student behavior by control or appealing.

During our observation, the teacher’s display and referential questions were identified and the

frequency of both types of questions and the total of questions were counted respectively. We

found that the teacher asked 36 questions in total. We also discovered that significantly more

display questions 25 than referential questions 11 were asked by the teacher in the class.

We concluded that referential questions may increase how much learners speak in the

classroom. We found that referential questions elicited longer and syntactically more complex

responses from learners.

In both classes, there were more referential questions than display questions. In the first

classroom observation, the teacher asked a total of 13 questions, of which 10 were referential

questions and 3 were display questions. In addition, in the first classroom observation, very less

response for the teacher’s questions. Teacher’s questions function in numerous ways in the

classroom. They can be used to elicit information, to check comprehension, and also to control

learner behavior (Nunan & Lamb, 1996).

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They serve the purposes of socializing, scene-setting, checking comprehension, evaluating

learning, and seeking information (Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975). It can be seen from the data that

the teacher’s referential questions can motivate more student involvement in the second

observation.

The tasks started with explanation and instruction as to what students were required to do (a

fill-in exercise and discussion questions respectively), reviewing what they had learned during

the last lesson. The teacher asked some display questions during the process to ensure

background knowledge and understanding. The students were then required to discuss

whether they had achieved the goals they had set for themselves for the past week. For this,

referential questions were used to elicit information from the learners; their responses were open

and unknown to the teacher.

These referential questions were used in order to motivate the learners to draw on their

background knowledge to produce their own answers. For example, during the lesson although

the questions was the same, the students’ responses varied because each had different ideas about

his or her understandings.

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Conclusion

The factors such as class size, the pedagogic goals and tasks in a lesson strongly affected the

achievement in learning English as a second language. Through our observation we revealed

some evidence to support the idea that effective instruction for English learners does the

following:-

(1) develops proficiency in natural language or conversation through activities that are

related to the children's everyday experiences.

(2) provides ample opportunity for learning, even over-learning, through recitation,

repetition, and practice toward automaticity of knowledge and skills.

(3) scaffolds for understanding and development of thinking skills through the methods of

demonstration, modeling and questioning.