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This visit did change my perception as the way the teacher delivered the lesson was quite interactive and she did not just use a presentation or the notes only. I remember going to such a lesson in which we used to take notes and follow the presentation, unless the topic needed certain calculations to be worked out, like in the case of the number system topic.
In both lessons, Ms. Galea used videos to help introducing the topic of that particular lesson. Even though they were just short clips, they still helped in introducing the topic to be explained and then the lesson continued with the explanation and working out of questions. I believe, and this was further confirmed during this lesson, that the use of a variety of resources help in making the lesson more interesting and so the students would pay much more attention.
How effective was the strategy adopted by the teacher?
The strategy adopted by the teacher was effective, even though the groups were quite different because the form 3 students were less talkative and more timid than the form 5 students. There were many things during the lesson delivery that helped in making the lesson interesting. In addition I believe that the lesson was effective as many of the students took part in the lesson and many seem to learn the concepts being taught. The following are some of the points that I think helped.
The teacher started both lessons with an introduction. Since the form 3 students were going to continue learning about the topic that they had started in a previous lesson, the teacher first asked questions and reminded them of the most important information learned in the previous lesson. I believe that this is quite important because, as discussed after the lesson, the teacher can get an idea whether the basic concepts were learnt or not, because otherwise she cannot continue with new concepts. In addition she can also determine whether the students are studying, as otherwise she will prepare a 'spot test' about a topic. Even though some of the students will study in the last minute because they are afraid of failing the test, they would still have revised the topics covered in a particular area. In addition, in both lessons, the teacher also used videos to introduce the topic that she was going to cover in the lesson. Instead of just starting to explain the concepts immediately, the clips were discussed in order to establish the main points of the lesson. This, I believe, made the lesson even more interesting as the students were allowed to participate and not just listen to what the teacher has to say.
Then, the basic concepts that were needed to be learned for the lesson were introduced. The teacher started the explanation, while also asking the students about certain aspects. I do like this approach because as I noticed, the students tried to pay attention as much as possible to what was being said so that they will answer correctly. In addition, the teacher also gave a lot of examples, so that they will be able to understand better. For example, at one point, she made reference to an analogy that she had described in the previous lessons, and the students seem to remember it and the concepts that it represented. In addition she tried to use examples that the students could relate to. For example, in the case of the form 3 lesson, she used the idea of games and their graphics throughout the whole lesson and so the students could relate better, and this was evident through their answers. The teacher did not just start mentioning the important concepts that were needed to be learned, and I think that the asking of questions approach does help the teacher to determine whether the students understood or not.
Together with the help of the teacher, the students also worked out a worksheet which contained definitions and other information about the covered topic. She explained everything on the sheet, both in Maltese and in English, and I think that this is important as some of the students might not do well because they don't understand the questions correctly, and not because they don't know the answer. The sheet was graded and, as pointed out by the teacher, this type of sheet caters for all kinds of students. However, since they are working it together, then all of the students would be able to complete it successfully.
Unfortunately, the teacher did not manage to conclude the form 3 lesson properly, as the actual lesson's time was shorter than she had prepared for. However instead of just sending the children away, she did restate the most important terminology covered in the lesson. However, she could not explain the homework clearly, and as discussed after the lesson, form 3 students need guidance when asked to do something, that is, she has to explain everything that is expected in detail. On the other hand, the teacher did manage to conclude the lesson with the form 5 students. In fact she did revise the most important aspects of the lesson and also managed to describe the homework properly. I do believe that any homework given will help the student in reflecting about the topics discussed and also in remembering what was discussed in the class. For example, the planned form 3 students' homework was to review a game that they like by analysing the images, the colour palette used, the smoothness of the game and more. Even though the homework was not just a traditional exercise where for example they have to fill in, the students would still recall the terms used in the class and be revising them indirectly.
Finally, I think that the fact that the students were sitting around the table near to the teacher and the interactive whiteboard also helped. This is because students who have difficulty with their eyesight can see the boards more clearly as they are closer. In addition, there was no fixed seating plan and they could sit near their friends; however, this could have a drawback because as the teacher pointed out, groups will start forming and they can start teasing each other and stop paying attention. Therefore I think that such setting can be tried out at the beginning of the scholastic year, so that the students would not feel uncomfortable sitting next to students that they might not even know, and then a seating plan will be done if they start misbehaving.
The main difference that I have noticed was that during the form 3 lessons, the teacher had to ask a lot of questions to the students, while in the case of form 5 students, because they knew more information about the subjects, the students did participate much more and the teacher asked questions in order to be able to guide them. Even though the topics were different, the applied strategy was successful in both cases as the students seemed to understand the main concepts.
Would you have done anything differently?
There were 3 things that I would have done differently.
The aim of the first video was to display the difference in the graphics between PS3 and Xbox. The output of projector was not that that sharp and so I think that it would have been better if the students had seen the video beforehand on their own PC because they would have identified the differences much more easily. The video can then still be used in the introduction part of the lesson to refresh the students' memory.
The form 5 students did not pay as much attention during the filling in of the worksheet. So instead of displaying the worksheet on the interactive white board, I think that they would have paid much more attention if the worksheet's activities were in a presentation.
As pointed out by the teacher herself, instead of just working out the worksheet together, the students could have started working out the questions on their own and then discussed the answers after. However, this exercise does take quite some time and this cannot be always done because of time restrictions.
Where there instances when the class was disrupted? If so how did the teacher handle it?
When a particular form 3 student started talking with the other students, the teacher just called out his name and he stopped talking immediately. In addition, when the teacher asked certain questions to the whole class, many of the children just started pouring out their answers while others just raised their hand and remained quiet. In this case the teacher then started to call out the names of some of the students and they gave their answers. As a side note, I think that this approach is better than asking a question to a particular student because he might not know the answer and his peers will start picking on him because of the stated incorrect answer.
A different approach was adopted with from 5 students. When a student made a remark, then most of the students continued to talk as well. In this case, the teacher just stopped explaining for a few seconds until they calmed down. She did not just start immediately giving copies or break-in to the students who were talking a lot, because as she said during the discussion, this might make the students hate the subject.
Tips and tricks given by the teacher during the discussion
As previously explained, the teacher uses several analogies during her explanations so that the students would be able to understand in simple terms. For example, instead of trying to explain the meaning of a class and object using technical terms, the explanation will revolve around the idea of an Easter cake (figolla), and then once they understand this concept she will start introducing the technical terms. While explaining some of the analogies that she uses, she also said that in many of the cases, the students do learn the concepts and not forget them once the lesson has finished.
The teacher also stated that at the beginning of the scholastic year, she goes to the guidance teachers and asks them whether any of her students need extra care and attention because of problems that they might be facing. For example, Ms. Galea never mentions someone's mother if the student have never mentioned his mother before. I do agree with this because it might be the case that for example the parents are separated and the mother does not want to take care of him / her, or she might have even passed away.
During the discussion, we also talked about the use of the blog and the workbook that the teacher had prepared for the scholastic year. As explained by the teacher, both tools are of help to the student who can check the blog to remember the homework that is needed to be done, and also to the students' parents as they will help in the learning process by making sure that the children are doing their homework and also by checking the progress or regress done. The teacher also mentioned the fact that there might be parents who do not care and don not even check that his child is doing his homework. However I think that these will still be of help to the student as everything is organized and the student can always check when in doubt of what has to be done.