Observations on observation

Today I watched a Maths lesson given by a colleague.

I now nothing about Maths or teaching Maths and it was my first “out of subject” observation so I was interested to see what I would learn from the experience.

It was GREAT! My colleague is a very energetic upbeat kind of guy so I was expecting a lively lesson, and I wasn’t disappointed.

What impressed me the most was his effortless differentiation. From the start he explained the objectives and offered different exercises to some students, later he explained in different ways ( great for dealing with the different learning styles) and as he did so I could sense some students “staying” with him, while others wandered off on their own in the exercises we were looking at.

I’m jealous because this is one thing I find difficult do attain without seeming to say “you clever ones do this and you….”

He also constantly referred back to previous lessons, while also reaffirming the relevence of today’s class by mentioning where it would fit in future work schemes.

I don’t get the impression I do this enough, in fact I’m not sure how to go about it. Sometimes my lessons and units of work feel more like the following:

prepositions – tick

present perfect – tick


Finally, he even taught me some Maths!

Last week my German colleague came to observe my class. She completed a form on teacher-pupil interaction that I drew up based on one in Wajnryb.

While I was aware that some pupils participated much more than others I also thought that I made sure that everyone joined in at least once or twice in every lesson.

However this observation made it quite clear that there was a central core of participants and the rest had mainly spectator roles.

I was therefore interested to read Somogyi-Toth on the subject of teachers’ action zones, the area where most participation and interaction occurs. I know in my class (as in the majority of classrooms) this is centre to centre right.

What I found fascinating was the suggestion that some students actively chose to sit in this area. Logical really if you think that the others choose the peripheral seats then those in the middle are there through choice as well.

I found this especially interesting when looking at my own action zone. While it is mostly made up of pupils who participate non stop, there is one pupil who never actively participates, although he does answer my questions without problems. Why is he here? Does he just need the reassurance of being asked before he can participate?

Finally I discovered in this article that girls, brighter pupils and students with easy to remember names also participate more, a case of self -fulfilling prophecies?


Wajnrb, R. (2005) Classroom Observation tasks, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Richard,J.C. and Lockhart, C. (1994) Reflective teaching in Second Language Classrooms, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Somogyi-Toth, K. (2012) Observation tasks a workbook for student teachers, accompanying an article in The Teacher Trainer journal, p. 7, volume 26, number 3.




About fabenglishteacher

enjoying sharing learning
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