In a classroom, the teacher is the leader. As such, they must take into account which teaching methods would be best to develop their students learning abilities. During my observations at New Hyde Park Memorial High School, I was able to witness a wide array of teaching strategies. For this paper, I will choose specific methods, and discuss how certain teachers used them effectively within the classroom. First, I will discuss how the modeling process was used to enhance student’s abilities to learn. Modeling is a process of teaching through demonstration.
Second, I will discuss how mapping, a learning strategy that helps students understand relationships between ideas, was effectively applied in the classroom. I will then discuss how reinforcement, the use of stimulus’s to increase frequency of a specific behavior, was used as a motivational factor. Lastly, I will discuss how gender and culture were or were not addressed in select classrooms. What I intend to show is how each of these strategies can be used to help create a positive classroom environment that promotes learning as a tool and goal. Modeling can be used very effectively if all four parts are consciously applied.
The first part, attention, involves a teacher keeping his student’s focus, allowing them to absorb more information. The next component, retention, requires that a teacher utilize methods such as visual or verbal aids to help their students remember a lesson. The third part of modeling is reproduction, which occurs when a student practices what they’ve been taught. Practice allows for a better chance of translating information to long-term memory. The last step in the process of modeling is motivation, which is a teacher’s ability to give their students desire to work harder.
All four of these steps, when used effectively, significantly increase student’s abilities to learn and retain information. In each classroom I observed, some components of modeling were applied. However, in three classrooms I was able to see all four steps of the process effectively applied. One example is Mr. John Ferrara’s Public speaking class, which consisted of multiple grades. In his lessons on creating “How To” posters, he kept attention through verbal directions and jokes. He drew diagrams and made his own poster to help retention. Reproduction was automatically included because the “How to” posters were the homework assignments.
As for motivation, he offered plenty of reinforcement and positively critiqued each of his students in helping them learn what didn’t work and what to continue doing. (Observe class notes 1, 2, 3) Similarly, Ms. Katy Devine, for her twelfth grade advanced English class used modeling in lessons on poetry. She called on multiple students in the class to read the poems to keep attention. To help students retain and reproduce the lesson, she encouraged them to write their own poetry, assigning homework that kept them working with the central ideas of the lesson.
She continually motivated her students by praising them for answering, whether correctly or not, and by telling them where this knowledge would get them in the future. Ms. Devine, like Mr. Ferrara, utilized each step of the modeling process effectively in her classroom. (Observe class notes 4, 5) The last classroom in which I observed modeling successfully practiced was in Mr. Laurence Mechanic’s tenth grade English class. In teaching a lesson on essays, he kept attention by consistently calling on various students. He drew diagrams on the board to help explain the “sandwich” form to an essay.
He assigned homework which involved writing a thesis statement. These procedures promoted retention and reproduction. As for motivation, he told his students how rapidly they were improving, encouraging them that they would master the Regents Exams if they kept up their hard work. (Observe class note 6) I will now discuss how I observed mapping at work in the classroom. A concept map is a visual aid and graphic organizer that shows connections between separate ideas. Mapping allows students to organize thoughts and concepts in new ways.
Additionally, graphic organizers have been proven to improve learning outcomes in many students. There are many different kinds of graphic organizers that can be used. For the purpose of this paper I will discuss the Venn diagram I observed in Mr. Mechanic’s classroom, and network trees that I observed in Mr. Scott Colvin and Ms. Abbe Katz’s classrooms. A Venn Diagram consist of two large circles with separate topics and an intersecting middle area where the relations between ideas are written. In Mr. Mechanic’s tenth grade English class the circles focused on literary elements contained in two poems.
In the middle section, Mr. Mechanic had the students discuss the literary elements that were found in both of these works. The use of this Venn diagram helped the students better understand each individual section, as well as recognize the way certain elements can be used in multiple ways. (Observe class notes 6, 8) Both Mr. Colvin, in his eleventh grade English class, and Ms. Katz, in her ninth grade advanced English class, utilized network trees. In Mr. Colvin’s class, it was used to help examine characteristics of leadership.
The tree was organized with a block in the middle, marked “Leadership,” and four spawned off circles that focused on individual aspects of leadership. Mr. Colvin then had the students answer follow up questions which further allowed them to identify the connections between their idea of a leader and those in the story they were reading in class. (Observe class note 7, Handout 1) Ms. Katz organized her network tree around William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet. ” She assigned the first few scenes as homework, and then showed the first scene of the Baz Luhrmann 1997 movie version in class.
She discussed the way the Capulets and Montagues were portrayed in the book and movie. Her students broke into two groups, one concentrating on the specifics of the play and the other on the movie. She led a discussion, putting the network tree on the board at the close of class time. As a result, the student’s better understood the use of family in Shakespeare’s work and were able to recognize differences and similarities between the portrayal of family in the written play and the movie. (Observe class note 9) As aforementioned, motivation is a crucial part of the modeling process.
But even individually it is crucial to effective teaching and learning. Reinforcement is one major way to increase motivation. There are two kinds of reinforcement: positive, which occurs when a pleasant stimulus is presented, and negative, which occurs when an undesired stimulus is removed. The presentation and removal of these stimuli at proper times should lead to an increase in frequency of the desired behavior. I will further discuss the use of reinforcement in Mr. Ferrara and Mr. Mechanic’s classroom, and then discuss how I observed it in Mrs. Anna Caruso’s classroom as well.
For the discussion of Mr. Ferrara’s public speaking class and Mr. Mechanic’s tenth grade English class, I will simply elaborate on the way they effectively used the last step of the modeling process. When Mr. Ferrara’s class had to finally give their “How to” presentations and Mr. Mechanic’s class had their thesis statements checked over, continuing motivation became crucial. Both of these teachers used praise and reinforcement excessively after their students presented their work. Mr. Ferrara took class time and cited out at least one positive aspect from each presentation.
He told the students how they had cut down on the “um’s,” “uh’s,” “like’s,” focused more on keeping their eyes on the class, and credited each student with doing a superb job. (Observe class notes 1, 2, 3) Similarly, Mr. Mechanic praised almost every student’s thesis statements. He reminded them how important a skillful opening paragraph is when writing an essay, explaining that a great thesis statement sets up an entire essay. He continued to boost the student’s confidence in their work, and closed the discussion by reminding each student how well they will do on the Regents by keeping up their hard work.
(Observe class note 10) Mrs. Caruso, in her ninth grade English class, used reinforcement consistently to promote class participation. First, she introduced a reward system to the class by creating enlarged photocopied bills with her face in the center that could be used as extra credit on exams. She would positively reinforce participating students during her lectures by giving them a bill for paying attention and contributing to the class discussion. She also used negative reinforcement on one occasion that I observed in her classroom.
At one point, when a student asked a question, the answer was on a recent hand out. A few of the students laughed at the “stupidity” of the question, with one even calling the student a derogatory name. Mrs. Caruso punished the misbehaving students; threatening to call their house next time they disrespected another student. This encouraged the original student to continue asking questions, showing him the disrespectful result would not recur. Like each aforementioned situation, this instance shows how reinforcement was used effectively in the classroom.
In doing so, these teachers created a comfortable environment in which their students not only completed the required assignments, but were praised and rewarded for doing so. In each case, the students looked forward to earning more reinforcement by continuing to work hard. (Observe class notes 11, 12) When it comes to culture and diversity, each classroom at New Hyde Park Memorial High School appeared to divide up evenly. By and large, just over half the classroom was Caucasian, with just under half the total being Indian. To fill out the remaining percentage, there were a few Asian, Spanish or Black students.
However, the bulk of the room was either Caucasian or Indian. Gender wise, the classes were divided evenly as well. There was usually a 50/50 split between male and female, with very few exceptions. One of these exceptions was in Ms. Devine’s twelfth grade advanced English class, in which there were only six males out of twenty-one students. However, half female, half male classes were most common. Culture and gender are two important issues to consider when running a classroom. Different backgrounds raise children in different ways, requiring that a certain focus or method may need to be adopted in a classroom.
It is also understood that males and females have a tendency to succeed in separate fields of study. Lastly, it is very important, esteem wise, to understand the culture and gender of a student, because self-esteem also varies between sexes and races. However, for each of these classrooms, there was very little emphasis on either race or gender. Most teachers treated their class as though each student was the same sex and race. In some of these classes, this was an effective way to run the class, while in others there should have more focus on the specific situation of certain students.
I will once again discuss Mr. Ferrara’s and Mr. Mechanic’s classes, as well as Ms. Devine’s eleventh grade English class for the first time in making my points for these topics. In Mr. Ferrara’s Public speaking class, there was a cultural breakdown of two-third Caucasian, one-third Indian, one African American and one Chinese student. The genders were evenly split. While the majority of the time there was no specific focus on either gender or culture, there was one occasion that I did observe when a student’s culture was emphasized.
On this occasion, the lone African American student was giving her “How to” speech. In doing so, she used Ebonics. Upon completion of her presentation, Mr. Ferrara joked back to her using Ebonics. This could be a bad idea depending on the relationship between student and teacher. However, due to the environment Mr. Ferrara sustains in his classroom, one of respect and humor, this only invoked laughter from the class as well as the individual. In fact, the student felt more comfortable with the rest of the class afterwards. On this occasion, Mr.
Ferrara made it a point to focus on a certain culture, and it worked very well due to the prior establishment of relationship and understanding in his class. Mr. Mechanic’s tenth grade English class broke down culture wise to about half Caucasian and half Indian, with three Spanish students. Gender wise, the breakdown was 50/50. In one of his classes, Mr. Mechanic attempted to explain and utilize the Socratic method of teaching, in which the class sits in a circle and discussion is openly led by whichever student decides to enter in. Mr.
Mechanic called on students of different races and genders to begin the discussion, encouraging all the other students to chime in throughout. In setting up this type of class, he erases gender and culture differences, giving each student equal opportunity to participate in the classroom discussion. As a teacher, consciously disregarding culture and gender as learning components can make it difficult to still effectively run a classroom. However, this is one of the most successful ways to do so and still create and sustain a positive and efficient classroom environment.
(Observe class note 13) In Ms. Devine’s eleventh grade English class, there was a cultural breakdown of half Caucasian students and half Indian students. Gender wise there was again a 50/50 breakdown. In this class, there was no specific focus on gender or culture. However, in this class Ms. Devine should have made more of a conscious effort to include the separate cultures in her class activities. For the reading of “Macbeth,” she chose certain students to act out each part. However, in doing so, she consistently chose the outgoing Caucasian students; male for male parts, female for female.
I feel that this did not place the Indian or soft-spoken Caucasian students on the same plane as those chosen. There should never be a situation in which students of any culture or gender feel barred from classroom activities, but unfortunately in this class this became the case. Unlike the above teachers, Ms. Devine did not do a good job of making the students in her class equal participants, affecting the way certain students learned in her class. (Observe class note 14) In our Education class at Queens College, there were many different instructional activities that we participated in.
There are three specific methods that we undertook in class that I observed in the classroom as effective teaching strategies. One of these activities was a Microsoft PowerPoint discussion on Moral Development. The use of PowerPoint allowed the lesson to be put on a larger screen for observation by the full class, helping both note taking ability and overall comprehension. The second activity we used in our class that was very effective was group work. This was at work in many of the classrooms I observed as well, and is successful because it allows diverse thoughts and ideas to come together.
Lastly, the ungraded homework assignments were an effective classroom activity. They led to further understanding of the assigned topic and fed the class discussions pertaining to these topics. I saw the first two discussed activities at work in my observations. Computers with Powerpoint capabilities were actually one of the recent additions to every classroom at New Hyde Park Memorial. Ms. Katz, in her ninth grade advanced English class, used PowerPoint lectures for her “Romeo and Juliet” discussion, and students in Mr. Ferrara’s public speaking class utilized this feature for their “How to” presentations.
Similarly, group work was involved in a majority of the classes I observed. Mr. Mechanic, Mr. Ferrara, Ms. Katz and Ms. Devine all used group work in the teaching of their lesson, just to name a few. The ungraded homework assignments were not included in any of the classes I observed. However, if applied in the class, ungraded homework would allow students that wish to expand and increase their knowledge to do so, while those who desire only to understand what is being taught in class can spend more time focusing on the work due for other classes.
In conclusion, there are many ways to run a successful classroom. In my observations, I was able to see multiple teaching strategies and how they either worked or failed. The ones I decided to focus on for the purposes of this paper are the strategies that I found to be successful most often. I learned that modeling is a very effective teaching process, when each component is taking into account. I learned that mapping is a very effective tool that helps connect ideas and create relationships between previous unrelated ideas.
I learned how gender and culture could be either taken into account, or consciously ignored in a classroom, but that one must be careful in choosing to do either. In the classrooms of Mr. John Ferrara, Ms. Katie Devine, Mr. Laurence Mechanic, Ms. Abbe Katz, Mrs. Anna Caruso and Mr. Scott Colvin, there were successful methods at work and very positive environments created as a result. While each teacher had their own unique methods to utilizing a strategy and teaching a lesson, they all did a superb job of making learning an enjoyable, universal, and crucial part of their classroom.