In the second half of the semester, I have been observing the students of the eighth grade in their English and Social Science classes. During that year, the scholars learned to refine their speaking, writing, and reading skills expressing themselves on a new level. In the English classes, it became specifically important for the students to interpret the figurative language to disclose the meanings of indirect phrases. Scholars learn to compare the language tools that help the author express his thoughts and ideas and analyze the development of backgrounds that help understand the characters better. In writing, they are educated to be more concise and specific in word usage explaining their position, to describe characters using narrative techniques. The papers in 8th grade should be structured properly by a student, divided by paragraphs, having transparent well-structured sentences as theses and arguments. The scholars are educated to formulate their thoughts clearly and have a concise and persuasive speech free from grammatical mistakes.
The culture of the school significantly defines the learning environment and students’ experiences. The school I observed was diverse in scholars’ backgrounds, beliefs, religion, and custom preferences. The most essential aspect I noticed was the participation of the teacher in the studying and communication activities that connected well with the mutual respect of all members of the learning process and their openness to various views. The division between “bad” and “good” was not present during my observation, on the contrary, teachers were always ready to help and support students in difficult moments of their education and school life. When it was appropriate, classes were engaging and fun, teachers motivated students to develop evidence-based arguments and reasoning. In assessment, no forms of bias were observed; grading was transparent and clear.
Teachers, during various subjects, used vocabulary strategies. For instance, in one of the English lessons, students were discussing, summarizing, and analyzing act III of Macbeth by William Shakespeare. The teacher included in the lesson the filling in the vocabulary chart. During another lesson, the teacher engaged students in choral reading and echo reading and encouraged their reading comprehension. Teachers provided support for differentiation during the read-aloud text referring to simpler synonyms of words naming first the original word, and then the more understandable variation of it. During my observation, I did not have a chance to meet any morphemic analysis of words in the lessons, but I am sure this strategy is being used widely by teachers.
Reading strategies were successfully used by the teachers as they could gradually and professionally involve the student in it. Prereading was used broadly by asking students guiding questions that rose their interest in the text, discussing the author of the text and what they have already read from the same author. While-reading included the use of vocabulary, providing the synonyms of complicated words, finding information from the paragraphs, and highlighting phrases from the text with various tones and moods. Post-reading activities used by the teachers included answering the questions based on the text and summarizing the text by working in pairs. Teachers were aware and planned all the steps of the process.
To accommodate students’ individual differences, teachers used such strategies as class grouping and multiple events of instruction. For instance, during the lesson on developing a clear and concise persuasive speech, teachers provided additional support with reading, understanding, or expressing their understanding to students individually or in small groups. Scholars practice during English classes purposeful writing, for example, when the teacher asked to write a short text about the character from Shakespeare’s Macbeth in different colors identifying the hero, his actions, and motivations.
During the semester, various teaching responses to interventions were used by educators. The lessons were divided into several units, the students always were asked if they understood the task and the earning material. Apart from that, all the theoretical blocks were followed by examples. Students with difficulties in learning and behavioral issues were provided with extra attention, individual explanations, and support. To grade prior knowledge of the students, the teachers used majorly diagnostic and summative assessments. During the classes, students were proposed to review the material or remember new facts from the previous lesson that can help during the current one. Assessments identified the strengths and weaknesses of students, the survival of their knowledge, and the aspects for the teacher to put special attention to in further lessons.
Comprehending the students’ attitudes to the reading is essential for the teacher, and the classical surveying was not observed by me during this semester. The teachers asked during the process of reading if some aspects and words were clear to the students; however, the scholars were not surveyed to receive feedback. It is essential to conduct a survey as some students might hide their difficulties and stop following the curriculum. To keep each member of the studying process engaged, students should be allowed to express their opinions.
The teachers barely needed the time for silent sustained reading; however, teachers were reading aloud to the students, especially in classes referring to defining the meaning of unfamiliar words. In this case, reading aloud to scholars and engaging them in the echo or choral reading was relevant as the complicated sentences and structure of the text could distract students and lower their attention. In general, teachers were not limited by the school program, sometimes they were referring to other literature to provide examples or advise students on other interesting books to read. During the class persuasive speech, the teacher advised students on Gustav le Bon’s “The Crowd: The Study of a Popular Mind.” It was a good example of developing the interest of students in other literature.