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Cross-Visit Field Notes

rbp13's picture



8-10 a.m., Thursday (February 28, 2013)


Public high school in Philadelphia


Special needs classroom, 9 students were in the room when we arrived (my partner explained that there was usually another student in the class who was always late because he walked slowly)

I chose to do my cross-visit with the classmate that is placed at this school because the question that I want to focus on is: How does a single teacher effectively accommodate the needs of all of her students? This includes presenting information in a way that is accessible to the majority of her students and keeping students engaged throughout the lesson. I was also curious how a teacher consistently checks for understanding in all of her students.

Ms. O was the main teacher


When my partner and I arrived, there were already 3 adults in the room.

I immediately noticed this because it provided a stark contrast with my field placement where there is one teacher and 24 students.

Ms. O explained that the schedule for the day would be slightly altered because her students were participating in an assembly later that day and were taking part of the morning to practice. For the first part of the day, she was planning to have them watch a movie on the cultures of Africa.


I was impressed that Ms. O was able to teach in conjunction with the movie. Throughout the film, she was constantly pausing it to review information that the students had already learned and to expand upon material that the film presented. Ms. O is originally from Africa so she was able to provide personal anecdotes and stories for a lot of the information. For example, when she was reviewing that people in Africa live in both cities and villages she recited, “Cities and what? Villages! Villages and what? Cities!” Additionally, at one point, the narrator was describing a type of cloth that people in some parts of Africa make and wear and Ms. O interjected that she had worn a dress made of that fabric last week. She asked if her students remembered, and many of them did.  

Ms. O’s willingness to share information about her culture makes her more accessible to her students and makes her seem more human. I think this is true in all classrooms, regardless of student ability or age.

Early in the film, when the students seemed disengaged and were not answering her questions she said in an excited voice, “Come on folks! We have an assembly today, let’s wake up!”


The film discussed the Emancipation Proclamation, the federal document that officially freed all the slaves, and Ms. O asked the class if anyone remembered what the document was called. One student raised his hand and, although he knew the answer, he had a difficult time pronouncing the words. Ms. O, sensing that he was getting a bit distressed said, “You’re good, take your time.” Ms. O seemed to realize that several of her students would probably have trouble pronouncing the words so she went around the room and had each child practice saying it until they got it right.

This was especially significant to me because I was focusing on how a teacher engages and checks for understanding in all of her students. In this case she literally went around the room and had them answer one-by-one.

Throughout the film, Ms. O constantly referenced projects that the students had each done on an African country. Because they had all researched a different country, they all knew different pieces of information.

I thought this was interesting because it seemed to make the students feel special when Ms. O asked them specifically about the country that they had researched. Also, this gave the students an opportunity to learn from one another.

Part way through the film, the boy that my partner had told me is consistently late walked into the room. He was walking slowly, just as she had described, and was wearing earplugs (?). He walked over to the table where we were sitting and proceeded to stand next to his chair. There was a package of cereal and milk for breakfast on his desk but it took him a while to even pick up the cereal; it then took a while longer for him to open and begin eating it.


Throughout the lesson, I noticed that only two children really participate voluntarily.


Ms. O constantly rephrases her questions and statements, and repeats herself several times throughout the lesson.

It is not as though she thinks the students aren’t listening to her, but rather as if she is just constantly reiterating and reinforcing the information. I also anticipate that asking questions in different ways helps her to determine whether her students are really understanding.

Ms. O encourages the students to participate by telling them that it is okay to make mistakes. She said, “It’s okay not to know how to do everything. It’s okay to make mistakes. Everything doesn’t have to be what? Perfect.”

I like that Ms. O often phrases lessons as a question and immediately provides an answer herself. This makes the lesson seem more conversational.

There was confusion at one point in the film because the narrator was talking about a type of African music but she did not say what country it was from. Ms. O said to the class, “Whenever you define something it’s good to say where it’s from.”


While the music was playing on the film Ms. O said, “Let’s dance! It’s almost Friday, let’s be free!” She then danced around the room and encouraged all of her students to get out of their chairs.


When the film had a segment on African traditions, Ms. O paused it and asked each of the students if their families have any traditions. She went around the room and had each child share with the class. During this activity, I noticed that Ms. O gave one student, who had not previously participated, an iPad to type on. This student does not speak but can type his thoughts and the iPad reads them to the class.

This is one way that I see technology being very useful in the classroom. Even though it takes a little longer, I like that Ms. O encourages him to participate just like every other student.

At 9:30 the class goes to practice for the assembly.