I mainly observed English lessons since my main CT is an English teacher.
Singapore is very heavily dependent on the books that they use. Students would be carrying a minimum of 3 books for each subject: a textbook, an activity book, and a homework book. The English lessons would be taught according to the textbook. In Singapore, the textbooks are carefully written and updated for each grade level. The higher streamed classrooms would receive the higher level textbook, A and the lower streamed classrooms would receive B. There would be more materials and information in A than in B.
My CT would first begin the lesson by showing a video that is related to the lesson Topic. She would then teach from her PowerPoints. Sometimes, she would dive right into the textbook and teach from it. Then, she would assign worksheets from the activity book for the students to complete in class. If all of the students are near complete, she would review the worksheet with the whole class. Sometimes, she would have the students create a writing piece in the format of a different writing style such as letters, emails, biographies, fiction, newspaper articles, etc. Most of the lessons observed were similar as described.
This type of teaching style that I observed was similar compared to those used to teach high school students. Students would face the teachers and the teachers would start teaching the content for the topic. After the teaching session, the teacher would assign group work or individual work. The teaching styles used in elementary schools in the States are quite different compared to the ones used in Singapore. There would usually be more group work and more interactive learning. There would be plenty of discussion between the students and teacher; however, I feel that in Singapore, it was more explicit teaching and the students were assigned to complete their assigned work in their activity book.
I feel that in the States, teachers usually use discussions and questions to assess whether the students have acquired the concept that taught; however, in Singapore, the activity book is used to assess the students. If the students are able to complete their worksheets without many problems, then they are learning the materials taught.
I feel that the classroom layout plays an important part to the teaching style. In the elementary schools in the States, I have seen desks in groups of 4 or 6. It promotes group work and interactive learning. When the desks are placed in columns, facing the teacher, it allows the students to give the teacher their full attention. It promotes more individual work than group work.
One challenge that my CT faced teaching was having the students speak in proper English. Students would sometimes answer in Singlish, which is a colloquial Singaporean English. Since it is an English class, my CT would always correct the students by repeating the response in proper English or she would ask the students to respond in proper English. She would always have to remind the students that they are in English class, and thus they had to speak English properly. Some examples would be when a student asked to use the restroom, s/he would say, “Can use toilet?” My teacher would thus ask the student to ask in proper English, “May I use the restroom?”
Another challenge that she faced that was similar to the challenge above. When the students write essays, their essays usually contain a lot of grammatical and sentence structure mistakes. Usually, when students first learn how to write essays and other writing styles, they usually write how the sentence would sound in their head, or how they would say it. Since students speak Singlish, their writing pieces would usually have many grammatical mistakes. Some students would learn from them, but some would have the same repeated mistakes. It takes Singaporean students a bit longer to produce a grammatically-correct sentence.
There would always be challenges in teaching and there isn’t one correct teaching style. Teaching varies across cultures and I am glad that I was able to observe the education system in Singapore.