Today I was given the opportunity to observe an English class in Bami. Prado arranged for me to observe the 4th year Secondary class when I decided to come to the high school on a different day this week.
The students in Bami have exams this week (November 26th-30th), so Cintra, my temporary CT, fielded questions from the students for the first 15 minutes of class. English is the only language spoken in the classroom, so the students stumbled over their words and seemed to get increasingly nervous about their exam the following day. In the United States, chaos always ensues in review classes or periods before big exams. In this classroom, the teacher puts a strict limit on the amount of time they could spend pestering her about the exam. I hope to use this strategy in my own classroom in the future because it influences students to think about the exam prior to the night before it is given. Also, it allows for teachers to move forward in the curriculum without having to give up one class for review and another for the exam itself.
After the review time, the teacher had students begin a new chapter about idioms in the English language. They opened the text to a page with various conversational exchanges that featured idioms, such as “ It cost a fortune!” and “I don’t know what she sees in him” For me, it was very funny to hear Spaniard teenagers using these phrases. She explained each idiom (in English) and made sure everyone understood how it was used. Then, she played a recording of the same conversational exchanges so the students could train their ears and learn the pronunciation by audible example. They listened 2 or 3 times and then were instructed to complete a dialogue exercise. Students were paired up and told to add to the given conversations. They were given 5-7 minutes to work together, write, and practice speaking what they had written. Each group presented the dialogues, and they all spoke very well. They kept watching me to make sure they were speaking correctly and making sense. At the end of the class Cintra played another English recording about Polish immigration in the United Kingdom. I thought that the students did not comprehend the recording, but when she asked them to summarize what they had heard, their responses were completely correct! The class ended before they could complete the accompanying listening comprehension questions.
Upon entering the classroom, Cintra immediately warned me that this class had many behavioral issues and that she often struggles to manage them. I observed many students talking over each other and other their teacher, laughing at those students that were taking the class and its assignments seriously, and blatantly not paying attention. This was the only class in Bami that I had really taken notice of the lack of classroom control. I understood the predicament of the teacher in that the students do not seem to enjoy learning English and it is very difficult to demand respect from and discipline students in a non-native language. After the class ended, Cintra told me that they had actually been behaving much better than usual because I was there observing. This behavior is also different from that in America because I have always observed that American students misbehave MORE in the presence of student teachers. That does not seem to be the case in Spain at all.
Cintra’s teaching style seems very standard for a foreign language class. There were both theoretical and practical aspects of the lesson and all forms of assessment were exercised. Classroom layout and materials were also standard, but Cintra employed the use of a microphone to ensure that all students could hear her pronunciation clearly.
Overall, this English lesson in Spain was not very noticeably different from a typical class (or language class) in the United States, but the experience was very unique and informational.