What To Look For In Classrooms

In a sincere effort and desire to be better able to support teachers, parents have asked, “What are some classroom practices I might look for to assess the application of current research?” The following questions may be helpful for parents to keep in mind during classroom visits and to teachers for the purpose of self-evaluation.

  • Is there a balance of teacher and student talk?
    Is the teacher’s voice the main voice or are students doing much of the talking? Does every child have an opportunity to be heard? Are teachers directing, or are they guiding and leading?
  • Do the students know the routines and procedures?
    Do the students rely on the teacher every time they have a question, or do they know the routines, assume responsibilities, use peers as helpers, and assume some self-management? Do things seem disorganized, or is there a well-planned flow from one activity to another?
  • Are the classroom walls by and for children?
    Is the children’s work displayed everywhere? Are the bullentin boards done by the children, with samples of writing, illustrations and projects, or are they commercial, perfect and cute?
  • Does the seating arrangement and teacher control allow for collaboration?
    Are students isolated in rows, or are they grouped so they can confer and assist each other building social and communication skills?
  • Is the teacher with the children?
    Is the teacher always standing front and center or sitting at his/her desk, or is he/she mostly among the children, demonstrating, facilitating, and guiding as needed?
  • Is there an orderly hum of activity?
    Is the classroom silent, or are students quietly talking with each other and actively engaged in various enterprises?
  • Is reading time focused on comprehension and understanding?
    Are children spending most of reading time oral reading, working on “skills,” and responding to literal level questions, or do they have frequent opportunities for self-selected, self-paced reading, responding to open-ended questions and participating in high-level discussions?
  • Is the independent work the children are doing meaningful?
    Are worksheets and workbooks being used with fill-in-the blank formats, or are there other purposeful activities that encourage open-ended responses which require thinking and application of experience and knowledge?
  • Do the children have choices?
    Is everyone doing the same activity, or are there opportunities for children to make decisions about their work for the day? Are there self-selected reading and writing activities?
  • Are there opportunities for students to work together?
    Are all activities being completed individually, or are pairs and groups of children reading, writing and problem solving together? Is there time for sharing, collaborating and contributing?
  • Is there a classroom library and cozy reading corner?
    Are there all types of literature attractively displayed and accessible to children? Are there reference books, dictionaries and thesauruses available? Is there a pleasant reading area where children can read in a comfortable position and with a friend?
  • Are there learning centers?
    (Learning centers should be evident at all grade levels.) Are those opportunities for exploration in centers such as math, science, listening, art, etc.? Is there an area where children can find different kinds of paper, writing, supplies, art materials, measuring tools and maps, globes and atlases?
  • Does the teacher use anecdotal records and observational data in evaluation?
    Does the teacher use only checks and grades in a grade book or is there also evidence of informal, observational data showing faculty knows and understands individual students?
  • Does the teacher provide demonstrations of literacy events?
    Does he/she read aloud? Does he/she teach skills in context? Does he/she teach conventions and qualities of good writing through mini-lessons? Does he/she model what good readers do through think-alouds and other strategic behaviors?
  • Does the teacher work with flexible groups?
    Does the teacher sometimes work with the whole group and other times with small groups or individuals?
  • Do children feel successful?
    Does the teacher provide experiences and materials that ensure each child success? Does the teacher accept approximations in reading and writing? Does the teacher celebrate each child’s attempts?
  • Do the students seem happy and actively involved?
    Are the children passively completing assignments, or are they excited about the opportunities for learning in their classroom?