commentary Tyson Seburn  

A record of classroom events…

In Shelly Terrell’s Day 14 of #30Goals Challenge, the challenge is: Observe your classroom. Take observation notes and determine what your classroom culture is perceived to be by these observations. Is this what you want your classroom culture to be like? How can you have your classroom culture reflect your educational philosophy?

The following is a record of classroom events…

EAP Writing class (1st half) /  Friday February 18, 2011, 10:10 – 11:30AM
16 students (17 – 20 yrs old); 14 Chinese, 1 Malaysian, 1 Russian; 6M, 10F
Current project: Research essay
Technology in classroom:  None

9:15 – Tyson arrives at the instructor’s room with coffee, takes off winter outer garments and immediately opens his laptop to finish up lesson planning. He and colleagues exchange ideas about, share activities for and discuss issues concerning students in upcoming classes.

10:05 – Tyson and colleagues go to individual classrooms to start class Writing classes.  Tyson carries his laptop, and a cotton shopping bag containing a projector, two speakers, accompanying required cables and 30-ft extension wound up cable, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and a folder containing all photocopies.

10:10Class begins – Mr. Seburn enters the classroom, puts everything down at his desk at the front of the class in front of the chalkboard and says “good morning” with a smile, to which his students reply “good morning” in unison using various degrees of enthusiasm.  He chuckles at this.  He writes on the board and describes items on bulleted list of planned topics (1. Admin, 2. Freewriting, 3. Directly quoting review, 4. Modifying direct quotes, 5. Open floor).

10:15Freewriting activity – Mr. Seburn puts a question on the board, “What is something you have learnt so far from the research you’ve done?“, and passes out a scrap piece of paper for each student to use.  He asks students to individually plan, organise and write a paragraph or two answering the question.  He uses this individual time to set up the projector, laptop and audio.

10:30Peer editing – Mr. Seburn asks students to pair up, read each others’ freewriting and give suggestions based on mechanics (eg. grammar, punctuation, capitalisation), organisation (eg. topic sentence, supportive statements, details) and coherence (eg. concrete examples, transitions, redundancy).  He circulates through the room as much as possible given spacial limitations (room designed to accommodate 20 desks in three rows) and answers questions as needed.

10:45 – Mr. Seburn asks students to take their classmates’ suggestions, incorporate them if useful and email the freewriting to him before tomorrow’s class.  He reminds students that previous freewritings have been marked (eg. error indication, individualised comments) and are available in the assignment mailbox for pickup.

10:46Review – Mr. Seburn asks Minnie (ie. Student A) to remind him what the characteristics of directly quoting are.  He rewrites what she says on the board in a concise way.  For the third point, Minnie doesn’t explain clearly.  He asks for a volunteer to expand on Minnie‘s answer.  Silence.  He waits maybe 30 seconds, looking around at various students, many of whose heads are looking down at their notes, when Johnny tries to reexplain Minnie‘s answer.  Mr. Seburn agrees and writes his ideas on the board, again more concisely.  Some students write what’s on the board in their notes.

11:00 – Mr. Seburn shows a slide, on which is a passage from a previous reading and asks Ss if they recognise it.  Half respond affirmatively.  He asks where.  A small group, including Minnie and Johnny, name a previous assignment.  He says that’s right.  He asks Kelly about one of the previously learnt lexical items included in the paragraph.  Kelly answers well.  He recasts. He asks Kelly to find another from the passage and ask one of her classmates.  Mr. Seburn hears pages being turned and backpacks being rustled through.  Kelly proceeds and this process continues three more times.

11:15Modifying quotesAn animation reveals a highlighted sentence in the passage.  Some students notice the highlight.  Other students don’t.  Mr. Seburn moves on to the next slide, which shows the highlighted sentence in a piece of writing, one modified using square brackets and one with omitted sections using ellipses.   He asks students to form small groups and discuss what they noticed about the highlighted sentences and how they were used in the second slide.

11:20 – Students, some in groups of 2, others in groups of 3, speak in both Mandarin and English.  June asks Mr. Seburn if they can see the previous slide because they hadn’t noticed the highlights.  Mr. Seburn says no.

11:30 – Mr. Seburn suggests everyone take the 15-minute break, during which time he puts the previous slide up.  Students get up and start chatting in Mandarin.  Many students leave the classroom.

11:32 – Tyson goes to the instructor’s room.

What is the classroom culture here? What are A) my intentions vs B) potential student perspectives?  Does A produce desired B?  Are there going to be discrepancies?  I’ll discuss that in my next post, but will be happy to hear your thoughts.

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8 thoughts on “A record of classroom events…

  1. Shelly Terrell


    You’re amazing to be so transparent! You do so much and I have to say you ask the right questions but at the same time I think you already teach in a way that motivates your students and reflects what you believe about learning. I think there will always be discrepancies because a lot also depends on your students and their previous experiences with learning.

    1. seburnt

      It’s not so hard to be transparent if you let go of your ego a little. To some degree, Dave Dodgson’s post on When the Wheels Fall off helped me out there. Only through being real can you or others truly reflect and learn.

      I’m still processing the questions I’ve posited here and even look forward to my next post because it’ll mean that reflection has produced some ideas for change and understanding of what my students might think of what I do and say. I like to think it’s obvious, but I’m always surprised by what ends up needing explicit explanation. Thanks for the encouragement though. Appreciate the sentiment. =)

  2. Naomi Epstein

    I couldn’t help chuckling at your description.
    Your description is so vivid, that I was sorry I couldn’t leave comments between the paragraphs such as “oh, YOU handed out the paper, did they all have pens? Mine don’t”
    ” Did anyone complain (or whine) about why they have to look at something that was on a previous assignment, even if they didn’t recognize it was actually on it”?
    But they are too well behaved for that? (I just got back from school…)
    Anyway, kudos for presenting the lesson to us!

    1. seburnt

      Hi Naomi,
      Thanks for the comment. I’m not quite sure what your first comment suggests with the capitalised YOU… It must be hard if your students aren’t prepared with pens and things. How frustrating. As far as complaining, no, no one did. In fact, I think they were relieved to realise they’d read this paragraph before and felt comfortable with the content.


  3. Lisa D

    Nice work, Tyson! Taking the goals and really putting them into some kind of practice that will re-shape your work as an educator is what it’s all about for me! This record reminds me so much of the observations I used to do of my teachers as a school principal. Unfortunately none of them were brave enough to challenge themselves to do it too. But so much insight was discovered in this way. Most times my teachers were shocked to read it later…often saying to me “I did that?” LOL! Bravo, my friend!

    1. seburnt

      Yes, I am reminded of those observations I did for my teachers as well and though mine won’t result in the same types of challenges and reflections theirs did, it is always valuable to step back from yourself and give some thought to how students perceive the tasks they’re given. Cheers Lisa. =)

  4. […] can read Tyson Seburn‘s post on Goal 14 – an excellent record of classroom […]

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