Thoughts on common classroom teaching


by Hedwig Schär


What happens to the class during common teaching? I have given some thoughts to this question.

In my lower grade class I am fortunate to teach only half of the class during some hours a week. Then I often make a circle with the children and jointly work out the teaching material on a small scale. Thus I can keep an eye on all the children. To my right and to my left I can place children needing to be a bit closer to the teacher in order to be able to better concentrate. Together, we deal with the upcoming topic with materials or on a large page. Every child can follow and participate in his or her own way: actively or rather calmly.

The precise didactic preparation of the teaching material is an essential prerequisite. Under my guidance, the material is developed in small steps so that everyone can follow. Only when the previous step is understood, the next one follows. If a child does not understand a step for a long time, I notice that, observe it afterwards when the children solve their task sheet and give help if necessary.
During these processes the children have to be oriented to me as teacher; I know them well. It is great art that I guide, admittedly, but that every child actively follows and participates. Through the common lessons I quickly notice who has already understood and what or where the obstacles are. Already a facial expression can show me that a child is no longer able to cope and follow. I deliberately call children who only sit and do not put their hands up. I am constantly encouraging, confirming or correcting the pupils’ learning steps, without much fuss. Thus, the children are given an orientation and can gain knowledge themselves. It is strictly forbidden to laugh at somebody or to make remarks about a classmate’s mistake. By that any quiet learning is made impossible.
Always one child solves a partial task, and the other children follow. At that, it is not necessary that every child is able to do everything himself. By watching and following, a learning process equally happens as in one’s own doing. By not being so much in the centre, sometimes the children are even better able to think quietly. The individual learns from role-models, be it from the class-mates or from the teacher. At that, my role model effect as a teacher is of great importance. The children exactly observe and assimilate what I do, the way I do it.
Individual learning steps can also be explained by pupils having already understood the task. In their words, they sometimes reach the other children better than the teacher. Due to this process of co-thinking and witnessing in the common part of the lesson, the child is later on able to solve this kind of task himself.

Through this collaborative work a familiar atmosphere among the children and with me is created. The children learn from each other, listen to each other, and are also pleased with the success of their colleagues. This kind of work together with the children on common material is social learning.

This work with the children requires my highest concentration as a teacher. I have to be in the situation with all of my personality and human feeling. In doing so, my own attitudes towards learning are of paramount importance. It is fundamentally different if the teacher assumes that every child can learn everything, as if she thinks that the limit of a particular student is reached. In the second case, she gives up and does not ask the student anymore. If she has the attitude, everything is learnable, then she does not give up until the child makes his own learning steps. This is precisely the responsibility, satisfaction and challenge, even after many years of service, to promote each individual child and help him overcome any difficulties and deficits. If a hurdle is taken, something accomplished, it can spur a child. With his whole personality it has both feet on the ground. For me as a teacher this is also very nice.     •