How to Nail Your Classroom Observation

As teachers we all know that two of the most dreaded words in our profession are Classroom and Observation. Just the thought of someone walking into our rooms to evaluate our every move and instructional practice can send some of us teachers into a tailspin. 

Early in my teaching career I would get so wound up before a classroom observation.  Then, during the actual observation my nerves would get to me. The good news is that as the years have progressed I'm much more confident during my classroom observations...and the following tips and tricks are why...

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When preparing for a classroom observation, most teachers put a lot of pressure on themselves to plan an out-of-this-world lesson with all the bells and whistles and current educational trends...and can you blame a teacher?  Of course you want to create a dynamite lesson, but if you really want to nail your observation then you might be better off sticking with what you already know...and more importantly what your students know.  So, if you rock some amazing centers or stations activities in your everyday classroom, then develop an observation lesson around that.  Or perhaps you do an awesome job incorporating the arts into your lessons or tapping into the needs of diverse learners.  Whatever it is that you do well...that's what you should be showing off.  Skip the newest trend in education and stick with what you know.  You'll look a lot more comfortable and that will go a long way!


Of course you're going to write some detailed lesson plans for your observation lesson, but I'd like to suggest writing some back up plans as well.  After planning your observation lesson play out every worst-case scenario in your mind...

--- What will you do if the lesson ends early?
--- What if the entire lesson is a bust?
--- What will you do if you're incorporating technology into your instruction and the technology doesn't work?
--- What will you be teaching before the scheduled observation (in case your administrator shows up early)?
--- What do you have planned for after the observation lesson (in case your administrator stays later)?
--- What if your administrator gets tied up and doesn't show at all?

Then, come up with a solution for each scenario.  Is there a review game that you can play if the lesson ends early?  
Back Up Plans FREEBIE

Do you have an activity that aligns to your lesson that students can work on if you have to solve technology issues?  I'm a big fan of back up fact you find all my favorite ideas for tending to the worst-case scenarios above in this BACK UP PLANS FREEBIE.

For a long time, I thought that the classroom observation was a TEACHER observation.  So, I designed lessons that were extremely teacher-heavy.  Then, one day I had an epiphany.  It's a CLASSROOM observation.  Which means that as a teacher I should be showcasing what my class of students typically does while they learn.  

Sequencing Mini-Unit

Gone are the days when I monopolized the entire observation with my voice and perspective.  Now, during a classroom observation I let my students do all the work.  They're the ones talking, leading, thinking, questioning, and learning.  Nail your observation by keeping your students busy and active.

The foundation of every great lesson is great classroom management.  Without solid classroom management, even the best lesson will fall flat.  So, make sure that your classroom management system is in check. I've used the "Stop" and "Keep it Up" behavior cards in my classroom before and they're a hit (you can find them in this FREEBIE).  

Or one of the simplest ways to manage a classroom is to write a key word or phrase on the chalkboard.  Perhaps it's "Prize" or "No Homework." Then, explain to students that you will be erasing a letter for any behavior that gets in the way of learning in your classroom.  If there are any letters left in the word or phrase at the end of the class, the entire class can receive a prize (maybe a free answer on the homework or pencils or picking their own seats during the next class).  Of course, you probably have your own behavior management systems in place...and there's no better time to show them off than in a classroom observation!

This is probably the most important way to nail a classroom observation.  Just be you!  When I'm teaching, I'm very silly.  I like to sing songs off key and out of tune.  I like to jump off of chairs and dance around the room.  I like to share funny stories.  I also make mistakes while I'm teaching.  I sometimes get going too fast or fumble over my words.  Rather than hide all of those things, I've found that it's far better to just be me.  In fact, in one of my classroom observation feedback forms an administrator went on and on about the kicks that I was doing to celebrate students' learning.  It's something dorky that I do.  But it's me and it truly showed my administrator what it's like to learn in my room.  So whoever you that!  Your administrator isn't looking for a robot, he or she is observing what makes your classroom unique and the ultimate hub of learning.

There you have it...five of the tips and tricks that have helped to make classroom observations a lot less stressful in my world.  I hope that they help you too!  

I love sharing ideas and resources with teachers.  In fact, the Brain Waves Instruction Community is designed to do just that.  If you'd like to learn more ways to make teaching and learning more fun be sure to sign up for the Brain Waves Instruction newsletter.  
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Thanks for stopping by,
Mary Beth

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