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Friday, December 19, 2014

Classroom Management in Spain

With the classes large, around thirty students in each class, classroom management could be very difficult at my placement. As a result, classroom management is very important to the school.
First of all, the set-up of the school helps manage the students. There are four floors, one for each age group, and the classrooms are all in the single, small hallway. As a result, it is very easy to monitor the hallways and make sure that all students are where they should be. In addition, instead of the students changing classrooms for each of their classes, the teachers do. This keeps the students in their classroom and therefore limits the possibility of misbehavior. The set up of the school and the administration create expectations for behavior and enforce them strictly making it easier for the teachers to monitor their classrooms.
All of the classrooms are set up with the desks separated, making it more difficult for the students to talk to each other and therefore distract each other. Furthermore, my CT constantly walks around the classroom and watches the students. This way, she can make sure that the students stay on track.
While having the desks separated helps limit teaching, the students of course still talk. However, my CT does not interrupt the class to silence them unless they are causing a disruption to others. In her mind, if a student doesn’t want to pay attention, she can’t force them to, but in the end they will not do well in the class. This very much reflects a common attitude about education in Spain: if you want to learn, you have to take the initiative and do so. While this classroom management technique allows my CT to continue to teach so as not to take time away from those who want to learn, it would be difficult to have this attitude in the US with the importance of standardized tests because there would be students who will not have learned what they needed to.
Finally, my CT also manages the classroom by making sure her classes are interesting. She adjusts her teaching methods and material based on the needs of her students rather than just sticking to what she prefers. If the class is interesting and centered on the student needs, they will want to pay attention and will therefore learn more.

With these techniques, my CT is effective in her classroom management and has earned respect from her students.

The British National Curriculum - Foundation Stage

One major difference between education in England and the US is that they have an established National Curriculum. In Reception, Mrs. W focuses on the early years foundation stage (EYFS) standards set out by the National Curriculum, which include seven areas of learning:
-Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED): making relationships, confidence and self-awareness, and managing feelings and behavior
-Physical Development (PD): moving and handling, and health and self-care
-Communication and Language (CL): listening and attention, understanding, and speaking
-Literacy (L): reading and writing
-Mathematics (M): numbers, shape, space and measure
-Understanding the World (UW): people and communities, the world, and technology
-Expressive Arts and Design (EAD): exploring and using media and materials, and being imaginative

Each of these seven areas of learning and their specific strands of focus are broken down even further into early learning goals, which can be observed and assessed in the classroom. They are addressed primarily by ‘learning through play’ in which children are encouraged to discover, learn, and develop through games. Mrs. W keeps a book for each child, in which she includes notes and examples of that child’s development in each area of learning. I have chosen to focus specifically on the prime areas of learning (personal, social, and emotional development, communication and language, and physical development) by discussing the goals of learning for each area, as well as how they are implemented in the classroom.

Within personal, social, and emotional development, students’ ability to make relationships is based on how they play co-operatively, take account of one another’s ideas, show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings, and form positive relationships with adults and other students. Their self-confidence and awareness is based on their confidence in trying new activities, ability to say why they like some activities more than others, confidence in speaking in front of a familiar group, talking about their ideas, and being able to say when they do and don’t need help. Finally, their ability to manage feelings and behavior is judged by how they talk about feelings, behavior, and consequences, their ability to work as part of a class, understand and follow the rules, and adjust their behavior to different situations. In Mrs. W's class, development in all of these areas is both an informal and constant part of the everyday classroom routine. One activity that I particularly like is celebrating a different ‘student of the week’ each Friday. Mrs. W chooses one student and asks the rest of the class to share things that they like about that person or things that person does well. All of the students really seem to enjoy not only being the student of the week, but also complementing their fellow students. I think this is a great way in which to encourage self-confidence and positive relationships between students.

Communication and language goals include students being able to listen attentively in a range of situations and respond appropriately. They should be able to demonstrate understanding by following instructions, and answering ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about stories, events, and their own experiences. Finally, they should be able to express themselves effectively, show awareness of the needs of listeners, use past, present, and future language accurately, and develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events. Mrs. W encourages these communication and language goals through activities such as ‘show and tell’, in which students have the opportunity to speak in front of a group, ask questions, and respond to their peers. This is definitely a complex area to address with some children, especially those in the class who speak very little or not at all. However, there are also many students who are extremely articulate and definitely excel in this area of development.

In terms of physical development, children should be able to show good control and coordination in large and small movements, move confidently and safely in a range of spaces, and handle tools effectively (including pencils when writing). They should also be aware of the importance of good health (including physical exercise and a healthy diet), talk about ways to be healthy and safe, and manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully. Every Tuesday, the students spend some time in the hall participating in physical activities such as playing the ‘stoplight game’ or throwing balls to each other. They are also very much encouraged to do personal tasks (such as putting on their coats, remembering their schoolbags, putting materials away etc.) independently.

Teaching A Lesson in Bath, England

Today I taught a small group lesson about patterns for my students (ages 4 - 5). It was a little difficult to plan ahead of time because I had not known ahead of time which students I would be working with and how familiar with patterns they each were. I brought in examples of basic shape/color patterns (blue square, red circle, blue square, red circle, etc.) and planned on having the students create their own color patterns using manipulatives (I used different colored teddy bear figures). I also created two worksheets (an easy one and a more difficult one if students finished the first one) which consisted of shape patterns that the students could complete and color in.

I chose five students (Henry, Lindsey, Emily, Harry, and Jake*) at random to stay with me in the classroom while the rest of the class went and did an activity in the hall. I first asked the students if they knew what a pattern was but most of them seemed to think it was a shape (Harry guessed a heart, Emily guessed a Christmas tree). I explained that a pattern was something (like shapes or colors) that repeats itself. I showed them an example (blue square, red circle, blue square, red circle) and also made a pattern with the colored bears (yellow, blue, yellow, blue, etc.). I let the students try and make their own patterns. Henry, Lindsey, and Jake seemed to be able to do it very well and consistently. However, Harry and Emily spent most of the time lining up the bears in no particular color order, even when I attempted to guide them by starting a pattern and stressing that a pattern means that the colors repeat themselves. The students responded similarly to the worksheets as well. Henry had no trouble with either of the worksheets. Although he finished the first one quickly, he did not want to try the harder one until he saw the other students doing them. Jake finished the first worksheet perfectly but struggled a little bit on the more difficult one. Lindsey started off well with the worksheet but seemed to get distracted later on by coloring the shapes in different colors. Harry definitely struggled with the worksheet at first but seemed to understand and was able to make a correct pattern by the end. Emily definitely struggled the most out of the group and was not able to complete her worksheet.

It was clear that some of the students had more experience with patterns than the others (and were even able to come up with more advanced patterns than the 1,2 patterns). I think that the worksheets may have proved particularly difficult for the struggling students (mostly Harry and Emily) because the patterns involved colors and shapes at the same time. When I asked them to read me the pattern using just the shapes or just the colors, they were usually able to do it successfully. If I were to teach the lesson again, I would definitely have the students spend more time making patterns with just colors or shapes first before using them together. Looking back, it would have been more beneficial for Emily and Harry to have continued working with the colored bears until they were able to make patterns successfully, instead of moving them on to the worksheets at the same time as the other children. If I were to continue working on patterns with the same students, I would be able to adapt it much more appropriately to each of their individual needs now that I have a better sense of their different ability levels. I would most likely work with the students separately or create different worksheets for those who needed more support and practice. Overall, I felt that the topic of patterns was an appropriate focus for the age group of the students. However, I felt that the lesson definitely needed some follow-up work and additional support for some of the students.

*I have changed the names of the students

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Colegio Menor: Similarities and Differences to a Bilingual School in the US


Colegio Menor is actually very similar to a bilingual school in the United States.  In fact, the schools are even divided into elementary school and upper school (as opposed to the different system of básica and colegio that Ecuador uses).  The classroom set-up is also basically the same as in the United States.  In my classroom, there is a carpeted area to one side that is used for reading, morning meeting, extra space for groups to work, etc.  The desks are individual, but set up in groups of three or four.  The teacher often gives class from the front of the room, where there is a white board and a projector.  The teacher’s desk is located in the front right hand side of the classroom.  In the back of the classroom the students have their cubbies.  The teaching styles, at least of the teachers of English subjects, is similar to that of the United States.  Although my cooperating teacher is Ecuadorian, she went to an American school in Ecuador.  I believe this influenced her teaching style.  She uses many similar classroom bonding techniques, such as morning meetings.  She also uses similar ways of controlling the classroom.  For example, she rings a xylophone to quiet people down, plays a song for clean up time, and has a chart for discipline.
            Nonetheless, there are still some aspects of Ecuadorian culture that are present in the school.  My teacher has told me that some of the other teachers sometimes are late to commitments or take their time eating breakfast/lunch.  In Ecuador, time is very relative and not all people are worried about being punctual.  In addition, similar to Ecuadorian culture, the culture of the school is very friendly and open.  Children call all of their teachers by their first names.  Teachers will joke around with other teachers in front of the students.  At parents meetings, the teachers great the parents with hugs and kisses on the cheek (typical greeting of Ecuador).  The teachers and students all great each other and say bye to each other each time they enter and exit the room.
            It has been very interesting for me to get the opportunity to work at Colegio Menor.  It sometimes is confusing for me because I am not positive what cultural traditions or language I should be using.  However, it is amazing to see how easily some of the teachers and students switch between two different cultures and languages.  In my opinion, bilingual education is a fantastic concept.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thanksgiving at Colegio Highlands in Madrid

Thanksgiving at Colegio Highlands in Madrid

The last few weeks I worked in Colegio Highlands Los Fresnos I was able to observe a lot but also was able to jump in and help with my cooperating teachers’ material as well as plan my own lessons and materials. I had a great deal of one-on-one time with my cooperating teachers to ask them about how they did different things in their classroom, like making assessments and their grading systems. It was great to be able to see a few different methodologies at work and I was able to add a lot to my teaching toolbox by talking to them. Also, I was able to spend time with many students, one-on-one, in small groups and in person, to get to know each of them better.
On my second to last Thursday at Highlands it was Thanksgiving day so Mary, my supervisor, asked me if I would make a school-wide Thanksgiving presentation so that the students could get to know American culture better. It was a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving overseas! It was also quite an undertaking—I was supposed to visit all of the classes from pre-school to middle school in just that one day. As part of planning this activity, I talked a lot with Mary, my coordinator, to make sure that we had a very definitive schedule planned so that I could make it through the whole school. We settled on having each presentation be 10-minutes long.
In planning this presentation, I made several Powerpoints, most of which were photos with some key notes and phrases and new vocabulary words. I planned to talk about the history of Thanksgiving, the food of Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving traditions, such as football games and parades, and values associated with the holiday, such as spending time with family, generosity and giving back to your community.
Probably the most difficult part of this activity was differentiating the material based on grade level and level of English proficiency. I think all of the students would have understood the material had it been in their native language of Spanish, but talking about Thanksgiving entailed learning about a culture in a different language with new vocabulary words that they probably have never heard before. Also, I was visiting everyone class from ages three to thirteen so I had to make sure that each age was challenged with the material at the appropriate level so they still understood the holiday. To do this, I made three different Powerpoints for ages three through six, six through ten, and ten through fourteen respectively. I included the same types of information on each slide, but varied how in-depth I went in my presentation and what vocabulary I used and defined based on the age group. For example, for the three to six year olds I talked about the tradition of Thanksgiving starting hundreds of years ago in the United States, but for the older students, I gave them terms like Pilgrims, the Mayflower and the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans. I also planned activities for each of the grade levels. For the youngest students I gave them a coloring sheet of Pilgrims and for the upper grade levels I gave them crossword puzzles that asked them to recall the information that they learned during the presentation.
Overall this Thanksgiving presentation went very well and I think my students and cooperating teachers learned a lot. I think that the material was very well differentiated and each age group received information appropriate for their level of understanding. I am not sure how much the youngest students were able to understand since they still do not have a very functional English vocabulary, but I think that the pictures on the slides helped them to at least visualize the holiday. Something that went really well with this activity was the part of the activity where I had each of the students go around and say something that they were Thankful of. Each class came up with different things, ranging from school, to teachers, to family, to sports, to their religion (the school is Catholic). I think this activity made the students realize that Thanksgiving is more than just eating a lot, which is how the holiday is depicted on television. I loved how so many of the teachers in the school were so excited about Thanksgiving and wanted to talk to me so they could incorporate it in their curriculum!
Something that didn’t go so well was the timing. With only twenty minutes left at the end of the day and four classes left to get to I felt as though I wasn’t able to give each class the proper amount of time to get to everything I wanted to talk about. In the future I will recommend to the school that some classes join together so that the student could talk to more students of the same age all at once.

Overall this activity went really well and it was a great way to end my time at Colegio Highlands. It took a lot of planning time to make sure that each age of students would understand the material I was presenting and coordinating with my teachers and supervisor on the schedule and what I would be presenting on. It was nice to be able to share something about myself with the students I was talking about. All of them were very interested in how my family celebrated and what my favorite parts of Thanksgiving were which was great to hear.