Thursday, December 15, 2011
However, Ruth has some classroom management strategies that I noticed that she brings to both classrooms, whether or not they react or not. I noticed that she is constantly keeping them busy and intrigued so that the students don't have time to misbehave. She has every minute occupied with something whether it is planned or not. I have also noticed that with such young students, she does a lot of physical activities with the kids. It excites them and also releases a lot of their pent up energy that could be going towards misbehaving behavior. She also uses the abilities and "personality" of the class to manage. The 4-year-olds love positive encouragement and praises so she has the students line up with their completed work so that she can individually look at each one and say "Good work!" She doesn't usually use any punishment or discipline in this classroom because they are so effective with the positive reinforcements. The 5-year-olds get very excited by 'performing' in front of their other peers so Ruth will reward good behavior with allowing the students to help with the lesson or come to the front and be with the class puppet. Those who misbehave are not allowed to participate and are separated from the group and forced to sit alone at their desks.
These varying forms of classroom management in the two different classrooms have been so interesting to observe. When Ruth tells me her frustrations or praises at how the regular classroom teacher manages the classroom, I see how important it is to be in control, and how it can effect other teachers as well.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Today I taught two English classes at San Rafael. My CT did not ask me to prepare a lesson ahead of time, but rather asked if I would take half the class for the period to read their current novel and review for the test with them. I was very excited to have the class and see how they worked with me. We began both classes by forming a circle in order to set up a good environment for group reading and classroom discussion. My cooperating teacher told me that they needed to finish the book in preparation for their test on Friday, so we began with a quick summary of what they had already read, and then continued to read aloud (myself and the students) throughout the class. Every page or two, I would stop the class, the students would ask questions and we would talk about the plot together. The students in my first class had a very high English level and participated freely throughout the entire class. However, the students in my second class had a very difficult time understanding what they were reading and seemed to be very far behind. With this class, it was a struggle because I had no materials or planned assessments to help them better understand the book. According to my CT, they were supposed to have the entire book read, but when I asked the students, only one student had read past chapter 2. It was clear that they simply did not understand the plot and a lot of the vocabulary words which deterred them from reading, so I decided to go back to the beginning of the book and do a chapter-by-chapter review with the students. When I clarified certain vocabulary words, characters, and events taking place in each chapter, the students quickly gained a better understanding of the book, and began to ask questions to show interest in what they were reading. I think the main problem that I saw with this group was the fact that there were no extra materials or reinforcers such as classroom discussion, informal assessment, etc. to help the students understand the book. For example, it would have been very helpful for the students to have a vocabulary sheet, a list of important characters, and a story map to fill in while reading. Teaching these two classes was a good opportunity for me to see what teaching strategies work in an ESL classroom.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Last week I observed three English classes at San Rafael paying particular attention to the planning and delivering of instruction, classroom challenges that my cooperating teacher faces teaching, and different teaching styles I observed.
To begin, it was very interesting to compare and contrast my observations in Madrid to previous lessons I have observed in the United States, and how these similarities and differences affect the classroom environment and student learning. One of the main aspects that surprised me while observing my CT deliver instruction was that each lesson lacked clear learning objectives. My cooperating teacher began class by having the students open their workbooks to go over homework exercises, and then continued on with the lesson doing various grammar exercises, partner work, examples on the blackboard, etc. This is very different from the lessons I have observed in the US where my CTs would start with an opening activity to get the students engaged, and introduce the learning objectives for the lesson so the students clearly understand what needs to be accomplished during the class. Throughout the whole lesson, I felt as though my CT didn’t have a clear objective or goal in mind for what he wanted to accomplish, making transitions between workbook exercises/group work/etc difficult and unorganized. Additionally, when a new concept was presented, there were no activities to reinforce the material. The entire class consisted of doing various activities out of the workbook and on the blackboard. Thus, the way my CT plans and delivers instruction is very different from what I have observed previously in classrooms in the United States. I think part of the difference in the delivery of instruction is due to the challenge my CT has with managing the size of his class. All the classes I observed were at their full capacity, with about 35 students in each of all different language abilities. For this reason, my CT struggles to manage the students and create activities that will create a suitable learning environment for everyone.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
This week at San Rafael I observed three of my cooperating teacher’s classes, and realized even more so just how different a classroom in my Spanish school is different than the classrooms of previous classrooms I have observed in the United States. To begin, the students in the three different classes were 12, 13, and 14-years old respectively and all three classes were English language classes. One of the first differences I noticed was the way my cooperating teacher began class. Instead of a more formal introduction to class with a greeting and laid out objectives, my CT just told the students to quiet down and open their workbooks and then started going over some of the homework exercises. The classes were pretty well behaved and thus, followed directions pretty well with minimal side conversation. The whole class was spent going over homework exercises, doing other workbook exercises in class, and then going over those. Each of the three classes worked out of their workbook the whole time. Thus, the way my CT plans and delivers instruction is different from the more structured and varied activities I have seen in my previous classrooms. In addition, the materials in the classroom are different since the main material is a workbook and a chalkboard. In my opinion, the lack of materials is a challenge that my CT teacher faces. I am not quite sure about the financial grounds the school stands on, but it does not seem like money is plentiful, especially since Spain is in an economic crisis currently. Thus, the access to materials such as computers, different resources for lessons, materials available to students, etc., seems limited.
Moreover, the idea of discipline is definitely different from that in the United States. In most of my previous classrooms, my cooperating teachers used different techniques to maintain a disciplined classroom and to keep students on task such as moving around the classroom, calling on students to keep them focused, etc. The way of keeping students on task is a little different here in Spain is a little different. If a student is talking out of turn, the teacher will make a comment about how he/she could not possibly be doing the activity if he/she is using her mouth to talk like that. The student does not take this comment as a mean one, rather goes back to working because he/she knows the purpose of the comment is to keep him/her on task. However, to the outsider observing the classroom it can come off as a little cold. The teacher explained to me that because the students sit in groups as a result of the cooperative learning technique the school follows, the students can more easily get out of hand and thus it is necessary to make sure students stay on task and do not talk in class by calling them out for it.
Another difference that I have mentioned in previous posts is the different attitude about grades and testing. Since there is not as an emphasized value placed on tests, the lessons are not as finely tuned or geared toward achieving a purpose. This attitude also affects the environment of the classroom. To me it seems less stressed about learning for a test and more about learning to learn. Participation in the class is very good and students are eager to answer questions if they know the answer. All in all, observing a class at San Rafael is definitely an eye-opening experience and very different from an American classroom.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
This led to further conversation about how the Spanish school system works. Because of the growing ex-pat population and Spain's transition into a more global economy and culturally globalized nation, there is an effort to make all of the schools in Madrid bilingual. This is huge for finding adequate teachers who can speak and teach in English, finding native English speakers who can come in to teach and help out in the classroom, parents finding English tutors, and a change in the whole school system. I noticed in my second visit that here in Spain, they use a lot of resources and materials from the UK. Teachers are either from the UK or taught by the UK in English. The CT "read" a story to the students by playing a recording provided by the teachers guide. It was all in an English accent, complete with, "Mummy! Grah-ny!" It was very interesting to see not only the English language differences, but how much the CT went "by the book". The school is still in their very early stages of their change to a bilingual education so motions by the CT, materials, recordings, and lesson plans are all from the book. I guess these books make it more systematic and accessible to the "masses", or to all the schools of Madrid, where some of the teachers still may not be too comfortable with English. This specific school was lucky enough to hire an entirely different English teacher who came in and replaced the regular classroom teacher for an hour a day, but I can see how not every school can provide this.
Random side note that I want to include: The students raise their hands with their pointer fingers. Very cute.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Classroom management is probably the aspect of Spanish school that is most different from that of schools in the United States. In my previous pre-practicum in Boston, my cooperating teachers definitely emphasized classroom management more so than my two cooperating teachers do here as well as other teachers in general. Since San Rafael is a school for children of infant age to 18-year-old students the classroom management, setup, and structure seems to vary widely.
In terms of one of my cooperating teachers, his classes are relatively large, at around thirty-five students, who all sit at desks in rows and the size of the class seems too big for the size of the classroom. There is a blackboard at the front of the room, which all of the student desks face, and windows along one side of the room. When the teacher enters the room he usually has to ask the students to quiet down a couple of times before they start paying attention, but after that they listen. In this English language class, students usually work from a workbook while the teacher stands up in the front of the room at the blackboard.
In a different cooperating teacher’s class, there are only seventeen students of eighteen years of age, in a classroom that is large enough sized for the class. The eighteen-year-olds in this class are the oldest students at the school and are in their last year of secondary education. According to my cooperating teacher, they are placed in this specific English class because it is the only foreign language class available that works with their schedules. My cooperating teacher has a harder time of getting this particular group to focus and to speak English instead of Spanish in class and among themselves. Students digress more easily into side conversations in their native language, Spanish, and are less willing to try and speak English than some of the younger students at San Rafael. My cooperating teacher will ask each student individually if they are digressing or speaking Spanish to try to speak in English, but the students will usually return to speaking Spanish after a few minutes.
My cooperating teacher never raises her voice at the students, but does become exasperated at times when they do not follow instructions. For example, the other day my cooperating teacher had assigned a vocabulary worksheet for homework and wanted to go over it, but only a few of the students had brought it to class. My cooperating teacher was obviously annoyed at the fact that very few people had brought it to class, but it didn’t seem like there was any expectation for the students to have the homework in class with them. Thus, she changed the lesson to conversation groups instead.
The classroom management at San Rafael is definitely different than the classroom management I have observed in previous pre-practicums, which makes the learning environments different too. Whereas in the United States I have observed the motivation to learn for many students to be a grade, in Spain the students who want to learn do so for the sake of learning. Since there is less of a focus on outcomes and result-based outcomes, students seem to care more about learning because they are interested instead of for receiving a grade. Being able to observe both conceptions of classroom management has definitely been a worthwhile experience in terms of seeing what aspects of each classroom works and which don’t.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Hello! My name is Katharine and I am studying secondary education and Hispanic studies at Boston College, with hopes of becoming a high school Spanish teacher. This fall, I am spending my semester abroad in Madrid, Spain and am using this blog to highlight some of my student teaching experiences during my time here! Although I want to teach Spanish, this semester I am student teaching in an English language classroom at Colegio San Rafael in Madrid.
Throughout my first two weeks at San Rafael, I have noticed several similarities and differences between teaching abroad and teaching in the United States in terms of teaching styles, class structure and size, and student/teacher interaction. To begin, the teaching style that I have observed at school is very different than that of the US. This semester I am working with two CT’s in different English classes, and I have noticed that the style of teaching is very laid back and the lesson plans are less structured causing class work or activities to change or be altered during the class. In contrast to the United States, the teaching style I have observed in Spain is one in which the teachers and students are not focused on a final assessment or an end result, rather they are focused on what they are learning that moment in the class and why it is important to them. I think since there is not much emphasis on a final grade or exam, students are more willing to work in the classroom solely because they want to learn, not in order to pass a final or get a good mark at the end of the year. Thus, although the laid back attitude of the teachers and classroom structure is very different from that of many teachers and classrooms in the US, it seems to have a positive influence on the students’ learning.
Additionally, I pay particular attention in observing the students at my placement and how the class size and teacher interaction influence their learning. The average class size of the English classes is about 20 students or less per class. In a language class, I think it is very important to maintain small class sizes so that all the students feel comfortable with each other and are willing to participate without anxiety or fear of making a mistake. From taking 6 years of Spanish, I know that speaking out during class in a different language can be very frightening for fear of pronouncing a word wrong or completely misinterpreting a question, but I observed that my CT’s have worked hard to make the classroom as comfortable as possible for the students. Additionally, in some of the younger grades, the classrooms are organized in groups of 3 or 4 students in a new cooperative learning approach. As a foreign language teacher, it is vital to create a supportive classroom that meets the needs of the mixed class, and I believe having smaller groups of cooperative learning communities is a great way to do that. In my past pre-pracs, I would arrange the classroom in groups or circles when doing language-learning activities because it gives students the chance to learn from and with their peers, while creating a comfortable environment necessary for learning. Thus, it is interesting to see the approach the teachers at San Rafael take in terms of class structure.
Finally, the teacher to student interaction in Spain is very different than in the United States, which affects the way the classroom functions. All of the students call their teachers by their first name, which creates an informal relationship between the teacher and the student. Also, many students do not raise their hand when asking a question, and treat the teacher as a peer. This is not to say that the students are disrespectful of the teachers, however the interaction is much more relaxed and informal than in schools in the United States. This affects how the classroom functions both positively and negatively. First, the informality of the classroom can make classroom management difficult. My CT expressed to me that she has a hard time controlling some of the students in her class because they do not think it is necessary to bring their materials to class, to do their homework, or to participate in classroom discussion. On the other hand, that same idea of a laid-back classroom setting is reflected in the informality between teachers and students, which brings positive results. I have observed that many students level of comfort with their teachers allows them to participate more freely in the classroom (especially important in a language class!) as well as feel comfortable asking the teacher questions or for help.
Overall, there are both similarities and differences between teaching abroad and in the United States in terms of teaching styles, class structure and size, and student/teacher interaction. For me, it is very interesting and educational to observe these similarities and differences and see how different techniques and approaches either positively or negatively influence student learning in the classroom.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Since I split my five hours over two days a week, I go to San Rafael on Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. after my own morning class and on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. However, there have been some random Wednesdays when my university classes have been cancelled and I have been able to go for some full days, which have been good to get a look at how a typical day of school runs at San Rafael. Generally, on Wednesdays I arrive at school while the kids are on their mid morning break which is from 11:10 a.m. until 11:40 p.m. Following the break I accompany one of my cooperating teachers to a series of classes that last until 2:30 p.m. and range in age from fourteen-years-old to eighteen-years-old. Most of the time the cooperating teacher will assign me a group to have a conversation class with students, since English class here in Spain resembles more of the equivalent to a foreign language class in the United States. The cooperating teacher usually advises me ahead of time some relevant lesson plan topics and I prepare some activities to facilitate conversation among the students and tailor the activity for each class I have, with the help of my cooperating teacher, based on the age and English language level of the students. Having back-to-back classes of varying ages makes it really interesting and educational for me to see the different English language levels and what types of activities do and do not work effectively for each level and each dynamic of the class.
I am fortunate enough to have to cooperating teachers and alternate weeks between them. For my other cooperating teacher, I usually have the opportunity to plan lessons about American culture by request of the cooperating teacher, for the entire class of students of eighteen years of age. This class has simultaneously yielded some of the most challenging and enriching experiences for me. For example, one of the first times I was in this particular class my cooperating teacher had me talk about myself and explain to the students what I was doing in Spain and tell them about my life back in the United States, about my family, what I study, etc. Afterwards, the students told me about themselves and were asking me all about the United States. Interestingly enough, the students were most curious about American politics and foreign affairs, which let to a challenging discussion for me and revealed to me a lot regarding the image of the United States abroad. I got asked questions such as why the United States is in Iraq, why the U.S. is in the Middle East and if they are there for only oil and money, why the U.S. spends more money on military arms than humanitarian aid, etc.
In addition, it was challenging to get the students to only speak in English, as is the purpose of the class. The students were extremely intelligent and well informed, but were struggling to say all they wanted to say in English, as their first language is Spanish. Thus, it was hard to keep them speaking English. At the same time, I could also recognize the frustrating feeling of having an observation or something to say in class but not being able to translate it well or spit out what I’m trying to say in Spanish because I feel this way all the time in my own classes, which are taught in Spanish. However, when a student would try and succeed in getting a whole question out in English with the meaning in tact and everyone else could understand what he/she was saying there was a common feeling of achievement and satisfaction, which was extremely exciting to see.
Equally enriching was when a student would ask a question about something in the United States that is different in Spain and I would explain how whatever it was works in the United States and then they would explain to me how it works in Spain and a kind of cultural exchange occurred. For example, a student asked me why there are so many flags in public in the United States, so I explained that hanging a flag is a sign of patriotism and a way to express it. The students then explained to me that people do not think of flags the same way in Spain because of the dictatorship and right wing political party of Franco, with which the national flag of Spain is associated. The party used the national flag as a symbol and marked fellow right wing houses and followers with the national flag. Thus, in Spain it is socially frowned upon to have a flag hanging in public, because it connotes association with the former dictatorship. In fact, one of the students had gotten in trouble once for bringing a flag to school. The only time that the national flag is generally seen is at athletic events.
Moreover, the class and I found this among many other differences very interesting and the whole discussion and exchange was very enriching. In fact, all my interaction with students and teachers and faculty thus far has been extremely positive as the teachers and faculty are very open to teaching and helping me and the students are open to learning. Thus, I look forward to the rest of my time and the interactions, both challenging and enriching, to come at San Rafael.