Hi everyone! My name is Sarah Lamb and this semester I am studying in Galway, Ireland. I have been placed at a primary school called, Scoil Bhride. I have been placed in a "5th class" classroom, which consists of 19, ten and eleven year olds. After observing for three weeks already, I have begun to notice many differences, and even some similarities between a 5th grade class abroad and a 5th grade class in America. Because I was able to observe a 5th grade class for my first pre practicum in Newton, I am able to compare two 5th grade classrooms, and the differences between these two classrooms seem countless. The classrooms are run very differently, but throughout all of the differences, I am able to observe similar habits and routines between this classroom in Ireland, and my previous placements in America.
This specific classroom is in a trailer in the parking lot of the school. My CT has done a great job of making the atmosphere engaging and decorative, as the walls are covered in student work and bulletin boards with countless information. The desks all face the teacher, and are set up alone, whereas the past classrooms I have been in were set up with quads or other groups of desks which encourage collaboration. I have not seen any group work or collaboration so far in this classroom. Because my CT has her class all day, there are no bells that signal change of subjects, so she decides when to add or take away time from a specific subject. My first day in the classroom, the day seemed to focus heavily on math, while the next week, they spent almost two hours working on language arts. As rewards, my CT can allot time in her day to take the students outside for breaks, which allows them to run off some of the energy that has been built up all morning. My CT begins each subject with a mini lesson at the board, which has never lasted more than ten minutes, and then she assigns independent seatwork, which normally lasts close to thirty minutes. When she introduced fractions to the class, she assigned 100 fraction problems in their textbook that they were to do independently at their seat in silence. It’s been very interesting for me to observe this, because I have been in so many classes that strongly encourage teamwork and collaboration. It’s also interesting to see how the students react to this type of learning. I have noticed that some of the boys get antsy, but for the most part, there are no issues, and they call sit quietly and don’t disturb the class. I try to look around the room while this is going on, and I notice that they all get distracted and bored, but they never cause any disruptions.
Even though I have named a lot of significant differences, I have still be able to see similarities. My CT has made her classroom into a very welcoming environment, which is very similar to my previous CT’s. She hangs student work up on the walls, as well has bulletin boards for each subject. One wall is dedicated to math, which has student work as well as helpful hints and reminders for the students as they work with fraction. One wall is dedicated to their history lessons, and student work is hung as well as information and pictures about the Aztecs, which is what they are currently studying. Another wall is dedicated to irish. The students spend about an hour a day learning the Irish language, because it is not the native language of Ireland. Another similarity that I was surprised to see was during time allotted for reading. My CT has the class broken into four reading groups. Each reading group is reading a different book, however just from sitting in on the reading groups one day, I noticed even the highest reading group is very behind and are reading books that would be considered a 2nd or 3rd grade reading level in America. The students are all required to read silently for half an hour during the day, because my CT acknowledges that it will not get done at home. Students are rewarded for reading at home. The reading groups are run much like the ones I observed at Russell Elementary in Dorchester and Underwood in Newton. The reading groups are very much teacher-led, but the students are encouraged to read aloud, answer comprehension questions, and are tested on vocabulary. My teacher expressed how difficult is has been to progress these students further in reading because they don’t read at home, and any progress they’ve made through the year gets lost during the summers. This is a problem I feel can be seen just as much back in the States, and I saw at my previous placement at Russell.
I am excited to go tomorrow and hopefully be more present in the classroom. I think the first few visits are more observation and I will be able to play a more active role from now on.
Thanks for reading!