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Monday, February 21, 2011

Schoil Bhride!

My name is Meredith and I am currently studying in Galway, Ireland. I am teaching at Schoil Bhride in a "senior infant" classroom. This is the first difference between American schools. The class is kind of like Kindergarten, but students range from just turning 5 to just turning 7. Academically, they are around kindergarten level and are learning basic reading, writing, counting, addition and subtraction. I have never been in a class this young before, so it is very interesting to be working with students who are just learning these basics. We have full hours of reading, writing, math and Irish language, but we also have music time, or singing or nursery rhymes the children recite, making the day so much fun!

My CT made a schedule for me so I have a student or a group to work with during each block. Usually, I work on fine motor skills with two students during writing time, which is something I never got to do in my previous placements with older students. I never realized how difficult this is for younger students. I also work with a few ELL students during reading. One interesting thing to note is that the first languages that are common in this classroom are Eastern European. When I asked about ELL students in the classroom, I was surprised to hear where they were from since this is uncommon in the U.S. My class has students from Latvia, Poland, Russia and India. The most common first language, besides English, in my classroom is Russian. This is very different from my previous placement where over half the students spoke Spanish as their first language.

My CT has made the class so much fun for everyone. Although the school is labeled as disadvantaged, we have a smart board in the class. For math, the students play on the smart board with addition games with dice, or counting games where students feed teddy bears. This makes math time much more engaging. I know having a smartboard in every classroom is a luxury in the U.S., but it is very useful for these types of activities. They sing some nursery rhymes which are the same as ours, but one I found funny was "10 fat sausages sizzling in a pan" to the tune of "10 little monkeys jumping on the bed."

Aside from being told I have a funny voice, the students seem to really enjoy learning about America. For most of them, this is their first experience with American culture and they are full of questions about differences. Once they learned that what they call a "rubber" was called an "eraser" in America, they have not stopped asking about differences in linguistics. Many of the students have written about wanting to go to America during their free-writing time. I think having someone in the classroom from another country has added an excitement to their day and kept them engaged.

This week, I have an interview with the principal for a class project, and I can not wait to hear about more differences in the school systems!

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