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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Teaching in a Different Language

Teaching abroad and teaching in America, I have found many similarities and differences. The biggest difference for me, since I am teaching in Spain, has been language. While in Colegio Maristas 90% of the instruction I observe is given in Spanish. The other small percentage is given in English during English class. However even during English class, Spanish is used frequently either to explain the English directions or for classroom management. The use of Spanish in the classroom was completely foreign to me having taught in Massachusetts, where Question 2 has ruled that the majority of instruction must be in English. I have therefore spent lots of time observing how various subjects, such as Math and Language, are taught in Spanish.

Another difference I found at Maristas compared to my previous pre-practicums, is the relationships between teachers. At my previous sites, every classroom was pretty independent. While teachers had shared planning time, that seemed to be the extent of their collaboration. At Maristas, the classrooms seem very dependent and connected. Other teachers walk into my CT’s classroom frequently to ask her a question, advice or even to just say hi. The three teachers of segundo de primero (equivalent of first grade) collaborate extensively, so that the students all learn the same material across content areas. The teachers also have “Apoyo” which translates to support. During Apoyo, teachers whose students are in a special like gym class, help other teachers by tutoring a student who needs extra support. The student’s teacher tells the Apoyo teacher what to work on and there is always communication between the two. To me, Apoyo exemplifies the collaborative relationship the teachers have at Maristas, something very different than what I have seen in my pre-pracs in Massachusetts.

One similarity I was surprised to find between Maristas and my previous experiences was an integrated classroom. At Maristas, there are students with special needs integrated into the classroom. I have seen this at a previous site, at the Angier School in Newton. Talking to my CT about it, she explained that the teachers at the school feel it is important to integrate students with special needs into the classroom so that they are socialized with typically developing peers, and so that their peers understand that there are people with special needs. Just like at the Angier School, students with special needs at Maristas are fully integrated into the classroom. Additionally, the students are developed a personalized or modified curriculum based on their needs. Although Maristas has integrated classrooms, my CT told me that as in the US, not all schools have the same policy. Some schools, like the BPS schools I have worked in, have separate classrooms for students with special needs.

Another similarity I found was a lack of Social Studies instruction. At my previous three pre-pracs I have seen limited to no Social Studies instruction. I have noticed the same phenomenon at Maristas. During my time at Maristas I have only seen Social Studies instruction twice and for a short period of time. I have noticed a map of the world in the classroom with certain countries highlighted; however I have not seen the students use it or my CT reference to it. Additionally, there is no time allotted for Social Studies on the class schedule. The schedule includes Language, Math, Gym, Science, Religion, Music, and English but not Social Studies. Although I have not asked my CT about it, I am interested to know why there is such a lack of Social Studies education.


  1. I have noticed the same thing with Spanish instruction in an English classroom, at the higher levels! It is different for me particularly because I am studying foreign language and I follow the method of total immersion to the best of my ability, but here it seems they heavily rely on the native language. I believe it is greatly because the English levels are very different here, since some know it veery well and others greatly struggle. While that is evident in my Spanish classes back in Boston, the gap doesn't seem as large since the students there have usually studied the language for the same amount of time generally.
    I also agree that it is interesting to see different subjects taught in another language. I enjoyed my experience of sitting in on math classes and it was quite interesting to watch math instructed in Spanish. Not only could I watch methods used to teach another subject, but I could see how universal the subject is since though I can understand the lesson, I could relate to it due to the use of numbers and symbols. It is great to read about your experience and see how though we are at the same school, have much our practicums differ due to the level!

  2. One other thing that I forgot to post before is that I agree with the special needs immersion observation you have made. Maristas is an inclusive school and above all, the observation that most surprised me was that they have awareness weeks. Right now is Music appreciation week but they recognized the Disability week and presented short clips in the class. The students were moved and it was incredible to see and hear their reactions. My personal favorite was Los Colores de Las Flores- you should definitely check it out if you have a chance...very moving clip.


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