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Monday, September 16, 2013

Similarities and Differences

Question #1- Similarities and Differences
            It is difficult to completely compare the similarities and differences between teaching in America and teaching in Australia because my observations are based off of a limited exposure in either context (ex. one pre-practicum at home and a couple of days here in Australia). Even though that may be the case, certain aspects have stuck out as being either similar or different. Similarities have been shown in both the classroom layout and teacher collaboration, while differences have come in teaching style and schedules.
            With classroom layout, both the class in Boston and the class in Australia seemed to be set up very similarly. The teacher’s desk is located in the front by the smart board, with the students all set up facing the teachers. In both classes, the students each had individual desks that were set up in groups of four students each. The classrooms were both highly decorated with very little white space on the walls. Decorations include posters of the class rules and behaviors, the date, when the class birthdays are, and most importantly, student work. It showed both teachers wanted to show they valued what their students completed and respected the quality of their work. Because the actual size of both classrooms was very much the same, it seemed both teachers were utilizing the space in a way to make the most out of it without making it seem cramped or overcrowded.
            The second similarity noticed was the use of teacher collaboration. Teachers within the same grade work together in terms of planning lessons and making sure students in the same grade are being taught the same concepts and information. Co-planning is done when creating the actual activities and when planning out the schedule of when certain things need to be done. This is done throughout the day during the different breaks. For example, during lunch when the teachers are not on duty, they are all in the staff room and discussing what needs to be done. This was present in both schools, and showed the teachers truly cared about their students’ success because even during their break of the day, they were still discussing what could be done to benefit the students.
            The first difference came into play in regards to teaching styles. In Australia, there seems to be more independent work on the part of the students, as opposed to more group and teacher oriented work seen in my first pre-practicum. In my pre-practicum here, the amount of time the teacher spends teaching each individual lesson seems to be less. This is not to say that the teacher in Australia does less teaching altogether, it is just broken up differently. It is a quick teaching session and then the students move on to complete and correct a worksheet addressing the specific topic. After that there is another short lesson followed by more independent work on that lesson. Students are occasionally allowed to work with the person next to them, but usually the work is done on their own. In my first pre-practicum, each individual lesson was longer and students were encouraged to engage with the people around them for certain activities.
            The second difference was in regards to the schedules of the day, however this could just be because I am now in a first grade classroom, as opposed to a third grade classroom. Students here receive more breaks throughout the day with both a thirty-minute recess and a fifty-minute lunch break at different times in the day. Switching between different activities also occurs at a much faster rate than my first pre-practicum, but again that could be due to third graders having a longer attention span than first graders. Regardless of the similarities and differences, both schools have proven to be very successful in what they are trying to accomplish, showing that when comparing the methods of different schools, it does not have to mean looking at one as ultimately being better than the other. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Final Reflection

I just had my last day at Colegio Los Robles. I have sat in on English classes from grades 1 through 7 and I have observed how the students level of English progresses. From grades 1 to 4 the students English improves tremendously but after 4th grade it seems to level off a little bit and the 6th grader’s oral skills are not much better than the 4th graders. Their written skills continue to improve but orally they have not achieved a high level of fluency even though they continue to spend half the day in Spanish and half the day in English. I’m not entirely sure what the reason for this is but I think it may have to do with a variety of factors. First of all, as pre-teens the student become more conscious of what their peers think of them and they worry more about embarrassing themselves in front of their friends. I think this new social consciousness them from speaking openly in English without fear of making mistakes. I also wonder if the fact that the teachers are not native English speakers affects the student’s progress in learning English. Because they know their teachers speak fluent Spanish they are quicker to resort to Spanish when they can’t express something in English. I also observed that the teachers make some grammatical mistakes when they speak and the vocabulary they use is not very complex. Despite these factors that may affect their progress, I am still surprised that after spending so many years studying English the students still cannot carry on a fully conversation in English.   

Teaching Patriotism in School

Today I sat in on a class of 6th grade boys and they were learning about holidays around the world. Since it was close to the 4th of July they were studying Independence Day in the US. The students did a reading about the history surrounding the 4th of July and the modern day traditions. What surprised me was the students actually had substantial background information about the celebration and US culture. Coincidently the Argentine Independence day is the 9th of July so the teacher had the students compare and contrast the Argentine and US celebration. What I found interesting was that the students knew more about the US celebration then the one in their own country. I spoke with the teacher about this and she explained to me that the students are not taught patriotism in school. There is no pledge of allegiance, national anthem, or classroom celebration for national holidays. This was the first time it occurred to me that putting an emphasis on patriotism in schools was not a universal practice but something unique to US education. When I described to the student what students in the US have to do to show respect and loyalty to their country, they found it strange and asked me why we do that. Their question caught me off guard, as I had never really considered the purpose of this practice in schools. Now that I am considering it, I can’t decide if it is an important value to teach to students or not. What do students really gain from doing things like reciting the pledge of allegiance everyday?    

First Lesson

Last week I taught my first lesson independently at Colegio Los Robles. It was an English lesson about education and school life in the United States. The teachers were doing a unit on Education so they asked me if I could share with the student what the Education system was like in the United States. At first I though it would be a really complicated subject to teach to English Language Learners because I was thinking about it from a very political point of view. How was a supposed to teach 7th graders who don’t speak much English about state standards and standardized testing? I began to plan the lesson by starting with what they already knew about school in the US. This led me to finally doing what I had been trying to avoid: watching High School Musical. After that life-changing experience I decided to take a more basic approach to the lesson and teach about what daily life was like at school and focus on the classes kids their age take and the activities available. This turned out to be really successful because all the student had of course seen High School Musical, Mean Girls, Daddy Daycare, etc. I taught them about what US schools were like for students and they shared with me how it was similar and different from their experience in Argentina. I included video clips and photos that kept them engaged the whole time. The lesson ended up lasting over 2 hours because they had so many questions about the general educational experience in the US and my personal experience. They were especially interested in Prom and Cheerleaders. I had them to a Ven-Diagram comparing and contrasting the US and Argentina. The only thing I would change is I would have liked to have a smaller group of students so I could provide them with a little more individual assistance with their vocabulary and sentence phrasing. If I were to do a follow up lesson I think I would work with them on some of the compare and contrast vocabulary words and using them in full sentences.   

Classroom Management

            Classroom management at the elementary school I am in definitely seems to be a top priority. On Friday’s, for example, there is a school-wide assembly that is lead by one specific classroom each week. The rest (grades K-7) are all packed into the auditorium, yet you would never tell how many students are actually there watching. The students are quiet and very respectful of the students performing on stage. The first grade class that I am specifically in is made up of twenty-four students. The class is split up between ten boys and fourteen girls. The classroom itself is not very large, yet it is set up in a way to maximize the space. There are six tables of four, with three of each side of the room. My CT’s desk, the smart board, and the computers are all located in the front of the room. There are posters and students work posted all around the classroom, making each part of the classroom definitely utilized in some way or another.
            The first graders are given high expectations that they are expected to meet. The classroom rules and proper behaviors are posted on the walls around the classroom as a constant reminder. While I did come in towards the end of their school year, as the seasons are reversed, it is still very impressive how well these students behave. For example, after both their lunch and recess break the students know to automatically come and sit quietly in two straight lines outside the door to their classroom without ever being reminded. They know whom they are supposed to sit next to and do it quickly and quietly. They have also learned that the bell signals at the end of lunch, recess, and the day and they know what to do at each of these times.
The teachers here are definitely firm in terms of verbal discipline, but it is used only if needed. The students seem to respond well to the discipline given even though it is not dished out very often. It seems students are more often in trouble for forgetting their hats needed for going outside (“no hats no play”) then for actually acting out. Students are also quick to change their behaviors with just a simple reminder of getting back on track. Students are taught the skills of listening to and respecting others at all times. They are very polite and proper manners are constantly reinforced in the classroom. It goes to show that these values are highly encouraged and practiced in this school setting even if it is not typically regarded as part of the “formal education.” The classroom is managed and definitely kept under control throughout the day. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Typical Day in Perth, Australia

Dana Egan-Question 6
While beginning my pre-practicum in Perth, Australia, I was nervous yet very excited. I wasn’t sure how similar and/or different it would be, and I hoped I would be able to make any necessary adjustments to fit into the system. The support offered at my school is incredible and I felt accepted right from the start. I was placed in a first grade classroom, which is an age I haven’t had much experience with in terms of teaching. The typical day of teaching seemed pretty similar to what I had previously encountered. The day begins at 8:30 and runs until 3:10. The first graders get a thirty-minute play/recess period every day, as well as a fifty-minute lunch and recess break later on in the day. The day that I go begins with an assembly where a different class leads it each week. An hour literacy block follows the assembly. After the first recess, there is an hour numeracy block. After the lunch break, the students have handwriting for about forty-minutes. The day finishes up with one of the students giving their personality presentation, which is a presentation about themselves. Other days of the week include subjects such as science and health, as well as specials such as gym art and music. Within each of these blocks, activities are constantly changing in order to keep everyone engaged; yet it has to be done in a way that works for everyone in the class. Teaching is mainly done in either a whole-group or individual method, and I have yet to see group work be implemented. A lot of emphasis is also placed on the students grading their own work so they can see right away what they did correctly or incorrectly. This method is used for correcting homework as well.
Being that it was only my second week at this school, I haven’t planned an actual lesson
yet. A highlight, however, has been the ability to work one-on-one with students, which has helped get to know the students and get better acquainted with the curriculum being taught. A challenge that has accompanied this is that many of the students that benefit from the one-on-one help are students who do not speak English. Australia has many families that come over from Asia. Yet as a teacher, one still needs to cater to every students needs. This has been the biggest challenge so far, in trying to figure out the best way to guide these students’ learning. I can only look forward to what the rest of the semester will bring and all I will learn in this placement abroad.