I am at Widcombe Infant School, in Bath, England, in a Reception class, which translates to a Kindergarten class, although the children start at age 4 instead of age 5.
On my 3rd visit to school I watched classroom management. It was an interesting day to watch for classroom management as it was only the second day that all 30 children were in class together. The first 4 weeks of school, half the reception class comes in the morning, and half comes in the afternoon. In short, it was still organized chaos. The students were trying to figure out where they fit in the classroom, sometimes literally by where their spot was supposed to be on the carpet, and sometimes figuratively with where they fit in with other students. In the role of teacher, Mrs. Hicks was working with a new class dynamic, especially as new children teamed up to form distracting pairs. Student A and Student B, who had previously paired up to talk through lessons, now added Student C to the mix. While Student C did not quite fit with them, it did give the trio more taking material as they bickered over little things, like who had whose marker cap.
Mrs. Hicks rings a bell when the students get a little too loud, or to signal it is time to change activities. She also starts the lesson by ringing the bell to gather attention. This is something that she has done in past weeks as well, so it is something the children have come to expect and understand that it means it is time to listen. While Janet had a clear expectation of the lesson, the new dynamic of the classroom did shift the routines. It was also the children’s second full day of school, so the daily schedule is different than when it was fit into a half day. Therefore, some expectations had to be modified from weeks prior as we worked with the new schedule and dynamic.
As part of working with the youngest students, Janet is still learning what some of her students need. She has a general idea, but as they have not even gotten half way through the alphabet yet, it does make it difficult to see who really is able to learn the letters, and who might be reciting letters they learned at home in years past. She did point out to me when they do the sounds aloud, the children who know them shout them, but the children struggling barely speak them. When asked to answer one at a time, the students are expected to raise hands, but often it is whole group response. Since I sit in the back and cannot see mouths, this isn’t something I had noticed before she said so. There were a few groups she split the children into at morning busy time, which let her and the assistant teacher in the room work with two groups of lower level kids struggling with letter sounds or letter formation while I worked with a group on a story order activity.
I think Mrs. Hicks has a good knowledge of her students, however, she continues to learn as the days go on, especially given the changes in behavior that came with having a class double the size for some of the children. Some are not dealing well with more students, and we did have a few pushing incidents from one student who was not used to having to wait for an activity trying to push everyone out of the way.
The end of the morning phonics lesson went well. Janet had the children clean up their boards, erasers, and markers, which gave them some of the responsibility, and showed that it was time to move on to the next activity. The lesson wrapped up with reviewing sounds, like the beginning, so it helped reinforce the idea of the lesson.
Tuesday was a bit of a rough day in the classroom over all. We had a student have an accident and wet his pants, which also happened twice on Monday apparently. I believe part of this might be the switch to full day school, and maybe a bit of regression that sometimes occurs with changes. We also had a little boy walk into a pole coming in from recess, which led to him having a large bump on his forehead, though he bounced back quickly. In the afternoon, we had an issue at playtime because one little boy, Student D, threw a carrot, which hit Student E’s face and gave her a red welt on the side of her face. When we came inside, we also had the issue that Student D started choking on a carrot. Janet and the other reception teacher were at a meeting with the parents, and our classroom assistant carried Student D to the other class because someone in there was allowed to help with choking incidents. I did not get a chance to ask later, but I’m assuming it has to do with who is certified and who is not when it comes to first aid and medical issues. While that was happening, I was left with the class of 28 other children – we had one absent, and Student D was in the other room. I could not find the bell; so I just stood at the front and asked them to sit nicely, first in a loud voice, and then a whisper voice so they had to focus and quiet down to hear me. As the few who heard me did so, I started complimenting the rooms sitting so nicely and the other children began to take notice and also sit nicely. Soon, the whole class was sitting nicely, and I was able to whisper the directions to sit as nicely as possible for when Mrs. Bird came back. Thankfully, they continued to listen and soon Mrs. Bird and Student D returned, all sorted out.
Now that the entire class in in at once, I am curious to see how the weeks progress since there is more lesson time in the day. I have been added to lunch duty since all the children are there now, and it is very different from at home since the Head Teacher is also on lunch duty at times, which we would almost never see at an American school.