At ISL, I spend the first part of my mornings in second grade and the second part of my mornings in a fifth grade classroom. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to see how two different teachers approach teaching large classes of such diverse learners. The fifth grade classroom also uses the IB curriculum based around social justice and globalization. I have posted a picture of this unit’s bulletin board, and the unit is based around the statement, “children should have the same basic rights and responsibilities.” My fifth grade cooperating teacher planned a fabulous lesson based around this statement, which sparked a powerful discussion about human rights.
Each student received a page out of the book “Where Children Sleep,” which is a photo essay about children around the world. Each page in the book provides a picture of the child, a picture of their sleeping arrangements, and a paragraph about the child. The students were tasked with finding the child’s country on a map, colouring it in, and answering questions about each child’s rights. They were asked to determine which rights children have, if their rights are being met, and if they are not being met they were encouraged to come up with an idea to change that. After each student wrote about their assigned child, my cooperating teacher led a discussion about human rights in general, and how not everyone around the world is guaranteed their rights.
One challenge my cooperating teacher faces is differentiating his lessons so that all his students will benefit from them. The fifth grade class is even more diverse than the second grade one, and all of the children are learning or speak English as a second language. It is hard to have complicated discussions in English and make sure that each student gets the message, but my cooperating teacher does a good job of using language that is accessible to everyone. In classrooms that I have observed in the US, there have been three English language learners at most. Therefore, lessons were planned for students who speak English and were adapted for those who did not, rather than having to be adapted for every student in the class. Teaching a class full of students who speak all different languages is very challenging, and this school is unique in that this is the norm. I look forward to speaking with my cooperating teachers about how they assess students when they all speak different levels of English. Some students only attend ISL for a few months, and I imagine that this is a great challenge to the teachers as well. I have really enjoyed spending time in both second and fifth grade, and I look forward to getting to know all of my students better!