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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Student's Day in Bath, England

For my second post I thought I would include a journal entry I wrote a few weeks ago about a day during which I followed around one specific student from my class. This is a task I was given by my education program here, but I found it very interesting and loved the opportunity to focus on one student, especially in a class of thirty, and get to know him a little bit better. (I have changed the name of the student):

Today I spend most of my day following and observing Robbie, one of the youngest students in the class. He is four years old, and my first impression of him was that he was extremely talkative. He is an incredibly interesting child who is receptive, independent, imaginative, and has amazing oral language skills.

            Mrs. W began the day as usual by greeting each student and encouraging them to say: “Good morning Mrs. W”. At this point, about half of the students will say it aloud, while the others are still very quiet. During the morning literacy lesson I sat with Robbie as the students learned a new sound: “b”. He was mostly attentive but quieter than most students. Several times he became distracted looking at the toys that had been laid out for free time later. He did well counting the sounds in the words out on this fingers. When they began practicing writing, I noticed that he had trouble holding his market correctly and forming his letters. Under each of his letters he drew dots and told me they were “sound buttons” (there are dots under the letters on Mrs. W’s flashcards that she points to when she wants to students to say that sound. I thought it was very interesting that Robbie picked this detail up and transferred it to his own work. Even though he is sometimes distracted or may not appear to be actively engaged, I believe that he is absorbing a lot of what is going on around him. Another way that I was able to pick up on his receptiveness was that fact that he is one of the only students who remembers my name and calls me “Ms. Jacobsen”. Because Mrs. W only introduced me once and I am only there once a week, most of the students are too young to remember exactly who I am.

            After the literacy lesson, students worked in small groups with the teachers either drawing, writing, or reading. I observed Mrs. W’s writing group where Robbie was working with three other boys. She seemed to have chosen this group because they are the ones most behind on their writing. They practiced writing letters and words that Mrs. Williams put up on the board, and then traced their names as she helped guide their hands. Robbie again had trouble holding his pencil correctly and forming his letters steadily. He also had trouble putting spaces between his letters and words. Afterwards, I spoke with Mrs. W briefly and she seemed to understand that this group of students was behind because of their language skills (two of the boys speak different languages at home, so have less-advanced English) or their age (Robbie is the second youngest in the class).

            Later, I spent time doing puzzles with Robbie and two other boys. He seemed distracted and wanted to play with other toys and I had to keep reminding him that this was the activity that we were doing now. He worked well with the other boys and was very happy when he was able to fit pieces together. However, he got frustrated and would say things like: “I give up” when he couldn’t find the right pieces. He finished one puzzle with my help, but I was not able to get him to concentrate for much longer. Throughout the activity he was very talkative, and especially liked beginning his sentences with: “Did you know…?” usually followed by some random and equally funny fact about anything from his sister to Robin Hood. During free choice time after assembly, Robbie spent most of his time playing outside. He played with some of the other children, but never seemed to stay with one group.
            After lunch, Mrs. W engaged the students in a math lesson. Today they were working on comparing groups of marbles using ‘more’ and ‘fewer’. I sat with Robbie again and noticed that he counted along with the rest of the group but did not raise his hand or participate aloud like many of the other students. He seemed distracted at times and would turn to me and make unrelated comments (like how he fell and got a scrape during playtime). When he started seeing other students getting called on and participating he became more engaged and was even chosen to have a turn with the marbles in front of the class. After the lesson, the students had more free choice time, but Robbie chose to stay and play with the marbles that Mrs. W had left out. I was able to get him to count the marbles aloud with me a couple of times, but he seemed to be more focused on collecting as many as he could (he even put them all in a jar and marched around the room saying “we’re the richest people in England!”). He continued to talk (both to me and himself) throughout the rest of free time.

            Robbie really seemed to enjoy the attention and having someone to talk to all day. Even though he is quieter during group lessons compared to some of the older children, he loves to talk about anything and everything when given the individual attention. His oral language skills are quite advanced for someone so young. Although he is often easily distracted and appears behind many of his peers due to his age, he is amazingly receptive and independent. It will be interesting to learn more about him and observe how he progresses over the next few months.

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