The last few weeks I worked in Colegio Highlands Los Fresnos I was able to observe a lot but also was able to jump in and help with my cooperating teachers’ material as well as plan my own lessons and materials. I had a great deal of one-on-one time with my cooperating teachers to ask them about how they did different things in their classroom, like making assessments and their grading systems. It was great to be able to see a few different methodologies at work and I was able to add a lot to my teaching toolbox by talking to them. Also, I was able to spend time with many students, one-on-one, in small groups and in person, to get to know each of them better.
On my second to last Thursday at Highlands it was Thanksgiving day so Mary, my supervisor, asked me if I would make a school-wide Thanksgiving presentation so that the students could get to know American culture better. It was a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving overseas! It was also quite an undertaking—I was supposed to visit all of the classes from pre-school to middle school in just that one day. As part of planning this activity, I talked a lot with Mary, my coordinator, to make sure that we had a very definitive schedule planned so that I could make it through the whole school. We settled on having each presentation be 10-minutes long.
In planning this presentation, I made several Powerpoints, most of which were photos with some key notes and phrases and new vocabulary words. I planned to talk about the history of Thanksgiving, the food of Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving traditions, such as football games and parades, and values associated with the holiday, such as spending time with family, generosity and giving back to your community.
Probably the most difficult part of this activity was differentiating the material based on grade level and level of English proficiency. I think all of the students would have understood the material had it been in their native language of Spanish, but talking about Thanksgiving entailed learning about a culture in a different language with new vocabulary words that they probably have never heard before. Also, I was visiting everyone class from ages three to thirteen so I had to make sure that each age was challenged with the material at the appropriate level so they still understood the holiday. To do this, I made three different Powerpoints for ages three through six, six through ten, and ten through fourteen respectively. I included the same types of information on each slide, but varied how in-depth I went in my presentation and what vocabulary I used and defined based on the age group. For example, for the three to six year olds I talked about the tradition of Thanksgiving starting hundreds of years ago in the United States, but for the older students, I gave them terms like Pilgrims, the Mayflower and the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans. I also planned activities for each of the grade levels. For the youngest students I gave them a coloring sheet of Pilgrims and for the upper grade levels I gave them crossword puzzles that asked them to recall the information that they learned during the presentation.
Overall this Thanksgiving presentation went very well and I think my students and cooperating teachers learned a lot. I think that the material was very well differentiated and each age group received information appropriate for their level of understanding. I am not sure how much the youngest students were able to understand since they still do not have a very functional English vocabulary, but I think that the pictures on the slides helped them to at least visualize the holiday. Something that went really well with this activity was the part of the activity where I had each of the students go around and say something that they were Thankful of. Each class came up with different things, ranging from school, to teachers, to family, to sports, to their religion (the school is Catholic). I think this activity made the students realize that Thanksgiving is more than just eating a lot, which is how the holiday is depicted on television. I loved how so many of the teachers in the school were so excited about Thanksgiving and wanted to talk to me so they could incorporate it in their curriculum!
Something that didn’t go so well was the timing. With only twenty minutes left at the end of the day and four classes left to get to I felt as though I wasn’t able to give each class the proper amount of time to get to everything I wanted to talk about. In the future I will recommend to the school that some classes join together so that the student could talk to more students of the same age all at once.
Overall this activity went really well and it was a great way to end my time at Colegio Highlands. It took a lot of planning time to make sure that each age of students would understand the material I was presenting and coordinating with my teachers and supervisor on the schedule and what I would be presenting on. It was nice to be able to share something about myself with the students I was talking about. All of them were very interested in how my family celebrated and what my favorite parts of Thanksgiving were which was great to hear.