March 2nd, 2016
Hello everyone! I apologize for not posting this sooner. I began writing this post a few weeks ago, but never got around to posting it due to travels and other assignments I had going on…. but here it is! I hope your pre-practicums are all going well and I look forward to reading about them!
As of today, I have been in Greece a full month, and just completed my first week at my international pre-practicum placement. I am working at a private school called Anatolia Elementary School. Here, I am working specifically with fourth and fifth graders during their English instruction time. The school educates about 600 students, from kindergarten to sixth grade. Due to my tricky class schedule, I am student teaching two mornings a week, instead of one, full day. I am also working with two different English teachers in order to maximize my time spent in the classroom and to maximize the number of opportunities I have to get involved in as well.
My first and immediate reactions after being in these classrooms were how well the students spoke English. On my first day, one of the fourth grade students read a long and detailed paragraph from their textbook with virtually no mistakes. The paragraph was about Mexican celebration traditions so it also included a few Spanish words like “piñata,” which the student pronounced with no problem. The student’s English proficiency is due to the immense amount of English instruction these students receive. For grades four through six, there are five English teachers. The students receive about an hour of English instruction a day, except on one specific day when they have a “double period” and study English for 2 hours that day. In total, they receive about 6 hours of English instruction a week. This is an immense amount of English instruction compared to the amount of foreign language instruction students at the elementary school level in the United States receive. If a public elementary school offers a foreign language at all, the students may see this teacher, once, maybe twice a week. I know when I was in elementary school I was taught Spanish once a week, beginning in forth grade. The students here begin their English instruction as early as pre-school. However, it is important to keep in mind the students here are attending an extremely reputable private school. My supervising practitioners have told me English instruction is not as advanced in the Greek public schools. Another interesting aspect about the English instruction at Anatolia is that the students are broken up into smaller class sizes when they are taught English. For example, a fourth grade class of 30 students all have English class at the same time, yet are split into two different classes. As a result, the English class sizes do not exceed 15 students. Though I am not entirely sure why this is, I believe it is strongly related to the importance that is held upon learning how to speak, read, and write in English fluently.
Although I have only been working with my classroom teachers for a week now, I have already noticed differences between their teaching styles. The first difference I noted was how they set up their classrooms. Ms. Sophia has set up her classroom tables in three rows, having two students sit at each table. On the other hand, Ms. Georgia sets her tables up in four groups of four. I prefer this set up of tables, versus the rows because I feel like it gives the classroom a greater sense of collaboration. Ms. Sophia also tends to be a bit sterner with the students, while Ms. Georgia is often very playful with the students. She will call them pet names, playfully tease them, and laugh at their jokes. Though the two teaching styles are very different, I have noticed the students behave very differently as well, compared to the students in American classrooms. The Greek children are very rambunctious. They are constantly calling out and talking over their teacher. I feel that in American classrooms this may happen with one or two students in the classroom and when it does, the teacher quickly takes action to discipline those students so it does not happen again. Here, students are not disciplined for calling out unless they are extremely disruptive. Otherwise, this behavior is overlooked. I feel like this creates a very boisterous classroom environment and makes it harder for the students to pay attention and learn. However, I do believe this type of classroom environment contributes to a stress free environment.
In the upcoming weeks I will be planning a grammar lesson for the fifth grade students. I will be using their curriculum books from National Geographic to base my lesson on. I look forward to telling you all about how it goes!