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Thursday, October 13, 2016

CIS vs. Massachusetts Public Schools- Classroom and Curriculum

 I have now spent 5 Wednesdays at Copenhagen International School and look forward to it every week! While the international aspect of CIS certainly makes it different from the public schools I have spent time at in the US, I have found the general classroom atmospheres to be very similar. This may be because both use the responsive classroom approach- something that I am very familiar with as a previous student in the Massachusetts public school system. CIS has just adopted responsive classroom teaching and I have been able to attend some of the meetings regarding how to implement this technique. As both employ this method, the day-to-day classroom routines in CIS and schools I’ve been at in the US follow a similar pattern. They both begin with a morning meeting always consisting of four key components (greeting, sharing, activity, message) in the same order each day. The class has helped to determine the rules that they will follow and if they do not follow these rules they are asked without any drama to “take a break”, which they can return from when the feel ready to participate again. All class discipline occurs in this way- with instructions for the child to think about their choices rather than making a scene if a student is not behaving. This approach seems to work well in both the US and in CIS. These consistencies have also been helpful to me in adjusting to a classroom in a new country.
As the classroom where I previously completed a prac was second grade also, it has been very easy for me to compare the material children are taught. In both the US and at CIS, students completed “Small Moments”-short stories about their lives to work on narrative. They also have both been learning how to complete word problems, and the rhetoric used by the teachers is very similar. I’ve also noticed that both focused on learning doubles facts in math, creating equations, and expressing opinions about books. For these reasons it seems like the general curriculum followed by schools in Massachusetts and at CIS are very similar. However, curriculum is also where I have found the biggest difference between the two.
In Massachusetts I have noticed that teachers are usually able to describe what standard or category of standards from the core curriculum each lesson hits on, at times even posting the standard as an objective. The standards are accessible on a website and make it very clear what the teacher needs to ensure that students learn. This seems to be less stressed at CIS. While the teachers do follow math programs that indicate what progress they should be making and specifiy objectives in a curriculum (as well as collaborate often with other teachers so that they follow similar teaching schedules) there does not seem to be as much pressure to adhere to a certain list of standards in all subjects. There is not any specific list of standards I have been able to find. This leads me to wonder what kind of testing CIS uses as well as what standardized tests the rest of Denmark take- I definitely will investigate in the future
The curriculum I have been able to learn the most about has been the goals of the IB program, since CIS is an International Baccalaureate school. This curriculum focuses on the goal of developing “knowledgable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. This is met through Units of Inquiry teachers incorporate into their classrooms. They address several core themes in different ways throughout primary school. This gives teachers the added challenge of including a main theme, for example: recycling, in their lessons throughout the day and coordinating with other teachers across subjects and class levels to provide cohesive instruction towards a theme.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Maeve! I loved hearing about the similarities and differences you have observed between schools in Massachusetts and CIS. I also found there to be less of a focus on standards at St. Joseph's like you described at CIS. At St. Joseph's, each teacher creates their own "standards" or goals for each term of the school year. However, my CT explained that these standards are rarely checked by administration, making them less of a focus compared to Massachusetts schools. Each teacher then chooses how they want to test their students in each subject. I was wondering if you ever learned more about what kind of testing CIS uses and/or the standardized tests that the rest of Denmark takes. Is testing done on a teacher by teacher basis or is that something customized by each school and/or district? Glad to hear you've had such a great experience!


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