Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Visiting two different schools

Today I had the opportunity to visit two different schools in the area. Neville was able to set up this experience for me. I think it was a really good thing that I was able to see two different examples of schools in England.

The first school I visited was Neville's old school that he was the headteacher, Callington. I visited a year 6 classroom lead by teacher Mr. Nugent. It was different to see a school that had a class full of only one year group. Callington has about 400 students as compared to Trekenner, that has about 45. Each year group has two different classes.

It was an very special day for the students at Callington Primary because teachers from their exchange school were visiting from China. I was able to watch the students perform some Christmas songs from the performance that will take place next week and there were students who chose to play instruments. After, I was able to find out about the story maps the students were working on. It was a neat idea where the students read a long poem and to memorize it they created a story map with pictures. The students then performed the memorized poem, I was shocked at how well the story maps helped with this process.

I also found out about an international program where students have to think creatively in one of 5 different categories and come up with some kind of project that shows their knowledge of that category. When they are finished they upload it to a database and their work is corrected and commented on by students around the world (the only requirement is that the correctors speak English). This is a program that I may look into a little more when I have my own classroom.

The second school I visited was in Launceston, it was called St. Catherine's. This school was considered public but the church was responsible for 10% of the costs of the school. This school was a little smaller than Callington, with about 200 students, but still much bigger than Trekenner. St. Catherine's had only one classroom per year level but it was still a much different feel than Trekenner. This school seemed to put a huge emphasis on technology, I was amazed at the amount of technology in this school. They even had a radio station that was student run.

At St. Catherine's I was able to go into two different classrooms, a year 3 and a year 6. The class sizes were quite big. However, the classrooms were big and allowed for the students to be spread out.

While I am so grateful I was able to observe these other schools I will be happy to get back to my class tomorrow. I am excited to tell them what the other schools were like but I am also excited to teach again. It is amazing how much I miss it after just one day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Week of November 30

I am really feeling the crunch of the holiday break. We have been working for a few hours every week on the school's Christmas production called 'Hosanna Rock'. We have been holding practices for singing, instruments, and dancing along with practicing speaking parts. I am having a great time helping the students and staff with the production. I am a little sad that I am not going to be able to do a Christmas production again once I begin teaching in the United States, but I feel a little more prepared to help with a school production in the future.

This week in maths the students will be learning about fractions and percentages. I am quite excited to teach this lesson because fractions always scared me in school, and now. I was very glad I had Lisa to offer me support and for me to ask her if things that I wanted to try would work. I was happy to see that most of the students were already catching on to fractions by the end of the lesson.

In literature the students are working on their fiction stories. We went over different openings to stories. I gave the class examples of each by reading the first paragraph or two of 4 different books. The rest of the week we will be looking a little closer at the build-up, problem, events, resolution, and end to their stories.

On Wednesday I will not be at Trekenner because Neville has talked to 2 other schools (bigger schools) in the area to observe. I am really excited to see a little different set up than what I am used to. I think it will be a good thing to see a little more variety in schools.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week of November 23

This week I am starting to feel the crunch of the holidays. We are having to set aside class time to practice and prepare for the Christmas program that is put on every year along with Christmas writings and the beginning of decorations.

Again this week I am in charge of the whole class, teaching maths, leading group work, literacy, and the afternoon lessons consisting of art, religion, PE, PSHE, and topic (history or social studies). I am having a good time looking at subjects that I will most likely not be in charge of or have to even worry about in the United States because those would be 'specials'.

In maths we are beginning to work on fractions. This was never my strong point in math so I am very glad I am getting the chance to practice teaching it. I think it is fun to try doing maths in different ways to see how the individual students are learning. Usually I will ask the students after we have done a lesson or a part of a lesson to put their thumbs up if they get it, in the middle if they are a little unsure, or down if they don't get it. It is great to see their faces light up when they really get it. If I see they aren't catching on I will make a point of going over to them shortly after the lesson has ended, when they have work time, and give them some one on one time.

This week in literacy things are starting to get a little jumbled. I originally wanted this week to be about starting on their short stories. Last week I found the students were really struggling with verbs and adjectives. I know that they will both need to be used in their short stories. I decided to spend a little more time on the verbs and adjectives. To do this I found School House Rock online, I had watched these in school as a student and still remember the songs. The class really liked the song about verbs. After the video we talked about verbs again gave some examples and then they had a worksheet to fill out. Then with some time at the end we watched the song about adjectives. I am glad I took the extra time to go over this again rather than after we have started the story.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Week of November 16

This week I have officially taken over all of the classes. It has been really hard work but I think things are going really well.

Monday the students started with maths. It was an interesting experience because we didn't a Smartboard because the projector had broken two weeks ago, we didn't have internet access in the classroom (not sure why still), and the copy machine was broken. Lisa and I finally went down the list to plan C. We decided to do something called free maths. Free maths is putting out manipulatives (rulers, geometric shapes, tape measures, dominoes, and so on) and telling the students to do maths with them. Lisa had never tired this before and neither had I but I think it was a success. The students were told to record what they did with the objects in their notebooks and results they found. Some of the students were finding areas of the classroom while others were coming up with maths games. It was a really great experience and you could really see how some of the students were thinking.

That afternoon I took over netball, which I have never seen/played so that was interesting. But the students and Lisa both helped me out a great deal. I led them in their warm up and had them do a few passing drills and then they played a game. I was very pleased, the students were very patient with me and told me if I missed something.

In literacy this week I have been teaching lessons on Science Fiction stories and the later part of the week I have been working on description of a setting, this will eventually lead up to a short story they will have to write.

Friday was a little more difficult in terms of classroom management because it was Children in Need day, a huge charity event in the UK. The students had made a Pudsey Bear (the mascot of Children in Need) outline and they told the other students in school to bring extra change and fill in the outline. I was amazed, they filled up Pudsey and more. They also sold Pudsey Bear cookies for 20p each, some student bought an upwards of 7 and ate them all in a 30 minute time frame (YIKES). Finally they had a name the bear event that if they guessed the right name of the bear they would win it, it guess they had to pay 20p for each name. While I am not sure how much money they raised I know that all but 1 of the 48 students in school bought at least one cookie and they all put money on the Pudsey Bear. It was so neat to see them giving so much. I over heard a conversation on the playground between two of the students before they bought their cookies that she could only get 2 cookies because she wanted to put money on the Pudsey. It was nice to hear how kind and unselfish they could be.

Also, this week we have been really practicing for their big Christmas program. I was 'lucky' enough to be a judge for the solos (it was very hard to choose a winner, much harder than I anticipated). They are singing a group of songs called Hosanna Rock, and the younger students will be acting out the Nativity play during the production. There are bell players and recorders, I think there is even a Hosanna Hand-jive they will be preforming. There is a lot of work that is going into it but it is really fun to be involved. I can't wait to see the performance in 3 weeks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Week of November 9

This week I am taking over more of the class than last week. I am now working with small groups in maths. In maths the group that I have been working with have been working on times tables, multiplication, mental math, time, and using calculators. I really enjoy working with these small groups because I feel it gives me an opportunity to get to know the students personalities a little more. I am able to pick up a little easier on strengths and weaker areas in their learning because of this.

On Monday I continued with my literacy unit. We began to write stories about an everyday event (such as walking home from school) and turning it into a fiction story. Last week we had talked about science fiction, historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy genres to scaffold this writing. I asked the students to map out their thinking prior to writing the story. To do this I handed out a basic story mapping sheet that included things like characters included, setting, the beginning, the events in the plot, and the end. After they finished their story maps they were able to begin writing.

Tuesday the students continued writing. I asked all the students to bring their story over at after they had finished their first event so I could look it over. And they continued to write. As the students finished their stories I asked them to spend the remainder of the class drawing a picture they felt showcased their story. Some of the students still were not done and I want to provide ample time for writing.

Two boys in the class have dyslexia and have a very difficult time writing. I had them narrate the parts of the story map to me and I wrote it for them so they had a basic framework to use during their story. I then had them draw their story in different frames. I required they did have some writing in each picture whether it was a post-it with a summary or conversation bubble to show what the characters were saying. I think this has worked well, they seemed to really enjoy the activity.

Today I led the science lesson that is scheduled to take two hours. We began the first hour by reviewing the vocabulary from last week (gravity, forcemeter, force, push, pull, weight, and Newton). Then we used the forcemeters to weigh different objects in the classroom. I had the students record the data (Newtons and grams) on a table that I had premade for them. After their break for the final hour the students weighed the same objects but in water. They recorded that data as well and after they were finished we talked about why the data may be different.

Tomorrow I will have the students finish their stories. Then we are going to talk more about historical fiction stories this activity will carry over to Friday's lesson. We are going to read a short historical fiction story and discuss the different aspects of it (a review of last week). Then we will be working on a story map of that same story as a class.

I am continuing to work with groups in maths and tomorrow I will take a small group in the history lesson when we will discuss Tudors and the exploration that happened during that time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week of November 2

Today was the first day back after half term. It was a training/prep day for the staff so there were no students, a good way to ease back into things. However, there was a training session on the use of an Excel program that had information about the students SAT scores from last year. There was also a discussion on a new form of testing that England is now trying to switch over to called APP.

The APP testing seems a little bit confusing because the whole point is to level the students, however, to give the students a test, you pre-level them (this is based on the teacher's judgement). Then it is up to the teacher to make the tests, one for each level. I see a few problems with this type of testing that I discussed with my cooperating teacher. The first problem is there is no standard test questions. One teacher could think they were making a test fair for a level 3 while another teacher, in the same school, in the same city, or even somewhere else in the country, could have a completely different idea of what they believe to be fair for the student at level 3.

The other major problem that I saw was the fact that you are testing your students more (4 times a year) as opposed to just one time at the end of the year. One of the reasons this test came about was because they didn't want to test the students as much. It just seemed a little counterproductive.

As I discussed all this with Mrs. Sheppard she agreed. The teachers don't seem too happy about this type of testing especially because it adds a lot more work for the teachers. They have to make the test and they have to grade/assess the information they get from the tests. Also, it doesn't seem that even after reviewing the data it has much impact on the students' levels.

...At least it doesn't seem only America is struggling with the issue of test taking...

This week I will be taking over the literacy hour for the year 5s and 6s. We will be discussing a few of the different genres in fiction literature. To begin the students will get a list of books and reviews or short blurbs about it and then they will have to try to group them into the different categories that we will have discussed as a class. When they have grouped the books we will discuss differences and why the students chose what category they did for that particular book.

Later on in the week we will break down 4 of the genres a little further (science-fiction, historical, mystery, and fantasy) using extracts and books to find text features. The mini unit will end with the students writing their own short story about a simple activity (i.e. walking home from school or grocery shopping) choosing one of the genres to write in.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This past week the students have been on a half term break. During this time I was able to get a better handle on the town and surrounding area I am living in. I think this week has given me a better idea of the history and culture that I am now living and will be teaching in.

The Cornwall part of England, I have found, is a culture all to itself. It has a pride in its past and its individuality. I was able to attend a presentation about the late, Charles Causley, a poet who was born in and died in Launceston. I have also seen new attractions like the world famous Eden Project; two huge glass domes with different climates, one a rain forest and one the Mediterranean. Both are there to promote recycling and care of the earth.

I have also been planning for school. Next week I will begin to take over part of the class. I will be teaching the literature portion of the class that usually consists of an hour in the morning. I will have the challenge of adapting my lesson to meet the needs of a 2 grade level span of students ranging in abilities. I will be focusing on different styles and genres of fiction literature. I will include a range of activities for the students to be active learners. I am excited to get back in the classroom and really begin to work with these students!