I was in a grade 5/6 class first off and I felt that the teacher was really good; he knew what he was doing when it came to getting the students to understand what it was that they were learning. When I walked into the classroom they were in their literacy block, I was a bit stumped when after I had been introduced he said that they were learning about verbs and then asked me what a verb was. Thankfully I actually remembered what it was, I think that the spur of the moment question just threw me off for a little bit. After I was introduced he explained to me that he liked to use allot of technology in the classroom and what he normally did was have a program up on the computer and then have it projected onto the whiteboard so that all the students could see it and join in. The program that he was using that day was bbc skillswise, first he showed them an example and got them to help him on the board and then they had to use the class set of laptops and finish off the activity themselves.
After that I actually got to lead a group in a guided reading session, there was about six students and they had to read the fable on the sheet and then answer questions about it. Some of the kids were interested and others were more interested in paying attention to what was happening on the other side of the classroom but I got them to all read it and give their opinions as to the answers to the questions and why they thought that before explaining what the correct answer was any why. In the end they all had the correct answers but I am unsure whether one or two of them actually understood because they were not interested in paying attention and it was hard to try and bring their focus back to the discussion.
One thing that I did like was the way that he taught spelling. The words that the students learned were ones that were relevant to what they were learning so they weren’t just learning something that they would find boring and irrelevant. After the test was complete he went through the words and asked a couple of students to tell him how they spelt the word. Then he would show them the correct spelling and say why the incorrect attempts were not right and show them that although they might have gotten the word wrong that in most cases they were very close or may have been spelling some parts of the word phonetically. I found this method to be a very good effective way of teaching and learning because what I remember of learning to spell in primary school was having a list of words that you had to learn weekly and the teacher would just read out the words and you would give yourself a score out of 10 or 15, however many words you had to study. I liked that he encouraged his students and that he discouraged them giving themselves a score out of ten. Another thing that I liked was that he recognised that not many of the students read at home or had parents that could help them practise so he made sure that he gave them reading time in class every day and had a variety of things for them to read, so magazines and books.
So just from this first day of placements I think that I really did learn allot about how to explain things to the students and how the point of teaching is to get the students to understand what it is that they are being taught not just to tell them the information.
My next placement was also at this primary school and this time I was in a Prep/One class. I have to admit that I love preps after being in a Prep class- helping out at the local school that I help at- the first three weeks of their school term this year. Being a prep teacher was never something that I thought I would want to do but being around them all that time I found that I really enjoyed it, children have the best imaginations and I love listening to all the stuff that they can come up with. Anyway so I was eager to be in this classroom and see how things were done compared to what I had already seen, I think that it’s always interesting to watch other people’s teaching techniques and to pick out what you think is effective and what isn’t.
I liked their system for dealing with misbehaviour as well. In the classroom they had a traffic light system and all the kids names on it. So if the names were in the green section or on the green light as it were everything was good, however if they were naughty then their name was moved into the yellow section and that was a warning so presumably if their name was moved onto the red then they would be sent to another room or something along those lines. This system seemed to work really well because the kids really like being in the green section, I think that this is helped because the traffic lights had smiley faces and sad faces on them depending on which light it was. The kids who are in this year level really do want to be good and don’t like being anywhere other than on the green traffic light. Unfortunately the teachers did say that for the older year levels this system didn’t seem to work as well though I had noticed this same traffic light system in the grade five and six room.
While I was in the Prep/1 class they read a book and the teacher did a really good job in actually teaching using the book. As they were reading it, and before and after they were finished with the book she asked the students questions, so by doing this she maintains their attention and furthers their literacy skills and understanding.
I also saw a good example of how a teacher sometimes has to reinforce the rules and routines in the classroom as the students had come in from lunch and they were all hyped up and there had been some problems in the yard that had to be sorted out before they could settle down. Then when one of the boys wasn’t paying attention and interrupting the other students after a warning didn’t work he was sent to the back of the room and his name was placed on the yellow traffic light (the same as what was used as the behaviour system in another classroom that I discussed before in another post).
Then when they were sent off to do a writing task the typical how was your weekend with the started ‘on the weekend i...’ I saw how the students dealt with spelling new and unfamiliar words. There was a word wall at the back of the classroom but it seemed that most of the students didn’t utilise it. They each had a ‘have a go’ book, in this book they would have a try writing the word by themselves so as an example spelling weekend:
Then they would bring it to the teacher and she would write this on the second go column:
We_k_ _ _
So where the child had gotten the correct letters in the right place she wrote them down and had spaces for where the letters were wrong and the students then had to fill in the gaps and bring it back to the teacher. If the students second go was correct then they got a tick but if it wasn’t then the teacher would write the correct spelling in a column marked teachers go:
Then at the end of the day again I saw how routines and rituals worked in a well established classroom. When it was time to pack up all the students knew exactly what it was that they had to do which was very good to see.
One thing that the teacher did mention to me that I think is significant is that the students like to know the goal of the lesson that they are being taught. I thought that I would mention this here because it is an interesting fact that I think that should be remembered for when I am a qualified teacher with my own class.
We talked about teaching students with disabilities and the fact that many students in the school are behind the state level because of varying factors and teaching to the test (NAPLAN).
In his class he had one student with Autism I think it was. He said that if he can get him to be interested in something then it would be really great. In their writting session they were studying an article about Casey who stood up to bullying because he knew that that particular student was interested in the matter.
There task was to read the article and look at the accompanying picture and then come up with what they called Fat and Skinny Questions. So basically if you are unsure of what Fat and Skinny questions would be a fat question is something that is really deep and really looking into the issue where a skinny question would just probe the service of the issue. Example that he used to describe what the difference between the two were are that for a fat question you could ask ‘what happened?’ and for a skinny question you could ask ‘was it a boy or a girl involved?’.
The lesson was very social and inclusive; he went around the room and asked for the students opinions on what they thought had happened just by looking at the picture. Then he asked for their fat and skinny questions and then they had to read the article and he answered any additional questions that they might have had after reading the article. I liked that he made them make up their own questions because I really think that it encouraged them to really think about the issue deeply and helped to increase their literacy skills.
We also talked about how many of the students come to the school with out going to kindergarten first, something that the Prep/One teachers had mentioned as well. They had prep students who didn't even know their colours and it took a while to teach them other things. Many of the students came from an Islamic background or other background, so the school had a good mix of students culturally. The 3/4 teacher told me that lots of the parents considered it soley the job of the teachers to educate their children and that they would not help with homework or even listen to their children read at home. In the grade 5/6 class the teacher made up for this by having daily silent reading.
We also disscussed NAPLAN testing and how he had to teach what was going to be on the tests.The teacher told me how frustrating it is having to teach to the curriculum and getting the students ready for NAPLAN when due to the schools location and nature of the students many of them are behind where they are meant to be because many of them have an ESL background and had never gone to Kindergarten and learnt anything not even their colour before coming to school.
He also said that it is just important to do what you can. Many of the students were reluctant learners and he had lots of techniques to get them to improve on their work. Once a week he has them do a short sharp writing task and also after every maths session they have to write in a reflection book and say what they had trouble with, where they could improve and what they liked.
Talking to him was great, infact I stayed about 45 minutes after the school day had ended in the classroom talking to him. He also said that if I ever needed any help or had any questions I could ask him. It was a really good chat I was thinking about the topics that we discussed all the way home (approx 40 minutes?)