This week, Tuesday was the first day of the school week as yesterday was a public holiday for Easter Monday. I spent the day in the CE2/CM1 class, where I observed lessons in French, Maths and History. For French, they had to do dictation exercise, which I have noticed is quite common in France for teaching grammar and language rules.
As I was observing the Maths lesson, I noticed that the teacher was teaching two different lessons using two separate whiteboards to a class split completely down the middle. I assume that this was due to the two different age groups present in the classroom, however, this is the first sign of differentiated learning I have seen in this school. As I observed the lesson, I noticed that there were a few pupils struggling to keep up with the pace of the lesson and a few racing ahead in their understanding.
When the lesson had finished, I asked the teacher about something I had noticed on the board: letters on the corner of each board resembling initials. She informed me that this told the children what jotter they should be using to do their work; for example, the board had the letters “CB” on it, which stands for Cahier de Brouillon. When I looked up the English for this in my dictionary, I discovered that it meant, “rough workbook/jotter”, and so this specific jotter, which I have seen before in other classrooms is used for different subjects, such as Maths or French, and it encourages the children to show how they have worked something out without constricting them to be neat and tidy.
After lunch, I witnessed a good example of behaviour management from the teacher following an incident in the playground. Although I was not fully able to understand what the incident entailed, I did understand how the teacher dealt with the issue, as she used similar protocol I had read about in theory. First, she heard the story of what had happened from one child’s perspective and then again but from another child’s perspective. The technique used by the teacher here could be categorised as conflict mediation, where the teacher, as a third party, guides the two children in conflict towards a resolution. Gartrell (2013, p351) describes the teacher’s role, as, “making sure both parties are equal contributors to a peaceful settlement”, which, in this instance, she did by allowing each child an equal opportunity to voice their opinion. Through this, the classroom atmosphere feels more democratic and fair for all, which is a key value I have witnessed throughout this school.
As part of a community initiative, the police visited the school today to teach some of the older pupils how to ride a bike safely in the street. Their safety course included breaking responsively, using their arms to signal which direction they wanted to turn and weaving the bike in and out of the cones. Not only does this opportunity highlight the place of the school as a member of the wider “La Chapelle St Mesmin” community, it also highlights a clear cultural difference between France and Scotland. In Scotland, children are often spoken to by the emergency services about issues of public safety, such as crossing the road or the dangers of fire, but learning to ride a bike safely is not something that is consolidated upon in school.
Today, I was given the opportunity to do a follow up lesson with CE2 about School in Scotland. Last time, I did not have the opportunity to hand out my worksheets to the children and so this time we filled them out together. I thought this way of doing it was better than giving them the sheets first time round as it meant that more attention could be put to completing the sheets properly. Plus, it was good from an assessment perspective to see how much the children had remembered from the previous lesson, which was quite a lot. I began with the timetable sheet, which I mirrored on the whiteboard using the answers provided to me by the children.
Next, I moved onto the school uniform sheet and went through the vocabulary for this again through asking, “what is this?” then receiving an answer and finally asking the children to repeat the word after me to practice the correct pronunciation. As this sheet was more of a revision sheet than a worksheet, I tasked the children with working in pairs to test each other on the vocabulary, where one showed the other a picture of the clothing and the other had to successfully name that piece of clothing without looking at the caption. Throughout this, I walked around the classroom and encouraged them to use their whiteboards to try and write down their answers. As I was making my way around the classroom, I noticed one girl was sitting alone and did not have a partner for the task so I became her partner and tested her on the items of clothing. This highlighted to me how important it is to continually observe your class throughout the lesson, as, if I had stayed at the front of the class I would have missed this, as well as not being able to hear what was being said by the children in case it was wrong.
Today, I had another opportunity to accompany the CE2 class on a school trip. This time, they were going to a cinema to see a series of short animation films by one director. The cinema that we visited is called, “Cinema Les Carmes” and is situated in the centre of Orléans, so we had to take a tram to get there. Taking the tram was a new experience for me and I found it interesting how the school used public transport when they were going places, the whole experience felt very relaxed and the teacher did not seem phased by taking such a large group of children out of the school to use public transport. The teacher explained to me that the cinema we were going to often hosted events like this one exclusively for school children and many of the films they show have an educational element to them. This is a great resource for the school to have and film and theatre seems to be a large part of the school’s culture as they classes often visit film screenings and plays.
Accompanying us on the trip was a parent of one of the pupils, who was very friendly and took an interest in my role in the school and why I was there. It was great to have this opportunity to speak with another adult and gain more of an insight into the class from her perspective, as she has known many of the children from a young age. I was also grateful that she was so accepting of my presence as I have been worried about how I am perceived by the parents because I don’t speak a lot of French, but I could tell she appreciated my attempts to communicate with her.
Gartrell, D. (2013) A Guidance Approach for the Encouraging Classroom. Boston: Cengage Learning.