As part of a community event, CE2, CM1 and CM2 participated in a race on the grounds of the local sports centre. Each year group had different time slots and competed against other students their age from neighbouring schools. The class I was accompanying, CE2, had their slot at 9:30 or 9:50 depending on which colour category they fell into. In preparation for the race, each class had been participating in practice runs in the school grounds under the coaching of their teachers. The CE2’s, for example, would have to run 1500m on the day, and so the teacher had them practice running this distance in the school grounds so they could work on the time it took them to finish. The practice sessions in school provided many teaching opportunities, a few in particular that I witnessed included: the importance of warming up the body before running and the importance of pace and stamina when running longer distances.
In the days leading up to the race, the children began to record their final times, which were then used to determine whether they would run as a yellow, a blue or a red. When we arrived that the location of the race, the children were directed around the course by the organiser of the event so that they were aware of the course and its boundaries. They then proceeded to pin their running badge identifying their name, school and colour to their shirts in preparation for the race. The yellow group were first to run then the red and blue group.
The whole experience was really good for me. I got to learn more about the responsibilities of a teacher as I was tasked with stopping the traffic to allow the children to cross the road, then later, I was asked to watch over the group who was not running at the time to make sure none of them wandered off etc. These are quite large responsibilities and I was happy to be given these opportunities by the teacher. It was also nice to see how passionate the children were about the race and to see the progress they had made over the past 4 weeks I had been with them.
Today, I asked the CP/CE1 teacher if I could join her in her class today, as I felt that I had been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks in the upper half of the school and I had not observed the earlier stages since the first week, or had the opportunity to teach them yet.
After spending the morning observing French and Maths, I began to recognise some of the differences between the priorities of the teachers at each stage. Particularly in French, this teacher focused a large portion of the time on sounds and phonetics as opposed to grammar, which is heavily pursued in the upper stages. This is quite similar to the norm in Scotland, as, children require a solid foundation in spoken language before moving on to written language.
The teacher explained to me that often children find it difficult to learn to read French, (recent literacy scores) because there is sometimes several ways to write one phonetic sound. For example, “an” and “en” when used in words both sound the same. For this reason, the teacher tends to avoid giving her CPs in the class any texts to read until they are stronger with their phonics. Even the CE1s in the class find reading and writing quite difficult and it is a recurring theme that I have witnessed throughout the school. This perhaps explains why French is given such a large portion of the school curriculum.
In the afternoon, the teacher taught a Maths lesson on right angles where the children had to complete drawing exercises in their workbooks using certain equipment, such as a ruler or a square. The teacher asked me if I could help them with these exercises as they struggle to use the equipment properly. I was able to help some of the children by showing them how to hold the square properly to check for right angles or how to hold the ruler so that their drawings had straight lines. I also explained to one child how all the sides of a square are equal, which prompted her to correct one of her answers. It was nice to have the opportunity to help the children in something other than English and it highlighted to me how Maths is a subject that is universal as I was able to use my knowledge to help these children despite knowing very little French because I could understand the work through the use of shapes and numbers.
After the short break in the afternoon, I was then asked to lead an English lesson on the topic of family. First of all, the teacher had the children sing some English songs that they had learnt to me. The songs were short and catchy, but more importantly, they were repetitive and so the children knew the words very well because they were continually repeating them. The teacher explained to me that because the children are young, she does not let them see the written lyrics before they the words completely off by heart as this can confuse their pronunciation of the words. I like the use of songs for teaching language because they are interactive and engaging for the children. As a teacher of younger pupils, she strongly advocates making language learning a fun experience by using songs, games and stories to teach vocabulary.
For this lesson, the teacher already had a rough plan for the execution and so she provided me with the resources I needed, which included flashcards on family and the bears book, and she also suggested a few games I could play with the flashcards. Out of her suggestions, I decided to play “Tic Tac Toe” with them, where I split the class in half and had them compete against each other as noughts and crosses. The competitive element turned out to be quite successful as the children were focused and engaged in the game because they wanted their team to win. Before beginning the game, I spent a couple of minutes simply revising the different cards by showing the children the picture and asking them what it was. Once the game had started, I invited up team captains to the board to act on behave of their team and listen to which card they wanted them to choose. This helped me see if they understood which card corresponded to the chosen family member.
Afterwards, I read the English storybook the teacher had given me on the three bears. As I was reading the story, I was aware that the children would not fully understand every word, but, like how I have been learning French over the past 4 weeks, they were able to use the context of the pictures to aid their understanding. This is why I would emphasise to them each picture, as well as mimicking the voices of the characters in the book to indicate certain descriptive aspects of their character, such as age and gender.
Overall, today has given me a lot of ideas to consider for when I teach a foreign language in Scotland for future lessons as I can use a lot of what I have learnt. The ideas will be particularly useful for my early years placement next year, and one idea that I really liked was reading a storybook in a foreign language. Therefore, before I leave France, I plan to buy a storybook written in French, which I can use to teach French in the future.
On Wednesdays, I do not often see English being taught at the school because it is only a half day and the teachers like to make sure the focus is on French and Maths in this shorter time frame. This morning, in the CE2 class, the time was roughly split in half between both subjects, making each session about an hour and 20 minutes long. In my opinion, this is quite a long time to focus on just one subject; however, the children today practiced several elements of each subject during this time. In French, they spent a short amount of time writing imaginatively before moving onto reading a text, then finally, deconstructing this text in an effort to improve their spelling and grammar. In Maths, it was similar; the children began with some mental maths, before moving onto written algorithms and finishing with a problem solving worksheet, all of which incorporated addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
In preparation for a famous author visiting, the CM2s spent much of today working on their class project. As a class, they have been reading a science fiction novel called, “Traces”, written by Florence Hinckel, which is the story of a young boy who is blamed for a crime that has not yet happened by a computer programme designed to identify future criminals. The class have been working on this novel for several weeks, beginning by reading each chapter and then identifying the key moments of those chapters. Now, the teacher has had them reproduce the book themselves in the form of a comic.
I have observed that an A4 sheet of paper represents each chapter, and so, as a class, they would have practiced their summarising and prioritising skills, as well as practising elements of language throughout, such as speech. Another aspect of the comic is the illustrations to represent the scenes and characters, which is another great teaching point in language about different texts. This type of project is therefore a very well rounded example of the children’s literacy skills.
In the morning, I taught the CE2 class the parts of the body in English. I began the lesson with a quick warm up activity about the weather, as it was the beginning of the day. I then moved onto the parts of the body. I had been asked to do this lesson in advance by the teacher and so she had provided me with the resources she wanted me to use. She informed me that the children had been introduced to the parts of the body yesterday and had a reference sheet already glued into their jotters. So, today, she wanted me to complete a crossword activity with them where they would use this knowledge.
I began by using the PowerPoint she provided me, which had the different parts of the body on it. I would ask the children, “what is this?” for each picture and then pick a child with their hand up to tell me the answer. After eachpicture had been identified, I had the children repeat the name of the body part after me. Once we had completed all the body parts, I asked the children to stand up and follow my instructions in a similar fashion to “Simon Says”. I then proceeded to ask the class to touch different body parts on themselves, for example, “Can you touch your arm?” As they had just began looking at the English for body parts, they found this a bit more difficult cause there was no picture to help them, and so, after asking each question, I would demonstrate the action as well to ensure they understood.
Next, I moved onto the crossword activity and allowed the class around 5 to 10 minutes to complete it on their own, after I had explained the task using a mixture of French and English. As they were completing the activity, I made my way around the classroom to observe their progress and ended up helping a few children. One child, in particular, was rather confused between the hand and the finger. Helping the child was a bit more difficult as I had to use more French than I am confident in, but I was able to establish that he understood what the body part was in French and so I directed him to his previous sheet of the body to help him realise his mistake.
I concluded the lesson by going over the sheet with the whole class on the whiteboard and filling in the correct answers for them. Most of the children seemed to be getting most if not all the answers correct, which was a good indicator that they understood the vocabulary well. The next step for them would be more revision and repetition of the new vocabulary so that, eventually, they are not relying on worksheets and wall displays to help them remember.
In the afternoon, I continued to teach a different class about school in Scotland. The class I was teaching was the CP/CE1 class that I had done family with earlier in the week, though this was my first time teaching this class my own content and so I had to adapt my resources for their age and stage (see Appendix 1). The teacher had already told me that she aims for shorter lessons that are less content heavy when she teaches English because they are young. I, therefore, took this comment from her into account when planning for today and decided that I should just focus on one aspect of School in Scotland, the school uniform. I also took some inspiration from the resources I was given and the lesson that I did on Tuesday by producing my own flashcards of the vocabulary for this topic.
When teaching the lesson, I approached it in a similar way to before by using my PowerPoint I had produced to go through each item of clothing, explaining what it is and asking the children to repeat the word after me. After the children had repeated the vocabulary several times and I was happy with their progress, I decided to do something similar to the activity I did this morning. I asked the children, “raise your hand if you are wearing…?” This was quite ambitious considering the difficulty I had faced executing this task this morning, however, I felt as though the lesson required something more interactive and I have observed over the past week that this class is very good at picking up new content fast. The task was met with some difficulty, especially for the CPs, however, the repetitive nature of the activity meant that the children began to catch on towards the end.
I then decided to conclude the session with a game using the clothing flashcards I had made. It was a memory game that the teacher had suggested to me as she had used it before, where the children would turn over two of the overturned flashcards on the whiteboard at a time in an attempt to find a pair of a word and its picture. The game was much easier to explain because the children had a prior knowledge of the format and aim of the game, however, one thing they did struggle with was if they turned over a card with a word on it rather than a picture, they struggled to the read the word despite having a knowledge of the word and not struggling to identify the item of clothing if it was a card with a picture. This highlighted to me how much easier the children do find listening and talking inEnglish as opposed to reading and writing, as they knew all the names of the clothing, but because of their age, they lacked the skills and confidence to read English.
Though, overall, the lesson worked well, the children were engaged and I was confident that they had understood and took on board the new vocabulary I had introduced to them. Now, they just have to continually practice saying these words on a regular basis. I have plans to go back to the class next week fora follow up lesson, where I will revisit the vocabulary and play another game with them. This teacherwas particularly good at giving me feedback as she suggested to me that next time I could perhaps spend even more time simply practicing the vocabulary before moving onto the games. I plan to take this feedback on board and play
around with the vocabulary more as a whole class using the larger pictures on the PowerPoint. She also gave me an English book she had on clothing to look at over the weekend, which was very helpful.
I feel that this week, having the opportunity to teach two lessons in one day has been great for improving my organisational skills, which were what I identified at the beginning of placement as something that I wanted to gain more of. Having the opportunity to produce and use my own resources is also aiding these skills as producing these resources requires a lot of thought and preparation in advance.
Appendix 1 – School Uniform