It's hard to believe that we have already finished two weeks of school. At the same time, I'm praising God for His strength to get through this week. On Sunday afternoon I experienced those tell tale signs that I was nourishing some nasty germs, with lots of sneezing and a drippy nose. I took some garlic tablets, headed home early and had an early night, but all to no avail. The bug had got hold of me, and it's stuck with me all week. I wish it would go away! So I armed myself with a box of tissues and bravely headed off to school on Monday morning, where I quickly discovered that I was not alone and that several of my colleagues were also in various stages of battling similar ailments. I guess it comes with the territory. Various forms of infection do seem to be an occupational hazard when you teach 7-9 year olds in a "large" group. Life's like that!
So was it a good week. Well, apart from the germs, I think that I learned a thing or too, and so did my children. I am starting to feel like I'm getting to know the children a little better, and have probably got three quarters of the names of my own class sorted out in my mind. There are a couple of boys who are similar in looks and behaviour, and if I can't see their faces then they may well get called by the wrong name. There are also two girls who are similar build, and both very sweet, whom I have been mixing up a bit. I get frustrated when I do this, since names are important, and I really do love each of these kids in their own individual way, and I want them to know they are important enough for me to call them by the right name, so I think they'll be wearing name tags in class for one more week. Hopefully by then I'll have them sorted out.
One thing I learned this week is how much some of the children struggle with reading and following simple instructions. We did a mathematics test today, which consisted of a single page of questions in almost exactly the same format as we had worked in class over the last two weeks, and I was flabbergasted by the number of children who were unable to simply read the instructions and answer the questions. No, I'm not talking about the students that I know have very limited English here. I'm talking about students who have quite good English. Definitely something we will need to work on. The other big concern in mathematics this week was the number of children who were still doing basic addition facts by counting on their fingers. By 3rd grade I expect most children to know these facts without having to count, but obviously there's still need for work on this. I can see some flashcard making coming up!
A good thing this week, was getting the children grouped more effectively for their Language classes, and knowing which group was which. While I'm doing roughly the same content with each group, there is definitely room for differentiation here, both by ability and by learning style. I'm still struggling with reaching the children in the class who have very little English, but am seeing some progress with them, even in just understanding simple instructions and classroom procedures. Building vocabulary is going to be an essential part of both Mathematics and English classes. I must go back and review some of the ESL strategies I learned at a workshop in the past and see how I can better help all the children learn. This weekend I hope to get some Mathematics grouping done, so I can better differentiate instruction in that subject as well. This is more challenging as I have two classes, but in consultation with the other teacher, we decided if might work to mix the two classes up based on ability levels. We'll try it and see how it goes. Hopefully it won't make the Science/Social Studies classes too unbalanced in terms of ability.
Something else that I have done this week which I'm really happy about is to accept a certain level of talking and discussion of work between the children when they are completing written tasks. In the past I have expected this to be done in silence with no conversation allowed, but I'm learning that there are some children who simply must talk about things to process them, and so long as their chat is on topic then it's OK (unless it's a test that I need individual work for).
Next week's excitement will be the opening of the swimming pool for classes. Fortunately for me, 3rd grade swim lessons are on Thursday and Friday, so I've got almost another week to get healthy again before I have to get in the water. It should be fun actually.