04 October 2010

A Monday in the life of Grade 3K

It’s only Monday, but it’s been such a good day that I thought I’d write about a day in the life of Grade 3K at East-West International School.

The bell rings at 7.30am and all the children line up in their classes (from Pre-school 1 to 8th grade). The principal says good morning to all the children, and they say good morning to her, and to their classroom teachers. Then, since it is Monday today, the children (and Khmer staff) sing the Khmer National Anthem as the Cambodian Flag is raised. Those who don’t know it are expected to stand still and quiet out of respect for our host country. After this, the children are dismissed to their classes with an encouragement to learn well.

After climbing 3 flights of stairs, the children reach our floor, and then they take off shoes and backpacks, and bring water bottles and homework (including classroom library books that need changing) into the classroom. Once they are settled on the mat I take attendance, taking this time to personally say good morning to each student by name, and then I read aloud part of a story to them. At the moment we are reading The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis. Sometimes I will get the children to make predictions about what is going to come next, other times we’ll talk about new words, and other times we will just enjoy the story together.

The next item on the day’s schedule is a whole class language arts time. On Monday that is when the children prepare their spelling lists for the week, as well as noting any other homework that is required. This is an interesting time, as all the children are at different stages in spelling, so they each have an individual list. This list might include words they got wrong in written work, vocabulary words from our current Language Arts theme, as well as words from our Core Words lists. The teacher has to check each list before they go home, since it is very easy for the children to copy a word incorrectly, and if they learn to spell it incorrectly it is so much harder to then relearn the correct spelling. Preparing the lists takes longer or shorter times depending on the child, but all lists have to be finished by 9am when the children head off to ICT and library. Children who finish quickly have the opportunity to enjoy some silent reading time. This is also the time when the children change their classroom library books. ICT and Library lessons give me one of my three short preparation periods for the week, so I usually try and get some papers graded, future lessons planned, or even some filing done!

There is just ten minutes between ICT/Library time and recess, so this is usually silent reading time. Recess lasts for 20 minutes and the children usually enjoy the break playing downstairs under the building. After recess, we have a two hour block during which the children have one hour of English Language Arts and one hour of Khmer instruction. They are divided into two groups based on language ability, so the Khmer teacher and I each have half the class at a time. This is a great time because it allows for more individual attention to students, and for better differentiation of instruction. At the moment we are working on a “recount” of a visit to a hospital, and all our English language activities have been focused around a short piece of writing. I’m enjoying this, and getting some great ideas for building Language Arts units.

Lunch follows at 12 noon, with 20 minutes for eating and then 20 minutes for playing. Today I was on playground duty for the second 20 minutes, so I have to make sure I eat my lunch before the children are released from the eating area. Unfortunately today it poured rain during our lunch break, so part of the playground was not able to be used, but with a large part of the playground under the building there is still plenty of space for active play (although Australian students would find it very restrictive).For those who remember the posts in my original classroom at Logos, there are several of these and a staircase in the middle of the play area, but the children still manage to have lots of active fun!

Lunch is followed by two 50 minute lessons. I take the other Grade 3 class first for mathematics, while their teacher has my class for Science/Social Studies, then we swap over and I have my own class for mathematics. We then have 10 minutes at the end of the day for final notices and packing up ready to go downstairs. It’s essential the children are downstairs in the waiting area by 2.30pm as there is very limited parking in the streets around the school, so we aim to have the children picked up as quickly as possible. Each afternoon the principal and her Khmer colleague are at the gate to say good-bye to the children individually in traditional Khmer fashion. I love that she does this.

Finally, just before 3pm, when the majority of the children are gone home, we are free to head back to our classrooms, to prepare for the coming day, pack up, and head for home!! I’m not sure why I feel that today was such a good day, but I do know that it seemed to go smoothly, and I’m looking forward to another busy day tomorrow! Maybe it was just a good day because most days are good days. I thank God for his strength throughout each day, and for all the lessons I am learning along the way.

* ICT = Information and Communication Technologies, which is more than just computers, but it does mean the children get to use the computers in the computer lab.

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