Thursday, October 16, 2008

Teaching a Class Spur of the Moment

During the course of the week I have been tested a few times to see what I can do. The first of which was Tuesday. Being focused on preparing for my activity for Thursday that determines our next move as Peace Corps volunteers before swearing in, I was hoping Tuesday would just be another day of observation with the Grade 6. However, moments before class begun I noticed that the teacher was not to be found. A few minutes past, the principal came into the class and explained that Miss Eugene would not be coming today due to a CPR seminar she was attending. Okay. Okay. Breathe. Considering I have only co-taught and worked with students in small groups or one on one, this was new to me. Not only was it my first day as a teacher, but I had no prepared lesson plan. Due to training schedules, I hadn’t been at the school for two weeks and I had a vague idea of what the material was supposed to be.

Luckily, I had some ideas in mind for my activity that I had written down the night before. I used a few of these ideas to teach the class that day. Mathematics or “maths” as they call it in St. Lucia, was my starting point. I figure, they are really behind on maths and I need to work with them in this area. Giving them story problems to solve, I managed to have them remain quiet and doing their work. After the story problems, I worked with them on multiplication, but shortly figured out that this was past the point in which most of them were at anyway. So I had to make the choice to move back and work on addition and subtraction of big numbers. Many of the students found it difficult to grasp the concept of borrowing and carrying over numbers, so we spent much of the day working on that.

After lunch, the anxiety had worn away quite and bit and I finally calmed down. We worked on homophones, words that sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings. For instance, the words “there, their, and they’re” are homophones. Using the traditional game of “heads up, seven up” I created a base for the game “heads up, four to speak up”. We began playing the game only as a game, having four children pushing down the thumbs of four other children while their heads are on the desks and their eyes closed. After doing a couple rounds of playing the game, we moved into the more academic version. The students whose thumbs had been pushed down now had to listen to me say a sentence with a homophone word in it, and then follow up with the correct spelling. The game really helped the kids to work together, while still having fun. After playing the game about ten times, the students started to cheat by looking at who was pushing their thumbs down. At this point, when the kids began to get a little rowdy, I had to change the subject. Because the kids were talking too much, I made them return to math. The next time I played an educational game with them they paid more attention!

Today I completed the activity that we are supposed to complete pre-being sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Yes, that’s right, I am technically still a Trainee until Wednesday, October 22nd. I was really stressing out over the activity, as the first attempt posed external problems outside my realm of control (i.e. weather, type of activity in relation to type of assessment, etc). So, you can understand my nervousness in attempting to complete the activity for a second time with success. Being observed and evaluated (unless it is in volleyball) is not my specialty. I get insanely nervous when people evaluate me for my work; especially when I am working in somewhat of a new area. I prepared myself as much as I could ahead of time, and did my best for the given day. After all, that’s really all I can do. Despite my nervousness, I did well but know I could have done a little better were I more comfortable with being observed. Just another hurdle to jump while I am here with the Peace Corps! We are constantly being observed, critiqued, evaluated, and advised on how to be a better volunteer. This is a very good thing, as I, personally, would like to improve as much as possible in the areas that I will be working in. Not only am I training people in St. Lucia and working with them to train others, but in turn, they are really helping me to improve as well!

The activity that I used focused on improvement in numeracy through multiplication. We used beans and playing cards as materials. The playing cards were used to be the numbers that we multiply. To start out with, I flipped over two cards and worked with the four students as a group to show how we can add groups together to get the sum of multiplying two numbers. For instance, I flipped over a 5 and a 4. I explained to the students that we have four groups of five, or five groups of four. Then I counted out the beans into groups to show them what I was looking for. I challenged each of the students to try one of the multiplication of their own, with the help of their peers. Then, after we worked on that for a little while, we moved into playing “head-2-head”, which is a revised version of “war”. I had the four students divided into two teams. First, we all played against each other "head-2-head" and then I took myself out of the game to watch them play on their own. I observed them along the way and asisted them when they needed guidance. It was nice to see that many of the times, they would help each other out in the problems even though both teams were playing against each other.

I'm glad that the activity went well overall. It's just one thing that gets me to be where I want to be. Tuesday of next week and the following I will be teaching the class again at the Primary...let's all say a little prayer for me, eh, eh? I must say, working with the primary has reminded me of what it is like to be a youth again...I am constantly being reminded that there always enough time in your life to play a game, to ask questions to even the most basic ideas, to jump and skip and run for no reason, and to use all the energy you have by 3 o'clock!

No comments: