The students were animated and worked diligently; at times, it was necessary to tone down the volume of voice. The 45 minutes went by quickly.
This more flexible and nontraditional method of teaching worked in most cases. However, there were times, depending on the students, when someone asked for help and could not find anyone free or asked for help and was helped to quickly and did not truly understand the rationale for the answer.
STUDENTS WENT to LUNCH
While this class went to lunch and the play ground, the observer went to the special needs room. This area was for about a dozen students maximum at a time. The students there ranged from ADD to a child who was incapable of acquiring any more learning. There was one teacher and the students all in one row along a long table. The teacher sat on the opposite side of the table.
These students were also reading out loud, but a short story rather than the novel. They were learning vocabulary words as they went along. The pace was much slower than in the other main classroom. The students answered questions as well as had discussions; the level of these depended on the ability of the student. During this session, three of the students were called out to meet one-on-one with a special needs aid. There were other activities that these students did. The observer was not told the students' learning disability.
There seemed to be a relatively large number of special needs students in this school, and it was difficult to have a one-on-one with each student. This way, they had some of the students in a smaller group and then took out a few of them for the one-on-one sessions, which deal specifically with their needs.
Unfortunately, the students who were together in the group were at different levels of learning and had different disabilities. It is difficult to know how much they are learning in this smaller group setting, versus one-on-one. This school seems to have a sizeable number of aides to work with the special needs students. They also use substitute teachers to help with these students and/or to work in the classrooms to assist the primary teacher and specifically watch these students during full classroom settings, when some could and do get easily lost.
After lunch, the teacher had the maps that the students completed graded. They were handed back to the students. The students were learning about early discoveries in America and had to draw routes of the different explorers. They added on with each new explorer. The students also have a history book and are reading about these explorers at the same time as they are studying the geography of their explorations. This was a 45-minute lesson
The teacher felt this was a good way to combine the geography and history lessons. The maps in the book are not conducive to appropriate learning. She is encouraging the students to either go online or at the school/local public library to find the maps for the geography. This is teaching research in print and online as well as the geography and history. At the end of the explorer topic, she is planning to have students choose whatever project they want including writing a story or poem, artwork, putting on a play with other students, and music that reflects back to what they learned about these explorations. Despite her usual traditional approach to learning, she recognizes that students have different learning styles and tries to some kind of cross-learning style project each semester.
It is important that students have the opportunity to learn in different ways. This teacher is very traditional in most of her educational styles. This project provides another outlet for those students who require something that is more eclectic than the traditional form of learning.
THE STUDENTS WENT to the SCIENCE CLASSROOM/LAB
All students went to the science lab. At the lab were a couple of aides who awaited their students. It was necessary to work with them one-on-one in this setting. Only in the case when students are in a wheelchair does the aide go with them one class by another. In other cases, the students went alone and met the aides in the classroom. The observer heard of several instances where the students became lost, did not know there were change to the activities for that day, or did not know where the class was located. The students were studying weather, so were conducting an experiment.
The students were doing the lab at the same time in a traditional way. The teacher thought this was necessary because it was a step-by-step experiment and too difficult to do at an individual pace. However, with 25 students, this made it difficult to follow each student. One of the aides who was there for a specific student ended up helping some of these students.
It is difficult for the teacher to interact with 25 students in an activity like this. If he felt it was necessary to work on a step-by-step basis, then he could have divided the students in half and worked with only one group while the other worked on a different project -- such as working on lab notes. The teacher was fortunate to have this aide here to answer questions, but it was not her responsibility to do so.
OVER ALL THOUGHTS
This field work experience once again showed the challenges that faces the pubic school teacher in present educational experiences. In addition to regular curriculum, the teacher has to "teach to the test" so that the students are trained for the standardized testing. The classrooms are at a size that it is…