Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Days 11 and 12

July 2nd and July 3rd

It was another Zambian holiday, so we did not have school.  We took advantage of the day, though, and assessed all of the kids at the school who were in Grades Baby class through 7.  We had gone around to all of the houses and let them house mommies know when to send them to school for their scheduled time.  We used a kindergarten reading assessment that Allison had used in her classroom.  It had them identify all of the letters, both uppercase and lowercase, all of the letter sounds, and numbers 1-20.

It was amazing to see some kids in Grades 4 and above that did not know all of their letters or sounds.  Some of those students are new to school, and some of them just still cannot hear the sounds very well.

We saw some common trends, so we knew that they were probably not being taught correctly at school.  For example, most kids said a "ch" sound when asked to say the sound for the letter H or "yeee" for the letter Y.  They also say "zed" for the letter Z, but that is just cultural.  When you ask a Zambian child to sing their ABCs, you will not hear our traditional tune, but the tune will sound familiar.  They sing it to our New Year's song - Auld Lang Syne.

It was a long day, but it was very good baseline data for us and to leave with the teachers.  You could really see which students are behind and are having difficulty with basic letters and sounds.

That night, we spent a lot of time preparing lessons for the next day since we would be full-teaching.  We had to prepare several subjects for 2 different grades.  It made me realize how spoiled I am with everything at my fingertips in my own classroom.  I had to get very creative with very few resources - markers, construction paper, and books.  :)

Writing out lesson plans by hand and making a matching game for science 
Lesson planning at night
no manipulatives - making my own visuals!

Today was a full teaching day.  In true teacher fashion, we loaded ourselves up with supplies to head out for the day.  I think our driver John thought we were crazy every morning.  It would take us awhile to all pile in the van with all of our stuff! :)  We were so happy to have Cynthia join us.  She is a PPCD (pre-K/special needs) teacher in the States, and she is wonderful!  She taught the teachers in the Baby class SO much this week in just the short time she was able to be with them.  My favorite thing was that she taught the little ones the "Skinna marinky dinky dink" song, and they all came out singing it to me that day!  So cute!!  

I taught Grade 4 in the morning and Grade 5 in the afternoon.  Teaching Zambian curriculum can be funny at times.  Today I had to teach fertilizers.  Amy had to teach corporal and capital punishment to 2nd graders!!

These are some examples of the lessons in the books from which the teachers teach.  


In Grade 5 math, I had to teach fractions.  Teacher Dennis was going to teach adding fractions, but I had a sneaky suspicion that the kids did not truly understand basic fractions.  I was right! :)  The first thing I did was tear a piece of paper in "half" unequally in front of them, and we talked about equal and unequal.  Next, I folded one equally, tore it down the middle, and asked how much each person would get (half).  They could not tell me!  We went back to the basics.  I had visual picture representations that I had made the night before, and I was so glad.  They really needed the visuals!  I hoped that Teacher Dennis could see the benefit in using the models and making meaning out of what they were doing instead of just learning the steps to adding and subtracting fractions.  

In Grade 4, I taught number patterns in math.  We discussed vocabulary and did several examples together.  I had patterns on sentence strips that we matched to the "rules" together.  I gave them some to work on independently, and I gave them a "challenge" question to work on at the end.  They are not used to this at all!  They ALL want to get every single answer correct, and it was hard for them to understand that I just wanted them to try and that it was okay if they did not get it.  

They were all SO engaged for a solid 30 minutes working on 4 number patterns I gave them.  It was so eye-opening to me!  They could not see the pattern of adding/subtracting 10.  They had to make tick marks in their books to help them count.  I showed them how to look at the number line above the white board and use it, and we talked about how easy it is to add/subtract ten.  They were really thinking and learning, and I LOVED it!  One sweet boy at the front of the room worked SO hard on the challenge question.  He finally got it, and I have never seen a smile so big.  I gave him a high-five. He loved it and was proud of himself!  As he walked out the door that day, I patted him on the back and told him how great he did and how proud I was.  This whole lesson was very rewarding as a teacher, especially a math teacher.  I loved seeing them have to actually think, problem-solve, and use number concepts instead of just rote memorization.  They were actually learning! :)  
Another lesson I did that day was on the importance of livestock.  It was a review, and I had them work with a group to match the livestock with the reason it was important.  
It was such a simple activity, but they had to talk with each other and engage more than just copying it down in their exercise books like they are used to.  They love working together, and they were so proud when they would call me over to check their work.  

 Allison did not have such a good day in Grade 1, however.  She had been having a very rough time with a student named Isaac.  He had been disruptive, pushed, punched, threw things out the window, etc.  He reminded me of a student I had last year.  People assume that because we were in Africa and school is such a privilege that you don't have behavior problems.  We learned that KIDS ARE KIDS!  In fact, some of these students have problems because of where they came from.  This day, Allison had to walk Isaac home because he would not leave school.  He got very frustrated with her when she tried to take his hand away from punching the older boy who was carrying him, and he bit her.  She was upset, and it was a very rough day.  As a teacher, it is easy to lose your patience in situations like this.  Then you hear his story.  He has 2 brothers, and they were basically all on their own.  Whomever they were living with only gave Isaac beer to drink from the time he was 2, and he was addicted when he arrived at Tree of Life.  The oldest brother was at Tree of Life also, but he ran away at 14 to be married.  That really put things into perspective.  These kids come from hard, hard backgrounds.  Sometimes this is reflected in their behaviors at school.  

One of the things I say often:  Kids need (and crave) structure and love.  To me, it is the two most important things in a classroom.  That's exactly what little Isaac needed.  He came up to Allison later in a different setting and said, "Teacher Allison I love you."  It doesn't get better than that.  

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