Placement has officially begun. I’m one week in and so far I’m surviving…
This week I’ve mainly been observing and working with small groups to allow me to settle in and get to the know the class (I’m with a fantastic year 5 class). This has been incredibly beneficial but settling in slowly has been difficult for me to get my head round. I’m a worrier by nature and the 4 folders full of paper work that needs to be completed are already weighing on my mind. I’ve been reassured it will all come together, but I can’t help but panic that I won’t be doing enough, and I’ll not find out until the end of my placement! I know this is irrational, and I’m hoping as I get familiar with what’s required I’ll start to relax a little bit more. My mentor has been fantastic at putting me at ease though.
During my observations this week I’ve already seen so many things that I know I want to implement in the future, like working walls. I’m a creative person, and used to naively believe that my classroom would be full of beautiful, elaborate displays to wow the children. However now my opinion on displays has completely changed. What is the point of everything looking pretty if it doesn’t aid the children’s learning? In my class I’ve seen some fantastic working displays where the teacher has been adding to them throughout the term, following on with what the children are doing in their lesson. There are also interactive displays which the children can use day to day during lessons. One I particularly liked was a thesaurus wall where the children could come up and take a laminated synonym for words like big, old or small. The class teacher explained that this would help children who are less likely to use thesauruses.
Another great idea I’ve seen is challenges on the working walls. The children come in at the start of the day and choose to either read, or complete a challenge. If they get it right and can explain their process they receive a raffle ticket (the class reward system. Tickets are drawn on a Friday for prizes) There is always a crowd around the maths and literacy challenge in the morning, and by ensuring the children are explaining their thinking the teacher can challenge and develop their understanding of the problem at hand.
Differentiation. This is a scary word that this week has seemed a lot easier to tackle. The class I’m in has no table names (something I hadn’t seen before) and the children are only seated by ability for maths and English. For the rest of the sessions they sit in seats they chose at the beginning of the year. Because of this there is no clear ‘lowers’ table or ‘highers’ table…something I am loving. It may be because I’m new to the class, but I get the sense that the group has a good sense of equality and community, with no one singled out as the low achiever, or the trouble maker. Hopefully this continues!
I am also seeing children being able to select their own challenges, rather then be given different work to do. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but from what I have seen, this can be very effective. For example the children were working on retelling a classic story (Robin Hood) in a comic strip style. All children were working on the same template and to differentiate the teacher told the whole class certain grammatical techniques she would like them to try and include. It was not stated that this challenge was only meant for certain children, so anyone could attempt it. Obviously certain children would not try this in their work, and thus they were able to differentiate themselves, with adults encouraging individuals, based on their attainment level. I really like the idea of children being able to choose their own challenge and take ownership of their learning. I’ve seen very little of this, but what I have experienced has been very positive.
I’m already feeling the stress and fatigue of placement (which I’m sure is showing in this rambly blog post) I’ve been so lucky with the school I’ve been placed in, but there is still so much to get my head!. Next week I have my first meeting with my mentor, I’ll be meeting with my visiting tutor and may even be teaching one afternoon. I have a feeling each week is going to bring new, daunting challenges…I just hope I can keep up.