Thursday, October 16, 2014

Similarities & Differences

I have been trying to pick out and observe what is similar between the classrooms here and the ones I have worked in in the U.S. and what is different.  Keep in mind that this is a private, semi-Americanized school, I am not sure what public schools are like in Costa Rica.  This is what I have found:

Similarities

  • They use curriculum guided books for Math, English, and Social Studies.  These books come from publishers in the United States (at least Math and English do, the Social Studies is all in Spanish, I haven't looked to see where they come from.  I just happened to notice that the Math and English series are ones I have seen used in the states).
  • A lot of the resources that teachers use are common from home too.  For example, teacherspayteachers.com, abcteach.com, etc.
  • The standards/benchmarks appear to be similar for the grades here as they are in the United States.  I think this is big in part to the fact that they use U.S. curriculum.
  • My students do mad minutes (aka rocket math, timed math facts, etc) here just as every classroom I have been in at home does.
  • The general way things are run is pretty similar.  The teacher teaches, the students listen, they do whole groups stuff, stations, modeling, guided practice...


Differences

  • They wear uniforms.  This is probably partially due to being a private school and I know schools in the U.S. wear uniforms, just none that I have worked in.  They wear a white polo with their school logo on it, navy blue pants/shorts, navy blue socks, and black shoes everyday.  The only exception (outside of spirit days, special days, etc.) is on the day they have Physical Education in which they wear a yellow t-shirt with their school logo on it and navy athletic-type bottoms (leggings, running shorts, etc.).
  • Class sizes are smaller here.  I have 23 students in my class but we have a large class.  I know many other primary classes have less than 20 students in them.
  • The whole school (ages 3-18) follows the same block schedule.  The bell rings outside every forty minutes; at this point the whole school switches classes.  Primary grades stay in their classrooms (unless they have a special) but switch subjects.  That being said, sometimes we will have two blocks worth of a subject.  There are three schedule breaks throughout the day.  Two-15 minute ones (one in the afternoon, one in the morning) and one-40 minutes one for lunch.  During this time students can eat snacks/lunch or play with their friends.  
  • Also, the classes during each period are different everyday.  Sometimes we have Spanish right away in the morning, sometimes we have English, sometimes math..it changes every day.
  • The students are also done at different times depending on the day.  Sometimes they are done at 1:05, sometimes they are done at 2:40.  I am done by 1:05 every day since my cooperating teacher doesn't every teach the classes after that.  Except on Wednesdays I am done at 12:30 since my teacher doesn't teach anymore after that.
  • We do not walk the class to their specials/lunch.  When class/break is over, they go to where ever they need to be next.  This was so strange to me when I first got here.  I can't imagine just letting a third grade class leave back home and expecting them to get to Music class quietly and on time or to remember to eat lunch during their recess/lunch break.
  • The whole lunch setup is different too.  Students can choose whatever they want and then pay for it depending on what they got.  I have found that most students bring lunch however.  They all have access to microwaves too.  I often see students hanging out during recess snacking on bags of microwave popcorn.
  • There is so much outdoor space for students to roam.  As soon as you exit the classroom, you are on a balcony outdoors.  The windows in the classrooms actually open to the outdoors as well.  The fresh air feels fantastic.
In case my blabbering confused you, this is my schedule every week.

Obviously my list of differences is longer than my similarities, although things seem to be fairly similar here.  I think it's just easier to notice the differences because they stand out more from things I already see everyday in the classrooms back home.  I am sure I will mention more in future blog posts as they occur to me, but I think this is a pretty good list for anyone wanting to know what my school here is like.

Among other things, today I did the dictation for my class.  Dictation is basically their spelling list.  I give them five of their words to spell, then I give them five sentences to write that also each include a spelling word, then I give them a sentence but leave the spelling word out and they have to figure it out and write it, THEN I give them four more spelling words and they have to write sentences using those words, and LASTLY, I give them a spelling word which they write and then provide a definition for.  My teacher is having me do all of their listening activities as she thinks it is good for them to hear English from a native speaker.  I definitely agree with her but its weird to me because sometimes they get so confused with what I am saying since I don't share the same accent as them.

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