Even though it is the middle of Winter, we are in what is called Spring Term. This term is broken up into two, 5 week sessions, with a one week break in between. All Fulbright teachers over here have commented to one another how we much prefer the frequent breaks throughout the year, even though we know we are teaching until mid-July. It is much easier for me to plan two, 5 week sessions, than it is one long 10 week session. I cut out all the filler and stay on my curriculum targets much easier since there is no wiggle room or extra time to get something finished. You get it done!
This term has a slew of new curriculum strands for me to both teach and to learn about. For four weeks I am teaching swimming! The second part of swimming will be held during the summer term. Our school, Years 1-5, go to the swimming baths every Monday. Year 6 stays back at school for test preparation. All students are ability grouped, and everyone is learning how to swim. I am teaching nine students, all first time swimmers. I do not get in the pool with them, rather I encourage being comfortable putting their faces under water, basic kicking and breathing techniques, and trying to get them to work on a front crawl. My group has kids from Years 1-3 in it. They are a sweet bunch and I hope that my methods are more encouraging than discouraging.
The other part of PE right now is Kurling, which is like the Olympic event but played on wooden floors with stones on ball bearings. This is being taught by college teachers (high school) at the Village Hall. Lots of fun. I even get to take 8 students to a Kurling tournament in two weeks. I wish I could take my whole class but can only select 4 boys and 4 girls. I found out that Annika will be participating from her school so it will be exciting for both of us to be at something so unique.
In science I am teaching about rocks and soils, which is similar to Portland’s third grade curriculum. Again I am not using any sort of science kit, rather I have a list of suggested learning activities and some set learning objectives. Luckily we have some rocks and soils at school, and some of the supplies needed for exploring them. Last Friday students were testing rocks, including permeability and durability. It was funny to watch kids, with mini hammers, pound away at stones trying to break them. Of course the clay and sandstone crushed, but the marble held pretty firm. It was very loud in the classroom but not a single student was disengaged. Luckily no fingers were smashed during the experiments!
Soon I will be teaching sewing skills as part of Design and Technology. We will be making money containers, and using different materials I will teach them how to sew about 3-4 different kinds of stitches, as well as sewing buttons. I am collecting sew-on patches from various places I have visited and sewing them onto my Fulbright bag, so they already see that I have some skills. Currently I have mastered the running stitch and the back stitch. I need to learn about two more before I teach the unit. This unit will take up the bulk of one week, so we will be sewing pretty much all day for about 2-3 days. That week is also SAT practice (testing), so it is a good week to spend time sewing.
After mid-term break I will begin a unit on Ancient Egypt, which will include a field trip to a museum in Leicester which has a very large Egyptian collection. I think we will create our own classroom museum of objects, with me as curator, and have the school come through and learn about our artifacts.
Finally for this term I will teach a bit about Geography between Britain and Oregon. We will look at how far apart we are, and what it takes to get from one place to another. I will probably incorporate some computer time and have students research places in Portland and possibly create a travel brochure for someone visiting my city or my state. I am not totally sure what I will do since I only have the internet as a resource. This is part of the Geography curriculum and there is a guide, but again it is two sides of A4 paper with suggested teaching ideas and three specific learning objectives. The freedom to develop from scratch is both a blessing and a curse: it allows for complete freedom and intellect on my part, but it also requires a tremendous amount of time on my part for lessons that will last a total of about 9 hours.
Sprinkle in my French lessons, Recorders (we are doing well here), English, Maths, Religion, Health, and Phonics and this is what I am currently working on in my classroom.