Thursday, March 18, 2010

week 10

I have been so exhausted this week. I feel like I have lost all energy. I am really starting to feel like going home and now that I know it is approaching I am just anxious about it. We had a four day week since on Wednesday there was a Lenten retreat for the teachers. This week I am teaching a math unit on plane shapes. The children already know many of these shapes which are circle, rectangle, square, triangle, diamond, star,semi circle and kite. So on Monday I just drew each shape and reviewed with them. Then I had the children come up and match the word to the picture of the shape. For the homework assignment they just named each shape and for classwork they practiced drawing the shapes in their math workbooks. On Tuesday the students did phonics and learned 3 letter words with short vowel 'o'. I created their homework and classwork for this lesson. They just had to fill in missing letters to make short vowel 'o' words. Today the students had math again, and they just went more in depth with their descriptions of the shapes. This time for homework they had to draw each shape under the given name. For Friday, I plan to do a making words activity with them so they can start sounding out each letter to make words. The students will get cut outs of different letters. Then I will say a word out loud and the students will have to make the words.

This weekend I just plan to finish up with some shopping and maybe visit the top university in Ghana. I am also learning how to cook more of the meals here so I can make them at home.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week 9

So I can't believe it but I have only this week and next week left at the school. I have not even told the kids yet that I will be leaving very soon. It is going to make me really sad to say goodbye. I know the kids have enjoyed me in their classroom. They are always crowding around my desk and hanging on me during their break times. They always have something to say about me being white. Like one little girl said she saw my mother in church and I said to her that it could not have been my mother since she is in America. So I explained to the little girl that just because the lady was white does not mean that she is my mother. I have heard several stories like this during my time with the students.

As for teaching this week it was only a three day week so we did not teach any new material. We did all review since the kids need a good solid foundation of the concepts they are currently learning. They reviewed subtraction and the creating of rhyming words. I specifically taught the children the song "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" and then I asked the students if they could recognize any rhyming words. I also took the students through their morning assembly where they pray, say the pledge, sing the national anthem, and then do a proper greeting. What I mean by a proper greeting is the teacher says good morning to the class and the students curtsey or bow while saying "good morning teachers, good morning friends." Then the teachers says "how are you?" and the students curtsey or bow while saying "we are fine and you?" When it was my chance to say back that I was also fine I also curtsied to the class which made them laugh since the teachers do not do that.

Since the school is a catholic school they teach religious education. It is usually the telling of a bible story and then the students draw a picture of the story. The teachers usually draw a picture or have a poster of the particular story. Somehow I am now the designated drawer of religious pictures. My first question was what color do I make Jesus? Whites have made Jesus white, while here in Ghana (as with Santa Claus) Jesus is black. So I took the middle road, making him look like how people of the middle east look today. I have a schedule of the stories they will tell in the next couple of weeks.

This weekend I went to cape coast where I walked across the canopy of the rainforest at Kakum National Park. All I could wonder was how on earth did they build the bridge since it was so high. I guess one man used a bow and arrow to shoot a rope to each tree and they built platforms around each tree this way. Then I also went to Elmina Castle which is an old slave port. It was really sad. The conditions of how these people were treated was really terrible. They would bring us to one small dark room and tell you that it was a dungeon where slaves that misbehaved would be locked up until they starved to death. We had even planned to go to Cape Coast Castle another slave port where Barack Obama went this past summer, but one place like this was enough for one day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Week 7 & 8

The internet has been down at the school this past week so I decided that I would just take a week off. But now that I know my mom is passing my blog link onto people, I will try to make the blog more interesting. The amount of teaching that I am doing has increased, I am teaching daily now and am involved in my usual tasks like drawing lines, passing out the lunch, and assisting students around the room. Some of things I taught this past week are short 'i' rhyming words, English (reading of basic nouns), and I taught a unit on light in environmental studies. For this I presented the children with pictures of different sources of light both artificial and natural. Then in groups I had the students explain an activity they could do with that light source. Then we categorized each type of light as either artificial or natural. This week we talked about the dangers of handling certain light sources and what could happen if we mishandled them for instance burns and fire outbreaks. I taught them about stop, drop, and roll, but with a class of 43 I could not have all of them do this so I had one student demonstrate. Then I taught them a song about fire that the head teacher knew. I am still feeling like I need more support from the other teachers when I am teaching. I know that I entered into a dysfunctional classroom with a struggling mentality of collaboration. This has made my experience very difficult because even though I have asked for help I am not getting the support I need.

After teaching reading this week, I decided that I would assess the students individually since they only read as a whole class. It took the whole day to have each student read two short passages that they had read the day before as a whole class. It really made me realize how many children can be left behind in such a large crowd. All I did was mark the words that were read incorrectly so I knew how many total words were read correctly. Some of the children could not even get through the first and shorter passage. I had planned that after reading I would have the students answer one comprehension question. If the student could not read the passage then I would read it for them while tracking the print and then ask the question.

This Friday we have parent teacher conferences which will be interesting since it is my first one from the teachers perspective. I really want to encourage parents to check and sign their children's homework. Many parents it seems take advantage of the fact that they are sending their children to one of the best schools in Ghana and then think they do not have to be involved in their child's education.

Since it is the midterm, we will be off of school on Monday and Tuesday. It is also independence day this weekend. So I am going to a celebration at the botanical gardens just outside of Accra. Otherwise I just hope to do some shopping and go to the pool since I will be leaving in just about 3 weeks time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week 6

So this week has been better in terms of teaching. I had a couple of opportunities to teach this week. I taught environmental studies on the topic of making water clean. The students and I discussed ways which we clean water, by boiling or filtering. I had a water bottle of clean water and a bottle of dirty water. I pretended like I was really thirsty and I grabbed the bottle of dirty water. I told the students I was going to take a drink and they shouted no. I asked why should I not drink this water? They gave reasons and then I said there are ways to make this water clean so I can drink it. Since we could not boil water in the room we looked at a picture in the students book on what water looks like when it is boiling and that boiling kills the germs/bacteria in the water. Then I did a demonstration of how to filter water. I got a beaker and some filter paper from the science department. After the water went through the filter I took it around to each table and had the students observe the leftover dirt. The students then drew a picture in their workbooks of what a clean glass of water looked like.

I did some teaching in phonics as well. I taught on short vowel 'i'. This lesson was challenging for me because one teacher was gone for the day and the other kept leaving the classroom. Without another teacher there I really have a difficult time with the students. I was just beginning a bad cold and was not in the mood to be talking loudly over them. But the lesson really consisted of the students reading two and three letter words from phonics textbook. Then I wrote on the board words with one letter missing so they could fill it in to make words with short 'i'. When the teacher came back we basically cotaught this lesson since the students did not feel like listening.

This week I also reviewed the writing of numerals and of comparison. For both these, we went through some exerises in the students' math workbook. They completed four pages on the writing of numerals. Then they completed two pages on comparing pictures of items and numbers by filling in greater, less than, or equals sign.

Since the assistant teacher in the classroom was gone one day, I was responsible for the lunch count. I had to collect the students' lunch coupons and write down their selections for lunch and snack. So I am beginning to have more responsiblities which is nice.

This weekend I will be going to the beach and just relaxing since the weekend goes by so fast.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

week 5

This week has been a little frustrating for me. I have not done much teaching and so I had to go talk to the assistant headmistress, who handles more of the academic side of the school. My cooperating teacher has difficulty with vision and I do not think she has been able to fully read the packet I gave her. Therefore I do not think she knows exactly what I am required to do. I have tried starting conversations with her about making a schedule and teaching, but she only seems interested in having me bring lessons in from the outside and not teach within their curriculum. I want to be teaching the curriculum on a regular basis so I had to do something about this problem. The woman I spoke to knows very well what I am here for and so she immediatley told the assistant teacher in my room to get me more involved by making a plan. I already feel better about it since we sat down and looked over the curriculum this afternoon.

Other than this, I taught a math lesson this week. I basically went through a couple of pages of the math workbook with the class. They are starting to learn simple addition, so along with the addition problems the book provided pictures of objects. Not having a real plan is bothering me because I end up teaching these little lessons with no preparation and I know that I could create more intriguing lessons with just a little more time. I have also done a ton of correcting. It is exhausting because their are so many children and you have to call them back to correct their mistakes. While your calling the kids back you have other students who are being naughty or coming up to you with quesitons. My patience has been really tested at times. One day, I was just so stressed by it, but the next day I went in with the attitude to just be as kind and understanding with children as I could be. I basically just was refusing to lose my cool with them since it does not make the situation any better.

I did a little with the sense of smell, having students color a picture that had good smells and bad smells. The students then had to cross out the things that smelled bad. I am hoping to continue on with the sense of taste next week. I have also had the opportunity to read a lot to the students this week and they really enjoy it. I have also taught a lot of children individually this week. Some of the students who struggle seem to have been given up on. I take those students back by my desk to try and get them to understand. Some of the students who see me helping others try to come up to me for the answers though.

Friday is a half day and there will be a teachers meeting in the afternoon. I have yet to experience something like this so I am looking forward to it.

As for the weekend, I am going to go to the gravesite of the first president of ghana after independence. I will also do a little shopping at the market.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Week 4

So this week I began teaching a unit on the five senses. I found a big book in the library about five senses so I used that as my introduction to the unit. After reading, we talked about what part of the body we use for each sense and as we spoke I wrote the sense and part on the board. To close the lesson I had the students match each sense in writing to a picture of the part of the body. I wanted to keep the lesson pretty short since I have not had too many opportunities to teach them. I would say overall it went rather well. I know to some degree the students will not behave while I am teaching because they will not behave for any of the teachers, but with the help of the other teachers they will help me keep them in line. The second day we reviewed what was learned the day before and we talked about how we can enjoy each sense. For instance, one of the girls said she could smell stew cooking. After providing examples for each sense, I told the students they should pick one of the senses and draw a picture of how they enjoy that particular sense. I modeled an example of how I use the sense of sight to enjoy the view of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. The lesson went well my only problem was that the students keep getting out of their seats even after I repeatedly tell them not to. The students either come up to me with a question or they want to show me their work. I do not know how to get them to stop doing this! It is not that I do not want to help them or that I do not care about their work, but while so much is going on it becomes overwhelming. The next day I concentrated only on the sense of smell. I wrapped gum, cookie, soap, lemon, garlic, onion, and pineapple in foil and numbered them. I had the students smell and guess what the scent was. The first attempt at this was done right at the end of the day and ended with the children just being completely out of control. I stopped and decided that I would attempt to try the activity the next day. It went better the second time around but the students would get so excited to smell the items that it got pretty crazy at times with students getting out of their seats. One boy while smelling the cookie attempted to take a bite out of the foil wrapped cookie. He was removed from the activity and so was the cookie. I then gave the students a worksheet on good smells and bad smells. There pictures of about 12 items and the students would circle the happy or sad face depending on how they thought the item smelled. Next week I will be teaching about the sense of taste. I going to have the children taste foods and identify whether the food is salty, sour, bitter, or sweet. I will also read books about the sense of taste and have the students complete a worksheet.

I also had the opportunity to teach English this week. I went through a couple pages of the exercise book with the students. The first page they would fill in the missing letter of the word. The second page they would write the word and for the third page they would match a picture of the object to the word. I feel like I have been able to teach more this week which is good. I have also taken part in the usual activities like creating the homework assignment, drawing lines in the students' books, and grading work.

This weekend I will be attending a funeral. I even got a black and white traditional outfit made. I will be traveling about two hours out of Accra, which will be my first time out of the city. I am some what nervous for the funeral since the woman died on December 6th and is being buried two months later. I guess things just take longer here, so they keep the bodies in the morgue for an extended amount of time.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Week 3 Last Week of January

The time is really going so fast. I cannot believe that my second week is already over. The week went alright. I was not feeling well which I think was a combination of dehydration, a cold, and stress from the atmosphere of the classroom. I bought some medicine for the cold and doubled the amount of water I am drinking so I am feeling better now. As for the stress, I am just trying to accept the conditions of the classroom. The children are a little out of control and it seems there is not one moment that passes where one of the students is not doing something naughty. I tried recommending to the teachers that we change the set up of the desks because they are in groups which I think is making them talk more. They hardly do group work so that configuration is not needed really anyway. I feel like some management practices could be implemented and consistently practiced, but the only thing that is being done is an increased use of the cane. I think this is only a temporary fix of the problem and does not really teach the children how to behave. Even though I am saying these things, I think I am becoming more accustomed to the situation.
Another thing that is slightly disappointing is that I really did not do any teaching this week. I am feeling like the head teacher really does not understand what my purpose is at the school. It is like they are using me to do the dirty work, like draw lines in the notebooks. I understand it is part of the process, but it should not be the only thing I am doing. I tried to start conversations with her about making a weekly plan or what I could be teaching, but she does not seem to understand. Just so that I could get myself teaching I told her about a backward design unit I planned on the five senses and she said I could start teaching it on Monday. At least I will be teaching now, but I am going to talk to the assistant headmistress this week about it.
One thing that I did this week was corrected math and phonics class work and homework. What I did was correct the work and then called the students back to my desk to make corrections. I also created two homework assignments for phonics. Right now they are learning how to read and spell three letter words with short vowel ‘e’. So for the first assignment I wrote about 15 three letter words on the board leaving a blank where the ‘e’ would go in the word. For example, I wrote b_t and the students would have to copy it into their homework book and then fill it in with an ‘e’. For the second assignment I did the same thing as the first, but had the students fill in the missing letter to create a word. For example, I wrote he_ (hem/her) or _eg (beg/peg). The students this week learned about the union of sets in math and I had brought a math story book from home called Seaweed Soup that talked about sets so I read that to the them. Then I drew out the sets that were mentioned in the book and we counted them as a class. In addition, I passed out the hot lunches this week and supervised the lunch time while the two other teachers went to receive their pay and have a brief meeting.

For now, I am beginning to plan for this coming week. I will do an introduction to the five senses on Monday and Tuesday. This will include the reading of a story about the five senses, singing songs, and learning about which body part goes with each sense by completing a matching worksheet. I may do a popcorn activity that will allow the students to make observations through their senses. I will also have them make a five senses book if I can find enough materials that they can glue into the book. For the remaining 3 days I will cover the sense of smell. For this sense the students will watercolor with scented jello mix and water. They will do a matching scents activity where they will have to match the scents of the same items. They will also complete a worksheet on identifying good and bad smelling odors. That is all I have planned for now, but I look forward to really getting involved with the children.