Monday, June 13, 2016

Teaching the Teachers

Originally Posted: July 13, 2016
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What an adventurous few days!  The typhoon ended up being a bust.  It broke up when it hit the coast, however they had already canceled school for Sunday (The work week at this school is Sunday-Thursday).  This offered us quite a bit of free time, though, which is always nice.  With the nice weather and time off work, it was difficult for me to find time to blog, but I want to finish writing about my experience with the Chinese teachers last week.
My favorite lesson of the week was when I taught the Chinese teachers how to run guided math groups with independent centers in the background.
When I planned this lesson, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  This style of teaching was completely foreign to the Chinese teachers.  Even in this progressive private school, much of the instruction is still completed through teacher directed lectures.  They were absolutely fascinated by the idea of guided math groups and having the opportunity to pinpoint and remediate struggling students.
 The teachers’ concerns were similar to American teacher concerns:
“I have too many kids to make this work”
“I don’t have time in my schedule for this”
I promised them their fears could be put to rest as I took them through the lesson, though.  I decided to model centers the same way I run my language arts centers.  I began by very clearly reviewing the directions for all of the centers and going over the materials needed to complete them.  After I went through all 4 centers, I announced that I would be calling small groups to the front in order to work with me on a new skill.  At this time I allowed them to begin their center work, giving them free reign in deciding which centers to complete first, as long as they were all completed at the end and everyone was working nicely.  Needless to say, the teachers had a BLAST with the center activities.  There were all types of games, which the Chinese teachers said they have been wanting to incorporate more, but were unsure how.  Many of the teachers even kept working on the centers during their break time!  The idea of review games seemed to be a blossoming concept for them. They know about them and want to use them, but were unsure of how or where to begin.
I ended up showing the class www.teacherspayteachers.com as well.  They were amazed at the free resources on the site, they only issue was English translations, which would be minimal for math activities as numbers are universal.
In addition to loving the center activities, the teachers were blown away with my small group lesson, which was using base ten blocks to multiply on place value charts.  The first time I modeled the problem, you would have thought I was up front performing magic!  They were mesmerized with the base ten blocks, which were a completely new concept for the teachers.  Through discussions, I learned that they really don’t use manipulatives for much of anything.  Everything is written and memorized.  There were many questions about how well my students understand the multiplication concept when I teach them using the base ten blocks..  They were surprised to hear that it is extremely common for manipulatives to be used in elementary classrooms.
I really believe this lesson inspired the teachers.  They were able to see it in action and hear my tips of making centers work.  By the end, many teachers seemed like they were interested in trying it in their own classroom, which was extremely exciting for me to see.
This also happened to be the final day of my instruction with the teachers.  They made me feel so appreciated as they all clapped for me several times and collectively asked me to return next summer.  This first week with the teachers was truly remarkable.  I loved every minute of collaborating and comparing life as teachers from different parts of the world.  Something tells me this will not be my last time working with the Greentown school.
At the end I asked them what makes them a unique teacher.  I thought their answers were very inspiring.  Check out their work below:


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