The focus of the Cambridge Schools Experience program for undergraduates is to observe, practice, and reflect on effective strategies for teaching literacy. Additionally, because we are in a completely new environment, we must also take the cultural differences and differences of the school systems and curriculum into consideration. Some key things that I have noticed throughout my time in the primary school here are:
- Children start school earlier than we do in the states (“Reception” begins at 4 years old, Year 1 students are 5-6 y/o, Year 2 students are 6-7 y/o, etc).
- Students do a LOT of reading and writing throughout the school day.
- The writing is integrated in other subject areas, such as maths, geography, religion, science, etc. Children do not realize how much writing they are actually doing because it is fun and interesting!
- The children’s reading levels are so incredibly high compared to what I am used to. Their vocabulary is outstanding; six year old students are coached to improve their writing by adding action verbs, adjectives, and adverbs such as “ferocious,” “marveled,” “surprisingly,” “emerged,” etc.
Another thing I have noticed is that we have different children’s books. Of course we have the same classics, such as Winnie the Pooh, the Hungry Caterpillar, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but what about the rest? The UK, and any of other country outside of the continental US for that matter, has their own authors, illustrators, and publishers. Therefore, there are some really amazing children’s books in stores here that I will not be able to find in Barnes and Noble back home. Naturally, my friends and I ventured to the cutest children’s book store in Cambridge, Heffer’s (actually more than once this week) and spent hours in the children’s corner reading picture books. Here area. few that I have picked up for my future classroom:
Fitz and Will: The Graduation Adventure is part of a series from a local author of Cambridge. The plot runs through the events of a St. John’s University graduation, something we we’re able to witness ourselves throughout our journey!
Definitely one of my favorites, The Bear and the Pianofollowed by The Bread and the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle. The first text teaches a lesson about friendship and never forgetting where you come from and the second is a continuation from the perspective of a man and his little dog friend.
No Longer Alone talks about feelings children may have after experiencing a loss and ways you can handle those feelings. While this can be an emotional read, I definitely think it is important for children to hear, especially as some of you students may have experienced death or loss in their lives already. Children’s books do not always have to be funny, the most important part of a good children’s book is it’s lesson.
On a lighter note, Hair Love goes through the story of a dad trying to style his daughter’s crazy, curly hair. Sometimes dads have to play the role of mom, chef, hairdresser, stylist, and dad all at the same time if mom is not around. This is an outstanding book to incorporate cultural diversity into your classroom.
If All the World were…is another beautiful, but heart-wrenching story written in poetic verses about a little girl who relives all of her favorite memories of her grandad in her dreams. Again, although it can be a sad topic, it is important; it is brightened up by the colorful pictures and important lesson of teaching children how to cope with the loss of someone important in their lives. Additionally, this is another book that features diversity, I find it very hard to find such well writtendiverse children’s books in the US. We always want all of our students to feel represented in the classroom and through books is a great place to start.
Somebody Swallowed Stanley is a fun book that follows the journey of a plastic bag where he doesn’t belong: in the ocean. Through this adventurous story you can introduce important global topics to children at a young age to make them more aware of their environment in hopes that they will be the voice of the next generation.