After the experience: What I learned.

After coming home and talking to family and friends about my experience abroad and in the schools at Cambridge, I was ale to reflect on some of the teaching styles and approaches I learned while in the field. If you did not see my first post, I was placed in a mixed Year 1/2 classroom. Our school was the largest of the four in the program and after being part of the school family for the past month I can most definitely say I picked up on a few of their teaching beliefs, have put them into practice in my time there, and understand the theory behind them. Below are a few of the teaching strategies I learned from my mentors abroad that I would like to bring into my own classroom someday.

1. Framing your answer”

Framing your answer is a school-wide procedure practiced in the classroom and throughout the rest of the school day to encourage students to speak in complete sentences. An example of this would be if the teacher asks, “Who invented electricity?” The proper answer with framing your answer would be, “The person who invented electricity was Thomas Edison,” or “Thomas Edison invented electricity,” opposed to just saying “Thomas Edison.” Over my time in the school I realized that this procedure has many positive effects on the students. First of all and most importantly, having the students speak in complete sentences more often will improve their verbal and written grammar skills. Secondly, the students will sound more intelligent and their ideas sound more put together when they frame their answers. Additionally, I noticed this procedure also really helped other students in the class, specifically those who’s attention may have drifted for a moment, to help them get on track. If they hear a response in a full sentence rather than just a word or phrase, they are more likely to be able to cognitively join back into the discussion.

2. Dual Coding

Dual Coding is a teaching technique that connects the usage of written text and visuals. The educator behind this theory believes that students are not just one specific “type of learner,” such as a visual learner or auditory learner, rather they believe all students can learn through two channels of the brain: the visual and auditory channels. By introducing and teaching students to recognize information in both written form and picture form, students should be able to connect either the words or images to the information they learned about that topic. See the examples below:

When students see the first image (top left) they should be able to connect the letter “w” with the image to come up with the answer “windmill” and jog their memory of what they know about the windmill as a source of energy.
The sketch notes are displayed around he room on “working walls” for students to be able to use during activities to help them remember the content and be able to use it in conversation.
There is a working wall for each subject displayed around the room.

This technique is also very useful for English Language Learners, students with learning disabilities, and students who struggle with reading. If vocabulary is always written in lists or read out of a book, it could be difficult for them to be able to memorize the content as well as read the words. Whereas if the information is given to them in different mediums, they can focus on remembering the content linked to that image rather than trying to focus on letters, words, and content. While an English Language Learner may not be able to read from a text book, if you show them a picture of a battery circuit that they have been showed many times repeatedly throughout the unit, there is a greater possibility they will be able to verbally explain the process to you using the connections they made between that image the information they were taught.

3. Integrating writing skills across different subjects

One thing I noticed different from this school and the school I was used to in the United States was that this school had a different schedule everyday with different length blocks whereas my school in the United States had a strict schedule that was the same every day of the week. There are pros and cons to both layouts, however, I noticed that in this school, to make up for time they missed in other subjects, they would integrate the different subjects. In the example below, the teacher uses a music lesson on rhythm to practice the writing skills they had just learned, comparing and contrasting.

While studying abroad, it can be difficult for some to focus on their studies while surrounded by all the excitement of a new environment around them. However, you have to remember the main reason you are there in the first place: the learn. I’m thankful to have had this learning experience that will be more than beneficial to my career path. 🙂

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