How did the students react to your classroom? Were they engaged? Did they listen and behave? How did you capture their attention?
Our first class session teaching the kids was definitely a learning experience. My partner, Leo, and I didn’t really know what we were doing at first – Luckily the kids were very well behaved in our first session because they had not become comfortable with us yet. In later class sessions, the kids had become comfortable with us being there and really looked forward to us coming, so they got more rambunctious as time progressed.
We started the class by re-introducing ourselves. We spontaneously decided to spell out our names on the board and the kids had a really good time trying to guess how to spell my last name (Pflug). They had a lot of questions for us, like how old we were, what our middle names were, what were our favorite colors, how tall we were, etc. We answered their questions so they could get to know us better. We then did our Junior Achievement activities, and found that they took far longer than we expected. The teacher gave us tips during our session. For example, some of the kids were getting mad that we weren’t calling on everyone equally (we were only calling on the people who raised their hands) so the teacher showed us where she had a basket of sticks with the kids names on them. Pulling sticks out of the basket made things go much more smoothly.
The kids seemed to really enjoy us being there, because they listened (as well as first graders can listen) and interacted with us. During our activities, class participation was really good and they enthusiastically raised their hands and called out things. In order to capture their attention, we used some of the same methods that the teacher used, like “Give me five” where the kids held 5 fingers in the air and would settle down. We tried to make the activities as fun and interactive as possible by getting the kids to participate.
Did they appreciate the fact that you spoke to them in Spanish? When were you able to tell?
We actually did not speak to our class in Spanish; a majority of the class is Haitian and their parents immigrated to the US. They would not have understood Spanish. The kids could communicate effectively in English but had trouble with spelling so we modified our lesson plans to accommodate this.
What was the most difficult part of this first class? Do you have any apprehensions now? How do you feel about the next class? If given a chance, what would you have done differently?
The most difficult part was figuring out how the classroom worked. Once we were able to use some of the same techniques that the teacher used, we could better manage the kids. To improve the first class, It would have been better to do half of the activities that the Junior Achievement course materials suggested because it simply took far more time than expected.
I was surprised by how active the class was. It was impossible for everyone to be seated at the same time; some would be so excited that they would get out of their chairs and stand, some would sit on the floor, others would come to the front to be closer to us, while others would get up in the middle of the lessons to stand next to us and ask us random questions. It was very cute, and actually didn’t disrupt class as much as I would expect. The first grader’s attention spans were short, and having them all in their seats was far too much trouble than it was worth.