by Carolyn: Yesterday was our third day in elementary schools in Georgia and our first day in the First Experimental in Tbilisi. We spent the day with second, third, and fourth graders. We taught second and third graders how to play a math game based on logic and two classes of fourth graders worked on engineering and testing windmill designs. We also had the opportunity to visit a third grade English class. They were very enthusiastic and excited to sing a few songs in English for us, which was a surprising treat! My cheeks ached from smiling so much. For the windmills, students were very good at improving on their initial designs if they didn’t work. Students were very interested in who could make the windmill that could spin the fastest and definitely had a friendly, competitive spirit. For the logic game, students collaborated in small groups to complete challenging puzzles. We spent time walking around and checking their solutions to the puzzles and there were times where we had difficulty spotting the correct solutions. The students in the classrooms for both the logic game and the windmill engineering lesson did great despite the language barrier and worked very diligently to solve logic puzzles and design successful windmills. It was really enlightening to realize that even though we spoke different languages we were still learning together and building connections.
My research focus for this trip is on students with special needs and use of student thinking in instruction. While instruction for students with special needs is built into Georgia’s national curriculum, it was difficult to see in practice. 90% of students identified with special needs are integrated into general education classrooms. In some of the classrooms, it appeared to us that some students were at a lower level than others, but I couldn’t determine if this was due to a disability or not. For one such student, I did notice the use of preferential seating near the teacher’s desk, which can be used for certain students in American schools as well. Struggling students received extra one-on-one time both from us and from their Georgian classroom teachers.
Evidence of student thinking in instruction was very interesting to observe. It seems that Georgia’s national curriculum is heavily based on practical applications for what is being taught which when implemented often appeared as real life, relatable situations for students. In the First Experimental School we were able to observe some of their math work on the blackboard. Even versus odd numbers were taught using street numbers on houses, something students see in everyday life. Area and perimeter were displayed using a gardening plot and family gardens also seem common in Tbilisi and something familiar to children. Math was made more approachable by using situations accessible to children.
At Buckswood International School, student thinking was very evident in instruction as well. While the math class we observed was primarily review, the nature classes we observed provided many opportunities for us to observe student thinking in instruction. The teacher used a semantic web and asked leading questions to students to help fill in the semantic web. It seemed like the teacher was never inserting her own thoughts into instruction, but rather letting students guide the class discussion. The students were consistently engaged and every single student participated in answering questions and discussing the topic at hand.
In both schools we have been in, the students and teachers both have been passionate and enthusiastic about their schools and education as well as welcoming and informative for us. This has been a truly wonderful experience so far and I am very excited to observe more in classrooms at the First Experimental today. I have learned so much about myself through this experience and I hope to foster the same sense of delight in learning found in both schools in my future classroom!
We'd like to thank the young followers of our blog. They come from Mrs. Holt's first grade class in Raynham, MA, and Mrs. Kunkle's kindergarten class in Plymouth, MA. Mrs. Holt's class put together a slide show of what their classroom looks like for Mrs. Glen to show the Georgian students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDnCJc4sbo0. Mrs. Kunkle's class learned about the location and flag of Georgia from Mr. Parmenter, one of the BSU students on the trip.