Selm Primary is very different and yet similar to the elementary schools in America. Selm Ludgerischule starts with Year 1 (First grade) and ends with Year 4 (Fourth grade). There are three classes within each grade. Each class is represented by a letter, such as 2a, 2b, and 2c. The teacher for each class teaches Deutsch (German), Math, Science/Social Studies, Physical Education, and Religion. The students start learning English during Year 1 in February. Not every teacher teaches English, only a select few do and they rotate between the classes.
The students will typically have two 45 minutes English lessons a week. I have been working with the Year 2, 3 and 4's. I am working in nine different classrooms with about five different teachers. This makes my days fell very hectic, however I am learning to become very flexible and to "think fast on my toes." Many times the teachers and I will not be able to discuss what we will teaching that day until we are walking to the classroom. Just today, I taught four lessons back to back with a 15 minute break in between the second and third lessons. For the first two lessons I was in 2b and 2c teaching about parts of the body, the next lesson I taught 4b about rooms and furniture (which the teacher and I planned the lesson as we walked down the hallway), and then I taught 4c about breakfast foods.
The students do not speak English and I do not speak German. The teachers have to translate for us. However, many times the students and I are able to communicate through body language and visuals. I do feel guilty I did not learn more German before I came here. I understand how my ESL students feel when they come into my classroom. At times, it is hard for me to communicate with my students and answer their questions. The teachers and students are very patient with me to make sure we are able to understand each other.
The teachers have allowed me to co-teach with them and to solo teach many lessons. I have taught lessons on parts of the body, rooms and furniture, breakfast foods, and telling time. Many of these lessons were not as well prepared in advance like I am used to in the states. However, I feel that my lessons have gone very well, and were engaging and interesting for the students. The classrooms do not have the technology like we do in the states. I have learned that teaching without technology can be just as engaging and interesting for the students. I have used many pictures from the resources the teachers have and have incorporated songs (such as "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes") into my lessons. This experience has shown me how flexible I can be when planning and teaching a lesson.
The school day will end around 12:30 or 1:20 for the students. I have enjoyed a shorter school day! Even at Anne-Frank, a typical school day would end around 1:20 for the students. Some students would have to stay until 2:00 or 3:00, however they would only do that once a week. As the school day is shorter, the students do not study every subject everyday. The subjects will rotate from day to day. This was the same at Anne-Frank. Each class is called a lesson, and a lesson lasts 45 minutes. In Selm, the students will have about six lessons a day (these lessons will cover about three or four different subjects).
The teachers do not use many classroom management techniques. To get the students' attention they will use clap a rhythm out that the students have to echo, and they use the "Focus Fox" signal. The students are more talkative and louder in the classroom than they are in America. However, for the most part, the students are very respectful of their teachers. Some teachers do use the green light, yellow light, and red light clip system. They have the students move their clothespin (that has their name on it) to yellow or red depending on their behavior. This has not been used as much during the English lessons, however I have noticed students moving their clips during other classes.
The noisier classroom environment has shown me that even when I may not think students are paying attention, they are. It has taken me time to get used to this environment, however it has further reinforced how a cooperative learning is very beneficial for the students.
Some other differences I have observed is that each child keeps an extra pair of shoes at school. These shoes are kept at school because they only wear these shoes in the classroom. Some students have Crocks, Birkenstocks, house shoes, and some just wear their socks. The students have these shoes so they do not bring in mud or other debris from outside. The purpose of these shoes is to help keep the rooms cleaner and tidier. Instead of a break for snack, the students have a break in the mornings for breakfast. In the German culture, they eat a smaller breakfast when they first wake up in the mornings. My family typically eats one piece of toast or a poached egg. Then around 9:00am, the students will eat a larger breakfast mostly containing of sandwiches, fruits, and sometimes sweets. Then when the students go home in the afternoon they will eat a hot lunch. Typically a German lunch is the biggest meal they will eat in the day. Then for dinner they will eat a smaller meal of sandwiches, soups, or even rarely fast food.
Though these are many differences in the classrooms here, they are very similar as well. The teachers prefer to play games and incorporate hands-on activities into their lessons. They also have classroom jobs for the students. One job is to sweep the floor between the fifth and sixth lessons and another job is to clean the chalk board. Yes, they still use chalk boards in Germany! I have really liked using a chalk board.
Overall, I have greatly enjoyed my time in Selm. I cannot believe that in one week I will be on plane going back home. The time here has been too short!