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Element 2

I have worked with a wide range of students and teachers, many of these from different cultural and religious backgrounds. This kind of experience adds a profound richness to each classroom which can be really utilised or ignored. The situation is very similar in working with students who have different strengths and weaknesses. I have found that a way of enriching the classroom through these opportunities is to provide more open-ended tasks which allow children to work at their own level, discussion and room for communication and sharing ideas.   The attached drug education lesson (Appendix C) is relevant as the children in my class came from a range of cultural and social backgrounds of which I knew would create a wide array of opinions and awareness levels in relation to the topic of alcohol. I also knew that discussing these issues could be quite confronting to some children. The time we spent ‘creating a safe place’ in the lesson was time well spent and I believe was the reason for such rich discussion later on. I then had the children work in small groups where they could express their values and opinions in a non-confronting environment. This proved successful in that all children had something to share. This activity also provided an opportunity for students to clarify their background knowledge before teaching key concepts. The children then came back as a class for a more factual discussion on the effects of excessive alcohol consumption. During this discussion, children’s different opinions that arose from their small group discussions were used as a learning tool to clarify facts in relation to alcohol. This also provided a clear link between what children already knew and what was being taught in relation to the effects of alcohol and what alcohol actually is. After children felt confident with the topic and had asked questions they joined up in pairs and created posters about any fact they knew or had learnt about alcohol, they then presented these to the class. This meant that through discussion, making a poster and a short oral presentation; children had a variety of pathways in which to demonstrate learning outcomes. I have also attached a photograph (Appendix D) of a large number line that I used to assist students in a kindergarten class with addition and subtraction. I had the fantastic opportunity to work with small ability groups for ten minute intervals. I chose the large number line as some children in the class really were not grasping other number line work and I felt that being able to actually stand on it and make a step for each number they were adding would be a more concrete method to learn this skill. Many of the children in the class were also ESL and this visual method of learning was really successful in helping them to grasp the concept. I will continue to expand my knowledge about ways to utilise the benefit of a rich and diverse classroom by learning from supporting teachers during practicums. In particular I would like to learn more about how to cater for a diverse range of abilities; including how this should affect expectations I should have as a teacher for individual students. From what I have learnt so far I believe that working in ability groups at least for some time each day is vital in assisting children to progress at their own level in a socially supportive setting. I am currently undertaking a gifted and talented subject as an elective for my degree which is helping me to learn more about this area. I need to take more risks in future teaching experiences in relation to differentiating the curriculum for different ability levels as well as providing a broader range of assessment strategies for tasks, not just those of which I as the teacher am more comfortable with. I believe that knowing each student that you teach and how they learn is expected of teachers. I hope to not only know my students but assist them in knowing and learning from each others strengths, weaknesses, cultural differences and backgrounds. I believe it is of high importance that teachers do not get lazy and constantly use their preferred teaching styles and assessment methods but that they are of aware of how their students learn and hold meeting their needs as the highest priority.  
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