The changes that we see in children during this course seem almost “magical”
Born in Argentina, Anna crossed the Atlantic with her husband and her young daughter in 2003 and began her Valencian stage giving classes to children aged 0-3 years at Infants school. As she had a renowned teaching career in her country, she immediately became interested in the schools of Valencia. She got to know Edelweiss and was especially attracted to its natural environment and its bilingual approach. So she started working in 1st grade in 2005. From the beginning, she was excited about being the tutor of that course – not just the “teacher” of English – to carry out an integral follow-up of the students.
Anna puts passion and professionalism in her work. Her love of literature and drama somehow permeate her teaching work, instilling in children the love of reading and developing their communication skills from the beginning. She thinks that 1st of Primary is a challenge and a very important step for students. “They are still very young and need a lot of guidance, but at the same time they are eager to learn and enter the “big children’s school” with curiosity, innocence and freshness: it is a bridging course at a maturity level because if in Infants school they are still very young and self-centered, in 1st they start noticing the others and becoming more empathic and autonomous. They learn to seek help whenever necessary. These are key moments to establish solid foundations for their future learning.”
We asked Anna about the educational goals she considers most important to instill in children during this course and she definitely pointed out two: autonomy and learning to work as a team. “Regarding the first, this is a very good time for learning to be self-aware of their needs. This means knowing themselves and identifying problems, to be able to communicate them. For example, they may think “I don’t understand this” or “they don’t let me play”, but it is in their hands to recognize and use their resources to find a solution. It is about “empowering” them, to become autonomous and confident in their own capacities and actions. Then, it is time to raise the second stated objective: learning to open up and work in cooperative teams to achieve together something that could not be achieved on their own. They discover the need to listen to each other, the value of respect and mutual help. When we explain these goals to parents at the beginning of the course, they seem very difficult to be accomplished since they are so young, but in the end, it is beautiful to see the progress. “It’s almost magical!”
Another objective of this course has to do with English: “I talk in English all the time and they understand me, although some of them find it difficult to answer in English. There is also a maturational aspect that has to do with age. Just like when we talk to a baby since birth, we do not expect him to answer even though we realize he is understanding … until one day, when he is around 2 years old, he starts using words and communicating. Something similar happens in English, only a little later. Now they understand everything – which proves what has been learned in Infants school – and I also make sure they understand me through body language; but it is usually in 2nd grade when there is a more significant change, and little by little they start communicating more naturally in English, some of them even before that…
Throughout this course, they also learn everyday language expressions in order to be able to communicate: “Can you lend me your pencil? May I go to the toilet?” Once learned, if they say something in Spanish, we pretend that I do not understand them and it is funny because they assume it as true! Then they help each other until they find the right expression. They also learn basic routines such as organizing their homework, remembering to get their snacks, etc.“
Pronunciation is very important in the English language and Anna explains the benefits of the Jolly Phonics method. It is a multi-sensory method which helps them identify phonemes and sounds, therefore allowing them to read properly. “I try to emphasize the importance of pronunciation by using humor: in that way they usually laugh at the misunderstanding of the words when we don’t pronounce them correctly. We also work on the position of the organs of speech and use the actions for each of the 42 letter sounds. Sometimes parents tell us that the children correct them when they mispronounce a word and in that way, they learn together.”
Metacognition in Project-based work.
“Metacognition” is usually defined as “thinking about thinking” and activities such as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature. Metacognition plays a critical role in successful learning and cooperative learning is one of the best ways to incorporate metacognition in the classroom. Children not only learn the subject but also gain important interpersonal skills. Anna explains how students are achieving better results since they work in cooperative groups, especially with regard to reasoning and critical thinking skills.
Other benefits that Anna points out are motivation, active participation, and long-term learning. This methodology, which is being used in all the courses at Edelweiss School, consists of giving children a task or assignment and working together to accomplish this task. Each individual has responsibilities and should help in the completion of the task; therefore, success depends on the work of everyone in the group.
Anna also likes to take into account multiple intelligences in order to cater for the different learning styles in the classroom (Linguistic: The word player; Logical/Mathematical: The questioner; Visual/ Spatial: The visualiser; Musical: The music lover; Bodily/Kinaesthetic: The mover; Interpersonal: The socialiser; Intrapersonal: The loner; Naturalistic: The nature lover). The use of different activities allows everyone to be able to learn.
“I love Reading” Project
Apart from the term projects, Anna has also developed a project during the course to instill the love of reading in children, culminating in a mini Book Fair. “I love theater and literature and I try to share it with them. The idea is to start reading the most well-known or traditional stories and then doing an activity about them.” Last year we held a poster contest, promoting the Fair, in which everyone voted and the winners got a special prize.
During the week children take library books home. Sometimes parents are surprised to see how children enjoy reading and the number of books they read! By the end of the course, they usually read 60 books or more and recommend their favourites to each other. They are very motivated!
The role of parents
“The role of parents is essential and we usually have three tutoring sessions with them throughout the course. They are very important because we like working together. They provide us with valuable information because they tell us how children behave at home, and we refer to what we observe in class and how they work at school. The academic aspect at the beginning of the course is secondary since we focus mainly on habits, behaviour, and attitudes… We believe these are the most important aspects at this age because they are the basis for future learning. Parents should know that education is a long-term process and children learn more from what they see than from what they are told.”
Thanks Anna for spending this time with us!