Thursday, 2 October 2008

Maths class grade 5 (small class)

Math was chosen as the subject for both Finnish and Chinese instruction because there was quite a lot of text in math questions (everyone used Finnish maths textbooks), maths was the subject which had the most classes (this would give students most exposure and help in language difficulties), and there were English language materials in maths, which helped the Chinese teachers and students who could not speak Finnish.

Two teachers are employed from Beijing on a contractual basis, and they are mainly responsible for teaching Chinese and certain other subjects in Chinese.

In the classroom, Ms Chen was teaching in mandarin, and Pia would assist in Finnish. Pia also helps the weaker students who don’t speak Finnish by using Chinese occasionally.

This is an example of small class teaching. In fact there is not much teaching. Students are encouraged to read the questions themselves first, and only ask questions if they do not understand. Each student attempts the questions themselves, with the teacher around.

There were eight students in the classroom, seated in three different tables. They all had their own work at hand. One group was learning decimals and a girl was learning some logic exercise (which was an extension for the more gifted students). The group learning decimal places were counting the squares and learning to read decimal numbers in Finnish.

Students are fairly active in asking questions about what they do not understand. A girl asked why the number would be 1.30 with the zero at the very end – the question was illustrated in the form of a set of 30 filled small squares out of 100 plus a fully coloured big square.

They all checked the answers by themselves with the teacher’s book after they have finished their own attempts. They don’t cheat! This saves the teacher a lot of marking and also trains the students to look after their own work. The reason that Pia gave was they value immediate feedback on the students’ work.

Teachers can spend more time preparing for lessons, and students are independent learners.

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