Sunday, May 4, 2014

How often should the morning and afternoon classes switch?



The truth is, classroom teachers never have enough time to teach everything. Especially the 50/50 model Immersion teachers. 50/50 doesn’t mean using the target language in the Immersion classroom. It means students spend half of the day in English and the other half in the target language class.  To teach and to review in half of the regular teaching time is hard. All the Immersion teachers will agree on this.

To make the matter worse, the children often have a harder time focusing and learning in the afternoon (including adults). As teachers, we also feel tired in the afternoon, which is not fair to the students. In the fifth year of teaching, my partner teacher and I finally made a change that hopefully can reduce some struggles.

A previous partner teacher, who now has retired, and I used to switch the classes every month. We still could see the struggle but were too overwhelmed to come up with a solution. This year’s new partner teacher and I decided to switch every two weeks.  Then eventually we switched every week.

We both like the change very much and feel the change has helped most of the students.  Teachers have asked if it was too much trouble for the kids; the answer is no. The students basically remember it better than the teachers do. They know where to go in the morning. A few children forgot, but the others will remind them where to go.

The benefits of switching weekly are many. Due to the busy schedule and extra curricula classes such as library, computer, PE, music or art through out the week, students normally will miss some target language and English instruction time.  By switching every week, the students can miss the instruction equally in the afternoon or in the morning instead of the same students missing it all the time.

Sometimes there will be volunteers or aides who come in to assist.  Often their schedule is limited and they can only be there at certain times.  If the classes switch only once a month or even longer, one of the classes will miss this extra help for as long as it takes to switch.

The afternoon is harder for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Too exhausted students trapped in the same time for a month or longer, it is not fair. Both English learning and target language learning suffer in the afternoon. By switching classes weekly, the students can get instructions equally.

I have learned that some Immersion schools never switch morning and afternoon classes. Some switch once a year and some switch every quarter. However, every teacher who talks about this all has the same complaint: “afternoon class is so hard to teach.” Then they will add that schools won’t allow them to switch classes often enough.

I believe if everyone looks at the benefit to the students, and the help it provides teachers,  classes will be switched more often.

Marty Chen