At my school in England, we have whole-school assemblies every single day. In fact yesterday, we had two, one to start the day and one to end it. I really love them. They give the school the feeling of a family, not just a collection of individual classes. On most days, the children all file into the Hall (translate: cafeteria/gym) and sit in straight lines by classes, with the Reception Class in front (4 year olds) and the Year 6 pupils in the back where they have the place of honor as the oldest children in the school and can sit on benches rather than on the floor. On Mondays we gather in "Key Stages", with half of the school gathering in one classroom to learn about something that has been in the news or learning about a cultural event and the older children gathering in the Hall to do the same. On Tuesdays our head teacher leads an assembly for the entire school, on Wednesdays we gather as Key Stages to celebrate birthdays, on Thursdays the local Vicar leads a whole school assembly, and on Fridays the whole school gathers to celebrate our achievements of the week. On Friday, the arrangement is different, as the children sit in their "House Group" (think Harry Potter) that includes pupils of all ages. That's another thing I love about my school; the way the older children mentor the younger ones. Older children can volunteer as "playground pals" and wear red caps out on the playground and spend their free time helping the little ones. It's lovely, but I digress. Assemblies. Every third week it's my job to lead two of the assemblies, a cultural assembly and a birthday assembly. Birthdays are easy, and the children love to have their birthday on the week I lead that assembly, as we get to celebrate American style with guitar singing and lifting the kids on a chair the number of times equal to their age. The cultural assemblies can be more of a challenge for me. The last one I led was on Martin Luther King, which was a snap, since there are few things I love to do more than sing songs from the Civil Rights Era, but this past Monday I was expected to lead an assembly about a holiday that is really a big deal here in the UK, "Pancake Day". Funny thing about teaching, (well, it used to be funny, but now it's pretty much a way of life for me) sometimes you are asked to teach something you know absolutely nothing about. I had never experienced Pancake Day. As a church-goer, I get the whole Shrove Tuesday thing, and I have a passing acquaintance with Mardi Gras, but Pancake Day was a whole new thing. I studied up on the internet and actually was able to keep the attention of 90 children for 30 minutes as watched a little video clip on making pancakes and the children had a chance to share how they celebrate the day. (Some of the pupils from our school got out of class part of the day on Tuesday to go to the local Farmer's Market to participate in a "Pancake Race" running around the churchyard flipping pancakes.) I personally made pancakes for my tea that night, and my flipping skills are much improved, I must say.
Now the other two holidays we celebrated this week were more familiar to me, but not to my pupils. Thursday, of course, was Valentines Day. It just isn't a big deal here, children don't give cards to their classmates, no school parties, no little candy hearts, nothing. Adults might give a card to their partner, but that seems to be about it. The parents and teachers at my school celebrated by attending parent consultations after school until late in the evening. Not too romantic. (I could do another whole blog on parent consultations: 10 minutes per child, such a rush!) My class did observe Valentines Day by making cards for our parents and doing a bit of Valentine related maths (yup, maths, with an "s") but the big event in my class on Tuesday was the 100th Day of School. In America, it's a huge deal (I missed wearing my dress with 100 bows this year and hanging 100 stars from the ceiling and much more) but here, nobody had ever heard of the 100th Day. We've been keeping track of the number of days of school and doing calendar maths after lunch every day (also something common in the US that is not done in the UK) and I had told them from the very beginning of school that when we got to 100 we could have a party, so my class was really excited. We made 100th day hats and necklaces with 100 cheerios. The children brought in collections of 100 items that we counted by 5s and 10s and did lots of other maths activities dealing with the number of the day. We learned songs about the 100th Day and danced the afternoon away to 100th Day music. Just like we do in America, we made punch with 100 blueberries in it. Now that'a a holiday I understand!
|Kids wearing their 100th Day Hats and Necklaces|
I need to wrap up this blog, as I'm catching a train in 30 minutes, but here are a couple of display boards in my classroom. First, we have been keeping track of words we discover that are different in the US and UK...
...and secondly, a display of the weaving the children did. They used yarn (called "wool" here) to weave through the circles, which doesn't show up too well here, but they really did a great job of it.
We just started our half-term break today, so I'm off on another traveling adventure. Tell you all about it when I get back!