The worldwide Augustana College experience

Kickin it with the Kids in Kingston

Finally it was our time to head into Kingston and show the Alpha School what we had to offer. We arrived around 8:15 and got to meet all of the girls from the girls school and took part in their assembly. It was definitely something great to see, a new experience with girls who were all very respectful. The math teachers were introduced and off to do their thing. The rest of us were in limbo and really had no idea what we were doing until about 10 when we met Brother Armond. He was extremely helpful and helped the elementary folks get our ducks in a row. We were really lost until around that point. He got together a nice schedule for us and helped us out a lot. We even found a smart board up in their computer room that we will be using throughout our time at Alpha. He informed us that we wouldn’t have the students until about 1 (after lunch) so we got busy planning until we had patties for lunch. After that we made our way back to the computer room and prepped for our students. We had “1st grade” first and they were nothing like our first graders. First we had them all make nametags and then take a sheet of paper that they wrote their name on and drew something about them. We’re hoping to make a “quilt” with all of their names as a keepsake. Most of them could easily add and subtract and went through our tests quickly when we were done with our icebreakers. While they were working on these assessments, we were quick to assist them and try to make problems that some struggle with easier by rephrasing some of the questions. One of the students seemed to think that he couldn’t do the problems, but I was quick to encourage him and help him out. As soon as I rephrased the question for him, he got it, no problem.

The 1st grade” students were great and loved the games we played, but we knew right away we’d have our hands full with 2nd grade. When they arrived around 2, we started off with the name tags and quilt process, which went well but they were a bit rowdier, which was fine while we with being creative with the name tags. Then we moved on to our preassessment and they did really well, they didn’t struggle too much, but we’re planning on making it harder the next 2 days we’re with them. When they were working on the assessment they were getting a little rowdy while some of the other girls were talking, but nothing I couldn’t fix with a stern voice that hadn’t been brought to them yet. I got their attention and they listened really well, so I wasn’t too worried about keeping their attention as we worked. Student teaching taught me that they respect a stern voice as opposed to someone who’s retrying to be their friend like some of the girls were more concerned with, so that’s always something to keep in mind. We got them to play a math game where they were adding and multiplying dice and whoever could do it faster would win a point for their team. They really enjoyed being competitive which is something to keep in mind as we work with them. Towards the end we asked if they had any questions for us and I ended up giving a mini lesson about the US, when they said they knew Barack Obama. I talked a bit about the White House and where Washington DC was which actually surprised them because they all thought it was (understandably) in Washington state. With that our time for the day was up, so we said our good-byes and knew we had plenty to plan for the following day. We met as a full group that night and decided on a game plan for the next day. However, before that could happen, the Augie students raided the supermarket for snacks either for the plane ride coming up or for while we are in the hotel. Most of us hadn’t really snacked since we got into Jamaica so it was a welcome trip!

The next day I felt was much more successful. In the morning we had the boys grades 1-3 and in the afternoon we had 4&5.  Right away with 1st grade, we gto to work with them on addition because that was what most of them struggled with on their preassessment. we did some word problems, and discovered that they’re very good at adding numbers in their head but sometimes struggle their writing out the actually facts. I was working with Stephanie and she was in charge of them so she tried to have them get extra work on their word problems. They seemed to pick it up quickly while working on the smart board, so we took them into the other room to use iPads. They absolutely loved working with the iPads and doing Math Minis. Math Minis allows them to work on addition and subtraction at all levels, so it was good practice for them. Some of the boys even asked for a pencil and paper to work out the problems. I did get a chance to work with one of the students who was working on addition with 2 larger numbers. I helped him figure out that when he was adding, 417 didn’t make sense and that he needed to make sure he carried the number ofver so his answer was 57. He really grasped the concept and continued to use it after I explained it to him. I also tried to help him find missing addends by doing subtraction and it seemed like it just blew his mind. He liked seeing it on paper and it just made sense to him, which I thought was extremely fulfilling.

However, nothing can even compare to when I got to take over teaching half of the grade 2 students. I started off teaching my boys the 9s trick for multiplying with their fingers. I had each of them hold up their hands and we did a few examples together. They actually really liked it and thought it was a fun way. The boys even used it later when they were working on the iPads later that session, which made me feel great. But then things got even better when I moved on to multiplication with them. They had basic multiplication down, no problem so I tried harder multiplication like with 6s, 7s and 8s. We knew that they mostly memorized facts so I tried to break it down for them using partial sums. I used examples like 7*6 and broke it down to 7*5=35 and adding 7*1=7 in order to get 42. The boys loved it, they were so eager to try it on the board and grasp the concept. I let all of them try and progressively made the problems more difficult and they got it as soon as I explained it and broke it down for them. It was such a great feeling because when we used the iPads they took that knowledge and used it while they were playing the games. I felt like I definitely made an impact and it just made me so proud of them because they wanted to pick up the concept and understand partial sums. What a great experience! Brother Armond even told us afterwards that when he came in he saw me doing that and thought that it was fantastic. he even requested that i do it again tomorrow because he liked having them learn the concepts and thought that the bots would benefit from it a lot. finitely a rewarding teaching moment! Other teachers took over for levels 3-5 so I mostly observed and helped when needed, but we really accomplished a lot with the boys during our second day with them. We made our way down to the cafeteria  to see the music boys and they played us several songs and we were just in awe. The music was great and they all play by ear, they can’t really read music! It was amazing to hear them play so well, I couldn’t even believe it! We finished up our day with them and made our way back to the hotel for the evening and our last night of planning!

Our final day at Alpha was amazing. In the morning we had 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders and it was fantastic. With the first graders, I got to take 2 students aside and I worked on finding a missing addend with one and some multiplication with the other. The boy that I did multiplication with seemed to pick up the concept pretty quickly for someone who hasn’t multiplied before. He grasped the concept and is definitely ready to move on to morre advanced multiplication, so I’m thinking he’s been exposed before in some way. The other boy asked to do more problems with missing addends because we had worked on that together the 2nd day and he thought that it was amazing how you could flip an addition problem into a subtraction problem. After a few practices together, he was doing really well on his own and told me that it really made sense to him and he liked the method. Besides that I had him try counting on in order to find the missing addend and he liked that too, so I gave him multiple ways to find missing numbers which he seemed to really enjoy. At the end it was extremely sad to say good bye to the first graders we’d had since day 1, so of course there were many pictures taken and hugs were given before the boys made their way down to the field to play again.

The 2nd graders then made their way back to us and we split into our two groups from the day before. With my group I reviewed partial products from the day before and it seemed like it had really stuck with them because they wanted to come up to the board and share their knowledge with everyone else. I eventually told them that they could use any method that they wanted to multiply and we ended up with 3 different ways! So I had one of the boys with each method come up and show their method and they liked that they could use any way they wanted to get an answer. Then we moved on to some basic division, and got to a problem like 100/5. They all came up with different methods like counting by 5s, the normal and writing 10-100 and  then counting how many 5s were in then 10s all together so I had them each share on the board before we moved on to a quick game. We played around world and they loved it, they tried really hard and wanted to play. They loved the competitive aspect but also got to show off their multiplication skills which was great for them. It was so nice to see them get so excited about math all 3 days and tell me how much fun they had with me. Of course, mor pictures were taken, more hugs were exchanged and we talked about how much we would miss them and how much they would miss us. Before they left some of them were checking out my iPad and put on some Rihanna, Bruno Mars and (my personal fave) Big Time Rush! It was so funny, and it just made the day even better. I helped out with third grade a bit too, but mostly coming up with algebra problems for some of the more advanced boys, who also really enjoyed the complexity and challenge that we presented for them. More goodbyes were exchanged and we were on our way to lunch.

Immediately after lunch the Alpha girls put on a concert for us and thanked us for everything that we had done for them. Between the math teachers who actually taught them, as well as those of us who were at the boys school, we definitely learned a lot from them and hope that they learned a lot from us too. After that we made our way back to the boys school where we watched some of the music boys for a bit and then headed out towards the field and had some depressing final goodbyes with the boys. I definitely started crying because they were all so great and wanted to really learn what we were trying to teach them. Such a great experience and some truly memorable kids! I’m beyond happy I got this opportunity and couldn’t have asked for better students. I only wish it had been longer!

Afterwards we drove around some of the rougher areas in Kingston which was an eye opening experience. After driving around for about an hour, we made our way to Devon House which is definitely a place to hang out. We got some delicious ice cream and made our way back to the hotel. We quickly showered and made our way to our last dinner in Jamaica at an authentic Jamaican restaurant. We had our usual antics and made our way back to the hotel to pack and prep to leave early in the morning. This was an amazing experience that I will never forget! So many thanks to the Alpha boys for letting us come and Bother Armond who saved our lives when we had no structure with the boys.

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