Monday in Finland:
The first lesson we got to visit was a project lesson about a bike-ride the student had made before with their teachers, taking pictures of the travel path and historical land marks along the way. The student was going to make a movie using the app iMovie and Explain everything, the pictures they took om the bike-ride, a map of the area and knowledge they got during the ride.
What where the kids doing?
All of the kids where using the iMovie in pairs or on their own if they wanted do. We think that they chose their partner by themselves, and that could be a good thing here because they seemed to know each other very well, and everyone got a friend. It is interesting to see that girls choose girls, and boys choose boys. They took pictures of the map, and one boy took a red dot that was moving on the map, like you were following the map during the movie. He talked during the entire movie, about where you were going and about the pictures. It was really nice work.
The environment was friendly, colorful and cozy. The kids had different areas to work on, a reading area, a sofa and pillows on the floor to work on. The relationship with the teacher was relaxed and friendly, but she still had a good kind of control. She was very clear and focused about the project and the students seemed to trust her in a very good way.
The groups were working in different areas of the classroom, another room and in the corridor. They were sitting in groups to begin with in the classroom as well, because of the new curricula.
The children were really comfortable, answered questions and were eager to share their work when we asked them about it.
Something we also noticed was the small classes that they were divided in. They have special classes for kids with special needs as well, so the “normal” classes had kids that are willing and able to learn.
Craft and science project
Fifty-one 5th graders was divided into three groups with three teachers and two assistants, to do this project. It was a project that was focusing on the environment and to do outdoor equipment with used materials.
In the first group the children were suppose to learn how to make fabric out of fused plastic. They were all focused, and the ones that were not, got help from one of the teachers that were in the group. The aims were clearly spoken to the kids, and there were no discussions about what to do. The teachers had a nice example fabric and told the kids what the problems could be during the experiment.
In the second group the kids were working with doing different kinds of rope with yarn, they were suppose to decide what kind of rope was best for there projects. It was a bit louder in this group, and it could have been because all of the kids were in groups of three as I could see, and those who were not doing the ropes were “bored”, and talked more, even i they helped each other and talked about the project as well.
The third group was making “kuksa”, a form of a mug that you do out of wood, that you have in the woods while camping. They were suppose to make up a good logo that reflected them selves and were about the nature as well. The kids were really focused and it seemed liked they enjoyed what they were doing. There were clear instructions and a nice climate in class.
Over all I think it is nice to have the kids working in smaller groups, it is easier to help them when there are less kids in class. You also get a nice learning environment and you can be clear as a teacher because you have time to see everyone.
The learning environment is fresh, the school has a nice ventilation system and it is a clean and colorful. A good ventilation is helpful to keep a clear head and a clean environment is helping the creativity, it’s a blank page to work from. It was a nice project to watch.
After the school-day was over we got a nice look at the finish hiking culture. We went to Teijo national park and went out hiking. It was a beautiful evening, the sun was setting, and the nature was really nice over the lake. We had a fire starting, and was treated a lot of finish special meals. We ate Finnish chocolate, Turkish pepper, licorice and sausages with mustard. We talked about their culture and learned more about their love for nature, and of course biology.
Tuesday in Finland:
We started the day at Armfelt school, and with Kati who was teaching the 7th graders how to work in a chapter in the book about the human body. Especially about the lungs and how they function inside the body.
She started the lesson with what I feel is a respectful way of saying hello. The pupils stood up, and Kati said good morning, the pupils answered, and then they sat down.
It was a really nice climate in the classroom, the pupils listened to her, raised their hands when they wanted to speak, listened to each other and everybody followed the lead.
They were then given a note with a question, and five minutes to learn the answer in the book. Everybody studied and then they put their desks in a circle and had a friend in front of each other. They took turns asking questions and answer them, and when they were done, they stood up quietly and waited for their classmates. When they were done they moved one place, a new friend with a new question came, and they asked and answered. I think this is a great way to start a chapter, everyone needs to read and search for answers, learn how to do that, how to learn, and also learning how to explain to a friend so they can understand. They are also learning to listen and work together if anyone needs help. They are learning to wait for their turn as well.
After that they had a little talk about the assignment, and got a new one. They were given instructions, and was going to do “lungs” out of water bottles, straws, balloons and stuff. They started working together and everyone participated, they talked about the project and together they tried to make it work, and everyone succeeded as I saw.
It was a quiet, nice and respectful lesson between students and teacher. They talked, laughed and shared knowledge.
The next lesson we were attending was a mixture of 5th graders doing the end of a chapter in the book. There were three groups and five pedagogues I think, three teachers and two assistants. In the first group they were at different tables, with sticks in hand, and the teacher said a calculation out loud. The kids were then supposed to hit the correct answer on the table. The teacher was clear, present, looking the children in the eye while speaking to them, and she had total control of the situation. The kids listened and tried for themselves, sometimes helping a friend. But it was a competition, it was one table that had the most correct answers. I think the kids were trying by themselves, because they didn’t seem to be answering as their friend. It was a nice mood in the classroom and they laughed and had fun doing the task.
The next task was in the books, they played games in the book together or by themselves. They could choose partners and that always works, said the teachers. No one was left out.
In the third task there was running outside, the kids ran in pairs to a board like memory, and they were supposed to find pairs, a question and an answer. Everybody ran fast, and was eager to do the task in hand. It looked as they too were having fun.
I think that there are some reasons for the calm and nice environment, which I have learned while talking to the teachers.
- They only and always have 45 minute lessons, always. The schedule changes four times a year. When the kids only have 45 minute lessons they can concentrate more, they are focused, and because of them always and in every subject are having this, it becomes a habit, or a routine, that is easy to follow every day, instead of having lessons that varies in time.
- The classes in science and biology are small, around 16 pupils, which makes it easier to keep a good control of the kids, and also to help those in need.
- There are no students in the classes with special needs or finish as a second language. They go to special needs class or a class for immigrants. Those students only com to a regular class when the teachers think they are ready.
- The teachers have a high status in Finland, and the respectful way they have in the beginning of every class, and how the pupils interact with the teachers, for example, they doesn’t call the teachers by their first name, it is always by the last name in respect.
The only downside would be regarding the time – 45 minutes is a bit short, and you don’t have the time for everything that you would like to do.
After the mathematical classes and after lunch we were visiting the Luma class that Kati has and is a part of this project. The Luma class is focusing on different things every year, and you have to apply and do a test and answer why you should go to this extra class. Therefore it has children with good skills in for example biology. A nice project and a good thing to have as a motivation to study.
The class had been on a field trip and was going to certain places in the area to learn about the nature there. They had taken water samples and was checking the color and pH levels then. In this class they were doing a test on a new app Kati had that was called htp://seppo.io, where the kids logged in on their cellphones or iPads and started the test. It was full focus and work during the lesson, and during the test Kati was able to give feedback to the kids answers, and give them points, as well as give them extra assignments. It was a nice mood in the classroom, and everyone was eager to learn and work.
In the end they looked at their water samples again.
The last lesson we attended was an English lesson, and here they had a full class. The class was starting a new chapter in the English books, and they were also starting a new way of working. The students got a list of assignments they needed to do, and four lessons to do it on. If they were not done, they got the rest for homework. It was a bit more noise but still, the pupils were working. The good thing about this was:
- The kids could do what suited them selves. They all worked on different assignments, and in different orders. It was their responsibility.
- You new from the instructions what was the goals, the aims, and focus for the project.
- You could choose who to work with, or you could work alone. There where multiple assignments for each goal.
The lesson was really nice, a bit louder than the other ones, but there were also more pupils there. It was a clear goal, and it has been throughout all of the lesson planning, and the goals are not only focused on knowledge, but a big focus is learning to learn. How to acquire new knowledge is of course more valuable then the knowledge itself in the long run, because, with strategies you can learn things easier than without them. And again there are only “normal” children in the classroom, no one needs special education or help with a second language.
We were really amazed when it comes to the atmosphere in the school, it is warm, respectful, curious and the pupils do what they are suppose to be doing.
Thanks for today everyone!
Posted by: Linda Högkvist Bruksskolan, Degerfors Sweden; Anna Sigríður Eyjólfsdóttir, Þóra Skúladóttir, Ragnheiður Valgerður Sigtryggsdóttir Háteigsskóli, Reykjavík Iceland.
Wednesday in Finland:
This day was spent in Perniö, Perniön yhteskoulu.
We started with a biology lesson with Rita, and the students were given the goals of the lesson clearly, they were divided in groups and worked with different projects and instructions. It included using an app called skitch, where you took a picture and added text, in this case names of different kinds of lechions. They also used microscopes and filmed and fotographed it with their phones. It was a calm and nice lessons, and as i could see, the students said that it was nicer to learn when you did something practical.
The next lesson was an english lesson in 9th grade in Minnas class. She used quislet I think to have a wordtest. The app made groups that the kids competed in and showed how much they have learned the words. It was live so they saw how fast every group answered and there was a winning team every time. It was nice, a lot of giggeling and laughter between the students. Really nice. The chapter and words were about the school, and they then used the words and knowledge to make a film on their phone about the school. We got to tag along and evaluate the result. Interesting and a nice way of using the phones in the education.
After the lesson we ate lunch, and we then went for a guided tour of the school from two students from the students councelling team. It was inspiring and insiteful.
The afternoon was free for us, and we went to Design Hill to look at finish design, really interesting and nice. In the evening we ate a nice dinner with all the teachers at a very nice place called Seurahuone in Salo. The food and the company was excellent and we made plans for our 5th and 6th graders to work together over skype, making videos and maby write emails to each other. A really nice evening with a great outcome for future adventures.
Thursday in Finland:
I started the morning with being picked up and we went to the trainstation, Helsinki was the goal. We arrived and went for a coffe, before walking to “Tempelplatsens kyrka”. It was a beautiful stonechurch and one of the most visited places in Helsinki. We looked at the design and the roof, wich was made out of copper, really beutiful. There was a choir singing, and the acustic was amazing.
We then went to Löyly, had a nice lunch and then I got to experience the finish tradition of sauna. It was a lovely tradition, hot and warm, and the sea wich I got to swim in chilled very nicelly. It is a very social tradition, every finish house has a sauna, and that is what you do during the saturday evenings. Really nice to get together, talk, and have a nice relaxing time. I believe that it is good for the body as well, for circulation and feeling well.
Helsinki is a nice town, it has the big city vibrance and the seas calmness. A nice combination.
Friday in Finland:
We started our day with going to ……. . Uppon arrival we were sent to a special teachers lesson right away. The special teacher had about 8 students in her class and it was mathematics. She was working with a program on the computer wich was called “Ville”.It was a program that came from the university of Turku, and the teacher could easaly monitor the students progress in the program, as well as give them certain tasks to do. It was a nice group, the kids were working with their tasks. It was good that the special teacher could help them so quickly, the students felt secure and safe in the environment. The classroom was pretty small to, so it was close together. She told us that she had students from 5th and 6th grade during certain lessons during the day, wich they needed extra help in. There were three levels of special education there. The first was a little bit of extra help sometimes in certain subjects. The second step was given after meetings and a planned structure for the kids. And the third level had a good plan and the students were in the special teachers classroom alot, even if they still belong to their home class. Interesting system and it seemed to work well in this school.
After this class we went outside, because the firstgraders were having a day in woods. They always have that on fridays. This friday was about learning to cooperate. There were about 40 children outside at the same time, with two teachers, one assistent that was almost a teacher, and one special teacher. They were divided into four groups. The groups were maid out from the knowledge that the teachers had about the children, and they had sat together planning this type of work for almost a year because of the new curricula. The red group had the kids with special needs.
The kids were working alone, or in pairs wich they could choose for themselves, and they were building little houses or homes for the trolls that lived there. They were working efficiantly and cooperating really well, they were eager to show us their houses.
After the houses were done, the teachers gathered the children in the groups and repeated what the next step was. It was building roads between the houses together, and the trolls were suppose to meet in either a party, at someones home or anything they came up with. The kids sat down to discuss what they were going to do, and when they were done they ran to do it. It ws really nice cooperative work.
At the same time this was going on, three of the teachers had evaluation talks with the kids outside, one by one. They were focusing on how well they behaved, listened and worked in school. They answered with smileyfaces. This evaluation will be done once a month. The teachers takes turns doing the evaluation in the four groups, so that everyone will have their understanding of the kids development during this time.
There was also a renovation going on in school, and the firstgraders had gotten two classroom, that was separated with a glassdoor, wich you could open and close depending on the activity they were doing. Really nice setting and environment for the kids. We were both really excited about the structure that the teachers had, it was so clear for the kids what to do all the time.
When we came back to school we attended a historylesson for sixgraders. They were learning about the medieval times through acting out a sketch. The most interesting thing was that the sketch was´nt the last thing they did during the project. It was that the sketch was evaluated by their peers in class, and then they kept reading about the medieval times, and took the feedback in, and then they were going to do the sketch again, with their new knowledge and with the feedback that they have gotten. A really nice way of teaching when you really focus on the process instead of the result.
After lunch we attended an english class for the fifthgraders. The teacher were teaching about how to build correct sentences using mathematic figures fors each part of the sentence. Heli will translate here, but the forms were triangel for who the sentence was about, a circle for the verb and a rectangel for the substantive. For example:
Mrs Potts likes chocolate.
The point was to make clear for the students that they must consider who the sentence is about when bending the verb, to understand the -es or -s in the end. It was an interesting and clear way of learning this.
They finished the lsson after having competed in a substantive competition. It was alot of fun, the finally was recorded for further watching I think.
It was a really nice day, learning alot, talking alot and we had this wonderful experience togehter. Thank you!
Short things I´ve noticed in Finland:
- They have a lot of tests to get to the next level, there are compulsury tests that you need to pass to move on in your educational field. I have gotten the feeling that they are a bit more serious than our national exams in Sweden. Or maby they just take them more serious here. I get the feeling that it is like the final exams in USA.
- The schedule and time for each lesson for the students are always the same. 45 minutes or in occation 90 minutes. So the schedule goes 45 minute lesson, 15 minute break. Always. That goes all the way up to upper secondary school. I feel it should give the students a nice time to land in the time the lesson goes on, you know when they end and what is expected of you. There is no need to ask when the lesson will end, you know.
- Even if the teachers dont say it, I got the feeling that they are competative in knowledge, in a good way. The maths class had a table for those who had the best results, it gave them a challenge and the other kids a chanse to improve. The english lesson had a competition. The other english lesson did a competition about the words they had learned.
- The environment is calm, the structure good in most schools and classrooms I visited.
- The classes were small, in Armfelt school. in biology and science, not in language classes though, the class were divided in half.
- There were a special education class, you could get a student there without the paperwork and meetings that we need. You were trusted to talk to your collegues about it.
- There were special teachers in every school I visited, they visited the classes and worked close with the kids with special needs.
Thank you Finland for a wonderful week, we have learned so much!
Posted by: Linda Högkvist Bruksskolan, Degerfors Sweden