Week 9: Grade 4, the baby learners

I started my 3rd and last month in Zambia, how time flies…

And this last month would be dedicated to Grade 4, the equivalent of CM1 in France. I should spend 4 weeks with them. Their homeroom teacher was teaching both Grade 4 and Grade 6 for this Term 3. I thought it was a bit particular, but the students in Grade 6 were only 8. Still, teaching these 2 classes was quite a challenge, and hopefully, my help seemed welcome!

He gave me 3 books on Monday morning: English, Mathematics and Integrated Science, with the chapters I had to cover during my morning class.

I started by introductions first, and each of the 21 students present this day gave their name and age, 12 boys and 9 girls between 8 and 12. And I was missing 4 students, who I’d probably meet within the next few days. I was amused to recognize (or not!) the brothers and sisters of Grade 7 students. The whole class seemed intimidated by my presence, and being as soft as possible, we started with the English lesson about how to write a story, which consisted here to put the sentences in the correct order. I was relieved to see that they all knew how to write the alphabet, and their handwriting seemed rather good for most of them.

We are really missing desks 😓
Every now and then, I would hear a loud “bang!”: the bench breaks if the children are not on equilibrium on it, and they would fall on the floor…
Andrew and his little grade 2 sister

To motivate them, I told them the beginning of the story “The little red riding hood” (Le petit chaperon rouge), that nobody heard about before. They seemed to be really hooked and were listening very attentively. Then we switched to Maths, and I could see the level of the class didn’t seem quite there yet. Their teacher asked me to teach the class the improper fractions and mixed fractions, but the fractions without knowing much the multiplications tables and additions or subtractions seemed to be a big challenge for this class. It would be like trying to tell a story when the listeners didn’t understand 80% of the words…

In addition, this week was supposed to be the mid-term tests for all classes, Grade 4 included, but their teacher didn’t seem to have had the time to prepare all of them yet!

I was still happy to start a new journey with this class anyway, but I knew that this Grade 4 would definitely be much more challenging than the brilliant Grade 7! It was compensated largely by their cuteness, as they were all still little cutie pies! And their first French words:

“Bon appétit” of course!

The weather was better this week, with 5°C less than last week, I think. The bike rides were much cooler, and I enjoyed it immensely back and forth.

Video: On my bike, all the way back from school

Once back home, I had the nice surprise to see 2 small fresh eggs at last… I really thought I was going to eat fresh chicken this week! They seemed to prefer laying eggs than being roasted already… however, one of the chicken was found dead (unknown cause…) on Sunday morning. I guess we will stick to 2 chickens and 2 quails now.

On Tuesday morning, I arrived in the class and we started with the English test. The fractions didn’t seem to be assimilated at all, and after discussion with their homeroom teacher during lunch break, he told me that most of the class was discovering the fractions and it was ok to take the whole week to cover this subject. As indeed, after the hour of test, I spent the remaining 3 hours to try explaining and illustrating what the fractions were, and how it can be written with improper or mixed forms. By the way, I don’t think we were taught this when I was at school… did you know the mixed fraction? Here in Zambia (and anglo saxon world?), it seems that they have to usually write fractions greater than 1 into mixed form, eg: 2½ rather than 5/2… But I would seriously need more than a week for the whole class to understand it. At this age, I guess it was inevitable to spend still a lot of time to teach discipline… not what I prefer for sure! But again, without the knowledge of the basic operations, it was going to be a challenge, in addition to the level of English that was neither their native tongue nor mine. Anyway, I still wanted to smooth the atmosphere a bit to close out the morning class, and wrote a poem on the blackboard for them to learn by heart and discuss it the day after… the 3 first sonnets of the poem from Longfellow as the rainy season is settling in.

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

On the way back, I stopped by the shopping mall, to find nice paper letters I wanted to write to congratulate all the Grade 7 students. I ended up buying decorative cards as choices were limited. Now remains 29 letters to write…

Which I finalised on Friday night! Who is writing so much by hand nowadays? “la bosse de l’écrivain” came back after the 29 letters…

Wednesday and Thursday program were not much different, still on the same topics on writing stories and fractions, and was asked to make the children work on their handwriting…

On Thursday night, the 18th November 2021, I discovered it was not only in the French restaurants that the Beaujolais nouveau is celebrated, but it’s been quite some decades (?) it also became an international day to celebrate the “Beaujolais nouveau” in a lot of countries in the world now, probably not because of the taste but because it was cheap and popular. Seriously, it was my first time hearing about it, even though I did so many expats! Well, did you know why it is celebrated the 3rd Thursday of November though? On the contrary to most of French wines, the Beaujolais can be drunk fresh from the yearly harvest. In 1951, the Beaujolais wine Union requested to sell their wine before the official sales commencement that was regulated on the 15th December… Well, the wine in itself is definitely not a drink to celebrate, but the party at the French Ambassade was really worth it in Lusaka!

It was worth it, not only because of those…

Friday and Saturday ended with the big celebrations for the Grade 7, as they finished at last all their exams, and were saying goodbye to Primary School!

Friday informal party in the classroom! And photo session with each of them…
Saturday final ceremony with parents

Next week, I will ask for some help to fund the toilets and the desks… !

Un commentaire

  1. Michel BROCHARD dit :

    Beau défi les fractions. Toujours compliqué à cet âge!


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