Monday, May 12, 2014

Week 3: The Primary School

This week has been full of fun and eye opening experiences for me. Amber, Stephanie, and I spent every day at the Uhlandschule Primary School, located just down the street from the Anne Frank Gymnasium. We were not entirely sure what we would be doing with the students once we got there. The only thing we knew for sure was that we would be working with students in the first through fourth grades. Upon interacting with the first group of students, we realized the limited amount of English these children knew. This is due to the fact that they do not begin learning English until halfway through the first grade year. We quickly adjusted our plans and ended up having a great time with the kids!

We spent a lot of time reviewing key concepts the students already learned, such as colors and numbers. We found the most effective way to review with them was to involve them in some type of game. We learned several games from the German teachers at the school and we shared some of our own as well. With all of the second grade classes, we were able to plan lessons that introduced them to the vocabulary words for weather. We sang a song together as a class, played a memory matching game in pairs, and made individual booklets on the types of clothes one can wear in different weather conditions. The students really seemed to love this! I think our time at the primary school really taught us a lot about teaching ELL students. I know we will carry that knowledge back with us to the United States.

Although we spent a lot of time at the primary school this week, we still had time to go on other adventures after school. One day after school, we traveled with our host dad and sister to Oberhausen, a town about thirty minutes away. We toured a very interesting art gallery and went to the largest mall in Germany for some gift shopping. We also visited the town center of Lunen, which is the town Stephanie and I actually live in. We did some more shopping and enjoyed delicious ice cream. Our family also took us to meet their Spanish horses, which was a real treat! Our host dad also took us to visit another local castle and we walked to the top of an old water tower, where we had a spectacular view of the entire town. I cannot believe I only have a few short days left here before traveling back to the United States!
Week 2: First Days in Werne/Paris

I am so behind on posting things because I have been so wrapped up in enjoying my time here in Europe! We arrived in Werne last Sunday evening and were immediately greeted by our host families. I, along with Stephanie Gahafer, am living with the Leutloff family, and they could not have made us feel more at home here. From the first time we stepped foot in their home they told us to make it our own. They are very fun and energetic people, always ready for the next adventure! Within the first few days we saw a local castle and toured the historic city of Munster.

We also spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the week at the Anne Frank Gymnasium. We observed several different types of English classes and participated in lessons whenever possible. Everyone at the school was extremely friendly and helpful while we were there. It was very interesting to see how a German school functions and compare that to what we are used to in the United States. So far, I think my favorite difference is the teacher lounge area of the school. Since teachers here are not given their own classrooms, they all have desks in a central location. This is where they come between classes to grab any necessary materials and gather their thoughts. There is more of a social element to it than we have in America and I've grown to enjoy it. Teachers are constantly coming in and talking with  one another, sharing ideas on how to teach certain concepts or deal with an issue in the classroom. It's definitely been an interesting thing to watch.

Once we completed our third day at the AFG, Amber Mattingly and I embarked on our four day trip to Paris, France. I was a little apprehensive about this weekend simply because of the varying opinions I received from talking to others beforehand. However, the trip could not have gone any better! We arrived at our hotel Thursday afternoon and immediately found the Arc de Triomphe only minutes from our street. It was so much larger than I ever could have imagined and it was very interesting to see it up close. The next day (Friday) we ate lunch on the Champ-Elysses, a very famous street in Paris with all the stores you could ever want to visit. Of course, after lunch we spent some time walking up and down the street and doing a little window shopping.

Afterwards, we headed to the metro and found our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I have never seen a church so massive. The architecture was absolutely beautiful and extremely intricate. Just thinking about how long it took to construct really blows me away. After taking some tourist photographs, we stopped at a local cafe and enjoyed some traditional crepes. They were absolutely delicious! Next, we hopped back on the metro and met up with Stephanie Gahafer and Jennay Dugan at the Louvre Museum. It was really wonderful to see so many historic works of art up close. We spent some time touring the different collections around the museum and then made our way to my favorite stop of the weekend - the Eiffel Tower!

Going to visit the Eiffel Tower was absolutely amazing! We arrived around the time the sun was setting, and after waiting for about an hour we finally began our ride to the very top of the tower. The first elevator dropped us off at the main platform of the tower, which was already very high to me. But, we waited in another line for a while and climbed into an even smaller elevator that took us 281 meters into the air. The city was absolutely breathtaking. Everything was lit up and sparkling and it was perfect. We stayed up there for as long as possible looking at the city from all sides and taking plenty of pictures. I am so glad we were able to do that while staying in Paris.

On our last full day in Paris, we decided to tour the Palace of Versailles. Just approaching the palace was breathtaking for me, due to its extremely large size. When we finally walked inside and began touring the different rooms, it was unbelievable. The amount of decoration and detail present in every room really takes your breath away. It is hard to imagine that people actually lived in such a magnificent place. My favorite part of the tour was probably the Hall of Mirrors. I have always wanted to see this famous room and it was really great to be able to walk through there. I am still amazed at all of the beauty I saw while I was there.

Clearly the second week of the trip was packed with activities and travel. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here and see so many historic sites in such a short time. This truly is the trip of a lifetime and I could not be enjoying it more!