England - Shanghai Teacher Exchange Project

Having been selected by the NCETM and the Department for Education, I have the privilege of travelling to Shanghai to observe and learn from two teachers in Shanghai. They will be returning to England in January and teaching at a school in Hastings. 
Monday 21st September 
After a very early night on the Sunday (my body was finding it hard to adjust to the time difference) myself and 69 other teachers were taken to Shanghai Normal University, a key university in teacher training and host to the teacher exchange. We were greeted by the Vice President of the university, Head of Curriculum implementation from the English Government and deputy director of the Shanghai Education Commission where everyone  agreed how beneficial this program was. We were also lucky to be given a lecture by Professor Gu Lingyuan on 'Practice and Research on Mathematics Teaching with Variation.'

In the afternoon, Miss Plüss (also from the Sussex Maths Hub) and myself met Sammi and Winnie, our exchange partners. Both parties were a little nervous to be meeting each other but after 5 minutes we were chatting away and planning our time in Shanghai. We were going to Sammi's school first, Shanghai Yangpu District Jianshe Primary School where she teaches grade 5 (the equivalent to our year 6) . We came away from our meeting feeling very excited for the week ahead! 

We ventured away from the hotel for dinner that night and after getting lost, we came across a dumpling cafe. We were very pleased with our 90p dinner for the night! 
Wednesday 20th September 
Miss Plüss and I were very excited for our 2nd day in school. We watched the grade 5 class again today where they were now learning to do decimal division. They were given the problem 'If I pay 6.75 yuan for 5.4m of ribbon, how much do I pay for 1m?' The children confidently talked about the calculation needed to do this and Sammi ensured they had a good understanding of the meaning of the sentence before they even thought about the answer. The children tried one method which was to multiply both numbers by 100 and solve 675 ÷ 540 first. The 2nd method they learnt was to apply their knowledge of a written division method to decimal numbers. 

Afterwards we saw a grade 4 class learn about rounding. They began by looking at number lines where different numbers were marked on and seeing which rounded number they were closest to visually. They then developed the skill of looking at the tail number, the part of the number that will change when rounded. The children spent a long time on this concept and practising this skill. 

The teachers are very good at discussing their lessons afterwards and talking about the strengths and the areas to be developed. They are constantly looking for ways to be polished. After school, we were taken to a market in the french concession area and then we went for traditional chinese snacks. We are being very brave at letting them ordering for us and trying lots of new food. 
The weekend! 

We were very lucky to have a free day on Saturday so Winnie, our 2nd teacher partner took us out for the day. We visited Zhujiajiao, a water town on the outskirts of Shanghai. Winnie's father-in-law lives there so we were treated to a home cooked meal in his house first. There was lots of lovely food and I even had a go at trying eels. After lunch we walked down to the old town which is described as China's Venice. It was very beautiful, we wondered along the canals and visited some of the local attractions and finished the afternoon at a tea house next to the water. 

On Sunday morning, we had a lecture from some of the teachers. They taught a grade 1 lesson on subtracting through decomposition and we followed up with a discussion about the lesson. The thing that has really stood out to me is the carefully crafted lessons where every small detailed step has a purpose. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very nice in the afternoon but Miss Plüss and I wandered down to Ju Gardens. These were very tranquil even in the pouring rain!
Tuesday 26th September 
Today was set to be another busy day. As the weather was a bit nicer today, we were able to be greeted outside with a big welcome message. I have certainly felt a bit like a celebrity this week! In the morning we watched Winnie teach a great fraction lesson to her grade 4 class. They built upon their prior knowledge of fractions to start comparing. This was then put into lots of different context and finished off with a game between boys and girls - it got very tense! 
In the afternoon, we watched Jennifer teach a grade 5 class algebra! This is always a tricky topic but she taught it to the children in very small, clever steps. We were in the school's special TRG room and there was about 20 teachers watching her! Afterwards we had a big discussion where teachers discussed the lesson. We also learn that the Chinese for algebra means 'substitute number' which made a lot of sense! 
Tonight we were busy planning away as they would like us to teach an English lesson tomorrow. Wish me luck! 
Tuesday 19th September 

Miss Plüss and I were picked up from our hotel and taken to our school for the week. It was about 40 minutes away and we chatted to Sammi all about her school whilst the driver was dodging in out and of all the cars, bikes and people (the roads are very busy in China!)

When we arrived we were shown around the school. It is very different from ours – there are 27 classes and the children stay in the classroom and their Chinese, maths and English teachers come to them. If they have a lesson like art, PE, DT or music then they go to a specialist room. They have 8 lessons in a day but they are only 35 minutes long and between each lesson or break time music is played across the whole school (instead of our bells).

We saw Sammi teach a maths lesson today to 10 and 11 year olds. She had given them homework to practise decimal multiplication which the children go away and do by themselves. She then went over the questions and the children helped each other to explain how to do the questions. This is not something we teach at primary school in England and some of the maths was very hard and Miss Plüss and I had to work very hard to understand (especially as the lesson was in Chinese!)

Afterwards they let us go to a calligraphy lesson, we watched the children learn for a bit and then we were taught to write our names, they told me that I was very good!

For lunch we had a special canteen just for the teachers (the children eat in their classroom) and we had lots to eat! We were given chopsticks to use which gave them lots of amusement to watch us.

In the afternoon, we went on a school trip to the Huangpu River with a grade 4 class (9 and 10 year olds!) for an art trip. It was very hot down there but we had lots of fun drawing and colouring things along the river. The children practised some English and asked us our names and how we were.

Thursday 21st September 

Today has been a very tiring day for me. The directors of the NCETM (the people who have trained me!) and someone from the English Government came to our school today. We also met specialist maths teachers from Sammi's district as well as a principle and class teacher from another city. Our teacher taught a special lesson to her year 6 class called ‘a showcase.’ It is in a bigger room so lots of people can come and watch her. She did very well though and the children were learning all about finding averages. Afterwards we had a big discussion where we talked about the lesson, what was good, what could be improved and asking questions about the different parts. As there were so many important people there today, everything was filmed and I was filmed asking about maths in England and how I feel about coming out to Shanghai. We had a very nice lunch and then we watched the teacher from another city teach a lesson about problem solving. This was followed by another meeting where we could discuss the lesson and how teachers create their lessons in China. I have lots of good ideas that I want to try with the children now when I am back. 

Monday 25th September

Today has been very different to our experience last week. This week, we are at Shanghai Yangjing - Juyuan Experimental School in the Pudong distract with 4 other teachers. The school is much bigger with a primary school, a middle school and an international department. We were given a very warm welcome where we were shown round by some of the middle school children, I was very impressed with their english!  We saw a grade 1 lesson taught by Wendy (who is coming over to England in November to teach in London) where the children were looking at splitting 10. Whilst they had some understanding of numberbonds to 10, they were developing their knowledge deeper and understanding patterns that were formed. Everything was so carefully executed and well crafted down to where Wendy wrote the numbers on the blackboard.  

We were also lucky enough to watch a rehearsal for the Grade 2's production for their National Day in October. Each class had put together a song and dance to represent an aspect of the country's revolution. It was very excited to be given a sneak preview!