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An ordinary day at a Finnish school

I have been teaching almost 20 years, most of the time at the same school, the Atala school. It is a primary school in a suburb with a lot of forests around. There is no similar day but I am happy to share my ordinary day at a Finnish school with you. I have been teaching all grades (1-6) and all subjects. I love the fact I have a possibility to teach the same kids the whole six years they spend in primary. Today I teach the six graders, and most of them started with me on the grade one. It has been a privilege to see them to grow up, become teenagers. Also I know the families very well. All their siblings and sometimes also their grandparents, pets etc.

How does my ordinary day at a Finnish school look like? 

8.00 am Arriving to school.
Quick checking on emails and Helmi (the web interface), then cup of coffee and chatting with colleagues, or preparing some lessons.

8.15 am First lesson: Math for half of my class.
We have a traditional lesson: I teach the new topic and then children practice with their own notebooks.
But, as usually, there is a reward after every calculation group. I mark it on the blackboard:

  1. Walk to the lunch room and check what is on the menu.
  2. Make 10 jumping jacks.
  3. Go to drink some water.
  4. Take a five minute nap.
  5. Put on your shoes and run to the other side of the yard.

With this kind of rewards and action breaks every child studies always faster and better. When they were younger, I built them little action stunt tracks (I used chairs, fabrics, ropes etc)  in the free space of the classoom: every time they finished one task in the book, they were allowed to enter the stunt truck. One very easy way to accomplish these action breaks is to use activation cubes. After every task a pupil goes and throws the dice and does what the cube tells him/her to do. You can google those kind of dice in the net, use for example words “printable fitness dice”.

9.00 am Second lesson, Science.

We study geography, and students learn about America´s continent. They choose one sight or attraction in Northern America and search for information about it. We drew a huge map in the wall of our classroom, and now we put the attractions in their right spots. Pupils use laptops, they search for images and photos, print them and put them in their places on a big map. This will take still few more lessons. Afterwards we make a touristic tour to those attractions, every student can present their attractions. The method can also be found in LessonApp, it is called “Poster”, and it can be used in various ways.

9:45 am – 10:15 am Recess.
After a double lesson there is a 30 minutes recess. My students play football or different kind of plays and games. They have even made up a new game called “Ruuttis”, which is a tag game with a twist of strategy. This is a consequence of participating, activating and a free play time (recesses!)

During this recess I make preparations for lessons, answer to few e-mails and have a meeting with a special education teacher.

10.15 am Third lesson: Religion

We have a flip wall between my and my colleagues classrooms. We plan and teach together almost every religion lesson. We start with an activating game. We are quite good finding or creating a small game or a play which has some kind of connection on the day´s topic. Today our topic is one of Jesus¨miracles in the Bible. The one, where He walked on water. We told pupils (40 pupils, two classes) that the floor is now water but you are not Jesus, so you have to reach the other wall of that long double length classroom using the desks, tables, chairs, drawers… And so they did. After the play we discussed about the topic and made notes in their notebook. A typical combination lesson.

11.00-11.15 am Recess. I am supervising the recess, so I wear an attention vest and go outside. Fresh air for me too!

11.15 am Fourth lesson, Finnish (mother tongue)

First we visit the book bus (the mobile library). It visits every school every week. Pupils return their old books and borrow new ones, we start a reading project today. They choose an optional book, and read one chapter every day. Every day they have to pick up one word about the chapter. We have three big empty posters in our classroom. One for substantives, one for adjectives, one for verbs (this could be also in digital environment, Padlet, Thinglink or something like that). The first week they pick up substantives in the chapter they read. And they have to choose several, because they can’t write down the same word that is already been used! During the first day we get 21 substantives, next day 21 new… At the end of the week it might be challenging to find new words, but I am confident we will! Next week we search and find adjectives every day and on third verbs. I think we will make a little project then about all the words we collect (198 word). Perhaps a creative wrintig with a word lottery? Or a school hunt? (School Hunt´s instructions can be found in LessonApp). I think I will participate students and let them decide.

12.00 pm School lunch

Free for every student in primaries, lower and upper secondaries. Today¨s menu is potatoes, minced meat sauce and salad.

12.15 pm Recess. I take a cup of coffee and talk with my colleagues. A break is very important to us teachers too! Relaxing our brains as well!

12.30 – 2 pm Fifth and sixth lessonsCrafs

This class is held with or without recess, depending on how the class seems to be needing a break. The class is divided in two, the other half is studying hard materials´ crafts with my colleague (they are manufacturing their own design lamps from wood, metal and/or plastic). I teach the other half, we have the soft materials. yarns, wool, fabrics… We are also having our own designs. We created own print patterns, and searched  ideas by photographing textures in school´s hallways: brick walls, stone floors, wooden stairs… Then every pupil created their print and we painted, stamped and formed the print on fabric. Eventually we manufacture a bucket or a message box made from those printed fabrics.

2 pm Pupils go home, I have a break! A snack or a coffee maybe. After the lessons I sit down with my colleague and we plan our next week´s lessons. Even though we don´t always do simultaneous teaching, planning teaching together helps a lot. The lessons become more analyzed, well planned, more everything. After our meeting I make some paperwork and phone calls (emails, contacts with families, school development projects).

Last, a little peak on my yeasterday´s gym lesson. We went hiking the forests nearby for two hours. What a luxury, I know 🙂 I hope you enjoyed the school day and got to know more about an ordinary day at a Finnish school! Get to know more – would you like to visit a Finnish school?

Kaisa Tuomarla
Basic Education Class Teacher

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