Sunday, October 23, 2016

PYP Coffee Morning - Developing Global Mindedness

At Seisen Elementary this year we are running a year-long inquiry into Global Mindedness.  As a school from grades 1-6 we are exploring the central idea of Developing understanding of other people's beliefs, values and needs can promote global mindedness.  Throughout the year we will be embedding this conceptual understanding into all units of inquiry and will plan assemblies and special events to celebrate the different cultures represented at Seisen.
Parents attending our first PYP Coffee Morning of the year.

This morning we had a small workshop with several parents to explore the idea of global mindedness and to discuss how we develop the concept at Seisen.  We started by looking at the students' ideas about what it means to be globally minded before looking at the iceberg model of culture.  In this model, the visible aspects of culture are represented at the 'tip of the iceberg'.

We talked about how, although these aspects at the 'tip' are very important, we want our students to delve deeper into the 'invisible' or 'hidden' aspects of culture.  Quite often the aspects on the 'tip' of the iceberg (e.g. fashion) are connected to some deeper core belief (e.g. concept of beauty), as explained here (from 1:50 in the video) by Sonal from Grade 6.
We examined the Programme of Inquiry and identified opportunities where these deeper aspects of cultural understanding could be developed.  We then moved onto talking about mother-tongues of students and discussed whether students should be allowed to use their mother tongue in school or not.  It's a very emotive topic and there are arguments for both sides! The IBO require Seisen to 'support mother tongue and host country language learning' (IBO PYP Standards and Practices, Standard A7b) and there is a lot of research about first language literacy and its importance in the teaching of English as a second language.  However, we acknowledged that this can often lead to students being excluded from conversations and groups if they aren't able to communicate in a specific language. During the year, as a faculty, we will be exploring these ideas and will communicate the use of mother tongue and English more clearly in our Language Policy, which will be available for parents, teachers and students. 

We would like to thank the parents who attended the Coffee Morning today for their valuable contributions to our conversations.  Below are the slides from the Coffee Morning.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

House Activities Developing Leadership and Friendships

These last two days have provided the Elementary students with plenty of opportunities to connect with students from other grades.  On Thursday afternoon the House Captains organised the first Elementary house event of the year.  Each house team met together to be introduced to their new House Captains and played a game of Pictionary and Charades before hanging out with each other on the Green Top and Jungle Gym.

Then on Friday came the big event as we hosted our third annual K-12 House Day.  Forty eight teams of mixed-age students enjoyed activities in school and at Kinuta Park.  We had students designing flags, building towers, competing in relay races and making paper cranes.  Once again, the whole school sat together in the sunshine and had lunch with each other.  Here are just a few snippets from the day, but be sure to check out Seisen's Social Media for more photographs, by clicking on the icons below.

The purpose of the K-12 House Day is to promote friendships across grades and develop team and school spirit.  It could not have gone ahead without the leadership skills of our fantastic House Captains from Elementary, Middle and High School as well as the other High School Team Leaders. We hope everyone has an enjoyable weekend after such a long, exhausting day! 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Effective Learning Through Formative Assessment

If asked to think back to your experience of assessment at school, what would you think of? Perhaps you think of being given a 'final grade' (an A+ if you were a 'high achiever', or maybe an F if you were not!).  Or maybe you're reminded of a test at the end of a unit or topic. Maybe you were ranked in comparison to your classmates, or compared yourself to your classmates? This type of assessment - assessment that looks back and reports on how well a student has done - has been used in classrooms for generations. It's what I remember from my own school days and what my parents remember from theirs.  It's what is known as summative assessment as it provides a summary of what has been learned.

These days there is a lot more emphasis on formative assessment - assessment that looks forward, rather than backwards.  Formative assessment is the on-going process used in classrooms everyday to help students and teachers answer three important learning questions:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I doing?
  • Where to next?

'Formative assessment describes all those processes by which teachers and learners use information about student’s achievement to improve their achievements... So it’s what happens when you don’t just lecture students and rattle through the material and then ask them if they understood OK.' 
 Dylan Wiliam, Nov 2006

Every task completed by students provides an opportunity for formative assessment - feedback on whether they met the success criteria of a task and what they need to do next to improve.  As educators we talk a lot about the importance of feedback to students. Feedback and formative evaluation have been identified as two of the most important factors to improve student learning (Hattie 2012). At Seisen, teachers evaluate students' work and provide feedback that tells them what they've done well and guides them towards their next steps.  

Feedback stamps are used in all homerooms to identify what was done well and point out next steps in learning. 
Students will become familiar with the shared symbols as they progress through the Elementary School.  These can be used by teachers when providing feedback to students on their writing.  They can also be used by students when they're self-assessing, revising or editing their own work. 
The SOLO Taxonomy also provides students with a framework to reflect on where they are in the learning process. In the video below, a grade six student is using the SOLO Taxonomy to reflect on the progress she made during her Who We Are unit of inquiry where students inquired into cultural identity and global mindedness.   You can hear her talk about where she started at the beginning of the unit and how she was able to use the SOLO Taxonomy to identify next steps, allowing her to direct her own learning. 

Here is another video of three grade 4 students discussing their learning from their recent Where We Are In Place And Time unit of inquiry, where they inquired into explorations, looking at the reasons for and consequences of different explorations from the past.

Whilst this type of formative assessment is becoming the more dominant and purposeful kind of assessment in helping students progress, it's still important that we administer summative assessments (those end of unit assessments, tests and standardised assessments that students take throughout the year).  More importantly, we need to share the results of these with students and use the data gathered to help them identify new learning goals.  You can also be part of the reflective process with your child.  At home, instead of asking, 'How was school Today?' (often met with an answer of 'It was okay')or 'What did you do at school today' (often met with an answer of 'nothing'!), why not try some of these questions instead:
  • Did you learn something new at school today?
  • What do you know now that you didn't know before?
  • What are you learning to do in math / writing / reading / your unit of inquiry?
  • What is your learning goal in math / reading / writing?
  • How do you know you are learning at school?
  • What will you be learning about next?
  • What did you find difficult today? 
  • What do you want to learn more about?
The upcoming Three Way Learning Conferences (Wednesday November 23rd) will also provide an opportunity for you to talk with your daughter and her homeroom teacher about learning to identify some areas of strength and to set new learning goals to work towards. 

Parental involvement making a difference!

This morning, it was a real pleasure to meet with our new cohort of Room Parent Volunteers for the 2016/17 school year. Mrs Vandana Mahajan and Mrs Deepali Singhi, our Elementary Room Parent Coordinators, hosted a coffee morning and information session in the school cafeteria where they guided the Room Parent Volunteers through the many events and activities they have planned for students. We are extremely grateful and proud of all these parent volunteers for stepping forward to help coordinate and lead these special events. We thank them for giving of their time, energy and talents to enhance student learning opportunities. Their support enables us facilitate field trips, class parties, holiday celebrations and numerous other events throughout the year. We recognise that everyone has busy schedules and multiple commitments but we would encourage parents to connect with their daughter's Room Parent to offer support and to become involved in whatever way you can!

"In this complex world, it takes more than a good school to educate children. And it takes more than a good home. It takes these two major educational institutions working together." (Dorothy Rich)

We eagerly look forward to our first Room Parent sponsored event, class Halloween Parties on Monday, October 31st.
Room Parent volunteers gathered to hear about upcoming school events.
Thank you to our amazing Room Parent Volunteers & Room Parent Coordinators!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Student Leadership!

Through the PYP at Seisen we aim to "develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect"(IB Mission Statement, 2007).  The development of personal attitudes of commitment, confidence, empathy, respect, enthusiasm etc. are corner stones of the PYP curriculum framework.  

The action component inherent in the PYP can involve service to follow students, and to the larger community both in and outside the school. Through such service students are able to grow both personally and socially, developing skill such as cooperation, problem solving, conflict resolution and creative and critical think. Moreover, these actions are also ways in which students exhibit their commitment to the attributes of our learner profile and to the attributes that we seek to engender within our PYP classrooms.

At Seisen we seek to offer our learners the opportunity and the power to act, to decide on their actions and to reflect on these actions in order to make a difference in the world.

We had many wonderful applications from our grade six students for the positions of House Captains this year. Students created video, written and/or oral texts outlining why they would like to challenge themselves with the role. The grade 6 Homeroom Teachers, Mr Hughes, our PYP coordinator, our Elementary Counsellor, Ms. Carnright and Ms. Sandra our Elementary Principal spent many coffee- fuelled hours viewing and discussing applications. With so many great applications decisions were very difficult to make and closely tied.

We are now very pleased to share with you our Elementary House Leaders for the 2016/17 school year. These students reflect and strive to develop many of the attributes described above. We are very happy they have taken on the role of Elementary House Captains and we look forward to their student leadership throughout the year.

Asama House Captains: Yui, Maya & Yume
Ontake House Captains: Sonal, Imani & Anna
Chokai House Captains: Zarah, Ayaka & Pearl
Iwaki House Captains: Tanaya, Jiyu & Lisa
There will be lots more leadership opportunities for all our wonderful grade 6s throughout the year - our first Elementary House Event will be held in the afternoon of October 19th and the K-12 House Picnic is on October 20th.

Teachers are learners too!

From Friday, September 30th through Sunday, October 2nd, eight members of the Elementary Faculty attended professional learning workshops facilitated by presenter-practitioners from the International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Program. These IB PYP East-Asia Regional Workshops were hosted in Yokohama.

Teachers from Seisen and other international schools participating in an IB PYP workshop at Yokohama International School  
Through a variety of learning techniques and small group discussion participants acquired new perspectives, deepened previous learning and engaged in personal and group reflection with peers from other international schools in the region. A key feature of all workshops was modelling by presenters, of inquiry based strategies (approaches to teaching) which we can apply directly to our work with students.
Teachers sharing their learning from the IB PYP Workshops
Professional development opportunities are sometimes criticised for their reliance on one-shot, short-term, or episodic delivery. At Seisen, we believe that it takes sustained investment of time and effort to harness the power of professional learning to improve student learning outcomes. Seisen is proud to be part of the IB PYP network which enables us harness the power of on-going, continuous professional support to enhance our elementary PYP. Moreover, we are committed to in-house collaborative teacher practice, inquiry and discussion integrated with the day-to-day work of teaching, planning and assessment to support improvements in practice. We look forward to applying our new learning in classrooms with students in the coming months!

Teachers reflecting on their practice to see how they can implement some of the strategies and approaches to teaching from the workshops 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

New Homeroom Units of Inquiry Starting This Week

During the coming week all homerooms will be starting their second unit of inquiry of the year. As the students move through the inquiry process, they will ask questions (Getting Started), gather information (Investigate), connect their ideas (Connecting Ideas) and then attempt to think about them in a new way (Going Further).  Teaching teams collaborate to identify the possible skills that could be developed at each stage of the inquiry and structure the learning outcomes using the SOLO Taxonomy.

The inquiry cycle we use at Seisen is closely connected to the SOLO Taxonomy and allows students to move from shallow thinking, where they are collecting information, to deeper processing where they are required to connect ideas and go further to think about these ideas in different ways.  You can see how each grade level's upcoming unit aims to do this by clicking on the learning outcomes, below. 
Grade One will start their How We Express Ourselves unit and will be inquiring into how the various celebrations and traditions around the world can be expressions of shared beliefs and values.

Grade Two are also starting their How We Express Ourselves unit and will inquire into how stories can engage their audience, communicate meaning and express values.

Grade Three will begin their new How We Organise Ourselves unit and will be introduced tro some economics concepts and will start inquiring into how marketplaces depend on the ability to produce goods and services that can be exchanged.

Grade Four will start their Who We Are unit, looking at how the effective interactions between the human body systems contributes to health and survival.

Grade Five are starting their How We Organise Ourselves unit and will inquire into how food production and distribution systems around the world are alike and different and what people can do to make these practices more sustainable.

Grade Six will be studying How the World World Works and will inquire into the Earth's physical features, how they change and how the Earth's physical geography impacts human interactions and settlements.

For more detailed information about how the units may develop, click on the links below to view the possible learning outcomes for the units.  These learning outcomes are written in a way to encourage student choice so they can determine the content to inquire into.  For example, although all grade six students will learn how to compare and contrast different physical features, the specific features students decide to find more out about will be dependent on individual interest.  Likewise, when Grade 4 students inquire into the body systems and how personal choices can affect health, they may choose to investigate different systems, depending on their personal interest.