07 December 2009

Summing It All Up

Dear Parents and Students,

Our unit, Self Expression, is quickly coming to a close. The last step is for the students to demonstrate an understanding of the central idea of the Unit of Inquiry: `We express ourselves because we have strong feelings or thoughts about some things.` I have asked students to plan and present an idea, passion, feeling or thought that has personal meaning to them through an artistic presentation of their choice. Students used the technique of mind mapping to generate ideas, as sometimes that's the tricky part at the start. You will find a link to this on the right labelled Create and Express.

Students have also completed their expression movies and these are posted on the Publishing House Blog. This too can be reached through the link on the side bar. I think you will be surprised at how a combination of photographic image, colour, language and music can be used to convey emotion. The students are in the process of reflecting on their work. We have discovered, for example, what a difference the right music can make, how important it is to keep on refining your work (as sometimes a piece really isn't finished in flash) and how different techniques can dramatically change a picture's meaning. We have learned many new skills and highlighted the IB attitude of creativity. We have also seen how powerful I.T. is as a tool in the classroom.

Thank you for all the Learning Logs from last week. I really look forward to these arriving. Students made jewelry & photo collages, showed film, danced, painted and drew in response to their choice of music. The range of ideas students can draw on for presentation has increased dramatically since we started back in August. Students are really showing their ideas in so many diverse and interesting ways. I am looking forward to the logs in 2010!

In class we are:
Continuing our maths focus about understanding operations and calculations
Exploring long vowels
Building our portfolios

Ms. Judy

26 November 2009

Art and Music: Perfect Partners

Dear Parents and Students,

What an amazing day! The students were artists creating art work in response to music. We had three dimensional art, printing, oil painting, bold stokes, fine marks.......... the variety was astounding.

We were developing our VISUAL VOCABULARY. We discovered art has a rhythm, a picture can have weight: heaviness, density or lightness, marks can have texture, in our art there's change and movement. We surprised ourselves with our thoughts and ideas.

Come and see how creatively we express ourselves!

Our art gallery is open to the public in the classroom!

24 November 2009

Getting Creative!

Dear Parents and Students,

This week is all about creativity! We started the week looking at a selection of different  forms of poetry. We read list poems, acrostic poems, tanka, haiku, diamente.....there are so many forms. We identified different frameworks and the type of language used. Today we wrote our own poems about emotions and in some cases colours. Students have also begun performing poems brought in from home. We will be painting to music tomorrow and dancing on Friday. The aim is for students to have as many creative experiences as possible in this unit and find different ways to express their feelings and ideas.

To get an automatic email to let you know when I post on this blog, please click the link in the top right corner to subscribe.

Ms. Judy

18 November 2009

Poetry Website


Here's a great resource. This website has a large collection of poems to help you find a style or poet you like.


Ms. Judy

17 November 2009

Off to ZIS!

Dear Parents and Students,

We headed off in our magic school bus over the hill towards Wadenswil today. The library at Zurich International School hosted the Seniors for a visit. Our inquiry was to find out how a library is organised and why it is organised this way. Miss Lancaster gave us time to look around and discover how the library was organised. Then she got us all together and we discussed the Dewey System and other sections in the library. All this information will help us work out how we are going to organise our books here at ISOCS. The time has come to look at introducing a library system! The big surprise happened at the end when Miss Lancaster presented us with a big bag of brand new books. Thank you ZIS for welcoming us so warmly and for a fabulous gift!

In class:
  • Poetry is in the planning stage
  • Spelling routines continue
  • Handwriting is a focus
  • Students have been exploring Number Operations and discovering:
Partitioning numbers into part-part-whole helps us relate addition and subtraction and understand their properties.

Coming up:
Kathy will be visiting tomorrow


11 November 2009

Live Music!

Dear Parents and Students,

We just had a fantastic visitor in our class. David Sargeant from Zurich International School came to share his love of music with us. He has played the cello for many years and he helped us understand why he enjoys expressing himself through music. We listened to how different notes can make you feel lighter and darker. I liked his idea that a piece of music is like a letter. The composer writes it and the musician delivers it. As he played we thought about the images that came into our minds. We all got to play a few notes too and make a short composition.

I'm wondering if any of the students would like to come and play for us in class?


10 November 2009

Using technology to help us express our ideas and thoughts

Dear Parents and Students,

It's been another very creative day in the Seniors with Kathy showing us how to create short films using photographs, words and music. We'll definitely be sharing this with you at the end of the unit.

Last week was an exciting moment when we discover that the word express comes from the base word 'press'. We realised that when you express yourself you are pressing out or pushing out your feelings or ideas for everyone to see. It's powerful to understand that words have developed for a reason! You can see all the words we found connected to press adding prefixes and suffixes on our classroom window.

We have also been using words to express our memories of a special place or event through the use of a retell. Students are really beginning to use a thesaurus and being a little more adventurous with their vocabulary. I have a couple of books on order connected to colour and feelings, so as soon as these arrive I'll be sharing these and maybe using this as a way to start writing poetry. We are certainly discovering their are many ways to express ourselves!

Note: Please return your child's report to me when you have spent time looking through it together, added comments and both have signed it.


03 November 2009


Dear Parents and Students,

Welcome to our new unit of inquiry! Our second unit falls under the theme of 'How we express ourselves'. This week the students have been thinking about the question: How do we express ourselves? The central idea we are aiming to understand is:

We express ourselves because we have strong feelings or thoughts about some things.

Kathy Epps (our school IT consultant) visited today to help us explore facial expressions through IT. Students have started making a collection of self-portraits using the webcam on each laptop. Then they experimented with the images using photo software. The students discovered an amazing selection of ways photos can be changed as they became familiar with the tools. We'll be returning to this program next week to create emotion portraits.

Students have also begun to find out how a thesaurus can be used to collect a wider vocabulary to describe how they and others are feeling. We have started using the word synonym. Some students are also noticing that you can say happiness but can you say 'confidentness'? This unit is going to have many connections to the Arts, Language and Personal & Social Education.

If you have a creative hobby we would really like you to visit us and share how you express yourself. Please let me know!


Photo: school.discoveryeducation.com

28 October 2009

Welcome Back!

Dear Parents and Students,

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday. The students shared some of their holiday adventures today and it sounds like you went to some lovely places. Students are learning how to write a recount of their travels using a new framework and paying attention to language features such as action verbs and the past tense. We noticed something interesting today. Why do you write 'playing', but 'shopping' with a double consonant? Why do you write slide but it becomes sliding? We're inquiring into this and seeing if we can work out what happens when you add the suffix 'ing' to verbs. We also noticed that the word recount starts with the prefix 're' which we also use in retell, reflect and replay. This started us thinking about what the 're' could mean.

Today students came home with a new Reading Log. I would like students to record the fiction and non-fiction titles they are reading from now onwards. We also looked briefly at the different genres they can choose reading material from. As part of our Personal Connections work this week I would like students to read through the explanation of different genres. Students should then record the genres on their reading log too. Please help students remember to have their reading bags in school each day.

Website link: http://www.booknutsreadingclub.com/

Tomorrow I am beginning to look at number operations and calculations in maths. Like last time I'll start with a series of diagnostic tests that will help uncover student understanding. This will then inform my mathematics planning.

Thursday (tomorrow) is swimming for the Seniors
Please have Cham library books in school on Monday

Coming up:
New Unit of Inquiry begins on Monday


Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

07 October 2009

Book Recommendations

Dear Parents,

We had a lovely visit to the library yesterday, with everyone trying out a little German and bringing back a book or two. The books are to be returned by 5.11.09, so we will make a trip to the library before this so students do not incur a fine. I'll let you know exact details at a later date. If a student would like to reserve a book there is a charge of 1 chf per book (at the expense of the student).

In class today we looked at how to write a book recommendation. We wrote one together about our class book Frindle. So students have a model for the Personal Connections task, I've copied the recommedation below:

Frindle by Andrew Clements
Recommended by The Seniors

Everyone knew that Nick was good at making the teacher forget homework. However his new fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Granger, was not so easily fooled. Nick is a trouble maker but in a good way for the kids! When Nick finds a pen in the street everything changes. A pen is no longer a pen, it's a frindle! The battle between Mrs. Granger and Nick begins. If you read this book you will find out all about language. We think you should read this book because it is funny and exciting. This book is also an award winner. The story makes a good read aloud for students aged seven years and up.

Enjoy the sunshine!


04 October 2009

Personal Connections and the Library

Dear Parents,

Monday's Personal Connections task will be slightly different this week. The students will be receiving instructions about how to write a book recommendation. These will eventually be posted on this blog for all students to access and maybe inspire them to choose a new book.

On Tuesday I aim to head into Cham with the Seniors and visit the library.
We'll be finding out how books are located in the library (maybe there's a number connection) and receiving a new library card. We will visit the library each month which allows students to return their books on time.

Coming up this week:
Exploring cause and effect (linked to Writing to Explain)
Choosing a number system question to investigate
End of maths unit assessment tasks
Exploring different ways to use pen and pencil in art
What is a portfolio?

I hope you are all enjoying the autumn sun!


photo: Bibliothek Cham

01 October 2009

Learning Logs

Dear Parents,

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed listening to the students' Learning Logs in class this week. They shared the logs about working together with such pride and interest. Every log was different and informative.

We take it for granted that everyone knows and understands the groundrules for everyday communcation, but having seen classroom discussions over the years this really is not the case. Students need to be encouraged to reflect on and improve on how they communicate effectively. I could have given the students the 'rules' but by thinking about it for themselves and sharing their ideas, they are much more likely to be applied and become part of our classroom culture.

We will continue to work on exploring how we share our ideas and listen to each other over the next few weeks.

Kind regards,


30 September 2009

Invitation from the Seniors

Dear Parents,

We are fast approaching the end of our unit of inquiry and the connected number mathematics unit. The two have really gone hand in hand. During our maths time we have been exploring the following big ideas appropriate to each student's level of understanding:

1. The whole numbers are in a particular order and there are patterns in the way we say them which helps us remember the order.
2. There are patterns in the way we write whole numbers that help us remember their order.
3. Place value helps us to think of the same whole number in different ways and this can be useful.

We have spent a lot of time using mathematical games to explore these ideas. The calculator has been particularly useful to explore patterns and to experiment with ways to increase numbers using multiplication and division. Using calculators enables students to try out their theories and ideas easily. As well as being a lot of fun, I have seen the deepening of student understanding. They have gone beyond saying numbers by rote (and often getting confused) to seeing that there is a system we use. They have learned how our base ten number system works.

To see the students in action I would like to invite you to come and visit our classroom, where students will take you on an informal tour of their learning. Perhaps you'll be able to share a maths game with your child/ren too!

Time: From 2.45 onwards
Date: Thursday 15th October
Place: The Seniors' Classroom

Kind regards,


P.S. Ms. Simona is away for the next two weeks, so recorders will continue after the break. She will give the students an opportunity to earn their first belt on her return.

photo"Linee di partenza" by marcomazzei

23 September 2009

Music in the Seniors

Dear Parents,

As the students have now come home with their recorders :) I wanted to give you some background information about music in the Seniors. We are using 'Karate Recorders'.

This approach introduces students to instrumental music and the skills required to read music. Students progress through a series of levels. Each completed level is rewarded with a 'karate belt'. The students began at the white belt level yesterday together. Students will progress at their own speed and have the chance to move to the next level when ready. We encourage students to practice at home using the practice sheets in the grey folder. Please make sure the grey folder and recorder is in school each Tuesday.

Last week saw students having a day without numbers in connection with our unit of inquiry. It was amazing how quickly we became frustrated at how difficult our day was without numbers. After one hour we stopped to think about how we use numbers and why they really are so important. Ms. Jax led us in a philosophy circle to reflect on the experience and our thoughts about numbers. There is a very interesting script of the conversation in our classroom, which you are welcome to visit.

In our mathematic sessions students have been looking in further depth at our place value system. We've discovered our system uses the base ten system, we use the digits 0-9, that numbers increase ten times in our system and that it is crucial to understand the value of each place in a number. We watched a great little film. Here's the link if you would like to view it at home:


Monday was the International Day of Peace which we celebrated at school as a way to be part of the world community. Students across the school are working together to create a book that shows what they think peace is and what it can be. We will be sending home the completed books when fully published.

I wish you all a peaceful week!


photo from Musick8.com

15 September 2009

How to have a great class!

Dear Parents,

Today the Seniors put the finishing touches to our class Essential Agreements. We started this in the first week, but now we have refined and published our final document together. Students agreed these were the important things that would make our classroom a great place to be.

Feels like:
Everyone feels safe in school.
Everyone feels calm and relaxed.
Everyone should be and feel included.
Everyone feels cared for.

Sounds like:
We use proper names.
We speak kindly to each other.
We listen to what others have to say.
We are quiet at times, at other times there is 'busy noise'.
We communicate politely.

Looks like:
Our classroom should be tidy.
We have everything we need ready and organised.
You can see each person is either listening to one another, talking, working in a different way or sharing ideas.
We are working cooperatively.
There are displays inside and outside our classroom to show our learning.
We are happy to be here.

(Move your mouse over the words to play with this Tagul.)

Our unit of inquiry NUMBER SYSTEMS has taken an exciting turn with students bringing in a model that looks like the infinity symbol and Chinese coins to show numbers. We are wondering:
  • if there is a connection with our number system and the Arabic system
  • why some clocks still have Roman numerals
  • why numbers seem to have changed over time
  • what number comes after the billions.
Did you know?
The word calculate comes from the Latin word that means pebbles because they used to count with pebbles a long time ago.
We have some great inquirers in this class!

13 September 2009

Numbers and Words

Dear Parents,

Let's update you on some of our inquiries in the Seniors.

Off to Cham
Last week saw the Seniors visiting Cham to really get our unit going. Our unit of inquiry is called NUMBER SYSTEMS, which has a clear connection with our place value inquiry in mathematics. In Cham we searched for numbers and discussed how the numbers were being used. Back in school we sorted the the photographs by making large posters to share. Our next question to discuss is: How is it that we understand these numbers? We have also began looking into the meaning of our central idea: Number systems have been designed to meet peoples' needs. Students are seeing that a central idea is the 'driving force' behind a unit of inquiry. By the end of a unit it is aimed that students are able to understand and explain this 'big idea'. Please visit our classroom (and the corridor) to see our unit in progress.

Why learn to spell?

That's the first question I asked the students at the beginning of our spelling program. They realised that it is all about clear communication. Students will be introduced to a variety of strategies to help them learn new words over the next few months. The aim is for students to build a bank of ways they can learn words. As the year progresses students will select the methods to learn lists and identify the words they need to learn. To start with I have begun to collect words students are misspelling in their writing and these are then put into a word list to be learnt in our new spelling routine. After practising their word lists students are then tested by a buddy three times. Correct words are collected on a chart to record success and incorrect words go back on the 'words to learn' list. This approach ensures students are matched to words they actually need in their writing and ensure an individualised approach to learning styles. In addition to this Spelling Workshop we will also be exploring different patterns, word origins and spelling rules in class.

Coming up this week:
Introducing Writing to Explain
Writers' Workshop
What does it mean to be internationally minded?

Note: Please remember wet weather gear and suitable footwear each day as we'll be walking to Teuflibach each lunchtime.


photo "Hands Writing in Class" by bgblogging on Flickr.

07 September 2009

Personal Connections

Dear Parents,

This is the first week that students will be completing an assignment at home. At ISOCS we have carefully put together our 'homework' policy and I would appreciate if you read the document below. An important change is the name we will be calling assignments completed at home. They will be known as Personal Connections. This title emphasizes the approach we have taken to making learning relevant to the student and the importance of the home-school connection. In a PYP school the 'important things' are called Essential Agreements, so we are all clear from the start what the expectations are.

A large part of the Personal Connections time will be spent completing Learning Logs. Students have the logs in their school bags this evening. These logs will become an integral part of our learning here at ISOCS, as one of the most significant parts of the log is when the student shares their log with the class. Students have the opportunity to communicate their ideas and learning to us all. Every log will be connected to our inquiries in the classroom. The logs will also encourage your child to develop independence and to use a range of ways and styles to present their thinking and understanding.

Last week we created our logs together in class. We began with a collage using text and pictures. We decided the following points were important when making this type of log:

1. Have a good mix of things, not just one big thing.

2. Think about how you use the space.

3. Use lots of different information.

4. Don't overuse flaps.

5. Make it clear- don't bunch everything into one small space.

6. Plan where everything is going to go first.

7. Think before you stick!

8. When you present make it interesting for those listening.

9. Think about the size of the writing. Titles and subtitles might be bigger.

10.Remember to use a title (and subtitles if you understand how to use them).

11.Make sure you glue things down properly.

12.Remember to keep it interesting for your audience.

13.Challenge yourself, choose different ways to present. Don't always use the same way.

Some ideas for presentation are pasted in the front of the log. I encourage the students to try out different ways and take some risks.

The process is as important as the finished product. Students agreed the following process would help them create a new log:

1. Read the task instructions carefully. These are in the envelope.
2. Check the deadline.
3. Plan your time.
4. Decide how you will gather the information.
5. Decide how you will present the information.
6. Be ready to present it to the class in an interesting way.

Good luck with first home log about numbers. Remember this is new and will take time to develop. It's an exciting adventure for us all to try out, experiment with and refine. Just encourage your child to do their best and to give the log the time it needs.


"Personal Connections" at the International School of Central Switzerland

Essential Agreements

Personal Connections are after school assignments which are based on our school's beliefs about how students learn most meaningfully.  They empower the students as independent and creative learners.

Personal Connections replace traditional homework and are explicitly intended to extend student learning beyond the school and into the home and community.

Our approach to setting home assignments also demonstrates that we value and respect student and family time in that they they deliberately allow for flexible scheduling, personal expression and goal setting.

Personal Connections are made in  a variety of different ways:

Personal Connections will be negotiated between student and teacher - connection between student and teacher

and may take a variety of formats:

Learning logs - connection between self and units of inquiry or subjects
Personal goals - connection with personal needs
Presenting book recommendations - connection between personal interest and class
Practical application tasks - making connections with local community
Self initiated action - connection with personal inquiry.

If students are not engaged in the assignment we would want to discuss this with the student and / or their family.

Tasks may include:
* Completion of a learning log in a variety of forms
* Selection of educational games which may include websites and board games
* Finding information that makes connection with home and school
* Suggestions for skills practice or consolidation from teacher
* Personal goals - areas students feel they would like to focus on
* Reading - books read and discussed at school, reading books for pleasure and information
* Book recommendations
  Juniors:  Students will have a book club twice a unit where students present a great book they have read
  Seniors: Students will post book recommendations twice during each unit.

Personal Connections will be set regularly and the teachers will indicate a reasonable time frame for their completion, in recognition that most of our students benefit greatly from their extra curricular activities and play opportunities.

Our image was created from the document text at http://www.wordle.net

02 September 2009

The Laptops Have Arrived!!!!!!!!

Dear Parents,

The BIG news in our classroom is the arrival of the laptops! It is simply fantastic that each student has access to their own computer. We spent the first session discussing how we should care for our laptops. We definitely have to take care in a variety of ways which include knowing how to carry the laptops correctly, becoming aware of safety on the internet highway and learning how to keep our files organised. There is so much to learn! We also have a very colourful selection of screen 'wallpapers' on the computers. Students got to select their own pictures. The Star Board has also been connected and is ready to use. There seems great potential with programs to support mathematical understanding. We are going to try out some interactive games tomorrow.

Students have completed a range of mathematics assessments that have really given me an insight into their understanding of whole and decimal numbers and their general mathematical confidence. I am now ready to begin our first mathematics inquiry focused on PLACE VALUE. This will also directly link with our unit of inquiry, which has a maths focus and inquires into number systems. Our big mathematics focus to begin with is:

The whole numbers are in a particular order and there are patterns in the way we say them which help us remember the order.

For some students this means learning how to use decades up to and over 100 and count back and forwards from numbers to 100. Other students will readily use the names of the first several places from the right (ones, tens, hundreds, thousands), but may find larger numbers more challenging to read and say. A final group will understand and use the cyclical pattern in whole numbers and so read numbers such as four billion, twenty-seven million, three hundred and twenty seven.

Home Connection: At home look out for numbers of varying sizes and try saying the numbers together.

We are working on our reading book routines. These include choosing a book that 'fits just right', exchanging the book and bringing the book and book bag in each day.

Notes: Please remember gym kits for Thursday and Friday!


photo credits: "77 78" by kotofoto; computer by ISOCS

31 August 2009

Our Magic School Bus!

Dear Parents,

Today was a big day in many ways! The Seniors were the first to travel on our bright yellow 'Magic School Bus'! Thank you to Ms. Christiana for driving us so safely to the pool. Mr. Phil had a great start observing the students' swimming skills. For the girls who need a little longer to dry hair, I will bring in a hair dryer so they can dry their hair back at school.

We also had our first 'Celebration of Learning' in the Hub today. Students volunteered to share a piece of their learning with the school. I was impressed with the confidence students displayed as they talked about our international flags, tree bark sketches and exploration of how we learn best. All students will continue to be invited to contribute. Ms. Jax praised the students for the caring behaviour the teachers have seen at playtime. It's been lovely to see students playing together and sharing resources and games.

We are beginning to discuss 'Learning Logs' in class. Creating a 'Learning Log' will be one of the tasks that students will be creating at home and then sharing in class as the term progresses. I will give you more background information at a later date. To begin with each student will create a learning log in school so we are all clear about the criteria. We will explore the many different ways you can create a learning log. To begin the process please would you help your child find some things that are connected to this task:

All About Me!

Collect materials that you can use to create a 'Learning Log' that tells the class all about you. You may want to share details about your family, important occasions, favourite hobbies, sports, places you've visited, interesting pieces of information, the story of how your name was chosen.........................It is up to you. Materials can include a list or notes of details you want to remember, photos, pictures cut from magazines and copies of important documents. Bring the materials to class where we will build the logs together. Please have things in school on Monday. We will build the logs over the week.

Students have come home with a self selected reading book this evening. We discussed how you choose a book based on interest and skill. I have introduced the students to the 'Five Finger Test' to help begin the selection process. Please have a look at the book mark I sent along with a new book bag. As you read with your child please discuss how they chose their book and how appropriate they feel the selection is. For some students the choosing process is something that will take time to develop. Students are free to exchange their book when finished. Students will also be reading in groups in class. I will let you know more about this later too.

Please could you check that your child has a painting shirt in school. Miss Babs, our German teacher, has suggested an old man's shirt with the collar and cuffs cut off. Thank you for your help with this. I appreciate that there are so many things to remember at the beginning of the year.

Have a wonderful weekend- we all deserve it after a brilliant start to the year!


24 August 2009

Ice Cream Monday!

Dear Parents,

What a great start to the new school year. I think the ice cream celebration at the end of the day was a big hit in particular! We also have a Y-chart hanging in our room showing our ideas. I asked the class to think about how they wanted the classroom to look, sound and feel. Ideas included feeling safe (fire procedures coming up this week!), working together busily and having our learning on display.

Just in case you didn't receive the timetable:

Monday: Gym in German
Thursday: The Seniors will swim this week
Friday: Gym with me

Kind regards,


22 August 2009

First thoughts...........

Dear Students and Parents,

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to the new school year and our new class blog. It was wonderful to match names to faces yesterday at our induction day. It was such a special morning having seen the progress of the school from an empty shell to a classroom buzzing with children.

Technology is going to be an integral part of our learning at ISOCS. I would like to use this blog to help keep you connected with what is happening in our classroom. Please check it regularly!

Getting to know one another is going to be our priority in the first week. There will be a mixture of group, individual and class activities to help us do this which include collaging, surveying and games. I will also begin assessing students so I can have an insight into each student's learning. On the mathematics course we all attended, we were given a clear reminder of how important it is to give students a range of tasks in order to clearly diagnose understanding and misconceptions. Careful observation is also incredibly important and this takes time.

I look forward to the year of blogging ahead!

Miss Judy