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