Hanoi International School 2015
At Hanoi International School (HIS), the Elementary staff demonstrates a strong commitment and understanding of the principles of the Primary Years Program (PYP). This has served as a solid foundation to the Elementary curriculum, where inquiry-based tasks are rich and motivating.
Curriculum development is led by the PYP Coordinator and supported by the Vice-Principal. The division of these roles is clear to the staff: the PYP Coordinator is the main lead for curriculum and the Vice-Principal the lead on appraisal, classroom management and the pastoral elements of learning. As such, the Elementary staff works as a cohesive team to provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum for the diverse range of learners in their charge.
There are 7 classes from Pre-Kindergarden to Grade 5 with a total of 114 students, with the following numbers of students in each:
Pre-Kindergarden – 5
This year, HIS welcome Pre-kinder students, students aged from 4-5. They will be part of a multi-age class and are known as the Early Years.
The curriculum in Elementary consists of English, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science, which are part of the Program of Inquiry, as well as Information and Communication Technology, Music and Physical Education. Vietnamese language classes are divided between native and non-native speaking sections; French is provided for Grade 5 only. The lessons are split into 1 40 minute session per day, 5 45-minute sessions and at the end of the day, a time for reflection is 25 minutes. The Music and Vietnamese teachers teach across both elementary and secondary. In order for us to create a transdisciplnary timetable, teachers, this year, change their schedule according to the unit they are teaching at that time. This gives the school some flexibility with supporting disciplines across the timetable.
This year, the school have changed the times of the schedule to allow students more time for play, and to give them sole access to the field and playground. The school have also given more time for snack to allow students to socialise and sit with their friends.
There are a range of co-curricular activities (CCP’s) provided for Elementary students which includes sporting, creative, cultural and leadership categories. Some activities are held throughout the year and others are conducted just for a single term. Student Council runs as a CCP for the entire year and allows students, as young as grade 1 to have a voice.
The Elementary staff are in the third year of using ManageBac as a planning, assessing and reporting tool. Units of Inquiry for the last two years are available on ManageBac.
Every six weeks, protected time is given for single-subject and grade teachers to plan and reflect on the completed Unit of Inquiry collaboratively.
To free teachers for the above mentioned collaborative planning and reflection process, the Vice-Principal takes all the Elementary School students to the auditorium for singing once a week, these meetings are organised by the PYP Coordinator. The Grade level teams are also expected to meet at least twice a week, one with a scheduled time with the PYP Coordinator and the other without the PYP Coordinator.
There is no specified counselor in Elementary, but the Vice-Principal takes on the pastoral leadership role, and homeroom teachers approach health and emotional issues in the context of Units of Inquiry and general homeroom topics and events. The PE teacher has attended the IB workshop on PSPE, and the scope and sequence to address health and emotional issues is in the early stage of development. HIS has developed its own PSPE Scope and Sequence document using the IB materials as a guide.
As a small school, staff in the Elementary work closely together and are often in each other’s classrooms. As of 2014/15, the Vice-Principal scheduled peer-observations for Semester One and encouraged continued practice of this during Semester Two. The Grade 1 teacher works closely with the Pre-Kindergarden and Kindergarden teacher; Grades 3 and 4 have a cycle of units over two years, and they frequently meet to review students’ learning needs and progress alongside the EAL and support staff.
A variety of displays are evident along the Elementary hallways and in classrooms, celebrating the culture and language of Vietnam. Language lessons are in both mixed- ability groups and single non-native and native-speaking classes. Students are encouraged to use their home or first language with other speakers in the room, when appropriate.
The school has ensured that all class teachers and all single-subject teachers have attended IB PYP workshops. The Vice-Principal also set up morning messages that include food for thought and the PYP Coordinator has started a Google Doc full of IB articles. Staff are expected to sign up for at least 2 staff meeting sessions where they can share an element of their practice, so far teachers have shared; the use of Google Drive, Gradual Release Model, Differentiation and learning a language.
The Elementary School has access to 30 laptops, 6 iPads and a large computer lab on the 6th floor. The EAL Department has 6 iPads for their department’s use. All the Elementary School classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards. The three main websites to which the school subscribes complement the program: Education City, ixl, and Reading Eggs, are accessed by students at home.
The use of email is introduced to Grade 3 and researching web-sites is addressed as and when needed. Grade 4 and 5 have their own gmail accounts and agreements are made on how the children will use them safely. We also encourage a Bring Your Own (BYO) in grade 5, as long as the students have permission from their parents.
The Elementary staff use a wide range of formative assessment techniques as evidence of achievement and progress, as opposed to providing grades. The evidence from teacher-based and student-based rubrics, photographic evidence, pre-assessments and post assessments, checklists and the like, all provide a holistic picture of a student’s progress. Goal-setting and reflections can also be seen in some portfolios. The introduction of e-portfolios into Grade 5, using Google Drive, means that students have enormous ownership of the evidence of their own progress.
The School uses the International Schools Assessment as a means to compare the achievement of students in similar schools, and thus provide an improved all-round picture of how the school is doing at the Elementary level. The EAL Department is using a self-created assessment tool each term to measure student progress. However, the Department is also researching a more in-depth, external standardized assessments, to track and report on students’ progress throughout the whole school.
Miss Lisa Hughes
Head of Elementary