Language Learning

Language development is an integral part of the primary years program (PYP). It  allows students to: 

  • express identity, 
  • develop international mindedness, 
  • become literate, and
  • become effective inquirers and communicators. 

The term “language learning” does not simply mean the development of a second or third language, which in Discovery School’s case is Mandarin and Spanish. Language permeates all areas of the curriculum and as such is foundational to developing well-rounded students. Discovery School teachers plan for the language development of their students, through intentional, well-designed learning engagements throughout the curriculum. As part of our language community, all classes participate in regular Daily 5, literacy centers or reading/writers workshop. This learning about language assists students in discovering the form and function of language, including the conventions, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. 

Learning through language takes place when students comprehend, synthesize, or evaluate information to further their understanding. Examples include writing research projects as part of units of inquiry, listening how to solve mathematical equations, or reading about a specific artist’s work and technique. Learning language takes place when students extend their understanding by learning new vocabulary or phrases in the language of instruction. The PYP shows the interconnectedness of these three sections, through the following diagram:

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 2.50.17 PM

Given the foundational nature of language and its connection to each area of the learning community, all teachers in the PYP are considered language teachers, regardless of specialism or grade level. Parents too, have a vital role to play in our language learning community through supporting their children with their wonderings, discussing learning and providing opportunities to consolidate and extend language development.

 

Results from our School Survey

You may remember that a survey was sent out at the beginning of the school year seeking your perspective on various aspects of Discovery School. Since it’s closure in mid-October we have been busy collating the results in order to include them in our IB self-study. The results were overwhelmingly positive and I would like to take this opportunity to share one of the key takeaways from the survey. 

With regards to the elements that parents find most important in a school, 

  • 63% said a low teacher to student ratio, 
  • 53% said an engaging curriculum, and 
  • 42% said that an awareness of what their child is doing in the classroom 

This is incredibly encouraging since our teacher to student ratio in the ELC is 1:6 and in the elementary ranging from 1:6 to 1:14, depending on the grade. In order to ensure our curriculum remains engaging and relevant for students it is collaboratively planned and reflected upon regularly. Recent changes include a focus on global issues in Grade 5, discussions on homelessness in PreK and an exploration of poetry and drama in Grade 3 and 4. For an overview of our curriculum, please visit our Program of Inquiry found here. At Discovery School all homeroom teachers have blogs and websites that are updated regularly giving you a snapshot of what your child is learning about in the classroom. The children experience so many varied and different learning experiences we love to talk about them. To access our teachers blogs, please click here.  

The complete response for this question can be found below. Unfortunately, Google missed off some of the labels. The first missing label with 16 responses is Access to Green Spaces. The second missing label with 10 responses is A focus on the Arts. The next missing label with 11 responses is Regular communication from Staff. The fourth missing label is Participation in the Local Community with 3 responses and the final missing label with 1 response is, Community Events. 

Screen Shot 2019-12-03 at 9.34.08 AM
A sample of other results from the survey include:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate. A full breakdown of the results can be found here

Mindsets

How do you handle failure? Do you give up, secure in the knowledge that you are not good at that particular task? Do you lose your confidence, unable to overcome this particular setback? Or, do you take it is a sign that you need to try harder to improve in that area? Do you see the opportunity presented by the failure? 

These two “mindsets” are explored through the extensive work of Dr. Carol Dweck. Her research documents the plasticity of the brain and how neurons and connections in the brain can change with experience. People with fixed mindsets believe that skills, knowledge and ability cannot be developed. Failure is often difficult to process for people with fixed mindsets, the smallest setback can often be devastating. Adversely, people with a growth mindset believe that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort, questioning and practice. People with a growth mindset learn from their mistakes, increasing their ability and achievement. 

Dr. Dweck’s research has far reaching implications for teachers and students. It recognizes that effort and hard work is more valuable than innate intelligence; that the process is more important than the product. Language and belief in one’s ability to grow is essential to moving from a fixed to a growth mindset. At Discovery School, students develop a growth mindset by being open-minded to new techniques or ways of doing things. Students reflect upon their personal strengths and weaknesses to act accordingly, making sure that they do not take the path of least resistance.

Growth-Mindset-01Having a growth mindset can benefit students in all areas of their life, not just the academic. It can apply to sports, chores and even hobbies. To find our further information about Dr. Dweck’s work, please go to https://www.mindsetworks.com/default. 

Inquiry

As a PYP school inquiry is the primary vehicle for learning and teaching. It engages students and actively requires them to be part of their own learning by acknowledging that students are innately curious. How many of us have explained something only to be asked, why? Inquiry is purposeful and authentic by building upon a students’ interest and level of understanding. 

At Discovery School students are inquirers by,

  • exploring, wondering and questioning
  • experimenting and playing with possibilities
  • making connections between previous learning and current learning
  • making predictions and acting purposefully to see what happens
  • collecting data and reporting findings
  • clarifying existing ideas and reappraising perceptions of events
  • applying concepts to deepen conceptual understandings
  • researching and seeking information
  • establishing and testing theories
  • solving problems in a variety of ways
  • taking and defending a position.

As part of their inquiry into forces, 2nd Grade created a table with their mass on Earth before going on to calculate how this changed on other planets in our solar system. In mandarin, the students looked at the concept of rocks and minerals, particularly how they are viewed in Asia. The students then went on to create Zen rock gardens, learning about their history and origins. As part of their inquiry into laws and rules, the students came up with different questions and wonderings that would help guide the learning and teaching in the classroom. 

Inquiry-based teaching provides a whole-child approach to education by developing approaches to learning (skills) the attributes of the learner profile and appropriate action that students can carry with them throughout their time in education.

PRC-images-inquiry_students_en_3972212f-5d3e-4c10-a017-0cac1c0b1c83_068d70b2-5e26-463f-bb86-1cef929d2bfc.png

PYP: Principles into Practice / Learning and Teaching / Inquiry / Inquiry in the PYP

Agency – Choice, Voice and Ownership

Agency is the belief that students have voice, choice and ownership for their learning and when this happens the relationship between the teacher and student becomes more of a partnership. Enthusiasm amongst the students increases as they develop a strong sense of self-efficacy and connection to what they are learning by asking questions, sharing their opinion and directing their learning.

At Discovery School we value student agency. Students have already begun to demonstrate this in a variety of different ways, including:

  • 5th Grade students voicing their opinions about different issues that affected them as students of Discovery School. 
  • 2nd Grade students choosing a fable to act out to their peers during the Town Hall meeting. 
  • 1st Grade students taking ownership of their learning by asking questions about their inquiry into rights and responsibilities. 
  • Students in different grade levels have been planning out their projects and learning during Genius Hour.  

Giving students agency allows them to develop important skills, dispositions, perseverance and confidence. It also provides them with an opportunity to experience the impact of their choices and opinions, which supports their changing identity.

AGENCY

UN Global Goals

What type of world do you want to live in in 2030? 

This was the questions the students were asked during a recent Town Hall meeting. They shared that they wanted a world without fighting, where food was plenty and no one would get sick. We then watched two videos that introduced the students to the UN Global Goals. These 17 goals were developed by the United Nations in 2015 and are recognized by each of the member countries. The 17 goals that need to be met by 2030 are:

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 9.48.57 AM

As you can see, there are similarities between the wishes the students came up with and the Global Goals for sustainable development. After watching the videos the students took some time to think-pair-share about practical things they could do to help meet the goals. These included things like:

  • Recycling
  • Reducing waste
  • Standing up for people less fortunate than ourselves
  • Sharing, and 
  • Keeping our community tidy

These solutions really helped focus the students’ thinking, as the goals by themselves can often seem big and unattainable. Over the coming months the students will continue to learn more about the global goals through their units of inquiry as well as what people around the world are doing to help achieve the different targets by 2030. For more information about the Global Goals, check out https://www.globalgoals.org/

IMG_8700

IB Evaluation Visit Preparations begin

The 2019 – 2020 school year is a very exciting year for Discovery School. It is the year we start our self-study for our International Baccalaureate (IB) evaluation visit in 2020. This is a standard timeline in all IB schools who wish to maintain their status as an IB world school.

The self-study takes about a year to complete and is an opportunity to reflect on areas of celebration and future growth with all members of our school community. To ensure we get the most use out of this process the IB will send a team of two educators to visit our school in September next year. The team will meet with different groups of people as well as observe classes for a two day period.

Approximately 3 months after our visit we will receive a written report from the IB that will share commendations, recommendations and matters to be addressed. The report will be shared with the school community and the findings will be incorporated into our action plan and inform the growth of our school.

An overview of the evaluation process:

Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 12.35.31 PM

More information will follow during the course of the school year. However if you have any questions about this process, please do not hesitate to contact me using the link at the top of the page.