Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reading and writing

Dear all,

 I know that these Food for Thoughts are getting a bit longer but have so much to share and to make get you to think about. The winter break is coming and perhaps you can save and read then. This week I am focusing on reading and writing which is important for all of us no matter what  grade or subject we teach in the School. As IB teachers we are expected to all act as teachers of English regardless of our subjects, it is part of the standards and practices for all three IB programmes.

So here are two articles that raise valid points for us all to think about.


The Most Important Lesson Schools Can Teach Kids About Reading: It's Fun

“We’ve come away from our study thinking that teachers of reading and literature need to make pleasure more central to our practice.  We think that the implications of this resolution are enormous. For example, instructors should be mindful of the variety of pleasures that readers experience and not privilege intellectual pleasures, the characteristic province of school.  Our participants enjoyed making thematic generalizations, figuring out metaphors, and analyzing the aesthetic choices an author makes—intellectual pleasures all.  But more frequently, these young people experienced the deep pleasure of entering a story world, living through the character’s actions, considering the character’s perspectives, and pondering what it might mean for their own lives.

We’re not the only ones who think pleasure reading is essential. An extraordinary new analysis done as part of the British Cohort Study—which is following the lives of more than 17,000 people born in England, Scotland and Wales in a single week of 1970—makes a compelling case for why pleasure should be more central to policy discussions about reading.  This analysis establishes that reading for pleasure outside school had a significant impact on young people’s educational attainment and social mobility because it actually “increased cognitive progress over time.”  The impact of pleasure reading on live outcomes was more than three times greater than the level of parents’ educational attainment.”


World Bank Photo Collection via Compfight cc

The Writing Revolution

“And so the school’s principal, Deirdre DeAngelis, began a detailed investigation into why, ultimately, New Dorp’s students were failing. By 2008, she and her faculty had come to a singular answer: bad writing. Students’ inability to translate thoughts into coherent, well-argued sentences, paragraphs, and essays was severely impeding intellectual growth in many subjects. Consistently, one of the largest differences between failing and successful students was that only the latter could express their thoughts on the page. If nothing else, DeAngelis and her teachers decided, beginning in the fall of 2009, New Dorp students would learn to write well. “When they told me about the writing program,” Monica says, “well, I was skeptical.” With disarming candor, sharp-edged humor, and a shy smile, Monica occupies the middle ground between child and adult—she can be both naive and knowing. “On the other hand, it wasn’t like I had a choice. I go to high school. I figured I’d give it a try.”

New Dorp’s Writing Revolution, which placed an intense focus, across nearly every academic subject, on teaching the skills that underlie good analytical writing, was a dramatic departure from what most American students—especially low performers—are taught in high school. The program challenged long-held assumptions about the students and bitterly divided the staff. It also yielded extraordinary results. By the time they were sophomores, the students who had begun receiving the writing instruction as freshmen were already scoring higher on exams than any previous New Dorp class. Pass rates for the English Regents, for example, bounced from 67 percent in June 2009 to 89 percent in 2011; for the global-­history exam, pass rates rose from 64 to 75 percent. The school reduced its Regents-repeater classes—cram courses designed to help struggling students collect a graduation requirement—from five classes of 35 students to two classes of 20 students.”

Transforming our Classrooms #3
Game Based Learning

Project Examples:
Last week someone asked me about my blog that I use to share articles with parents so just in case anyone is interested here is the link So far this year I have posted 35 articles for parents to read about education or other matter that might affect their children.

Have a great weekend,



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Do you have the personality for inquiry? And Flipping the classroom.

Dear all,

Thank you for all your hard work yesterday. In Primary it was good to see you sharing practice and ideas an important aspect or our Professional Learning Community and something that we will build upon more in the next few years. Another aspect of functioning Professional Learning communities is collaboration and yesterday that was very apparent in the secondary school sessions as departments worked together building curriculum, unit questions, fundamental concepts, benchmark assessment tasks and embedding AERO standards. We are moving forward as a school and our students will benefit in their learning.

 This week’s Food for Thought applies to all IB teachers, as inquiry is an aspect of teaching pedagogy that we all need to be applying in our classrooms. The article below asks important questions about who teachers need to be to successfully implement inquiry techniques in their classrooms. This again links well to the achievement culture we are hoping to embed at ISHCMC, with a positive approach to our students. Following our visioning exercise in October and the number of presentations that were linked to the concept of well being, we are investigating Positive Psychology as something that in the future PD and embedding as an essential aspect for the ISHCMC community. One of the leaders in creating Positive communities that flourish is Martin Seligman. Here is a short introduction to the ideas involved in Positive Psychology


Do You have the Personality To Be an Inquiry-Based Teacher?

The takeaway is humbling, but inescapable: If an inquiry-based system is to succeed, we’ll need human beings in the classroom who know their field, but who also radiate the kind of positive, non-judgmental love that helps students open their minds and hearts. That’s a tall order for most of us, and where it originates, we don’t know. But the foundation of sincere care will be essential, and it will manifest through the deep personality attributes of the teacher in a variety of ways in the classroom. Every teacher, for example, might reflect on the following:

Are you optimistic? Viewing the world as damaged or the future as bleak shuts down the brain by transmitting fear. Maintaining an optimistic attitude is an expression of love, inspiring curiosity and hope, and fostering emotional and physical health. Optimism is essential to teaching: Without hope, the reason to learn disappears.

Are you open? The world is being refreshed and powered by divergent thinking. Outcomes are unclear, even dangerous. But faith in the flexible thinking of the human mind can support young people as they sort out their new world and have the freedom to discover solutions not yet visible. An open attitude activates the frontal lobes, the place of flow and creativity.

Are you appreciative? Deep appreciation gives permission for failure, rather than penalizing for the “wrong” answer. It honors the stops and starts of human development. It conveys the ultimate message of a communal world: We are in this together.

Are you flexible? In inquiry, the journey matters as much as the destination. Constant reflection is a necessity to improving thinking and doing. Metacognition encourages wisdom, the ultimate goal of any worthy education system. Flexibility tells the brain and heart to keep working, keep going—you’re getting there.

Are you purposeful? Purpose binds teacher and student into the high-minded pursuit of solutions that matter. It is the reason that “authentic” education works and inauthentic education struggles. It tightens the connection between the learner and the teacher in ways that spur the natural creative impulse to change and improve the world.

As promised each week I will continue to share information that can be used in  Transforming our Classrooms
# 2 Flipped Classroom
Project Examples:
Have a good weekend,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Transforming student learning

Dear all,

Hope you have had a good week. This week’s food for thought will be a bit longer than usual because I would like to share a little bit of the learning from last week’s Kim Cofino workshop whilst also sharing with you a good article that includes two ideas for developing inquiry on the iPad for Math and Science.  Also as I will miss Monday briefing this week because I am doing a combined IB/ CIS and NEASC visit in Singapore I have added a couple of PD opportunities for after winter break.

Sharing the Kim Cofino workshop:  What I have decided to do is share each week for the next 12 weeks somewhere in my Food for Thought email/ blog post, one of 12 areas we looked at during the weekend on transforming learning in our classrooms. What this will entail will be a few articles about the main focus and examples of how it has been applied for you to look at and possibly try out in your classrooms.

 1: Globally Collaborative Projects

Project Examples:

In addition during a “speed geeking” session ( this is where a person shares a tech application/ piece of software etc that they have used in their classroom and liked, with the rest of the group) we learned 6 really interesting ideas that you might find useful. I know that some of you who attended have already shared some of these but just wanted to let you know about one I tried this week that worked wonderfully. I used something called “Todaysmeet” which is a back room chat. It is very simple to use and engaged the class. I used it in a situation where students were doing a jigsaw reading exercise and I asked them to share any thoughts that they had about what they had read as they were reading. I was very surprised by the level of thinking by several students who are usually quiet and do not contribute much to class because of their level of English. It also created a few humourous moments as well which showed another side of my class that furthered added to our relationship. All in all it was a good thing to introduce to my class and one that we will be using again in the future.

       buistbunch via Compfight cc

Inquiry Learning Ideas for Math and Science With iPads

”Granting students the freedom to inquire and explore makes them the investigators of life’s mysteries. In the process, they are sharpening their all-important critical and creative thinking skills. Technology offers fantastic opportunities for the application of critical thinking skills toward an understanding of real-world questions and answers. It can be used to gather information about the world around us so that we can investigate real-world questions and test their answers. That’s the focus of this chapter. You find numerous apps that deliver content about botany or algebra, but I want to focus on how you can use technology to have students experience that knowledge from the inside out.”

The article contains extracts from a book that I have seen referenced in a couple of articles recently that might be worth investing in for your own professional teaching library

iPad in Education For Dummies by Sam Gliksman, Wiley, Copyright © 2013. So here is a link to a short but useful “Cheat Sheet” by the author about the book,

2 PD Opportunities that are coming in January and February.

This is the PD opportunity that I mentioned in last Mondays morning briefing. I believe it will be a great opportunity to learn more about technological for your classroom from practitioners.


Learning, Community, Responsibility
Please consider presenting a workshop and/or leading a Speed Geeking session!  


VTC is an initiative sponsored by Saigon South International School and the United Nations International School in Hanoi. It is an annual educational technology conference targeting international schools in Vietnam. This conference is designed for teachers, administrators and support staff to network, share effective practices and continue to move the use of technology forward. VTC 2014 builds on the successful initial conference held at SSIS in 2013.

Vietnam Tech Conference will:


·         Provide a venue for educators to inquire and explore how they can effectively integrate technology within the classroom

·         Create a community of educators pushing the boundaries of educational technology

·         Promote Digital citizenship and awareness throughout our learning community


Saturday: Learning and Technology workshops, including Speed Geeking sessions

   Cocktail Social and Dinner hosted by UNIS Hanoi

Sunday: “Unconference” sessions based on participants’ interests, Job Alike and workshops

If you are keen to present a workshop and/or lead a Speed Geeking session, click on this link to enter your session proposals.

Saturday, February 15, 2014 (8:30 – 3:30)

Sunday, February 16, 2014 (8:30 – 1:30)

United Nations International School Hanoi

Ciputra, Lac Long Quan Road, Tay Ho District

·         EARCOS SPONSORED WEEKEND WORKSHOP at Saigon South on Common Assessments January 11th and 12th

As a result of this workshop, participants will deepen understanding of how to:

• use Common Assessments to integrate unit planning, balanced assessment approaches, quality rubrics, using data results to inform instructional decisions, and professional learning communities;

• develop quality assessment tasks and associated rubrics/scoring guides (or refine ones that already exist);

• explore protocols for calibrating scoring of common assessments;

• become familiar with a data-driven decision-making protocol that can be used to inform instructional decisions; and

• support common assessments through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

Here are more details: 

Have a good weekend,

See you on Friday.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Steve Jobs, Lesson for Life

Dear All,

This week’s Food for Thought adds to last weeks and is from a young Steve Jobs, 1996, and is a lesson for life. There is something in these words for all of us and they can easily be shared with all our students in homeroom.

“When you grow up you, tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

Most people never pick up the phone, most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you gotta be willing to fail… if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

Steve Jobs.

Have a good Sunday.