Monday, 31 October 2016

Knowledge is Power

At the end of this week - Friday - students will have submitted their final informational research papers. They have been working on these since before the break, and Friday will see the product of all their hard work. These papers offer students the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic they are interested in, as well as develop essential academic writing and research skills. In the process, learners can see how it is possible to use online resources and critical thinking to learn anything they choose to. My hope is they can transfer these skills to any topic, and in this way become genuine life-long learners.

Of course, we can offer as much support and encouragement as we want, but it is up to students to accept that assistance. Today our lunchtime session was busy, but there are still some students who would benefit from joining us. Anyone who is struggling to make adequate progress is welcome to join us, and those who are behind our in-class checkpoints are obliged to join us. This is make sure nobody falls behind and then panics when they realise they cannot meet the deadline. It is not a punishment; it is a support.

Indeed, some students who are not struggling or behind join us at lunchtime or after school so they can have some extra time to work on their papers. This has the benefit of reducing homework so when they leave school, they can focus on other things.

Please let's support our teens in meeting Friday's deadline so we can spend the rest of the semester with a positive outlook, having celebrated all the hard work that has gone into these.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Quarter 2 - Positive Educational Experiences Ahoy!

Quarter 1 saw most of our students finish the session with a grade that reflected their achievements, and one they were proud of. For sure, starting a new school, meeting many new teachers and systems, as well as learning to time manage is a big challenge. So, congratulations to all students for making it this far and still being able to smile! It was great to be able to share these positive notes with parents at the PTC so thanks to everyone who came along.
As we move into Quarter 2, there will now be a change to the grading policy. Whereas before, students were given a grace period of up to a week before assignments were marked as 'F', from now on, you may see some assignments graded much quicker. This is to avoid students getting the the end of the quarter and panicking as they realise they have multiple assignments to submit. For some reason, the allocation of an 'F' grade seems to get students' attention faster than a 'missing' or 'incomplete' icon. I do not know for sure why this is, but if it alerts students more than other methods, it makes sense to use it.
This new grading practice is in combination with the catch-up sessions at lunchtime and after school.
What else are we doing to support student success?
  • In Advisory, we will be guiding students to create a weekly schedule where they fill in every hour of their day with priorities, and then fit the rest of their activities in the remaining time. Of course, we need to remember our Core Value of Balance in Life, so students will be encouraged to designate time for family, friends and relaxation.
  • Homework will be reduced in Language Arts as far as possible. NoRedInk and Lit Circles will still be a regular feature, but we will try to do as much in class time as we can.
  • In class, we will talk about the Pomodoro technique, and I will encourage all students to try it out over the next week. (Check out the video below.)
  • Students will be asked to install apps to help them focus, the first few of which will be Stay FocusedForest and Pomodoro Time- feel free to try them yourself! 
  • I am asking all parents to consider the impact of 'academies' and other after-school tuition. Recently, I have had 2 students tell me they cannot complete homework because their academy or tutor gave them other work to do. This jeopardises students' chances of success in SSIS, so I would greatly encourage everyone to consider whether extra classes are needed. Please remember teachers are available by appointment (for free!) if students need extra help with particular subjects. It does not always make sense to employ another person who probably will not be familiar with the content of our lessons anyway.
My hope is the above steps will reduce pressure on our teens, and help them have happy, healthy and productive weeks ahead. Stress is OK in moderation as it can motivate us to avoid procrastination, but too much is unhealthy, leads to unhappiness and can cause feelings of being overwhelmed.
Let's work together to ensure our students enjoy their education and maximise their learning.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Supporting Student Success

This quarter has seen many students succeed with their learning goals. It has also seen some students struggling to manage deadlines, workload and communications. The build up of late or missing
assignments just leads to additional stress for students, and some conclude they are 'stupid' and / or it's impossible to catch up. I definitely do not want either of these situations to occur.
For this reason, when we return after the break, I am introducing a new policy. Where an assignment is overdue, students will be invited to a lunch-time catch-up session on the same (or next) day. Where this is not possible (due to other time commitments), they will be offered an after-school slot. This will enable them to carve out specific time for the specific task, and I will be nearby to support with any issues around understanding. These issues may be technology-related or content-related; either way I am here to help.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you see your son or daughter struggling even before a deadline - the sooner we identify obstacles to their achievement, the sooner we can get them back on the right path.
I hope everyone has an enjoyable and well-deserved break.
We will be heading back to the beautiful town of Hoi An. Whether you are staying home or travelling out of the city, I wish you safe travels and an enjoyable break.
Remember - whatever you do: happy learning!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Crystine and Teddy Stick With It!

This morning before school, Teddy and Crystine dropped by to ask questions about some concepts from NoRedInk. Both had been struggling with different language issues, but within 10 minutes, they were resolved and they were then able to complete the task successfully.
Their achievement is worth recognising because not all students ask for help when it's needed. Some give up at the first hurdle, or perhaps after trying just 1 solution. These 2 demonstrated the understanding that sometimes you have to go that little bit further, with a little extra effort if you really want to succeed. They were clear about what they didn't understand, and were able to use the time efficiently.
Congratulations to both these learners for showing us how it's done.
I hope they, along with everyone else, enjoy the long weekend.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Introducing Notecards & a Break from Lit Circles

This week, Mr Benck (8th Grade ELA) introduced the students to research notecards. The video of the session is below.
Students are gathering information on their self-chosen topics, so please do encourage them to share their findings at home.

We will return to lit circles after the break, and now students are encouraged to read as many informational texts as they can. This way they can replicate the successful features they notice, and raise the standard of their own writing. Of course, we still expect they are reading a fiction book of their choice every evening for at least 20 minutes.

On another note, we've had lots of student success with the building of community in our classroom. A visitor would now notice the courtesy and kindness with which students talk to each other. We will never stop working on this, and it's great to see our students growing personally as well as academically.

Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. You can ‘Subscribe’ to this blog by clicking on the button top right, which will enable you to receive notifications for new posts. Whatever you do – happy learning!