"Imagination is more important than knowledge" Dr. Albert Einstein 

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The Power of Passion Projects
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Experiential Learning- Moving beyond the classroom
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The Journey towards Learner Agency.
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Cultivating Good Reading Habits
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Establishing a Culture of Thinking
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Unpacking our Unit of Inquiry
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A Great New Beginning!
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The End of Term 2!
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Unit of Inquiry 6 – Making Learning Connections and Conclusions
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Unit of Inquiry 6 – On The Move (Human Migration)

The Power of Passion Projects

Every  teacher/parent  wants their students/children to find joy in the learning process. How do provide our young adults an environment to discover who they are, help them unlock the passions they hold, and guide their journey of self-discovery.

The answer is simpler than you might imagine: provide time for them to explore their passions.

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” — Bishop T. D. Jakes

Devoting a portion of work time to exploring passions is not a new concept. Almost 70 years ago, 3M encouraged their employees to devote 15% of their work time to research and create innovative projects that captured their interests and passions. Google did something similar when they encouraged their engineers to take 20% of their time to work on something company-related that interested them personally. Both companies valued a spirit of innovation and productivity; allowing employees to be creative resulted in the creation of such products as post-it notes.

This concept of intentional time spent on projects of interest is foundational to the Genius Hour movement in education, where students spend one hour a week researching their passions and sharing their insights. We have decided to adopt this practice into the Upper Elementary classes at Magic Years. Students from Grades 3-5, will collaboratively work on projects that interest them, every Friday for 60 minutes.

Here’s a peak into our process…

We first brainstormed with the students on what they are interested in and what made them happy.

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We then asked students to narrow their focus to one question they wanted to explore.

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Students will now have to research their projects – from books, the internet – our class room libraries will also carry books that will help them with their research.

Students will then be transitioning from researching to creating.

Students will then share their passion projects with the school and parent community, and think how their passion projects can have an action component.

We are excited to see where these passion projects will take our students- were agency is at the core of it- voice, choice and ownership respected keeping in tune with the  mission of Magic Years!

Experiential Learning- Moving beyond the classroom

Confucius said – I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Field trips have long provided children with additional learning opportunities and experiences outside of the standard educational environment. Children of all ages are exposed to a variety of cultural and social institutions that enhance various aspects of their development, involve them in their community and cultivate their understanding of new ideas.

The environment in which a child spends their time plays a major role in brain development. Their experiences create synaptic connections which build cognitive, social and emotional structures that will serve as the foundation for their progress in life. Since most of these experiences are derived from their surroundings, it is crucial to provide quality interactions that nurture and refine this process.

Creating memories fosters expansion of this very skill. Children are likely to recount their visit to the zoo, for example, to friends and families after the event. Others will ask questions like “what was your favorite animal?” or “what did you enjoy most about your trip to the zoo?”, and they will often respond with an elaborate narrative as to what they found most interesting. They remember details that many adults would fail to retain – testament to the clarity of the young mind, and in stark contrast to our overflowing palette of adulthood.

Critical thinking is a natural extension of virtually any new experience a child has. They ask many questions and sometimes come up with their own answers. New ideas emerge almost immediately. After an excursion to a local museum, the child may weave a complex illustration of what they would display in their own museum if they were to own one someday.

New interests are created where once there were none. A community art exhibit may inspire one child to draw, and another to build things. Imagination is a virtue the young have in ample supply, and all it may take is that one spark of attraction – something that the child relates to without perhaps even knowing why. Their graduate school major may not necessarily result from something they encountered on a field trip (although it might), but it will certainly be one more entry on their life’s resume.

Field trips, expert visits and immersive hands-on experiences provoke questions, reinforce learning and create real understanding. The experience goes beyond reading about a concept. Students are able to see it, manipulate it or participate in it physically. For younger children this makes learning real, for older students the application of learning brings out relevance. Science through doing, through understanding how the world works. Social studies through seeing the world and understanding the connection between history and geography, math through measuring it, and language through reading and writing about it.  At Magic Years , we constantly extend the experiences for each of our units – to bring the learning alive.

To complete their loop of learning this unit, students of G4 and G5 visited the Neilson Hays Library yesterday – Designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno, this harmonious, symmetrical building wisely incorporates practical features such as double walls to help keep the books well-ventilated and dry. It displays a wealth of classical features such as stucco decorative motifs, columns and teak fixtures and fittings. Numerous original details still survive; many are still in active daily use. The architectural highlight is a beautiful Italianate dome, once the imposing entrance and now a unique art gallery. Housing more than 17,000 books, the Neilson Hays Library is one of the largest collection of English language titles in Bangkok.

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Like Loris Malaguzzi said, “The wider the range of possibilities we offer our children the more intense will be their motivations and richer their experience”.The fieldtrip reinforced the central idea to the students and we are hoping this unit has instilled a love for lifelong reading with our students.

The Journey towards Learner Agency.

The word ‘agency’ may not be new but seems to be the headline nowadays especially since the IB communicated about the enhanced PYP in late 2017.  So the question is ” What is agency and why is it so important”?

 

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Lots IB PYP educators/practitioners are excited and looking forward to the enhanced PYP which will take place this year. I am excited about these changes that would affect the whole school community; the learners and the learning community.

“Agency encourages each of us to consider the choices we make, what action we take and how that will impact students and the wider community to become more internationally minded”- Nicole Bein 

 Who are the Learners?

I am still exploring this term and learning a lot from many IB PYP discussions on social media. At first, I was wondering why ‘agency’ was at the core of the new IB PYP curriculum.  Is agency student-centered or learner-centered?  How is it different?

I remembered a few months ago, there was a post on Twitter asking about the  ‘learner’ and ‘student’.  Lots of responses mentioned that the term learners refers to everyone in the learning community.  This includes teachers, parents, administrators and of course students. And referring to  agency, this means everyone plays important roles to make the agency happens.

In the context of the PYP, the school is considered to be a community of learners.

Source: Making the PYP Happen, 2009, page 5.

What is Agency??

There are three main elements in learner agency; voice – choice – ownership. I used the questions on each element to reflect on practices in my class.  Where am I?  What have I already done?  How have I given opportunities to my students to share their voice?  Have I given them choices in learning (what to learn, how they learn, where and when they learn? How can I reinforce their voice, choice and ownership in my class?

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Source : https://sonyaterborg.com/2017/10/09/dont-say-agency-unless-you-really-mean-it

The more I ask and reflect, the more I realize that there lots of things that I need to  work on. Seeing the big idea of agency makes me excited to make it happen, but at the same time, it is also overwhelming. I have decided to take baby steps and focus on one element at a time.

For some parts  my head say, ‘I already do that,in the classroom”.  But, is it a true agency?  This is the next point that I should answer and I feel that what I have done is not enough to be called a true agency.

 

Whose voice?

I have decided to start with the voice.  The learner’s voice.  I relate to the definition of the learner and try to focus on the student’s voice.

 

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Learner’s voice: Who are the learners? – Created using Adobe Spark.

This is how I break down the voice in the school community.  Each group of learners in the school community deserves to share their voices and be given the opportunity to explore different ways and strategies to move forward.  Ideas, suggestions, opportunities to grow and eventually take action.

I started with my students.  The people whom I work closely every day.

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Based on edglossary.org/student-voice

As I saw this visual about students voice,I realize one of things that may hinder students voice is me as a teacher who sometimes feels that they are not ready yet.  It’s a matter of trust.  Yes, I do let the kids share their opinions, ideas, thinking but sometimes I feel like questioning their ideas and eventually I can’t help myself interfere with their original ideas.  The voice may be encouraged in the class but not supported by giving them the choice, giving them the opportunity to actually do it (space and time), make it real, take actions.

I believe that the voice and choice are interconnected.  Now, how can I start?  How can I re-enable the power of voice and choice in my class? Listen, discuss and let the kids take responsibility to make it happen.

I am fortunate to have colleagues who inspire me.  Each class is different and unique.  Yes, we do have some guidelines on how to set our classes but the way each teacher has set their classrooms is different. There is always something for me to learn from them.  There is always something I can do more than I have done.  That’s the mindset I have started to develop. During this past week, I have been telling myself to  step back and listen more to them.  I started by asking them what they would like to change in the class.  They shared the ideas of what they think they would like to have. More games, more beanbags,an art corner, a makers space.As they shared their ideas, I encouraged them to discuss the upside and downsides of their ideas.  I could hear a few kids showed their empathy towards one’s idea or supporting others.  It’s still a tiny baby step which hopefully will lead to the true agency.  It’s still far away but without taking the baby step, it won’t take me anywhere.

I am still learning, unlearning and re-learning how to empower agency, particularly in the classroom. But as they say, “A journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step….. there are many steps to take”

Cultivating Good Reading Habits

 

” The more that you read,The more things you will know.

The more that you learn, The more places you will go.” Dr. Zeus

As a teacher, I am obsessed with cultivating a love of reading in my students. I love to read, loved it as a kid too.  I am well aware that I’m on a mission — but I also know it’s a worthy one!

Here are some suggestions for how you can support your child with reading.

Read:Simple first step! If we’re going to encourage kids to read we need to do it too. Read for pleasure, information, instructions, connecting with others, and so on. Read. Read a little more than you’ve been reading lately.

Share your reading experiences: Tell them what you’ve been reading, what you’ve gained or learned from these texts

Socialize around reading: Set up book clubs, reading groups, literature circles as a part of play dates.

Visit the local library: This is another way to make reading social and exciting. Visit your local library, a university library or a bookstore. It’s not about checking out or buying books — it’s about being surrounded by thousands of books, touching their gorgeous pages, seeing the world of possibility in print. The library is a great place to explore new books and authors for free. Many libraries also have story hours or other literacy programs for kids. These give your child a chance to develop good reading habits and to see other kids doing the same thing.

Let kids pick what to read: That trip to the library can be extra special when you give your child time to look around and see what catches his interest. He’s more likely to want to read something he picked out himself. If you’re concerned about him finding the right reading level or a suitable topic, just give him a section of books to choose from.

Listen to audio books: Invite your children to listen to them; play short passages. To me, audio books “count” as reading. While you’re not developing decoding or fluency skills, you are acquiring vocabulary, applying comprehension strategies, and enjoying stories or accruing information. Some of the audio books I’ve listened to have stuck with me in ways that reading text hasn’t. My mind was free to visualize the scenes in a way that creating lasting images.

Create a reading space: Your reading space doesn’t have to be big or have a lot of bookshelves. It can even be a corner of the couch or a chair in your child’s room. Picking out a comfy spot that has good lighting and room to keep a book or two can help your child learn to connect coziness and comfort with reading.

Find reading moments in everyday life: Reading isn’t just about sitting down with a good book. It’s a part of daily life, too. As you go through your day, help your child keep an eye out for “reading moments.” They may be as simple as reading road signs, grocery lists or recipes.

Reread favorite books: You may get tired of reading the same story over and over again. But it can help your child become a reader. Kids like to spot things they may have missed the first time in the story or pictures of their favorite books. Rereading also gives them a chance to connect the words they see on the page with the words they hear. Eventually, your child may start reading the book to you!

 

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Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that cannot read them”, and truer words have never been said!

Establishing a Culture of Thinking

If “children grow into the intellectual life around them” (see L.S. Vygostky’s Mind in Society), then what kind of intellectual life are we providing to the students in our classrooms and schools? Teachers all over the world have had to accept the compromise of focusing more on delivering prescribed curriculum than developing understanding – test-taking rather than learning. This, among other reasons, is why strategies focused on making thinking visible has been such game changers in today’s classrooms.

One good example of this that I’ve worked with is the Making Thinking Visible course, led by Ron Ritchhart as part of Harvard’s Project Zero. The Making Thinking Project focuses on  thinking routines that develops students’ thinking dispositions, while at the same time deepening their understanding of the topics they study. Curious as to what that means? Continue reading for more.

What are Thinking Routines?

Routines are really just patterns of action that can be integrated and used in a variety of contexts.Visible Thinking makes extensive use of learning routines that are thinking rich. These routines are simple structures, for example a set of questions or a short sequence of steps.What makes them routines, versus merely strategies, is that they get used over and over again in the classroom so that they become part of the fabric of classroom’ culture. The routines become the ways in which students go about the process of learning.

Thinking routines form the core of the Visible Thinking program. What makes these routines work to promote the development of a students thinking and the classroom culture are that each routine:

  • Is goal oriented in that it targets specific types of thinking
  • Gets used over and over again in the classroom
  • Consists of only a few steps
  • Is easy to learn and teach
  • Is easy to support when students are engaged in the routine
  • Can be used across a variety of context
  • Can be used by the group or by the individual

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School Wide Culture of Thinking

At Magic Years we promote “Cultures of Thinking” classrooms. Our classrooms are  more focused on thinking, learning, understanding and collaboration. Making time for thinking, using a language of thinking, and documenting the thinking processes are just some of the ways that we, teachers have started to create cultures of thinking in our classrooms.

Some examples of the thinking routines we have used till now in our grade:

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As Ron Ritchhart says, any curriculum succeeds or fails depending on the culture of the classroom in which it is enacted. While culture enables us to teach the curriculum, it also shapes us as thinkers and learners. Understanding this process of enculturation holds the key to the creation of the dynamic learning communities we seek.

Upcoming Event- Back to School Night

Date: 5th September 2018

Time: 5-7 PM.

Hope to see you there and we can do some thinking routines together 🙂

Unpacking our Unit of Inquiry

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”- Plato

We began this week with unpacking some of essential elements of the PYP in context to our unit of inquiry. In case you are wondering what it is to “Unpack” something (I tend to use this word a lot!), here is the definition.

Unpack (verb): to explain and define the key conceptual understandings and “big words” used in a central idea and lines of inquiry, usually as a part of “tuning into” a new unit of inquiry.

Transdisciplinary Themes  are about issues that have meaning for, and are important to, all of us. The PYP offers a balance between learning about or through the subject areas, and learning beyond them. The six themes of global significance create a Transdisciplinary framework that allows students to “step up” beyond the confines of learning within subject areas. Our theme for this unit is, How We Express Ourselves.

Unpacking the Theme- We started our inquiry by asking students what they understand by the theme and how they like to Express themselves best! After which students were asked to think of all the different inquiries they have had over the past grades under the theme “How We Express Ourselves.” They were given the definition of theme and were asked to highlight their previous learning. They were then asked to predict on post-it notes what they think they will be inquiring into this unit.

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The Concepts that drive the PYP are timeless (factual examples change, but not the core understanding), universal (so students can apply understandings across cultures, situations and disciplines) and abstract (so students engage in higher order thinking to grapple with central ideas).”

Unpacking the Concepts – Students did a bus stop activity where they had to answer a question for each provocation kept on the table. We then had a discussion on their thoughts and elicited the concepts from them after the engagement. To  deepen their understanding students did a workpiece where they wrote down their understanding of the key and related concepts. We will take this further by asking them to connect the concepts to the Central Idea by asking them the key question, ” How can you connect this understanding our Central Idea”.

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The Central Idea is a channel through which students embark on an investigation to explore the world around them. It is the springboard which inspires self-directed  inquiry throughout the unit.  Through unpacking the Central Idea, we can offer a pathway for students to build upon independent thought and form the basis for autonomous action.

You’ll see that under the theme How We Express Ourselves, we are focusing on the Central Idea,”Reading opens our minds to multiple perspectives to understand how people think, feel ,and act.” The central idea is a statement that guides overall instruction in the unit. It makes connections to several different content areas (transdisciplinary in nature) and is open-ended to promote questioning and inquiry among the students. The learning experiences span across all content areas and support the central idea.

Unpacking the Central Idea – Students were given the words of the central idea cut into pieces and they had to make a meaningful sentence that could be a Central Idea. After they did this engagement the Central idea was put up on the board and students could see how close they were! Students were then asked to reflect on their predications to see if they were close to what we were going to inquire into.

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The Lines of Inquiry are written to elicit more student questioning and deconstruct the central idea.

Unpacking the Lines of Inquiry – After students were made aware of the Central idea they were asked to share what they thought they will inquire into this unit and they wrote down their own lines of inquiry. Students then did a Headlines Thinking Routine where they captured the heart of our Central Idea.

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Skills, Attitudes, and Learner Profiles were unpacked through book readings and discussions time!

Its been a week of learning, questioning, and extending our understanding and I am looking forward to what experiences next week will hold for us as a learning community!

Ms. Divya

A Great New Beginning!

Today was the first day of school. The transition from one year to another can be challenging for a few and exciting for the others. There are new routines to get used to, new environments to explore, new expectations and new relationships to be formed. So, today we just delved right into that!

Here are a few learning highlights of today.

We played a few icebreaker games to get to know each other better. We played “The Toilet Paper Game“, “Help Me Know You” and a Friend Bingo search game. The students and I enjoyed getting to know each other through play as there were many new things they discovered about their friends as the games were played.

 

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We then had a session on “What does an effective classroom look like, sound like and feel like. We had a discussion on this and listed down their thoughts. This in turn helped us make our “Class Agreements” which was an acrostic poem on the word Respect“. Students worked in pairs for this exercise and then we had a whole class discussion on what we thought were most appropriate for us to follow as a grade! Students then signed their class agreements as they now have to take full ownership for their classroom learning environment.

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We then moved on to reading the book “ Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox and did a cultural x-ray. The purpose of doing this exercise was to reinforce the understanding that even though we many have many different likes and dislikes, at the end of the day we all hold the same values and beliefs in common -close to our heart, because we are all human. We presented our cultural x-rays to the class and we gained a little more insight into each other.

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Presenting Our Cultural X-ray’s to each other

We ended the day with a quick exit slip on how the day went. Their responses made me smile. 🙂

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As I reflect upon my day I recognise that first days can be overwhelming for everyone- students and teachers alike. I enjoyed my day with my community of learners and I am looking forward to a wonderful year of love, laughter and learning!

Ms. Divya

 

 

The End of Term 2!

Wow! We have finally come to an end of this academic year 2017/2018. The biggest highlights for our class community were our Term 2 Assembly, Grade 5 Graduation and a Whole-School Assembly for Staff Appreciation. Please scroll down for pictures 🙂

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It has been one year enjoying teaching and learning with all Grade 4 and 5 students. We hope that everyone in our class community has had a wonderful time together inquiring into different units of inquiry and areas of learning in specials classes. It is the accumulation of relentless effort and time from all of us here in Magic Years school community. We wish all the best to all our Grade 5 Graduates this year as they move up to a new grade level soon. As for Grade 4 students, all the best to you in Grade 5 with your new friends and teachers. Thank you everyone for making this year a memorable year!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • Summer School starts on Monday, 9th June 2018
  • Open House for Academic Year 2018/2019 on Friday, 10th August 2018

Unit of Inquiry 6 – Making Learning Connections and Conclusions

Human migration is people moving from one place to another, to stay there. It often happens in large numbers. Migration can be within countries or between countries. Humans are known to have migrated extensively throughout history and prehistory.

(Read more here)

As we are approaching the end of this unit, why not take some time to consolidate our thinking and make learning connections about human migration?

As described by Richard Paul and Linda Elder (2012) in their book called Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning & Your Life, concepts are to us like the air we breathe. They are everywhere. They are essential to our lives. But we rarely notice them. Yet only when we have conceptualized a thing in some way, only then, can we think about it. Nature does not give us, or anyone else, instructions in how things are to be conceptualized. We must create that conceptualization, alone or with others.

Grade 4 and 5 Parents, do take time to ask your child these questions below at home and observe how your child is applying his/her conceptual thinking and understanding that we have been working on throughout this academic year.

Why do people move? What forces do you think drive human migration? What effect does a region’s economy, climate, politics, and culture have on migration to and from the area?

(Read more here)

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • Combined Term 2 Assembly/Celebration: Grade 3 – 5 students (Thursday, 31st May) 10:30 am to 11:30 am *ALL parents are invited!
  • Combined Class Party: Grade 3 – 5 students (Thursday, 31st May) 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm and followed by early dismissal *Party Coordinators: Ms. Minny and Ms. Joy (Room Parents)

 

  • Grade 5 Graduation Ceremony (Friday, 1st June) 8:45 am to 10:30 am *for Grade 5 class community
  • LAST DAY OF SCHOOL – Wednesday, 6th June 2018 *early dismissal at 12:30 noon

Unit of Inquiry 6 – On The Move (Human Migration)

  1. When people migrate, does it change their lives?
  2. Where do people migrate to, the most?
  3. How do people migrate?
  4. Does the NPO help poor people to migrate?
  5. Do people migrate because of hatred?
  6. How do they feel when they migrate?
  7. What causes them to migrate?
  8. What happens after people migrate?
  9. Does migration cost a lot of money?
  10. If poor people have no money to migrate, what will they do?
  11. How can they change their lives after they migrate?
  12. Does migration change their belief system?
  13. What is migration?
  14. What will happen if people cannot migrate?
  15. What will happen if a pregnant woman needs help?
  16. What are the special things each country has?
  17. What happens if we have problems entering the country?
  18. How do people escape from war?
  19. Will the world change if everyone migrated?
  20. Are migrations forced or voluntary?

Grade 4-5 class community tuned into our unit with several picture and video provocations. Then, our collaborative discussion led us to the above wondering questions that we all shared. With the implementation of two thinking tools (See, Think, Wonder) and Six Thinking Hats, we shared our initial understandings or prior knowledge about our new unit of inquiry below.

Transdisciplinary Theme: Where We Are in Place and Time

Central Idea: Human migration is a response to challenges and opportunities.

Lines of Inquiry:

1. Reasons why people migrate
2. Consequences of human migration
3. Viewpoints on migration

Key Concepts: Function, Causation & Perspective

Related Concepts: Migration, Population & Impact

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Moving forward to our finding out stage, we had a special guest speaker session with Mr. Karl (a parent from Grade 3) whereby he shared valuable insights about human migration, and his personal experiences when he migrated to Thailand many years ago. Here are some of our personal reflection after listening to his sharing:

“We need to be open-minded to migrate to new places, even if we don’t want to, or when it is difficult. We also need to be open to new people and cultures.”
“You need to respect the new place that you are going to so that you can have friends easily.”
“Mr. Karl said that we need to learn the new language.”
“We migrate for new opportunities… to challenge yourself into doing something out of your comfort zone. That shows how to be a risk-taker!”
“Mr. Karl said that travelling for vacation or holidays are not migration.”
“I think we need to be inquirers too, because we have to research information about the place we are migrating to, if the place is good or bad.”

 

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Links: Migration Stories #1 Migration Story #2 Migration Story #3

Additionally, we began to sort out our thinking after reading several real-life stories of migration. We realized that different families migrated to a new place because of various reasons, on either voluntary or involuntary basis. We also noticed that their experiences after migration can be positive, negative or a mixture of both. Nevertheless, we learned that most of the families truly miss their home country, even when they have moved to the new place.

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In our going further stage, we are in the midst of drafting and creating our fictional stories of migration to demonstrate our content knowledge and conceptual understanding about this unit, with the integration of language and literacy skills. The main characters in our stories are migrating to a new place due to certain reasons, and our stories will also reflect the consequences or changes after migration. We are thrilled to share our fictional stories in the upcoming Term 2 Assembly with our friends, teachers and parents. Join us if you can!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  1. NO SCHOOL on Tuesday, 29th May 2018 (Visakha Bucha Day)
  2. Combined Term 2 Assembly/Celebration: Grade 3 – 5 students (Thursday, 31st May) 10:30 am to 11:30 am *ALL parents are invited!
  3. Combined Class Party: Grade 3 – 5 (Thursday, 31st May) 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm *Party Coordinators: Ms. Minny and Ms. Joy (Room Parents)
  4. Grade 5 Graduation (Friday, 1st June)
  5. LAST DAY OF SCHOOL – Wednesday, 6th June 2018 *early dismissal at 12:30 noon