Week of 8 January

Welcome back and Happy 2018!  It was great to see the children again today (finally!) and hear their tales from three weeks away from school.  It’s amazing how much a 5/6 year old can grow in such a short period of time!  Here are some highlights from the first week back…

The children worked on recounting a small moment from their holiday orally and on paper by using sequencing words (first, next, then, after that, finally, etc).  They also practiced using past tense words in their recounts.  Irregular past tense verbs (went, saw, had, etc.) can be tricky, so we’ll keep working on these in coming days/weeks.

We launched our new Unit of Inquiry by removing the rubbish bins from our classroom.  The children noticed their absence quickly and wondered what to do with their trash.  When asked to think of solutions on their own, some children decided to carry rubbish to an outside bin, others chose to put it on the floor, and some children decided to take it home. Our room started to look pretty messy before too long.  Uha cleared a small area on top of a book shelf for her rubbish, and explained that she put it there instead of on a table because we often need table top space to work and eat.

The children spent some time drawing and sharing their ideas about where rubbish goes when we put it in the bin.  Ask your child to share his/her theory about this.  We’ll continue paying attention to the trash we create and thinking about the responsibilities that come along with producing waste.

In the weeks leading up to the holiday break, the children learned about the Nutcracker in music class with Ms Alexis.  This morning, the K1, K2 and G1 classes shared their learning with one another by performing music, dancing and body percussion from the Nutcracker in the ECC assembly.



Week of 11 December

Last week’s Maker Day was a big hit!  In addition to being great fun, it provided an authentic opportunity for our students to think more deeply about structures and show what they’ve learned during this Unit of Inquiry.  Thinking like playground engineers, the children worked in mixed class teams to design, build and improve a new structure for the ECC playground using locally available resources.  We had attempts at building castles, swings, slides, see-saws and tents.  Ask your child about his/her team and how their design and building process went.

Here are some photos of each group’s planning sketches:

And some photos of playground engineers in action…

The Early Childhood teachers at UNIS hold a shared belief in learning through play.  Although they are not in the ECC building, the Grade 1 team has been working to incorporate more play into their weekly routines.  This week, the G1 classes invited the K2 classes to explore and enjoy their new outside play based learning space.  On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, groups of K2 and G1 children enjoyed playing together outside.  The children enjoyed building, pretending, creating, digging, and laughing together.  We plan to organize these get togethers monthly to help forge stronger connections between K2 and G1.

We followed up on some of our playground math this week.  After sorting the blue foam blocks into groups, we were left with many piles, but quantities that were still too large to count accurately.  On Tuesday, we worked on figuring out how many cylindrical blocks were in one tub.  Ask your child what s/he did to organize the data and find a solution to the problem.  It was interesting to see how children make sense of information and approach problems.

On Thursday morning we went to the library to enjoy some quality time with our Grade four buddies.  The K2 children were happy to have more experienced readers at the ready to read to them!

Thanks to Maisey’s grandma for being our Mystery Reader this week.  Keep an eye out for new sign up slots in January.

The children have been doing their best to keep their minds focused on school, but there are clearly other dreams competing for their attention this week!  We shared some of our hopes and excitement about the upcoming break.  Children talked about looking forward to seeing family members, staying up later than usual, seeing snow, celebrating Christmas and playing with friends.  We wish everyone a joyful, relaxing break filled with good books, quality family time, and plenty of time to play!

Week of 4 December

Our construction walk with the grade 4 buddies last week sparked some curiosity about what’s happening behind all the fences on campus.  We watched part of a time lapse video of the progress on the canteen/library building, which led to even more wonderings.

On Wednesday morning, Carl Strefford from the campus operations team came to answers some questions and help us understand what’s happening on campus.  He also shared some blueprints from the project with us to help us get a sense of the construction process from design through building.  The children will get to apply some of what Carl taught us as they participate in a playground engineering project for Maker Day on Friday morning.

Many of the children have noticed and wondered about why there are so many triangles on bridges.  We watched a few videos to find out more about how bridges are made and why triangles are so strong.  Ask your child about his/her stability standing on one leg vs. two legs and about using cups to make a stable tower.  The children had many interesting ideas when asked “What makes a triangle a triangle?”  After every child had time to draw his/her idea of what a triangle looks like, we put them all together and talked about what we noticed.  Some children suggested that some of our shapes were too big/small to be triangles and that “how slanty” the lines are determines whether a shape is actually a triangle.  Everyone agreed that triangles have to have 3 straight sides (no curves allowed!) and 3 “pointy bits”.  We’ll be continuing our investigation until we build some shared understandings of what a triangle is.

We noticed that a few children began writing notes to each other recently.  To build on this authentic reason for writing, we began a classroom letter writing project.  Over the course of the week, children had time to write a letter to a friend and put it in the classroom mailbox.  We’ve looked at the structure of a letter and some of the words one might need in order to write one (dear, from, love, thank you, etc.).  Our mailbox is quite full already and mail will be delivered on Friday. To say there’s a lot of excitement about this would be an understatement!  If you have paper or envelopes that you no longer need at home, feel free to send them to school.  The children would be happy to have a variety of letter writing paper to choose from.

We continued building our re-telling and sequencing skills by thinking about the Three Billy Goats Gruff this week.  On Monday morning, children from K2C taught us how to use the Feltboard app to create a setting and characters to tell or re-tell a story.  Some children chose to use the app to aid in a re-telling.  They had to think about how to design the setting and characters before using their creation to re-tell the story.  Other children spent time acting out the story using props, sequencing scenes from the story, and drawing and writing the different parts of the story to create a story map.

Thanks to parents who have come as mystery readers recently. The children love having parents come to read, so we’ll add more spots to our sign up sheet in January.

We’re excited about Friday’s Maker Morning in the ECC.  Please make sure your child comes to school in clothing that’s appropriate for sustained, potentially dirty, outdoor play.

Week of 27 November

We began exploring the concept of measurement this week.  Most children can easily size up two objects and determine which one is bigger and which one is smaller, so we’ve been learning to use more specific language.  The children engaged in a few measurement challenges over the course of the week.  Each one was designed to help them explore length, height or weight.  Working in teams, the children built towers and compared their height, built bridges and compared their length, found objects and lined them up in order of length or height, and compared the weight of objects using a balance scale.  In each challenge, the children practiced using words like taller, tallest, shorter, shortest, heavier and lighter.  Ask your child which challenges s/he enjoyed most and why.  Consider looking for natural opportunities to talk about length, height and weight at home and encourage your child to use specific language instead of just saying bigger and smaller.  Here are some photos from the challenges:

After many days spent building stamina for reading independently, we moved on to a new reading practice last week.  The children are now enjoying reading to each other.  Just like in independent reading, the children make meaning while reading the pictures and the words, but having a partner allows them to deepen their comprehension by talking about the books, too.  Reading to a friend has been a popular option during our learning choice times lately.  Other options include reading independently, playing a math game, playing a literacy game, writing a book, or building.  If you’re coming to open classrooms on Friday morning, you’ll have a chance to see this routine in action.

We will begin listening to books on iPads soon.  Please send a pair of headphones to school with your child as soon as possible. Headphones should fit over ears (not ear buds) and should be labeled with your child’s name.  Please send the headphones in a bag to help us keep them organized and clean.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff has provide opportunities for making connections between our UOI and our math and literacy work this week.  In addition to comparing and ranking the goats’ sizes, the children have talked about the purpose of the bridge in the story and how it’s constructed.  While practicing re-telling the beginning, middle and end of the story, we got into an interesting discussion about whether knocking the troll down into the river was the best way to solve the problem.  A few children offered alternate solutions (talking to the troll, explaining that they’re hungry, promising to be careful on his bridge, etc.).  The children asked if we could re-write the story with a different ending.  On Thursday, children formed teams and worked together to build the setting and make the characters to re-tell the story.  This project is just getting underway, but we’re excited to see what creative, and more peaceful, solutions the children come up with when their goats are faced with a mean troll.

On Thursday morning, we went on a structure walk around the UNIS campus with our grade 4 buddies.  Working in small groups, the children visited places they hadn’t been before and thought about the purpose, design and materials used for some of our campus structures.  We recently sorted questions from our trips into groups based on our lines of inquiry.  We’ll be adding our new wonderings and forming study groups soon.  Many children have reported that they’ve been noticing and building structures outside of school.  If you have photos of your child showing interest in this topic and taking action outside of school (by building, for example), please feel free to share them with us.

Thanks to everyone who came to open classrooms on Thursday afternoon.  I hope you left with a greater appreciation for the learning that’s happening when children are playing.  We’re looking forward to seeing parents again on Friday morning.


Week of 20 November

Our two recent field trips have helped us tune into the central idea of our current UOI.  Children have been grappling with how bridges are built, especially the part about grounding a bridge in water.  They’ve also been noticing that some shapes tend to reoccur in bridges and other structures.  The children are exploring their questions and ideas through their play and artwork.  For example, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in how the train tracks and building materials are being used.  Train tracks are now being elevated off the floor to form bridges and a whole range of materials are being used to construct towers and other structures throughout our classroom.  While building, children are talking to each other about stability, shapes, measurement and purpose.

Thanks to all of the parents who helped us out on these trips.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

One of our goals for our math thinking this year has been for the children to begin seeing the world mathematically.  Math problems are everywhere if you keep your eyes open!  Maisey shared a wondering recently that sparked a whole class investigation.  She noticed that there were a lot of blue blocks in the playground construction area and thought it would be fun to find out exactly how many there were.  We presented the idea to the class and they were really into it!  Since there are two crates of blocks, the children worked in half groups to figure out how many blocks we have.

The two groups had very different strategies for approaching the problem.  The first group dumped all the blocks out and tried to count them one by one all together.  This proved difficult as many children complained that they were losing track because so many people were counting around them.  After a few attempts at counting like this, they decided to group them together by shape and count them from there.  It was easy to see how many were in each pile, but figuring out how many there were all together proved to be too big a task for the time and focus we had.  The group will revisit the problem soon to think about next steps.

The second group decided to sort the blocks immediately as they emptied the crate.  It was fascinating to see how they approached the problem so differently.  After sorting, they tried to count the piles.  Again, counting in unison and/or with other counters nearby proved to be difficult.  This is where the 5-6 year old imagination came into play.  The group decided that it would make sense to organize the blocks into an obstacle course (complete with alligator/crocodile infested waters, of course!) and count the blocks from there.  They tried counting with their feet first (by walking the course), but decided that counting with hands was easier.  They ran into trouble when they encountered blocks that were stuck together (a noodle in a wheel, for example).  After much deliberation, they decided to put the blocks back into the crate one by one and count as they went.

Through all of this, the children were building perseverance and flexible thinking skills.  Truth be told, a few children grew tired of it all and opted out, but most children stuck with it and kept thinking of new approaches until something felt right. That’s what problem solvers do!  Ask your child about the different strategies and which one(s) felt right for him/her.  Maybe this problem will spark some new mathematical wonderings in your families, too?

Please be sure to read our post about open classrooms next week so you’ll know when we’re open for visitors.  We hope to see many of you here.




K2D Open Classrooms

We are excited to welcome parents into our classroom next Thursday and Friday.  The green blocks below show the two periods when K2D will be open for visitors.  You are also welcome to visit your children’s special classes (shaded in blue below) on either day.  When you come on Thursday, you will see the children engaged in choice time.  While it may look like they’re “just playing”, there’s tons of learning happening.  Please use the table below to frame your observations.  On Friday morning, parents will be welcome to participate by playing learning games with your children.  

Week of 13 November

Here’s a short update from our short week!

After an inspiring 4 days of professional development about student agency and play, we decided to mix things up a bit on Wednesday and Thursday.  We invited the children to decide how to use their time in the classroom and we were impressed with what they decided to do.  Many children worked on building: bridges, houses, castles, towers and world landmarks were constructed.  Children talked about stability, shapes and the process of trial and error.  Other children decided to spend time telling/drawing/writing stories and reading books.  A few children decided that our classroom alphabet poster needed to be spruced up, so they designed new graphics for each letter of the alphabet.  One child made up math problems for herself!  Everyone was engaged and thoughtful about their learning, which was wonderful to see.  Ask your child what s/he decided to do and how it felt to be self-directed.

Aadi, Zoe and Ian built the Kremlin.  Can you see the resemblance?

Thanh An’s apartment building includes a playground on the room, complete with a working see-saw.

Felix and Trisha built a bridge.  They wanted it to be a certain length, so they used the green straw to measure it.
Amber built a castle based on a book she’d read.Tate and Thanh An tried to design a bridge.  Their choice of building material proved to be a challenge.

On Thursday morning, we went looking for structures in the ECC.  Children are in the process of developing an understanding of what is/isn’t a structure.  Some children focused on rooms and offices as structures, some looked at the coverings above some of our play areas, and others looked at shoe racks and cubbies.  Exploring the many columns that hold up the covered areas in the ECC was a thrill for all!Please remember that we’ll be going on trips to look at structures around Hanoi on Friday and Tuesday.  Each child will be carrying a snack, water, and a clipboard for the morning, so it’s important that everyone has a backpack large enough to hold these items.  Everyone should also wear sneakers/trainers instead of crocs or other open-style shoes.  Thanks to all the parents who volunteered to help out.  If only we had a bigger bus!

A notice from Ms Nikki:  K2 classes will be starting a new unit in PE next week.  Some of the lessons will be outside, so it’s important that all children have proper trainers/sneakers on PE days.  If you have any questions, please contact Ms Nikki.


Week of 7 November

We’re launching a new unit of inquiry this week.  Our central idea is The design of structures is influenced by environmental factors, resources, and purpose.  To get things started, the children worked in teams to design and build a structure using classroom building materials. We were impressed with the way teams communicated and shared responsibility for their buildings.  After building, the children made labeled drawings of their structures.  Here are a few reflections on what went well and what was challenging:

+ It’s staying up!

+It’s stable.  It doesn’t fall down easily.

-It keeps falling down.

-We’re trying to make it higher but we’re scared it will fall down.

– It’s hard to put the big pieces together because it keeps falling down.

Ask your child about his/her team and structure.

If your family has any books about building/construction, structures, architecture (in any language), please feel free to send them to school for this unit.  We’ll take good care of them and return them when we’re done.

The Blue Dragon walk-a-thon was great fun!  Thanks to all the parents who helped out by cheering, marking laps and keeping everyone together.  Please send your donations to school as soon as possible.

Apologies for missing last week’s blog post.  Here are a few highlights from the week:

We made new self-portraits using watercolor paints and markers.  Stop by the classroom for a closer look.
For UN Day, our Grade 4 buddies came to help us understand what the UN does and how we can take action to make positive changes in the world.  Each child painted a rock and wrote a wish for the world on it.  We talked about how rocks are long-lasting, just like our hopes for improvement should be.  The K2 and G4 children worked together to make a mandala with their rocks.
Here’s everyone all dressed up for UN Day

Please remember that there will be no classes for students on Monday and Tuesday so teachers can enjoy some professional development.  We’ll look forward to seeing the children again on Wednesday.

Week of 22 October

Playground scientists were in action again this week!  After taking video of children playing on the playground, we talked about what we noticed and wondered about how things work on the playground.  Three themes emerged:

  • How do things go down (particularly water moving downhill and children on a slide)?
  • What makes things stop?
  • How can we use our bodies to make something move/stop?

From there, we formed study groups and generated more specific questions.  Some of the questions were:

  • How can things stop without touching them?
  • How long does it take the swing to stop?
  • Which is faster on the slide:  one person or a “train” of people?
  • Why is the water moving down?
  • Will the swing stop sooner with a hard push or a soft push?

The children developed a hypothesis and then headed off to the playground to test out their ideas.  Ask your child about his/her experiment and what s/he discovered.

We’ve been learning and practicing positional vocabulary (next to, above, in between, behind, etc.). We played two fun games to practice these words this week.  In one game, children made an obstacle course and then led a partner through it using positional words.  In the other game, children made pattern block designs behind a friend’s back and then gave their partner directions for placing the blocks to copy the design.  When they finished, they compared designs to see how close they were to replicating them.

The children in K2D are becoming focused readers.  We’ve been building reading stamina for over two weeks now.  When we first started, the class could focus on books for 30 seconds without becoming distracted (yes, really just 30 seconds!), but now they can read for 12 minutes!  This is a huge accomplishment and point of pride for our students.

We continued learning to model mathematically this week.  We shared a problem with the children in which we had a group of 6 crayons, some of which were blue and some were red. The children had to think of how many ways they could combine red and blue crayons to make a group of six.  This was very challenging for most children!  Learning how to think of multiple solutions to a problem is a goal for us this year.  Problems like this help the children develop their ability to think flexibly and to persevere with solving problems.  Ask your child what s/he did to represent the problem and think of solutions.

Please be sure to read our separate posts about UN Day and Mystery Reader sign ups.


K2D Mystery Reader Sign Up

K2 classes will be inviting parents and other grown ups in to be Mystery Readers in our classrooms starting at the beginning of November.  In K2D, Mystery Readers will be scheduled for 2:55 to 3:10 on Thursday afternoons.  Please click here to sign up for a Mystery Reader slot.  Slots are available from November until December break.  We’ll post more slots in January when we return from the holiday.

On your chosen day, come to school with one of your child’s favorite books (in any language).  Please DO NOT tell your child you will be coming.  Surprises are fun!  We’ll be playing a guessing game to try to figure out who the reader is each day.  You can wait near the ECC Staff Room (so we don’t see you) and we’ll come get you when it’s time for you to read.

If it’s impossible for someone from your family to come on Thursday afternoons, please contact Andrea to discuss other options.  We’d like to have a member of each child’s family come at least one time before June.