Creating Meaningful Distance Learning through Play and Inquiry

For the last 10 weeks, like colleagues all over the world, teachers at UNIS Hanoi have been steeped in creating online learning opportunities for their students. In the blink of an eye we went from school as we knew it, noisy, bustling and in person to school via asynchronous and synchronous formats, videos, Zooms and presentations. In the elementary school at UNIS Hanoi, our focus has been to stay true to our core values and ensure that learning remains engaging, inquiry based, playful and fun. 

As our programme has evolved, we have worked long and hard to remain true to the inquiry based, playful beliefs that are foundational to the Lower Elementary at UNIS Hanoi. When we are on campus, one measure we use to ensure our programme is robust and rigorous is that engagements frequently require students to ask questions and lean into problem solving while remaining innately playful. Teachers have rich professional dialogue to ensure the programme and practice align with our core beliefs. As a school, we define play as combining hands-on learning with student-initiated play. Play is highly adaptive, involves choice, promotes agency and provides rigorous opportunities to inquire into important concepts and personal interests.

So how did we manage to make the shift to distance learning, while remaining true to our beliefs and keeping learning playful?

  • Selecting the right tools for asynchronous and synchronous learning was important as we got started with Distance Learning. Students and parents across the Elementary School use the online platform See Saw to communicate and share their learning with teachers. We have used a range of online tools like Flipgrid, Padlet and Screencastify to share learning and engagements with students. Daily synchronous sessions in the form of Morning Meetings to connect with each other, start the day for all elementary students.
  • Our 3-4 year old programme was reimagined for online learning after sharing best practices with colleagues around the world and listening carefully to student and parent feedback. Students are given choice and agency in choosing how they develop the big idea for the week. Video conferencing sessions are used to build community and help students maintain contact with each other every day.
  • Thinking about what meaningful engagement might look like at home has involved activities like author studies, which have been wonderful for students. Choosing books over several days has given students the ability to make connections and revisit texts they love. Robert Munsch, Julia Donaldson, Peter Reynolds are a few favourites that have worked very well.
  • Using story workshop and loose parts pedagogy with our younger students has sparked a lot of involvement from the children. The open ended quality of it has been bringing in really interesting work and giving teachers a glimpse of what the children are currently experiencing.
  • Distance Learning Art lessons in the Early Childhood Centre have linked with current Units of Inquiry as much as possible. This has resulted in many successful, investigative and playful engagements. Students in Discovery and K1 created the “Paperbag Princesses” with real paper bags as well as loose parts from their homes. The students have also made math connections by creating animals from different shapes and using boxes and recycled materials in their homes to build sculptures and enormous towers. The challenges of not having access to all of the art supplies we have at school were originally very daunting but with lots of creative thinking and problem solving it has become much easier and so fun.
  • In Kindergarten 2, Market Day, which is a much anticipated event on the calendar, could no longer be on campus in the ECC playground and so had to become a virtual buy and sell experience, with a website. It was hugely successful and our students were involved in meaningful service opportunities too! In art lessons the children made many beautiful things to sell online, ranging from toilet roll shakers, paper vases of flowers and beautiful bookmarks. 
  • In Grade 1 students have worked on researching their significant person. After writing scripts about their person, students created their person in art class with found objects at home and now will green screen video their person from home to share with the grade level. Lots of indoor scavenger hunts of math items this week for Math Week, using paper planes to practice measurement, Reading in homemade forts… keeping their skills going while making learning playful. 
  • G1 have also worked on amazing portraits of significant people using many different materials. The children have also created artworks based on famous artists- a favourite must have been inspired by Van Gogh’s sunflowers where the children used so many different materials like lego men, fruit and vegetables, rocks and stones, socks and shoes to create their own flowers. So many great ideas and so much fun!

We are deeply grateful to all of our families who have partnered with us and worked alongside us to keep students engaged and motivated. Our focus remains on ensuring the learning for all our students is relevant, meaningful and playful.

Nitasha Crishna

Lower Elementary Deputy Principal

Learning Conversations – Parent Feedback

Dear Parents,

Thank you for your participation in our Student-Parent-Teacher Learning Conversations last Monday, 30th September, where our students and their teachers were able to share valuable insights with you, about your child as a learner and their goals for the year ahead.

As partners in your child’s education, we would like to seek your input on how to improve this event in the future.  Please take a few moments to complete the following survey:

Learning Conversations 2019 – Parent Feedback

We look forward to hearing from you.


Megan Brazil
Elementary Principal

Elementary Parents Coffee Morning

Dear Elementary Parents,

What a wonderfully joyful first week back at school we have had. It is so nice to have filled our classrooms with children once again, after a long summer break.

You are warmly invited to join us on Friday, 30 August, 8.30am in the ES Creativity Space for coffee and introductions to some important people in our Elementary school. Come get your questions answered and get to know our team.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Warm regards,

Megan Brazil
Elementary School Principal


A Plastic Ocean – Community Screening – Phim tài liệu “Đại Dương Nhựa” – buổi chiếu miễn phí phục vụ cộng đồng

**Vui lòng xem bản Tiếng Việt bên dưới!

Dear Parents,

Next week in our school is “SDG Week” –  focusing on connecting our student’s learning on the UN Sustainable Development Goals,  in the lead up to our school’s UN Day celebration.  Around the dinner table, ask your child about the SDG’s and what they are learning about them.

As part of our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, we will be hosting a free community screening of “A Plastic Ocean” on Tuesday 27th November at 5.00pm.  The movie is in English, with Vietnamese subtitles.

Movie Trailer:  A Plastic Ocean 

What:  “A Plastic Ocean” documentary – FREE community screening
When:  Tuesday 27th November, 5.00pm (running time – 1 hour 42 minutes)
Who:  UNIS Hanoi students, families, teachers – 7 years +
Where:  Theatre, Centre for Arts, B10
Why:  To raise awareness of the issue of pollution being created by single use plastics and what we can do to help

Theatre will open at 4.50pm – free seating.

Elementary students will NOT be allowed to attend unless accompanied by an adult.

The UNIS Hanoi school store will host a ‘pop up’ shop showcasing and selling all of our recycled and environmentally sustainable products for families who wish to take immediate action to reduce their use of plastics.

Please join with us in taking action for the children who will be attending UNIS and living on our planet many generations from now….. this local and global problem needs us all to act urgently.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Kind regards,

Megan Brazil


Kính gửi Phụ huynh,

Tuần tới được gọi là “Tuần lễ hành động vì các Mục tiêu Phát triển bền vững của Liên hiệp quốc” tại trường UNIS. Trong suốt thời gian này, các mục tiêu phát triển bền vững của Liên hiệp quốc sẽ được lồng ghép vào nội dung học tập ở trường. Đây cũng là bước chuẩn bị cho lễ kỷ niệm Ngày Liên hiệp quốc sắp tới. Phụ huynh có thể hỏi các con, trong khi ăn tối, về Các mục tiêu phát triển bền vững này và các con đã học được những gì về các mục tiêu này.

Cũng là một phần trong Cam kết thực hiện các mục tiêu phát triển bền vững của Nhà trường, Nhà trường sẽ tổ chức buổi chiếu phim miễn phí phục vụ cộng đồng vào ngày 27 tháng 11 lúc 5:00 chiều; bộ phim có tiêu đề là “Đại Dương Nhựa”, phim Tiếng Anh, có phụ đề Tiếng Việt.

Phụ huynh có thể xem bản giới thiệu phim tại đây

Tên phim: Phim tài liệu “Đại Dương Nhựa” – buổi chiếu miễn phí phục vụ cộng đồng
Thời gian: Ngày 27 tháng 11 lúc 5:00 chiều (độ dài phim: 1 tiếng 42 phút)
Đối tượng: Học sinh, phụ huynh, giáo viên UNIS (phim dành cho đối tượng trên 7 tuổi)
Địa điểm: Rạp hát, Trung tâm Nghệ thuật, B10, UNIS
Lý do chiếu phim: Nhằm nâng cao nhận thức của cộng đồng về vấn đề ô nhiễm do việc sử dụng các sản phẩm nhựa dùng một lần gây ra và khuyến khích hành động của cá nhân để giúp giảm thiểu vấn đề này.

Rạp hát sẽ mở cửa lúc 4:50 chiều, phụ huynh có thể tùy chọn ghế ngồi.

Học sinh Tiểu học chỉ có thể tham dự nếu có người lớn đi kèm.

Cửa hàng của Trường UNIS sẽ có gian hàng tạm thời ngay tại buổi chiếu phim để trưng bày và bán các sản phẩm tái chế và các sản phẩm bền vững cho môi trường. Phụ huynh có thể mua các sản phẩm này để giảm thiểu ngay việc sử dụng sản phẩm nhựa.

Hãy cùng chung tay với Nhà trường để cùng hành động vì trẻ em UNIS tương lai và trẻ em sống trên hành tinh của chúng ta và nhiều thế hệ mai sau ngay từ bây giờ. Chúng ta cần hành động ngay từ hôm nay để giải quyết vấn đề vừa mang tính địa phương và toàn cầu này.

Nhà trường mong Phụ huynh có thể sắp xếp thời gian để tham dự buổi chiếu phim.

Trân trọng,

Megan Brazil

Hiệu trưởng trường Tiểu học UNIS.

Open Classrooms – Tell us what you think!

Dear Elementary Families,

Our school has been additionally busy and buzzing with excitement these last two days as we have hosted Open Classrooms – an ‘open house’ style event aimed at strengthening our home-school partnership and giving parents the opportunity to observe our students’ learning in action.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the experience.  We’d love to hear from you – tell us what you loved, what you learned, and how we can improve this process for next time.

Please take a moment to complete our very short Open Classrooms survey – we’ll be happy to share the results back with you in our next Tin Tuc.

Thank you for your enthusiastic attendance and participation.


Megan Brazil
Elementary School Principal

Parent Teacher Conferences October 1st

Dear Elementary Families,

You are warmly invited to attend our first Parent Teacher Conferences of the year, being held next Monday 1st October, 2018.

Please note that there will be no school on this day for your children as teachers will be conducting individual parent conferences all day.

Parent Teacher Conferences are a time for teachers to share information regarding how your child has settled into classes during these first weeks of school and what goals your child and his/her teacher(s) have set for their learning. Teachers would also like hear from you about your hopes and goals for your child this year and for us all to learn how we can work together to make this the best possible school year for your child.

Information on how to schedule appointments will be sent by email early next week.


Megan Brazil
Elementary School Principal

Welcome, ES Parents!

Dear Elementary School Families,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to UNIS for the 2018/19 school year! Whether you are returning, or joining us for the first time, we are so glad that you have made the choice to be a part of this extraordinary community.

We warmly invite you to our first ES Coffee Morning for the new year, hosted by our Elementary School Leadership Team and Elementary Counselors.  We’ll be introducing new members of our team, and sharing our goals for the year ahead in the ES.  We’ll also be wanting to hear from YOU, about how we can best support you, as active and engaged participants in the Elementary School. All ideas are welcome!

When?  Friday August 24th, 2018, 8.30am

Where?  The “Creativity Space” – B9-112 (upstairs by Grade 4, overlooking the playground)

We’d love for you to join us.

Warm regards,

Megan Brazil
Elementary School Principal