What are the students learning at OIS?

Grade 3 Teacher Mr. Driver talks with parents during Back to School Night


Last week I visited many classes as part of the process of getting to know the school. I try to take some time each day to spend some time in classroom. International school teachers, well, all teachers, are language teachers because of the importance of vocabulary in learning. Without words, students cannot critically think and express themselves. Some of the words I noticed being used by students were astrolobe, peninsula, zeitgeist, onomatopoeia, ostinato and Balfour Declaration. These are not everyday conversational vocabulary, but are academic vocabulary. English language learners have even more challenges than native speakers and it can take up to 4-5 years of schooling for non native speakers to master academic English.

Above, Ms. Hancock’s science class is looking at a fake crime scene. The students were so excited it was difficult to hold them behind the lines. Using forensics science activities to get students to evaluate situations is a good idea and one of the best characteristics of an IB education. The students need to apply their knowledge to a new situation.

I had to laugh at the end of mathematics class (below) when the grade 9 students took out their phones to photograph the white board. I wish we had that in high school! Mr. Bertman does an excellent job of differentiating for instruction and had three problems on the board of varying levels of difficulty. All students were challenged by the word problems and no gave up due to it being too difficult. Note that I saw them taking notes the old fashioned way during the class.

It was an impressive performance by the elementary teacher at last week’s Back to School night for the elementary school. I sat in on a couple of presentations and the dedication of the teachers to the students was evident. From the specialists to the classroom teachers, clear descriptions of what is being taught and learned at OIS was presented to the parents. It was a well attended event and I am looking forward to this week’s MS/HS Back to School event.

The grade 12 English students are reading Canadian Robertson Davies’s novel Fifth Business. Mr. David Algey the teacher did an oral exam on an excerpt from the novel, demonstrating a requirement of the IB for the students. He demonstrated the Student Learning Result of Risk Taker, allowing the students to praise and critique his performance. This made the students feel better about the upcoming exam. Mr. Van Plantinga during the MS/HS Assembly did a presentation on the teen brain and invited students to come to the learning lab to take a right brain/left brain quiz.

Finally, the grade 5 students gave a touching version of Tim Wills’s “Don’t Laugh at Me”. The assembly focused on our Student Learning Results and the values of being open-minded and caring. You can watch the video below.

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