Synthesising our understanding with hexagonal thinking

As we are knee-deep in our inquiries into energy and sharing the planet, we hit the pause button today to sort out and synthesise what we already know.

To do this, students were allocated to small groups of 4 and given a heap of hexagons with unit-related vocabulary. Students then sorted out and arranged the words based on their connections. This had the students engaged for almost an hour, with lots of rich discussion being generated by the vocabulary and their connections between them.

IMG_2545    IMG_2547   IMG_2542

Although we’ve used similar strategies before, this one was quite successful due to the timing of it during the unit, and the shape of the cards. With six sides, the students can have connections to more than one idea. It also built on the work we’ve done in creating mind maps to show knowledge.

As this was the first time we had used this strategy, we paused to reflect on it.

IMG_2541  IMG_2544

Here are some of the comments:

  • “It was fun! We really liked connecting the words together. It a bit challenging  when we weren’t sure of the words.”
  • “It was like a brain map – it can expand.”
  • “We knew a lot. We had lots of ideas for connecting the words, and then when we ran out of our ideas, we thought of the videos we had watched.”
  • “This was really good for our communication and group work skills. It tested what I remembered, and it helped me to learn from others in my group.”
  • “It’s important that everyone joins in so we can think and make more connections together.”
  • “We needed to think of the connections. You couldn’t just randomly put words together.”

IMG_2553 IMG_2562 IMG_2558

Although you can’t see the words in these photos, you can see how the groups were unique in how they made their connections and the ‘thinking path’ they had.



Fluency in Multiplication

On Thursday, we did something out of the ordinary and we didn’t have Maths in the morning. For the rest of the day, the students were asking ‘When are we doing maths?’, ‘Are we doing maths soon?’, ‘Why haven’t we done maths yet?’ until we had a block of time for it in the afternoon.

As a teacher, it’s wonderful to see that the 3A students l-o-v-e being mathematicians and look forward to doing maths regularly!

IMG_2481 IMG_2482 IMG_2483

For the last few weeks we have been using games to help students develop fluency with multiplication. With many of these games, students are also developing their strategic skills.  Students love the opportunity to choose a game and play it with a partner, and for some they see this as a highlight of the day!  We prefer this way of making ‘facts’ stick, rather than boring sessions with flash cards and a single-minded focus on super quick recall that is reminiscent of the traditional classroom.

IMG_2484     IMG_2485     IMG_2486

With our focus on developing a growth mindset in mathematics, we are trying to avoid situations that lead to math anxiety – such as page after page of repeated exercises and timed tests. For more information about math anxiety and fluency you can check out this article by Jo Boaler, a professor at Standford University who is on the cutting edge of mathematics education.

IMG_2496     IMG_2497     IMG_2498 IMG_2500

Some of the games we’ve been playing are:

If you would like to also play them at home, feel free to print them out.

Your child will know how to play them!




Swimming starts up again, next week.


Yesterday was the last time 3A will have PE on a Thursday. For the rest of the year, this lesson will be a swimming lesson. To ensure that the students have ample time for swimming their lesson will take place every Wednesday morning, from 7:50.  As the children are swimming first up in the morning, they can come to school dressed in their swimming costume, underneath their sports uniform.

They will need to bring

  • a towel,
  • a change of  underwear,
  • goggles and bathing caps (if required)
  • and a plastic bag to keep their wet things in




Book Swap – Tuesday 28 March

Yippee! The Book Swap for grades 3-6 will be Tuesday, March 28th before school in the 12th floor cafeteria! Students can bring in books to swap one-for-one. How easy is that?!? If they don’t have any books to exchange, they can pay $10 for a used book. Kids can also use their leftover Flower Fair tokens at a rate of 2 tokens for 1 book. There will also be a selection of brand new books at reduced prices. So many easy, affordable ways to get “new-to-you” books! So please come to the 12th floor cafeteria before school on Tuesday for the Grade 3-6 Book Swap!

A note from the Lower School Admin Team

Dear Lower School Parents,

We would like to share a few gentle reminders to parents for when they visit our school. While we strongly encourage and value parent involvement in our classrooms and at the school, there area few things we’d like parents to keep in mind in order to facilitate an optimal learning environment for students during the school day.

  • The 9/F playground is a huge hit with students, and it is becoming an increasingly popular place for parents to watch their kids. We ask that parents please observe their children from the 9/F foyer and not from the playground itself. The 11/F playground is also not a place to observe your children.

  • Students are not allowed to use the lift/elevator. Please remind your children the lifts are for adults only (parents and helpers welcome), unless the student has a lift pass or is being accompanied to the nurse. This “adults only in the lifts” rule also applies when children are late, not feeling well and when with their parents/helper.

  • In line with our school’s policies and procedures, please refrain from disciplining other people’s children. If parents witness a disagreement or misunderstanding between children at school, please inform a teacher, EA or Vice Principal. Also in accordance with our Parent Code of Conduct, please respect confidentiality by not speaking or messaging about other children, and instead reporting any concerns to a teacher or administrator.

  • The 8/F, 9/F and 10/F hallways are learning spaces; please wait for your children in the 9/F foyer and not in these other hallways or elevator areas.

  • All parents love taking pictures/videos of their children and capturing the special moments at school. Be it during a Spotlight performance, weekly assembly, on the sports pitch, our parents love to catch their child in action and sometimes share the pictures/videos they have taken on social media or with various WhatsApp groups. But please be mindful when snapping pictures of your child that other parents may not wish to have their child photographed/videotaped and their image shared around the world. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


Thank you for your consideration and respect of the learning environment in these matters. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to touch base with a Lower School Vice Principal.



Lower School Admin Team

3A rock as Mathematicians and Inquirers!!!!


Today students were given this image.  The teacher stayed quiet. The students looked and wondered.

At the beginning, most students thought ‘Fractions!’ but then we heard others say, ‘snooker balls’, ‘multiplication’ and ‘patterns’.

IMG_2490To organise our thinking, we recorded what we saw, thought and wondered.

Cyprus wondered, ‘Why do the numbers stop at 20?’ and we thought – “Why not keep going?” So we did – we continued the pattern up to 30.

What followed was a LOT of discussion. At their table groups, students were discovering patterns, sharing their thinking, making claims and providing evidence as proofs.

Some groups discovered ‘oddballs’. They had to think about what the oddballs had in common. Austin proved what an oddball was by using his multiplication grid, when Jennifer questioned his claim. And as a result, 23 was coloured red.

IMG_2491Nichola suggested that 25 be split into two parts. Not every agreed at first, but they were open-minded and listened to her explanation.  Subsequently their changed their thinking.

After about 20 minutes, we regrouped as a class and shared our theories. It was amazing how similar the thinking was between the groups, but also how they came to consensus. (As you can see from  all the smiley faces, consensus was reached!)

When reflecting on the whole experience, the class felt very successful as ‘mathematicians’.


  • had a challenging problem to solve
  • talked to and questioned each other to understand better
  • worked together
  • were curious
  • didn’t always agree
  • changed our ideas to come up with better ones
  • had time to think, think, think.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 5.44.41 pm

But then, we were also INQUIRERS because we:

  • explored, wondered and questioned
  • made predictions and acted purposefully to see what happened
  • experimented and played with possibilities
  • made and tested theories
  • solved problems in a variety of ways
  • took and defended a position
  • deepened our understanding through the application of a concept
  • made connections between previous and current learning

This was a rewarding experience for both the students and the teacher – smashing together mathematics and inquiry. The students loved yet another challenge to stretch their thinking, and the teacher was amazed at the rich thinking the task generated.

Another awesome day in 3A!!!



Constructing knowledge

This week we have started finding out about energy and how it relates to ‘Sharing the Planet’. Some of the big ideas have been ‘innovation’, ‘fossil fuels’, and ‘pollution’.

As always, we begin with what the students already ‘think’ or ‘know’ about the topic and then set out to find out more to either add to what they already know or change what they think.  This is all about constructing knowledge, which is  a cornerstone of an inquiry-driven approach to learning and the PYP.

A very recent example of this was in relation to how fossil fuels eg coal, are transformed into electricity in a power plant/station.

IMG_2467 IMG_2469

Students were randomly assigned to groups, given images of various parts of the process and were asked to see how they were connected to each other and in how coal is used for energy. There was lots of talking and discussion. Some were even using the correct terminology as they arranged the images into a flowchart!  Next they looked at what the other groups came up with – noting some similarities and differences.

IMG_2475   IMG_2480

Then the students listened to a passage that described the process. They were excited to see similarities and note the vocabulary that was used. Then they amended their own flowcharts to accommodate their new understanding and explain the process together in their own words.

IMG_2477   IMG_2478  IMG_2476

The next step was to view a short video to check their flowchart and see the process from beginning to end. Animations are always important when explaining how something works.   Then the students wrote their own explanation of how coal is transformed into electricity.

In traditional classrooms, students would be ‘told’, but as we are aiming for ‘learning that sticks’, we want the students to build on what they already know. At times it can take more time for the students to interact and discuss with others, however they are engaged at a much deeper level and learning from each other and various sources, rather than just the ‘expert’ or ‘teacher’. And most importantly, all students felt that they really learned something!

This is a great step for future learning – as next we will be looking at different ways in which energy is harnessed and stored, especially in relation to renewable energy sources.



Since last Thursday, we have been exploring the world of coding. Although many of the some students became more familiar with coding last year in Grade 2, we have become acquainted with using ‘Hopscotch’.

In only the first couple of lessons we developed  code to draw geometric shapes and some patterns which involve rotational symmetry.  The students love the challenge of working out the code – mostly through trial and error, and would do this for hours!

If you have a tablet device or iPad at home, I would highly recommend installing ‘Hopscotch‘ – it’s so great that it’s even free!

Why is coding so important???  Because it’s all around us! Rather than just being consumers we can be creators.   We can use Coding to create computer software, apps and websites. Your browsers, your OS, the apps on your phone, the video games you play, and this website – they’re all made with code.

Not only are 3A students learning to persevere through challenges, but they are drawing on a whole range of skills and dispositions, especially those that are valued in our classroom – developing resilience, strengthening thinking and communication skills when collaborating with others and not to forget – using  mathematics in context to solve problems.


We are a spirited bunch!

House Spirit.

This year there has been more of an emphasis on developing house spirit, with House Days being implemented in the Lower School, house captains organising charities  for DDD donations, and more notably – competing against other houses during Sports Day events.  Today we had a double dose of house spirit with the ‘House Day’ and ‘Sports Day Assembly’.

The focus of the assembly was on recognising the collective achievement of houses rather than recognising individuals. The roof of the forum was almost blown off with all the cheering for the houses winning particular events and then for the overall winners – the Bears!

If you are interested, Mr Steiner captured the spirit and highlights of the Grade 3-4 sports day on this video

School Spirit

parade1 parade2







Yesterday the lower school students celebrated our Jing Ping Champion soccer players.  They were part of creating the longest ‘victory’ tunnel in CDNIS history with lots and lots of cheering.

Parent workshop – Diane Frankenstein

Diane Frankenstein, US based author of Reading Together:  Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read, will be talking to parents about how to have meaningful conversations with children, helping them develop their capacity for empathy, compassion, and perspective.  The workshop is on Monday, March 13th at 8:30am in the library pit.
More information can be found at: