Month: February 2017

What’s Up with Water?

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Our Kinder 2 students have been engaged in the Unit of Inquiry on Water, which is under the transdisciplinary theme ‘Sharing the Planet’. It is very interesting to see that for the children, they could directly relate water to “fun”. However, different learning activities were prepared for them to explore the characteristics of water, where water comes from, and how water is used among others.

At the beginning of this Unit of Inquiry, the students had a really fun time doing a little experiment of making an ice candy. They were amused in observing how water can really change its form.  On the other hand, finding out about different sources of water led us to go on a field trip to some places around Batam where water can be found.


The place that made a strong impression on the children was their visit to ATB (Adhya Tirta Batam). ATB supplies water to the whole of Batam. They were intrigued to see a huge body of water which looked like a lake, but it was explained to us by the ATB staff that it is a dam. The trip made the students realise how water reaches their home through ATB’s services.

In addition, as the students looked into the function of water, they had the time to interview different people around the school to make them more knowledgeable about various uses of water.


The Unit of Inquiry on Water is not over yet, but letting the children understand the availability and importance of water around them is a meaningful experience.

By Nicolenia L. Casucian (, K2 Homeroom Teacher

Sekolah Global Indo-Asia (Batam)


The Big Ideas on Learning Centres

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You might be interested to know …the response of a child who is asked by his or her parents:


How might our kids respond?




This can be outrageously unfair especially considering the effort teachers have to make to plan and implement learning engagements with their students in every learning discipline. As an automatic response of parents, they tend to ask the teachers for the reasons why their children respond this way.

As teachers commit themselves to always taking parents’ inquiries as critical feedback on their teaching, they take the responsibility to further improve on their craft and most likely the questions in their  heads now would be:

  • Why can’t children explicitly explain to their parents the things they do in class?
  • How can I help my kids, from the class tasks, make meaning more relevant from their own perspective?

Inspired by reading the Book of Robyn and Jeni Wilson on “How to succeed with Learning Centres”, it is important that learning centres be planned and structured so student progress and participation is closely monitored by the teacher.

What is a learning centre?

  • A classroom that has been set up for learning centres is one in which a number of different activities are being done simultaneously by individual or small groups.
  • There is no one ‘right’ way to set up and run learning centres.
  • There is not a ‘fixed’ recipe for classroom organization.
  • The variations can be extensive and decisions about grouping and organization are best made by the classroom teacher – who knows the students and what is manageable within the constraints of specific classroom and school curriculum requirements.
  • Teachers can follow models that might suit a purpose within one classroom.

Learning centres:

  • Are not a total program;
  • Can be used in many ways in any subject area within an integrated curriculum topic;
  • Can be adapted for different levels and teaching styles;
  • Facilitate independent work but are far more than a free choice of activity for students;
  • Are driven by the purpose of the tasks and the context;
  • Can be teacher and/or student designed, selected and assessed.

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The Role of the Student

  • Students are positioned at the centre of the learning;
  • Students take a very active role in the learning process and is not a passive recipient of information;
  • Students are more likely to be working with other classmates on tasks away from the direct instruction of the teacher;
  • Students need to take responsibility for their own learning needs;
  • They need to be able to access other students or resources to solve problems and complete their work;
  • Learning centres are based on the Constructivist Theory of Learning in which students use their skills to link new information to existing knowledge.

What do learning centres look like?

Learning centres look like different in different classrooms. These have been organised into four categories to help differentiate between and to assist in selection:

  • Independent Contract Work
  • Teachers have developed and negotiated a set of possible activities that could be done by students.
  • In conjunction with the teacher, the student identifies the tasks they will complete along with an agreed timeline.
  • A classroom operating on such system would look like a class full of independent workers
  • The teacher would be operating on a one-to-one basis
  • It may be appropriate for students to be given options to complete some tasks with a partner or small group
  • Alternatively, they may be required to complete their own work and consult with others.

Samples of Independent Contract Work

Sample #1


Sample #2

Rotational Tasks

  • This type of learning centre requires a set of tasks that will be undertaken by all members of the class on a rotational basis.
  • A specific time is set aside for groups to complete each task.
  • The rotation can occur in quick succession on one day – for example, each group completing four 15-minute tasks in a span of an hour.

Sample of Rotational Tasks


Multiple Choice tasks

  • Offering a number of prepared activities at one time where a number of different tasks may have been prepared and set up in different parts of the room.
  • Students can choose which tasks they will complete, knowing that they may not be able to complete them all.
  • Different tasks may be designed to cater for particular learning style preferences, for example, tasks that require musical skills or creative construction.
  • It is important for the teacher to monitor individuals and ensure that all modes are developed over time.
  • Encourage students to select from a full range of activities, rather than just those their strongest skills as preference.

Sample of Multiple Choice Tasks


Point System Tasks

  • This type of learning the student aims to complete activities worth a specified value.
  • The target value maybe determined by the teacher and/or student.
  • The teacher gives each task a value, for example, points score or star rating according to its complexity and time requirement.
  • They can cover a range of subject areas, they could be completed at various times during the day as negotiated by the teacher.
  • It is important to provide a selection of tasks in terms of content and complexity.
  • The tasks can be completed independently or cooperatively.


Samples of Point System Tasks

1.pngSample # 1

1.pngSample # 2

Various elements of each can be combined. For example, multiple choice activities can be used with a point system.

The Role of the Teacher

  • The role of a teacher within learning centres is not a fixed one, but it is central to effective learning.
  • The teacher cannot simply set the groups to work and then leave students to it.
  • The teacher is fundamental in planning, implementing and evaluating learning centres.
  • Like students, teachers will be active participants in the classrooms where learning centres operate.
  • Different types of learning centres call for different teaching skills and strategies.

The Teacher, as the Planner

  • The teacher needs to prepare for effective learning experiences. They need to cater for a range of learning styles, various levels of ability, effective use of available resources and different degrees of learner independence.
  • The teacher must align the activities offered in learning centres with the desired key understandings and outcomes of the curriculum, keeping in mind the specific needs of the students.
  • By systematically planning a range of learning centre activities, the teacher makes clear and comprehensive curriculum decisions.
  • This generates a natural flow and connectedness of learning.
  • One way to ensure that activities are meaningful, appropriate and closely linked to the major classroom objective is to plan using a proforma.

1.pngSample Planning Sheet for Teachers

The Teacher as the Teacher

  • This means that a teacher should work with groups or individuals to ask carefully considered questions so that students can develop their own understandings.
  • Learning centre tasks need to be designed so that students can be actively involved in constructing their own learning under the guidance of the teacher.
  • It may be that one of the groups is assigned as the ‘teaching group.’ This group works intensively with the teacher on the task. It is important that the rest of the class understands that the teacher is generally not available for them during this time. Some teachers like to have a sign places table indicating that they are unavailable. The other groups will be completing tasks that rely on independence.

The Teacher, as the Supervisor

  • As with any classroom activity, it is essential that the teacher monitors the activities of all students. If working intensively with one group, it is necessary for the teacher to be able to see all groups in order to monitor behaviour.
  • The teacher takes a leading role in the teaching group, and uses this opportunity to teach new work or monitor understandings and keep assessment records for the students in that group.
  • The teacher can be at the side of the group where a clear view of all groups is possible over the teaching group.

The Teachers, as the Assessor

  • The use of learning centres is an effective way to make on-going assessment more manageable.
  • By using one student group as the group for which assessment will be the focus, the teacher can monitor learning in a detailed and highly individual way.
  • Several strategies for assessing students and keeping effective records are detailed in our assessment policy.1.png

The Teacher, as the Reflector

  • The important role of the teacher is to lead class discussion in reflecting on the activities that have been carried out.
  • This debriefing gives the teacher invaluable feedback. During a share time, the teacher can obtain information about the value, length, degree of difficulty, etc. of each task and also provide advanced information to students who have not yet completed the tasks in the other learning centres.

The Teacher, as the Negotiator

  • Negotiation is involved in the implementation of learning centres. It is important that students feel they have been consulted about the content and management of at least some tasks.
  • Ultimately, teachers have the most responsibility for classroom arrangements and, therefore, negotiation will vary depending on the situations.

Common Characteristics of Learning Centres

  • Students work on independent or semi-independent tasks
  • Students may work individually but are usually in small groups
  • Some form of choice and/or negotiation is usually involved
  • Discovery learning is a component
  • Teachers are able to work intensively with at least one group of students

Benefits of Learning Centres

In a nutshell, they improve student learning, which is after all, the core purpose of everything we do in our classrooms.

  • Learning centres provide activity choices.
  • They provide a social setting within which learning can occur.
  • Learning centres encourage independence.
  • Learning centres motivate students and lead to real engagement.

By Ms. Edina Araneta-Sarenas, Primary Principal (

Sekolah Global Indo-Asia, Batam


The Power of Observational Drawing

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How many times have we asked our students to draw (both in their Unit of Inquiry or during single subject time)? For example, as a part of their Tuning in, teacher asks students to draw objects in their surroundings that belong to “living things”; as a part of their formative or summative assessment, teacher asks students to draw their understanding about what friendship is; or students draw their observation in their science experiment, draw about their responsibility towards plants and  animals. In religion, teacher asks students to draw symbols to express their beliefs; In music, students draw and group the musical instruments, and so on.

Drawing leaves at different stages, looking at the concept of “Change”

The question is “how far have we supported our students when it comes to drawing?”. Is it only the responsibility of Visual Art Teachers to teach our students to draw? What does it have to do with observational drawing? On the other hand, how often do we hear somebody say “I don’t know how to draw” or “I am not good in drawing”?

Drawing is a skill that everybody can learn, just like how we learn to write and make our writing readable. Talking more specifically about observational drawing, it simply means to draw something “as it is”. Edwards (1999) says that “Ability to draw depends on the ability to see the way an artist sees, and this kind of seeing can marvelously enrich your life”. In PYP, we encourage students to draw something or an object based on their perspective, imagination, from what they see or memorise. For example when it comes to drawing people, we let the kids draw people from their perspective, not to tell or show them step by step how to draw people, and let their skill develop alongside their age.

Observational drawing is a great way to increase drawing skills. In observational drawing, we want students to see something without looking at it as an object that they know. For example, when they draw a bottle, we do not want them to think about a “bottle” but we want them to “see” it in a different way, paying attention to the lines and contour as it is (not the shape of bottle in their mind). Gertrude Stein asked French artist Henri Matisse whether, when eating tomato, he looked at it the way an artist would. Matisse replied: “No, when I am eating tomato I look at it the way anyone else would. But when I paint a tomato, then I see it differently” (Picasso, 1938). Therefore, “seeing” or “how do we see things” is what observational drawing is all about, and this is very important if we want to improve our drawing skills.

Other than that, by doing regular practice in observational drawing, we will become more “sensitive” when it comes to paying attention to details such as shapes, size, contour, proportion, and colors. It also improves hand eye coordination. The purpose of this article is to encourage homeroom teachers to do regular observational drawing in their classroom, or even set up a special centre in the classroom for observational drawing and prepare sketch book for students to record their drawings. This is an exercise that will not only benefit our students, but also for us, as teachers. We do encourage teachers to sit and do the activity together with the students.

In the early years, students can start with simple objects such as an egg or a ball. As they grow older they can have other objects such as: Fruits with different shapes, sizes and textures (banana, apple, mango, grapes, pineapple, etc.), stationery in the classroom, leaves with different shapes, colors, and textures (one of my favourite!), different types of flowers, toys, shells, even using their own body such as drawing the lines on their palm. Basically, everything can be used for observational drawing. Sometimes, it is good to give them objects that they cannot relate to anything, for example a piece of metal, bended wire, crumpled paper, etc.

1Different centres of observational drawing in Visual Art class.

There are different exercises in observational drawing. For example, draw an object without looking on the paper, draw an object without lifting the pencil, or upside-down drawing (print a picture and ask students to draw it upside-down). The idea goes back to seeing the object and drawing it as it is without thinking about what the object is, but paying attention to lines, distance between lines, how long should we draw the lines, the angles, direction of the lines, and so on.

Upside down drawing by Grade 5 student

So… going further.., are there other effects of observational drawing? Is it only to develop drawing skills? In her book, Edwards (1999) says that drawing opens the door to other goals. Learning to draw will help us see things differently, develop our ability to perceive things freshly in their totality, and see underlying patterns and possibilities. It will increase awareness of our mind, develop creative abilities, and enhance our confidence in decision- making and problem-solving. As she said, “The potential power of the creative, imaginative human brain seems almost limitless. Drawing may help you come to know this power and make it known to others”.

For some ideas on observational drawing:



Edwards, B. The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999.


By Peggy Ratulangi (

PYP Coordinator & Visual Art Teacher, Sekolah Global Indo-Asia (Batam)


Creating “Ondel-ondel”

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For the grade 5 unit of inquiry on “Where we are in place and time”, students created “Ondel-ondel”, a large puppet that originated from the Betawi ethnic group. The unit of inquiry has the central idea, “exploration of land, sea and space can lead to discoveries, challenges and new understandings.”

1Our students designed “Ondel-ondel”, which was introduced by the Betawi tribe, the native inhabitants of Jakarta. It took two units of inquiry for the students to complete the male and female “Ondel-ondel” because creating the puppets involves a paper mâché technique, where students need to cover boxes with two layers of newspaper and kitchen tissue paper. After the students have completed the two layers, they need to cover the boxes with fox glue, let them dry, and then paint the boxes.2

The students worked in groups in creating “Ondel-ondel”. Last school year, each group, consisting of four to five students, designed the small version of “Ondel-ondel”. This academic year, however, students created the big type of “Ondel-ondel”.

For the big “Ondel-ondel”, each group consisted of 10 to 11 students. The learning engagement started with students’ research and investigation about the characteristics of female and male “Ondel-ondel”. After doing their research, students shared their findings about “Ondel-ondel”. When all the groups had presented their research, we summarized the characteristics of “Ondel-ondel”. Afterwards, students worked on their “Ondel-ondel” using acrylic paint.

3.jpgCreating the puppets taught the students to be inquirers and knowledgeable since students had to explore the history and characteristics of male and female “Ondel-ondel”.

Students also learnt how to work together, solve problems within their groups and respect each other. Furthermore, creating the “Ondel-ondel” taught the students to be responsible in finishing their artwork on time and taking care     of their art tools, including the need to clean them up before class dismissal.

By: Irma Dwi Savitri

Visual Art Teacher


How Little Kids Appreciate Little Things

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Nowadays, our kids are exposed to facilities like having cars to bring them to and from school, nannies, gadgets etc. It is normal that parents want to give their kids the best in everything. However, sometimes or often they don’t realise the way parents give or provide all the best things to their children can bring about a negative effect later on. Children become more dependent than ever on all these items. Somehow, they do not even need to ask… Voila! Everything is ready in front of them.

I realise that my students have become more and more dependent. One time, without any words, one of my students gave me her lunch box. At first, I automatically opened it and gave the opened snack box back to her. Then I regretted it. How come I gave in to such an inappropriate request? From that experience, I started to introduce to them 3 magic words: “please”, “sorry” and “thank you”. Using those three magic words made them more “human.” Their empathy and appreciative feelings have grown and their behaviour became more polite. Eventually, those magic words become a habit for them.

In my school now, teachers always bring a small broom and a dust pan during snack time. Since I teach kindergarten students, those two things are very useful during that time. We have a janitor who is always available to clean students’ rubbish. Instead of asking the janitor to clean the students’ mess, we teach them how to do it themselves.


Perfection does not come immediately, of course, but we can see the effort of the students and how they feel about themselves. They try hard to use the broom and the dust pan, which is also a good practice for their fine motor skill. Students also feel proud of themselves after they are done cleaning their own mess. The most important thing is that by doing that, students appreciate others’ feelings and job. They will try first to clean their own area before they ask help from the janitor by using those three magic words. However, they have become more careful in eating, so they will try their best not to spill anything on the table or floor.

One day, I look forward to seeing the kids develop their independence and willingness to help others in school, not only to those who are in need, but also to the strangers they see along the streets, neighbourhood and around the community.  Little practices can make a difference in building big goals for children’s learning which start from the little things that young children can manage to do by themselves.

By Dian Anggraini (, K2 Homeroom Teacher,

Sekolah Global Indo-Asia (Batam)

Training Students to be Entrepreneurs

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Trade is based on a human’s capability to assess, price and market a product. Conducting trade is a skill that helps develop the intellect and willpower of an individual. It is a positive thing to teach children to trade and have children learn to do business at an early age. Teaching children to trade does not only help them to become independent and confident, but also makes them aware of their community.

In the unit of inquiry, ‘How We Organize Ourselves’, Grade 3 students organized a mini-bazaar last as their summative task.  The central idea of the unit was “marketplaces rely on the production and distribution of goods and services”.

The learning objectives of organizing the mini-bazaar are as follows:

  • Develop an awareness of different perspectives and ways of organizing economic activities
  • Develop a list of criteria for ethical practices regarding products and services
  • Explain how supply and demand are affected by population and the availability of resources
  • Identify roles, goals, rights and responsibilities in society
  • Learn to make a profit from their business venture
  • Train students to be entrepreneurs

For this task, students were divided into four to five groups in each class. To prepare the mini-bazaar, teachers and students talked about what the students were going to sell. Students also decided on the prices and discussed their roles and responsibilities in the group, such as who would be the leader and cashier during the event.

To raise the capital, the students collected money by doing household chores for about a month prior to the mini-bazaar. Getting involved in household chores is one way the students can learn how to earn money and be responsible. After earning enough money, students used the money to buy the items to sell.

In order to support the event, teachers asked for parents’ assistance in preparing the items that the students were going to sell. One day before the mini-bazaar, the students were very enthusiastic in preparing their booths, including putting prices on the items.

1                           3 Students preparing their booth decorations

Students named their booths creatively. They came up with interesting names for their booths, such as “Funny in My Tummy”, “Fun in Wonderland”, and “Amazing Surprise”.

When the big day finally arrived, the mini-bazaar was held from 7.30am until 1.00pm. Teachers, staff, parents and students from other grade levels, including middle school and high school students came and supported the event.

4.jpgTeachers, parents, and students at the opening of the mini-bazaar

In total, there were 18 student booths offering a big variety of things for sale. Healthy snacks, fresh juices, and handicrafts were some of the items sold by the students. Students also came up with educational games for their booths.

Selling a variety of items, including food
Attracting customers through games

The parents and students worked together to serve the customers. Several students walked around to entice customers to visit their stalls, while others preferred to wait in their booths for buyers.

After the mini-bazaar, parents and students went back to the classroom to count the money. The students received their capital back and divided the profit equally among the group members.

Parents and students counting the money
Students were happy with their profit

The event was successful! The students were so excited leading up to the event and had a great time organizing their mini-bazaar. Some of the lessons learnt by the students were marketing strategies, dealing with customers, earning money, saving money and managing money. The mini-bazaar will be an essential part of the students’ learning experiences in Grade 3.


By: Eka Fridayanti

Grade 3 Co-Teacher


Using a “Mystery Box” for Inquiry

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One of the strategies that we can use for promoting inquiry is a mystery box.  A mystery box is a great way to introduce any concept and grab students’ interest and attention. This strategy can be used over and over again.

In exploring the unit of inquiry on “How the world works”, students were introduced to a mystery box filled with 10 to 15 objects. The unit of inquiry has the central idea, “machines bring efficiency and convenience in people’s lives.”

In making use of the mystery box, examples of simple machines like rolling pin, a pair of scissors, and a paper hole punch machine were in it.  Students were then asked to grab one object from the box with their eyes closed. Afterwards, they guessed the object and described it through their sense of touch.

The learning engagement was integrated with language. Students used adjectives to describe the object that they got from the mystery box as shown in the following example.

“I feel it is smooth. I think it is made of wood and I can feel one part is moving.”
It is a wooden rolling pin. It is hard and smooth. If the rolling pin was not invented, my hands will hurt”.

After using a few adjectives to describe what they had touched, the students were then asked to open their eyes to talk more about the object as presented below.

It is a wooden rolling pin. It is hard and smooth. If the rolling pin was not invented, my hands will hurt”.
The paper punch machine is heavy and hard. It looks shiny.  If the paper punch machine was not invented, we cannot fix the papers in the folder and we might miss the papers.”

During the learning engagement, students talked about the name and use of the object as well as what would happen if the tool was not invented. Students gave responses such as, “It will be difficult to knead the dough flat. We will feel tired if we have to use our hands” and “It would be difficult to cut vegetables and fruits if the knife was not invented.”

Apart from using their senses, the mystery box learning engagement helped the students practice on their language skills, learn new vocabulary, and enhanced their thinking skills. After the learning engagement, students reflected and collected their thoughts using a concept map, which they used for writing a descriptive text.

Students found the mystery box learning engagement interesting and they were able to make a connection with their daily life. Students also better understood the importance of machines.

By: Rajeswari Chandrasekar

Grade 1 Class Teacher