Strategies to Enhance Students’ Engagement in the Classroom

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Engagement activities are contributory factors to a successful learning atmosphere. If properly implemented in the classroom, they increase students’ attention, motivate them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promote meaningful learning experiences.

Engagement activities can be supported by creating a toolbox that contains different strategies that make the lessons more alive and productive. These strategies are not only commonly used in the classroom but they are also research-based and their findings are significantly noticeable in the learning process.

These research-based strategies include the following:

  1. The Magic Wand. This engagement strategy provides evidence that are sufficiently active among students. Their comments become more sophisticated over time as more connections to ideas are made (Engle & Constant, 2002).

   Research and Teaching Hints

  • Repetition of ideas is observed. Students are cued to point out similarities in responses using appropriate language expressions.
  • Suggested prompts for the students: My idea is similar to/related to …My idea is build upon…


  • The teacher extends one arm and slowly moves across the classroom.
  • The teacher goes around the class allowing students to share ideas.

2. Think-Write –Pair Share. This strategy increases the quality of student responses and gives them time to reflect; information is stored in long-term memory (Mohs, 2009). This was developed by Lyman (1981) to encourage students’ classroom participation.

    Research and Teaching Hints

  • Writing down the student’s responses foster accountability.
  • Appropriate language expressions are encouraged between partners.
  • Suggested prompts for the students: My partner clarified that… mentioned that… We agreed on…


      Think:  Students are given quiet time to THINK about a response.

      Write :  Students WRITE the answer to the question independently.

      Pair   :  Students are cued to PAIR with a seatmate and discuss their responses, noting similarities and differences.

     Share:  After reflecting with a partner, students are invited to SHARE with the class.

Discussing the think-write-pair-share strategy
  1. Talking Chips. This strategy uses any kind of game token, an eraser, slip of paper or any other small tangible item. This was introduced by Kagan (1988).

    Research and Teaching Hints

  • Encourages the “blurters” to hold their tongues and the “laggers” to think ahead (Canine & Kammeenui, 2006)
  • Promotes equal participation among groups
  • Best implemented when there are multiple answers to a question and all learners can cooperate
  1. Ambassadors. This strategy expects everyone in the group to answer the questions following the discussion. The structure of ambassadors come from ‘Number Heads Together” and is derived from the work of Kagan (1989).

      Research and Teaching Hints

  • Inquiry is natural and continuous and leads to thoughtful and reflective exploration and ideas (Costa & Kalick, 2000).
  • Lower achievers gain confidence.
  • Students are more willing to take risks and share ideas.
  • Suggested prompts for the students: “We predicted a very different outcome; Our reaction was similar to…”


  • Teacher asks a series of questions, one at a time.
  • Students discuss possible answers to each questions with teammates for a specific amount of time depending on the complexity of a task.
  • Students “put their heads together” in order to solve the problem and ensure that everyone in the group can answer the question.
  • The teacher randomly calls students with the specific number to answer as Ambassador on behalf of their team.
  • Students are encouraged to acknowledge similarities and differences between their team’s response and that of other teams.
Brainstorming activity on how to go about the “Ambassador” strategy


5.Questioning the Author. This strategy encourages the students to interact with information and build meaning from the text by analyzing the author’s purpose in writing (Beck, McKeown, Hamilton & Kucan,1997)

    Guide questions

  • What is the author’s message?
  • What does the message mean?
  • How is the message connected to you as a reader?
  • Does the connection make sense to you?
  • Do you think the message is what the author tells us? Prove answer  from the text.


  • Teacher presents written content to the students.
  • Teacher allows students to use the guideline to Question the Author.

In implementing these strategies, students will take an active part in their own learning and their ideas are valued.

Note: The contribution of Dr. Belinda Dunnick Karge is acknowledged.

 By: Ms. Zaida Puyo

Grade 2 Level Head












Creating Dice Games as a Fun Way to do an Assessment

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One of the utmost rewards as an Early Years (EY) teacher is to see that all my plans come together. My EY1 students just finished their unit of inquiry summative assessment for term 2 on “How We Express Ourselves”. The central idea for this unit is “Through play, people learn, explore, and have fun”.

During the summative assessment, the students were asked to make their own dice and create their original ideas of playing with the dice. To my surprise, not only the students managed to perform the assessment successfully, but all of them came up with their own unique ideas. On top of that, they really enjoyed doing the tasks. The participation of the class was also enormous. Every child was actively involved in playing different games initiated by their peers.

Below are the steps that were essential to make this unit of inquiry assessment a “success” based on the 5 E’s Model of Learning:

  1. Engage. Introduce what a die is to the students so they know the name, characteristics, and the features of the object.
  2. Explore. Give various dice to the students and let the students play and manipulate them. Children are learning effectively by doing. Thus, it is important to allow them ample time to explore what the object is all about, ask questions, give comments, and play with it.
  3. Explain. Show the students different games that are using dice as object. Teacher can do different activities for this, such as:
  • Do show and tell. Ask the students to bring their own games from home that are using dice and share them in front of the class.
  • Use PowerPoint slides to show different games and various kind of dice and have a class discussion on them.
  • Provide real dice and board games in the classroom, explain the use of those learning materials to the students, and give them chances to play with them.
  1. Extend/Elaborate.
  • Teacher can paste letters, numbers, pictures, shapes, real objects on the dice surfaces and teach the students various concepts. Be creative and create your own dice games. Do lots of different games with the students. It will help them to get the idea on how to play with the dice.
  • Ask the students to create their own dice. Students can paint the dice and choose what they want to paste on it, such as numbers, letters, shapes, dots, symbols, and pictures. The students can also cut, color, and decorate what they have chosen to paste on their dice. (I noticed that my students enjoyed having their personal die and played with them many times after they finished making it.)

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5.Evaluate. After all the dice are ready, the teacher can start the assessment tasks.

For their summative assessment, each student came in front of the class, showed his/her own die, described the color and what’s on it, told his/her classmates how to play with it, led the game and played with the whole class. These are some pictures on how they did the games:

Draw the same picture
Look for the same number
Make the animals’ sounds
Count the dots and stomp our feet
Find the same color
Find the same number

By: Ms. Geertruida Maya

Early Years 1 Teacher













Drip Painting

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The unit of inquiry, “How the World Works” is an interesting unit for grade 5. The central idea of this unit is “All actions and interactions involve forces, which follow scientific and universal rules”.  For this unit of inquiry, students created an action painting collage.

Students were introduced to the work of American painter Jackson Pollock. They watched a video of Jackson Pollock, who was a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. Jackson Pollock was well known for his unique style of drip painting, also known as action painting. In creating artwork, Jackson Pollock combined it with performing arts.

The formative task for this unit of inquiry was adopting Jackson Pollock’s style with student’s initial name.  Students had to cut the first letter of their name using 1/4 A4 paper as the template and attached it on their art book. Then, they splashed the cut-out of their first name with water colour. It was a great and enjoyable activity for the students as they removed the template out from the paper. This learning engagement took one week to finish.

We had our summative task, which took five weeks for the students to complete it.

Day 1

Students worked with a partner to create three different action paintings with various media. The art media included crayon, string, marbles, straw and sponge. Students were allowed to combine different kinds of art media. This action painting was used for the paper collage.

The students were full of smiles and enthusiastic energy in doing this learning engagement.  I gave them three pieces of Asturo paper for them to apply their action paintings.  It was a fun activity and students enjoyed it.

Days 2 & 3

After finishing their action paintings, it was time for the students to decide which animal they would like to create. This was an individual art project. Students only did the action painting with their partner, but the rest of it was individual artwork. After they decided which animal they would like to create, they were given 1 medium-size paper and 1 small-size paper. From those pieces of paper, they had to create an eye and nose/ beak. In creating the eye and nose/ beak, they learnt about balance (symmetrical balance).

They also had to fold the paper into two and draw half of eye shape and nose/ beak shape. After that, they cut it. They traced those templates (eye and nose/ beak) on paper and painted the outer lines/curve of eyes.

While waiting for their painting to dry, students started to paint the outer line of nose/ beak with black and continued by applying white acrylic paint and mixing it up with black and white paint to create the effect of the nose and leave it until it is dry.  Then, students needed to focus on the eyes. They coloured the eyes using crayon.  They had to apply gradation.

Day 4

After completing the eyes and nose/ beak, students cut all the action paintings for the collage. Students had to stick the paper neatly and properly.

Day 5

This was the last activity for the action painting collage. Students cut out the eyes and nose/beak and created details for the final touch. They used black acrylic paint for the details.

The final result was fantastic. Even the students were surprised with their own masterpiece. In the process, students needed to listen and follow instructions step by step. The process of doing the action painting was long, but it was worth it.

Here are some of our students with their artwork.

By: Irma Dwi Savitri

Visual Art teacher

BINUS SCHOOL Simprug, Jakarta



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PYP exhibition, as we know is the culmination learning process during the primary program before going to the next level, Middle Year Program. It is like a salad which contains mixed vegetables which represent the feeling during its process, such as excited, happy, tired, bored, satisfied, nervous, and relieved.

In this 2018, Sekolah Cikal Surabaya has the second Y5 PYP Exhibition with the current UOI “Sharing the Planet” with the central idea of “Children worldwide encounter a range of challenges, ranges, and opportunities”. From this central idea, students of Y5 are divided into five groups and each of them came up with five smaller topics which are juvenile delinquency, child marriage, learning disabilities, game addiction, and child trafficking. In order to help the groups, there two mentors for each group that will help them during the process.

It is long processes which last for around 8 weeks starting from January to March. All the processes are referred to the IB inquiry cycles, tuning in, finding out, sorting out, going further, making conclusion, and taking action. This long learning journey involves not only the students but also mentors, teachers, parents, and communities within and outside the schools. Students also apply their transdisciplinary skills.

In the tuning in stage, students activate their prior knowledge about what challenges that children all over the world have. Students created a mind map to list down the issues children have to deal with. In order to enlarge students’ knowledge on the issues, the teacher also showed a number of videos related to the topics discussed, such as street children in Jakarta, the different access of education between two Indonesian kids in Jakarta and Papua, child marriage and its dangers, child trafficking, children sexual abuse, child labor, UNICEF, bullying, and other issues. After watching the videos, students gave their opinion toward what happened in the video to the children. In order to deepen students’ knowledge on the issues, students observe some pictures and wrote their statement, opinion, feeling, and any ideas they have regarding to the pictures provided.


Figure 1 Students are doing tuning in on the issues of children’s rights and challenges

After the process of tuning in, students go to the next step which is finding out the information related to the topic chosen. Each group has concerned on one issue they want to study deeper, students with the facilitation of mentors started to find out and conduct a number of research to answer their inquiry. Doing the literature review through searching from the Internet, reading newspaper, book, and magazine. From this activity, students apply their research, ICT, and literacy skill. Students learn how to find the reliable information, avoid the hoax that is widely spreaded in the Internet, and develop their plagiarism awareness as they are required to paraphrase the information they got instead of copy-paste.


Figure 2 Mentoring process during PYP Exhibition preparation


Figure 3 Students are doing research and promoting ICT skill on the related topic

Not only doing the literature review from a number of sources, the process of finding out the information is also conducted through the field research in which students directly observe and see through doing a field trip, inviting guest speakers to be interviewed. This is expected that students promote their social skill as students have to meet and interact with new people outside their circle. Students have experienced a lot of activities outside and inside the classroom, go to UPTD Kampung Anak Negeri-a government office which concern on the protection of street children in Surabaya, go to UNICEF, PPA Polrestabes Surabaya, Lembaga Perlindungan Anak, and Sekolah Cita Hati Bunda (a special school for children with special needs) invite Save Street Children Surabaya as the social organization concerning on the street children in Surabaya and many other cities in Indonesia, invite the obsgyn to know the danger of child marriage from the medical point of view, invite the dyslexic expert from Dyslexia Parents support group. Some groups also distribute questionnaire enrich their data.


Figure 4 Students are doing field trip to collect the data

After having all the data, students do sorting out in order to sort which data can answer which lines of inquiry.  The results of sorting out process are in the form of various products, pictorial graphs, poster, comic strips, animation, games, and many others. Students learn how to explore their creativity in creating a number of products to be displayed.


Figure 5 Students present their final product

In addition, this is continued by the going further process by doing research on the new inquiry that students have after having long processes of inquiry. In this process, students strengthen their finding in the previous research by doing more research on the related topics, such as distributing questionnaire, interview society, or find the relevant sources that support them find more info and answer their inquiry.

After that, students make conclusion as well as taking action. What students can do as their action. It is various based on students’ initiative, doing campaign via self-made animation, campaign through poster, sticker, bookmark, games, drama, hip-hop dance, and student-made song entitled Don’t be Scared You are Cared with the lyric as follow:

All children in the world

Have rights don’t be scared

As you have right to be cared

We all have hope show your smile to the world


We have the action so please listen

Children need protection

We have the action so please listen

Children need protection

So we will be shining bright


Rights for everyone

Education number one

Be nice and no lies

No more kids’ cries

Love and care so kids will rise


We have the action so please listen

Children need protection

We have the action so please listen

Children need protection

So we will be shining bright

Don’t be scared

Don’t be scared

Don’t be scared

You are cared


After the long processes, the PYP Exhibition presentation is held on 14-16 March 2018. Parents, teachers, students, and other IB schools are invited to come. In this moment, students show their understanding, communication, and social skills in presenting their learning journeys. I am really proud of them when they can confidently present to the adult and answer their questions very well in comprehensive ways. Being prouder is when the students of Y5 can present the materials to the younger kids, making some adjustment on the language usage, body language to take care of their younger friends.

In this process, I am as their teacher learn a lot from them. A lot of mentors also say that they need to learn more on the topic, they are like doing thesis again. Tired yes, but the satisfaction when we can be part their success is priceless.


Written by: Ika Fitriani – Y5 Homeroom Teacher – Sekolah Cikal Surabaya

The Thing Upstairs (Or how I stopped fearing the science and love my unit of inquiry)

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Written by: Adam Sturtevant (Tunas Muda School – Kedoya Campus – adam.sturtevant@tunasmuda.sch.id)

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“Burke, feed me!” Those words, echoing with shaky camera movements are enough to send shivers through Burke and his friends. You may or may not remember who Burke is. He is, for all intents and purposes, a roundish, blobby looking piece of blue clay from a TV show I used to watch when I was in school. His unseen master calls him from upstairs with a variety of requests while he wrestles with the temptation to open a mysterious trap door in the castle. During my first years teaching in the PYP I felt the same sense of terror that Burke felt, except the words were slightly different. “Unit 2 is about how Forces can make things change shape and place!” There. I said it. Did you feel a chill? A slight twinge of terror? The reason for the panic at the time was simple – I am an ‘English’ teacher. You know, the word guy. The grammar guy. What was I going to do with five weeks of science? Five weeks of rolling cars down ramps? Five weeks of friction? Gravity haiku? Endless lessons on verbs? I look back on those thoughts now with a smile. This year, when Unit 2 rolled around, it was Burke who held the answer. Him, stop-motion animation and two classes of creative year two children.

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If you don’t remember Burke, you will most definitely remember Pingu. We dimmed the lights in our class and watched. The students loved it, we are able to sequence and attempt to translate the hoots and honks that the clay penguin made. We asked ourselves some questions too. How do they make the clay move? How long does it take? During the next few days we added another character. This time Gumby provided us with plenty of laughs. Many of the students thought 1 Burke and the trap door Gumby gave us a few awkward laughs it was a little on the odd side of things. Indeed, Gumby has been around for longer than I have. Our third installment was Burke’s show, Trap Door. By now the students had been comparing and contrasting as the days went on and there were a remarkable amount of similarities both visually and in terms of story. One student even picked up on a bullying subplot that ran throughout the three different shows. Students worked together to complete triple Venn diagrams and shared their findings with the class. However, we weren’t done yet. We had to do it ourselves. We had to animate our own characters. We had to make to try our hands at stop-motion animation. Students spent a Monday lesson brainstorming a character of their choosing, forming a simple scene using a six panel story board. We had learned about this process by watching a behind the scenes video of Aardman animation’s “Timmy Time.” Students had to plan, label and add markings for directions, movement, and any speech that would be included. That night I made enough playdough for the two classes, 48 students in total. The end of the week saw the children making their models according to their story boards. The models were carefully stored on trays ready for a week of animation.

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Each student was responsible for their own animation. Using a free application on an iPad, Stop Motion Studio, students were able to move their model through their storyboarded sequence, taking single frame photos for each movement. Most modern animations run at 25 frames per second but we dropped ours down to a more manageable rate of 5 per second 2 A student moves a model Each object had to be moved many times for everyone’s sanity. We of course ran into many problems. Some of the models would not move exactly how the students wanted. Some effects in the storyboards were unable to be realised. One student wanted lightning so she used a dry erase marker to draw onto the plastic backdrop, erasing and redrawing with each successive frame. Many of the students were thinkers as they tackled problems on the fly. Once enough frames were taken I asked each student to press play. I don’t think I’ll forget those smiles.

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All that pushing, pinching, squeezing, twisting and pulling had paid off. Seeing their inanimate models come to life, moving, getting eaten by play-dough snakes, squashing robots, crying dough-tears and even spinning flowers. The last step was adding voices for the students that had chosen to do so. The sense of pride that radiated from each student made the whole process worthwhile.

So much for terror, right? As an ‘English’ teacher I did get to do everything that I wanted to do language-wise. We revised our adjectives from the previous unit with our comparisons of the episodes, we completed our writing genre, report writing, by reflecting on our process , celebrating the successes and discussing the pitfalls we faced along the way. We reinforced our story conventions by sequencing and examining characters and settings. Our animation process fit right into the theme of our unit and allowed a great deal of the inquiry vocabulary to be shared and practiced effectively. With the generous help of the leading class teachers and assistants we were able to give our students an opportunity to explore, create, reflect, predict and come to conclusions. And as for my conclusion? Sometimes the PYP can seem intimidating when integrating language and stand alone grammar in the most seamless way you can. A unit of inquiry might be scary but like Burke so tirelessly does, you just have to feed it. Feed it your ideas, your creativity and let the students do the same. Let it enrich your activities and explorations, not be a barrier to them. But still, I’d probably be careful with that trap door. There might be some tears.

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Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals to Students

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Every year, we collaboratively review our school written curriculum based on the IB requirements. Reviewing the curriculum is related to Standard C2.9, which states that “the written curriculum is informed by current IB publications and is reviewed regularly to incorporate developments in the programme(s)”.

In doing the review this year, we made sure that the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are taught and addressed in our curriculum in addition to the IB Primary Years Programme and Indonesian national requirements.

The SDGs are “Global Goals” in which world leaders from 193 countries, including Indonesia, are committed to achieving by 2030.   The goals are inter-related and include eradicating poverty, hunger and inequality; taking action on climate change and the environment; improving access to health, education and clean water and sanitation; and building strong institutions and partnerships. Adopted in 2015, the SDGs are as follows:


Source: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html

Involved in our curriculum review were all our classroom and single-subject teachers as well as our co-teachers from early years and elementary. The outcome of our review revealed that all the 17 goals were already part of our early years and elementary written curriculum and we need to continue explicitly addressing them in our taught curriculum.

For the review, we identified the specific unit of inquiry linked to each goal. During our review, it was interesting that our physical education and dance teachers developed plans on how to teach the SDGs in their subjects across grade levels.

Teaching the SDGs to our students is connected to the IB mission statement of creating a “better and more peaceful world” and developing “internationally minded people”. It is  related to Standard C2.7, which states that “the written curriculum promotes student awareness of individual, local, national and world issues”. Likewise, it is linked to Standard C2.14b, which emphasizes that “teaching and learning empowers students to take self-initiated action as a result of the learning”.

Achieving the SDGs is not only the work of governments and non-governmental organizations. As educators, we need to do our part and also become globally competent.

By: Richel Langit-Dursin

Primary Years Programme coordinator

BINUS SCHOOL Simprug, Jakarta



Celebrating International Mother Language Day

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 The person who knows only one language does not truly know that language”.  (Goethe)

The United Nations has declared February 21 as the Mother Language Day. It is the day that we celebrate our first language and culture. First language is considered the language that we are exposed to and speak since we were born.

We need to maintain and preserve our first language and culture as our cultural identity and to keep our emotional stability. Studies show that we will learn another language quickly if we maintain our proficiency in our first language. According to Jim Cummins (2001), children who continue to develop their abilities in two or more languages in their primary school years, will gain a deeper understanding of language and how to use it effectively. They have more practice in processing language and they are able to compare and contrast in the ways how their two languages work.

To celebrate the event, the PYP Indonesian Language Department at BINUS SCHOOL Simprug organized an assembly, titled “International Mother Language Assembly” last February 21. We had performances from a variety of languages and cultures. The performances included student presentations and performances in Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, English, Hindi, Japanese and Korean.  There was also a national costume show representing different cultures. National costumes from Pakistan, Serbia, Kenya, Australia, India, Korean, China, Japan, Indonesia, France, and Singapore were shown during the assembly.

All PYP students were encouraged to speak in their mother tongue not only on that day but anytime they wish to.


By: Ratuu Harida

PYP Indonesian Department Head