Developing Student Writing Skills

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Writing is binus jan 4.pngconsidered one of the most challenging lessons to teach. Generally, students love to share their ideas through speaking, but putting their thoughts into writing can be a struggle.

We often see that students effectively convey their thoughts orally and also participate actively during discussion time in class. However, when they are asked to organize their thoughts in any writing form or on graphic organizers, they are typically lost for words.

Primarily, the writing process involves various stages. They is prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. The process can be introduced at an early age and enriched as the students move on to higher levels.

Writing involves developing skills and conventions necessary to construct clear coherent written texts. Exemplars for teaching writing as a whole class or in small groups can be modeled on text structure and language features.

As we introduce students to different text types, it is best to show exemplars and discuss the purpose of writing, text structure and language features. For example, for a recount, the text structure would be …

Title: “When was the last time you felt proud of yourself?”

Orientation:     When?  Who?  Where? Why?

Sequence of events: What happened?

Personal comment: How did the events make the writer feel?

The language features of a recount would include nouns, adjectives, past tense verbs, adverbs, adverbial phrases, time and sequence words.

Here is one of my student’s work.

The topic was introduced by trying out mini lessons on orientation, sequence of events and conclusion with a personal comment on separate days. Initially, students were asked to brainstorm on the recount topic and make a mind map. Then the first draft was written, which was then revised by the student based on the descriptive feedback and the conferencing. The final writing was definitely a very satisfying form showing progress over the first draft.

Modeling is another effective way of teaching writing. Teachers should model to create a good piece of writing by thinking out loud.

Another mode would be trying out mini lessons, which are about 10 to 12 minutes long, with explicit instruction and allowing the students to pick baby steps which will lead the learner to the next needed skill. Anchor charts, rubrics, and exemplars are a great way to make thinking visible in this method. The use of anchor charts, rubrics, and exemplars helps in developing links between student’s understanding of the writing process and language structures.

Conferencing is another crucial element which can be done one on one, or through planned or unplanned small group conferences at the table. It can be completed in about five to seven minutes or it may extend to up to 10 minutes. The first half of the conferencing involves the student sharing his/her thoughts and explaining what he/she has written. The student does most of the talking and the teacher listens carefully, takes notes and asks a few questions. In the second half of the conferencing, the student gets to listen more as the teacher helps the student by teaching the next needed skill to refine his/her writing.

Steps in a conference include primarily a compliment to acknowledge what the child has done. In conferencing, the teacher also decides the teaching point that needs to be taught to move the learner to the next level. This will enable the learner to recognize, name and extend his/her own ideas.

These are a few methods that we, as teachers, can introduce in our classroom to enhance students’ writing. In addition, teacher support provides opportunities for developing writers to take increasing responsibility for revising and editing their own writing. Through constant guidance and encouragement, we can see progress in our students’ writing.

By: Sujatha Sreenivasan

Grade 4 Class Teacher and Level Head



Action Impacts Our World

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In line with our UOI Sharing the Planet, Grade Two students learned about endangered animals and animal conservation. It all began with posters from World Wildlife Fund, followed by one question: What do YOU think about this? This was the starting point into our inquiry about this pressing global issue.


With “Extinction impacts our world” as the Central Idea, our curious students gained more knowledge about endangered animals by going through The Inquiry Cycle. The deeper they got into their research, the more it got each of them to reflect: What choices can I make? What actions can I do to help?

One group embarked on a campaign to raise awareness about the illegal poaching of African rhinos for their body parts. They created pamphlets and distributed it to their family, friends and cousins so that they can learn more about it. Another group created a visual campaign by making posters about endangered seals and posting them around the school. One group wrote to the Forest Minister of the Madagascar Government. They requested that a law be made that protects the Aye-Aye Lemur from being hunted and killed. Another group has turned to the power of social media to spread their message about saving pink dolphins from extinction.

Their passion to make a difference, coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit, also led other students to come up with the idea of raising funds for WWF and its many conservation programs. Without any help from their teachers, these caring and principled learners took charge of planning, organizing and holding a one-day mini-bazaar at school during their snack and lunch breaks to earn money. They coordinated with their parents to help bring the items to school, but our students sold the cold drinks, delicious snacks, unique artwork, and old and new things on their own.

As a result of their unwavering enthusiasm, cooperating and commitment, these students from Grade Two raised money that allowed them to make symbolic adoptions for endangered animals they researched about. They were able to adopt a Cross River Gorilla, Giant Anteater, Giant Panda, Sumatran Tiger, Blue Whale, Humpback Whale, Pink River Dolphin, Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Sea Turtle and Loggerhead Sea Turtle!


This donation to World Wildlife fund will help their conservation efforts to protect the world’s most amazing places, benefiting animals, people and the diversity of life on Earth. It helps protect these endangered species and their habitats, to fight global threats like climate change, overfishing, deforestation and wildlife trade that determine the fate of nature.


They also donated to “Send a Turtle Back to Rehab” Program. In this program, one of thousands of sick or injured turtles are regularly brought to the Bali turtle center for recuperation. They will be nursed back to health and re-released back into the wild. The center educates local people and visitors on the importance of conserving and reviving turtle populations. WWF can train and work with locals on turtle-based eco-tourism, providing other livelihood options for turtle traders. They also work with government and businesses to help lessen habitat destruction.

These actions are being done by our Grade Two students on behalf of MSJ. We are very proud of our Grade Two students who proved that when individuals (no matter how young) work together, they can make a difference and bring hope to our planet.


John M. Decena

Homeroom Teacher Grade 2

Mentari School, Jakarta


SWAP TALK: A reflection at the end of the day

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As the day of a teacher ends, sometimes we ask ourselves if we have done enough or if we have done a lot. Questions occur while traveling home or even when taking a shower. And still at the end of the day, the only thing we can do is to wait for tomorrow and make things better. Here are random questions and activities that we can do or ask ourselves at the end of the day to aid us in planning for a better tomorrow.

Write down something everybody learned.

Write down something nobody learned.


Write down something different each child learned.

Name the child who already knew everything you taught.

Name the child who learned nothing.


Did you do anything other than group instruction?

Did you challenge pupils’ intellects?


Did anyone work on an independent learning problem?

Did you reject any child?

How many children failed to learn the lesson for the day?


Did anyone work on the board? Did you?

Did students do anything other than listen to you, write, read, and answer your question?

Did any child help another?


How often did you reinforce the children’s correct response?

Did you repeat every answer? For what?

How often did each child get a chance to talk, ask and answer?


Did any child ask a question?

Did the class laugh? Did you at someone, something with someone?

Were you angry?  Why?


Was any child angry? Why?

How many students did you praise? For what?

Did you teach reading (not just hear the students read)?


Did you teach new words before or after reading?

Did you read to the class? Why?

How do you feel about the day’s work?


These questions are just tips for us, teachers, to face a better tomorrow with our students in our class.

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As teachers, we need to pay attention to children’s emotional and social well-being as well as their academic progress. We need to create an environment in which learning can become a joyful experience for our students as well as other members of the school community.

By: Jose Noel Guasch Veloso

Grade 1 Class Teacher


The Importance of a Positive Teacher-Student Relationship

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If there is one thing I learnt from being a teacher for so many years, it is the importance of a positive teacher-student relationship. The teacher-student relationship is one of the most powerful elements within the learning environment. Students learn best when they enjoy learning with their teacher, the classroom atmosphere or the ambience the teacher creates.

When teachers form positive bonds with students, classrooms become supportive spaces in which students can engage in academically and socially productive ways. Students who have a positive rapport with their teachers use them as a secure base from which they can explore the classroom and school setting both academically and socially.


Each student has a different learning ability and as a teacher, we need to recognize that. I have always treated my students as my friends. I like to get to know them better. Firstly, it means getting to know the students’ learning styles and where they are in terms of their knowledge, abilities, and potential. More importantly, it also means getting to know their interests, personality, and background. For the teacher, this body of knowledge opens up the possibilities for growth and learning opportunities.


Teachers will see wonders once the students are willing to come out of their shells. It means they trust us as their teachers. We have gained their trust and confidence. Hence, students will no longer see us as only their teachers but also their friends. To me, this is what a positive teacher-student relationship means. I have seen so much improvement in my students once they no longer see me only as their teacher. Yes, they still have to respect me because I am, after all, their teacher, but they also trust me because I am their friend.

By: Devi Godri

English as a Foreign Language Teacher

BINUS SCHOOL Simprug, Jakarta

Transdisciplinary Learning in Early Childhood – contributing to international-mindedness

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Leading up to our Unity in Diversity Day and as a part of our yearlong Who we are unit of inquiry; our current inquiry into How we organize ourselves; and our language focus Writing to Instruct/Explain, we read Jon J Muth’s version of Stone Soup. This is a story about three monks who try to understand what makes one happy. During their journey, they visit a village with frightened villagers, who keep their doors and windows locked. When they cleverly entice the villagers with making soup from stones, the villagers discover how much they each have to share and what they can gain in return. The story ends with a big feast and offering the strangers a place to sleep.

Our initial reading session focused on creating curiosity about the story (and print in general); using  illustrations to  predict  and  respond to  the  story;  making links  to  the  students’ own experiences; the structure of the story (how information is presented); the information shared (e.g. how to make Stone Soup); and the big question ‘What makes one happy?’ BIS 1.png

In order to address our inquiry into how information can be gathered and sorted and how it can be documented, we introduced a new graphic organizer. We explained that T-charts can help us to examine two facets of the monks’ inquiry into what happiness is? The students were invited to use Post-it notes to brainstorm about happiness. They made ‘draft’ drawings and in a quick personal teacher-student interview, comments to these drawings were documented, before the students sorted them using the T-chart. The students had a lot of ideas about what makes them happy, e.g. “Thinking about school”; “Playing together” and “She is at the playground. She is so happy”. Although they concluded that there were less ideas posted about what doesn’t make them happy, they thought that these few thoughts matched their personal experiences very well, e.g. “She pushed the boy” and “Somebody doesn’t want to share”.

With the older students of this combined Early Childhood class (4-6 yr.), who stay after lunch, we read a much older version of Stone Soup by Ann McGovern. After revisiting the Chinese version we read in the morning, we compared the content of the story, the message and the symbols used by the illustrators. The students noticed the bright yellow color of the little girl’s dress versus the poor clothes of the young man. They compared the black cat with the black bird. And they thought that the young man had taken advantage of the old lady (old version), but that the monks had brought happiness by teaching how to share.

After reading these stories, the students initiated to use elements of the Chinese version of Stone Soup for their play. They collected stones from our Sensory Path and started a lovely cooperative play elaborating on the books’ ideas. Their play expressed the desire to make real Stone Soup.

Our upcoming Unity in Diversity Day, with a focus on Food Sustainability, offered an excellent opportunity to make this cooking activity a more meaningful experience while including all the Early Childhood students. As a provocation, we took all the food items from the home corner and asked the students to think of criteria to sort them. Two sorting circles were formed one for possible Stone Soup ingredients and one for ‘others’. The students were invited to think about ingredients they might be able to find at home and using this sorted ‘data’, the students created a visual reminder to take home. We discussed and compared the pros and cons of each student bringing something from home, which helped the students to understand sustainability. It was fantastic to observe how the students’ thinking  evolved  into thinking about  “pollution if  you  go  shopping  by  car”  and comparing it with more sustainable ideas like “you have to take your bicycle” (Dutch student) to “using an electric car”.

We invited the parents to collaborate by respecting the children’s thoughts re. shopping and our intention to focus on foodstuffs that do least harm to the planet. The children concluded that they should all “bring just a little bit” so there “we don’t waste food” and that “we need to share if a friend brings no food to wash and cut”.BIS 3.png

The morning of the Unity in Diversity Day, the students proudly presented their ingredients. After  the  flag  parade,  assembly  and  photo  shoot, we started  with  addressing the  expected learning outcomes for the actual cooking activity:

  • personal hygiene
  • fine motor skills
  • food choices can affect our health
  • cooperate with others (share and take turns)
  • celebrate the accomplishment of the group
  • understand the impact of their actions on the environment

We  labeled  the  ingredients  and  discussed  how  to wash  and cut  them. We  revisited  the instructions on how to cook Stone Soup and explained which areas to use for their cooking activities. We included the youngest Early Childhood students and together they created a very rich, sustainable Stone Soup which they ate together with their teachers.BIS 2.png

Here are some comments the EC3 students shared about our ‘sustainable’ community vegetable soup:

JA: “We made our own ‘to do’ list.”

All: “We made the soup together … EC1, EC2, EC3.” LE: “Eating together!”

CH: “Everybody (brought the ingredients).” LE: “We don’t get pollution!”

JO: “It was fun, we could cut our own food.”

JA: “It makes us happy, because it is so yummy when you make it together.” LE: “Happy, because your heart is GOOD!”

LE: “IF you go to the shopping (mall), the smoke (of the care) is not good for your heart or your body.”

JA: “Or you can go on your bike.”

LE: “If you want to go shopping, you need an electric car … no pollution!”


Nicolette Brata-Coolen MA Childhood Studies & Early Years

SENCO & PYP Early Childhood Teacher

Bandung Independent School


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     The grating sounds of saws at work and of nails being drilled into hard bamboo filled the air as children, totally immersed in their project, carried 30 foot poles of bamboo to makeshift stands made from chairs, measured them carefully into different lengths and sawed, drilled and hammered away.

     It had been an exciting few weeks. The Grade 4 children at Bali Island School had been looking at how the design of buildings and structures was dependent on environmental factors, available materials and human ingenuity. As part of the inquiry, the children had met and interviewed two well-known architects in Bali, visited an indigenous Balinese compound, as well as a marvelous centre for yoga, built completely from bamboo. The children were curious to find out why certain materials were used for building in modern and traditional Balinese structures. So they devised many scientific experiments to test a variety of building materials for strength, insulation and waterproofing qualities. This helped the students to understand their properties better. They were astonished to learn that bamboo was as strong as iron of the same mass!

The next question was how could they apply their newfound knowledge to an authentic, real life situation? The result: A desperately needed Lost and Found Property Centre for the Primary School.

bali-is-2The children first decided to brainstorm ideas of what had to be considered before starting the project. They looked closely at the lost property in the school to see what they had to plan for. Many questions arose that ranged from which building materials would be the most suitable to how to decide the right measurements. They wondered how different kinds of lost property would be best stored. What if it was a wet swimming costume and towel? Should they have pegs or a bar with hangers for clothes? Did they need drawers in which to lock valuable things or should they stick to shelves? They decided to measure bottles, bags and lost kits to understand the shelf size needed. They considered the average heights and arm lengths of the children and teachers to decide on how tall the centre should be and how deep.

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What else did the children gain from this experience? By being challenged and actively engaged in tasks that were authentic, relevant to them and significant to the entire community, this project helped to promote self-management, perseverance, and a willingness to adapt to different roles and collaborate respectfully over different ideas and assume responsibility. In short, many of the skills necessary to help our students thrive and succeed as responsible citizens in a changing world.

Preeti Singh

Grade 4, Classroom Teacher

Bali Island School

(Formally Bali International School)

I See Force in Tony Orrico’s Masterpieces

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I found a very interesting artist for my grade 5 visual art lesson on the unit of inquiry, “How the World Works”. The name of the artist is Tony Orrico, an American and best known as “human spirograph”. Spirograph is like a mathematical toy that creates elaborate circular shapes known as “hypotrochoids” and “epitrochoids”.

Tony Orrico is famous for his “Penwald Drawings”, which consist of a series of bilateral drawings in which the artist explores the use of the human body as an instrument to create geometric patterns through movement and course. Through a series of careful movements and repetition of his arms, Tony Orrico creates compelling and beautiful geometric artwork. Tightly clenching carbon sticks of graphite in his fists, he makes series of repeated and varied movements involving his entire body over predetermined periods of time or until certain numbers of strokes, cycles or rotations are done.

Tony Orrico does not only use body movements to create his masterpieces but also his teeth. He spends between 15 minutes and seven hours to complete one of his artworks.binus nov 5.png

In the end, I was surprised when we did a reflection. Students commented that they admired Tony Orrico’s stamina in doing his masterpieces. Students said that Tony Orrico’s artworks look very easy to do, but in reality one has to work hard to follow his style. Students noted that Tony Orrico can spend 15 minutes to seven hours non-stop, but when they were doing it as a group, they felt tired even just for a minute. It made them realize that creating a masterpiece does not only require creativity but also passion and perseverance.binus nov 6.png

By: Irma Dwi Savitri

Visual Art Teacher