How we express ourselves

Tuning In to Fractions

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I think the biggest struggle of teaching Math in the PYP curriculum is veering away from the traditional classroom set up of being teacher-centered and worksheet-heavy. In our 6 years as a PYP school, innovating and adapting to a more student-centered practice has been a struggle but quite a challenge.

For the theme on HOW WE EXPRESS OURSELVES, although the unit on fractions does not directly connect with the central idea “Self-expressions celebrate individuality and bridge human differences”, we focused on the conceptual idea “Fractions may be expressed in different ways to show equivalence.”

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The unit opened with the word FRACTION written on the board. The students created a mind map by writing words or ideas that they know about fractions. Remember! No looking at your notes. After all ideas have been exhausted, the students will take 2-3 ideas from the mind map and write a meaningful sentence about fractions. They may write as much as three sentences using an assortment of ideas.

In groups, they share their sentences and pick two that they will present as a group. Naturally, tweaking and combining sentences is allowed. On strips of paper, they will write down their sentences and post them on the board. During a gallery walk, students may write down questions, corrections and additional information based on each sentence.


I use this exercise as a way of assessing prior knowledge as well as a spring board to teaching fractions.


Since some concepts are already clear with the students, only a brief review is necessary.


Simplifying fractions, getting a higher term, changing improper fractions to mixed numbers and vice versa, changing dissimilar fractions to similar fractions are all chunked under the concept of renaming fractions. Through a gradual unfolding of the different ways of renaming fractions, students develop an understanding that fractions may be written differently but they still represent the same thing. Going further, this understanding of equivalence has helped students work better with the four basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. mentari 2


Pat Manning

5th grade teacher and PYP Coordinator

Mentari Intercultural School Jakarta


Fun with Art

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Art is becoming an attractive activity for children. It is an engaging and fun activity that develops children’s creativity and imagination. Art makes children freely produce their creation using their own ways and styles. Through art, children are able to express their ideas and explore their talents and skills more not only in drawing but also in making arts and craft stuff.

Every week, our students eagerly await their art elective class. They can’t wait to know what lesson or what activity that they are going to learn. They keep on asking the activities that will be done in upcoming weeks. Every session gives a different experience of learning not only to our students but also to us as their teachers.

Introducing self

In the beginning of our art class, we introduced ourselves to each other as part of building relationships. In introducing ourselves to each other, we used the “throwing ball” activity. During this activity, a student who has the ball will introduce himself or herself. Students tell their friends about their name, hobbies, what they like most about learning art and their reasons for joining the class.


We have essential agreements in our art class. The students agreed to follow them every time we have our art lesson. We called these agreements, 3Bs. 3Bs means Be focused, Be independent and Be creative.

Staying focused is one of the most important skills that the students have to develop in our class. Students are encouraged not to get distracted easily while they are finishing their artwork. Being independent in working means that the students should be able to create their artwork by themselves. Their work result must be authentically made by their own hands and from their own ideas. Being creative is not only our agreement but also one of the goals that students should achieve. Through our art class, we are hoping that students will be able to produce original, unique, imaginative and innovative ideas.


Art lessons can be either fun or uninteresting. It all depends on how teachers create and deliver their lessons for the students. If we have engaging activities, our students will be more enthusiastic and motivated in expressing their creativity and producing best artwork

Basically, we can choose and make art activities based on students’ interests and age level. Some of the activities that we prepare for our students, aged 6 to 8, are paper folding and painting.


Materials can be taken from any resources, including recycled items. In our art class, we prefer to use recycled stuff such as old t-shirts, socks and CDs. Using recycled materials for our lesson will help the students learn how to appreciate more their belongings. This will let students to discover that art creation can be produced and reproduced from other materials, even from unused or old stuff.

Creating Art using recycled materials

Recycled materials are easy to get and students also don’t need to spend much money to buy them. They just utilize any items at home that they don’t use any more.

By using recycled materials as our art resources, we are hoping that our students will learn not to waste any items. Here are some activities that we did using recycled materials.

T-shirt painting

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Some of our unforgettable activities

Matthew’s Dream

Students watched a video about the story, “Matthew’s Dream” by Leo Lionni. After watching the story, they created abstract designs. This was a great start for our art elective class as our students were just beginning to learn new skills and friends.

Most of our students were able to complete this project easily since they only needed to compose an abstract object using simple shapes and lines based on their own imagination.

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There was no limitation on how many shapes or objects that they had to draw and color. In this activity, students only used colorful markers and pencils for sketching.


The most interesting one

Night Sky Crayon

“Night Sky” crayon activity was inspired by Carla Sonheim online art classes. In this activity, students learnt about mixing media. They liked it so much and found this activity interesting. The process of mixing different media such as crayon, salt and water color resulted in colorful artwork.


  • A4 drawing paper
  • Water colors (dark blue, red purple)
  • Crayons(yellow, red, pink, light green)
  • Sea salt
  • Black paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick

How to make it:

 1. Draw a sky on A4 paper with red, pink and yellow crayons. Draw also the ground with light green crayons to form the land and grass.


 2. Paint the sky with dark blue and red purple water color paint. You may mix and form different patterns of color from dark blue to light blue or the opposite.


3. Once you finished painting, put some sea salt on the surface of the painting.


4. Make and draw patterns of city view or any landscape view on black paper. Cut the patterns.

5. Stick the patterns of city view or any landscape view on the painting using glue.



 Students found this activity interesting and others considered it a little bit challenging. No matter what, the students were able to produce their own colorful paintings and express their creativity.

By: Meylia Rianawati & Sylvia Rakhmi Dwi Iswari

Grade 3 Co-Teachers


Creating Hand Puppets

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For our grade 4 unit of inquiry under the transdisciplinary theme, “How We Express Ourselves”, students created hand puppets. The central idea of the unit was “Plays can communicate feelings, ideas and information.”

This activity was aimed at developing the fine motor skills of the students and explore more about three-dimensional form. The students created their own character for their puppets.

Paper mache was the art technique that students used for the puppet head. Students utilized plastic bottles, which they cut into two. Then, students covered the plastic bottles with newspaper and kitchen tissue.

The most challenging part of the learning engagement was when students need to create the hair for the puppet. Students didn’t realize that what they did was related to the measurement math concept. Students had to measure the length of the puppet hair. Once they know the measurement for the hair, they need to roll the yarn of the size of their fist and count it 30 times per roll, which they had to make three rolls. They also had to decide, with or without bangs for the puppet. image2.jpeg

Most of the students enjoyed doing the measurement and they were very independent because it was like a role play for them. However, a number of them still needed teacher’s assistance. The other challenging part was when they had to cut the flannel fabric. The teacher had to demonstrate how to cut the flannel fabric. Students also had to attach the puppet head onto the body (flannel) and decorate the flannel.

Once they were done with their puppets, students showed their work to each other and played with their puppets together.

Students were proud of their own masterpieces and eager to bring them home.


By: Irma Dwi Savitri

Visual Art Teacher


Learning how to express ourselves

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 In our grade 1 “How we express ourselves” unit of inquiry, we explored the central idea, “Storytelling represents different cultures and sparks the imagination to improve one’s creativity”.

To provide an opportunity for our grade 1 students to express themselves, students came up with a performance of the famous story, “Peter Pan”. We, teachers, chose “Peter Pan” because we wanted the students to always remember not to grow up too quickly and always dare to dream.

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Auditions were held and every one of them gave their best. Roles were picked and practices started immediately. The students had to practice every day. We knew they were tired but yet never once did they complain. The students took pride in their roles and worked hard to memorise their lines.

The shy children were able to develop their self-esteem and confidence. In all our practices, the children were encouraged to listen to their friends while they were performing and share their ideas and thoughts.

We also encouraged the children to act out a range of emotions and this enabled them to understand different feelings and show empathy to others.

During practices, the children had a chance to improvise and do pretend play. They also came up with solutions to some disagreements in roles and responded imaginatively. For the finale of the show, the children had to sing together and that required cooperation.

Doing this unit of inquiry gave us teachers also an opportunity to collaborate with other specialist teachers. We had our visual art colleague helping us with the props. Our music teacher taught the students various songs. Our grade 1 students also learnt different movements from their dance teacher.


Our students really gave out their best in performing the “Peter Pan” show. And guess what? All of the students performed professionally. As their teachers, we felt goose bumps while watching them performing.


By its very nature, drama has the ability to create strong friendships between children as they laugh, learn and grow together. We are proud of all our students as they gave their best in expressing themselves through their “Peter Pan” play. We hope that there will be more opportunities for them to express themselves.

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Grade 1 students involved in the “Peter Pan”


Roch Hazel Olivia and Ferida Sari Hasaputri

Grade 1 Teachers


Expressing Ourselves Through Sign Language

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In our transdisciplinary theme, “How We Express Ourselves” with the central idea “A variety of signs and symbols facilitates communication,” the grade 3 students learned that communication takes place in many shapes and forms.  

Sign language was one of the specialized communication systems that the grade 3 students learned. The students were able to know that sign language is being used by deaf and mute people, and it helps them as well as their teachers to communicate effectively and efficiently. They also learned that sign language is a natural and beautiful language that can be shared in ways that foster understanding and respect, acts as a bridge between two people who speak different languages, and gives them a sense of empowerment because they are being able to communicate which then leads them to being happier. The most important thing that the students realized was learning sign language gives them a chance to empathize and show appreciation to others, particularly the deaf and mute people.

On February 13, 2017, excited voices echoed through the 5th floor foyer.  They were the voices of the students from Sekolah Santi Rama, a school in South Jakarta for the deaf and mute. The students smiled from ear to ear and couldn’t contain their excitement when they entered the grade 3 foyer. Upon entering one of the grade 3 classrooms, most of them said “Wow!” and they were pointing at the computers. Their eyes were wide open, wandering around the classroom.  

While doing the socialization, BINUS SCHOOL Simprug students found out that some of their visitors have cochlear implants and hearing aids while others can hardly hear at all. They also learned how their teachers manage to accommodate all of their students by alternating between the use of sign language and oral speech when giving instructions.

After the socialization, an activity on teaching sign language followed wherein the BINUS SCHOOL Simprug students learned some words in sign language to the delight of the children from Sekolah Santi Rama. Then, they were divided into groups: two Santi Rama students and three BINUS SCHOOL Simprug students per group. The students introduced themselves to each other. They pointed out where they live and their birthdays. The students also shared their hobbies using sign language. Afterwards, the children from Sekolah Santi Rama performed the song, “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star” in sign language along with body language and gestures. The students from Sekolah Santi Rama also did a Balinese dance. They danced gracefully as if they were able to hear clearly the rhythm of the music. They also performed a skit about bullying.  The students from Sekolah Santi Rami put up amazing performances!

At the end of the visit, students had lunch provided by the grade 3 parents. They were also given gifts consisting of school bags and stationeries. The children accepted the gifts graciously and said they wanted to visit the school again.

When they left, our grade 3 students shared some of the challenges they experienced. “When they shared jokes and laughed, we were not able to understand them,” said Ryan Khullar, one of our grade 3 students. “When they asked us using sign language, we could not understand because their hands move too fast. We were not able to reply back. They might think that we were being rude,” shared Merry, another grade 3 student. “Today’s visit really touched my heart. We are thankful because we can hear,” grade 3 student Caroline Lee remarked.

This interactive visit was an eye opener for our students, who realized that they have the same interests as people with disabilities.  The visit also boosted the self-esteem of the children from Sekolah Santi Rama.

By Martha Carolina

Grade 3 Team Teacher


The PYP Exhibition

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Four years of teaching the PYP curriculum and attending an IB Exhibition workshop was not enough preparation for what was in store during the PYP Exhibition. The greatest challenge was leaving the students to their own inquiry with only minimal supervision. Not to mention that, in the beginning, personalities clashed within groups. I was almost sure our first exhibition would be a complete disaster.

However one thing I have learned in 12 years of teaching is that there is something new going on each day. Surprises are right around the corner. As the inquiry got underway, the students became more and more engaged in their learning and would often share new discoveries with one another and with their teachers.  

For our first year, the theme was HOW WE EXPRESS OURSELVES and the central idea was “Self-expression bridges cultural diversity and celebrates individuality.” Teachers anticipated that students would come up with singing, dancing and theater arts as their topics. But like I said, there is something new to learn every day. We were pleasantly surprised by the topics the students came up with. They ranged from cooking and pottery to sports and social media. This wide spectrum provided such a big pool of information that made inquiry so much richer and more interesting for the students.


Our grade 5 students were out all over Jakarta. They were out interviewing experts and celebrities. They were learning how to cook, paint, make batik and do pottery. They became actively involved in sports as well as playing traditional Indonesian games with their friends and creating computer games. Some groups came up with campaigns on how to use social media responsibly. Another group came up with the slogan “love yourself” to remind people to be themselves.

As I watched this exhibition unfold and as I witnessed my students step out of their comfort zones, I am reminded of my favorite Chinese proverb, “The flower that blooms in adversity is rarest and most beautiful of all”.  Indeed, it was a difficult time. Some of them would fall ill along the way. Buckets of tears were shed. Yet many of them blossomed quite magnificently and unexpectedly. As Exhibition Day approached, I was confident that these grade 5 students would be able to share the journey of their inquiry to anyone who cared to listen. I am even more confident that this is only the beginning of the many obstacles they will encounter and ultimately conquer.

Ms. Pat Manning

Homeroom Teacher Grade 5

Mentari School Jakarta


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In the unit of inquiry, ‘How we express ourselves’, the Central Idea for the fifth graders was “Celebrations and traditions reflect the beliefs and values of cultures”.

Through this theme, the students discovered the festivities and traditions that occur in Indonesia. Various traditions were found by the children. They revealed that there are a lot of different traditions in Indonesia. Even on a single island, the community may have different celebrations and traditions, highlighting the phrase “Unity in Diversity” within the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia.

From these celebrations and traditions they found out more about the various forms of traditional food, dance, music, musical instruments, homes, and much more. In addition to this, they looked for the values that are reflected in these existing traditions. Sometimes they were surprised and shocked to see the variety of traditions.


Students used devices, books, magazines and information from parents as sources for learning.

After searching the richness of celebrations and traditions in Indonesia, students also practiced singing, dancing, reading poetry and role-play, which led to a variety of performances. They not only learnt about Indonesia’s heritage, but also had a lot of fun. The whole school community (students, teachers and parents) were invited to witness their joyous learning. With this “Ragam Budaya” (Unity in Diversity) activity, students displayed appreciation for their unique Indonesian culture.


Bahasa Indonesia Teacher, Grade 5

Mentari School, Jakarta