Letting learners do the learning

With our grade 5 students we’ve been exploring how the learners can be more in charge of their learning, even if we’re off campus.

While we’ve been exploring the barrage we’ve had student groups look for problems that have been happening in Singapore. Each group can choose their own particular problem and learn in the gallery how Singapore has tried to solve it. At the end of the day students could either add the solution or communicate their solution in some way. The students really enjoyed choosing their own problem, and almost every group (over 200 students) chose something slightly different, which makes it way more exciting for me.

Earlier in the unit we went to Fort Canning to look at primary and secondary sources. They then used this information to create stories about Fort Canning. Again each student had slightly different stories based on the information they collected and how they interpreted this information.

Both trips allowed the students some voice and choice in their learning, while we went to the same places, each student saw or thought about something slightly different. The parent volunteers enjoyed watching the students make sense of what was around them and contributed to some thoughtful discussions about what was important when observing different sources and galleries. All in all I think we learned a lot and had a lot of fun.

Becoming artists

I love Kampong Glam.

For our grade 3 unit on How We Express Ourselves we’ve been looking at art. This year we worked with some of the street artists to create something.

We started our day walking around Kampong Glam and trying to come up with a definition of street art. We wanted to know what it was, how it was different from art in a museum, what techniques we usually used and anything else that might help us create. In the afternoon we went to The Blackbook studio to practice some street art on our own. First they showed us how to use the spray cans, and then students worked on their lettering.

They crew at The Blackbook Studio were amazing, but so were the kids. Throughout the day the developed as artists and created some incredible art. I think what they loved the most though was learning with people in the community. Boon and Ayid were amazing at working with the kids, asking them questions and bringing out each student’s style. More than that though, I think when we work on creating in a place we feel a deeper connection to that place, I think after the trip everyone felt a little more at home in Kampong Glam, I know I can’t wait till next year


Checking out their test tube

Not being to go off of campus has been challenging for some parts of the job. For our Grade 1 students studying ecosystems this has been even more challenging to plan. We’re not able to go out, most of our green space is under construction and I’m trying to plan an experiential approach to understanding why habitats are important for living things.

Luckily I bumped into a friend who suggested ants. They start off in a test tube, so upkeep is pretty easy and the hook for the kids is we have to build the best habitat for them.

So we can go outside, see where ants are (thankfully ants are almost everywhere). Look at what natural things they do and need, what they eat and where they want to live and then start designing a new home for them. The winning design will get to have their home be created for the ants to live in.

So hopefully this goes well, we don’t start for awhile, but the kids I think will be interested. It gives them a chance to look at what’s happening in another living thing’s life and hopefully think about how to make it better. We’ll see how it goes anyway.

Belonging and Migration

Photo from Little India

There’s been kind of a mix of ideas hitting me lately. With our grade 3 unit we’ve been looking at the idea of migration. That there are push and pull factors, challenges and opportunities and many other factors that make us move.

Once we move though, we want a sense of belonging. We even move because we’re don’t feel like we belong where we are.

I recently had a chat with two people from the Big Questions Institute. We were wondering how to develop this sense of belonging in our new teachers. I think we’re thinking about bringing small groups of people with similar interests, creating a sense of purpose and working towards a common goal.

The unit has been interesting with the questions the students have been bringing up. If you get a chance The Mango Tree by Hidayah Amin is a great read about Malay people in Singapore.

Favourite Spots

I’ve been working for awhile on this idea. How can we connect people and places. This year I’ve asked for some volunteers to share their favourite spots with me so we can share with others. I’m thinking we can start with new teachers, when they are recruited we can share what we think of our place and how we can get others to connect with them once they’re here. We can then open up to students and maybe welcome new student to school too.

The idea, I hope is that place can be an important way to connect people and enjoy our jobs as well as understand where we are a bit better.

Learning about managing living things

We’re working with our grade 6 students to reimagine what it is like to manage living things. Traditionally in this unit we have explored different types of farming. This year we wanted to actual make a small farm. However, COVID restrictions have put a damper on some of our best wishes.

Regardless, I wanted students to really think about possible outcomes of managing living things. Singapore is unique in the fact that they are allowing meat to be grown from cells. They are marketing and working on creating clean meat. This idea that we can grow just the meat in the lab, it will prevent us from killing living things and perhaps it will be more sustainable.

The idea is very interesting and I hope motivates discussions in the classroom about what living things are and how to use them effectively. We are lucky to have Chef Kaimana who is one of the people who work with JUST come and talk to us. It’s exciting because they are rethinking traditional food and traditional ways of making and growing products.

I wonder what the kids will come up with.

Working on our cities

One Dover Forest Proposal (or start of proposal)

Adding this 3d mapping element to our unit has been really interesting. One of the positive outcomes is that students are talking authentically and experimenting with the ideas of measurements. They came to real problems and tried to figure them out, it was a pretty exciting thing to watch.

Our co-teachers were excited to link in other interdisciplinary ideas. They loved the math, but also got into energy from previous units, waterways for previous years and some other social studies thinking.

When we make things, and there can be different outcomes but they focused on the same problem. Everyone seemed to really like the process, and the products have turned out better than I thought. It’s been great working with the teachers and getting to know them a lot better. I’m feeling like we can do some pretty cool stuff for the upcoming unit.

Studying the city from indoors

Master Plan

So this unit of inquiry, for our grade 6 team is one of my favourites because I love the URA City Gallery. It is easily one of my favourite spaces in Singapore, sadly it is closed during COVID, and even if it were open, we couldn’t go.

However, we are trying to learn the same sorts of things without this resource. For me, this inability to visit this place has really changed what students are learning. I was asking questions to two classes today and they really did not understand some of the aspects of Singapore’s development plan. First of all, I totally get it, why would they know these things, why does it matter to them? But I was a little sad that they missed out on some cool learning opportunities. This year we have an interesting opportunity to really build a part of the city, we are using Dover Forest Development plan as a way to think about designing a new part of the city. It seems authentic, timely and relevant, but the missed opportunity to go to the City Gallery really hurts me.

We are still trying to get out to do some demographic walks and trying to connect to different parts of our lived experience, but I really wish we could go.

Team Teaching

Sitting in Silos

My job is constantly evolving which is incredible because I always get to learn something new. This year, I think the focus is more on working as a team. Normally, I like being on my own (not just in a teaching setting) and I thrive when I can work and react quickly in my own sort of situation. By putting myself in a new situation, I hope to be able to grow more and hopefully become a better teammate.

As a classroom teacher, I normally work with the students and we come up with essential agreements. They normally can be described as communicating clearly, being aware of other people, being positive and respecting everything around us. I’m hoping to bring this idea to my new team teaching structure.

Communicating is always difficult for me, I usually know myself really well, can understand why I’m doing something, but I don’t always let people know my thought process, which can make team teaching difficult.

I am super excited to be working with my favourite teaching team mate this year. We understand each other (I think) and we have the same goals, so I’m excited to see where this heads.