This Week's Message from the Primary Division

Coding and Robotics

This year we have been very fortunate to have the backing of the Parent Association to support our teaching and learning program here at Australian International School Hong Kong. One of the key initiatives in Primary this year has been the introduction of coding and robotics. The financial support given by the Parent Association has enabled our school to purchase the hardware needed to implement such a program. Although coding and robotics may at first seem exotic, on closer examination it provides a natural fit with good pedagogy that emphasises meaningful problem-based learning, integration and application of knowledge, hands-on learning in cooperative groups, and demonstrable mastery of new learning. Coding and Robotics engage students in complex, strategic problem-solving and higher-order thinking – a set of skills that is a high priority for 21st-century education. What is more, this kind of problem-solving can be introduced in a gradual, self-motivated way, so beginner students can experience satisfying achievements right away and can quickly move on to new challenges in a continuous progression toward greater levels of sophistication. Next week the notice board outside the 3/F office will provide a visual snapshot of the program. Please make some time to have a look at some of the wonderful STEM projects that are taking place at our school.

Guidelines for online communication

Over the course of this year teachers and students in the Primary Division have been discussing the appropriate use of Social Networks and websites that allow communication between members. Teachers have reinforced the importance of the fact that students need to respect and consider the dignity of others and the school community. Students need to remember the following when communicating online:

  • Respect others. Users are free to discuss topics and disagree with other participants but please be respectful of their opinions.
  • Be a valued member. If you join a social network or comment on someone’s blog, make sure you are contributing in a positive way. Do not post information that is not relevant or self-promoting.
  • Overall Tone. Avoid negativity and bad language, especially with feelings and anything about other people.
  • Self-control. Learn to say NO to invitations.
  • Friends. Only have friends you have met in person and review your list a few times a year.
  • Never agree to meet anyone you do not know in real life.
  • Contact Information. Do not list personal contact information (phone number, address etc).
  • Be Truthful.
  • Be Respectful. As a member of the AISHK community, you need to respect the dignity of our school and the people in the community. Some networks can be volatile, tempting users to behave in negative ways. Our reputation is best serve by not taking part in such discussions.
  • Be Sure of the Facts. Make sure you know the truth before you post anything.
  • Mistakes. If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction.
  • Tell a trusted adult about your online use
  • Save any information or communication that makes you feel unsafe and report it.
  • Overall Approach. Treat your online world like real life because people will judge you by it

Navigating the online world can be a complicated narrative and as parents we need to play our part to ensure the safety of our children. Parents need to check accounts and discuss topics that are posted. Make sure you follow up on family online rules and be consistent in your approach. Set the example and be a positive online role model for your children.

Finally, I would strongly suggest that students should not be using their online devices late into the night or in their bedrooms. On a recent walk around of the classes a number of students told me that they were accessing sites and using devices as late as ten or eleven o’clock at night. This is definitely too late for a Primary aged student. The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. To ensure technology isn’t harming your child’s slumber, make sure they have at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before going to bed. This support will have a positive impact on your child’s learning at school each day. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

David Shirley | Head of Primary

Spelling is still an essential life skill

My first three years of teaching were as a Kindergarten teacher. I look back on those days very fondly as I was fortunate enough to work with three other very energetic and extremely experienced teachers. Every single day, within these classrooms, there were light bulb moments. A light bulb moment is that moment when a child masters a concept and their whole face lights up, a bit like the turning on of a light bulb. I know as an emerging teacher I also had plenty of light bulb moments. At AISHK, these experiences happen regularly in every classroom on a daily basis. It is just that in Kindergarten the children genuinely celebrate it with their whole body. For younger children, with no inhibitions they celebrate it fully, whereas our older students externally smirk or grin, whilst internally they are high fiving.

Within the early years of education, there is no greater thrill than being an active participant in the daily challenge every student faces in learning to spell. When I visit our Early Childhood classrooms or observe our students working with Learning Enrichment Centre staff I see the great variance of struggle which occurs. Each student potentially working at a different level. Years of research has enabled us to create a spelling program which is structured yet flexible enough to differentiate for each student.

It is a multi-faceted approach which enables us to expose and teach students camera words. These are words that are most commonly used in literature, in speaking and in their writing. This approach teaches students that when you put the right words together you can create a meaningful sentence and experience the joys that go with being a successful communicator. We also teach students about the sounds that letters can make. They learn about graphemes, digraphs and trigraphs. This teaches them that letters combine to make specific sounds and that depending on which letters are blended or where in the word they are placed, they can both sound or mean something different.

It all sounds very complicated. That’s because it is. As such, when you see a light bulb moment where a student experiences success with spelling it is truly magical and they develop self-confidence which grows like a snowball rolling down a hill. As students learn to decode words they are then able to read and write them in the correct context. They also become risk takers who want to read and be exposed to more challenging vocabulary. Rarely is this process smooth. For most students, there are genuine speed bumps along the way and as the saying goes… it takes a whole village to raise a child.

Next week our students in Years 3 – 6 will gather in the auditorium for the annual Spelling Cup. Students are selected to represent their House in a competition which has three levels based on spelling ability. Words are chosen to challenge students and their ability to deconstruct the sounds they hear into the letter blends they represent. As such, it is very much an examination of someone’s spelling ability. One of the things we do better than most schools is that we continue to teach spelling skills right up until the day our students leave the Primary Division. We look at more complex letter blends, word origins and then look at using them in the correct context. Some theorists believe that the need to be good at spelling will, with the evolving of spell check and voice based computers become less important. They argue the same for Handwriting. However, I believe that spelling will always be an essential life skill. It is a vital component of making meaning of our world, it enables us to communicate with others orally and in written form and it enables us to immerse ourselves fully into the joyful experience of reading.

Cameron Reed | Dean of Studies, Primary