Monthly Archives: March 2018

Picking Apart Inquiry-Based Learning

Prior to coming to ISS, I had only heard about the implementation of inquiry-based learning within the primary school classroom. Inquiry itself, to me, is to go forth into learning with an aim to prove something or to investigate a topic for yourself; it is a key method of study at university as independent adult learners, we need to be able to independently investigate our topics whilst also searching through lots of different sources to find what we are looking for. We may not think it, but this takes skill to decode what is needed, what is useful and what is not needed and that can be discarded.

I originally thought that using this method, within a primary school setting with children,  would not only create a loud and chaotic learning environment that would most likely lead students off-task but it would also mean that, as an educator, you are taking a step back from being a teacher by leaving the children to their own devices.

However, I was very wrong in my original assumptions through further investigation in academic reading and being witness to the amazing work of inquiry-based learning at ISS.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007) find that guided inquiry has been researched extensively to a point that, when used effectively, it has been found to produce the best, deepest learning experiences for students, as they are constantly and consistently forming new ideas and learning on top of pre-existing skills. The role of the teacher is not to simply provide the resources for learning and then leave them to investigate; children need to first be established in their “pre-existing skills” with sound knowledge that is provided by the aid of the practitioner in questioning sources, using search engines properly, and having prompts to be brought back onto task throughout the process. After all, it is called guided inquiry. Inquiry needs a purpose which must first be provided by the teacher before children can be sent on their inquiries. Jo Fahey (2012) also believes that inquiry is best utilised when investigation has been thought out by a practitioner but is still allowed freedom for the children to interpret through their own analysis.

Its been very beneficial for my role as a teacher to really be questioned during this placement – something that I didn’t think would happen as much as it has in such a short space of time – as Scottish education has seen a retainment of much of the traditional didactic formats of teaching, with the teacher at the front of the classroom leading much of the learning. At ISS, I have only seen this used a handful of times to introduce new learning. Much of the learning is then sourced by the children whilst being aided by an adult. Teachers should be facilitators of learning instead of thinking that children come to school purely to gain knowledge in their empty minds that are there to be filled with information from a teacher. Students come to class with their own experiences of the world that are entirely unique to them, and with them comes areas of knowledge and skills that a teacher can be missing. Units of Inquiry allow these experiences to be both recognised and flourished in an educational setting whilst still retaining a core purpose for a teacher.

I have witnessed this myself at ISS.

At the very beginning of my placement, I was amazed at the independence of the grade 4s in their unit of inquiry centred around the exploration of media. They knew their groups that they were working in and they knew exactly what goals they were striving towards within them and they were on the right path to be able to work towards completing their goals. However, what I did not see was the prior learning that clearly went into facilitating the children with the sound knowledge of what they actually had to investigate. It was this establishment that then allowed for independence to spur in the children’s learning. The teacher also needs to be very focused on the learning that is occurring during inquiry as I also witnessed and aided in steering a group that was going off task in their inquiry, as this is an issue that can occur in inquiry-based learning. This, I felt was harder than getting children who have been assigned a task back on track because they had already began much of their research towards the project they were making for their grade year assembly. However, there was learning within the corrections, also. The children realised they needed to use their self-evaluation skills and critically see what areas they needed to adjust in order to get themselves back on track with the assistance from us as the teachers.

Therefore, I see great method behind allowing children to inquire into their own learning, whilst still giving them a field of view in which they must remain (which is the central idea in IB). Not only has reading about the concept of inquiry-based learning been useful for my overall understanding of the practice, but I have also been able to see it in action for myself and really got to grips with adjusting what it means to be a successful practitioner.

A wider question I have however is, what would this format of teaching look like in a Scottish educational system? I question if the culture towards education would be able to facilitate the practice in such a successful manner as the International School of Stuttgart does. It will have taken many years of work, then years of structured reflection and analysis towards practice before ISS was as confident in the practice and I think similar initiatives would need to be examined if the curriculum for Scotland was to adopt a inquiry-based approach in a full-time manner.

The 5 Essential Elements of the Primary Years Program – All areas correlate to supporting the production of international-mindedness within students that exhibit the Learner Profile.

I’m so glad that I chose the setting of an international school as I have been able to get to grips with a system for education that is quite abstract from the one I am used to in Scotland, thus sparking massive areas for critical reflection towards what it truly means to be a successful primary school teacher.


Fahey, J. (2012) Ways to Learn Through Inquiry: Guiding Children to Deeper Understanding. Cardiff: International Baccalaureate Organization.

Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. and Caspari, A.K. (2007) Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Grade 1 German – Seeing the Progression

“At ISS we view literacy and language acquisition as an integrated and developmental process. Our focus is not on learning language for its own sake, but on promoting and supporting the effective use of language as a communication tool across all areas of the curriculum, and in life.” (International School of Stuttgart

Today (26th of March 2018), I began my work with the grade 1s at the International School of Stuttgart. Prior to starting this week, I made it my goal to make a critical analysis on the progression of the language-learning at ISS, so when I found out the kids at German today I knew that it would be very beneficial for me to see what their lessons look like, when I’ve seen both grade 2 and grade 4.

The teacher was very helpful in providing me more information on how the German classes are structured. German comes under two branches at ISS: branch A being mother tongue (where the children have been speaking German as their main language from birth/been in a german education system) and branch B being learners (this can range from never learning german to learning and speaking it for a few years). Within these branches, further differentiation must take place, also. The particular group that I was working with today had only just began their journey in acquiring German, as this year is their first year in learning the language. Looking into section 3 of the portfolio, I find that this shows that ISS really has considered the various backgrounds of their stakeholders: students from the host country of Germany should be able to extend their knowledge of the language through their education whilst students that have come to the country from all over the world should also be able to obtain the opportunity to learn it also. This means that the staff members (like the one that I worked with today) need to differentiate, formulate timetables and work collegiately to ensure the facilitation of language is provided. Even more so, as IB believes that the students they create should be internationally-minded (which means that they should be rightfully equipped with the skills to work across the world, also).

Teachers also have pull-out lessons out with the normal constraints of the timetable, where students can get one-to-one lessons in German alongside their English as an additional language and vice versa if it is necessary, showing that the needs of the learners are always taken into consideration on an individual basis by ISS.

What was also beneficial for me was that the teacher enthused me to, sometime this week, take the class through a German children’s book. This will create a duality product of improvement of my pronunciation and language skills, whilst also aiding the learning of the students. I hope to take this offer up when the grade 1s next have their German lesson.

I digress, however, as I hope to also further analyse what I witnessed and got involved in today.

Much like grade 2, the children began their lesson with a song in German, which centred around the children selecting a German verb and then acting it out to the song that was being sang and played on the teacher’s guitar. An effective approach, in particular with understanding new verbs, as the students will no doubt further in their studies have the actions they performed interlinked with the verb that correlates with it (something that my German teachers of the past also did).

Now, much like all the other grades, grade 1 also have a specific Unit of Inquiry at the moment and it centres around the understanding of the types of forces that can be used in a playground. The German teacher used this as her learning basis also and connected vocabulary and phrases to the types of actions and forces that could take place in a “Spielplatz” (playground):

climbing, playing, pushing, pulling, jumping, crawling … etc. all these forms of verbs were used in first person by the students from the questioning by the teacher – was machst du gerne auf dem Spielplatz? – what do you like to do on the playground?

The practitioner then emphasised that she will lead this same topic on into exploring second person and third person responses so that the children can wrap their heads around the implications this has on the verb’s appearance and meaning – extending the children’s knowledge beyond purely memorising phrases in another language. The students are actually engaging with the constructs of language.

The students were then asked to design their own playground with pre-printed equipment that they had to find the vocabulary for and label on their poster playground. I was also able to assist groups in naming their playground in German (we suggestions such as rainbow playground, for example) and examining the pronunciation of the words. Not only the pronunciation, but also formulating full sentences with our words: “Our playground is called the rainbow playground” vs. simply “rainbow playground”.

The students then ended with an Auf wiedersehen song to bid goodbye to the German for the day.

Overall, I feel that spectating and participating in the German lessons at ISS has really been crucial for forming my concept of what is necessary for teaching another language to children. Not only have I been able to really comprehend the factors that go into the teaching of German at ISS, I have also understood the various levels that are evident at the school. In the future, I hope to improve my language skills even further to get to a point of confidence to speak to my future students in the desired language (something I was capable of doing with my kids last year in German, however, I could only do this a few times due to their main second language being French). This means more than German; I will need to learn the necessary grammar for the more commonly taught language of French (possibly even Spanish) to ensure that my foreign language teaching is of a high standard, and that it does not become a thing that many other unconfident teachers put to the side when they are swarmed with other priorities in the curriculum. The evidence of the International School also emphasises to me that we are well behind our peers in our willingness to experiment and try to speak out-with the constraints of languages beyond our mother tongue. Complacency towards the teaching of another language will only instil further complacency towards purely relying on English in life. I hope to continue my learning in the German classes and hope to take part more during this week particularly with the grade 1s, something i will reflect upon in my week 3 reflection.

Reflecting on Grade 2 German – Seeing the Progression of Language Learning

As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, I am in a unique position at ISS: not only am I working with children across the grade levels, but I also get to observe the varying practices of the staff at ISS, which gives me multiple areas to draw upon to shape my overall professional practice.

An area that I really wanted to see if there was a difference in practice was with the German classes. Within my earlier blog post, I found that the grade 4s were equipped with exceptional skills in the German language, and their teacher and classroom environment pushed these skills further with a full encompassment approach to fully engage the children in using German. However, I wondered if this was always the case for the students, were they always able to be so flexible in their understanding of language?

Whilst with the grade 2s, I took it upon myself to also observe their lesson with their specialist teacher to see the difference between the age groups.

At 9:45, I went with my grade 2s to observe and partake within their German lesson. It was very helpful to see the differences between the grade 2s and the grade 4s lessons.

Now, the classroom environment was still the same, however, students were allowed to speak in English to explain more complex ideas if they did not know the German for something, showing that some of them are still new to the language. However, the teacher always emphasised to the children to always try in German. Furthermore, whatever response she got from a student in English, she would then repeat it in German so that they would gain the vocabulary and learn the grammatical structuring required to produce a particular answer. An example of this was during the introductory discussion amongst the class. The students were casually asked by the teacher what their morning assembly was about. A student formed their sentence in German correctly, however they did not know the German for computer security (Computersicherheit), as the assembly in the morning centred around the grade 4s teaching us about our media-rich world (which I saw come to fruition during my first week at the school with the grade 4s). The teacher used this as her first teaching point and emphasised the connectedness German has in terms of technology vocabulary (Computer, iPhone, Laptop etc.) with English.

This, was very crucial for the students as it then opened a wider avenue of vocabulary they could utilise within their understanding of German, making it more relevant for them (also, I believe that a modern topic like technology sparks more interest with the kids).

I believe that this open environment to experiment with language is crucial for the advancement of skills. At one time, the grade 4s, that are now very capable in their German, were probably where the grade 2s are in understanding when they were younger. ISS clearly has a correct approach towards the advancement of language: the children are in a language-rich environment and are getting to hear it from a native speaker, they themselves are enthused to try as much as possible to participate in discussions and they work with their peers to progress in their skills. The teacher also highlighted that she will jump back to English whenever she feels it is necessary so that the children do not feel pressured when being questioned.

Another difference was the expressive nature of teaching. The practitioner was far more animated with the grade 2s in order to engage with their youthful eagerness. Also, she got the children to perform songs with her in German with actions which they thoroughly enjoyed (something I think the grade 4s might have begrudged about!). This approach has been emphasised by lecturers during our Languages input last semester, using rhymes and songs have been shown to be very beneficial to the encouragement of language learning.

With the level of German being a little easier for me to understand, I also spoke to the class to ask them questions (the lesson progressed into the exploration of fairytales in German – another topic easy to understand as fairytales are universal). This not only got me to practice my German, but also got the children to hear a different dialect of German being spoken.

So, we can see that through dedication and handwork, the acquisition of additional language can flourish when the correct tools are used to aid the children, something that Scotland could work far more effectively on. To interlink this with reading, Kirsch (2008) believes that the best approaches towards foreign language learning in the primary school setting are the ones that make it relevant and engaging for the child, otherwise, they disengage towards the abstractness that language learning could produce when children do not understand or see the real importance of why they are learning another form of communication from their mother tongue.

Overall, I believe that I am using my time at ISS effectively well, which is improving my time management skills also, as I have been making sure I maintain a nice balance between witnessing specialist classes and also attending homeroom teacher meetings. To progress further in my understanding of language learning, I will try to also observe a grade 1 German lesson to see the differences and similarities. I will also try and participate more in aiding the lesson as much as my German will allow!


Kirsch, C. (2008) Teaching Foreign Languages in the Primary School London: Continuum.

Risk Assessment Form

Scanned signed copy

Areas of identified risk                 

Action to prevent risk to student health and safety


1.     Transport to the school itself = driving/public transport. Driving particularly as I will be driving on the other side of the road and car.

2.     Working with young children = care has to be taken to ensure the safety of the children in any given context

3.     Possible Illness & Ailments = Working in a school, the likelihood of catching a cold is high, however, a much more serious flu could occur also

4.     Layout of the school = various levels and stairs could pose risks

5.     Possible trips = the classes have differing schedules that sometimes encounters trips that are beyond the school building






1.     Always be cautious and courteous when driving on the roads and make sure to follow directions whether it be by car or public transport

2.     I will make sure whatever I plan to do with the children (whether class or group) it is well thought out with the safety of both the children and myself at the heart of planning (i.e. allergies, special requirements, disabilities etc.)

3.     I will remember to use sanitizer, wash my hands and ensure that if I do catch a cold, I seek the appropriate medication if need be.

4.     Be careful around the stairs and balcony areas

5.     I will need to read up on the health and safety documents for the school and see requirements of any trips or excursions I volunteer within. Also looking up information about the local area would be useful.





Aller Anfang ist Schwer – Week 2 in Stuttgart Reflection

This was taken during the markets in Kirchheim at the weekend.

Second week down and it has been a very busy one.

At the start of the week, I began descending down the grades as I moved from the grade 4 classes down to grade 3 from Monday to Wednesday (19th – 21st of March 2018) and then to the grade 2 classes for Thursday and Friday (22nd and the 23rd of March). This allowed me to see the progression that occurs through the stages and to examine the sort of skills that are being developed across the years.

So, as I stated earlier, I began working at the start of the week between the two grade 3 classes at ISS; grade 3a and grade 3b. Similarities in approaches from grade 4 could be seen in terms of behaviour management with regards to systems in class points, table points and counting down to gain attention. However, an interesting method utilised by the 3b teacher was the usage of the dollar system. Because she was from America, the teacher introduced the dollar system within her class that saw good behaviour being praised with an amount of dollars and a misconduct requiring a student to owe the teacher a dollar. This worked well because the teacher would open a store at the end of the week for the children to spend their earnings, which also taught the students the importance of budgeting and saving. The teacher emphasised to me that this particular class was different from her previous as they really cherished their dollars and saved them up to get better items from the class store, instead of spending the dollars all at once. This approach had a lot of merit for the kids and it kept them on task because they knew that they were working towards earning something as well as progressing in their studies. I think it would be useful to see a practice like this used in a Scottish primary setting, as it would also interlink with the mathematic outcome centred around the importance of money management and budgeting (Education Scotland, 2016, pg. 94).

Also, whilst with grade 3, I attended the planning meetings that the teachers hosted between the grade levels. This structure in planning enables consistency across the teaching of the grades to occur, as the teachers plan in unison with one another. What was particularly evident was the breadth in planning: the teachers were not only looking at the lessons they were doing for that week, they were also very much looking into the future, thus emphasising the importance of mid-term and long-term planning in the profession of teaching, which I have discussed in my comparison of planning post in greater detail.

I worked with a particular group of 3rd graders when they went to either German/EAL, as I believed experiencing the work of specialists would also be beneficial for my practice. Within the EAL class, I saw an almost perfect practical example of the mixed-ability grouping working towards the benefit of learning for all students included. The teacher encouraged the exploration of English (as it is not the students first language). They do this by assigned roles that work towards creating a media product that demonstrates their findings in the language of English. This particular group had already made a 10-minute clip that included various scenes that explored what they had discovered about ancient civilisations (a topic that was also explored by the rest of grade 3 during Unit of Inquiry time): costumes of traditional wear, differing roles of characters (such as slaves, peasants and rulers) and lines of dialogue that linked with the periods they were exploring – ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and ancient Rome – which all culminated towards a product that represented the rich-learning experience of the children. The teacher even emphasised that this method pushed one of the boys, that had hardly any English at the start of the year, had came on leaps and bounds in the acquisition of language. Not only of the acquisition of the English language itself, but also the tone and expressions that came with the acting in the clip.

Now, the group is working through a unit of inquiry that is centred around the importance of endangered animals and the human impact on the environment. I worked with a group of boys that had a wide range of language capabilities, however, they were able to support one another effectively. We produced a soundclip presentation with photographs in an almost timeline fashion on animals that are extinct, to endangered then to vulnerable, whilst also involving the importance of understanding pollution and what we can do to help the planet. The boys took turns in creating their lines in English and aided one another in terms of what they were saying but also how they were expressing their lines. Not only this, but the group also brought forward the very current news story about Sudan, the ‘last man standing’ male of the white rhino population who died (Vitale, 2018). Not only did this evoke a passion within the group, but it also boosted my confidence to take a leap into constructing lessons that centre on the usage of technology to explore a modern topic within a group, especially with students that do not speak fluent English. I can say that the students I had in my class last year that were ESL students would have benefitted greatly from a practice like this because of the open environment created for the exploration of English. The boys were really chuffed with the product that they made, whilst the teacher was also impressed that they explored skills such as writing (for their lines), speaking, listening and reading whilst also working with technology. These skills normally need many separate lessons in other settings however this practitioner has found the perfect balance to ensure the kids in their practice are not only progressing in their language learning, but also having fun doing so.

To unpick this further with imagery proposed by the practitioner within the class itself, I believe the philosophies of Socrates interlinks with this approach well: Socrates’ mother was a midwife and he always saw this profession as an important form of imagery. The midwife is not there to handle the birth alone or to even give birth to the child itself; instead, they are there to guide the soon-to-be mother through the process, making sure they are on the right track. Teaching, in the eyes of the professional within this class, should follow the same method. ISS, as a whole follows this pedagogy also. Gone are the days of the overruling didactic approach to learning. The guide at the side approach is far more effective in the eyes of many of the professionals at ISS, as it spurs students to be far more autonomous within their learning, thus heading towards a clearer definition of what it means to be internationally minded. Midwives also are far more concerned about the on-goings of the labour suite itself and keep complex biological understanding further back in importance. Teachers are the same: students have to first be suitable for learning to occur in the first place before complex learning can be applied. Even then, the child in unison must make more groundwork with their teacher.

Wednesday was a much shorter day, due to the school closing earlier to host a data protection seminar on campus for teachers to learn more about the safeties of keeping information about themselves and their children safe and secure. A particular point that was very thought provoking was the emphasis that sharing information online is not the only main danger of information leaking. The example of a teacher losing the medical records of students whilst on a field trip was one that was very crucial, as within these documents are medical records, contact details, addresses and much more that could be dangerous within the wrong hands. Furthermore, the example of a report card being left in a printer could also prompt the likes of other staff members, parents and students to come across it and see what has been said about particular students. It is all well and good knowing how to be confidential online, but one must conduct themselves in real life in a confidential manner also.

The various books that are centred around the Grade 2s UOI

Working with the grade 2s Thursday and Friday was also very beneficial for my overall practice, as I have predominately only worked with children that are further up in the primary school. However, I guessed that, before coming to ISS, that grade 2 would be aged similar to the UK as being around six years old. Instead, I was greeted by seven year olds, which made me realise that schooling in Germany does not begin until age six, which contrasts with the UK’s system where children must sit in a classroom environment from as early as four and a half.

I got to teach them about my Scottish heritage as their Unit of Inquiry has been the Middle Ages with a focus around castles. I was able to show the kids some of the famous castles that are across Scotland (with my local castles Broughty Ferry Castle and Claypotts Castle being two I knew a great deal about). Due to it being a grade 2 class, I also assisted in the building of the class’ own models of castles. It was so interesting to see this historical topic really explore and enhance the young children’s fine motor skills as they had to use tools such as scissors, Sellotape, glue, cardboard cutters and their hands. I liked to see a practical task link well with a topic that is also very knowledge-based.

The children’s models are coming along really well!

Overall, this week has been packed with so many interesting events that have sparked areas of professional reflection within me. Even within the This week has also been particularly useful for my development as a practitioner as I have a unique position (which the staff at ISS have agreed and emphasised that I should take as much of the experience in as possible) where I am getting to see across the grade levels, interact with them and make reflections around the practices that I have witnessed, which will no doubt shape my own understanding of what it means to be a successful teacher.


Education Scotland (2016) National Numeracy and Mathematics Progression Framework. [pdf] Available at: (Accessed 8th February 2018).

Vitale, A. (2018) ‘I Returned to Say Goodbye.’ A Photographer Shares the Final Moments of the Last Male Northern White Rhino [Online] Times Available at: (Accessed 22nd March 2018)

The Importance of Encompassment in Language-Learning

On Wednesday (14th of March), I attended my first class of the children’s original mother tongue, as ISS aims to offer lessons that both encourage the development of English, but also maintain and improve their home language. A boy that is in the homeroom class that I am working with this week invited me to come along to his German lesson in order to see the difference in the teaching.

The class was completely in German, emphasising the need for consistent exposure to a language to fully grasp the skills needed to communicate appropriately and effectively.

As soon as I entered the room, I was transported to a world that was entirely in German. The classroom layout emphasised the learning of the language in a fully encompassing manner. Every phrase on the board, every poster and every activity was in German. This, I feel, allowed for the students to become completely tuned into utilising the language for themselves. Although this level was of a mother tongue standard, I believe that we can take the types of approaches towards language-learning as a whole to evaluate the practice in Scottish education.

The specialist teacher spoke to the class entirely in German and expected responses in the language. Furthermore, their capabilities in the language were very strong and they had great confidence in their delivery. Now, although the teacher was German themselves, we can see that the teaching of another language is best established when the practitioner has a great profound understanding of their subject knowledge and how best to explore that knowledge with the children.

Also, the students within the grade I am working with, are getting prepared to start their bicycle training course, which will ensure they are safe when cycling on the roads in Germany. So, the teacher incorporated this topic into her lesson and focused the theme of the vocabulary on road signs, laws of the road and the dangers of cycling. The teacher introduced the topic to the class through and introductory video that was in German, which had humour intertwined with a strong message of the dangers that can occur when cycling. Then, she engaged the class in a discussion about the video itself, which tested their understanding of questioning and competence to respond. The abilities of such young children, that I had only a lesson ago heard them speak in perfect English, were now talking fully and clearly in German. Something that I find both incredible and envious. It also emphasises a point that I began exploring in my school first placement where I had a student that had English as an additional language. Their capability to grasp the language so quickly was astonishing to me, however, ISS has only further emphasised this point for me: children are at a unique position in terms of gaining new language. Furthermore, Hood & Tobutt (2009) have found that this is predominately the case due to children being at a unique advantage in terms of having the capability to grasp the correct pronunciation of another language much quicker than their adult counterparts (however, the age at which a person begins their second language-learning does not determine their entire capabilities within the language).

Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform that the teacher used to test the knowledge of the students in the laws of the road that they needed for bicycle training but it was completely in German.

An interesting approach that was undertaken by the teacher was in the usage of technology:

They used a platform known as Kahoot! to test the children’s knowledge of particular vocabulary and sentence structures with the topic of road safety. However, she had given the responsibility of the game to one of the students in the class to prepare prior to the lesson. This, for me, showed a great emphasis on ownership of learning, not only for themselves but also their peers in the class. The children were each given an iPad and they had to complete the quiz that the student had made and try and score the most points in order to win. The task was both engaging and stimulating as the students took great joy in seeing their names on the leaderboard. However, the teacher also used the wrong answers well as she then explored it in detail with the students to clarify any misconceptions – one example being with the Stop sign. One cannot simply just stop to a complete halt, they had to take into consideration their surroundings and look around them to make sure it is safe to stop, but also they need to put their foot on the pavement as cyclists when they stop.

Overall, I have taken away great points for reflection from observing and aiding in this lesson (as much as my German would allow me to!) and it has further emphasised my educational philosophy upon the importance of language-learning as a whole. A practitioner needs to be well equipped in order to get their students fully engaged with another language from the one they are so used to, even if they have had lots of prior knowledge within the language. I hope to take these points, on top of the new vocabulary about road safety, when I am teaching modern languages within the Scottish primary school setting.


Hood, P. and Tobutt, K. (2009) Modern languages in the primary school London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Niemand hat gesagt, dass Leben leicht ist – Week 1 in Stuttgart Reflection

In such a short space of time, so much has happened.

My first week in Stuttgart has come to an end, and I foresee that the rest of my time here will be just as insightful as this week has been; brimming with multiple points for reflection and development.

Even before I started my work at ISS, I was expanding my knowledge of both the culture of Germany and the language of German, with great assistance from the host family who have welcomed me with open arms. During my stay, I will be working with the family’s youngest son in order to improve his English skills, which will both improve his language skills, due to the exposure to a mother tongue speaker, but also enhance my teaching practice as I will need to work one-to-one with the child to respond to his particular needs in terms of enhancing his English as an additional language skills. Even just day-to-day conversations will no doubt have great impact on the progress of his English knowledge. These skills will no doubt be beneficial when I return to Scottish education, as there will be students that do not speak perfect English at some point in my professional career (which I had last year during 1PP1). This experience will allow me to utilise various professional skills, with setting professional goals being a core area, as I will need to set out goals for both the child and me to progress cohesively.

The view of the garden from where I will be writing most of my blog posts.

My first introduction to Stuttgart was with the family that provided a massive culture shock. My first full day consisted of portfolio planning that was surrounded by the on-goings of George Michael’s “Older” album playing over speakers, to then change into the likes of Debussy and Bach, as the German news was playing in the next room. Alongside this during the first evening meal, the family was communicating across the dinner table in French, German and English, with conversations flowing with ease across the triad of linguistic frameworks that somehow worked seamlessly, as if it was meant for the languages to be experienced together. Opening oneself to different languages and cultures can bring great benefits in my opinion, as this family is proof of it: their children are well above their expected grade levels for their ages and they have gained the necessary skills to examine more languages. The freedom to be able to express oneself in any given language is something that I envy, I wish that much of the UK’s culture and societal view upon language as a whole would be more open to going beyond relying on English as their go-to language (even in countries that do not speak English as a first language). Particularly, when we view it in an educational lens, as the 1+2 scheme in Scotland hopes to fix this issue. However, I believe we need to unpick the societal problem that has a bigger lasting impact on our perception of language as a whole.

However, I must examine my work that I conducted during the first full week at ISS, the International School of Stuttgart, also. For this week, I worked with a grade 4 class, whose teacher has a rich background in working within International schools. This served as a great basis for me to get to understand the IB PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program). In short, the predominant feature of PYP is that the children are heavily involved in their own inquiry-based learning. A key feature in the timetable is a specific slot time for the children’s unit of inquiry, which is a core area within IB.

Furthermore, The teachers plan collaboratively for their whole year of teaching in terms of the specific areas within a subject through an application called Rubicon Atlas, with the example of mathematics being shown here:

The whole grade’s plan for the teaching of mathematics depending on the time frame

They also use a portal known as Veracross to take attendance, track students progress in learning, and make themselves aware of any allergies or health points that a teacher needs to know. This is to coincide with the platform of Atlas.

“Central to the philosophy of the PYP is the principle that purposeful, structured inquiry is a powerful vehicle for learning that promotes meaning and understanding, and challenges students to engage with significant ideas.” (ISS, 2017, pg.5).

Much of the learning within ISS is facilitated through a constructivist approach towards learning, wherein that students will focus on building their learning themselves alongside support from practitioners that will guide them towards the correct avenues of learning, thus the inquiry-based approach is utilised. Within this, topics such as stereotypes, Internet safety, and societal issues coincide with the learning required in research skills – how do I go about making this project? How do I find appropriate sources? How will I know they are appropriate? Why is this important? These are but a few questions that arise with students within their inquiry that is focused towards a particular interest within the child.

The paperwork that I will be familiarising myself with over the 8 week placement.

Within my specific class for this week, we worked through their unity of inquiry through collaborative groups, which were constructed across the entire grade. This meant that teachers were facilitating learning aids and prompts across various classrooms at one time with students working with different mediums within their group, an approach I have never seen in practice until now. What I really gained from this work was that I was able to see that students really had a passion towards the learning that they were doing, it was learning for the joy of learning. I also witnessed some groups following the trends of Tuckman’s group theory of forming, storming, norming and performing (1965), which believed that people working within small groups that need to work towards similar goals, go through different stages of coming together, having conflict, working through conflicts and then going on to meet the aims of their tasks. This is particularly challenging for teachers. I had to work with a particular group that were disputing over the assigned roles within the team (which were required to bring their ideas together to create a presentation) and it was tricky to try and diffuse the situation somewhat, however, it was also even harder to not try and solve the problems myself, as the group dynamics were learning points for the students as well, which IB outlines is a core aspect of learning. This is a massive area for forming internationally-minded students, as people need to understand they will experience challenging group situations within life, and IB is preparing students for them. Furthermore, the types of collaborative projects have been very thought-provoking.

An example of the work I was doing with my class in mathematics – an emphasis on the actual “hows” and “whys” of mathematics rather than just knowing the answer is emphasised in the IB curriculum.

This particular unit of inquiry (UOI) was centred around the whole grade level being sectioned into groups to conduct tasks that interlink with the outcomes required in the IB curriculum around the topic of our lives being so heavily influenced by media in the global world. The central idea is concerned about our understanding that we are both producers and consumers in media-rich societies. Issues like phishing, cyber bullying, photoshop editing, continuing stereotypes through advertisement, social media’s impact on body image and self-esteem issues were split amongst the groups who were assigned different media outlets to express their findings and opinions on the topic. Skits, presentations, animations and news reports all have been created to highlight the precautions needed with media in the global world; we are all consumers of a consumerist world and must be forever mindful of that. Not only that, but we need to be safe online. These groups will come together to form a whole grade project of inquiry that has been predominately student-led. The grade 4s hope to bring together their findings as one informative assembly presentation that will showcase the inquiry they have done.

Also, due to the business being a school, I knew to expect the unexpected in terms of what can happen within a school day and week. However, I ended up being able to go on a school field trip on only my second day of being at ISS. The field trip was to the the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart (the giant library in the centre of Stuttgart), which allowed me to see the centre of Stuttgart for a short while, also. This field trip was different from the ones I have experienced in Scotland where most of the transport is planned out, timings are crucial and the whole day is set out, with children having little freedom in the sense that they are always accounted for within a teacher’s schedule. Instead, we used public transport with the kids, we planned what we did with the children according to the plans of the tour (for example, we originally hoped to have a picnic lunch outside, however, were able to have lunch at the library itself instead due to it being cold). The kids even got some free play time outside the library before having to get the train back to school, which showed a more relaxed approach to trips with a large group of children, which gave me areas to reflect upon in terms of the health and safety obsessed approaches the majority of the UK maintains.

An example of one of the classrooms in ISS

I have also been able, in my time with the class, to work within small group lessons and conduct one short whole class lesson within mathematics (which, by following the Atlas, you can see that we are focusing on multiplication and division). I was tasked with exploring worded problems that emphasised the exploration of the hows and whys of mathematics. I took great confidence in leading this topic as there was one particular boy in the class that struggled with working with division, however, using the skills that I have gained in the STEM subject at the university from the likes of Eddie Valentine, I was able to break down particular areas that were tricky for the child (especially their understanding of place value) in a far more effective manner than I would have this time last year, which proves to me that I am already boosting in my confidence, particularly within mathematics.

I have also met with the Head teacher and we have mapped out my plans and aims for the placement: I will work my way down the grades, helping and aiding in classes and teaching in some, to experience the differences in the years across a school (4, 3, 2, 1, kindergarden). Then, when it is time for the huge project of the grade 5 exhibitions, I will assist in teaching and aiding the grade 5 students and teachers (something I will blog about more closer to the time!). Thus, concluding my placement with a wider scope of the whole process of learning that goes on in the primary stages of an IB school, but also get to know the school and staff members more whilst gaining experience teaching in an international school environment.

Beyond the school, I’ve been learning more about the culture of Germany and the German language. I’ve also been driving on the Autobahn to get to and from the school!

Looking ahead to the rest of placement, I hope to be able to take more control in terms of teaching points within the school, but also reach out more to the other staff members, as I have already received such a warm welcome from everyone at the school.


ISS (2017) ISS PYP Handbook Degerloch: International School of Stuttgart

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399.

Multi-Cultural Assembly – Understanding the Background of Our Peers at ISS

On Friday, the lower school of the International School of Stuttgart held an assembly that aimed to showcase and celebrate the various heritages and backgrounds that are evident within ISS.

The children at ISS all come from different backgrounds and ISS believe that it is their mission to not only celebrate their development in the languages of English and German, but also enthuse and develop the home language that a child brings to the school.

Stuttgart Airport – A fitting representation of what ISS must represent in terms of being internationally mindful of the different cultures that will walk through their doors on a daily basis, which also interlinks with the SPR (image sourced from wikimedia)

Particularly within the staffroom, one teacher believed that as an international school they must hold the same stance as airports do; be fully encompassing of all the various types of people that come through whilst still holding neutral ground. So many different beliefs will walk through their doors and they need to consider all of them and allow the cultures to be heard and showcased. This also, for the portfolio, relates well with the concept of being socially just in the guidelines for Scottish education:

Embracing locally and globally the educational and social values of sustainability, equality and justice and recognising the rights and responsibilities of future as well as current generations.” (GTCS, 2012, pg. 5) – we need to be mindful of not only the local cultures but also the global cultures that exist around us as practitioners. Something that ISS is very strong at, I believe. Linking further with Scottish education, I think this also links with the outcome of social wellbeing, as the Scottish government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence document outlines that to reach a satisfactory level of social wellbeing, one will develop a young person’s awareness, understanding and experience of participation in consultation, citizenship and volunteering activities within the formal and informal curriculum. (pg.18)

Firstly, we were introduced to head, shoulders, knees and toes in Japanese. Students that were from Japan guided the audience through the body parts, emphasising the key sounds of the words that were needed to be able to sing the song. Then, the students got the audience to join in with the accompaniment of a YouTube clip.

After this, students that had Birthdays in the months of February and March were invited to come to the front to be sang “Happy Birthday” in various languages. Students that spoke Croatian, Chinese and Arabic were brought up to showcase their language and then engage the audience in a singalong, which was easy to pick up due to the song maintaining the same rhythm. Thus making it much easier for people to keep with the song.

Then, to finish off the assembly, students that from Indian descent came onto the stage to perform a Bollywood dance. This, for me, was the highlight of the assembly as the students had clearly rehearsed the dance for a long time and knew how to put on a show whilst being accompanied by modern Bollywood music. The group then invited a few students up to the stage to try out some of the moves themselves, which I thought was a great idea as it got the students to really be engrossed in the celebrations of varying backgrounds. This, can then allow for the students to not only consider the heritage of different students, but also sparks points of reflection upon their own background.

Furthermore, beyond the capabilities to actually perform a fast-paced dance, the students had great courage to be able to stand up on a stage and perform in front of the grades from 1 to 5 and the staff and parents that came along to watch.

Looking at this event with a critical lens, I can see that teachers have a great say on their students (and parents) perceptions on the world around them. This one assembly alone exposed people to different cultures, different languages and different backgrounds all through an equal platform. Returning to the teacher’s simile that international schools must carry themselves as if they were airports, I find that this holds strongly with this assembly and with me as a future practitioner as a whole:

As teachers, we do not know, at first, what factors our students bring to the classroom. It is our jobs to find out about our children and understand what world they have came from in order to, not only expose the rest of the students to differing ways of life, but also allow questioning and acceptance of traditions. Teachers at ISS clearly spent a great deal of time with the particular students that participated in the assembly to encourage their self-celebration to be showcased properly and to be proud of where they have come from in the world.

To facilitate the confidence within children to share where they have came from in the world has only positives as showcased by this assembly. The fact that ISS celebrates all the differences under one roof also establishes an educational philosophy that we can all co-exist even when we have different beliefs and values in the world.

Looking at the requirements of the portfolio, I can see that this covers section 3 very well, as ISS needs to understand their stakeholders values. Their stakeholders (the students in this case) are from all across the globe, therefore they will come with varying past experiences and customs that their families are used to. ISS needs to consider this when facilitating both the learning for the students but also when they are mapping out the entire school ethos.


GTCS (2012) The General Teaching Council for Scotland: The Standards for Registration: mandatory requirements for Registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland [pdf] Available at: (Accessed 18th of March 2018)

Scottish government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence: all experiences and outcomes [pdf] Available at: (Accessed 18th of March 2018)

Image sourced from:

Planning – IB vs. CfE

Within the “Making the PYP happen at ISS” document (2009), a key area that I found interesting to examine in a separate blog post was the difference in lesson planning for teachers in comparison to the traditional lesson planning format that we are used to at the University of Dundee.  I felt a separate blog post was needed to take into consideration its implications on the teachers at ISS in facilitating the learning for their clients (both the students and their teachers) was the PYP lesson planner.

Now, reflecting firstly upon the lesson plans that we were provided last year for 1PP1, I see that these were focused more on individual lessons that were centred around the planning of focused areas of learning objectives and success criteria, which does not fully represent the entirety of planning that a teacher must do in their practice, however, it served as an excellent basis for introductory planning for us as first-year practitioners.

Coming to ISS, I believe that I am at an excellent advantage to try and see the wider importance of teacher planning, as it will enable me to hone my skills within self-discipline, working under pressure and setting professional goals as I explore the different grades at ISS and see the planning that each teacher does to facilitate learning (and even just plan towards maintaining structure of their classroom). Teachers need to think beyond the days and weeks of their teaching time.

Cremin and Arthur (2014, p.148) believe that a practitioner that does not consider the greater importance in long-term planning will go into their in teaching that has been provided to them instead of engaging in a whole-staff base critically examining the practice that is being provided to their students, which in term formulates teachers that are not autonomous in their educational philosophy. If ISS wants to instil the values of autonomous learners within the classroom, they also need autonomous practitioners setting an example.

Whilst the grade 3s were with their specialist on Monday, I stayed with their homeroom teachers as they had a grade level meeting for planning. I gained a lot of insight in the depth of planning that the teachers go into. The consideration of even planning meetings for parents to get information of the class’ trips (that are months away still) showed me that looking ahead is just as important as planning for the learning now at ISS, particularly with the amount of time homeroom teachers get when their class is with specialist in PE, Art/Music and German/EAL.

This contrast with the landscape of teaching in Scotland as us primary teachers must also be the specialist teacher in today’s educational climate. The required balance between teaching and planning, I think, has a great say in the quality of teaching that the teachers provide. Teachers at ISS have adequate amounts of time to acquire the appropriate resources, plan out what learning needs to take place and consult their peers for feedback. A downside to this I heard from one of the teachers is that the amount of time spent with the children might not be enough to cover everything they hope to cover.

The teachers first spoke about the mathematics lessons they hoped to do that week, what that would lead to in the future and then they looked at their calendars to explore the events that were coming up in the future (such as the multi-cultural evening and the class trips). Also, the teachers talked in-depth about their Unit of Inquiry for their grade, which focuses on the categorisation of living things.

As these teachers are well aware of the layout of IB, they knew that their planning had to be in line with the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which also has its own PYP planner, which I received a copy of.

Examining the two frameworks for lesson planning, I can see there are areas of similarities and differences that I hope to deconstruct further below.

Firstly, The IB PYP Planner, which is used when planning towards learning in UOI (Unit of Inquiry), begins in a similar fashion as the lesson plans that we used. Information such as grade level, age group, title and proposed duration. Then, it leads a practitioner on to examine what planning must go into the inquiry they want their students to explore.

1. What is our purpose?

Teachers must choose a transdisciplinary theme and a central idea when planning towards a unit of inquiry and then they must also question how they will evidence this and assess the students, particularly when UOI is predominately student-led – “If there is no effective way that students can demonstrate their understanding of the central idea, the central idea will need to be revised so that students’ understanding of it can be shown. The articulation between the central idea and the summative assessment task(s) needs to be resolved before further planning takes place” (International Baccalaureate, 2009, p. 37). So, it is vital for teachers to not only know what skills they want to build upon or begin establishing through the outlet of a core idea, but also how to evidence this and see it within their students, otherwise they will need to re-assess their plans.

Grade 3s central idea was around living things and Grade 4s was centred around the impact of humans being both suppliers and consumers in a media-rich world (which then branched into the themes of internet safety, stereotypes being emphasised through advertisement and the problems of photoshop on body image).

2. What do we want to learn? 

This concerns the key ideas (form, function, causation, change, connection, perspective, responsibility, reflection) that will be focused upon in the inquiry. the guidance is that no more than three of the key concepts should be selected to focus on.

Now, the UOI may be student-led, however, teachers have the responsibility to frame the areas of inquiry in the beginning of the unit through provocations they provide. They also need to provide open-ended questions that are interlinked with the central idea that needs to be explored so that students will be prompted to investigate further.

This relates to our format of planning, however, we must relate our areas of inquiry with the experiences and outcomes. However, the philosophy towards education is greatly different between Curriculum for Excellence and the International Baccalaureate, as there is more focus on the students going out to source their own learning with teachers being their to guide them; CfE instead is more linear in the sense that teachers to make sure that students have met the outcomes and success criteria at the end of how many lessons they believe are necessary for any given topic.

3. How might we know what we have learned? 

This section deals with the prior knowledge that students will bring to the table (something we also need to consider with CfE). IB emphasises that regular feedback needs to be given to students in order to identify progress and areas for growth that they can explore though self and peer assessment. Teachers need to make sure they have proof of each student’s learning in a format that the student can then reflect on their work. “a well-designed assessment task becomes, in and of itself, a learning experience because it provides opportunities to reinforce or extend the learning” (International Baccalaureate, 2009, p. 38)

4. How best might we learn? 

This section must be referred to in unison with question 3 as the two are interrelated. One cannot really know how they can best learn without knowing what they already know. Both teachers and students alike should be able to propose ways that people can go about learning their unit of inquiry. This will allow students to then make connections between the key concepts proposed.

5. What resources need to be gathered? 

Another key area that relates with the planning that I am familiar with. Teachers need to know prior to the learning occurring, what materials they and their students will need to ensure that the best quality of learning occurs. Furthermore, additional technological resources need to be organised effectively in a school where many other staff members will also want to use similar resources for their learning.

6. To what extent did we achieve our purpose? 

Reflection is at the core of all formats of teaching, as a post-reflection is also necessary when planning in Scotland so that teachers can see where they have areas that were strong and where they have areas that need refinement in the future. IB states that examples of work should be attached to this also. It is not enough either just to question the success of the UOI as a whole, specific areas such as the assessment tasks and the connections between the central idea and the transdisciplinary theme must also be evident.

7. To what extent did we include the element of the PYP? 

This section is to explore the learning experiences that really enabled students to be able to fully comprehend what they were learning in the unit of inquiry and how the UOI developed particular attributes of the learner profile (the core concept that is evident throughout IB in shaping internationally minded students).

8. What student-initiated inquiries arose from the learning? 

I feel this is an area that the Scottish format of planning towards learning could take note from. This is where a record of the areas that the students really picked apart or brought up themselves during the inquiry process. Some student-initiated inquiries will be particularly influential in determining the nature of the inquiry and therefore should be evidenced by the teacher, as they can have a great influence informing planning when the inquiry is next visited.

I feel that experiencing a different curriculum from the one I am used to in Scotland has really extended my view upon planning towards learning. It is crucial that we see beyond the boxes that are put in front of us as students in terms of “we must complete this, this and this, and that is it”. Planning should be viewed in a less clinical format, which I think IB has focused on this well with their inquiry-based format of planning. The learning is thought about before, during and well-after a unit of inquiry has been explored. This also shows me an example of what sort of questions are needed in a longer term planner, as we have only used the daily lesson planner.


Cremin, T. and Arthur, J. (2014) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. New York: Routledge.

International Baccalaureate (2009) Making the PYP happen at ISS: A curriculum framework for international primary education. International Baccalaureate: Cardiff.

Ich fahre mit dem Auto – Experiencing the Roads of Germany (LfL)

A skill that I did not know that would come in handy when I thought about coming to Germany for my placement was my ability to drive a car…

The German family that I am living with during my time in Stuttgart stay some distance away from the school and the autobahn (highway) has to be taken in order to reach it in the morning. So, when the parents of the children that go to ISS told me they would be leaving for a few days for business, I was somewhat apprehensive at the thought of driving myself in a foreign country that I’m not used to.

This is the road I take everyday to get to ISS (image sourced from wikimedia)

A big difference between the roads in the UK and Germany is the difference in the sides in which cars travel down. In the UK, we drive on the left side of the road and on the right side within the car. In the rest of Europe, they travel on the right side and their steering wheels and mechanics for operation are on the left. This took a lot of getting used to when it was my time to get behind the wheel.

I was interested to find out why this difference came about, in order to establish a wider cultural understanding of the phenomenon, thus covering section 3 of the portfolio.

According to World Standards (2017), around 35% of the world’s inhabitants drives on the left side (with the UK being included). This is, historically, linked with medieval-principles wherein people needed to be able to attack on the right (due to people predominately being right-handed). However, it also linked with right-handed people finding that mounting a horse from the left is far easier than from the right, as they used their more dominant hand to pull themselves up. So, one would think to mount from the side of the road rather than from the middle of traffic, thus the passing of centuries enforced the premise of driving on the left side.

Countries that were former British colonies are found to follow this trend also, due to the transfer of beliefs and British traditions, as India still drives on the left.

Other countries changed this, however, with the 1920 Paris Convention within Europe starting a wave of change that favoured right-hand drive to harmonise the bordering countries within a continent that has many bordering countries.

It was actually, at one time, considered a possibility that the UK would follow suit and also change their roads to the right. However, the UK decided against a switch to right hand drive mainly because it would cost far too much and that many of the systems in place already were far too old to try and re-modernise to a state of total reinvention (Geoghegan, 2009).

A map showing the countries that travel on the right hand side (red) and the left hand side (blue). As you can see, that it is predominantly former British colonies that still drive on the left. (image sourced from wikimedia)

Now, I believe that this contrast in fundamental traffic flow serves as a perfect form of imagery for my learning from life placement. Working within an IB school, I will be using the skills I have already established through my previous professional practices from Scotland, but within a completely new context, just like I will be using my knowledge and skills within driving but on the opposite ends of the car and the roads. Both practices will allow for great learning and reflection opportunities for when I return back to Scotland (I hope that I do not try and drive on the right, however!)

Furthermore, I believe that I will have a similar reflective experience with the two.

I was, at first, wary of driving in an unknown situation as I was unsure of the changes that I was faced with. However, through time and practice I was able to get the hang of it and build up confidence with my pre-existing skills meshing with the new environment of the autobahn. Not only this, but the fact the car had automatic transmission instead of manual, the speed was being measured in km/h instead of mph and that the car was a completely different shape than my own also had huge implications for my adjustments.

I’m only in my first week at ISS, however, I can feel that I am learning so much about a new format of teaching through a different curriculum from the one I know in Scotland. It has been tricky for the first couple of days understanding the differences, but I know that I will come to know it through critical research and practical development with working with both the staff and the children. Whilst also using the materials about the IB pathway to guide my studies and practice as a whole.


Geoghegan, T. (2009) Could the UK Drive on the Right? [Online] BBC. Available at: (Accessed 15th of March 2018)

Word Standards (2017) Why do some countries drive on the left and others on the right? [Article] Available at: (Accessed 15th of March 2018)

Images sourced from wikimedia – allowed for re-usage purposes