Monthly Archives: April 2018

die Schulbibliothek – Literacy and Reading at ISS

From the very beginning of my placement at ISS, I have seen a great deal of importance being placed on the encouragement of reading and seeing the joy that can be gained from reading a great book.

Once you make your way up the stairs to the library, you are greeted by books that are relevant to the times of today. Stephen Hawkings has recently passed away and the librarian wants to bring awareness to who this great man was and how the library can facilitate this learning.

On the top floor of the Lower School Campus, one can find the ISS Library for lower school students. It has a stockpile of books with a large arrangement of different authors, genres and themes. As I have worked across the grades, I have seen, without fail, a slotted time where grade levels will get the chance to visit the library, take out books and be able to explore literature with the librarian.

The children are encouraged to use it for aiding in their studies, which makes total sense when the inquiry-based approach requires students to be autonomous enough to go out and research any given topic with the correct amount of prompting from adults – this is where the library can come in and assist.

One prime example of this is with the grade 5 students. As they prepare for their exhibition where they will showcase a key topic that they have researched themselves, grade 5 students need to find sources in which they can find information about their chosen topic. The librarian is also there to assist the students in searching for the best kind of materials to use as sources. This then, from a young age, gets children to really question the information they are presented on an everyday basis and to really examine what counts as a reliable source. Furthermore, the Grade 5 students even have timetabled slots where they must meet with the librarian during their research stages of their exhibition (and even beyond this, the librarian will still continually meet with children to go through their resources).

The catalogue is always being updated! New books are always being brought in – specifically Erasmus books about the visiting guest’s home countries were also brought in.

What I find most interesting about the overall view on literacy is that, because of the regular visits to the library, students take a greater pride in reading books as a whole. I think it translates much like the school ethos; the library is a space in which all students can come for whatever their purpose requires them to be there. They might have homework around a particular topic and they want to find out more information, they might need to know about particular animals for a Unit of Inquiry, or they may simply want to have a quiet space where they can relax and read for leisure. It is the concrete for building upon a love for books and literature itself.

The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Illustrated by Terry Denton – the children were exposed to this book and introduced to what it was about and how the librarian loved it which sparked interest in the book and it’s series. .

The librarian is also very dedicated to her practice at ISS, as I have seen her recommend various types of books depending on the level of the children that are in the library at the time she is working with them. This is another point that is very crucial in the encouragement of literacy and reading: the exposure to new texts from a knowledgable source can really get children on board to picking up a book to read. If a child hears an enthusiastic practitioner talk about a book that covers their particular interests, they can gain a lot of literacy learning from being encouraged to read it. One example of this was with the grade 3 students where it was announced what book won a competition as being voted the favourite book and it was “The 13 Storey Treehouse” by Andy Griffiths. This then sparked the librarian to introduce the other books that were part of the series. At the end of the children’s input at the library, I saw many copies of the book and others from the series being checked out by the students. This showed me that we have a big influence on what our children can be reading (or not reading at all, if we aren’t enthusiastic about reading).

Overall, this short blog post about the importance of reading came about because of the great importance the library has on the lower school of ISS. This then means that it had to become an important part of my reflections as a practitioner. Utilising the resources around you is a crucial aspect of being a teacher and one must be able to see the potential of what is around them. Furthermore, it interlinks with another factor that influences the school as an organisation. They must have adequate staff members that have a profound passion for books and reading to instil similar passions in the children that come into contact with the library (which is probably almost every child in the school!).

The Primary Years Programme at ISS (Section 2)

I believe it is necessary to delve deeper and to unpick the framework of the Primary Years Programme at the International School of Stuttgart in order for a better understanding of the International Baccalaureate curriculum and the school of ISS. Therefore, I think it is best to create a blog post that centres around this exploration of the curriculum that is taught at ISS and to unravel the history behind the IB pathway in education. Not only this, but I hope to examine the underlying school ethos that is established at ISS through the PYP.

“Aims and aspirations are translated into a curriculum that is structured from the earliest years around a Programme of Inquiry that contains formal ‘units of inquiry’ in each year. In the early years (aged 3–5 years) the children are required to engage in at least three units of inquiry a year. After this they must engage in six units of inquiry under each of six broad transdisciplinary themes namely: Who we are; Where we are in place and time; How we express ourselves; How the world works; How we organise ourselves; and Sharing the planet.” (Bacon and Matthews, 2014, p.356) – an interesting take on the International Baccalaureate’s system of inquiry-based learning, something that I have also unpicked in another blog post that examined this phenomenon of inquiry-based learning.

The concept of “units of Inquiry” was very alien to me at the beginning of my placement. However, even from the first week, I soon realised the massive importance they have for learning – not just for the teachers teaching the curriculum but for the children that are experiencing and doing the learning. I particularly found that most of the kids at ISS love it when it is UOI time, no matter the grade level. Within the timetable, UOI is a prominent feature amongst the homeroom times, specialist lessons and recesses and break times that the children have on any given day. Across the entire year, students will explore various topics in a great amount of depth, whilst also tapping into other areas of the curriculum in order to establish a cross-curricular model that fully encompasses all areas of learning that can occur. Whilst talking with the grade 3s, I found they had already completed inquiry topics this year on ancient civilisations, how the brain works, space and living things. They are now moving on to preparing for a show where they will all have a role in acting or production. I couldn’t believe the breadth of knowledge that the children were given in terms of exploration for knowledge. However, this is very normal for international schools that follow the PYP.

Using Atlas Rubicon, we can see the Grade 3s progression of UOI Topics as they work through the year.

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is far more rigid in the sense that set times are normally the case for most primary teachers. They know they are doing maths at a specific time on specific days every week, with only minor changes to the routine. Lots of initiatives however are pushing for CfE to be a flagship for the similar practices found in the IB methods – transdisciplinary skills, cross-curricular and interdisciplinary learning links and having mindfulness of the wider world in everything we do. We can see this with the four key purposes in the Scottish education system CfE – successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

Now, the International Baccalaureate offers more than just the Primary Years Programme, it covers education from 3 all the way up to 19, with Middle Years, Diploma and Career-related programmes also being offered to students.

The different programmes offered by the International Baccalaureate within international schools – sourced from

Although it is handy to know where students will progress to, my main focus will be on the Primary Years Programme, as this is the level that I will be working with as a future primary school teacher.

It was first offered in 1997 after much deliberation was conducted in the early 1990s around the offering of a curriculum that was suited for students aged 3 – 12. Today, we can see that the curriculum itself is centred around the connection of 6 transdisciplinary themes: 1. who we are 2. where we are in place and time 3. how we express ourselves 4. how the world works 5. how we organise ourselves 6. sharing the planet (International Baccalaureate, 2017). These themes are interwoven and correlate towards creating “knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect” (International Baccalaureate, 2017, p.2). But what does this mean in a literal context? From what I’ve witnessed at ISS, I can say that it is children, adults, staff members and students alike being open amongst one another – it is going beyond the idea that education is the transmission of knowledge. There is a real connection amongst the people that call ISS their home for however long that they are there for – and even beyond this with alumni students being welcomed with open arms at the school during my time here. Staff members interacted with particular former students as if they were nieces and nephews, showing that real connections are formed between student and teacher.

My take on the dynamics that are clear in the Primary Years Programme at the International School of Stuttgart (and I assume many of the other international schools that offer the IB PYP) is that, because everyone is predominately from different backgrounds from one another, they feel united through their differences. These differences come together to create a learning space that cares a lot about achieving individual goals whilst also establishing a space that people can come together in unity to be there for one another in a wider sense, which is emphasised in Attitudes and Action in the PYP that are there to empower students within their experiences of learning. Within these experiences is a wide array of topics that can be covered through units of inquiry and other topics in the curriculum with their homeroom teacher or specialist teachers.

Something that I really liked that emphasised this entire school ethos was during another assembly where students that were leaving to start school abroad received a farewell song from the staff and students. It was an emotional day for many because there were students that were moving to far away countries to start a whole new life.

Overall, there is a big difference in the curriculums between international schools and the curriculum used by many schools across Scotland. However, we can see that a lot of the ideologies are stemmed from the same roots. Furthermore, much of the same pedagogical understanding was used to form both curriculums. Looking at both systems with a critical lens that has been able to experience both in practice has allowed me to really look internally and question my personal and professionals beliefs on education as a whole. A lot of the practices that I’ve seen at ISS have been very different and others have been very similar to ones that I have used myself. However, the biggest thing I will be taking away from the framework of the Primary Years Programme is the Units of Inquiry, as these core subject areas allow for a lot of independence and development of a child as a whole, and it also indicates to me that learning MUST come from the children themselves.


Bacon, K. & Matthews, P. (2014) Inquiry-based learning with young learners: a Peirce-based model employed to critique a unit of inquiry on maps and mapping, Irish Educational Studies, 33:4, 351-365, DOI: 10.1080/03323315.2014.983303

International Baccalaureate (2017) The History of the IB. [Pdf] Available at: (Accessed: 1 April 2018)

Taten sagen mehr als Worte – Week 3 in Stuttgart Reflection

Third week in and it is that time again to sit down and critically reflect on what has transpired this week. Already I am feeling really at home working at ISS.

I started my work with the grade 1 classes on Monday (26th of March 2018), as I have already worked with the grade 4s, 3s, and 2s, so I continued working my way down the grades right up until the beginning of the Easter holiday break (which is approaching very quickly!). Then, I will work with the Early Years team at ISS for the first week back and then I will work more in-depth for the rest of my placement with Grade 5s as they prepare for their Exhibitions (which I will no doubt blog more about nearer the time).

What is most insightful from working between grades is that I get to not only see the overall progression within an educational institution, but I also get to become a recognisable face to many more people around the school! This is one area that I’ve found has expanded a great deal as the weeks have progressed: my confidence to work with people at ISS, as I am becoming well acquainted with more staff members and children with every passing moment. This will stead me well in other educational settings (particularly the placements in MA3 and MA4) because I realise that as a teacher, you need to be both approachable and open for everyone that comes into contact with you, this shouldn’t be exclusive for just the kids in your practice. You should also go out of your way to welcome others in the school community; something that the staff members at ISS have done with me, which has greatly aided my confidence.

Now, although the school week was a little shorter this week for the Easter break, so much was packed into my time with the grade 1s.

From the get-go, I was working hands-on with practical work with the young children that are in their first year of primary school at ISS (I have found it was a lot more practical-based in comparison to the other grades). I first had to act out different scenario poses to help the students come up with “dialogue” for me as a character. This would feed into their work towards their writing activities that centred on introducing speech marks into text. Albeit giggly and giddy, this approach got the children really focused on really thinking about what their characters would be saying in their own stories and it also served as a great icebreaker for the kids to get introduced to me as one of their teachers for the week.

The dialogue options that the children came up for me as a character

Straight away I could see clear areas of progression that are crucial in getting children engaged with any form of writing. The classroom environment was surrounded by language in the format of posters, books and signs. The children also illustrated the stories that they were writing in order to fully experience their writing in a multi-sensory manner. These skills and knowledge in language through multi-platforms of media will serve them very well once they progress through their time in education. I can vouch for that from seeing that skills in writing only expand as we work up the grades (however, this can only happen effectively when children are within an enriched environment like the one established in the grade 1 classrooms).

Two of the examples of the different processes that can be used by the children when working with numbers – drawing pictures and writing number sentences are key skills needed in having fundamental knowledge within the skills of mathematics

Mathematics followed a similar theme as the grade 1s were working with numbers and number sense. Just like in grade 4 and 3, the students were tasked with looking at their mathematics problems in a deeper way than just as problems that simply need correct solutions. Instead, the practitioners made it clear to the children that they had to emphasise the methods they could use in solving problems. Number lines, tally marks, pictures and number sentences were some of the examples on the board that the children had to show in their working out for problems, which further emphasised my understanding that was established in both the Discovering Mathematics module and the STEM module which showed us that students need to be able to get a real fundamental understanding of the core areas of mathematics and be made aware of the interconnections between concepts (Ma, 2010) (which the International Baccalaureate heralds as a key area that teachers need to do across all areas of learning).

I also, on Monday, got to witness the children’s specialist music lesson, which was also very helpful to see areas of progression, as the older students are very capable in playing instruments. This is evidently because the grade 1s are, like in all the other inquiry-led learning situations, set off to investigate into their knowledge in music to expand on it and to form it into something new. A particular group I saw that really engaged with the inquiry-based approach within music were trying to play the full song of “twinkle twinkle little star” together with boomwhackers that were different sizes to correlate with the different pitches of noise they made when played. The children had already explored the notes that they could use in playing instruments prior with the teacher, however, they had to figure out the correct sequence to produce the song together. Through lots of practising and determination, they were able to achieve the full song together and I got to see the importance that it brings to the children to figure something out for themselves. The music teacher could have easily stepped in to show them how to play it correctly, however, the process into achieving the song was the core essence of the learning experience as a whole. They were working with interdisciplinary skills of sequencing (a skill evident in mathematics and science), knowledge of music notation, and their listening skills, to name a few, in order to problem solve their way to success! It really showed me that too much involvement from a practitioner could really spoil the overall learning experience for the children in certain circumstances. Time should be allowed for the children to come to their own conclusions in learning – something I think we can take for granted sometimes as practitioners.

Tuesday was a very busy day for me as there were a few staff members off due to sickness. I started my morning with interviewing the children in grade 1 individually or in pairs depending on their projects that they were working towards for the Erasmus visitors. Just like the grade 3s had their school of fish on their doors and the grade 2s had their movement in play artwork on theirs, the grade 1s were tasked with creating their dream playground that used many different forces with 3D shapes. Forces in the world is the main area of inquiry for the grade 1s and it, much like all the other aspects of learning in grade 1, is evident across the whole learning environment.

Examples of some of the books evident in the grade 1 class – emphasising the importance of research through different medias, particularly for their UOI topic in forces.

I had to make sure that the children could justify their creations, which interlinked with the core area of post-reflection that is a critical stage in the learning process for the International Baccalaureate – “Reflection can happen at any time in the lesson, and it is vital that it is given time, whether through the teacher, individuals or groups, written or verbal” (Bunting, 2015). Forces such as pushing, pulling, going forward and backwards, moving up and down and stretching and bouncing were evident across most of the designs that were so outlandish in the imaginations. It was great to see such a creative outlet being used for exploring a really scientific topic.

Science, however, was not missed out from the learning. To end the day on Monday, I read a book that was about the different types of forces and the concept of friction to the children. An interesting idea that I found in the book was the concept that friction can slow objects down – particularly if you roll a ball down a ramp that has a carpet on it. So, the teacher came to me and gave me the task of establishing a science experiment that could test out this discovery. During the UOI time this week, the teachers all set up their own station that the children would go around to see different: magnets, Lego, creating dances with force movements and so on. My station was centred around what we learned in the book on Monday: what happens when you roll a ball down a ramp with and without a carpet? I also added different factors like changing the type of ball used, increasing the slope of the ramp etc. The children were really engaged in this station, however, for some their youthfulness meant that they got a little carried away with building their ramps. This was beneficial for me, however, to see the difference in approaches needed with younger children. Upon reflection, I can see that I maybe should have had more tasks to keep the children focused on what it was I asked them to do – maybe included different types of carpets or limited the amount of blocks they were allowed to use when building their ramps or given them examples of what they could make. An area that I thought I tackled well was the big factor that many of the grade 1 children were on a vast spectrum of English communication. The sheet that they had to complete about what they had learned at my station could be completed either by writing or by illustrating the equipment that they used. Some even had a mixture of labelled diagrams, However, the overall learning was still there and the same children that could not write out their learning could easily explain the forces behind the experiments that we had conducted, which emphasised to me that the language barrier should not be the main hindrance for children to progress in their learning. Overall, it was great to lead groups of younger children through learning, as it has better prepared me for my Early Years placement and already started areas within me that I know I need to delve into deeper to understand the importance of early years teaching as a whole.

It was great to be back with the grade 2s to see how they were progressing with their models and overall understanding of castles! It was particularly interesting to see the kids painting the brickwork onto their castles.

Tuesday afternoon was a prime example of the changes that can happen within a school on a daily basis. One of the grade 2 teachers explained at lunchtime that day that her support assistant was sick and she could not complete an as in-depth lesson as she hoped. It luckily worked in time when the grade 1s had a specialist lesson so I thought it was best for me to return to grade 2 to assist in the lesson. The children were excited to see me again as they had enjoyed my lesson about Scottish castles the week before. I remained with the main class to assist and guide them through their writing activity that was around a castle book that they had read as the teacher took groups out to start the painting of their model castles. It was a great feeling to be in charge of a class again and the techniques of management that I had learned last year served me well for maintaining order in a lively afternoon class (especially when they so desperately wanted to go out and paint their castles). The lesson was a success and the children were then all brought out to paint the rest of their castles.

Thursday saw the day ending early for teachers to embark on another professional development day. I got to continue my science experiment station for the kids that did not get around to trying it out the other day and I also got to witness the children’s specialist art time. The day ended with a circle time talk about the children’s plans for their Easter break and it was extraordinary to hear the all the different places that the children would be visiting in the world!

Overall, this week has been a shorter week in the school however it has been packed with so many learning points. I have made great progress in my professional development and have been using the information I have gained from my investigations into the International Baccalaureate system when working with the different grade levels. I have also worked more heavily in teaching points this week and hope to continue this when I come back after the Easter break, particularly when I work more intensively with the grade 5s. However, now I hope to truly experience the Easter celebrations of my host family and come back refreshed and ready for more learning!


Buting, N. (2015) Approaches to Reflection [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 30 March 2018)

Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and Teaching elementary mathematics: teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States Anniversary Edition. New York: Routledge.