Category Archives: edushare

Vita Brevis – Exploring the usage of Artefacts and Sources within Social Studies

Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013, p.62) define artefacts as being valuable man-made or man-influenced objects that can encapsulate particular locations or sections of time within the world, which explains why they can serve as being strong backbones to particular contexts for establishing social studies learning. They can also vary greatly  in their appearance and purpose. Within Social studies, they can be extremely useful for teachers to be able to paint a picture of a particular era in history that they may be exploring or even be able to showcase a particular culture of a different part of the world (Fines & Nichol, 1997) or even both together, as the social studies subjects are interwoven; a particular place is essential to the event as it is the location in which an event has transpired.

Within our elective inputs we have continually had time to be able to utilise and explore artefacts, thus inspiring this piece within the portfolio as I wanted to delve deeper into the pedagogical core that lies within the teachings of social studies through the usage of artefacts and sources.

A prime example of the usage of artefacts during our inputs was during our Tay Rail Bridge Disaster session where we were able to work with various types of sources relating to the disaster in Dundee. A staff member from the University of Dundee’s Archives came in to provide us with these artefacts and gave us some background knowledge and also emphasised to us as future practitioners the importance of using links like the University of Dundee’s Archive, where real-life sources from particular eras can capture student’s attention towards history and geography. The archiver made some great points in terms of justifying the usage of artefacts with a class, mainly as it allows a great basis for telescoping the past with the present and vice versa. For example, one of the artefacts was a newspaper from the 1880s (a few years after the Tay Rail Disaster, which occurred in 1879) which could be used for the basis of various points for inquiry. We explored how the formats of newspapers will have developed over history and how they compared to the newspapers of today, giving us a greater insight on how the demand for media has adapted as time has progressed, showing that an artefact can take many different approaches when deconstructed. Nicole Brown (2015), a lecturer within education, has also emphasised this point of importance towards the usage of artefacts being capable of exploring multiple faucets of learning, as practitioners can show production processes within enterprise (an area of great importance within Social Studies for Curriculum for Excellence), or a significant event within History, or an artefact can also serve as a contextualised link to a particular culture and language of another country.

Other sources within the input from the time included images that were taken during the aftermath of the collapse of the rail bridge and then of the construction of the rail bridge that stands today, a poem that was found inside one of the victim’s coat pockets that washed up on the shore, and a compensation form that was assumed to be submitted by a family affected by the disaster. In regards to the photographs, we found it quite difficult to pinpoint what the photos were at first due to the omission of captions detailing what the images are. This then brought about an interesting point for criticality in terms of the usage of artefacts. It is all well and good to have real-life artefacts and sources from a particular age, however, if one does not have the story and historical context surrounding the source itself, then a practitioner is left in a difficult position to facilitate correct learning surrounding it.

Artefacts can also be explored through a more imaginative approach if a particular context wants to be explored. Hughes et al. (2000, p.32) believes that the strategy of creating an Evidence Bag can serve as an excellent hook for students to really hone in on criticality towards a particular topic that a practitioner wants to explore. For example, the usage of an old worn suitcase can spark a great discussion surrounding who it might have belonged to, how old it might be and what kind of contents may be inside. This can be the basis for many areas in the curriculum: WWII evacuation, Victorian era and even modern-day evacuations just being a few. Linking back with the example we explored in lectures, even a bag from the Tay Rail Disaster could be employed and items of local significance could be used to get the children to pinpoint where the case/bag was from and what time period it may be. This process allows children to make interpretations with there being no one right answer during the questioning and investigation process, which can aid in self-esteem of students who feel that they are pressured to be right when they provide an answer.

Identity and Context Meet – the usage of an evidence bag approach can really serve as a great basis for getting students to unravel and explore people from the past.

I feel that the biggest impact surrounding artefacts was when we got to see the original version of the poem that was recovered from a body from the waters after the Tay Rail Disaster. Tattered and torn, minute in size and yet it had an instant impact for what it could have meant for whomever had kept it within their possession during their journey on the train. Instantly I felt myself trying to draw conclusions towards this peculiar artefact before us in terms of its backstory… maybe it was written by a close friend or relative to the person… perhaps it was written by the unfortunate soul themselves… or maybe it was written by a loved one and that was why it was packed away safely within their coat pocket…

No matter the true backstory towards this artefact, it showed the power of using real-life sources for exploring the Social Studies. It also brought about a deeper appreciation for Historians as they were able to preserve this piece of history in order for people like us to see a snapshot into the lives of people in the past. The person may have lost their life in the disaster, but the live in through this artefact that they held dearly with them.

We also listened to a piece of fictional prose surrounding the night of the disaster and it really encapsulated the raw emotion that is evident within history.

Vita Brevis – Life is Short: This is the piece of prose that we listened to in the input. It showed the power that fiction can bring towards artefacts surrounding a topic. Click the image to be re-directed to the prose at the BBC.

The prose, created for the BBC School Radio (2017) also emphasised the importance of language and how effectively literacy activities can be used in Social Studies. It was great to be able to explore the artefacts that were from the time of the event, however, a piece of writing that was narrated in such an emotive manner allowed for us as listeners to be able to connect the present with the past, just as the archiver said was the key purpose in teaching social studies. We could relate real human emotions towards something that could feel somewhat abstract in the grand scheme of things; this event happened many years before us and we probably would find it challenging to contextualise it as efficiently without something to captivate our emotions. Using something like this would be beneficial as well for students to hone their listening skills as they need to really be actively listening and engaged to be able to gain the depth of emotion and empathy (Busch and Oakley, 2017) relating towards the topic that was such a sad disaster.

Overall, after the inputs and further reading towards the importance of artefacts and sources within practice whilst teaching the social studies, I feel more capable that I could be adventurous and daring with my teaching of historical topics. This is because I have seen the difference it can make to deep understanding for not only a particular event in history, but also for human reactions to disasters and chaos as a whole. Using a wide breadth of artefacts can also really make a difference in the understanding that is picked up by students. Furthermore, I also understand the issues that can come about with using artefacts that have little story behind them. I also realise the great importance of sourcing artefacts from the likes of the University of Dundee’s Archives, as they can have valuable sources and artefacts that would be otherwise hard to come by within practice.


BBC (2017) School Radio: Victorian railways: 3. The Tay Bridge disaster [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

Brown, N. (2015) Teaching with artefacts [Online] Available from: (Accessed: 15 October 2018)

Busch, B. and Oakley, B. (2017) Emotional intelligence: why it matters and how to teach it [Online] The Guardian Available at: (Accessed: 18 October 2018)

Fines, J. & Nichol, J. (1997) Teaching Primary History. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers.

Hughes, P. Cox, K. & Goddard, G. (2000) Primary History Curriculum Guide London: David Fulton Publishers

Pickford, T., Garner, W. & Jackson, E. (2013) Primary Humanities: Learning through Enquiry. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

“So long, it’s been good to know ya!” – Week 8 in Stuttgart Reflection

Wednesday was my last day at ISS and it has been an emotional rollercoaster this final week.

Monday and Tuesday were the last full days in school where the students could work on their exhibition because Wednesday would be the night where they showcased all the learning they have conducted over the 7 weeks that has all lead up to this moment.

Monday was focused on going around each student and ensuring they had everything prepared and ready for Wednesday: display board, artistic component, mathematical piece, an action relating to their global issue and their speech prepared and ready for presenting all of the work they have conducted.

Usage of Technology – I was tasked with recording some students talking about their exhibition experience and then editing it all together in iMovie to present it at the beginning of the Exhibition Evening on Wednesday.

Tuesday was then time to get the students practising in front of an audience – their classmates and teachers. We got some volunteers that wanted to go first to get an almost dress rehearsal of what their exhibition would be like Wednesday evening, as each student was assigned a classroom in which they would present in front of their parents and their mentors (who would be assessing their performance through observations of their presentation). It was great for me to see all the presentations in their almost-final state because on the night I would only get the chance to see the other students that were in the same room as the son of my host family (there were normally 3-to-4 students per room). This method of practising also got the students receiving feedback from their peers; what was successful in their presentation and what did they need to work on in order to perfect their display of learning.

Amongst all of this exhibition chaos, the teachers and I were planning towards the next topic of work once the exhibition is concluded.

Wednesday night saw the exhibition commence in the AULA (the same ginormous assembly hall that was used on the multicultural evening and the assemblies throughout the year) where the Lower School Principal introduced the purpose of the evening. He gave a compelling speech that really interlinked with the core learning that I have gained from this placement: teaching and learning is constantly evolving. “Knowledge is everywhere. It is no longer just for the elite in society… For teachers, lecturers or scholars… Teaching has had a drastic change in the past 25 years to link with the world in which we live in today”. He also gave a strong analogy of what it would be like if a teacher from the 1950s had been transported to the night of the exhibition and saw all of the research and learning that the children in Grade 5 had conducted. It would be startling for them.

Then, I was starstruck by what came next.

“We also need to do something special for a guest that has been with us for the past 2 months…” I knew that this concerned me “we would like to give a special goodbye to a young aspiring teacher from Scotland who has been working and learning with your children throughout this learning process”

The same goodbye song that I had heard in my first week at the school for the students that were leaving was now being performed for me:

“So long, its been good to know ya, but you’ve got to be moving along”

I was then gifted with International School of Stuttgart T-shirts to show that I am now a strong part of the school. All of the teachers have told me that I need to come back in the future and I really feel a part of the community at ISS, much as the same way some of the alumni students that have returned on a few occasions; the doors are always open at ISS for those that have been a part of it in whatever shape or form that has emphasised the school’s internationality.

The Entrance to the AULA – the frames on stage were another project the children did during their specialist art time. It is an exhibition tradition that the students create a decorated frame that includes a photo of them with their mentor. This is then presented to the mentor as a special thank you for all their support during the process. Many teachers have amassed a collection of frames over the years.

Once the introductory presentation had concluded (my exhibition reflection video was also played), the lower school co-ordinator announced there was a change to the programme of events that evening. A few students had approached him during the school day to ask if they could perform a song that they had composed themselves during their music lesson that day. The lower school co-ordinator said it best: “why not? This shows the students are being real risk -takers” 

Reflective, open-minded, risk-takers, caring, principled, balanced, knowledgable, inquirers, communicators and thinkers – these are all the attributes within the learner profile.

The Stage is Ready – an example of one of the classrooms being set up for the exhibition presentations. The students placed all their work on the tables provided at the front – i.e. the books they used for research, their display boards, their artwork and anything else they wanted to display that was centred around their topic.

These students performed the song on the stage and then the parents were told to head to the rooms where their children had been preparing for their presentations.

Once the presentations were complete and all the questions were asked, the parents and mentors got a chance to partake in an “open-house” scenario where all the doors were opened and people could walk around and see all of the topics and ask more questions to all of the grade 5 students. They would not be required to present again, however, this opportunity allowed for them to really show their learning in a more relaxed manner after a somewhat stressful presentation beforehand. It was amazing to see the joy around the rooms – it was over, all the determination and conviction to succeed had been fulfilled that night.

I said my goodbyes to all of the staff members and parents that I had become acquainted with during my time at ISS and I was once again reminded that, if I ever needed anything, the team at ISS were only an email away.

We drove back home on a high that night; the youngest son was elated that all his hard work had come all together for his excellent presentation in his third language of English (which, he had only been studying now for just over 6 months) and I was somewhat content with the fact that it was my last day at the school. It did not feel like a final goodbye, however. I know that the staff at ISS and the students too would welcome me back with open arms if the chance ever arrises in the future of my professional career.

Overall, I look upon this final weekly reflection with a sense of wonderment. Where has the time gone? It has went by so quickly and yet, I cannot remember my former self at the same time. I have gained so much personally and professionally both from ISS and the day-to-day ongoings of my host family.

I really have accomplished what I set out to do and that was to:

  • Improve my language competency in German – I can now understand larger volumes of spoken language in conversation and I can also interact with day-to-day scenarios far greater than I could before. I have also been able to support beginners of German during lessons at ISS but I have also witnessed the skills and competencies of mother tongue speakers of German and the high calibre of language that can be achieved from children of a young age. How this relates to a scottish setting is that I now know that immersion is key to language development and that children of EAL should not be undermined in their capabilities of language acquisition. Interwoven within the language understanding, I have also been able to understand more of the culture of Germany with my host family. History of Kirchheim, the Fruhlingsfest beer festivals, the roads of Germany and so many more components that make up the culture of both Stuttgart and Kirchheim unter Teck have been really unpicked by myself during my time here. I have submerged myself as much as I could during my time here.
  • I have learned so much about the PYP at ISS and how it relates to the entirety of the International Baccalaureate system across the world in international schools. Not only have I gained firsthand insight surrounding the ongoings in an international school environment myself and reflected on them, I have also had opportunities to have lessons that relate to the IB myself across the grades. It has really made me reflect on what it means to be a teacher because the systems are quite alien when compared with the Scottish system. I can see both major positives and some negatives in the practices and curriculum structure, showing a criticality forming for my ongoing professional development.
  • I have seen so many strategies used by practically all the practitioners at ISS. I am very happy I planned with the lower school principal to divide my time across all grade levels because it allowed for me to both observe and work within classroom environments that were unique to the particular practitioner that was in charge of them. I have also seen the whole progression of the PYP education system right from the nest through to grade 5 before the students make their way to the middle school programme.

Goodbye ISS! – I had to take one final photo of the front of the school as we were leaving the exhibition evening.

I can now share my opinions more confidently, partly because I now have a more structure opinion surrounding education with this experience, and I feel as though I will take more risks and be confident about those risks. If someone had told me I have: survived an entire week alone in Germany, driven over 2000 miles across “Autobahnen und Straßen”, taught across all levels in an international school environment and have experienced cultures of Germany including seeing historical sights, taking public transport and partaking in the beer festivals festivities I would have laughed. These are only snippets of what I have accomplished and I am glad I have this blog as documentation for the learning I have done.

It has been amazing.

Die Zeit ist so schnell – Week 8 in Stuttgart Reflection

The end of placement is nearing and the weeks are rolling by at an alarming rate.

The Grade 2 teacher surprised me this week with pictures she had taken during my time teaching the class about Castles in Scotland – this was a particularly enjoyable time for me because I really got to be heavily involved in a topic that was very close to home. The students also really enjoyed to get an insight about castles from a different country than their own or even from Germany.

This week was a shorter school week because of the bank holidays on Monday and Tuesday in Germany, therefore, we only had a 3-day school week.

However the days were packed with lots of work due to the grade 5s’ exhibition date coming closer and closer, as the students now only have until Wednesday (9th of May) to prepare for their grand display of the research they have conducted this term around a global issue that they have felt passionate about.

This meant that lots of handwork has been continued around lots of different projects that culminate towards the entirety of the exhibition: artistic components, speeches, display boards, mathematics sections and many more nitty gritty parts have been worked on to get finished and it has been somewhat tricky as a practitioner to keep on top of the different stages of all the different students and how each student is progressing individually.

This is where the journal entries have been a great aspect of the assessment because it allows for us teachers to gain an insight on the feelings of the students on how they are progressing and it also means that students are getting continual feedback on their progress. Students can ask questions in the journal, can highlight issues they wish to address but also it allows them to keep on track of the things they’ve accomplished so far. I know that once the exhibition is concluded, the students will reflect on the entirety of the learning they have done in preparation for this project and the journal will be the best source of information for them. They have documented their progress every week and each entry will be a snapshot of what they did at any given time during their learning process. This all demonstrates that the IB really considers learning as a process that requires reflection to give it real purpose to the students and for the students to find that purpose for themselves, as it is them that have enquired through the topics (International Baccalaureate, 2009).

This has been the common sight in the Grade 5 Classrooms – lots of preparation is going into this event from the students and it is really starting to take shape.

Now, my big responsibility this week was to begin preparing the exhibition reflection video that will be played at the beginning of the evening to all the guests. I had to touch base with the students that were ahead enough in their work to take time out to be a part of this additional responsibility of the exhibition. I first got them all together and we brainstormed some of the skills they had gained from this exhibition experience. I then got them to interlink this with some of the attributes of the learner profile within the IB, which demonstrated a greater understanding of the curricular framework that is in international baccalaureate schools. We then divided responsibilities and I allowed for free choice amongst the kids if they wanted to record a section individually or to do parts in twos or threes. Normally, in my usual setting, I probably would have assigned the groups myself however working at ISS I have realised that organisation skills should be enthused within the children and it also shows a real sense of trust when a teacher says to students that they are responsible for who they work with and that if it doesn’t work out sensibly, then the consequences are on them.

So, we got down to recording and it was great to see the kids take ownership of what they wanted to say and how they were providing feedback for one another on their presentation skills on screen; something that will be beneficial for them later next week when they will be presenting for their exhibition.

We successfully got all the parts recorded and we now just need to piece it all together and add in transitions and the video will be good to go! Its been good to take charge of a technology-component whilst here at ISS because I have luckily had experience using iMovie before and I know that it can be tricky sometimes when trying to perfect the transitions of a video.

On Thursday, I had my end-of-placement review meeting with the head teacher of the lower school and we discussed all the learning that I had gained over my two months of being here. He even said himself that he couldn’t believe how quickly the placement has went. It was great to have a finalisation of my work at ISS as it is drawing to a close. I still have next week at the school, however, we will have our Vivas beginning next week (mine specifically will be on the Thursday the 10th of May via Skype interview). Many of the staff members at ISS have said they will miss my presence at the school and it is such a great feeling knowing that my determination has been seen by other staff members and they can see that I always strive to work my best towards my professional development. Teachers have told me that I will just have to stay here because I have made myself too useful!

Then of course Friday saw the Multi-Cultural Evening which was an extravaganza of cultures and heritages all under one roof at ISS. It was the perfect way to end the 8th week of my time in Stuttgart, particularly as, although this week has been short, it has been very heavy going with work for all of the students and teachers at the school.

Time really does fly by when you are having fun – even more so when that fun is interlinked with hard work and determination!


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

The Multi-Cultural Evening at ISS

On Friday (4th of May 2018), ISS held its yearly event known as the Multi-Cultural Evening. I had been waiting for this day with anticipated joy because so many people had told me in the run up to it that it was a night that could not be missed at ISS!

What the multi-cultural evening is meant to represent is that the International School of Stuttgart is, as it is appropriately named, an international environment that celebrates its differences on an equal playing field. It is also a reminder to all the students that are part of ISS that they can both celebrate themselves and their peers.

There is a seat at the table for everyone.

Each nation’s table had their own menu on offer to show people what sort of foods are found from their home country

The night began with the school’s jazz band playing the many guests, students and staff into the large assembly hall called the Aula (assembly hall) and then we were all welcomed by the school’s director, Tim Kelley, who started with a profound speech that gave the mission statement of the entire night as a whole: “This is what the world looks like and this is what we want the world to feel like. To be inclusive of all and to be able to celebrate all our differences together”. The message really lasted with me because it is the core essence that I have felt whilst being at the school for these past 2 months. Everyone, no matter their background, is encompassing of one another and we rejoice in our practice through the similarities and differences in languages, cultures and nationalities. I even believe that, because we get to celebrate the other cultures of our peers, we then begin to really have a bigger reflection on our own cultures. This placement has made me proud to be Scottish and to hold onto my traditions and be able to show them to the world in an environment where everyone is equal in merit.

The lower school children took part in a parade to show the different countries that they were from. There were children from Brazil, Cambodia, Croatia, France, Germany, UK, Sweden, America, Russia, Turkey and so many more. Internationality is interwoven into the community of the school; people from around the world are part of this community of globalism and ISS has a responsibility to ensure that that community is welcoming.

This year had a slight change from the previous years in that there was now a competition for who had the best decorated table (each country gets to host a table where they display their traditions and prepare food from their home country for people to try) amongst the participating countries that had prepared their traditional delicacies. India was crowned the winner and rightfully so; not only was their table decorated in Indian art, but they themselves came in the most beautiful traditional attire in so many different variations of colours and embroidered designs.

The Winners of the Night – Some of the Indian community of the school onstage accepting their award. They were not the only ones that had came in the most exquisite traditional garments. Once again, I had wished I had packed my kilt!

Once the parade and award-giving were both finished, we got to then explore the many different tables that were set up across the two levels of the school and we got to try many different delicacies on offer.

I stuck with a few teachers that I have really made great friendships with during my time here because they told me the best route to take to get to the most popular tables first! It was a great laugh to not only be socialising with teachers that were from all across the world, but also to feel like we were in Japan, Croatia, Italy and France for the night with all the amazing stalls that were set up.

The Japanese table was first and then the Indian. We strategically went to these tables in the beginning as there are normally queues. There were so many different types of freshly prepared sushi, edamame soy beans, pork meatballs (tsukune) amongst the decorations of pikachu, dragons and kimonos. The Japanese community were very accommodating in telling us about the food that was on offer as were the Indian community in their traditional attire.

Making our way around the tables, we also saw many different examples of cultures beyond food. One in particular was on the Turkish table where the practice of Ebru art was being shown to the children and they were getting to participate in the art themselves. The Turkish Cultural Organisation (2018) explains that this form of art is paint is submerged in an oil-like substance to refrain from the paints mixing, which allows for patterns and shapes to be made with tools. Once a pattern is made, it can then be transferred onto paper and the whole process can start once again with the oily chemicals.

The Technique of Ebru – The children got to try their hand in the art that is created through creating colourful patterns on a pan of oily water and then transferring the creation onto paper to finalise the art.

Culture Extends Beyond Delicacies – examples of the finished pieces that had been transferred onto paper. It was really an art of patience and a steady hand that was able to create these masterpieces of Turkish heritage.

Whilst people were making their way around the food, the Aula was hosting different performances that were announced over the school’s speakers to say a particular traditional art was being performed. It was perfectly timed that the professional Turkish dancers began to perform when we had made our way back to the hall.

From what I’ve looked up on the internet, the Turkish dance that was performed was a “Zeybek”

There were also kung fu performances from the students that were from China and they got to show the audience their masterings in the martial arts that is famous from their home country. Cheerleading, african dance, flamenco dances and many more performances were put on by the ISS family and they were all spectacular in their own right. I felt very proud for many of the students that got up and presented their arts that are derived from their country of origin.

I also couldn’t help but seek the comforting tastes from home at the UK table:

There’s No Place Like Home – I may have eaten too many scones and pieces of shortbread

What I particularly enjoyed about this part was being able to show and explain to the children of my host family about all the different British (and Scottish) delicacies and they particularly enjoyed trying the banoffee pie and the trifle (after being able to already taste shortbread that I made at home). I also got to show the staff members what my background looks like as a menu along with my fellow British peers that work at ISS.

I was partially adopted by the French table, however, due to the mother of my host family being French and she herself had a great hand in preparing the table with her French peers.

Vive la France! – crepes, wine, macarons and quiche were some of things on offer from the French table.

The French were making freshly prepared crepes for those that wanted a taste of France and many of those that were not driving got to have a glass or two of the finest French wine. I had the car and therefore had to refuse kindly.

Even just reflecting on this night as a personal development point, I would have laughed if a person had told me I would be devouring sushi, dumplings, crepes, curries and (holding onto my traditional home favourite) shortbread – especially in one night! I want to thank all of the helpers that prepared all the meals, the tables and the decorations because without the school community coming together to host an event like this, then people like me would not be exposed to the different ways people live their lives. One of the staff members that I’ve been really supported by during my time here even told me that they had worked across the world’s network of international schools and had never seen an event like the Mulit-Cultural Evening that is hosted by ISS ever in any of the other international schools, proving that it really is a school that flagships culture celebration.

Before the crowds would make their way to their cars to head home, the oldest son and I left in the car just before the winners of the raffle baskets were announced. It was my first time driving in Germany in the dark. It has been quite an experience to take on the high-speed driving of the autobahn for 2 months but it was another to do it in darkness. I will take badly when I return to the speed-limited roads of the UK! I have been driving all over during my placement; Sindelfingen, Stuttgart, Kirchheim unter Teck and even Sillenbuch. It’s been very handy having another driver with the family and I have been very happy to take on the responsibility of taking us places when the parents have had business or the children have particular clubs or events on during the week. It has really increased my confidence in driving and confidence in my own capabilities as a whole; gone are the days when I was first picked up by the family and we were zooming to my unknown place of residence for the 2 months at 200km/h in the Audi and I thought, “how am I going to be able to handle this myself?”. Now, it is me making those trips every morning and afternoon to get to and from school and beyond!

Once we arrived home, we settled in our rooms to sleep with full stomachs and full minds of all the things that we had experienced in one night. I have to say that I felt transported with every table I visited and with every person I interacted with during the multi-cultural evening.

Truly, a one-in-a-lifetime experience: this night, this placement and the school of ISS.

I leave this post with more of the photos I took during the night, however, I believe they can never do the grand event justice. The atmosphere could never be documented:

The Italian Vespa – Italy really stood out for me with their scooter. They served the iconic dishes like pizza, pastas and cheeses.

The Taste of the Caribbean and Africa – the smells coming from this table were amazing. The spices were really aromatic and the dishes looked so tasty. The helpers were also dressed in traditional African clothing which was also great to see

Indonesia’s centrepiece was particularly rememberable.

From upstairs the Croatian table could be seen down below. Also, the usage of “lesen” on the entrance way into the school is a great form of symbolism used by the school. The verb “to read” is used in the foyer in all the different languages that are evident at ISS, which served as a great environment to be hosting such an inclusive event


The Turkish Cultural Organisation (2018) The Turkish Art of Marbling (Erbu) [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 5 May 2018).

Wir sind mit der Arbeit beschäftigt – Week 7 in Stuttgart Reflection

This is now the second week that I have worked with the Grade 5s (23rd of April – 27th of April) at ISS and it has been a week of much learning, reflection and hard work – for teachers and students alike!

Monday was testing because the class teacher was unexpectedly absent so I had to maintain order and structure in the class while she was away. It was very reminiscent of the first few days of responsibility I had with my class last year because, as children like to do, some of them wanted to see how far they could push their limit of slacking off and trying to see if I was going to be authoritative or be dismissive. However, I did not let this deter me and I made sure that ground rules were outlined between us. What I found most beneficial for my practice this day was the break-up with the kid’s specialist lesson. This allowed me more time to be able to plan a more cohesive lesson for in the afternoon if I had otherwise had them the entire day. I could use the same strategy as the class teacher of setting to-do lists on the board so the children know what specific things they need to accomplish whilst also setting up an aid sheet where students could write what resources they needed (this being exhibition time many things need to be printed or sourced). By the end of the day on Monday, I felt it was necessary to get the children to have a self-reflection on their actions for the day – many were able to stay focused and work towards their goals in completing their work for the exhibition, where as others took this opportunity of change to sit back and have too much fun with their friends instead of being able to be productive on top of mingling with their peers. I did not ask for an answer of how the students felt they had conducted themselves today as the purpose of this self-relfection was to intertwine it with the ethos of the entirety of the school – learning is individual.

Before beginning their work in the exhibition, the teacher always get the students to think about and write down what they hope to accomplish by the end of each lesson – I kept up with this practice on Monday when I had the class myself. It also allowed me to practice my handwriting on the whiteboard!

I brought the focus back to the learner profile within the IB and asked, “were they striving towards being the best version of themselves that they could be?”

I ended on a more positive note and emphasised that tomorrow was a new day, a new beginning for them all.

Overall, Monday was a great test of my overall practice because I did not know I was going to be entirely in-charge of the class but I was able to maintain the order that the class teacher normally does. On top of this, I was making sure that students were receiving feedback on their weekly journal entries (a requirement in their exhibition to-do list because they need to also be checking in with themselves regularly on their learning and progress during the run-up to the exhibition night). It was great to be able to take charge of this section of marking because it allowed me to gain a scope into each individual child and be able to gauge where my support would be needed most.

Tuesday brought about some more normality as the teacher had returned and was feeling better. She was impressed that I was able to keep everything organised in the same manner that she would and thanked me for being able to keep the class on task and not lose out on a day of learning.

This meant I could continue my work with the German specialist class on the Tuesday. The class were tasked with memorisation games to introduce the learning for the lesson and get everyone warmed up to work in German again. The rules were quite strict in that, in order to gain a point, the student had to not only remember the word in German, they also had to spell it correctly, remember the article (der, die oder das) and remember capital letters (the topic was still die Gebäude – buildings so they are nouns and require a capital letter). This then shows the students the importance of learning a word and its article, which is a great way in introducing them to the many grammar rules that German holds. It is also good for me to see the progression, not only between the grade levels, but also across a singular grade level’s learning process. I’ve been planning with the German teacher and she hopes to then lead this vocabulary into experimenting with sentence structure and teaching particular points of grammar. This approach will facilitate the introduction of skills needed to communicate in the language of German. It also makes the language more “user-friendly” instead of putting grammar rules in front of them and forcing them to re-write them and just try and memorise them. Actually playing with the language and being corrected along the way makes it more fun and engaging for both students and practitioners.

I have also discovered this week some difficulties that can occur with the inquiry-based approach to learning, particularly when great amounts of responsibilities are put upon children. Although it produces autonomous learners who strive to learn for themselves, there can be problems that occur (like any approach to learning). For example, this week the grade 5 students were required to bring back their display boards they had taken home to mount with new paper, however, some students forgot their board and were unable to continue with putting their information on the display boards. This then led the students to take up the idea that, because they did not have the resources, they could easily sit back and do nothing. This then led to distractions occurring and many students were then taken off-task by their peers who did not have the resources they needed. Children had things left at home, needed technology, had to do certain tasks that required resources that they didn’t have at that time, therefore, it pushed them to think they had nothing to do. It places a lot of responsibility on students to a point that it could be detrimental when they fail to meet the expectations. On the other hand though this could spark learning experiences in itself because the exhibition results are a reflection of the capabilities of the student not on the practitioner because they have provided the prompts, they have provided the skills to accomplish the task they have set and they are there to support. Reflecting on this, I think if I was ever to conduct a project in this way, I would make it a priority that resources are left at the school because taking things home then causes an issue of things being left and people straggling behind, however, it has also shown the students that they need to be prepared and organised in order to gain the most from their learning… It is all a learning experience.

Wednesday was also interesting as during planning meetings I discovered the teachers need to organise when they are doing the MAP tests. This was interesting because the International Baccalaureate outlines that standardised testing is not in their educational ideology. MAP tests stand for Measure of Academic Progress and it is an online assessment for literacy, numeracy and reading. Some give multiple-choice questions while others ask for more analysis in regards to an extract to see if a child is capable of recalling what they have read and being able to make sense of it. This will take up a whole week of learning because of the different times of classes, specialists and the timing of their class trip. The teachers also told me that the results of these tests are shared with the children and their parents – something that is a little different from the standardised tests I remember doing in primary school where the information was purely for the teachers to see where their children were at. My particular class teacher mentioned that many parents come to the class and are worried by the change in results by these tests and the practitioner has found there is a correlation with the lower scores lining up with the students completing the assessment the quickest – proving that they probably just click whatever answers they are given to finish it instead of actually being examined for their true mental capabilities.

Mathematics has also been a different setting from the other grades. The grade 5s are nearing the end of their measurements and grid topic and are working on consolidation through textbook work. Now, this is another opportunity for the students to be independent. The practitioner always states that the students should work on areas they need the most work on and shouldn’t just do every question in the book. Each student has their own checklist of chapters that would be beneficial for their progression in mathematics. Furthermore, if they feel they are doing well in a particular section and are getting all the questions correct and feel confident, they can move on. On top of this consolidation work was more fun activities such as grid plotting images.

Here is an example of the end result of a grid plotting activity – the students were really focused and it required their skills to be tested in order to complete each section using the correct co-ordinates. A great consolidation activity.

As the week was coming to a close, it was time to organise the roles that the staff members would have in preparation for the exhibition night. The teachers had totally forgotten that they must also make a video documenting the learning of the students so I felt it would be beneficial for me to take up the responsibility for preparing and making the video for the night. We have picked particular students that have progressed well in their exhibition and are able to take time out from their work to be a part of the video which will document their overall learning in the scope of the learner profile. We made a sheet up and gave it to the students to think about over the long weekend and we will begin recording on the Wednesday back from the bank holidays here in Germany.

Overall I have really enjoyed this week because it is giving me more responsibility with the classes of Grade 5 because I am working with them for a longer period of time. Next week will be a shorter week as we begin back on Wednesday, which gives the students even less time in class to work on their exhibition topic. I hope to come back refreshed from the longer weekend and be ready for more learning and responsibility ahead!

Willkommen bei unseren Gästen – Week 6 in Stuttgart

Well, I’ve now made it to the last grade at the lower school of the International School of Stuttgart this week. I worked with the grade 5 class for the first time from the week beginning the 16th of April and I will continue to work with them until the end of my placement, as it lines up fittingly with the run up to their big exhibition event on the 9th of May – something that my teaching will work into.

Although not an aspect of this week that has high importance, weather has greatly improved here in Germany with temperatures in the 20s being the norm – something unheard of back in Scotland!

To coincide with all of this, we also had special guests that came to visit the school as part of the Erasmus project so it was a very busy week for all staff members at the school.

So, to start off the week I had to first, once again, introduce myself to two new classes of students but I also had to get my head around their individual topics that they have each chosen to focus on for their Exhibition. I don’t think I was fully prepared for some of the really hard-hitting topics that are going to be examined by the students: anorexia, racism, child labour, hacking and even pollution are some of the examples of the topics chosen by the students. For students that are only 10/11 years old, I was surprised that such serious problems in the world are going to be unpicked extensively by such young students. Now, this could open areas of disturbance so the teachers and mentors of the students (each student is assigned a mentor based on their topic) are in charge of assisting the pupils in sourcing their information. Filtering needs to be utilised in order for the students to be able to grasp a deep enough understanding around their topic, whilst still being protected from the extreme examples that can be found in any of the themes.

Passion can really be seen within the students and that is because of the inquiry-based approach that is employed by the PYP through the exhibition. This is also because they have had the freedom to be able to select a topic relating to an issue for themselves.

This made me realise, however, that it must be a massive job for the teachers at an IB school to facilitate this learning because all of the children are doing something completely different from one another. However, what I have discovered this week and what I have been able to learn from the exceptional team that work with grade 5 that your approach to teaching as a whole needs to change. Instead of having whole class lessons that link in with differentiated tasks, a teacher needs to teach skills that are useable across any given topic. Analysing sources, establishing the types of writing that can be used, mathematic skills etc.

Furthermore, it is one thing for the students to choose a topic and look into it, but the PYP emphasises that the internationally-minded students can do more than that and that they must conduct action – “education must extend beyond the intellectual to include not only socially responsible attitudes but also thoughtful and appropriate action. An explicit expectation of the PYP is that successful inquiry will lead to responsible action, initiated by the student as a result of the learning process” (International Baccalaureate, 2009, p.25)

Monday, brought about an introduction to our guests that came from Italy, Poland, UK and other parts of Germany as part of the Europlay Erasmus project. An assembly was held in the morning where, as I discussed in my Erasmus post, students were dressed in their traditional garments. Then, we began our work towards the exhibition for the week. Some students were working on websites, others on their speeches, some were thinking about their artistic component and all of them were needing to work with NoodleTool to reference where they were getting their research from. The class teacher and I then had to work between the students individually to keep track and check-in on their progress. Whilst doing this, we made a short list of particular students we wanted to have a chat with to see how they were getting on to ensure that we could lead them in the right direction of inquiry. This allowed me to see a great importance of working one-to-one with students; being able to see the individual learning process allows for very specific goals to be set by you as a practitioner but also for the pupil themselves. The exhibition allows for this one-to-one approach to work effectively because all of the class are motivated by their own particular topic that they have picked and they know themselves what they need to achieve with every lesson. Thursday saw both myself and the class teachers work for long periods with specific students that needed the extra support and it really emphasised the difference one-to-one attention can bring to the child, which is quite lacking in many practices due to time constraints being placed on teachers (Jacklin, Griffiths and Robinson, 2006). One particular student was able to accomplish many of their goals just by having that extra prompting from me and being focused in the learning.

Tuesday afternoon I was tasked with assisting staff members in preparing for the Erasmus students to go on a forest trip – a key example of German educational ideology being experienced by the guests – by organising the resources that they needed. It was great to see the staff members come together to facilitate activities beyond the classroom setting. They needed food supplies, tools for starting a fire and gifts for their visitors that were fitting to Germany. What was also great about having the visiting children was also getting to meet with their teachers. I got to interact with even more qualified practitioners about what it means to be a teacher and I gained a lot more insight into the job itself.

This week I have also worked in the German classes of the students that have just started their studies in the language and the German teacher hopes that I can stick with this group for the rest of my time with the Grade 5s, as it will be both beneficial for their German but also mine. We tasked the children in German to start to understand the words for die Gebäude (the buildings) that are in a city. The teacher then hopes to progress them into manipulating the words in grammatical sentences once they have got the hang of the vocabulary first. It was also good to be able to assist the children in how to work with a dictionary, as it reminded me during my beginnings in learning the language of German in school.

Once again, I was also able to be a part of the planning meetings amongst the grade level teachers and the lower school co-ordinator and get to grips with the events that will be transpiring with the classes. The teachers looked at what they needed to be doing that week but they also were planning ahead through the rest of the month of May to look at the class’ school trip. They were also planning what learning they would do once the exhibition was completed as they only have over a month left once the exhibition night has wrapped up the UOI. The teachers began planning out a possible event where they can showcase all the learning that has occurred throughout the year in a school show manner, however nothing has been finalised yet. This showed me the importance of collaborative planning across all time frames: short-term, mid-term and long-term all go hand-in-hand, which can be somewhat daunting for us student teachers as we only really understand the short-term goals towards learning (Hayes, 2014). It was good to see how organised teachers need to be and not just with the teaching they are doing, but the overall experiences their children will be experiencing during their time in their practice (school trips, school shows, events and other on-goings beyond the classroom setting).

During this planning time, the class teachers supplied me with more educational resources interlinking with the exhibition and the principles behind the learning in Grade 5.

As the week ended, we had to then say goodbye to our Erasmus friends. Another assembly was held to highlight the work the Erasmus students and their ISS peers had been doing during the week. Friday was a much quieter day due to the upper school being closed for the MUNISS (Model United Nations International School of Stuttgart) event where students from across the world were part of a recreational debate where they had to represent a particular country and their political stance (more information about this event that was held last year can be found here). Although minor, it showed me the wider connections that the school of ISS has because many students came from different countries in order to take part in the event, showing that there are many more stakeholders involved in the school.

Overall, my first week with the grade 5s has been really eye-opening in terms of what teaching can be in a totally different scenario from what I’m used to. I’ve been thrown out of the comforts of regimented whole class lessons to focusing on breaking down learning on individual principles due to the exhibition being an area that children can take in whatever way they see fit as working with the concept of the topic being a particular issue in the world today. Furthermore, I have been able to see even more of the people that are involved with ISS as a company with both MUNISS and the Erasmus scheme being two events that were great in bringing people together under one educational institute. I look forward to completing the rest of my time at ISS as I will progress into my 7th week here with only a few weeks to go until I am finished!


Hayes, D. (2014) 1.2 Professionalism and Trainee Teachers In: Arthur, J. and Cremin, T. eds. Learning to Teach in the Primary School 3rd edn. London: Routledge. Pp. 21-34.

Jacklin, A., Griffiths, V. and Robinson, C. (2006) Beginning Primary Teaching: Moving Beyond Survival. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Exhibition Topics – A.Is in Education, Hacking and Warfares – My Inquiry

I have first explored what the actual purpose behind the Grade 5 exhibition is, however, I also want to write a particular entry into my portfolio where I explore some of the main topics that have interested me; the topics that the children have chosen to explore, I mean.

One of the biggest one I was drawn to was that a particular student will be examining the concept of artificial intelligences (A.I) in education.

This topic has already been introduced to me from lecturer back at the university where they told us that, in the future, people are planning to replace many jobs with machines that have an artificial intelligence and are able to communicate independently. One of the professions could even be teaching… The child wants to examine this issue that can have drastic consequences in society. Millions would be out of a job because machines do not require breaks like humans and they are capable of being programmed to follow commands from their human overseers. However, some startling videos in recent media attention towards A.I “life-forces” have been quite scary in terms of blurring the lines between what is considered human and whats not:

However, Poth (2018) finds that the majority of these artificial intelligences will be used for supportive roles in practice, such as with administration paperwork, marking and keeping track of grades. They would not completely replace the role of the classroom teacher that needs to be human in supporting children in a classroom environment emotionally. A.Is are unable to feel emotions and understand the humanity needed to be supportive of children. However this could even eventually, through time and advancement in technology, be a simple program that needs to be implemented to robots… With emotions then, they could then claim rights just like the rest of us. Sophia, the A.I in the video, was the first ever robot to be seen as a citizen by any country and that was from Saudi Arabia. Gershgorn (2017) argues back that Sophia is merely a more sophisticated chatbot robot that has a face that has been very much sensationalised by the media… For this subject, it is really relevant for me as a future teacher and I am glad that a student is taking an interest in seeing what the future of education may look like and I hope to be of assistance when they are preparing all the aspects they need to complete

Hacking was another one that was of great relevance in today’s society and was similar in the sense that it was interconnected with the advancement in our dependence on technology in our modern world. We’re all so connected to the internet world that we really have become far more vulnerable to cybercrime and cyber attacks. A key story that always sticks with me is the cybercrime attack on the National Health Service (NHS) where the company was hit by a hacker, who supposedly did not need to create such an advanced virus to break the system, out of nowhere. This meant that peoples operations were cancelled and many issues occurred with the NHS across the UK. The student in particular wants to take their action into creating a platform where they can inform people about the dangers of hacking and how people can keep themselves protected from hackers.

A relevant theme that was featured across some of the students’ topics is the concept of warfare and conflict. Some are looking into the wars in Chad, the wars in Syria and the conflicts between North and South Korea. Now, these are much harder to analyse due to the broadness of war itself. However, what makes it far more relevant is the grouping of the children when it comes to literacy circles; the children have been assigned to particular groups depending on the themes of their topic. The children focusing on warfare then come together every week to talk about their developments in their exhibition and they can gain feedback from their peers and are able to gauge where they are at in comparison to the progress of the other students. Furthermore this also allows for them to see the types of issues that might be getting a focus from particular pupils. I know that these conflicts (particularly Syria and the Koreas) are very relevant to modern society because they are still very real and happening currently. 

This, although not very in-depth research, was useful because it is in line with what the students themselves are doing. They have to go out and collect data centred around their issue in a more in-depth manner.

One really needs to get submerged into a topic wholeheartedly to truly understand it. This is where I fell the component of action really cements the exhibition process. There is one thing researching a topic but it is completely another thing to go out and try to make a change to a big issue that you are passionate about. Students are going to countries to do charity work and donate money that they have fundraised, there are students that are helping with homeless schemes in the area, there are also students that are wanting to bring awareness to a big issue that they are enthused about. It is emphasising to the pupils that they can really make a difference through doing something they are passionate about – a skill that interlinks with the learner profile that the IB wants to construct.

Personal topics such as the issue of anorexia or allergies are also going to be explored by students. Anorexia is one that is becoming ever-increasingly an issue in modern society because of our constant bombardment from social media around what we should look like or what the perfect body is. This then leads young teens and even children to feel pressured to live up to unrealistic expectations (which are most likely photoshopped and edited in the first place).

Overall, it has been quite useful to unpick some of the issues for myself, because it then allows me to see some of the issues in a more knowledgable sense. It also then allows me to see the topics and reflect on them knowing the kids that have chosen them, why have they chosen them? What has made them so passionate about this particular topic?


Gershgorn, D. (2017) Inside the Mechanical Brain of the World’s First Robot Citizen. QZ [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 23 April 2018).

Poth, R. (2018) Artificial Intelligence: Implications for the Future of Education. Getting Smart [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 23 April 2018).

Grade 5 Exhibition – Examining the PYP

I have successfully worked my way through all of the grade levels during my first month at ISS and have been able to teach and assist in all of the levels of progression that are offered at the Lower School… except for Grade 5.

This was done purposely during planning because it is now the time for the students in grade 5 to be focusing in on preparing for the exhibition where they will need to have investigated a topic independently and organised a presentation centred around the issue.

My job for the next month of my placement is to assist in the teaching of the grade 5 students in their exhibition, which are all unique to the child. So, my dynamic as a teacher will need to adjust to fit the PYP once again.

Within the Primary Years Programme Exhibition guidelines (2008), it outlines the exhibition as being a key event that displays all of the skills a student has built up during their time in the international education system and it allows students to showcase their findings and actions that they have done to work through a real-life problem in the world.

More Documentation – The guideline reading has been really beneficial for me to get a better understanding of what the overall framework looks like and must feel like in order for a school to be truly considered an IB school.


The purpose of the exhibition is for the children in their last year before moving into the middle school to really go in a large amount of detail during their inquiries that they predominately do in a collaborative manner with their peers. It also allows students to really show their own learning on both an individual and group level basis. This is because, in the run up to the exhibition, the students are continually reflecting on their learning journeys with their teachers, their mentors and their peers.

The Basic Outline:

  • Students work towards the exhibition during (normally) the last term and it culminates towards a big event day where students can showcase their learning through a specific topic of their choice that interlinks with the central idea.
  • The exhibition itself must enable all the attributes of the learner profile to be showcased, whilst also incorporating the key concepts and also making sure that the transdisciplinary themes and skills are being utilised. Overall it is the grand finale of the PYP before students move onto the next phase into the middle school/secondary education.
  • The students need to also cover all of the “subject areas” with the exhibition incorporating an artistic component (which could be art, writing, music or a drama piece; it must relate to the expressive arts subject areas), a usage of mathematics (data handling in our case), writing (speech, interviews, research) and technology (using technology to create websites or to research information). Another other area can also be tapped into with their action – some are doing experiments to collect results (science) and others are looking into the background of a particular event (history). The pathways are really open to interpretation so long as they interlink with the central idea and the key concepts of the PYP.

The Central Ideas & Key Concepts – these are core to the PYP programme and the exhibition as a whole, as the exhibition is showcasing all of the skills students have culminated up to this point in their time in education.

Now, seeing this in practice, I have really found that the exhibition really holds a strong place in the eyes of the children that are actually part of the process within grade 5. This is because they are choosing a topic that both interests them but also a topic that is an issue in society that they can bring awareness to and even bring about change towards. For being aged 10-11, the topics are really hard-hitting: racism, anorexia, warfares in home countries, air pollution and many more topics have been chosen by the children. What I’ve found is that the issue really is of a great passion for the children. In the words of the Exhibition guidelines, it should “offer the students the opportunity to explore knowledge that is significant and relevant” (International Baccalaureate, 2008, P.2)

Within these topics then, is where teaching can be worked within the frameworks that we are used to. Data handling and graphs are the centred topic within mathematics so many students are creating surveys and then analysing the data they have collected centred around their topic, thus creating a duality product of inquiry-based knowledge interlinking with the advancement of skills within a particular “subject area” (however, the subjects are not so regimented in comparison to other curriculums).

This then all allows for more freedoms for teaching, but also places more constraints on it as well. It is much harder to do a whole class lesson with this approach to learning because the children are very individual in their specific areas of inquiry. However, what can be done instead is the introduction and advancement of specific skills – how to analyse sources, how to construct grafts, how to write a speech and other useful approaches needed to conduct the exhibition.

The children are continually reminded by their environment of what they are capable of when they work towards being the best versions of themselves. Not only this, but also focusing on reflecting across the journey of learning.

Looking beyond this stage of learning, I can see how it is really preparing the students for the futures ahead. They are required to maintain a log of their references (something that rings true at university level) through NoodleTool. This way, the students are not just plagiarising from their sources and are seeing the relevance of crediting where they have found their information. Then the topics themselves and the process of finding action to try and make a difference towards the problem really emphasises the internationalism within the learner profile that the school strives to achieve. It shows students from an early age that, through drive and determination, they can truly make a difference once they have established a strong ground of research behind a topic.

What I also find is that because there is no standardised testing in the system (or not as heavily as other systems) the students are really being able to explore as much as they want to with their topic. It is establishing an environment where students continually want to be doing their best because it is those that reap the best benefits. There’s no need for extrinsic motivation because the children realise that the learning is for themselves. This also interconnects with another area of the exhibition and that is the reflective journal. I knew straight away what this meant for the students being that for this very module I have to maintain reflection around my learning. The students are required to document their progress in their exhibition weekly in the run up to the event and create goals. These goals are then self-assessed – “was I too ambitious?”, “do I need to work harder next time?” and “where do I go next?”. Regulation and self-awareness are then also advanced because students are checking in with themselves on what they’ve done. It is not a focus on what someone else believes upon their progress, because at the end of the day the learning is for them.

Taking this outlook on the concept of the Grade 5 Exhibition has been very helpful for my practice because it allows me to go in with my time with the grade 5s with a greater understanding of what is both required of them and what is required of me as a teacher that is directing them and aiding them in their learning.


International Baccalaureate (2008) Primary Years Programme: Exhibition guidelines. International Baccalaureate Organization: Cardiff.

Early Years at ISS + Exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach

It has been documented heavily that the early stages of childhood have a massive impact on the future capabilities of an individual as the biggest brain developments happen (French, 2007). So much so, that many educational institutes have invested massive amounts of time and money in making sure that children’s introductions to education is both effective and engrossing towards the overall development of the child as a whole.

The International School of Stuttgart prides itself on providing a great start for their children in the early years within the framework of the International Baccalaureate system.

During my fifth week at ISS (9th of April – 13th of April), it was my time to work with the Kindergarten and early years Nest team. Prior to this, I worked my way through the documentation provided by the school that detailed the frameworks of the early year systems at the school. Particularly within the EY 3/4 Nest Handbook (2017) it was clear to see the importance of play being evident within the early years programme at ISS. The Nest encourages a good mixture of the types of play: free play, guided play and inside/outside playtime. “It is the greatest tool the child has to help him make sense of his world” (International School of Stuttgart, 2017, p.4).

Play is a natural act that is vital for a child to develop physically, mentally and emotionally – an example of some of the many toys that the children can use in the early years playground at ISS.

This, then emphasises that play facilitates much of a child’s introductory skill basis as it is how they make sense of the world. It is through this method of learning that we can then formulate a student that is prepared to move their way up in education as they age (which is evident across the grade levels at ISS because a clear transition can be seen, in my eyes, between the skills needed to learn particular areas of the curriculum that progressively challenge a student further and further to go beyond their capabilities at any given stage in their time in education and to prepare them for challenges in life in general).

Particularly, the concept of conflicts is evident from the offset of education at ISS – “As children learn to play together, conflicts will naturally arise. Our role as educators is to help the children to deal creatively and constructively with conflict situations and to learn through them” (International School of Stuttgart, 2017, p.4). This reminded me of my role in assisting the conflicts of the grade 4s UOI groups. ISS sees that conflicts are a natural part of human interactions from an early age and they are ensuring that children are facilitated with the correct skills to physically, mentally and emotionally deal with their issues with their peers. This will ensure that they can grow up to be strong-willed people that have the skills to understand conflict and be able to overcome it. No doubt as time progresses, the children in the early years settings of ISS will still be constructing new knowledge upon the skills they gained in their beginnings of resolving social conflict. Life revolves around working with people and we need to be adequately skilled to be able to understand the various personalities and differences of opinions that are evident in the world. Collaboration was also seen across grade levels when the grade 5s assisted the Kindergarten children during their tree planting expedition, which sparked real differences in maturity being tested (which I have reflected about further within my weekly reflection post linked above).

So, children from the ages 3 to 5 start their time at ISS within the Nest and then progress into Kindergarten at around age 5 or 6 (and even possibly 7 depending on their background of prior education):

“Early Years students, ages 3 and 4, learn together within four different IB Primary Years Program (PYP) units of inquiry taught over two years. The Kindergarten program, age 5, focuses on learning, literacy and the transition to grade 1 by exploring five PYP units and one integrated Art unit over the course of the whole year.” (ISS – Early Years in Degerloch)

With this progression, the children will build upon more skills needed in learning through inquiry. Intertwined within these will be core skills needed to succeed in life in general and an emphasis will be placed on tapping into the curiosity of the children to learn (International Baccalaureate, 2009).

Delving deeper into the pedagogical understructure of the early year approaches at ISS, it is found that the Reggio Emilia approach is heavily influential in the actions of practitioners:

“Our Early Years programs on both campuses are designed to reflect the spirit of Reggio Emilia.  These early learning programs incorporate the use of maths manipulatives and have a strong emphasis on languages, including EAL support.” (ISS Website – Early Years)

The “approach” (it is said to be more of an ideology towards education rather than a full approach, due to modern institutions being inspired from the beliefs towards education) originated from the Italian town of the same name, where the people cried out for an adjustment towards the teaching in schools in order to bring societal restorative change. Today its core premises can be found globally across various educational systems as the beliefs have been adapted and developed to fit specific settings in which the approach needs to adopted. In short, the main belief of the approach is that teachers and students are co-learners in the school environment and they can use one another to traverse through learning, which contrasts with the traditional didactic approaches that are still seen by many as being core to education. This also relates with the historical importance of the International Baccalaureate’s heritage:

The History of the progression in education and how IB came about (International Baccalaureate, 2017, P.3) in the wake of traditional methods of education proving to be dated and need of adjustment. This history is crucial to fully understand why constructivist approaches like the Reggio Emilia approach are adopted in order to establish international mindedness even from the early stages of education.

What was interesting during my time with the Early Years team was seeing the various different approaches used with classroom outlet. Kindergarten A and B contrasted in the sense that one room was more regimented in clear areas for learning: areas for reading, role-playing, quiet study and teachers desk for example. The other was far more care-free and open-planned which also allowed children to take real ownership in their classroom. Both dynamics allowed me to see both the pros and cons of using different layouts. I know that there is never a surefire approach to organising the learning space, however, it is crucial for practitioners to be able to be critical to what impacts they can have on learning with the changing of layouts of the environment of the classroom. Fahey (2012) also has a take on the Reggio Emilia approach within the IB system as being a freedom for the children to express their learning and for their learning to be observed and documented in a way that is showcasing their development, particularly in the early years.

Overall, it has been very fascinating to be able to see different approaches and pedagogical theories that I had never heard before, particularly within the early years sector of education as this will be very beneficial for not only my MA3 Early Years placement next year, but for my professional practice as a whole. Early years is very much the foundations into setting up a person for the rest of their lives and practitioners need to make sure that the are ensuring that the foundations they make are strong and stable for the children in their practice.

This particular blog post describes the Reggio Emilia approach very well, also.


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

French, G. (2007) NCCA: Children’s early learning and development – a background paper [pdf] Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2017).

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

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

International School of Stuttgart (2017) EY 3/4 Nest Handbook 2017-18. Stuttgart: ISS.

alle kleiner Kinder – Week 5 in Stuttgart Reflection

First week back at ISS after the Easter break last week and I feel that I have been able to get back into the structure of working at the international school of Stuttgart and gain new knowledge once again in terms of professional development.

Before the holidays, I had worked my way down the grades right to grade 1. This week progressed this continuation of moving down the grades as I began my work with the Early Years team at ISS. This meant working with both the Kindergarten and the Nest teams and children.

Now, I will admit that before this week I hadn’t much experience working with younger children within an educational setting, hence why I made the decision that I wanted to see the whole perspective of a child’s experience of education whilst working at the international school for Learning from Life. I also knew that much of what we have learned about the Early Years in MA2 would be missed out if I didn’t get to experience it in a real-life practice this year before my MA3 placement next year when I will work at the lower end of the primary school system in Scotland.

So I spent the first half of the week (9th of April – 11th of April) working with the Kindergarten children. The children within the two classes ranged in the ages of 5 to 7 depending on their prior experience within educational settings (one particular child was older but was never part of any form of formal education and therefore was put in Kindergarten to introduce them to school). They were very enthusiastic to interact with me and tell me all about themselves.

I also got to tell them a little bit about me when exploring the concept of time as I investigated the different time zones with the teacher to show the students what the time was in Scotland, what the weather was like and how it differed from Germany (and even their own home country).

What I loved about the two classes were that their learning environments were totally different from one another; emphasising the importance of individuality for teaching practices. One class was very regimented in its layout where clear areas for particular learning (role play, quiet reading and chill out area, letter/number forming and art areas) were clearly evident. The other class was much more carefree in the layout of the room and was more flexible in terms of allowing the children be more independent in choosing what they did within the room depending on the task they were doing. Yet, they both worked very effectively within their own right. It really proved to me that there is no one way of having your classroom set out because if that was the case, teaching wouldn’t be so flexible. This allowed me to get firsthand knowledge into early years classroom layout strategies.

Now, what I really learned from the practitioner that had the open-spaced classroom this week was the beauty of allowing enough time for learning. Monday morning was really testing of my patience because the teacher made it her job to give the simple (what I thought was simple) task of writing out the date on the board to the children but it took far longer than what I expected…

This was because the teacher made sure that it was solely the children’s job to complete the task of writing the date with only minor prompts from her so there were many different suggestions of what day it was, what the number should be drawn like, how it should be displayed correctly etc. At first, I thought that it would be so much easier just to write it yourself and to get on with the lessons of the day. However, as my short time progressed with the kindergartens, I soon realised there was a great purpose behind this approach that really needed a patient and consistent practitioner – giving me an area where my opinion on teaching completely changed. Once the date was completed, the teacher then got the children to work out how many days were left of the term with chain links on the board. Many questions of, “what should we do if we have this number of days in total and we know how many days are left?” were asked by the teacher and then the task was left to the children to work out themselves. I was amazed that such young children were skilled in working with numbers. It proved to me that starting with concrete materials will ensure sound knowledge is the first layer in the building of a strong foundation in numerical skill. This all relates back to the overall purpose of ISS – to foster inquirers that will go out into the global world and really make a difference with the determination that they can do whatever they set their hearts on with hard work.

It was because of this morning routine, that consisted of working with date and time, place value and number identity (mind you, this was all in English with children that mostly do not have English as their first or even second language so it was also assisting in language acquisition), the children could really be at the forefront of their own learning. Even during the children’s snack time, they were coming up to the board and explaining their thinking in working out how old I was when I gave them the year I was born in. The young children took it upon themselves to start their own inquiry in number work to work out my age by subtracting the year it is now with the one I provided them with – which was also assisted by the teacher aiding in prompting the children to use different strategies to find their answer.

Overall, what I really took away from the easiness of learning that the teacher had was that we may always worry about the next thing that needs to be completed by the children, but real secure learning comes when that extra amount of time is truly spent on real moments of learning. Quality over quantity, particularly in the early stages, ensures that learning is really profound. Not only this, but the whole ideology that is evident across the whole of ISS is beginning to take shape in Kindergarten because the children are learning to be inquirers from the get go – their natural curiosity is really being fostered because it is them going about with their learning with the teacher. They aren’t being told how to do something or to just learn something, they themselves are taking an interest in learning that is part of their everyday lives (little scenarios like counting how many days it was until a child’s birthday were used to advance mathematical skills).

So, I may have originally felt at the beginning of the week that time was almost being wasted away over an everyday task, but I soon realised what deep learning these tasks held when a well-knowledged teacher was pointing children in the right direction, rather than entirely leading the learning process, thus establishing a shift in my overall teaching ideology – something that I will take into great consideration later in my practice. Time is crucial. 

A contrasting example of practice that wasn’t evident in the other grades as much was the importance of free play. Children were allowed time everyday to play (something that the host family’s son was very jealous of when he heard about it from me). However, this play wasn’t entirely left to the devices of the children: once more, the teacher had set up stations that would aid in particular learning points – art stations that fostered creativity, iPad stations that tested mathematical skills through the medium of technology and the role play station that was given a voted “setting” that the children had to construct and act out with materials (campsite won this week). I came to realise that play itself is natural to children and that the best kind of learning can be found through allowing kids to be kids – so long as it is also purposeful: “It is through play that children explore their world, learn to ask questions, to solve problems and to socialize” (International School of Stuttgart, 2017, p.4). Teachers need to be there to move the learning forward within play. Answer those questions or pose new ones to get them thinking further – these are some of the changes I’ve been making to my practice at ISS.

What was also evident during my time with the early years was the emphasis on “Outdoor Learning”. The children had the unit of inquiry that centred around plants and living things. The children had the task of planting over 250 trees around the borders of the playground. However, they did not need to do this entirely alone as Grade 5 were also tasked with collaborating with the young children to ensure that the bigger jobs of digging and lifting the plants were done properly so not to injure one of the little ones. It was great to see the intergenerational groups work so well, even through the differences in maturity and experiences of life. For the kindergarteners it was also great for them to use their motor skills to dig, measure and plant the trees to make sure there was enough room for the roots with the assistance of the older grade 5 children. They both got to get a hands-on experience with nature.

Some of the trees that the children planted – The collaboration of the Grade 5s and the Kindergarten children produced a great product of life as the children got to understand a physical representation of their topic around plants.

Beyond this outdoor learning, the children were also given the task of growing their own plants in the classroom whilst using a wet tissue paper to soak the seeds on a plate that was put in direct sunlight. Now, I remember doing this same topic with children that were double the age of the Kindergarten kids, so I first thought that it would be a challenge for both the students and the teacher. However, once again, I was proven wrong. Freedom was utilised by the teacher in that the children were given the free choice of what seeds they wanted to grow – carrots, tomatoes, different types of flowers and more were all on offer. Scientific questions were already being asked by the children also when resources were being distributed – “Don’t the seeds need soil to grow?” “How will the seeds all grow if they are different plants?” and “how will they grow on a plate?”. These were all replied with more prompts of inquiry from the teacher in a very effective manner of questioning. Whilst it got the children thinking, the teacher made sure to keep the flow of the lesson moving whilst also handing out the various resources and then getting the children to then document their “observation” of what their experiments looked like at the beginning. All of this culminated towards a great first science experiment that fostered the inquisition skills that will be very important when the children progress to more advance science as they age.

It wasn’t all happiness in Kindergarten however either.

Interlinking with the pedagogical understanding that young children find it difficult to empathise with others as they are predominately egocentric at their early stages of development, I got to fully realise that many young children cannot understand that others have different viewpoints from their own until the ages of 7, which works in line with the views of Piagetian theory (Halpenny and Pettersen, 2014). It was interesting to see how conflicts were resolved in an early years setting, as they differ greatly from the older children. Some of the conflicts are the first that a child is ever experiencing as school is normally the first place that they are in groups with people that they need to work with (which brings about the possibility for conflict in the first place). Although very minor issues in the grand scheme of things, it was my job to really work children through their conflicts to find resolutions, thus establishing children that could grow into resilient individuals.

Thursday and Friday (12th and 13th of April) were spent with the Nest, which is the Early Years Programme before Kindergarten and Grade 1 at the school of ISS. Children range in the ages of 3 to 5 and a  clear difference between the Nest and Kindergarten is that the Nest is more collaborative  as the children are divided into 3 groups that are each assigned an adult that is in charge of them (categorised predominately by their age), however, much of the time they are working as a whole through learning, as they work between rooms and groups. The Nest children normally begin outdoors in the morning then partake in circle time and then work around centres that are set up by the teachers.

There is even, nearer the end of the day, quiet time where the younger children can have a nap if it is needed or to just chill out and listen to a story.

An example of the mattress and sleeping bag that the Nest children use during their quiet story time where many of them get a well-deserved nap.

Thursday was an interesting day because some of the staff and children were missing due to the public transport strike in Stuttgart and other parts of Germany occurring. Buses and trains were cancelled which meant that some people couldn’t make it (this also tested my driving skills with the increase in volume of traffic that morning, but I digress). This meant that we had to be spread across the groups more due to there being less staff members (however fewer children also helped the flow of the day with less teachers). The youngest children also got to go out and go on a forest expedition with staff members and parents, which interlinks with the German’s system of early years education of Waldkindergarten – forest nurseries. Much of the pedagogy behind the early years practices at ISS are inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.

The plan of the day for Thursday – Notice the forest trip. Also, the differences in the layout of the day can really be seen when comparing the other grades, as students progress through education.

Friday also brought more challenges as staff members were ill unexpectedly and we had all the children in. It, however, really showed me how successful practitioners can be when they come together in the wake of obstacles and challenges. The staff at ISS really came together to fill the gaps of roles of responsibilities that the different teachers that weren’t there left and it was helpful that I was there to assist. I was also in charge of establishing a station in the “movement room” where the children had to use their body to build role-play scenarios using the resources in the room. It was great to see the creativity of the young children to make their house out of giant cushions and then create characters that fit into the setting they were creating. It also showed me that many of these creative skills are employed as the children progress through development and education (they’ll be using this creativity like when the grade 1s had to think of written dialogue for the actions of my character before the holidays).

This week has established a great foundation of knowledge in early years practice, something that I will build upon as I progress through my time as a practitioner. I’ve found that there is less marking with the younger children, however, the practices are far more physically demanding in terms of having to do a lot of the thinking for the children in planning. Being explicitly clear in instruction is crucial within this too. Also, much more emotional support (although emotional support is very important at all stages) needs to be provided to ensure that young students come into education with a happy outlook towards it, particularly as this is their introductory stages to education and school as a whole. There is a lot more outdoor learning and a lot of benefits come with that as children that get to explore and play within and with their environment in a mulit-sensory manner get the reap the benefits of greater quality development and a better overall understanding of both their environment and themselves (Burghardt, 2011).

However, the biggest development this week I think is in my understanding that time must be given in ample amounts to children – at any stage.

Learning cannot be rushed

Pressures on teachers to satisfy boxes and checklists really hinder the learning for students because they are then advanced through a topic far too quickly and they do not establish strong learning, which really shows that doing tasks for learning far too fast might as well not be done at all because the children do not gain any real substance from it.

Next week will see a shift in pattern as I will move all the way back up to Grade 5 to help in their work towards their exhibition.

Today, also marks a month until I will be returning home back to Scotland and I cannot believe where the time has went and how I have packed so much learning in a months time. I know that my second month in Stuttgart will also be as (or even more) fulfilling.


Burghardt, G. M. (2011) Defining and recognising play. In A. Pellegrini Ed. Oxford handbook of the development of play New York: Oxford University Press pp. 9-18.

Halpenny, A.M. and Pettersen, J. (2014) Introducing Piaget: A guide for practitioners and students in early years education London: Routledge.

International School of Stuttgart (2017) EY 3/4 Nest Handbook 2017-18. Stuttgart: ISS.