This article illustrates an engaging learning event held at an international school in Hanoi, Vietnam.
If you visited the Early Childhood Centre (ECC) mid November you would have witnessed something a little out of the ordinary at the United Nations International School of Hanoi (UNIS). The classrooms and playgrounds were bustling with parents. Having mums and dads present in the ECC in itself isn’t very special; parents are often involved. Parents offer mother tongue support, read with students, feature as ‘experts’ for students to interview and help out at inquiry stations in the classrooms. But on this particular day the parents almost outnumbered the children!
This parent-packed phenomenon was due to the ECC ‘Learning Journey’ morning. The Learning Journey is a day when parents are invited to visit the Early Years Centre to experience for themselves how their children learn. The students were responsible for showing and explaining how they learn to their mums and dads. Each student was given a check-list full of learning stations they had to visit throughout the course of the morning. These learning stations included the homeroom, music room, physical education areas and so on, representing the whole range of the curriculum. At each learning station there was a learning task. Each task represented a typical investigation an ECC child would undertake here at UNIS.
Those of you who attended may have noticed something that the tasks had in common. Each task did more than just practice a particular skill or just follow a simple instruction. There were many open-ended prompts guiding the students to investigate and to play with possibilities. There were even questions on the break-time bicycles to engage the children in thought: ‘What happens when we ride our bikes over soft and hard surfaces?’ There were problems to solve such as a physical education adventure challenge asking ‘How can you use these objects to get you safely across the lava pool?’ Other tasks required creative thinking such as sand-painting on a light tray, investigating with paint how colours can be changed and prompts asking students to selecting sounds to tell a picture story and to explain their thinking. These tasks, like most day-to-day tasks at UNIS encourage children to think critically, to make decisions, to wonder, to make predictions and to play with possibilities. Learning at UNIS means thinking.
Having so many mums and dads present was a little unusual on the day, however this approach to teaching and learning is not unusual; it is an everyday occurrence here at UNIS. The process of investigating and reflecting on our understanding (often with an adult or a friend) is a very important part of learning. During such discussions students at UNIS are encouraged to think not only about what they learned, but also about how they learned. This process of questioning, finding out, sorting out information and reflecting is at the heart of inquiry learning. By going through this process, we are not only helping children to learn, we are helping them to learn how to learn.
Thank you to all our UNIS families for taking the time to come along to this event and similar events at UNIS. It really is exciting to be working with such a positive, supportive school community!
Christopher Frost is the PYP Coordinator at The United Nations International School of Hanoi. Chris has worked with the PYP since 1999 in schools in Italy, Kenya, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam. He is a workshop leader for the PYP with a great interest in teaching for understanding and making thinking visible.