Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Find ISG Learns at our new home!

Please find the ISG Learns Blog at our new site: https://isglearns.isg.edu.sa/news/blog

You can subscribe to the new blog at the bottom of the page.

Find the Learning Office on the web!
At the ISG Learns Website, on the Professional Learning Calendar, via email at learningoffice@isg.edu.sa, and on Twitter at #isglearns.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ISG Earns Middle States Re-Accreditation

May 2018


Dhahran, Saudi Arabia — The International Schools Group announced that it has earned re-accreditation by the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, a worldwide leader in accreditation and continuous school improvement.

ISG Superintendent Eddie Liptrot states: “The value of the MSA re-accreditation lies in the process. For two years running up to the team visit, there was intense engagement across the stakeholdership of ISG over a sustained period of time. The skilled facilitation of the discussions by our students, teachers and administrators led us into high quality learning experiences - the process was a true reflection of our commitment to learning. The plan, which has arisen from the post-visit recommendations, is already being implemented and points to a great future for our schools.

As superintendent of ISG, I would like to pay tribute to the excellent work of our teachers, the commitment of our students and the outstanding support from our parents throughout the re-accreditation period. We remain proudly accredited by the MSA.”

Accreditation is a self-evaluation process that schools voluntarily undergo to demonstrate they are meeting a defined set of performance standards. The accreditation process helps schools – and ultimately students – to continuously grow and improve.

The process begins with a self-study that is conducted by the school and requires input from school leaders, teachers, parents and students. Following the self-study, a team of volunteer educators from Association member schools conducts an on-site peer review visit to observe school operations and interview various stakeholders.

The visiting team makes its recommendation to the Middle States Association Commissions, which votes on the accreditation.

“The accreditation process examines schools in a holistic way, supplementing student testing data and providing a more complete measure of a school’s performance,” said Henry G. Cram, Ed.D., president of the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools. “School leaders, teachers and parents are to be commended for working together to create a concrete plan focused on providing high quality education for all students.”

About ISG
The International Schools Group (ISG) was founded in 1962 to serve the needs of expatriate families living and working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ISG is a not-for-profit, forward-looking school district comprised of seven schools in five locations. Each school offers either a British, American, or International curriculum, and encompasses the following higher level programs: AP and IB (selected American schools), and GCSE and A-Levels within Dhahran British Grammar School. ISG currently serves the needs of over 4,000 students.
The District is governed by a Board of Trustees, supported by school councils, and is licensed by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education. ISG is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

About Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA)
The Middle States Association is a worldwide leader in accreditation and school improvement. For over 125 years, MSA has been helping school leaders establish and reach their goals, develop strategic plans, promote staff development and advance student achievement. With more than 2,700 MSA-accredited schools across the United States and in nearly 100 countries, MSA is proud of its continuing legacy and its ongoing innovations to meet the challenges of the 21st century and improve educational opportunities for all children.

Monday, June 11, 2018

June Infoblast

Please find the latest announcements and information following the June ILT Meeting.  The links referenced in the image below can be found here:

Thursday, June 7, 2018

iPGP Transforms Learning

The team in the Learning Commons engaged in an iPGP quest to transform the culture of the Learning Commons.  At the start of the year, with the shift from Library to Learning Commons, the space was being used more frequently, with students opting to participate in a number of activities such as games, making or friendly collaboration.  We were delighted with the increased numbers, but there was a need to provide some guidelines for how to use the space to serve everyone's needs.

Four members of the Learning Commons, Kokab Oudeif, Lulul Al Doulab, Dina Hijazi, and Leonida Cambal embarked upon this very successful journey.  They were focused on our three student performance goals of agency, compassionate action and growing literacy, and so they involved students in their process.  Their goal was to
To optimize student agency and learning in the Learning Commons by ensuring
  • Design and space increases efficiency
  • Clear guidelines 
  • Student Expectations are reflective of behavior ownership
  • ISG Guiding principles are present
  • Compassionate Action, Growing Literacy and Learner Agency are strongly integrated 

Here is what they have to say about their process:

This has been a wonderful and effective iPGP plan in the sense that being consciously aware that operational flow of the LC is dependent upon setting guidelines with realistic and beneficial outcomes for students/patrons as learners.  The Learning Commons serves as the learning hub for students and staff from DEMS, DHS and DBGS. We provide services that revolve around the Mission Statement of the LC and have created an expectations charter that is an anchor to the statement.  These expectations are reflective of Learner Agency, Compassionate Action and Growing Literacy. We believe that enriching student expectation guidelines with ISG’s Guiding Principles is essential for system coherence. Furthermore, space and design that is aligned for optimal efficiency is important for successful learning.  Based on rearranging furniture and designating specific areas for collaborative or individual study, we have found that students are more aware of their actions and use best practices. Students have given us positive feedback such as, “the space is more student friendly”, “brighter and more upbeat LC”, “the LC is an awesome place to be”, “we love coming here to reflect or study”.  Our goal is to provide students with social and active learning by facilitating flexible learning spaces. We believe that we have achieved this goal and will continue to further enhance the space based on the LC’s Mission Statement.

Another very important element is communication that is clear and consistent. We have removed displayed signs and posters that translate into solely rules rather than student expectations.  Rules are counterproductive where as expectations are more behavioral, therefore, allowing student ownership. Between the months of March and April, we collected data based on conversations with students regarding expectations during active learning in the LC.  Students emphasized respect, shared spaces and resources, and routines. Based on the research, data collected and design we created expectations that revolved around the ISG Guiding Principles and the LC Mission Statement. While we haven’t displayed all of the posters that we have created, we did display some posters as a slow release strategy.  We plan to have a grand launch in the Fall of 2018 that consists of orientations, communicating with heads of schools, student council and students.

From conception to completion, we have observed substantiated evidence of achieving our iPGP goals.  Students have been mindful of space and the purpose it serves, respecting routines during recess breaks, respect reflective of compassionate action such as older students assisting younger students and invisible boundaries have started to blur in the sense that students of varying grade levels are mingling more and sitting together.

We are excited about launching the Student Expectations charter in the Fall of 2018 and feel confident that learners will take ownership of their behaviors in the Learning Commons by following best practices.

Please check out this slideshow to see all of their wonderful progress.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Classroom Movement Activities

Elementary teachers-- check out these quick and easy movement activities to try with your students. Get them moving first thing in the morning, in between lessons, or whenever they need to get up and be active.  Many thanks to John Luppe at ISG Jubail for sharing this great list of Movement Activities with our community!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ISG in NESA News!!!

Posted in News News Spring 2018 | Volume 20 | Number 3
Merging C3 and ELA: Assessments and Student Choice
By Saadia Hammad, ELA/Humanities Teacher, International Schools Group-Dhahran Elementary/Middle School, Saudia Arabia
Last trimester, I became convinced that it was time to change the way I taught Eighth Grade Humanities. I knew it from the world-weary faces of my students, their long list of demotivation in school, and my incessant use of the carrot and stick method. Students completed innumerable assignments (formative, summative - I had everything)! I put in so many grades into my gradebook that it became an unbeatable race to keep up with the students’ work.
When the trimester was over, it was finally time to stop talking to the students and listen to them…It was hard, but I tried to do this for our Social Studies unit ‘Conflict within Nations’. I geared the whole unit to fulfill certain key goals:
  1. To give as much creative freedom as possible so the end project reflects student interests;
  2. To take away the stress of learning and grade as little as possible i.e. two formatives and one summative;
  3. To let students decide how they wanted to ‘see and explain’ the project so it fit with their end product. The summative assignment included a ‘Perspective’ (person/profession/interest that reflects them): a ‘Claim’ about the conflict; ‘Reasons’ for the claim and then ‘Evidence’ from the conflict that supported their claim. In the end, they had to produce an end product that linked to their perspective and claim.
To identify hobbies, self-perceived strengths and academic interests all students filled out Learner Preference cards. I used those cards to make groups of four or five of mixed academic abilities in each section. I used John McCarthy’s blog ‘Opening Paths: Creating Solutions to Empower Learners’ for making the Learner Preference Cards.
The second step was brainstorming what the term ‘Conflict within Nations’ meant to them. The third step was to list the internal conflicts (past and present) that they wanted to explore. Third, we did a table group research activity of answering ‘Who, When, Where, Why, Resolved or Ongoing’ for each of the identified conflicts of interest. I listed all the conflicts that students thought of on chart paper. This allowed students of diverse backgrounds to explore some unknown groups. Lastly, they got to vote on the conflicts they wanted to explore the most through a Google Form. They had access to the researched conflicts and both Humanities sections (obviously) had a different list. The six most popular conflicts within each class were chosen as the conflicts we would explore within six groups of four students.
To make sure I was not favoring one group over another, we drew conflict names from a box in the class. Each group could exchange their conflict with another group only if all the members of both groups agreed. This did cause some displeasure but because it was impartial, it was accepted in good grace!
To start off the studying, I wrote an IDM (Inquiry Design Model) to model the formative tasks that I would like the students to complete as a group on their conflict. I chose a conflict that they had not listed to set them up for the work that I would be expecting for their conflicts. After completion of the IDM we launched as a group into the designated conflict areas. For the formative tasks students gave presentations at the end. Now, it was time for their summative tasks. I encouraged and yes, pushed students to pursue their interests in art, baking, cooking, making models, writing, anything actually.
I also modeled a summative project by presenting a Sample Summative Assessment: ‘Conflict in Darfur’ by writing a claim, giving evidence and making an end product, food (I owned up to the students that I did get outside help). I did a class presentation with tasting for both sections. It was great to see that several students graded me down in the rubric for creativity as I did not make the product myself!
They had about six class periods dedicated to their summative individual tasks. I gave them a Template for the Summative Assessment that they had to turn in with their end product. After the six classes I connected their historical fiction writing on their conflict to their Social Studies class, where they were taking the ‘perspective’ of a person involved in the conflict. It would make the research richer, in-depth and full of passion for the students. They had an additional six class periods to work on their historical fiction alongside their Social Studies.
As I look at the video of the end summative projects, I am awed at the students’ imagination, ingenuity, creativity, determination and perseverance. They took unknown conflicts from all over the world and became participants within it. They shared the dreams, lives, professions and interests of their person with all of us.
On reflection, I see the strengths and weaknesses of this project. The greatest strength of this unit in Social Studies and Historical Fiction writing is that it woke the students up to do more than they usually do. Yes, I did have some ‘Powtoons’ but only about three-four from 50 projects. Students cooked, baked, made 3D models, labelled maps, made a guillotine, animations, pencil sketches, oil paintings, board games etc. Second, I had a check in template with the students about 10 days before the projects were due. I was able to meet all students who needed help and keep on track with them. Third, as there was ample class time allocated to project work and writing, there were no complaints of not enough time. Students used of this time for peer editing of their writing, breaking down the rubric.
I also shared a Flash Draft for Historical fiction based on the conflict in Darfur with students as well as, tips on how to edit with the Teachers College Rubric for Narrative Writing. Lastly, I think sharing an IDM, sample summative and flash draft helped students understand the expectations and level of work expected from them.
In retrospect, this unit had several weaknesses. First, the linkages and difference between Claim, Reason and Evidence need to be hammered out in the next unit. Second, at least two checks (separate ones for writing and social studies) would be helpful for the students. It would give the procrastinaters more focus, allowing them to work on one project at a time. Some students had time management and prioritization issues when working on both social studies and language arts. These checks would become formative tasks.
Third, the ‘perspective’ of the sample summative assessment I presented needed to be more closely aligned to the end product. My perspective was of a doctor (a childhood dream), but my end product (food) reflected my role as a wife not as a doctor. Finally, I plan to group students in similar interest teams (including academic interests) for the forthcoming Social Studies unit on ‘Human Rights’. Maybe an element of competition would help!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Gulf Young Writers Winners

The winners of the Authors Abroad Gulf Young Writers of the Year 2018 competition have been announced, including from our very own DEMS and Sara Village School!  Winners will be published in The Gulf Young Writers of the Year 2018.  Links to some of their stories are also included.

Congratulations to all that entered! You have made DEMS and Sara Village proud!

7 - 9 year old category winners:

Eden Bearns - Box

Eda Garmen - Wings

Elliot J. Cassidy - Desert Continued

Alexia Pudney - The Box

10 - 11 year old category winners:

Victoria - Box

Pelin Gurmen - Tuesday
* This story will also be posted on the The Gulf Young Writers website.

Alan Fayz - Desert

12 - 14 year old category winners:

Syeda Kashmala Aamir Gilani - Tuesday

Kati Rawn - Strange Object
* Second overall among the Gulf students submissions.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Check out ISG in NESA News

ISG is highlighted, not once, not twice, bur three times in the spring online edition of NESA News.  Thanks to Saadia Hammad from DEMS for sharing her story & classroom practice.  Thanks also to all of our Compassion Coaches for continuing to support the Compassion Summit that ISG co-founded in 2017.  Finally, thanks to Nicole Fedio for continuing to seek out articles from our community and for submitting an article about our Continuous Curriculum Review process.  #isglearns

Spring 2018 | Volume 20 | Number 3

As another successful school year winds down. . .
Take a moment to learn what's happening in the NESA region. We look forward to seeing you next year!

2018 Heads Retreat - Hydra, Greece
NESA heads of school gathered for two days of facilitated reflection and connection.
2018 Spring Educators Conference
Read about the inspirational keynotes, specialist and teacher workshops, and social events, plus link to photo galleries!
2018 Winter Training Institute
This 2-day institute in Muscat brought NESA educators together for in-depth training and networking at The American International School in Muscat.

Examining Our Learning Communities
NESA educators shared their 'communities of practice' implementation journeys in Joellen Killion's 2-day institute at WTI-Muscat.
School News
ACS Amman, ISG-Dhahran, ACS Abu Dhabi and ASB-Mumbai hosted students from 16 schools in the NESA region to explore the role of compassion and love in our lives.
ISG-Dhahran: NESA Continuum Inspires Innovation in Curriculum Review
Together with colleagues in the NESA region, ISG educators expanded the use of NESA's Continuum to curriculum review, program development, and more!
Merging C3 & ELA: Assessments and Student Choice
An ISG-Dhahran teacher completely changed how she taught 8th Grade Humanities by listening rather than 'talking to' her students in a "Conflict Within Nations" unit designed for maximum student creative freedom.
Muscat: Boost Staff Wellness, Morale & Retention with TTTs!
TAISM's "Teachers Teaching Teachers" program focuses on staff well-being and helps them feel connected while having FUN.
An in-depth training program over five sessions, January 2019-April 2020. This learning experience will empower you as a teacher and literacy leader!
NESA's New ES Principals Collaborative!
The "Core" members of this new Collaborative met at WTI-2018 in Muscat to plan and set objectives.
Congratulations to Haya Ghandour from the American Community School Beirut, for winning a scholarship!
Students from the American School of Doha and the American Community Schools of Athens were honored with grants sponsored by TieCare International.
Meet NESA's newest member school and affiliates.
Of Interest. . .

Can Kindness Be Taught?
A program prompted by a challenge by the Dalai Lama is bringing kindness training to the classroom. Research suggests it helps. (New York Times article by Richard Schiffman; with thanks to Brent Fullerton, ACS Amman)

Earth Law Center
In partnership with local and indigenous organizations, the ELC defends the rights of nature in court. Check out their education initiatives.

How to Have an Equitable Class Discussion
Teachers can be intentional about calling on a diverse set of voices, ensuring multiple perspectives. From Harvard Graduate School of Education (with thanks to Dave Nelson, ACS-Athens)

Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA)
Gravias 6, Aghia Paraskevi, 153 42, Athens, Greece
Tel: +30 210 600-9821