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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Student insight on Compassionate Action

An ISG Jubail student's reflection on Compassionate Action:

Between two worlds
By Sarah Fawaz

I live in a home painted with comfort. As I walk through the door from school every day, I can smell the delightful and soothing smell of my mom’s cooking in the kitchen casting a spell, like a force pulling my whole body in for a bite. I open the living room window, allowing the sun to cast its bright rays in the living room, as I lay down on the sofa and take a deep breath, after a long day. The room was rather quiet, the peaceful chirping of the birds outside, the children playing and the sound of laughter filled the air like the scent of flowers dancing with the soft breeze outside. One day, as I laid on the sofa, I glanced over to see the remote placed in the center of the coffee table, unusual to its spot. As I grabbed it to place it in its box, my finger pressed against the “on” button, and the blue light of the TV screen directed my eyes to the sound of a thud, a weight vibrating every nerve in my body and silencing all my surroundings, background noises, and even the smell of my mom’s cooking. There was the sound of helpless screaming, despaired crying, children, mothers and families running across the TV screen in call of help, so close to my eyes, yet so far from my reach. There was Syria, at exactly that time, people were mourning for a life while I was at home, safe, in my comfort zone, in my place. Houses were shattered on the ground, as if they are missing puzzle pieces, and through their windows, the only source of light that shines was the hope that remains in the citizens hearts, calling out for their country, calling out for help. The rest was a coat of darkness. They rested behind the bars of freedom.The only air they breathed was the gust of grey smoke released through the chambers of untamed beasts, of bombs, suffocating the land. I froze as my hand moved to turn off the TV and place the remote where it belonged. I wanted to forget what I had seen, the voices of young children vibrating in my ear. I felt as if a weight was placed on my shoulders. As if I was alone in a room with no way out, with questions ranging to be answered. Why was this happening in Syria? Why are they not in a home, like mine? What can I do to help? I turned and glanced back at the remote, placed safely in its spot, and despite my agony, with the absolute courage, I decided to switch the screen back on. I decided to get out of my comfort zone, to break boundaries between what I’m familiar with and what is outside my bubble, to investigate more on the conflicts in Syria, and to me, that was compassionate action. One of the former students, Moonie from the international school of Melanie, stated that “Compassion is caring about something or someone larger than ourselves.It is not in any way forced, it is not a social expectation, a burden nor a weight.Compassion is when we feel the most alive, when we are not only understanding and empathetic but genuinely caring and concerned, when we are not only inspired but inspiring human beings.” Compassion is in the way we connect with one another and learn to understand each other. It finds its way, in how we attach ourselves to the people around us, to the people we love and care about, our friends, families and our experiences, bringing us closer together. Comparison is also found in our small acts we do to help and the ways we choose to understand and learn about each other or a global issue, in which within ourselves, compassion plants its importance and grows. It is embraced in the situations that we would not want ourselves to experience, and therefore others. Compassion is when we see the world as one, when no labels, no boundaries, no barriers, no distingisions can separate our willingness to help and understand one another or a global issue.

On July 2015, my family and I went to visit my home country Lebanon. When we arrived, the only thought that ran across my mind was the idea of spending time with my cousins. As we placed our luggage at home, I ran out the door, to the sight of my cousins playing a game of hide and seek. My eyes brightened as flashbacks of us running around, laughing flew across my mind. I could see them gathered in a circle, as I approached towards what I thought was the beginning of a time of imagination and daydreams, where time froze and was filled with joy. To my surprise I saw, two young girls, about my age that I haven't seen before, turn around with tears locked up their eyes as they walked out of our circle. I ran and approached one of the girls placing my hand on her shoulder, asking her if she would like to play. She responded saying that their game of hide and seek, back in her home country Syria, was different from ours, that they called it a name unfamiliar to the rest of us playing, she mewled that “they were recognized as if they were aliens from a different planet, as if they didn't belong, as if they couldn't play.” I ran back into the circle, as my cousins were beginning to start the game, as I turned around and smiled at both the girls. They stared back up at me with utmost confusion as they replied with a smile, and as hope began to run through their bodies like a flower growing from the soil. My cousin's, called out to them to join the circle, as we played together and shared our ideas of the game, realized that it was in fact the same rules, but with a different label. We all had the same idea of a childhood, and it connected us together. One of learning from oneonather, of freedom and comfort and one fulfilled with laughter. It felt as if we were one, as our differences brought us together and changed our perspective, as we shaped a different idea of hide and seek and looked for hidden areas of our cultures that connected each one of us together, as we are not that different after all.

Compassion is seen in our little acts, to inspire unity. It is how we go beyond our understanding and seek new ways to “play with” or recognize concepts. It’s how we go out of our way, to help, learn and inspire another. Compassion is erasing our borders formed by society and our idolized comfort zone, and getting out of our box, our place. The issues we face today, minor or major, have an effect on all of us as a whole, and all begin with how we look for ways to understand one another and how we are willing to be not only inspired but inspiring individuals to lead on change in the world.



Collett, David, director. GINManila2012 Opening Ceremony and Keynote Alan Atkisson. GINManila2012 Opening Ceremony and Keynote Alan Atkisson, David Collett, 7 Mar. 2012, GINManila2012 Opening Ceremony and Keynote Alan Atkisson. EARCOS Global Issues Network conference 2012