Building A Foundation with The International Baccalaureate

As our world continues to globalize, today’s students need exposure to international cultures and ideas. Those students who are fortunate enough to have access to an International Baccalaureate program receive not only an excellent education but also a solid foundation for the future.

For nearly fifty years, International Baccalaureate (IB) has offered programs for preschool and elementary, middle school and high school. Schools must apply for IB accreditation and demonstrate that they maintain IB’s rigorous academic standards and philosophy. (GreatSchools.org)

International Baccalaureate differs from Advanced Placement, also a respected and rigorous program. While AP courses carry the option of earning college credit through points on end-of-course exams, IB does not. However, IB begins the academic rigor as early as preschool and focuses on the social-emotional development of the student in addition to the academic development. IB offers an entire curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach, rather than a set of subjects taught in isolation to one another.

Developing the Whole Child

In an IB setting, schools focus on the development of the child as an individual. Beginning with the Primary Years Programme, students work in the core subjects to focus on several themes:

  • Who we are
  • Where we are in time and place
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • Sharing the planet
  • How we organize ourselves

In these early years, IB programs utilize an inquiry-based approach to examine different issues present in today’s world, and incorporate the ideas in all areas of their learning, from math and science classes, to humanities and arts classes, to social studies, and physical education. Children learn by asking questions and working with one another to solve problems, facilitated by their teacher. (GreatSchools.org)

Moving to the Middle Years Programme, students continue making connections between their studies and real world events and issues. Students begin to develop analytical thought. IB believes that thoughtful, reflective questioning and analysis ought to have a place in all areas of a child’s life, rather than just in the classroom. Students develop the skills to become thoughtful people, and life-long learners, who can interact positively and empathetically with diverse groups.

The high school program, or the Diploma Programme, continues to develop the whole student as it seeks to expand the minds of advanced students who wish to thrive. Students tackle six subjects as well as the “theory of knowledge.” They develop independent projects and also engage in community service. Ultimately, the full IB program aims to develop citizens of the world who can lead and engage with others around the globe.

Academic Rigor

Don’t confuse the holistic, whole-child development approach with an easy-going atmosphere that skimps on academics. International Baccalaureate programs are time-consuming and demanding. Many schools with IB programs require that students demonstrate academic proficiency before being admitted. The program prepares them for competitive universities around the world.

Students develop their higher-level thinking skills in an IB program. They prepare for final evaluations of projects and take end-of-course examinations to showcase their analytical and writing skills in the academic arena and, impressively, put together and present presentations from a young age. Students who successfully complete International Baccalaureate programs are awarded IB certificates that can be separate from their institution’s general diploma. The certificate carries prestige and is respected by educational institutions around the US and the world. (ibo.org)

International Baccalaureate students excel by developing outstanding critical thinking skills in arenas where they are expected to also contribute on a community, social, and ethical level as well. They learn that these aspects of our humanity should be separated. Learning starts early and continues for a lifetime.

Please contact us if you have questions about the International Baccalaureate programs.

How the Imagination Helps Children Learn

It’s not uncommon to see a young child step into the world of make believe. Relying solely on their imagination, children host tea parties and pretend to be Jedi knights. They turn boxes into castles and playgrounds into entire worlds of their own creation. The act of pretending — of stepping into a character and acting out a scenario — is an old standby of playtime. And it should be. Imagining is an activity that may seem frivolous on the outside, but it actually helps improve child development.

How?

The nature of role-playing is immersive. When a child steps into a role, they assume the life of the make-believe character, including their problems. For example, if the role-play of the day involves an explorer stranded on a desert island, those participating must act as the explorers would. They have to follow the “map” and find the “treasure”, all while fighting off the bad guys and escaping the island.

Not a bad way to spend the afternoon, especially when you can safely return home afterwards.

It’s a safe environment that allows for great fun while it also introduces a surprising number of learning opportunities. Interactive, engaging, and collaborative, children who engage in role-play, challenge themselves with situations they do not always face. Or, as with the child who is playing house, they challenge themselves with situations they may have seen adults face.

Group Of Children Enjoying Drama Class Together

There are so many ways in which role-play helps children succeed that it would be hard to list them all. But a few major ways role-play improves child development include:

Problem solving skills. Imaginary conflict is still conflict. Whether it’s making sure everyone has enough tea at the tea party, traveling to a far-off country, or slaying a dragon, these are all problems that require forethought and an understanding of consequence. The ability to think about a problem, project into the future, understand cause-and-effect, and create an abstract solution requires a huge array of skills. Through role-play, children are able to hone these skills, so they can draw upon them as they face challenges in the real world.

Language and social skills. Often, children will role-play in pairs or small groups. This not only makes it more fun, but it helps those participating learn how to clearly express themselves and pass along information. Even more importantly, children learn how to collaborate. These crucial social skills will benefit them for their entire lives.

Imagination and creativity. There’s no doubt that children are creative. Role-playing nurtures their inherent imagination, allowing them to let it run wild. Rather than stifling their need to express themselves, role-play gives an outlet that has the potential to appeal to all students, regardless of temperament or learning style. Down the road, this allows them to think creatively about more concrete problems.

Experimentation. Let’s say a child decides to step into the role of an engineer. They pretend to be an engineer, with all the responsibilities of the profession. Including, of course, building. Children may decide to spend time tapping into their creativity and creating buildings from whatever resources are available. And they may not always succeed. A bridge may fall. A tower may topple. And, like any resilient engineer, the child has the opportunity to try something new. Experimentation allows a child to engage in trial-and-error without worrying about the ramifications of failure.

It’s important for children to have fun when they learn, and role-playing is one of the best ways to accomplish this while also ensuring their development is being nurtured. Role-play activities are simple, often requiring nothing but the mind, and have endless benefits.

For more information, tips on child development and role-play in the classroom, contact us.

Learning A New Language Through Music: Why Is Music So Powerful?

Whether you are trying to improve your young child’s English language proficiency or develop their skills in a second language, you cannot go wrong by using music.

Preschool children’s brains are sponges. They learn very quickly. But they are too young to sit and take notes, nor will they conjugate verbs for homework. They will, however, sing songs all evening long, containing multiple verses and extensive lyrics.

Why is Music Such a Great Learning Tool?

When learning a new language, music has proven to be one of the handiest tools available to teachers. Researchers have noted that many of us as adults can hear a tune from sixth grade French class and recall it with surprising accuracy. Why is this?

Teacher Demonstrating Tambourine Playing

  1. Music is sticky. That is, it sticks in our memories for a long time. We learn lyrics as a part of a melody, and not separate from it. You can have a few weeks’ worth of lessons packed into one song. At first the lyrics may not make much sense to the child, but that doesn’t matter. They will learn the vocabulary over time and the song’s meaning will reveal itself. It’s best to stay out of the child’s way and not over-explain the vocabulary. How many of us learned a song like “Frère Jacques” when we were kids and still somehow remember the lyrics in adulthood, not ever knowing what they mean?
  2. Music is emotional. Songs play an enormous role in our own nostalgia. When used as a teaching tool, they connect the children to the material. If the material you are trying to teach has a strong emotional component, it will be absorbed much quicker than if it has no emotional pull at all. Psychologists note the power that music has on people across races and cultures worldwide. They theorize that music can stimulate a reward system in the brain by indirectly asking the listener to predict future beats and sounds. There is also excitement produced when there are new and unexpected beats and sounds. Hearing music in a classroom lets the students connect any visual elements from the lesson to the song, and those elements are also remembered. The emotional power of music should not be underestimated.
  3. Music is fun. Just because students are enjoying themselves does not mean that they are not retaining the material. Unfortunately, a very outdated belief that learning only occurs when students are quiet, still, and not smiling still influences some educational institutions. On the contrary – singing a melody, clapping in rhythm, and dancing all provide a solid foundation for vocabulary and verb usage. And it is an absolute blast! Children will engage in this willingly if not completely cheerfully. Once out of the classroom for the day, preschool kids will not hesitate to sing their songs at the diner table, in the bath tub, or in the car. Get them together with a few friends and you have reinforcements to bolster any songs that have a missing word or two.

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Teachers across different disciplines, both primary and secondary are regularly incorporating music into their lesson plans. There are few tools out there that effectively produce the same strong level of recall. No matter what distractions occur after the lesson, children can still repeat a song word for word later that day.

At Tessa International School, we believe in using proven methods to engage students and are very pleased with how music contributes to language learning – children play and have fun while learning. We are committed to opening the world to our students and learning new languages. Please contact us so you can see how your child can thrive in our school.

Why Role Playing is Important for Child Development

It’s a known fact, among parents and child care professionals, that children love to role play. They will try on outfits, create dialogue, and use any household object to create a character for as long as their playmates will cooperate. Children will pretend to be almost anything they can find a prop for. However, this isn’t the only reason why daycares, preschools, and early learning centers often feature a costume box and role playing stations. You may be surprised to discover that the process of acting out roles and exploring new identities is an important part of personality and logical development.

Developing Objective Thought through Role Play

As an adult, when you need to think your way through a problem or consider something from another person’s point of view, you sit down and think about it quietly. But where do these tools for objective thought come from? Perspective is a logical skill, much like math, and it has to start somewhere. Acting out a role is similar to ‘asking yourself’ how someone else might feel or act in a situation. Children think of it as playing but if you watch them, they are exercising their understanding and trying to understand how another person would think and respond. In many ways, this form of play will help children to be more logical, diplomatic, and empathic as they grow up.

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Role Playing ‘House’

Why do children love to play House more than any other role playing game? Because it is the center of human interaction. They use their own families along with books and media depictions to determine what it means to be a ‘mother’ or ‘father’, something that will stick with them and shape their relationships for the rest of their lives. Playing House with children from other kinds of families and cultural backgrounds can serve to expand their idea of family to include these new variations. In this acting game, they explore how it feels to try on the authority role or the supportive role and practice family dynamics with each other in a way that will give them perspective when they get older.

Exploring Careers through Role Play

When children decide what they want to be when they grow up, they typically enact their desire through role play. Putting on a fireman’s hat and pretending to rescue people or wearing a doctor’s coat and pretending to make a diagnosis can empower them to feel that this goal is attainable. While not every child decides so early, and many who make a decision do not continue on that path into adulthood, it’s fundamental to a child’s development for them to understand their potential and their options, and to see themselves in different roles.

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Preschools and parents alike will often try to provide a wide selection of role play toys like carpenter kits, pretend food, magnifying glasses, and so on to give children the opportunity to test as many career possibilities as they care to. Some teachers can even provide guided development by purposefully introducing career-toys to the collection and explaining or demonstrating how someone in that job might think, feel, and act.

Role-playing is an important part of early childhood development because it helps children to understand each other and the world around them. Children who have ample opportunity to role play and guides that can supplement their pretending with new information, gain useful insight that will help them for the rest of their lives.

The next time you see your child wearing a silly costume and speaking as a character, remember that they are teaching themselves logical and emotional skills and consider joining in for a while to provide the benefits of your experience.

If you’d like to learn more about how young minds develop during the preschool years, please contact us today.

 

Yoga in the Classroom: Learning Healthy Habits

Yoga is a traditional Indian practice, introduced to Western culture by enthusiasts desiring to integrate meditative exercises into a bustling modern society. In sanskrit, yoga means union of body and mind; achieved through focused deep breathing or pranayama, with a series of postures or asanas. Through the years, yoga has evolved from its spiritual origins, gaining popularity as a form of physical exercise to tone muscles and lose weight. Counselors often use meditative or mindfulness techniques when teaching self-awareness skills, ways in which one regulates their thoughts and emotions during stressful situations.

The Benefits of Introducing Yoga to the Classroom

Through practice, deep breathing combined with rhythmic exercises brings awareness to your body, helps to lower your heart rate, reduces blood pressure, relaxes muscles and increases blood flow to the brain. Perhaps this is why other venues, like schools, are incorporating yoga, and making it a part of a child’s everyday experiences in the classroom. In 2005, several international Education and Health interest groups came together to form a non-profit organization, the International Association of School Yoga and Mindfulness, dedicated to integrating mindfulness based programs into K-12 schools. Teaching toddlers yoga practices benefits their brain’s development in a safe, playful way that encourages each child to explore their inner and outer worlds. Learning healthy habits at a young age is important to each child’s individual success at living a fulfilling adult life.

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The Healthy Habits Kids Gain from Yoga

  • Self-Awareness ~ Holding various postures or asanas helps your child to connect to their inner world and explore thoughts and feelings. This is an important tool for your toddler as they are just beginning to develop a mental picture of who they are in relation to the world.
  • Self-Management ~ Yoga cultivates social and emotional learning through mindfulness strategies that aim to strengthen your child’s responses to stressful situations. Exercises like deep breathing and repetition of sayings or mantras, nurture your child’s abilities to self-manage their emotions so they can respond calmly and thoughtfully instead of reactively and defensively.
  • Responsible Decision Making ~ Deep breathing or pranayama stills the mind for thoughtful decision-making. It’s important, especially while in early developmental stages, to teach children to listen attentively, so that they develop a habit of making good decisions.   
  • Physical Benefits ~ Yoga is a great way to stretch tensed bodies! Holding each asana for a short length of time increases your child’s sense of balance and coordination. It also helps to build flexibility and muscle strength!
  • Social-Awareness ~ Any teacher or parent knows that teaching a two-year-old how to see a perspective outside their own and empathize with others is a tall order! Yoga is fun and child-friendly at any age, as many of the poses already have silly sounding names. Some studios have adapted traditional poses for children or even given them playful tags such as: Cat Pose, Airplane Pose or AppleTree Pose! When children imagine they are stretching like a cat or flying like a plane, they are role-playing. This opens up the door to learning other perspectives and begins the journey of empathizing with others.

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Reasons Kids Love Yoga

  • It’s playful! Teachers are able to openly engage with children by incorporating sound into classroom yoga techniques. In downward dog, encourage children to bark like Fido, or meow like a cat when stretching like one!
  • It’s educational! Yoga is also a unique way to improve memory. Teachers can have students say the alphabet or count while holding a pose. This useful tool is excellent for children struggling to keep still or focus their attention.

Children gain several benefits, in both social and emotional development from yoga in the classroom. It teaches self-care practices meant to lead to inner fulfillment. It aids in strengthening the necessary skills one uses to navigate life’s struggles with greater ease. Animal poses are a playful and imaginative way to introduce meditative practices to children. It fosters the future successes of each child, to creatively teach healthy lifestyles!

Tessa International believes in incorporating yoga into the classroom. Contact Us to learn more at 201.755.5595 or email mvoice@tessais.org.

Whole Brain Teaching Methods for Pre-School Students

“Class?” “Yes?”

This step is intended to capture students’ attention with a single word. Students are taught that when the teacher says the predetermined word (usually “class”), they are to respond as a group with “yes”.  The catch here is that the students are taught to respond in a mirror image of the teacher, so if the teacher says “class, class”, the students are to respond with “yes, yes”. Teachers should practice improvising and using as many variations of “class” as they can imagine. This ensures that the technique remains interesting to the students, thereby keeping them entertained, engaged, and looking forward to the instructions that are to follow. This step is especially important for preschool aged children, as they are just learning to mimic and copy.

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Classroom Rules

Once a teacher has the attention of the students, it’s imperative that he or she lay down the classroom rules. Each rule is associated with a specific physical gesture, so over time the combination of muscle memory and memorized rules becomes second nature. The rules and their associated gestures are:

  1. Follow Directions Quickly – Move your hand or finger in a swimming motion forward.
  2. Raise your Hand for Permission to Speak – Raise your hand then make a talking motion with your mouth.
  3. Raise your Hand for Permission to Leave your Chair – Raise your hand and make a waving motion with your fingers.
  4. Make Smart Choices – Tap your temple on your head.
  5. Keep your Dear Teacher Happy – Make the letter “L” with each hand and place it by the corners of your mouth to motion a smile.

Hands and Eyes

This is the step where the students are required to really focus on what the teacher’s instructions are.  When the teacher announces “hands and eyes”, all students are to look at the teacher, sit up straight, and hold their hands together. The “hands and eyes” statement is a simple reminder to the children that they are about to receive instruction. This is the time for the teacher to make their point and since preschool-aged children tend to have very short attention spans, it’s important that the point be short (less than 15-25 seconds), sweet, and uncomplicated. Remember that the end result should be pieces of information that are chopped up into small enough bites that a preschool aged student can effectively retain and then reteach the information to his or her peers.        

“Teach.” “Ok.”

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The Teach-OK step is the instructional part of the lesson. The teacher divides the students into groups and teaches small pieces of information with the aid of hand movements and/or physical gestures. After the teacher completes instruction, he or she announces “teach”, to which the children respond “ok”. This signals the students that it is time to repeat the same information and gestures to their peers. During this time the teacher should be moving among each group and assessing which children adequately retained and are able to re-teach the lesson, versus those that are struggling. This process repeats itself until the entire lesson has been taught.

Switch

This step coincides with Teach-OK. As the students are re-teaching their classmates, they should take turns using and mirroring the gestures or physical movements that accompany each step. The least complicated way to accomplish this is to count the students off by ones and twos, so that when it’s time to switch, each child knows that it’s their turn to perform the mirror image of their peer.

Mirror

At any time during the lesson the teacher may announce “mirror, mirror”, accompanied by a specific gesture. This command signals the children to stop what they are doing and mimic the teacher. This step should be used to regain the class’s attention when the children begin to lose focus. It offers a brief time out and a chance for the students to recollect their thoughts.

Scoreboard

For preschool aged children, students should receive points marked on a smiley face or a frowny face on the board, depending upon how they performed (up to three points per face). Every time the teacher marks a point on the smiley face, the students should be taught to respond with a quick cheer or applause, and each time a point is marked on the frowny face they may groan out loud (though this may not be something a teacher wishes to adopt in his or her classroom). This practice ensures that the entire class is cognizant of overall performance. At the end of the day a surplus of smiley face points should be rewarded with an extra few minutes of playtime or storytime.

The practice of Whole Brain Teaching emphasizes active learning and engages a student at the level they are most comfortable with for their age group. This fun and interactive method ensures that even the youngest student will retain and understand their lessons more comprehensively. For more information on the benefits of Whole Brain Teaching and how it applies to preschool aged children, please contact us.

It’s all in the way we learn…Total Physical Response (TPR)

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Total Physical Response (TPR) – An action oriented method to increase comprehension

An American professor by the name of James Asher developed an approach to language teaching commonly referred to as Total Physical Response (TPR). This work began in the 1960’s and theorizes that memory is improved through an association with physical movements.

There are many activities that can occur when using the TPR approach which helps children develop language using movements. These activities support the classroom curriculum and are not only motivating, but a lot of fun.

We don’t often think of Total Physical Response (TPR), but many games and activities have TPR fundamentals built in, both directly and indirectly. A good example is with “Simon Says” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. Here is an example of TPR in a using Mandarin:

 

Total Physical Response (TPR) increases both short and long-term retention. When we learn to ride a bicycle we always remember how, no matter how many years might have passed. It might take a bit of a review, but the skills and knowledge are still there.

Total Physical Response (TPR) has many benefits. These include helping learners understand target languages and aid in long-term retention in a stress-free approach. This method can be uses to teach vocabulary connected to actions, classroom directions, and storytelling.  Teachers thoughtfully plan lessons with TPR in mind to promote engagement and develop listening fluency. Once there is enough listening fluency learners begin to speak the target language. Here is an example of TPR in the classroom.

You can read more at Total Physical Response (TPR).

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Managing emotions through positive interactions.

Managing emotions through positive interactions.

Social Emotional Learning! What is it?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a very important piece of a child’s education and directly impacts their success in learning. CASL has identified five essential skills linked with Social Emotional Learning. Using these skills Tessa International School has selected a program that helps to promote a balance of high academic achievement and strong social emotional skills.

Process? The first step is to help children recognize their own emotions and thoughts. Next, we focus on self-management skills so children learn to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. The third step is to help children develop empathy and understanding that others perspectives may not be the same as theirs. Fourth, we focus on maintaining positive relationships with others. Important elements in the fourth step include active listening, communicating clearly and appropriately, and cooperating with others. The final step is preparing children to be responsible decision makers. The will learn to make thoughtful choices that promote positive social interactions, evaluate the consequences of actions, and be empathetic of the well-being of others.

Why is this important? A good Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program not only increases children’s prosocial behaviors such as demonstrating kindness, sharing and empathy, but it also has strong links to increased achievement in school.

How do we do it? The first step is identifying a research-based method that has authentic data that proves it has an impact on both the social and academic growth in children. After selecting the program classroom teachers are carefully trained to synchronize their classrooms and the system becomes not only a school-wide effort, but it extends to the family and community. This way expectations can be taught and modeled in and out of school allowing children to practice and refine their skills in a variety of environments.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is taught through clear lessons and integrating the lessons in content areas such as math or language so children are provided opportunities to practice in real situations.  Teachers are provided the necessary resources and training to develop positive relationships between children and their peers and with children and adults.

The method of teaching and reinforcing Social Emotional Learning skills can be done in numerous ways. Children can be asked to demonstrate their learning through role-play or other activities. We believe in the importance of scaffolding which means taking progressive steps to build upon what children already know (their schema). This means learning the key vocabulary of emotions and learning new skills. Another useful way is through books read to children and have them make connections with the feelings of characters to themselves. Through clear modeling and expectations children will be provided the tools in how best to express their emotions. This can be accomplished again through role-play activities. It’s extremely important that the expression of feelings and emotions in children are validated and children are encouraged to express their feelings. Reflection is a key aspect of a good Social Emotional Learning program. Young children must be guided towards reflecting about actions and events that happen in their lives. They can be asked questions such as “Why did Mary cry when Tommy took her toy?”
Tessa International School believes that in preparing children to become world citizens, prepared to embark on their learning journey that will possibly take them across the world, it must have clear policies and procedures to ensure children receive the very best.

Best Plan? There are numerous programs, but which is the best. The answer can be quite subjective and biased depending upon who you ask and which programs they have tried. We at Tessa International School have worked extensively weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each program. We have looked carefully at the research data of the various programs and have found a system which we strongly believe will help children develop the skills necessary to become truly internationally-minded world citizens.

Tessa International School

Office: (201) 755-5585 | Location: 702 Monroe St. Hoboken, NJ 07030