It’s about 7:30 in the morning on a Wednesday morning in November and parents who usually drop their kids at the gate are slowly but surely filtering into our school auditorium. Myself and our leadership team are busy greeting parents and directing them one way and their very excited, dressed to the nines kids another. Our community relations expert is on hand to snap photographs to share with our wider community. Over in the elementary school building 7 classes are practically vibrating with excitement and nerves. So what’s got everyone so excited?
It’s our first showcase of the year – Grade 4 are up today and their families have been invited in to share in their learning and celebrate their achievements and growth. The unit of inquiry they’re going to share today is How The World Works; they’ve spent nearly 2 months investigating, researching, inquiring and designing ways to share their learning.
At AIS Kuwait every grade from Pre-K to Grade 4 is dedicated one day to share their learning from a favourite unit each year. These events are great preparation for the PYP Exhibition they’ll undertake in Grade 5. They focus on some real-world skills; communicating what you know with others, collaborating, researching, and more. They build community and home connections as families see not just what we’re learning, but how we’re learning and what progress has been made. And more than anything, they’re exciting. Back in November the Grade 4 students were so excited they were bouncing down the corridor as they came to the auditorium.
What I love most about these days is that excitement. Sharing learning has become such a positive experience that the children will talk about for weeks and weeks. We also see so much growth during these events – families every year are astonished by just what their child is able to do when guided, encouraged and supported. It’s a powerful experience for our children for sure, but it also serves as a reminder for us all of just what each child is capable of.
We have a well established and meaningful routine these for days now. We begin with the National Anthem and a Quraan Reading (both expectations for our host country); a Grade Level Leader, often assisted by children, explain some of the learning that has taken place; we show videos of learning over time; our students sing for their families. And then, we head to various locations around the school where student work, presentations, interactive displays and activities are located for families to take part in together. This second phase of the showcase always looks different – often the work and activities are driven by students, or curated in response to them. We’ve learnt a few things now about running such events smoothly;
- Attention to detail is crucial. Knowing which route each group will take between stations, where will pencils be, etc and having printed reminders of these for families makes for a much smoother experience
- Plan in advance for children whose families cannot attend. This happens for a number of reasons, but having a coach, single subject teacher, member of leadership there to ask ‘can you show me your learning?’ makes a huge difference to the child
- Make stations/activities that encourage family members to actively participate not only watch – their engagement overall will remain stronger
- Remove any connection between showcase and grades – it will distort the focus and expectations. Removing the grading focuses attention back on to learning and growth
- Supply parents with questions to ask – they don’t know this unit as well as we do, some fall back questions can really help!
- Give families a check-list of things to see and do – this makes sure everyone experiences all the activities
Our Grade 3’s are up next with a showcase in December – and we’re all excited to see what they’ll do!