April 25 Newsletter


Not quite as crazy as previous weeks….I think last week was some kind of record. Plus I raced in Singapore Sunday morning and am moving house on Saturday, so it has been a real whirlwind for me, too!

Now till May 5: PTA collecting books for its annual Used Book Sale on May 12. So if you are doing some “spring cleaning” and have unwanted kids or adult books, please bring or send them in with your child! (Poster below.)

Monday-Tuesday, May 1-2: No school. (May DayHoliday)

Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, May 8, 9, and 11: MAP testing. There is no need to “study” for these tests. Particularly in math, we have been doing cumulative review on a weekly basis all year! But please try to make sure your child comes to school with a good night’s sleep and nutritious breakfast. Test scores do not affect grades or promotion and are mainly used as feedback for students, parents, teachers, and administrators about areas of strength and growth for individual students, classes, grade levels, and SSIS as a whole.

Wednesday and Thursday, May 10-11: PTA Used Book Sale.

Thursday, May 11, 12:55-3:00: Grade 5-6 Middle School Transition activities


We are wrapping up the unit on Fraction Multiplication and Division with some work on application problems and review. The unit assessment will be Thursday and Friday of this week. We will start a new unit on metric measurement (with a focus on volume) after the May Day weekend.


Most groups will be finishing up their environmental fiction Book Club books this week. We will also spend some time doing reflections and blog posts about the Green Dragons projects.


Last week marked the culmination of our Green Dragons super unit. On Wednesday, all team presented their proposals to “Shark Tanks”, small panels of judges from the Elementary Leadership Team. Seven finalists were chosen to make a presentation to key SSIS leaders including Mark Sylte (Head of School), Dan Keller (Elementary Principal), Wai Mun Fong (Associate Head of School), and Katie Zimmerman (Director of Admissions). Most teams got the “Green Light” to pursue prototypes of their projects; one received a “Yellow Light” to proceed after further testing. We will spend some time this week reflecting on the process and what students have learned.

After the long weekend, students will begin spending some time each week working on one of the approved projects, as well as doing reading, researching, and writing about change-makers now and in the 20th Century, while they become change-makers for their school and the local environment!

Facing the final “Shark Tank”!



Reflection Questions for Green Dragons Project


This is going to be a longer post! It will be part of your grade for this unit. Please try to answer each question in complete sentences and post some interesting pictures. (Plus, if possible, your infographic and a link to your proposal.) I will give you time this week to work on it–do your best!

  1. What idea did your group work on? Why did you choose this idea?
  2. Briefly explain why you think your idea is a sustainable one. Talk about ecology, economics, politics, and culture?
  3. Summarise the different things you and your group did to prepare your proposal, infographic, and Shark Tank pitch.
  4. What were the most interesting things you learned (could be skills and/or information)?
  5. What were the most challenging parts of this project for you? (Think about doing research, preparing each part of the proposal, the infographic, preparing your pitch for the Shark Tank, presenting and answering questions at the Shark Tank(s)?) How did you try to meet the challenges?
  6. What do you think your group did really well on this project?
  7. If your group did a project like this again, what could they try to do better, or differently?
  8. Do you have any suggestions for improving this project next year (for everyone)?
  9. Anything else you would like to add!

April 18 Newsletter


This week promises to be extremely busy!

Tuesday, April 17: Good luck to Isobel and Minho (and all the other swimmers) at SISAC A Team Championships!

Wednesday, April 19: WrAP Testing (first drafts) from approximately 8:50-9:50 AM. Students will have 50 minutes to plan and draft their essays.

Also on Wednesday: 1:50-3:00 PM First round of “Shark Tank” for Green Dragons projects. Students will present their proposed projects to members of the Elementary School Leadership Team. Six teams will be chosen from this round for the final Shark Tank on Friday.

Thursday, April 20: WrAP Testing at same time as Tuesday. Students will have 50 minutes to finish, revise, and edit their essays.

Friday, April 21, 8:00-8:30: International Dress Day, School Photo 8:00-8:30

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to wear clothing that represents their home country costume or colors. The colors and diversity of our school community can then be captured in the photo. Students may bring a school uniform to change into after the school photo or before recess if they are not performing. Parents are welcome to join today’s photo, assembly, and/or PTA Food Fest (see below).

9:50-10:25 AM: International Day Assembly in auditorium.

12:00-1:20 PM “Shark Tank” finale in High School Multipurpose Room (see below for invitation)

2:20-4 PM: PTA International Food Fest on the elementary playground field. Students will be dismissed at 2:20 PM. Buses will run at the normal time.

Next week should be a bit more normal!

Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2: May Day Holiday, no school


At the end of last week, I introduced the concept and algorithm for dividing by fractions.  Most students will probably need a lot of practice and review to get fluent with multiplication and division. When we are able to have math this week (some days it will be affected by testing and/or International Day activities) we will be reviewing/practicing these skills. Next week, some further work with word problems and applied problems (cooking??) will take place, as well as the unit assessment before the May Day long weekend. Our final units after break will focus on volume, then rates and graphs and, if time allows, writing and solving simple equations.

Homework Note: Students who did/could not finish last week’s math homework or who did so very inaccurately will need to finish up this week. This week there is very little new math practice in the packet (just two pages of review work) for this reason. Those who completed last week’s homework accurately only need to do the two review pages and reading log.


Do we hafta take a WrAP test??

This week we are continuing with Book Clubs. Some groups have already finished their first book and have started on a second. Writing will involve drafting, revising, and editing the essay for the WrAP test!


This week marks the finale of the Green Dragons unit focused on ecosystems and sustainability. Students are finalising their infographics and presentations which they will present in groups to the “Shark Tanks” on Wednesday (and, for finalists, Friday) afternoon.  We will spend next week reviewing and reflecting on this work, and start a new unit after May Day holiday focusing on Change Agents in the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as how students have changed over their elementary years and what kinds of changes they would like to make in the future.



April 11 Newsletter

I hope everyone had a relaxing and refreshing spring break ands is ready to get started on the final “sprint” to the end of the year!


It’s getting busy around here!

Wednesday, April 12, 8-8:30 AM, ES Library: ES parent reception to meet next year’s assistant principal Dr. Donna Norkeliunas

Friday, April 14: Class “points party” after PM recess. The kids have earned this with hard work in math, fast transitions, etc. We will be having pizza together, and students can bring a snack to share if they wish.

Wednesday, April 19: “Shark Tank” presentations for Green Dragons unit. Students will be sharing their proposals to try to get approval and funding for their projects. A second round for finalists will take place on Friday, April 21.

Wednesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 20: WrAP Testing. This is a timed essay with a prompt, written on the MacBook. Students will have 50 minutes to draft the first day, and the same time the next day to finish, revise, and edit their work.

Thursday, April 20 and Friday, April 21: International Days. Details soon!

Monday and Tuesday May 1-2: May Day holiday; no school.

Monday and Tuesday, May 8-9: MAP testing


We are continuing our unit on multiplying and dividing fractions with some more review and practice of multiplying by mixed numbers.  Toward the end of the week, we will move into the concepts and computations for fraction division. I have already informally introduced these through our ever-popular “24” game.

Apologies: I made up the homework packet early the week before break, before I had solidified our plans for math, and it may be too difficult for some students. (I realise looking at work that we need more time to practice multiplication before starting division.) Students should do the reading log as usual, but can finish up the math next week if needed. They should not be doing math (fraction division) in the homework packet if they have not learned it yet. Due to interruptions for WrAP testing and International Week activities, the unit assessment will probably not be until the week of April 24.


The focus in reading continues to be on Book Clubs reading fiction about environmental issues. I’m impressed at the level of discussion that goes on in the meetings. Students are being much more responsible than earlier in the year about coming prepared with thoughtful questions and comments to share with the group. In writing, we are working on the written and graphic parts of the Green Dragons project proposals to the “Shark Tank” (see below). Some is individual writing while others (such as equipment lists, budgets, and timelines) are done as a group. It’s very different from the other writing we do during the year, but useful as a life skill.


We are finishing up work on students’ proposed projects for making SSIS more sustainable. Students are finishing their written proposals and preparing “infographic” presentations to get their message across in digital form. The final steps will be to edit a proposal to share with the “Shark Tank” (a group of teachers, administrators, and students) who will decide if the project is feasible) and practice their oral presentations.

March 28 Newsletter

Thank you so much for your enthusiastic participation in Learning Journeys last Friday! Owing to the timing of our units and the conferences, we had less finished work to share than we do in some years, but I was proud of how independent our students were at sharing their learning.


Saturday, April 1-Sunday, April 9: SSIS Spring Break

Monday, April 10: School resumes. Students will now have Swimming for PE on Mondays, Wednesdays, and (Week B only) Fridays. They should make sure to bring a suit, towel, goggles, and any other needed supplies.

Tuesday and Wednesday, April 18 and 19: WrAP Testing. This is an online, timed writing test in which students draft a short writing piece in response to a given topic; they have time the following day to revise and edit their work.

Wednesday, April 19 (tentative): Grade 5 proposals to “Shark Tank” for Green Dragons projects.

Thursday and Friday, April 20 and 21: SSIS International Days (details later)


The basic idea of the area model for multiplying mixed numbers

This week, we are continuing our work with multiplying and dividing fractions. Today, we took a look at the concept of multiplying mixed numbers, using an example of finding the screen size (area) of different devices such as phones, I-pods, and tablets. The goal is to help students understand why we CAN’T just multiply the whole numbers, then the fractions, to find area in a problem such as 8 1/2 X 11 1/2 (it’s not 88 1/4)!  (Most did that on the pre-test, or used the “traditional” strategy of changing the mixed numbers into improper fractions, but were unable to create or solve problems using those calculations in real-life contexts.) We will move on later this week to some computation practice and review of fraction multiplication, and to division during the week after spring break. The unit assessment will likely be in the second week after break (April 17-21).


In reading, we are continuing with book clubs focusing on fiction with environmental themes. Some groups which read shorter books will be reading a second one before the end of the unit. In writing, our focus is on preparing the written proposals for the Green Dragons project.


We are currently working on formulating and writing about proposed solutions for the sustainability issues that students discovered at SSIS. Students are brainstorming what needs to be done and drafting their proposed solutions, as well as creating “infographic” posters that present information about the problem and solution in visual form. We will finish up the written proposals during the week after break.

Example of an infographic


March 20 Newsletter


A quick reminder that ES Soccer and Spring ASA’s start this week (Monday). Please make sure your/your child are clear about what activities he/she is joining and arrangements to return home.

Thursday, March 23: All elementary ASA’s and sports practices cancelled

Friday, March 24: Learning Journeys–Please check your scheduled time. I will send reminders home on Thursday. Students must attend their Journey with their MacBooks. Please note that as up to four families are attending the Journey at once, and the focus is on students sharing their learning, this is not a time to discuss private questions or concerns about your child. If needed, please schedule another time to do so.

Here are the currently scheduled times for reference:
7:45 AM. – 8:45 AM: Karis, Ben, Amelina, Kim Anh
9:00 AM. – 10:00 AM: Ellie, Minho Lee, Isobel, Isabel
10:15 AM. – 11:15 AM: Ryan, Adan, Anh-Quan, Peggy
12:30 PM. – 1:30 PM: Melissa, Eric
1:45 PM. – 2:45 PM: Alexis, Yoon Hae,  David Dinh, Nam Nam
3:00 PM. – 4:00 PM: Dan, Vivian

Please let me know as soon as possible if you need to change your time or are unable to attend, so we can arrange another time and free up your slot for another family if needed.

Saturday, April 1-Sunday, April 9: SSIS Spring Break


We are continuing our work on fractions with a focus on multiplication and division for at least the next two weeks until spring break. I found from last week’s pre-test that while approximately half the class can multiply (and in some cases, divide) fractions, only a few can really illustrate/explain what this means, give situations where we might need to do so, or solve applied problems. This is often the result of learning computations in isolation during outside classes. We will focus on understanding, reviewing computations, and doing a variety of applied problems with these skills.  One idea for practice at home would to find a recipe using American measurements (cups, teaspoons, etc.) and then calculate and prepare 1/2 or 3/4 (or 2 1/2 times!) of the recipe.


We got started last week with new Book Clubs reading fiction with environmental themes. Most students will need to use some of their independent reading time at home to prepare for Book Club meetings by reading and taking notes. Our writing focus is on preparing the various parts of the proposal for the Green Dragons projects. Students are writing a formal project proposal with a mix of expository (explaining) and persuasive paragraphs.


Last week, many students conducted research to better understand their chosen issue and its effect on sustainability at SSIS. They drafted paragraphs explaining the problem and the needs that exist for their proposed solution. This week we will focus on writing clear paragraphs about the proposed solution and its intended effects on SSIS’s sustainability. There is a group of 3-4 students working on each of the following topics: Sprinkler Timing System, Balcony Garden, Eco-friendly Cleaning Products, Reducing Plastic Waste, Recycling Bin System, and Reducing Paper Towel Waste.


March 15 Newsletter


Congratulations are in order to members of the Drama Club (Adan, David, Isobel, Ryan, Alexis, Melissa, and Eric), whose months of weekly rehearsals (and many extra practices in the days leading up to the performance) culminated in two stunning performances of “The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever”!

Also, belated congratulations to Alexis and Amelina in our class, who were members of the Girls’ U11 4 X 100m relay team at SISAC. This team actually also won the SISAC Championship, but my slow timing reflexes caused me to think that they were second (behind the winner of another heat) until the official results came out! Congratulations, speedy girls!


Wednesday, March 15: Grade 5 Workshop with visiting author Marcus Alexander. Today is also a half-day, with dismissal at 12:15.

Monday, March 20 and Wednesday, March 22: ES Soccer Tryout, 3:10-4:30. Also, spring ASA’s begin on Monday.

Thursday, March 23: All ASA’s and sports cancelled (preparation for Learning Journeys).

Friday, March 24: Learning Journeys. No classes, but students attend their own Journeys.

April 1-9: SSIS Spring Break


We are in the process of taking the assessment for Unit 5a (Adding and Subtracting Fractions). Students are starting the assessment after competing and correcting their reviews. About half are finished, most are still working, and a few need to start Thursday. I expect that all will finish by the end of the week and be able to do a pretest for the next unit on multiplying and dividing fractions. Here is a link to the learning goals for the next unit.


The focus in writing has been on analysing the parts of a proposal, doing research to better understand the problem that students are trying to solve as part of their unit studies project, and creating a clear, persuasive paragraph explaining the problem and why the project is needed to improve sustainability at SSIS. By the end of this week, we will be resuming Book Clubs, focusing on fiction dealing with environmental issues.


Our focus this week is on better understanding the sustainability problems and issues that students are trying to solve with their proposed projects. Students are using the MISO strategy to conduct research about their issues and possible solutions. These include Media (researching information online or in print); Interviews (with students, cleaners, gardeners, administrators, etc.), Surveys (of students and teachers), and Observations (i.e. of trash, water use, recycling bin use) to better understand the problem and the impact of potential solutions.

March 8 Newsletter


March 5-17: Online registration for Learning Journeys (student-led conferences). Please sign up!

March 6-10 (this week): Online registration for Spring ASA’s and Soccer

Thursday, March 9, 6:30-8 PM in auditorium. Elementary drama performance, “The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever”: See Ms. Vy in the Business Office for (free) tickets.

Saturday, March 11, 2:30-5:30: Family Fun Day (sponsored by the SSIS Vietnamese community SSIS). One set of tickets per family; sent home today.

Tuesday-Wednesday, March 14-15: Visiting Author Marcus Alexander (Grade 5 students will attend an assembly on Tuesday, and have a workshop with him on Wednesday morning.)

Wednesday, March 15: Early Dismissal (whole school) @ 12:15

Friday, March 24: Learning Journeys (Student-led conferences). No school, but students must attend their Learning Journeys.


There are A LOT of steps with some fraction calculations–a good chance to practice math habits like precision and persistence!

This week in math, we are working on adding and subtracting mixed numbers with like and unlike denominators. Those who have already mastered this skill are doing a variety of challenge activities. A note about weekly homework–since the math covers all the concepts/computations taught during the week, students may not be able to complete all pages on Monday, Tuesday, or even Wednesday. Please encourage your child to do only those pages that review what has been taught in class and/or skills he/she has already mastered. I have had some issues with kids trying to work ahead and incorrectly “practicing” skills not yet taught! We will aim to do some application problems, review, and a short assessment next week before moving on to multiplication and division.


This week, we are continuing to look at expository, persuasive, and procedural texts–reading examples of them, analysing their purpose, structure, and key language, and trying our hand at writing them. By the end of the week, we will look at how writers combine these different structures to write an effective proposal.


The focus this week is on further developing ideas for sustainable improvements at SSIS. Students are practicing thinking through the possible positive and negative effects of a change. By the end of the week, we hope to have narrowed the list and have students choose a specific project for their proposal.

March 2 Newsletter


Congratulations are in order to our Geek Squad members (Alexis, Adan, David, Eric, Isobel, Vivian, and Ryan), who helped support an outstanding Innovate SSIS event last night! Also to all the track and cross-country team members for their efforts at the SISAC Championships, and especially to the following top-3 finishers from our class:  Alexis (3rd in the long jump), Amelina (3rd in 100m run, 1st in javelin), Ben (3rd in the 200m run),  Eric (1st in the discus and second in javelin), and our Boys’ 4 X 100m relay team, which won the championship and included Ben, Adan, and Eric from our class!


Thursday, March 2: Last day for Winter ASA’s

Friday, March 3: Last day with visiting artist Lee Tracy

Sunday, March 5-March 17: Online registration for Learning Journey times. Please sign up!

Monday, March 6-Friday, March 10: Online registration for ES Soccer (Boys and Girls)

Thursday, March 9, 6:30-8:00 PM in auditorium: Elementary Drama production: The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever. Tickets are free but seats are limited; please get tickets from Ms. Vy in the Business Office ASAP.

Saturday, March 11 2:30-5:30 PM: SSIS Family Fun day. More details later.

Wednesday, March 15: Early dismissal (all school)

Monday, March 20 and Wednesday, March 22: ES Soccer Team Tryouts

Friday, March 24: Learning Journeys (no class; students must attend their Journeys)


This week in math, we are working on making and using equivalent fractions to solve problems, and finding and using common denominators to solve addition and subtraction problems. Students are also learning to show their answers in simplest form. Those who have already mastered these skills are doing challenge work to extend their skills and concepts to new kinds of problems and puzzles. Next week we will look at addition and subtraction of mixed numbers.


Our focus in reading and writing for this week and next is one the different kinds of writing students will be doing as they prepare proposals for a sustainable project to improve SSIS. Students are learning about three types of writing: expository, persuasive, and procedural. They are reading and discussing articles using these types of texts, learning about the purpose, organisation, and key words and phrases used in each type of text, and trying their hands at writing simple expository, persuasive, and procedural articles about familiar topics.

UNIT STUDIES (Green Dragons)

Looking at ideas for sustainable improvements at SSIS

We are taking a closer look at sustainability practices at SSIS, and what makes a practice a sustainable one. Last week, students interviewed teachers, workers, and students throughout the building on ways to improve SSIS and make it more sustainable and environmentally friendly. They brought these ideas to a “Hackathon” on Thursday, where they worked in groups to brainstorm and develop some possible solutions. This week we have continued to brainstorm project ideas, hunt for unsustainable practices at SSIS (such as wasting electricity and water, or using too much plastic and paper) and come up with possible solutions. Later, students will choose one project to focus on for their proposal.


These are the updates I have received:

Specialist subject Grade 5
Art Topic Visiting Eco Artist, Lee Tracy will be here to integrate art lessons with the Grade 5 Super Unit.  Students will work on “Demandments”  which will include their ideas for changing the school in positive ways.
Home Connection Look at Lee’s work with your child at https://leetracy.com/
PE Topic Volleyball: Serving, passing, hitting (Spiking). Students will develop and refine their skills. Understand scoring a VB rules.
Home Connection Get a beach ball or volleyball and practice rallying with your children
Library Topic We are talking about sustainability thinking and looking at specific examples through literature.
Home Connection


Reflection Questions for Grade 5 Hackathon

  1. Quickly explain what a hackathon is and what kinds of things you did at the hackathon.
  2. What idea did you decide to work on? Explain it and give some details. Think about your STAR poster and make sure you include this information:

a. Situation–What problem or complaint would your idea solve?

b. Task: Basically, what are you trying to do?

c. Actions: What are the steps or things you need to do to carry out your plan?

d. Results: What kind of results do you want? How will you know if you succeed?

3. Why do you think your idea would be a sustainable one? Talk about these things:

a. Ecology: Would it be good for the environment?

b. Economics: Could SSIS afford it?

c. Politics: Would the leaders at SSIS agree to it?

d. Culture: Would it fit with people’s cultures (the way people think, feel, and behave) at SSIS.

4. How well do you think your group did on developing and presenting your idea? Did you get a green, yellow, or red light? Why?