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
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?

February 22 Newsletter

Team building game at Cat Tien

Thanks to all parents for your support of a wonderful, learning-filled Cat Tien trip. More pictures can be found on the SSIS Flickr site. A Google file containing pictures from the various students and staff with cameras has also been shared with your child. We are using the pictures to complete some follow-up assignments, but you might also enjoy looking through them with your child.


Monday, February 20-Friday, March 3: Visiting Artist Lee Tracy. This week and next, Grade 5 students will have two sessions with Ms. Tracy on Friday mornings and afternoons instead of the normal Art time on Monday. Here is a link to a PowerPoint about her work:

Grade 5 Lee Tracy Intro

Tuesday, February 21: SISAC Cross-Country Championships. Several students in our class ran. Congrats to Ben (6th place), Adan, and Eric!

Friday, February 24: SISAC Track and Field Championships at SSIS. Again, several students will be participating; Ms. Rayle out for the afternoon. I encourage parents/students to cheer on our athletes after school–the meet should run until about 5:30 or 6 PM.


This week we will launch into our Fractions unit with a review of Grade 4 concepts such as equivalent fractions, comparing fractions, and adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators. We will also look at the concept of fractions as division (i.e. five kids share four candy bars). Here are the learning goals for this unit:

“I can” Learning Target
I can add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators.
I can solve word problems that involve addition and subtraction of fractions.
I can use number sense and fractions that I know to estimate the reasonableness of answers to fraction problems.
I can understand that fractions are really division problems.
I can solve word problems where I need to divide whole numbers leading to answers that are fractions or mixed numbers.


This week we will be be focusing on launching our Green Dragons unit with some reading and writing about environmental and sustainability issues. For the next few weeks, we will be reading and discussing various articles to learn about different types of writing such as expository, persuasive, and procedural (how-to). Students will be using these to complete the unit project, which is a proposal to improve SSIS in a sustainable way.


Getting ready for the night hike. The kids learn about rods and cones in their eyes, and that they really do have “night vision”.

This week will focus on follow-up from the Cat Tien trip, looking at the science concepts the students learned and applied there as well as their observations about sustainable practices at the park and rescue centers. We will then move into a more detailed look at sustainability and brainstorming ways to make SSIS more sustainable.

Reflection Questions for Cat Tien Trip Blog Post

  1. What were the TWO most interesting things you did at Cat Tien? Give some details about them, so your reader can understand why it was interesting.
  2. What was the most interesting thing you LEARNED at Cat Tien?
  3. What was the most difficult or challenging part of the Cat Tien trip for you? How did you meet the difficulty or challenge?
  4. Next year, we might add another day to the Cat Tien trip. What ideas or suggestions do you have for adding or changing activities so that it is even more interesting and fun?

Be sure to include some pictures! Please bring your memory card (or your camera, if you’re not sure how to get the memory card out) to school tomorrow, so that Ms. Tram can download the pictures to a Google file so we can use them for blogs and other work this week.

February 7 Newsletter

I hope that everyone had a relaxing and joyful Tet break!


Tuesday, February 14-Thursday, February 16: Grade 5 study trip to Cat Tien National Park. At this point all needed permission slips and materials have been turned in, and we are good to go! Please refer to previous posts for information, FAQ’s, and the packing list!

Friday, February 17: Professional development day; no school for students. (Rest up and finish Cat Tien journals!)

Tuesday, February 21: SISAC Cross-Country Championships at Phu My Hung Golf Course. (Ms. Rayle and cross-country runners out for the morning.)

Friday, February 24:  SISAC Track and Field Championships @ SSIS from 12-6 PM. Ms. Rayle and track team out. Feel free to come by and cheer for our runners, jumpers, and throwers!


We will not be formally starting a new math unit until after the Cat Tien trip. Students took a pre-test on Tuesday to check their understanding of fraction concepts and computations from Grade 4, and their ability to add and subtract fractions and mixed numbers with the same and different denominators. We will do some review this week of our previous unit on decimals, and Grade 4 fractions concepts/computations if needed.  We will start the new unit after the Cat Tien trip. Students who have already mastered the content will be given challenge work.


Our focus this week is on non-fiction reading as we expose students to basic concepts about ecosystems, food chains and webs, and human impact on ecosystems. Students will be working in pairs and small groups to read and answer questions about science content, as well as doing daily free choice independent reading. After Cat Tien, we will start a new round of Book Clubs, reading fiction dealing with environmental themes.


We have begun a new SuperUnit called Green Dragons, focusing on ecosystems and sustainability. Students will be learning about the parts of an ecosystem, relationships, cycles, and energy flow in ecosystems, and how human actions can affect ecosystems in negative or positive ways. They will look at what sustainability means, how to decide if a practice is sustainable, and how to make our school community more sustainable. A brochure introducing the new unit will be sent home today.


Reflection Questions for Blog Posts


  • What was the reading goal that you set for yourself for the past three weeks?
  • Did you meet your goal? If you did, what helped you meet your goal. (Examples: making a plan, setting aside time to read every day, choosing the right book….)
  • If you didn’t meet your goal, do you think you can meet it over the Tet break? What can you do to make sure that happens?
  • Tell us a bit about the book(s) you read? (Genre, author, quick summary, your favourite part, if you would recommend the book to others; what kind of readers would enjoy the book).
  • Include a picture of the book cover, or another picture related to the book, in your post.


  • What topic did you choose to research? Why did you choose this topic?
  • How did you find resources (books, articles, websites) for this topic? How difficult was it to find good sources at the right level?
  • What reading, research, or writing skills did you learn or practice while preparing this article? (We’ll brainstorm this in class.)
  • Evaluate the RESEARCH AND WRITING you did for this article. What do you think you did a good job on? What would you do differently or better next time?
  • What format did you choose to publish your article (Pages, I-Books, or GoogleSites)? Why did you choose that format?
  • What design skills did you learn/practice while publishing your article?
  • Evaluate the DESIGN of your Pages article, I-Book, or Google Site. What do you think you did well? What could you improve or do differently? Think about what we learned about CARP:

Contrast: How well did you use colours to make your article attractive and easy to read?

Alignment: Do things look neat? Is it clear which order a reader should follow through the article or I-Book, or how they should navigate your site>

Repetition: Did you repeat things like colours and fonts to keep the article, I-Book or site neat and attractive?

Proximity: Are related things (such as text and pictures) placed near each other?



January 20 Newsletter


Tuesday, January 24, 9:50-10:40: Tet Assembly for Grades 2-5 in Auditorium. (Due to limited seating, we have only room for one parent per child to attend…sorry!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2:10-2:55 Tet Dragon/Lion Dances on Middle and High School Fields. All kids and parents welcome to attend!

Friday, January 27-Sunday, February 5: Tet Break

Tuesday, February 14-Thursday, February 16: Grade 5 study trip to Cat Tien National Park


Dear ES Parents,
A year ago, we surveyed you to find out about parent communication in our elementary school. We used your input to improve our communication with parents. As we continue to work on improving our communication to parents, we would like your input.  Please complete this survey to help us understand your needs.  Your answers will not be linked to your child’s name or classroom.


Dan Keller, PhD
Elementary Principal


Q: Does my child have to go on the Cat Tien trip?

A: While of course this is a family decision and we cannot force a child to attend, the trip is a key part of our Green Dragons unit on ecosystems and sustainability. If a student does not attend, he/she will be missing important activities and content that are often referred to in this unit. In general, students have only missed the trip due to serious injuries or illness, or family emergencies. Students who miss it for other reasons will be asked to do extensive alternative assignments dealing with the same content.

Q: Is the trip fee included in tuition payments?

A: No. Unlike Middle and High School Week Without Walls, and possibly some other grade level trips, money is collected separately. The trip cost involves payments not only to the park for entry, transport, rooms, food, and guides, but also fees for visiting the animal rescue centers, gas, etc. These costs change from year to year and therefore we do not collect the money before confirming the final total trip cost.


In recent weeks, several parents have e-mailed or written notes asking me to excuse a child’s absence from school for various reasons. Please note that it is the office, not the classroom teacher, who decides if an absence is “excused” or “unexcused”. Excused absences are generally for illness, injury, or family emergencies. Family trips for pleasure are generally unexcused absences. Please notify the office if your child will be absent from school; they will let you know if it is excused or not. 

However, I do appreciate if you can also let me know if your child will be absent from school (particularly if he/she will be leaving early for or returning late from a holiday) so that I can help him/her get ahead or catch up on necessary work. That is true whether or not it is an excused absence. Even if I write that your child should be able to catch up with no problem, or will not miss an assessment, that does not mean the absence is “excused”.  I apologize for any confusion this might have caused.


We are wrapping up our unit on 2-D Geometry with some review, and will take the assessment on Monday and possibly Tuesday of next week. We will begin the next unit, on fraction concepts and computation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) after Tet break. I will post the unit learning goals at that time.


We are finishing up the publishing stage of the research articles. Students reflected on their writing and made some final revisions, and learned about elements of graphic design such as contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity (CARP). They used what they learned to create published pieces using their choice of Pages (magazine-style feature articles), Google Sites (websites), or I-Books Author (I-Books). Once finished, we will print the finished products and upload them to their blogs.

In reading, we are continuing to work on individual independent reading goals. Your child should be reading daily at home for at least 20-30 minutes per night, and logging pages and minutes read, with a short reflection on what he/she read.


We wrapped up our Puberty unit this week with a short look at how relationships change during puberty, considering what kinds of stresses kids face at this time, and talking about safe and useful ways to deal with stress.  Beginning today (Friday) we switch gears to work on a short, intensive tech challenge that will introduce students to some new and exciting problem-solving tools–more next week!