May 23 Newsletter


Friday, May 26: Final “Spirit Day”: Twins Day. Dress like a friend (or two or three…)!

Monday, May 29, 5-8 PM: Elementary School Arts Journey. Students will be sharing visual art, music, and drama work. Details for student arrival, dress, etc. will be sent when they are shared with me.

Tuesday, June 6, 1:30 PM Grade 5 Moving On Ceremony

Same Day 2:30 PM Grade 5 Moving On Party. This is being organised by parent volunteers. A note is being sent home this week. To volunteer or donate food, etc., please contact Yesim Gandara (gandara2004@

Thursday, June 8: Last Day of School for Students. Please note that this is a half-day, with early dismissal @ 12:15.


One team with their scale model boxes!

We are wrapping up our unit on measurement and volume with some design projects (students built models of toy boxes last Friday) and review. We will finish the assessment by the end of this week and start on our final unit, which involves coordinate graphing, finding patterns, and graphing relationships. There will be no assessment for the final unit, since it is more of an activity-based introduction to pre-algebra and a bridge to middle school math. Learning targets will be posted next week.


We are continuing to read mentor texts and draft memoirs in various genres. Students will be wrapping up their drafting next week and focusing on proofreading and publishing for the final five or six days of school.


Brainstorming world problems that need to be solved.

Students are researching Change Agents in the 21st Century–people who are working today to solve problems or expand our knowledge in critical areas like health, safety, business, the environment, and technology. They will be preparing short written pieces and a brief oral presentation about a Change Agent by the end of next week. Some students are also working on prototypes for their Green Dragons projects.

These are all areas where students felt we need some positive change agents!



May 16 Newsletter


Wednesday, May 17: Art Party, sponsored by High School Art students. Students can attend workshops from 3:15 to 4:30, and enjoy an Art Exhibit and music from 3:15-5:30. Students must be with an adult to attend the exhibition. A paper notice and permission form was sent home last week. Please note that the ASA bus does not run on this day, so students/parents will need to arrange their own transport home if they attend the party.

Friday, May 19: “Spirit Day” #3: Pajama Day. This is also an Early Release Day with students dismissed at 12:15 after lunch and recess.

Monday, May 22, 1-3 PM: Elementary to middle school transition (students only)

Friday, May 26: Final “Spirit Day”: Twins Day. Dress like a friend (or two or three…)!

Monday, May 29, after school: Elementary School Arts Journey. Students will be sharing visual art, music, and drama work. Details soon!

Tuesday, June 6, 1:30 PM Grade 5 Moving On Ceremony

Same Day 2:30 PM Grade 5 Moving On Party. Please note–This has been organised by parents in the past; we desperately need some volunteers to coordinate food, drinks, games, and activities. The pool will be available from 2:30 to 3:30 PM.


Designing boxes with different volumes using the same amount of paper.

We are continuing to work on various applications of volume. Students have learned that volume is measured using cubic units and can be calculated using length, width, and height. They are using this to solve various applied problems such as designing packaging for different items.


We are continuing to work on memoirs, reading mentor texts and learning about a variety of genres such as short stories, vignettes, and different forms of poetry. I am doing reading marks this week, so students will not have their cumulative reading logs available (the ones on stiff paper). They will only need to record reading on the log page of their homework packets from now till the end of the year.


We are wrapping up our look at change agents in the 20th Century and will soon be moving on to learn about people, events, discoveries, and inventions that are making positive change in our lives today.


May 9 Newsletter


Wednesday, May 10 to Friday, May 12: PTA Used Book Sale in the Auditorium. Our class has a visit scheduled for Thursday at 1:45 PM, so they should bring money if they wish to purchase books. Students can also visit after school Wednesday through Friday with an adult.

Thursday, May 11: MAP Math Test. Make sure to get a good night’s sleep and nutritious breakfast!

Friday, May 12: Make-up day for students who missed a MAP test or need to finish a test

Friday, May 12: “Spirit Day” #2: Crazy Hair Day

Wednesday, May 17: Art Party, sponsored by High School Art students. Students can attend workshops from 3:15 to 4:30, and enjoy an Art Exhibit and music from 3:15-5:30. Students must be with an adult to attend the exhibition. A paper notice and permission form was sent home last week. Please note that the ASA bus does not run on this day, so students/parents will need to arrange their own transport home if they attend the party.

Friday, May 19: “Spirit Day” #3: Pajama Day. This is also an Early Release Day.

Monday, May 22, 1-3 PM: Elementary to middle school transition (students only)

Friday, May 26: Final “Spirit Day”: Twins Day

Monday, May 29, after school: Elementary School Arts Journey. Students will be sharing visual art, music, and drama work. Details soon!

Tuesday, June 6, 1:30 PM Grade 5 Moving On Ceremony; 2:30 PM Grade 5 Moving On Party. (Details soon!)


This week, students may be feeling quite stressed with the MAP tests. If your child expresses anxiety, please reassure him/her that these tests do not count for grades, nor will they cause a child to “fail” Grade 5. Most students show growth from fall to spring, but every year, a few do not. The most common reason is illness–scores tend to be noticeably lower even with a minor ailment, perhaps because it affects concentration. Anxiety or rushing through test items can also cause a disappointing score. In addition, some students simply show their skills better with a different format, such as writing an essay or reading an article and answering oral questions, rather than an online, multiple-choice test. This is particularly true of students who tend to work quickly or impulsively. It’s enough for students to give their best efforts and know that the MAP is just one snapshot of their skill levels on a particular day.


Volume of cat exceeds volume of box!

We are off to a gradual start on our measurement unit due to shortened or missed math on MAP testing days. This week we are looking at different kinds of measurement including time (measuring and graphing fractional units of time), area, and volume. Beginning next week, we will focus on the concept of volume and computations and applications with it.


Example of a memory map (from Ralph Fletcher’s memoir)

We are continuing to focus on memoir. This week we will be reading/listening to mentor texts in various genres (short stories, poems, short paragraphs called vignettes) and brainstorming ideas for our own memoirs. Students have been working on “memory maps” of places they have lived and brainstorming lists of stories that happened in those places. We will begin drafting later this week.


Alexis’ grandfather, Pham Tuan, talks about his journey to space!

This week we are working in groups to find out about people, events, inventions, discoveries, and ideas that changed peoples’ lives during the 20th Century. Students are preparing a short report to add to a 20th Century Timeline Wall in the classroom.

May 5 Newsletter

Sorry for the late date–unlike many students and colleagues, I did not have a “May 1 Holiday” as I was moving house! But better late than never–putting out a short newsletter as we have a lot of new units and upcoming events!


Monday, May 8 to Wednesday, May 17: Food Drive for Anh Linh Love School. We are being asked to help out by contributing canned meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit.

Monday, May 8: MAP Language Usage test

Tuesday, May 9: MAP Reading test

Wednesday, May 10 to Friday, May 12: PTA Used Book Sale in the Auditorium

Thursday, May 11: MAP Math Test

Friday, May 12: Make-up day for students who missed a test or need to finish

Friday, May 12: “Spirit Day” #2: Crazy Hair Day

Wednesday, May 17: Art Party, sponsored by High School Art students. Students can attend workshops from 3:15 to 4:30, and enjoy an Art Exhibit and music from 3:15-5:30. Students must be with an adult to attend the exhibition. A paper notice and permission form was sent home yesterday (Thursday). Please note that the ASA bus does not run on this day, so students/parents will need to arrange their own transport home if they attend the party.

Friday, May 19: “Spirit Day” #3: Pajama Day. This is also an Early Release Day.

Monday, May 22, 1-3 PM: Elementary to middle school transition (students only)

Friday, May 26: Final “Spirit Day”: Twins Day


The students did a very good job on the unit assessment for our fraction multiplication and division unit. We have just begun our next to last unit on Measurement and Volume. This unit focuses on developing concepts of area, volume, and capacity, measuring accurately, and understanding the relationships between them. We will focus on metric units and applying these skills to science and everyday life. Here are the learning goals for the unit:
“I can” Learning Target
I can convert like measurement units within a given measurement  system.
I can use measurement conversions to solve real-world problems.
I can make a line plot to show a data set of measurements involving fractions.
I can use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions to solve problems involving information presented on a line plot.
I can recognize volume as a characteristic of solid figures and understand how it can be measured.
I can understand a “unit cube” as a cube with side lengths of 1 unit and can use it to measure volume.
I can understand that a solid figure filled with a number of unit cubes is said to have a volume of that many cubes.
I can measure volume by counting unit cubes.
“I can” Learning Target
I can solve real world problems involving volume by thinking about multiplication of addition.
I can use unit cubes to find the volume of a right rectangular prism with whole number side lengths and prove that it is the same as multiplying the edge lengths (V = l x w x h).
I can solve real-world and mathematical problems involving volume of an object using the formulas V = l x w x h and V = b x h.
I can find the volumes of solid figures made up of two right rectangular prisms by adding the volumes of both.
I can solve real-world problems using what I know about adding the volumes of two right rectangular prisms.


In reading, most groups have finished their Environmental Fiction books; a few clubs still need to meet once next week. We have spent some time this week finishing up the Fountas and Pinnell reading assessments. These are done with each student toward the beginning and end of year to assess the students’ reading level, decoding and comprehension skills. Students read part of a selection aloud to the teacher, finish it silently, and then answer questions about the text orally.  The students I have tested so far have shown impressive growth in their skills over the year!
Our final focus in both reading and writing will be on memoir. We will be reading both shorter and longer memoir pieces by different authors, and students will be writing their own memoir pieces in a variety of genres such as short stories and poems.


Our final unit of the year focuses on Change Agents. We are beginning with a look at important people, events, inventions, discoveries, and ideas that changed people’s lives during the 20th century. We will then move on to look at people, both children and adults, who are making positive changes in the world today. Students will also have a chance to take part in making change at their school by working to carry out some of the sustainability projects from the Green Dragons unit. We were very fortunate on Wednesday to have a visit with a real-life Change Agent, Alexis’s grandfather, who was the first Vietnamese in space!

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.