The year is rapidly rushing to its conclusion. We had a successful AGM this past Tuesday; many thanks to all the parents who came out, and to those who watched the live stream on YouTube.
Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held this Friday, May 12, here at school. These conferences provide an excellent opportunity to meet with your child’s teachers to share observations, discuss your child's learning in greater depth, share strategies for supporting learning and above all, celebrate your child's successes.
Marcus Tanner has sent instructions for parents on scheduling appointments, but if you have difficulties or enquiries, please contact Mr. Tanner for assistance (firstname.lastname@example.org). Hope to see you there!
Here are some suggestions for the sort of questions you might find useful at your conference:
Does my child seem happy in class? Alert, engaged?
What does my child do well? What struggles does she face, in meeting the challenges of school work?
What does my child need in order to develop further? What can we do at home to support his academic growth?
Is my child completing her homework as expected?
Does my child face particular challenges in class beyond that of his school work?
There will be no school for students on conference day.
Don’t forget that we are soon to embark on AISB’s very important accreditation self-study. It is essential that this process include a broad cross-section of our community. If you are interested in participating, please drop me a line.
And finally, make sure to come by and see our beautiful “Rabitat”, complete with rabbits. The Rabitat was designed by Grade 7, in response to requests from the PreK, and the PreK are now in charge of looking after the rabbits! It’s a successful example of project-based, community-based learning.
See you at school, Brad
Welcome and Farewell
AISB is delighted to welcome Diahara Gassama to our finance office. Ms. Diahara will replace Ms. Binta Traoré as AISB’s Business Manager. She brings with her a wealth of experience in finance and business office administration, and we are very pleased that she joins us.
We are also pleased to announce that Ms. Martine Mourot has joined us as administrative assistant and registrar. Ms. Martine will spend the last weeks of school training with Ms. Wilma Ensing, and will take over that position beginning in June. Ms. Martine’s experience is in administration and marketing, and we are very pleased to have her with us.
At the same time we bid a fond farewell to Ms. Binta Traoré, who has been with AISB for the past five years. We thank Ms. Binta for all that she has done for AISB. We will miss her!
We are glad to report that Ms. Binta will be staying in Bamako, though, so we have every hope of seeing her again soon. Ms. Binta’s last day in the office will be May 17.
High School Exam Schedule
High School Exam Schedule June, 2017
AISB Summer Directory
Families who vacation in Bamako know that it can be a challenge to help children connect with their usual playmates during the summer months. If you are planning to be in Bamako over the summer and would like to be in touch with your children’s friends, consider joining the AISB Summer Directory!
The Directory will share contact phone numbers and “dates available”, to help families connect for play-dates over the summertime.
Connect with someone new! And it could also be a great way to make new friends. There will be new AISB families arriving in Bamako this summer; if your children would be interested in meeting new friends before the school year begins, please indicate this in your email. You’ll be helping new families get to know this great community.
If you would like to be included in the AISB Summer Directory, send an email to Ms. Wilma (email@example.com), with the information below.
We will share the Summer Directory only with other parents on the list.
To be included in the Summer Directory, please send the following information to Ms. Wilma (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Names and grades of your children
Dates you would interested in arranging play dates
Your summer contact email and phone numbers
Whether you would be interested in contacting, or being contacted by, new AISB families interested in getting children together to play.
From the French Cinema Class
The French Cinema class has been studying various cinematographic techniques such as camera positioning and movement, sequencing, editing, and sound effects. As final project, they produced imaginary movie trailers, porters and synopsis. We think their work is terrific and we’re glad to share some samples with you. Check out the links below!
The library has received nearly 1,000 fabulous new books recently. Students and staff were excited to preview them on Monday and Tuesday and many already know which ones they want to borrow! We had a bit of a problem entering the new books into the library catalogue system, but it has been resolved.
Official checkout for books is today Thursday starting at 7:00 am! Come have a look!
BYOD- Which type of laptop should I get?
In 2017-18, the secondary school will continue the Bring Your Own Device program (BYOD). With a device that they are completely familiar with and control, student learning can happen anytime and anywhere; there are more opportunities for choice in the timing, mode (offline and online, applications used), location and pathways for learning. Please follow these broad guidelines:
Each student in Grades 6 - 12 should be provided with a personal laptop
The laptop should be no more than three years old
Chromebooks, netbooks and tablets and smartphones are not suitable alternatives
Either Apple or Microsoft Windows as your operating system; this could depend on what other devices in your household use. Having the English version is easier for us to support.
The minimum technical specifications for new devices are:
Intel i5 / 1.6GHz processor (or AMD equivalent)
4Gb of RAM (8GB is better)
50Gb of available storage
Camera and microphone
Battery with 5 - 6 hours life
Windows (8.1 or 10) / Mac OSX (El Capitan or Sierra); English version is preferred
Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint minimum)
Internet security software (eg Kaspersky, Bit Defender, F-Secure)
Other accessories to consider:
Portable hard disk drive, for backing up and archiving files
Sturdy case for transporting the laptop to school, and between classes
Extra power adapter
A way to personalise the laptop and make it easier to identify eg protective skins, keyboard covers
Some examples of laptops that meet our minimum requirements are shown below; this is not an endorsement for any particular model. The prices listed were taken from CDW (www.cdw.com) on May 2, 2017. It is certainly worth considering devices that exceed our minimum requirements, as they are more likely to be able to keep up with changing demands of operating systems and software for a longer period of time. If you would like advice about a specific model of laptop, please feel free to contact the Technology Department.
Project Based learning at AISB
Project based learning lets students learn, and apply their learning, in authentic and real-world ways. In education contexts, a “project” is a multi-faceted, complex problem that needs to be solved, using skills and understandings student have developed in the classroom. Projects typically involve research, experimentation and practical skills, along with a wide range of problem-solving skills, and skills in communication and collaboration. They are seldom confined to single discipline, but instead require students to apply their knowledge across several disciplines.
Project-based learning experiences empower students in several ways. First, these projects help students recognize that we build knowledge and skills by tackling, not avoiding, complex problems. Because projects are complex and multifaceted, they lend themselves to differentiation, allowing students to exercise and build upon their individual talents and interests.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, projects of this sort help students see themselves as active, effective participants in society, whose work can have real impact in the world.
AISB students participate in many cross-curricular and problem based projects this year. Below are a few samples of their work.
If you click the links associated with The Rabitat, The Invention Convention and The Biathlon, you'll find descriptions of exactly how these projects happened. The descriptions will give you a bit of a sense of exactly how broad and complex these projects are.
AISB Community Garden Extension: Becoming stewards of the environment
Here we see the sixth graders helping the first graders plant their potato seedlings in the community garden that the sixth graders dugout themselves.
Elementary Soccer Tournament: Bringing students together
The Elementary Soccer Tournament was a great success!
Valuing -- and teaching -- “Mother Tongue”
At AISB we celebrate the beautiful diversity of our student population. We build our common ground, and we treasure our differences; and the community works hard to integrate the many cultures, languages, and perspectives your children bring to school each day. English is the language of instruction at AISB, but we speak many languages here.
And your child’s language development does not end with the school day!
Support your child’s “Mother Tongue” In the classroom, teachers make a point of encouraging students to make connections between their languages, to share insights and idioms of their home culture, and explore many ways of understanding the world. But you are your child’s first and most important language teacher; and if your child’s first language is not English, then development of his or her first language, or “mother tongue” will, by necessity, happen mostly at home.
We encourage families to support their children in using, and continuing to develop, their mother tongue at home.
First Language fluency is key Fluency in their mother tongue is an important part of children’s linguistic development.
There was a time when families were encouraged to speak “English only” with their children who were learning in English-language schools. It was thought that this would encourage the children to recognize the importance of the new language. But it is now well demonstrated in education that fluency in our first language is essential for success in learning a second language.
In fact, without a solid foundation in their mother tongue, students may struggle to learn a second language. For this reason, it is important that you speak to your child in the language you both know best. Children should read in their mother tongue as well!
Your children’s first language is part of their identity. It is also essential for students to recognize that their mother tongue is important in the world, and that it is beautiful, an essential part of themselves, and one of the keys with which they will unlock the world of meaning around them.
By celebrating mother tongue at home, you help your child embrace his or her cultural heritage.
Connect with other speakers of your Mother Tongue A good way for your child to continue Mother Tongue development is to connect with other speakers of the same language. A common language is a great foundation for building friendships! If you would like to connect with families who speak the same Mother Tongue, we encourage you to do so.
Many AISB families already do this already, but there may be others who are seeking families to connect with, especially amongst families new to the community. If you are interested in meeting with families who speak your mother tongue, please contact the school and we will be glad to connect you with other interested families.
If you are already meeting and would like to become a contact person, please contact us so that we can put others into communication with you!
And during the summer…. Lastly, as you head into the summer months, we would like to remind you that your home and surrounding environment teaches your child about who they are, and there a few things you can do to make your home a literacy-rich environment. A few summer reading tips:
Surround your child with opportunities to put their hands and eyes on books, magazines, and other print material -- in English and in their mother tongue! -- as well as paper, pencils, pens, and art supplies.
Read, read, read! Make it a daily habit. The more your child reads, the more she or he is exposed to new vocabulary and ideas.
Read in the various languages of your family, and also read in English.
Encourage your child to find books that make them feel like confident readers. Children will enjoy books that they can understand and that interest them.
Let them see you enjoy reading and writing.
Have fun! Make reading a loving, enjoyable experience, not a chore.
If you have questions about mother tongue literacy at home please be in touch with us. Drop by, or email Ms. Kourtney, email@example.com. We hope to hear from you soon!
AISB Supports Mother Tongue Learning! AISB’s core language arts program is of course supportive of learners who speak English as their mother tongue. But, unusually for an international school, we also offer French for French-first-language speakers within our core program, from Kindergarten to grade 12.
We have a warm and long-standing relationship of mutual support with our Dutch speaking families, that sees Dutch language instruction hosted after school on campus through the Zandloper school.
We have at times worked with other groups to support mother tongue instruction for their children, by collaborating to find interested parents to be able to offer after-school language instruction on campus. We can help identify interested parents, facilitate communication and offer material support-- for example, by including the program within our after school program and/or offering classroom space to run the classes in.
Let’s work together! If you are interested in working with us to set up classes or other kinds of in-school mother tongue support for students, please be in touch! We’ll be glad to hear from you. Contact Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yay Literacy Day!
Literacy Day 2017 was a huge success! Thank you to all the parents and family members who joined us in the library to talk about literacy at home, and who took the time to read with their children. Anyone walking into the library could feel the excitement and warmth, and this is the feeling we want students to associate with reading and writing.
From the Elementary - Homework and Learning at AISB
There is a lot of pleasure to be had in seeing our children seated quietly at the kitchen table thinking, writing, responsibly doing their homework -- and then announcing with satisfaction, “There! Done!” Helping your children with their homework can be a great satisfaction, and also a great opportunity to learn about what’s going on in school.
Homework involves the whole family But every child’s home situation is different, and every family has a different approach to homework and different beliefs about the role and importance of homework in the family’s daily life. For some families, working together in the evenings is an important and long-established family tradition. For others, evenings are when the family enjoys other kinds of learning and family time. Some see homework as a way for their child to learn responsibility while others see it as interfering with their child’s learning of other important things.
And in either case, homework can sometimes become the dreaded late-night “tears at the table”, when everybody’s too tired, and the only thing learned is that schooling can be a source of frustration. Many parents get tired of reminding their kids to “just get it done.” Sometimes children can place a mistakenly high value on homework, and worry too much about “getting it all right” -- which can be hard to do when the teacher’s not there to clarify things. A child like this might struggle for an hour or more on an assignment intended to take fifteen minutes.This can lead to added pressure for students and parents, that can actually interfere with children’s willingness to learn.
Some children love the routine and sense of accomplishment they get from practicing their learning at home. Other children have worked and played hard all day; they did their learning during class, and are too tired to write a paragraph after dinner.
Your child may be any of these -- or several of them, depending on the day.
All of this suggests strongly that a one-size-fits-all approach to homework will not be effective in a school that values the individual child.
But isn’t homework good for students? Actually, the research is quite clear: statistically, “homework for homework’s sake” has little or no benefit on student learning at the Elementary school level. The benefits of traditional homework --worksheets, endless practice problems, and so on -- have more to do with providing structure for children who need it, and encouraging students to “get used to the idea” that they should be doing school work outside of school time. There is some indication that added practice benefits student learning, in some areas, but nothing to suggest that this practice needs to happen at home, rather than at school.
Every learner -- every child-- is different. At AISB we recognize that every child is different. In fact, some Elementary students love their homework (we suspect these are the ones who will grow up to be teachers!), and benefit from it. Most children will benefit from homework occasionally, especially if that homework is designed to target their individual and specific learning needs.
Learning is for life, and balanced school-learning and home-learning is important to a learner’s development. At AISB we want students to love learning, and to enjoy practicing what they have learned and sharing their learning with their parents and families. We also want students to understand that learning doesn’t stop when school stops; and we recognize that there is more to learn in life than the things we teach in school.
For this reason, we take an individualized approach to homework for our students in Elementary. We plan learning to ensure that, most of the time, your child does the learning and gets the regular practice she or he needs during school time. Where it seems that practice outside school will benefit the child, we assign it.
Good Homework We don’t eschew homework entirely: indeed, home learning is part of learning throughout Elementary. In particular, reading at home can be a big contributor to young children’s developing literacy, and Elementary teachers encourage students and families to make reading a regular and enjoyable part of their evening routine.
Depending on grade level, your child may quite frequently have “home assignments” that are learning of a sort that is best done at home, and that will help her or him apply and practice skills they have learned, or extend their learning meaningfully. Interviewing a grandparent, reading to a younger sibling, investigating garden plants, reading a good book, writing in a journal, playing math games -- these are examples of the kind of meaningful, appropriate home-learning work that will benefit most children’s growth.
And you can help, too. Inviting your child to make the shopping list, read to a younger sibling, explain the weather, tell the time on an analog clock, make a vacation plan, figure out the cost of lunch at a restaurant, write a letter to Auntie to plan a visit -- these are ways your child can apply, practice and extend her learning in real ways that help her recognize that her learning is useful (otherwise, why do it?), and let her know that you also recognize the real contribution her learning makes to the family.
Homework that does not benefit learning does not benefit your child. At AISB Elementary, we do not give students assignments that demand that they master new material outside of school time, and we do not, as a rule, assign “busy work” -- that is, unnecessary practice or assignments-- unless we have reason to believe that a child will benefit from and enjoy it. Unnecessary practice, pointless repetition and “make-work” activities can have the unintended effect of encouraging students to focus less during school time, since they know they will have to spend time doing the same thing after school anyway.
Homework, where it is assigned, should be engaging and worthwhile without requiring students to struggle alone, or requiring parents to become tutors. We work to ensure that the homework assignments we give are, to quote respected researcher Cathy Vatterott, “purposeful, efficient, personalized, doable, and inviting.”
Vatterott also stresses the importance of communication between students, parents and teachers about homework. We try to work with each child’s particular learning needs, as we try to leave time for families of young children to be together, without the added pressure of “but I have to do my homework.” And we encourage all our families to be in touch with us whenever they have information that can help us help their children’s learning.
For a great overview of the the homework discussion in education and elsewhere, Cathy Vatterott’s book Rethinking Homework: Best practices that support diverse needs (2009). You might also want to check out her influential Homework Bill of Rights for Families.
Towards student empowerment and standards-based grading at AISB
“I can do this part really well, but I can’t do this other part -- yet.”
There are many reasons for schools to move toward a standards-based grading system. We’ve discussed some of these in previous editions of this newsletter, and we’d like to share with you a great overview article, that summarizes the difficulties with “traditional” letter grades and the benefits of standards-based systems.
The Standards at AISB A standards-based approach has increasingly guided classroom instruction at AISB since our last accreditation visit in 2011.
At that time, the school adopted AERO standards for its core program. AERO (since renamed “AERO Common Core Plus”), developed specifically for international schools, were the progenitor of the American Common Core Standards and offer strong alignment with other good standards world-wide. Along with AERO, AISB has since adopted ACTFL standards for World Languages, NCCAS standards for visual and performing arts and, in the new year, will adopt SHAPE standards for physical education. No set of standards fits any school perfectly; where necessary we draw upon NGSS (Common Core) standards for Science, and we are currently examining the revised ISTE standards to guide our technology and communications curriculum.
Adopting a set of standards is an intensive process that requires teachers to examine both the foundations of the standards and the detailed particulars, and then compare these with the needs of our students and our community, the aims of the program, and the Mission and Values of the school. Most organizations that write standards advocate an “adopt and adapt” model, in which schools adopt a standards framework, and then adapt the particulars as needed and appropriate for their school’s context. This is how we work at AISB. It’s a rigorous process, during which teachers build deep understandings of the program vision and the standards themselves, and make detailed plans for how the standards will be taught.
Empowering Students Once standards are in place, a school can use them to empower student learners. When students know exactly what knowledge, understandings and skills they are expected to demonstrate, they have a better idea of how to invest their learning time. Even more importantly, standards allow students to understand their own learning clearly and in detail. Knowing what they’re good at in one discipline allows students to apply that same strength in another. And even better, instead of leaving a student to feel, discouraged, that he’s “ just not good at math”, understanding the standards lets a student recognize exactly what he can and can’t do.
A student who can say “I can do this, and this part here; I can’t do this other part yet, but here’s what I’m doing to get better at it” -- is an empowered learner.