It has been my great honor and privilege to lead the ISW Middle School Division in its pursuit of academic excellence and wholistic development. Over the past two years we have seen many incredibly positive additions and changes in the MS academic program, and already have exciting plans in store for the future. Alongside an amazing group of talented teachers; our middle school curriculum, technology and resources can now support the vast needs of students from a multitude of nationalities, cultures and English language abilities.. As we look to the future, our hope is to continually improve the current services we have, increase the unique educational opportunities and activities we provide our students, while maintaining the family environment that make ISW the best educational option for students in Wuxi, China.
Middle School Principal
The ISW curriculum provides a holistic program that balances the development of concepts, skills and character. Our approach focuses on the total growth of the developing child addressing social, physical, emotional and cultural needs in addition to academic welfare.
Our program focuses on guided inquiry, collaboration and communication as approaches to teaching and learning to provide an environment that fosters the development of problem solving and critical thinking as well as subject competencies.
The subjects of Language Arts, History, Geography, Science, and Mathematics are taught by the classroom teacher. Whenever possible, transdisciplinary links are made across subjects to maximize learning connections.
Chinese, PE, Music and Visual Arts are taught by Specialists to form a comprehensive, varied and rich Lower School experience. Technology is used as a tool that enhances and broadens the scope and quality of student learning.
The language of instruction is English, with additional support for non-English speakers.
ISW’s middle school science classes are based on an Integrated Science Curriculum. From 6th, through 8th grade students study Earth, Physical, and Life Science. Through the understanding of each of these fields students are able to gain an greater understanding of the structure of the world around them. Each grade level allows for deeper understanding based on previously learned knowledge. During these courses students also learn the Scientific Method and put their learning to practice through labs and other science projects.
Through our English Language Arts and Social Sciences programs ISW combines literature and histories to cover an overall study of humanities. The History and Social Science portion begins in 6th grade coving world geography, this allows students to gain and understanding of the world layout, cultures, and people groups. Students then can build on this framework knowledge in 7th grade studying the ancient world and civilizations. In 8th grade the focus shifts to modern history and government. On the English Language Arts side students focus on writing Narratives, Informational Pieces, and Persuasive/Argumentative Pieces. This gives students a foundational framework for composing written language that prepares them for high school course work. The students also read through fiction and non-fiction. Through all the Language Arts courses speaking and listening skills are being practiced and perfected.
6th grade math combines the practice of foundational math skills with an exploration of basic pre-algebraic and geometric concepts. Topics include: whole number operations, decimal, and fraction computation; variables and variable expressions; data displays; probability; integers; congruence; similarity; and geometric figures.
In 7th grade, students begin Pre-Algebra by reviewing negative numbers and variables. The focus of the course then shifts to solving equations, beginning with simple one-step equations and building to more complex, multi-step equations. Additional topics include fractions, rates, ratios, proportions, and percentages, with an emphasis on the inclusion of variables. To prepare students for Algebra, we cover linear equations and basic graphing techniques.
In 8th grade, Algebra I builds on the work accomplished in Pre-Algebra. Students explore increasingly complex linear functions and equation manipulation. Students also explore exponential and quadratic equations, FOILing and factoring, properties of exponents, some basics in trigonometry.
Students have the opportunity to learn and begin to apply a variety of techniques including but not limited to: sketching, perspective, shading, color theory, still life, anime, and acrylic painting. Students will also learn about different artist and some art history as they explore what it means to be an artist.
Middle School is a time of self-exploration when students often come out of their shells, embracing opportunities for expression and attention. The opposite is also true, with introverts sometimes shying away from the spotlight. Middle School students may choose between choir and band, and also have the option of taking Theatre. The middle school performing arts program builds upon the knowledge learned in Lower School, while beginning to delve into greater depth in and instrumental repertoire.
Overall, it is our goal that Middle School students graduate to the High School as self-sufficient musicians with a knowledge of instrumental technique and an appreciation of the work it takes to produce a unified performance.
The middle school physical education program gives our students a physical outlet during the school day and teaches them foundational skills for participation in competitive and recreational athletics at ISW including soccer, volleyball, basketball, track and field, tennis and lacrosse.
Classes are held in the school gymnasium and the outdoor turf field at ISW. The goal of the middle school PE program is to create an inclusive atmosphere where students can participate in new sports and build the confidence to take part in ISW sports at a competitive level.
At ISW we understand all too well that living abroad and going to school away from home and old friends can be challenging for children of all ages. The difficulties they struggle with are not always visible or clearly expressed. If not addressed, this can affect their behavior as well as their academic performance.
Our school counselor, Ms. Lianne Ong, meets with students who may be having emotional or social difficulties and help determine the best courses of action, which may include a recommendation of counseling. Conversations are confidential. Counselors are available on campus to individuals or groups of students for discussion of problems relating to emotional growth, social adjustment, academic achievement or any other issue.
Appointments may be made by emailing or visiting Ms. Ong.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE SUPPORT
The Middle School has developed a multi-track program to effectively accommodate students’ varying English language support needs. The entire program is based on the WiDA English Language Standards that are well-known and effectively used in international schools around the world. These standards address a student’s ability to read, write, speak and listen, using the English language.
Through the WiDA English Score students are placed into the following tracks
- Grades 6, 7, & 8
- English Proficiency Above a Score of 5.0
- Little to No Language Support
ELL Support Track
- Grades 6, 7, & 8 (as staff allows)
- English Proficiency Within a Score of 4.0 – 4.9 Level
- Generally Push-in Support with Pull-Out Support When Needed
IET Support Track
- Grades 6, 7*, & 8**
- English Proficiency Within a Score of 1.0 – 3.9
- Entirely Pull-Out Support and Modified Curriculum
MS. LIANNE ON
ADDITIONAL PROGRAM FEATURES
For decades, ISW students have been invigorated by language education, with past students using their language skills in many areas from diplomacy, law and education to international trade, marketing and banking and finance.
The English language is central to the way in which students understand, critique and appreciate their world, and to the ways in which they participate socially, economically and culturally in society. The study of English encourages the development of literate individuals capable of critical and imaginative thinking, aesthetic appreciation and creativity, as well as productive participation in a democratic society in the 21st Century. Through the English curriculum and our literacy program, which begins in the ECC, students initially focus on spelling and word study, phonemic awareness and handwriting, which leads into the key discipline concepts of texts and language, and the many dimensions of reading, writing, speaking and listening that develop as students progress through their schooling.
CHINESE LANGUAGE & CULTURE
Although the study of English and the ongoing development of important literacy skills are fundamental elements of the curriculum, our students are also part of the global dialogue where multiple languages are advantageous. As an American school with an international perspective, we believe that a strong language program enhances the educational journey and encourages our students to develop alternative perspectives, cultural understanding and empathy.
Beginning in kindergarten, Middle School students have the opportunity to study Mandarin. There are three main goals for Middle School students interested in learning Mandarin: 1) Building up a strong foundation of high-frequency vocabulary. Frequent and consistent exposure to high frequency vocabulary greatly increases the comfort level of students as they begin to communicate in a new language. 2) Working on the basic grammar rules, sentence structure, and discourse patterns. Chinese can seem very intimidating to students when they first begin learning the language; however, the introduction of common sentence patterns coupled with frequent practice in relevant contexts can greatly increase the rate at which students develop language proficiency. 3) Developing cultural knowledge and global awareness. Lastly, a critical goal for lower school students in the Mandarin classroom is to provide opportunities to understand the similarities and differences between their own culture and that of various Chinese populations around the world. Students have the opportunity to go on field trips, eat new foods, learn about daily life for students their own age in China and learn about and celebrate the various important Chinese holidays.
At ISW, we see technology as a tool that supports a school community and facilitates learning. We recognize the enormous potential of modern technology to enhance and enrich learning, and are committed to preparing our children to be successful in a society permeated with technology.
As an important tool, both inside and outside of the classroom, students use technology to inquire, communicate and safely take risks. Through our technology program, we ensure that every student in our community has access to campus and worldwide electronic resources, enhanced classrooms and a learning management system employed by higher education institutions. These tools encourage students to adopt and employ technology during their tenure at ISW, preparing them for college and professional environments as true digital citizens.
Every building on the campus is connected to our data networks allowing students to wirelessly access electronic material in all academic and community spaces. School bandwidth has significantly increased over the past few years to better support classroom initiatives, cloud computing, multimedia and improve the overall student experience. In accordance with our standards, students must abide by acceptable use policies and guidelines found in the school handbook. To help encourage these standards our network is regularly monitored and acceptable barriers have been put in place for the safety of our students.
The focus of the Middle School 1:1 iPad program at ISW is to provide the necessary tools and resources for a progressive learning environment, characterized by flexibility, collaboration, personalization, creativity, and technology-rich learning. At ISW, technology will be integrated throughout the educational program in a seamless and timely fashion. The 1:1 iPad setting empowers middle school students and teachers to use technology like adults do in the real world, accessing and using purposeful technology-based tools anytime a task calls for them. The question is no longer what technology programs do the students need to learn, but how can we teach students to evaluate the tasks given and choose technology resources that is appropriate for the task. Particular programs will always be changing, but learning how to adapt to the resources available is a skill that can be used throughout a lifetime.
The International School of Wuxi library is a vibrant, welcoming environment for students, staff and parents to enjoy for recreational and educational purposes and is specifically organized to service our diverse school community. We strive to ensure that not only are learning needs met but also that every child feels valued and happy. Our Library resources support the teaching of the curriculum and develop our student's interests and hobbies. Incorporating the use of iPads for searching the library databases, library lessons are also linked to the curriculum and teach essential information skills for 21st Century learning.
Our Library Strives:
- To ensure learners grow as competent, ethical users and producers of ideas and information.
- To prepare life-long learners who are effective communicators, critical researchers and problem solvers.
- To collaborate and share with audiences beyond our school walls.
- To model our school’s mission and support learners in the pursuit of aesthetic growth and personal learning pathways.
To this end, a collection of books has been developed to support teaching and learning activities. Chinese books have also been acquired to support language learning. In addition, we have a collection of e-resources including online newspapers and magazines, which children can access on their iPads. We use a color code system to help our English language learners to find books with more ease and encourage families to donate fiction and nonfiction books in Japanese, Chinese and Korean to help round out our diverse collection.
Our library sponsors a year-long reading incentive program to encourage all students to go beyond homework assignments and read for fun. Awareness of a variety of books, school library materials and reinforcement of language learning are a few of the goals anchored in the reading program.
This year’s theme is “The Great Book Adventure” and each participating student is given a game board to represent each level in the game showing how many pages they have read and how many books they have completed. Students are also encouraged to take challenges by reading a specific genre, completing creative activities and taking comprehension quizzes. Students receive prizes to reward their success when reaching their reading goals.
We are constantly seeking to strengthen our partnership with parents and one of the ways we do this is through reporting to parents and actively involving parents in their children’s learning.
At the start of the year, we have orientation sessions for both new and returning families. This is an opportunity for parents to meet the new class teacher and to find out about the year group routines, special events and expectations. We also have more formal Parent Teacher Conferences in the fall and again in the spring. This is an opportunity for parents to meet with their child’s class teacher on an individual basis and review their child’s learning and next steps. Progress Reports are written at the end of the first semester and all children receive a summative report in June.
Although there are many structured opportunities for parents to meet with teachers, parents can also make appointments with teachers throughout the year to discuss their concerns.
PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES
As a ISW, we plan specific days within the school calendar for conferences to be held as we believe it is important to communicate with families. The fall and spring conferences are all day events and allow for families to schedule 20-minute conferences with their teacher in Middle School. Special area teacher conferences are 15 minutes and can be scheduled separately. Phone conferences are a possibility on these days, as some families may have difficulty scheduling time to leave work/commitments to travel to school.
- In the weeks ahead of a conference, check in with kids about how they're doing on homework and in each subject. Review homework and any recent projects, tests, quizzes, report cards, or progress reports.
- Ask if there are questions or issues your child wants you to discuss with the teacher.
- Plan to bring something to take notes with (paper and pen or a laptop or other device).
- Share a few things about your child with the teacher — interests, strengths, favorite subjects — to help the teacher know your child better.
- Write down questions or topics you'd like the conference to cover. Depending on your situation, you may want to ask about:
- whether your child is meeting grade-level expectations (not how he or she compares with peers)
- educational testing if your child is struggling
- what the teacher sees as your child's strengths and challenges and how these are being addressed
- other services to help your child grow as a learner
- making a plan to check in regularly if there are any learning or behavior problems
- your child's work habits, independently and in large- and small-group instruction
- how your child gets along with other students in class and during lunch, recess, phys-ed, and other classes
PowerSchool is the most widely used web-based student information system, supporting 10 million students over 65 countries. Benefits for parents and students include: real-time grades, attendance, comments, assignments, scores and much more…right from the teacher’s gradebook directly to students and parents.
The best learning is active and engaged. It can be found in ordinary places. Take our open gym nights or our Middle School dance troupe practices, for example. These activities energize students and help them to see the holistic connections between mind, body, and spirit. Activities outside the classroom are not merely add-ons to the core curriculum. They are a continuous enrichment, a way to sustain and deepen learning.
At ISW we believe that co-curricular activities are an important part of education that extends beyond the classroom. Co-curricular activities provides motivation for learning, character building, physical growth ad creativity while developing confidence and educating the whole child. Students are encouraged to participate and explore all opportunities that interest them. Students who are involved in Co-curricular opportunities become more invested in the school experience, therefore increasing the opportunity for higher academic performance and social well-being.