One of the most important aspects of the combined immersive bilingual and inquiry-based education at Silicon Valley International School (INTL) is that students can draw from their different linguistic repertoires to engage in discovery through multiple lenses via reading, writing, and researching. INTL provides students with opportunities to explore and wonder, and supports them to investigate, research, and initiate their own action on local and global issues. While the core curriculum remains, each year is different for both INTL teachers and students as they look for new ways to empower students in their own education.
Recently, INTL’s Chinese Program faculty spent a year specifically focusing the 1st-5th Grade curriculum on teaching reading and writing through a researcher's lens. Through reading and research, students studied content area topics. They would then write about their findings to further summarize and synthesize information and their own ideas. The process would then repeat as they discovered more information and knowledge. The researcher’s workshop, which is embedded in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Units of Inquiry, offers students opportunities to find information through reading both fictional and nonfictional texts, as well as gives explicit instruction on how to write narrative, informative, and opinion-based texts based on the writing progression framework. When doing research, students not only have their individual time for reading and writing, but also engage in purposeful talk and conversations with their peers and teachers. In this process, students develop a variety of strategies such as drawing, making, discussing, analyzing, paragraphing, and debating to construct new knowledge of and gain new insight and understanding into a variety of different perspectives. What does a research workshop look like in different grade levels? When visiting a 1st Grade classroom, one would notice that students were reading in Chinese about field trips to different places, such as zoos, parks, museums, and amusement parks. Through analyzing how different authors crafted their work and identifying the key elements in descriptive writing, students were able to connect the contexts with their own experiences, such as a field trip to Santa Cruz, in their narrative journals.
In a 3rd Grade classroom, students were curious about the Moon and how and why the phases of the Moon occur. They used their observation skills to record daily Moon phases and conduct experiments about the positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun that can cause the different phases. Then, through reading a variety of nonfiction texts about Moon exploration, working on paragraphing skills, and analyzing the structure of informative texts, students conclude their learning through researching and writing. At the end of the Unit of Inquiry students present their Moon Learning Reports in Chinese through informative writing and a created video which they show to their audience. In 5th Grade, while students were inquiring about different governing systems, they were evaluating evidence, investigating which systems are ideal while establishing their position on the topic in their argumentative writing. When connecting with Chinese history, some students found that they are interested in the rise and fall of the Qing Dynasty and started debating if the Qing Dynasty should have imposed a policy of self-isolation.
At INTL, we believe that when students think critically, they are analytical and reflective, and student agency and independent thinking thrive as students explore the world around them through a lens of researchers. By nurturing their curiosity and providing opportunities for exploration, INTL prepares students to thrive in a global society where bilingualism, research skills, and independent thinking are invaluable.