ISY Elementary School Faculty Blog

Something to think about for next year…

Mike Simpson

April 30, 2021

This is copied directly from Marshall Memo 884: A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education, April 26, 2021. We might not know what next year will look like yet but I found this useful in helping me think about what we should focus on…

Priorities for Dealing with Unfinished Learning in Math and ELA

With an eye to closing significant learning gaps in the wake of school closures and hybrid instruction, this paper by Harold Asturias, Phil Daro, Judy Elliott, and Lily Wong Filmore from the Council of the Great City Schools, has specific suggestions on the most important mathematics concepts and skills for these key transitions:

  • To grade 3 (page 11-12 in the link below)
  • To grade 6 (page 13-14)
  • To algebra I (page 15-17)
  • From algebra I to geometry (page 17-19)

The authors also have suggestions for priorities in English language arts for these transitions:

  • To grade 3 (page 21-27)
  • To grade 6 (page 27-32)
  • To grade 9 (page 33-38)

In addition, Asturias, Daro, Elliott, and Filmore make strong recommendations on how educators should handle unfinished learning as schools emerge from the pandemic:

  • Stick to grade-level content and instructional rigor. There will be a tendency to immediately identify deficits and reteach/remediate. “According to research,” say the authors, “both are largely ineffective practices, resulting in student disengagement with school and greater inequities in access to grade-level instruction and educational opportunity.” Instead, teachers should move ahead with the grade’s curriculum, scaffolding and addressing learning gaps as needed. “This daily reengagement of prior knowledge in the context of grade-level assignments will add up over time,” they say, “resulting in more-functional learning than if we resort to watered down instruction or try to reteach topics out of context.” 
  • Focus on the depth of instruction, not on the pace. Similarly, there will be a tendency to rush to cover all the gaps in learning from the 2020-21 school year. But that will mean “rushing ahead of many students, leaving them abandoned and discouraged,” say the authors. “It will also feed students a steady diet of curricular junk food: shallow engagement with the content, low standards for understanding, and low cognitive load – all bad learning habits to acquire.” This will be especially inappropriate at a time when schools need to attend to students’ social and emotional wellbeing. The authors say that “taking the time to provide patient, in-depth instruction allows for issues related to unfinished learning to arise naturally when dealing with new content, allowing for just in time instruction and reengagement of students in the context of grade-level work.”
  • Prioritize content and learning. Teachers need guidance on “where to invest their time and effort, what areas can be cut, and where they should teach only to awareness level to save time for priorities,” say the authors. This will allow teachers to slow down and take the time to fill gaps – in context – and allow for the kind of “constructive struggle” that will build students’ confidence and understanding. Curriculum leaders should not be asking what needs to be covered at each grade level, but rather, What is the importance and purpose of this topic? See the full text below for specific suggestions at several strategic points in the math and ELA curriculum. 
  • Ensure inclusion of ELLs and students with disabilities. The authors caution against excessive pullout of these students for remediation, advocating instead for including them in Tier 1 instruction and having them present in regular classes at least 80 percent of the day. They advocate building unit and lesson plans guided by an asset-based approach and universal design for learning (UDL). Now more than ever, they say, “it is essential to ensure that each and every student has equitable access to engaging grade-level content and instructional rigor.” To support this, families need to be informed of the curriculum expectations and how they can support learning at home. 
  • Identify and address gaps in learning through instruction, avoiding the misuse of standardized testing. “The first instinct of many districts will be to immediately test students upon their return to school in order to gauge their academic levels and needs,” say the authors. “This would be a mistake for many reasons” – especially if it results in achievement grouping and lower expectations for students who have fallen behind. The authors say the priority in the opening weeks should be on helping students reacclimate to school, rebuild relationships and trust, and gain a level of self-confidence. From the beginning, the priority needs to be “strong, attentive instruction, with embedded formative assessment,” responding to students’ needs in real time in the context of grade-level instruction. Several weeks along, diagnostic assessments can serve as “temperature checks” to identify key areas that will need attention.
  • Capitalize on people’s shared experience during the crisis. Some students will reenter school with significant trauma as well as unfinished learning, say the authors. But they contend that educators should focus on the commonalities of the pandemic. “The virus, school closures, social distancing, and nationwide protests have created new common experiences that can serve as the basis for work across subjects in the first weeks of school,” they say. “This will allow schools and teachers to reengage students, directly address student and adult hardship, stress, or trauma, and resume instruction in a way that feels contextualized and responsive, helping students comprehend the world around them.” Every subject area – science, ELA, math, social studies, and more – can be part of this effort.

“Addressing Unfinished Learning After Covid-19 School Closures” by Harold Asturias, Phil Daro, Judy Elliott, and Lily Wong Filmore, Council of the Great City Schools, Council of the Great City Schools, June 2020, spotted in “Using Feedback to Support Students’ Critical Learning” by Cathy Martin in Mathematics Teacher: Learning & Teaching PK-12, April 2021 (Vol. 114, #4, pp. 266-268)


IMPORTANT: In the last couple of days we have had a few parents tell us that they are moving into time zones that do not work for synchronous learning. We expect that more students will move into such time zones during up until the end of the Quarter.

These students will still get their work from their current synchronous classes but Jordan (Grades 4 & 5) and Mike (Grades 2 & 3) will meet with them online during the week to help them with the work.

This is manageable if we do the following important steps:

1. Grade 2-5 students will get all assignments from Google Classroom.

2. All assignments must include simple instructions on how to do the assignment plus links to all online resources that they will need to complete it. These do not need to be long – simple is best.

3. Specialists are also to post what they are doing each week to Google Classroom as an assignment. 

4. Please post assignments in this manner from next week.

Because of this change, we will not be requiring learning summaries on Fridays in Quarter 4. We will just send out a short email with the offline learning activities attached. If we do not need to use our current offline learning activities, we will need to update our offline activities for Friday, April 23.

5. Homeroom teachers within the same grade level should be assigning the same assignments to make this easier on students from different classes to work together with Jordan and Mike.

This quarter’s interdisciplinary theme is PARTNERSHIPS.

Here is a link to a summary of the PK-1, 2-3, and 4-5 Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions that we will use to connect learning in all subjects.

Here is a link to the Q4 PARTNERSHIPS SCOPE & SEQUENCE document from which all planning will be linked. Please complete this scope and sequence for your grade level by the end of Friday, April 9. It is ok if you are finishing up Quarter 3 up until Friday, April 9.

We have purposefully chosen EUs and EQs that allow teachers in all subjects to focus on whatever skills and knowledge that you feel the students need to either learn or revise before the year ends.

In all grade levels we are basically focusing on partnerships and how we work together and this interdisciplinary focus can be maintained while teaching anything. This will minimize the need for interdisciplinary planning meetings and detailed scope and sequences.

On Monday, we will provide more guidance on how we can record our planning. For now, just think about how you can incorporate a partnership theme into your subject over this last quarter.

HERE is a link to a folder with all of the slides that were created for Quarter 4 last year. These may or may not be of use this year. 


If you have any student (or students) that you would like me to recognise for living the ISY Attributes send me an email with a sentence about why they are to be recognised and a time that I could come on Zoom and say hi. Any time or day is OK – If I have a meeting I’ll suggest another time until we get one that works. I will jump on your Zoom and then I’ll get you to put the student or student(s) into a break out room with me. I’ll have a chat with them and take a screenshot that I will send to their parents.


ABC Schedule: Wednesday, May 5

On Wednesday afternoons, Grade 1 to 5 students will get to choose two fun activities to do. They will be able to choose between fun Art, Body (PE), and Communication (Technology) activities. 

Above in this Wednesday’s schedule. Students will click on the Zoom links in the activity description to join the activity. Homeroom teachers can share this schedule with their students however will be easiest for the students to join the activities. 


This week we have 3 separate share outs. Thank you to Darla, Diana, Thet Thet, and Jamie for sharing their ideas with us.

1. Supporting High Ability Learners

An important element of supporting high ability learners is recognizing twice exceptionality. Especially in international schools, many of our students are both high ability and language learners in academic English. When kids have confidence in their understanding of concepts but lack confidence to communicate their understanding, we as educators can miss out on chances to offer needed support. The following article is specifically about supporting students’ oral language skills and planning for talk time.

Supporting Gifted English Language Learners’ Oral Language Skills

2. Master IN, ON, AT in 30 Minutes: Simple Method to Use Prepositions of TIME & PLACE Correctly

Implementing grammar lessons with videos can make learning grammar fun and less tedious. provides a clear explanation on the use of prepositions AT, ON, and IN  in relation to time and place. The duration of the video is 34 minutes and 29 seconds, which is too long to be shown in one session, so dividing the video to more than one viewing is recommended. The first part consists of an explanation of when to use each preposition and after 6:34, prepositional phrases with these prepositions are illustrated. This last part is long and can be used for another day along with a writing assignment. This video may not appeal to younger students for its minimum animation. It is recommended for students grade 4 and higher. 

Video: Master IN, ON, AT in 30 Minutes: Simple Method to Use Prepositions of TIME & PLACE Correctly:

3. Wordwall – Create Custom Games and Activities Quicker 

All students are being provided with an education, but with differing learning styles, students are not always getting the instruction that fits best. One way to enhance instruction for all learners is through the use of an interactive game created appropriately. Games can be used not only to help motivate students but also as a great way to focus on a specific skill.  

Wordwall can be used to create both interactive games and printable activities. Interactive activities can be played individually or multiplayer by students, or be teacher-led. Multiplayer is a format where all students join the same game simultaneously, each on their own device. The teacher can control the flow of the game.

Custom interactive activities can be easily created using a template system with a total of 18 to choose from in only a couple of minutes on the free basic plan. Once an activity is created, you can switch to a different template with a single click saving time and is great for differentiation and reinforcement.  More than 10 million pre-made activities are made public in Community. If you find an activity but it’s not quite right, you can easily customize the material to suit your class and your teaching style. The free basic plan includes all the available features and is accessible to the pre-made activities, however, limits the number of interactives to 18 templates and resources you can create. You can upgrade to Standard or Pro and create interactives using up to 33 templates.

Students Leaving Yangon

If you become aware of a student who is planning to leave, please email Patty, Nimmi, and I and we will follow up with the parents. Please email us even if you have just heard this from the student and you are unsure if this is true.

Students withdrawing from ISY:

Students who are withdrawing from ISY are obviously no longer our responsibility from their date of withdrawal. These students will no longer be attending Zoom classes and teachers will no longer be providing feedback on their learning. These students will be removed from Powerschool.

However, given the extraordinary circumstances under which these families are leaving, we will keep them enrolled in our Seesaw and Google Classroom platforms until the end of the year. We will also keep them on other platforms such as RazKids. This will allow them to access learning should they wish to. This work is not for teachers to give feedback on and assess. We are unable to disable the chat and messaging functions of Seesaw and Google Classroom for individual students. We hope that this is not a distraction and if this becomes an issue with a withdrawn student, please let me know and I will reach out to the parents. 

These students will be asked to return their Chromebook or iPads and library books before they leave Yangon.

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