Elementary | Berkeley International School
Welcome to the Berkeley International School Elementary School! Berkeley’s Elementary is a close-knit community of learners. Our small classes and caring teachers are welcoming to all children and parents. Students are made to feel “part of the family” as soon as they arrive on campus. Our family atmosphere gives students the confidence to take risks and achieve excellence in all areas.
Our Elementary is dedicated to educating the whole child through fostering lifelong learning and healthy individual growth in a student-centered environment. This dedication can be seen both inside and outside of the classroom. Following the American Common Core Standards, we provide a rigorous program that is differentiated to challenge and meet the needs of all students. Classroom instruction is further extended to home through the use of specialized Internet reading and math resources. Periodic field trips are used to enhance and extend learning.
Beyond the classroom, we provide an extensive extra-curricular program full of activities ranging from Mandarin to Soccer to Yoga to Thai Dance. Through this program, our elementary is busy both during and after school.
Finally, we are fortunate to have such a strong Elementary School faculty. All of our teachers either hold or are pursuing advanced degrees in education. This makes for faculty who continually seek improvement and better ways to educate their children.
In first grade, students grow and change dramatically. Berkeley teachers strive to cultivate a climate of responsibility and ownership in their classrooms, working toward our Expected Schoolwide Learning Results (ESLR’s). Students develop as Effective Communicators, Independent Learners, and Global Citizens. Berkeley first grade teachers follow the American Common Core State Standards for language arts and math and the California State Standards for science, and social studies.
Literacy is a vital aspect of first grade, and in grade one, Berkeley students are busy developing as confident readers. First grade uses the Secret Stories phonics system to remember sound-spelling relationships. Each phonics pattern has a short, attention-grabbing story that serves as a mnemonic device and helps students to decode unfamiliar words. First grade also focuses on the most frequently occurring words in the English language, Dolch words. The students receive ample practice to eventually read and spell these essential words with ease.
Based on the A-Z Reading Running Records Assessment, Berkeley students are placed into guided reading groups. The first grade teachers meet with these small groups daily, which allows for individualized instruction according to their ability and specific needs. Guided reading lessons often focus on decoding and comprehension strategies, as well as fluency. While the teacher conducts guided reading lessons, the other students are highly engaged in hands-on literacy centers. These centers provide reinforcement and practice with an array of literacy skills including blends, sight words, and affixes.
It is not too early to learn comprehension strategies in the first grade. Within the first quarter, the students learn strategies such as visualizing, making predictions, and asking questions for clarification. Berkeley students also learn ways authors organize text and even their purpose for writing a particular book.
Setting a solid literacy foundation not only helps students to be successful in grade one, but also sets the stage for years to come. Developing strong literacy skills equips students to become life-long learners.
In first grade, students become more comfortable as early writers. They become accustomed to getting their thoughts and creative ideas written down in their journals, student-created books, and special writing projects. Berkeley’s first grade follows a workshop model of instruction.
Teachers have a short 10-15 minute mini lesson focusing on a target skill. Mini lessons may be about a multitude of important first grade writing concepts including using complete sentences, checking for punctuation, using adjectives, and adding interesting, supporting details to their writing. After the mini lesson, the teacher allows time for practice. While the students are writing, the teacher has conferences with individual students to highlight strengths and set personal writing goals. After the students write, they are given time to share their work with the rest of the class. The students are able to give each other feedback, stating what they think their peers are doing well.
First grade math consists of strengthening the students’ number sense and learning skills that are fundamental to all areas of math studied in the upcoming years. At Berkeley, first graders begin the year working with place value, learning exactly how many 100’s, 10’s, and 1’s are in any number. By the end of first grade, students master 1- and 2-digit addition and subtraction, learning to write and solve addition and subtraction sentences with numbers and pictures.
Strategies are taught to make memorizing facts easier. First graders also learn about data and graphs and spend time exploring patterns. They learn how to tell time using analogue and digital clocks, and review and expand upon the geometry they learned as kindergarteners. Students also learn about measurement and Thai currency. These key skills learned in first grade solidify a foundation that will assist with future mathematical reasoning.
First graders at Berkeley get the opportunity to become young scientists! By reviewing the scientific method frequently, students learn the process of investigating the world around them. They master the three states of matter, classifying objects as solids, liquids, and gasses. Students learn about living things, identifying their needs, habitats, and their importance in the world’s ecosystems.
First graders at Berkeley spend time learning about the weather; they learn to use simple tools to measure weather conditions and record changes; and they learn to compare Thailand’s three seasons to North America’s four seasons. The year ends with an exciting space unit. Exploration and building respect for the world around us is the aim of the first grade science program.
Learning social studies topics helps us to grow into effective global citizens. First graders begin the school year with the rule-making process, discussing classroom rules and learning what each aspect of the rules means. Students learn that in all parts of society, there are consequences for not following rules. This builds a strong respect for rules that will help each first grader succeed both in and out of school.
Students also learn about the roles and responsibilities of members of the community. Learning about bullying and what it means to have good sportsmanship, translates into good community dynamics in the classroom and the school as a whole. In first grade, students are introduced to the basics of United States and Thai governing bodies. They use mapping skills to learn about the continents and oceans of the world. Students also gain an overview of the countries represented by Berkeley students.
Towards the end of first grade, students learn about free markets and supply and demand. Social studies lessons are often integrated with language arts and students frequently write journal entries to help bring ideas to a more personal level.
In second grade students develop skills that help them become independent learners in an environment that fosters a passion for learning. Students are challenged in all academic areas and taught to become good members of the school community. Second grade students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning through activities that recognize the value of their efforts, stimulating their desires for learning. Students spend the majority of their day with the homeroom teacher for core subjects such language arts, math, science and social studies. Specialist classes, including P.E., music, art, IT, Thai and Mandarin are taught by teachers certified in their respective subjects.
Reading is a primary focus in the second grade language arts program. Students are exposed to a variety of literature and informational texts to guide them in building fluency and comprehension. In order to meet the individual student needs, and to ensure the reading material matches their abilities, students are placed in leveled reading groups. Facilitated by the instructor, the leveled groups receive guided support to develop essential reading skills that assist the students in developing fluency and comprehension.
Writing is another essential part of the language arts program, and it is integrated into all subjects, particularly science and social studies. Specifically, students learn the process of developing quality written products through planning, drafting and publishing. As a result, students write informative texts, explanatory texts, narratives and shared research projects. Writing skills are further strengthened through technology-based activities, using computers to publish and present their academic work.
An understanding of prefixes, suffixes and breaking words into syllables to strengthen comprehension are key components to foundational skills. These skills are developed through an in-depth look at specific topics during language classes, but are also fully integrated into reading, writing, social studies and science classes.
Speaking and listening skills are continually developed throughout all core subjects in second grade. Students are taught skills in asking questions for clarification, additional information, or further explanation. Students often work in pairs, small groups or participate in whole class discussions to maximize individual speaking opportunities and practice following appropriate norms for group discussions.
Irregular past tense verbs
In second grade an emphasis is placed on solidifying many of the skills and concepts learned in first grade that are necessary for the study of more advanced mathematics in later years. Students are supported towards becoming proficient in basic computational skills and procedures, develop conceptual understandings of math problems and to use math to solve real life problems.
Hands on activities using manipulatives related to the concepts being studied are integrated whenever possible. Many of the math concepts are also reinforced and integrated into science and social studies lessons.
Operations and Algebraic Thinking: Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve one- and two-step word problems with unknowns in all positions.
Number and Operations in Base Ten: Understand and use place value and properties of operation to add and subtract.
Measurement and Data: Students use standard units to estimate and measure length. They will also learn to work with time and money and use graphs and charts to represent and interpret data.
Geometry: Students learn to reason shapes and their attributes.
The goal of science in second grade is for students to develop investigation and experimentation skills needed to better understand the world around them. These skills include the ability to categorize, observe, interpret and make predictions. Topics covered throughout the year include: Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Earth Sciences. Scientific methods are emphasized within each topic as students plan and conduct a number of experiments that reinforce what they are learning.
In social studies students begin the year with lessons that connect the past to the present, emphasizing the importance of history. The topics that follow include geography, government, economics and important people in history. Although we explore these topics from an American or world perspective, we also integrate examples from Thailand and South East Asia to lend more meaning to our students’ personal experiences. Class elections in the government unit, the business fair in the economics unit and other role-playing activities connect the school experience to life experiences that extend beyond the classroom.
Grade 3 at Berkeley is a time for students to develop their independent work habits as well as participate in collaborative learning experiences. Technology is infused in daily activities to engage students in our subject matter and develop their 21st century skills. Students receive regular Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies instruction within their homeroom class and see specialized teachers for Art, Music, Physical Education, Information Technology, and Health and Values. Students are also able to choose between Mandarin and Drama electives, as well as participate in a number of after-school extracurricular activities.
The Grade 3 Language Arts program is based on the American Common Core State Standards. The standards are broken into Reading Fiction and Informational Text, Foundational Skills, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Students have two periods of Language Arts instruction daily, though these skills will be woven into all core subjects for continued practice. Students will also receive regular Guided Reading instruction for personalized learning. The use of technology is an important element to the Language Arts program and students use a variety of tools to publish their work as well as reinforce key skills.
The Grade 3 Math program is based on the American Common Core State Standards. Students have Math instruction for 1-2 periods daily. We use California State Curriculum materials in addition to Common Core resources. Math classes will be based around a differentiated approach where students will have opportunity to work independently, in groups, and one-on-one with the teacher depending on needs and ability. Technology is also important in our math instruction for skill reinforcement and homework.
The Grade 3 Science program is based on the California State Standards in conjunction with the Common Core. Language Arts is consistently integrated into the Science program and instruction will have an emphasis on hands-on and collaborative learning. Students will develop inquiry and investigation skills while working on experiments and long term projects.
The Grade 3 Social Studies program is based around the California State Standards in conjunction with the Common Core, but with a focus on Thai history, society, and culture. Language Arts will be consistently integrated into the Social Studies program and instruction will be largely project-based with emphasis on hands-on and collaborative learning. Students will develop analytic skills as well as presentation skills in a variety of methods.
In Grade 4, students apply their developing abilities to self-driven creative tasks. The emphasis is on innovation as students carry out assignments such as collaboratively designing artificial ecosystems in Science; writing original narratives in Language Arts; and designing eco-tourism packages in Social Studies. Critical thinking skills are also placed at the highest priority in Grade 4. Among other tasks, students discuss and debate human effects on the environment in Social Studies. They analyze causal relationships throughout their studies on ecosystems, rocks, and electricity and magnetism in Science. They also make sense of complex themes during Language Arts classes.
In Grade 4, students receive tuition of Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies from their homeroom teacher, while Art, Music, Physical Education, Information Technology, and Health and Values are taught by specialists. Students are also able to choose between Mandarin and Drama electives. In addition, a number of after-school extracurricular activities are available for student participation.
The Grade 4 Language Arts program is based on the American Common Core State Standards. During the program, students develop word analysis, fluency, and comprehension through reading. Reading is also the key basis of vocabulary development. Students read and respond to a variety of children’s literature, distinguishing between the structural features of the text. They write in a range of genres, using a variety of writing strategies. They also listen critically and respond appropriately to oral communications, as well as delivering oral presentations about familiar experiences and current topics of study.
The Grade 4 Math program is based on the American Common Core State Standards. It leads students to develop knowledge and skills connected to place value with large numbers. Students perform multi-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problem solving. Students investigate expressions, equations and inequalities with variables and all four operations. They describe and compare simple fractions and decimals. They also investigate the properties of, and the relationship between, plane geometric figures. Finally, they collect, represent, and analyze data to answer questions.
The Grade 4 Science program is based on the California State Standards. The program has a strong emphasis on life sciences. Students investigate the mechanics of ecosystems. Enquiry of the subject goes into depth as students consider questions such as the role and importance of plant-like organisms, pathways of energy, factors that determine organisms’ survival, and interdependence of living things in ecosystems. Earth science is also investigated through enquiry into rock. Specifically, students discover how different types of rock are formed, the properties of different types of rock, and the features and importance of minerals found within rock. They go on to consider the causes and effects of movement (rapid and slow) of rock on earth. Finally, students look at electricity and magnetism within the study of physical sciences. There is particular emphasis here on investigating questions related to the causes of electricity and magnetism, as well as how their effects can be manipulated and used by technology.
The Grade 4 Social Studies program is based around the California State Standards, but significantly adapted to achieve improved local and global relevance. During the program, students develop their ability to recognize features of maps and globes. They compare and contrast various representations of the world, identifying advantages and disadvantages of each. They also produce various types of maps of their own, as well as a globe. Students identify features of a number of world social cultures, and then compare and contrast them. They investigate the tourism industry in terms of how it works, what it offers, and the advantages and disadvantage it presents to society as a whole. Students develop awareness of environmental problems, and investigate possible solutions to these problems. Finally, they analyze the role in history of King Rama V, and his importance in the modernization of Thailand. Much of the course is focused on development of skills, particularly critical thinking, debating, and oral presentation.
At Berkeley, grade five is a year that sees students take on ever-increasing responsibility for their own educations. Responsibility for maintaining the classroom, tracking assignments, and monitoring personal behavior gradually shifts from the teacher to the students as the year progresses. Students work independently and collaboratively in all of their core subject areas of mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts, utilizing technology whenever it is authentic and appropriate. In addition to their core subjects, students receive daily instruction in Thai language and culture; twice weekly instruction in physical education, music, Mandarin, and art; and once weekly instruction in information technology. Grade five students are also able to participate in a variety of after school clubs, enriching their educational experience.
As with all language arts instruction at Berkeley, grade five follows the Common Core State Standards from the United States. The fifth grade Common Core focuses on reading comprehension and increasing vocabulary, as well as improving reading fluency. Students read a variety of fiction, including poetry, short stories, and novels. The focus of informational reading standards in fifth grade is analyzing the text to identify key concepts and make sense of complex writing. In writing, students learn to write with an awareness of their purpose and audience. As the year progresses students gradually increase the length and density of original compositions, paying special attention to logically linking multiple pieces of data or evidence into a cohesive whole.
Fifth grade mathematics is also based on the Common Core State Standards. A wide variety of topics are covered during the year, but the primary goal is to provide students with the final layer of key skills they need to proceed on to more advanced levels of mathematics. To achieve this, students spend a great deal of time studying numbers and operations in both base ten and fractions. They then apply these skills to write and evaluate numerical and algebraic expressions. Students also receive a deeper grounding in geometry through the study of angles and the coordinate plane.
Berkeley uses the California State Curriculum for fifth grade science. This curriculum covers a wide range of subject matter including the water cycle, the solar system, and physical and life sciences. Investigation and experimentation also feature prominently in the science curriculum, as grade five students learn to develop testable questions and identify independent, dependent, and controlled variables, and explain how they can be used to collect information and answer a question.
Fifth grade social studies follows a modified California State Curriculum. The main source of modification comes from altering the American-centric history and civic lessons to reflect a more balanced, global viewpoint. Students study ancient civilizations, the Age of Exploration, colonization and empire, and slavery. The majority of this material is explored through project-based learning experiences that emphasize collaborative work and practical social studies skills.
The Information Technology (IT) program provides opportunities for students to further develop digital literacy skills through the use of technology. IT plays an important role for every 21st century learner, encouraging students to develop the technology and innovation skills to prepare them for today’s media-driven world.
Elementary students attend IT class once a week for a 45 minute block in the main IT lab. During class time students work with a wide variety of software and web 2.0 tools in order to explore, practice and solidify their technology skills. Many of the IT projects students complete are integrated within the homeroom content area classes, in order to enhance student learning and retention. During class, students will be empowered to collaborate within their classrooms and in the larger global community.
In Visual Art, students explore ways of communicating ideas using visual media. Drawing, painting, and sculpture are the primary media used, however some digital, printmaking, and photographic techniques are also included. This is a comprehensive course where students will also learn about the history of art, explore concepts of aesthetics and art criticism, and learn art and design vocabulary.
There is an emphasis on using the design process to develop and improve ideas which will primarily be done using student sketchbooks. The units are structured around the elements of design: line, shape, form, color, space, and texture; and the principles of design: balance, proportion, unity, pattern, emphasis, rhythm, and contrast.
Mandarin equips students to participate more actively in the global community and to be more adaptable in an ever-changing world. The aim of the Berkeley Mandarin Program is to provide opportunities for students to acquire Mandarin language skills, as well as gain knowledge of the Chinese culture.
Students from Grade 1 to Grade 5 will attend two 40-minute Mandarin classes within their normal five-day cycle.
The Mandarin courses cover listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Students will gain an understanding of China, the richness of the Chinese culture, as well as gain an appreciation for the most widely spoken language in the world, Mandarin.
The Berkeley Mandarin program places a differentiated focus on the broad areas of reading, writing, listening, speaking and culture. We start Mandarin with Pinyin, also known as Chinese phonetics. Students then move on to listening and speaking skills. Reading and writing pinyin and the Mandarin characters gradually introduced once students develop a basic foundation.
Foster students’ interest in learning Chinese.
Build oral language skills (listening and speaking) followed by functional reading and writing skills.
Communicate functionality in Mandarin orally and in written form to exchange common, everyday thoughts, ideas, and information.
Elementary students have music class twice a week. The curriculum has a largely practical approach and students develop skills in performance, improvisation, and composition alongside music theory and listening and analysis skills. Units of work focus on understanding the ‘elements of music’, tempo, beat, rhythm, duration, pitch, dynamics and melody. The standards followed are adapted from the California State Music Standards and NAfME.
The lower elementary focus on mastering the correct technique for locomotor and non-locomotor skills. They begin learning tumbling skills at a level that allows them to create their own routines and to transfer weight from one body part to another with control.
By the end of lower elementary, students demonstrate more control when using manipulative skills and can describe the correct technique in greater detail. Lower Elementary swimming will introduce stroke work and emphasize submersion propulsion and streamlining. Students will learn to swim without assistance, retrieve objects underwater and dive from a kneeling position.
The upper elementary learn manipulative skills with an emphasis on improving accuracy and distance while efficiently manipulating objects by using body parts or implements. For example, they stop a kicked ball by trapping it with a foot and strike a dropped ball with a racket or paddle. They learn and practice offensive and defensive skills.
Upper Elementary swimming will introduce backstroke crawl and emphasize underwater pushoffs, streamlining and flip turns. Students will swim the length of the pool freestyle and backstroke and dive from a kneeling position. They learn fitness concepts, such as the principles of training, and how to increase their aerobic capacity in both aquatic and dry environments.
Students can create and then perform dances with intentional changes in speed and direction and rhythmic routines that involve manipulating an object. Dance related activities enable students to develop their fine coordinative skills with regard to posture and outside appearance.
Thai Language and Culture is a Government requirement subject which is offered to all students at Berkeley International School to help them learn and appreciate the culture and language of the host country. The Thai Language and Culture program develops the subject through the areas of speaking and listening, reading, writing, language usage and the knowledge of Thai culture and society.
All Elementary students study this subject with teachers who are Thai nationals. The curriculum for all children emphasizes the importance of communication with cultural topics embedded. The students are divided into different groups based on their language abilities; some groups are for Thai speaking students and others for non-Thai speaking students. Thai speaking students study speaking, listening to, reading, and writing of Thai language to prepare them to be fluent in their mother tongue. At each grade, the expectations for fluency in Thai increases.
All Elementary students study this subject with teachers who are Thai nationals. The curriculum for all children emphasizes the importance of communication with cultural topics embedded. The students are divided into different groups based on their language abilities; some groups are for Thai speaking students and others for non-Thai speaking students. The lessons for Non-Thai speaking students focus on communicating in basic Thai and learning about Thai culture and tradition in order to live effectively in Thai society and enable them to better understand their host country and to gain a diverse cultural view.