Championing innovation in education – Mr James Han

Step into Mr James Han’s classroom, and you may see not only students, but also other teachers from Blangah Rise or other schools.

 

Being a champion of “open classrooms”, Mr Han hopes to foster a culture of peer learning among educators to promulgate good classroom practices so that our children learn better and experience the joy of learning. On one particular occasion, Mr Han prepared an English lesson on gerunds using the Student Learning Space (SLS) as an online platform. He invited teachers from other schools to come into his classroom to observe and learn together as fellow educators. Following the lesson, they proceeded to the school library where Mr Han shared his lesson design considerations, addressed queries and received feedback on how he could improve on his lesson.

 

To his students, Mr Han is a dedicated and innovative teacher. To his colleagues, Mr Han plays another important role within the school – that of a School Staff Developer (SSD). He likens the SSD role to that of a pencil sharpener. “We have all used a pencil before and a sharp pencil allows for clear and crisp writing or colouring. We often need to sharpen our pencils regularly after use. If students are like pieces of paper and teachers are the pencils that leave their marks on the paper with knowledge, skills and values, I would be the pencil sharpener that regularly sharpens the pencils, or the competencies of the teachers, so that the knowledge, skills and values that they impart to their students are useful and current.”

 

Mr Han’s firmly believes that all teachers need to have a firm grasp of the disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge as they have a long-lasting impact on their students. He models lifelong learning and has pursued two Masters degrees, one in curriculum and teaching, and the other in assessment and evaluation. He was an Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Scholar, had made presentations at the ASCD Annual Conference and was part of a global Professional Learning Community with educators from all over the world.

 

On Blangah Rise Learning Campus, every staff member – teacher, MOE Kindergarten educator, Allied Educator, Executive and Administrative Officer – is in at least one Professional Learning Team (PLT) that looks into work improvement and innovation. Mr Han provides consultancy to the PLTs on their innovation projects. He introduced the Learning Circles protocol and the Scan-Plan-Act-Observe-Reflect (SPAOR) cycle to facilitate planning and discussions among PLTs. He helped the PLTs refine their problems, conduct literature scans and analyse the data collected. He designed a rubric for PLTs to reflect on and evaluate their projects. To celebrate the learning from the innovation projects, he facilitated a Learning Fest where PLTs shared their ideas with one another. That encouraged the cross-pollination of ideas across departments and levels. In 2020, Mr Han will be bringing in an expert in Action Research to work with the PLTs and collaborating with Master Teachers to further raise the quality of teaching in the classrooms.

 

To regularly affirm staff efforts and encourage the prototyping of ideas, Mr Han started a bi-monthly Staff Bulletin  to showcase innovative practices. For example, the latest issue featured Mdm Liu Cuixian, our MOE Kindergarten Educator, on how she used different pedagogies to motivate preschool children to use the Chinese language in purposeful and authentic contexts. It also highlighted how Mr Leow Qinjin and Mrs Jocelyn Ho used Escape Rooms to create that natural problem-solving environment for students to learn and apply Science concepts.

 

For his efforts, Mr Han received MOE’s Distinguished InnoChamp Award 2019, which recognises InnoChamps who have exceeded expectations in providing innovation consultancy to their school’s project teams, facilitating innovation discussions among project teams, and advising their school on innovation strategies.

 

“I hope that one day, I will attain the pinnacle level described in Maxwell’s levels of leadership, where others will follow because of who I am and what I represent,” says Mr Han. “To achieve that, I stay open and cherish all opportunities to learn and better my knowledge base, which would help me to serve better as a leader.”

 

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A role model for students and teachers alike – Ms Magdalene Ho

When Ms Magdalene Ho was appointed Senior Teacher for Mathematics in 2018, it offered her the opportunity to work with her colleagues to do what she had always been passionate about  ̶  to help her students appreciate the role of Mathematics in their daily life.

“My personal belief is that all students can learn and achieve some form of academic success. Having the right classroom climate and culture is necessary for effective teaching and learning to take place. This includes establishing a respectful, safe and trusting environment to give all learners a feeling of acceptance and a place to grow at their own pace.”

 

Helping students own their learning

To motivate her students to want to learn Mathematics, Ms Ho finds out where her students are in terms of their prior knowledge so that she can pitch her teaching at the appropriate entry point and help them connect big ideas in order to bring them to the next level of learning. At the same time, she maintains high expectations for what her students can achieve.

Formative assessment strategies, which are strategies to monitor students’ learning closely and to give them ongoing feedback on how they can improve, are used in Ms Ho’s daily lessons. At the start of each lesson, she lays out the “success criteria” on the board so that they can track their own learning towards their learning “destination”. She creates her own Mathematics posters to consolidate key concepts. At the end of the lesson, she uses an “exit pass” to check that her students have indeed learnt.

It is no wonder that her students are full of appreciation for her. One of her students said, “Thank you for helping me when I have any doubts and misunderstandings and for helping me to get through my Math Prelims.”

Ms Ho regularly uses the Student Learning Space (SLS), an online platform that empowers students to drive their own learning to help them become responsible future-ready learners. For example, when she was teaching a lesson on ratio, she asked her students to watch a video on ratio, then complete a quiz on SLS. She monitored her students’ “live” responses and provided immediate feedback and clarification. She assigned homework on SLS for students to practise and reinforce what they had learnt. The SLS lesson packages which Ms Ho has created are shared with other teachers in the school.

 

Growing the education fraternity

As a Senior Teacher, Ms Ho mentors and coaches other Mathematics teachers. She provides support to Beginning Teachers to help them quickly pick up and apply the skills of classroom teaching. This year, she also led a Professional Learning Team to look into the use of note-taking to help students remember mathematical concepts.

Beyond the school, Ms Ho contributes to the professional growth of other educators. She shared on the use of SLS during the ICT CrADLe’s 6th Digital Age Learning Conference 2019 and her presentation was very well-received. In July this year, she opened up her classroom to a group of visiting teachers from Hainan. She conducted a Primary 6 lesson on nets of a cube. The Hainan teachers shared that they had gleaned useful ideas from her on how to harness technology to enhance teaching and learning.

 

Building strong relationships with students and parents

Not only is Ms Ho a passionate Mathematics teacher, she is also a caring teacher who makes it a point to get to know her students beyond the classroom so that she can connect with and relate better to them. She maintains close communication with parents as she believes that a close partnership will lead to success for the child.

“I had a student whom many perceived to have challenging behaviours. I tried to show him care and concern, especially when he was ill. It took me some time to really understand him. After some time, I discovered his strengths and his limits. Even when he appeared to be disengaged, he was actually listening. One day, I managed to sit down and talk with him. He opened up to me and shared about his family situation. It was a real breakthrough! He even came back to visit me after he had graduated from primary school.”

Ms Ho’s strong relationship with her students is evident from the many notes she receives from students and parents every Teachers’ Day. One student has this to say to her, “Thank you for teaching us Math. You have worked hard to plan lessons for us. Your effort makes a difference!”

A parent wrote, “I really appreciate your effort and time spent in guiding my child.”

Just as her students are thankful for her, Ms Ho says, “I’m thankful to my students and their parents for motivating me to give of my best as an educator.”

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2019 Outstanding STEM Teacher Award

Mrs Jenny Quek receives 2019 Outstanding STEM Teacher Award

Congratulations to Mrs Jenny Quek, Head of Department for Science, for having received the 2019 Outstanding STEM Teacher Award! This award is co-organised by Science Teachers Association of Singapore (STAS) and Singapore Association for the Advancement of Science (SAAS) to recognise teachers who ignite a passion for STEM in their students and use innovative methods to engage students in the learning of STEM. Mrs Quek co-leads the Aspiring Confident Engineers programme, which leverages STEM to create more meaningful and engaging activities to integrate engineering and technology with Mathematics and Science. The programme creates a culture of thinking, inventing and doing to promote inquiry-based learning. Within the classroom, Mrs Quek aligns STEM activities to what her students are currently learning in Mathematics and Science to allow them to see greater relevance in the subjects that they are learning as they apply them to real-world contexts. With Mrs Quek’s leadership, we can look forward to a new generation of budding confident engineers in Blangah Rise!

Jenny OSTA STEM Award-sharpen

CCA Selection Day for Primary 2 students

Co-curricular Activity (CCA) Selection Day for Primary 2 students

Every year in Term 4, our Primary 2 students have to make a very exciting choice – the CCA that they would like to join when they are in Primary 3. On 21 October, as they went on a tour to all the CCA groups, they realised they could choose from a wide range of sports and games, clubs and societies, uniformed groups and performing arts.

Quraisha, a Primary 5 Red Cross member, thrilled the Primary 2 students as she demonstrated how to do a head bandage. Her volunteer, Daniel, a Primary 2 student, smiled joyfully while being “treated” by her.

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Some of the other experiential activities during the CCA tour included learning to control their footwork to dribble the football to their team mates, tying knots with seasoned Scouters, bandaging their “injured” friends with members of the Red Cross, as well as participating in STEM Club’s Lego WeDo activities.

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We believe that through CCA, our Primary 2 students will experience joyful learning with their older peers, take on leadership roles and work together as a team to achieve common goals.

Click here to find out more about the different CCAs.