Do you remember when you were a child you were expected to be seen, not heard? In school, you were discouraged from asking too many questions? School classrooms are very different now.
At B.D. Somani International School, we celebrate questions. Our school follows a progressive approach to learning and a blend of internationally recognised frameworks that foster inquiry and investigation. And it starts with your child’s very first day at school.
When a child asks a question in class, we don’t give them the answer. Using a gentle, nurturing Socratic approach, we encourage them to discover answers for themselves. This invariably leads them down an intriguing process of more questions and discovery – about themselves and the world they inhabit.
Learning through play
Children, at this age, learn best through play. And at B.D. Somani, play is an opportunity to express individuality. Ours is a skills-based curriculum, and children are free to explore at their own pace. Our Reception classrooms are large, bright, airy, open spaces that give students the room to explore. Every day begins with circle time, followed by block-building, centres time (choices in math, scientific observation, drawing and painting, writing, handwriting, reading), outdoor play, and ending with storytime.
Our teachers set up five centres every day. Centres are labelled pictorially to make them accessible for the students. We put a lot of emphasis on personal agency in these early years, and students choose the centres they want. They can switch centres at any time but are encouraged to visit each centre at least once a week.
The Reception curriculum is a simple agenda with plenty of time for personal choice, play, and social interaction. The focus is not only on cognitive development but also on the social development of our young learners.
Literacy includes listening, speaking, reading and writing and not just phonics. Children at this age learn through observation, and everything in the classroom is labelled in simple writing and pictures so they can start to correlate the words to the images that accompany them.
We integrate mathematical thinking and language expression into all our activities. The classrooms are equipped with a wide variety of math manipulatives.
We encourage students to express their thoughts and experiences on paper. We might ask them to tell us what they did over the weekend. Young children’s early writing is comprised of marks on paper, but, over the course of the year, these marks gradually take form as drawings and attempts to make letters.
Books in Reception are chosen for their simple messaging and pictorial depiction of the storyline. Favourite authors include Julia Donaldson, Mo Willems, Eric Carl, Marcus Pfister and the class chooses the books they want to read. We also read in Hindi and include many songs which add to reading skills with rhyming words, repetition, prediction, personalized endings, etc.
Our block building program is unique to B.D. Somani. When students start building with blocks, their creations are rooted in fantasy. They build castles and dragons and bridges. Over time, these structures evolve into more realistic structures to include school buses, cars, police cars, houses, restaurants.
Block building helps our students develop their communication, listening and even mathematical concepts. When building work is dismantled, children to stack the blocks by shape in stacks of four. In Reception, each child tends to build individually as they develop familiarity with the material which prepares them for group block building in Junior Kindergarten. As their structures become more complex, we use the opportunity to discuss them and take them on field trips to enhance their understanding. For example, if fire stations or grocery stores become popular, we take them to visit a site for the beginnings of first-hand research.
Outdoor block building features large boxes and blocks and students work in groups to develop their own play environment. They carry, stack, push the blocks and then climb, slide, jump and balance. . Outdoor block building sessions are a great way for children to develop their social skills. They learn to share and solve problems. Teachers rarely intervene, encouraging the students to solve their problems through communication and negotiation.
Our garden, which was started last year by Miss Zoë is a massive hit with the entire Primary school. Our students dig in the soil in the planters, sow the seeds and then observe and nurture the plants’ growth. This activity teaches our students to be patient and caring. They find immense joy when their plants sprout. They harvest the fruit, vegetables and herbs , and use them for cooking activities in our kitchen. They have even encouraged their parents to start a home garden. Last year one class planted carrots which led to much discussion of where the carrots were hiding and led to a detailed conversation about root vegetables.
Beyond the classroom
In addition to fostering curiosity, observation, and inquiry, we emphasise independence, collaboration, free spirit, honesty, respect for self and others and ownership of actions.
Essential Agreements start from Reception and are discussed by the students themselves based on their observations and experiences. Students are designated as classroom helpers for various jobs in and around class such as library monitors, front-line leaders, and back-line leaders so everybody walks in a single line. Jobs are switched around every week, so everyone gets a turn.
Our Early Years teachers are kind, gentle, compassionate, collaborative and dedicated and passionate about guiding our students’ learning endeavours in a meaningful way. They are facilitators on the child’s journey of discovery who customise a learning plan for each child based on their needs, comfort, abilities and levels. The habits of mind and attitudes necessary for success in the IB diploma actually begin right here in the Early Years.
In the week leading up to the first day of school, our Reception teachers schedule home visits with each of the children. During these 30-minute visits, our teachers spend time getting to know each child in their home environment, surrounded by everything familiar and comforting. They play with the child, answering all their questions and asking some of their own about favourite things and interests. As a result, the first day of school is no longer one of tears and discomfort. The children have familiar faces to connect with at school. Surrounded by familiar favourites, they feel safer and a lot more confident. We also have staggered starts (half a class for half the time period) in the first week to make the transition easier. To make the bus ride comfortable for our students, parents may accompany them on the bus each way for a couple of days.
When you entrust your precious young child to us, know that we are just as committed as you to nurturing them to be global citizens of the future, lifelong learners, contributors to their community and champions of the world they inhabit.