Letter from Principal

Fiona Morris
Early Years Principal

Dear Early Years Families,

In Early Years at the Western International School of Shanghai (WISS), teachers and students shape the learning environment together to transform each learning experience. Our Early Years Team nurtures each child’s holistic development by building a strong foundation for continuous learning and respectful relationships.  We offer a safe environment where children are encouraged to feel valued as members of a diverse community.  Children learn English and Chinese in a natural way that is supported by our units of inquiry. 

We foster each child’s natural curiosity by encompassing the students’ individual interests along with opportunities for playful inquiry supported by the IB PYP framework. Every step of a child’s learning journey is important; students are able to build upon their previous experiences through explorations, inquiry, questions, and discoveries.  We inspire our students to challenge and learn more about themselves and their community.  This learning doesn’t stop in school, and we develop strong home-school partnerships that help students to connect their learning to experiences at home and beyond!

Every step of a child’s learning journey is important, and we cultivate each child’s future pathway by building their foundations as lifelong learners.

We look forward to welcoming you to the WISS community very soon!

Fiona Morris

Early Years

The Early Years building at the Western International School of Shanghai is home to students in Pre-Nursery, Nursery, Pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten. Our bright, spacious, and inspiring Early Years building provides the perfect environment for your young child’s introduction to education. Those fascinating first steps in a classroom are integral to starting a healthy, exciting, and fun educational journey.

Here at the Western International School of Shanghai, we place the student at the center of learning. Developing a curriculum that supports the natural curiosities of this stage of development and meeting the child where they are in their holistic development, we build an effective learning community that honors and supports the well-being of all its members.

We see children as unique and agentic individuals with the capacity to be a partner in their learning as they respond to their teachers, peers, physical environment, and resources that surround them. By engaging in authentic experiences that value their prior learning, and constructs and builds upon this, children develop in a natural, organic, and exciting way.

EARLY YEARS CURRICULUM

Young learners are intelligent, resourceful, and creative. They need a curriculum and environment that supports key learning during these crucial early years. Through our inquiry-based approach, we engage and stimulate curious minds to explore, question, and wonder from a place of security. Classroom communities foster a growing sense of safety, well-being, and warmth.

Our daily interactions as a community focus on building secure and confident communicators who have a growing realization of their agency as they interact with the world around them. Using purposeful play as a vehicle for learning, we enable students to make personal connections to inquiries organically and authentically, building on existing knowledge and understandings as they develop transferrable skills in a facilitative environment.

Children engage in a balanced curriculum in the Early Years, which meets the IB Primary Years Programme‘s standards and practices. Through carefully planned units of inquiry, children engage with big ideas in science and social studies, enabling them to develop transferable conceptual understandings. This foundation of knowledge and understanding is the platform on which they continue to grow as they build upon their learning from year to year and beyond the Early Years building.

Only a small number of international kindergartens in Shanghai offer the IB PYP, and even less that offer progression to subsequent stages of the IB. In fact, WISS is the only school in mainland China in which young learners can progress from kindergarten through to high school, completing every IB Programme along the way. By offering all four Programmes, the skills that are endorsed in students during kindergarten flourish and bloom as they progress through the IB, with each level building upon the abilities trained in the previous.

THE IB LEARNER

The IB Learner Profile is of paramount importance as a focus for developing the essential attributes of an internationally-minded global citizen. In Early Years, children engage with the learner profile in a developmentally appropriate way, understanding how their behaviors and choices affect and impact their communities as well as creating opportunities to model themselves as effective contributors to the world around them.

ROUTINES

Students in Early Years have the opportunity to work with Art, Music, Physical Education, and Library specialist teachers as part of their weekly schedule.  All areas of schooling are planned in a transdisciplinary way to ensure strong connections between all learning experiences and disciplines. As language learners, our Early Years students are immersed in an English language environment, and at WISS, we value translanguaging – the use of different languages together.

Chinese language acquisition is embedded in every aspect of the EY students’ academic experiences. By expanding the use of Chinese into a range of educational contexts, students are given a well-rounded perspective and understanding of the language and its applications in real-life situations. This application of translanguaging results in confident and motivated communicators.

Early Years students also use our spacious outdoor environment, engaging in outdoor learning experiences designed to create opportunities that promote inquiry-based and investigative attainment of knowledge.

We have open blocks of time that enable in-depth inquiry and allow children to engage in sustained play.  These experiences are essential to learning and development for our youngest learners. The Pre-Nursery and Nursery children’s timetable includes a daily nap as part of a balanced sleep schedule.

SPECIAL PROGRAMS / ACTIVITIES

At WISS, we believe in providing opportunities to grow in a variety of ways, far beyond the experiences that take place in the classroom. Our programs also provide the opportunity to connect with many other children beyond those in their homeroom. Students acquire interpersonal skills that encourage them to cultivate meaningful and diverse relationships. Participating in various activities helps develop confidence and self-motivation, enhancing students’ abilities to work as a team, problem-solve, and think critically and creatively. Developing in young children provides a strong foundation for a future of health and well-being.

Students in Early Years have plentiful opportunities to explore their passions from a young age and try new activities, from optional after school activities to afternoon activities during the school day.

HOME-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP

A smooth transition from home to school is paramount. We pride ourselves as an open, caring community that believes in the importance of strong home-school communications to ensure the success of every one of our students, placing home-school relationships as a priority to meet the best interests of the student for their overall happiness and comfort.

We are focused on providing clear and easy communication channels for our parents to stay up to date on school news and information. Our communications with the family are centered on building our understandings of your child as we continue the learning journey together with you.

TEACHING APPROACH

Our homeroom teams consist of an international teacher, a Chinese teacher, and a teaching assistant. This provides a high adult-child ratio, enabling learning and teaching to be student-centered and responsive to children’s interests. Using an inquiry-based approach, teachers facilitate various hands-on activities that provoke curiosity, questioning, and wonder, co-constructing learning alongside children as they explore.

Our EY children learn through purposeful play, which is planned and designed to develop age-appropriate skills and conceptual understandings around science, math, language, and personal and social development. We value teachers as learners, too, and continually seek to improve and enhance our teaching through engagement with global early childhood research, pedagogy, and child development.

Wednesday Afternoon Activities

Afternoon activities are a mandatory part of the school day for students in Pre-Nursery through Kindergarten at WISS. Activities are teacher-driven and based on our teachers sharing their hobbies, passions, and expertise with our students. Various activities are offered and led by our teachers ranging from yoga to rock-climbing to Cake Boss.

These activities are built into the school day to allow students to try new activities and encourage them to embrace the IB learner attribute of being a risk-taker in trying something new. Early Years students do their afternoon activities on Wednesdays.

The activities run on a 6-week block schedule giving students the chance to sample 4 different activities throughout the year. We offer a variety of different activities that provide an opportunity to experience activities beyond the classroom. These include:

  • Art Club
  • LEGO Discovery
  • Fun Math
  • Paper Cutting
  • Tiger Cubs Football
  • Oracle Characters
  • Amazing Mazes
  • Little Scientists
  • Book Club
  • Dance
  • Weather Watchers
  • Clay/Playdough
  • Pre-K Swimming
  • Mini Masterchef

After School Activities

After school activities are intended to extend the students’ opportunities to develop their passions and skills further. These activities are student-driven and represent a cross-section of local and school-based providers. You can find a list of the Early Years after school activities below:

  • Stoke Pint-sized Potters Football
  • CSU 360˚ Swimming
  • sportED Rainbow Tennis
  • Lego & Coding
  • Capital Sportz Basketball
  • WISS Young At Art
  • WISS Music Explorers
  • Stoke Pint-sized Potters Football

**The activities listed are just a sampling of our after school activities at the Western International School of Shanghai. The after school activities offered may change throughout the year.

Facilities

WISS is one of the few schools in Shanghai where learning in natural environments is integrated into the curriculum, especially in the Early Years. When planning inquiries, teachers consider how the outdoors can be used as a resource to support learning. Children access the gardening and forest areas in all seasons, learning life-long skills that also develop their role as global citizens as they learn to care for our earth.

The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky.

Margaret McMillan

Taking inspiration from Early Years pedagogy from around the world, such as Reggio Emilia and Forest School, our learning and teaching are facilitated by all campus areas. We have access to a vast outdoor area that supports our connections with the natural world, have recently renovated flexible and adaptable learning spaces, and a wide selection of resources that pique every learner’s interest.

Our Early Years learning spaces were renovated in 2019, after a year of consultation between leadership, teachers, and the students themselves. In the role of the researcher, teachers explored how learning spaces were utilized, what was needed to provide flexibility and adaptability, as well as looking at the areas through a child’s lens to understand what and how the student perceives in the learning space. This inquiry led to a complete rethink of how the physical environment supports learning and teaching and provided an opportunity for student voice to be acknowledged and actioned.

 

There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment.

Loris Magaluzzi

Our custom-built lofts are the result of an idea that came from a group of KG students who were exploring what classrooms around the world look like. Looking beyond the novelty of a raised platform, students then started making suggestions on the versatility of such a space, as well as highlighting the benefits of these spaces to learning. The Early Years Leadership Team then took these ideas and designed them to suit each grade level’s appropriate developmental stages, offering additional motor skill development opportunities using these unique learning spaces.

Small details, such as wheels on each piece of furniture, were also considered. For learning spaces to truly support learning, then they need to be adaptable. Furniture can easily be moved around to create opportunities for small groups to work or pushed out to create space for movement. Colors and textiles were considered, as was the use of light, creating harmonious and warm areas for our younger learners. Display boards were dropped down to children’s height so that students can also contribute to developing the displays.