A Parents’ Guide to Theme

At Huili School Hangzhou, we are deeply committed to the intellectual development of our pupils. This development, in part, comes from Theme, a cross-curricular method of teaching and learning that covers subjects like Maths, ICT, Geography and History. Through short units of enquiry with clear objectives and outcomes, Theme aims to develop pupils’ Mandarin and English abilities while also equipping them with the skills necessary to succeed in this highly competitive world as lifelong learners.

Theme’s Curriculum is composed of different elements from two curricula: the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and Chinese National Curriculum. From IPC, the international course provides us with unit research ideas that engage every pupil, such as learning about pirates in Grade 1 or walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs in Grade 3. We also take our Key Learning Objectives (KLOs) from IPC and use them as the criteria for assessing our pupils. Example KLOs might include researching a topic or giving reasons for why certain events have helped to shape and change the world. Our pupils also take Chinese courses that match the Chinese National Curriculum and include subjects like Moral Society and Natural Science.

Each Theme class is planned around KLOs. If one KLO, for example, is for pupils to be able to explain their own work in terms of what they have done, the teacher might have puipls plant a seed using a variety of materials. Through the activity, the teacher will ask pupils what they are doing and asses their answers. After they have completed the activity, pupils might then write a summary describing what they did, giving the teacher a second chance to assess the pupil and the pupil a second chance to succeed through the use of a different medium. The teacher will complete the final assessment by using Huili descriptors from 1-9 to measure the pupil’s success against the KLO in this unit. The same KLOs are used across different units, and often more than once in a single unit, to produce a more accurate representation of pupil progress.

Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is the strategy Huili teachers use to teach the content of their units. CLIL identifies the four foundational skills of language learning—reading, writing, speaking and listening—as being just as important as the topic to the pupils’ learning process. Grade 2, for instance, is working through a unit on materials. In addition to the pupils learning the names of different materials like “wood” or “wool”, they are also learning how to use adjectives like “rough” or “soft” to describe them. Theme allows pupils to utilise their English skills in a practical environment, increase their vocabulary and strengthen their ability to compose sentences.

Huili School Hangzhou offers a world-class bilingual education, and this is evident in Theme as Chinese and English come together in a variety of different ways. Although Western teachers are primarily responsible for Theme and its structure, Chinese teachers are an essential part of the planning process. From Grades 1-4, Chinese teachers can either assist Western teachers in class or teach their own Theme classes each week. Chinese teachers will often introduce and reinforce target vocabulary and the fundamental concepts appropriate to each unit using interpretation and translation through different games and activities.

In Theme, we make classroom activities as engaging and varied as possible. Teachers carefully select group, peer or individual activities and tailor them to suit the needs of each pupil. The four language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening form the foundation for all these activities, whether they be individually following a set of instructions to draw a rainforest creature or forming a small group to build a shelter. Through individual, partner, and group work, pupils are constantly strengthening their social skills and understanding of the Huili values. We are lucky at Huili that many activities can take place outside in the hillocks, in the library using iPads or even in our own radio station, Dukebox!

Co-Curricular Activities are integral to Theme and each pupil’s education. CCAs give pupils real-life, practical experiences that will shape them in their ongoing learning journey. At Huili, we offer a range of CCAs that come in different forms. One class might invite a special guest speaker to join them in-person or over Skype to talk about their experiences in agriculture or setting up schools for impoverished children. Class trips to museums, animal parks and nature walks allow students to explore our surrounding communities and forge links between their school study and their own culture. CCAs also take the form of Exit Points, times at which pupils invite their parents to showcase what they have learned at the end of a unit through presentations, shows or information sessions.