When the rebel becomes the norm….

At International School of Ho Chi Minh City, we are very proud of our #rebelalliance and are blessed with a leadership team that constantly pushes, provokes, and celebrates our thinking and learning and teaching.

As a learning community we are proud of our innovative approaches to learning and teaching,  our open learning spaces, our culture of thinking and cherish our culture of “Why?”

Studio5This year there has been a spotlight on Studio 5. This was our bold move this year and the action that took place in response to Sam Sherratt (@sherrattsam ) and Kurtis Peterson (@peterson_kurtis ) wondering  “What if?” .

Over these past 8 months,  we have enjoyed the spotlight, appreciated the support from afar and have happily shared our successes, challenges and thinking. We have been proud that our own learning has provoked much needed conversation about the change needed in schools and this in turn has reaffirmed our belief in what we are trying to do.

Although a Studio 5 Advisor, I also wear the hat of PYP Coordinator, so although I dedicate 10+ periods of my week to Studio 5, I also attend planning meetings, have numerous corridor coversations and try to spend as much time as I can with learners throughout the school. During my time outside of the Studio 5 hub, I’ve had this uneasy feeling, this nagging-doubt that has driven my thinking and reflections.

Is what have been so busy promoting and focused in Studio 5 really so special?

I went back to our documentation, our evidence of thinking and our reflections and pulled out some the elements of what we think makes Studio 5 so special:

  • Students leading their own learning
  • Students managing their own timetables, schedules and priorities.
  • Students seeking experts from the community to support, mentor and guide
  • Student organised field trips
  • Advisors available to guide and support the cycle of ‘Choose-Act-Reflect’
  • CAR time
  • Student written Evaluations of Learning
  • Student organised and run workshops for their peers
  • Voice, choice, ownership
  • Entrepreneurship

Over the past few months, as I have visited classrooms and corridors this is what I’ve been observing, hearing and feeling:

Grade 4:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Students commiting to taking action from their learning and making ‘pitches’ to members of the community to support and advocate for their ideas towards supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Students visiting Smile Cafe and committing to supporting our local community
  • ‘Agency days’ which provides time and choice for students to schedule their priorities, setting goals and scheduling their day.
  • Students having time and support to have a dedicated CAR time to discuss their goals and conference with mentors.
  • Students self and peer assessing against the ATL skills.
  • Student written Evaluations of Learning.
  • Students planning their own inquiry, having voice, choice and ownership of  their learning through their Unit of Inquiry.

Grade 3:

  • Students planning their own workshops, and signing up to attend others hosted by their peers.
  • Students identifying the peer experts in the room and seeking out support and help when and where needed.
  • Students self and peer assessing the ATL skills and being accountable for ‘Why’ and ‘What next?’.
  • Students signing up to promote their cottage industry products at the local craft market and raise funds for their chosen charity cause.
  • Students coordinating their own field trips.
  • Gamifications of units of inquiry providing development of skills, voice, choice and ownership of learning.
  • Students visiting Smile Cafe and committing to supporting our local community
  • Students having choice, voice and ownership of their learning, and development of skills.
  • Students collaborating to acheive a shared goal and presenting plans to a mentor.
  • Students seeking out expertise in the community.
  • Students planning their next steps in their learning.
  • Students co-authoring with peers their Evaluations of Learning

Grade 2:

In their final unit of the year, the Grade 2 team planned a provocation which they termed “Studio 2”.  A day of voice, choice and ownership where students would take ownership of the day scheduling their priorities through the MoSCoW method and tracking their successes and challenges. Teachers stood back to observe and assess students’ self-management skills, the focus of the unit.

The result?  Grade 2 students met the challenge, ate it up and asked for more. Teacher left wondering why they had not introduced this model earlier in the year.

Over the past 3 weeks we have seen Grade 2 students (7 & 8 Years old):

  • Scheduling their days and setting own priorities
  • Setting conference times with teachers
  • Planning their unit of inquiry and having voice, choice, ownership of who, what, where, when and how they follow their inquiry and present their learning.
  • Parent & student co-suthoured Evaluations of Learning.

Grade 1:

  • Choice days – a day a week where Grade 1 students plan where, when, who and what they learn during this time.
  • Throughout the year, teaching teams have planned units to ensure scope and depth for student choice, voice and ownership of their inquiries.
  • Carousel activities which provide students time and choice to plan what ‘workshops’ to attend and where.

During an ‘unstructured’ afternoon in Grade 1, teachers observed students setting up their own ‘workshop’ corner and inviting others in to learn from them. So now ‘workshop corners’ are an embedded part of Grade 1.

Kindergarten & Early Explorers:

Our youngest learners,  2 years – 5 years,  are the embodiment of Agency – having choice, voice and ownership through their environment, through social interactions, through play and purposeful provocations.


So through my wonderings and wanderings I have begun to collect evidence of the Studio 5 elements that we are now seeing throughout #ISHCMCIB ….rebel to norm

As I reflect back on my first wonderingIs what have been so busy promoting and focused in Studio5 really so special? 

YES!”  It is very special and a lot of hours and hard work have been put in to honour the elements that make Studio 5 a model of self-directed learning.

But my wondering  has now shifted,  it seems that although the rebels in Studio 5 may have led the way, the next steps for the rest of the #ISHCMCIB community to follow their lead have been very natural ones. It seems to have now become the ‘norm’. It’s Who We Are, what we do and how we learn best…. by Empowering, Energising and Engaging our learning community.  This wasn’t the original plan, its grown out of a  collective hunger and need for something better.

As a community, we took the lead from the ‘rebels’ and now its become the norm, and it wasn’t so painful, nothing was broken and its been beautiful to watch, to be a part of, and, after all, its what our learners deserve.

I wonder where our next wave of rebellion might take us?

(Some photos and images are taken from twitter feeds and #ISHCMCIB tweets from our #ISHCMCIB educators. Please follow them on twitter to share and celebrate our community and learning (@rupal611 , @cheevers143   @makingoodhumans  @billybillyedu  @peterson_kurtis )









4 thoughts on “When the rebel becomes the norm….

    • It’s a mutual felling Billy. Inspired and energized by the creativity and energy through our learning areas and from our teams.


  1. Congratulations on such innovative education practice.
    Can I ask – do you have Ministerial requirements to follow?
    If so how have you catered for them?
    Are you an IB continuum school?
    Does this transfer to MYP?
    Would be interested to know what boundaries you have.
    Loved the blog!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s