River Valley Primary School – School Distinction Award 2013
River Valley Primary School strives to fulfill its mission, ‘To Nurture our pupils to be Future-Ready by providing a Total Education in RVPS’. School Leaders set purposeful directions in providing a student-centric values-driven education, building staff capacity through empowering a teacher-led culture of excellence, strengthening partnerships for school improvement and promoting a culture of excellence, joy and synergy. The school aims to become a Learning Organisation to realise its vision of ‘Inspiring Learners, Edifying Leaders’.
Culture of Excellence, Joy and Synergy
School actions are underpinned by a culture of excellence and spirit of continuous improvement. The school leverages resources in the School Excellence Model for reviews of structures such as strategic planning, leadership and staff development, management of key processes and pupil learning and leadership.
As part of the school’s culture-building efforts, School Leaders subscribe to the Core Theory of Success to enhance the quality of interaction with staff and make a conscious effort to use Learning Organization tools to foster collaboration and synergy amongst staff. These efforts include a series of ‘Co-Creating RVPS as a Great Place to Work, Play and Learn’ workshops to involve staff in co-creating the school culture. The sense of connectedness with the school’s mission and the feeling of being valued by colleagues bring joy to the staff.
Empowering Staff Well-Being and Development
The school’s approach in empowering its staff is anchored on the philosophy that ‘staff is the key to inspiring learning in our pupils and co-creating a Learning Organization’. This begins with ensuring that staff well-being is taken care of in five aspects: occupational, physical, intellectual, emotional and social well-being.
The school adopts the People Developer processes to chart the learning and development needs of staff. Its objective is to equip teachers to be competent in teaching and learning to be able to customise the curriculum to meet the learning needs of pupils.
A key strategy to building teacher capacity in RVPS is through team-learning using the Lesson Study protocol. All staff are involved in either a Learning Team or an Innovation Project Team. In addition, the school adopts a school-wide approach to empowering staff to use the Teaching for Understanding (TfU) curriculum model and involve all teachers in lesson planning with TfU.
Providing a Total Education for Pupils
The school’s approach to nurturing ‘Future-Ready’ pupils is to provide a total education to pupils and equip them with 21st century competencies.
Being the first primary school to be recognized as a Niche School for Uniformed Groups, RVPS leverages its niche for pupils’ holistic development. Every pupil has the opportunity for out-of-class learning experiences to strengthen their character and resilience. Every pupil is involved in a co-curricular activity (CCA) and the robust CCA policy with the approach of using LEAPS (Leadership, Enrichment, Achievement, Participation and Service Learning) strengthens their total development.
The school has adopted learner-centred teaching strategies to spark pupils’ curiosity and the joy of learning in them. Every department is empowered and equipped to use learner-centred teaching strategies such as the investigative approach to teaching Mathematics, inquiry-based learning in Science and drama in English. RVPS is one of the first primary schools to emphasize the teaching and learning of fundamental movement skills in Physical Education.
One of the school’s key challenges is to enhance its curriculum customization to strengthen our teaching and learning to ensure that every pupil continues to be an engaged learner. With the quickening pace of technological advancement, there is also a need to harness emerging ICT technologies for teaching and learning.
Best Practices in Teaching & Learning, and Staff Well-Being & Development
River Valley Primary School is honoured to be recognised by MOE for our Best Practices in two very important areas of Teaching & Learning, and Staff Well-Being & Development.
These two Best Practice Awards are testament to our school’s excellent provision of a holistic education that prepares our students to be future-ready. Our school’s vision, mission and core values provide a strong belief and underpinning for our strategic planning, empower our staff and provide a firm foundation for our student-centric values-driven teaching and learning programmes.
Our school places a premium on ‘Empowering Staff’ to realise our vision of “Inspiring Learners, Edifying Leaders”. School leadership provides direction by putting structures and processes in place to foster a culture of ownership and cultivate a conducive and positive environment with our staff culture of “Joy, Excellence and Synergy”. Our school actively provides learning and development opportunities to engage our staff and sustain their strong commitment to nurture each RVPS pupil to be “Future-Ready”. Therefore, we are able to fulfil our mission to provide a “Total Education” for our students.
Our school has drawn up Organizational Architectures (OAs) for “Empowering Staff” and “Enhancing Curriculum” that leverage on the 3Ps – Purpose, People and Process, as blueprints for excellence. The “Empowering Staff” OA strengthens the growth of staff with an emphasis on staff empowerment and engagement. School Leaders subscribe to the Core Theory of Success and use Learning Organization tools to foster strong collaboration and teamwork amongst staff. The “Enhancing Curriculum” OA enhances the quality of the teaching and learning in our school. It ensures that our student-centric values-driven educational programmes are pedagogically sound and robust. We also practice the PERI recommendations, such as holistic assessment, to strengthen the quality of student learning as part of our school mission of providing a “Total Education”.
Teaching English, As It Is Spoken
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Teaching English can be challenging in Singapore's multilingual environment. But don't say that to Ms Gladys Ng or Ms Pamela Kiew. Both teachers, who received the Inspiring English Teacher Award on 11 October 2011, would gladly dispel the notion with a wealth of examples of how they have motivated their pupils to learn and love the language.
From empowering their pupils with using technology to encouraging them to speak in public or even improvise with props in a performing arts studio, the two teachers have hatched a diverse set of strategies to hook their pupils' interest while helping them beef up on their grammar, writing and speaking skills.
Exposing their classes to how English is used in the real world is also a priority. "People need to understand that the usage of English goes beyond the classroom and we use it widely as a means of communication and instruction," said Ms Ng, who has taught at River Valley Primary School for 18 years. Ms Kiew, who is Head of Department for English Language at Bukit View Primary School, stated, ...
Learning from one another
For Ms Ng, big improvements can be achieved through several small steps. For instance, she gets her pupils to speak before their classmates to help them overcome their fear of public speaking. It doesn't matter if there are slight mistakes; what's more important is that such activities "encourage small successes so that pupils would want to continue to try using the language."
Ms Ng also introduced her pupils to Newsmaker, a software that allows them to make their own news clips. "Pupils do not just want to complete worksheets all the time," she pointed out. "They enjoy lessons where there are opportunities to collaborate and create. With Newsmaker, they get to use the language in an interesting way and present their videos to their classmates."
To further liven up her classes, she incorporates interactive activities like the use of Tableaux which prompt players to actively voice out their guesses.
Believing that learning should be a collaborative experience, Ms Ng would pair up a pupil who is stronger in the language with another who is weaker. "I let my pupils know that we can learn from everyone, even the weaker pupils, as everyone has their strengths," she explained. Working together, the pupils read each other's essays, practise their oral sessions and help to point out each other's mistakes. "Pupils learn from their classmates and do not go away feeling they are not up to mark," Ms Ng emphasised.
This approach certainly works for Luah Wen Yang, a Primary 6 pupil who shared, "Sitting beside a friend who is stronger in English helped me too. Not only was it easy to ask him a question that he might have had difficulties in, he could also explain how he had overcome it."...
What parents can do
On that note, Ms Kiew encourages parents to read with their children. "Reading is the easiest and most enjoyable way for a child to learn the language and develop a lifelong passion for it," she remarked. "The benefits that accompany reading are priceless!"
Like Ms Kiew, Ms Ng sees the family as having a major role in developing children's interest in English. "Learning English is not just for passing the examination," she stressed, adding that parents might inadvertently cause their children to lose interest by overdoing tuition sessions or drilling them through past examination papers. Instead, what Ms Ng suggests is that parents learn alongside their children. "To inspire someone, you must show enthusiasm," she said. "If not, the child will not buy the idea that English can be fun and mastered."
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Building Character through Uniformed Groups
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
National Day is just around the corner, and as the big day beckons, there is a growing sense of excitement and anticipation at River Valley Primary School.
Three uniformed groups gather at the school grounds to jointly rehearse their moves for a marching parade. These comprise more than a hundred pupils belonging to the Cub Scouts, Brownies and Red Cross uniformed groups, who are standing at attention in crisp outfits and with intense expressions on their faces. Their squad leaders issue sharp commands and the lines move in perfect synchrony as they work to add polish and pizzazz to their combined show of class and choreography.
Growing as young leaders
For Shaanvin Singh, the confidence he and his fellow Cub Scouts exude during this practice session is a far cry from his first outing as Parade Commander a couple of years ago. The Primary 6 pupil revealed, "Each time, I had this fear that I was going to lose my voice. But in the end, I was able to do this task properly for both years and it was a lot of fun!"
The experience of joining a uniformed group has helped Shaanvin overcome not just mental hurdles. Last year, he managed to scale Low's Peak, the summit of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, during an expedition involving three uniformed groups from River Valley Primary School. "I think that it is through such experiences that I have become a more confident person," he remarked. "Even my parents have noticed a good change in me and are curious about my Scouts activity every week."
Meanwhile, Teo Qi Xuan is a Pri 6 pupil who has discovered new heights to his abilities from taking on leadership responsibilities in the Red Cross. This was something he had never expected when he signed up for the uniformed CCA back in Pri 3. "I joined because I hope to be a doctor when I grow up," shared Qi Xuan. "When my teacher chose me as Unit Leader, I was happily surprised to be in charge of teaching first aid skills to my juniors."
While confessing to being "quite lazy" to pick up first aid theory in his early days, Qi Xuan is now "much more disciplined" as a result of the responsibilities he shoulders as well as the real value he sees in knowing how to help the injured and distressed. "Once, my friend fell down during recess and I was able to clean up his wounds," he recounted. "I find it meaningful to help people in this way."
Exploring the world and engaging society
"Too many things! Too many things!" Grace Yio exclaimed when asked to name her favourite activity as a Brownie. Her dilemma makes senses when one learns that the Pri 6 pupil has gone through a diverse array of programmes during her four years in this uniformed group.
From taking part and winning in a nationwide poster design competition to roughing it out in tents in the wild and embarking on a service learning trip to Cambodia to help children living in slums, Grace is hard-pressed to rank what she calls her many "unforgettable experiences" as a true blue Brownie.
"I have learnt all these different life skills which make me more independent, like sewing, cooking, and starting a fire," she added. "I've also realised that I cannot assume that my life should be lived in a certain way. For example, I used to think that it would be impossible to live without an air conditioner, but now I enjoy camping trips where I get to appreciate nature."
For Grace, the best part of being a Brownie is probably the privilege of having a platform to express ideas outside the classroom. "There is a lot of brainstorming involved in our activities," she mused. "The teachers actually listen to our ideas and that is a good feeling."
In their individual ways, Grace, Shaanvin and Qi Xuan exemplify what River Valley Primary School calls a "total education" experience. Mr Eric Lim, the teacher in charge of pupil management and Scouts explains that on the school's part, this involves "organising programmes that will ensure our pupils inculcate strength in their character."
"For uniformed groups, we are proactive in coming up with activities such as camps and overseas trips," added Mr Lim. But he stressed that ultimately, it is what the pupils take home in mind and spirit from these extracurricular "learning journeys" that contribute to the school's goal of a complete education experience. And as Grace, Shaanvin and Qi Xuan proudly display the badges that tell of four years of priceless experiences, it's not hard to see them as young people well on the way to fulfilling their personal potential and becoming active and compassionate citizens in society.
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Learning to Teach Again
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
"Oh, to be a student again!" is a wish that many express. But for Sheryl Sim, Aylwin Tan and Nur Ismadi, going back to class was a real chance to combine personal passions and the widening of professional horizons. The trio from River Valley Primary School are among the many teachers who are enjoying a boost to their careers through training stints that will ultimately raise the quality of their teaching and enrich the lives of their pupils.
Mr Ismadi and Mr Tan both pursued an in-service Diploma in Physical Education (PE) at the National Institute of Education (NIE), while Ms Sim recently completed a course on teaching music by the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music, a renowned music education centre from Hungary. Such opportunities to upgrade their knowledge and skills for the classroom or deepen their specialist knowledge are now more widely available to help nurture teachers who never stop learning.
Giving new rhythm to music lessons
For two weeks last November, Ms Sim sat behind a desk at Raffles Institution alongside 15 other music teachers and choir conductors, as she took in a wealth of knowledge from lecturers who flew in all the way from Budapest. Sponsored by MOE and organised by the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music, the course immersed participants in the Kodály method, a way of teaching music that introduces younger children to musical concepts through practical experience and movement.
After the course, Ms Sim lost no time in re-looking at her lesson plans for the year ahead. Inspired by the methods shared by her instructors, she adapted their ideas to the local context and even hand-made manipulatives -- handling objects used to illustrate a concept -- as such tools were not available in Singapore. The pay-off came in class when she found that her pupils now enjoy their lessons more and she is better able to assess their progress.
The Kodály method was not new to Ms Sim, but her course made a difference in showing her how to execute it effectively. "I learnt this pedagogy at NIE and have delivered it in class previously, but this course went much deeper," she revealed. "Having seen how it's done, I am now more competent in carrying it out."
From dream to diploma
For Mr Tan and Mr Ismadi, their second tour of duty at NIE marks a quest that has come full circle. Both teachers had entered the service six years ago with the dream of teaching PE, but took on duties in other subjects as opportunities in physical education were limited then.
As schools increased their emphasis on PE in recent years, Mr Tan and Mr Ismadi expressed their interest to expand into this field and the school readily supported their application to train as PE teachers. This April, the two men completed their Diploma course in PE, which they undertook in two three-month semesters.
Both gentlemen were unanimous that the pressure of cramming for a six-month course was well worth it. PE, they explained, is not about teaching games and exercises, but imparting an appreciation for various sports and the values that support them. As Mr Ismadi put it, "PE lessons are not just about drills and more drills."
Describing how it felt like to be a student again, Mr Ismadi said, "I must really put on my student hat, as a student not only to my lecturers but also to my classmates." There were even lessons that hit home, such as an episode when Mr Ismadi had to persuade his mother than it was all right to cool off before a fan after a jog.
Mr Tan, who relished his time back in class, added, "The culture of learning at NIE is very strong. Not only do we learn from our lecturers, we also learn from our peers who come from varied backgrounds."
Having observed children with difficulty executing certain movements or poor posture, Mr Tan has a particular interest in childhood motor development. He was thus glad to learn more at NIE about age-relevant physical development and plans to use this knowledge to help children learn at a pace suited to their physical stage. Pointing out that teaching PE goes far beyond coaching future sports stars, he stated, "I may not be the one to train a top gymnast, for instance, but I hope to give each potential gymnast a good start."
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