During my time in Ho Chi Minh City I was kindly invited to visit Smartkids International preschool.
A parent - child group room. Before children start at Smartkids they are invited to attend short sessions here to get used to the setting.
The entrance hall.
I spent a lovely Friday morning with the oldest class in the school - a class of 15, 3-6 year olds. I was able to learn all about their routines and play-based approach to learning. Smartkids fosters independence in children from a young age and this was evident in all of the routines that the school has established. All children have daily jobs and carry these out with enthusiasm and pride. To ensure fairness, a jobs wheel is turned daily to establish roles. These jobs range from being the 'snack time helper' and helping to set up and prepare tables for snack time, to being the 'circle time leader' and acting as the leader throughout the daily circle time.
Helping to prepare the toothbrushes.
In Ho Chi Minh City the air quality is a real issue and the school gets daily readings of the air pollution. This dictates how much outside time is accessed. On the Friday that I visited, the level shown was a 'red flag' which meant only 10 minutes outside - a ten minute stint that the children really loved! They have been learning about dinosaurs and many of them transformed instantly into mini dinos as soon as they stepped onto the playground! Role-play is so liberating!
During my morning at Smartkids it was lovely to see children moving between activities and spaces with confidence, minimal fuss and established routines. The children were able to show me exactly what to do during each stage of the day. Clear routines help children to establish where they are in their world and to tackle their day with confidence. Smartkids use these routines to teach equality, sharing, turn taking and independence as well tackling little jobs with fun - such as singing a song whilst brushing their teeth!
Although the setting and physical environment was similar to many settings back home in the UK, there were many distinct differences in this International school. Children learn through overarching termly themes, however there is no set curriculum that the setting has to follow. Rather, teachers and the school are free to follow and extend learning with choice and autonomy. Furthermore, assessment happens in terms of individual portfolios for the children and reports 3 times a year. Teachers report to parents on their child's next steps and achievements to date.
Staff learn about interventions and new strategies and learning approaches through 'personal development' sessions and are free to implement stratgegies within their class. Outside agencies are invited into the school to work with individual children as necessary.
The school is a small setting with only 3 classes. There is one free classroom space in which children can access gross motor and physical activities. This is especially important due to the limited access to outdoors due to air quality.
An alternate space for physical play
Counting friends before they go back up the classroom.
Children lead circle time with a special circle time book.
Children's daily routine clearing their snack time dishes.
Getting ready for nap time.
Children take a nap every day at nursery and during some of their years at school. In some schools, teachers also sleep at the same time.
I really liked the use of a parent group room where parents and new children are invited 3 times a week to come and play and to learn the routines of the school including free play, snack, tidy up time and circle time. This is a lovely way of engaging the local community as well as aiding children to transition to their new setting. Once children leave Smartkids they spend a morning with their teacher visiting their new school. Transition routines are valued and parents are involved actively in transition both to and from the setting.
I had such a lovely morning at Smartkids, thank you so much for being such a warm and inviting school. Also, the courgette cake at snack time was delicious - top marks to the school chef!