When students run the assemblies
Students, teachers, and parents at an ES Learning Celebration

By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

For students at the International School of Beijing (ISB), assemblies are joyful occasions very different from the memories many grown-ups will have of such get-togethers in their own school days.

This year, the ISB Elementary School (ES) has given students ownership of assemblies, allowing Early Years 3 to Grade 5 classes to plan and run these events as displays of what they’ve been learning. The ES has welcomed parents to join assemblies to hear directly from their children about their class routines and the projects they’ve taken on, and to witness their presentation skills, teamwork, and growth.

Seismic learning

Under an annual schedule, each homeroom group gets to host an assembly of their entire grade level, putting around 50 to 100 fellow students (depending on the grade) in the audience along with parents and teachers to enjoy activities like quizzes, read-alouds, and performances. At the Grade 5 assembly on November 28, for example, Class 5TR reflected on work they had done to assist a local charity, sang the ISB School Song, and introduced their Class Recognition Board, a system for recognizing and honoring students’ good work.

These assemblies are part of a commitment at ISB to communicate frequently with parents about what’s going on in their children's classes. Along with the regular assemblies, “Learning Celebration” events and displays are new this year and have become important fixtures in the ES calendar for sharing processes and products of student learning. Also open to the whole community including parents, these are another chance for students to present what they’ve been working on and finished products.

An ES assembly with parents in the audience

Recent and upcoming ES Learning Celebrations include:

  • Grade 4 presented written work, models, and infographics from their Earth Changes unit about humans’ interactions with natural forces. The display of earthquake-resistant structures built and tested by the students was particularly seismic!
  • Students turned their learning about magnets into a hilarious skit about the forces of push and pull.
  • On December 8, Grade 3 will present business ideas and pitch for investment from their parents in the Elementary School’s very own version of TV show Dragons’ Den.
  • Sketches, writing, and photos from a Biomimicry unit in which students are using their understanding of nature to try to solve real-world problems. Parents will give feedback on solutions like textured swimsuits modeled after shark skin and buildings insulated in the same way as termite mounds.

Strong relationships

ISB’s Strategic Focus Areas formally identify priorities for the school, and all these fun but meaningful ES occasions really help with the Focus Area of ensuring strong relationships in the school’s inclusive community. The assemblies and celebrations see families come together with faculty and staff to socialize and share students’ joy in learning.

“We’re further strengthening the school-home connection, sharing both students’ processes in class and their finished work, which is in line with ISB’s commitment to challenging and joyful learning,” said ES Principal Dustin Collins. “It’s important to show not just perfect, finished pieces, but the journey of how students got there.

“Welcoming parents to campus helps empower them as partners in what their children are doing at school. Teachers are seeing a great reaction from our guests, with big audiences at the assemblies and Learning Celebrations. The assemblies generally have a participatory element for parents. What that does is it brings to life the work that we can’t always make visible to parents, and it gives students opportunities to showcase and feel proud of their achievements. Seeing themselves as part of a learning community, working collaboratively with peers, is also important for their social-emotional learning – the work we’re doing here to ensure students are well-rounded young people alongside being academically strong.”

A collage of photos from a Grade 5 assembly

Community voices

Liz K was one of the student presenters in the November 28 assembly. “It was so much fun!” she said. “I was nervous being watched by my mom, but I got more confident as the assembly went on. When kids create these assemblies, we have different ideas from our teachers and that makes it something different that we can all look forward to.”

5TR identified topics for the assembly and wrote a script. They then practiced their presentations and songs, perfecting their delivery, Liz explained.

Her mom, Semi Kang, said, “Liz was very keen for me to come to the assembly, and the presentations made me so proud of her. Combined with the regular updates on Seesaw [an app used by the Elementary School], it’s been so easy to keep up with her learning this year.”

Tyler Rumley, 5TR’s homeroom teacher, said, “My goal was to really have the students buy in, volunteer, and be engaged with the assembly, and they totally were. We talked about what they had been learning and they came up with the ideas for what they wanted to share. The assembly showcased what we do in class and the routines we have in place.

“On the day, I handed over the microphone and let them run the show. The children did such a good job and I was so proud to see them in action.”


ISB community members interested in joining some of the many ES assemblies and Learning Celebrations coming up can check the ISB Calendar for times and venues.

Strong relationships, like those being fostered by these ES events, are one of three main Strategic Focus Areas for ISB. This news article is part of a series looking at aspects of ISB that are examples of the three Focus Areas. To find out more, click here.

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