Attentive and Personalized Instruction
All children love to learn. It’s in their nature. So why do some children struggle so much with their studies? The answer, sadly, is a simple one: adults place expectations on children without giving them the support they need to meet those expectations. Here at KAIS, we consider each child’s current level of ability and learning style, and work hard to provide the right kind of support to each child so that he or she can fall in love with learning again. Our educators accomplish this by acting as mentors, coaches, friends, and guides that help the students achieve their goals in ways that best suit their learning capabilities. In addition, our students do much of the heavy lifting of learning — the homework — at the end of the day and in the presence of an instructor who assists, guides, answers questions, and motivates the students as they study. Children who need extra support can also complete their lessons in these afternoon teacher-guided Homework Labs. Students who want to move more quickly can do the same. At our school, all of our students leave our campus at the end of the day happy knowing that they have understood and finished the day’s lessons. No lingering deadlines. No arguments with Mom and Dad about homework. And no evenings of frustration to worry about.
High Academic Standards
Children love challenges. They love to make progress and know that they are appreciated for it. This is why at KAIS we keep our students on their toes, lifting the bar higher and higher so they can achieve their greatest heights. Make no mistake: though we are a small school, we do not have small dreams for our students. Though we have alternative teaching methods, we do not have alternative goals. We want to empower our students with the knowledge, skills, earned self-confidence, and appetite for learning necessary to achieve their best in school and beyond. Students are also given plenty of guidance so that they can learn how to study effectively. Many student skills such as getting organized, setting priorities with their work, reviewing content, and so on are hard for students to learn on their own; yet many schools expect students to do exactly that, without any guidance whatsoever. At KAIS, we don’t expect children to somehow master all of these skills without guidance — we teach students these skills and encourage them to improve in reasonable increments. As the children grow older and the subjects they study become increasingly more advanced, deeply ingrained positive study and thinking habits will remove many of the obstacles that interfere with a student’s success.
Interdisciplinary, Project-based Learning
The adult world is not divided into components, so why should the world of children be? Perhaps for the sake of convenience, much of the content in schools around the world is rigidly categorized into subjects, resulting in it being presented in isolation from any meaningful context or experience. Many students unfortunately come to believe that the world is similarly compartmentalized, and that entire areas of life exist in a vacuum separate from one another. Education should seek to overcome this perception by encouraging students to appreciate the astronomical complexity of life and to tolerate (or even embrace) its ambiguity. At KAIS, interdisciplinary assignments and projects are an important part of our curriculum. Our educators are engaged in a cooperative enterprise; we brainstorm project ideas that blend subjects together, encouraging students to use their knowledge and abilities to tackle a variety of tasks. This approach has so far contributed to increased student engagement, a deeper understanding of the rich tapestry of life, and an interconnected worldview which blows away their previously held preconceptions of the world around them.
Emphasis on Inquiry and Experience
How many students come to associate the learning process with boredom, or have been rendered callous to new ideas through a litany of monotonous drills? Our approach at KAIS tries to avoid this through tailoring our activities and projects around the knowledge and interests of the students. Rather than simply read about science concepts and facts, students in our Science Lab, for example, come up with engaging and relevant questions or problems, and work together to discover the answers using their own agency and research skills. Our educators often assume the role of facilitators to help groups navigate difficult obstacles and achieve their goals. Using this approach, we ensure that students remain intrinsically motivated and enthusiastic about the tasks at hand. This makes education fun for all, teachers included!
Responsible Approach to Discipline
A large part of our success is due to our ability to establish positive relationships with our students. Rather than overload our school with a complicated system of rules, we confront the vast spectrum of behaviors and situations with a Love and Logic® approach — a system which allows our students to learn from the results of their own decisions or mistakes. Rather than engage in a power struggle by reacting with anger and lengthy lecturing, we apply consequences with empathy and understanding in order to intelligently manage behavior. Bad choices have natural consequences in life; these mistakes should not be ignored or forgotten, but nor should they be aggressively reprimanded. Instead, through the Love and Logic® approach, we (1) build positive relationships with our students, (2) set enforceable limits through enforceable statements, (3) share control, (4) implement disciplinary interventions that stop undesirable behaviors in their infancy, and (5) delay consequences to get the students to think emotionally about their decisions. Through these practical and effective techniques, stress levels are kept low for everyone and classroom management is easier and more enjoyable. If you want to learn more about the Love and Logic® approach, we encourage you to visit their website, blog, or read the book!
Our Mathematics classes use the Math in Focus program, which provides an authentic Singapore math curriculum for our students, highlighting problem solving as the focus of mathematical learning. This complete program teaches concepts using a concrete-pictorial-abstract learning progression. In practice, students approach new content by considering a real-life situation, visualize the numbers using diagrams and bar modeling, then flex their mental muscles on more traditional, abstract problems. Each topic is approached with the expectation that students will understand both "how" it works and also "why."
Language Arts at KAIS EMS employs the Units of Study program, developed by the Reading & Writing Project at Columbia University to meet ambitious 21st century global standards and offer a grade-by-grade curriculum rooted in best practices and newest thinking for teaching reading and writing skills and strategies. The Units of Study program follows a workshop framework for reading and writing that provides students with ample opportunity for practice. The program aims to turn students into life-long readers and writers who are able to apply the skills they learn to discipline-based learning and to their own lives. The progress the students make should become visible within a few weeks of implementation as a result of the explicit instruction they are given, as well as the very valuable teacher-feedback that is a built-in component of the program. The program puts the students’ needs first, and helps move them up levels of progression aligned with Common Core Standards. It also provides teachers with clear guidelines, strategies, and research-backed practices that are tried and tested.
The writing portion of the program emphasizes three main types of writing: narrative, persuasive, and informational, and follows a simple and intuitive writing cycle that guides both teachers and writers. The reading portion provides a balance between fiction and nonfiction skills and allows students to become close and critical readers of both genres.
Our Japanese program is composed of two broad streams: Japanese as a Native Language (JNL) and Japanese as an Additional Language (JAL) classes. For students Grades 3 and above, the JAL stream splits into JAL 1 for beginners and JAL 2 for intermediate-level students. These JAL classes focus on the acquisition and review of the hiragana and katakana scripts (writing and reading), as well as fundamental vocabulary, kanji, and phrases useful in the classroom and other real-life situations through in-class activities and textbook work. Our JNL classes, on the other hand, focus on higher order skills and content: Reading and writing kanji, learning popular expressions and idioms, as well as short essay writing.
A comprehensive Social Studies program is offered to all of our students, Kindergarten to Grade 8, implementing HMH’s new Into Social Studies program materials as well as other relevant, engaging content. These classes focus on foundational themes in society, from family, friends, responsibilities, communities, jobs, technology, and much more.
From Grade 5 we offer an internationally-minded Humanities course, a dedicated 90-minute lesson, twice a week, which merges Social Studies, History and Literature in order to more comprehensively teach the subject matter. Each term, our Grade 5-6 students study an entire region of the world, learning more about their history, food, climate, culture, music, minorities, and much more. Our Grade 7-8 students, on the other hand, follow a broad theme that changes every term, and investigate a number of inquiry questions related to the big lessons in history, with content extracted from award-winning non-fiction works. All Humanities lessons are further enhanced by related literature readings, from novels, short stories, poems, and graphic novels. This blended approach, which integrates engaging readings with historical content, seeks to reinforce what students uncover in their own research as well as introduce additional content beyond the traditional curriculum.
Our STEM classes balance traditional science education with hands-on, group-based projects. We use ScienceFusion, a state-of-the-art science program designed for building inquiry and STEM skills, and developing important critical-thinking abilities that prepare students for success in future science courses and in the workplace.
The English as an Additional Language program provides language support for ELL students (Grades 5-8) in order to build their academic language skills and allow them to participate in all their classes in productive and meaningful ways. The program follows the Cengage Reach Higher book series which uses National Geographic science and social studies content, as well as authentic literature to build content knowledge and develop English skills through inquiry-based learning. The program focuses on building the students’ reading, vocabulary, phonics, writing, grammar, and conversation skills in order to increase their fluency and language accuracy. The program aims to mainstream students as quickly as possible and therefore offers a rigorous, fast-paced curriculum tailored to the students’ individual needs. Students enrolled in this program can expect an increase in their homework load, including a daily homework routine that allows them to maximize their exposure to the English language so that they can join their peers and follow the standard grade-level schedule quickly and efficiently.
We offer differentiated Math and English labs designed to accompany the core classes by strengthening their fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. The i-Ready software program provides personalized instruction targeted to students’ specific needs, as well as regular diagnostic tests that (1) identify the areas where students are struggling, (2) measure student growth, and (3) provide powerful data that accurately and efficiently pinpoint the students’ abilities in relation to Common Core standards.
Children who feel good about themselves cope better with the challenges of life and growing up. To this purpose, we offer weekly Social Awareness classes to all of our students as a ‘universal intervention’ approach to address their academic, behavioral, social and emotional needs. The curriculum is rooted in the Talkabout program, a social and emotional learning course designed to raise self-awareness and social awareness. The course content takes into consideration their developmental stages, with (1) early years students focusing on developing a self-identity, increasing awareness of self and others, and improving problem-solving skills; (2) early-middle years students developing assertiveness, partaking in a fulfilling school, home, and community life, and practicing strategies to resolve conflicts; and (3) middle years students learning to cope with stress that comes from more complex emotions and maturing relationships, developing a positive identity, and displaying social responsibility.
Physical education is not only about playing sports; our program focuses on the locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative skills required to lead a healthy life in both body and mind. Within an energy-filled and confidence-building environment, students face a variety of physical challenges while developing their range of movement, improving their technique, and learning the basic subject terminology.
Before you enroll your son or daughter at KAIS EMS, there are a few things about our teaching methods and educational policy that you should keep in mind. At KAIS EMS, we do things a little differently — and, we like to think, a lot better — than they do at most other schools. To help you decide if our school is the right “fit” for you and your child, here is a brief introduction to the most important features of the “KAIS EMS System.”
We offer a degree of flexibility for every child’s learning path through our Personalized Learning Plans, a differentiated approach that tailors the individual and group learning routines to meet the diverse needs of our students. Together with families, we discuss the needs of individual students, set achievable goals for them, and plan out their weekly schedule in order to maximize the learning they do at school. Our friendly school atmosphere, small class sizes, and frequent discussions about student performance ensure that all teachers are familiar with the students’ academic and social growth.
Wednesday is a special day at KAIS EMS. Although some of our students have dubbed Wednesday a “day off in the middle of the week,” it is actually one of the most activity-filled days on the calendar. Wednesday is a lot of fun, but it is also a day when a lot is accomplished. On this “day off,” students take part in elective classes that they themselves have selected from a menu of choices that was handed out to them at the start of the term. Some of the elective classes that we have offered so far include: cooking, table tennis, manga drawing, yoga, game design, JLPT test prep, dance, language and culture (Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Korean), architecture and design, tabletop role-playing, film and digital photography, 3-D printing, arts and crafts, digital music production, and much more. We have on average 20-25 choices every term! Because the classes are chosen by the students, everyone, students and teachers alike, has a great time and brings to each lesson a heightened level of enthusiasm and effort. Wednesday’s elective classes also provide an opportunity for students of all grades to explore a shared interest together. The feeling of community this engenders permeates the entire week and helps to break down barriers among students of different ages and academic ability.
We believe in small class sizes, with a maximum ratio of 10 students to 1 educator in early elementary, 12 to 1 in elementary, and 14 to 1 in middle school for our core subjects. This creates a comfortable classroom atmosphere in which every student gets the appropriate attention he or she deserves. Reduced class sizes also prevent students from slipping through the cracks, and producing mediocre and uninspired work.
At KAIS EMS, we don’t give homework as such, but this doesn’t mean that students don’t have plenty of work to do. What it does mean is that at the end of each day, students get time to complete their work assignments on campus in the presence of the teachers who assigned them. This is done in our innovative Focus Groups. Available to our students are a general Homework Lab, specialized English and Math Focus Labs, and Japanese and English Conversation Skills classes. We believe that this system benefits students and their families in many ways. But we also know that parents who are more used to seeing their children study at home may feel that the KAIS EMS system leaves them “out of the loop” to some degree. Such parents may request that their children take their school work home with them for the parents’ perusal.
*Please note that students who do not complete their assignments at school must take their work home with them.
'Project Week' Scheduling
Many of the projects that our students work on are due to be completed in the final week of the term, immediately before a special school-wide event. Every Project Week, we close many of our classes for several days in a row to allow our students to experience the thrill of getting ready for a big event. This is always an intense and exciting time for our students that challenges them to focus their attention and learn to deal with the pressure of an upcoming performance or publication date. It can, of course, be a stressful time, too. But at KAIS EMS, we believe that a reasonable amount of stress is highly motivating, and that dealing with the stress allows our students to grow in ways that they previously thought impossible for themselves. It instills confidence and determination and builds character. We also believe that “disrupting” our academic schedule like this from time to time serves to ward off the gloom of monotony that is typical of much student life at schools that strictly adhere to more traditional schedules.
KAIS EMS serves the educational needs of the international community in Tokyo. This community most often includes foreign families on temporary assignments, local bi-cultural families, and Japanese families interested in providing an English-based education for their children. In order to maximize their learning potential, our students are committed to speaking English with each other on campus, out of school, and in the digital world. We understand that many of our students are multilingual and that English is not their native language. This is precisely why we make sure to use English as the main language of instruction and communication except for in foreign language classes.
English as an Additional Language
We want all students to not only be able to access the curriculum, but also make meaningful friendships at KAIS. In order to mainstream our English language learners as quickly as possible, we offer a special English as an Additional Language Support (EALS) program to help build their academic language skills and allow them to participate in all their classes in productive and meaningful ways. The program focuses on building the students’ reading, vocabulary, phonics, writing, grammar, and conversation skills in order to increase their fluency and language accuracy.
A Culture of Reading
We actively nurture a culture of reading at KAIS, supporting students to become independent, life-long readers. Our ‘Units of Study’ program provides our students with the opportunity to read high volume of high-interest, level-appropriate books of their choosing (rather than a one-size-fits-all novel), and explicitly teaches them the skills and strategies to support close and critical reading. Don’t like reading? We’ll help find you that special book that will blow your mind!
Being such a small school, it’s important for students to interact not only with their classmates at the same grade level, but also with kids of all ages. To make this happen, students are organized into Houses and compete in daily challenges – morning workouts, reading competitions, trivia, spelling bees, and more. These points are carefully tallied and announced every Friday at our school assemblies, where we celebrate the projects the students have been working on, honor the behavior and actions that represent our school’s culture words, and showcase their hard work to the entire school.
After-School Club Activities
Students get to choose from an array of after-school activities, from competitive sports to more chilled out and cerebral activities. Our comprehensive after-school athletics program, for example, is a great place to work on their soccer, basketball, volleyball, and cross-country skills while also developing teamwork. In the Cinema Club, students watch important classic and contemporary films, analyzing composition techniques, and discussing the great masters of film and their contributions to the ongoing history of cinema. Our Robotics Club provides students with hands-on, project-based activities that teach the engineering process using the popular VEX IQ program. Students who wish to join one or more of the clubs can apply at the school office.
Weekly English & Math Retention Checks
At KAIS EMS, we give all students fourth grade and above a weekly English or Math (alternating) Retention Check to gauge whether they have learned the core concepts and skills studied in class. Students who score below the minimum standard on either check are asked to attend a specialized Focus Group for tutoring. This system allows us to make sure that all our students know what they need to know in order to get the most out of and truly enjoy the following week’s lessons — it means that our students never have to suffer the confusion and frustration that come from falling behind.
Multi-Tiered Support: Response to Intervention (RtI)
Small classes and effective systems of internal communication mean that student performance and progress can more effectively be monitored. This approach to universal screening of academics and behavior is conducted in regular meetings, where we discuss our observations and concerns, then apply appropriate intervention strategies. To facilitate this process, we use a system called Response to Intervention (RtI), a multi-tier model of educational resource delivery. Each tier involves increasing intensity of services matched to the student’s measured level of need. Tier 1 students (80%) receive preventive and proactive universal intervention to their continued development. Tier 2 students (15%) received targeted interventions for some at-risk performance and behavior, from ESL support needs to social awareness concerns. Finally, Tier 3 students (5%) are subject to intensive, individual interventions to address long-term challenges effectively - often with the support of trusted third-party specialists. Using this approach, our staff can more readily identify those learners who are not meeting the benchmarks or other expected standards.
An International Faculty
At KAIS EMS, we embrace internationalism. We strive to expose our students to a wide variety of beliefs and points of view, which we believe benefits them in all kinds of ways. Though our primary language of instruction is English, we are not specifically a British, American, Australian, or Canadian school. Nor are we a Japanese school. Our faculty represents a broad spectrum of backgrounds, reflecting not only the diversity of our own student body, but also the diversity of many of today’s workplaces and modern life in general. While all of our teachers and staff share a commitment to the core educational principles of KAIS EMS, our approaches are all unique. Each adds its own element to the rich and ever-evolving tapestry of our school.
Our Relationship with Our Host Country
One of the core principles at KAIS EMS is that it is essential for all our students, regardless of national or cultural background, to develop a habitual inclination to learn about and respect the traditions of any country they live in or visit. This is why we stress the importance of our students’ behaving in a way that is in harmony with Japanese mores and culture, particularly when they are out in public or interacting with Japanese people. For many overseas students, this can be a difficult adjustment. But we feel that only by making this transition can they develop the ability to “code switch” from one culture to another, an essential skill for succeeding in any international environment — be it in school, in public, or in the modern workplace. Of equal importance is that this consideration and respect for local customs and ways of doing things leaves a positive impression of our own cultures in the eyes of our students’ Japanese hosts.
We Don’t "Enable" Children
At KAIS EMS, as we endeavor to tailor-make a meaningful and rewarding experience for each child, we know how important it is for us not to “spoil" our students by enabling poor academic performance or behavior. Such permissiveness comes with many risks for students, the most pernicious of which is making lowered expectations a life-long habit. We believe that resilience — the ability to face up to and deal with great challenges — is a critically important trait. Students can only develop and refine this type of toughness and tenacity by stepping outside their comfort zone and then adapting to the new “zone” through determined effort. Teachers who, in the spirit of love and kindness, inadvertently lower standards too quickly or remove children from “difficult” situations, ultimately deprive students of this opportunity to grow. Parents who enroll their children in our school must understand that we keep our standards of performance and behavior high, though reasonably so. Only after all other options have been explored and exhausted do we offer Modified Learning Plans for individual students.