International School Manila

Integrity - Service - Merit

Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Elementary School

In the Elementary School, it is Chomsky’s definition of being truly educated that informs both our curriculum (what we teach) and our pedagogy (how we teach). We want students to be knowledgeable and informed, responsible and caring people who enjoy rich relationships with others; people who can communicate, question, inquire; people who are both independent and collaborative, risk-takers, and creative, critical and reflective thinkers.


Pedagogy at ISM Elementary School

An Inquiry Approach to Teaching and Learning

Traditional teaching practices involve presenting students with information and asking them to replicate what they have been told. In comparison, inquiry teaching practices challenge learners to come to understand through tackling a problem, analyzing and reflecting. As students engage in an inquiry learning experience, they gradually construct and deepen principles for themselves (Kath Murdoch, 2015).

Put simply, Inquiry is a student-centered approach that requires more of students than simply memorizing facts and content. Learning is built upon students’ prior knowledge and experiences, and the construction of meaning is an active process. The goal of inquiry-based learning is deeper understanding that enables students to transfer and apply what they have learned to meaningful and varied contexts. Students who are becoming curious and reflective thinkers demonstrate persistence, flexibility, taking responsibility and taking care. They build skills in reasoning, questioning, decision- making and problem solving.

At ISM Elementary School, an inquiry approach to teaching and learning is employed by all teachers across all discipline areas. While teachers are responsible for making sure that learning meets our Standards and Indicators, what students experience are rich learning opportunities that give them the time and the space to explore, inquire and reflect in order to make meaning and construct their own understandings.

An inquiry approach to learning and teaching supports differentiation. Teachers design open-ended, ‘low-entry, high-ceiling’ learning experiences which allow us to honor students’ interests, learning style and readiness. We view every class as a group of unique individuals with unique needs and while our written curriculum determines what we teach, our students determine how we teach. By being responsive to individual needs, all students are challenged to an achievable level, which helps keep them motivated and deepens their understandings.

Curriculum at ISM Elementary School

The key areas of our Curriculum Framework are:

  • A Kindergarten - Grade 4 Healthy Relationships curriculum that explicitly teaches children the knowledge and skills they need to be empowered advocates for themselves and others and to recognize, value and maintain healthy relationships in their lives.
  • A set of Dispositions that are the life-long behaviors we want to cultivate in students. They are rooted in common values that will help a student learn how to contribute positively to the school community and society at large.
  • A set of Learning Skills that are school-wide, broad, essential skills that transcend subject areas.
  • Preschool to Grade 12 Standards and Indicators for English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, Music, and Visual Arts which specify what a learner needs to know, understand and be able to do in each of the grade levels.

The Parallel Curriculum

We refer to the ISM Dispositions and Learning Skills as our Parallel Curriculum. These transcend all disciplines and contexts and are embedded in all learning throughout the school. Students are provided with on-going opportunities to consider what these dispositions and skills look like in different learning contexts and to self-reflect and self- evaluate their development of these dispositions and skills.

ISM Dispositions
  • Balanced 
  • Caring
  • Curious 
  • Ethical
  • Persevering 
  • Responsible
ISM Learning Skills
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creative, Critical and Reflective Thinking
  • Research
  • Self Management

The Learning Skills are part of a student's 'toolkit' and are essential to inquiry-based learning. With the goal of understanding at the heart of all learning experiences at ISM, developing these skills enables students to work with greater independence as they rethink, refine and revise what they have learned. These skills are pertinent to learning that happens within inquiry units, in subject specific curriculum areas, in specialists’ classes, and in non-academic situations such as those that happen in the playground or cafeteria.