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Learning Core

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Nikki Williams

Director of Enrolments and Communications Cont-tara

Learning Core

In the Junior School the learning is organised using the  International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) framework. Within this organisational structure, are embedded the six key subject areas of the NSW Board of Studies: English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Sciences (HSIE and History), PDHPE and Creative Arts. In addition to this, Tara girls also learn an additional language from the age of 7. 

Learn more about the Primary Years Programme and the following subjects in the Tara Junior School, including our Spanish Language program, PDHPEPerforming ArtsVisual Arts and Technology.  

English

The teaching and learning of English incorporates an integrated model of reading, viewing, writing, responding, spelling, handwriting/word processing, and grammar and punctuation, across a range of multi-modal texts.  

At Tara we believe that language is how a person expresses themselves, their culture and their faith. It enables them to communicate and make sense of the world. Language may be in the form of observing, speaking and listening, reading and viewing, and recording and writing. All students are language learners regardless of their language background or ability. Our philosophy of language seeks to support language development, additional language learning and the mother tongue.

Language is transdisciplinary – it is integral to and transcends all disciplines. Students learn language, learn about language and learn through language. At Tara all staff are responsible for the teaching of language and therefore all spaces are language learning centres. We embed language skills and knowledge in all curriculum areas. We aim to inspire students to develop their language skills and transfer these skills across all areas of life so they can actively participate in their education, relationships, culture and the world. 

Language is an essential tool for living. As we use language in purposeful ways, we aim to provide learning experiences where students can see the relevance of what they are learning. All users need to be able to express themselves or communicate in ways that are contextually relevant and therefore learning needs to be contextually relevant.

At Tara we value the cultural backgrounds of all students. Therefore we aim to encourage, develop and share in their mother tongue language. As the Language of instruction is English, it allows students whose mother tongue is not English to become balanced bilinguals who are highly proficient, literate and knowledgeable in two or more languages.

Through direct instruction, modelled and guided experiences, inquiry learning, and flexible groupings based on need and interest, students build their knowledge in the literacy elements of composing and responding. Composing sees the girls creating verbal, written and visual texts for an authentic purpose and for real audiences. Responding occurs as the girls read, listen to or view texts. It requires them to engage on a personal level and react and reflect on this range of multi-modal texts, including digital media. 

English sessions require the girls to become active users of language, to go beyond the text and think critically and creatively about language and life. 

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Mathematics

Mathematics is a creative activity involving reasoning, abstraction and generalisation in order to identify, describe and apply patterns and relationships. Through purposeful guided inquiry, Tara girls learn about number and algebra, measurement and geometry, and statistics and probability. Working mathematically is the act of thinking, reasoning and communicating in a mathematical way in all these different areas of inquiry. 

Underpinning the teaching of mathematics in the Junior School is the work of Jo Boaler and Carol Dweck pertaining to mindset. The aim of teaching mathematics is that the girls develop a strong sense of efficacy in their mathematical capability, rather than a notion so prevalent in society that mathematics requires a special set of cognitive talents only held by a few. Teachers do this by valuing mathematical reasoning over mathematical speed, and creative permutations of problems over rote formulas and single strategies. 

The girls construct meaning through ever increasing levels of abstraction. Each new mathematical concept and process is explored from the concrete through to the representational stage, which employs diagrams, signs and symbols. 

The essential power of mathematics is in its transferability to aid girls in making sense of the world around them. Mathematics has a strong relationship with other subject disciplines: students learn to apply their mathematical concepts, skills and understanding to a broad context beyond the maths lesson in areas such as science, geography, history, music, art, PE and English. This enables them to make informed decisions, and to interpret and apply mathematics in a variety of real-world contexts.

Through explicit teaching, modelled and guided experiences, inquiry learning, and flexible groupings based on readiness and interest, student build their knowledge and skills in mathematical concepts and methods, seeing themselves as mathematicians in the process. 

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Science

All Tara girls are scientists. The girls learn an appreciation and awareness of the world as it is viewed from a scientific perspective. Science equips the girls with the ability to explain behaviour, relationships and phenomena, of objects around us in the natural and made world. Science learning at Tara acknowledges that human understanding of science is constantly changing and evolving. Scientific inquiry is intimately connected to curiosity and ingenuity.  

Science is finding out about the world in a systematic way. It is not just a body of knowledge but is also a process of inquiry and investigation. At Tara, scientific inquiry is a distinct way of finding answers to interesting questions and solutions to important problems. The girls pose hypotheses and wonderings which are addressed by working scientifically and technologically. The girls are proficient in the key scientific skills and processes involved in these inquiries, including: posing questions, conducting fair tests, verifying findings, using evidence, justifying and reasoning, and using and evaluating technology. 

 As an IB World School, the study of science is especially relevant. Science is universal and transcends boundaries of gender, cultural, linguistic and national perspectives. Scientific knowledge is made relevant through its numerous applications in the real world. Reflection on our knowledge, helps a Tara girl develop a sense of responsibility regarding the impact of her actions on herself, others and the world around her. 

Scientific and technological knowledge and skills as outlined in the NSW Board of Studies syllabus, is organised under the six PYP transdisciplinary themes (link) enabling the girls to undertake scientific inquiry within a transdisciplinary context. 

Social Sciences (Geography and History)

Students in the Junior School develop knowledge, understanding, skills, values and attitudes about people and their social and physical environments. They learn not only about Australia’s history and geography, but also about the people who live within its territory and their social, cultural, economic and political lives. Integral to this inquiry is an examination of our place in the world, including our responsibility. 

The girls study change and continuity within societies. The girls make inquiries to explain how people, events and forces of the past shape our world today. They locate and understand themselves and others in the continuum of human experience. Students explore and understand past human actions and experiences, which equips them to shape the future in an increasingly interconnected and global world.  The development of values and attitudes related to social justice, intercultural understanding, ecological sustainability, democratic processed, beliefs and moral codes and lifelong learning underpins learning and teaching. These skills enable our students to participate as active, informed and responsible citizens of the world. This aligns naturally and authentically with the IB mission statement, which calls for action to make the world a better place. 

An important aspect of the social sciences is understanding different stories and perspectives. The ability to interpret events depends on points of view and the sources used. Students are encouraged to develop an understanding of historical and geographical concepts related to cause and effect, systems and sustainability, change and continuity, significance, empathy and contestability. They develop problem-solving, research and critical thinking skills, critically analysing and interpreting primary and secondary sources to construct reasoned explanations and rational and informed arguments based on evidence. These skills are needed as they work to solve the question, “How do we know?”

The future wellbeing of human society and its environment depends upon the quality of people’s interactions with each other and the posing of challenging questions. At Tara, we take seriously our mission to educate girls for a better future. 

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The Junior School gratefully acknowledges the International Baccalaureate Organisation, 2009, Making the PYP Happen, as well as BOSTES K-6 syllabus documents. 

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