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10 reasons why the TASIS Elementary School is thriving after 10 years
Posted 11/10/2015 04:00PM

Ten years after opening its doors to 43 students to become the first English-language primary school in Ticino, the TASIS Elementary School now welcomes 201 students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through five. Below are ten of the reasons why the School has flourished over the past decade and why it is well-positioned to excel for many years to come.

1. The Core Knowledge Curriculum, supplemented by the Singapore Math program and a Reading Mastery Curriculum, prepares all students for academic success at the next level.

As a school composed of students who are from very different cultural backgrounds and have varying levels of English fluency, TASIS believes that it is critical to employ a coherent, cumulative, and content-specific core curriculum that is grounded in shared knowledge of History, Science, Art, and Music. The Core Knowledge (CK) curriculum—which is also used at the TASIS Elementary Schools in England and Puerto Rico and in hundreds of schools in the US and other countries—serves as a great equalizer, closing the opportunity gap by giving all children an equal opportunity to learn essential academic knowledge and skills.

The CK curriculum has specific domains with clear objectives of what students should be learning throughout each grade level. Teachers are free to teach the subject matter as creatively as they like, but the content is specified and builds from year to year. The curriculum eliminates the gaps and repetitions that characterize most elementary curricula, in which textbooks and learning units are selected more or less at random and are not coordinated across grade levels or even within a grade level in different classrooms.

Nations represented
in the ES student body

The Singapore Math curriculum focuses on building fundamental math skills so that students have a strong foundational base to draw upon when they undertake more advanced studies in the future. The method uses a three-step learning model—concrete, pictorial, and abstract—that introduces concepts in a progression. By focusing on fewer topics but covering them in greater detail, students are able master a specific set of skills each year and do not need to re-learn these skills at the next grade level. This very successful model, which was first developed in Singapore in the 1980s, is directly inverse to much current, ineffective mathematics-teaching educational practice in the US, where many concepts are taught during the early years, progressing to just a few by the upper-elementary and middle-school levels.

Small-group and individualized reading instruction is provided on a daily basis, and students have specific, ongoing assessments to determine placement in the appropriate reading group. Among the methods used is the SRA Reading Mastery Curriculum, a phonics-based, systematic approach that covers the five pillars of reading development: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency.

2. A strong Supplementary Studies program ensures that students develop into well-rounded individuals.

In addition to core academic instruction in Language Arts, History and Geography, Mathematics, and Science, the TASIS Elementary Schools offers robust programs in Visual Arts, Music, and Physical Education. Students meet regularly with highly trained specialist teachers, who collaborate with core-subject teachers to provide an integrated curriculum that supports the Core Knowledge sequence.

3. An excellent EAL program helps non-native English speakers learn the language quickly.

Many students come to TASIS speaking little or no English, and the goal of the English as an Additional Language (EAL) program is to increase their abilities and confidence as quickly as possible. By combining reading, writing, grammar, spelling, and literature lessons with immersion in core content-area classes, students learn the language at a rapid rate and are well-prepared for advanced English-only instruction when they finish Elementary School.

4. A versatile Italian Language Program is an effective solution for both native and non-native speakers.

Students whose families have resided in Ticino for more than six years enter the Elementary School’s Italian Section, in which many of the core academic subjects are taught in Italian, based on the best of the traditional Italian curriculum that mirrors much of the rich Core Knowledge curriculum. Italian Language, History and Geography, and Science are taught in Italian while English Language Arts, Mathematics, and supplemental classes are taught in English, enabling students to achieve academic proficiency in both languages.

Students whose families have resided in Ticino for fewer than six years study primarily in English but also take an Italian Language course each day. These students do, however, have the option to enter the Italian Section instead. TASIS works with each family to determine which path is best for each child.

5. A low student-teacher ratio combined with the Responsive Classroom approach builds a community of self-assured learners.

The average Elementary School homeroom has just 10 students, and EAL-support classes have an average student-teacher ratio of 3:1. Small class sizes allow TASIS teachers to more effectively track their students’ development and gain a better understanding of their strengths and passions.

The Elementary School faculty has also adopted the Responsive Classroom approach, a teaching method that helps students strengthen both academic and social-emotional skills, builds a collaborative community of learners, and delivers content in a manner that is interesting to students. Professional development in the Responsive Classroom approach has helped teachers improve their discipline practices, train students to be responsible for their own behavior, and prepare teaching spaces and lesson plans that help the class achieve its goals.

6. A technology-rich environment provides ample opportunities for students to use modern tools to learn, create, and collaborate.

Elementary School teachers incorporate technology in meaningful ways that support all areas of the curriculum, and the School’s excellent Learning Technologies Coordinator runs classes and 1-on-1 training sessions to ensure that both students and teachers get the most of the many tools at their disposal.

Each classroom is outfitted with an iMac, a projector, a document camera, and an Apple TV, and students in grades 3-5 enjoy a 1:1 iPad program while those in grades K-2 share class sets of iPads. Students learn to use a variety of educational apps throughout the year, including Keynote, Google Drive, IXL Math, Matholia, Reading A-Z Books for Kids, Spelling City, and Explain Everything.

7. A highly international faculty and student body transforms students into world citizens.

With a diverse student body that represents 28 nationalities, the TASIS Elementary School is a true global community, and the School considers it paramount to hire outstanding teachers who are well-versed in international schools, multilingual education, and early-childhood education. More than 80 percent of the 51 full- and part-time faculty members hold advanced degrees while the faculty represents more than a dozen nationalities and speaks more than a dozen languages.

More than
of ES faculty hold
advanced degrees

8. A dynamic Service Learning program instills compassion in students and builds awareness for important local and global issues.

Students work on different service projects at each grade level. Their level of involvement grows each year, with the ultimate goal of building a foundation for success in the High School’s pioneering Global Service Program.

Recent projects have included raising money for aid relief in the Philippines to better understand the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child (Pre-Kindergarten), working with Heifer International to help eradicate world hunger (1st grade), and learning about food waste as part of the Ethical Food Malawi program (4th grade).

9. An expansive After-School Program promotes an active, wholesome lifestyle and encourages students to discover new interests.

TASIS believes that the education of a child should not stop at 15:30. The Elementary School’s robust After-School Program builds upon the fine work done during regular school hours by offering students programs in athletics, art, music, theater, dance, robotics, modern languages, and more. All activities take place in a pleasant and supportive environment and allow children to cultivate their talents while creating new friendships and building self-confidence.

10. The location and facilities are first-rate.

Nestled on the Collina d’Oro (“Hill of Gold”) in Montagnola, a small village overlooking Lugano, the Elementary School campus is surrounded by the Swiss mountains above and Lake Lugano below. The campus comprises seven classroom buildings, a science laboratory, two dining halls, and two playgrounds, and students enjoy access to all that the main TASIS campus has to offer, including two gymnasiums and a large theater. Students in Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and first grade spend most of their time at the Early Childhood Center known as Al Focolare, which has its own kitchen facilities, playground space, art room, and library.

To learn more about the TASIS Elementary School or to schedule a visit, contact the Admissions Office at or +41 91 960 51 51. Click here to meet Elementary School Head Theresa Cullen Hill, who was appointed in March 2015.



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