• The ISS Open Book

    A Think Tank for International Educators

  • An Online Community to Fuel Our Work

    "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."

    Henry Ford


    "Love brings us in close, leads us to study the details of a thing, and asks us to return again and again."

    Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts


    Dear International Educators,


    Welcome! We are grateful to connect with you. The ISS Open Book is all about supporting and strengthening our international education community. With your partnership and collective contributions, we hope that this site will provide all of us with a deep and diverse well of professional tools and up-to-date communications about professional learning opportunities. Please visit The Open Book often!


    Warm regards and respect,

    Laura Benson

    Director of Curriculum and Professional Development

    International Schools Services


    Skype benson729

  • Our Learning and Teaching Well: Resources and Research to Support Your Work

    The Open Book is a way to make our work public and a vehicle for sharing our thinking with one another.  We will be posting practical resources alongside compelling research and professional texts here often.  By sharing our work with one another, we hope to lighten and uplift everyone's teaching.  Together we are stronger.  

    Knowing Students as Individuals

    Practical and Informative Conference Rituals and Routines

    Conference are first and foremost all about relationships. I engage in one-on-one conference with students because I want to get to know them as individuals and because conferences help to nurture our relationships with one another throughout the year. With my rituals of conferring with students, I also gain daily opportunities to offer them customized instruction, assess their progress and growth over time, and nudge them to self-reflect, name their strengths, and set compelling goals for themselves. I have attached profiles of my key conference rituals and routines along with examples of my own conference record notes and corresponding "next steps of learning" lesson plans. I have also included a variety of ways one can take conference notes as this is a highly personal practice - Each of us needs to find our own way to make conferring work for us as an informative, relationship building habit of our teaching. https://uploads.strikinglycdn.com/files/482001b2-f1c9-4f3a-adc4-ad72c836851d/CONFER ISS Open Book.pdf?id=17565

    Curriculum Leaders Network

    An online cohort to share curriculum resources, questions, and solutions with one another

    As curriculum coordinators/directors, we care about and support the learning journeys of our entire community - our students, our colleagues, our students' parents, and often the boarder community of our schools, too. We get curriculum requests from every content area and every grade level. This site is fueled by the desire to able to respond to all those thoughtful and sometimes rather urgent requests. Together, let's create a curriculum community so that we can share ideas, questions, and resources with one another. Please utilize the ISS Open Book to share your thoughts and curriculum exemplars with all of us.


    Attached here is a sample of Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions I put together to support curriculum development efforts (especially when using Understanding by Design for Stage 1: Desired Results efforts). *Please note that I add examples to this periodically. You can check for the latest "edition" by referencing the date in the footer of this resource.

    https://uploads.strikinglycdn.com/files/3b7739a2-42a6-4bc1-ab4c-19360ee08000/1 Enduring Understandings Sampler.pdf?id=17973


    As I plan Stage 3 notes, my Learning Plans, for a unit of study, I use the following questions to guide my thinking:

    https://uploads.strikinglycdn.com/files/4ae1db05-3315-4043-90ef-ef70ba7e0b27/Continuum for Student Learning ©Laura Benson.docx?id=18262

    Come Learn with Us at

    Level 5...

    Unleash your inner creative at ISS's Level 5 in Shekou-Shenzhen, China and in Bahrain!




    Learning Together

    Rituals and routines to guide and nurture your PLC, Data Teams, and collaborative work

    The Self-Talk of Understanding

    How do proficient readers and thinkers talk to themselves to build understanding?

    This article invites you into my classroom and my teaching as I work to mentor growing thinkers. In truth, students are my teachers as they continuously chisel my understanding about what it means to think and work to understand what we hear, read, view, and learn.

    https://uploads.strikinglycdn.com/files/e0c71db8-6d72-4181-b2a8-4733f3fdf896/Deep Thinking.pdf?id=37660


    Here are some bookmarks highlighting the language I use when modeling thinking for/with students and tools I give to students to nudge them to employing strategic thinking and self-talk as they read collaboratively and independently. I hope you and your students find them helpful and meaningful!

    https://uploads.strikinglycdn.com/files/e0c71db8-6d72-4181-b2a8-4733f3fdf896/Self Talk Book Marks.doc?id=37657



    Responsive Learning and Teaching with Standards-based Curriculum and Assessment

    Working to be standards-based does not mean we are "Stepford" teachers and leaders. How can we utilize standards as thoughtful guides of curriculum development and teaching while still responding to our students as individual thinkers and learners? How do inquiry and project-based learning fit into a standards-based framework? What should we be careful about when thinking about standards-based assessment, grading, and reporting?

    Please see my December 6th blog post for this article. Here is a portion of my most recent professional text set in researching and reflecting on standards-based assessment and curriculum:

    Read More About It!

    Ainsworth, Briggs, Wiggs, Besser, and Almeida (2012). Navigating Assessment and Collaboration with the Common Core State Standards

    Benson in Almeida, Benson, Doubek, and Wiggs (2011). Standards and Assessment: The Core of Quality Instruction

    Benson (2005). “Going on Rounds” in the Colorado IRA Journal

    Carr and Harris (2001). Succeeding with Standards: Linking Curriculum, Assessment, and Action Planning

    Fisher and Frey (2013). Common Core English Language Arts in a PLC at Work Grades K-2

    Fisher and Frey (2013). Common Core English Language Arts in a PLC at Work Grades 3- 5

    Guskey and Bailey’s (2010). Developing Standards-Based Report Cards

    Guskey and Jung (2013). Answers to Essential Questions about Standards, Assessments, Grading, and Reporting

    Heflebower, Hoegh, Warrick (2015). A School Leader’s Guide to Standards-Based Grading

    O’Connor, Ken. (2009). How to Grade for Learning K-11 - Third Edition.

    Vatterott (2014). Rethinking Grading: Meaningful Assessment for Standards-based Learning





    Reflecting = Learning

    As we have learned from our brilliant Adaptive Schools mentors, learning grows from the nurturing soil of reflection. Without reflection, there is no learning. Our students, too, must stop to pause and reflect on their own learning. For many kids with their bouncy spirits and/or new understandings, this is not a very natural or comfortable habit - yet. With our apprenticeship, our students can come to understand the value of stepping back and reflecting. And they will often realize how much more they know and understand!


    In the attached resource you will find a few of the rituals I engaged my own students in to help them reflect and "speak their thinking." I hope you find these supportive in creating cultures of thinking (Ritchhart, 2011) with your students and staff!

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