The BIS Classrooms

Our students graduate from one room to another when they are developmentally ready not just because the year ends or they have a birthday. Our teaching teams track student development along a range of developmental continua covering areas like; academic, physical, social and emotional and self direction. This allows us to work out the optimal time for them to move to the new classroom setting for them
to thrive. We want the graduation process to always be one that is joyful and exciting where the student feels empowered by the transition. The transitioning student is always involved in the process as they need to be committed to the movement. Their parent is also a key member of the transition process as we are looking for any feedback on the process to know if the transition is going as expected or to speed it up or slow it down.

The quadrant experience (self study / body awareness / social interaction / systems study) reflects our Lab Sessions during the day. We choose the lab session in which the student is most comfortable will be the one that is used to transition between the Big Cats and Penguins. If happier in system study then Lab Session 1 in the morning is perfect. If happier in self study then Lab Session 3 for afternoon relaxation is perfect. These transitions also happen in pairs rather than individual students.

Otter and Dolphin transitions tend to happen as full transitions rather than specific Lab Sessions as we find their emphasis on small or large group friendship makes part transitions difficult. These students transition from Penguins to Otters as individuals as we want them to start forming group connections rather than just pair groupings.


Classroom Structure

The Big Cats


Like the delightful but ego centric lions of the savannah the Big Cats are egocentric with low impulse control where it is all about “me”. The strength of this developmental level is that it sets up our strength of will, our fierce courage to defend our needs and strong connections to emotion. This stage still believes in magic, ghosts and monsters. It is our most flexible and free flowing room. Academically this is usually a Prep – 1 room. This level of development needs immediacy, pattern based learning, concrete materials, play, and clear boundaries enforced by an adult who is affectionate, playful and able to establish a kindly dictatorship with wizard-like skills. Find out more by visiting the Big Cats .

The Penguins


The bonding between a pair is the stand out feature of the Penguins as they learn to love the “rules”. This stage is called Rule Oriented. As the inward focussed ego moves to connect to another and the importance of a “Best Friend” starts to awaken, the classroom environment needs to change. Pair work rules supreme as writing, spelling, maths rules become important. This group still needs concrete materials to understand notions of number and space. This is the perfect time to introduce the “rules” of the systems of the world, grammar, addition, spelling, design. The need to be like the “other” demands understanding of what other’s do.  Academically this room is usually grade 1- 2. Developmentally this level needs the Penguin teacher to be the kind holder of the knowledge and needs to be the “guide” not a friend. Find out more by visiting the Penguins.

The Otters

A transition group, the Otters are beginning to see the collective/group around them, beyond their “best friend” BUT they will slip back into the Rule Oriented whenever they are stressed or tired. The transition room is designed to give them safety in being able to have clear boundaries given when they need it – “just tell me what to do!” but gives them the scope to move into the Rule Conformist stage, when they start to want to manipulate and use the rules. Academically this is usually around grade 3-4. Developmentally this level needs their Otter teacher to be both strong and powerful as well as fair and just. Find out more by visiting the Otters.


The Dolphins


Working in groups, exploring, playing with ideas and realising for the first time how together their power and control is improved, the Dolphins are all about the “us” and “them” as the peer group moves into control their experience. Group work takes over the structure of the room interspersed with time alone to get focussed work done. Chatting, discussing, arguing and proving one’s power is the feature of this class as debate, use of mastered skills and connection to the adult world begins.  Academically this group is usually grades 5-6. The Dolphin’s teacher needs to be leading the pack and proving their worth to the group by being intellectually stimulating and full of insights. Find out more by visiting the Dolphins.

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