Elementary Education – Grades 1 through 5

(Click here to learn more about preschool and kindergarten)

The International School provides an engaging and rigorous academic program, taught primarily through a second language – Japanese, Chinese, or Spanish. In Portland’s first International Baccalaureate (IB) elementary school, student-led inquiry helps children learn to find answers to their questions and collaborate with others. Students develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills as they learn language and subject content.

Language Immersion

Language immersion is one of the primary facets of a student’s experience at TIS. All homeroom lessons are conducted in Chinese, Japanese or Spanish with natively-fluent teachers. Students acquire the language and global perspective as they study a challenging curriculum of math, science, social studies & language arts.

At TIS, children spend the vast majority of their day hearing and using their target language. As a result, they achieve a higher level of fluency than students in partial immersion programs.

International Baccalaureate

Our students learn through the International Baccalaureate, a program that is rooted in student-led inquiry. Our students study six themes each year, becoming confident in asking questions to guide their own learning. For each theme there is a universally relevant central idea and three to five guiding lines of inquiry. After reviewing what they already know about the topic, students formulate questions based on what they want to learn.

Through the course of the unit, students work collaboratively to find answers to their questions. They research, experiment, and problem solve their way through age-appropriate activities set up by the teacher. In this way, an IB education helps children learn strategic thinking skills, rather than using memorization and passive learning.

English Language Arts

In Grades 1-5, students study English for one hour every day. This is where reading and writing skills blossom, as our English specialists provide targeted lessons to help each student thrive.

Specialist classes

Art, Music, and PE are instrumental parts of the school’s program, with specialists linking into the IB themes being studied. These classes introduce ideas, concepts, and skills, revisiting and building on them throughout a student’s educational journey. Elementary students enjoy each of these classes 1-2 times per week.


At TIS, Macbooks and iPads help students learn to express themselves in various ways. Technology may help with research, student presentations, reading practice, and accessing resources from other parts of the world. Using technology at school also gets children to look beyond games and internalize the concept of computers as tools for real learning. TIS students develop a comfort level with various applications which helps them approach new technology uses with confidence. TIS has an Educational Technology Specialist who works with teachers to make the most of technology-enhanced lessons.

Educational Standards

The International School’s curriculum content is shaped by the Oregon Standards for Science (which are aligned to the National Science Standards), the National Social Studies Standards, and the Common Core State Standards for Math, which have been adopted by 38 states including Oregon. TIS chose these sets of standards because they represent strong, clear thinking on the concepts children should be learning.  These standards provide a minimum benchmark for students and teachers at TIS, with actual student achievement frequently exceeding these academic targets.

Capstone and Beyond 5th Grade

In their final year of studies at The International School, fifth graders travel as a group to a country of their adopted language to experience life in another culture. The trip serves as the ultimate Capstone to a TIS education, enabling students to validate their language proficiency and cultural understanding through real world experience.

At the same time, the Capstone Study Abroad Program helps fifth graders cultivate their growing confidence and independence as they prepare for middle school. Graduates of our school are true global citizens who excel in a diverse and multicultural society.

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