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Junior School

An aerial shot of students sitting in a circle with their teacher in the Junior School cortile.


ISF is an authorized Primary Years Programme (PYP) curriculum school. As such, it is engaged in using “structured, purposeful inquiry as the main approach to teaching and learning” across school ages and curricular areas. Our students develop the knowledge, concepts, skills and attitudes that the IB identifies as the core of an International Baccalaureate education. It is challenging in its scope and ability to prepare internationally-minded students.

A PYP education is less focused than many models on test results as an indication of learning and more focused on demonstrations of the use of what has been learned through oral, written and electronic presentations as well as collaboratively developed projects and artistic representations. Classes are oen noisy, busy places where students can be observed constructing what they know.

At ISF, English is not a “subject” and instead, is the primary language of instruction and inclusion. As an internationally -minded school, nestled in Florence, we also teach Italian to all of our students. Mother-tongue is a very valued part of your childʼs development, and we encourage the nurturing and fostering of all mother-tongues.

The Primary Yearsʼ Programme (PYP) is structured around six transdisciplinary themes which are significant and meaningful to all students:

Who we are - An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities and cultures; rights and responsibilities, what it means to be human.

Where we are in place and time - An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.

How we express ourselves - An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.

How the world works - An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.

How we organize ourselves - An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.

Parent-student handbook 2022/2023. Version: September 2022 13

Sharing the planet - An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.

Student Voices


Early Years at the International School of Florence is taught through the IB Primary Years Programme. It is based on a child-centered, developmental approach to the young learner. Children experience a nurturing and stimulating environment where their curiosity is placed at the center of their growth. Social and emotional skills are developed to support their emerging independence. The school day offers a range of opportunities for exploration and collaborative learning, as well as Physical Education, Music class, Art class and Library visits. Studentsʼ English language skills are reinforced daily through purposeful modelling and contextual interactions, with Italian language extension offered once a week for Early Years 1 and 2 and three times a week in Foundation.


Italian language development and cultural awareness are integral in learning about our host country. Whether students are learning Italian as an additional language or as a home language we are able to support their learning through our units of inquiry as well as through stand alone Italian language teaching.

Early Years 1 and Early Years 2Students in Early Years 1 and 2 have weekly classes in Italian where they enjoy stories, songs and play lead in Italian. Classes have bilingual teaching assistants who support student understanding between English and Italian on an ongoing basis.

Foundation to Grade 2

Italian classes become progressively more regular, with daily instruction by Grade 2.
Classes are grouped according to levels of Italian acquisition and learning is focused on the acquisition of Italian- reading and writing, speaking and listening.

From 3rd to 5th Grade

At the end of 2nd Grade, students are split into 3 different Italian levels. The goals of each differ and the placement into a program is at the discretion of the principal, based on assessments, family need, and teacher recommendation.

Italian Program (Quinta Elementare)

The Quinta Elementare is an exam taken at a local Italian public school with an external commission at the end of Grade 5. This exam allows entrance to Italian National State Middle schools.

Students who take the Quinta Elementare path are automatically placed in the Italian Program at ISF Middle School (although they can opt out).

The Italian Program is designed for children who speak Italian as a home language. Students receive instruction in literature, grammar, history, geography, science and mathematics in Italian and oral and written exams are taken in all these subject areas.

Students are eligible for acceptance to this path if they: Speak Italian as a home language (or one of)

Have been assessed by Italian teachers as being of a sufficient level to meet the needs of the program

Families are willing to support their children in preparation for the exam

Italian as an Additional Language (IAL-A)- Advanced

The IAL-A course is designed for strong Italian speaking students who do not intend to prepare for the Terza Media state exam. Students study Italian Literature, grammar, speaking and writing skills using the state curriculum materials. This course is offered if demand exists.

Italian as an Additional Language (IAL-B)- Beginners

The IAL-B course is designed for non-Italian mother tongue students. The focus moves from language acquisition and comprehension to the study of age-appropriate literature and cultural studies.

Placement into a program is not definitive and can be reassessed according to need.


At the ISF Junior School you can support your childʼs learning by:

Maintaining regular contact with the school
Sharing literature with your child
Supporting your childʼs mother tongue

Supporting your childʼs acquisition or expansion of Mother Tongue, English and Italian
Encouraging your childʼs curiosity and supporting your childʼs inquiry both in and out of school Attending parent education evenings, curriculum information sessions, and parent/teacher conferences

Recognising that mistakes are made both with learning and with behaviour. Discussing what can be learned from mistakes and reinforcing that making mistakes is how we grow, will help build confidence in your child.