UP Specialist Subjects

Specialist Subjects

At HKIS, we have five specialist subjects. Students move to different areas of the building for classes taught by subject area specialists.

Click to explore each specialist subject further: Aquatics, ArtChinese StudiesMusicPhysical EducationTechnology and Information Literacy.

The Learn To Swim program is part of the Physical Education program. All students take part in the program in a block of lessons. Children swim in an indoor, heated, 25-meter state-of-the-art pool located at the top of the Lower Primary building. Its depth and water temperature are adjusted for the needs of young learners.

The learn to swim program uses standards of the American Red Cross and is based on swimming levels. The objectives are to teach children to be safe in, on and around the water and to swim well. Aquatic and personal water safety skills are taught in a logical progression through six levels.

More information about programs is available on the Aquatics webpage.




Art classes are taught once per 6-day cycle. Students focus on art skills/techniques, art history, art criticism and aesthetics through studio work. Art classes are integrated with grade level curriculum that shares learning experiences. Students will create art in a wide range of two and three dimensional media. We have a magnificent art studio that students will visit once a cycle to learn and grow a strong foundation and appreciation of the arts. During their Upper Primary art experience, they will continue to build and extend their Hong Kong International School art skills and techniques by using a variety of different tools and materials. Central to the art curriculum, children learn how to ‘see’ and ‘observe’ the world around them, using art as a lens to explore different ideas and concepts. We place a strong emphasis on cross- curricula connections and integrate with classrooms units to help strengthen student’s knowledge and understanding of the key learning areas.



Chinese Studies

Upper Primary students all participate in Chinese language instruction as a part of their normal and daily program of studies. Class activities are varied and include games, song, rhyme, dance, arts/crafts, oral dialogues and excursions all designed to immerse the students into the use of Putonghua. Additionally, homework will be given to students to strengthen and practice learned skills of oral proficiency as well as the skills of reading, writing and listening. We encourage parents to actively participate and support their students’ learning of this language by spending time with them and taking interest in the activities and projects.

The instruction for Chinese is divided into two distinct streams. The two streams are Mandarin as Second Language (MSL) and Mandarin for Near-Native speakers (MNN).

Mandarin as Second Language (MSL)

The MSL stream is designed for students with no or some previous personal or family exposure and/or experience in Mandarin. Learning Mandarin represents a true second language platform with the end goal of communicative functionality in Mandarin to exchange common, everyday thoughts, ideas and information. Oral proficiency work will be the emphasis in this learning stream as well as the early use of the simplified characters system. The exit benchmark for this learning stream is based on benchmarks mapped out in the Chinese Studies R-12 curriculum.

Mandarin for Near-Native Speakers (MNN)

This learning stream is for students with previous personal or family exposure and/or experience in Mandarin. These students have regular access to familial support in the areas of listening input, reading, writing, and speaking (e.g.: parents have working knowledge and skill in Mandarin). These students are also proficient enough to use Mandarin as a medium to learn other content areas. The exit benchmark for this learning stream is based on benchmarks mapped out in the Chinese Studies R-12 curriculum.



Music (Band, Choir & Strings)

All Upper Primary students have a general music class, once per 6-day cycle.

The music curriculum at the Upper Primary focuses on the development of ensemble skills. These skills include listening to others as you play/sing, identifying and playing/singing the correct notes, and controlling both tempo and volume. The curriculum draws from a variety of sources including the Kodaly and Orff methods, and the National Core Arts Standards.

Each lesson includes a variety of activities such as singing, playing xylophones, listening to music, using our computer program Finale Notepad to compose music, and playing musical/movement games. These combined activities teach students how to be a positively contributing member of a musical ensemble.

Performing Ensembles: UP Strings, Choir and Band

The Upper Primary offers additional student activities such as: Band (Grade 4-5), Strings (Grades 3-5) and Choir (Grades 3-5). Students involved in these activities perform throughout the year at concerts and assist in providing music for special assemblies and chapels during the school year.



Physical Education

Children participate in physical education classes three times per 6-day cycle. The Physical Education program emphasizes personal fitness and basic sports skills. Highlights include gymnastics and adventure learning in conjunction with traditional team games. 

The current Physical Education curriculum for Upper Primary Physical Education (UP PE) is comprised of two major 'skill themes': Manipulatives and Body ManagementManipulatives focuses learning on the essential question, how can you control different objects? Examples of this include, but are not limited to, racquet skills, stick skills, ball skills and juggling. Body Management, on the other hand, asks the essential question, how can you control your body? Body Management Skills include skills that don't involve equipment. Examples of Body Management Skills are fitness training, gymnastics, and locomotion (i.e. run, skip etc.) and non-locomotion (i.e. shake, bend, pivot).

Aquatics is included in the program. Body Management and Fitness are both covered in this unit, which will also focus on water safety and the further development of swimming strokes.

Sportsmanship is an underlying theme in everything we do, and a primary component of the affective domain in Physical Education. Daily, students are reminded to do the things ‘Good Sports’ do, and say the things ‘Good Sports’ say. It is the hope of the Physical Education Department that with continued practice of sportsmanship, our students will become teachers of sportsmanship in activities outside Physical Education class.

Fitness is also a major component in UP PE. The focus on fitness is in accordance with the HKIS Physical Education Department's commitment to improving student fitness throughout the school. Our hope, in UP PE, is that with continued support at home and sustained effort in Physical Education, we can all become just a little fitter.



Technology and Information Literacy

Technology is ubiquitous and a necessary part of modern learning. The UP Technology Coach teams with classroom and division specialists to develop computing, technology, and information literacy skills within the learning community. HKIS provides each student at Upper Primary a laptop computer to use for his/her learning. All UP students (Grades 3-5) are provided with a Google Apps account providing them access to a school email, Google Drive (online storage space), Calendar, Sites, and more. All students are required to commit to meeting the Student Use Expectations for safe, responsible, and effective computer use and sign a Responsible Use Agreement.

Computing, technology, and information skills are embedded throughout the scope of curriculum and learning experiences. Computers and technology are also used as means for the exploration of powerful ideas, to blossom creativity, foster collaboration, and to develop resilience in meeting a variety of identified learning outcomes and personal interest projects.