My Favourite Read Alouds for IB PYP Units

I’ve been reflecting lately on the books I’ve used as read alouds  throughout our various units of inquiry, that have both reinforced the inquiry as well as integrated many reading skills and strategies.  I’ve compiled a list that may help you also, when planning your units of inquiry and aligning them with the elements of the PYP as well as your reading standards. Over the years, I have taught mainly from 3rd grade ( Primary 3/4) up to 6th grade ( Primary 7) and so you’ll find these books to fit the upper elementary age range more.

There is another blog post relating specifically to books that I love when reinforcing the traits of the Learner Profile. You can link to that post here. But this list is more for read alouds that will tie to many of the essential elements of the PYP, as well as slot in nicely to particular Transdisciplinary Themes.

I have created this list for your convenience. You can click on the picture of each book and it will take you directly to its page on Amazon, where you can flip through pages, read reviews and  look at similar titles.

You’ll notice that I’ve added some of the essential elements that I felt were within the books,  beside each title. Obviously, your interpretation may find there is more than one attitude or another concept within the book but these are the elements that I have reinforced with that particular tale. I currently teach fifth grade but have used these books with 3rd and 4th too.

!Free Planner Here!
Literacy planner, integrating into UOI

I hope it can offer some help with your planning for your units. You’ll find a planner here that I like to use to help me with planning my units and integrating literacy and literacy skills into that unit. Feel free to download it for free, right here. Click away and enjoy!

How We Express Ourselves

Reading skills: main idea, summarising, cause and effect. IB PYP – Attitudes & Key Concepts of Change & Reflection

Oh the incredible ways that we learn to compensate for things that we think we aren’t good enough! The main character, Ally, believes that she can’t read as well as others and so she tries to hide this through a myriad of creative ways. Each chapter is written in a way that is good for practising the skill of finding the main idea and summarising.With a look at how we judge ourselves but also others, this book is fantastic for approaching the attitudes of confidence, appreciation and acceptance. It fits well with Who We Are as well since it covers a lot about learning abilities that children will be able to identify with.

I added it to the theme of How We Express Ourselves, having used it within a unit of how the media can impact our views of ourselves and others. You can link to that resource here and take a peek.

Not too unlike the book above, with regards to the over all theme, this very well known book, Wonder, focuses on caring, loving and accepting the fact that we all have something special within, regardless of how we appear on the outside to others. With several perspectives told in the story,

Reading skills: Inferring, synthesising, IB PYP- Learner Profile, Action inspiration, Key Concepts of Form, Change & Reflection

the different ways of expressing our fears, beliefs and feelings is studied well throughout the story as these children learn to cope with the world around them and expressing themselves quite uniquely. Communication skills are key within this one.


Where We Are in Place & Time

Reading skills: Compare & contrast, summarising IB PYP – Learner Profile & Attitudes, Action inspiration, Key Concepts of Connection, Form

Based on a true story, this powerful book tells the tale of two 11 year olds in Sudan, at different times. 1985 and 2008. The perspective is incredible as these children have different stories to tell of their courage and acceptance of what it is that they must do to survive. The little girl walks two hours each way, to a pond, in order to collect water for her family. The boy walks across the African continent, as one of the “lost boys”, refugees from war, looking for a safe place to live. The comparison of stories, time and place is excellent for units that inquire into the effects of war, the impact of environment and the attitudes of courage, commitment and enthusiasm. This inspired a lot of kid centred action too. I have also read this book within Sharing the Planet, which we used for our EXHIBITION one year.


Reading skills: Sequencing, Cause & Effect, descriptive writing IB PYP- Learner Profile of Risk taker, Commitment & Caring, Attitudes of Empathy, Key Concept of Causation, Change

This classic book by Lois Lowry is by far a favourite of mine. I have read it so many times, over the years, to my upper elementary kiddos. Set in Denmark, during World War 2, it ultimately focuses on the theme of good versus evil. As the Nazis are spreading their agenda throughout Europe, the main character learns just how ugly humanity can be to one another. But, she also sees the other side, of how brave and loving we can choose to be too, in order to save another life. I have used this read aloud within units of inquiry that have delved into war, revolutionaries and their causes and effects. It is perfect for the theme of Where We Are in Place and Time.


How the World Works

Reading skills: Cause & Effect, sequencing, descriptive writing/figurative language IB PYP: Communication & Self management skills, Key concepts of Causation, Function & Perspective

Learning to cope with things that are outwith our control is demonstrated through the story of this young girls as she lives through The American Depression era coupled with the impact that the weather(plus over-farming)  can have on our lives, in this case, causing the environmental devastation in the American mid west. History is brought to life, as we learn, also, how the government stepped in to try to help these poor farm people survive this dustbowl. I used this book within our unit that looked into how extreme weather could impact society ;  thus covering many, many factors, not least, how we live through it. Self management scenarios were presented to my class as we read this book and we had many interesting collaborative group discussions, as to how we might have handled the circumstances that the young girl was presented with.

Sharing the Planet

Reading skills: Main idea, inferring, character development, parts of a story IB PYP : Action inspiration, Research skills, Key concepts of Form, Function & Perspective

Big business versus local kids! This story examines how youngsters can take ACTION in a meaningful way to protect the environment. A colony of rare burrowing owls live in an area that is about to be demolished to make way for the building of a pancake diner. Inspiring, you will find the theme of young people raising awareness as environmental activists, educating a community on the importance of nature and how to friendships can come in all shapes and sizes. Open mindedness is a big deal in this story. Kids love it! You’ll be amazed at how many kid’s are inspired to take action, from this one.

Reading skills: Author’s purpose, inferring, character development, descriptive writing IB PYP: Key Concepts of Responsibility, Reflection, Action inspiration.

Friendship and hope prevail in this unforgettable tale of these animals who are captured and kept in captivity for the entertainment of humans. Based on the shocking real life story of a young gorilla sent to a shopping mall in America, it is such a lovely story that fills you with love for the unlikely bond between these animals share. A story of hope,  I dare you not to cry at least once! If you are inquiring into anything involving animal welfare, friendship or helping others, this would be a great addition.  Plus, you can actually buy a novel study guide for this one too, with lessons and activities about the true story of Ivan.  Click through here for a look at it.The One and Only Ivan: An Instructional Guide for Literature (Great Works) )

Reading skills: Cause & effect, summarising, inferring ( using images) IB PYP: Key concepts of Connection, Causation, Function, Attitudes of Cooperation, Appreciation, Action inspiration

The Great Kapok Tree is a lovely book set in the Amazon rainforest, with beautiful pictures. It tells the story of how all of the living things are interdependent for survival. It works as a great provocation for the beginning of any unit that is looking into interdependence of living things and the key concept of connection. I have a fun follow up activity that also demonstrates interdependence and connection. You can download that right here for free. 🙂

Who We Are

Reading skills: main idea & supporting details, sequencing, visualising IB PYP: Key concept of Perspective, Change, Learner Profile & Attitudes

The Wish Tree is a short story, told from the perspective of a great oak tree, who has lived for many years and has seen a lot of life passing by. Locals believe that this tree will help their dreams to come true. With a great deal of emphasis on connection and reflection,  it delves into the relationship of a new family moving into the area and how some go over and above to make them feel welcome and others definitely do not. Great for looking at relationships, how we can be caring and show empathy.

Reading skills: Compare & contrast, descriptive writing, IB PYP: Attitudes of Creativity, Learner Profile of Open minded

This is a lovely story set in rural 1950’s Mexico. It looks a lot at how other people have lived in different cultures, thus a lot of compare and contrast could be worked into literacy skills. In  particular, two Indian cultures within Mexico are learned about. The main character is an 11 year old boy who loses his family and his perspective is a great part of how the story shapes itself. It is a great tale to compare how we live in our society today and how other cultures live and have lived in the past. It would also fit nicely under the theme of How We Express Ourselves.

How We Organise Ourselves

Reading Skills: Compare & contrast, Cause & effect, Sequencing IB PYP: Key concepts of Perspective, Causation & Change, Research skills

A great addition to any unit of inquiry that explores human rights, equality and government. This is an inspiring memoir of a young American girl caught up in the era of civil unrest in America during the civil rights movement of 1960’s. It tells her story of how her beliefs for equality helped to shape her, specifically her part in the voting rights demonstration march to Selma. Beautifully written but straightforward with the message.

Reading skills: Character development, elements of a story, figurative language, compare & contrast, questioning IB PYP: Key concepts of Causation, Change, Form, Learner Profile of Inquirer, Courageous, Global thinker

This story also has the underlying theme of human rights but this time looking at the migrant Mexican farmers who worked in conditions of hardship in the USA. It is the story of a little girl, used to a comfortable life in Mexico until tragedy strikes and she is forced, along with her family, to leave her home and her country an move to America. Suddenly, her life is about poverty and hardship, coming to terms with racism and inequality. There is so much to work with within this novel; the figurative language, sequencing, cause and effect – the history and human rights issues are numerous. One of my all time favourites! Highly recommended for upper primary grades. (ages 9-12) You can also find a Great Works literacy study guide for this one here. Esperanza Rising: An Instructional Guide for Literature.  I like this one since it suits upper elementary grades better than the rest, which I feel are more aligned with middle school ELA standards.

I put this next book, Sophia’s War, under the theme of How We Organise Ourselves because it does focus a lot of the different sides of the American Revolution and how spies played an important role in this war, as well as any revolution. It would of course fit in just as nicely with Where We Are in Place and Time.

Reading skills: Summarising, inferring, character development, sequencing IB PYP: Research skills, Learner Profile of Principled, Attitudes, Tolerance, Integrity, Key Concepts of Causation, Change, Perspective

Set in 1776, it is about a young girl who witnesses the execution of Nathan Hale, one of the prominent American players in the American Revolution. With a lot of cause and effect, inferring ( because of the secretive role of spying and backstabbing within the tale) it presents a fabulous timeline of the American War of Independence, from a very different perspective. Thus the key concepts of form, function, perspective and change can all be very nicely covered within this novel.

I really hope you find this list useful and can bring some of the stories into your inquiries.


Sharing the Love with my IB PYP Students

I wanted to share a few of my favourite Valentine’s resources that I’ve created over the years. I try to keep it upfront in the minds of my class that Valentine’s day is more about showing kindness and caring to others, rather than simply the abundance of sweets that are handed out. 🙂 Although, I will never refuse sharing their sweets! 🙂

These cute and funny Valentine’s cards also contain an empowering message for each recipient and  are for you to hand to your kiddos. They are so simple to prepare. I just love them! Copy and cut, et voila! Then sit back and watch the children smile.

There are 24 different cards that you can use either as Valentine’s cards or as a year round simple reward system. They are aligned with the language of the IB PYP Learner Profile and the IB Attitudes. There is also a blank card to add your own message if you wish. The kids will smile at the message that you are sending them but also at the cute and funny animals that are on each card. I giggle every time I see that dog’s face on the Open minded card! 

The 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge.

This is a challenge that I created a few years ago when I was teaching 4th grade in France. We needed to rebuild our community spirit and demonstrate love to one another and thus this challenge was born. Along the lines of doing random acts of kindness, the goal is to be caught doing a random act of kindness and to have someone else record it. Each note was pinned to our wall, showing  just how much kindness and caring was demonstrated within our classroom. We ran the challenge for a month and proudly met our goal. The wall looked like a beautiful quilt of kindness once we were done. You can take a look at it by clicking here, or any of the photos.

Our 100 Acts of Kindness wall.

It also comes with compliment cards, a writing activity and a really cool wee Valentine’s craft. Thee frogs are just too adorable, complete with springy legs and a fat tummy, perfect for poetic words of love and appreciation.

Freebie Alert!

You can find a fun maths freebie right here! This is always a hit with my kiddos. It involves single & double digit multiplication, along with place value. Using the personalised answers to the maths problems, the children will end up designing their very own and unique Valentine’s card. It is always

Free maths activity!

fun to hear the children’s reflections about their own designs. Have fun with this freebie!



Happy Valentine’s to all of you out in the field, teaching our future generations how to spread the love and kindness that is within us all.



IB PYP Approaches to Learning Skills

It Takes Skills! 

The word is well and truly out. The newest hub bub in the IB world is the Approaches to Learning Skills. Formerly known by the International Baccalaureate Organisation as the Transdisciplinary Skills, these are, simply put, a set of skills that we use when we are involved in learning. They come grouped into five sets: Thinking, Social, Self Management, Research and Communication. They naturally have growth mindset occurring within them, since they cover many different behaviours, self control as well as thinking and communication strategies. 

As part of your IB PYP  classroom, it is usual to see the skills listed somewhere within the room, as posters ( more posters can be found in my store here and also here) and as part of our daily learning objectives. We often refer to those throughout our week and I also like to list them on my daily Learning Objectives boards, tied in with the subject and goals for that day. 

By incorporating the skills (as well as the Learner Profile and Attitudes) into your daily learning objectives, they naturally present  a great way to reflect on the learning and skills used at the end of each day.
How were you a good communicator today?”
“How did you use your research skills?”
“When did you use self-management skills today?”

Developing An Awareness of the Approaches to Learning.

Developing an awareness of the transdisciplinary skills within the children is one of the first things that I like to do at the beginning of the school year. It is important as learners, that they not only recognise the skills that accumulatively make up their active learning but that they can actually point them out when they are using them. Reflection is tantamount to growing, improving and setting goals. There is an entire post on reflection within the PYP here, if you feel like clicking over.

Looking at the picture of my busy kiddos above, you can identify how many of the skills are being used within this learning activity, without even hearing the conversations. It is easy to see there is communication, sharing and discussion of ideas, thinking of ideas, noting down suggestions and coming up with a plan, not to mention the social skills that it takes to listen to others , take turns and self management required not to infringe on others’ space etc.

This is an easy activity to follow through with your own kids too. Take a few pictures of them in action, show them on your Smart board or overhead and have them identify the skills they themselves have been using. A teacher author on Teachers Pay Teachers sells a pretty simple but effective recording sheet for keeping track of the skills we have used in a day. You can take a peek at it here.   

Developing Research Skills Task Cards

In a bid to get my fifth graders up to par with their skills, before the onslaught of our Exhibition, I developed these task cards as a fun and interactive resource for practising the skills and putting them into play! With drama, research and many thought provoking scenarios presented, the kids ABSOLUTELY LOVE THEM!

Developing Thinking Skills Task Cards

I designed these with my 5th graders in mind and I’d definitely recommend them for 3rd-6th grades. However, the Self Management cards and the Social Skills cards can be used from 1st grade up, if the teacher reads the cards aloud to those lower grades.  The Research, Communication & Thinking skills task cards require basic multiplication knowledge, reading of graphs and so on.

They are a terrific way to actively practise the growth mindset directly involved within the Thinking, Research, Communication, Social and Self Management skills. The task cards can be used in a variety of ways that encourage the children to reflect and think positively of themselves and others in various scenarios that are easily relatable to them. They are asked to reflect on situations that require analysing, synthesising, categorising and evaluating, present doubt, possible antagonism, confidence issues and other difficulties. As you help the children with these skills in a safe, familiar environment, it will greatly benefit them throughout school year. You can purchase them as individual packets, each skill contains approximately 32 cards and a classroom poster outlining that particular skill, or the entire bundle of 5 sets, with all of the cute posters too. 

Some ideas for ways that I have implemented them include:

Whole class – sitting in circle, each child will have a card to read aloud and then share their opinion. These can be discussed as you go around the circle.
Teacher led – read aloud a card to a small group and have them interact with each other to solve the problem or scenario.

Small groups– Place a pile of cards face down in the middle of the group. Each person will take a turn to read a card, act out or offer their opinion and then those can be discussed within the group.
Independent work – Each child can work with a few cards and write or draw how they would solve the social problems presented on the task cards.

I hope that this has been somewhat useful for you and that you are able to use a few of the ideas included. Please do let me know of your own ideas for developing the Approaches to Learning Skills. I love to share ideas!



Back to School IB PYP Sale

Back to school is almost upon us again! Whether you’re ready or not, get a head start on your new IB PYP classroom with the TpT Back to School Sale! Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual Back to School Sale from August 1-2. All of my products will be 20% off and TPT is offering more when you use the promo code BTS2017.

If you’re looking for high-interest activities and units to start off the new year, I have just what you may need. I’ve been working on providing more IB PYP products and adding to my collection of Complete Units of Inquiry. Take a look in my store and see if anything fits your upcoming Programme of Inquiry.

For those of you who are new to the IB PYP, you may like my Getting Started with the PYP Kits, for big kids and also for little kids.  Or there is a MEGA  bundle of PYP tools and classroom activities found here.

Enjoy! Happy sale shopping!

Back to School Giveaway! Win!

Get back to school ready! Win a $10 gift card!

Giveaway starts Saturday, 29th July and ends at midnight (mst) on July 31st.

3 lucky winners will be notified by e mail WITH A $10 TpT GIFT CARD ATTACHED on August 1st

If you missed this giveaway follow my blog by adding your e mail address below for future giveaways.


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Brilliant Books for Teaching the IB PYP Learner Profile

Books for Teaching the IB PYP Learner Profile

There are so many wonderful books for helping to teach children about the character traits of the IB Learner Profile. Over the years however, I keep returning to a few that I feel reinforce those profile traits really well. I’ve used these books with 3rd grade up to 6th grade equally successfully, even though they may seem to be a wee bit young for those age groups. They work well as quick read alouds and can be utilised to reinforce many reading skills and strategies too.- inferring, questioning, synthesising, figurative language and more. This page is a list of my favourite books for pulling together the Learner Profile traits. I like to use some of them within our units of inquiry or simply as a stand alone when the opportunity presents itself in my class to look more thoroughly at a particular profile trait.

I have grouped them according to each Learner Profile trait. Each picture is linked to Amazon so that you can click on any one and find out more about the book, customer reviews and so on.

Open Minded

Developing open-mindedness in children isn’t really that difficult since they are actually pretty loving and accepting of others around the world. Opening their minds to the myriad differences surrounding them is tantamount to developing an even greater sense of global awareness and international mindedness in a young person who is going to become our future. Keeping an open mind can also tie in with being a risk taker and trying new experiences. These books help to promote the attitude of acceptance and tolerance as well as inspiring a need for change in certain areas.

This book looks at the diversity within our global population, comparing it to a village. It opens our minds to the enormous differences and inequality there is within the world. Great for Sharing the Planet, Who We Are and any other units looking at human rights around the world.

How different cultures are around the world and what it means to move from one culture to another.


Risk Taker/Courageous
Both of these books look at how the character faces fears and steps out of their comfort zone.

Journey is a beautiful tale of a girl who travels within her imagination.

Swimmy tells the story of a fish afraid to step out of his comfort zone and, once he does, discovers a whole world of learning and excitement as well as finding his confidence and strength from within.
Emmanuel’s Dream is such an inspirational true story of a boy who only has one leg and yet, despite all of the challenges that he faces daily, still had the courage to face each and every one as he pursued his dream. I love to use this book for this profile trait! Especially since its true!


More Parts– I’ve used this book as a funny introduction to our unit about the human body. It was used as part of a lesson that looked into the importance of questioning within communication and of asking the right questions. My fifth graders LOVE it! It also offers a great opportunity to review idioms and other figurative language.

Absolutely hilarious book about a boy who asks questions about his body based upon the weird and wonderful ways of figurative language.

If……A beautiful book that inspires questions as we delve into some mighty big numbers that exist all around us. It is a great tool for reinforcing the reading skill of questioning. Provide each child with a sticky note or two and, as you read it together, have them note down the questions that pop into their minds as they discover the massive numbers within.  I’ve also used it as we explored the key concept of FORM within maths  for place value and as inspiration for writing using hyperbole.


Ah both of these books are amazing, feel good books. They are all about how human beings can be so incredibly caring to one another and the difference that caring makes to both the receiver and the giver.


Parts is one of my favourites for laugh out loud hilarity. It explores the human body and I have used it as a fun formative assessment about the body systems, as we read through the book, thus tapping into the knowledge of my fifth graders. It appeals to their lavatorial sense of humour at this age range, even though the book is for younger readers.

Hippos Can’t Swim is a non fiction book full of facts about animals and nature. It is a good book to demonstrate the trait of being knowledgeable since there are many facts that the older kids will know already and equally many that they may not yet know. Its fun.


Being a thinker involves using our knowledge to solve problems, thinking things through and even trying out different ways, making mistakes and recognising when we have made a breakthrough. These books look at rial and error as the characters evolve throughout their problems and move towards learning and solutions.

One Hen is set in a village in Africa and explores how one boy learns how to become self-sufficient and help his family to become independent and thrive, escaping hunger and poverty. He works with what he has to begin with and builds upon his previous ideas.

What Do You Do With A Problem? looks into the form and function of a problem and offers suggestions as to how best deal with such things. It’s a great book for reinforcing growth mindset too, especially with the IB Attitudes of independence and tolerance.


Two books that could be initially thought of as too young for upper elementary kids but really, the myriad of ways that they both focus on the trait of being principled is amazing.

Good Dog Carl is one of my all time favourites, not least because I have Rottweiles myself. The illustrations are beautiful, as Carl looks after the baby who seems intent on creating all kinds of mischief. Carl struggles to keep the baby on the right track between right from wrong and safe from danger. He’s such a good boy and so patient too! 🙂

A is for Activist is has an alphabetical list of different ways to promote rights, identify wrongs and how to take action. I have used this book, believe it or not, as a prerequisite to my 5th grade IB Exhibition. It was a great resource for looking at action. It’s a great book for review within Who We Are, How We Express Ourselves and other units of inquiry that inquire into human rights, revolutionaries and taking action for change.


Learning to prioritize in our lives is shown within this story as a young girl thinks of ways to save money towards her goal.


These are fantastic books for looking at the ways we communicate.

Voices in the Park explores perspective as the same story is told in different ways throughout the book. I have used this to reinforce the key concept, Perspective and also within developing our communication skills.

My Mouth is A Volcano is so funny! As we develop our communication skills, we have to learn when to talk and when to be a listener. It covers the attitudes of Respect and Tolerance too.


Both books allow us to reflect upon how the characters changed. Each character goes through a lesson which helps them to develop an awareness of themselves, how they can help themselves to grow and improve and move onwards and upwards.

The Girl Who Never Made A  Mistake is great at illustration how perfectionism can be debilitating and that we absolutely can use mistakes positively for our own learning.

Ish is a study of how we can harness our creativity and blossom without having to have everything exactly perfect. It actually questions, what is perfect anyway. I love it!

I hope you find this useful and find something that you can use. Happy clicking!

Essential Tools for Every IB PYP Classroom


Cooperation- how to construct a 3d model of a volcano.

Back to school preparations are in high gear for some and are coming to a screeching halt for others as summer is upon us! I tend to fall into the latter category myself…despite good intentions every single year. You know, last minute cramming, moments before the kids walk into the classroom?  But that’s how I roll after 23 years of this gig! However, for the many, many teachers who will be new or newish to the PYP this year, I wanted to put out a list of the essentials for every PYP classroom, giving even those of you who, like myself, tend to procrastinate all summer long, plenty of time to prepare.


Every PYP classroom, regardless of where you are in the world, ( 4655 IB world schools at the last count in 2017!), will have some commonalities as I’ve listed below. Your PYP coordinator will be able to provide a printed checklist list for you from the OCC ( IB’s Online Curriculum Centre). Entry to this site will require your school code as a password. If you do not have convenient access, you can download this FREE PYP classroom checklist list by clicking here.  

I also found a really great, 4 minute video on You Tube a few years ago and still think it is one of the best for peeking into a PYP classroom set up.  I’ve no idea who created it but I applaud them and gladly give credit. Check it out here. 

The Essential Agreements

Although this is definitely something that will be required to be seen in your PYP classroom, it does require the children to be present and active participants in its creation and so isn’t possible to have it prepared in advance of day 1. But, it’s a fantastic way to help to establish procedures during those first few days when we are all just getting to know one another, as well as have the children be very much a part of forming our classroom community.

The Essential Agreements are essentially a list of agreements that are important to the balance within our classroom. They essentially consist of good attitudes, reinforce learner profile traits and are quite simply essential to a smoothly running, respectful environment. They are expected to stay up, for all to see, all year long. You can of course, add to and adapt them as the opportunities arise. But, essentially, you want to get those babies agreed upon and up within that first month.  Essential. ?

I like to have each child add their signature to our final list of Essential Agreements before we give it pride of place on the wall. Voila! Class contract completed.

The Classroom Posters

A set of PYP posters will be required to be in plain sight and easily accessed by the children so that they can constantly refer to them. You will find that this happens  on a daily basis. The posters will need to cover The Learner Profile, The IB Attitudes, the six themes for each unit of inquiry, the transdisciplinary skills, the Key Concepts and the IB Action Cycle. These are things that are looked for by IB evaluators and crucial to a working PYP classroom at all levels. Ideally, the children will be part of the posters creations, evidenced by their own writing and drawings. This is up to you and the needs of yourclass of course.  There are a myriad of great posters out there, not least the ones that can be found on the resource site of the IB’s own website but I, of course, am plugging my own creations too!  :0 )

You can link to any of the posters in my store by clicking on the images. Shop around, see what suits your taste and your classroom style. You will find easy prep, print and go posters as well as create-your-own posters 

Create Your Own Posters- a handy packet for all grade levels.

The Learner Profile: The Centre of the PYP

The Learner Profile posters are essential in that they describe the character traits of a learner and, since that’s what we are doing every day, it’s important that  the children are able to see the language of the Learner Profile and have the posters under our noses as we are constantly referring to those learner traits. Each unit of inquiry will focus on specific learner profile traits. Check your planners to find out which ones are the focus for each. I like to point a big, bold, red arrow at the traits ( and key concepts) that are our focus for each unit. Another blog post that I created recently, does look at my favourite books for reinforcing the Learner Profile. You can link to that post here.

Involve the children & create your own banners or posters.

The IB Attitudes.

There are 12 attitudes that we refer to constantly. Within each unit of inquiry, there will be a focus of a few of them. The attitudes are what we use to develop the Learner Profile traits. I also like to reward the children when they are spotted using these attitudes with my Star Student tickets. This attitude  is acknowledged with a star drawn on their work and a wee message for them. The children are taught from day one that they can earn their Star Student ticket by demonstrating the IB Attitudes in their day-to-day action at school. They know that when they see this star, they can independently walk over to the place where I keep the tickets and they will write themselves a Star Student ticket. It requires name, IB Attitude shown and the reason why they receive it. Example, ” I showed commitment when I handed my project in on time.” or ” I was cooperative with Bobby, as we read together to find the answers.” etc. The completed ticket will then be put into the tub ready to be drawn at the end of the day. Every afternoon, I will pull several tickets from our box, read aloud the recipient’s name and the attitude they demonstrated  and the winners get to pull a prize from our prize box. Simple, effective classroom management,promotes  growth mindset and the kids LOVE it! You can grab a free copy of the Star Student tickets here if you wish.

In addition, I do have a fancier-schmancier packet of positive behaviour prize tickets found in my store that are all related to the 12 IB Attitudes.  Click here to view them.

The Key Concepts

These posters are a biggie since we teach everything through the lens of the big ideas of the 8 key concepts. Your students should know the definition of each key concept inside out and back to front by the time the year is over. Everything I taught, each curricular area, is through the key concepts. You can find more ideas as to how to use the key concepts within your teaching in this post from a few years ago.

The Transdisciplinary Themes

There are 6 themes. Each theme is what our unit of inquiry will fall under. Thus, these posters are used every six weeks or so; the length of an average unit of inquiry. They can be displayed altogether and pointed out with an arrow during each unit or, you can add them to an accumulative bulletin board that you use for your units of inquiry. Incidentally, when you introduce each unit, its great to point out the key vocabulary within that unit of the profile, attitudes, concepts, skills and theme by using the posters.

  • How We Express Ourselves
  • How the World Works
  • Sharing the Planet
  • How We Organise Ourselves
  • Who We Are
  • Where We Are in Place and Time

The Transdisciplinary Skills

Every learner is constantly developing the transdisciplinary skills within their learning behaviours. The 5 skills consist of a list of actions and behaviours that are under the umbrella of one main skill. I point the skills out every day, with maths, reading, research, group work, independent work and so on. When the children are asked to reflect upon their day, or at the end of a unit, they often refer to the Skills posters.

  • Thinking Skills
  • Research Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Social Skills
  • Self-Management Skills

The IB Action Cycle

Marching for equal right.

Action. Without it, it’s all just talk. Part of the IB philosophy is to encourage independent action. This will of course look quite different depending on the age of the child. However, within a PYP classroom, the cycle of action is taught, demonstrated, reinforced and encourage. Keeping it simple is key, in my opinion. There are so many smaller actions that can be achieved daily than one big action once a year.


Desks: More than Simply A Place to Sit

Collaborative group work requires space to meet, discuss and think together.

Whether you opt for flexible seating or fixed seating is entirely up to you, but the positioning of the desks is far more important. A PYP class is constantly working collaboratively, sharing ideas, thinking through problems and exploring artefacts and sources of evidence. It looks like a busy, productive factory with bodies moving and voices chatting.   Positioning your tables or desks into groups is the most effective way of accomplishing this. The children can sit beside and opposite one another, they can move around their group, they can all see, hear and access materials far more easily than if they were sitting in rows. Of course, there are times when a teacher has to single out a few seats and separate children in order to maintain management. I totally get it! It can actually work in your favour in order to get the kids back into group work. Bribery? I prefer to call it motivation. ?


The Teacher Table- Our Inquiry Table

Math inquiry: angles, area and fancy fish.

In addition to having my table groups for the kids, I have a kidney shaped table in my classroom that serves as the gathering place for my group work as well as a place for individual groups to work together. I love this table and it usually doubles as my desk since I spend so much time working with the children at that table. I like to have that positioned in a central spot where I can have my students meet me AND I can still see what’s going on all around me. : if you know what I mean! 😉

On the whole though, you really want to establish the collaborative environment from day one. I plan to write a post for developing collaboration and team work very soon. Stay tuned. 🙂


A Second Language- Making the Room International

Most of the IB schools I have worked in have been truly international schools, with a fantastic group of children coming from all corners of the globe in one classroom. However, depending on where you work, this can vary. And so your Language B will vary too. In order to encourage development of a second language, the PYP classroom will have the basics labelled with both the native language and the second language.- pencils, rulers, door, desk etc. I also like to add a few key sentences in the second language too, posted around the room where the kids can easily refer to them. Examples:

  1. “Please may I use the bathroom?”
  2. “Can I fill up my water bottle please?”
  3. “May I have a drink of water, please?”

These phrases slowly developed as we progress throughout the year, getting to the point that the kids are challenged to ask using the foreign language every time they want to ask. It can often be uncomfortable for some kids in the beginning, but with gentle coaching and firm perseverance, they really do get it mastered and feel immensely proud of their wee selves. You may even find that you are approached with suggestions to add to the repertoire of languages! My trickiest was Hebrew. Haha! Amazing what you will learn from your kiddos!

Research Tools

So much of learning is inquiry based, student led and teacher facilitated and therefore we are constantly researching. Having the tools handy for research is important within a PYP classroom.

Computers should be kept in  central location in your classroom. If you have laptops or tablets, keep them in  cart or on a table. Using duct tape to mark the layout of them is handy, especially to encourage responsible ownership. Desktop computers can be spaced around the room or placed together in a kind of computer area.

There should be a plentiful selection of non fiction books readily available in your classroom library or, if they are sourced with each separate unit, keep them on display and hands on for the children, throughout the unit of inquiry.

I have a selection of good old-fashioned encyclopedias, dictionaries and thesaurus also on hand.

Maps or a world globe are fantastic tools too.

Your PYP coordinator will usually give you a deadline as to when you should have accomplished this list. So don’t panic if youre just reading this the night before school goes back! As I said earlier, there are many great tools and resources available to make your life easier for the set up of your PYP classroom. Please do reach out and let me know if there is anything that I could add to my store for you, to help make this set up easier. I am always open to hearing from you.

Good luck with your new school year and enjoy!



Step back & Enjoy Student Led Conferences

Student Led Conferences are an incredibly reflective experience for all involved; teacher, student and families. This post will walk you through what I’ve found to work well over the years. Please read on, take what you like and enjoy.

Our “class” sitting at their desks, awaiting our visitors.

Form: what is it? 

The shift from a private, teacher led conference with parents to a student led conference is exactly as it states. The teacher takes a step back and is simply the facilitator of the students’ preparation prior to the conference and the child takes the lead on the day of the event, leading their family through a snap shot of what they have learned, how they learn and how they are progressing.

It is a simply amazing experience to see how children step up to the challenge. They are beaming with pride as they guide their family through their classroom and involve the parents in the process of their day to day learning. Even the most shy pull out their communication skills as they show their visitors around their classroom- a place where they feel comfortable and know.

Behind the Scenes: 

Once the family invitation letters have been sent out, along with the parent information letter, “What Are Student Led Conferences”, the preparation for Student Led Conferences can be overwhelming at first. After 8 years, I’ve found the best way to prepare is to actually set aside time in the day for at least a week before the big day. This of course may have to be adjusted based upon your class’s age and your school schedule. But a few hours a day, for a week, does it for me. This preparation can easily be incorporated into writing, speaking and listening skills with group discussions and expressive arts with role play and craft.

Over the years, I have created a selection of tools and forms that make it easier to record goals, communicate with parents and reflect upon our learning. A selection are editable to suit my changing needs with each class.      ( not to mention that I’ve switched from 3rd, 5th, 4th, 3rd and back to  5th in 5 years! Phew!) They are easy to print and go and mix and match. These can be found here in my store for free. Yup Free! 🙂 

The Portfolio:

As an IB World school, our children have a record of their learning throughout the years kept within their Student Portfolios. This portfolio plays a key part in our reflection process.  If you do not have a portfolio already created, I have a great selection of cover sheets to create your own, within my Student Led Conference Kit.

I like to have the children select  pieces of their work that show their learning within  Language, Maths, Social Studies/Science and Expressive Arts from our most recent unit of inquiry.( these are usually six week long, cross curricular units)

We focus on things that we are:

  • Proud of
  • Found challenging
  • Demonstrate our progress

This can be something that we have displayed on our walls, photocopied from their notebook or taken from their working binder. Each piece is reflected upon with either a sentence or a short paragraph, depending on the ability level of the child. I like to put everything into clear plastic pockets and insert them all into our portfolio. I found a pack of 50 poly pockets for only $5.95 on Amazon. A couple boxes of these works for the entire year.


We spend a great deal of time reflecting within an IB PYP school. I have a previous blog post here that goes into this in more depth if you wish. Also, there is an easy to use Learner Profile check list found in my store for free. It’s great to use at any time for any subject. I make a bunch of copies and file them ready to use for any subject or for the end of our units of inquiry.

IB Learner Profile: With the Learner Profile as the centre of the PYP, I spend a bit of time in advance preparing the children to share their perspective of themselves as learners. This is a fun writing and craft activity and the kids LOVE it. ( and for me, the craft is the carrot at the end of the stick for those reluctant writers..hehe)

Meet Julie. 🙂

The children will write a detailed paragraph about themselves and their own learning style, using the Learner Profile vocabulary. With scaffold sheets within my complete kit, its easy to differentiate too. The edited final copy is written or typed in a speech bubble.

The children then create their own self portrait of head and shoulders, attach the speech bubble writing and, on the day of our Conferences, we tape the whole thing to our chairs, tuck the chairs in and voila, we have a class of cute learners just waiting patiently for their guests to visit.   Parents love it! They can see where their child sits AND where their friends sit.

Involving Parents:

Providing a few activities that involves families allows the children to show their visitors how they learn within our classroom, initiates a natural collaboration amongst the adults and children and gives the family an idea of what we have been learning. 

I love inquiry based learning activities. These are set out as stations around the classroom. I usually have two or three stations of each activity. This, I determine based upon the number I have visiting throughout the conferences. You will know this from your parent feedback returned after invitations have been sent home.  I like to include writing, STEM and research tasks.

Included in my complete kit:

  • Research- webquest activity
  • STEM- identifying math with engineering activity
  • STEM- working through the scientific method designing glasses
  • Language- writing a triptych using inferring skills.
Tips n’ tools for creating a fun and effective Student Led Conference. Everything you need in one convenient packet.

My complete kit for Student Led Conferences contains these inquiry based activities and all of the forms  the task cards to implement them.  Simply copy and laminate. Easy peasy!


It is a very good idea to rehearse the whole conference procedure with your kiddos. Once I’ve gone over the scheduled routine with the class, we get into pairs and role play the conference. With my older kids I like to keep the activities a secret. Unseen adds to the authenticity of the inquiry experience. I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to let my younger kids see what’s coming, so that they can lead the activity. Some parents like to take over. And I encourage the kids to be the leader for this time.

Each child takes turns at being the leader and the guest. We then do some peer reviews and practice again with the constructive feedback.


With SLCs you will have several families visiting at one time. This can come as a surprise to some parents even though you’ve sent out the parent information letter. Keep it light-hearted and encourage them to allow their child to share. When you’re scheduling times, it’s a good idea NOT to have more than 4 families in your room at one time. It makes it more personal for the families, keeps the noise down so children’s voices can be heard and allows for better management of your inquiry stations. Try to keep visitors on schedule with a friendly ” five minutes to go” announcement. Otherwise it can become chaotic. ( been there, done that!) 

All Right on the Night: no matter how much preparation you do, you can’t control every little detail or the quirks of excited children and their parents. So, once the children have introduced you to their family, quietly sink into the background and let the students lead their parent conference. Take loads of pics and add them to your next classroom blog, newsletter or website. Parents LOVE to see it all.

Good luck, sit back and enjoy the experience.