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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Good Luck!

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!



New Generation Science Standards

My Inquiry Based Space Unit found in my store

Denver Museum of Nature and Science was the location for a week long teacher training on a subject I am passionate about- inquiry based learning. In particular, inquiry based science learning. Like it’s a whole new thing, the educators in ivory towers are beginning to see this as the “new” way towards building the whole learner. Hmmmm……and the International Baccalaureate has been doing it this way for how long???

Anyway, my bias aside…..the New Generation Science Standards are bringing inquiry into the classrooms and that’s what’s important in my book. 

Space -the Final Frontier

As the USA moves forward into the latest “trend” in education( I know, I’ll get off my high horse in a minute) , we moved into our next unit of inquiry. Actually, we, wasn’t actually me and my fifth graders. It was our 4th graders. I was the avid spectator since I will be teaching this grade next year and I’d been asked by a school in Puerto Rico to develop a Space unit of inquiry!!! ( wooohoooo!!!) 
The theme is How the World Works and the central idea is focusing on how space exploration throughout the years has led to our greater understanding of our place within the universe. This was a very interactive inquiry with my usual interactive notebook technique, experiments, researching and even rocket science! And, of course, all trans-disciplinary. I am truly passionate about this way of thinking and learning, to the point that I wish to share the love through my stores where I share the units I develop for the kids. It takes me about 6 weeks to complete a unit of inquiry, since I am actually using each and every activity and lesson with my kids. They are my beloved guinea pigs…..and are NOT shy with their opinions! (mostly positive, phew)

Staying on Our Science Kick…..
 You will recall our adventures with the Human Body Unit of inquiry? Oh yes, the shenanigans just continued. Not satisfied with a chorus of “anus”, we created the end result from our digestive system ( oh, yes I did!!), using bread and lemon juice, developed working lungs ( destroying a few diaphragms in the process) and delved into (literally) the lungs of a smoker and a pig. Hey, the concepts were connection and function! What’s a 5th grade PYP teacher to do BUT delve?! 

Find this 6 week unit  HERE

Find this and more hands on inquiry in my TpT Store. 

As always, my complete IB units of inquiry are interactive, engaging and rigorous.

The kids summative assessment pieces blew me away with their knowledge, creativity and CONNECTION! Love me some IB Key Concepts

Please feel free to ask any questions regarding teaching within the international Baccalaureate’s PYP . I would be happy to try to help. Also, if you ever have any questions about any of my products, let me know. 


~ Susan

Top O’ the Morning: Building Fiction Writers St. Patrick’s Style

St.Patrick’s Day! It doesn’t matter if you’re Irish, kinda Irish or not even close to Irish, this day is a festival everyone loves to be a part of. Probably the only day we pretend that we love corned beef and cabbage. 

Bringing St.Patrick’s day into my class of 5th graders is always a favourite for me. I love the literacy opportunities. The non-fiction text can be used to educate the children on the history of the patron saint of Ireland and the myths that surround the festival. Fiction can be used for wonderful writing prompts with all kinds of wee folks, from fairies and leprechauns to pixies and trolls. And of course, the quintessential Irish folk poems from Limerick! Love the humour with rhythm and rhyme. (Not to mention, I get to spell “properly” without my American students constantly reminding me of my British spelling  errors!)

Of course, this brings me to yet another of my literacy activity packets that I created for my kiddos. This Irish themed Build A Story packet is another hands on, engaging writing activity for fictional narrative work. 

It contains colorful cards of protagonists,

antagonists and settings. The children love selecting their characters and setting and then we spend several days focusing on characterization through visualizing. We drew the characters and the setting on cardstock and then cut them out. (these would later be used as a decorative illustration around the published final product) Once we had crystal clear images of our characters and setting, we then worked on describing them with words, thus creating a paragraph for each. I used paragraphs 2-5 of Mitch Alblom’s “Five People You Meet in Heaven”as a perfect model for describing character and setting.
The Build A Story packet can be found here in my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook stores.
I was amazed at how anxious the children were to actually begin their fictional narrative drafts. BUT, I kept the anticipation going for a wee bit longer. We reviewed the parts of a plot, created brilliant leads, spoke of the climax, resolution and then, finally, after 4 days……my 5th graders were released to write their much anticipated draft. They were amazing! Check out the finished stories from my young authors. 🙂

Have a fun, green-themed St. Patrick’s day! Enjoy!~ Susan

Science Inquiry: Human Body Systems

Well, my 5th grade and I began by getting the giggles out of the way every time the word “anus” came up and, by way of a whole class chant of the said word about 10 times, ( just as a 1st grade class were passing by, of course!) we managed to get past (most) of the snickering. Whatever it takes!

Our current theme, Who We Are, is inquiring into how human body systems function and how they are interdependent.
Part of inquiry based science is allowing the children the opportunity to actually inquire. We can give them stages of knowledge to build their background and then, using this together with repetitvley modeling thinking strategies, the children begin to understand what it means to actually inquire. The rigor with this type of learning is often times, naturally occurring. It can of course be facilitated and differentiated by the class teacher.

Breathe In, Breathe Out!

After we explored the function of the  diaphragm, the children were left to find out how it fits into the respiratorry system by  creating their own 3 dimensional models. The matter of whether the model could actually work was left to the groups to decide independently, thus developing the IB attirutde of independece too. ( several birds with 1 stone )

This Alien in America, Bizare Animals & Wild Goose Ltd

16 Random Things About This Third Grade Teacher

I follow a few blogs as I work my way through this learning curve in Blogger land and I found a few that introduced themselves to their readers through the “random things” list. So, here are 16 random things about this Scottish teacher living in America
1) I currently live in Colorado and I am terrified of skiing downhill.
2) My kids snowboard to live past their mother’s neurosis

3) I rescue delinquent Rottweilers

4) I eat high fat everything without shame
5) As a result of #4, I workout obsessively despite my now complaining knees
6) I have very creative children: my son writes his own music for his violin and my daughter is an artist.

7) I am a natural born wanderer, probably a gypsy in another life.

8) My dream is to return to Europe and farm.

9) I have a thing for llamas!

10) I have broken my arms 9 times, most recently at age 40 by tripping over a boat! (don’t ask!)

11)Standing in a river is my idea of serenity. I fly fish and would like to get better at casting.

12)  l love being a teacher!!!!! But it didn’t begin this way. I got into the job in 1988 because of the holidays and I wanted to travel. (that gyspy thing again)

13) Weaknesses: double cream and Cabernet Sauvignon, not together.

14) I make my own cards.

15) Definitely an early bird rather than a night owl. I cannot function well on less than 8 hours sleep.

16) Every single morning begins with a cup of tea.

And there you have it. Me, summed up in 16 lines.

Moving On to Bizarre Creatures.

As part of our on-going trans-disciplinary unit of inquiry,The Rainforest, we had a blast with this brilliant website called It is both fun and funny.This is FREE and it allows you to create bizarre creatures with various animals’ body parts. Such as the head of a parrot, the body of a lion and the feet of a flamingo. The kids loved it and we spent a good 20 minutes just messing around with it together and laughing.

My Complete Unit can be found in both my TpT store and Teachers’ notebook.

Being the educator that I am, everything leads to a learning moment. This free resource was used as my introduction to developing the content of our writing. We had been focusing on being specific with our nouns and describing using amazing adjectives and figurative language.
First of all, the kids had to create their own crazy creature and then, using their animal as the focus of their writing, they created a word bank and finally planned,drafted, edited and published a descriptive paragraph to describe their very own SwitcherRoo creature.
It was fun. It was engaging. It was a success. Check out our crazy creations. 

WildGoose Education Ltd. 

I wanted to mention the latest company I found. Wildgoose Education Ltd. Or rather they found me on my Facebook page, Cool Teaching Tools. 
This company is based in the United Kingdom and has a lot of FREE, quality resources together with a ton of teaching materials: pictures, photos, lesson plans, books etc to purchase. I especially loved their World War two photos, showing how children in Britain were affected and had to be shipped out of the city and sent off to live with well-meaning strangers in the countryside in order to keep them safe.

The Countdown has Begun.

Only 6 weeks left of school! And yes, I am absolutely counting. 🙂


~ Susan