Bringing the IB PYP Learner Profile to Life

What kind of a learner are you? Consider the question. Are you more of the lion type of learner or perhaps you're more of the hamster? This is a simple activity that I use at the beginning of the school year, as we are getting to know, not only our class community but also ourselves. As I am building this community of  learners, I want them to have a greater understanding of who they are as learners and to recognise and appreciate our diversity.   And that, as we know, all stems from the IB Learner Profile. Let's begin with an inquiry into who we are as learners.

  With a simple question and fun images, the children are asked to relate themselves to the pictures. You can choose to use words or simply begin with only the images. This adds to the thinking. I have done it both ways, depending on the students abilities with language, the vocabulary of the PYP and their thinking skills etc. Ask them: Are you more of a lion when it comes to learning, or are you more like the hamsters? Do you stand bravely and courageously step into the unknown or do you prefer to work with others, caring about your own feelings as well as those of others? etc. This simple and fun reflection, allows the children to begin to discern who they are as learners in a way that brings it to life in relation to their identity as a whole. We have also focused on the profile traits within our units of inquiry in a similar way. By recording our thoughts throughout, the children are then able to monitor their own progress as it shifts and changes across the programme of inquiry. Having taught upper grades, I have found it best to present only a few attributes at a time. This way we can dive into them over the course of a few weeks at the beginning of the year. You may prefer to go more slowly or dive into all ten attributes at once.

A Whole Child Approach

This excerpt from my online course, Essentials for Inquiry: Getting Started with Student-Led Inquiry, shares how the philosophy of a student-centred, inquiry-based approach has endured across time and is spreading more than ever for a reason. It works and it works well. And so we begin with the Learner Profile, understanding the attributes behind the learner: the very centre of the the IB PYP philosophy.

When we consider the whole child, we need to begin with developing a child’s basic awareness of who they are as learners on all levels, striving to meet their social, emotional and physical needs before academic learning can be fully embraced. Susan Powers 2019

As we look more closely at the whole child, notice that there are fewer academic aspects to a learner than there are basic human fulfillments.  Comparing this with the Learner Profile, we can see that the ten attributes fit into those circles. Consider how each attribute would fit within the coloured circles of the whole child approach. What do you notice?  Consider how the attributes of a learner fit within the whole child.

Integrating the Learner Profile

When we are making the Learner Profile an authentic part of our daily routines, we are bringing the attributes to life and putting them into action directly and indirectly. There will be times we want to plan for explicitly learning of these attributes, modelling and demonstrating as well as planned implicit practice. There are many ways to do this and it will vary depending on the age of your students. This article shares some of the strategies I have used over the years, together with ideas from our global community, shared via Instagram.

Embed the Learner Profile: We want to be embedding the language of the Learner Profile into every single day. The descriptors of each attribute share what it means to be-do-feel-say-have all of those attributes. This is active learning versus passive learning. This is about BECOMING an active learner. But before we get to DOING we have to have this awareness of BEING. This is why we embed the Learner Profile into our day-to-day routines. There are many ways to do this, including the following:

  • Daily language
  • Reference resources
  • Task cards
  • Games
  • Integrated into learning experiences
  • Reflective thinking
  • Books
  • Active participation

I designed this collaborative Learner Profile chart to support our students' application of the attributes as they work together to reflect upon what each attribute might look-sound-feel-act like. We then used the charts as a community reference and even a goal-setting tool. The children would pick 1-2-3-4 or 5 and then keep track of how many ways they put the Learner Profile attribute into action. You can link to my store here. 

Books: We begin with books. Books provide us with beautiful examples of the attributes in action within characters that can be relatable. Children can make connections with how the attributes look when out into action. You can find a list of brilliant books for developing the Learner Profile in this article here. The key to making those books a success however, is to make sure that you are referring back to them. Give the children the opportunity to make those connections throughout the school year, by keeping a record of the books read. This example from Grade 1 teacher, Shaila Mallik, shows how she has made this a part of her classroom routines. As the book as read, Shaila keeps a visible record of the stories so that the children can easily refer to them, adding their own thinking as they make those connections throughout the school year. She has a visible record of their progress and the kids have a  resource to compare and contrast their experiences.  

Bulletin Boards: Our  Learner Profile reference posters are a great place to begin. We want them to be interactive however, rather than static wall decorations. I created the interactive bulletin board with the intention of developing the children's awareness of how our learner profile comes into play every single day. Promoting international mindedness, provoking critical thinking , looking at experiences close to home, personally and globally. Each pocket contains slips that have questions or statements that direct the conversation towards how the traits play within our learning experiences, disciplines and skills.

Guided reading groups: Select a few of the questions from the pocket of the Learner Profile that we are focusing on. Example: Caring - " As you read the text, consider how the author demonstrates caring." I would then use these questions to guide the conversation through the profile trait, all the while relating it to a skill or strategy that we are working upon. The same thing can be done with ANY inquiry. There are 10 pockets, one for each of the IB PYP Learner Profile , acting like posters, assisting the children with their knowledge and understanding of the Learner Profile and how it relates to them, as learners. With a total of 150 questions you have enough for a conversation a day for the entire school year! You can take a closer look at how I use it, in this post, Using Interactive Bulletin Boards  Authentically integrating the Learner Profile, through literacy: With multiple tools to support literacy through the lens of the Learner Profile, we are able to bring a different perspective to the children of the attributes all whilst developing thinking skills and reading comprehension.

Adapting De Bono's hats to bring reflective conversations of the LP attributes.

We are always using graphic organisers to record the children's' thinking. Take it a step further, and show them how their action are demonstrating those attributes of the Learner Profile. In other words, what they are already doing is actually a part of BEING a thinker, inquirer, communicator and so on. I created these printable sticky notes and use them as part of our reading and research skills. Easy to integrate implicitly and adaptable enough for ANY inquiry or discipline. The picture above shows reflection hats, (adapted from De Bono's thinking hats) each colour, a separate profile attribute. Perfect for my little kids, during our end of the day pow-wow, the children would be given the opportunity to choose their own hat ( or Learner Profile attribute), out the hat on and then share their reflection of how they were open minded or risk takers, how they were thinkers today etc. Hands on games to support the IB PYP Learner Profile

  Taking action with the Learner Profile is all about putting it into practice. From this, the children learn where they are strongest and where they feel challenged. Our profile is going to be unique and will change and adapt as we learn and grown. We WANT the children to know this and we WANT them to be able to identify who they are as learners. The above card games are fantastic for upper grades to integrate literacy comprehension with communication, thinking and social skills, all whilst gaining a stronger understanding of what the Learner Profile attributes look-sound-act like. This Taking Action with the Learner Profile bingo resource is great for younger kids to actually put those attributes into practice. It was originally designed to be sent home during our distance learning, so that grade 1 could continue with our profile focus throughout our inquiry. It comes with a bingo sheet for each attribute and can be used in class, at home, early finishers and so on. Click on the link to see more about this PYP teaching tool. I have created SO many tools for embedding the Learner Profile and bringing an awareness to my students of their own unique profiles.

If you'd like to see more of those resources, you will find the collection in my TpT store. Feel free to browse.  You can listen to more ideas in my video series on Instagram, where I shared with our community. You can view this video @PYPteaching Until next time, when I will share more about taking action with the Learner Profile, enjoy the video series and please do reach out with your own ideas or questions.

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A post shared by Susan Powers (@pypteaching)


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