How IB PYP Approaches to Learning Skills Inspire Taking Action

 The IB PYP Approaches to Learning Skills are naturally used across the disciplines and one of the keys to our transdisciplinary approach. (thus they used to be called the Transdisciplinary Skills) As co-planners of the inquiry, we want to be intentional when identifying our focus skills that will align best with the primary purpose of our unit of inquiry. (organisation, expression, investigation etc.)  You want to ensure that you plan your learning experiences to give the children a targeted experience with your focus skills. The sub-skills within the IB PYP Approaches to Learning Skills are in themselves actions. We, as facilitators, provide opportunity for naturally inspiring action that can fall within all categories of our IB PYP action.

  • Participation

  • Social Justice

  • Advocacy

  • Social Entrepreneurship

  • Lifestyle Choices

I have some ideas taken from real-world examples from the various schools I have taught within across the world. I hope you are inspired by a few. :)

As you read through this article, take a few minutes to identify the ATL skills within the stories shared and also the categories of action taken.

[caption id="attachment_4264" align="alignnone" width="980"] Planning with the students, as we identify our focus skills and putting it all into action.[/caption]

The Friendship Bench

This was a beautiful idea from our Student Council ( a group of students representing the body of the school from grades 1-5.) The children had been noticing that quite a few children on the playground were being left out of games and seemed to be lonely. INSPIRING ACTION THROUGH OUR MATHS INQUIRY: Health & Wellbeing My grade 4’s, as part of our inquiry into Healthy Body, Healthy Mind (link to that complete unit of inquiry here.) created a survey for the school to find out about social feelings and problems on the playground. As we analysed the data from each grade level, this survey was eye-opening to the say the least, as we discovered many children were experiencing mildly unsettled feelings such a loneliness or feeling left out all the way to bullying. Upon reflection, this was a WOW moment for my class as we discussed the attitude of empathy in connection with our Learner Profile attributes.( see books for the article with Brilliant Books for the Learner Profile here). It was decided that we had to bring our results to the Student Council and thus the Friendship Bench idea was born. One of the benches in our school playground was going to be a very special bench. It was going to be used as a FRIENDSHIP BENCH. The idea was that children who felt lonely or left out or simply looking to be part of a game, would sit on this bench. It was to become a beacon for our community to raise awareness that this was something that EVERYONE could help with. The children came up with possible outocmes:

  • Children could just sit on the bench and chat with each other, making new friends.
  • Children could sit on the bench to let others know they were feeling these feelings.
  • Other children would take initiative to approach these children and invite them to join their group or game.
  • Teachers would be aware of those children who needed support socially

The bench was painted bright yellow as a welcoming beacon and a friendly reminder to all in our community, that this was a place of friendship. After the initial novelty inevitably wore off  (where it seemed like our entire school was sitting on the bench, friendless and lonely! Lol!!), it gradually became a part of the school, with the message clearly conveyed to everyone (including in our newsletters and welcome packet) that this bench was created through student’s empathy for their school mates.

TAKING INITIATIVE: No Bullying In Our School Drama Circle Activity

I do LOVE a bit of drama to bring the ATL skills into action. Drama circles are great for getting the children up and out of their seats, listening mindfully and thinking both critically and creatively. I created this drama circle as part of an inquiry into Human Rights and Responsibilities. (check this complete unit of inquiry here: Human Rights & Responsibilities) It began as a fun way to raise awareness of what bullying can look like and ended as an inspiration for the children to bring this awareness to the rest of the school through their initiative. I have since included this imitative within the drama circle activity that can be found in my store.

My grade 5s worked collaboratively to bring this No Bullying In our School initiative to the school through presentations to each of the grade levels, school wide posters and a before and after reflection for the upper grades kiddos.

ATL Skills Bingo for Little Kids

This bingo tool was created for lower grades children to develop an awareness of the ATL Skills and what they LOOK-FEEL-SOUND like in action. Easy to support agency, to involve the learning community as a class task or to send home to work with parents.     

PYP BUDDIES: A Collaborative Community 


I'm sure you’ve seen some of those lovely pictures of creative playground hopscotch that are found on the internet. Well, long before we recorded everything with digital cameras and smart phones, our PYP Buddies  came up with a great idea! Our PYP Buddies programme involved our upper grades classes pairing with a lower grade class and together they would work on a variety of activities throughout the year. It is a fabulous way to promote responsibility, ownership and agency amongst the children. This particular group of students came up with the idea to create our boring hopscotch template into one that raised a growth mindset in our students and could be used for lots of different imaginative play ideas. The children came up with:

  • Positive affirmations
  • Passing out complements
  • Setting intentions based on the word you landed on.
  • Community reflections after play

It was commissioned and created by one of our graphic designer Mums in the community and our art teacher took the project on board to include the children. This isn’t the exact picture of OUR playground hopscotch but it was pretty similar. If you're looking for a good starter to PYP buddies, this reading activity is a lovely step in the right direction, with big kids supporting younger buddies. LOCAL PROBLEMS, A COMMUNITY MARCH The last example for today is our community march take by our grade 5s in Denver. This was a part of our inquiry into Human Rights and Responsibilities. It began as an activity to design a t-shirt to support activism for a cause you believe in and ended as a 200 person march on our capitol building in the city centre! Phenomenal experience without a doubt! We had so many real-world, LOCAL causes that the children grouped together to investigate the issues:

  • Unfair Healthcare
  • Homelessness in Denver
  • Boycotting Circuses with Animals
  • Supporting LGBTQ in schools
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Indigenous People in Colorado Awareness

The picture speaks for itself. And the social skills touched upon were many as we planned, prepared and implemented this action.

The chart below shows how we did this together, allowing the students to come up with their own ideas, encouraging action and putting the skills into practice meaningfully. 

[caption id="attachment_4264" align="alignnone" width="980"] Planning with the students, as we identify our focus skills and putting it all into action.[/caption]   From this short list of examples of student-led action, you can see that the opportunity to inspire can come from the simplest activities. We need to begin by bringing an awareness to the children of what taking action looks like in its multiple forms.

And this can begin with our youngest learners, learning what it means to BE-THINK-DO-SAY-FEEL as action takers. [caption id="attachment_1226" align="alignnone" width="300"] Developing an understanding of action.[/caption]

I have another post that goes further into that. You can read more about inspiring student-led action in this article of the same: Inspiring Student Led Action.    Don't forget to grab your FREE action posters above! Just add your email and they will be sent to your inbox immediately! (Please do check your junk mail as sometimes they end up in there for some reason. ) Enjoy!   P.S. If youre looking for more complete units of inquiry, take a look at my collection in my own store. Many of which are exclusive to PYP Teaching Tools.


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