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 issue 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. You can link to another blog post here, specifically focusing on how drama can reinforce the ATL skills. It is really so much fun! Please do let me know of your own ideas for developing the Approaches to Learning Skills. I love to share ideas! Let’s stay in touch! By clicking here, you’ll be able to follow my store and know first when new IB PYP products are available.



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