Trans disciplinary Teaching – the salad of education.


IB teachers smoothly incorporate the unit of inquiry around all of the curricular areas. At least that’s the plan. More often than not, I’m running with my hair on fire, going with the moment and thinking on my feet! Ah well. It’s not unusual for my planner to look like a map of the London Underground!

Who We Are: Personal narratives & hero atributes

The IBO centers inquiry based learning around the traits of a learner; namely the Learner Profile. Those traits are further developed with repetitious use of the TRANS DISCIPLINARY SKILLS. I have a fun set of posters for big kids and little kids that lists and explains the skills. You can link to the big kids here and the little kids here.  I am constantly referring to the posters as we use the skills. This develops an awareness in the kids of what it is they are doing and gives purpose to their activities. 


It is THOSE skills that we transfer across the disciplines for authentic learning. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, life is not broken up into separate disciplines. So why do it in the classroom?

Problem-solving for Planning Math?  

Where We Are in Place & Time: Exploring angles & pyramid like the ancients

When I’m planning my units, I usually begin with the summative assessment in mind and go backwards from there. I learned to plan across the curriculum a million years ago as a student teacher in Scotland and I still do it today. ( yup, I’ve been around quite a few playgrounds.) My planner looks like a dartboard with the summative as the bulls eye and my concepts running through it. 

How We Organise Ourselves- Structure of a story

 Math can be a finicky problem for me. And, for the sake of my sanity and the kids learning, I’ve had to just go with the fact that sometimes it’s just not going to flow nicely.  Trying to tie in some of those fundamental skills such as order of operations into ocean life can be tricky. I admit to being creative but even that one pushes my creativity to the limits. Thus my skills of thinking and research are practiced! 😉

Not to be completely beaten however, I will throw in the fabulous catch all- DATA ANALYSIS, A.K.A. Graphing! haha!
Seriously though, if you step back and look at real life within the unit, I find that this helps me to find the math. Here are a few suggestions:


  • Science-measure, data, probability, area, elapsed time, shape problem solving, volume, time, speed, distance, decimals, fractions, construction ( angles, lines, rays etc)
  • Social studies– data analysis, surveys, measure, time, angles, lines, rays, mapping, money, decimals, fractions
  • Literacy– frequency, mean, median, mode, data analysis, surveys, time, rhythm,  problem-solving with all operations, volume, area, perimeter, fractions

Life is A Salad.

  But in all seriousness, teaching authentically has to be done inclusive of ALL of the disciplines.  Life and learning is all smooshed together with reading, writing, counting, synthesizing, researching. ….and so on. It comes together like one great big salad and so, teaching the children to learn this way can only be valuable. Not to mention in preparation for the trendy phrases, ” College and career readiness.” !!

Who We Are: Researching Revolutionaries: This was sensitively researched with an open mind as the children learned how revolutions can be both destructive as well as progressive. Remember the 6 million!

My complete units of inquiry, found here  in my store, are my attempt to make it easier for others to pull together the disciplines and to teach in a trans-disciplinary fashion. Each IB theme is now available and despite being planned for 3rd-5th, there are many that can be adapted for 2nd and even older than 5th. They cover reading, writing, math, science, social studies and the arts in some form or another. I am ALWAYS open to hearing your own expertise and to incorporating it into these planners so that they can improve. I love hearing from my fellow PYP teachers around the world ( Italy and Singapore, to name a few, thanks ladies), with suggestions that can be used to update the activities and improve the learning for our kiddos worldwide.
I’ll keep creating at this end, if you can keep giving me the feedback at your end.
Meanwhile, keep calm and keep on teaching transdisciplinary!


~ Susan 


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