Questioning Skills and the IB PYP Inquiry

If we are inquiry teachers, facilitating a student-led inquiry process, then it makes absolute sense that we have to be able to teach the children the art of questioning. Questions are, after all,  the beginning of each and every inquiry.  Questioning plays an important role in building a true student-led inquiry, beginning with the initial provocation. So, where do we start? Well, allow me to share my experience with you and, hopefully, bring you some practical strategies to take back to your own class of inquirers.  If you missed the first part of this discussion about developing the Approaches to Learning Thinking Skills, click  here to catch up with how I begin to develop those sub-skills.  In this article, I have provided a free video that also offers practical suggestions. But, let’s start by doing.

Using simple thinking routines with the children, as the one below,  I would work up to each of those skills :...

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Steps to Getting Started with the IB PYP Inquiry


Are you new or newish to inquiry-based teaching? Or, are you confused about the process behind facilitating an inquiry? Within the IB PYP, we are presented with multiple inquiry strategies and processes that begin with the IB PYP planner. It isn’t surprising that many of us are confused in the beginning and sometimes even lost. I want you to know several things right now:

  1. There is more than one RIGHT way to bring inquiry into your classroom.
  2. Regardless of the myriad of processes, they all come down to the same steps.
  3. Inquiry isn’t linear. It will get messy. (We will chat more about that  later.)
  4. You are NOT alone! We have an incredible community of international teachers who have been in your shoes and are willing to help and support.  I’d love to have you join us. Head over to Instagram and say, “Hi!”. 

If you’re still wondering what all the fuss is with inquiry-based teaching, this article gives you 10 reasons why you...

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International Mindedness is What??


Say what? Exactly what does ” international mindedness” mean and is it even a word? It’s certainly thrown around a lot within IB schools, that’s for sure.

My research through several dictionaries, brought zero results.
Learning about our heritage

 My new post as 4th grade teacher at an IB school in France has me immersed with no less than TWELVE different nationalities within my class of 23 kids!! You think I’d better grasp ” international mindedness” and fast?!
The IBO states that each school, international or not, promotes and celebrates the diversity of is own cultural population, both within the school and in its local community. This can be done in so many ways. Most communities have a wealth of cultural diversity within. These can be visitors to the town, the family backgrounds and historical roots of the area. All of this can be harnessed and brought within your classroom.

These amazing children, in the few...
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Inquiry Banks: Wondering in Action


A Fountain of Knowledge

“So what is an inquiry bank?”, I hear you say. Well, fundamentally, it is a place to store your questions that arise. Intrinsically, it is a fountain of knowledge, spewing forth the answers to our desires; at least our desired inquiries.

The Inquiry Bank, given the prestige of capitalisation, is a simple resource that I use successfully within my PYP classroom. It is in a central area, positioned at kid friendly height , so that the kids can have free and easy access to it. I usually use a whiteboard easel or just a white poster paper. 

The current central idea is always written in the centre, along with the theme of our unit.As I introduce the new unit of inquiry, I invite the questions to be added to our bank. The children are then free to independently find and record their answers. We use markers and brightly coloured sticky notes to record our questions and answers.
Enthusiasm is often catching and I coach the children to take care...
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Using the IB PYP Key Concepts

The concept map, making thinking visible.

What is A Key Concept?

I was asked recent to show a few of our teachers how I incorporate the key concepts into everyday learning. I felt that there may be a few more of you out there who’d also be interested. So, here we go.

The IB PYP now has 7 key concepts that are designed as the lens or  the “big picture”of which we look at our lines of inquiry within each of our six units of inquiry. ( 4 units for EYP)



A concept is a big idea- a principle or conception, that is enduring, the significance of which goes beyond aspects such as subject matter or place in time. “ Wiggins 1998
It is important that we don’t get bogged down with the idea that the key concepts are simply a continuum of questions. When we focus on 2-3 key concepts within each unit, we are able to bring the focus of the children’s thinking to a deeper level rather than shallow and broad. These key...
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Making Thinking Visible

It is no great news that children are created in a myriad of different ways and the way they synthesise things is as varied. We have the listeners, the visual learners, the kinesthetic and the cognitive to throw out  a few of the technical terms. Our challenge is not only to cater to all of those varying forms of learning but also to be aware of who our different learners are within our classroom.
 By making thinking visible, it helps us, as their educators, to see exactly what is going on ( or not going on in some cases) as each child is learning and to facilitate their learning further. Also, for a child to be able to show their thinking and explain how they came up with a solution, is a big confidence booster! :

The book that I’m about to plug is aptly entitled, “Making Thinking Visible”. It was given to me by one of my head teachers about 6 years ago. Since then, we have actually done a staff PD using the book to help us. The strategies are...
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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. 

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Mindfulness in the Classroom

Mindfulness. It seems to be another of those words that is making the rounds lately. Mindfulness. To me there are so many takes on the word and I feel that it is one of those trends that we do within the IB PYP anyway. I was curious as to how the children perceived this word and so, I asked. 

The responses were eye-opening really. Thankfully, many of the kids referred to the IB Attitudes, since we are constantly using this language and philosophy in school. It surrounds them.

Practicing Mindfulness

An Attitude of Appreciation.

A plan of action was to become aware of what we were thankful for amongst each other. We began to notice how we  could help one another with random acts of kindness that really were small and otherwise unnoticed. Simple thing such as complimenting one another, passing an eraser, smiling across the room. This was facilitated with Compliment Coupons. The children really learned to recognize the goodness that was all around them .

Quiet Time:...

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Reflection and Goal Setting within the IB PYP

Reflection & Goal Setting in the PYP Classroom

Its that time of year again……

Just last week my daughter asked me what my New Year’s resolution would be. Before answering, I cynically thought about how I’ll swear to exercise more, eat less and lose the same 10 lbs I’ve been losing and gaining for the past ten years. I chickened out in my response, ” I haven’t really thought about it yet.” But really, isn’t it good to reflect upon where we are and set goals for where we would like to be? I mean we do it in the classroom very frequently.


Awards certificates for the PYP found here.



Reflecting within the PYP.

Every six weeks we reflect upon our learning within the IB Primary Years Programme. We focus on the Learner Profile trait of being reflective and look back at the central idea and how our understanding has change. We think upon the key concepts covered and contemplate our...

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Concept Based Learning & Making Thinking Visible

Concept Based Learning

I am a huge fan of inquiry based teaching and learning. After all, I am a die-hard IB PYP teacher. Anything that promotes thinking in an engaged manner and reinforces understanding excites me! Concept based learning looks at a given subject through the lens of concepts or “big ideas” and encourages the children to think about those big ideas rather than having a subject stuffed into a small box. It enables more connections to be made and, in my opinion, creates a more authentic learning experience where all subjects and skills can be utilised. Lets begin with The Concept Map!

The Concept Map-The idea of using background knowledge with inquiry and directing thinking strategies to create understanding in science.

                                        The concept map, making thinking visible.

Rather than “giving” students the...

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