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10 Reasons to Develop An Inquiry Based Classroom

If you think about it; what do you do when you have a question that you have to know the answer to? You go about finding the answer by yourself and not because you’re being told to by someone else. You take ACTION towards finding out and, in turn, learning.

Practising an inquiry based learning  approach in my classroom has been the most meaningful form of teaching I have ever implemented. The authenticity it brings to learning, along with the benefit of increased student agency and connections it makes to 21st century skills, are reasons in themselves for the power of the philosophy. Then, when we add in student engagement  and motivation for learning, it all adds up to a very powerful approach indeed.   Education, as you know, has many trends that come and go. Inquiry however, is nothing new. Inquiry based teaching and learning has been around for a long time. There are several different models of it out there, including the IB...

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Assessment and Student Agency in the IB PYP

I recently attended an IB ARMS ( Rocky Mountain Association of IB World Schools) symposium in Denver and found myself in an interesting conversation regarding student agency.  I think that the current buzz word student agency must be recognised for its role of bringing greater awareness to our role of giving the children more pertinent opportunities to use their agency. In other words, providing the children with more authentic chances to use their voice, make choices for themselves, both collectively and as individuals, and to encourage ownership for their own learning. So, let’s look at the area of assessment and how we, as the facilitators, can increase the children’s’ involvement with this part of their learning cycle.

Since this is a lengthy subject, I’m going to break it down into 2 parts. I will also be including free samples of assessment tools. If you’d like to follow along, please add your e mail...

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Assessment Strategies for the IB PYP

Hello again! If you’re following on from part 1 of this conversation, Assessment and Student Agency in the IB PYP, then welcome back. If you missed part 1, you can link to it above if you wish.

Assessment in the PYP classroom has so many different looks to it. Some schools where I have taught have to complete the standardised testing that is required by their school district but most IB PYP schools use a myriad of tools to assess the children, including teacher created tests, formative assessment tools and activities and,of course, the unit summative assessments.

I have listed some of my go-to favourite inclusive formative assessments that encourage self & peer assessment, promoting agency and, not only assess the children’s’ knowledge but also the ATL (Approaches to Learning) skills that they are developing on their journey to becoming avid, independent life long learners. Take a look and hopefully you’ll find something new to try...

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Student Agency and Independent Inquiry Boards in your IB PYP Classroom


Well, let’s talk (again) about student agency and how to increase it within your classroom. Keeping in mind that it is far more than flexible seating and independently gathering resources, and more about giving the children voice, choice and action in their own learning, I’m heading straight to independent inquiry boards. And there’s a FREE sample for you too.

Form: What IS an independent inquiry board?

Independent inquiry board for every celebration throughout the year.

You may know them as choice boards, tic tac toe etc They are a collection of guided options to encourage the children to make their own selections and can be used within any subject area, theme or concept.

Function: Inquiry boards encourage the children to use their Approaches to Learning Skills(Research, Self Management, Thinking, Social & Communication) whilst showing their knowledge of skills that YOU as the facilitator, are directing. They act as a tool for formative...

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Step Back & Enjoy IB PYP Student Led Conferences

Tis the season…..Student Led Conferences! They are an incredibly reflective experience for all involved; the teacher, the students and their families. This post will walk you through what I’ve found to work well over the years and there are several freebies within this conversation.  You’ll  also find a FREE list of over 100 report cards comments that relate to the Learner Profile and ATL skills, found at the end. Simply copy and paste the comments that work for your group of kids, taking HOURS off of this task! Please read on, take what you like and enjoy.

Our “class” sitting at their desks, awaiting our visitors.

 Form: what is it? 

The shift from a private, teacher led conference with parents to a student led conference is exactly as it states. The teacher takes a step back and is simply the facilitator of the students’ preparation prior to the conference and the child takes the lead on...

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Making the IB PYP Central Idea Meaningful

Following on from my recent live webinar on Facebook, this week’s chat is looking at different approaches to the IB PYP Central Idea and how each method can benefit the learner in meaningful and effective ways within the inquiry process. I have added the video below.

When youre new or newish to the PYP, the jargon alone can be intimidating, nevermind what youre supposed to do with it all. When you are presented with a central idea that leaves you with the thoughts, ” Huh? What does that even mean?” , this is a huge clue that the central idea is, in my opinion, ugly! If you are struggling with it, how do you think the children will feel? Over the years I have found there to be 3 types of central ideas: the good, the bad and the ugly. Here is one UGLY example that stuck with me ( for obvious reasons). It was geared towards 7 & 8 year olds. I am not kidding!

The relationships within a community can determine the structure and engagements of its...

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Student-Led Assessment and Student Agency in the IB PYP

Hello again! And welcome to the third part of our conversation of assessment in the IB PYP classroom.  If you’re just joining me, welcome to the end of this conversation about assessment and student agency. You can read parts 1 and 2 right here, if you want to keep it all in context.

Peer reflection and planning the assessment

Following on from part 2, which listed ten forms of inclusive assessment for an IB PYP classroom with a free resource for you to download, I wanted to complete this 3 part conversation on assessment with ways to record the evidence gathered from assessment activities.

By gathering evidence about ongoing student achievement, the evidence can assist both teachers and students in making judgements about their progress and accomplishments of standards and outcomes. It also provides feedback about how each child can improve their skills and their learning. The following list of inclusive assessment activities can be used...

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The IB PYP Student Portfolio

Hello there! It feels like its been a while since our lengthy conversation on Assessment Practices in the IB PYP. I’d like to wrap it up with a chat about the Student Portfolio and the role it plays with inclusive assessment. I will cover the different formats, the value and function and how to incorporate reflections by Pre-K/Early Years children. 

Function: The Purpose

With the fact that every school has a responsibility to maintain evidence of students’ learning, the PYP Portfolio acts a source for collecting, recording and storing the evidence.

It is particularly important that the children, right from the very beginning, understand the purpose and value of their portfolio. We want them to understand that this is an on-going, working document that is specifically used to document their learning, progress, accomplishments and challenges. It is more than simply a task to be completed at the end of every unit. Equally important, is the...

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New to the IB PYP? FREE Teachers’ Video Training Series


Over the past few months, I’ve been hard at work creating an online training course for teachers who are new or newish to the concept-based, student-centred, inquiry classroom. Does this sound like you or someone you know? I am happy to announce that it is ALMOST ready to be released! I’m calling it Essentials for Inquiry.  (has a nice ring to it, I feel.)

Meanwhile, I have these FREE training videos which will give quick, practical and useful information and can be available on demand. I shall be releasing the 3 training videos over the course of the next week. So, make sure you have subscribed so that they will drop right into your inbox. Allow me to introduce this video training series and scroll down for training video 1, Introducing Concept-Based Learning.

Video 1 : Introducing concept-based learning:

  • What is a concept?
  • The purpose of concept-based teaching
  • Related concepts vs. key concepts
  • Developing conceptual thinking
  • Download your free...
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2nd FREE Video-Inquiry Teacher Training! Developing Conceptual Thinkers


Welcome back! And if you’re just showing up….welcome! I have had an overwhelming response to video number 1! I’m beyond grateful for everyone who commented, sent me private messages and all in all, expressed thanks. I feel incredibly thankful to be a part of such a fabulously supportive, global community of teachers.

Video number 2 is here! Following on from training video number 1, where I introduce the idea of using concepts within teaching and learning, I’ll now go on to give you some practical ideas for developing conceptual thinkers.

These videos are a snapshot of my new online professional development course, Essentials for Inquiry: Getting Started with Inquiry-Based Teaching, which I shall be releasing SOON! I receive so very many questions from teachers all around the world and this course is designed to get you off to an effective start from planning, through the inquiry process, to assessment. It comes complete with lesson...

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