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A Transdisciplinary Approach to the Arts in the IB PYP

Dear IB PYP teachers, allow me to introduce Sven Valcárcel Marsà, IB PYP teacher and music teacher in Agora Lledó International School inSpain, as my guest writer for this article. I met Sven through Instagram @valcarcelmarsa after he reached out to share his strategies for approaching the arts through a transdisciplinary approach. The PYP Scope and Sequence document for music  defines the body of knowledge music students need. It is differentiated based on the students’ abilities and situations, progressively builds upon their conceptual understanding and skills which means, as with everything in the PYP, is approached as a transdisciplinary learning experience, through the concepts within our themes.

In Phase 1, students “…explore sound as a means of expressing imaginative ideas.”

 Phase 4, students will “…write music in traditional notation…create music that will be refined after sharing with...

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End of the Year Reflection Activities for the IB PYP Classroom

Greetings international teachers, from (not so )sunny Scotland. Another school year is almost over and I know those main challenges the we teachers face at the end of the school year.
  • Reflecting on the school year
  • Closing out portfolios meaningfully
  • Keeping our students engaged AND learning right up until the end.
  • Saying goodbyes ( so many of our international students move on & away)
  • Report writing AND maintaining our sanity......you know?
Well, I have a few ideas for activities that are perfect for the end of the year that I wanted to share with you. These are easy to prepare, easy to implement and easy to keep the kids motivated whilst learning. Even if you arent at that point in your school year, take a look. Im hoping you'll be able to find something that might work for your class. 😀

White Board Summer Wishes

The picture below is a photo of me with messages from my 3rd graders. This is a super easy and fun activity for ALL ages. The children stand in front of...
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Bringing the IB PYP Learner Profile to Life

What kind of a learner are you? Consider the question. Are you more of the lion type of learner or perhaps you're more of the hamster? This is a simple activity that I use at the beginning of the school year, as we are getting to know, not only our class community but also ourselves. As I am building this community of  learners, I want them to have a greater understanding of who they are as learners and to recognise and appreciate our diversity.   And that, as we know, all stems from the IB Learner Profile. Let's begin with an inquiry into who we are as learners.

  With a simple question and fun images, the children are asked to relate themselves to the pictures. You can choose to use words or simply begin with only the images. This adds to the thinking. I have done it both ways, depending on the students abilities with language, the vocabulary of the PYP and their thinking skills etc. Ask them: Are you more of a lion when it comes to learning, or are you more...

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Bringing Student Agency into Assessment in the IB PYP

 

Student Agency and Inclusive Assessment

Over the years, Ive chatted about inclusive assessment as a practice that needs to become embedded within any student-led, inquiry-based classroom. This message has been spread far and wide that this is a really important part of our daily routine. The IB themselves shifted towards on-going reflection, we have student agency as all the buzz ( and hallelujah for that!), numerous educators within our community are sharing their rationale for the value that inclusive assessment brings and none of this could have come a moment too soon. Yes, its that vital.

If we consider assessment as a key element within education, then we have to reconsider the role our students play within that element.

If you'd like to catch up with my 3 part series of articles from 2018-2019, you can link to those here. They cover the form and function of assessment in the inquiry-based classroom, together with  strategies for developing inclusive

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Strategies for Teaching English in IB PYP International Schools

As an international teacher, it is highly likely that you will be teaching English as a second or even third foreign language. In many international schools, we find ourselves with a beautiful broth of multiple languages and cultures within our classrooms. And, we deliver our inquiry-based framework to the children in English. For many others, we are teaching in a host country, to a class full of native speakers from our host country and, again, part of our repertoire is to teach those children to not only speak in English but also to learn in English.

Language therefore becomes more than simply a means of conversation. We are teaching a language, about language and through language and we do all of this with that authentic, inquiry-based approach that we truly believe in.  In this article, I will be sharing a recent video from a conversation I had live on Facebook with grade 4 teacher, Maria Vidal. ( @bilingualising on Instagram) [caption id="attachment_2738"...

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Mindfulness in the Classroom – An IB PYP ATL Skill

 

What is mindfulness exactly? And why would we need mindfulness in the classroom? According to Wikipedia, mindfulness is:

  • a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
  • the quality of being aware or conscious of something

When I consider those definitions in relation to mindfulness in the IB PYP classroom, the key words that jump out to me are:

being aware, focusing, present, accepting, feelings, thoughts, therapeutic. 

Connecting with the Learner Profile

All very similar to being reflective, don't you think? Since we have a whole child approach to teaching, this makes perfect sense that we would help to develop awareness of self as an approach to learning. If we think about how many attributes within the the Learner Profile align with mindfulness, we can then see how, through taking time to explicitly teach mindfulness...

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Being An IB PYP Inquiry Teacher

I played around with the title of this article, largely because the job of an IB PYP teacher never looks the same from teacher to teacher. I tried, ' The Role of ....", then, " The Job of.." and finally settled on the above because basically job refers to the content  and role refers to the context . Our role and job, I felt,  can look quite different depending on the grade level, whereas being brings our own uniqueness to the role which amplifies the job. Make sense? I may be putting too much thought into it. Ha!

Anyway, the most common queries I receive from teachers new to student-led inquiry and the IB PYP is that they are seeking clarity as to how their job ( the content)  may differ from their previous teaching positions and what their new role ( the context) , will look like. Well, rather than simply providing a list like a job description, I created points that summarise  what happens as we make that shift from the traditional classroom teacher, to that...

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Lost in the Right Direction- New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year!

For those who know me, it's not unusual for the restlessness to kick in and spark my wanderlust. I returned to Colorado only 18 months ago, after dragging my teenagers around for a  year in France for heaven's sake! The credit card is still recovering from the costs of shipping furniture across the Atlantic and back again! ( I do NOT recommend shipping your entire household goods, its cheaper to start afresh! But that's a whole other blog post I suppose. ) Yet, here I go again.....planning, planning...my next adventure.

My wings are temporarily clipped however. A promise was made to my teenage children that we wouldn't move again until they graduated high school. So, two years to plan. ? One can come up with a lot of mischief when given two years to think about it.

Keep in mind, when I travel, it isn't for a two week package tour, although nothing wrong with that if that's your preference. Oh no. I'm more of the "shut up shop for a year or so"...

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6 Steps to Setting Goals with IB PYP Students

Its that time of year again……reflection, fresh starts, new beginnings and goal setting.

A New Year or even a new school year, is an exciting time to gather as a class community and to think about all the dreams and goals that everyone wants to make come true. When we begin with this type of thing, it’s a great idea to just make a list of ALL those aspirations. Dream boards are fun ways to do this. I make one every single year! Dream BIG! Think beyond school! Just get them thinking forward.

 

Now, in order to make this list meaningful rather than a forgotten exercise within a few days, we need to encourage the children to turn those dreams into goals.

                                       

Dream boards or vision boards are simple and fun ways to just go ALL out and dream! Goals begin with dreams.

As adults, we know the importance of...

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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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