Another school year is about to end. As an IB teacher, it is a necessary to look back on the school year that was and reflect on the best, as well as the most challenging practices that you and your kids went through. It may not always seem like it, yet I believe that the most challenging tasks make the most effective learning experiences. I am honoured to have been given this privilege of sharing a glimpse of one of my most rewarding and productive performance tasks in Year 5 this year.
Unit 5 embraces the transdisciplinary theme, “Sharing the planet,” with the central idea: People can establish practices in order to sustain and maintain the Earth’s resources and with the following lines of inquiry: (a) the limited nature of the Earth’s resources, (b) personal choices that can help to sustain the environment, (c) reusing and recycling different materials, and (d) reducing waste. Planning and preparations are the most taxing part of teaching in an IB school. PYP planning and preparation have this trick of making you begin thinking of an end in your mind. Yes, from the scope and sequence, I had to plan for a summative assessment involving knowledge, skills and attitudes that I would like my students to learn and achieve, which should also be anchored to the writing genre of that unit. And since it is not only for my personal stand- alone planning, it has demanded a collaborative effort among the other teachers in the team. As a result, ICT, Maths and UoI have been been supporting our English performance task assessment.
Persuasive writing is not very popular among students. For one, they are required to present them orally, after writing it. Having these particular students 2 years in a row gave me the opportunity to get to know them well and see what more they can do to let them push themselves beyond their limits. I know it will be a big challenge, but it is going to be worth it.
I still remember the day when I first broke the news to them that they are going to engage themselves in a MUNA simulation as their Unit 5’s performance task. Blank faces. Clueless stares. Unending reactions of ha? I can still vividly remember the expressions from the faces of every student in my class that day. The reaction didn’t change even after I explained what it was about. Reactions only changed days after we started planning and preparing for it.
MUNA simulation is a simulation of the United Nations Assembly in solving various world problems. Since the unit is about sustaining an maintaining Earth’s resources, I assigned everyone in a group and every group to a country. Their task was to research for at least 3 of their country’s natural resources problems. From those 3, they had to come up with just 1. And from that, as a group, they had to think about possible and effective solutions to solve it. And then, they will have to present this in a simulation of a United Nations Forum, following the rules and procedures of the United Nations assembly in solving world issues. In addition to that, during the simulation, they had to convince the delegates from other countries to support their resolutions. So, they had to answer the questions that would be thrown to them, and be able to defend their position when being questioned. From that day on, a shift in the way they dealt with the task had changed. And the rest was history.
On the day of the MUNA simulation, everyone looked so professional. They got the feeling of being a real UN delegate. They were wearing formal attire, and holding folders of everything that they had researched and discussed about during the process. The rules and procedures were followed religiously. Everyone got the chance to deliver a speech. Every group got the chance to shine, by being prepared with their questions and their answers for other countries’ clarification and motions. Everything was mostly based on researched facts and collaborative decision. The exchange of thoughts and ideas was spontaneous and professionally handled by every delegate.
This activity only proves that you can not underestimate children. You may think that they are still very young to deal with global issues. But if you equip them with meaningful knowledge and the right skills, and prepared them accordingly, they can do wonders. And oh, yes, there were some glitches along the way. There were groups who would blame each other and think that they wouldn’t be able to make it, collaboration concerns, personal differences issues. But we should remember that everything about it, including the glitches and crashes, were parts of the learning experience. And yes, most of the time, they are the most valuable ones.
Here are some examples of the students reflection: