Integrating Art to Promote the Communicator and Open-minded Profile Attributes

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There are multiple ways you can integrate art into your unit of inquiry. You can incorporate it as an expression of human creativity and imagination, or as a form of communication. The latter is the method used in my school’s Program of Inquiry in our ‘How We Express Ourselves’ unit in Year 4.

After categorizing artworks into 1D, 2D, 3D, and 4D dimensional formats, the students saw that art is deeply woven into human life. They saw, for instance, 2D art as accompanying illustrations in every chapter in their school books and 3D creations in their own classroom – items that they usually sit and write on without giving much thought to them. Although that was already a fun eye-opening phase of their UOI, what followed was even more exciting. The students came to a realization that art is a form of communication that transcends cultural and language barriers. One excellent example is the art of illustration or pictures. Trying, with shaky results, to decipher written public signs in foreign languages, they immediately realized that the internationally used text-less picture signs in public places such as airports are a brilliant use of art that is also very effective to convey messages to people from different cultures who speak different languages. As my classroom is currently a home to children of five different nationalities, they discovered that art was also a way to help them understand each other better.


The next excitement was when the students found other purposes of art such as to preserve a civilization’s history, a cultural identity, a standard for beauty, and a medium for product marketing. It was a truly wonderful learning experience for both the students and myself.    


At the end of the Unit of Inquiry, I found that integrated art is a superb tool to develop the students’ Communicator and Open-minded profiles. The possibilities for classroom activities where students have to strategize ways of communicating ideas, feelings, or even instructions are limitless and students always come out of every activity with more understanding, with the occasional admiration, of each other and of different cultures.

Meidiana, Year 4 teacher, Jakarta Multicultural School (


Unit of Inquiry “My Body”

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During this first UOI about “My Body”, the Kindergarten classes have been engaged in lots of activities. Once a week, we join the two classes together and have rotation-based activities to help deepen the children’s understanding about body parts and their functions. The children also explore through games, songs, body movements, hands-on materials, books, role play and other physical tasks.

In one activity, the children were asked to assemble cut outs of body parts and make them whole again. Then they were asked to explain what they had assembled.

We have been enjoying our learning so far and we look forward to more great times ahead.

Kindergarten Team GJS

Global Citizenship With A Difference Helping to save the Rainforests of Indonesia

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The children of Grade 4 watched in horror as the sight of thick smoke and smog filled the screen. They were watching YouTube clips of the rainforests in Sumatra that were being destroyed by forest fires. One of our animals lovers had wanted to share these clips with the rest of class, to initiate a discussion on how to help the animals whose habitats were being destroyed.

The class was studying a unit on economic activity, production, exchange and the consumption of goods and services. As their teacher, I wondered how to make this unit more trans-disciplinary, authentic and engaging for the children – to do something with them that was stimulating, would push them just beyond their comfort zone and to create new understanding while having loads of fun. So, I challenged them to plan, organize and run their own businesses of selling products and services so that they could get first hand experience of how things are organized in the real world.

During the brainstorming session that followed, some of the children came up with the idea of organizing a fun fair in which they would run businesses and invite the whole school and their parents. This way, they felt that they could raise funds to help save the animals and forests of Indonesia that had suffered from the fires.  The students voted to donate the money earned to two organizations – WWF and Greenpeace Indonesia, both of whom were involved in protecting the forests and wildlife in Indonesia.JMS oct 1.png

The children formed different  ‘companies ‘and came up with many creative business ideas for selling products or services. After designing a survey they went around every class using a show of hands to collect data, to see which businesses would be the most popular.

A question then arose, “Where are we going to get the money to buy the raw materials and other things needed to start the businesses?”

After much thought, they approached the primary principal to ask for loans for their various businesses. He asked them to come up with business plans that included budgets. They also had to convince him that their plans were sound, could make enough money to repay the school AND that they would have to agree to pay the school back a ‘charge’ of 10 percent interest (this was mainly an exercise to integrate lessons on percentages).

The groups worked on their ideas and budgets and nervously presented their business plans to the principal. Luckily for them, he eventually ‘approved’ the loans and the children were at last in business!

Every child contributed to manufacturing, packaging and pricing the goods. Costs were calculated (10 percent added on to repay the loan) and profit margins added. It was decided that all the items that did not get sold were going to be sold at discounted prices in order to recuperate costs.

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The businesses included a food court, with restaurants selling sushi, baked goods popcorn and juices, games, a gift shop and an auction – all organized and produced by the children themselves with marketing strategies to make the businesses more attractive and competitive.

And now the question arose – how were they to advertise the fun fair? The students made posters  that they put up around the school and put in a blurb in the school weekly news bulletin to let the school community know about the upcoming event.

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At the end of the fair the children calculated the gross profit and the net profits and were delighted when the primary principal did not charge the 10 % interest they ‘owed’ the school but allowed them to add it to the profit margin!

The students’ hard work paid off and they raised the amazing sum of IDR 11,400,000 (about USD 870) for WWF Indonesia and Green Peace Indonesia. They received certificates from both organizations and were proud to have made a small but important contribution to help save the rainforests of Indonesia.

What else did the students gain from this project besides a feeling of self-satisfaction?

By being motivated, challenged and actively engaged in tasks that were authentic, relevant and significant to them, the students developed amongst other qualities, the profiles, attitudes and skills of having empathy and integrity, being principled and reflective inquirers, creative problem solvers, being responsible, communicating and cooperating with one another, group decision making and adapting to different roles. In short all the attributes that promote compassionate action as well as the confidence and belief that they can make a difference in the world.

Preeti Singh

Grade 4, Classroom Teacher

Bali Island School

(Formally Bali International School)

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Windy and Friends

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The Exhibition takes place in the final year of the PYP, which at GJS is Year 6. Students engage in a collaborative transdisciplinary inquiry process that involves identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems. Although the Exhibition unit will not start until the beginning of the second semester, the process of the PYP Exhibition starts from the beginning of the academic year where the PYP Coordinator and Year 6 teachers plan an Exhibition Gantt/timeline. Due to the complexity of the unit, lesson plans are designed weekly over a period of time to introduce the concept and to assist the students to reach the expected results. These weekly sessions are called “ Windy and Friends.”

Tyrone: Ibu Windy is very fun and helps us prepare for the exhibition. She explains to us the problems and the troubles that the previous  Year 6 students encountered. After we asked lots of questions, we are starting to get a clear image of what the exhibition will be like. I am honestly scared but the teachers said that it won’t be that hard if we focus and stay ‘self-managed’. I hope that I get teamed up with people who are good at working with me.

Suryansh: These are my comments about the priority pyramid.

  • When I was doing my priority pyramid, I was feeling really proud because I am good at most of the skills. My foundation skills is self-management.
  • I had so much fun doing the priority pyramid that I didn’t even realize that I completed it.
  • I was also creative while I was doing it so I also put pictures and and colours on it so it looks creative

Bryan: In Ibu Windy’s lesson, I have learned how to express my feelings through inquiry questions. These questions will help me for exhibition to always remember the point of the product. We also made a priority pyramid from the ones you need to practice most until the ones you feel comfortable at. This piece of work will help me improve my goals on what skills I should improve on. I also should keep the ones that I am already confident at steady and going. Now I’m continuing to improve my skills that I still need to practice on.


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IB is a framework that enables teachers to navigate through  the realm of concepts. It also allows students to imagine , recall , create  meaning and form a solid understanding of the world that they live in. However, concepts are difficult to teach; as teachers, do we always have to explicitly teach concepts? In what ways can we introduce a specific one to them?

I am a PYP teacher. At this time being,  I teach in the Early years. Too often, I can see Early Year teachers’ confuzzled faces about how and when they should introduce and dig deep into concepts.

I stumbled upon children’s books way, way back. As a newbie teacher, I fell in love to the endless possibilities of reading and learning using books not just as jump starters but a medium for me to smoothly walk my way through areas of learning and/or concepts ;such as growth and change, peace, conflict, interdependence, migration, etc. that seem too unreachable for children.

I started out with books that we have at home. I consider them my treasure, and from that small collection, it has grown and is continually growing. I have the new and the old collection. Modern and the not so modern books. But every time I get to read each one of them to children, a new idea pops up, thus, continuous learning not just for the students but for me as a teacher too.

Below is a list of time-tested books that as teachers , I feel and think should be part of our collection.

1.    Butter Battle Book By Dr. Seuss – concepts: conflict and peace

It is an anti-war story; specifically, a parable about arms races in general, mutually assured destruction and nuclear weapons in particular. ( wikipedia)

2.    Love You Forever By Robert Munsch– concepts: growth and change

Love you forever is a canadian picture book written by robert munsch and published in 1986. It tells the story of the evolving relationship between a boy and his mother. (wikipedia)

3.    The Great Kapok Tree By Lynne Cherry – concepts: interdependence, biodiversity, conservation

The great kapok tree is a story about conservation and about interdependence .

4.    A Chair For My Mother -concepts:relationships, interdependence

This is a story about a child, a  mother, and a grandmother who saves every dime to but a comfortable armchair after a fire destroyed everything.

5.    The Lorax By Dr. Seuss– concepts: conservation, environment

This book talks about the environment , the lorax  and how one selfish act made by the once-ler  caused environmental destruction.

6.    From Far Away By Robert Munsch – concepts:migration and conflict

This is a true story about a girl who left war-torn lebanon and migrated to canada. It is a story of a girl’s struggle in a foreign land and how the people around her and an author, helped her go through it.

7.    A Bad Case Of Stripes By David Shannon – concepts: influence, individuality, and understanding

This is a book about a girl’s struggle to be herself. She loves lima beans but her friends don’t so she felt ashamed, different and pretended that she dislikes it too. One day she wakes up to discover thick, solid-colored stripes on her school, the other children tease her and call out colors and patterns which cause the colors on her skin to transform accordingly.

8.    It Takes A Village By Jane Cowen – Fletcher – concepts: culture, relationships

It takes a village is about an older sister asked to take care of her little brother. But while she was busy doing other tasks, the people around the market kept  their watchful eyes on her little brother.

9.    Amazing Grace Series By Mary Hoffman – concepts: relationships, understanding, perspective

A series of books that tell about the life of a girl, grace ,on how she got through the different challenges in her life and how her family helped her along the way.

10. The Sneetches – concept: societies (discrimination)

This book discusses discrimination between races and cultures. It shows  dr. Seuss’s opposition to antisemitism.

The list could go on and on. And to answer the question I posted above, yes, we do have to at one point introduce the vocabulary to children. But we do not have to always do the explaining. If we introduce and embed concepts through stories, inquiries, and well-planned activities, then children will figure it all out  and eventually get the deeper meaning of what we want them to understand.

Hazel Ann Barbasa

Sekolah Bogor Raya


Teaching Children How to Write

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Teaching children how to write requires a lot of effort and patience from teachers. Not only do we need to teach the fundamental writing skills, we also need to explore and guide the students through the writing process, help them to understand the different purposes of writing, and develop a supportive writing environment. Success in these areas will allow us to achieve one of our goals; to enable students to write flexibly and effectively in order to communicate their thoughts clearly.

Fundamental Writing Skills

It is important to first ensure that students have a basic understanding of spelling and grammar concepts, appropriate for their age or grade. Teachers need to allocate time for acquiring, guiding and polishing these skills. If students do not know how to spell a word, they will likely use another word, and that will affect how their message is conveyed. Students also need to produce compelling, thought-provoking sentences in order to get their message across and engage their readers. When a student’s writing contains spelling or grammar mistakes it can be hard for the reader to comprehend what the student is trying to communicate.  Using correct punctuation is equally important to teach as the position of punctuation often affects its meaning in a sentence. Correct use of punctuation will help the readers understand what the writer is trying to convey. To assist in this process my students are using the advance proofreading bookmark shown below:binus-oct-1


binus-oct-2This is a sample of student’s work. They are required to do their corrections using a green pen.

Another fundamental writing skill to teach is writing clear and specific main ideas or thesis statements.  Emphasize that every sentence within the essay should be associated to the thesis statement. Explain to the students that being specific means ‘straight to the point’ and not skimming the surface.  By being clear, they will ensure their readers will understand exactly what they mean. This could be hard to explain, so we need to show students examples to help them create their own thesis statements.

The Writing Process

Effective writing is not simply writing down what comes to mind. Teachers need to guide their students in thinking carefully on what they plan to say and how they want to say it. It is very important for the students to follow the writing process: planning, drafting, sharing, evaluating, revising, editing and publishing.

One basic strategy is POW (Pick ideas, Organize their notes, Write and say more). This can be introduced to lower elementary students. Teachers can also provide a variety of graphic organizers and teach students how to organize their ideas in a more visual form. For upper elementary students, more complicated strategies, such as peer revising, can be implemented. Many strategies can be used to assist students. In our current unit where persuasive essay is the writing genre, I set guidelines and standards for students’ writing, such as focusing on the argument given and providing three or more reasons for their beliefs. I use the TREE method, (Topic sentence, Reasons—three or more, Ending, Examine) whereby they make a plan for their paper that includes what they believe, reasons to support their beliefs, examples for each reason, and an ending. For their introduction, they can make it catchy by starting with a question, a quote or a personal experience. They also need to state their beliefs in the introduction, but they should elaborate on them in the following paragraphs. As students may also be conducting research, academic honesty must be emphasized as well.



Purposes of Writing

I am proud to say that in our school, each writing genre is explored meaningfully.  Each unit of inquiry is tied to a specific writing genre which a grade level has deemed most appropriate to what they are inquiring into. This way, learning is more focused and purposeful. For example, in Grade 5, to prove the existence of each type of force, our students conducted experiments and learnt how to write a procedural text using the scientific method. While exploring local and global issues our students also learnt how to write persuasive essays on slavery, discrimination or drug trafficking. In addition, students need to understand that they are writing for different audiences and not only for their teachers. As a class, you can create a list of probable audiences and let the students choose the audience that best fits their topic.

Supportive Writing Environment

To be good writers, students must not just have the skill but also the will to write. Teachers must motivate students to write by creating a supportive environment. This can be achieved in several ways. First, give the students writing choices. For example, when exploring persuasive writing, provide a list of titles they can write their opinions about. For narrative writing, teachers can provide pictures or sentence prompts for students to choose from.

Secondly, teachers can share their own work with students. This was what my teacher did when I was still a student. He showed the class his published works in different newspapers. He then required us to write and submit our articles to newspaper companies. Every week, someone’s work got published, this process even prompted a local government to act on a flooding issue. The article I submitted at this time detailed my thoughts about the death penalty and it was published in two newspapers. I shared this with my students.

Thirdly, encourage students to brainstorm ideas about a topic and help peers revise their work. This will inspire students to collaborate more frequently.

Practice is the key to being a successful writer. Help your students practice as often as possible. Make the writing tasks interesting instead of a torture for the students. Assist students in developing a love for writing by encouraging them to let their imaginations run wild and to openly express their feelings.


By Corita Silapan

Grade 5 Class Teacher and Level Head



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PYP 2 students  just finished learning about how processes work in creating products, under a unit of HOW WE ORGANIZE OURSELVES.  Students had shown prior knowledge of some concepts, such as function,  change. process and product.  I sent the students a link of a movie that I made at the beginning of the unit. They have to discuss the movie with their parents at home. When they came back to school the next day, they came with some ideas to share, and were ready to classify some products that I brought from home.  I usually call this teaching strategy a Flipped Classroom approach.

Students were learning by  visiting a cow farm to feed the cows and goats, milk cows, and they went to  hydroponic garden to see the  examples of  the cultivation process.  They experienced processing the raw materials such as milk into pudding, or other materials such as paper into a story book or crafts that they made  in the classroom.

Distribution Concept

In the 4th week, students started to learn how products are distributed. It  still needed one more process to reach consumers.  I asked them to have a short chat with their neighbour about any products that they have used.  Then they explored some products made in other countries that my partner and I provided.  The students came up with the ideas of brand, package, location and destination of the products, and also the ideas of export and import.

Students have had enough experience to start to interview their parents and did some research to find more products which were exported or imported.  They watched movie to find out more information about it, too.

Showing a world google map is one of the strategies that  provoked the students to think about how products are distributed around the world. They were challenged to imagine how long  products to arrive in a destination by looking at the map.  They also thought about the transportation needed to distribute large amounts of products.  The students constructed their own conceptual understanding about distribution by finally making a flowchart of how they produced their own product at the end of the unit.



Sekolah Ciputra-Surabaya