The PYP enhancements are continuing to roll out these next few months, all of which have helped me stop and think about my students, my classroom, and my school. But one change in particular has had me reflect and question my role as a teacher; that change is the inclusion of the new PYP Learner model, and how our students will grow through their sense of agency.
In the new document “The Learner in the Enhanced PYP,” the IB defines agency as a power to take responsible action, through voice, choice, and ownership. But what is agency? Agency is not something we give students. And it’s not something we as teachers plan for third period on a Thursday, or the last week of a Unit of Inquiry. It’s an innate characteristic that students already have, and we as educators recognize, celebrate, and honor. Awakening agency is recognizing students as leaders in their own learning processes. According to the IB, “agency is present when students partner with teachers and members of the learning community to take charge of what, where, why, with whom and when they learn.”
Okay, but what does that actually look like? How do we as educators actually honor student agency? How can we change our practice to support students and empower their sense of individual voice, choice, and ownership? To start, I began taking a risk in my classroom, and handed over the reins to my students.
Our current Unit of Inquiry fits under the transdisciplinary theme of How the World Works, with the following central idea: life on Earth is dependent on Earth’s position in the solar system. After a trip to a local museum and a little bit of research, students showed interest in the Moon and space travel. Normally, at this point in planning an inquiry, I would use the key concepts, lines of inquiry, and student questions to plan learning engagements. But trying to honor their sense of agency, I did something a little different. I gave the concepts and lines of inquiry to the students, and let them plan our week.
I gave students teacher resource books, and showed them Teachers Pay Teachers. I showed them different tools we have at school. I even let them plan a shopping list (with the understanding that they stick to a strict budget). The only expectations were that they had to choose activities that answered their research questions and helped them deepen their understanding of form, connection, and function through the LOI Earth’s relative position in the solar system. And off they went.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Katie, are you insane?! These students are too young! How do you know they get the “right” knowledge, build the “right” skills, etc.? Well, these were the questions I was thinking about… But guess what? They took their time, and chose several activities that were better than my original thoughts. They critically compared different engagements, discussing which would help them better understand the CI. One student found a coloring activity, and said “this looks fun and cute, but I don’t think we will learn much from it.” And she chose something else. After they planned and led their chosen engagements, students reflected on their evidence of success. Here are some examples:
I know that this is only a step in honoring student agency, and no, not every activity went as well the ones listed above. And if I’m being honest, the health food advocate in me is still a little upset that I bought Oreos for my students! But instilling this sense of responsible action is worth a few bumps in the road. It’s worth the uneasy feeling that I’m completely letting go. It’s worth throwing my whole planning process up in the air, and trying something new – even if it completely fails. Why? Well, it’s not because the IB says we “have to” now. It’s because by co-constructing our investigations, we are naturally personalizing education, and cultivating independence, trust, and a love of learning.
So I encourage you all to take a deep breath and try. Give your students a chance to plan a week, a day, or even an afternoon. Give them the outcomes, and see what they come up with. And if it blows up in your face, try again. If education is about bettering our students, then they should have the right to be a part of the planning and decision-making. As PYP educator Taryn Bond states, “who better to know what learning is personally relevant than the students themselves?”
by Katie Stone
Grade 3 Teacher
Bandung Independent School
Sources: International Baccalaureate Organization, 2017. “The Learner in the Enhanced PYP.”
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:
As the day of a teacher ends, sometimes we ask ourselves if we have done enough or if we have done a lot. Questions occur while traveling home or even when taking a shower. And still at the end of the day, the only thing we can do is to wait for tomorrow and make things better. Here are random questions and activities that we can do or ask ourselves at the end of the day to aid us in planning for a better tomorrow.
Write down something everybody learned.
Write down something nobody learned.
Write down something different each child learned.
Name the child who already knew everything you taught.
Name the child who learned nothing.
Did you do anything other than group instruction?
Did you challenge pupils’ intellects?
Did anyone work on an independent learning problem?
Did you reject any child?
How many children failed to learn the lesson for the day?
Did anyone work on the board? Did you?
Did students do anything other than listen to you, write, read, and answer your question?
Did any child help another?
How often did you reinforce the children’s correct response?
Did you repeat every answer? For what?
How often did each child get a chance to talk, ask and answer?
Did any child ask a question?
Did the class laugh? Did you at someone, something with someone?
Were you angry? Why?
Was any child angry? Why?
How many students did you praise? For what?
Did you teach reading (not just hear the students read)?
Did you teach new words before or after reading?
Did you read to the class? Why?
How do you feel about the day’s work?
These questions are just tips for us, teachers, to face a better tomorrow with our students in our class.
As teachers, we need to pay attention to children’s emotional and social well-being as well as their academic progress. We need to create an environment in which learning can become a joyful experience for our students as well as other members of the school community.
By: Jose Noel Guasch Veloso
Grade 1 Class Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug
Central Idea: Learning about ourselves helps us understand and connect to ourselves and to others in the world.
“Intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.”
What constitutes culture? Why do we need to know about various cultures?
Our young students of Grade 1 delved into their inquiry with enthusiasm and began with an exploration of their own cultures. During this journey they learnt about the elements of world cultures such as language, gestures used in greetings, symbols, dance, art, music, festivals, traditional dresses, religion and other aspects of culture. This led to comparisons between cultures. They identified some similarities in cultures and made connections such as cultural values that are passed from one generation to another through folk and traditional tales. They learnt how cultures differ and developed respect and appreciation for other cultures. With great pride they wore their traditional clothes for an International Food Party and shared their traditional food and drinks with each other. During the unit they came to know that cultures change and that many of the clothes we wear today and the foods we enjoy eating have been derived from other cultures.
Their field trip to Pinisi Science and Edutainment Park to savour the culture of the host country, Indonesia, was an enriching experience for them. They tried their hand at making traditional batik designs, playing the anklung and gamelan, and learning Indonesian dance and songs. It was a thrilling feeling for the first graders to ride their own mini becak, a traditional form of transport in Indonesia. The rich tapestry of Indonesian culture was surely woven in their minds as they viewed a live reenactment of a Sumatran tale, Malin Kundang.
The unit was wrapped up with a presentation by the students on an aspect of culture they found interesting and wanted to share with their peers. They presented this in myriad of ways and displayed impressive creativity. The presentation strategies included singing a traditional song, demonstrating a musical instrument, explaining a traditional recipe, performing a folk dance and displaying many other interesting elements of culture to a rapt audience.
In an increasingly intolerant world, exploring other perspectives and connecting with each other’s cultures leads to greater intercultural understanding and provides us with the tools to solve problems and promote world peace. It is something worth striving for as it builds strong community relationships between people from diverse backgrounds and enriches the lives of all the members of a community. By developing critical thinking skills, we become open-minded and come a step closer to being internationally-minded, caring, global citizens.
“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”
― Gene Roddenberry
Contributed by Ms Nivedita
Grade 1 Homeroom Teacher
Culture is something that can be learned and shared
What would you do if children have passion for something, but they need someone to do it with? Their passion should be identified and support for further developed in such directions. Starts with simple things such as reciting the bible verses together, reading silently together to mention but a few. Joint effort is necessary in facing challenging questions, disagreement or agreement on certain issues. Not all learners are lovers of books, but they show passion to know, and that is enough, as they run through those pages trying to find something interesting we see that to them, searching for facts and interesting events is more important and fun as it is reading word per word, which is an interest for others. It is getting interesting to see that as teachers sitting with them, doing what they are doing, they even do it better and enjoy it more.
If adults become a part of children’s passion and say “ we can do it” or’ let’s do it together” children tend to develop more interest in whatever activity or feel able to face whatever challenge because they know, they are not alone in such situations. Every child has potential to achieve and succeed, when parents and teachers realize the value of doing things together step by step hand in hand with the children that is a stepping stone to encouraging, nurturing and challenging them to achievement of full potential.
Doing things together it is not as easy as we talk. Not all students are socialites, some would love space most times, but just letting them know you are available incase they need a hand, is a source of further inspiration. Big effort is needed for join effort. There is need to know the child, in context of which is the best way to stand with them. Students in the sixth grade need a lot of attention, not only are they experiencing physical changes but have targets such as the national final examination and preparation for high school. Consistency, discipline, and patience are important, they need help more than ever before. The best help is to join them in all their effort as individuals. We have to remember that we are the “model” of everything for every child. We recommend the joint effort approach as applied in our class and seemingly beneficial. *(Bridget / Wulan P6 – BPK Penabur Banda)
“Study skills really aren’t the point. Learning is about one’s relationship with oneself and one’s ability to exert the effort, self-control, and critical self-assessment necessary to achieve the best possible results–and about overcoming risk aversion, failure, distractions, and sheer laziness in pursuit of REAL achievement. This is self-regulated learning.”
We, at sekolah Cikal believe that learning should begin with the end in mind. Therefore, upon developing our curriculum we begin with the subject of the learning: children. And we think of what the output of the learning that we wish to achieve, which is an individual with commitment, self – reliance and the ability to reflect.
What does a self regulated learner looks like? At one time and another, we have observed self regulated learners. Self regulated learner is goal-oriented, capable to commit to his/her goals, and in doing so, he/she is enthusiastic and eager to keep developing him/herself in many aspects. You may spot these learners arranges his/her priorities in completing duties. They respond with curiosity and efforts to setbacks or challenges, and are able to discover successful strategies to work independently and adaptively. More importantly, they understand what needs to be improved and how to do it.
In the effort of nurturing and building the dispositions, some challenges may occur. Often, the challenge revolves around making the decision to interfere and when to stand aside. For example, allowing a child to face setbacks and solve problems on their own such as separation, puberty, peer conflict and increasing academic expectations is always tough for parents. At these times, maintaining a sense of trust is crucial.
In school context, we train these young minds to be the master of their own learning through various channel, from classroom activities such as daily reflection journal, home projects and goal setting activity to school-wide program, such as peer mediator, student librarian and club activities. In the journey of learning every single initiative counts, and often it’s a matter of quality rather than quantity. We ask rather than tell, listen rather than talk, are involved rather than judge.
Principal, Sekolah Cikal