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As I was reading through some IB material this afternoon I came across something to consider; "Students can share in the planning process, and may even be familiar with the PYP planner. In some cases, students have developed their own version of the planner that they may use in planning the exhibition..."

Should we consider sharing the planner of our units leading into exhibition as a way of modelling explicitly how we (as teachers) plan for a unit of inquiry?

What are you doing now to prepare the students to formally plan their exhibition inquiry? How are you modelling this process for them?

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Hi -

This is my first time teaching year 6 /fifth grade and also my first experience with the exhibition. I would like to share my ideas about how I'm preparing the students to plan for their exhibition, but would definitely like feedback about my ideas. I thank you in advance for reading this lengthy reply :) !!!

In order to familiarize the students with the PYP planner, PYP concepts (transdisciplinary themes, central ideas, key concepts, etc) and prepare the students for the exhibition, I've had them look for newspaper articles that interest them. They summarize what they read and discuss what transdisciplinary theme matches the ideas in the articles they choose. I want to later have them use the articles to come up with central ideas and lines of inquiry.

The students are becoming better with this activity, but they are choosing random articles rather than ones that interest them. They also choose articles that are difficult for some adults to comprehend. I need to tweak this idea and welcome suggestions.

I attempted to develop the planner, for our How We Organize Ourselves, unit of inquiry with my class. All of my students are EAL and were challenged by the first hurdle - brainstorm what you know about economic activities. Since their prior knowledge was limited, I decided not to work on the planner with the class. Instead, at the end of the unit the students had to think of the "big idea" we learnt and come up with central ideas. Some of the students' central ideas were very similar to the one I developed with the PYP co-ordinator.

When we started our How the World Works unit, I tried to work on the planner with the class again. We were more successful this time and we have just completed our lines of inquiry. I think the difference between this unit and the previous unit is that they have more prior knowledge about electricity than they did about economic activities. My PYP-coordinator seems to think they are developing better understanding of the PYP concepts, but I think the former rather than the latter. I started with a circle map (brainstorm electricity), then moved to a tree map to come up with the key concepts, then classified lines of inquiries. Next time I work on the planners with the students, I would like to come up with more exciting/fun ways to engage the students.

I would like to continue the How the World Works unit by investigating the lines of inquiry with the class within the next few weeks (depends on how it goes). Then towards the end of the term, I would like the students to research an invention that interests them and use the planner to organize themselves and their thinking.

That covers a lot of what I've done so far to prepare the students to plan for the exhibition. Remember, feedback is more than welcome and I would love to hear your own thoughts and ideas!!
Hi Ruth,
I really like your idea to use the newspapers as a way of promoting thought and discussion around the transdisciplinary themes. Reading through the papers is a nice way to connect their early discussion to the real world. Which paper do you use? I am in Germany so finding a good English language paper suitable for 10/11 year olds is proving a little challenging.

How long have you been working with the newspapers? I imagine it would take some time for the students to really start seeing these reading tasks from the transdisciplinary perspective, to make connections to themselves must be quite challenging also for many students.

I'm interested to understand some of the early steps you took in developing the planner with the students. How did you build the field prior to the brainstorming to prepare your EAL kids with some language? We often use black floor mats to promote discussion around the central idea, we use specifically selected objects to encourage discussion and personal connections to the central idea, unit theme and concepts. The students record the 'big ideas' from these discussions onto strips which become the lines of inquiry for our unit. In doing so the students have ownership and input in these very early stages of unit planning.

At our school, grade level planning sessions help us to understand the connections between the transdis theme, essential understanding and key concepts. We plan the summative assessment task and discuss what well developed understanding of the central idea will look like. From here, the classes develop their own lines of inquiry as the students engage in and unpack the central idea.

I like to provide opportunities for students to talk about their learning in semi formal settings toward the end of a unit. We recently split our students into two groups, where one group stood around the classroom with any props they felt would help them talk about their learning (posters, models, videos, glogsters, prezis, word documents, power points) and the other half of the students walked around talking to each of the 'presenters' about their inquiry and their learning process. The sharing of information, the learning discussions and the reflection is very effective.
Dear Ruth,
I like how you are starting this myself...a few years back, we used to have a "news mural" which became from day 1 of the school year, a collection of news items that learners selected because they had caught their eye. We were not very concerned if the news item was dissected at length or was just a case, sometimes, of looking at the headline, the kind of news item, which category it belonged to, etc. Along the year, and certainly by the time the PYPX started, the students had a good spread of news, different types, etc, collected. We then listed them according to their theme, (for instance "polar bears" - animals in peril or extincion") and we presented that list to all students. They looked at their list of interests and then chose some possible themes to explore and inquiry about during their PYPX.
BUT I do hear you on the difficult level of reading for our elementary children where newspapers are concerned. Have you considered using online resources that are more appropriate for their age? For instance BBC Newsround, Scholastic News for kids, CNN for kids, etc. you could use RSS feeds too if you have a blog...just a thought.
Sharing the planner may be one way, but the reality of this is that our planners really are quite cumbersome. Perhaps the IBO guiding questions are another alternative. Reading from the occ this afternoon, the following guiding questions are suggested as a way for students to manage their unit of inquiry.

What is our purpose?
What resources will we use?
What do we want to learn?
How best will we learn?
How will we know what we have learned?
To what extent did we achieve our purpose?
How will we take action?

This is the order in whey they are presented in the planners, perhaps asking the question of, What do we want to learn then, How will we know what we have learned should be asked before What resources will we use, and How best will we learn.

What are your thoughts?
Yes. This is the same idea as Grant Wiggans puts forth. "Begin with the end in view" and backward plan to your central idea and inquiry points. This really does help to focus your collaborative planning but also allows the children to develop their own criteria which will be used for the purpose of assessment. This has the purpose of involving the children in developing the inquiry and giving any assessment a purpose.
Having listened to Anne Davies yesterday and recognising the need we have to be more explicit in helping our kids to self-assess I think we need to start showing the kids our planners and maybe involve them in some kind of stripping back session. In the same way that we have begun to show them the learning continuums we need to show them our planners, the transdisciplinary skills and the concepts in much more detail and allow time for discussion and understanding. Real understanding of what we want them to learn will only come about through use and experience. I think you are right, Rachel. we need to have a vision of what PYPX looks like in 5 years and work backwards to plan. This will take some time but will be worth it.
I second Natalie's view especially when it comes to sharing the building blocks of our units, such as transdisciplinary themes, transdiciplinary skills, and key concepts early so that we can start with a common understanding of how everything fits together, rather than only have these things plasters on the walls and as a result of a disconnect, mean nothing to them -- and as a result not really meaning much to us either, for that matter. I used these elements when we had our "big black mat" session last Thursday, and it was so good to see how these children themselves linked so many things, including the key concept of Perpective to one of of the given lines of inquiry before they create their own. Understanding how these elements link will help direct the unit towards what we want the learners to get our of the experience, yet giving them the "framed" freedom to choose their own direction for the inquiry. If we build on this right now, we will soon be able to get them to participate in deciding what the themes, skills and concepts should be in future collaborative planning opportunities between teachers and students. Next time we meet for UOI, I will start by giving the students our summative assessment - with no details - and we will talk about which thinking skills they think the assessment requires of them, before I introduce the Digital Taxonomy and break the class into 6 small group, each with one level of the Blooms' Taxonomy levels, and ask them to investigate which web 2.0 tools allow them to use and therefore improve the particular kind of thinking level they're looking into. This will allow them to investigate the web 2.0 tools for learning with the different levels of thinking in mind. Sharing this learning in a "paperless day" might work well as a challenge when the groups come together as experts to share what they found. Hope this makes sense!
Using the Grant Wiggins adapted templates are proving quite successful in our room at the moment. It helps the kids to think through their learning and how they will provide evidence also. We are formalizing the process for them, while creating an opportunity to develop their own understanding of how assessment compliments learning.
On the note of preparing the children for the PYPX, I think that even if that does not seem clear at this stage -- and perhaps this needs addressing sooner rather than later if the case -- the fact that we have been from the start of grade 5 asking them so reflect on who they are, what their interests, strengths and challenges are, as well as their intelligences, how they learn best, and so on...all goes toward making much better metacognitive thinkers which can only help when it comes to PYPX time. We are now enabling them to engage in learning outside the confines of the 4 classroom walls as we not only allow but invite them to find out and use web 2.0 tools for learning. This is only the start, but as it precedes the PYPX, it should, altogether, give them a much deeper base of understanding and broader fan of alternatives for their exhibition process. As we near that unit, we should make a conscious effort to continue talking about where we're heading and why we should be doing all things we do the way we are doing them this year. The explicit modeling and clear connections between what has been, what is, and what will be in their learning is/should be the focus. Thoughts?



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