Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Taking ACTION in 3 easy steps!

Choose. Act. Reflect.

In the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP), it is expected that students construct understanding of life's timeless, abstract, universal, and transferable ideas. Developing an understanding of these big ideas must lead students to thoughtful, appropriate, and responsible action.

This action must be initiated by the student and needn't be grandiose. As teachers, we have the responsibility to enable students to choose their action carefully, to facilitate this action, and to encourage them to reflect on the action they undertake, (Making the PYP Happen, p. 26). These three steps - Choose-Act-Reflect - make up the PYP Action Cycle.

Recently in kindergarten, students were constructing understanding of the idea that some choices are based on understanding weather. To better understand observing, recording, and predicting weather, the kindergartners watched a video called Weather Starts: The Sun, Heat, Air, Wind on Discovery Education. The class also read The Windy Day by Melvin and Gilda Berger.

Then, students wrote down what they learned in a vocabulary booklet called "My Weather Words".

Here's one student's thinking:

"Wind can blow trash in water and an animal will pick it up."

Upon seeing this student's thinking, the teacher thought this would be a good time to discuss the PYP Action Cycle. She used the Hover Cam to project the student's thinking and also displayed the 3-step Action Cycle (Reflect-Choose-Act) so that they could discuss the cycle together.

The teacher said that the student was very excited to see her writing up on the SMARTboard. They talked about how the student reflected or thought about what happens to the animals with trash flying around. They even said the trash didn’t need to just go in the water, it could be in the woods or a park, to negatively impact the animals.

After reflecting, the students brainstormed what they could choose to do to help fix the problem upon which they were reflecting:
  • Throw paper (trash) in the garbage.
  • If you find trash on the ground, pick it up, and find a trash can to put it in.
  • Go to the woods or a park to pick up trash.
To help the animals, students brainstormed the following list:
  • If you see an animal eat a pencil and choke (or eat trash in general), call a vet.
  • Pick up the trash. We talked about if trash is in the parking lot that the students need to ask permission from parents to pick it up.
  • Get bags, pick up trash, and put it in the bags.
  • They thought we could pick up trash around the school and playground.
  • They could pick up trash in the lunchroom and the classroom.
  • They want to go outside and pick up trash.The teacher the students that next week they could go outside and pick up the trash around the school
After this discussion on Friday about doing something with what they had learned in school, one student did this over the weekend and brought it in to show her class.

In the PYP, this is also considered action because it was student-initiated, thoughtful, and is in reaction to learning that was done in school.

After reading about how one kindergarten teacher used the Action Cycle with her students, how could you or have you enabled students to choose action, facilitated this action, and encouraged students to reflect on the action they undertake?


  1. Hi Ryan,

    Thank you for another great post! I believe when we talk about action, a great tool is to provide students with a clear framework that organises forms action regardless of trans theme, age level or ability. I have been using a framework with my students for the past 18 months and the ability of students to identify the form of their action, either before or after the event, enables them to take control and facilitates deeper student initiated action. Not just this, but it also empowers them to recognise what action is and can be, and provides teachers, students and parents with a common language when discussing action. Beginning with a framework in the EY enables students reflect, choose and act with greater authenticity and effect, particularly when they reach PYPX.


    1. Hi Pete. Thanks for the comment! Where do you teach? How old are your students? I'd love to see examples of these frameworks. Perhaps this is something that would help our teachers. Could you e-mail me any documents or pictures that you use? is my address. Thanks!

  2. Hey Ryan,

    Thanks for sharing this idea. I'm going to try this with my middle school resource students to reflect on our thinking and possibly make connections to how awareness of our own thinking might link to our actions as learners.

    It might look something like this... during a collaborative discussion surrounding a class reading, we often ask each other, "What type of thinking might we be doing?" Students use the understanding map to notice & name their thinking. After this reflection, I could share the PYP cycle diagram and we could explore how they might choose to intentionally deepen their understanding in all classes by engaging in this practice. The action step might be to visualize their thinking, add a metacognition column to their notes or do something amazing I couldn't have imagined (they do that all the time- ha ha). What do you think?

    1. Hi Julie,

      I really like your idea. I think giving students a framework to reflect on learning (which it sounds like you do already) and then to choose what to do next is certainly the way to go. If we don't DO something with what we've learned, WHAT'S THE POINT, right?

      Let us know how it goes!

  3. Today we celebrated Reading Day at our school (AIS Kuwait). My students (Gr. 4) took the initiative of using their skills and went to different grade levels from Pre-K to Grade 3. They read in small and large groups, asked the little ones to predict the solutions to the problem in their stories, they even had word jumbles and crossword puzzles for the various classes. One group had written a Narnia script and adapted to Kelso's choices. They performed for three classes.
    Once they all came back to class, we all reflected on their experience and how it made them feel. Quite a few of them realised how frustrating it is to control students and make them focus on a given task. Some of them also reflected that it gave them a sense of pride and ownership of their learning because they were able to share it with others. As a class they now understand better what they need to do to become better learners.