Thursday, September 28, 2017

Priorities, daily schedules & the PYP

The language we use and the way we spend our time are reflections of what we value.

In schools that subscribe to the International Baccalaureate's Primary Years Program (IB PYP) our language and use of time must reflect a prioritization of significant, relevant, challenging and engaging learning that is enacted by implementing the PYP Approaches to Teaching. In the PYP, among other approaches, we value:
  • inquiry
  • a balance between transdisciplinary and disciplinary learning
  • concept-based learning
  • differentiation
  • collaboration
In the elementary school, teachers often post a schedule or timetable in the room, to outline for students the plan for the day. As PYP educators, it is important to ask if our daily posted schedules reflect the priorities of the PYP.

In order to guide them through this reflection, I recently had teachers with whom I work explore PYP expectations and then look at a couple of sample daily schedules.

We first started looking at how the PYP expects us to spend and organize our time:

  • B2.10.a: The schedule or timetable allows for in-depth inquiry into the transdisciplinary and disciplinary dimensions of the curriculum.
  • “To ensure the coherence of the learning from the students’ points of view, it is essential that all teachers in a PYP school see themselves as PYP teachers, and are fully committed to and engaged with the philosophy and practices of the programme. Within each school community, the approach to the implementation of the programme needs to be holistic, not fragmented by disciplinary teaching,” p. 31.
  • “Please note that mathematics, language(s) of instruction, social studies and science need to be the responsibility of the classroom teacher: the teacher with whom the students spend most of their time. Single-subject teaching of these areas is not consistent with the PYP model of transdisciplinary learning— learning that transcends the confines of the subject areas, but is supported by them. Personal and social education is the responsibility of all PYP teachers,” p. 67.
  • “The programme of inquiry provides an authentic context for learners to develop and use language. Wherever possible, language should be taught through the relevant, authentic context of the units of inquiry. The teacher should provide language learning opportunities that support learners’ inquiries and the sharing of their learning. Regardless of whether language is being taught within or outside the programme of inquiry, it is believed that purposeful inquiry is the way in which learners learn best. The starting point should always be learners’ prior experience and current understanding,” p. 70.
  • “Wherever possible, mathematics should be taught through the relevant, realistic context of the units of inquiry. The direct teaching of mathematics in a unit of inquiry may not always be feasible but, where appropriate, introductory or follow-up activities may be useful to help students make connections between the different aspects of the curriculum. Students also need opportunities to identify and reflect on “big ideas” within and between the different strands of mathematics, the programme of inquiry and other subject areas,” p. 83.
Next, we looked at variety of schedules, continually asking:

  • What do we see / notice?
  • What PYP approaches to teaching do the schedules reflect?

Then, we thought about our own schedules as we asked:

  • What PYP approaches to teaching does my daily schedule reflect?
  • How could I adapt my daily schedule / agenda to better align with the PYP?

After I invited teachers to think about ways they could adapt their own posted daily schedules to better reflect the priorities of the PYP, several risk-taking teachers took me up on this invitation. Below are recent schedules posted in their rooms that will no doubt continue to morph as they react to the needs and understandings of their students.

What do you see and notice in these daily schedules? What PYP approaches to teaching do the schedules reflect?

Special thanks to Mrs. Liesener, Ms. Elliott, Mr. Dawson, Mrs. Lorentz, Ms. Erickson and the other teachers who shared their schedules with us!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

PBIS in the PYP: making sense, not alphabet soup

"Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a framework or approach for helping schools select and organize evidence-based behavioral interventions into an integrated continuum that enhances academic and social behavior outcomes for all students ... The underlying theme is to teach behavioral expectations in the same way as we teach academic subjects." (from Minnesota PBIS).

At our Primary Years Program (PYP) school, PBIS is helping us:

  • identify and teach expectations for being responsible, respectful and safe in all physical and virtual areas at our school through the integration of The Kaposia Code and the accompanying Matrix.
  • acknowledge & celebrate expected behaviors through the use of Be Bucks
  • respond to unexpected teacher- and office-managed behaviors in a consistent and systematic way through the use of a Behavior Flow Chart
  • create tools to help students reflect on their unexpected behaviors and communicate with families through the creation of the primary and intermediate versions of the Act-Reflect-Choose forms and the Office Discipline Referral form.
We use PBIS at our school to help strengthen our implementation of our PYP. To learn more about the PYP, click here: Back to the Basics: PYP 101.

Specifically, PBIS helps us implement many IB practices and PYP-specific requirements, including, but not limited to, the following:
  • A.3.b: The school as a community of learners is committed to a collaborative approach to curriculum development.
    • As a community of learners, Mrs. Becker, the Behavior Specialist/PBIS coach, leads a team made up mostly of teachers in collaboratively creating our PBIS plan.

  • A.6: The school promotes open communication based on understanding and respect.
    • The proactive nature of our PBIS is centered around our commitment to open communication based on understanding and respect for our staff and the students & families we serve.

  • B1.5: The school develops and implements policies and procedures that support the program.
    • We have developed the Kaposia Code Matrix and the Behavior Flow Chart that support the implementation of PBIS and PYP.

  • C1.2: Collaborative planning and reflection takes place regularly and systematically.
    • Our PBIS leadership team meets frequently to reflect on past decisions, current reality and future steps, decisions and professional learning opportunities.

  • C2.4: The written curriculum identifies the knowledge, concepts, skill and attitudes to be developed over time.
    • Our PBIS plan identifies the knowledge, concepts, skills and attitudes related to expected behavior that need to be developed over time.

  • C3.9: Teaching and learning uses a range and variety of strategies.
    • Our teachers utilize a range and variety of strategies to teach and reinforce expected behaviors.

  • C4.4: The school provides students with feedback to inform and improve learning.
    • A major expectation of our PBIS plan is to continually provide students with feedback to inform and improve their learning of expected behaviors.
Above all, PBIS is used at our school to give students the opportunities to develop the attributes of the IB Learner Profile and reflect on their development of said attributes (A.4, C1.9, C2.11, C3.16, C4.6.a).

Although it is true that PBIS helps to strengthen our implementation of the PYP, it isn't always obvious. Rather than understanding why we have all these programs, sometimes some members of our learning community think we're just making alphabet soup. We must gives staff, students and familes the opportunities to make connections between these two frameworks.

Mrs. Lorentz, a fifth grade teacher in our school, gave her students such opportunities at the onset of the academic year. Before she could help her students make connections between the PYP and PBIS though, she had to make sure they had a solid understanding of what it means to be a student in a PYP school.

First, she gave her students PYP Essential Elements mats to review the important elements of the PYP and the IB Learner Profile. Mrs. Lorentz noticed that many of her students had background information on the PYP attitudes, but were less sure in their understanding of the IB Learner Profile.

So, she had her students research the attributes of the IB Learner Profile. She gave small groups of students one of the descriptors for each of the attributes of the IB Learner Profile. Along with these descriptors and dictionary definitions, the students came up with one sentence that would encapsulate what the attribute they were researching meant to them. They also thought of PYP attitudes associated with each attribute.

Mrs. Lorentz had the students use the 3-column note-taking structure to make their thinking visible. She first modeled this process with the students using the attribute "Reflective" and then each subsequent group shared their thinking with the class. As the other students listened, they added to their notes until they had all 10 Learner Profile attributes in their notes.

Simultaneously, students also filled out graphic organizers where they were able to also show their thinking with an image.





Once Mrs. Lorentz noticed the students had a good understanding of the Learner Profile, they began to explore the IB Mission Statement and discussed what is the IB and the PYP. They also started an initial investigation of PBIS.

To deepen their understanding, she again had the students work in small groups with a large piece of paper and two mission statements: our school's PBIS Mission Statement and the IB Mission Statement. Students were invited to document how they saw the two programs connecting.

Through these opportunities, these fifth graders were able to begin to make explicit connections between PBIS and the PYP; The Kaposia Code and the IB Learner Profile. Ultimately, they were able to apply their understandings to create an essential agreement, that weaves the two programs seamlessly together.

The educators at our school are constantly reflecting on our practices and planning for an improved educational experience for our students. Sometimes, that involves adopting frameworks such as the PYP, PBIS and others (AVID, MTSS, PLCs, etc). It is extremely important to give students, families and staff opportunities to draw explicit connections between these programs so they can make sense of it all. How do you make connections between the various programs you implement at your school?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Back to Basics: PYP 101

The International Baccalaureate's (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP) is a comprehensive, yet sometimes complicated, educational framework. Those of us who work in PYP schools must work hard to communicate to the entire learning community what the PYP is in an easy-to-understand way without oversimplifying this complex program.

To better understand the PYP and how it benefits children, let's get BACK TO BASICS and look at a broad overview of the PYP.

To learn more about the different aspects of the PYP, click on the bulletin board below. Specifically, click on the:

  • circle in the middle to read an overview of the PYP.
  • yellow posters on the left to learn about the Essential Elements (what we learn).
  • blue posters on the right to learn about the Approaches to Teaching (how we teach).
  • green poster in the middle to learn about the Exhibition, completed by students in the last year of the PYP.
  • large poster all the way to the right to learn about the IB Learner Profile.
  • large poster all the way to the left to learn about our district's strategic plan and how it fits into our implementation of the PYP.

Similar information found in the electronic bulletin board is summarized here:
  • I've heard of IB. What's PYP?
    • IB stands for International Baccalaureate. The IB is for students aged 3 to 19. The Primary Years Program or PYP is IB in the elementary school.

  • In the PYP, what do we want kids to learn?
    • We teach our students balance between learning essential knowledge and skills, development of conceptual understanding, demonstration of positive attitudes, and taking of responsible action.

  • In the PYP, how will we teach?
    • Teachers work together to write, teach and assess transdisciplinary curriculum that is engaging, relevant, challenging, significant, inquiry-based and concept-driven. Informed by assessment, we offer students differentiated opportunities to explore issues in local and global contexts.
You can also watch this short video published by the IB about the PYP.

After learning a little bit about the PYP, what questions do you have? Make sure you ask those at your child's school: your school's PYP Coordinator, your children's teachers and the school's administration are all here to help you better understand this framework for international education that has countless benefits to its students.

*Note: over the last several years, the PYP has been undergoing an update, with the "enhanced PYP" set to be released soon. Although there may be some changes that will undoubtedly change some of the specific information detailed above, students, educators and families can be assured that the essential nature of the PYP will remain unchanged.