Tuning in to Grade One


To find out what students already know or think about themselves as consumers, we are asking them to consider what they eat, buy and use.

We kicked this off by asking them what they had eaten for breakfast this morning, and dinner last night. Each student has loads of blank tags with their photo on for use at times like this:

Then, we started to interview them as they were working, scribing our conversations exactly. We asked questions like:

  • Where does that come from?
  • What is that made of?
  • How we get that to our homes?
  • Where does that go when we’re finished with it?



Sometimes, like the example just above, it is best to represent the student’s thinking visually, helping them start to see these things as “processes” or, as in this case, a “cycle”

Getting the thinking from the students in a simple way, displaying it, scribing conversations, honouring their words and thoughts and capturing it all so it can constantly be referred to, expanded upon and developed is a very exciting process. It will guide students towards and though inquiry. Their prior knowledge, the gaps in their knowledge and their misconceptions are quickly revealed, showing teachers the next steps that each student needs to be guided through in order to develop their knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of themselves as consumers.

Strategies like these are most effective when students can be independent – accessing materials easily, not worrying about spelling, moving on to something else when they are ready. This independence means that teachers can focus on one student without interruption or distraction.

For the full Storify showing the process of these sessions, click here


Parent Workshops: The IB Learner Profile

“Live it, don’t laminate it!”

All too often, in IB schools, the Learner Profile exists in the form of displays and catchphrases, but doesn’t exist as a way of life, as a code of conduct or as an expectation for all stakeholders.

We’re not going to let that happen at ISHCMC!

Last week, we ran a session on the Learner Profile for parents. This is part of our ongoing process to breathe life into the Learner Profile by taking a good look at what it “looks like” around the school.

Here are some more photos of the work done by parents during the session:


Getting out of the room!

I found students from Ms. Rupal Joshi’s class working on their spelling in different locations around the school. Not too far from their classroom, but far enough for it to feel like a change!

“I trust them” said Rupal.

Many of us forget what a profound effect changing things up a bit can have on students. To us, as adults, it may not seem like a big deal. But, to students, getting out of the classroom and being given the chance to work in different spots around the school can feel like a very big deal. Give it  a try!

Grade 1 Trip to Snap Cafe

Grade 1 went to Snap Cafe as part of the culmination of their unit of inquiry. The focus of the unit was on the relationships between daily choices and our well-being. The students were given choices of food, drinks and play options. Teachers observed them to see if the unit had affected the choices they make.

Click here for all the photos.

Yes… younger kids can do that

It’s funny how often we don’t get students to do things because we think they are too young, or too old. Actually, it’s not that funny really is it?

I was reminded of this two times in the last two days. Yesterday, some Grade 5 students were putting their inquiry questions on to some fish templates for a big display we’re making (you can see the Storify about this project here). Some of them were really eager to colour them in and yet my first reaction was to think that it would be a waste of their time.

This morning, I took a chance and ran a Harkness/Spiderweb Conversation with four Grade 2 students. This is a strategy that is “normally used” with much older students, but these kids took to it very quickly and ended up having a very powerful conversation.

We began by using a previous piece of work that had provoked some controversial thinking:



Then, we began our Spiderweb Discussion… I was tracking the flow of the conversation and writing down salient points that the kids came out with.



At the end of the conversation, we talked about how the conversation flowed between them and I pulled out some of the things they said that I felt took us to a deeper place by the end:



This is an amazingly powerful strategy on a number of levels. If you’d like to give it a go in your class… let me know!

Writing and Refining Central Ideas

Roman Proverb

It is amazing how often teaching teams begin – and even complete – units of inquiry without ever really knowing what the unit is all about.  Investing the time, energy and professional pride in order to create central ideas that really are relevant, purposeful and powerful enough to provoke genuine student inquiry is really a non-negotiable in good IB schools. The “oh… that’ll do” mentality is really not good enough!

Here are the central ideas currently being developed by teaching teams here at ISHCMC. Teams are required to think about the following considerations when writing or evaluating a central idea:

  • Does the central idea really mean something?
  • Is it more than just a simple statement of fact?
  • Is it going to be relevant to the students?
  • Is it going to provoke genuine inquiry?

Some of these central ideas are in pretty good shape, some need a little more work. If you have any suggestions, please make a comment.

“Animals share our planet”

“Light and dark impact our world”

“A community depends on all people working together.’

“We can express messages through stories.”

“Humans are motivated to explore the unknown.”

“Understanding rights and responsibilities helps us to understand how and why people seek change.” 

“Learning about the origins of beliefs and values helps us to understand people.”

What is concept-based learning?

This video isn’t up to much visually, but it does hammer home many of the most fundamentally important points about concept-based learning and how it is different to thematic or topic-based learning. Understanding these points is vital for anybody working in a PYP/IB school.

  • What is new to you?
  • What have you already experienced in your teaching practice?
  • What is most interesting to you?
  • What confuses you?
  • What questions do you have?