Implementing PYP

Implementing PYP in a school is not the easiest thing to do but it certainly an excellent choice whoever has the idea and the possibility to do it.

Key concepts, transdisciplinary theme

Implementing PYP needs a lot of work involving  the whole learning community. It needs collaboration, professional development, great communication skills and open minds.

A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to start working in a school where they were at the first phase of implementing PYP. To be honest it wasn’t an easy ride. I have been travelling far since then. It has been a bumpy journey with a lot of challenges. I still have a long way in front of me that needs to be discovered.

Don’t be scared of the following things as it might happen to everybody. My first experience included the upcoming culprits: the IB has its own language which didn’t make much sense at the beginning. The planner was completely different from our daily planner that I used before. Our old curriculum was planned according to subjects that obviously was nothing to do with the transdisciplinary themes. We mainly taught subjects and contents instead of concepts and skills. So that was plenty of new things to discover and understand.

Although, I’m still not an expert and it’s always room to improve, I can confidently say, I’m starting to understand the gist of the PYP.  Now, it feels like, I’m on the right track. Recently, I’ve received an email from a friend of mine who is in the same situation where I was some years back. She wondered if I could tell her about my experience​ on PYP implementation. Quote: “… any input regarding the benefits for the students as well as the main efforts that teachers will have to make regarding lesson planning and vertical alignment of lesson plans. I was also wondering if you consider that any extra support from the principal/administrative team is required or if you are willing to share any tips regarding the programme​ itself…”

As PYP is quite complex, I tried to do my best to answer her questions. Obviously, there are always unanswered questions but hopefully I could help, at least a bit. This is what I wrote:

Implementing PYP and the IB Programme might seem complicated first but eventually everything will fall into places.

In my point of view, it needs total cooperation from all the staff members including the principal, the administrative team and also the parents.

As soon as the school starts implementing PYP, families should be informed about the programme. Holding workshops and meetings to help parents understand the PYP philosophy. They surely wonder about what’s going to happen with the traditional methodology such as exams, textbooks, subjects, homework etc… and how to cope with it. Within the PYP we are not supposed to base our assessment on exams, parents are pretty unsure of the whole thing. Instead of exams we rather do formative assessment tasks to be informed about students understanding on the concepts. That shows us where students and teachers could improve and where they need more support.

We don’t have any textbooks either as they don’t really support inquiry due to having the answers already.

In the vertical and the horizontal planner you have to make sure that all the skills, attitudes, IB learner profile and concepts are covered in both directions, including all contents that the national curriculum obliges you to explore and teach and students need to know by the end of their primary years.  So it’s a couple of summer holiday weeks collaborative work… You can’t really do it during school time when the kids are around as it requires hard work and full concentration from everybody who is involved in it. And obviously everybody should be involved who wants to teach the programme.  Although, teachers are in the first line of the planning, you will need a principal who is open-minded and back up your ideas regarding assessment, resources, homework and evaluation policies.

You were also asking about implementing PYP regarding students. My experience is exploring, experimenting through inquiries is the best way for the kids to learn. They feel motivated and remember more through their real life experiences. Obviously, you need to learn to let the control out of your hands, trust them and only guide them with questions. You don’t really have to think of normal lesson plans as in daily planning instead you have to have the right key concept questions and you have to have a guideline what you want to achieve by the end of the unit. You need to think about activities to provoke them then lead them through the inquiry cycle. Also need to have continuous assessment (formative) and feedback that they are on the right way or they need to change something along their exploration journey. So basically you are there to help them, guide them… etc.

I suppose it will be quite strange not to follow an already written and set curriculum, you probably know what works with one class, most likely doesn’t work with the other. Let kids shape their own learning and you will learn with them every day.

This is not a lot but at least a start. Hopefully it helps a bit for whoever starts implementing PYP and have a confused mind as I had not so long ago.

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