A Journey through the PYP Exhibition (part 1)

If I am honest this whole year has been a huge learning curve for me. It is my first year as a PYP 6 Homeroom teacher and also the first as PYP Coordinator. It has been quite the balancing act but a great opportunity to develop my practice as a teacher and in leadership. If it weren’t for the amazing PLN I am a part of, having had 9 years in an excellent PYP school in Uganda, and particularly guidance from Ryan, My previous PYPC, I would be floundering! The PYP was accredited in 2016 at our school and we are embarking on our self-study for the evaluation visit next May 2020. And it is PYP Exhibition time.

Our PYP6 students are all pretty comfortable with the main elements of the programme and so I have launched an Exhibition under the TD theme Sharing the Planet, inviting the students to pick their passion through this theme with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to add an extra focus. We have been building up to this over the year, developing skills in previous units such as writing concept questions and lines of inquiry, using the SDGs as an inquiry focus, putting on a exhibition and so on. We have been talking about this time since August.

I have had the students exploring and looking at action since the beginning of March, as this is an area we need to strengthen as a school. I felt if we started with it in the inquiries it would help to put it front and centre in the whole process.

Made with Padlet
PYP 6 Change Maker Padlet, with provocations about ‘action’ to inspire the students
Using the Visible Thinking Routine ‘Peeling the Fruit’, to unpack passions and the understanding of the transdisciplinary theme

As a starting point for the Exhibition, and inspired by posts I had read elsewhere, the students spent sometime thinking about their passions and how that want to change the world. We then used the Peeling the Fruit’ Thinking Routine from Harvard Project Zero, to explore the TD theme and identify areas of interest. The students wrote the TD theme in the middle of the ‘fruit’ then they broke the theme up into its component parts and created a ‘segment’ for each. This is where they did the unpacking – what does it mean? How do they connect to it? What are their understandings and interests in this area? What do they want to find out? They used the ‘outer layer’ to write their wonderings and connect the SDGs and then on the ‘skin’ they selected the part that they wanted to pursue in their inquiries and started to make a plan and think about action.

The whole process took some time and I was impressed with how much thinking went into it. The students were in pairs and filled a flip-chart sheet with their thinking. Although they worked with others, most pairs came up with different areas of inquiry. This detailed unpacking of the TD theme was a great success. It really allowed the students to think about the directions they wanted their inquiries to take and how their passions and the SDGs connected. As they went through this process they started to carry out further research to nail down their ideas. One of my concerns had been that they would all opt for the same area of inquiry as their friends and this allowed them to all think for themselves. Sure, some friendship groups are working together but most aren’t and I think this will help students to be more focused on the learning.

The next step in the process was teaching the students to write emails. They need to be able to email to arrange trips and interviews throughout the PYPx process and when they move into MYP. At this point they would send emails with no subject, signature and little detail of what they wanted! So, I taught them how to write an email, we made a checklist of what to include and how to start and end etc. Then they practised by writing their exhibition proposals to me in an email. A way to assess and feedback on their writing and give them personalised feedback on their ideas.

We had areas of inquiry chosen and the groups came naturally out of the email responses they’d written to me. It made for a more painless process than anticipated! Next came identifying the concepts, writing lines of inquiry and central ideas. I will come to that in a later post. If you have questions or comments about this process I would love to hear them! One thing I will say though, is that facilitating this process as the homeroom teacher and the PYP coordinator has me learning as much as the students I think!

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