Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Understanding of Concepts Courtesy of "Making the PYP Happen"

I'm leading my first PYP workshop in Mumbai in September so I thought this weekend would be a good time to do some rereading of "Making the PYP Happen."  (I hear a lot of the PYP aficionados in India can quote it verbatim, even giving page numbers and paragraphs.)

In my intimidation and, of course, my attempts at preparation, I am rereading this important document with a serious demeanor, green highlighter and post-it notes in hand.  I'm the first to admit that I am more than a bit intimidated that I am being entrusted with imparting IB wisdom or at least facilitating IB discussion amongst colleagues, many of whom will be more experienced and adept than I am at embracing and USING this framework for constructivist learning.

I thought I really knew this document, but there are so many things that are jumping out at me on nearly every page.  The section on concepts has given me my biggest "I really needed to reread and remember that" moments thus far.  I'm certain there will be many more such jolts as I continue my re-education.

According to "Making the PYP Happen," the concepts are key: they "drive the curriculum," but sometimes they have driven me a bit crazy in the sense that I have a hard time explaining them and thus using them as effectively as I might with my students in their inquiries.  They key questions have always challenged me just a bit.  I don't always completely get them.  Do you know what I mean?  (And should a woman who has been practicing PYP for 11 odd years and who is a workshop leader be admitting this on a public blog?  Probably not.  Let's just say I'm a lifetime learner and someone who forgets easily so I have to do a lot of re-learning.)

Anyway, as I studied my PYP bible today, and came to the concepts section of the Essential Elements, I realized I had not looked at it in a long time.  Big aha: for each concept, there is not only a key question, but a definition, a rationale, and examples of related concepts.  Now, I'm not admitting that I didn't know this; I'm just saying I haven't looked at this in a while and suddenly I am feeling much more conceptually confident.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about complete with my own thought bubbles, in case you can't rush right over to your own "Making The PYP Happen" and see for yourself.

Concept: Causation

(This is one of the eight concepts that I actually find the most challenging.  I've never been that good with cause and effect.  Maybe that's why I keep making the same mistakes over and over...)

Key Question:  Why is it like it is?

(We all know this question inside out and ask it all the time, right?)

Definition: The understanding that things do not just happen, that there are causal relationships at work, and that actions have consequences.

(Now why couldn't I share that definition (and all the others) with my students?  Of course I could!  (I'm sure many of you have it prominently displayed in your classroom.  I do, but the typeface is so small, I can't even read it. Tomorrow I enlarge.) As soon as I read the definition again today, I had a whole new understanding of this concept and its key question.  It helped me enormously.)

Rationale: This concept was selected because of the importance of prompting students to ask "Why?" and helping them to recognize that actions and events have reasons and consequences.  The analysis of causal relationships is significant within and across all disciplines.

(Thank you, IB!  I had forgotten that you have given us rationales for why PYP is constructed the way it is.  These rationales are embedded throughout the entire document.  It's very reassuring!  I know what I am doing works, but understanding why and how it came about lends a fair bit of credibility to this framework we've all bought into, doesn't it?)

Examples of related concepts: Consequences, sequences, pattern, impact.

(Those sure seem like mighty transdisciplinary concepts too, don't they?  Yahoo!)

Each of the concepts are unpacked in this same manner.  Form, name it.  I'm all ready to dive into a conceptual cocktail of learning with my students this year and to figure it out together.  (Admittedly, cocktail is not the best word to use in conjunction with students and IB, but I liked the alliteration.)

So...even if you're a "seasoned professional" why not do some rereading of your IB documents to refresh and invigorate your practice?  Don't do it all at once: just a few pages a day, maybe five or ten minutes, with or without a cocktail in hand (probably without, especially if you're still at work).

Your students (and admin) will thank you!

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