Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

Student created central ideas

This week has been busy as Grade 5 students have been brainstorming potential Central Ideas (CI) of our Exhibition Unit of Inquiry, under the Theme: Who We Are. The last few years we’ve asked our Grade 5 students to create the CI to encourage their student voice and ownership of the process in Exhibition.

We began by learning about the elements to consider when creating a CI. After viewing several different examples of CI’s, students discussed the important concepts that are evident in each CI.

From here, students were in small groups and began creating concept maps under the theme of Who We Are. They were asked to identify important conceptual elements from this theme and once they had several concepts identified, they used those to help create their first drafts of their CIs.

Developing a Central Idea

The gift of time was evident as students were able to discuss and share their thoughts, receive support from various teachers that were circulating in their learning space and they eventually chose ONE CI that they would put forth to the rest of the grade 5 students to gather feedback and edits.

v1 Central idea creation

After a quick body and wellness break, the students put on their constructive feedback hats. Using sticky notes, they circulated to all of the newly created CI’s and gave their constructive critiques and feedback on the statements in order for groups to improve upon their CI’s in their second iteration.

After the group received some critical feedback, they evaluated and discussed common themes and what pieces of advice they would adhere to. They took suggestions from their peers and made any appropriate edits. This second iteration of their CI’s were shared with their own class the following day. As a larger group, they discussed the pros and cons of each CI and eventually voted for the top pick from their class to enter into the final vote for all of grade 5. The 3 final Central Ideas will be voted on tomorrow to determine what the Central Idea will be at the PYP Exhibition (#pwex18). Stay tuned to find out what the Central Idea will be for our Exhibition journey.

CI survey final vote

Follow along in the grade 5s journey through our #pwex18 blog.


Learning = reflection on experiences

I recently heard this gem for the first time while working in different work groups at RVS. Quoting John Dewey, one of our division learning specialists Dan McWilliam was driving home the importance of reflection during teacher-created learning experiences by using different tools to capture thoughts and offer a range of opportunities to do so. The more I thought of it, the more I related this quote to our school’s intensive school evaluation from the IB that culminated this week.

In a journey that began May 2016, our Self Study involved our whole staff evaluating countless elements of our school. The International Baccalaureate emphasizes reflection throughout their program – teachers are constantly reflecting on their units of inquiry, and students are encouraged to reflect using the attitudes, learner profile attributes and key concepts. Yet to really dive in and look at all 73 Standards and Practices, to reflect on all learning experiences provided at a school for the last 4 years?

It is a huge project. It is daunting the scope of how deep you must question aspects of your school. It requires full participation by all staff involved. It requires an honest approach to analyzing everything from how you communicate your learning to your stakeholders, to how you view assessments – the why and the how. How does your school enable students to voice, choice and ownership? How does your school adopt a constructivist, inquiry-based approach? How does staff collaboration enhance teaching and learning? Are the provincial requirements meshed with the IB practices?

We are 2 days removed from IB representatives visiting our school and evaluating our practices and philosophies. They interviewed every grade team. They interviewed representatives from the school division. Parents and other members of the community were interviewed. They observed classes and spoke with students. The structure of the IB means we won’t likely see results from this visit anywhere between 1-3 months from now. However, our learning that has occurred through our in-depth reflection of our experiences is immeasurable and is already impacting our practice.

With or without results from the IB, we know we have areas to improve in. We’ve learned we need to address inclusion and our what our digital portfolios look like, both vertically and horizontally. We’ve learned we need to improve our transdisciplinary approach to student learning to help cement deeper connections. We’ve learned we need to provide more relevant, engaging, challenging and significant learning experiences for students. We’ve learned we need to ensure that students know the why and the how of learning. We’ve learned we need to improve on encouraging self-initiated action.

We’ve learned all of this because of an in-depth reflection. We’ve learned all of this because the whole staff and our stakeholders were involved in our reflection. We’re for the better because of it. However, without dedicated time and purpose to reflect on experiences, how can teachers learn if what they’re doing is actually best practice?

Now, to count the days until the IB’s feedback and suggestions arrive…

Ignite version 2.0

Last year, our staff embarked on a new format to inform parents of how the PYP lives at PWE. As Jen Friske, last year’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) coordinator mentioned in her post from last year’s ignite event, the premise behind our idea is “where small groups of teachers would talk for 10 minutes on a specific element of the programme, so parents would get a snippet of information, and then hopefully have their curiosity sparked in order to come learn more, or engage in further conversation with our staff either right after the event, or moving forward into the school year.” We decided that we wanted to follow the same format and idea – have teachers share their passion and interests related to the PYP and PWE. At our planning session we asked teachers “Through a PYP lens, what should parents know about PWE?” Much to the credit of our staff, we had another 95% turnout to help out in some capacity – leading sessions, helping in the background of setup and logistics, providing activities and supervision for the Grade 5 students who helped babysit any children that came with their parents.

Similar to last year, we had approximately 70 parents RSVP before the event. And similar to last year, we had only 20-25 parents attend the evening. Again, similar to last year, we still view this as a success because there were no repeat parents from last year. Which means, we’ve accounted for almost 50 of our student’s parents over the last two years! A modest success since we had never attracted more than 20 parents in one session before we started hosting Ignite nights. We definitely know we can improve on that number and based on the feedback from both of the last two Ignite nights, the parents that came are always so positive about their experience and learning.

Another success can be the view that we have such incredible staff buy-in. From the multitude of teachers taking time to plan during the dreadful month of September – amidst connecting with their new students, adjusting to new formats of student documentation and parent communication, and all the jazz that accompanies busy Septembers – our Ignite nights are a true testament to how much our staff wants to share what amazing experiences we provide at our school. Additionally, all 4 new staff additions to PWE participated in the evening, either helping another teacher in a session or as avid learners new to the PYP. Not to mention the hidden fact that most of these teachers DREAD speaking in front of adults (as most of us might). But in true PYP fashion, they were incredible risk-takers to confidently share what they’re passionate about in an enthusiastic manner! Such great role-models for their students!

As interest in these nights increase, one constant question that we have had at both events is “What happens after the PYP?” While we don’t have an extension of the IB in our division in the form of MYP (yet?), we take this as a testament that parents are enthusiastic and appreciative of what we do to engage their children in learning experiences at PWE through an IB lens. It is hoped that they see the value in our sessions that teachers shared – Building curiosity through inquiry, Social media enhancing global connections; Community engagement and partnerships – creating service-orientated, action minded citizens; Focussing on the whole child; International Mindedness: what is it and why is it important?; A glimpse into your child’s learning: Portal and ePortfolios; The culmination of the PYP: The Exhibition.



Although we didn’t have a dance party a la last year, we decided to channel our inner kid and Pop-see-ko! Parents at PWE are excellent participants!

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The Results Are In!

After a period of time to review the submissions of our gamified POI review, looking for conceptual balance and alignment. We have a winner!

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With just 9 modifications (a few removals and several additions/changes), our POI is more balanced, and staff were able to engage in incredibly thoughtful and in-depth conversations about the vertical and horizontal articulation of our Programme of Inquiry. It was a very successful way to engage with our POI. Looking at it from one particular lens helped us consider the constructivism of our units in a way that we hadn’t really given a lot of sustained time to in the past. The highlighted concepts within each unit are the concepts that will be focused on moving forward into next year’s unit planning. We decided to keep the grey (alternative options) concepts in the matrix as a reminder to teams that there are other key concepts that could also work, if, in the future the direction of a unit shifts as teams evolve and develop a better understanding of how to approach curricular connections to the Units of Inquiry.

One interesting note to reflect on, we had a lot of whole-group conversation around the idea of the word “Balance”.  When Balancing the POI, Some teams took that to look more like “Equality” of representation of the concepts across units and grades, while others felt it was more of a loose term with regard to what logically made sense for grade-specific scope and sequence content. We butted up against the struggle of “equality” in that it began to feel like a force-fit of concepts just to ensure that there was equal representation of the concepts. Fitting a square peg into a round hole, as it were. But then, how does that compromise the big ideas of the units? Looking back, we should have come up with a universal agreement and definition of what “Balance” looks like for our school POI before we began – but the conversation in and of itself was a good chance to talk through the varying ideas of what it meant, and we are now more on the same page moving forward.

Regardless of who the winning team was, it was an exercise of patience, critical thinking, perseverance, collaboration, team-work, communication, open-mindedness, flexibility, evaluation, comprehension, and cooperation among many other things. Isn’t that the beauty of the Essential Elements of the PYP? That no matter what age we are, the experiences we engage with help us develop every facet of the human experience: the knowledge we acquire, our level of conceptual understanding, our attitudes, our skills and ultimately, our actions which lead to continuous improvement.

This POI review was a wonderful example of all of those elements in action in order to ultimately build upon and improve the student experience at Prairie Waters for the 2017-2018 school year.

2016-2017 POI Review

For our final PL day of the year, we will spend some time engaging in our annual Programme of Inquiry review. We are going to shake it up, and do things a bit differently this year. Thanks to a blog post by Ryan Higbea who experimented with a POI review focused specifically on Key Concept balance both horizontally and vertically, we thought we’d give it a try!

As a PYP school, it is our responsibility to ensure that our students are engaged in conceptually-based learning. In order to assist in achieving this, the IB has identified 8 key concepts that drive our inquiries.Key Concepts

During regular review of the Programme of Inquiry (POI), the IB document, Developing a Transdisciplinary Programme Of Inquiry states that;

“A school’s programme of inquiry should demonstrate the opportunity for deeper exploration of all eight PYP key concepts. All eight key concepts must be represented on the programme of inquiry at each grade/year level (horizontal alignment)…[and] there should be a balance of PYP key concepts used throughout each transdisciplinary theme (vertical alignment). This does not mean that each key concept must be represented under each transdisciplinary theme but rather that schools are mindful of repetition or under-representation of concepts in order to ensure that there are appropriate opportunities for students to revisit and develop their understanding of all concepts.” (p. 5-6)

As Ryan said in his blog, the work to balancing the POI according to key concepts may be “tricky and messy”, but it provides us with the opportunity to engage in conversation, and negotiate vertically how we look at our Units of Inquiry to ensure that, holistically, constructively, Students‘ depth of understanding is at the forefront of our thoughts, not what’s easiest, or less work for teachers.

So today, we challenge you to step outside your comfort zone, reflect on your units, and think critically about the alignment of the key concepts, not only horizontally across a grade level, but vertically as well. As an added twist, we’re going to gamify our process.

Round 1: Getting familiar with the game board

Take a look at our Key Concept POI game board

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What are your initial noticings on the board? Patterns? Omissions? Repetitions? Under-representations?

Round 2: Game board setup – Locking In

In your grade teams – go into the master game board on Google Drive and take a critical look at your units at your grade level and identify the key concepts that CANNOT be changed in any of your units. Indicate these key concepts, by changing them on the game board to be in ALL CAPS. In gamers terms, you are “Locking In” these key concepts so they cannot be modified, switched or removed in the rounds to follow. At this point, you may wish to make some changes to your key concepts if you notice that there is not horizontal balance of your key concepts (many repetitions, under-representation or key concepts missing altogether). Try not to marry yourself to key concepts and lock all of them in! You have 15 minutes for this round. GO!

Round 3: Game board setup – Thinking about potential

Now, your task is to identify the key concepts that could go into each of your units. Again, think carefully, yet critically about your units and indicate which key concepts could possibly go into each unit, by adding them on the game board in grey, below the current key concepts that are associated with each unit. During this round, you may still find yourselves making modifications and changes to your key concepts to ensure horizontal balance. You have 10 minutes for this round. GO!

Round 4: GAME TIME!

Now that the game board is set, we will switch into vertical teams and take on the challenge of balancing our POI conceptually. On the second page of our POI game board, you will find the team groupings. Once you are in your group:

  • Come up with an awesome group name
  • Designate one person on your team to make a COPY of the master game board – and rename it with your team name (Make sure your copy is in the “2016-2017 POI review conceptual” folder that was shared with you). This will be your working copy of the game board
  • To show you’re ready to go, put up your twinkle fingers or your jazz hands!


Balance the POI both horizontally and vertically as best as you can, while adhering to the parameters set by each grade team on the game board, with as few total moves as possible.


  1. Horizontal balance means, “All eight key concepts must be represented on the programme of inquiry at each grade/year level”
  2. Vertical balance means, “There should be a balance of PYP key concepts used throughout each transdisciplinary theme (vertical alignment). This does not mean that each key concept must be represented under each transdisciplinary theme but rather that schools are mindful of repetition or under-representation of concepts in order to ensure that there are appropriate opportunities for students to revisit and develop their understanding of all concepts.” Try your best to have concepts represented under each TD theme (but also, not OVER represented), but if it doesn’t logically make sense, don’t force it.
  3. No concept in CAPS can be moved. It has been “locked in”.
  4. Only concepts in grey, indicated in a specific TD theme can be added.
  5. Concepts that are currently in a Unit, but not in caps are fair game for removal.
  6. There can be no more than 3 key concepts per unit.
  7. Keep track of every modification/move you make.
  8. Be prepared to share out the modifications you made and your justifications for why.

You have 20 minutes to work – use the paper and markers provided (or any other materials you may choose to use) to help you through the process. GO!

Round 5: Share out

Each team will get 5 minutes to share their rationale for their moves and the number of moves they completed the balancing of the POI in.

Round 6: Judging

The judges will take into consideration:

  • each teams’ rationale for balancing the POI the way they did
  • if grade teams are agreeable with the changes being suggested
  • the number of total modifications made in the process

Feel free to take a brain break as the judges deliberate.

And the winning team is…

March 20 Professional Learning Day

Welcome to our Professional Learning Day! Today we will be digging deep into our Self Study. But before we can do that, we need to reacquaint ourselves with the Self Study process and our groups. It will be a day full of discussion, collaboration, celebration and looking ahead!

See our outline for the day Here


Part 1 – Warm UP!

Vanity License Plates

Warm Up

Part 2 – Show What You Know Scope & Sequence

As our students progress through the PYP, we are helping them scaffold and construct their knowledge and understanding not only on curricular material, but also on the skills and tools they have available for them to show what they know. Teachers on the PL committee have expressed a desire to create a more formalized Scope & Sequence for Prairie Waters in terms of the ways students can demonstrate their understanding using a variety of tools at developmentally appropriate stages. This will help ensure that by the time they enter Grade 5 and their Exhibition year, they will come fully prepared with an arsenal of tools at their fingertips for how they may share their learning with a broad audience. We will spend some time digging into the ways students can show what they know, and then begin creating a vertical Scope and Sequence; so each grade will know what tools students have had exposure to in the previous years in order to continually build up the students’ toolboxes.

Spend some time looking at the links and images provided below. Discuss with your team the strategies and tools which you think would be useful to integrate and apply to your current units. Jot them down! We will then have a large-group discussion to start building our Scope and Sequence.

72 creative ways for students to show what they know

60 things students can create to demonstrate what they know

Blooms Taxonomy wheel of pedagogy

Show What You Know Infographic

Show What You Know



Part 3 – Classroom Walkabouts

Let’s get up and stretch our legs (and our brains) and visit a couple classrooms!

Part 4 – Getting Reacquainted with Self Study

We’ll spend a few minutes reviewing the Parent Survey we had available at the last three-way conferences – and the resulting action that has come from the responses

Then we’ll shift to looking at our tasks for the day with our Self Study Groups

  • Gather evidence (physical digital evidence, or writing notes on evidence that you deem significant and valuable through your conversations with your group)
  • Write a description on the major achievements you believe we’ve made in the standard that you are focusing on over the past 4 years
  • Identify a final consensus on the level of implementation of the standard you are focusing on
  • Provide evidence of achievement or working towards the current items on our action plan that are related to your standard
  • Are there areas of your standard that you think are important for us to address in our Action plan moving forward over the next 5 years? If so, please write them into the Action Plan document that is in your working folder in Google Drive. Please be picky about this…what are the Major areas for growth? (our action plan needs to be manageable!)

Brain Break!

Get moving with Alanna! Visit the vanity plates and see if you can guess whose is whose!

Group Collaboration Time!

Get together with your group and start delving into your Self Study work using the checklist above.

11:45 – LUNCH TIME!

Enjoy some eats, go check out the vanity plates if you haven’t done so, revisit the Show What You Know Scope & Sequence to make further additions, meet with your team to continue working on completing your planners.

12:45 – Reconvene in the Learning Commons

Viewing of the Induction Video

Part 5 – Open forum for questions or seeking input from other staff on your section of the Standards and Practices

Questions? Not sure about a section of the questionnaire? Need input from others about what to include in your evidence? Now’s the time to get them out there!

Part 6 – Group Collaboration Time!

The remainder of the day is yours to work with your groups to complete your Standards and Practice evaluation. The goal is by our next PL day together, you will have completed your section so we may have a group share out day to ensure we have included everything we want to share with the IB when they come for their visitation days in the fall.



November 14 Professional Learning Day

Before we dig in to Self-Study groups for part of our Professional Learning day, we have a few areas of inquiry that were discussed during our PL Planning Committee meeting. With each grade team having a representative, it was a good time for us to get a ‘pulse check’ from teams on where their needs lay in terms of professional learning. The hope is that by engaging in some of this “pre-learning”, self-study groups will feel better equipped for the work they are doing together.

See our outline for the day HERE

Part 1 of the day – Reflection Time

Spend some time with your grade team working through your reflections from unit one, and ensuring that all areas of the planner are adequately filled out.

  • use the Planner Support Document provided to read about what types of things to include in each section of the planner
  • Access the Sample Planners on the IB website to see some exemplars of how other teachers fill out the reflection sections (as well as other sections of the planner)

Part 2 of the day – Assessment

During breakfast, we asked you to Tune In to the concept of Assessment. Using the Chalk Talk thinking routine – share your ideas about assessment, make connections to other staff’s ideas about assessment, and record any questions that begin to percolate as you read through the contributions to the chalk talk board.screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-12-39-17-pm

Finding Out

Arrange yourselves into groups of 4 (branch out! Sit with someone on staff you don’t normally have the opportunity to work with). Take some time to read through Making the PYP Happen – pages 44-55 and Prairie Waters’ Assessment Policy 

Sorting Out

Using the Sentence-Phrase-Word thinking routine, from each of the documents, record a sentence that was meaningful to you; a phrase that moved or provoked you; and a word that captures your attention or strikes you as powerful. Once your group is finished, engage in discussion about what you wrote down. Reflect by identifying the common themes that are emerging across your group, what implications can be drawn, and were there important aspects that were not captured that are still worthwhile?

**Don’t forget to Tweet to our #pwepl hashtag as you work through this stage!**

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Finding Out

Remain in your groups of 4. Using the Damian Cooper article: Eight Big Ideas to Support Learning for All Students  each of you will choose 2 of the big ideas to read about. Be ready to share your thoughts and reflections with your group from those big ideas. Think about:

  • How does this reading connect to and support what you read in the Assessed Curriculum section of Making the PYP Happen?
  • Does our Assessment Policy still adequately reflect practice here at PWE? Or are there changes/modifications to be made?

Sorting Out

Use the Micro Lab Protocol thinking routine as a group to engage in a conversation about what you read, and your thinking around the ideas presented by the reading and your group members.

**Don’t forget to Tweet to our #pwepl hashtag as you work through this stage!**


Going Further

Get up and stretch those legs! In the Learning Commons, you will find 5 different blog posts printed for you to choose from.

*** Thank you to Taryn BondClegg (@makingoodhumans), Elena Vizurraga (@EVizurraga) and Adam Pierce (@PierceAdamJ) for writing your blogs to share with the world!)

Select one that you are interested in reading, and form a group of 5 – try to make sure that each person in your group is reading a different blog post.

As you read your blog post, use the Connect-Extend-Challenge thinking routine to sort through your thoughts.

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After you have read your blog posts and jotted down your thinking, take some time in your groups to share the key ideas from your blog and some of your ideas from you connect-extend-challenge.

**Don’t forget to Tweet to our #pwepl hashtag as you work through this stage!**

Reflecting/Making Conclusions

As a whole group, let’s spend some time sharing our reflections and thoughts from our inquiry. Did you have any revelations? Ideas? Wonderings that are still sticking with you that you want to ask the whole group? Thoughts on our Assessment Policy? Does it need changing? Do you have current practices that you think are rock solid or innovative that you want to share with others?

Take some time to return to our Chalk Talk from the beginning, do you have new ideas, connections or questions to add?


You’ve been taking action the whole way through this inquiry process; shifting your thinking, adding new ideas, generating new wonderings…but as your exit slip, we invite you to take a moment to add a comment to this blog on the actions you plan to take for yourself. Using the prompts, through the lens of Assessment:

  • So What? – what is your understanding of the significance of Assessment?
  • Now What? – What do you hope to do going forward? Read/follow PYP Bloggers? Engage in a Twitter Chat? A new assessment practice you want to try? Considerations for how assessments will be used/documented in your UoI’s? Something else?

Part 3 of the day – Class Walkabouts

Let’s get moving. Mrs. Chapman, Mr. Pella and Ms. Mrak will walk us through their classrooms today

Part 4 of the day – Self Study Group Work

Before we part ways for the day, we will take a few moments to share where each group is at, and the process you are going through in order to achieve your goals.

The remainder of the afternoon is yours to gather evidence, engage in conversation, work on the action plan and make decisions on how to fill in your section of the self-study questionnaire.


One of the biggest challenges we face each year here at Prairie Waters is family turnout for our PYP Parent Information Evenings. We have tried:

  • Several different session times – one during the school day, one in the evening
  • Early in the school year
  • Connected to the first round of 3 way conferences held in the school early in December
  • Later in the evening
  • Child care for those families that need to bring their kids
  • Constant communication through various sources: School Newsletter, Twitter and Facebook accounts, postings on our school website and on the school sign outside of the building, paper invitations sent home with every student, posts on classroom blogs and Twitter accounts
  • Luring/bribing (however you choose to see it 😉 ) with the promise of treats
  • Save the Date cards at the end of the previous year
  • Advertising at our Kindergarten orientation evening and information sessions during staggered entry

The list goes on…each year, we try something new or different in order to boost attendance, and each year, our turnout is less than ideal. This year, I hope, was the turning point for that…

Last year, we put it out to staff to think of creative ways to present our Parent Information evening in order to increase interest and attendance, one of the ideas that was very enthusiastically suggested, was an IGNITE inspired event, where small groups of teachers would talk for 10 minutes on a specific element of the programme, so parents would get a snippet of information, and then hopefully have their curiosity sparked in order to come learn more, or engage in further conversation with our staff either right after the event, or moving forward into the school year. In years previous, it has just been the pedagogical leadership team who would present to the parents, but we all agreed as a staff that in order for parents to see the value of this programme, that it needed to be a united front. Parents need to see that we are ALL invested and care deeply about what we do here as PYP educators. So this year, approximately 95% of our teaching staff signed up to help out in some capacity on the evening of PYP IGNITE; either by leading a session, helping with our student ambassadors who welcomed our guests into the building, assisting with room setup, food prep, or just being another supportive body in the room.

We had been promoting this event since the end of last school year, and this year, when the RSVP’s were rolling in, we were JACKED! We had about 80 people RSVP to attend the evening!

Unfortunately, on the evening of IGNITE, only about 20-25 parents out of that group of 80 RSVP’s attended. While disappointing, we still count it as a success. Why, you ask? Because so far, it has been our best attended parent information session to date! The parents that were here with us RAVED about the experience, and said how glad they were that they attended. They told us they would definitely be spreading the word to other parents that they need to come to the next session. Another reason we counted it as a success; we had a few faces in the audience from our Rocky View Schools family who wanted to learn more about the programme, and consider how it benefits students. We’re always happy when we can build awareness and understanding about the PYP and its impacts on student learning.

We’re hopeful that the buzz generated from this event carries forward into our next parent information session, and that we’ll begin to see our attendance increase with each new event!

Because who doesn’t love a surprise awesome dance party? (Click that link to check it out!)


Self Study Year Has Begun

With September winding to a close (1 month down already?!) we are thinking ahead to our year here at Prairie Waters as we engage in our Self Study process. In our first PL days of the year, we spent some time re-acquainting ourselves to the various documents we will rely on throughout the course of the year:

IB Standards and Practices

Self Study Questionnaire

Guide to Programme Evaluation

We also spent some time reviewing the IB report from their previous authorization visit and our current action plan to make note of objectives we have made progress on, as well as adding new items to our plan moving forward, based on our review during our Self Study. This enables us to collaboratively build our action plan, so everyone is on the same page with regard to where we are at in implementation of the programme and where we desire to go moving forward.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-47-04-am

Moving along in our Self Study timeline, we spent some time at our last staff meeting doing some classroom walkabouts. This was an opportunity for staff to get into classrooms they may not otherwise see very often, ask questions about room setup or practices, and just get a glimpse at how PYP is living in each room in the school. This will help when thinking about evidence of how we are addressing the specific IB Standards and Practices when it comes to teaching and learning.

Sharing your space can be quite intimidating and uncomfortable. Teachers are their harshest critics. So having an entire staff walk into your room and listen to you speak about why you have done things the way you have, or are trying new things that you aren’t sure are going to be successful requires you to be very courageous. Part of our staff essential agreement to start the year was that we establish a safe environment where there are no feelings of judgement, and have a common understanding that everyone is coming into our staff learning opportunities with an open-mind and good intentions. We are here to support each other, and learn from each other, not compete or  judge.

We’re looking forward to our next PL day together so we can carry on with our collaborative work on making the PYP the best it can be at PWE!

Diving In to Self Study

On our last school-based Professional Learning day of the year, staff at Prairie Waters began to dive in to the Self Study process. This is a brand new experience for all of us at PWE, because this is our very first evaluation visit after becoming authorized as an IB World School offering the Primary Years Programme!

As an IB World School, we are guided by a set of Standards and Practices that are intended to assist us in the planning, implementation, development and evaluation of the programme. These standards and practices are what drive our action plan as a school between evaluation visits. During an evaluation visit year (Autumn of 2017 for us), a group of IB site visitors spend 2 days touring our school, visiting classrooms, interviewing staff, students, parents, division staff and community members in order to get a sense of the implementation of the programme at our school from all stakeholders. The year prior to our evaluation visit (the 2016-2017 school year), our school engages in the process of Self Study. This is an opportunity for all staff members, as well as students and parents to reflect on our practices as a PYP school, gather evidence that we are meeting the Standards and Practices, and generate next steps to include in our action plan in order to demonstrate to the IB that we are continuing to evolve and improve as an IB World School.

As this is our first experience with the Self Study process, we decided as a staff to begin the process a little earlier. So for the past month, we have taken some time to tune in to the beginning stages of the Self Study process. Our May PL day was the day we REALLY started to dive in 🙂

Our day started with a Twitter provocation, to get a sense of where staff were at in their understanding of what Self Study is, why it’s important, and questions that may be bubbling to the surface as we start our journey.


We’ve created our own hashtag on Twitter, #pwepl to house all of our reflections, questions, contributions during the Self Study process

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From our Twitter provocation, after we had some time to read all of the tweets on our hashtag, we used the Sentence-Phrase-Word thinking routine to capture the essence of what Self Study is to each of us

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After tuning in to Self Study, we moved on to finding out our initial thoughts on implementation of the IB Standards and Practices. Using our co-created descriptors for level of implementation, staff completed the Self Study questionnaire based on their own, individual assessment of how the programme is evolving at our school. IMG_5257

After completing the survey, and gaining a better understanding of the Standards and Practices which we will be evaluated on, staff completed the initial steps of the 3-2-1 Bridge thinking routine. At the end of our Self Study process in a year, we will return to this sheet of paper, and staff will complete the other half of the bridge to see how their thinking and understanding has changed along the way.Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 10.29.52 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.44.15 AM

After a wellness break (and some snacks and coffee!) we re-gathered, and broke into small groups to Sort Out the data collected from our staff survey. Staff split up according to the standards and focused on the data from their specific standard. Their analysis was centered on noticings, surprises, yahoo’s!, and hmmm’s. Using the #pwepl hashtag, groups shared out their analysis of their standard.

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We then started Going Further in our thinking about Self Study. Using the Connect-Extend-Challenge thinking routine, staff posted sticky notes under each heading to further their investigation into the idea of Self Study

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After some discussion time, we wrapped up the day by Making Conclusions. Based on our learning and engagement with the Self Study process throughout the day, staff made their selections of their top 2 interests for the standards they would like to dig into next year when we start gathering evidence for the standards and practices to complete our Self Study. After I have some time to look through the selections, I will develop a balanced team for each standard and our groups will be able to begin taking Action in their assessment of each standard that our school has been working on implementing over the past 4 years, since our Authorization.

Overall, the day was highly successful! Our brains hurt from all the heavy thinking and reflecting, but we all understand the value behind the process and are excited to get going! Let the deep dive begin!


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