Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

Archive for the category “Assessment”

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!

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 12.48.00 PM

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.


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!**

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.51.25 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.13.03 AM

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.

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.20.23 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.20.40 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.20.56 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.21.17 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.21.33 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.21.53 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.22.03 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.22.13 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.51.25 AMIMG_5258

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.53.03 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.53.26 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.53.37 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.54.03 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.54.12 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.54.28 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.13.03 AM

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!


November Update

Time seems to be soaring by here at Prairie Waters! It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the end of November already! October and November have been a time for our staff to learn about the new Communication of Student Learning. Like any new initiative, the learning curve has been fast and steep, and frustration levels have been quite a roller coaster of ups and downs – but our staff is committed to persevering. The level of collaboration and communication of tips, tricks, strategies and overall encouragement to get through these first reports has been amazing!

The new evidence summary has given our staff a great opportunity to discuss what and how we assess in our PYP Units of Inquiry. It has made  grade teams think carefully and critically about the essential elements that we are teaching within the Units – Knowledge, Concepts, Skills, Attitudes and Action. Together, we created an Essential Agreement of what needs to be included in our comments in the Communication of Student Learning. We agreed that at a minimum, all teachers will comment on the current Unit of Inquiry, and a strength and/or area of growth that the teacher noticed for each student within that unit. They will also comment on the development of at least one of the Attributes of the Learner Profile that were focused on within that unit. Above and beyond that, if teachers or grade teams felt comfortable commenting on attitudes, concepts or skills that the student was working on, they may do so as well. We also spent some time connecting Rocky View’s portrait of a 21st Century Learner competencies to our Transdisciplinary Skills and Attributes. We agreed that we would connect the 21st Century categories; Ways of thinking, Ways of working and tools for working and ways of living in the world to our units to describe how they were explored. We now feel that we have good consistency across the grades for how we comment on each students’ development and growth as a learner.

Many of our classes are all a-flutter on Twitter this year, and most of our classroom blogs are now up and running. Students have begun to add pieces to their digital portfolios as well. Students are learning that there are many ways to connect, communicate and ask questions to others outside the 4 walls of our school. Here’s a list of our classes to check out on Twitter – give them a follow to keep up with their discoveries in their Units of Inquiry!







May Update

Where has this year gone? It’s hard to believe that we are down to our final few weeks of school! This has been such an incredible year for our school in terms of growth, learning and development within the PYP. I am so proud of everybody’s hard work and dedication to ensuring that the learning environment and experiences that are presented to our students are valuable, meaningful, engaging and exciting.

We received some wonderful news last week from IBO: our Application for Authorization was approved, with no matters to be addressed! This means that all of the documentation that we provided, as well as the application that we filled out were so thorough, that the IBO does not require further evidence to ensure that the PYP standards and practices are in place at our school. Again, this is a testament to the dedication and devotion that our staff has shown to applying all of the elements of PYP into their grade teams and classrooms. This is a HUGE accomplishment! We are one step closer to becoming an authorized IB, PYP school! We now await contact from IB to confirm our verification visit dates in the fall of the 2013-2014 school year.

During our final Professional Learning day as a staff on Friday, we focused our attention on one of the tools for reflective assessment – digital portfolios. Through the standards and practices of IB, our school Assessment Policy, Rocky View Schools’ Assessment Policy HK, and Alberta Education’s Inspiring Education initiative, there is a common thread that permeates all of these policies – students, parents and teachers should be engaged in authentic, reflective assessment practices. Student portfolios allow for a glimpse into each student and their journey through their educational years. They are a highly valuable tool for all stakeholders to access. While most grades have a “scrapbook” for the year, these scrapbooks miss the mark on what true potential a portfolio holds for student learning. The scrapbook has historically been a ‘catch all’ place for every piece of work that the student has produced in any given year. A portfolio is more selective and allows for more reflection on those key pieces that moved the student forward in their learning.

After watching a portion of Kathy Cassidy’s webinar – Connected from the Start – through the Discovery Education Network’s Spring Virtual Conference, we had some time for a Q and A session. What came out of that session was a desire from staff to be involved in more Professional Learning around using, understanding and becoming comfortable with the chosen platform for our student portfolios before the summer. This would allow teachers to have a lot of ‘play time’ with the platform, so when we returned for a new school year, they would feel confident in introducing the digital portfolios to students right from the very start.

Several of our staff have been experimenting with different platforms for student portfolios throughout the year and we will come together next week to discuss the pro’s and con’s of each before deciding on one common platform to use as an entire school. This will allow the portfolio to carry on with the student as they move up through the grades. There are many staff members who are very excited at the inherent possibilities of a digital portfolio! Overall, it was a very positive and productive PL Day for our staff.

This is such an exciting time to be in education, and at Prairie Waters! I can’t wait to see where our journey takes us in the coming school year!

~ Jen

February Update

Things have really started to kick into high-gear here at Prairie Waters since our return from the winter Break! At the end of January, we were given access to the Application for Authorization by the IB. The fully completed application is due April 1st. Once our application has been submitted, it will be reviewed by consultants with the IBO, and will either be accepted or returned with recommendations for additional information to be provided. With all of the intensive effort we are putting in to completing all of the required components, we’re hoping it will be accepted right away!!

Two of the key pieces that we are working on creating right now are our School Language Policy and our School Assessment Policy. Each has it’s own committee formed to partake in professional reading to learn about and/or research best practices, consult with other staff members to get feedback and perspectives and to draft the Policy documents.

Our Language committee consists of classroom teachers, learning support team members, our pedagogical leadership team (Principal, Assistant Principal, PYP Coordinator), and parents. This committee is charged with documenting Prairie Waters’ language philosophy, language profile, practices for language development employed in our building (Including French Immersion, FSL and ESL), resources available to support all areas of language development (including Mother Tongue) and Essential Agreements that all stakeholders agree to in regards to our Language Policy.

Our Assessment Committee consists of classroom teachers and our pedagogical leadership team. This committee is charged with documenting Prairie Waters’ assessment philosophy, purposes for assessment, principles of assessment and assessment practices that are utilized at our school.

Both committee’s meet regularly to discuss, add to and modify our policy documents based on feedback that we receive from staff members and parents. By the time Spring Break rolls around, we will have both policies completed – with the understanding that both are considered working documents, that will be reviewed annually to ensure proper revisions and additions are made to maintain a progressive, forward-thinking attitude toward both our language and assessment practices at Prairie Waters that are in line with RVS and IBO. Both policies will be posted on our school website and will be made available to parents and all staff members. Stay tuned to see the final product soon!

We have all been working tirelessly towards achieving all of these requirements for the PYP, and are looking forward to a very well-deserved break next week!


December Update

During the month of November, our staff focused on developing a better understanding of the Transdisciplinary Skills, which are included in the PYP Planner as an essential element. Another essential element of the PYP is Knowledge – which the PYP defines as, “Significant, relevant content that we wish the students to explore and know about, taking into consideration their prior experience and understanding” (Making The PYP Happen, International Baccalaureate, 2009, p.10). The essential element of Knowledge includes the Written Curriculum, Taught Curriculum, and Assessed Curriculum – These are now combined together on the new PYP Model, and are known as Approaches to Teaching.

During the month of December, we have honed in on developing our understanding of Assessment and what it looks like in our school. Our PL day on December 21 will be dedicated to looking in-depth at Rocky View School’s Assessment Policy, Policy HK. A requirement of IBO is that our school has a written and published assessment policy that is shared with our school community. Our Assessment committee is charged with developing this policy – and in our situation, Rocky View School’s assessment policy will be the major foundation of our IB assessment policy. Some of the questions that our Assessment Committee will explore and discuss with school staff during this process are:

  • How should we structure assessment?
  • How often should we assess?
  • What do we assess?
  • Who is responsible for assessment and how?
  • How should assessment information be recorded?
  • How should assessment information be analysed and reported?
  • How will assessment information be reported to students and parents?
  • Who will have access to assessment information and where will it be located?
  • How often will we review our assessment practices?

Another important aspect of assessment is reflection – it’s important that both teachers and students are given the opportunity to reflect on their work and learning. The reflection process is built right into the PYP Planner for teachers to use. This enables grade teams to look carefully and critically at their units of inquiry and constantly evolve or improve the Units of Inquiry. Each staff meeting and PL day time that our staff shares together, I provide some quick PL on each section of the PYP planner. This allows us to look at each section a little more closely, and allow for questions/explanation of what needs to be included in each section in order to ensure a fully completed, in-depth planner. During our staff meeting today, I created this Prezi to share with the staff in order to aid them in their understanding of what to include in their reflections of their unit. This will be carried forward to the December 21 PL day, when teams will be given some time to go back in this last Unit of Inquiry planner, and think carefully about and reflect on the unit as a whole.

As Christmas break approaches, most grade teams are wrapping up their second Unit of Inquiry and are beginning the third. It is very exciting to hear all of the conversation that teams are engaged in around the continued improvement of their planners!

From all of us at Prairie Waters Elementary, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a safe and wonderful New Year!


Post Navigation