Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

Archive for the category “POI”

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…

Happy New Year!

January was a month for Prairie Waters to think about and set some goals in how they were going to challenge themselves or try something new! This was to celebrate the Learner Profile Attribute of being a risk-taker – being courageous and giving something a go, even if you don’t know how. Each month, we have an Attribute Graffiti wall, posted at the front of our school. We encourage our students, staff and parents to contribute to our wall. This month, we had lots of contributions! IMG_2488

We’ve also been working through the IB’s pilot program called Curriculum Connections. It’s very exciting to know that we are working towards enhancing and deepening our understanding of the elements of the IB PYP model, and how we can make our Programme of Inquiry as dynamic and authentic as possible for all of our learners. We are working with another PYP Coordinator who calls Millarville Community School home. She is guiding and supporting us as we work through our Programme of Inquiry review. We are very enthusiastic to see the end results of our year long collaboration with her!

Our learning commons is also starting to come together! We’ve gotten some seating and some shelving starting to come together, as well as projectors hung on the walls, TV’s and Apple TV’s purchased, an iPad cart with devices loaded with creative apps that can connect to any of the projectors or TV’s in the Learning Commons space, a green screen kit, and conversations started as to how we will organize our library collection to make it most user friendly and inviting for our students to begin to use the space in collaborative, creative and more independent ways. Stay tuned as this space continues to evolve and come together over the coming months!

Rolling on through October

While it’s been a hectic couple months here at Prairie Waters, we can’t ignore the fact that there is certainly a different ‘feel’ and ‘pace’ in our school this year compared to last. Saying goodbye to over 300 of our students as they moved to East Lake School, as well as a good handful of staff was quite difficult. Our school seems so much more quiet now, it’s odd! Though with the reduction in numbers, we do now have all of our students back into classrooms, and our learning commons space is now available for us to begin bringing to life as we add furniture, technology and resources in order to make it a collaborative, open, inviting and functional space that our learners can make their own, whenever they need it. We’re very excited for the possibilities that our space holds in store for us.

One of our goals this year at Prairie Waters is to continue to develop our understanding of, and create Universal Learning Environments for our learners. More and more research that we have looked into has indicated that children thrive in an environment when they have had the opportunity to engage in some moderate to intensive aerobic activity. It increases focus, and alters brain function to enable more successful learning time during the school day. We have partnered with our school psychologist, Michelle Deen to trial her SPARK for Learning program with many of our classrooms. We’re also trying to be more cognizant of providing brief ‘brain breaks’ for our learners during their class time.

We are also beginning the process as a staff of reviewing our school Programme of Inquiry. We are looking for alignment of concepts across the grades that will help to scaffold our students’ learning, rather that repeat it. If we have overlap of concepts that are explored in different grades, we will begin to negotiate and brainstorm alternative concepts which connect to curriculum that grade teams can build upon. The process takes time, however it is a valuable exercise for us to regularly go through, in order to have a ‘bigger picture’ understanding of our students’ learning all throughout the school. Our next steps in our Programme of Inquiry review will be to take a critical look at our programme of inquiry document, and use an IB created rubric to assess how well our Units of Inquiry meet the essential elements of the PYP.

Finally, we have a committee that has been formed in order to look deeper at our physical education, health and well being curriculum and begin to conceptualize it. Ultimately, we would like to create a scope and sequence document for our staff to use when implementing and inquiry-based approach to teaching PE, health and well being. Too often, we fall into the trap of topic based PE (focusing on specific sports for a sustained period of time). At Prairie Waters, we would like to focus more on the concepts that are flushed out in the front matter of the curriculum as our base, and then explore those concepts through a variety of sports, games and activities to develop and understanding of the WHY and HOW we play these sports, games and activities successfully. We believe understanding the mechanics behind organized sport and fitness is just as important as being able to participate in the game. Stay tuned for the product of our committee’s hard work later on this year!

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