Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

Archive for the category “Reflection”

May 17 PL Day

Welcome to the final PL day of the 2018-2019 school year! How did we get here so quickly?!

Today is a day of sharing and reflecting, so please come prepared to contribute your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, aspirations and celebrations! You will also need your copy of the IB Enhancements Principles Into Practice: Learning and Teaching

Take care of yourself! When you feel the need to get up and move, grab a coffee, take a bathroom break…take that time throughout the day. This is a working day with plenty of opportunity for self-defined breaks. We would like to work straight through so we can wrap up around 12:30 so you can head out for lunch on your own and enjoy the long weekend to its fullest.

As you enjoy your breakfast, reflect on these questions. Share your responses on sticky notes on the chart paper around the room and then have a conversation to share with those sitting around you:

May 17, 2019 PL Day


Before we get started – let’s take a quiz! Find out which Learner Profile Attribute is reflected in you the most! Once you’ve gotten your results, move to the space in the room that matches with the attribute you aligned with. Appoint a photographer to take a selfie with everyone else on staff who shares the same attribute and Tweet to the hashtag provided at your space!

Click HERE to access the quiz!

We now welcome the group of staff who visited Opal this year to lead us through an edcamp style session to learn about playful inquiry at every level!


IB Policy Review. As per our standards and practices, we are required to revisit, reflect on, review and revise our commonly developed policies on an annual basis. Today you will have the choice of which policy you would like to dig-in to and work with other staff members in dissecting the document and providing your feedback for how we can revise and improve our policies moving forward. A new policy that we are required to develop as per the Enhancements, is an Academic Integrity Policy – this would be an opportunity to begin inquiring into and brainstorming how we might create this policy in the upcoming school year.

Please complete this sign up

to indicate which policy you would like to spend the next portion of the day committing your knowledge and input into.

If you require additional supporting documents/resources for your policy review, please click on this link to access the PYP Interactive Playlist


Share back to group.

  • What changes were made?
  • Do you have questions to bring back to the whole group to address before making changes?
  • Do you have suggestions of areas of the policy we should dedicate more Professional Learning towards moving forward into the next school year?
  • Any additional comments to make?


Deepening our understanding of IB PYP Enhancements. We will spend the remainder of the day in our own quiet spaces reading the next section of the PYP Enhancements. Today’s focus will be on the Transdisciplinary Learning section (p.1-22) of the Learning and Teaching document. REMEMBER! Documenting our learning is an important part of the process, so please choose a way that works for you to document your understanding as you read. Skecthnote, blog, word cloud, good ol’ fashioned note taking, podcast, powerpoint or google slides…the choices are endless. However you choose to document, please know that you will be sharing how you visually documented your takeaways with the group before the end of the day! So come to the reflection time at the end of the day with something tangible.

If you happen to finish the Transdisciplinary Learning section early, you have a couple options to choose from:

  • visit our question channel to write down the questions that come to mind related to our teaching practice when considering Transdisciplinary Learning. We will use these questions you pose to guide some of our final conversations to wrap up the day.

TD Learning Questions

  • Continue reading the next section of the Learning and Teaching document: Approaches to Learning (p.26-40)


Gallery walk of of documentation of your learning from the day’s reading, reflection and final discussions to wrap up the day.

And…as always, before we say our goodbyes… please take a moment to get a sticky and write down your reflection as you:

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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…

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!


Looking Back to Move Forward

John Dewey Quote

Reflection. We do it all the time, without even knowing it. We innately think about things we’ve done or the experiences we’ve had (thinking about our thinking), but we have a more difficult time being intentional with our reflection. Thinking about thinking about our thinking. This doesn’t make it any less important, it just means we have to habituate ourselves to become more aware of when we are reflecting, how we document it and how we learn from it.

We’ve been focusing on our reflective practice over the past couple months via several avenues.

** Assessment Policy

As per our staff essential agreement, we review our assessment policy annually in order to refresh ourselves to the idea of assessment and what our beliefs at Prairie Waters are around it. This year we spent time questioning the value of some of our current practices, staff suggested new practices we are incorporating into our assessment repertoire, specifically using social media (class blogs and Twitter) as a way to capture student voice and understanding and to include these anecdotes as feedback on the report card. As well, we reflected on the clarity of the document. If the intended audience is teachers, parents and the greater community, is it written in a way and with language that is easily understandable for all? We also discussed the replacement of Parent/Teacher conferences with Three Way Conferencing. This allows student voice and reflection to be included in the dialogue, as well as drive the goal setting for everyone involved in the child’s learning. It brings the idea of reflection and goal setting into a triangulated environment, with the student at the centre, surrounded by the people that will support them in achieving their self-defined goals.

** Unit of Inquiry Planners

In the hustle and bustle of a school day, teachers find it challenging to find the time to sit down and engage in an in-depth, authentic and meaningful reflection of their inquiries and how they can improve them in future iterations. While they recognize the importance of doing so, it remains a challenge to find a way to do it that doesn’t make it feel ‘force fed’. One of our grade 5 teachers, after reading a Tweet that linked to a blog, which talked about involving the kids in the reflection process of the PYP planner, he decided to give it a go. He wrote the reflection questions that are in the planner to guide teachers’ thinking in somewhat simplified language and gave them to the kids to brainstorm their reflections. What a simplistic way to gauge exactly how the students understood the elements of the unit, and rather than trying to write that in our ‘teacher speak’ in the reflection section, he took it straight from the most reliable source. The students! You can check out his reflective blog post on the process with the kids as well.

** Digital Portfolios

All of our teachers are now working in the digital portfolio domain with their kids, and our students are becoming extremely competent in uploading content to their portfolios. However, in most classrooms, we’re still uploading the same content for every student. Be it a summative assessment, a writing assignment, etc. Teachers are beginning to feel comfortable enough with their students’ abilities at uploading content, that they are now shifting to thinking about kid-selection in what they want on their own portfolio. Along with those selections, it’s vital that the students are reflecting on those pieces. Using an Edutopia document (40 Reflection Questions ) that was created to deepen kids’ reflection about their learning through 4 different domains of thinking, teachers will choose several of the questions each time a student is uploading their work to answer, along with their sample piece.

** Fellowships

Currently, we have 2 fellowships happening at our school. A Teacher Fellowship, taken on by a grade 2 teacher, Ms. Mrak, called Awakening Passions (follow her Blog, and Twitter to keep up to date!), and a Leadership Fellowship, taken on by Mr. Siemens, Ms. Rentz and Mrs. Friske. Both of these fellowships aim to improve the quality of experience that our learners receive while at Prairie Waters. Along with the fellowships comes significant opportunity to reflect on improving practice and shifting pedagogical approaches to ensure a student-centred environment; where our kids know they are in the driver seat, that the school is theirs and can be adapted to meet their learning needs however they may see fit.

We all reflect on a consistent basis, it’s a reflexive action, like breathing – but when we bring the intentionality to it, that’s when powerful learning and improvement will soar to heights we have never seen before.

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