Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

Archive for the category “Staff Development”

Kindergarten PYP at PWE Cafe Chat

For the beginning of 2019, we here at Prairie Waters wanted to share a bit of teacher and student perspective on what being involved in teaching and learning of the PYP at PWE means for all of us. This is a follow up to the video we created last year to tell the story of Prairie Waters:

This next monthly series will be a chance for each grade team to sit down for a Cafe Chat podcast and share their passions, curiosities and hope for education here at Prairie Waters. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know our staff just a little bit better, and feel their enthusiasm for and commitment to their work and their learners every single day we are in the school learning community. We hope that this will spark more points of conversation for you to reach out and engage with all of us here at the school and get to know how YOU can be involved in the exciting experiences happening here at Prairie Waters on a daily basis!

First up, is our wonderful Kindergarten team! Ms. Echtner and Ms. Michie sat down to chat a bit about the early years and their thoughts and perspectives of what matters (and who matters) when considering a successful learning journey. Grab a beverage, cozy up and take a listen to what they have to say! Please feel free to leave any comments you may wish to add to the conversation once you have heard their thoughts.


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.

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.

A New Year and New Energy!

Our first month of school is almost behind us! We’ve spent time as a staff revisiting RVS’ 4 year plan, the priorities that we mapped out from the 4YP as well as our School Ed. Plan. Some of the main components to be surfacing for the learning community at Prairie Waters are:

  1. The learning environments that we establish for our students: being more mindful about the layout, spaces and contents of our classrooms
  2. Community involvement and engagement: finding ways to not only connect with the community to “get” from them, but also how we will “give back”
  3. Providing authentic learning experiences for students: Using provocations, questions and experiences to spark thinking curiosity and action in our units of inquiry
  4. Becoming global citizens and increasing our Personal Learning Networks: Utilizing social media platforms to connect and share with other learners around world

Grade teams have been reviewing their grade level Programme of Inquiry. Modifying, re-structuring and discussing how to best integrate curricular concepts within the units of inquiry in ways that make sense and allow for deeper exploration and discovery. There is excitement around the idea of completely changing a unit where there used to be hesitation. There is a stronger desire to be transdisciplinary in our planning when it comes to curriculum integration where there used to be confusion about how to do so. There is more of a disposition of inquiry where it used to be just an add-on on the daily schedule.

Almost 90% of our classrooms have an active class Twitter account where they are sharing photos, student quotes and reaching out to other classes and groups around the world. All of our classrooms have an active class blog where learning is shared and information is communicated (this can be shared either by teachers, or students who are guest posters). All students have their digital portfolios up and running to document their learning journey. We would love for you to give our classrooms a follow on Twitter, check out their class blogs and come visit their classrooms to see how students are at the centre of the classroom design, learning opportunities, action initiatives and overall making Prairie Waters the best place to be!

We hope you come visit us soon!

March Madness!

March has seen a flurry of activity at Prairie Waters!

  1. We are about to embark on our first PYP Exhibition at the end of the Month. We’ve held Parent information sessions, we’ve begun talking with the students about what Exhibition is, and what their roles are within it, as well as what are the roles of everyone else around them. We’re tuning them in to issues (local and global) that they are passionate about, that they could potentially take on in their Unit of Inquiry. Through our discussions, we’ve had the students reflect on their initial thinking about the Exhibition. You can read all about what’s going on in the grade 5 classrooms, see pictures documenting their progress leading up to, and throughout the unit, as well as the students’ reflections on our Prairie Waters PYP Exhibition blog. The Transdisciplinary Theme that the Exhibition falls under this year is How We Express Ourselves, and the central idea that the students will be focusing on is Passions and beliefs inspire people to action. If you’d  like to come out and spend some time with our grade 5’s over the course of their Exhibition, to see what learning they are engaged in – the invitation is always open! The students are excited about sharing their passions and beliefs with a wider audience than their classroom.
  2. Our school based Professional Learning day last Friday saw our staff looking more deeply at Conceptual Based Teaching and Learning (check out the previous post in this blog, to see the learning that we were engaged in). It was a highly engaging day, with lots of ‘Ah-ha’ moments and great enthusiasm about the possibilities moving forward in our understanding and application of concept based instruction. My reflections on the day can be found on my personal blog. We also began looking at our whole-school Programme of Inquiry and started conversations about recognizing vertical alignment and construction of concepts, rather than repetition and recycling of the same ideas. A major practice of the PYP is that we provide ample time for our teachers to reflect on, and refine our Programme of Inquiry, to ensure that we are constantly building on students’ conceptual understanding as they move up in the grades, rather than re-doing and revisiting the same thing. While we acknowledge that revisiting concepts in crucial in a students deeper development of understanding, it’s important that we are also building and moving forward, rather than hearing the students say, “we did this already”. The process of fine-tuning our Programme of Inquiry will take some time, but the conversation has started, and we’ll continue working on it as we move forward into the next school year.
  3. We have been brainstorming the transformation of our library into a learning commons to shift the heart of our school to be more student-centered and flexible. Our committee has met several times to discuss the possibilities, and we’ve invited school staff and students to share their ideas with us as well, by drawing up a blueprint of what they think our learning commons could look like.
  4. Our final Community of Practice Professional Learning day on Monday saw the majority of our staff engaged in student digital portfolios. The day was an opportunity for teachers to put themselves in the shoes of the students, and try out some of the different web tools and apps available to our students to demonstrate their learning. We understand that reflection and metacognition is an important aspect of a student’s learning journey, and our digital portfolios will be the space where that learning can be captured, documented and reflected upon. It is a key piece in the Communication of Student Learning.
  5. Solar panels, from the action taken from some of our previous students at Prairie Waters have finally been installed! It is so fantastic to see the action that some of our former students took on, finally coming to fruition and making a difference in the energy use at our school.

Always exciting times at Prairie Waters! Wonder what April holds in store?

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