Documenting our journey as a PYP school within Rocky View Schools

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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:

Remember Your Why.jpg


Student created central ideas

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

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

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

Developing a Central Idea

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

v1 Central idea creation

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

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

CI survey final vote

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

Learning = reflection on experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignite version 2.0

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

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

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

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



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

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 10.16.45 AM.png

Happy 1st Anniversary!

We are almost exactly one year to the day in celebrating our first year anniversary of becoming an authorized International Baccalaureate World School offering the Primary Years Programme. We have been working diligently to address the recommendations that were provided to us by the IB in our authorization report, as well, these align nicely with the goals that we are trying to achieve with Rocky View Schools’ Communication of Student Learning, and the 21st Century Competencies.

Our learners are becoming much more competent in the development of their individual digital portfolios, most will have a least one piece (if not more) in their portfolio to share with their parents as our learning conferences approach at the end of this month. The goal of our digital portfolios is multifaceted, as part of RVS’ Communication of Student Learning and the development of 21st Century Learner Competencies, we are aiming to better inform and include parents on their child’s learning journey, as well as encourage students to become more self-directed, and take ownership of their learning. This aligns with the PYP’s Approaches to Learning (Transdisciplinary Skills) in terms of Thinking Skills. We want our learners to be metacognitive (thinking about their thinking and learning and how they may improve upon it in the future). Reflection is critical to a portfolio. By reflecting upon their work, the learning that occurred, and the process they went through to gain knew knowledge and understanding, our learners will be able to better monitor themselves independently and and initiate strategies that will help them improve going forward, rather than relying on others to provide them their sole source of feedback. While our digital portfolios are private and password protected, we would still love to share them with you! Feel free to come on out to Prairie Waters any time and pop into classes or join our admin team to take a look at some of the work that has been going into our learners’ portfolios.

Another recommendation from IB was that we try to expand our presence and participate in the global IB community to the best of our ability. Last week, we had 7 teachers from Edmonton Catholic come down to spend the day with us. They were visiting from 2 other PYP schools and had the chance to visit our classrooms to watch our inquiries in practice, see how we are integrating and using technology and social media to propel our learning and ask questions and collaborate on ideas of how to better align our respective school’s individual Programmes of Inquiry. We feel very fortunate to be able to share our work with other schools, and hope to take advantage of the open invitation to go and visit their schools as well to learn and improve in our practice. Currently, I’ve also been in communication with a few other PYP Coordinators across North America who are throwing around the idea of organizing a North American #pypchat EdCamp style Professional Learning gathering. It would be great to be involved in both the planning and the product!

As our learners develop their research skills, we want to ensure that every child is successful in their personal or group inquiries. Our staff technology blog provides different posts, which share tips and tricks on how to provide learning environments and tools to our students so that they can reach their own personal level of success. A couple of the most recent additions to our blog are about using the speech function on laptops and iPads as well as making an audio comment/reflection on a digital portfolio piece, rather than a written reflection. By teaching our learners these tips, tricks and tools, we hope that they are again able to become more self-directed and confident in their own abilities to find, make sense of, interpret and do something with the information that is presented to them.

There’s always something exciting going on at Prairie Waters! Come hang out with us for a little bit, let our grade 5’s teach you how to create something on their iPads, let our Grade 3’s show you how to SPARK your learning by being active and getting your blood and heart pumping, get outside with our Grade 1’s as they explore and look for patterns all around us in the natural world. Our door is always open!

Conceptual thinking and learning

How do we address the key concepts in our class?

As one of the essential elements of the PYP, the IB States:

“Structured inquiry is a powerful vehicle for learning that promotes meaning and understanding, and challenges students to engage with significant ideas. In the PYP, there is a commitment to concept-driven curriculum as a means of supporting that inquiry…(The key concepts) are not, in any sense, the only concepts worth exploring. Taken together, they form a powerful curriculum component that drives the teacher and/or student constructed inquiries that lie at the heart of the PYP curriculum…(The key concepts) are presented in the form of key questions. It is these questions, used flexibly by teachers and students when planning and inquiry-based unit, that shape that unit, giving it direction and purpose.” (Making the PYP Happen, p. 15-17, )

Let’s start by Tuning In and Finding Out:

Choose one of the following linked blogs to read through carefully, with your lens of thinking focused on conceptual based thinking and learning within the classroom. As you read through your chosen blog, please open up our back-channel Today’s Meet chat and share some of your thinking, ideas and reflections upon reading the post. How has it sparked some ideas for you? What are you still wondering? Did you have any Ah-ha’s? If you have time to read another blog – go for it!

Edna Sackson – Concept Driven Learning

Adam Turner – Our Concept Questions – password to view: PWE3T

Edna Sackson – Building an Understanding of Digital Citizenship

How do we assess conceptual understanding?

  • Let’s discuss as a group what your take aways from these readings were.
  • What else is happening at PWE to address the Key Concepts in classrooms? Share with the group!
  • What do other PYP educators do?

Now we’ll move to Sorting Out and Going Further:

Concepts can be pulled from the different subject areas from which we teach. For this next activity – we ask that you split up from your grade team and choose one of the subject areas that are laid out on the chart papers around the room. There should only be one person from each grade team at each subject (except for Grade 1, because there’s just so many of you!)

  1. Brainstorm and record with your think-tank group all of the related concepts that you can think of for that subject. Keep writing until we tell you to stop!
  2. As a group, choose one of the related concepts that you came up with.
  3. Your next task is to generate questions that would guide your inquiry and lead to deeper thinking through the lens of 3 of the key concepts (form and function are factual based – don’t just rely on those for your questions! Though they may be needed at the start of an inquiry, Dig deeper and try to come up with questions using the more in-depth key concepts)

Use this to help you, if you need

PYP Key Concepts

Finally, let’s reflect and take action

So what? What did you gain from this? What do you understand to be important in terms of the key concepts and addressing them purposefully and regularly in the classroom?

Now what? What will you do with this?

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