What is the PYP?
The International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) is a curriculum framework designed for young learners, ages 3-12. The program focuses on the development of the whole child through an inquiry-based learning approach, which capitalizes on the inborn curiosity of children.
The PYP is transdisciplinary allowing students to learn across subject areas while investigating or tackling big ideas. The same tenets embraced by the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP) such as making connections to the real world, taking on a global perspective, developing attributes of life-long learning and embracing second language learning are also integral to the PYP. Over 970 schools worldwide are authorized to deliver the PYP, 342 of those schools are in the United States (IBO, 2012).
How do we believe children learn?
In the PYP, we believe that children learn when they connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. The role of the PYP teacher is to provide opportunities for students to ask questions, build meaning, and refine understanding through structured inquiry. In the process, the children learn important social, thinking, research, self-management and communication skills necessary for learning and life. When students learn to acquire, organize and communicate knowledge, they become independent learners, capable of pursuing knowledge beyond the classroom.
The PYP curriculum model ensures that the learning is significant, relevant, engaging and challenging, so that the child can reflect on the connections between school life, life at home and life in the world. By helping the child make the connections and see that learning is connected to life, the learning activities in a PYP framework are exciting and establish a strong foundation for future learning.
What is the transdisciplinary approach and how does it foster better learning?
In the PYP, students learn about globally significant concepts through units of inquiry. The six transdisciplinary themes that guide units of inquiry and compose a year of study are:
• Who we are
• Where we are in place and time
• How we express ourselves
• How the world works
• How we organize ourselves
• Sharing the Planet
Units of Inquiry will interweave subject areas such as language arts, science and social studies. This approach encourages students to make their own connections between what they learn in core subject areas and how it relates to the world around us. Students in grades K-5 will study a unit from each of the six transdisciplinary themes, while students in Pre-Kindergarten study Who We Are, How We Express Ourselves, and two other units chosen by the teachers. Every PYP school has a “big picture” which is called a Programme of Inquiry (POI) that shows the school-wide view of what is being taught throughout all grade levels. See our POI in the school by the 1st grade Pod.
What is a Programme of Inquiry (POI)?
PYP schools use a whole-school approach to develop a POI that provides students with experiences that have a logical sequence and build upon each other from year to year. The Units of Inquiry within the POI are based on the same core knowledge dictated by State Department of Education, currently assessed by the MSAs within the single subjects. The core and cultural arts subjects are interwoven within the PYP unit of study as much as possible. In a PYP school, teachers within the grade levels have collaboration time with each other and with cultural arts teachers to develop rich Units of Inquiry that are creative, transdisciplinary and arts integrated.
A school’s POI is posted prominently within the school. Knowledge of this big picture can help the learning community always know what is going on and encourages further collaboration among teachers and parents. It is akin to a road map and can be a great way to stay informed with your child’s PYP education journey.
How does the PYP foster a student’s personal and social-emotional development?
The PYP aims to develop transdisciplinary skills and addresses the various needs of the child- physically, socially, intellectually, aesthetically and culturally. The PYP also promotes the characteristics of a life-long learner that we call the IB Learner Profile, which supports children in becoming: inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, balanced and reflective. The Learner Profile often becomes ingrained in the culture and vocabulary of the whole school. The PYP also describes twelve attitudes that support the achievement of the traits of an IB learner: appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect, and tolerance.
IB provides great guidance for teachers in the planning and development process of the Units of Inquiry that ensure time is spent on important PYP essential elements such as the attitudes along with the other elements of knowledge, concepts, skills and action. Use of the PYP planners during the planning process helps keep the curriculum fresh and is aimed at keeping strategies varied in a way that benefits all children in the room. Acceptance of others differences is a central part of the IB Philosophy and Mission.
How will I know what and how my child is doing?
Stay informed with what Unit of Inquiry is being studied in your child’s classroom through the POI. Each unit has a pre-assessment to determine what your child knows already, ongoing assessment tasks within the activities to gauge the acquisition of knowledge and development of understanding, and a summative assessment which is often a project that may require help from home. The IB promotes the use of a range of assessment strategies, which are designed to give you a well-rounded picture of your child’s progress with a Unit. This may look different from a non-PYP classroom through the use of portfolio work, reflections, student-led conferences and via reports home that include progress on developing Learner Profile attributes.
Reflection on what we learn is a constant theme for the IB PYP students and teachers. If a classroom is keeping reflection journals of their PYP work, which could be a great entry point for inquiring into what your child is learning. Students are often asked to map out their own learning goals and revisit them time to time. Self and peer-assessment are also often used in the PYP which can enhance the students understanding of an assignment’s purpose but also encourage them to take greater ownership in the quality of the work they do.
How does the PYP promote International Mindedness?
The PYP transdisciplinary themes have global significance; they promote an awareness of the human condition and an understanding that there is a commonality of human experience. PYP learning experiences infuse global points of view wherever possible in order to promote understanding of other cultures. The IB learning community across all programmes (PYP, MYP and DP) will communicate local opportunities, social and educational, that promote International-mindedness.
Your child’s language program is another avenue to develop international-mindedness. World language learning takes place in grades 2-5 of a PYP school and some schools may choose to extend this opportunity to younger students as well. A school’s additional language and the countries where it is spoken become the subject of interest, inquiry and eventually school identity.
What kind of Language Learning Opportunities are found in a PYP School?
First and foremost, the PYP recognizes language as a medium of inquiry, providing opportunities to challenge, nurture and develop both first and second language speakers. On-going language development for PYP students is the responsibility of all – teachers, parents and students. A distinguishing factor of a PYP education is the addition of a non-mother tongue, second language to the curriculum. Second language training must begin in the 2nd grade of a PYP school. PYP schools generally offer one additional language, though some schools provide more. A school’s second language instruction can be a gateway to learning about the cultures where the language is spoken. It is another way a cross-cultural and internationally-minded identity is deepened within the school.
Additionally, PYP in AACPS recognizes that exposing children to second language instruction at an early age has cognitive benefits such as improving the ability to direct and focus attention and switch between tasks. In addition, language learning strategies can be applied to other areas of learning and can positively affect problem-solving skills and creativity.
How can I as a parent support my child?
• Inquire into what he/she is learning through the school’s POI and your child
• Support what they are learning in school by helping them at home
• Support and enrich classroom learning through family field trips
• Reflect on their schoolwork together
• Ask questions together and encourage your child to investigate things about which they are curious
• Read PYP Newsletters
• Volunteer to share your experiences (i.e. job, living abroad, another language spoken at home)
How can I learn more about the IB and PYP?
• Visit the IB website at www.ibo.org
• Attend school meetings and events
• Speak to your school’s PYP Coordinator
• Speak with your child’s PYP classroom teacher
How does a PYP Classroom differ from other elementary classrooms?
Six-week long units cross subject areas to create a more fluid program of study that helps students make real-world connections between subject areas using the state curriculum and enhanced by international-mindedness and engaging learning activities. Students “DO” and actively construct knowledge in groups and individually. Teachers guide, facilitate, and instruct. Students and teachers reflect on the teaching and learning process and outcomes.
How does a PYP classroom provide challenge for advanced learners?
All learners are challenged to construct meaning from the content to which they are exposed. The pre-assessments help determine which topics within the unit students already know or need to know more about, thereby allowing teachers to tailor learning activities appropriately for all students. The practice of choice in manners of investigations and in the presentation of knowledge allows students to cultivate interests and abilities.