Author Archives: Jessica B.

Reading and Literature Circles

Inspired by Nic’s post, I thought I would write about reading as well.

We don’t follow a reading program, and believe that students should be free to choose their books. As part of this, students engage in a literature circle with their peers. I have not had much experience with this, as I never had class sets (or group sets) of books before, but I do know that when students engage together in reading, they usually are more passionate.

Recently I have been letting the students “get on” with their literature circle books, I let them take control of where they are going. The groups meet three times a week in the mornings and usually just read together. They have started to use the reading strategies we used together in class, such as Wondering out loud and Stop and Think.

In guided reading, I tend to read out loud, and so far most of the books were picture books. The last book we read though was The Twits, a student choice. And we started talking about characters, out of the blue. And without prompts, the next time the literature circles met, they talked characters too. In order to help them structure their exploration of characters, I suggested using mind-maps, which seemed quite successful.

It’s amazing how well students respond to strategies they find meaningful. It’s great to see them transferring the skills across the disciplines, using wondering out loud strategies in Math and as part of their unit of inquiry.

The First Steps resource has been useful to me, I have been trying to make use of some of the suggested strategies in there.

What do you do for reading? Do you have a literature circle approach?


Leave a comment

Filed under Language, Reading

Call for help! We want to talk to you!

Grade 3 are looking to speak to people who have been directly effected by disaster/natural phenomena situations, or responded in aid to those situations.

The students are inquiring into: Humans RESPOND and ADAPT to the continual changing nature of the earth, and are particularly looking at

Human responses to the Earth’s changes

right now.

We have been talking about how people respond in “disaster situations” as both directly effected people and as helper. We brainstormed ideas today (after I set the classroom up as a disaster zone) of how we could respond, and have already spoken to someone from a voluntary group in Italy called Protetzione Civile, who responded to the earthquake in Abruzzo.

The students are developing some questions, but generally just want to see what makes people act as as outsider (what makes us take action) and how people feel and deal with situations like that.

We would preferably skype with you, but if that is not possible, we would love some email contact with you.

Please comment if you can help us!!!


Filed under Uncategorized

Evidence of learning

What does understanding of this central idea look like?

“Humans respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the Earth”

Key Concepts: Change, form, causation
Related Concepts: Adaptation, movement

Lines of Inquiry:

  • How the Earth changes and continues to change
  • Why the Earth changes
  • Human’s responses to the Earth’s changes
  • How the different components of the Earth are interrelated

The summative assessment is an open-ended performance task: Students propose and explain a way in which humans could respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the Earth in an area that has been effected by change.


This unit is taught in Grades 3 and 4 / 7-9 year-olds!




Filed under Uncategorized

Trans-disciplinary Skills Development

The International Baccalaurate defines the five essential elements of the Primary Years Programme as:

  • knowledge
  • skills
  • concepts
  • attitudes
  • action

Every unit of inquiry addresses those elements, as well as the Learner Profile attributes. When it comes to those, attitudes and skills, meaningful links can be made.

But this post is focusing on transdisciplinary skills development and what this could look like.

In Grade 3 we are focusing on Research and Thinking Skills. The skill I want to write about is the skills to formulate questions, which is essential for so many things, but in this case for research and inquiry.

This is how we are asking and formulating questions:

  • Wallwisher – the students can post questions at all times on the computer OR on the real-life WonderWall (they have been advising each other on how to make the questions “better”)
  • Thinking Aloud Reading Strategies – During shared reading, we stop and share our wondering
  • Stop and Think Reading Strategies (those also address the development of thinking skills esp. comprehension) – Again a strategy where we can formulate questions to help with understanding
  • The Big 6 information and technology skill development approach helped us to formulate our task and to focus on questions we should know answers to as experts in a particular field

1 Comment

Filed under Grade 3, Language, Learner Profile, PYP, PYP Essential Elements, Skills

Inquiring into Language

As part of our unit of inquiry The Changing Planet (Humans respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the earth) we are also exploring the language focus To explain.

The pre-assessment was a short, written task, where students had to explain their favorite game (after talking about what it means to explain something!). Yesterday the class was using our information literature for the unit of inquiry, not to look at content, but to look further at language.

Equipped with the prompts

– What is the purpose of the text?

– How is it written? (Now I think I should have linked more to the concept FORM here and probably asked What is it like? We did this during the lesson though)

– What words/language are being used?

– What else did you notice?

… the students went off in groups to explore the texts.

The initial plan was to have all of the groups look at all these aspects, but I rectified that during the lesson, as I asked each group to focus on one.

When we got back together, the answers were phenomenal, and provided us with the key features of explanation texts.

Today we will use our findings to self-assess the pre-assessment.

1 Comment

Filed under Grade 3, Language

Key concepts in the PYP

As posted at Stars And Clouds:

The PYP has five essential elements (knowledge, attitudes, skills, concepts and action) and the one I want to look at closer today are the concepts.

In A Basis for Practice, the IB states:

The PYP provides a framework for the curriculum, including eight key concepts as one of the essential
By identifying concepts that have relevance within each subject area, and across and beyond the subject
areas, the PYP has defined an essential element for supporting its transdisciplinary model of teaching and
learning. Expressed as open-ended questions, the eight key concepts provide the initial momentum and
the underlying structure for the exploration of the content of the whole programme

A recent blog post by Maggie @ Tech Transformation about Teaching for Understanding inspired me to reply, and while I was replying, I made an interesting connection between assessment and key concepts.
In addition to that, I have been reading Seven Practices for Effective Learning by Jay McTighe and Ken O’Connor in preparation for our assessment workshop on November 1/2. All this had my mind tuned into assessment and my current assessment practices.
The statement I made at Maggie’s blog was simply the thought that, ultimately, summative assessment is also a form of formative assessment and that, while it is defined as assessment OF learning (and formative assessment is seen as assessment FOR learning) and usually summarizes the learning at the end of a unit, we cannot just STOP there. And we don’t. Traditionally in Math, even your summative assessment will inform your teaching and learning, same goes for other disciplines.

However, units of inquiry do end. The transdisciplinary themes reoccur every year, but the central idea that focuses the learning during a unit, will “stop”. This is when I realized the importance of the eight key concepts, and saw that they are REALLY the focus. We assess the understanding of the central idea, but what underlies here are the key concepts. And so we assess the understanding of those as well, and they will reoccur, usually more than once a year.


Leave a comment

Filed under Concepts, PYP Essential Elements


Grade 3 at ISM responded to change today.
As I outlined in my previous post, the class moved from their classroom to the Design & Technology room today (also called the packed lunch room, which, in all honesty, might not have been a smart idea… the smell of food after lunch is a bit yucky!).

In the morning the learners (I don’t like the work students and I don’t think of the kids as “students” in the traditional sense either, so I am trying to use the term learners instead) were greeted by a message on their classroom door saying “Grade Three are in the DT room today”. That message caused confusion, because the room is not well known by its official name, and is usually referred to as the lunch room. However, I did stay in front of the room down the corridor, so I was able to direct those confused minds.

The questions came in right away. Why are we here? What are we doing here? Are we having lunch here? and so on… It was really hard not to say anything. I want to the students to have the experience before I make it explicit.
The chatting was hard to control in the morning, so I used the opportunity to continue talking… but about why we think we are here. There were some interesting thoughts, but I didn’t give a reason in the end. We are just in there.

I didn’t move anything much from the classroom, only pencils, their new reflective journals, and some books. To change their shoes, learners walked back to class. They did this 4 times today. To get materials for Math, they walked back to the classroom. This is in line with what I expected.

The learnerss responded in different ways…. there was confusion and more talk than usual, there was playing around with stuff from the DT room that they had never seen/used before. There was a lot of walking back and forth. Some frustration.

I am curious to see what will happen. It was business as usual though, we continued our normal class life.
At home, the students will tell their parents about today, and then complete some reflection…. I will do the same here.

1) What was different today. How and why?

I think I have already covered that up there!

2) One thing you found challenging in the DT room: I thought it was hard to find good ways to work in a room that is meant for something completely different. I missed my setup in class.

3) One thing you enjoyed in the DT room: I loved the way the students were so intrigued. I think this is a good provocation, so lets hope it will continue to develop…. as we continue to respond and start to adapt.


Filed under Concepts, Grade 3, How the world works, Learner Profile, PYP