Saturday, February 18, 2017

Unravelling the 6 PYP Transdisciplinary Themes

“Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.” 

If knowledge was an orange, then each of its juicy segments would ideally represent the transdisciplinary themes,

Who We Are
Where We are in Place and Time
How the World Works
Sharing the Planet
How We Organise Ourselves.

Just before the start of the exhibition, we decided to revise the descriptors of these 'segments', the TD themes,  in order to help our scholars recognise where their passions lay.

The challenge was to find a way to make the Grade 6's interested in these rather not so juicy descriptors.

And so this is how we went about it:


Scour through newspapers and identify as many articles that fit in with the six TD themes. Highlight the areas in the articles in order to justify your reasoning.

In groups of 6, collect articles related to a TD theme and create a collage with the articles. The collage needs to reflect some elements of the descriptor.


As the students flipped through the pages of newspapers, they realized that everything fit into the 6 themes!
By asking them to highlight areas, they had to repeatedly read the descriptors. This allowed them to easily recall and recognize the themes.
It was interesting to note how, at times, they were torn between two themes and finally decided to look at the purpose of the article in order to identify one dominant theme.

That busy hum.

Here is what some of the groups came up with. What I found interesting about the collages is that if you look closely enough, every article they are made up of, belong to that respective transdisciplinary theme.

How We Organize Ourselves

Where We Are in Place and Time

How the World Works

The last one was very metaphorical. You'll notice a kingfisher drawn in the front of the Shinkansen. The students attempted to show how technological advancements are made when humans closely observe how the natural world works.

The bullet train was a result of biomimicry.

I leave you with a short clip of a pretty little blue bird...



Was it designed?


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Snakes and Ladder and the 3 Way Learning Conference

Source :

As we were preparing for the 3 Way conference, some of the students realised they needed to deepen their thinking and practice using the unit vocabulary a little bit more.

I came across Peter Sanderson 's idea on twitter and loved it. And so did the kids.

Next time we will use the Wheel to bring variety to our tasks.

Watch the students  learn  through play!

Game board 1

Game board 2

Game board 3

Game board 4

Try it out. Click on this link and make a copy of it and let your student's come up with their own tasks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

5 classroom routines I plan to focus on for the next school year.


I plan to try and improve communication between our classroom, parents, and students. I'm not sure whether students or parents read my emails or get our classroom news. At times, they do not respond to the posts on Google Classroom. The silence from that side of the wall has been baffling, frustrating and a big challenge for me.

 I just may have found the solution.

The App Remind is an excellent way to overcome this problem. It is a great tool which ensures everyone receives the message instantly on their phones, and it need not be an iPhone or an android!

Last year, being new to Japan, I was unable to take advantage of the resources around me.This country's unique culture and history have much to offer. After reading Ron Berger's "An Ethic of Excellence", and seeing the powerful learning that can take place with the help of the community, I plan to actively learn more about and reach out in order to seek expert help from the community. For example,  the students do not have to just learn about famous people and write their biographies . They can seek out local citizens in their community, who have contributed to the society and make them the focus of their studies. Creating information booklets about these unsung heroes and inviting them to school in order to formally recognize them, is a far more powerful way of tackling the unit on role models.
Culture of Critique 

...Or assessment for learning. Of course, as a PYP educator, this is our primary focus; yet I realize the enormous scope for improvement. Setting high standards, and encouraging students to persevere and come up with multiple* drafts will require that I give them more time than I normally do. I will NOT rush to cover the curriculum. Being a teacher for prospective MYP students does put a bit of pressure on us.
* Berger refers to one of his students creating over 10 drafts to achieve the set standards. What I liked about his attitude towards  formative assessment  was the fact that student either achieved the standard or the work was considered NOT DONE.
My students have been keeping a record of their learning journey in portfolios. Next year, our school will encourage students to create E-portfolios; however, I still intend to keep a binder and will encourage the students to use it more often than once a week. Just like college graduates who create job portfolios, I am excited at the prospect of  reinventing, re-energizing this area of assessment. Our portfolios next year will be a living, breathing testimony to the hard work we put in as a community of learners.
Based on  how much my students relished and enjoyed meditating every morning, (even the reluctant, fidgety ones sought it out in the end), I intend to start our day by switching on the diffuser (I have a choice of bergamot, rosemary, and lemongrass and cinnamon aroma oils), draw the blinds, bathe the classroom in the mellow light of a few lampshades and meditate for 10 minutes... every single day for the rest of the year. If nothing achieved by this, we will have at least set a routine and created a signature classroom culture. Unless , of course ,anyone else wants to emulate!
These are my goals for next year.
What are yours?

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Art of Conversation

"True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.
I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think."


The students in grade 6 are developing their understanding of the world around them by reading news articles from the website newsela. What I like about this website is that it allows you to make the article accessible to students of different reading levels.

It was not the perfect lesson. Students were not following the rules of our socratic seminar. In the beginning, the first group of inner circle students felt nervous and kept repeating key points, without giving evidence from the text. 

A bit of background about the content?

They read the following article: (chosen by a  few students)

Candidate dismisses criticism of his plan to keep Muslims out of U.S.

Activity: Socratic Seminar.

What I liked about this first part of our experience was that two students who generally hardly come forward to share their learning, volunteered to be part of the inner circle. As a class, it seems we had managed to create a safe haven for them. This was a wonderful realisation for me!

And so, we tentatively went into the second round of our socratic seminar. They decided to change the question prompt a bit as they thought it would allow more room for their perspectives.

So from "Why do people vote for Donald Trump?" to
"Would you vote for someone like Donald Trump?" made a huge difference to the quality of conversation as you can see below.

Hope you can take the time to look at the videos!

 (with the second improvised question)


This video was based on the first question.
It's amazing how a powerful question can promote discussion among people, isn't it?

Thanks for reading.


Monday, April 4, 2016

How Reading Looks Like in Grade 6

"No two persons ever read the same book."

–Edmund Wilson 

Our students are learning to read with expression.

After visiting the website they got to hear what a good reader does as she reads a story aloud.
  • They speak clearly. 
  • They modulate their voice depending on the character's feelings and situation, and when different characters are introduced at various points in the story. 
  • They pause for effect. They cackle, and sob, and rasp away...
Skill Factor 
The students practiced reading to a buddy; and then they read aloud at home.

Will Factor
Most students took on the challenge of reading out aloud to an audience. In class, we have often spoken about moving out of our comfort zone in order to learn. This learning engagement provided the perfect opportunity for them to do so.

Thrill Factor
Listening to the final product, and realizing that they have met their success criteria gives the students the confidence they need to set the bar higher. They also get to see each other's videos and learn from them.

Come and let us listen to them...

Once upon a time... 








Hana Y

What if Kid's narrated BBC's Planet Earth?

Take a look...


A reflective maths post

“So few people are really aware of their thoughts. Their minds run all over the place without their permission, and they go along for the ride unknowingly and without making a choice.” 

The grade 6s have been inquiring into Mean Median Mode and Range.

This lesson required the students to collaborate and discuss various strategies as they used their knowledge of the topic to solve a problem. We used Jo Morgan's website Resourceaholic to access this activity. This website is a highly recommended one!

The students had to match the graph with the data. One of the data had been erased, making the activity a little more challenging than the day before.

They had to organize and show case their group effort.

After the activity, we had a plenary session where the students discussed different strategies they used. These were the guiding questions:

Use your knowledge of today's lesson and answer the following: (( Already discussed in our plenary (concluding) session today.))

1. Which cards were the easiest to match? Why was this?

2. Which cards were difficult to match? Why was this?

3. When matching the cards, did you always start with the bar chart/statistics table? Why was this?

4. Did anyone use a different strategy?
5. Did you enjoy the lesson? Why or why not? Please be very honest with yourself.

Maths Literacy :
Try and incorporate the following words in your reflection (maths exercise book). Please focus on quality presentation. (Date, title, good handwriting). Draw and illustrate your work to make it exciting for your poor teacher.

1. metacognition
2. time-consuming (when referring to 'Mean.')
3. strategy
4. misconception ( for example: when trying to figure out mode)

Enjoy your work and do your best!

This is what the students reflections looked like after our plenary session. It helped them use maths vocabulary effectively. It also helped them with their metacognition skills.

We leave you with a funny one!

Thank you for reading.