Do you miss the classroom?


I have been asked this question a lot over the past 7 months as I have moved into my new position this year as Assistant Principal / PYP Coordinator after 15 years of teaching.


My answer…….

Yes, I miss having ‘my class’ ………. but I love being a part of every class in the elementary school!
Yes, I miss learning alongside ‘my class’ …….. but I love that students from all the classes invite me in to be a part of their inquiries, field trips, and learning!
Yes, I miss interactions with ‘my students’ families’…… but I love discussing the school with parents from all grade levels and gaining insights from their perspectives!

With my new role comes new opportunities as well.
-coaching teachers in relation to where they are in their learning journey
-supporting and planning our Programme of Inquiry with each grade level team and integrators
-promoting and encouraging a culture of professional learning

Just to name a few

As I continue to grow into my new role, I hope I never feel like I left the classroom.
I want to always remain a part of why I am in education, for the students and their learning.

Posted in leadership, PYP | 1 Comment

Situational Leadership II – Choose how to lead

LBAI’ve recently just finished my third PTC course, Leadership and Team Dynamics. During the week, each of us scored ourselves using the LBAII (Educator’s Leader Behavior Analysis II) in order to find out more about our perceptions on our leadership style. After completing this I was able to explore how flexible I am in my leadership style as well as the effectiveness of my leadership style.

Seeing as I am about to move into my first leadership position next month, Assistant Principal/PYP Coordinator, I found this to be very informative and useful.

A quick overview of Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model can be seen below. For any goal or task, the goal is to match the leadership style to the development level of the individual.   Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 3.40.41 am My takeaways:
-My results indicate that I do coach a lot, but I now see that not every individual calls for that type of leadership.
-I need to assess the developmental level of the teacher in relation to the task or goal in order to determine the most effective type of leadership…….Differentiate for the teachers!
-There is no one BEST leadership style, as it is situational based.

Do you feel your school leadership team members are flexible in their leadership styles?
If you are in a leadership position, how do you reflect on your leadership?

Posted in differentiation, leadership | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Collaborative Planning, more than just working together

photo-15The PYP Programme Standards and Practices
Standard A
Practice 3.b
The school as a community of learners is committed to a collaborative approach to curriculum development.

We know collaborative planning is more than just teachers working together on a document. It is a group of thinkers, discussing ideas, asking questions, clarifying thoughts, challenging opinions, respecting others, and furthering our understandings. Collaboration allows individuals to share their knowledge, ideas, and experiences in order to actively participate with others.

At my current school, we are working on improving our collaborative planning among grade levels teams and specialists. In support of this goal, a colleague at our school shared a document on collaboration she received from Hamidah Abdul.


Single Subject Teacher ­ Stages in constructing transdisciplinary curriculum copy-3 by Skrtic

With the support and resources I have read about from my wonderful PLN and various workshops, I implemented a few new tools to help my G3 team collaboratively plan with our Mandarin department and Arts teacher for our next UoI, How We Express Ourselves. We are trying to model a Level 1 collaboration from the document above.

We first started with a graphic organizer to help get a better picture of the transdisciplinary nature of the unit. This organizer was introduced to me during my IB PYP Online Workshop, Transdisciplinary Learning.




The teachers really liked this organizer and found it easy to refer to as we discussed the unit.





I then introduced a few tools that were shared via @sherrattsam to help in the collaborative process. You can find his Scribd documents here
These included an organizer to ensure primary sources were discussed to make the inquiry more powerful.







I also included another of his tools so that we could look at this unit through the different subject lenses.









There are other helpful resources posted by @sherrattsam as well on the above Scribd link.
Back in August, 2012, the #pypchat topic was collaborative planning and there were also a lot of valuable resources referenced there as well.

What does collaboration planning look like in your school?


Posted in collaboration, integration, international teaching, PYP, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Doing Differentiation?

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 10.22.25 AMHave you ever heard, “how do you do differentiation?” As many resources tell us, differentiation is not something you do and tick off, it is more an ongoing philosophy or approach where we continue to really know our students and plan for their changing needs. In order to do this, we utilize various strategies that support this philosophy and approach.

Teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile:

  • Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;
  • Process – activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;
  • Products – culminating projects that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit; and
  • Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels.

(Excerpted from: Tomlinson, C. A. (August, 2000). Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary Grades. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.)


At my current school one of our Divisional Goals is the following:

 In order to meet the needs of all students, we will continue to plan for and practice differentiated learning throughout the ES grade levels and programs.


To help support this goal, we have implemented a few strategies/practices:

-We surveyed our staff to find internal resources on various strategies. (Modified this document)

-During planned faculty meetings, different teachers present and share samples of strategies they have used. Each time we have teachers share, we add another folder with resources for that particular strategy.

-Created a resource bank for teachers to pull from.

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We are also implementing a simple code for differentiation to document our approaches in our planners.

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We are on a continuous journey in our approach to differentiation.
What are you doing at your school to keep the differentiation discussion and philosophy alive?

Posted in differentiation, PD, teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transdisciplinary Skills are…..

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 5.17.39 PMIn Making the PYP Happen document it states the following:

Within their learning throughout the programme, students acquire and apply a set of transdisciplinary skills: social skills, communication skills, thinking skills, research skills and self-management skills. These skills are valuable, not only in the units of inquiry, but also for any teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom, and in life outside the school.

I have been talking about these skills a lot lately with colleagues at my school.
Some important questions have surfaced during these discussions and I am hoping to
hear from some of you regarding your thinking and practice with regard to these skills in the PYP.

What do these skills look like in your school?
How are they including in teaching and learning?
How are they assessed?
How are they reported on to parents? Expressed in narratives, on a Meeting Expectations Continuum?
Do teachers share a common understanding of what the skills look like throughout the grades? (below is part of a sample of a shared document on TD Skills)

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 5.00.37 PM



I would love to hear about your school and their work with the transdisciplinary skills. Here are some thoughts on Transdisciplinary Skills from Grade 3 students.

TD Skills from Sharyn Skrtic on Vimeo.

Posted in assessment, international teaching, PoI, PYP, transdisciplinary skills, unit of inquiry | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What do your students know? Just Listen

This is just a quick reminder of one of the many different ways in which to gain information about our student’s prior knowledge.
Think about the information this pre-assessment discussion provides me in order to plan for engaging, appropriate and differentiated learning opportunities.

KSTI PreMeasure from Sharyn Skrtic on Vimeo.

Some information collected:
-student’s prior experience with measurement (i.e. grocery store)
-student’s current vocabulary (i.e. insulator)
-student’s current misconceptions (what Celsius temperatures mean)
-properties of containers to judge capacity (width, height)

Would I have gained this much information from having the students complete an independent worksheet?

Students construct meaning by drawing on their prior knowledge and experiences. As a teacher, the more I find out and acknowledge what students already know and can do, the more I can challenge them beyond their current understandings.

Posted in assessment, Math | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google Portfolios model “Making the PYP Happen” and “ICT in the PYP”

“Schools have a responsibility to show evidence of student learning. Portfolios are one method of collecting and storing information that can be used to document and assess student progress and achievement.” – Making the PYP Happen

“Learners’ awareness, use and appreciation of different ICT knowledge, skills and platforms should be developed.” – The Role of ICT in the PYP

We want students’ portfolios to
-celebrate a student
-show a student’s progress and development
-provide space for students to reflect on their work
-provide space for students to set goals
-show development of knowledge, conceptual understanding, transdisciplinary skills, attitudes and attributes of the learner profile over a period of time.

We want the following transdisciplinary ICT skills to be relevant to all learners
-becoming responsible digital citizens

In the past I have always implemented hard binder portfolios in my classroom. A few years ago, I added ‘some’ things on the computer to compliment the hard binder portfolio. This year, my students are up and running with their own portfolios in Google Sites. These portfolios are open and linked to our class blog homepage,




A homepage of a student portfolio (click on image to be directed to portfolio site)



Portfolio entries should document both the process of learning and the product, including images and evidence of students in the process of constructing meaning. By using Google Sites for our portfolios we are able to provide the opportunity for authentic embedding of ICT across the curriculum.

Classroom and specialist teachers are collaborating together with the students to show evidence of their learning.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 12.32.55 PM


Students are using ICT to create their learning space, communicate their learning with others, organize their evidence into portfolio entries, and demonstrate they can be responsible digital citizens through their online presence in the portfolio.

We have just started our school year, but I already see the students understanding the value of the portfolios as a continual process for their learning. And by linking their portfolios to our class blog, they are learning as part of a broader community of learners and gaining an authentic audience for their sharing.

All of our students in G3-G5 have Gmail accounts. We use open class blogs and open student portfolios.
How are your students using portfolios?

Posted in assessment, integration, PYP, PYP Attitudes, PYP Profile, technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Working with ConferApp

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 12.34.08 PMIn January of 2013, I attended my 3rd 21st Century Learning Hong Kong conference. I attended a session with Jeff Dungan

(@jdungan) on the Confer App. It looked like an effective and efficient tool to use in the classroom. I played around with it a little the rest of the school year but didn’t end up using it in any big way.

This year I decided to utilize the Confer App on my iPad as one of my main teaching tools from day one.

If you are unfamiliar with the Confer App, please check out this site for more information. Confer is a ‘powerful student observation and note taking tool’. Gone are the days of clipboards with anecdotal post-it notes constantly falling off. All of your student data can now be in one place and easily manipulated to better plan and differentiate for your students.

I started by inserting my class roster and text for specific subject areas I wanted to keep student data on.
In the beginning I had a little trouble inputting text into some fields. But with a quick email to David Lowe, creator, (@conferapp) I had an answer and solution within a day or so. I love when the support for a tool is really there!

Some of the features I really like and wanted to highlight for you include the following:


The first screen in Confer lists all your subject groups you want to include.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 12.59.21 PM


You can easily group your students for differentiated reasons. Students can easily be moved from one group to another.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 1.00.54 PM

You can search for a particular skill or concept to identify quickly which students need support in that area.


When you view by date, it is easy to see which students have not met with you recently and therefore helps you plan your group time for the day.


This is an example of text you can import and just click on when adding notes on a particular child. Any time you add any text it becomes available to click on for other students.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 1.19.04 PM

I am at the beginning of my journey with Confer, but so far I am happy to have  made the decision to use this app this year. I have found it super easy to collect observations and notes on my students. Differentiating lessons and small groups for readiness levels, interests, and learning styles is right at my finger tips. The Getting Started Guide included is very clear and helpful as well.

From what I hear there will be updates to this app as well, including the ability to add photos to notes, which I am really looking forward to.

If you haven’t checked this app out I highly recommend that you do. It may just be the right tool for you in your classroom. (Well worth the $14.99)


Posted in apps, PYP, PYP Attitudes, PYP Profile, Reading, science, teaching, technology, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thinking about Effective Feedback

IMG_1222I just recently wrapped up my second PTC (The Principals‘ Training Centre) course, ‘Assessment Leadership in the International School’ in Miami, Florida. You can read about my first course from 2012 here.

When I reflect back on the week, I think a statement @bambibetts shared with the participants from the Wallace Foundation serves as a basis for why leaders should take this course. “Leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success”.

From knowing and understanding assessment to leading the assessment process, this course provides school leaders with beneficial research and best practice.

As I did with my course last year, I would like to share one of the MANY takeaways from this course for you to reflect on with regards to your own school.


Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 11.34.33 PMFeedback – information on how we have performed in relation to a stated goal


Consider research on feedback (which we just can’t ignore)

John Hattie (2009)
Feedback has an effect size of 1.13
With relation to influence on student achievement

Ruth Butler (1986)
Students given only comments scored on average 30% higher

Think about your school…

What kind of feedback are your teachers providing?
Descriptive? -focused on intended learning outcomes i.e. ‘waiting your turn, like you did, is an example of respect’

Is the feedback CORRECTIVE and given in a TIMELY manner?

Since feedback is delivered after a retrieval attempt (assessment), is there more than one retrieval opportunity for students to apply feedback? Without penalty?

Does feedback offer STRATEGIES to close gap between desired learning and present position in that learning?

The above questions are crucial if your intention is student learning!

Other questions to think about…..
Are there effective characteristics of feedback included in your assessment policy?
Are your teachers held accountable for effective feedback in your teacher evaluation scheme?

Please share any assessment policy statements your school may have on effective feedback.


Posted in assessment, international teaching, PD | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Linking Children’s Literature to PYP Profile/Attitudes

“The aim of all the IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.” (Making the PYP Happen)

The IB Learner Profile Attributes and Attitudes are relevant to both students and adults in a PYP school. By modelling and including them in all aspects of the school, students become more aware of them and build an appreciation for them.

IB Learner Profile

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IB Attitudes

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Teachers should look for authentic demonstrations of the Profile Attributes and Attitudes in the daily lives of the students in order to help students reflect on and develop their own set of values.

Using children’s literature has always been a valuable resource in classroom instruction. Children often are able to connect to the characters, situations, etc. that come alive when being read aloud a book or when reading independently. A lot of international schools have generated library lists linking various texts to the IB Learner Profile Attributes and Attitudes for teachers to utilize in the classroom.

Bleagh! A book about values is a new children’s book by Leana Doray, a former PYP teacher. I’ve already had the privilege of reading this new release and am excited to share it with my class this coming August. It will provide a nice link to the ongoing discussions and vocabulary in my PYP classroom.

front cover v14-copy


As a lot of international students have experience with, Bleagh is the new student, or Monster, at school! He is on a journey to learn important values and make new friends.

As you can see from this sample page, there is a clear link to some of the IB Profile and Attitudes throughout Bleagh’s first day of school.



Visiting the Bleagh Website will provide more information on the book as well as offer learning engagements and resources related to the book. Click here to go directly to the website. 

Bleagh! A book about values is available at all Kinokuniya outlets, online at Kinokuniya’s website and all Times Bookstores. For international readers, “BLEAGH!” is now available as an eBook on the Amazon Kindle and will soon be available on Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iBook platforms.

I hope to share a future blog post after I use the book with my G3s in August.

Does your school have any relevant/favorite titles they use to support a specific IB Learner Profile or Attitude?

Posted in international teaching, PYP, PYP Attitudes, PYP Profile, Reading, teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments