Leveraging Parents as Critical Partners in the PYP

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.51.43 pmConducting parent workshops on the essential elements of The Primary Years Programme (PYP) is key for your school. These workshops allow parents the opportunity to engage in the same learning process their children do on a daily basis, thus providing parents the chance to construct an understanding of an inquiry based PYP classroom. This in turn then strengthens communication between school and home.

The first workshop I facilitated for our parents this year was an overview of the essential elements of the PYP through an inquiry approach. Parents, both new to PYP and those who have experience with PYP, were able to connect their prior knowledge with new information and ask questions to take their learning forward. Using the Visible Thinking Routine, ‘I Used to Think…. But Now I think….‘ helped parents reflect on the workshop.

As this first workshop was an overview, a survey followed that afternoon. The data collected is now driving the next workshop focus.

“The workshop was an eye opener, helped me understand how the teachers work together and appreciate the inquiry based learning done at ISS.” (parent feedback)

In addition to workshops there are other ways we include parents as critical partners.
-Inviting parents into the classrooms/asking for volunteers to join class trips
-Using parents’ strengths, especially when authentically linked to units of inquiry
-Encouraging parents to communicate on our class blogs
-Parents modelling and promoting the Learner Profile

How do you engage parents at your school?
How do you support their role as critical partners?



Posted in leadership, parents, PD, PYP | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Putting #IBMO2015 into Action

20150323_134910 The IB AP Annual Conference in Macau is over and educators around Asia Pacific are heading back to their schools. The key question we should now be asking ourselves is, ‘How is this going to help my school improve student learning?’

After hearing inspiring and thought provoking keynotes from:
Ms. Julia Gillard
Dr. Michael Anderson
Prof. Fazal Rizvi, PhD

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and attending Breakout Sessions:
Developing International Mindedness through the integration of technology
Arts, iPads and the Creative Process
Visualizing the future: PYP/MYP/DP Network Session
Launching the IB guide to inclusive education: a resource for whole school development
Differentiation in the PYP Classroom
The Visual Arts as a platform for the exploration of social and emotional learning
Building a Professional Learning Culture
Assessment: The glue that binds teaching and learning


The following are some of my new questions as well as some actions steps for me to take.

  • Schedule a reflection follow up with the team from my school that attended the conference as we joined different breakout sessions. How can we use our take aways to support teachers and improve student learning?
  • Find out how I will get more involved in the development of education.
  • Allow students time to notice deeply and ask ‘Why’, then ‘Really why?’
  • Explore the room for creativity in all learning experiences.
  • Engage my PYP Network to discuss how we know we are supporting teachers and helping student learning to improve? What evidence can we collect? What more can we do?
  • Share the new IB guide for Inclusive Education with my school leadership team. Discuss how we can use the guide and self review framework.
  • Continue to keep differentiation and assessment as part of the dialogue during grade level team planning and reflecting.
  • Engage in an audit of our classroom practices in relation to Assessment for Learning. 

After your time in Macau, what is in your Action Plan?

Posted in assessment, differentiation, international teaching, PD, PYP | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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)

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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 , , , , | 2 Comments

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, g3ss.weebly.com




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.

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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 , , , , , , | 10 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.

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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