Lessons Learned from PYP Exhibition

This year was my first time being the lead teacher on the PYP Exhibition at my school. In the past two years I have served as a mentor, but this year was my opportunity to step up and take on the leadership of the PYP Exhibition.

I was fortunate to be supported by my school to attend ‘The Exhibition (Category 2)’ training the face-to-face format. I found that attending the training was beneficial to fully understanding the purpose of exhibition both in my role as a homeroom teacher but also as the PYP Coordinator. ‘

Lesson #1The Exhibition is the responsibility of all teachers within the programme.
The Exhibition is the culmination of the PYP, and as a result, it is a reflection of everything that the students have developed as learners throughout the programme, not only in the final year. Often, the teacher who is responsible for leading the group of students through the exhibition feels an added level of pressure as they are directly responsible for the group of students. Taking time to establish essential agreements and understandings around the purpose of exhibition and the scope of exhibition will help to lay the ground work for meaningful conversation regarding student’s exhibition experience.

Lesson #2 Invest in developing a detailed timeline in advance, but remain flexible!
There is no prescribed way to deliver the PYP Exhibition; however, there are many requirements as describe in the Exhibition Guidelines document. As a result, it is important to carefully consider what components of the exhibition process are required and allocated appropriate time and resources for them. Providing time for students to take community visits, have guest speakers, contact primary resources are all important elements to student led inquiry and all benefit from having a timeline. That being said, it is important to remain flexible and consider individual situations with professional judgement as learning is not a linear process.

Lesson #3 Build in time and provide tools for reflection throughout the process.
In order to help keep the focus of the exhibition on the process of learning, instead of completely on the final product, make sure to build in non-negotiable time for reflection. Some of the ways that it did this included:

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Daily Tracking Sheet

Daily tracking sheets – Students take a few minutes at the beginning and end of every day to set priorities, acknowledge progress, and identify next steps.
Weekly recap sheets – Each Friday, students had time to reflect on their week by answer open-ended questions and identifying the Learner Profile attribute, attitudes, and Approaches to Learning that they displayed, utilized, or applied that week.

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Open Ended Questions

Video Journals – At the completion of various stages of the inquiry process, students were provided with the same set of questions to answer. This was done multiple times and then students were able to look at how their answers were impacted by their research. By using the video format, it provided another modality for students to express themselves and talk about themselves as learners.


Lesson #4Communication is essential.
As the exhibition unit is a slightly different format from the rest of the programme of inquiry, it is essential to develop strong communication with the involved students, families, and wider school community to maintain a positive climate. It is important to acknowledge that exhibition will challenge the students involved, and there will be difficult situation to work through but at the core the process will be empowering and enjoyable for the students involved.

Lesson #5 – Document, document, document!
Take lots of pictures, shoot video, capture the learning in action. The exhibition process can be exhausting, overwhelming, and is over before you know it. Make sure to use technology to assist in the documentation process to help you remember all of the wonderful moments that happened throughout. Your documentation will be valuable to help with the assessment process, but also provides a vehicle for celebration.

Here is a video produced with some of my students talking about PYP Exhibition.

If you have other lessons that you have learned about PYP Exhibition, please comment below! We are better together, when we share and learn from each other.




Developing as Learners Through Transdisciplinary Learning

One of my favourite resources this school year has been Newsela, a website that provides a variety of non-fiction articles and the ability to adapt them to various Lexile scores (reading levels). Through Newsela I have found a number of articles that have directed related to our units of inquiry, and provided natural connections to real world topics and events.

Currently, we are looking at informative writing and our sharing the planet unit of inquiry. Today, I selected a Newela article on starfish that were dying in the Pacific Ocean. As our focus has been on informative writing, the students were using their ‘informative writing checklist’ to analyze the article and identify the strategies the author had utilized. This is a fairly standard learning activity that we have done before but today I got an interesting response after the lesson.

One student noticed that through that activity we had utilized our reading strategies (while reading the article, making predictions, etc.), our writing strategies by identify strategies the author gad utilize, and our inquiry skills as they were thinking about how the unit connected to our unity of inquiry and concepts! For me, that the student was able to articulate the different learning skills they were using was evidence that they are developing as learners!

Stop Motion Animation, Inquiry, and Metacognition

At integratED PDX, I attended a workshop called Making Thinking Visible with iPads facilitated by Michelle Cordy. Michelle teaches Grade 3/4 with 1-to-1 iPads. One of the ideas that I got from her workshop was about the use of stop motion animation apps such as iMotionHD in order to allow students to record their learning process and then think metacognitively about their learning experience.

The example that Michelle provided was students who were engaged in a bridge building activity. After they were completed the activity, the students were able to explain their strategies for building their bridge and draw on top of the photographs to show specific elements that they had identified. Being able to record and document the learning and thinking process, is such an authentic form of assessment that provides meaningful feedback for the student and teacher. This was such a powerful example of how an app like stop motion animation can be re-purposed for another use and redefine (R-in SAMR) the learning experience.

I think that the application for this type of learning activity is limitless in the K-12 environment. The stop motion apps are very easy to operate that even very young students would be capable of recording their learning process. The set up is also very minimal (a stand for the tablet or device with the app on it), and does not distract students during the learning experience. Most apps will allow you to adjust the amount of time between each picture being taken so depending on the length of the activity the appropriate time can be selected.

Some examples that I can think of are:
– recording science experiments
– recording group work
– process of creating a piece of art work
– solving math problems with hands-on manipulatives

When I got back to my class, I did a little bit of experimenting with this concept. I had not had time to have the app installed on my class set of iPads yet so I had my students take pictures manually and strung them together with Animoto. When my students were exploring various rocks and mineral samples, I had 1 member of each group take photos and upload them to Dropbox and then I was able to post the Animoto videos on my classroom blog, and students were able watch the video, reflect and to make comments about the learning and activity.

This is an example of the video that I produced for my students:

Using Maps/Infographics to Provoke Inquiry

As an inquiry based teacher, I am always searching for new strategies and ideas to provoke and engage my students in their own inquiries. One of the latest strategies that I have found effective is the use of maps and infographics as a way to engage students in questioning and searching for a deeper meaning. For my current unit of inquiry around the transdisciplinary theme “Who We Are”, as a learning community we have been examining the central idea

Children’s access to human rights is connected to their ability to survive and develop to their potential.

After “digging” in, my students were curious to know about what places around the world people had difficulty accessing their survival needs – which we had defined as food, water, shelter, health care, air, and education. One way I found to address this was to show them some maps/infographics that contained information to assist them in developing a deeper understanding.

I located the following maps:

Hunger Map 2012

Visual Representation of Hunger from World Food Programme

Visual Representation of Hunger from World Food Programme

Access to Water Map

Access to Improved Water Source

I provided the students the maps one at a time, and utilized TodaysMeet to operate a back-channel where groups of students (either 3 or 4 students) could post the observations and questions they had about each map. After each map, we would have a short class discussion about the trends they had observed.

Here are some of the observations and comments students made:

Hunger Map – It is so hard to feed a child in some countries around the world.
– Some people don’t have enough food for survival.
– We have access to good nutritious food in North America.
– Africa does not have enough food.
– There is a lot of hunger in Africa.
– We are very lucky to have lots of nutritious food.
– It is very cheep to feed a child every day. (There is an blue bubble on the map that indicates that it only costs $0.25 a day)
– We should donated food to organizations that deliver food to different countries arond the world.

Access to Water
– Look at how much water we have and how much Africa has.
– The maps are similar – the countries that have undernourishment also have lower access to water.
– The countries that don’t have good access to food and water are ‘poor’ countries.
– Food and water access must be related because the maps are so similar.
– If you don’t have water you cannot grow crops so if there is low access to water, they cannot grow nutritious food to eat.
– The bigger countries have more water and food.
– The maps are almost identical. Even though they display different things they look the same.

Life Expectancy– North America, Europe, and Australia have the longest life expectancy.
– Africa has the shortest life expectancy as a continent.

Thinking About All Three Maps Together
– Africa is a really poor continent – it has not a lot of water or food, and the shortest life expectancy.
– I think it is all connected.
– If you don’t have clean water and nutritious food, you are going to get sick a lot and have a shorter life.
– You cannot survive without food and water so people in places with poor access don’t life a long time.

Overall, using the maps/inforgraphics was a great way to stimulate discussion and have the students arrive at a deeper understanding of the connections between food, water, and survival.