Exploring key concepts through various subjects

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Inspiration behind the resource

Around the world, teachers are being challenged to rethink their practices. In times like this, I have found it tempting to revert back to more traditional teaching- To abandon the lofty ideas of transdisciplinary or conceptual teaching in lieu of more routine-centered, traditional, or didactic instruction. As a PYP teacher, I have had to call on my beliefs about education, about how children learn best, and about how to truly support independent agentic learners who are struggling to make sense in a drastically changed learning environment. So, let’s go back to our roots and think again about what it means to be a conceptual and constructivist educator. 

Planning conceptually is the pursuit of connection making. How can we connect ideas across disciplines and provide the most opportunity for meaningful transfer? Through the key concepts, we are given a language to explain and explore the world around us. These timeless and transferable concepts are a lens through which to process and assimilate new information. Understanding through concepts is like giving your brain a hashtag for organizing, sorting, and recalling its thinking. So, how better to help learners build meaning than through the key concepts?

I am a very tactile person. When I plan with teams, I usually have dog eared copies of the subject guides, Making the PYP Happen, and Principles to Practice strewn across my tables. I think it’s so essential to constantly revisit the PYP support material and read about the framework with fresh eyes or a new perspective when planning for a unit of inquiry. Although I am a big supporter of this practice, it is no longer practical. When planning independently or with teams, just like with students, I need easy to access and understand support materials. 

I designed these posters to make the PYP framework more accessible to the teachers on my teams. Rather than having to look through all of the subject guides to find the concept descriptors organized by discipline, I wanted a one stop shop. By organizing and reading the concept descriptors this way, I have found that we are better able to have a well rounded view of the key concepts which leads to stronger questions and lines of inquiry, a better shared understanding of what we want students to understand, and deeper connections across the disciplines.

How you can use it

With Teams

When meeting and planning with homeroom teachers, specialists, or mixed groups, use the key concept perspectives to: 

  • Explore disciplinary connections
  • Form conceptual questions
  • Update or focus lines of inquiry
  • Form content or language objectives

With Students

Help students to use the language of the PYP to make sense of the world around them:

  • Write reflections about the concepts from disciplinary perspectives
  • As a class, create speaking or writing stems to practice using conceptual language 

By building our familiarity with the PYP framework, we empower ourselves as educators and our students with the tools to organize their thinking and explain the world around them. 

Exploring key concepts through various subjects

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Cindy Blackburn
Cindy Blackburn
Cindy has a Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership and has worked as an PYP educator and coordinator internationally for the past ten years. She currently works as the Director of learning and engagement at Toddle and specializes in developing resources to support teachers and leaders in honing their practice and understandings, to make the PYP simple, actionable, and above all else, joyous.
Disclaimer - This resource has been produced independently of and not endorsed by the IB. Toddle’s resources seek to encourage sharing of perspectives and innovative ideas for classroom teaching & learning. They are not intended to be replacements for official IB guides and publications. Views and opinions expressed by the authors of these resources are personal and should not be construed as official guidance by the IB. Please seek assistance from your school’s IB coordinator and/or refer to official IB documents before implementing ideas and strategies shared within these resources in your classroom.