All posts by Sonia Trakroo

Creating co-constructed essential agreements for a meaningful start to the year

What are essential agreements?

Essential agreements are a class consensus that will guide our behavioural and learning expectations throughout the year. How do we learn best? How can we grow as learners? How can we reach our best potential as a class?

 It is definitely important to start the year off on the right note – which makes it worth the while to spend enough time on framing constructive and meaningful essential agreements with the students and for the students. If these agreements are mutually constructed and not imposed as rules on the students, they will definitely take ownership in adhering to them.

How did we create the essential agreements ?

I created a Wakelet lesson plan for co-constructing essential agreements with students.

The tremendous advantage of using Wakelet was that

– my instructions for the class,
– resources and links I wanted to share and
– student collaboration

all happened at one place. I’m sure all of us know the pain of sharing links on different tabs, looking for and then sharing resources or videos – the struggle is real!

Wakelet sure made my life easy in this regard – and its ease of use is fantastic! A must have tool in every teacher’s repertoire.

Back to the essential agreements – here is what I did

  • I first shared a video link with students and asked them to make connections between what they observed in the video and with how our class should be. They discussed in small groups first (breakout rooms) and then shared their thoughts with the class.

Derek Redmond-You raise me up – YouTube

  • Students made some relevant observations about how we can do better when we help and support each other, how everyone needs to be motivated and encouraged when they are down. I felt this formed a good base for forming some constructive behavioural expectations for the class
  • The next step was a discussion around the Learner Profile attributes.
  • The purpose was twofold –
    • establishing that the Learner Profile and the dispositions subsumed within them are an essential element of the PYP framework and would guide us throughout our learning journey, and
    • framing essential agreements around some of these attributes, the awareness and development of which would help each one of us achieve our true potential
  • Co-constructing the essential agreements meant involving the students to express their understanding of what the Learner Profile attributes mean to them and how they can grow as learners through the display of these. The students chose the attributes they would like to focus on to begin with.
  • The next part of the activity was a Mentimeter activity – each student shared 2 words or phrases indicating what they would like their classroom to look like.
  • I would love for my classroom to be all this and more 🙂 and hope I can live up to these expectations
What our classroom will look like
  • Based on these insights and expression of intent from my students – I framed the following essential agreements for my class. A student volunteered to create this beautiful Canva slides for the same
  • I felt Math deserved and needed its own essential agreements – so here goes

Essential agreements for Math

  • We will articulate our thinking process while solving math sums, showing our working in an organised manner
  • We will be courageous by actively participating in math classes – asking questions and clarifying our doubts
  • We will make real life connections wherever possible to make math fun and more interesting
  • We will be open-minded and explore different strategies in math, and then use the ones we are most comfortable with
  • We will reflect and make adjustments to our learning where required

Concluding on a poetic note 🙂

We hope to have a great year, full of learning and fun

Nurturing our curiosity, of everything under the sun

We will grow together as learners, and enjoy a lot of thrills

Building our knowledge, concepts and skills

This is an exciting journey, come join us in our quest

As enthusiastic travellers, we are truly blessed

3 mental strategies to make math magical

You are born either loving math or hating it – I’m sure most of you would agree with me. I was lucky enough to be born loving math, and now as a teacher of math, I feel it is my primary responsibility to make my students love math before anything else.

When do you love to do something – when you enjoy it, have fun doing it and have no fear of being judged if you go wrong, am I right ?! How can we achieve this with math?

I start the session by framing essential agreements with my students for math –

The above agreements go a long way in making students comfortable in class and willing to learn with a growth mindset. What I also do is focus on the different aspects of math – making real life connections, demonstrating mental math strategies, and engaging them with critical thinking questions

In this post I will focus on 3 of the mental math strategies that help students speed up their calculations while avoiding lengthy calculations with paper and pencil. It helps make math more fun, almost magical when you play around with numbers like this and helps develop a passion for the subject

In this post, I am highlighting 3 of the many mental math strategies I use in my classes –

Multiplying by 11 using Vedic math strategy

I love this one – it’s like magic and my students love it too!! In fact, I tell them to impress their friends and family at home by asking a question like – what’s 263 x 11, and then just instantly answering it with an abracadabra – . The answer is 2893

Let me demonstrate how to multiply with a smaller number first – 26 x 11

Write the lowest and highest place in the number as is. Here it would be 2 and 6. Then starting from the highest place, add each digit with the next place thus –

2 then 2+6 then 6 = 286. i.e. 26 x 11 = 286

Similarly 34 x 11 = 3 (3+4) 4 = 374

45 x 11 = 4 (4+5) 5= 495 and

541 x 11 = 5 (5+4) (4+1) 1 = 5951

Try this magic for yourself –

  1. 431 x 11 =
  2. 8103 x 11 =
  3. 713 x 11 =

(All answers at the end of the post 🙂)

It works with numbers where there will be carry over too, for example

89 x 11 = 8 (8+9) 9 = 8+1 7 9 = 979 (as 8+9 = 17 the 1 gets carried over to the higher place)

Try one for yourself – 467 x 11

Double and half strategy

Suppose I need to solve 48 x 50, i would usually do it using the column method right? There is an easier way though! It is always easier to multiply by 10 / 100/ 1000 right? So double the 50 (that’s 100)and halve the 48 (that’s 24).

The value remains the same and it is so much easier to multiply 24 x 100

So, 48 x 50 = 24 x 100 = 2400

The strategy will only work when one number can be doubled to give a 100/ 1000 etc

Try a few for yourself –

  1. 632 x 50
  2. 450 x 500

Rearranging numbers

When you need to multiply 25 x 141 x 4, you would normally multiply 25 by 141 and then by 4 right ?

Using the associative property of multiplication I can rearrange the numbers to make my job easier – 25 x 4 x 141 = 100 x 141 = 14100 –> and voila, done mentally !!

Similarly –> 20 x 329 x 5 = 20 x 5 x 329 = 100 x 329 = 32900

Try a couple for yourself 🙂

  1. 25 x 678 x 4
  2. 20 x 9099 x 5

While I encourage my students to look for these patterns that will definitely make their life easier, there is always a word of caution – be comfortable with the strategy and choose the appropriate one!

Answers –

  1. 431 x 11 = 4741
  2. 8103 x 11 = 89,133
  3. 713 x 11 = 7843
  4. 467 x 11 = 4 (4+6) (6+7) 7 = 4+1 0+1 3 7 = 5137
  5. 632 x 50 = 316 x 100 = 31,600
  6. 450 x 500 = 225 x 1000 = 225,000
  7. 25 x 678 x 4 = 25 x 4 x 678 = 67,800
  8. 20 x 9099 x 5 = 20 x 5 x 9099 = 909,900

Wakelet – wade into this wonderful world to save, organize and share your content !

Foreword – Do read this post by Teachforthought – every point resonated with me completely

Why Teaching Is The Best Job In The World (teachthoLearning Networks (PLN)\nCreating exclusive spaces for my own resources for

The potential to transform lives equipping them with 21st century skills and with strategies for building strong emotional and mental health profiles

A chance to continuously be creative – always trying to think and do things differently

Opportunities to always get better – the teacher community is immensely supportive. I always have a chance to learn from best practices around the world – attending webinars, PD courses, book reading clubs – the possibilities for growth are limitless.

It is a grounding, humbling profession – oh yes! Always putting the needs of the children first does ground you and changes perspectives

There is always satisfaction somewhere – true. Making a difference in the lives of so many students year after year, also continuously getting better and more creative yourself

It is truly a chance to lead the world into the 21st centuryteachers build the world – the leaders, the artists, the doctors, the musicians – all of them

The children – the ones who have our heart – and for whom we do it all, day after day, after day.

The next part of this blog post correlates with points number 2 and 3 – finding creative ways to engage with students online and looking for opportunities to always get better...

Beginning to harness the potential of Wakelet

I had used Wakelet once in the last academic session – as a collaboration tool for one learning engagement with the students, and somehow just never got around to using it again.

Of late, I have been hearing about Wakelet from just about everywhere, and now that the current academic session has ended – I decided to explore this tool once again and was amazed at the potential.

The Wakelet Surf school illustrates the potential beautifully

Wakelet – Surf School

Wakelet is more than just a tool for collaborating with students. It can be –

  • A tool for collaborating with colleagues and Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
  • Creating exclusive spaces for my own resources for easy accessibility and sharing
  • Creating lesson plans for students

….and so much more. The image below shows how many fascinating possibilities are there for the teacher community to tap into!

Armed with renewed enthusiasm, I went back to my dormant Wakelet account, and this is what I did –

  • I first created dedicated spaces for the different aspects of my teacher life. This is what my home page looks like on Wakelet. The small icons you see in the top left corner are the dedicated spaces for
    • Professional development
    • Student related stuff
    • Resources
  • I then started creating my collections under each space.
    • For eg. under professional development I have included resources and links from webinars I have attended.
    • The Resources space has a collection of Math and English resources, a collection of visible thinking routines (Image inserted below)
    • I also have a collection of Wakelet resources to guide me in my Wakelet journey!
  • Under each collection, and this is the part I really liked, one can add text, a website link, a video link, upload a pdf – you name it. I found it fascinating that an entire lesson plan can be created using Wakelet. I defintely plan to try this out in the new academic session. Am sharing a lesson plan here for reference – (you can see the combination of text, images and embedded links that would make it so engaging for students).
  • Link to the lesson plan is shared below –

Student Leadership Lesson Plan – Wakelet

I created a collection for all my blog posts too – just loved the appearance – in a grid view as you can see in the image below. So easy to view and access. The image also shows how you can add a new item to your collection – just click on the + sign and paste a link / upload a file and/or add text.

Concluding with a short poem I composed – 

I have taken baby steps in exploring Wakelet

There is a lot to learn yet

Am eager to explore and find out more

so that learning does not become a chore

Transitioning students to middle school, reflections, and bidding adieu!

Au revoir, for no goodbye is forever

As I bid you adieu, I wonder

Was I the teacher or the taught?

Read on for the complete poem I wrote as a keepsake to cherish for my students 🙂

Grade 5 is a significant year in a student’s learning journey – a transition to growing up to be a more responsible and mature students. It is the culminating year of the Primary Years Programme, from where they move on to the rigors of the Middle Years Programme.

Students need to be mentally and academically prepared for this next and more challenging phase of their education. How did we do this?

  • Meaningful and timely feedback through the year – PYP does not encourage graded assessments – so providing formative and summative feedback and feedforward becomes critical. Some of the feedback given to them is described below –
    • Reinforcing how the expectations will change in middle school. One example – the use of command terms to guide their thinking was reinforced through the year. How their answers should change depending on whether the question asks them to list, or to explain or to describe.
    • Math – articulation of their thinking is important. I emphasised that each step of the working process must be shown, even if the final answer is incorrect, they still get some credit.
    • (Side note – I kept asking students who had older siblings – it helped when they backed me up, as to the grading systems, marks being cut for working steps not being shown etc :)
  • Planning to have the final unit of inquiry of Grade 5 on change – physical, mental, emotional changes during adolescence, how they can best prepare themselves for these inevitable changes. Students could make meaningful connections and develop appropriate strategies to cope with them – thus preparing them for the years ahead. Used the Polly app (on Microsoft Teams) to take a quick reflection on how prepared the students felt
  • Attending a few of the MYP classes virtually – this allowed them a glimpse into how the classes are similar, yet different. They got familiar with the different subject names, compared and contrasted TD themes and global contexts. Main observations students had –
    • the independence students displayed in their thinking
    • the stringent use of command terms to guide all student work
    • the display of learner profile attributes – being principled, knowledgeable, inquirers.
  • Attending the personal project exhibitions by MYP students – they understood what the expectations from them would be, and how they could apply some of these elements to their PYP Exhibition.
  • As a token to mark their graduation into MYP we curated a collection of poems written by the students themselves and gifted it to them through a Book Creator. Wonderful expressions of their thoughts and understanding came through as a reflection of their learning of this genre of writing. Read these samples to be amazed at the depth of their thinking and expressions!

I was amazed at the depth of thinking, the beautiful expressions of these student poems, really touched my heart! Inspired by my students, I also penned down a poem – an expression straight from my heart

Au revoir, for no goodbye is forever

As I bid you adieu, I wonder

Was I the teacher or the taught?

It has been my good fortune

To have been with you caught

The energy and the enthusiasm

You brought into every class

Filled the year with inquiry

And helped the time pass

Easy or difficult, is not for anyone to say

But of this I am certain, you will always find your way

End of the year – time to reflect, cherish the memories made.

These children have a special place in my heart – have spent 2 years with this batch – one year in physical school and this session online as I moved with them from Grade 4 to Grade 5. Their resilience, energy and enthusiasm did not wane even online, other than some bouts of feeling low when they expressed a longing to see their school, play with their friends.

The last few days, I planned only for reflecting on the year gone by, sharing our treasured memories from the year, and an SEL activity for a meaningful closure to the session

Reflections on the year gone by (using breakout rooms and Google Jamboard)

  • What was your most important learning from the year?
  • What did you accomplish that you are most proud of?
  • What is one goal you have for next year ?
  • What will you miss most about your teacher?
  • What is one piece of advice you would like to give students coming into tthis grade next year?

SEL activity

Making a hand of joy

Students traced their hands on a piece pf paper and then drew all the things that gave them joy. It was a poignant way of ending the year – holding our joy in our hands!

Link to the activity is shared below

Practical Mindfulness video: Creating a hand filled with things that bring you joy – YouTube

With mixed feelings of leaving behind the familiar and the excitement of looking forward to new horizons, we bid adieu to each other with promises of keeping in touch!

Using ‘I’ message as an effective tool to strengthen collaboration and communication skills in students

Collaboration and communication are 2 of the 4Cs identified as key skills for the 21st century

Empowering students with these skills from a young age is important as it helps them develop and practise using them in different scenarios. The IB pedagogy places a lot of emphasis on group work, hence effective collaboration is imperative to yield the desired learning goals

Source – Pinterest

What is an ‘I’ message?

An ‘I’ message is simply a statement that begins with an ‘I’ and does not place blame on anyone else.  ‘I’ messages can be used to express our feelings in a way that is direct yet respectful – so important in group work to effectively communicate and collaborate, especially to express one’s feelings and resolve conflicts, so that the group learning goals are ultimately achieved.

For eg.  rather than saying ‘Why are you calling me by that name? Stop it’

I can say ‘I feel hurt when you call me that. Please call me by my given name’.

Which statement would bring about the desired result?

As a committed educator in building social emotional skills in my students, I guided my students to understand the ‘I’ message and how to use this strategy effectively through a Nearpod SEL activity. The goal was to help them communicate their needs and feelings in a way that is direct and respectful. We had discussions about times they have felt hurt/upset and not been able to express themselves. 

There are 3 parts to an ‘I’ message

I feel …

When …

Please …

Sharing some student samples from the activity to help illustrate this process

Students tried applying this strategy to a classroom scenario – something that is often a bone of contention in group work – sharing of the responsibilities and taking on a leadership role 🙂

The scenario – ‘You are working with a partner on a math project. You feel like you are doing all the work and are very frustrated. What could you say to your partner?

Very interesting and creative responses, wouldn’t you agree?

Students then reflected how ‘I’ messages could help them in their relationships with family and friends

The link to the Nearpod activity is shared below

With my students I am always careful to use the language of the ‘I’ message – ‘I feel that you could also do it this way’, ‘I cannot understand your perspective, would you explain it to me’, ‘Would you like to try it another way?’ – giving them a choice makes them feel empowered and 90% of the time you will get them to do what you wanted 🙂

It’s never too late to learn, and it’s never too early to begin applying social emotional skills !!

Susan Powers shares 6 powerful tools every PYP teacher must absolutely try

Susan is an avid believer in the inquiry based process of learning, having taught mostly within the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme.  She believes that by teaching children to wonder, and how to find out the answers to their questions, we are creating lifelong learners with a global outlook.

In response to your questions, Susan has shared below some wonderful insights which would help any educator progress in their own learning journey. Happy reading! A link to her blog is shared – some wonderful resources and ideas for questioning strategies, provocation, relfection
1. As a lifelong learner yourself, where do you go to find resources to keep up to date with the latest in education? 

I have my ear to the ground with the continuing updates and changes, strategies and tools for our profession. I largely use social media and also a few blogs, including the IB blog, ” Sharing PYP”, SonyaTerborg, Making Good Humans, IB Matters etc.  Our global community is a fabulous resource for sharing ideas and we are so open to recycling ideas from others, adding to them and sharing the results.  Its wonderful to see it all in practice across the age groups and across the world. 

2. Any tips for IB teachers just beginning in their journey?
  1. Find a mentor; whether this mentor is someone in school or someone within the wider community in our PYP world, its important to be able to have someone who can relate to your journey, guide you and to share ideas with as you learn the ropes. 
  2. Understand the key concepts and how conceptual understanding plays a part in our inquiries.
The seven key concepts

3. Get to know visible thinking routines that will work with the students you are working with and how to use them as part of developing thinkers and inquirers. 

3. Reinforce the effectiveness of a concept based curriculum and its role in inquiry

It is important that we don’t get bogged down with the idea that the key concepts are simply a continuum of questions. When we focus on 2-3 key concepts within each unit, we are able to bring the focus of the children’s thinking to a deeper level rather than shallow and broad. These key concepts can be brought together smoothly within our transdisciplinary teaching, allowing the children to learn authentically and across the disciplines, carrying the big idea into each subject area smoothly and conjoined. The key concepts are constantly visited and revisited as the children’s understanding develops and deepens as they progress through the PYP. We want to make sure that we refer to the concepts across the disciplines and not only within the context of the unit of inquiry. 

I am sharing below some sample questions related to each key concept – this amazing resource was created by Sonya Terborg and has helped me a lot in my planning

Concept-Question Cards.pages (
4. Please share some practical tips/strategies to enhance learning using the key concepts and related concepts?

I’m going to share this strategy that I use at the beginning of the school year. Its copied from my blog. To begin with, an activity that helps the children to think conceptually, brings them to the very basics of the key concepts and to the questions that are connected with each concept. These are commonly found on your classroom posters that are displayed with each PYP classroom. These can also be created by the children AS they learn about the key concepts, moving progressively through the POI. 

By cutting out pictures in magazines, the children are forced to become aware of their thinking as they look closely at those pictures and begin to become aware of their metacognitive thinking that is going on within. In other words, what are they wondering? 

The pictures that draw their attention are then cut out and glued into notebooks with their question or observation noted. They then have to categorise their thinking under the heading of each key concept. The thinking becomes much deeper than you would ordinarily expect to begin with. It is GREAT to reflect afterwards as the children share their thinking and the process of their thoughts. I like to have the children share under our document camera. It becomes particularly fun when we chat about different perspectives. Reinforcing a great key concept already!  You can find more ideas in this article in my blog. 

5. How do I choose the appropriate reflection strategy for different subject areas – language, unit of inquiry, math? 

 I think its important to recognise that reflective thinking is a skill in itself and is included throughout the ATL skills. And so I begin by teaching the children what it means to BE reflective. We spend a lot of time practising and developing this attribute of the Learner Profile and it is applied across our TD inquiries. I have a journal that I use with the children as part of our daily routine. By developing an awareness of who we are as learners and also what it means to be reflective, the children are then able to bring this reflection cycle to all areas of their learning and not just the academic. ( I’ve created one for early years, little kids and big kids too). Specifically, I will involve the children in developing a bank of reflection questions that we can use throughout the year; we create checklists and graphs/charts to monitor and record our progress and we have lots of time for feedback. The real value comes from actually using this feedback (from the charts, graphs, conversation) and involving the children in taking the next steps, co-planning the inquiries and making it all very transparent that their reflections are being used meaningfully within their learning plans. 

 6. I often wonder if social and emotional self-regulation should be added as part of skills taught. How would you advise inculcating this in the next generation? 

With mindfulness having been added to the ATL Skills within Self-Management, I feel that the IB have acknowledged that this is in fact something that needs to be addressed with more consistency. There is a growing awareness of this thing we call ” mindfulness” and I feel confident that it is taking place in our planning far more than it ever has before. As we continue to embed the Learner Profile and recognise the connection between the ATL Skills and the profile attributes, we, as the facilitators, will be better equipped to bring this area of personal, social and emotional learning to the children’s attention in a more active manner that allows the children to make those connections with their immediate world as well as the world around them. As with all of the skills, we need to take time to explicitly teach the skills in order to enable implicit practice. 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

As committed educators, we are always on a learning journey, with the only goal being to improve the learning experience for our students. I consider myself fortunate to have equally committed mentors to guide me along this journey.

6 insights from Kath Murdoch to empower every PYP teacher

Kath Murdoch – a name synonymous with inquiry (the cornerstone of the PYP). Every teacher initiates herself into this world of the PYP following her inquiry cycle.
No matter how far along my journey of teaching I come, I find myself going back to her (I’m currently reading her book ‘The power of Inquiry’) again and again for guidance on so many aspects of the PYP – the art of questioning, the stages of inquiry, assessments, reflection and so much more.
My PYP blog would always have felt incomplete without integrating her insights – which is why I shared the link to her blog in one of my earlier posts. I also reached out to Kath, asking if she would be willing to answer questions my readers may have on inquiry in different domains of the PYP. I was delighted to receive a prompt and encouraging response from her – demonstrating her commitment and enthusiasm to educating the educators!
Kath has a unique ability to deconstruct this seemingly complex inquiry model into easy to follow steps – empowering teachers with the feeling ‘Yes, I can do this’ OR ‘Oh! I’m already doing that!’. Every answer below demonstrates that – beautifully articulated in a knowledgeable and yet easy to follow way.

I express a heartfelt thanks on behalf of the entire community for her contribution in empowering us in making our students capable and confident learners.  

So, go ahead, sit back with your cuppa and feast yourself on these nuggets of wisdom – quoted verbatim from the most authentic and knowledgeable source.

1. How far can we bring inquiry into the languages? Do you personally feel it is more difficult than STEM subjects?

If you see inquiry as a stance then it is possible to bring it to all areas of the curriculum. Inquiry is about engaging learners as researchers – inviting them to ‘figure things out’, look for patterns, raise questions and think deeply. This kind of learning is not subject specific. Learning a language is an act of inquiry in itself. 

2. How to bridge the gap between teacher guided and student led inquiry?

All inquiry is guided in some way and I am not sure what is meant by a ‘gap?’. In an inquiry based approach we release responsibility to students but we do this in a way that is consistent with their needs and their readiness.  Teachers are always guiding in some way and students lead in others.  In most journeys of inquiry, students AND teachers are working together to negotiate the way forward. 

3. How can students carry on with inquiry through experiments or investigation without being taught related vocabulary or information?

Students inquire in order TO build vocabulary and gather information. If “being taught” means that teachers explain/demonstrate/provide… then this is part of the inquiry process and one of the roles the teacher plays.  Explaining is not separated from inquiry – it is part of it. 

4. Importance of unstructured inquiry in teaching and learning

It depends what you mean by structure. Structure in the form of routines, scaffolds and frameworks is really important so that there are some boundaries and consistencies for learners. Everything we do in an inquiry classroom is intentional and carefully designed. If it is too loose and chaotic, then we can easily overwhelm learners and lose sight of what the learning is. 

5. How do we meaningfully and authentically apply inquiry based learning in single subject areas especially during online teaching?

The same things that are important in the classroom are important in online teaching:
Listening to and honouring children’s questions and theories 
Modelling what it means to be a curious, passionate learner
Providing opportunities for learners to do more “figuring out” – flipping the gradual release model
Valuing thinking by using routines and scaffolds that have learners thinking creatively, critically and reflectively
Providing ample time for children to investigate
Giving them opportunities to make choices about what/how/with whom they will learn and how they might show it (not full choice in everything but contained choices) 
Inquiry as an approach to teaching and learning can continue even when we are not in the classroom – Providing children with challenges that position them as a researcher/investigator is the key.

6. How to make lessons more concept based and inquiry driven in single subject areas – Music / Dance / PHE 

The above response is my answer to the inquiry part of this question. For the concept based part – first make sure you understand what concepts are and then see if you can locate the concepts within a lesson/task. Learn to think less about topics and activities and more about the concepts that sit above them.  In dance, for example, there are abundant concepts that can be explored including pattern, expression, collaboration, balance… these SAME concepts might be developed in PE and in Music. Exploring such concepts simultaneously can mean greater transfer and deeper understanding. 

To conclude with one of her quotes would be fitting here –

You can follow her blog atJustWondering — KATH MURDOCH

A clever collaboration tool to help students create amazing presentations

Google slides – How I used this remarkable tool for student collaboration

Collaboration makes your work better because it:

  • Creates self-awareness. When you collaborate with others, you have to explain (and then defend) your ideas. Collaboration is a great way to understand your own thought processes.
  • Speeds things up. When you have more people on a task, everyone can use their unique strengths to make the project run smoother…and faster
  • Boosts morale. When people don’t trust each other, morale suffers. Regularly working with other people is one of the most effective ways to build trust.
  • You never stop learning. Collaboration exposes you to new skillsets and experiences. That fresh perspective triggers the creativity for everyone involved.

Source – 45 Collaboration Quotes That Will Get You Excited to be Part of a Team (

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” – H.E. Luccock

The online learning and teaching platform has pushed teachers to become more creative to keep students engaged in their learning – and collaboration is always a wonderful way to help students stay engaged, display student agency and develop the ATL

In this post, I am sharing a new strategy I used for student collaboration. The funny thing being that we teachers have used it for so long to collaborate, but I just recently realised its effectiveness for student collaboration! Much impressed with the results too, I must say!

The breakout rooms recently introduced in Microsoft Teams is a wonderful feature which allows students to collaborate meaningfully. I am sharing below the steps I followed to effectively integrate the breakout rooms feature and Google Slides app for collaboration and creation of a wonderful presentation.

6 simple steps to help students create a presentation using Google slides –

Recently, in our English classes, we were inquiring into the different genres of poetry and the use of poetic devices for greater impact.

  • I created a Google slide before the class for the purpose.  I had a skeletal structure in place – title slide, placeholders for each slide (free verse, rhyming haiku, limerick, and a last slide for the figures of speech like metaphor, simile, alliteration etc).
  • I gave instructions to the class as a whole – they would work on the slide number as per their breakout room numbers (room no 1 on free verse etc). I then sent the students packing into their breakout rooms 🙂 (I automatically assigned them to 5 rooms)
  • I shared the link to the Google slide with the whole class with editing rights.

Genres of poetry – Google slide

  • I visited each room in turn to ensure student participation and give feedback on the work they were doing.
  • As a teacher, it was so easy to give them feedback as every group was working on the same document! I just focused on the slide relevant to that group.
  • At the end of the task we had a wonderful presentation on genres of poetry that would serve as a ready resource for all.

Sharing some images from the presentation created –

  • I then used the same strategy in Math for data handling – students researched in breakout rooms and created a consolidated presentation on bar graphs, line graphs, pie chart and pictographs, also comparing and contrasting the different types of graphs.

Sharing some samples of the student work and the link to the Google slide

Data handling – Google slides

Do share if you have a collaboration tool that worked effectively in your classroom!

6 IB blogs to follow for inquiry, inspiration and innovation

The one thing I really, really treasure about my role as an educator is that I am also always learning by –

  • interacting with the students who are always enthusiastic, filled with positive energy, always challenging and taking me beyond the scope of my planning
  • being a part of the IB community – having this insatiable curiosity to dive deeper into this veritable treasure chest of knowledge.

At the same time this journey is made so much easier with the many keys (resources) to open the locked doors (of our minds) along the way, which is why I wanted to share some of these resources with the wider community.

In this post I am compiling a list of some of these keys – my go-to blogs authored by some of the giants of the IB world. I turn to these whenever I need inspiration for any PYP related resources, ideas for how to progress with any concept, strengthening inquiry in the classroom, reflection strategies etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just the ones that I tend to turn towards for the following reasons – 

  • their wealth of years of experience in PYP
  • the way they break down complex ideas into easy to follow strategies.
  • the inspiration and motivation they provide leading to many treasured AHA (‘I can do this too’) moments in the classroom.

So here goes – in random order, and including links to 2 posts for each blog :-

1. What Ed Said – A blog about learning

Link to the blog –

2 of her blogs that I enjoyed reading –

The ‘so what’ of learning… – What Ed Said (

Making Thinking Visible: Chapter Two – What Ed Said (

2. Sonya Terborg – Innovation, inspiration, education

Link to the blog –

These 2 posts really helped me understand key concepts and feedback in the pyp classroom

Concept-Question Cards.pages (

Ladder of Feedback – sonya terborg

3. Just wondering – Kath Murdoch

Link to the blog –

JustWondering — KATH MURDOCH

These 2 posts made me reflect on my understanding on inquiry

7 Lessons from deep in the inquiry trenches… — KATH MURDOCH

What are you noticing? — KATH MURDOCH

4. PYP Teaching Tools – inquiry based tips and tools for teachers worldwide

Link to the blog –

PYP Teaching Tools – Inquiry based teaching tips and tools for teachers worldwide.

Read these 2 of her interesting blogs on PYP teachers and students –

5 Things You Don’t Have To Do As A PYP Teacher – PYP Teaching Tools

6 Steps to Setting Goals with IB PYP Students – PYP Teaching Tools

5. Cristina Milos – A teacher’s wonderings

Link to the blog

2 of her blogs that really helped me stir my thinking 🙂

6. Class teaching – Finding and sharing teaching ‘bright spots’

Link to the blog

Class Teaching | Finding & sharing teaching ‘bright spots’ (

2 blogs to read for for deeper understanding of differentiation and feedback –

Differentiation – Some classroom strategies | Class Teaching (

Focus on Feedback | Class Teaching (

Do you have your own go-to IB blog that you follow? Do share in the comments and add to this treasure chest 🙂

Do you have a question you would like to ask any of these experienced and expert bloggers. Post it in the comments and I’ll try and get it answered for you!

How Going SOLO can be effective in your classroom!

SOLO – Structured observation of learning outcomes
Taxonomy – the science of naming, describing and classifying
The 2 words put together mean describing and classifying student learning and the outcomes

What exactly is SOLO?

The structure of observed learning outcomes taxonomy (SOLO taxonomy) is a simple yet robust tool for measuring how well a student understands a topic. It describes 5 levels of understanding, moving from surface level understanding to conceptual understanding. It is widely used for designing curriculum outcomes and assessment tasks that get progressively more difficult as students move through their education.

Source –

To be honest, for a long time, I did not use this wonderful tool as I was not sure how to use it effectively, let alone explain it to my young students!

I am sharing my experiences of using this tool to hopefully encourage and inspire other teachers also to deploy this effective tool in their classrooms. On my part, I am looking forward to developing a deeper understanding thus applying this tool more effectively in various areas of my teaching and learning.

I had recently attended a JobsAlike session on SOLO Taxonomy and that really boosted my enthusiasm to use it. The session really helped, as not only did I get to witness how other teachers actually used it, the discussions also helped each participant enhance their confidence in using this tool. The participants shared some very useful online tools for using SOLO. That’s the power of collaboration, if anyone needed further proof!

As they say, the first step in any journey is the most difficult. The good news is, once you have taken that first step and built up your confidence, the second and third steps become so much easier. Yes, you might occasionally stumble or find yourself walking in the wrong direction — but at least you’ll be moving – quote from

I decided that I would apply this strategy within the coming week itself. We had just completed the concept of fractions, decimals and percentages in math. I used SOLO Taxonomy as a reflection tool for the first time.

As students already had a fair understanding of command terms, I shared a list of command terms that related to each phase of the SOLO. I observed that students were able to reflect meaningfully, rather than the usual ‘I am confident’, ‘I did not understand’.

Using SOLO Taxonomy, students were able to justify the phase they felt they were currently at –

For eg. ‘I am able to describe how a fraction and decimal are related, i am able to compute sums based on percentages – that is why I am at a multi structural level’.

It also gave them a goal to work towards and the direction to progress in their understanding.

For eg. ‘I am at the multi-structural level and I want to progress to relational level – so I need to be able to analyse, explain and predict the relationship between fractions and percentages’ etc.

Student reflection samples below –

The ease with which students took to this new tool gave me the confidence to use it again. I subsequently used the SOLO Taxonomy as a learning continuum for the ongoing unit of inquiry on simple machines – to track how student’s understanding of simple machines was progressing. As you can see from the samples below – both teachers and students can track how understanding is evolving – from listing and describing simple machines to understanding the concepts of energy, work and force, and the impact that machines have on our lives .

1 interesting idea – use the SOLO continuum as an exit ticket on completion of a class/concept

Do share in the comments if you use this strategy in class!

5 reasons SOLO Taxonomy is a must have tool in every teachers kit –

– SOLO has a visual progression which helps students place their understanding in well defined phases.

SOLO helps in framing effective success criteria which motivates students to be more engaged with the tasks

– It is an effective tool for assessment, feedback and feed forward

– It helps teachers and students track how learning is moving from simple to more complex levels

– It helps students reflect meaningfully on their learning

3 useful and simple resources to get you started on this exciting SOLO journey –

HOT SOLO Presentations – HookED Wiki (


Sample of a rubric created using SOLO
This is a sample rubric I created using Functioning Knowledge Rubric Generator — HookED (

What are your first thoughts about using this tool? With which subject or concept would you like to try SOLO with first? Do share your thoughts and experiences using SOLO in your classroom..