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Understanding the what, why and how of assessments in the PYP

Assessment – I think this word evokes as much fear and trepidation in teachers as it does in students today!!

The enhanced PYP has sought to make assessment a more authentic, student-centered process that encourages and involves student voice.

It stresses on including a variety of assessment strategies and tools to make the process meaningful and engaging.

As teachers, we are also transitioning to this new understanding – we must give ourselves the time and the space to do this.

I am attempting to lay out my understanding of the assessment process and how I have started integrating a variety in my classroom practices – in follow-up posts I will explore other aspects of assessments in more depth.

What is the purpose of assessment?

The purpose of assessment is to inform learning and teaching. It involves the gathering and analysis of information about student learning to inform teaching practice. It identifies what students know, understand, and can do at different stages in the learning process. A unique feature of assessments in the PYP is the focus on student knowledge, conceptual understanding, skills, and dispositions – the process and the product of student learning.

Characteristics of effective assessment (From

Highly effective assessment shares some key characteristics (Adapted from Clarke 2012).

  • Authentic: It supports making connections to the real world to promote student engagement.
  • Clear and specific: This includes desired learning goals; success criteria and the process students use to learn.
  • Varied: It uses a wider range of tools and strategies that are fit for purpose to build a well-rounded picture of student learning.
  • Developmental: It focuses on an individual student’s progress rather than their performance in relation to others.
  • Collaborative: It engages both teachers and students in the assessment development and evaluation process.
  • Interactive: Assessment encompasses ongoing and iterative dialogues about learning.
  • Feedback to feedforward: It provides feedback on current learning to inform what is needed to support future learning (Hattie, Timperley 2007) and raises students’ motivation.

What to assess?

In the PYP we assess students for the following –

  • Prior knowledge informs our teaching – gives us a start point for our teaching and helps in grouping students as per their understanding and thus differentiating instruction appropriately.
  • Formative assessmentsassessments for learning. These are conducted throughout the learning and teaching process. It is primarily for the teacher to assess if students are understanding as per the learning intentions which would mean she/he is on the right track. If there is a gap in understanding, there is time to modify teaching and learning strategies to ensure that learning objectives are met.

“Formative assessment is not a task. Formative assessment is an ongoing, embedded practice that allows teachers to constantly adjust their teaching based on what they’re observing. Feedback is a mindset.” Ron Ritchhart

  • Summative assessments are assessments of learning. In a very significant move, there is a shift away from the summative assessment in the enhanced PYP. The summative task was always the first thing planned by teachers (the traditional assessors) before the unit started – as we followed a backwards by design process. Now, assessment is built in throughout the planner. It involves evidencing the learning by the students themselves, as well as peers and teachers, and it is ongoing.  There is no longer any requirement to have a summative assessment at the end of every unit, as the process of gathering, analysing, reflecting and acting on evidence of learning is what is used to inform next steps in teaching.

Backwards by design v/s forward by design

  • The traditional backwards by design philosophy encourages teachers to design assessment by first identifying –
    • the desired knowledge,
    • conceptual understandings,
    • and skills,

followed by the design of the assessment, and finally planning learning activities to ensure acquisition of the desired outcomes listed above.

  • “Forward by design” takes into consideration what other learning may have occurred beyond what has been planned – the development of “soft” skills, that are not immediately measurable, and that can emerge through the learning process. 
  • This paradigm shift in thinking means that both students and teachers need to develop their assessment capability, to consider the learning goals and success criteria and to focus on assessing both the learning process as well as the learning outcomes.

How to assess?

The lingo explained – assessment tasks, assessment strategies and assessment tools

Assessment task – what do we want the students to express an understanding about. This would be based on the learning intentions e.g. –

  • To assess enduring understanding of the central idea
  • To assess language skills
  • To assess conceptual understanding in math

Assessment strategies – How students can express their understanding using a variety of strategies

Some examples –

  • Assess enduring understanding of a central idea
    • through a visible thinking routine like ‘I used to think …. Now I think’ eg. Sustainable practices improve quality of life. Students can express what they used to think about sustainable practices and how their thinking changed during the unit. Student agency through a choice of writing a paragraph or recording a Flipgrid video fir the same task.
    • through language integration
      • writing a story to express how ‘Resolving conflicts can lead to better quality of life’
      • writing a poem to express how ‘Exploration leads to newer understandings, discoveries and challenges’.  (Central idea for Where we are in place and time)
  • Assess language or math skills  
    • Integrated with the Unit of inquiry – eg. Write a formal letter to the Municipal officer to request safety crossings near schools (Government unit)
    • Create a presentation on divisibility rules using Powerpoint / Canva etc.
    • ICT enabled quizzes – Nearpod, Quizizz etc. There is quite a good selection of Math and English concepts available and reports are generated for individual students.

Assessment tools –

How will the students be assessed on their completed tasks? How will teachers give feedback? Will students be given opportunities to co-construct success criteria, rubrics, self-assess, or peer assess?

Examples of commonly used tools :



Anecdotal notes/records


I have attached below some samples of assessments I have used in my class

Summative assessment for a unit on conflict resolution

Summative assessment for a unit on exploration

Math formative and summative assessment samples

Links for additional reading –

Assessment Strategies for the IB PYP – PYP Teaching Tools

Tech Transformation: What’s New and Different: Assessment in the PYP (

PYP resources – Home – IB programme resources (

3 effective ways you can navigate Nearpod to create an engaging learning experience for students

Have you ever felt confused by the plethora of tech tools and apps available to teachers in this online teaching era we find ourselves in? I was always eager to try out any of the latest apps in the market with the genuine intention of improving the learning experience for my students.

However, I soon realized that the saying ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ holds good for a reason. While most of the apps available are excellent, the time taken to learn and navigate new apps myself and then get my students familiarized with it was time we just did not have 😦

I have consciously and mindfully decided to be faithful to the few apps that have served me and my students well over time for a variety of purposes – as tools of expression and collaboration.

2 reasons I decided to add Nearpod to my list of apps to use

  • The first and most important feature – it is completely free for educators!
  • Teachers can
    • use the available lessons as they are
    • customize the lessons and activities to suit their need and
    • create their own lessons from scratch if required.

In this post I will share some of the ways to effectively use Nearpod.

Nearpod is a free interactive resource that offers the following –

1. A library of ready to use resources

The Nearpod Library has an amazing collection of free to use resources – for any subject and grade. Just choose the one appropriate to your class, check the preview and customize if required and then add to your lessons

2. Lessons and activities that teachers can customise and combine for their own lessons

First, choose the option to create a new lesson

Then choose to add content – which could be information / facts / videos you want to share with your students

Following this you could include an activity for students to complete to check their understanding.

Students especially enjoy these activities

– Time to climb – where they choose an animated character and climb a mountain as they answer questions correctly – it’s a race to the peak!

– Matching pairs in a memory game

-The collaboration board serves as a reflection space where the class voice becomes visible

Sharing a lesson I created on International mindedness using both the content and activities feature of Nearpod. As you will see from the images – I first added some content for students to understand what is international mindedness, then asked them open ended questions about what we all share in common and what is unique to us, followed by a collaboration board where they reflected on how they can develop this trait

The link to the activity is also shared below –

The Nearpod library also has an amazing collection of SEL resources. I have tried a few of them (I messages, My values) – very interactive and well designed activities

3. Formative assessments / Exit tickets

A range of assessments are available for different subjects, again these can be used as is or customized. I find these a very engaging way for student understanding to be assessed – takes away the stress or fear from the word assessment.

Sharing an exit ticket activity I created to assess student understanding of a math concept – Properties of numbers. The report generated shows me how the students performed.

How can we authentically involve student voice in the learning process in a variety of ways?

I’m sure every PYP teacher has asked himself / herself this question many a times, especially as ‘student agency’ is the buzzword in the enhanced PYP model. We learn so much from our own experiences, however there is much value in learning from the experiences of others – especially those who tread the same path and share their pearls of wisdom.

My initial understanding of student agency was giving students a choice of medium in expressing their understanding, a choice of tool in assessments and co-constructing assessment rubrics .

Reading Trevor MacKenzie’s book ‘The inquiry mindset – assessment edition’ has been a completely eye-opening experience. I have been reading this book as part of a book club of like minded PYP educators around the world – Ecurious Minds. The value addition this community brings to the understanding of the book is incredible!

Sharing my insights from the book which helped expand and deepen the scope of student agency for me –

Co-designing learning with students and involving their voice in the learning process in a variety of ways is essential to the inquiry model.

3 benefits of co-designing learning experiences with students

  • Students see that their voice matters in an authentic manner. Learning is a partnership between student and teacher and that their decisions hold weight in the classroom.
  • Teachers can more powerfully meet the needs of their diverse classrooms by planning learning with students rather than for students. By co-designing learning with students, teachers can coach, model, and differentiate to best support students in taking on the heavy lifting in learning.

  • The learning community is shaped by teachers and students working together – students gain more agency over learning, and teachers discover a balance in their workload. This is a process that takes time – with consistent scaffolding, clear values, and a continual connection to co-designing that students become increasingly successful in taking ownership over their learning. 

How can we involve students in different aspects of their learning ?

  • By posing a series of guiding questions,
  • Getting students talking and sharing ideas in small groups,
  • Gathering information to synthesize and draw conclusions from, teachers can start the process of co-designing the type of classroom where agency will thrive.

I did this activity in the first 2 weeks of the academic session to set the tone and understand better how my students want to learn. Students discussed their ideas in breakout rooms and then shared on the Padlet.

The common ideas generated from these guiding questions helps to create a co-designed document that becomes a collective commitment to recognized beliefs and practices.

It is important to realise that this is an ongoing document that can be revisited and modified at different times as learners grow and change throughout the year.

These are the common ideas that emerged from our collaboration during co-designing and I’m quite thrilled with the ideas students came up with !

Looking forward to the next part outlined in the book – co-designing competencies and dispositions with students keep your eyes peeled for the next post !

The PYP Exhibition – where students combine agency with passion within the framework of the PYP essential elements

This year our school, decided to venture into having the PYP Exhibition outside of the Programme of Inquiry – the 7th unit of inquiry, so to say. Grade 5 students expressed their culminating understanding of the Primary Years Programme by choosing a concept they are passionate about inquiring into. This was a complete demonstration of student agency – students shared what they were passionate about and wanted to inquire into in detail for a significant period of time.  They decided how they wanted to express their understanding and what action they wanted to take.

Some criteria were shared beforehand to ensure depth of thinking while choosing the concept-

  • What is your big idea?
  • Does the topic provide an opportunity for exploration or inquiry? Is it long lasting, and will it extend your knowledge (4 – 6 weeks)
  • Does it provide an opportunity to use variety of resources?
  • Taking action – Does the topic gives you opportunity to design something (awareness campaign, survey, poster, video for awareness, polling, innovate/change the design of any object to make it better)  
  • Does that action affect the world at large? 
  • Does it provide an opportunity for collaboration with peers, teachers, parents? Does it have scope for development of ATL skills?

The concepts were shortlisted based on the criteria shared – exploring ancient civilizations, sustainability, marine life, climate change, technology, artificial intelligence, solutions to the pandemic, media etc.

Students were grouped according to their areas of interest and assigned mentors.

I was assigned mentor to a group that wanted to inquire into the broad concept of sustainability. We initiated the Exhibition process from February 2021. Setting the stage to lend a structure to the process was crucial before deep diving into the inquiry. The planning stage included –

  • Framing essential agreements for the group
  • Making a timeline of the process – planning backwards from the date of the exhibition on May 22.
  • Signing a pledge for academic integrity

Student ideas were scattered – theory of evolution, ancient civilizations, modern and ancient medicines, art and architecture. However, the common thread of sustainability brought these ideas together.

We mapped our ideas with Sustainable development goals of the United Nations – SDG (Goal 11) – sustainable cities and communities. This goal states –

‘By choosing to act sustainably we choose to build cities where all citizens live a decent quality of life, and form a part of the city’s productive dynamic, creating shared prosperity and social stability without harming the environment. As of May 2020, the majority of national and city governments are revisiting urban planning to help prevent the next pandemic’ 

This reassured us about the relevance and criticality of the concept we had chosen to inquire into.

Students shared that they wanted to explore past civilisations for their sustainable practices and make connections to see which of those could be implemented today. Some wanted to inquire in depth into the good practices followed by their grandparents, whereas a few wanted to research modern vs traditional medicine. All these trains of thought helped us in framing our broad central idea.

Central idea – Version 1

Understanding and adopting sustainable practices from past civilizations can positively improve our quality of life and the environment’

Central idea – Version 2 

‘Understanding and adopting sustainable practices can improve our quality of life’

We mapped each version against the following criteria 

  • Can it be linked with the transdisciplinary theme?
  • Is it a big idea that will allow in-depth inquiry?
  • Would this Central idea be worth studying in any part of the world? 
  • Does the Central idea remain relevant at any point of time – in the past, present and future?
  • Are we able to take action because we have better understanding on this idea?

Central idea – Final verison

which fit the criteria of being a broad, universal statement with enough scope for inquiry, and action

‘Sustainable practices can improve our life’

Students also brainstormed and listed their wonderings – this facilitated the process of identifying the key concepts to narrow down our scope of inquiry and framing the lines of inquiry.

In this post I would like to focus on how student agency was integrated seamlessly into every aspect of the process.

What process would we follow?

Students had learned the Design Cycle process in their ICT classes and they felt confident about expressing their understanding through the phases of the design cycle. This is the one they chose, as it covered all the aspects we wanted – from inquiring right upto action

What understanding did we want to display?

Here as the mentor, I explained to the students that they had to understand the main purpose of the exhibition unit –

  • display of an understanding of the chosen concept of sustainability
  • display of a culminating understanding of the essential elements of the PYP – knowledge, ATL skills, learner profile attributes and action

How would we display this understanding?

What transdisciplinary elements could we integrate to enhance the depth of understanding?

Students shared some of the ways they wanted to express their understanding of the concept of sustainability –


following the design cycle process for inquiry

creating a chatbot as a means of addressing queries about sustainability


students wrote and recorded a song on sustainability under the guidance of the music teacher


expressing data on waste management in the form of bar graphs and pie charts


students created posters to raise awareness on sustainability


students wrote poems to spread the message of sustainability and summarised relevant newspaper articles to express their understanding. 

Scope for developing international mindedness

There was ample scope for developing international mindedness throughout the process –

  • exploring civilisations around the world (Indus valley, Greek civilisation, Roman civilisation) to understand their best practices towards sustainability through water conservation systems, waste management systems and architecture.
  • Developing solutions at individual, community and global levels
  • Some students also expressed a desire to connect with their grandparents to understand the practices they followed in their days which were sustainable. This brought in multilingualism (students conversed with their grandparents in their mother tongue – Hindi and Tamil) thus bringing a refreshing perspective to the inquiry.
  • Students bonded with their grandparents, connected with them through technology (recording podcast interviews with them) and shared some doable practices that we could integrate in our daily lives. Eating regional, local and seasonal foods, drinking water from clay pots and using home remedies in the form of our kitchen herbs and spices were some sustainable practices shared.

Evaluation and Reflection

Following the design thinking process, students evaluated their understanding by expressing an enduring understanding of the central idea ‘Sustainable practices can improve our life’ through the thinking routine ‘I used to think … Now I think’ – which helped showcase how their understanding developed over the course of the exhibition.

Students reflected on different aspects of the process to understand their strengths and their areas of improvement for the future.

  • Reflecting on our journey together
  • Reflecting on the skills developed
  • Reflecting on the learner profile attributes and dispositions developed

The exhibition process was intense, exhausting and confusing at times, yet so rewarding! I was able to consolidate and reinforce my understanding of PYP elements and student agency further while mentoring the students.  It was immensely gratifying to witness on the exhibition day, the comprehensive presentation of knowledge, conceptual understanding, skills and dispositions from this enthusiastic group of children. As a mentor I was so proud to be able to nurture my students passions and build ladders to help them achieve their dreams. You may go through the entire Google site presentation using the link below. I have deleted the student images to maintain their privacy

The sustainable squad – A virtual PYP Exhbition

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.