Whether you are entering an International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP school having just graduated from university or having taught for umpteen years, it can be a completely overwhelming experience, especially if the school doesn’t have a great set of planning tools for you to use. From the minute you start working, you are inundated with jargon, multiple sets of curriculums and standards to work with … and the list goes on. It can leave your head spinning with a sense of overwhelming panic as you attempt to piece everything together in your unit planning and a million questions start forming in your mind: Where do I start? How do I plan for both transdisciplinary and concurrent standards? What is transdisciplinary planning? How do I include Learner Profiles and Attitudes in my lesson planning? And so on and so forth – the good news is that even if your school doesn’t have an educational framework, or planning tools that can help you make sense of things, there are ways you can get yourself organized and make sure you are meeting your objectives. Below are some easy steps to follow, alongside some planning templates that you can modify to suit your needs.
1. Know the Difference Between Your Concrete and Variable Elements:
First off, it is essential to know the difference between your concrete (concurrent) and variable (transdisciplinary) elements prior to planning because the category of the subject area you are working with will dictate how you proceed in organizing it. When looking for your concrete elements, these will most likely be related to your Math and Language Arts (LA) curriculums and include things like standards and outcomes that must be taught regardless of inquiries taking place, and any textbooks your school may be using to supplement these subjects. Your variables are standards and outcomes that still need to be covered throughout the year, but can move around freely, based on Trandisciplinary Themes and inquiries taking place. Once you are able to separate the two in your mind, it will be much easier moving forward.
2. Familiarize Yourself With Your School’s Routing
Your school should already have mapped out its Transdisciplinary Themes for the year. Find this document and note the central idea of each one and its duration. This is important because, as mentioned, there are two elements to your unit planning – the concrete and the variable. Although the timeline is less of a concern for your variable elements, it is crucial to know your dates when planning for your concrete elements so you don’t come to the end of the year and realize, for instance, that you missed teaching two chapters out of a textbook.
3. Map Out Your Concrete Elements
You have gathered your concrete elements, you know your timelines – now what? It’s time to start mapping out your units on your yearly planner! Let’s say, for instance, this is what you know for certain:
With this information you can easily map out your LA and Math curriculums (concrete/concurrent elements) over the course of 32 weeks using a yearly planning template such as the one below:
In the above yearly planning template, the first thing you are required to do is indicate which months and how many weeks each Transdisciplinary Theme will run, and from there indicate what the themes are and their central ideas. How you lay out your LA and Math curriculums can go one of two ways:
Either way, once you’ve filled in your concrete elements in your yearly planner, things will be so much clearer and that feeling of confusion will slowly start to disappear because you will realize that although IB is an inquiry-based program, certain aspects have set timelines.
4. Map Out Your Variables
Now that your concrete elements have been laid out, it’s time to look at your variable elements, those aspects of the curriculum that are dependent on the Transdisciplinary Themes and Inquiries that may transpire. To approach this, imagine your yearly planner is a giant Sudoko puzzle where certain numbers have already been filled in (theme, central idea, LA and Math standards/concepts/chapters, etc.), and now your goal is to find the magic numbers (in this case information) to fill in the remaining blanks.
In order to do so, start by filling leftover Standards from your supplementary LA and Math curriculums as well as your IB Standards where see them fitting in best, and then move on to adding Standards for your Unit of Inquiry, always making sure that you are making the most logical links between the theme and what you will covering in LA and Math on a weekly basis. If your school has allowed you the option of changing the order of the chapters in your textbooks, you may notice while mapping out your Units of Inquiry that some things need to be swapped around, and this is okay – keep shifting curriculums around until you are satisfied that you have made the tightest connections. Once you have completed all of the above, take a look at your Learner Profiles and Attributes to see how they may fit in over the course of the year, and you are done!
It should be noted that although this yearly planner keeps everything straight in your mind, and gives you a good sense of direction, there is a reason certain elements are called “variables”, and this is because as you are unit planning with your team throughout the year, you may find you need to move certain things around in order to make better connections with what the specialists will be doing. That being said, because all of your Standards are mapped out in front of you, you can easily move elements around without fear of coming to the end of the year and realizing something hasn’t been covered, and how great would that feel!
5. Plan a Unit With Confidence
You can now enter your team unit planning meetings with confidence as your concretes are in place and you can shift your variables on a dime, never missing a beat. In addition, your yearly planner can become your monthly one by simply adding a few columns and the extra details suggested in blue on the sample below.
This yearly planner is not only great for initial team unit planning meetings, but also to refer back to for the duration of the unit since you have already provided yourself with boxes that span over 8 weeks for each subject area where you have noted the Standards and Concepts your will be covering – all you need to do is extend them vertically. Below, in blue, are just some of the things you could add to your yearly planner during or after team meetings to help inform your lesson planning – feel free to adapt based on your needs.
6. Plan Your Lessons
From your yearly planning template that has turned into a monthly one, how easy will it be for you now to plan your weekly lessons and include all of IB’s required elements? Transdiscplinary links – check. Learner Profiles and Attributes – check. Standards from both supplementary and IB curriclums – check. And the list of elements you can tick goes on … as for your lesson plans, it’s up to you or your school’s requirements how specific they need to be, but you could begin your weekly planning session by copying certain elements of your yearly planner, such as Transdisciplinary Links, Standards, Lines of Inquiry, etc., before moving on to your daily lesson planning, as shown below:
Or, you may just want to jump right into your lesson plans without the weekly overview to start you off, like in this example below:
It’s really whatever you feel most comfortable with. You might prefer to add more detail to the first few units, but once you’re in the groove you may decide to scale back a bit.
Working at an IB PYP school can make sense, and following the above steps and creating some supplementary planning tools will enable you to end the days of feeling lost when it comes to the implementing your curriculums!
Ready to take that next step, but feel you might need further guidance? Contact us, we can help!
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