PYP Exhibition at BIS 2013: Freedom, Creativity, Beliefs and Passion

This year, our PYP exhibition came under the transdisciplinary theme ‘How we express ourselves’ and the central idea, written by the Grade 5 students, was: ‘People’s beliefs, passions and life experiences influImageence self-expression with varying consequences.’  This central idea certainly offered opportunities for the children to extend their critical thinking and develop conceptual understanding.  At the beginning of their inquiry the students found out about several people from around the world who have expressed themselves with varying consequences. They were inspired by people like Malala Yusafzai, Nick Vujicic, Beethoven, Jamie Oliver and Steve Irwin and were surprised to find out that even though most of the time we take it for granted, freedom of expression is not a right for many people in the world.  Students then explored a wide range of forms of self-expression such as storytelling, music, animation and visual arts, and created a performance to convey the understandings formed during their inquiry.

The lines of inquiry, formulated and revised by the students during the tuning-in stage, were:

  • Freedom of expression
  • Our personal passions
  • The process of performance

Throughout the whole process the students demonstrated all attributes of the IB learner profile.  They were Principled in the way they balanced their commitment to the exhibition unit while many of them were also involved in other school events such as the Musical Drama and training for a swimming competition.   They were Knowledgeable when exploring concepts and issues with local and global significance, acquiring in-depth knowledge about political systems in places such as Myanmar and China and about cultural issues in the UK.  They were Open-minded when they took into consideration the views of the whole class as to what constituted a form of self-expression.  They were Thinkers when they thought critically and creatively about how people in different times and places, in Indonesia, other Asian countries and in countries further afield, had expressed themselves.  They were Communicators when they worked effectively in collaboration with others, expressing ideas and information confidently and creatively in both English and in Indonesian in the performance and in a variety of modes of communication.  Without a doubt they were Inquirers.  They were curious about a range of issues and developing their research skills as they independently carried out their investigations into Aboriginal storytelling, Third Culture Kids and shadow puppets, to name but three of the different directions their inquiries led them in.  They developed their understanding of the central ideas and transdisciplinary theme through making connections across different disciplines such as Language, Arts and Social Studies. 

The exhibition itself took place on 2 and 3 May in the auditorium and the library.  Each day began with a performance after which BIS community members and visitors went to the library where the students explained the process of working through the exhibition unit.  The performance on the evening of 2 May was exclusively for parents, other family members and adults who had been directly involved in the exhibition. 

What struck me most about this year’s exhibition was the element of Choice.  During the performance it was evident that students were actively responsible for their own learning and their displays of work also showed many examples of student independent inquiry.  During the tuning-in stage, once the students realized that they were becoming more interested in the process of performance they decided to change the lines of inquiry which originally had included a stronger focus on the consequences of self-expression.  However, throughout the unit, the inquiry was guided by the teachers who were instrumental in reminding the students to connect their understandings with their central idea and the transdisciplinary theme.  The class discussed about whether playing football, a passion of several of the students, was actually ‘expressing yourself’. They decided that sports and games with specific rules don’t give us the freedom to be expressive. They chose all sorts of passions from Jewellery to Clown Dancing, from Storytelling to Tattoos, but even the student who was so passionate about football was able to combine this passion with his love of the guitar and song writing which enabled him to write and perform a song about football.

Another thing that struck me was the students’ ability to make Connections with other units of inquiry, both Grade 5 units and units in previous grade levels.  A grade 5 student explained in the performance script that it was a link with ‘Sharing the Planet’ and Malala Yousafzai that started the students thinking about the concept of ‘freedom of expression’.  Connections were also made with their ‘Where we are in place and time unit’ when a students considered how a Vietnamese immigrant to Australia expressed himself in his new home.  The students found it exciting to discover how many links they could make with previous units of inquiry, even as far back as grades 1 and 2, which gave them a deeper understanding of the transdisciplinary themes.

The third thing that struck me was how clearly the PYP exhibition revealed the PYP attitudes at work, not only the obvious ones in a ‘How we express ourselves’ unit like Appreciation, Creativity and Enthusiasm but also Integrity and Tolerance.  All of the students demonstrated Confidence.  One student spoke about her passion for ice-skating and, before we viewed a video showing her gliding so gracefully around an ice-rink, she described it as a way to express herself with body language because she doesn’t really like speaking.  Another student then explained that watching her skate so well make them all believe that they can try something different and that: “if we work hard we can achieve our goals… [she] inspired us to believe in ourselves”.  Another student chose to express himself through mime because it is sometimes hard for him to talk properly.  When he uses mime he doesn’t have to talk and can show how he feels using his body language.  The narrator explained that sometimes this student feels like his speech is locked in a box and he wishes he could find the key to get out.  It was inspirational to see how the exhibition had allowed the students to learn about themselves, to discover who they are.  One of the students explained in the performance script: “Exhibition has been many things, exciting, inspiring, intriguing and even heart-breaking.”

The students came to understand that people in power often used the arts as a way to influence others.  For example, before their ‘Tari Saman’ dance, a student explained that traditional leaders in Indonesia would give useful advice to the dancers and spectators. They also gave tips and tried to influence the attitudes of the community.  They explored the idea of protest songs and learnt about recent Indonesian history through focusing on the lyrics of Iwan Fals, adding their own lyrics to one of his songs to express their feelings about the importance of freedom of expression:

“People with power

Can often say and do just what they like

People like us

Should have the same right too

Malala only wanted to go to school

She was brave

And she knew what she had to do

Jin Xing

Ai Weiwei

Nelson Mandela

Aung San Suu Kyi

Miranda Gibson

These people have inspired me…”

The students clearly developed their viewing skills as they interpreted and anlaysed visuals and multimedia, understanding the ways in which images and language interact to convey social, political and personal ideas, values and beliefs.  Their presenting skills were evident as they constructed visuals and media to show what they had learnt about freedom of expression from exploring their passions, communicating information through a variety of visual media.  Well done to the Grade 5 teachers – Mrs. Taber and Ms. Vici in particular – and of course many congratulations to the Grade 5 students who shared with us their journey of self-expression and discovery!

5 May 2013




Filed under PYP

Imagine there’s no…..Conceptual Understandings

Conceptual understandings. These are what underpin what we do in class. Or at least should be. Concepts underpin inquiry. Inquiring into something is difficult if the concepts are not understood

The purpose of this workshop was:

  • To develop strategies that will lead to the a coherence of conceptual understanding across all disciplines
  • To explore ways to facilitate the processing of factual information through a conceptual level of thinking.

Recently all Primary Tears Programme (PYP) teachers at Bandung International School spent 2 days with PYP Workshop Leader @helen_morschel of MV Education Services at our in school Concept Based Learning workshop. The concepts that lay the foundation of our Central Ideas include:

  • Change: How is it changing?
  • Reflection: How do we know?
  • Perspective:What are the points of view?
  • Form: What is it like?
  • Function: How does it work?
  • Causation: Why is it like it is?
  • Connection: How is to connected to other things?
  • Responsibility: What is our responsibility?

At the end of the 2 day workshop participants were asked to show their understanding of a key idea. A big picture of the workshop. Some made a skit, others a diagram. There was even a poem. This was my favorite; a song. (Cue John Lennon’s classic: Imagine)

Imagine there’s no concepts
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to plan or inquire for
No understanding too
Imagine all the people teaching to the test

Imagine a big triangle
Facts and knowledge underneath
Leading through the concepts
The amount of learning beggars belief
Imagine all the learners asking “What is it like”

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
Now that concept based learning has begun

Written and performed by BIS Music Teacher Mr. Matt Ashworth and Assistant teacher Ms Lydia Oktavia
Big Takeaways:
  • Concepts drive inquiry
  • Concepts have different interpretations and applications as understanding is deepened
  • Using the Freyer Model in different ways
  • Concepts  are transdisciplinary
  • Start with the concepts when planning a unit

Whats next?

I feel I use concepts in my teaching however I could be more explicit in doing so. Using the related concepts to help with the understanding of the main concepts is something I plan to work on for my upcoming units in 2013. I will do this by not going to the planner document first, but mind-mapping out the unit conceptually. I think this will help me better understand the concepts myself.

Thanks Helen.
By the way check out this great post Its all about the Concepts  by Sarah Hodgson  (@SarahHHK) from Canadian International School Hong Kong!

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Filed under concepts, inquiry, Learning, Professional Development, PYP, Reflection

Inquiry in music: single-subject teaching supporting the transdisciplinary programme of inquiry

In our school we attempt to meet the following PYP requirements (which come under the first of the seven IB standards): “The school is committed to the Primary Years Programme as the framework for all planning, teaching and learning across the curriculum” and “The school demonstrates a commitment to transdisciplinary learning”.  This can be challenging for single-subject teachers who teach across all three programmes; it would seem unreasonable to expect that they have the same level of understanding as PYP practitioners who only teach within the Primary Years Programme.  We are, however, fortunate to have a Music teacher with excellent understanding of the PYP and commitment to an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning.  Grade 3 have recently begun their ‘Who we are’ unit with the central idea: ‘Our cultural traditions shape our personal identity’.  In Music class, the students are developing their gamelan playing skills (gamelan being the instrument traditionally played during many Indonesian ceremonies) and Matt got the students to brainstorm a list of questions about music at weddings.  The students came up with the following questions:

What kinds of music are used in weddings?

Why is Gamelan used for a wedding?

Do all weddings have music?

Why do we need to have music in a wedding?

Who made the song for the wedding?

Is music important for all weddings?

What does the music mean in weddings?

What song do we need in a wedding?

Why in weddings do the people that get married wear special clothes?

Whose idea was making wedding songs?

Are there different traditional weddings in Indonesia?

What things do we need for a wedding?

Why do weddings have rings?

Why do we have a wedding?

When was the wedding ceremony invented?

Why do we have to get married?

Why is there a lot of food in a wedding?

Is there always food at the wedding?

Why do people invite people to come to their wedding?


It was after this that Matt and I discussed the questions generated by students and attempted to work out the next step.  We talked about the need to avoid seeing student questions as the basis for the inquiry.  It is the teacher’s job to facilitate discussion about these questions to narrow them down to questions that will frame the inquiry.  Simply allowing students to inquire into whatever questions they please is forgetting that we are committed to guided inquiry, not a ‘free for all’-anything-goes type of inquiry!  We both thought that students could be asked to categorise their questions in any way they wished, a task which would encourage them to think carefully about the questions.  They could then be asked to select questions that would be useful for a survey to be carried out at home.  Based on the results of this survey – when they asked their parents five questions, e.g. ‘Why did you have music at your wedding?’ – and on the class discussions that would follow on from sharing these results, the students would then be in a better position, guided by their Music teacher, to select questions worthy of further inquiry during the ‘sorting out’ and ‘going further’ stages.

Judging from the enthusiasm of my 8 year old daughter, who happens to be in the Grade 3 class, the students are engaged by their inquiries into cultural traditions and motivated to develop their gamelan playing skills also!

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The inquiry cycle in Grade 2 visual arts: planning, designing and creating a wall mural – Part 2

Yesterday the Grade 2 students were in the sorting out stage as they continued their planning for our learner profile mural.  We were lucky to have a visitor (a new assistant teacher) which provided an authentic audience for them to explain our project, which they did with great enthusiasm and clarity.  We then reviewed the possible solution to the problem of the squares being the wrong size – the idea one student had of using a rectangle for each letter instead  – but then decided that because letters are ‘square’ shaped we would have to use squares and not rectangles.  After a lengthy discussion the students decided that they would have to have more columns and fewer rows so we went about deciding how many of each there would be, counting up the number of squares we would need for the message we wanted to include in the grid.  The final consensus was a grid of 33 columns and 5 rows and then we fitted our Happy Birthday anniversary message and the learner profile attributes into the grid.  Finally, after a quick visit to the wall on which the mural will be painted, the students estimated the length and the height of the wall.  Estimates ranged from 2 metres to 5 metres long; and from 70 cm to 2 metres high.  Next week we’ll be measuring the wall to check our estimates and planning the grid on large sheets of paper, as well as drawing in pencil the grid on the wall.  We will go back to one of our questions last week: ‘How big do you think each square will be on our mural?’

I was delighted to see that the students were thinkers, using their initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to solve a real-life, challenging problem.  They developed social skills, in particular cooperating and group decision-making and practiced speaking and listening when they listened to directions and expressed their ideas clearly and logically.  They enjoyed the opportunity to be mathematicians facing a challenge.  Together we are realizing that Visual Art can provide a vehicle to enhance the students’ understanding of the ‘Who we are’ transdisciplinary theme.  I hope that the students will come to a deeper understanding of concepts behind artistic experiences, and be better able to plan and carry out a lengthy process.  We still have more planning to do before we actually start painting!

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Grade 2 visual arts learner profile: Finding out

Grade 2 visual arts learner profile: Finding out

What size square will we use for each letter of the learner profile? If the squares are too small for the columns but too big for the rows what will we do? Next week we move to Sorting out our ideas!

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by | October 2, 2012 · 5:39 pm

Grade 2 visual arts learner profile mural: Finding out

Grade 2 visual arts learner profile mural: Finding out

Which wall will we use for our mural? How will we decide?

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by | October 2, 2012 · 5:37 pm

Grade 2 visual arts learner profile mural: Finding out

Grade 2 visual arts learner profile mural: Finding out

How many letters are there in the learner profile attributes? How will we work this out?

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by | October 2, 2012 · 5:35 pm