Key concepts – the lens that helps make meaning of the world around us

As a grade 5 form tutor, the PYP exhibition is never far from my mind. Though the exhibition culminates their learning experience, I need to prepare students for a meaningful expression of all aspects of the PYP framework. To that extent, I start reinforcing these elements – transdiciplinary learning, skills and dispositions, learner agency, action (among others) almost from the very start of the academic year.
In this post, I am sharing how I reinforced the understanding of one of the essential elements of the PYP – key concepts

This is how the official site of the IB defines key concepts

Key concepts

The PYP identifies seven key concepts that facilitate planning for a conceptual approach to transdisciplinary and subject-specific learning. Together, these key concepts form the component that drives the teacher- and/or student-constructed inquiries that lie at the heart of the PYP curriculum.

Students keep encountering key concepts – mainly through their units of inquiry – however, these are almost always already decided by the teachers and then shared with students.

In the PYP exhibition, however, groups of students will have to choose the key concepts and then frame the lines of inquiry themselves. This is authentic concept-based inquiry – a powerful vehicle for learning that allows students to choose what they want to inquire in depth – thus promoting deeper understanding and engagement with significant ideas.

‘Students co-construct beliefs and mental models about how the world works based on their experiences and prior learning’

To ensure that students have a crystal clear understanding of the key concepts – they needed to be explicitly taught and then applied in a number of situations by students independently.

How we started

I started with showing a video to students (link below)– it explains the key concepts by connecting them with a popular and well known story ‘The 3 little pigs’

Once they watched this video, they applied their understanding by framing questions based on the key concepts for some common objects that they are familiar with – a water bottle, an apple, and a soft toy.

Sharing some samples below –

How we progressed

This basic understanding was extended when we started with our new unit of inquiry on diverse learning styles. I wanted the students to have some basic understanding of the brain and its functioning before moving on to the different ways in which people learn.

Rather than frontload them with facts about the brain, I asked them – ‘What do you want to know more about the brain’

‘What questions do you have?’

‘Why do you think it is important?’.

The importance of framing meaningful questions cannot be stressed enough for meaningful inquiry. I love the way key concepts allow us to frame questions and look at a concept through different lens. I could already see the evolving understanding reflected in the meaningful questions framed by groups of students (each group was allotted 2 key concepts). What was amazing to see was the questions covered almost any and everything we would have wanted to explore about the human brain.

Made with Padlet

I could witness authentic guided inquiry happening in the class – students discussing and framing questions together.

The next step was answering these questions themselves. This was a guided process – I shared links for research and guided them in breakout rooms which I facilitated.

Through this process of creating a collated presentation – students gained the conceptual understanding and knowledge I intended for them – however, the process was such that they felt they answered their own questions – leading to an enduring understanding. Sharing some samples of the Google slide collated presentation where these questions were answered –

We don’t learn by doing, we learn by reflecting on what we have done

How we culminated

Not only is reflection important for developing metacognition – it is imperative that students identify what skills they developed along with gaining conceptual understanding.

We had a look at the ATL chart and mutually decided that during this activity research skills (gathering & recording and/or synthesizing and interpreting) and social skills (interpersonal) were in focus.

I encouraged students to use the vocabulary from the ATL chart (embedded in the Padlet for reference) and reflect meaningfully on the ATL developed.

Sharing some student reflections

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tsu

My students and I have embarked together on this learning journey – sharing our small steps with the learning community ….

I would love to hear about how you are strengthening the essential elements in your share in the comments 🙂


5 thoughts on “Key concepts – the lens that helps make meaning of the world around us

  1. Totally different concept and ideas . Very interesting subject and easy for everyone to understand. You come with unique and creative thinking and subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s amazing to see that learning can be approached in so many ways, and this is quite a sophisticated method – great to see what Year 5 students are capable of!

    Liked by 1 person

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