Tag Archives: #ibpyp

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 classrooms...do share in the comments 🙂


Kintsugi – why be broken when you can be gold?

New year, new beginnings – embracing ourselves

Before the winter break, all plans were in place to come back rejuvenated to the campus. The hope was to resume some semblance of normalcy. But man proposes and Corona disposes

I was looking for a welcome activity for students to start the second term of the year with and came across this golden philosophy – Kintsugi

Kintsugi (kin – gold, tsugi – repair or joining)

is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. Every break is unique and instead of repairing an item like new, the 400-year-old technique actually highlights the “scars” as a part of the design.

Using this as a metaphor for healing ourselves teaches us an important lesson: Sometimes in the process of repairing things that have broken, we actually create something more unique, beautiful and resilient.

Source – How the Japanese art of Kintsugi can help you deal with stressful situations (nbcnews.com)

I wanted to share this philosophy with students as a mindfulness activity – not only recognizing, but embracing our flaws, what is seen as broken, and repairing it by not hiding the process, or covering the scars, rather highlighting them.

Kintsugi teaches us that the process of overcoming challenges is beautiful in itself – we do it with the help of mindfulness, friendships, family, community, faith…

And we do it not with paste, glue or duct tape.

But with gold.

Student reflections after watching the video explaining Kintsugi and having a discussion in class as to how it resonated with them –

As much as I wanted to share this with my students to facilitate their mindfulness journey, I learned so much from seeing this together with them and listening to their thoughts…for children it is so essential to understand that making mistakes is okay, it is the learning from them that is so important on our growth.

We are more beautiful for having been broken

This video so beautifully captures the essence and spirit of Kintsugi –

The bowl represents us

The hammer that breaks the bowl represents the challenges that life throws at us – to break us.

Once broken, we try to hide our broken selves. Here we are asked to stay with ourselves for some time and be mindful – not be in a hurry to ‘fix’ ourselves

The glue we then use to connect the broken parts (of ourselves) could be our faith, our friends and family, or even our inner resilience. The repaired bowl is now so much more beautiful than even the original, is it not?

Once again – in the process of trying to help my students I have helped myself! Discovered a new philosophy to live and love myself by…  

What about you? How has life hammered you? How have you overcome these challenges? Do share in the comments…

Embrace yourself, and appreciate the beauty and strength with which you got back up again….

Why be broken when you can be gold

Sarah Rees Brennan

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