On April 21, 2019, I made an announcement on Facebook and Twitter about my intention to offer Professional Development free of cost to any public school or group of public schools in any of the non-OECD countries (except Mexico).  This blog post is a follow up to that publication.

In this blog post, I have included the terms for my endeavor.

Terms and conditions JRA

El 21 de abril de 2019, hice un anuncio en Facebook y Twitter sobre mi intención de ofrecer Desarrollo Profesional sin costo a cualquier escuela pública o grupo de escuelas públicas en cualquiera de los países que no pertenecen a la OCDE (excepto México). Esta publicación da seguimiento a tal anuncio.

A continuación he incluido los términos en español de esta iniciativa.

Condiciones JRA

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Concept-Based Foreign Language Instruction Strategies


I have put together this post which includes most of my posts on concept-based foreign language instruction strategies.

If this interest you, subscribe to it as I will be updating it constantly.

Miscelaneous strategies for Concept-Based foreign language instruction

Previous blog posts related to Concept-Based Foreign Language Instruction

How can we help students achieve a conceptual understanding?

Inquiry-based learning is a lesson on humility.

Approaches to amplifying the Interdisciplinary Experience in MYP.

A Service-led Unit: A Triathlon of Learning.

The Language B HL Individual Oral: An avenue to allow students to express their conceptual understandings.

A Spanish as a foreign language Concept-Based Unit of work (narrated in English).

Focus on thematic concepts.

Spanish Language and Literature strategy
¿Cómo se grababan las radionovelas?

Chinese as a foreign language resources

An example of how to create (and model) the creation of effective “texts” for beginners in Chinese as a foreign language.

Youtuber Video

Example of a teacher-designed Chinese as a foreign language text based on a real-life item

Chinese as a Foreign Language Reading Beginner- Real life text


Posted in Concept-Based Foreign Language Instruction, Concept-Based Teaching and Learning, IB DP, IB MYP, Resources, Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Language B HL Individual Oral: An avenue to allow students to express their conceptual understandings

IB DP performance assessments that occur towards the end of the learning journey provide educators with opportunities to identify the skills students will need to demonstrate in order to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge by responding to a literary extract. Likewise, knowing what the goal and the objective of these tasks are, should help educators to design the architecture of their courses by considering the skills that they will employ in order to help students find relationships among the concepts in the story, as well as the concepts in the process of speaking.

The objective of the individual oral is to measure the student’s ability to understand and produce communication in the target language, and to participate in a successful interaction. This suggests that a big part of the guidance we need to provide should aim at helping students to construct their own meanings by engaging in dialogue with the text, and to monitor their reading and “the conversation” they establish with the story.

The constraint of time is a variable that causes students to rush, hence affecting the quality of their response. For this reason, I feel it is important that throughout the course, we help students to achieve mastery in responding to texts by engaging them in response activities emulate the steps of the individual oral. In the design of these learning experiences, we must ensure to get students to do the natural things one does with texts that have been viewed or read, so that they relate what they have experienced and felt to the text and, consequently, develop deeper understandings.

The following statement in the guide helped me to think of a note-taking routine that may help students organize their presentation and be fully aware of the big ideas that may trigger meaningful dialogue with the teacher.

*The student may place the extract in relation to the literary work, but must spend the majority of the presentation discussing the eventsideas, and messages in the extract itself.

The first thing that I did as I explained this routine to students is to understand how these 3 concepts (eventsideas, messages) grow in complexity when we read them next to one another in this order. Once this understanding was confirmed, the next steps followed:

  • We read a literary text.
  • We identified the events in the literary text after reading it.
  • We looked at the series of events we identified and wondered what ideas the writer wanted us to understand through the experiences characters lived in those events.
  • Students framed their responses to the question as follows:
    The writer wants to understand that “individuals use language as a negotiation, mediation, and persuasion tool”.
  • All of the students’ ideas were listed.
  • Finally, I asked: if we read all of these ideas, what is the message or messages in the story; and students replied by synthesizing the concepts the ideas captured.

One of the pedagogical goals of concept-based instruction is that by recognizing the concepts being studied, learners find a relationship among them and state such relationship in a generalization. The strategy that I propose above allows students to achieve this when they talk about the ideas the writer wants us to understand.

What is more, since they will have identified a variety of concepts in their notes and may address them in their presentation, the questions the teacher will ask may help students to further express their understanding of the concepts they mentioned.

Below is a photo of the notes a student took after reading “Story of your Life” by Ted Chiang. The presentation these notes empowered the student to produce was rich in meaning and offered ample possibilities to ask questions to create a meaningful interaction.


* From IB Language B guide (first assessment 2020), page 50.

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The Relationship Between MYP Criterion B and literacy

For the last year, my MYP mathematics team and I have been inquiring into the nature of MYP Criterion B assessment design. The goal of our exploration was to produce guidelines for Criterion B assessment design [similar to the MYP Language Acquisition Teacher Support Material (TSM)], and to identify what concrete ATL skills needed to be explicitly taught in order to guarantee success in this criterion.

Our first step in this inquiry was to take a look at different Criterion B assessments developed by teachers in different IB MYP schools. With the generous help of Alison Yang and Katie Wellbrook, my team and I collected a substantial amount of assessment samples that, along with ours, would help us find patterns in the design and skills demanded- totally emulating a Criterion B task if you like.

Our conversations revolved around the emphasis on designing learning experiences through which students experience discovery, and through which they develop their ability to inquire in the MYP mathematics classroom. Likewise, teachers agreed with the idea that effective learning experiences in MYP mathematics should allow students to select a problem-solving technique, and to eventually be able to describe a general rule consistent with incorrect findings. Therefore, the team concluded that, not only do MYP mathematics teachers need to give enough direction, and help students construct understandings, but also equip students with strategies that students are able to name and grab from their “mental toolbox” when needed.

A pattern that we found is that most Criterion B assessments are reading comprehension tasks in nature. So, clearly, we started wondering about the differences between good readers in the language class, and good mathematicians (when reading). These were some of the ideas we concluded.

  • Mathematicians call upon prior knowledge to understand concepts and solve problems.
  • Mathematicians are procedurally fluent.
  • Mathematicians create multiple representations of mathematics concepts and problems.
  • Mathematicians use multiple strategies to understand concepts and solve problems.
  • Mathematicians monitor their understanding as they solve problems.
  • Mathematicians clearly explain their mathematical thinking to others.

For this reason, in order to support students to be good readers in mathematics, we started putting together a set of strategies for pre, during, and after reading that will support students to understand what a word problem is about, what is asking of them, how they have to answer it, what mathematics they need to use and why. More details about this in a future post.

Nonetheless, when we started thinking about how we could turn this finding in a consistent practice in the classroom; when we began to think about the characteristic features of the routines we needed to put in place to help students enrich their learning habits, and to eventually achieve “flow” (I am referring to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow). We had explored a variety of scenarios, and the answer was not easy to find.

It is funny how many times inspiration comes from places and sources where we haven’t looked, and I was lucky to have my 5 senses on when Cecilia Flores (@educolitas), a PYP educator, showed me how she was training her students to organize their notes, to solve problems, to find patterns in the solutions they worked out, and to define mathematics concepts (including examples and non-examples) in their own words.

I tweeted the images below, which show the examples of work that Cecilia allowed me to take of the notebook where she models to students and a couple of students’ samples. Credit for the strategy and the work reflected on the images goes all to her.

This is not the first time Cecilia impresses me with the rich learning scenarios she has the ability to design; however, this time I am glad I was in the right place at the right time; for thanks to her, now we have realized how we can best build a bridge between mathematics in PYP and MYP. The next blog post in this “MYP Criterion B Investigation Series” will include a podcast in which she will be featured as a guest”.

Posted in Concept-Based Teaching and Learning, IB MYP, IB PYP, Language Support, Strategies | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Spanish Ab Initio By Concept

My newest book for concept-based Spanish language instruction will be released soon.

I have prepared a video (in Spanish) to explain how the video is structured, how it covers all of the requirements of the Language Ab Initio Program, and how it authentically addresses every aspect of the IB DP Curriculum model.

Spanish educators, if you watch this video, let me know what you think.

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The Self-Study Process as a Celebration of Fruition

Screenshot 2019-02-12 at 10.09.48 AM

Re-reading the MYP self-study report that I am about to submit has reminded me a lot about the way I saw my father work when I was a child. My father was a jimador, a farmer that grows agave (the plant that is used to make tequila), and the way he approached the seven-year-long process of planting, taking care, and harvesting the agave was very meticulous and demonstrated a big amount of respect for the land, the people who worked with him, the relationships they shared, the workload, and the celebratory moment that would eventually come.

Announcing the self-study process may be very exciting for some- I am one of those. However, not everyone may perceive it as the great opportunity for reflection that it represents, but as a laborious process from which they may gain nothing. Therefore, it is important for those who orchestrate the process to ensure that everyone understands the goal of the process, the roles each one will have, how we should communicate with one another, and how we should speak about our findings. By all means, we should avoid making our team feels like they are doing different kinds of work that are not needed.

Screenshot 2019-02-12 at 10.07.33 AM

Working in a farm begins with a dream in the planting season, and then becomes a journey of challenges, adaptations, and growth. All efforts made along the process have one sole goal: to ensure the seeds planted come to fruition and to make sure the land and the people are not harmed in the process. This idea makes me think that administrating a program may follow the same principles, for ideas are planted, worked, developed, polished, and ultimately we want to see success.

For this reason, as the team prepares the year long (to name a duration) process of self-study, many things need to be taken into consideration: What’s the status of the school? Is everyone equipped with the skills needed to face the process? Are the people orchestrating the process well informed about what should happen in every step of the way? Have the people orchestrating the process anticipated possible problems and solutions? Have the people orchestrating the process considered resources that may help? Has the school community understood achieved a consensus on the desired outcome?  I tried to illustrate this in the infographic below.

Screenshot 2019-02-12 at 10.07.01 AM

In the weeks that follow, my team and I will have a few sessions in order to look back at the process and to share what we found about ourselves and to share how different do we feel in comparison to what we may have been like at the beginning of the self-study process. My hope is that even if there was little transformation, the team recognizes that every effort that was made was for the success of the team, without personal interest or agenda in mind.

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Pride and Ownership


Pride and Prejudice maps Elizabeth’s emotional development as she learns the error of making rushed judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between what is superficial and what is essential. In this classic, one can easily appreciate the role of concepts such as manners, education, marriage and money during the Regency era in Britain.

When it was decided that my current school would have a multi-program evaluation, I wondered about how my team and I could experience the process as a reflection exercise, and culminate it being proud and showing ownership. Just as Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, as I crafted the journey, I needed to distinguish between the superficial and the essential. What is more, as in Pride and Prejudice as well, I had to be fully aware of the role the following things played in the evaluation journey; processes, procedures, relationships, evidence collected, ways and means in which the evidence was collected, dispositions, commitment to agreements, and money.

Therefore, in the hope that the culmination of this reflection process allowed me to be at the beginning of a new journey of continuous growth, with shared insights from other members of the pedagogical leadership in my team, I crafted a “treasure hunt” adventure in which every member of my team looked for examples hidden in tweets, Facebook posts, blog entries, meeting minutes, and snapshots of reflections that had been saved for this moment. While it was impossible to deny the amount of work that is attached to this journey, I felt that if we started navigating the waves of our memorable and meaningful experiences, our process would be quite unlikely to focus on deficit, and we would rather focus on ideas that were born and continued to grow.

As we prepare to welcome the IB Visiting Team and I look back at how this reflection journey was put together, I am reminded of the importance of coordinating the MYP as a collaborative effort, not as a one-man army. I am also reminded of the importance of knowing what all members of the team do, and how valuable it is to recognize each of their strengths. This reflection also makes me think about humility to reach out and for help, and about the importance of dialogue and appreciating vulnerability.

A rich and intense process such as the one my team has undergone is impossible to capture in a written or visual reflection. Nonetheless, I have tried to chart the most significant steps of the journey through which we discovered where we are in place and time, and how close we are to becoming a better version than we were at the time of accreditation.

(Read from bottom to top)


Source of the image in the title: https://uk-bgs.com/services/capability-development/operational-process-development-optimisation/

To read the second part of this MYP evaluation journey reflection, click here.

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