For the last 3 years, educators in my department (IB Language Acquisition / foreign language) have been working hard at enriching and diversifying our appreciation for diverse approaches to teaching; as well as at broadening our explorations of learner-centered practices that benefit inquiry-based teaching and learning. The goal has always been clear to us: our focus is the process, and the learning experience. Building a community of learning from the moment we plan our curriculum and our classes, to the moment when we experience the creation of new understandings, has just been a very pleasing side effect. Evidently, in this journey, teachers and students are included.
Teaching in three IB programs (PYP, MYP and DP) has helped me consolidate the scaffolding strategies and approaches that I implement as my students move form one stage or phase to the other. Yet, no other ‘transition’ excites me more than the one that occurs from the Primary Years Program to the Middle Years Program.
PYP students arrive in the MYP with a very strong understanding of the importance of ‘community of learners’, and, due to the context of the school, because of academic competition, they realize that they are to develop a new set of skills that will allow them to evolve as individual in their new stage. Some of them automatically refer to students who are definite role models in middle school, and some others struggle to develop a sense of belonging.
With this observation in mind, I have sometimes wondered to what extent the MYP context in our school somewhat forces students to abandon some significant attitudes that they acquired in PYP. I have also asked myself whether some strengths are replaced by newly found ones, when the point would be to enrich our repertoire of possibilities.
I used to refer to the Approaches to Learning (ATL) as the ugly duckling of the areas of interaction (AOI), for this was the AOI that needed to be present in all unit planners, but it was the least discussed. Thus, when I learned that ATL would become the backbone of the IB programs, I could not help but become more motivated to explore different ways in which to support and magnify students’ learning experiences.
For this reason, getting them ready for the MYP has become a big part of my mission as an ATL coordinator. The first thing I did was to create a couple of videos to support students understanding of the ATL (Grades 6-8, Grades 9-10), but then I decided to actually develop a full experience with students: having an ATL workshop where I also learn from them.
I have not been alone in this process, some of my colleagues who understand my passion have been instrumental, key individuals in this transition journey and have helped me curate a series of sessions that will help students develop confidence in the MYP from day 1 contributed the journey started. Therefore, since last year, we have included an ATL workshop in the PYP-MYP Transition, and it has truly proven to be a corner stone in the learning experience of students.
This year we are planning to do it more meticulously and have prepared a more comprehensive learning experience in which we will address the nature of our learning, how we enjoy learning, our learning styles, the responsibilities teachers and students share, as various aspects of inquiry-based learning; all of this aiming at exploiting the skills indicators in the ATL categories.
PYP-MYP transition brings a very interesting sense of possibilities, and I am quite fond of the excitement involved in this change.
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The student booklet can de downloaded here.
The teacher planning guidelines can be downloaded here.