Change Ahead


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.

Sharing is caring and your feedback would help us improve a lot more!

The student booklet can de downloaded here.

The teacher planning guidelines can be downloaded here.



About Rafael Angel

Concept-Based Curriculum and Instructor Independent Trainer. Concept-Based Foreign Language Curriculum and Instruction specialist. Teaching and Learning Director; lives for traveling, reading, learning and tasting new flavours; culture and art lover; passionate about cinema and music. IB MYP, DP Workshop Leader. Mexican YouTuber and Soundclouder.
This entry was posted in ATL, IB MYP, IB PYP, Resources and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Change Ahead

  1. Pia Alliende says:

    Thanks Rafa for sharing this. I really love the design and booklets of your ATL workshop for students. How many hours are you going to allocate for it?

    • rafangel says:

      Don’t mention it, Pia!
      I hope you find them useful.
      The time allocated for the session was 2 hrs, but after doing it, I can tell you that it was very rushed, as students became very engaged in the activity involving the video.

  2. Jean Hatch says:

    Hey bro,
    Using my edited version,of both teacher n student handbook – we will use at our school for sure. Not sure if I sent you a copy of all the changes and corrections I made. If you want a copy of these changes, my email is –

  3. Vanessa says:

    Gracias, Rafael. I downloaded the teacher’s handbook.

    😉 Vanessa

  4. Megel Barker says:

    This is brilliant! Just been appointed MYP Coordinator, so I am quite indebted to you for such a document. Really helpful and definitely invaluable.

  5. kparedesfdr says:

    Hi Rafael, We are currently looking at how the tasks created inside the curriculum help to scope and sequence of the ATL in the curriculum. We are really looking into the ATL skills that are directly linked to the subject area criteria as well. Have you worked on this at all?

    The document and discussions are really in their infant stage, but here is the beginning information of the document. Would love to get your thoughts.

    WHY Focus on ATL Skills?
    ATL Skills are the ways that students learn to solve unknown problems. They are the tools that students seek out when faced in difficult situations. By explicitly teaching skills through the tasks assigned, students will develop a diverse bank of known tools for their future.

    ATL Skills are NOT directly assessed (graded) as isolated tasks. A well designed task will show evidence of ATL skill attainment through the assessment of that task. In other words, the task could NOT have been accomplished without successful knowledge and application of that ATL skill by the student.

    ATL skills will naturally increase in complexity as the tasks increase in complexity. A scope and sequence of ATL skills is inherently linked to the tasks and criterions and action verbs of the task-specific clarifications. (State, Describe, Explain, Justify, etc…. Bloom’s taxonomy-ish).

    ATL skills can have specific routes or methods assigned to them. For example: Use appropriate forms of expository writing would all use the MEAL plan. School-wide commitment to MLA, research etc

    Objectives for successful implementation of ATL in the curriculum:
    1) Identify the ATL skills directly tied to Criterion Objectives to ensure that all constituents are supporting these skills they way that they are already being assessed.

    We are currently trying to map out how Subject areas are specifically teaching their “embedded” ATL skills first.


    • Rafael Angel says:

      Dear Kelly,
      thank you for sharing your insights. Seems like your school has embarked in a very intense and interesting journey. In my last school, in India, we did look at how ATL occurred in all criteria, in each strand, and even generated a document with our understandings on how we would explore ATL in each criterion in different phases. We found this exercise to be a very interesting practice in Language Acquisition, as we enhanced the progression in our curriculum map. Nonetheless, when dialogue as a whole school about this began, it was not fully welcome. I left afterwards, after 4 years in that school, so I don’t know if they continued the conversation.
      At present, in my current school in China, we are looking at agreeing on a series of habits whose rigour and complexity would increase every new year. These habits will be accompanied with certain ATL tools (in IB PYP), and then we will see how they can be given continuity in IB MYP.
      Good luck with your project. I’d love to learn how it turns out.

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