Tag Archives: Inquiry Learning

IB-PYP: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin – Inquiry is an approach to learning not a method.

Inquiry as a pedagogical approach is not a method of doing something. It is an approach to learning which is about posing questions. Inquiry starts with a question, wondering, problem or idea which engages learners into investigation, the creation of knowledge and testing of what they know.


Recently, a group of young learners ( 7 & 8 year old students)  asked me if they could spend time on their personal inquiry. Naturally I was excited that this group were personally motivated and wanted time dedicated. I decided to watch their progress and photograph their work. I also made a conscious decision to sit back and evaluate their use, and my teaching of the school’s Inquiry Process.

This group of young learners surprised me by their understanding of the process. They set about planning, focussing and preparing their inquiry. They were developing a central idea and had created a list of wonderings.  They wrote what they called a big wonder (How do wars start?) and had a number of key questions, some which they said they will park in the Parking Lot. The Parking Lot is a place where questions and wonderings are placed that are not part of the focus but may be answered later or as part of their learning.


They discussed their questions individually and chose the big questions they wanted to investigate. Then they talked about how they would find information (Finding Information). I was impressed by their confidence and ability to talk about each part of the process.

This is where the learning process results in true Learner Agency- student choice, student responsibility for learning and actions, a meaningful curriculum and learning initiated by learners.

Cheers Nina

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The IB – PYP: That’s where we’ll hang our hat! Part 1 – At the grass roots…

This is the year of the circle.

My father always said children need something to hang their hat on and something bigger than them.

So what does this mean in terms of learning? Schools are our young peoples’ community, something bigger than them and where they can hang their hat. Primary schools exist for young learners, but they are also children (so keep that thought). A school has a greater responsibility than just teaching the 3Rs. Schools are where our young people learn about relationships, community and develop a sense of self.

My school is an IB-PYP school. So why be an IB school? It’s a question I’ve thought about for some time and relates to what my father told me. Children need something greater than themselves and so does a school! Schools are an important part of their local community, but where does a school hang its hat and be part of something bigger than it?

Example 1. Developing a sense of community: The IB Learner Profile.

The IB has developed a framework known as the Learner Profile. The Learner Profile relates to all learners, teachers, administrators and wider community members. The IB Learner Profile recognizes the broad needs of young learners and young people across the world.



Let’s take a look at the IB – PYP at the grass roots – my Australian Year 1-2 classroom…

Example 2. Developing a sense of community: Being part of something bigger.

My students understand that we are a team and being part of a team has associated responsibilities. Our team is part of the school community, local community, government education system and IB World Community. Young learners (6, 7 & 8 year olds) need to grow their understanding of responsibility by being part of a community and the classroom is where they start.

Two Simple Diagrams:

Two simple diagrams underpin my students’ learning about being part of a team and managing relationships.  I bring everything back to the IB Learner Profile and attitudes. The picture below is our Learner Profile circle and ‘working wall’.

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The learner Profile represents our classroom essential agreements. My students know that as learners we make mistakes and learn from them, however, they also understand that being a member of the team is about demonstrating the Learner Profile through our actions. The Learner Profile is part of our daily learning. It’s not just a pretty display, it is a living and growing record of our growth as learners and young people.

Diagram One: The Team Circle

Sometimes someone may not have exhibited the Learner Profile and as a consequence moves to the side of the team. The young learner then has to develop the trust of the team to move back. Being a member of the team is very important to these young learners and they are incredibly supportive of each other. It has become a very positive approach to classroom management. It would require another post to explain how students learning self management is powerful for their confidence and learning.

Diagram two: Friendships and relationships

This one was developed to show how ‘he said, she said’ works. Two friends have an argument and involve others and rarely, but sometimes parents get involved. However, by the time the two best friends have sorted their differences, the outside circles are still arguing! This is where we learn CHOICE and my students are now thinking about the choices they make. They will help sort out problems but rarely become part of the problem. They are incredibly mature and honest! Simple diagrams but visible…

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Cheers Nina

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IB-PYP Inquiry: Relationships with each other affect how we feel and behave. Visible Thinking – Using Thinking Tools and more…

I’ve been exploring making thinking visible in all curriculum areas. Thinking tools and questioning are being taught and added to a collection of tools the children can choose from to develop perspective, vocabulary and an understanding of their world.

One of the tools I’ve been exploring with my students is Point of View. This tool can be used for all curriculum areas, whether exploring a character from a book, developing a character for a narrative, or to solve and explore a general problem. When children put themselves in the position of others, their empathy and understanding of a problem, situation or character deepens. Our inquiry for the first 8 weeks of the year has been about relationships.

Central Idea: The relationships we have with each other affect how we feel and behave.

What lines of inquiry will define the scope of the inquiry into the central idea?

  • Self Awareness (LP Attributes, Attitudes, Skills, Mission Statement, Essential Agreement, School Pledge)
  • How we develop relationships (What is  relationship? What relationships do you have in your life? What makes it a relationship?
  • Roles and behaviours within relationships (Scenarios, Role playing, Photos of LP Attributes, Essential Agreement)
  • How relationships affect us (Good, Bod, Reflections task board/Think board- develop their own)

What teacher questions/provocations will drive these inquiries?

How do we develop and maintain healthy relationships?

What makes a supportive relationship?

What/why do actions help to build healthy relationships?

My students have been exploring the relationships they have in their world.

Example: Point of View: Friendship and why we need to have more than one best friend. My role is to record my student’s ideas and not mine, but I think they covered all bases! 🙂

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Brainstorm: A good friend…

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The Point of View has been a fantastic tool to help sort friendship and playground issues which is part of building healthy relationships. Young children can be egocentric and developing their understanding that there can be other views has led to a very inclusive group of young learners.

The children have also used Point of View to understand the behaviours of a book character and to develop their own characters and plots when writing.

Cheers Nina

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Our first inquiry for 2013- Relationships (Years 1&2 in Victoria, Australia)

Central idea

People’s relationships with each other can have an impact on wellbeing.

Key concepts

causation, responsibility

Related concepts

Conflict, cooperation, balance, friendship

Lines of inquiry

How we develop relationships

How relationships affect us

Roles and behaviours within relationships

Teacher questions

How do we develop and maintain healthy relationships?

What makes a supportive relationship?

What actions help to build healthy relationships?

What a wonderful inquiry to start our year. Our inquiry lends itself perfectly to learning about being a member of a team. The children have inquired into the different types of relationships and how ttheir relationships and personal well-being are related.

They have explored relationships through literature and have acted, drawn, painted, talked and written about conflict resolution, problems, their responsibility in a relationship, friendship and much more. We have slowly developed our essential agreements for what we want our classroom to ‘look like, feel like and sound like’.

The children have identified people in their life they can share their problems with and are developing into a supportive team.

Examples of learning experiences… Unpacking the Central Idea


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Cheers Nina


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Partner Interactive Writing – We all have personal histories. Our excursion to the Immigration Museum Melbourne…

My Preps as part of our inquiry into personal history visited the Immigration Museum in Melbourne. The Immigration Museum has excellent programs designed for all age groups. The children learnt about Cook who travelled to Australia in a boat from Vietnam. They learnt about refugees and the hardships they faced. Understanding what a refugee is seems a big concept for 5 and 6 year old children; however, I’m always surprised by the level of understanding they have.

The children love Student Led Interactive Writing and for this activity I selected Partner Interactive Writing. Working in pairs the children could be heard rehearsing their text, using tool cards (alphabet and THRASS cards) to support spelling, manipulating spacers when required to ensure spaces between words, re-reading – correcting and discussing what they had learnt.

One of our school staff has applied to become an Australian citizen. The staff member spoke to the children about what she has had to do to become a citizen. The children were able to explain the difference between applying to be a citizen in Australia and being a refugee. The children completed our inquiry last week.

Cheers Nina

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