A grade 2 math inquiry

At the heart of the IB Primary Years Programme is the belief that learners learn best through inquiry and finding out for themselves rather than being told, and that learning is deepest when learners have a personal connection to the learning and share in the decision making about what they learn and how. In class we have been talking a lot about inquiry -what it means and what it looks like:

  • It’s when you are discovering and finding things out.
  • It looks like you are playing but you are learning at the same time.
  • If you have an idea that you want to try and you do it again to see if it works, that’s inquiry.
  • Sometimes it’s noisy!

This week the children have had opportunities for “free” mathematical inquiry. We talk about how this is not a free play time, but a time to explore a mathematical interest or idea of their own choosing, with a view to finding out more. The children know that they will be held accountable and that at the end of the session they will be asked to share their learning with the group.

To help the children get started, we begin by brainstorming together to come up with some possible lines of inquiry. Over the last two weeks, I have noticed that several of the children have shown an interest in large numbers, often talking about millions, billions and trillions. I suggest that this might be an area they wish to pursue more. We write this idea down on the chart paper. Another child suggests an inquiry into Number of the Day. This is a daily quick mental math activity designed to develop children’s understanding of number. Yet another child left a “really tricky” math problem as a comment on the blog. Several children have risen to the challenge and want to try and find an answer.Marcus's math problem
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Building a Grade 2 learning community

For the first week of school, our primary focus is on building a sense of community amongst the children and the adults they will be working with. The quote below is from “Starting the School Year Right” by Thomas Guskey in The School Administrator, August 2011 (Vol. 7, #68, p. 44)

“The first two weeks are the most important time in the school year for all children … What happens during this critical period pretty much determines how the rest of the year will go.”

It is important that the children have time to get to know their new classmates and to explore and develop relationships. They need to feel safe in their new environment in order to learn. They need to trust and respect the members of their learning community so that they can develop as risk takers and experimenters. Throughout the year they will learn with and from each other as they conduct their individual and group inquiries. Time spent now building a strong learning community and developing a culture of collaboration will stand us all in good stead as the the year progresses.

We talk about how we are all different, with different interests, styles and strengths. The students draw self portraits of themselves, using mirrors to look closely at their own faces.

Self portraits
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An inquiry into inquiry

“…inquiry is a collaborative process of connecting to and reaching beyond current understandings to explore tensions significant to learners.” ~Kathy Short

This week, Kathy Short came to AAS to work with Elementary School teachers on developing our understanding of inquiry. Kathy Short is a leading thinker in this area and we are extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity to work with her. Teaches met with Kathy in small grade level and subject area groups, to think about the inquiry what inquiry looks like in the classroom.

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Personalizing learning

At AAS we have a strong commitment to ensuring personalised learning for each and every student. Teachers have been reflecting on what personalised learning looks like in their classrooms and across the elementary school as a whole.


Teachers and administrators brainstormed in small groups to come up with examples of ways in which they personalise learning to meet the needs of individual students. They organised their ideas under the four headings below.
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Goal setting for personalised learning


As part of our school-wide focus on personalised learning, each student in the elementary school sets personal learning goals. These goals are revisited, reflected upon and adjusted throughout the school year. Today, parents and students came to school for their individual student goal setting conferences. At these conferences students, teachers and parents work together to discuss how to help students achieve their personal learning goals.

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Love learning; It’s not just for students!

This year, we are exploring a new approach to teacher professional development. Teachers will be working in small inquiry groups of their own choosing to explore areas of professional interest to them. The inquiries will be framed around conceptually driven big ideas.


We began out learning journey by coming together as a large group to begin brainstorming possible directions for the inquiries by identifying concepts that they would like to explore further.
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A grade 4 inquiry into how we organize ourselves


Grade 4 have begun a unit of inquiry into the trans-disciplinary theme of How We Organise Ourselves.

Central idea:

  • Humans create systems to solve problems to support human endeavour and enterprise.

Lines of Inquiry:

  • What a system is
  • The purpose and function of systems (human endeavour)
  • How systems connect with each other

Before the teachers introduced the Central Idea to the students, and as the students became familiar with their new classroom, schedule and routines, teachers and students made a note of systems in their classroom, as part of the initial “settling in” process.

The following week, the teachers introduced the central idea. The inquiry began with students making connection to their prior knowledge and experiences. Teachers asked students to think about what systems they used in their lives.

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Using multiple apps in Kindergarten to mix and mash

Having for several years explored various ways of using table computers to support children’s inquiry and learning, we feel that it is more useful to focus on a few core apps that enable students to record and create their own original work. Once the children are familiar with the core apps that we use, we begin exploring ways of combining apps to create more sophisticated work. All the images below have been created by five and six year olds, without any adult assistance, combining two or more of three core apps; DrawingPad, Comic Strip and the camera on the iPad. We chose these apps because of their open-endedness which allowed for limitless possibilities and because they supported twitter which is our main platform for sharing work beyond the classroom. (We quickly realized that apps which allow the children to create but not share were limited in their usefulness.)

Exploring DrawingPad, Strip Design and Camera on PhotoPeach

Exhibition: A Grade 5 Learning Journey

In the final year of the IB Primary Years Program, students conduct personal and group inquiries into an area of their own choosing. These student initiated inquiries are the culmination of the student’s growth and learning during their time in the Elementary School. The inquiries should be transdisciplinary in nature, crossing all subject areas and synthesising the essential elements of the PYP. The students share the process and conclusion of their inquiries at a final exhibition, to which the wider school community is invited.

essential elements

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Using technology to do new things in new ways in Kindergarten

Throughout the year, as part of our unit of inquiry into how we express ourselves, the children have been exploring ways of telling stories. Recently, a group of children have shown particular interest in the PuppetPals app on our iPads. As part of our writing focus on fictional narratives, the children have been conducting group and personal inquiries into how narrative fictions work, looking in particular at setting, characters and plot. In our writing workshops, the children are aware of many of the processes involved in writing. They know that not all work continues to publishing stage and that published work needs to be of high quality. As part of the viewing and presenting strand of our language curriculum the children have been working on voice projection and speaking clearly. Continue reading

The children as makers: koinobori

The children have been making koinobori in preparation for Children’s Day, a Japanese festival to celebrate children. Yuri read the children a book about Children’s Day and then the children went to the ELC to observe the koinobori that were flying in the ELC playground. The children drew sketches of the koinobori to help them with their own designs.

When we got back, we had a discussion about what the koinobori was like (form) and what kind of materials might work well for making a koinobori. The children came up with these ideas: Continue reading

Talking with an IB artist

As part of our unit of inquiry into how we expres ourselves the children have been exploring different languages of self expression and communication. Over the weeks the children have had opportunities to explore some of the hundred languages referred to by Loris Malaguzzi, a key founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.

Last week, the Grade 12 IB Art students exhibited their work as part of their final diploma assessment. The Kindergarten students went to visit the exhibition and had the opportunity to talk to one of the artists, Virginia Russolo.

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Kindergarten twitter experts

Grade 2C are interested in finding out more about twitter. The Kindergarten children have been using twitter all year so Elif asked if some children from KC would like to go to Grade 2C to teach the second graders how to use twitter. “We are like twitter experts!” Yungi exclaimed.

Angus, Scarlett, Kieran and Aidan offered to share their experiences with Grade 2C. Before they went, we had a whole class discussion about what information they should pass on the children in Grade 2.  I wrote the children’s ideas down on the whiteboard. As the list grew, Jaiden pointed out that some ideas where about why the children in KC liked tweeting, and some ideas were the important things about twitter. We went through the ideas on the list one by one and sorted them into two categories:

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