IB Learner Profile: Balanced

The IB Learner Profile is something that shapes my days. As a PYP teacher, coordinator and learner, I feel that I should always strive to show the attributes of the learner profile.

One of those is BALANCED.

They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance
to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.

The notion of personal well-being is important, and I always stress this in the classroom, but as teachers, we often find it hard to really focus on this ourselves. I know I am the kind of person who just keeps going and going and going, because I love what I do. But I also know I need to stop and relax sometimes.

So today I took a well-deserved time out and went to Grotta Giusti in Monsummano Terme in Tuscany. Spent an hour in the thermal caves and some time in the thermal caves. Just relaxing and now I feel like a new person! I think I am balanced now.


School Visits

Getting to visit schools is great. Today I was a visitor at the International School of Modena, along with my colleagues Serena (Music/Italian) and Dania (Italian).

I met up with Jane from Modena mainly to discuss plans about a PYP Network, which was VERY productive. The details will follow soon.

I also visited classrooms, saw an amazing planning meeting and had a generally great time.

Serena and Dania also enjoyed themselves. They have learned a lot, and they have many new ideas now too.

Well, more to come but just wanted to post this. In the next few months, I think I might be visiting quite a few schools.

Talking about Language

In my class, we always talk about language. We talk about similarities and differences between languages, use different languages in the classroom and examine even the small differences between British English and American English…..

Today I overheard a lovely conversation between two girls from my class at lunch. One curiously asked the other, an American, how to pronounce different words in American. They talked about zebras. Then the American girl went into a long explanation about how words are also spelled differently.

I needed to just post that!

@PolkaDotSkirt just pointed this sketch out to me… thought I would add it for your viewing pleasures!

Reporting Season

I know I have been talking about this for some time. But I am finally done.

Writing reports is something that I find difficult. If I wrote every single one a week apart, I think that wouldn’t be the case. But there has to be some sort of uniformity, and then sometimes you get too uniform. Some children you have a lot to say about, others nothing. Some of them you want to tell to keep it up, others to change as soon as possible (for your own sake!).

But it is over now, I am happy with them and all of them address similar things! So not bad.

What did I learn from this exercise? A LOT! You get to reflect on each child and then you see them in school and you notice change already, or you might question what you wrote. But one thing I noticed in particular: The way we document some things…. and the way it lacks with others. Let me explain:
The first two units of inquiry we taught were class-bound, more or less. We taught the same unit in two classes, but each class teacher took control in their own class. Those I documented well, I have observations, anecdotal notes and most importantly, a very good memory too.
The third unit was a collaboration. Year 3/4 collaborated with Year 5/6. They split into three mixed groups and so my documenting chaos began. The observations were very vague, the memories often of children not from my class. All in all, we could have worked a lot better on the recording part in that unit.

But you learn… and I am glad I saw it now. I need to add it to my unit planner and move on from there.

Happy Being-done-with-Reports Day to me then ­čÖé


I like to think of myself as a great networker. I love to connect to people all over the world, to share ideas, get to know them and their perspectives, to collaborate, to learn, to have fun….

Thinking back to a day in 1998 when I asked, or better begged my parents to let me have the internet. It sounds so funny now, but the costs involved were substantial. Sign-up fees, connection charge, per minute charge, monthly charge and that on a very simple 133 Mhz computer with Windows 95. It was as it sounds: horrible! But at the time it allowed me to connect to people who shared my interests. At that time it was mainly bands and music. I signed up to message boards and visited regular chatrooms. It sounds weird now, but it was a great time. And expensive.

In 2000 that is how I met my husband! Through a friend we both had, we connected online, because we had a shared interest: moving to London. We met a few months later and the rest is history. But for years that story still made people frown.
Now, lots of people meet online. Not only couples, but friends, collaborators. We use social networks, we blog, we have changed a lot since that day in 1998.

Back to the point of networking. My first real networking experience was my degree in Learning, Technology and Research, which was conducted entirely online. Looking back on it, the communities of practice that came out of this were stunning. Not only did the cohorts connect, people within the cohort, and similar jobs/interests connected. People beyond the cohorts connected in interest groups. The sheer amount of collaboration that happened, the learning and the sharing of good practice was unbelievable. It was more, bigger and better than at any traditional university.

In December I went to Cardiff to attend a meeting on networking (well, partly) at the IB. There I learned about the amazing networks in Australia. PYP schools connecting and working together. I was painfully aware that the PYP in Italy meeting in May 2009 could have been the start of something like it. I contacted one of the initiators of the meeting, Jane Andrews, and I hope to meet with her soon to discuss and share my ideas. Sometimes it takes a bit of an initiative and risk-taking to start something worthwhile.

The schools in Switzerland also meet. I have known so for a while, but just came across a post about an upcoming meeting in May by Jax Webb on the PYP Threads Ning. I wonder if it would be possible to attend, and see how different networks function.

Anyway, networking is going to be something I will continue to explore throughout this year. Lets hope that it takes off!

Math and Manipulatives

Using manipulatives in Math is a very common thing. In fact, it is widely encouraged, especially in the younger years.

When I took this class over last year (2008/09 academic year), I was surprised at how little they knew about manipulatives. Interlocking cubes, counters, shapes, base 10 blocks …. most of them were unfamiliar.
Using an inquiry-approach to learning, the children had to become comfortable with manipulatives. A lot of time was spent on this in the last year.

This year, manipulatives are part of the classroom as though they were never foreign. Some need them, some want them, and the new students are getting to know them. It is great to see when the kids choose to “get the counters to help”.

Year 4 is exploring division with two-digit divisors at the moment. While this is something that some of them can do, some students are still struggling with one digit divisors. I can tell which students have been “taught at home” to solve these division problems. They do it mechanically, but they cannot explain their strategies. We work on this a lot. You need to know what you are doing…. the Base 10 blocks have been so popular this week, it is scary! And lovely to see. Especially seeing the confident mathematicians using them too, just because they like the evidence.

Great Math week it was!

Time flies….

It’s been a good start to the new year and the kids have all settled back in now. We are back into full swing.

The worrying thing is that I have not made any progression on the reports, but being back in school has given me more food for thought, so this is a good thing. I have seen their work again with my own eyes, heard their questions and wondering and it has been great. Amazing what we can forget over just a short break.

A worrying question though was “Why don’t we ever sit a test?”, AND “Can we have spelling tests?” AND the statement that “the work I do every day with my mum is harder”!
Why is it that parents feel the need to do work at home with their kids at a year level higher than they actually are. All parents have just recently commented on how happy they are and how confident they are in the programme. So they do extra work? Are they so afraid of pending moves abroad / to a different country?
I admit, this frustrates me. The same as the question about testing! We don’t do tests in the traditional sense, we don’t have grades. We assess! And we assess for learning…. formative assessment is the best way to inform my teaching and learning. ┬áSummative assessment, which we use too, is still not testing and sitting an exam, but more authentic….

I can tell I’m rambling, so I will put the thoughts to bed and rest now. I hope you are all well!