Some might say that the IB Unit planner is complicated and challenging for some, however, when it is used as it should be and planned collaboratively with the teachers it can be an easy walk through the unit and will help teachers to stay on track as well as to hit all the objectives of the unit. It is an essential when it comes to my work as an IB teacher. Before I became a team leader for Early Years Programme at the Fairview international school, I was a homeroom teacher for year 1 and year 2 classes. As a team an a group of teachers we truly understood the importance of an effective unt planner. let me explain how we as teachers used unit planner and why it is important.
Everything starts from planning If you want to achieve something, plan first. Unit planner is a platform to put all teachers thinking, ideas and discussion. The idea of unit planner was developed.In order to make it easier for the teacher, IB has developed and introduces a PYP planner template for PYP teachers. With the help of technology some schools have used Google Docs planner and found it to be very useful platform for collaboration including between schools (IBO, 2011). The IB PYP planner is designed to develop the unit of inquiry within and outside the programme of inquiry. According to Palmer (2013), the planner has been created on the concept of backward design developed by Wiggens and McTighe and published in their book “Understanding by Design”. The planner is divided into few sections to ease the teachers to use and understand the lesson. The first five sections are outlining the plan for the learning. The last four sections are used to reflect on the learning. The unit planner is covered with inquiry theme, central idea, concepts and the skills which help the teachers to ensure that they are addressing the necessary skills and knowledge.
The IB Mission (IBO, 2017) states that “The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” In order to cater the IB Mission, the transdisciplinary themes were used to create the unit planner and the lesson plan for students. Each transdisciplinary themes will take 6 weeks to complete. Throughout these 6 weeks students will learn to be a better inquirer and knowledgeable person in the topic taught. In box 1,2 and 3 the transdisciplinary themes, central idea, the line of inquiry, key concept, related concepts, teacher’s questions, summative assessment task and formative assessment tasks will be mentioned so that teachers who are creating the unit planner knows what must they teach throughout the 6 weeks of the topic. IB follows the backward design method, which means that the summative assessment and formative assessment will be included at the beginning of the unit planner section in order for teachers to plan on what to teach to achieve the goal of summative and formative assessment.
Once the teacher knows the Transdisciplinary theme, Central Idea, Summative Assessment and all the details of the box 1, 2 and 3, the section 4 in the unit planner, which is about the lesson planning, will be planned properly based on the transdisciplinary theme chosen with differentiated activities to cater to the students needs. Besides that, the lesson plan also will be planned according to Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Cycle beginning with Tuning In, Finding Out, Sorting Out, Going Further, Making Conclusions and Taking Action to build on the understanding of the students throughout the topic and help them to be a better inquirer by asking more questions, explore the information by themselves and so on (Villamarin, 2004).
Moreover, students also will be taught how to use and develop the skills that are related to the transdisciplinary themes, and develop their questioning skills. Each transdisciplinary themes has different learner profile and transdisciplinary skills to be focused and this will be also mentioned in the box 4 of the unit planner to make sure teachers are aware of the skills that should be include in the lesson plan and need to be covered during lesson. Finally, box 5 will be filled up by the teachers with references that they used for this unit. Overall, boxes 1 to 5 are used to create the lesson plan to teach the students with different needs. The teaching will begin once all the box 1-5 are filled up. Once the planning is done by all the teachers, the rest of the boxes will be filled up/ updated on a weekly basis during collaborative planning time. These boxes will be a reflection of the unit which will be reflected by all the teachers who taught the unit. Colour coding is used for easier differentiation between subject specialists and homeroom teachers.
The PYP unit planner is a concept driven and not content based as teachers will begin writing it with a conceptual central idea which can be engaging and convertible to other contexts (Sackson, 2012). A lot of powerful provocations will be created to encourage students to take ownership of their learning, explore their own inquires and build their own understanding about the topic. In order to develop students skills throughout the unit, trans-disciplinary skills were used in the teaching process. Moreover to create lifelong learners, IB learner profile attributes was embedded into the unit planner to ensure teachers are cultivating the attributes into the students through learning process. Finally, the reflection sections in the unit planner will be filled up by the teachers at the end of the unit of inquiry as it is the essential components for all the learners, both teachers and students for them to improve their learning from their mistakes. In overall, all of the above are thoughtfully considered, before and during the planning of the learning engagements to make sure the students learn well (Sackson, 2012).
•Making the PYP Happen (2009 Pg 31 to 41)