International Baccalaureate Organization Primary Years Programme

What is the International Baccalaureate Organization?

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) is an international educational foundation that was founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Diploma Programme (DP) for 11th and 12th grade was the first program to be offered. It was originally established to provide a common curricular framework for geographically mobile students of diplomats and military personnel. The Middle Years Programme (MYP) was established in 1994 and the Primary Years Programme (PYP) in 1997.

International Baccalaureate Mission

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.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.

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.

Why did Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary become 
        an International Baccalaureate World School?

In 2004, the Bess Streeter Aldrich strategic planning team determined that the school needed a program that would increase enrollment and provide a quality education that was responsive to the needs and expectations of our students and parents. Aldrich parents were surveyed to find out their educational desires for their children. A vast majority of the surveys requested a challenging and engaging classroom environment for their students. They also showed a strong desire for a foreign language program that takes place within the regular school day. After exploring the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, the team felt this program would be an excellent fit for Aldrich. For the next three years, Aldrich implemented the IB Primary Years Program in grades K – 5. Grade levels developed units of study in which the students learn, explore, and research using structured inquiry. 

In March, 2008 the staff, students, and parents of Aldrich Elementary were pleased to host an authorization team of three educators from the International Baccalaureate Organization. The visitors reviewed documentation, visited classrooms, and met with parents, staff, and District and site administrators to determine if the school met the requirements to be an authorized International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program World School. The team provided valuable input to staff. They prepared a report of findings and submitted it to the IBO. The documentation was reviewed and considered at several levels within the organization.  We received notice that we became an authorized IB World School in July, 2008. The excitement generated by the program can be seen in the classrooms as students are truly engaged in their learning. The staff has worked hard to make the PYP a reality and to provide a quality program for our students.

For more information about the Primary Years Programme at Bess Streeter Aldrich, please click the links below. If you have further questions, please feel free to speak with your child’s teacher or e-mail Jodi Fidone, the PYP Coordinator.

What is the Primary Years Programme? (IB World Schools Yearbook 2010)

The Primary Years Programme (PYP), for students aged three to 12, focuses on the development of the child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. It is a framework consisting of five essential elements (concepts, knowledge, skills, attitude, action) and is guided by six themes of global significance, explored using knowledge and skills derived from language, social studies, math, science, technology, art, music and personal, social and physical education.

The six themes are about issues that have meaning for, and are important to, all of us. The programme offers a balance between learning about or through the subject areas, and learning beyond them.

Assessment is an important part of each unit of inquiry as it both enhances learning and provides opportunities for students to reflect on what they know, understand and can do. The teacher’s feedback to the students provides the guidance, the tools and the incentive for them to become more competent, more skillful and better at understanding how to learn.

Unique characteristics of the programme include the following:
  • It encourages international-mindedness in the IB students.
  • It encourages a positive attitude to learning by engaging students in inquiries and developing their awareness of the process of learning so that they become lifelong learners.
  • It reflects real life by encouraging learning beyond and through traditional subjects with meaningful, in-depth inquiries into real issues.
  • Through the Learner Profile, it emphasizes the development of the student – physically, intellectually and emotionally.
What does the PYP curriculum model look like?

It is composed of three important components. Each component is expressed as a question, in keeping with the spirit of inquiry found throughout the Primary Years Program.

The first question, “What do we want to learn?” represents the written curriculum. A PYP school’s written curriculum utilizes existing district / state / national learning standards. Teachers at a PYP school work collaboratively to develop six units of inquiry for each grade level. This is called our “Program of Inquiry” and is unique to our school. It allows learners to move beyond the recall of basic facts as they explore larger concepts. Teachers meet regularly to review/revise our Program of Inquiry. Students contribute to the content of these learning units through their own questions and reflections. 

Organizing Themes of the Primary Years Programme

The Primary Years Program has identified six areas of knowledge – called transdisciplinary themes – that are considered to be of lasting significance for all students and for all cultures. These themes provide a framework for teachers to design units of inquiry that incorporate district/state/national learning standards as well as opportunities for students to develop the skills, attitudes, concepts and knowledge needed to become internationally-minded people and life-long learners.

Teachers use structured inquiry to guide students through each unit while incorporating a variety of curricular areas (science, social studies, technology, math, language, art, music, physical education, music, etc.) to build on their past experiences and reach new understandings.

The six themes are addressed at each grade level, even though the individual units of inquiry based upon them are all unique, exploring different aspects of the knowledge contained under each theme.

The six themes are:

  1. Who we are: An inquiry into the nature of the self, beliefs and values; personal, mental, social, and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.
  2. Where we are in place and time: An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations from local and global perspectives.
  3. How we express ourselves: An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.
  4. How the world works: An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
  5. How we organize ourselves: An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.
  6. How we share the planet: An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.
The second question, “How best will we learn?” represents the taught curriculum in a PYP school. Each unit of inquiry is based on a central idea that corresponds to one of the above six themes. When deciding on a central idea, teachers ask themselves, “What understanding do we want students to come away with at the end of the unit?” The taught curriculum involves the methods teachers use to engage students with the written curriculum. It is not only “what” students will learn but also “how” they will learn it that matters in a PYP school. PYP teachers are expected to constantly examine and improve the practices they use to actively involve students in learning. The PYP is committed to structured inquiry-based instruction. Teachers develop lessons that allow students to wonder and to ask questions. Teachers support and guide their students through the process of finding answers. This may involve research, experiments, field trips or discoveries made through reading and classroom experiences. As teachers, we know that regardless of skill level or background, students vary in their academic abilities, learning styles, interests, background knowledge and experiences. It is our goal to provide a variety of experiences to meet the needs of all our students.

 Here’s an example of a kindergarten and 5th grade unit of inquiry for the theme, “Where we are in place and time”.

Example 1:  How best will we learn?
  • Where we are in place and time
  • Central idea: Events occur that contribute to the identity of a family.
  • Inquiry into:
    • responsibilities, contributions and interactions between family members
    • events that occur to change the family
    • similarities and differences between families
  • Teacher questions:
    • how are families alike and different?
    • what events occur that change a family?
    • what are your responsibilities in the family?
  • Learning experiences:
    • Students were exposed to non-fiction literature to see settings and pictures of family structures in various parts of the world.
    • Students created a poster that identified their family members and their roles and responsibilities.
    • Teacher and students shared personal timelines that reflected changes that have occurred in their families.
Example 1:  How best will we learn?
  • Where we are in place time
  • Central idea:  Exploration leads to disovery and new understandings.
  • Inquiries into:
    • reasons for exploration
    • motivating factors through exploration
    • what we learn through exploration
  • Teacher questions:
    • What motivated individuals to explore?
    • What impact does exploration have on history?
    • What were the causes and effects of exploration?
  • Learning experiences:
    • Students participated in a simulation titled, Archeologist Investigate a Sunken Ship. Students discovered and made connections about what was important mentally and physically to take on an exploration as well as looking at the outcome of the exploration.
    • Through research, students stepped into the shoes of explorers. They became the people from three different continents who mixed, mingled and merged. They were part of different cultures, languages, peoples, customs, and political and economic systems. 

The third question, “How will we know what we have learned?” represents the learned curriculum. PYP teachers employ a variety of assessment strategies (examples include student presentations, portfolios, projects, written tests, student self-reflections, peer reflections, interviews, demonstrations and many others) to find out not only if students learned what they were expected to learn from the written curriculum but also what actual learning took place instead of or in addition to what was expected. Teachers and students use the results of assessments to set goals for further learning and to think about ways to improve their teaching and learning strategies. All three components of the curriculum of a Primary Years Program - the written, taught and learned curriculums – function together to help produce life-long learners who can be successful in tomorrow’s world.

 Example 2:  How will we know what we have learned?

Formative Assessment
  • Formative assessments are interwoven with daily teaching and helps teachers and students find out what they already know in order to plan the next stage of learning. Formative assessment and teaching are directly linked; neither can function effectively or purposefully without the other.

Summative Assessment
  • Summative assessment takes place at the end of the teaching and learning processes and gives students the opportunity to demonstrate what has been learned.

The Attributes of the Learner Profile 

Central to the PYP is the development of the international person. The Learner Profile outlines the ten most important attributes of an international person. At Bess Streeter Aldrich students learn to become inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective.

 Example 3:  International-mindedness in the PYP

In the unit of inquiry for Kindergarten, teachers looked for evidence of the development in students of particular attributes of the IB Learner Profile.
  • Open-minded – Students learned the importance of being open-minded when listening to classmates share personal stories of their own family structures and celebrations. When customs, clothing, languages, homes, etc. were introduced to students they became more aware of the comments they made. Students could be heard saying, “That’s interesting,” or “Hmm, I wonder why she has that on her head?”
  • Principled – Students realized that family members relied on them to meet their roles and responsibilities as a member of the family. They understood the importance of taking responsibility for their actions within a family structure.

In the unit of inquiry for 5th grade, teachers looked for evidence of the development in students of particular attributes of the IB Learner Profile.
  • Knowledgeable – Students became more knowledgeable about explorers from the past and how their discoveries helped in the development of new understandings. This time in history forever changed people’s ideas about the world and about one another.
  • Open-minded – Students began to realize the perspectives of the financing kings, queens, companies with their grants and gifts of money. In addition, they realized the never-give-up attitude of the explorers.

The Fifth Grade Exhibition

Fifth grade students in their final year of the Primary Years Programme at Aldrich participate in a culminating project, the PYP Exhibition. It is not only a celebration, as students move from the Primary Years Programme into middle school, but also a final assessment where each student demonstrates their understanding of the essential elements of the programme: knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action. Students engage in a collaborative inquiry process that involves them in identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems. Parents and student from Aldrich are invited to attend the 5th Grade Exhibition.

What are the essential elements of the Primary Years Programme?

The five essential elements—concepts, knowledge, approaches to learning, attitudes, action—are incorporated into the curriculum framework, so that students are given the opportunity to:
  • gain knowledge that is relevant and of global significance
  • develop an understanding of concepts, which allows them to make connections throughout their learning
  • acquire research, thinking, communication, social and self-management skills
  • develop attitudes that will lead to international-mindedness
  • take action as a consequence of their learning.
Knowledge:  Six themes of global significance provide the framework for exploration and study:
  • Who we are
  • Where we are in place and time
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • How we organize ourselves
  • Sharing the planet.
Concepts: Eight concepts are expressed as key questions, which help teachers and students to consider ways of thinking and learning about the world.
  • Form – What is it like?
  • Function – How does it work?
  • Causation – Why is it like it is?
  • Change – How is it changing?
  • Connection – How is it connected to other things?
  • Perspective – What are the points of view?
  • Responsibility – What is our responsibility?
  • Reflection – How do we know?
Approaches to Learning: Within their learning throughout the programme, students acquire and apply social, communication, thinking, research and self-management skills. These skills are valuable, not only in the units of inquiry, but also for any teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom, and in life outside the school.

•    Thinking Skills:
  1. Comprehension
  2. Acquisition of knowledge
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation
  7. Dialectical thought
  8. Metacognition
•    Social Skills:
  1. Accepting responsibility
  2. Respecting others
  3. Cooperating
  4. Resolving conflict
  5. Group decision-making
  6. Adopting a variety of group roles

•    Communication Skills
  1. Listening
  2. Speaking
  3. Reading
  4. Writing
  5. Viewing
  6. Presenting
  7. Non-verbal communication

•    Research Skills
  1. Formulating questions
  2. Observing
  3. Planning
  4. Collecting data
  5. Recording data
  6. Organizing date
  7. Interpreting data
  8. Presenting research findings

•    Self-management Skills
  1. Gross motor skills
  2. Fine motor skills
  3. Spatial awareness
  4. Organization
  5. Time management
  6. Safety
  7. Healthy lifestyle
  8. Codes of behavior
  9. Informed choices
Attitudes: Through encouraging the development and application of the following positive attitudes, the IB PYP helps to create successful citizens of the world.

•    Appreciation
•    Commitment
•    Confidence
•    Cooperation
•    Creativity
•    Curiosity
•    Empathy
•    Enthusiasm
•    Independence
•    Integrity
•    Respect
•    Tolerance

Action: As a result of successful inquiry, students are given the opportunity to choose to act; to decide on their actions; and to reflect on these actions in order to make a difference in and to the world.

Glossary of IB PYP Terms

Action - Students are encouraged to take action based on the learning they acquire.  Action can be as simple as telling someone else what you’ve learned or continuing to inquire, and ultimately it might lead to service on a community or world-wide scale. 

Attitudes - Twelve attitudes are encouraged in every area of the school.  Students are expected to demonstrate appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect, and tolerance

Authorized School – Being authorized means that we meet the standards and practices required by the IBO to provide the PYP at Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary.

Concepts - Learning to ask strong questions can lead a student to learn more about a topic.  The Primary Years Programme encourages students to develop their understanding of the concepts of Form, Function, Causation, Change, Connection, Perspective, Responsibility, and Reflection.

Essential Elements - The five essential elements—concepts, knowledge, skills, attitudes, action—are incorporated into a curriculum framework, so that students are given the opportunity to:
  • gain knowledge that is relevant and of global significance
  • develop an understanding of concepts, which allows them to make connections throughout their learning
  • acquire thinking, research, communication, self-management and social skills
  • develop attitudes that will lead to international-mindedness
  • take action as a consequence of their learning.
Formative Assessment – Ongoing assessments aimed at providing information to guide teaching and improve student performance.

IBO – The International Baccalaureate Organization is an educational foundation in Geneva, Switzerland that administers the IB program worldwide.

Internationalism – IB defines internationalism as a person who demonstrates the attributes of the IB Learner Profile.

Language Policy – IB requires that all schools develop a comprehensive approach to meeting the language needs of all of its students.  In addition, all IB programmes require the study of at least one world language in addition to the student’s mother tongue.

Learner Profile – Central to the PYP is the development of the international person.  The Learner Profile outlines the ten most important attributes of an international person.  Students learn to become inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective.

PYP- Primary Years Programme

Programme Evaluation – A mandatory process for all authorized IB schools, whereby the IBO assists schools in their own self-evaluation process as well as ensuring the quality of the programme.

Programme of Inquiry – The Programme of Inquiry is organized into six themes. Within the Units of Inquiry at each grade level, students explore concepts through these themes in order to develop knowledge.

PYP Exhibition – Students in the 5th grade of the Primary Years Programme, carry out a project or “exhibition”. The exhibition represents the culminating activity of the PYP.  It requires students to analyze and propose solutions to a real-world problem, drawing on what they have learned in the PYP.  It must include written work, oral presentations, and the use of technology. 

Summative Assessment – The culminating assessment of a unit designed to provide a report on the student’s level of achievement.

Transdisciplinary Themes – The PYP has identified six areas of knowledge, called transdisciplinary themes, which are considered to be of lasting significance for all students and for all cultures. These themes provide the framework for teachers to design units of inquiry that incorporate district/state/national learning standards as well as opportunities for students to develop the skills, attitudes, concepts and knowledge to become internationally-minded people and life-long learners.