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Wed, Dec. 11

IB changing the way that teachers approach lessons

International Baccalaureate implementation may be visible on classroom bulletin boards in ways that are more or less familiar. But there are bigger changes occurring on a less visible level.

"There are some fundamental differences between this and the way that some teachers have taught," said Middle Years Program Coordinator Becky Crumbo. "The more traditional the teacher, the more difficult it has been."

Key in IB's teaching philosophy is a focus that is learner rather than subject-centered.

"It means that kids are more active in their learning, not that they're doing their own teaching," said kindergarten teacher Cyndi Moreno.

"We form the skeleton," added second-grade teacher Sarah Christian. "The kids fill it in. It makes them more active in their learning."

"The traditional educational perspective is that I, as the teacher know everything," said Crumbo. "I'm not saying all teachers were doing that but it was up to them."

Where IB differs most is in its organization. Teachers must reorganize the way they plan to present information. Students must reorganize how they process it. And the act of reorganization is in itself an exercise ­ in PYP, curriculum is organized around eight concepts and six organizing themes. In MYP, it is organized around five Areas of Interaction.

In both PYP and MYP, lessons begin with a focusing of purpose then a discussion to raise questions.

In PYP, as a class exercise students sort their questions into categories known as Concepts. These are form, function, causation, change, connection, perspective, responsibility and reflection.

The organizing themes are who we are, where we are in time and place, how we express ourselves, how the world works, how we organize ourselves and how we share the planet.

For example, a unit on simple tools would fit under how the world works. "What are tools?" would be a form question. "How are they used?" would pertain to function. "How did tools evolve?" would be a question of change.

In MYP, information is organized around Approaches to Learning. Units begin with an essential question, which students explore in the framework of IB's Areas of Interaction ­ approaches to learning, community and service, homo faber, environment and health and social education.

Students pondering the essential question, "Why do people persevere?" could be answered in the context of community and service, or homo faber ­ relating to the spirit and creativity of man.

In both PYP and MYP, the personal and action concepts like responsibility, service and reflection guide students to consider the interconnectedness between what they're learning, themselves and the rest of the world. That we are connected with the rest of the world is part of IB's core philosophy.

Because of IB, teachers are also developing the school's first uniform, written and aligned curriculum.

"Who was teaching what where wasn't systemized," said PYP Coordinator and Principal Bob Kelso. "Now we are deciding who teaches what when."

While the school will continue to use existing texts like the Open Court Reading series and Harcourt Math, the approach to teaching them will change under IB.

Existing lab kits and other materials will also remain in use though they may be redistributed based on how material is aligned.

Crumbo added that textbooks alone are not curriculum.

"Curriculum is a map of what is taught," she said. "It's a lot of things. It's state standards and IB objectives and unit planners. That's the stuff we mean when we say curriculum."

When it's completed and through the first three years, the administration will do curriculum mapping ­ evaluating lesson plan objectives vs what is actually taught. They expect that it will take up to seven years to fully implement the programs.

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