PYP Exhibition

I was invited by the Faria Group to lead a webinar on the PYP Exhibition. This is one of my most favorite things to talk about so it was an easy ‘yes’. The enhancements to the PYP have brought about a lot of clarity (in my opinion) as to what the Exhibition is and what it can be. Here is a summary of the ideas shared in the webinar:

This is the ‘one word’ that I kept thinking of as I was prepping for the webinar. The degree to which agency is present in the Exhibition will likely correlate with the degree to which it exists in all of your learning spaces. If you want students to be agents of their own learning, start now – don’t wait for Exhibition! And if you don’t know where to start, tap into this holy grail of all things agency as curated by Taryn Bond Clegg.

These are two films I suggested sharing to all members of the learning community as the journey begins. The first one, Alike, will help people see why we want kids thinking for themselves and moving independently about the world. The second one, by John Spencer, will help remind us that it all might be a total failure – but that it doesn’t mean WE are total failures. Play them back-to-back to get best effect. 🙂

NOTE: John has a great follow-on video called When Projects Fail which may/may not also come in handy!

The IB Principles to Practice are DEFINITELY worth reading – in particular in relation to the Exhibition. Figuring out the purpose of the exhibition, how it will look in your context, what roles each member of the learning community will play, and the degree of release toward a student-led exhibition, are key factors to consider before getting started.

Collaboration is one of the key components of the exhibition and again, this won’t just happen unless we are intentional about it. Destination Imagination has some great resources to help both develop team relationships and then reflect on how they might be made even stronger.

Figuring out what you think/hope the exhibition will look like is a great start. I think most of us have visions of a straight, uncomplicated, but long path. Reality, it looks a bit like spaghetti junction, most of the time. Having a plan before you start is great. Your plan could look something like this:

  • Identify a global issue or opportunity that has meaning to the student(s) and connects to the school or local context
  • Collaborate to develop central idea(s)
  • Identify group or individual lines of inquiry and student questions
  • Connect with mentors and use class time to focus on ongoing Exhibition inquiries
  • Designate ‘check-in’ times with mentors to monitor and document progress, and to provide feedback and feedforward.
  • Decide on the culmination of the exhibition to share the learning process. Consider the environmental impact of the culminating event when looking for ways to make the learning visible. 
  • Reflect on the Exhibition process

You will then want to think about assessment. What I like about this is that students are asked to have a strong hand in creating their own success criteria. What does that mean or look like? I took the main features of the exhibition and the assessment guidelines and then created a few question to guide students in assessing their learning. Great to share these with the students and to get their input on them too.

Start with the end in mind…

On the topic of assessing, or thinking ahead to what is coming, I like to have students take a leaf from Seth Godin’s “Ship It” manual and speak into the future about their own success and achievements before they begin. A powerful way to take a moment to think about what they hope to get out of this process.

Exhibition is not meant to be a solo experience for kids or teachers. Key to the success of the exhibition are mentors. I wrote a post about different ways of including adult support for the exhibition in a post called We(Chat) Are The Champions. It has some good stuff on different ways of making the most out of mentors.

Step by step…

I am not a fan of checklists but I do understand that having some sort of framework when undertaking such a big project is absolutely necessary. Here is my six step version of a checklist. I just implore you to not think of it as written in stone. It’s just a guide so when you and/or your kids are wound up in spaghetti junction, you have some idea of which way is up.

Let’s get ready…

So, we are now (almost) ready to go! But here’s one last-ish word on what that means. It can be really easy to get bogged down with ‘research’. I encourage you to consider a bias toward action – a phrase that comes from Design Thinking and the Stanford d.School. Equally, consider developing a Producer Mindset – different from a consumer mindset. Raising Producer Kids by Philip Guo is a great read.

Great questions are the key to a great exhibition and if you want to brush up on your skills in relation to helping kids pose and pursue great questions, look no further than The Right Question Institute.

A tool you might want to consider is the Post-it App. I love this app. It is not a ‘must have’ but it does make this process fun and there are so many ways to use the kids thinking to build their understanding of the questions they are asking and to help them figure out which questions they REALLY want to go for. Here are some other ways of organizing and categorizing questions:

This visible thinking routine: question sorts, is probably one of my favorites. Questions that end up in the bottom right quadrant are the ones most likely to generate engagement, insights, creative action, deep understanding, or new possibilities, while also being questions that one really cares deeply about investigating. After you have these questions, you could take them and sort them again into concept categories:

Everything you need to know about these cards is on this blog. Check out this post to get started.

A new edition to my Exhibition toolkit (and one I have not tried with PYPX students but use regularly with our XBlock students) is a project summary. This is a one-pager that students can use to summarize their thinking, free from jargon, and with their voice at the front of everything. This would be a tool I would use to conference with students and help them to put a voice to the nature of the project they are about to undertake.

Conceptually thinking…

When students have created lines of inquiry based on concepts, I have found some of them will often get this ‘now what?’ look about them. What do I do now? The following chart would be a great tool to guide conversations with students about what they might be doing if they were pursuing a line of inquiry connected to one of these concepts. This idea of connecting verbs with concepts was first shared by Cristina Milos and I took her idea and added these prompts.

Action is a key component of the exhibition. Under the PYP Enhancements, action is broken down into a number of categories. These next two images show what those categories are and then the second, what students might find themselves doing depending on what they are trying to achieve:

Link to full post

Learner Profile and ATLs

The following cards are under construction. I am working on the icons in collaboration with our Early Years teachers and I want to work on the language of the guiding/reflective questions. If you have any advice, I would love to hear it!

Suzanne Kitto has generously shared her work on ATLs via her Twitter account. Rebekah Madrid has bounced off this work to create ATLs for MYP students. I was inspired by both educators and made a set of EY ATL cards. You can’t go wrong.

In the webinar I pulled math as an example and shared some information about three different ways that three different educators have used to bring math into the PYP. All the details about this can be found in this post.

Documenting the journey

I think most people have ways that they enjoy using (adults and kids alike) to document learning. This might depend on access to technology or student interest, but for the most part, taking the time to document what is going on is a key part of the Exhibition journey. The night before the webinar I had a slide prepped with bullet points about documenting. Then I put my daughter to bed and read “Ish” by Peter H. Reynolds. In that book, Ramon (and Peter) reminded me that it really is ok to NOT document everything – the learning still exists. Love it.

Staging the Exhibition…

When you and your students are getting ready to share, I offer these three things to remember:

  1. It is a celebration! Be joyful! Have fun! And remember to celebrate the process, the failures, the false starts, the milestones, the massive achievements. It is all part of the journey.
  2. Be kind to the environment. Consider the message your physical products are sending to your audience.
  3. Keep asking yourself, “Who’s fingerprints are on the work?” – this is a phrase my friend and fellow design teacher uses to remind us that at the end of the day, it’s the kid’s work. Let their academic voice shine through.

And to the students, I would say:

I will post a link to the webinar when it becomes available. I want to make sure I thank all the educators who so generously share their work with the rest of us. I also want to thank Leila Holmyard from Managebac who helped me think through the process of exhibition and was so open to helping me synthesise and expand on my wonderings based on the PYP Enhancements, and Kelby Zenor of Faria Education for inviting me to the Webinar.

8 thoughts on “PYP Exhibition”

  1. What a valuable resource. Thank you so very much for your wisdom and for sharing.

  2. It is a very detailed and comprehensive resource for teachers to understand all the elements of PYP exhibition
    Really liked the checklists which would guide a student to the right path.

  3. Thanks for sharing some excellent resources so generously. I am sure this is going to benefit the PYP learning community at large; globally.

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