In our previous posts we talked about transdisciplinarity, the importance of transdisciplinary themes and how they are conceived within the PYP programme. For this reason today I’d like to show an extract of a real UOI (aka Unit of Inquiry) I had to design for one of my master’s degree’s subject: Methodology of International Education.

Once I had chosen my Transdisciplinary theme, How we organize ourselves -an inquire into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and their impact on the environment-, and the age group, Grade 6, I had to come out with a Central idea.

Such thing is pivotal to developing the planning of the whole unit because it offers a framework to both teachers, for introducing concepts that cross national, cultural and subject borders, and students, by giving them the opportunity to participate to the inquiry bringing in their prior knowledge, practical experiences and diverse personal and cultural prospectives (the so called Agency).

The Central idea I elaborated was linked to social studies and stated: Living things have adapted to their unique environments as well as they have shaped and adjusted them to their survival needs.

From there, teachers must come out with a summative assessment and 2 or 3 lines of inquiry:

1) How we live. Human habitats around the world.(FORM)

2) How the environment influences human choices on living solutions.(CAUSATION)

3) The impact of these living solutions over the environment. (RESPONSIBILITY)

Now, I decided to focus on human beings, but as you might have understood, since the central idea embraces quite a broad perspective on anything, depending on your needs, I would have the possibility to focus the unit on different topics such as habitats and ecosystems, evolution, or even technology. In accordance with the focus, then the 3 lines of inquiry must change in order to adapt contents, learning objectives and assessment criteria
to the prescribed curriculum your school has to teach, while the UOI will evolve taking into account the ongoing process of monitoring and documenting students’ participation and inputs.


Transdisciplinary themes: a new way of teaching and learning

As we’ve already saw in the previous post, the IB framework establishes 6 big themes whose main characteristic is to be mouldable to any age and cultural background.


The Transdisciplinary Themes of the PYP Curriculum are at the core of its educational philosophy. These themes go beyond subject-specific knowledge and play a pivotal role in shaping the holistic development of students. Here are some key characteristics that define these themes:

 1. Encapsulation of Shared Commonalities: these themes serve as universal touchpoints that resonate with people across different cultures and backgrounds. They emphasize our shared human experiences, fostering empathy and understanding among students.

 2. Indication of Complexity and Connectedness: the themes highlight the intricate interplay of various aspects of the human condition on a global scale. They underscore that real-world issues are often multifaceted and interconnected, encouraging students to think critically and make meaningful connections.

 3. Engagement in Real-World Dialogues: by delving into these themes, students are prompted to explore and discuss genuine global issues. This engagement transcends theoretical learning, motivating students to become active participants in addressing real challenges faced by the world.

 4. Authentic Embeddedness of Subject Areas: the Transdisciplinary Themes break down the traditional silos of subject-based learning. They enable a seamless integration of different disciplines, promoting a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of concepts.

5. Contribution to the Uniqueness of the PYP: these themes are a distinguishing feature of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP). They differentiate the PYP from conventional educational approaches, emphasizing a broader, more inclusive, and globally relevant perspective on learning.

Incorporating these characteristics into the curriculum not only enriches the educational experience but also prepares students to become well-rounded, socially conscious individuals capable of addressing the complexities of the modern world.

Quiero leerlo en español


Transdisciplinary learning in the PYP classroom

Many of you, both parents and teachers involved in the IB world, have probably heard about the phrase TRANSDISCIPLINARY LEARNING, especially if your children or students are enrolled in grade 2 to 6 of the PYP (Primary Years Programme).

According to Nicolescu’s definition of this aspect of learning, the first key feature we must keep in mind is that transdisciplinarity go beyond subjects. Usually, a problem, an issue or a theme needs subjects as instruments, tools or resources to explore it in depth in order to connect the knowledge to the understanding of the world around us.

You have probably noticed how fun it is for PYP students to attend their lessons, how eager they are to learn and actively participate. Well, that’s because their curiosity, questions and voice are constantly taken into account and given a lot of space. A practice which is possible thanks to the absence of boundaries that subjects tend to set.

Besides, students are constantly integrating and connecting prior and new knowledge with experience, something that broadens their understanding of the world in a meaningful way.

In order to do so, the Primary Years Programme presents 6 transdisciplinary themes (we are going to see them more in depth in the next post) that provide a starting point for students’ exploration:

1)      1) Who we are

2)     2) Where we are in place and time

3)      3) How we express ourselves

4)      4) How the world works

5)      5) How we organize ourselves

6)      6) Sharing the planet

Now, this doesn’t mean, that curricular requirements can be ignored or avoided because we don’t focus our teaching on subjects. On the contrary, what happens is that homeroom teachers and specialists work together to a cooperative planner where they make sure that different topics of different subjects are covered in a transdisciplinary way and constantly aiming at the main transdisciplinary theme. 

In fact, the PYP curriculum establishes six distinct subject knowledge areas: language, mathematics, science, social studies, arts, and physical, social, and personal education. These foundational knowledge domains serve as the building blocks for students' education. Importantly, they provide the necessary tools and perspectives for students to delve into the exploration of the Transdisciplinary Themes. Together, they create a comprehensive and interconnected framework for holistic learning.

Picture's credit: Darian-Smith, Eve & McCarty, Philip. (2016). Beyond Interdisciplinarity: Developing a Global Transdisciplinary Framework *. Transcience Journal. 7.

Read this post in Spanish --> El aprendizaje transdisciplinar en el aula del PEP



Cognitive skills for lifelong learning

In the previous post about cooperative work we mentioned high order thinking skills, also known as HOTS in the education sector, which are often cited in contrast to LOWS, or low order thinking skills. In fact, as we can see in the image, both types of cognitive skills appear in what is known as Bloom's Taxonomy.

The six levels are:
Knowledge: ability to recall and recognise facts, information and skills.
Comprehension: ability to understand, describe and compare facts, information and skills.
Application: ability to use acquired information, knowledge and facts.
Analysis: ability to examine new information.
Evaluation: ability to assess information and ideas.
Creation: ability to generate and design new ideas and concepts.

Why is it important to keep this pyramid in mind when planning any learning experience? Because it represents the key passages that our students would have to experience in order to develop meaningful and, therefore, lifelong learning. To each section of the pyramid correspond some exemplifying verbs that help us in the task of planning and organising the different tasks and activities.

Source: https://www.teachthought.com/learning/what-is-blooms-taxonomy/

In the PYP, when planning cooperatively, we keep this taxonomy in mind in order to accompany our students towards their autonomous learning, step by step, as Vygotsky's scaffolding theory postulates and, for example, if I want to introduce the topic of "historical sources" to my third grade students I would do it using some of these activities in this same order:

Examples of activities at the REMEMBERING level: assessing prior knowledge, learning by heart the definition of 'historical source', remembering the different types of sources and some very important ones for historians, etc.

Examples of activities at the UNDERSTANDING level: organising different historical sources by typology, making an outline of the characteristics of each type, etc.

Examples of activities at the APPLYING level: bring to class different types of historical sources that can show us how our ancestors, as parents, grandparents, etc., lived. Interviewing parents, grandparents and older people within the educational community about specific topics.

Examples of activities at the ANALYZING level: write a description of the parts of one of the sources found, tell how, where and why it was used, whether it was easily reproducible, its cost, and the differences with its current version. Find out if other classmates have brought similar objects and check for differences and commonalities. Design a mind map about the sources and their characteristics.

Examples of activities at EVALUATING level: formulate a judgement about which sources are the most relevant or interpret the meaning of a source in relation to its environment, etc.

Examples of activities at CREATING level: creating a presentation on the historical sources analysed, creating a timeline to illustrate how certain objects have evolved over time, setting up a museum, etc.

As you can imagine, this whole process - which goes hand in hand with the different types of assessment, customisation of learning, etc. - could be applied to any topic of any subject we would like to work on with our students; moreover, the older and more cognitively developed they are, the more complex and exhaustive the planned activities can be. Finally, you will also have noticed how the need to use and develop these skills is closely related to the development of the competences prescribed by the curriculum; indeed, if we define a competence as the complex set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions and motivations that each individual puts into action in a specific context to cope with the peculiar demands of each situation, our minds automatically go to the top level of the pyramid.

Therefore, knowing and knowing how to apply Bloom's taxonomy becomes a necessary ability for all teachers and not only for those of us who work in IB schools.


Cooperative learning

Cooperative work has been shown to be a powerful means for learning and developing "high order thinking skills", the thinking skills that lead to meaningful learning. But how can we implement this work methodology in the classroom, without increasing our workload even more?

Here I am to tell you all about it!

Thanks to Vygotsky, we know that the most meaningful learning occurs when there is an interaction, whose main medium is the language, between the learner and an individual who has a certain knowledge about a certain subject; the latter can be the teacher, but also a fellow "expert".

For this reason, in recent years, driven by a competence-based curriculum, teachers have opted for the use of didactic methodologies that favour cooperative learning.

Some Kagan's stuctures

The main characteristics of this type of dynamics are:

- Heterogeneous groups made up of pupils who can contribute with different knowledge and levels of competence, in order to create a final product (not necessarily physical) that is better than what would be generated as a result of an individual work.

- Positive interaction generated by appropriate communication (social and civic competence, communication in mother tongue, or foreign language if in English).

- Individual responsibility demonstrated through a presentation to the class (sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, mother tongue competence, or foreign competence if they are doing it in English, digital competence if they are using the computer to research and present).

- Equal participation through a proportional distribution of the work among the team members.

- Simultaneous interaction of group members, who engage in dialogue to make shared decisions.

- Face-to-face interaction.

As can be seen, there are many competences that can be developed through this work methodology, but... How can it be implemented in the classroom?

The 5 basic structures and the skills 
that learners develop when they use them

Take note of this name: Dr Spencer Kagan. This PhD in psychology was a pioneer in the cooperative learning movement. He has dedicated his life's work to helping educators create more cooperative and interactive lessons that produce smarter, more caring and cooperative learners by designing more than 200 structures that can be incorporated into any lesson without changing a single comma of the work we have already planned. I personally use a few of them, according to my didactic needs and I can corroborate that in addition to facilitating reflection, dialogue and active learning, they are very powerful tools when it comes to motivating and engaging children in whatever subject we decide to deal with in class. As Mr Kagan tells us, there are 5 structures that are most commonly used in the classroom and that we should definitely learn to handle before moving on to the others:

- Rally Robin/table: students take turns in pairs to respond orally/written to a question or problem posed by the teacher.

- Timed, pair, share: in pairs, a pupil shares with a partner their knowledge or ideas on a topic announced by the teacher for a pre-set time, while the partner listens. The pairs then switch roles. Finally, each pair shares their ideas with the rest of the class (optional).

- Round Robin/table: students take turns in their teams to respond orally/written to a question or problem posed by the teacher.

- Rally coach: partners take turns solving successive problems: one solves a problem while the other observes, listens, checks, coaches if necessary and praises.

- Stand up, hand up, pair up: students stand up, raise their hand and quickly find a partner to share or discuss a task, given by the teacher, using Rally Robin or Timed, pair, share structures.

My students use them very often and I can assure you that I always get 100% participation and willingness to share with others, which increases attention and helps meaningful learning processes. 

Have no doubt!

--> Quiero leer este post en castellano


Summer homework? Graded readers, brain teasers, crosswords, and more

Hi there! 

I'd like to share with you in a quick post the summer 'homework' I suggested for my students this year. Besides the classic graded readers to practice reading comprehension, I thought that some puzzle/quizz/riddle book might be, not only entertaining, but also a good way for connecting the different areas of knowledge (English, Natural and Social Sciences, Maths, etc.) in order to enhance significative learning and the 4 language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking).

So... here's some of the books I selected for primary school students starting from National Geographic, which has some good ones:


Then, I thought about brain teasers, which are useful for learning how to think outside the box. They usually come with the age of the children they are designed for. However, since they are for native speakers, I would pick a level below your child's age if yours is not. Also I would choose the paperback version which usually comes with pictures and illustrations.


From Usborne, as suggested by my friend Marine, who is an independent book seller you can get in touch with from her
FB Page Kidibook:




Time flies when... you are busy

Hello y'all!  😁

I'm alive and well, as Katniss would say (from the Hunger Games, of course). Last year, COVID entered our 'normal' lifes and revolutionized them, showing no mercy. In March 2020 I was teaching phonics to my preschoolers, helping kids being more fluent, writing posts about it, enjoying the center of Madrid day and night, literally. At the same time, I was studying this Master degree about bilingualism and international curiculum that was being pretty intense but absolutely woth it. Life was busy, but pleasant, until COVID bursted in and all my routine and future plans changed. 

The studies could 'easily' go on because of the online mode, but my extracurricular classes had to be abruptly interrupted. Moreover, September didn't look bright and, because of this uncertainty, I had to opt for teaching English as a school teacher in order to assure myself and my elder dog (she is 15!!!) a decent lifestyle. After sending CVs to all the International schools in the area, I finally got a call which turned into a job as a homeroom teacher in the immersion line of a private school in Boadilla, where I had the opportunity to teach English almost as a first language. It was pretty cool! 

However, waking up at 6 in the morning every day since the 31st of August until last Thursday, dealing with all the pandemic school issues in addition to the current school duties, and arriving home at 6:15 pm every afternoon has been exhausting and that's why you haven't heard from me for so long. Besides, I had to finish my Master degree and take care of my own life during the pandemic, which also has been a bit stressful. 

Anyway, here we are! Thanks to the vaccination campaign we all feel a bit safer even though this feeling of uncertainty never leaves us really and I wanted to make the most of this summer break for saying hello again, and for letting you know that the many things I've learnt about bilingualism are now published in the 'Mi hijo habla inglés' book. Yes! I used the Easter break to update it. So, even if I haven' had the time for applying the 'Second edition' label to the cover of the book, I can assure you that there's new interesting content that is worth reading both in the digital and the paper version of it.

I wish you a safe and relaxing summer!
Bye for now