Inquiry based learning is about providing students with the opportunity to develop ideas in a way that supports ownership of ideas. It is about pulling ideas a part, questioning,testing and developing skills, gaining knowledge and in certain curriculums developing universal understandings that support learning being applied to real world problem solving situations. It is different from the more traditional approach to learning which was about imparting knowledge, drilling skills and producing an answer.

JULY 21st  2016


When looking through the lens of causation we are getting learners to think about “Why is it like this?”
Causation thinking helps people think about design and purpose, as well as cause and effect.
Some simple causation questions to could be

  • Why are road signs different colours? What do the colours signal to people using the roads?
  • Why are there different shaped shoes?
  • Why are leaves all different shapes?
  • Why are there different alphabets in the world? 

A simple thinking routine that helps support this ‘CAUSATION’ thinking is WHY

  • W What is it? What are the parts? What are the special features or attributes? What is it for? (The purpose of this step is to think about the form and function of a given action or tool)
  • H How does it work?  How could it change?  How is it used?(This step aims to have people thinking about the cause and effect relationship between design and use, between choice and impact)
  • Y You could….     You know….  (This step is about justifying the thinking and extending the causal thinking to looking for further adaptions and modifications that would better suit the user’s needs or the choice make’rs consequences)

When discussing ideas with your children use the WHY routine to help guide the conversation so you can push ideas deeper and draw out the thinking your child is developing. This drawing out of ideas is important for a number of reasons

  • Your child develops and extends his/her vocabulary
  • Your child maintains ownership of ideas as well as learning to extend ideas
  • Your child is leaning to articulate and make visible connections she/he has formed
  • Mistakes and misconceptions become stepping stones and useful tools for developing new ideas

July 14th  2016


This Reflecting lens helps a person understand that there are different ways of knowing and understanding the world around her/him and that by reflecting people can make sure that they have evidence to support the understandings they are claiming to have. It also helps people understand the what and why of their own and another’s thinking.

A thinking routine that matches the concept of REFLECTION is ‘What Makes You Say That?”
This routine is a great one to help a person justify and understand his/her own thinking.

WARNING: The fun part about this routine is that your children may actually start using it with you, moving them from the usual “Why” question to a “What makes you say that?” question which requires you to begin justifying your thinking to them. (This can lead to really interesting and fun conversations)

CA ITR What makes you say that 1

A thinking routine for going deeper into an idea and developing justification skills
1.    After an idea has been presented, music or song listened to, family members are asked:

  • What do you think? Then ideas and perspectives are shared
  • Why do you think that? People then justify or explain their idea further.
  • Where did those ideas come from? People have to link their thinking back to a personal or external source such as remembering a personal experience, This raises awareness that the ideas we have and perspectives we hold and share are connected to prior knowledge, understanding or experience.

I love to throw in an extra step and ask the question “Are you curious about other ideas or ways of thinking about this?” I find that this invites people to be open to discovery and other options or ideas.

A simple way of using this routine is to get your child to think about what the weather might be like the next day and why they think that. From here you and your child can then plan basic everyday choices such as clothing and activities based on the justifications and evidence that comes form these conversations. Remember to let safe mistakes happen. If your child predicts it’s going to be hot, and it turns out to be cool, then they can reflect on what other clues or evidence they could have used to make a more informed decision.

Talking about shadows and why they are there and how they change is a great one for younger explorers. Help them trace or photograph shadows at different times of the day. Then engage in reflective conversations about what your child noticed.

I remember doing this with my youngest daughter over the period of a week when she was about 3 ½. We would go out to the same spot at a certain time and draw her shadow over and over. She was confused about why the shadow would disappear at different times. Slowly but surely as our investigation progressed she began to draw conclusions about light and shadow.
By getting her to reflect and revisit our ‘experiment’ over a few days, she became more observant about things that had previously escaped her attention.
This way of thinking later supported her reading and comprehension because she would reflect on details and use these as evidence to comprehend texts and questions.

July 7th 2016


At any PYP school your child will be invited to think conceptually. This means looking at things, systems, actions, etc in various and particular ways. During each newsletter I will choose one of the key concepts from the IB PYP program and suggest different ways of helping your child use this concept to see the world around them in new ways.

FORM is about looking carefully at what something is like. For younger explorers it is about using the senses to explore the world. When your child is out and about asking you questions, get him/her to feedback some information to you using his/her senses. You and your child might begin to look for the ‘RIGHT THERE’ information and then find ways of making that thinking visible.

• SOUNDS: What sounds do you hear? Are they loud or soft? High or deep?
• SMELLS: What can you smell? Are the smells, sweet or yucky? Is it a strong smell or a weak hard to find smell?
• TOUCH: What does something feel like? Does it look safe to touch? Is it sharp or soft? Prickly of furry?
• SIGHTS: What does something look like? Is it big, small, round, square? Has it got one part of lots of parts?

By inviting your child to look carefully at the form of things, you are also helping them develop skills in making their thinking visible to others. When your child talks about an idea or even uses their mark-making strategies to experiment with recording what they are seeing or experiencing, it is a great opportunity for you say “Thanks for describing that so clearly/ or recording that with those marks because it helps me see what you are thinking”. Most young children assume that the adults around them can see and know what is happening inside their heads, consequently when they are encouraged and allowed to develop a vocabulary or recording system that make their thinking visible you are supporting them in becoming articulate and thoughtful learners.

July  2016


Time away from school can offer the opportunity for adventures great and small. This includes exploring a box of photos in a grandparent’s house to wandering through new landscapes and languages. As we adventure we have the opportunity to give our brains a daily surprise. This “brain surprising” aids in the development of new neural pathways and strengthens already existing pathways.

Brain surprises might include finding or hearing some new words and exploring the meaning or history of that word, including those lovely words that are unique to families and shared histories. Other brain surprises include listening to to a new style of music or song and seeing what ideas the instruments, lyrics, rhythm or beat connect us to. Maybe you could try reading a new type of book, try reading poetry out loud in a wood, eating a new food, exploring a new place and seekingout a new smell. So take your senses on an adventure and give your brain a surprise. Position your self as a delighter – someone who is alert to small and unexpected discoveries in immediate surroundings.

These ideas are all supported by the research that says play and experimentation are critical parts of any learning process.