What is a PYP Language classroom like?

The PYP language classroom is a place where language is clearly in evidence in all its forms. There is a busy hum of discussion. The observer is tempted by the inviting book corner that is well stocked with reference books, picture books, story books, poetry books, students’ self-made books, and books in a variety of languages. Displays include a wide variety of print including students' writing, author of the month, questions from the current unit of inquiry, posters, charts, calendars, memoranda, and instructions. There may be a listening center that is freely accessible with iPads. A writing center has a collection of writing paper, journals, and materials from crayons to pens to markers so that students can write freely. The clearly labeled writing center has a variety of materials and equipment, a word processor and printer, different types of paper, envelopes, blank forms, card, bookbinding tape, and ready-made blank books.

How does a PYP Language classroom work?

Students may be reading silently, in book groups discussing their latest book, searching the Internet as part of an inquiry, reading stories on iPads, or familiarizing and analyzing different types of texts to further their writing. They move purposefully between the classroom and the quiet area as the task demands, switching readily from individual study to group discussion and seeking advice and comments from peers and the teacher as needed.

Writing is a significant activity in classes of all ages. Younger students are involved in independent writing, annotating pictures, making and writing books, and writing and sending letters. Older students work at various stages of the writing process: drafting, revising and editing imaginative stories, expressive poetry, persuasive essays, and scientific recounts. All students may also be blogging, collaborating with others on Twitter, or writing emails to peers from around the world.

The teacher moves freely between individual, group and whole-class situations. He or she may work with a group to brainstorm prewriting ideas, stop for a while to help a reluctant writer begin, pause to assist with an individual editing question, gather specific students for a group conferencing session, advise on an appropriate reference source, or collect the class for a summarizing session. The teacher models appropriate behavior and attitudes: speaking and listening respectfully, referring to reference sources, enthusiastically sharing ideas about a favorite novel, posing questions on the current unit of inquiry, skillfully guiding students' lines of questioning, encouraging divergent thinking, and sensitively supporting all individuals to aim for their best.

Language is the medium of inquiry. In an inquiry-based PYP classroom, everyone appreciates both the aesthetic and functional uses of language. Literature is an integral part of the curriculum. A series of books can be read as an author study, host-country fairy tales could be part of a social studies unit, a biography might be the introduction to a science investigation, early years' counting stories can be reinforcement for mathematics development, and a comparison of illustration techniques may encourage acquisition of art skills. Books are not only enjoyed, they are also discussed and analyzed, compared and contrasted. Students are passionate about reading!

Overall Language Expectations

The program of inquiry provides an authentic context for learners to develop and use language. Language is involved in all learning that goes on at YIS. Learners listen, talk, read and write their way to negotiating new meanings and understanding new concepts. At YIS we recognize that the acquisition of language skills is a developmental process, and students progress at individual rates. Accordingly, our language curriculum is organized using the PYP age-band expectations.

Kindergarten-Grade 2

Across all strands of language, students will be doing the following:

Listening and Speaking
  • Learning that spoken words connect people with each other.
  • Beginning to share thoughts and feelings.
  • Developing the understanding that everyone has the right to speak and be heard.
  • Using oral language to help them make sense of the world around them.

  • Learning to construct meaning from text.
  • Developing an understanding of themselves, others and the world around them through literature.
  • Reading and comprehending fiction and non-fiction materials as part of the inquiry process.

  • Learning to communicate their meaning and intention through writing.
  • Writing to organize and share thoughts, ideas and information.
  • Developing, applying and refining skills to produce increasingly effective written communication.

Grade 3 - Grade 5

Across all strands of language, students will be doing the following:

Listening and Speaking:
  • Learning how language differs in a variety of contexts.
  • Beginning to adjust their speech for various situations including to instruct, to inform, and to reassure.
  • Learning to listen attentively, to reflect and to respond appropriately.
  • Using increasingly complex vocabulary and supporting detail.
  • Becoming more confident and sophisticated in their speech.

  • Becoming increasingly confident in their reading.
  • Using and applying a variety of reading strategies.
  • Questioning texts to recognize the author’s purpose.
  • Reorganizing information from their reading to develop their own understandings.

  • Learning to write for a variety of purposes and audiences.
  • Developing an increasing knowledge of conventions, spelling patterns, and vocabulary to communicate effectively.
  • Applying writing techniques with increasing skill and effectiveness.

This section has been adapted from the IB Making the PYP Happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education (2009) and explains what you will see in a PYP language classroom and how it will function as a learning environment.