PYP Exhibition and Symbolic Reasoning

As an international school we offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. During grade 5 the students participate in “exhibition”, a time when they choose their own topic for inquiry, presentation and action. Our school has chosen to have the students present their Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry through the Arts. During this very hectic 6 week time the teachers still wanted to carve out time for the Let’s Think in English lessons. As it turns out this worked very well.
We chose to use Shaun Tan’s book The Red Tree and the Let’s Think Key Stage 2 lesson “Red”. The reasoning patterns emphasized for this lesson, Narrative Sequence with a strong dose of Symbolic Reasoning, were perfect for bridging to inquiry into a larger concept and then presentation through art.
After asking the students to put illustrations from the book in order, match them to the text they are intended to go with, and explain their choices, their attention is then drawn to the fact that there is at least one red leaf on every page. Students are given time to discover that the red leaf is a symbol and discuss what it symbolizes. They are then told that Shaun Tan has said the he was working on the idea of a book without a story and asked to explore the impact of sequencing on meaning.
Our students connected this author and illustrator’s choices very quickly to their own inquiry into a larger concept and effort to share their understanding of that concept through art. We then were able to create a bridging activity where they took the concept they were working on and created one symbol that could represent the concept. Students created symbols to represent concepts ranging from the quite concrete banana peel to symbolize food waste, to the more symbolic image of eyes representing self-consciousness.
Although the Let’s Think Lessons are stand alone and meant to be about teaching thinking and not subject matter, when you are teaching conceptually as we do in the PYP, there are ample opportunities for bridging and reinforcing the reasoning patterns.

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