PYP Exhibition: Creating Central Ideas…or an Exercise to Check the Boxes?

Thought I would just get that out there. It’s PYP Exhibition time again. A time of love and not so love. A time of energy and exhaustion. A time of community and growth. A time to fill in boxes.

Did I just say that?

Our students have been excited about Exhibition. We are starting earlier and easing into it, which is great. We have kept action at the center of our attention and focus as we want the Exhibition to lead into an action forum. All good.

Today, we started off with prior knowledge about their general “topics” and then a concentric circle activity where they brainstormed issues about their topic from the “me” level out to the global level.

561192ce-d984-42cb-aad9-234d352a66b6My colleague gave them some great prompts to get them thinking more deeply about their topic like:

  • If you had to picture this, what is the first image that comes to your mind?
  • If you could give a speech as the president of the world about this topic, what would you say?

The students were thinking more deeply. The room was buzzing. And then we asked them to take all of that, and think about their big idea, their central idea. We gave them a provocative central idea:

Through small actions, everyone can make an impact

And we asked them to think about what they really wanted to inquire into, based on their brainstorms….and the room went silent.

Our group of teachers disbursed to each group, bringing out ideas, prodding and poking. A few student groups were fine and dug in. A lot began to fidget. Some groups came up with slogans. One group came up with the central idea of our current unit without knowing it.

It was a bit painful. Honestly, I find central ideas a bit painful to write myself. Now, with students in differentiated groups with all levels of ability, varying levels of English, different learning needs and challenges, it was…. even more painful.

With poking and prodding, we almost got there. It took some joy out of the entire Exhibition excitement. It felt more like an exercise, boxes to check. I don’t like that. Neither do my students.

In past years, in past schools, we created a central idea, and students chose their inquiry lines and everything else. We did this one by the books, and I don’t know. I’m feeling a bit, well, boxy…

What are your thoughts?


4 thoughts on “PYP Exhibition: Creating Central Ideas…or an Exercise to Check the Boxes?

  1. Your post resonated with me! I was just having this same discussion with my teaching partner. Our students overall have challenges writing their central ideas. We have some strong build up lessons where students examine and evaluate central ideas, it is still challenging. We also have our mentor teachers, some with very little experience in writing central ideas helping… it gets very messy… last year we gave more time for some open research into their issue. How can they write central ideas with their initial limited knowledge about their issues? We had a few groups who generated lines of inquiry first and then later the central ideas emerged… I agree with you that the writing of their central ideas can be exhausting! Please update your blog with any great insights. We kicked off Exhibition today with unpacking the central idea and a t shirt design contest. We will be writing cideas before we know it…

  2. Pingback: PYP Exhibition: Creating Central Ideas…or an Exercise to Check the Boxes? | senorbennett

  3. Hi Kristen,
    I understand what you mean and I truly believe that your thoughts are valid. I think it’s very difficult to create the central idea at the beginning of the exhibition simply because this usual exhibition process may not be as constructive as we think for our students. I am a PYP coordinator in an IB school in Astana and we are experimenting on a certain approach that we think is more constructive, just because I have experienced exactly the same issue that you described in your article (over and over again). I’d like to share what we are experimenting on and I hope it would make sense to you. Do email if you are interested.

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