Concept based learning,  MYP,  Professional Development,  PYP

Articulating a #Physed curriculum ELC – G12

School Architecture, 1921

School Architecture, 1921 by Learn From. Build More. CC BY SA

This Monday is one of our first in-school Professional Development days and within this day there is a block of time  for Heads of Dept  (HoD) to run PD with their Dept.  A quick poll and Start of year discussion with my team indicated that we needed to take time to continue the Articulation of our YIS PE curriculum and Monday seems the perfect opportunity to apply 2 hours of time to developing this plan.

Yokohama International School has a very unique problem for an International School – it has very limited space.  A lot of the sorts of things that other schools readily make available through their PE programme are not things that we can do in ours.  We are an IBO school and so we must offer a curriculum that meets the requirements of both the PYP and the MYP and we must ensure we are offering enough breadth and depth for our students to gain the wide range of experiences that all children need but also to deepen their understandings of essential conceptual topics as they mature and develop and then graduate from the school system.

I have been brainstorming this out a little and through this I have decided that the biggest questions that our team needs to answer are:

What would a finished YIS PE Curriculum look like?

What would a finished PE curriculum look like to the stakeholders in our school (for our students? PE teachers; our Curriculum Managers? our parent community? our IBO requirements?)

The plan I have at the moment is the PE Team to look at these questions together and then on our own

  1. Brainstorm out 5-8 questions that come to mind about the above questions generally and then
  2. Give each of the team the View of a stakeholder and ask them to brainstorm out another 5-8 questions from this persons perspective.  The idea here is to try and keep a wide view of what our end-point is and then to narrow this down so that we can decide what things will look like.  I am interested in finding out what my team thinks is the end-point and what issues we need to discuss.
  3. Put together our Action Plan – do we need to research?  read docs? talk to PYP or MYP people?  talk with other PYP/MYP school PE dept’s or share our docs with someone for discussion?  Our school currently has 3 areas of focus (One School, Leadership, Service) and these are areas for checking through our PE Curriculum too along with many other pieces.
  4. Look at what we need to get to our end point and then map this out into blocks over the next two years.  This will mean that we can then decide where we need/what we need to do this year – and have an End point for this year.  And then have a plan for next year to get to our ‘End Point’.
  5. Start/Continue…..

We all know that there is no official End-point of Curriculum writing because like any cycle of design once you have something written you then reflect and make changes along the way and like any school and program, things are always bound to change and this makes the process of longer term planning challenging.  I would like to do some more longer term planning with my team as it is not feasible for us to have everything documented in one year and I want to put together a longer term plan to have our curriculum documented and articulated but I am a little worried about what changes may occur in the next two years which could cause us to go back to review earlier than we would like.

I wonder what other factors are important to PE in other schools – what are the parameters that you are dealing with – amongst the bigger picture issues – for example where do you start to have depth over breadth?  How do you measure the ratio of team: individual units?  How long are your units – how does this get decided?  Are these linked to Seasons of Sport?  Tournaments?  Weather?  There is a lot to consider in PE that I can’t see other subjects really need to consider….

So, the last year (2014-15) we had MYP Next Chapter change to deal with which has been a massive shift for us.  All new assessment and command terms and lots of change for us as we tried to deal with staying with maximum activity time and less/zero homework time and trying to create and re-write lots of assessment which has been stressful.  At the same time we have spent time documenting the PYP PE curriculum and trying to work through our units and also to align some of the concepts and Learner Profile to link them to the MYP units.

The biggest hurdle that I have is that as far as I know there is nowhere that I can take my ‘completed’ documentation and check it against what is expected – I am actually really okay with this as it means that we need to be happy that what our Students are learning at YIS and that it ticks the boxes that the MYP and PYP ask of us but I do wonder if we should be spending more time checking and reading some of the curriculum documents that people/companies have been paid considerable sums of money to write in other countries – and I have done a bit of this and talked to some people who are part of this.   But there is always more to know.  I am excited (well you know) to feel that we as a team will be closer to knowing What our Curriculum End Point will be so that we have clear vision of where we are going, what are students are learning, and what we need to do to be (almost) completed.

Anyone doing curriculum writing or articulation who wants to share any expert advice or let me know how I can best run this meeting – I would appreciate it!



  • mhamada

    Thank you for sharing your journey, it is always great to know that others are in the same boat – and yes it is clear we have lots of writing going on – it would be good to know how others are going with units – sizes/number of each to see whether ours are the same length etc. but as we both know, it has to fit your school and your students, there is no one-fit which is important to recognise as you get into the nitty gritty of writing.

  • mhamada

    Brendon, thanks for sharing this journey with me. It is great to read what you have written and consider where we are going. Interestingly we have been through a number of these steps ourselves, but perhaps we haven’t documented or framed it as eloquently as you have with your guiding questions. We have done a lot of soul searching as a Dept as we really do have limited space to offer variety and we have had to consider what we can actually offer our students and how we can do that in a meaningful way and we don’t meet the needs of many of our kids as we cannot offer the types of activities we might like to because of our lack of space (side note, we don’t have access to our community resources either due to Japan operating on a lottery system for spaces, so we can never know if we have a space or not which is not great for places like schools who need firm plans). We have looked at our YIS Mission and written our own PE mission that goes in line with this to ensure our program and mission and philosophy is in line with our school and we keep returning to Student learning as the focus here. We have looked at the major decision making (space, timetable, season, class sizes etc) and reviewed through the PYP and MYP lenses (still doing this) and we are trying to build strong vertical alignment and to ensure we have depth in our program for development of concept and skills as our major focus. We have come to Fitness, Invasion Games, Net/Wall Games, Movement (Dance related), Striking and Fielding as our core (including Individual Pursuits for our junior kids too). We are looking at how we align now through these looking at building on core conceptual focus and then key and related concepts that grow and develop year by year. thanks again for sharing – it is great to read what others are doing to drive their movement forward. We are talking with our students about the program, but it is clear this is an area for more development, and perhaps with our parents too so they have a better understanding of our program too.

  • MrsLieke

    Following this post! re-writing the curriculum seems to be the norm in International schools. We have totally moved away from linking our units with the after school sports program or the sport seasons. This creates some more flexibility and honestly it is not greatly missed by students and teachers. We work with a 9-day cycle, and our units are 3 cycles long. We did decide that the entire PE department has to change their units at the same time. We looked at our teaching spaces and lined up the units according the availability of space.
    I like the comment jonesytheteacher made about inviting your stakeholders. I would invite them as consultants and would not have them be part of the entire curriculum design process. As with your last paragraph…. “the proof is in the pudding” you don’t really need to have other people approve your curriculum. It has to fit your students and their needs. It has to fit the expectations from the IBO and it has to fit the capabilities of your teachers. (and the capacity of your learning space) Good luck!

  • Brendon

    Hi Mel, We are not an MYP school, we are PYP and then standards based at grades 6 to 10. I know that some of the questions we looked at that helped us were:

    Who are our students?(Where do they come from, how long do they stay with us, what are their previous experiences, how have the demographics of our school changed in the last three years, how are they anticipated to change)

    What do we see our mission as? (Does this align with the school mission?, it has to)

    What are the major points that we believe students need to know? Why do we believe this? What is influencing our decisions?

    Review this to our current standards

    What do we want to keep/cut/create?

    (We then came to the Fitness, Sports, Recreation, Aquatics as “strand” themes to teach the standards that we had based on SHAPE standards not outcomes)

    We then went on with numerous more steps, consistently coming back to two questions.

    Is this aligned to our mission? Is this aligned to covering our standards repetitively?

    One other question that has come up that i think has been important in our curriculum development is “how can we show that what is on the curriculum has been learnt? How do we test for it a year later in an authentic way that is a natural progression?

    Sorry for the novel

  • Rick

    Hi Mel
    I think that you are on the right track but I certainly agree with Jonesy about consulting with key stakeholders and especially the students. Perhaps this is something that you could all focus on in your planning and in your teaching and review & evaluation.
    Getting the best questions is a good place to begin inquiring into your curriculum.
    I’m interested to see and hear more as things develop.
    Keep up the great work of being a reflective practitioner and leader.

  • jonesytheteacher

    Do you and your team need to be the only drivers in the design? Can you invite community (students and parents) into the design process? Blending what you have to include with what they want to include can put a whole new perspective on your program, and spreads the ownership amongst all stakeholders

  • Ashley Casey

    The danger of any ‘off the shelve’ curriculum is its blandness and general rather than specific applicability to your context. Like curriculum reform it is written by well-intentioned and yet “experience-far” (i.e. no where new the reality of hat it means to be in your school with your unique enablers and constraints) individuals or companies. The real power in change comes from passionate teachers taking sound ideas and education aspirations and striving to make them a reality. You have a vision for this in YIS but it takes many years to make this begin to happen. Keep going and we’ll keep watch and admiring.

  • mhamada

    Thanks Dom, we have a fabulous PYP doc that has everything scoped out and gives us a very clear picture and we are now working with the counseling team to ensure the other PSPE strands that are not explicitly covered in PE are covered by them or the classroom teachers. We are also working on MYP Scope and Sequence that links clearly to our PYP SOIs/Central Idea/Learner Profile/Content and look at similar Inquiry strands through Games Strands too. I would really like to see what others who are like YIS (stand alone PYP MYP schools) have to see if we are doing very similar things – but it sounds like we are for the most part. I appreciate you taking the time to share.

  • Dom D

    Mel, do you have a whole school PE scope and sequence in place? We have tried to have similar names to our units and similar lengths in both PYP and MYP. We are still tweeting things as we are now finding it harder with more classes but the same amount of facilities.

    In PYP we are also developing curriculum overview for each grade level in PSPE similar to that in MYP. This will allow us to compare concepts, SOI’s/Central Idea, assessment and Content covered.

    I will share when we have a few more PYP documents finished.

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