During the last year of the PYP program, one of the six Units of Inquiry is PYPX or, as it is commonly called “Exhibition.” In this unit and during Exhibition I step back from regularly scheduled lessons and offer whatever support the kids need to see them through the project. Usually this involves working with small groups as they progress through the inquiry cycle, and usually, but not always, this also involves assisting with finding and checking sources of information and citations. Here are a few guiding principles I’ve come to rely on over the years in planning and working to prepare students for Exhibition. Your school and your program may be slightly different, but these have been my “take-aways” from both international schools I’ve been privileged to work for.
- Before PYPX, a strong librarian and library program will teach students:
- How to use the library catalog, especially persistence in keyword searching and advanced searching functions. Most fifth graders are beginners in using keywords and performing key word searches.
- How to use the school’s digital resources, especially a digital reference suite like World Book Online or Britannica Online. There may be other components of your digital collection which will be helpful during PYPX. I like to have a current events source that is elementary friendly (we use The Day Explorer), and access to National Geographic Kids (we have this through our GALE/Cengage subscription.) I have found academic databases to be too difficult for Grade 5 students and generally try to keep them working in a child-friendly framework.
- How to evaluate information sources. I strongly favor Karen M. Christensson’s RADCAB model and have built lessons around her framework.
- How to take notes.
- The importance and necessity of citing sources, and how to create accurate citations. I do recommend Noodle Tools for students as young as Grade 5, but you definitely need a plan for source citations before PYPX begins.
- From the Grade 5 Teaching Team, you’ll need:
- Mentor guidelines. Make sure that some of your content is included in the mentor guidelines. I’ve found it is very helpful if mentors understand how the students have been taught to evaluate information sources and create citations.
- Guidelines or requirements for types and numbers of information sources.
- Topics with guiding questions and lines of inquiry. Check this against your print collection. It is often the case that several projects cannot be supported by the print collection. Kids and mentors need to know this right up front so that they can get busy looking elsewhere if there is a requirement for print materials. Ex: Using 3-D printing to build houses.
- Teams of students if students are working together on PYPX. If not, a guide to each student and his/her project topic.
- During PYPX:
- Keep open hours. Every regularly scheduled library class becomes working time for PYPX. During these periods, I am always on hand to answer questions. Most kids are looking for sources, taking notes from sources, or creating citations from sources.
- Offer mini-workshops on citations. Despite your best efforts, a lot of kids will have forgotten how to use your citation guidelines. For us, they need help remembering Noodle Tools, what it is used for, how to get a bibliography out of the system, etc.
- Check the kids’ sources and citations. Many, unfortunately, will still go down the paths of Wikipedia, personal blogs, web pages without authors, etc. There is a lot of effort needed to draw them back to the basics. All sources used in PYPX research should meet the guidelines for information source evaluation you have taught them earlier.
- Serve as a mentor if you feel you can. Some years I have been a mentor and I’ve had a great experience with my students. But, some years there have been so many kids who needed help that I stepped back from being a mentor just so that I could be sure to have enough time to check sources and citations for all of the Grade 5 kids.
PYPX is meant to be a celebration of the students’ learning journeys over the years they have been in the PYP program. Exhibition showcases what the students are capable of doing, including taking action, in an inquiry project of their choosing. In keeping with these goals, try not to teach the students anything new in PYPX. By the time a student reaches PYPX, he or should already have everything needed to be successful from a research and inquiry perspective.
Instead, during PYPX, offer guidance and support as the principles already learned are applied in new and challenging contexts. I have found that PYPX is a very busy time for a school librarian. I spend a lot of time answering questions and offering guidance on common questions such as:
- “I don’t know who made the web site . . . . “
- “I don’t know when the web site was published . . . . “
- “I can’t find anything in the library . . . . . “
- “What is an interviewee?”
- “When was this book published?”
- “How do I cite a YouTube video?”
- “Can I use Wikipedia?”
All of these questions come back to basics which ideally have been taught earlier in the library and information literacy curriculum.
For my students, some of the challenges of PYPX have included:
- Students choosing topics that are so cutting edge that there are very few sources of information. Ex: Flying Taxis, 3D Printed Houses.
- Students not narrowing their topic down far enough to make a reasonably sized project. Ex: “Women’s Rights” as opposed to “Voting Rights,” or “Wage Equality.”
- Students choosing topics for which limited information is available for their age group. Ex: Child soldiers. (Most of this material is written for Middle School and above.)
- Students failing to use the index in printed source material. It is impossible to gauge a book’s complete content from the title, and young learners need to use indices to get the most out of the printed collection.
- Getting students to look beyond the headlines. There are an infinite number of great topics which never had an international headline, but which do tie to the UoI or PYPX Transdisciplinary theme. I like to work with my students in one lesson on topic exploration just to get them to try to think more broadly about interesting topics.
PYPX is a time to celebrate what the students can do. Enjoy this project with your students, reinforce what you have already taught them, and work with the Grade 5 Team to keep them on track. But, keep your running shoes on – you will be busy!
14 November 2018
Your Friend in the Library, Miss Betty