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Primary Curriculum Information

The PYP Units of Inquiry



Single Subjects


Beginning to Understand PYP

The following information should help you understand the philosophy and provide you with a general overview of the PYP. This information is taken from the International Baccalaureate Organization’s Making The PYP Happen (2007).


The Learner Profile

The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.  IB learners strive to be:

  • Inquirers
  • Knowledgeable
  • Thinkers
  • Communicators
  • Principled
  • Open-minded
  • Caring
  • Risk-takers
  • Balanced
  • Reflective

The PYP provides a curriculum framework of five essential elements:

  • knowledge
  • concepts
  • skills
  • attitudes
  • action

Concepts:  What do we want children to understand?

  • form – what is it like?
  • function – how does it work?
  • causation – why is it like it is?
  • change – how is it changing?
  • connection – how is it connected to other things?
  • perspective – what are the points of view?
  • responsibility – what is our responsibility?
  • reflection – how do we know?

Skills: What do we want students to be able to do?

  • thinking skills
  • social skills
  • communication skills
  • self-management skills
  • research skills

Attitudes:  What do we want students to feel, value and demonstrate?

  • appreciation
  • commitment
  • confidence
  • cooperation
  • creativity
  • curiosity
  • empathy
  • enthusiasm
  • independence
  • integrity
  • respect
  • tolerance

Action:  How do we want students to act?

We expect successful inquiry will whenever possible lead to responsible action, initiated by the student as a result of the learning process and/or extend the learning process.

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PYP Units of Inquiry

There are six units of inquiry (four in K1 and K2) covered each year under the following standard transdiciplinary themes:


Who We Are.

An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.


Where We Are In Time and Place.

An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationship between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.


How We Express Ourselves.

An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.


How The World Works.

An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological; and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.


How We Organize Ourselves.

An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.


Sharing The Planet.

An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.



There are 5 strands of mathematics:  NumberPattern and FunctionShape and SpaceMeasurement and Data Handling.  

Some of these strands, when they link well, are integrated into the units of inquiry.  In particular, Data Handling links very well since a lot of the units require the students to collect, organize and present data.

Number is a strand that is often difficult to integrate into the units.  Also, since we recognize that a lot of number concepts need to be taught in progression, we tend to teach most of our number as stand-alone throughout the year. 

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There are 3 strands of Language: Reading and WritingViewing and Presenting and Listening and Speaking.

A lot of our Language is integrated into the units of inquiry.  For example, the students complete a lot of speaking and listening activities throughout a unit and they often work on their presentation skills whilst viewing various types of text and media.

At the moment, reading and writing tends to be taught as stand-alone for the earlier years but is more integrated as the students get older.  However, we also recognize the need to teach some reading and writing skills, particularly when looking at grammar conventions, in sequence and outside of the unit of inquiry.

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Social Studies and Sciences

It is a requirement of the PYP that all of the Social Studies and Science studied are done so within the context of the units of inquiry.  Therefore we do not teach specific stand-alone science and social studies lessons.

Rather than having separate science and social studies lessons (for example, once a week), each year group has 2-3 of their units that are heavily science-based where the inquiry allows for in-depth study in a relevant context for the students.  Each year group also has 3-4 units that are heavily based around social studies.

The philosophy behind this is to develop skills in science and social studies in a meaningful setting that allows for in-depth inquiry rather than simply acquiring knowledge. 

Social Studies and Science Strands:

Science strands

Social Studies strands

Living Things

Human systems and economic activities

Materials and Matter

Social organization and culture

Earth and Space

Continuity and change through time

Forces and Energy

Human and natural environments


Resources and the environment

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Single Subjects



The 4 strands of The Arts are Dance, Music, Drama and Visual Arts.  We have a specialist teacher for Music.  Dance is explored through PE.  All strands of The Arts are also developed through the units of inquiry

Personal, Social and Physical Education (PSPE)

The 3 strands of PSPE are IdentityInteractions and Active Living.

Although all teachers cover all strands, we have specialist PE teachers who teach the majority of the Active Living strand.


At Chatsworth East, all students attend Mandarin lessons every week (unless enrolled in the ESL Programme).  In Kindergarten 1 through Year 2, all students attend lessons twice per week.  In Years 3 through 6, all students attend lessons three times per week.  Lessons are structured in 45 minute lesson blocks.

Our Mandarin programme is designed as learning an additional language with the aim to provide international students an exposure to the rich Chinese culture.  Through a variety of interesting activities, students engage in learning how to speak basic Mandarin and write simple Chinese characters.   

Year 4 to Year 6 students are introduced to Hanyu Pinyin as well as the four unique tones in the Mandarin language.  They practice using Hanyu Pinyin to pronounce Mandarin words, read poems, type in Chinese and translate short articles.



At Chatsworth International School, assessment is integral to all teaching and learning within the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IBPYP).  It is central to the PYP goal of thoughtfully and effectively guiding children through the 5 essential elements of learning, the understanding of concepts, the acquisition of knowledge, the mastering of skills, the development of attitudes and the decision to take responsible action.

 The following assessment strategies include a broad range of approaches and have been selected to provide a balanced view of the student:


Assessment Strategies


Approaches to Learning Assessment

Open-ended Assessments

Tests / Quizzes 

Performance Assessments    

All students are observed regularly with a focus on the individual, the group and/or the whole class.

The focus is on the process and skill application rather than on the end product.  These skills are regularly observed in real contexts using checklists, anecdotal notes and inventories. 

Students are presented with a challenge and asked to provide an original response. 

These single-occasion assessments provide a snapshot of students’ specific knowledge.

Students are presented with a task that represents the kind of challenges that adults face in the world beyond the classroom.  It requires using a repertoire of knowledge and skills to accomplish a goal or solve an open-ended problem.  In addition, it entails the thoughtful application of knowledge rather than recalling facts.  It has an identified purpose or audience, involves a realistic scenario, has an established criteria and requires developing an authentic product or performance.

Process-focussed Assessments




Observation Notes





Selected Responses

Students are observed often and regularly, and the observations are recorded by noting the typical as well as non-typical behaviours, collecting multiple observations to enhance reliability and synthesizing evidence form different contexts to increase validity.  A system of note taking and record keeping is created that minimizes writing and recording time.  Checklists, inventories and narrative descriptions (such as learning logs) are common methods of collecting observations.

Students are observed often and regularly, and the observations are recorded by noting the typical as well as non-typical behaviours, collecting multiple observations to enhance reliability and synthesizing evidence form different contexts to increase validity.  A system of note taking and record keeping is created that minimizes writing and recording time.  Checklists, inventories and narrative descriptions (such as learning logs) are common methods of collecting observations.

Situations in which students are presented with a stimulus and asked to communicate an original response.  The answer might be a brief written answer, a drawing, a diagram or a solution.  The work, with the assessment criteria attached, could be included in a portfolio


The strategies may be put into practice using the following assessment tools:


Assessment Tools





Benchmarks / Exemplars



Established sets of criteria used for rating students’ tests, portfolios or performances. The descriptors tell the students and assessor what characteristics or signs to look for in the work and then how to rate that work on a pretermined scale, which is shared with the students before they set out to complete their task.  Rubrics can be developed by students as well as by teachers.

Samples of students’ work that serve as concrete standards against which other samples are judged.  Benchmarks / exemplars can be used in conjunction with rubrics or continuums.  Benchmarks should be appropriate and usable within a particular school context.

Lists of information, attributes or elements that should be present.

Anecdotal Records

Brief written notes based on observations of students. “Learning stories” are focused, extended observations that can be analysed later.  These records need to be systematically compiled and organised.


Visual representations of developmental stages of learning.  They show a progression of achievement or identify where a student is in a process.




A portfolio is a record of students’ involvement in learning which is designed to demonstrate success, growth, higher-order thinking, creativity, assessment strategies and reflection. The Portfolio is organised by units of inquiry and should include evidence of learning from curriculum areas.  It should show the development of the 5 essential elements of the PYP as well as the attributes of the Learner Profile.

Parent Teacher Conference (PTC)

During PTC, parents are given information about the students’ progress, development and needs as well as the school’s programme. Teachers will also take this opportunity to gather background information, answer parents’ questions, address their concerns and help define their role in the learning process.

Student Led Conference

Student-Led conferences involve the student and the parent.  The students are responsible to lead the conference and take responsibility for their learning by sharing the process with their parents. 

Report Card

Report Cards are issued twice a year at the end of each semester, in December and June.  Report cards are sent home on the last day of each semester. The Report Card contains subject content statements, measurable objective continuums and individual student progress comments.

The Exhibition

Students in Year 6 participate in the Exhibition, an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IBPYP) requirement.  This presentation is the culmination of the PYP learning. Each student will demonstrate engagement  with the 5 essential elements of the programme:  knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action. The Exhibition is a large assessment piece created as a presentation that takes many forms (poster, drama, presentation as visual, audio, etc.)


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