How do Primary Year Programme (PYP) teachers get their students engaged?

Pencil Crayons with text Back to School

How do teachers set the scene for exploration and inquiry? Do all children come to school curious? The answers to these questions motivate all teachers as they design their units of inquiry.

The International Baccalaureate programme puts heavy emphasis on the gift of the human imagination, especially in our young children. Teachers open all units of inquiry with a PROVOCATION. Webster’s Dictionary defines provocation as “something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates.”

Teachers at St. Cecelia use provocation to unfold the ideas and interests of their students. Well-planned provocations expand the possibilities for exploration and inquiry. Well-planned provocations initiate thoughts, discussions, questions, ideas, interests and creativity.

Watching students explore and wonder provide teachers a rich foundation to build upon. In 5th grade, Mr. Mink is taking the opportunity to investigate Hurricane Harvey to stir interest and inquiry for his upcoming unit on weather. This provocation is leading such interest and connection that the students can’t wait to start the weather unit. Another rewarding provocation took place in Pre-k4 with Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Barko. A sensory tub was filled with all kinds of articles that represented change, a vine that grew into a pumpkin, pictures, even an ultra sound photo of Mrs. Bell’s baby. Students explored the items and made connections such as the sonogram picture of her daughter that led to a baby picture then a toddler picture. Students made the connection that things change.

Provocation takes place in all classrooms and teachers expand on these experiences from the provocation and build on the student’s interests and ideas, not their own. So many possibilities for the children’s inquiry and exploration arise and they’re not coming from the teacher!

Provocations can come in many forms. Teachers may use nature, objects, events, interesting photos, and concepts such as the changing seasons or metamorphosis. This year many families sent in artifacts or purposeful replicas from their summer vacations. This community effort helped build materials for teachers to use in their provocation planning. Anything that stimulates students’ attention and curiosity can provide an invitation for students to explore and express themselves.

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