Concept Planning, Part 2: Following the threads of learning.

Having created the first unit of inquiry (UOI), ‘Who We Are’, I began to wonder about the second UOI of the year, for my imaginary 3-4 year old class, ‘How We Express Ourselves’. I had been intrigued by a recent conversation with colleagues regarding the concept of ‘through lines’, as we called them. The discussion had taken place during an activity in which we had been tasked with creating a Programme of Inquiry (POI) for an imaginary school. As we worked we started to notice related concepts that transcended each of the UOIs. Almost like threads of learning that weaved through the POI connecting with each of the UOIs and in turn with each other. This idea has excited me ever since.

I have always been a big advocate for creating opportunities for running multiple UOIs at the same time (I would argue that we basically already do in my instances). I believe it is just a matter of when we focus on specific units throughout the year. There is also the challenge of ensuring that the children progress in their knowledge, skills and understanding in each of the units and how can this be tracked? Although I have trialled this approach in the past, these questions have never really been fully answered but I am convinced that the answer lies in the ‘through lines’ or the common related concepts in each of the UOI.

I wanted to further explore the idea of through lines so I looked at which related concepts were evident in each of my first 2 units. I managed to identify 5 that really stood out, Identity, Culture, Wellbeing, Relationships, and Responsibility. I began to imagine how each of the related concepts would connect across the 2 units. It was quite easy to find clear connections within the conceptual understandings across each of the subjects. Below is an example of my thinking. I could continue this process for each of the other 4 through lines that I have identified.

As I continued to develop my unit of inquiry I also realised the the Key Concepts would also change the lens in which we engage with each of the ‘through lines’.

I repeated the process from my previous blog post to complete my UOI, How We Express Ourselves and begin to prepare the learning spaces for inquiry during the first week.

6 thoughts on “Concept Planning, Part 2: Following the threads of learning.”

  1. I’m telling you. I learned more about IB from this blog than any official training I’ve been given. 🙂 I’m glad you are still updating.


      1. Absolutely. I’m not exaggerating. I bring your blog posts into my grade’s meetings, so we can discuss them and figure out what steps we can take to try and create an inquiry based classroom.

        If you don’t mind me asking a question: Are your students fluent? I have been following the explanations and examples in this blog as best as I can, and I feel like the brick wall I am hitting is that my students speak only very basic English. When I’m teaching at the children I scaffold as much as I can, but I’m sure if they were permitted to communicate with me in their native language, they would be much more inquisitive and have great ideas of their own that I want to hear.

        Do you have any suggestions. Also, maybe you wrote a post, read a book, an online training. Whatever it is, I would love some advice on how to do PYP when the students are ELLs.


  2. I think that it is important to honour the children’s home language whenever possible. Why not have them create work in any language? Recently we have been exploring stories. We had a group of japanese speakers so we connected them with Kamishibai (traditional Japanese storytelling). It is a great opportunity to explore each others language. Also remember the ‘100 languages of children’. It is not only about verbal communication but expression through arts, movement, materials etc.We should value these equally.


    1. Thank you for responding! I am grateful to learn from you. I agree with you. So far, when it comes to things that require verbal communication, I’ve had to rely on my Teaching Assistants to translate for me. For example, we did “Sharing the Planet,” I wanted to ask my students about the animals they wanted to study and the questions they had, but my students couldn’t understand or respond to me in English. I had to work with my teaching assistant to translate back and forth. I’m wondering if this is normal, or if there is a better way. I don’t speak their home language (I’m trying to learn though).


      1. You could use this as an opportunity to develop languages skills. Maybe you choose the first animal and support language that will support the unit e.g habitat, mammal etc It is ok to be a little guided at times. Once the children start to recognise and use the vocabulary they will soon want to talk about their animals of interest.


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