Away from the tech for a minute, and focusing on the IBPYP curriculum for this post.
First of all, what do I mean by unpacking the Essential Elements? Sometimes our Central Ideas, Lines of Inquiry, etc. are unclear to students at the beginning of a unit. Especially in an EFL environment, where more support is needed. Group discussions about the words we are using assist in a general understanding of our new unit. Reviewing the Learner Profile Attributes, Attitudes, Key Concepts, Skills, and discussing the Transdisciplinary Theme never hurts, either. I find this clarification a vital part of the beginning of any new unit. Students actually enjoy this routine, too, as part of their Tuning In process.
At the beginning of a unit, I always get my students to create the display of our new Central Idea, Lines of Inquiry, Transdisciplinary Theme, Learner Profile Attributes, Attitudes, Skills, and Key Concepts that we are focusing on for the next 4-6 weeks. Before making our student created display, we would go through each of these words on the whiteboard... erasing evidence and clarification as we go...
A few units ago I thought to myself... why am I erasing this? Why am I erasing their understandings, clarifications, and definitions of these words which we will be using every day for the next unit? What if someone forgets what that word means? Wouldn't it be easier and more meaningful to keep this brainstorm alive? Also, only one student was gaining a deeper understanding of that one word on the board when they were creating the display. (I would, however, also have mind maps around the room with the Lines of Inquiry and related topics as part of their Tuning In, to find out what they already knew - see my blog post about activities for each part of the Inquiry Cycle here).
So I changed the way we did our unpacking. It is still student-created, but it is much more of a focus and workable board in our classroom throughout the entire unit.
The next unit after my realisation we created one large web. The Central Idea was in the middle and everything else was around it. The students used post-it notes to each write their understandings of everything on the poster. I found they were much more clear about what we were about to inquire into.
The next unit I wanted to have the same amount of thought from each student, but in a different way. I didn't want them to get bored with this process. This time I wrote the Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry on one large paper. Everything else was on a smaller paper. The large (green) paper was where we worked as a class to redefine/clarify/provide synonyms for words in the Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry. The smaller papers (orange and red) became mind maps where we individually added ideas to the words. We can still add to these throughout our current unit as part of our reflections each week/day as we go.
How do you unpack your Essential Elements which you are focussing on for a new unit? We have one more unit to go this year, and I am brainstorming new ideas!
Passionate Canadian PYP Teacher in Vietnam