Unpacking the IPC: Beginning at the Entry Point

Keystone is introducing a new space for teachers to engage with readers, present their voices, and tell you their views on learning and teaching. We give you ‘Teacher Talks.’ Previously, primary school English teacher, Virva Palosaari gave you the bird’s eye view of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), and how it works. Becky Chi, primary school Chinese teacher, joins Ms. Palosaari in this article, and delves deeper into the first stage of the IPC learning cycle – the Entry Point. We will continue to expand on its many aspects, and curricular cogs over the next few weeks.

Unpacking the IPC: Beginning at the Entry Point

By Virva Palosaari and Becky Chi, Primary School Teachers

The first stage of the IPC learning cycle is the Entry Point. Each and every unit of the IPC begins at this stage. If we were to use an analogy, the entry point in the IPC is where students jump into the deep-end of the swimming pool so that they learn to swim by themselves. It is a stage of conceptual, cognitive and thematic immersion. This is how the IPC describes stage 1:

“It is an activity or event to immerse the children into the theme. The goal of the Entry Point is to get every child excited and engaged in the theme. It also provides a common platform so that every child has an experience to draw from as they progress through the unit.”

Teachers use the entry point to get students curious about a theme, get them excited about doing the activities, and unconsciously realize and absorb the conceptual elements of a unit. This may sound sophisticated for primary school students, but it is not. The self-awareness, and self-realization of students as young as 7 and 8 years old are amazing!

Getting into the Nitty-Gritty

In the introductory article, we used the example of the grade 2 unit, Living Together. We continue with this unit, and tell you what we planned as our entry point activities, and what the students learned at the end of these. We planned two entry-point activities for the combined grades of 2K and 2L – the more, the merrier.

As teachers, we wanted our students to experience team building through the activities we planned, so we chose ‘Bat Those Balloons,’ and ‘Knotted Ropes.’

‘Bat The Balloons’ is where groups of students make sure to keep ten balloons in the air at the same time. The balloons were introduced one at a time. Once all ten balloons were introduced, we recorded how long a group could keep all their balloons in the air. We allowed students to best their recorded time, so that they could learn from previous mistakes, and improve their team tactics. If you think this was a piece of cake, the next one is a bit more “knotty.”

How does a group of students, each using only one hand, untie evenly spaced knots on an 8m long rope? Each group holds their own rope, which is why each student in the group has only one hand to lend to the exercise. And no one in a group can let go off the rope. Interesting? The students thought so too.

Working Together: They Said It!

In the classroom discussion that followed, we asked our students, “What worked, or did not work in your group activities?” “Could you have completed these activities on your own?” and so on and so forth. All the students agreed that they could not have worked on their own. Most of them said, “We needed to work together!” and some even said, “We needed to cooperate.” Though the entry point of the IPC does not involve subject-specific knowledge or terminology, it is encouraging to hear the development of children’s vocabulary. And wherever possible, we provide students with vocabulary in order to help students express themselves better, and understand concepts better.

We were impressed by the students’ observations about proper communication and cooperation. A few students even commented on proper behavior, such as listening to ideas, not fighting in groups, and apologizing after a fight. All this from just two entry-point activities, rather amazing! Don’t you think?

By completing the challenges, the children drew out the importance of teamwork, trust and support, essential elements of ‘Living Together.’ These concepts will underpin many of the tasks and lessons – conceptual and subject-specific – that the children continue to explore throughout this unit. The entry point is a great diving board because it brings out the students’ voices. This means that at the very first stage of the IPC, students and teachers build the conceptual, contextual and cognitive foundations together.

Posted by steven on Saturday October, 31, 2015 at 12:00PM


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