PYP; Questions and Statements

I finally figured out what it is I dislike about the way PYP units of inquiry are organized.  It is the implicit associations involved with having the Central Idea as a statement, rather a question.

When you have the idea as a statement, you are creating a goal, an endpoint where we, as a learning group, are trying to get to.  We want to figure out and understand what that statement means.  We want to ask questions, but only questions that allow us to understand the statement we are trying to decipher.  It is focused on one big idea.  That is our goal.  That is where we are trying to go.

On the flip side, if you put the central idea as a question, there is no way to predict where the learning will go.  It grows and changes and evolves and moves and slides, etc. Questions begat questions, and soon enough, you are travelling in waters that you didn't plan for.  It is organic, and the answers will be different for different kids.  It is about the emergence of what is possible and what may happen.  There is no goal, because the question is open-ended and open to interpretation.

Personally, I like the question model.  I don't think learning and knowing are linear processes, and I think we want our students to flourish and grow as creative, open-minded people; we need to provide an environment that adheres to those ideas.

What do you think?


  1. Do you always display the central idea? Do you reveal it at the start of the unit? Have you followed the thread about this at PYP Threads? Great conversation!

  2. Yes, I always display the central idea and reveal it at the beginning of the unit. Interesting thought though, I never imagined to reveal it at the end. Might be interesting to try.... go through the whole unit and then as a summative assessment have them create their own central idea.... might try that.

    As for PYPThreads, I tried to join but since I do not work at a PYP school, they would not let me ;(

  3. And also...

    If your central idea (statement) is a big conceptual understanding, there is still plenty of room for open ended inquiry that could lead anywhere. What do you think of this central idea from one of our Year 5 units? Investigating historical change helps us understand how the past shaped the present. The teachers started with a few powerful provocations and already had great questions coming from the kids before they revealed the central idea.
    Remind me how come you teach PYP units when you aren't in a PYP school?


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