Using an inductive approach to introduce MYP units

As the new term commenced, many MYP students embarked on new units. For years, my MYP unit introduction lessons followed a pretty standard formula: I would share the statement of inquiry, key and related concepts, and global context with my students. Then we would dive straight into the unit’s content, sometimes returning to those elements, but often as filler (“Remember our SoI…”) rather than as a deliberate strategy to help students develop connections or relationships between those elements. I even had a lovely (sarcasm intended) unit cover sheet that I would ask them to stick into their exercise book as a divider for all of the notes and exercises they would complete throughout the course of the unit. It was an easy way to frame a unit, but it was all very didactic and frankly not the most exciting.

The IB does not prescribe a particular method for introducing concepts, but often MYP lessons (at least in the introductory phase) are delivered deductively: we give the students the statement of inquiry at the beginning of the unit and spend the rest of the time (sometimes several weeks) validating that one generalisation. Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction embraces an inductive approach, which involves engaging students in examples or case studies to notice patterns, make connections and, ultimately, articulate their own understandings.

What if we did this with the statement of inquiry? Often, these statements can feel awkward or forced. By trying to adhere to the “rules”, they can come out bloated and not at all student-friendly. If we let students construct their own statements of inquiry, we honour their intellect, support their agency and give them an active voice in determining the purpose or direction of the unit. We can use the guiding questions to nudge them in the right direction, but think of how much more engaged they would be in this process than in the process of cutting and pasting into their exercise books a teacher-made unit cover sheet that they are likely to never look at again?

So… what would this actually look like? In my Grade 6 (MYP 1) English class, we recently explored the concepts of character, identity, connections, and perspective through an inquiry into different Greek myths as part of an introduction to our current unit, “What makes a hero?”. Students focused on the challenges that heroes overcome (or fail to overcome) and the lessons that we can learn from Greek myths. This inquiry provided an opportunity for students to develop some background knowledge that they will need in order to understand the cultural context of the Odyssey as well as to appreciate the challenges that Odysseus faced on his journey. We will follow this up with a more focused exploration of the defining characteristics of a hero (and test these against the character of Odysseus) and the stages of the hero’s journey.

Admittedly, this is the first time that I have had my Grade 6 students generalise and I was worried that they would not understand what to do or would struggle with constructing a coherent sentence that showed a meaningful relationship between concepts… but I was thrilled with the results. Let’s just say that some of their statements were better than that the one that my teaching partner and I wrote! Here is a sample. They’ll vote in our next lesson on the one that they want to be our shared statement of inquiry.

A few notes/suggestions:

  1. I was not concerned about whether or not my students’ generalisations fit the “formula” of an MYP statement of inquiry (and in fact the one that my teaching partner and I wrote probably doesn’t either). For reference, our key concept is connections, related concepts are character and intertextuality and the global context is identities and relationships (explorations: affiliation and leadership, identity formation).
  2. Having students construct their own SoIs can be exciting — but also a little bit intimidating. We do have to release a little bit of control in this process, but not too much. It may be a good idea to agree upon one SoI, from the students’ individual understandings, that will serve as the principle generalisation for the unit. This will ensure that there is a shared focus to the unit and that assessment is consistent.
  3. I have written before about viewing the statement of inquiry as a springboard to developing more disciplinary understandings. The SoI will frame our unit, giving us a broad purpose, but we have planned to develop the following disciplinary understandings within the 10-week unit:
    • Background knowledge and cultural context can help improve a reader’s interpretation of a text.
    • Authors create dramatic situations which test a hero’s courage.
    • Authors use different types of conflict to reveal character traits.
    • Authors can use illustration and imagery to make their characters more believable.
    • Readers develop their personal response to texts by considering different points of view.
    • Recognising patterns across genres helps readers analyse texts.
    • Effective presentations include elements of storytelling such as voice, narrative structure and emotional engagement.
    • Presenters use speaking conventions and non-verbal communication techniques to engage an audience.

Using the MYP related concepts to develop disciplinary understandings

Just over two weeks ago, I had the privilege of presenting at the IB Global Conference in The Hague. It was great to connect with people whose names I recognised from WhatsApp groups and meet in 3-D individuals who had been postage sized through a Zoom lens for the past two years. I didn’t get to see much of the city in the daytime, so I’ll have to trust the IB’s image below.

My presentation, “Taking the statement of inquiry further: Developing disciplinary understandings in the MYP”, focused on how to leverage the Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction (CBCI) model to go beyond just one understanding in a unit of inquiry. I started to explore this topic here and here last year, but in my presentation I outlined the steps to enhancing the conceptual level of a unit.

Step 1: Identify Disciplinary Concepts

So you have your statement of inquiry, which is a big, broad, transdisciplinary idea. But in order to develop disciplinary rigour, you need to move beyond the statement of inquiry and develop additional understandings that transfer within the discipline. The first step towards developing these understandings is to brainstorm a list of concepts that are relevant to the unit. Starting with the related concepts helps, but many of these are still considered macroconcepts. For example, character in Language & Literature is a broad concept; drill down further to microconcepts such as protagonist, antagonist, dynamic character, static character, etc. Or style could have a sharper focus on concepts such as tone, mood, diction, figurative language. The brainstorming stage is important, but you’ll sift through all of your ideas and zoom in on the most important concepts in the next step.

Step 2: Develop Disciplinary Understandings

A concept-based unit should have 5-9 generalisations. If we only focus on the statement of inquiry and don’t work to develop multiple understandings, we are missing out on the opportunity to develop students’ disciplinary expertise. The statement of inquiry should frame the picture, but it isn’t the whole picture. What connections do we want to support? What understandings do want students to be able to transfer to new contexts or situations?

Step 3: Write Disciplinary Guiding Questions

Once you have developed your list of understandings (and this can take some time!), you’ll need to write guiding questions for each generalisation. Each generalisation should have a list of 3-5 factual and conceptual questions. Across the whole unit, you should aim for 1-2 debatable questions. Unlike the questions linked to the statement of inquiry, your disciplinary questions can link to specific unit content.

Step 4: Design Concept-Based Lessons

This is perhaps the most challenging part of the process. You might have a solid, 3-dimensional unit, but how do you translate that to classroom practice? It’s so easy to default to a 2-dimensional delivery of content (or skills), but to really develop students’ ability to think conceptually, we have to teach conceptually. There are several models for concept-based learning, but they all embrace the constructivist approach: students need to be able to abstract to from the concrete. Too often, we might tell the students what they should understand at the end of a lesson or unit, and they spend their time validating our understandings. A concept-based approach honours student intellect and gives them the opportunity to construct their own understandings; this is the inductive approach. There is no set formula for this (although I am partial to Rachel French’s concept-based inquiry model, which provides a very clear framework), but the key is to encourage students to see patterns and make connections.

So what does this look like in practice…?

Finding some headspace after a hectic year

It’s hard to believe that we have completed the first full school year in three years. What once felt so normal, so routine, now feels like a novelty. Despite some individual hiccups, collectively we made it through three full terms, two parent-teacher conferences, countless parents’ evenings and events, and a return to trips (including some residential, both in the UK and abroad).

I did not anticipate how much headspace this year would demand — not just because I moved into a new role in senior leadership, but also because of the general adjustment to post-lockdown life and work. When I was stuck in it, I didn’t really notice; I was just on autopilot. Now, with the headspace to really reflect, it’s hard to remember an uninterrupted year. Being in perpetual motion is exhausting; after years on the treadmill, I think (I think) I’ve finally learned how to pace myself.

While I haven’t been keeping up with this blog so regularly, I did manage to write an article on the approaches to learning over the Easter holiday, which was just been published last week on Professional Learning International’s blog. There’s a lot more in my head that I hope to share next academic year; I just need the summer to reboot.

The power of global collaboration: introducing three conceptually-driven educators

In October 2020, I embarked on the year-long Erickson and Lanning Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction Trainer Certification Institute with Professional Learning International. I had had my eye on this programme for a few years — since I started looking “behind the scenes” of the IB MYP and delving into the work of H. Lynn Erickson. When the time finally seemed right to attend the institute, which was originally held in The Netherlands in July, the pandemic hit. That pushed pause on that plan — or so I thought at the time. Luckily, within a few months, the institute shifted to an online format, so I was able to complete the training earlier than I had anticipated — and all while immersed in my day job, so I could apply my learning immediately within my classroom context. I was officially certified as an independent trainer and presenter in June.

Throughout the training, I got to know lots of interesting educators from all over the world, but my collaboration with these three ladies has endured beyond the weekly Zoom sessions and the occasional email or social media post. Despite being based in different parts of the globe and working with different age groups and in different subject areas, we soon realised we had the same passion for using concept-based learning to amplify the student (and teacher!) experience. Let me let them introduce themselves here. They’ll be guest blogging soon.

Katie Langford
(Early Years)

I’m Katie Langford and I’ve been in international education for over 18 years. My career has weaved through many countries, curriculums and roles and I have worked with some truly remarkable educators passionate about early years.

I began my career in Hong Kong, moving on to the US, the UAE and currently Singapore where I am leading an Early Years section at an International Primary School. I have been lucky enough to work in schools that have shifted from traditional curriculums to a more 3 dimensional style of education bringing to life conceptual teaching and learning.

With a strong background in the IB, I am now delighted to be a certified Erickson and Lanning Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction (CBCI) trainer and consultant, specialising in early years.

Ruba M. Abi Saab

As I reflect back on my journey, I can say that teaching and shaping young minds have always been my number 1 passion. Being a lifelong learner helped me embrace a student-like mindset and be open to share and receive new ideas and perspectives from my students and colleagues. 

I have been in the world of education for nearly 9 years and currently teach PYP.6 in ARIS, Ghana. After teaching in a traditional setting for a couple of years and earning an M.A. in School Management and Educational Leadership, I realised that students are capable of achieving great things if given the ‘opportunity’. How do I provide them with a greater opportunity to own their learning? Helping students acquire new knowledge was one of my goals; but questions revolving around the purpose of their learning and how to help them think beyond the facts filled my head. This pushed me to explore what IB education entails. The world of IB, particularly the Concept Based Approach, was a turning point for me. As I put all the pieces of the puzzle together, I was able to understand and make sense of my role as a facilitator in my students’ learning. 

As I dug deeper into the work of Dr. Erickson and Dr. Lanning, I realized that there are unlimited possibilities in unlocking a child’s potential by creating an environment that fosters the integration of skills, knowledge and concepts. I also experienced the power of questions and the impact it has on students’ learning. Our main role as facilitators is ‘asking’  rather than ‘answering’ questions. I enjoy seeing my students emotionally and mentally engaged as they inquire into various topics. Watching them move from the ‘What’ towards the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ they are inquiring into a particular topic/concept brings me so much joy and satisfaction.

Besides my teaching role, I have recently embarked on the journey of training and coaching my colleagues on the concept-based approach. I am enjoying every bit of it as I continue to learn, unlearn and relearn with them every single day. I strongly believe that great things happen when we work together. I can’t wait to share and connect with you!

Riyam Kafri AbuLaban, PhD (Secondary)

Hello fellow educators! My name is Riyam Kafri AbuLaban. I am an educator, writer and a lifelong learner. I have been in education twenty plus years, starting my teaching career as a TA during my PhD. I worked as an assistant professor of chemistry and taught philosophy and writing at the undergraduate level. Currently I serve as a school principal and academic leader at the Ramallah Friends School in Palestine.  

My journey in education has been full and exciting and I held different positions that contributed to my diverse skill-set. But the classroom remains to be my first love and passion. 

I am interested in how students learn, and how teachers can be supported to become the 21st century facilitators they are expected to be. In my work, I am focused on equipping teachers with the necessary approaches to learning and strategies they need to feel empowered in their classrooms. 

I am a recently certified Erickson and Lanning Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction Trainer, as well as an IB MYP and IB DP Educator. I love teaching and teachers and consider myself to be a passionate teacher advocate and coach. I consider myself to be  conceptually driven and believe that concept-based learning shines light into classrooms and into student learning and teacher practices. 

I am excited to share my thoughts, work with teachers and schools and help everyone feel empowered to do the important work of teaching. 

Outside the educational world, I am a proud mother of two (twins), a foodie and a baker. You can reach me at or follow me on instagram @riyamkafri or Twitter: @riyamos. 

Practising affective skills: becoming effective learners by managing state of mind

It’s almost here: the second edition of Personal Project for IB MYP 4 & 5: Skills for Success is in production and scheduled for release on 27 August.

I wrote back in February about some of the changes to the Personal Project, but you can check out my latest guest blog post on the role of skills in the project on Hodder Education’s web site, where you will also find sample pages from the new book as well as content from my co-author, Laura England.

Concept-based lesson planning: from intent to implementation

I haven’t written a real lesson plan in years — except when I’ve had to for the sake of inspection or evaluation. After teaching for so many years, lesson plans become brief scribbles in a planner or bullet points on a digital file — or just mental notes about what to “cover” or “do” day to day. But as part of the Erickson and Lanning Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction Trainer Certification Institute, delivered by Professional Learning International, I’ve recently had to develop concept-based lesson plans to demonstrate my understanding of how to move from intent (the written curriculum) to implementation (the taught curriculum). I never thought I would say this, but the process of writing lesson plans — often considered a burdensome task — has really recalibrated my teaching practice. In a sense, it’s getting back to the basics (what is important at the classroom level?), but with the added dimension that concept-based curriculum and instruction brings to the experience. As MYP teachers, we could so easily spend all of our time and energy crafting beautiful units, but that does not guarantee concept-based learning is taking place.

I can’t share the full lesson plans I’ve been working on here because they have been submitted as part of the certification process, but I can share the slides from one of my recent lessons. A couple of points of note: first, this particular lesson was delivered remotely, so it was not as interactive as it might have been in a physical classroom environment without COVID restrictions. Second, these are not the slides from the original lesson; like any good reflective practitioner, I revised them after seeing what worked and what didn’t. The slides don’t capture everything from the lesson (e.g., the classroom discourse is obviously missing), but they should give a good idea of the lesson content and guiding questions I used to structure it; for reference, you can read this post about the unit the lesson comes from.

I can share my key reflections on the lesson-planning experience:

1) A “lesson” isn’t necessarily confined to a class period. A lesson can take as long or as short as is needed to reach the learning goal (in this case, an understanding of the target generalisation).

2) The power of intentional, deep questioning is sooo underrated. I used to front load the unit guiding questions (tied to the statement of inquiry, which got repetitive after a few lessons) at the beginning of the unit, asking students to keep them in the back of their minds as we went through the unit because we would revisit them later on. We almost never did. Now, I use each generalisation’s guiding questions to structure my lessons, and there is no front loading. I drop them in at strategic points throughout the lesson to provoke student thinking and guide inquiry, and my learning experiences are intentionally designed around those questions. The purpose of those questions is to inductively lead students towards a conceptual understanding, not to deductively outline the lesson content. Well-crafted questions scaffold student learning — and help me as a teacher to structure the lesson.

*A further note on questioning: It can be tempting to start a lesson with factual questions, charting a nice linear path to conceptual and debatable questions, and I definitely did this in the first drafts of my lessons. However, sometimes beginning with a debatable question can provide an engaging hook for students. Or leading with a conceptual question might engage the brain and start to nudge students towards the learning goal (the conceptual understanding; more on that below). I realised as I was planning that as long as I let the target generalisation frame the whole lesson, I could be flexible with the sequencing of the parts.

3) Direct instruction does still have a place in a concept-based lesson, but it should not be the dominant form of delivery. In the Macbeth lesson above, we did have to pause and zoom in on non-verbal communication techniques. Some of these were common knowledge; others (like kinesthetics or proxemics), not so much. I had to equip students with a certain amount of knowledge before they could move forward and analyse how and to what effect those techniques were used in different performances. It’s all too easy to fall back on direct instruction because it makes us feel in control — and as a self-confessed control freak, this has been the most difficult aspect of concept-based teaching to embrace. But we have to trust our students and allow them to show us what they are capable of. We shouldn’t be doing the thinking for them.

4) Finally, learning objectives. It goes against my teaching style to write a learning objective on the board and ask students to copy it down in their exercise books. Sadly, this is common practice in many UK schools. I’ve realised that the issue I have with this practice is that it is inauthentic; it doesn’t provide students with the why. That is because a traditional learning objective is often treated as an end point, instead of a means to an end. In a concept-based classroom, conceptual understanding is the end goal (the why), and learning experiences are purposeful means of developing that understanding.

The experience of fleshing out concept-based lesson plans has certainly added to my cognitive load. In all honesty, I don’t think writing full lesson plans is necessarily sustainable on a full teaching timetable, but having the mental framework to help guide my instructional practice has allowed me to be more intentional — and reflective — in the thinking and planning process. Instead of setting off with a vague destination in mind and filling the lesson with activities to keep students busy as a means of addressing prescribed standards (although those will of course be interwoven throughout the lesson), I’ve been working to keep students engaged as they works towards an understanding of x, y or z. It’s a journey that will likely never really end as I continue to learn and reflect and refine — and repeat.

I highly recommend Concept-Based Literacy Lessons: Designing Learning to Ignite Understanding and Transfer by Lois Lanning and Tiffanee Brown for anyone (not just literacy teachers) who is interested in practical steps to bridge the gap between the written and taught concept-based curriculum. And I am eagerly anticipating Julie Stern and company’s Learning That Transfers (and so should you!), which is sure to add a whole new layer to concept-based instruction.

Reimagining IDUs

Earlier this month, the IB released the updated guides to the Personal Project and Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning, and there are some exciting changes coming from September! Two things seem clear in both guides: there is a greater emphasis on student agency and there is greater alignment between the core components of the programme: the MYP Projects, Interdisciplinary Learning, and Service as Action. There also seems to be a real push to use IDUs to grow school culture (with links to Social Emotional Learning). I wrote about the importance of establishing an interdisciplinary learning culture last spring, so it is really great to see this take on central importance in the new guide (see “Using interdisciplinary units to grow school culture” in “Interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP”).

Last May, I shared a model for a 3-day IDU, based around the inquiry cycle. I developed the idea in response to conversations I had had with other MYP educators (both within and outside of my school) in which we shared concerns about how to “make IDUs fit” within the curriculum and how to effectively teach IDUs concurrently. If time is intentionally set aside for IDUs to take place in every grade, ideally around the same time, it becomes much easier to develop a continuum of interdisciplinary learning.

In this newest iteration of the guide, there are only three objectives, which align directly with the inquiry cycle, making the 3-day model much easier to plan and implement.

Day 1: Inquiry (Evaluating)

The shift in language from Disciplinary Grounding to Evaluating as one of the three objectives is interesting. The previous wording might have implied a focus on subject area content. Now, evaluating invites students to consider real-world problems through an interdisciplinary lens.

Day 2: Action (Synthesizing)

Day 2 would be an opportunity for students, either individually or in collaborative groups, to create a product that communicates a purposeful interdisciplinary understanding.

Day 3: Reflection (Reflecting)

Day 3 would be an opportunity for students to showcase their interdisciplinary understandings, either through the form of presentations or mini-exhibitions, and to reflect on their learning.

Finally, I thought I would highlight the part of the new guide that really jumped out at me: “Students should become more self-directed in their interdisciplinary inquiry over time. It is suggested that in the first years of the MYP, depending on the context and the student’s prior learning, inquiry can be more teacher-determined and directed. As learners progress through the programme, interdisciplinary inquiry may be more student-led and open, for example, by focusing on inquiry questions generated by students as well as teachers, and/or by including tasks that allow students to be agents of change in creating a more sustainable, interconnected and peaceful world that brings the IB mission to life.” (IBO, 2021) So progression of interdisciplinary learning can be developed through the amount of agency students are given, not simply through complexity of content. This is a game-changer!

Process over product: reflecting on changes to the MYP Personal Project

I’ve been re-immersed in the Personal Project for the past couple of months while Laura England and I have been updating our textbook to align with the newly released guide. The two main emphases of this newest iteration of the project are agency and process, and it is the latter that is probably going to cause the biggest frustration amongst teachers — and perhaps some students.

In both of the most recent curriculum review cycles before this one — in response to feedback from schools that students felt the outcome or product was not being taken into consideration in the assessment — the product gradually took on more importance. I recall when the first changes were introduced in 2011, a new, un-moderated objective/criterion was introduced: “Achieve the Goal”. More recently, “Taking action” (Criterion C) included explicit mention of the quality of the product. In the newest version of the project, the product is not assessed; a student’s planning towards and reflection on the quality is, but the supervisor makes no quantifiable judgement on the quality of the product itself.

In my years coordinating the Personal Project, I had my share of teachers, students and parents asking why the product didn’t “count” for more in the overall grade. I get it: students spend a lot of time working on their projects and they want to be rewarded for the quality of the finished product. To be honest, I agreed with them — because it’s much easier to assess a tangible outcome than it is to assess the thinking behind it. But shouldn’t assessments be designed so that they value students’ intellect, not reduce the amount of intellect required of teachers?

Over time, I’ve realised that that process is where we find the real evidence of higher order thinking skills, and the new assessment criteria reflects this. After all, why should a student be penalised if the product fails? And, conversely, why should a student be rewarded for a high quality product if there has been limited engagement in the process? (That may sound harsh, but don’t we all remember those classmates who managed to throw something impressive together at the last minute when we worked ages to produce something half as good; and they didn’t really challenge themselves or learn anything in the process, did they?) It’s not that the product isn’t important, but it is through the process that students develop critical and creative thinking skills — and resilience. The product is merely the end result of all of that thinking and reflection. James Dyson famously created over 5,000 prototypes of his first product; that perseverance in the face of perceived failure is probably what makes Dyson such a successful company today.

The new project is far less linear; there is no clear path from A to B. But that mirrors the thinking process. Thinking is messy. I recently stumbled across an interesting article on Edutopia, in which the author (Emily Kaplan) states that “…thoughts, like atoms, are invisible: Even in the realm of education, we most often talk about finished products—the answer, the sentence—and not the messy, iterative, highly personal processes that built them. And even when we do talk about process, we tend to do so in superficial terms: one or two steps we took, perhaps, but not everything we considered, tried, ruled out.” (Kaplan, 2021) The new project objectives embrace the messy and the criteria demands that students analyse that process, mistakes and all. I can’t think of a better preparation for “real life” than that.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: This post has gained a lot of traction, and I just want to be clear on the fact that the product is still an important part of the Personal Project process (students must create a learning goal and product); the quality or success of the product is just not directly assessed by the supervisor.

Teacher or writer?

This weekend marked two writing milestones for me:

  1. On Friday, this DP English assessment prep book was released in the UK (US release is planned for late February).
  2. Today, my co-author Laura England and I submitted the draft manuscript for the second edition of the MYP Personal Project book. We have updated it to align with the new PP guide and are thrilled to play a role in supporting students (and teachers!) on their Personal Project journeys. Due for publication on 27 August!

Call me crazy, but I love the rush that comes with a deadline — and the slow build up towards and eventual satisfaction of publication. I’m not so sure my own students (nor some of my colleagues) feel the same way about deadlines…

I won’t use the cliche of many a writer (“I have wanted to tell stories from the moment I first picked up a pen”) or bore you with my own backstory. But it is true that, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. The funny thing is, it took a long time for me to identify as a practicing writer — and even now I feel like a bit of an impostor. You see, I thought a writer was synonymous with someone’s favourite novelist or that inspirational poet with a dozen literary accolades. Not someone like me. And I thought it was an either/or: either I could be a teacher or I could be a writer. That false dichotomy was a real hindrance to me for a long time — and took a toll on my self-confidence.

A few years ago, I kind of fell into textbook writing. It was never an intentional move as a writer, more of a natural evolution of my practice as an educator. One book turned into two, two turned into four, and now I’ve just submitted the draft of the seventh. I have benefitted from a really positive and supportive relationship with my publisher — and I’ve had the ongoing opportunity for deliberate practise and reflection. This is partly the reason for this blog, to expand on those ideas that don’t fit into a certain box.

I don’t really talk much with my students about my writing (this may be the British habit of self-deprecation I have picked up over the past 15 years in the UK), but I probably should. Students need to see their teachers as active practitioners of their disciplines, not just passive deliverers of content. They need to see that writing is relevant to all disciplines and something that people do “in the real world” (a phrase that I have come to hate; hello, students live in the real world, and never has that been more apparent than in the last year).

Teaching and writing can exist in harmony. Both are creative endeavours; there is real craft involved in teaching, and there is learning inherent in writing. Writing is not hierarchical and no one form is superior to another; I know that statement will raise a few eyebrows, but I think it is true. All writing serves a need for someone somewhere, and stories can be told in multiple ways. I’ve got loads of ideas brewing, including some for a teacher audience. And there’s still a novel in there just waiting for the right moment to come together. But for now I am completely comfortable with my place in the teaching and writing communities. And those communities are big; there’s room for lots of different voices. I’ve been inspired by many of them myself.

‘Macbeth’ 2.0: upgrading a 2-dimensional unit

I have probably taught Macbeth close to a dozen times over the years. It’s a great work, and I honestly haven’t come across too many students who have actively disliked it. But there are only so many different ways you can teach iambic pentameter.

I’ve been working on adapting our existing unit according to the Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction (CBCI) framework. The process of redesigning the unit with a more conceptual focus started with a colleague’s initiative a couple of years ago, when she brought in some poems by Browning and Tennyson to explore the concept of the archetype. I’ve taken it a little bit further and fleshed out 7 generalisations that amplify the statement of inquiry and add disciplinary depth to the unit. We’ve also added a film and media focus to expose students to a wider variety of text types in relation to the conceptual lens. It’s a work in progress, but the lessons are already so much more fun to plan and teach.

Unit Title: Villainous Characters (Grade 9 MYP English Language & Literature)

Key Concept: Connections

Related Concepts: Character, Intertextuality, Theme

Global Context: Identities and relationships (Consciousness of mind, motivation)

Statement of Inquiry: Archetypal characters act as intertextual links across time, place and genre.

GeneralisationsGuiding Questions
1) Archetypes allow audiences to recognise patterns across texts.F=What is an archetype?
F=What common archetypal characters appear in literature and film?
F=What are the characteristics of a typical villain?
C=What makes the character of “the villain” so compelling?
C=What is the difference between an anti-hero and a villain?
C=Are some archetypes culturally specific?
2) Ambition and a desire for power can drive a person to commit morally questionable actions.F=What is the definition of ambition?
C=Why does the word ‘ambition’ sometimes have a negative connotation?
D=Is evil born or learned?
D=Is there a universal understanding of what is morally right and wrong?
3) Authors reveal characters’ motivations through internal and external conflicts.F=What is the difference between an internal and an external conflict?
F=What motivates Macbeth to kill King Duncan?
F=What is Lady Macbeth’s motivation and what does this reveal about her character and her relationship with Macbeth?
C=How do authors reveal characters’ motivations?
4) Writers employ figurative language to enable readers to make inferences about texts.F=What are some examples of figurative language?
F=How does Shakespeare use figurative language to develop his characters?
F=How does imagery appeal to the senses?
C=How is figurative language used to convey tone and mood?
C=What inferences can readers make about texts by examining figurative language?
5) Playwrights/dramatists use soliloquies to communicate a character’s thoughts, feelings and motivations with an audience.F=What are the conventions of a soliloquy?
F=How does a soliloquy differ from a monologue?
F=What is blank verse?
C=What can a soliloquy reveal about character that dialogue cannot?
C=How can a soliloquy elicit an emotional response from an audience?
6) Performers use non-verbal language to convey emotions.F=What are some examples of non-verbal language?
C=How do performers use non-verbal language to convey emotion?
C=What can non-verbal language reveal that verbal language cannot?
7) Media platforms can manipulate language to shape public perceptions of individuals and groups of people.F=What language devices are used on media platforms?
C=How can media platforms shape public perceptions of individuals and groups of people?
D=Is it morally justifiable for the media to villainize certain individuals or groups of people? When might it be justifiable to do so?