A healthy dose of leftovers – Teaching ATLs that don’t “fit”

In our recent work with the MYP’s Curriculum Connections pilot project, our staff underwent the process of aligning the Approaches to Learning skills with their subject’s MYP Objectives. This process will hopefully allow for a more streamlined approach of planning for teaching, offering feedback on and assessing ATL skill development with our students.

What we noticed, upon completion of this alignment is that not all of the ATL skills “fit” with the subject objectives. While we have called these the “explicit” ATL skills (as they need to be explicitly planned for outside the context of the subject objectives), they have come to be affectionately known as the “leftovers”.

While the name might compare these skills to the tupperware-bound deliciousness that usually makes up the majority of our lunches, we also noticed that these skills are some of the most important ways we can empower our students to not only become better IB learners, but more confident and competent young women and men. Skills like, “practice failing well”, “meet deadlines”, “contribute to social media environments” and “take responsibility for one’s own actions” are just a few of the crucial skills that made the leftovers list.

As a team, we came together to create a plan for how we could work collaboratively to support our students in developing these keys skills – even if they exist outside the realm of the almighty objectives.

We decided that we would tackle four of these skills per year (one per quarter), as an entire MYP staff, from year to year. So, MYP 1 teachers would spend the first quarter of the year all working collaboratively to support students in developing an explicit skill, MYP 2 teachers would select their own explicit skill and so on.

Our process for doing this was fourfold:

  1. As a grade, reach consensus on the skill you would like to help students develop in the first quarter of next school year;
  2. Plan several sequential or simultaneous learning experiences that will help students develop efficacy with this skill;
  3. Plan how students will receive ongoing feedback on their development of this skill;
  4. Create a rubric that will let students know if they are working at a novice, learner, practitioner or expert level.

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MYP 2 teachers voting on which “leftover” ATL skill they would like to support students in developing at the beginning of next school year. No surprise that “Bring necessary equipment and supplies to class” was the winner…

After some deliberation, our staff reached consensus on the following:

MYP 5 – Self Management: Reflective Skills: Develop new skills, techniques and strategies for effective learning.

MYP 4 – Research: Information Literacy Skills: Understand and implement intellectual property rights.

And perhaps not surprisingly, without any collusion, our MYP 1-3 staff all happened to select the same skill: Self-Management: Organization Skills: Bring necessary equipment and supplies to class (sounds about right for middle schoolers in September!).

After the selection, the real thinking began around how we were going to teach these skills. It is not enough just to tell students, “Bring your things to class”; we need to teach them the value in coming prepared and show them the merits of preparedness in order to achieve maximum student buy-in – easier said than done!

In the end, our teachers came up with some amazingly creative ways to teach and develop these skills with their MYP students next September.

More than seeing how these learning experiences unfold, I for one am looking forward to the community building aspect of this project. How wonderful it must be, from a student’s perspective, to see all the teachers in your school working collaboratively to support you in reaching a common goal. As adolescent learners, they might not always articulate this, but knowing that the adults in your life are working together to support you creates an atmosphere of teamwork and support that we can’t achieve if we are only working on approaches to learning in our individual classrooms.

I think ultimately, if this goes well, I would like to see the students be the ones who decide on the ATL skills they would like their teachers to support them in developing – I think this would build an even greater sense of shared learning and community within our school.

How do you work with “leftover” ATLs at your school? 

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