PYP (Grades 1-5)

Primary Years Program (PYP): Years 1-5

The PYP Programme

The PYP aims to create a curriculum that is engaging, relevant, challenging and significant for learners in the 3–12 age range. The curriculum is transdisciplinary, meaning that it focuses on issues that go across subject areas.

The PYP is organized according to:

  • The written curriculum, which explains what PYP students will learn 
  • The taught curriculum, which sets out how educators teach the PYP 
  • The assessed curriculum, which details the principles and practice of effective assessment in the PYP

The PYP transdisciplinary framework focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both at school and beyond. 

Informed by research into how students learn, how educators teach, and the principles and practice of effective assessment, the programme places a powerful emphasis on inquiry-based learning.

Essential elements in the PYP

CONCEPTS—there are 8 fundamental concepts expressed asked questions, to propel the process of inquiry. These universal concepts drive the research units—called UNITS OF INQUIRY (have you heard of this before?!)— But they also have relevance within and across all subject areas (transdisciplinary). The 8 fundamental concepts are:


Form: What is it like?
Function: How does it work?
Causation: Why is it like it is?
Change: How is it changing?
Connection: How is it connected to other things?
Perspective: What are the points of view?
Reflection: How do we know?

SKILLS— there are 5 sets of transdisciplary skills acquired in the process of structured inquiry. These are:


ATTITUDES —The PYP promotes attitudes that we want our FIS students to feel, value, and demonstrate.

ACTION—Our FIS students are encouraged to reflect, to make informed choices and to take action that will help their peers, school staff, and the wider community. This is how our students demonstrate a deeper sense of learning, by applying their knowledge to service and positive action.

KNOWLEDGE—The PYP recognizes that it is inappropriate and challenging to dictate what every child should know in an international environment and community. Rather than provide a fixed syllabus or curriculum, the PYP has identified themes, or areas of knowledge, which are used to organize the 6 Units of Inquiry, taught from early childhood through grade 5. These Units of Inquiry provide the framework (as opposed to a textbook curriculum) for a wide variety of resources to be explored in order to accomplish the objectives within each Unit of Inquiry:

Who We Are
Where We Are in Place and Time
How We Express Ourselves
How the World Works
How We Organize Ourselves
Sharing the Planet

A Unit of Inquiry usually lasts for 5-8 cycles and the objective is to cover all 6 themes throughout the year. UOI interweave subject areas such as mathematics, language arts, science and social studies. This approach encourages students to make their own connections between what they learn in core subject areas and how it relates to the world around them.


Through assessment, the IB helps schools teaching the Primary Years Programme (PYP) to identify what students know, understand, can do and value at different stages in the teaching and learning process. In the PYP, learning is viewed as a continuous journey, where teachers identify students’ needs and use assessment data to plan the next stage of their learning.

Teachers use a wide range of assessment strategies to collect information on each of the elements represented in the written curriculum the understanding of concepts, the acquisition of knowledge, the mastering of skills, the development of positive attitudes and the ability to take responsible action.

At FIS, each Unit of Inquiry allows students opportunities to demonstrate that learning is taking place—that there are shifts, if you will, in their understanding. This may look different across all subject areas—however, this shift in understanding is not always best demonstrated through a piece of written work or a traditional exam. Students may be asked to put together a final project, draw, act out a performance, do a presentation, or some other way to show what they have learned.

The goal is for our students to demonstrate that learning has taken place by showing what they understand and how they are applying that understanding to real life and the world around them. Authentic learning cannot always be demonstrated through traditional tests or exams.

At FIS, we believe that assessment is the continuation of the learning process. It is NOT assessment of learning, but it is assessment for learning. The point is that our FIS able to apply their learning to the world around them.

The IB views assessment as needing to be authentic, essential, rich, engaging, and feasible—it should incorporate students in the process of evaluating their learning.


“Formative” assessment is interwoven into the daily lessons and learning—this ongoing process of “checking in” between teachers and students, helps both teachers and students find out what they already know, in order to plan for the next stage of learning. “Formative” assessment and teaching are directly linked; effective learning cannot take place without one or the other.

“Summative” assessment takes place at the end of the teaching and learning process—this is the time that students can demonstrate their understanding and application of what has been learned.

PYP Exhibition

In the final year of the PYP, students, carry out an extended, in-depth, collaborative project known as the PYP exhibition. 

This involves students working collaboratively to conduct an in-depth inquiry into real life issues or problems. Students collectively synthesize all the essential elements of the PYP in ways that can be shared with the whole school community. 

It also provides teachers with a powerful and authentic process for assessing student understanding. 

The exhibition represents a unique and significant opportunity for students to exhibit the attributes of the IB learner profile developed throughout their engagement with the PYP.

It also provides schools and students with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the transition of learners to the next phase of their education.

Student Agency

Learner agency can be remembered as “voice, choice and ownership” which Bandura says “enable[s] people to play a part in their self-development, adaption, and self-renewal with changing times” (in Learner Agency, IB 2018).

Learner agency can be remembered as “voice, choice and ownership” which Bandura says “enable[s] people to play a part in their self-development, adaption, and self-renewal with changing times” (in Learner Agency, IB 2018)

The idea of agency is closely connected to self-efficacy, a belief in one’s own ability to succeed. When learners believe in themselves and have a strong sense of identity, they are more likely to exercise agency.


When students are agentive, they:

  • Take initiative, responsibility & ownership
  • Express interest
  • Make choices
  • Are aware of their own learning goals
  • Monitor and adjust their learning
  • Voice opinions
  • Influence and direct their own learning
  • Develop approaches to learning & dispositions

They also work collaboratively with teachers to:

  • Make decisions together
  • Create shared agreements
  • Create shared routines
  • Set up learning spaces
  • Reflect together

It is important to recognize that teachers cannot give learners agency, but rather they can create opportunities in which learners can exercise agency. They can do this by:

  • Working in partnership, building relationship
  • Actively listening
  • Respecting and responding to learner ideas
  • Noticing learners’ capabilities, needs and interests
  • Reflecting on when students need help, intervening & giving feedback
  • Establishing a welcoming culture
  • Modeling desired behavior and language