A guide for IB PYP teachers; whether you a new or veteran teacher to the International Baccalaureate, teaching the learner profile traits can turn out to be a brain strain when thinking of all of the ATLs and how to get it all to blend perfectly in six weeks.
So teachers, here is your guide to understanding, teaching and modelling the IB Learner Profile Traits with a few text suggestions, of course. After all, mentor texts are a powerful teaching tool for learners of all ages.
Scroll through all ten of the IB Learner Profile Traits or select one here:
In the spirit of inquiry and in support of fellow PYP and MYP teachers, I've created these free bookmarks. You can download your own copy right here in my resource library.
Teaching the Learner Profile Traits
This trait can be a real challenge, especially with younger learners.
You can apply this trait in class by:
practicing mindfulness yourself and making time for it during the day. I always find that afternoons are excellent for this - brains and bodies both need a break.
planning calm down transitions after break time and movement activities between lessons
making "check ins" for you and your students part of the daily schedule. This can be a body scan or using something along the lines of the Zones of Regulation or Time-In Toolkit.
discussing emotions regaluarly and stating why we feel this way (ie. This morning I feel really nervous because I need to speak during assembly).
Teach being balanced through these amazing mentor texts:
Here and Now by Julia Denos
Tidy by Emily Gravett
More by I.C. Springman
The Good Egg by Jory John and Pete Oswald
Eyes That Kiss in The Corners by Johanna Ho
Sometimes You Get What You Want by Meredith Gary
The Breathing Book by Christopher Willard and Olivia Weisser
Sometimes, I feel like this is just the easiest trait to teach since everyone has been told to be caring and kind since they were born. But when digging a little deeper, children's understandings of 'caring' can be quite superficial - help someone who fell down, say please and thank you. I see the trait of Caring being taught more as active and intentional than reactive.
A few ways you can emphasize Caring in your classroom:
practicing gentleness yourself. Our actions, words, voices and body language demonstrate kindness.
having a conflict resolution system in your classroom for talking out problems.
reframing students disagreements to assume good intentions and doing the same with our classroom management.
being a good listener and teaching our students to be a good listener.
caring about ourselves just as much as we care about others.
having a classroom pet or garden.
Mentor texts for caring
A Mouse Called Julian by Joe Todd Stanton
I Love Saturday y Domingos by Aima Flor Ada
Boxes for Katje
Jin Woo by Eve Bunting
The Summer My Father Was Ten by
Word Are Your Heart by Kate Jane Neil
Spoiler alert: so many kids think this is just about speaking. Being a communicator is so much more, from speaking, listening, literacy and body language to understanding ideas, emotions and how to debate.
You can model this trait as a teacher by:
emphasizing listening as a communication skill - so often it is viewed as just speaking skills but communication goes so much further. I like to use the acronym SLANT (sit up, look at the speaker, ask questions, nod your head, track what was said - be able to paraphrase).
planning cooperative learning tasks where students are required to work together toward a shared goal as a team
using learning partners in the classroom but also changing them regularly (weekly or biweekly) so that students improve on their skills and are adaptable when working with others
incorporating hand signals or sign language.
playing charades or similar games to teach the importance of body language.
include Conscience Alley when reading texts where a character has a dilemma.
Mentor texts for communicator
Rocket Says, Look Up! by Nathan Bryon
Nico Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka
Speak Up by Miranda Paul
I Can't Believe You Said That by Julia Cook
I Hate English by Ellen Levine
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca
I think this is the most puzzling trait for children. But when they get, they really get it.
You can model this trait as a teacher by:
using the word "inquiry" on your timetable rather than UoI, Unit, etc. From the first week of school, kids will be asking, "What is inquiry?" The teaching of an inquirer starts here.
regularly demonstrating thinking aloud, particularly with questions that you don’t have the answers to.
providing activities that are open ended and have no “correct” answer.
setting up spaces for open exploration. I've seen some teachers use inquiry boxes that serve as a perfect soft start in the mornings (rather than morning work 😉 ).
creating a habit of not answering students' questions, but guiding them to continue thinking, coming up with theories and finding answers on their own.
facilitating more than "teaching" - be the guide and the support, not the keeper of knowledge and expertise.
spend time outdoors in nature.
switching from "Who has a question?" to "Ask me all your questions, I challenge you to ask me a tricky question?"
Mentor texts for inquirer
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
I Have an Idea by Hervé Tullet
I Wonder by Annaka Harris
Zoom by Istvan Banyai
Ada's Ideas by Fiona Robinson
Ask Me by Bernard Weber
This trait is so easy to apply yourself and notice with your learners! Everyone is knowledgeable about something and this trait gives a perfect reason to acknowledge and celebrate knowledge in our classrooms.
Some ideas for creating and embracing a knowledgeable classroom community:
referencing topics learned across the curriculum within and from your units of inquiry
explaining your thinking with phrases such as, "I know this because..."
letting the children be the teacher sometimes. It can be quite powerful for them to feel knowledgeable by sharing their understandings with you and others.
teaching students to gather information from multiple sources.
including Show & Tell in your timetable.
Mentor texts for knowledgeable
The Emperor's Egg by
Iggy Peck, Architect and Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
I Can't Do That, Yet by Esther P Cordova
Just Read by Lori Degman
Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex
Teaching open-mindedness has ample opportunities in the classroom daily. Any time you are asking the children to learn cooperatively, you are inviting the open-mindedness trait to be taught explicitly. Of course, transferring that knowledge to the playground and unstructured learning opportunities is another task.
A few ways to teach the Learner Profile Trait of open-mindedness:
being honest with your students about your own judgements and how you are working on overcoming them
using debates in your lessons. I used to think that this was easiest for the upper elementary grades, but now I know that it is just as easy to apply in kinder and first grade. I've used debates effectively with texts such as The Great Kapok Tree and The Jolly Postman (about Goldilocks and forgiveness). To effectively teach open-mindedness, it is helpful to have the students argue for more than one side.
teaching diversity standards with intention - from social justice objectives to taking action. Referencing or using these standards will include the application of open-mindedness.
planning for cooperative learning activities. These include partner or small group activities in which the students must work together to complete a task or create something. It shouldn't turn into a situation where the task is divided and done separately (but there's always one group that tries it!). STEM activities are excellent for this, but so are visible thinking routines and responding to illustrations.
Anytime you ask the children to work cooperatively, you are inviting the open-mindedness trait to be taught explicitly.
Mentor texts to support understanding the learner profile trait of open-mindedness:
Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis
Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems
Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes
What to do With a Box by Jane Yolen
We're All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
Teaching principled often comes naturally, especially in the lower primary grades. When teaching behavior, classroom expectations, foundations for friendships... not to mention, most children get a healthy dose of this from parents and caregivers before they even start school. The more challenging aspect of it comes up when situations do not necessarily have a "right" or "wrong" choice or answer.
Teaching the Learner Profile Trait of principled can be included by:
scheduling and participating in community clean up days, particularly in natural spaces around your school.
role playing complex and emotional scenarios where the children advice you about what to do.
using debates where children have to agree or disagree with a character's actions or solutions to a local/global issue.
teaching small, medium and big problems - when we need to tell an adult about something that happened.
Mentor texts for principled
A Bike Like Sergio's by Meribeth Boelts
The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
The Carpet Boy's Gift by Pegi Deitz Shea
Pedal Power by Allen Drummond
Look After Your Planet by Lauren Child
What a powerful trait this is!! I love reflective because it is really the first step in taking meaningful action in our relationships and learning.
You can model this trait as a teacher by:
using and model a talking corner - one way to be reflective is to be open about our behavior and willing to talk about it with others in the classroom.
making reflecting a routine in your classroom. It can take place after certain lessons, during closing circle before going home or at the end of each week.
building a sense of reflection shows in our students portfolios. I find that when my learners are well versed in reflecting, their portfolio reflections are honest and build their next steps.
Mentor texts for reflective
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
Anh's Anger by Gail Silver
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig
The Bad Seed by Jory John
The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil
Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker
Risk Taker / Courageous
This traits is so inspirational and also rewarding when we can see our students really embracing it actively.
Every year, without fail, I have one (or more than one) student who really struggles with this. And every year, I am surprised. It hurts me to see young children afraid to take risks and explore the world with curiosity.
A big part of developing risk takers is actually how we, as adults, treat children. So here are things WE ADULTS must do first, then some opportunities for the kids:
talking to your students like real people - not children. By having conversations with them and including them in decision making in the classroom, you are instilling a sense of autonomy. This is first step in taking risks.
respecting boundaries. Pushing students (or anyone, really) to take risks they are not ready for actually inhibits them further.
embracing mistakes, model your own wrong choices and errors, let things break and be okay with it.
ending lessons with sharing time for children to take the teacher's seat and share their work (with the option to pass)
giving an opportunity for performance in each of your units, even when the trait of being a risk taker isn't in focus. Some children thrive in this space and others can be encouraged by that. Opportunities can be made through reader's theater, leading weekly assemblies, making skits or short films on Apple Clips or even Canva.
Mentor texts for risk taker / courageous
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Jabari Jumps by Gala Cornwall
Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Alla Muhammed Baker
The Cats of Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse
Amara and the Bats by Emma Reynolds
I'm starting to feel like I'm repeating myself... but, it starts with us. Some children seem to have an innate call to think deeply and tell the whole class about it. However, the rest of the children need it modelled, encouraged and expected.
Teach being a thinker by:
raising our own expectations beyond a correct answer and giving children the time to speak and share without feeling rushed. Thinking takes time.
using visible thinking routines - they are called routines because they are most effective when practiced regularly. I particularly love "What makes you say that?" and "I used to think, Now I think". There's no prep needed, just a little thinking! 😉
valuing students' thinking.
saying, "I really like your thinking!"
providing open ended activities that don't have correct answers. Engaging students in these frequently will give them time to open up and gain confidence in sharing their thinking.
...did I mention the importance of Visible Thinking Routines from HGSE Project Zero?
Mentor texts for thinker
Shhh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk
What Should Danny Do? by Ganit and Adir Levy
Be a Maker by Katey Howes
Leonardo and the Flying Boy by Lawrence Anholt
Anything is Possible by Giulia Belloni
Setting aside time for the Learner Profile Traits for teaching and acknowledging them is essential. From circle time to story time or even in guided reading groups - there's no time that isn't good for the IB LP.
There are endless ways to incorporate the learner profile traits into the classroom, but I hope that these tips help you. In my experience as a PYP teacher, it starts with me. This is more powerful than posters, bookmarks, stickers or coloring pages.
Happy teaching and learning!
Check out International Baccalaureate resources that I've created here. The posters you see here in this blog are available in English, Spanish, German, English/Spanish bilingual and Mandarin/English bilingual. All are made with the intention of supporting creative and inspiring classrooms for children and particularly for language learners.
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