Right after Exhibition last year, after students completed their reflection and their planners, I sat with the grade 6 teams and we did our own reflection, for our own planner. We went over the good, the bad and the ugly, made notes for this year's exhibition as well as went over the resources we used, the organization of Exhibition day...
So, fastforward to start of the school year and we picked a day for the Exhibition, that would be the 5th unit of inquiry for the year and starting planning to get ready. We made sure to build into all previous units all the communication and research skills the students would need as well as the writing skills in language. Since the Exhibition is that culmination of the PYP, we needed to make sure that the students are ready to work independently from the teacher adn that their collboration and time management skills are up to par. Our students are used to getting a lot of help at home and for some, this Exhibition process may be the first time they are working alone, without exterior help. For the same reason, we do all the work within the school day. Yes, it can sometimes become tricky as it is a time consuming work, but it guarantees that the students' work is their own and that they have become knowedgeable.
With the grade 6 team, we looked at what we call "the Studen Log" that was used last year, a collection of expectations, timeline, deadlines, assessment tools, bibliography, research notes, mentor meeting notes, reflections, anything and everything the students will need throughout the process. We revised it, edited some, deleted some, changes the order, added a few... anyway you get the idea, in order to make it a tool used successfully by the students.
While we are at it, we looked at what we had given the mentors and did some revising there as well.
Now, in late February I organized an Exhibition workshop attended by students and their parents. Because of poor attendance last year, we almost made it compulsary...we told the students how important it was for their parents to hear about Exhibition and that they really needed to attend. I scheduled it three times over a week and am proud to say that all parents were able to attend one of the workshops. I used a powerpoint presentation to guide the discussion but really worked with the students and their parents, having them active throughout. Academic honesty, independence and responsibility were very much emphasized and the parents kept on nodding throughout. Several even came forward, saying how much they were looking forward to the Exhibition day, to see the result of their child's work.
During those mini-workshops, the students received their Exhibition Log and were able to look through them. Many of their questions, concerns, fears, preconceived ideas were answered/addressed and their assignement for that night was to go through the Exhibition log at home with their parents, see if they had questions and bring them back to school the next day. This was the official kick-of the Exhibition process.
Over the next week, the students looked at the transdisciplinaty theme "Sharing the planet". They also looked at the central idea proposed :"The way we use resources has an impact on future generations". They brainstormed what the central idea meant, using mindmap. They then looked closely at what was meant by resources and brainstormed a list of them. The idea behind doing this was for them to really think about what the central idea meant, how it was related to the transdisciplinary theme and its descriptors. We chose to write a main central idea and have the students later write their own lines of inquiry. That's what we decided to implement at our school. In a more experienced school, you could decide to have your students develop their own central idea and lines of inquiry. My previous school, after one exhibition, we took that route.
Over the next few days the students went back over the different topics they had brainstormed, started looking at ideas, resources, ask at home. They then chose a topic and were placed in groups according to their interest. Because the Exhibition is student generated and student led, it's important to have them be comfortable with their choice, it has to be significant to them and somewhat challenging. I've told students that it was OK for them to pick a topic they didn't know much about, but about which they've head something... It triggers their curiosity and fosters their enthusiasm, two important components needed for meaningful inquiry...