Tokyo International School
A 'Project School'
TCRWP in a Nutshell
But Aren't The Two Education Philosophies In Conflict?
That’s a good question. As an IB Consultant, a PYP Workshop Leader and a IB Visiting Team Member this question has been praying on my mind. My professional integrity is at stake and more to the point so is the student learning at my school. I really need to be able to get a handle on this stuff so, I’ve been doing some thinking.
It's Not Transdisciplinary!
There is also scope to make rich, conceptual links between concepts in language and other subjects irrespective if you are using TCRWP or not. Take AUDIENCE in Reading, Writing, Music and Art, PATTERN in Poetry, Art Gymnastics and Mathematics or STRUCTURE in Music, Reading and Writing. Languages share the same concepts of course, so our native Japanese classes learn the same text types (which are concepts) as the homeroom often simultaneously.
Obsessive Compulsive Curriculum Disorder
Incidentally, our school has done a pretty good job at ensuring our reading and writing units align to our programme of inquiry. Our TCRWP staff developers are behind this - they support us on this path.
With that said, we probably rank logical scope and sequence above being transdisciplinary. Both practices are encouraged by IB. Our school chooses to follow much of the published scope and sequence of the TCRWP units: it dovetails our curriculum. Most importantly it improves student learning: developing confident, independent readers and writers. And we have the data to prove it!
Would IB support our decision? Of course, IB is interested in the best decisions for student learning!
It's Not Inquiry!
The Mini Lesson
Independent Reading & Writing (Individuals, Groups & Partners)
"Inquiry, as the leading pedagogical approach of the PYP, is recognized as allowing students to be actively involved in their own learning and to take responsibility for that learning. Inquiry allows each student’s understanding of the world to develop in a manner and at a rate that is unique to that student." (IB MTPYPH p29)
Well for certain a reading and writing workshop is exactly that!
Assessment FOR Learning
PYP takes the stance that all students are on a learning continuum. A PYP teacher’s job is to appropriately challenge each child to progress along this continuum. TCRWP views children in exactly the same light. Assessment FOR learning (assessment to inform instruction and differentiation) is integral to the workshop approach. This is evident during the mini lesson. The ‘active engagement’ session is primarily for assessment FOR learning. Tools and strategies such as mini white boards make students’ thinking and conceptions visible so they may be grouped, supported and challenged accordingly.
Assessment OF Learning
The final issue many IB informed critics have with the TCRWP approach is unit planning. The TCRWP reading and writing units of study come in detailed, scripted packs. Some of these packs are contextualized using USA-centric case studies such as the American Civil War. They are hardly relevant to our Japanese context!
But what these same critics often do not realize is that no-one at Columbia University is telling teachers they must follow the script. The script is to be viewed as an exemplar. Sure, it's something to follow and hold onto if you feel the need, but it’s not a TCRWP expectation. Similarly the case studies within the unit packs are also not compulsory. Our TCRWP staff developers actively encourage us to weed the units - to throw out the irrelevant content and replace with relevant matter from our programme of inquiry. The skills and strategies are transferable of course and can be applied to any case study.
The PYP Planner
Lastly there is the issue of the PYP planner. There is no defense here: the unit TCRWP books are not a PYP Planner – far from it. The standards and practices clearly state that all planning which can be arranged around a central idea should be planned on a PYP planner.
I respond to this in two ways. Of course any advice for us to move in this direction would be entirely appropriate. But, if someone recommended that this is something we should implement any time soon, I would ask that they show me a school which has ‘successfully’ (and show me the proof) planned its entire reading and writing programme on PYP planners. If the critic is unable to do so, then it would be fair and prudent to take such advice on the chin, but to refrain from taking action until we had worked out a solution in its entirety.
One last plea, if you feel this is a debate worth sharing I would be really grateful if you could tweet or share this on social media. I'd love to keep the discussion going. Please leave a comment and do let me know if any of my facts are wrong - I'm new to TCRWP so I may well have made a blunder!
Primary School Principal
Tokyo International School
Appendix: International Schools Which Are TCRWP 'Project Schools'
- American School of Barcelona
- American School of Paris
- Chinese International School - Hong Kong
- Colegio Nueva Granada - Bogota
- Concordia International School - Shanghai
- Frankfurt International School
- International School Nido de Aguilas - Chile
- Shanghai American School
- Taipei American School
- Tokyo International School
- United World College-Singapore
- Victoria Educational Organisation, Hong Kong
Source Kathy Neville
Reading Writing Project Network, Columbia Teachers College, NY
12th November 2015