Living Library – I am the story: the story is me

How one school sparked the inquiry process for the PYP exhibition with a “Living Library Project” by Yvonne Barrett, teacher librarian at Bilkent Laboratory & International School, Turkey

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) coordinator, elementary librarian and grade 4 teachers from Bilkent Laboratory and International School in Turkey have worked collaboratively each Friday to introduce the PYP exhibition process from the beginning of the school year.

The aim was to “spark the inquiry” early and have students think about their passions and interests, and how they may direct their inquiries for the exhibition.  An additional focus was for students to recognize the significance of the process journey of the exhibition itself.

Sessions included learning about agency and the different forms of action.   Visual thinking tools were used and video resources curated on the school’s ‘PYPX Exhibition website’ so students could make connections between concerns of global and local significance, and their individual passion and interests.

The exhibition focus was also on The Global Goals for Sustainable Development which will be central to students exploring the transdisciplinary theme of How We Express Ourselves, with the central idea: ‘Our passions can drive us to turn our knowledge about global issues into action.’

As a final provocation Grade 4 students participated in a “Living Library Project” which was held in the elementary library over one day. The inspiration for the project came from a presentation by the middle & upper school librarian from Chadwick International School, South Korea who had shared her own experiences at an international librarians’ conference.

A survey was sent asking for volunteers from the learning community. Twenty four “living books” including teachers from across the school and outside experts offered to share how their passions and interests have influenced their professional and personal lives. Students were guided in the process with a focus on what makes a good listener.

Due to time constraints, it was decided that we would support the students by providing a list of appropriate questions. Students chose their top 5 questions they would like to ask. These questions, as part of the support material were sent out to the volunteers to scaffold their presentations. On the day, students used a passport booklet for note taking and with their selected questions. Students were able to choose two “books” to read. The event was a very positive experience for everyone, with great enthusiasm for repeating and broadening the event in future.

Reflections from our speakers

“I felt excited, valued and welcomed. It is the event that brings inclusiveness”.

“The students were great and very respectful listeners and participants. I noticed them taking notes, raising hands to ask a question, share their thinking, clarifying, asking questions and being interested in the chosen topic.”

“Thank you so much to provide the opportunity to affect our student’s life in term of awareness. We should continue “living library” and it should be a “school culture”.

“I loved this idea and will definitely ‘go’ for this opportunity again!”

“They were excited, made notes and asked questions!”

“I would definitely do this again. I loved being given the opportunity to reflect on my own passion and then share it.”

“I love the idea and yes, I would do it again. The enthusiasm of the students was contagious.”

 Student reflections

“I think it was so exciting and it was so meaningful for me.”

“People need to believe in themselves, and in their passion.”

“When you’re interested in something or have a passion about something you learn more about it, and the skills you learn can be used later in your life.”

“Yes, I listened them. I learned new things about them. One day, I will be doing these things as well.”

Teacher reflection

“Students were so engaged, at times enthralled by the speakers. It supported our goal for students to approach the staging of their exhibition as the telling of their own story, of their learning journey through the exhibition process.”

Yvonne Barrett is the elementary teacher librarian at Bilkent Laboratory & International School in Turkey. She is an experienced IB librarian and workshop leader. Yvonne is committed to developing the library as a center and resource for research and inquiry. To this end, she works closely with the Primary Years Coordinator and teachers to support the IB approaches to learning and teaching.

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