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Learner agency in kindergarten

This successful experience with the kindergarten students promotes the “agency” and helps to understand what it means to “raise your voice”, “act”, “solve problems”.

Working on the transdisciplinary theme of “where we are in place and time”, we decided to tell our kindergarten students stories from different countries.

One of them was “Malala and her magic pencil”, a story that happens in her place of birth, Pakistan, written by herself. The students had the opportunity to locate the country on the map and to get to know some of their country’s customs, especially clothing.

They could also read what it meant to win “The Nobel Peace Prize” and why Malala received this honour in 2014.

The central idea of this unit of inquiry was: “Countries interconnect with their culture, history and traditions.”

The lines of inquiry were:

  • Characteristics of different countries (form)
  • Differences and similarities between countries (connection)
  • The importance of respecting and accepting cultures, customs and traditions of other nations

The related concepts we chose were: culture, history and traditions.

After telling Malala’s story, the students asked several questions:

  • Is it a real story?
  • Has it happened?
  • Why was Pakistan at war? Are they still at war?
  • Does everyone wear those clothes? Why? (When they saw families where women were dressed in burka.)

After they answered the questions and we helped with some videos, we reflected on the main character through the attributes of the IB learner profile.

Questions from the teacher:

  • Why did Malala not need a magic pencil?
  • Did she stay in Pakistan forever?
  • In what country did you have to start a new life?
  • With what other stories do we relate to? (The learners made connections to Stellaluna and Guyi, Guyi.) In these stories, the characters demonstrated open-mindedness by accepting the rules of their new family and adapting to the customs of their new home.

When the students reflected on Malala, they said:

  • She was bold because she dared to do something for others and did not mind putting her life in danger.
  • She showed an open mind by adapting to her new home, in Great Britain, and by listening and respecting the ideas of others.
  • She was supportive; she cared about the students of her country because they had to work and could not go to school.
  • Malala was an excellent communicator because she knew how to transmit her ideas so that the elders would listen to her, and so that everyone would know what was going on in her country.
  • Malala was reflective: she realized that she did not need a magic pencil to act and get something useful done. She just needed “one child, one teacher, one pen and one book to change the world”.
  • Malala was a thinker: she knew how to solve a problem in her country. She fought for girls to go to school.

After our discussion, the students had the opportunity to draw and using their imaginations as they thought: What would I do if I had a magic pencil? Here are some examples.


Our students showed a lot of interest and enthusiasm with this unit. It was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that kindergarten students can raise their voices in the face of injustice and take action. It was also the opportunity to reinforce the concept of open-mindedness using story.

Fiorella Márquez is National Director of Newton College in Lima, Peru. She teaches kindergarten students and loves telling stories to her pupils so that they understand complex and abstract concepts, including the attributes of the IB learner profile and the PYP attitudes. She is a psychopedagogue and is doing a Master’s Degree in Neuropsychology and Education with the University of La Rioja, Spain. She enjoys working with five-year-old learners and is keen on using many thinking routines in her classroom.