I’ve had a lot of email questions that pertain specifically to how to plan in the PYP.  The answer is that every school does it differently. However, I can tell you how my school does it and you can see whether that’s of any help to you.

1) Head of Primary sends off the "Programme of Inquiry" (POI)

– our Head of Primary sends a POI document through email to the grade level teams and they enter when they will be doing each of their six units in the upcoming school year. The preschool teacher does only four units whilst the rest of primary does 6. When this document is finished, it is sent to the specialists.

2) Specialists Decide How They Can Link and Complete POI form

– We only need to link to one unit per year according to IBO guidelines. However, some Heads like to have more (if not all) units linked. The main question for specialists is: How authentic is the linking between music and the homeroom?

There are three types of linking:
1) Social: The homeroom teachers need a song for assembly and the music teacher is told to teach it
2) Subordinate: The kids are doing a unit on frogs and so they sing a song about frogs in music class
3) Co-Equal: The music teacher and the grade level teams are equal partners in a shared unit

If you can link as a co-equal partner, then definitely do it! If you can sorta link, then link using the same concepts. If you absolutely cannot link, then don’t!

3) Run a Music Skills Unit Underneath the Linked Unit

So you’ve decided to link? Spend half the lesson doing sheer music skills. Play the recorder. Dance. Sing solfege. In the second half of the lesson, focus on the linked unit.  Better yet — try to get the linked unit to match directly with your music curriculum.

Senior Kindergarten
Unit of Inquiry: How We Organise Ourselves
Topic: Houses and Homes
Now, the music teachers don’t want to sing silly songs about homes. That’s not an authentic link. So we link by concepts instead. Homes are built of different parts. Music is built of different parts.  Okay, now the music teacher can teach very elementary ideas about melody, harmony, timbre, rhythm, texture, and form.
1st half of the lesson: Singing, clapping, dancing.
2nd half of the lesson: Activities that highlight a music topic – melody, timbre, texture, rhythm, form, etc.
It’s best if the 2nd half of the lesson directly teaches skills.  For example, if you want to show the kids how music is made-up of rhythms, then use that class to do a lot of rhythm work.  Killing two birds with one stone, right? You hit the skills outcomes AND the UOI outcomes.

Grade 5
Unit of Inquiry: Sharing the Planet
Topic: Collaboration
This is very easy to link to in music class because ensembles are all about collaborating.  We take the skills we learned on the recorders and ukuleles and apply them to student-led ensembles. After each class, the students must write reflections in their journals about how their groups functioned and what collaboration skills were improved.

Step-by-Step Help

1. Ask for your school’s POI (programme of inquiry) document or go see the grade level teams
2. Ask to read their PYP planners. Talk to the grade level teams. Go through their topics and pick one that you will definitely link with. Go through their planners again and see how you can link with others using at least their concepts.
3. Discard topics that absolutely won’t fit (e.g. puberty unit ?!?!?!?)
4. Go through your school’s music curriculum and see what skills you need to cover and when. If your school doesn’t have a defined list, then make one up by going through music textbooks, by checking on the MENC website, or by going to a national curriculum (e.g. Ontario). Make a list of the skills you want to cover. (E.g. music dictation, solfege singing, patsching, etc.).
5. Decide how you are going to incorporate your skills list into your Unit of Inquiry (UOI) planning.  For example, “I’m going to do a unit on the elements of music whilst the kindergartens are learning about the parts of houses. That links by concept.”
6. Spend part of each lesson on basic skills and part of each lesson covering the UOI.

Step-by-Step Example from Grade Five

1. I got my school’s POI. The grade 5s at my school are doing Collaboration, Biographies, Belief Systems, Weather, Exhibition, and Puberty.
2. I have two units that are my “definites!” and these are Collaboration and Exhibition.  I’m definitely NOT linking to Puberty. Collaboration happens too early in the year for me, so I’m going to put in a music skills-only unit in slot no.1 and then move Collaboration to slot no.2.  I can’t link during Weather because that’s the PYP Production.  Now I have an empty slot at the end of the year that I need to fill.  I can put in Biographies, Weather, or Belief Systems, though at a different time than the homerooms. Choice? Weather.
Collaboration: Direct Link
Biographies: Discarded
Belief Systems: Discarded
Weather: Linked through concepts
Exhibition: Direct Link
Puberty: Discarded
Instrumental Skills: Added
Production: Added
4. Go through my list of skills.  My grade 5 list says singing, performing 4 beat patterns, defining time signatures, taking 8 beat dictations, etc.
5. I’ll do the singing skills in the production unit; I’ll do the form skills during the weather unit; I’ll do the rhythm skills throughout the year but particularly during the instrumental unit; I’ll do the ensemble skills during the collaboration unit.
6. Teach the units. Reflect in PYP planner when finished.                    

Overview of My Grade 5 Units

PYP Programme of Inquiry for PYP Music for Grade 5

This is a very rough example of a grade 5 year. We have the skills unit that runs throughout the entire year. This way we make sure the kids are covering the basics. My Wild Weather unit links with the UOI but is on a separate planner because I have a different summative assessment. You’ll see in October, there’s no other unit happening.  This is when we are back to straight skills.  Next, we have the grade 2 – 5 production, which is a singing unit.  After that, we have the collaboration unit.  Again, I use a different summative assessment unit, so I have my own planner.  Now it looks like nothing happens between March and May.  That’s because in this time period, I move back onto the homeroom UOI.  And why are there two tiny units in June? They are my un-used units.  Throughout workshops, and just trial-and-error, I have planners that I no longer use or that have been excluded from the UOI.  I don’t want to delete them because I might need them again (e.g. my wild weather unit was cancelled for 2 years by the homeroom POI, and then suddenly re-instated). June is when reports are already out and there’s not enough time for another new unit.  So I throw all my unused units into June.  

We can’t have a one-unit-fits-all because we are supposed to be hitting all the transdisiplinary concepts and learner profile traits throughout the school year.  For example, we need to have a unit that heavily focuses on risk taking and communication; the next unit focuses on knowledge and open-mindedness.  One unit might work with form and function, while another focuses on responsibilities and connections.  If we had a one-unit-fits-all approach, then we couldn’t make sure we were covering the transdisciplinary student learning outcomes.