In April 2018 the announcement was made to staff that the IB Middle Years Programme was to be introduced at Oakham with the first wave of departments planning units to be delivered to Year 7 in September 2018. English was to be part of this first wave and they planned to teach a unit which had previously included an inquiry into science fictional futures. We were therefore keen to be involved. Resources had been developed the year before to assist pupils with this inquiry, so we did have a foundation on which to build, but there was also a year’s worth of experience of FOSIL-based inquiries to add into the mix.
At an initial meeting (07 May 2018 – good use of a bank holiday!) with the Head of English, we discussed what had been done previously and how that could be adapted to fit the new unit. Very little then happened until the MYP unit planning session began in earnest.
MYP unit planning officially began on 05 Jun 2018 and we were involved in planning from the outset as it was important to know where the inquiry was leading on from, and how the end task – which we would be responsible for leading up to – needed to reflect the earlier work.
Adaptations from the original inquiry included:
Focus being placed on creating a dystopian opening to a novel rather than a purely science fictional one – as the basis of initial work was to be on climate change, as the context, and dystopian novels as a genre;
Limiting outcome from a choice of three tasks to all pupils being asked to produce the same creative piece of work as the assessed work for the end of the unit – this had been identified at the end of the previous year’s inquiry as something that needed reconsidering.
Unit introduced to those who would be teaching it – many of whom had already contributed to the planning stage, but not all – which led to modifications in the overall plan for the shape of the unit, although the inquiry was not greatly debated at this stage.
It was not until November 2018 when we were updated on how the unit was progressing that plans for the inquiry and the development of resources began in earnest. Delivery began on 19 and 20 Nov 2018 but at the outset only resources for the initial stages of the FOSIL cycle had been created/updated. Many other were created/adapted as the inquiry progressed to meet emerging needs – both in terms of helping students through the process and to meet the assessment criteria of the MYP which was a new consideration. For example, about half way through the inquiry, we realised that different working documents would be needed in order to show the development and redrafting stages of the writing. Therefore a contents page was developed to allow pupils to gather together and present the necessary documents for assessment.
This was an exciting inquiry to be involved in because it ran for a substantial period of time – eight 50 minute lessons spread over 2 weeks, for five different groups – and because we were heavily involved in team teaching, with the English teachers taking the lead in some lessons and the library staff in others. As Lucy mentioned, the resources evolved during the inquiry which allowed us to be much more responsive to students’ and teachers’ needs than if we had produced a booklet in advance. It increased the pressure though! Substantial reflection was built into the inquiry which, while being a very valuable exercise for the students, also gave us excellent, instant feedback on the students’ experiences. Students and staff were very positive about the inquiry, feeling that the structure had helped the students to slow down and use what they had learnt in their English lessons over the first half term in their own creative writing. The peer-review and redrafting process was also seen as very valuable for most, with comments such as “[b]ecause you can see what other people think because you write books for other people“. A summary of some of the most interesting comments (produced as part of a TeachMeet presentation on inquiry learning) is shown below.
The final set of resources for this inquiry have been put together into a workbook, which can be found here.