What Does Taking Action Look Like?

Action is an integral part of the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and is key to student agency. We often discuss what it means for students to take action and what can it look like at all of the different age levels, from preschool to Grade 5. As our understanding of action as educators develops, we can share this with our students.

One thing that often comes up in our planning sessions is that action is more that simply raising money, which is a tangible action that students latch onto. We have been focusing on other ways to take action, some of which are ‘invisible’ to others, such as when Eve decided to become a vegetarian after learning about how that single action can make the biggest impact on climate change. At our school, and in many other PYP schools around the world, we are shifting from teacher-guided action to student-initiated action. This has sparked many discussions about how we can model this for the students, give them the agency and time needed to initiate action, and teach students about the many different types of action one can take.

The IB classifies action into five categories; participation, advocacy, social justice, social entrepreneurship, and lifestyle choices. Participation is about “being actively involved in the learning community and showing commitment to contributing as individuals and as members of a group.” Advocacy is “taking action individually or collectively to publicly support positive social, environmental, or political change.” Social justice is “taking action for positive change relating to human rights, equality, and equity, as well as being concerned with the advantages and disadvantages within society, and with social well-being and justice for all.” Social entrepreneurship means “supporting positive social change through responding to the needs of local, national, and global communities and applying prior knowledge and skills to identify and address challenges and opportunities in innovative, resourceful, and sustainable ways.” Lifestyle choices simply means “making positive lifestyle changes in response to learning.” (IBO’s “The Learner”, 2020)

This past weekend I was watching some American Idol auditions on YouTube, and I came across Taylor Fagins, a young songwriter from New York, who wrote an original song entitled, “We Need More.” I was moved to tears, as I listened to the lyrics about the killings of Black people in the United States. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I highly recommend it. Taylor’s song is an excellent example of advocacy through art. I shared his video today during our Grade 5 planning meeting about PYP Exhibition, as the topic of student action in the PYP Exhibition came up. We are starting to collect examples of action to show the students to inspire them to take their own action.

How do you encourage your students to take action as a result of their learning?

8 thoughts on “What Does Taking Action Look Like?

  1. Anita Ferreri

    This is such an important concept and a “fire” we want to ignite in all young people. To become passionate and to take action gives life a purpose and perspective. Thank you

    1. aggiekesler Post author

      So very true Anita! We have had excellent examples of students taking meaningful action at our school. We are hoping for more inspired action this year!

  2. Terje

    It was so good to read about this. We speak the common language of PYP. Understanding and taking action takes similar teaching/learning as ATLs and units of inquiry. Not just the chidlren but adults also. We have moved away from bake sales and teacher directed action as much as possible. Personal life style choices are as meaningful as bigger campaigns. Here are some examples: During Sustainable production and consumption UOI one student patched his jeans and another one invited students to support an initiative of a designer who turned jeans into yarn and into sweaters. As part of the Children’s rights UOI a girl in my class organised to collect items for specific children who had fled their homes during the Nagarno-Karabagh conflict. This year one of my students wrote an article to a school newspaper to highlight how privileged our students are and how they should consider the challenges other children face. The video example you share is inspirational, and you are right, it brings to tears. Have you watched Malala’s Masterclass? This is also inspirational.

    1. aggiekesler Post author

      What great ideas! I will totally share with the team. I have not yet seen Malala’s Masterclass, but I’m adding it to the list now. I would love to learn more about your children’s rights UOI…we have a new unit this year on children’s rights (at the end of the year) and we have yet to plan it. Could you share your planner? My email is jenniferkesler@branksome.asia. Thanks so much!

  3. Juliette Awua-Kyerematen

    This is so timely. I feel lucky to have read your slice. Yes, this is one to share at our PYP Exhibition planning meeting. We have talked about the possibility of students making music as they have learned to use garage band, but as action is initiated by students it will be interesting to see what they do with the skills they’ve acquired.

    Thank you so much for sharing, the judges’ comments were also so relevant, one of them said,”Don’t hold back on your feelings. Don’t hold back on what life throws at you.” This is really for all of us too.

  4. Celeste

    Beautiful! I love that you featured a song to show advocacy!! I hope they all get creative with the Garage Band.


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