An AISVN 4th Grade PYP Journey: The Makings of Integrating a Musical Production for Authentic Learning through ‘How We Organize Ourselves’. What Has the Learning Looked Like?


In the Classroom

We knew the students would have to know the story of “Robin Hood” inside and out and it became the driving force behind our first PYP unit of ‘How We Express Ourselves’. Our EAL specialists, David Arnold and Kanako Suwa, devised a plan to scaffold the story by introducing it through a series of short videos to understand the main idea and theme. We then watched the original Disney version and stopped at key moments to teach elements of a story including how main events build and create an arc in a story. 

After the students understood the story, we introduced two summative tasks. Luckily, David was able to find a two page “Robin Hood” story that was aligned with the Disney film. So the first task was to rewrite some of the elements from the story, but the theme of being an upstander had to remain the same. We made sure the story had elements of writing we wanted the students to incorporate in their own writing like quotations and transition phrases. Originally, we thought the students would just rewrite some names or change the setting but many of them put their imaginations and creativity to work. Soon we had stories about bears and monsters and witches and of course teachers. 

The other task was for the students to creatively express the theme from Robin Hood. Students created dances, comics, posters and sculptures, and many were focused on being upstanders by creating messages to stop bullying. The process of connecting all of our learning through “Robin Hood” helped the students better understand the story and also got them excited to perform the story for the grand opening of our theater. In fact, I strongly believe it would have been hard to teach the musical script without the background knowledge they gained by seeing, reading and then writing their own versions of the story.

For the rest of the year, students will be working on elements of the show in our weekly double block Friday afternoon sessions which are 80 minutes long. The elements of the show include costuming, prop and stage design and media marketing. Students are responsible for everything that will be on stage and all of the promotions to advertise the show. To help organize these sessions we backwards planned the year and broke the production schedule down into 5 phases that slightly mimic the inquiry and design cycles. These phases include an introduction to musical theater, design, construction, taking action and sharing, and finally celebrating our successes and a final reflection. These phases have guiding questions and are also linked to the lines of inquiry for ‘How We Organize Ourselves’. To help the students make connections and remember what we have been learning, we created a production log book where students are responsible for recording their thoughts, goals and reflections. The teachers conference with the students at least once every three weeks to ensure students are hitting their targets.

An example of how a backward schedule is organized to plan for the production
An example of the student's log book to help reflect what they learnt

I hope you have found this process as interesting as we have found it to be creating it. In my final post, I will detail the phases of our Friday sessions including: an understanding of design, building and creating, taking action and sharing with the community (the show!), and reflecting and celebrating.


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