Focus on the Planning Process, not the Planner!


What? It’s planning time ..again? I haven’t even finished with the other unit?

Ok…What do I have to fill in this part?

Ooo…I have my lesson plan somewhere.  I haven’t moved it to the unit planner yet.

Oooh…I will do the activities that I did last year.  

In ( the subject), the kids will do A, B, C… I will write them down in the planner.


Have we ever said this? Have we ever felt this away about planning and filling in the planner? It seems like planning is the hardest thing to do. Agree or disagree? As educators, we all understand and know that planning is essential for teaching and learning process.  But why do we sometimes feel that it is …… too much … too hard? Is it about the (collaborative) planning or fill in the planner that is hard to do?


The Planner – Why do we want it changed?

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Source: Preparing for the enhanced PYP

Since the changes on the planner were announced at the end of 2017, people started developing ideas on how the planners would’ve changed.  It’s an exciting idea for all of us knowing that we can develop our own planner that meet the needs of the school community.

Towards the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, we started thinking about revising the planner. I have asked my colleagues to share what they think about the ‘old’ version of the PYP unit planner.  Before ‘making changes’, it’s important to know how we feel and think about the ‘boxes’ planner.

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Based on the responses, it seems that the unit planner was not practical for teachers.  We’ve been trying to make the planner as a living document.  We are all encouraged to regularly revisit the planner and make changes as the students explore the unit.  The planner should not be something that we only fill in before the unit start and visit it at the end of the unit.  However, it’s quite a challenge for some teachers (especially if you are new to the PYP) to understand how the planner should be used as well as the guiding questions and fill in the boxes.  At the beginning of my PYP journey, I used to have a cheat sheet to understand what needs to be filled in each box. How can we make the planning process more practical?

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These responses really showed how essential to have a planner that:

  • is structured the way we teach
  • fits in 1 page (the format for the planner)
  • records the ongoing planning which shows the actual teaching and learning process
  • makes the integration of the subjects easier to be planned/recorded
  • does not have too many boxes to fill in.
  • shows reflection throughout the unit.


As I read through the responses and listened to their thoughts about how we can make the planner better, I try to make the connection between what we have and what we want to have in the future.

….Planning for concept-based inquiry requires teachers to identify what students will understand, know and be able to do as the result of a unit.  These critical components lead to the design of guiding questions, assessment tasks, and learning engagements that align the conceptual understandings….’

Concept-Based Inquiry in Action

(Marschall and French, 2018, p-43)

When I joined the concept-based inquiry in action, there were some AHA moments as the participants were guided to plan a concept based inquiry unit.  It’s not only the connection between the concept (what we understand), knowledge (what we know) and skills (what we are able to do) are really clear but also how each element could be more visible and assessed in different strategies/with a variety of assessment tools.  It’s a very clear thinking/graphic organizer that shows the connection between the written, taught and assessed curriculum.  It seems that it’s too good to be true as all elements that help and guide us to plan, teach, and reflect are there.  Is it really ‘too good to be true’ to have a planner that visualizes the planning process which covers and records all elements in the curriculum, supports agency and can be used effectively by (all) teachers and students?



I have also been reading some discussions on the IB PYP groups/chats on social media as well as on the MyIB platform about developing planners.  It seems the idea of developing their own planner has got people to be creative and experimenting with how best the planner supports the planning to support teaching and learning.

What do we need to plan…assessment (pre, formative, summative), learning experiences, etc? 

What needs to be a part of the planner… skills, concepts, the attributes of the learner profile, assessment strategy, etc.?

How is differentiation visible in the planner?

How can the planner support (students and teachers) agency?

How can we create a ‘teacher-friendly’ planner that visualizes teaching and learning across subject areas?

How can a teacher-friendly planner visualize the collaboration which many single-subject teachers somehow find it challenging to add their part in?

How can we have a teacher-friendly planner which also encourages all teachers to revisit and reflect as the unit goes?


A few posts asked for templates and how to fill in. I was thinking….. wait…wait…how to fill in the planner?  We’ve got the freedom now.  The freedom, which allows us, educators, to create and own the planner that help us support the teaching and learning process in the class. Teachers agency. There is no ‘fill in the boxes’ planner type. So, I believe before asking about how to fill in the planner, we should be asking ourselves how we want to structure the planner that can guide teaching and learning effectively.  Throw that question back to the teachers and see what they will come up with.


It’s not about the PLANNER.  It’s the PLANNING PROCESS.

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Click here to watch the video.

Designing the planner which visualizes the planning process has been a hot topic among the IB PYP educators, particularly the PYP coordinator which came along with PYP enhancement.

One message that is clearly sent is that it’s not mandatory to follow the planner, but the planning process that guides you through which applies in all subject areas.


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Source: PYP Planner – Teacher Support Material (MyIB)

When we start thinking of designing a new planner (with all the criteria which everyone has wished for), we should be referring to how a transdisciplinary unit of inquiry is developed and how it works.  It’s all about collaboration which should happen throughout the planning, teaching and learning process.  The IB has provided the schools with a mandatory planning process which is applied for all inquiry (a single-subject inquiry unit as well as a transdisciplinary unit of inquiry).  The planning process guides us from the beginning to the end.  Initial discussions/ideas/thoughts about the unit may take place during collaborative planning.  Whatever teachers discuss and plan for the units, it can always be changed as we involve the students to take roles in their learning.  The planning process would also encourage the learning community to continuously collaborate and reflect throughout the unit.

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Click here to view the Padlet board.


I see the planning process and the planner is like a bicycle and the person who rides on it.  Whatever types of bicycle you ride on, you need to understand how it works, how to maintain it, etc. Or if you are a beginner, you would like to focus on how you can balance and not get fall.  The bicycle itself contains many important parts which can function when they are put and maintain regularly.  When it does not work, try to see what has gone wrong and get it fixed.  Sometimes you need other people to join in along your ride.  Sometimes you want to ride alone and enjoy the ride by yourself.

The new information about the enhanced PYP could be overwhelmed.  However, I do appreciate and am thankful for the ideas that have been shared by enthusiastic and knowledgable IB educators which keep me (us) thinking and learning.  I do believe that the ‘change’ that follows the enhanced PYP should be done progressively. It’s not a race of who will do it first.  It’s not a competition of the ‘best’ planner.  There is no such thing.  Enjoy the process within the process. Involve more people in the process to get more ideas and a better understanding of how the planning process guides us to plan and reflect the teaching and learning process that promotes agency.  It’s not the planner but the process.



  1. Thanks for synthesizing this so clearly! There is a lot to think through but your reference to the IB “how to” document is spot on in order to make sure that in being individual, we are also being true to the inquiry collaborative planning process. Thanks for putting this together!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sonya. I agree. Digging into the core of the planning process and unpacking what each aspect of the process would take a while and require collaborative thinking. However, one thing that we need to get our mind right is the misunderstanding of the role of the planner. Why do we so focus on how the planner looks like? Why don’t we see that the planner as a tool that shapes and structures the planning (for teaching and learning) process?

      Liked by 1 person

      • For me, I don’t want to duplicate the work – I don’t want to plan somewhere and then type all that up in Atlas/Managebac. I want the physical planner to help me be more mindful of the key components of collaborative, transdisciplinary planning. Aesthetically, I also want it to look good 🙂 But more than that, I want it to be a document that I scrawl on, add to, and refer back to throughout the unit. As someone who has planned a unit and then rarely looked back at the planner, I want a planning tool that is so useful it would be madness to not have it on hand, all the time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree! It should be a living document just like the process is alive. I want to have a planner that is quite handy and easy to use (not taking a long time to jot down the ideas). The planner that goes along with the journey.


      • Re: duplicating work, have you found that since using the new planner, teachers are still asked to type everything into Managebac? What are the consequences if schools abandon the Managebac planner, if any?


  2. So true, the plan is the key! Using ‘the collaborative planning process’ we are trying to create an agenda and minutes document for our meetings so we are better planned. That’s how we are exploring the process first at our school. For planner, we could decide on the template later.


    • Hi Sadiqa,
      As a ‘hot’ topic, many people are so eager to have the planner without thinking about the function behind it. Having a clear understanding of why planning is an essential process in teaching and learning, how the planning process works are very important in order to structure and develop the template.


  3. Hi Yuni

    Was wondering if you have any ideas on how to go about implementing a year long unit of inquiry .If you know any resources to refer to or if you could share any sample planners for the year long unit. My email id is Thanks in advance.


    Archana Tamhankar


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