Primary Years Programme

Program of Inquiry

As stated in the International Baccalaureate document Making the PYP Happen: "The importance of the traditional subject areas is acknowledged. However, it is also recognized that educating students in a set of isolated subject areas, while necessary, is not sufficient. Of equal importance is the need to acquire skills in context, and to explore content that is relevant to students, and transcends the boundaries of the traditional subjects.”

Thus, teaching and learning within the Primary Years Programme centres on six transdisciplinary themes: who we are; where we are in place and time; how we express ourselves; how the world works; how we organize ourselves; and sharing the planet. These themes help teachers and students explore knowledge in the broadest sense. Students acquire the knowledge, concepts and skills of traditional subject areas while learning about broader global ideas and local perspectives. Students and teachers make connections between disciplines using sets of transdisciplinary skills in these areas: thinking, research, social, self-management and communication. Active learning, cooperative skills, critical thinking and reflection are essential components of the inquiry process and it's hoped that, as a result of what they've learned, students will be inspired to perform self-initiated action or service.

The program of inquiry is the product of ongoing teacher collaboration and student and teacher reflection. It's reviewed annually by the Primary Division faculty. A current program of inquiry is posted in our entrance hallway and will be provided to parents at the beginning of the academic year.


Our commitment to life-long learning and literacy shapes the practices of our school community. Language is valued and integrated into all areas of the curriculum. Language connects all aspects of our boys’ lives.

We read for enjoyment, instruction and information. Reading helps us clarify our ideas, feelings, thoughts and opinions. Literature in a variety of forms offers a means of understanding ourselves and others, and has the power to stimulate inquiry. A well-balanced reading program motivates students to read for pleasure and information, fostering a life-long love of reading.

Students need to develop the skills necessary to decode, construct meaning and think critically about what they read. As part of this process, students must acquire a broad and varied vocabulary and an ability to interpret written conventions. Students read a wide range of materials that illustrate different forms of writing. Teachers provide a print-rich environment, and model and promote a passion for both fiction and non-fiction texts.


Writing is a complex process that involves a range of skills and knowledge. We write to communicate with others and express ideas and feelings. In order to communicate effectively, students need to select and organize their ideas logically with an audience in mind, and utilize appropriate conventions. Students have opportunities across the curriculum to read a rich variety of texts and write daily. Learning to write is a developmental process. Students focus first on meaning rather than accuracy. Writing conventions are introduced and mastered gradually along a continuum. As boys engage in meaningful writing activities that challenge them to think critically about various topics, they're motivated to master written communication skills throughout the curriculum.

Speaking and Listening

Oral communication skills play a central role in students’ learning in all areas of the curriculum. Boys listen and speak in order to understand and explore concepts, solve problems and organize knowledge, and they're encouraged to express their own thoughts, feelings and opinions.

To develop oral language skills, boys require frequent opportunities to listen actively and talk to others about a range of subjects. Conversation in the classroom is fundamental to promoting language learning. Oral communication skills are fostered through small group conversions, class discussions and whole school presentations.


French as a second language is taught to all students at the Prep. The goals of the program are to develop oral communication skills, reading and writing skills, and an appreciation of francophone cultures in Canada and around the world. A variety of approaches are employed to support student learning, including use of accelerative integrated methodology, effective literacy practice, integration of French into the PYP units of inquiry, and the use of technology when appropriate.

The primary goal of the program is to develop an ear for the language and to encourage students to speak French in a variety of contexts. French language instruction throughout the Primary Division is balanced in its approach.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Digital technology meets the needs of boys by providing an active and social learning environment. Our school’s practices aim to harness boys’ engagement with technology.

Structured ICT time is provided in the timetable and will be used to integrate key 21st century skill development into subject areas. Students will build basic computer skills, evaluate sources of information and use a variety of media to plan, design, create and communicate ideas.


Students use library time to listen to stories, read aloud, browse, make choices and read independently. They're introduced to a wide variety of genres and new and familiar authors and books. Students learn bibliographic and locational skills and how to use resources for their projects and class work.


Mathematics is viewed not as a fixed body of knowledge to be transmitted, but as a way of thinking and a language. To study mathematics is to inquire into this language and learn to think in this way, rather than solely as a series of facts and equations to be memorized.

UCC students acquire mathematical understanding through ever-increasing levels of abstraction and experience in what it's like to think and act as mathematicians. Teachers plan activities that allow students to construct meaning through direct experience such as exploring, playing and manipulating materials and objects, as well as through conversation.

Teachers provide mathematical symbols and processes so that students can represent how these concrete examples can be described and recorded using the language of mathematics. Students select and use appropriate symbolic notation to record their thought processes. They're frequently asked to explain their thinking, both orally and in writing, in order to share alternative models of solving the same problem.

We utilize the "Everyday Mathematics" program as well as supplementary materials to teach the big ideas in mathematics. Our program provides instruction, experience and practice in patterns, numeration, place value, computation, geometry, measurement, decimals, fractions, graphing and problem-solving. It includes mental math challenges, hands-on activities, cooperative learning and the sharing of solutions.

Most lessons begin with a math message or provocation. There are opportunities to work in small groups according to readiness, interest and learning profiles. Games and cooperative learning are used to develop depth of understanding.

Extension work happens within the program and during class time. Extension is meant to deepen and broaden learning. Extension work may be quite self-directed. It may be connected to the inquiry when appropriate, or may be quite open-ended and connected to student interest and initiative.

Differentiation and extension are provided through the "Everyday Mathematics" program and with the aid of supplementary resources.

Cooperative learning is an expectation in the program. We value participation, explaining, thinking, leading, questioning further and sharing thought processes with peers.

Our math scope and sequence was developed in 2008 in consultation with our Middle Division head of math following a review of our math program and practice.

The Arts

The arts transcend all aspects of the program. They're used to enrich student understanding of the inquiries being explored. Teachers and students make connections between the subject and the unit of inquiry being pursued when possible.
Visual Art

Art is integrated into all aspects of the program. Students develop their knowledge and understanding of the elements of art through projects that encourage exploration and creative problem solving. They use a wide variety of media and tools to promote the development of fine motor skills while providing opportunities for creative risk-taking, exploration and art appreciation. They develop their ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in their own work. The artwork of artists from a variety of cultures and time periods continues to be stimulus for thought and discussion.


Students experience and explore music through listening, moving, creating and performing, using their voices and Orff instruments. The teacher emphasizes the exploration of sound, rhythm, beat, melody and form. The goal of the program is for students to understand, appreciate and enjoy music. Opportunities for students to create musical representations of their understanding are an important part of the curriculum, as are opportunities for performances at concerts and assemblies.

Physical and Social Education

Physical Education

Students participate in activities to develop basic skills, spatial awareness and their ability to work positively with their peers. As they mature, they're expected to plan and reflect upon their actions to help improve future performance. Games are considered within broad categories to help students make connections between activities that share similar characteristics. Boys are required to take responsibility for preparing themselves for classes and helping to maintain a safe environment for all participants. Boys have the opportunity to represent the school on teams beginning in Form 4.

Health and Life Skills

The health and life skills teacher works in collaboration with the form teacher to promote the attributes of the IB learner profile. Links to the program of inquiry are made whenever relevant. The life skills of identifying feelings, emotion-management, problem-solving, conflict resolution and empathy are interwoven into lessons. The focus is on student identity and interactions.

Outdoor Education

Students spend time each term at the Norval Outdoor School. They participate in a program which is designed to encourage respect and understanding for the environment and promote the development of individual and group social skills. Norval instruction and activities are linked to the units of inquiry studied at school whenever possible.

Further information about the Norval program is provided in the Prep Family Handbook.