How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

This language scope and sequence should be used in the context of a transdisciplinary, inquiry-based programme. It does not stand alone, but complements:

  • The annex entitled “Language in the Primary Years Programme” in Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education
  • Guidelines for developing a school language policy
  • Learning in a language other than mother tongue in IB programmes

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

The language scope and sequence is structured around broad, transferable ideas—conceptual understandings—that all learners need to understand to become confident, creative and effective communicators.

The document has been generalized to apply to as many language groups and language learning situations as possible. It does not, therefore, include specific elements of a particular language or situation.

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

In the process of producing their written curriculum, schools may decide to use and adapt the PYP scope and sequences according to their needs. For example, schools may decide to:

  • Incorporate the developmental continuums of the PYP scope and sequence into their existing school documents
  • Frame their language scope and sequence document around the conceptual understandings outlined in the PYP document, but develop another aspect, such as the learning outcomes, differently
  • Integrate additional external requirements, for example, indicators, benchmarks and standards, into the PYP scope and sequence document

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

Schools need to be mindful of practice C1.23 in the IB Programme standards and practices that states “If the school adapts, or develops, its own scope and sequence documents for each PYP subject area, the level of overall expectation regarding student achievement expressed in these documents at least matches that expressed in the PYP scope and sequence documents.”

To arrive at such a judgment, and given that the overall expectations in the PYP language scope and sequence are presented as broad generalities, it is recommended that the entire document be read and considered.

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

The continuums make explicit the conceptual understandings that need to be developed at each phase.

The development of these understandings is supported by the learning outcomes associated with each phase of each strand.

The learning outcomes are written as observable behaviours or actions that will indicate to teachers how learners are constructing, creating and sharing meaning through language.

The learning outcomes provide teachers with a way of looking at what learners can actually do and where they may progress to next.

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence

They are, therefore, both diagnostic tools and a means of informing planning for further development.

The overall expectations provide teachers with a narrative summary of the learning outcomes at each phase.

In summary, each group of linked overall expectations, conceptual understandings and learning outcomes is called a “phase”; five phases represent the developmental continuum(s) of each strand.

The continuums do not, however, provide evaluative criteria through which every learner is expected to progress in sequential order.

They reflect a developmental view of learning and are clearly related to the contexts in which learning is taking place.

Language development is not seen as a series of defined incremental steps through which all learners will progress in the same way.

How to use the IB PYP Language Scope and Sequence


The following points should be considered when using the continuums to inform planning, teaching and assessing.

  •  The phases attempt to describe the language learning processes through which learners progress.
  •  It is acknowledged that there are earlier and later phases that have not been described in these continuums.
  •  Learners within the same age group will have different proficiency levels and needs—therefore teachers should consider a range of phases when planning language learning experiences for a class of learners.
  •  Each learner is a unique individual with different experiences and perceptions, so no two learners progress at the same rate, or along the same developmental pathways.
  •  A learner may exhibit a range of learning outcomes from various phases at any one time.
  •  Learners seldom progress in a neat and predictable manner; instead they may remain in one phase for some length of time and move rapidly through other phases.
  •  The PYP language continuums are not prescriptive tools that assume a learner must attain all the outcomes of a particular phase before moving on to the next phase, nor that the learner should be in the same phase for each strand, or in the same phase for each language he or she is learning at any one time.

When using the continuums regularly, patterns will emerge for learners, indicating strengths and needs.

The teacher should be looking for evidence of what learning outcomes the student consistently demonstrates.

An analysis of the demonstrated learning outcomes of each student will help the teacher decide when to consolidate, reinforce or extend the learning.

For example, if a student is in phase 3 for “oral language” but only in phase 1 for “writing”, he or she may need additional support with the written language aspect of language learning.

The use of the PYP language continuums will be an encouragement for teachers to plan for differentiated instruction in the classroom.

Providing appropriate learning experiences, as indicated by the assessment of which phase a learner is in, will support each learner to make progress through the phases of development.

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