Osaka YMCA
International School

Nicole Panoho

Nicole Panoho

Ms Nicole is the PYP and MYP Visual Arts Teacher at OYIS. She has been teaching PYP for 8 years. This semester she is working with lower PYP classes and is loving all the creative ways that students share their ideas.

As you look through the photos in this blog post, I invite you to 'Tune In' to the idea of tuning in - What do you see in the photos? What do you think is happening in each of the photos? What do you wonder about the activity? How do you think learning begins?

It can sometimes be second nature to criticise or avoid something we don’t fully understand. We can get irritated when our knowledge is challenged, and we can become frustrated by situations that don’t make sense to us. It can make us feel like failures when we don’t have the correct answer, and it can be really annoying if we are left with even more questions. For a lot of people, that uncertainty can feel like the opposite of learning – here at OYIS, it is just the beginning!

Concept-based inquiry is the way we frame our teaching and learning at OYIS – it’s one of the reasons I came to OYIS and one of the reasons I’ve been here for 5 years. If you have participated in any of the online information sessions or joined the online PYP coffee mornings that OYIS offers, you may have heard us talk about it and the term ‘inquiry cycle’ may also sound familiar to you. An inquiry cycle typically will outline certain stages that you follow in the process of inquiry with a central and regular stage of reflection that we revisit throughout. Each stage of the cycle has an important role in guiding our learning process and we can sometimes find ourselves moving back and forth between stages as we learn. It’s probably a weird thing to say, but I definitely have a favourite stage of the cycle.

As both a homeroom teacher and a specialist teacher, I find the “Tuning In” stage of the inquiry cycle to be so much fun and a really crucial part of any inquiry. It activates our curiosity and provides a platform for us to share our thoughts, ideas and questions.

I think that the Tuning In stage can really set the foundation and pace of an inquiry for everyone involved. For the students, it creates an introduction to scenarios, ideas and experiences that have been designed to challenge them, draw out their thinking and really plant those seeds of learning. For me as a teacher, it’s a time that gives me so much valuable information about the ideas, interests, skills and knowledge of the learners. This helps me make decisions WITH my students about what their next steps could be. Below is an outline of all the things we can get out of the Tuning In stage, that I think outlines the purpose of ‘Tuning In’ really well.


The tasks or learning experiences that teachers set up at the Tuning In phase are called provocations. Since we all learn in different ways, almost anything could be some kind of provocation. To make sure that what we are doing is meaningful, it’s important to clarify the purpose of the provocation when planning for it. This helps give some structure to what we will do in the class and helps me focus on what I’m looking for as I observe. If you walked in on any of the PYP Art classes at the Tuning In stage of inquiry, you might see us playing with lights, mixing paints, drawing the animal toys we see, watching a video, or even just looking at other artist’s work in books or online. All of these things have been set up with some kind of goal or purpose in mind. During this time I am either listening, observing, and/or talking with students.

When we are introduced to this stage of the inquiry, it’s important to have a safe and supportive space to share both our knowledge AND our uncertainties. At times, a provocation can require students to get out of their comfort zones. This is where relationships are really vital. Maintaining a positive and communicative relationship with learners, teachers and community members definitely creates a great school culture and it can also help us make purposeful choices so that our learning experiences are safe, engaging and accessible for everyone in some way.

It’s always really great when students see something being set up, or notice something happening, and they say things like “Ms Nicole – I’m so curious about what you have set up here” or “I wonder what we will do with all of these different things for art” or even things like “Is this for art? How is this even art?”

What stands out to me most about the Tuning In stage of an inquiry is how we can change our approach to the things we don’t fully understand yet. One of my favourite things to see is when learners are equally excited to share what they know as much as what they are unsure of. It’s a sign that they are becoming inquirers and understand that this is the first step in their learning. Which is surely better than criticising or avoiding, don’t you think?

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