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Written Curriculum Step 7: Selecting ATLs

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

This post will look at how to select ATLs (approaches to learning) for a unit and how to plan aligning activities, with an example from one of our work in progress MYP1 units.

There are 5 ATL skill categories and 10 skill clusters, as shown below.

Within the “From Principles into Practice” guide (appendix 1), there is an ATL skills framework which offer more specific objectives and tangible outcomes towards each ATL. So for example, some outcomes under critical thinking are:

-Interpret data

-Propose and evaluate a variety of solutions

-Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.

To decide which ATL skills should be selected for the unit, teachers should consider the skills required for the objective strands, the summative assessment and planned learning engagements. There is not a defined number of ATL skills that should be addressed in each unit, however, they need to be taught explicitly and therefore a few taught well is more effective than an extensive list which are barely addressed.

Once the skills have been identified from the framework, or developed specifically for the unit, student or local needs, a strategy for explicitly teaching the skill needs to be selected. An incredible resource for this comes from Lenny Dutton’s website ( Of course other resources can be used, but this is a great starting point.

A format that can be used within the unit plan is:

In order for students to (objective strand, summative assessment task, learning engagements) they need to be able to (skill from framework). This will be explicitly developed by (explicitly taught and practised skill strategy).

An example for what this could look like for MYP1, unit 5 is shown below.

SOI: Sustainable designs which optimise space can be formed using approximations.

Content: perimeter, area, volume, circles

Objectives: B, C, D

Possible summatives:

Criterion B - investigating how the perimeter of a pattern develops depending on which regular polygon started it

Criteria C and D - students have to measure dimensions of a chocolate box (cuboid) and asked to redesign a cylindrical container with the same volume but smaller surface area.

  • ATL skill for summative assessment: In order for students to write a rule for how perimeter develops they need to be able to draw reasonable conclusions and generalizations (critical thinking). They will explicitly be developed by using the explanation game.

  • ATL skill for objective strand: In order for students to use appropriate mathematical terminology they need to be able to use memory techniques to develop long-term memory (information literacy). They will explicitly be developed by building and using a memory palace.

  • ATL for learning engagement: In order for students to be able to design objects which occupy a given space, they need to be able to create novel solutions to authentic problems (creative thinking). They will explicitly be developed by working backwards to solve a problem.


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