School Name: Sangster Elementary
School District: SD#62 Sooke
Inquiry Team Members: Lisa Lockerbie: email@example.com, Camille McFarlane: firstname.lastname@example.org, Raelene Lund: email@example.com, Angela Scandale: firstname.lastname@example.org, Megan Niessen: email@example.com, Kathy Henderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, Leslie Hutchison: email@example.com, Leanne Gates: firstname.lastname@example.org, Sue Molholm: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Writing, Other: Core Competencies integrated through all subject areas and Social Emotional Learning
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus was on SEL and developing academic perseverance and risk-taking.
Scanning: During the scanning phase, the teachers examined their classes and what was going on for them. They thought about what was working for their students and what they were noticing in and out of the classroom. Here is what they found:
• NK – 3/20 averse to risk-taking; more ‘body & emotional regulation’ problems
• K – 6/16 are emotional/violent/criers; 6/16 weak motor skills; 4/16 refuse to write their name
• K/1 – 6/14 don’t know what learning looks like (making mistakes, messy, requiring stamina, perseverance, growth mindset)
• K/1 – (Sept) 12/20 very dependent when writing, now down to 8/20 (4-1’s, 4-k’s)
• Gr. 2/3 – 7/21 cry/shutdown when facing new learning; worried about being wrong
• Gr. 3/4 – (Sept) 20/22 not willing to persevere, now 8/22 not willing (no stamina, fearful of errors)
• Gr. 5 – 7/27 cry when faced with a new challenge/situation
Focus: Our inquiry team discussed what was happening and came together and shared our hopes for our students. We discussed what has worked the past two months and what we would like to discover more about. We realized that growth mindset is working, however we would like to learn more and place more explicit emphasis on it. We would like our students to see themselves as writers and mathematicians. We recognized that our students need to develop learning perseverance and stamina, in order to take risks and be confident learners. As teachers, we would like to try to explicitly to teach the “tools” for learning, weave in the core competencies to support SEL, and also be consistent around language for social learning.
Over time our project morphed into 2 separate projects, one was part of our Na’tsa’Maht One Spirit, One Mind, with a focus on First Peoples Principles of Learning and Core Competencies, and our second NOIIE focus was on growth mindset and resiliency in writing.
Hunch: As we discussed our hunch, we realized that things may be happening at home and at school that are contributing factors:
• Parents are doing more for kids, and the children are not learning independence (often easier just to ‘do’ for a child)
• A difference between ‘daycare’ (students less able to sit on carpet, work with others) and ‘play-school’ (more ‘school-like’ experiences)
• Gr. 5 Problem Solving – kids were upset/haven’t been taught to Problem Solve explicitly, or expect someone else to solve the problem for them
• Can we pinpoint ‘lagging skills’ in students through AFL? Are lagging skills bringing on these responses?
• Do they know the ‘tools’ and how the ‘tools’ help them?
• Are we teaching them the social learning language explicitly?
New Professional Learning: We would like to learn more about the following ideas in order to better understand SEL and then Core Competencies:
• 7 Facets of SEL
• Lagging skills – Ross Greene?
• AFL – identifying and filling gaps?
• Core Competencies
This expanded as we delved into our inquiry, and created a focus on writing and assessment. We examined the Island Literacy Network’s Continuum of writing, along with Anne Davis Assessment.
When we met for our Professional learning, we examined our practices at our school as well. We realized, that we do have consistent Social Thinking Language, and that this common language is used by all the teachers/EAs across the subjects and grades. We moved to assessment and reflection, and realized that perhaps we needed to examine how we were assessing and the impact it may be having on students’ risk taking and grit. We decided to focus on one subject area, in order to narrow our focus down. We examined multiple types of assessment:
– Habits of Mind
– Jo Boaler’s Site
– Island Literacy Network
– Rick Stiggins’ “The Assessment Experience”
– BC Performance Standards – Writing
– Faye Bronley – “Grande Conversations”
– Different types of assessments and graphic organizers
Taking Action: After our Professional Learning and decision to focus on writing, we asked ourselves “what can we do to make these young students better writers?”.
We decided to gather data. Our school had previously done school-wide writes, however had not done one for a few years. We set the date for the end of January.
– Chose a common writing prompt, and used our SD62 guide for School Wide Writes. Created a common template for primary and intermediate to use
– After the write, grade level groups met to come up with common exemplars at each level and consistent writing expectations using the BC performance standards. We adapted this slightly to use the current Proficiency assessment language
– The Island Literacy Network Writing Continuum was used to assess student writing, and place them on the continuum
– Each group identified ares of focus, lacking, and growth
– The Primary group identified the need to expand on the Continuum to create exemplars for all levels, including pre-writing and scribble -writing.
-The Intermediate group, identified the gaps, and recognized the importance of meaningful targeted writing for an audience.
– Both groups moved on to use the exemplars within their classrooms as part of their teaching practice, in order to give the students the language to self and peer assessment.
– We had hoped to continue this work, and had the thought that we would create small writing groups within our classrooms across the grades, so that they could coach each other and provide feedback using the exemplars.
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 we were unable to get to the last stage, however we did a lot of learning about our school community as writers and risk-takers.
Checking: We met in the second week of June to discuss this. It was an interesting time to reflect, having just returned to school. Most classes had about 50% of their students in-class for June, and the remainder still involved in some level of remote learning.
We don’t fully know if the differences we made were enough, but we were all able to recognize that the professional learning we took part in and school-wide-write and assessment process, gave us better pictures of our learners. We recognized that we can and should continue to explicitly teach growth mindset across the grades, use our social thinking language (which is done well in the school), and focus on further breaking down the writing steps. By making the steps achievable, students will be more likely to take what they may perceive as a risk.
Although we did not get to do a follow-up writing assessment, we now have a baseline that teachers can use next year.
Some teachers were able to use the writing exemplars and continuum, and they found that there was an improvement in the quality and strength of the writing.
In the intermediate groups, following the school wide-write, we focused on writing for purpose and audience. By clearly defining this, and then also partnering up with buddy classes to share their writing, students expanded on their ideas, took their time, and tried to match the exemplars.
Through Remote Learning, it was evident that our learners are very connected to their teachers and the school. They know that the teachers in the school believe in them, and that they will be supported.
This inquiry was so important for our staff and our students because it increased collaboration among the grade groups and ensured an identified and created common language of assessment and encouragement.
Reflections/Advice: Our primary teachers have worked hard to expand on the Island Networks Writing Continuum to include scribble writing, pictures, labels, and Sangster specific writing language. This will assist all primary teachers (and intermediate too!) in ensuring a clear understanding of the expectations of writing. It also will make the expectations and steps explicit for our students. Next year, we will continue with this inquiry, to create exemplars for our Grade 2-3 students and the intermediate students can use the writing continuum posters.
During the inquiry, our primary teachers were also exploring Story Workshop as a motivation for writing, and they found it gave students freedom and creativity.
During Remote Learning, our primary teachers found the writing amount and quality decreased, and students were very discouraged. In the Grade 5 class, Story Studio’s on-line writing templates were used that was based on the 6 traits of writing, and this seemed to motivate students and increase the quality of the writing.
Advice for other schools – starting with a hunch will lead you to interesting places. Our focus on SEL, lead us to examining why our students were risk adverse. We realized we were doing many things that would support SEL within our school, however we could focus more on writing and why our students were risk-adverse. Through rich discussion, and strong collaboration, we were able to reflect on our professional practice, try new things, and create tools that we will be able to use in our daily practice to improve our students’ writing and also their “grit.”