School Name: Colwood Elementary School
School District: SD#62 Sooke
Inquiry Team Members:Janine Kieller: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary McEachern: email@example.com
Heather Jensen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kara McPherson: email@example.com (Inquiry coach)
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Reading
Focus Addressed: Inquiry-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our goal was to focus on student strengths by being responsive and teaching specific/key reading strategies to develop proficient readers.
Scanning: At the beginning of the school year, our team noticed that when we were reading with our students, they were relying heavily on the visual information in the text. Our students were not listening to themselves read, and as result, they were not monitoring their reading or making self-corrections. We wanted to find out what was going on with our learners in regards to reading, so we did running records with each of our students, and we also did a reading survey to discover what our students thought about reading.
Our findings matched our initial assessment, our students were strictly using visual information to support their reading. In our reading survey, our students admitted that they did not read on a regular basis and many stated that reading was not a preferred activity.
The four questions in the scanning process became very important to our team. After our assessment, we wanted to know what was the next step in helping our learning become proficient readers with a set of strategies that would help them decode and comprehend text. We wanted our students to develop a set of strategies that went beyond visual information. We hoped that if we could give our learners a variety of reading strategies to help decode and comprehend the text, reading would naturally become a more enjoyable activity as our readers became more proficient in their skills. As a result of our scanning process, we created four multi-age reading groups that focused on specific reading strategies and would help our students become proficient readers.
As a team, we met on a regular basis to ask how we and our students were doing and what we could do next to move forward. We assessed our students on a regular basis, reformed our groups according to our students’ needs, and adapted our methods of instruction to support the needs of our learners.
We used the OECD principles of learning in our scanning process as we considered the ways in which our learners could demonstrate their learning (learners at the centre), how they could collaborate across the ages and stages (the social nature of learning), how they were able to understand what they were learning and how it mattered (assessment for learning), and how their learning extended beyond the walls of the classroom (building horizontal connections).
Focus: As a group, we were concerned about the set of strategies that our students were using in decoding and comprehending text. Many of our students were relying on one type of information (visual) to support their reading. Our students were not monitoring their reading or making self-corrections. Many of our students did not enjoy reading or found it a chore.
We were hoping that through our multi-age reading groups, our students would develop a set of strategies to support them in their reading. We also wanted our students to enjoy reading and choose it as a preferred activity rather than being “forced to read”.
Hunch: Our team of primary teachers have a variety of experience in teaching reading. Some of our teachers have Reading Recovery experience and some of our teachers are new to teaching reading. One of our hunches was that our teaching of reading strategies was different in each of our classrooms based on our experience with teaching reading. As a result, our learners were all receiving different instruction. We wondered if this difference in reading instruction contributed to our initial assessment of our students’ learning. We wanted the teaching of reading to be seamless between the grades. We felt that if we taught our students the same reading strategies using the same language, our students would benefit as they moved through each of the grades. Movement from one grade to the next in terms of reading instruction would be easier on our learners because the language and the skills taught would be the same.
New Professional Learning: Once we had made the hunch about the teaching of reading strategies in each grade/classroom, we did some research into what reading strategies we felt were most important to support our students. We depended a lot on the teachings of Marie Clay and the strategies taught through the Reading Recovery process. We decided that our focus would be on teaching our students to decode and comprehend text using visual information, meaning, and structure. Once we had made that decision, we referred to several professional texts to support our lesson planning with activities that promoted each of these areas. We also relied on each other’s expertise in areas of reading to support our learning and create a reading program that would benefit our learners. We also relied on our inquiry coach, Kara McPherson, who provided us with resources, support, and ideas.
Taking Action: After our initial assessment of our learners through running records, we analyzed our students’ results. We looked for areas of strength in our students’ reading and areas that they needed support. From our results, we created five reading groups. Our groups met three times a week for 30 minutes. One group focused on beginning reading skills such as looking at picture clues to help decode the text, where to start on the page, where to go at the end of a line, the difference between a letter and a word, looking at the initial letter in a word and then the whole word as a clue to determine the unknown word, etc. Another group focused on meaning and taught the students to ask questions such as “Does what I’m reading make sense?” Another group focused on structure and taught students to ask questions such as “Does what I’m reading sound right?” Another group focused on fluency and making sure that our learners’ reading flowed smoothly and sounded like talking. Our fifth group was an independent group where students who were proficient readers did an independent novel study.
We were pleased with how our groups were running. From time to time, we would reassess our students and make changes to the groups accordingly. As we only had four teacher to run the five groups, we did notice that our independent group was struggling to work independently for the set amount of time. We were able to reconfigure our groups, so that a teacher was available to instruct and guide our independent group. As a result, our independent readers gained additional skills as readers.
Checking: We believe that the differences that we made during this process were enough. Our final assessment at the end of the year concluded that all of our students made progress in reading over the course of this inquiry. The majority of our students were reading at grade level by the end of the process. At the end of this process, we had our students do the same reading survey that they did at the beginning. We discovered that our students were reading more during the week, they were reading at home, and most importantly, they were enjoying reading. Our final running records demonstrated that our students were using strategies other than visual information to decode and comprehend text. Our students were monitoring their reading and making self-corrections.
Reflections/Advice: This inquiry was an incredible experience for all of us, teachers and students. We learned that by collaborating and supporting each other, we could achieved our goal: creating an environment where students could learn a set of reading strategies to help them develop into proficient readers. It was fascinating to be part of this process from the inception of an idea, to looking at our learners and their needs, to creating a plan and executing it, to redesigning our program based on our learners’ needs, and to seeing the success and pride on our learners’ faces when reading all of a sudden became a joy rather than a chore.
We are thrilled with our students’ progress and hope to continue our reading groups next year. We would also like to do another inquiry project with a focus on improving our students’ writing skills.
For other schools that have a similar interest in reading, we recommend do a reading assessment of your students. Listen to your students read, make notes of the things that you are hearing and seeing, do running records, and do a reading survey so you can determine what your students feel about reading. Collaborate with your peers and use their expertise and experience in reading to create a program together. Make sure that you are constantly checking in with your students and their learning experience and be willing to make changes or revise your program, so that the needs of your students are met. Have fun with this process. We were so excited to see our learners thrive and really enjoy reading.