School Name: Nakusp Elementary School
School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes
Inquiry Team Members:Sean Johnston: firstname.lastname@example.org, Keith Greenhalf: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Using focused literacy instruction to increase students’ ability to take different perspectives and increase their social-emotional intelligence.
Scanning: During scanning phase, we noticed that the group of students in the class had great difficulty with social-emotional regulation and understanding. We noticed a distinct lack of perspective-taking ability from the group. The students would often exaggerate the importance of perceived problems, and had difficulty formulating solutions. We wanted to find a way to address this within the whole group.
Focus: We chose to link the work that Mr. Greenhalf was doing with the class as the school counselor (FRIENDS and Zones programs) with whole class literacy learning. I chose to use stories to help students work on their social-emotional learning skills, since stories are universal and can be much easier to understand. I wanted to find a way to allow students to pay close attention to the emotional states of characters within stories, and thus build greater social-emotional understanding in themselves. We wanted students to be able to take perspective more easily, and to understand the social responsibility core competency.
Hunch: We thought that leading the students through this focus would allow them to better express themselves, and be better at understanding others. This class is a cohort that is well-known for having social-emotional difficulties. The cohort has been grouped together largely since Kindergarten, and thus has had much time to establish the ways they work together (or have difficulties working together).
New Professional Learning: Through our group, Collaborating to Engage All Learners, led by Leyton Schnellert, I was given much support and help in building a useful text set that would address the issues we were noticing in our learners. Being able to utilize the expertise of not only a group of colleagues, but also a teacher mentor like Dr. Schnellert was highly useful.
Taking Action: I ordered a text set that had a focus on pro-social behaviours and social-responsibility. To allow the students to really understand a character’s position, I developed a simple graphic organizer in a 4-quadrant model (FEELINGS, THOUGHTS, PROBLEMS, SOLUTIONS). I read a story to the whole class (The Composition by Antonio Skarmeta), and at regular intervals would pause and allow the students to consider the main character at that moment in the story: What is the character FEELING? Be descriptive! What is the character THINKING? Why might they be thinking that? What is the current PROBLEM for the character? What size of problem is this? What are some possible SOLUTIONS for the character right now?. We worked through a story, and then the next block had the students build large shared-understanding from each of the headings. After this, the students would mark where they felt the character belongs on the BC Performance Standard Scale for Social Responsibility.
Checking: The students took extremely well to this format of instruction. They were paying close attention and showing great evidence of perspective taking. It really seemed to allow the students to think about the character from that character’s perspective, instead of as a bystander or observer.
Evidence is tough since immediately after this successful lesson sequence, my contract changed and I lost teaching time in this class. I was starting to notice improvements in SEL with this group of students, and would have expected improvements to continue. The idea would have been to continue this structure with other books and stories, eventually allowing the students to asses themselves on the social responsibility scale when presented with a hypothetical situation.
Reflections/Advice: I would use this format of literacy instruction for other classes. It easily allowed students to get into the perspective of a character, and increased their engagement with the content and the learning.