Brechin Elementary SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: Brechin Elementary

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Wendy Roberston:
Laurie Mathieson:
Tara Mcconnie:
Phoenix Alexandra:
Angela Fristoe:
Jodi Crawford:
Brianne Anderson:
Lisa Brett:
Marissa Bradley:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Writing

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Experiential learning, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus was to explore how loose parts and the Story Workshop framework could support oral language and literacy development with our K-3 learners.

Scanning: In the initial scanning stages, our team realized that many of our students lack oral language skills and have minimal experience engaging in the storytelling process (personal stories and retelling stories). We felt it was important to honour the wisdom of First People’s traditions of oral storytelling and retelling. We also observed that many of our children have difficulty self-regulating and felt that by slowing down learning, honouring the process of play and each child’s unique identity, we were able to foster both their emotional health and open them up to the process of sharing through story. As we introduced various provocations and observed our students creating stories with loose parts, we noticed they became more confident with using the materials to represent their personal stories and experiences, and transferring this knowledge into their oral stories and writing. There was consistent feedback, questioning and prompting from teachers so that students could expand their stories orally and in writing. Photographs also offered teachers and students a way to assess their learning and share their work with the community.
Throughout the process, we were cognizant of these very important Principles of Learning:

  • Requires exploration of one’s identity
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history and story
  • Learners are at the centre
  • The social nature of learning

Focus: We selected this area because we felt that it was developmentally appropriate as children tell their stories through play and using hands-on materials (experiential learning). Our hope was that it could build community (social nature of learning) by allowing children to tell their stories and motivate them to write. All of these things are in line with the Early Learning Framework and the First Nations Principles of Learning.

Hunch: Loose parts and Story Workshop ignite the senses and spark creativity. They promote play and bring out children’s stories and imagination. Our hunch is that practices such as journal writing and sentence prompts can be constricting and don’t necessarily build community and oral language skills, nor are they as in line with how young children think and learn when compared to Story Workshop.

New Professional Learning:
February School-Based ProD: We had an exciting day where we circulated through stations with a variety of provocations (related to different subject areas) and experientially immersed ourselves in the loose parts experience. We were all deeply engaged in the process. In addition, we had an online workshop with Opal School, in which we had the opportunity to have a question and answer session with two very experienced educators. We also looked at our resources. A very inspiring day for all involved!

Professional Resources:
“Story Making: The Maker Movement Approach to Literacy for Early Learners” (Compton and Thompson)
“Story Workshop: New Possibilities for Young Writers” (McKay)

Loose Parts resource room and website:
We used most of our PLG money to purchase loose parts and organization systems which we set up in a spare room for teachers to access. We also created a website and collected online resources for teachers to access in one place:

Taking Action:

  • Weekly Story Workshops: We set up provocations using the materials, drawing from children’s interests and things they were learning in class. These provocations prompted ideas for stories, collaboration in small groups and play-based learning. Children became more familiar with the Story Workshop routine of creating, oral storytelling and then writing. In order to help establish routines, the classroom teacher, the Literacy Coordinator, Librarian and ELL teachers participated.
  • We collected data in the form of photos and writing samples since the start of the inquiry. This helped inform us on their processes and allowed children to continue with their writing over several days. We also shared these photos with families as a window into their child’s learning.
  • Literacy Week: Whole-School Loose Parts Activity
    This year’s theme was “Read Around the World”. Students created a picture using loose parts about what they love about their world or their culture, which also included some writing.
  • Created a rubric for Story Workshop

Checking: We were able to create a good starting point for teachers to begin exploring with Story Workshop, such as a resource room with an array of loose parts and picture books for teachers to use in their classrooms; a collection of provocations to use throughout the year; and a predictable routine and assessment for running story workshop in the classroom. We gave children the opportunity each week to practice creating stories with loose parts, so that they could become more familiar with the process and build community within their classroom.

Student growth/differences: We noticed that as children became more familiar with the routines, they were able to get to the writing much faster and were able to write more. We compared writing samples collected in their portfolios over time and noticed how they progressed. We used the rubrics as a concrete measure. Children started to see themselves as authors and saw the purpose of Story Workshop as a way for them to collaborate and see writing as more purposeful and fun.

In regards to the four questions, we feel that at this point the students’ answers are not much richer. This is in part due to the teachers not being explicit enough with the intentions for the Story Workshops. Our focus was on managing and creating an environment for creating and sharing, and we feel our next step will be to help our learners to answer the four questions.

Reflections/Advice: We have a very strong foundation established to build our beginning understanding of loose parts. We have added to and combined some of our Maker Space resources and now have a large selection of resources for our story workshops. This year we have been in the discovery phase and we are all excited about learning more and continuing to develop our skills. We just purchased two copies of the new Opal School’s book, Story Workshop: Possibilities for Young Writers, and look forward to being guided further by this resource.

Our advice is to document children’s learning through photographs and video. Save these onto a common drive and organize them by classroom. Enlist teachers (and perhaps students and parents) in collecting or donating materials for your loose parts collections. Give yourself the gift of time and the permission to use time for this rich learning experience!

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