Chase River Elementary SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

I. General Information

School Name: Chase River Elementary

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Jennifer Addison:
Susan Schlitz:
Clare James:
Nicole Phelan:
Trisha Armour:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Language Arts – Literacy

Focus Addressed: Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Exploring how collaborating on literacy instruction across grade groups can help build school community and support student learning.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: During our scanning process, we engaged in a comprehensive examination of the experiences and needs of our learners in relation to literacy instruction. We collected and analyzed literacy data to identify patterns and trends across grade levels, paying close attention to the experiences of students in the emerging and developing literacy columns. Through this process, we noticed several important aspects that guided our inquiry.

First and foremost, we observed a widening gap in literacy proficiency as students progressed through the grade levels. Many students remained in the emerging and developing columns, indicating a need for additional support to bridge the gaps and foster their literacy growth. This finding emphasized the significance of early intervention and the importance of building strong foundational literacy skills.

Furthermore, we recognized the diverse needs of our learners, requiring differentiated approaches to reading instruction. We acknowledged that a “one size fits all” approach was not effective and that we needed to explore strategies and techniques that would address the unique strengths and challenges of each student. This observation underscored the need for personalized and responsive teaching practices.

In our scanning process, we also considered the OECD principles of learning and the First Peoples Principles of Learning as guiding frameworks. These helped us ensure that our literacy instruction was meaningful and connected to the students’ lives and interests. We aimed to make our teaching relevant by incorporating real-world examples and engaging activities that sparked students’ curiosity and motivation.

Focus: We selected the area of exploring collaborative literacy instruction across grade groups because we noticed that many students in our school were struggling with literacy skills, and the gaps were widening as they progressed through the grade levels. We wanted to address this issue and support our most vulnerable learners by implementing a collaborative approach that would build a stronger sense of school community and provide targeted support for their literacy development. Our goal was to see improvements in our students’ literacy proficiency, engagement, and overall sense of belonging in the school community.

Hunch: Our hunch was that by implementing collaborative literacy instruction across grade groups, we could positively impact the experiences of our learners and mitigate potential challenges they might face. We recognized that students who did not have strong foundational skills in reading by grade 4 were at risk of continuing to struggle throughout their educational journey. This realization drove our determination to intervene and provide targeted support to ensure that all students had the necessary literacy skills to thrive academically.

Moreover, we understood the social and societal impacts of low literacy skills. Students who struggle with reading often experience diminished self-confidence and a sense of exclusion, as they may find it difficult to fully participate in classroom activities and engage with their peers. This can lead to feelings of frustration, disengagement, a negative attitude towards school, and limiting future opportunities.

By addressing these concerns and focusing on developing strong foundational literacy skills through collaborative instruction, we aimed to break this cycle of struggle and empower our students for future success. We believed that by providing the necessary support and a sense of belonging, we could positively impact their academic trajectory, enhance their self-esteem, and contribute to their overall well-being and future societal contributions.

New Professional Learning: Our team embarked on a journey of collaborative professional learning to enhance our literacy instruction across grade groups, with a particular focus on developing phonics skills to support all learners. We recognized the importance of collaboration across grade levels, from Kindergarten to Grade 4, to ensure consistency in our approaches and create a strong foundation for our students’ literacy development.

To begin our professional learning, we delved into the UFLI (University of Florida Literacy Institute) program through professional development sessions and Pro-D opportunities. We engaged in workshops and training sessions that provided us with a deep understanding of best practices in phonics instruction and how to integrate them effectively into our teaching practices. We explored various strategies and techniques within the UFLI program and adapted them to meet the unique needs and dynamics of our students.

In addition to formal professional development, we also engaged in classroom observations and shared our experiences and reflections with one another. This allowed us to learn from each other’s practice and gain insights into the implementation of the UFLI program in different classroom contexts. We discussed the strategies and techniques we had tried, sharing both successes and challenges, and engaged in collaborative dialogue to refine our approaches.

Taking Action: As a team, we made a collective decision to utilize our professional development time to work together and deepen our understanding and implementation of the UFLI program. We used this time to collaborate, plan, and develop instructional materials that aligned with our students’ needs and the goals of the inquiry project. By working together, we were able to support and learn from one another, creating a collaborative and empowering environment.

During our professional dialogue sessions, we shared the strategies and techniques we had tried in our classrooms. We realized that while the UFLI program provided a strong foundation, it was important to make adaptations that were responsive to our students and ourselves as teachers. We encouraged creativity and flexibility, allowing each teacher to modify and personalize the program to meet the specific needs of their students. By sharing these adaptations, we expanded our repertoire of effective instructional approaches and fostered a culture of continuous improvement.

In order to seek mentorship and training beyond our own school, we reached out to colleagues from different schools in our district. This initiative led to the formation of new connections and partnerships. We engaged in dialogue with experienced educators who had successfully implemented collaborative literacy instruction. Through these connections, we gained valuable insights, learned from their experiences, and adapted their approaches to suit our own context. This external support enriched our professional learning and contributed to the success of our collaborative literacy instruction efforts.

Checking: Through our collaborative efforts and the implementation of the UFLI program, we have observed significant differences in our students’ literacy development. Initially, we were concerned that some of the new strategies might not engage the students or become monotonous. However, to our delight, the students showed enthusiasm and excitement for the strategies used to develop their decoding and encoding skills. They were actively involved in their own learning and demonstrated noticeable improvements in their reading and writing abilities.

Regular collection of reading assessment data allowed us to track students’ progress and identify their individual needs. The gains made by the students were evident, and this progress not only motivated the students but also inspired the teachers. One particular student, an English Language Learner, showed remarkable progress, highlighting the effectiveness of the collaborative and differentiated approach we adopted.

Reflections/Advice: Throughout this inquiry, we have learned the power of teacher collaboration and the importance of sharing both successes and challenges. We realized the need to make instructional programs our own, adapting strategies to meet the specific needs of our students. Observing other educators in action provided us with valuable insights and helped us envision what effective instruction looks like in practice.

Looking ahead, we intend to continue our collaborative journey in the coming year and invite more primary teachers from our school to join and collaborate with us. By fostering a shared language, structures, techniques, and strategies for explicit phonics instruction, we aim to bridge the gap in reading skills that currently exists in our school. Our ultimate goal is to create more equitable and inclusive classrooms where all students can thrive.

We would advise other teams embarking on similar collaborative literacy instruction initiatives to prioritize communication, seek external support for professional growth, and remain open to adapting programs and strategies to meet the needs of their students. Collaborative dialogue and sharing of experiences are key to driving improvement and creating positive change in the teaching and learning of literacy.