School Name: École Roosevelt Park Community School
School District: SD#52 Prince Rupert
Inquiry Team Members: Kate Lyon: email@example.com
Nicole Leong: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julian Mar: email@example.com
Janet Sankey: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorraine Zuzarte: email@example.com
Andrée Michaud: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Stevenson: email@example.com
Susan Crowley: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our team focused on developing foundational skills in Early Literacy that are required for children to successfully read and write at the primary level.
Scanning: Our team was built with each member providing a different lens: LST, Indigenous Resource Worker, Educational Assistant, Administration, Retired Primary Teacher/Mentor, and Classroom Teacher. We wanted to benefit from as many perspectives as possible. We held our first team meeting late in the fall to discuss what we knew, how we felt about what we knew, and what we could do to problem-solve. We wanted to ensure any new programming respected the social emotional needs of children, while at the same time, took into account the expressed need to explicitly and systematically teach children the required skills to become successful readers and writers. We also recognized the need to acknowledge place-based learning, and brainstormed new ways to incorporate culture and place into daily programming and instruction.
Focus: We are a dual track school: English and French Immersion. Our team shared concerns regarding a disproportionate number of children in the English stream who were struggling with reading and writing. Previous district assessment data suggested children beginning in Grade 1 had significant gaps in phonemic and phonological awareness, as well as in letter/sound recognition. The Early Development Instrument (EDIs) for our district also indicated 43% of children entering Kindergarten were considered vulnerable on one or more of the scales. We wanted to maximize in-class Kindergarten instruction and target specific pre-reading and writing skills in ways that were fun, engaging, and play-based. We also wanted to incorporate Canadian Reading Expert, Nancy Young’s Ladder of Reading infographic, which is globally recognized and referenced in countless research journals and articles. We recognized the need to “bump up” our efforts in providing differentiated instruction to really target student needs.
Dr. Alex Granzin, a U.S. School Psychologist and author states, “If you are not learning to read, you are being left behind in probably the single most important process that occurs in early schooling because it’s the key to everything else that occurs. When you can’t read, you are lost the rest of the day, it’s not just during reading time.” (n.d., Children Of The Code).
Hunch: The team really wanted to implement new programming that reflected the needs of our students entering school. We recognized many children beginning Kindergarten and Grade 1 were trauma-affected, lived at or below the poverty line, required intense support in social emotional learning, and have not had rich experiences with books and print. Despite these challenges, the team strongly believes students are resilient and capable and ready to learn.
Reading Advocate and Child Psychologist, Dr. Steven Dykstra states, “The research shows that the single most powerful predictor of their ability to overcome the trauma and survive their circumstances is the ability to read. If they can read, they have a chance to find success in school and overcome all those terrible things in their lives. If they can’t, school will only be another source of pain and failure added to all the other sources of pain and failure” (December, 2019 Core).
New Professional Learning: A significant amount of time was dedicated to individual professional development. We began to take a more in-depth look at the Scarborough Reading Rope and The Simple View of Reading. Various team members would informally meet, share, and discuss our learning throughout the year. We recognized the need to focus on oral language development, so we became familiar with multi-sensory teaching and explored several scope and sequence variations of the alphabetic code, each of which serving a specific purpose for intended learning. Vocabulary and imagery that reflected local Indigenous culture and place-based learning were used in the design of interactive Smartboard activities that targeted the alphabetic code. In addition, we looked at Tiered Vocabulary Instruction and brainstormed ways to infuse targeted language and vocabulary throughout the day. We also researched a variety of Kindergarten assessments/protocols that would provide more accurate and meaningful data.
Taking Action: We explored Oral Language Development as the precursor to reading and writing. We referenced the B.C. Ministry of Education’s Oral Language Continuum and recognized the need to increase in-class opportunities for children to explicitly develop and practice oral language skills, especially for children entering Kindergarten who demonstrated unintelligible speech and/or deficits in receptive and expressive language. We implemented Talking Tables 3x a week. We also expanded the Dramatic Play Centres in the Kindergarten classroom and provided direct learner support by having an adult engage in play and converse with children, modeling key words and phrases that related to the topic. We increased vocabulary-building activities to help build background knowledge and expand learners’ word banks. In addition, a daily routine was established to address phonological and phonemic awareness. To ensure all skills would be taught explicitly and systematically, the Heggerty Kindergarten Curriculum was introduced mid-year, providing daily instruction, 10-15 minutes a day (split into two parts). LST provided additional support in the form of small group instruction for children who did not attend for the majority of the pandemic but came back to school after the Spring Break (pull-out). Additionally, transitions between class activities (i.e. waiting in line-up) were also targeted as opportunities to develop oral language. In Term 2, we introduced a new printing program developed locally by a Speech and Language Pathologist from B.C. Children’s Hospital called Printing Like A Pro. This allowed students to directly connect sound to print (phonics). We recognized the need to address working memory – the amount of information that can be held in your mind and used to perform tasks – and cognitive overload – when your working memory takes in more information than it can handle – which can potentially lead to frustration, inattentiveness, and negative behaviours. We introduced a variety memory games and ensured that direct instruction occurred several times throughout the day in small chunks of time (5-10 minutes).
We had a handful of high-flyers who attended regularly and were ready to read books independently. We introduced Flyleaf Decodable Books to children who had a solid understanding of the alphabetic code (A-Z, long/short vowels, digraphs). To supplement and provide variety, BOB Books were also used to strengthen decoding abilities and help develop reading fluency.
The team opted to use the Heggerty mid-year, and year-end Kindergarten assessments, since the Heggerty Curriculum was being used in class. The assessments were free and available for download on the Heggerty website.
Checking: The team worked very closely this year to provide daily and weekly learner support through whole-group/small-group instruction (push-in and pull-out). We also chose to assess student progress regularly (informal/formal) to help guide our teaching practices and to allow for necessary changes in instruction to move students along in their learning. Most students who were attending regularly made incredible gains!
Reflections/Advice: Our inquiry has led to many more questions! The team has, and will, continue learning about evidence-based, structured literacy programming, also known as the Science of Reading. We learned A LOT and found so many books and online resources that supported our learning journeys. We are in the process of replacing Benchmark Assessments with Individual Student Literacy Profiles – information that can be easily organized and documented for classroom teachers. The team is also learning more about orthographic mapping, reading fluency, and how to apply explicit instruction in writing.
The team recognized a strong correlation between attendance and skill development. Students who attended regularly met most of the assessment targets. Students who missed a considerable amount of school also demonstrated significant gains by the end of the school year. We are wanting to address attendance concerns in the upcoming school year.