Fairview Community School SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: Fairview Community School

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Holly Shelton: Holly.Shelton@sd68.bc.ca,
Val Muir: Valerie.Muir@sd68.bc.ca,
Christina Renneberg: christina.renneberg@sd68.bc.ca,
Jennifer Lupichuk: Jennifer.Lupichuk@sd68.bc.ca,
Julia Kukta: jkukta@sd68.bc.ca,
Sofia LaBounty: Sofia.LaBounty@sd68.bc.ca,
Scott Motley: Scott.Motley@sd68.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: sofia.labounty@sd68.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Writing

Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment, Growth mindset

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? In collaboration, sharing/developing practices that will allow teachers to support our learners as writers.

Scanning: Our primary team noticed inconsistent results when examining students’ writing samples across the grades. In the younger grades, students were using inventive spelling and teachers wondered how this teaching strategy bridges to using correct spelling and writing conventions. Teachers met to review and discuss student samples. Together the group became interested in developing common writing strategies and practices that can support our learners to become more confident, capable writers as they move from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Focus: Our school has placed a lot of emphasis on reading and encouraging our students to see themselves as readers. This has resulted in a love of reading across the primary years. Our next step has been to keep what we have been doing with reading practices and shift our inquiry and collaborative time around writing. This was our next step to build a balanced literacy program for our primary students. It was necessary to explore and develop as a team, so that our students receive consistent education through their schooling at Fairview.

Hunch: Teachers noticed different practices and language being adopted across the grades and an inconsistent emphasis on writing. We have a significant transient population that may also contribute to the experiences of our learners. Connecting with colleagues across the district and learning about instructional practices that are found to be effective, were a good starting point that led to meaningful discussions as a team.

New Professional Learning: Our primary team explored evidence-based literacy practices that can support our learners to grow as writers, and develop self-esteem in literacy. Teachers met and shared writing samples across the grades, including a “Just Write” activity that allowed for teachers to examine where our learners perform. We wondered if common practices and common language around teaching and writing would support our learners in becoming more confident writers.

Taking Action:
Grade 1 Team (Teachers: Mrs. Shelton, Mrs. Muir)
Learning (How and where can we learn more about what to do?):
We noticed that there have been gaps in learning around phonemic and phonological awareness. We were looking at ways to incorporate daily practice in a more authentic way, that matches with our writing and reading philosophies and strategies.

Taking Action (What will we do differently?):
We decided to experiment with the Words Their Way program, as we liked the way the program breaks down words and encourages decoding, hearing, and recording sounds in words. We also liked the way it highlights vowels and word patterns.

Grade 2 – 3 Team (Teachers: Ms. Renneberg, Ms. Lupichuk, Mrs. Kukta, Mrs. LaBounty, Mr. Motley)
Learning (How and where can we learn more about what to do?):
Assessment for Instruction (Writing Piece) –> Our team began our inquiry by assessing where students were in order to lead our next actions of instruction. We selected a short, animated, wordless film to show our students and asked them to write what the story was about. We gathered the samples of writing and examined the student pieces across Grades 2 to 3. Our discussion around those samples led us to questions about what the students need to learn (i.e. spelling, editing, writing process) and how we will do this for diverse needs (i.e. 1:1 conferencing, mini-lessons, spelling groups, multi-level writing checklists).

We noticed that students have a range of strengths and weaknesses in their writing. Overall spelling needed to be addressed more systematically, and yet there was also a need to find ways to move students forward in all areas of writing (from letter formation to adding details). We participated in a professional development session relating to Words Their Way on Feb 25th. We had a guest speaker lead an informational presentation on Words Their Way to help familiarize this spelling program.

Taking Action (What will we do differently?)
Our team agreed to explore the best practices that were already being used and work towards filling any gaps in our own classroom literacy programs. We could see positive results from programs and practices, including: Step Up to Writing, Words Their Way, Writing Process, Adrienne Gear’s work, Editing Processes, Working with Words literacy practice activities and focus (stemming from Daily 5 practices), Common Teacher Language, 1:1 conferencing and goal setting based on criteria, writing practice time, mini-lessons, as well as creating manipulatives for students to use (i.e. levelled editing checklists, word walls, anchor charts, VCOP (Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation), and pyramids). These materials will give visual prompts for students to self-assess and move along the continuum of writing.

Grade 1 Team (Teachers: Mrs. Shelton, Mrs. Muir)
Checking (Have we made enough of a difference?):
We found the hands on, manipulating sounds/words and visuals helped students of all abilities. Working with the same words and patterns for a whole week encouraged confidence and routine learning. We noticed a transfer of these skills into their reading (decoding and word recognition) and sounds they heard in writing. We are excited to continue next year and incorporate games for practice that align with the Words Their Way strategy. Also we plan to add in more manipulating sound practice with ‘Making Words’.

Grade 2 – 3 Team (Teachers: Ms. Renneberg, Ms. Lupichuk, Mrs. Kukta, Mrs. LaBounty, Mr. Motley)
Checking (Have we made enough of a difference?):
All students showed progress towards their specific goals (Renneberg) at some level. Overall spelling had improved. The Words Their Way assessment tool was used, and students who were reading well below grade level before, were using grade level spelling skills after. This knowledge of how the skill of spelling is broken down helped us identify what specific areas some students needed more support in.

Some of us were unable to launch new Words Their Way groups based on assessment results (scheduled to begin after Spring Break); thus, we plan on using the same foundation we built this year through our inquiry, to begin the next year. For example, next year we will be more systematic in using the assessment tool to make groups right away, and implement the fun skill building activities.

Reflections/Advice: With the COVID-19 Pandemic, we were unable to carry on implementation of our inquiry for the remainder of the school year. The work carried out thus far had allowed us to initiate change in our teaching practice and solidify plans for the upcoming school year. The time working remotely had also allowed us to dive deeper into the new resources we have committed to.

Our commitment to improve self-esteem in our learners with writing will remain a focus for our future PLC meetings, and a goal as a primary team. Schools wishing to support students with writing should consider common language as a practice, as we found that students respond well to terms they are familiar with from previous teachers.

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