Happy Valley Elementary SD#62 Sooke

School Name: Happy Valley Elementary

School District: SD#62 Sooke

Inquiry Team Members: Laura Sherwood lsherwood@sd62.bc.ca
Jacqui Ouldali jouldali@sd62.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: jgregory@sd62.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading

Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? As we look through the lens of the First Peoples Principles of Learning, how might we adjust our techniques and activities to improve the word level reading skills of all learners.

Scanning: Some of our students didn’t view themselves as readers and didn’t feel confident in being successful in the classroom. Most of our students didn’t really know where they were going with their learning and had a kind of fixed mindset. They weren’t really able to tell others how they were doing and how to get better. After looking through the OECD Principles of Learning, we decided upon a small group approach to be able to focus the learner in the center, as well as engaging the social nature of learning. We used assessment for learning to assess where our students word reading abilities were and used that to plan our program. When we looked at the First Peoples Principles of Learning we chose as our lens: Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational. We wondered if using this lens would improve our word-level teaching of reading.

Focus: When we began this journey we knew we wanted to use UDL to help all students improve their word-level literacy skills. We settled on the Reading Simplified approach to teach Structured Literacy skills. We read that systematic, structured literacy has been shown to be necessary for 50% of students and beneficial to all.

Hunch: Many of our students were highly reliant on pictures and guessing. They didn’t have any word attack skills except for appealing to an adult or looking at the pictures. They didn’t view themselves as readers or as being able to become readers.

New Professional Learning: We chose to explore the Reading Simplified Academy program which was self-paced, and we shared with each other how things were going for each of us with our students. We found the “Switch It, Read It and Sort It” the most helpful and the phonological awareness teaching.

Taking Action: We tried the RS techniques in small groups and one-on-one. One of us even tried “Switch It” with a whole class but it was a bit challenging to differentiate it; small groups or one-on-one seemed best. This allowed us to recognize individual differences and experiment with how best to help them.

Checking: The students progressed up the cvc to cccvcc pathway. The students can now give a spelling that is more logical than before (e.g. boat as bote). Other educators noticed changes in our students – both their confidence and ability to use the skills we’ve covered. By using the skills in combination, as Reading Simplified is designed, students were picking up on letter sounds faster and better than when they were taught in isolation.

Reflections/Advice: Reading Simplified is accessible for both us and the students regardless of their level because it’s fun and easy to implement. We look forward to:
– expanding our knowledge and implementing more Reading Simplified (RSA) strategies such as Read It, Sort It, Write It
– exploring how to use RSA strategies to support ESD and ELL students, and students who are transitioning from French Immersion programs in their reading and writing
– exploring how we can work on writing passages that include more Indigenous content
– seeing if we can we apply RSA phonemic strategies to introduce more Indigenous vocabulary in our teaching

We encourage other schools to explore this way of teaching letter and word knowledge as it is accessible to all students and easily differentiated.

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