Happy Valley SD#62 Sooke

I. General Information

School Name: Happy Valley

School District: SD#62 Sooke

Inquiry Team Members: Kareen Kimoto: kareenkimoto@hotmail.com
Megan Niessen: mniessen@sd62.bc.ca

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

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

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

Curricular Areas Addressed: Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing

Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, Growth mindset, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How early intervention of phonological skills can impact students’ story-telling skills and risk-taking in group work, using familiar nursery rhymes and stories as a foundation.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: As part of our scanning process, we noticed the students’ engagement and knowledge base as we worked with nursery rhymes and early phonological skills. The four key questions were used to identify the adults who support them at the school, how capable the students were at setting goals with some guidance, and how the students recognized their own learning and growth. All of these areas help the students build connections to their school community. The experiences that we found had the most effect on our students were the different home experiences they had before entering kindergarten. We hoped that our inquiry would help to provide experiences for all of our learners and close the gap in the skills the children were entering kindergarten with. We used the OECD principles of learning to guide our thoughts around the children knowing what they are doing and how they will show their learning while being social, interactive, inclusive, and having differentiated learning experiences. The First Peoples Principles of Learning guided our thinking to include outside elements while storytelling and focusing on stories which were local to our area and Indigenous Peoples. An element of our inquiry focused on oral-storytelling, an important aspect of local Indigenous culture.

Focus: We selected this area because we noticed less students were coming to kindergarten knowing nursery rhymes and how to ‘play with words’. The changes we were hoping to obtain with our learners were the development of skills in phonological awareness and building a repertoire of familiar nursery rhymes and stories as a foundation for their own story-telling experiences. We hoped this would build their confidence and risk-taking in all aspects of literacy and oral language.

Hunch: We wondered if introducing a learning journey with a focus on explicit instruction in skills and knowledge would strengthen the students’ skills, even if the students were not receiving the experiences at home.

New Professional Learning: The new areas we explored were the explicit instruction of phonological skills, the direct telling and experiences around nursery rhymes, and learning more about oral story-telling. Although we had done some work in this area previously, we looked deeper into the possible influences on our learners. We took advantage of professional development workshops, professional resources, and time to collaborate with colleagues.

Taking Action:

1 – We used the Heggerty pre-K program for direct instruction of phonological skill development.
2 – The Jolly Phonics program guided our phonemic development of letters and sounds.
3 – We used common nursery rhymes and familiar stories and songs to build our knowledge base and use as a jumping off point for story-telling.
4 – We provided materials (loose parts, felt board materials, peg dolls, etc.) for use during the retelling and story development.
5 – Teachers modelled how stories could be re-told and how stories are developed before having the students try the skills on their own or in small groups.
6 – Materials could be accessed during free-play opportunities.
7 – Expectations could be easily differentiated.
8 – As the year progressed, a recording component was introduced (writing and reading).
9 – Guidelines were developed for working with others and making sure that everyone was included in some way.

Checking: There was a definite improvement in the students’ willingness to engage and take risks. The students were better at rhyming and deleting/adding or changing parts of a word. More evidence will be available next year as the students begin more formal reading instruction. It will be interesting to see if the grade one teachers notice a difference in this group’s ability compared to other years. We did an assessment of phonological skills at the end of this year. We will use the same assessment next year, but earlier, to provide a baseline. Our learners seem to feel connected to the school community. They enjoyed working with each other and sharing their stories. They enjoyed sharing their stories with adults in the school community. They were confident when working with a Learning Support teacher in her assessment of phonological skills. The experiences seemed to build a sense of excitement around story and the sharing of stories.

Reflections/Advice: We learned the importance of explicit instruction in nursery rhymes and phonological skills. Skills gained by our students in these two areas influenced all areas of their literacy growth. We plan to continue using the same strategies, but starting earlier in the year. We are thinking of ways to add a greater element of social and emotional learning to the same experiences next year. Our advice to other schools would be to jump in and give the experiences a try. Your students will surprise you with what they are capable of!