School Name: Lakewood Elementary School
School District: SD#62 Sooke
Inquiry Team Members:Sarah Lynch: email@example.com, Cherise Bouvier: firstname.lastname@example.org, Veronica Horgan: email@example.com, Brenda Penston: 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, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Growth mindset, Inquiry-based learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Explicitly teaching core competencies and growth mindset language in the structure of student inquiry
Scanning: We value the core competencies as essential skills and want our student stories be self-aware and take ownership of their learning of these competencies. We surveyed and interviewed our students about their understanding of the core competencies and where we use these skills in our learning at school. Many students were not able to articulate what the core competencies are, or make a connection to their learning in the classroom. They had a hard time finding examples in their day when they communicate, think critically, etc. The most understood competency was Social Responsibility – students were able to talk about how they show this. We also asked our students about making mistakes and if it was okay to make mistakes. Many students didn’t think it was okay to make mistakes in their learning, and didn’t see the value making mistakes has to their learning.
Focus: Based on our scanning, we decided to focus on explicitly teaching the core competencies language, noticing and naming it across all curricular areas, often. We will use student inquiry as a structure for engaging in science, social studies and language arts and use the language of the core competencies in the learning. We also want to focus on the development of the competencies and that we are all learning from where we are. As well, the message that we learn from our mistakes.
Hunch: Our hunches were that we have not been using the language of the CC explicitly during the day, and not noticing and naming in order for our students to see where the CC live in our learning. We wonder if we compartmentalize learning ourselves so students aren’t seeing the connections in their learning across subjects and CC skills. We also think that while we, as teachers, know the focus/learning intentions of our instruction, that we aren’t making that explicitly known to students.
New Professional Learning: We want to learn more about the Core competencies ourselves – the language, some resources, connections to curricular competencies, and explicit teaching. As well, we want to learn effective strategies for students to self-assess. Finally, we want to learn more about how to plan and implement student inquiry in our science, social studies, and language arts. We will explore what other districts are doing around CC, and student inquiry (looking at some NOII case studies), and using professional resources to learn more about student inquiry.
Taking Action: Our team took action by explicitly teaching the core competencies through picture books (borrowed from a curated tub of core competency flagged books in the library), framing written questions in daily journals, and using the language of the core competencies in our instructions and feedback (notice and name). Teachers also focused on making the core competencies more visual in their classrooms by displaying district developed core competency posters with the goal of keeping the competencies in the forefront of both students and teachers minds. All of the classroom teachers taught a specific core competency unit prior to beginning their inquiry units and then worked to infuse core competencies into their inquiry units by adding notice and name activities and core competency self assessments.
Inquiry units taught included a grade one sound unit, a grade one unit about cultural identity, and a grade two/three genius hour unit.
Checking: As base line evidence teachers re-interviewed their students using the same questions that they used in the scanning stage. Overall all teachers found that during whole class read alouds that students were identifying and naming core competencies within the stories and these discussions helped to preload their knowledge and understanding during the following units.
Grade One Sound Unit:
By the end of the unit teachers observed an increase in the number of students who were able to identify the core competencies of Communication and Social Responsibility.
Grade One Personal and Cultural Identity unit:
By the end of this unit students were embracing their own cultural identities as well as embracing those of others. During a cultural diversity celebration students were open to trying new foods from other cultures and were interested in learning about traditions from other cultures.
Grade Three Genius Hour Unit: By the end of this self-developed inquiry unit students were observed to be really embracing the growth mindset of Try, Fail, Learn. Students were also getting adept at selecting and evaluating core competencies in conjunction with their genius hour project questions and presentations.
Teacher-Librarian: Teachers really appreciated having a curated collection of books to grab from to help teach their core competency units. Books were labeled with the core competencies so that teachers could confidently and quickly choose books that were a good fit to teach a particular core competency.
Reflections/Advice: Enjoyed teaching using an inquiry style and will continue to use this approach with other units of study. Will work to narrow down units into more manageable sizes (can’t cover all aspects of culture).
As a team we found that students at such a young age tended to struggle more with understanding the creative and critical thinking and the difference between the two.
As a team we needed to continue to develop our own notice and naming of the core competencies; it could be beneficial to have another adult come in to notice and name as well. As a school we discussed informing parents about the core competencies so they can notice and name them at home as well at school. We also discussed connecting our core competencies on our daily announcements by connecting with our school based code of conduct. We could also potentially create bulletin boards in our school with examples of the core competencies in action.
When choosing an inquiry unit, focusing on a single core competency that matches the inquiry topic would be best in early primary so as to allow a deeper dive into one core competency at a time.
In our explicit teaching, we would like to incorporate more visuals to allow for children to self-identify which core competencies they are using.