Queen Mary Elementary SD#44 North Vancouver

School Name: Queen Mary Elementary

School District: SD#44 North Vancouver

Inquiry Team Members: Brigette Gerandol: bgerandol@sd44.ca
Kate Kelsey: kkelsey@sd44.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: bgerandol@sd44.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy

Focus Addressed: Other: Structured Literacy Interventions in Primary Grades

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Increase students’ literacy outcomes with structured literacy at Tiers 1, 2, and 3.

Scanning: How is it going for you?
The primary students were assessed using the Dibels testing. The majority of students were in the red zone. Teacher instruction varied across primary classes, and across grades. EA’s did not have a consistent method to support students effectively with supports. ELL and LST programs were once again different from the classroom practices. Across the board, there was a lack of consistent supports for students. Students showed minimal growth in literacy over a year.

Focus: Student assessments showed that literacy instruction needed improvements. Teachers lacked the training to focus on a scope and sequence that identified student levels (through assessment), provided differentiated resources (code controlled) and included progress monitoring (at Tiers 1, 2 and 3). We predicted that the students would benefit from an evidence-based practice followed by teachers, EA’s, LSW’s, ELL Teachers, and LST’s. A new common language of literacy would develop in the school and students in the primary grades would have consistent literacy programming from K to Grade 3.

Hunch: The ‘hunch’ was evident in the lack of consistent practices in the primary grades. Teachers lacked consistent programming for students. Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports were not easily followed up in class by teachers. The literacy program felt discombobulated. We needed an anchor — a way to structure a literacy program that all educators could learn to support — to improve student’s ability to read at or above grade level. We also needed a leader.

New Professional Learning: New Professional Learning: Pathways to Proficient Reading by the Aim Institute

From the scanning, it was obvious that the educators in the building needed additional training in evidence-based literacy practices. No fault of their own, with a deficit of focused literacy instruction in most Education programs. A LST at the school recommended the course Pathways to Proficient Reading by the Aim Institute — surprisingly, 20 educators in the building over the course of two years completed this online intensive literacy program. The participants included classroom teachers, learning support teachers, English Language Learner teachers, educational assistants, learning support workers and an administrator. Within two years, the momentum grew while the staff consolidated their skills and book knowledge translated into changing literacy practices for students.

Taking Action:
1. Twenty educators completed the Aim Institute: Pathways to Proficient Reading Online Course (Approximately $725)
2. LST Leader — provided additional in-house training including full-day pro-d days, small group supports, after school planning groups, and shadowing LST during small groups and classroom lessons. Supporting Grade Teams development of student levelled groups, resources, and assessment.
3. Implemented the same structured literacy program in classrooms, and across the additional supports. Students received the same conceptual literacy skills once, twice or three times. EA’s are providing the same literacy programs as teachers.
4. Creatively schedule EA’s passionate about working with students to improve reading proficiency so they can have targeted time with small groups throughout the week.
5. Continued to practice new ways to teach literacy, develop grade appropriate scope and sequence, be vulnerable and ask for help when needed. Identify lagging skills and create programs to support student growth and development.
5. Purchased code controlled book sets. Use Spire reading program. Differentiate student materials.
6. Progress monitoring for students — again with an integrated program, students can show growth over time.
7. Create a hub for resources and administrative support to copy binders, create word sets, etc.
8. Be reflexive and reflective practitioners. Reflect on current practices and look for ways to continue to develop structured literacy across the curriculum.
9. Connect with district leaders and teams.
10. Be flexible and pivot to new evidence-based practices.

Checking: Educators in the primary program (K – 3) are all using a structured literacy program. Students are receiving universal, targeted and individual supports with the same focus (example, short a sounds). Students are showing growth over time with regular progress monitoring as they progress through the developmental levels. The first time a student can read a ‘book’ is a magical moment. The book is code controlled and selected after an assessment and direct teaching from a variety of supports. The student is supported until they can read the book with success and confidence. These are the moments we want for all our students. The efforts from the educators in the building were ‘herculean’. Educators paid a significant course fee from their own funds to complete the program, often during the summer months. The effort to shift practices is difficult — often unsettling to change from the familiar. Significant time was invested into this process — from the training to the implementation — to provide streamlined evidence based instructional practices for students.

Four Questions:
1. Can you name TWO adults in this school who believe you will be a success in life?
Students who are working with a variety of adults in the structured literacy program can now identify two adults (or more) who are supporting their literacy skills.
2. Where are you going with your learning?
Students can identify successes in their learning. Students have a clear scope and sequence and can now identify the skills they are developing.
3. How are you doing?
Students have the opportunity to connect with educators to share their understanding of their own learning. Students are often happier. Attendance has improved. Students are more confident in other areas of school.
4. Where to next?
Students in the primary program will continue to develop their skills as they progress from K to 3. Students’ data will travel with the student.

Reflections/Advice: The importance of a structured literacy program steeped in evidence-based practices, with a cohort of passionate educators to lead the charge, is a powerful force that will improve student’s ability to read and write, which cannot be understated. We continually strive to improve our literacy outcomes by re-evaluating our ideas and actions based on evidence-based literacy practices. We worked collaboratively to develop practices and programs. We built a network of experts in the school without a focus on ‘role’. We love talking about structured literacy and improving outcomes for students. We love sharing success stories most of all — the first time a student reads with confidence brings us all to tears. We created a cohesive community of learners — both for educators and students.

Do you give your students books they cannot read? Do you know what level your students are reading at (below, at or above grade level)? Do you know what to do once you know your students’ reading levels?

If your school is seeking a consistent approach to literacy instruction across grade levels, finding the time and money to explore the Aim Programs would be a great place to start. Using reading assessments for all students and differentiating reading materials is an important step. Continue to implement code controlled resources, levelled readers, and a clear scope and sequence. Find a passionate educator who leads by example, models evidence-based literacy practices, and never lets you forget that teaching students to read is the most important role we have as teachers.

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