Zeballos Elementary Secondary School. SD#84 Vancouver Island West

I. General Information

School Name: Zeballos Elementary Secondary School.

School District: SD#84 Vancouver Island West

Inquiry Team Members: Heather Goodall hgoodall@viw.sd84.bc.ca
Paige Fisher paige.fisher@viu.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: hgoodall@viw.sd84.bc.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Language Arts – Writing

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Differentiated instruction, Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus is to use Story Workshop strategies and the haahuupaa philosophy (teaching with kindness/Indigenous way of knowing) to inspire joy and confidence in writing.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: Through district-wide assessment of writing, we noticed that students were reluctant to write and found it challenging to generate ideas to write about. We had a group of teachers and students who were interested in learning more about Story Workshop as a process to support learners as writers. We saw a lot of potential in weaving Story Workshop by exploring local ways of knowing and connections to community. As the FPPL indicates, “Learning is embedded in memory, history and story.” We drew on that understanding to build joy and engagement with the writing processes.

Focus: Students need to have opportunities to explore ways to create stories before they are asked to write or record their stories. We hoped the students, if given a chance to play, would create stories that they could share orally and in written form.

Hunch: The practice has been for students to write in their journals to reflect on real life experiences. Our hunch is that the students need more scaffolding before they are asked to write. They need inspiration to help generate ideas.

New Professional Learning: We had a professional learning series running with the book “Story Workshop: New Possibilities for Young Writers” (Susan Harris-Mackay). We wove some of this learning into demonstration lessons in the classrooms. There were co-planning opportunities for teachers. We also facilitated collaborative opportunities with our Delta colleagues.

Taking Action: During the winter and spring terms, we implemented Story Worksop every other week. We began planning using the framework: Preparations, Provocation, Invitation, Story Creation, Story Sharing, Reflections (from the Book by Mackay). As we progressed over time, we changed to the framework: Inspire Create Share (Delta SD).

An example of one workshop:

  • Inspire: Story used Fox by Margret Wild
  • Create: How can you tell a story about friendship between animals?
  • Share: Created books with photos of their stories
  • We took pictures of their stories as they shared the stories orally, and then the students created books by writing text to go with their pictures. Having the pictures printed right away helped the students remember their story, so they could write it the following day. We used a photocopier to print coloured pictures.

Another example:

  • Inspire: Book “Heart in the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers
  • Create: Show a way to protect your heart. They were each given a small polished stone to represent their heart, along with materials to build something to protect their heart. During the process there was much talk about why we need to protect our heart and how we can let our heart free from the protection.
  • Share: Each student shared ways, and why, they protect their heart, as well as how and why they let their heart free.

Over the course of the year, we collected story workshop materials. We have created a designated place to store the materials in the school.

Checking: The students’ enthusiasm for Story Workshop was obvious. The learners asked for story work frequently. The volume of writing increased from one sentence stories to multi sentence stories. At the beginning of the year, most writing centred around life experiences such as “Last night I watched TV.” At the end of the year, students’ stories had a deeper and expanded meaning, such as “I am protecting my heart so nobody can hurt it. I can play with my heart.”

We also noticed students needed less prompts to write in their journal. The student engagement with Story Workshop in the grade 3-5 class was significant. Initially, 50% of the class would typically engage in writing. We have 100% participation in Story Workshop with this class. Unexpectedly, we had a high school student who had been disengaged with school, wander down to the class and join in our story workshop learning. We also noticed a community of learners started to grow as the students shared their stories with each other. The students demonstrated a sense of community by sharing materials and showing interest in each other’s work.

Reflections/Advice: Next year, we plan to continue using Story Workshop in all of our schools. The ripple effect of playful learning has inspired some schools to incorporate more play into all aspects of learning. For example, In Captain Meares School, in Tahsis, we created a room for “Playful Inquiry” where we have embedded the Inspire, Create, Share model for learning in all aspects of the K-5 curriculum.

The sense of joy was evident in building stories through exploration with Story Workshop materials. Writing became less of a “must do” and more of a “want to do.” The next professional book I plan to read is Unearthing Joy – A Guide to Culturally and Historically Responsive Teaching and Learning, by Gholdy Muhammad. I am curious how this new learning will connect to the “Playful Inquiry” we are weaving into classrooms.