We believe that every learner is a unique individual with their own strengths, interests, and areas for growth. We support engaging and meaningful learning opportunities that are responsive to student needs and contexts. Our learners have access to an abundance of information, resources and people and these opportunities require a diversity of skills and approaches. Thinking critically, collaborating successfully, communicating effectively and demonstrating new learning in multiple formats are all foundational elements of learning design.

Literacy and numeracy skills are the foundations of lifelong learning and full participation in society. These skills empower students to make meaning, think critically and creatively, and reach their full potential. Throughout the grades, literacy and numeracy are applied across all areas of learning.

The Ministry of Education defines literacy as “the ability to understand, critically analyze, and create a variety of forms of communication, including oral, written, visual, digital, and multimedia, to accomplish one’s goals. Literacy helps students apply reading, writing, speaking and listening skills across a variety of subject areas.” Numeracy is “the ability to understand and apply mathematical concepts, processes, and skills to solve problems and make decisions in a variety of situations, including real-life scenarios.”

Our strategic plan includes the following steps related to literacy and numeracy:

  • Fully incorporating First Peoples’ Principles of Learning into our literacy and numeracy strategies
  • Improving Inner-city Early Learning
  • Improving and adapting teacher mentor and leadership programs
  • Re-emphasizing our commitment to Literacy for the 21st Century throughout the curriculum
Principles of Learning Wordmark
  • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
    Learning is connected to the broader community and extends beyond the walls of the classroom and school. Connecting learning with community members, parents and extended family reinforces the links between school and other aspects of the learner’s life.
  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational.
    Deep learning engages the whole student (and teacher) – heart, mind, body and soul. When we work together, collaborate conceptually, and combine our energies to reinforce commonalities across multiple subject areas, we make learning cohesive, connected and relevant. The relationships teachers develop and foster with their students is essential to student success.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
    All learners can benefit when oral methods are used to recall and recount the past. Stories help all of us make meaning of life and allow us to step out of our own shoes, see differently, and increase our empathy for others.
  • Learning involves patience and time.
    Effective instruction honours learning as a process in which teachers gradually shift responsibility of learning to students over time. To further learning and develop awareness of oneself as a learner, students must reflect on their learning, thereby becoming more autonomous and empowered to take ownership of their learning.
  • Learning requires exploration of one's identity.
    Learning begins with a positive self-identity. Exploring their own identities in a safe learning environment helps students develop empathy towards their peers, build stronger relationships, and dispel stereotypes and perceptions about other cultures and groups of people.

Supporting the Early Years

Inner City Early Learning

We recognize the importance of providing additional support for our youngest learners to ensure their future success and lifelong learning. In that regard, the district continues to support a model of additional early literacy and numeracy support in Kindergarten and Grade One classrooms in inner city schools. This work involves Early Literacy and Early Numeracy teachers working collaboratively with classroom teachers to provide additional strategic, in-class support for ‘at promise’ students. In 2017-18, 26 schools received literacy support and 9 schools received numeracy support. Use of the district’s ELPATS (Early Literacy Phonemic Awareness Test Surrey) and ‘What Do They Know’ (WDTK Early Numeracy Assessment) in these classrooms help teachers identify learning gaps and plan instructional strategies to meet student needs and maximize learning. These assessments indicate a significant reduction of the number of Kindergarten children experiencing difficulty with phonemic awareness and early numeracy skills.

A beginning classroom teacher noted the impact of working with an early numeracy teacher: “Her wealth of knowledge and experience has been invaluable, and her mentorship has really helped me grow and develop in my own teaching practice.  She has taught me that learning should always be playful, purposeful and practical.”

Our work in these Kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms focuses on foundational elements of literacy and numeracy:

Most importantly, our students are able to work at their own level, and in a way that they feel successful and excited about doing the math.  Our students think of themselves as mathematicians and are confident in applying their thinking.

Surrey Teacher

I need to continually reflect on everything I do and ask myself, ‘Do my actions reflect my beliefs about teaching and learning?’  … Now every time I think of a new daily math activity or one is brought to my attention by one of the teachers, we ask ourselves – Does this match our beliefs about teaching and learning? Is it playful, purposeful, engaging, and does it allow each child to work to their full potential? If not, we use our creative talents to tweak it so that it matches our core values.

Jen Barker, Early Numeracy Teacher

Developing Leadership

We believe teachers have tremendous wisdom to share with each other and have supported the development of leadership capacity in 15 primary teachers, who in turn share their learning with other teachers.  These lead teachers open their classrooms for others to observe, offer district pro-d opportunities, and engage in dialogue with colleagues.  Teachers who have visited their classrooms shared their learning:

One of the most important takeaways I learned was that teaching through a place-based lens allows students to connect with their peers through a mutual respect of nature and gives them a sense of belonging beyond the classroom.  It also has the potential to develop social responsibility and compassion for our environment, which we all understand now to be of incredible importance.  She is facilitating activities that give each student a voice and opportunities to become respectful, responsible and mindful learners, both outside and inside the classroom.

I loved their use of art and other playful materials to engage the students.  I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to learn how they do story workshop in their space and to think about how I can take their ideas back to my classroom and inspire other teachers and students.

Surrey Teachers

In addition to the primary leadership initiative, one Kindergarten or Grade one teacher from each of the 26 inner city schools receives support to develop their leadership in numeracy foundations and share their learning with primary staff at their schools.  A focus is placed on building on student strengths to develop stretches and supporting students to develop their communication competency to explain their thinking in mathematics. 

Changing Results for Young Readers

Changing Results is a case study inquiry that focuses on the learning needs of one student.  By adjusting teaching based on those needs, the entire class benefits.  Teachers meet regularly to reflect on what they are learning about the student and to receive professional learning to develop their practice in response to those needs.  We are working with 13 Kindergarten to Grade 2 teachers in this initiative.

Supporting Kindergarten Transition

As well, various programs support the transition of students to Kindergarten. These programs focus on oral language and play-based learning to strengthen early literacy and numeracy development. For example, PALS (Parents as Literacy Supporters) runs in 39 schools and iPALS (Immigrant Parents as Literacy Supporters)  runs in four schools. We run a two-week summer learning program called “Play, Connect, Learn – PCL“, PCL Little Eaglets (to support Aboriginal Learners), and PCL – First Steps (to support refugee learners). These programs support the early literacy and numeracy development of our youngest learners and assist families in supporting their child’s development.

Supporting the Continuum of Student Growth through ongoing Professional Learning

Quality Literacy instruction spans all grades and all disciplines.  It must be meaningful and requires explicit instruction in reading, writing and thinking that is specific to the subject area.  It involves acquiring, processing and creating information for the purpose of making meaning and communicating understanding. We support this by collaborating with teachers in designing curriculum that embeds our Priority Practices, and working with teachers in classroom to implement curriculum and literacy best practices.

Well designed lessons engage all students in rich learning opportunities, where students are doing mathematics and constructing their understanding. Doing mathematics is not simply about getting correct answers; rather, it is about the thinking that leads to those answers, or what to do when you don’t know the answer. These are often referred to as “Mathematical habits of mind”. The BC redesigned curriculum calls these curricular competencies. Our work with teachers supports their understanding of Mathematical habits of mind.  Teachers uncover their own beliefs about mathematics, engage in the doing of mathematics, explore competencies in mathematics and utilize meaningful assessment strategies.

  • Cross Curricular Learning

    Helping teachers created a series of lessons that integrated literacy and social studies using the First Nations picture book, “Secret of the Dance.”  They presented their work at two summer sessions and the curriculum implementation day.  Following those sessions, the helping teachers worked alongside classroom teachers to support implementation.

    A literacy helping teacher taught my students about the concept of perspective in the context of the Indigenous people’s history…. Students were encouraged to analyze their own views and present their thoughts with their peers. The sequencing of the lessons and the discussions brought out by her were impactful and highly successful.

    Her methodology and what the students were able to report was phenomenal. By observing her teaching I was able to reflect on my own practices and implement some of the techniques she has shown me. Having [someone] as well prepared and advanced as [she is] helps me to continue to strive to think outside of the box in terms of curriculum development.New Teacher

    Even though I’ve been teaching for over ten years, the new curriculum still puzzles me sometimes. I was under the impression that you must front load the Social Studies content then examine it by using the core competencies. The helping teacher's historical significance lesson [that she modeled] helped me understand how to blend core competencies with curricular content effortlessly."Surrey Teacher

  • Numeracy/Literacy Integration Project:

    This project involves 45 grade 3-6 teachers from 25 schools.  Teachers are learning to authentically integrate literacy and numeracy using an inquiry lens.  The district’s priority practices are also emphasized – a social and emotional learning inquiry question is used for students, instructional strategies and curriculum design are done collaboratively and an emphasis is placed on quality assessment (both formative and summative).

  • Novel Approach:

    The Novel Approach is a project that involves 52 elementary teachers from 17 schools and two secondary teachers from one school.  It is a program that embraces explicit teaching in Reading, Writing and Oral Communication.  It is written to instruct students to think deeply about what they read and to communicate their thinking in written format (responses and blogging) and through oral communication (Book Clubs).

  • Secondary English Language Arts Curriculum Design:

    Secondary English Language Arts Curriculum Design Network is in its second year and involves Grade 10 -12 teachers from eight schools working in teams.  They are delving deeper and designing English Language Arts courses and some resources that align with the ELA graduation program, emphasizing the use of Big Ideas, instructional strategies, and quality assessment.

  • Student Focused Curriculum Design:

    The Student Focused Curriculum Design is a project which involves 14 teachers from 7 secondary schools. It is a program that builds capacity in curriculum design that puts learners with diverse cultures, backgrounds, experiences, skills and competencies at the center, and embeds the District’s Priority Practices of Social Emotional Learning, Quality Assessment, Instructional Strategies, and Communicating Student Learning.

  • Cost Share Resourcing:

    Literacy cost share resourcing opportunities connect to multiple curricular areas, tackle global issues and support the core competencies.  We are also providing an opportunity for 32 teachers to spend a day designing curriculum using these resources as the foundation.  The learning opportunities created will embed inquiry, quality assessment/instruction, and authentic opportunities for students to reflect on their growth in the core competencies.

  • Rich Mathematical Routines:

    To support the use of rich mathematical routines, many after school and Pro-D day sessions have been offered. These routines provide meaningful formative assessment and support the ability of students to make their thinking visible. For example, one grade 3/4 teacher explored what her students believed mathematics was in September. By engaging in these discussions and shifting her practice to include an emphasis on the ‘doing’ of mathematics, over time their understanding expanded to reflect the mathematical habits of mind. Some participants are using a rich mathematical routine called Number Talks which fosters the curricular competencies in relation to multiple content areas.

  • Changing Results for Young Mathematicians K to Grade 3

    In 2017/18 this initiative is in its second year with ten teachers from five schools. In our collaborative inquiry, teachers follow one student and adjust their teacher practice in ways that are responsive to their student’s learning needs.  Each month the participants share “one-minute” evidence of learning videos and receive feedback and suggestions for next steps from their colleagues.

    "The best part of this Initiative was our goal of following one student’s math journey for the year. By focusing on this one student, I got to know and understand how she thinks about Math. I meet with my students every day in small groups. This allows me to connect with all students and determine their needs. The groups are dynamic and flexible. Through meeting in small groups and one-on-one, I was able to support my case study students’ understanding of math concepts at her developmental level and ask her guiding questions to move her forward and help encourage her to share her thinking. This student has gained confidence and is willing not only to share her thinking with me but also with her classmates in small groups and whole class. It has been amazing to see the confidence grow within this child."Dana Shiels, Grade 3 Teacher

  • "Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had" Dinner Series

    This initiative brings seventy teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 9 together to explore their understanding of and relationship with mathematics. The provided resource is guided by the questions, What does it mean to do mathematics? and What do mathematicians do? These two questions are in line with BC’s competencies (i.e., having students engage in curricular competencies as the “doing” of mathematics and having students see themselves as mathematicians as they reflect upon their personal identity). Teachers are encouraged to choose an area of focus based upon where they would most like to experience professional growth in the teaching of mathematics. Choice is built into this model of professional development: some teachers might choose to focus on teaching their students to take social and mathematical risks, others might choose to focus on developing their students’ abilities to not just solve but pose problems. Regardless of focus, teachers will come together at the end of the year to share what they learned about their students and themselves.

  • "Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had" Book Study

    Ten teachers from six schools are participating in an after school book study using Tracy Zager’s “Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had.” One of the focuses is increasing their awareness of themselves as mathematical educators.  We are exploring going deeper in the habits of mind.  In September, each teacher selected a word they didn’t currently feel reflected their math practice. At each meeting, we ‘arrive’ by sharing how their word lived in their classroom since we last met.

  • Competencies in the Classroom: Numeracy (“Year 2s”)

    Thirty-seven teachers from seventeen schools are continuing to participate in this collaborative inquiry project. Areas of focus align with core competencies and topics include computational fluency (thinking competencies), mathematical discourse (communication competency), and mathematical mindset (personal and social competencies). Teachers are learning how to bring the competencies to life in their classrooms and deepening their appreciation of students as learners of mathematics.

    "The numeracy collaborative inquiry project has been an extremely valuable experience for me. It provided an opportunity to collaborate in a meaningful way due to the structure and supports that were in place during the project. Number talks has become an integral part of my teaching. Not only have my students improved in the area of computational fluency they have also benefited from an experience that facilitates communication, sharing of ideas in a clear concise way, learning from others, creative thinking and much more."Jonathan Vervaet, Grade 5 Teacher

  • Secondary: Graduation Numeracy Assessment & Math 10

    Teachers from all 21 high schools participated in workshops prior to the first sitting of the Graduation Numeracy Assessment. These workshops built teachers’ understanding of the mathematical modelling cycle that frames the Graduation Numeracy Assessment. Teachers  experienced this modelling cycle as learners of mathematics and discussed the pedagogy behind these tasks as teachers. The content and administration of this new assessment was discussed but, more importantly, activities and conversations were focussed on the implications of this assessment with respect to our priority practices: How do we design and facilitate learning experiences that align with the assessment? How do we assess students’ growth and capacity of the processes embedded within?

    In anticipation of implementation of the Grade 10 curriculum, we worked with one Math 10 teacher from every school.  Teachers engaged in activities where they were “doing” mathematics — drawing their attention to all three components of the “KDU” model — and using these experiences to talk about curriculum design, instructional strategies, quality assessment, and social and emotional learning.