Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
H.T. Thrift Elementary is located in the heart of South Surrey, surrounded by many community services and facilities. We have 294 students in 14 divisions, including a district based Intensive Literacy Program. Consistent with many Surrey schools, our students come from diverse cultural, academic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Approximately 40% of our students speak a language other than English in the home and our school community represents 21 different countries from around the globe.
Our School Composition and Unique Demographic
Our complex school composition and unique community demographic are just two of the many things that make our school special. When students are asked what they appreciate most about HT Thrift, they respond with answers such as their friendships and the teachers. They like the sports programs, such as swimming at the local pool and team sports, such as basketball and badminton. They also remark unequivocally about the recognition and celebration of multiculturalism within our school.
Each year our students study world cultures and learn about each other’s heritage, and our PAC organizes and runs an annual World Expo event for our families.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
H.T. Thrift is unique in its demographic when compared to other schools in South Surrey/White Rock. We are situated within walking distance of South Surrey Indoor Pool, Centennial Ice Area, Evergreen Care Facility for Seniors, Southmere Village Park, and the Semiahmoo Mall and town center. Our teachers take advantage of these local places and incorporate field studies into their curriculum that have our students out in their community often throughout the school year.
At H.T. Thrift we pride ourselves on incorporating, within our catchment, families from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. Some of the unique challenges occurring for students coming from varied socioeconomic circumstances can include food and clothing inadequacies, attendance and tardiness concerns, inattention, and diminished coping skills or anxiety. Our teachers are caring and responsive to the needs of our most vulnerable students. Some of the unique challenges occurring for students living in lower socioeconomic circumstances include food and clothing inadequacies, attendance and tardiness concerns, inattention, and diminished coping skills or anxiety. Our teachers are caring and responsive to the needs of our most vulnerable students.
We welcome several International students to our school each year, as well as many other families that are permanent residents and have come to us from other parts of the world. There are 21 languages represented at our school, and many of our students are learning English as a second language for the first time. As English is a second language for approximately 40% of our population, exploring and building effective communication with our parents is essential. Classroom instruction needs to consider students of varying language ability in the design and delivery of instruction. Keeping students with limited language engaged and learning creates opportunity for teachers to explore methodology where all types of learners can be successful.
H.T Thrift sees the integration of 18 students with special needs designations who are supported by Educational Assistance (EAs) in classrooms. We pride ourselves on the full inclusion of students with special needs. Our Integration Support teacher works with the classroom teachers and EAs to create individualized educational plans for students who might have different learning needs than typical children. All students at H.T. Thrift accept each other, are helpful, kind, and caring.
We honour and celebrate our Aboriginal learners by incorporating indigenous perspectives into daily teaching and learning with the redesigned curriculum. Understanding differences and experiencing cultural understanding and appreciation is a core value among our staff and students at HT Thrift.
A final unique group of learners at H. T. Thrift are the students in our Intensive Literacy Program. These students come to us from other schools for one or two years of targeted literacy instruction before returning to their catchment schools. Providing a learning environment where these students feel integrated and apart of H.T. Thrift during their short time with us is a priority.
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
From what we know about our learners and their families, the most important work we can do to continue to improve student success at H. T. Thrift includes: Explicitly teaching to the social and emotional development of our students; in particular, aspects of self-regulation; Exploring effective ways to communicate with all parents with regard to student learning; Understanding and exploring instructional design to better meet the diverse needs of our unique learners. We will continue to refine our focus based around these three emerging themes.
During the 2017-2018 school year we focussed on this first area: “Explicitly teaching to the social and emotional development of our students”. One of the ways we approached this with intentionality was to redesigned our Student Recognition Program to better align with our values and beliefs about student success. The Terrific Kids program, although valuable, was an entity in and of itself. The students were recognized for being TERRIFIC: Thoughtful, Enthusiastic, Respectful, Responsible, Inclusive, Friendly, Inquisitive, Cooperative. Our assemblies were long and there was no intentional work happening to develop these characteristics in our students; no connection to the good work happening in classrooms around developing successful learners. We decided instead to redesign Terrific Kids. We renamed it Thunderbird Spirit Awards, and recognized children each month in key areas related to Social Emotional teaching and learning happening in the classrooms. These key words align with both the SEL curriculum and the Core Competencies in the revised curriculum. They are also key words that encapsulate traits that we believe lead to success for our students now and later in life:
Responsibility; Empathy; Cooperation; Perseverance
During the 2018-19 school year we wanted to narrow our focus and explore just one of these key areas; Responsibility, with the hope of moving student understanding to a deeper level and to connect this understanding more successfully to their learning and development in the Core Competencies. The overarching question guiding our work is: How will focussing on a specific element of “a responsible citizen” impact the learning and development of our students? Each teacher is examining a specific element of “a responsible citizen” that they feel is most important for their particular learners.
4. What professional learning do we need?
For the past three years, the staff have continued to study, read about, and attend in-service (either at the school or throughout the district) to enhance their understanding of Social Emotional Learning. Most recently, in addition to this, the teachers have explored a variety of innovative instructional strategies designed to enhance learning for students with diverse needs.
Research based programs, such as Mind-Up, Zones of Regulation, and Second Step have been implemented and are running successfully in classrooms. Some of our teachers incorporate aspects of movement and meditation; others provide fidgets, wiggle cushions and other forms of stress release equipment for their students.
Daily PE and active “brain breaks” in the class or on the playground are proven to enhance student focus and attention, and abilities to regulate and learn. These are all common classroom practice at HT Thrift.
Some of the innovative instructional strategies being explored by teachers include Inquiry and Project Based Learning, Digital Integration and Coding, Place Based Learning outdoors, Story Workshop and Counting Collections. Teachers are gaining their knowledge of these innovative practices through professional development inservices they attend, through their professional readings, and by sharing with one another at staff meetings and team meetings at the school.
5. What is our plan?
The staff have considered the notion of “the responsible citizen”, and in doing so have developed a poster of guiding principles that will form the basis of teaching and learning in the classrooms. They have further developed a student incentive program to build awareness with our students as they continue to expand their knowledge and understanding of being a responsible “Thunderbird” citizen. Students receive “Gotchas” as recognition for outstanding responsiblily toward themselves, others, the environment as well as digitally. They are working as a school team to earn an extra recess for their growing awareness and conscious efforts in becoming Responsible Thunderbird Citizens!
As we eventually want our students to be intrinsically motivated, versus “for the reward”, our plan is to eventually pull the Gotcha’s back as we continue to teach, model and reinforce the why; the importance of these actions in daily living and learning. Please take a look at our Guiding Principles poster:
Not only do we want our students to be intrinsically motivated to behave as responsible citizens, but we want them to understand and to be able to articulate why it is important to why it’s important to their learning and their development over time.
It is our plan to use this language intentionally with the students, teach them what each means and to show them the connection between their understanding and their development in the Core Competencies.
We will use our assemblies to celebrate and recognize our students successes.
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
Direct observation of student’s actions; their use of the vocabulary to self-evaluate. Their reflections as they explore themselves and their learning to become more responsible citizens.
Student surveys – written in student friendly language – how are they feeling about their understanding and growth in this area.
Student demonstrations of learning at assemblies (videos, trailers, readings)
7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?
We are continuing to refine our inquiry to greater and greater specificity so our evidence can begin to inform our understanding of our impact on our learners.