Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
General Context Morgan Elementary is located in a high socio-economic neighbourhood. The majority of our students arrive at school each day ready to learn. Our students arrive fed, properly clothed for the weather, and typically with enough sleep. Many of our students are involved in non-academic extra-curricular activities outside of school centred on the arts and athletics. We also have many students who receive tutoring in language and math in the evenings. This image represents students’ involvement in programs offered at Morgan. The girls pictured below participated in the District’s Reading Link Challenge. Morgan Elementary has an extensive athletic program. Our athletics supports positive connections to peers, staff and community. The image below represents the joy sport brings to the life of many children at Morgan.
Background Knowledge Students at Morgan have a relatively high level of background knowledge. Teachers, support staff and admin work diligently to channel students’ sharing of their knowledge in appropriate ways. This work allows everyone to benefit from the worldviews of others. Given students high level of background knowledge, our environment is rich for inquiry project based learning. To keep motivation to learn high, teachers understand the importance of leveraging students’ background knowledge through carefully designed learning opportunities that tap into students’ interests. Resiliency There is awareness amongst Morgan staff that some of our students require stronger levels of resilience, or grit, to address challenging social, academic, or physical obstacles. Recognizing this, teachers work to design learning environments that support students’ needs. For example, teachers seek resources on grit (ex: Angela Duckworth) to provide a discourse on resiliency. Our teachers are intentional in fostering classroom cultures centred on discourses that target what we know about our learners. Admin reinforces the work of teachers and support staff by articulating a culture of resiliency through frequent classroom visits, interactions with students, and carefully designed assemblies that focus on shared values. One of our shared values is kindness towards others. Being kind each and every day is a personal choice that requires resiliency and commitment. In this image, students are introduced to the learning intentions at our Kindness Assembly. Appreciating other people is an important part to showing kindness towards others. Independence, Collaboration and Social Emotional Learning Each day that Morgan students arrive to school provides time to sharpen independence, hone collaboration skills, practice problem solving, and shape social emotional awareness. Teachers foster students’ independence through self-directed project inquiry, supporting students’ commitments to timelines and by creating a culture of fidelity to classroom practices, routines and activities. In addition to helping students develop their independence, they also work on collaboration and problem solving skills. Teachers, support staff and admin have students work in teams to design solutions to an identified dilemma, learn specific ideas or concepts, and/or creatively share opinions with others. The many learning opportunities that students have each day at Morgan Elementary require high levels of maturity and social emotional awareness.
A small team of teachers and admin were trained in the RULER approach to social emotional learning in the spring of 2018. This team will introduce and train the rest of Morgan’s faculty in the RULER approach. To learn more about RULER click here. Some staff have been using the Zones of Regulation to support students’ emotional learning. RULER compliments the Zones by providing deeper understanding of the language and behaviours that support emotional wellness. There is a strong family component to RULER which will help connect the school and home environments.
This image captures students working collaboratively to solve a challenge related to Tangram puzzles. Teachers plan with intention to provide opportunities for students to work in teams. Teamwork is a canvass for students to learn how to work together and solve conflict that may arise. Use of Digital Technology Our students are privileged to have access to technology both in the school and outside of it. Staff at Morgan is aware that students need explicit instruction on how to use technology appropriately. Students need time to use digital platforms for the purposes of consuming, creating and sharing. We recognize that students will make mistakes in the way they use technology. Through effective instruction, assignments/projects, modelling, and discussion, we aim to impart knowledge and understanding on the important role digital citizenship plays in our lives. To this end, a large part of the work we do centres on social emotional learning. This means helping students identify their emotional status at any given time, recognizing the emotional status of others, and being able to deeply reflect on how their choices impact others – both positively and negatively. Multicultural Morgan Elementary is a diverse community that thrives when a strong awareness of self and others exists amongst staff, students, and the wider community. Teachers and staff model an environment of inclusion by upholding strong values that embrace diversity and alternative viewpoints. Students are taught to appreciate the ideas and opinions of others. This work requires intentional instruction and learning that promotes a culture of appreciation for the contributions of self and others.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
Background Knowledge Many Morgan students are privileged to experience time in different regions of the world. Time in other countries exposes children to new opportunities and understanding that tends to expand their knowledge of the world. In addition, the majority of our students’ family backgrounds parallel Canadian value systems and cultural norms. Thus, the values taught at school reflect the values taught at home. Parents are highly supportive of the work being done at Morgan Elementary. Our community has high levels of social, economic and political capital that directly correlates to the knowledge base our students bring to school each day. Resiliency We are positioned to take advantage of students’ background knowledge to create an environment rich in inquiry-based learning. Having said this, we also recognize that some our learners have difficulty focusing on foundational skills such as mathematics, reading and writing. As a team, we are building a culture that places high value in numerical thinking and literary skill. We know that inquiry-based learning is enhanced when students are well versed in foundational skills. Thus, we know that our learners benefit from a balanced teaching and learning environment – one that enriches students’ lives through math, reading and writing and uses these skillsets to support students’ needs to experiment with open-ended challenges that demand creative thinking, effective communication and perseverance. In this video, students are working alongside each other to problem solve a coding challenge the Ozobot. This task is an example of an open-ended challenge that incorporates scientific thinking, design, problem solving, teamwork and resiliency.
Independence, Collaboration and Social Emotional Learning Our learners are curious and enjoy exploratory study that challenges them at the right level. We are aware, however, that some of our learners have difficulty following through with expectations. Some students display signs of lower grit to persevere through challenging tasks. We see this when students cease engagement in an activity. A cessation of engagement looks different for different students but may take the form of one or more of the following:
- Difficulty completing daily assignments in numeracy or literacy.
- Resistance to ask questions.
- Avoidance of working on projects consistently in order to enhance learning.
- Connecting with peers during class time for the purposes socializing instead of deepening understanding of skills, concepts and ideas
We see these timeless challenges as opportunities to nurture resilience and mindfulness in the way students approach their studies, their time, and their interactions with others. This image is an example of tactile mathematical learning. Students are exploring concepts of shape and pattern. Mathematical thinking is an important tenet in our learning culture. Teachers work to design learning opportunities in ways that capture student curiosity and interest. Use of Digital Technology Our students understand that digital technology is a powerful medium for information and communication. Our students need explicit modelling and instruction on how best to leverage modern technology to enrich their lives. A key facet to this work centres on students/ social emotional wellness because information (or misinformation) and communication can be shared so rapidly. Our students must recognize the need to slow down, reflect, and plan the manner in which they collect and share information. We recognize the important role our school and community play in fostering appreciation of the types of information available and the manner in which communication is shared. Our students require opportunities to use trusted information as an anchor to build their understanding of our world while, at the same time, design creative ways to share their developing ideas with others. Multicultural Approximately 34% of our student population are Canadian citizens and English Language Learners (ELL). Another 3% of our student population are international fee paying students from China and Korea. Thus, we have a sizeable percentage of our student body that contribute a degree of diversity to our community. The specific mix of students at Morgan is an ideal canvass to shape a culture of appreciation for the contributions of self and others. We have a unique interplay of emotional needs amongst our students. For example, some of our international students have difficulty transitioning to school in Canada and require social emotional support to ease their anxieties. Other students present behaviours that necessitate a deeper sensitivity to the contexts in which their peers live. One way teachers address these complexities is through intentional instruction centred on helping students identify their emotional state and, when necessary, apply strategies such as breathing techniques or use of quiet spaces to remain calm, focused and ready to learn. When students are calm and focused, they are positioned to learn from others, accept alternative ideas, and share their opinions. Our study and implementation of RULER and the anchors of emotional intelligence will support our daily work with students and families.
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
Using the anchors of emotional intelligence to develop RULER skills, what do we observe in our students’ abilities to self-regulate their emotions over time?
4. What professional learning do we need?
Our learning will centre on the anchors of emotional intelligence identified in the RULER approach to social and emotional learning. We work in close collaboration with Taunya Shaw – SEL Helping Teacher – School District 36. Together, we will explore ways in which RULER supports our students’ social and emotional wellness.
The links below are available to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of SEL. Edutopia has very informative articles and insights on the impact of SEL and overall health.
Our staff meets regularly to discuss progress, obstacles, and action plans in our efforts to support the social and emotional wellness of our students.
5. What is our plan?
Our plan is to use the anchors of emotional intelligence to help staff, students and families develop the five key RULER skills:
Understand the causes and consequences of emotions
Label emotions to accurately describe feelings
Express emotions to communicate effectively and appropriately
Regulate emotions for personal growth and healthy relationships
The anchors of emotional intelligence are:
- The Charter
- The Mood Meter
- The Meta Moment
- The Emotional Intelligence Blueprint
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
There are many ways we will know our plan is making a difference. The first step is acknowledging that learning requires time and patience. We will know our plan is making a difference by regularly reflecting, both collectively and individually, on questions such as:
- Are students demonstrating strong commitment to study foundational skills in reading, writing, and math?
- Are students demonstrating resilience to persevere through open-ended challenges that require critical and creative thinking, collaboration skills and problem solving?
- Are students able to articulate their emotional status at any given time?
- Can students describe personal strategies they use to deescalate when they are angry or upset?
- When students are in an elevated emotional state, are they able to apply strategies to deescalate their emotions and return to calmness?
Leveraging student voice through questioning provides additional insight on our learners’ perceptions. For example, we may ask:
- Can you name two people in this setting who believe you will a success in life? Or, who are your champions and allies?
- What are you learning and why is it important?
- How is it going with your learning?
- What are you next steps in your learning?
Additionally, we may choose to use an assessment survey to gain insight on students’ social emotional inventory. For example, Panorama Education has created two separate surveys for students in grades 3 – 5 and 6 – 12. These surveys were adapted from the work at Harvard University by Dr. Hunter Gehlback and his research team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The surveys offer insight into domains such as student competencies (ex: grit and growth mindset) and student perceptions of support and environment (ex: relationships with others, sense of belonging, safety). We may choose to use part, or all, of the survey to better understand our students’ social emotional status. Attached is a pdf copy of the Panorama Education SEL tool. SEL-User-Guide
We will be using assessments from RULER to monitor learning. For example:
The Blueprint for managing conflict – past, present, future
7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?
Having identified social and emotional learning as the roots of our learning plan, we have spent the previous two years discussing and implementing SEL strategies. From this learning, we were fortunate to be exposed to RULER and the anchors and emotional intelligence. A core team of teachers received RULER training in April 2017 from Tamara Banks -Principal SD43.
Our next step is to train staff and faculty on the anchors of emotional intelligence using RULER strategies. We will begin exposing our students to RULER at the beginning of the 2018/19 school year.
Later in the school year (January or February), parents will be invited to learn about RULER and apply the same strategies at home.