Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
Ray Shepherd Elementary is a K-7 school located in South Surrey and enrols 328 students. It has been open since 1949 and many of our students have had parents or relatives who have attended this school. We will be celebrating our 70th birthday this fall! There is a strong sense of community and we are fortunate to have active parent participation, with many parents volunteering to assist throughout the school. The staff, students and parents work together to establish a strong collaborative and caring culture. Our mascot is the Hawk and we SOAR at Ray Shepherd (S – Show Respect, O – Operate Safely, A – Accept Responsibility, R – Resolve Conflict). Parents are actively involved in our school and participate in many school wide events such as our Terry Fox Run, Welcome Back BBQ, Christmas Craft Fair, Chinese New Year Celebration, fundraising, hot lunch, fieldtrips, sports and so much more! Our students care about each other and the community, and can be seen enjoying buddy activities, visits with Grandfriends in the community and supporting local and global initiatives with our Me to We team. We have a number of classes involved in an intergenerational project called “Grandfriends” where students visit their grandfriends in a local home close to the school. This project has been mutually beneficial as the students have developed strong bonds of friendship and caring with their grandfriends and the grandfriends, in turn, enjoy having visitors who are so caring and compassionate. Our “G is for Grandfriend” program won the Golden Star Award, awarded to us by the BC Retired Teachers’ Association in 2018.
The staff at Ray Shepherd proudly support many activities to enrich the leadership and learning opportunities of our students. Some activities include chess club, art club, tech club, recycling teams, library and lunch monitors, athletics, Grade 6 Leadership and more! They are also dedicated to ongoing professional development and enjoy exploring innovating learning practices to enrich the learning opportunities for our students. The staff at Ray Shepherd exhibit a curious mindset and are committed to lifelong learning.
We have several school-wide activities a year and this school year, students were involved in a lacrosse program hosted by the Semiahmoo Lacrosse Association.
Our school is a place of caring, and of creative and critical challenges. Students enjoy collaborating together to explore questions they have and build projects that further expand their critical thinking skills (STEM Challenges, knitting, sewing, primary and intermediate art clubs).
Our students are curious about their world and want to make a difference in it’s future. Throughout the past 5 years, the staff at Ray Shepherd have been exploring how creativity and positive behaviour supports can help to enhance imagination and self-esteem. We have also explored how best to utilize technology as a tool to improve learning. While these continue to be areas of focus and reflection, we are now looking at new areas of inquiry that are in line with the Curriculum, district initiatives, and assessment and evaluation. Moving forward, we would like our students to be actively engaged in their learning and be prepared as learners in the 21st Century. We want them to be partners with teachers and parents in their learning journey and develop the competencies to be successful in their future. We want them to be the innovators, creators and change-makers of the future.
As we explore this area of growth and work together to build our understandings of our changing roles, we recognize that our world is changing at an unprecedented pace. Skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity will be essential for students to take on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Video: What is 21st Century Education? The past few years, teachers have been exploring new technologies, enhancing their understanding of formative assessment, and building their understanding of the new curriculum. As we move forward, we hope to continue to learn alongside our students and empower our learners to be actively engaged in the learning process.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
Our learners are thinkers
Teachers create open-ended learning experiences that reflect the principles of BC’s curriculum which focuses on personalization, problem solving, creative and critical thinking and self awareness. We also encourage critical and creative thinking by having various activities, clubs and challenges throughout the year. We have a chess club, art club and genius hour projects – just to name a few. Students can be heard testing their innovations and reflecting and revising their projects as they learn. We have had a school wide art show to showcase our masterpieces and have had a young entrepreneurs fair to celebrate the business plans of our Gr. 6/7 students. Our PAC sponsored Christmas Craft Fair is an extremely popular event where students design something to sell at the fair and our gym is filled with community members who support our students’ creativity. We also have a vibrant Grade 2/3 Girls’ Book Club, led by our Teacher-Librarian, Mrs. Baker, which grows in popularity every year. We are currently in the process of building a MakerSpace room for students to create, build, test and explore their innovative projects. This room is slated for a renovation and we hope that it will be in full use soon.
Our learners care about each other and the community
Students at Ray Shepherd SOAR to great heights to ensure that we have a safe and caring learning environment. Our Me to We team has raised money for health projects in Haiti, clean water and education in Tanzania, business opportunities in Nicaragua and Masai villages in Kenya and clean water for rural China. This year, their focus is on raising funds to provide education for children in Ecuador. They have also collected donations for the food bank, put together care packages for the homeless, organized Christmas hampers for those less fortunate and hosted a “Welcome to Canada” picnic for refugee families. We have also had school-wide events such as the Terry Fox Run and Jump Rope for Heart to raise money and awareness for cancer and heart disease. The staff at Ray Shepherd believe that all students are important and valued. We have open learning spaces for students to access such as the learning support room, learning commons and Rainbow Room so it not unusual to see students working in various spaces and with many adults throughout the school. Teachers platoon, team teach and participate in various buddy activities so teachers know all students and our students mix with different grade groups so friendships build and bonds flourish.
Our school was featured on Global News outlining the wonderful work our students do to show compassion, inclusion and encouragement. See news story below:
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
As we move through the 2018-2019 school year, we plan to pursue two questions:
- How can the educators at Ray Shepherd effectively post on student digital portfolios (FreshGrade), using explicit descriptive feedback, to clearly communicate student academic progress?
– Staff have engaged in FreshGrade Fridays where we discuss what constitutes a “good post”
- By hosting weekly assemblies, based on specific, simple and achievable social responsibility and citizenship goals, can we see a noticeable increase in positive behaviours in our students and community?
– Staff have noted that because of the weekly assemblies, which are based on very specific and varied themes, that negative student behaviours have decreased. Students look forward to hearing their names mentioned at the assembly as a recognition and celebration of their achievements as model citizens in our school community. One week, the theme was holding the door open for someone, and we now have students running to hold the door open for the next person as these actions are now instilled. The staff wanted to make a deliberate shift in mindset, from giving out consequences to reinforcing and celebrating positive behaviours.
– The weekly assemblies have also become an opportunity for staff to build leadership capacity as the teachers take turns hosting the weekly assemblies, giving the assemblies their own unique spin by incorporating videos, slides and messages.
– Teachers have started a book club around the theme of emotional resiliency. Our first book is titled “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.
4. What professional learning do we need?
Staff have participated in district and school based inservice on formative assessment and communicating student learning using FreshGrade. All of our classes use FreshGrade, an online digital portfolio platform, to communicate student progress and reports.
- How can we make Communicating Student Learning (FreshGrade) a meaningful and engaging process for teachers, parents and students?
- How can we develop students’ core competencies (T,C,PS) by modelling and structuring personalized learning opportunities. In doing so, how can we assist students in becoming more mindful (reflective) of the process of learning and less focused on the product?
- What constitutes a “good post”?
- How can we develop meaningful, descriptive feedback?
We hope to seek continued curriculum inservice on personalized learning through district helping teachers and various experts in the field. We have had meetings with our Zonal Helping Teacher and also District Principals to foster growth in this area. We have also reinstated FreshGrade Fridays as an open forum for teachers to share and discuss the learning in posting assignments.
We also have a team of 8 teachers who actively participate on a school plan and social-emotional learning committee. The district offered dinner series have been great spaces for our team to discuss current issues and how we can effectively implement changes to better our students’ self-awareness of not just themselves, but also with each other and in the place they learn.
Weekly Assemblies have been a wonderful celebration of student behaviour achievements and a great way to come together as a school on a regular basis. The regular book club meetings have also been a great forum for teachers to discuss growth mindsets and discuss social emotional learning.
5. What is our plan?
- We will continue to explore FreshGrade as a communication medium, while developing expertise in capturing and sharing authentic, meaningful learning over time.
- We will continue to encourage more parents and students to be active participants with FreshGrade portfolios.
- We are seeking feedback from parents through surveys on how we can make communicating student learning more meaningful and engaging for them.
- We are structuring in time in the day for students to capture their learning and reflect on it.
- We plan to embed the formative assessment practices in our instruction and actively involve students in the process.
- We have developed sentence starters for teachers, parents and students to use to reflect and comment on their learning. These are being shared with parents, posted in classrooms and provided to all staff. We plan to include them in our planners next year for quick reference.
- We have developed student sentence starter posters for classrooms so that students can easily access ideas on how they would like to reflect on their learning.
- We have developed graphic posters of the core competencies (C,T,PS) to be put on teacher white boards to reference while teaching and learning occurs. The hope is that the language of the core competencies will be embedded in day to day activities and student learning.
- We will continue to seek inservice opportunities regarding assessment, personalized learning and curriculum.
- We will continue to emphasize learning opportunities that allow students choice and demonstrate a wide range of competencies. Teachers will continue to explore innovative practices that involve critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
- FreshGrade Fridays with teachers leading the weekly discussion topics, starting with what does “One Good Post” look like?
- Focus on the Big 6 of Assessment for Learning: Clear Learning Intentions, Criteria, Descriptive Feedback, Powerful Questions, Peer and Self-Evaluation, and Student Ownership
- Parent Surveys on Communicating Student Learning (via Survey Monkey) and gaining insight on their feedback on what is working and what needs improvement
- Have Grade 6 students take on more of a leadership role in the school by starting conversations on virtues and taking more of a leadership role in the school, especially during unstructured times (recess and lunch)
- Staring a Student Council where students take the lead on problem-solving issues at schools and how we can be proactive by building positive school culture and climate
- Weekly assemblies hosted by staff and their class for student recognition in participation in extra-curricular activities, sharing and reinforcing of our school code of conduct, and special presentations
- Global Playday where students are provided with time to explore activities in an unstructured setting
- Physical Literacy initiatives in partnership with Sport for Life
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
Is our focus making a difference? How will we know:
- Students and parents will make meaningful comments and reflections on their FreshGrade portfolios on a more frequent basis.
- Teacher, student and parent voice will be present in portfolios.
- Students and teachers will post evidence of learning that is both process oriented and product oriented so both formative and summative assessments are included in their portfolio.
- Students will comment and self-reflect on both the core competencies along with the curricular competencies in their learning.
- There will be increased ownership of student documentation that includes records of growth over time, rather than snapshots of finished products.
- Evidence of learning will include more personalized learning projects that involve critical thinking, creativity and innovation.
- Before and after interviews with Grade 6 students before they embark on their leadership journey
- Feedback from our parent community and staff
- Decrease in negative behaviours that need to be resolved by an adult or office staff
- Students displaying model citizenship intrinsically and regularly
7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?
To continually monitor growth, we have to be conscientious of how we are steering the students and make sure to provide regular check-ins either informally (ie. through class meetings) or formally (ie. in a survey or interview). School plans require constant adjustment based on the needs of our community. We want our students and staff to take pride in the place where they play, work and learn and take ownership in their learning journeys.