Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
Semiahmoo Trail is located in a truly beautiful and unique suburban setting in South Surrey. As you weave through cul-de-sacs lined with modern single family homes and approach our school you can’t help but notice that is bordered on three sides by nature – a working sheep farm with open spaces on one side and an urban forest filled with inviting paths and walkways on the other two. Our staff, students and parents are lucky to learn in a beautiful environment. Classrooms are grouped in pods leading to open areas which surround our library learning commons and computer lab. Students have lots of space which they use to be together and to work collaboratively, both inside and out.
Our students are as diverse as their surroundings. We have 343 students currently enrolled at Semiahmoo Trail and our demographics are gradually shifting and changing. Our school population is growing. While the majority of our students speak English as their first language, our population is becoming increasingly diverse. Students are proud of their cultural backgrounds and, as a school, we are consistently looking for ways to celebrate our different cultures and learn from each other.
Semi Trail Students are fortunate to have many opportunities both at home and at school. We have a very involved and active parent community and staff who support sports teams, cultural celebrations, a variety of outside running events and numerous celebrations of learning.
Students at Semiahmoo Trail have many strengths. They are generous, curious and enthusiastic. They really enjoy and value their school experience and show a positive attitude toward school academic, cultural and healthy living activities. Our students are driven, both at school and home. They have many opportunities with their families to travel, gain experiences and learn. They are driven do well in their studies and have a wide range of interests and learning styles.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
During the 2015-16 school year and again this year our staff has been engaged in an ongoing conversation based on the question:
What do we know about our students?
Over the past 3 years our staff have been consistently sharing our observations about how our students learn and interact in the classrooms and on the playground. We have found that many of our students require guidance in the area of social emotional learning, specifically in the ability to self-regulate in order to manage emotions, maintain positive relations and make responsible decisions.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is one of the Surrey schools Learning by Design Priority Practices.
To guide our discussions and set a focus for how to support our students we looked at the following questions:
- What skills can we teach students to increase their ability to self-regulate?
- How do these skills transfer from grade to grade?
- What does calm look and feel like?
- How can we teach students to be more self-aware?
- How can we make our school and world a better place?
Our staff found the following themes around how our students learn best and their ability to understand themselves better:
- Our students are diverse – they learn in many different ways and have many different interests
- Technology is a valuable tool for learning in the school environment
- Our children thrive when they feel successful
- It’s important to understand individual students’ strengths and challenges to find ways to motivate each child, to teach them and ultimately guide them to find (and feel) success
- Our students are beginning to grow more comfortable assessing their own learning and understanding, but still need more opportunities, practice and guidance in this area
- Students are more successful when they are calm, self-regulated and mindful about their own feelings, strengths and challenges
For the past several years we have asked the students to complete surveys about the school and their learning. In March 2015, our survey focused on wellbeing at school, academics and learning styles as well as school pride. For the 2015-16 school year we decided to focus more on students’ abilities to identify their own emotions and strategies to self-regulate and solve conflicts. We connected our survey to our updated school guiding principles (Be Safe, Be Fair, Be Kind and Be Your Best) and included a number of specific questions to address our self-regulation school inquiry.
Survey Results (Summary) – March 2016
- 82% of students feel safe at school always or most of the time
- 60% of students believe they use their words to solve conflicts always or most of the time
- Students identified “talking it out” and “saying ‘I’m sorry’” as the two most commons strategies used to solve problems with others
- 76% of students feel they come prepared for school each day most of the time or always
- 64% of students said they know if they are feeling ready to learn most of the time or always
- Students identified “deep breathing” and “soft music playing” most often as things that help them to be ready to learn
Capturing Student Voices
In January and early February of this year our teachers organized a school wide reflective journal activity with the goal of gathering information about students understanding of their own social emotional learning and the impact it is having on them and the school. These activities looked different at each grade level and were based on individual class goals. Students responded to the following questions / prompts and the following themes emerged:
- K – I feel happy when
Students are happy when they are active and spending time with family and friends.
- K/1 – I am calm when …
Students are calm when they get hugs, think of comfort items and are with family and friend.
- Gr. 1 – What is calm?
Calm is peace, quiet, taking deep breathes, spending some time alone
- Gr. 1/2 – ‘Emotions I feel are …’ and ‘I can make myself feel better by …’
Common emotions students feel at school are happy, excited, sad, frustrated and worried. Students can make themselves feel better by taking belly breathes, going for a walk, ignoring unkind behavior, saying ‘I’m sorry’ and talking to a friend.
- Grade 2/3 – What does calm look like for me and what tools do I use to calm my body?
Students said calm looks like slow breathes, soft muscles, a still body, your face does not feel warm, you feel focused. Students use belly breathes, yoga poses, positive thinking and preferred activities (such as reading or drawing) to calm themselves.
- Grade 3 and 4/5 – “I can…” statements
Three main themes emerged: interactions with others (including others, treating other respectfully, being kind, sharing), self-regulation skills (persevering with difficult tasks, using a quiet voice, seeking help before becoming frustrated, listening and raising hands in class) and individual regulation strategies (such as reading, taking deep breathes, getting enough sleep, eating healthy and regularly)
- Grade 4 – How am I improving with my friends?
Students are beginning to use more strategies for interacting positively with their friends. They are identifying when they need to use strategies, being more flexible (a class goal), using personal strategies they have identified to alleviate frustration, sharing and listening more.
- Grade 5 and 6/7 – How has my behaviour changed for the better this year?
Students in the intermediate grades are recognizing that they are maturing. They are using strategies to manage their stress and stay focused in class. They are becoming more confident and self-aware. In grade 6/7 the student emphasized how their work habits and have changed and how they are aware of these habits.
- Grade 6 – How do I make the school a more positive place?
Students identified pride in many of the leadership activities around the school. The two most common examples were being an outside RA (restorative action) monitor and helping younger students solve problems and their work in our school leadership club, raising funds for charities and making a difference in the world.
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
The Semiahmoo Trail team recognizes that when students struggle to self-regulate, all areas of their learning are affected. Over the past few years we have begun to introduce a wide variety of SEL practices and students are becoming increasingly comfortable with the language of social emotional learning (such as the Zones of Regulation and MindUp). We need to continue this work. We are noticing that students are aware of the language surrounding SEL (Zones, MindUp). At the primary level, we are working towards students becoming more independent at identifying their emotions and selecting strategies from their ‘toolbox’ to regulate their emotions. Our intermediate students are focusing on becoming more self-aware and applying the strategies they have learned to strengthen relationships and make a positive impact on the school and world.
How does the use of a common language and the teaching and learning of self-regulation strategies impact students’ ability to self-regulate and create a positive school culture?
4. What professional learning do we need?
We recognize that some of our best learning comes from teachers and support staff working together in our school, sharing observations of our students and planning lessons and activities. The most important aspect needed for this is time. We have and will continue to give teachers time to work together on Professional Days, at Staff Meetings and during lunch and after school sessions. We will continue to focus our professional learning around self-regulation and social emotional learning at these times.
This year we devoted two professional days early in the year towards social emotional learning:
We invited a school counsellor to present SEL activities. We looked at physiological aspects of stress and current research about teaching student SEL, strategies for self-awareness and management and activities to promote team building, self-understanding and reframing thinking.
We worked together as a staff and looked at school resources to support social emotional learning including The Zones of Regulation and Mind Up. Teacher worked in groups to create visuals, activities and share successful ideas from their classroom such as:
- self-regulation activities for class meetings
- daily check in’s and using visuals for students to identify their readiness for learning
- open ended questions to teach the Zones of Regulation
- sharing strategies for helping students to move to a more regulated state (green zone learning)
- continue to devote one to two professional learning days to Social Emotional Learning (August, 2017 and Late September, 2017). Our Social Emotional Learning and Professional Development Committees will plan these days at our school (one day with a guest speaker and one day to plan together as a staff).
- we have a school SEL committee that will continue to meet two times a term to monitor our progress, plan and share
- continue to devote a part of our monthly staff meetings to a discussion of SEL and self-regulation
- utilize and support SEL resources (Zones of Regulation, The Incredible Flexible You, MindUp) through collaboration and professional development activities
- invite the District Helping Teacher for Social Emotional Learning to speak with our committee and staff about strategies being used in class (May, 2017) and school wide activities that we could initiate
5. What is our plan?
To address our question, we have set the following ongoing objectives for our school:
- continue to gather and share data and observations (at committee meetings and with teachers at staff meetings) of our students’ abilities to self-regulate and problem-solve both in the classroom and during morning and afternoon recess times
- continue to teach, promote and use a common language with our students to guide behaviour, social interactions and problem solving. This includes Zones of Regulation and mindfulness (such as ‘belly breathes’, ‘quiet body and mind’) language and strategies.
- examine and apply resources available and share these with the staff for direct use with students
The Language of the Zones of Regulation
The Zones of Regulation is one of the programs used in a number of classrooms at Semiahmoo Trail, especially at the primary level. The Zones is a systematic, cognitive behaviour approach used to teach self-regulation by categorizing all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four concrete zones (represented by the colours blue, green, yellow and red). The Zones curriculum provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of, and independent in controlling their emotions and impulses, managing their sensory needs, and improving their ability to problem solve conflicts.
Supporting a Common Language and Self-Regulation Strategies
We recognize that the Zones of Regulation is one of a number of resources available for use in classrooms to teach students the language and tools of self-regulation. Other programs that have, and will continue to be used at Semiahmoo Trail include:
- The Incredible Flexible You
- Mind Up
- Friends for Life
Classroom Teaching and Whole School Activities
Students will continue to participate in the following activities for the remainder of this year and for the 2017-18 school year:
- continue practicing self-regulation strategies (individually and as classroom groups) including belly breaths, visualizing (calm, peaceful places), stretching, asking for / taking a break, going for a walk or doing a job around the school
- continue to integrate SEL into our monthly assemblies
- organize school-wide SEL activities
- build consistency among the tools and strategies used in the school
- continue to create and share visuals to display in classrooms
- continue to support the Zones of Regulation curriculum resource (ensure incoming teachers have the resource and share lesson ideas at staff meetings)
- connect SEL with core competencies and big ideas
- participate in a school wide yoga program in the fall of 2017 (similar to the session provided by an outside instructor in September 2016)
- introduce monthly SEL themes (beginning September 2017)
Next Steps: Sharing our Social Emotional Learning Journey with our Community
- invite parents to an evening session about SEL
- include SEL information as a regular column in the newsletter
- send out links to parents highlighting current research on SEL
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
Teachers and our school staff collect evidence in the following ways:
- Students reflect on their learning, on class SEL goals and their relationships and ability to problem solve with others. They reflect using drawing and writing. Teachers often use prompts such as “I can” statement which is the language of core competencies in the redesigned curriculum.
- Teachers observe their students in their ability to apply their understanding of SEL language and strategies to solve problems and maintain healthy relationships. These are shared at SEL committee and staff meetings.
- We will continue to collect both formal data, such as surveys, and informal data, such as sharing stories and anecdotes about student success, and examining themes in students’ reflections.
Students mediating a problem