Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
Walnut Road is a large elementary school in the Fleetwood area of Surrey, an attractive, middle-class neighbourhood marked by townhomes, multi-family and single- family homes set amid trees and parks. A short walk west from our school brings you to Fleetwood Community Centre and Library, along with a park with a statue of the community’s namesake, a local lad, Arthur Fleetwood, who served and perished overseas in World War 1. Walking to the east, our students are able to participate in a variety of programs, including both skating and swimming at Surrey Parks & Recreation facilities.
Since opening almost twenty-five years ago, Walnut Road has grown to become one of Surrey’s larger elementary schools, currently enrolling almost 650 students. Daily, we hear from visitors to our school what a truly friendly and inclusive place we are.
Originally predominantly of European descent, our community has shifted over more recent years to reflect greater cultural & linguistic diversity, including Chinese, Punjabi, Korean, Filipino, and others.
The greatest percentage of our students have attended Walnut Road for their entire elementary career. Staff look forward to hearing the successes and stories of former students. A long with the low turnover of students, our staff members also remain at our school for many years. Hand in hand with this, a number of our staff members live locally and therefore know our community not only as a place of work, but also as a place to live and grow alongside our children. As a result, many long-lasting, valued and trusting relationships have developed. Students and their families often return to Walnut Road for visits.
We have grown steadily over the years and are proud to offer our students a number of physical activities and sport teams, including Cross Country, Volleyball, Basketball, Ski Club, Badminton, Running Club, and Track & Field.
In addition, we often partner with our local community center in offering activities for our students. For example, during fall and winter months each year, we bring in a facilitator to lead a friendship group on Fridays during lunch. In turn, our classes use their facilities to expand and enhance learning experiences.
Many of our students form a large and active Student Leadership Team, undertaking both global and local initiatives. They support a village in India as part of their ongoing participation in “Me to We”. The students attend the large “We Day” in the Fall in downtown Vancouver each year. They continually share their learning and passion with others at Walnut Road.
In classes, we build a sense of community and belonging in many ways. Regular class meetings are an opportunity to share and inform, with all students encouraged to voice their views. In addition, students assume a variety of responsibilities around the school, such as recycling, lunch monitoring, PA announcing, library book shelving, and applying first aid. They also undertake new initiatives, such as collecting resources for refugee families, the local food bank and community outreaches. We celebrate our diversity through several student-led multicultural assemblies. Each February, upper intermediate students model inclusion and belonging to the entire school through videos , skits and performances. This year, they organized a “Free To Be Me” assembly. Recently, we held an Identity Day, inviting our students to share their unique hobbies, interests and successes with others by bringing an artifact to class, telling their story or performing. What a huge success our efforts have been in expanding our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of one another!
Our parents and community members are involved and active, supporting Walnut Road in many important and valuable ways. Daily, you will see parents reading with children, helping in classrooms, making hot lunches, driving on field studies, supervising activities and much, much more. Programs such as Noisy Reading and Running Club are successful mainly because of high parental involvement.
Our Parent Advisory Council is led by a strong group of committed parent leaders, devoting their time and energies to support our school as a safe, caring, inclusive, respectul and engaging learning community.
After school hours and on weekends on nice days you are likely to see many grandparents gathering for a visit on the communal benches at the front of our school, while families and friends happily enjoy playing together on our fields and playgrounds.
To summarize, Walnut Road is a remarkable place where….
….. our students are as fresh-faced, curious, active, friendly, diverse, eager, creative, connected, laughing, wonder-filled, spirited, happy, giving, energetic, inclusive, fun-loving, and yes…. challenging! a group of 5 – 13 year-olds as you could wish for!
…..our staff is a team of extraordinarily talented, passionate, child-centered, hard-working, caring, patient, welcoming, forward-thinking, collaborative, open, hopeful, humble, purposeful and enthusiastic leaders and professionals who feel blessed to make a difference in young lives every day.
…..our parents, neighbours. and community members are supportive, kind, hard-working, proud, generous, optimistic, helpful and thoughtful friends and partners in education.
And we all come together each and every day to grow as learners in this amazing learning journey at Walnut Road Elementary!
However. the staff members at Walnut Road have observed that the students are increasingly struggling in the area of self-regulation: a student’s ability to set goals, monitor progress, seek clarification or assistance when needed, assess and reflect critically on personal learning strengths and weaknesses and learning strategies to assist in problem solving.
Some time ago, our Walnut Road Elementary School Mission Statement was designed to reflect our core values
Our mission is to create a nurturing, supportive environment where our family community of learners are appreciated for their uniqueness, enabled to maximize their learning, and are recognized for their individual accomplishments.
As a family of learners we are connected to our core values: We focus on a happy, safe, healthy and fulfilling learning environment. We focus on strong partnerships between and among staff, parents and students. We respect, value and care for each other as well as our place of learning.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
Survey October 2017: Students, Teachers and Parents were surveyed; In following three questions were asked: What do students at Walnut Road value? What are the strengths of the students at WR? What are the students’ challenges/needs at WR?
The feedback is summarized below:
Student Voice: What do students at Walnut Road value?
*Feeling safe at school: supervisors, caring teachers, adults they can talk to
*Personal Responsibility: *2 Rs – Respect for ourselves, environment and others. Responsibility – we are all responsible for our own actions
*Education … learning
*charity work we do at school
*relaxing space in classrooms
*Healthy and Clean Environment
*Equality and Fairness
What are the strengths of students at Walnut Road?
*sports and physical activity
*teamwork, working and creating ideas together
*socializing, connecting, including our peers in all activities, supporting peers, being good listeners and being kind and caring to each other
*Being safe and respectful of our peers and environment
*imaginative and creative thinkers
What are the students’ challenges/needs at Walnut Road?
*play equipment for playground
*self-regulation: controlling emotions, staying focused
*more friends and fun activities
*being brave to talk and taking risks in learning
*getting along and listening to classmates, being mindful and aware of others
*more ADST (computers & technology)
Teachers’ Voice: What do students at Walnut Road value?
*Friendships, Connections, and a Sense of Belonging
*playtime, daily physical exercise and extra-curricular activities
What are the strengths of students at Walnut Road?
*Eager and curious learners
*respectful, helpful, kind, empathetic, friendly and social
*seek academic challenges and want to do well
*respectful of diversity
*able to express what they think, need and feel
What are the students’ challenges/needs at Walnut Road?
*self-regulation and mindfulness
*building connections, empathy and self-worth
*to be more independent
Parent Voice: What do students at Walnut Road value?
*sense of community
*safe, stable learning environment, structured days and knowing what is ahead
*a wide range of new experiences where they can learn and grow
*positive friendships and strong social skills
*creativity, compassion, kindness, respect, inclusiveness, the ability to stand up for the right things and against bullying
*strong, open relationships with their teachers and friends
*respect, engagement, understanding, appreciation
*curiosity, eagerness to learn and to be able to voice opinions
What are the strengths of the students at Walnut Road?
*eager to learn new things
*appreciation for cultural diversity
*strong work ethic
*students helping each other, ‘Big Buddies’, and team learning
*sense of spirit, pride of school, and involvement in the community
What are the students’ challenges/needs at Walnut Road?
*feeling rushed to eat lunches
*limited playground space
*programs for leadership for younger students
*cross-culture communication and understanding
*social Skills – some students have trouble making friends and with social interactions
*continue to up-date technology
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
How is the explicit instruction of Social Emotion Learning /Self Regulation Learning strategies impacting the students at Walnut Road?
4. What professional learning do we need?
As a staff we participated in a half day workshop with Taunya Shaw: District Coordinator for Social Emotional Learning,
Focus for Walnut Road Non-Instructional Day :
We continued our focus on “What we do to make a greater difference in our students’ learning”
*I can define the Core Competencies in Social Emotional Learning
*I can source a variety of evidence-based SEL interventions and strategies to support my learners given their needs and context
*I can identify fundamental aspects of mindful learning in Education and some research on its value for learners of all ages
Further Professional Developmental:
Training with the Second Step Program which is being implemented from Kindergarten to Grade Seven
Summer Professional Development with Carolyn Turner from Lavender Counselling: The section focused on developing a greater understanding of common mental health issues which are effecting the social emotional wellness of children in schools today. Students’ learning is impaired if their social emotional needs are not being understood. Ms. Turner shared strategies which could be implemented in the classroom to strengthen children’s social and emotional needs and academic needs.
Action BC Workshop – focus was on movement and physical activity in the school environment. Studies show that incorporating physical exercise into the school day can result in increased ability to focus and complete tasks.
Social Emotional Learning Dinner Series with Taunya Shaw
Workshops focusing on Morning Meetings with Tanya Shaw
Lunch Hour Social Groups facilitated by Fleetwood Community Centre for students in Grade 5 to 7.
Sharing successful stories of Social Emotional Learning at monthly staff meeting. As educators we learned from each other’s experiences.
Family Groupings: students were organized in multi-age family groups and met with a teacher facilitator to take part in collaborative activities to create a increase sense of community. Core Competencies & Curricular Competencies are embedded in Family Grouping Interactions. Family groups create connections between students an different teachers and connections between students and other children at different age levels. Not only are peer relationships strengthened, leadership skills are fostered. Family Groupings provides opportunities for school wide initiatives, to teach social emotional language and to create school culture.
Professional Book Club:
A group of teachers met twice a month to discuss the following books:
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- Mindset: The new Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Walnut Road’s Mission Statement: teachers are collaboratively revising our School’s Mission Statement to reflect our focus on social emotional learning
5. What is our plan?
What can we do differently in 2018-2019 to make a greater difference in our students’ learning.
*We will continue to learn more deeply about new ways of improving student learning in SEL, and be informed of why some practices are more effective than others
*Ongoing evaluation of the impact of SEL instruction on our learners
*Ongoing Professional Development in this area
* Twice yearly professional Book Clubs (most recently, we have studied “Mindsets” by Carol Dweck; “Grit” by and “Quiet” by
*Regular Family Grouping activities
*Focus on building a common language of SEL
*Revise our School Mission / Vision Statement to reflect this focus
*explore the value of daily Physical Exercise
* Creating a community of safety and trust
As administrators at WR, we continue to support our staff by:
- Providing monthly release time to staff in order to share & collaborate
- Including SEL as a topic for sharing & reflection at monthly Staff Meetings
- Ensuring that necessary resources are available
- modelling expectations of openness to new learnings and ideas
What will I do to model new actions myself?
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
The purpose of shared Inquiry is to make a difference in valued outcomes for learners. Change does not always equal improvement or transformation. New actions arising from an inquiry can only be considered ‘good’ if learner outcomes have changed from the better.
Checking is fundamental to an inquiry evidence-seeking mindset. We have high expectations that our actions will make a substantial difference for all learners.
*Middle Years Development Instrument (Gr.4 students) – a survey to learn more about how children think and feel about things in their lives and what they like to do.
*Assessing and evaluating how our learners are developing using SEL competences, standards and indicators
Teacher reflections – “What practices have been most effective in my classroom”
Teacher were asked what strategies and programs have positively impacted a student or all the students in your class in relation to the 5 inter–related sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies.
Zones of Regulation: “I have had children and parents tell me that they are also using their tools at home. At school a girl who was quite upset (in the red zone) told me that she needed time alone to get back to the green zone. Another student told me she was going to hang her toolbox in her bedroom to use when she is angry at her brother. “
“I’ve been using the Mind-Up Program, using the chime to teach deep breathing and I have a ‘calm corner’ in the classroom. We’ve also talked about being in the right ‘zone’ to help manage and deal with emotions.”
“At entry and at exit – class meet/greet and welcome each day and good-byes. Benefits – students feel like a family coming in. We share stories, any troubles, achievements, and exciting things which are happening. At class meetings, we discuss that we are a school family and my students show that they feel this daily. “
“Classroom meetings have helped my students with their relationship skills and social awareness. Additionally, the Mind-up curriculum has helped my students with self-awareness and self-management. “
“Low lights keep kids calm(er). Circle time everyday allows kids to understand, relate to each other and has shown to foster empathy and compassion. Mind-Up, Mind Yeti calms students before anxious events. “
“Go Noodle – we regularly do 1 to 2 videos as a brain break. This has certainly helped my students to be able to re-focus and calm down before we start something knew. “
“Our class has been working on good manners. We have been role playing and trying to use our good manners when an appropriate situation arises. I have seen my students improve their relationship skills with each other and they have improved their awareness of others and their needs.”
“I often use stories which lend themselves to good conversations about self-awareness, relationships and decision making. Class sharing has helped some students by giving them new ideas or finding that they are similar to others – always positive outcomes. “
“Using breathing techniques as a whole group to calm and quiet the group has helped provide students with a skill so when they feel anxious they learn to breathe though it (or can be directed to breathe or get control of breathing) when angry anxious or hurt. Most of my class is now very good at self-regulating in this way. “
“We do Mind Yeti. It helps to calm down and focus the kids. They ask for Mind Yeti before tests and quizzes. It is helping with self-management and improving focus. “
“Being a big buddy has had a particularly positive impact on several of my students. I have seen them come out of their shell and demonstrate skills (eg. Encouraging their buddy to read certain words, etc.) It has been nice to see them rise to the expectations of this new role. “
“Quiet space – the quiet space was created as an escape primarily for the three children in our room who are having difficulty staying calm. Children can choose to go to the space when they are having challenges and need a break. It is working well when they remember!”
“Go Noodle gives students a brain break and offers dance and breathing exercises. Because they are short, I can do many through out the day and can do it when students, for any reasons need a break. It is proactive rather than reactive. “
Gr. 7 teacher response to Family Groupings: “Family groupings is a way of reinforcing community, cooperation, acceptance and leadership among students from Kindergarten to Grade 7, as well as with the staff of the school. Students are randomly placed in groups of roughly 20 students and all enrolling and non-enrolling teachers are assigned to a group. The principal and the vice-principal share a group, or ‘family’. Siblings have been placed together in their groups, although it is still up for debate whether or not this is the best arrangement for siblings or not. The groups will stay together, and stay with their teacher, whenever possible, for the all of their time at Walnut Road. New kindergarten students are assigned a family grouping when they start at the school, as will students new to Walnut Road.
Family grouping meetings are held roughly every 5 weeks, at a time when no prep time is affected, if possible. There are a variety of lessons that can be taught at this time, but the idea is that the lessons focus on school goals, core competencies or other cross grade learning goals. Ideally the lessons also make use of intermediate student leadership skills and allow the students to work cooperatively to foster friendship and tolerance in the group. In our inaugural year of family groupings at Walnut Road Elementary, we focused on learning names, playing games to come together as a group in our first meeting. The second time, we worked together to find a name and make an identity for the group. Students worked together to create a poster for their family group, and posters were hung on the walls in the school hallway.
Logistically, for our first two meetings, large posters numbered 1-34 (for the number of groups we had) were hung outside on the fence around the gravel field. Teachers took their students outside to find their number, or, for the younger students, walked them around the field and dropped the students off at the appropriate number. Once each teacher leader had all of the students in their group, they walked with the group back to their spaces. At the end, Grades 5, 6 and 7 students walked Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students back to their classrooms, with the plan that the older students pick up and drop off younger students until they are able to get their family grouping classrooms on their own.
Despite some hesitations and logistical concerns of some of the staff members, it is generally agreed that family groupings have had a successful start at Walnut Roadl. There are already some reports of younger students connecting with their family grouping teacher in the hallway, and younger students saying hi to older students from their group on the playground. The intention is to continue with the groupings to further build community and to continue to address the social and emotional needs of our students.
Student Reflections as Evidence
Gr.6 student thoughts about “Morning Meetings: “I really like morning meetings, they have helped our combined class feel like a whole group instead of divided by grade or age. Morning meetings give us a fun, positive start to the day. They have really helped our class and I would be sad if we didn’t do them.”
Kindergarten reflection about the activities from the book, “Breathe Like A Bear” by Kira Willey: ”The breathing activities are good for me. I like breathing like a bunny. It makes me feel calm and it calms down the class. It would calm down every class if they borrowed it”.
A Kindergarten class created a video to share about Kindness and Qualities of Good Friends. Sometimes the simple lessons are best explained by our youngest learners:
Grade 6 Students were asked to think about their personal identity and decide which Spirit Animal best reflects their personality traits:
“For this artwork, I chose a hummingbird as my spirit animal. I chose the hummingbird because I am a pretty independent person, like the hummingbird. i like working by myself unless I’m with a friend and i don’t usually need help with things. I also try to think of the positive side of things like when I have a lot of homework. I think to myself that it is a good experience because as you go on in high school and university you’ll have more and more work to do and you’ll need to learn how to cope with lots of homework. I am also a pretty kind and caring person to my friends. When they are hurt of upset about something, i try my best to comfort them and make them feel better.” Grade 6 Student
Grade Six Students created a Movement Dance which visually represented the feelings of bullying and exclusion. The Dance demonstrates the strength of individual spirit and how important it is to be unique and demonstrate your true colours.