Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
École Woodward Hill is a dual track school, housing one of the District’s Early Immersion programs, K-7. Having opened in 2010, the surrounding area has seen a significant population increase over the last few years resulting in a diverse community of 676 students, boasting 45 different home languages spoken within its’ population.
As a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) school, we focus on being green and making decisions that are in alignment with the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Learning involves:
- recognizing the consequences of one’s actions
- generational roles and responsibilities
As part of this ongoing initiative, our school created a Bottle Cap Mural. Over the course of 6 months, students collected various colours of plastic bottle caps. The school then worked with an Aboriginal Artist to create a mural that shows the importance of healthy waters. We proudly display this mural in our school foyer.
Ecole Woodward Hill has an array of extra-curricular programs with students participating in soccer, cross country, volleyball, basketball, badminton, ultimate, track & field, dance club, makers club, woodwork club, cooking club and reading link. Our student leadership program is also an integral part of our school history. The program has evolved from creating local environmental initiatives such as Walking Wednesdays and composting to developing ideas together to make our school a great place to learn. Events such as Spirit Days, We Scare Hunger drives, Surrey Food Drive and the Cozy kids campaign. In addition, student leadership also includes leading day-to-day responsibilities such as lunch monitoring, parking lot patrol and assembly set-up and MCs.
Our students’ work hard to model our motto, “Being Respectful, Responsible and Being a Good Role Model”. This is demonstrated in a variety of ways….during playtime, in the classroom, at assemblies, and during engagement in school related activities. Over the years behaviour referrals to the office have reduced. However, we have noticed an increasing need to provide support for our students through our Counsellor, Child Care Worker and other support staff. We have observed ongoing struggles with anxiety, friendships, problem solving, resiliency and empathy. We recognize that some of this can be developmental, however, we are observing this at all grade levels, and with both boys and girls.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
The students of Ecole Woodward Hill come from a variety of backgrounds and have an incredible amount of diverse strengths and stretches. These strengths and stretches have been identified through a collection of data from a variety of sources.
At the beginning of the 2017/18 school year, our whole staff completed the DESSA assessment (Devereux Students Strengths Assessment – Second Step), which is a 36 item norm-referenced behaviour rating scale that assesses each child’s social and emotional competence. The assessment is completed by teachers and only focuses on positive behaviours – skills for learning, empathy, emotion management and problem solving. The data not only helps school staff identify and support school-wide SEL initiatives but also helps school staff provide targeted support for specific students. Data from the DESSA identified both Interpersonal Problem Solving and Empathy as stretches for our students.
*Axis represents number of teacher responses highlighting student need
Data from previous years, collected from report cards and school-based team referrals, singled out anxiety, friendships, problem solving, resilience and empathy as issues for our students. Recent data supports these conclusions and emphasizes interpersonal problem-solving and empathy as core issues for our students.
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
What is Social-Emotional Learning?
Establishing a school-wide focus around SEL was identified as a need. Committing to school wide assemblies, that focus on character traits, was seen as an important way to build consistency with this learning by developing common language and strategies to support our students.
4. What professional learning do we need?
As a whole-school staff, we have been exploring SEL through a variety of ways over the last few years:
Pro D: May 2016, September 2016. Our day was spent with Taunya Shaw, exploring the Second Step resource and discussing the social emotional needs of our learners.
Pro D: May 2017. Staff attended a workshop, Heart-Mind Well-Being from the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace & Education, with the intent to further build our understanding and awareness, as educators, of the needs that our children bring into the classroom.
Further support for our learning has come from the work of Mary Rai Cici and Carol Dweck around establishing growth mindsets in our classrooms. The Mind Up program through the Hawn Foundation, is also used by many teachers to supplement their work and learning. Dr. Stuart Shanker’s book, Calm , Alert, and Learning has been read by many teachers and strategies implemented within classrooms. We have also discussed the importance of setting intentions and being intentional about learning. Many of our teachers post those intentions, either daily or weekly.
Resources & Strategies being used:
In order to develop common language within the school, school staff have implemented use of the Second Step program. As part of this implementation, data from the DESSA was used to identify student strengths and stretches at both the whole-school and classroom levels. The latter informed teachers’ use of the Second Step program in each of their classrooms. The DESSA data was also broken down into class themes so that teachers can identify strengths and stretches for their individual class and identify teaching priorities of the Second Step program in each respective classroom.
In February 2018, all staff was provided additional release time with the support of our school psychologist and SEL Helping Teacher to optimize the use of the DESSA data to guide their SEL instruction.
In addtion, for the 2018/19 school year, several staff members are participating in a book club reading Well Aware: Developing Resilient, Active, and Flourishing Students by Dr. Patrick Carney. Members of the book club report out their learning and strategies being implemented at monthly staff meetings.
5. What is our plan?
We are in the midst of a revolution in educational thinking and practice. Some theorists believe that self-regulation should now be considered more important than IQ.
Dr. Stuart Shanker, 2013, Calm, Alert, and Learning
Since we embarked on this learning journey, our intent has always been for staff to co-construct the learning journey with our students and families. We focus on avenues that lead to successful, confident and resilient children. We believe that nurturing a child’s social-emotional learning is fundamental to that becoming a reality.
Building Whole-School Common Language – CASEL’s SEL framework
In September 2017, using CASEL’s 3-pillar framework, staff identified how we are integrating Social-Emotional Learning in the classroom, the school and the Home and School connection. The staff answered three questions addressing each pillar:
- Where are we as a staff in our understanding of Social-Emotional Learning? What about the student’s understanding? What about the parents understanding?
- What next steps do we need to take with our students in the classroom and as a whole school? What next steps do we need to take with our parent community?
- How are we going to achieve these next steps as a staff?
As a staff, we identified that a great amount of work is already happening in classrooms. Instruction around developing a growth mindset, setting learning intentions prior to lessons, breathing exercises were already in place. Second-Step was also being used by many staff but with staff changeover, not all staff are aware of the program and a review of the program was necessary. Staff also identified the need to develop whole-school common language through ongoing SEL assemblies that place a focus on the Seven Sacred Teachings and First Peoples Principles.
As a result of these discussions, we decided to have whole-school SEL assemblies that occur every other month of the school year and follow a similar framework:
- introduction of the attribute through a read-aloud using the Turtle Island Voices series
- what does the attribute not look like (student-created videos)
- what does the attribute look like (student-created videos)
- easy everyday examples provided to students to put into practice
To engage our parent community, staff also felt strongly that ongoing communication regarding SEL should be included in our school communications such as featured stories on our school website, monthly newsletters, ongoing invitations for parents to attend our assemblies, and ongoing updates at our PAC meetings.
However, what has also emerged over time is that SEL and student well-being is a large topic that can’t be addressed through one single strategy or one singe curricular program, such as Second Step. There are a variety of ways to address SEL and our learning continues to evolve by staff learning from each other in an ongoing way through smaller focused questions that address a variety of learning around the theme of SEL. As a staff, we are achieving this through Learning Sprints.
What is a Learning Sprint?
“Engagement in Learning Sprints supports the adoption of evidence-informed practices and enables educators to collectively plan, act and evaluate their impact” ~ Simon Breakspear
By focusing in on one central question for a short, but planned, amount of time, it allows us as a staff to ask focused questions in relation to the larger theme of SEL.
Our Learning Sprint
“A feeling of school connectedness is a significant factor in student success, and we have seen a very positive shift by tending to that one element alone.” ~ Learn Magazine
Due to the large size of our school, we felt it important to address school connectection as a first Learning Sprint. During staff meetings, teaching staff have discussed the following questions:
- How do you intentionally create connections with your students?
- How do you know it’s effective?
- How do these connections impact their learning?
In addition, administration met with support staff, parents and students in grades K, 1, 3/4 and 6/7 and asked them the following questions:
- What ways do you feel connected to Woodward Hill?
- What is it that makes you feel good about coming to school?
- What ways do you connect with your teachers?
- What is it that your teachers do that make you feel good about school?
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
We are experiencing positive growth in relation to SEL in several areas:
SEL in the classroom
- a growing school-wide awareness that we all need to use strategies to help us calm down and focus
- we are observing our students using calm-down strategies throughout the day, without prompts to do so, particularly using deep breathing or making the choice to move to quieter areas
- children are better able to discuss their emotions; some use the Zones of Regulation or a number scale
- sensory supports, such as chimes, breathing breaks, noise-cancelling headphones, wiggly seats etc, are increasingly common in classrooms and therefore, becoming an integrated part of the everyday learning environment
- ongoing use of Second Step program supported by class specific data. The focus for students in many classes, including our school-wide assemblies, using this program is whole-body listening, having students practice taking a breathing break before trying to solve a problem, identifying the problem without blaming and creating solutions to the problem together.
- Morning meetings are increasingly being used in many of the classrooms. This is an opportunity for students to check in with their teacher and for their teacher to connect with how each teacher is feeling to start the day. The routine of students sharing their feelings allows students to building their confidence. Students who choose not to share with the whole class have the opportunity to share their feelings individually and to be heard by the teacher and their peers.
SEL in School
Prior to each assembly, a booklet of lesson ideas and activities is provided to all staff for ongoing learning about the attribute highlighted in the assembly. Each class creates a visual representation of their learning for display throughout the school and on our SEL bulletin board.
Our most recent SEL assembly focused on Service and how serving our school and community builds connection. The picture below captures some, but not all, of the amazing ways our staff and students build connections within the school and with the community.
SEL Connection to Home and Community
In addition, we feature the attribute in our monthly newsletter and provide the story and videos from the assembly so that parents can follow up with their child and reinforce the learning at home. Each topic is also reviewed with parents at our PAC meetings.
Administration has also worked with Community Schools Partnership to create a variety of programs for both primary and intermediate students:
- Game Ready Fitness – primary students have the opportunity to learn a variety of cooperative games and connect with other students their age with the hope that the students will then continue these games and friendships outside without instruction.
- Jumpstart – intermediate students meet every Friday after school to learn a variety of cooperative games and connect with other students their age with the hope the students will then continue these games and friendships outside of school.
- Being Me – an after-school interactive program that supports grade 7 girls’ successful transition to secondary school. The program highlights many topics including mindset, healthy habits, stress management and friendship.
SEL Student Growth Over Time
This past May, all teaching staff completed another DESSA assessment on each child so that we could see if the whole-school focus of SEL in the classrooms, using specific resources such as Second Step, and through whole-school assemblies is having an impact. As mentioned previously, students were assessed on four domains – Skills for Learning, Emotional Management, Problem-Solving and Empathy. Pre/Post data shown in Table I shows that there is overall growth in each domain and most specifically in the area staff was focusing on – Problem-Solving and Empathy. In addition, Emotional Management stood out as having the strongest growth when looking at all of the sub skills assessed by the DESSA. Specifically, it is most likely that of all the SEL interventions used at WHIL thru 2018-19, students measurably improved in their emotional management in a school context. While individual students may continue to struggle with emotional management, the school-wide improvement is such that most students showed significant growth to carry the whole school forward in this domain.
Table I – Whole-School results in each domain
*Pre and Post Axes represents number of teacher responses highlighting student need
Table II – Whole-School Composite Scores
Pre/Post data shown in Table II shows that 71.4% (22/30) of class divisions saw improvement in their Composite SEL DESSA scores. Even when taking into account any missing student data, new students, new teacher raters, and expected growth over time, the school-wide results still showed significant improvement from pre to post.
*Pre and Post Vertical axis represents total students’ composite scores
Learning Sprint on School Connection
Results from staff discussions around how they intentionally create connections with students showed many similar themes and strategies. Above all, we discovered that staff felt strongly that sharing teacher personal stories, admitting their “learning lessons” growing up and using humour were strong strategies to building connection. Morning meetings, check-ins, daily routines, dialogue practice/one-to-one conversation (eye contact, active listening) are some of the strategies already in use. In addition, staff identified new strategies they were curious about learning and trying. These included: morning meetings, talking circles, tea with the teacher, individual conferences, letter exchanges, eating together, and promoting student voice in peer problem solving.
Data results from teaching staff – How do you intentionally create connections with your students?
*Vertical Axis represents number of teacher responses
Student Survey results
Results from student surveys revealed similar themes regarding practices they valued for building connections such as morning meeting, talking circles, a trusting relationship with the teacher where teacher is the role model (inspirational, supportive, pushing students out of their comfort zone, one-to-one conversations with the teacher, connecting through coaching and clubs. Specific student feedback included:
- Positive relationships with both student to student and student to staff:
- “My friends are always by my side when I need them and when I am not feeling well.”
- “I can learn with my friends and they help me.”
- “My teacher makes me happy, I don’t know how, but I feel good when she is around me.”
- “My teachers and my classmates are like family.”
- “I like how the librarian knows my name and always has the time to help me find a book.”
- “I love going to the library because we both have a love for books.”
- “My music teacher because we both love the guitar.”
- Engaging Learning activities (Learning is fun, bookclubs, Art, Global Playday, whole class activities, Daily Five, gym, math):
- “Getting me out of my comfort zone.”
- “My teacher helped introduce me to book club, which I love. She lets us do fun projects like making our own smoothies and researching about planets. She makes us laugh and she’s always helping me to improve”
- “I feel connected to reading with my grade 6 teacher because she taught me to love it.”
- Explicit feedback from the teacher on assignments:
- “…one to one session of teaching, she gives me feedback on what I can work on…the next day she’ll ask me to show my work and go through it.”
- “They tell me that I have a good understanding when my work is used as an example.”
- “She was an awesome math teacher…she explained it very well.”
- “Our published writing board.”
- “I feel good when my teacher tells me what I am doing right.”
- Leadership opportunities (having class and school responsibilities):
- “Leadership makes me feel like a part of a community because we are all working together to help people locally and around the world.”
- “Leadership…I feel like I am a part of a community with people who also want to help.”
- “Being a part of leadership helps me connect with students I normally wouldn’t connect with”
- Big Buddies and Little Buddies (strongly emphasized at the K/1 level):
- “My heart is full at school…I love my big buddy!”
- “I like when my big buddy comes
- School-wide events – a chance to be together (SEL assemblies, Learning Celebration assemblies, Art presentations, Fun Day, Walking Wednesday, Field trips):
- “I feel connected during assemblies because I feel that everyone is in one place and you feel like a big family. I also feel like this when I am in choir.”
- “I feel connected when it is Spirit Days. I know this because I wake up extra early and am excited to come to school.”
- Grade 6/7 Applied Design Skills & Technology (ADST) rotations:
- “I like coming to school when we have our ADST rotations because I learn something new.”
- “I feel good when we do things I personally enjoy like ADST, sewing, art and other things.”
- Daily Routines:
- “I love doing morning meetings because I feel like I can trust them.”
- “Greetings at the door in the morning.”
- “Ms. Cindy, the crossing guard, greets me everyday when I cross the crosswalk.”
- “I like doing morning meetings because I learn about my classmates and it tightens the class bond.”
Results from discussions with our parents showed they feel connected to the school through daily routines such as being greeted by our Crosswalk Guard, teacher communication via email and communicating student learning, and monthly newsletters.
- “Thank you for giving jobs for my kids to do…they feel important…”
- “I love when my family is greeted by Ms. Cindy, the crossing guard, every morning.”
- “I appreciate the school monthly newsletter so I know what is happening in the school and how I can support my child. I also appreciate the emails from teachers so I know what is happening in the classroom.”
Barriers to Connection
Staff and students were also asked about barriers that currently exist that we may possibly address:
- French/English divide – many students acknowledged that while we do many whole-school activities at the beginning of the year that blend the students, students would like to see more throughout the year.
- Organization Logistics – many students and teachers feel our double-bell schedule creates a barrier for connectivity between teachers and students, students and students and teachers and teachers
7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?
Our focus with SEL will continue. As a school team we have experienced more of a sense of calm throughout the school. We recognize how fundamentally important it is to do all that we can to ensure children are ready to learn every day.
We also recognize that creating calm and resilient children takes consistent work and practice. The Second Step program allows us to share in a language and a framework that can be consistent, K-7. In addition, the DESSA student data provides feedback on SEL themes that can be addressed both as whole-school themes and by classroom. Our SEL whole school assemblies have been effective for developing whole-school SEL language and will continue next year.
As we move forward, bringing our parents in to this learning will continue to be an important piece such as communicating through newsletters, invitations to our SEL assemblies and at PAC meetings. We are looking at having SEL parent information sessions.
Based on the student and staff feedback, staff will be continuing discussions on the identified barriers and continue to build further opportunities for connections amongst students as well as with each other. Our next learning sprint beginning in September will be focusing on how Flexible Learning Environments (FLE) support social and emotional management and facilitate student engagement and creativity in daily learning.