A.J. McLellan Elementary is, at its heart, a community
Our school is a welcoming and friendly place where students feel free to be creative and open with their ideas.
A.J. Dragons of all ages strive to ROAR –
Own our choices
Always do our best
Every member of our AJ community strives to contribute positively to our school culture. Students of all ages work towards making A.J. a positive place to be. Our primary students love helping to keep our grounds clean, intermediate students help to support and supervise younger peers at lunch time and our Grade 7s assist with leadership jobs throughout the school and are responsible for our morning announcements. Extracurricular opportunities are available to all ages. Whether their passion is athletics, drama, music, or service, there is a place for every student to explore their interests and grow their passions.
In our second full attendance school year since COVID-19, there has been a continued increase in student anxiety at A.J. McLellan. Students need additional support in school readiness skills, particularly in early Primary. All students respond positively to warm, welcoming, inclusive environments where their needs are met and their skills strengthened. Students at A.J. McLellan are learning about fixed mindset versus growth mindset - just because something is that way now, doesn't mean it's that way forever. They are using this knowledge to increase perseverance and begin to see themselves as learners who are capable of many wonderful things. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies, including soft starts, belly breathing, class meetings, compliment circles and many others, have increased in use through the school to support students where they are at currently and provide opportunities for students to grow in SEL skills. All of these strategies help increase student capacity in communication of needs, wants, hopes, and dreams.
Students are exploring a variety of texts each and every day. From Kindergarten to Grade 7, the literacy opportunities available at AJ are vast and rich. The shift in technologies has allowed so many new ways for students to create texts of their own. From spell check to dictation software to ChatGPT, students increasingly have supports to help them with the conventions of writing and, quite often, these supports are merely a press of a button away from a device stored within a student's pocket.
This is a wonderful thing! The more technologies advance, the more students should be able to create, remix, challenge, evaluate, and critique thoughtfully the texts they create and those they consume. The quality of student ideas and the meaning made through those ideas become vital to each student's growth.
As a community, we are committed to noticing the strengths of ourselves and others, naming these attributes, and growing these while strengthening others.
In 2022/2023, we continued our work on Social Emotional Learning and expanded this work to have an affect on the student competencies in English Language Arts.
Students express themselves fluently, with passion and excitement, when they are communicating about something meaningful to them. Using a Social Emotional Learning lens, we focused on students expressing their ideas in a variety of types of text, in a multitude of ways, to increase the meaningfulness of what it is they are communicating to themselves, each other, and the world.
A focus on strong communication skills is at the heart of A.J. McLellan. The ability to communicate effectively is key to our learners’ success as they move through their schooling and into their adult lives. Our learners communicate in many ways: through their actions, writing, speaking, presenting, and creating. Communication skills in ways that let our learners communicate effectively and think critically about our world and their lives are important to students.
Embedding the Core Competencies into the learning plans and activities has been embraced by A.J. McLellan. Communication is a focus in the school. We are passionate about discovering and developing each student’s individual talents and interests. We teach competencies so that students become skillful when collaborating, problem solving, sharing ideas and expressing their individuality.
In September 2022, the A.J. McLellan staff met to discuss our learners and how we could better meet their needs as we entered into a new school year. Common themes quickly became apparent. Staff continued to be concerned about the social and emotional health of our students as we moved into the second school year following Covid.
We know that when adults are supporting the social and emotional well-being of our students, these students are better able to attend to their academic learning. As a school, we are focusing on developing and enhancing the social and emotional health of our school community as a whole using communication skills to foster this social and emotional health.
Using Social Emotional Learning as a lens to view other areas of learning, we know students perform better, write better, express themselves better when the content they are learning and working with is relevant and meaningful to them. The focus became clear: how do our learners best communicate meaningful ideas and understanding?
Evidence of our learners many gifts, attributes and competencies are highlighted below.
Our learners transform ideas and information to create original texts.
Our grade 6 students created art cards to reflect on the school year and the most memorable or meaningful events in the year for them. Using a multimedia approach, students altered playing cards to create texts that communicated the events and used these as a way to reflect on the Core Competencies.
Our learners recognize and appreciate the role of story, narrative, and oral tradition in expressing First Peoples perspectives, values, beliefs, and points of view
With the support and guidance of our Aboriginal Enhancement worker, a grade 7 class participated in a Talking Circle where they had the opportunity to share with their peers:
- something that they take pride it
- a way that they honour themselves
- something that brings them joy
They were guided through the circle with care and attention to the Seven Sacred Teachings of: respect, love, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth. This was a very meaningful experience for the students as they learned to see each other in a different context.
"The topics in the circles pushed me to think a little deeper and harder about what I said. Other people's responses to the topics also sparked ideas for what I will share. I could relate to a lot of the things people were saying but instead of trying to explain my thoughts I just nodded as it was not the point of the circles. I learned more about people in the classroom. Not only my peers but the teachers in the room as well. I think sharing that experience has taught me so much about aboriginal peoples and my class. I am really lucky to have had a this opportunity and lesson." ~ Grade 7 Student
"I appreciated the inclusiveness of the circle because it felt as if everyone had a chance to freely talk and share, and it helped me to better understand my classmates.
My overall feelings after the circle were calm and peaceful; in those moments, I felt as if I really was part of this community, and the honour of being entrusted with someone's personal thoughts, no matter how shallow or deep, felt good." ~ Grade 7 Student
" How I felt about participating was good, and I felt accepted. This is because if we were sharing, everyone was listening. Also, if you were sharing something deep it wasn't just you it was others, too.
What I appreciated in the circle was how everyone was listening to you if you were talking and not whispering to others. I also appreciated how I could say something and people weren't going to talk about what you said outside of the circle.
My takeaways or overall feelings about the circle was that I wish we could do it again, or every week. This is because I felt very welcome. I also felt relaxed and calm afterwards when we were putting the classroom back together." ~ Grade 7 Student
Our learners understand that stories help us learn about ourselves, our families, and our communities. They engage actively as learners, viewers, and readers to develop understanding of self, identity, and community.
In order for our students to understand the world around us, we need to start from within. A positive personal and cultural identity is the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of all matters that contribute to a healthy self. Through incorporating "Powerful Understanding" lessons by Adrienne Gear into the classroom students have the opportunity to explore a more positive self-identity and greater global awareness.
"Learning requires exploration of one's identity." - First Peoples' Principals of Learning
Our learners build connections and relationships with peers through cooperative play
Our relationships within the school are fundamental to who we are as learners and as educators. Everyday students engage in cooperative projects, imaginative play and outdoor activities that employ communication, connection, and teamwork. In our primary classrooms, students develop fundamental problem-solving skills, learn how to collaborate, and build friendships using imaginative play during Center Time. In the classrooms students are negotiating how best to build a tower, bonding over the Lego house that they have built together, laughing together as they build an imaginary farm.
Our learners have confidence and a sense of belonging knowing they are welcomed and accepted in our school.
Many of our grade 5, 6, and 7 students participate in our Diversity Club. This group of passionate students work to lift up others around them, specifically those people who identify as a non-dominant culture, LGBTQ+, or a different skin tone. They tackle hard subjects like Pride Month and Black History Month through informative and beautiful displays for the school community to learn from and enjoy. The students came up with the themes and had complete control over the creation of their displays. Student reflections on their project demonstrate what some of our students are taking away from the experience:
“I like how we had opportunities to share our opinions with others” ~ Breanna L.
“Everyone is heard in our group” ~ Lucy B.
On this particular bulletin board, viewers are invited to take a sticky note, write something kind on it, and add the sticky note to the board. They are also invited to take a sticky note if they need a pick-me-up. Many of these sticky notes were soon placed in various places throughout the school in an effort to spread the positivity beyond just the bulletin board. Months later, many individuals have chosen to leave the notes in place.
Our learners know they can communicate self expression in many forms
Students are learning to identify emotions and personal belief systems. They know that they can express these opinions, beliefs, and emotions in a variety of ways and through creating many different types of texts. Students in grade 6 made multimedia canvas art, using the materials to evoke emotion and communicate a message to others. They wrote artist statements to explain their thinking and further their communication.
My art is about positivity. I want my art to come across as “Life is always better when you are positive”. If you look at things negatively everything you do wouldn’t be as exciting, joyful or happy as it would if you looked at things positively. Just like the saying, “Look on the bright side,” this saying is telling and signing to you, to look on the bright side, because life is a lot better if you do! The materials I used were materials that looked fun and made me happy. Such as pink, purple, yellow and white paint, gold lined cardstock, buttons, flower and pink sequins, mesh ribbon, white patterned ribbon, sticky gems, texture paste, mod podge and black sharpie to write a quote: “People with great passion can make the impossible happen.” - Ella, Grade 6
Increasing meaning and rich ideas in student written texts; trust that conventions will come and knowledge of conventions can be easily accessed to gain clarity through non-memorized means
Use personal experience and knowledge to connect to text and deepen understanding of self, community, and world
Transform ideas and information to create original texts
Use language in creative and playful ways to develop style
Grade 4 cohort - traditional focus on conventions. Assessment and reporting based on sentence structure, punctuation, spelling. Little sense of quality and richness of ideas or the strategies students understand and use to share this thinking.
- Powerful understanding
- Loose parts
- Oral storytelling
- graphic organizers
- writing process through oral storytelling/loose parts
- creating a variety of texts - visual, oral, digital (in addition to traditional written)
- 4x4 rubrics, single column rubrics (self, peer, teacher)
- Focus on drafting and revision - not everything needs to be published.
- Jennifer Moroz assessment work
- Grade wide writes
- Assessment based on Jennifer Moroz's work