École Erma Stephenson 23-24



Fostering a love of reading is a cornerstone to achieving our school's overall goals. Through reading and the English Language Arts Curriculum, students become aware that reading is not just a pathway to academic success, but a gateway to a world of knowledge, personal growth, and critical thinking skills. By developing strong readers, we empower our students to become lifelong learners, capable of navigating information, expanding their horizons, and achieving their full potential.

Staff at Erma Stephenson introduce new reading skills and strategies throughout our students grade K-7 journey. Teachers utilize a "Gradual Release of Responsibility" Model as new ideas are introduced and students build confidence as readers and learners.  

Our students understand that language and stories are powerful tools for sparking creativity and joy. Through developmentally appropriate reading, listening, and viewing strategies, they can unlock the meaning of texts, connect with characters and ideas, and use their imaginations to explore new worlds.

Our Super Buddies Reading Program fosters literacy development by pairing grade 6 and 7 students as mentors with younger students. Utilizing the SPARK online reading platform, Super Buddies guide their Super Mentees through engaging stories, exercises,  activities, and games. This program strengthens reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, and fluency while fostering a love of reading in participants.  Super Buddies receive training from Teachers and develop leadership skills, while Super Mentees benefit from personalized support and a positive role model.  Our Learner Support Teachers (LST) are the drivers of this program and are quite proud that many of our Mentors are students who once where the Mentees! 

Below we see our Super Buddies engaging in an activities to develop their phonological awareness.  They also get to connect with an older mentor and build postive relationships within the school community. When asked about the program, our Grade 6 students said 

The experience helped me develop my own patience and calmness, which I could then share with the kids. 

I wanted to help kids because I felt I could offer them the help that I could have gotten when I was younger.

I think it is a good program to have in the school.  I would recommend for next year's grade six students to get involved in Super Buddies.  

Our learners understand that different texts have different purposes, like a story to entertain or a non-fiction book to share information.  

Our learners take part in reading activities and develop their skills throughout the day.  One such activity is Literature Circles.  A key component to our literature circles is student choice.  At Erma Stephenson, we are constantly curating our book selection to provide students with relevant and engaging novel choices. Student choice in novel selection for literature circles within primary and intermediate grades offers a strategic approach to promoting literacy engagement and developing critical thinking skills. By reading a book they are genuinely invested in, students are more likely to actively participate in discussions, analyze characters and plot with greater depth, and ultimately cultivate a lifelong love of reading.  

Our grade 6 & 7 classes have built a literature circle program in which students are grouped from three different classes in order to meet their learning needs. Below you will see students engaged in discussion with their teacher and each other.  These discussions allow for deeper exploration of ideas presented in the novel. Students and teachers collaborate to deepen and share their understanding, explore different ideas and perspectives, and take on roles to develop various reading skills.  You will also see work that reflects the thinking and learning that is taking place. 

Our learners are using developmentally appropriate reading strategies such as using knowledge of language patterns and phonics to decode words, and identifying familiar and “sight” words. 

By taking part in the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Program, students receive explicit instruction on phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken language). By understanding sounds and their connection to letters, students develop decoding and encoding skills, which are foundational for reading and writing. Students receive short, daily lessons that target eight phonemic awareness skills alongside letter/sound recognition. Below you will see and hear what these lessons look and sound like in our grade 1 classrooms. 

According to our students:

"I really like the rhyming....  It helps me be a better reader..."

Our learners can use various reading strategies to help them think critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts. 

Our upper intermediate students take part in a weekly CNN 10. During this activity, they watch a student friendly summary of the weekly news. They are encouraged by their teachers to think deeply, question the information being presented, and to reflect on their thinking. Below, you see an example of "deep dive" research, by one of our students, into the topics being covered. Some of our upper intermediate students also give presentations and engage their classmates in current event discussions. As our students progress from kindergarten to Grade 7 and beyond, they develop their reading & thinking skills and move along a continuum. What begins with letter recognition and letter sounds, grows into critical thought and analysis as our students develop their reading and thinking skills.

When asked "What value do you see in studying current events and CNN10?", student responses included,

"It teaches us how do have good discussions and develop discussion questions." - Grade 6 Student

"It relates to Media Literacy – Average citizens should be informed about what is happening in the world. We want to be globally informed citizens." - Grade 7 Student


We not only want to develop a love of reading for enjoyment in our students, but also the ability the critically analyze the information they will be presented throughout their lives. In today’s world, students are bombarded with information from a variety of sources, including websites, social media, and videos. Being able to critically evaluate this information is essential. Strong reading skills provide a foundation for this, as they allow students to analyze information they are being presented.  

Our learning goals include:

  • Our learners are building strong foundational literacy skills, recognizing letters, sounds, and simple sight words.
  • Our learners use developmentally appropriate reading, listening, and viewing strategies to make meaning.
  • Our learners use sources of information and prior knowledge to make meaning.

Our Cohort

We chose to follow a grade 1 classroom cohort to help us assess the long-term impact of our school goals on core academic skills.  As this is our first year with a Literacy goal, we thought it could be informative to start with a cohort that has several years left in the school.  It allows for the possibility of seeing the long-term impact of reading programming and interventions at Erma Stephenson.   Focusing on grade 1 specifically allows us to address the crucial foundation of early literacy. By fostering collaboration among grade 1 teachers, we can ensure a consistent and cohesive approach to reading instruction, ultimately improving literacy outcomes for all students.

In the fall term,  our cohort focused on mastering the first 100 sight words, essential for reading fluency and comprehension. These are frequently used words that can't be easily sounded out. They also practiced blending sounds to become fluent readers of short vowel words.  These foundational skills served as stepping stones towards independent reading and comprehension, the ultimate goal.  Some sample activities:

  • Slowly stretch out the letter sounds, then blend them together (th-ir-d, third…).
  • Look for familiar chunks of words, such as consonant blends (fr, st…) vowel pairs (ai, ee, ou…) and common endings (ing, ed, er…).
  • Look for familiar words within longer words or compound words (forget = for + get…).
  • Remove ed, er, ing, ly endings to read the root word (helped: help, softer: soft…).
  • Flip the vowel. If the short vowel sound doesn’t give you a word that makes sense in the sentence you are reading, try the long vowel sound (wind, wind) (live, alive) (read, read).

Our cohort then began to work on developing foundational reading skills through a variety of activities, including practicing decoding unfamiliar words, using comprehension strategies, and predicting meaning from context. This focus on decoding and comprehension will prepared them for independent reading in the future.  Some sample activities:

  • Discuss the text and answer questions.
  • Retell parts of the text in their own words.
  • Describe the characters and setting.
  • Identify the story problem and the solution

Finally, they built comprehension through active strategies. Students practiced applying strategies like making text-to-self connections, summarizing key details, and asking clarifying questions to deepen their understanding of grade-level texts. Some sample strategies:

  • Think about what you already know about the topic.
  • Make a connection between the topic and your own life.
  • Stop and take the time to decode unknown words.
  • Ask for help if you need it, because you want all the words to make sense as you read and you want to add new words to your reading vocabulary.
  • Reread several times to develop fluency and expression. Steady, smooth, expressive reading helps you understand what you are reading.
  • Read books about topics and characters that interest you!
  • Read books you understand so you enjoy reading them!
  • Listen to yourself as you read!


Our Learning Goals this year included:

  • Use sources of information and prior knowledge to make meaning.
  • Use developmentally appropriate reading, listening, and viewing strategies to make meaning.
  • Building strong foundational literacy skills, recognizing letters, sounds, and simple sight words.

Our Data:

The following table is rooted in specific learning goals, teacher reflection, formative assessment activities, and summative reporting data.  It reflects the day to day learning in our school and recognizes the fluent nature of learning as concepts and strategies taught vary and become more complex.  (The numbers indicate the number of students at level - % of class)

September - December:"Throughout our fall term, the Grade 1 students have been learning to read the first 100 sight words. Sight words account for 50-75% of the words found in beginning reading texts. When children can read these words automatically, without having to stop and sound them out, both their reading fluency and comprehension improve, and they become more confident, motivated readers. Through daily practice, they learned the first 100 words, one list at a time. Some sight words were easily decoded, such as “this” and “see”. Others had irregular spelling patterns, such as “said” and “would”. With teacher support they dissected these tricky words into their individual letters or letter groups and put them back together again to fully understand how to read them."

January - March:

"Before Reading - Students are encouraged to take some time before reading to think about the title and look through the pictures. This important step helps beginning readers establish the context of the story. It prompts them to think about what they already know about the topic and leads them to make personal connections to the story. When children read in context, they can more easily predict the meaning of unfamiliar words and comprehend more complex phrase structures.

While Reading - Students are reminded to listen actively to what they are reading and to ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” When the text no longer makes sense, they need to go back and reread words, phrases, or passages to construct and clarify meaning.

After Reading: - It is important students to reread stories to consolidate vocabulary, develop smooth, fluent reading and enhance comprehension."

April - June:

"Students have been reading daily at school from levelled and decodable reading materials and picture books. They have continued to expand their automatic reading vocabularies and develop their decoding skills. They have focused on developing and practicing comprehension strategies. As they do more independent reading, it is important to develop the habit of reading for meaning. They have been learning to use various strategies to enhance their reading comprehension as they read to themselves."

Moving Forward:

Based on Data collected  and in collaboration with our staff, we have identified several areas that we can continue to develop in our Reading curriculum at Erma Stephenson.    

  • Oral language skills (expressive and receptive).
    • Our students understand that through listening and speaking we connect with others a share our world.
    • Our students understand that language and story can be a source of creativity and joy.
  • Building patience and resilience in developing our reading comprehension skills,
    • Our students understand that everyone has a unique story to share.
  • Providing reading opportunities that are engaging, meaningful, and at an appropriate development level.
    • Our students understand that curiosity and wonder lead us to new discoveries about ourselves and the world around us.
    • Out students understand that questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens.

Our Next Steps include:

  • Professional book clubs selected from district curated sources.  
  • Continuing to provide appropriate, engaging, and at their level books to our students.  
  • Beginning and year end reading-level assessment of all students with support of District Helping Teachers.
  • Expansion of our cohort group.

These areas of focus are directly linked to the First Peoples Principles of Learning, and our staff is committed to continuing the important work of honouring these principles with all our students.

They (First Peoples Principals of Learning) represent an attempt to identify common elements in the varied teaching and learning approaches that prevail within particular First Nations societies.  - FNESC

Surrey Schools

Formed in 1906, the Surrey School District currently has the largest student enrolment in British Columbia and is one of the few growing districts in the province. It is governed by a publicly elected board of seven trustees.

The district serves the cities of Surrey and White Rock and the rural area of Barnston Island.

Surrey Schools
14033 - 92 Avenue Surrey,
British Columbia V3V 0B7