We would like to start by acknowledging that at Katzie Elementary we learn on the traditional, unceded territory of the Katzie, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo, and other Coast Salish Peoples. We are grateful our beautiful school is on this land and are humbled to be named after the Katzie First Nation. We are deeply appreciative of the special relationship that we have with the Katzie First Nation and the teachings that they share as we learn to be stewards of this land. We strive to embed the First Peoples Principles of Learning in our daily work and learning.
We value our diverse students, prioritize inclusion, and centre the needs of each individual to help them thrive. Our teaching practice reflects our belief that all children have strengths and can learn and grow. Social and Emotional learning is infused into all aspects of what we do at Katzie. We believe setting this as a foundation builds community through a sense of belonging and enriches learning by putting students into the frame of mind to enhance their learning and be resilient.
A unique part of being at Katzie Elementary are our House Teams. When students first arrive at school, they are placed in one of six house teams; Purple Bears, Orange Wolves, Red Salmon, Blue Orca, Yellow Raven, Green Beavers. These groups are a part of our school culture and help to create a sense of belonging amongst our children, which is essential, especially in a large school like ours. This opportunity allows all students to feel connected beyond our classroom walls to build community. The House Teams continue to give our older grades a chance to be leaders as well as a chance for our intermediates to get to know our primary students better. We look forward each year to all of the camaraderie that the House Teams bring to our school.
Our community is a very connected population drawn from the Clayton area of Surrey. Our parents are highly involved in supporting field trips, in-class volunteering, hot lunches, Run Club, PAC, and social community building events. The families of Katzie believe in actively supporting a strong school-home connection. We are so excited that parents feel welcome in our school and that they are active partners in their children's education.
Our community is the heart of our school!
Our students are highly engaged in our school community! They are eager to come to school, they help each other, they are curious, and they seek opportunities to lead. We see them harvesting healthy food from our school garden, playing a variety of games and sports during school breaks, participating in extracurricular activities, helping each other during buddy time, leading through student led committees and much more!
We are proud of the diversity our students bring to our community. We are stronger because 30 different languages are spoken by our students. Also, the diverse skills and abilities of our students create opportunity for building compassion, empathy and connection between all members of the Katzie community.
Our school has identified written communication as an area of growth for our students This has informed our school focus. We have observed that strong writing skills has a ripple effect in all subject areas. Strong writing equates to students being able to express their thoughts and ideas in a clear and coherent manner and to communicate effectively.
Under the communication competency, students acquire, develop and transform ideas and information, and make connections with others to share their ideas, express their individuality, further their learning, and get things done. Students can communicate and share these thoughts and ideas through personal writing.
In the following example we can see students engage in their written work, both independently and in groups.
Our school has identified written communication as an area of growth for our students, and this has guided our instructional focus. With strong writing skills students will be able to confidently draw from their experiences and learning to create an effective piece of personal writing. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate ideas in writing for different audiences and for various purposes utilizing grade appropriate grammar and conventions.
Our learners live in an exciting, diverse, yet rapidly changing world filled with challenges and opportunities. To be successful our students need to be effective communicators. To equip them to do this we are targeting the development of several writing skills.
Through this goal, our two main objectives are that:
Each one of our classes, from kindergarten to grade 7, spends significant time each year with a focus on building strong writers. To highlight and determine overall successes and growth, we monitored the progress of two cohorts with an emphasis on writing.
With an emphasis to create and communicate through writing, our students will be prepared to not only communicate effectively though a variety of media, but also gain insight into their own identity, the lives of others, and the world in which we live.
The Katzie learner understands their role as a responsible citizen and has the literacy skills to embrace, enjoy, and contribute to their community.
Writing using conventions of Canadian spelling, grammar, and punctuation, including paragraphing and sentence structure.
Students engage in writing across all subject areas. Being able to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and understanding effectively is key to showing their learning. They are able to connect their personal experiences to materials being taught in class. We strive to empower students to view all texts as accessible and meaningful and support them to communicate effectively in an ever-changing world.
Our goal over the year was to improve student writing skills with direct and explicit instruction. We specifically monitored and tracked progress in one primary and one intermediate cohort.
We tracked growth over time by comparing the skills of each child early in the school year to the year-end expectations at their respective levels. In the graphs below we can see how students were writing at the beginning of the year based on early primary writing goals and where they were at the end of the year.
In the primary cohort, 84% of the students began Term 1 at a developing or proficient stage of writing according to the BC Writing Performance Standards. There were no students who’s writing was at an extending level while 16% were Emerging writers.
By the end of Term Two, almost three quarters of the students scored as proficient according to the Performance Standards descriptors. Many have moved up beyond the emerging and developing Stages, and some even raised their writing to extending.
To help them become strong writers, students were guided to make connections to their experiences both in and out of school.
The teacher engaged the class in writing instruction using:
The following three samples are first journal writing examples, that show how the students were able to write a few short sentences in Term 1 (Term 1 highlighted in pink, Term 2 in blue). They were spelling many known words correctly and were beginning to use some punctuation. At the end of second term, students were writing with a great deal more details and used more descriptive language in their writing. They used punctuation with increasing accuracy and their spelling continued to improve.
In the second writing sample for each student, it is visible how the students increased in their confidence as writers. They are using many conventions of print and they feel confident to tell their story without needing a picture to support their words.
Similar to our primary cohort, most of our intermediate students began the year at a proficient stage of writing. Over 50% of the cohort was either emerging or developing. No students had yet achieved extending in writing.
By the end of term two, although the percentage of students remained at the proficient stage, many of the emerging students moved up to developing. The same was true for developing students moving up to proficient. By the end of the year we saw several students who’s writing skills achieved extending levels through direct and targeted instruction in writing.
Throughout the year, students drew on their experiences, utilized scaffolded writing outlines, and engaged in the writing process. To strengthen specific writing skills, they also followed the 6 Traits of Writing (Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency).
The teacher engaged her class in writing instruction using:
In the first writing example for each student, it can been seen in the pictures below that the students were able to write with very simple responses to questions (Term 1 highlighted in yellow, Term 2 in pink).
Making writing a daily activity showed its value. The more students wrote, the more risks they were willing to take in their writing, and the clearer their goals became. This meant that the class was able to do mini lessons on grammar, punctuation, spelling etc., that were bite sized, specific, and allowed for prompt practice of a specific goal.
Mechanically, students grew from generating a few short sentences to writing full paragraphs that contained not only a thesis sentence, but also a topic sentence for each paragraph and several sentences that tied directly to the topic sentence. Students used graphic organizers throughout the year and could confidently follow the structure of a paragraph well.
For some students, the use of audio recording allowed for their thoughts to flow freely verbally, to be seen with the correct spelling which built confidence, and for the words to be on a screen visually so that the student could pick and choose which thought should be placed in the order that felt best. The use of speech to text allowed a move from not being able to tell us what was important to them, to being able to write several sentences with good sensory detail and complete sentences.
Other students showed the value of practice using writing templates, tying into hands on experience and recording the details of discussions before beginning a writing task. Their thinking and verbalizations were recorded by other students or by support staff. This experience and seeing their own thoughts scribed onto paper provided the inspiration needed to write. Daily, student specific goals were also a motivator to build confidence to master mechanical skills and spelling patterns.
Where do we go next with our learners?
We came up with four concrete ideas for moving our teaching and learning forward based on our experiences this year.
Idea 1: Our writers need to be inspired to write by providing them with rich life experiences that they are passionate about communicating about, documenting, or thinking through in a written manner.
Writing can be a daunting task for a child. There is brainstorming, writing rough drafts, editing, creating topic sentences, adhering to spelling rules, using proper mechanics, drawing conclusions, and creating complete sentences to be wrestled with, to name a few. In order to build the motivation to dive into a task as complex as this, students need to want to write. We can assist them to want to write by structuring their learning around sensory rich, hands-on experiences, and connecting their learning to topics that matter to them and which they have a stake in.
Idea 2: Knowing where our students are and identifying goals for their learning is important for designing an effective literacy program.
Our students benefitted from continuous modelling of strategies using different types of texts (picture books, novels, articles, poems...). Through ongoing assessment for learning teachers can identify the strengths and challenges of the students to effectively plan lessons. This can take many forms such explicit teaching of skills, small group instruction, learning support and peer mentoring. These strategies help us develop strong writers. Giving students the opportunity to conference with their teachers and peers and be involved in setting their own writing goals is highly effective.
Idea 3: Students need to be involved in choosing which tools support their growth and choosing their own goals.
Exposing students repeatedly to speech to text, structured writing templates, scribing, and other writing tools is important for future writing as they self-select what they need to be successful. Involving them in setting their own goals for acquiring skills in sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, and style empowers students to self-advocate, deeply reflect and take ownership for their own learning.
Idea 4: Be proactive in unpacking challenging texts, talking about important or difficult topics, and finding authentic audiences.
In order to engage students, we use powerful multi-modal texts (visual, text-based, video, audio...), we talk about important or difficult topics (i.e. equity, reconciliation, our feelings, lived experiences) and we find authentic audiences. We focus on process instead of product because this is what our learners need to be successful in our ever-changing world.
When we bring joy and creativity to language, story, and text, we put the students at the centre of the learning. Joy can be found not only in the content and engagement in the activity, but in the perseverance and achievement in a challenge. They are finding their voices and learning how to be heard in the world.
The Student Learning Plan Committee have developed two areas of focus to ensure that literacy development continues: