Mary Jane Shannon Elementary 23-24


Mary Jane Shannon (MJS) is a school that is rich in its composition and cultural make up. As a staff and community, we embrace and highlight our individual differences and celebrate what we have in common. Our learners are kind, compassionate and come from a variety of experiences and backgrounds and from which we build an unwavering sense of community. Our students are accepting and understanding of their own and each other’s differences and unique strengths. As a school community, we recognize the common threads that bind us together.   

Everyone belongs at Mary Jane Shannon. Our students feel that the adults are supportive, open, and welcoming. Our school is at the heart of the community. Students enjoy spending time at school, oftentimes beyond school hours, where they feel connected to each other and have a place where they can be themselves. Whether they are playing sports or participating in an after-school program, students love being at Mary Jane Shannon. 

“My favourite thing about MJ Shannon is the people.  Everyone is so nice and helpful.”  - Grade 6 student  

“My favourite thing I love at MJS is that we celebrated Asian Heritage Month at our assembly.”- Grade 5 student 

In the 2021-2022 school year, we underwent a school identity transformation and reimagined what was formerly the Mary Jane Shannon Strikers. One of our goals in this process is to create school-wide language to help with creating consistent and clear expectations among staff and students. Another intention is to develop a positive school identity while honouring and spotlighting our students’ strengths and individual identities. We worked closely with all stakeholders in the learning community, including parents, students and staff and engaged in a year-long process and have landed on the acronym SOAR (S: Supportive, O: Open-Minded, A: Amazing, R: Respectful) as our new school-wide motto. We also worked with an Indigenous artist, Deanna-Marie Point, who re-designed our new logo. We are now proudly, the Mary Jane Shannon Thunderbirds.  

“My favourite thing about MJS is that everybody is supportive, open-minded, amazing and respectful (S-O-A-R). We try and practice this.” -Grade 5 student 

We are appreciative of our school community and those who supported us on this journey so far. Our hope is that through this school identity transformation, our learning community will deepen their sense of self and identity in a positive way. 

A colorful native american art

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Literacy is something that brings us all together, through our shared and diverse histories. Everyone at Mary Jane Shannon has a story.  

Our learners at Mary Jane Shannon bring a wealth of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives into our school each and every day. Our students continue to see learning and growth as something that will not only help them achieve their goals, but to do so in a way that continues to support their rich, but individual, identities. Finding ways to engage our students as readers and to take pride in their own Personal Awareness and Responsibility, a core competency embedded across all learning in the curriculum, is vital in helping our students feel a sense of agency over their learning. This year, we have expanded our student learning to include literacy as an entry point in expressing their identities. Our learners set goals and are aware that learning takes time and patience. With the variety of backgrounds we so cherish seeing in our school, we continue to incorporate ways for them to express this through their reading, writing, and oral language. . 

Our students can represent their learning and tell how it connects to their experiences and efforts.  

"When we did our country project, I did my own country. I got the opportunity to learn things about my home that I didn't know before." Grade 7 student. 


Students used a story workshop as an educational approach that emphasizes storytelling as a means for students to express themselves, build literacy skills, and foster creativity.   

Our students understand that their identity is made up of many interconnected aspects, such as life experiences, family history, heritage, and peer groups. 

"I can celebrate my culture here. I see so many other students and staff members who are like me." Grade 7 student

To celebrate learning in oral literacy and storytelling, one of our intermediate classes hosted An Afternoon of Oral Story Telling where families and friends were invited into the classroom. 3 different stations were set up for families; retelling a favourite family story using loose parts, practicing oral literacy strategies with picture books and students sharing their oral stories and story cubes. The event had picture books that represent the diversity of our school, available for families to explore including books in different languages.  

Our students can exchange ideas and perspectives to build a shared understanding.  

"People accepted me even though I was the only one who looked like me in my classroom." Grade 7 Student
A group of people in a classroom

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As a class, students began using sharing circles to help build students' confidence speaking in front of others. Games helped us get to know each other and connect! At the first few meetings, students were quiet and hesitant to participate, however as they got more comfortable participating students spoke with confidence, asked each other clarifying questions and began to engage happily.  


Building on our goal from our previous year, we will continue to focus on Literacy as an area to spotlight for student growth. Reading underlies all learning and the skills needed for reading: phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and comprehension, are fundamental for students’ language development.  

We have identified literacy, particularly as it also provided an opportunity to practice our oracy and as an expression of cultural identity, as one of our school goals. We set out to work on the following reading goals:  

  • Read fluently at grade level   

  • Read with increased stamina and pacing. 

  • Exchanging ideas and perspectives to build shared understandings.  

  • Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources to build understanding.   

  • Recognize our own stories are rooted in our familiar, social, and cultural backgrounds. 

Ultimately, our learners will engage actively as listeners, viewers, and readers, as appropriate, to develop understanding of self, identity, and community. We hope our students will be inspired and develop a life-long love for reading while sharing their ideas, stories, and histories openly with others.  

Our Cohort 

Our initial plan was run with the participation of one primary and two intermediate classrooms, and multiple students who receive regularly targeted literacy supports in smaller groups.  

A Window Into our Learning 

  • Use of story workshops as a means of storytelling that integrates oral storytelling writing, and artistic expression.  

  • Using technology for publishing projects that allow students to share their completed work with their peers. 

  • An oral language unit on the importance of food to our own cultural identity, visiting restaurants, and sharing foods from home with their peers.  

  • Bringing in community members for an afternoon of oral storytelling, sharing cultural and familial stories with peers and their classes.  

  • Using drama as a lesson to build confidence as part of the oral story telling process, focusing on intonation, projection, and sharing with their peers.  

  • As part of the school's Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, American Sign Language is not only taught to students within the program, but to multiple classes throughout the building. All of our learners are expose to ASL as part of their language proficiency.


Goal #1: Read fluently at grade level  

Overall, our students receiving targeted literacy supported demonstrated growth in relation to the goal of reading at grade level. Using strategies such as sound and letter recognition activities, levelled reader books, sight word recognition and using reading, listening and viewing strategies to make meaning have had a positive impact on student reading growth.  

Growth in students’ reading levels from September 2023 to June 2024:

Our students use a variety of reading strategies such as engaging in class discussions, ask questions to make connections and recall important parts of a story in their own words. Students are encouraged to stop and talk about what is happening in their reading materials during small group discussions. Our students have gained confidence in their reading skills and showing more enthusiasm and earnest for reading times. Students are more ready to take risks when starting a reading passage by attempting to sound out words and take what they know to blend sounds together.  

Goal #2: Exchanging ideas and perspectives to build shared understandings.  

Our cohort engaged in story workshop activities that incorporated visual and oral literacy. Students worked together to explore topics such as the cultural connections to food, learning to share knowledge they have gained from their own culture while appreciating in their peer’s culture,  

They also began by listening to various oral stories and identifying elements that make the speaker more engaging to listen to. In small groups, students practiced reading passages and working on these different strategies by pausing at punctuation, using different tones to adhere to punctuation and reading with emotion and flow. They also played drama games to help build student's oral literacy and confidence when reading and telling stories.  

Students showcased their learning through discussions with peers and by capturing their progress through pictures, videos and anecdotal notes, they each moved forward in their thinking around literacy. Students were encouraged to ask relevant questions to find out and clarify others’ views and to share opinions supported by reasons.   

Students discussing passages from a book with the words removed as prompts for their discussion. 

Final discussion of a book with the words removed. Students were much more engaged and likely to listen and then add ideas to their partner's thoughts, relying less on teacher direction. 

Goal #3: Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources to build understanding.  

Our cohorts used multiple modalities, including written text, videos, images, and community speakers to implement oral language and story-telling opportunities related to cultural identity.  

Goal #4: Read more confidently and at a steady pace. 

Overall, our students made progress in their confidence in reading, both independently and out-loud to their peers and teachers. 

Initial Read with Student

Moving Forward 

Based on evidence of our learning goals, our next steps will include:  

  • Continuing to build a collaborative approach to our learning goals. We will look at strategies, events, and initiatives that include the voices of a variety of grade levels, as well as input from non-enrolling teachers and staff. Opportunities for teachers to collaborate on learning goals will be provided so that teachers can not only share their approaches to assessment but their ideas around where to next take their programming.  

  • Making learning an event. Staff will be working on making learning events around the school that not only celebrate student learning but provide opportunities to build school community and spirit. These can include buddy reading, flash-light reading in the gym, having families come in to provide personal and cultural input, and visiting neighboring parks for mindfulness activities that connect us to the land on which our school is located.  

  • expanding our existing goals and have reading assessments to better gauge our students’ reading levels and measured progress. Reading comprehension is a focus that will be on-going and students continue to require support in this skillset. It will remain a priority area for our learners. The identification of where students are at is an important marker for our classroom teachers and it will help guide their next steps for reading instruction. Classroom teachers are then also better equipped to directly support their students through differentiating their instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Our hope is that students will continue to share and communicate ideas with others in meaningful ways that are also culturally relevant.   

  • continue creating a safe and inclusive environment for all our students.  Our focus will be to develop a strong school-wide social emotional education program.  In the classrooms, teachers will be implementing opening and closing circle activities and making them meaningful to all the students.  As a staff we will continue to meet regularly, collaborate and share our ideas and experiences.   

  • dig deeper and continue to explore direct teaching strategies and be intentional with what strategies we are targeting. We will continue to develop the goals of explaining the role of language in personal, social and cultural identity and using personal experience and knowledge to connect to text and develop understanding of self, community and world.  

Our goal is for our staff and students to see themselves as a community of learners that can S.O.A.R through our literacy and social emotional goals. Our hope is that our students will continue to build on that sense of community and passion for learning, long after they leave Mary Jane Shannon.  

Our goal for our students is to see them advocating for their needs throughout the school community and continue to S.O.A.R. through our literacy and social emotional goals. Our hope is that our students will develop a sense of safety and care that will last well beyond their time at Mary Jane Shannon. 

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