Our School Community
At Morgan, our goal is to build community that supports the well-being of self and others through developing positive connections.
Our guiding question is: how are we intentionally and continually developing our own and our students’ emotional literacy skills?
We explore our guiding question as a staff through regular and ongoing dialogue at our meetings and planning days. Together, we discuss and examine how to best support our learners by building strategies and resources to support their ongoing emotional literacy skills.
The learning focus for our students is expressed in the Curricular Competencies found in the Physical and Health Education (PHE) and Career Education (CE) subject areas. Please refer to BC Curriculum https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/ for further details.
Very specifically, we are focused on the following Curricular Competencies:
Our learners are engaging with their emotional literacy skills on a personal level, at the classroom level, and as a whole school community.
Emotional Literacy- Self
Our students are actively exploring their own feelings, asking themselves the questions: How am I feeling today? What is creating these feelings for me? Do I need some strategies to help me feel calm or more centered? What strategies can I use?
You will notice that these skills are embodied in the Curricular Competency:
Our learners engage in a variety of techniques, tools and resources to help them with these self-regulation skills. In this sample, we are seeing a class actively engaged in identifying and discussing how they are feeling by describing what “Zone” they are in. This strategy comes from The Zones of Regulation. This is a daily practice for these students. When they enter the classroom each day, the place their name into one of the coloured zones which may indicate their state of alertness. For example, the Blue Zone describes a low state of alertness and could be used to describe when a person feels tired, sick or sad. Green is the ideal state of alertness with a person feeling content and calm. Red is an extremely heightened state of alertness, and Yellow describes a person who may be experiencing feelings like stress, excitement, silliness or anxiety. During their morning meeting, these students have an opportunity to share why they selected their zone.
Some classes use different tools to help students engage with the questions: How am I feeling? Another tool commonly found at Morgan is the “Mood Meter” from the RULER program.
RULER is an acronym for the five skills of emotional intelligence:
The Mood Meter works on a horizontal axis representing how pleasant/unpleasant we feel, and a vertical axis representing how much physical energy is running through our bodies. In the pictures below, we can see a Mood Meter where the teacher has helped learners to deepen their understanding by labelling the quadrants with some of the feeling words they might experience.
Here, we can see how the teacher has created empty Mood Meter Quadrants on the board. This is commonly done in classrooms so that, when students enter in the morning, they can select their name on a magnet, consider and connect with how they are feeling, and place their name in the quadrant they feel suits them.
And here, students have had the opportunity to do some written reflections about where they are on the Mood Meter and what strategies they may want to apply.
When our learners are able to identify how they are feeling, it opens the door for them to be able to strategize for those times that they recognize feelings of discomfort and unrest. Our students may choose to ask for a brain break, engage in some deep breathing techniques, get a snack or drink some water. Conversations about how to help ourselves become calm, alert and ready are common discussions in our classrooms.
In the picture below, you can see a “Calm Down Corner”. This is an important space in the classroom that students can access when they identify that they are in need of strategies that can help create feelings of comfort and calm. When a student arrives, the prompts on the board ask the learner: “How do you feel? What can you do to feel better?” If you look closely at the picture below, you can see a variety of tools and supports that the student can then access: favourite books, playdough, sensory tools, and a stool that allows for movement.
Emotional Literacy- Classroom Community
Our learners are working and learning to build a safe, caring and respectful classroom community. Teachers support students in creating a space where students take ownership of their goals, learning, and behaviour. Together, they are developing a space where learners interact with peers peacefully, using problem-solving strategies for conflicts.
You will notice that the curricular focus here is:
Learners begin the year with their teachers building a Classroom Charter. The Charter can be described as an expression of the values and norms of the class, and is created so that all may feel heard, safe and welcome. The Charter starts with the question ‘How do we want to feel at school?’ then, ‘How will we make sure to feel these feelings?’ and finally, ‘What will we do when there is conflict or unwanted feelings?’.
Each class builds their own unique Charter which is then signed by all students and teachers. Creating a charter is a collaborative experience, collectively made by the students. It is rooted in their ideas creating a sense of shared ownership and accountability.
Teachers engage students in the Curricular Competencies to teach the skills that develop emotional literacy within the classroom community throughout the year. This is through a variety of strategies such as written reflection, or possibly explicit lessons on perspective taking such as those provided by the Second Step or RULER program. Two commonly taught strategies in the school are the Meta Moment and The Blueprint from the RULER program.
The Meta Moment allows a learner to step back from a situation so that they may pause and think before acting. We ask ourselves, how would my “best self” react in this situation? What strategy can I use so that my actions reflect my best self? This allows students to gradually replace ineffective responses with safe, empowering responses.
The Blueprint helps students develop a set of skills that allows them to manage conflict effectively. With the Blueprint, learners consider their own perspective and the perspective of the others involved, promoting the development and practice of empathy. Together, and with the help of an adult, students identify healthy solutions to conflicts.
Teachers also support emotional literacy within the classroom community through class meetings that organically (and intentionally) assist students in working through or celebrating real-life challenges or successes.
Below, are two examples of special celebratory class meetings. In both examples, students recognize the importance of positive relationships in their lives, and demonstrate respect for differences in the classroom.
In the first example, Understanding and Celebrating Our Peers, the students have gathered to recognize the attributes of their peers. Together, they are identifying caring behaviours among classmates, and appreciating the influence of their peers on their classroom community as they collectively choose an ‘award’ that will capture the positive contributions of their classmate.
In the second example, Acknowledgement Circle, students have gathered together to acknowledge the need for others who can support their learning and personal growth. They acknowledge simple things, like appreciation for a treat, and big things like how they were included or experienced the support of a peer group in furthering their learning. They raise their hands in the ways of our Indigenous people as a gesture of gratitude.
Emotional Literacy- School Community
Our learners are developing their emotional literacy to provide leadership and service in our school. Successful student leaders demonstrate self-regulation, perspective-taking and problem-solving skills. They model and support these skills for our younger students.
You will notice all 4 of our focus Curricular Competencies here:
There are many Student Leadership roles at Morgan including Lunch Monitors, Spirit Leaders and Library Monitors, etc. One role that particularly taps into our students’ emotional literacy skills is our Bridging Buddies. These intermediate students support our youngest students outside at recess and lunch. They form a connection to these students (a bridge) by helping with play ideas, small conflicts, and safe play reminders. They also ‘bridge’ to the adult supervisors as needed. On Wednesdays, our Bridging Buddies provide game opportunities to our primary students.
Another Student Leadership role is Big Buddies on Call. These student leaders promote the well-being of the school by providing service as needed to our youngest students. They support our Kindergarten students at assemblies by sitting next to them and modelling how to be a school community member; they play board games with them during the lunch hour, showing them how to be responsible citizens in the classroom during the lunch hour; and they take them for body breaks, modelling how we access self-regulation strategies.
At Morgan, our goal is to build community that supports the well-being of self and others through developing positive connections. Our guiding question is: how are we intentionally and continually developing our own and our students’ emotional literacy skills? We understand our focus to be foundational to student wellness and readiness for learning. When we develop the wellness and emotional literacy of the individual, we develop the social and emotional learning of the classroom community, and then the community at large.
The following Curricular Competencies guide our whole school as well as the work of the cohorts featured here:
The following examples of learning in our classrooms have been chosen to provide you with an understanding of some of the common teaching practices and learning routines at Morgan that build these skills.
Student Self Reflection
In our classes, students learn about identifying how they feel and how to manage their emotions. In our classrooms, it is important for students to first be able to identify feeling words and explore a variety of strategies for self-regulation. Student self-reflection is a lifelong skill that helps students with their overall well-being and sense of identity. It supports goal setting and the intention is that, with ongoing practice, students will have more positive peer relations and the ability to problem solve when conflicts arise. Students learn how to reflect upon their behaviour and are learning to take ownership of their actions.
Student Feelings Journal Entry Student Feelings Journal Entry
Creation of a Class Charter
The Class Charter is foundational to our work in our classrooms and describes how 'we want to feel' and what we promise to do to help each other feel that way. As a collaboratively developed document, it guides the behaviour and expectations in the classroom. Developing it is a thorough process, often taking multiple weeks, and is shared and signed by students, staff and families. We notice that our students look to the Class Charter to help them identify their feelings in relation to their peers and the classroom environment. When students are not feeling ready to learn, they often look to the Class Charter for strategies to help support their learning.
Morning Meetings and Class Meetings
Morning Meetings provide a foundation for students to express their opinions and work together towards a common goal. Through Morning Meetings, students learn, problem solve, and build a classroom community that cares for one another that is based on the Class Charter.
Our students are developing their proficiency at identifying and managing their feelings and emotions both in and outside of the classroom. Students are becoming more confident in expressing how they feel at Morning Meetings and often cite their Classroom Charter when trying to problem solve with their peers. We often hear: “____ isn’t following our Class Charter. They are not including me, being respectful...” and together, we work through these challenges and practice strategies that support positive social outcomes.
Morning Meetings or Class Meetings often discussion prompts such as:
Morning Meetings take a variety of formats through our school: they include guided morning messages, greetings (often in different languages), sharing opportunities, reviewing academic learning goals, positive self-affirmations, acknowledgement circles, and many other learning strategies that increase positive behaviour.
In the picture below, students respond to a variety of prompts in their Morning Meeting. This one includes a short "Think About It" video about "Not Judging Others". After viewing it, students were invited to share their inferences in small groups about this social situation with the "Share Out" prompt.
Throughout the day and week, students may write messages to 'fill each others' buckets'. These notes of kindness (Bucket Slips) are read aloud during class meetings to promote positive peer relations and to contribute to a positive classroom environment. During weekly class meetings Bucket Slips are read to celebrate our commitment to the Class Charter and our accountability to one another as a classroom community. We watch our students acknowledge one another’s efforts to be kind, empathetic, inclusive, and respectful members of the classroom. Students demonstrate a sense of pride and ownership over their individual buckets that are displayed in the classroom.
We can see the learning and love to show you the evidence. Let us break it down with each Curricular Competency!
Curricular Competency #1: Identify, describe, and apply strategies that promote mental well-being for self and others (PHE)
For Pink Shirt Day, this class focused on the students' inner world. They explored what taking care of themselves looks like, so that they could be in a more regulated state to then interact with others in a positive way. This tied in nicely with their unit in Physical and Health Education on our physical, mental, and emotional health.
This example is rich in strategies that the student is able to identify and describe. In addition to identifying self-regulation strategies such as taking deep breaths or playing with her dog, she is able to generate and describe strategies that promote both her own wellness and the wellness of others. Relationally, she identifies that she can nurture her relationships with others by "setting boundary's (sic)".
Through practice and guided conversations, students have a toolbox of strategies that have proven to be effective for promoting their wellness. Students make their learning visible to us by discussing the strategies they use: the need to change their spot, use noise cancelling headphones, or take deep breaths to feel more focused.
Student Interview: My Strategies for Self-Regulation
The students in these interviews are able to expertly describe strategies that they regularly employ so that they are ready to learn. To feel balanced and focused for learning, they have a number of strategies at their finger tips. "I usually just get a privacy shield", one student tells us. It helps her to feel more focused because there is nothing else around her. Her friend agrees, and also adds, "or I move my spot... to the carpet". Another student tells us "I put on noise cancelling headphones, take a privacy shield and put it around me and take some deep breaths". These students demonstrate that they have many strategies to manage their needs, and are easily able to identify sources of support at school to help them with their learning goals.
Curricular Competency #2: Describe and demonstrate respectful behaviour when participating in activities with others (PHE)
Student Interview: Using the Class Charter
In these interviews, the students are able to demonstrate their proficiency with demonstrating respectful behaviour with others. They demonstrate their understanding that the Charter is there to help guide the actions of the class. They see the Class Charter as important because it reminds them to "be respectful and kind to others"; it helps them to "not get bullied, and to stand up for each other". The students are able to explain the benefits of the Charter in supporting positive relationships and extrapolate beyond the written words on the charter. As one child puts it, "it helps us with learning being respectful and also, like, telling the truth to other people so they don't feel bad. But if it is something hurtful, you probably just don't want to say it, and that's good."
The students are able to identify the Charter as a source of support at school that will help individuals, the class, and even the whole school. The student tells us that "the Charter helps us and tells us what to do like, apologize, or just walk away or actually just talk it out... to be nice". Students describe how it is important to use these strategies to help manage challenging feelings so that the individual, class, and school community are able to have peaceful connections.
Curricular Competency #3: Describe and apply strategies for developing and maintaining positive relationships (PHE)
Collaborative Math Problem Solving
In collaborative problem solving math, students describe and apply strategies for developing and maintaining positive relationships. The math problem in this example was “How can we make and show combinations of ice cream flavours if we have vanilla, strawberry, mint or chocolate ice cream?”
The learning process was collaborative: students worked in small groups at the white board to tackle the math problem together and the lesson began with discussion about how to be a successful group member. Building upon previous lessons and knowledge, students reviewed what it meant to be a passive, cooperative or dominant group member.
For passive, they said, “It means like, sitting there, thinking about random stuff, you just want everyone else to do things; not sharing your ideas”.
For dominant, they said, “directing everyone to do this, do that, but not really sharing your ideas in a cooperative way”
For cooperative, they said, “You are working with everyone” and “Taking turns”. They noted that “It feels like you are caring for others and being cared for as well” when you are part of a cooperative group.
Lessons like this are iterative: students begin working together, experience successes and sometimes challenges, and then they return to large group discussion to check in and see how they are doing relative to the success criteria.
This is a powerful process. Opportunity to receive feedback and then try again meant that students were increasingly successful. They progressed from sometimes erasing each others’ work, to being respectful of everyone’s contributions. They progressed from some members being unengaged, to the vast majority being on task and contributing to the problem solving.
Over the course of multiple lessons, and even within lessons, students developed and applied their strategies for maintaining positive relationships.
Curricular Competency #4: Set realistic short- and long-term learning goals, define a path, and monitor progress (CE)
Students engaged in goal setting throughout the year. They set a personal goal, created a plan of action, evaluated progress toward reaching a goal and identify roadblocks that may be getting in the way, made changes to their action plan or goal as needed to overcome their roadblocks, and reflected on their progress.
As students completed other tasks and projects, such as the ADST inquiry project and Human Rights Project, students had the building blocks of a growth mindset from previous goal setting activities: to embrace challenges, gather and learn from feedback and persist in the face of obstacles and roadblocks they encountered. For example, students learned to not “give up, even if it is hard, just keep trying.” They learned to be resourceful and get help from others, “I learned that others like, my dad, can help me.” Students also used their regulation strategies to overcome feelings of overwhelm due to roadblocks “I took a deep breath,” “I took breaks from my project when I couldn’t find the right recipe." Lastly, students learned to be more mindful in completing their goal, “I learned to not rush and take the easy way out, but to slow down, so that I did not make mistakes.” Together, students utilized a growth mindset, resilience, perseverance and were resourceful in working through the process of achieving and celebrating their goals.
The student samples above are a piece of this cumulative goal-setting work, written in November, January, March and end of Term 3. In the November work, this student is already showing strength in goal setting. His identified goal is "Doing my homework on time", and he notes that this works best by "doing my homework after dinner and after brushing my teeth.". He explains further saying, "Doing homework after school didn’t work because I was playing Roblox with my friends and playing with my brother."
The March entry is even more sophisticated because it reflects the relational skills the student has been building. All students in this cohort did relational goal setting in March. He sets the commendable goal "to be nicer to my brothers" and tells us, "I did reach my goal. I included them every day when I was playing baseball in the backyard and playing hockey in the basement." He describes success in his plan, but even more importantly, reflects on where it was challenging and creates a strategy to support his goal. He describes his brother being upset and decides "I will go more easy on him on basketball" and asserts that he will continue doing what is working (including his brothers regularly in his play". When asked, "What did you learn by goal setting? How will you use this in another area of your life?", this student replies, "I learned that if I set a goal I will remember that goal that I want to succeed so I try to accomplish that goal."
The work that this cohort has done in goal setting ultimately taps into and expresses all 4 of the curricular competencies that are our school focus. In order to experience success in relational goal setting, our students needed to think about strategies for their own well-being and others, describe and demonstrate respectful behaviour with others, apply strategies for maintaining positive relationships, and monitor their progress in realistic short and long term goals.
We recognize that developing emotional literacy is a reflective, iterative and lifelong process. We also recognize that emotional literacy underpins success in all academic subjects. As we move forward into the next school year, we will explore how we can apply our understandings of social and emotional learning to directly support literacy in reading, writing, listening and speaking.