Morgan Elementary 23-24


We respectfully acknowledge that Surrey Schools reside on the traditional, unceded and shared territories of Coast Salish peoples: The q̓íc̓əy̓ - Katzie, the q̓ʷa:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ - Kwantlen and the SEMYOME - Semiahmoo First Nations: the stewards of this land since time immemorial. We highlight this history knowing that relationships and partnerships based on respect with the Indigenous peoples of this land are important for truth and reconciliation. We have approximately 550 students in kindergarten through to Grade 7. Morgan is located in the South Surrey region.  

At Morgan, we are a community of culturally and academically diverse learners. Students at Morgan are curious, inquisitive, and thoughtful about their learning. Students enjoy coming to school and many spend their entire elementary journeys from kindergarten to grade seven at Morgan. They are working towards building their stamina in their learning and further developing their capacity to work collaboratively, share their learning, and support their classmates' learning.  

Our students are strong advocates with regards to what they need to further support their learning. They are learning how to access strategies and know that choice in their learning is important to them. Students at Morgan are communicative and enjoy sharing their thoughts and connections related to their learning with their classmates, their teachers, and with their families.  

Morgan is a close community and strongly supported by the Parent Advisory Council. The Morgan PAC supports classroom needs as well as events such as field trips, artists in residence, and hip-hop dance lessons. Community events such as welcome barbecues, movie and activity nights, family dances, and pancake breakfasts to celebrate learning, and hot lunch are well attended and celebrated by the school community,  

Morgan's students enjoy many offerings of extracurricular athletic opportunities including basketball, volleyball, soccer, track and field, cross country, and badminton. Other school community involvement opportunities include student leadership, Reading Link Challenge, grade seven band, Young Entrepreneurs Fair, raising butterfly larvae, and the Minecraft Challenge. Morgan provides multiple Student Leadership opportunities such as Bridging Buddies, Big Buddies On Call, Library Monitors, Assembly Set Up and Tech, as well as Lunch Monitors, and Announcement Helpers.  

We are particularly proud of the way our students support each other and acknowledge and appreciate the diversity at our school. This year, a small group started a Diversity Leaders Club where they learned and shared about various cultural celebrations and holidays. There are a range of languages spoken at our school including English, Mandarin, Chinese, Korean, Punjabi, Urdu, Spanish, Cantonese, Turkish, Russian, Hindi, Japanese, Arabic, Gujarati, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. Students are proud to show off their additional language skills and often volunteer to help with translation when needed. 


At Morgan, our students are learning to become engaged in literacy.  What does that mean? Through instructional strategies, it is our aim to foster students who are deeply connected and motivated in their literacy learning. 

Let's break that down a little! 

When we refer to literacy, we are not just talking about reading.  We are talking about our development as listeners, viewers, readers, writers, and speakers. 

When we refer to engagement in literacy, we are describing students who are active, enthusiastic participants.  We are talking about students who make meaningful connections to texts and to their lives.  We are talking about moving from students who passively turn pages to students who choose texts and talk excitedly about stories.  We are celebrating increased reading and writing stamina, and students with blossoming confidence who see themselves as valuable contributors to discussions. 

The question that guides all of our work is:

How can we use instructional strategies to foster engagement in literacy?

We have been explicit, here at Morgan, in fostering, developing and sharing instructional strategies that create engagement.  That begins with making literacy available and accessible to all learners, and designing lessons where every student has an entry point, and the ability to represent their learning.   

The BC Curriculum provides Curricular Competencies.  These are the skills, strategies and processes that students develop over time. 

The Curricular Competency that focusses our Student Learning Plan is:    

Students will engage actively as listeners, viewers, readers, writers, and speakers to develop understanding of self, identity, and community.

Through our focus on engagement in literacy, our staff notes that our students are now: 

  • Willing to focus for longer periods of sustained reading 

  • More excited to read and use more expression 

  • More engaged and are making meaningful connections during reading 

  • Proud and excited to share what they are learning with others 

  • Seeing themselves in media and are making connections and building empathy towards others 

  • Active, enthusiastic participants  

  • Showing growth as oral storytellers

This all begins on a school-wide level, and is supported across grade groups and into classrooms where we are seeing our students joyfully engaged in their literacy activities. 

A great deal of our school-wide work begins, of course, in the Library Learning Commons. 

Dr. Bishop coined the phrase “Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors” to explain how children see themselves in books and how they can also learn about the lives of others through literature. She makes the point that it’s crucial for children from marginalized groups to view themselves in the books they read.  

Since the completion of Morgan Elementary’s picture book audit in 2020, there has been a concentrated effort to purchase books that represent the student population and their families. In the last two years, dozens of picture books have been purchased to increase the representation of BIPOC books. Muslim, Latine, Island Pacific and Asian cultures, particularly Chinese, Korean, and the those in the Indian subcontinent, have been recognized as needing more representation. Additionally, many novels, including graphic novels and beginner chapters novels, have been acquired to better represent the students. 

The district provided schools funding to acquire books for the Indigenous People’s Collection. Working with the Indigenous Lead, the Teacher-Librarian was able to select all the books available in ensure a full complement of books from across Turtle Island and beyond. 

When told that the book of the week “Lolo’s Sari Sari Store” was set in the Philippines, a grade three student excitedly exclaimed “I’m Filipino and so’s my friend!” After listening to the story, she said that she “loved the book because she had never heard a book with a Filipino like her.”  

Similarly, a fourth-grade South Asian student was thrilled to see that the author of a new picture book had the same name as her mother. When she returned the book and was asked how it was, she said, “It was so good my mom said she’d buy it for me.”  

In another instance, a teacher read a book featuring a Muslim family choosing between Eid celebrations and class photos. She was emotional as she could relate to the choices faced by the characters.  

Circulation and readership is up. Students are taking out more books. Open book exchange is busy as some fast readers come in multiple times in a week to switch out books. The Reading Link Challenge with the Surrey Public Library was popular again this year with four teams of grade 4 and 5 students taking part in the school pay off. The competition was fierce and focused!

The Surrey Schools’ Book of the Year (SSBOY) Program is one of the student reader's choice programs sponsored by the Surrey School District. A fixture in the Surrey school library landscape for 50 years, Surrey Schools’ Book of the Year is a reading program geared at elementary school students in the intermediate grades. The shortlisted 10 fiction titles, selected by a committee of Teacher-Librarians represent a variety of styles and are at varying levels of reading ability. Students are encouraged to read individually or have read to them as many titles as possible, prior to voting for their favourite title each May. The central goals of the program are to promote a love of reading for enjoyment and information, and to develop student appreciation for a diverse range of writing styles and literary genres. 

Check out the evidence of success below! The first picture shows the nominees for SSBOY, and the next two pictures are where we should see stacks of books under the placards.  But there is only one stack! Why? Because our students have signed out all the others and are busy reading them! 

Why are our students so keen to read? It has been a school-wide effort to create engagement and strategies this year, and they are paying off. You may remember, for example, the school wide Reading Challenge? 

Last fall, we challenged our students to collectively read for a Million Minutes!  That was a LOT of minutes, and they did it!  Classes competed for the top number of reading minutes and winning classes were awarded donuts at our assembly.  AND they got to crack eggs on our heads if they succeeded.  As you can see, they enjoyed it more than the literary fruits of their labours!


Teachers are asking themselves: 

How can we use instructional strategies to foster engagement in literacy? 

This is not a one-size-fits-all answer!  Teachers are supporting the Curricular Competency:  

Students will engage actively as listeners, viewers, readers, writers and speakers to develop understanding of self, identity, and community. 

This looks different across grade levels and classrooms, however, the underpinning concepts can be seen across various levels and spaces.   

Engaging literacy programs provide choice to students. They are differentiated, allowing students of varying ability levels to find access.  Students feel a sense of efficacy as they are able to find ways to represent their learning in ways that make sense for their abilities.  Lessons are rooted to a strong sense of purpose. 

Engaging literacy activities are often ‘hands-on’, interactive, and full of opportunity for reflection and sharing.  They may offer up opportunity for physically working with the pieces or concepts of language, or perhaps the joy of dialogue with teachers and peers. 

A Novel Approach 

 One of our Grade Five classes is finding deep engagement through a design called A Novel Approach which spans across all three terms.  

 The program is scaffolded and there is a steady progression over the year, where students are explicitly taught reading strategies like summarizing, inferencing, using context clues (pictures, captions, blurbs).  In the first term, these are taught through poetry, songs and short articles and are then applied while reading picture books in the second term and then novels in the third term. 

 This program allows for flexibility and differentiation. Students are allowed to follow the reading program at their own pace. They are also more invested in their learning because they are given choices of the picture book or novel(s) they would like to read. (It follows the same analogy as in where children are more likely to eat the food that they personally have a hand in picking out at the grocery store- the result is greater engagement.) 

 One reluctant reader this year got inspired by a peer who was on to her next novel. He took it up a notch and began reading at a furious pace. He had his nose in the story every chance he got.  He also chose to accompany his reading with listening to an audio book- an option students find supports their learning.  He was really proud of his reading accomplishments this year. 

  The Book Club Discussion is the richest aspect of this program.  The teacher conferences with the student groups, and they talk about the themes and why they thought what they did. The peer discussion is also key to their understanding. Sometimes there is an “a-ha” moment when a student discovers that their peer thought differently about a certain part in the story. 

 Students are encouraged to read aloud to another student. The reading aloud aspect is especially helpful for the ELL students.  In both Terms II and III, students exercise their choice in the picture books or novels they choose to read. This is done through Book Tasting.  The teacher reads them a synopsis of the story so that students can gauge their interest.  Included in the selections is a variety of books that many have indigenous themes, books about different cultures and sometimes books about differences in learning.  

Literacy Centres  

Check out our Grade 1 students ‘hands-on’ in three literacy centres!  These differentiated activities were intentionally chosen to provide lots of targeted reading and writing practice using words that align with the daily phonics lesson.  

In the Roll and Read activity, students are practicing reading words with r-controlled vowels.  They roll the dice and read the word that corresponds to their number. 


In the Read and Draw activity, students are searching for the r-controlled vowels in the text and then drawing pictures to show their reading comprehension.  

In the Mix and Match activity, students are practicing segmenting and blending to read a CVC word and match a picture to the word. 

Literacy centres are a fun, engaging, and effective way to develop literacy skills through play. Students have the choice to work independently or collaboratively with partners.  

Literacy Headbands 

We love playing Headbands! Once learners know how to play Headbands, we can change the skill and they can keep playing without learning a lot of new rules. We play Headbands with math equations, words, letters, sentences, and more.  

  In these photos and videos, Grade 1 students are playing Headbands to practice reading and writing our Irregular “Heart” Words.  When a word includes a letter or letters that don’t follow regular phonetic rules, these are the parts of irregular words that must be learned “by heart.” By teaching heart words, we are teaching students to apply phonics to decodable parts of the word, and to remember the irregular parts of the word “by heart.” New heart words are introduced every week; and the class has been practicing some of our heart words since September.

Played like the popular game Hedbanz, a student chooses a card (without peeking!) and places it in their headband. Their partner reads the word. The student then spells the word on a whiteboard using word mapping. For an added challenge, the student can choose to write a full sentence that incorporates their word.  

 This game is great for listening, turn taking, teamwork, reading, word mapping, writing, and vocabulary. It’s lots of fun! 

Discovery Learning –- Comparing Diagraphs to Mixing Colours  

 In Grade 1, we learn about colour mixing in Art at the same time as we are learning about diagraphs in Literacy. A digraph is two letters that combine together to correspond to one sound (phoneme).  Examples are ‘sh, ch, th,’ etc. This fun, multi-sensory, and cross-curricular activity helps students to visualize the concept of diagraphs. The learners choose two primary colours. They see that their two primary colours combine to make a completely new colour; similarly, diagraphs make a completely new sound from the two letters that combined. This is the first time that Grade 1 students are introduced to the idea that a combination of two letters can work together to spell a single sound; this engaging art activity helped our students to grasp this new concept. 

Novel Studies Using Strategies from Building Thinking Classrooms 

Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12: 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning by Peter Liljedahl, has been an influential text among staff at Morgan.  A thinking student is an engaged student.  Peter Liljedahl has translated his 15 years of research into this practical guide on how to move toward a thinking classroom, and some of our Morgan teachers have been exploring how to translate these ideas into engaging literacy lessons.  Collaboration, standing rather than sitting, dialogue among peers, and visibly representing the learning are some key principles. 

The work you see below is from teams of 10-year-olds.  The students in this grade 4 class are doing a novel study by reading in pairs.  As a way to check in that they understand the story and for them to consolidate their own understanding of the story, the class did a couple of thinking tasks in randomized groups at the whiteboards.  

Students were asked to determine which setting the characters in the book appeared in using a Venn diagram. They had to reference the book to make sure they had all the characters, as well as double check the setting.  

When they finished that, they drew a visual of the journey the main character went on to try to show who she met along the way and where she was.  

The amount of focused, thinking time generated in this strategy is remarkable.  While sharing and mapping their research and ideas, students remained engaged in discussing the story for 30 minutes! 


Book Tasting 

A Grade 4 teacher launched her book clubs with a ‘book tasting’ in the Library Learning Commons (LLC). The LLC was converted into a French bistro, complete with red and white checked tablecloths. to set the stage for the students. The teacher was dressed in a tall, white chef’s hat, an apron, while the lights were dimmed. All of this was done in the spirit of capturing and piquing the students’ interest in the books they were about to sample.  

 Placemats were set and ready for the students to make their book tasting notes: which books captured their interest, or which books they would pass on. No less than six different novels were placed at tables around the room. Students were to read a bit of the first chapter, either to themselves or as a table group. They were to note and discuss any initial thoughts and predictions. Then, they moved to the next table, where they would ‘taste’ the next novel. It should be noted that several times, the teacher had to remind the students to stop reading to make their notes and move onto the next novel. The students were so engaged in the specifically selected novels that they could not help themselves from getting caught up in a good book!  

Engaging in Literacy Through Drama 

Storytelling is foundational piece of Indigenous ways of knowing and learning. As part of oral language development, expanding descriptive language skills, and building a community of learners, a group of grade 6 and 7 learners worked together to present a one-act play. This work was rich with metaphors, powerful language, and important themes for upper intermediate students. 

As their teacher says,  

“Drama has the power to shift developing reading from a technical and largely independent process to an immersive social experience.”

Whereas students might learn about literary devices and strategies and personification and imagine on paper in their seats, through drama they live these devices through characters. Not only did students animate personification of grass on stage, they also more deeply understood the indirect characterization and abstract traits through the rehearsal process. Determining how characters interact with each other and place becomes purposeful rather than tedious. Questions about character motivation and theme are uncovered through collaborative inquiry. In rehearsals, we collectively determine what lines matter and why (assess), unpack connotation (analyze), make meaning (interpret), and infer and question (predict).  

Vulnerability and feedback are normalized. Risk-taking, experimentation and mistakes are acknowledged as a part of the process. Reflection, accountability, and generosity become essential to reach a shared goal. Through theatre, reading shifts from individual skills of an independent learner working to a team sport with a sense of purpose. The students involved all reported a feeling of empowerment, increased confidence, and a sense of joy around the community they grew in around the play they shared.  

 In the words of one of our student performers, 

“The difference between reading a story and performing a story for me, is  that when you are reading a story, you can only imagine in your mind, but in a drama, it shows all the setting and characters. It shows a real story in real life.  The audience will feel like they are in the story. It also helps actors on blocking, setting, and facial expressions. 

In SUNSHINE, my character was grumpy. There were two people working on that character. I learned a lot from my partner, like how she read lines, experiences the emotions, and blocking on stage. We learned together and we were getting better together. 

In another play we performed, the audience was invited to all our shows. It was very joyful and brought them into the story.  This made us actors feel like we could do it better and we wanted to do it better.  It was a wonderful experience.” 



When students are dialed in to their learning, we see results, and we see evidence of powerful learning.  We see excitement, focus and reflective thinking, and we also see growth in reading levels.  In our Grade 5 class using A Novel Approach, for example, students were assessed in October and May using the Fountas and Pinnell Reading Benchmarks.  

Of the 27 students, 25 showed growth in their reading level, some by two levels or more.  

 Their teacher says, “When we have our reading blocks, students are generally quite engaged. I attribute this to them taking ownership for their choices, since they buy in to what they are reading.” 

We started our work on engagement in literacy a year ago in April 2023 when we asked ourselves: what are the needs of our students?   How do we know? 

 Our observations demonstrated a theme of students needing: 

  • More focus on the ‘speaker’ 

  • More engagement and active listening  

  • More resilience and willingness to try new things, take learning risks 

  • More reading stamina, longer periods of focus 

  • More interest and passion for literature and reading 

  • More development of vocabulary in speaking and writing

One year later, after focusing on instructional strategies that are ‘hands-on’, interactive, and full of opportunity for reflection and sharing, teachers shared their observations.  The fruits of their labors were that students are:  

  • Showing use of higher vocabulary words 

  • Reading more classroom and library books 

  • Engaging in their small group discussions and are demonstrating understanding of concepts with enthusiasm 

  • Demonstrating excitement talking about stories 

  • Demonstrating engagement and a willingness to take learning risks 

  • Representing their learning enthusiastically:  they are performing, writing comics, writing sequels, presenting their findings to the class 

  • Demonstrating an increase in reading stamina 

  • Adding expression to their oral reading 

  • Making personal connections to poetry and understanding styles and elements of poetry 

  • Making meaningful personal connections to texts and building empathy towards others as they take the perspectives of characters 

Book Club in Grade 4 

Another Grade 4 class did “Book Club” this year.  As in some other classes, the students had a choice of which novel they wanted to read and explore out of the teacher’s curated selection.   

The teacher encouraged students to “Surprise Yourself!” with the book selection.  It is very important to note that students chose the books based on their interest and engagement with the text, not their reading level.  “It was a huge risk and it paid off!”, says the teacher. 

Books were chosen after a ‘book tasting’ where excerpts were shared, and students gave their top three choices. 

Students of all reading abilities were able to access the books through supports like listening to their peers read or following the text along with an audio version. 

Have a listen to this video from our grade 4 book club discussions.  The enthusiasm for literacy is almost palpable while the students talk about their learning.  Students talk about how the instructional strategies helped them to learn. The students show their deep thinking, reflection and awareness of themselves as learners. 

The students tap right into the engaging instructional strategies they are benefitting from and share their positive experiences with the following three strategies: 

 ‘Say Something’: an invitation to have dialogue with your book club group and to share opinions. 

Students clearly love this strategy!  They say: 

It is so fun to tell about the story and to share all your knowledge about what you know.” 

You think of everything you heard or you read, and then you just say it and its really easy and its fun, too.  Everyone will know about the book and maybe they will want to read it, too!” 

“When you read a book and then you share it, to like everyone, the next time you read it, you remember what happened, and the person you told it to- maybe they will like the book and maybe they would buy it!” 


Read Aloud: students take turns reading selections of the book aloud to each other. 

When asked, “What did you think about you taking turns and reading aloud?”, students replied, “Kind of fun, and then you have a turn to listen”.  “You could follow along, or you could  just close the book and listen".


"One-Pager":  students represent their learning about the novel on one piece of paper  

I really like doing the One-Pager.  I think we should do more of them."

 "I love finding information from the book and putting it onto one page and decorating it.  It’s all really fun.  I love doing these types of projects!” 

 “You get to design, colour and share your knowledge of what you learned”. 

 The One-Pager allows all students an entry point into representing their learning, whether they are a student benefitting from additional supports, or a student who is ready to extend their learning.  One child loved it so much, she talked about putting her one-pager into a keepsake folder at home so she could keep it forever. 

The student enthusiasm for these literacy strategies perfectly captures success with our goal of fostering engagement in literacy.   

Our next steps, as we continue our journey on our literacy student learning plan, will be to continue to learn and share engaging literacy strategies as a staff; develop and apply further means of measuring our successes; and honing our focus on particular areas of study such as writing, for example. 

We are excited about the growth our students have shown us this year!  Our students are clearly demonstrating increased passion for their literacy learning! With that in mind, the last word must go to this Grade 5 Book Club group. 

Check out this video!  Before the teacher can even finish inviting the students to look up more books by the author, the students are saying, “We should look her up!” 

“If there’s a second book, I want it!” 

“I want the book!” 

And without any prompting, one student immediately turns to the “About the Author” page to learn more, and unbidden, his classmates grab their own books to follow along with laser focus and enthusiasm as he reads about the author. 

Our students at Morgan are developing their love of reading, a passion for sharing literature and confidence in their ability to engage actively as listeners, viewers, readers, writers and speakers.  We are so proud of them! 

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