Located on the shared, unneeded, traditional territories of the Katzie, Semiahmoo, Kwantlen and other Coast Salish Peoples', in the City of Surrey, BC, Westerman Elementary is home to a wonderful and richly diverse learning community.
Building on the legacy of compassion, hard work, and service to community that was modelled by Surrey's 1997 Volunteer of the Year and the school's namesake, Margaret Westerman, our learners participate in a range of learning activities that expand their awareness, understanding and acceptance of others. They also put their learning into action and participate in a range of initiatives that support the health and well-being of their community, especially those who are more vulnerable. Whether collecting donations for the food bank, taking part in community environmental projects, organizing multicultural events, raising money for cancer research, or actively recycling and re-using, Westerman students show they care about others and appreciate any opportunity to give back to their community.
Westerman Elementary is a model of inclusion, understanding, and acceptance, regardless of background, socio-economic status, and identity. With dozens of languages, nationalities and cultures represented in the school community, students are welcomed to the school from around the world.
Westerman is literally a place "where the world learns and plays together".
In a safe and supportive environment, Westerman Elementary challenges all students to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitude essential to be positive, proactive, and successful learners, and contributing members of the community.
OUR LEARNERS Children at Westerman arrive at school each day with a desire to learn more about themselves and others. Recognizing that the development of strong literacy skills is fundamental to student success across all subject areas, our learners are provided with rich opportunities to share stories with each other, to make connections through text to the world around them, and to develop an appreciation of the power of language to convey thoughts and ideas clearly and meaningfully. Our learners are encouraged to read and engage with a variety of texts every day, and to communicate their learning with others, both at home and at school. A particular emphasis is currently being placed on providing students with literacy resources and activities that better reflect the diverse lived experiences and cultural identities of our learners. Ultimately, our goal is help our learners build the strong foundations in literacy that are critical to their ability to participate fully in the world around them.
Learners engaged in reading and literacy skill development are evident throughout the school. The following are examples of our students, individually and collaboratively, using oral and visual representations, and written texts to:
Comprehend and Connect
Literature circles encourage students to engage in text in a student-centred and collaborative manner, and allows for discussion, choice, and differentiation. Learners are able select a text from a set of options that best aligns with their interests and abilities. This, in turn, tends to increase student engagement and improved reading skills . Students in this example met regularly in a “literature circle” with other students who selected the same text. As the group progressed through the text, students shared their thoughts and observations of what they had read, asked clarifying questions, and listened to the perspectives of others in the circle. Students learn to accept the ideas and thoughts of others, while being provided with a safe and supportive environment in which to share their own. The Literature Circle strategy tends to help students make deeper connections and strengthen their comprehension and communication skills.
Create and Communicate
Developing literacy skills occurs across all curricular areas. Through a "Splat Art" project, students were encouraged to share their creations through storytelling, and to explore their emotions, creativity, patience, and fine motor skills. The learners participated in class discussions connecting colours to emotions and were then asked to brainstorm their creative story ideas with a partner. The students then created a "splat art" picture that was accompanied by their own written version of the story that they were trying to convey through their art. This provided a wonderful opportunity for each child to communicate and reflect upon who they were both emotionally and creatively.
Every day, our learners are presented with opportunities to practice, develop and demonstrate their Literacy skills. Our team of educators provide our learners with these essential skills to set them up for success in today's rapidly changing world. To identify students’ overall strengths and areas for growth, we recently tracked Literacy skills within a cohort of learners from diverse linguistic, cultural, and educational backgrounds. The learners within the cohorts are representative of the diversity that exists in the rest of the school population.
Students have been participating in cross-curricular (Language Arts and Social Studies) ancient mythology unit. After receiving direct instruction as a class, students were organized into groups of three and were asked select a myth for study, to read the myth, and lead their peers in discussions related to their chosen mythology.
With a focus on comprehension and fluency, students were then asked to reflect on their reading and communication skills in relation to the project and to what extent they thought they had improved:
"I think I have made improvements in my fluency over time, and I did not stop in between sentences like I usually do when reading. One thing I think I needed was more expression, It would have enhanced the way I read, making it sound better. I also think it is important to know what's going on as you read, so afterwards you have a clear understanding of the story and don't need to look back to re-read it. Overall, I think I have improved in my reading."
I really improved my reading just by volunteering to read, reading at home and reading at school.
There is so much interesting stuff to read. I always learn new things when reading books. I have many fun series to read. There are many authors I learned about due to reading.
OUR NEXT STEPS
Evidence of Student Learning
Anecdotal evidence our cohort group during the past three months suggests that students have gradually increased their reading and literacy skills. Specifically, there was greater awareness amongst students that:
What also became evident over the past few months is that there could be substantial learning benefits, across curricular areas, to more deeply develop students competency in Critical and Reflective Thinking , so that they are better able to question what hear, read, and view in order to be educated and engaged citizens.
Moving Forward-A Focus on Critical and Reflective Thinking Through Literacy
As the 2023-2024 school year begins, our staff will be collaborating over multiple days of professional learning on topics that have been shown to enhance the literacy learning experience for students.
Throughout the year, students will learn to engage with critical thinking challenges in their studies, lives, communities and in the media. They will learn to develop and refine questions; create and carry out plans; gather, interpret, and synthesize information and evidence; and reflect to draw reasoned conclusions. Critical thinking activities may focus on one part of the process, such as questioning, and reach a simple conclusion, while others may involve more complex inquiry requiring extensive thought and reflection.
We look forward to providing regular updates on our literacy learning journey as the school year progresses.