The School Learning Plan (formerly School Improvement Plan or SIPSA) is underway at Katimavik. After an intense review of data late in September (supported by the OCDSB Quality Assurance division), planning sessions at the October PD Day and several team-based planning sessions we currently have 6 groups of teachers actively learning how to teach differently in order to meet the identified learning need in our students.
The leadership team uncovered a need in our students in two areas: pre-writing (generating, sorting, organizing ideas) and open response questions where application of mathematical knowledge is required. The identification of the writing need was affirmed by the teachers’ reaction when we presented it to them; they have observed these weaknesses in student work. They reported that students can fill in organizing sheets to organize writing ideas, but often their drafts don’t reflect the plan. They aren’t using their plan for writing, they are creating a plan as an independent task. We talked about how best to teach this skill and determined through professional dialogue that we need to use modelling, shared practice and independent practice. These are practices we haven’t tried for teaching the writing process.
We used Google Forms and surveyed the students to see what they would identify as their pre-writing practices and to ask them what they thought they needed to learn more about. Results were able to be viewed by grade to help teachers make decisions about the specific needs of their students.
Based on the student survey data and the review of EQAO and previous SIPSA data, we have established the following theory of action:
If teachers explicitly teach pre-writing through the comprehensive literacy model (with a focus on modelling), then students will value it and independently and effectively apply it to their writing.
We took time on the PD Day to review the Comprehensive Literacy Model (formerly Balanced Literacy) in order to use it effectively to address the students’ learning need. Since then, teams have met twice to plan how to teach and assess student pre-writing. Each team is working with the same theory of action but is planning lessons and assessment tools specific to the students in their classes. Some students may not be writing many drafts or final copies while we focus on this process of pre-writing. We want students to understand how important and useful this phase is. Once the plan is ready, the writing should be significantly less difficult and if it is done well, the reader will be able to understand your message even before the text has been written.
What we discovered in our own drafting of the if/then theory of action is that we all plan differently. We had pages and pages of notes and drafts just to write one sentence and each of our work looked very different from the others! Pre-writing doesn’t have to look a certain way – it’s the process, not the product that matters!
Planning our Theory of Action statement.
Planning to write our “If/then” statement.
You should be hearing more about pre-writing from your students in the coming weeks! You can support your child’s learning by thinking about and talking about how you plan for writing. Talk about how you plan to write everyday items like emails, birthday cards or letters. Include the steps of thinking up the ideas, choosing the ones you want to use and putting them in order. Show them how you plan for a piece of writing in your workplace if that applies. Most importantly, ask your child questions about what he or she is writing at school (it could be a reading response, a paragraph, a story, a report or a poster) and how they have planned to answer it.
- Two classes surveyed their parents at Parent/Teacher interviews about pre-writing strategies they use.
Once we have completed the learning cycle for pre-writing we will apply some of those skills to answering open ended questions in mathematics, to address the other need we identified in our review of the data in September. We will be welcoming Marian Small to the school in February to help us learn how to teach these skills more effectively. Marian Small is an author and International Professional Development Consultant for Improved Mathematics Education and she has partnered with the OCDSB this year to support teachers’ learning.
The School Learning Plan is just that – all members of the school community are learning – including the admin team. I have been learning about some of the barriers to professional learning and how to minimize them so that all of our professional learning can have maximum benefit for our students. We are all learning and it’s all about and for our students!