Mid Year Review 2014

Pacific Way Elementary

Mid Year Review

March 6, 2014


Guiding Questions

  1. What key goals has your school identified this year?  Describe the progress you have made towards those goals.

The school has two main goals for 2013-2014.  The first is a numeracy goal that focuses on basic facts computations and developing a common vocabulary that provides a foundations for problem solving.  The second goal focuses on improving student social responsibility through PBiS.

In numeracy we have focused discussion on finding patterns in our data to see areas of concern.  The information that we have shows very strong results in all grades but the strength of those numbers decreases in the upper grade levels.  This information has been used to guide discussion around how we currently learn math in the school and what we wish could be done to learn math in the school.  This data and dissuasion has assisted in creating a math continuum chart that shows where we would like to get to and we are currently working on the steps for achieving that end goal.

Our social responsibility goal has been welcomed by staff and is a success story.  The PBiS matrix and consistency has improved the already positive tone in the school.  Student behaviour is constantly improving and students also seem to be enjoying their time at school. 

  1. Which students experience success at your school?  Why are they experiencing success and how do you know they are successful?

Nearly all students are successful, standardized test scores, report card marks and comments, student attention and motivation in class, and the quality of work being produced are all indicators for success.  Recent FSA scores show the school above district averages in all three measures grade 4 and 7.  This students are successful as their is a caring culture in the school and students are encouraged to do their best. 

  1. Which students do not experience success at your school?  Why are they not experiencing success and how do you respond to their needs?

The few students that are not experience success have challenges outside the school and there are plans being developed and implemented to support this. It is a transition year and we are still learning about some of our families and the manner in which they need our support.  Many of the students are receiving help with social skills and playing with others.  The LART, CEA’s, Teachers, and Principal all play a role in providing a growth mindset for the students.  Students also benefit from the den group activities, peer support, and buddy classes.


  1. How is your school responding to the changing needs of students in our District?  How will you prepare your students, staff, and parents to adapt to our changing world?

Pacific Way is a school in transition, we are moving to a more technological environment with a bring your own device program; specifically BYOD expectations are being developed to ensure that devices are being used in an educational manner and that teachers are supported in how to use the devices students are bring in effective ways.  We have recently purchased an iPad mini mobile lab (30 devices); this will be used to support math in a number of classrooms with a focus on grades 3-5. 

This year we have started to use the district videoconference equipment to collaborate with other schools on projects, two classes took part in monster match, three classes in read around the planet, and our grade 5/6 class will be working on a history project with grade 10 students from Westsyde secondary that involves technology, museum visits, and the production of an ebook.

We are also prepare our students to be good citizens, through our social responsibility activities.  These include den group activities (locker quotes, heart messages, butterflies on fence), act of kindness month (Food Bank, Baby Bank, SPCA, singing at seniors home), and Me to We projects.  The school has also been active in teaching students about social media having hosted Jesse Miller to speak with students in grades 5-7, a videoconference on sexting and texting for all grade 7 students, and a final activity that is iPad based for students in grade 5 and 6. 

The P.A.C.K video was created by grade 6/7 students during the first few weeks of school and showcased at the first recognition assembly. 


An additional goal that was set with the PAC was to improve communication with parents, and provide educational opportunities to support learning at home.

  • Facebook page
  • Visual display at school entrance
  • Infographics showing school goals displayed in hallway and websites
  • Family math nights
  • Carole Fullerton Parent Math Night
  1. What is your greatest challenge as a school and how are you responding as a community?  What supports can we provide to assist you in meeting this challenge?

Getting from good to great.  Discussion with staff have been positive and we continue to work on improving our theory of action, developing a growth mindset and discovering our non-negotiables.

To get from good to great we need to develop a growth mindset and provide collaborative learning tasks that challenge students to think and transfer their knowledge to new concepts.

  1. What school improvement strategy is haven the biggest impact on student learning?sixcs

Right now we are in a beginning state of change; staff are becoming more aware of where we are educationally and thinking more on how we can change to improve.  We are starting to look at the task being taught and what students are learning from that task.  As this develops we will work to fit the tasks into Michael Fullans 6C’s

The main focus in the school is math, however the daily 5 is being implemented and supported in classes as well.  The support is through collaboration time for teachers and the LART.   

Through discussion with staff we are growing together in our thoughts on how to engage and challenge students.  The next few months will be interesting times as we develop our technology use and host a Instructional Rounds visit.

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Getting on with “it”

Let’s Get On With It!

Dallas Elementary school is a small school to the east of Kamloops.  The school was established in the 1960’s and has seen many additions in its fifty plus years of existence.  This year is my first year at the school and it has been a journey in discovering the culture of the school. 

A teacher shared with me her views of what the school stood for.  She stated “(Dallas School) is a wonderful school with a wide variety of students from farm kids, to lower, middle, and upper class respectful kids. We celebrate, nurture and accept the eccentric individuality of everyone. We are a passionate staff who are willing to take time out of our schedules to ensure students have opportunities to participate in a wide variety of activities, such as Girls Club, Chess Club and numerous sports teams, etc. We are willing to do this because we realize these activities create a positive school culture inside and outside of our classrooms. We allow student’s the opportunity to take on school responsibilities to allow for self growth and ownership of our school.”

I find this to be a great introduction to Dallas and the people that spend their time within its walls.  However, the task I was given was to help this underperforming school find its academic focus and regain its stature as a good school.  It was nice that the school prepared a plan the year before to help me find the way.

SD 73 School Learning Plans

At first glance this powerpoint slide with the plan for the year seems a bit incomplete.  “Let’s get on with it” is a brief statement but in reflection it contains multiple meanings and implications for the school.  Simply put, the previous principal realized that the school was stuck in a rut and it needed to get moving forward.  The teachers recalled conversations and promises for collaboration time and a move to project based learning, but in reality there were fifteen divisions struggling to get on with learning. 

The focus for how to get started this year began with scanning the school through the lens of the spiral of inquiry.  Through the spiral framework we have taken action towards a focus on foundational literacy skills.   We created a structure for mentorship in the development of the Daily 5 in primary classrooms.  There are two teacher specialists working with classes to build the Daily 5 skills into the everyday learning in each class.  The school also purchased a second Levelled Literacy Intervention kit to assist primary students to reach the reading expectation level for their age.  Finally the long awaited creation of collaboration time for teachers to meet as a larger group to further develop Daily 5, share best practices, and create a better understanding of the new curriculum.  The collaboration time was accomplished by having buddy classes occur twice a month, when the classes are paired up one teacher will oversee the students in literacy centers with the older students modelling and working with their younger buddies. One session will allow all primary teachers to meet, the next all intermediate teachers.  The first two collaboration times were completed in March, and focused on core competencies and student self reflection.

As I look back int he school year, it is clear that there where many ups and downs.  I guess that is what happens when you are getting to know the community and pushing their thinking.  The task for the final two months of the year is to engage with students and ask the tough questions about how they view their learning.  In a school were 59% of the students in grade 7 say they do not enjoy coming to school there are some obvious questions to ask.

  • Spiral-of-inquiry_lightbox 2Can every learner name at least two adults in the building who believe he or she will be a success in life?
  • Are learners engaged in physical activity at the beginning of the day?
  • Do learners have the opportunity to express themselves in a variety of ways?
  • Do learners, regardless of their age, have the chance to teach someone else and to make a contribution to the community as a whole?
  • Can they describe in their own words what they are learning – and why this important?
  • Do Aboriginal learners see themselves reflected in the curriculum – and in the literature they are reading?
  • Do learners understand themselves as learners? Are they self-regulated? Are they becoming increasing meta-cognitive?
  • Do learners see and understand the connections across content areas?
  • Are all learners stretched through demanding, engaging and challenging work?
  • Are learners engaged in high quality, well-organized cooperative learning on a regular basis?

In June the plan is to have a group of students present to the staff about their viewpoint and thoughts on learning.   Adding the student voice creates a great action theory: if we add students voice to the learning process then learning will become more meaningful and students will feel valued (given that we actually listen to them).

I am looking forward to the end of this year, but not to the beginning of the next school year.  School District 73 is a conservative district and moving forward with innovation can be challenging.  Given the changes to the structure of schools for September I fear that our focus on literacy and student engagement will be lost in the messiness of returning to 2002 contract language.  To prepare for the unknown in September I am setting priorities based on our hunches that we continue to develop as part of our spiral.  These assumptions and hunches are solidified through the discussions and readings in the TELP program.  At our school we are changing the computer lab to a classroom to ensure that we keep an effective learning space for our music program, early literacy events, and our after school program for students (changing the computer room rather than our community room space).  We are adding time to our teacher librarian to ensure that all students and teachers have a chance to learn and interact with information, technology, and content.  We continue to give priority to teacher collaboration to further develop our literacy focus, best practice, and student engagement.  Creating learning spaces that allow for better engagement, focus, and perseverance (updating the library to a learning commons, declutter classrooms, improve displays in the hallway, and creating a welcoming environment for all who enter the building).  Most importantly sharing our learning with parents to enhance their understanding of the good things that we do at the school, how we value their children, and our commitment to developing students to be good citizens that understand the importance of a growth mindset.

This reflection is more about my school and not the course works that we have been dealing with over the last few months.  In reality every day at my school the course work and professional conversations are evident in the decisions and conversations that occur.  TELP is helping to focus my thinking and develop a view of education that makes sense for the learner.  The decisions that we are making for next year will have a huge impact on student learning.  Just reducing class size is not going to be enough to create the change that is needed at Dallas Elementary.  What is needed involves a bigger picture of learning and caring that is emerging this year and needs to be kept in the forefront in the years ahead.  I feel daily the impact of TELP and how it is helping move the school forwards.  I believe TELP has confirmed many values I already held, but by solidifying the values in research and best practice it has been a easy conversation with staff.  As I walked around the school last week I could see little changes that have improved the tone of the school.  We have always valued students but now we allow students to do more of the heavy lifting and are holding them accountable for their learning.  It is a positive trend that the 15 divisions have been waiting for, they just needed to be allowed to “just get on with it”.  As a staff we are more energized with doing less better. 

It is easy to state “let’s just get on with it”, the difficulty was to know what to start with and what exactly it was that we wanted to do.  Albert Einstein said “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole live believing that it is stupid”.  Dallas Elementary is starting to provide meaningful tasks layered with better assessment thus providing a view of learning that allows us to know where the students are at, and more importantly, what they need to further develop into young adults.

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Professional Learning

The Spiral of Inquiry (http://noii.ca/spiral-of-inquiry/) has been the centre of our professional discussions this school year.  We are using the spiral model to look into our school community and find a focus that will drive positive change. 

inquiry-spiralIn September we began by looking into what attributes we wish to see in our students, the goal of this activity was to make visible the characteristics that we value as a school.

The attributes are:

Responsible, Empathetic, Respectful, Problem solver, Critical thinker,  Confident, Accountable, Positive, Adaptable, Patient

During an October staff meeting, we discussed  tasks that we are doing in class and if there were links to our attributes.  It was surprising to see that most of the tasks that were listed were not academic in their focus.  The list seemed to have more of a PBiS feel to them and a general observation to the tasks were in their development of citizenship and deportment.  Reflecting on the last few years at the school, there was considerable time spent on behaviour matrixes and most of the school concerns were in the behaviour of students.

Tasks List

Daily 5, Tech club, Morning fitness, Recorder, Note taking, Labs, Choice, Coding, Cleanup, Classroom jobs, PBL science, Novel studies, Centres (literacy & math), Journal writing, Class dojo, Math problem solving pairs, Morning meeting, DPA, Home reading, Calendar, Mark own work, Healthy snacks, Math flash cards, Friends for life, Agendas, Cardboard challenge, Planting a promise

For the December Professional Learning day we spent more time working on establishing a focus that would support learners in meaningful ways.  Through much of our discussion there were similar themes that were coming forward.  Staff were finding that the number of students meeting expectation in reading for primary was low, also that writing in the intermediate grades was noted on many report cards as an area that needed improvement.  The discussion that followed lead to a consensus that reading comprehension and foundational literacy skills (Phonics and Vocabulary) was a focus area that would would benefit all learners.

We worked on an action theory statement

  • If we promote a growth mindset and provide collaborative learning tasks that challenge students to transfer their knowledge to new concepts then students will be more engaged, behaviours will be reduced, and achievement will improve.
  • IF students improve their basic skills/concepts THEN student engagement will increase.
  • IF we promote the knowledge of basic foundation skills THEN students will be more engaged
  • IF we focus on foundational literacy skills and build comprehension in students, THEN students will improve their ability to be independent problem solvers.

To date we have taken some action towards this focus.  We have created a framework for the Daily 5 in primary classrooms.  This framework has a teacher specialist working with classes to build the daily 5 skills into each room.  We have worked on the creation of literacy centres and provided collaboration time for a teacher to meet with the LART and specialist teacher.  The school also purchased a Levelled Literacy Intervention kit to assist students to reach the reading expectation level for their age.

Classroom tour

Daily 5 getting started

Videos have been used to introduce the daily 5 and assist in the understanding of what we mean by daily 5 and how to get started.

Next steps are digging deeper into the tasks we teach through the lens of our action theory statement.

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Growth Mindset

The article “Mind over Matter” by Louis Reynolds and Jonathon Birdwell resonates well with my current school environment.  This is my first year in the school and lately the conversation has shifted to the perceived effort of the students and their lack of perseverance.  This is not isolated to my school culture but many of our schools see this lack of engagement that identifies itself through students seemingly giving up, or struggling to begin a task.  It seems that students have learned not to struggle through a task but at times to shut down and become frustrated with the assignment.



This frustration is devastating to the learning process and it is encouraging that mindset is being shown as a manner in which to provide students with an increased ability to try.  That students can improve on their grit, persistence, ambition, resilience and self belief is encouraging.  Personally I feel that this growth is centered on how we interact and speak with people.  The phrasing that is used to motivate and provide feedback is crucial to the development of the right mindset.  Praising effort over ability has always prompted more effort whether it was in an academic setting or just building something in the backyard.


I was quite interested to hear of the teaching of a growth mindset and how schools worked to overcome the fixed mindset culture and improve the interactions between staff and students.  For our school we have identified the need of a growth mindset in our students and as we struggle to make this work, it may be best to define what we mean by growth mindset and ensure that all staff are speaking and acting in that framework.




Our action theory statement could be – If we model and teach through a growth mindset then students will develop the ability to be more resilient in their learning.


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Sandhu’s List of apps and ideas

Top Apps and Tech Ideas

The following lists were compiled by Jason Sandhu Grade 5/6 Teacher at Pacific Way Elementary School

iPad Apps

  • Book Creator (digital books with video, audio, pictures, and lots of custom features)

  • Explain Everything (screencasting whiteboard app that allows for sharing ideas a videos)

  • Comic Life – make comics that include your own pictures, speech bubbles, and professional looking templates

  • Green Screen by Do Ink – easy to use green screen app that places students “in” pictures.

  • iMovie – create movie trailers or your own videos that include pop up text and professional transitions.

  • Pic Collage – Photo editor with effects and templates

  • Sharpscan Pro – take pictures of anything, instantly turn it into a PDF, and share it!

  • Paper 53 – Digital paper that you can write, draw, and colour on.  Great to use with apple Airplay.

  • Google Drive (docs, sheets, etc.) – Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files

  • Keynote – build eye catching presentations with video, pictures, text, and transitions


TTOC Techy Ideas (quick, easy, and fun!)

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Deeper Learning with TRU Students

Yesterday Jason and I met with the first year education students at TRU.  Our topic was the use of technology in schools and we highlighted some of the tools we use at the school and provided some ideas and activities for them to use during their practicums.

here is a link to the keynote presentation used TRU 2015

 Here is the link to the list of apps and activities   https://goo.gl/O5gWmK

one of the videos we did not show is titled Future learning,



we also discussed some math examples, here is the probability example


Dan Meyers Math class needs a makeover


Thank you for much for being such a great audience and for asking thoughtful questions.



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Remembrance Day 2015

“On November 11, especially, but also throughout the year, we have the opportunity to remember the efforts of these special Canadians.  In remembering, we pay honour to those who responded to their country’s needs.”


This was one of the quotes read by grade 7 students at the assembly for Remembrance Day.  They are fitting words for the significance of the day and the moment of silence that is observed.  Today 150 Pacific Way students took part in the assembly to honour veterans and active military Canadians.


Students of today understand the presence of terrorism and countries in conflict, but it is more of a challenge to understand a world at war.  This is a good thing, in that the world is working better at finding alternative solutions to war, but more of a negative when it comes to remembering fallen soldiers and the sacrifice many Canadians made for their country.

The assemblies that are held at schools across Canada help in their small way to provide recognition to our veterans and their gallant efforts, as do the Highway of Heroes’ signs and music videos that have become popular in recent years.


“The important thing for all of us to remember is that they fought to preserve a way of life, Canadian values, and the freedom we enjoy today and often take for granted.  Remember that the silence is to honour their sacrifice and memory”


Today’s assembly included:


O’Canada                                                                               grade 5

See the Veteran, Do you know where I find peace,           kindergarten

Flanders Field,                                                                       grade 3/4

I’ve got peace in my fingers,                                                grade 2, and 2/3

Universal Soldier,                                                                  grade 6/7 students,

Remembrance quotes                                                          grade 6/7 students.

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Numeracy Pro D day

The focus of the November Professional Development day was on numeracy.  Specifically, the goal was to meet with two other schools and review the numeracy projects that would be going on in those schools and then get a chance to share and create resources.

To begin the day the teachers were given an icebreaker task to use the app comic life to create a introduction of themselves and to identify their superhero abilities.  This was a great way to highlight another quality creative app and to allow teachers time to learn how it works.  The comic life app could be used in many ways in the classroom to easily allow students to put ideas into a story format.  Older students could write on specific topics while younger students could use the app to learn to link ideas together.

Each school then provided a short highlight of what they would be doing this school year in their focus on numeracy.  At Pacific Way Elementary the strategies we are trying are simple, focus on basic facts, and increase the vocabulary and language used in math learning.

Our grade 6/7 teacher did an excellent job of explaining the idea of math walls (for both intermediate and primary) and how to assist students in learning the vocabulary of math.  Shelly also highlighted some of the math tile  examples used by Marcy Cook, (these are available through the HGEC).  

As we move forward in making math more visible and important in our daily routines I am reminded of a analogy from the book 5 Levers to Improve Learning, by Frontier and Rickabaugh .  In the book they look at the remodelling of a kitchen, how when you change the flooring the countertops, the cabinets, repaint and basically overhaul the entire room the only change you have made is to the appearance.  The first meal you prepare in the newly remodelled kitchen will last the same as it did in the old outdated kitchen.  To change the taste of the food you need to change the ingredients or the manner in which the food was prepared.

In math teaching this means not just bringing in technology or more manipulaitvies (many problems have been made worse by just throwing money at it), but actually changing the way that you teach math.  The endless worksheets of the past need to be replaced with peer to peer teaching, video, creative apps, understanding why the math is important, and real world applications.

One of the best questions of the day was in why are students taught to divide and multiply fractions, this was seen by many as a waste of time on a topic that many students were frustrated by.  My answer at the time was not great but in reflection it hit me that really all that fraction work is building a basis for Algebra.  That the ability to divide and multiply fractions, becomes adding like terms and isolating variables, perhaps this fractions unit is really important after all.

In the end the day was very productive, teachers from different schools were able to share ideas, to discuss how they teach math, and hopefully reflect on how they could adapt their math lessons to be engaging, important, and stress the importance of the language of math.  Our numeracy resource teacher begin her time on Wednesday morning and hopefully we will be seeing the beginnings of something great.

The Professional development at the school continues to impress me as the staff are open to ideas and are having a great deal of enjoyment in learning.

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Remembrance Day

The school remembrance day was special this year.  Due to a number of reasons the Remembrance Day assembly and related activities occurred four days prior to November 11, this at first seemed to diminish the importance of the day.  However as the day went on that quickly changed. Prior to recess the photos on the hallway display were updated to remembrance day celebrations and appropriate images to help students get a visual on what remembrance day looks like.

We then held our assembly which featured a number of classes who performed songs and read poems.  It was amazing to listen to the growth of the message as we moved from the younger students to the older students.  The last words spoken at the assembly were from the poem “we are the fallen” which said “you will be remembered”.

The highlight of the day was after the assembly when the kindergarten students connected through Skype to speak with a Lt Col in the Canadian Army.  The Officer was excellent with the children and answered all their questions and left them with a healthy memory of remembrance and how important this day is to all Canadians.

I was very proud of our school on Nov 7th this year.  The respect and admiration for the brave people who have fought for our freedom and continue with peacekeeping missions around the world was very evident.  This was a Remembrance Day to remember.

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School Pro D Days

As a school we have identified numeracy as a area of growth.  For the October Pro D day the staff worked on developing skills and working with the digital tools available in the school.  The use of video was highlighted (Khan academy, Brain Pop) and a number of iPad apps (explain everything, keynote)

One of the main messages for the day was in the use of math vocabulary and using this vocabulary in lessons and demonstrations.  The ideas os sum, difference, product, quotient, and what the words mean were explained as was the importance of common math language through all grades.  There is a lot of math slang used in many lessons and some of the wording in the Khan academy video was highlighted in a wordle and then the word origins and meanings discussed.  The level of understanding for students especially in numeracy, can depend on their confidence in what is being asked or told in the problem.

Using explain everything was a key in recording voice and actions in a math problem.  When groups presented their recording many noticed that their math vocabulary still needed some work and how easy it was to slide back into math slang.  It was also highlighted that the use of apps by students to create content is at a higher level of thinking then consuming content in a consumption app.  During the Pro D days the apps that have been used to demonstrate learning have mostly been creativity apps.  The consumption apps have a role but real learning is in creating, this is why every top app list has explain everything at the top of the app list.

The big activity for the day was for the groups to create a presentation about a new product.  In the presentation groups had to use a list of statistical references and values to showcase their new product.  The groups then presented to the Coyote Den panel to see if they could get financial backing for their new product.  Groups were also asked to use a misleading data point and the audience was asked to look for the misleading data and analyze the data provided.  The hook for this lesson was provided in the Brain Pop video on statistics, that identified much of the vocabulary and did speak to misleading data.

Staff were again challenge to learn and create content that showed their learning and knowledge of the math vocabulary.  It was commented several times that in creating the explain everything lesson that each group had to go through the problem several times before they felt comfortable explaining it to others.  What an amazing insight for the groups to realize that students and staff can spend time on one problem and master its learning through collaboration and discussion.

Explain everything does an excellent job of allowing learners to practice doing and teach others,  perhaps that is why it is at the top of most educational app lists.

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