Celebrating Inquiry Spring 2015

Welcome to the second issue of our online celebration of learning and achievement by University of Lethbridge intern teachers. Below you will find profiles of all projects presented at the Spring 2015 Professional Inquiry Project (PIP) Symposium. These projects were completed by by pre-service teachers in their final twelve-week practicum. Please be aware that external links are supplied by contributors and are not maintained or monitored by the University of Lethbridge.


Return to Past Issues of Celebrating Inquiry

How Can Mobile Apps Enhance an Elementary Classroom? Which Apps Are Best to Invest In?

Just prior to my PSIII, my internship school bought an iPad mini for each classroom. Teachers were unsure of what apps to spend money on, so I decided to make them an online app guide organized by grade level.

I tested the iPad apps by visiting various classrooms and pulling out random students to try the apps. I found it valuable to test some apps at various grade levels to see where it was most effective. I asked students to rate the enjoyment and effectiveness of the app, although this was sometimes a less meaningful rating from the younger students. I was unable to test as many apps as I had hoped due to the many surprises that come up while teaching at an elementary school. However, I am happy with the overall product. I think teachers at my PSIII school and beyond will find it useful, and I plan to add to it in the future if possible. I found it impressive how many apps were free, however I found it frustrating when apps claimed to be free but later on required payment for the full version or upper levels. Most apps were affordable and all of the apps I paid for were less than $10, with most less than $5. The link to my project is: www.mmhipads.weebly.com.

Alyssa graduated in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Science (Biological Sciences) and Bachelor of Education (Science Education). She was born and raised in Lethbridge. She completed her PSIII at Mike Mountain Horse Elementary School in Lethbridge, teaching Grade 5 and Kindergarten. View her professional site at http://alyssasteachingblog.weebly.com.

What Activities Are Available to Actively and Intentionally Build Classroom Community Without Sacrificing Significant Instruction Time?

I looked at ways to develop and maintain classroom community in active and intentional ways without sacrificing a great deal of class time. To do so, I found a variety of individual, pair/small group, and whole class strategies that would meet this end in 15 minutes or less.

I began this project on January 12, thinking that I would be able to accomplish an activity every Friday. Unfortunately, Fridays usually got taken up with PD Days, school activities and other things. I did have a chance to try one each of an Individual, Group, and Whole Class activity. The individual activity was the check-in booklet, which I maintained until the end of practicum. This was a great forum for students to share things with me that they weren’t comfortable saying out loud. For some, this was what they needed. For others, they needed a space to doodle. In all cases, they considered how they were feeling that day, shared it with me, and as I checked them each morning, I knew how to handle my day a little better. The group activity was the Compliment Slips. This was a great success. Many of my students were proud to say they put a lot of thought into each compliment they gave to the members of their table group. All expressed excitement at writing and receiving compliments. When it was time to go home that Friday afternoon, I think all students left a little uplifted and excited to tape their compliment slips poster up on their wall. I even received some slips, too! The whole class participated in class shares every Monday. I also did an activity with them early in my internship where each student was given a piece of a puzzle. They decorated it as they saw fit, and I put the pieces together to form the shape of a schoolhouse. This was clearly something that was important to the students, as they have come to the back to look at it often. On my project website, I’ve documented the activities I was actually able to complete. For those I couldn’t, I included them as resources– I’m sure there are 40-50 different activities listed! I’m excited to try them out later in my practice.

Meagan is an English major with a Specialization in Special Education. She graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a Combined Degree in May 2015.


How Does the "Leader in Me" Philosophy Play a Part in Our School Culture and Our Students' Daily Lives?

For my project I designed a webpage about Stephen Covey's "Leader in Me 7 Habits." The webpage was then connected to my schools home page for students, parents, and community members to view. It highlighted the "Leader in Me" philosophy, what our school is actively doing to embody the 7 Habits, and what parents can do at home to embrace the "Leader in Me" beliefs.

Before I started my internship I read Stephen Covey's book, as I knew my school is embracing his ideals. Immediately I was on board and joined the Leadership Committee. Our school had a need to showcase the Leader in Me philosophy to our parents and I volunteered for the job. I worked with my administrators, teachers, and parents to create the webpage.

Once I had completed the webpage I shared it with the Leadership Committee, and gained more insights. After implementing these wonderful ideas I was able to create an informative webpage that was externally linked to our school's homepage. This webpage contains links for books, online games, and activities for children to do. It is a good starting point for parents and community members and is a working document. As our schools leadership goals grow so will the webpage.

Natasha recently completed the U of L After-degree program with a Social Studies Major. She states: “I have a passion for learning and as a teacher I believe we are constant learners”.

What Strategies Can Be Used to Improve Student Literacy?

My professional inquiry project addressed the literacy needs of students within the classroom. The focus was to provide literacy intervention strategies that can be implemented both in the classroom and with additional support where available.

I participated in collaborative team meetings which focused on assisting struggling students in grades two through four by providing literacy supports. As a team, we determined specific supports and interventions already in place, organized differentiated strategies, as well as discussed appropriate and intensive intervention for the highest need students. Working with students one-on-one, I assessed students' independent reading levels using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. Based on these assessments, we as a team were able to determine which students to focus on for more intense literacy support.

In addition to participating in the larger collaborative response team, I also worked to apply this model of literacy intervention in my own classroom. Meeting with my teacher mentor (the assistant principal and grade five teacher), we experimented with the model used in the collaborative team to tailor it to best fit our group. In our meetings we went through our class list, one student at a time, determining what supports might support that individual student. In the next meeting, we would look over our last action plan and address what had and had not worked. Based on these reflections we would then create a new action plan and begin the process again. Through practice in this smaller setting, we were able to refine the process and bring suggestions and feedback to the collaborative team.

Some of the areas of focus for students in the Grade 5 classroom included legibility and vocabulary. For example, one student struggled significantly with writing. His writing was consistently illegible and when using a computer, his writing was still often difficult to understand due to spelling and syntactical errors. To support this student, I provided him with tactile tools including a pencil group and a weighted pencil. I also started having him use the computer more frequently and read his writing aloud. When the student completed a writing piece legibly, this piece was then used as a model to which he could compare future work. Other students in the class, particularly English Language Learners, were supported through practical vocabulary development.

The opportunity to extend my experience from the collaborative team meeting into my own classroom allowed me to experiment with literacy intervention techniques. It has been a reminder that literacy intervention is not always a complicated process, but may be as simple as having students listen to their own writing or use a different writing utensil to improve legibility. This experience has also reminded me of the incredible power of collaboration. Through collaboration with a team of other teachers and support staff, I was able to improve my own teaching as well as provide meaningful opportunities for my students. Regardless of whether the school I end up teaching in has a formal collaborative literacy team, our approach is one that I would love to implement in my own classroom. I believe that this method would highly benefit students in any class at every grade and ability level.

Kayla is a general humanities major with practicum experience in grades 3, 5, and 6. She graduated in May 2015. Originally from Calgary, she began her education at Mount Royal University then transferred to the University of Lethbridge to complete her degree.


How Can the School Community Build Character in its Students?

During my Internship we worked on a variety of projects and activities that would help build growth mindset, grit, mindfulness and gratitude. The second component was a website that gives resources to parents and teachers about character strengths and how to build them.

Johannah graduated in May 2015, with a double major in Social Studies and Math Educatin. She is originally from Steinbach, Manitoba.