Celebrating Inquiry Spring 2020

Welcome to the twelfth 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 2020 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

Teaching Literacy Using Multimodal Literature Across All Subject Matters

To what extent can multimodal literacy extend beyond the confines of the traditional English Language Arts classroom?

I strongly believe that at an elementary level, even more specifically in Division 1 (K – 2), students should be exposed to as much literature and literacy-rich experiences as possible. It is so important at their young age to build a strong and solid foundation in literacy while the material is still very new and unfamiliar. It is through consistent exposure to a wide variety of multimodal literacy that students will be better able to thrive academically and draw ties to curriculum that they are learning.  Throughout the course of my final practicum, I took the opportunity to explore the role of multimodal literacy and how it can extend beyond the confines of an English Language Arts class.  I introduced a variety of multimodal texts in subjects that may not typically include a literacy focus. For example, what role does multimodal literacy take in the physical education classroom? How will that look differently in a music classroom, or social studies classroom?

As a part of my personal inquiry project, I have compiled a collection of books, primarily picture books, that can be implemented into all different subject areas rather than just English Language Arts.  Having taught Grade 2 in my final practicum, much of the literature mentioned will best fit the Grade 2 Alberta Curriculum but would be suitable for all grades Kindergarten - Grade 5.  Each subject area comes equipped with the literature that I brought into my classroom and how I used it, as well as additional literary resources that could be brought into the classroom again organized by subject. 

Caileigh is currently in her final semester of her Music Education Degree at the University of Lethbridge. She is passionate about elementary education and placing literacy at the core of her teaching practice. Outside of the classroom, she is an avid swing dancer and a proud member of the Incanto Singers.


Project Based Learning: What Our Students Gained

What are learning and behaviour effects of implementing Project Based Learning into your classroom?

We came up with this idea because it is an initiative that the Westwind school division has been focusing on in their classrooms. Each grade has at least one project that they work on in the year. Being new teachers, we were interested in how PBL would affect student learning and behaviour. We saw an opportunity to contribute to the information gathering process that accompanies any new initiative, when documenting results and procedures is an important part of evaluating and building on a new program. We focused on learning and behaviour during our inquiry, as both these measures are of significant interest in assessing the value of any instructional approach. We both noticed that student engagement in the subject matter increased and behaviour was more on task.

Becca and Hana were placed in Magrath Elementary School. Becca was teaching in grade 5, with Science as her main teaching subject. Hana was teaching in grade 6, with her Social Studies as her main teaching subject.

Teaching While White: Navigating Anti-Racism Pedagogy as a White Educator

In what ways can white educators implement anti-racism teaching practices?

My PIP focuses on navigating race and ethnicity in the classroom as a white teacher. I focus on anti-racism teaching practices, the influence of race on school culture, and supporting ELL students. PS III is the third practicum I have done in Grassland Public Schools. Grasslands, and specifically the city of Brooks, have unique demographics because there is a large population of white farming families juxtaposed with a large population of African and Asian immigrant families who come to the area for the jobs at the JBS meatpacking plant. This means that there a large number of students who are English language learners and have cultural and religious practices that differ from what may be considered the norm in many Southern Albertan communities. In addition, the vast majority of teaching staff in the district are white.

My inquiry question reflects an ongoing need to develop tools and knowledge that embrace cultural differences and best support all students. It arises not only from the ever-growing influx of new cultures to the Brooks area, but also from increased awareness of the repercussions of a colonialist and systemically racist history in Canada. As a white teacher who is passionate about ELL support and celebrating diversity, and also as a white mother raising a mixed-race child, I want to focus on best practices for ensuring that every student feels seen, heard, and included in a safe classroom environment. In particular, I am interested in how white teachers address issues related to privilege and inter-cultural understanding. 

Destiny is a Language Arts Education major with the dream of having a grade 5 classroom to call her own. She grew up in Sundre, AB, has attended the U of L since 2015, and completed her professional semesters in the Brooks, AB area. In her personal life she enjoys Harry Potter, swimming, poetry, and spending time with her son.


To What Extent Does Playing Ukuleles Enhance Student Learning?

To what extent does playing ukuleles enhance student learning?

During our practicum, after talking to staff, we discovered a need to enhance the music program at our school! At Sunnyside each teacher is the music teacher but not every teacher has a music background. There are some amazing musical resources at the school that teachers are hesitant to use because they have never learned how to play the instruments or teach others how to use them. They had 23 ukuleles that looked brand new and so we thought it would be a great learning tool for teachers and students to start a ukulele adventure that was easy for everybody to take part in! We created a website with a unit plan, lesson plans, videos, and assessment tools. At the beginning we did not have a specific 'need' we were looking for other than providing the school with a resource and seeing where it would take us but throughout our experience, we realized it did more than that. This project addressed classroom culture, differentiation, self-regulation, engagement, and FUN! We witnessed student's participation, student leadership, self-regulation skills, and awareness take place. Implementing the methods we developed through our resource allowed us to see how a simple task could create an immense impact on student learning. Students wanted to play, they wanted to talk about it outside of class, they wanted to bring their own ukulele to school, and they wanted to 'show up'. The impact on student learning was amazing and we cannot wait for this resource to continue to be used and for our learning to be shared with others!

We are PSIII students working at Sunnyside School in Calgary. Zoë majors in Drama and specializes in Early Childhood and Reilly majors in Math. We both have a passion for music and exploring unique ways to engage students. We are both graduating in Spring 2020 and are excited to continue our education journey!


Mindful, “Kindful”, Peaceful: Mindfulness in the Elementary Classroom

How can mindfulness in the classroom encourage elementary students to develop positive emotional regulation, enhancing their motivation to learn?

Throughout my time spent at St. Teresa of Avila I have observed that self-regulation and motivation are key aspects that allow my students to learn. St. Teresa of Avila Elementary School values mindfulness. The school community has a diverse and unique range of students that benefit significantly from taking the time to include mindful practices throughout the day. Throughout my practicum experience I planned and facilitated a 4 Week Mindfulness Challenge, where my students and I participated in mindful activities on a daily basis. These activities usually took place in the morning, which enhanced the opportunity to have a calm start to our school day. Students participated in a range of different activities, a few examples being mindful play, mindful coloring, breathing exercises, prayer time, body scans, story time, and mindful movement. Results of this project included a few of the following benefits for my students: improved attention while learning, emotional regulation, greater compassion towards their peers, and reduced stress and anxiety. It is evident that students learn better in an atmosphere that is more emotionally positive, and ultimately a positive emotional classroom can lead to academic achievement. I believe that teaching children to be mindful at a younger age will not only benefit them now, but in the years to come as well.

Brooke will graduate with a BA/BED in Fall 2020. She completed her PS3 in a grade one elementary classroom at St.Teresa of Avila School in Red Deer, Alberta. She has a specialization in Early Education as her passion truly is with young learners! She is so excited to start her journey as an educator, and looks forward to all the learning that is yet to come! Brooke’s favourite quote that she carries with her throughout her career goes as follows: "A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love for learning" - Brad Henry

Games and Art: Changing How Kids Learn

Does play improve student executive functioning and behaviour?

We developed this idea when we noticed some common issues persisting at our middle school. Many kids were struggling with executive functioning and there were several bullying and interpersonal issues resulting from students not knowing how to maintain healthy relationships with others. Through the research we conducted and our knowledge of student behaviours and executive functioning, we decided to create a lunch club that would include structured board games and art activities in an effort to provide students extra 1:1 attention, create friendships among those who needed peer support, and to develop executive functioning skills like task initiation and organization.

Upon culmination of the club, there was a significant change. According to surveys we conducted with teachers, students involved showed an increased ability to pay attention and stay on task. Their attitude toward school also improved. Students began spending time with others in the club outside of school and have maintained strong relationships with the students they met during this club. Student attitude and skill-building made an incredible impact on their behaviour and academics, and we cannot wait to share our work with you.

Tia is in her final semester with a major in CTS Business. She is devoted to helping all students find success in school. Nolan is an English Education major who approaches education through multiple lenses in order to help students become passionate learners.


Have You Flipped Your Lid?

​How can teachers implement emotional regulation strategies into the classroom to help our students (and ourselves!) when we 'flip our lids'?

My selected focus for my Professional Inquiry Project is on implementing emotional regulation strategies into the classroom to help us when we “flip our lids.” This lid flipping concept is from Dr. Daniel Siegel, where he explains how our emotional brain (limbic system) can take over and block access to our thinking brain (prefrontal cortex). The effect of emotional regulation strategies is one of the most important concepts to teach young children. They can learn how to emotionally regulate themselves when they are emotionally dysregulated. I modelled strategies and used research from Dr. Carrington, Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson to help my students when they became dysregulated. I made time in the school schedule for students to practice their own strategies that help them regulate their emotions. We talked about our brains, did activities on mindfulness, and I observed students use these strategies when they flipped their lids. As supported in the research, I saw the importance of giving the time for students to practice emotional regulation skills. As they develop ways to help themselves regulate, their brains start to create pathways for the strategies that are most familiar.  When they continue to call upon these strategies, they create permanent pathways that continue to benefit them in any situation that requires a calm, thinking response.  

Breanna is currently completing her last semester of her university career. She has a major in Social Studies and completed an Early Childhood Education Internship for her final professional semester. She has a passion for dance and for making mindfulness a priority in her life.

Classroom Management Strategies

What are the most effective classroom management strategies to use in Division 1 classrooms?

After spending a couple of days in my classroom, I quickly saw how important classroom management was going to be. My classroom has 27 Grade 1 students, with many having individualized needs such as ODD, ADHD, ELL/speech and language support, and severe behaviour codes. I knew that one of the things I was going to need to focus on was classroom management. While taking my Bachelor of Education, we learned a few basic classroom management strategies but the best ones I have learned are from experienced teachers in the field. I have chosen to compile a list of classroom management strategies into one resource so new or experienced teachers can easily find strategies to use in their classroom for a variety of different areas to continue to improve their practice.

Deanna Fraulin is a PSIII Intern who will graduate in April with a Bachelor of Management and a Bachelor of Education. Her PS III Internship was in Grade 1 in Calgary, Alberta.