Exploring our Learning and Teaching Initiatives
Article by Kerry Ramsay, Head of Learning and Teaching
In the St Peter’s Woodlands Extraordinary Futures Strategic Plan 2020 and Beyond, we outlined our commitment to providing an extraordinary early learning and primary school experience, where children are supported on their own learning journey through the delivery of a progressive curriculum.
‘To provide an engaging culture of personal excellence and growth through exploration and academic rigour’ is the key aim of our Learning Pillar of the Strategic Plan. 2021 has certainly started with a dynamic focus in this area with a number of initiatives being implemented across the school.
Assessment and Monitoring
In order to utilise individual student data to inform teaching practice and ensure each child achieves their personal best, we have overhauled our Assessment and Monitoring schedule this year to include a wider and more comprehensive range of assessment in Literacy and Numeracy.
More rigorous gathering of student baseline data has allowed our teachers to triangulate the data, making more in-depth judgements about each child’s progress and individual needs.
Data Conversations were also introduced in Term 1, and teachers met in pairs with the Principal, Head of Learning and Teaching, Head of School and Head of Inclusive Education to analyse and discuss their children’s data. These meetings were wonderful dialogues in which all children were discussed and, where appropriate, the necessary intervention and support was identified and subsequently communicated to parents. The progress of children will be constantly tracked through our rigorous assessment schedule which runs across the academic year.
Additionally, the importance of Data Conversations is such that they will be repeated at the beginning of Term 3 and Term 4.
As part of our new Assessment and Monitoring schedule, we have carried out a significant review and change to the way in which we report to parents at the end of each Semester. Our new style reports will be coming home via email at the end of this term and will provide parents with a far greater and in-depth understanding of their child’s progress in the different curriculum learning areas. Watch out for further communication around what these reports will look like.
As a result of our more comprehensive data gathering, our Inclusive Education department now offer a vast range of intervention groups within the Response to Intervention model, including MiniLit, MultiLit, MacqLit and Playberry for children whose needs require this.
Careful analysis of all student data has also allowed us to identify those children who also require some additional support around their fluency and phonemic awareness. Teachers are currently working together with our ESO team and parents to ensure this support is available to all children, and they are provided with regular practice to strengthen their skills and abilities in these areas.
Structured Literacy is explicit, systematic teaching that focuses on phonological awareness, word recognition, phonics and decoding, spelling, morphology, vocabulary and syntax at the sentence and paragraph levels. It includes set procedures for introducing, reviewing and practicing essential concepts within our language. Concepts have a clearly defined sequence from simple to more complex, with each new concept building upon previously introduced concepts.
In Structured Literacy teaching, skills are explicitly and directly taught to the student with clear explanations, examples and modelling of concepts using an ‘I do, We do, You do’ approach.
Explicit and Direct Instruction
At the beginning of Term 1, all teaching staff took part in professional learning with DataWorks looking specifically at the model of Explicit Direct teaching (EDI).
EDI is an evidenced based approach to teaching that is based on the premise that all children can learn, and helps teachers deliver effective lessons that can significantly improve achievement in literacy and numeracy for all learners. EDI is characterised by carefully planned and sequenced lessons; clear and detailed instructions and modelling; and frequent and systematic monitoring of student progress with feedback given to students throughout the lesson.
In lessons, teachers are using student engagement norms such as pair-share partners, small whiteboards, non-volunteers, track with me, read with me, and gesture with me, ensuring students are highly engaged in their learning. Additionally, a range of checking for understanding strategies are being used to ensure that the children understand what is being taught whilst it is being taught; this ensures misconceptions are minimised early. Whilst we are still in the early phases of our EDI implementation, during the course of 2021 and into 2022 we will continue to develop and refine our use of the varied strategies.
Instructional Coaching – EDI and Structured Literacy
In order to support teachers and students in the implementation of EDI and Structured Literacy, our Inclusive Education teacher, Jo Hirst, has this year taken on the role of Instructional Coach. This role is very hands on and allows Jo to support in the classrooms, working alongside teachers when planning and teaching.
Introducing, Lisa Harris, International Baccalaureate – Primary Years Programme Co-ordinator
At the beginning of Term 2, we welcomed Lisa Harris to the St Peter’s Woodlands community. Lisa has just returned from Hong Kong where she has spent the last 14 years working in an international school. Lisa joins us as PYP Co-ordinator and Gifted and Talented teacher. Lisa will use her wealth of experience to work closely with ELC to Year 5 teachers and students as we work to further strengthen our approach to inquiry learning by implementing the Enhanced International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. Increasing student engagement and student empowerment in our inquiry learning will ensure each student has diverse learning opportunities and each student has a voice and choice in how they learn.
Gold Standard in Gifted Education Training
Lisa will also work closely with the Head of Learning and Teaching and Inclusive Education to expand our current offering to include programs for gifted children. Later this month, St Peter’s Woodlands will be hosting the University of NSW who will be running their Certificate in Gifted Education course from our Professional Learning Centre. Several of our teachers and teachers from other South Australian Independent schools will be undertaking this gold standard in gifted education training. Our programs for gifted students will get underway from mid-year at St Peter’s Woodlands.
At St Peter’s Woodlands we are relentless in seeking the remarkable in every student and providing evidence informed teaching practices. In 2021, our staff have embraced the changes we have made in the realm of Learning and Teaching, and have worked tirelessly to begin implementing these changes. Whilst we still have a long way to go, we are exceptionally excited about the journey ahead and the progress we have already made is to be celebrated.
Thank you to Kerry Ramsay, Head of Teaching and Learning, for this article.