Sir Winston Churchill

Developing responsive pedagogy in relation to student needs


As a Student Work Study Teacher, I began working at Sir Winston Churchill in February of 2014. In Peel, SWST's work at a host school two days a week for four months. Initially, I collaborated with two intermediate teachers, as they wanted to explore ways to improve students’ ability to write with a purpose and communicate their ideas clearly. The inquiry focused on ways to support students in writing descriptive paragraphs using a writing format. Together, we co-constructed success criteria and a theory of action to align with the school success goal in literacy. As we analyzed student work samples after administering a diagnostic assessment, we determined that if we explicitly teach proper paragraph form, utilize graphic organizers and specific linking words, then students would have greater success in writing descriptive paragraphs.

In September 2014, I continued working at SWC and began an inquiry with the grade three team.

Ministry of Education Network

In 2006 the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat (LNS) launched one of its strategies to improve student learning as the Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership (OFIP). It is a capacity-building strategy designed to support the work of supervisory officers, principals and teachers in schools to improve and sustain student achievement.

While at Sir Winston Churchill, the principal, instructional coach, student achievement officer, staff members and I collaborated to co-plan and facilitate OFIP sessions for the 2014/2015 school year. We initially attended a Professional Learning Symposium presented by the Ministry of Education. We examined OFIP themes from the previous year, discussed Collaborative Inquiry in Ontario schools, reviewed the Mathematics curriculum to unpack the myths and challenges, and engaged in reflective conversation around pedagogical practices in response to student learning needs.

School Profile

Sir Winston Churchill is a kindergarten to grade 8 school with an enrollment of approximately 450 students. Its involved in a variety of outreach programs including: Shania Kids Can Clubhouse, Iron Joan and Iron John community program, Diversity Club, Boys and Girls Club of Brampton and the YMCA. The school also has a Child and Family Learning Centre, provides a breakfast program and has an in school clothing store for the community.

After the symposium, the learning journey began with teachers from grades 1 to 6, ISSP teachers, the principal, student achievement officer, instructional coach and student work study teacher immersed in professional dialogue regarding:

  • Ministry monographs such as Dynamic Learning, Third Teacher, and Collaborative Inquiry in Ontario Schools
  • Exploring the Ontario Mathematics curriculum
  • How to utilize thinking tools through the Super Source resource
  • Explored Making Math Meaningful by Marian Small and
  • Sphere of Influence- Control, Influence, No Control

We also formulated a theory of action to determine our shared focus and elicited staff input through a survey to determine professional learning needs in order to achieve our goal.

School-Theory of Action

If students develop an understanding of the use of thinking tools through exploration, direct instruction and cooperative math activities then students will be able to communicate their thinking and understanding in mathematics.

Teacher Engagement

As an entry point for discussion we chose a task that was implemented from grades 1 to 6.

Before administering the task, teachers engaged in the math themselves. Allowing us to anticipate student responses and ask guiding questions to move student thinking forward.

There are 44 legs in a room. People are sitting on stools. Each stool has three legs. The table has four legs. How many people are sitting around the table?

Student Engagement-Grade Three

SWC Chair problem
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Staff Reflection

Staff engaged in analyzing the student work samples and identified student strategies, student learning needs and professional learning needs.

Student needs were:

· Understand the question

· Answer the question

· Use thinking tools to make thinking visible

Professional learning needs were:

· How to use manipulatives in the math class - Super Source

· Explore Catherine Fosnot Math Kit and the landscape of learning

· Explore Making Math Meaningful by Marian Small

Grade 3 Inquiry

Through collaborative sessions, the grade three host teachers and I began the inquiry by discussing student work samples and reflecting on school success goals to determine how best to meet the needs of students. We began to explore the use of thinking tools, manipulatives, cooperative games and strategy sharing as part of our inquiry.

Grade 3 Theory of Action- Term 1

  • explicitly teach students how to count using a variety of instructional strategies and thinking tools then students will be able to demonstrate counting

We also engaged students in solving word problems, first one step problems followed by two step problems that incorporated multiple math strands.

Card games grade three
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Grade Three-Second Theory of Action

The theory of action developed as the inquiry progressed and student achievement in using various counting strategies improved.

Grade 3 Theory of action-Term 2

  • If we engage students in solving two step word problems using a framework, thinking tools and technology then students will be able to communicate their thinking orally, visually and in written form.

Evidence of Student Mathematical Thinking

Collaborative Inquiry-Teacher Reflection

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Grade 2

For the 2015/2016 school year the first collaborative inquiry in grade two focused on number sense. Due to unsettling contract issues between the Teacher's Federation and the Government, this inquiry began in November.

Grade 2 Theory of Action

  • If we explicitly teach using math manipulatives to represent, read and print numbers then students will be able to count to 100 by 1s, 2s, 5s and 10s.

The assessment tasks "for, as and of" learning asked students to place a number on various number lines and explain how and why they placed a given number on the line. While moderating student work samples of the diagnostic and formative tasks, we evaluated the work as follows:

"Met", "Not Met" and "Met with no communication". This allowed us to determine next steps for instruction and provide guided math lessons based on student needs.

Evidence of Student Mathematical Thinking


Teacher Reflection of Diagnostic and Formative Assessment


  • model how to indicate a number on a number line
  • engage in skip counting
  • Introduce 5 and 10 frames and dot cards


  • Model how to use sentence stems, I placed the number here on the number line because….
    The strategy I used to solve the problem was… I know the answer is______ because…
  • Post anchor charts,
  • Continue with 10 frames,
  • Continue with small group instruction (Look at the reasonableness of your answer)

Evidence of Students' Mathematical Thinking-Summative Assessment

Reflection of Summative Assessment

  • Further practice with number sense and place value (Utilize Number Talks by Sherry Parrish)
  • Continue using sentence stems and anchor charts (____ is closer to ____ because...)
  • More opportunities for students to communicate their thinking orally (Talk Move Strategies, Gallery Walks)
  • Continue to develop students' conceptual understanding of number
  • Students had more success with number lines that counted by 1's, 2's and 5's.
  • Students are developing the ability to use number lines that count by 10's and 20's.


Concluding Reflections of OFIP Sessions

Teacher 1- Before I thought..."Some students liked math-mainly boys."

Now I think....

“Through OFIP sessions it has helped to set a mind set to help students to communicate their thinking and understanding in math. Math is fun and so useful in our environment. To engage more students in learning and to love math-all sexes."

Teacher 2- Before I thought....

Now I think... I can reflect more on the student process of thinking rather than the product. Also, documenting student learning does not have to be paper and pencil. I have enjoyed discussions on the “anticipation” piece. I hope I improve in the area of prompts and questioning."

Teacher 3- Before I thought....

Now I think..."There are a lot of different ways to teach concepts thru technology and game playing. I need to focus on the whole entire process rather than focus on the answer. Students can be great teachers-letting go of control. I want to know more about board games in the classroom."

Teacher 4- Before I thought... Manipulatives were for specific subjects/one dimensional, apps were for playing

Now I think...Open-ended and can be used in a variety of ways for cross subject learning. Finding the "learning" in game apps."

Key Learnings

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Key Learnings

  • Continue to collaborate with grade team partners on a regular basis
  • Teacher's views on how to use thinking tools has shifted
  • Identifying and naming student strategies has informed teacher practice
  • Continue exploring the landscape of learning in numeracy- Cathy Fosnot, Alex Lawson
  • Explore in greater detail "anticipating" student responses -5 Practices
  • Moderating student work informed teacher assessment practices

Created by Shannon Beach SWST-PDSB