Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SSWIS - Success Stories in Regina Public Schools

    For the 2013-14 school year, Regina Public Schools have been fortunate to be working with 8  SSWIS (Settlement Support Workers in Schools) employed by Regina Open Door Society (RODS).  This program helps our Newcomer students and families adjust to their new schools and communities.  The SSWIS help to connect the families to services and resources to help settlement and student achievement in school.  English-As-Additional Language (EAL) teachers, classroom teachers and staff work closely with the SSWIS through a simple referral process to help our Newcomer students be successful in the school system.  Interpreters are easily accessed by the SSWIS and provide “services in a supportive, culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate manner maintaining client confidentiality” (from RODS – SSWIS pamphlet). 

     When working with our EAL learners, it is essential to recognize that second language acquisition is a gradual development process and is built on the child’s skills and knowledge in the first language.  Our teachers provide authentic opportunities to use language in a non-threatening environment and remember that there is a language barrier, not an intellectual one.  I would like to highlight one of the many SSWIS success stories this fall in Regina Public Schools that illustrates this best practice when working with our EAL students.

     Alex Sergei Bolgov is a Russian speaking Grade 2 boy that came from Israel to Dr. A. E. Perry School last year.  One day in September, Alex was making his way down to see the EAL teacher, Mrs. Glenda Lourens.  He appeared to be confused about what to do with the Science experiment he was doing in class, and showed the activity to Mrs. Lourens.  It involved dropping tennis, golf, and sponge balls from the same height and measuring the bounce on the same surface.  Ali Reza Mohajer, the school’s SSWIS, was in the EAL classroom and started to ask Alex questions in Russian.  In the short video that Glenda Lourens made, Alex is thrilled to have someone to talk to in his language!  During a 45 minute work period, Ali Reza asks questions about the Science experiment and discovers that Alex had a solid understanding.  Alex makes an intelligent prediction on what will happen.  Ali Reza and Alex do the experiment and discuss what is happening the entire time.  Alex is able to explain the procedure and make insightful observations about what he has learned with the help of Ali Reza, Perry’s SSWIS worker.  After viewing the short video, I was reminded again that our EAL children have a language barrier, not an intellectual one. 

SSWIS Program Activities
  • Outreach support and services to all Newcomer families.
  • Settlement counseling for families, as well as increase parent and youth involvement in the schools and community by arranging interpreters/translators in client’s first language.
  • Cross-cultural orientations, group activities and information workshops on school, community and settlement topics.
  • Referrals to appropriate school programs, community services and government resources.
  • Workshops and presentations to teachers and school staff to raise cultural awareness and provide strategies to work effectively with immigrant and refugee students. (from RODS – SSWIS pamphlet)
Posted by Fiona Smith, Instructional Consultant

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Student Engagement and Belonging.

This month, as a Leadership group in RPS, we have focused our professional learning conversations with our principal and vice-principal leadership teams on Student Engagement and Belonging.

We used several resources to engage in a conversation about actualizing strategies for increasing student engagement including a closer look at our Tell Them From Me (TTFM) data collected by a sampling of our grade 7 to 10 students last year. TTFM Results for Student Engagement RPS 2012 and TTFM Report on Student Outcomes and School Climate RPS 2012 were very informative for preliminary discussions about student engagement and how we can incorporate student voice into our planning.  The TTFM national data is the basis of the What Did You Do In School Today (WDYDIST) research series and classifies Student Engagement  into three domains: Social Engagement, Institutional Engagement and Instructional Engagement. The following two charts come directly from this WDYDIST research:

Figure 1. – Nine Measures of Student Engagement:
File 4736

This construct resonates well with me both as an educator and as a parent. School Divisions across the province too frequently see students whose level of engagement is wanting in school. We need to have a deeper understanding of the ways kids connect to school.  Often, student engagement in school centers around social contexts: spending time with friends, participating in activities, clubs and sports. While this is important for their sense of belonging, our mandate as schools and school divisions should be a little more profound.   We are slightly closer to our goal  in situations where our students are engaged at the institutional level, where they know how to "do school".  They are able to follow the rules, and do the assignments, know what is required to receive a successful grade or credit, understand the value of schooling to be successful in life but are not heavily invested in their own learning. I would argue that we should strive to go beyond institutional engagement to where we tap into students creativity and passion for learning.

I recently attended a LEADS conference on Early Childhood. In the module, I was taught and reminded that a rich Early Years classroom should have the following attributes consistently evident. They should include a classroom environment that permeates joy, play, inquiry, student interest, choice, collaboration, projects, curiosity, interdisciplinary study, personalized learning, differentiated activities and experiential learning experiences. What immediately came to mind were the following questions:  Should not those same attributes be evident in all our classrooms K through 12? Why aren't they?

How do we support and encourage educators to provide rich learning experiences and extend the boundaries of the classroom that move students beyond institutional engagement to intellectual engagement? The current trend line, through the voice of students nationally and confirmed locally, is very distressing with our students starting to disengage as early as elementary school and a slow steady decline through high school where it is less than 20%.

Figure 3. – Average Annual Increase in the Percentage of Intellectually Engaged Students, by Grade: 
File 4738
I believe it is at the level of the elusive Intellectual Engagement that we must focus our energies so that students are actively and passionately involved in their own learning. Fortunately, there are many examples of promising practices and success in our Division that have found a way to improve engagement. A potential solution is found in classrooms that use an inquiry learning approach, based on student interest structured through an open ended essential question that requires more than a cursory Google search for answers. It often is coupled with project based learning and research where the student must design, construct meaning, discover and share their learning. In some cases, this approach can also be framed around service learning, social justice and global awareness projects designed to understand and better the world around them, whether it is through local initiatives or trying to right global injustices. One example of this is Campbell Collegiate's participation in We Day and Free The Children’s We Act program which " inspires a generation to care about local and global issues and provides the practical tools needed to turn that inspiration into action. Launched by the energy and message of We Day, We Act puts students at the forefront of service learning by educating them on social issues, developing leadership skills, and engaging them in world-changing action."

Valuing and incorporating Student Voice into our classrooms is a significant pedagogical shift that needs to occur more frequently in our schools.  Kids Speak Out On Engagement is an excellent reminder of the top ten things that students would have educators remember to help them stay motivated to learn in classrooms. Making the course relevant to the real world and showing how what they are learning connects to the world around them are significant for engagement. Student choice, collaboration, mixing it up, technology, and being passionate about what we are teaching are a few other suggestions that students have for increasing their engagement in our classes. The following TEDTalk, Go With It! Connecting Kids To Learning That Matters To Them, features one of our own, Cori Miller, current principal at Balfour Collegiate. She recounts her journey from her first teaching assignment to her instructional leadership approach today and reminds us that by listening to and actively involving students to take ownership of their learning and recognize their ability to make a difference in their community to we will get a lot more output and engagement then when we try to force our own agenda and keep school the way we experienced school. 

Another example of fostering a climate that is intellectually engaging is provided through the integration of technology by primary teachers, Trina Crawford and Danielle Maley, at Hawrylak. Danielle uses technology and BYOD to encourage her grade 1 students to learn how to read and write through blogging.  Not surprisingly, the level of student engagement increases dramatically as the students quickly realize that their writing is important and has a much wider audience than just their classroom teacher. They become extremely excited when they receive a reply to their post and in turn are motivated to continue to develop their ideas and creativity by responding and sharing other aspects of their world.  Reading, Writing and Tweeting, by Emma Graney at the Leader Post highlights her engaging work to support literacy instruction at the primary level, but this example certainly illustrates that the appropriate use of technology does not need to be limited to primary grades and has huge potential for all our students through grade 12.

Our Middle Years Practical and Applied Arts (MYPAA) is another initiative that promotes the teaching of literacy and numeracy through a hands on approach. Students in grades 6 - 8 have the opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on experiential learning experiences including woodworking, electrical, wind, CO2 cars, robotics, beading, cooking, photography, bicycle repair,and radio. All of these portable kits are available to our elementary schools and do not require the traditional shop spaces that exist in our high schools. These kits, with links to literacy and numeracy outcomes, have proven so popular that we are expanding the number and array of kits available to our students to make learning relevant with real world applications. Joni Darke, our MYPAA Facilitator, has been instrumental in advancing this work with the underlying goal of providing accessible curriculum to all of our learners.  Mobilizing Hands-on Learning and Innovations in Education: Practical and Applied Arts are two feature articles that highlight her efforts and the return on our investment in MYPAA for increased student engagement. 

My final example is a celebration for engaging students by ensuring that what we are teaching is individualized, differentiated and adapted at students' level of growth and ability. With an increasingly diverse and mobile student demographic, it is imperative that schools become more versed in Intervention strategies. One size does not fit all in our classrooms.  It is critical that we continue to develop our understanding of Intervention First (our version of Response to Intervention, RTI) and all the accompanying strategies, most importantly at Tier 1 to respond to students who are not learning to their potential. 

Students will be much more inclined to be engaged in their learning if they are taught differently to access curriculum and allowed to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. Some schools are well on their way to figuring it out and shared their understanding and practices with aspiring administrators with the U of R, EADM 870 students.  Kudos to four of our school teams from Ready, Centennial, Kitchener and Connaught for an amazing celebration and discussion around Intervention First and Inclusionary practices and their efforts to meet the learning needs of students in their home school. The evening was a wonderful tribute to the school culture and processes established in these four school buildings to create a learning environment that is accessible and welcoming to all students of all abilities. As the various aspects of Intervention First were discussed, staff continually demonstrated their commitment to providing and supporting Tier 1 and 2 interventions to ensure that all students can successfully access curriculum and work at their instructional level.  Whether discussing assistive technology, Kurzweil, timetabling, balanced literacy and numeracy, class environment, sensory and self-regulation, meta cognition, assessment, PLC’s, LIP development, case management, parental involvement, outside agency involvement, wrap around SA team involvement and the integration of FIAP and SLC students into regular classrooms, all passionately spoke about the commitment to providing the least restrictive and most conducive learning environment possible by providing the differentiation and adaptations at the classroom and school level to meet individual student needs.  And while the work is challenging in preparation time, working with challenging behaviors and educating staff, students heard loud and clear how rewarding it is to see students beam with pride as they successfully learn beside their peers when given the opportunity.

Thanks and congratulations go out to the Ready team of Maryanne Kotylak, Kama Pechey, Taylor Stepan, Lydia Leung, and Maureen Taylor; the Connaught team: Kamille Lech and Carlie Brentnell; the Kitchener team: Angie Balkwill and Wanda Lapchuk; the Centennial team: Stacey Bradley, Jeannette Revet (Pawson), Karen Jaska and Shari Powers; and the Team Lerminiaux Student Achievement members Wanda Saul, psychologist, and Krista Tameling, Occupational Therapist. 

These are but a few examples of promising practices in Regina Public that promote student engagement and a rich learning experience for all. The students in Regina are very fortunate to work with and learn from such amazingly talented educators who exemplify daily their commitment to engaging all learners.  Isn't that our ultimate goal for students?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New Teacher Induction Sessions

I will confess that one of the highlights as an Instructional Consultant is the time I spend with new teachers! This year I was once again very privileged to work with several staff members at Dr. L. M. Hanna who were either 'fresh out of university' or new to our Division. I am very grateful for the New Teacher Induction sessions which offer a common instructional framework, as well as opportunities for me to learn along side new teaching members.

The New Teacher Induction Sessions follow the The Instructional Environment Model (IEM): 

Instructional Environment Model
The (IEM) aims to strengthen the instructional program in Regina Public Schools and enhance learning and achievement for all students. A common teaching and learning framework, drawn from the professional knowledge base, supports a system of effective teaching and learning designed to:
  • Guide decisions as they relate to curriculum, assessment, instruction, intervention, and the learning environment
  • Support provincial and division priorities and initiatives
  • Enhance professional learning for teacher development.
The goals of the Instructional Environment Model are to:

  • Support teachers in developing and enhancing effective instructional, assessment, and intervention practices
  • Contribute to a coherent program of instruction within the division and schools
  • Provide a sound, evidence-based system of professional knowledge of teaching and learning
  • Support the use of a common professional language for teaching and learning

The New Teacher Induction (NTI) sessions are broken into four sessions:
  • Co-Managing the Learning Environment: Managing the social interactions, behaviour and relationships within learning environments with students including the organization, procedures and problem-solving that make for optimal student engagement and learning in relation to reflective style, reclaiming relationships,consistent structure and support, self-regulation, and collaborative problem-solving and restorative practices.
  • Instructional Skills: Specific instructional actions of teachers that enhance learning, and in combination, help to generate a powerful repertoire of teaching and learning strategies in relation to student engagement, feedback, questioning and dialogue, culturally responsive practice, and professional learning community.
  • Curriculum Content: The curriculum goals and learning outcomes and indicators that clearly identify what students will know and understand, be able to do and be like as a result of their learning experience and includes how to determine learning success and addresses the use of value-added assessments, formative assessments, and ongoing feedback to monitor student progress, inform instruction, and guide design and planning.
  • Instructional Repertoire: Instructional repertoire consists of various strategies designed to accommodate improvisation, student engagement and response in pursuit of particular learning outcomes – Literacy Instructional Framework, Numeracy Instructional Framework, and Inquiry.
The first session of the NTI is extremely valuable as it also provides the initial contact with the new teachers. As Chris Mieske (new to our Division) reflected, "What I appreciate about the new teacher sessions is the time to meet new teachers and have a chance to collaborate with colleagues.  It also gives me the opportunity to meet and arrange for the Instructional Consultants to come to the classroom and help me implement new programs."

The connection with new teachers carries over into the other sessions as we learn together. The content of all of the sessions was very well received. Tori Krogsgaard (new teacher) appreciated the introduction to RPS resources. Jasmine Johnson (new teacher), stated, "My favourite session were the RAN and Inquiry sessions.  I really liked the RAN Model and want to get into using it more next year.  An area that I think would work well with this strategy is First Nations content: to see where the students are at and what knowledge base they already have, and then see where the conversations would lead." 

I realize that I have to be very strategic in how I plan my time and what sessions to attend. It is not always possible to attend every session. I try to ensure I attend one day of each component, and with a teacher I am currently working with so we could plan together.

The planning time during the NTI sessions meant that I had the opportunity to work with Chris and Jasmine on supporting a balanced literacy program, and Tori with the Explore + 4 structure. Over the course of the year the working relationships grew as we developed a mutual trust and a stronger collaborative partnership. From a teacher's perspective, Chris said : "Sharia spent many sessions with me, in my classroom...she helped me get my head around an entire new approach to literacy.  I feel that the implementation was a success with my students and I’m looking forward to keep improving on it next year!"

Jasmine felt, " I especially loved when you (Sharia) came into my classroom and supported me in the Daily 5 process.  I really didn’t have a lot of knowledge with the Daily 5 and your help with this was huge and really appreciated.  It is my classroom's favourite part of our day."

The goal of the NTI sessions is to strengthen instruction and enhance learning and achievement. It is also to provide new teachers to RPS the opportunity to meet one another and work with an Instructional Consultant to provide support in their first years of teaching. When summarizing his own experiences, Tori's reflections would indicate that these goals were achieved: "as a new teacher I had no idea about the resources that were available to me. The NTI was extremely helpful at introducing me to available resources.The NTI also introduced me to the consultants that were available to work and plan with me.These two things made my first year much smoother than it otherwise would have been."   posted by:  Sharia Warnecke [Instructional Consultant]

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A New Look at Professional Learning!

Here we go, my leap into blogging!

What a fantastic start to the school year in Regina Public Schools. As a Superintendent of Student Achievement with RPS, I have the privilege of overseeing the Grade 7-9 middle years teachers and students with a focus on improving transitions and engagement during that critical age through adolescence and the adjustment from elementary to high school.

The journey has been over a year in making. It began at school start up in 2102 when we met with all the Middle Years (MY) teachers to gather feedback on direction the school division should consider in promoting and improving the achievement, engagement and transition practices for MY students. Our target was to create an action plan in order to attain the RPS CIP goal of 95% of grade 8’s achieving adequate and above scores in reading and math at grade level by 2017 and to close the achievement gap for our FNM students. From these conversations the Grade 7 - 9 Results Team was created. This group of educators, teachers, facilitators, coordinators and administrators met monthly and formulated 6 recommendations to advance achievement for MY students. The full report can be found here.

Grade 7-9 Results Team Recommendations Summary:

1. Literacy and Numeracy

Identify, share and recommend best instructional practices, structures, resources to be adopted by the Division. This will help schools with accountability. Examples may include Balanced Literacy, Daily 5, First Steps, Structural Innovation practices…

Explore Leveled Literacy Intervention for the Middle Years to provide Reading and writing intervention for struggling readers.

Identify a similar structure for numeracy to be consistently found in Middle Years’ classrooms that permits collaborative practices and flexible groupings.

Check out the RPS website on literacy and numeracy.

2. Information Sharing

Develop a template for grade 8 teachers to document their understanding of their students’ learning needs and easily share with grade 9 teams in high school.in PowerTeacher so that it will follow the student to high school through PowerSchool.

Areas of focus should include: 
    • Student strengths
    • Academic achievement indicators 
    • Interventions: tier 1 strategies, ROA, assistive technology, modified programs
    • Attendance
3. Middle Years Practical and Applied Arts (MYPAA)

Continue to expand the MYPAA offerings for all grade 7 & 8 students in RPS. These portable kits do not rely on typical PAA shop areas and can be easily accommodated in any elementary classroom. Joni Darke (MYPAA facilitator) and I shared a presentation to the School Board this February and are committed to the expansion of MYPAA kits for grade 8 students. Currently our kits include CO2 cars, wind turbines, sewing, electrical, wood work projects (including plywood snowshoes, cribbage and chess boards, stud walls), robotics, cooking, set design, photography, and flight. In addition to being extremely engaging, these activities support experiential learners and literacy and numeracy in an alternate medium.

4. Tell Them From Me (TTFM)

Over 30 school volunteered to pilot the TTFM student perceptual survey to give students voice to their school community. These recommendations can be used at both the school and division level to inform our work and planning. The themes touch upon intellectual and social engagement, student advocacy, sense of belonging, safety and well being. All grade 6 to 10 students this fall will participate in the survey. Here are a couple of examples from one of our schools:

Students are intellectually engaged and find learning interesting, enjoyable, and relevant.

Students feel safe at school as well as going to and from school.

5. High School Advisory

We have reaffirmed our commitment to offer the equivalent of 15 minutes of daily contact time with a high school advisory teacher. The role of the advisory teacher includes being a student advocate, My Blueprint, cumulative reviews, credit monitoring/count, weekly academic monitoring, ensure classroom teacher is aware of IEP, ROA, tier 1 adaptations, personal circumstances and barriers, communication with family, attendance monitoring, promotional and 3-way conferences. Ideally, the advisory teacher is the one critical adult that will be there for a student throughout their entire high school career to help them overcome any challenges and ensure a successful completion in graduation. Check out the Leader Post article Easing the Transition for Back to School

6. Transitions Teachers to Support our Aboriginal Learners

A shared staff member between elementary and high school to focus exclusively on our Aboriginal learners. This role may be an extension and enhancement of the Aboriginal Advocate. Check out the Leader Post article featuring one of our Transition teachers.

School Opening 2013

This work was the impetus for the structure created for school opening on Wednesday morning with the theme of Promising Practices for Engagement and Achievement

Middle Years Transitions and Engagement. After a brief welcome message with Division Priority overview from our Director Julie MacRae, I continued to set the stage for the morning of professional learning with a Grade 7 - 9 presentation by touching upon:
The remainder of the morning was designed to provide an opportunity to highlight and share promising practices by teachers to teachers. We tend to forget to tap into the expertise that we have in-house. this was a chance to promote a sample of exceptional practices that have resulted in significant achievement gains for students. Thanks go out to the following presenters. Please feel free to contact them for more information. Please do not hesitate to also identify other teachers whose practices need to be highlighted and shared in the division.

1. Acting on Literacy 
A balanced literacy framework of Whole Group Instruction, Small Group Instruction and Independent Practice is essential to an effective literacy program. This session led by Kira Fladager (Literacy Coordinator) and Sharmayn Hollinger, Grade 7/8 Teacher (McDonald), , will focus on the essential components of balanced literacy and how the key literacy resources in Regina Public support a balanced literacy framework. This session will explore the key resources Literacy in Action, Live Ink and Turtle Island Voices and will provide practical examples of how these resources can be used in the classroom.Click here for the RPS literacy website.

2. Teaching and Assessing Mathematics 
Aaron Warner (Grade 8 teacher) and LJ Hantelmann (Numeracy Coordinator) will focus on Grade 7-9 fraction (rational numbers) outcomes to discuss how to maximize learning for all students. We will include ideas for using Explore +4 and manipulatives. Click here for the RPS numeracy website.

3. Planes, Trains and CO2 Automobiles (Middle Years Practical and Applied Arts)– Joni Darke (MYPAA Facilitator) and Luke Braun (Mironuck).

4. Marshmallow Man and Literacy
Cross-curricular literacy and reading/writing strategies. Innovative ways to create a literacy block for all grade 9 students as well as a resource to support literacy instruction. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 Heather Findlay (Martin) and Rob Koroluk (Johnson)

5. Differentiating in Math: Tour De France or a Guided Bicycle Tour 
Jennifer Wyatt (Sheldon), and Doug Sthamann (Jack Mackenzie)

6. Teaching Curriculum Outcomes with Big Ideas and Essential Questions 
Corrine Toews (Braun) and Doug Dahl (Perry)

7. Inter-school Novel Study
Rochelle Rugg (Hawrylak) and Scott Motlik (Mironuck)

8. Creating and Supporting Smooth Transitions
A snapshot of current transition programming, the expectations of Regina Public Schools Continuous Improvement and Accountability Plan 2013-2014 and what educators can do to support smooth transitions for Aboriginal learners. Dawn Cassell (Thom) and Natalie Agecoutay-Sweet (Wascana)

9. Successful Transition practices from elementary to high school –bridging the gap for our FNM students. 
A conversation with high school administrators and their corresponding associate elementary schools to plan for additional opportunities to encourage students to attend their home high school.


In addition, we were very fortunate to have a group of committed educators who wanted to provide an opportunity for professional learning in a format called an "unconference" on Thursday Aug 29 am. In this format, participants attend the event willing to share and learn. Through participant interest an agenda of sessions is created featuring but not exclusively technology related practices that enhance learning. We were very fortunate to have Alec Couros as a guest speaker to support the 150 teachers Follow the activity on Twitter at #Edcampyqr and their blog. in addition, the Leader Post gave a nice overview of the morning. The sessions were incredible with so much energy and passion from the educators who attended, especially when they were giving up their preparation and planning time to participate. How to use twitter, the flipped classroom, blogging in a primary classroom, exploring apps, backward planning and rubric design around outcomes, incorporating technology in the middle years, how to use iGo, Evernote and other cloud based services in the classroom are but a few of the many engaging interactive sessions offered. Thanks again to all the organizers and session leaders for the hugely successful 1st annual edcamp.

Discover, Design, Deliver

Upon entering the front doors of Lakeview School. and turning right down the first hall you can hear a "buzz" in one of the classrooms. Students are interacting with planets at the Smartboard, sitting on the floor making models, investigating questions on laptops and are working alone and in small groups. A student offers me a chair and table and lets the teacher know I am there. The teacher comes and excitedly shares the outcomes the students are focusing on and invites me to be part of their learning environment. 

Engagement, In-depth Understanding and Focus are the pillars of Cindy Rice's Inquiry classroom. She creates a structure that moves students through their learning: Discover, Dream, Design and Deliver (adapted from U of BC). Watch the video below and experience the life of "Inquiring Minds" with Cindy's grade 5/6 students. 

Link to Hole in The Wall:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sugata-... You may contact Cindy if you have any questions: cindy.rice@rbe.sk.ca

Posted by Mona Ruecker [Instructional Consultant]

Métis Days 2013

My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake,
it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.
                                                                              ~ Louis Riel

June 6, 2013 was a day to remember in Regina Public Schools. For only the second time since 2009 the weather cooperated, and Métis Days was celebrated outdoors in beautiful Wascana Park. This year, 12 schools were invited to attend Métis Days – representing over 350 students from Grades 2 to 8! In order to participate, teachers formed dance clubs within their schools so students could learn the principles of Métis dancing. The organizing committee, chaired by Calvin Racette, Aboriginal Education Coordinator for Regina Public Schools, met after school hours on several occasions to plan the event and to prepare the materials. They did an outstanding job!

The morning of Métis Days consisted of literacy-based workshops which celebrated the Métis culture. Students participated in three grade appropriate workshops each. Options included Red River cart building; 

creating Métis pin flags; learning the sash and broom dances; fiddle and spoon playing;

storytelling with Elder Betty McKenna, and with artist and author, Leah Dorion; 

sash finger weaving; and creating Métis floral patterns. Many of the workshops were conducted by individuals of Métis ancestry, either current or former students of the Saskatchewan Urban Teacher Education (SUNTEP) program of the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research (GDI).

After enjoying a picnic lunch, the Regina Public School fiddlers lead the students and teachers in O Canada, followed by guest soloist, Arian Ross performing the Métis National Anthem. The fiddlers then entertained the crowd with some of their favourite tunes. The students attend Albert, Imperial, Kitchener and Wascana Community Schools and receive weekly fiddling lessons by Jonathan Ward. 

Following their toe-tapping melodies, the fancy footwork began with the George Lee Métis Jiggers performing a dance demonstration to warm up the crowd. 

All students had prepared for Métis Days by learning the Red River Jig with a minimum of 3 fancy steps, the Rabbit Dance and at least one First Change, the Métis Star.  As guest Métis fiddler, Tahnis Cunningham, and guitarist, Ray Bell, tuned their instruments, all 300+ students jumped to their feet to form the lines for the Rabbit Dance. It was great fun dancing en masse! 

Next was the competition for the Métis Star. Students from each class competed on our recently constructed jigging platform. The platform will be available to be used by other community groups for events for many years to come, thanks to our sponsors, SK Culture and GDI, and to Calvin for his hard work building the platform.  

The day ended the day with the most famous Métis dance of all – the Red River Jig.  There were three categories to the competition: Grades 6-8, Grades 4-5 and Grades 2-3. Students gathered on the jigging platform to compete under the watchful eyes of our judges – all experienced jiggers and SUNTEP graduates. Prizes of Métis sashes, pins and books were awarded to our champions, which they were so excited and proud to receive. Thank you, GDI, for your support with the prizes!

Métis Days 2013 was a wonderful event for Regina Public Schools. Many family and community members attended to support their children. It provided many benefits to our children, including having a lot of fun!  As Métis culture, literature and history were featured, the entire day promoted the Métis people. 

Upon conclusion, Calvin was approached by several people that attended. Elder Albert Robillard said that the event was fabulous and it went far beyond his expectations. He said that it made him feel proud of Regina Public Schools and the children.

Leah Dorion, an artist and published author of three acclaimed children’s books, said that she was absolutely amazed at how much effort and organization went into the event, and she really wished that her home town of Prince Albert could do something of this nature in their schools.

Sandy Pelletier, one of the workshop presenters, said that this was an absolutely fabulous day, and she was very honoured to be part of it.

Tahnis Cunningham, our guest fiddle player, said that this was an amazing day and she would be proud to work with us again in the future.

Calvin noted that these comments were completely unsolicited.  I will add that this was a day full of pride, joy, celebration and community. I am proud to be associated with Métis Days, and look forward to next year!

- Submitted by Heather Mazurak, Instructional Consultant, Regina Public Schools 

Creating belonging at École Elsie Mironuck School

At the end of October, students in Ms. Tricia Racette’s Grade 5/6 at École Elsie Mironuck Community School, along with members of the support staff and school counsellor Christina Shordee, experienced an amazing team building opportunity that allowed students to focus on their own learning styles.  Students came together in a variety of roles to complete a builder’s kit.  The builder’s kit was essentially a number of wooden panels, in different shapes and sizes, with some tools, screws and bolts.  The students were then required to determine their own roles in the process (foreman, construction, demolition, design engineers, etc.) and when ‘outside’ experts may be required for further help. 

The final product!

Ms. Shordee worked with the class to help them better understand themselves, learn problem solving skills, and how they can contribute to the group.  She introduced the five point scale so that students were able to determine their point of frustration as working with a large group that is student-driven can be a difficult task!

Dr. Tim Feeney’s concepts around goal setting and the utilization of self-regulatory scripts were also introduced to the class and reinforced throughout the process.  The goal of the activity was to encourage students to find ways to work together, to recognize when they were becoming frustrated and respond appropriately and to accomplish the task as a group.  It was an amazing opportunity for the students and they did a fantastic job creating the final product.

Other classes in the school also had the opportunity to take advantage of this skill building activity.  The grade 8 class (M. Crawford / M. Motlik) was able to better learn how to work together and collaborate as well.

Flexing at Sheldon Collegiate

During the 2012-13 school year, grade 9 math students were grouped and regrouped to complete four projects; the objectives being improved student engagement and increased skills in numeracy outcomes.
This project became known at the Sheldon Math Flex Grouping Project.
The Animoto below summarizes the Flexible Grouping Project that grade 9 math teachers Tania Harrison, Vikki Miller, Jennifer Wyatt, Kim Perpeluk, Greg Taylor and Leslie Fowler undertook this year.

As outlined in the video, the grade 9 teachers conducted a planning session in early September to set out four periods of time throughout the 2012-13 school year when they would regroup their students in an attempt to improve Grade 9 students math outcomes. October and November of the school year saw skill based groupings of students with some groups developing math concept presentations and others building math skills using Mathletics. 
In December and January, students were organized into mixed ability groups to reteach concepts that they had learned throughout the first semester and were then regrouped to teach these concepts in a large Jigsaw prior to midterm evaluations. These Jigsaw presentations provided an opportunity for all students to demonstrate their learning while supporting their classmates as they reviewed for their midterms. 
Explore +4, a classroom structure intended to improve a student's stamina and skills in math using stations, was then introduced as a pilot in one of the classrooms. Finally, prior to and after Easter, students were able to apply the concepts of linear and non-linear relations to science using Heart Rate and the density of liquids and solids.
The Sheldon Math Flex Grouping Project is a great example of what is possible when a group of teachers works together to help make math accessible to students by applying it to real world examples.

EnABLE the Classroom

EnABLE is short for enabling a better learning environment. Occupational Therapist Dyan Roth, School Counsellor Wendy Shaw and Teacher Jade Yee take us through the goals and benefits of Regina Public Schools EnABLE project. This one month intervention is available to all classroom teachers and enables them to improve the classroom environment so that students are ready to learn.  Teachers should consider this as a tips and tricks program for the left side of the brain. If you are interested in the project contact your school based OT or School Counsellor.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Assessment, Collaboration and Instruction

posted by: Michelle Roland-Semenchuck [Instructional Consultant]
Damian Cooper, in Talk About Assessment, discusses how “assessment and instruction are inseparable”. As we are aware, one purpose of assessment is for educators to reflect on the information obtained from the assessment and then make the necessary adjustments to instruction in the classroom. Instruction becomes stronger when we have conversations regarding assessment. A positive outcome to reviewing assessment results as a group is the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers as well as ancillary professionals to plan for revisions in classroom instruction.  This blog post illustrates an example of the collaborative process based on the results of the initial EYE (Early Years Assessment) at Douglas Park School.
When our Student Achievement team met with the Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers in December 2012 to review the EYE data, we discussed the possibility of working together and flexibly grouping the students in these classes to work on gross motor skills. A subsequent planning meeting was held including Esther Maerrs and Marnie Hubbard (Pre-K teachers), Diana McDowell (Kindergarten teacher), Susan Getz (Pre-K Inclusion teacher), Krista Tameling (Occupational Therapist), and Sharia Warnecke, Terry Mario, and Michele Roland Semenchuck (Instructional Consultants). Following this meeting, Krista Tameling designed five stations for the students to work through focusing on a variety of gross motor skills. The implementation of the “Gross Motor Collaboration Event” occurred over a number of days, as we combined the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes and flexibly grouped the students.  Each station was led by one of the adults involved allowing the other adults to observe and learn the activities to be practiced in the classroom.  We also used a variety of areas in the school  to demonstrate the versatile use of space.
Gross Motor Collage
Collaboration allowed for discussion of the data results and the exploration of instructional options. Each member of the group was able to share their insights into the data and contribute to the planning process. Collaboration allowed multiple perspectives to contribute to the planning of richer learning experiences for students.  By implementing a collaborative approach to both assessment and instruction, we were able to learn from each other professionally and support student learning in the area of gross motor skills.
I encourage you to consider the following question: How can you create an on-going process in your school where collaboration becomes an integral part of assessment and instruction?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Data Boards at Gladys McDonald School

WHAT NOW?  Assessment, Action, Achievement!

Since our GMS team started to work collaboratively, we have continually looked for ways to use data to inform our instruction. Together, we realized our past way of collecting data (in files that collected dust) was not making a difference in our classrooms and started to seek a method to organize the information in a simple way that would impact instruction and achievement.

After much collaboration, we decided to take action to track our student’s literacy achievement on data boards.  Our initial thoughts were nothing more than tracking achievement to ensure that every child was progressing. However, once the boards came to life, they brought out an outcome we could not have foreseen.

GMS – Primary Data Board December 2012

GMS – Primary Data Board March 2013

Our data came to life. Our teams poured over student achievement and instantly connected to each and every student. Our staff was inspired. Our achievement was increasing right before our eyes… 
But to our surprise, some learners that we were not concerned about…did not progress.

Those are the students that once “slipped through the cracks”.
This begged the question…”What do we do?”

“Now What” conversations became imperative because there were little faces sitting right below the “Beginning” category on our boards. Our Common Collaboration meetings took a new shape once again.  Collaborative teams began to take action. They were sharing ‘Best Practice’ strategies in a very purposeful manner. They started to make time to observe and provide feedback in each other’s classrooms to impact their own practice and that of their colleagues.  They developed and monitored “Targeted Intervention Plans” for each student still in the beginning range.  They made no excuses and kept their focus on options.

As a result, our Consultants and Student Achievement Teams were called upon for focused guidance and support. Recess Reading Clubs were developed. Parent Workshops were held. Mentorships were formed.  Leveled Literacy Intervention supports continually grew. New programs were piloted. Division office staff were called to the table for support.

Our data boards gave us easy access to evidence which we used to base our decisions, request supports, set meeting agendas and they inspired our team to ensure we are moving every student towards personal excellence! This has been exciting work!

Those students following the upward trajectory became a cause for continual celebration. All staff watched the climb each time another assessment was administered; be it the Fountas and Pinnell , Vernon, VAA, RAD or ORR. Assessments became responsive and were happening without being planned or without additional prep time. They became a part of the work our teachers were doing within their daily guided literacy groups. Our teachers felt confident they were responding to student needs. Our students felt confident because we were celebrating and sharing growth.
Celebrations continue to echo through classrooms and hallways. Our students feed off of the excitement from the staff about achievement and in turn consistently brag about what they read last night, a strategy learned or about a story they wrote. Our staff is motivated by the information they have gained, by growth they have witnesses and by the ease in which report card comments were to create because of their knowledge. Now they are eager to start Numeracy Data Boards in the 2013/14 school year.

 Our team believes the data boards have acted as a catalyst to help develop the culture in our building. 

We implore every teacher…leader to start small (even if just
 in your own room) and watch the growth occur right before your eyes!

If it is your passion to improve student achievement…please consider reading “Putting Faces on the Data” by L. Sharratt and M. Fullan and come join a GMS Collaboration meeting to see it in action!
                                                                                                ~ GMS Assessment Team