Monday, February 25, 2013

Green is the Color - Learning is the Game!

"Managing a classroom is part art and part science, conceptually simple enough to reduce to a handful of critical variables, yet so intricate and complex it is a lifelong learning task. Even the best and most experienced teachers must continually refine their classroom management plans.”
(Sprick, Knight, Reinke & McKale, 2006, p. 185)

Isn't that the truth. There are not too many people in education that would argue with the importance of establishing solid structures and routines. The use of expectations (outcomes) and rules (indicators) provides a guideline for students to monitor their own behavior and they remind and motivate students to meet certain standards. One of the schools that I work with was seeing an increase in inappropriate student behavior. Rather than just sitting back the staff decided to explore intervention strategies to support student behavior. After many hours of professional development and discussion the primary teachers (grades 1 and 2) and the junior cluster teachers (grades 3 to 5) decided to adopt (and adapt) the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) model from the following YouTube video:

The primary teachers felt that it was important to add visuals to support young learners and the junior cluster teachers felt that it was important that administration followed up using a similar model.

Primary "On Target" chart

Junior Cluster "On Target" Chart

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Students Find their Digital Voices

Kelli Lewko, Communication Media teacher and teacher librarian at F.W. Johnson Collegiate, starts the final class of the semester by calling for volunteer students to “go first” for their final summative oral presentation, a call that teachers know is often followed by dead silence. Not today, however.  A hand quickly goes up and the presentations begin, though these are not your typical “stand at the front, cue card in hand, reading a prepared statement” type of presentations--nor is this a typical summative.

“Most of the students would not want to stand at the front and read,” she tells me, “and since these are semester end summative presentations, many would feel intimidated.” She notes that many of her students find presenting a source of great stress and anxiety.

Instead, Kelli has designed the summative presentation as not simply the last hurdle of the semester-- a portion of a summative tacked onto the end to get students to show up. Rather, the presentations are truly a culmination, a final demonstration of all the skills the students developed during the semester and a personal exploration of each student’s learning.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Living Literacy in the Classroom [Grade 3/4]

submitted by Mona Ruecker [Instructional Consultant]

Great Literacy work is happening in Carleen Onieu's grade 3 and 4 classroom at Wascana School.  I met with Carleen this morning to capture the essence of her Literacy:  Planning, Instruction and Use of Resources.  We took pictures of work examples.  It was simply amazing, listening and learning from this knowledgeable teacher.  The information below only begins to tell the story, of what Carleen does in Literacy.  Contact Carleen at for more information. 

  • Ministry outcomes including:  Student and parent friendly language, Long term goals aligned in monthly daily 5 components 
  • Daily 5 components (listen to reading, read to self, word work, work on writing, read with someone)are planned for in monthly blocks, throughout the school year
  • Cafe strategies incorporated ( comprehension, accuracy, fluency, expanding vocabulary)
Whole Group
  • Each day begins with a check in and monitoring of each students' Home Reading program
  • A specific reading strategy is modelled for the students
Small Group
  • Students work through the components of Daily 5 within a variety of flexible groupings
  • Students may complete three of the five components daily
  • Teacher works with students
  • Students practice their reading strategies independently while the teacher works one on one and with small groups of students
  • Daily 5 and Cafe I-Charts (created by Mrs. Goski)
  • Extensive classroom library
  • Teacher created "strategy reading logs"
  • Graphic organizers for reading and writing
  • Structure is modeled from:  Daily 5 and Cafe by "The Sisters"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Learning with PWIM at école Hawrylak school

I've been fortunate to work with two teachers at École Hawrylak - Ms. Picard (gr 2 French Immersion) and Ms. Robertson (gr 2/3 French Immersion).  Both of these teachers have begun working with the PWIM strategy (Picture Word Inductive Method) (en français - MIMI - Méthode Induction Mots 


In their classrooms, these teachers have gone through the process of shaking out words, creating and working with word cards, and have recently begun modelling the classification process.  I have  blogged about the process through my own blog and you can read about their work by clicking on the links below.

Organizing according to attributes (gender and number)
See- Say - Spell

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Explore +4 Unwrapped!

[submitted by Sharia Warnecke, Instructional Consultant]

There are so many successful ‘school stories’ to celebrate in our school division! Currently we are hearing about many exciting learning experiences in our classrooms using Explore +4. This structure is the brain child of Kira Fladager, LJ Dowell-Hantlemann and I. Three years ago, after witnessing the success of ‘The Sisters’ Daily 5/Cafe, we believed in a need for a similar numeracy structure that would also incorporate Math Makes Sense resources.  


Explore+4 is a structure to develop independence and stamina in math. It focuses on curriculum outcomes and individual student goals. Explore+4 is inspired and adapted from Gail Boushey and Joan Moser’s (2006) The Daily 5 and Math Daily 5. It has been developed to support the curriculum, Regina Public Schools’ Numeracy Framework and Math Makes Sense, the key resource for Kindergarten to Grade 9. There are 5 components to Explore+4; Explore, Math On My Own, Math with Someone, Math Sense and Math Talk. 


The best way to make sense of math is by “doing” math and exploring math concepts. By exploring math, you are bringing your own meaning and background knowledge to the concept. You need to bring your own background knowledge as you attempt to solve it. It soon builds confidence.
Components of Explore:
  1. Rich open ended task that is Outcome driven and differentiated to meet student’s readiness and background knowledge
  2. From Math Makes Sense (Pearson) or other resources such as Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics by John Van de Walle
  3. Whole class or strategy group
  4. 10 - 15 minutes


The best way to become a better mathematician is to practice each day. This is your chance to apply what you have learned and independently practice math. This allows you to make sense of what you have learned which leads to better retention and deeper understanding of outcomes and big ideas.
  1. Extending the Explore through a variety of activities
  2. MMS Practice and Assessment Focus questions (Venn Diagram to give choice)
  3. Van de Walle tasks

Friday, February 1, 2013

Explore +4 in Action!

I am excited to see the consultants I work with promoting the excellence in teaching at their schools. An example of this is Mona Ruecker’s and Deb Kivela’s work with Aaron Warner. Though Aaron put the final touches to the utube [which in my view is amazing], Deb and Mona have been huge supporters of Explore +4 and Aaron’s work with his Grade 7/8′s. Please check out this great example of Aaron’s work with his students using Explore +4. [Starla Nistor]

Future posts in RPSConnectED will focus on the Balanced Numeracy approach as well as specific instructional strategies, routines and structures [like Explore +4] that support numeracy instruction.

Blogging . . . A New Form of Reflection? or Learning? or Both?

Auguste Rodin's - The Thinker

Reflection 1: an instance of reflectingespecially : the return of light or sound waves from a surface
2: the production of an image by or as if by a mirror
3a : the action of bending or folding back b : a reflected part : fold
4: something produced by reflecting: as a : an image given back by a reflecting surface b : an effect produced by an influence
5: an often obscure or indirect criticism : reproach
6: a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation
7: consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose

I have many interests in my life.  My family, education, the outdoors, nature, the theatre, and  art. Some of these are more prominent than others depending on the time and point that I may be within my life.  Many times I try to blend some of them together so that they can become more of a permanent fixture within my life.  The one aspect that I find which can transcend into all others, is art.  I am not an artist by any sense of the word but rather someone who enjoys and appreciates the works of many other talented people.  I especially enjoy the times when I can pull aspects of art into life lessons that may be of benefit for others.  The meaning behind a particular piece is up to interpretation and many times that interpretation is only know to the artist themselves, therefore reflection or reaction to a piece will be different every time is is viewed by others.  Reflection is only real and meaningful if it is wanted, necessary, and a part of a learning process.  It is useful only if we use it wisely and many times it can be used for evaluative purposes rather than real-life-changing reasons.  I have been fortunate to have used reflection as a process to learn from, grow with, and heal.

As I think back to prior experiences, the idea of reflection in schools has traditionally been viewed as a means by which an assignment is completed or in some cases as a way to "keep tabs" on what the the student is or is not doing.  As I reflect upon my under-graduate course work and what I learned from the reflection portion of the courses I took, it was quite trivial and meaningless.  It often times was a "re-telling" of what took place rather than insight into what I learned from the situation or happening. I didn't see the learning that was intended for me in "using" the process.  Could it have been a miss-communication on the part of instructor/student intention?  Was it because I wasn't mature enough to see the relevance in learning about myself ... from myself?  Or was it because I didn't see the the value in actually putting my thoughts on paper? - yes this would have been before any digital type of record-keeping or blogging platforms were ever in existence. :-)

I have never been the type to keep a diary or written component of my thoughts, although I do in fact consider myself to be a reflective person making special note of the way I utilize the information of my recent learning.  I do learn from my mistakes and am not afraid to admit that I don't know all the answers.  So, when I first began blogging it was for the purposes of a graduate class and due to the fact that it was a medium that was foreign to me, I put myself on a mission.  A mission to explore the importance of blogging.  It had to make sense and mean something to me in order for my learning to stick to it.  And since that time, 4 years ago, my exposure to blogging has really become quite varied.

My first blogging experience allowed me the opportunity to learn the ropes. I learned how to set up a blog and administer the basics of running and maintaining it.  And in all honesty I was very proud of myself in learning how to do all of this ... on my own!  But it was set up for the limited audience that was my class, like many class assignments are.  The purpose of it was more or less an online portfolio of my learning.  I really didn't see any difference between it and a scrapbook (although the graphics and video did look pretty cool).  Sadly, I didn't view it as being a tool by which others could learn from ... or for myself to use as a reflective piece within which I could learn from.