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

The flipped classroom... the elementary perspective

Photo Credit:
runfardvs via Compfight cc

Rosanne Fournier, Vice-Principal at École WS Hawrylak School, learned about the 'flipped classroom' model over the past year.  She first experienced this model as a parent, with her son attending Campbell Collegiate and participating in a class that follows this model.  She then became aware of three Hawrylak teachers who were using the "flipped" methodology, each to a different degree and each adapting it to the needs in their classroom.  They would like to share their experiences.

The “flipped classroom” is an alternate method of curriculum delivery for teachers and a different way of learning for students.  In this model, instruction is delivered online outside of class time and the assignment is done in class the following day after students have had the opportunity to watch the teacher’s instructional presentation. 

Some advantages to the flipped classroom include:
- the ability to return to the information provided and watch it as many times as necessary;
- the ability to improve assignments and understanding;
- stronger understanding of the material studied;
- the ability to ask questions as needed while doing the assessment component;
- the ability to work at your own pace (ideal for students who are absent from school);
- the ability to get caught up if a student falls behind.

Rochelle Rugg, a grade 7/8 French Immersion teacher at École W.S Hawrylak School has this to say about the “flipped” methodology:
I always wanted to try the “Flipped Classroom” model. The class I have this year all had access to the Internet and had their own portable, internet ready devices. So, I put my lessons on Power Point along with links to websites for them to view. Their “homework” was to view the PowerPoint presentation and watch the links provided. There were “discussion” questions that they would have to review the following day in class. The next day, students were to discuss the questions that were in the PowerPoint. One person in each group assumed the role of “leader” and monitored that the discussions stayed on task and in French (I teach French Immersion). The student leader was responsible for providing a discussion mark for each person in his/her group including themselves. Every student had the opportunity to be a “leader”.

Once we were complete the discussion, we had a general class discussion to re-iterate important points. The class then used their class time to work on the questions that went with the lesson. I found that most of the time, this is where my students needed me the most. Instead of using class time for the lesson, they were able to read, see and experience the lesson from home or on the bus ride home or at the rink, and then they could complete the “work” in class with me available for any questions they have.
The lessons were put on Dropbox and left there for students to revisit as needed. It was good revision for final tests, projects and other work. I would use the flipped classroom again, but it does require a lot of prep and the students must all have access to the internet and other devices in order to participate in this type of learning.  

#EdCampYQR - An "unconference" for teachers, by teachers

Professional Development Opportunity - August 2013 - EdTech and more!

EdCampYQR - Regina Public Schools is proud to present Regina's first EdCamp.  On Thursday, August 29th, from 8:30 - 12, teachers and staff from pre K-12, are invited to join other colleagues in the division at Campus Regina Public (formerly Cochrane High School).  An "edcamp" is a professional development opportunity unlike any other; it's an "unconference" where the sessions are decided the day of the event, driven by participant interest and need.  Anyone can present and anyone can lead a discussion.  Although the focus may be educational technology, it may evolve into discussions about everything and anything related to teaching practice.  

But what is an EdCamp, you may ask?  Check out this xtranormal video to learn more!

You are invited to follow along (and pre-register) on the blog at, and to follow all updates on twitter @EdCampYQR.

In addition, we would request that you fill out this brief survey so that we can better identify your needs / desires as participants. 

We are very excited about this unique opportunity for teachers and staff alike.  All are welcome and we look forward to this professional development driven by teachers, for teachers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thom Teachers Celebrate Tech at STF IT Summit

In 2011, educators at Thom Collegiate formed a technology catalyst team (TTCT) to explore the integration of technology into their teaching as a supported professional learning community. Excited by their experience, members of the team presented a two hour session at this year’s STF IT Summit in Saskatoon on May 6, 2013. During the presentation, members of the TTCT shared their experience building their PLC, how it inspired their professional development, and its impact on student engagement and achievement. The team explained and demonstrated a number of tools and resources that they have used across all subject areas to support student learning in a secondary environment.

Kate Evenson began the presentation with a brief review of how the PLC developed, and then moved into explaining the role of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in her ELA classroom, and the need for instruction in digital citizenship. She also shared her digital citizenship unit, which can be accessed in the presentation links at This was followed by an overview of Skype by French and Spanish educator, Krista Gates. Through her Animoto videos, photos, and resources, session attendees were introduced to what a Skype classroom is, how students can use Skype to actively engage with international perspectives, and how Skype can be easily implemented into any core area. Next, Carmen Holota addressed how social media can be a key tool for connecting with students in a responsible manner via teacher Facebook pages, and how Twitter can be used for both professional development, as well as for student assignments. She also shared student work completed in her ELA A31 class, where students used the website, to easily create animated videos. Margo Campbell then shared how she uses Pinterest and Glogster in her Core and Immersion French classes in order to have students actively represent their learning using visual digital platforms. Kelsey Bially, highlighted the impact of the TTCT on her teaching, and how the diverse teaching experience within the team pushed her to try new technology in her ELA classroom. She shared her successful approaches to using Twitter and blogging with her classes. Finally, Joanna Sanders, who recently left the TTCT to become the Consultant of Digital Fluency at the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, shared a plethora of resources. Highlights of her aspect of the session were the benefits of engaging students by utilizing programs such as Google Apps, Socrative, and Timetoast.

It was a wonderful afternoon, full of collegial sharing and exciting tech opportunities. Not only were participants in the session excited to try new resources, but the Thom teachers left the conference excited to continue their journey as a Tech Catalyst Team.

Chcek out the InfoGraphic we developed for the presentation:

A novel study in a digital age

Stacy Simon, an ELA teacher at Campbell Collegiate, explored the use of technology to create authentic interactions for her students throughout the course of their novel study.  Stacy shares with us her experiences in creating a context for her English 20 students as they read the novel A Long Way Gone

For English 20 this year, I chose to have my class read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. The book is a memoir Ishmael wrote about his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. As we read the memoir, we continually discussed Ishmael’s experiences but we especially focused on how the war deprived him of his childhood and his rights and freedoms.

 Although my students could not relate to Ishmael’s experience with war, we found other ways to connect with him. Music played a big role in Ishmael’s life so we, too, discussed how music can play a role in our lives. Also, we literally connected with him by finding him on Twitter and tweeting him comments and questions created by my students. This was a great experience as my class was eager to ask questions and more than thrilled when he responded to them. Although my class was aware they were reading a true story, conversing with Ishmael emphasized this reality.


My students also created a script of a hypothetical interview with Ishmael. We then watched this script come to life when we used Xtranormal, a website that turns text into speech and allows students to pick sets, characters and sound effects to produce a cartoon video.

Overall, my students – even the reluctant readers – were engaged in the memoir. Ishmael’s story taught my students many things such as the atrocities of war, the use of child soldiers, and the fragility of life. 

Submitted by Stacy Simon (ELA teacher at Campbell Collegiate) and Monique Bowes (Instructional Consultant)

One teacher's adventure into the Flipped Classroom (High School Edition)

Jared Brandt, Math teacher at Campbell Collegiate, has been using the flipped classroom model in his math instruction this year.

Here is his perspective on what the flipped classroom has to offer:

This semester I attempted what many are calling a “flipped classroom.” The most basic idea behind this model of teaching and learning is that the roles of instruction and work are reversed – students learn at home and work in the classroom. This affords students many benefits, such as learning at their own pace, a private learning environment, and having the opportunity to ask more questions and have more personal contact time with the teacher during class.
This semester I attempted to implement a fully flipped classroom by making much of my course material available online. This includes instructional videos, uploaded to YouTube, most of our class assignments, and also quick “Exit Slips” after each video. During class, we deepened our understanding of the concepts through discussion, activities, and working on practice problems.
Throughout the semester, there were some ideas that worked well, and some that didn’t. First, the things that didn’t. It became rapidly apparent that this model works best with self-motivated students. To this day, I still have one or two students that have not watched a single video. It looked like completing the exit slips was so arduous, that quality and attention to detail waned consistently over time. As a result, many students were coming to class not fully prepared, and I believe that this hurt them in the long run.
Now let us discuss the positives. It is also clear to me that more than a few students do have the self-motivation that makes this model work. These students were the type that took this and ran with it. They watched all the videos and completed all the exit slips, with evident higher-order thinking. They came to class prepared, worked diligently, and asked many (interesting) questions. More than once, I was asked questions I did not know the answer to, and together we were able to come to a solution.

But by and large, there are two overwhelmingly strong indicators that what I am doing is at least a step in the right direction. The first of the two is that I have had multiple students from classes that I do not teach tell me that they have been using my website to help them through their classes: they heard from friends that all of my material was online, and they used it to help them learn and to review big concepts. The second is that the majority of my positive feedback has been coming from parents. I have had parents confess to me that they were interested in this model upon speaking to them, but, even more so, parents have gone out of their way to contact me to offer support.

For all these positive and negative reasons, while I am convinced that I’m on the road to something important, there are some changes that will need to be made. Now… back to the drawing board for me for some serious reflection.
Jared's website where he houses all of the content, video and assignments can be accessed here.
Here is a sample video that Jared created on multiplying polynomials.  Additional video samples can be accessed via his website.  Note that once Jared has students watch the videos, they respond to the video using a google form that permits him immediate feedback.

Some of the post-video reflection that Jared does with his class once they are together as a large group includes:

(Sample from Jared's site)
Questions Discussed

How could you find the slope of a triangle that was not 90 degrees?

Since we can only find the slope of a line, not of a triangle, we don’t need to worry about this problem. Given a line, we can always construct a right triangle, where the given line is the hypotenuse of that triangle. Also, we could find the height of the triangle and use that as our rise.

Practice Questions

Classify given slopes as being positive, negative, zero, or undefined.
Find slopes of lines given their rises and runs.

Questions to Think About

How could you determine whether a line has a constant slope?
Two hills have slopes of 0.4 and 0.8, but eventually reach the same height. Which hill would be harder to climb, and why?

Jared also provides external links to a variety of Math websites, contests, and additional ways in which students can improve their math skills.  He also includes multiple sample assessment opportunities so that students can strengthen their skills prior to any major assessment.

Despite the challenges of the model, given the success that he has seen and the improved results for students, Jared intends to continue experimenting with the flipped classroom model in the years to come.

Submitted by Jared Brandt (Mathematics teacher at Campbell Collegiate) and Monique Bowes (Instructional Consultant - Team Lerminiaux)