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.