Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reading Conference

Learning to Read, Reading to Learn

Inspiring, thought-provoking, fun. The Saskatchewan Reading Council’s Annual Reading Conference held in Saskatoon this year was all that and more!  It did not disappoint.

All presenters did a fantastic job of sharing their knowledge and expertise.  It was Richard Allington’s keynote and breakout sessions though, that  stood out for me. He challenged thinking and a lot of professional dialogue followed...even through lunch! Here are a few highlights from his sessions:

Teacher expertise is the key to effective classroom reading lessons.

There are 3 areas teachers must have expertise in:
  • Classroom management
  • Effective literacy instruction - There is nothing we can buy except professional development.
  • Managing literate conversations - Students need time to talk to each other about what they've been reading and writing.

The one proven strategy for teaching all vulnerable children to read is developing teacher expertise, yet not many schools have adopted massive, high quality professional development for staff as their intervention.  Allington cited a study from (2007) that showed dramatic increases in the reading levels of their vulnerable readers by the end of Grade 3.  In the study they provided 60 hours of PD for teachers and 1 year of in class coaching.

90% of children reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade graduate high school on time.

If we want to keep children from achieving:
  • keep access to books limited
  • live in neighborhoods where there are far fewer books

How many books in a home (100+) is a better predictor of educational achievement than family income or the educational level of parents.

Allington conducted a 3 year study in which they distributed 15 books  every summer to high poverty school children.  They found it eliminated summer reading loss. In fact, it produced as much or more reading growth as attending summer school.

Allington suggests that we can do better and asks:

Are we up to it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Daily 5 is the Middle!

Posted by Deb Kivela [Instructional Consultant]

"It is the open-mindedness and the seeking of new information and practices that insures teachers continued success in the classroom." Robert John Meehan @TeachersJourney

It is no secret that our division has promoted The Daily 5 (Gail Bousey & Joan Moser),as a structure to foster student independence and achievement in literacy. Neither does it come as any surprise that many primary teachers in Regina Public Schools have embraced this instructional framework. Of course they would! Truth be told, master teachers always have planned for optimum instruction time and differentiate tasks to ensure learning success. The structure of The Daily 5 further supports and refines what they instinctively know, works for their students!

In order to meet the wide range of student needs and diversity in today’s classrooms, instruction varied between the whole group, small groups and individual students is a recognized “best practice” for ALL grades. In fact, I don’t think it is an overstatement to say, it is a “necessary practice”….. a reality. As a result, recent professional development workshops and professional book circles offered for grades 4-6 are focused on structural frameworks and guided small group lessons to support both balanced literacy and numeracy instruction.

I will never underestimate the WILL and SKILL of my colleagues to ensure that all students succeed. I hear about, read about and am witness to remarkable teaching practices in Regina Public Schools that repeatedly prove our students come first! Many stories and practices deserve sharing, as does this one……

On his professional blog, Jason Howse, @MrHExperience, teacher at Wascana Community School, shares his journey of learning and success with The Daily 5 structure and CAFÉ (Bousey & Moser) Menu of instruction (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expanded Vocabulary) in a middle year’s classroom. @MrH_SevenStones

"The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives" Robert John Meehan

Enjoy watching Jason’s Daily 5 Literacy block and CAFÉ menu in action! This typical day of student engagement in learning was captured on video thanks to our Literacy Coordinator, Kira Fladager, @kfladager

Understanding Stereotypes

Cultural stereotypes are detrimental to relationships in our society.  In particular, we have become desensitized to First Nations stereotypes. This article will focus on identifying First Nations stereotypes, the history of these stereotypes, their effects, and what teachers can do to provide accurate and culturally relevant information to students.

Identifying First Nations Stereotypes

An assumption is an idea that is accepted as true, without being proven.  A stereotype is an overgeneralized assumption about an entire group of people.  From as far back as we can remember, we are bombarded with stereotypes of First Nations peoples in: cartoons, movies, books, advertising, team names, mascots, logos, companies, games, Halloween costumes, food and household products, to name a few.  Today’s children can add video games and the internet to the list.  Google the word “Indian”, there will be pages of stereotypes.  If an image or text overgeneralizes, dehumanizes, demoralizes, or colonizes a group of people, it is a stereotype.  In other words, it is misappropriation or a misrepresentation of a culture.


The term “Indian” continues to conjure up inappropriate images.   It is a term that was used when explorers landed and believed they were in the East Indies, now known as Central America.  The term has also been used by the British and later the Canadian Government, to identify a group of people, who have been referred to by many terms, most recently First Nations.  After Confederation, the Government created polices to assimilate, oppress, and marginalize First Nations peoples.  The Indian Act of 1876, meant “Indians” were under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Government.  The Government had control over most aspects of First Nations' life .  For example, the goal of Residential Schools, a provision of the Indian Act, was “to kill the Indian in the child.” Colonization, racist Government policies, unfair and discriminatory treatment, events that occurred the in the USA, and later the media, all contributed to stereotypes of First Nations peoples of Canada.

The documentary "Reel Injun" explains the history of stereotypes of Indigenous peoples in cinema.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Looping at Wilfred Hunt School - Part 2

High Impact Learning Strategies

Did you watch "Looping Part 1"?
If you haven't take a quick look now.  It is only 10 minutes long.  It was posted last week.  
In the video, parents tell their story of "Looping" or what it is like having their child with the same teacher for two years.  Parents show us how the teachers:  Prepared them before school started, Created a positive atmosphere, Helped them learn the expectations, "Liked" their child and Always saw their childs' potential...and much more!

John Hattie's eight Mind Frames are embedded into the video, and remind us that we must work together,  and take responsibility for our students' learning.

"Looping Part 2"  Now you can meet the teachers, see their classrooms and best of all...find out the high impact strategies they make happen everyday!  The high impact strategies are based from John Hattie's first book  in 2009, "Visible Learning."   Hattie's is one of the top selling education books in the world,  His research includes over 800 meta-analysis and includes 250 million children.  

Watch Linda and Lana, as they put Hattie's findings into action!

Stay tuned next week for Looping Part 3......What is the evidence of student learning?

Monday, April 7, 2014

#EdCampYQR: professional learning with a spin

Back in August, Regina Public Schools saw the first ever EdCamp professional development opportunity.
It was a new option for teachers in Regina Public at that time; the concept of professional development where the schedule was set the day of the event was disconcerting to many.  The event drew a lot of educators, however, and set the stage for another EdCamp, this time on a Saturday morning.  Check out the RPS Connect Ed archives to read more about the August event.

What is an edcamp, you may ask?  An "EdCamp" is an unconference; meaning that it is grassroots professional development, led by teachers, for teachers.  In an authentic edcamp format, no sessions are prepared ahead of time.  Teachers and staff come the morning of the event with an idea in mind, something they want to learn about and something they are prepared to share.  They can lead a session, a conversation, an activity, or create a planning session as needed.  Additionally, they can participate in other sessions to further their own learning.  The "law of two feet" applies: if you are not getting what you need out of a session, you can get up and move to a new session.  Participants live tweet the event using the hashtag #edcampyqr.  Our director, Julie McRae, also provided some insight into the EdCamp phenomenon by posting about the events to come on her blog.

Participants sign up for sessions by placing their name around a subject of interest.  Additionally, there are spaces for new learning (what I want to learn about).  If someone wants to lead a session but is unsure, there are many jumping off points from which to start.

This year's event saw participants from multiple school divisions.  Teachers and administrators from Regina Public, Regina Catholic, Prairie South, Horizon and Saskatoon were in attendance and the opportunity to collaborate and connect with our colleagues in other divisions was invaluable.

Once the sign up was completed, the break out sessions began.  From interschool novel studies, to working with Google Docs, Gr 9 math planning, Digital Citizenship sessions, Backchanneling and Assessment conversations, learning about using Social Media to engage and improve student achivement, using Inform to guide instruction, Appy Hour and Apps for primary, E-portfolio tools and much, much more, there was something for everyone.  Some of the presentations followed a presentation style format, while others were conversation and discussion based.

It was amazing to watch how everyone participated and shared.  There were no "experts" in the audience; everyone was there to learn and discuss.  

The format of this year's EdCamp varied slightly as well given that the event was held on a Saturday.  The hope was that the learning and collaboration that came out of the event would be worth educators giving up some time out of their weekend.  The Saturday option allowed us to connect with other school divisions as well.  It was great to be able to meet our "tweeps" in real life, much like the Tweet-Up organized earlier this year.

Much of the work that we do as teachers goes beyond the walls of the schools.  Professional development needs to suit the needs of the individual; for some, that may be during the school day, for others, a weekend may be a better option.  Varied sorts of professional development are needed to help support busy educators in their day to day work.  Check out this feedback from one of the organizers.

With over 100 participants attending and approximately 30 - 35 sessions offered, we know that this model of professional development is an appealing alternative to those who desire self directed professional development.  All in all, the event allowed teachers to focus on the important conversations around improving practice and learning and growing as professionals.  We learn best when we learn from each other.  Thank you to all who came, participated, shared, discussed.  Your presence helped this be a hugely succesful event!

Listen live to CTV who filmed a brief segment for the evening news (at 8:20 mark).  For more information, follow the group on facebook (EdCampYQR), follow on twitter @EdCampYQR, or check out the blog  All links and presentations shared will be posted on the blog.