Tag Archives: literacy

À la découverte de Livres ouverts!

  • À la dernière minute, la direction de l’école me demande d’acheter des livres.
  • Je désire exploiter une thématique avec des livres de niveaux différents.
  • Je veux trouver des livres qui répondent à l’intérêt de mes élèves ainsi qu’à leur niveau de lecture.
  • Je veux mettre sur pied un cercle de lecture dans ma classe et je cherche des livres.
  • J’utilise les 5 au quotidien et je cherche des livres pour les activités de lecture.

Comme enseignan.t.e de FLS, est-ce que vous vous êtes déjà retrouvé parmi une de ces situations? Si votre réponse est oui, j’aimerais vous présenter une ressource inestimable pour vous aider: Livres ouverts. J’ai demandé à Danièle Courchesne, collaboratrice à Livres ouverts, de répondre à mes questions afin de dresser un portrait complet de cette ressource.

Qu’est-ce que Livres ouverts?

Le site Livres ouverts est un site de développement pédagogique, conçu et produit par la Direction de la formation générale des jeunes (DFGJ) du ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, Secteur de l’éducation préscolaire et de l’enseignement primaire et secondaire. Il présente une sélection commentée de livres de qualité qui s’adressent aux jeunes du préscolaire, du primaire et du secondaire. Les livres sélectionnés appartiennent autant à la fiction qu’à la non-fiction; ils proviennent du Québec, du Canada, de la francophonie internationale et du monde entier par des œuvres traduites. Livres ouverts, c’est aussi un ensemble de suggestions pédagogiques qui visent à donner vie à ces livres en classe.

Visionner la capsule 1 : Présentation de Livres ouverts

Qui est derrière Livres ouverts?

Placé sous la responsabilité de la DFGJ, le répertoire est réalisé par une équipe de spécialistes en littérature pour la jeunesse, issus du domaine du livre et de l’éducation : enseignants, bibliothécaires, analystes-rédacteurs, etc.

Pourquoi Livres ouverts?

Le site Livres ouverts, par son environnement pédagogique et ses choix de livres, offre un moyen privilégié pour entreprendre avec les élèves, en classe, des projets qui rejoignent les grandes orientations et les exigences disciplinaires du Programme de formation de l’école québécoise.

Par ses nombreuses clés de recherche et par les multiples possibilités de regroupements entre les livres, il permet de repérer des ressources qui sauront enrichir des projets reliés à l’un ou l’autre des aspects du Programme.

À qui s’adresse Livres ouverts?

Je lire le père goriot par BalzacLivres ouverts s’adresse d’abord aux enseignants et enseignantes du préscolaire, du primaire et du secondaire, de toutes les disciplines, aux conseillers et conseillères pédagogiques, aux bibliothécaires scolaires, aux techniciens et techniciennes en documentation ainsi qu’aux directions d’école. Ils trouveront dans Livres ouverts des suggestions de livres répondant à leurs besoins et des propositions d’actions pédagogiques s’inscrivant dans les visées du Programme de formation de l’école québécoise.

Les enseignants de français, langue seconde, français base, immersion ou enrichi y puiseront des suggestions de livres et des activités pouvant intéresser et sensibiliser leurs élèves à l’univers littéraire et culturel francophone et à développer leurs compétences à lire et à apprécier des textes variés.

Livres ouverts s’adresse aussi à toutes les personnes qui travaillent et qui vivent auprès des jeunes, à l’école, à la maison et dans les autres lieux qu’ils fréquentent. Tous les intervenants doivent être mis à contribution pour créer un environnement culturel vivant et un climat d’apprentissage dynamique.

Comment me servir de Livres ouverts?

Visionner la capsule 2 : Comment faire une recherche simple? Comment consulter les notices complètes? Comment gérer son compte?

Visionner la capsule 3 : Comment faire une recherche avancée?

Comment Livres ouverts peut m’aider dans ma pratique en FLS?

Student lost in a bookÀ la suite d’une démarche de validation rigoureuse, des indices de difficulté spécifiques à la langue seconde ont été ajoutés au site. Ce processus de validation a également mené à la conception d’une échelle de difficulté en français, langue seconde. Cette échelle a été constituée à partir des livres de la sélection Livres ouverts. Elle vise à soutenir les intervenants en français, langue seconde dans le choix des livres à proposer à leurs élèves en fonction de leurs habiletés en lecture.

Une sélection d’œuvres permettant d’aborder plusieurs stratégies de lecture en classe de langue seconde est également offerte. Les stratégies de lecture choisies ont été ciblées en fonction des apprentissages en français, langue seconde, que réalisent les élèves au cours du programme de base, du programme enrichi et du programme d’immersion.

Il est important de préciser que tous les livres peuvent servir à mettre en application les stratégies de lecture.

Cependant, certains livres présentent des caractéristiques qui facilitent :

  • la formulation d’inférences (p. ex. un album présentant un texte elliptique);
  • l’interprétation (p. ex. un récit à portée philosophique);
  • l’établissement de liens (p. ex. un livre contenant des intertextes);
  • la prédiction (p. ex. un récit adoptant une structure récurrente);
  • la visualisation (p. ex. un texte présentant de nombreuses descriptions).

De plus, pour répondre aux besoins exprimés par le milieu scolaire, le site Livres ouverts a ajouté à ses clés de recherche et à ses indices l’indication étendue de cycles. Cet indice vise à désigner parmi les livres de la sélection ceux qui présentent un indice de difficulté bas (de 1 à 5) et qui peuvent convenir à des élèves plus âgés. Évidemment, la volonté de présenter à l’élève un défi de lecture à sa juste mesure et de lui offrir des ressources intéressantes qui ne lui donnent pas l’impression d’être infantilisé a guidé l’attribution de cette indication étendue de cycles.

Comment choisissez-vous les livres?

Chaque livre est choisi avec soin pour ses qualités intrinsèques et est comparé à l’ensemble des livres sélectionnés, selon un processus rigoureux qui assure la valeur et la diversité des choix proposés. Le jugement global sur la qualité et sur la valeur pédagogique porte sur l’ensemble du livre. Les éléments pris en compte au moment de l’analyse sont :

  • le texte, l’écriture, la langue;
  • le récit, la narration, l’histoire, l’organisation du contenu documentaire;
  • les sujets, thèmes et points de vue traités;
  • les valeurs prônées;
  • les illustrations, la mise en pages;
  • les aspects matériels.

Consultez les critères de sélection

Comment les livres sont-ils catégorisés?

Ces documents présentent la description de différents critères de recherche du site Livres ouverts. Leur lecture aidera à comprendre les différentes catégories d’œuvres présentes sur le site.

Consultez les catégories de livres

Consultez les indices de difficulté, les indications de cycles et les indications étendues de cycles

De plus, chaque livre est classé selon un chapitre thématique qui met en lumière un des aspects de l’ouvrage. Ce classement par thèmes permet de faire ressortir des liens entre les livres, d’éclairer des angles de lecture intéressants ou originaux et de décloisonner des genres et des sujets plus traditionnellement associés. Les chapitres thématiques facilitent les arrimages avec les domaines généraux de formation et les domaines d’apprentissage du programme.

Livres ouverts est une excellente ressource pour tous les intervenants du milieu scolaire qui cherchent à exploiter le livre en salles de classe. Je vous invite donc à explorer Livres ouverts.

Bonne découverte!

Pour joindre l’équipe de Livres ouverts: langues@education.gouv.qc.ca

Rapping Across the Curriculum

The following is a guest post by Dan Parker. 
Dan Parker holds an M.A. in Education and a B. Ed. in High School History and French Second Language. He taught in Quebec for three years and then decided to quit his day job to follow the call of combining music, education and activism in classrooms and communities around the province. He is part of the Culture in the Schools network and offers workshops in rap and spoken-word across disciplines and ages.

rap
Dan Parker performing for the Rap Battles for Social Justice which he founded

The class is filled with suspense and excitement. An instrumental hip hop beat plays through a small but loud amplifier and a laptop. Two mics are ready to be held. The desks are covered with sheets scribbled with rap lyrics, created in only 20-30 minutes by the students themselves. The beat turns up for the frenzied last minute rehearsals before presenting. The teacher gets ready to observe and evaluate in an authentically riveting learning situation.

No matter the subject or age level, this is the climax of the Rapping Across the Curriculum workshop.

In History class, the highest academic achiever grabs the mic and drops the knowledge with a vivid verse explaining the Quiet Revolution so well that some students will study her text for the upcoming test!  In English class, the class comedians take on the roles of Iago and Othello for a hilarious Shakespearean rap battle. In Ethics and Religion, the shy teenager hesitates but then makes jaws drop once he shares his frustrations about discrimination via rhythmic poetry.  In elementary school, a chorus of pre-teens repeat syncopated sentences about why calculating area and perimeter is useful. And in a grade 3 class, children jump up and down, making bee sounds, as they rhyme about springtime.

Inspired to accomplish feats over beats

Today, hip hop music is an informal but influential educational resource. Many teens listen attentively to the verses of their favourite rap artists, and some even memorize and recite their words like mantras! Why not give your students the opportunity to bring this dimension of their personal way of learning to class? Plus many studies have shown that music, in general, speeds up the learning development of speech and reading skills, trains children to pay more attention for longer periods, and enhances their sense of empathy for others!

The enthusiasm that rap music solicits is undeniable. Of course, not all students are rap fans. Some even hate mainstream rap music. But the excitement of expressing oneself in a rhythmic game is so contagious that it gets the haters/naysayers applauding and, quite often, even performing in the long tradition of spoken-word poetry that transcends the rap music genre. Younger children may not have even heard one single rap song before the workshop, but they are familiar with nursery rhymes which makes this urban genre easily accessible to them.

dan-parker-primary-school-workshop
Students learning about hip hop beats in a primary school music class

What does it look like in the classroom?

Getting children and teenagers excited about learning is what I do. I enjoy creating creative learning and evaluation situations as well as collaborating with other educators. Since 2014 I’ve given over 200 Rapping Across the Curriculum workshops in over 40 schools all over Quebec.  The course content and the social contexts have been very diverse.

When I walk into a class, I may not win the students’ respect at first. Some of the teens even think, “who is this lanky Brazilian-Canadian who wears no bling (jewelery), swag (stylish clothes), or anything resembling what famous rappers look like? Is this a joke?”. To convince them, I take them for a ride.

First, I briefly break down the history of rap lyricism which reveals the many phases and styles of this international art form rooted in African-American and Latino-American culture. Then, we enter the topic that the teacher has selected, such as the Quiet Revolution in History. The students suggest key words and short sentences from the mind map or word banks that they have already prepared in a previous class before my arrival. I cover the black/white/smart board with their contributions.

Finally, the magic happens: I turn up the beat and grab a mic. The students’ suggestions on the board become my playground. This is pure improv. I jump from one word to another, rhyming, making jokes, explaining key concepts, asking questions, getting the group to cheer and repeat, then finishing by hitting them hard with a punchline near the end of the 4 minute freestyle.

Applause. Victory. I epic-win their attention. How? Recognized skill instills respect. Now they’re ready to listen. After a quick rhythm and street poetry lesson, they’re ready for action.

high-school-rap-workshop-dan-parker-lha
High school student on the mic with Dan watching

From past projects to future echoes

In the heart of Montreal, I galvanized Contemporary World students to rhyme about tensions and conflict related to racism in North America. In a Montreal suburb, teens in a Work Oriented Training Path program spat bars with me about what it means to be vulnerable. In a primary school in Mascouche, music class became rap class where children learned how to record a verse and design a basic hip hop beat. North of the 49th parallel, I gave lyric-writing tips to Cree teens who rapped about their hunting adventures with their families.

Sounds like fun? Then let’s get the ball rolling. Time is ticking.

Making it happen – Culture in the Schoolsculture_ecole_en

Dear teacher, here’s how you can make all this go down in your classroom.

First you contact me at mrparkerquebec@gmail.com. You’ll tell me about the topic you’d like your students to rap about, and then I’ll design a custom-made workshop that covers your course curriculum.  We’ll fill out the Culture in the Schools forms together, and then apply for funding from your school board.  [Note:  many other artists are also available via their Répertoire de ressources culture-education.]

Since the Ministry of Education pays for 75 % of the fees, your board and your principal will probably be happy to approve the request and have the school only pay only 25%. Plus, your school administration would surely enjoy the idea of livening up course content, raising all-round student learning engagement, and sharing photos and videos of their students rapping online for the school community and the parents of prospective schoolchildren.  

We’ll need to make sure to meet the Culture in the Schools deadline in October or November, depending on your school board. Some schools have teacher committees that select the visiting artists, so you could propose that they choose the Rapping Across the Curriculum workshops as one of the school’s requests. It’s a good idea to team up with other teachers so that several classes can experience what it’s like to rhyme on the mic to the beat. Schools can have artists visit for several days. If you’re too busy to jump through these bureaucratic hoops alone, maybe one of your colleagues will be motivated to do the paperwork for their classes as well as yours.

And if you want to really make sure students across Quebec get to experience this unique learning style, share this blog post with the teachers, educational consultants and principals in your networks.

Now I pass the mic to you. Looking forward to hearing from you and, eventually, your students.

The LEARN Team’s Summertime Reads

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Editor’s note: This post was a labour of love for everyone on the LEARN team – and from a literacy perspective it’s always good to practice what you preach! 

With the 2014-2015 school year ALMOST a distant memory, the LEARN team wants to help you avoid that summertime brain drain that is bound to happen while you laze around swimming pools, beaches, lakes, porches, water parks and so on. Here are the summer book picks that we feel will help you stay mentally crisp, instead of fading away. Our criteria was simple: recommend a book you like!

 

kerrybook

The Physics of Superheroes
by James Kakalios

I found this treasure at a used book store last year, but haven’t had the time to read it yet! It highlights connections between comic books and physics, in particular where the authors got the physics RIGHT (I love it when the “science part of science fiction is accurate!). I’m hoping to include some of these connections in my physics classes next year.

-Kerry Cule, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant

dorisbook

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
by Wm. Paul Young

Life is full of challenges. It’s easy to be taken over by the negatives. For me, this book is helping me to hope and to focus on the positives in everyone and the relationships we have. Put a little love in your hearts people!

-Doris Kerec, Administrator – Financial Services

 

 

 

KT_book

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology
That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
by Shawn Achor

Not a book filled with bumper-sticker platitudes, this is about science… neuroscience actually. Research proves that each one of us has the ability to shape and reshape the neural pathways in the brain. With practice, we can shift our mindset to the positive, which can profoundly affect our work and life. Well written and funny!

-Kristine Thibeault, Pedagogical Consultant

lgbook

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, And Good Food
by Jeff Potter

You’ll learn how to initialize your kitchen, calibrate your tools, play with hydrocolloids and the Maillard reaction… What’s not to love about this book?

-Louis-Gilles Lalonde, Programmer

 

 

susanbook

The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes
by Andy Karr and Michael Wood

I love going out with my camera. It stills the mind, makes me live in the moment. This book is full of ideas on how to learn to look: finding the beauty in the mundane and the unusual, hunting out textures and spaces, searching for simplicity…   And it is packed with photographs by many outstanding photographers illustrating the concepts. So I will slow down, read, and take time to focus this summer.

-Susan van Gelder, Pedagogical Consultant

Rosie_book

The Home by the Sea
by Santa Montefiore

This book tells the tale of a little girl (Floriana) abandoned by her mother and raised in abject poverty by her alcoholic father in Tuscany in 1966. This story is moving and mysterious, it’s about love and forgiveness… and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  The vivid descriptions of the Tuscan coast also kept me enraptured throughout.

-Rosie Himo, Administrative Assistant

paulbookUs Conductors
by Sean Michaels

For the pure pleasure of it I will be finishing Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, which I loved and just tore through in spring but then got sidetracked with all kinds of end-of-year commitments.  I crave books with simple yet rhythmic writing like Michaels’. So, not sure what I will find to follow it.  Any suggestions?

-Paul Rombough, Pedagogical Consultant

michael_book

Irrationally Yours
by Dan Ariely

Not cosmological. Not theological. Not existential. Not flippant. Not profound. Not poetic. Not prosaic. Not too long. Not too short. Not meditative. Not self-help. And NOT irrational.

-Michael Canuel, Chief Executive Officer

dianne_book

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love
by Rich Sheridan

I take a moment every week to celebrate and tweet  #3HappyThingsAtWork.  One book I will read this summer tells the story of a company that created an intentionally joyful culture, with profitable results! In Joy, Inc., Rich Sheridan shares how he built a workplace people love – work in pairs, daily short stand-up meetings, no walls, work-life balance, and Viking helmets!

-Dianne Conrod, Principal – Online Learning

mathis_book

Le baiser mauve de Vava
par Dany Laferrière

« Maman, veux-tu un baiser mauve de Vava? »
Dany Laferrière a transporté mon fils dans un imaginaire où s’entremêlent la poésie, la maladie, la vie, la tristesse, l’espoir, l’amour, les papillons jaunes et les méchants hommes aux lunettes noires. Et surtout, le baiser mauve à la princesse endormie, Vava.

-Julie Paré, conseillère pédagogique

 

 

 

BW_book

Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize winning economist, delves into our biased misunderstandings of the world. He seeks to improve our ability to identify and understand errors of judgement and choice. I need the long summer days to explore this insightful trip into our thought processes.

-Bev White, Director of Special Projects

 

 

 

barbg_book

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
by Ben MacIntyre

The story of Britain’s MI-5 intelligence service’s Double Cross system whose elaborate deceptions duped the Nazis and convinced Hitler the Allies would land at Calais and Norway instead of Normandy. The success or failure of a series of elaborate plots and double-dealings turned on egos, personal tragedies, money, sexual behaviour and heroism.  Vintage photographs of these flamboyant agents, their British and German senior officers and the code-breaking Bletchley Park personnel are interspersed throughout the book. If you’re not a war story aficionado but find what makes people and projects tick fascinating, I recommend this as an intriguing summer read!

-Barbara Goode, Adult General Education and Vocational Training Initiatives

thomas_bookJaguars Ripped My Flesh
by Tim Cahill

How can you go wrong with a title like Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, by Tim Cahill? Pure adventure escapism. Short stories of travel from around the world.

-Thomas Stenzel, Pedagogical Consultant

peggy_book

The Passion Driven Classroom
by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold

#youmatter – these 2 words will alter your students’ confidence. These words will change their outlook on learning. I am a huge fan of Angela Maiers. Her message is powerful: make sure your students know that what they do is important! This summer, I want to read more about what she suggests to “cultivate a thriving and passionate community of learners”.

-Peggy Drolet, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant

 

christine_book

 Reinventing organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations
Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
by Frederic Laloux

Frederic Laloux looks at organizational models over time from an evolutionary and historical perspective. He offers us the possibility of a new paradigm based on case stories of existing work places and conditions for creating or transforming organizations beyond current levels of consciousness. The author uses a colour palette of red, amber, orange, green and teal to code the models – how can you go wrong… ; )

-Christine Truesdale, Director of Pedagogical Services and Educational Technology

Photo on 2015-05-29 at 11.01 AM #3

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects  and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share
by Ken Denmead

With a full nest of littles to entertain throughout the summer days, this sweet project book is exactly what is needed to get my kiddies outside, creating and inventing. Projects from making a board game, to creating a comic book, to building a binary calendar. When your kids say, “I’m bored,” you now have ammo!

– Chris Colley, Pedagogical Consultant

audrey_bookHe’s the Weird Teacher: And other things students whisper about me
by Doug Robertson

Doug is actually a Twitter friend of mine. He’s hilarious and deep, and apparently so is his book. He has written a second one also, which I may read if I like the first one. Taking all the creative energy he has to inspire his students, channeling it into a fun to read, meaningful guide to teaching.

-Audrey McLaren, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant

 

 

 

Photo on 2015-05-29 at 11.41 AM #4An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
by Chris Hatfield

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Chris Hadfield talks about his early life and the events that led him to become an astronaut. He also talks about his training and his experience before, during and after his 144 days as commander of the International Space Station (ISS).

– Rob Costain, Pedagogical Consultant

 

mary_book

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to
Writing in the 21st Century
by Steven Pinker

I’ve started reading this because I love Steven Pinker’s other books, I love his most recent animated TED talk, and I want to be prepped for his visit to Montreal on October 22. It promises to be deep (as a cognitive scientist he draws on neuroscience), witty, practical and fun.

-Mary Stewart, Managing Editor of LEARNing Landscapes

sylwia_book

Turning to One Another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future
by Margaret J. Wheatley

“Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk, and this is the edge of the roof” – Rumi. An unexpected book from a well-known organizational and leadership practitioner, dappled with poetry and whimsy, while staying grounded in the conversations that make us human and draw us together.

-Sylwia Bielec, Pedagogical Consultant & Editor of the LEARN Blog

 

All Fun and Games: Gamifying a Language Classroom

Photo credit: jonesytheteacher CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: jonesytheteacher CC BY-SA 2.0

In February, I attended a session at the LCEEQ conference given by Avi Spector on Gamification. I was skeptical, as gamification is getting a lot of press from corporate training and marketing folks, and we don’t always see eye to eye on classroom practice issues.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Avi presented an action-research project that he had undertaken with an FLS teacher in the Adult Ed. sector at CQSB, Catherine Boisvert. Now, before you say to yourself: “Oh no, Adult Sector is not for me, that’s not my reality, I teach kids”, remember that the Quebec Adult Ed. sector is geared towards students over the age of 16, so many students are actually not much older than those in regular secondary classrooms. Moreover, I discovered that the gamification model is so universally applicable across ages, that its principles are valuable no matter what level you teach. If you have read the blog before, you might know that I am a BIG proponent of action-research as a model for professional learning. We learn and grow as educators when we try sound pedagogical approaches, reflect on our experience, adjust and try again. So, without further ado, here are some key points from my interview with Avi Spector:

What is Gamification?

Avi discusses his definition of gamification and how it compares to game-based learning. Important distinction!

*Note: currently, the videos are only available on a computer. We are working to have them available on mobile devices shortly!

Reasons and Motivations for the Project

I spoke to Catherine Boisvert, the teacher whose classroom was the laboratory for the gamification experiment, via Skype last week. She works with teenagers and young adults whose pathway through traditional schooling was not always successful. Catherine had this to say about her reasons for agreeing to participate in this pedagogical innovation in her classroom:

C_Boisvert
Catherine Boisvert, CQSB

I was looking for ways to jazz up my curriculum. I work in a learning center with a small group of very disparate students, all working at varying levels of French language ability. I wanted to make my classes more dynamic and to move away from the self-perception about their abilities with which the students were coming. I get a lot of students who come into my class the first day and say to me: “I’m not good at French” – they label themselves as not being good students right off the bat. I wanted for them to have this gaming spirit, the same perseverance that came through when they talked to me about the games they played. I was really inspired by the idea of failing forward, of using mistakes as opportunities to try another strategy, or a new way of doing. I wanted to take the drama out of mistakes and have students say to themselves: “It’s ok, it doesn’t matter, I’m just going to try again”. I also wanted students to feel as though they had all the tools necessary to pass the exam, and for this, I needed them to do a lot of practicing. I didn’t want this work to feel like a burden, I wanted it to be fun.

The Six Principles of Gamifying your Curriculum

These are the guiding principles that Avi and Catherine followed when designing the gamified learning environment.

 

The model used by Catherine and Avi

Avi provides an overview of the setup in Catherine’s FLS classroom.

Outcomes of the Experiment

Catherine talked to me about her ongoing experience this past school year:

I had students in my class who really didn’t put in very much effort before. Less than the minimum, in fact. After the gamification model was put into place, these same people would submit work and demand feedback so they could win stars. When I would say to them “Well, I’m hesitating between one and two stars” their reaction would be “What do you mean? Give that back, I’m going to change it so I can get two stars!” They never would have said that before! It’s as though they weren’t taking the evaluation so personally anymore, it wasn’t a label that they felt they had to stick on themselves – I’m good, I’m no good. These labels are so immovable and students really feel powerless when they buy into them. I see that students feel more in control of their learning – they feel that they have the power to get one, two or three stars. As Avi would say, they feel a greater sense of agency. I noticed that even when they are trying to convince me to give them more starts, they are actually referring to their work and the clearly stated outcomes: “What do you mean I didn’t use enough comparative language. Here, I wrote ‘more than’, and ‘as much as’ and ‘similarly'”. So the learning is actually very deep and metacognitive.

Students are also more clear about expected outcomes, because the outcomes are part of the ‘game’. They are better able to make links between essential knowledge and the situations in which you apply that knowledge. This also gives them more choice as to the ways that they can demonstrate competency growth, within the LES structure that I’m using. My students no longer see tasks and objectives as obstacles to getting a good grade. They see them rather as opportunities to ‘level up’.

My biggest challenge was a cultural one. I do have students who come from cultures where school and learning are a serious business. It was more difficult to get them into the spirit of the ‘game’, because of the perception that if you’re having fun, you can’t possibly be learning. Also, next year, I won’t be starting the project in January. Starting right away in September will mean that there won’t be a disconnect midway through the year.

(Stay tuned for a blog post featuring my whole interview with Catherine Boisvert from CQSB en français, bien sûr!)

Are you working on a Gamification project in your classroom or network? I would love to hear about your experience.

***

Avi Spector is a pedagogical consultant with the RECIT FGA and the Riverside School Board. His provincial mandate is to support General Adult Education teachers from the nine English School Boards. You can tweet him @a_spector

All of his Gamification workshop materials can be found on his Pinterest board www.pinterest.com/avimspector

Catherine Boisvert is a French Second Language / Francization teacher at the Eastern Québec Learning Centre in the Central Quebec School Board.

 

iPad en classe de FLS : mission possible !

Cette année, j’ai décidé d’intégrer les iPad dans mon cours de FLS. Dans cet article, je veux vous faire part de ma démarche, de mes questionnements, de ma planification de leçons, du travail des élèves et de leurs commentaires.

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Ma réflexion.

Avant de me lancer dans cette expérimentation, j’avais plusieurs questions, interrogations. Les questions en rafale :

  • Pourquoi utiliser un iPad en classe ?
  • Quelle est la valeur ajoutée ? Quels sont les avantages ?
  • Qu’est-ce que les élèves vont apprendre ?
  • Quels sont les apprentissages visés ?
  • Quelles sont les connaissances antérieures de mes élèves quant au contenu enseigné et aux connaissances technologiques ?
  • Quelles sont les compétences visées ?
  • Quel est le lien avec le programme de FLS ?
  • Comment vais-je évaluer mes élèves ?
  • Quel est mon but ?
  • Quelles applications vont le mieux répondre à mon intention pédagogique ?
  • Comment intégrer le iPad en m’assurant qu’il contribue à l’apprentissage ?

 

Des pistes de réponse…

Afin de m’aider dans ma réflexion, je me suis inspirée du site de Judith Cantin et Nathalie Frigon  ainsi que de l’article Apprendre : iPad et Taxonomie de Bloom publié le 19 novembre 2012 par Pierre Couillard dont voici quelques extraits pertinents :

« Avec l’avènement des technologies, on se fait souvent demander si l’ordinateur, le tableau blanc interactif, le dictionnaire en ligne ou toute autre nouveauté va améliorer l’apprentissage et augmenter les résultats scolaires. La réponse est et sera toujours : Ça dépend de ce qu’on en fait. »

« La taxonomie révisée de Bloom nous suggère une gradation des processus cognitifs. Selon cette taxonomie, plus un élève maitrise un concept, une notion, mieux il pourra l’appliquer, puis s’en servir pour analyser une situation, évaluer un problème, choisir une solution et être créatif (ve). Cette taxonomie peut nous guider. Pour analyser une situation, j’ai besoin de maitriser les faits… c’est peut-être avec ce type de situation que je permettrai à certains élèves de solidifier leur connaissance d’un concept. » (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 CA)

Voir cette vidéo pour une explication de Judith Cantin.

Voici un aperçu graphique interactif de la taxonomie de Bloom.

Voici un tableau d’actions possibles avec une tablette et une liste d’applications iPad classées selon Bloom. (CC BY-NC-SA)

Ces informations m’ont permis de mieux comprendre pourquoi et comment je devais utiliser le iPad pour mon cours de FLS. Intégrer le iPad en classe est une mission possible, avec des efforts certains, tant et aussi longtemps que notre intention pédagogie dirige nos choix d’activités ainsi que les applications.

Mon contexte de classe.

J’ai décidé d’utiliser les iPad dans mon groupe « at risk ». Niveau : 4e secondaire, programme de FLS base. Ils ont 6 cours sur un cycle de 9 jours, donc 2 de plus que les élèves réguliers. Ce groupe de 18 est un joyeux mélange de différents élèves. Il y a 4 élèves qui sont codés avec des troubles de comportement et de personnalité. De plus, 2 d’entre eux proviennent d’autres pays (Grèce et Kenya). La compréhension du français est différente d’un élève à l’autre. Quant à l’intérêt pour le français, il se situe entre très peu ou aucun.

Défis logistiques.

Afin d’intégrer les iPad, j’ai dû relever plusieurs défis. Et encore une fois, en prévoyant et en ayant des plans A, B et C, c’est une mission possible.

 Que faire avec seulement 10 iPad pour toute la classe ?

  • Je dois mettre les élèves en équipe de 2 pour tous les projets. Cela me permet d’évaluer en même temps la compétence transversale « travailler en équipe ».
  • Je recommande un maximum de 2 élèves par iPad. Autrement, la gestion de classe est plus difficile.

Comment avoir une connexion Internet, car je n’ai pas de Wifi dans ma classe ?

  • Routeur branché dans le mur avec un fil.
  • Clé Rogers.
  • Mon cellulaire branché sur mon ordinateur qui devient un routeur.

Comment et où sauvegarder le travail des élèves ?

  • En plus de sauvegarder directement le travail des élèves sur le iPad, j’ai créé un compte iCloud et un compte Dropbox directement sur le iPad.
  • En faisant ainsi, le travail des élèves était sauvegardé sur le Nuage et dans Dropbox. De plus, les élèves devaient m’envoyer leur travail par courriel.

Mes leçons sur les séquences textuelles.

J’ai décidé de faire de courtes leçons sur les séquences textuelles en lien avec la thématique exploitée dans mon cahier d’exercices. Ce thème est l’amour : un peu, beaucoup, passionnément. Ces sont des idées qui peuvent facilement être adaptables à un autre thème.

Idée générale de la leçon portant sur la séquence descriptive :

L’enseignant présente 2 à 3 photos d’un couple et fait la description de chacune des photos. En équipe, les élèves choisissent des photos de couples parmi la liste fournie par l’enseignant. (Attention aux droits d’auteur.) Ils choisissent des images du couple (2 à 3 photos) et les décrivent en quelques lignes.

  • Application utilisée : Pic Collage (gratuit)
  • Application suggérée : VoiceThread (gratuit)

Idée générale de la leçon portant sur la séquence explicative :

L’enseignant présente l’expression Avoir un cœur d’artichaut ainsi que sa signification et il donne un exemple de l’utilisation de l’expression dans une phrase. En équipe, les élèves cherchent le sens des expressions remises par l’enseignant (liste d’expressions à fournir). Ils expliquent, dans leurs propres mots, le sens des expressions. Ils écrivent des phrases en utilisant correctement les expressions.

  • Application utilisée : Prezi (gratuit)
  • Application suggérée : Explain Everything (2.99$)

Idée générale de la leçon de la séquence explicative :

L’enseignant présente l’histoire de Cendrillon. Après la lecture ou l’écoute du texte et avec l’aide d’un schéma narratif vierge, l’enseignant modélise la déconstruction du texte (situation initiale, élément déclencheur, actions, dénouement et situation finale). En équipe, les élèves, à l’aide d’une situation initiale et d’un élément déclencheur de l’histoire de Celle qui ne voulait pas se marier, planifient le schéma narratif. Ils écrivent ensuite l’histoire de 150 mots à partir de leur schéma narratif.

  • Application utilisée : QuickVoice (gratuit)
  • Application suggérée : Book Creator (4.99 $)

Idée générale de la leçon de la séquence dialogale :

L’enseignant présente la partie dialogale de l’histoire de Anta et Mamadou. Il demande aux élèves d’identifier les personnages, de surligner ce que dit chaque personnage, de souligner les verbes d’incise (dire, répondre, etc.) et d’entourer les signes de ponctuation. Il fait ensuite une correction collective et fait une affiche sur les verbes d’incise et une autre sur les signes de ponctuation (guillemets, tiret, etc.) En équipe, les élèves, en reprenant le synopsis de leur séquence narrative de Celle qui ne voulait pas se marier, doivent inventer le dialogue entre des personnages.

  • Application utilisée : Puppet Pal (gratuit)
  • Application suggérée : Strip Designer (2.99 $)

 

Les résultats.

Je présente ici quelques exemples des productions finales des élèves. Elles sont originales et contiennent des erreurs.

La séquence descriptive avec Pic Collage (cliquez sur la photo pour agrandir l’image) :PIc collage

pic_spiropic_athina
pic_noname pic_Lucas

 

La séquence explicative avec Prezi (cliquez sur l’image pour voir le Prezi) :prezi

prezi_lucasprezi_spiro

amy_good  prezi_debbie

La séquence narrative avec QuickVoice (cliquez sur la photo pour entendre les élèves) :QuickVoice

Elaina     Adam_Nick

 

La séquence dialogale avec Puppet Pal (cliquez sur les images pour voir les vidéos) : puppet pal

puppet_athina          puppet_brandon

puppet_kim

 

iPad en classe de FLS : mission possible !

Cette expérimentation s’est avérée un succès, et ce, malgré les embuches. Je prévois même réutiliser les iPad pour un projet d’écriture collective en collaboration avec l’enseignant d’arts plastiques. À suivre !

Bref, je peux dire que l’intégration du iPad en classe de FLS est mission accomplie ! Et qui de mieux que les élèves eux-mêmes pour décrire leur expérience !

Les commentaires des élèves :

Comm_amy Comm_christina Comm_spirp comm_fotoula Comm_devon

 

 

 

“MacGyvering” Low Cost Alternatives to Assistive Technologies

“Necessity is the mother of invention” may be a highly overused phrase, but that is probably because in practice it is often true. When presented with challenges and obstacles, we often come up with surprising and innovative solutions. Sometimes, the fix is a “Plan B.” In some instances, however, it opens doors to new ways of doing things, as I found out on a recent trip to the Lower North Shore of Québec.

St. Paul River, Québec
CC image “St. Paul River” courtesy Robert Costain

This year part of my work is to provide part-time RÉCIT services to the Littoral School Board. For those unfamiliar with Littoral, it is a “special status” school board whose remote geography and sparse demographics make it one of a handful of school boards in Québec not defined along linguistic lines. About a dozen schools both English and French are home to a total of about 570 students. The schools are in small villages spread out over 460 kilometers along the Lower North Shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, from Kegaska on the western end to Blanc-Sablon in the East near the Labrador border (as well as a school in Port-Menier on Anticosti Island).

The focus of my mandate for this year is to support the use of interactive whiteboards and assistive technologies in the classroom. I am based in Montréal, but have visited seven schools so far to provide face-to-face accompaniment. The visits provide an opportunity to get to know the staff and culture in each school, and to perform an informal needs assessment that guide the support I provide upon returning to Montréal.

One major preoccupation of schools is supporting students with special needs. In small communities with limited resources and access to support services, schools often rely heavily on technology to help students with learning or physical disabilities. The finer points of this approach are open to debate, but the fact is that assistive technology has been added to the Individualized Education Plans (IEP) of many students.

One assistive software program that has made its way into many schools is WordQ. Although originally intended to assist with writing, WordQ is often used for its text-to-speech functionality in the place of dedicated software like Natural Reader or Kurzweil for students who have great difficulty reading because of a visual impairment, dyslexia or dysgraphia.

A common practice is for a teacher or class helper to use a flatbed scanner to digitize pages or selections of printed text. Then, using an optical character recognition (OCR) software such as OmniPage, ReadIris or FineReader, the scanned page(s) are converted into readable text that can be read aloud by WordQ (or another program).

Each step in this multistep procedure must be working for the student to have access to the text. The process is too complicated for many students, especially those who need it the most. The OCR is imperfect and requires careful proofing. Furthermore, technical glitches are common. For example, in one school I recently visited, the use of text-to-speech to help students read was brought to a grinding halt because the scanner had stopped working. As a result the teachers were stuck and unable to provide their students with texts.

CC image "Smartphone performing OCR" courtesy Robert Costain
CC image “Smartphone performing OCR” courtesy Robert Costain

It so happened that just before visiting this particular school, I had been experimenting with OCR options for my iPhone and downloaded a basic OCR program called ABBYY TextGrabber. The app uses the built-in camera on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to photograph printed text. It then connects to the Internet to perform text recognition. Since text-to-speech is standard in iOS devices, I wondered if this might be a stopgap solution for the non-functioning scanner, so I did a little experiment with one of the teachers.

We photographed a selection of printed text with TextGrabber. The app was able to extract the text from the photo with about 90% accuracy. With a little bit of proofreading, we were able to recreate the printed text. Unfortunately, TextGrabber itself does not support text-to-speech unless the selection scanned is copied or exported. However, we were able to copy and paste the text into the iPhone’s built-in Notes app and read the selection aloud using text-to-speech. The procedure is demonstrated in the accompanying YouTube video.

Another approach is to use TextGrabber (or a similar app) in conjunction with WordQ by emailing the scanned selection to a computer with WordQ software installed. Similarly, if a flatbed scanner is available, but OCR software is not, Google Docs can be used to perform basic OCR provided the source text is clear enough. WordQ, Natural Reader on Windows or the built-in text-to-speech in Mac OS X will read text from a Google Doc quite well.

What makes these procedures compelling is that iOS and Android devices are becoming commonplace, even in remote locations like Littoral. Students and their parents have access to the technology, the apps are not expensive, and as a result this relatively easy text-to-speech solution is quite accessible to many.

There are some caveats that should be noted when using text-to-speech with students:

  • The appropriateness of using assistive technologies is based on the needs of individual students. There is no “one size fits all” solution and each student should be evaluated carefully before an assistive device is assigned to his/her IEP.
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) is rarely 100% accurate. Scanned text MUST be carefully proofread before using it with students.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day from a Life Long Learner

(c) Karen Horton
(c) Karen Horton

I have spent the past twenty years of my life entrenched in the Elementary school system here in Quebec. My roles and responsibilities may have shifted and evolved over the course of time but my underlying focus and driving impetus have remained constant; to discover ways to engage and expand children’s understanding and love for literacy.  My dedication and passion for literacy began at the start of my teaching career in developing critical literacy lessons for my own classroom in the English Montreal School Board inner city and has deepened through my work with pre-service teachers at McGill University in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education as I encourage them to consider how their choice of resources and pedagogical approaches will have a distinct effect on their ability to create a community of readers and writers in their future classrooms.  My time spent traveling across the province as a consultant for English Language Arts Elementary Education at the Ministère de l’Éducation du Loisir et du Sport with our team’s fundamental intent on assisting in the understanding and implementation of the Language Arts competencies of the Q.E.P to now working for LEARN in generating and supporting dynamic and enriching literacy experiences for students and teachers of all ages has allowed me to remain an active participant in the field of education and literacy.

All my life I have loved school.  As a child, I remember with fondness the excitement of a backpack filled with school supplies, a new dress for the first day, the smell of autumn leaves, the sound of the entry bell and best of all the anticipation of all that would be accomplished that year. As an adult working in the field, I remember that feeling of excitement once again when the Q.E.P. was introduced with an English Language Arts curriculum dedicated to the study of literacy.  I have prided myself in trying to be a true role model of lifelong learning for my students. I have always done my utmost to better my teaching abilities and my own professional knowledge.

As I strive to advance my understandings and perceptions on how literacy might be best taught in today’s elementary classrooms, I am once again filled with those same feelings of excitement and anticipation as I find myself a few nights a week in the classrooms of McGill’s education building…not as teacher but as a student.   It is because of the children and teachers with whom I have had the good fortune to meet and speak with throughout my educational career that I know I am ready to continue on to the next steps of my own academic journey of discovery.

Our world is changing and evolving at an extraordinary rate. We now live in an increasingly diverse, globalized, and complex, media-saturated society.  In order for our students to be prepared to navigate this 21st century world, they must become literate in 21st century new literacies that include, but is not limited to, critical, multicultural, digital, and media literacies.  If we are to encourage them to be passionate literacy learners then we need to meet them where they are at and engage them in a way that they too will discover a love of literacy that will last a lifetime.

Literacy instruction has traditionally referred to the teaching of basic literacy skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, in today’s digital world, technology has contributed to an expanded understanding of literacy. Besides having basic literacy skills, 21st century students also need technology skills for communicating, analyzing, accessing information, thinking critically about messages inherent in the media, understanding data, and developing strong opinions. If students do not sufficiently learn these new literacy skills, there is a distinct possibility they will be unable to properly process information they are presented within the very near future.

What sends the blood pumping through my heart at this moment is the possibility of looking at literacy from a different perspective; of re-inventing the way I have been used to seeing literacy in action.  I want to explore deeply and sincerely the actual impact of incorporating the new literacies into an elementary English Language Arts literacy curriculum. This venture will contribute to a more holistic understanding of teaching multiliteracies within Quebec’s elementary classrooms.  It will provide a greater depth and breadth of understanding of how the new literacies can be implemented in unison with the traditional literacies, look at the contribution that these pedagogies and practices can have on teachers and students alike, and draw conclusions that will be important to the English Language Arts educational community province wide, and beyond.

What has inspired me to want to really gaze intensely at the new literacies was actually the following piece of traditional poetry.

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

 

This is my Valentine to you all in hopes that you will find love and passion in everything you do by simply looking at what is around just a little bit differently.  After all, that is the life force of a poet…to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.  Poets do indeed see with the heart; maybe we can too.

Teacher Profiles: An Interview With Catherine Barnard

Happy New Year from the LEARN bloggers! At this time of renewal and rethinking old habits, here’s hoping this Teacher Profile of Catherine Barnard  inspires you to “upgrade” an area of your literacy teaching practice!  As Catherine and I have discussed many times there are countless possibilities out there to engage and support both your students and yourself in deep literacy learning.  We’ve written about blogging for literacy as well as the art of commenting on blogs – now meet a teacher who uses the full potential of blogging with her students.

spacer

 

Teacher’s name: Catherine Barnard
School: North Hatley Elementary
Subject:  General
Levels: Cycle 2
Experience: 6 years

 

Melanie:  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Catherine:  I grew up in the Eastern Townships, and though I studied at McGill University, I decided to come back and teach for the ETSB. I have been lucky enough to have various opportunities to travel. I have snorkelled the islands of Hawaii and discovered the vineyards of northern Italy. I am an avid racket sports player and enjoy running…on most days! I love picture books and use them often in my classroom to model various writing traits strong authors use.

Melanie:  What inspired you to start blogging with your students?

Catherine:  When I first started with the ETSB, the ability to have access to laptops in my class was an opportunity for me to experiment with multimedia projects. These types of projects gave students a chance to uniquely utilize their literacy skills, and more concretely established the idea of an audience. They helped students discover, develop, apply and establish links with the world around them. This also prompted students to not only engage enthusiastically, but it pushed students to communicate their ideas clearly and creatively.

However, I knew inside that these great learning opportunities were unfortunately limited to the time I was spending on the multimedia projects. And, the reality was that often, not all of my students were able to take on the same amount of responsibility! I started to realize that I needed to find a way to use technology more consistently in my classroom without always having to undertake a “big” media project.

Though I used my Smart board and various online tools to teach daily, I didn’t have something students could access and be contributors to on a regular basis. I had had a class website my first year teaching and enjoyed being able to organize great online tools, showcase my students’ work and have a means to communicate with both students and parents. The only thing missing was a place where ALL students could easily contribute! It didn’t take me long to figure out that what I needed was a class blog!

With a blog, I not only had a place to organize great online tools, display multimedia endeavours and a platform to communicate with both students and parents, but I also had a medium to showcase web 2.0 activities. Moreover, a blog was a way for my students to showcase their work individually, communicate ideas, points of view with peers and discuss through comments! Blogging is really a web journal of our classroom projects, activities and our “news”. By putting up posts, students and myself are able to reflect our unique perspectives and build relationships with readers and other bloggers. It truly is our interactive 5th classroom wall!

Melanie:  Can you give us a quick overview of how you use the blog in classroom?

Catherine:  Firstly, I’ve used the blog differently depending on the year. I teach a multi-grade cycle 2 class and the student needs, comfort levels, as well as my access to technology can vary from year to year. Consequently, some years students are contributors to our class blog, while other years, each student has been able to obtain their own blog to manage.

On a daily basis, I have also exploited the classroom blog in various ways. Essentially, blogs provide a communication space that teachers can utilize with students whenever there is a curriculum need to develop writing, share ideas and reflect on work being undertaken in the classroom. Sometimes it has been used for journaling, collaborating, sharing writing and other works, engaging in reading discussions, book reviews or ethical issues, and of course commenting to peers! Various web 2.0 tools available online help keep the blog vibrant and the students motivated!

Finally, I have used the blog in different subjects from Math to Art and most importantly, my students have collaborated with classes from around the world on multiple projects.  This authentic audience has greatly influenced the way they perceive the projects they undertake!

Melanie:  How has the blog impacted your teaching and evaluation practices?

Catherine:  The best way to express how blogging has impacted my teaching would be to show you a video my students and I made last year about Quadblogging (Four teachers agree to have their students comment on each other’s blogs in an organized fashion. Each week, one of the four gets a turn as the spotlight class. The other three classes visit and leave comments. Over the course of a month, every student’s work gets read and commented upon. Along the way, students learn about respectful online communication).

This video truly demonstrates the power of blogging and having an audience to share in your learning: (http://quadblogging.net/highlights/).

As for my evaluation practices, the blog has provided, for me, additional formative assessment opportunities. Through various web 2.0 activities and their comments, students are given a different medium to showcase their learning.

Melanie:  What did you feel was the greatest accomplishment that came from implementing this project in your classroom?

Catherine:  My greatest accomplishment or main goal is to have my students engaged in literacy and having fun! Blogging is just another way of allowing students to interact with print. I want them to have a way of communicating their thoughts, ideas, values and points of view in different contexts and through meaningful dialogue.

Even as a young teacher, I sometimes wonder about technology and I’m not always convinced whether its advantages out way its disadvantages. However, technology is not going away and I believe that as an educator, my role is to adapt to this growing presence in children’s lives and best equip them to use technology successfully and significantly. These days, students heavily depend on technology as a constant source of entertainment. The trick is to find a way to harness that innate quality of play children have with technology and apply it to the curriculum. I believe blogging can provide an enriched and innovative practice that helps students become more independent and successful literacy learners.

I don’t doubt that watching students involve themselves in the blogging process has been both exciting and rewarding. I have seen students who might typically not excel in various literacy situations, engage extensively. Hopefully this can continue to be a source of motivation for students and for me, as a teacher. Finally, I truly believe blogging has opened up forms of collaboration that have allowed my students to take their learning far beyond the walls of my classroom.

Melanie:  What words of advice could you offer another teacher who was interested in starting blogging with their students?

Catherine:  Well, the first step is to ‘blog surf’ as I call it! I spent hours visiting other people’s blogs, more specifically other classroom blogs! I was amazed with what I discovered. There are some incredible teachers out there with wonderful ideas and resources.

Teachers who would like to start a classroom blog need to have time to get their head around how to use the medium. They need to figure out how blogging can best be integrated within their own classroom reality and teaching practices. It is too easy to be “wowed” by the glamour of the platform and to lose sight of the fact that it is still best used as a tool for students to gain a deeper understanding of what is already being taught. Blogging, like any other tool should be used to enhance student learning. Without teacher support and guidance, I believe blogging can become meaningless and potentially a classroom distraction.

After visiting several blogs, teachers will need to find a blogging platform that feels comfortable to them. There are several excellent ones out there. I use Edublog, which in my opinion is a fantastic educational provider. A free Edublog account is available, but for about 40$ a year, an Edublog Pro subscription provides you with additional storage, priority email support, and much more.

Once a class blog is created, I suggest teachers spend time experimenting themselves with posts and become more familiar with various online tools that can be embedded into blogs. This experimenting stage is crucial and helps ensure beginning teachers don’t put too much pressure on themselves.

So, if I were to pick the 3 most important things to remember about starting a blog it would probably have to be:

1)    Don’t reinvent the wheel: Check out other blogs!

2)    Get your head around the lingo: posts, comments, widget etc.

3)    Start small!

 

Here is a useful link: The 10 Most Important Things To Figure Out About Blogging.

 

Melanie:  Can you offer some blogs that have inspired you and your students?

Catherine:  A must read is Nathan Turf’s class blog, Mr.Turf.ca and his own educator blog called Portable PD.ca

Of course, any of the blogs in our Blogroll are wonderful models:

 

You can also listen to Catherine talk about her experiences blogging with her classroom in an interview podcast she did with Susan van Gelder.  Simply click here and sit back and enjoy the interview.

As well, here is Catherine’s classroom blog Miss B’s Block.  Visit it and leave some comments for her students.  They will LOVE to see your feedback for sure!!  You can also check out her previous classroom blog here.  It is closed for comments but filled with interesting learning adventures all the same.

Why not take some time this holiday season to consider all that blogging can bring to your literacy program.  As Catherine reminds us, start small and you will quickly discover the enormous impact it can have on your students.

If you are intrigued, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Support and guidance is only a comment away.

Happy and Healthy 2013, everyone!

A Mentoring Model for Professional Development

Beakers
photo credit: Amy Loves Yah

I’ve always been interested in the way professionals learn (or fail to learn) in practice. As far back as 1998, when I worked with the South Shore School Board (yes, before the linguistic school boards!) on technology integration projects, we joked about One Day Wonders – you know, the one day workshops that are the usual offerring of teacher PD. You might get Portfolio one day, IWBs another day, Understanding by Design yet another day. These one-shot workshops are easy to organize and are a good way for a teacher to get a general sense of how something might work in his or her practice. But if you’re looking for true, lasting changes in professional practice, you need to simmer up something in the best laboratory of all – your classroom.

The Mentoring Project

I’m privileged to be working with a group of teachers who is doing exactly this in the Montreal area. When the funding for PD ran out at Concordia University’s Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance (CSLP), researchers Larysa Lysenko and Vanitha Pillay suggested to veteran research participants that they could apply for their own grant to pursue professional development in the area of self-regulation and increasing literacy. Teachers Mary-Ellen Lynch (RSB), Tanya Bell Beccat (EMSB) and Irene Tsimiklis (SWLSB) submitted a request for a Professional Development and Innovation Grant (PDIG) called “Yes We Can: Facilitating the Use of Evidence-based Tools to Increase Cycle-One Student Literacy” with a view towards sharing the experience and expertise they have gained over time and thus building capacity in other teachers through a mentorship model.

This is the key part of the grant – the mentorship model. Teachers learn best through the experiences of other teachers AND their own experimentation. Mary-Ellen, Tanya and Irene have each found other teachers in their school or board with whom they will be working on integrating the Learning Toolkit (LTK) into their literacy practice. These teachers will also become familiar with, and hopefully use, the classroom practices associated with self-regulated learning that underpin the software suite. The grant funds will be used to release teachers to meet as a large multi-board group, as smaller board- or school-based groups and also for visiting each other’s classrooms. This means that participating teachers will not only have the opportunity to visit the classrooms of their mentors to see how things are organized, but will also benefit from classroom visits themselves at key moments when an extra pair of hands and an extra voice are needed. This model of professional development has a lot of sticking power because of the creation of shared knowledge and interdependence that are built into it.

A note about PD

The best professional development initiatives are those that rely on iterative cycles of teacher practice and reflection that are in tune with what matters to teachers, what sound research tells us and also what matters to society as a whole. We are fortunate in Quebec to have good structures in place, such as the PDIG grants, that for the most part foster such initiatives. The current professional development discourse coming from south of the border is often quite bleak, and even here flavour-of-the-month crazes take root. This is why this project makes me so happy!

First Meeting

The whole team held its inaugural meeting on October 30th at Concordia University in Montreal. At least eight teachers, along with pre-service teachers doing their practica, the three mentors and assorted consultants gathered for the first meeting of what promised to be an exciting project. Although teachers knew their mentor and possibly the other teachers from their school or board, it was the first time that they met as a larger group to chart the path ahead. It was an exciting day, with all teachers highly motivated to get started and to learn from their mentors and from each other’s experience. Just as Mary-Ellen, Tanya and Irene learned from each other over the years through discussions, meetings and at least one classroom visit, these teachers will also be sharing their new emerging expertise and their passion for literacy with other teachers. They will be implementing changes to their practice and seeing how these changes work in their classrooms and with their students. Adjustments will be made, new ideas will form and new understanding will emerge – a perfect storm of professional learning.

Each teacher received a laptop computer to take away to their school, courtesy of the CSLP. They can use these computers to gain expertise with the LTK software suite, to track their students’ work and to provide feedback. For group knowledge-management technology, the group decided to use SkyDrive (a Windows product) as a repository for files and meeting notes – so far, Tanya and I have both uploaded files to the shared space, and some of the teachers have joined it.

 

Your Turn

So maybe you are ready to jump in with the LTK teachers, but don’t have a group of people nearby for meaningful collegial conversations and shared plans of action. Letting consultants from your board know that you are interested in working on a long-term project is one way of making sure you are asked to participate when grants are being written. There are also many ways to reach out to a larger community of professionals nowadays. Some teachers choose to have their own blog, where they write and reflect about their practice – you can do this too. The best ones have an active comments section (for more on how to comment on blog posts, click here). You can also participate in virtual conferences such as the K-12 Online Conference, where you can connect with other educators from around the world. What other ways do you engage in meaningful professional learning? I’d love to hear from you about this or anything else that you’d like to share.

Sylwia Bielec

Related Posts

Telling it Like it Is: Action Research & Asking the Right Question

Continuing the Conversation: The Art of Commenting on Blogs

Links in this post

Teachers Should Lead Professional Development, Not Researchers
http://thenotebook.org/blog/125274/teachers-should-lead-professional-development-not-researchers

Learning with Blogs and Wikis
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Learning-with-Blogs-and-Wikis.aspx

Best Teacher Blogs according to Edudemic
http://edudemic.com/2011/12/teacher-blogs/

K-12 Online Conference
http://k12onlineconference.org/

Teacher Profiles: An Interview with Kerry Ballard

Kerry Ballard

This week I invite you to join a conversation that I had with a dynamic teacher as we discuss a Literature Circle project that she undertook with her Cycle 1 students.

Teacher’s name: Kerry Ballard
School: Lower Canada College
Subject:  English Language Arts
Levels: Grade 1
Experience: 15 years

Melanie:  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kerry:  I am thrilled to be profiled on the LEARN website! I have been teaching for fifteen years and have worked in private schools in both Toronto and Montreal. I have taught almost every subject and grade level, but my passion remains cycle 1, ELA. My husband (who is also a teacher) and I are the proud parents of three young boys. They are already growing into avid readers!

Melanie:  What inspired you to start this project?

Kerry:  The Book Club project was something I had been thinking about for some time. Several years ago I had done some work at MELS correcting grade six LA exams. One of the issues that kept coming up was, “How are we teaching students to think and respond about their reading?”  When I began teaching grade one last year, my school was implementing reading comprehension strategy instruction at every grade level. As my students were just learning to read, I struggled with making the teaching meaningful and sought ways to put the teaching and learning into a context. I began to research the work of experts such as Harvey Daniels and Stephanie Harvey, and after reading their book, Comprehension and Collaboration (Heinemann, 2011), and attending a Heinemann conference, the project began to take shape.

Melanie:  Can you give us a quick overview of the Book Club?

Kerry:  I teach in a bilingual grade one, where I have two groups of students, seen on alternate days. Working on a ten-day cycle, each group met three times per book.  At the beginning of each new session, I established my goals for the students, giving myself time to plan each meeting and design or gather resources, if need be.

It is particularly important to note that with grade one, every step of the Book Club process was modelled, from choosing a book, to having effective discussions, to what to put in a Book Club journal.

A typical Book Club week opened with time for the students to select new books. I laid out multiple copies of each book (no more than 5 to a group) and allowed the students the opportunity to browse before making a choice that was of interest to them. Allowing the students to self select books increased their motivation to read and incidentally created heterogeneous groups.  After they chose their books, the students gathered with their group and participated in shared reading. A weekly tracking sheet was handed out with assignments, that included a nightly reading of the book and an explanation of the work to be completed at home or in class.  Students were also given time to reflect on and think about ideas for their Book Club journals.

The next meeting opened with a Fishbowl, which is a strategy I used for modelling expectations or introducing a new concept. The students gathered together to “look into” the fishbowl and make observations about what they saw and heard, their observations  were discussed or recorded on chart paper for future reference.  I was fortunate to have another teacher in the room to be my fishbowl partner; alternatively, you can enlist the help of a parent volunteer or make short videos about the strategy you will be modelling.

After the Fishbowl, students would gather in their groups and begin to work on a collaborative assignment. Homework that evening (found on the tracking sheet) would reinforce the concepts exercised in class that day. All homework was entered into the Book Club journal as a means of keeping track of student work and thinking.

For the last meeting, students would immediately get into their groups and share their reflections that they had completed at home. They were also given time to work on or share their Book Club journals.

Melanie:  Can you offer some titles of Books that have been featured in the Book Club?

Kerry:  Initially, I used random class sets that had been left in my classroom by previous teachers; however, I quickly realized that I needed books with richer content, different reading levels that supported the goals I had for Book Club. With the majority of my students being boys, I felt it necessary to use more non-fiction, which also supported inquiry. The series by Ladybird entitled Mad About…  were well –written with rich content and attractively laid out pages of information about a given topic such as sharks, insects, space and horses. These books had added value, because they were inexpensive hard covers for years of use. Later on, we began a unit on fairy tales and once again, Ladybird had an excellent selection, as did Scholastic. Some fairy tales lent themselves to more interesting discussion than others and I would recommend titles such as The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, The Elves and the Shoemaker and The Nightingale.

Melanie:  How has the Book Club impacted your teaching and evaluation practices?

Kerry:  The greatest impact it had on my teaching was to understand the importance of taking a step back and relinquishing my role as the purveyor of knowledge so that I could allow my students the time and space to construct and share their ideas collaboratively.

On the other hand, the Book Club also made it evident that careful, consistent feedback was important for students to understand what they were doing and how they could move forward.

By modelling expectations to the students at the beginning of each meeting, they were able to articulate what they noticed the teachers doing in the Fishbowl. At the end of their own meetings, they would gather as a class and I would ask them what worked and what did not work in their groups that day.  This process helped them to understand and recognize how they themselves were going to be assessed.

I also realized that a variety of assessment tools were necessary at different stages of the Book Club. I used anecdotal notes as I observed students within their groups, which I later transferred to a checklist of observable behaviours. As I conferred with individual students about their Book Club journals, I discussed their entries with them, encouraging them to reflect on their pieces and share their thoughts. After the final Book Club meeting at the end of the year, I developed a simple rubric for a summative assessment of each child.

The evaluation piece is still not perfect. I found the final rubric to be too definitive, as it did not measure the richness and the progress that I observed during student discussions; however, I have been researching other formative and summative assessment tools to improve this aspect of my teaching.

Melanie:  What did you feel was the greatest accomplishment that came from implementing this project in your classroom?

Kerry:  Due to the collaborative nature of the Book Club activities, the students learned to work together and share ideas. Most importantly, they actually talked about books not only in ways that explicitly demonstrated comprehension, but there were authentic conversations happening in the classroom. The Book Club project was intrinsically differentiated and allowed all levels of readers to participate in a meaningful way.

Melanie:  What words of advice could you offer another teacher who was interested in starting this type of project?

Kerry:  I would recommend thinking about the different models for literature circles that would work best for your class.  I would also suggest combining this with an inquiry approach to encourage students to gather information about ideas in the texts in order to construct background knowledge.  This project involved explicit teaching about strategic reading prior to launching the Book Club. During the actual implementation of the project, we revisited and modelled the strategies for students regularly so that they were certain of the learning goals.  Although the planning may seem daunting at first, once the entire framework is established the Book Club is easy to implement and the student response will motivate and inspire your teaching!

 

 

If you are interested in reading more about The Book Club project you can click on  “Embedding Comprehension Strategy Instruction into Literature Circles” by Kerry Ballard to read a detailed write up that Kerry has produced.  As well, there will soon be a link in the ELA section of LEARN that will offer a teacher guide along with exemplars of student work and graphic organizers to assist you in implementing a Book Club in your own classroom. Happy reading!