Tag Archives: teacher profiles

Portrait d’un enseignant : Une entrevue avec Jean-Pierre Dubois

JeanPierre_Dubois
Jean-Pierre Dubois (photo par K. Thibeault)

Nom : Jean-Pierre Dubois
Commission scolaire : Western Québec
Niveaux : secondaire 1 à 5
Matière : FLS
Années d’expérience : 25

Cette année, je me suis lancé le défi d’écrire mon premier billet pour le blogue en français. Je tiens à vous dire que je suis non seulement une apprenante et enseignante de français comme langue seconde, mais une francophile pur sang!   Alors, je suis toujours à la recherche d’enseignants, de programmes, d’outils ou de ressources pédagogiques qui inspirent ma pratique professionnelle ou qui facilitent mon perfectionnement langagier. En mai dernier, j’ai eu le grand plaisir de m’entretenir avec un ancien collègue. Celui-ci avait relevé un nouveau défi : développer et enseigner un cours de français intensif à des élèves de secondaire 1 à 4. Voici la transcription d’un extrait de notre conversation.

Parlez-nous un peu de vous et du début de votre carrière.

J’ai commencé à enseigner à Whitby en Ontario, il y a vingt-cinq ans. Pendant deux ans, j’ai enseigné le français de base de la quatrième à la huitième année. Mais j’ai bientôt réalisé que le primaire n’était peut-être pas le niveau pour moi et je voulais aussi revenir au Québec. Alors j’ai fait des demandes dans toutes les commissions scolaires anglophones de la province et c’est la Western Québec qui m’a engagé comme enseignant de FLS. Ça fait maintenant vingt-deux ans que j’enseigne à Pontiac High School. Ah! Que le temps passe vite! Présentement, j’enseigne aux secondaires 4 et 5 le plus souvent. Mais l’année passée, notre directeur m’a demandé si j’étais intéressé à développer et à enseigner un tout nouveau cours.

À Pontiac High School, nous avons plusieurs élèves francophones de mariages mixtes, dont un parent est anglophone et un parent est francophone, qui ont fait leur primaire en français. Et, nous voulions donner l’occasion à ces élèves-là de ne pas perdre leur français et de faire un cours qui était plus à la hauteur de leurs possibilités. Le cours que j’ai créé est donc basé sur le programme de français langue maternelle, mais puisque la plupart des élèves dans la classe ne parlent pas le français à la maison ou très peu souvent, et n’ont parfois pas exactement les mêmes compétences langagières que des vrais francophones, j’adapte le matériel pour eux.

Avoir des élèves de plusieurs niveaux dans une seule classe fait partie du quotidien pour un enseignant de FLS, mais vous enseignez à vingt-neuf élèves qui sont dans quatre années d’études différentes. Comment est-ce que vous gérez ce groupe particulier?

Et bien… c’est un peu de l’acrobatie! C’est vrai que pour cette année-pilote, l’école a combiné des élèves de secondaire 1 à 4 dans une seule classe. Alors, au début de l’année, j’ai dû évaluer les compétences des élèves et j’ai ensuite divisé ma classe en deux groupes : maintenant, je fais du secondaire 1 et du secondaire 3 en français langue maternelle essentiellement. Comme ça, je n’ai que deux planifications différentes. J’utilise le matériel de langue maternelle Matière Première I pour le premier groupe (les secondaires 1 et 2) et Réseau 1 pour le deuxième groupe (les secondaires 3 et 4). Quand j’enseigne au premier groupe, le deuxième groupe fait du travail individuel, soit de la lecture, de la grammaire ou de la recherche et… vice-versa. Ça fait beaucoup de gestion et il me semble que j’ai toujours mon tableau divisé en deux! Parfois, les élèves travaillent sur une activité commune. Par exemple, depuis novembre, nous lisons le premier Amos Daragon dans la suite de livres d’aventures fantastiques de l’écrivain Bryan Perro. C’est toute la classe ensemble qui le lit et nous travaillons le nouveau vocabulaire et les expressions en grand groupe. Mais, lorsque vient le temps de faire le travail écrit après chaque chapitre, les deux groupes différents ont leurs propres questions de compréhension à faire. Et, si parfois les questions sont les mêmes, j’en demande toujours plus aux secondaires 3 et 4. Les grilles de correction sont semblables, mais plus exigeantes pour les élèves du deuxième groupe. Je les oriente constamment et je précise mes attentes dès le début.

Quels sont les défis importants auxquels vous avez fait face durant l’année?

Un défi majeur pour moi comme enseignant cette année a été que les élèves aient toujours l’impression d’être dans une classe de français à leur niveau, adaptée à leurs besoins et capacités. Le but du programme est que ces élèves puissent conserver les acquis de leur français et le garder actif dans l’absence d’un programme d’immersion. Un autre grand défi a été de gérer toute cette gang. Heureusement, j’avais vingt-quatre ans d’expérience derrière moi! Pour cette première année du programme, les élèves écrivent l’examen final de FLS qu’ils réussiront sûrement. Mais franchement, la réussite dans ce cas ne peut vraiment pas se mesurer par une note finale. Ultimement, je veux que chaque élève quitte au mois de juin et se dise : « J’ai appris quelque chose! »

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Vous connaissez des enseignants qui font preuve d’initiative ou qui font des projets intéressants… écrivez-nous!

Teacher Profile: An interview with Cycle 1 teacher Mary Ellen Lynch

me3Name: Mary Ellen Lynch
School and Board: St-Johns School Riverside SB
Level: Cycle 1
Subject: General (All)
Experience: 30 (15 yrs USA, 15 years QC)

 

 

I met Mary Ellen a few years ago in the context of an Action Research initiative. At the time, she was actively using Concordia University’s Learning Toolkit and beginning to explore goal-setting in ePEARL. When I discovered her blog and saw what she was doing in her literacy classroom with her students, I knew I had to find out more about what motivates her to do what she does. The following is the result of my interview with Mary Ellen – part transcript, part summary, with plenty of photographs and links to her projects thrown in for good measure.

ME_Lynch_class

What is your favourite thing to do with your students?

I’m really interested in anything that will help kids with their literacy development. Right now we’re working with folk tales and I love folk tales! There are so many things you can do with them – they are repetitive, so they can be retold easily, you can do puppet shows with them, you can do writing with them. I’ve had my students write apology letters to their favourite character, because, of course, there is always something bad that happens to the characters in folk tales. We’ve been reading The Three Little Pigs, Henny Penny, The Little Red Hen to name a few, and the next thing my students will be doing is retelling a folk tale that they’ve chosen.

I introduced storyboards with The Little Red Hen. I have 9 boxes on chart paper and in the first three boxes I have the characters and where the story is taking place. Then, we have what happens first, next etc. We draw in stick figures and each part of the story is a picture. You can use the storyboard to help them retell a story, and then to help them write a new story! We used the Little Red Hen story as a springboard for a story about preparing for the holidays: we brainstormed the kind of things that the Little Red Hen might do to prepare for the holidays, like getting and decorating a tree, making cookies, etc. Some kids wanted to change the setting and have it be set in the Arctic. Well, they figured out that a Little Red Hen couldn’t really live in the Arctic, so the story had to have different characters!

The puppet show is also a retelling, but we didn’t use a storyboard. It came out of just knowing and reading the ABRA stories so well. The students were just able to retell the story without a script or prompts or anything. They just told the story, they were able to do that.

Puppet Show 6 from Mary Ellen Lynch on Vimeo.

 

Mary Ellen’s first foray into Action Research was through the lens of two questions, one of which was how to get parents more involved in their child’s digital portfolio. I asked her to share her views on the role of parents in Cycle 1.

How do you get parents involved?

In all my years of teaching, I’ve learned that parental involvement is very important. I just want parents to be a part of their child’s education. My experience tells me that kids whose parents are involved in their child’s schoolwork in some positive way are more likely to be successful. The parents who help with homework, the parents who listen to their child read, the parents who are commenting on the blog. Those are the parents of the top kids.

One of my biggest issues is getting parents to read to their children. It’s still an issue today. Over the years, I’ve done different things to make it easier for parents, like the Book Bag – once a week, kids would take home a bag of books and a reading log. But parents STILL were not reading to their kids. I did have a section of parents who were reading to their kids, and of course these were the kids who were also reading well on their own. So I really believe that parents who read to their kids grow readers, and parents who don’t read to their children, well, those children struggle with their reading. This has been absolutely apparent to me. I would talk to parents at the first open house of the year and tell them how important their involvement was. When I started using ABRA and ePEARL, there is a feature in there for parents to leave comments for their kids. Same thing – I got three of four parents commenting, but the majority of the class parents would not get involved. So I realized that parents needed to be taught how to go in and leave a comment. I made up How To’s sheets for parents to have at home, I conducted a survey to ask about technology issues such as whether there is a computer at home or at work and an Internet connection. My last step was during the parent-teacher conference in February for those parents who STILL had never left a comment. I had a computer with me and had them leave a comment during the conference!

What remains a challenge for you in your practice?

Assessment is a challenge for me. I’m retiring soon and that’s one of things I’m not going to miss – trying to figure out how to assess kids. I use a lot of different tools. To assess reading, I found a book called Three Minute Reading Assessments from Scholastic that has passages for kids to read and I time them and do a reading record. I use rubrics with my students that I create myself for our different projects. So for example, we’re doing Folk Tales right now and I have a rubric for the retelling activity, in which students tell the story in their own words. I’m always reading and buying books on teaching ideas and these are what inform my assessment practices most often. I wish that we had more models of rubrics in Quebec that are tied to the QEP so that we could adapt them to fit what we’re doing in our classroom.

What advice would you give to a teacher just starting out?

Start buying books for your classroom. Join projects, pilots, workgroups. They often come with perks like extra technology or other resources for your classroom – and you end up learning and being inspired.



A glimpse into Mary Ellen’s classroom

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Mary Ellen’s classroom blog is where you can see into her creative literacy classroom. Many of her projects involve technology and she often shares rich classroom processes on Vimeo.

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!

Teacher Profiles: An Interview with Julie Greto

Julie Greto

This year, we will be featuring on our blog talented and committed educators from our community. I hope that the personal paths and ways of doing of individual teachers inspire you as they do me.  Enjoy this first teacher profile! – Sylwia Bielec, ed.

Teacher’s name: Julie Greto, M.A. Art Ed.
School: Marymount Academy, EMSB
Subject: Visual Arts
Levels: Sec. I – Sec. V
Experience: 20+ years

Q: How do you decide what to do in your Art classroom?

Julie Greto answers: My approach has always been, regardless of whether I’m teaching adults or younger people, that I “workshop” what to do in the classroom. I start with whatever interest there is in the classroom and I build on that. So, if there are different things that students want to do in the context of a project, then I am fine with that. I am following their interest and they are going to be more interested in what they are doing and more likely to follow up on what I want them to do! It also deals with looking at the strengths and weaknesses of any particular group or individual. If you go with what THEY want to do, then I think, and I’m not 100% sure on this, but I think you are starting with the strengths of the group or the individual. I haven’t tested this mind you! This year, with my sec V class, we are choosing a theme or an idea unanimously as a class, and then each group chooses a way to approach the idea, which includes the materials and media they choose to use.

Q: What is your personal philosophy about teaching Visual Arts?

Julie Greto answers: Authenticity. Process. Whether the work stems from a person’s background or a person’s interest, it has to be true to them and their experience! I also want a person to really understand THEIR process. Very difficult! It took me a long time to understand my process, so it’s no easy thing.

Q: How do you make sure you cover the curriculum with such a student-centered approach?

Julie Greto answers: At Marymount, we have a school curriculum that we created several years ago as a PDIG (Professional Development and Innovation Grant). It was difficult to do, because the department kept changing, but it allowed us the time to sit down and ask “How DO we want to carry out the curriculum as it is set out in the QEP, how DO we set it up so that it makes sense for the teacher?” We looked at the skills that we needed to develop, and the elements of art that we had to cover. Designing a curriculum also allowed us to cover different materials and techniques over the five years of high school, because what was going on before was that a student would do one thing in sec. I and then do the same thing or a similar project in sec. III – because there were new teachers or because teachers did as they wished without consulting each other. Now we have the progression of learning, which is new, but I haven’t had the time to really digest it and the impact it will have on what we came up with. It’s not an easy thing to do, making sure you cover the whole curriculum, and I’m still working on it.

Q: How do you handle evaluation, with so much group work?

Julie Greto answers: I’m the Rubric Lady in town – not that anyone actually calls me that! I use rubrics a lot and always share them with my department. I just find it so much easier when I have a rubric for a subjective subject such as art, where my own tastes can get in the way of a fair appraisal. It doesn’t matter if I like it or not, what matters is whether someone has fulfilled the criteria for the project! And a rubric helps me see that. I also like to use the same rubric from year to year – for example, my presentation rubric is the same no matter what grade I’m teaching because the elements of presenting something are the same at any level. It is the knowledge content that changes and the rubric is structured to evaluate that as well.

Many of our projects are done in groups but there has to be an individual component to this type of learning and evaluation situation. Otherwise, there are students who have a tendency to rely on the strongest students in the group…and other group dynamics issues surface. And that’s how it can be: one or two students sustaining the group and everyone else going along and the product never getting completed in the manner one would wish. Ideally, the individual develops and also learns to work in a group. In the animation project we did last year, I had each student make their own storyboard, and that, along with the contents of their sketchbook, combined to create their individual mark. I used another rubric to evaluate the group work – the actual way in which the group operated. Within that, they self marked their contribution and product and also marked the group’s progress and process. I average the group marks and get rid of any obvious outliers. The group work evaluation contains questions about problems encountered and solutions proposed and enacted. It’s quite easy to see if someone did not engage in the process, because they tend to say that there were no problems at all!

 

Final remarks

After spending time in Julie’s classroom, it is also clear that authenticity and process are what Julie brings to her students. She sets up the learning environment to encourage authenticity and authentic creation by placing the onus on students to come up with topics or ideas that interest them. She engages her students in a process and values the various milestones and other evidence of process as much as the product being worked on by according time and value to that part of the project.

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Do you know teachers who should be featured in our Teacher Profiles? Are you such a teacher yourself? Leave a reply and we will get back to you!