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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Summer Slide & How To Prevent it

Written by Rona Reid, Instructional Coach

Summer break is quickly approaching! Although it’s a time to relax and rejuvenate, it can also be a time of summer slide. Studies show that when away from school, students lose significant math and reading skills over the summer break (up to three months worth, which accumulates year after year) . Though students deserve a holiday, learning should not stop when on vacation.
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Throughout the school year students have reflected on how they hope to grow as learners. Many students have indicated that they want to work on developing their English Language Arts skills. Summer is a great time to read for pleasure so your teen may want to sign up for Scholastic’s Summer Reading Challenge or checkout the Sheep River Library’s Summer Reading Club or Teen Zone. There is also a free audiobook site for teens called Sync or free podcasts which might be a nice alternative for long car rides. Another idea, Harvard’s Family Dinner Project promotes “food fun and conversation” and they offer lots of ideas for engaging family fun at home. Our favorites are the Alphabet and  Food Poetry games.

Additionally, many students want to improve their Mathematics skills. Because summer Math loss is also a concern, we hope that parents will consider integrating/practicing math skills over the summer (e.g. math apps, math puzzles/challenges, etc).  A wonderful option for developing a growth mindset in mathematics is Stanford University’s free course for students wanting to form a positive relationship with Mathematics. For those who would like to increase their mathematical confidence, please consider signing up. It’s a commitment of six 20 minute sessions and it’s free!

Have a wonderful, relaxing summer break. Be sure to read fun and interesting things everyday!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Hi all!

This is a screencast I recorded recently on Google Cast for Education.  If you use Chrome Books in your classroom this is a very simple way for students to share what's happening on their own screen to the smart board with just 2 mouse clicks!  As always, let me know if you have any questions,

Yours in learning,

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Young Mathematicians At Work

Written by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff Development
Cathy Fosnot Session: Young Mathematicians at Work 

During our PD day with Cathy Fosnot, she shared the process of Conferrals, which are intended to develop and support mathematical thinking…not about finding correct answers.  She stressed the importance of listening intently and asking good questions while conferencing with students where “every move [she] makes is about making the community move forward” (Fosnot, 2017). While she modeled what conferrals sound like with a group of 15 teachers, she asked the rest of the audience to write down the kinds of questions she asked. 

Here are the questions I heard.  While reading them, I urge you to:
1.     Reflect how these questions may be different than those we typically hear in math.
2.     If you don’t teach math, reflect on how these kinds of questions can be used and reframed in different subject areas. 
3.     Consider how these questions develop a safe, welcoming learning environment that is foundational to high levels of learning. 

Questions posed by Cathy Fosnot:

-How did you solve it?
-Can you share your thinking?
-How did your thinking from the last one help you with this one?
-What made you decide it was doubled?
-Is that what you’re saying?
-Turn and talk about the visual representation and see if you’re thinking about it the same way.
-Turn to your partner and tell your partner what you did.
-I was listening to your conversations and I found it interesting…What did you notice?
-Is that a conjecture you just made?
-Can we figure out why?!
-Can someone try to defend his answer? Who agreed?
-Let me see if we’re right…
-Are you seeing…?
-Are you suggesting a friendly amendment to the conjecture?
-Are we “cracking” division?
-Does anyone else have something interesting to add to the community?
-Is there something we can use to simplify…?
-Is there anything nice we can do with that?
-Is this the same as…?
-You had a question. Would you mind sharing your question because if  you’re going to ask it, so are others?
-Could we also write it as…..Turn and talk – is that true?
-You tell me if I get it right because it is your idea.
-What if I don’t have a ….?

As Cathy reiterated, these questions are about making strategic decisions when reflection is needed and to build the community’s understanding of a big idea in math.  The strings of numbers are carefully crafted; they scaffold using easier numbers to support development of big ideas, craft related numbers, and listen intently for those big ideas.  Last but not least, celebrate  student thinking!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Practical Ideas for managing cell phone distraction in the classroom

Hi all,

Common sense Media (http://www.commonsense.org) are a not for profit organization that provide resources in the areas of digital citizenship and media literacy.  I've subscribed to a number of their list servers including Digital Citizenship.

The most recent post talks about the ongoing question of "What do I do about cell phones in my classroom" and provides some balanced strategies to set expectations and teach students to use their devices in a meaningful and appropriate way without it turning into a war.  Click the link below for the full article.


Yours in learning,

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Stories of Truth & Reconciliation

Written by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff Development

           As we begin our journey as a division towards Truth & Reconciliation, I am anticipating it to be emotional yet reflective; not only will it enlighten us as a community, but will be one of those never-forget-life-changing-so-thankful-we-went-there-voyages that will change us not only as educators, but as people.    I saw evidence of that today at FAA (Foothills Administrator’s Association) when Dar, the FNMI Success Coach, took us back through time from colonization, to the Red River Rebellion, to residential schools and then back to 2016 where the stories of students unfold in front of us everyday.  

            While listening to the stories of residential school survivors in the documentary Stolen Children, we learned the dark secrets never told in history books about the impacts on those children who attended them as well as the seven, yes - seven, generations of people who came afterwards.  The intergenerational trauma – the loss of identity, belonging and culture - the cycle of abuse, the normal for many families, the fear of educational institutions and white people, the struggle with whether I am “white enough or brown enough”...all provided new points of view I had not considered before or felt with my heart. Until today.  I sat frozen listening to direct quotes from the Canadian government at that time explaining the “Indian problem” and justifying actions. I am left to hope it was because they did not know any better.  That is the only comfort I can give myself because otherwise, it’s too disturbing a thought...  

            I walk away from today, from Dar’s stories, knowledge, passion and wisdom more reflective than I have been in a long time; moved to the very core of who we are as people, as a community and as educators of all children.  I think about the importance of building compassion and empathy in order to relate to people who have a different story from our own, especially one seeped in fear, abuse and poverty. 

            Reconciliation starts with understanding, and understanding begins with building relationships: To listen more. To ask questions more.  To love more.  We may not be able to help an entire culture but we start with one child, one student, one family, one relationship.  We “look with different eyes and look with our heart a little more” (Darlene Cox, 2016).   As Madeline Dion Stout eloquently said, “I’d like us all to be part of a team that really makes a lasting difference for not only residential school survivors but the other little children who are having difficulties today” (Stolen Children, 2016).

            By their stories, I can’t help but think beyond students who are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit but to encompass all of our students.  Everyone comes to our classroom and schools with a story that already has prior chapters that describe their struggles, triumphs and characters who have either been in conflict with or in support of them.  So, the question we need to ask ourselves, as educators, is what part of the story will we play in the lives of our students?  The choice is ours to make. 

**For more resources check out the links on the right under FNMI**

Monday, 5 December 2016

Professional Learning Communities: Their Impact on Student Learning

Submitted by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach from PLC Institute Conference

            Early in October, I had the unexpected opportunity to attend the PLC  Institute in Edmonton.  Along with many of the administrators from Foothills, I heard  some amazing speakers from Solution Tree deliver some invigorating and transforming messages around professional learning communities. 

Focused around the three big ideas of PLCs:  

focus on learning
work collaboratively
be results oriented

the audience was presented a variety of topics on how to develop and maintain 
collaborative teams so that we (as educators), can have a positive impact on student 
learning and close the achievement gaps in our schools. 

I took the many thoughts I had from the institute and created a modified concept map around some key messages.  I have included the map with my understandings on the following page.  How do they fit with your beliefs around PLCs?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

When Struggling Readers Thrive, Dreams Come True

Submitted by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach 
ConferenceSummit 15:  When Struggling Readers Thrive Dreams Come True
Where and When:  Calgary, October 27th and 28th, 2016

“How do I teach voice in writing?”  is a common question I have had from teachers.  In fact, it was a question that arose at a recent PLC I was a part of a few weeks ago.  Fortunately, the timing of the Summit 15 Conference was perfect, as 6 + 1 Writing Traits guru Ruth Culham was there and addressed it in one of her writing sessions.  The thing to remember about voice is that it is not only the “personality” of the writer coming through, but also the tone or tenor of the piece, the audience you are writing for, and the mode/purpose of the writing (eg. narrative, expository, or persuasive). 
Here’s an example of how Ruth would do it:

To students - “You are writing a letter to someone who gave you a gift that you 
love!  How would that sound?  Let’s brainstorm some words.”  

Words that might be mentioned are excited, grateful, happy, and/or thankful.  Then students would use a number of those words in their letter.  Including those words alone will create a tone to the writing, as well as, students would have a specific audience they would be writing for.  But Ruth was not done yet.  The next stage to this voice writing piece would go like this: 

You got a gift from someone and three days later it broke.  You are writing a 
letter to the company who made the toy, stating how you feel, and that you want 
them to replace the toy.  How would that sound?  Let’s brainstorm some 

Once again, after the students have come up with some words, they use them in their writing.  Sounds easy, right?  The trick is ensuring we are intentional in our lesson design to provide clarity around what we want students to know, understand and be able to do as well as scaffold student learning; then, the ease of what we want students to know and be able to do flows into our instruction. 

Also, when teaching voice, or any other trait for that matter, consider using picture books as a way to springboard into a writing lesson.  Not only are they strong examples of good writing, but they are also short and fun to read!  A few of my favourites are Voices in the Park by Anthony Brown, One Dark and Dreadful Night by Randy Cecil  (also great for word choice), I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff (a great example of persuasive writing too) and The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka.

            So, the next time you wonder “How can I teach voice in my writing program?” I hope you remember this suggestion and use it to engage your students in their writing journey.  

*For more information around writing, please visit Ruth Culham’s website at www.culhamwriting.com.