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Monday, 2 May 2016

5 Questions Students Should Ask About Media

Thanks to Common Sense Media for this excellent article on how to critically assess media sources:

  • Integrate media literacy education into your lessons with prompts that will help students think critically about the media they consume and create. Read more

Yours in Learning,

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

System Learning Day - The Quantitative Data

Submitted by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff Development
March 11th System Learning Day Quantitative Data

Foothills School Division values learning. This was clearly evident during System Learning Day on March 11th. This day allowed us the opportunity to hear a common message, work towards system goals and develop collective efficacy as we shared effective instructional practice across teachers from all schools in our division. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the teachers for such a productive day. Your engagement in the learning and process of the day speaks to the high level of professionalism, passion for lifelong learning, and dedication to improve learning for all students. The open and honest feedback provided through the exit slips, all 274 of them, will help us continue to improve these days moving forward.  We feel truly honoured to have you as part of the FSD family and could not have been more proud of the work that was accomplished!

Quantitative Data from Grades K-9:
Quantitative Data from High School:

Next Steps - Sharing The Qualitative Data:
We would like to share some of the qualitative data - aka feedback - you provided. Although the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, there were some great ideas brought forward, valid questions and insightful points worth sharing.   So, for the next few weeks, we will take the opportunity to share and respond to the feedback from System Learning Day and clarify any misconceptions, respond to questions and acknowledge some insightful, relevant comments.

As we have read through the various comments from the exit slips, we understand it is difficult to meet the needs of everyone who attends System Learning Day as there are hundreds of you. However, we are committed to using those two days to support system goals while promoting collaboration amongst schools and providing time to work on the work.  From the feedback, it is extremely clear that teachers in FSD are committed to doing what is best for students and improving instructional practice in order to improve learning.   Once again, we would like to thank you for participating fully in the day as well as sharing insightful feedback.  

We will continue to use the blog to respond to your posts as well as share more of the research from Hattie.  The next blog post will address why the top 10 list on March 11th did not match the list found online.  There is an intentional reason.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Big Ideas of Creativity

By Glenn Gibson, Principal of Millarville Community School Attended the PYP Creativity Conference

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Growth Mindset in Mathematics

Thanks to Pam Rannelli for sharing this very emotional Education Week blog post on the importance of building student confidence and growth mindset in Mathematics.  As you watch, think through the lens of reading and writing.  What if a student said to you "I'm no good at reading?" I've heard on more than one occasion parents dismissing their child's struggles with mathematics as "That's okay, I was never good at math either".  If we heard the same phrase in regards to reading and writing, would our response be the same? As one young lady in the video puts it, "if I think I can't be good at Math, I won't be".  With Math I Can is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the development of "Growth Mindset" in Mathematics. They provide resources to help your students develop the mindset that is crucial to eliminating the dangerous stigma that Mathematics has.

Please take a moment to watch this powerful video, then visit With Math I Can to take the pledge and find resources to help your students build confidence in Mathematics.
Pass these resources with your colleagues and parent community!

Yours in Learning,

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Why our girls need to code

Hi all,

Alessia D'Urso via Flickr - Used with permission
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Foundations of Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando Florida. The conference includes technology integrators, teachers and teacher leaders from all over North America and is one of the premiere technology integration conferences in North America.
While at this conference I had the great pleasure of attending a keynote by Reshma Suanji, former Deputy Public Advocate for New York City, Candidate for the United States Congress and founder of the advocacy group “Girls who Code”. (http://girlswhocode.com) During this powerful presentation, Reshma shared some startling statistics regarding economic shifts that could have immediate impact on our students.
  • In 2008 there were 8 million manufacturing jobs lost in the USA
  • Higher wage work grew in that same span of time
  • Today, Computer software engineers are the fastest growing industry for employment with Computer Science close behind.
  • The gender gap in computer sciences is growing.
    • In 1984, 37% of students graduating computer science programs were women - today that ratio is closer to 18%
    • Although women make up almost half of the US workforce, only 25% of the jobs in technical or computing fields are held by females.
  • It has been predicted that by 2020, 1.4 million computer specialists will be needed in the USA with only enough graduates to fill 29% of them.
  • Technical jobs are no longer specific to technical industries. Most industries need staff skilled in computer sciences.

These statistics have significant implications for us as public educators.  If software engineering and computer sciences are indeed the fastest growing industries, shouldn’t we at the very least expose all students - and in particular girls - to these areas? How do these knowledge, skills and attitudes fit within the larger scope of Numeracy? How do we achieve such a goal when few teachers are trained or have a background in the computer sciences?  

The good news is that it doesn’t take a computer scientist to engage our students and employ these skills in the classroom.  Here are just a few examples of ways that you can expose students to these ideas in an accessible and engaging way:
  • Reshma pointed at the importance of having female role models for our girls. She began Girls Who Code for precisely this purpose.  You can visit her site (http://girlswhocode.com/clubs) for a toolkit on how you can build your own Girls Who Code club.  There are other local organizations such as the University of Calgary’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) http://people.ucalgary.ca/~womense/ that provide mentorship opportunities as well.
  • Employ programmatic as part of the larger concept of Numeracy. For example in Social Studies and Science students can use formulas and pattern rules to analyze trend data with Microsoft Excel
  • Some of the self directed coding tools provide opportunities, tutorials and ideas to have students build video games to demonstrate their understanding of concepts.
    • Minecraft Hour of Code Site: https://code.org/mc
      • This is a great place to start for beginners. Uses simple, draggable code blocks to make a Minecraft character move and interact with his or her environment. Appropriate for division II/III kids. Includes complete tutorials so no prior skill is required. Check out the huge number of resources on their site: https://code.org including similar environments based on StarWars, Frozen, Angry Birds and more!
      • Create interactive games by moving simple blocks around the screen.  Easy to learn and employs a large variety of coding concepts. Appropriate for Division II/III students.
    • Robotics kits from the IMC
      • Use anything from remote control apps to block based coding tools like Scratch or Code.org. Appropriate for Div I to III.
    • Raspberry Pi available at the IMC
      • Build your own computer and use it to power circuits of your design.  Uses Scratch as it’s programming environment. Great for Div III or IV students.

These coding environments build skills in patterning, visualization, reasoning cartesian systems and more, moreover they are really engaging for students. And, the skills that students employ in these environments translate directly to the text based programming languages they would use in university and industry.  

“We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.” -Daniel Pink

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Are you Doing It? Daily 5, CAFE, Daily 3 Math

Submitted by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach
The 2 Sisters Live in Calgary
Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015

It seems like many teachers in FSD are talking Daily 5 and CAFÉ.  So what’s the big deal?  If you are like me, and other teachers who have read the books (yes, both editions), gone to conferences and implemented them into their classrooms, you may be asking . . . why aren’t you?  I have to admit, the main reason I bought into the Daily 5/CAFÉ is the credibility of  “the Sisters” - Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  They are in classrooms (and still are today), trying things out, reflecting on their practice – both the successes and the failures – and really listening to what the research is telling them about student learning.

I have struggled with what information is important to share with you on a blog, so after many stops and starts I have decided to give you the key points as I see them.

Daily 5
The Daily 5 holds no Language Arts content.  Our content comes from the Alberta Program of Studies. The Daily 5 is a management structure, which teaches children to work independently on 5 meaningful tasks (Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading and Word Work), so that the teacher can work with individuals and small groups in response to their needs. What’s important?  Students need to read and write every day, so a Daily 3 or even a Daily 2 might be more conducive to what works in your class. Chunk your instruction – brain research says if you are teaching ten year olds?  Then, have ten minutes of instruction. Allow for choice.  This perpetuates engagement.

Daily 3 Math
Like the Daily 5, the Daily 3 Math holds no content.  It is a structure used to teach students to be independent during math time, so the teacher can work with individuals and small groups.  Daily 3 Math Activities – Math By Myself, Math Writing, Math with someone – are the “practice and reinforcement related to the current unit of study.”

“The CAFÉ system is [their] method for integrating assessment into daily reading and classroom instruction.  CAFÉ is an acronym for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Expanding Vocabulary.”  It is through the CAFÉ that reading strategies are introduced in each of the previously mentioned areas and students apply and set goals around the ones they use in order to become better readers.

Got you interested?  Want to learn more about the Daily 5, the CAFÉ, the Daily 3 Math? Then I would encourage you to read the books, go to a conference or talk to colleagues and others who are currently using it in their classrooms!

 Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan.  The Daily 5 2nd Edition Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. Pembroke Publishers, Ontario, 2014. P. 3, 16, 18.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Let's Talk About.......Math

Written by Shelly Read, Instructional Coach
Reflections from AAC Conference

While reading the newspaper last weekend I came across many references to math computation skills and the dropping test scores of Alberta students. The main concern identified was the lack of basic computation skills that students possess. While the articles made me shake my head more than once, let's be honest - teachers, parents and students have voiced similar concerns. A recent session I attended at the AAC Conference in Edmonton suggested a technique that teachers can use to help students strengthen their math skills and move towards automaticity and fluency.

Math Talks are frequent 10-15 minute lessons that help students build accurate mental math and computation strategies. Students are placed in small groups with a teacher to share problem solving methods, give one another feedback, and reflect on their own strategies. During Math Talks students do the thinking and the teacher listens, asks questions, and redirects as needed. While algorithms are useful strategies, pairing them with opportunities for small groups of students to talk about their successes and challenges improves overall understanding, so that the learning lasts. In schools where this ‘math community’ has been piloted teachers and students report higher levels of intellectual engagement.

In FSD I envision Math Talks being used to differentiate daily math lessons and as a powerful tool during RTI sessions. They allow students to apply the 7 mathematical processes, such as reasoning and communication, in a meaningful way. When designing lessons, these collaboration times can help students answer essential questions such as, “What is the most efficient strategy to use when solving a number operation question?”, “How can I best demonstrate my understanding of numbers?”,  and “What are the qualities of an effective strategy?”
For further information about Math Talks check out the AAC website; very soon a math strategies section will be added under the Professional Learning tab. You could also read Crystal Morey’s article, Making Sense of Math Through Number Talks. Two books on the subject are Making Number Talks Matter by Ruth Parker and Cathy Humphreys and Number Talks by Sherry Parrish.

I am excited to give this thinking routine a try! I look forward to seeing eyes light up and I never tire of hearing our students say, “This actually makes sense!”