Month: August 2019

Progression of Text Dependent Questions to Engage Thinkers

Written by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff DevelopmentDouglas Fisher: Visible Learning for Literacy on August 16, 2017
“TEACH complex texts, don’t just ASSIGNcomplex texts…”
(Douglas Fisher – August, 2017)
Regardless of the subject and grade we teach, all students will interact with complex texts, which means complex for the student, not the teacher. It is essential to remember this when using textbooks, books, videos, podcasts and others. Fisher makes a great point that we can no longer assign complex texts, such as ‘read Chapter 2 and answer the questions at the end’, or ‘google search the topic’; we must teach students how to make meaning from these texts. This requires teachers to teach differently. No longer do we simply teach content; we must teach students how to acquire information and make meaning from the texts we provide in class.
One high impact strategy [1]Fisher explained is one that many teachers have used for years:
ANNOTATION. It is important to understand that an..

Close Reading: Visible Learning for Literacy

Written by Lindsay Brooks, Instructional Coach
Douglas Fisher: Visible Learning for Literacy on August 16, 2017
“Literacy fluency is the key to success not just in school but in life” (Douglas Fisher – August, 2017)
Literacy is the #1 thing we can do to change kids’ lives. Regardless of the grade we teach giving kids choice within literacy really matters. Choice raises the volume of literacy. When kids read things on their own they are more likely to understand it.
Close Reading is an instructional routine in which students critically examine a text, especially through repeated readings.
Close Reading allows the students to look for deep structures within the book. Things like:· The way the text is organized· The vocabulary used· The key details

The primary role of close reading is to allow students the opportunity to integrate new text information with their existing background knowledge and prior experiences. An opportunity to critically examine a text.
A second purpose of close re..

If Siri Knows the Answer…It’s Not Complex

Without designing more complex tasks, our students will not go deeper with their learning…
Written by Shanda Dupras, Instructional CoachDr. Douglas Fisher: Visible Learning for Literacy on August 16, 2017
“A critical difference between experienced and expert teachers lies in their ability to move students from surface to deep learning.” (Fisher, September 2017)
What is the Definition of Rigor? This was Dr. Fisher’s question he posed to a hundred plus educators as he circled the room during his presentation. It is interesting, to watch teachers avoid making conversation within their table groups…I wondered if Siri knew the answer? Dr. Fisher broke the silence by explaining that “Rigor is the careful balance between Difficulty vs. Complexity.” We often confuse the two terms and use them interchangeably, when in fact they are two entirely different entities. Difficultycan be defined as the amount of effort that is required for a student to complete a task. Complexity is the level of thi..

How Does Literacy Belong In Math Class?

Written by Rona Reid, Instructional Coach
ReLeah Lent’s workshop on Interdisciplinary Literacy, on Sept 29, 2017, focused on “disciplinary tools that deepen student involvement and understanding in all subject areas. As students begin to use literacy the way experts do, they read and write about content, solve problems, ask questions, make decisions, discuss topics, and develop knowledge in a way that truly sticks.”
ReLeah explained that each disciple has its own unique approach to literacy; this post will focus on take-aways for teaching mathematical literacy.
What does literacy look like for Mathematicians? According to ReLeah Lent, “Mathematical literacy involves patterns, relationships and examples of understanding through visuals and abstract representations. Math is a discipline based on developing understanding through the act of solving problems, and the text often utilizes organization, language, and syntax that differ substantially from text in other disciplines.”
When Math..

Disciplinary Literacy

Session presented by ReLeah Cossett Lent, September 29, 2017Written by Shain Chisholm, Instructional Coach, Foothills School Division
Armed with the knowledge that strong literacy skills are a predictor of future economic success, teachers are rightly being asked to enhance the literacy skills of their students. While educators push to improve literacy skills of all our students in all classes, ReLeah Cossett Lent weighs in to say that teaching literacy does not necessarily equate to being a “teacher of reading”. To clarify Lent states:

“Asking a science teacher to become a teacher of reading is not fair, nor is it an efficient use of her time. Instead, we must ask disciplinary teachers to share the secrets of literacy that work in their content areas.” (ReLeah Lent, September 2017)
This may be a relief as non-English language teachers may feel an extra burden of doing the “job” of the English teachers on top of teaching their curriculum. Rather than have teachers teach generic liter..

Learning Mathematics Using an Inquiry-Based Approach

Written by Julie Julian, Regional Instructional Coach. PD was from an IB Mathematics Online Workshop
When mathematics is taught in relevant, real-life contexts students acquire their mathematical understanding by constructing their own meaning with increasing levels of abstraction. The way students learn mathematics can described in the following way:
Constructing Meaning· Based on previous experience and understanding· Active learning through interactions with objects (manipulatives) and ideas· Evolves through experiences, connections, conversations, and reflections· Interpretations conform to present understanding or generates new understanding
Transferring Meaning· Once ideas are constructed about a mathematical concept understanding can be transferred into symbols(pictures, diagrams, modelling with concrete objects, mathematical notations)· Give opportunities to describetheir understanding using their own symbolic notation before transferring to the conventional mathematical notati..

A Day with Inuvialuit Residential School Survivor – Steps to Reconciliation

Written by Denise Litke, IC and Fay Mascher, Teacher at Cayley School. Attended CRC Session – A Day with Inuvialuit Residential School Survivor Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and author of Fatty Legs, Christy Jordan- Fenton on Thursday, October 12, 2017

Be aware of not giving the impression that these are an oppressed people. We carry the huge responsibility of what we are giving people – hope and strength. This sentence is meaningful because it encompassed Christy and Margaret’s message of the day of not falling into a path of darkness, but rather reaching for the light and having hope.
“Conspiracy of silence” A provocative phrase which seemed to encompass the idea of the government’s plan to hide or to keep quiet about the harmful effects that residential schools had on Canada’s indigenous people.
Empathy A powerful word because in order for us to truly begin the journey of reconciliation we must step into the feelings and experiences that our indigenous people faced, and are still facing t..

Demystifying Critical Thinking

Written by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff Development after Action Research session on Critical Thinking.
With the rise of Google, fake news, and 21st Century skills, critical thinking has been identified as a key competency that students will need in order to be successful in life beyond the walls of school. But what exactly is critical thinking? Chances are, there are as many ideas of critical thinking as there are people. In order to provide teacher clarity (ES=0.75), we have set out to develop a common understanding of what critical thinking really is and what it looks like in the classroom.
Myself, along with fellow colleagues participating in Action Research, shared some common misconceptions we had about critical thinking prior to our learning. Among these are…critical thinking:
· requires a project that students work on or at the very least a large amount of data. It requires larger scale learning tasks (overarching units, projects, etc.).· is time consuming to assess.· is..

Let’s Get Critical

By Lindsay Brooks, Instructional Coach
crit·i·cal think·ing
nounUsing reasoning and criteria to:
make judgments
Someone with critical thinking skills can do the following:• Understand/see/make logical connections between ideas.• Identify, construct and evaluate arguments.• Defend judgments with reasoning.• Solve problems• Identify the relevance and importance of ideas

The Critical Thinking Consortium has amazing resources to inspire, support and advocate for the infusion of critical, creative and collaborative thinking.
These resources support educators in deepening their understanding and enriching their teaching of critical thinking. I took the opportunity to try out an online resource called THOUGHTFUL BOOKS. Each resource in the thoughtful book series features specific tools supporting literacy development and encouraging the deliberation of ethical considerations. The suggested activities help teachers introduce the tools and encourage yo..

Wide Awake and Free Indigenous Films Available through NFB

Hi all,
Many of us have been exploring First Nations issues and connecting them to our classrooms. The National Film Board have produced a number of powerful resources available for free in conjunction with the release and tour of “Wide Awake”. I had the privilege to see “Wide Awake” at the Calgary International Film Festival this year. It was an intensely powerful and hopeful look at indigenous music and its influence on communities across Canada. If you would like to find a screening, or arrange a screening yourself you can do so at the link below.
If you would like to play some of the other indigenous films available to stream for free you can find them at:

What is Critical Thinking?

Written by Darla Milford, Instructional Coach after Action Research on Critical Thinking
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical Thinking defined by Alberta Education involves using reasoning and criteria to conceptualize
and evaluate or synthesize ideas. Students reflect on their thinking to improve it, they challenge
assumptions behind thoughts, beliefs or actions. Students value honesty, fairness, and open
According to Alberta Education, “Students are the artists, scientists, thinkers, innovators and leaders
of the future. They will be tasked with solving the problems of today, while imagining and creating
a new tomorrow. Critical thinking is foundational for equipping students with the knowledge, skills
and attitudes that they will need to successfully navigate their personal journeys in learning, living
and working “Ministerial Order on Student Learning (#001/2013).”
Why Critical Thinking?History helps us to answer questions about the past. It helps us to see how som..

Getting Critical About CTS Competencies

A High School’s CTS Program Story: Our First Steps in The Journey Towards Understanding and Assessing the Basic CompetenciesWritten by Shanda Dupras, Instructional Coach at FSD38
“Did you bring your pencil to class? Did you speak during a class discussion? Did you arrive late…again?” An amalgamation of high school teachers from numerous CTS pathways (Welding, Construction, Communication Technology, Business, Mechanics, Robotics) decided that the way that they were embedding and assessing the basic competencies in their learning spaces could not be farther away from the real world. Pencil preparedness, lack of speaking in class and arriving late were the foundation of their evaluation of the competencies. The teachers knew that the basic competencies were larger than what they had been assessing and teaching through ‘day marks.’ Students could not articulate, nor did they understand that the competencies were more extensive than arriving with an H2 pencil sharpened …

These teachers wa..

A Critical Thinking Tug-of-War

Written by Shain Chisholm, Instructional Coach
During a recent Social Studies class, students were discussing current events centered around Syrian, Haitian, Turkish and Nigerian refugees seeking asylum in Canada. In light of the current political debate around the immigration process, the students were invited to think critically at some of the pros and cons of our current immigration system.
To become more informed on the Canadian immigration, the students read articles and watched
videos that dealt with economic, safety, political and health concerns related to immigrants coming to
To help students think critically about immigration, they engaged in an thinking routine called “Tug-of-War”. As they read the articles and watched the videos, they individually recorded on sticky notes whenever they encountered a fact, example or argument they deemed to be either negative (created a pull in the negative direction) or positive (created a pull in the positive direction) accord..

Spatial Thinking: Everyday Activities in the Classroom

Written by Julie Julian, Instructional Coach
“Spatial thinking, or reasoning, involves the location and movements of objects and ourselves,
either mentally or physically, in space. It is not a single ability or process but actually refers to a
considerable number of concepts, tools and processes.”
–National Research Council, 2006
WHY make it an everyday part of your classroom routine:
· There is a strong connection between spatial thinking and mathematical performance· Spatial thinking can be improved through education and experience· Schools play an important role in fostering spatial reasoning in a currently underserved area· Spatial reasoning provides multiple entry points to explore mathematics in an inclusive way
Have the students work collaboratively to:· Visualize· Verbalize· Verify
Emphasize playful pedagogy(regardless of age):· Flip gradual release of responsibility upside down!o Try YOU DO, WE DO, I DO
· Notice how students engage in the processes of:o Visualizationo Menta..

Keys To Creativity

Written by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach
Reflections from Learning and the Brain Conference “The Science of Innovation”: Teaching Students to Think, Create, Innovate, Imagine and Inspire
In mid – February I attended the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco, CA. I had heard from colleagues that this was an exceptional conference to go to, so I drained my PD funds, packed up my laptop and suitcase, and off I went! The focus for the conference was The Science of Innovation: Teaching Students to Think, Create, Innovate, Imagine and Inspire. The title alone got me thinking and making connections to what is happening in Alberta’s education around the implementation of the competencies. In fact, one of the competencies is Creativity and Innovation.

I was excited to delve into some new learning and had scoured the conference brochure, picking out the speakers and sessions that I wanted to attend. My top three choices were Dr. David M. Eagleman, neuroscientist, Dr. Jo Boaler..