Ravens, Rooks, and Crows

Crows are a daily fact of life if you come from Vancouver, British Columbia. Ravens are relegated to Whistler Mountain or across the border at Baker Mountain. Rooks are chess pieces. It has taken travelling across the pond to Ireland, to learn that they are all in fact black birds from the crow family with similarities but stark differences.

The size of the ravens is the most apparent initial difference. They are massive birds and have a deep croaky call. In the morning, the bird wars are intense and loud. It amazes me that anyone can sleep through the battles.

I have lots of experience with crows. They are smart and known for their memory. If you have defined yourself as an enemy to a crow, beware. A crow will dive bomb your head and call its friends to do the same. I sprayed a hose at a crow to get him away from my school garden one day and was condemned to putting on disguises so I could go into the garden.

In early Irish literature. Morrigan was the Celtic goddess of battle. She was known for her shape shifting into a raven or a crow. It was believed that she could predict the death of warriors in battle. Perhaps this is why a group of crows is known as a “murder” and a group of ravens, an “unkindness” or “conspiracy.”

Rooks are a new discovery to me. The bare, greyish-white skin around the base of the bill was what mades it stand out as different. The rest of the plumage is black that shines purple in the sunlight. This bird is the size of a crow but the beak is longer, likely to access the worms and insects they love from fields. There is an old saying “a crow in a crowd is a rook, a rook on its own is a crow.” These birds congregate in huge groups and a flock is called a “building,” “clamour,” “parliament.”

The more I take notice of birds, the more I am delighted with new learning and desire to learn more.

Hiking With Kids – Part 1: The Quest for The Holey Monster 

Guest author – Jason Camp – Wild About Outdoor Learning Society – Steering Committee

A parent perspective on generating hiking excitement for his two young daughters.

Having my own children created the space for me to see the outdoor world through a brand-new set of eyes.  Eyes that are only about a metre off the ground.  Eyes that dart around looking under logs, leaves, and rocks for things that I would easily walk by on my way to my “destination”.  Eyes that constantly look up at me to see if I am interested in what they are interested in.

In my adult mind, I had an expectation that we would go for a lovely hike to go see a small set of small caves a couple of kilometers away.  We would be about 30 minutes walking there, stay for about 10 minutes, and then walk back.  However, that is the way an adult mind thinks.  Walking is a way of getting to a destination whereas for children, walking and exploring is the destination.

When my daughters encountered a fallen log across the deer trail, they immediately turned the log into something to both climb over and then back under.  This log was something to explore!  It didn’t matter that we came across it within 100 metres of the cabin, it was something they hadn’t encountered before and in their minds, it was worth taking time to thoroughly explore.  My initial thought was to hurry them along so we could get to the “real” destination, but I became quietly aware that it ultimately was not about me and my ideas of a destination.  I knew that they would find the caves very interesting (if not a little magical), but if I hurried them, I ran the risk of making the experience miserable in the way a forced march is no fun.  If I wanted them to love nature, then surely I had to let them explore nature on their terms (as per the advice of Emma Marris in her Ted Talk – LINK).

So, we slowed down and tried to, as a family, open ourselves to what was around us with each step as we made our way towards the caves.  We heard the throaty dripping water sounds of ravens flying overhead.  I asked my daughters what they thought the birds were up to and my eldest decided that they must be playing tag.  We spoke about imaginary creatures and wondered aloud if they would be friends.  We took water and snack breaks.

Eventually, after a good long while, we reached our destination where my daughters could offer up their drawings to the “holey monster” who would, if she decided that the drawings were suitable, magically transform them into chocolate so long as the girls remained hidden for 10 seconds (holey monsters are, after all, a shy lot).

Having received the well-deserved chocolate, we began our journey back to the cabin, at the exact same “kid” pace that allowed for lots of exploring and questions on the way home.

I think my best advice for parents when taking their child into the woods is to put down your adult glasses and instead, see the world as your child sees it.  Get right down to their level.  Don’t rush.  Ask questions to get your child thinking about how things connect in nature and don’t correct them when you think they have it “wrong”.  Make space for children to explore and question and you will make lovers of nature for life!

LINK to the Holey Monster walk 

Reminder: The Wild About Outdoor Learning Society Vancouver Outdoor Festival – Tidal WAV’23 (Wild About Vancouver) is on Saturday, May 27th in Stanley Park.

Hikes with the Lead Park Ranger, Chris Penton, and Indigenous host, Lori Snyder, will leave from the Park Ranger Station in Ceperley Park, right beside the Second Beach Concession Stand. starting at 10 am.

Hope to see you there!

A Better Day of Birding

The scene was set. Movement was where no movement had been for the last hour and a half. One owlet had ventured out of the nest but barely. The other two siblings snuggle close together. Little grey bundles of fluff. The mother is placed between the singlet and the twins. It took the arrival of another group of photographers to alert us to the large statuesque Great Horned Owl. The father owl is standing watch from two trees over. Likely two or maybe three times the size of the mother. He is very still. As the sun moves across the sky, he is in the shade and barely visible. In the sun with the pattern of the feathers stark. In the shade, he almost disappears. Silent and motionless as he soaks up the sun. He appears to be asleep. Until the squirrel.

The tiny squirrel makes his way up the tree.  In the middle of the triangle of father owl, us, and mother and her three owlets.  Venturing higher and higher to munch on even more tantalizing bunches of blossoms.  But protected by fewer leaves.  Higher and higher.  Oblivious to the father owl with lazar eyes trained on him.  Like a scene from a program detailing the realities of the food chain.  We hear from the new paparazzi arrivals that 5 pm was eating time yesterday.  It’s well past dinner time.  The owlets are restless and ready to eat. The kill feels imminent.  

The owlets wait.  The mother waits.  The birders and paparazzi below wait.  And the large, beautiful owl in his Big Horned way waits.  Until the full bellied little squirrel scurries down the tree and out of harm’s way.  And I feel a little lighter, not having witnessed the call of the wild.  No food chain in action today.  And it makes for a better day of birding in my opinion.

A WILD ABOUT Wednesday post – Birding is one way to #getOUTdoors and take the time to notice the beauty, habits, songs, and surprises of the birds that have too often become invisible parts of our lives.

Skiing Alone

 A Perspective On Learning:

“I can’t believe you don’t like skiing alone.  You love ALONE more than anyone else I know.”  

I have no difficulty dismissing the opinion of those who profess to know the inner workings of my mind.  Usually, they don’t.  I question their motivation when they try.  Yet, this statement had resonance.   This perception from the boy child who had closely observed and scrutinized my movements over the course of his entire life could not be easily dismissed.  And he did in fact have a point.  I generally do love ALONE. 

My son has seen me curl up with a good book pretty much anywhere, including but not limited to the red leather chair, bed, any number of beaches in Vancouver, the beach house in Ventura, the motor boat on Silver Lake, tents, parks, and any number of pools and hot tubs.  I travel to conferences alone.  I dance on my own at festivals.  I walk, jog, bike by myself happily.  I use to swim so far out at Sasamat Lake or Spanish Banks that he worried that I might not be able to make it back to shore.  Ventura Beach was another story on account of the seals that would roll up on the beach each summer to die on account of the chomp out of their side compliments of a hungry shark.  The looming possibly of a shark visit sucks the joy out of ALONE in the depths of the ocean. 

I have skied alone when my previous job was particularly stressful and busy.  I’d head to Whistler and pretend I didn’t speak English to sidestep playing hostess on the chair.  I had pleasant days but didn’t walk away with the sense of euphoria I often garner on a ski day.  Many happy days have unfolded with friends, family, or students over the years at the Whistler – Blackcomb Ski Resort, Cypress Mountain, Seymour, Big White and Mount Baker. 

My son’s advice.  Earbuds and a great soundtrack are the answer.  I had a chance to try it out this past week.  The strained Achilles tendon of my favourite ski/snowboard buddy knocked him off the slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and into the realm of rest, ice and ibuprofen.  I was on my own for most of the week.  I was graced with sunny skies and headed to my favourites – Symphony and Rhapsody Bowl on Whistler Mountain equipped with Apple earbuds that fit comfortably under my helmet and Pachabel, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, 5th and Piano Sonata No. 8th in C Minor, cellos with Vivaldi, harpsichords with Bach, clarinets with Brahams, and strings with Mozart.  Favourite runs, my Nordica Santa Ana’s, sunshine, and perfectly paired classical favs provided the induction to euphoria while skiing alone.  

Two additional elements have accompanied my new love of skiing alone.  One is having a level 4 ski instructor for a friend who gives me a manageable number of skiing tips to focus on and a healthy dose of positive reinforcement for my efforts.  Skiing alone allows focus on skill development rather than keeping up or keeping track of your ski / boarding buddies.  And regardless of age, there is a pride in getting better at something you are trying to improve.  

Upon reflection I have come to terms with the other element required for joyfully skiing / boarding alone.  I am a people person.  I talk to strangers.  I love hearing other people’s stories and telling my own.  When I’m on the chair with someone else or a group, I choose whether I’ll start a conversation and include the stranger on the chair or in the gondola.  On my own, others decide whether you will be invited into their conversation or left to entertain yourself.  The earbuds give me the power to decide if I’m opting in or out.  That is the game changer.  I define my own comfort zone.   That is familiar.  And so apparently skiing is something I can do alone and enjoy.  Good to know.  My new quest is matching runs and my mood with the perfect playlist.  Joni Mitchel, Katy Perry, David Bowie, Queen and Billy Joel never fail me.  I won’t abandon off piste fun or camaraderie of friends and family but it is nice to have outdoor options that are fun.

WILD ABOUT Outdoor Quests

Whistler Wonder

“Our identity as Canadians is rooted in our relationship with the land and time we spend outside.”

Colin Harris – Take Me Outside (p .10)

There are many forms of outdoor quests.  Many envision heading off with Bilbo Baggins on arduous treks into the wilderness that involve heavy packs, camping equipment, and danger.   Yet, according to the Oxford Dictionary, a quest is a long search (like a lifetime) for something like happiness, knowledge, or truth.  Daypacks are sufficient.  Ingenuity encouraged.  Dig deeper online and you’ll discover there are four types of quests:

  1. Discovery
  2. Practice
  3. Design
  4. Reflection

Daily outdoor quests include any number of things, like discovery of new growth or nesting habits or water quality, practicing running, soccer or biking skills, designing new restoration projects or conservation plans, or simply reflecting on the beauty surrounding us and the things we are grateful for.  WILD ABOUT Outdoor learning is about all those quests – big, small, and in between.  Our desire for people of British Columbia to #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved is due to our lived experience and research about how time spent outdoors is good for the individual, the community and nature.  

Richard Louv uses the comparison of nature as an essential vitamin to combat what he calls, “nature-deficit disorder”.  This is not a medical diagnosis but a metaphor to illustrate the problems emerging from populations, particularly children, experiencing a societal disconnect from the natural world.  There is a significant body of research now focusing on the positive experience of time outdoors in nature to improve physical and mental health, as well as social bonding and creativity.  This research is readily supported by how much better we feel after going for a walk, birdwatching, a game of golf or tennis, or drinking in a sunset (yes, pun intended 😊).

As Dr. Hart Banack (UNBC) states, “while the park is the destination, it is the journey to the park, of picking up pebbles, looking at flowers, and finding sticks, that enlivens and binds the journey.”1   For photo enthusiasts, it may be a picture of the revered owl or waking bear.  Dr. Banack encourages the creation of collaborative groups to survey schools or parks to determine what is available on the site and in the neighbourhood that can facilitate outdoor learning.  It allows for the planning of scaffolded experiences to develop student centered collaborative learning communities with trust building activities and outdoor activities to develop physical skills, health, creativity, and content area knowledge and skills. 

Megan Zeni works with her partner teacher, Sarah Regan, to providing prep time for teachers in their outdoor classroom at Homma Elementary School in Richmond, British Columbia.  This structure ensures that all students in the school receive scaffolded learning time outdoors twice a week.  Richard Louv’s book, Vitamin N, provides an abundance of ways to engage outdoors with a focus on families.  The work of Dr. Hart Banack, Assistant Professor at the University of Northern British Columbia, and Gillian Judson’s book, The Walking Curriculum, provide many ways for teachers to regularly engage students outdoors.  Colin Harris shares that “(t) he seed for running across Canada was planted when I was a young teenager.  It grew slowly but steadily, weaving its way in and out of my consciousness for years.” (p.11).  Educators are poised to teach lessons and habits that have great potential for individuals and conservation and restoration efforts in the future.  

WILD ABOUT Outdoor Learning provides training and structures for community members in B.C. Communities to host activities to engage, educate, and build community.  Visit the website to get involved in WILD ABOUT Outdoor Learning Festivals planned in Vancouver (Tidal WAV on May 27, 2023), Prince George (June 2024) and Surrey (June 2024).  Learn about the organizations and informal groups that facilitate opportunities for people of all ages to engage with like-minded community members to #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved.  


Hartley Banack & Iris Berger (2018).  The emergence of early childhood education outdoor programs I British Columbia:  a meandering story. Tandfonline.com 

Colin Harris (2021).  Take Me Outside – Running Across the Canadian Landscape That Shapes Us.  Rocky Mountain Books.  Rmbooks.com

Gillian Judson (2018).  A Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder and Developing Sense of Place.

Richard Louv (2016).  The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life.  Vitamin N.  500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community.

A WILD ABOUT Wednesday Blog Post – How can we help you #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved.


Art as Life

Toronto Street Art

A recent trip to Toronto has me considering the place of art in our lives. I was staying close to downtown in Little Portugal. You didn’t venture far before running smack into street art. That street art caught aspects of nature, reflected people living in the city, memories of friends, caricatures, cartoons, messages, tags with hidden meanings, a whole alley dedicated to graffiti, statues of the Portugal chicken, immigrants, and even Jack Layton willing to share his bicycle built for two. The lived experience of Toronto was very much captured in art that is accessible, free, and part of daily life.


Of course, more high-brow art is also readily available. My trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario was during Spring Break and that could account for the fact that it was packed. It is big and the architecture is very intriguing with spirals leading upward. It also is big enough to accommodate multiple exhibitions including Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, the many reclining women statues by Henry Moore and bountiful collection of paintings by William Kurelek. Unfortunately, I missed Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – Let’s Survive Forever, because I didn’t make the required timed reservation and they were gone for the day. Business was good. Was it Spring Break? The number of tourists in town? Of the fact that people see art as part of their lives due to the amount of art they are surround with. You do not need to have a lot of money see or purchase your own art.

The trip to the Power Plant Contemporary Gallery located in Harbourfront Centre down by the waterfront in Toronto had steady foot traffic and free admission to exhibitions by Brenda Draney: Drink from the river; In Parallel – a group exhibition by Rouzbeh Akhbari, Joi T. Arcand, Aylan Couchie, Simon Fuh, Anique Jordan, and Julia Rose Sutherland; Amartey Golding: In the comfort of embers which included video works, garments, and photography by the artist. Golding’s imagery of “the innocent Being” traveling through the Victoria and Albert Museum in London was haunting and has stayed with me. The tears traveling down his face while experiencing the brutally violent images of depicting European history left me with the realization of our disconnect in experiencing the travesty of the times reflected in the art we view in galleries. We are critical of the desensitizing impact of video but the impact can be similar without the conversation about the art we are viewing.

The Power Plant Gallery of Contemporary Art

Today took me to the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Although not as large as the AGO, the VAG is well worth purchasing a membership.  I like to visit an exhibit more than once because it allows me to form layers of understanding by focussing on different aspects.  It also provides the invite to events like the book signing with Robert Davidson and the opening of new exhibits which are as fun for the people watching as for the art. However, today it was still spring break.  Not as busy as the AGO but the effort to draw in and engage school aged students was commendable.  The decision to make the art gallery free for children – also inspired.

I was fortunate to be with a young art enthusiast so I could directly observe the impact of the efforts of the VAG staff. The laminated pictures of paintings to find was a hit. Where’s WALDO in real life. The sketchbook, doodle pad, and book connecting authors to artistic techniques opened multiple entry points into the art. The piece de resistance was the pocket-sized kaleidoscope. It has us retracing the Hard Edges exhibition back to the beginning to take a better look at the transformations in colour, line, form, and the impact of movement. There is no doubt the child was engaged and so were the adults with her. Kudos to the VAG. That was one little person with a very clear understanding that art was not something out there but something that was part of her experience.

Hard Edges with a Kaleidoscope

In Vancouver, East of Main Street, has been the best at tapping into the potential of street art to connect with residents.  Perhaps that is also why the Art Walk draws in so many people each year and that cafes are filled with work of local artists.  When people can personally experience art, they are more likely to see it as relevant to their own lives and appreciate what art brings into our lives.  Art that fills our lives and homes becomes personal and an expression of our life.   It fuels the creative impulse to create whether in paint, clay, marble, multi-media, dance, or writing.  And it feeds the conversation about life as art, and art as life.  Art as investment or status misses the mark in contributing to and the conversation and inspiration in one form or another.  Isn’t that the real purpose of art? 

Saturday Stance on Learning by Carrie Froese, Inquire2Empower Consulting   

A B.C. Literacy Council Discussion with Dr. Rob Tierney

B.C. Literacy Council Leadership Meeting

It was SO exciting to have the first face-to-face British Columbia Literacy Council Leadership Meeting since pre-COVID times.  The best part about membership in the International Literacy Association and provincial council, the British Columbia Literacy Council, is the conversation.   Last Tuesday night at the Sylvia Hotel was not a disappointment.  

Rob Tierney arrived prepared to talk about his current role as the immediate past president of the International Literacy Association.   He has a broad range of participation in ILA and background experiences in education throughout the world, including Australia, the U.S., China, and recently Nigeria.  Although he began as a classroom teacher in Australia, many of the people in the room embrace him as “Canadian” due to his work at The University of British Columbia, including but not limited to Dean emeritus and professor emeritus of Language and Literacy Education.   His research in reading, reading-writing connections, assessment, and global perspective held promise.

The spark of magic for the night came from the diversity of the people in the room.   Traditionally the B.C. Literacy Council (BCLCILA) and the Lower Mainland Council of the International Reading Association (LOMCIRA) before it, framed Leadership Meetings as working committees of the executive committee with feedback from ILA executive members.  The focus was on developing strategic plans to move forward as a council.  However even prior to COVID, there has been a step away from volunteerism and participation in professional organizations.   Part of this came from the focus on newer teachers striving to create some work-life balance and part of it came from the stronghold lock of some of the developed organizations to step away from the refrain “But we’ve always done it this way” and embrace new ideas and new ways of doing things.  The opening up Post Covid is the perfect time to embrace new ways of approaching our work.  The people attending this Leadership Meeting included long time ILA members, recent members,  and people from different roles as educators in private and public institutions.  

Many of the people in the room shared the experience and passion for developing partnerships to address local literacy needs with educators in different countries along with Dr. Tierney.  Sabine Maiberger brought her experience of starting a school in China.  Lulu Wang brought her perspective of attending school China and her efforts to meet the expectations of Chinese parents while providing stimulating experiences through iGeneration Education programs.   My experiences teaching at The Fuyang Bureau of Education and Sandy Murray’s experiences bringing SongWorks to China and Japan made for some interesting conversation.   Dr. Tierney was able to share interesting experiences in Nigeria and the importance of adopting the stance of the learner in these interactions.  Susan Ruzic was able to incorporate the social justice work that she has been doing at The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (B.C.T.F.).  The conversation teased out how much we have to learn from working collaboratively and learning from what other countries have to offer.   The work towards reconciliation in Canada has helped to move this conversation forward.  It has allowed us to step away from the notion that Western Culture is not responsible for helping people to adopt our educational paradigms but called us to create space for other cultures to show us what they need from us to be supported in their work.  The question pursued was how do we develop the INTERNATIONAL in the ILA.

This conversation had many common elements with the conversation of the Science of Reading. Some teachers in the room were looking for the ways to support children coming into the classroom with many needs and often few supports. Others were very concerned with what looks like a top-down trend in the United States to impose a very simplistic view of reading that discards much of what we have learned since the 80’s. Ruth Hodgins brought her experience with Reading Recovery and a thorough knowledge of the research and success stories that have come from implementation. Sandy Murray brought the perspective of a music educator and classroom teacher using song to joyfully develop literacy concepts. You would not find anyone in the room who discards the importance of phonics instruction. In fact, there was a lot of discussion about the many ways we have done this in the classroom. The Writing Process was celebrated as away that children are given the tools to communicate through through phonemic awareness and phonics instruction. The reciprocal relationship between reading and writing is seamless. There was deep discussion about reading-writing connections and how researchers such as David Booth and Lucy Calkins provided transformational support to educators.

Dr. Tierney thorough knowledge of existing research at his fingertips was helpful in focusing the conversation.  There was frustration in the room about the reading noise in the Twittersphere referencing decontextualized research that points a finger to easy answers.  The research on literacy instruction tells us is that it is anything but easy.  This is not something that Coastco can market in a workbook.  Reading, writing, listening and speaking are interwoven with amazing complexity.  The learner sitting in front of us at any time will require four cueing systems in order to unravel the mysteries of reading.  In order to provide what that learner needs, the teacher will need to unlock the complexities and subtleties pertinent to the learner.  It will require an educator that has access to the plethora of literacy research, professional development, and the autonomy to decide on how best to meet the learner’s needs.  Well informed educators are able to determine and build on background knowledge and ascertain the pathway to create a reader that experiences the power of making new discoveries and the joy of expanding their world through literacy.  

Dr. Tierney underlines what the International Literacy Association provides for us.  The access to literacy research helps educators to make decisions about how they will reach their learners.  Local and provincial councils are not simply volunteer activities but professional organizations that facilitate important conversations between literacy educators.  We hope you will join the conversation.  This link takes you to the International Literacy Association membership tab.  If you live in British Columbia, you automatically become a member of The British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association (BCLCILA) when you join ILA.  

Thanks so much to the following people for attending the B.C. Literacy Council of The International Literacy Association Leadership Meeting and for providing your perspectives in the discussion:  

Dr. Rob Tierney – speaker

B.C. Literacy Council Members:

Dr. Karen Addie, Darlene Archer, Larkyn Froese, Linda Klassen, Sabine Maiberger, Donna McCormick, 

Tricia Stobbe, Executive Director, Christian Educators of B.C.

Sandy Murray,  SongWorks Educators Association

Susan Ruzic – BCTF Social Justice Committee 

Lulu Wang, founder and CEO of iGeneration Education Group

Ruth Hodgins- Consultant

We very much hope you will extend the invitation to your networks to join the conversation about literacy learning.  

Reading Wars as Diversion

We have a wealth of educational research to assist us in the thoughtful planning and implementation of reading, writing, listening, speaking activities and programs in schools, at enrichment centres, and at home. The prevalent message is that literacy development is a multi-faceted process that takes place over time. That being said, the “Reading Wars” battleground, south of the border, has re-opened the quest for easy answers by cherry picking the research on reading and writing.

I recently coordinated a literacy program for young children. In talking to parents, I found myself doing something that I haven’t done for years. I poured sand into an empty glass vase to demonstrate this is NOT how children learn. More than ever, educators need to pause and move forward based on what they know about working with children and what comprehensive research tells us. It is not a simple process. It is a complex process impacted by the developmental level of the child, the mindset, as well as exposure to books and reading. Background experiences with reading are also paramount. I refer to this one as the “joy factor” and do profess to have any definitive scientific data to cite on this one, however I strongly adhere to the notion that children and adults who don’t like reading have never learned to read for different purposes or just not “met” the right books. Never underestimate an effective librarian, teacher who is a lover of books, or employee at Vancouver Kidsbooks in helping with this process!

Anyone who has worked extensively with teaching reading has experienced a child who flawlessly decodes the text and gives you a completely blank look when you ask about the meaning. Or perhaps heard the groan when you mention reading together. Understanding that authors have messages to convey is part of the process of reading Helping a child to make reading an enjoyable interaction between the child and the author is another important part of the instructional process.

Now, as always, there are four cueing systems in language development that are essential for communication. All four of these systems are used simultaneously as we speak, listen, read and write.

  1. Grapho-phonemic System –  the awareness of the sound system of the language represented by letters or combinations of letters.
  • Phonemes – the 44 sounds in English
  • We see this work when young children are writing their journal entries. They are connecting the sounds of the words they are saying with the letters they are writing on the page.
  • Graphemes  – the sounds represented by one or more letters
  • Phonological Awareness – understanding the sound structure of words including syllables, rimes and onsets
  • Sn– a-ck (Onset / rime)

Phonemic Awareness – to be able to combine phonemes to decode words.

h-o-t = hot

p-o-t = pot 

c-o-t = cot 

You can make a trip to Costco on any given day and pick up a workbook that includes pages and pages of repetitive exercises claiming to assist your child in mastering these skills. The reality is that many workbook activities can be completed by replicating a pattern instead of reading.

Word play, word building with magnetic letter, rhyming games, skipping songs, nursery rhymes, action games and song experience games, repeated readings of predictable pattern text can be more engaging ways to focus attention on the relationship between letters and sounds.  

2. Syntactic System – The roles of the structure and grammar of sentences.  

Modelling correct grammar and changing word endings (suffixes) or beginnings (prefixes) to change the meaning of words falls into this category.  Editing written work during the Writer’s Workshop is an excellent way to focus attention on this task.  I learned grammar in Grade 10 when I started to tutor. I could apply correct grammar in my writing before that point in time but I had not memorized all of the grammatical structures. The process of labelling grammatical structures made both me and my tutee better at parsing sentences. Actually helping him finish his assignments with questions and prompts as required made him a better writers.

Lessons about synonyms, antonyms, homonym and vocabulary development would fall into this category.

3. The Semantic System – Meaning Makers

In high school, a cousin I adored came to live with my Mum and I.  She decreed that we needed to improve our vocabulary.  Since she was two years older, I complied.  Every week a new word went on the fridge door.  Our task was to use it correctly as many times as possible during the week.  It became a fun game that I took with me into the classroom when I started to teach.  

Three noteworthy things came out of that game. One I my principals that he had never talked to kindergarten students with such good vocabularies. During one standardized test, my Gr. 3 students crossed out words and replaced them with better word choices. When my own children were in high school, both of them were tested and labelled “gifted”. My son’s analysis was that it was no more than an exercise in demonstrating a good vocabulary. His comment: “Not like we had a choice if we wanted to know what was going on.” The vocabulary development came out of a desire to communicate rather than a memory exercise.

4. The Pragmatic System –   This involves use of appropriate communication in social situations.   

The formality of the language used will likely change if you are talking to a boss, a principal in a hierarchical system, or a friend or close family member. Awareness of this fact will make a difference in how you are perceived in conversations. This is an example of pragmatics.

Lessons developing conversational skills, nonverbal communication (raising hand), adhering to social norms (personal space, volumes of conversation), empathy, active listening, and using humour appropriately fall under this area.  

How do you find the right term to describe literacy instruction that recognizes the complexity of the task, the importance of all of the component parts, and the role of a trained teacher in facilitating the instructional process?  

Whole language and balanced literacy were never terms or practices intended to exclude the grapho-phonemic system as an important aspect of reading instruction but efforts to acknowledge the synchronicity of all four cuing systems.   A focus on a “Reading War” seems to be a diversions from well established practices based on research that have brought solid results in places like Canada, Finland, Ireland, and Estonia.   Now is the time to step away from the battle for black or white answers, and work collaboratively to find the best answer to meet the needs of the younger learner sitting in front of you. There will never be one guaranteed quick and easy answer but we have learned enough to find a strategy that works for that child. The process may look different. It may take different amounts of time. It may require intervention by teachers trained with specialized skills. Yet, the OECD documents that it is happening all over the world due to the expertise we have developed based on comprehensive educational research practices.

WILD ABOUT Ways to GetINvolved in Outdoor Learning

Wild About Birding at Lost Lagoon

“Engaging with nature is a catalyst for curiosity, joy, caring, and learning.”

Wild About Outdoor Learning Society was registered as a non-profit in British Columbia on August 4th, 2022. It evolved into a provincial non-profit due to the success of the grassroots movement Wild About Vancouver. WAV began hosting the annual Tidal WAV Outdoor Festival in 2015. It garnered the support of educators, outdoor learning groups, and environmental organizations as well as hundreds of participants. This led us to expand our mandate to all of British Columbia with the goal to providing a structure for local communities throughout BC to come together to improve physical and mental health, learning and engagement in environmental activism.

The Tidal WAV event will be happening in Stanley Park again on May 27, 2023.  We hope to attract our usual crowd, represent the diversity of our city in activities, events and participation, and provide training for how to host a Wild About Outdoor Festival in additional B.C. communities throughout the month of June.  We will continue to develop a website and blog posts with ideas for how to participate and come together outdoors.   

Ruby Best and David Cook have provided the first two blog posts sharing how they started groups to facilitate outdoor enjoyment, learning and appreciation in their communities. Ruby’s blog post, Photos, Friends and Nature as a Way of Life, outlines how she started a birding group that has morphed into a Nature Photography Group in the wetlands, parks, and forested areas in the Tri-Cities and the Fraser Valley. David’s blog, A Walk with a Biologist, details how he has shared out his background knowledge as a scientist with eager participants in the forest areas of North Vancouver.

Wild About Society is inviting people to share how they went about bringing together informal local groups interested in being out in nature for a variety of purposes. In the short term, the goal is to include the posts on the Wild About website and on our social media channels. Wild About’s wants to provide support for people wanting to create similar groups in communities, schools, or organizations throughout British Columbia. Long term, perhaps we will compile ideas into a book to continue our work in encouraging participation in outdoor activity and learning for physical and mental health, enjoyment, and environmental conservation in BC. We dream big😊

If you are interested in sharing your ideas of how to start an outdoor learning group or activity, please follow the format below. Check out Ruby and David’s posts to see how they approached the task. All bloggers will be credited as guest contributors. Please send blog posts for review and direct questions to wildaboutsociety@gmail.com.

Wild About Wednesday posts are about focusing on all the ways to #getOUTdoors ad #getINvolved for your health, enjoyment, appreciation and commitment to preserving the environment.  

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