The Thrill of Learning – May 2014

I went to an amazing Learning and The Brain Conference in New York:  The Science of Smarter Minds:  Teaching To Think, Create and Innovate for School and Careers.  It was on the same weekend as the IRA 2014 Conference. Neuroscientists came together with educators to discuss implications for classroom instruction in light of the considerable research made possible with the advent of magnet resonance imaging (MRI) and newly emerging understanding of the plasticity of the brain. Christopher Kaufman discussed practical strategies for improving executive function in the classroom.  Art Markman discussed the challenges and tools to creating new and sustainable habits.  James Paul Gee discussed the possibilities for students engaged in digital learning.  Theorists espousing traditional notions of “intelligence” went head to head with scientists and cognitive psychologists considering new (and more progressive) ways of thinking about thinking.  It was all very fascinating and it was in New York.  My first New York experience.  Yet, I flip to the IRA Conference Highlights…

I can’t help but wish that I could have been there too.  I have attended several IRA conferences and I LOVE the comraderie and learning that comes with connecting with people who share the same passion.  There is also something to be said for connecting with favorite authors and presenters.  Presenting at the last conference in New Orleans was some of the best professional development in my career.   In New York, I came across a Junie B. Jones tour bus.  It felt like it should have been in New Orleans along with literacy educators lining up to have pictures taken with it.  I seem to remember lining up at Disneyland at an IRA conference to have my pic taken with Miss Frizzle and The Magic School bus!  Check out the link to the Conference 2014 highlights

If you have stories to share about the conference, please leave a comment.  Otherwise, I hope to see you in St. Louis, Missouri- July 17-20, 2015!20140526-230405-83045116.jpg

Canadian Reception at IRA Conference

Hello Canadian Colleagues

Please find attached the invitation to The Canadian Reception to be held on Sunday, May 11  5:00 – 8:00 pm at La Galerie 5 (second floor), New Orleans Marriott Hotel, 555 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130.  Colleagues attending the 59th Annual Conference of the International Reading Association are welcome to attend.  This Canadian Reception is hosted due to many Canadian provincial reading associations, local reading councils, special interest groups and Canadian publishing companies.  If you are a Canadian in New Orleans for the International Reading Association, I highly recommend you attend.  You are guaranteed to meet nice people 🙂
Look for Mike Bowden, our “official” B.C. representative and Garth Brooks, who is so vital in the work of The Canadian Special Interest Group of the International reading Association.
Have fun, eeehhh and tweet throughout the conference to keep us up to date  #rdgBC
Note :  A brief CNIRAC Meeting will follow after The Canadian Reception.
A Canadian Dinner, for those who wish to attend, is being planned at Olivier’s Creole Restaurant, 204 Decatur Street – just 2 blocks away.  Send Garth Brooks your RSVP so he can make reservations.
Have you noticed these television ads about New Orleans? Discover Your NOLA!
Also do your research on the historical relationship between Canadian Acadians and Louisiana Cajuns. Homework!

Celebrating Literacy Learning in Meaningful Ways

Tecumseh is a large Elementary School with almost 500 students in the South Slope of Vancouver.  Many students speak Chinese and English, but we also have many students who speak Hindi, Punjabi, Thai, Vietnamese and Spanish.   Literacy Learning is a significant part of each day.  Below are a few of the examples of how students are engaging in reading, writing, listening, speaking and representing their learning.  We’d love to read about your ideas too.

  1. Science World Celebration (Student Report by Rihana, Kealani & Isabel)
    On March 1st and 2nd, 17 students had the opportunity to present their Science Projects at Science World, as a part of the Vancouver District Science Celebration, to the general public. The students worked hard throughout the 1-2 months of preparation, and in the end, had the chance to share their knowledge as well as listen to the results of others’ research. That’s not all: As the Celebration started, students were assigned a specific block rotation during which we would either get to present or enjoy a workshop. The workshop was led by a ‘magician’- that is to say, a magician who used science to create magic. We got a sneak peek of the new outdoor exhibits; including the new chicken coop, which was not yet open to the public. Some students got to take home a sample of fertilizer and a seed of their choice, and all students were given a celebratory ribbon and pencil.
    Overall, this unique opportunity was one worth taking advantage of. It was a guaranteed learning experience, and a fun one at that. It was truly exciting and it inspired us to expand our comprehension of the different topics we can cover all under this one subject of Science.

*The wind is rising* *We must try to live* -Miyazaki, The Wind Rises

2. Multi-age (MACC) Cluster Class Celebration

Multi-age Cluster classes across the district filled the Tecumseh gym to present projects based on their “passions”. The research and display boards reflected the high quality of work we have come to expect at these events. What was truly amazing, was the articulate way in which students presented the information and engaged in conversation about their area of interest. They gave me lots to consider. Tecumseh students also benefitted from excellent role models that helped them to prepare their for their own projects for presentation at The Tecumseh Celebration of learning.

3. Tecumseh Celebration of Learning

Over 175 students, chose interests in Social Studies and Science to research and present at the Annual Tecumseh Celebration of Learning. Under the amazing organization of Mrs. Charan Sandhu, teachers and intermediate students set up their displays and presented fine tuned speecehes to staff, peers, primary students and family members at day and evening events in mid April. One group of teachers focused their inquiry for professional development on giving students choice when determining topics for project based learning. They were thrilled with the high level of commitment displayed by their students. Students emerged more confident for working hard to master and present their topic. Family members beamed with pride as their children blew them away with the high quality of their work.

4. Celebration of Music, Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This Wednesday, April 30th, Mr. Larson is bringing staff and students together to showcase the musical talents of our Tecumseh students. Students will also be practicing singing I.S.S. : Is Somebody Singing in preparation for Music Monday. This will be the day that our singing astronaut, Chris Hadfield, and Maestro Bramwell Tovey, of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra fame, will be leading students across Canada in the singing of ISS.

There will be two performances on Wednesday. We are working on teaching students good audience behavior for formal music events such as the VSO. If you are going to attend, please arrive at the beginning of the assembly and stay until the end. Please save conversations until after the performance. Thanks so much for helping us to teach students the expectations for this type of performance.

First Performance (11:00 – 12:00 pm)

Second Performance (1:15 – 2:15 pm)

5.    Music Monday (Monday, May 5, 2014).  Tecumseh students will be participating in two ways. Some students will be participating from Tecumseh along with their teachers. Mr. Larson, Ms. Froese and a Ukulele group will be travelling down to Science World. They have been invited for the live taping of the event and participation in the documentary presentation about the importance of music education in British Columbia. Both Mr. Larson and a few students will be interviewed and possibly spotlighted in the documentary.


Blogging for Thinking…The next step

Virginia and I are continuing our inquiry project with our students, two groups of students in district gifted programs.  This is the Kidpost entry given to our students to allow us to be very specific about the learning intentions of our blogging project.

Blogging for Thinking

Technology is a tool just like a pencil or pen. We are using blogging as tool for two reasons. Kidblog allows your teacher to adjust the security settings so only your classmates, parents and teachers can read and respond to your blog. It allows you to creatively personalize your space and learn about blogging before you start posting in a public space. Blogging is also one way to develop and extend your thinking through writing by reflecting on your learning in and out of the classroom. Because you are not able to use your facial expressions or other body language to communicate, your words must clearly express your ideas. You also have the task of using your creativity and language to grab the interest of your audience.

Throughout your learning, we are using the following questions from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser (Spirals of Learning 2013) to keep us moving forward.

  1. What am I learning?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. Where am I going next with my learning?

We will be using the following a rubric based on the article “Responding to the imperatives of learning in the 21st Century” (The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2011) to evaluate your progress.

1. Developing Self-regulated learning:  The goal is for you to be able to say: “I am in charge of my learning and motivated to carry out my work in personally responsible, self-reflective ways and to exercise reasoned judgment to meet my goals”.

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
I depend on others for almost alldecisions about what,

how and when I learn; I follow the teacher’s directions but I don’t add my own thoughts, ideas or interpretations.


I demonstrate personalresponsibility to take charge of what, how and when I learn but I need the teacher to provide specific options to choose from. I exercise thoughtfullyinformed judgments in the pursuit of agreed-upon targets and self assess my work according to teacher provided rubrics.. I put a lot of thought and planning into setting goals and a plan to reach them.   I self evaluate how my learning is going and where I want to go next.


2. Developing my Thinking Skills: The goal is to develop your critical thinking skills. The word “critical” does not mean finding fault in this case. It means that you are not just “parroting back” information, but demonstrating proficiency by making connections, analyzing evidence, and making judgments.

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
I report back what I heard, did, or read during class or out of school learning experiences. I report back what I heard, did, or read. I make connections between my learning experiences at school or home. I consistently describe my learning and express why my learning matters. I understand where I am going next with my learning and come up with an efficient and effective plan of action. I understand the value of my learning and where I want to go next with my learning.   My plan, conclusions & opinions are based on careful analysis of my experiences and a variety of evidence.





59th Annual IRA Conference in New Orleans

Reading…The Teachable Moment

I can’t recommend attending this conference enough.  It is always such a rewarding experience.  Participants are friendly and eager to discuss sessions and what’s happening in their classrooms.  New Orleans is an amazing host. They certainly know how to throw a party and celebrate.   

Conference –  May 10-12, 2014

Institute Day – May 9th

Early Registration ends April 14, 2014  

Go to to register

LOMCIRA – The Chance for a Fresh Approach

LOMCIRA has always been synonymous with “committed literacy educators”.  Over the years, many people have come together to talk books (for old and young), kids and classroom environments.  Many of you may have attended meetings at Schou in Burnaby, sharing sessions at VSB schools or conferences in hotels.  This past year, LOMCIRA has gone into dormancy.  Although there are still a wealth of committed literacy educators in the Lower Mainland, a group of people have not stepped into the existing International Reading Association group structure.

A unique opportunity exists for a group of like-minded individuals to step forward and create a new literacy group that meshes with their needs and goals.  In the past, LOMCIRA took on large projects and invited researchers and published authors to stimulate discussion about applications of research into the classroom.  A new group may decide to meet periodically throughout the year to discuss the latest ReadWriteThink ideas or invite an author to talk about their writing process.

BC Literacy Council members could also be invited to support the group and share their wealth of knowledge.  In my capacity as provincial coordinator, I’d be more than happy to work with International Reading Association members to familiarize them with the opportunities in the IRA or ways to organize sharing sessions or meetings.  Certainly all of us can tell you about the amazing opportunity of going the IRA Annual General Meetings like the one coming up in New Orleans.  I presented with The Canadian contingent at an AGM in New Orleans.  The Jazz Festival, the food, especially the beignes were as amazing as participating in symposiums and meetings with the people have written the books we love to discuss.

Please let me know if you would be willing to work with educators in the Lower Mainland in meeting the goals of bringing current research and quality literature into our classrooms.

“Blogging” For Thinking

I have the great pleasure of working with Virginia Bowden at Tecumseh this year.  Through her work with students participating in The District Gifted/Enrichment Seminars and my role as Computer prep teacher with the District MACC students, we have arrived at convergent inquiry interests.  Thanks to the mentoring of Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser – through both Vancouver sessions and their book, Spirals of Inquiry, we are making our way along the path toward framing our inquiry question.  When we first sat down to scan what was going on for our kids and the experiences we were providing, we came up with some similar experiences and perceptions.

Both of us were exploring how technology could be used to not just replicate tasks done offline but help students to apply their background knowledge, make connections and actually deepen student thinking and reflection.  Yes, and spark their interests, passions, and develop writing skills!  Providing the assignment or conveying information through interest focused blogs (ie.  became very teacher focused and invited conversational (chat-like) responses and comments not doing much more than scratching the surface.  Our hunch was that blogging could be a way to allow students to go deeper by pushing their thinking – either in reflective responses or the ability to engage their audience in their writing.  The quest is to discover the route.

I’m wondering about how student choice over the theme of their blog will impact the investment in creating thoughtful blog posts?  Virginia is thinking a lot about how much class time is required for students to be able to reflect on their day in a way that pushes them to use their higher order thinking skills?  Both of us wonder how thoughtful comments from peers can extend thinking?

In order to teach students about blogging in a somewhat protected environment, Virginia started using Kidblog.  We both now have our groups set up in classes so students can write their own blog posts and invited comments from classmates without it having to be moderated by the teacher or necessitate use of pseudonyms.  We’re also exploring the privileges that are extended to parents and guests.  Virginia is focusing on daily reflections of learning throughout the day.  I am focusing on developing student voice and ability to engage their target audience into blogs that reflect their own interests.  We’re both still considering where we are going with our learning and what our students need from us to use technology to extend their thinking in thoughtful ways..




Rotary Works With IRA

IRA and Rotary have joined together since 2002 to promote literacy and we are mutually encouraging each other to work on literacy issues close to home and internationally—whatever works for the local members.  This year, the Pearson Foundation has funded two $2500 literacy awards towards literacy work that an IRA council or affiliate undertakes jointly with a Rotary club in 2014.  Rotarians are eager to find ways to work with IRA on literacy projects. Rotary is a wonderful organization and one of their goals is to help improve global literacy.  One more reason to work together with other International Reading Association members.

More from the SCLC – South Central Literacy Council

Mike Bowden will be going to the IRA AGM in New Orleans.  He will be presenting with two other colleagues on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Special Interest Group.  They will be presenting a vocabulary research project they are doing within the Kamloops District in conjunction with Thompson Rivers University and Dr. Ramirez.  Look for him and his team if you are heading down to New Orleans for the IRA Conference this May.

from the IRA…

Since 1956, IRA has been a nonprofit, global network of individuals and institutions committed to worldwide literacy. More than 53,000 members strong, the Association supports literacy professionals through a wide range of resources, advocacy efforts, volunteerism, and professional development activities. Our members promote high levels of literacy for all by:
Improving the quality of reading instruction
Disseminating research and information about reading
Encouraging the lifetime reading habit

“Celebrating teachers and honoring effective literacy teaching in a changing world.”
Mission Statement

The mission of the International Reading Association is to promote reading by continuously advancing the quality of literacy instruction and research worldwide.

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