Saturday, May 31, 2008

Celebrating literacy and planning for the future

Busy week-well try busy day. Tuesday we had our later literacy coordinators' meeting, then there was the high school literacy coordinators' meeting, and after school our action research school celebration. That was a tiring but exhilarating day!
Profesional development activities may not be number one on your list these busy days but you may want to check out opportunities coming up. June 20, Faye Brownlie will be doing a session for high school English and Social Studies teachers at Thompson High School on Literature Circles and Oral Language. For newer teachers or teachers wanting the Readers' Digest condensed version of Intermediate Language Arts, I am doing a summer institute in late August. Jodi and Carol have series of workshops planned for the fall, Literacy 102, as well as a book club on two of our favorite new books. If you enjoyed Paul Kropp and Lori Rogg Jamieson at our February Literacy Day, or if you missed them, they will be the speakers at LOMCIRA's fall conference on October 24. This time they will be looking at reading! To register or get more information on all these events just follow this link to the VSB's professional development site

Monday, May 26, 2008

Life as a spelling judge and class blogs

Behind again... Last weekend I went to visit a friend, a former teacher-librarian, Ruby, at Saratoga Beach between Courtenay and Campbell River. This was the amazing view we saw from her deck that Friday night. For me somehow, early Saturday morning seems my best blogging time and due to the joys of having wireless internet and a laptop computer this works well. Of course, it didn't work as well last weekend without wireless internet and in a house with amazing views, their computer is located without a view so no blogging for me last weekend!
A couple of things do stand out from that long ago week! I spent a day manning a stop watch and saying correct or incorrect to local contestants in an upcoming CBC show entitled Super Spellers. I don't think I want to make a career of being a spelling judge but a couple of things struck me as I was there. One how vocabulary does influence spelling if words are unfamiliar. The few third or fourth graders just didn't have the vocabulary the sixth graders did. Secondly, isn't it interesting that spelling has somehow almost become "cool"! I always found that anytime I could make learning a game the engagement of my students definitely increased dramatically. What are the most common spelling words your students need to know? Here you go!
Our teacher-librarian consultant, Moira, taught me to blog and I taught my friend, Joanne, how to blog and now she and her class are having a wonderful time with this. I think it's great because it really teaches students to use the internet responsibly and gives them opportunities for instant feedback. If you want to know more about this just let me know! Hit the comment button below!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reel Reading and Writing in the World...

Sometimes I wonder why I am tired at the end of the week and then as I look back I think it can be the sheer breadth of what happens. A personal thrill was having the opportunity to see Erin Gruwell, famous for Freedom Writers which I have blogged about previously. I found myself for the second time in a week at The River Rock Casino Hotel where I had never previously been. I think I particularly enjoyed seeing a news clip of the real Freedom Writers, who were the basis of the movie which everyone needs to see. Erin Gruwell proved to be a pretty special person as she spent quality time with a group of Champlain Heights students who had fundraised their way to the event. I will have more about this in another blog!
Speaking of writers, I met some very talented writers at Carleton at their Writers' Festival this week. All their intermediate students read to each other in small groups and had a big celebration of a year of writing.
I also found out about a project new to me, Room to Read, a non-profit organization begun by a Microsoft executive who went on a vacation to Nepal but found a worthy cause. I am looking forward to working with the Vancouver chapter on projects in the future. Another fun event was getting an opportunity to listen to the creators of Real 4. On this website you can see a schedule of upcoming documentaries on CTV (also being broadcast on National Geographic station worldwide. Our own Angela Brown had been telling me about Sol Guy, British Columbian hip hop artist, recording studio executive in New York City, who took a change in direction after visiting Sierre Leone, and now is dedicated to creating social change through action, art, and culture. I was impressed.
Finally, spent a couple of good sessions with National Geographic , Hampton-Brown trainer, Susan Maguire this week, one of using their materials to differentiate instruction, and another on the Edge reading program for high school students. I think for many of us National Geographic magazines were our first window to how amazing and diverse the world is. There seems to be a theme of the world and reading in this blog. And now I am going to enjoy the sunshine on this long weekend!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

For those of you who didn't go to Atlanta...

So behind... I realized I never finished last week's entry. Here it is one week later.
Saturday morning often seems to be my blogging time! Notice how new words keep entering our vocabularies. What a week! Two retirements! Two dedicated, and I mean dedicated teachers, Sharon Bushell from Quilchena and Winola Chu from Moberly were honoured. When I talk to retireees they always note they don't miss report card writing but they do miss the comaradarie of the staffroom, that place you can pause to catch your breath in the dizzy world of teaching. Staffs often become another family to us. I know when I enter the Moberly staffroom it almost seems as if I have never left. I still value my friendships from John Grant High School (which no longer even exists) from my Montreal days.

Okay back to business. It was a dizzying week from finding better answers with Aaron's grade three/four class at Cavell to charting our way through the new Social Studies curriculum at Tecumseh to getting to use high powered microscopes to look at all sorts of organ cells and then watching grade six and seven students from McBride Elementary create poetry at UBC. The latter is a pilot project which hopefully will be expanded in the fall. Check out this link to the Science Creative Literacy Symposium. Several of my colleagues were away at the Annual Convention of the International Reading Association in Atlanta. Now for those of us who missed it you can access handouts etc. on the website. Also find out about my latest read, R5 in Your Classroom. Now I think I should move on to this week.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Aunt Elsie...

Well I haven't blogged for awhile. My excuse is that I ended up going to Quebec to go to my aunt's funeral and was a "victim" of dial up internet and routers that weren't working while I was away plus spending time with family and friends. First, let me take a moment to talk about my aunt. My aunt was the first one in either of my parents' families to go to university and get a degree and as was typical of women of that era, she became a teacher. My grandmother had wanted to be a teacher and due to family circumstances was unable to, but she made sure all her daughters had an education, the first three daughters became nurses, and finally my aunt became the teacher she had herself, wanted to be. My father, the only son, was a mechanic.

My aunt taught high school and then married and had six children. When my oldest cousin was 12 she went back to teaching to support the family. For the next twenty years she taught elementary school in Arvida, and Richmond, Quebec. She said that to her teaching wasn't work, having six children and a farm was work! My aunt loved teaching. I have had several people who worked with her tell me that she was the best teacher. One of my favorite stories was a new principal complained to her that her bulletin boards were messy and she told him,"They're not my bulletin boards, they are the children's." Later he apologized for this comment when he saw what she accomplished with her students. I remember once going to pick her up when she had had parent interviews, watching parents leave looking so happy because she was a teacher who truly knew and valued and expected the best from her students.

She had 15 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Summers, there were always grandchildren visiting and they were given a schedule. They read with her, practiced the piano, worked in the garden, helped prepare meals etc. She never really retired from teaching. And books. My aunt had more books than you can imagine. She loved books. Just before I left I head the author of the latest book on Emily Carr speak. One of her favorite trips was when she and I visited Haidi Gwaii. I thought how she would have enjoyed another book about her favorite artist.

As she lay dying my cousin, Bruce read her her first favorite book, Heidi, to her, when she was no longer able to read. She also managed to watch most of Sense and Sensibility which I had taped for her recently from PBS. Much credit to my cousins who enabled her to live to the very end of her life in her own beloved home. My aunt had an incredible zest for and appreciation of life. I will miss her.