Sunday, April 26, 2009


I love spring as it slowly moves towards summer. I love how the sun actually is beginning to burst through my bedroom window. And I have already had that first cup of coffee in the morning on the deck.
This weekend I finally had a large cedar (the picture shows its trunk) removed in front of my garage. I don't think I ever really liked the tree as it got bigger and bigger and seemed to be looming on to my deck, but I hate cutting down trees and I was worried I would lose privacy. Let's face it I don't always like change very much and worry about whether the change will be positive or not.
In this case, it definitely is. The only problem is now I do have to look more closely at my garage which is definitely falling apart. I got my first quote for rebuilding it a couple of weeks ago which was very scary. I was thinking I may have to teach longer than I planned, take in boarders etc. But this week, slips of paper have been given to me as friends, new and old, find me other contractors to check with.
This year we have changed our model of working with our elementary schools and although we think it's better it hasn't always been easy. For teachers in this project, we ask them to risk, change their practice. Sometimes I feel like a tentative not very skilled arborist. Saturday I watched two men in harnesses climbing up the trees in to limb them. I think I know that feeling of swinging in space, but in our case we are pruning our practice as teachers and in my case, sometimes as my own and others' critical friend.
The tree is gone. People tell me what an improvement! "You will get more sun, the grass will grown better, you can grow different plants."
Change is positive but not always easy but it can be exhilarating. And you need that community to reassure you and give you support...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My favorite picture...

Today a teacher phoned me from a high school in Burnaby. Some of her staff wanted to start a daily reading block at her school and she had been told that we had schools that do this and I might be able to give her some ideas. One of my queries in my time in this position is how can we encourage independent reading most effectively at the high school level? And this is a question that has also been of interest to many of our high school teachers as they fine tune their independent reading programs. I was able to refer her to Janet, teacher-librarian at Churchill, where they have an effective independent reading program for credit. I was able to tell her about Magee where this year their English department began an independent reading program (one suggestion I had for her was to start with those teachers who are interested and then share the results). I was able to tell her strategies used at Byng and Thompson and at elementary school to make independent reading more meaningful. In a conversation later in the day, Germaine from Tupper, and I realized that Tupper's program has been established for at least 28 years!
I have to say last week, when I arrived at Gladstone to attend a poetry reading it was such a wonderful feeling walking through a group of students reading happily with their teacher on the steps of the school.
The poetry reading was also wonderful and also neat in that the students read in English and French and other languages as well. It was a multilingual experience complete with refreshments.
Later that afternoon I went to Carlteton Elementary where they were having a Writers' Festival, celebrating and sharing the writing of all their students. It began with their teacher-librarian reading a book new to me, The Plot Chickens, which was just the perfect. The day before I sadly missed an event that I have attended for several years, a Historica fair, at McBride Elementary. Students do secondary and primary research and then present projects they have done on local history of their choice. What a way to encourage primary and secondary research, writing, reading and oral language skills!
Today I was invited to let my secondary literacy contacts know about an opportunity to bring Vancouver International Writers' Festival authors to inner city classrooms. Within hours Ilona was telling me that her authors had been placed.
Thanks to all our teachers who care and take up the opportunities to give our students voice, mingle with professional writers, and use literacy in all its dimensions.

Happy Earth Day!

And it looks like a nice one out there! My blogging is behind! I will blame it on the International Reading Association leadership workshop I attended Saturday. But I felt compelled to write on Earth Day and as we know it is poetry month so I do have a poem for you! My Green Grandfather by Janet Wong. And do I have a connection! My father was the king of recycling. Nothing went to waste. He always composted. He didn't like big motor boats. I was thinking that if he was alive he would be strangely "in" now. It looks like a beautiful day so enjoy! The daffodils are from my garden!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

April is Poetry Month

April is poetry month in Canada and the United States. Thanks to my friends (who I virtually meet) at Choice Literacy I discovered a great blog,GottaBook, where you can download a poem as yet unpublished from some of my favorite children's poets. Today's focus was on Vancouver's own Avis Harley who has a new book coming out entitled African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways with photographs by Deborah Noyes. Avis' books are great for having fun with poetry and exposing kids to different forms of poetry.
I was also taken to a favorite site of mine, that of the Academy of American Poets. There are fabulous resources for educators on this site. April 30 is Poem in Your Pocket Day which I think is a wonderful idea. What poem would you like to carry in your pocket?
Now how many of you have enjoyed playing with those magnetic words. Well here is such a fun website for kids where they can use words to make their own poems virtually.
And now for a bit more Canadian content, just go to The League of Canadian Poets website which has all sorts of information and resources.
And speaking of Canadian poetry, I am making Lisa Pedrini choose which lucky teacher is winning thirty copies of Stick Boy by Shane Koyczan

Friday, April 10, 2009


Well I am avoiding organizing my income tax etc. so that I thought I might tackle my blog. I just finished making Nanaimo Bar Easter eggs. This is my annual Easter tradition. When I was a child I once had this delicious square and it was years before I was able to taste one again and discovered that it was a Nanaimo Bar. My second trip out west friends and I went to Nanaimo but only found the bars that had separate entrances for ladies. Moving here, I discovered Susan Mendelson's recipe and have been using it ever since and somewhere along the way I bought her cookbook for kids and learned to make the infamous eggs. It's not hard but requires patiences and time as you do it in stages. But isn't that the way with many worthwhile projects?
Let's see I am going to focus on high school today. To get myself in the mode for the high school literacy meeting this week I started reading Readicide by Kelly Gallagher. I became a fan of Kelly Gallagher's several years ago but I finally went to a session with him at NCTE this year and was very impressed. Initally this book may seem a bit American as he talks about the effects of high stakes testing, but I still think the book is worth reading for Canadian teachers. I go into lots of elementary classes where students are reading happily and of course, as many have noted, this happens often less and less as you go up in grade level. Kelly defines Readicide as "the systematic killing of the love of reading,often exacerbated by the inane, mind numbing practices found in schools".
You may find this extreme but it proves interesting reading. He also gives some great ideas for improving the situation. One solution is giving his students access to articles on contemporary issues. On his website he gives some examples of this. And I think you can still read the book online if you so desire!
It was a fun meeting with speakers Brooke and Greg from Rockridge Secondary in West Van who demonstrated clearly formative assessment as used in socials, English, and science classrooms with no marks until the end of term. People at the meeting were fascinated and had many questions and wanted to find out more.
Last year we decided that it might be better having high school meetings separate from our elementary later literacy project school meetings. Then we decided to invite representatives from all our high schools to attend. At first it seemed a bit difficult to get people there but 14 of our 17 schools now are always there and this session certainly proved overwhelmingly popular. We have received very positive feedback from all our meetings. I hope that they can continue next year.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Teacher Librarians

I promised our teacher librarian consultant I would write about an incident in my blog. The other day I was in a school for a visit and decided to do an impromptu lesson on the Three R's (Read to self, read to another, and writing) with a grade six/seven class. Most of the class didn't happen to have a library book so I ran to the library and asked if there was any way the class could get books. The library already had a class there on a book exchange but the gracious Pam Moulton of Waverley said they could come in. I was amazed that while she was checking out the other class books, she was helping the new class make book selections. She knew each student's reading level and preferences! I have and always will be a fan of our stellar teacher-librarians like Pam. And guess who else likes libraries and of course, librarians (note this column's picture)? This comes from the teacherninjas blog which is one all librarians will enjoy. And I also have a song to go out to all you teacher-librarians (and any public librarians who come across this blog).
And speaking of libraries, just a reminder that there will be the LOMCIRA AGM where we are looking at the work of Donald Leu over a glass of wine on April 23 at the new green Charles Dickens School where Cheri, their gracious teacher librarian is lending us her library. For details just visit my other blog.

And yes it's almost Easter...

Someone asked me how I managed to have time to do this blog. To be honest, I don't but as I said I try to make it my Saturday morning habit. Now you should see all the undone items on my to do list! Choice Literacy's newsletter this week is on list making.
A week in review-Cherry Blossom Festival event at Van Deusen last weekend but no cherry blossoms. But now I see them starting to bloom so hopefully the warmer weekend weather will help. I bought myself a book on all the different type of cherry blossom trees in Vancouver and where to find some of them. My Washington D.C. correspondent informed me they were at their height last weekend there. In case you haven't noticed this former Quebecer loves living in a place where cherry trees readily grow and blossom.
Time always seems to start speeding away after March break, doesn't it. One highlight for me this week were having the opportunity to spend a morning in a class at UBC, having my mind stretched debriefing an article on analyzing beginning teachers' discourse on teaching students with English as an additional language and tackling a case study about a staff who feels they have had a district initiative thrust on them by their new principal and teasing out the issue, factors, and a course of action.
Another highlight was being invited to a six traits write study group and watching its enthusiastic members work out how to create shared six traits picture book bins.
Working with children and their teachers is always a highlight and I saw one class of really enthusiastic writers in Sousana Demeris' grade three class at Moberly. I also loved the excitement in Elena Bodnaruk's class at Waverley when I got to give poems away from Rebecca Kaidotlich's book Lemonade Days and Other Summer Poems. I think at this time of year we all dream of summer a bit.
Last night I went to hear Anne Michaels author of Fugitive Pieces read from her new book, The Winter Vault. It's always interesting to see the author behind the book. I haven't read her new book yet but it's on my list.
Literacy Day 2010! Jodi and Barb have been hard at work with plans for this. The event will be February 1st at the Italian Cultural Centre (note this is not the day that high schools have taken for their district day). Speakers will be Debbie Miller(Teaching with Intention) and Michelle Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace (Comprehension Shouldn't be Silent). More details will be coming your way very soon.
And now it's time to enjoy hopefully spring weather...