Secondary Literacy Challenge

A few of my notes from part one of a two part series with Faye Brownlie.

The results of over 400 case studies looking supporting struggling young readers (primary aged) found that the following four things made the biggest impact:

  1. Focusing on meaning & purpose rather than teaching isolated reading skills.  Doing “reading makes sense” activities where the focus is on making sense of text.
  2. Having choice in what they read and how they share their understanding.
  3. Time for one-on-one coaching with a peer or adult.  Time to read and talk about what you are reading with someone daily.
  4. Having someone develop a strong relationship with the student.

Continue reading

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Using Evidence to Make Informed Decisions

An assessment functions formatively to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have made in the absence of that evidence.

In Chapter 2 of Embedded Formative Assessment Dylan Wiliam briefly “reviews the research on teacher professional development and shows that while there are many possible ways in which we could seek to develop the practice of serving teachers, attention to minute-by-minute and day-to-day formative assessment is likely to have the biggest impact on student outcomes.”

Wiliam explores the origin of the term “formative assessment” and answers the question “what, exactly, is formative assessment?” He identifies key strategies of formative assessment, each of which is addressed in subsequent chapters, and makes the case that “Assessment occupies such a central position in good teaching because we cannot predict what students will learn, no matter how we design our teaching.”

more from chapter 2

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Dear Guest Teacher

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Why I became a teacher.

A Fine Balance

I meet my best friend in Grade 3.
Her name was Patty; she had a gerbil and lived in a BIG house.
I had my first sleep over at her house. We whispered stories all night. We wrote notes all day in class.
We finished elementary school and moved on to high school together.

High school was a Catholic all-girls school: uniforms, nuns, and the whole deal. We had chapel on Tuesday mornings and “study hall” on Wednesday. Mother Johnson gave us the ins and outs of setting a table, writing thank you notes and how to make conversation in any situation.
We led sheltered lives. OK. Let’s be serious, VERY sheltered lives. We went to church, confession, study hall, and spent our days with nuns.
In grade 9 some of us starting hanging out with boys from the public school: “bad boys.” How cliché. I know. It was our…

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Exit Slips as Practice

Great example of how a small change in practice can have a significant impact (positive) for students and for the teacher.

Zero-Knowledge Proofs

There are several ways to use exit slips as formative assessment tools. One way is to simply have the students complete 2 or 3 questions based on the lesson that was done in class. I use exit slips in this manner to avoid giving homework. I believe that some practice in math class is necessary. There are certain things I need my students to be able to do, and some students need to practice these things. I do not, however, believe that students should be practicing these things at home. Home is for family, community soccer, dance class, piano lessons, and all the other important things that our schools are eliminating.

I’m going to tell you a secret now. The students who don’t need to practice math will go home and do every single question you assign. It’s a waste of their time. The students who need to practice math…

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Embedded Formative Assessment

A great overview of this very important book. Some of my previous posts draw on my personal readings from it.

It's All About Learning


Recently, I completed reading, Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam.  To say it is an important read would be an understatement. What I think I liked most about the book was that it is grounded in research and a true understanding of what is necessary to improve student achievement.  I think teachers will love that this book is filled with practical suggestions each teacher can make changes to their every day teaching practise to help involve students more in their own learning – helping students learn to think. First of all, I’d like to just point out some of the quotes from the book that struck me. Wiliam talks about how  it is not the curriculum that needs to change (although, in BC, I do like the curriculum changes that are coming – less specific and more open-ended for more exploration of students). Wiliam states,

“Trying to change students’ classroom…

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The Spirit of SBG

Nice list of small manageable changes.


You want switch to standards-based grading, but, for whatever reason, you cannot. Do not worry. All of the strengths of SBG can be done within a traditional grading system:
  1. Shift from tracking by chapter to tracking by concept.
  2. Allow opportunities for students to show growth.
  3. Don’t grade homework and practice.
  4. Provide timely and effective feedback.
  5. Spiral concepts throughout the curriculum and your assessments.
  6. Give shorter, more frequent quizzes.
  7. Assess what you value.
  8. Provide clear goals and expectations for performance.
  9. Encourage risk taking, failure, iteration, and experimentation.
  10. Do what works best for your students and your situation.

A traditional system done in the spirit of SBG  is much, much better than an SBG system done poorly. (Trust me, I’m speaking from experience!)

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Draft Science K-10 Curriculum

logo - bcsctaThe current draft of the new K-10 Science Curriculum for BC is available on the BC Science Teachers Association website.

Comments and feedback are welcome and encouraged.

Background and some context for Transforming BC’s Curriculum.

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Learning Science through Inquiry Workshop

Slides from Learning Science Through Inquiry.pdf
Invitation to Inquiry – Grid Summary.pdf
Process Skill rubric.pdf

Pennies on a Bridge Inquiry Card – used for the DRiVe activity

If you want more then check out what’s on offer this August up at SFU
Summer Workshop: Smarter Science (August 21 & 22)




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Sct 11: End of Unit Forensics “Test”

A guest post from Sarah Bretherton, a VSB science teacher.

The students went to the crime scene in groups and had to stay on the other side of the police tape.

Having already reviewed the story of the crime, the students had to observe the room and decide what evidence they wanted analyzed.  They compiled a list of objects and described what they wanted them tested for.  For example, the glass cup should be checked for fingerprints.

They were given any evidence that they found that went with the Death on Denman case file that was shared last year.

NOTE: The students really enjoyed the crime scene and have suggested some ways that we can make it more interactive next year!

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