Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Curriculum that contributes to decolonization and meaningful reconciliation

Hello Dear Reader,
I am keen to share some of the writing I have been working on.  I am taking an on-line course called Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education.  I am loving every minute of this experience!  Even though on-line learning sounds as if it is a lonely and quiet interaction, I have found it to be the opposite.  My study buddy, Melanie, is always eager to debate, reflect and explore difficult topics with me.  I have also had some meaningful and thoughtful communication with other on-line participants and the course designers.  But I am getting off topic.  I am asking you to embrace the idea that "Growing up to Read" is all about life-long learning.  My belief that education and reading and writing are the tools that we  must use to engage in meaningful reconciliation and decolonization experiences.  I have put together a lesson sequence using an Indigenous Framework called "Full Circle". This framework is so well put together it has inspired me to rethink how I present my lessons to intermediate and secondary students.    I would love to hear from you and welcome positive or negative feedback on the content and structure of my lesson planning.
It is a long and windy bit of work so email me at dklockars@shaw.ca if you won't a copy.
In friendship,
P.S. to those  who work with the shorter friends, I am deep in thought about how play serves literacy...in other words the roots of reading involves play...till later.


Winter Early Literacy Newsletter

      Hello Readers, Hope you have a Happy Holiday!

Early Learning-Literacy Newsletter

 December 2014

Our Early Learning and Literacy Programs recognize the importance of play for children’s development. We support and enhance play to teach literacy skills.  For example, after the children have heard a story, we love to weave in activities that promote dramatic play and opportunities to re-tell the story

The “three stories a day“  that we choose as read-aloud act as a spring-board for ideas that encourage all ages  to explore the concepts  found in the story and act out a new  story in their own creative way.   We provide simple props that the kids turn into all sorts of things.  For example: when we read the Journey of the Dog Salmon by Nuchaanulth  Elder, Bruce Martin, all that was needed was a collection of old scarves.  The children  used the pink and red scarves to signal that they were now salmon “running up the river”.  All the adults joined in the Sockeye Salmon run and acted very tired by the time they arrived at their destination.  Because we had lots of opportunities to bring in the new vocabulary words “journey”, and “life cycle”, the children mastered the concepts we wanted to teach in a playful and joyful way.


Let’s Have Fun and “Look Out for Letters”       

We focused on recognizing the letter “s” and practiced making the “ss” sound  when the children covered Sammy Snake’s  letter with stones and made a hissing sound when they placed each rock on the letter template.
The Literacy Leaders, teachers and all the talented caregivers at NAC and Boy’s and Girl’s Club know that young children do not learn about the world by themselves.  All learning is social.  Stories help children think about and practice social skills such as problem solving and thinking about the needs and feelings of others.  Many of our stories involve solving problems.  Raven had to come up with plan to save the sun in Elder Ellen White’s story “Seagull Steals the Sun”.

Our Favourite Tips for Growing Up To Read

1.    Read to your child from the very start.  Even babies love books!
2.    Read every day.  Make a special time for books.
3.    Make a fun or cozy place to read or look at books.  Make a special place to display favourite books so they can be found easily.
4.    Bring some books with you when you go out. Book time can happen anywhere anytime! Books are great for the car.
5.    Be a family of readers.  Let your child see you reading books, magazines, recipes and more. Share culturally important stories.
6.    Read where you are. Look our for letters.  Point out signs, read street signs, cereal boxes, exit signs and other kinds of texts. Reading happens everywhere!
7.    Remind family and friends that books make wonderful presents.
8.    Make the reading time fun and special.  Take time to talk about the pictures and make connections between the book and recent events in your child’s life.
9.    Re-read favourite stories.  Let your child say the familiar lines...enjoy being dramatic! Make a big deal about the “Most Important Word”...your child’s name!


Every Child Needs a Literacy Blanket

Early literacy events should be joyful, cozy, and result in a child feeling special.  Literacy learning starts long before educators greet your child at the day care, pre-school or kindergarten door. It begins when your child is comfortably nestled in the in the crook of your arm, while sharing a book.  This is when literacy learning begins.  The experience feels cozy and comfortable, just like a favourite blanket.

Coach Auntie,  Coach Daddy,   Coach Grandma ,  Coach Teacher,   Coach Day Care Teachers,  Coach Community Reader Volunteers, Coach Mummy, Coach Uncle, Coach Grandpa, Coach Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre Administration Staff,   Coach Practicum Students
The Coast Salish  are famous for their weaving skills .  A Salish blanket is strong, unique and functional.  I would like to invite you to join us in creating  a “Literacy Blanket” for your child.  This Literacy Blanket will offer life-long use and function through all future learning paths. Special people in a child’s life: caring parents, grandparents, auntie, uncle, or loving friend of the family, can participate in  the process of weaving a precious “Literacy Blanket” for the special child in their lives.  Community members can also contribute to this project. 

Support our goal of creating a Literacy Blanket for every  child. Look for more details on how to get involved in January 2015.


We will be looking for Literacy Coaches to support and wrap every child in a warm cozy and fun "Literacy Blanket".


In friendship,

Donna Klockars

aka "The Literacy Lady"




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Literature Review - Literacy Learning in the Early Years

Dear Reader,

I am obsessed by a burning question: How do the very young, nail down all the important bits needed to understand how print works and how do their unique understandings contribute to becoming a strong life long reader?

Most of my friends and family think this is not the most important question in the world and that I should “get a life”... (Oldest adult daughter’s comment).  I could not disagree more and as to the suggestion that I need to spice up my humdrum life, I most adamantly protest!  This question IS the “spice of life”.  It “toe dips” into the really big questions... how do children learn, how do they think, communicate, empathize, infer, OMG do not get me going! It is SUCH a BIG QUESTION!

Anyway, I decided to review the literature and determine if everything that I have collected and confidently deposited into in my “early learner’s schema” is accurate and up to date.  I am looking for evidence that the actual understanding of print concepts is underdeveloped. I am a consummate kid watcher...specifically grandkid watching of late, and what I learn from watching and listening to the very young has convinced me that there are great big holes in the research. However, before I pontificate and spill the beans on this topic, I thought you might like to read what I found and ask you what you think about this topic. 
In friendship, 
Donna Klockars
P.S. I wanted to go back to the early eighties and revisit my favourite folks like Gordon Wells, Holdaway  and Marie Clay, but one must be totally current if you are to enter into the conversation about concepts about print with those in the academic community.   I tried to stick with the last ten years and tease out the works that I thought were the most promising for the purpose of guiding and directing me in my life long inquiry.)

Donna Klockar’s Review of the Literature

The purpose for this research project is to identify and explore emergent literacy foundation skills necessary for success in learning to read. This project will focus on very young learners, their families and caregivers.  Thoughtful early literacy initiatives must be guided by proven research -based assessment strategies, joyful explicit literacy learning experiences that address all foundational early literacy skills.  The proposed literacy research project will also reflect the established importance of  culturally appropriate practices. Early literacy learning experiences and the assessment of early literacy foundation skills will be mindful of the recommendations provided by recent British Columbia projects and studies in early literacy learning curriculum, the role of assessment and how culturally appropriate practices impact later academic achievement.

Importance of Early Years intervention
Decades of research confirms the importance of the early years, commonly defined as the period from conception to six years of age, in laying the foundation for an individual’s growth and development over the course of their lifetime. We know that children who get off to a good start rarely struggle, while those who fall behind tend to stay behind throughout their school years (1998 Learning to Read and Write: developmentally appropriate practices for young children Young Children 53:30-46). 
British Columbia recognizes that families provide the primary and most important environments to support optimal development of young children, The pre-schools, daycare settings, neighbourhoods and communities in which children are raised also strongly influence their developmental outcomes (British Columbia’s Early Years Annual Report-2011-2012). Despite many early years programs and research studies, children in B.C.  continue to reach formal schooling without the foundation skills needed to succeed. One-quarter of Canada’s children between birth and age 6 are experiencing some learning or behavioural difficulty.  These problems in the early years have been shown to correlate with later difficulties in school performance, social adjustment and health (McCain et al, 2007). 
Achieving educational excellence for all requires an understanding of why these disparities continue to exist.  Poverty, race, and ethnicity, are of some of the identified factors that place students at risk for academic failure and can predict likelihood of low literacy skills and longer-term school achievement (McCain, et al., 2011 Burns, M Griffin, P., & Snow, 1998).  The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia has conducted extensive early childhood development research in BC for over a decade to understand more fully how environments and experiences in the early years,  impact later success in school and life.  A review of current research indicates that quality early childhood environments are believed to be a strong protective factor against poor socio-economic effects (Nguyen, 2011, (Harre & Anderson, 2010).  

Although not as current, an impressive long-term study conducted in the U.S., provided an evaluation of a wide array of well coordinated educational, medical, kindergarten transition programs and family outreach services.  
Follow up studies showed that when the children reached ages 8, 12, and 14; they still outperformed the control group on achievement tests.  Significantly, fewer children had been held back or placed in special education (1994 Campbell, F.A., and C.T. Ramey).  Quality early year’s programs can make a difference. Not surprisingly, the children’s development was enhanced by quality early learning experiences.  
The National Early Learning Panel Report: Developing Early Literacy, looked at studies of early literacy and found that there are many things that parents and preschools can do to improve the literacy development of their young children and that different approaches influence the development of a different pattern of essential skills. (2002).  
The rationale for public investment in vulnerable young children is founded on the direct benefits of investments on children and their parents as well as the broader benefits to communities, society and the economy. (Early Years Annual Report, 2011-2012). Other researchers have concluded that early childhood programs are an excellent economically prudent investment...for every dollar invested in early childhood programs there is a minimum return to society of three dollars ( Jacques Van der Gaag, Centre for Universal Education). Savings are “most pronounced for disadvantaged children.” (As quoted in McCain et al., 2007, p. 137, Masi, 2012). 
Based on the tremendous influence of early childhood on later reading and academic success, careful examination of successful early year’s programs is needed if we are to fully understand the key elements necessary to make a significant impact on the future academic success for the vulnerable child. Because the proposed research project will focus on Aboriginal families and their very young children, particular attention has been paid to the evaluation of, and recommendations for, early learning experiences for indigenous children in British Columbia. 
The recent publication “Transition into Kindergarten: A Community Approach to Integrating a Child’s Fragmented World” (Beaton, W. & McDonell, L., 2013),  provide extensive information on building positive relationships with Aboriginal parents or alternative caregivers and promoting positive activities that focus on healthy, holistic child development.

Key aspects of language and literacy learning
Early research dating back to the 1930s suggested there was little use in teaching a child to read until they had mastered specific skills such as fine motor control, understanding of left and right.  
Today, researchers know more.  Kindergarten is the time when, for most students, formal reading instruction begins.  Learning to read, however, starts at home and in pre-school and day care settings before children ever enter school.  A wide range of experiences with printed and spoken language, from infancy through early childhood, strongly influences a child’s future success in reading. (Burns, M Griffin, P., & Snow, 1998). 

Identifying the key aspects of language and literacy learning for very young children is essential information for parents, teachers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, day-care providers-in short; everyone who is important in the child’s life and who cares. 

When we know what is important we can provide quality learning activities that prevent future reading problems. A survey of the literature identifies many of these components. Diamond and Mandel (1996) identified phonemic (letter sounds) awareness as a potent predictor of success in learning in to read.  The ability to recognize and name upper and lower case letters is a powerful predictor of future reading success according to Bond and Dykstra (1967).  Explicit instruction and practice in phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary comprehension and fluency are also considered essential literacy experiences (Adams M.J.1990). The B.C. Ministry of Education also has provided information on important aspects of early literacy learning in the document “Kindergarten Learning Project and Support Materials: About the Kindergarten Learning Project Assessment Framework” (B.C. Ministry of Education Early Learning 2010).

The literature has suggested that early childhood educators should be cognizant of certain limitations in the literature.  Cathy Nutbrown wrote an article called “Early assessment-Examining the Baseline” (1998), where she raised concerns about areas of learning that are often missed in the assessment process. The current research on foundational emergent literacy skills is impressive yet important aspects or foundations of early literacy learning remain under-researched.  For example: the importance of strategies to support and nurture the caring adult’s role in motivating and encouraging the young learner is not addressed. The Commission on Reading in its summary of research (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985) concluded that “becoming a skilled reader requires...learning that reading material can be interesting. They identify the emotional response to reading as the primary reason most readers read and probably the main reason non-readers do not read.  

There is a growing body of new research that acknowledges that children may be literate in a variety of ways.  The literacies that indigenous children develop in their families and communities are important because they often embody cultural knowledge. How to teach foundational concepts about how print and books work as well as the importance of developing the motivation to read through culturally and developmentally appropriate materials and books are important areas to investigate. (L McDonnell 2013).   Ball (2012) states that it is imperative that indigenous children and their families are provided with culturally sensitive curriculum. She identifies key elements necessary for a comprehensive strategy to improve emergent literacy development among young Indigenous children. Ball’s strategies embrace ecological, holistic, and cultural perspectives.

Assessment Matters
Recent research on promising practices suggests that the six principles embedded in the strategy known as “Assessment For Learning” has the power to transform learning and teaching. (William, Dylan (2008). Educators need to frequently assess the emerging literacy skills of young children if they are to make informed decisions about reading instruction.  Systematic assessment assists the entire literacy team in providing high quality instruction (Clay, 1993; Fountas and Pinnell, 1996).  
However, educators should approach assessment of young children with caution. According to Clay (1993), many of the standardized reading tests used to assess young children do not produce reliable results. Jessica Ball (2008) investigated aboriginal early childhood development screening and assessments.  
The full report was summarized in the booklet “Early Childhood Development Intercultural Partnerships Screenings and Assessment Practices”. She noted that the approaches to assessment used most frequently included questionnaires, observations, the Nipissing Screen, The Work Sampling System, the Gessell Developmental Assessment and the Batelle Developmental Inventory.  The Test of Early Reading Ability (TERA-2) has been used to evaluate early literacy projects in B.C. (Annual Report 2012 B.C. Ministry of Education). 
Persistent educational inequities (The Achievement Gap) among indigenous children and vulnerable young learners indicate an urgent need for providing thoughtful, research-based early literacy programs.   Recent publications by British Columbia early childhood educators suggests early literacy projects designed to improve success of Aboriginal learners and vulnerable young children should continue to explore early literacy learning strategies and embed the powerful principles of formative assessment (AFL). Goelman, Ford, Pighini, Dahinton, Harris, Synnes, Tse, Ball, and Hayes (2010). 
There is important work to be done.  Literacy learning and literacy instruction is complex (SEDL 2010).  Although there are many, identifiable concepts and skills our young readers must master, they cannot be taught in isolation or out of context.  The art of teaching early literacy to the very young can be compared to the weaving of a beautiful blanket.  The tightly woven foundational threads that are so carefully chosen, create a literacy blanket for each child that is unique and will function for an entire lifetime. We need to work tirelessly to provide quality early years learning experiences, create assessment strategies that support all of the child and the caring educators who pass on the legacy of literacy.  Quality programs must acknowledge the impact of the caring adults play in every child’s unique literacy.

 Finding ways to strengthen early literacy experiences that are culturally linguistically and responsive to current research will better support all parents, their young children and those caring folks who work with their children.   The very young require explicit support in mastering the foundational concepts about how print works.  When we accomplish this, we will blanket the child in strength and confidence.  Wrapped in their unique Literacy Blanket, they will participate in a lifetime of reading, writing, learning and joyous inquiry.

References list available 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Literacy Blanket

Every Child Needs a Literacy Blanket
Early literacy events should be joyful, cozy, and result in a child feeling special.  Literacy learning starts long before educators greet your child at the day care, pre-school or kindergarten door. It begins when your child is comfortably nestled in the in the crook of your arm, while sharing a book.  This precious book time is when literacy learning begins and because the event feels cozy and comfortable, I often think of it resembles a favourite blanket. 
Photo taken from:  http://coastsalishweaving.com/gallery/ 
The Coast Salish  are famous for their weaving skills .  They create a blanket that is strong, unique and functional.  I would like to invite you to create a “Literacy Blanket” for your child.  This Literacy Blanket will offer life-long use and function through all future learning paths. Special people in a child’s life: caring parent, grandparents, auntie, uncle, or loving friend of the family, can participate in  the process of weaving a precious “Literacy Blanket” for the special child in their lives.  Just as the Coast Salish weavers use strong strands or threads to create their beautiful blankets, you and the important people in your child’s life will use strong strands. I would like to introduce three of the most important strands that are needed to create a Literacy Blanket that is strong and serviceable. 
The Three Most Important Foundation Threads
The  first important strand in creating the Literacy Blanket is  creating a  Literacy Relationship 
No literacy “program” exists that replaces caring literacy coaches in a child’s life.  The relationship fostered between book, child, and caring adults; leads to children reading for the sheer joy of it.  Most importantly, it prevents reading failure. Our most practical and effective opportunity for creating self-motivated independent readers is for caring adults to read to children every day.
Three stories a day... that is the way!
Parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, elders, family friends and community members must act as literacy coaches for our young readers.  We know that starting out right is important.  Children begin their literacy journey while they are still very young. Parents and other literacy mentors help children develop language and literacy skills by taking the time to have conversations with children and provide a sense of coziness and safety when they read aloud with the very young child. The literacy coaches search for books that are of particular interest to the child.  They cherish and celebrate established favourite stories and are playful when it comes to enjoying rhythm and rhymes found in poems for the very young. Caring adults playfully point out letters on street signs and make a big fuss about how special their name looks in print. They find books that are visually pleasing and culturally relevant.  
The caring adults in a child’s early years, take time for “grand conversations” that naturally bubble up from the reading experience.  This means that literacy coaches take advantage of a picture in a book that sparks a comment from a young child.  The adult takes the time to make a short response and then waits for the child to share more.  This is called “turn-taking” and it is a very important learning strategy.
The vehicle for fostering and nourishing this important relationship is the Read-a-Loud.  Before a child can have an interest in reading, he must first have an awareness of it.  Caring adults make sure children are bathed in good books. This is how the legacy of literacy is passed on.  Our most practical and effective opportunity for creating self-motivated independent readers is to read to children every day. We always say, “Three books a day; that’s the minimum, not the maximum!” 

The second important thread in your child’s literacy blanket involves helping the very young understand how print works.  
When adults help children understand the concepts about print by providing clear examples; they lay the foundation for future success with reading. Understanding the concepts about print is a long, gradual process.  It is similar to learning to talk, because we accept and celebrate successful attempts.  However, learning how print works is different from learning how to talk or walk. It must be explicitly taught. Using books that are right at the child’s interest and at their level of understanding helps the child practice using left to write sweeps, pay attention to the sequence of letters in a word and how to “read” the spaces.   
However, quality instruction with text-leveled material is not enough.   Educators must also pay attention to the interests and strengths of each reader because high interest in a topic enhances comprehension. Making meaning from black squiggly lines is complex. Quality teaching is essential. Every minute with a capable and caring educator is precious. 
The third thread that must be present for a strong literacy blanket is about extending and building language skills and general knowledge about a wide range of topics by providing lots of reading materials.
The third important strand is called the “Oral language and Book Language” thread
Vocabulary development and background knowledge about topics and social emotional understandings increase with high-volume reading.  Book language is often different from the language we use in general conversations.  The language found in books is often more complex; unfamiliar syntax and vocabulary is encountered. Children benefit when caring adults provide a diverse selection of texts from which to choose.  The texts should be culturally relevant and tap the unique strengths and gifts of the child.  Even the very young, enjoy and learn from literature that presents characters similar to themselves.  Children learn ways of addressing fears, challenges and are able to face real life issues through knowing a character in good story. The most important factor in preventing “aliteracy” (individual who can read the words but are unable to read with comprehension and those who choose not to read) is inspiring the child’s motivation to read.  When students choose to read a lot, vocabulary and background knowledge increases.  Lots of reading is the best way to prevent reading failure. We get better at reading when we are interested and care about the topic. High volume of reading results in a strong reader!
The Building Literacy Foundations Continuum is an informal “Assessment FOR Learning strategy”. The continuum reflects levels of literacy development... When young children see their learning strengths, they are motivated to set reachable goals.  Use a specific colour for each date as you highlight the skills or learning opportunities that are mastered.  The adult literacy coaches and the child walk together. This continuum looks at adult’s coaching/mentorship role and the child’s literacy achievements. Young readers and the caring adults dedicated to passing on the legacy of literacy will each have a unique learning continuum.  Don’t forget to celebrate the journey. Together we can weave this important Literacy Blanket.  When a child is wrapped in his or her own unique literacy blanket, he will grow up with a life-long love for reading and learning.                                      
In friendship,
Donna Klockars, aka The Literacy Lady 
“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” Pablo Casals

Monday, November 3, 2014

Salmon Spawning

By:  Donna Klockars

Dear Readers,
Melanie and I like to reflect and ponder on the learning sequences that we offer to the three, four and five year olds every Wednesday through the Early Literacy Drop-In sessions offered through the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre.  We thought it might be of interest for  educators, parents and all
those community partners that are focused on early literacy to join in on our conversations.   I have put together the thinking behind the lesson sequence.  The idea is that we want to demonstrate is that our teaching is strategic and has a purpose.  We want you to know where we are going and how we can provide learning opportunities that will help early learners to master important concepts about how print works. 

The Set up for the “Three Stories for the Day”:

Are You Hungry Little Bear, The Journey of the Dog Salmon, Salmon to Share (and the” Down by the River “song) This part of the lesson is all about “connecting”.   I need to get the kids engaged and prepared for new learning  and vocabulary that I will  present.  Asking children to think about what they already know about salmon was important because it helps me quickly assess their background knowledge. I also think about ways to engage and motivate all our emergent readers. Using actual artifacts that they will encounter in the story is always a good way to get them thinking about what they story might be about. It also helps me introduce new vocabulary.  So today’s story bag included real canned salmon, blueberries, scarves, stuffies - Mama Bear and Baby Bear and salmon and my pictures from the Adams River Sockeye run.  

The last two sessions were focused on salmon and their important journey up streams and rivers.  I chose this topic because I recently travelled to the Adams River to view the huge run of sockeye returning to their birthplace to spawn and complete their life cycle.  I couldn’t wait to tell the kids about the river full of splashing red and green salmon. I never hold back my enthusiasm for a topic and  the kids definitely picked up on the idea that sockeye salmon are pretty interesting.  I had gathered beautiful pictures and  brought salmon coloured scarves to represent sockeye . I wanted to bring home the idea that the salmon faced a long hard journey.  Melanie and I created a bit of an obstacle course in the multi-purpose room.  ( easily replicated outdoors but it was raining cats and dogs). The kids waved and wiggled the scarves as they went up the long river (obstacle course with chairs and blocks to climb over or through). While they ran and hopped and leaped we kept encouraging them with the words “Sockey salmon never give up.  Even when it is hard, they keep on trying to get to their birth place. “ All of the kids chanted “Run Sockey, Run Sockeye, Run Run Run.”  Now that the kids were panting and out of breath, I brought home the idea that a journey was a long trip.  We talked a little bit about how salmon lay their eggs in the river where they were born .  The life cycle of the salmon wasn’t the big teaching idea, rather the importance of their journey and it is their way of being.  We are proud of the salmon that work so hard to travel up the long river.  We talked about when things are hard we have to keep on trying, just like the sockeye salmon does...They never give up!

Our focus text was Journey of the Dog Salmon by Bruce Martin.  Bruce is a Nuchnunaalth Elder who is an excellent story teller.  He has shared many of his stories with young people in Nanaimo. I mention this because emergent literacy programs can build on oral traditions by using stories that reflect the children’s family, community relationships, environment and culture. Some stories are sacred and protected by protocol.  Other stories describe everyday events or provide a teaching.  Bruce has provided this story for all the children to enjoy and we raise our hands in thanks.  The story was a big hit. One of the first events in this story involves Dog Salmon blocking his relatives from going up the river. We were able to identify Dog Salmon’s behavior as inappropriate.  When Dog Salmon wouldn’t allow his relatives to travel up the river the children fully understood that this was a very big problem indeed!  The solution to this story involves the group of salmon relatives teaching Dog Salmon about their important life journey.  (We solve our problems using our words).This plan worked because Dog Salmon now understood how important it was for all salmon to reach their birthplace and he  let them pass.  The ending seemed to fit for the children and it  made sense to them that Dog Salmon was now the last one to travel up the river because of his poor behavior.  The kids easily retold the story when I provided simple prompts.  

The story Are you Hungry Little Bear? was a good second story  because it brought home the concept that the sockeye help feed many animals and even help the trees in the forest .  The story was a natural for Readers’ Theatre. This approach to the story made it more interactive and language rich. Half of our group were assigned the Mother Bear part and the other half, Little Bear. I had real blueberries, fresh green grass, mussel shells and a salmon stuffie toy for props.  After Mother Bear offers Little Bear different things to eat, she finally remembers what Little Bear likes to eat more than anything else...SALMON!

Our third story Sharing Salmon supported our focus on early number concepts as well as a fun way to practice using Hul’quimi’num words while we were counting.  It was also a  natural lead up to the “Down by the River” song that Melanie had made come alive with prepared salmon and animals to use while we sang the song.  She posted the words on the home page and gave the little kit to the teachers so they could us it throughout the week. The next part of our morning is all about processing the new information. We want to provide learning stations that ask each child to take an active role in constructing meaning and integrating the new learning concepts we presented.  

A balanced literacy lesson sequence includes storytelling, retelling, reading aloud/and engaging in related texts, shared writing and frequent opportunities to draw write and explore all the concepts presented. All of the educators helped coach the kids at each station by modeling and adapting the activity so that success was experienced by all.  Melanie posted some pictures of the stations.  I will just clarify the purpose and the intent for each station.  The Make Eggs and Connect with Blue Highlighters Station:  I used long strips of paper and provided round stickers and markers so kids could practice making circles and long lines.  They were encouraged to connect the “eggs” with a long line “river”.  This idea was first presented to me by my friend Betty Shultz.  Betty wrote a fabulous book called “Basic Tools for Beginning Writers”.  She tried out many of her ideas in Nanaimo classrooms.  This station helps the very young child develop fine motor skills.  Making a straight line is no easy task.  By connecting the eggs the children happily practiced their pencil grip and control of the felt marker.  Many of the children filled the long strip with countless circles (eggs) and created a river bank by making thick green lines with the green highlighter.  (Melanie and I encouraged the day care staff to follow up with this activity by providing a bit of structure at the painting easel station by asking the kids to make big thick lines wavy lines, zigzag etc.)  The Match the Letter Rocks into a Round Cluster  Station -that represents the salmon eggs (the red):  This station is all about scaffolding letter recognition while staying within the skill level of the emergent reader. Three and four year olds are big fans of matching and this is what the kids were basically doing.  We made a big deal of the letter S and B...you guessed it... S for Salmon and B for Bear.  Referring back to the stories helped make more connections.  The Salmon Mural: Melanie helped guide a beautiful art project where all the kids contributed to the making of the river mural.  The kids glued sticks down to represent some of the obstacles salmon might encounter and arranged countless salmon.  One of our ideas was for the kids to create the pattern red and green using those circles that you can lick or glue.  This pattern would represent the colourful sockeye with the green head and the red body that was so nicely photographed by moi at the Adams River. The mural is a work in progress and the day care and kindergarten kids were encouraged to keep adding to the river until it was stuffed with sockeye.

The final part of each lesson sequence is all about transforming and personalizing the new information. We are asking the kids to apply, reflect and integrate their new learning into their schema. (The kid’s schema is their entire knowledge about salmon.)  This is where kids are challenged to demonstrate their understanding of the ideas presented.

Melanie and I had a short amount of time to share some ways that the kids might extend their new
learning in the day care and kindergarten settings.  They might be encouraged to act out or retell the stories using simple props.  The “Down by the River Song” could be acted out at circle time.  The basket of salmon stories and related books about salmon should be made available for the kids to look at. The Are you Hungry Little Bear? Story could be presented to the Grade One class through the Readers Theatre format that we introduced during the story hour.  Melanie and I had a great conversation about the morning.  We thought the kids were engaged and successful.  We would love to hear from you.  Join us in our reflections after our Wednesday Literacy Session. We decided Ravens, Seagulls and Eagles would be the focus for our next theme. 

Happy Reading and remember “Three Stories a Day...That is the Way!

Donna Klockars

Retired Literacy Teacher

P.S. All of the resources we referenced are available through strongnations.com

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Love that Teaching is “So Hard”

By:  Donna Klockars

Teaching young children how to read is a science. It is not a mystical talent that some are born with and others...not so much. It is a set of practices that can be identified. Anyone can learn them. 

However, be warned. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. It requires extensive hands on coaching, self-reflection, constantly reading current literature, willingness to implement new ideas; but most of all: it demands collaboration. The notion that the most important learner in the classroom should be the teacher; is the backbone of everything that happens in the field of education. Teacher education, mentorship and daily practice should be grounded in the understanding that educators must be active learners. They must talk about their practice. They must reflect on their practice. The decisions educators make minute-to-minute matter. Research proven strategies must guide and inform our practice every step of the way. Lesson sequences become the focus of intense and focused examination between colleagues. The shared feedback takes time and most educators have zero hours dedicated to working together to explore and practice new pedagogies.

Before I get to my ideas about how I hope to address this frustrating part of education, I want to talk about the teacher as an artist.  Powerful and effective teachers must have a rich and vibrant palate to work with. The educator knows the “canvas” that is created for learners must first be interesting and engaging. A variety of proven approaches and multi-leveled resources must be readily available.  One hundred percent commitment to celebrate and strengthen every child’s unique way of being drives the artist/teacher to make learning joyful.

Teaching is all consuming and this is precisely why I love it!. It is a profession of the mind and of the heart. “Top shelf “ teaching and the lessons that guide the learning take countless hours of preparation. The ridiculous stereotype of teaching being a leisurely occupation involving nine to five workdays and long stretches of rest and relaxation during the summer defies logic. No other professional is framed in this single dimension of job performance. Lawyers are not considered working only during the time they present a case in court. What those of us that spend hours educating our children need but don’t get is dedicated time with peers and mentors. This is what is essential to this profession of the mind and of the heart. Time to reflect and collaborate is not a frill. This is what improves student success and improves the science and art of teaching. 

I hope you will consider listening and commenting on my teaching and learning lesson sequences. I teach all ages, including adults. I believe that anyone who is passionate about education is an educator. Can we talk?

In friendship,

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Outdoor School

By Donna Klockars 

Just because it is summer doesn’t mean Melanie and I have forgotten about “Growing up to Read”.  We just moved outside...we moved our learning, our exploring, and discovering out the door and into the sunshine.  We start the morning with “Who wants to go to Outdoor School?” and head out to discover nature’s gifts and treasures that appear at every turn of the path.

A list of learning aids is not needed for this school time.  We have our eyes, nose, fingers, and toes to provide all sorts of important clues as to what is happening all around us.  We try to be aware of every natural object in front, beside, under and above us. 
We felt the soft summer breeze and smelled the tiny strawberries hiding in the grass. Crumbling white birch bark held our attention for a long time.

Once we were zoned in to the treasures all around us, it was a matter of deciding which of the fascinating earthy wonders would make it into our treasure bags.  Smooth stones, pine cones of all shapes and sizes, mushrooms, feathers, and yes, even deer poop were gathered.  Problem solving came up when we decided we needed to cross the creek.  Hmm how about that scooped out cedar tree bridge? Three year old Arianna didn’t blink an eye when she saw that everyone was there to encourage and help her up the steep nature designed bridge.

After scrambling up the slippery hollowed out old cedar we reached the other side of the creek to find a meadow with tall grass all flattened.  When we saw fresh deer poop close by, we decided that several deer had spent a relaxing evening on a soft bed of grass and wild strawberry plants. Ethan wondered if the deer liked the big moon that was out last night?
But nothing prepared us for our next discovery!  A construction so beautiful, we stood in awe.
There were two parts to the structure, an entrance that was in the shape of a triangle, and a big room with a grass roof.  We walked a little further and discovered a fence made from cedar branches.

We all agreed that whoever made this epic wooden palace had chosen a beautiful site.  The creek was thundering passed and providing a dramatic sound as well as natural cooling. Everyone had a theory about how it was made and why it was so well hidden.  Pirates?  Big Foot? Forest Fairies?
But the most important thing we learned from the wooden palace was that we could build a fort almost as good as the one by the creek if we set our minds to it.
Here  is a pictures of our outdoor school work. Well, it really wasn’t work...more like awesome fun!

Making forts and learning about learning outside is going to be all about for the next whole week.  We will let you know how it goes.
Until then we will be busy  “Learning and Loving it” because we are learning and playing outside.

Donna, Melanie and kids

P.S. We sang a song called “I Love to go a Wandering Along the Mountain Path” but we didn’t know all the words.
P.S.S. When we got home we decided one of our forts needed chairs for shorter people.