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Thursday, 2 May 2019

Middle Years Conference

Middle Years Conference
Banff, AB- April 25-27, 2019

Written By Lindsay Kate Anderson

This past Thursday through Saturday, before the snows returned, I found myself in Banff, AB surrounded by mountain views and middle years teachers (MYT). During the Thursday night speed sessions, at small tables of 6-8, we unpacked topics including student mental health, staff burn-out, technology, and options for  10 minute each. We genuinely all agreed… MY students are smelly, awkward, diverse, and most of all uniquely unique. Putting your finger on the specific needs of MY students is like trying to catch a gnat with chopsticks. Sure, you might be successful grabbing one but the reality is there are a million other gnats to snare. This year’s keynote speaker brought some incredible ideas and insights to refresh approaches to teaching in the dreaded MIDDLE YEARS.

If you are not yet familiar with Rick Wormeli, please plan to make him part of your summer professional reading. https://www.rickwormeli.com, I’d had the pleasure of seeing Rick speak over six years ago and his words regarding equity vs equality have stuck with me ever since. Wormeli pushed us to reflect on the ethics and morals behind marking, assignments, and redos. He believes in good practices for all students, and even dressed as a time traveller, reminded us of to keep our standards high!

By far my favorite moment of the entire conference was when Wormeli presented Maria and the Von Trapp children as an example of excellent assessment practices. For you see, Maria begins by assessing student’s previous knowledge and connecting the new learning to what they already know. From there … well you decide! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drnBMAEA3AM

I served double duty at the conference, both as a participant and presenter. For anyone toying with the idea of presenting at a convention, I would highly recommend the MYC. Sessions were small, intimate, and well received.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Grade 7s, Blankets & Smelly Socks
By Lindsay Kate Anderson

Over the past week I had the privilege of facilitating the Kairos Blanket Exercise with grade 7 students at both Ecole Senator Riley Middle School, and have started with the same age group at Ecole Okotoks Junior High School. With the breadth of Canadian history required to be covered within the grade 7 curriculum, the simulation brings big ideas and policies to students in an experiential manner. With four exercises complete and seven more to go, here are some thoughts and insights for schools considering doing the Blanket Exercise with their students.
  1. Do not hesitate! Just do it!
  2. They are more prepared than you think- students will behave better than you think they will.
  3. Remind students to wear clean socks- it’s worth it for everyone involved.
  4. Find a facilitator- as a teacher, if you have not been through the simulation before, take the opportunity to see how students react and behave while someone else takes charge.
  5. Find a space- if possible run the simulation somewhere other than your classroom. This gives students a feeling of the activity being something special.
  6. Listen- at the beginning and end of the simulation give students a chance to share questions and insights they may have.
  7. Planning- facilitating can be exhausting. While a typical simulation takes just under an hour and a half, remember the energy your facilitator is putting into the event. Avoid scheduling more than two simulations per day.
  8. Reach out- with three speaking roles; narrator, European, and nun, reach out to administration, learning coaches, and library staff to help with facilitation.
  9. Include videos- over 200 years worth of history is being presented incorporating videos into the simulation provides students a chance to land someplace safe, breathe, and move forward.
  10. Reflect- talk to your students and other participating teachers to see how the exercise has impacted your student learning and how it will impact your teaching.

Looking forward there are seven more exercises to go and I look forward to continuing to hear what students are learning and how their impressions of Indigenous experiences in Canada have changed and grown.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Vocabulary in the Math Claass

Vocabulary in the Math Class

Written by Marsi Quarin-WrightThis informationis based on the following website.  Please refer to this reading for more information: https://digitalcommons.hamline.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5108&context=hse_all


Digit, value, regroup…Oh my!  How do we remember to ask students for the sum, difference, product rather than asking for the answer?

 Using the number:  6 234 753?  What is the value of 6? What digit does the 7 represent?
How can we remember to use this language in our lessons?

Three Tiers of Words

Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown and Linda Kucan (2002, 2008) have outlined a useful model for conceptualizing categories of words readers encounter in texts and for understanding the instructional and learning challenges that words in each category present.

Tier One words are the words of everyday speech usually learned in the early grades, albeit not at the same rate by all children. They are not considered a challenge to the average native speaker, though English language learners of any age will have to attend carefully to them. While Tier One words are important, they are not the focus of this discussion.

Tier Two words (what the Standards refer to as general academic words) are far more likely to appear in written texts than in speech. They appear in all sorts of texts: informational texts (words such as relative, vary, formulate, specificity and accumulate), technical texts (calibrate, internalize, periphery), and literary texts (misfortune, dignified, falter, unabashedly). Tier Two words often represent subtle of precise ways to say relatively simple things –saunter, instead of walk, for example. Because Tier Two words are found across many types of texts, they are highly generalized

Tier Three words (what standards refer to as domain-specific words) are specific to a domain or field of study (lava, carburetor, legislature, circumference, aorta) and key to understanding a new concept within a text. Because of their specificity and close ties to content knowledge, Tier Three words are far more common in informational texts than in literature. Recognized as new and “hard” words for most readers (particularly student readers), they are often explicitly defined by the author of the text, repeatedly used and otherwise heavily scaffolded (eg. Made part of a glossary).

Helpful Tips:

Þ   If we think of the Tier Two words as words we see in the curriculum (represent, make statements of comparisons, symbolically represent)
 Þ    If we think of Tier Three words as  academic language related to a field of study (for math: product, quotient, sum, difference)

Tier 3 Words
Words with duplicate meaning in math.

I found this interesting that some math words have duplicate meanings and do our students know the math term?What other terms are there that have more than one meaning?
Word                Common Definition                   Mathematical Definition 
          key                   a tool with which the                  something that gives an 
                                   bolt of a lock is turned                explanation or provides a
         order                to command to do something      to put into sequence
         another way    a different course of action         a way of equal value
         table                a piece of furniture with              a visual display of 
                                  four legs                                      information

Tier 2 Words

The following is a list of words that fit into the tier 2 category. The more we can use these words in our classrooms, the more our students will know and in turn use them as well. 

The Twelve Powerful Words and Their Definitions

Word                                         Definition

analyse                            to break apart
compare                                ways they are the same
contrast                                 ways they are different
describe                                 tell about
formulate                              create
evaluate                                 judge
explain                                   tell how
infer                                        read between the lines
predict                                   what will happen next
summarize                           give a short version
support                                  back up with details
trace                                       list in steps

Putting it all together: 
Þ    And we can purposefully plan for math vocabulary in our lessons by using a simple table (see below)
 Þ    Then post these words/anchor charts for kids to reference as they work and for teachers to reference as they deliver a lesson 

Tier 3 Word
When to Teach


Visual display of info

position of a digit in a number determines its value

Answer to addition
Note: use instead of equals or “is” 7+5 is….

Use find the sum

Tier 2

Focus on using Predict

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Citizen Scientists

Citizen Scientists
By Julie Julian, Regional Instructional Coach

The benefits of learning outside is nothing new. We know students are often more engaged and learning is more authentic when we step beyond the walls of our schools. Providing opportunities for students to participate in Citizen Science is a great way to do this across the grades.

Citizen science projects focus on, but are not limited to, nonscientists participating in the processes of scientific research, with the intended goal of advancing and using scientific knowledge.”-National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Learning Through Citizen Science: Enhancing Opportunities by Design” 

“Current understandings of science learning also suggest that science learning extends well beyond content knowledge in a domain to include understanding of the nature and methods of science.”-National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Collect & record data, analyze, classify, and participate in discussions on various apps and websites:

Dark Night Star Light: The Rothney Astrophysical Observatory is calling on citizen scientists to make brightness observations of the night-time sky over their homes.

Calgary Captured: Help us classify trail camera photos by identifying the animals you see.

Alberta Plantwatch: By reporting when certain plants bloom and leaf out in spring, Albertans contribute vital information for climate change studies. This study of biological timing is called phenology, “the science of appearances”.

NatureLynx: Our users actively contribute to our scientific understanding of Alberta’s ecosystems. Beyond being an exciting, free tool for education, engagement and growth, NatureLynx encourages users to network and mobilize their efforts, both socially and scientifically.

Alberta Community Bat Program: The Neighbourhood Bat Watch website is a place where you can join people from across Canada in reporting your own roost or bat sightings, and participating in the annual bat count.

Call of the Wetlands: a citizen science program that enables the public to monitor amphibians as an important indicator of wetland health.

eBird: Our goal is to gather this information in the form of checklists of birds, archive it, and freely share it to power new data-driven approaches to science, conservation and education.    

eButterfly: A real-time, online checklist and photo storage program, e-Butterfly is providing a new way for the butterfly community to report, organize and access information about butterflies in North America.

WormWatch: monitoring program used to identify ecological changes that may be affecting our environment.

FrogWatch: Worldwide, many wetland species are declining in numbers or have recently become extinct. Monitoring frog and toad populations is one way to check the health of wetland areas.

Citizen Science Portal-Government of Canada: This site included even more citizen science project across the country. Use #ScienceAroundMe to find and share exciting ways to take part in science.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

The Journey Towards Resilience

The Journey Towards Resilience
by, Kate Henkel, Instructional Coach

Resilience is a word we hear more and more often in today’s society. Merriam-Webster’s
dictionary defines resilience as tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or
change” (2019).
In an ever-changing and demanding 21st century, ensuring children have the capacity for
resilience is absolutely essential. I recently attended a Neufeld Institute Conference titled
Resilience, Relationship and Recovery - Towards Flourishing Children and Youth where
the concept of resilience was explored through the lens of Dr. Gordon Neufeld.
Neufeld is the founder of the Neufeld Institute, and is a leader in child developmental
psychology. He questions the societal trend which categorizes resilience as a
stress-based response based on performance rather than optimal functioning. In other
words, we commonly assess how resilient someone is based on whether they are able to
perform under stressful conditions. Neufeld asks us to consider a different construct of
resilience whereby an individual is able to reach his or her optimal potential as opposed
to simply performing or going through the motions of living.
Relationships Matter - Strong Alpha Adults are essential in the lives of youth and children.
The central component to Neufeld’s theory of resilience is the importance of a strong alpha
adult in every child’s life in order to serve as a compass point (Neufeld, 2018); providing
unconditional love, support and guidance at every step. One of Dr. Neufeld’s greatest fears
is that increasingly, children are taking their behavioural cues from interactions with peers,
rather than from adults who, by our very nature as humans, are meant to support, and
guide children as they progress through the developmental stages. Neufeld speaks to the
importance of children being able to work through their feelings in a supportive and safe
environment in order to develop to their full potential. For this to happen the following 3
basic conditions must be present in a child’s life:
playfulness - opportunities to escape and unwind such as music, art and games
restfulness - moments of peace and solitude in a quiet, safe place such as a natural area in
a playground or a quiet reading corner
feelingfulness (Neufeld, 2018) - opportunities which allow students to connect with their
feelings such as sharing circles, and other safe spaces with trusted adults for showing and
sharing feelings
So, what does all of  this mean for educators and how can Neufeld’s theory inform our
It’s no secret that educators are on the front lines as we continue to lead our youth into the
21st century. There is an enormous responsibility to ensure that we prepare our students to
be lifelong learners, and contributing members of society. This sounds daunting, but as
educators, we are naturally caring individuals. We are well positioned to support students on
their journey towards resilience which will create a strong foundation for them to build future
What we have to do is be mindful of the influence we have in shaping a child’s journey
towards resilience, and design learning environments which foster the development of
strong relationships with our students. Some simple strategies to consider include:

  • Greeting students at the door to your room prior to the beginning of every class
  • Taking the time to engage with all students about important events in their lives and following up from previous conversations. “How was your game/test/interview?”
  • Sharing/Talking Circles
  • Inviting parents and grandparents into the classroom
  • Maintaining ongoing communication with parents and guardians via phone calls and email
  • Leading and/or attending school-based extra-curricular activities
Remember that as trusted educators, we are in a position where the relationships we
build with students, and the opportunities we create for playfulness, restfulness and
feelingfulness will have a significant impact in a child’s ability to be resilient.

Neufeld, G. (2018).: Proceedings from A Neufeld Institute Conference: Resilience,
Recovery and Relationship: Towards Flourishing Children and Youth. MB,
Resilience. (2019). In Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Retrieved from