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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Are you Doing It? Daily 5, CAFE, Daily 3 Math

Submitted by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach
The 2 Sisters Live in Calgary
Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015

It seems like many teachers in FSD are talking Daily 5 and CAFÉ.  So what’s the big deal?  If you are like me, and other teachers who have read the books (yes, both editions), gone to conferences and implemented them into their classrooms, you may be asking . . . why aren’t you?  I have to admit, the main reason I bought into the Daily 5/CAFÉ is the credibility of  “the Sisters” - Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  They are in classrooms (and still are today), trying things out, reflecting on their practice – both the successes and the failures – and really listening to what the research is telling them about student learning.

I have struggled with what information is important to share with you on a blog, so after many stops and starts I have decided to give you the key points as I see them.

Daily 5
The Daily 5 holds no Language Arts content.  Our content comes from the Alberta Program of Studies. The Daily 5 is a management structure, which teaches children to work independently on 5 meaningful tasks (Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading and Word Work), so that the teacher can work with individuals and small groups in response to their needs. What’s important?  Students need to read and write every day, so a Daily 3 or even a Daily 2 might be more conducive to what works in your class. Chunk your instruction – brain research says if you are teaching ten year olds?  Then, have ten minutes of instruction. Allow for choice.  This perpetuates engagement.

Daily 3 Math
Like the Daily 5, the Daily 3 Math holds no content.  It is a structure used to teach students to be independent during math time, so the teacher can work with individuals and small groups.  Daily 3 Math Activities – Math By Myself, Math Writing, Math with someone – are the “practice and reinforcement related to the current unit of study.”

“The CAFÉ system is [their] method for integrating assessment into daily reading and classroom instruction.  CAFÉ is an acronym for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Expanding Vocabulary.”  It is through the CAFÉ that reading strategies are introduced in each of the previously mentioned areas and students apply and set goals around the ones they use in order to become better readers.

Got you interested?  Want to learn more about the Daily 5, the CAFÉ, the Daily 3 Math? Then I would encourage you to read the books, go to a conference or talk to colleagues and others who are currently using it in their classrooms!

 Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan.  The Daily 5 2nd Edition Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. Pembroke Publishers, Ontario, 2014. P. 3, 16, 18.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Let's Talk About.......Math

Written by Shelly Read, Instructional Coach
Reflections from AAC Conference

While reading the newspaper last weekend I came across many references to math computation skills and the dropping test scores of Alberta students. The main concern identified was the lack of basic computation skills that students possess. While the articles made me shake my head more than once, let's be honest - teachers, parents and students have voiced similar concerns. A recent session I attended at the AAC Conference in Edmonton suggested a technique that teachers can use to help students strengthen their math skills and move towards automaticity and fluency.

Math Talks are frequent 10-15 minute lessons that help students build accurate mental math and computation strategies. Students are placed in small groups with a teacher to share problem solving methods, give one another feedback, and reflect on their own strategies. During Math Talks students do the thinking and the teacher listens, asks questions, and redirects as needed. While algorithms are useful strategies, pairing them with opportunities for small groups of students to talk about their successes and challenges improves overall understanding, so that the learning lasts. In schools where this ‘math community’ has been piloted teachers and students report higher levels of intellectual engagement.

In FSD I envision Math Talks being used to differentiate daily math lessons and as a powerful tool during RTI sessions. They allow students to apply the 7 mathematical processes, such as reasoning and communication, in a meaningful way. When designing lessons, these collaboration times can help students answer essential questions such as, “What is the most efficient strategy to use when solving a number operation question?”, “How can I best demonstrate my understanding of numbers?”,  and “What are the qualities of an effective strategy?”
For further information about Math Talks check out the AAC website; very soon a math strategies section will be added under the Professional Learning tab. You could also read Crystal Morey’s article, Making Sense of Math Through Number Talks. Two books on the subject are Making Number Talks Matter by Ruth Parker and Cathy Humphreys and Number Talks by Sherry Parrish.

I am excited to give this thinking routine a try! I look forward to seeing eyes light up and I never tire of hearing our students say, “This actually makes sense!”

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

"There Is No Such Thing As Laziness"

Written by Shanda Dupras, Instructional Coach
Reflections from Alberta Assessment Consortium Conference

As teachers, we’ve been guilty of saying it, uttering it, hearing it...or thinking it.  “That kid isn’t motivated, engaged and doesn’t do any work. They are lazy.”

After having the pleasure of listening to Rick Wormeli, an international speaker and veteran educator, speak at the ACC conference in Edmonton, it was his statement, “There is No Such Thing as Laziness,” that resonated deep within my teaching soul.

I’ve always believed that every student can be reached…it was my job to find it. Have I been frustrated with “THAT student” for being disengaged in class, handing in a less than adequate assignments or worse yet, nothing at all? Absolutely. The feeling overwhelms me as I burn the midnight oil marking. Finally, tiredness takes over, and the word, “lazy,’ slips from my lips, as my head falls towards my desk.

Rick Wormeli, teaches that, “There is no such thing as laziness.” As educators, we have ongoing discussions focused on how to engage and motivate students within our classrooms. Rick Wormeli states that there are three premises that educators must understand when “wanting” to motivate students.  In turn, the truth surfaces about what our job as educators must be.

The Three Premises
1)    We can control and coerce someone to do something, but we can’t motivate anyone to do anything they don’t already want to do. (Rick Wormeli)
2)    Motivation is only doing the best of our ability of what we are already capable of doing.
(Rick Lavoie)
3)    Motivation is not something we do to teachers or students, it is something we create with them. (Rick Wormeli) 

The Truth
Our focus is to create an environment that cultivates curiosity and personal investment, making sure students and teachers feel safe to engage in the activity or topic without fear of embarrassment or rejection. (Wormeli)
AND, we accept the fact that ‘there is no such thing as laziness.

To create lessons that awaken the wonder within our students must be always on the table. As teachers, we cannot be the only ones asking, the deeper ‘Why’ questions. (If we could bottle up all the ‘why’ questions that children ask at three years old---we would be golden. What makes them stop asking questions as they grow?) Students want the ability to choose the vehicle of how they are going to complete a task; the ownership.  They want to be challenged at just right the level and know that they can be successful. They want to wonder…

“When teachers create curiosity in their classrooms, kids start to wonder.
  When they wonder, they want to learn.”    (Wormeli)

Friday, 2 October 2015

Alberta Assessment Consortium Conference

Written By Denise Litke, Instructional Coach
September 24 and 25, 2015 - Edmonton

This past weekend I attended the AAC Conference in Edmonton. There the IC team was treated to two world renowned researchers and speakers - Ruth Sutton and Rick Wormeli.  
Ruth kicked off the conference Thursday with a presentation on School Leadership in Changing Times. The recurring theme I heard from Ruth was in order to get to where we want to be, we need to start with the foundations.  We can’t do everything and we can’t do it all at once, so we need to get down to the fundamentals of strong practice and do them well.  The fundamentals she spoke of were design and planning, curricular outcomes, assessment, feedback, engagement, and teachers as learners.  
Friday Rick Wormeli presented.  To me, Rick is a cross between Steve Martin, Jim Carey and Bill Nye the Science Guy.  He is a fast talking, fast moving ball of information, and if you have ever seen him, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Based on the premise that “Grades are communication - they are an accurate report of what happened.”, Wormeli  goes on to talk about how we need to be ethical in our reporting practices.  This includes stopping the practice of  averaging marks, defining mastery, having pre-assessments that relate to the final understandings,  giving feedback, allowing for redos, differentiating in our classrooms and being a responsive teacher.

Overall, I found the conference to be informative, engaging and I would highly recommend it all teachers in FSD.  Check out their website at www.aac.ab.ca

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Alberta Assessment Consortium Fall Conference 2015 September 24 & 25

Written by Lindsay Brooks, Instructional Coach

I had the opportunity to attend the Alberta Assessment Consortium’s annual conference.  The AAC advocates, promotes and supports sound assessment practices in Alberta schools.  The keynote speakers were Ruth Sutton and Rick Wormeli who are very knowledgeable speakers. It is from them that these reflections stem as great reminders for “evidence of learning.”

Making meaning and making mistakes

Effective lessons and assessments will create meaning making. Making meaning of information is way more powerful than regurgitating info. Kids need to actively create and be involved in the learning and the process of learning. They need to make mistakes, to be able to make edits and learn. Recovery from a mistake or is what teaches. When we edit or correct mistakes for students it robs them of learning opportunities. We need to allow our students to make mistakes and make meaning.


Teachers should be getting together to articulate what constitutes evidence.
What is the standard to what mastery is being assessed, what evidence will show mastery? Peer editing is a useful tool because it promotes and leads to mastery.
Students need opportunities for “re-do’s” to allow for mastery and the opportunity to present evidence that they have learned something.
These “re-do’s” need to cover the same outcomes. When we consider driving tests, if a student fails their learner’s permit on the first try, they must wait two weeks to “re-do” the test. There is no restriction to the number of times that someone may attempt his or her drivers test. The average is not taken of the tests. Why would we do this is education?


Assessment is inseparable from instruction. You cannot instruct without assessing. According to Ruth Sutton, “formative assessment should be renamed to feedback for learning.” Comments and feedback push the learning forward, grades do not. If it is formative then leave the grade out as scores and grades are communication (an accurate report of what happened) not rewards or compensation. Assessment is not a spreadsheet -- it's a conversation.
Grades don't motivate students to learn, they motivate students to get grades.
Formative assessment is meant to be risk free and should not be put in the grade book for parents to see. We need to ask ourselves are we assessing for short/long term retention? Are we continuing to assess throughout year or just at end of unit? We need to remember that summative assessment is post learning.

Assessment needs to be revelatory - reveal a story

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Integrating and Promoting Well Being in Science Math and the Arts

Written by Allen Davidson, Assistant Superintendent of Employee Services
CASSA – Conference July 2-4 Montreal, QC.

An integrated approach to student wellness across subjects. Well-being is best-understood and developed with attention to knowledge of brain functions and the importance of active lifestyle, skills for social functioning, and emotional self-regulation. It also involves a positive sense of spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice and personal dignity.

This session highlighted our responsibility as educators to consider the wellness of our students when designing and preparing for learning. All Principals with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic School Division (20,000 students) are required to submit Mental Health Literacy plans. They shared one example of a school that gathered data on students who were having chronic behavior issues which resulted in staff developing Morning Mindfulness Session for students to attend: 

·      Morning Mindfulness Club/Session (10-15 min). – Students identified as needing mindfulness preparation were involved in stretching, breathing, discussion/sharing circles, etc. These sessions, all supported by brain research, were designed to ready students for the rigours of the school day. Result: Eliminated/Reduced explosive behavior in almost all of the identified subset of students. Students start the day with a positive space to create environment for learning.

Carney, Patrick (2015) Well Aware – Developing Resilient, Active and Flourishing Students. Pearson, Canada. (link here)

The presenters also directed our attention to the Brain Science that tells us what we must know about the Brain and it’s functioning when we put challenges (intellectual, emotional, physical, etc..) in front of our students. They focused on Dr. Dan Siegal‘s Brain Hand Model here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0T_2NNoC68