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Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Day with Inuvialuit Residential School Survivor - Steps to Reconciliation

Written by Denise Litke, IC and Fay Mascher, Teacher at Cayley School. Attended CRC Session - A Day with Inuvialuit Residential School Survivor Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and author of Fatty Legs, Christy Jordan- Fenton on Thursday, October 12, 2017

Be aware of not giving the impression that these are an oppressed people.  We carry the huge responsibility of what we are giving people – hope and strength.  
This sentence is meaningful because it encompassed Christy and Margaret’s message of the day of not falling into a path of darkness, but rather reaching for the light and having hope.

“Conspiracy of silence”
A provocative phrase which seemed to encompass the idea of the government’s  plan to hide or to keep quiet about the harmful effects that residential schools had on Canada’s indigenous people.

A powerful word because in order for us to truly begin the journey of reconciliation we must step into the feelings and experiences that our indigenous people faced, and are still facing today, as a result of residential schooling.

There is a unique and strong relationship between  mother-in-law  Margaret Pokiak - Fenton (Olemaun) and her daughter-in-law Christy Pokiak – Fenton.  Through this relationship, and Christy’s persistence to share her mother-in-law’s experiences, both at a residential school and her return home, four  stories ended up being published:  Fatty Legs, When I Was Eight,  A Stranger at Home and Not My Daugher.  The combination of Christy’s knowledge, and 81 year Margaret’s own telling of some of her experiences, allowed me to fulfill my goals for this session: learn more about residential schools, the impact it had on the lives of indigenous people, and how we can begin that journey of reconciliation.

So, what does reconciliation mean to you?  This was a question asked of us early on in the session.  People attending had a variety of answers, but perhaps the most passionate one came from Christy herself, “Reconciliation is not a word or an apology, it is an action that we take to build empathy and understanding.  It is moving forward with this knowledge.”  

Christy  then went on to share with us  how we could use her stories to start building empathy and understanding.  Using the story of Fatty Legs, she modelled how she would use analogies  from the lives of students in order to build empathy. One example was, “When Olemaun went to the residential school, she ate cabbage soup and oatmeal and she never got to eat the whale meat that she loved and was used to.   How would it feel if you were at a school where you never got to eat pizza or popcorn?”  She compared it to going to a mermaid school, or going to Hogwarts.  “Olemaun arrived at school and was told she could no longer speak her language.  How would you feel if you went to your school and they said you could not speak English but you had to speak Arabic?”   
After some lesson discussions, the afternoon continued with looking at resources, looking at some of the challenges  to teaching residential school history and ideas for reconciliation projects.  

Here are some of her suggested resources:
Annick Press – go to Book Talks – Fatty Legs and A Stranger at Home
Dreaming in Indian – poetry, short stories – Grade 6 + - edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Not Your Princess – high school - Jessica Mitzel
I am not a Number – Picture Book - Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
They Called Me Number One – Chief Bev Sellars
Speaking My Truth – selection of reflections (Truth and Reconciliation resource) – compiled by Shelagh Rogers, Mike DeGagne, Jonathon Dewar
The Night Wanderer  (Novel and graphic novel)– high school book clubs – also a vampire story
Residential Schools:  With the Words and Images of Survivors –  Larry Loyie - Grade 7 to adult
The Country of Wolves – teach legends – older elementary - Neil Christopher, Louise Flaherty
When We Were Alone & resource book – any age – highly recommended - David Alexander Robertson and, Julie Flett (Illustrations)
The Inuit Thought of It – part of a series
They Came for the Children -  Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
The Marrow Thieves Cherie Dimaline - high school and above – dystopian society – futuristic
Finally we wrapped up the afternoon with some suggestions for Projects/Exercises for Reconciliation:
Blanket Exercise
Hold a Reconciliation Tea – invite elders and serve them
Projects of Heart
Shannen’s Dream – Cree girl – died in a vehicle crash
Write a politician
Work with a local artist to create an art installation, or write a song
Write a letter to an elder
Learn about the treaties – How did they change?
Begin a protocol of acknowledging the territory you live in, each morning.  
Greet guests to your school in the traditional language of that territory.
Start a Pen Pal program.

As I reflected on the day, the question I had for myself was “Now what?” So, now that I have this information, where do I go from here?  What are MY next steps?  What’s MY action?  Here’s what I decided . . . I am going to become more informed about the history of the indigenous people in Canada, or maybe just Alberta, reflect on my own values and beliefs around this topic, and be open to or be involved in a reconciliation project.  My question for you is “What are YOUR next steps to reconciliation?”

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Learning Mathematics Using an Inquiry-Based Approach

Written by Julie Julian, Regional Instructional Coach.  PD was from an IB Mathematics Online Workshop

When mathematics is taught in relevant, real-life contexts students acquire their mathematical understanding by constructing their own meaning with increasing levels of abstraction. The way students learn mathematics can described in the following way:

Constructing Meaning
·      Based on previous experience and understanding
·      Active learning through interactions with objects (manipulatives) and ideas
·      Evolves through experiences, connections, conversations, and reflections
·      Interpretations conform to present understanding or generates new understanding

Transferring Meaning
·      Once ideas are constructed about a mathematical concept understanding can be transferred into symbols (pictures, diagrams, modelling with concrete objects, mathematical notations)
·      Give opportunities to describe their understanding using their own symbolic notation before transferring to the conventional mathematical notation

Applying with Understanding
·      Learners demonstrate or act on their understanding through authentic activities, hands-on problem solving, and realistic situations
·      learners explain their ideas, theories, and results both orally and in writing
·      invite constructive feedback to move further forward in their learning/understanding

Inquiry-Based Environment
·      good questions (pose & respond)
·      make conjectures, share wonders
·      collaborate to explore ideas
·      plan & monitor own learning/inquiry
·      have access to a variety of resources
·      use technology
·      shared reasoning
·      develop proofs

The inquiry process moves students from a current level of understanding to a deeper level of understanding. However, there are some occasions when it is more beneficially for students to be given strategies for learning math skills in order to progress towards deeper understanding. Regardless, an inquiry-based environment helps foster mathematical skills, knowledge, and understanding.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Disciplinary Literacy

Session presented by ReLeah Cossett Lent, September 29, 2017
Written by Shain Chisholm, Instructional Coach, Foothills School Division

Armed with the knowledge that strong literacy skills are a predictor of future economic success, teachers are rightly being asked to enhance the literacy skills of their students. While educators push to improve literacy skills of all our students in all classes, ReLeah Cossett Lent weighs in to say that teaching literacy does not necessarily equate to being a “teacher of reading”.  To clarify Lent states:

“Asking a science teacher to become a teacher of reading is not fair, nor is it an efficient use of her time.  Instead, we must ask disciplinary teachers to share the secrets of literacy that work in their content areas.” 
(ReLeah Lent, September 2017)

This may be a relief as non-English language teachers may feel an extra burden of doing the “job” of the English teachers on top of teaching their curriculum.  Rather than have teachers teach generic literacy strategies, Lent endorses a shift to disciplinary literacy skills that are inherent to specific content areas

In the following table, Lent offers some suggestions for teaching within the disciplines:

Shifts for Teaching Reading Within the Disciplines
·      Show students how experts in your field read relevant texts, not just how to read a textbook.
·      Provide students with a wide variety of texts of varying lengths related to disciplinary topics instead of a single resource.
·      Model the language of the discipline by reading aloud and explaining why experts use the words or terms in certain ways rather than engaging in isolated vocabulary study.
·      Challenge students’ perception of literacy by talking about how disciplinary experts read, write, speak and think that might not conform to conventional rules in ELA classes.
·      Think in terms of how students will use new information to do work within the disciplines rather than only for test-taking purposes. 
·      Give students time to read in class and encourage reading at home.

As a result of teaching through a disciplinary lens, strategies are adapted to better reflect the thinking required within the various disciplines.  For example, Lent sees a “K-W-L“/“See-Think-Wonder” becoming:
Observe-infer-conclude in science
Deconstruct-solve-apply in math
Analyze-compare/evaluate-infer in history
Summarize-analyze-evaluate-write in English
Listen-comprehend-speak in foreign language
Observe-analyze-express in art

The key to increased reading results: 
Lent points out that students will never become better readers by simply memorizing steps in steps.  Students become better readers when they engage in the practice of reading. 

“When students are provided with engaging texts, “reluctant” students often prove they can read pretty well” (Lent 2016.)

It may seem like common sense to effective educators, but Lent highlights the key to motivating students to become better readers and writers is to provide them with engaging texts to view, discuss, read and write about.   Lent encourages us to be text scavengers, seeking resources that will ignite the curiosity of students and motivate them to want to read.  Here are a few ways Lent suggests to “prime the pump” for student literacy learning.
Here are some examples of photos that can be used to create intrigue and student interest


E.g. The use of intriguing photos can be used in any discipline.. You can remove the captions of intriguing photos and do a See/Think/Wonder with students.  Once student interest is piqued, they will be motivated to want to know and learn more.

As educators, Lent challenges us to not limit ourselves to textbooks or novels, but draw on a plethora of engaging texts:

-       Current event and historical articles
-       Photos with or without captions
-       Infographs
-       Charts and tables
-       Picture books
-       Recipes & supply lists
-       Cartoons
-       Quotes
-       Speeches
-       Primary documents
-       Intriguing/Fascinating photos

Award-winning fiction and nonfiction books for school-aged children
-       The Canadian Children’s Book Center Awards
-       Coretta Scott King Awards 2017
-       NCTE Orbnis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction
-       Caldecott Medal (Most outstanding American picture book for children)
-       John Newbery Medal (American Library Association award for best children’s book)
-       Michael L. Printz Aw. ard (Young Adult Book Awards)
-       National Book Award Young People’s Award (Young People’s Literature)
-       Scott O’Dell Award (Historical nonfiction)
-       Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award (Best nonfiction)

Lent advocates a similar shift in philosophy in writing as with reading with regards to writing in the different disciplines:
Shifts for Teaching Writing Within the Disciplines
Show students how to write in your discipline by providing students with (an):
·       Article a week
·       Read-alouds
·       Mentor texts

Have students write every day as it relates to your discipline.
·       Exit slips
·       Interactive exploratory notebooks
·       Reflection pieces
·       Informational/argumentative short tasks
·       Summaries
·       Analyses
·       Poetry
·       Blogs
·       Choice writing in ELA classes
·       Sketchnoting.

Lent is a passionate proponent of a disciplinary approach to literacy that provides exciting learning possibilities for students.   Using multiple literacy resources as an intrinsic tool for work in their discipline, teachers are better able to ignite student curiosity, deepen content knowledge and engagement in all disciplines as well as help them acquire skills to make them college and career ready.

For more in-depth information along with a plethora of practical approaches to employing literacy in the various content areas, ReLeah Lent has authored “This is Disciplinary Literacy : Reading, writing, thinking, and doing…content area by content area.”