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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Improving Writing in Second Language Classes

Written by Lesley Lockhart-Doell, French Immersion Facilitator & Instructional Coach.

Knowing that is takes students sometimes four times as long to write in their second language, how can we as practitioners, better support them? Applying best practices in writing in a second language,  The ÉCRI model  is a reasoned and coherent writing protocol specifically designed for the French Immersion classroom, developed by the Second Language Research Institute of Canada. The model, based on classroom research, is highly regarded by immersion educators across the country. Elements of the model, allows perfect moments to discover the competencies.
Knowing that critical-thinking is using criteria and reasoning to conceptualize, evaluate and make judgements, the writing model allows the opportunity for this specific competency to develop, especially in Phase 2.

Designed and adapted for all grade levels, FSD high school immersion teachers are using the model as they introduce expressive writing.
1. Starting in Phase 1 of the writing protocol, students were given time to reflect upon the progression within the rubrics with a partner as they highlighted key words.

2. Using the ECRI model of analysing model texts (Phase 2), the teacher first read an exemplary text to the students. They were given time to underline the theme of the text. As a group, they discussed what made it exemplary.

(Interestingly, the text was short as the teacher encouraged students that they don’t have to write five pages. They discussed about how to move out of an imposed structure and rigidity, to take be creative and take risks in their expressive writing. The competency of creativity is a purposeful creation of something that is novel, but also has significance.)
3. They then moved into phase 2, whereby students used the criteria provided to make a judgement. Using the criteria from the rubric, she specifically explained : “You are now the teachers.” Five copies were handed out to each students. With partners, they highlighted the theme of each text and then completed the rubric.

By taking the time to move purposefully through stages 1 and 2, students are much better prepared to embark on an expressive writing piece, especially after given the opportunity to critically think through analysis of writings. Most importantly, students were given time for thinking, time to build that capacity and were provided the background knowledge to go deeper in their own thinking. I look forward going back to see the texts they wrote as they move into the next stage!

Monday, 7 May 2018

Keys To Creativity

Written by Denise Litke, Instructional Coach
Reflections from Learning and the Brain Conference "The Science of Innovation": Teaching Students to Think, Create, Innovate, Imagine and Inspire

In mid - February I attended the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco, CA.  I had heard from colleagues that this was an exceptional conference to go to, so I drained my PD funds, packed up my laptop and suitcase, and off I went!  The focus for the conference was The Science of Innovation:  Teaching Students to Think, Create, Innovate, Imagine and Inspire.  The title alone got me thinking and making connections to what is happening in Alberta’s education around the implementation of the competencies.  In fact, one of the competencies is Creativity and Innovation.

I was excited to delve into some new learning and had scoured the conference brochure, picking out the speakers and sessions that I wanted to attend.  My top three choices were Dr. David M. Eagleman, neuroscientist, Dr. Jo Boaler, author of Mindset Mathematics and the YouCubed Math website and Alberta’s own George Couros (I first met him when he worked at Rimbey Jr./Sr High School and was doing presentations on WebQuests).  I was not disappointed by any of these choices, and for the most part, any of the sessions that I attended over  the next two and a half days.

Once the conference wrapped up, I started to look over my notes and gather my thoughts about all that I had learned.  I searched for common themes that wove their way through each session and presenter, and I was able to identify four key ones:

      Creations are a balance between something that is novel or new (flexible) and
something that is seen to have value (stability).  
David Eagleman stated that “All ideas have ahistory and ideas evolve when we bend, break
apart or blend 2 or more of them.”  Because the human brain is more thoughtful than reflexive
and can think about other possibilities, people can take a model of something that is in the
world and turn it into something new.  However, innovation does need balance.  If an idea is
too far out there, or it is not seen as being valuable, nothing will become of it (well, maybe not
at that time). 

Cultivating curiosity.  
The idea that when we are curious we are inquiring and exploring, which in turn increases
our  “grittiness” and perseverance.  Consequently, when we are faced with something novel
or unexpected, we believe we can handle it.  It’s called:
Courage Quotient = willingness to act
fear by Todd B. Kashdan.

      Growth Mindsets.
Not only our students, but our own.  People who are creative embrace challenges, even if
they know it may be hard.  They are willing to take risks, fail, and have the attitude of “This is
great! I will learn from this.”

Making Mistakes and Facing Challenges.  
Are we (students and teachers) willing to take risks?  Do we have the “grit” to struggle through the
learning process?  What is our mindset?  Emily Diehl talked about having Mistake Procedures
and Challenge Supports in our classrooms.  That we need to support and encourage students
to get into the “Learning Pit” and work through the learning process.  The graphic below, is
just one example that Diehl shared with us, of how a teacher had her students reflect on their mindset and attitude toward facing a challenge.           

      She also suggested when considering our lessons or tasks for students, ask yourself these four questions: 

      What opportunities do learners have to engage in creative work?
      How much focused time do they have to work at solutions?
      What is the feedback loop for creative work?
      How do you celebrate and recognize people who are creatively productive, and what is the message you send about why they succeeded?     

As I considered what I had heard at the conference, I realized something.  I realized that we don’t teach students creativity.  Creativity evolves and develops in our students when we cultivate curiosity, shift fixed mindsets, encourage and support students in facing challenges, and then provide them with “opportunities to engage in creative work”.  Being creative is not out of anyone’s reach.  It is there in the way we solve everyday problems and face countless situations when functioning in the world around us.  As Gini-Newman and Case state in their book Creating Thinking Classrooms “The point is that creativity is not simply a matter of being inspired; it can be nurtured [and there is] creative capacity within every student” (54).