Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Well, it's certainly a winter wonderland! I am kind of snowed in but since I am so close to shopping on Cambie Street and my main Christmas festivities are close by, it's bearable. Monday, my street was such a mess, I gave up trying to go to a dinner party. The other problem is so many people have basically abandoned their vehicles there is nowhere to park if you do leave. So here is hoping that the weather isn't ruining your holiday and that you are able to just relax and enjoy the beauty! I am currently making mincemeat muffins and listening to CBC for entertainment!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Well, I am hopeless this week it seems on anything to do with late literacy, but I just had to comment on the SNOW! I just came home from a party where we sang Christmas carols, and it's snowing and it looks so beautiful. I have to say this is my idea of what Christmas should look like! Growing up in Quebec, snow is somewhat my natural element. I love that satisfying crunch as your boots hit the snow covered pavement. I don't appreciate driving in blizzards but nights when snow is gently falling like tonight are perfect.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas cards and Paperblank journals

Who has time to write a blog when she has Christmas cards to write? I do promise to blog soon again and tell you all about the great books I have been reading, mainly young adult... My policy is to read and then give them away... My other occupation seems to be baking so and yes, you can make good shortbread cookies using a food processor. Tonight's discovery.
On a more serious note, I recently discovered a wonderful Vancouver-based organization, the Nepal Library Foundation and thanks to a former colleague, Alison Bird, who is very involved with this group, we organized a sale of beautiful Paperblank journals on the fourth floor, and $1000 goes straight into this organization's work. What a great way to Christmas shop!
Don't forget to register for our school board's Literacy Day on February 20th. I am very excited about the program, and I am hoping that you will be able to support the Nepal Library Foundation as well. I am offering three new series of workshops in the new year so just check them out as well by hitting the professional development link on the side! Enjoy the snow!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A helpful website for writing...

Thanks to Joanne Carlton, our newest Literacy Mentor, I discovered a very helpful website for those of you who like to use Six Traits for your writing programs. It's called The website was developed by people involved in the Northern Nevada Writing Project. Lots of great resources here. I have included a picture of Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter because this great book was chosen as their mentor text of the year. If you haven't read the book, needless to say things start happening on 90th street and it's a great source for getting ideas for writing.
This week I am looking forward to seeing Kari Winters work with students k-5 at Van Horne. I used her delightful book, Jeffrey and the Sloth with a group of grade five students there as it's another great book to inspire writing as Jeffrey has no ideas until the sloth that he has been sketching comes to life! This led to teachers inviting Kari to speak there. I think having the opportunity to meet real writers is a great inspiration to students as readers and writers. We are also fortunate in Vancouver to have access so many great writers.

Friday, I was at a meeting of the Adolescent Literacy Network (consultants throughout the Lower Mainland)where we had a really good discussion of writing-to prompt or not to prompt, formative assessment etc. Earlier in the week, we looked at media literacy at our high school literacy coordinators' meeting. Our speaker, Wendy Chen, helped us look at different facets of media literacy and everyone was impressed by the anti-racism prize winning videos produced by our own Vancouver students and shown to us by Angela Brown.

What are the teaching essentials?

I have done quite a few workshops in the last couple of weeks and visited quite a few classrooms as well and I have been doing some thinking and reflecting. When I heard Regie Routman speak at NCTE, her ideas did stick. She talked about how our classrooms need to be. They need to create "a can do" atmosphere. Here are her suggestions which she elaborates on in her latest book, Teaching Essentials.
Let students know you will help them discover their possibilities.
Ensure all voices are heard.
Demonstrate the power of writing.
Read and write texts that embody the “can do” spirit.
Celebrate success-cheer students on.

To the many wonderful teachers who I hope read this website, thank you for doing this! I experience this in your classrooms.

Making it Stick

It's beginning to look like Christmas. I forced myself to start decorating and maybe today, the outdoor lights will go up. My reading this week has included Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan and Chip Heath. I found it fascinating!
As a teacher and to some extent, teacher educator knowing what makes ideas stick, is important. This book is highly readable and as you read, you think, "that makes sense".
How do we get ideas to stick? How do we make people remember?
Keep it the message simple (what's most important). Be unexpected to get people's attention and keep their attention by opening and filling knowledge gaps. Be concrete, for example, we remember a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The ideas have to be credible, people have to be able to test ideas out for themselves. Use emotion. We are wired to feel for people rather than abstractions. Finally, use stories. Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Stories act as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.
To create a successful idea, you need Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story to gain SUCCESs. Great reading and a change from my usual professional development reads!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It's a reading weekend. And of course, I am many other things I should be doing, but I am in love... with this book! It's written in the form of letters and I love reading other people's letters. Each word is delicious, meant to be savoured! The characters are great and I had no idea (well maybe I did one time) that Guernsey, part of Britain but located off the Normandy coast, was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War! The book is set after the war when a journalist receives a letter asking her to send the name of a bookstore in London where he, Dawsey Adams, can order a book with more of Charles Lamb's writing. The reason he has written to Juliet is that the book he has by Charles Lamb once belonged to her as her name and address were written in the book. A casual reference to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society makes Juliet curious and the story begins... The story of how the book was written is fascinating in itself and for you readers of books for children, you may recognize the co-author, Annie Burrows, as she writes the Ivy and Bean series. Visit the book's website and check out the video link on u-tube. This book again is a gift of hope.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hope was here...

Which came first? Hmmm... First I bought a beautiful picture book, Amazing Peace, by Maya Angelou and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Random House, 2008) and then I went to NCTE, heard Joan Bauer speak and bought Hope was Here for a young friend. I returned and Joan Jung showed me a beautiful book entitled Hope is an Open Heart, an amazing book with incredible pictures from around the world. This morning I finished reading Hope was Here by Joan Bauer, a young adult novel about a girl who has no father and an absentee mother, lives with her aunt who is an amazing cook but has just lost her diner in Brooklyn. She and her aunt are forced to move to a small town in Wisconsin and now work for a new diner's owner who has leukemia but has decided to run for mayor of a politically corrupt town. Some beautiful writing and not a few tears. I think one could do an amazing unit with all or some of these great books or just enjoy them...

Maya Angelou's 'Amazing Peace'
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal by Naomi Shihab Nye

By Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? We told her the flight was going to be 4 hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu-beduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late.

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of
It. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in Jerusalem and San Antonio. Her books of poetry include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East; A Maze Me: Poems for Girls; Red Suitcase; Words Under the Words; and You and Yours.

(Naomi read this poem at Middle School Mosaic at NCTE last Saturday afternoon. She was a surprise visitor and gave us this poem as a gift). This week we had a poetry slam in Steve Turner's grade six class at Cavell. The students did a great job of performing poems written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (Lemonade Sun) and Ralph Fletcher (A Writing Kind of Day, Poems for Young People. I found the poems echoing in my head in a way that they didn't on the page. Another gift!)

See them run

Wednesday night when I should have been finishing my workshop for the next day, I went to an event put on by Room to Read (see side bar). It was the screening of a documentary film, See Them Run, about three young Victorians who spent this summer running across Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. We met Erin, Patrick and Reuben, the three people who ran a marathon each day for 100 days to raise money and awareness. At the screening they presented Room to Read, an organization that builds schools, libraries, publishes books in English and the home country's language all over the world, a cheque for 40 000 dollars. Feel inspired?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

San Antonio musings

Well the wonders of the internet! I am awaiting a flight to Dallas and then Vancouver. I meant to write before but I was just a bit too busy at National Council of Teachers of English Conference. I have two suitcases full of books and a head full of ideas. So many great sessions! Some people argue that individual professional development isn't effective but for me a conference like this gives me needed inspiration. It also exposes you to what the leaders in the field are thinking and gives you the opportunity to meet people that you never thought you would be able to. I know I will spend the next few days unraveling some of what I saw and heard.
Highlights-hearing and actually speaking to Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea) (that's him in the picture with Pam) who has become one of my heroes, hearing what Lucy Caulkins, Heidi Mills, and Brenda Power see as the "musts" of literacy coaching, enjoying a session with Frankie Sibberson and Cris Tovani and others on formative assessment, another session looking at Reading/Writing Connections with Notebook Know How's Aimee Buckner, Jeff Anderson, and Kelly Gallagher. Kelly Gallagher is fantastic by the way, high school teachers.
Last year I loved a session on Improvisational Drama and this year,I was able to attend another. Now I have a book full of Second City exercises and literacy links. Then there were the authors and the books... And yes, the wanders (sometimes almost runs) along the River Walk. Tomorrow it's back to real work but I hope I have brought a little of my inspiration along...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My other blog-and online literacies...

As if one blog wasn't enough I have added another for our provincial International Reading Association, BCLCIRA. For instance on this site you find out about coming events such as our evening event/dinner with IRA board member, Donald Leu, who will be speaking on The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension on February 3. Now just to check to see if anyone reads this blog or the other one, I will give a free registration to the first person to post on this entry. We have already had one winner, Mike McEwan, principal of Cavell Elementary who was our draw winner at our working together coordinators' meeting at the VSB! To obtain a flyer for this event just push the button for VSB professional development on the sidebar and once on the website hit the external professional development opportunities button.

Haiku anyone?

I am feeling guilty. I am behind in my blogging. There has just been too much literacy "stuff" to blog it appears. Up early, cleaning out my vsb e-mail, and I discovered information on the Vancouver Cherry Festival that I probably haven't sent out. I hit their beautiful website and thought what a lovely way to find a bit of peace in the busy classroom. Teaching grade six, my class usually studied Japan in depth and many haiku were written. With this festival, your students can submit haiku and who knows, their poem might be posted on a bus! The festival organizers are anxious to have school submissions and many of you like me may not have known about the festival. Due date is mid December. Gorgeous photographs to inspire your students and teaching tips and lots of other neat information is on their beautiful website!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Here's to change...

I have to admit I am feeling excited. I tuned into a favorite website, Huffington Post, and discovered that the voters of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, had voted just after midnight and the verdict was 15 for Obama and 6 for McCain. Dixville Notch is a scenic spot high in the White Mountains just over the border from where I grew up. It's the site of a still surviving grand old hotel called The Balsams which my uncle apparently once thought of buying. I hadn't been there in years until a couple of years ago. It's still rather spectacular. I always remembered in my childhood how the first vote was always there.

This is only the second time they have voted Democrat since 1968 so I think I finally really really believe that Barack Obama is going to be president. Today history is being made in a good way. I'm excited!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Places to go, things to do!

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by choices? My e-mail does that to me and then I pass all those choices on to others so I am trying to put some of this material on here rather than e-mail.

In a past blog I mentioned Room to Read and there is a link on the side. The local chapter is screening a documentary, See-Them-Run, about three Victorians who have literally ran around Africa raising money for work in local communities in Africa. Erin, Reuben, and Patrick will be there to introduce their film. This will be Wednesday, November 26 from 7 pm to 8:45 pm at The Ridge Theatre. Tickets are $20 and available online.

Do you like reading new books on line? Pembroke, the publisher of many Canadian literacy resources plus the Canadian distributor for Stenhouse, has a great e-mail newsletter which highlights there new books. Press here for this month's edition.
Tonight there is an event at Christianne's Lyceum on using sophisticated picture books to set the stage for literature circles. Many of you know Christianne from her years at Kidsbooks. I keep meaning to go to one of the workshops but haven't yet but someday...

One of my favorite events is coming up sponsored by Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable
and Children's Writers and Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC)at Hycroft on November 12 when a Canadian writer is featured and we get to hear about new books from our BC writers as well. This year's author is Kathy Stinson. If you want to book authors for your school the CWILL website is extremely useful!

Now that I have passed on all these choices...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Drop Everything and Read

Well, yes, I did drop everything and I read the first few chapters of a new Orca young adult book, res judicata by Vicki Grant. I am intrigued and I think I will have to take it home tonight to finish. Intriguing characters with a Halifax setting. Mom is a lawyer, once a street kid, who had her teenage son when she was no more than sixteen. The story is told from the point of view of her son who ends up having to help out his mom more than he sometimes wants to.

I spent the weekend in Kelowna attending the provincial International Reading Association conference but I also had time to discover the best wine I have ever tasted in the Okanagan and experienced bicycling on high on the Kettle Valley Railway.

Today I have also had a chance to update my wiki so that you can download all our annotated book lists and also our dvd lists. Just check out my pbwiki site on the side at Good Sites to Visit! Bringing the wiki up to date will be a continuing project for me...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Need a little inspiration on a rainy day?

A friend sent me this clip recently, a little inspiration from a fifth grader. Now this is a child who knows how to use oral language! You can also find the video of an interview with Dalton with Ellen on the same page!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Just a reminder about some possibilities! The Engaging Adolescent Learners' Diploma being offered in district is to begin in January. The deadline for this program is November 7. It's a great way to go up a category and if you are accepted into the Master's program it will only take you an additional year. Lots of great conferences on the PSA day on October 24. Feel like a trip to the Okanagan check out BCLCIRA and CINCIRA's conference in Kelowna with lots of great sessions. In Vancouver, you can spend a day with Paul Kropp or Lori Rog at LOMCIRA's fall conference at the Hastings Room at the PNE! The BCTELA conference will be at the Delta Inn in Richmond with lots of great sessions with popular speakers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The week that was...

I have, as I am sure you do, endless lists. This morning I have decided to tackle my neglected blog. I must say it is wonderful to have a long weekend! Maybe I can at least think about buying bulbs! I notice that the date of this blog is incorrect, try October 11th!
In the world of literacy these are busy times. We have been busily trying to get our new service delivery model into operation in our elementary schools, for one thing. Highlights of my week included explaining independence and the daily five and the five R's in a third grade class at Waverley and watching how quickly they "got" it) and a literacy meeting with a dedicated intermediate staff at Cavell. The latter proved that you can have a lot of fun meeting with your colleagues. In order for us to meet, their principal worked with ninety students. They were a bit worried for him but since he was once my students' amazing P.E. teacher I had perfect confidence.
A couple of weeks ago, we launched our first grade seven-high school book study this term on Guiding Readers Through Text (Second Edition) This is a great book actually for teachers grades four to twelve. In that discussion I gave our participants some useful on line resources for classroom teachers.
I will share a couple here. If you would like great lessons from the New York Times at all levels and a variety of subject matters go to this website. Great resources at the National Science Teachers' Association website.
If you need anything to do with Canada some great resources on the Government of Canada website. Another useful website for Canadians is CPAC in the classroom. And our own Vancouver Public Library has a wonderful site to find online resources. For local and Canadian issues in the news you can go to the Vancouver Sun
Looks like a good place to end this blog! Happy researching!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Still here and we were paid!

I swear this will be a short blog to be worked on later! I have been cleaning out my e-mail and discovering interesting things that I had missed. For instance, I just found another good blog on current children's literature, The Joy of Children's Literature. Through the blog, I found out about a new free online science magazine which is great for children k-5, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears.
Several people have asked me for suggestions for beginning of the year read alouds. I have lists but I always like to go with what is new-what kids might not have yet read. One good approach is to prowl around Kidsbooks. For those of you on the east side (well at least Main Street) is that there is a new children's bookstore, Once Upon a Huckleberry Bush, between 28th and 29th near the liquor store on the east side of Main. Since I live nearby and know how many children there are in the neighbourhood this is really exciting. I am also sending a compliment to Hagers' Books in Kerrisdale for giving me good leads on adult books and they also have a good children's books section. I so appreciate our independent book sellers and love supporting them. My current adult read is DeNiro's Game by Rawi Hage. I love it. Set in Beirut during the civil war it is a total page turner but gives a great picture of what life must be like in such a setting. The author, now living in Canada, will be speaking at the International Writers' Festival in October.
I have to go to work and I haven't even told you about my life as a spelling judge! Maybe I will just let you know when I appear on national TV for literally two seconds! As fun as it was, I am not ready to give up my day job for a career in television. Happy third week!

Monday, September 8, 2008

International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day always sneaks up on me! This year my first e-mail of the day congratulated me for being quoted in the Vancouver Sun. When I skimmed the paper there was a piece by children's writer, Melanie Jackson, who also works for the BC School Trustees' Association who had interviewed me last June for a piece for the BC School Trustees' Association newsletter so surprise, surprise! Here's the link!
One of my friends e-mailed me Friday, "the classes are organized and now the real work begins..." I have to say I always loved the beginning of the year, like a new fresh slate, figuring out all those new personalities and starting everything new with so many possibilities... And of course each year I was going to get it right this time!
And a bit more on International Literacy Day, if you are interested in learning about how students in Africa working collaboratively with students in Washington D.C. find out about Reading Across Continents- Connecting Students and Teachers around the World via Technology and Literature.
Here's a great quote from one of the authors involved in this project, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian author of Purple Hibiscus) "It is important that we recognize the equal humanity with the people in whom we share this world. It is important for us to conceive a world in which different is just different and not better or worse. I am obviously biased but I think that Literature is the best way to combat this stereotype, to come closer to a common idea of humanity".

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gearing Up

Just noticing that I haven't blogged in awhile. I guess I have been busy entertaining out of town visitors and taking a few short trips myself (must find a picture). Right now I am putting things together for a summer intermediate later literacy institute for this Tuesday and Wednesday so the professional materials have been out! My latest professional reading has been a new International Reading Association publication, Quality Comprehension: A Strategic Model of Reading Instruction Using Read-Along Guides, Grades 3-6 by Sandra K. Athans and Denise Ashe Devine. There are many things I like about this book. I like the specific reading guides that can be used with any text especially those on monitoring comprehension (fix up strategies) and finding word meaning and building vocabulary using context clues. When we look at assessing our students' reading using the RAD, this is still an area that somehow just doesn't get taught sufficiently in many cases. These read along guides provide a good way to do this. By going to the website that I just gave you, you can easily look at and download the study guides. In the book you have specific examples of how these can be used.

Non professionally, I just read an excellent adult novel which is a nice fit for teachers (now is it a coincidence it was a gift from Adrienne Gear?). The novel is Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, another Commonwealth Prize winner. It is set in Papua New Guinea in the 1990's in a very difficult time when civil war breaks out and the village that Matilda, the 13 year old protagonist lives in, is basically cut off from the rest of the world. All the expatriots have left, and the one remaining white man in the village agrees to be the teacher. His text is Dicken's Great Expectations. I think I will leave it there, but a great read.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Summer Reading

I just finished reading a great prize winning novel, The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill. I loved it and found it somehow the perfect read prior to the American election. In an entertaining way, Hill describes the journey of one slave girl from Mali to South Carolina to New York City to Nova Scotia back to Sierre Leone and then finally to England where she assists the Abolishionist movement. This novel was written with careful and extensive research, a great combination of history and story. Lawrence Hill is a very interesting man, son of a black father and a white mother, civil rights pioneers in Ontario, who married in Washington D.C. in the 50's and immediately moved to Toronto where his father, Daniel Hill III was doing his doctorate. And if that name sounds familiar, Lawrence's brother is songwriter, Dan Hill. If your book club needs a book, I totally recommend it! Also good reading for senior high school students.
The picture has nothing to do with the book- I wrote this entry from my deck!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back from eastern journey...

Well back home and realize I haven't blogged in awhile. I enjoyed the rest of my trip to Washington. One highlight was having the opportunity to hear archaelogist,Fredrik Hiebert , talk about the discovery of treasures from the National Museum of Kabul which were though lost when that museum was bombed. Fortunately the curator and staff had smuggled them to bank vaults were they lay safe for thirty years. He oversaw the cataloguing of this collection and curated the exhibit which is currently at the National Art Gallery. There, I was able to view the collection in person and it was amazing. I also visited the new National Museum of the American Indian which is quite amazing as well. And for something a bit different while staying with my friend, Ginny, in historic Falls Church, she took me to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. I certainly know more about George than a did before.
From Washington, I went to Montreal which was mainly spent with friends but on the educational front, I went to the Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site, which marks where the voyageurs used to start their westward journeys. I used to live and teach in Lachine so I am really happy that this site has been created. Nearby is the home of Lasalle, the explorer who in his attempts to reach China, caused his seignery to be nicknamed Lachine. If you haven't been to the lakeshore area of the island of Montreal I totally recommend a trip. You can actually bicycle along a lovely trail from Old Montreal to Lachine which marks the beginning of the area known as The Lakeshore (the widening of the St. Lawrence is called Lake St. Louis). Note picture of canal in Lachine!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

National Geographic Science and Literacy Seminar

I am currently sitting at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, listening to someone talking about her students' blog on science. How appropriate is that! This is a wonderful seminar so that I feel very fortunate to be here. Here is the link and you can check out speakers and even download the papers. This year's theme is Literacy and Science.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Summer and mysteries...

Well, it is officially summer. I am currently getting rid of e-mails as I sit near the pool in Whistler. Hard to believe with the miracles of wireless internet I can also sit here and write my blog. I must admit it is a bit overcast but there you go...I have a couple of professional books staring me in the face. But what am I really reading? I just finished the latest, Elizabeth George mystery, Careless in Red, about Thomas Lynley after the death of his wife. I was excited to discover it in the fast reads section of the local library. Summer and mysteries just seem to go together.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Aidan Chambers and Shaun Tan

This summer, if you need a bit of stimulation come hear Aidan Chambers, world authority on reading when he gives a free lecture July 26 at UBC's conference: Book Talk: Researching Children's and Young Adults' Literature. You do need to register.
Exciting news, Shaun Tan, author of The Arrival,(which Adrienne shared at a Later Literacy Coordinators' meeting) as well as many other books, is coming to Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable in October.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Faye's books that she mentioned...

As promised, here are three of the books that Faye mentioned as being great for Lit Circles. The first was A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Child Soldier by Ishmael Beah. This is the true story of a boy soldier which Faye's daughter couldn't stop reading. The second is Fish by L.S. Matthew. This is a book that is easier but hard to put down. The third the first of a series of Roman mysteries written by Caroline Lawrence, The Thieves of Ostia. I haven't read any of these yet but I have A Long Way Gone sitting here for summer reading, I think I will have to buy Fish, and I am going to start on the Roman mysteries series partly because I actually went to Ostia long ago so that it will be neat to imagine what it was like beyond the archaeological site. If you missed Faye's session, you can read about it on Moira Ekdahl's Teacher Librarian blog. Also Denise North, Killarney's teacher librarian has great directions and suggested books for lit circles grades 8-12 on the Teacher-Librarians' wiki.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Junuary, and yes there will be summer!

Casting into summer... difficult to believe in Junuary. No fears Learning Services staff braved the elements to play bocci on the Education Centre grounds Thursday! The year hasn't ended but we are busily planning next year! Trying to find space for workshops and meetings in the Education Centre can be a real challenge so that it pays to book early! Barb, Carol, and Shelagh are heading off to Oregon next week to go to workshops with the folks at Choice Literacy. Expect a report from me when I go to Washington, D.C. in July to go to a Literacy Institute at National Geographic Headquarters. I have to admit the cocktail party in The Explorers' Hall of Fame intrigues me!
Just finishing this short blog off before I go to the workshop on Oral Language and Lit Circles with Faye Brownlie at Thompson this morning. I am including here a link to the book, Student Diversity: Classroom Strategies for All Learners, which she wrote with Catherine Feniak and Layton Schnellert. You can download an excellent chapter on Literature Circles there.
A bit of an advertisement, there will be a Later Literacy Summer Institute August 26 and 27 at the VSB in order to gear up for another year. Scary, I know! For details just go to VSB pro d site, link is just on the right!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Champlain's Freedom Writers

What does a group of students at Champlain Heights Elementary School have to do with tough inner city high school students from the worse areas of Long Beach, California? You might not think much but teachers Dagmar Kafka and Angela Angel-Lara saw a connection.

The students in their pull out ESL and LAC program in grade six watched the movie, Freedom Writers. There was an immediate connection for these students who had not found school or sometimes life an easy place to be. The teachers followed up with reading excerpts of the Freedom Writers Diary edited by Erin Gruwell, the amazing teacher who changed her students’ lives-or rather helped them change their lives. Next the students wrote poetry from ideas from the Freedom Writers’ Teachers Guide.

Somewhere along the way, they thought that they would love to meet the real Erin Gruwell. By chance, Dagmar noticed that Erin was coming to town to speak at an event at the River Rock Casino Theatre sponsored by King David High School (a small private school) with a curriculum emphasizing social responsibility. The cost was $36 a ticket and what with the cost and getting the students to the event in Richmond, the group wasn’t sure this was a real possibility.

Inspired by how the real Freedom Writers invited wrote letters and raised money to invite Miep Gies (the woman who helped hide Anne Frank and her family during WWII) and Zlata, who wrote about her life in war torn Croatia, to visit their school, the ten students at Champlain decided to invite Erin to visit their school. They sent their poems and letters.

She wrote back that she was fully booked by King David so it wasn’t possible for her to visit Champlain. She told them she would be happy to meet them for half an hour prior to the cocktail reception planned for those who paid $300 a ticket before she spoke.

At this point they decided they needed to start serious fundraising. They had to go to the event! They sold 100 freedom writer kits-a journal and pencils and erasers, but that was only just over $100 profit! MLA Wally Oppal came to the school to talk to the students about Racism. They told him about the project and he made a donation of $10 per student. Other donations were received from the Champlain Parents’ Advisory Council, the Sisters of Charity, Ms. Kafka’s mother, a former teacher at Champlain Annex etc. One student’s dad donated his limousine service, providing free gas, parking, and his time. Each student only had to pay $10 to cover the price of the ticket and dinner.

The big day came. The kids were excited. One student was ill but there was no way she wasn’t going. Imagine how excited they were when they finally met Erin Gruwell. She had read their letters and poems closely, guessing who each student was, and greeting them warmly and giving each his or her own personal Freedom Writers’ diary and a picture of herself, Hilary Swank (who starred in and produced the movie) and the original Freedom Writers. She didn’t just spend a half hour with them but an hour. She promised them she wasn’t saying good-bye then but would say good-bye after she spoke.

While Erin had to meet those $300 patrons of King David, the Champlain Heights went off to a nearby Pizza Hut. The students told me how surprised the other customers were surprised to see a group of dressed up kids arrive in a limousine!

They thoroughly enjoyed the event itself, sitting in the plush theatre, listening to their heroine and new friend, and getting to watch a clip of the original Freedom Riders as well as the movie version. As promised, before she went to sign books, she met the Champlain group at the theatre exit and gave each a hug and a good-bye. They went on to take advantage of the fantastic dessert buffet provided by King David for all the attendees.

When I had spotted the group at the event, I knew I had to know the story of how they got there. Dagmar shared pictures and we arranged for me to visit. I can’t tell you how moving an event it was for me to see the passion of these young students, their involvement in their writing, and their commitment to change and being the best people they can possibly be.

This is Ms. Kafka’s last month of teaching before she retires. She is a teacher who has certainly made a difference and taught her students that dreams are achievable.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My latest reading...Late Nights and Reading Photographs...

I am currently reading two books, one professional and one novel. I find myself going back and forth between the two. The trade book, Late Nights on Radio by Elizabeth Hay, won the Giller Prize in 2007. I had read a couple of her other books which I had enjoyed so when I spotted it on the fast reads at the nearby library, I decided to give it a read. I somehow thought it was set in Hay River (guess I heard northern and then there is her name) but it is actually about Yellowknife in the early 70's about a group of people who work in the local CBC radio station which Hay herself did.
Just as I began to read, I thought of a friend in university in 1970 who had told me about going there to visit her sister. It sounded quite interesting to someone living in southern Quebec.
Soon after I began reading, one character tells that the reason she wanted to go north was due to a CBC radio documentary drama about a group led by John Hornby of who died from overwintering in the Barrens, "Death in the Barrens." Harry, the acting station manager goes on to say, "George Whalley wrote the script" Then later he says, "Whalley's daughter lives here you know. Just down the road from me on Latham Island." Well, this shows the interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction in this book. Emily Whalley was my friend who visited her sister in Yellowknife.
I am thoroughly enjoying the book for its picture of life in Yellowknife and in a small radio station in the 70's. I find the characters interesting , and I love the well written prose. I am transported to a place I haven't been back to a time I remember in a different place.

It strikes me that blogging is a bit like working late night radio, "No one was watching, few were listening, the light was entirely different."

The other book I am reading, is one of the latest book club selections from the International Reading Association, Reading Photographs to Write With Meaning and Purpose, Grades 4-12. I am also really enjoying this. As part of the multiliteracies research project, I saw students working effectively with photographs to write and describe their worlds at Begbie and Seymour Elementary Schools. I also saw students using family pictures and archival documents enthusiastically at Moberly in seventh grade presentations telling their family histories. This book by Leigh Van Horne is great in giving me lots of ideas that I would love to try. She gives excellent suggestions for resources. Living in Texas she uses some materials from Texas history but I have been thinking of how we can use BC history and First Nations literature effectively to get powerful writing and thinking from our students. It also inspires me to want to share wonderful work I see in our schools. By the way if you don't know about Historica, you should.

Enough blogging, off to Granville Market. Will the sun ever shine?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Celebrating literacy and planning for the future

Busy week-well try busy day. Tuesday we had our later literacy coordinators' meeting, then there was the high school literacy coordinators' meeting, and after school our action research school celebration. That was a tiring but exhilarating day!
Profesional development activities may not be number one on your list these busy days but you may want to check out opportunities coming up. June 20, Faye Brownlie will be doing a session for high school English and Social Studies teachers at Thompson High School on Literature Circles and Oral Language. For newer teachers or teachers wanting the Readers' Digest condensed version of Intermediate Language Arts, I am doing a summer institute in late August. Jodi and Carol have series of workshops planned for the fall, Literacy 102, as well as a book club on two of our favorite new books. If you enjoyed Paul Kropp and Lori Rogg Jamieson at our February Literacy Day, or if you missed them, they will be the speakers at LOMCIRA's fall conference on October 24. This time they will be looking at reading! To register or get more information on all these events just follow this link to the VSB's professional development site

Monday, May 26, 2008

Life as a spelling judge and class blogs

Behind again... Last weekend I went to visit a friend, a former teacher-librarian, Ruby, at Saratoga Beach between Courtenay and Campbell River. This was the amazing view we saw from her deck that Friday night. For me somehow, early Saturday morning seems my best blogging time and due to the joys of having wireless internet and a laptop computer this works well. Of course, it didn't work as well last weekend without wireless internet and in a house with amazing views, their computer is located without a view so no blogging for me last weekend!
A couple of things do stand out from that long ago week! I spent a day manning a stop watch and saying correct or incorrect to local contestants in an upcoming CBC show entitled Super Spellers. I don't think I want to make a career of being a spelling judge but a couple of things struck me as I was there. One how vocabulary does influence spelling if words are unfamiliar. The few third or fourth graders just didn't have the vocabulary the sixth graders did. Secondly, isn't it interesting that spelling has somehow almost become "cool"! I always found that anytime I could make learning a game the engagement of my students definitely increased dramatically. What are the most common spelling words your students need to know? Here you go!
Our teacher-librarian consultant, Moira, taught me to blog and I taught my friend, Joanne, how to blog and now she and her class are having a wonderful time with this. I think it's great because it really teaches students to use the internet responsibly and gives them opportunities for instant feedback. If you want to know more about this just let me know! Hit the comment button below!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reel Reading and Writing in the World...

Sometimes I wonder why I am tired at the end of the week and then as I look back I think it can be the sheer breadth of what happens. A personal thrill was having the opportunity to see Erin Gruwell, famous for Freedom Writers which I have blogged about previously. I found myself for the second time in a week at The River Rock Casino Hotel where I had never previously been. I think I particularly enjoyed seeing a news clip of the real Freedom Writers, who were the basis of the movie which everyone needs to see. Erin Gruwell proved to be a pretty special person as she spent quality time with a group of Champlain Heights students who had fundraised their way to the event. I will have more about this in another blog!
Speaking of writers, I met some very talented writers at Carleton at their Writers' Festival this week. All their intermediate students read to each other in small groups and had a big celebration of a year of writing.
I also found out about a project new to me, Room to Read, a non-profit organization begun by a Microsoft executive who went on a vacation to Nepal but found a worthy cause. I am looking forward to working with the Vancouver chapter on projects in the future. Another fun event was getting an opportunity to listen to the creators of Real 4. On this website you can see a schedule of upcoming documentaries on CTV (also being broadcast on National Geographic station worldwide. Our own Angela Brown had been telling me about Sol Guy, British Columbian hip hop artist, recording studio executive in New York City, who took a change in direction after visiting Sierre Leone, and now is dedicated to creating social change through action, art, and culture. I was impressed.
Finally, spent a couple of good sessions with National Geographic , Hampton-Brown trainer, Susan Maguire this week, one of using their materials to differentiate instruction, and another on the Edge reading program for high school students. I think for many of us National Geographic magazines were our first window to how amazing and diverse the world is. There seems to be a theme of the world and reading in this blog. And now I am going to enjoy the sunshine on this long weekend!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

For those of you who didn't go to Atlanta...

So behind... I realized I never finished last week's entry. Here it is one week later.
Saturday morning often seems to be my blogging time! Notice how new words keep entering our vocabularies. What a week! Two retirements! Two dedicated, and I mean dedicated teachers, Sharon Bushell from Quilchena and Winola Chu from Moberly were honoured. When I talk to retireees they always note they don't miss report card writing but they do miss the comaradarie of the staffroom, that place you can pause to catch your breath in the dizzy world of teaching. Staffs often become another family to us. I know when I enter the Moberly staffroom it almost seems as if I have never left. I still value my friendships from John Grant High School (which no longer even exists) from my Montreal days.

Okay back to business. It was a dizzying week from finding better answers with Aaron's grade three/four class at Cavell to charting our way through the new Social Studies curriculum at Tecumseh to getting to use high powered microscopes to look at all sorts of organ cells and then watching grade six and seven students from McBride Elementary create poetry at UBC. The latter is a pilot project which hopefully will be expanded in the fall. Check out this link to the Science Creative Literacy Symposium. Several of my colleagues were away at the Annual Convention of the International Reading Association in Atlanta. Now for those of us who missed it you can access handouts etc. on the website. Also find out about my latest read, R5 in Your Classroom. Now I think I should move on to this week.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Aunt Elsie...

Well I haven't blogged for awhile. My excuse is that I ended up going to Quebec to go to my aunt's funeral and was a "victim" of dial up internet and routers that weren't working while I was away plus spending time with family and friends. First, let me take a moment to talk about my aunt. My aunt was the first one in either of my parents' families to go to university and get a degree and as was typical of women of that era, she became a teacher. My grandmother had wanted to be a teacher and due to family circumstances was unable to, but she made sure all her daughters had an education, the first three daughters became nurses, and finally my aunt became the teacher she had herself, wanted to be. My father, the only son, was a mechanic.

My aunt taught high school and then married and had six children. When my oldest cousin was 12 she went back to teaching to support the family. For the next twenty years she taught elementary school in Arvida, and Richmond, Quebec. She said that to her teaching wasn't work, having six children and a farm was work! My aunt loved teaching. I have had several people who worked with her tell me that she was the best teacher. One of my favorite stories was a new principal complained to her that her bulletin boards were messy and she told him,"They're not my bulletin boards, they are the children's." Later he apologized for this comment when he saw what she accomplished with her students. I remember once going to pick her up when she had had parent interviews, watching parents leave looking so happy because she was a teacher who truly knew and valued and expected the best from her students.

She had 15 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Summers, there were always grandchildren visiting and they were given a schedule. They read with her, practiced the piano, worked in the garden, helped prepare meals etc. She never really retired from teaching. And books. My aunt had more books than you can imagine. She loved books. Just before I left I head the author of the latest book on Emily Carr speak. One of her favorite trips was when she and I visited Haidi Gwaii. I thought how she would have enjoyed another book about her favorite artist.

As she lay dying my cousin, Bruce read her her first favorite book, Heidi, to her, when she was no longer able to read. She also managed to watch most of Sense and Sensibility which I had taped for her recently from PBS. Much credit to my cousins who enabled her to live to the very end of her life in her own beloved home. My aunt had an incredible zest for and appreciation of life. I will miss her.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Speaking of Earth Day

Recently I received due to my International Reading Association Book Club membership, the book Comprehension Shouldn't Be Silent: From Strategy Instruction to Student Independence by Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace. Great book which probably will be a book club at the VSB in the fall! I love their approach to "silent reading" which is renamed R5 (Read, Relax, Reflect, Respond, and Rap, but when I was skimming I discovered that the National Science Teachers Association (NTSA) website offers a annotated lists of Outstanding Science Trade Books organized under the eight science content standards. I googled, and what a great resource!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Summer Reading

Okay! I know it snowed last night but it's summer in Quebec where it's 25 degrees! I may have mentioned the Choice Literacy website before but their latest newsletter has some great suggestions for read-alouds and some great links for ideas on summer reading.

So many good events on this week, but I did go to an interesting event at the Planetarium. The Vancouver International Writers' Festival hosted an evening with three of the authors in the series Extraordinary Canadians. This is a neat series where well known Canadian writers were asked to write biographies of famous Canadians. Charlotte Gray, author of Nellie McClung; Lewis DeSoto, author of Emily Carr, and David Adams Richards, author of Lord Beaverbrook, were fascinating. I think this is a series which belongs in high school libraries, bringing colour and personality to Canadian history!

Last week I enjoyed a great conversation with Faye Brownlie and the English department at Killarney High School on Lit Circles. Faye's book, Grand Conversations is one I recommend to anyone who wants a good guide to making Literature Circles fun, and easy to manage.

This week I have spent several periods looking at how to answer questions better with a grade 3/4 class at Edith Cavell. Aaron Espley, their teacher and I, have been using material from the book, Better Answers.
Third and fourth graders really keep you honest! You have to really break things down to the right level and amount, and then it's amazing what they can do!

The other activity I seem to have done a great deal this week is giving presentations about our new literacy model for elementary schools. I must say my skill with LCD projectors has really increased! We are excited about how we have rethought our model and the opportunity to try this out next year with our year one to four schools.

Busy week ahead! Amongst other things, two coordinator meetings! Our grade four to seven coordinators will be looking at different aspects of Main Idea and our high school teachers will be looking at Writing to Learn and great new books for high school students. I also hope to get to a couple of Earth Day celebrations which many of our schools are staging!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Freedom Writers and other ways to change the world...

It pays to read other blogs such as that of our technological savvy teacher-librarian consultant, Moira, because that is how I just found out that Erin Gruwell will be speaking at River Rock Casino on May 14. As you probably know she is the writer of Freedom Writers which was made into a must-see motion picture as well. I really want to hear her and I am sure many of you will want to as well so just go to King David High School's website for additional information and tickets. I hear she is a fantastic speaker.

I also excited to finally have the opportunity to see Barbara Kingsolver, writer and environmental and social activist. I think one of my favorite books is her book of essays, Hide Tide in Tucson. Anyway she is coming to Vancouver on May 29th, thanks to the Vancouver International Writers' Festival. Just go to their website for ticket information.

In doing some unrelated reading I discovered a couple of websites that can help you and your students make a difference. One website is which uses social networking to link potential lenders with individuals in the developing world who require microloans to start or develop their small businesses. Loans are small-as little as $25 and almost all are repaid in full over time.

Another interesting website is which uses internet petitions, email alerts, and online videos to mobilize huge numbers of people in aid of causes such as peace in the middle east and action on climate change. It was co-founded by a Canadian, Ricken Patel.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Technological Difficulties and Poetry and Oral Language

I am behind in my blogging partly due to technological struggles. During Spring Break I decided to take a break from blogging and then the problems began. Let's see-I had to replace my computer's logic board (thank goodness for extended warranties) and then I have had internet problems at home. Somehow blogging isn't something I seem to be able to do at work, but I am back and feeling in need of poetry-and all those daffodils have been known to inspire...

I think we all can use a poem so here is the poem of the week. This blog can link you to more great sites such as the Academy of Poets where you can access all sorts of poetry or receive a poem in your e-mail everyday. Gladstone will be hosting a poetry cafe in the library on April 24th and 25th. So let's all celebrate April with lots of poetry! There really is no better way to celebrate oral language. Not only is Gladstone hosting poetry, lots of schools and even the district are celebrating our young writers. All of Mackenzie's students participated in a writers' festival before the break. Grandview has a writers' cafe scheduled for the afternoon of April 16th. There is a district young writers' festival taking place this Tuesday at the Roundhouse Community Centre. That's just a sample, and of course you can go listen and be inspired by David Ward at Waverley after school on Thursday.

And speaking of oral language. Jodi Carson and Carol O'Malley have a great workshop planned entitled Beyond the Oral Presentation after school on April 22.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

gutsy heroes-what I have been reading...

I have a stack of books that I want to briefly review and take to the office! The first is Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park. Okay, I admit it, I am not a baseball fan. I have beeen to the Big O in Montreal a couple of times with my friend's kids when they were small and that was fun but... my idea of a nightmare is a double header! Despite this, I really enjoyed this book which paints a very clear picture of life in the early 50's in Brooklyn. Audience probably would be grade five and up.
The Highwayman's Footsteps
by Nicola Morgan. This is a real adventure book based on the famous poem, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. This reminds me of the books I loved in my childhood full of action, interesting characters in exotic settings long ago, in this case 18th century England.
A friend went to the Key West Literacy Seminar. Now doesn't that seem exotic? She sent me a young adult book by an author that she heard there. Claiming Georgia Tate by Gigi Amateau is a very good book about a girl who has loving grandparents, a mom who apparently died, and a father who is not good. Things begin to go wrong when her grandmother dies. This book shows how naive people can be and the damage that can be done, but this is a book of hope with strong and interesting charactors.
The last book I am going to briefly review is When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan. This is another book aimed at upper intermediate to grade eight that I really enjoyed. This is a historical novel set in rural Missisippi just after The Civil War. The characters are great as well as the plot. Addy is a gutsy heroine who overcomes some difficult circumstances and makes difficult decisions!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Science, and David Ward, other odds and ends...

Keeping up a blog seems like a bit of a responsibility! What's new in the world of Later Literacy? An e-mail website to which I have recently subscribed is from Choice Literacy. Choice Literacy is a great website to which you need a membership to access articles and podcasts aimed at literacy coaches and consultants. If you see an article that interests you, do let me know, as I have a membership. The newsletter is free. Contributors include The Sisters of The Daily Five fame and Notebook Know-How's Aimee Buckner. The Sisters are tackling middle schools now so that should be interesting. The Daily Five seemed to be The Book last year, and this year Notebook Know-How has proven incredibly popular.
On the web again I found another interesting website, The National Science Teachers Association and of course I went shopping and found several intriguing books linking science and literacy as well as other great resources you can just download. Becoming a member of the website is free. Now speaking of science, in an action research project last year, Jacob Martens and Moira Ekdahl added to the library's collection of great trade books related to science. Recently Jacob's Physics 11 students did trade book reviews on line. To read some, just visit Gladstone on line and sign in as a guest!
Interested in literature circles at the high school level, Denise Clark and Liisa House have planned a great workshop on this for April 1.

Report cards and Parent-Teacher Interviews will be over, why don't you plan to come to Waverley's library April 10th to LOMCIRA's Spring Fling, Reading and Writing with Children, a presentation with writer and researcher, David Ward. Rumour has it that there will even be a glass of wine and nibblies waiting for you. David is great so check it out!

Finally I just have to give credit to staff members at Maquinna who asked to meet with Barb McBride and I to talk about how assessment can drive practice on a Friday afternoon. A great discussion and lunch! That's what I call dedication.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Inspired by High School Meeting this week...

Thanks to Janet McKinley for sharing with us Churchill's independent reading program. The base for their beginning was Maryam Moayeri's book, Independent Minds Independent Readers which can be ordered from Pacific Edge Publishing. Participants also enjoyed learning about Byng's multiliteracies projects from Amy Hughes. The third great presentation was on vocabulary by Pam Hansen from Thompson. Pam referred to the September 2007 issue of Voices in the Middle. I also just found an interesting new book by Janet Allen on vocabulary, Inside Words: Tools for Teaching Academic Vocabulary, Grades 4-12.

I mentioned two great picture books with potential for high school students written by great authors and illustrators. The first I mentioned was The Tree of Life by Peter Sis who also wrote The Wall. The second was The Red Tree by Shaun Tan (also author of The Arrival) who I believe is coming to the Vancouver International Writers' Festival this year. Take a look at this site and order the free video from last year's festival featuring sessions with Margriet Ruurs and Severn Cullis-Suzuki. Barbara Kingsolver is definitely coming to UBC on May 29th!
Speaking ecologically, I currently am reading an interesting critically acclaimed coming of age novel set in in Olympia, Washington, The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch. It's fascinating!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Now what is the main idea?

Okay! I admit it! I am watching the Oscars. You have to know I loved Juno but not heavy enough to win this year's Oscar! More miracles of technology as they announce Oscar winners from Baghdad! The winning song was from another excellent movie, Once, which you must see if you haven't!
One thing I like to find are great links. Here is one great link from the National Writing Project where you can find some interesting articles and resources. Someone told me she was afraid to read my blog because hours might pass as she hit my links. I am just reading Anita Shreve's Body Surfing, set in a former nunnery on the coast of New Hampshire. I have read a couple of her other novels set in this same house at different points in history-the most famous probably being Oprah's pick, The Pilot's Wife. Last weekend I read The Friday Night Knitting Club, not that I have knitted anything since I was a teeenager, but the book was set in New York City so it was a bit of nice trip with a cozy book.
Back on track, I was reading up on determining importance in the second edition of Mosaic of Thought this week, and it was noted how hard it sometimes is to find what's important in our own lives let alone a paragraph. As I looked around the many articles and open books around my cubicle it seemed to reinforce that idea. Just preparing a workshop on picture books and teaching writing traits, again I wondered what are the most important ideas I would want someone to come away with from the workshop? Obvious or not? Picture books are good for all ages for one thing! And that leads me to a wonderful new picture book, Shaun Tan's The Red Tree. It's beautiful! And to end, Lois Lowry (The Giver) and Melanie Watt(Scaredy Squirrel) and Mo Willems(Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) are coming to visit Kidsbooks very soon so check it out!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

In an earlier posting, New Books for Adult Reading, I mentioned the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I just finished reading it. What an inspiring story! Many of us feel frustrated by the state of the world but here is a man who has done something about it, one child at a time by building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a must read. On the website you can also find out information about a project for children called Pennies for Peace. Just before this I read The Sleeping Budhha by Hamida Ghafour, an excellent book which gives you the history and current situation in Afghanistan interwoven with her own family history. One of the parts of teaching grade six that I enjoyed most was the ability to get my students thinking about the larger world and how they could help. Just after 911, my students and I discovered Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis which helped us understand a little bit of this situation. And of course another wonderful way to help our students understand and help the world is through UNICEF. Just contact Paula Gallo, our BC Manager for Development for more information at 604-874-3666 for workshops and how to get your students involved here in B.C.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I just read Click by a whole ton of writers. Linda Sue Park sets the stage with a girl mourning the death of her grandfather, a famous photographer. From her beginning with a gift that will take her to all the major continents, and the third chapter by Eoin Colfer(Artemis Fowl) who focuses on her brother the story spins out. Each of the award winning authors (both adult and children, though they all all popular authors with young adults) writes a chapter leading into interesting directions with Gregory Maguire tying up the pieces. I have to say I loved it and what a great example of how different authors take their own styles into the story. I am trying to think which was my favorite. I rather liked Ruth Ozeki's description of post war Japan. She is the author of last year Vancouver Reads winner, My Year of Meats. Trust Deborah Ellis to set hers in a prison, Russia, this time. I loved the international cast of writers who write in a variety of genres. And it is obvious that each writer did read all the preceding chapters. Not always quite believable but one has to make some artistic allowances! Grandpa definitely got around! Audience: Young Adult

web seminar on reluctant readers

Since I am very quilty of multi-tasking I am currently listening to a archived web seminar on When Kids Won’t Read: What Can Teachers Do?, featuring Teri Lesesne who is one of the leading experts on literature for children and adolescents. This is great and you can access this free as well. I think the easiest thing is to go to the NCTE Inbox Blog and just follow the links. You actually download the webcast.

Again here is the link to the latest NCTE Inbox. There will be another web seminar with Douglas Fisher on "All Teachers are Teachers of Reading But..." again sign up or getting the archived webcast is free! Really there are marvels technologically these days! In the inbox is lots of information about great ideas about celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday from primary to secondary-great lessons etc.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Literacy Day etc.

Friday we had a very successful Literacy Day with about 800 participants. Thanks to all the great presenters and attendees. Special thanks to our wonderful hosts at Killarney. And of course thanks to all the members of the VSB Literacy Team who organized and took care of many unseen details. Also thanks to our publishers who make this day even more fun!

Our keynotes were incredibly popular. Not surprising as Marvellous Mini-Lessons and The Write Genre have been favorite books in the project. I think there sessions showed even more clearly that having successful writing workshops in your classrooms, whatever level, are actually fun and not that complicated to execute successfully. If you would like to learn more please visit their websites. This is Lori's and this is the link to Paul's.

On a personal note I spent the weekend in Chemainus which included seeing a great one woman show Piaf Tonight. On a reading note, I just read the 2006 Newbery Award Winner, Criss Cross which I quite enjoyed.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

ASCD-I almost need to advertise

One of the bonuses of taking this position was learning about ASCD and realizing I really needed to join. As many of you know I am a long time member of the International Reading Association and I feel as if all schools should have someone with a membership. Whenever I go into Cavell Elementary it is so great to see The Reading Teacher journals in the staffroom where staff can access them.

For more general educational information I have to say I love ASCD's Educational Leadership where each issue focuses on some theme or subject area in education with excellent articles. Today I received my ASCD express which focused on parents and I figured out how I could give you access to this express edition as well as past ones. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Non-fiction anyone?

Everyday it seems many interesting e-mails float into my inbox. Last night I received my NCTE in box. This NCTE inbox focussed on non-fiction. I found a couple of very good articles etc. about using non-fiction from primary to high school as well as information about some interesting books, kits etc. You can also go to the NCTE blog and this week's posting is on non-fiction. Have a look! I found a very interesting book on using non fiction in a different way in the English classroom: Reading in the Reel World: Teaching Documentaries and Other Non-Fiction Text.

Now if you would like some Canadian content and find out the best Canadian non-fiction for children take a visit to the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable website. Note Author fest is on today at UBC with some great local writers!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New books for adult reading!

Right now I am reading a fabulous book, Three Cups of Tea, which is about a mountaineer who ended up building schools in villages in remote areas of Pakistan.

While we are on books, I also just read Run by Ann Patchett. I really enjoyed this as well. I have to admit I am an Ann Patchett fan. Now that I think of it I also read another good book, Molokai, where we go with a seven year old to a leper colony in Hawaii in the late 1800's. How horrifying to accompany this child as she has to leave her family, but it is an uplifting book of hope plus you learn a bit of Hawaii history!

Welcome to my blog!

Well this is another attempt at mine to become technologically savvy! Some of you have been brave and visited my pbwiki and now here we are with a blog! Let's see this is my attempt to try this out! As this is my first attempt to blog I thought I would add a picture. This was taken when I visited the Heard Museum in Phoenix!