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!