Feb 072018

Perhaps you’ve heard this term before. Like any term, it can hold different meanings, depending on the speaker and context. Many conversations take courage, to be sure. When I was 17, I had to summon the courage to tell my mom that I’d been in an accident — with her car. When I was in university, I had to summon the courage to go and talk to a professor whose class I was failing. Heart pounding. Face flushing. Jump over my shadow courage.

Yet these conversations aren’t examples of the kind of “Courageous Conversation” I’m talking about. The car, the mark – these were things I could repair and change. So what do we mean, in our school division, as we respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and undertake the Concentus Citizenship Education initiative, when we use the term, “Courageous Conversation”?

Courageous Conversations are about identity – the facets of identity that appear in Section 15, Article 1 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

I’ve been trying to sort out why statements on these subjects are the ones that tend to trigger conversations where people become passionate and often inflict and suffer pain. What makes these topics unique? It’s not just that these things are facets of identity – it’s that they are facets of our identity that we did not ask for and often cannot change – yet which society nonetheless values differently – some higher, some lower; some positively, some negatively. And while we may recognize that inequities exist and admit that they are unjust, we have personally lived with “the unearned advantages and disadvantages” (1) of these facets of our own identities for so long that we instinctively protect them. Opening up a conversation about race, or gender, or religion exposes me, the “me” I’ve so carefully constructed, to profound risk. I may have to scrutinize, perhaps even abandon, beliefs I’ve long-held as true.

That’s why we can feel the current of energy pass through every body in the room when someone in it makes a claim that endorses or challenges an inequity. “Fight or flight” provides us with two options, yet neither is optimal when we have a group of young people in our care, or colleagues in our company, or a curriculum which challenges us to foster critical thinking, compassion, and a justice-orientation in ourselves and our students.

So what other options are available to us? Let’s try a thought-experiment here. Let’s take the attributes of a destructive conversation about difference and then reverse them, and see what happens:

1. Only a few people speak.
2. Speakers and their ideas polarize quickly, sharply.
3. Listeners feel anxious.
4. Relationships are at risk.
5. When it’s done, it’s unlikely that anyone’s thinking has shifted significantly.

Okay, now in reverse:

1. Everyone has a voice.
2. The range of ideas and perspectives is broad and deep.
3. Participants feel safe.
4. Relationships strengthen.
5. When it’s done, it’s likely that many people’s thinking has shifted significantly.

Here’s what we’re discovering as we venture deeper into citizenship education: when it comes to these “hot topics,” never simply say, “discuss.” Why? See the first list above. Giving free reign to unexamined habits of thought and interaction tends to reinforce existing power dynamics in a room, not alter them. Instead, interrupt these habits with discursive strategies that meet the criteria in the second list above.

For the next 4 weeks, look for blog posts on discursive strategies fit to bear the weight of courageous conversations. In the meantime, here’s something to try: when one student jumps to dismiss or clash with a peer’s claim, stop them in their tracks, and ask them to do this first: 1. Paraphrase your peer’s idea to their satisfaction; 2. Pose two questions to learn more about their thinking. Simple strategies like this, rendered habitual through routine use, can turn danger zones into ethical spaces.

(1) See Peggy Macintosh’s 1988 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”

Feb 012018

As teachers, there are three key times in the sequence of a lesson when we have the opportunity to support a student who may be struggling with what we are teaching:

  1. While we are instructing (this post)
  2. While students are practicing (post 2 of 3)
  3. After practice, to ensure students are making sense of the learning for themselves, so they’ll remember it (post 3 of 3)

This post focused on some simple things you can do during the time when you are introducing a new idea. The next two posts in the sequence focus on things you can do when students practice, and the top two strategies to help with sense-making.

What Who will this help the most? Why it helps
Have students describe what they are trying to learn and what they need to do each lesson


Learn more

Students in who are less successful in the subject learn more when a teacher always checks to see if each person knows the learning outcome.

If you ask your class to “write the thing you are trying to learn” in their own words and hold it up, those who are vague or don’t know are unlikely to be successful that day.

For many students, lack of ability to hit the target starts with being confused about what it is.
Use graphic organizers


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Students who get easily overwhelmed, or who only get parts of an idea you have just taught.

The best graphic organizers are focused exactly on the concepts or processes you need students to understand, and simplify complex concepts.

Graphic organizers help students breakdown ideas or process and see the connections between them.  They reduce cognitive load and scaffold higher level thinking.
Chunk a process into small parts


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Students who are overwhelmed/anxious can’t tell what to do next or confused.

Chunking works best when complex assignments or concepts are broken into small steps, and students know what each step looks like (examples). Add progressive deadlines and checking in to chunking to make it most effective.

Breaking something into smaller steps helps make complex tasks easier to process.  Because the bits are smaller, students can do part at a time, making it easier to understand and less daunting.  When teachers give feedback between elements and then give enough time to improve, chunking is most effective.
Use Gradual Release of Responsibility

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Students who forget steps or struggle to do apply new concepts. The sequence of “I do, You do”, with supports, “You Do” is the direct instruction method most associated with successful learning.  It combines modeling, peer grouping, and guided practice so that students understand processes and concepts much more deeply.  It also reduces misconceptions.
Use error analysis together

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Students who misunderstand an idea or are easily frustrated and give up (low grit).

Rather than having students practice alone or in small groups after you teach, do some examples of common errors together.  Ask students to find the errors and explain what misunderstandings you would have if you made them.  Leave the examples visible during practice times.

When students know the errors before they start, they don’t rehearse mistakes and cement misconceptions in their brain. Comparing their work to the errors helps them learn what to avoid.

Related posts:


Jan 232018

I was in a fiddle lesson yesterday with Patti Kusturok, a legendary fiddler – the first woman to ever win the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Championship. I was the last one to arrive at the lesson, and had to sit in the only remaining chair, right next to Patti. She had us playing a tune well-beyond me, and the last bar, to me, was nothing short of a mystery. So, when we got to it, I faked it, barely touching my bow to the strings. And while I faked it, I watched her fingers, my face close to her left hand. I saw her perform a sequence of moves I could see, well enough to describe. The mystery lifted and I started moving my fingers in imitation.

It will take me a while to get it, but I know how to get there now.

She does these things so effortlessly, making a million technically precise moves and choices as she executes a tune. And then there’s me, sitting next to her, hoping to catch on while avoiding detection. I wonder if this is what classes feel like for a struggling learner – one who watches while others glide through the reading, thinking, and communicating required in different subject areas. It makes me wonder, “If the struggling learner could get right up close to the million technically precise moves and choices ‘successful’ students make while executing a task, what would they see?”

I think that they would see six things happening:

1. Accessing, applying, and critiquing prior knowledge
2. Making accurate sense of the words themselves, particularly the key concepts
3. Summarizing, connecting the dots between key concepts and components of a text
4. Inferencing, reading between the lines accurately, even insightfully
5. Connecting the text to: themselves, other texts, and the world
6. Metacognition: perceiving, describing, evaluating, and adjusting their own meaning-making moves

At any given point in a lesson in any subject, students are building new knowledge, skills, and dispositions by doing these things, in various sequences, combinations, and permutations.

So if these are the things students do as they learn, often unconsciously — sometimes well, sometimes badly — how can we help all students to see what they’re doing? And if we sort out how to do this, could this also help us, as teachers, to better see and hear our students’ thinking – readily available for formative assessment and responsive instruction?

Maybe? Perhaps you’d like to see, to join SLAM teachers in a grand experiment: if we incorporate questions related to these skills into our planning, teaching, and assessment, how many students on the edge of learning will come in from the cold?

Here are questions for each SLAM literacy skill that students and teachers can integrate into assignments, discussions, and assessments on any day in any subject. Notice how different questions invite students to read “on the line”, “between the lines”, and “beyond the lines” of any text they encounter.

• Have you encountered this (type of) topic, problem, issue, or text before?
• What do you know about it? How do you know this / these things?
• Are some of your sources of prior knowledge more reliable than others?
• What can/do you conclude with confidence, based on prior knowledge?
• What questions do you have, based on prior knowledge?
• How do you feel about this (type of) topic, problem, issue, or text? Why?
• How does this connect to / build upon what you’ve / we’ve learned so far?

• To understand this text, topic, or issue, what are the power words or key concepts we need to pay attention to? How do we know?
• Is this a word that is common to most subjects or specific to this one?
• Which other key words do I need to know / can I use to understand this one?
• How can I figure out what a word means? Does the root word give me a clue? How about the meaning of the word in context, that is, in relation to the words which surround it?
• Can I state what each one means? Elaborate? Provide an example? Explain why it matters? (SEEI: State, Elaborate, Exemplify, Implicate)

• What are the major parts or steps of this text, discussion, class?
• What is/are the key idea(s) for each part or step?
• How do these key ideas relate / connect to one another?
• How can I articulate this sequence of ideas so that my audience has a clear understanding of the structure and key contents of this text, discussion, or class?

• What conclusion(s) does the information in the text support?
• What does the author imply or suggest is true, without directly saying it?
• Is this author biased? How do I know? What is the author’s point of view? Assumptions?
• What is the purpose of this text? How do I know?
• Who is the text’s intended audience? How do I know?

To Me:
Does this text broaden or deepen my own knowledge and understanding? If so, how, exactly?
What are my 3 As for this text:
• What do I AGREE with?
• What would I ARGUE against?
• What was an AHA! Moment for me as I read/viewed/listened – a neat new idea?

To other Texts:
• How does this text connect to other texts or concepts in this unit?
• Where else have I encountered these ideas? (people, books, movies . . . . ) Are there interesting comparisons and contrasts between this text and those ones?

To the World:
• Are the ideas in the text significant — to individuals, organizations, cultures, creatures, environments? Why? How do I/we know?
• If everybody took the ideas in this text seriously, what difference(s) would it make?
• If nobody took the ideas in this text seriously, what difference(s) would it make?
• Should my community, culture, society, species do something about this? If so, what? Why?

• When my reading and thinking feel strong, what specific skills am I using well?
• When my reading and thinking feel weak, what skills can I draw on to empower me?
• What is getting stronger in my reading, thinking, and communicating?
• What do I want to strengthen next? How will I do it? Who can help me?

The last 3 are less common in teaching and learning than the first 3. They go to the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Here’s what I wonder: can they deepen student understanding and engagement? Are the very things we tend to leave out the means by which students will acquire what we deem essential?

Jan 222018

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a good friend of mine, Lisa Aune, who’s currently teaching at Bedford Road Collegiate. She and I have had excellent conversations around: What Really is Best Assessment Practice? Although we teach in vastly different areas, she in music and I in languages, we both agree on the following points when it comes to assessment:

  • Clear learning targets, practice, and quality feedback are fundamental to student success
  • Not all attempts at learning need to be assessed for the grade
  • Students should be contributors, if not owners of their learning

She challenges me to think differently about my assessment practices and agreed to sharing her ideas in video format for others in order to expand the conversation. It it our hope that others will engage in this conversation until everyone truly feels that they are providing the best possible assessment of learning, knowledge and skills for the students they serve.

Here are the questions I posed to Lisa and a quick overview of her responses:

  1. Tell me a bit about your current assessment practices.
    • Converted rubric from assignments to curricular outcomes
    • Rather than assigning grades, she has a conversation about achievement according to the outcome requirements
  2. How do students know what success looks like for each curricular outcome?
    • Review the outcomes including technical language for understanding
    • Demonstrate a variety of levels of achievement
  3. How do students know whether they’re meeting the outcomes or what their grade is?
    • Clear assessment goals prior to starting the demonstration of learning
    • Students self-assess (with teacher guidance as needed)
    • Cooperative assessment: agreement on achievement based on evidence of learning
    • Provide feedback for improvement and opportunity to re-demonstrate growth
  4. Do you assess skills more than once?
    • Absolutely!
    • As the course progresses, expectations of learning grow
      • See what Rick Wormeli says about re-demonstration of learning

Practice should always be based in current research. To further explore these ideas, consider the following works:

On Your Mark: Challenging the Conventions of Grading and Reporting by Thomas Guskey

Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam

How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading by Susan Brookhart






Jan 192018

In my first year of teaching, I was replacing a beloved teacher who was on leave fighting cancer.  Even though the length of the leave was unclear (it started as a four month contract but I eventually taught her grade sevens all year), she sat down with me talked me through all her materials. I faithfully followed those binders, and sometimes looked at the curriculum for reference. Mostly, I was concerned with what activities I needed to do next and how to get out from under all the marking I assigned. I tried to faithfully cover the content and assignments she planned and was grateful for all the help in my first year.

Over time, I learned there were patterns in how teachers planned.  Many teachers thought of some content from the curriculum, decided activities, then made tests, essays, or projects as or after they taught something.  In my second year, in a full year contract, I did basically did that, until I attended a planning workshop by the SPDU. They led us through a process where we looked closely at objectives (this was before outcomes, and no, it was not the dark ages) and thought about how we’d assess them. Then we talked about what we’d teach and how we’d teach in order to help students be likely to demonstrate the objective.

Later, I found out this was a part of process designed to make student understanding more likely.  The research (now with 25 plus years of research behind it) found that if a teacher is more explicit planning for deep understanding of an objective, students are much more likely to demonstrate it.  Seems obvious, right? Teachers Wiggins and McTighe have made a living helping other teachers with the concept, Understanding by Design (UBD), for years.  Read a summary of UBD here. I found that if I changed my planning sequence to go from objective, to assessments, to instructional plan, students learned more and understood more deeply.

What is deep understanding?

Deep understanding is knowing something so well that you can do more than just follow a process or say the teacher’s words back. If a student has deep understanding, she can even use that learning in a new situation or context. You get to the heart of the thinking in a discipline when you teach for understanding. Before I might have asked my students to tell me about the causes of the French Revolution. Now I might ask them to use (deep understanding) the causes of the French Revolution to make the case for a place where a contemporary revolution is likely.  I learned that I can’t just tell my students “deep understanding.”  Read Wiggins describing planning and teaching for understanding. I also learned that the planning sequence in UBD makes it more likely my students will achieve the outcomes.

What is the sequence you use to plan from outcomes?

Traditional planning

  1. Determine content (sometimes from the curriculum)
  2. Decide what I will do to explain content to students or what activities they will do
  3. Give tests, essays, or projects

In planning for deep understanding of outcomes, the sequence is

  1. Determine what the outcomes asks student to know, understand, and be able to do
  2. Decide what you’ll accept as evidence that students know, understand, and can do what the outcome asks
  3. Plan a performance task (read McTighe explaining a performance task)
  4. Plan instruction that prepares students for the knowledge, skills, and understanding in performance task

Rather the relating current assignments to outcomes after the fact, the UBD sequence ensures you are thinking about the best evidence for an outcome and the most effective way to get students to demonstrate it. It takes more more time initially to re-plan, but saves you marking time and improves student learning each time you teach a class that is planned and assessed that way.

Why would a teacher bother to plan base on outcomes?

The provincial curriculum and division policies require assessment based on outcomes so it just makes sense to plan that way.  However, there important reasons beyond it being required. Researchers have found the following:

  • Teachers are more focused in their instruction and find it easier to “get through curriculum”
  • Students are more likely to be successful in K-12 courses  or subjects when they learn this way, because they understand more deeply for themselves and retain more. They also have a better foundation for post-secondary work
  • Students are more likely to see their learning as relevant and engaging
  • Teachers spend less time marking little assignments

UBD and outcomes are common enough now that both local universities require this method of planning units from students. However, the process is often complicated. Practicing teachers who learned other methods, like I did, need to remember a couple simple changes:

  1. Read the outcome to determine what you want students to know, understand, and do
  2. Decide what is the best evidence that a student knows, understands, and can do that it actually is. That’s your summative assessment at the end of the unit.
  3. Plan your instruction so students acquire the building blogs to do well on the summative assessment you designed as evidence of the outcome.
Jan 142018

Planning an inquiry can feel daunting. There are so many decisions to make!

Here are 3 steps that can help you create a well-designed unit based on the Learning Plans in the Concentus Citizenship Resources.


Choose your outcomes, and develop a clear picture of the level of thinking and specific content each one targets. (Tip: Each outcome contains a verb which cues the level of thinking you’re after. This chart can help!)

Now that you know where you’re going, the challenge is to provide students with a vehicle to get there! Thinking routines are vehicles of thought that students can use to get to the levels and types of thinking they need to reach.

One kind of thinking routine is a graphic organizer. Matched to the thinking demands of the outcome, graphic organizers:

Scaffold student’s “thinking steps”,
Support peer collaboration,
Provide visible evidence of student thinking minute-by-minute as they learn,
Allow for responsive instruction that is both nimble and quick!

You can find a variety of options here:
Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers
Capstone Classroom Graphic Organizers
Education Oasis
Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

Another kind of thinking routine is a series of questions which invites and requires precise and deep thinking. Harvard’s Project Zero has developed a number of powerful routines which can be used across subject areas.

You can find them here. (Note: The link contains a video which explains the routines well.)

STEP 3: Now that you know where you’re going and have chosen the thinking routines to scaffold student thinking, it’s time to consider how students will interact with one another as they produce this knowledge. Given that the big picture goal of the citizenship inquiries is to develop the ECCs essential to a Justice Orientation, the way that students relate to one another as they develop knowledge is crucial.

“Discursive Strategies” is a useful term for “how students interact while learning.” For each step in your lessons, there are many options, and you can sequence these purposefully. For example, students can start off by working independently, then confer with a partner, then share with a larger group, and, finally, move back to individual reflection.

Well chosen and sequenced discursive strategies can ensure that:
Each person has voice;
Each person gives and receives feedback which sharpens and deepens thinking;
Each student’s thinking evolves;
The community is strengthened.

Here’s a Teaching Channel video that shows a discursive strategy in action!

Here’s an Edutopia video about a school that takes discursive strategies very seriously!

If you use Twitter, you can find examples of both thinking routines and discursive strategies: #discursivestrategies

Please share examples from your own classroom and school to make this hashtag a growing reservoir of examples in different grades, subjects, and contexts.

Here are two good sources of discursive strategies:
Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 2011.

Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner, 2nd ed. Himelle & Himelle, 2017.

Focusing your planning on outcomes, thinking routines, and discursive strategies can increase your confidence as you plan and your students’ engagement as they learn.

Jan 142018

There are 5 Essential Citizenship Competencies: Enlightened, Empowered, Empathetic, Ethical, and Engaged. While interdependent, each has its own set of knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Taken together, they support a Justice Orientation in citizens. (Concentus Citizenship Resources, K-12).

When converted into questions, ECCs can be a means to their own end. Applied to outcomes and issues which involve multiple points of view and potential controversy, ECC questions, used sequentially or in jigsaw, are a tool for culturally competent scaffolding of student inquiry. Whether one is examining a narrative or hot current events topic, these questions cultivate deep understanding.

Students assume that inequities have histories and contexts, and seek to understand both.
What are the Who? What? When? Where? Why? of this situation / dilemma / issue?
What led to this?
What are the most important things we need to know to understand this situation?

Students assume that power matters and investigate the power dynamics of equity and inequity.
Who has power in this situation? How do you know?
Who doesn’t have power in this situation? How do you know?
What kind(s) of power are involved here, and how does one get or lose it?

Students assume that there are multiple points of view and seek to understand what is precious to each one.
Who are the individuals, groups, institutions, and environments involved in or affected by this?
How does each one experience and view this situation, problem, or issue?
What is most precious to each one? Why?

Students assume that rights and responsibilities are integral to each situation, and examine which are upheld and which are breached.
What rights do people have? Why?
Are these rights protected or threatened? How? With what consequences?
What responsibilities do people have? Why?
Are these responsibilities being met or ignored? How? With what consequences?

Students assume that they have agency and influence as citizens and discover ways of using their voice to effect positive change.
What are the sources and causes of this problem?
What are the different changes that could reduce or end the problem?
What strategies can I/We/One use to make this change happen?

Imagine these questions in your students’ hands — in the words that work for them, given their age, grade, & stage.

Now imagine that they get enough practice with the ECCs that they know when they need them.

See them place the question, situation, or issue in the center, and wrap it in ECC questions.

As they collaborate to answer these questions, watch their understanding slowly and steadily broaden and deepen.

If you find words and ways to cultivate the ECCs that work well for you and your students, please share!

You can find a full ECC document here.

Dec 212017

Concentus Citizenship Education Pilot in SPS

I keep hearing the words “Concentus Citizenship Education.” What’s it all about?

In 1990, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner issued a call to the province’s K-12 teachers to integrate First Nations, Metis, and Inuit history, knowledge, and worldview into student learning.

Why? Deep, intercultural understanding is the key to decolonizing citizens’ minds and the province’s institutions.

In 2008, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission issued a second call for a change in pedagogy and citizenship with the words, “Responsibilities Revolution.”

Why?: Citizenship education is the key to ensuring the vitality of democracy, in our classrooms and nation.

The leader in both cases was Chief Justice David Arnot.

2017-2018 SPS Pilot
Saskatoon Public Schools is currently piloting K-12 Concentus Citizenship Education Resources, developed by Saskatchewan teachers. In 8 elementary schools, teachers, teacher librarians, coaches, and administrators are participating in professional learning and working together to integrate units of inquiry. In all elementary schools and collegiates, teacher librarians will be collaborating with a colleague to implement an inquiry from the resources this year.

The Resources
The K-12 online resources embed social studies outcomes and indicators into units of inquiry organized into 3 “Broad Areas of Citizenship.”

The continuum of citizenship education in the Concentus resources is divided into grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. Inquiries in each grade band share the same essential questions. By engaging with the same questions at increasing levels of complexity over a period of 3-4 years, students develop a justice orientation which combines deep understanding with the skills to effect change.

Essential Questions Evolve as Students Mature
A grade 1 student may explore, “What makes a rule fair?”
A grade 5 student may wonder, “To whom are rule makers responsible?”
A grade 10 student may examine, “How does ideology influence views of social justice?”
A grade 12 student may investigate, “To what extent has Canadian society been organized to reflect the values encoded in Treaties and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?”

As they move through the inquiries, students become increasingly capable of having respectful and constructive “courageous conversations” on controversial, potentially divisive topics.

Essential Citizenship Competencies
Inquiries are designed to foster the 5 Essential Citizenship Competencies (ECCs): Enlightened, Empowered, Empathetic, Ethical, and Engaged. These are the attributes of citizens with a justice orientation – citizens equipped and motivated to challenge the root causes of injustices in our democratic society.

You can find the full resources here: http://concentus.ca/

Talk to your teacher librarian if you are interested in learning more about the resources and integrating them into your work.

Dec 182017

My students are all at different places in their learning. Can accessing prior knowledge help to create engagement and personal connections for the diversity of learners in my classroom?


What is Prior Knowledge?

Prior knowledge is comprised of the lived experiences, ideas and understandings that each individual student brings with them to new learning. It is as unique as the learner themselves and can be accessed to help students better understand, consider, and remember new content.

Why is connecting to a student’s previous understanding or prior knowledge important?

  • reinforces the belief that ALL students have pertinent experiences and knowledge
  • allows students to activate their own experiences and learning in order to apply them to the new content
  • helps students to engage in new content in an authentic manner

Ideas to integrate connections to prior knowledge, before learning, can include previous content knowledge or personal knowledge. Here are some examples of activities which will help to access prior learning:

  • Reviewing previous lessons and making connections before adding a new layer: “Yesterday, we learned about _________ . Did that remind you of anything?” or “How do you think what we learned yesterday, can apply to today’s learning goal?”
  • Brainstorming about a topic to surface associations. To take this one step further you can also group similar ideas into categories. This works well with questions such as: “What do you think of when you hear the word __________ ?”
  • Think-Pair-Share: thinking through reflection, notes or drawing and then sharing with a shoulder partner before sharing out to the group. This strategy can benefit students when there isn’t a right answer, such as asking for them to form opinions or connect an idea to their own life.
  • Anticipation Guide: with a short list of thought-provoking statements which connect to the new learning, have students mark whether they agree or disagree and then share their answers and reasons with a partner. You can also return to the anticipation guide after the learning to compare if their opinions have changed.

By explicitly eliciting the prior knowledge of students you are helping them to access and build information, but you are also allowing all voices in the classroom to present their understandings equally and honouring the diversity of lived experiences which makes up the learning foundations of our students.

Consider further exploration of this topic through excellent resources such as:

Teaching Reading in the Content Areas by Urquhart & Frazee

This is Disciplinary Literacy by Cossett Lent




Dec 152017

If you are looking for an organized and authentic way to respond to the TRC’s calls to action, then this website may be exactly what yo are looking for.

Project of Heart

This fully bilingual website is an educators dream. Project of Heart is a website centered on the learning and sharing of the true history of Indigenous people in Canada. Their stated focus is inquiry, and as such they both;

  • encourage critical thought, and
  • provide eclectic resources for your learning journey.

Not only is this a resource hub set up to be used as a tool for inquiry based learning, but it includes the step by step instructions for doing so. On each of the separate resource pages the inquiry steps appear at the top of the page for convenience.

The very best element of the “Project of Hope” website are these steps for inquiry that lead you through the project. Like all good inquiry tools, the project is only getting started with the resources. To follow the model as outlined, learners must interact with the knowledge and complete their journey with reconciliatory action.

The resources included with the site are valid, historically accurate and whenever possible, primary sources of the history of Indigenous people in Canada. They are divided into resource type and appear to provide a balanced approach to the history. As a resource hub, this site links to videos and documents that highlight Indigenous people telling their own stories in ways that support their own continued journeys as well as historical documents that depict a settler mindset.

While “Project of Heart” was created by a non-Indigenous teacher, that should not detract from its value in any way. Sylvia Smith has received the Governor General’s Award for the site and has gone on to develop valid and rich relationships with Indigenous communities that have made this site a living (and growing) resource.