Makerspaces are creative spaces where people gather to tinker, create, invent, and learn. What do educators need to understand about maker pedagogies, and how can maker pedagogies support student learning across subject areas?
Financial Literacy Education: Navigating a Paradox
While financial knowledge is indisputably useful, financial literacy education is far from a recipe for individual or collective prosperity. What can educators do to cultivate financially literate students?
Computer Coding in the K–8 Mathematics Curriculum?
The trend of adding some form of computer coding to curriculum is an international phenomenon. How exactly should computer coding fit in the curriculum? Should it be its own subject? Should it be integrated with other subjects?
Think About It!
Effective critical thinking does not require students to just “think”; rather, it requires that they think about “something.” How can critical thinking help students to work in and through the curricular areas?
Supporting Early Literacy Learning Through Play
We need to regain the wonder and amazement we once had about our students’ remarkable literacy abilities. How can educators support and enhance children’s literacies learning and use through a play-based approach?
Facilitating Activist Education
Activism is about bringing to life ideas regarding power, fairness, democracy, and hope. What relationships exist between activism and education? How can educators leverage these relationships to support student achievement, equity, and well-being?
Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students (K-12)
The three elements of Personalization, Precision and Professional Learning are critical in an integrated process of assessment and instruction, and are represented in the School Effectiveness Framework.
The Aspiring Principal / Vice-Principal
This inaugural issue of Leadership for Learning focuses on five key strategies described in recent research or identified as helpful by new and experienced principals and vice-principals. Use the suggestions offered here as a springboard for reflection and dialogue with others.
Supporting Students with Refugee Backgrounds
... [English language learners] come from every country and every circumstance. They bring with them a valuable world perspective needed by all students to operate successfully in a global community. Their parents come with the hopes that their children will achieve what they could not have achieved elsewhere.
Every Student / Every School
Whole system success requires the commitment that comes from intrinsic motivation and improved technical competencies of groups of educators working together purposefully and relentlessly.
Supporting Students’ Vocabulary Development Through Play
By Grade 4, children whose vocabulary knowledge is below grade level are likely to have difficulties in reading comprehension. How can teachers in primary classrooms support students’ vocabulary development?
Understanding Self-Regulation: Why Stressed Students Struggle to Learn
Self-regulation is a term used widely by educators; however, there is very little agreement about what it actually means. What do educators need to understand about self-regulation, and how can they support self-regulation in students?
Pedagogical Documentation: Opening Windows onto Learning
The crucial step of “going public” with documentation can be a challenging one. What can educators do to communicate what they are learning about student learning with parents, other staff and the wider school community?
The Mathematical Territory Between Direct Modelling and Proficiency
The potential learning that exists in the territory between direct modelling and memorization of facts is foundational for a great deal of later mathematics and for mental fluency. How should children come to know their math facts?
Number Sense and Numeration 1-3
Number sense refers to a general understanding of number as well as operations and the ability to apply this understanding in flexible ways to make mathematical judgements and to develop useful strategies for solving problems.
Geometry and Spatial Sense 1-3
Spatial sense is necessary for understanding and appreciating the many geometric aspects of our world. Insights and intuitions about the characteristics of two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional figures, the interrelationships of shapes, and the effects of changes to shapes are important aspects of spatial sense.
Exploring the “Psychological” Personal Leadership Resources
Evidence collected over many years suggests that our effectiveness as leaders is due, at least in part, to the personal traits or characteristics that successful leaders possess. The contribution these internal resources make to the effective enactment of leadership is best understood in the context of the current realities of school and system leaders.
Fostering a Positive School Climate: Implementing a Bias-Free Approach
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that an equitable, inclusive education system is fundamental and recognized internationally as critical to delivering a high-quality education for all learners. It is with this in mind that we focus this issue In Conversation on the importance of ensuring a bias-free approach to building safe and accepting learning environments.
Supporting Teenage and Single Parent Learners to Complete High School
All children and students will be inspired to reach their full potential with access to rich learning experiences that begin at birth and continue into adulthood, regardless of background or personal circumstances.
System Leaders and Collaborative Inquiry
Through collaborative inquiry, educators work together to improve their understanding of what learning is (or could be), generate evidence of what's working (and what's not), make decisions about next steps and take action to introduce improvements and innovations. And then they start again on emerging new issues and challenges. Notably, collaborative inquiry sees educators as key participants in understanding how to achieve excellence and equity in education.
Pedagogical Documentation Revisited
This monograph explores how pedagogical documentation can contribute to realizing Ontario’s renewed vision for education by bringing assessment for and as learning to life (Growing Success, 2013). Because pedagogical documentation is intended to uncover the student’s thinking and learning processes, it has the potential to help us look at learning in new ways, to assess flexibly with particular needs in mind and to individualize and differentiate our response.
Literacy for a Connected World
Our children, youth and adult learners will need ... [a] ... balance of skills to meet the opportunities and demands of tomorrow. To help promote this balance, schools must take advantage of the technologies that are connecting us to information and people around the world and around the corner. Our task is to modernize classrooms and support educators’ efforts to bring innovation to learning.
Making Space for Students to Think Mathematically
Teacher practices that promote inquiry can be challenging to implement, as they cannot be prescribed. Promoting inquiry requires that teachers ask good questions to prompt student thinking. It is equally important that teachers listen and respond to student thinking in order to develop students’ mathematical thinking and confidence as mathematicians.
Mobilizing Research into Practice in Meaningful Ways
We share what we know about what works for school communities and the importance of translating research into practice and conclude with a set of implications for potential authors.
Poverty and Schooling: Where Mindset Meets Practice
This monograph explores what poverty looks like in the current economic reality and takes the position that we must look beyond the visible indicators of poverty to the social conditions that produced it. It suggests a range of strategies to address the inequities often associated with poverty and schooling.
Project-Based Learning: Drawing on Best Practices in Project Management
Increasingly, teachers are exploring inquiry models of learning which help students develop higher-order thinking and communication skills so important in today’s digitally interconnected world.1 In this effort, they are finding that project-based learning (PBL) has much to offer as a holistic instructional strategy for engaging students in inquiry while instilling 21st century skills. The research, however, shows that teachers who implement PBL sometimes face challenges that can limit its effectiveness. Often, these challenges focus less on subject content and more on the management of projects, especially in terms of time, scope, and quality.
Making Better Use of Research
In our professional learning community (PLC), we regularly discuss using different teaching strategies in a purposeful way that will maximize student achievement and well-being. What are some tips for embedding research and best practice in these discussions?
Exploring the “Social” Personal Leadership Resources
Evidence collected over many years suggests that our effectiveness as leaders is due, at least in part, to the personal traits or characteristics that successful leaders possess. The Ontario Leadership Framework (OLF) includes only those attributes that have been clearly identified and supported in the research, and refers to these as “personal leadership resources” (PLRs) – the social, psychological, and cognitive – that leaders draw on in order to effectively carry out every act of leadership.
Understanding the Whole Child and Youth – A Key to Learning
It comes as no surprise that the cognitive development of children and youth in combination with their social, emotional and physical development and their mental health, has a profound effect on their well-being and potential to succeed at school and in life. What educators recognize now, more powerfully than ever, is the pressing need to more effectively integrate those fields of knowledge with teaching and learning. And we need to do this in a way that gives us genuine and practical leverage in influencing positive outcomes for children and youth.
Spatial thinking is integral to everyday life. People, natural objects, human-made objects, and human-made structures exist somewhere in space, and the interactions of people and things must be understood in terms of locations, distances, directions, shapes, and patterns.
The research suggests that explicit and precise changes to learning and teaching practices can have a substantial impact on children’s understanding of fractions and future mathematical success. Instructional decisions have a significant bearing upon students’ ability to understand the concept of fractions, including the ability to represent fractions appropriately, compare the relative magnitude of two fractions, and complete calculations accurately
Principals as Co-learners: Supporting the Promise of Collaborative Inquiry
At the school or district level, collaborative inquiry engages teams of educators – teachers, principals, school district leaders and other partners – in discussion and study of student learning. In contrast to school improvement efforts which rely on outside experts, it begins with the tacit or existing knowledge of educators in schools and classrooms and moves out to potential new actions and resulting expansion of professional knowledge.
English Literacy Development
Ontario policy identifies all educators – classroom teachers, ESL/ELD teachers, guidance counsellors and administrators – as responsible for the social and academic integration of English language learners. But when there are large gaps in literacy and numeracy skills, what can educators do?
Improving the Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Care
What can we do as educators to support these vulnerable learners? This monograph serves as an introduction to the educational challenges children and youth in care face and offers some practical suggestions for teachers seeking to better support them.
Collaborative Inquiry in Ontario: What We Have Learned and Where We Are Now
Our education system will be characterized by high expectations and success for all. It will be responsive, high quality, accessible and integrated from early learning and child care to adult education.
Using Digital Technologies to Support Word Study Instruction
Digital technologies enable teachers to address the needs of a wide variety of learners and promote inclusive classrooms. Teachers can select word study applications that are appropriate for specific students or for guided reading and writing groups with similar needs. The many options built into most applications allow differentiation for ability level, pacing, and auditory or visual features.
Assistive Technology Tools
We talk extensively about differentiation in Ontario classrooms, but the reality of implementing classroom-based differentiated instruction can be challenging. One way that teachers can support the learning needs of a range of students is through assistive technology, which enhances students’ ability to perform and complete tasks with efficiency and independence.
Supporting Struggling Writers
Writing is central to learning and to social interaction. Through writing, students not only demonstrate their learning but also deepen their understanding of new concepts, as they reflect on thoughts made visible on a page or screen. Sadly, some students struggle in their attempts to communicate what they have learned and to interact with others through writing. Research provides many strategies for addressing these students’ specific writing difficulties and enhancing their motivation to write.
Resilient, Active, and Flourishing: Supporting Positive Mental Health and Well-Being in School Communities
An active lifestyle is associated with improved interpersonal relationships, social skills, self-image, self-worth, cognitive functioning, and brain composition changes. Regular physical activity contributes to the management of a range of mild to severe psychological difficulties. The experience of flourishing is characterized by positive emotions and relationships, as well as by a sense of connection, purpose, and accomplishment.
Performing Poetry: Using Drama to Increase the Comprehension of Poetry
Poetry can be both challenging and intimidating to teach and learn. For some students, poems are cryptic puzzles with secret messages to uncover. We want our students not only to enjoy the creative word play of poetry but also to comprehend the action, meaning or emotions of poems. But how can teachers teach poetry comprehension without falling into the trap of mechanically dissecting poems for form and “real” meaning?
Calling Upon Other Language Skills to Enhance Second Language Learning
Developing students’ language skills in a second language is a complex issue without a clearly defined set of best practices for teachers. Classroom exposure to the target language is essential for student success, and some teachers would argue that the greater the target language use, the higher student achievement in that language. The impact of other languages on students’ target language proficiency and the degree to which they should be used in the second language classroom, however, remain topics of debate. This monograph explores why and how to make use of students’ prior language knowledge in the second language class.
Making Math Children Will Love: Building Positive Mathitudes to Improve Student Achievement in Mathematics
Evidence suggests that learning is energized by affect. We, as educators, must turn our attention to resources and strategies that improve students’ relationships with mathematics content and processes and pique students’ motivation, emotion, interest and attention. Multiple non-traditional activities and attention-grabbing resources can spark curiosity about mathematics, improve appreciation for and interest in mathematics and contribute to understanding the relevance of mathematics in everyday life.
Exploring the Power of Growing Patterns
Patterning activities are pervasive in mathematics textbooks and the Ontario curriculum, K–8. They afford young students the opportunity to develop their algebraic thinking in developmentally appropriate ways. They offer teachers a powerful visual tool for introducing sophisticated algebraic concepts. Yet, how patterns are presented and discussed makes a significant difference to the ways in which students use them to think and talk about mathematical structure. This monograph explores how teachers can present and discuss growing patterns to introduce students to functions, an integral part of algebraic thinking.
Cultivating Student Engagement Through Interactive Art Strategies
Music is heard and art is seen. Or is it? If a photograph were a symphony, what would it sound like? If a song were a painting, what would it look like? Focused exercises that provide students with the opportunities to hear art and see music can heighten observation skills, facilitate creative risk-taking and greater attentiveness and prepare learners to be more open to learning, thus leading to greater student engagement, achievement and success.
Engaging Parents in Their Children’s Learning
The positive effects of engaging parents in their children’s learning include improved student achievement and wellbeing. Are there any tips for engaging parents?
A Sound Investment: Financial Literacy Education in Ontario Schools
The goal of financial literacy is to help students acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to understand and respond to complex issues regarding their own personal finances and the finances of their families.
Transforming Potential into Practice
As education systems around the world have continued to evolve toward increasing accountability for student achievement, it is not surprising that more data are available than ever before – in our classrooms, schools and districts, and across education systems. The intelligent use of data affects the work of all professionals involved in education. There can be no going back to the days when decisions were made on hunches and anecdotal information.
Setting Goals: The Power of Purpose
Few would argue with the notion that having a clear set of goals – whether for ourselves or for our organization – is an important foundation of success. Goals help us focus our energy and actions, measure our progress and, ultimately, achieve purposeful results. But most of us would also acknowledge that there is a considerable gap between mere familiarity with goal setting and true mastery – the ability to develop and communicate powerful goals that galvanize us and our organization, produce sustained action, and generate transformational results.
Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures: Putting the Promise into Practice
The case for collaborative learning cultures – and their direct impact on school improvement and student achievement – has been made so consistently and conclusively that collaborative approaches of one form or another have become a common feature of effective education practice in Ontario.
Engaging in Courageous Conversations
If the first truth about courageous conversations is that they are key to effective leadership for improvement, the second is that many leaders, if not most, find them difficult and uncomfortable. We often avoid courageous conversations, even when we recognize that they are desperately needed.
Aligning Resources with Priorities: Focusing on What Matters Most
Time. Money. People. Materials. Equipment. Physical Facilities. Knowledge and Skill. The one thing all of our improvement plans and leadership strategies have in common – from the simplest to the most complex – is that we need resources to implement them. More to the point, resources are limited. So the question of how to use our resources as effectively, purposefully, and efficiently as possible is a key strategic leadership question.
Leadership and Integrative Thinking
The impact of Roger’s theory of “integrative thinking” as a means of solving complex problems is being felt in business schools, in the business world and in K-12 classrooms here in Ontario where students are learning the creative approach to problem solving.
Know Thy Impact: Teaching, Learning and Leading
Hattie’s findings showed that feedback is one of the most important factors in effective learning, followed by a student’s expectations and the trust built by teachers with their students. Not surprisingly, it demonstrated that positive teacher-student interaction was by far the essential factor in effective teaching.
Healthy Relationships: The Foundation of a Positive School Climate
At the school level, of course, Dr. Tschannen-Moran’s work is very much aligned with our own core priorities in Ontario, particularly as we focus on building and maintaining “caring, safe, inclusive and accepting” schools and a “positive school climate” as a means of directly supporting student achievement. Her work also enriches our understanding of how “building relationships and developing people,” such a vital and important domain of leadership, is reflected in the Ontario Leadership Framework.
Algebraic reasoning is a process in which students generalize mathematical ideas from a set of particular instances, establish those generalizations through the discourse of argumentation, and express them in increasingly formal and age-appropriate ways.
Student Voice: Transforming Relationships
“Student voice” is a metaphor for student engagement and participation in issues that matter to learning. Although practitioners agree that student voice is important, there is less agreement on developmentally appropriate ways for children to participate deeply and meaningfully in their education. What might student participation look like, sound like and be, not just for older students but for younger students as well?
Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
This monograph emphasizes how crucial it is to acknowledge our students’ multiple social identities and how they intersect with the world. It is designed to spark conversation and support educators as they seek to give life to equity strategies and policies. Its intent is to deepen understanding of teaching practices that engage student populations with a full range of differences in learning background, strengths, needs and interests.
As educators we are charged with the great challenge and responsibility of engaging students in learning so that they develop the skills and knowledge they need to function in today’s world. Questions and concerns abound. How do we instill the skills and the values necessary to experience success in the present and in the future? How can we provide opportunities for students to move beyond being passive recipients of knowledge to become knowledge builders, capable of creative and innovative solutions to problems? How can we play a role in human progress by equipping our students with the requisite knowledge, skills and dispositions tosolve the daunting problems of our age?
Dynamic Learning: Connecting Student Learning and Educator Learning
Drawing on academic research and Ontario classroom inquiries, this monograph sums up what we have learned to date about the deep interconnections between student learning and educator learning. It explores key aspects of knowing our students as learners and knowing ourselves as learners and suggests ways to guide assessment and instructional decision-making into what matters in classrooms – namely, the instructional actions and strategies that will most positively impact the learner and the learning experience.
Canadian-born English Language Learners
While a wide range and combination of factors determines each individual student’s strengths and challenges, for Canadian-born ELLs academic language proficiency is critical. This monograph therefore focuses on academic language proficiciency as a starting point for school team discussions on how to set the stage for appropriate instruction for Canadian-born ELLs and in doing so to improve their opportunities for academic success.
Promoting Critical Literacy across the Curriculum and Fostering Safer Learning Environments
In their everyday practice, teachers commonly encourage children to think deeply and critically examine what they read and view. Over the last decade, this practice has been augmented by increased emphasis on the teaching of critical thinking and critical literacy skills in Ontario schools.1,2 By teaching students to understand and embrace diverse viewpoints and to consider underlying messages, critical literacy may help foster another important provincial priority, that of creating safe and caring learning environments.
Using a Professional Learning Community to Support Multimodal Literacies
In the 21st century, we access interactive texts via ubiquitous portable digital devices,1 making texts – and the ability to use or create them – collaborative, mobile and complex. To prepare children for present and future literacy needs, we need to revise how we frame and teach literacy. The new comprehensive literacy combines digital multimodal literacies and print-based reading and writing practices. But how do we change the literacy teaching paradigm?
Fostering Literacy Success for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Students
Literacy success rates for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students are currently measured by their acquisition of standard English and/or French, reflecting the languages of the Ontario curriculum. Because FNMI students often communicate in non-standard forms of English and/or French with their own unique nuances, they often encounter challenges in the standard languages. For these students, literacy success is cultivated by individualized programs that support their identity, experiences and relationships with the world. Literacy programs for these learners must, therefore, offer differentiated instruction, make real-life connections and involve strategies and resources that are engaging, motivating and culturally affirming.
Supporting Families as Collaborators in Children’s Literacy Development
Children are born into a world of language. They are immersed in the words of their parents, their siblings, and those who care for them. Their speech emerges gradually and naturally as they learn to respond to those around them. . . . Lives of literacy begin in a family setting
Assessing Text Difficulty for Students
Teachers often experience difficulty finding suitable texts for students even when following publishers’ guidelines. The result can be frustration for students and teachers alike. Yet publishers draw on only certain elements when assigning difficulty levels to texts and these should be the starting point – not the ending point – for assessing text difficulty.
When data is collected from a variety of sources (e.g., student achievement data, student work samples, anecdotal records based on observation) and is directly connected to their daily work, teachers will be more likely to engage fully.
Supporting Educator Teams in Full-Day Kindergarten
As educational leaders, school administrators have the ability to support and impact the success of FDK educator teams. Circumstances will vary from school board to school board, depending on varying collective agreements and working conditions, however the spirit of inclusion and invitation can guide the actions of school leaders.
IPRC and IEP
Universal design and differentiated instruction are effective and interconnected means of meeting the learning or productivity needs of any group of students.
Intentional, Play-Based Learning in Full-Day Kindergarten
Young children explore their environment and learn about their world through the process of play-based learning. Effective FDK classrooms use play to further children’s learning and inspire a high level of engagement and curiosity in all areas of the program.
Individual Education Plans: Principals’ Roles and Responsibilities
Although the IEP is developed collaboratively, the principal is ultimately responsible for each student’s plan. The principal must sign the IEP to indicate his or her assurance that the plan is appropriate to the student’s strengths and needs and that it meets all of the standards outlined in this document.
IEP Development and Implementation: Shared Solutions
A ‘culture of collaboration’ can help parents and educators to work constructively together to address concerns related to programs and service before they become sources of conflict.
Documentation in Full-Day Kindergarten
In FDK programs, the emphasis is on involving children in the assessment process to help them understand their strengths and interests as learners and to develop the ability to articulate and monitor their learning.
Coaching to Support Adolescent Literacy
There is a growing body of professional knowledge on the impact coaching has on professional growth. Coaching supports job embedded professional learning. When professional learning is embedded, it builds classroom practice and a school culture that improves student achievement.
Annual Learning Plans and Teacher Performance Appraisal
Engaging teachers in conversations about teaching and learning is one of the most important roles of the principal that can have the greatest impact on student outcomes. Learning-focused conversations are not limited to an annual meeting about a teacher’s ALP goal or the Pre- and Post-Observation Meetings during an appraisal year but, rather, they should occur regularly: a follow-up to a walk-through, a team or staff meeting, a PLC meeting or simply an informal conversation in the staff room.
Five Core Capacities of Effective Leaders
What does effective leadership look like? What key leadership capacities will help us leverage our time, energy and resources – as individuals and as a system – to generate results?
21st Century Leadership: Looking Forward
A next step in the OLS will be to leverage the strengths of school and system leaders to move us ever closer to achieving excellence in the classroom. And with that in mind, the focus of this In Conversation is about moving forward on this path to excellence and considering the role that education leaders have to play in this journey.
All ability to reason using proportional relationships is a complex process that develops over an extended period of time. It takes many varied physical experiences to develop an understanding of what a proportional relationship is and then more time to gain the ability to deal with it abstractly.
This monograph shares one highly promising process – pedagogical documentation – that is being used increasingly as an assessment for and as learning strategy in early primary classrooms. Drawing on the research literature and the classroom inquiries of the Early Primary Collaborative Inquiry, it identifies the benefits of pedagogical documentation for students and educators alike and suggests tips for getting started that may be useful across the grades.
Writing to Learn
As we focus on the process of learning to write, we sometimes pay less attention to another kind of writing that is a very powerful tool for student learning in all areas of the curriculum. This is writing to learn – those “short, frequent bursts of writing” that are woven into a lesson or a series of lessons to encourage students to explore their own thinking (Saskatoon Public Schools, 2004–2009). The goal, as Peter Elbow explains, “isn’t so much good writing as coming to learn, understand, remember and figure out what you don’t yet know.” Although writing-to-learn texts are not always valued as writing, they “are particularly effective at promoting learning and involvement.”
The Third Teacher
Imagine the ideal learning environment for today’s learner. What would it look like? Think about how much the world has changed in the last three decades and how rapidly it will continue to change in the years to come. How do we ensure that the instruction we provide is responsive to the shifting demands of the 21st century?
This monograph has been developed to support the Ontario conversation about numeracy – to spark dialogue and debate on how to develop a mathematical habit of mind, not just for students but for educators as well, to move the math beyond the walls of the mathematics program to teaching and learning across the curriculum and across the day.
This monograph explores how pedagogical documentation can contribute to realizing Ontario’s renewed vision for education by bringing assessment for and as learning to life (Growing Success, 2013). Because pedagogical documentation is intended to uncover the student’s thinking and learning processes, it has the potential to help us look at learning in new ways, to assess flexibly with particular needs in mind and to individualize and differentiate our response.
Engaging parents in the life of the school yields many positive benefits and rewards for families and schools alike; leveraging home-school partnerships so that parents are encouraged and supported to be involved in their children’s learning at home and school is the focus of this monograph.
Teaching and Learning in the Core French Classroom
As part of Ontario’s collaborative focus on literacy, school leaders are supporting Core French and classroom teachers in planning together for the students they share. The purpose of this monograph is to help provoke these professional conversations at the school level by identifying some potentially rich themes and promising starting points.
Trigonometry in Grade 3?
Elementary school teachers work hard to cover grade-specific math curriculum expectations, but what if this is not enough? Ginsburg suggests that “children possess greater competence and interest in mathematics than we ordinarily recognize” and that they should be challenged to understand big mathematical ideas and to “achieve the fulfilment and enjoyment of their intellectual interest” (p. 7). This position is supported by Moss and her colleagues in their work with functions in Grade 4. By developing a stimulating, mathematically rich context for the content that students have to learn, teachers can address grade-specific curriculum expectations while offering students the pleasure of mathematical surprise. Young students, these researchers have shown, benefit from opportunities for using imagination and sensing mathematical beauty. This monograph shares our research in this area, highlighting the ways we have engaged children with ideas that are well beyond their grade level.
Technology in the Mathematics Classroom
Introducing communications technologies into classrooms has historically been met with mixed levels of resistance and enthusiasm. Nonetheless, from pencils through to calculators, computers, and handheld devices, the continually growing range and sophistication of educational technology tools marches forward, impacting classrooms, teaching and learning.
The Student Filmmaker Enhancing Literacy Skills through Digital Video Production
Increasingly, teachers are being asked to address an ever-broader notion of literacy – one that includes new forms of digital literacy, related to the multimedia technologies students routinely interact with (e.g., blogs, wikis and social networking websites). Yet how can teachers integrate digital literacy with the Ontario curriculum which underscores the importance of traditional forms of print and oral literacy? Student-created videos are one possibility that affords an opportunity to integrate print, oral, and digital literacies into a compelling curriculum unit.
Using Multilevel Texts
When students are engaged in reading, their motivation to read increases, their understanding is enhanced and they are more likely to persist when they encounter challenges. There are multiple reasons for students’ lack of engagement with text, but one of the primary reasons is that the text is either too easy or too difficult. What can teachers do to ensure that all readers are able to meaningfully engage with texts and experience the pleasure and benefits that come from shared literacy experiences?
Vocabulary knowledge is an important aspect of cognitive development. It contributes to success in word reading and reading comprehension and thus has implications for learning in all subjects.
Bringing Marginalized Parents and Caregivers into Their Children’s Schooling
The current consensus is that parents and caregivers play a crucial role in student success in schooling. As we will see, a very large body of research indicates a strong link between their involvement and children’s academic success. But who bears primary responsibility for bringing families and schools into closer, more meaningful dialogue? In an Ontario where linguistic, cultural and racial diversity further complicate relationships between families and mainstream schools, the challenge looms large.
Principal Performance Appraisal
See your appraiser as a critical friend. Work to develop a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Look for opportunities to involve your appraiser in your school improvement activities and understand your role in school improvement.
Actions to improve student engagement in your school require attention to one or more of these three areas. Sometimes these actions will involve the staff as a whole to change school culture in ways that better meet student needs and interests; other actions will be more closely tied to the nature of classroom instruction. So improving student engagement starts with staff engagement.
Student Engagement: A Leadership Priority
Doug makes a compelling argument for viewing the development of student engagement as a leadership priority. Likewise, he puts specific tools in our hands to realize the promise of student engagement as a driver of school and student achievement.
As teachers become more familiar with which ideas are more complex for students and why, they are better able to ensure that their instruction is at the appropriate developmental level for students, and that it challenges students’ mathematical conceptions in appropriate ways. This minimizes the likelihood of students developing mathematical misconceptions.
Getting Started with Student Inquiry
This monograph has been developed for teachers who are beginning to include student inquiry as an approach to learning. Drawing on models from Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, the U.S. and Australia, it anchors the inquiry process in four key phases and identifies teacher and student actions for each. It ends with six tips for getting started and a brief summary of key principles.
Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools
When teachers explore student identity in the spirit of discovery and out of authentic caring for each student as a whole person, meaningful relationships develop. Every student lives within other communities: the family, a cultural community, a social community and perhaps in an international community as well. These are the support structures that lend strength to the education of each student. Sometimes, these communities can be outside our personal comfort zones – languages we don’t understand, social networks we may not be familiar with or norms we may not understand or find difficult. It is particularly at these times that stepping out of our comfort zone can help. How we interact with others, our students, matters.
Maximizing Student Mathematical Learning in the Early Years
How can educators take advantage of the mathematical knowledge and experience that children bring to early primary classrooms? This monograph, based on the current findings of researchers in early mathematics education, provides some insights into this question and serves as a starting point for conversations about the importance of early mathematics.
Grand Conversations in Primary Classrooms
This monograph, building on Gordon Wells notion of “grand conversation,” explores the kind of talk that enables students to meet these expectations and build the comprehension skills that are the foundation for high levels of literacy.
Grand Conversations in the Junior Classroom
An earlier Capacity Building monograph drew on Gordon Well’s notion of “grand conversation” to explore the kind of talk that fosters higher-level comprehension skills in the primary years; this monograph focuses on how conversation can become a vehicle for deepening thinking in the junior grades.
French Immersion in Ontario
This monograph has been developed to support the work of dual language teaching teams as they explore effective literacy instruction and implement practices to improve not only French Immersion instruction but literacy instruction overall.
Bansho (Board Writing)
As students solve the lesson problem are they learning mathematics? How is this new learning consolidated? And what do teachers need to know and do in order to develop students’ mathematical understanding? In order to address these questions, this monograph revisits bansho, a powerful instructional strategy for mathematical communication and collective problem-solving (Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, 2010). Following a brief overview, it outlines how bansho can be used to plan, prepare and implement an effective three-part problem-solving lesson in the mathematics classroom.
Asking Effective Questions
In order to know what questions to ask to move the mathematical ideas forward, it is critical that teachers continually work to develop their knowledge of mathematicsfor-teaching as they connect this understanding to the curriculum. By listening attentively to students’ ideas and keeping the learning goal and the big mathematical ideas in mind, we are able to identify and develop the important ideas in the students’ discourse.
Word Problems: Connecting Language, Mathematics and Life
Solving a word problem can be seen as a simple process of translating words into a mathematical expression and then solving the problem. Verschaffel, Greer and de Corte argue that this “closed” approach, in which students are only expected to use the information given and a specific mathematical method, is simplistic and leads to the suspension of sense-making. They argue for an “open” approach in which students draw on several sources of information to tackle problems in a more realistic way.
The Voice of Text-to-Speech Technology
This technology decodes with an accuracy and fluency that children who struggle with text cannot attain on their own. TTST allows any text to be read aloud by a computer-synthesized voice; it has the potential to empower struggling readers to work independently within grade-level expectations and demonstrate high-level thinking. Struggling readers, often limited to low-level activities focused on decoding and literal comprehension, are given new and exciting opportunities to engage with the written word, to make meaning from text and to develop comprehension skills.
Teaching for Ecological Sustainability
With a renewed focus on environmental education in the Ontario curriculum, teachers are considering which learning experiences will be most effective both in engaging students and in fostering responsible environmental citizenship. Including indigenous perspectives is one way to meet this curriculum goal. For Aboriginal students, the inclusion of indigenous perspectives can help to foster engagement in the learning process through increased relevance to their own experiences and culture, leading to increased self-esteem and better learning outcomes. For other students, indigenous perspectives extend and enrich the educational experience, provide intercultural knowledge and experiences and afford opportunities to explore and appreciate Aboriginal socio-cultural, economic and ecological contributions to Canadian society.
Engaging Students Through the Arts
Student engagement is central to learning. Those students who are fully engaged are ready to learn in every way – physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually. The arts play a vital role in ensuring that students remain engaged by encouraging them to learn in physical and embodied ways, by inviting them to collaborate with peers, by requiring them to respond emotionally and by calling upon their cognitive capacities as they learn in, through and about the arts. Integrating arts in the classroom can help to engage all students and improve the quality of their lives in school and beyond.
Supporting Early Language and Literacy
The time of early childhood prior to Grade 1 is a qualitatively unique developmental period for language and literacy learning. This monograph addresses the question of how parents and educators can support young children in becoming literate learners. It begins by summarizing current research on literacy development and then offers some practical research-based strategies for those who work with young children in school settings.
Strong Roots, Bright Futures: The Promise of Education and Early Human Development
Dr. Mustard’s determined advocacy, nationally and internationally, of the importance of early human development could not be more fitting as Ontario embarks on one of its biggest initiatives to date: the launch of full-day kindergarten. As a provincial initiative, it represents a significant step forward in giving young children a strong foundation for future learning, one that will be a model for other jurisdictions worldwide.
Leading the Instructional Core
Richard Elmore’s ideas, of course, leave us no shortage of opportunity for learning. True to his reputation for speaking “truth to power,” his comments reflect his strongly held belief that the solution to closing achievement gaps lies in the hands of those who can impact the instructional core. Dr. Elmore does not mince words when describing the essential ways to improve school performance. Particularly in this conversation about leading the instructional core, his comments may in fact challenge some of our bedrock beliefs.
Evolving Perspectives: Leaders and Leadership
One of the commitments we have all made as educational leaders – myself included – is to continually develop our own individual leadership expertise and refine our daily practice. In the midst of this hard work, what we may lose sight of is the transformation we are achieving collectively across the province. While leadership at the school level continues to evolve, we are also now seeing the fruits of the system-wide alignment that is so important to supporting school leaders, and to maintaining a truly coherent, provincewide focus on student achievement and well-being.
This monograph draws on both assessment for learning and assessment as learning approaches. It is based on the in-classroom research of the Kindergarten/Grade 1 Collaborative Inquiry, launched by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat in 2009 as a way to support teachers in exploring the impact of instruction and assessment on student learning and in building connections between Kindergarten and Grade 1. The Voices from the field in the pages that follow belong to members of some 60 district school board teams – teachers, principals, senior board officials and other experts – who worked together over the past year to identify approaches that create classroom environments in which young students flourish.
Integrated Learning in the Classroom
Over half a century of researchers and teachers have explored curriculum integration as a way to meet the many demands of 21st century curriculum and to make classroom instruction more manageable and more engaging. Ontario curriculum documents (e.g, Social Studies , Mathematics , Language , Science and Technology  and the Arts ) have built on this foundation, identifying opportunities to link related content and/or skills in two or more subjects and to give students practice in meeting expectations from two or more subjects within a single unit, lesson or activity. These documents suggest that for curriculum integration to be effective, emphasis needs to be on the underlying concepts and skills that strengthen student learning and achievement in all areas.
Communication in the Mathematics Classroom
The development of students’ mathematical communication shifts in precision and sophistication throughout the primary, junior and intermediate grades, yet the underlying characteristics remain applicable across all grades. During whole-class discussion, teachers can use these characteristics as a guide both for interpreting and assessing students’ presentations of their mathematical thinking and for determining discussion points.
Collaborative Teacher Inquiry
On the basis of research literature, as well as on the current work of Ontario teachers, principals and board leaders, this monograph identifies seven characteristics of collaborative teacher inquiry. Several teacher collaboratives supported by the Ontario Ministry of Education, the Kindergarten/Grade One Collaborative Inquiry, the Collaborative Inquiry for Learning: Mathematics (CIL-M) and the Student Work Study, are the source for the teacher voices in the pages that follow.
Word Study Instruction: Enhancing Reading Comprehension
Word study instruction can provide students with vital knowledge which they can then apply to the task of comprehending text. The nature of word study will vary with the developmental needs of students and the demands of the text. A teacher’s knowledge of the structure of English is an important factor in optimizing word study instruction; equally vital is the ability to present the study of spelling, vocabulary and word choice in a manner that engages students and entices them to explore words on a deeper level.
Science and Literacy in the Elementary Classroom
Language, both spoken and written, is central to exploring scientific phenomena, sharing and testing ideas and demonstrating understanding. Additionally, language use in the learning of science aids students’ development of literacy and associated cognitive skills. So, how can we embed the acquisition of literacy skills in science and promote synergy between the teaching of science and literacy?
Forging Safer Learning Environments Addressing Homophobic Bullying in Schools
Yet, despite its prevalence in schools, homophobia is rarely acknowledged in curriculum or policy, even as students’ educational achievement is threatened. The question is: Why not?
In addition to literacy and numeracy, teachers need to address other initiatives such as environmental education, character education and the new literacies (media, critical and technological). With so many curriculum expectations to cover and assess, it’s not surprising that teachers sometimes feel overwhelmed. How can teachers do it all? One way to address these multiple expectations is by integrating the curriculum. Integrated curriculum teaches core concepts and skills by connecting multiple subject areas to a unifying theme or issue.
Improving Student Writing
When students receive feedback while they are writing, they are more inclined to use it to revise and edit their drafts than they would be if they received the suggestions on a graded, polished copy. They also have an immediate opportunity to try out the suggestions in their writing, allowing for meaningful application of what they have learned from the feedback. Focusing on individual students’ immediate writing needs, this ongoing feedback is a form of differentiated instruction that complements the teaching of mini-lessons to small groups or to the whole class.
Developing Critical Literacy Skills
Developing critical literacy skills is a major challenge for teachers who are preparing students for a world that is saturated with information. A major part of the challenge is to show students how text, in all its forms, carries subtle messages regarding relationships of power, often justifying social inequities. Many researchers suggest that by integrating critical literacy into daily classroom activities, teachers can help students understand how texts are constructed and how authors are able to influence their understanding of the world.
Bolstering Resilience in Students: Teachers as Protective Factors
Elementary teachers are well positioned to observe students who succeed despite overwhelming odds. It often appears that risk factors in the life of a child are insurmountable; yet, there are many who flourish amidst adversity. Early resiliency research focused on these seemingly anomalous youth, tracking their success into adulthood. Researchers were eager to determine what innate processes or capacities were helping these students to be successful in spite of the odds.
My vision for education in Ontario is that it is, and is recognized to be, the best in the world. This recognition is based on the achievements of learners; the capacity, skills and positive attitudes of staff, and the inclusive practices that underpin all that occurs. For me, a vision must also acknowledge the moral purpose associated with how we develop learners’ talents, so that they can help build a more inclusive, equitable and prosperous society. This moral purpose galvanizes our shared commitment to excellence.
The Authentic Leader
Many of Steve’s comments in this paper struck me as particularly relevant to our own approach and experience here in Ontario. Among those was Steve’s insistence that leadership development depends on learning from contexts other than our own. That concept is embedded in the Ontario Leadership Strategy and our ongoing scanning of developments and initiatives in leading jurisdictions around the world.
Storytelling and Story Writing
Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) results in previous years have indicated a need for focused attention on writing. Recent improvements in Grade 6 results show this attention to writing instruction should continue. With this important priority in mind, we report on both our own study and on other research about storytelling and story writing.
Problem-Based Learning in Mathematics
Mathematics teachers must teach students not only to solve problems but also to learn about mathematics through problem solving. While “many students may develop procedural fluency … they often lack the deep conceptual understanding necessary to solve new problems or make connections between mathematical ideas.”This presents a challenge for teachers: problem-based learning (PBL) provides opportunities for teachers to meet this challenge.
Try Literacy Tutoring First
Tutoring has long been touted for the opportunity it provides for supporting individual learning. In principle, one-to-one teaching enables a tutor to identify specific learning needs and address them on the spot, within the context of the task at hand. The idea is that by working from a child’s assets, tutors are able to support that child’s learning and then decrease the support until the child is able to perform independently. But what evidence is there that tutoring actually achieves its promise.
Using Classroom Amplification in a Universal Design Model to Enhance Hearing and Listening
Universal design is an approach to designing environments, products and communications that are “usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” It is based on the principle that changes made to physical spaces to accommodate persons with disabilities will benefit everyone.
Literacy: Media Literacy 4-6
Volume 7, “Media Literacy”, builds on the research findings and best practices in Literacy for Learning: The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy in Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario. It provides a framework for the expectations in the Media Literacy strand of the Language curriculum (2006). It emphasizes the importance of developing a critical awareness of the media and describes effective ways of teaching about and using media. Media literacy instruction can be woven into all areas of the curriculum not only the learning expectations in all the Language strands (Reading, Writing, Oral Communication, and Media Literacy) but also other curriculum subject areas.
Literacy: Writing 4-6
In Grades 4 to 6, writing starts to play an increasingly important role in all aspects of learning. The information in this volume therefore also addresses learning expectations in other Language strands – Oral Language, Reading, and Media Literacy – and in other subject areas, including science, social studies, mathematics, and health and physical education.
Literacy: Reading 4-6
Reading – understanding and engaging with texts of various kinds – plays an increasingly important role in all aspects of learning in the junior grades. The information in this volume also supports learning expectations in other Language strands – Oral Language, Writing, and Media Literacy – and in other subject areas, including Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, and Health and Physical Education.
Literacy: Oral Language
Oral language is fundamental to thinking and learning in all areas of the curriculum. Information in this volume supports learning expectations in the other Language strands (Reading, Writing, and Media Literacy) and in other curriculum subject areas (including Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education, and the Arts). There is a particularly strong connection between oral language and learning to express one’s self in the arts. A student’s ideas, interpretation, thinking, imagination, knowledge, and understanding are often first expressed in talk and then extended and enriched in further discussion and presentation.
I have always believed that, among education leaders, school leaders have a unique – and profoundly important – role to play in shaping both their own school communities and the quality of the education system. We have all heard that the school leader is second only to the teacher in influencing student outcomes in the school setting. The critical question, it seems to me, is what we will do with that insight and how we will take action to realize our full potential.
Patterning and Algebra 4-6
Young children enter school mathematically curious, imaginative, and capable. They have to learn to be otherwise (Papert, 1980). The aim of this resource is to help consolidate and extend junior students’ mathematical capacity and their potential for mathematical growth by providing ideas and classroom activities that draw their attention to relationships embedded in the “big ideas” of Patterning and Algebra and that offer them opportunities to experience the pleasure of mathematical surprise and insight (Gadanidis, 2004).
The development of understanding of measurement concepts and relationships is a gradual one – moving from experiential and physical learning to theoretical and inferential learning. Measurement thinking in the junior years begins to bridge the two.
Geometry and Spatial Sense 4-6
Geometry enables us to describe, analyze, and understand our physical world, so there is little wonder that it holds a central place in mathematics or that it should be a focus throughout the school mathematics curriculum.
Data Management Probability 4-6
All learning, especially new learning, should be embedded in well-chosen contexts for learning – that is, contexts that are broad enough to allow students to investigate initial understandings, identify and develop relevant supporting skills, and gain experience with varied and interesting applications of the new knowledge. Such rich contexts for learning open the door for students to see the “big ideas”, or key principles, of mathematics, such as pattern or relationship.
Patterning and Algebra K-3
One of the central themes in mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships. This study requires students to recognize, describe, and generalize patterns and to build mathematical models to simulate the behaviour of real-world phenomena that exhibit observed patterns.
Measurement concepts and skills are directly applicable to the world in which students live. Many of these concepts are also developed in other subject areas, such as science, social studies, and physical education.
Data Management and Probability K-3
The related topics of data management and probability are highly relevant to everyday life. Graphs and statistics bombard the public in advertising, opinion polls, population trends, reliability estimates, descriptions of discoveries by scientists, and estimates of health risks, to name just a few... Connecting probability to data management to real-world problems helps make the learning relevant to students.
Literacy: Planning and Classroom Management 4-6
Planning requires that teachers think about what they want students to have learned and experienced by the end of the year in order to set clear goals for both students and teacher. Goal setting should focus on the essential concepts, skills, and strategies students need in order to become proficient communicators. In setting goals, teachers need to take into account the expectations outlined in the curriculum document for Language, as well as any information from assessment about students’ strengths and needs. Teachers then plan accordingly in order to reach their goals.
Literacy: Assessment 4-6
Assessment should focus on measuring student progress and achievement in relation to the content standards and performance standards identified for the particular subject and grade.
Literacy: Principles of Effective Literacy Instruction 4-6
Over many decades, theorists and researchers have studied ways to improve teaching in order to enhance student learning. Effective literacy teachers explore relevant theories and embrace recognized research in order to provide the most productive learning environment and the best instructional practices for their students.
Literacy: Foundations of Literacy Instruction for the Junior Learner 4-6
Effective literacy instruction is the backbone of teaching and learning in the junior grades. Although junior learners may have a basic understanding of how to read and write, teachers need to teach these students explicitly the specific skills that will help them understand the increasingly complex texts and concepts they will encounter in school.
Number Sense and Numeration: Decimal Numbers 4-6
The development of mathematical knowledge is a gradual process. A continuous, cohesive program throughout the grades is necessary to help students develop an understanding of the “big ideas” of mathematics – that is, the interrelated concepts that form a framework for learning mathematics in a coherent way.
Number Sense and Numeration: Fractions 4-6
The development of fraction concepts allows students to extend their understanding of numbers beyond whole numbers, and enables them to comprehend and work with quantities that are less than one. Instruction in the junior grades should emphasize the meaning of fractions by having students represent fractional quantities in various contexts, using a variety of materials. Through these experiences, students learn to see fractions as useful and helpful numbers.
Number Sense and Numeration: Division 4-6
Students’ understanding of division concepts and strategies is developed through meaningful and purposeful problem-solving activities. Solving a variety of division problems and discussing various strategies and methods helps students to recognize the processes involved in division, and allows them to make connections between division and addition, subtraction, and multiplication.
Number Sense and Numeration: Multiplication 4-6
The development of multiplication concepts represents a significant growth in students’ mathematical thinking. With an understanding of multiplication, students recognize how groups of equal size can be combined to form a whole quantity. Developing a strong understanding of multiplication concepts in the junior grades builds a foundation for comprehending division concepts, proportional reasoning, and algebraic thinking.
Number Sense and Numeration: Addition and Subtraction 4-6
Instruction in the junior grades should help students to extend their understanding of addition and subtraction concepts, and allow them to develop flexible computational strategies for adding and subtracting multidigit whole numbers and decimal numbers.
Number Sense and Numeration: The Big Ideas 4-6
In developing a mathematics program, it is important to concentrate on the big ideas and on the important knowledge and skills that relate to those big ideas. Programs that are organized around big ideas and focus on problem solving provide cohesive learning opportunities that allow students to explore mathematical concepts in depth. An emphasis on big ideas contributes to the main goal of mathematics instruction – to help students gain a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.
Teaching Basic Facts and Multidigit Computations K-6
Learning the basic facts conceptually involves developing an understanding of the relationships between numbers (e.g., 7 is 3 less than 10 and 2 more than 5) and of how these relationships can be developed into strategies for doing the computations in a meaningful and logical manner. Students who learn the basic facts using a variety of strategies (making tens, using doubles) will be able to extend these strategies and their understanding of number to multidigit computations.
Assessment and Home Connections K-6
Successful teaching of mathematics involves more than providing engaging learning activities; it requires that teachers be “in tune” with their students’ learning needs, and that they know when and how a particular instructional strategy or approach will help students to consolidate or extend their understanding. Assessment, which is the gathering of evidence about students’ progress and achievement, provides the information that guides teachers in making decisions about next instructional steps to improve student learning.
Classroom Resources and Management K-6
Rich learning experiences result from organized, systematic, and creative planning by a knowledgeable and effective teacher. The teacher needs to set the stage for learning by considering the diverse needs of students, creating a warm and inviting climate for learning within the classroom, and ensuring that there is a coherent and comprehensive program of mathematics instruction that develops logically over the course of the day, week, and year. This section will focus on guidelines for “setting the stage” for learning. The types of decisions that need to be made about planning and organization as well as the resources that help in that decision making will be described.
Problem Solving and Communication K-6
In promoting problem solving, teachers encourage students to reason their way to a solution or to new learning. During the course of this problem solving, teachers further encourage students to make conjectures and justify solutions. The communication that occurs during and after the process of problem solving helps all students to see the problem from different perspectives and opens the door to a multitude of strategies for getting at a solution.
Foundations of Mathematics Instruction K-6
For students to be successful in later mathematics endeavours and to use mathematics effectively in life, they must have a sound understanding of elementary mathematics concepts, a positive attitude towards learning mathematics, and the belief that an understanding of mathematics is attainable (Kilpatrick & Swafford, 2003).
Literacy: Writing K-3
Since both reading and writing focus on meaning, development in one reinforces progress in the other: students learn to read and write better when the two processes are linked. As in teaching reading, writing teachers use a balance of modelling, direct instruction, guided instruction, and facilitation of students’ independent learning and practice.