Friday, October 19, 2018

I Have Some Questions! Thoughts on the new BC Language Arts High-School Curriculum

I am excited by the focus and direction of the revised curriculum. I know that people are also confused and overwhelmed at times.As an English teacher, (or as an educator in general), I have been frustrated by the fact that we constantly overlap learning outcomes in different courses, or even worse complete the exact same activities over and over from discipline to discipline or from year to year.

I feel like the revised curriculum and how it is being presented has given teachers the freedom to   create more personalized, authentic learning environments  rather than having students jump through hoops and regurgitate readily available knowledge before they move on to the "real world".

However (yes there is another side to my daisy and flowers reflection here) there are some nuts and bolts that need to be addressed before this "utopia" of education can start to evolve.
 Our staff had the opportunity to have some excellent conversations on our curriculum implementation day which often ended with "That's a good question", or "That is a big conversation right now" or "I'm not sure how that would/could/should work"

So here's some questions I put together and sent to the Minisry after a very close reading of the documents in the English Language Arts curriculum section of the BC Ministry's New Curriculum website:


After having the opportunity to attend the ELA 1012 and Literacy Assessment Conversation in Vernon earlier this year and after having carefully read the draft documents (particularly around assessment and ELA) I hope you will consider some of my comments/questions:

Overall I am excited by what I interpret as a chance for me to design one English curriculum  that will offer students an opportunity to work and progress according to choice and their current ability while being challenged to achieve clear expectations of what it is to be a fully literate citizen. If I can use and develop similar activities across three grades  (example: How to write a strong introduction) then I feel that there can be more quality over quantity curriculum created AND provide flexibility in organizing classes etc.

So my first question is: Given the way the ELA 10-12 competencies are written,  is there any reason why a teacher could not offer one class that could have three different grade levels in it if the students were assessed at their grade level.

Which leads to my second question: If I am designing an English course that is inclusive (ie includes students that would otherwise have been in a Communications class) and is based on written standards,  this is where I am not sure how to proceed. How is curricula with a “low floor and high ceiling” as described on the website,  to be assessed in the absence of having clear and distinct standards at each grade?  

Currently it is explained in the documents that: “The Elaborations offer definitions, clarifications, examples, and further information about the topics or competencies at a given grade” and ” Some Elaborations are repeated across grade levels to avoid prescription and to allow teachers to use professional judgment in selecting specific aspects of the Elaborations according to the needs of the learner and the learning context. However, many Elaborations show increasingly elevated expectations across grade levels.”

Also it is explained that, “When identical topics appear in multiple grades, the elaborations further clarify the depth and breadth to which the topic should be addressed at each grade.”

At the same time, “It is expected that students will achieve the required learning standards for each grade level whether they have taken the same option in a previous grade or they are new to the particular option.

However, the curricular and content competencies for ELA 10-12 including the elaborations are almost exactly the same word for word. In fact, it is clear that there has been some cut and pasting as “English 11” appears in an English 12 document!

Which leads me to finish with my third question: To create a realistic, effective curricula it seems to me that at each grade level there needs to be clear and different standards. Are these standards going to be provided? OR is it up to the teacher /dept/school/district to create their own standards?

Thank you for your time in considering these questions as feedback for what needs to be clarified or refined in the existing documents. 

While I did email these to the email listed on the website:, I did not receive a reply, nor did I expect one, however I still would love to hear what others think about my questions, whether you have answers or not!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Inquiry...I can do this

So I finally jumped in and joined an inquiry group during my pro-d today. I admit the reason I haven't done it sooner is that I was worried that being a DL teacher I wouldn't fit, that I would have to spend hours learning how to "do" the inquiry process, and there would be a large poster board I would have to present at end. But what I came away with was something completely different.

The day started with two fantastic presenters and facilitators, Shelley Moore and Leyton Schnell, who spoke on inclusion and collaboration, (and who both could do quite well on the stand-up comedian circuit if this education thing doesn't work out for them.)

Shelley framed (ooh I just made an outstanding pun) the question of  what the point of inclusion is by using a bowling metaphor.  Briefly, this is how that metaphor went. She talked about teaching being like bowling. In bowling the most difficult shot is the 7/10 split (outside pins are left behind)  The kids who need the most support and are the most challenging are those outside pins. So we usually shoot for the middle and those outside  get left (gifted and challenged). Her point is that a professional bowler never throws down the middle they shoot for the outside and curve it in in order to get all the pins. In other words you aim for the hardest to hit pins.  So just as Shelley promised, her metaphor was mind blowing.
So her closing question was "how would you change your teaching to change your aim?".  But I wanted to stay with her bowling metaphor for a bit longer.
My first knee jerk reaction was  that to be a professional bowler you need to have the best tools and technology (a top of the line bowling ball, a brand new bowling alley with good lighting and stylish shoes for example) Not to mention an expert coach at one's side to practice those difficult shots.  I wanted to put my hand up and say in our world we are given too many pins and by the time we set the pins up ourselves after every frame we are barely able to heave the ball down the middle with the old two handed fling from between the legs.  In other words, we need support! Time, resources, smaller classes and better technology.

Then I attended my first meeting with my new inquiry group. In an afternoon I found myself attached to a wonderful group of people that I know will help me stay on track with my goals and made me feel connected to a rich source of help and in turn I hope there might be something things I can support them with on our journey to look at new curriculum and ways of delivering that curriculum to all.   By the end of the meeting, I realized that I might not ever get my own  professional bowling coach,  but I was now on a team that would cheer me on, give me pointers and lend me a new set of shoes if I needed.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It is only fitting that the person I consider my social media mentor, Claire Thompson (@clthompson) has tagged me in a meme that is circulating around, and perhaps given me the kick in the pants I need to start blogging again. Thanks for thinking of me Claire.

I have been asked to write about the following:

11 Random facts about yourself
11 questions asked by another
11 question that you ask another
11 people in your here goes:

11 Random Facts About Me

1. My bucket list includes building an authentic igloo and spending the night in it. (How's that for random?) 
2. I regularly fall asleep during the last ten minutes of a movie (or the first ten minutes).
3. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy in my twenties (explaining #2).
4. I grew up on an 800 acre guest ranch in the North Okanagan so although I never went to Disneyland as a child, I had my own horse, I have camped in a teepee, and I have been in a one-horse open sleigh. 
5. Apparently I occasionally laugh like Betty Rubble. 
6. I have the inability to hum a proper tune to literally any song. Just ask anyone who has played Cranium with me. 
7. On a daily basis I wonder how I helped create two of the most beautiful, smart, talented and funny children I know. 
8. The first teaching job I had was at my former high school. It took me the better part of three years to call several of my former teachers who were now colleagues by their first name. 
9. Despite having flat feet, I am surprisingly athletic and playing sports is where I find my flow, my zone, my happy place. 
10. The view from my kitchen window includes a large tree where two bald eagles return every year.
11. I am left-handed and for this I blame my inability to cut a straight line or to be able to show my son how to tie his shoes. 

11 Questions Asked by Claire (here)

  1. What lead to you becoming an educator? I loved school, love learning and couldn't imagine a better way to make a living than aspiring to instill a love of learning in others. A cliched response I know, but that's really it. 
  2. If you hadn’t become an educator, what would you have done instead? I almost took a course to be a paralegal instead. I would have been soo bad at that. 
  3. Are you concerned about student privacy and security with regards to cloud computing?  For example, do you have any reservations about students using Google Apps or other cloud based services? Privacy and security should always be a concern but better that students learn how to participate in the cloud with our guidance. Having said that, I teach highschool and would be much more hesitant if I worked with younger children. 
  4. What was the first ‘real’ job that you had? I worked for a landscaping company doing maintenance. I was in such good shape. 
  5. What is your current favourite book, movie and / or album? Current favourite movie: Anchorman 2. I love parodies and this one was so over the top. 
  6. What did you always want to be when you grew up? A teacher. That's it. 
  7. What is the strangest food that you’ve ever eaten?  I'm drawing a blank. Note to self: Try some strange food in 2014. 
  8. If you could sit down and talk with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why. Oh that is just not a fair question. Can I make it cocktail party?
  9. How far away do you live from where you grew up? About 3 hours. 
  10. What is your favourite way to unplug and unwind? To go sit on my dock (any season) and just sit in silence and look, really look, at the nature around me. 
  11. Salty or sweet? Both at the same time. Eg Chocolate covered pretzels or a salad with cashews and pears. 

11 Questions from me:

1. What is the one thing that you hope your students learn about learning?
2. If you knew you couldn't fail, what is one thing you would try that you haven't?
3. What is the best prank you have pulled or has been pulled on you?
4. What is your favorite ice-cream flavour?
5. What is your best "pro-d" experience that occurred outside of a typical pro-d setting?
6. Name two people that have influenced you as an educator and explain how. 
7. Finish this sentence: I am surprised that....
8. Now finish this one: Nothing makes me laugh out loud more than.....
9. Who is one of your  favourite comedians?
10. What musician or band would you go out of your way to see (that you haven't already).
11. What is one of your favourite quotes? 

My 11 "victims": I've chosen a variety of people. Those I have worked closely with, acquaintances I would like to have coffee with someday to get to know better, and just for kicks some people for whom I have never come across their radar but have appreciated their contributions more than once. 

@? maybe one of you can send this to a random newbie blogger that needs something to write about. :)

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Post back here. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Google Gives Good Online Course Design

Recently I took part in Google's Mooc "Powersearching" delivered with their own (of course) LMS built using Course Builder.

Using a clean design, clear activities and assessments, built-in community and communication, I had the opportunity to learn in my own style, to suit my personal needs and interests, to particpate in a community and get immediate feedback. The semi-synchronous environment motivated me to participate regularly.

While I'm not interested in learning the skills to use Course Builder, I think the extensive planning tools they have provided are worth a look for any online course using an LMS.  In particular:

Parts of a Course Builder Course
    Four areas are identified and described when building a course:
    1. Course content and delivery
    2. Assessments and Activities
    3. Social Interactions
    4. Administrative Tasks

The course flow is described as semi-synchronous. I want to look at this more closely using cohorts in a DL environment. I think this would increase the communication opportunities between teacher and student and other students. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I have recently taken the leap and joined a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). ETMOOC (Educational Technology and Media) is a connectivist MOOC loosely tied around this website

Is it for credit? Is it something an administrator is heading? No. Then why, you may be wondering. Why would one sign up for such a thing then? 

1. I've heard enough about these courses and their growing popularity that I figured it was time to see what the buzz was all about.

2. I am also part of a district committee on developing PLNs as a professional development model and I am curious to take part in a completely new learning process and a chance to meet some new educators. From what I've read of the introductions so far, it will be a privilege to make connections with any number of the talented participants that have signed up. I have started a blog  (Professional Development Online SD67) for those that are new to the world of PLNs.

3. I believe that if we as teachers are expecting our students to become self-directed, lifelong learners then we should walk that walk. Hesitantly I offer my third blog (1000 Reuses For A Thing) which is a little off my radar at the moment but not dead in the water.

4. I am excited and energized by both the possibilities and challenges of this so-called "revolution" in education due to technology and media and look forward to continuing my learning in this field.

Our first task is to introduce ourselves. So this is me....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

21st Century Fluencies

My October 19th, PSA day was spent with a group of teachers at a session on Professional Development Online (Creating PLNs) We started the day by watching the keynote speaker for CUEBC, Ian Jukes, via live-streamed video. His focus was on change: changes in our society, changes in in our workplace and as a result the need for change in education. 

He started with some interesting statistics from  the world of work. He explained that creative class jobs have increased since the 1980's. Those jobs were defined as those that are facilitated by technology, but can't be replaced by technology. He went on to say that the economy is eliminating standardized jobs, but schools are still focusing on standardized tests and curriculum. In fact by 2012, 50% of jobs will require creative abstract skills. In answer to why these skills weren't being taught more he quoted Tom Peters, 

"What gets measured gets done. What doesn't get measured doesn't get done."

Ian referred to 6 new "21st century fluencies" that educators need to incorporate when teaching traditional content. 

1. Problem solving

2. Creativity

2. Analytical Thinking
4. Collaborate
5. Communicate
6. Ethics, Actions, Accountability

At this point I had two thoughts: One,  I think there are a lot of teachers out there who are teaching 21st century fluency skills , who are getting them done, but yes, the skills don't get measured. My second thought was how would you go about measuring those skills?  The next thing I know this a link came up via Twitter from @margoflower of a shared google doc. which is working on just that. 
By the end of Jukes' fast-paced, visually stimulating presentation, generously injected by humour, the following are some "nuggets" I wanted to make sure to remember. Admittedly, none of this is necessarily new information, but things that can easily be forgotten in the day to day minutiae of teaching if we aren't careful, if we don't constantly remind ourselves of the big picture. 

"How do we get the content to stick? Interest and Relevance is essential to the learner. It is not about what you teach but how you teach."

"Activities that are multi-sensory, about the real world are the most effective learning environments. "Make learning matter" 

This formula that Jukes supplied made all of this "stick" much better for me: Interest & Relevance + HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) + Real World = 21st Century Learning.

And best of all, at the end of this inspiring keynote, we were provided with some swag to take home.  app.fluency.21. com is a link to sign up to a beta project which is  unit planner tool as well as access to public plans already made via The 21st Century Fluency Project

At the closing we were asked to do three things:
1. Write down three things you know now.
2. Write down two things that you are going to share with colleagues.
3. Write down one action that you are going to take.

and so...... this post and then back to that unit planner! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Manifesto of Successful Learning

Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a presentation for all the prod reps in our district. The presentation ended with a focus on creating a personal professional development plan. When asked if we already had a professional development plan,  I smugly raised my hand. After all, I have at least five different projects on the go that would count as professional development and I did write one post link with some goals a while back, so yah I've got a pd plan. But as I examined the templates we were given as examples, I had to admit that I really didn't have a formal plan.

So first goal in my prod plan: create a more formal pro-d plan.  I consider myself one who is continually learning to improve myself as a teacher, but just like Tiger Woods (I know, dubious role model), I'm going to break down my swing and go right back to the basics when considering my professional practice.

So what is driving my goals for professional development ? Well simply put, how I can best help students become successful, motivated learners. One teacher at the presentation shared how she has a mission statement posted right by her computer for all to see. For some time, I have  wanted to create something succinct and visual that would keep in the forefront what I should be working for every day that I show up for work.

So here is what is going to go up:

My Manifesto of Successful Learning (keywords based on William Glasser's Self-Control Theory)

I would love to know if you think there is anything that should be added or changed! Incidentally, "teachers" could be inserted for the word "learners" don't you think?