Friday, December 12, 2014

Making Connections - A Literacy Comprehension Strategy? Or is it more?

Connecting Literacy, Technology and Innovation, and Curriculum Redesign 

KG - Gr. 12

As teachers we are constantly challenged with the task of making connections; whether that means integrating the curricular outcomes with best instructional practices, or linking new learning to our current practices. Similarly, our students need to also make connections in order for new learning to occur. We all know that in literacy, “Making Connections” is a comprehension strategy but how do we join literacy with technology and innovation to accomplish what is new in Alberta’s Cross-Curricular Competencies without feeling like we need to don our favourite super-hero cape?

What if we could take a  book study and turn it into an innovative teaching tool that applies many of the 10 cross-curricular competencies at any grade level in any subject?

As teachers we often use our smartboards to show students pictures and maps of locations in the books or text that we read aloud to students, or assign students to read. This is an important part of building background knowledge prior to reading, as we are trying to assist students in making connections. Making connections can generally be grouped into the three categories of "text to text", "text to self" or "text to the world".  and are two websites that might just change your teaching practice regardless of your content area or grade level. 

On, you will find many books that have been published and turned into texts filled with maps, videos, music and background information that helps to bring difficult books alive. Check out this snapshot of the popular book The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Each section of the 324 page book is annotated with pictures, maps, videos and music to facilitate making connections for the reader. You can also create your own annotated version of books and submit them to BookDrum to be shared by others.

On, you will find an innovative High School English teacher who began linking literacy with Google Earth. Check out this snapshot of the same book The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Here the book is linked to Google Earth and students can virtually fly around the world to connect to the text to the world quite literally.

If you are interested in creating your own Google Lit Trip or learning more about them, please check out these short videos.
What is a Google Lit Trip (1:32)
How to Make a Storyboard (2:54)
How to Create a Google Lit Trip - Part 1 (7:51)
How to Create a Google Lit Trip - Part 2 (9:29)

I hope these websites might act as a springboard for ideas about annotating texts that you are using with your students. If you would like to discuss any of these ideas or would like assistance to implement them in your classroom, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Welcome to the Grasslands Literacy Blog

The goal of this blog is to provide a way of sharing what the Grasslands Public Schools literacy initiative looks like across the district and to share our journey as we work together to improve students' critical literacy skills. Each post will focus on a different topic, usually regarding questions that I've received most recently as I work elbow to elbow with teachers throughout the district. If you would like me to visit you in your classroom during the day or after school, please don't hesitate to email me.  I look forward to your comments and want to thank each of you for welcoming me into your classrooms.

BAS Assessment FAQs 

In this first literacy post you will find some frequently asked questions about using the Benchmark Assessment System.

What form do we use to record our class results? 

If you are teaching Gr. 1 - 6  then please use your Class Record Form showing the Instructional Reading Levels of each student in your class as determined by the FnP Benchmark Assessment. Record the students first and last names in alphabetical order by last name according to your PowerSchool class roster.

If you are teaching Kindergarten then please use the Class Record Form for KG. Record the first and last names in alphabetical order by last name according to your PowerSchool class roster.

What do the columns labeled  Accur. Comp. Fluency mean on the Gr. 1-6 Class Record Form?

These columns are used to record the scores for Accuracy, Comprehension and Fluency of the Instructional Level Text only.

What does the Benchmark Placement Level column mean on the Gr. 1-6 Class Record Form?

This column is only filled in when a teacher chooses to use their professional judgement to determine the student's instructional level. One reason for this may be that the student jumped from an independent to a hard level (i.e. there was no instructional level found) so the teacher might choose to "place" the student at the hard level if they feel the accuracy was close to instructional and the comprehension was strong. Another reason why a teacher may choose to "place" a student at a certain instructional level is due to an issue with fluency. For example, a student who scores "independent" on a text level but is reading with little to no fluency might be "placed" at that level for instruction even though their actual instructional level may be higher.

How do you determine the text level as Independent/Instructional/Hard?

The following table can be used to determine the level of the text.

Why is there no column to record the Hard text level on the Class Record Sheet?

Knowing where the student is able to read independently (the Independent Text Level) allows a teacher to provide reading materials that allows the student to be freed from the burden of decoding in order to focus on comprehending the text. Knowing the student's Instructional Text Level allows the teacher to know what level of text the student is able to read with guidance/support to improve both decoding and comprehension skills. The student's Hard Text Level does not give the teacher any pertinent information because when the text is hard, comprehension breaks down as the student is focused too much on decoding, therefore the Hard Text Level is NOT recorded on the class record sheet.

I hope this post adds some additional clarity to the BAS data collection process but if you have other assessment questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Enjoy your weekend!