WHAT MAKES YOUR CLASSROOM TICK?
Engaging classroom ideas and strategies to create an awesome learning experience
A World of Thanks
As we pack up our classrooms and head into summer, I reflect warmly on another rewarding year and successful conference. My heart is overjoyed and filled with gratitude for those around me.
Heartfelt thanks goes to Denise Canning, our 2019 Programme Chair, and to her exceptional committee for providing us with two days of uplifting professional development. The stellar lineup of keynotes and session speakers served to educate, inspire, affirm and elevate our own teaching practices. After listening to the likes of Candy Palmater, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Karl Subban and the rest, we couldn’t help but return to our classrooms with a rejuvenated, enlivened and fortified mindset.
Although we were deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend, David Booth, who was to speak at the Friday Breakfast, we are forever grateful for the indelible mark he has left behind. Special thanks are extended to Kathy Lundy and Larry Swartz for sharing such touching tributes to one of the most influential and passionate educators of all time. Rest in peace, David.
Thanks a bunch to Liz Blake, Communications Chair, her dedicated committee, and all contributors for bringing us ongoing installments of this newsletter. The theme continues to be “What Makes Your Classroom Tick”, and we hope the contents and photos within bring you joy and wonder.
To Brian Svenningsen, Outreach Chair, and his faithful committee, gracias, for making a difference. We applaud your efforts in reaching out and supporting local, national and international organizations focused on social justice and equity for all through literacy acquisition.
There are insufficient words to express our sincere appreciation to Erica Townson, our very own Executive Administrator and Conference Planner, whose knowledge, efficiency and enthusiasm are like no other! Merci mille fois!
Many thanks, also, to Joyce Dolmer and Rachel Younker for their assistance, and for lending a helping hand both behind the scenes and on-site at the conference.
To the dynamic and hard-working committee members that make up the East York-Scarborough Reading Association, Miigwech! Our passion for literacy and love of reading brought us together as one, and the collective energy we create is what makes our conference so extraordinary year after year.
Finally, thank you to our dedicated delegates who travel from both near and far to join us at Reading for the Love of It. Your participation and feedback drives our work and determination as we prepare for the upcoming year.
As I complete my two year term as president of the East York-Scarborough Reading Association, “I can no other answer make but thanks and thanks.” (William Shakespeare)
It has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve in this capacity, and work alongside such a distinguished group and community of educators. I congratulate and welcome the highly accomplished Denise Canning as the incoming president, and wish her all the best in her new role.
Looking forward to seeing you all, once again, at RFTLOI 2020 on February 20th and 21st. Until then, enjoy the summer break and take time to sit back, relax and read, just for the love of it!
Illustrations are more than just pretty pictures. Through an illustrator's eyes, students can infer additional meanings, make powerful connections and explore symbolic representations. What makes my read alouds really tick is something we call “illustration study”. This careful examination of texts with specific types of illustrations, has ramped up our reading conversations and supported my students in reaching a level of understanding that extends far beyond the literal level of the text.
To use this strategy, invite students to look closely at a selected illustration. Encourage simple observations by using prompts such as “What do you see in this illustration?” and “What do you notice?" Next, focus their attention on anything that appears unusual, or contains interesting details. I usually ask students "What if the illustrator is giving us a message in this picture? What could it mean?"
Generally speaking, the illustrations in picture books for the very young do not lend themselves to this type of thinking. Picture books aimed at more "sophisticated" readers are more likely to contain the type of illustration needed for this type of study. Illustrators who often contain these elements in their work are Ron Brooks (Fox), David Frampton (Riding the Tiger), Shaun Tan (The Red Tree), David Diaz (Wilma Unlimited), and Ronald Himler (A Day’s Work).
Students love this hunt for deeper meanings and always groan when our conversations come to an end! Teachers I have shared this strategy with have noticed students taking more risks with their thinking, leading to greater creativity and reflection in their written responses to texts. I love that some of the best discussions in my classroom using this strategy have grown from student thinking - not teacher thinking! These authentic reading conversations are just one of the many things that make our classroom tick!
Article by Tracey Tinley, Ottawa Catholic DSB
Living Social Justice and Equity in the Classroom
One of the classes I teach is a grade 12 Social Justice and Equity course. It is a new course that allows students to learn about power and oppression, systemic discrimination, marginalization, and the movements that strive to achieve social justice for all. It allows students to make connections with historical examples, current events, and their own lived experience.
We talk about some difficult, complicated, and controversial topics. We also talk about our personal experiences. I ask my students to confront challenging ideas and complex emotions. I ask my students to speak their truths and to listen to those of others. Even when - especially when - we disagree. I ask my students to engage with the world around them. I ask my students to reflect on their role in the fight for social justice. I ask my students to take action to support the things they believe in. I ask my students to take risks. The only reason this is possible is that together we create an environment in which everyone feels safe to do so.
In our classroom we value different perspectives and experiences. In our classroom we invite in other voices and gently encourage quieter people to share their thoughts too. In our classroom we meet many guest speakers with lived experience that informs our understanding. In our classroom we listen to each other. In our classroom we disagree with each other and we know that this is okay. Our classroom is diverse and inclusive and it’s a safe space for all.
So to answer the question, “What makes my classroom tick?” In our classroom we don’t just learn about social justice, we are living social justice.
Article by Natasha Serba, EYSRA
Community Building Makes Anything Possible
This is not a question most teachers have time to ponder; they are much too busy running their classroom. When asked to write on this topic I had to stop and give it some careful thought. As I write, I am winding down to the final days of the school year as well as the final days of my career. I have taught for over 30 years and as my time in the classroom comes to an end, I am ever conscious of the gift that it is to be a teacher. Thinking about it ending has brought both exuberance and a sadness I did not quite anticipate. Excitement, as I consider all the things I will be able to do with my new- found time, but also pangs of emotions as I think about not starting a new school year with a new group of eager, young children.
So… what does make a classroom tick? For me it has always been about building a community with the children and their families. A classroom is a living organism. It needs to be nurtured in order to thrive. It’s about fostering a bond with the children. When children feel emotionally connected to you the teacher, and to each other, the classroom becomes a place of greatness. Anything is possible when children feel safe, cared for, and motivated to learn. I have heard it said that we as teachers ‘make a cameo’ in a child’s life. I believe this is true. We have the power to profoundly influence the children in our care. When children feel valued we can ask great things of them; we can have lofty goals for them. When children know we care, we can set the highest expectations for them.
When a classroom community has been created, children become more confident and are ready to set goals for themselves. Creating opportunities for students to experience responsibility is extremely important. There is no better feeling for children than to feel that their hard work has paid off. Seeing a task through to completion and overcoming struggles along the way is a lesson that will be carried into adulthood.
As human beings we seek out meaning. When learning seems irrelevant, we shut down and ‘unplug’ from the experience. Similarly, children engage deeply when learning is meaningful and connected to their lives. They are capable of comprehending more than we can ever imagine. They understand concepts such as inequality, exclusion, loneliness, and loyalty. These ideas are often explored in children’s literature. To illustrate, we are currently reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Students in my class, who at times struggle with attention and focus, are thoroughly absorbed as we read this beloved classic. The enduring topics of love, loss, friendship, and devotion are boldly presented and they fully understand it. Children do not need ‘watered down’ didactic stories. They appreciate narratives that deal with the stuff of life that they experience themselves.
As adults we love having choices. Having options, the ability to choose, is important to adults. Children also value choice. Of course there are plenty of times when we direct children and lay out clearly what we need them to do, but it is also essential that we build choice into our programs. Being able to select what materials to work with, which classmates to work alongside, or what activity to explore is critical for their social development. A myriad of thinking skills are activated when children are faced with making a choice. Critical thinking is required when cognitive problems are presented. Negotiation skills are needed in working successfully with classmates. Directing their own learning allows children to exercise decision-making, pursue areas of interest, and try new things.
As teachers we are doing far more than ‘teaching’ children, we are shaping lives. Few professions offer this opportunity. Spending time each day with young people is indeed an honour. Classrooms tick when we remember who we are there for each day. Jonathan Kozol says, “teachers are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box.” This sentiment speaks to the power of the young people we teach and the thoughtful approach we must take in serving them.
Article by Lise Hawkins, EYSRA
Grade One Teacher, Pape Ave. P.S.
DAVID BOOTH: August 8, 1938 - December 22, 2018
There are no Words...
When I first heard about David’s death, I felt that there were no words to describe how sad I was feeling, how lost I would be without him and how much my family would miss him.
Yet words were David’s gift, his armor, and his life.
We all revelled in David’s words and the wisdom they possessed when he presented them to us—laying them at our feet in workshops, seminars and conference keynotes, weaving them together in a tapestry that delighted us. Thousands of teachers witnessed and marvelled at how he could use words in strategic ways, playing with them, performing them, stringing them together in precise and powerful ways so that we would be deeply affected. He created theatre with his words. First, we would laugh, then think, then weep and then cheer because his words helped us in some indescribable way become better teachers and better people.
As well, each teaching encounter with David was a masterpiece of humour, knowledge, candor, truth and justice. His lessons sparked debate. His incisive comments as well as his teasing wit allowed us to learn in exhilarating ways. How lucky was I to be one of his students, one of his colleagues and one of his friends?
David’s influence was foundational into my coming of age as a teacher. He and my husband, Chuck Lundy, one of his closest friends and colleagues, helped shape my thinking and pedagogy in resonating ways.
After David died, I kept thinking about that poem by Leonard Cohen:
With Annie gone
Whose eyes to compare with the morning sun
Not that I did compare
But I do know that she is gone
When you were with David Booth you didn’t compare him to anything or anybody. You just knew that you were in the presence of someone truly extraordinary - somebody who made you feel that you were the smartest, most important person in the world. He had this uncanny way of knowing how you were feeling and, if things were rough, he always made you feel better, not judging you in the moment but inspiring you to turn your life around and live. His words made a difference.
There are so many uncertainties in life; so much sadness and loss; but there is also a lot to live for as well. What I do know about David is that he would want us to keep going - to do the work that needs to be done - to help kids fall in love with reading and to read for the love of it.
When I was preparing this, a quote from Ulysses popped up on my screen with David Booth’s name attached to it. I am not sure how that happened, but I am grateful for the words that came to me just like this:
Tennyson: (for David Booth)
”How dull it is to pause,
To make an end,
to rust unburnished,
Not to shine in use.
Some work of noble note may yet be done.”
Article by Kathleen Gould Lundy
A Reading for the Love of It Tribute to David Booth
Early in 2019, a celebration of our remarkable friend was organized by the Curriculum and Teaching Department at OISE. There were some delicious munchies, a great chocolate cake (David’s favourite) and cookie treats. In preparation for the event, people were asked to brainstorm words that they would use to describe David and these words were scribed in icing to decorate the heart-shaped cookies. (The two cookies I took were “MENTOR” and “WITTY”).
What words would you use to describe David Booth?
KIND ∙ GENEROUS ∙ FUNNY ∙ IRREVERENT ∙ WISE ∙ THOUGHTFUL ∙ LOYAL ∙ DRAMATIC ∙ SMART ∙ FRIENDLY ∙ BRILLIANT ∙ GENIUS ∙ ARTFUL ∙ CREATIVE ∙ DEDICATED ∙ RELIABLE ∙ INNOVATIVE ∙ LEADER ∙ PROBLEM-SOLVER ∙ JOYFUL ∙ COMPLIMENTARY ∙ INSIGHTFUL ∙ INTUITIVE ∙ EMPATHETIC ∙ COMMITED ∙ SCHOLARLY ∙ GROUNDED ∙ AUTHORITY ∙ ARTFUL ∙ CRITICAL ∙ SUPPORTIVE ∙ CONCEPTUAL ∙ INTERESTED ∙ INTERESTING ∙ CONCEPTUAL
As a Reading for the Love of It Tribute to David Booth, I offer the following list of words that can indeed be used to describe the PASSIONATE and COMPASSIONATE teacher, friend, author, colleague, mentor and friend that David was for us.
FUNNY: Whether sitting in the audience, or sitting beside David at a table or desk, you have certainly laughed out loud at David’s witty words - and the way he said them.
INSPIRATIONAL: Someone once remarked, “When I leave a David Booth speech, I’m so proud to be a teacher?”
HELPFUL: David once explained that ‘to be a teacher is to be a helper’. David has helped us to think about our classrooms, our students, ourselves, our literacy lives, our teaching journeys.
RESOURCEFUL: Always the guy to go to when you needed answers to questions (personal and/or professional). David Booth was always ready to give advice, to support, to challenge… to move you forward. (Even if you didn’t ask for advice!)
WISE: Have you ever quoted David Booth in a paper you’ve written or a conversation you’ve had about teaching?
PROLIFIC AUTHOR: A sampling
Reading Series: Impressions, Meadowbooks, Boldprint Kids, Turtle Island Series
Poetry anthologies: Til All The Stars Have Fallen, Dr. Knickerbocker, Images of Nature, Head to Toe Spaghetti; Bird Guy
Professional Books: Story Drama, Even Hockey Players Read, Poems Please! Reading Doesn’t Matter Any More, Literacy 101,What is a Good Teacher?
TENACIOUS: David never ever gave up – and wouldn’t let you give up either.
COLLABORATIVE: How do you get to be a good teacher? Someone once asked. David answered, “You get to be good by surrounding yourself with people who want to be good!, a mantra David Booth lived by. A motto that the Reading for the Love of It community honours.
A GREAT SPEAKER
A GREAT LISTENER
A GREAT PERSON
Article by Larry Swartz
Outreach Initiatives - Sharing the Love
Outreach is the Association's effort to reach out to support individuals and organizations involved in worthy literacy endeavours. All proceeds are directed toward local, national and international communities: assisting adult literacy groups, sponsoring Faculty of Education students, supporting book programs for daycares, building schools in Africa and providing programs to inform parents about literacy development are examples of our commitment to making a difference.
CAMH - Na-Me-Res Native Men’s Residence
East York Learning Association
The Forgiveness Project
Parkdale Project Read
South-Asian Autism Awareness Centre
First Book Canada
The National Reading Campaign
Second Chance Library Program with the Second Chance Foundation
Bhutan Canada Foundation
Libraries Without Borders
Refugee Literacy Programs in Athens, Greece
Thank you for your support!
3rd Vice President and Outreach Chair, EYSRA
Congratulations to our 2019 Reading Award Winners
The Reading Awards Ceremony was presided over by Marguerite Campbell, EYSRA past president. Congratulations to our 2019 ReadingAward Winners
Toronto Catholic DSB 2019 Reading Award Winner Tanya La Vigna was presented her award from Toronto Catholic DSB Superintendent Fllora Cifelli
Kyleen Gray with Rainbow Schools DSB wins the 2019 Reading Award presented by Tiffany Roberts, Rainbow Schools Board Literacy Consultant
Toronto DSB 2019 Reading Award Winner, Lynette Archer was presented her award from Toronto DSB Superintendent Sandy Spyropoulos
Great Spring & Summer Reads
The Overstory by Richard Powers
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Bina by Anakana Schofield
By Chance Alone by Max Eisen
A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey
Great Reads list is compiled by Jose Molina, EYSRA
Help us Celebrate Excellence in Literacy Teaching!
The East York-Scarborough Reading Association is now accepting nominations for the 2020 Reading Awards. Three awards will be presented. A teacher from each of our Association’s founding school boards, T.C.D.S.B. and T.D.S.B., will be honoured, and a third award will be given to an educator from any other school or school board in Ontario.
Reading Awards will be presented at the annual Reading for the Love of It conference Awards Banquet dinner on the evening of Thursday, February 20th, 2020. Each award winner will receive a complimentary full conference registration package to the 2020 Reading for the Love of It conference, two tickets to the Awards Banquet, and a $100 gift certificate to purchase books.
Take this opportunity to help us celebrate excellence in literacy instruction by nominating on or before Monday, November 18th, 2019.
Visit our website at www.readingfortheloveofit.com for details and an easy to complete form.
Awards Committee Chair and Past President
Plan to Attend: Reading for the Love of It 2020 Conference
We look forward to seeing you on Thursday, February 20th and Friday, February 21st, 2020 at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, downtown Toronto.
Click on the Register link at www.readingfortheloveofit.com
We recommend that you register early!
Visit us online and see what people are saying about Reading for the Love of It
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