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Assignment Two – Collaborating and Mentoring a Teacher to Evolve Practice

Examples of potential resources in way of book covers, and citations.


**Disclaimer: Mr. Gains and Ms. Middleton are fictionalized characters pulled from a variety of experiences and encounters in my teaching career.  Names and details have been changed or modified to allow for anonymity.


Case Study #1Mr. Gains is a grade six teacher who is in the tail end of his career.  He has the school year down to a science: his lessons are organized by what worksheets will be completed on what specific week and day.  The worksheets are compiled from a variety of sources: teacher/student text book black-lined masters, and worksheet booklets based on subjects like math, English, science, etc.  Some may be worthwhile in conjunction with other tasks, but in the context that they are delivered it ends up being busy work for the students.  Mr. Gains often complains in the staff room that his students aren’t “what they used to be” and that they are “like trying to corral cats,” other teachers on his team would say it is because his students are not involved in their own learning and are therefore checked out.  At the end of the year students have become masters at rote memorization activities and have no conceptual understanding to accompany the “learning” that has taken place over the course of the school year.  These specific skills that have been acquired from spending a year in Mr. Gains’ classroom have no transference into any practical real world use.   For novel studies he has a set of questions that correspond with each chapter that students respond to individually with little, to no opportunity to discuss or extend their thinking/understanding.   Mr. Gains relies on his worksheets, and textbooks for all lessons, and while he does utilize and access some decent reference materials, he does not implement them into his lessons in a way that engages his students.

Goal: To help Mr. Gains reconnect with his students in methods of practice which allow students to be involved in their learning, and not merely a subtext of it.


Mr. Gains loves any opportunity for extra help in his class, therefore i think it should be relatively easy to convince him that collaborating and team teaching could be a worthwhile experience for the students as well as himself.

Here is a great video by Elizabeth Buckhold, a grade eleven teacher, outlining her experience using literature circales with her students.  I would use this as a video to further illustrate the purpose of literature circles and to give a bit more exposure to the concept to Mr. Gains.

Potential Roadblocks:

Not being open to trying a completely new approach.

Ways to combat roadblock:

  • Provide examples of success stories from the past.  Speak passionately and confidently about the process and why it works.
  • Reassure that we will tackle this together and that I am there for support throughout the entire process.
  • Only as a last-ditch effort: Merge new ideas with existing so that elements feel familiar.



Step One: The Hook

Offer Mr. Gains the opportunity to have an extra teacher in the room for the duration of a class novel study.

Introduce the idea of literature circles, where students will be given individual, rotating roles within a small group followed by weekly opportunities to discuss chapters in a formal small group setting.

Step Two: Planning

Provide choice of novel study, either the whole class reads the same book, or various books are chosen based on a similar theme at varied reading levels.

Pull literature circle teaching resources from the library and allow Mr. Gains to peruse the various graphic organizers and to further understand the process and purpose of literature circles.

Discuss what roles should be permanent, and which roles will be integrated in as occasional roles.

Create an end task where students will showcase what they have learned.  (Movie book trailer, book review, etc.)

Step Three: Implementing

Invite Mr. Gains’ class to use the Learning Commons space for the weekly or semi-weekly meetings.

Take turns sitting with each group and listening to their conversations.  Asking questions to continue conversations when appropriate or necessary.

Debrief after each meeting and share personal notes with Mr. Gains about students’ thinking and progress.

Provide feedback about where students are at and personal interpretation about how meetings are going.

Check in: How do you feel? Do we need to reevaluate our process? What will our next lesson look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future

Ask students to reflect on the process, what worked for them, what didn’t? Is this a format they would like to continue to work with in the future?

Reflect with Mr. Gains: What worked? What didn’t? What would you be willing to try next time? How can I best support you in the future? Where do we go from here?  How have your students’ reflections impacted your feelings about this process?

Case Study #1-2Ms. Middleton is a grade seven teacher who is also at the tail end of her career.  While she takes the time to build relationships with her students and genuinely cares about them, her laid back approach to life is evident in her teaching style.  Ms. Middleton frequently pulls lessons or free units from the internet to “keep kids busy” while “checking off the PLOs for the year”.  In teaching one unit she printed six pages of questions on the topic from the internet, made no modifications, handed them out to students and gave them hours of internet access to find the answers.  She provided no purpose, background, or lessons around performing research for the process, she also did not mark the work once it was submitted.  In spite of some of these actions, Ms. Middleton can be motivated by other teachers and can be open to new ideas, so long as she is not required to invest too much time or energy into revamping.  She does have the understanding and experience to identify fun and engaging learning experiences versus the mundane, she just doesn’t always take the time to look objectively at her units/lessons to ensure that they are contributing to student’s higher level understanding and learning experience.

Goal: To help Ms. Middleton create meaningful learning experiences for her students that fit her style, but are reflective of quality critical thinking challenges.


Based on Ms. Middleton’s laid back style of teaching I think introducing the concept of Project-Based Learning is something that could be easily implemented into her practice through exposure, mentorship and guidance.  She currently embraces student driven learning, however she needs a bit more purpose and direction in order for her approach to be worthwhile.

Below is a video from Edutopia that serves as an introduction to Project-Based Learning.

Potential Roadblocks:

The biggest roadblock I can foresee is that Ms. Middleton would be afraid that integrating this new approach would be too much work.

Ways to combat that fear:

  • Provide examples of past success stories
  • Provide choice and appearance of being in the driver’s seat (topic choice, right to veto, direction of lessons)
  • Emphasize that this is a team effort and that I am there to support her throughout the process through: collaboration, team teaching, resource selection and individual lessons that I can offer to help set students up for success.
  • Once Ms. Middleton has agreed make it hard to back out.  Check in regularly, communicate excitement as well as the work I am doing on the side to bring things together.


Step One:  The Hook

Invite Ms. Middleton to be one of a small select group of staff that I could collaborate, and team teach with this term in the role as Teacher-Librarian.

Discuss potential subject areas that might be of interest for Ms. Middleton this term and introduce the concept of project-based learning.

Provide examples of successful Project-Based Learning experiences to motivate Ms. Middleton to agree.

Step Two: Planning

Review new curriculum together and narrow down potential PBL topics and establish a critical thinking question to drive the project.

Pull and select potential resources that will support student learning and the research process.  Discuss together which ones would be considered credible, good quality etc. and create a plan for how students will understand and come to similar conclusions about resource selection.

Create timeline for lessons – what will we teach together, individually, mirrored in small group.

Consider possible guest speakers who are experts in the topic to come in and present to students as a “hook” at the beginning of the learning.

Discuss how students will show what they have learned.

Step Three: Implementing

Check in daily to see how things are going.  How can I continue to support you? What is working?  What needs reworking?  How are you feeling? What will tomorrow look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future


How can I support you in integrating a similar approach to teaching in the future?
What worked?
What would you do differently?
What can I do to help continue the momentum?




Loucks-Horsley, S. (2005). The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM): A Model for Change in Individuals. Retrieved August 12, 2015.

Edutopia. Resources for Project-Based Learning. (2015). Retrieved August 12, 2015.


Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.

Assignment One: French as a Second Language Resources in Middle School

Teaching French in middle school can be a daunting task, especially when there are a lack of quality resources in your school.  For several years as a classroom teacher I found myself I piecing together bits from all over the place, but longed for something that was more comprehensive with a consistent approach; speaking with colleagues I heard I was not alone in the pursuit  to replace the patchwork approach with a quality program that reinvigorated the teaching and learning process.

Feeling this need first hand has made this search a personal and passionate one for me.  As a means of helping me narrow down and evaluate potential resources I have used my goals for an FSL program in my middle school to create a rubric.

Criteria Not Meeting Meeting Exceeding
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school. Language is too complex or too simplistic for entry level FSL learners.
Images/themes are too juvenile for middle school students.
Language is simple and accessible for beginner FSL learners, but does not provide a challenge.
Images/themes are mostly age appropriate, but can sometimes feel too corny or high reaching.
Language is appropriate for beginner FSL learners.  Allows for students to feel successful and challenged.
Images/themesare engaging for middle school students and have relevance to the context in which it will be used.
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed. Teacher’s guide does not support teacher knowledge, either assumes the teacher has strong background, or does not provide context for how the material can/should be implemented and used. Teacher’s guide is fairly straightforward to use, however teacher may at times need to go elsewhere for further breakdown or explanation of content.
Lesson sequences are easily adaptable for classroom use.
Teacher’s guide supports teacher’s ability to teach the given theme in a confident manner.
The guide provides a comprehensive approach to teaching each theme and the content within.
Lesson sequences can be used as presented.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences. Teacher guide does not provide variety of activities for language practice.
Activities are mostly worksheets or activities with little rigor or relevance.
Activities may need to be modified; however, overall they support student learning and language practice.
Activities tend to be repeated, with slight modification to keep students engaged.Both written and oral language is emphasized.
Guide provides a variety of engaging lessons and unique activities for language practice.
Activities are varied and allow students to feel challenged yet successful.
A variety of new activities that promote oral and written language are presented.
Connections/activities may continue in an online format.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Images or content is dated.
Resource doesn’t seem to take into account the audience is middle school aged (11-13)
Activities may seem too young or old.
Context for learning does not transfer into real life.
Images and content is relevant to middle school learners.
Resource mostly provides age appropriate activities for 21st century learners.
Skills and language learned can often be transfered into  real life situations.
Images and content are current or timeless.
Resource provides learning in a context that is relatable to the average 11-13 year old student living in Canada.
Skills learned is easily transferred into a real life context.

As a starting point I have decided to turn to the resource that  currently sits on the shelf in the teacher’s resource closet to establish its validity and relevance.   Every single edition the school owns sits here looking as though years have passed since its last use;  is this a sign?  Visages is “a highly visual, full-colour magazine” published by Pearson Canada, and authored by none other than Judy Mas, the now retired coordinator of Languages and Multiculturalism in our district.  It is now becoming clear why I have seen this resource grace the shelves of pretty well every single school I have been in within the district.

Flipping through I have instant flashbacks, this was the program used in 1995 when I was in fifth grade!  The “Télévision” unit makes references to popular TV shows at the time: Little House on the Prairie and Asterix.  The CD which plays theme songs to accompany each unit is cringe-worthy upon first listen, but smoothed over by colleagues as the hook that is so silly and ridiculous that kids just buy in (I’m not so sure I’m buying that!).  The activities are juvenile, but of course upon further inspection on the Pearson Canada website it is aimed at “grades 4-6,” not 6-8 which is now considered middle school in our district.

On the bright side, the teacher guide does provide lessons that would benefit even a novice FSL teacher, and are organized in a way that provides a choice of two routes for teaching the various themed units.  At the end of each unit is a performance task, which allows students to practice their oral skills in a fun, interactive and social way.  Even with those positives, I’m not sure I need to go back to the rubric to know this resource is no longer in the realm of reasonable for today’s students.  Originally published in 1994, over twenty years ago, it no longer meets the needs of today’s learners, and does not provide context that transfers real life.  Using it because it is the only resource available isn’t fair to anyone and tells me this needs replacing ASAP to prevent further torture to the delivery of the program!


Criteria Score Rationale
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school. Meeting/Not Meeting While the language is at an appropriate level, the lessons are too juvenile for the intended audience.  The recommended delivery and materials feel too corny and forced
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed. Meeting Looking past how dated this resource is, (which is extremely difficult to do) it does support the teacher with options for delivery as well as English and French explanations, so it gets a very reluctant pass.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences Not Meeting The activities are juvenile and simplistic for this age. The assessment activities don’t have a lot of rigor and it feels like a stretch to see the relevance or purpose as to why a teacher would assign them.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Not meeting Images and content are over 20 years old, and completely unrelatable to a middle school aged student in 2015.It is hard to see a real life connection where students will have to use their knowledge of 90s TV shows to communicate.

Overall this resource fails.  Whatever merits it had 21 years ago when it came out are lost because it is just so unrelatable now.  Clearly this resource needs replacing, it is taking up too much valuable space on our shelves and it isn’t right that teachers are left with this as the only choice.


Years ago I had done a search for a current resource that would replace the piece-meal program I was using.  The problems I encountered when I called publishers were that unlike the rest of Canada, BC doesn’t introduce French as a Second Language until grade four/five.  So, all of the resources I came across that were aimed at my target audience were either far too advanced, and the resources that were at an appropriate level for beginners were far too juvenile as they were aimed at primary students.  Coming back to this search this time around I decided to try something different and start by calling friends in the profession rather than publishing companies.  That is how I was introduced to the program AIM: Accelerate, Integrate, Motivate by Wendy Maxwell.

The teacher who introduced me to this resource had nothing but incredible things to say about how successful the program has been in her classroom.  The following video brought to life much of what she described to me in our conversation.


Here is an example from the AIM website of one of the stories for this level.  Note: the theme connects cross-curricularly, and since the images are drawn it will have a more timeless look to the context of the material.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 2.25.48 PMAIM

Criteria Score Rationale
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school.   Exceeding Even though there is no English is spoken during the French lessons students are set up for success with most common phrases, and words used in the French language along side gestures, which help to reinforce understanding and vocabulary enrichment.
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed.  Meeting This program requires teacher training workshops which may not be available in every city.Each unit is accompanied with songs, posters, gesture DVDs, reference materials, assessment activities, power point presentations, and a video example of the final task.There is online support for teachers in the format of: online workshops, forums to connect with other teachers, and video tutorials.There are SMART board digital downloads available for purchase.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences Exceeding There is a combination of oral and written tasks throughout each unit.  The structure of the program promotes regular language use amongst all participants.  The activities often utilize movement and group involvement and set students up for real world application.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Exceeding The AIM program uses familiar stories as a mean of providing common ground to reinforce lessons.The images and storylines are relatable to middle school aged students.There is an option to access an online portal to extend learning beyond the classroom.Real life language skills are learned that will help students be successful using French outside of the classroom.

The only two draw backs with the AIM program that I can see at this stage of my research are:  Training availability, and the level of commitment required to implement this new resource.  If staff are not on board with learning a new approach and really emerging themselves in this new technique there will be no point in purchasing the resource for the school, no matter how superior the product may be.

If we can assume that staff would be enthusiastic about the AIM program I would recommend  it should replace Visages in our school as the primary resource available for teaching French as a Second Language.   AIM appears to be current, engaging in its approach, while providing material that is relatable for students and a variety of means to support teachers.

The introduction kit that I would recommend would be the  Le garçon qui joue des tours kit based on the write up on the website it sounds most appropriate for late FSL students.

“This entry-level play is suited to the older elementary student. It is a story that deals with sibling rivalry and appropriate behavior toward others. A boy who constantly enjoys playing tricks on others at their expense learns an important lesson about kindness.

This kit is for students with no prior knowledge of French, but pushes students a little bit farther and faster than Les trois petits cochons.

Students are introduced to approximately 500 words. Present and passé composé forms of common verbs (regular and irregular), adjectival agreement, the formation of questions and the use of ne…pas are introduced.”  AIM Language Learning

According to AIM’s price list found on their website each kit is valued at
$495 which includes: Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 1.36.06 PM

With the option to include: 

  • Student DVDs (min. 10) @ $15
  • SMART board digital download @ $49.95
  • Student workbooks (min. 10) @ 15.95

I would start by purchasing one copy of the first kit, along with 30 student workbooks, and the SMART board digital download (assuming there is a SMART board in the classroom).  In my experience student DVDs are impractical and will not be used, which is why I have not included them in my breakdown.  Perhaps the teachers using the resources will feel differently and we can revisit this purchase at a later date.

The grand total for our introductory kit would come to $1023.45 + taxes and shipping.


AIM Language Learning. (2010). Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Mas, J. (1994). Visages plus Paperback. Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Pearson Canada. Explore French as a Second Language (FSL) Products. Retrieved August 8, 2015.

The Regents of the University of California. (2015).  Evaluating resources: Home.  Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Association. (2003). Tips for Writing Evaluation Reports. Retrieved August 8, 2015.




Finding a Sense of Belonging: A Cross Curricular Theme


This bibliography was compiled as an attempt to build an overarching, cross-curricular theme for the grade seven-year that will allow for more in-depth learning experiences, and in turn, a deeper understanding of the concepts covered.

In grade the seven science curriculum we set out to explore the needs of living things: air, water, food, shelter, and while it isn’t in the PLOs, or even the science textbook, I also like to introduce the idea of an additional basic need of human beings: the need to feel a part of something, simply put, to have a sense of belonging. We carry this theme into social studies as we examine ancient civilizations while exploring how the people of those times found their sense of belonging.  We connect this discussion to our own lives and discuss the ways in which we as individuals, and as a group find our own sense of belonging.  At this age students are becoming increasingly aware of the constant thread of voices telling them who to be, what to do and how to behave, therefore this theme is very relatable to students as they search for ways to belong while constructing their own identities.

We further connect this concept by integrating story telling through picture books, classroom read-alouds, and small group novel studies. Students explore the theme through large and small group conversations as well as individual activities.  I typically start be introducing several picture books on the theme, before moving onto a class read along of Lois Lowry’s The Giver.   As the conversation deepens and students become more comfortable and fluent in discussing and comparing their lives, and the lives of characters past and present they will then be placed into smaller groups based on novel selection where they get together in weekly meetings to discuss how the characters in their stories search for and find their sense of belonging and how that compares to their own lives, as well as characters who we have previously been introduced.  Throughout this process new picture books are brought in to provide alternative perspectives and deeper understanding of the theme as well as opportunities to discuss with members outside of their novel study cohort.

Throughout each of these books is the underlying theme that follows a lost or unique individual who struggles, but eventually finds their way and in the process a sense of belonging. This particular grouping of  books represent the varied reading and comprehension levels found within a typical grade seven classroom.

Through examining the lives of others in a year-long cross-curricular approach my goal is that the students will become more confident with the people they are as individuals, and more accepting of others who may be different from themselves.  By having longstanding, mindful conversations around the topic of identity, and belonging I believe my students become more empathetic and active members of society.  Using literature to bridge these connections is what makes this theme have more value as it provides multiple lenses for students to truly understand that although our paths are often different, we all share the same desire to belong.

Brisson, P., & Shine, A. (1998). The Summer My Father Was Ten. Honesdale, Pa.: Boyds Mills Press.

Chapman, A. (2006). B.C. Science Probe 7. Toronto: Thomson/Nelson.

Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press.

Colombo, N. (2010). So Close. Toronto: Tundra Books.
Fox, M., & Lofts, P. (1989). Koala Lou. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Korman, G. (2007). Schooled. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.

Lionni, L. (1975). A Color of His Own. New York: Pantheon Books.

Long, L, & Madonna. (2003). Mr. Peabody’s Apples. New York: Callaway.
Lowry, L. (1993). The Giver. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Mikaelsen, Ben.(2001). Touching Spirit Bear. New York: Harper Collins.

Palacio, R. (2012). Wonder. New York: Alfred Knopf.

 Riordan, R. (2005). The Lightning Thief. New York: Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children.

Sachar, L. (1998). Holes. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Say, A. (1993). Grandfather’s journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Selznick, B. (2007). The invention of Hugo Cabret: A novel in words and pictures. New York: Scholastic Press.

Spinelli, J. (2002). Stargirl. New York: Alfred Knopf.


Spinelli, J. (1990). Maniac Magee: A novel. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Wojtowicz, J., & Adams, S. (2005). The Boy Who Grew Flowers. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books.

Readdressing the EQ


Through the weekly readings, discussions and interactions of this course I feel I have a better understanding of what makes a successful learning space.  I am also much more conscious when referring to the library as a library, because this journey has forced me to redefine the library, while maintaining the best pieces as we transition into The Learning Commons.


While I still feel a bit unqualified to actually answer the question of how to successfully transition from a library to a learning commons, as I am not in my own library space, and therefore trying to implement the changes that I am suggesting,  I will attempt to answer based on the learning I have done this term.

The key person in this shift is of course the TL.  How he/she manages everything from the way the room is laid out, what is offered within, and how they say hello has a great deal of impact on the transformation to a learning commons.

Things that I believe have to happen:
– The TL must engage in regular professional development to keep on top of new learning trends, to support, encourage and inspire staff and students.

– Invest in themselves.  They need to be approachable, knowledgable, and generous (of time, space and resources).  They must also let go of the fact that they once owned the space for it is now a shared space between all members of the school community.

-Invest in others.  This means opening up before and after school to allow students access beyond their library periods.  It also means building relationships with staff and students.  The TL must also make purchases for the LC  that reflect the needs/wants of the community of learners.

-Market the space to others. The TL must regularly (to the point of annoyance perhaps) encourage staff to utilize the space and the learning/teaching support he/she can offer.  The TL is the constant advocate for the LC, maintaining its position as a place of importance for all members of the school community.


At the end of the day making the shift from library to learning commons is an all or nothing approach.  In order to support our students, and teaching staff in the best way possible it is inevitable that the transition needs to be either in progress already, or ASAP.

Middle Years Inquiry Planning Guide

This is a document I would like to share with Middle Years teachers to help guide, support and inspire their efforts to create an inquiry based project.  Sometimes we are lost and we don’t know where to begin, other times we may have an idea of where we want to go but need a bit of inspiration for ways to get there, wherever you are coming here are a few places that can help you get where you are trying to go.  No one is expecting you to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes finding quality resources or information can be arduous with little show for the time you’ve put in.

I have broken down the guide into four curations:

  1. A starting point for planning.
  2. Activities/Lessons for students to teach key skills involved in the research aspect.
  3. A sampling of quality resources for student during research.
  4. Presentation – a selection of presentation tools for students to show what they have learned.


So, you want to start an inquiry, or research project with your students but are unsure of where to start?  In this curation I have selected both resources that offer specific information about inquiry projects, as well as general teacher resources from quality sites created for supporting teacher planning and student learning.  I invite you to explore all of the sites to some degree, and narrow done the ones that will best aid you in your planning process.  Click here to begin.


In this section I have curated a grouping of lessons and activities that can help teach students the skills they will need to be successful in their researching.  Ideally these lessons are taught before students are independently performing research, as it will help to guide their process.  Here you will find lessons and teacher supports to aid in the teaching of fundamental areas such as: avoiding plagiarism, learning how to cite sources, establishing credibility of websites, how to search, how to critically evaluate information, etc.


By the time you are ready to use this next curation you will have a plan in place, and your students will be ready to start their independent research process.  In this curation you will find quality websites that you can pass along to your students to aid them in their research.  The websites in this section are geared towards students, the formats are easy to navigate, and the topics/information available is suited towards many learning outcomes of middle school curriculum.  In my experience, students appreciate this list as it gives them a bit of confidence as they begin their research and the daunting task of discriminating their sources to find the answers for which they are searching.  The list can be found here.


Here I have curated a selection of presentation and tech tools as options for students to use to showcase their learning.  You may want all students to use the same format, or perhaps a selection of ones you’ve identified.  These are all tried, true, and teacher recommended options.  I would encourage you to spend a bit of time checking them all out to some degree, and playing around with the tools so you have an idea of which ones will be the best option in your specific project.  Note: while many of these are web-based, there is also a link to iPad app suggestions.  Our school does have iPads available, if there is a particular app you are interested in that we do not have please come see me as we may be able to purchase.



In this section I will utilize some of the tech tools found that can be found in the presentation curation above as a medium to not only inform, but also expose you to some of the options highlighted for student use.  For example, all of the graphic posters you have seen thus far have all been created for free using Canva (found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).


This resource was created in efforts to support the staff at the school I teach, however, it would be nice if it could also serve the global community in some sense as well.

While this is a tech tool, it is not meant to eliminate the person from the process.  I am here to assist you throughout your journey.  This resource will hopefully provide you with focus and a plan, once you have those in place I can personalize the support I provide to you and your students.  I would also like to reinforce that this is a collaborative document, if I have left out tools, or websites that you (or your students) feel are worthy of sharing please let me know and I can add them to our shared document.

How can I support you?
Watch this clip I made on Powtoon to help you understand ways I may be of service to you and your students. (Powtoon’s website can found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).


When planned and executed in a mindful way that is specific to your group of learners,  inquiry projects are incredibly successful as they allow students to individualize their inquiry and process, which supports a bigger buy-in and in turn a more meaningful learning experience.

Students will learn about the process of researching a topic and how both print and online sources can support one’s search.

Students will gain competency with technology tools, how to effectively use the internet for specific searching and how to discern between a good/bad source.

While the plan is in place, we want students to get from A to B, the journey of how they get there is not prescribed.  This approach meets the needs of diverse learners as the students will work with tools that appeal to them, and find content that is meaningful to their process.  Students can personalize their learning by the ways they approach their research and how they choose to present their information.  Students who require a more regimented and assisted approach can be provided a short list of resources, such as the ones provided above, but with a more direct route to the information they are seeking.  Since technology will be used ELL learners will have direct access to online translators as they perform their research.  Software is available on the computers for students who require assistance in reading the material, or scribing their thoughts as they go along.  The technology available is limitless, and therefore virtually any learning obstacle can be managed to assist students in their inquiry research.

This is an online tool, so the information is accessible anywhere there is internet and a device ready for use, which means students can continue their learning at home, in the classroom with the portable computer lab, or with their own devices on our wi-fi network (when permission has been granted).

Cross-curricular and integrative opportunities: Primarily this project meets prescribed learning outcomes for Language Arts and Technology across the middle and high school levels, and as many research based projects are routed in Social Studies or Science topics will be easy for your inquiry projects to meet the prescribed learning outcomes for multiple subjects.

Multiple Literacies addressed in this project are bolded in the list below, and explained in the Padlet image below. ( A link to Padlet can be found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).

 Digital Is outlines the various forms of literacies as:

  “Digital Literacy Cognitive skills that are used in executing tasks in digital environments

   Computer Literacy Ability to use a computer and software

   Media Literacy Ability to think critically about different types of media

    Information Literacy– Ability to evaluate, locate, identify, and effectively use info

    Technology Literacy– The ability to use technology effectively in several different ways

    Political Literacy– Knowledge and skills needed to actively participate in political matters

    Cultural Literacy– The knowledge of one’s own culture

    Multicultural Literacy- The knowledge and appreciation of other cultures

     Visual Literacy The ability to critically read images”

 For a closer, more interactive look click here.

If you have any further questions, or would like to add to the any of the curations above please feel free to contact me in person or online.

Let’s get started on something great in the Learning Commons today!


Diversity in the Library

The last five years I have worked in the same neighbourhood, and one of the things that has struck me the most is the diversity found within this suburb of Victoria.  While teaching grade six we explored the concept of being Canadian.  I started by asking the class to stand up, next I asked students who were born in another part of the world to sit down.  Several did.  I asked students who had parents who were born in another country to sit down; many more did.  Finally I asked students who had grandparents who were born in another part of the world, but lived in Canada now, to sit down.  By this point all but one of my 30 students was sitting.  This particular student was a rarity, he could trace his Canadian ancestry back 8 generations, quite impressive, but that did not make him any more Canadian.  The point of this activity was to show the students how much of a cultural melting pot Canada is, and that being Canadian can mean so much more than where you were born.  Every one of those students identified themselves as being Canadian, for most that identity came accompanied  by other cultures and backgrounds, which is the beautiful  part about being Canadian.

Being Canadian can mean many things, as such, it is important we honour all cultures that represent our community.  Showcasing literature that celebrates our differences is a starting point.  Here is a sampling of book titles that could help to create a sense of community in the library, while celebrating the many cultures that make up a school community.  Diversity is the spice of life!

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio

“HUNGRY PLANET profiles 30 families from around the world–including Bosnia, Chad, Egypt, Greenland, Japan, the United States, and France–and offers detailed descriptions of weekly food purchases; photographs of the families at home, at market, and in their communities; and a portrait of each family surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries…”

Excerpt from Amazon.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

“Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant’s experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can’t communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. But while the reader experiences the main character’s isolation, he also shares his ultimate joy.”

Excerpt from Goodreads.

Mikissuk’s Secret by Isabell Lafonta

This is a story of a young Inuit girl seeking her brother’s approval. The story highlights the animals, geography and cultural elements of Nunavut. A great story highlighting First Nation’s culture.

White Jade Tiger by Julie Lawson

“This is a complex and ambitious first novel. Lawson skilfully interweaves the narratives of present and past, exploring the concerns of each on many levels. The examination of racism and greed in B.C.’s early days is well integrated into the narrative.”

Joanne Findon

An Attempt at Sketchnoting

I started this week’s assignments by watching the two videos on Sketchnoting, which immediately struck a chord.  I am a very visual learner.  I can remember back in the days of writing tests visualizing where an answer was located on my notes to help me in responding.  By writing notes in this format I can only imagine how much more engaging and interesting the process becomes, not to mention how great the finished product looks by comparison!
Here is my sketchnote on Sketchnoting.

  Image 2

For this week’s notes I decided to try to follow that same idea of sketchnoting to hold my thinking.


Here is my reflection from the reading in sketchnotes.

Image 1

My biggest takeaway this week was the Sketchnoting idea.  It immediately reminded me of a workshop I attended last Friday, which had the dullest presenter I have ever been witness to!  Oddly enough it was about how art can facilitate storytelling with children who are unable to write.  The topic was interesting, the dialogue not so much.  I found myself doodling along with some of my colleagues, one made the comment “I am drawing to stay interested!”.  Perhaps if our drawings related to the presentation we would have been able to have engaged a bit deeper and had a bigger takeaway?

Sketchnotes may also be the thing that allows students who are ADD/ADHD or easily distracted to stay engaged with lectures that are key to their learning success.   By giving students an avenue to focus their energy maybe they will be able to stay engaged for longer periods of time because they are actively listening and responding.


Sketchnoting – How does Sketchnoting help transform a library into a learning commons?
By introducing students (and teachers) to techniques that can improve learning and the arduous note taking that are less than traditional, teacher librarians are creating a buzz that will hopefully inspire others to want to learn more on the topic as well.  Through this use of the Learning Commons we are showing the library is there to support learners in ways beyond personal research and reading.

Digital Tool Box – Encouraging New Forms of Participation on the Road to The Learning Commons


Addressing the essential question, “How to shift from a library to a learning commons?”

I feel that part of the transition is creating new opportunities to make use of the library in a way that is useful to all, and likely very different from past interactions.  By moving away from a space that is generally just about hard copy resources and promoting new digital tools to help to enhance learning we are slowly starting to bring students and teachers into the space with new meaning, and purpose.

Here is a selection of tools that I think would encourage students and teachers to visit the Learning Commons for more broadened experiences than just a book exchange.

1.)  Bibliography helpers – The Citation Machine

Click image to go to Citation Machine.

The Citation Machine is a great tool for students to help draft their bibliographies,  for every resource, whatever the style.  It is as easy as putting in a ISBN number, or web address and then following the prompts to make sure all the information is input, press enter and you have a properly cited resource in the style of your choice.   Often times the Citation Machine can draft the cited works entirely on its own, while it is definitely a short cut, however, it is important to pay attention as you may have to do a bit of searching through your resource to find information it couldn’t (because it’s a machine) through that process it can also be a great way to learn how to cite references.

2.) Glogster

Click image to go to Gloster website.

Glogster is a great tech tool that allows students to show what they learned through a virtual and interactive poster.  Teachers can create a free account in which they can have thirty student accounts attached to them (there is a paid option that allows for more students, and for choice in user names).  Teachers have access to their student work from their page.  Personalized options are endless, from text, audio, video, to personal photos and backgrounds, each student can create a unique Glog that represents their learning.

3.) Pinterest 

Click image to go to education posts on Pinterest.

Organizing ideas through images on a virtual bulletin board.  I am a very visual person, which is probably why Pinterst appeals to me in so many levels.  I have used Pinterst for inspiration as an educator, a student, and for many other projects in my personal life.   I can see teachers using this to help find images, for brainstorming, to find ideas to inspire a lesson, or students in a writing activity.  Teachers can also utilize Pinterest as a way for their students use to collect images related to a theme, or upload some of their work so that their classmates can comment, share and connect, it can also be used for small group work for organizing ideas for a collaborative project.  While not set-up for educational purposes, Pinterest certainly lends itself to the world of learning and sharing.

4.) Edudemic

Edudemic is a technology education site whose goal is to “…connect teachers, administrators and students…” they offer a “forum [for] discussion, discovery and knowledge.”   It is a collaborative website where educators can share their ideas and support one another in their learning and teaching.  The particular resource that I have selected outlines the critical search skills students should know  to effectively utilize the internet.

Edudemic offers support for teachers who want to integrate technology into their lessons.  They have lots of great articles to help inspire and provide tips on how to be successful with new tech tools.  Click the image to go to an example of one of their easy to read and access articles:

I also discussed Edudemic in a previous post, here.

click image to go to the Edudemic website.

5.) Edmodo

Edmodo is a great teacher tool that serves as a class website for communication with students and parents, as well as organization for specific classes and grades.  Teachers can set up small groups for projects, online tests and file sharing.  Teachers have access to everything their students post, therefore is typically a non-issue.

click image to go to edmodo website.

– Image and tutorial on using Edmodo found here.

6.)  ReadWriteThink

click image to go to readwritethink website.



ReadWriteThink is a great website to share with educators.  The website supports literacy learning for all grades with a vast array of resources from lesson plans, to graphic organizers, to professional development opportunities.  There is also a section on the page that teachers can turn parents onto for home support.  I found it particularly useful for graphic organizers to help hold student thinking during readings for novel studies.




If students and staff have more opportunities to enhance their learning they are more likely to find reasons to come to the Library.  Opening up the uses of the space to incorporate multimodal approaches to learning is one of the ways we can transition into a Learning Commons.   Hopefully resources like the ones listed above will help to encourage more uses in the space.

LLED Essential Question – Guiding Statement


The process of documenting my learning, thinking and connections through blogging was first introduced to me last winter when I took 477b with Aaron Mueller and created this blog.  In doing so I have found the process incredibly meaningful, purposeful and personal as it allows me to speak honestly from my heart while connecting with my classmates, teacher(s) and also members of the online community.  I feel this format allows me to incorporate humour and try new things (videos, presentations, overall blog embedding fun, etc.) in a way just online discussion forums, and papers does not.  It gives personality to learning and while still formal, takes away any stiff formalities that can stifle learning and the communication of that  learning.

As such, I have decided to continue broadcasting my learning via the Impossible 61 blog (because nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible 😉 ) and showcase my curations for LLED 462 on here.

The essential question I want to look at this term is:


How can one successfully transition their school Library into a Learning Commons?

—> further, How can I transition from a librarian in a library to a facilitator of learning in a learning commons?

Some guiding questions that occur to me in this moment of reflection and thinking are:

-How do you make this shift as a whole school, with everyone on board? (how can you please even the naysayers?)

-Is this transition better accomplished gradually, or all-in?

– How do I communicate an interest for public opinions without allowing them to take over, or interfere with the process?

-> the space is shared, and as such ownership of the transition should also be somewhat shared, with goals outlined and set by the TL?

– How will I clearly communicate the purpose and difference through explanation and actions to the staff and students?

Rebranding The School Library


The idea of rebranding the school library as the Learning Commons is an interesting one, which when I first considered the thought I wasn’t sure I agreed with. My initial response was generated purely out of reaction to a headline and unsupported by any ounce of information beyond personal interpretation and experience. Removing the word library from the space just felt wrong (perhaps purely based on the romanticized feeling I have towards the library and the history I have dating back to early childhood visits). After reading through the articles and watching the video I of course understand the thinking behind the rebranding, and agree that as librarians we have to move with the times and meet today’s learners in ways that perhaps many never even considered. However, perhaps instead of issuing a completely new name we could merely hyphen it to show a merging of names, not dissimilar to a married couple where the woman doesn’t fully want to give up her last name: The Learning Commons- School Library. Or, should we take a page from Prince and try The Area formerly known as the School Library? Hmm, might be a bit much.   Enough about the name, whether it is called a school library, the learning commons, or a blend of the two, the facts should remain the same it is a place where students, teachers, and even some members of the community can come to collaborate, try new things, and build their knowledge using a variety of platforms.  

After watching a PowToon video and being nicely directed towards trying the site I thought what better way to articulate my ideas for what a successful learning commons should include.  

Here is my PowToon video:


Ultimately, the success of the library, or learning commons is a shared responsibility of both the librarian and the members of the school community, however, without the direction, encouragement and expertise of the school librarian it isn’t likely to meet its full potential.  So, the success perhaps is more determined by the ability of the teacher-librarian to market, communicate and facilitate the learning opportunities to both staff and students.  A big job, no doubt, but not unachievable.


How do you keep your School Library, or Learning Commons relevant and in high use?