## October thinking together: estimating reasonably

Posted on: October 31st, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

Estimate reasonably” is one of the mathematical curricular competencies under Reasoning and Analyzing, the first strand of curricular competencies. The curricular competency of being able to estimate reasonably is a learning standard at every grade level from K-12. Because the curricular competencies in mathematics are not grade specific, they need to be connected to curricular content to be assessed and evaluated at grade level. For example, estimating reasonably:

• at Kindergarten could be estimating within quantities to 10,
• at grade 4 it could be computational estimation when adding and subtracting numbers to 10 000 or estimating the order of fractions along a number line using benchmarks
• at grade 8 it could be estimating answers when calculating with fractions, estimating the surface area and volume of regular solids or estimating best buys when using coupons (financial literacy)

Curricular competencies to connect to many areas of curricular content but not all. When planning mathematical learning experiences, it is important to consider what competencies complement the content. For example, there are connections to estimating working with number concepts such as quantities, fractions and percentages as well as computational estimation, financial literacy and measurement.

Another consideration is that because this curricular competencies is the same essentially from K-12, it can be used as an access point for all students when planning for multi-age or cross-grade classes, developing IEPs and looking at class profiles.

What does it mean to be able to estimate reasonably?

As students begin their development of competency in estimation, they are comparing quantities as being more than or less than a known quantity. This further develops in using a referent for estimating such as if you know a handful of cubes is 10 cubes, you can use this information for estimating the total quantity of cubes in a jar. Likewise, a personal referent of knowing the size of your step that is about one metre long can help you to estimate distances. As students develop a strong sense of number, they are able to estimate within a reasonable range, knowing which numbers are too high and too low. As students become more competent with estimation and knowledgeable about quantity and other math concepts they are able to apply more abstract estimation strategies such as approximation and rounding.

How can we assess a student’s competence in estimating reasonably?

The Lower Mainland Mathematics Contacts network began to develop assessment tools to use with students to assess the curricular competencies. A draft of the estimating tool is here and teachers might find it a helpful starting place in thinking about how estimation develops along a continuum and the types of  ”I can” statements that can be used with students for self-assessment:

Estimating Ideas – LMMC DRAFT 2016

This assessment tool is still in draft form as we put this project on hold while the Ministry was developing a classroom assessment framework. General information about the classroom assessment framework, developed in collaboration with teachers, can be found HERE and the information specific to mathematics can be found HERE. The mathematics classroom assessment framework includes criteria categories and descriptors as well as examples from across grade levels. The Ministry is now using a four-point proficiency scale to provide descriptive feedback to where students are in their development.

Some resources to support competency development in estimation:

Andrew Stadel curates a website called Estimation 180 that is full of estimation tasks with a photograph as a starting point. Students are asked to consider what number would be too low and then which would be too high to develop their reasoning around what a reasonable range would be.

Many “three-act tasks” involve an element of element. Both Graham Fletcher and Dan Meyer have archived videos and examples of three-act tasks.

For our BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project, we have create a pedagogical content knowledge four-pager about estimating. You can download it here:

estimating-final

Two favourite picture books that focus on estimation, with a focus on using visual referents are Great Estimations and Greater Estimations by Bruce Goldstone.

Other picture books to connect to estimation:

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara

Counting on Frank by Rod Clement

Betcha! by Stuart J. Murphy

Some questions to consider as you plan for learning opportunities to develop the competency of estimating reasonably:

Do students understand what it means to estimate, that there is reasoning involved?

How can we connect the curricular competencies of estimating and visualizing? Are students scanning quantities and using visual referents? How can we encourage students to explain their strategies and make what they are doing in their mind visible?

What opportunities can we create for students to make adjustments to their original estimates based on new information? Are they making meaning of the situation?

What opportunities are we creating for students to think about estimation across math content areas – number, quantity, measurement, financial literacy and other areas in context?

~Janice

## September thinking together: mathematics curricular competencies

Posted on: September 28th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

For the 2018-19 school year, the “thinking together” series of blog posts will focus on the curricular competencies in the mathematics curriculum.  The “thinking together” series is meant to support professional learning and provoke discussion and thinking. This month will provide an overview of the curricular competenecies and then each month we will zoom in and focus on one curricular competency and examine connections to K-12 curricular content, possible learning experiences and assessment.

The curricular competencies are the “do” part of the know-do-understand (KDU) model of learning from BC’s redesigned curriculum.

The curricular competencies are intended to reflect the discipline of mathematics and highlight the practices, processes and competencies of mathematicians such as justifying, estimating, visualizing and explaining

The curricular competencies are connected the the Core Competencies of Communication, Thinking  and Personal & Social. More information about the Core Competencies can be found HERE.

The curricular competencies along with the curricular content comprise the legally mandated part of the curriculum, now called learning standards. This means these competencies are required to be taught, assessed and learning achievement for these competencies is communicated to students and parents.

Something unique about the mathematics curricular competencies is that they are essentially the same from K-12. K-5 competencies are exactly the same with some slight additions in grades 6-9 and then building on what was created in K-9 for the grades 10-12 courses. Because they are the same at each grade level, to be assessed at “grade level” they need to be connected to curricular content. For example, one of the curricular competencies is “estimate reasonably” – for Kindergarten that will mean with quantities to 10, for grade 4 that could mean for quantities to 10 000 or for the measurement of perimeter using standard units and for grade 8 estimating reasonably could be practiced when operating with fractions or considering best buys when learning about financial literacy.

The new classroom assessment framework developed by BC teachers and the Ministry of Education focuses on assessing curricular competencies and can be found HERE.  A document outlining criteria categories, criteria and sample applications specific to K-9 Mathematics can be found HERE. The new four-point proficiency scale provides language to support teachers and students as they engage in classroom assessment.

As we are begin a new school year and are thinking about year plans and overviews we might consider the following questions:

• What opportunities do students have to learn about what it means to be a mathematician and what mathematicians do?
• What opportunities can be created over the school year for students to name, be aware of, practice, develop and reflect on the core and curricular competencies in mathematics?
• How can we make the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics visible in our classrooms and schools?
• As we are planning for instruction and assessment, how are we being intentional about weaving together both curricular competencies and content? What curricular content areas complement and are linking to specific curricular competencies?

~Janice

## summer professional learning and reading 2018

Posted on: June 29th, 2018 by jnovakowski

Although summer is a “break” from the schedules and routines of teaching, it has always also been a time of learning for me. Whether it be taking course work or having the time to read deeply or attend professional learning events, I find the summer a great time to learn new things and both reflect on and rejuvenate my teaching practice. Of course, in order to really refresh, I do take some time away from professional thinking by reading novels, memoirs, travel guides and cookbooks! I try and learn new things and am currently enjoying learning about different types of weaving, dyeing using natural materials, using new art techniques and focusing on developing my knowledge around local plants All of these personal interests do tend to find their way into my professional work though as well!

One learning goal I have for myself is to become more familiar and fluent with using desmos. Desmos is an online graphing application (and available as an app as well) but has so many possibilities for supporting mathematical thinking for elementary and secondary students. The desmos website is full of examples and ideas for student projects as well as resources for teachers. I feel I just have a beginning understanding of what desmos has to offer so am looking forward to digging in and playing with it over the summer.

My first summer professional reading stack of the summer!

Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning K-8 by Ellin Oliver Keene

Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play by Mitchel Resnick and Ken Robinson

Play Matters by Miguel Sicart

Arithmetic by Paul Lockhart

Give Me Five!: Five Coach-Teacher-Principal Collaborations that Promote Mathematical Success by Janice Bradley

Essential Assessment:  Six Tenets for Bringing Hope, Efficacy, and Achievement to the Classroom (Deepen Teachers’ Understanding of Assessment to Meet Standards and Generate a Culture of Learning) by Cassandra Erkens and Tom Schimmer

Softening the Edges: Assessment Practices that Honor K-12 Teachers and Learners by Katie White

I have also ordered these two need mathematics book through the NCTM and the ATM.

An area of focus in our district will continue to be assessment. Continuous assessment that leads to responsive, intentional instructional choices is a practice that is woven throughout series I do around mathematics professional learning. Two books that I am going to revisit this summer as I begin to plan professional learning experiences for next year include:

Rethinking Letter Grades is a book by Canadian authors with local examples and I appreciate the “triangle” from this book that shares that in order to have authentic evidence of learning you need three types of assessment data – observations, conversations/interviews and products (which includes projects, creations, writing, drawing, diagrams, quizzes, tests).  The Formative Five is a mathematics specific book focusing on five formative assessment practices.

New assessment reads for this summer include the following:

Katie White, author of Softening the Edges, will be a featured speaker at our Curriculum Implementation Day in Richmond next year. Essential Assessment was a book recommended by Angie Calleberg of the BC Ministry of Education as she said the Ministry used this book to inform assessment projects in the province. And although I do have some concerns about Hattie’s use of statistics and his meta analysis of meta analysis studies, I know his new book will come up in professional conversations around assessment so want to have a quick read through it.

Professional Learning Opportunities

For Richmond educators, professional learning opportunities are listed within the portal. Go to Learn 38 then to the Professional Learning tile to find both internal and external events.

For this year’s BCTF PSA Day in October, consider attending the Northwest Mathematics Conference in Whistler. Information about speakers, accommodation and registration is now available here:

Northwest Mathematics Conference website

Also in October, the Vancouver Reggio Association is hosting Tiziana Filippini, a pedagogista from Reggio Emilia, Italy. More information available here:

Vancouver Reggio Association – Tiziana Filippini – October 2018

A free professional learning event about coding for teachers is being hosted in Vancouver this summer, sponsored by the Government of Canada:

Teachers Learning Code – Vancouver – July 24-26 2018

Lots of districts in BC offer professional learning events at the end of the summer so check Twitter, Facebook, the BCTF site and district websites for more information.

For those of you interested in building your own knowledge of Indigenous perspective, culture and content, Talasay Tours offers some grant opportunities:

Talasay Tours – Authentic Cultural and Eco Experiences

And the Museum of Anthropology at UBC currently has an exhibit highlighting six cultures from across BC;

MOA – Culture at the Centre

Have a lovely summer – a time for adventures, rejuvenating and learning new things!

~Janice

## June thinking together: How can we work together with families to support our students’ mathematical development?

Posted on: June 28th, 2018 by jnovakowski

Last June I attended the Cognitively Guided Instruction conference in Seattle and one of the things that really resonated with me was the number of projects around mathematics that schools were working on that had a focus on involving families and connecting to the community. We were asked to commit to “one thing” to connect our learning at the conference to our work in our contexts for the following school year and my one thing was:

Before the CGI conference, I might have used the term parent involvement instead of family engagement but the conference nudged my thinking – there are many people taking care of our students – parents, grandparents, siblings, legal guardians and caregivers. The term “family” is more inclusive and the term engagement rather than involvement is more representative of what our hopes and goals are.

Over the past few years, I have done several event for school and district PACs as well as our annual Learning and the Brain conference for parents. This year I did two outreach interactive sessions about mathematics for parents through the Richmond Public Library, coordinated by our Settlement Workers in Schools program.

Increasing parent engagement and making mathematics education visible in our community area areas and goals that I am going to continue to focus on. Suggestions welcome!

Many parents, guardians and caregivers of our students have questions about the “new” mathematics curriculum and my short response is usually: the content has not changed significantly and new content has been added in the area of financial literacy and more learning standards and big ideas around computational fluency have been added. Those changes were part of the feedback cycle in the curriculum redesign. Parents had many opportunities to provide feedback through stakeholder meetings across the province (and within our district) as well as being able to provide online feedback. Beyond the core content (knowledge) at each grade level, other elements that are part of the curriculum redesign, and not just in mathematics, is the focus on core competencies, curricular competencies, weaving in Indigenous knowledge and perspectives and considering a range of instructional approaches to be inclusive of the diverse learners in our classrooms.

The BC Ministry of Education has provided information for parents on the curriculum redesign on their website and this information is available in four languages (tabs at top of website):

Beginning this year (not including 2018 grade 12 students) students will need to pass a Graduation Numeracy Assessment as part of their graduation requirements. We need to help communicate to our parent community that this is not a “mathematics” exam and is not connected to a specific mathematics grade or course.  The Ministry has provided information for parents on the Graduation Numeracy assessment that you can share with them:

Graduation Numeracy Assessment information for parents

We had one pages of the Ministry document translated into Chinese for our parent community for those schools that were part of the gradual implementation of the assessment in January:

SD38_GNA Information for Parents (Chinese page 1)

Table Talk Math is a website and book created by John Stevens. In it he shares ways parents can engage in talking about mathematics with their children at home. He has a weekly newsletter  that parents and teachers can subscribe to on his website. John’s five-minute Ignite talk is shared on his site. At the end of his talk (with teachers as the intended audience), he suggests four calls to action for educators to work in partnership with their students’ parents:

• celebrate parent involvement
• show your students’ parents that you care
• show parents how they can help
• help parents help their kids be amazing

And here is a collection of suggestions for parents that I have shared at various district and public events:

SD38_Supporting_Mathematics_for_Parents_2018

I am in the process of drafting a parent information bulletin for our school district, which will be translated into multiple languages once it is finalized. Look for it this September!

As we think about ways to engage families in mathematics, here are some questions to consider…

• What do your students and their families think about mathematics? What are their feelings and beliefs?
• How are we sharing information about the mathematics curriculum with families?
• Do your students and their families see themselves represented in mathematical learning experiences at school?
• How do you make use of your families’ cultural assets in our mathematics learning experiences in schools?
• How are we sharing and communicating our students’ mathematical thinking and learning to families?
• How do we create reciprocal learning opportunities in mathematics between families and the school context?
• What opportunities do we create to connect mathematical learning to our local community?
• How are families engaged with mathematics learning in our classrooms and schools?

~Janice

## school-based collaborative professional inquiry projects

Posted on: June 14th, 2018 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

One of the professional learning structures used in our district is collaborative professional inquiry based in schools. I collaborate with school teams that come together with a focused area of professional inquiry in the area of mathematical teaching and learning. I support the school teams through developing curricular and pedagogical content knowledge through mini-sessions and providing resources as well as planning together and engaging in adapted lesson study including time each visit to debrief and plan next steps. This year, all school teams involved included at least one teacher in the district’s mentoring program as we focus on supporting teachers new to our district and to the profession.

General Currie (term 1)

The three kindergarten teachers at Currie (two new to teaching K) chose to focus on core concepts and inclusive instructional routines related to these concepts. Inclusive routines are those that provide access points for all students in the class and are used regularly over time to develop mathematical thinking and ideas. The routines focus on developing the mathematical curricular competencies and content in our curriculum. Over several sessions in the kindergarten classrooms we engaged in routines such as counting collections, clothesline, decomposing and number provocations. The three teachers and their classes followed up this project with a field trip to The Studio at Grauer.

Garden City (terms 1 & 2)

Three small groups of kindergarten through Grade 5 teachers came together with a combined focus of “connecting the dots” of the redesigned curriculum – weaving together key elements such as inquiry, teaching and learning through big ideas, new content areas like financial literacy and a focus on First Peoples Principles of Learning and connecting math to place. I spent several sessions in classrooms co-teaching with teachers and having lunch hour meetings.

Tomsett (term 2)

A large group of kindergarten through grade 6 teachers chose to focus on supporting student learning of number concepts through a guided math approach. This approach to teaching math was new to all of the teachers involved. A guided math session (often done once or twice a week) has a focus of a core math concept as the focus. A whole group mini-lesson or routine begins the session followed by opportunities for students to practice in small groups or independently. This practice may involve working with materials, math games, an open task or problem or using an app with visual tools that support mathematical understanding. The teachers works with small groups of 2-5 students round this core math concept for about 5-8 minutes, designing and structuring a mini-lesson for them at their “just right” math level of understanding. The is an opportunity for the teacher to collect assessment evidence of students’ understanding. The end of the session involves connecting the dots between the practice opportunities and consolidating students’ thinking through sharing and discourse.

I spent several in-class sessions with student and teachers as well as lunch hour debriefs, sharing and planning with the teachers.  In between my visits, the teachers collaborated and shared resources and ideas amongst themselves. At the end of the term the grades 5&6 teacher reflected on how the project had transformed her teaching and commented that she will never go back to teaching math the way she used to. All of the teachers commented on how much better they knew each of the students’ mathematical understanding through this approach.

Steves (terms 2 &3)

A team of four grades 2-5 teachers chose to focus on structures that support differentiation in mathematics teaching and learning. In-class co-teaching sessions and lunch hour meetings focused on inclusive instructional routines, rich open tasks and providing choice with a lens to addressing the range of learners in each classroom. In the grades 2&3 class routines such as number talks and Which One Doesn’t Belong? and games were introduced and extended through work with materials. In the grades 3&4 and 4&5 classes, some of the structures we focused on were choice – choice of materials and choice of ways to represent thinking. We also used open questions and contextual problems that focused on big ideas and core concepts and considered how these tasks provided access points for all learners.

I always enjoy being immersed in classrooms and schools, learning together with teachers and students!

~Janice

## May thinking together: How can we weave Indigenous content and perspectives into the teaching and learning of mathematics?

Posted on: June 12th, 2018 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

The First Peoples Principles of Learning is a foundational document in the redesign of BC’s curriculum frameworks. The Principles were developed by FNESC (First Nations Education Steering Committee) and the poster in English can be found HERE and in French can be found HERE. As Jo Chrona would say, the FPPL are much more than the poster – they are principles that are inclusive of all children in BC while honouring Indigenous ways of being and knowing. FNESC has developed teaching resources such as the In Our Own Words resources for K-3 and the Math First Peoples resource for Grades 8&9 (currently being updated) but much of the information and ideas in the resource can be adapted for all grade levels.

On May 17, Leanne McColl, Lynn Wainwright and myself attended the 8th annual K-12 Aboriginal Math Symposium. Educators from across BC attend this symposium. Information about the symposium can be found HERE and there is a tab on the website that links to archived resources.

I have attended this symposium for years and was fortunate to share a project from The Studio at Grauer at this year’s event. Some of the slides from my presentation can be found HERE , under May 2018.

A focus of my presentation was on three of BC’s mathematics curricular competencies. These competencies are part of the learning standards for the K-9 mathematics curriculum and are aligned with the First Peoples  Principles of Learning and the Core Competencies.

The BC Numeracy Network has archived different types of resources to support the redesigned curriculum. Under the Connections tab, there is a page dedicated to resources that support the weaving of the First Peoples Principles of Learning into mathematics teaching and learning.

In the Richmond school district, two of the four goals of our Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement (AEEA) are focused on all learners (not just those with Indigenous ancestry) developing an understanding about the First Peoples Principles of Learning, our local First Nations community and Indigenous worldviews and perspectives as part of engaging in the process of reconciliation through education.

Teachers often ask me about where to start in this area and are concerned about not doing things properly or that they do not have enough knowledge themselves. I suggest that teachers contact someone in their district about local protocols and then try something in collaboration, maybe inspired by one of the above suggested resources. Look for authentic connections within your community and across disciplines in the curriculum..  Some of the things that I have done to continue to learn more in this area are: read articles and books recommended to me, seek out opportunities to learn from elders and Indigenous community members and colleagues, get involved with district or university-based collaborative projects,  connect with your district’s Aboriginal Education team, attend workshops and tours offered through museums, cultural centres and local Indigenous organizations. There are lots of opportunities to learn and see connections to mathematics…we need to go forward together with an open mind and an open heart.

To consider…

How can the First Peoples Principles of Learning be embedded in our mathematics teaching and learning? How do BC’s mathematics curricular competencies reflect these principles?

One of the principles is that “learning takes patience and time” – how does this principle bump up against some ideas around the teaching and learning of mathematics?

How might we work towards the goals of our Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement within our mathematics classrooms? What role could mathematics play in the process of reconciliation?

What does it mean to use authentic resources, stories and elements of culture in our mathematics teaching? How is this affected by the land and the story of the place where we live and teach? Who can help us think about these ideas? Where can I learn more and find resources?

What opportunities do your students of Indigenous ancestry have to see their community, family and culture represented in the mathematics they are learning at school? Within our diverse community, how do all students see themselves reflected in their mathematics experience? What is the relationship between our students’ mathematical identities and their personal and cultural identities?

What interdisciplinary projects might connect mathematics with Indigenous knowledge and worldviews?

~Janice

## April thinking together: How do the core competencies connect with mathematics?

Posted on: June 7th, 2018 by jnovakowski

The Core Competencies are at the centre of BC’s redesigned curriculum and underpin the curricular competencies in each discipline, such as math. An overview video about the Core Competencies can be viewed HERE. Drawing from global education research and through provincial consultation with stakeholder groups, three Core Competencies were identified – Thinking (creative and critical), Communication and Personal & Social (positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility, and social responsibility).

As we develop awareness about the Core Competencies during the school year, we consider the ideas of “notice, name and nurture” – looking for evidence of core competency development or application in our classrooms and schools.

In our district, we have created Core Competency posters in both English and French, overviewing all the core competencies as well as posters specific to one core competency (all available through the district portal). These posters are up in classrooms and schools to create awareness and develop common language around the core competencies.

In The Studio at Grauer, much of the work we do in mathematics has elements of the core competencies involved. In the mathematics curriculum, each of the curricular competencies is linked to one or more of the core competencies. The COMMUNICATION chart in the photograph below is an example of how I make this focus clear to myself, teachers and the students when we work together in The Studio. I often identify a specific curricular competency in our initial gathering meeting, that we are going to focus on together as we work with a mathematical idea. For example, I might say to the students,
“Today as you are thinking about comparing and ordering fractions with materials, practice explaining and justifying your decisions to a partner – that will be our focus when we come back as a whole group at the end of our time together today.”

Other times, I will ask the students to reflect on their last experience in The Studio and consider what they need to work on around communication, either personally or as a class.

The following are documents that show the links between the Core Competencies and the Curricular Competencies in Mathematics:

SD38 K-5 Math Connections between Core and Curricular Competencies

SD38 6-9 Math Connections between Core and Curricular Competencies

SD38 K-5 Math Communication

We have woven self-assessment and reflection about the core competencies into our projects and learning together throughout the year. During the last school year, there was a requirement for students to do a “formal” self-assessment to be included in the June report card. For students to authentically self-assess and reflect, they need to be familiar with the language of the core competencies and be able to connect to learning experiences they have had throughout the school year. During the third term last year, the grades 3&4 class from Grauer visiting The Studio weekly to engage in a mathematics project around the work of Coast Salish artist Susan Point. At the end of each session together, we had the students share their learning – what did you learn? how did it go/what did you do? what’s next for your learning/what are you wondering about? Sometimes students turned and talked to someone near them, other times, students shared their learning and thinking to the whole class.

Every few weeks, we had the students do a written/drawn self-assessment and reflection. We have found that using question prompts to support reflection and considering evidence of learning has been the most authentic and personalized way to have students think about and connect to the core competencies. We developed some recording formats to capture students’ thinking, with the clear intent that students are not expected to “answer” all the questions – that they are they to prompt and provoke reflection and self-assessment. A team of Grauer educators were working together on an Innovation Grant project around creative thinking and growth mindset and we wove these ideas in to some of the self-assessments.

Here is one example of a recording form:

Grauer_Competency_Math_Reflection_May2017

As we are coming to the end of another school year and are thinking about the student self-assessment of the core competencies component for year-end communication of student learning, we might consider the following questions:

• What opportunities have students had to experience and develop the core competencies in their mathematics learning?
• What opportunities over the school year have students had to name and reflect on the core and curricular competencies in mathematics?
• How have we made the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics visible in our classrooms and schools?
• How have the core and curricular competencies language and ideas been embedded in the mathematical community and discourse in our classrooms and schools?
• What different ways have students been able to share, reflect on and self-assess their mathematical thinking and learning?

~Janice

## 2017-18 primary teachers study group: session six

Posted on: June 6th, 2018 by jnovakowski

For our sixth and final primary teachers study group session of this school year, Megan Zeni hosted us at the outdoor classroom at Homma. Megan shared the story of the space and how it has developed over time as well as shared the logistics of her “prep teaching” position in the outdoor classroom.

We explored the different spaces in Homma’s outdoor classroom to consider opportunities for storytelling and play.

We had lots of great conversation about risky play and the gross motor and social-emotional learning that happens when students engage with large materials, building and play in outdoor spaces.

As we left the Homma school grounds and walked towards the south arm of the Fraser River, we considered the story of this place. The boardwalk and buildings along the river help to uncover the story of the people of this place and how the river has been used over time.

It has been a great year of primary teachers coming together in different places and spaces to think about how outdoor learning experiences can inspire different types of stories and curricular connections.

Looking forward to another year of learning together.

~Janice

## Story Workshop series – 2018

Posted on: May 24th, 2018 by jnovakowski

A group of district teacher consultants and school-based teachers came together this spring to facilitate a three-part Story Workshop after school series. This was in response to many requests and questions  from teachers in our district about Story Workshop. The facilitators of the series were: Sharon Baatz, Louesa Byrne, Michelle Hikida, Carrie Bourne, Lisa Schwartz, Marie Thom and myself.

A goal of this series was to honour the work of Opal School educators who developed the structures and practices of Story Workshop as a way to connect the arts and literacy. Opal School educators draw upon social-constructivist learning theory and have been informed by the early childhood educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy as well as American educators such as those working with Harvard’s Project Zero initiatives. Opal School has a deep commitment to equity and access for all students and to develop student agency.

They are many other ways we might engage our students in storytelling experiences – oral, digital, writers workshop etc but the focus of this series was to create awareness and understanding of Story Workshop as developed by Opal educators. The Opal educators have developed five structures or stages of Story Workshop. Some stages are more for the educator to consider and some take more time than other stages. Some of the structures such as negotiation or congress might involve small groups of students and an educator instead of the whole class. Over the series, we hope to develop a deeper understanding of the process of Story Workshop and what it offers the students in our classrooms and what it offers us as educators.

In our first session on April 9, we focused on the stages of Preparation and Provocation. We watched and discussed the Opal videos and Michelle, Louesa and Sharon shared examples of these stages of Story Workshop from their Richmond classrooms.

We watched and discussed the first two videos of the series and used the following questions to frame our small group discussions:

What do you notice about the materials the teachers are using?
When you look around your own setting, what unexpected materials might you use in new ways?
What do I want the children to learn?  How can I support this learning?

Story Preparation begins with our image of children. Preparation is about preparing the environment; setting up the space, creating an environment that supports children to tell their stories. Opal educators strive for environments that are playful, engaging, naturally motivating, with multiple opportunities for all children to enter into the work.

At Opal, educators convert social-constructivist theory and inquiry into practice by offering provocations. A Story Provocation is a question that is introduced to children to engage and support their interests and curiosity.

The Opal videos can be found here:

Story Workshop – Story Preparation

Story Workshop  - Story Provocation

Educators attending the series were each provided with the book Equity and Access Through Story Workshop.

The videos and supporting text are available at no cost to Opal School Online Sustaining Members and at a small cost to non-members: You’ll find both here.

Educators were asked to make a commitment to something they would try, inspired by the first session, and to be prepared to share a reflection, documentation or an artifact at our next session.

At the second session on April 30, we began by having teachers share what they had tried around Story Workshop with their students. Lisa shared how Story Workshop can be part of a balanced literacy program. Marie talked about different ways to approach Story Workshop with different ages of students and that the process needs time and patience, not rushing towards recording/writing the stories.

We also shared copies of this blog post from Opal for educators to read and reflect upon their own practice and how Story Workshop might be enacted in their classrooms and schools.

We focused on the next two stages of Story Workshop – invitation & negotiation and story creation.

At Opal, the invitation and negotiation time focuses on students being metacognitive about their plans for each day. It is often just a few minutes with opportunities for educators to have a one-on-one check in with students.

At Opal, educators invite children to explore the classroom and materials in search of their stories and this time can last about 45 minutes. Story Creation is a time of looking for and finding stories from the child’s real or imaginary life. Children play with materials, talk to each other, and tell and write their stories.

Sharon and Louesa shared examples from their classrooms:

The Opal videos can be found here:

Story Workshop – Story Negotiation

Story Workshop – Story Creation

Again, teachers were asked to try something around story negotiation or creation and to consider an area of Story Workshop that they would like to go deeper with.

At our final session on May 14, we invited teachers into The Nest and to think about how different materials might inspire different types of stories.

Each educator was given the book I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino (it comes in both English and French) as a provocation for adults and children to think about different ways that stories can be shared.

We focused on the importance of Story Congress as a way for educators and peers to give feedback on students’ stories. Sharon, Louesa and Michelle shared some of the structures they use in their classrooms for this stage of Story Workshop.

The Opal video can be found here:

Story Workshop – Story Congress

Opal School has online courses available to extend and deepen understanding of playful literacy and Story Workshop. More information can be found HERE.

This was a very well attended series with a waiting list and we hope to be able to offer it again next year. Many teachers asked if we could provide opportunities to visit Richmond classrooms to see Story Workshop in action and we will put something in place for this for next year.

Some of the feedback from series participants include:

“I appreciate how professional the mentor presented so many awesome ideas, so well laid out. This series has profoundly affected my thinking and practice.”

“This series helped me think about Story Workshop, storytelling, oral storytelling, loose parts and how they are different yet integrated.”

“It has helped me breathe. Hearing how others navigate and problem-solve the same challenges I have encountered  has given me comfort and loads of inspiration.”

“This series extended my thinking about Story Workshop by exposing me to more diverse ways to engage with stories – outdoor, leaves/herbs, spindle whorl, clay markings etc.”

~Janice

## creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about the hundred languages – April 2018

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 by jnovakowski

For our final session of this year’s Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series, we focused on the Hundred Languages – a grounding element of the educational approach from the childcare centres in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Hundred Languages concept is based on a poem by Loris Malaguzzi who suggests that all children have a hundred languages (or more) in which to express themselves and that are role as educators (and school systems) is to nurture these languages, not suppress them.

As Richmond educators entered the room, they were invited to they were asked to reflect on how the hundred languages are living in their classrooms.

Hundred_Languages_Provocations_April19_2018

The Richmond educators who visited Opal School in Portland over spring break shared their reflections on the experience through documentation panels.

Carrie Bourne,  Jen Yager and Julie Curran shared what they learned at Opal and how they have taken some of these ideas up in their own teaching contexts.

Marie Thom and I shared some of our experiences from our Canadian Study Tour of Reggio Emilia in March. I shared some ideas I saw about intersecting digital and analog languages through digital landscapes and Marie shared the power of the language of food and the metaphor of the table to bring people together.

After dinner together (enacting the table metaphor) our interest groups met with playful inquiry mentors to share ideas and go deeper with their understanding about playful inquiry.

We collected feedback from educators who have attended this three part series as we reflect on our learning from this year and think ahead to next year.

“Love the opportunity to collaborate with others and hear others share about their thinking/learning and what they are trying in their classrooms. It is thought-provoking and inspiring.”

“Playful inquiry and teaching is a learning process, always growing and changing and best in collaboration with others teachers and peers.”

“This series has kept me inspired when I’ve felt uninspired or simply tired.”

“This series completely changed the lens through which I see my role as the teacher and the roles of the students.”

There was considerable interest in creating opportunities for teachers to visit others’ classrooms to see playful inquiry in action and to be able to collaborate with colleagues from across the district.

Regardless of how how things unfold for professional learning opportunities in our district for next year, we know we have a strong and growing community of educators committed to teaching and learning through playful inquiry. Thanks to all of the educators involved in this series for their contributions and participation!

~Janice on behalf of the Playful Inquiry Mentors