Archive for the ‘QTL’ Category

place-based learning at Diefenbaker

Posted on: February 7th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Diefenbaker was one of the four schools that began in the Ministry’s Quality Teaching and Learning project last year around our district focus of playful storytelling using natural materials and weaving in the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Three of the teachers and one new staff member are continuing in the project this year which is also meshing nicely with a school-wide professional learning focus on the First Peoples Principles of Learning, Aboriginal education and indigenous knowledge.

On Friday, I spent the morning at the school and a block of time in all four classes. A teacher from Tomsett joined me in the classroom visits as she is working on an Innovation Grant project based on the QTL project.

We began in Jaclyn Cruz’s kindergarten classroom where they are just beginning to engage in playful oral storytelling. Today, the students were focused on building and creating scenes for their stories. A variety of materials were provided for the students to choose from. The classroom teacher and ELL teacher both recorded students’ descriptions of their story scenes using their iPads.

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This student explained, “The bears are going to go in the forest and eat things. Here are trees and water and this is a log with grass in case you fall off.”

We then visited Michelle Hikida’s grades 2&3 classroom where the students spent the fall learning about the Fraser River. This week, they have begun to consider the stories that the Fraser River has to tell. The students created their story scenes, incorporating their factual and historical knowledge of the Fraser River – its depth and speed, what animals would be living in and near the river, what plants and trees would be near the river and how people interact with the river.

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The classroom teacher paused the students so that a student could share his story. The students gathered around and watched and listened as he told his story. His classmates had thoughtful comments noting his expressive voice and a learning message about forgiveness built into the story.

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After recess we visited Margaret Choinski’s grades 2&3 classroom where the students have written stories based on story scenes they created using photograph backgrounds.


The class has read the story Yetsa’s Sweater by Sylvia Olsen and the students have learned about the history of the Cowichan sweater.


Margaret has shown them a video documentary about the process of making the sweaters and the students have become well aware of the social justice issues involved with how these sweaters created huge profits for owners of tourist stores, particularly on Vancouver Island. The video of The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters can be found HERE.

On Friday, the students were creating border designs for a toque for one of the students’ new baby brother. Margaret is an expert knitter and is going to use of the student’s designs to create this special gift. Margaret shared knitting patterns she was able to find and provided the students with grid paper and some tips on creating a design that could be replicated. The students often chose elements from the artistic animal tiles that Margaret has in the classroom

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Our last visit was to Kelly Hink’s kindergarten classroom. Here is the area in her classroom full of storytelling materials.


On each table was a plat of materials ready for students to select from.


The students had previously read the little book Raven and the Box from Strong Nations and retold that story. Today they were reading the little book I Spy Raven and retelling it, using their own choice of characters. Kelli modelled choosing characters and using the language from the book, demonstrated how to change the language to make sense for the characters they had chosen and the materials they had available. The students were paired together for their story creation and telling.




As in Michelle’ class, Kelli paused the class to listen to one pair’s story, to inspire students with their own stories.


Here is a link to two students sharing their story – HERE.

So much playing with language for five year olds!




celebrating winter with stories

Posted on: December 11th, 2014 by jnovakowski

I have visited the two new schools I am working with on our playful storytelling project (QTL) this year and shared a lovely new book by Terri Mack called Mouse Celebrates the Winter Solstice available here. This story highlights principles and themes like community, celebration, the role of elders and family and the power of stories.

After reading and discussing the themes in the story, the children had an opportunity to create their own stories about the winter solstice. Some stories focused on winter and the forest while others focused more on celebrations and bringing a community or families together.

At Steves, the K and 1&2 class looked at the cover of the picture book and predicted what the story might be about. The students loved looking for the mouse and her footprints in the snow. They also were quite interested in the illustrations of the “star pictures” or constellations. The students also enjoyed the illustrations showing all the animals from the forest coming together to celebrate and were proud to name them.

The students then created their own stories, taking time to carefully create their settings. The students take such care in creating these small story worlds, paying attention to details. Many of the students incorporated the photo blocks the students had created, using photographs of their local environment along the dyke.



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The students also used story stones that they had made.



At Ferris we began our time with the K and K&1 classes by sharing some materials to help the students think about the story.


The students were quite excited to learn about how pinecones open and close depending on the weather!

We spread out some materials for students to create their own wintery story scenes.


As we listened in on their stories, we noticed that the students were developing a stronger sense of story development with some sort of beginning and ending. Some students continue to describe their story scene while others are beginning to use dialogue between the characters and have some sort of action or activity in their story.

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The students in all three of the classes at Ferris liked having photographs taken of their stories and would often call me or their teachers over to take the photos. I would then ask the students to “tell” me their stories and audio-typed them on my iPhone. Although the focus of this project for our young learners is on oral language development, that concept that “talk can be written down” and that their stories can be captured in different ways to share with others has become an important part of the project.


introducing playful storytelling at Ferris

Posted on: November 21st, 2014 by jnovakowski

The three kindergarten classes (one is a K&1 class) and their teachers are participating in our Quality Teaching and Learning (QTL project this year. We are looking at how playful storytelling experience support oral language development and understanding of story. Using natural materials and animals and stories from local, place-based contexts we are exploring how the First Peoples Principles of Learning can inspire our teaching practices.

For this project the principles we are focusing on are connection to place, the power of story and awareness of self-identity. The big idea is that we all have stories to tell.

The students were introduced to the materials in the “starter kit” that will stay at the school. We passed around the animals and read a simple story, Good Morning World.


The students were then able to create a place/setting for their story and choose some animals to help tell their stories.

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The following is the documentation panel that was created with student comments and reflections from the three classes responding to the question What is a story?

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introducing playful storytelling at Steves

Posted on: October 29th, 2014 by jnovakowski

We are continuing our work with the Quality Teaching and Learning project with early primary classes and teachers this year. Our district’s inquiry is looking at the role of playful storytelling experiences in students’ oral literacy development.

Information about our work in the QTL project last school year can be found here:

Grades 1&2 Storytelling

 An introduction to QTL

Kidd, Diefenbaker, Blair and Blundell are continuing their work in the project and Steves, Ferris and Cook are joining the project this year.

Last week, I visited the Kindergarten and Grades 1&2 classes at Steves. Before my visit the teachers, Kathleen Paiger and Ellen Reid had taken the students outside to forage for materials for story settings/animal habitats.

good-morning-world-by-paul-windsor-640I shared some of the animals I had brought with me and their significance to local Aboriginal cultures and read the students Good Morning World. The students then chose their materials to create a setting for their story and then chose animals.

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What happened next in both classes was pretty special. A calm overtook the classes and the students were engaged with their materials and stories.

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Some students focused on building and creating while others enjoyed having their animals talk back and forth to each other. Some students were happy with a limited supply of materials and animals while others amassed quite the collection in front of them. Students naturally merged their materials and stories together. For some students, sharing their stories with an adult seemed very important, especially if it was captured on video.

Here are two short video clips of some kindergarten stories:



These classes had collected rocks, twigs, leaves and acorns on their school grounds. As the students began to build their settings for their stories, one student in the grades 1&2 class was holding a twig with attached leaves in his hands, standing it up like a tree. I asked him if he could think of a way to make the twig stand up on its own…he thought of play dough. His teacher had plasticine in the class and he used that to stick his twig in and voila…a tree was standing. Other students noticed this and we had forests popping up all over the classroom.


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The synergy that emerges is one of my favourite parts of this project. The students collaborate, build on each others ideas  and co-create their stories…and forests.


an afternoon at Musqueam

Posted on: April 19th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Last Monday, the teachers involved with the Quality Teaching and Learning (QTL) project in Richmond visited the Musqueam lands and Cultural Centre in Vancouver. The QTL project in Richmond is looking at ways of incorporating natural materials, indigenous knowledge and stories into playful storytelling experiences that lead to enhanced oral language development in our primary students. The teachers from the four schools involved in the project joined us at Musqueam.


After a lovely local lunch, we visited the current display in the Cultural Centre with many examples of Musqueam weaving and basketry.



We then had a bit of an ecological tour, walking to one of the last wild salmon creeks in Vancouver and seeing the salmonberry bushes in bloom.


We walked through the Musqueam Band administrative offices with its beautifully carved house poles and carvings by local artists displayed inside.


The Big House is sometimes open to the public but was not the day we were there. About six families would have traditionally lived in the Big House and it is still the place for community celebrations like memorials and naming ceremonies.


The street signs in the community included the Halkomelem language.


Our guide also told us about the Chinese market farmers who used to lease land from the Musqueam and lived in small homes on the Band’s land (see the abandoned home in the photo below).


We walked down along the Fraser River and looked across to Lulu Island in the distance, imagining the canoe trips the Musqueam people took up and down the river.


Audrey, our guide, told us some very powerful childhood stories and stories about how residential schools affected her community. As an adult, she has been re-learning the language, has begun knitting and weaving in the traditional Musqueam style and has embraced her culture.

As we joined together to share our own work on the QTL project, we all commented on what an inspirational afternoon it had been. We all felt connected to this place and inspired to share the knowledge we had gained from our afternoon at Musqueam.


animal storytelling with grades 1 and 2 at Diefenbaker

Posted on: January 19th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Friday, I visited Margaret Choinski’s grades 1 and 2 class at Diefenbaker to hear and see the stories the students have been working on. This class is part of our district’s QTL project looking at playful storytelling and oral literacy.

The class had read the book Sharing Our World: Animals of the Native Northwest Coast by Garfinkel Publications during which they learned about the importance of different animals in local Aboriginal culture. Each student chose an animal that was important to them and this was a character in their group stories.

The students went outside and collected various materials to create their settings. They wanted to be able to create forests, beaches and tree top settings.

Margaret gathered paper box lids for the students to create their settings in. This gave the students a defined space and also made the settings portable and able to be “saved”.

The students then created their settings – one of their favourite parts of the project. They thought carefully about the types of habitats their animals would live in.

The class chose the themes of friendship, family and helping others for their stories. Margaret provided some guiding prompts on a chart to help the students frame their stories and keep them focused (I am, We live in the, One Day…). The students practice their stories orally many times before sharing them and having them Margaret record them on the iPad. During my visit, several of the groups presented their stories to me. You could tell they knew their stories were well, were proud of their work and had fun moving the animals around in the setting as they told their stories.
At the end of my time in the class, Margaret connected her iPad to the projector and shared a few of the groups’ recorded stories. The students loved seeing and hearing their stories on the big screen!

A short animoto with parts of the stories:

The students were so proud of their stories and told me they thought the best part of the project was creating their settings and presenting their stories.

playful storytelling: an introduction to QTL

Posted on: January 14th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Richmond is one of six districts to have been selected to take part in this year’s iteration of BC’s Quality Teaching and Learning Project (QTL). Representatives from the six districts meet throughout the year to share their projects and learn together. We also have meetings for the teachers involved at the district level. The proposal we submitted was several pages long but in brief the project looks at the role of playful storytelling in the early primary classroom, using natural materials and animal toys and stories. The main areas of focus are on oral literacy and on teaching through the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Kits were provided to each school team and each school has its own focus, such a personal stories or stories about self, environmental awareness, place-based learning and Aboriginal cultural awareness.  In Richmond we have four schools involved: Blair, Blundell, Diefenbaker and Kidd. Marie Thom (Early Learning Teacher Consultant) and I help to facilitate the project.

Our first district meeting was at the end of November and school teams shared what they were doing at their schools and teams also received some new materials to add to their kits.

Marie and I spend time at the schools, capturing and collecting data for the project and documenting the schools’ experiences. Last week, I visited both Diefenbaker and Kidd.

At Diefenbaker, Michelle Hikida hosts the project work in the library. Last week, teachers Linda Radford and Kelly Hinks brought their K/1 and K classes to the library. A story from the kit, Just a Walk by Jordan Wheeler, was read and then the students were asked to choose an animal character and think about what adventures it would have when it went on a walk. Different materials were set up on the tables in the library and the students were very engaged with the materials and their stories.

We video and audio recorded some of the students’ stories and the students also enjoyed sharing their stories with their classmates.

And a short little animoto video of some of the playful storytelling experiences with the K and K/1 classes at Diefenbaker:

At Kidd, I did an introduction to the kit with Penny Nakamoto’s grades 2 and 3 class and Laura Birarda’s grades K and 1 class. Each class was then given time to explore the materials and books in the kit, beginning their storytelling experience.

This project has so many connections across curriculum areas and engages students in many of the core principles of the new BC Transforming Learning curriculum frameworks.