A few key points from: ILA Literacy Leadership Brief (2018)

“Recent research shows that reading is on the decline in the United States; in a 2014 survey, only 17% of students ages 6 to 17 reported daily in-school independent reading. Research also shows the reading habits of young adults have sharply decreased in the past two decades; students read less outside of school hours as they spend more time with technology. With these discouraging findings, the National Endowment for the Arts warns that literacy—as a leisure activity—will virtually disappear in a half a century. As less of our population engages in pleasurable literacy activities in adulthood, our schools hold an increasingly important responsibility: carving out instructional time, space, and resources for literacy practices that build engagement, motivation, and joy in reading (PAGE 2).”

Hate    outside    spiderman_

Fostering Independent Reading

  • The benefits of independent reading are inarguable; the best readers are those who read the most and the poorest readers are those who read the least
  • An effective classroom library should have a minimum of 300 books
  • By allowing students to independently read during school hours from well-stocked classroom libraries, we increase the likelihood that students become lifelong readers.
  • The most effective teachers are those with extensive and diverse classroom libraries that offer print, digital, and multimodal text of both quantity and quality.
  • Books that reflect students’ personal interests, backgrounds, and curiosities and have a wide cultural representation increase students’ motivation for reading as a practice.
  • When the disengaged reader discovers a text in a classroom library that is personally relevant to his or her background and interests, the student receives the message that his or her interests matter and that books further his or her knowledge of that topic.

A central component of the development of lifelong readers is consistent, adequate in-school time for independent reading. Essential components of effective independent reading include the following:

  • Classroom time to self-select and read a large number of books and variety of text
  • Explicit instruction about what, why, and how readers read
  • Teacher monitoring and support during the in-class independent reading time
  • Authentic conversation about what students are reading


Full document can be accessed here: ILA Literacy Leadership Brief (2018)

Sean Henderson, Teacher at the TDSB explains the J.E.T.S Reading Independent Program.




As teachers help students explore transitions, careers and plan for lives after school, they need to educate themselves and their students on new trends in the workplace, such as autonomous vehicles, automation and the gig economy, that will certainly have a huge impact on the nature of employment in the 21st Century. Michael Chui (2016) suggests that  automation will eliminate some jobs completely, but will also have an impact to some extent on all occupations. “Given the rise of automation — and the threat of a jobless future…schools must prepare students to refresh their skills, and even reinvent themselves, throughout their professional lives (Preston 2018).”

PRECARIAT:  a play on the working-class proletariat and meaning those trapped in precarious lives with neither material nor psychological welfare” (CBC 2015).

GIG ECONOMY: a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) Report The changing nature of jobs. (2015) warns of “widespread insecurity” spreading as momentum shifts from societies with full-time jobs to shaky short-term employment across much of the globe. Currently, in Canada, the gig economy accounts for 20 – 30 per cent of the workforce and this is expected to rise over the next few years (Nazareth 2017).

A 2017 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (The Toronto Star) reports: …55 per cent (of those surveyed) said they participate in the sector because there are no other options, and almost the same proportion called the jobs “something to do until they can find something better” (Mojtehedzadeh 2017). However, finding “something better” may not even be possible, as some organizations are predicting that that this may be what the future looks like for employment in general (Kobie 2018).

A dog walker.JPG

Highly skilled independent professionals, with in-demand skills and experience and the desire for flexible working ours will do well. For example: retired, highly-skilled, babyboomers, students, stay at home parents, people with disabilities, etc. Nazareth writes: “in a 2016 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 65  per cent of U.S. workers aged over 50 said they had a strong desire to work as independent contractors rather than employees.” For younger workers, a part-time gig economy is not as attractive; it means they may need to pick up several part-time jobs just to make ends meet. …only 33 per cent of those under 34 said that they had a strong desire to go that route. Nazareth writes… workers of all ages accept that independent work could be their future, with 53 per cent of those surveyed expected to be self-employed over the coming five years.


Critics argue that while the gig economy benefits some sectors,  it can force vulnerable workers into poorly-paid, precarious part-time employment with no job security, no minimum wage, no sick days, no legal protection, no employment, and no employment insurance, “the gig economy has forced certain sections of the workforce into forms of self-employment they have no wish to embrace, that put them at risk of earning less than the national living wage, and which are enforced by threats, fines and a fear of losing their job”(Guardian 2018).

A mover.JPG

Royalty Free Image from Istock photo

Mulcahy writes that the workers who will suffer most in the gig economy are those “entrenched in a passive, complacent employee mindset that relies on their employer to provide a sense of stability, career progression, and financial security. The workers who will benefit most in the gig economy are those who are comfortable being self-employed and are skilled at ‘hustling’...Independent workers who are comfortable with and excited about developing their own income streams, marketing themselves, and connecting with others are best positioned to take advantage of the many opportunities the gig economy offers”(2017).

An engineer.JPG
Royalty Free Image from


Workers who have:

  • entrepreneurial traits
  • creative abilities
  • cutting-edge digital talent
  • specialized skills in marketing, sales or product launch
  • specialized industry knowledge
  • specialized skills in project management
  • specialized skills in logistics, transportation, & disruptive innovation
  • leadership & organizational skills
  • upper level management education, skills & experience
  • specialized in-demand education, skills & experience
  • technical in-demand education, skills & experience

(not including work that will be replaced by automation, such as drivers, factory and office workers, etc.) If these workers lose their good jobs, they are the most likely to have difficulty finding good work (Mulcahy 2016). 

  • retail sales
  • service workers
  • unskilled or low skill, manual workers
  • midlevel & low-level managers
  • junior assistants
  • bookkeepers

“The gig economy has created an employment model that robs workers of the rights they’ve earned over more than a century of fighting. It uses automation not to make a better world for everyone, but to put the risks of doing business on the backs of workers without providing them fair compensation (Recode 2016).”


CHART: Sector-Automation

Alton, L (2018) Forbes. Why The Gig Economy Is The Best And Worst Development For Workers Under 30.

Bolden-Barrett, V. (2016) HRDIVE. Study: 91% of millennials say they want a full-time job, not concerned with perks.

Chui, M. at al (2016). Where Machines could replace humans, and where they can’t (yet.)

Field, F and A. Forsey (2018). The Guardian.Don Lane’s death must be the impetus to clean up the toxic gig economy
International Labour Organization (2015).The changing nature of jobs – World Employment and Social Outlook 2015

Kobie, N. (2018). Wired. What is the gig economy and why is it so controversial?

Marx, P. (2016). Recode. The gig economy has grown big, fast – and that’s a problem for workers.

Mojtehedzadeh, S. (2017) Toronto Star. Toronto’s gig economy fueled by young workers starved for choice.

Mulcahy, D. (2016) Harvard Business Review. Who wins in the gig economy and who loses. 
Nazareth, L.(2017) Globe & Mail. The gig economy is here – and we aren’t ready
Stewart, B. (2015)  CBC Rise of the ‘precariat,’ the global scourge of precarious jobs

Preston, C. (2018). The Herchinger Report. Teachers want to prepare students for the jobs of the future – but feel stymied.


THE RISE OF THE PRECARIAT PART 2: Employment Impact of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

If a student in your class is planning for a career in an occupation that may not exist within 20 years, how will you support that student with career planning?

Learning for Life is no longer a phrase thrown about by “educrats.”  Encouraging students to develop adaptability, critical thinking skills, and resilience, in addition to becoming “life long learners” will be the key to their ability to thrive in constantly changing, shrinking, disappearing and emerging occupations and careers throughout their lives.

 Autonomous, or “self-driving,” vehicles (AVs) are predicted to have a rapid, profound and widespread impact on certain occupations and labor demand as we head towards 2020. “More than 30 companies say they are just a few years away from introducing autonomous vehicles to the mass market. ….there could be a relatively rapid transition. This is likely to cause significant pain in a number of communities, as well as exacerbate the losses of good jobs.  It would be prudent to strengthen our safety net and labor market to absorb a shock from autonomous-vehicle technology.”


Photo from CNBC

 AVs will contribute to the decline and rise of certain occupations and will also ripple out far beyond industries directly reliant on driver operated vehicles. 

 Professional driving is not the only job that will face disruption and risk. If autonomous vehicles are safer, automation could affect the workforce throughout the “crash economy” through a decreased demand for labor in auto insurance, auto repair and body shops, health care, and legal services. 

Driving occupations are dominated by men and represent a significant source of work for those with lower levels of educational attainment, with the vast majority (93.2 percent) of workers in these jobs possessing less than a bachelor’s degree.(Driverless)Trucks don’t get pensions, they don’t take vacations, it’s purely dollars and cents,” CBC

AV mining2

Photo from CNBC

Scott Santens: “we are potentially looking at well over 10 million American workers and their families whose incomes depend entirely or at least partially on the incomes of truck drivers. … According to Morgan Stanley, complete autonomous capability will be here by 2022, followed by massive market penetration by 2026 and the cars we know and love today then entirely extinct in another 20 years thereafter.”(Basic Income 2015)”


While the impact of AVs on jobs and occupations will be rapid and “potentially crippling”experts suggest that there is still time to prepare. Social upheaval can be mitigated to some extent through preparation by Government and Educational Institutions to ensure that communities  have access to career planning, training,  and retraining and possibly providing a basic income to affected workers.

Many new careers and occupations will arise – some predicted, eg. Repair technicians for AVs, some not even imagined. Encouraging students to develop adaptability, critical thinking skills, and resilience will be the key to their ability to thrive in constantly changing and emerging occupations and careers throughout their lives. 



In 2015, there were 15 million workers in these occupations. (US stats)

  • Trucking
  • Taxis
  • Rideshare
  • Buses
  • Trains
  • Marine vehicles
  • Emergency responders
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Government services
  • Postal services
  • Delivery and courier services
  • Garbage removal
  • Snow removal
  • Warehousing
  • Landscaping
  • Shipping
  • Mining
  • Forestry
  • Fishing
  • Tourism


  • Insurance industries
  • Health Care: Emergency services
  • Health Care: Rehabilitation services
  • Legal work related to traffic injuries & fatalities
  • Law Enforcement –Traffic divisions
  • Autobody repair
  • Automechanics
  • Heavy Equipment Repair
  • Home Repair and Installation
  • All aspects of Manufacturing
  • Food services
  • Retail industries
  • Wholesale trade
  • Recreation and travel



CBC (2016) Oilsands workers worry driverless trucks will haul away their jobs

CNBC (2017) Self-driving cars could cost America’s professional drivers up to 25,000 jobs per month, Goldman Sachs says.

OCE (US Office of the Chief Economist (2017) Employment Impact Autonomous Vehicles

Financial Post (2018) Suncor is building a fleet of 150 driverless trucks that will cut 400 jobs over the next six years.

Medium (2015) Self-Driving Trucks are going to hit us Like a Human-Driven Truck: The imminent need for basic income in recognition of our machine driven future

Globe & Mail (2015 & 2017) Driverless trucks could mean game over for thousands of jobs.

READING CHALLENGES: Why are students stalled at Grade 4?

Since joining  the Section 23 team in 2011, I’ve noticed  that many of our Senior students, who struggle with reading, seem to have stalled at a grade 4 reading level. Why is this?

A variety of Reading Diagnostic assessments indicate that the majority of our struggling readers have acquired foundational literacy competencies that would suggest they should not be struggling. However, there appear to be gaps in the strategic reading instruction they need to advance their reading skills to the next level. Biancarosa (2012) states: No matter how successful early instruction in reading is, it cannot fully prepare students for the literacy demands that evolve after 3rd grade.

teen 2

123RF Royalty free image.

Foundational Competencies students are demonstrating:

  • Alphabet knowledge – LN/LS letter names and letter sounds
  • Phonemic awareness – Phonemes are the smallest units that make up spoken language; they combine to form syllables and words.
  • Knowledge of high frequency words, “and”, “the”, “as” and “it”.
  • Ability to decode commonly used multi-syllabic words such as  beautiful, different, experiment, invented, attendance, etc.

Competencies students are lacking:

The following 3 competencies seem to be emerging as contributing factors for the grade 4 stall. *Research has indicated these competencies are crucial for reading proficiency as students move through the education system and encounter longer, dense, complex texts with more syntactically complex sentence structure and less structural devices to assist with comprehension (Biancarosa 2012) :

  1. Reading fluency – automaticity in reading unfamiliar, multisyllabic, content-specific vocabulary and complex syntax.  “The average fourth grader encounters 10,000 new words each year, and most of these words have two or more syllables (in Toste et al 2017).” Students are reading less and relying more on social media to communicate and get information.  As a result, along with reading rates, daily exposure to complex content and vocabulary has declined.
  2. Prosody – Prosody in reading refers to reading orally with appropriate expression and phrasing that reflects the meaning of text. Research has demonstrated a strong correlation between prosodic oral reading and silent reading comprehension. Proficient readers read with expression; less proficient readers often lack expression in their oral reading (Razinski 2017).
  3. Reading Stamina – the ability to stay focused while reading and comprehending longer and more complex texts. As students are reading less print at home, reading in school may be the only reading they do over the course of a day. Therefore, if students  are not given time in school to read they may not be able to develop this crucial skill.


They can’t do it alone. An extensive body of reading research concludes that explicit reading instruction needs to be intentional, intensive and consistent (Razinski, 2017) – daily if possible, or several times a week. The following strategies are highly recommended.


123RF Royalty free image.


  • expand complex vocabulary – daily work with high utility words (trending words are a good start, such as reconciliation, complicit, cultural appropriation, global annihilation, misogynist, collusion, bombastic, systemic, alleged etc.)
  • teach morphology – common word patterns; high utility roots & affixes
  • pre-teach – complex, content- specific vocabulary, terms and phrases; create subject specific word walls.
  • talk to students as though they’re grad-students – avoid using simple language in daily interactions with your students; make an effort to use complex vocabulary


  • model fluent reading – particularly of complex content. The reader listens to a text read fluently (preferably audio book or ebook with a professional reader) while following along with their own copy of the text.
  • provide opportunities for repeated reading/ rehearsal/ performance – poetry, plays, reader’s theatre, choir, lyrics and students’ own writing

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Alamy Royalty free image.


  • provide opportunities for students to talk about what they are reading with other students, or respond to the reading through meaningful assignments such as art, sketchnotes, music, drama, poety, spoken word,  comics, video, etc.
  • use mentor texts -model deconstruction of mentor texts and teach students strategies for understanding complex text (see LSDK)


  • wide reading – daily opportunities for uninterrupted independent reading of self-selected texts and also classroom texts.

Many Secondary teachers have expressed their frustration when teaching students who have significant reading challenges. They feel ill-equipped to support students with reading deficits, while also teaching credit courses. Teachers also have a tendency to suspend the teaching of complex content and critical thinking skills and may feel obliged to teach basic literacy skills; this is a critical error which compounds the problem: Remediation for struggling readers often squeezes out content-area reading and learning, thus giving these students fewer opportunities to learn advanced literacy skills in other academic subjects (Greenleaf et al., 2011; Haycock, 2001). If our adolescents are to meet 21st century expectations for reading, all students must have opportunities to learn specialized reading habits and skills. In short, struggling readers who need basic skills instruction should receive it plus instruction in adolescent literacy (Biancarosa 2012).

Reading challenges cannot be ignored. According to Biancarosa: Without explicit instruction in how to cope with the evolving complexity of texts, too many adolescents fall behind in their reading development and their ability to learn from texts suffers. If reading continues to decline at the current rate, then it is likely that the number of students with reading deficits will continue to increase. If these deficits are not addressed, they will plague students throughout their academic lives and beyond.

*Research Describing Struggling Readers


Over the past two decades, researchers have explored
the nature of students who struggle in reading, using
the framework of the NRP. Valencia and Buly (2004;
Buly & Valencia, 2002) studied 108 fourth-grade students
who had scored at the “below proficiency” level
in reading according to the test thresholds of the
state in which they reside. The students were given
a variety of reading and language assessments to determine
relative strengths and weaknesses in their
reading and language processing. The authors were
able to categorize students by their performance and
found that only about 18% of “below proficiency”
readers exhibited reasonably good levels of word
identification and fluency (word recognition automaticity).
The remaining 82% of “below proficiency”
students manifested difficulty in word identification
and/or reading fluency (Razinski 2017).


TDSS teachers, please contact me if you would like to receive full text of these articles.

  • Biancarosa, Gina. “Adolescent Literacy: More Than Remediation.”      Educational Leadership, vol. 69, no. 6, Mar. 2012, pp. 22-27.
  • Bourque, Paula. “Building Stamina for Struggling Readers and Writers.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 5. Feb. 2017.
  • Rasinski, Timothy V. “Readers Who Struggle: Why Many Struggle and a Modest Proposal for Improving Their Reading.” Reading Teacher, vol. 70, no. 5, Mar/Apr2017, pp. 519-524. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/trtr.1533.
  • Rasinski, Timothy V.  “is Reading Fluency a Key for Successful High School Reading?” Journal of  Adolescent and Adult Literacy. vol. 48, no. 1, Sept 2005.pp. 22-27.
  • Toste, Jessica R. et al. “Reading Big Words: Instructional Practices to
    Promote Multisyllabic Word Reading Fluency.” Intervention in School and Clinic 2017, Vol. 52(5) 270–278


Additional Resources:






Additional reading:

  1. How Kids’ and Teens’ Reading Rates are Falling, and What You Can Do to Help Kids Read More
  2. Why kids lose interest in reading as they get older
  3. Do Teens Read Seriously Anymore?
  4. Sharp decline in children reading for pleasure, survey finds
  5. How can we stop the decline in kids reading for pleasure?  
  6. Study: The Number of Teens Reading for Fun Keeps Declining




Staff and students spend hours each day surrounded by 4 walls, and what is posted on those walls and who created it, matters because it reflects how staff and learners use, interact with each other and learn within the space. Classroom walls can convey whose space this is: Does the teacher believe this is a shared community space –it belongs to staff and learners? Does the teacher believe this is my classroom  — students are guests in the space?

What’s on the walls tells a story of what’s happening daily in the classroom in terms of teaching and learning, student voice and choice, diversity and inclusiveness, who and what is valued.  With thoughtful planning, classroom walls can provide a dynamic welcoming, culturally responsive, collaborative, inclusive, and literacy rich environment that reflects the learning of all students and elevates learners’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.

21st century ed.JPG

 Thinking about the learning environment …
“Look at your Learning Space with 21st Century eyes: Does it work for what we know about learning today, or just what we know about learning in the past?” Sir Ken Robinson, The Third Teacher. Capacity Building Series #27


THEN – TEACHER CENTRED: Information that the teacher/school wants to communicate

STATIC AND UNCHANGING: Once the info was posted, it remained static –often for years, turned yellow with age.

  • Classroom/school rules, regulations, expectations, often negative – Don’t….. or No…. important to the teacher
  • Commercially published posters – focused on the 3Rs, selected by the teacher
  • Images depicting the dominant culture, selected by the teacher
  • School/Public service announcements (Bullying, Sexuality, Safety, College/University/Apprenticeship posters, etc
  • Chalkboard – often with a stack of ancient raggedy textbooks on the ledge right inside the door
  • Periodic tables, Maps, Charts, Graphs, Formulas, etc
  • Grammar and spelling rules
  • Project deadlines
  • Motivational/ Inspirational posters selected by the teacher.hang-in-there
  • Posters featuring famous “successful” people selected by the teacher

bill gates.JPG  albert.JPG

  • Finished, polished pieces of student work (A+ students) selected by the teacher
  • Teacher’s favourite nature or travel photographs
  • Bookshelf tucked in the corner overflowing with old binders, workbooks, dictionaries/thesaurus and raggedy novels, donated or purchased at yard sales or thrift shops with books that the teacher liked and felt were “appropriate” for students.



NOW – STUDENT CENTRED: Information that is important to everyone sharing the space

DYNAMIC: Changed yearly/monthly/daily, depending on the theme, topic

  • Co-created Welcome Board with Inclusive Community Building Goals and Success Criteria for interacting, collaborating and learning with others in the community space
  • Co-created Growth Mindset Bulletin Board – brainstorm with learners

growth-mindset                    gm


  • Co-created What Success Looks Like– brainstorm with learners
  • Diversity – visible and invisible, in the images/photographs posted
  • Interactive whiteboad
  • Student work – includes work in all stages, in addition to finished pieces with all students represented – selected by students and teacher

student work.JPG

  • Subject specific and cross curricular space with visual representation/infographics/webs, QR codes of Themes, Topics, Subjects, Courses, currently being studied – contributions from staff and learners.
  • Word walls –subject specific, roots & affixes and trending words selected by students and teacher – not too many, 30pt+ plain font

WWw   lm-word-wall word-wall

  • Book display – featuring a wide range of books /magazines/graphic novels- fiction and non-fiction that appeals to a diverse population (not just diversity that is “visible” but others, eg sexual orientation,  mixed identities) covers facing out for students to browse or read during independent reading time.

shelf     book display bokshelf tdss.JPG

  • Co-created Transitions Space with info showing how students participate in: classroom/school/home/community/workplace/post-secondary education& post-school lives
  • Co-created Health and Wellbeing space that includes information on promoting physical and mental health and healthy relationships
  • Shelf containing current Trillium approved resources and student textbooks

Walls should not be jam/packed with every square inch covered. There should be blank space framing the displays, so that the walls are not so busy they create a distraction.

ACL (Section 23 Programs) Lynn Murphy shared this:

I turned my books cover out and voila, the interest has surged!  Now they all want to read 13 Reasons Why, and being an open-minded person, I won’t give them 13 Reasons Why Not as it is one of my least favourite books of the decade. But I know I am in the minority….now that the books are turned out, they are talking about them, recalling favourites (Diary of a Part-Time Indian) and suggesting to others (“You have to read Speak”). All that literary activity and I didn’t have to say a word 🙂

Chris L. (English teacher) shared:

…I did a 1-minute “merchandising” and got 3 new books selected and a genuine exclamation of …”Oh WOW” from one of the students.”





MoE: 21st Century Competencies.

TDSB: A Vision for Learning in TDSB

TDSB: Integrated Equity Framework Action Plan


The Mindset of Culturally Responsive Educators

EQAO finds reading for pleasure boosts test results -Toronto Star


The Ontario Ministry of Education: Word Walls

Research on Word Walls,

Think Literacy –Subject Specific Word Lists


What Teachers & Parents Need to Know about Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

When a student is having difficulty learning to read and a hearing test reveals that the hearing is within the normal range, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) or Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) may be the culprit. APD may interfere with a child’s ability to develop phonemic awareness: discriminating, segmenting, blending and substituting sounds in addition to remembering and comprehension.

Children with APD may exhibit a variety of listening and related complaints. For example, they may have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and discriminating (or telling the difference between) similar-sounding speech sounds (Bellis 2016).

What Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is not: A problem with hearing

  • the inability to hear sounds or a range of sounds
  • a problem with the ear or parts of the ear, such as the inner, middle or outer ear.

What Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is:  An uncoordinated relationship between the ears and the nervous system’s ability to fully process sounds and language (Shapiro 2016).

  • inability of the brain to decode/encode language
  • inability to discriminate between sounds
  • inability to listen, understand and communicate language


From Special World (Routley 2016):


Several other disorders share these APD symptoms, which is why it is important for the child to be assessed by experts:

  • Autism
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Developmental disorders

APD is a complex disorder to diagnose and a careful and in-depth evaluation of the entire spectrum of issues is necessary. Generally a multi-team approach to treatment is neccessary for diagnosis and treatment; this will involve teachers, psychologists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists (Shapiro 2016).

There are strategies that teachers can use to improve learning outcomes for students who are diagnosed or present  with APD:

Examples :

  • reduce background noise during instruction
  • combine verbal/written instructions with visuals
  • use of assistive technology  or tablet/phone apps for note taking, text to speech and speech to text


  • Catherine Routley (2016). Auditory Processing Disorder.  Special World.
  • Teri James Bellis. (accessed 2016) Understanding Auditory Processing Disorders in Children. American Speech Language Association website.
  •  Zhanneta Shapiro (2016). How to Recognize Auditory Processing Disorder. American Speech Language Association.


Follow the Library on Twitter: @23Library


Managing Stress

As frontline staff, Section 23 teachers and educational assistants are no strangers to a significant level of daily stress. Most of you, I’m sure already have  many strategies for managing stress. However, there is no harm in taking a few minutes now and then to remind ourselves to make a commitment to  healthy stress reduction and management in order to control, or minimize the long term negative heath implications of chronic stress.

A few key points from: How Successful People Stay Calm, by Dr Travis Bradbeer.

  • moderate, intermittent levels of stress are not harmful and as long as the stress isn’t chronic, it can keep the brain alert
  • the onset of stress stimulates the growth of new brain cells responsible for improved memory; however when stress becomes prolonged, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.
  • chronic stress decreases cognitive performance and increases the risk of heart disease, depression, obesity
  • the good news is that stress is subjective and can be controlled

“Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.”

teachers under stress.

Photo from The Guardian

Ten strategies that successful people use to manage their stress:

  1. Cultivate a daily  attitude of gratitude 
  2. Avoid worrying about what might go wrong
  3. Make a conscious effort to shift attention away from negative to positive thoughts
  4. Reduce stressors by scheduling regular breaks from work, technology and mobile devices
  5. Limit  intake of caffeine 
  6. Make regular exercise & high quality sleep a priority 
  7. Squash negative self-talk
  8. Reframe unproductive thought patterns –or a tendency to catastrophize-that cause stress and anxiety to spike
  9. Focus on mindful breathing in stressful situations 
  10. Develop and tap into a work/personal support systems to talk things through when feeling overwhelmed

To read the Dr, Bradbeer’s full article:

Additional reading

Hill, Amelia, The Guardian. Depressed, stressed: teachers in crisis.

Follow the Section 23 library on Twitter:

Is there a Place in Language Arts for Spelling & Grammar Instruction?

Yes, but not the way they were taught back in the day, which was drill-oriented, involved rote memorization, and was taught in isolation of authentic reading, writing and oral communication. Completing worksheets, learning rules, rote memorization of random spelling words and weekly quizzes are ineffective. They have been shown to be time wasters and do nothing to improve students’ reading comprehension, nor their oral and written language.

“A century of research shows that traditional grammar lessons—those hours spent diagramming sentences and memorizing parts of speech—don’t help and may even hinder students’ efforts to become better writers. Yes, they need to learn grammar, but the old-fashioned way does not work (Cleary, 2014).”

“It is not enough for students to understand the complex grammatical features they encounter in their reading and listening; they must also be supported in using such language in their own speaking and writing…What this means today is that grammar instruction needs to be thoughtfully integrated into the language arts curriculum. (Gartland & Smolkin 2015).“

FROM Gartland & SmolkinGrammarTable

Please Pay

Implications for teaching spelling & grammar as an aid to writing

Schools that have moved away from teaching formal grammar using traditional methods, to teaching grammar through wide reading, studying mentor texts, sentence combining and authentic writing, “offer concrete proof that such approaches work (Cleary, 2014)”

To improve students’ grammar, teachers should:

  • Wide & close Reading: Give students plenty of opportunities and encouragement to read, read, read (Anderson 2014).
  • *Study mentor texts: Help students expand their syntactic repertoire by exploring “grammar in action.” Examine and discuss effective examples through mentor texts. Grammatical terminology can be used, but should not be taught as an end in itself.Students can then begin experimenting with style and syntax in their own writing (Anderson 2014).
  • *Sentence combining: Have students experiment with and discuss various activities in sentence combining, expanding, and manipulating (Kittle, 2009).
  • Authentic writing activities: students need plenty of opportunities and encouragement to write, write, write, about topics of their choosing for a variety of purposes and real audiences (Williams, 2009).
  • Just-in-time teaching in context: Teach only the grammatical concepts –through mini-lessons and conferences, that students need for exploring mentor texts, and for editing  and revisions of their own writing

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To improve students’ spelling, teachers should:

  • *Word Study: This is an approach to spelling instruction that moves away from  memorization of random word lists and helps students learn about words. Students develop “orthographic knowledge and cognitive strategies” which creates a deeper foundation for spelling development. “Stage theory focuses on the consistent patterns in language, and views learners as pattern-seeking beings. Learners, then, can employ their understanding of sound or morphological patterns in known words to recognize unfamiliar words when listening or reading; this knowledge can then be applied to using these words accurately when speaking or writing (MoE  2012).”



  • Teach Morphology. “Morphological knowledge may begin with simple concepts such as markers to indicate plural forms, and then develop over several years to include sophisticated knowledge of derived forms, such as human /humane/ humanity/ inhuman/  humanist (MoE  2012).”
  • Word Walls. World walls are effective with all grades and for a variety of purposes: 1) spelling of new/difficult words; 2) frequently misspelled words; 3) content words; 4) words students can substitute for overused words, eg “said“; 5) forms that students find confusing eg. they’re, their, there,  “Children who learn in a classroom with a working word wall have a distinct advantage over students who don’t have such a resource in their room( Education World 2016).



*Example of Word Study Instruction in action (Williams et al. 2009)

A Brief Description of the Research In the first investigation (Beckham-Hungler & Williams, 2003), we used the words Title I students frequently misspelled in their journals as the basis for word study instruction. We organized the misspelled words into weekly spelling lists that focused on a specific orthographic feature or principle so that Diane (teacher-researcher) could systematize her instruction and focus students’ attention on the concept to be learned (see Fountas & Pinnell, 1996). For example, students frequently misspelled the words house, about, our, and now, so Diane developed a weekly spelling lesson on these two spellings of the /au/ sound. At the end of our project, we found that when students reused the target words in their journals, they spelled these words correctly 85% of the time. More importantly, we were impressed by the number of other words the children spelled correctly that contained the same orthographic features as in the target words. For example, after Diane taught the ack rime, Tyler (all children’s names are pseudonyms) wrote wacky in his journal, also using the y spelling for the long e sound, which Diane had previously taught. A few days later both Denise and Karla wrote the word snacks in their journals. After Diane taught the ay spelling for the long a sound, Daniel wrote the word pray and Denise wrote gray. After Diane taught the ow spelling for the long o sound, Austin wrote the word slow and Aaron wrote snowed. Our conclusion was that systematic word study helped the students learn the target words and apply the orthographic features to other words they were writing.

*Example of Sentence Combining in action(Kittle, 2014)

Combining Sentences In their meta-analysis of writing instruction, Graham & Perin (2007) cite combining sentences as one of 11 strategies that move adolescent writers forward. This strategy helps writers experiment with possibilities. I give students four sentences: Biff graduated #7 in his high school class and missed only three questions on the SAT. He was undefeated in tennis senior year. He received a generous scholarship in math. He was denied admission to three universities he hoped to attend. I ask them to combine the information into one or two sentences, applying their understanding of complex sentences. As students work, I teach in the moment to correct misunderstandings or reinforce smart choices. Issac says, “You’ll like this, Mrs. Kittle: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Biff was undefeated in tennis and graduated #7 in his class with a generous scholarship in math due to his stellar SAT performance; however, he was denied admission to three universities he hoped to attend.” He’s right. I love it.

*Example of Using Mentor texts in action (Anderson, 2014)

The importance of using mentor texts is in the analysis that naturally comes through the conversation that follows the reading, in the transaction with the text. When we talk about what works in the writing we read, we become more consciously aware of it (Eagleman, 2012). As students note what a writer does well, they are, at the same time, creating a menu of options they can use in their own writing. For example, when Jasmine notices that Leonard Pitts starts his editorial with a list of commands in second person, she now has another option for how to begin her essay.

Educators often separate writing and reading—not to mention the panicked Henny Pennies who run around squawking “Close reading!” “Grammar!” “Author’s purpose!”— but the truth is these activities are inextricably linked. We can teach them as part of one meaning-making endeavor. When Beyoncé sings, “If I were a boy” in her well-known song by the same name, young writers notice that she says “if I were,” not “if I was.” That’s close reading. The point of learning about the subjunctive mood,  isn’t so much to label it as to use it. The power of the subjunctive mood is to communicate something that’s contrary to fact. Students understand that Beyoncé sings “If I were a boy” precisely because she isn’t. And this new understanding that students gleaned from their reading will surface in their writing. Writing and reading are more than standards—they’re meaning-making itself. They are processes that can address the standards. Each application and discussion leads reading back to writing, and reading and writing back to grammar. It’s all connected.

FROM Gartland & SmolkinGrammar Take action




  • Anderson, J. (2014). What Writing Is & Isn’t. Educational Leadership, 71(7), 10-14.
  • Cleary, M.N. (2014). The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar. The Atlantic
  • Gartland, L & L.Smolkin (2015) The Histories and Mysteries of Grammar Instruction. Reading Teacher, 69(4), 391-399.
  • Kittle, P. (2014). Teaching the Writer’s Craft. Educational Leadership.71(7) 34-39. 
  • Leipzig, D. H. (accessed 2016) Word Study: A new approach to teaching spelling.Reading Rockets
  • Saddler, B. (2005). Sentence combining: A sentence-level writing intervention. Reading Teacher, 58(5), 468-471.
  • Williams, C., Phillips-Birdsong, C., Hufnagel, K., Hungler, D., & Lundstrom, R. P. (2009). Word Study Instruction. Reading Teacher, 62(7), 570-578.

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Students’ interest in learning and their belief that they can learn are critical to their success (Growing Success p. 29).
Assessment as, of and for learning plays a critical role in teaching and learning because it provides teachers with a clear and detailed roadmap of the skills and knowledge that need to be taught.  Assessment provides students with a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to show that they have learned the required skills and knowledge. The ultimate goal of assessment is the development of students as independent and autonomous learners. As an integral part of teaching and learning, assessment should be planned concurrently with instruction and integrated seamlessly into the learning cycle to inform instruction, guide next steps, and help teachers and students monitor students’ progress  towards achieving learning goals (Growing Success p. 29).”


Learning goals clearly identify in plain language what students are expected to know and be able to do. Teachers develop learning goals based on curriculum expectations, which they  share with their students at or near the beginning of a learning cycle. Through discussion and clarification, teachers and students develop a common understanding of what is being taught/learned and what success looks like. Success criteria are used to develop checklists, rubrics, exit cards, etc., that clearly identify how the learning will be assessed and what evidence is needed to show that the student has acquired the knowledge or skills (p.33)

From Edugains:


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PURPOSE:   What needs to be taught/learned and what success looks like to the student and the teacher.

STUDENT needs to understand what goal s/he is trying to achieve, and specific steps that are needed to achieve the goal. How will I know that I’ve learned this?

TEACHER needs to determine what needs to be taught and specific actions needed to assist students in achieving their goals. How will I know that the student has learned this?

  1. UNIT PLAN: using your course/curriculum expectations identify the “big” unit learning goals
  2. MONTHLY PLAN: break down the “big” learning goals into a manageable subset of skills

include: knowledge/understanding, reasoning skills, communications, competencies, performance, products, etc.(See Growing Success Doc, Achievement Charts p.19-25)


  • What do students know, what do they need to learn?
  • What do I need to do to facilitate the learning?
  • How can I make success on this learning goal transparent and visible to my students?
  • Will students be able to explicitly link what they are doing to what they are learning?
  • ED.2

“Effective learning goals are based on the curriculum but expressed in a way that supports the learning needs of students. Students learn in different ways, in different increments, and at different rates. Some students need to learn in smaller increments than others; some need to “leapfrog, then circle back” (Popham, 2008, p. 28) in a non‐linear path  (Edugains)“

3.WEEKLY PLAN: What do students know, what do they need to learn?

From Edugains:

Based on your answers to the above questions, break the goals down further into “bite sized” learning goals for students

  • use plain language students can understand
  • conference with students to identify success criteria for each goal
  • co-create individual learning goals and success criteria with students if appropriate
  • success criteria should be explicit and observable
  • both teacher and student should have a clear idea of what is expected
  • LG4





  • Identify the knowledge and skills need to be taught
  • identify what segment students will be doing that day to work on their goals


PRE: student/teacher conference: before the daily/weekly segment begins

  • clarify students’ understanding of the learning goals and success criteria
  • identify what steps the student can take if they are struggling with work

POST: student/teacher conference: at the end of the segment

  • discuss with students the Learning Goal and whether they were successful in accomplishing it, refer to the success criteria.
  • encourage self-assessment and reflection
  • start a new goal or continue to work to complete the goal




  • refer to work/behavior/ attitude  that showed improvement;
  • identify an area where more work needs to be done


In order to improve student learning and help students become independent learners, teachers need to make a committed effort to teach these skills and provide all students in all grades with opportunities to practise them. Teachers need to scaffold this learning for students, using a model of gradual release of responsibility for learning. The ultimate goal of the process is to move each student from guided practice to independent practice, based on the student’s readiness (Growing Success p 35)

Gradual Release of responsibility model. The teacher will:

  • demonstrate the skills during instruction;
  • move to guided instruction and support;
  • have students share in the responsibility for assessing their own work;
  • gradually provide opportunities for students to assess their own learning independently.



EDUGAINS (Ontario Ministry of Education)has a library with 6 videos and viewing guides for an indepth look at  Learning Goals and Success Criteria.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW:



Ontario Ministry of Education (2010), Assessment, Evaluation & Reporting in Ontario Schools. Grades 1-12.    GrowSuccess document.