Favourite Language Arts Links

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reading for the Holidays!


Our learning commons has some amazing teacher/student professional development/non fiction in HCS Overdrive E library.  Just grab your passwords and come and enjoy some great thinking material.

Some of my favourite reads include:

The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler
Humilitas by John Dickson
Spiritual Leadership by Richard Blackaby
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James
Good to Great  by Jim Collins
A Whole New Mind: Dan Pink
The Element : Ken Robinson
Daring Greatly Brene Brown
The Greatest Gift Ann Voskamp

For our teens:
Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo
The Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Stephen Covey
365 Days of Wonder J Palacio
No Compromise:  The Life Story of Keith Green
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Christmas materials ; from devotions, Advent books,  to fiction classics, something to read by candlelight!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Makered in the Learning Commons

Themes come and go and this year is no different in the learning commons at Heritage Blended Commons.  Stepping into maker spaces and all things #makered has been another pivotal moment for  advocacy in the learning commons, and completes part of our vision statement for the year 2014/15.

The learning commons has purchased Makey Makey kits, a Lego Mindstorm classroom set ( for 24 students), and Knex Kits along with a 3 d printer with the Mini Makerbot as the front runner!  Our campus learning commons champion Jessie starts our first Makered club this week, and 20 excited campus students will work with Makey Makey, and Knex kits to discover Motion and Aeronautics outcomes.  They will also learn how to make a video based on their innovative findings!  As a virtual media specialist I so want to be a fly on the wall!!

So why makered and why learning commons?  The whole vision behind a learning commons is the creation of a welcoming space which encourages all literacies, and fosters relationship.  Makered allows for digital, science, and computer literacy, not to mention hands on learning in the learning commons.  Students will work in teams building collaborative working relationships.  During the process we hope they will take risks, and learn to become inventors, as they coach each other in the learning process.  Every teacher wants to empower their students and we hope this will bring new passions, leadership, discipleship and excitement around science and technology.

During the last two years we have fostered the creation of a virtual commons, using Ning as a playground for building, and in doing so created a philosophy behind the experiential building centre. We host competitions and share our students artistic, writing, and musical gifts.  Now we hope to further this into the physical realm with hands on learning.

The learning commons vision has never looked more exciting!

If you have not discovered the upside of all things #makered you might want to read the following articles:

What's the Maker Movement?

The Makey Makey Might Change the Game.

Seven Hands on Projects That use 3D Printers.

Or watch this intriguing video!

We are thankful for a new invitation to bring students into relationship via multiple literacies in the learning commons!  Now more than ever a learning commons is a place to play, read and build!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Graduation and Beyond

Today I sat down and reconfigured my blog.  Now that I have a work blog I find it hard to get back and just blog for the sake of blogging, personal blogging, sharing my vulnerabilities.  But my life has changed and my children are graduated and moving ahead with their lives.   I am feeling nostalgic and want to move ahead with them...to reach out and study something new, exciting and invigorating, to follow, and perhaps not to lead. Oh to be a student again, to listen, inspire and create!  Having adopted a learning commons vision over the past three years in our district library,  it was good to learn, inspire and lead.

Creating vision takes time, as does encouraging your team to stay inspired, motivated and working towards that vision.  At times I remember feeling that roadblocks were an important part of the process; sometimes painful, but mostly gratifying at the end.  Staying committed to the culture of building a learning commons, has required faithfulness and resilience.  Ideation is second nature to me, and so dreaming BIG for my team was, and still is, really important.  But there is that still small part of me where I long to let go, and just be a follower and not a leader.  Grace and surrender are an essential part of learning.  And then there is time to just rest, read and dream.

Sometimes I think I am an adrenaline junkie,  or maybe simply attention deficit?  I do know that staying the path is important, as is listening to the inner child.  I am trusting that one design leads to another in our learning commons, that change will keep happening for the right reasons and not because I need change for change sake.  I am excited about the next step, about learning whatever it takes to keep building, following, and leading in the learning commons!

Friday, May 23, 2014


Today I am encouraged!
Ten years ago I started working at HCS schools.
I initiated relationships and learned how to be a follower and a leader.
I discovered the joys of learning and working from home.
I homeschooled my son for 7 years and watched him grow, struggle and lean on the Lord.
I saw families united, and I watched families struggle with divisiveness.
I saw children fail, and I saw children thrive and blossom.
I saw grief, and I heard laughter, singing and joy.
I learned the value of praying as an individual, family and as an institution.
I learned the value of community.
I learned how to listen.
I am still learning how to evaluate, assess and encourage.
I still make mistakes.
I am still growing in the wisdom of the Lord.
I am still on the path towards maturity in Christ.
But I am encouraged.
I find joy, peace, love and inspiration in my daily walk with God.
I am blessed!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Reading Strategies

Students who school at home have a distinctive advantage over students who learn in brick and mortar when it comes to reading. They have the most obvious motivator: TIME! But there are other strategies and skills which need to be in place before reading can take hold. Sharing strategies implies that you have a core foundation of skills. But in order to become an effective reader all students need to acquire a sequence of skill sets before they can read.
  • Sequencing skills
  • Making judgements from images and spoken word
  • Noticing details
  • Deciphering story structure: i.e. beginning, middle and end
Open ended story telling comes from teaching children to read using: previewing/prediction skills; asking open ended questions about the story sequence and characters; details in the story and the main ideas; as well as drawing conclusions.  Story telling should be an interactive process,  with your youngster sharing the story more than yourself.

Check out these great video clips on establishing pre -reading skills from the A.L.A.  Encouraging your pre schooler to think out loud, or responding to open ended questions will help them become engaged with the words and images on the page.   Role modelling the joy of reading will enhance parent/child attachment, and he or she will be more motivated to see reading as a delightful opportunity to engage with you,  and with the written word.

Read to your younger children on a daily basis,  or share your favourite audio books from our E library if you are needing a break :) To discover the importance of why reading aloud to older children is also valuable read this great Mindshift article. 

Next encourage your student to recognize letters and print.  Once your student has learned the alphabet using supplementary aids like Reading Eggs (subscription with our school), Starfall  or reading games with ABCYA they are on the way to retain fluency and learn some reading comprehension skills.  Start them on a sequenced set of readers which will help them retain and learn basic vocabulary and simple sentences.  If your student does not develop these early sequential phonemic skills, talk to your teacher for ideas on how to help improve your student's reading skills which will lead to better strategies.

Once your student has these basic skills include lessons for your primary student to start learning the strategies required to become a good reader.  Lesson plans on this Teacher Vision page along with this Reading Rocket's page will help teach semantic mapping skills, story structure and summarizing ability.  Encourage your fourth grade student to decipher fiction from non fiction using Scholastic's BookFlix, another wonderful subscription from our school.  For all subscription usernames and passwords please check with your teacher.

Do you have a favourite reading tool which you have found to really enhance the process?  Please share with us!

God Bless

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Conviction to Lead

In the last five years my new, best reading topic is leadership or business.  I am often blessed reading how God uses His story to bring certain characters into the spotlight to serve.  These characters may have undergone several struggles or hardships in their lives, but time and time again are forced to lead from a heart of conviction.

In the book The Conviction to Lead  by Albert Mohler, twenty-five principles of leadership are shared from a Biblical perspective.  Many of these principles may have been shared in other business books, but within this book all passages are presented with Biblical evidence.

The 25 principles include:

  • Purpose
  • Belief leads to Action
  • Convictional Intelligence
  • Leadership is Narrative
  • Leaders understand all world views
  • Leaders have Passion to lead
  • Leaders are Thinkers
  • Leaders are Teachers
  • Leadership is all about Character
  • Leaders are Credible
  • Leaders are Communicators
  • Leaders are Readers (LOVE this one)
  • Leaders understand that Power is not an end to Itself
  • Leaders are Managers
  • Leaders are Speakers
  • Leaders serve and act as Stewards
  • Leaders can make Decisions
  • Leaders have Moral Virtues
  • Leaders know how to use Media to deliver a Message
  • Leaders know how to Write
  • Leaders understand the Digital World and use it for Discipleship
  • Leaders know how to use Time wisely
  • Leaders know how to Endure
  • Leaders know they will Die and need to be replaced with others of conviction
  • Leaders have a Legacy. 
Do you know leaders who personify these traits?  Whether teacher, parent, student or school principal,  God can use all of us if we stay true to our convictions.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reading Differences or Gifts!

Words are a gift no matter how we read them.

This wonderful video shares the beauty of words and stories from the mind of a Dyslexic.  Experiencing Dyslexia in my family I have advocated for many years on behalf of my children to help them assimilate the written world within their day to day existence. What may appear so easy for one child, may be so horribly difficult for another!  Yet the majority of teachers do not teach students in multi-sensory ways, to be able to recognize the cadency in a sentence.  Sequential learning is something that needs to be integrated on a daily basis both with sounds and with words.  It is very hard to do in a brick and mortar classroom.

These wonderful role models share their confidence despite having experienced so many obstacles in their path towards learning.  Having read Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath, it was so encouraging to hear how the role of being straitjacketed or treated as an underdog is actually an advantage to overcoming such disadvantages, and learning compensatory skills to think "outside of the box" may actually be a gift.

Many home-schoolers are Dyslexic.   Many have struggled to stay within the constraints of a brick and mortar classroom.  With the use of technologies such as reading aids, speech recognition software, multi sensory tools, audiobooks available in e format, changeable fonts, and focus on verbal skills to bring out confidence,  students CAN overcome great feats.  Dyslexia is not the challenge it was in the past.  Having raised a Dyslexic student who also struggled with anxiety as a result of being misunderstood, I have a huge heart for all students who struggle in this area.   

Some ideas to foster in your child.

Go the long road to work out a system which works for your students, encourage, read to them, engage literacy and role model reading on a daily basis.   Find their gifts, and help them appreciate the written word regardless of how they learn.  Listening to stories is just as wonderful as reading them!  The power of the spoken word is so ENCOURAGING.

You are blessed to be the parent of a Dyslexic child!  I am blessed to see my son read and write essays albeit slowly, with precision and a "wordsmith's" creativity in his grade 12 year!

Thanks to Ted Talks for sharing this video.  It is well worth an hour of your time.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I think therefore I blog

Thankful for my network
Thankful for my network (Photo credit: krossbow)

Three years ago when I began my adventure on Twitter, I was amazed at how I could find such value added professional development at my fingertips.  Having blogged for a few years as a teacher librarian for a distance learning school,  I realized that having VOICE was something that resonated deeply within me, and many of my colleagues and students.  I had taught my students  about academic authority, sharing ones passion and reflecting accuracy and currency (all those lovely teacher librarianship question's).  But now the crunch was up!  Could I role model that myself? Could I learn all these weird and wonderful hashtags, how would I engage in virtual chats, and could I make friends with strangers? 
Three years later I am loving the ENGAGEMENT!  Discovering curation and sharing on Scoopit, Twitter, and other social networks like Ning,  has widened my knowledge base, helped me research pertinent scholarly articles, archive for my patrons, and also help me make friends.  One of these friends and fellow teacher librarian from England Elizabeth Hutchinson   collaborated via blog and virtual classroom with our campus and distance learning grade 6/7 students, on Chocolate Lily and Kate Greenaway children's' books.  We hoped our students would imbibe cultural sensitivities and global awareness as they studied the language similarities and differences between England and Canada.  We laughed at our accents, shared our silly phrases, and reached out to connect on a heart level around picture books.
On our Ning (a private social network within our distance learning school) we teach digital citizenship skills, such as media sharing, blogging, discuss issues such as cyber bullying, collaborate in online book clubs and participate in events such as our Innovator's Challenge.  We trust and value our relationship within this private and safe community.  
So what I hope to share from this conversation is how we can have virtual relationships using social media.  I was in a library advocacy workshop recently,  and I heard the presenter share that social media is not a place for advocacy.  I would strongly disagree!  Enjoying ten years as a virtual teacher librarian... this is my world and most of my students' world.
I do believe that we are called to reach out, love, respect and accept one another regardless of our background.  As Gust Mees @KnolInfos my Twitter friend shared  we thought it would be pertinent to create a multilingual social media dictionary for other educators to share their thoughts on the positive and community forming bases for social media.  We can do that in 30 words or in 3 characters.  The choice of words we use can either build up or bring down.  It would be cognizant of different languages, ethnic and religious backgrounds.  Thankfully on Twitter I have seen mostly positive encouragement!  I have also seen poetry in reduction.  As a wordsmith in hiding I LOVE it! We welcome your thoughts!  Thanks Gust Mees@KnolInfos for starting a blog to collaborate on such thoughts!
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