More Faye Brownie – Response Journals and Comprehension Activities

First of all, all information has been derived from Faye Brownlie’s – Grand Conversations.

As reflective practitioners, teachers and preservice teachers understand the benefits of reflecting on their learning as learning is a lifelong process, and so is our learning. As a particularly chatty individual and someone who learns best through conversation, I felt the greatest connection is learning about the use of discussion groups. But that was last blog posts focus. Today, I am looking at journal responses–off the bat, I am impressed by the amount of scaffolding presented in Grand Conversations. Here is what I learned.

  • Model effective journaling– explain your thinking while writing a response and let students contribute their ideas for what they notice about your process. By working together, this starts the process of co-created criteria for the class and ownership over ones learning.
  • Responses should always include ‘2-specific text references and personal analysis.’
  • Double entry journal (t-chart) with headings “what happened” and “my thinking” is one recommended journal framework.


Double Entry Journal

Faye Brownlie’s Grand Conversations presented these instructions for grade 2/3 learners.

  • Fold a page in half
  • Entitle the left-hand side “What Happened” and the right side “My Thinking” or “Text/Response.”
  • After reading, summarize what happened on the left hand side of the page and then write your thinking about what happened on the right side.


The goal is to have have equal amount of text on both sides–but it is clear that students will begin be more proficient at retelling events. Learning to make connections is a skill that will grow with practice. Here are examples from a grade 4 and a grade 7 student.


The United Journal

This is used largely after students so show growth and proficiency with the double entry journal.

The short version of this kind of journaling utilizes seamless transition in sentences whereby students make written connections to the text without the obvious folded line down the middle of the page. The goal is for students to write responses that shift between the event or meaningful quote from the store and reply to their own writing. It is kind of like writing a diary or log. Now, in 2017 as a man-child, I can’t image writing a log where I would have a fold down my paper and a t-chart–though maybe as an elementary student, that would be perfect!.

Combination Journal

I tried this in a practicum class, it is awesome. Students use sticky notes to mark areas of text where they would like to respond to in their next journal response. Student’s choose one of their sticky notes and write a more deep response about the area they flagged.

Building Criteria for Responses 


Faye Brownie discusses how she utilizes student responses and ask questions about how their work compares to the provincial writing standards and what the found powerful in their own writing. This is one way to build goals as a class and also set individual goals for growth–this is really the heart of what learning is.


What I love about this model is the use of students choosing criteria–it is collaborative and also requires ownership of ones work. For example, using a rubric created as a class, students can find evidence from their writing and compare it to their rubric and self-assess. Students can also ask other students to look for 3 examples chosen from the criteria that they would like peers to look for in their writing. This allows peers to edit work and look for what students are trying to improve on–and, give feedback accordingly. It’s safe, it requires ownership, and students are comparing themselves to their goals instead of other students.

Here is an example from Grand Conversations p. 39.




There are SO many ways to scaffold learning/reflection and to set students up for success in their learning. I am eager to continue my personal growth–the next two targets I have in mind for the final sharing exercise for this EDTE-500 assignment are culminating activities and assessment.





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Meeting Tom

The day I met Tom was my first day of practicum. I was nervous, excited and didn’t know what to expect. I was told there was a boy with ADHD in the classroom but I did not know who he was or what he looked like. Not knowing what he looked like soon changed upon meeting him that Monday morning.

8:55, walking in late, Tom walked in and yelled “Hello”. He was soon told that it was silent reading and he needed to respect the other students in the classroom. This calmed him down rather quickly. He read silently a book about lego but quickly changed to a book about dogs. This was interesting to see because I thought to myself “he is calm I don’t know what everyone is talking about”. Little did I know this boy could not sit for longer than ten minutes without having to get up from his seat, disrupt the class, and in some occasions go running out the door to the hallways.

I could not believe it this boy could not be controlled. He had a mind of his own and I, as a new student teacher, had no idea what to do if this happened during my lesson. Then I thought to myself “why don’t I ask him what he needs”.

The time then came that I had to teach the class for the very first time. Nerves were rushing through my body because of having to teach an intermediate class, let alone a boy who could go running out the door. I had asked the class to put their hands on their heads when they were done reading an example. I then went into a question without asking the students to transition. Tom became very upset very quickly. I calmed him down and asked him what was wrong, “you didn’t ask us to take our hands off our heads, so I couldn’t ask a question”. I had tipped him off by not wording my phrases properly. I could not believe that something I felt was a small detail was a large detail in his mind.

This experience on day one of meeting Tom was interesting and allowed me to grow as a teacher. Although it was a small growth I now know that it is important to phrase my teaching in a way that all students can succeed with. I am looking forward to working more with Tom and hopefully helping him with his learning.

Please keep in mind I have altered names for the security and privacy of all members involved.



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Building a Community of Learners

Sometimes looking at why things are ineffective is just as important as discussing what is effective–this kind of approach gives learners context and an idea of important criteria to co-create and facilitate learning environments. In short, today I am going share findings on what kind of frequent errors derail student learning and how to create a culture that fosters learning with literature circles.

The majority of my findings are from a fantastic article by Lane W. Clarke, Jennifer Holwadel “Help! What Is Wrong With These Literature Circles and How Can We Fix Them?”

This article highlights how even when literature circles have been explained thoroughly, positive student interactions can be and is often detrimental to success. As mentioned in my previous posts, literature circles are highly collaborative, engaging, and require students to show ownership of their learning. These traits foster growth and help build a sense of unity and teamwork in the classroom–it’s a popular method for helping build a community of learners.


Often, when studying exciting ways to teach it can be difficult to forsee every obstacle that could come up–this is a practiced skill and other times it requires flexibility and adaptability. Because literature circles are collaborative, and collaboration is a learned skill these are some of the factors that can alter the dynamic of a group.

  • Socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Racial and gender differences
  • Student animosity
  • Boys typically sidetrack the most (in this study).

This comes down to knowing your learners and building connections with students. It is often difficult to be entirely inclusive when you know particular students can be disruptive but it’s key to be as inclusive as possible to continue modelling inclusion and community. Every class is different and teachers work to find out know what works best for their students, and it is worth noting connections can take time and canoe quite challenging as a teacher, but it is highly rewarding. Helping students feel safe, part of a community, and gain skills to have meaningful discussion is the goal to keep in mind, these are competencies that will help carry your students for the rest of their lives.


One way to help build community is to be consistent in teaching styles to set students up for success. For example, if a teacher is running literature circles in a manner that promotes slowing down, self-regulating and collaborating it would be counterproductive to follow a lesson that was based speed, working individually, and competition. It sounds like common sense but consistency and routine are excellent for creating an environment where students feel safe.


Another method includes something I think the year 5 B.Ed cohort is quite familiar with–ice breakers and games to get to know one another. Using games where students can learn about what they have in common with their peers, what they can teach others about their peers. After the exercises, have a discussion about what they learned and how it is important to build connections with one another.


The articles focused on a class that had a hard time listening to one another so they adopted a method from a lesson called Sharing Air Time. During a literature circle, students would have a specific number of poker style chip. Each time a student contributed an idea they would have to supply a chip to the centre of the group–after a students chips were gone they could no longer contribute their ideas vocally.  This intention of this lesson was to help students reflect on how often they spoke out and to also demonstrate the growth gained by listening to others.

  • Keep in mind, depending on maturity, students may mock this exercise and see who can get rid of their chips the fastest.

Another idea I like for building community is to brainstorm as a class and create a chart that lists traits for what a good discussion looks like. During group discussions, students can use the chart to compliment those who contribute ideas during the literature circle.


I found it interesting when the articled mentioned Critical coaching. In short, the teacher would enter a group that was deteriorating and help develop students as literature circle participants. The goal was to help cohesion and build community. The focus was on students who were struggling.

Other consideration

  • Allow students options for book choice–but also pick books that are interesting and generate discussions. “Good” books.


Final thoughts:

I really like these ideas because it gives me a lot of ideas on how I could build continuity and a learning culture in my classroom. The article highlights that all issues did not go away, but things improve. The main take away from all of this for me is that learning takes place when students feel safe, have co-created criteria, show ownership of their learning, are given opportunities for choice, and when classroom are consistently building a sense of community through mini-lessons and consistency.








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Why Do Literature Circle Work?

I recently read an a piece of work by Harvey Daniels–What’s the Next Big Thing with Literature Circles?

Harvey recaps recent history of language arts based teaching methods and explains why literature circle is one of the popular methods of instruction now.


For starters, many methods including worksheets often become tedious and overuse becomes common. Harvey Daniel’s explains that the difference with literature circles is due to students actually enjoying their learning. Harvey Daniel’s states there are 4 words to capture why literature circles work: engagement, choice, responsibility, and research.



Students are responsible for sharing their ideas, coming prepared to discuss the book and in small groups of 4-5, each student has the opportunity for airtime. Students are also happy to have the change to work collectively as leaders rather than have everything run by a teacher.


Students have the opportunity to pick what books they are going to read. Compare this to old school novel study where a teacher has to work to ensure students by into a book. If I am being honest, I loved all the books my elementary teachers chose–I imagine they had worked had to make choices based on previous student preferences. But–with allowing choice, students are more likely to take ownership their learning  and have fun.



Literature circles treat students as leaders of their own learning–they give them responsibility that resembles adult book groups. This autonomy and ability to work together to come up with ground rules, self-assess, and create meeting schedules where all members are required to participate.



This area refers to data created to reflect the efficiency of literature circles. I will save you the reading. Literature circles benefit students.



Literature circles are big picture exercises–the goal is to help create students become citizens that can find enjoyment in texts, learn reading strategies and to discern information. Literature circles offer students the opportunity to share their findings in safe settings that have a variety of ways to share their learning–this makes assessment more accurate for students who show their learning based on different preferences.

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Language Revitalization

Why is language revitalization important for the First Nations people?  Language is very important piece to ones identity.  Language is culture, it is history and is very important in passing these teaching down to the following generations.

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What Children Need to Flourish

Workshop By: Gordon Neufeld. PhD.

What is flourishing? According to Dr. Neufeld flourishing is all that we can be. ‘Flourishing’ cannot be taught though because it is natural and emotion. In the dictionary flourish is defines as, “to grow well or luxuriantly; to thrive; to grow and develop in a healthy way”.

For our students to flourish they need to show potential. Children need to be able to handle adversity and adapt to change. Children need to be able to function separately and independently. Children need to do togetherness’ and separateness’ simultaneously, and as teachers we need to remember that diplomacy mearns nothing without integrity.

In order for children to flourish they need to be adaptive, emergent, and integrative. This means learning from mistakes, taking a sense of agency, responsibility, and curiousity. Children need to learn from dissonance. What needs to happen at home? Children need to have a sense of rest and relief from work and attachment. The children need the ability to FEEL tender emotion. Children need suffieicent freedom and space for true PLAY.

What can we do in school? Attachment.

  1. Reverse Shyness: Children are shy around those they don’t trust or know which creates a barrier.
  2. Counterwill: All of us have an instinct if someone tells us something. With children we need to collect trust before interaction of those who are not attached to us.
  3. Cultivating Connections: When we collect trust we can bridge connections and matchmake with the children.


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Resilence, Stress, and School

Workshop from: Gordon Neufled, PhD.

At the PSA Super-conference that I attended in Vancouver,BC  Dr. Neufeld explored the idea of optimal functioning in and outside the classroom. Neufeld started his presentation defining resilience: the capacity to return to optimal functioning or to thrive under duress. The children in our classrooms are the children who are facing this duress. Children today are performing at school in a stressful environment and there is no rest to the end of their days, and no sense of attachment; instead they turn to their peers.

In order to function properly children need three things: Play, Rest, and Feeling. Play and Depression are opposites in the brain, and how do we know when our children bounce back from depression? They play. When children find play they find rest. Play is where the emotion comes out and takes care of us. Without play emotion takes over us. It is important that our children feel their emotions. Feeling is the feedback to emotions. When the brain has no option it will cut back on those feelings.

When children are living in stressful environments their brains are always performing optically and not functioning optically. For example: When you go up on stage to present your brain turns to performance mode and you forget how scared you are to present and you don’t feel the emotion until you get off stage. Children are attending school and when they return home at the end of the day they don’t have that sense of relief.

Typical stress responses from children are:

More emotion: primal emotions activate solutions to stressful situations.

Less Feeling – Some feelings that are most likely to be inhibited from this behaviour are:

  • feelings of woundedness (hurt, feelings, anguish, pain)
  • feelings of dependence (emptiness, neediness, missing, loneliness, insecurity)
  • feelings of shyness and timidity
  • feelings of embarrassment including blushing
  • feelings of shame (that something is wrong with me)
  • feelings of futility (sadness, disappointment, grief, sorrow)
  • feelings of alarm (apprehension, unsafe, anxiety and fear)
  • feelings of caring (compassion, empathy, devotion, concern, provide for, meet needs of, treasure, invested in)
  • feelings of responsibility (feel badly, remorse, make things work for, take the lead concerning, make things better for)

If children can’t feel it’s like prison. Their loss of empathy is turning into a loss for caring.

Lastly, Less Rest and Play: When children are stressed their systems are switched to work mode and they don’t get the pure play they need. Since attachment serves survival, what distresses them most is facing separation.

Every classroom has a child who may be facing trauma, loss, separation and that can be a very distressing experience. Students could also be dealing with a bad home life, or a sense of belonging. School is stress for students. With this feeling of separation comes a demand for attachment rises. Children go to school which creates a seperation from adult figures. Student who do not feel a sense of attachment from their teachers then look to peers. Because students are forced to learn and come to school, the students start to show up only because their friends are there; not because they are excited to learn.

Children are starting to revolve around each other instead of by elders. This isn’t okay because the earlier the separation from elders the more premature the children is. Peer-relationships should not revolve around each other. This creates a youth culture. The culture comes from what is popular. Our children are looking at each other for cues. Planets don’t revolve around other planets they revolve around the sun. Siblings do not revolve around other siblings they revolve around their parents. One would think, “When my student gets home from school they are away from peers”. This is incorrect information because the internet is giving children a no end of the day feeling!

If children are not feeling they are expressing. This behaviour leads children to engage in higher risk activities. According to Dr.Neufeld, “children who don’t express their feelings will create high adrenaline. 1/5 girls cut/burn in their lives”. This lack of alarm is driving our children’s behaviour which then turns into frustration and impulsive actions.

Performance suffers when facing separation and this is why teachers need to make sure they build teacher-student relationships; especially for those students who do not have it at home. Lost of restfulness and playfulness is a vicious cycle. Loss of feeling (from wounding situations) creates a loss of empathy (stuck, and no alarm PTSD) which leads to more wounding (peer orientation/separation), and creates even more isolation.

This emotional hardening is pushing our children to:

  • no longer talk about distress/hurt. When we ask our children, “How was your day”? we get a response like, “good”…
  • no longer reads rejection.
  • no longer given sadness.
  • no longer feels need/dependent.
  • no longer visibly affected by loss.
  • better able to function or perform.

What children need to bounce back?

Children need to feel SAD enough (when up against that which one cannot change). Children need to feel SAFE enough (from wounding and separation; having a safe place to cry). Children need to feel STRONG enough (confidence in the face of adversity and discomfort). This will create an overall safe relationship for our children.

When children get let down they tend to fix themselves by climbing right back up the way they got let down. Instead of working up the let down path they need to work towards the bouncing back path. We cannot teach children resilience its emotion. The pivotal turning point in resilience is SADNESS. Create this sense of relationship and attachment in the classroom. Let kids play. Not the play on the playground or the play from video games when you feel stimulation, but the play you have from music, choir, drama, theatre. Schools, through providing emotional playgrounds can harness the powerful nature of emotion.




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Teaching and Learning about Growth Mindset – The Plan

In order to effectively learn more about growth mindset, I thought I should have a general plan though some of this has come more as part of a process. My primary source of information will be found through the purchase of Carol Dweck’s audio-book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Listening to this audio-book on a regular basis and consulting different blog posts will help me to gain an understanding of growth mindsets as well as why they are important.

Screenshot of my Audible App listening to Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Further, exploration of blogs can help provide more concrete evidence of ways to apply and encourage students to practice growth mindsets. However, before I can begin to teach about it and have my students experience it, I must gain an understanding of what these mindsets entail first and foremost.

Once I have gained an understanding and listed different ways and strategies to share the learning with my students, I will need to develop and outline the vocabulary in French as I am teaching in a French-immersion classroom.

Many graphics to support this concept can be found on Pinterest which links out to different blogs, a couple of my favourites that I have taken a look at include: Mon cahier d’écolier  and Musings from the Middle School Classroom.