T4EA Literacy News

September 2018

Welcome Back!! We Missed You!!

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Welcome Back!

Everybody here at T4EA wants to extend a heartfelt Welcome Back! We hope that you all had a great summer and we wish you all the best in the upcoming months. The first few weeks back to school is an exciting time and it can also be a little overwhelming. There is always so much to do with planning, decorating, meetings, scheduling and making things as structured and as exciting as possible for your new students. We want you to know that we believe in you. We want you to know that we are here to help you. If you are unsure about who we are and where we can support you, please visit our website at educationalliance.ca.

Book Of The Month

At the end of the last school year, we handed out multiple copies of the 2016 Willow Book Award books to each of the schools. We want to make them as useful to the classroom teachers as possible so we will feature a book a month and provide the resources for teachers to use the books in their classrooms.

If you are wanting to use a book that we have not yet featured, you can visit the Willow Awards website at https://willowawards.ca/previous-years/2016/ and click on the book. A window will pop up with some information about the author, the illustrator and some suggested activities.

Indian Horse

This month's book is Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese.

"Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows."

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Back to School Writing Workshops in the Elementary Classrooms

Writing is important in every grade from kindergarten to grade 12 and is something that should be taught daily. The beginning of the school year is a great time to set out a writing routine and schedule for your students. A writing workshop is an excellent way to get students writing in your classroom.

You may be thinking that "students in kindergarten don't know how to write! I can't have a writers workshop!!" But you will be glad to know that students don't need to know how to form words or sentences, or even letters to participate in a writers workshop! It is possible to instill the love of writing into your students before they even learn the alphabet. They can draw pictures and write "stories" with scribbles and shapes. They can then take turns reading their stories to you or the class if they choose to. As they learn to write letters, words, and sentences, they will start to incorporate this into their writing on their own. Kindergarten is an excellent time to begin to foster the confidence and love of writing in our students.

A writers workshop provides daily structured writing, emphasizes student independent practice and provides student choice. It is important to set high expectations from the start! Believe in your students and they will believe in themselves!

A writers workshop usually begins with a mini lesson that lasts about 5 to 10 minutes where the teacher states the main teaching point, models the expectation, allows a few minutes for student guided practice and then a restating of the teaching point. The mini lesson can focus on whatever it is that you think your students can benefit from at that point in time. For example, you may want to start out with something like adding periods, writing a full sentence, or using capitals. As time goes on, you can have mini lessons that focus on skills the students need to become stronger writers like stretching sentences or writing captivating introductions.

During the first few months of school in the younger grades, it is suggested that there be a lot of free writing time that helps the students build stamina and confidence in their writing. The words do not have to be spelled correctly and grammar is not all that important. The goal is to get the students writing. The mini lessons that are taught focus on skills that the students may be lacking, but it is not mandatory for the students to use this skill in their writing everyday, it is just encouraged.

Students are able to work on different topics and they can all be at different places in the writing process. There is no such thing as finishing early! Free writing is encouraged and students are to come up with writing topics on their own. If students are unsure of what to write about, they can refer to their own list of possible topics or they can refer to a classroom anchor chart that is similar to the printable one I have provided below.

An important and necessary part of setting up a smooth running writers workshop is planning, modelling expectations and anticipating problems that the students might come across. Once you identify possible problems, you can teach your students how to solve them. Remember that expectations and routines may take a few weeks to teach and become the norm of the classroom. It is important that teachers stay consistent!

Possible anticipated problems:

  • getting "stuck" or not knowing what to write about
  • not knowing how to spell a word
  • needing a drink/bathroom break
  • running out of paper
  • "finishing" a piece of writing
  • needing a new pencil or eraser
  • ripping a piece of writing
  • being bothered by a peer

Encourage your young writers to take risks! Let them know that even though they might not know how to spell every word, or even create sentences perfectly, that it is OK to just write. Encourage them to put their ideas down on paper, be creative and add details! They are not required to share their writing unless they really want to. Risk taking allows room for growth.

For independent writing time, it is recommended that students come up with their own topics so that they can freely write about what they are interested in. This does not mean that you cannot make suggestions with writing prompts, but it is thought that by always providing a prompt, the students aren't being inspired to grow as writers. Having students find their own topics and audiences gives the students a sense of ownership. Students tend to care more about their writing when it is about something that matters to them. This does not mean that you cannot provide a prompt for your students, but it should be done in moderation. At first, you may hear a lot of students saying they don't know what to write about, stay strong and provide the encouragement for them to think of something on their own.

Happy Writing!

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Writing Prompts for Back to School

If you do choose to give your students a prompt to begin their writing, here is a list of ideas to get you started.

  1. What would you like your new teacher to know about you? What are your strengths/weaknesses, likes/dislikes, past successes, goals & dreams?
  2. If you were in charge of your school, what would happen on the first day?
  3. What would you tell somebody in a lower grade to help them succeed?
  4. Describe how you look today, but give it a unique twist and write from the perspective of an ant.
  5. What was the first story that you shared with with your friends after seeing them again after summer?
  6. Write a thank you letter for your favorite teacher.
  7. If you were required to wear a uniform to school, how would you design it? Draw a picture to go with your description.
  8. What are 3 things that you would like to learn more about? What do you already know about these things?
  9. Make a list of 3 small goals that you want to achieve. Outline the steps that you will need to take to succeed at each one.
  10. Imagine a local newspaper reporter wants to know about your favorite school event. Write to describe the event and why it is your favorite.
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B.E.A.D.S. Activities To Try This Month

B.E.A.D.S. is a trademark sight word program created by Treaty 4 Education Alliance that encourages the teaching of sight words from the first day of pre-kindergarten all the way to the end of grade 3. These words are high frequency words that show up the most often in our written language. They do not always fit phonetic patterns and are not always easily 'sounded out.'

Teachers often think that students need to be able to identify the letters of the alphabet and the accompanying letter sounds before they can start to teach the B.E.A.D.S. words. But this is untrue. Students can learn their sight words alongside learning their letters and letter sounds.

Teaching these words can be done through the use of flash cards, games, writing activities, reading activities, and various other activities. Do not feel that you have to teach all of the words at one time. It is recommended that you assess your students using our 'B.E.A.D.S. Assessment Guide' early in the school year and then continue that assessment throughout the year as you see your students making progress and becoming familiar with the words.

When testing your students, start with the RED B.E.A.D.S. Assessment. This assessment can begin with pre-kindergarten students. As the students learn the words and complete the assessment easily, move them on to the next assessment. The goal is to keep the students continuously learning and challenged throughout the school year.

We recently handed out the B.E.A.D.S. Assessment Guide at the School Kickoff in Yorkton. If you misplaced it or need more copies, the B.E.A.D.S. Assessment Guide can be found in your school SharePoint and the Early Years Teachers group in your Office 365 email.

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Alphabet Books and Teaching Ideas

I was recently looking up ideas to teach the alphabet to our young students and I found this blog called The Measured Mom: Tools For Teaching and I really wanted to share some of her ideas with you.

Take some time to look through her site. She has provided a many great ideas for teaching the alphabet to young children. She has created a list of activities, songs, rhymes, crafts, and recommended books to read for each letter of the alphabet.

Keep in mind that this is a personal blog and she is trying to sell a few resources on here that she has created, but there is also a lot of great ideas and free printables.

Ideas for teaching the letters of the alphabet can be found at https://www.themeasuredmom.com/teaching-the-alphabet-to-preschoolers-why-and-how/. This includes crafts, worksheets, fine motor play, suggested books, picture cards, simple games and more.

The books for each letter of the alphabet can be found at https://www.themeasuredmom.com/book-lists-2/. Remember that even though you may not have access to all of these books in your school or classroom library, most public libraries in Saskatchewan will order in books for you if they do not have them on site.

Handwriting, separated into four levels, can be found at https://www.themeasuredmom.com/teaching-handwriting-2/.

She also provides tips for teaching writing in the primary years. These can be found at https://www.themeasuredmom.com/teaching-writing/.

She recommends teaching a letter a week to the students. This is something that can be left up to the discretion of the classroom teacher. Some recent research suggests that the letters should be taught several at a time through integration so that the students have more exposure to all of the letters throughout the year.

Getting to Know Your Students and Their Learning Styles

Where do I fit in? Where do I belong? Who am I? These questions, asked by students of all ages become more important as the students reach high school. High school students are seeking their identity and want to belong somewhere. Providing the students opportunities to learn about each other provides both the teacher and the students with awareness of each others interests, lives and how they learn.

There are 9 intelligences that are common to all human beings and that vary in degree in each person. The multiple intelligences, ways of learning, and knowing, are as follows:


  • Thinks and learns through written and spoken words; has the ability to memorize facts, fill in workbooks, take written tests, and enjoy reading


  • Recognizes tonal patterns and environmental sounds; learns through rhyme, rhythm, and repetition


  • Thinks deductively; deals with numbers and recognizes abstract patterns


  • Learns and operates one-to-one, through group relationships, and communication; also depends on all of the other intelligences


  • Enjoys and learns through self-reflection, meta-cognition, working alone; has an awareness of inner spiritual realities


  • Thinks in and visualizes images and pictures; has the ability to create graphic designs and communicate with diagrams and graphics


  • Is concerned with ultimate life issues - love, death, philosophy; learns in context with meaning


  • Learns through physical movement and body wisdom; has a sense of knowing through body memory


  • Loves nature and the out-of-doors; enjoys classifying species of flora and fauna

Your tribes "Engaging All by Creating High School Learning Communities" booklet talks a lot about the different Multiple Intelligences (p.171), provides a Self-Assessment Checklist with Lesson Plan (p.380) and a Multiple Intelligences Idea Chart (p.261) for coming up with ideas to reach the students in your classroom.

I have created a printable 'Multiple Intelligences Idea Chart' that you can hang on your wall or hand out to students for project feedback from your students. You can print it by clicking the link below.

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We Want Your Feedback and Submissions!

There are so many talented people, teachers and students within our schools and we want to highlight your hard work and skills! We are asking you to share with us any classroom successes, highlights, stories, pictures, jokes and/or written stories that we can add to our newsletter to share with all of our readers within our schools.

We would also appreciate any feedback you might have about our Literacy Newsletter. This includes ideas/suggestions, topics to write about, and general thoughts. Maybe you tried an activity we suggested or had to modify it to fit your classroom. We would love to know how it went or any modifications you made.

You can submit your successes, stories, pictures, ideas and suggestions by clicking on the contact Treaty 4 Education Alliance button at the top of the newsletter or by emailing myself directly at sballard@educationalliance.ca.

It is important to note that any student submissions need to be accompanied by a media release form. I have provided a copy of the media release form below.

Have a Great Year!