Getting Connected

Reaching ALL learners in our classroom!


To become familiar with all learners in our classrooms, paying attention to:

• Boys' Literacy

• English Language Learners (ELL) and Reading

• Differentiated Instruction

• Diverse Literacy Resources


Interesting Facts

• boys score lower on standardized tests that focus on Language Arts

• boys are less like to go to university

• there are higher drop out rates for boys compared to girls

• around the world, boys are less likely to read

• boys take longer when learning to read

• boys will often read less than girls

• boys generally have difficulties understanding narrative and expository texts

• boys express less enthusiaum for reading than girls d0

Let's turn this around...

In order to help raise boys' and their literacy skills, as educators we have an important role within the classroom! Educators need to work towards providing boys with classroom experiences that they are interested in, meet their needs and learning styles, as well as connecting with both girls and boys equally.

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When planning a balanced reading program, keep in mind the following strategies to assist boys in becoming confident and successful readers!

1. Have the Right Stuff

Create a learning environment that will attract all learners!

• help boys pick a book for them to read independently

• have a book selection with different genres in your classroom, boys often enjoy reading

• newspapers, comics, manuals, magazines, emails

• try to find books that boys can see themselves in

• boys love to read fiction that includes mischief and action

• book series are attractive to boys

• science fiction and fantasy is usually a hit!

Have the boys in your classroom help select reading materials for their classroom!

2. Make READING and WRITING a daily habit

• provide high structured lessons

• daily guided reading

• clearly state assessment goals

• help foster literacy skills by creating a link between reading and writing skills

3. Teach with a purpose

• understand all the members of your classroom, get to know your boys

• create well structured and focused lessons

• use graphic organizers


• state clear goals for all to achieve

4. Use the arts to bring literacy to life

• learning through the arts creates motivation and confidence

• incorporate music and poetry

• the arts can be a vehicle for boys to make meaning from the lesson

• drama based activities allow boys to see themselves in their work

• movement activities provide opportunities for learn kinesthetically

5. Time to talk

• boys need time to talk through their thoughts and ideas before fully understanding a concept

• help build a sense of community within the classroom by allowing talk time

• teach what 'purposeful' and 'accountable' talk is so it can be used in the classroom

• make time for small group lessons made up of boys

• work towards asking detailed questions, ensuring that the response requires more than a 'yes' or 'no' answer

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6. positive role models

• find positive male role models within the school to help build boys self-esteem and the development of their literacy skills

• the role model that demonstrates a passion for literacy could be- a parent, grandparent, community hero, members of the community

• having a positive male role model gives boys the opportunity to see males in a sensitive, nurturing, successful, responsible and reliable way

• get caught reading by your students! You are a positive role model too!

7. Read between the lines

• all students need to learn to decode and construct meaning from what they have read

• help boys develop and use their critical literacy skills (questioning or becoming critical to what they read, hear and see)

• do this when investigating, discussing and exploring different social, political and historical content

• do this through- accountable talk, think alouds, role play activities, and by asking problem posing questions

• assist your readers in becoming more aware of how different text types portray individuals, groups and situations

8. Make it meaningful and relevant to boys

• when assigned a task, boys need to see the meaning behind doing the activity

• give the boys more ownership in their education

• present topics that connect to real world themes and issues that they can connect to their own lives

• provide CHOICE

• allow for learning to be social, have groups work together

• by using real world themes and issues, you will be able to integrate different subject areas into literacy

9. tune in

• many students are involved with various types of technology outside of the classroom

• boys are strong visual/spatial learners, use technology as much as possible

• using technology, you will be able to relate to the interests of the boys

• use different pieces of assistive technology (apps, voice to text)

• tap in to using various online tools (audiobooks, blogs, multimedia)

10. assess for success

• boys need specific and clear success criteria to complete a task with confidence

• co-create success criteria

• provide frequent positive feedback

• conduct interest surveys as well as diagnostic assessments before beginning teaching

• DIFFERENTIATE assessment pieces- oral, peer and self-assessments

• be specific, avoid using 'non-specific' terms such as "discuss" or "account for"

• boys need to see the value in what they do- CELEBRATE their achievement

11. Be there

• encourage and care about your students

• believe that boys can be successful

• connect with the boys

• celebrate the little things as well as the big things

• let the boys voices be heard in your classroom

• show your own love and excitement for reading by reading aloud to the class daily

12. connect with home

• being connected with boys families will encourage their literacy involvement and achievement

• become partners with the families in your classroom

• encourage families to become involved in the school

• provide informative resources for parents

• establish a comfortable two- way communication with parents

• parents play a very important role in the development of their children


• information is delivered in small chunks

• there is a variety in their learning

• participate in active learning opportunities

• information is relevant to them

• see their own progress and development

• when there is competition or short term goals

• given time for review and reflection

• receive regular positive feedback

• they use graphic organizers to help sort their thoughts

After reading all of the above material, it should be clear was to the many different strategies you can use in your classroom to connect with boys to help foster and develop their literacy skills. For more information, please see the bibliography and visit the resources uses!

english language learners

All teachers should strive to create a classroom environment that allows students of all cultures and languages to develop both academically and personally. Below are a few strategies for success when you have a student in your classroom who is an English Language Learner!


A definition of an English Language Learner (ELL) is when a student entering a provincially funded school speaks another language as their first language that differs from the language being spoken at school. If a student is ELL, then there is chance that they will need specific and focused support to help them be successful in our schools in Ontario.

Canadian-born English Language Learners

students who are born in Canada and were raised by their families or communities speaking another language other than English

• New comers from other countries

students who come to Canada from various parts of the world, during many different stages of their educational career. Typically, the students arriving come with varied backgrounds in school experience, different ages, during a time of a family or country crisis and at different times of the year.

For the purpose of this presentation, we will be focusing on the ELL in the classroom. For more information regarding ELL's, please refer to the bibliography for resources that you can connect with.

1. Keep it simple

• communication in a new environment is important to anyone. For someone learning English in a new environment it is important that the basics are demonstrated and taught first.

• start with the basics to set the student up for success independently and socially

"My name is...", "Where is the washroom?" etc.

Beginning to read English

• when students begin to recognize and speak about simple items (desk, chair, teacher etc.,) , they can begin to read them

• create picture dictionaries

• label objects around the classroom, verbally share the world with the student and have them repeat it

Guided Reading is a helpful instructional tool to use as it provides the students with the opportunity to have the support of the teacher to guide them through a text

• word charts help to boost the vocabulary learned and discussed in class

Beginning to write english

• not all students are familiar with the Roman alphabet or the left to right directionality of reading, explicitly teach the letter names and formations of all letters

• stay away from using cursive writing as it is not a common form of print in all countries

• graphic organizers assist developing language patterns as well as help English language learners understand what is expected of them

Construct Scaffolds

• writing scaffolds- fill in the blanks to help with new vocabulary as well used as an assessment piece done orally to check for understanding

• sentence completion- provides students with prompts

• paragraph frames- provides support for writing a paragraph

2. be resource rich around the room

• students of all ages will benefit from visuals being posted around the room as well as manipulatives to engage the children in hands on learning experiences

• use photographs when possible

• brochures and pamphlets help to begin a better understanding in vocabulary

• manipulative help with sorting and counting skills

• visual art materials that will allow for a creation to explain thinking

• money to teach the names of coins and bills

• maps to practice a variety of skills

• timetables, clocks and watches to learn to keep track of time and scheduling

3. First Languages welcome!

• encourage students to use their first language in the classroom as well as when completing homework

• using their first language will help develop the self-confidence and support their sense of identity

dual language approach - invite students to use their first language as well as English to complete an assignment. This allows the students to use their strengths and their academic knowledge they bring with them. This approach allows for parent involvement as well!

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4. get to know the background of your student

• get to know your students and the knowledge and strengths that they carry with them to assist you in building a program for them while they are learning English

• all students come with background knowledge

5. Celebrate diversity

• all students should have the opportunity to share information about their languages, cultures and experiences

• creates a sense of belonging

Oral language

All students need the opportunity to develop their oral language skills. Oral language skills are a crucial part of any literacy program. When speaking English, you help develop listening and speaking skills that help students become aware of the construction of the English language as well as the opportunity to develop their self-confidence.
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6. Mistakes happen!

• when learning a new language, mistakes are going to happen

• be aware of how often you are correcting an English Language Learners pronunciation or grammar as it may affect their self-confidence and discourage participation

7. All can help

• all learners in the classroom and adults in the building can help support one another on their academic journey

• express the benefits of diversity!

8. The silent period

• many (especially younger students) go through the silent period when learning English

• they not say much for a few weeks or months

• during this time they are taking in the new language around them

• don't push students to speak English before they are ready

• small groups are often safe spaces for the children to begin speaking in

9. Partnerships and cooperative learning

• encourage students to work with each other

• it is a great opportunity for the children to practice their English language speaking skills

• helps the new students to get to know their classmates

integrate language with all subject areas!!

10. Assessment

• provide many opportunities for English language learners to show what they know

• modify expectations based on what the student's level of English proficiency

• use many different instructional strategies

• use a variety of resources

• provide the student with assessment accommodations (e.g., extra time, oral opportunities, portfolios etc.)

• if the program for a student is modified, this must be noted in their report card

11. Connect with parents

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As we work with English Language learners, remember to bring with you a kind heart and patience. The children are doing their best and are working twice as hard as the others. Not only do the have to learn a new language, but they also have to learn new curriculum expectations as well!

differentiated instruction (DI)

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Why differentiation is important in the classroom...

• it is considered best practice within the classroom!

• assists students in reaching their highest academic potential

• takes into consideration student needs and interests

• promotes students success

• helps build student self-confidence

Ways to differentiate in the classroom

• use of technology

• hands on learning with manipulative

• offering choice

• extra time to complete an assigned task

• providing a wide variety of resources that will benefit all learners

• scaffolding learning

• flexible groupings

• providing feedback

• Gradual Release of Responsibility Model

• graphic organizers

• explicit teaching through think alouds, modelling and independent practice

• oral opportunities to show what the student knows

• assessment

• visual cues

THINGS to consider when differentiating while teaching reading

• all students will be at different reading levels

• teachers can keep the content the same, but differentiate the strategies and procedures used

• some students need to be challenged in reading where others need more assistance

• we use differentiation strategies to help students make meaning of what they are reading

• gradual release of reading responsibility

Diverse Resources in a reading program

"Students look for relevance and meaning in what they learn. They are eager to explore complex issues that they encounter in their daily lives, in the texts they read, in the media and in the world around them."- A Guide to Effective Literacy Instruction

"Using a variety of reading materials enables students to examine the lives, ideas, and experiences of others to develop awareness of, sensitivity to, and empathy with the multiple perspectives of the diverse and multi-faceted world they live in."- A Guide to Effective Literacy Instruction

Below is a list of possible texts that you can share with your classroom. All texts are diverse resources that will allow the children to potentially see themselves in, but also stir up amazing oral discussions tapping into the students prior knowledge along with gaining insight to new pieces of knowledge that will perhaps lead to new student inquires!

Use the literacy resources in your classroom to celebrate diversity. Think about how the resources could be used; read aloud, shared reading and writing, guided reading and writing, independent reading and writing or perhaps to get an oral discussion happening to create community within the class!

Diverse resources make for an excellent connection to other subject areas!


• Keepers of the Earth by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac

A book with a with a collection of short stories relating to the environment awareness.

• The Lorax by Dr Seuss (1971)

A story that has a theme of environmental awareness

Aboriginal Communities

• Shi-shi-etko by Nicole I. Campbell

This is a story about a young girl about to go off to a residential school.

Videos that relate to 5 different First Nations peoples of Canada

Fox on Thin Ice by Tomoson Highway

Represents Aboriginal communities

Call of the Fiddle by Wilfred Burton & Anne Patton

Celebration of the Metis

• Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

A story of a young girl and her decision to attend a residential school

• Shin-Chi's Canoe by Nicola Campbel

Making it through the year at a residential school.

CUlturally Diverse Resources

• Promoting Diversity through Children's Literature

This website has fantastic books that have different themes to teach about diversity.’s-literature

• I Will Not Read This Book" by Cece Meng

This is a story about a reluctant reader.

Celebrate We

This is a poem containing a message about being different but belonging.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

This book celebrates all the different children around the world.

• I Hate English” by Ellen Levine

A little girl is learning English for the first time.

• The Sandwich Swap by Rania Al Abdullah, Kelly DiPucchio, Tricia Tusa

Two little girls are friends and learn about each others difference through their lunches.

• The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

This story is about a little girl who moved from Korea to America.

When planning to read for these stories, remember to address new vocabulary when needed.

These stories provide all teachers with a great platform to provide their students with an opportunity to make deep connections with (text-self, text, or world).

getting connected works for all students in your classroom! Any of the above strategies would benefit all learners in your classroom!

Stay connected....know your learners and aim for success! Working together to create a safe and positive learning atmosphere.


Ontario Ministry of Education (2008) ; A Guide to Effective Literacy Instruction: Grades 4 to 6 Volume Five Reading: Section 2 p. 2-3

This resources provides its readers with the foundations for an effective literacy program in the junior grades.

Ontario Education. Education for All: The Report of Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students with Special Needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6. 2005. p.15

This resources outlines recommendations for practices within the classroom assisting teachers improve their teaching skills in areas of math and language when teaching children with special needs.

Ontario Education. English Language Learners ESL and ELD Programs and Services. Policies and Procedures for Ontario Elementary and Secondary Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12.

This document outlines the policies and procedures that support English Language Learners in Ontario.

Ontario Education. Many Roots, Many Voices. Supporting English Language Learners in every classroom. A Practical Guide for Ontario Educators.

Strategies and suggestions to take back to the classroom when teaching English Language Learners.

Ontario Education. Me Read? No Way! A Practical Guide to Improving Boys' Literacy Skills.

This guide is intended for all who are involved in education. It provides the reader with strategies and information with regards to teaching boys literacy.

Ontario Education. Me Read? And How? Ontario Teachers Report on how to Improve Boys' Literacy Skills.

This book is based on a Boys' Literacy Inquiry Project. There are detailed strategies to promote the teaching of boys' literacy.

Ontario Education. Supporting English Language Learners. A Practical Guide for Ontario Educators Grade 1-8.

This resource is to support teachers when teaching English Language Learners.

The Ministry of Education. Reach Every Student Through Differentiated Instruction.

This resources supports all learners who are new to teaching differentiated instruction strategies.