Literacy Specialist – This year’s RVS Battle of the Books tournament on February 15 could not have had a more dramatic and exciting conclusion with Mitford’s “Readasaurus Rexes” tied with the “Indus Irony” at the end of regulation time in the championship final round. Parents, teachers, coaches and students were on the edge of their seats as Sigmund Brouwer, our guest presenter and celebrated author, took over question master duties in overtime to eventually determine our winner… but that wasn’t the best part.
The best part… it was a day all about books, students and the celebration that reading deeply about a text and sharing that learning with peers can bring. It was a day full of joy, laughter and excitement for all those involved.
Students talked about books. Students laughed about books. Students made new friends through their book conversations and shared experiences with their books. Students dissected and reviewed books. Students were intimate with the characters and connected to the stories and perspectives told through these books. Students were collaborative and competitive in demonstrating their knowledge of these books. It is these books that brought the students new insights, new accomplishments, and new connections with others. It was a powerful day celebrating learning and all because of books!
For those of you who do not know, the Battle of the Books is much like a sports competition, where teams of six face off against each other in tournament-style rounds to determine which team has the strongest understanding of the 15 preselected titles. Students spent countless hours not only reading, but rereading the texts. They were prepared to answer questions that went far beyond the trivial facts held within the pages, but reached to understand the intricacies buried in the diverse plots and themes of each book. Impressed by the level of competition, Leslie Waite, Assistant Principal of East Lake School said, “In order to answer diverse comprehension questions about all the books, students have developed deep knowledge of each text. They discuss each text, create questions and quizzed each other. It is amazing how well they know these books!” And KNOW these texts they DID; not only with accuracy, but with speed and confidence.
“You get to read a bunch of books that you normally would not choose yourself. You get to make new friends at the event. You – It’s just – It’s just fun! It encourages you to read a whole series or new authors that you like and you want to keep reading,” Bella from Meadowbrook shares. “Like I said before, you get to make new friends. Having my teammates in different grades was cool because I can walk down the halls now and say ‘Hi’ to them and feel like we are equal.” The Battle of the Books facilitated opportunities for RVS students to harness the power of literature – the ability to share a common experience, create new understandings and foster relationships that may not otherwise have occurred.
This shared literary experience had students across the Division talking. In fact, in the Battle’s first year, 72 students were involved from nine middle schools. These numbers do not take into account the additional hundreds of students that were involved in each school’s home battles, where members were seeking to become part of a team, and they do not reflect the spin off events that have been inspired by the day. One group of inspired middle school students plan to organize and facilitate a Battle of the Books for their Grade 3s because it was so much fun! This pay it forward attitude is infectious, and encourages students to come together in establishing a strong foundation for a culture of rich literature and authentic literacy conversations in our schools.
The good news is that the Battle of the Books is here to stay. If you are interested in knowing more about or participating in this literacy initiative, please do not hesitate to contact Erica Legh or Jody Moore.
Oh, and by the way, our champions for 2018 are… Mitford’s Readasaurus Rexes! Congratulations competitors!
Literacy Specialist – The research is very clear about the rewards of motivating kids to read, to think deeply, to talk about what they have read and to find something new. After all, practice makes perfect so that means read, read and read.
The only way we will see our students’ reading improve is to provide them with literacy-rich environments where they have access to copious numbers of books; they are surrounded by adults and peers who model strong reading behaviours; they are provided opportunities to question, wonder, make connections and have authentic conversations about what they have read with the people in their lives; and they are taught to read for joy, pleasure and purpose. Literacy researchers such as Allington, Calkins and others tell us that if we provide these environments, students will do better in school, achieve higher results and most importantly become successful, lifelong learners.
But motivating students to do what is good for them can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some suggestions to cultivate a culture of reading in our schools and classrooms:
- Have students help to curate classroom libraries. Let them categorize, group and organize your library and in turn provide them with ownership over the collection. Use student librarians to help keep classroom libraries in order, organized and returned.
- Create Personal Reading histories about books that matter and that have had a significant influence in their lives.
- Organize book talks about summer readings or organize monthly discussions.
- Show that you are a reader: create teacher book clubs, write your own book reviews, facilitate student/teacher breakfast book clubs and encourage parent/student book clubs.
- Create a “buzz” around book selections by reading snippets of books that are funny, serious, sad, dramatic, strange or mysterious. Kids and adults love to be read to. There is a book for everyone; helping students find it is the key.
- Host a book tasting or speed dating with text.
- Create a Battle of the Books team to compete in the RVS Battle of the Books competition on Feb 15.
- Use QR codes and Image Mapping AR apps like Aurasma to make reading and vocabulary activities come to life.
- Have authentic conversations about reading with students and encourage them to have them with one another. This is a way to explore the deeper aspects of reading comprehension with readers.
- Meet with students in different contexts (one-on-one, guided groups, small targeted strategy groups, partnerships) to target and support their growth in reading, introduce strategies, and to set goals.
- Become a book champion! Share what makes books great and why students need to read them!
- Invite the support of community members and organizations through Rocky View Reads partnerships.
- Incorporate podcasts that can hook reluctant readers while boosting critical thinking and comprehension.
- Vocabulary Parade: Students and staff dress up to illustrate vocabulary words in interesting ways (think of a roving cardboard rowboat full of sailors for the word nautical).
So, as the school year begins, let’s all roll up our sleeves and work together to create literacy-rich environments that will open our students’ worlds to new vocabulary, new ways of thinking, new perspectives and new understandings. Let’s continue to build a culture of reading in Rocky View so that our students can reap the rewards of a literate life. For more ideas and information check us out at http://schoolblogs.rockyview.ab.ca/makingliteracyvisible.
Literacy Specialists – “Literacy skills are required by everyone in every situation – life wide and throughout our lives – life long. “ (Government of Alberta, Living Literacy, p.6)
RVS’ Literacy Specialist Team #rvslit
With seventy-one years of combined RVS experience, the literacy team is excited to share our passion, knowledge, and support to colleagues across the division as we work to build literacy & numeracy capacity among RVS educators.
Our role is to educate, facilitate, and assist school administrators and educators with the implementation of RVS’ Literacy and Numeracy Framework. Through professional learning opportunities, resource awareness, and working alongside educators in the classroom and schools, we look forward to exploring new literacy tools, strategies, and assessments in authentic and meaningful ways, while being cognizant of current educational research and the ongoing balanced literacy programming in our schools. These combined efforts will provide opportunities for us to build upon existing best literacy practices and, ultimately, lead to building all students’ competencies, helping to achieve their potential.
We hit the ground running on August 30 with a PL session co-facilitated by Dr. Karen Loerke, a literacy consultant who has been instrumental in the development of the RVS K-12 Literacy Framework . Together we got the chance to meet and work with over 90 teachers, literacy leads, and administrators from gr. 3-4 to provide PL on the Rocky View Independent Reading Comprehension Benchmark Assessment. Over the course of the day, participants were engaged in rich discussions about the assessment tool’s ability to inform instruction as well as provide authentic, ongoing reflections of student growth. Further to this session, we are looking forward to meeting more educators (Grade 1 and 2) on September 19th where we will provide PL on Running Records Assessment. Both these assessment tools are being field tested this year. If you are interested in learning more about these tools, please contact your literacy coach or a member of the RVS literacy team.
Finally, we hope you will follow us on Twitter at #RVSlit, where we will share all things literacy, as well as showcase the great work that RVS educators are currently doing.
We are looking forward to collaborating with you.
Deb, Susan, Jody and Julie