Interdisciplinary Literacy Seminar

During my Internship I was lucky enough to attend the Horizon School Division Professional Development event which took place on October 6th and 7th in Saskatoon.

The first day, we heard from Presenter ReLeah Cossett Lent on her perspective of what it means to have Interdisciplinary Literacy. She provided her audience with many ideas such as using essential or general questions, using articles related to many topics, using info graphics, students researching topics, collaborative discussions with students, and students keeping their own Inquiry logs or exploratory notebooks. Cossett has us thinking of the English curriculum as more of a cross-curricular subject rather than its own independent subject. Cossett gave a lot of examples of using literacy in all subjects and how valuable literacy is to students being successful.

The second day was spent listening to a variety of speakers focus on different aspects of having literacy in the classroom.The first speaker of the day was Mike Mckay, who touched on many personal beliefs for me, including students are first, the curriculum is a pathway, valuable assessments only, student communication, and provide students with techniques to self-regulate. Whether it is because the education I have received from the university impacts what my teaching beliefs are, or if it has to do with my own experiences in school, I am not sure, but almost everything that is important to be as a teacher is something that McKay discussed, making me able to engage more with his teachings and understandings. The second speaker was Dr. Janet Mart who focused a lot on Early Primary teachings, touching on play/inquiry, supportive environments and how vital it is that students have the ability to read by grade 2 at the latest. There were many ideas that Dr. Mart provided the group that I agreed with, focusing a lot of emphasis on following the methods that Finland uses, however all of her research is based on Grade 2 and lower, with no connections to middle years or secondary education. The final speaker of the day was Dr. Richard Allington, who was a bit of a controversial speaker based out of the United States. While he was very pro modern teaching, he spoke very negatively about traditional teaching, which based on the response in the room, a fair amount of teachers were using as their primary teaching method. His main messages that we need to student-centered education, along with strong teachers with struggling students, and that being able to decode does not equal comprehension.

When I first found out what the Professional Development event was going to be about, I was not excited. I love PD, but the last thing I wanted to do was to learn about literacy, I had just finished a boring class about it for my third year classes, and besides including reading in all subjects and classes, there was not a lot else to talk about. However; this event did not focus just on reading, or on the time consuming idea of Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) which is one of my least favorite ways to spend 20 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised that many of the presenters agreed with my feelings on DEAR, and that this PD event did not focus on reading, but what students are reading, and how they are taking reading skills and applying them to non-English subjects.

I found that I learned a lot from this event, and started implementing strategies in my Internship classroom shortly after, including transcribing textbook pages, summarizing, re-wording, having a word wall, having essential questions and open-ended discussions with the students. There are more strategies that I hope to use once I have my own classroom, especially the idea of an Exploratory Notebook, that students can use in all subjects.