Category Archives: Curriculum Resources

HOT off the press: Teaching Literature to Adolescents

My good friend Rob Simon is one of the co-authors of the third edition of Teaching 9781138891241Literature to Adolescents. Co-authored with Richard Beach, Deborah Appleman, and Bob Fecho this is an amazing new text. As a professor of literacy methods courses I (Clare) am always on the lookout for texts that go beyond the typical plodding through various topics. This text appealed to me because it emphasizes a critical approach to reading and interpreting text. The aim is to engage students with authentic issues. Well done Rob and your fellow authors. This text will be a staple on my bookshelf. Here is the link to the Routledge site:

Below is a summary of the book.

This popular textbook introduces prospective and practicing English teachers to current methods of teaching literature in middle and high school classrooms. It underscores the value of providing students with a range of different critical approaches and tools for interpreting texts and the need to organize literature instruction around topics and issues of interest to them. Throughout the textbook, readers are encouraged to raise and explore inquiry-based questions in response to authentic dilemmas and issues they face in the critical literature classroom. New in this edition, the text shows how these approaches to fostering responses to literature also work as rich tools to address the Common Core English Language Arts Standards.

Each chapter is organized around specific questions that English educators often hear in working with pre-service teachers. Suggested pedagogical methods are modelled by inviting readers to interact with the book through critical-inquiry methods for responding to texts. Readers are engaged in considering authentic dilemmas and issues facing literature teachers through inquiry-based responses to authentic case narratives. A Companion Website [] provides resources and enrichment activities, inviting teachers to consider important issues in the context of their current or future classrooms.


Promoting creativity in teacher education

I (Yiola) have been building in how to embed creativity in classroom practice in my Teacher Education course for a number of years. This year I invited Lina Pugsley, a graduate of the Creativity and Change Leadership Program and Masters of Science in Creativity student from SUNY Buffalo  State,  to share with us what creativity means and how to teach creatively and teach for creativity through weaving creativity skills into our classroom lessons.

Our class consisted of information sharing about what creativity is and its complexity. I appreciated that we took time to unpack some of the misconceptions (a major one being creativity equals the visual arts) and to solidify some of its characteristics (creativity is problem solving, its innovation, its incubation, its idea generating, its colourful, etc.)


Lina presented us with a number of models and frameworks to think about ways of thinking about, teaching, and embedding creativity into our classroom practice.

Several great resources were shared and a number or creativity scholars introduced. From E. Paul Torrance to Ronald Beghetto, we were inspired!


Once the theoretical and conceptual foundations were laid students in the class began to think more practically about what skills and strategies nurture creativity. This video set our curiosity in motion:

And, in creative fashion students explored, talked about and shared ways of bringing creativity skills into their teaching and lessons. We examined E. Paul Torrance’s 18 thinking skills from his book “Making the Creative Leap Beyond”

Some of the skills:
Be Original
Be Open
Visualize it Rich and Colourfully
Combine and Synthesize
Look at it Another Way
Produce and Consider Many Alternatives
Playfulness and Humour
Highlight the Essence
Make it Swing! Make it Ring!
Be Aware of Emotions
Be Flexible


The energy in the room was high. Students were interested and engaged.  They were encouraged to consider their personal teaching philosophy and to make creative thinking a priority in their teaching. It was an  inspiring experience. This particular teacher education course looks at methods in education. We explore planning, the learning environment, pedagogies and practices. Creativity, now in the 21st century, is a skill that students must acquire. It is not an innate skill that some are born with while others are not. Everyone has the capacity to develop their creativity skills and as teachers we need to learn how to create classrooms that foster, encourage, and celebrate creative I believe the MA students gained a solid sense of what this is about.

For more information on Lina’s focus and work check out here website at:









Parent Research Night

This week I (Clare) attended the Parent Research Night at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Studies (where I am the Director). It was a truly amazing evening because the two presentations demonstrated research that was for teachers and parents, done by teachers, and inspired by teachers. It was such a beautiful form of dissemination of research. The findings are not confined to a peer-reviewed article but were shared with the public.

IMG_1147Dr. Patricia Ganea talked about the importance of shared reading with children. And she shared data on how children respond to images in children’s books – realistic (photos) vs fantastical (comic-like). Interestingly they relate much more to the latter.

Then Dr. Yiola Cleovoulou and 3 teachers (Zoe Honahue, Cindy Halewood, and Chriss Bogert – who is now the VP) from the Lab School IMG_1153presented on their work with the children that was framed by critical literacy with an inquiry focus. They shared student work, read transcripts of actual conversations, and described activism work.

JICS has a tripartite mission: Lab school, teacher education program, and a research centre. Parent Research night truly brought all three together.

Teaching Students to Skim

51aB27q7fZL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU15_Over the holidays I (Clive) have had a chance to do some novel reading, and have read murder mysteries by J. K. Rowling (The Silkworm) and Elizabeth George (For the Sake of Elena). I enjoyed these novels, especially the first, but these authors – bless their hearts – like to put in a lot of social commentary, ideas about life, personal interest, etc. This can be very interesting and educational or quite aggravating, depending on one’s interests – so I did a lot of skimming (especially in Elena).

This made me think that in schooling and even university we don’t spend enough time teaching students to skim. We need to encourage them to “take charge” of their studies and reading life, rather than seeing complete coverage as the ideal. Smith and Wilhelm in their wonderful 2002 book Reading don’t fix no Chevys note that working class teenage boys often don’t like to read because the books we assign are too long. Skimming could help solve this problem. Similarly, doctoral students often take far too long on their literature review because they still don’t realize that one can and often must skim.

So let’s skim more – even in reading the daily news, in print or online – and encourage our students to do the same. It can make your day, and your holidays!


Chimamanda Ngozi’s Book Being Distributed to ALL 16- Year-Old Students in Sweden

I have written about the powerful words of Ms. Adiche before. Her words stop us in our tracks and make us re-consider notions of identity, language, and gender. She has a new book out entitled We Should All Be Feminists. It is based on a speech she delivered at a TEDx conference a few years ago. I have already ordered it!

The most amazing thing about her new book is how it is being distributed. The Swedish Women’s Lobby has decided to distribute Adiche’s book to every 16-year-old student in Sweden. In a CBC article, publisher Johanna Haegerström believes her book will be an entry point into a larger discussion about gender roles in society. He said:

“Our hope is that the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie text will open up a conversation about gender and gender roles, starting from young people’s own experiences”


“What curriculum do young people need in the 21st century?”

In his article for, John Dunford argues for whole education for ALL children not just those at top-attending schools. Dunford, Chair of Whole Education in the U.K., asserts those from econmically disadvantaged areas in the U.K. still receive “mid-20th-century knowledge-based curriculum.” He believes this antiquated curriculum “fails to recognise many of the needs of young people growing up in the 21st century.” He urges educators and policy makers to consider two key questions regarding curriculum:

  1. “What curriculum do young people need in the 21st century?”
  2. “What curriculum does most for the disadvantaged?”

In order to answer these questions, Dunford maintains it requires educators have unique set of knowledge, skills, and personal qualities in order to prepare young people for a rapidly changing world. Regarding the ways in which we view curriculum, he argues:

“It is not either/or; this is a both/and curriculum.”

To read the entire article click here:

Revisiting Mysteries in Canadian History

A project entitled Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, engages inquiry-based pedagogy to encourage students’ critical thinking and research skills. The project, based at the University of Victoria, the Université de Sherbrooke and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, has developed a collection of websites, which invite high school and university students to examine primary source documents, photographic evidence, archival material and historical interpretations, in an effort to solve a historical puzzle (e.g. the mystery of the doomed Franklin expedition; the mysterious death of artist Tom Thomson). John Lutz, University of Victoria history professor and one of the founders of the project noted, “history is too important to be boring, and these mysteries are too intriguing to be left to historians alone.”  All the materials and teachers’ guides are free. Link to project site: Link to the CBC article:

Powtooning about Powtoon

I (Cathy) made a Powtoon about making a Powtoon.  Just follow the link below:

If you are not familiar with Powtoon, it is an animated on-line presentation software tool that creates explainers, videos and presentations.  If you can create a power point, you can create a  Powtoon.  Only a Powtoon is much more interesting and fun!  It is an effective  tool for flipped classrooms and they make great multimodal assignments for students.  You can find many how-to videos on youtube.  My favourite was  on script writing (for powtoons):

The Powtoon web site also hosts a set of tutorials to help you get started:

The Powtoon I created was through a free account.  In that account I have access to  five minutes of Powtooning, 10 tunes and 11 animation styles.  Cant wait to make another.

Hope you give it a try!


Inspiration from Pinterest

I (Cathy) find one of the most popular social media sites used by my student teachers is Pinterest.  They rave about the interesting and engaging ideas they find on the site for lessons.  I saw evidence of this just recently while visiting a school.   My student teacher, Melissa, had found a writing exercise on the site entitled, If I Was  Trapped in a Snow Globe.  It involved the students creating a snow globe scene inside of a white plastic container and then describing the adventure in writing.   The associate teacher was so excited by the results, she lead me into the hallway to see what  her young students had accomplished.  The associate declared, “This student never writes anything, but look at this!  Two pages!  They loved this writing assignment.”

Often, good writing results by students are the results of a good inspirational ideas. Luckily educators have many more resources to access now, due to social media.  I highly recommend Pinterest for many ideas in variety of subjects.


Explaining Explain Everything (App)

I (Cathy) find that one of the exciting aspects of teaching is learning from my students- especially about digital technology.    One of my student teachers, Drake, taught a lesson last week using Explain Everything.  With the aid of this app he successfully taught  a lesson in French which enabled his grade 6 students to engage in conversations about sports.  How he used the app was definitely key to the success of his lesson and I gave him full credit for cleverly scaffolding the sequence of the questions and answers so that that student conversations were set up for success.  Yet, Drake insisted it was the app that enabled him to teach the lesson so clearly.  Below are pictures of how Drake set up the lesson on his ipad and then mailed it to himself as a handout for his students.  Well done Drake!


Intrigued, I began to play with this app myself.  I discovered it has a wide range of  applications. It feels like a cross between a power point and a smart board, but completely doable on an ipad.   Very convenient.  Below is an link to a you tube video that demonstrates how students can use the app in a classroom.