Tag Archives: Yiola Cleovoulou

2014 in review

Hello Readers of Our Blog,

I (Clare) got a summary from WordPress about our activities this year. Wow! For a little educational blog we are proud of our efforts. Thank you readers for taking the time to read our posts, post comments, and share our work with your network.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Creativity and the Curriculum

I (yiola) will admit that as a classroom teacher  – while I thought I was a good teacher of student  learning – I lacked creativity both in content and pedagogy. Recently, I came across this link:


and now, as a more experienced (teacher) educator and reflective practitioner  what came to mind was, “wow… so many interesting ways to use this link and these beautiful images with the mandated Ontario curriculum”. For example, any grade and topic in the Social Studies curriculum could be applied: Grade 2: Communities Around the World; Grade 3: Living and Working in Ontario (a perfect opportunity to explore the various regions and compare and contrast their beauty); Grade 4: Physical Regions in Canada (exploring photography to “unearth” physical landscapes); Grade 6: Canada’s interactions with the Global Community (moving beyond the political and economic).  Social studies can be seamlessly linked to literacy and the more I explore multiliteracies the more inspired  I am to employ the visual and the aesthetic to develop meaning and understanding… and communication.  Imagine the Visual Arts lessons and opportunities front these images — ‘Hello group of 7″ — and colour, and perspective, and line and emotion.  And to grasp onto the beauty of what may be unfamiliar to students living in urban centres or familiar to those living in more remote regions to discuss lifestyles and Healthy Living from the Health and Physical Education curriculum.

Which ever way children chose to inquire,  creative opportunities and aesthetic resources may offer new and exciting opportunities for seeing the world and themselves.  This concept for teaching is more inspiring than how I recall teaching and learning (i.e. comparison worksheets of city life vs. rural life).

PS — I thought of my good friend Clive Beck as I enjoyed these beautiful images! I hope you enjoy them too.


Learning at the Children’s Museum, Madison WI

This summer my family traveled to Madison, Wisconsin USA.  I (yiola) found Madison to be a beautiful city filled with parks and bike paths, small shops and galleries. Among the many sites, we toured the capital building and the large farmer’s market on a sunny Saturday morning.  We also visited a most amazing place: The Children’s Museum. A three level building  on Hamilton St, just across from the capital building, the Children’s Museum is  a “hands on” facility where children can muck about and explore.

Included here is photojournalism to share our experience at the museum:

"Play"  as and for learning is the philosophy that guides the program at the Children's museum.
“Play”  as and for learning is the philosophy that guides the program at the Children’s museum.
My children Gallaway (age 3) and Sylvia Clare (age 4) gearing up to explore the museum.
My children Gallaway (age 3) and Sylvia Clare (age 4) gearing up to explore the museum.

Materials for exploring, creating, building and open, un-supervised spaces are provided for children of all ages.


My son Gallaway urban planning.
My son Gallaway urban planning.
An enormous, creative indoor playground that includes climbers and slides.
An enormous, creative indoor playground that includes climbers and slides.
touch the bark, see the leaves, read about the tree
Open the door, touch the bark, see the leaves, read about the tree.
A large room focused on the Arts with several hands on activities (painting, weaving, exploring light, collaging)
A large room focused on the Arts with several hands on activities (painting, weaving, exploring light, collaging).

A roof top patio with animals, eco friendly systems and gardens.


We learned about training pigeons to fly away and return and how they were used as messengers
Training pigeons to fly away and return and how they were used as messengers.
Architectural history
Architectural history
Political history
Political history
drumming in one of two historical huts
Sylvia Clare drumming in one of two historical huts
history of technology
history of technology

From toddlers to adults there was so much to see and do at the Children’s Museum. I was inspired by the way the learning philosophy was placed in action. The Children’s Museum is a wonderful model for learning, literacy teaching and so much more.


PS. For those who know Madison, WI you may agree that a stop at Ella’s Deli after the Museum was the icing on the cake that day!






























Learning and Handwriting and the 21st Century

I (Yiola) have shared a number of posts that consider the changes and loss of  all that 21st century literacies bring.  I have shared media clips and links to spoken word poetry on the demise of social media.

It’s funny because I myself am an avid user of new literacies; most digital, critical, social… you name it, I  engage with it.  Yet, I strongly feel a sense of loss in communication, social consideration, and a certain kind of creativity and thinking.  Then, I came across this article:


An interesting article that reports handwriting — traditional handwriting – has benefits far surpassing penmanship. I am interested in the art of handwriting… its skill building potential… its power to foster literacy, communication and creative thinking. I am inspired.  For developing my children’s language and literacy I will use iPad Apps for building phonemic awareness but I will also continue to encourage and be excited about handwriting well into their young adult years and I will encourage my student teachers to do the same. What do you think?

Full Day Kindergarten in Full Swing

Tis the season for parents  with children turning 4 years old to become acquainted with formal schooling and the Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) expectations. Ontario, Canada has implemented full day Kindergarten for all students across the province.  I (Yiola) am experiencing first-hand the excitement and apprehension of sending my child, a darling, vulnerable, sensitive, sweet girl (Sylvia Clare), to school for 6.5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Jumping online, I have read reviews — some for and some against — FDK and many focusing on children’s language and literacy development.  See below for some examples:



As a parent, my worry is not so much if my Sylvia Clare’s academic achievement will be more or less. As a parent, my worries are related to her well-being. Will she be happy? Will she love herself even more? Will she make friends and learn how to work/play with others well? Will she come home each day and share stories of interesting things she did and learned.   I most certainly want to her read and write, but in good time. I feel there is no rush and I want a pressure-free learning environment for her.

In a recent article  http://www.mykawartha.com/news-story/4397024-why-full-day-kindergarten-has-better-prepared-our-kids-for-grade-1/,  educational consultant Joan Ruf comments:

“One of the wonderfully positive things about full-day kindergarten is the appreciation of the whole child,” she said, explaining the program is successfully marrying the concepts of academic and emotional growth. “So it’s not just about reading and math. It’s about how are they doing. What are they doing for themselves.”     This statement gives me some comfort.

Schools in Ontario are now inviting parents to attend FDK information sessions in order to prepare ‘us’ for the year ahead.  I will be writing about my experiences going through this process and journaling Sylvia Clare’s experiences as she begins FDK in September.

As a professor of education, through the researching and teaching and writing and sharing,   what lies at the centre of my work  are the children and their development as happy, healthy, thoughtful, literate human beings.

The issues surrounding FDK: its purpose, process, and outcomes are vast. With a political election looming the topic of FDK is front and centre and how it will be managed and maintained is up in the air.

Spoken Word: Life, Literacy and Communications

I (Yiola)  remember watching the news  in the mid ’80s and listening to the news anchors describe the possibilities and implications of the internet.  I had no idea of the magnitude of change this new form of literacy would bring. Could anyone really imagine the changes we would experience in our daily interactions?  Online communication, information sharing, cellular technology and social media have completely changed the way we operate in the world today.

I came across this interesting link — a spoken word (poem) — about the impact new literacies  has on our lives.

The message I find most powerful is the irony that social media connects us  and yet in some ways we have never been more isolated or at a loss for opportunity… community companionship a sense of inclusion yet when you step away from this device of delusion… you awaken to see a world of confusion… 

From an educator and parents point of view the poem’s message that struck a cord: We’re surrounded by children who since they were born, watched us living like robots and think its the norm.  What is our cultural norm? Compared to pre-online technology are we behaving like robots?

I tend to agree with much of what the poet shares and enjoyed this spoken word. I hope you enjoy it too.



Mental Health Education in Teacher Education

Earlier this week I  (Yiola) participated in a Webinar on the teaching of mental health in teacher education. The webinar was called: Reading, Writing, Resiliency: A Briefing on the State of Teacher Education Toward Positive Mental Health.

This post is connected to Shelley’s recent post on Supporting Student Well-being through Mindfulness Practices as it looks closely at what Teacher Education programs are doing to prepare teachers to teach about Mental Health and Wellness.  It was interesting to read Shelley’s blog and learn about what she does and how mindfulness as a form of mental health practices are developed in her course on Special Education. I would love to hear what other teacher educators and classroom teachers do to promote and teach about well-being.

During the webinar I learned some interesting facts:

– parents are concerned and interested to learn more about in 2 key areas related to mental health education: 1) Abuse and its effects on mental health (bullying, emotional abuse, exclusion);  2) Health (depression, substance abuse)

– after (parents and) doctors, teachers are the next care professionals in line who are expected to address children’s mental health

– There is a gap between the strong perception of teachers responsibilities for addressing issues of mental health and their preparedness to do so

In a study conducted on mental health teaching in teacher education in Canada, over 400 courses in 66 teacher education programs were examined against 4 criteria. The 4 criteria were related to the following: course title, words in the course description, topics in the course outlines, practices and relationships. The findings showed that only 2 of the 400 courses met all 4 criteria for the inclusion of mental health learning; 23 courses met 3 of the 4 criteria, 84 courses met 2 of the criteria and 104 courses met just 1 criteria.   This finding suggests that there is very little by way of teaching mental health issues in teacher education programs.

From the study 5 recommendations were made: 1) all teacher education programs should include at least 1 course that focuses on fostering postive mental health and resiliency; 2) classroom management courses reflect proactive resiliency oriented strategies; 3) in-service opportunities need to be available to practicing classroom teachers; 4) provincial curriculum should identify outcomes for health education; and, 5) mental health and resiliency outcomes should be in grades K-12 curriculum.

The webinar was helpful in outlining where we stand today in teacher education and mental health teaching.  I am very keen on thinking about how to move forward in teacher education programming.  Mental health and resiliency content can and should in included in many courses including but not limited to: all curriculum areas (i.e. literacy, social studies, math, health and physical education); special education, methods (i.e. classroom environment, classroom management, collaborative practices).  There needs to be a shift in foci, moving beyond the traditional Health and Physical Education curriculum (i.e. the Healthy Living strand) into a more comprehensive way of thinking about well-being and resiliency.


Celebrating Easter in a Multicultural Society

Literacy development is evident in all areas of our school curriculum. I (Yiola) have been thinking about the Ontario Curriculum, particularly the new Social Studies curriculum and how much it has evolved over the years. The latest Ministry policy for teaching Social Studies has made significant gains in developing critical literacy and culturally relevant pedagogy.


This weekend while I was celebrating the Easter holiday with my family I wondered how this culturally significant event could be included in the curriculum without alienating those students who do not observe Easter.

The Grade 2 social studies curriculum has a strand: Changing Family and Community Traditions. When I taught Grade 2 the strand was called: Traditions and Celebrations. By the heading alone one can see the conceptual shift that has taken place in how we think about traditions. Then it dawned on me, must we compartmentalize units of study to blocks of time? Why not open the unit of study and have students throughout the year share the community traditions they observe? And of course, they needn’t be limited to formal holidays. They can be as significant as the family tradition of quilting or playing music.

Children making flaounesThen I began to think about how important this particular family tradition is for my children and how I would like for it to be affirmed in school; not for its religious value; but for the importance it holds in our family. What if Sylvia Clare wrote a procedural piece on making “flaounes” with her Papou (see image)? She could talk about, experience, and write about how to make traditional Cypriot flaounes. And, if this opportunity were open throughout the year for all children to share at any time a special community/family tradition in a way that was meaningful to them (through writing, speaking, doing) so much knowledge, information and appreciation could be shared. Just one small example of how literacy and social studies could work together.

21st Century Learning and the Need to Shift Our Thinking

Several of our posts refer to 21st century learning, technology, multi-literacies and thinking about today’s student and world. I (Yiola) found this article from the Huffington post called: The Global Search for Education: Education and Jobs quite interesting. The article talks about the need for drastic changes to our Educational systems in order to meet the growing demands of the market place in the 21st century. Bottom line, technology is taking over many of the jobs people currently do and so we need to reconsider the skills we are providing to students. The article goes on to say that our traditional and current systems continue to develop linear thinkers and producers but what we really need to develop are individuals with:

the ability to initiate, discern, persevere, collaborate, and to solve problems creatively are the qualities most in demand today and will be increasingly important in the future. The problem is that our education system was designed, primarily, to teach the three R’s and to transmit content knowledge. We need to create schools that coach students for skill and will, in addition to teaching content. If we don’t make this transition quickly, a growing number of our youth will be unemployable at the same time that employers complain that they cannot find new hires that have the skills they need.

I tend to agree with the article however I raise two points for discussion:
1)   Teacher education programs do teach to the creative, inquiry-based modes of pedagogy. I certainly cannot speak for all programs but I am familiar with several and teacher educators do work hard to teach pedagogies that meet the needs of today’s learners. So, why then are classroom teachers not teaching in these ways? Or, are they?
2)   I have seen time and time again policies and actual changes take place at the Government level but once changes happen in schools it is often society at large that is in an uproar. For example, here in Ontario we have implemented Full Day Kindergarten (early years) and the program is designed to develop higher level thinking right from the start. This transition, while happening, has not been without significant reluctance from the general public. What then do we do?

For more considerations here is the full article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/c-m-rubin/the-global-search-for-edu_b_5084761.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share



Yiola Cleovoulou wins OISE Teaching Award

Congratulations to Yiola Cleovoulou a member of our research Yiola Cleovoulouteams who has just received the OISE teaching award for Excellence in Initial Teacher Education. She was nominated by her students which in itself is  an honour. This is a very competitive award so to win it is a real  accomplishment. I have team taught with Yiola and know that she is a truly outstanding literacy teacher educator. For more info on Yiola click on the link About Our Research then click on Meet the Research Team. Clare