I cannot believe the timeliness of our session tonight with Sharon Peters. Her discussion on Digital Literacies is exactly the discussion I’ve was having with my Grade 1 teachers this afternoon. It is discussion that everyone needs to participate in -all teachers (whether ELA or not), administrators, parents, community at large, and last but certainly not least, our students. The media rich world we’re living in requires a shift in our understanding of “literacy”, which while not an entirely new concept – does have implications for our practice in our classrooms. 

Earlier this fall, we rolled out to our Grade 1 teachers a set of rubrics and common assessments for ELA – which basically houses the entire curriculum in 6 pages. Teachers report on every strand, every term. One of the major purposes of the project was to compact the curriculum and make it more teacher friendly, but another major purpose was to encourage teachers to begin focusing instruction in all 6 strands (reading, writing, listening, speaking, representing, and viewing). While the strands have been in provincial curriculum for several years, I think it’s a fair assumption to make that they have not been given equal weighting in the classroom. Reading and writing are considered the most critical strands by pretty much all parties involved.

So how do we move ourselves towards this understanding that engaging students in all strands, and multiple literacies, is important and necessary work?

The project is a start, to be sure.

One teacher commented how one of her students struggled with reading, but was far exceeding expectations in the viewing strand. She acknowledged how empowering it was to be able to share that information with parents during interviews, where traditionally, she would have typically had less positive news if she’d only focused on reading and writing. No doubt that student also felt empowered.

I could share a myriad of positive feedback that came from today’s session…which is wonderful to have. But, there is still concern about the validity of focusing equally on all 6 strands. These teachers want the research. Where is the proof that focusing on all 6 strands will lead to improved student learning? Why should they give up what they’ve always done? Is this just anothere bandwagon that we’re jumping on?

One of the suggestions that came from today’s session was to develop an information video for parents about the 6 strands, which could be played at PTI’s. I’m going to start working on it right away – because the message does need to be spread.

Our kids need to critically view, listen, read, represent, speak and write. Our teachers need to provide them authentic, contextualized opportunities to do so. 

This group of teachers is working hard to figure out how to do that. It’s not easy work. But they’re mucking about, talking, questioning, experimenting, but most importantly, reflecting…and I think that is what is most critical – whether we’re implementing new technology, new instructional strategies, or a new definition of “literacy”.