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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Drawing as literacy

Drawing as Literacy

Posted by Michael Gough, VP of Experience Design on March 17, 2014 9:00 AM in Creatives, Digital Media, Executive Perspectives

Imagine if our grade school teachers had compared our early school essays to the work of Steinbeck or Kerouac and suggested we just give it up for lack of talent.  We would have a crisis of illiteracy on our hands. However, this is essentially the approach we take with drawing in our children’s’ early education – identifying the “talented” ones and dissuading the rest. I have come to believe that drawing is a fundamental form of literacy and a key to unlock creative modes of thinking.

Observe any designer or artist, and it is clear that drawing is essential for stimulating their creative process. When we activate the whole brain, we think all the way around a given challenge and are more likely to tease out new possible directions or solutions. Without the ability to draw, we wouldn’t have developed the three-dimensional thinking needed for tomorrow’s challenges, especially since those challenges will require novel solutions that require a whole lot of creativity to discover.

When students – our future creatives, inventors, innovators and designers – are empowered to use their whole brains to imagine and to make things, they will begin to develop the skills needed to develop creative approaches to the substantial and seemingly intractable challenges that they will face. When it is their turn, they will come to these challenges with a more complete sense of engagement, and an understanding that the chaotic and complex world that they face is theirs to shape.

The good news is that absolutely anyone can be trained to draw. It starts with an understanding that your hand is as unique as your voice, and that you also have your own way of seeing. Add the right tools to the mix - and you are on your way. It’s a little bit like learning to ride a bike – it only takes practice – and eventually you tease out your own style of drawing.

Fueled to make digital creativity more accessible and natural - Adobe has developed a set of digital drawing tools inspired by the good old fashion analog world: Projects Mighty and Napoleon.  By combining the accuracy, expressiveness and immediacy of pen and paper with all the advantages of our digital products, we are confident these physical tools are perfectly suited to the endeavors of the new creative.

You may never draw like da Vinci or Rembrandt, but with practice you will definitely tease out your own style of drawing.  I am certain that, once armed with the necessary tools, you will be motivated and inspired, and that you will start to develop or increase your creative literacy.

Perhaps it’s time to broaden the definition of literacy – to say that the truly literate can read, write AND draw.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Librarians as Drivers of Digital Transition

The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) published the report “Leading In and Beyond the Library,” this past January, showing the importance of school and public libraries in both state and district-wide efforts toward digital learning and the effective use of technology in teaching.

“There is a critical role for both school and community librarians in the transition to digital,” says Sara Hall, director of the Center for Digital Learning at the Alliance for Excellent Education based out of Washington, D.C. “Whether they’re librarians or media specialists, they’re often becoming instructional coaches leading the transition.”

Digital materials from e-books to online databases—and tools from tablets to 3-D printers—have quickly found their way into school libraries, classrooms, and public library branches as well. Having a core leader who can help stitch these tools into an educational experience can make the difference between merely a fun moment—and one that incorporates learning.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Read to Remember is the theme for the TD Canadian Children's Book Week is approaching (May 3-10)

As many of you know, TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is approaching (May 3-10) and the theme this year is Read to Remember. To inspire students in the weeks leading up to TD Book Week, the CCBC would like to honour Vimy Ridge Day on April 9th by encouraging children and teenagers to visit or create a war memorial in their community or school.

Send us a picture of a local cenotaph or war memorial statue and we will showcase these pictures on our website. Alternatively, you can create a memorial at your school—students could make a paper project, a mural image, a wall of paper poppies, etc. Veterans Affairs Canada has suggestions for activities with younger children.

One participating school's name will be drawn at random to win a collection of war history-themed books. Please send us your photos by April 11th, 2014 to and include information about your school and where the photo was taken.

Please note: Photos may feature the memorial alone or include students and teachers, but we need parental permission to post any photos that include minors.

Visit Veterans Affairs Canada for information about Canadian war memorials. For more information about TD Book Week, visit
Copyright © 2014 Canadian Children's Book Centre, All rights reserved.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

6 Technology-Based Poetry Ideas For Students That Think They Hate Poetry

6 Technology-Based Poetry Ideas For Students That Think They Hate Poetry

by Brett Vogelsinger, English Teacher

It’s safe to say that of all the genres of literature we study in school, poetry is the most scary–and not just for the students.

Sometimes poetry gets a bad rap for being too dense, too pretentious, too much of an acquired taste for mainstream consumption. While it’s true that I could name many a poem that fits those descriptors, it’s also true that working with poetry can be a most whimsical, intriguing, dare I say light-hearted experience for you and your students.

Try one of these six strategies during National Poetry Month to invite your students to explore the jungle of this most-feared genre.

1. Scrambled Poems

Give your students a poem in pieces.

It might be a short poem split up into words. It might be a long poem, split into lines. Put the scrambled poem into an envelope and have your students work together to use every word, discovering or creating organization patterns with the same “ingredients” the poet used.

Compare what they create to the original poem. What works better in the original? What works better in the student created poems? What clues did the students use to organize the piece?

I particularly enjoy using Robert Pinsky’s poem “Samurai Song,” split into lines, for this activity. Using laptops or tablets in a 1:1 classroom, the joy of unscrambling can continue on where you can play with virtual kits of magnet poetry for free and unleash your students’ inner poet in a more free reign area.

2. Copy-Change Poems

Find a poem with an engaging pattern and share it with your students.  It might be a list poem like “The Magnificent Bull” a traditional African verse, or this one, found on the front of a card my wife gave me, that I recently shared with my students halfway through our study of Romeo and Juliet.

photo 1.JPG

I asked them two questions: What is the poet doing here? What is the poet saying here?

Then I challenged them: Create three or four lines that you think we could sneak into this list. They copy the pattern of the poet, but change the wording: a copy-change. What other compound words or famous pairs could we divide and include in a love poem. The results were insightful, bizarre, and sometimes uproariously funny.

We took our lines and then crafted our own original poem. One such example is right here.


So find a poem you love, have your students find the pattern, and play with the pattern. Copy-change helps students slip into another writer’s style and try it on for size.

3. Choral Poems

Reading poetry, we often find a favorite turn of phrase that outlasts our memory of the rest of the poem. This is why so many of Shakespeare’s words like “good riddance” and “send him packing” have staying power, even though we forget the original contexts. (Troilus and Cressida and Henry IV Part I incidentally). He was a poet, so his words stuck.

Read a poem out loud with your class. Then ask them to read it silently and pick out their favorite one or two turns of phrase that has staying power. It might not even be as long as an entire line in the poem.

When you read the poem out loud a second time, they should read just those snippets out loud with you when you get to that part. It makes for fun discussion afterwards: why do some of these lines catch so many people’s attention.

What makes them jump out? Why do some lines get no one’s attention? Are they weaker? Could they even be removed to strengthen the poem?

Playing with revision of a published poem on the Smart Board can make poetry seem less intimidating, like a work in progress, still open to changes.

4. Top-Three Words

Poll Everywhere is an online tool that allows you to turn students’ cell phones into data collection devices. It’s quick to set up a free account.

Data collection and poetry seem like strange bedfellows, but in this high-tech various of Choral Poems, students learn the value of individual word choice in poetry.

After reading a poem out loud, ask students: What are the top three words in the poem, the words that pack the most punch?

Then switch to an open-response Poll Everywhere question on the screen. Students will be able to send a text to a number which will collect their responses in real time. Their favorite words pop up on the screen in a wordsplash. (And don’t worry, there is a filter you can create for obscenities, lest you have a student or two or twenty you don’t wholeheartedly trust.)

What patterns do the students see? What makes some of these words chosen so frequently as powerful?  What words could the poet have used instead that might mean almost the same thing, but lack the same impact?

Using the wordsplash from Poll Everywhere, students can use these words to craft their own poems.

5. Blackout Poems

Can you discover a poem inside a passage of prose? This is what blackout poetry encourages.

When my students are working with independent reading books, I tell my students “Find a page that has a little bit of you in it.” We photocopy a page that they find particularly relatable and resonant. Then they take a look at some sample blackout poems (Google Images will provide ample samples).

They look at the page through a poet’s eyes and string together key words to write a short poem about themselves, that may or may not relate to the original text any longer. Here is an example from Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson:


In a 1:1 classroom, this could be accomplished using an iPad camera and an app such as Brushes and then shared via Instagram or Twitter. Authors find it intriguing when you share these interpretations with them.


6. Pin A Poem

Pintrest has produced a new outlet and source of visual inspiration. So much of the content involves the creative pairing of words and images. Pin A Poem brings the thrill of creating such pairings to your students.

People often use famous quotes as home decor items or t-shirt designs. This activity encourages students to isolate a line from a poem that can be carry that weight.

Students choose a memorable line from a poem or a set of poems. Honor that line by isolating it and adding a visual element to the line. Find an image to layer under the words, and use PowerPoint or Haiku Deck to create a slide that can be saved as a JPG or printed as a small poster.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

4 themes for school libraries in 2014 by by Dr. Valerie Hill

The four areas for the future of School Libraries that Dr. Hill outlines are:

Monday, 10 March 2014

Story competition for youth

What would the world be like if the Normal Curve had never been discovered?
Submit your story for a chance at $3500 in cash prizes!


Spring Youth Prize: $500 (Submissions due by June 1, 2014)

Summer Youth Prize: $500 (Submissions due by October 1, 2014)

Winter Youth Prize: $500 (Submissions due by December 1, 2014)

Grand Prize: $2000 (Submissions due by December 15, 2014)

Open to All Types of Storytellers

Whether you are the next George Lucas, James Cameron, or more prone to prose, we know that you might have a story worth sharing. Enter into the category which best suits your work.

Team submissions are allowed (and encouraged)!

The competition will be administered by the the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences' MathEd Forum in partnership with Vretta Inc., a Toronto-based educational media studio.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Children could improve their reading skills through short video lessons four times per week over just five weeks.

Literacy rates in New Brunswick are among the lowest in Canada.  Half of the population lives in rural areas and because the province is bilingual, minority language children can find it difficult to develop early language skills.
Through a Mitacs Accelerate internship with media company Mariner Partners Inc., Erin’s research discovered that children could improve their reading skills through short video lessons four times per week over just five weeks.
Erin created a 20-part TV series on DVD, using animation of children’s books and a host character, to teach reading skills in a way that was engaging to preschoolers.