Growing Intentional Learners


Aboriginal Artwork in Sketchnote -The Spirit of Alliances

Here is an overview of my share yesterday at the GAFE Summit. Click here for my slides.

I began this school year with reviewing and connecting with my driving question as an educator: how can I support learners in truly learning how to learn? Before I begin a new term, year, learning activity, inquiry project, etc. I always try to look back to my driving question. I always look back, because I need to ensure whatever we are doing is going to be supporting this driving question. I always also like to reconnect with my core as an educator, to ensure our new learning adventure is connected to the things I value most
IMG_1491.PNGI created this sketch that represents my core and heart as an educator. These sketches share what is most important for me in guiding my learners through and inviting them to experience together.
Love of learning: Developing this through play-based, hands-on, and imaginative learning.
Connected learning: connected to our land, connected to our past and present.
Visible learning: Making learning visible and sharing.
Seamless Integration of Tech: No longer a stand alone, always woven in when appropriate and powerful.
Celebration: Ongoing celebration and reflection of where we are, where we came from and where we are going.
Relationships: Building strong partnerships with all. Learners, families, colleagues, community and more.
Learner Interest: Following the lead of my learners.
Inquiry-based learning: Inviting and celebrating questions, following ideas and developing independent learning skills that are driven from learners’ passions. aboriginal-education-enhancement-agreement-2013-2018

Back in September, after reviewing all these important components, I decided I needed to focus on an essential question to benefit the learners in our group: HOW CAN I SUPPORT LEARNERS IN SETTING POSITIVE LEARNING INTENTIONS? I decided that this was a great start, but I needed to ground our learning intentions in something powerful and connected. I then came across the Spirit of Alliances, and they fit tremendously. Now I had something: teaching learners how to be intentional about their learning through the history and teachings of our land. first-principles Here is the First Principles of
Learning, that is also an ongoing resource I am checking in with and evaluating how I can infuse more of the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning principles into our learning.

Well, I was ready to start… but then I wasn’t sure where to start. So I decided to begin with a literacy introduction, using a story created in our district to introduce the Spirit of Alliances. I also created a provocation as an invitation to play with the animals. I believe that children need to have the opportunity to play and explore, in order to create their own connections and understanding to something. This provocation table did just this. Children were interacting, creating stories and adventures and creating an attachment to the animals. This was exciting and powerful to witness.

We then decided it was time to unpack each Spirit of Alliance animals, and create our own meaning. I kept thinking back to my driving and essential questions, to ensure I was on track and still working towards meeting my goal and doing I believe is best for my learners.

salmon.pngWe unpacked each animal. We had learned about each animal’s teaching and meaning through our literacy introduction, the Four Stones book, and now we had the chance to come up our own individual examples of times in our lives we were like each animal. For more on this, please check out my post on Growth Mindset and learning about the Salmon. We did a similar lesson for each animal and then accompanied it with a journal entry.

Once we had a strong understanding and our own, five year old frimg_2312iendly, descriptions for each animal’s teachings we embarked on creating our class agreement and everyone signed it. The agreement signifies that, throughout our Kindergarten year, we will all be working our best towards being like the four Spirit of Alliance animals.

Underneath here, in the photograph, you can see an example of a child bringing in a piece of art she had created at home to represent the colours associated with each animal. This, to me, is a clear example of how much my learners feel connected to what we are doing, to our land, and how the Spirit of Alliances has a strong place in their heart.

Next we began setting positive learning intentions based on the traits of each animal. This process was scaffolded, with lots of modeling and sharing of intentions. Some examples of Kindergarten intentions might be:
Bear – Keeping my hands to myself and my body calm.
Raven -Sharing my special gift of being able to puzzles with a friend. 
Wolf -Being kind to a friend during exploration play time. 
Salmon -Not giving up on the monkey bars during recess.

Each morning we have mindfulness and reflection time, which begins with Yoga poses and mindfulness reflections, for more on this please see my post. I then walk the learners through reflecting on their yesterday’s intentions and then shifting gears and setting new learning intentions for today. We then join at the carpet and whilst the children are sharing their intentions, I move their names as a visual and a commitment for the day. This is board is a great visual and tool to refer back to during the day, to ensure our actions are being taken with our animal’s lens and focus.

So, we were setting positive learning intentions, rooted in the Spirit of alliances, each day. I then looked back at my initial questions. I needed to extend what we are doing. I had a few questions and hunches of where we could go next.

I wanted to ensure what I was doing was connected to the redesigned BC Curriculum. AND, it is in every strand and subject area. This was powerful to realize and not that I needed a confirmation that what I was doing was important, but it was nice to see how it connected in numerous ways.

I needed to think about how I was going to add what we are doing to my assessment, evaluation and report cards. I use Fresh Grade as an ongoing portfolio and assessment piece to include families in our dialogue. So to demonstrate and share learning snapshots and assessments was easy and working. I then was fortunate to be shown an incredible blog to support Term Overviews using the redesigned Curriculum. I took the fabulous layout, ideas and incorporation of the Core Competences, not curricular, and remixed and created one to fit our learning.  Please visit Reno by Class.

Here is a link to my overview and reflection page for this term:

I then looked at how might I extend what we are doing with our intentions. I needed to ensure that I was providing room for reflections, growth and making our learning visible. Here are some of the ways we are doing this.

Nametags to keep us on track, to spark conversation and as another visual to track our goals. These have been working fabulously!

Journals and Circle Reflections have been keeping our conversations going about our intentions and goals. We enjoy journaling and sharing in a circle about how we are working towards meeting our intentions, and making adjustments when necessary.
IMG_0757.JPGiPads for documentation, celebrating and making our learning visible. PicCollage is a great tool to help us take photos of ourselves reaching our goals and then sharing and reflecting on them with our group. This is wonderful to witness!
GOPROS! This will be a full post for another time. But for now I will leave with these two short clips. Learners have an ongoing invitation to use the GoPro to capture themselves meeting their goal, and then we use them to share a bit of the footage to reflect.

Being like Raven to share her special gift of rainy day puddle jumping adventures: 

Being like Salmon in not giving up, and sitting for 40 minutes using a stencil she had been trying to use ALL week. She was so proud, in a very humble way, of her work. You will want to mute your sound for hers, because I sped up the video.

So much more to come on this as our adventure, with learning intentions based on the history of our land, is just beginning. Please stay tuned. In the mean time, I challenge you to be like Salmon and try something new in your teaching. Begin with a driving question and just start!

Artwork below from The Spirit of Alliances

Salmon_Colour_Image Y.png

Thank you,









Story-boxes in Kindergarten

This summer I was inspired by the hashtag #sd38story from the Delta School District. I found their storytelling focus to be fresh, innovative and inviting. I strive to create fresh, innovative and inviting learning experiences for my learners, so I knew it was something I had to try.

img_1685I researched quite a bit before beginning, hung out a ton on the sd38 hashtag and fell in love with Janice Novakowski, Little Blair Dragons, and Annieville Kinders‘ work. I knew I had to set something up that would work for the learners in our class and myself. I decided to begin a storytelling focus through story-boxes.



I searched out the Monk’s Office shallow cardboard trays to be the story-boxes, and luckily a lovely colleague across the hall generously shared hers with me. My goal was to have 11 story-boxes, one box per two children. My vision was they would begin by working in partners for our storytelling lessons, and over time that may evolve. I searched out some loose parts such as wool, gems, rocks, sticks, fabric, felt, pine cones, felted acorns, etc. I would have LOVED to fill the story-boxes to the brim with materials, but held my excitement back because I realized that less is more -especially at the beginning. I also had to choose a few animals to have as characters for our boxes, and naturally I chose our Spirit of Alliance animals (which we are very familiar with). I had some helpers, and we made characters on popsicle sticks.

I designed a three part lesson, and plan to guide learners through the same three parts each week. The first part of the lesson is sharing a First Nation’s story. I teach French Immersion, and most of the stories we have access to at our school are in English and that was just fine. The stories I have chosen so far have been extremely easy to switch into French, so I did. I started off the storytelling focus with ‘Good Morning World’ from Native NorthWest. We started by reading through the story, the children repeated the good morning part for each animal. We then stopped and did some imagining and thinking caps. We imagined some of the adventures the different animals could have, different things they might get up to in nature. We had some sharing time with a partner and the whole group. We then reread the story one more time. I briefly introduced the idea of story-boxes and shared a box with some materials in it with the children, so they knew what was coming tomorrow.

The next day, we quickly read through the story one more time and dove back into our imaging. We sat in a circle and shared some of the adventures we had been milling over in our heads. I then modeled what it might look like to set up at story-box. Then together, in French, we created an adventure using two animals: Salmon and Bear. Thimg_1687e modeling part was extremely important for the learners in our class. It was great for them to be part of the planning, vocab review and storytelling process before going off with their partner. They knew exactly what was expected, they’d been part of one process, and then they knew they could invent their own adventure and story, or fall back onto retelling mine. Everyone felt successful, this was a key part of the lesson.

We then passed out the boxes, characters and loose parts and off they went! My oh my, our 22 four and five year old learners were SO empowered, it was magical to watch and listen to. The boxes were being set up, stories were being created and shared and the oral language French component was mind-blowing! After some time, they were given five more minutes to set everything up and place their characters down for tomorrow’s lesson. We met back at the circle after putting the boxes away, and reflected on how the lesson went. We shared things that went well, and things we’d like to improve. We reflected on how we were working towards meeting our daily goals during our story-box activity. We talked about tomorrow’s story-box plans.

On the third morning, we were excited to return back to our story-boxes. We knew and understood that our challenge was to retell our created story from yesterday, with our same partner. Then we were to try to extend our story by making it longer or more interesting to a listener. This was neat to experience and hear all of their ideas bubbling around the room. After about fifteen minutes, the children were invited to document their stories. They had the choice of illustrating a bird’s eye view of their story-box or using an iPad to take three still photographs (one of the beginning, middle and end of their story). I was surprised to see how many groups chose a clipboard versus the iPad ,this made me smile. Yes I am a strong believer of inviting learners to use technology as a tool for learning, but it needs to best suit their learning style. Through choice, learners are able to choose how they will learn and document, they know what works best for them.

After we had documented their stories and learning we transitioned into our free exploration time. It gave me goose bumps to see the storytelling continuing around the room in new areas with different parts and characters. A few of the girls decided they wanted to record their story during free exploration time. They worked together, with our volunteer, in the hallway (who does not speak much French at all -so this recording is all them).

This past week, we went through the same process. The story this week was ‘Goodnight World’. We followed the same three part process, with the same boxes and same characters. This week the children worked with different partners and were given a new character: the moon (la lune) and some yellow modeling clay which was for them to use how they wished (stars were very popular).

Please stay connected to hear how this process continues and evolves for our learners.

Many thanks,