Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

new esl/literacy horizons

The New American Horizons Foundation has created a couple fantastic videos about teaching ESL/Literacy.

I used the video called "Building Literacy with Adult Emergent Readers," hot off the press, with Teaching English as a Second Language Certificate (TESL) students to show them one way all the elements we cover in the ESL/Literacy component of their course can come together in a classroom.

One thing some TESL students used to say during the ESL Literacy workshops was that they could not see how it all came together -- how it would actually work with real students. As we cannot observe an actual class as part of the workshops, I struggled to figure out how to convey how ESL Literacy classes work. That struggle is over thanks to the good people at the New American Horizons Foundation. The TESL students really enjoyed the video and I noticed that the kind of lesson plans this group submitted showed a deeper understanding of working with ESL Literacy students. A win win. And how often does that happen in literacy :)

Watch the video here or on the NAH site. You can buy the DVD for $5 plus shipping.

Friday, March 26, 2010


It has been a little while since the last post. I was not really sure how to follow Ms. Waring :)

Have you been to the Catalyst Centre: The One-Stop Pop-Ed Shop Worker Co-op website lately? Lots of good new stuff happening there.

In case you have never been there, here is what they do:

The One-Stop Pop-Ed Shop Worker Co-op is a collective of educators committed to democratic, social justice education and community development. Popular Education is movement, a practice and a theory of social change that based on learning and committed to resisting unjust uses of power.

One thing they have posted that might be a good follow up to the Who's counting? video is an activity called Jobology.

This activity can be used to develop some awareness in a group on the history of work i.e., how has work changed historically for different classes of people and the role of unpaid work in sustaining capitalism. These can be used for activist work against poverty, develop awareness of class, gender and hierarchy in society. Download the activity description here (1 MB PDF)

Here are some of the questions they suggest:
  • How and why has work changed globally and personally over the generations?
  • When and why is it important to know our history - what stops us from knowing?
  • What are your thoughts about unpaid community contributions? E.g. from the union and community?
  • Does anyone see a class picture here?
  • What is class?
  • How do students fit in this picture of work? Is learning a job?

If you try it out, let us know how it went.

Monday, March 8, 2010

happy international womens day

Who's counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics

In this feature-length (94 minutes) documentary from the National Film Board, Marilyn Waring "demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. To remedy this, Waring maps out an alternative economic vision based on the idea of time as the new currency."

This documentary also examines Ms. Waring's career as a member of the New Zealand parliament and her ideas about democracy.

Today Tara Hunt wrote about Marilyn Waring on the NFB blog.
And I copied her :)

Have a FANTASTIC International Women's Day women and men, boys and girls.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I hope everybody had a great Adult Learning Week. ABC Canada changed their name for the occasion. Nothing so drastic here. I took a virtual trip south of the border and read a couple of articles over at the New York Times about some change that is happening there.

The first one was about how Diane Ravitch, formerly a staunch believer in standardized testing, charter schools and the power of free markets to improve schools, has changed her analysis of how education works. She now thinks that charter schools have proved to be no better than regular schools but redirect resources from the public system and that testing has become not just a way to measure student learning, but an end in itself.

Welcome to the dark side Ms. Ravitch. That is more than a mere name change.

The other, Building a Better Teacher, is about Doug Lemov's eureka moment:

Lemov spent his early career putting his faith in market forces, building accountability systems meant to reward high-performing charter schools and force the lower-performing ones to either improve or go out of business. ...

...he has come to the conclusion that simply dangling better pay will not improve student performance on its own. And the stakes are too high: while student scores on national assessments across demographic groups have risen, the percentage of students at proficiency — just 39 percent of fourth graders in math and 33 percent in reading — is still disturbingly low. ... But what makes a good teacher?

When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.

It was the tiniest decision, but what was teaching if not a series of bite-size moves just like that?

Congratulations Mr. Lemov.

I would take exception to "in disguise" of course. The best teachers can make it feel invisible, but even that they do on purpose.The best teachers know that the best teaching and learning happens when no-one is disguising anything.

Every day is different. Every learner is different. And every time we "teach" something, we have to make a different series of bite-sized moves. To see how it is done, head back over to Wendell's blog. Here is the latest example of how those bite-sized moves create a banquet.

Never mind all the successes in the world. Each time we start anew, and "best practice" means what works best for that learner in that moment.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

mind-mapping at the NFB

This just in:
The National Film Board of Canada posted this on Twitter:
Educators – have you tried mind mapping with NFB films? The blog post is here.

I have not tried this but it looks pretty cool.

Mind-mapping is a great way for students to organize ideas and the teaching guide that accompanies our Films for Change playlist explains how this is done.

With the aid of simple technology (i.e.: a pen and paper) or more complex mapping software, students can plot out and connect the relationships between different concepts. Instructional Strategies Online provides information on how to integrate mind mapping into your teaching.

The image at the top of this post shows how we created a mind map to raise awareness of global environmental issues with facts taken from NFB films.
Follow the NFB on Twitter.