28 July 2016

How to Help Your Child Over the Summer 

With summer break just around the corner, one of the most frequent questions I get from Parents/Caregivers is what kind of homework should my child do over the summer?  This question is  very challenging as the debate on homework is a very controversial one. Research from various sources has found that homework for elementary school children has no academic benefit, while junior high school children showed minimal academic improvement from homework. This debate mainly focuses on written and reading assignments that students do not find interesting. My advice to you over the summer is to try and teach your child to the love of reading.

Building the Love of Reading

Before reading

*Set a time each day to read.
*Make a reading corner at home.
*Make books easily accessible.
*Schedule a couple of times a week to read your own books and show your child you love reading too.
*Read with your kids daily in any language.
*Don't leave home without a book. Those long drives or train rides are an ideal time to read a book.

During reading

*Be patient reading takes time.
*Don't push too hard. If your child is tired just read the pictures
*Start reading a little each day to help your child build their reading stamina. Please remember, the turtle won the race! Children need to build up their reading skills just like exercising.
*Try I Read, You Read
*Remeber just looking at pictures is still reading.
*Talk about the text:
*Tell me more…   What happened…

After reading

*Ask questions!
*Did you learn anything new?
*Did you have any questions?
*Did you have any connections?

Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2016 by Dwayne Primeau

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05 June 2016

 By Contributor(s): Queensland figaro [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What would a peaceable school look like?  This is a very interesting question, and I have put a great deal of thought behind it in the last year. Being school a leader, I am always asking myself how I make sure learning is happening? However, this question does not have a simple answer. One of the major pieces of the learning puzzle is to create a learning environment. This means building a culture where teachers and students feel safe. People cannot learn in an environment that is full of conflict.

A peaceful school starts with a culture that values relationships, respect and responsibility. These kinds of schools would be based on a Behavior policy that was non punitive. Better yet it should be called a Restoration policy. The school's main goal would be to teach the children to value empathy and give them the skills they need to repair any social or emotional damage they have done. However, the school would also need to have to have a consistent, fair process system in place that lets stakeholders know the consequences for extreme behaviors that escalate too far. However, even in these extreme cases, the schools main goal would be to help these students develop the ability to reenter the classroom. Expulsion would be the last resort.

In this kind of school, you would walk around the halls and see students that are engaged in their studies and not afraid to answer questions or take risks. Walking from class to class you would observe consistency in the strategies and language the teachers are using for classroom management. The wall displays would have encouraging posters and scripts on how to carry out a conflict resolution. The students in such a school would feel comfortable sharing their feelings with their peers. The students would have the tools to independently deal with their own conflicts. They would have to be taught the language of conflict negotiation and be provided with a support system to help them deal with conflicts that escalate beyond their own skill set. This system would include student peer mentors and non-judgmental teachers.

Such a school would be built on student and teacher derived essentials agreements, not rules! All stakeholders would be expected to show each other respect and be willing to take personal responsibility for all of their actions. The school would have a fair process that would try and take misbehaviors and turn them into opportunities to learn important life skills for living in a diverse society.

Many of my ideas are based on
Restorative Practices 
Positive Discipline

Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2016 by Dwayne Primeau

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27 February 2016

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to watch my school's Grade 1 class carry our various experiments to do with changes in matter. They were doing an Inquiry into “How the world works”. The central idea was "matter can be changed to suit different purposes". You may be surprised to find out that the Grade 1 students were studying about facts and topics that are found in the Grade 2 and 5 Ontario Science curriculum. Inquiry teachers do this by helping their students learn through inquiry while focusing on the bigger ideas and concepts. The students then learn the facts through the lens of deeper conceptual understandings. Understanding these concepts then allows them to transfer then what you know to other real-life questions Some great conceptual learning sources

Posted on Saturday, February 27, 2016 by Dwayne Primeau

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15 November 2015


Restorative Practices
As part of our goal to be lifelong learners the administration and teachers at Osaka YMCA International School (OYIS) took part in a Restorative Practices workshop.
      Restorative Practice (RP) is based on the philosophy of restorative justice. RP assists schools with putting into practice important values and beliefs that emphasize rights and responsibilities, positive relationships, productivity and collaboration while meeting the individual needs of the community. It involves viewing conflicts or wrongdoings through the lens of harm or damage to relationships. When such harm or damage occurs to a relationship, there is an obligation to focus on trying to repair the harm or make things right to help provide a caring and safe environment in which students may learn.
     OYIS is based on the principle of being learner centered; we are always trying to improve the teaching and learning environment of the school. Through various meetings and reflections, we came to the understanding one of the best ways to improve our school’s learning culture would be to become a restorative school. A restorative practice program assists schools with putting into practice important values and beliefs that emphasize rights and responsibilities, positive relationships, productivity and cooperation and at the same time meeting individual needs within their community.  One of the compelling outcomes of restorative schools is the alignment of student discipline practice with school values and beliefs. This in turn results in healthier relationships between students, parents, teachers and staff; creating a school culture and environment that is nurturing and safe while promoting better social and academic development.

So how do we develop a Restorative a school?
A Restorative school is developed by creating a culture that puts relationships at the center connected to the learner profile. All of the individuals in the community are given the tools to repair damaged relationships and reinforce healthy relationships. This culture helps individuals develop a strong sense of personal responsibility and ownership for their actions. Individuals and groups in this culture become more empathetic and develop a stronger understanding of how their actions may affect the whole community or culture around them.
To start, we give our students the language to be accountable for their actions. We then teach them about the 4 Fs
Face up: People involved in the conflict make a talking circle.
Fess up: Admit when you are wrong.
Fix up: Find a solution to the problem.
Follow up: Make sure the people involved follow through with their promise.  

Posted on Sunday, November 15, 2015 by Dwayne Primeau

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04 October 2015

Alright fellow educators, after much planning and preparation, we are proud to announce the official launch of the first edcamp Kansai UnConferenceedcamp Kansai will provide a unique (and FREE!) chance to meet and network with knowledgeable, dedicated, passionate educators from all areas of education- pre-schools, public schools, private schools, international schools, universities- coming together to lead and participate in informal professional learning sessions focused on things that matter most to them, from small ‘everyday’ teaching issue to big ideas and educational philosophies.
Date: Saturday 7 November, 2015 
Time: 09:00-16:00 (plus after party)
Venue: CANVAS Uchida Yoko Osaka ユビキタス協創広場 
Station: Tanimachi 4-chome

Please check the 
edcamp Kansai webpage for more details and to register ASAP. Remember, it'sFREE!

Also, please print and display the attached 
edcamp Kansai poster to help spread the word.

FYI, information in Japanese is on its way!

See you there!

edcamp Kansai team

Posted on Sunday, October 04, 2015 by Dwayne Primeau

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14 June 2015

Keynote and workshop - James Stronge: 

Assessing Teacher Quality: Teacher Evaluation for International Schools With many state public school boards implementing high-stakes testing and value-added programs, it was auspicious for me that James Stronge was one of the keynote speakers at EARCOS 2015. My school has been looking at various ways to evaluate and measure our ability to provide a quality education for our students. James Stronge had a lot of insight into how we can use some softer, less high-stakes approaches that better complement an international school’s culture. He believes the best way to do this is by measuring the teachers and students against various criteria. It is vital that we assess our students and teachers so that we can help them grow as life-long learners. By softer, I mean we will be looking at ways to assess teachers to provide them with professional development opportunities tailored to their specific needs, not as a tool for salary or dismissal negations. To start, we should be testing our students to get a baseline of their ability to measure their growth on a continuum over time. It is imperative that we do not measure them strictly against grade level expectations, the reason being that not all students come into a classroom with the same educational background or English ability. Most International Schools have a large number of ELL or special needs students. Therefore, we need to measure individual growth, so that these students are given opportunities to succeed. Measuring them strictly against grade level standard is unfair and sets many of them up to fail before they even start. 

 So how do we evaluate our students? 

As we know, testing is an important tool to measure student performance, but it can be very time-consuming and expensive. At my school, we are currently looking at trying to find an automated online platform that provides us with growth data, is easy to use and cost-effective. At present, we have been beta-testing a program called Iready. The program is easy to use and provides the teacher with a baseline assessment, growth indicators and extra information on the strategies that the student needs work on. This program still needs some more testing, but it looks like a cost-effective tool for us to measure English reading and listening literacy. What makes a good teacher? With a student assessment program in place, we now need to think about how we evaluate our teachers. According to James Stronge, teachers can be evaluated by the following criteria:

• professional knowledge • instructional planning • instructional delivery • use of assessment • learning environment • professionalism • student progress

 To collect data on instructional planning and professionalism, an administration can setup up a system like Google docs that will allow for collaborative planning online in the cloud. This lets the administration browse planners, documents and leave formative at any time without making extra work for the teacher. For assessing instructional delivery, learning environment and professionalism, a schedule of planned and unplanned teacher observations should be developed. In this case, it is important to try and make the observations as long as possible. This is due to the fact that short observations don't produce enough data. Teachers must also be provided with a rubric that that will be used to assess them. To assess student performance, a testing system must be adopted that measures student growth. The second part of measuring student performance will include a system of anonymous student surveys given by the subject teacher. These surveys will be used by the teacher as a means of personal formative feedback. My Action Plan for Implementation 

 • At present, we have been trialing various online testing systems that will help measure our students’ performance. The online solution seems to be the most effect means of testing. The first baseline test usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes, but after that it only takes about 15 minutes for bi-monthly growth tracking tests. The current system we have provides teacher-friendly reports that can be used to measure student growth. However, internet connectivity and the amount of devices needed can be an issue for some schools. 

 • Being an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school, we use the IB planners online with Google docs, giving us easy access to our teachers planning tools and documentation folders. 

• From September 2015, we will try and implement a program of frequent teacher observations. As part of this plan, I will make sure to drop into each classroom daily for a short period on non-observation days. This way, the students will begin to get used to my presence in the classroom. If the observer’s presence disturbs the class the data collected is compromised. We will also try to keep an open classroom policy where teachers are welcome to drop into another teacher's classes. The rationale behind this is that teachers will have a better idea of good practice in that specific school’s teaching culture. Off-the-record positive peer feedback helps all teachers grow and builds the collaborative culture of the school. 

• Finally, we will try having the teachers implement a student survey after each unit of inquiry to help the teacher assess how things went. These surveys should be anonymous so that the students can give their honest opinion. They should be used by the teacher as personal tool for growth in a non-official way. I believe the following program will help my school evaluate the teachers and help them grow.

 Stronge, J. (Director) (2015, March 24). East Asia Regional Council of Schools 2015, Teacher conference 2015. : Assessing Teacher Quality: Teacher Evaluation for International Schools Lecture conducted from East Asia Regional Council of Schools, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

Posted on Sunday, June 14, 2015 by Dwayne Primeau

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17 May 2015

I have been working with writer's workshop in a PYP setting classroom for six years now. I have done a great deal of PD in this area. Here are some concepts learned from Matthew Glover at EARCOS 2015 this year that have really helped me grow as writing coach.

Workshop presenter - Matthew Glover: Literacy

Designing Responsive Units of Study in Writing Workshop - Skillful teachers design sequences of instruction based on the needs of their students.
Having worked with the writer’s workshop framework for about 6 years, I am always looking for opportunities to advance my skill set and knowledge base in this area. Mathew Glover is a leader in his field and I found his presentations to be very insightful and they provided me with some strategies to instantly better myself as a writing coach. In this paper, I will outline the key process of running a good writer’s workshop.
A writing workshop is split into three important stages. They are the projecting (planning) and the carrying out of the mini-lesson with conferring. The term projecting refers to flexible planning. All good teachers must be flexible and responsive to their students’ needs. In simple terms, it sometimes means that we need to be able to change on the fly - such as when they already know the chosen teaching point or if it is not appropriate for them at that time. This is crucial as every moment we spend with the child is a learning moment. Our inability to be flexible makes us an ineffective teacher. On this note - administrators, please remember that setting up a good writing program takes time, and you must give your teachers the time to do it well.

Stage One: Projecting Units

The first stage of projecting is planning out units or writing projects that align with your curriculum. Being at an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program School, it is vital our writing units align with our units of inquiry to fit the PYP transdisciplinary approach. When planning out units, we need to take care that our writing types are authentic and apply to the real world. A good litmus test for this is to see if you can find published mentor texts to go along with your writing piece. For example, how many published book reports can you find? Probably none - so why not have your students write a book review? It is very easy to find stacks of reviews to use as mentor texts for your students. At this point, it is best to look at past units and brainstorm new ones if they don’t fit this model. Once our units have been chosen, we need to find stacks of mentor texts that go along with them. This can be easily done with a web search and brainstorming session (e.g. for a book review mentor text use movie reviews from kids magazines or newspapers). After our mentor texts have been chosen, we need to sit down and look at the standards that we will be using for the unit and think about how we can display them in our own writing.
At this point, we produce a piece of our own writing that displays the main 6 plus one writing traits that align with our curricular outcomes. This will help us produce a list to focus our mini-lessons. This is the second piece of your conferring kit. A good conferring kit is made up of three kinds of mentor texts. They are published examples, teacher’s examples and students’ examples. For this first run through, you will need to start collecting student’s examples. Our last two components to collect for our conferring kit will be a writer’s notebook and a way to collect our conferring notes. All teachers have their own way of taking notes, but it is important to have them record the following points of their conferring meetings with each child: what was your praise (what can they do), your teaching point and what the student needs to work on next.

Stage Two: Immersion

During this stage, a teacher needs to become very familiar with their mentor text stack. If they are not familiar with their stacks, they will take too long to find an example when conferring with a student. So, as a rule of thumb, it is better to have fewer mentor texts, but know them well. During our immersion stage, we introduce our stack of mentor-published texts to our students. We explore them through inquiry or teaching them explicitly. During the immersion process, we want to take two or three days to walk them through the mentor text with read-alouds and self-exploration, pointing out specific characteristics of your chosen text type.

Stage Three: Projecting the Mini-Lesson and Conference

In stage three, we need to decide what our mini-lesson should focus on. This can be done in two ways, the first being to take a look at your curriculum scope and sequence and chose your next teaching goal. This approach is good to start off the unit, but should be changed once you have a better idea of your students’ needs. The second is to look at a large sample of your students’ writing and then look at your scope to find out which aligns with your outcomes and the needs of the students. Remember review lessons are important, but teaching points are more important when doing one-to-one conferring. The full penetration rate of a mini-lesson objective for a small class is only about 40-50%, as all students are working at different levels. Your most effective teaching will be done during the conferring where you will meet the students at the level of instruction they need. After you have given your mini-lesson it is time to start conferring. It is usually a good idea to pick the people you plan to confer with during your planning process. As teachers, we tend to spend more time with the strugglers. A good set of records reminds us that all students need our help. At present, I use a system using Google forms and spreadsheets that allows me to take notes quickly and plan who I need to see next. It is always a good idea to do a bit of pre-conference research. Before the lesson, quickly browse through the chosen student’s writing to get an idea of what you can praise them on and what they need to learn next to advance their writing. Always remember that we want to teach them a new point to help nudge their writing ahead. Sometimes as teachers we get caught on reminders and forget to teach a new point. A reminder does not help nudge them forward and correcting them has zero impact! During a conferring session, lead with telling the student about their strengths, do your research to find your new teaching point and always teach them something new. It is best to go straight to the student’s working area and speak in a normal voice. If another student is eavesdropping you are in luck, you are getting a two-for-one deal as they will also clue into your conferring point. In your notes, make sure to record what they did well, what the teaching point was and what they need to learn next. It is best to try and keep your conferring meetings at 6 to 8 minutes. Remember you want to give them a small nudge, not overwhelm them. If you follow these steps, you should help nudge your students along to being better writers.

Some mentor text resource sites

Writing source

Writing traits

Mentor Text Bibliography 

Mentor text Lessons (see side bar)

Glover, M. (2015, March 24). East Asia Regional Council of Schools 2015, Teacher
conference 2015. Designing Responsive Units of Study in Writing Workshop - Skillful teachers
design . Lecture conducted from East Asia Regional Council of Schools, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah,

Posted on Sunday, May 17, 2015 by Dwayne Primeau