Sunday, January 31, 2010

child soldiers

Oprah did a show on child soldiers.

She spoke with Nelson Mandela about the AIDs issue in Africa.
UN Special Session

From 8 to 10 May 2002, more than 7,000 people participated in the most important international conference on children in more than a decade, the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children, at which the nations of the world committed themselves to a series of goals to improve the situation of children and young people.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his opening statement to the General Assembly, addressed the children of the world. "We, the grown-ups, have failed you deplorably,…"
he said, adding, "One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. One in four of you has not been immunized against any disease. Almost one in five of you is not attending school…. We, the grown-ups, must reverse this list of failures."

All kids want in places like Haiti, and other underdeveloped, traumatized countries, is an education.


Brainstorming: as my gr. 3 student said,
"Nouns are thing you can hold in your hand. Adjectives, well, they fly off of your pencil!"
We can improve our writing by using more adjectives.

Creative Writing Class #2

Well, any good teacher debriefs her lessons. My Pen Men, in class #2 revealed my lack of success!
We talked about the best part from week one, and that seemed to include the meditation.

From a class of mixed ages, and 11 participants, session #2 went down to 5 participants.
What do you think I did wrong? Hard to say. I'm not taking personally, though, as they have busy lives and other priorities. We even changed the night to accommodate one participant who didn't show up!

This was the revised plan, as of the afternoon of the evening of the session...

Creative Writing Session #2

1.   How are you feeling today? Handout - -Said is dead, so is so
This handout worked well: a 'feelings' sheet, that speaks of various feelings other than 'mad, bad, sad'! I explained that said is a word that should be dead in any piece of writing. 'SO', as well, is overused and unnecessary.

 2. How to get a book published. Long talk, with examples and sharing from the men. A couple of them have books on the go. We talked about Terry Fallis' success with podcasting his book. Look him up!

3.   Why do writers write?
-      Essay Writing
-       handouts for those pursuing formal courses
                                              i.     5 paragraph checklist
                                            ii.     Hamburger Paragraph
                                          iii.     Story Structure
                                          iv.     Rubric for writing
-       The writing process – quote

4.   A 20-page book project? Have the 'book' bound?
-       -poetry samples
-       Mine: CHAPBOOKS- the way to get poems published
-       -poetry prompt 1001 nights, the late Lhasa De Sela
6.   100 word paragraph - homework
Guided Meditation: on a quiet place, a safe place: what does it look like, sound like, smell like?
7.   Credo -
-Ten Reasons for swearing – Dear Abby poster!


A.   I'd like to explore letters and letter writing.
-Letter formalities
-Letter of affirmation
I left this until the next lesson

 B. History of punctuation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Reluctant Readers

Sunday Edition with Michael EnrightThis is not a new topic. But these readers tend to be boys, or girls who want a bit more of a plot and story.

There are a great many 'high interest, low vocab' book out there.
Some fabulous ones on great disasters. My reluctant gr. 6 readers, as well as the keeners, enjoyed them.

CBC Radio PodcastsThis show, The Sunday Edition, did a great piece on Reluctant Readers in their middle hour. You can download the iTunes podcast if you are interested.

Eric Walters is a terrific action writer for young reluctant readers. I am pretty sure he visited a school I was in once upon a time!

Too bad  the teacher/librarian must have been one of those who didn't stay for the whole Whole Language workshop. Spelling and phonics were an important part of Whole Language. Many misinterpreted the philosophy. From the whole to the parts. But then, in many larger school boards it was the train the trainer model and teachers were sent back to the school to deliver the goods to school staff. They didn't have time to deliver the whole plan.

 In quality curriculum plans, you meet the needs of all readers, and teach those who need little reading support by setting them free, and use their expertise to fine tune the knowledge base of reluctant and weak readers with little in their sight word mental filing cabinets.

It was appalling, that newer teachers and those less confident in their teaching philosophy, abandoned a whole generation. Eschewing phonics for touchy feely lessons. The authors of Whole Language published many tomes on phonics and spelling activities. But school boards didn't want to pay for the whole deal. Teachers missed out on the 'minilesson' philosophy and the teachable moments that characterized Whole Language lessons. You use language in a story to find topics of discussion based on the vocabulary of a story the class is reading.

wordwall.JPGSome of the excellent teacher guides, purchased with reading anthologies of the 80s, outlined some terrific teaching plans that followed the whole plan. You can see in some posts, however, that those who do not know what they are talking about say:

Whole Language vs. Phonics Reading Instruction

Whole language reading instruction (also known as "look-say" or "sight" reading) is the most widely used method of teaching reading in the U.S. and many misunderstand it.
You cannot teach those who have not mastered phonics, and cannot sight read, how to read a complicated novel.

You can blame poorly trained US teachers for this misinformation, which has slowly spread up to Canada. The myths of our Canadian system often are spawned by Americans writing about a US-based issue, and Canadian media extrapolating to Canadian learners and teachers.
For example:
"Another book Retarding America — The Imprisonment of Potential is based upon a study of children and young adults in the juvenile justice system. It probably won't surprise you that there is a very high rate of illiteracy among that group."

This webpage goes on to say that Whole Language vs. phonics is to blame, when, indeed the phonics are part of the "whole". 

You can also blame superintendents and bandwagon principals who didn't understand the WHole Language philosophy. With direction from above, teachers abandoned their principles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tina and nutrition

I recall another student. I'll call her Tina, since she was a teeny thing. I taught her in my gr. 4 class. What a pet. This 'new' initiative to teach nutrition in elementary school is a hoot.

Government Helping Students Get Ready To Learn With ...

McGuinty McGuinty Government Helping Students Get Ready To Learn With Student Nutrition Plan. More Ontario Children And Youth Benefiting From Healthy Food Initiative

 As if this is 'new'! As teachers we've complained about junk food in schools for years. Teachers and Principals continue to permit staff to sell junk food and popcorn as fundraisers. I knew that we were only promoting bad nutrition. The only time I allowed junk food was on party days. It was special and a treat.

We've been teaching good nutrition in health for as long as I had been teaching. And, like 'teaching' Black History Month, you do not devote a month to acceptance of differences and other faiths, you devote your days to promoting good health as an integral part of your values and your morals.

I had decided that since the kids were eating horrible food much of the time, that for their first nutrition break I  would make a rule that first snack had to be something from one of the four food groups.
Some wrestled with this, but since a few students brought in a bag of potatoe chips for snack, this would get some good food into them for the morning, at least.

This child had an issue. Her mother had sent her with a twinkie, and chocolate milk.
Another child in the class gave her half of her sandwich. They were always so generous with each other. This mom proceeded to give me a phone call. I had to return her call. My policy was to phone parents 5 - 10 minutes before the recess bell went, as this would provide an external closure to the phone call. She was furious that I would tell her child what she could eat in the class.  She tore a strip off me for being critical of her food choices and how dare I tell her child what to do. 

We left it at that. Tina and I had a deal, I brought in crackers and peanut butter, and kids continued to share with her. Come parent-teacher interview time, the mom was vicious. She was poor and did not have much money for good nutrition. That sent me off on another tack. I brought in fruit and tried to help. I was even more determined to help this child. She was so thin.

The fabulous Milk Marketing Board nutrition workshops were generous in those days. They provided us with pictures of foods, with the nutrition counts on the back. We used them to plan good meals, balanced meals. Their visual aids contributed a great deal to our classroom.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario - Teachers

Dairy Farmers of Manitoba - Nutrition Education Resources for Teachers

Milk: From Farm to Fridge was created in partnership with Ontario Agri-Food Education.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Creative Writing Session #2

Next Sessions

  1. I'd like to explore letters and letter writing. 
  2. 100 word paragraph
  3. History of punctuation.
  4. Quotes to print: "Ignorance is not knowing.  Stupidity is the active pursuit of ignorance."
  5. Essay Writing handouts for those pursuing formal courses
  6. 5 paragraph checklist
  7. Rubric for writing
  8. The writing process
  9. Why do writers write?
  10. A 20-page book project?
  11. Poetry Contests
  12. Muskoka short story contest
  13. Another night for one-on-one editing?
  14. Hamburger Paragraph
  15. Story Structure
  16. Credo

    Creative Writing Class #1 follow-up

    Well, as with all things...I was prepared with a lesson plan. I knew the direction in which I was heading, and was prepared to be flexible.


    We were late starting, due to issues beyond our control - the 'powers-that-be'! Not atypical in my teaching career. We had 11 participants, by the time the last person wandered in, almost as if on purpose, iPod earbuds in ears blocking out the rest of the world.

    I remember my late father talking about his high school teacher. No matter how late a students entered, his teacher would always mark him present on the attendance, and say, "Welcome! You're just in time!" I like to take that stand, too!

    We introduced ourselves, told one another why we were there, what we were hoping for, I asked them to go around the circle and tell my what they had last written. A couple were in the middle of a novel, another a book. Then I asked what they had last read.

    I told them about my student, 'Sarah', and explained that her response to my gr. 8 Cr. Wr. class was the reason I was there. The power of writing, whether it by journaling or poetry, stories, memories or songs, I have seen it work in the classroom. The research on Autobiographies demonstrates this.

    Forgetting notebooks, some had brought pen and pencils, notepads and notebooks for handouts. I gave them a phenomenal handout, from Nancy Atwell's Lessons That Change Writers, "Questions for Memoirists". I was reluctant to hand out papers for those without a binder, but if they lose them - well, we'll recopy them!

    We spoke of the quote I love, from Atwell's book, "Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen." --Willa Carter began real writing with a quick brainstorming session, to teach them the difference between Monkey Mind and Wild Mind. (see Natalie Goldberg for this!) Basically, the idea is to get the monkey off of our backs who criticizes us as a writer, as a person, as a human being, as a student, employee, or spouse or  parent. Some caught the free flow. I asked them to share their top 'brainstorm' writing territory topic. talked about our meeting time, as it was a busy day for a few of the participants. That was satisfactory and we altered our meeting dates and times.

    How to provide feedback. Some are eager to share their work, several read poems they'd just written that received accolades and clapping. Reading work aloud, in a group, is a scary prospect until all feel safe and comfortable. There isn't time for me to read each participant's work during the 1 1/2 hrs. we have time to meet. I shall reflect on this.

    Next Sessions
    1. I'd like to explore letters and letter writing. Evenutally, I will talk about punctuation.
    2. Quotes to print: "Ignorance is not knowing.  Stupidity is the active pursuit of ignorance."
    3. Essay Writing handouts for those pursuing formal courses
    4. 5 paragraph checklist
    5. Rubric for writing
    6. The writing process
    7. 20-page book?
    8. Another night for one-on-one editing?

    See also: 

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    How to write an essay

     1. Brainstorm topic sentences, if not already assigned -
    • What do you like, love, remember, feel
    • What is your first memory, your earlier, earliest, most recent memory?
    • What are you obsessions, problems, dreams, understandings, confusions, passions, sorrows?
    • What are your accomplishments, fears, 
    • What are the risks you've taken that earned you something?
    • What are your favourites: pets (now or in the past), teachers, places, hobbies, sports, games, music, books, poems, poets, songs, movies, writers, artists, foods, pet peeves?
    • What are your most beloved possessions?
    • Who was your first love?
    • Write about an undeveloped Country? Compare it to your own.

    2. Number these topics in the order of your current best idea, #1, #2, #3.

    3. a) Some people just like to begin writing. If so, give yourself some quality time to write about topic #1.
       b) Organize yourself by jotting notes into a semantic organizer.  

    4. Remember to answer the Who, What, When, Why, Where, So What questions! (So what= conclusion, or significance of this piece of writing, why is this important to write about?) Either put the work aside, give it some time to settle, or immediately reread your piece of writing.
    Ask yourself questions about content, see the graphic for more checklists.
    • Does it make sense? 
    • Does it say what you meant it to say?
    • Do it flow?
    • Are you happy with the topic?

    6. Check each paragraph for a topic sentence, Introduction, Ideas, opinions supported by facts, Adjectives.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Art for fun

    I must admit, as a teacher, that my art lessons were fun. There were no put-downs. We understood, especially in the arts, that one and all bring talents and experiences. Kids who excelled in MADD (Music/Art/Dance/Drama!) did not necessarily shine during the Track and Field competition.

    I loathed art that looked all the same. I encouraged kids to be creative and normally presented a set of materials and had the kids dig in. Eventually, one skilled crafter would create a great idea and in a spirit of sharing, they would help those less able, through lack of ability or disability, to put together a plan. Those were blessed moments.

    Everyone took a photo of their own art, and put it on their web page. Of course, some were better artists than photographers, but I digress!

    My favourite activity was one created by my Core French teacher. They all had to create an alien, determine its characteristics, build it in plasticene, and then I helped the kids take a photograph. We made an iMovie of the resulting set of photos.

    Tye Dye day was a fun one. Sponsored by the parent council, we all took turns.

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Peanut allergies

    I am so shocked with this ruling. Transportation giving Air Canada 30 days to create a plan for a woman with a nut allergy. This isn't a rights issue. It is a health issue. Nuts on airplanes

    There are these stories...
    How do you balance one's rights over another? My right to take a snack on board a plane that meets my needs vs. someone's rights to being protected from same snack?

    I taught 25 years and over time we went from no-peanut classrooms, to no peanut elementary schools. I had one class in which two students had anaphyalctic allergies. We managed with no incidents.
    From there, in a sheltered atmosphere, kids go to high school with a cafeteria.  There was a death in a high school where a student chose to eat something in a cafeteria. She had a false sense of security. She let her guard down and she lost.

    This is the real world. People do bring food onto planes. Kids go into schools and need snacks. Forcing those with peanuts to sit and eat in one place punishes them for something not their fault. Not allowing kids to eat in their own PBJ sandwich classroom is bizarre. We taught the kids to be proactive. They were prepared with epipens, and emergency plans. One of my students was anaphylactic and diabetic. We managed just fine.

    I had to quit a job for health issues. People make compromises. This woman needs to get real. She needs to cooperate with this company with whom she has a business arrangement, or go elsewhere. She needs to be proactive.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    What does poverty look like?

    It looks like this:

    • Her clothes are dirty and mussed, but there is grocery money, no money for the laundromat. The kids who cannot wash her clothes because the washing machine broke and the family cannot afford to fix it. It is a deep embarrassment, especially when others make fun of the way she smells.
    • His hair is never washed. He smells and has dirt under his finger nails.
    • It is the child who eats his lunch for snack, because a parent has given them nothing for breakfast, they have no understanding of the importance of a good breakfast, or had to leave for work before the child left for school.
    • It's the latch key kid who spends hours hanging around the school yard, getting into trouble.
    • She stuffs her rain boots with plastic to get herself through the day. It is the child who doesn't wear a winter coat, or winter boots in sub-zero weather. Her mitts she claimed from the lost and found. She is to embarrassed to go to anyone for help.
    • The child who is continually turning up late for school...she is too tired, hungry, or has a parent without the intellectual ability, or addictions, who is unable to set up routines. Most kids want to be part of something lik school. It is their foundation.

    What does poverty sound like?
    •  It is in the sound of the aggressive, verbally abusive kindergarten child who is angry that the other have spanking new backpacks, with cute lunch boxes, filled with goodies, with scrumptious sandwiches. 
    • It is the child who is picked on because he is different, belligerent, and uncomfortable because he cannot afford money for the field trip. He gets suspended to avoid having to pay for the trip.
    • It is the kids who bullies others, stealing money from backpacks to cover up for himself.
    • It's the kid who tells you that s/he 'forgot' his/her lunch. 
    • It's the kids who cannot take the milk program, despite being thin and malnourished, because s/he cannot afford the 35 cents per day.
    • The lonely kid who talk and visits with you every recess, who tags along, wants to hold your hand (in elementary school) or asks to stay in to 'work' at recess. She chatters every day, and look to you as a shining beacon in the dark. You may be the only adult in her life who is stable and whom she can depend upon.
    Why are these kids in this situation?
    Their teachers and peers blame parents. Yet, in this economic climate, many families are one pay check away from losing an apartment or a home.
    Illness in a family who depends on hourly wages has a profound effect on a family. If you are ill, you cannot work. Middle class teacher do not understand.
    Families are in trouble because of family violence, physical, social and emotional abuse, as a parent lashes out at loved ones, not knowing what else to do. Anger is a result of fear for not caring for a child.
    Children are victims of their economic situation. They do not cause it.
    Parents have to work shifts, especially single parent families. They cannot always be home.
    Families can lose homes due to situations beyond their control: fire, theft, and for those who cannot afford home or tenant insurance, they will be left with nothing.
    Children in newly divorced families often will face vastly changed financial circumstances. Many are, again, embarrassed to admit that they do not have money for those expensive school activities. Privately, they might want help and help they should get.

    What can teachers do?
    • Figure out what the behaviours mean.
    • Understand them, and look beyond the picture that they present. One day, with your help, they can rise above their poverty. They need someone to believe in them.
    • Prevent bullying by kids who make fun of those who are different. 
    • Approach your principal who will have funds, or contact the Family Council in your school. They will provide funds for kids who cannot afford to go on valuable field trips.  
    • Provide healthy snacks, give them free milk, with no fuss made.
    • Raid the 'lost and found' for clothes. 
    • Many large big box stores have funds to provide clothes, or pay for supplies for these children.
    • The snowsuit fund has a marvelous program.
    • Buy the child, with a parent who cannot get her up on time, an alarm clock. A simple solution.
    • Contact local agencies for help: Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Red Cross, local churches, synagogues, or mosques.
    • Pay for the child to visit the breakfast club, if you have one. If not, create one. This is a terrific way to help kids get a start on the day.
    • Create an after-school club. Seek parent volunteers, or funding through YWCA, or Youth Programs.
    • Understand that it is not the child's fault. They want to be just like their peers. 
    • Offer the student the school shower, if they need a shower. Again, the parent/teachers association can provide towels and soap for these kids. Even a change of clothes. One of our best volunteers, formerly the parent of kids in the school, now a grandparent to a couple of our students, lived across the road. She could help out by taking clothes home and washing them.
    • Understand your demographics. Many classrooms have a wide range of socioeconomic levels. As a newly single parent, I was up to my eyeballs in debt: finding first and last month's rent (even as a full-time, employed teacher) was difficult until I got back on my feet. A husband who cut off my December child support (at the whim of his lawyer to force me to settle) rendered Christmas impossible. Meeting the needs of my children was difficult. 
    • Realize that working class families are working hard for that reason: they are working because they need the money. My son's classroom teacher was demanding $5 per week for arts and crafts activities, which I could not scrape up. I wrote a letter to the teacher, copied to the principal, explaining that this was beyond my means.
    Many children rise above poverty, verbal abuse, neglect, to achieve and give back to society. Do not let them slip through your fingers. Give them a soft place to land. Give them hope, love and, above all, discipline and self-discipline, values and morals. We owe it to society for being part of the educational system.

      Cartoon courtesy: Graeme MacKay @

      Tuesday, January 5, 2010

      discipline in middle school

      Discipline in Middle Schools

      How important it is to have administrative support in this area. Over the years we have been hard-pressed to find principals willing to risk the ire of parents and the press in establishing tough standards of behaviour in some areas. The very best schools have a time out room which wasn't fun, where a teacher can monitor students who are disinclined to allow their peers to get an education.

      The Toronto District School Board is debating the issue of middle school students from leaving the school during lunch time [NP]. The theory is to prevent them from visiting convenience stores where they might access unhealthy on potato chips, chocolate bars, and caffeinated cola.
      Aside from the health concerns, I think it a good idea to keep such kids on the property. I think they ought to keep unmonitored kids out of the hair of store owners.

      It is impossible for the school to monitor the kids. I imagine store owners would rather keep kids away from potential trouble, and on school yards. Having worked in a middle school, I have seen the behaviour of kids, in the company of possibly trouble makers who may be prone to showing off in peer's company.

      Creative Writing Class #1

      I have begun a Creative Writing Class in a local institution. It is interesting preparing curriculum for adult writers, with varied life experiences. I am recording my curriculum, reflecting on the actual class, and rewriting my "Night Book" (as the classes are at night) to determine what worked, what we did or did not do as a group, and ideas to explore for further classes.

      1. Introductions
      2. Myths about writing =  barriers to success
      • Spelling counts
      • Must write perfectly every time, and that mistakes are not allowed
      • Must follow one path to success
      • Must come out with specific knowledge, skills and values
      • Must meet particular time constraints.
      • I don't know the mechanics about writing: how to spell, write, proper grammar
      Barriers to adult learners occur when learners feel they are haunted by bad teachers, past mistakes, or 'they have nothing to write about'.

      3. Why are you here?  What do you want from the program? Why do you write?
      4. Set up notebooks: a title page, 3 pages for table of contents, another page for Writing Prompts.
      5. Ground rules: behaviour, attitude, respect for one another's sensibilities.
      6. Timed writing. On a fresh page, write the date, and the words: I remember...
      For 2 minutes participants finish the sentence. No erasures, no worrying about form or mechanics. Simply start a new paragraph and a new sentence.
      7. Teach the concept of a poem by taking one paragraph, eliminating the unnecessary words. Share poems with the group. No pressure. Give suggestions for refinements.
      8. What is the writing process all about? What steps do good writers follow?
      9. Homework: read, write, every day, a lot.
      Poetry starters: see these posts. Begin with the I remember ...
      as a timed writing...

      Then, the words have to be rewritten. Ask them to try to use adjectives, to be specific about the kind of cat, what is it that they see, hear, smell? Make it present tense, if you wish...

      I remember first view
      meowing cat inside metal cage
      happily rubbing on the bars  
      he watches me
      meows again  
      pick him up  
      enfold him into my life

      Monday, January 4, 2010

      The Use of Autobiography as therapy


      This paper is an exploration of a Gestalt approach in the therapeutic process with seniors, as incorporated in the field of autobiography. My work with seniors (Jilks, 2007a) has led to this avenue of research, which I hope to apply to future practice. An increasing population of seniors has required that we rethink the demands made upon the health care system and better prevent mental health issues, rather than remediate them. Recent research (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007), and government policy agenda (LHIN, 2007) in the area of Aging at Home will mean that with seniors no longer be requiring Long-Term Care (LTC) homes, require some support to physically, socially and emotionally manage their lives in their own homes. It is apparent from Canadian research (Fenton, Cole, Engelsmann, & Mansouri, 1994) that older clients suffer silently from depression. This paper will present a strategy to combat the vagaries of old age, allow the senior to taste, embrace and revisit their lives, and present the benefits of the treatment afforded by a Gestalt-based autobiographical process.
      The benefits of new techniques to utilize a modern concept of autobiography are presented beginning with theoretical perspectives, implications for clients, implications for therapists, and conclusions from the research. I will refer to the therapist using the female gender, the client the male, to simplify this work and make clearer the dance of therapist and client

      Theoretical Perspectives

      The early work of psychoanalysts, behaviourists, and Gestalt therapists, has influenced more recent developments. The field of psychodynamic and behavioural models of therapy has reformed with new post-modern knowledge, thought, research and understandings. The Gestalt approach to therapy was influenced by revolutionary changes in science, philosophy, religion, psychology, art, literature, and politics (Yontef & Jacobs, 2008). Client-centred and Gestalt therapy demands that the therapist responds with congruency to the client, in a team-based approach. The therapist is taken off her pedestal and the client was removed from the couch, with client-generated data being seen as valuable and intrinsic to the therapeutic process. This approach has been both experimental and subjective, something new to the psychological world that had striven to become more objective, scientific, and accepted in a world peopled by those who espouse clinically-based experiments to prove their work.
      As Yontef said (1993) there are no ‘shoulds’ in therapy. Gestalt therapy is a process-based therapy that focuses on perceptions, feelings and action. It is crucial that a dialogue be created between therapist and client. The phenomenology in the client-therapist relationship became valued within this approach. In this dialogic therapeutic relationship the therapist is given license to feel what the client feels, without losing herself in the process (Yontef & Jacobs, 2008). The therapist recognizes the client as being other, but accepting that as the therapist studies the client, she will be changed in the process. In this respect, the relationship mimics that of the student and teacher. During this relationship both will be changed and will learn through the challenges or demands required by a unique individual who requires individual and unique strategies.
      Yontef (1993) states four requirements for therapeutic relationships: inclusion, presence, commitment to dialogue, and dialogue that is lived. For those for whom dialogue is difficult, Gestalt techniques can incorporate various facets of the arts: drama, visual art, music, movement, sand play and various means by which the therapist engages the client. In Gestalt therapy the client is encouraged to move towards self-realization using internal and external senses, to be self-responsive and self-supportive. Existential therapy, such as the Thematic Apperception Test, the empty chair technique, and other work designed to focus on the here and now, and on human interrelationships, focuses work on directly experienced suffering in the present in an open-ended Gestalt practice (Yontef & Jacobs, 2008).
      For clients, family members and therapists reading and writing autobiographies have been found to be helpful in understanding issues, and clarifying courses of therapy (Sommer, 2001).  To that end, there are publications that have resource lists of autobiographies available for those who suffer from mental health issues (Norcross, Sommer, & Clifford, 1998). Sommer advocates for the sharing of stories on the part of clients. Stories can offer us consolation for suffering and, rather than aiming for happy endings, they help us work through our present reality, as it is shaped by our past. It is an active reconstruction that integrates past and present to develop optimism for the future. It helps the client to restore, maintain or enhance a sense of personal meaning and facilitates two meaning-making processes: transcendence, to rise above a current situation and to transform, through cognitive restructuring. 

      Implications for Clients

      Bacigalupe (1996) suggested that fostering written autobiographical responses by the client is a creative response for institutional, cultural, ethnic, class and gender discrimination. Rather than the therapist writing about the client, she can engage the client in a dialogue unfiltered by the language of academia, and give the client his voice. In post-modern family therapy, this infuses the therapeutic relationship with more equality, making the client and therapist co-participants in the process. Some therapists use a letter writing approach (Bastien,  & Jacobs, 1974; McAllister & Wolff, 2002).
      In education it has become tradition, if not expected practice, to require students to write journals (Jilks, 1998; Jilks, 2005; Jilks, 2006). Much can arise from journaling in that the writer can open up, with uncensored freedom, to develop thoughts and reveal emotions in a safe manner, much in the way that reading a suspense novel is much less scary than viewing a movie in its raw, bleeding colour. The benefits of journal writing, aside from the expectation of literacy, provide much in the way of therapy. Adams (1990) found that self-expression, stress reduction, and stronger relationships could result from journal writing. In the safety of the client-therapist relationship a client can pursue issues, create dialogues, freeze-frame emotional events, explore roads not taken, and imagine goals.
      In an exploration of existential predictors of psychological well-being Fry (2000) explored expressions of well-being with frail seniors. Health complications of the frail elderly have been the topic of an increasing number of funding dollars (LHIN, 2007). Prevention of cognitive disabilities includes keeping the mind alert, as well as physical exercise to keep the body healthy. The situation of the aged holds a special difficulty for those who have lost some meaning in their lives: loss of relationships (at work, or the loss of a spouse), work productivity, financial conditions of retirement and old age, the inability to be as mobile, as well as physical demands of the aging process, with a loss of choice of home or activities that results in a frustration that is palpable in Long-Tern Care group settings. Fry found a significance of an existential paradigm that incorporated religious activity, private prayer, and an affirming psychological and spiritual wellbeing.

      Implications for Therapists

      For some clients for whom face-to-face discussion is difficult, and social interaction has been an issue, the field of the arts presents a safe vehicle for an exploration, while helping the therapist better understand the client. For others, auditory, visual or kinesthetic learners, allowing the client to rehearse or present their stories on paper, using multi-media or visual arts,   presents an opportunity to begin a session feeling comfortably prepared.
      Stone (n.d.) lists 45 therapies and the 72 methods of counselling in which one can be trained. There are many choices for the therapist who wisely keeps a portfolio of choices from which to begin engaging the client. Traditionally the therapist has spent her time writing about the client, rather than to or for the purpose of engaging responses. The purpose of writing has been to prescribe, educate, communicate and clarify directives, or post-session information for a team or a report. Writing for, to and with the client holds promise for exploring the client’s psychological well-being.
      Over time, before free access to writing materials, humans have told and retold their stories through myths and legends around campfires. Shamans used tools and storytelling techniques to help teach and as tools to educate. First Peoples legends retell stories of their nation (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2001). These stories allowed humans to revisit, and restore peace and harmony to their world, to re-examine and dramatize the human condition. The telling of an autobiography helps the client find a firmer footing in the present, as he is able to look back and differentiate between past and present.
      It is through keeping meaning in our lives that we find a meaningful existence.  To restore meaning requires that the therapist find a technique by which we value our existence. The client and the therapist become pattern-makers (Epston, 1986), changing from pattern-finders as the view of history helps the client understand his present. Using this process the therapist need not consider: if a client reads files and clinical notes, would he understand or appreciate what I have written? With the client co-writing his story, it becomes more authentic and transforms the therapeutic relationship, reframing the process.
      Part of the work with clients includes work with their families. As a caregiver for parents in palliative care, work must be undertaken with this group of individuals. For seniors with dementia, there is impact on the senior, as well as the family, who might have to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. Using autobiography can help caregivers engage in reflexive dialogue, share care planning, and work through the bereavement process to construct emotional and physical care strategies in a negotiated clinical response to current life situations (Keady, Ashcroft-Simpson, Halligan, & Williams, 2007). Reflexive accounts, such as the aforementioned, assist the client (in this case the daughter as caregiver) to identify issues that concern professionals involved in the palliative care process. Integrating narrative approaches helps client and therapist negotiate new ways of working in mental health care.
      Clark (2004) found that early recollections are widely integrated in personality and innovative directions are being included in investigations into recollections, cultural differences, and early memory metaphors that all add to the reference points available to the analyst. O’Reilly and Edgar (1987) offer a five-phase Therapeutic Memoir Technique to confront and reinterpret mistaken beliefs and shape the therapeutic process: Introductory, Exploration, Confrontation, Reinterpretation and Redirection, using photographs from the formative years to illustrate constructs in early recollections. These photographs can be used to shape writing practice, or enable those with limited writing skills, to work with a therapist in a different medium.


      Using journal prompts (Jilks, 2006) the client can identify issues they would like to explore. Several writers, including Goldberg (1986, 1990, & 1993), recommend 5 minute timed writings during which time the writer responds to a prompt until the time is exhausted. This type of writing opens up the mind to inner feelings and emotions, without censorship or criticism. The client must be guided to let go of concerns around the mechanics of writing, i.e., spelling, penmanship or grammar, to simply produce a free-flowing thought. While some clients are asked to report and record data to the therapist (Bacigalupe, 1996), this type of writing, which may be autobiographical in nature, demands something more from the client. This empowers the client and gives them ownership of the process.
      There are several methods from which to choose, i.e., Epston, 1986.  A widely popular text, The Freedom Writer's Diary (Gruwell, 1990) demonstrates the beauty and simplicity of sharing our stories and the therapeutic benefits and the self-confidence that ensues as the facilitator can accept and better understand life experiences of the writer in a Gestalt approach. It opens up the inner imaginings to both client and therapist, as they take their journey together along the path of self-discovery.
      Traditionally, writing in the elementary panel has consisted of creative writing assignments that do little to produce personal narratives. As adults most of our writing is expository, rather than narrative. Writing about life experience brings the best of both worlds. Autobiography gives meaning and place to experiences and firmly guides a process. Blogs have become a frequent practice for seniors who want to share their life experiences (Garfield, 2007). The therapist is wise to tap this strategy previously used by the young, to assist those in their twilight years to share ideas, explore their feelings and communicate. For this reason, some educators are taking the process further by the addition of e-portfolios. In projects, such as Ice storm ’98 (Jilks, 1998), students can write for a purpose, communicate their feelings, fears, beliefs and experiences in a safe, supervised environment. The writing process is a monologue that can illuminate and provide a therapeutic release (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2002) especially if used in conjunction with graphics and self-chosen illustrations that give time, colour, and place to our experiences.
      Gutheil and Chernesky (2006) recommend a service-learning partnership between seniors and students studying geriatrics. Benefits accrued by having young people develop more positive attitudes and understandings of seniors. Having these students assist the senior in creating an autobiography as an effective means of promoting collaboration between the generations.


      There is much published in the use of Gestalt-based work in art therapy (Sterns Books n.d.), psychodrama (Blatner, 2007), music therapy (Ashida, 2000; Bennett, & Maas, 1988; Lord, & Garner, 1993; Pollack, & Namazi, 1992) as metaphors of experience. It has been twenty-eight years since I last explored the field of psychology, sociology and the work of the existentialists. In hindsight, during my work as educator, writer (Jilks, 2007b) and researcher, it is apparent in the field of education that there is a profound influence in curriculum strategies from these fields. In the 70s we incorporate work in self-esteem and self-concept as our knowledge increased in devises methods to allow students to feel confident enough to take risks and participate thoroughly in the learning process (Canfield & Siccone, 1994). Over the years it has become acceptable and laudable for educators to do work with students in the areas of self-concept, self-esteem (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004). My work with a Reading Buddies Program (Jilks, 2004) provided some basis for this type of work. It is possible to apply this knowledge and research to the senior’s population and integrate a holistic approach to case management. More work is required in issues such as the abuse of the elderly (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2007). My premise is that autobiographical work can prevent, work through, or diagnose such issues.
      One could take this process further using multimedia (Jilks, 2007a; Kadjer, 2003) to create an autobiography based on scanned photographs, creating movies with music, poetry and other personally meaningful artifacts, to redefine the present self. Recently, life-changing events, such as funerals and weddings, have included slideshows with family photographs. It would seem more logical to celebrate one’s life before the time of bereavement to celebrate a life well-lived.
      Further research is required to further refine and develop this process-a topic for another paper. As humans take part in their quest for meaning, therapists can faciliate a process, created for individual clients, to ensure that healthy seniors may improve their quality of life. I have learned much in the course of this research and laud the opportunity to further develop my knowledge base.

      References: see next post

      Writing as therapy - references

      1. Adams, K. (1990). Journal to the self: Twenty-two paths to personal growth - open the door to self-understanding by reading, writing, and creating a journal. New York: Warner Books.
      2. Ashida, S. (2000).  The effect of reminiscence music therapy sessions on changes in depressive symptoms in elderly persons with dementia.  Journal of Music Therapy, 37, 170-182.
      3. Bacigalupe, G. (1996). Writing in therapy: A participatory approach. Journal of Family Therapy, 18(4), 361–373.
      4. Bastien, S., & Jacobs, A. (1974). Dear Sheila: An experimental study of the effectiveness of written communication as a form of psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 151-162.
      5. Bennett, S. L., & Maas, F. (1988).  The effect of music-based life review on the life satisfaction and ego integrity of elderly people.  British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 5, 433-436.
      6. Blatner, A. (1997). Psychodrama: The state of the art. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 24, 23-30.
      7. Canadian Museum of Civilization (2001). Storytelling: The art of knowledge. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from
      8. Canfield, F., & Siccone, F. (1994). 101 ways to enhance student self-esteem. USA: Allyn & Bacon.
      9. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (2007). The Sunday edition podcast, October 28, 2007. Retrieved October 29, 2007, from
      10. Epston, D. (1986).  Writing your biography. Family Therapy Case Studies, 1, 13-18.
      11. Fakouri, M. E., & Hafner, J. L. (1984). Early recollections of first-borns. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40, 209-213.
      12. Fenton, F. R., Cole, M. G., Engelsmann, F., & Mansouri, I. (1994). Depression in older medical inpatients.  International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 9, 279-284.
      13. Fry, P.S. (1991). Individual differences in reminiscence among older adults: Predictors of frequency and pleasantness ratings of reminiscence activity. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 33, 311-326.
      14. Fry, P. S. (2000). Religious involvement, spirituality and personal meaning for life: Existential predictors of psychological wellbeing in community-residing and institutional care elders. Aging & Mental Health, 4(4), 375-387.
      15. Garfield, M. (2007). My mom’s blog. Retrieved December 8, 2007 from
      16. Goldberg, N. (1986).  Writing down the bones: Freeing the writer within, Boston: Shambhala.
      17. Goldberg, N. (1990). Wildmind: Living the writer’s life. New York: Bantam Books.
      18. Goldberg, N. (1993). Long quiet highway. New York: Bantam Books.
      19. Goldberg, N. (2002). Top of my lungs: Poems and paintings. New York: Overlook Press.
      20. Gutheil, I. A., & Chernesky, R. H. (2006). Influencing student attitudes toward older adults: Results of a service-learning collaboration. Educational Gerontology, 32, 771-784.
      21. Gruwell, E. (1999). The freedom writer’s diary.  New York: Broadway Books.
      22. Hester, R. L. (2004). Early memory and narrative therapy. Journal of Individual Psychology, 60(4), 338-347.
      23. Jilks, J. (1998). Ice storm ’98. Retrieved December 8, 2007 from
      24. Jilks, J. (2004). Reading buddies: 2003/4. Retrieved December 16, 2007, from
      25. Jilks, J. (2005). Literacy and technology infusion: Multimedia projects for teachers and students. Retrieved December 8, 2007 from
      26. Jilks, J. (2006). Literacy strategies. Retrieved December 8, 2007 from
      27. Jilks, J. (2007a). Aging at home project strategy. Retrieved November 30, 2007 from
      28. Jilks, J. (2007b). Article publication list. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from
      29. Kajder, S. (2003). The tech savvy English classroom. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
      30. Keady, J., Ashcroft-Simpson, S., Halligan, K., & Williams, S. (2007). Admiral nursing and the family care of a parent with dementia: using autobiographical narrative as grounding for negotiated clinical practice and decision-making.  Scandinavian Journal of Caring Science, 21, 345-353.
      31. LHIN (2007). North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network: Aging at home project. Retrieved December 5, 2007, from
      32. Lord, T. R., & Garner, J. E. (1993). Effects of music on Alzheimer’s patients.  Perceptual and Motor Skills, 76, 451-455.
      33. McAllister, C. H., & Wolff, M. C. (2002). Letters never sent: Tending to unfinished business. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 15 (4), 187-193.
      34. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2004). Me read? No way! A practical guide to improving boy’s literacy skills. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from
      35. Norcross, J. C., Sommer, R., & Clifford, J. S. (1998). A bibliography of mental patients autobiographies. American Journal of Psychiatry, 55, 1261-1264.
      36. O'Reilly, B., & Edgar, T. (1987). Therapeutic memoir technique. Individual Psychology: The Journal of Adlerian Theory, Research & Practice, 43(2), 148-159.
      37. Pollack, N. J., & Namazi, K. H. (1992). The effects of music participation on the social behaviour of Alzheimer’s disease patients.  Journal of Music Therapy, 29, 54-67.
      38. Sommer, R. (2001). The use of autobiography in Psychotherapy. Conference paper of the American Psychological Association. August 24-28, 2001. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED458455
      39. Sterns Books. (n.d.) Art therapy resource book list. Retrieved December 3, 2007, from
      40. Stone, J. D. (n.d.). I am university. Retrieved December 8, 2007, from
      41. Yontef, G., & Jacobs, L. (2008).  Gestalt therapy. In R. J. Corsini & D. Wedding (Eds.), Current psychotherapies (8th edition) (pp. 328-367). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole – Thomson Learning.
      42. Yontef, G. (1993). Gestalt therapy: An introduction. Retrieved December 8, 2008, from

      Ancient Greece project

      My student created and videotaped their 2005 projects. One group presented in this split grade class, while the others taped it. They edited their own iMovies.

      Sunday, January 3, 2010

      Differentiation of program

      This is a model I created regarding the depth and breadth of knowledge, skills and values lessons. The higher we go, in terms ofwhat me must know, could learn and what we might learn increases opportunities for students to investigate new ideas, build dendrites and expand their abilities to create new knowledge and engage in fundamental learning strategies that will help them become lifelong learners.

      Yet, not all students are suited (emotionally, cognitively,  temporally) to achieve at the highest levels. I believe this a myth. All children can learn, but to varying degrees and abilities. At their own pace, at their own speed and in their own ways.

      Saturday, January 2, 2010

      Integration of the Learning Disabled Student


      Brophy (1988) says that the demands that are being made of teachers negates their abilities to develop and plan their own curriculum, in order to meet the needs of their students, and I heartily agree.

      How To's - a practical approach

      All of the current books written on integrating the special student agree that there is a structure which must be in place before an integration project will be successful. One of the most important qualifications is a supportive administration because of the need for pedagogical, theoretical and financial support in order to help the teacher meet the needs of special students in large classes.

      The Principal

      The book "Changing Canadian Schools" (Porter & Richler, 1991) cites many ways in which the principal must take a leadership role:

      -allow for transitional planning time
      -prepare the teachers for the process
      -enhance teacher expectations and attitudes
      -expand resources
      -schedule preparation time
      -enhance and use support services [which indicates a prerequisite knowledge of same]
      -meet with teachers regularly
      -share experiences and problem solve
      -establish school-based teams
      -increase communications between staff members
      -support and select teachers carefully
      -assign teacher assistants
      -reward successes and promote public awareness of these programmes

      The principal must have strengths in the areas of staff management as well as special education, not to mention finding spare budget money for allocation of release time and support services. This is a difficult task and, in addition to all the other demands made on principal's time, these supports may not be there. Many schools are attempting to institute the collaborative, team-teaching philosophy in Special Education: the Universities are providing courses which endorse and propound this style, yet some school boards and principals are not giving teachers the time and class sizes necessary in order to achieve such goals. The frustrations felt by many are increasing. The number of teachers facing stress and burnout are rising. The Carleton Board of Education has five times the number of teachers off on Long Term Disability leave than is the norm for our population.

      The Teacher

      The classroom teacher must be an exemplary teacher and possess many skills in order to meet the needs of the special learner. Lewis and Doorlag (1983) outline a series of steps teachers can follow to meet the needs of the individual learner:

      1. Get information on the types of disabilities of a student.

      2. Develop him/herself by developing the skills necessary to manage classroom with large numbers of multi-disabled students . [Collaborative teaching, developing IEPs, running efficient classrooms, teaching smarter not harder.]

      3. Think positively: the task can be accomplished. The teacher, as the academic focus, must take the direction and control of the classroom. S/he must have high expectations for students, make the students accountable, encourage co-operation not competition and maintain a positive, effective climate.

      4. Know personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as strengths and weaknesses of individual students. Teach study skills and strategies in order to streamline the academic process and encourage learners to take responsibility for their own education: how to review new information, study for tests, note-taking, managing homework, teach revision strategies.

      5. Insist on in-service training. Learn to modify materials and activities. Learn behaviour management techniques: nondistracting settings, study carols, control distractions.

      6. Seek the appropriate assistance: ensure that it is a group effort: the SERU, Principal and the support services team. Learn and live the collaborative approach to special education.

      7. Utilize parents. This is becoming more difficult since many parents must, or may choose, to work. I find it difficult getting organized enough to phone parents and plan ahead enough to call them in.

      8. Prepare the other students for the integration of the learning disabled child by developing a positive attitude and explaining, appropriately curriculum modifications to their peers.

      9. Embrace these assumptions:

      a) All students can learn. [It is our responsibility to find the teaching method or approach that will reach them.]

      b) Learning is a process of change. [Assimilating new information, changing old ideas or beliefs and integrating the new and the old information.]

      c) Teaching involves the manipulation of the environment.

      d) The management of behaviour is simply the collection of data: developing antecedents and consequences of behaviour. [A child isn't bad or stupid, we must find their learning channels and we can change their behaviours through behaviour management programmes.]

      10. Smile. [At least laugh! Some days this may be the most difficult item!]

      Peer Tutoring

      Many schools, especially in the high schools and beyond, students are being trained and encouraged to tutor peers. This provides a great deal of support to the learner who feels as if s/he is all alone. In Manotick we have lunch time buddies for our Down's Syndrome student. Certainly this is an approach that could work for academic problems as well.

      Practical Applications Within the Curriculum

      Bloom's Taxonomy - One very practical method of differentiating curriculum is the utilization of Bloom's higher order thinking skills. The Gifted learner can explore subject matter in more independent learning contracts while the learning disabled students can work within small groups on a collaborative basis, receive tutoring from the teacher and work on skills they may need to develop before they are able to move to the higher order thinking skills. The beauty of this approach is that the differentiated programme is not so obviously differentiated from regular student to the learning disabled student and the gifted student. Students are very aware of "reading groups" and who is doing less difficult work. Fortunately, with Whole Language and group work, differentiation of programme is less obvious.


      Simmons, Fuchs & Fuchs (1991) believe that teachers have access to many excellent curriculum packages which can be adapted to the class with integrated students. However, it is difficult, with time constraints, class sizes and the demands of the instructional environment, to tailor these materials to the instructional needs of the Learning Disabled student.

      Collaborative grouping in the L.A. periods can facilitate a better understanding of materials and encourage learning disabled students to develop to their intellectual potential, rather than being limited by their specific disability. The Learning Disabled also need to participate in thinking tasks, not just answer lower level comprehension questions. Co-operative learning benefits many students. It does require teaching experience and organization on the part of the teacher, however. It requires a time commitment in order to prepare the work. The materials; reference materials, strategies and access to learning materials.

      Another important part of the curriculum for the integrated class is the teaching of such skills such as skimming, reading for details, making predictions, and developing close techniques to practice grammar skills. These are valuable tools that the L.D. , as well as the average ( which includes high and low averages) learner, need to learn to use. Many students have slipped by in a system where class sizes are too large and children are allowed to slip through the cracks. We must teach learning and coping strategies in the elementary panel before it is a band-aid measure rather than a preventative measure. A colleague promoted a student to the next grade last year with the proviso that he receives SERU support in order to ensure that progress was realized. The help has not been forthcoming. The student is still struggling. These are the students who fall into a hole they can't climb out of. They are the high school dropouts who have mild disabilities and are carried forward on the tide until they sink because they can't swim.

      Another strategy helps students in evaluating their own learning: students need to learn to think about thinking: Gearheart (1992) suggests a WISE approach:

      1. Were your goals met?

      2. Itemize important information: review class notes, highlight important information, seek clarification of mysteries.

      3. See how information can be remembered: mnemonic devices, vocabulary list, a list of important details.

      4. Explain what you learned. Rethink, or rewrite, notes in your own words and discuss key points with others.

      This strategy seems more helpful in the late junior and intermediate grades where the lecture technique is practised but never taught. Children need to learn how to benefit from many teaching strategies but we must equip them properly. It could also be used within active learning science activities and to prepare for tests.


      Learning Disabled students, by their nature, have ability levels which are incongruent. Many times their auditory/verbal channels for receiving and processing information far exceed their abilities to communicate in written language. The logical step for the teacher is to teach writing revision strategies in order to encourage students to utilize the best written/expressive vocabulary possible. Many students avoid more complex words in fear of mistakes and those ugly red marks for teachers are known. Thanks to concepts such as "invented spelling" many learners are learning to cope with spelling disabilities, for example, by using wise strategies and other helps: spell checker.

      Gearheart et al (1992) includes a description of two strategies which are helpful for the writer. They recommend the integration of the TOWER and COPS strategies.


      THINK about what you want to write about. Formulate some ideas and brainstorm possibilities.

      ORDER ideas. Develop an outline or structure to organize your ideas and plan which ideas will come where.

      WRITE. Develop a draft of your writing, write down all of the thoughts, research or factual information without worrying about corrections. Draw a line through all mistakes, without erasing, in order to preserve all thought/ideas which may be re-included later on. This gives the teacher an idea of the thought processes of students are undergoing and which ideas are giving them problems.

      EDIT. Students should use the COPS process at this stage.

      REWRITE. After the editing process final copies of the writing can be written.


      CAPITALIZATION - Are all proper nouns, names and first words of sentences capitalized?

      OVERALL- How does the paper look overall? Are sections properly spaced? Are the pieces of paper neat and free of extraneous marks?

      PUNCTUATION - Have I included periods,commas, question marks and exclamation marks where appropriate?

      SPELLING - Have I checked spelling? Have I asked a friend or parent to check the writing for corrections?

      I believe that these tools can provide helps for students. It is especially helpful for the overworked educator with a large number of students and wide range of ability levels. I have used it and given each student a copy of it for their binders. I shall see if it works. It is difficult to monitor with so many students.


      I came across an interesting study which looked at the homework practices of teachers (Salend and Schiff, 1989). The study was relatively small (71 Special Educators) and was restricted to teachers of the L.D. but it does cite fifteen studies which reported many suggestions applicable to the integrated teacher. These guidelines, the authors believe, increase the effectiveness of this tool, applicable for all learners.

      The article pointed out the importance of explaining the purpose of the homework to the student and checking to see that it is done. Following up on homework requires time management skills, especially with the 33 students who are with me for Math. One suggestion in this article is checking those students who may be at risk, first. I have tended to collect everyone's book but the timing is difficult, once you collect the books, children can't take it home for homework and you are inevitably called to the phone, leaving this enormous stack of books on your desk. Inevitably the SERU teacher walks in and wants to have a mini-case conference. [Well, usually she wants to report test results to me...] Lately I have used this practice and find it much saner and simpler. Colleagues suggest collecting five books at a time but this means that you have their books and homework may not get done should you not get them marked before the end of the day. Also, it means that some students may be off on the wrong tangent, misunderstanding the work, while finishing off the rest of the assignment!

      Only about 10 % of the teachers who participated in the study required parents to sign the homework. Again, I have found it valuable to maintain such a practice in order to help encourage some relatively simple communication between home and school, and because it encourages parents to look at the work. I believe, too, that we should encourage parents to assist the students. It helps if another adult can explain a concept to a student. It is the parent, after all, who knows their child and their learning style the best. Many parents say that they were "exactly the same when they were a student"!

      Exemplary Teaching Practices


      Framing is a practice outlined in Simmons, et al (1991) which prepares the student for what s/he is about to learn by explaining what skill is going to be taught, what they will learn, how they'll use this skill and why it is important. (See appendix for a sample framing template.) Framing gives the learner a goal and an investment in the learning activity and the process. They see the work to be done and it gives them something to aim for, goals to work through and an end to the activity is in sight.

      Instructional Sequence

      Lewis & Doorlag (1983) talk about breaking down the learning process into six fundamental steps that teachers should follow in order to ensure that objectives are met.

      1. Review, check previous day's work.

      2. Present new content/skills.

      3. Guide student practice and check for understanding.

      4. Feedback and correctives and reteach, if necessary.

      5. Independent student practice.

      6. Weekly and monthly reviews.

      I must admit that this is not a process I practice consciously. Usually we move right from one E.S. topic to the next. Our Math textbook, which I follow carefully, practices these techniques. There have to some areas where we can work smarter, not harder, and I don't tend to differentiate math for my students. I do so extensively in other subject areas, though.


      Ken Chuska recently spoke to Ottawa-Carleton educators and he pointed out that while we have always believed that Gifted students must be able to practice and refine higher order thinking skills, it is as imperative that the Learning Disabled, indeed all students, be given this opportunity as well. In fact, many gifted L.D. students are weeded out of gifted programmes because those involved don't feel that they can handle the work required. I believe that this is the fault of the educators and must be corrected. I have a background in gifted education, I've been published several times (Gifted Child Today,J/F '87 & M/A '88 and in the FWTAO Newsletter, F/M '90) I believe that our gifted programmes, in many schools, are sadly focused on the cognitive curriculum to the detriment of the affective mode.

      A. L. Costa has written extensively in the book: The School As a Home For the Mind, about the need for educators, not only to teach students to "think about their thinking" but educators must think about their teaching. He believes, and I'm sure we can agree, that schools can be intellectually depressing places. We are isolated and have little of the thinking time that is required in order to live the metacognitive philosophy. We lack a sense of power, philosophies are handed down from above, without collaboration, input or discussion. He believes that teaching is a complex, intelligent act which is reduced to a series of formulas and steps, again, handed down from above. A teacher's unique characteristics: " vision, creativity, altruism and intellectual prowess" suffer under the present system. We cannot be the innovators we could be without a common vision of schools as a "home for the mind". This vision must be shared by staff, administration, trustees, school boards and directors, but it is not. As with most things which directly affect children, the bottom line is the bottom line.

      Very briefly, metacognition for the students follow the following steps:

      *describe what they know and what they need to know/want to learn
      *describe what data are lacking and their plans for producing those data
      *describe their plan of action before they begin to solve a problem
      *list the steps and tell where they are in the sequence of a problem strategy
      *trace the pathways and blind alleys they took on the road to problem solution

      Before beginning lessons teachers should outline the purpose of the lesson, the learning outcomes and the goals or purposes for learning these skills. This gives the student a sense of the long-term reason for their education: they are not memorizing facts to be regurgitated on a test, to earn a mark on a report card.

      Peer Coaching

      Costa advocates Peer Coaching as an ideal way for teachers to safely improve their teaching practices in a non-threatening way. It is a metacognitive strategy to help teachers to think about their thinking and measure whether their practices match their theories and philosophies. Again, Peer Coaching requires a principal's co-operation and a divestment of funds in order to provide the release time necessary for peers to observe peers. It is a teaching/learning strategy that requires teachers to think about their thinking and think about their teaching. A teacher modelling metacognition inspires students to use the same model, to aspire for intrinsic motivation and learn to question the how's and the whys of the universe.

      Team Teaching is a wonderful avenue for teachers if they choose to utilize the Peer Coaching strategy. It is difficult to implement, however, unless one can find like-minded peers and an adequate space.


      I came across a very interesting study (Slavin, et al, 1991)which outlines a "never streaming" philosophy practised in Baltimore. The programme uses a preventative approach with the young reader, which recognizes the need of early intervention, especially for socio-economically deprived students who may not have been exposed to good reading and writing role models. The Success For All programme's purpose (see Slavin et al, 1990) is to ensure that all students reach the third grade with their age peers, mastering basic skills in language acquisition. Obviously this school board has decided that the allocation of funds for this programme is a worthwhile expenditure by preventing problems, rather than remediating them at a later date, for increased costs.

      Students who are at risk are identified in first grade and they receive one-on-one tutoring from certified teachers for 20 minutes per day. Most tutors are parent volunteers who are untrained and poorly supervised, who lack an understanding of basic pedagogy. The programme also provides family support services which focus on the parent-school relationship. A family support team provides intervention strategies where appropriate: truancy, health, vision or hearing problems.

      There is a project facilitator who works in each school. The facilitator manages the 8 week assessments, visits teacher, co-ordinates and organizes meetings among school staffs . A follow-up programme ensures that the child maintains the achievements in grades 2 to 5. A study(ibid) of Abbottston school has found that not a single child in third grade is achieving two years below grade level in reading, compared to a control group in which 10% of students do fall within these parameters.

      Another study which compared student/teacher interactions in resource rooms and in the regular classroom (Hall, 1991) found that teacher behaviours in the regular classroom can not and could not meet the needs of the Learning Disabled students. Teachers in a resource room are "more effective in supporting learning-disabled children academically." They found that teachers in a resource room were more able to cater to individual needs by offering more personal contact, she did less recitation and sustained more feed-back and managed to find more wait-time (response to question time), than the regular classroom teacher has time for. "Sustaining feedback" was defined as the process of "asking subsequently clarifying questions to students who make an incorrect response". The regular classroom teacher, with 32 or 33 other students can't give this kind of time to all of the students, everyone is so anxious to participate, and deserve to answer questions, have time to talk about their ideas and themselves, but can't be given this kind of attention in the crowded classrooms in which we are forced to teach. Students are competing for teacher attention, calling out, interrupting their peers in frantic bids for recognition. In fact, the resource room teacher can do this and yet the study showed that the resource room was more work-oriented than the regular classroom. A great deal of time is spent in regular classes maintaining order, changing activities and regaining crowd control.

      In further studies, Ashman (1991) has stated that meta-analysis has found nothing out for certain: "ambiguous findings" in the value of integration as compared to segregated settings.

      "Integration may not be the critical issue, the important factor may be the quality of programs that are provided within mainstreamed and segregated programs already in place".

      Many studies are focusing on the socialization needs of pupils, rather than the academic needs and that there are very few children who are integrated in subjects in which they are performing more than two grades below age level. He also says that there is a great deal of concern regarding the present "pull-out" model of education; discontinuity between programmes (SERU vs. classroom teachers), inadequate communication, social stigma attached to pull-out programmes, and limited academic progress. Yet, there are serious, documented shortcomings and the "in-class" model has not been found to guarantee that learning and the transfer of learning takes place. In fact studies show that the one major guarantee of success, the major prerequisite to such an approach is enough collaboration time built into the programme between involved staff members simply does not exist.

      A further study by Deno, et al (1990) found that after examining three integrated models: the Minnesota School Effectiveness Project (MEEP), the Companion Reading Program and the Data-Based Intervention Model, children classified as low-achievers and children with mild learning disabilities did better in integrated programmes but special education students did relatively poorly in both integrated and resource programmes. The only statistically significant finding was that special education students scored significantly higher on spelling if they participated in resource spelling programmes. Their conclusion was that, overall, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that either approach is more appropriate and in fact a major overhaul must take place.



      1. Costa. A.L., (1991) The School As A Home For The Mind, Skylight Publishing, Illinois
      2. Gearheart, B.R., Gearheart, C.J., & Weishahn, M.W., (1992) The Exceptional Student in the Regular Classroom, Maxwell Macmillan Can., Inc.
      3. Lewis, R.B., Doorlag, D.H., (1983)Teaching the Special Education Student in the Mainstream, Merrill Publishing, USA,
      4. Ed., Porter & Richler, (1991) Changing Canadian Schools, The Roeher Institute, Canada,

      Journal Articles

      1. Ashman, A.F., Current Themes in Education. The Exceptional Child, Monograph #2, Queensland University, Australia,n2, 1992 (ERIC 345 461)
      2. Brophy, J. (1988), Research on teacher effects: Uses and abuses, The Elementary School Journal, 89, 3-22
      3. Deno, S., Maruyama, G., Espin, C., Cohen, C., Classrooms:Minnesota Alternatives, Exceptional Children, vol. 57, No.2,pp.150-161
      4. Hall, E. A.,(1991) An Examination of the Process of Teaching Reading to Learning Disabled Children, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association( April,1991), ERIC document 336 894
      5. Reynolds, Hill, Swassing, Ward, (1988),The Effects of Revision Strategy Instruction on the Writing Performance of Students with L.D.,Journal of L.D., vol.21,num. 9, p.540-544
      6. Salend, S.J., Schiff, J., (1989),An Examination of the Homework Practices of Teachers of Students with L.D., Journal of L.D., Vol. 22, num. 10,p.621-623
      7. Simmons,D.C, Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L.S, (1991), Instructional and Curricular Requisites of Mainstreamed Students with L.D., Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 24,num. 6, June/July,p.354-360
      8. Slavin, R.E., Madden, N.A., Karweit, N.L., Dolan, L., Wasik, B.A., Shaw, A., Mainzer, K.L., & Haxby, B., ( 1991) Neverstreaming, Prevention and Early Intervention as an Alternative to Special Education, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 24, num.6, p. 373-378
      b) Slavin,R.E., Madden, N.A., Karweit, N.L., Livermon, B.J. & Dolan, L. (1990), Success For All: First-year outcomes of a comprehensive plan for reforming urban education. American Educational Research Journal, 27,255-278


      1. TOWER Strategy: from The Exceptional Student in the Regular Classroom
      2. Practice instructional template: Instructional and Curricular Requisites of Mainstreamed Students with L.D.
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