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There is a Lot to Learn about Literacy!

Literacy can be simply defined as the ability to read and write, however one could argue, it is just not that simple.

There are an endless number of engaging strategies that teachers use to encourage students to learn to read and write with the goal towards building comprehension and communication skills. But how do we know which strategies are the most effective?

SD8 Kootenay Lake School District has been working closely with literacy consultant Dr. Donna Kozak to launch a district-wide Early Literacy Profile that takes a close look at what supports and tools are needed to better equip primary teachers across the district. Dr. Kozak’s extensive experience in education, and as an adjunct instructor in the area of literacy development at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan, led to the fortuitous collaboration with the cohort of Elementary teacher candidates currently enrolled in the UBC West Kootenay Rural Teacher Education Program.

The SD8 Literacy Coherence pilot project includes hosting 27 elementary teacher candidates from the UBC-West Kootenay Rural Teacher Program (WKTEP) for two in-situ learning opportunities in Kindergarten classrooms across the district, with a focus on reading. For the majority of these student teachers, this is their first opportunity to work directly with students in the classroom, under the mentorship of a primary teacher.

“In-situ experiences are designed for teacher candidates to touch down and explore a practice that we have been learning within their class time, but in the context of an actual classroom” says Susan Maguire, WKTEP Elementary Program Coordinator. “Our student teachers work collaboratively in teams, and can then debrief with one another immediately following an in-situ visit, which also helps them to build confidence and bridge their learning between theory and practice.”

The initiative, which began amidst a global pandemic at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, aims to develop a stronger ‘Community of Practise’ around literacy coherence across the Kootenay Lake School district, as in recent years they were observing an alarming rate of students entering intermediate grades (4-5) with insufficient literacy skills.

“We want to ensure that every learner graduates from grade 3 with confidence in their literacy skills,” says Naomi Ross, District Principal - Innovative Learning Services, “And we want to know whether a shift in how we deliver literacy at the primary level will impact our learners over the long-term. This applies to both our current and potential teacher employees.”

Additional in-situ classroom visits are planned for the new year, with a focus on emergent writing skills, where WKTEP student teachers will be able to also observe student progress since October. 

“Authentic experience in the classroom will help student teachers to understand what excellence looks like for language and literacy in our earliest learners” said Naomi Ross, District Principal -  Innovative Learning Services.

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Naomi Ross, District Principal - Innovative Learning Services