Reading Motivation

A few weeks ago, I teamed up with some fellow pre-service teachers to create a monograph on an issue in literacy. After some time in schools, a couple of our teachers noted a lack of reading motivation in their students. We decided to dive deeper into the situation regarding reading motivation in Ontario, the benefits of increasing reading motivation, and a possible link between reading motivation and comprehension. Here is a summary of our research:


Part of my role as a pre-service teacher is attempting to develop useful learning tools. The next step in this research project was to create a digital learning object in relation to the literacy issue. As I looked to increase reading motivation I found several educators that highlighted the effectiveness of curating a classroom library that created a culture of excitement about reading. I looked to find a tool that did just that – and I think I did!


The tool I found was called Classroom Organizer by Booksource. It is an online tool that curates the books in a classroom library while allowing students to check books in an out. There are many other features too, including individual student accounts, book ratings, book reviews, and detailed student reports. This program seemed like an excellent way to create an excitement around reading and serve as a key part of an educator’s reading motivation strategy.


I used ThingLink to create a digital learning object that aims to familiarize students with the online tool. The following is the final teacher’s guide for my digital learning object. It includes tutorial videos, an assessment for the learning object, and an assessment for overall reading motivation in the classroom. I have also inserted the live learning object.

If you find this tool useful or think you may want to try the learning object in your classroom, please let me know! I am excited to receive any feedback as I look to grow as an educator!

– A


Hamilton Farmer’s Market – An Inquiry Approach

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to volunteer with Zoe Branigan-Pipe (visit her at PipeDreams) and one of her gifted classes. After exploring the wonderful makerspace at the Enrichment and Innovation Centre for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, we took the students into the city centre to explore the Hamilton Farmer’s Market.


The Hamilton Farmer’s Market has been around since 1837, is open all year round and is home to about 60 different vendors. A market is often a hub of a city, a place for gathering, sharing ideas, purchasing local or national goods, and (as we found out) a place for learning. An old staple in almost every city has recently been revitalized as the “real food” revolution builds steam and the demand for fresh and local goods increases once more.

On of the missions for the gifted program is, “To encourage and support students to engage in personal endeavours, passions and inquiry driven projects”. Our trip to the Hamilton Farmer’s Market provided an opportunity for some inquiry-based learning. Students were to interview different vendors and explore topics of their choice. Possible themes included: technology, marketing, family, pricing, and strategy. Here is an excerpt of the assignment outline:

As part of this program, we will be connecting back to our work with UN Global Goals and looking at what makes a city vibrant and successful. Students will start their journalism journey first on the HSR (Public Transit). We have discovered that many of our students have not experienced public transit in their own city.

Upon arriving downtown Hamilton, students will walk from the bus stop to Jackson Square where we will discuss the concept of a “Mall” and comparing this to times before the “Mall” where there were once independent shops along James street.

We will then walk through the Hamilton Public Library which leads us directly to the Farmer’s Market. Again, we will discuss the needs of these buildings as part of a city centre and why city planners and architects  chose to ensure the library and Market are not only attached but have a glass window between them.

At the Market, students will get a chance to work in small groups to observe and talk to Vendors. Assuming they prepared, they will ask relevant questions and work on an article that they will eventually publish on their own blogs.

(HWDSB – Zoe Branigan-Pipe Blog Post)

I had an amazing time experiencing inquiry outside the traditional classroom setting. The group of boys I worked with presented a challenge to me. They had many good ideas, but were very distracted by the sheer excitement of the trip. It was important to me to allow them to experience the market in an enjoyable manner while still trying to steer them onto a focused topic. Through many discussions and explorations, and a run in with an ATM, the boys decided to question vendors about the impact of new technologies on their businesses. They thought that if a vendor had an ATM, it would serve as attraction to the business.

They interviewed several vendors, but perhaps the most enlightening was Henry Brown’s Small Batch Ice Cream. They were able to answer many questions about the positive impacts of technology on their business. This includes their POS application on their iPad that collects data about their sales, to the impact of social media and Instagram, and even the new ice cream maker that allows them to make more ice cream, faster! In fact, the co-owner went through the HWDSB enrichment program herself – how relevant! The boys were loving the detailed information that allowed them to glimpse into the market’s success in the technology-based 21st century. It also helped that they got to taste a little bit of the ice cream as well! (Please go and support Henry Brown’s – they are amazing!)

It was important to experience learning outside the classroom. I haven’t received a copy of their final inquiry-based article, but I know that these students learned so much just by travelling to the market, taking public transport, managing their money and questioning the vendors.  In fact, the students realized this is well. In 2013, a group of students from Zoe’s gifted class had their article published  – it was all about how they learned from “escaping the classroom”. I am excited to look for more opportunities for experiential learning with my classes in the future!

– A


Exploring Resources: Teaching Reading in the Ontario Classroom

In my last “Exploring Resources” blog post, I looked at “Media Literacy”. This week, I will examine resources for the “Reading” strand of language arts and, like the previous post, it will have strong connections to the Ontario curriculum.


Debi Ridpath Ohi –

Reading Resource

ReadWriteThink is a resource founded by the NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English) an American professional association for educators of English studies, literacy and language arts. ReadWriteThink resources can be sorted by the learning objective that educators or parents are looking to find. Reading Fluency and Vocabulary are two of many “reading” related objectives that can be found.

I discovered an amazing lesson support tool called the K-W-LCreator. A KWL chart is a tool that helps activate a student’s prior knowledge before a reading as well as consolidate information after reading.  Students list what they already know (K), what they want to learn (W), and then summarize and reflect what they actually learned (L). This chart is something that is typically completed on paper or chart paper in the classroom. The advantage to this online tool is that students can embed links inside the K-W-L chart, giving it another dimension of interaction that is very useful.


IRA/NTCE, 2011. ReadWriteThink: KWL Creator. Online too.

The tool could be used by individual students, by teachers to model on the projector for the class, or both. It is really easy to use and students can also save their work after the “K” and “W” sections so they can complete the “L” section after reading. I highly recommend you check it out!

To further illustrate the usefulness of ReadWriteThink I want to share a very detailed lesson plan that involves reading and reading strategies. This lesson is called, “A Prereading Strategy: Using the Vocabulary, Language, Prediction (VLP) Approach” and is targeted towards middle school students. This five class, 45-minute period lesson plan uses a nonfiction reading about forces of nature to cover vocabulary, prediction and summary skills. The lesson plan explains the goal of each session and gives the educator an extreme amount of detail and all the necessary resources to execute it. The plan also highlights points for assessment and student reflections. I really like this lesson plan because of it complexity and extensive resource availability. Even if an educator didn’t want to use the whole plan, reading the objectives and activities are excellent anchors for a lesson that may be more specific to prior events in that teacher’s classroom.

The Ontario Context

The NCTE is an American resource, but the contents can still have very strong Ontario curriculum connections. Each lesson plan resource, like the one discussed above, has a “Standards” section that shows the curriculum connections across each state in the USA and also the NCTE’s National Standards for the English Language Arts. These expectations can be easily matched to the Ontario Curriculum K-8 Language.  For example, the VLP lesson I discussed above has key reading standard for informational text that conform to the Grade 7 common core standards for New York state. Such standards include:

  • Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events)

(NTCE, 2015. ReadWriteThink – Common Core Standards. Retrieved from

If we compare to some of the Grade 7 Ontario standards for reading, we can see common standards. Such connections include:

  • Comprehension Strategies (pg127)
  • Demonstrating Understanding (pg127)
  • Extending Understanding (pg128)

(Ministry of Education, 2008. The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8 Language. Retrieved from

There are many resources that can help educators and parents with their child’s reading. It is important to remember that any step towards helping our students is an important step, but for educators in Ontario it is important to crucially evaluate our resources for their connections to our curriculum objectives.

Extended Resources for The Ontario Context

The Ministry of Education in Ontario heavily supports the reading strand of the Ontario Curriculum for Language.  Here are a few resources that are Ontario connected:

  •  E-workshop is an Ontario online teaching resource that contains many learning modules for reading that are aimed at junior level students (grades 4-6). The example above is a learning module for shared reading, which is a very useful reading instructional approach to use with students. Head on over and watch the videos to gain some tips for shared reading.
  • EduGains has a list of documents and webpages that are connected to the Ontario curriculum and are useful for educators. Topics include, “Inferring During Reading”, “Literacy Assessment” and “Reading Fluency”.  There is also a specific reading section that is for Classroom Learning Grade K-6 which would be useful for junior level educators.
  • The Ontario Teacher’s Federation website has a lesson plan resources section. This specific lesson plan document I linked to has 48 lesson plans for various grades that are based on the book “Reading With Meaning” by Debbie Miller. It covers all grade levels. I think this is valuable to educators who are getting familiar with Miller’s technique.

– A

Exploring Resources: A Closer Look at “Media Studies”

In my “Exploring Resources” blog posts, I will be looking at some key resources in literacy studies that can be useful to educators and parents. It will mostly be in relation to teaching in the Ontario context and the Ontario Language Curriculum.

ipad of trees

Ohi, D. & Carroll P., 2013. Ipad Made Of Trees. Illustrated comic. Retrieved from

As 2015 nears completion, it is more and more obvious that technology and culture studies have become important tools/avenues to increase student engagement. Today, I would like to examine a resource I found that looks at one of many ways to bring media and popular culture into the classroom to achieve curriculum objectives. Middleweb is a website targeted towards educators and parents of students between grades 4-8. It is primarily a blog-based interface. The content is separated into five major streams: Resource Roundups, Themed Blogs, Guest Articles, Book Reviews, and Interviews. The specific resource post I chose to explore is, Media Literacy: Learning from the Oscars” by Frank Baker. This is an article submitted by a guest writer who shares ideas about using film and movies in the classroom. I would like to start with Baker’s film resources and extend the exploration of media literacy into movie trailers/advertisements while highlighting relevance to the Ontario Language Curriculum.


The Oscars is a very popular award show in the United States, and the same goes for Canada. Bell Media reported that 13 million unique viewers watched some or all of the 2015 Oscars. The Ontario Curriculum encourages examining the impact and influence of mass media and popular culture by examining such texts as films, songs, video games, advertisements, television shows, and more.

Where to begin with film? Some starting points:

  • Educators should stress an importance on the steps they use to introduce film.

Baker’s own website offers A Teacher’s Guide to The Academy Awards which gives a set of preparation activities and questions for an Oscar related lesson.

Here is a different sample from Baker’s guide to reading visual media for intermediate students. In the lesson, he exposes the students to film Wall-E for passive consumption first. Secondly, he gives them guiding questions to focus them on things to look for during the second viewing. After the second viewing, the students can share their observations.

  • Educators should also be aware of the multiples of ways we can analyze visual media.

The Academy Awards website also has a series of guides for middle and high school teachers to help facilitate lessons about films and motion pictures. These guides are great for studying film critically. Students can explore animation, lighting, sound, costume and make-up, and more. There are so many aspects of film to study, it is important for students to have clarity on what they are trying to identify and explore.

Baker also has an extensive resource catalog called “Language of Film” which curates resources, readings and recommendations on the many angles to analyze film such as editing, directing, costumes, production, scriptwriting, etc.

  • Is the end goal to simply analyze, or also to create?

After students have completed their analysis of film, it will be effective to introduce media creation as well. Let’s look at movie advertisements as a way to not only anaylze media, but also create it.


Almost every successful movie is boosted by it’s movie trailer. Movie trailers can also be critically examined media texts that can help achieve curriculum objectives.

Baker links Movie Trailers as Persuasive Texts, an article on his own website. This is a fantastic multi-link resource to check out. It includes an introduction to movie trailers, links to websites with movie trailers (including archives), links to NTCE resources on film trailers, and more!

After examining the elements of movie trailers and movie posters, teachers might be able to use certain media software such as Photoshop or Glogster to create their own posters. Students could also use apps such as iMovie or iMotion HD. (See this EduTopia post for app reviews.)


How can we use these resources effectively? Many of these great resources do not highlight their significance to the Ontario curriculum, but that is ok. The curriculum goals can easily be met by these resources. As an example, let’s take a look at the overall expectations for media literacy for Grade 7 in Ontario.


Ministry of Education, 2008. The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8 Language. Retrieved from

More specific objectives include,

  • interpreting messages of media texts
  • identifying conventions and techniques used in a variety of media forms
  • producing media texts, such as a movie poster or scene from a film

All of the above resources can help educators achieve these specific objects, and many more as well.

Another Canadian resource educators can consults is A guide toeffective literacy instruction, grades 4-6, volume seven – Media Literacy. There are examples for lessons such as “Lesson 1: deconstructing movie ads” and “Lesson 8: designing a movie poster” that satisfy curriculum expectations and can be greatly enhanced by combining structures with our other resources.

Lastly, I will leave you with a link to Media Smarts – another Canadian website that has great lesson plan resource with Canadian context and social issues. This is a must-check-out resource for educators as they start to craft lesson ideas for media literacy and film!

– A