Saturday, July 26, 2008

Media Website Evaluation

Website Evaluation: Media Literacy Clearinghouse

For my evaluation I have selected the media resource website Media Literacy Clearinghouse ( . This website is a proverbial goldmine of resources and activities for the teaching of literacy in any classroom, grades K-12. I found it highly useful, containing a host of ready-to-use activities, lesson ideas, web links, etc. The following is an evaluation of the many merits (and few detractions) of this web site according to the criteria for evaluating web sites provided by Dalhousie University in Halifax.


This website is maintained by its creator, Frank W. Baker. Frank is a media literacy consultant from Columbia, SC and is a graduate of the University of Georgia (ABJ, Journalism). According to the short biography which is linked on the site, his credentials and experience with media include working for 10 years in television news in South Carolina, Florida and Maryland. He is past president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (formerly The Alliance For a Media Literate America) and past vice-president of the National Telemedia Council (NTC). He has also assisted the SC State Department of Education's English Language Arts team in revising the state
teaching standards to include elements of media literacy. Frank is also the recipient of the 2007 Leaders in Learning Award and has presented workshops on the subject of media literacy to classrooms and national conferences on learning all over the U.S. All of this information is located as a link on the main page of the web site, intimating that the site is indeed maintained by an expert in the field.


The purpose of this website, as indicated by the title “Media Literacy Clearinghouse” and according to the banner on the main page, is to be a resource designed “for K-12 educators who want to learn more about media literacy, integrate it into classroom instruction, help students read the media, and also to help students become more media aware.” This web site provides resources, links and lesson ideas in a generous amount to support this claim. There are links categorized by media topic (i.e. – “body image,” “commercials,” etc.) which then open up to a page containing numerous hyperlinks to articles, lesson ideas, and other resources to be used on that topic. The site is well-organized in this respect, and easy to navigate.


There is no claim on the site that it is “comprehensive,” and certainly there are other sites (for example, the Media Awareness Network that is indeed much more expansive in terms of the resources and links to be offered. However, the site does have a more than adequate amount of resources for basically every genre under the umbrella of “media literacy,” from media criticism to gender representation. The topics are not always explored at length on this site itself, but rather a list of links to other websites that deal with the topic are provided. For example, the “Radio Music & Sound” section off the main page has a list of links pertaining to these topics outside of the site to lessons and articles about these topics, (e.g. – “Examining Metaphor in Popular Music”).


There is a section right on the main page titled “Timely News and Resources” which provides reliable links to up-to-date web sites that contain news about movies, television, etc. This section also contains links to current online publications that deal with media, including Entertainment Weekly, L.A. Times, etc. The dates for the currency of the information in specific articles and resources is not always given, which would be one of the few criticisms I have of the site. However, the articles do seem timely, as very few that I read that were dated went past 2005. There are no dead links, and no “construction” on the site itself, meaning that the site is fully developed, but grows as new information is posted.


There is no apparent bias on this site anywhere, nor are there any advertisements or personal promotion from Frank W. Baker trying to sway his audience. On the contrary, the site is heavily dedicated to making students aware of bias in the media. The site even offers links to other media sites for further research, if what a student or teacher is looking for is not offered on this particular site. Off the main page there are links to, Media Education Foundation, the Centre for Media Literacy, etc.


From the exploring and reading I have done, the site does contain links that are accurate, and links to other sites and articles are always listed with the bibliographic information attached, where applicable. For example, the section foe “Media Use Statistics” has information that has been taken from studies done in 2008, and every statistic has the source hyperlinked for further study.


I would recommend this site to any teacher who is looking for effective ideas and resources to integrate media into their English classroom.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Curriculum Project

Curriculum Project
Tim Chalmers

1. Overview:

i. Focus:

• The strategy for this assignment is twofold: firstly it is to give my senior students some guidance as to how to properly evaluate a website to determine whether or not it is credible for scholarly research.

• Secondly, the use of this strategy will assist students to do research in small groups on a historical figure I assign who is featured or related to our study of the play A Man for All Seasons. (e.g. – Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, etc.) As the royal lineage described in this play is complex, having some prior knowledge of each of the major characters and historical figures mentioned in the drama is essential to ensure an understanding of the play’s plot.

ii. What Gets Done?

• The students learn (and brainstorm) criteria for evaluating the credibility of web sites for research

• The students use this knowledge to evaluate 6 web sites (3 good or credible web sites, but also 3 that they deem non-credible with explanation to highlight the differences).

• The students use the good web sites to research their chosen character and create a “Wanted Poster” using their image and a list of the character’s “crimes” (i.e. – noteworthy aspects of their life, their deeds, and their actual crimes in some cases) to present to the class in a brief oral presentation.

• The web site evaluation, the poster and the oral presentation are all graded.

iii. Grade Level:

This assignment was designed for my ENG 4U English class, but could easily be adapted for any English course, since web site evaluation is a skill that students at all levels should learn.

2. The Details:

Lesson 1

1. As a class, I will present the following article, “Despite the Internet, the Google Generation Lacks Analytical Skills” and we will read it aloud and discuss how the tech-savvy teens of today are still not evaluating web content accurately. (25 minutes)


2. With the class I will brainstorm the various things to look for when evaluating whether or not a web site is credible. e,g, - Who is the author? Are they an expert in the field? How old is the web site? Has it been updated recently? Are their many ads of pop-ups that suggest the site may be commercial? etc. (15 minutes)

3. I will explain to the class that web sites such as Wikipedia,, etc., are NOT credible web sites and discuss the criteria we brainstormed.

4. The guidelines for evaluating a web site properly will be discussed. See the web link below for a summation of the kinds of questions to ask oneself when evaluating a web site: (10 minutes)


5. I will ask the class to consider 6-7 of the questions from the page (link above) to evaluate 6 web sites in total in pairs. The class will look for and evaluate 3 “good” and credible academic web sites and 3 non-credible web sites. (10 minutes)

6. The web site research will be for the “Wanted Poster” assignment attached below. Each pair will be assigned a different character from the play A Man For All Seasons to make the class familiar with its various characters. Since each of the characters is based upon a historical figure, the research will be easy to find. (10 minutes)

7. I will pair off the class and they will select their characters. Research will begin tomorrow.

ENG 4U A Man For All Seasons:

Research Project/Wanted Poster Presentation

Prior to our reading of A Man For All Seasons, we must first become acquainted with the people and the history upon which the play is based.
Working with a partner, you will collect data on one of the following topics. You will create a “Wanted Poster” detailing the “crimes” of your character (i.e.- the noteworthy details of their lives, and their real crimes, where appropriate). In order the make your poster as effective as possible you should include a visual and brief important points about your particular historical figure. You will be marked for both the quality of your information and the creativity of your slides.

The topics include:

1. Sir Thomas More
2. King Henry VII (7th)
3. King Henry VIII (8th)
4. Catharine of Aragon
5. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain
6. Thomas Cromwell
7. Cardinal Wolsey
8. Pope Clement VII
9. Duke of Norfolk (Thomas Howard)
10. Anne Boleyn
11. Charles V
12. Elizabeth I
13. Mary Tudor
14. Robert Bolt
15. Bertolt Brecht

Lesson 2

1. Research period. (76 minutes in total) The class will work with their partners to evaluate and type up a proper analysis of 3 credible and 3 non-credible web sites using 6-7 of the questions from the readings and from our brainstorming. A suggested set of questions for their criteria are the following:

i. Who is the author? Are they an expert in the field?

ii. What type of domain does it come from ? Is the domain extension appropriate for the content? (educational, nonprofit, commercial, government, etc.)
a. Government sites: look for .gov, .mil
b. Educational sites: look for .edu
c. Nonprofit organizations: look for .org (though this is no longer restricted to nonprofits)

iii. Is the page currently updated or is the information out of date?

iv. Are sources documented with footnotes or links? Are there links to other resources on the topic?

v. Are there many ads or pop-ups that may distract the reader, or make this page very commercial?

vi. Is the information easy to read, and is the site easy to navigate? Some general comments here.

2. The class will type up the responses to each of these questions for each web site that they visit, and will include the link to the sites in their evaluation. Evaluations will be collected tomorrow, any work not done today will be homework.

Lessons 3 and 4 (76 minutes periods)

1. Today the evaluations are due. The class will then get back into their pairs to research information from the 3 (or more) credible web sites found for their evaluation to create the Wanted Poster for their character.

The poster should have a visual (either a web image or something hand-drawn) of the character and contain some biographical information about noteworthy events / facts about that character’s life. These constitute the “crimes” that the character is wanted for.

2. The class will use the rest of this period and tomorrow’s to put their poster together. (Note: This activity may take two periods).

3. Tomorrow the class will present their poster to the class in a brief, 5 minute presentation.

(**Materials needed include poster paper, markers, glue and tape.)

Lesson 5

1. Today the class will present their posters to the class, reading the information they have found in their web searches.

2. Each character researched is featured or mentioned in our next literature study, A Man for All Seasons. The class will take brief point form notes and record the information given by their classmates in an active listening exercise.

3. The presentations and posters themselves will be marked by me using the rubric featured below. (Note: rubric can be modified to include category analysis, this gives an idea of what is being evaluated).

Wanted Poster / Presentation Evaluation
Students: __________________________________________________________
Historical Figure: _______________________

Historical Detail: (K/U) /10

WANTED write-up:(C) /10

Creativity of the Poster:(T/I) /10

Written and oral conventions: (A) /10

Total: /40

3. Conclusion:

I love this assignment because it allows my senior classes to gain a very important skill for university; to be able to properly discern which web sites are credible and which are not reliable for research purposes is something that they will definitely use in their post-secondary studies.
The need for our students to be internet- literate is one that will only become more relevant over time, as most research done these days tends to be web based. This approach solves two problems: students leaving high school can become more discerning about the research they use to avoid future issues of credibility when researching papers in university. Also, it allows them to explore the historical background surrounding the characters of the play A Man for All Seasons which will allow them to have a richer understanding of the play.
To extend, both parts of this assignment can easily be adapted and modified to suit other English courses at any grade level. It would be a valuable experience for Grade Nines who will be doing proper research essays throughout their high school career. The Wanted Poster could also be used for other plays or novels, even with fictional characters. The research would be from the text itself, and the posters could reflect the qualities / deeds /”crimes” of the main characters.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Literacy Workshop Plan

Teaching Literacy
Module 5 Project
Tim Chalmers

1. Overview

i. Course:

These lessons are for an OLC 4O (Grade 12 Ontario Literacy Course) class. This course is designed to teach students who have not succeeded in passing the Ontario Literacy Test the reading and writing skills required to pass the test. The successful completion of the course allows them to graduate without having to rewrite the test.

ii. Students / Reading Challenges: there are 12 students in the course at various levels of reading proficiency. To elaborate:

o 3 students have been identified as non-exceptional, which means they struggled with reading in elementary school but have since proven themselves (through DRA testing) to be at grade level in terms of reading capability. They read faster than their peers in the course and are the strongest students.

o 3 students are reading below grade level as evident in their DRA scores. The three in this group each read at a Grade 8 / 9 level, but can read aloud and very fluently.

o 3 students read at grade level, but are very unmotivated to do so. These students are taking the OLC course primarily because they left sections of the test incomplete due to a lackadaisical approach to their schooling. They are not identified as learning disabled.

o 3 students read at grade level, yet struggle with comprehension of texts. All three of these students are identified as having trouble with short-term memory, which can make reading a challenge.

*Note: in the workshops, one student from each of the above groups will be placed to make 3 groups of 4 students.

iii. Focus

The focus of the week’s lessons will be on workshops to read and understand the meaning of a short story by chunking the material and skimming / rereading sections of the text to extract meaning. The class will also produce a summary of this short story collectively in group workshops. The students will then use this knowledge to produce another summary of a different short story independently for submission and evaluation.

2. The Workshop Plans


a. The first lesson will focus on comprehension of a short story through chunking of the story into sections and answering short review questions about the text. The class will also make predictions based on their reading to demonstrate understanding of the text in small groups.

b. The text under study is the short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl. (See link for full text version).

c. To model the strategy for the class, I would have us all read together the first page of the story “Lamb to the Slaughter.” I will reveal to the students that this story is very suspenseful, and that we will be practicing good comprehension of texts by skimming and rereading sections of the story and filling in the worksheets to find details of character, setting, etc. (see the attached chart) and making by making predictions about what will happen next, based on what we’ve read so far.

• See the attached chart (“Appendix A” page 9 of this document) for a sample model of the first section of the short story. This chart is a slightly modified version of the “rereading for Meaning” exercise that is detailed in the Ontario Think Literacy Document on page 20. (see pdf. link below)

These answers will be put on the blackboard and the students will copy them onto their worksheets. I will reveal to the class that they will be working in groups to read the story for meaning and to make predictions in a workshop. They will also be looking for words and phrases to deepen their understanding of the character and setting.

d) The Grouping: there will be 3 groups of four students, one from each of the groupings listed in Section ii of the overview. The groups will each include one of my non-exceptional students, because they are the strongest readers and can help keep the group focused and offer support. The non-exceptional students, because they read at grade level, tend to get bored with comprehension; however this model will allow them to show leadership, which will keep them actively engaged.

e) The Work:

Following the model I provide on the worksheets, the students will work together in their groups of 4 to answer the questions and fill in their worksheets (see model, Appendix A) for each section of the story.

I will inform the class to pause at the various breaks in the story (after each page, or roughly 300 words) to ask the groups to work together to fill in their charts. These breaks will be posted on the board so the groups know where to stop.

The group of four will have the following tasks, which will be rotated for each section:

i. One member reads aloud the section for the group as the others follow silently.
ii. One member does the “First Reread” (skimming silently) and looks for the answers to fill in the chart to share with their group.
iii. One person does the “Second Reread” (skimming silently) and fills in the appropriate answers for the group.
iv. The last group member does the “Third Reread”, skimming to make the summary.

* All group members are responsible for making predictions to share.

The group members rotate these tasks for each section; therefore every group member will have a chance to do the tasks at least once, most likely twice, before the reading is done. This format allows for students to reread a passage looking for specific criteria to help them understand how rereading and skimming can be beneficial when attempting to extract meaning from a text. My students with memory problems will find this exercise helpful to remembering important details in the story in preparation for their summary.

Sharing the duties of reading aloud helps the students to build confidence, particularly those who have some difficulty or anxiety reading in front of the entire class. All students making predictions will allow them to connect and synthesize their understanding of the section by looking ahead to what’s next, working as a team.

f) As the story is somewhat lengthy, this class will be devoted to just the first half (4 pages). The final section (fourth page) will be read independently by each of the students during the final 10 minutes of class and their worksheets filled in for homework. We will discuss their findings, both as a group and individually at the top of tomorrow’s class.


a) Today’s lesson will focus on continuing to practice comprehension of a short story through chunking of the story into sections and answering short review questions about the text (see Appendix A for model). The class will also make predictions based on their reading to demonstrate understanding of the text in small groups.

b) “Lamb to the Slaughter” – Roald Dahl (second half)

c) The modeling for today’s activity will come from taking up the responses and predictions from yesterday’s workshop. This activity will be twofold: it will provide a good review of the material read (particularly for those with memory problems) and allow for a refocusing to complete the story in the workshops today.
I will ask for the groups to respond, and each group can add feedback for any of the answers if they differ from the answers discussed. The class will be instructed to add to their charts any other information that we cover that may not have been found by their groups.
After taking up the independent section that was assigned for homework, I will ask each class member to voice their prediction for what will happen next. The class will then be instructed to rejoin their groups and continue with the activity for the final 4 sections of the story.

d) The groups will be the same as yesterday to provide continuity to the exercise.

e) The plan for today’s lesson is to finish the workshops and complete the reading of the second half of the story. The group that did the Third Reread yesterday will rotate back to covering the First Reread, etc. As usual, I will monitor the reading time with the class to ensure that the activity is done in a timely manner by floating around to keep the groups on task.

f) I will stop the students right before the final section, the last page of the story. I will ask them to read the final section of the story independently and fill in their worksheets for this final section. They may reread / skim to find each question, and this will be taken up at the beginning of tomorrow’s class.


a) The skill for today will focus on constructing a summary of the short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” as a model for an independent summary of another short story.

b) “Lamb to the Slaughter” – Roald Dahl

c) I will inform the class that today they will be working in their groups to begin writing a summary of the story “Lamb to the Slaughter.” The summary will be approximately 250 words in length, or 4 paragraphs.

I will ask the class to examine their worksheets from yesterday. As a class, we will construct the first paragraph of their summary for “Lamb to the Slaughter.”

I will remind the class to use linking words to connect their sentences, and to only deal with two sections of the story per paragraph to avoid incoherence. The paragraphs should be about 6-8 sentences long.

d) The students will be placed into different groups for today’s activity, however the same method of grouping for the first workshop will apply. One student from each of the groups detailed in the Overview will be placed together (by me). Varying the group members for this task will allow students from the various groups to have some fresh insight and work with new people. Staying in the same groups may make the students feel too comfortable, and may be conducive to them straying off task.

e) In groups, they are to each take 2 sections of the story (there are 8 in total) and construct a paragraph summary of those sections. This will help them to practice the summary format without being overwhelmed by summarizing the whole story all at once.

o Once each group member has completed their sections, they will collaborate on putting each paragraph together, sequentially, to provide a coherent summary of the short story. Each group member is responsible for writing their own summary in full to have a as a model in their notes.

f) When each group has completed their rough summaries, I will ask a spokesperson from each group to read their group’s summary aloud. As a class we will add to or comment on any parts of the summary that need cleaning up in terms of grammar or structure in a free exchange of ideas. The groups will edit any changes on their own drafts suggested by the class.


a) The skill / strategy to focus today’s lesson will be independent summary of a short story. The class will use the knowledge of the skill they practiced in the first two lessons to read a new story.

b) “The Lottery” – Shirley Jackson (see full-text link below)

c) Today’s skill will be independent summarizing and predicting for meaning while skimming chunked sections of a short story (“The Lottery”). I will give the students the entire period to work through the same worksheets they filled in for “Lamb to the Slaughter,” only in this case they will be doing it independently for evaluation. I have chosen a text that is similar in length and readability to “Lamb to the Slaughter” so that the students can apply what they’ve learned in working in the grouped workshops to an independent demonstration of their skills.

d) The students will work individually today for most of the period to work on the worksheets provided. This will allow them to demonstrate the skills they developed while working in the workshop groups while working independently. This component is essential, as the course is designed for the students to develop the ability to read and comprehend stories on their own.

e) I will read the story aloud to the class, pausing for each section “break” while the class works quietly and independently on finding the information to fill in their charts.

o The story selected has much dialogue, and is somewhat easier to read than “Lamb to the Slaughter, which contained a lot of narration. Those who read below grade level should be able to tackle this story without a problem due to its very conversational style, but may need some assistance understanding the somewhat subtle ending. This will come about in a class discussion of the final scene of the short story.

o I will ask the class to read their predictions aloud before we proceed, to ensure everyone is finished.

f) Once we have read up to halfway through the story together, I will leave the class to finish reading the story, stopping at the bottom of each page to fill in their worksheets and make predictions. This will allow them to read at their own pace (those who may have fallen slightly behind with the whole-class read-aloud will have a chance to get caught up) and will be homework if not completed before the end of the period.

a) The skill / strategy for this lesson will be to produce and independent summary of the short story “The Lottery.”

b) “The Lottery” – Shirley Jackson

c) I will ask the class to review the model summary they did for “Lamb to the Slaughter” in their workshops, and we will discuss / review again the various ingredients of a good summary through brainstorming and looking at the summaries they produced. (eg. – concise description of story, including important facts, coherence, transitional sentences and linking words, etc. *See Appendix B for a list of Transitional Words and Phrases to be modeled).

d) The students will work independently on their own summaries, then move into their groups to Peer Edit. Using the same model as before (one student from each category in the Overview) I will place them in a third version of the group workshops foe editing.

e) i. As a class we take up the work done yesterday on Shirley Jackson’s “the lottery.” The class will share their findings and predictions and I will encourage them to add any information they may have missed. I will discuss the subtle ending, and have a question period for any struggles with the plot of the story itself. (especially for those who are reading below the grade 12 level).

ii. I will inform the students that they have the first half of the period to work on a rough draft of a proper summary of the short story, using the points they have already gathered on their worksheets.

iii. Once finished with a rough draft, the students will move into their groups to Peer edit each other’s summaries. The four group members will each be assigned a specific task to edit:

o One member will examine each of the group’s pages for spelling or punctuation errors. (Dictionaries may be needed for correction). (*I would give this task to the students who read below grade level, as they are skimming mainly for proper spelling, and not the ideas themselves.)

o One member will look for any coherence or sentence structure problems. (This task seems fitting for those who are more lackadaisical because it is not a complicated part of editing and may be interesting for them.)

o One member will read to ensure that the summary has all of the points represented for an accurate depiction of the story and weed out any unneeded details. (This task I would tend to give to those students with memory problems, as looking for similarities between the points on their page and the summary will be easier for them than trying to remember how words are spelled, etc.)

o One member will check over the work of the others to ensure the above-mentioned errors have all been found. (*This role I would give to my non-exceptional students, who are strong in writing and have produced very strong work in the past.)

* See Appendix C for a sample of the Summary Checklist for this exercise.

f) Working as an “editing assembly line” the group will work quickly to ensure that each summary is relative error-free. Since each group member is looking for only one or two specific things, the editing process should move swiftly.

The students will then take the comments / corrections on their rough copies to type up and submit a polished copy of the summary for evaluation.

Their completed worksheets for the story will also be submitted to allow me to see how well they’ve mastered the process of extracting meaning from the text while highlighting the most important events.

The summaries will be graded according to the Summary Rubric.
(see Appendix D).

Appendix A: Sample Chart for Modeling

Rereading for Meaning – Tracking My Understanding

Name of Work: “Lamb to the Slaughter” – Roald Dahl
Student Name: T. Chalmers
Section / Part of Story: 1

1 First Reread

a. Make connections to your background knowledge. What do you know already?

b. Ask one or more questions about the situation.

a. We already know that this story is a suspenseful story and that Mary Maloney, the main character seems to be a very loving wife because she waits all day for her husband to come home.

b. Why is her husband so tired?
Why does he drink his drink so quickly?
2 Second Reread

a. Find words said by a character – e.g., two direct quotations – that reveal his/her personal or physical qualities.

b. List two actions of the main character that reveal his/her personal qualities.

c. Find 2 words that describe the setting OR words that help you visualize the story.

d. Any unknown vocabulary words should be recorded here and defined for the group using the dictionary. Words / Actions:

a. “The drop of a head as she bent over her sewing was curiously tranquil. Her skin -for this was her sixth month with child-had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with their new placid look, seemed larger darker than before.”

b. Mary watches the clock, hoping for her husband to arrive which shows she is a loving wife.
Mary also hangs up her husband’s coat and makes him a drink which shows that she is a devoted wife.

c. “warm” “clean” “tranquil”

d. “translucent” - clear; transparent
“placid” – pleasantly calm or peaceful
3 Third Reread

- Summarize the action in this section three points (Use complete sentences)

- Make predictions (1-2) about what will happen next.

 Mary Maloney is excited as her husband arrives home.

 Mary takes his coat and fixes him a drink which he drinks quickly.

 Mary’s husband, Patrick, says he is tired and Mary rises to fix him another drink.


I think Mary’s husband may tell her something important, because he drinks his drink quickly and seems nervous.

Appendix B Transition Words

and Effect Compare
and Contrast Examples
and Emphasis Order Relationship
of Time
as a result
for this (these) reason(s)
in addition
in other words
therefore also
by contrast
compared with (to)
different from
even though
on the other hand
yet again
for example
for instance
in particular
such as finally
in conclusion
most importantly
to begin with after
at the same time

Appendix C Checklist for a Summary

Name: _____________________
I have…
 shown an understanding of my source(s)/original text;
 found the main idea of my source(s)/original text and at least two supporting details;
 taken the whole text into account;
 made appropriate connections to my source(s)/original text;
 taken notes on key points.
I have…
 planned my summary using rough notes.
I have…
 written my summary in complete sentences;
 omitted nonessential information and unnecessary words;
 organized my ideas clearly to help my reader follow and understand my summary;
 used transitions to link my ideas;
 conveyed an effective tone through word choice and level of language;
 not included opinion statements;
 written an effective paragraph or series of paragraphs;
 used third-person point of view consistently;
 created a beginning, middle, and end that flow using connecting words and linking sentences;
 used a consistent verb tense;
 cited my sources, if appropriate.
Revising and Editing
I have…
 used the stages of the writing process to revise my work;
 asked a peer to read and critique my summary;
 checked my grammar, spelling, and punctuation;
 created a summary that will appeal to my audience and meet my purpose.
I have…
 neatly and clearly written or typed my final copy.

Appendix D Summary Rubric

Categories Approaching the Required Level of Literacy
(0-49%) Achieving the Required Level of Literacy
(50-64%) Exceeding the Required Level of Literacy
(65-79%) Significantly Exceeding the Required Level of Literacy
Knowledge/ Understanding
- knowledge of form of summary

- demonstrates limited knowledge of form of summary

- demonstrates adequate knowledge of form of summary

- demonstrates considerable knowledge of form of summary

- demonstrates thorough knowledge of form of summary
- knowledge of strategies and processes - demonstrates limited knowledge of strategies and processes - demonstrates adequate knowledge of strategies and processes - demonstrates considerable knowledge of strategies and processes - demonstrates thorough knowledge of strategies and processes
- understanding of materials read - demonstrates limited understanding of materials read - demonstrates adequate understanding of materials read - demonstrates considerable understanding of materials read - demonstrates thorough understanding of materials read
- critical and creative thinking skills (making inferences to find the main idea, selecting pertinent ideas and details, organizing information, forming conclusions)
- demonstrates limited competence making inferences to find the main idea, selecting pertinent ideas and details, organizing information, forming conclusions
- demonstrates moderate competence making inferences to find the main idea, selecting pertinent ideas and details, organizing information, forming conclusions
- demonstrates considerable competence making inferences to find the main idea, selecting pertinent ideas and details, organizing information, forming conclusions
- demonstrates a high degree of competence making inferences to find the main idea, selecting pertinent ideas and details, organizing information, forming conclusions
- communication of information and ideas
- communicates information and ideas with limited clarity
- communicates information and ideas with some clarity
- communicates information and ideas with considerable clarity
- communicates information and ideas with a high degree of clarity
- communication for audience and purpose - communicates ideas and information for audience and purpose with limited effectiveness - communicates ideas and information for audience and purpose with moderate effectiveness - communicates ideas and information for audience and purpose with considerable effectiveness - communicates ideas and information for audience and purpose with a high degree of effectiveness
- use of form of summary - demonstrates limited control of form of summary - demonstrates moderate control of form of summary - demonstrates considerable control of form of summary - demonstrates extensive control of form of summary
- application of language conventions
- uses language conventions with limited accuracy and effectiveness
- uses language conventions with a moderate degree of accuracy and effectiveness
- uses language conventions with considerable accuracy and effectiveness
- uses language conventions accurately and effectively all or almost all of the time
- application of reading strategies - uses reading strategies with limited competence - uses reading strategies with moderate competence - uses reading strategies with considerable competence - uses reading strategies with a high degree of competence
- application of the writing process - uses the writing process with limited competence - uses the writing process with moderate competence - uses the writing process with considerable competence - uses the writing process with a high degree of competence

Appendix E: Resource List / Works Cited

Dahl, Roald. “Lamb to the Slaughter.”

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.”

Course Profile: Ontario Literacy Course, Grade 12.

Ontario Think Literacy Document: Subject Specific Examples. English, Grades 10-12.

Differentiation Through Flexible Grouping : Successfully Reaching all Readers, Michael P. Ford, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. (pp. 3-8)

* Grouping Without Tracking Model used as inspiration for workshop project.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Crowded Ontario Curriculum and Oral Communication: Together at Last?

The Ontario English curriculum has recently received a face lift, thanks to the newly revised document. In terms of the crowded curriculum, this change seems to be for the better. In the old 2000 version of the English curriculum, the “Curriculum Expectations” section describes that the expectations outlined in the document “describe the knowledge and skills that students are expected to develop and demonstrate in their class work, on tests, and in various other activities through which their achievement is assessed and evaluated” (7). In the new, revised version of the document this passage also exists, but under the description of the strands it also states that “[t]he areas of learning are closely interrelated, and the knowledge skills described in the fours strands are interdependent and complimentary” and that teachers should “plan activities that blend expectations from the fours strands” in order to allow them to see how “the four areas reinforce and strengthen one another” (14). This implies that teachers will have to become more creative in “blending” expectations to make sure everything is covered.
The most noticeable addition is the new strand. In the old curriculum there existed four major strands, Reading and Literature Studies, Writing, Media Studies and Language. In the new document, the last strand, Language, has been replaced by Oral Communication. However, the Language strand is not so much omitted as it has been attached to the other three strands and spread around. Instead of being strand unto itself, you can find language in the descriptors of the new document. For example, the Reading and Literature Studies strand states that learners must “use language structures that are more complex and vocabulary that is more specialized,” (15) and the Writing strand discusses the growth of students as writers by “correctly applying the conventions of language – grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation” (17). While the attempt of the ministry was to streamline the program to make it more accessible to teachers and less “crowded,” one must consider that instead of the Language strand being eliminated in favor of the new Oral Communication strand, it has been absorbed, as it were, into the other strands, demanding more knowledge for the students to be expected to know and more to be learned in addition to this. The link to the new revised curriculum is as follows:

That being said, I do feel that the Oral Communication strand is very necessary in the classroom of the 21st century, and can be worked into the overcrowded course curriculum in any English class relatively easily. Here is an example: as the new document states, it is our goal to blend the expectations, which allows for some creativity when covering the oral communication expectations. Take my ENG 4U class as an example. This semester I had them each conduct a seminar for the class, in which they were the discussion leaders; posing questions, facilitating discussion, and providing audio-visual aids to help elaborate on their chosen theme (from the core text, like Shakespeare). The class, in turn, for each seminar, was to be actively listening, responding and discussing the points, etc. This one assignment covered many of the expectations for the Oral Communication component. In particular: 1.2 – Using Active Listening Strategies, 1.6 – Extending Understanding of texts, 1.9 – Understanding Presentation Strategies, 2.7 – Audio-Visual Aids, etc. Student leaders were graded on the integrity of their questions, on how well they physically and vocally presented, and how well their visual aids (eg. – power point presentation) connected and enhanced the discussion.
To conclude, while the new curriculum has made great strides to attempt to provide a more relevant, concise and workable set of guidelines, teachers need to be more creative to combine these new oral communication expectations into the curriculum, while also accounting for the fact that the language strand is now woven into other strands. This puts more pressure on teachers to include some kind of formal assessment of oracy, which was not present in the old document. Is it do-able? Yes. Will it serve out students for their future careers? Almost assuredly. The following is a link for a compendium of sites for how to teach Oral Communication in any classroom:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Comparative Report

Listed below is the comparative report I did in collaboration with Tina Teichroeb. Together, she and I evaluated the Ontario curriculum in comparison with Alberta's. Our findings are below. Let's see if you agree with us...

Comparative Report

T. Chalmers
T. Teichroeb

The purpose of this report is to compare the high school curriculum between the provinces of Alberta and Ontario and make a determination on which aspects of the two visions best support the full integrity of study in English. The report will touch briefly on four areas of comparison: hours of study in English classes, models of streaming, mandated English standards in compulsory courses, and standardized testing. Because of its brevity and limited number of areas of comparison, this cannot be considered a comprehensive examination of the two educational models by any means; however, this report does touch on four areas of interest to individuals wishing to compare professional standards.

Time on Task

The Ontario English curriculum mandates that 110 hours of instructional time be spent on any English course. The allotment of that time, in terms of unit delivery, varies between grade and level. Alberta’s curriculum provides no indication as to how long each task should take, or the length of time spent for English as a subject. This is a flaw in their vision; although there is a level of academic freedom given to educators here in terms of how long to spend on units and how much time to allot for mastery of an expectation, no guidance as to how long to spend on one concept will be problematic in terms of consistency. From class to class or school to school there will undoubtedly be inconsistencies in terms of how the curriculum is presented. Ontario’s vision is much stronger; it provides a loose framework for educators to work within while allowing professional freedom to determine how long units of study should last.

Streaming English

In the Alberta curriculum, there are two course streams outlined in the curriculum, with the descriptors English Language Arts (ELA) 10-1, 20-1, 30-1 and English Language Arts (ELA) 10-2, 20-2, 30-2. ELA 10-1 / 2 relates to Grade 10, and so on up to Grade 12 (ELA 30-1 / 2). Both course sequences are organized according to
the same five “general outcomes,” which in Ontario’s curriculum relates to the overall expectations of learning from a course. In terms of student needs, there are different expectations for students in each course sequence. For example, in relation to the study of texts, standards vary according to the complexity of the material and the development of reading skills. Generally, these standards are lower for students in the ELA 10-2, 20-2, 30-2 course sequence. The course profile also states that “Student interests will directly influence their future aspirations for post-secondary study as well.” Since the ELA 10-1, 20-1, 30-1 course sequence provides a more analytical study of text, students who aspire to careers that involve the development, production, teaching and study of more complex texts need to register in this course sequence. The other stream involves a less analytical and more varied approach in terms of sophistication and is open a wider variety of learners due to this varied approach. The two streams have overlapping expectations for content, for example, the curriculum document states that both courses “maintain high standards to meet graduation requirements” and “feature the six language arts—listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing and representing.” Ontario’s streams, though specifically geared towards post-secondary placement, also represent each strand in the three different streams.In Ontario’s curriculum, the streaming is similar to the Alberta model, but with very different streams as students enter into Grade 11 from Grade 10. Grades 9 and 10 are split into “Academic” and “Applied” streams, and the document states that “students choose between course types on the basis of their interests, achievement and post-secondary goals” once they begin course selection for Grade 11. The Ontario curriculum seems much more accountable when examining choice of courses and student career paths. The descriptors “University preparation, “College preparation” and “Workplace preparation” are very clear indicators as to the level of post-secondary institution these courses lean towards. Thus, the course expectations can be geared towards the skills and expectations that will allow for student success on these academic paths. For example, University / College preparation courses are described in the document as “designed to equip students with knowledge and skills they need to meet the entrance requirements for specific programs offered at universities and colleges” (9). This aspect of the Ontario model best serves the full integrity of the study of English because it allows for students to learn the essential skills they will need based on their stream.
One flaw of the Alberta model of streaming is that some courses (such as the ELA 30-2, for example) are not necessarily enough for students to be granted entrance into college or university. The document states: “Not all post-secondary institutions, however, accept ELA 30-2 for entry. In general, students who plan to attend a post-secondary institution, regardless of their specific career aspirations, need to familiarize themselves with the entry requirements of the institution and program they plan to enter.” While this does call for the student themselves to be accountable for their career path (like the Ontario model) the idea of a course streamed as senior English yet with the caveat of not being a course that is recognized as sufficient into a post-secondary program is a fallacy of their model.
Overall, the Ontario method of streaming is a more fully-realized vision; with three streams as opposed to two, more attention can be paid to the needs of various types of learners and to students with varying degrees of academic prowess.


Both Alberta and Ontario have compulsory English courses required in grades 9 – 12. A brief examination of standard content in a compulsory course follows.

Alberta mandates six language arts strands – listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing and representing. Curriculum documentation states that “All of the language arts are interrelated and interdependent; facility in one strengthens and supports facility in the others” indicating that the strands, while delineated, should not be seen as existing in isolation. The documentation then identifies two major areas of focus, namely text study and text creation. For text study, there are two major categories where specific types of texts under the umbrellas of extended or shorter texts are identified. For example, in the ELA 10-1, which would be the equivalent to the Ontario grade 10 academic class, the category for extended texts breaks down further into sub-categories. Of the four options available, each is also designated as required or encouraged. For example, either a novel or a work of book-length nonfiction must be studied; a feature film must be studied; a modern play or a Shakespearean play must be studied with a Shakespearean play indicated as required and the modern play indicated as encouraged. This breakdown into sub-categories is repeated with shorter texts with the selections of poetry, short story, visual and multimedia text, essay and popular nonfiction as the subcategories. This process is recreated in other half of the grade requirements outlined for text creation. There is enormous specificity in the documentation for each grade and level. On the one hand, this does ensure greater consistency across the province in types of material studied and skills developed. On the other hand, this can indicate a certain rigidity within a system that does not encourage teachers to deviate from a mandated plan to accommodate various differences from class to class or from year to year.

Ontario also mandates strands for study which are identified as oral communication, reading and literature studies, writing, and media studies. Curriculum documentation states that “Literacy development is a communal project, and the teaching of literacy skills is embedded across the Ontario curriculum. However, it is the English curriculum that is dedicated to developing knowledge and skills on which literacy is based...”, which indicates that while English develops literacy skills and knowledge in greater depth than other disciplines, these skills are considered cross-curricular. As a comparison to the Alberta model, an in-depth examination of the grade 10 academic English programme reveals that each strand is broken into subcategories. For example, the oral communication strand has three subcategories: listening to understand, speaking to communicate, and reflecting on skills and strategies. Each subcategory has anywhere from nine to two specific expectations required within that heading. This format is repeated through each of the strands. What is interesting in comparing the two models is that while expectations are specified in the Ontario documentation, text allocation is not mentioned. For example, listening to understand requires the expectations of interpreting texts, analyzing texts and developing active listening strategies but does not indicate what type of text must be used to meet these expectations. Therefore, the Ontario model offers much greater leeway in text selection and text application in each grade. This allows teachers to choose texts based on both the type of school community as well as the level of student engagement in order to meet the expectations outlined. This is a far less rigid system and therefore a far more approachable system for many teachers and students.


As the subject of testing is too vast to tackle in its entirety, this comparison will examine only standardized tests.

The Alberta educational system requires that every student write the Grade 9 Knowledge and Employability English Language Arts Achievement Test. This test assesses knowledge and skills that are part of a “student’s daily classroom life” by the time that student reaches grade 9. The test is comprised of two parts: Part A is a writing test and Part B is a reading test. The test “will assess those learning outcomes that can be tested using multiple choice and numerical-response questions”. Each test is designed to be completed in 75 minutes, although an additional 30 minutes will be allowed if required. This test is not a graduation requirement; instead, it is part of a group of assessment tests administered in grades 3, 6, and 9. However, Alberta has implemented a Diploma Examinations Programme, a high school exit exam strategy. In order to graduate, all students must write at least two diploma examinations. They must write one diploma examination in English Language Arts at the grade 12 level and one diploma examination in social studies at the grade 12 level. There are three sets of opportunities throughout the year occurring in the months of January, June and August in which to write these tests, and they may be attempted more than once. This exam requirement exists to “certify the level of individual achievement” and to “ensure that province-wide standards of achievement are maintained”. Alberta seems to be following a number of American states, such as Texas, where students must pass exit exams regardless of the grade achieved in various classes. This seems a punitive measure, especially if students have passed the courses to which the exams seem to be connected.

The Ontario educational system requires that every student write the Grade 10 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test. This test assesses knowledge and skills in reading and writing that pertain to all subject areas. The test is comprised of two parts: both Parts A and B combine reading and writing using both short answer and extended response to answer questions. Each test is designed to be completed in 90 minutes with no extension of time available to students without Individual Education Plans. This test is a graduation requirement. There is only one opportunity to write this test per year. Currently, the test is administered in March in any given school year. Students are given more than one opportunity to write and may choose to take the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course as an alternative to writing this test a second time. This test must be written and passed regardless of a student’s academic standing in the rest of their courses. This, too, seems a punitive measure as a student may excel in all their courses and still be prevented from graduating without the successful completion of this test. Neither Alberta nor Ontario seem to take into consideration the possibility that students could be detrimentally affected by their use of standardization as a graduation requirement. However, the fact that Ontario offers an alternative to the test with the completion of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course is at least some attempt to offer students differentiated help.

In conclusion, while Alberta’s model is similar to Ontario’s in the sense that it does have streams that cater to different levels of achievement, the time on task is relatively non-existent, it caters to the same strands of learning and does mandate a standardized test for graduation, overall the Ontario curriculum has developed into a much more fully-realized vision in terms of its standards and employability. The time on task is loosely specified to provide a (very general) overall framework, there are three streams which cater to learners entering university, college or the workplace specifically, the text allocation for meeting the standards is not as rigid, and the Ontario Literacy Course is a viable option not provided in Alberta for those who do not pass the Literacy test. Ontario’s vision makes the education process more accessible to both teachers and students.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Accountability Review

Posted below is my review of two articles dealing with the topic of accountability. I read both and have provided some insight as to how accountability affects me personally as a teacher, and the issue that I feel is most important when dealing with accountability as a teacher who has dealt primarily with struggling learners. The links to the actual articles themselves follow this review. Enjoy!

4.3 – Accountability Article Review
Tim Chalmers

“Accountability: Where Do Teachers Fit?” by Lorna Earl
“Accountability in Education” – The Alberta Teacher’s Association

The most imperative question framing both of the papers listed above (and stated in Earl’s paper) seems to be “What does accountability mean for teachers?” Having pondered this question and how it relates to my own practice, I would say that as an English teacher, accountability is of the utmost importance, due to the very subjective nature of the grading in this discipline. In other subjects, such as mathematics or even science, accountability in terms of test scores and student achievement is for the most part solely numerically based; if the answer or formula is correct, the proper figures will be there. If it is incorrect, then the formula or calculation needs recalculating. In English, accountability lies with the teacher him or herself; as I have found to be exceptionally true in my five years of teaching. An English teacher in Ontario must be able to justify every mark lost on an essay, as their professional judgment dictates. But what may constitute as a “great” essay to one (perhaps less experienced) teacher may be only “good” to a more experienced teacher. Accountability lies, then, in the rubric itself and the guidelines that are clearly laid out by the instructor. As Earl’s article states, “[t]eachers are, first and foremost, responsible to their students” and that “[q]uality teaching depends on building and maintaining a specialized knowledge of the profession.” I agree with these notions, and believe that accountability is most important between students and teachers.
On a larger scale, as an English teacher in Ontario in the age of the OSSLT (the Literacy Test) that this test brings to light my feelings as to the key issues in accountability. My school, this year, scored an impressive 95% overall pass rate for our OSSLT results, the highest in our region. However, we could have done even better, but the 5% who did not pass belonged primarily to our struggling learners, and those in specialized courses or on an I.E.P. Earl’s article describes the idea of equity, and states that the “challenge now is to provide the kind of school that will produce high levels of success for all the diverse learners in schools” and also references the fallacy of the North American belief that it is a student’s innate abilities that give them success over the idea of quality schools and teaching. The background paper from the Alberta Teacher’s Association references a similar notion in accountability when describing their “Key Principles for an Effective Accountability System. Principle 2 states: “The primary purpose of accountability in education is to support the broad goals of education and the diverse learning needs of children and youth.” In order to best serve each and every one of my students, I feel that these issues are most important when I discuss accountability. Mind you, I come from a teaching background dealing mainly with the kind of struggling learners that these ideas reference, so with that bias in mind, I assert that in ignoring the need for better facilities (like my own high school) in relation to success on standardized tests is a grievous error where accountability is concerned.
As I mentioned in opening this review, I feel accountability between students and teachers is the most important aspect of this many-faceted dilemma, and the two articles I read dealt with these issues as a part of their overall concern for the nature of accountability today. If we can not reach all of our students, and base school success (and future funding for resources) on the achievement of those who do not struggle, is a disservice to the idea that accountability matters for all students.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Leadership Project

Below is my finished Leadership Project. I decided to tackle the problem of new teachers in the English department, as I have seen and experienced this myself, both as a new teacher and as someone who has worked in a very frequently "fragmented" English department. Enjoy!

1. A Case Study

The problem presented here concerns two brand new teachers to my English department. Both teachers, one male and one female, are new to the profession, having been hired right out of teacher’s college, and have little experience (beyond practice teaching) being in the classroom or delivering the Ontario English curriculum. Both teachers are quite capable, but in both cases English is not their main subject area, but rather their second teachable. As has been the trend, these teachers, though very well-recommended by their mentor-teachers, have been hired due to their coaching abilities, and will be taking part in coaching the boys and girls volleyball teams.
This has caused some tension in the English department among the three other experienced English teachers, who are becoming resentful of seeing the department fragmented by the hiring of coaches who have little experience in the subject area. In the past, there have been two other teachers who have come in to coach and taught in our department, and the result was somewhat chaotic. Resources went missing, and the teaching styles of these two novice teachers conflicted with the style of those with experience in the department who taught the same sections of English. Inconsistency in evaluation was another problem: the novice teachers tended to create easier assignments to collect that were less marking so they could devote more time to coaching; and the more experienced teachers, who have a better idea of what to assess (despite the marking load) were criticized by their students for “giving too much work.”

2. Context

According to Section 270.1 of the Ontario Education Act, (as of 2006), “Every new teacher shall participate in the following elements of the new teacher induction program” and also states in Section 270.2 that “A new teacher successfully completes the program when he or she receives two satisfactory ratings in performance appraisals under Part X.2 no later than the end of his or her new teaching period, subject to any extension provided for in the regulations. 2006, c. 10, s. 38.” These Teacher Performance Appraisals are central to ensuring that new teachers to any school board in Ontario are maintaining the professional standards as outlined by the Education Act, and the guidelines measured in this process would be integral in helping me as a Department Head ensure that those in my department were meeting Provincial standards.

In terms of their classroom delivery of the curriculum, the Ontario English Curriculum states that the Role of Teachers in delivering the curriculum is that “[t]eachers develop appropriate instructional strategies to help students achieve curriculum expectations, as well as appropriate methods for assessing and evaluating student learning” (The Ontario Curriculum, 6). Using the guidelines in the revised Ontario English curriculum as a source will help me determine which delivery methods are appropriate and instill this in the new teachers when they are determining what to evaluate.

3. Leadership:

In approaching how to best solve the issue presented to my department on how to ensure that my new novice teachers are delivering the curriculum in a manner befitting our department and the Ontario standards, I would definitely use the ideas raised in several of the research articles I observed. In “Learning to Lead,” a speech delivered to managers by the Director of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, the idea that leadership is not about the leader’s own personal dream, but about promoting a “shared sense of destiny,” to have all those around you share in your vision is raised, and is an approach I would keep in mind because I feel having a strong department depends on all of the members working together and not feeling a sense of resentment or division from their colleagues on either side of the argument. I feel that as a leader I would rely on my team to help me decide what is best for our department, since we are all working together.
The four-step model provided by Warren Bennis in his article “The Leadership Advantage” I feel would be a very good plan to approach this particular problem, as it is not one that will be solved overnight, or by simply adding some kind of “quick fix.” As mentioned in his article, any good organization (or in this case, English department), however great or small must serve the needs of its followers. Good leaders, according to the article, encourage four supporting conditions to do this:
1. Providing Purpose: Effective leaders bring passion and significance to the purpose of its organization and, in turn, the purpose that its workers strive towards.
2. Generating and Sustaining Trust: exemplary leaders create an environment that promotes candor among its employees; the workplace should be a place where ideas are explored and discussed without the employees fearing the outcome.
3. Fostering Hope: exemplary leaders have the optimism to generate the energy and commitment necessary to get results and finish the task.
4. Getting Results: Exemplary leaders never forget that they must ultimately try their best to get results, and create a climate that tolerates when the results aren’t met, yet demands that everyone continue to strive for them.
I like his model because it is logical and follows and organized but flexible pattern to success. As a leader, I feel that having guidelines and being organized is extremely important in problem-solving, but one should always remain flexible to help from others and the intervention of other avenues to solve the same dilemma.

4. Plan

Using the above-mentioned four-step model, I would approach this problem using the following steps:

1. Providing Purpose: As new teachers, the male and female that are new to my department will ultimately be undergoing the Teacher Performance Appraisal (“TPA”) for new teachers as mandated by the Ontario Education Act. The use of the New Teacher Induction Program as a backdrop will alleviate any sense of mistrust that may be fostered by my approaching the new teachers independently and discussing the aforementioned concerns brought up by the senior members of the department. Since this is a year-long observation and will require two observations from the principal of the school, I would use this evaluation as a means of providing purpose for consistency among those teachers teaching the same grade level / section of English. As new teachers they will likely be nervous about delivering curriculum that is not their first teachable for the first time, particularly if they will be evaluated by the principal.
By the same token, since a big part of the TPA for new teachers involves being paired with a “mentor” who will act as someone to advise the new teacher and also observe their practice, I could use this idea to provide purpose too those seasoned members of the department (who are also teaching the same grade level as the new teacher, or who at least has taught it before) who can provide the insight needed to these new teachers on what to assess, and how to remain consistent.

2. Generating and Sustaining Trust: In meeting with my new teachers for the first time I would introduce them to the courses they are teaching by providing a course binder (if available) and the course profiles, and generally familiarize them with how things have been running in the department in years past. I would encourage them to create a unit of their own (if they have most of the course materials), outside of what has been provided and approach me when devising new assignments for major assessment (tests, essay questions, etc.) to ensure that they were aligned with the curriculum document and that the assessment pieces in their classes and the class of the other, more experienced staff member was comparable.
I would not, as a leader, want to promote the idea that the way things have been done before is the ONLY way, because part of what makes new teachers so refreshing is their unique and fresh look at how to deliver the curriculum and assess the students. I would not want to discourage creativity however I would create a very collegial environment, where the new teachers did not feel intimidated to share their ideas or, to respect the criticism and advice of experienced teachers. Pairing them with “mentors’ in the department (and as a part of their TPA) will help promote and sustain this feeling of professional trust and maintain a unified department.

3. Fostering Hope: Through my own classroom observation and frequent (weekly) informal meetings with the new teachers to see how things are progressing, I will try to give the new teachers hope that they are doing a good job in following the expectations and guidelines of our department, while at the same time meeting with their mentors (the experienced teachers in my department) to investigate any concerns. Continued contact and an open-door policy for questions about any part of school like should promote a feeling of confidence in the new members and experienced members alike.
By way of ensuring that lessons and assessment are meeting our standards, I will occasionally ask to see what they are doing in their courses that day or that week, reminding them that part of their Teacher Performance Appraisal will involve the principal evaluating their lessons. This will give me an opportunity to peruse what they are delivering and provide any feedback, positive or otherwise, to ensure their success. This, I feel, will foster hope among both the new teachers and the experienced ones, that there will be no compromising the integrity or our courses or of the department.

4. Getting Results: As Department Head, it is suggested by the guidelines of the New Teacher Induction Program to informally assess the new teachers by observing their classrooms informally before or after the principal has conducted their performance review, particularly if that teacher has selected me as a mentor. Using this guideline as a cue gives me the perfect opportunity to see, if after a few months of delivering the curriculum and working with other members of the department, if our new teachers were getting favorable results in the classroom, and among their colleagues. The success of my approach can also be measured in their formal performance appraisal itself, as observed in discussion and collaboration the principal or vice-principal.
I would not use this appraisal as the only measure of success however, because the final results would ultimately lie in the students’ success that term. Comparison of class averages between the new teachers and those of more experience in the same section can be a subjective indicator of success, but I would also keep my ear to the ground, as it were, to gage student response to these new teachers. With all of the aforementioned steps and procedures, my hope is that the problem would be seen as a challenge to all those in my department to engage and welcome new ideas and perceptions to our teaching in to the fold, and as a leader I would ensure that a positive working and learning environment is maintained.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A few links...

I've added a few links that I've used for resources and lesson ideas at the side of my blog. The Teachit website has many useful ready-to-use resources, particularly for Shakespeare and poetry. You need Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word to download the printable worksheets, etc. I'll add more in the coming weeks. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My link to

Since I've been talking so much about this website, it seems only natural that I link to it here, so that others may explore it for their own professional use. If you're not already a member on the site you can sign up very quickly and easily to begin exploring and creating your own accounts.


Friday, June 27, 2008


The issue of plagiarism is one that has dogged English teachers for decades. With the ever-increasing reliance on the internet for research and, in some cases, whole papers to copy, what can an English teacher do in this modern day and age to avoid the pitfall of plagiarism?

My school has used since I arrived there three years ago. The mandatory use of this website for all written submissions is written right on our course syllabus for each grade. The use of this anti-plagiarism web site has certainly made the students aware that we hold them very accountable for their work, and has discouraged internet plagiarism. The policy we've adopted (written on the course outline) is as follows: once the student has turned in the paper copy of their assignment, an electronic copy must be sent to before their mark is entered in the computer, and the student will not receive credit for the assignment (or get the assignment handed back) until the electronic copy is submitted and scanned.

So far, so good. In the three years I've been at St. Francis the only instances of plagiarism we've seen are students attempting to hand in another student's work (which the database also picks up, just so you know). I would recommend this web site to anyone teaching an English course, as it is a tool that has come in very handy, and is a very good aid in preparing our University bound students for what they can expect in their post-secondary careers.


Hello everyone!

I can't believe how easy it was to create this blog! Well, since you've taken the time to wander into my little corner of the cyberspace jungle, I'll give you a few words about who I am.

My name is Timothy John Chalmers (just "Tim" is fine) and I have been a secondary English teacher for five years. I got my Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Language and Literature with First Class Standing from Brock University. I went to teacher's college in Buffalo at D'Youville College and shortly thereafter began supply teaching for both the public and catholic school boards here in the Niagara Region. I spent 4 years as an L.T.O., working at various schools and developing some wonderful professional relationships, before landing at my current school, where I am proud to say I got a full-time contact just this past September.

I currently teach for the Niagara Catholic District School Board at St. Francis Catholic Secondary School in St. Catharines, Ontario. I've taught just about every section of English, Grades 9-12, in my five years, including developing the Locally Developed English program for Grade 10, and the Grade 12 Ontario Literacy Course. I absolutely love my job and look forward to developing the new GLE 2O technology course this coming September.

So that's the "professional me" in a nutshell. Thanks for reading, and keep checking back as this blog develops :)