Connectedness & Relationships



Welcome back. Exciting things are afoot… This month is all about connecting and relationship building. Behind every one of those faces are stories waiting to be heard.

Changes to both our infrastructure and Fast ForWord content is going to make this an exciting year. If you are interested in having this program in your building, please contact me (there will be training in October).  If you are a continuing site, here are some possibilities to consider:

  • new 3 day protocol with 40 minutes or 90 minutes available (*consider getting as close to 200 minutes/week as your goal for success). This may provide timetable flexibility to some sites.
  • new reports – detailing immediate achievement
  • Raz-Kids (our famous online support for reading fluency and comprehension) has changed its weblink and management look. New weblink is: (Please ensure that you have changed your links on class blogs and school websites.) This program is great for classroom teachers. Applications are found > FORMS
  • ARC-BC – register for a new year. Information and training:
  • New BC curriculum – get the latest to explore –

Interventions – Positive Steps in the Right Direction

red flagThose pesky red flags made your heart sink. And they were doing so well.  At some point every student reaches this wall.  Actually this can be seen as a good thing.  It means that both the student and the program have located the area of need, that point where the student missed along the journey of reading. This can be seen as a fabulous opportunity.

Strategies for intervention come and go. The question is what strategies will support the student in the most positive, most targeted, most efficient manner? Consider the following:

  1. Check the Completion History Report. It gives you a quick way to see individual progress and may offer insights in preventing those flags from popping up. “Prevention is easier than intervention.” 
  2. Check the Error Reports – what story do they tell? Ensure you have a clear understanding of the issue at hand. 
  3. Check in with the student – what story does the student tell? This is a perfect time to connect and make this a “connectedness” time. “Relationship is everything.”
  4. Only after the three above, check the blog Interventions section of the exercise for specific ways to support. (*You might also talk to your colleagues in other buildings using the same program. They have strategies that have worked for them.)
  5. Interventions may require more time than one session. Take the time needed. (*Sometimes the issue really is that we don’t spend enough time to allow for the learning to occur before placing the student back on the program.)
  6. Don’t be disheartened if the flag doesn’t disappear immediately. If the student has been stuck for some time, it will take a while. Make a mental note to encourage both the student and yourself.

Secret to the Universe When Motivation Wanes

silhouettecircle_201403Many times I’ve been asked “how do you motivate students”? This is usually during the time when the newness of the exercises wear off and it’s clearly drudgery that takes over.  This might happen during week one (sigh) or perhaps pop up in week three.  If you’re lucky, you won’t see the effects for quite some time.

One of the challenges of any program especially one using technologies, is that teachers expect the program to be the motivator and all they have to do is get the student into the building.  While Fast ForWord does have embedded bells and whistles, when you hit the wall, it just isn’t enough. No amount of pings, pops or flashy action figure is going to encourage you once you’ve heard the dreaded ‘clunk’ for the tenth time.

My secret to the universe is really no secret at all.  It is simply … “relationships“.  Relationships that build from being the champion of the individual student.  It is overt and open and honest, not simply implied.  In good times and bad. Students need to know that you are the ‘wind beneath their wings’, especially when they get tired and frustrated. The act of learning to read is a strenuous workout for the brain (equal to a marathon run). Knowing that you have a safe harbour to rest, gain strength and much needed encouragement goes a long way.  Put another way, Bev Ogilvie says,


“connectedness makes the world go round. It brings out creativity and helps everyone around us flourish. … It engenders hope, rekindles our inner light and allows us to feel joy. Our power comes from who we are, not from what we do or what we have.” [ p.162]

These words ring even more powerful as we race through our busy days. Sometimes I feel it takes super powers to stop, remind ourselves to purposefully and intentionally take the initiative to connect deeply with our students, to listen with open hearts and in doing so, help them feel they have a belonging place. Relationship is foundational to the process of learning. However I have no right way to go about this. How do you go about building relationships or connections with your students?  Would love your comments or suggestions.

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Discovery and Relationships

It’s June and I’m really not sure what happened to this year.  The ten months prior have whizzed by and here we are again.  I wanted to take this moment to share some reflections of the year.

headset_icon2Our Fast ForWord teams saw a boost and challenge in the delivery of this Tier 3 intervention program.  The move to an online environment meant that more schools were added, more students were included.  Teaching teams were challenged with a new approach in supporting reading achievement and student motivation each time we met as a group and during site visits. It was a humbling experience to watch the dedication and intense energy of this group of educators as they supported their students. One student stated “all I ever want is to learn to read”.  He came extra early to school to make sure he could get in his session. After years of struggle, he is well on his way. Grateful to all the educators for going the extra mile for our students!

ipad iPads took the education world with a storm.  Several sets of learning series from beginner to advanced gave school teams and individuals the chance to explore, connect and extend their knowledge of how this device could be used to enhance learning.  Many times we saw ‘aha’ moments when experiences collided with the teachers’ knowledge of student needs. At these times, the sharing was electrifying as others stopped and were drawn into conversations.  Questions  like what criteria to use when choosing apps, how to negotiate the workflow for seamless experiences, how to develop better questioning techniques, how to document the reflective journey and how to create something that never before could be created were tackled with gusto and teamwork.  One teacher chose to take the framework and work with all the EA’s in her school to extend their learning.  Now that’s action.

online-writing-communityWhat happens if we offered a dedicated laptop and projector to a teacher to develop an inquiry idea? I can say that wonderful sparks happened.  In one class I observed such engagement and “shining eyes” (Benjamin Zander’s words) that I was blown away by the focused level of dialogue as students discussed their work.  Thank you for showing determination, persistence and purposeful actions to deepen practices.

balancing rocksWhat if you asked a group of secondary teachers to reach high and envision big! You get an inquiry team regardless of subject, who dreams big, reaches big and actions big. This small group from across multiple schools dove into strategies like standards-based assessment or flip classroom or refining questioning, all through seamless use of technologies.  Little did I know that excitement from this group meant that they were driven to share not only in their schools but to share their discoveries by rotating meetups at most of the secondaries where everyone was invited to drop in. What I took away from each of these added sessions was the power of collaborative conversation; conversation that started with honest sharing experiences (with all its bumps) and circled with audiences asking questions and challenging the notions. Back and forth until clarity was reached and what we thought we knew to be true of these strategies and environments was worked and reworked.  What I learned was the courage it took for these teachers to “risk big” not only privately but publicly in front of their colleagues.  In doing so, they shared the greatest gift, the gift of possibility.

These are only a small number of the projects we were so privileged to be a part of the learning.  I truly believe  that what we lived was an experience in how we view the world, to live into the possibility, and grow beyond what we imagined.  We found champions who were there in our corners to bounce ideas, to challenge our thinking and to help us “dare greatly“.  As another year comes to a close, I leave you with Rita Pierson who spoke at TED – “Every Kid Needs a Champion”.   THANK YOU for being the champions of our students.

Connecting the Dots

cherryblossom2It’s definitely spring.  Everyone is in high gear especially with the good weather.  Our final session of “Connect the Dots” happened last week with a gathering of folks at Schou.  Along with some interventions, we were able to review the latest information on MyScilearn (teacher area).  The Results tab now houses the individual graphs and current work of the students.  Upload of each exercise is fairly immediate.  Consider using this information to allow the students to visually see the connection between their personal efforts and the results on colourful graphs.  One of the teachers shared how motivating it was for her students to actually watch their graphs move up each session.
If you were having difficulties in logging in or being timed out of Progress Tracker, using the Results area may be the way to go.

Growing Together Conference – Friday May 17th  

This online conference is open to anyone who is interested in neuroscience as it applies to learning.  For more information or to register, click here.