literacy and …”fill in the blank”

Why fill in the blank? Because learning and understanding that literacy is made up of a multitude of skills, aptitudes and is ever changing and fluid within its own definition is essential.

Literacy moves beyond reading and writing. It includes the process of deciphering symbols, patterns, images to understand and come to meaningful conclusions about complex contexts, cultural understanding, and communication. ~Rusul Alrubail

The “Now Literacies”, identified from Silvia Tolisano;

  • Basic
  • Citizenship
  • Network 
  • Global 
  • Network 
  • Media 
  • Information,

…all allow active and voluntary members of a globally connected world to come together, to keep evolving the idea and underlying meaning of “literacy.”

Being fortunate to work within an environment and educational centre that not only embraces change, but encourages it, allows myself and my colleagues an opportunity to get a glimpse into the world of these literacies through a hands-on experience by following the documenting process from, pre-documentation, documentation to post-documentation of unpacking and amplifying the learning or work of students. One moment in time.

Today’s experience brought many of our conversations from our cohort to the forefront. Why are we documenting? What are we documenting? How are we documenting? How does this lead to future digital portfolios and student led-conferences. (more blog posts to come on those!)

Beginning the process of pre-documentation, as a large group, before visiting a classroom to “capture evidence” of learning (we’ll get to that in a little bit), supported our questions around these three questions. Choosing a lens to narrow into was the first point of contact. What was I going to look for? Ownership of learning? Leadership skills? As a math educator, and knowing the upcoming lesson was around mathematical thinking, I naturally wanted to look into the students mathematical processes in some way or form. After speaking more with the hosting classroom teacher, I gained more information about what they were working on, and one small tidbit of information made a larger connection to me to ground my focus. Key Words. The students are and have been learning about key words in their research navigation in the library and for projects. There are key words in math! Of course there are! I even have a document I’ve created for math clues and “key words” to listen for and use to break up problems, and to communicate thinking. PERFECT! My lens is looking, listening, and watching for: Math Language.

So why make a connection within this post around using “math language” and my documentation journey on learning and investigating current and now Literacy, (literacies) is just that. Math is a language. It is a skill. It is a navigational tool and aptitude to learn, grow, decode, and apply. Hey there… look, another checkbox ticked off!

Math in itself can be a literacy.

Now that the “why” is taken care of, on to the what and how…

Capture the non-visible and make it visible.

Sure. Sounds like an analytical and grade 10 English essay. But… jump right in everyone. The time is now!

Let’s Go! ok…ok…ok… We’ve got this. What if I audio record some students explaining and working through their work. Doable! What if I take videos! I can do that! (note to self: don’t forget to make sure students have permission to be shared online….why? because; beginning with the end in mind (7 habits-wink wink) this documentation will be going online. Circle back to “Why”…(this process is not linear as you can tell…jumping back and forth a bit…) What I learned from this: it’s OK to change directions and tweak as you go.

So…now into the classroom we go. Students are prepped and the hosting teacher is putting on a brave face. There are 10 adults in this room. When was the last time I had 10 of my peers watching me and my students!?!

Kudos to her!

The lesson started, I had my focus, I was ready.

I listened to the teacher’s “Minds On” activity. What words was she using. “Groups of”, “Rows of”, “Product” “altogether.” Good thing I took notes here and a picture for my own reflection of what now to look and listen for. Next a student came to explain the teacher’s thoughts to the classroom. She repeated the same words, used her own “multiplied” “continue the adding,” Great example!

So now students are in groups and the documenting begins…again.

I walked around and listened for conversations. What I noticed at first. Some students read their individual parallel questions to them selves each, instead of each other. hrmm…I wonder why they did this? Another thing, right away, I noticed was that students tended to start writing right away and not talk. Hrmm..where has the art of conversation gone?


Then…another connection. Math itself is a language. Right? I even mentioned it above. Communication of math does not always need to be words. It’s pictures, symbols, numbers, calculations etc.

When encouraged with support or prompting more conversations arose and more and more the students talked. Capturing their words; hard a bit. A lot of noise in the background. But doable.

Heard key words used by the teacher! “Groups,” “Rows” “Altogether”. What I didn’t hear…”how come?” “doubling” “halving” ” “times more”. Have these been exposed to? Have they chosen not to use these? Are they avoiding the how comes to get straight to the answers?

Where I did  hear, observe, and see the most math language was when students were asked to explain their work within a gallery walk. Of course!

What I saw when students were doing this to their peers: happiness, joy, pride, and confidence. Those who may have not been so confident starting a process or the hesitant with the work around their processes, displayed joy. The more and more they repeated and shared their work, the happier they were. The more confidence they displayed. The more at ease they were with the language.

So…again…with my ever so frequent question: Now what…?


A word that at one time was scary in every sense of the word. Now is more natural. Why? Because full circle moment from my first blog post.

“If others do it for me. I do it for others.”

So to the hosting teacher…this is to you with love.

To the colleagues that have joined me and are with me on this journey…please continue to share your suggestions, feedback, and reflections.

To the parents and other staff who may  end up on this page, reading this…the school is growing…we’re changing…we’re evolving…good things are happening…if you want to know more…read our blogs..ask questions…get involved.

To the global community…thank you for letting me share my reflections and space with you and to begin widening my amplification comfort levels.

….and to me….keep reflecting and learning from others…don’t give up…

It’s time…to learn…to learn to un-learn…and to learn to re-learn.

One comment

  1. As your coach, reading your blog posts and reflections, I am thrilled to see the ideas and concepts reflected back to me with your perspective… with your understanding… and with your interpretations… There is nothing more powerful as feedback than you sharing these in the context of a blog post and you are making your connections (which I might not have EVEN thought about) visible for me as your reader.


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