Monthly Archives: June 2017

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 French Picture Books to use with Reading Power

While all of my Reading and Writing Power books are translated and published in French, I, myself, am not French speaking.  This makes it rather challenging for me to create book lists for French Immersion teachers.  After numerous requests, however, I decided to rise to the challenge! I was surprised to see many of the English books I have recommended for Reading Power are translated into French so the challenge wasn’t as difficult as first thought!  Thanks to Vanessa Zentner, a grade 4 French Immersion teacher in Calgary, for the gentle nudge – here are my top 10 French picture books to use with Reading Power.

Image result for la branche Mireille Messier

1. Ma branche préférée – Mireille Messier

When an ice storm breaks a branch off a little girl’s favorite tree, she is devastated.  Fortunately, her kind neighbour, Mr. Frank, helps her turn her branch into something wonderful (not telling!)  I love this book for making predictions – students predict what Mr. Frank will make.  I also like the reference to an ice storm to introduce students to this weather phenomenon that many have never experienced.  A great CONNECT book – connecting to something special that was damaged or lost.

                     2. Grand-mère, elle et moi – Yves Nadon

There is something special about memories with your grandmother.  Special feelings, memories and moments to connect to.  A perfect CONNECT book.

3. Tourbillon d’émotions – Janan Cain

I use the English version of this book with many classes when we are practicing making Connections.  It is filled with many different examples of everyday situations and the feelings connected to them.  A great book to introduce “feeling” vocabulary.

Quel génie!- Ashley Spires

This past fall, I used this book to launch our school wide Critical Thinking project called the “Most Magnificent Thing”.  (You can read all about the project here.)  It is the story of a little girl who sets out to build “The Most Magnificent Thing”, but becomes increasingly frustrated when things don’t turn out exactly as planned.   It is one of my favorite books because it is filled with so many themes for discussion – determination, managing frustration, and, in the case of our MMT projects – the importance of using critical thinking to solve problems.

4. Plus noir que la nuit – Chris Hadfield

One of my favorite biography picture books of 2016, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield shares his childhood experiences of being afraid of the dark.  A perfect book for CONNECTING to childhood fears but also an inspiring young readers to overcome those fears and dream big.  Gorgeous illustrations by brothers Terry and Eric Fan.

5. Le jardinier de la nuit – The Fan Brothers

A mysterious gardener begins to sculpt trees into animals during the night and young William wonders who and why.  Breathtaking illustrations (again by the talented Fan Brothers) and spare, sweet text, this is a perfect QUESTION book.  (Before starting the story, show the class the cover – and ask the “Qu’est-ce que vous vous demandez?” (Not sure if that’s how you say “What are you wondering?” but I tried!)  They will fill a chart paper, white board or smart board screen with questions!

6. Le lion et l’oiseau Marianne Dubuc

Another favorite from last year, this  is a tender tale of friendship between a lion and the wounded bird he finds and cares for.  When bird flies off with his flock the following fall, Lion is left alone.  A great book for QUESTIONING.  (I’m wondering what the bird is whispering to the lion on the front cover!)

7. Le bateau de fortune – Olivier de Solmicnhac

This gorgeous book is a perfect one to practice VISUALIZING!  Two friends arrive at the beach but have forgotten their swimsuits, buckets and spades.  What to do?  Instead, they make a makeshift boat and sail off to imagine the sound of the sea, the taste of the sea spray, seeing the sparkling light of the sun on the water,  and the feeling of a day at the beach.  Full of sensory descriptions, this book will make a wonderful one to practice VISUALIZING.   

                   8.  Mon papa, il est grand, il et fort, mais Coralie Saudo

A humourous role reversal plays out in this gentle book about a boy who is trying to get his dad to go to bed.  Children will make many connections to being coaxed into their own bedtime routines.  Perfect for Father’s Day!

9. Et si jamais…? Anthony Browne

I was very pleased to see that this book about childhood anxiety by Anthony Browne has been translated into French.  On his way to to a birthday party, his first “drop off” party, a little boy becomes more and more anxious about the many things that could go wrong.  As he and his mum get closer to the house he becomes filled with worry:  “What if nobody talks to me?”  “What if I don’t like the food?” “What if you forget to pick me up?”  It is a book I have shared many times and it always invites many “worry” connections from children.

10. Le Canada, c’est moi!  – Heather Patterson

I was SO excited about this gorgeous book when I saw it in English (I am Canada) and now soon to be released in French!   A perfect book to help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, written in simple text and illustrated by 13 amazing Canadian children’s illustrators including Barbara Reid, Jon Klassen, Marie-Louise Gay and Ashley Spires. It is a celebration of all things Canada – from First Nations festivals, to playing hockey on an frozen pond, to lying in a pile of leaves – depicting the cultural and geographical diversity of our home and native land.


Well, French Immersion Teachers, there you have my first official blog of French titles!  I hope that you have found a few new books to add to your Reading Power collections.  I would love to hear back with any of your favorites so that I can perhaps do another Top 10 List soon.  Thanks for stopping by!



Filed under French Books, New Books

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Good-Bye Gift Books for Teachers and Colleagues

As our school year draws to a close, there may be staff members who are moving to other schools, retiring or going on leave.  Gifting your colleague with a special book is a meaningful way to say “Thank you” and “You have made a difference”.  Here are my top 10 books to give as good-bye gifts to teachers.  (Thank you Amber Romero for this great Top Ten Tuesday idea!)

  1. A Letter To My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson

A heartfelt picture book about a girl who prefers running and jumping to listening and learning—and the teacher who gently inspires her.  Written as a thank-you note with gorgeous illustrations.  This one is inspiring and may require a Kleenex.

2, Thank You – A Book for Teachers – Sandy Gingras

This is a charming little keepsake book features soft, sweet watercolor artwork and thoughtful original text celebrating teachers and all they.  Please note this book is very small – like something that would fit into a purse –  very sweet, but tiny.

3. Last Day Blues – Julie Danneburg

A very sweet story that follows a group of students on their last day of school.  The kids are so worried that their teacher will have nothing to do during the summer (LOL!) so they make her a very cute present to help her remember them.  Love the surprise at the end!  (Similar to First Day Jitters)

4. Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden – Edith Pattou

A metaphor for teaching –  tending a garden – planting, nurturing, growing.  Simple, moving story and whimsical illustrations celebrate all that teachers do, year after year, to help children grow and blossom.  A great teacher gift.

5. Because I Had a Teacher – Kobi Yamada

“Because I had a teacher, I have whole new worlds to explore.
I discovered that what I can imagine, I can make real.
And now I feel like I can do anything.
Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

This heartwarming book is a thank you gift for great teachers everywhere. Adorable illustrations.

6. Teachers Rock! – Todd Parr

You can never go wrong with Todd Parr!  Summary:  Teachers are amazing!  They help you find new talents, learn new things, and watch you succeed.  A wonderful ode to teachers.   

7.  The New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons Edited by Robert Mankoff

For those teachers for whom a picture book is maybe not the best fit – here is a hilarious collection of cartoons that capture the fun, terror, excitement, anxiety, bedlam and joy that teachers experience every day.  Hilarious!

8. F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers – Richard Beasoa

This book is hilarious!  Full of apparently real-life wrong answers to various test questions. Perfect for anyone who has ever taught high school or middle school who will make many “connections” to these creative wrong answers to test questions.

9. What Teachers Make – In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World – Taylor Mali

At a dinner party, teacher Taylor Mali was asked by a dinner guest, who happened to be a lawyer, what teachers make.  Tired of being asked this question, he wrote a poem which he later performed at a poetry slam.  The poem got such attention, he turned it into a book.  Heartfelt and filled with inspiration, this is a perfect gift for every teacher.  I did not know about this book but was inspired by Taylor Mali’s reciting the poem on YouTube. 

10.   Thank You, Mr. Falkner Patricia Polacco

No list of inspiring books for teachers would be complete without this one.  A beautiful, touching story of a girl struggling to learn to read and the amazing teacher who “unlocked the door and pulled [her] into the light.”   Kleenex definitely required for this one – I cry every time I read it.  This special book is for that special teacher who just finds a way.

Teachers:  There is No Such Thing as Hot Coffee and Other Teacher Truths -Bored Teachers

This book has not yet been released (July) but I’m including it as a “one to watch for”.  I enjoy following Bored Teachers on Facebook so am looking forward to this one as I’m sure it will be very funny.  Here’s the summary:

Is it Friday yet? Get ready to go behind the desk with this insiders look at a year in the life of an everyday educator. Written for teachers by teachers, this hilarious snapshot into the lives of the overworked and underpaid will have you laughing so loud, you’ll worry it might get confiscated.  Full of administrative frustration, madcap humor; and heartfelt love for the most underappreciated profession of them all, Teachers is the perfect gift for that special someone who spends all day with your kids.  

What are your favorite teacher gift books?

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Filed under New Books, Teacher Books, Top 10 Tuesday

Guest Post #2: BC Performance Standard Makeover and Student Portfolios by Jennifer Moroz (SD 57)

This week, I would like to welcome Jennifer Moroz as my second guest blogger!  She is a teacher from Prince George, B.C. who is currently working at the district level as an Assessment Support Teacher.  I first met Jennifer many years ago in Smithers while facilitating a Reading Power Leadership Series in the district.  Jen was early in her teaching career at the time, but I knew instantly that she was going to go places!  She had a keen intuition about student learning and showed amazing promise and insight as an educator.  It is not surprising she has gone on to do amazing work in her school district and is now starting to present workshops in and around BC.  I’m very excited (and proud!) to have her share some of the amazing work she is doing in the area of assessment, student portfolios, and the new curriculum.  Way to go, Jen!

BC Performance Standards: A Once-Per-Term Score Sheet, or the Groundwork for Student Portfolios? 

by Jennifer Moroz, Assessment Support SD 57

I know.  Performance Standards.  Two words no one really likes, or maybe just not together.  The term simply sounds like the image it evokes; forced samples, waiting to be duly assessed under fluorescent lights.  I intuited this during conversations with teachers in my capacity as an assessment support teacher in SD 57; it became clear that most teachers were familiar with Performance Standards as either summative assessment tools (stapled to the front of a writing sample, for example) or as a reference tool for assessing comprehension questions (in the DART assessment, for example).  I felt strongly that these documents had more to offer than being visited only three times a year.

The Link Between Performance Standards and Student Portfolios

I have always been passionate about developing Student Portfolios as a way of developing a personalized learning profile for each child, as well as to help guide my instruction. As a classroom teacher, I began using a portfolio system six years ago because I needed to streamline the task of tracking the individual growth of 30 students in a combined grade 5 and 6 classroom, with reading and writing levels ranging from grade 3 to grade 9.  I used the original Performance Standards in reading, writing and numeracy (for simplicity I am only referring to the reading and writing standards in this blog) to track student progress throughout the year.  In interview format, I shared the results of baseline assessments as recorded on the Performance Standards with each student, explaining that I had to develop a profile for them to best meet their needs.   Together we came up with ideas for learning opportunities that reflected their interests and passions, and this was recorded and stored in their portfolio – which was a simple binder in which I kept their baseline, mid-term, and end-term assessments.

Students took equal ownership of their portfolio binders by adding documents that demonstrated their learning, such as reading fluency charts, reading logs, and before/after writing samples.  In this case, the Performance Standards provided crucial scaffolding that enabled us to effectively communicate our learning, and helped me develop momentum and purpose in my instruction through the year.  It also made student-led conferences and report card writing enjoyable, as I recall. (I’m in the process of developing blackline masters that can be used for a similar binder or folder system for a portfolio like this, so come and visit me at the PSA Superconference workshop – details below — for more information on that!)

What Was Missing in the BC Performance Standards?

The original BC Provincial Performance standards have served me well in the past as a way of aligning my assessment to my practice and for helping me communicate with students where they are and where they need to go.  As with any assessment tool, however, the current Performance Standards are not without a few “hiccups”.  Over the years, while using these documents, I have often wished “someone” would make them more user-friendly.   There are many things that could be improved upon –  starting with a space for the student’s name!  Since the curriculum in BC has recently undergone a huge transformation many, including me, have been wondering if changes to the Performance Standards will follow – aligning them more with the new core competencies, big ideas and learning outcomes.  Having recently been hired in my district as an assessment support  teacher, it seemed serendipitous, even necessary, to seize the opportunity to update the Performance Standards to reflect the spirit of change. And that is just what I did!  My revised continuums are based on our current Performance Standards but are not “official” ministry documents.  I have made minor modifications to the layout and the language, but have maintained the format, structure and intent. Like in many other districts, we are taking what we have and trying to make it work best for us and for our students.

Below are a few of the highlights of my “revamping”:

  1. The language of the revised performance standards is aligned with aspects of the curricular competencies.
  2. The language is taken directly from the full scale. The quick scale was too vague for a comprehensive portfolio piece.
  3. The box for student name and current grade level is added so that teachers can easily personalize the document.
  4. The common reading assessments, PM Benchmark and Reading a-z, are linked to the continuum of the year.

Jen Moroz

Early Learning Conference Connections

I presented the concept of using the revamped Performance Standards as scaffolding for a portfolio at the Early Learning Conference in Prince George of January this year.  I made the case that something as innocuous as an 11×17 document could exist as a year-long story, punctuated by assessment dates of achievement and success for students. As a natural extension, the portfolios could quite literally highlight an educator’s effort to move learning forward.

Educators who were interested in using the revised Performance Standards to track growth in reading and writing provided me with feedback with four reasons why this system would be useful for them:

  1. Linking the revised Performance Standards to Building Student Success made their assessments feel relevant, particularly because of the connection to the new curriculum;
  2. Using the revised Performance Standards to show growth supports existing structures of interviews, conferences and reporting because it contains the continuum descriptors that they used in communicating formally;
  3. Using the revised Performance Standards to indicate markers in learning enabled them to create a one page picture that showcases the reading and writing assessments they do regularly;
  4. The revised Performance Standards have language that aligns with many commonly used assessments in reading and phonological awareness. They could continue using their usual tools to collect data, but now the data could be expressed on the Performance Standard continuum.

Testing the Proto-types

Educators from our school district were excited to test the prototypes.   Christie Wilson is an educator who teaches grade two and three at Glenview Elementary in Prince George.  She devised a system with highlighters that concisely shows the date of the assessment and student progress (she uses PM Benchmark assessments at regular intervals) at each one. Christie keeps the portfolios (one for reading, one for writing) in an 11 x17 folder on her desk.  Christie shared these assessments with visiting parents and guardians during interviews in the fall.  Now, as she prepares to communicate the story of her students’ growth with the summative report card template, she has a clever visual that is poised to provide a framework for some highly personalized and meaningful comments.

jen 1           Christie uses the margins for anecdotes during assessments

jen 3

Tracy Flesher from Hart Highlands Elementary uses post-it notes to specify targets for learning.

jen 4

jen 2

Laura Gilday from Foothills Elementary sent digital and paper copies of the portfolios home as formal communication at the end of the year.

Well, that’s one big boing of color!

I have the extreme honor of being “the reading lady” who visits many classrooms in my district to help with benchmark assessments.  Recently I started sharing the portfolios with the students. I explained to a lovely girl in grade two that the blue color represented her fall reading level (‘You mean around Halloween, right?’) and green represented winter (‘I remember Santa but not really anything else’) and finally that orange showed her May reading level.  She had no problem reading the information as a visual – her excitement and pride clearly visible as she held her hands on her cheeks.   “That’s amazing! Look at the big boing of the last color! I’m so telling my mom!”

jen 5

To be clear, when the Performance Standards are used in the way described, it comprises one piece of a student portfolio.  Many more pieces, in other curricular and core competencies, would have to be included in order to be considered a comprehensive portfolio.  I simply consider it a starting place, and an arguably important one, because language arts infiltrates so much of what we do in the classroom.

This is the beginning of my journey as it relates to engineering the best version of a portfolio system for language arts in primary and intermediate.  These revised documents are a work in progress and I welcome your feedback and input!  I’m very excited to be one of the presenters at the 2017 PSA Superconference in Vancouver on Oct. 20-21st.   My session, ‘Building Portfolios for Student Success’ (K-3/4-7) and will feature:

  • Tools for building effective assessments in curricular and core competencies; several samples that can be modified to suit your classroom needs
  • Practical classroom tested ideas for how to use the Grade K-3 and 4-7 Reading and Writing Performance Standards
  • Supporting Portfolio documents that enable students to organize, document, and showcase their journey as it relates to the Performance Standards, and the curricular and core competencies

Attached are the pdf files of my “revamped” K-3 Reading and Writing Performance Standards, and the Grade 4 Reading Performance Standards.  Please feel free to use and share with colleagues.   Happy teaching, assessing, and learning!

Reading K

Reading Gr. 1

Reading Gr. 2

Reading Gr. 3

Reading Gr. 4

Writing Gr. 1

Writing Gr. 2

Writing Gr. 3

jen 6

Jennifer Moroz has taught grades K-8 for 12 years in SD 54 and dabbled with various portfolio systems in an effort to streamline the crucial task of communicating student learning.  She began work as an assessment support teacher in SD 57 in 2015 and is eager to meet the needs of educators by creating effective assessments that align with the new BC curriculum.  Jen loves meeting new people and collaborating with other educators. Contact her with your clever iterations, questions, suggestions, or to book a workshop at or @MorozJennifer on Twitter.

If you would like to be a guest on this blog, please email me with your ideas!



Filed under New Books, Redsigned BC curriculum