I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Gardner, extraordinary teacher, administrator, teacher-leader and best of all, my friend! Although we don’t see each other often, we have a strong “connection” and share a deep passion for teaching, learning and BOOKS! We first met over 10 years ago in Vernon when I was presenting a Reading Power workshop there. Jennifer embraced Reading Power and it became her school focus for many years. She is now bringing “deep thinking” to Maple Leaf School in Dalian, China. Welcome, Jennifer!
I met Adrienne in 2005 when I was working as a Literacy Lead Teacher with SD#22 (Vernon). When I attended her Reading Power workshop and realized that her work was based on solid research in a very useable format, I was convinced that this work needed to be adopted and used!! And so began my journey with Reading Power. Over the next 7 years, Adrienne continued to write books and give workshops. I became a principal and worked with incredible teachers to improve reading in my school. Throughout these years, Adrienne and I have continued our ‘book bond’ – a bond that is focused on supporting teachers, as they teach comprehension in a visible and explicit way.
In 2014, my husband and I moved to Dalian, China to work with Maple Leaf International School System. I was hired to improve reading comprehension skills in a Middle School with 1200 students. I had 30 ESL Bilingual teachers who began this journey with me. It was an incredible journey as I introduced Reading Power as a way to help students ‘think’ in English, while they are reading. These students go from a predominantly Chinese school (10 classes per week of English instruction) to full time English in grade 10 with BC Curriculum and BC teachers! The challenge was to help these bilingual teachers understand the difference between “rote learning of vocabulary and grammar” versus “thinking about what they are reading” in English.
I started with having the Grade 7 students create a Chinese version of the Reading Power poster so that we could add ‘brain parts’ to show the ‘thinking ‘ the students needed to do to make sense of the text. Several students created posters – notice the students in the posters are wearing their Maple Leaf uniforms.
How fun was that! I met with teachers weekly to go over the Reading Power lesson and to model, for them, how we need to help children think. Since good English pictures books were hard to come from, I created ppt’s with picture books I brought from Canada. In this way, I could use 1 picture book in 27 classrooms! The bilingual teachers loved the support, they could add personal pictures or stories to the ppts and every week I went into classrooms to support them and help them navigate their way. In the course of one year, we introduced Connecting, Questioning and Inferring in an explicit and fun way. The students loved stories like Mean Jean, Courage, Miss Nelson is Missing, Willy the Champ, Yo?Yah!, Good Dog Carl, No!David to name a few. Finding great books for Chinese Middle School boys (with limited English) was my challenge. However, the students cheered whenever we would have a Reading Power lesson. (That was a good sign).
After that one year I returned to Canada to care for my father. To my delight, Reading Power continued on with the Bilingual teachers at the Middle School. They continued because they noticed that the students were engaged and eager to learn English.
Now, this year, I have returned to China to take on the role of Professional Developer for Literacy Improvement for the ESL Department – 18 different cities, with 32 ESL Directors. Our focus will be Reading Power and Writing Power, K-9. We just finished 3 intensive days of sessions involving ‘changing the way we teach English to improve literacy’. Reading Power is a big part of this change – system wide.
It is such a privilege to work with these ESL Directors, teachers, and students. They are eager to learn and are so respectful of the support they are receiving. I am impressed with their work ethic and their willingness to teach in a way that supports students’ learning!
Having Adrienne as my colleague and friend, has been a tremendous support. Her work is finding its way across oceans and continents! Reading Power is now being translated into Mandarin! Thumbs up!!