What is Literacy For Life?
Early Learning and Literacy was identified by the Board of Education as a strategic priority for Saskatoon Public Schools in 2004. This learning priority is popularly known as Literacy for Life. We are committed to the goal of all students, K-8, reading and writing at or above grade level in multiple subject areas so they can act upon their potential in school and in life - ultimately creating a healthier democratic society for the 21st Century.
What Difference Will Literacy for Life Make?
Ask any child or adult who struggles with reading what a difference it would make if they could successfully read and you�ll have your answer to this question. The difference that learning to read can make for a child cannot be merely stated in words. To be a successful and independent reader means that school is easier, self-esteem is higher, and life success is greater.
How Will We Know That We Have Been Successful?
The overall goal of Literacy for Life is to have all students, K-12, reading at or above grade level. While this outcome includes all students, we recognize some students have severe learning challenges and for them, this outcome may not be possible. We expect, however, that students with learning difficulties will make significant improvements in their literacy skills as a result of Literacy for Life.
Measuring our results allows us to identify and celebrate our successes and ensure our public that targeted resources and effort produce great results for our students. To determine our success, we gather data, specifically student achievement data, and report to our staff and our public about our results. Since we began Literacy for Life, our students have made significant gains in literacy. Check our progress reports for 2004/2005, 2005/2006, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2004 to 2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012.
In 2006,Literacy for Life was awarded the Premier's Board of Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in Education. In 2010, Kim Newlove, Superintendent of Education who leads work in Literacy for Life, was awarded the Council of the Federation's Literacy Leader Award. These are just two indications that Saskatoon Public Schools is being recognized for its efforts to create powerful learners!
What Does Literacy For Life Involve?
Early Years Literacy
Grades K-2: Supported by an intensive and sustained staff development program, our Kindergarten to Grade 2 teachers are using variations of the Picture Word Inductive Model to teach reading and writing to their students, along with a variety of other powerful, explicit instructional strategies.
Middle Level Literacy
Grades 3-5:Teachers continue to explore various models of inquiry as they consolidate their learning within the framework of the renewed provincial curricula. A sustained focus is the development of the following competencies for twenty-first century learning: conceptual understanding, critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration and communication. The enhancement of these competencies in our students will help them to achieve the goal of reading at or above grade level.
Grades 6-8:Teachers are implementing the renewed provincial curricula as a key resource, while teaching subject area content through the receptive and expressive strands of literacy. Literacy inquiry, deepening our students' implementation of assessment for learning practices, and effectively employing powerful instructional models will continue to be a focus. Reading at or above grade level continues to be the goal for our students in Grades 6 to 8.
Just Read - Kindergarten to Grade Twelve
A partnership of school and community to increase students' reading of fiction and non-fiction books, Just Read creates lifelong reading habits. Our schools, classrooms, and students have established literacy goals to increase the number and type of books students read. All students participate in Just Read.
If you have some new or gently used books to donate, we'd love to have them! The books will be distributed to students in our schools. If you have questions about our book collection program, please call (306) 683-8333.
Read to Succeed - Grades Four to Twelve
Read to Succeed provides intensive instruction for students who are reading well below grade level. Our monitoring of student success in Read to Succeed indicates these students achieve at a rate that is often more than double their past achievement levels in reading.
In the strategic implementation of any plan, it is critical to have baseline information, as well as an ongoing monitoring process that relies on data. We are monitoring progress towards identified outcomes and indicators of success. Data collected focuses on the measurement indicators, with an emphasis on student achievement and teachers' instructional practices in literacy. For more information on the data we've collected so far, check our progress reports above.
With the support of a variety of external consultants, we are developing our leadership capacity so that our students can sustain high levels of achievement in literacy. This leadership development includes the following:
- focusing on instructional leadership;
- aligning our administrative structure to support our two learning priorities;
- supporting school-based collaborative inquiry teams; and
- developing internal capacities to lead staff development.
External Consultant Support
The effective development and implementation of a literacy plan of this magnitude requires the support of external consultants Over the years we have been supported by:
- Dr. Bruce Joyce and Dr. Emily Calhoun - researchers and instructional leaders in the areas of literacy and staff development. (Georgia)
- Mrs. Lisa Mueller - Instructional Consultant (Alberta),
- Ms. Nicole Simons - Instructional Consultant French Immersion (Alberta)
- Dr. Anne Davies - Assessment for Learning Consultant (British Columbia)
- Mrs. Debbie Miller - Primary Reading Consultant (Colorado)
We are currently supported by:
- Dr. Lyn Sharratt - Professor and Author (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education)
- Dr. Gerald Duffy - Professor and Author (Washington)
Identifying Partnerships with Our Community
We are very fortunate to have a number of partners and sponsors who are working with us at the Division level to promote literacy. Our major sponsors over the years have included: Grand & Toy, Rawlco Radio, Adams Lumber, Saskatoon Blades, Canwest Raise a Reader Program, Scholastic Books, Juxtapose Productions, The Sound Lounge, Saskatoon Co-op, Market Garden IGA, Safeway, Market Mall, Midtown Plaza, The Centre at Circle and 8th, the Saskatoon Soccer Centre, and McNally Robinson Booksellers. We are a fortunate school division to have so many partners stepping forward to support the literacy levels, and ultimately the health, of our students!
We are using a number of different ways to communicate about Literacy for Life. Some of these include: posting information on our website; news releases and media advisories; school newsletters; school assemblies; classroom conversations; focus groups with staff and the larger community, school signage; and satisfaction surveys.
Celebrations re-energize and motivate us to continue our efforts to make the learning of our students a priority in our community. We are celebrating our successes and building pride in Saskatoon Public Schools. Celebrations large and small occur throughout the school year. Watch your school's newsletters for details about celebrations of literacy in your area!
Literacy for Life Annual Student Conference
In May 2006, Saskatoon Public Schools, in partnership with over 30 local businesses and organizations, sponsored the first annual Literacy for Life student conference involving over 3,500 public school students! This is our community based celebration of literacy. Annually, students attend numerous workshop sessions, led by widely recognized authors and illustrators. They also have the opportunity to learn from keynote speakers including:
- David Bouchard (2006)
- Susan Aglukark (2007)
- Joe Schwarcz (2008)
- Erin Gruwell (2009)
- The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson (2010)
- Simon Jackson (2011)
This conference also includes a breakfast for the community and has hosted presentations from renowned individuals including:
- Jacques Demers - former N.H.L. coach (2006)
- The Honourable Mike Harcourt - former Premier of British Columbia (2007)
- Bob McDonald - host of CBC's "Quirks and Quarks" and singer, songwriter Tom Jackson (2008)
- Norman Leach - marketing communication specialist (2009)
- Gary Merasty - Aboriginal leader and business consultant (2010)
- Simon Jackson - founder of the Spirit Bear Coalition (2011)
How Was Literacy for Life Selected as a Priority?
There are a number of significant events that contributed to the decision to focus on early learning and literacy in Saskatoon Public Schools. A summary of these events follows:
Early learning was identified in the school division's strategic plan during 2002 as one of the core strategies related to our students' learning goals. Over the course of the 2003/04 school year, a committee studied this strategy for the purpose of informing the planning process.
The committee members studied the literature, engaged in dialogue with their colleagues, and made a visit to the Northern Lights School Division (Alberta) to witness the amazing results of a successful literacy project. The committee enthusiastically shared their learnings with interested teachers and other staff at two after-school meetings held in April 2003. Presentations were also made to school-based administrators.
In an attempt to gather further input on this topic, a focus group session was held in December 2003 with community members and staff who had an interest in early learning. There was strong support for a literacy initiative and many suggestions offered by the focus group participants.
As part of the budget development process for 2004, the Board hosted five focus groups that included community, staff and students. At these sessions, participants were asked to discuss and prioritize a number of important areas of work for our school division. All five focus groups strongly recommended the area of early learning and literacy as an important priority for the school division.
After careful consideration of many factors, the Board selected two priorities in the 2004 Budget, facilities and early learning & literacy. The early learning and literacy initiative is called Literacy for Life.
How Long Will We Focus on Literacy for Life?
Literacy in the broadest sense, and reading specifically, will always remain a priority for our students' learning. Literacy for Life is a significant endeavour that will require the school division's focus and energy for a sustained number of years.
How Will We Know That We Have Been Successful?
The overall goal of Literacy for Life is to have all students reading at or above grade level. While this outcome includes all students, we recognize some students have severe learning disabilities and this outcome may not be possible for them. We expect, however, that students with learning difficulties will make significant improvements in their literacy skills as a result of Literacy for Life.
Measuring our results allows us to identify and celebrate our successes and ensure our public that additional resources and effort produce great results for our students. To determine our success, we gather data, specifically student achievement data, and report to our staff and our public about our results. Check our progress reports above.
Who Is Involved?
In the simplest sense, all of us in Saskatoon Public Schools are involved - some providing direct service to students, some providing support to staff and all of us being cheerleaders and advocates for an initiative that has the potential to impact our students in a profound manner. We invite the wider-community to become involved in Literacy for Life so we can build a community culture that emphasizes and values reading.
How Much Does Literacy for Life Cost?
The cost of Literacy for Life will vary from year to year depending on the activity undertaken and the decisions required by the Board of Education in setting a budget. To date, approximately one percent of the Board's total annual budget has been targeted to Literacy for Life.