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Inspiring Learning

Saskatoon Public Schools renews literacy focus, leads citizenship education

October 16, 2018

EdWeek_news.jpgSaskatoon Public Schools is "open to all" – our classrooms are welcoming learning environments where teachers guide students to build a foundation for a bright and healthy future.

These lessons begin by first introducing the foundations of literacy to our youngest learners. This year, Saskatoon Public Schools has refined its focus on developing the reading and writing skills of students entering the education system. This work includes instruction addressing the five pillars of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Lessons will be planned that include direct instruction and many opportunities for feedback. Students will hone their language skills through an exploration of the various essential forms of writing. These lessons will allow them to discover the joys of literacy and become lifelong learners.

This renewed focus on developing the reading and writing skills of our young students is supported and led by the collaborative work of the division's educators, administrators, speech language pathologists and support staff.

Along with building the foundation for reading and writing, our educators are introducing students to their role as members of a democratic society. Through citizenship education, the school division fosters empathetic, respectful, action-oriented students who will employ their learning in the classroom and carry it out into our community.

In recent years, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has led a citizenship education project that developed classroom-ready resources aligned with the existing curriculum.  Facets of citizenship education can be found throughout the Saskatchewan curriculum in social studies, history and Native studies. Saskatoon Public Schools – with guidance from SHRC – has moved this educational focus beyond being kind and tolerant of others to developing deeper critical thinking and empathetic processes. This allows students to compare their own viewpoints and experiences with someone else's in a classroom environment, which supports analysis, questioning, and deeper understanding.

Sherry Van Hesteren, education consultant for Saskatoon Public Schools, said what students are able to create in the classroom is what our school division hopes they will bring into their world in the future.

"We want the classroom to be a robust, pluralistic democracy," said Van Hesteren.

Saskatoon Public Schools receives support from the Concentus Citizenship Education Foundation to provide a comprehensive learning resource for teachers to use in the classroom. The resource aims to strengthen the knowledge and skills of students to participate fully in Canadian democracy by focusing on five Essential Citizenship Competencies: Enlightened, Empowered, Empathetic, Ethical, and Engaged. Developing these competencies in age-appropriate ways from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will help foster a respect not only for democracy, but our increasingly multicultural and diverse community. The resource places a strong emphasis on the rights and responsibilities inherent in the treaty relationship, and empowers students to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.

Providing a welcoming educational environment for all students means being responsive to their unique needs. In the 2017-18 school year, Saskatoon Public Schools introduced Indigenous student advocates in three of our collegiates. The Indigenous student advocate's priority is to support Indigenous students, academically and socially, to successfully transition through and out of school. These teacher leaders work with students and staff to develop Indigenous students' sense of identity and belonging through supports such as culture, extra-curricular activities and events.  Positive feedback and promising results from students has led to a renewal of this program for this school year.   

By building a foundation of vital skills and fostering critical thinking and belonging, Saskatoon Public Schools is instilling students with its four key values: respect, excellence, joy and responsibility.