Saturday, January 14, 2006

Frontier College Ottawa Literacy Conference

Hey everyone,

Just got back from FC's annual volunteer literacy conference in Ottawa and wanted to say that it went great! Big thanks to Lyndsay for all her work organizing it. Big thanks to Heartwood House for letting us use their facilities again!

For those who missed it - here's a quick de-brief.

Donna Stewart from the Ottawa Storytellers was back for another year and, as usual, did not disappoint. The links between storytelling and literacy are evident - while children might not actually be reading - they are learning to love stories and words and are using their imaginations while listening. Starting off the conference with some examples of good storytelling was a nice start to the day. She then provided us with some tips for becoming stronger storytellers. For instance, she discussed the importance of liking the story you are going to tell; of learning the story's structure, rather than memorizing the words; of practicing telling it out loud; and remembering it is you telling the story (so if someone in your audience pipes up with "I've heard this before and the main character's name was Bob" - you can tell them that in your story his name is Fred :) She then let us know where we could go to hear stories in Ottawa. Some good places are:

1. The Tea Party - 119 York Street in the market - they have tellings the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month.

2. Rasputins - 696 Bronson - Have Stories from the Ages on Sundays. Doors open at 6:00.

3. NAC 4th Stage - On various Thursdays beginning at 7:30 - Student tickets are $10, regular $15.

More info at the Ottawa Storytellers main page.

Following Donna Stewart, we heard from Betsy Mann of First Words. She discussed the importance of first-language use in the home and talked about ways that parents can use reading and storytelling to encourage language development in their preschool children. She stressed the importance of getting kids to use their imaginations. Reading is not an end in itself - stories are the motivator - children read to find out what is going to happen in them. She also gave us a handout which I, having a 2 year old nephew, found very helpful. It outlined where children generally should be/what you should be reading to them at various ages. (I missed some of this presentation because I had to go pick up lunch for the group so if anyone has more info - please post to the comments!).

At lunch, we had the opportunity to play some Speed Scrabble. After our monthly pubs and the Summer Leadership Conference, I'm getting pretty good at it. This will be important for our Scrabble Night in Canada event on Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Clocktower. Hoping to win some prizes :) Basic rules for the novices: Just tiles, no boards. Each player gets seven tiles. Players play independently forming their own words. Once a player has used all seven of their tiles (all their words linking together) they say "take one", and every player has to take one (regardless of whether they have finished forming words with their first seven tiles). Each time one player finishes using all their tiles they call "take one". This continues until all the tiles in the middle are taken and the game ends when one player has successfully used all their tiles. This player is generally the winner. While the way to score points varies - the simplest way is to count all your words formed and subtract your tiles not used from your word score. Player with the highest score wins.

Following lunch, we heard from Dan Knox from the Frontier College Foundation (Frontier College's Fundraising arm). We learnt some fundraising basics and received info about how to organize Scrabble Night in Canada events. It was good motivation. As mentioned above, we will be holding our Scrabble night on Feb. 16. Some of us might also host some home parties. To find out how you can participate in those, or host a party yourself, please visit the Scrabble Night in Canada site or contact us.

Finally, Leslie Toope from Read Write Now hosted the final workshop on "Frest Ideas for Literacy Tutoring Sessions." She runs a remedial tutoring program for children 6-10 at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre. She provided us with a lot of ideas and resources. Some of her suggested resources are:

- Books, works or articles by Peggy Kaye or Jon Scieszka.

Both of these folks will be added to the "Authors, Blogs and Reviews" list on the right-hand side of the blog - but for a quick briefing on them I'd heard of Jon Scieszka from "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" and he deals with why "guys don't read" (ie: why boys seem to be less interested in reading than girls"). Peggy Kaye is a teacher with a variety of books like "Games for Learning" "Games for Reading" "Games for Math" etc...

We then did an activity where we thought up some literacy games by modifying traditional games to target learning specific skills. Some of the ideas we came up with were:

a) Spelling Baseball - words increase in difficulty as the learner aims for a higher base.

b) b, d, p Bingo or Go Fish - to help the learner with visual discrimination between those letters - they would be given game cards in the shape of simple three letter words (eg: dip, dad, pop, pot) and choose letters from a pile that would "fit" in their cards.

c) Go Fish with rhyming words. Eg: Do you have a word that rhymes with cat? Then if the other player has "rat" in his hand, he hands it over and so on. The child would have to be able to read and pronounce the words in his or her hand to be able to play.

d) Twister with letters. Put letters on top of the colours. So it would be "left hand on p" etc...

e) Bingo with short words or letters.

Thank you to all the presenters and to everyone who came! Lyndsay, me and anyone else who might be interested (please let Lyndsay know) - will be going to the Trent SFL Conference next Saturday so we will hopefully pick up even more tips there!

Ciau for now!



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