Saturday, July 30, 2011

Alberta Education - Literacy for All Pilot Project (Part 1)

One of the "Action on Inclusion" pilot projects that our school is participating in during the 2011-12 school year is the "Literacy for All" project.  Here is an explanation of the project from the Alberta Education website:
Alberta Education has initiated a one year literacy pilot project beginning June, 2011 to build teacher capacity to better meet the literacy and communication needs of grade 1 to 6 students with significant disabilities. This project is the result of a conditional grant from Alberta Education, to the Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia with the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC) coordinating this pilot opportunity.
This Literacy for All pilot project is designed for teachers of students with significant disabilities and will be based on the literacy resource Meville to WEville from Bridges Publishing, Canada. The project has 30 teachers participating from across the province from public, separate, private, rural and urban school jurisdictions. Throughout this pilot, participants will interact and collaborate using an online community of practice model, face-to-face learning events and ongoing mentoring. Regional Educational Consulting Services Teams (RECS) from across the province, who are supporting pilot schools, are also participating in professional learning events and the online community for this project.
The goals of this project are to:
  • enhance the capacity of participating teachers to better meet the diverse learning needs of students with significant disabilities.
  • create a provincial community of practice to analyze the effectiveness and appropriateness of the MEville to WEville literacy and communication teacher resource in the Albert a context.
  • support and build teacher understanding of literacy and communication strategies for students with significant disabilities.
(Link: Alberta Education "Action on Inclusion" Literacy for All Pilot Project Information)
We have been given three different resources (more on this in a minute) as well as training sessions and an online community related to these resources and ideas around developing literacy skills in students with significant disabilities.  I'm really excited to be a part of this project as I believe the developing literacy skills is one of the most important things that we do as educators.

The programs that we are using have been researched by the University of North Carolina Center of Literacy and Disability Studies.  We will be evaluating the following resources:

  • Meville to WevilleThis is a program developed to teach reading and writing skills to students with severe disabilities. Our intention right now is to work with a group of students and use this program as a stand alone program for two-three of our students.  They will work in the classroom on this program while others are working on similar literacy programs (i.e. they will make up a "group" for this center during that time but will also be involved in other parts of general education literacy instruction at other times).  We will share responsibility for "teaching" this program between the classroom teacher, myself and the learning assistants.  We will be looking to build capacity and understanding related to literacy instruction for this population in the adults that are teaching (learning assistants, classroom teacher, inclusion facilitator). Throughout the year we will look at ways to incorporate the materials and methods in to the general education classroom so that we can take what we learn this year and expand on in a more inclusive way beyond this year.
  • Start to Finish Literacy Starters This program was developed to extend the MeVille to WeVille program and addresses a bit older group of students as the books are more at their level.  We will be using these material with the older students from my program.  We are starting to phase them out of our self contained classroom and over to the high school.  As a starting point we are looking at still having them in the self-contained setting that is currently at the high school.  During the time that the class is working on English Language Arts, a group of students will be working with themes from these packages.
  • Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four Block Way: This is perhaps the resource we are the most excited about as it gives us a starting point around making the modifications to our current literacy program to ensure that the students that had been in my self-contained classroom will be able to participate in the general education classroom. We will be using this resource right now with just our elementary students as they are the ones who will be in classrooms that use similar literacy instruction strategies to the 4-block method.
I'm excited to get started with the project and plan to share what we are learning along the way on this blog.  I just wanted to throw out a post outlining what we are looking at as background.

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