Critical Thinking in Literacy – Primary

Here is a fantastic strategy for developing research and communication skills in literacy, and supporting the student outcome of critical thinking.
Students in Allison Plumsteel’s grade 2/3 class were learning about report writing. Through viewing and deconstructing examples of report writing, and co-constructing the success criteria for an informative and organized report, the students were led through a Gradual Release model to develop their skills in researching, organizing information, selecting the best information for their purpose, and evaluating the quality of the information. This was followed by students selecting a presentation mode that best suited their learning style and purpose (Adobe Voice, Adobe Slate, Explain Everything).
This picture is just a snapshot representing one piece of the gradual release of responsibility model, and serves to highlight how critical thinking is embedded in the process. While collecting facts and information about their selected topic, the students recorded their information on a graphic organizer web. Then they paired up and read each piece of information to determine what category it best fit into (example Habitat, Food, Protection, Characteristics). Each fact was circled in a colour to match the category the students selected, based on the headings identified in other mentor texts. Students then reflected on whether or not they had sufficient information to provide the reader with a meaningful reading experience. Students then returned to the research phase to add appropriate details.
Next, the students were able to use the colour co-ordinated facts to group them together easily under subheadings and begin the process of transferring their jot note facts into sentences and then organized paragraphs. The students were then introduced to the apps that they could select to communicate their findings in their report.Critical Thinking and Collaboration example2

Early Algebra

I’ve been in a number of junior classrooms lately looking at how we use pattern rules for growing patterns. Visual representations can significantly help with this, and the transition to an algebraic representation.

There’s usually a disconnect between how we use pattern rules in late primary / early junior, and the transition to algebraic representations later on.

Consider this number sequence:    5, 7, 9, …

In grade 3 we tend to accept “Start with 5 and add 2 each time”

But the algebraic representation is 3 + 2n

The difference is that algebraically, we add something to each stage including the first stage.

I’ve always thought about the idea that we seem to change the idea of the pattern rule over the grades without being explicit about it to the students.  So should we just start with the pattern rule that correlates to the algebraic representation?  In words, should it be something more like “Start at 1, and add 2 to every term (including the first one)”?

This is easier for students to see pictorially or with manipulatives.




In words

Start with 3 and add 2 each time




3 + 2n

Number Sequence

5, 7, 9, …

To test this out I visited a grade 4 class who had been exploring growing patterns (but not visually).

When asked to draw their own pattern for Start with 1 and add 2 each time, most drew pattern similar to alg2
But a couple drew alg1

Over the course of a 20 minute discussion and students defending their point of view, the entire class decided the second representation actually depicted the given pattern rule better.



How is Your Literacy Block Working for You? Try the Daily 5!

How is your literacy block working for your students and you? Mini-lessons, small guided groups and conferring all sound wonderful but where do I find the time while keeping the others doing meaningful work? My answer was and is “The Daily Five”.PicCollage

This framework, developed by educator/authors Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, provides structure to your literacy time and gives students choice, building independence while being productive and engaged in authentic reading and writing.

The Daily Five is a research based framework that allows teachers to structure their program using the components that are meaningful in their own classrooms. Students are taught to build stamina at the following options: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading and Word Work. Students have control over the order of the options and in some, the task to be completed. This choice gives the students a sense of independence and ownership for their learning. It gives the teacher a chance to individualize learning goals with students at their just right levels.
The authors encourage teachers to make the framework their own but provide insight on what has worked for them in their easy to read book and website, “”.
My literacy block usually follows the following format:
10 minute Mini-lesson (accuracy skill)
15-20 minute Rotation – students choose from the 5 options, I run a guided reading group or confer with individual students
10 minute Mini-lesson (comprehension skill)
15-20 minute Rotation – see above
10 minute Mini-lesson (vocabulary/word work)
15-20 minute Rotation – see above
5 minute Sharing
25 minute Writers’ workshop (my choice – not part of The Daily Five)

My students get the choice of two or three rotations most days and must have chosen each of the five options at least once throughout the week.
I have used this framework with success in grades one, two and three and my students would highly recommend it. When students ask if they can “do a daily rotation” during indoor recess, you know it is working!

Submitted by Pauline B., Teacher in AMDSB