Author Archive

Diverse Books: OLA jot notes

The 7th and final post from Natalie C., one of our fabulous reference librarian who attended this year’s OLA super conference – and who obviously enjoyed many sessions during her 3 days there.


One of my favourite sessions from last year’s Super Conference was a panel hosted by Teacher-Librarian Fatma Faraj on the importance of promoting children’s books reflective of diverse populations – #WeHaveDiverseBooks. You can read my blog post on last year’s session here.

This year, Fatma hosted the session solo and highlighted some of the best diverse Canadian children’s books that have come out in the last year.

Starting the Conversation: Fatma suggests using What Makes Us Unique? by Jillian Roberts to get the diversity discussion started. While the book may be a bit general, she suggests using it as a launchpad before moving to more specific texts.  You can borrow What Makes Us Unique? from the Professional Library.

Finding Yourself & Fitting In: Fatma tells her students that “exploring is not always about what we find in the world. It’s also about what we find in ourselves.” She suggests Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge and Akilak’s Adventure by Deborah Kigjugalik Webster for readers in need of some internal discovery

Getting Kids Hooked: To get children interested in an ongoing story featuring diverse characters, Fatma recommends two series:

    • West Meadow Detectives by Liam O’Donnell: This series features a protagonist who has autism. The author is also one of TDSB’s Writers in Residence. Encourage your students to submit a book review to Just Read It and your school could win a visit from Liam.
    • Shu-Li by Paul Yee: A touching series featuring strong multicultural relationships

New Homes: With the recent refugee ban issued by our neighbours to the south, it’s going to be important to find texts that explore immigration and emigration thoughtfully. Fatma suggests Adrift at Sea by Marsha Skrypuch, Stepping Stones by Margaret Ruurs, and Seeking Refuge by Irene N. Watts.

Indigenous Stories: Fatma highlighted several texts featuring Indigenous characters. Some to note:



Fatma singled out I Am Not a Number, which you can borrow from the Professional Library and When We Were Alone, which she says will make you cry.

Forest of Reading;  If you’re looking for texts featuring diverse characters that your students are already reading, Fatma suggests that you look no further than the current Forest of Reading selections, especially this year’s Silver Birch picks. She points out OCDaniel by Wesley King specifically saying that “If you want to build empathy in your kids, have them read OCDaniel.”

A Few Other Special Picks: A couple other texts mentioned in Fatma’s talk:


For more great reads from Fatma Faraj, follow her on Twitter at @HoldFastLibrary

Whew, great job Natalie!

February 21, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Fraser Institute 2017 Report Card on secondary schools

February 21, 2017 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

2 TDSB schools featured on EQAO ‘school stories’ site

From the EQAO site: “Each year, EQAO collects stories of schools that have been successful in using data to improve student achievement. The remarkable outcomes at these schools show how good information can help dedicated professionals identify areas for improvement and make targeted improvements. EQAO shares these stories so that other schools throughout Ontario can learn about their successful practices.”

2 TDSB schools have been included in the 2016 school stories:

Read about their school improvement initiatives. Rowan

February 21, 2017 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

What’s new in kids books: OLA jot notes

6th in a series by Natalie C., one of our fabulous reference libraries who attended this year’s OLA Super Conference


There was a ton of book chatter at Superconference 2017. One of the most popular Superconference sessions each year is offered by the Dewey Divas and Dudes — a group of Canadian publishing reps who love to read.

Here are some of the recently published and upcoming books that piqued my interest from their session:

A Horse Named Steve by Kelly Collier. (April 2017), Kids Can Press, Gr. K-3A Canadian picture book about a horse named Steve who decides that he wants to become exceptional but ends up learning that he already is.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. (Feb. 2017), Balzer + Bray, Gr. 9-12: 16-year-old Starr’s life is turned upside down when she witnesses the shooting of her best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer.

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue. (Mar. 2017), HarperCollins Canada, Gr. 3-7: From the Canadian author of Room, a story of a big messy, blended family whose dynamic is thrown into flux when they are called to care for one of their grandfathers who suffers from dementia.

Out by Angela May George. (Jan 2017), Scholastic, Gr. JK-3: A moving story of a mother and daughter’s emigration.

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy. (Feb 2017), Scholastic, Gr. JK-3: This story about a village that elects a new bossy mayor who outlaws singing may hit a little close to home, but its message about speaking out for what you believe in will become increasingly relevant.

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts. (June 2017), Disney Hyperion, Gr. 9-12: Described as a young adult version of Game of Thrones, this is likely to be your students’ newest obsession

Water’s Children by Angèle Delaunois. (Apr. 2017), Pajama Press, Gr. JK-3 : A title about water that combines science with social justice.

We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty. (Jan 2017), Tiger Tales, Gr. JK-3: This book about different families will come in handy for both the Social Studies and Health & PE curriculum.

Where Will I Live? by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (April 2017), Second Story Press, Gr. JK-8: A highly topical “photo-based picture book” that depicts the hardships faced by young refugees around the world.

Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan. (Mar 2017), Little Pickle Press, Gr. JK-3: Filled with elements of yoga practice, this looks like a great title for promoting physical activity and mindfulness.


Check out more recommendations and book talk from the Dewey Divas on Twitter (@DeweyDivas) or on their blog.


Rowan: The Professional Library creates monthly list of books with **starred reviews** that is books reviewed as exemplary reads. TDSB teachers can check them out at . Remember to use your TDSB login to open the Google folder.

February 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Relationships for Learning: Supporting indigenous learners

From The Learning Exchange:  Relationships for Learning

This series of 7 videos has captured the thinking and work that was shared with educators, Elders, and community partners from 44 different school boards who are actively involved in facilitating collaborative inquiries to support all students with a focus on Indigenous learners. The workshops offered this Fall were designed to support the needs of the group that were identified through the work of Dr. Susan Dion and her research team. The sessions were taped to provide others with an opportunity to learn from those who have been involved in Indigenous Focused Collaborative Inquiries.

Check it out! Rowan

February 20, 2017 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Ministry memo & letter on Anti-Racism and Islamophobia

The Ministry has sent a memo and letter to school boards emphasizing the need for schools to embrace diversity and be inclusive.  A page of resources is also attached [pdf].

From the Deputy Minister’s memo:


From Minister Hunter’s  letter:



Check ’em out! Rowan

February 17, 2017 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

Teaching Fake News: OLA jot notes

Fifth in a series by Natalie C, one of fabulous librarians who attended the OLA Super Conference this year: 

One of the big themes of the conference was the problem of fake news and how, in the current political climate, librarians can teach their users how to identify information they can trust.

Sarah Oesch and Derek Jones, Teacher-Librarians with the Halton District School Board, shared their fake news lesson plans in the session ALL INformation is Not Reliable: Teaching Students to Think Critically During Inquiry Based Research. Oesch and Jones’s lesson is dependent on duping their students. They typically run this unit over a 5-week period, but they indicated that it could easily be condensed if necessary.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Week 1: Listen to a podcast from CBC’s fake news radio show This is That. Derek & Sarah don’t let their students know that the podcast is a parody. Some examples of podcast episodes they’ve used in the past include: Alberta Oil Planes, National Recycling 7 Bin System, Visual Allergies, Toboggan Registry After the students listen to the episode, they’re told to do some more research on the podcast topic for a debate they’ll have in class next week.


Week 2: Switching gears — Finding reliable facts. In the next class, Sarah & Derek don’t return to the podcast and the debate. Instead they pretend that the students need to work on their citation skills. They give them a list of websites and ask them to find 5 reliable facts from the list. What the students don’t realize is that 3 of the 5 websites are hoax sites. These are some of the hoax sites Sarah & Derek use: Dog Island, Help Save the Endangered Tree Octopus, All About Explorers Sarah & Derek collect the assignment and mark it, giving -1 point for each unreliable fact. Most students don’t bother to check the validity of the website and get -5 on the assignment.


Week 3: Finding reliable facts – Learning our lesson. After handing back the assignment, Sarah & Derek discuss what went wrong and provide some tips for evaluating the validity of a website beforehand.Here are some of the strategies they suggest:

  • Check the domain of the web address (.edu, .org, .gov)
  • Google the website title with “scam” or “hoax”
  • Truncate the web address to see the host site
  • Check the Contact Us page for the author, address, phone number, and date
  • Cross reference the information from another site


Week 4: Finding reliable facts – Take 2 Sarah & Derek offer their students another chance to find reliable facts with a different set of websites. Using the strategies they learned the week before, this time the students do much better.


Week 5: Back to the podcast & the debate The following week, Sarah & Derek return to the debate activity, and give their students more time to find information about their topic. Once they regroup, they ask their students if they used the strategies they had learned the previous week to find reliable information. Everyone typically says no — and Sarah & Derek reveal that the podcast was also FAKE NEWS. Sarah & Derek mentioned that they got a lot of student buy-in with this activity because the students hated being duped by their teacher.

A fun way to introduce the concept of fake news through which students should hopefully learn not to believe everything they read online — or even everything their teacher tells them!

For more information and resources related to Sarah & Derek’s session, access their slide deck:


Rowan> check out the Professional Libraries resource list on fake news/media literacy: medialiteracy2017_delinked


February 17, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

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