Blog, Creating Healthy, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, Inclusive Classrooms

Supporting English Language Learners

After reading a timely post by Cult of Pedagogy‘s Jennifer Gonzalez entitled “12 Ways to Support English Learners in the Mainstream Classroom,” I wanted to learn more about how the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) welcomes and supports English Language Learners to their schools.  The OCSB’s website is excellent, and they have links to various videos that would be helpful for a new family to Ottawa whose first language is not English. While I was trying to put myself in the shoes of a newcomer to Ottawa, I thought that it might be helpful for newcomer families to have a visual source of information as well.

Below is a mockup of how I might present key information about the OCSB’s Family Welcome Centre, based on the information provided on their website. I envision it as an infographic for parents that explains the process of placing a new ELL student in a school in the OCSB. It also explains the programs for English Language Learning in Ontario Schools. It could be distributed in digital form for easy translation, printed as two posters in the Welcome Centre, or printed front/back to hand out to parents. As a bonus, creating this infographic helped me to understand the process in more depth as well!


Blog, Creating Healthy, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, Inclusive Classrooms

Indigenous Education in Ontario

As a student, I was never made aware of the history of residential schools in Canada until university. University! It was so shocking to me that I went through twelve grades in the public education system in Ontario without ever learning this part of Canada’s history. After first learning about it, I become more motivated than ever to educate myself about these issues and become a stronger advocate in supporting Indigenous Education.

There are so many different paths that students may have taken to end up as a learner student in our classrooms. It is thus crucial to acknowledge their lived experiences and history, especially for our First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. These students could have lived or may still live part-time in communities that have a distinct linguistic and cultural tradition, and it is of utmost importance for the teacher to model respect for their culture.

One initiative that I was able to be a part of was “Project of Heart,” which is a program that can be carried out in the classroom that helps students on their “journey of seeking truth about the history of Aboriginal people in Canada.” Created by a teacher in Ottawa (Sylvia Smith), this collaborative program includes a series of activities that help students to more fully understand the extent of loss and suffering associated with the residential school experience. Sylvia Smith is one example of a teacher who has become a strong advocate for Indigenous Education, and she has inspired many students and teachers alike to deepen their understanding of these issues.

At the link below, you can find Indian Residential Schools and Reconciliation Teacher Resource Guides for Gr.5, Gr.10, and Gr.11/12, developed by the First Nations Education Steering Committee and First Nations Schools Association. While they are B.C.-specific, they can be adapted for Ontario and provide a wide range of resources for students of different ages.

As highlighted by the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, the Canadian education system must now play an important role in achieving Truth and Reconciliation and repairing relationships with Indigenous people. This begins with teachers who are aware of, and advocates for, stronger support of Indigenous Education. You can learn more about Ontario’s Indigenous Education Strategy at the link below.


Inclusive Classrooms

A new perspective

During today’s class,  some fellow teacher education students delivered a  workshop exploring how to support blind and low vision students in inclusive classrooms. A variety of resources were provided, and I’ve shared some of the highlights below.

What Do Blind People See?

Imagining a life from a blind or low vision perspective can be challenging for people who have always had sight. The video below gives a glimpse into how a blind person might experience their surroundings, and reminds us that there are many different ways for people to “see” the world!


Revisualizing art

Art is one subject that may be intimidating for teachers to tackle when considering the needs of blind and low vision students. The key message of the workshop was to re-imagine your art program for all students- not just blind and low vision students. One example would be to use physical models (e.g. C-3PO) and ask your students to recreate the model using plasticine and their sense of touch. This can be a powerful exercise in exploring the role of our other senses (e.g. touch)  in creative arts. Check out this post for some other considerations for making art accessible to all your students.

Revisualizing art

A beautiful resource

This book was provided as an exemplary resource that uses raised illustrations and Braille letters to help students imagine living (and reading) without the use of one’s eyes.  It would be a valuable addition to any teacher’s library!

The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria

For more information on what the assessment data and specialized education plan might look like for a blind/low vision elementary student in Ontario, check out this sample Individual Education Plan (IEP) provided by EduGAINS. While this may not be a challenge faced in every classroom, teachers must be aware of how to support every learner and foster a climate of inclusion throughout the school community.

Inclusive Classrooms

Student as Learner

PED 3142 Inclusive Classrooms was a course that examined how learning takes place in an inclusive classroom setting, and how programming should be developed to best support exceptional learners. By addressing the learning objectives below, we identified potential shortfalls of certain educational activities and explored exemplary teaching strategies and classroom practices (Sheldrick, “Course Overview”).

My approach to teacher education is to “dive into deep learning,” where new learning is based on action and problem solving, and enabled by leveraging digital technology.

Learning objectives:

  • Develop an understanding of the complexity of learning both as an individual and group process;

  • Begin to identify and articulate your own assumptions about learning and the implicit/explicit theories which guide your understanding;

  • Be able to discuss theories of learning and development from a critical perspective- this means that you will question the “why” underlying any educational activity;

  • Ultimately appreciate the necessary relation between educational theory and classroom practice;

  • Be able to apply your understanding of learning theory to program for students with exceptionalities;

  • Feel confident about presenting your instructional preferences publicly as this is a valued indicator of professionalism.

In order to describe my own personal understanding of the inclusive classroom, I have used a dedicated section of my teaching blog as a platform to document my teaching experiences throughout my CSL and Practicum Placement in a grade 6 classroom. I have also created specific posts that discuss the importance of creating a healthy, safe and supportive learning community and embracing conflict in the classroom.

In an effort to integrate the various classroom practices and strategies that I observed and employed throughout my teaching experiences thus far, I have developed a video that summarizes course concepts and presents photos and recollections of how I drew on these concepts to create an inclusive classroom community (Sheldrick, “Course Notes”).

I created this video using Book Creator, which is an iPad app that was commonly used by exceptional learners in my practicum placement. I decided to add the auditory component to the book pages (and then save as a video) to simulate what my exceptional learners often did to complete and submit their assessments. It is one example of the differentiation that I observed and practiced during practicum to foster an inclusive classroom for all learners. It was very rewarding to be able to apply course concepts to my teaching during practicum, and I was able to identify many of the classroom strategies and potentially helpful approaches that I could implement in the future to support exceptional students in an inclusive setting.


Autism Speaks Canada. “What is autism.” Autism Speaks Canada. Global Cloud, 2016. Web. 21 April 2016.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013)Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 . 

Sheldrick W. “Course Notes.” University of Ottawa. PED3142E, Ottawa, ON. Winter. 2016. Lectures.

Sheldrick W. “Course Overview.” University of Ottawa. PED3142E, Ottawa, ON. 12 Jan. 2016. Handout.