Grade One Tips for Student Success

This post is primarily for families with a child in grade one, but of course will be interesting and helpful to caregivers of all Quilchena students.

Our grade one teachers are Mme Bouchet , Mme Megan, and Ms Petrenko. These tips support their programs, built their years of experience teaching 6- and 7-year-olds.


Sleep: it is extremely important for children to get enough sleep as it directly impacts their mental and physical development.

          • Make sure that students have a regular bedtime–even on weekends– that allows them to get at least ten hours of sleep a night.
          • Thirty to sixty minutes before bedtime, all technology is turned off, and it’s time for reading and quiet music.
          • Ensure the bedroom is dark, except for a night light, and no TV is allowed in the room.

Core strength: children who have less core strength have a hard time sitting still at desks and find it harder to sustain focus on active learning.

(From Jamie Spencer’s blog, Miss Jamie, OT)
Some indicators of poor core strength:

          • Does your child change positions frequently?
          • Do they lean on the desktop?
          • Slump over?
          • W Sit?
          • Have difficulty paying attention?
          • Use their “helping hand” to prop themselves up?
          • Do they always lean on the wall, the couch, or you?
          • Are they struggling to ride a bike or tie their shoes?

If the answer is yes, then it’s very likely that the child has poor core strength. Sometimes we are expecting too much of a child who simply doesn’t have the strength in their musculature to sit up for more than a few minutes. So they lean, slump, or fidget to try to get comfortable.

How to help develop core strength:

          • Pumping legs to swing on a swing
          • Walking, running, or biking to school
          • Climbing on playground equipment
          • Yoga, Karate, and Swimming
          • Riding a bike
          • Climbing trees
          • Obstacle courses that you crawl through
          • Crawling through tunnels
          • Skateboarding, rollerskating, using a scooter board or razor scooter
          • Chores that require heavy lifting: carrying laundry, groceries, etc.
          • Chores that involve pushing/pulling: shoveling snow, sweeping, etc.

Students learn at different rates and in different ways, but these tips will support all our learners in being happy and healthy at school.

Tips for reading aloud: November edition

Happy November! The leaves have changed colours, the wind has a chill to it, my sweaters are moving to a more prominent spot in my closet…. It’s autumn!!!

This month’s tip for becoming better at reading aloud is voice modulation. That sounds technical and sophisticated but really all it means is varying the speed and volume of your voice. In Reading Magic, Mem Fox (children’s author, illustrator, and advocate for reading to children of all ages) suggests this as one very quick and easy thing to do that will make your read-aloud voice ten times better.

You don’t have to do all the funny voices for all the characters to be entertaining. When you read a story, let the words and sentences you’re reading come to life by:

      • putting more space in the middle and at the end of certain sentences. A pause right before or right after a key word or phrase can provide time for your listener to anticipate what’s about to happen or absorb what just occurred in the story.
      • s l o w i n g down an individual word for emphasis.
      • speeding up your reading during an exciting part of the story. Slow back down to regular reading speed before you reach the end of the sentence/section; the dynamic push and pull of reading speed will excite your listener.
      • let the pitch of your voice rise and fall or let your volume become a shout or a whisper as the text dictates. Literally do the thing the narration tells you. (“He floated up, up, up into the air….”) Don’t worry if you miss one. I always miss that first piece of dialogue that’s followed by the tag “…she whispered.” You’ll get it the next time around.

You don’t have to do all these things at once. Choose something that seems the easiest to try and play around with it. Unsurprisingly, the more you practice your dynamic read aloud voice the easier and better it will be.

Diversity Audit Update


I have started carving out time to work on our Fiction section diversity audit. I met with a group of other teacher-librarians from elementary school around Vancouver a few weeks ago and we set out the beginning parameters of how we would support each other in this process.

The first thing we decided to do is to sit down with our fiction collections and remove titles that are no longer being read in order to a) make room for the new titles we are buying this year and b) make the audit a little easier by not doing research on titles that should probably no longer be on the shelves.

It’s true that some of our old novels are still good stories and only suffer from a dated cover design. In some cases, if I can convince a few of our older readers to read these books and then talk them up to their friends, we might be able to resurrect the lives of some titles. I have started showing the (big) pile of older stories to some classes (div 3 & div 1) and suggested that they peruse what’s on the way out. Some students have opted to read a few of the books and will report back. My library monitors and I will be making a series of displays of these books over the next few months so that all potential readers and books might find each other.

Keeping out eyes on the prize, below is an interview with an author who shares her experience growing up half Egyptian, half Filipino in the United States. It’s not exactly our Vancouver context, but I think some of the core sentiments are shared by some of our Quilchena students. I have only recently started speaking to a few students directly about diversity in our collection and admit I don’t know a lot about how they see themselves reflected, or not, in the books I offer them. More on that later.

Everyone’s Story Deserves to Be Told: Malaka Gharib’s Version of the American Dream

Moving Remembrance Day forward

Some families have very particular traditions of how they mark Remembrance Day on November 11th. For others it can be a day with not a lot of focus towards a specific purpose. Many teachers have been reflecting on how best to approach this day in an inclusive way, while being mindful of the diverse backgrounds our students carry with them–some may have violent conflict in their very recent past, while for others war may be a more abstract concept.


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Click for more information on this titleI offer a possibility for a new tradition on Remembrance Day (I am likely not the first to take this path): Use this day as an opportunity to reflect on how compassion plays a roll in your life. Read some thought-provoking books about compassion and living a peaceful life, be intentional about sitting or walking quietly to think about where compassion often plays a roll in your life, and where it might be needed, or have some purposeful conversations with loved ones.


Book - Why Am I Me? by Paige BrittPictured are a few of the books in the Quilchena library that are good conversation starters. Each image is linked to the book’s catalog record.

Supporting our Students Becoming Lifelong Readers

A recent article in The Atlantic discusses the factors that contribute to whether a child grows up to become “a reader” or not. “Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers” summarizes many of the socio-economic benefits of being a reader as well as some of the factors that positively impact a child’s development.

Image result for family of readers

TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read): a huge part rests on how parents and other caregivers present the activity of reading. But fear not! They provide some practical tips and reassurances:

“So many parents are stressed out by all the research out there that says that reading is tied to things like academic success, testing success, executive function, and emotional well-being,” Paul told me. “Knowing all of that makes parents think, ‘Okay, my kid has to be a reader.’” That mentality can lead them to frame reading to their children as an obligation. “Kids basically perceive that right off the bat—children know, for example, if you’re trying to get them to eat something that’s good for them,” Paul said; the aim is to present reading not as “spinach,” but as “chocolate cake.”

Reading will seem more like chocolate cake if it’s something that parents themselves take part in happily and regularly. “When I’m sitting there on my couch, reading a book, and my kids are doing their own thing, I like to think, ‘I’m parenting right now—they can see me reading this book,’” Russo told me. Similarly, Paul said that if “right after dinner, the first thing you do is scroll through your phone, open up your laptop, or watch TV,” kids are likely to take note. Parents are constantly sending their children messages with how they choose to spend their free time.

Parents don’t have to have grown up avid readers themselves to raise avid readers. Paul and Russo both suggested a bunch of things that parents can do to make reading seem exciting and worthwhile: talk about books during meals or car rides, indicating that they’re just as compelling a subject of conversation as the day’s events; make regular stops at libraries and bookstores, and stay a while; and give books as birthday gifts.

The article finishes with the suggestion to “seed” books around the home, with the point that it’s very hard for a child to be bored when they are surrounded by books.

I wonder if anyone in the Quilchena community have other suggestions of how to increase the reading culture at home. You can share your successes in the comments.