Knitting, Crocheting and Loom Knitting

With three weeks left until the winter break, it is a great time to introduce a new project to help us remain calm and carefree. For many people, knitting is used as a relaxing pastime to calm emotions and focus energy and I have seen it have a great impact at school. I currently work with 25 students at my middle school on developing knitting, crocheting, and loom knitting skills once a week. Some students are also working on designing their own patterns and projects. The hour and a half that we knit is a relaxing and calm sanctuary in a very hectic week for both staff and students.

I took up knitting very randomly about a decade ago when I decided to knit a Dr. Who scarf for my partner. For those that are not fans of the long running TV show, it was a pretty unusual first project. The scarf is incredibly long and a fairly big project for a beginner! Although, my mother, sister and grandmother all had a long history of knitting, I had never started. With YouTube to help, I taught myself the first three stiches and away I went. Miraculously, the scarf was completed, and I was pleased with the result and never looked back. Since then, I have knit a variety of projects and have passed on the love of knitting to my students. It really helps me refocus my anxious energy and gives me a sense of accomplishment which is how I hope my students feel as well.

Every year, I also instruct my class in knitting, crocheting and loom knitting as an art project. When I was preparing the first time to introduce the artform to my class, I realized very quickly that there was a problem. The majority of the instructional videos on YouTube and other platforms did not reflect the gender, race, culture or age of my students. I also tried to buy knitting magazines and books but ran into similar problems. According to a New York Times article about Black Female Knitters and the history of racism in knitting “After scrolling through nearly 1,400 images of paintings and photos of people knitting on Google Arts and Culture, Ms. Kern found only two who were Black.” One of the images was of Sojourner Truth seen here: (

My students were fairly skeptical about this new artform as it seemed no one they could relate to did crocheting or knitting. Then along came Jonah Larson. A couple of years ago, a young man named Jonah Larson became famous for his unbelievable speed at crocheting! (I wish I could crochet at half the speed he does) I now use some of his instructional videos and interviews in class to change the way that the history of crocheting and knitting is being presented. He is young American who was adopted from Ethiopia. His talent is incredible and inspiring and my students really enjoy his videos. A couple of his videos are here:

If you would like to try knitting or crocheting with your class you will need a few items to get started:

A crochet hook/a loom/knitting needles (For students that struggle with hand-eye coordination, loom knitting is probably the best choice)


A couple of darning needles for the whole class

A ball of yarn per person

Some technology devices to watch instructional videos.


No matter what materials your students have access to, the best project to start with is a facecloth. There are thousands of patterns online for knitting, crocheting, loom knitting and hand knitting a facecloth that your class can use to get started. At the beginning, there may be a lot of frustration and the students will need to have a lot of perseverance. I encourage students to work as a collaborative team and get up, move around and help each other until all students are successful. As mentioned above, for students that you may anticipate having challenges with fine motor skills, my experience has been that loom knitting can be very successful.

Ultimately, teaching a skill that students may use in the future to help with anxiety and stress can be an important tool for their future happiness.

Happy knitting and crocheting!!


November is interview time.  Interviews are an important connection with the home to communicate progress in learning. After the last 2 years of disrupted school, it is also going to be a very important connection to speak about student’s social and emotional well being.

Over time, every teacher develops their own approach to completing so many important phone calls/interviews in one evening and morning according to their professional judgement. I have seen a variety of different interview styles all be successful. Some teachers prefer to run student led conferences where students present their own work and discuss their goals for the school year while teachers facilitate the conversation. Other teachers prefer to directly discuss the students’ strengths and weaknesses directly with parents or guardians.

For me, my approach is to write down notes on every child before the interview night and discuss them with parents or guardians. I do this because during my very first interview night, many years ago, I didn’t write any notes before hand. I was confident that I knew my students and could talk about them forever! What I didn’t factor in was what would happen to my brain after 3 hours straight of talking about a variety of students. During my very last interview, I hesitated to describe a positive trait about a very vulnerable student that I taught. I was so very disappointed in myself as I knew a thousand wonderful things about this student, but my brain was fatigued. Ever since that moment, I always prepare notes. I also have found that it provides a good record of what was discussed.

My notes that I prepare answers 4 basic questions and leaves 1 area for questions that come up during the interview:

One Positive aspect about the child and/or their progress this year

I always start with a positive aspect about the child. It often sets the interview on the right note and tells the family that I really care and know their child. I will try to share something about their academic progress and something about their positive role in the classroom and/or school. For example, “We are so happy to have Ishmeet in our class this year.  She is such a positive and outgoing member of our class and really works hard to make sure her classmates are included in all classroom activities. When we were working on our Science experiments last week, she saw that one student was left out and she went over and invited them into her group. It really helped the other student to be successful because they felt included. Ishmeet has also had a great start to the year in reading. She actively participates in our small group conversations, and she passionately talks about her book that she has self-selected. She can read new words and use strategies to figure out their meaning. Continue to encourage her to read at home.”

One area of growth

I try to focus this part of the conversation about one academic area that the child is working on improving. For this part of the conversation, I always have examples of the student’s work and an example of work that would be assessed at an A level. I find having samples for parents makes it much more easy for them to identify and see why I have evaluated their child’s classroom work at a given level. For example, “One area that Aria is working on improving this year is writing. As you can see from her most recent writing assignment, Aria does a great job organizing her ideas and writing her thoughts in paragraphs. To improve her mark in writing, Aria needs to add more complexity to her sentences and add more vivid vocabulary to her assignments as you can see in this A level sample here.”

What I am doing to support their child

During this part of the interview, I reiterate my commitment to their child’s learning this year. I clearly outline specifically my plan for supporting their child’s progress. For example, “I have noticed that Harini is having a difficult time understanding the Mathematical concepts of money. During our math periods this week, I have been meeting with Harini and 3 other students in a small group every day to help support her understanding of money. Next week, we will be having an assignment that uses the knowledge about money that we have been practicing. I will follow up with you before that assignment if I feel that Harini needs more time and practice to develop her skills in this area.”

The Home-School Connection

Finally, I thank the parent or guardian for meeting/talking with me today and highlight how important the connection between home and school is. It is often at this point in the interview that many caregivers ask for guidance on how to support the child’s learning at home.  When you are asked this question it is important to keep in mind that not all parents have access to the same resources, time or supports in their home or community. Just like my students, I want to set parents up for success and I need to be flexible and responsive in my answer.  For example, in my new role supporting English language learners, many families asked how they could support their child in reading when they didn’t speak English themselves. I responded by encouraging them to discuss what their child is reading in their first language and modeled what that conversation might sound like. With another family that I worked with in my previous role who wanted to understand how to support their child, I provided a resource that gave step by step instructions on how to develop reading skills and we met and role-played how that might look in their home. Ultimately, I highlight with the parent the many ways they already help their child be successful at school such as sharing their own life experiences and involving the child in family activities. An example of this unconventional way that a father supported his daughter’s learning was when she clearly made a connection between the text she was reading and her father’s experiences driven into child labour that he had shared with her. It is important as teachers, that we recognize the many ways parents, guardians and families support our students every day.

Do you have any questions?

I usually end with an opportunity for parents to ask questions. If the parent has a lot of questions, ask them to have a follow up meeting so that you are able to respect the time of all the parents who will be meeting with you tonight.

Final thoughts:

  • It is okay to say that you are not sure about an answer and that you will follow up with the answer next week. I sometimes get asked about high school programs or opportunities for extra curriculars that I don’t know about. I write down the question and follow up with the parent the following week.
  • Stop the interview immediately if you are feeling threatened. Do not take abuse or put yourself in a dangerous situation. Call the office immediately and stand outside your classroom until the situation is resolved.
  • I always end the interview with a reminder to parents that they can call, email, or make an appointment to chat any day throughout the year. My door is always open!!
  • Ultimately, the parent wants to know that you care about their child as much as they do. If you go in with a positive tone, most interviews will be successful no matter what approach works best for you.

My Experience Teaching In The “Hybrid Model”

During the 2020-2021 school year, I had the misfortune of teaching in the hybrid model. In my 20 years of teaching in a variety of schools, boards, and instructional models, this was by far the worst model for learning. For those that may be unfamiliar, the hybrid model was introduced by some school boards across Ontario during the pandemic. The model requires educators to teach students that are learning in-person and online simultaneously throughout the instructional day.  This meant that I taught students in the classroom at the same time as teaching students online. It was a lose-lose situation for all my students who didn’t get my full attention throughout the school year.

When the hybrid model was introduced, I was a teacher for a specialized program in my board. All the students in my class were diagnosed with a Developmental Disability, which meant that they required additional supports in the areas of personal care, academic achievement and/or self-regulation.  Before the pandemic, I had an incredibly thriving and rich program for the students that focused on a combination of life skills and academic skills. Our class ran our own successful business, did many activities with other classes, and worked hard at developing life skills in the classroom and community. The hybrid model put an end to much of the growth my students were displaying prior to it being introduced.

There were a lot of challenges that arose when instructing and learning in the hybrid model. The first and biggest challenge of all was dealing with technology issues constantly. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I think there are so many amazing uses, programs, and aps available for rich learning and collaboration.  My students with exceptionalities rely on the amazing functions of technology to access so many of their learning goals. Technology is great! However, relying on technology as the only way to access learning was a consistent problem in the hybrid model. I spent so much time talking parents through the act of fixing headphones, opening new aps, and logging into the virtual classroom. For every minute I was online talking to parents and students about technology issues, it was one minute that I was not supporting my students in class though challenges with self-regulation and learning. So much of the day was taken up with these issues that the students at home, in school and I were often frustrated by the end of the day.

There were many other problematic issues that came up while teaching in the hybrid model.  First of all, equitable access to instruction was an ongoing and consistent issue. Some of my most vulnerable students at home were not able to access their classroom instruction regularly due to poor internet at home. This ultimately meant that families who had more financial means had more consistent instruction. The model also limited my ability to move around the class to meet the needs of my students. Due to the fact that I was onscreen for the entire day, I often stayed in one area of the classroom. My in-person students had many needs that required support and trying to support them from across the room was very, very difficult. Another problem was that this model provided no privacy for students. My students had multiple challenges in the area of self regulation and sometimes they cried or yelled to express themselves. Even without the camera facing them, the students and families at home could hear my students in distress. My students expressed their embarrassment afterwards which was not fair for their privacy and well being. Another major problem was that students at home could not hear the discussion or the ideas that kids at school were contributing. I ended up repeating everything that was said which was very time consuming. A further issue with the hybrid model was the fact that my students learning in person had way more screen time during the instructional day than they normally would. We had no choice. To do instruction simultaneously, the students in my classroom participated in online activities with their classmates at home. Sick Kids hospital in Toronto came out with a study recently about the impacts of extended screen time on students. I saw firsthand what they described in the study that “increased time spent watching TV, on digital media and video games was associated with more irritability, hyperactivity, inattention, depression and anxiety.”

I could go on and on about the reasons the hybrid is far from ideal, but it basically comes down to it not being a good model for learning. I could share many stories of each of my students and why it didn’t work for them, but I’ll just share one: Before the hybrid was introduced, my student received direct instruction, supervision, redirection/re-teaching, and assessment regularly in the area of literacy. She was learning how to read and required intensive support for 60 minutes a day by staff that were trained in teaching students with cognitive disabilities to read. We used manipulatives, books, words, pictures, texts, and materials to support her ability to make sense of words. In the first year in our program, she went from being a non-reader to reading anything and everything she could get her hands on.  During the hybrid model, some of her progress slowed down dramatically because I spent so much of that 60 minutes, dealing with computer issues, supporting students both at home and in class to stay on task and some of the tools we used during in-person learning didn’t translate as well to online learning. Introducing the hybrid model directly compromised my student’s ability to be academic successful.

I understand that the 2020-2021 school year was unique and that it required unprecedented actions. However, the hybrid model needs to end. We should return to bricks and mortar learning in 2022-2023.


Beginning a GSA at your school

For many school boards across Ontario, students can participate in extra curricular activities again during the 2021-2022 school year. For those of you thinking about starting a QSA or GSA in your school this fall (yeah!), here are few tools and pieces of information to get you started!

What is a QSA and GSA?

A GSA is a student-run group, supported by staff, that unites 2SLGBTQ+ and allied youth. It gives students a safer space to talk, learn and educate others about gender identity and sexual orientation.

Although the Education Act refers to GSAs as Gay-Straight Alliances, many schools are moving away from the title Gay-Straight Alliance to a more inclusive Gender-Sexuality Alliance or Queer-Straight Alliance.

Am I allowed to start a GSA or QSA at my school?

Yes, Yes and Yes!! In 2012, Bill 13 was passed that was an addendum to the Education Act that focused on Safe Schools. Included in that Bill was a section that protects a student’s right to have a GSA at their school. I’ve included it here to aid in conversations that might be happening at your school:


(1)  Every board shall support pupils who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that promote a safe and inclusive learning environment, the acceptance of and respect for others and the creation of a positive school climate, including:

(d)  activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.

(2)  For greater certainty, neither the board nor the principal shall refuse to allow a pupil to use the name gay-straight alliance or a similar name for an organization described in clause (1) (d).

How do I get started?

If you are not sure how to get started, that is not a problem at all! There are so many resources to support you in supporting your students. ETFO has a very extensive list of 2SLGBTQ+ videos, pamphlets, websites etc. There is also an amazing website created by a Peel District School Board committee called “Make Peel Proud” that supports educators in bringing queer identities into their classroom throughout the year and will help to get your GSA or QSA started.

What should we do in a GSA?

Ideally, it is student led and organized. At many schools it is just a safer place to hang out, chill and chat. Some schools have a group that is very active in their social justice work. It can be whatever the students and you decide it should be. Our GSA has evolved greatly over the years and every year is quite unique.

Last year, during our online GSA, the students who joined were quiet at the beginning. We were online and there was very little talking or interacting for our first session. I decided to plan a few sessions to give us some foundational info to get started and break the ice. The students took over after that.

The activities that we did in the first four or five sessions:

  • Introduced the concept of a GSA. We looked at the term 2SLGBTQ+ and figured out what students knew about each of the identities listed. We did a word cloud which enlarged the words that the students knew really well. This told me a lot about what level of understanding and knowledge many of the students brought to the group.
  • Looked at the Peel District School Board’s student census with a particular focus on the question “What percentage of students identify as 2SLGBTQ+?” It showed us that there are many students in grade 7 and 8 that identify as 2SLGBTQ+ even though their classmates might not be talking about it.
  • Shared YouTube videos of our favourite Queer musicians.
  • Shared our thoughts about our school and how safe it is for students who identify as 2SLGBTQ+.

Why is it important?

Our students who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ are some of our most vulnerable students. They may not have a space in their school or family life that is supportive. Therefore, a GSA or QSA can play a very important role in establishing a safer space for students.

What if nobody comes?

That is okay. Give it time. By clearly identifying yourself as the coordinator of your school’s GSA, you have told students that you are a safe and supportive person that they can approach when they are ready.

Welcome to another year!!

My name is Tammy Axt and I am really excited to be blogging for the 2021-2022 school year. This is me:


I am fortunate, that for the umpteenth time in my teaching career, I am changing roles yet again! I started my career in the senior division with a grade 11 class, moved to intermediate, transitioned into junior and continued the shrinking trend by teaching a lovely primary class. After my primary days, I decided I needed a change and became a full-time music teacher and after that I taught an amazing self-contained class of students with Developmental Disabilities for three years. That brings me to this year, and I am excited to say that I am an English as a Second Language and Special Education Support staff at my very busy middle school. I feel so fortunate to be in a profession that has so many opportunities for learning and growth.

Throughout my blogs this year, I look forward to sharing my learning with you. I will be learning extensively about the role of an English as a Second Language educator and about best practices to support English language learners at school. I will also be excited to blog about my experiences supporting students with Autism and Learning Disabilities who I will be supporting in their classroom settings. It is going to be an exciting year of learning.

Throughout my career, I have also really enjoyed leading extra curricular activities at schools where I have taught. I’ve led everything from Taiko drumming, Step Club, Recorder Quartet, African drumming, Hip Hop dancing, Japanese Manga art and meditation. I thoroughly enjoy this time with students where we can co-create dance, art and music. It has been awesome. This year, I will be beginning my year by co-ordinating my school’s GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you.

I have one piece of advice for those just starting out in the career that I have learned from all of these teaching assignments. Make relationship building your first priority.  The relationships I built with parents, colleagues, Educational Assistants, outside agencies, Principals and of course students have been the most important factor in the success in all my teaching assignments and educational endeavors. When you have a strong relationship built with students, they will come to you if they need help understanding a concept. Students will also feel safe in taking risks in their learning. When you have a strong relationship with parents, they will give you a heads up when their child has had a bad night and may need extra time on assignments at school. When you build strong relationships with every support person that works to make school accessible for all your students, you set your students up for success academically, socially and emotionally. Relationships are key.

I hope you are having a good start to the school year and that hopefully things are starting to settle into a nice routine at your school.

What I wish I had known three years ago

Three years ago, I moved to my current school in the role of self-contained teacher of students with developmental disabilities. When I applied for the job, I did not have extensive experience with self-contained programming or even special education for that matter. All I knew was that I loved working with students who had exceptionalities when they came to my music class. Three years later, I have learned so many important things.

Since I am unable to travel back in time, I hope what I learned will help you get started in supporting students with developmental disabilities in your inclusive or self-contained setting.

Set high expectations. My students achieved a lot in the past three years. Some of my students learned how to read at the age of 12, some were able to take care of their personal care in the bathroom for the first time at 13, and others greatly improved their social skills and empathy towards others. I truly understand the statement: “Just because the student never did something before, does not mean the student won’t be able to do it now.”. The students impressed me time and time again. We ran a business, hopped on a bus and went shopping, we led activities for others in the school and on one particular occasion, my incredibly shy grade 6 student walked up to the dunk tank and in front of 50 grade 8s, pitched and dunked my principal. The sky is really the limit. Expect a lot from your students and they will be able to do so many things!

Focus on the students’ strengths and build from there. Building a program for instruction that is strength-based will help the students achieve so many things!! It builds momentum and confidence with students when they achieve something and allows them to do their best learning. For example, once we connected numeracy activities to one student’s expertise of running, her counting really took off. We focused on the numbers she was confident with and added on from there. For another one of my students, he really enjoyed riding his specialized bike around the school. We learned that if we continued to build his gross motor skills during his bike rides, he would be more comfortable getting up and down from chairs, walking up and down the stairs, and dancing with his classmates. His physical strength carried over to so many areas of his daily routine.

There are many policies/Acts that you need to know. Find a comfortable chair and start reading. PPMs outline some the requirements of your job, especially those that focus on Special Education such as: PPM 81, 140, 149 and 156. There are also a lot of policies that impact your responsibilities such as the Ontario Human Rights Code- Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities, Ontario with Disabilities Act and Accessibility for Ontario with Disabilities Act. This is something easy that you can do now, before your job begins in September, but will have a big impact on what you’re required to do in your new job.

Ask for good assessment tools on day one. Information about your students is so important. We know this. In every classroom in Ontario, teachers are assessing students and making decisions about programming every day of the school year. The tricky part about students who are developing skills outside of the Ontario Curriculum is that many schools do not have really effective assessment tools that can capture their learning. If your school does not have a great tool for assessment of students with developmental disabilities, the FISH Functional Independence Skills Handbook and The Carolina Curriculum are a great place to start.

Read about Alternative Goals and Programming before your job begins. For most of us throughout our career, we have used the Ontario Curriculum as a measure of achievement for our students. For students who are focusing on skills outside the Ontario Curriculum, it is important as an educator that you have a deep understanding of Alternative Goals, Programming and Assessment. To get started, the website will introduce you to different goals that are outside of the Ontario Curriculum and how to assess students’ achievement of these goals.

Resources come in many shapes and sizes. Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists and SEA Technology will often play an important role in your students’ success at school. Learn what is available to students and understand how SLPs, OTs and PTs can support your students. You will need to advocate strongly for your students to get the materials that they need.

It also helps if you are aware of some of the technology that can support your students’ learning such as:

· Core first board

· Clicker 6

· Switches

· Speech to Text

· Board Maker Online

· Read and Write for Google Chrome

· Go Talk

· Big/Little Mack Communicator

· Prologue2Go

· Big keys assistive key board

· Clicker Connect

· Abilipad

Make social skills a priority. I’d love to say I used some amazing social skills program and voila, we had an amazing community of learners. However, it required a lot of observation of students and creating lessons and resources that responded to my students’ needs. We used a lot of social stories and acted out situations so students could learn appropriate ways to respond in a variety of situations. Once I made social skills the most important focus of our class, the students developed a strong community and our learning really took off. It was like you had 13 cheerleaders rooting you on and celebrating every part of your day!!

Parents play an important role in their child’s education. This is a true statement for every child at school. What I didn’t know when I first started my current role, was how important I was to going to be to helping my students’ parents get the community supports that they needed.

That last thing that I wish I would have known three years ago:

That this was going to be the coolest, most awesome and incredible three years of my teaching career!

Thank You, Teachers!!

Thank you for everything that you have done this year.

Thank you for supporting students who felt isolated and alone.

Thank you for supporting students while you received unclear communication and direction from the Ministry of Education.

Thank you for becoming an expert in IT to support students and parents through device issues.

Thank you for your commitment to dismantling anti-Black racism.

Thank you for continuing to commit your precious free time to your own professional learning. I met so many of you in book talks, workshops, webinars and in AQs that I took this year. Your passion for learning is inspiring.

Thank you for self reflecting and acknowledging areas of needed growth.

Thank you for writing report cards, IEPs, transition reports etc. while at home and isolated from the usual support of your colleagues.

Thank you for supporting parents through this difficult time.

Thank you for working extensive hours to prepare for online learning.

Thank you for staring at a page of avatars for hours on end while teaching lessons enthusiastically.

Thank you for speaking out loudly against the hybrid model of instruction. I taught in a hybrid model this year and I can say from the experience that it is the absolute worst model for kids. No child or teacher should learn or instruct in this model.

Thank you for keeping 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds engaged during online learning.

Thank you for running online GSAs this year so our students who are members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community felt loved and supported.

Thank you for supporting your colleagues through some very difficult times with their mental health.

Thank you for teaching from home while trying to help your own children with online learning.

Thank you for everything that you have done this year. I am very proud to stand alongside you as a teacher in Ontario.

Alternative Curriculum Reporting

It is that time of year again when everyone gets to do their favourite part of teaching….. Report card writing!! Woohoo!!

When I began my job as a teacher of students with Developmental Disabilities three years ago, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to write on my student’s reports. All of my students were working towards Alternative expectations on their IEPs and the reporting on the goals was much different than I was used to doing.  It was the first time that I developed Alternative Expectations (expectations that are developed to help students acquire skills that are not in the Ontario curriculum) and the first time I reported on them at the completion of first term. The ministry of Education explains that “for the vast majority of students, these (alternative) programs would be given in addition to modified or regular grade–level expectations from the Ontario curriculum.” In my students case, they have completely alternative IEPs.

In Ontario, there are five categories of Exceptionalities: Behaviour, Communication, Intellectual, Physical and Multiple. Some of these categories have more than one exceptionality under its umbrella, resulting in a total of twelve exceptionalities as outlined by the Ministry of Education. My students who have a Developmental Disability fall under the Intellectual umbrella along with Giftedness and Mild Intellectual Disabilities.

After consulting with parents, guardians, previous IEPs, Occupational Therapist reports, Speech and Language Reports, other staff and Psychoeducational Assessments,  I created goals that my students focused on for the first term of school. For some students, the goal changed many times throughout the term as we made it more challenging or complex because the child mastered the initial goal. For other students, the goal had to be altered completely to meet their changing needs. When preparing to write the report card, I gathered all the assessment that we as a team had gathered and used the evidence to write a comment that reflected the student’s progress.

After three years in my role, I am no expert by any means, but maybe the comments I have used may help give you some ideas of how to start.

Here are some comments for some areas of the Alternative Curriculum:


_____ regularly initiates conversation with students online and in the classroom. ___ is working on listening closely to others responses and respond to questions that they have asked. ____ is beginning to be able to express her feelings in detail in the classroom.

_________continues to be able to communicate confidently with staff and students online and in person. ___ has improved in his ability to add his own thoughts and questions to conversations and no longer relies on a model to share his experiences and interests. _______ began Speech and Language online sessions in the Winter of 2020 with a focus on improving ______’s articulation. He has adjusted well to the format of the focused sessions and is very committed to improving.

_________ has improved a lot in her ability to express how she is feeling throughout the day at school. She is able to ask for breaks when she is tired or thirsty and confidently shares when she is having a difficult morning. Her ability to express her feelings has helped her to be more focused in class. ______ has gained more confidence throughout this school year and is now able to ask for assistance from multiple people in the classroom.


_______ had a very successful term two. He was able to stay calm and focused by using his strategy board when he felt anxious with minimal prompting from staff. During online learning, he used some deep breaths when he felt overwhelmed and remained very calm and focused.

With minimal teacher support, ________ has made significant improvements in her/his self regulation when upset or frustrated.  The use of a calming space with student selected staff, allowed ______ time to use tools to help manage her emotions throughout the day. Using a first then choice board, _______ was beginning to comply with more requests throughout the day.

Fine Motor/Gross Motor:

________ printing has improved this term. It is more clear and easy to read. ___ spent much of the term writing for specific purposes such as letters to all of her friends at home. ____ is able to use scissors well to cut paper activities and is working on completing lacing activities accurately. Currently, he is able to lace straight lines consistently and is working on lacing curved shapes.

________ is completing 3 to 5 laps of the interior of the school every day on his bike. He rides the bike with fluid motion and lots of energy. _______ with consistent support and encouragement is beginning to go up and down the stairs of the school 3 times a week.

Functional Academics:

______ can count to 100 with 80% accuracy. She sometimes need assistance with the numbers 60, 70 80 and 90. She is able to demonstrate one-to-one correspondence up to 20. When __________takes her time, her accuracy increases and she is able to demonstrate one-to-on correspondence up to 20

____ has expanded his list of words that he can recognize in a variety of texts. The words include, but are not limited to: a, and, big, blue, can, funny, go, here, I, is, in, it, jump, little, look, me, my, play, red, run, said, see, the, to, up, we, yellow, you. ____ is also able to sound out unfamiliar short words with 86% accuracy. _____ loves to write and happily learns new words to write every week.

______  showed great commitment to learning some new sight words this term. She identified them 90% of the time using the Olwein method of instruction which worked very well for her. She also thoroughly enjoyed playing games with the words. She can identify the 5 sight words Cars 3, school, colour, her name and run in a variety of contexts. ______ was also able to trace and copy many personally relevant words for a variety of purposes such as writing letters to her friends who are learning at home.

______ can say the numbers in order from 1-12. She can recognize the numbers 1, 2 and 3 100% of the time and can identify 4 and 5 50% of the time. She is able to demonstrate 1- to-1 correspondence on the numbers 1, 2 and 3 with 50% accuracy.

Social Skills:

_________ requires consistent redirection and cues to treat others with respect and kindness. With these supports has begun to show improvement. She continues to respond well to reminders and will use phrases such as “thank you or you’re welcome” when prompted.

_______ awareness of personal space has improved consistently this year. ______ has used visual tools/cues to check how close she can sit beside someone during whole class gatherings

Residential Schools

The remains of 215 Indigenous children were found at Kamloops Indian Residential School this past week. Every child found was a brother, sister, daughter, son, grandchild, and important member of their family. Every child found loved and was loved by their family. Every child found was taken from their home and stripped of their culture and dignity. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation is working with the coroner’s office to determine the causes and timings of their deaths, which is currently unknown. What is known, is that no one from the school, community or government documented these deaths. It is a grave reminder that many people knew the horrors of abuse and disease that was going on at residential schools across Canada and no one stopped it. Not a member of the community, the government, a chief medical officer, a teacher or mayor stepped in to stop this horrifying situation for 150, 000 innocent children and their families. It is imperative that we share these stories so every student in Ontario knows this history and can become an advocate for Indigenous rights in Canada.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting at an outdoor theatre with my aunt watching Charlottetown’s Confederation “Centre Young Company” perform a musical that told stories from all around Canada. At the conclusion of the performance, my aunt turned to me with a surprised look on her face and said, “I didn’t know that happened.” She was referring to the powerful song, written and performed by a very talented young man from Nunavut who spoke of the intergenerational trauma of residential schools. I was incredibly surprised that my aunt had not been aware of the cultural genocide that happened at residential schools but soon realized that through conversation that she was never taught it in school and had never heard about it in other areas of her life. As our conversation continued, I saw the transformation in thoughts about our Indigenous peoples as education and the arts can do.

As educators, it is imperative that we do not have more children graduate from our schools not knowing the harm that was caused by residential schools and the history of Colonialism which is still very much ingrained in our current educational and child welfare systems in Canada.

To support teaching about residential schools, there is a Bookstore in Toronto called GoodMinds. This bookstore is First Nations owned and operated. Below, I have highlighted different books that can introduce and continue to tell the horrific history of residential schools in Canada. It is important as educators that we are teaching our students that as settlers, we all have a responsibility to learn the history and advocate for our Indigenous peoples.


When We Were Alone/Quand on était seuls by David A. Robertson and Julie Flett

This book is a very gentle introduction to the concept of residential schools that can be read to children as young as Kindergarten. The young girl asks her grandmother, Kokum,  about her brightly coloured dresses, long braided hair, Cree language, and about the times when she was a young girl. Kokum tells her about her experiences attending a residential school for a number of years as a child in a way that her granddaughter can understand.

Shi-Shi-etko/Shi-Shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell

Shi-shi-etko is a picture book about an Interior Salish child with just four more days at home until she goes to residential school. She takes time to explore her environment and spends quality time with her family. The illustrations are beautiful and conveys the connection to one’s community. Although the book is the final days at home before departing, residential schools are only mentioned on the introductory page.


I am Not a Number/Je ne suis pas un numéro by Jenny Kay Dupuis (Ojibwe) and Kathy Kacer

This is a dual language book in English or French and Nibisiing.  Nibisiing was the language that Irene was not allowed to speak at the residential school where she was forcibly sent by the “Indian agent”. The book I am Not a Number tells the story of Irene Couchie Dupuis and her horrible and frightening experiences of being in the residential school system. The book is written by her granddaughter Jenny Kay Dupuis.

The Orange Shirt Story/L’histoire du chandail orange by Phyllis Webstad (Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band)

The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Webstad explains the truth behind Orange Shirt Day held each September 30th. This book describes the sadness Phyllis experienced being away from her family and the cruelty she experienced in the residential school system in Canada.


Residential School. With The Words and Images of Survivors by Larry Loyie(Cree)

This book honours the survivors, the former students, who attended residential schools. It offers a first-person perspective of the residential school system in Canada, as it shares the memories of more than 70 survivors from across Canada.

The trauma inflicted by residential schools is still very much a part of the lives of many of our Indigenous peoples across Canada. Below is a plea from Kelly Fraser, an outstanding Inuk musician, who spoke about the call to action for all Canadians before her tragic passing in 2019.

“Both my mothers are residential school survivors, both their father’s dogs were taken away and killed so they couldn’t go dog sledding to get their food to feed their family. TB/influenza caused our people to convert to Christianity and let go of their culture (drum dancing, tattooing, throat singing, shamanism…etc)  because the priests were the only ones with the medicine and I’m not here to say being a Christian is not right, I believe in the freedom of believing what you want to and I respect ALL religions. The Mounties were sent by the government to take away our kayaks and made my family walk thousands of kilometers to a new settlement where they were told there would be houses when there weren’t any. I believe we can rise above what has happened to us by telling each other to please find healing and help by elders, mental health workers, there’s the internet where we can learn to meditate, learn about our culture and reach out and help each other heal. Its time for us ALL people to also call onto the federal/provincial/territorial/municipal governments to give us food that is affordable, programs that will help us heal, proper housing, proper education that allows us to go straight to college after grade 12 and proper healthcare by writing to them and calling them up, this is up to ALL Canadians too!!”

Thank you parents

We often reach out to our parents at the beginning of the year to invite them to be partners in their child’s learning. The communication continues as we share successes, struggles and information about school events.

This year, I have had to reach out to parents and ask for help during this switch to emergency online instruction and I have been so grateful for their response!

My students all require assistance in turning on computers and finding the link for their online classes. Many require an adult to stay in the room as they participate in activities throughout the day. Many parents are in meetings at their own job and helping their child to fix tech issues at the same time.

Below is a letter to parents that I will be sending them in June thanking them for everything that they have done for their child this year.

Dear parents,

Thank you.

When I met all of you three years ago, I asked you to partner with me to support your child’s learning. Little did I know that I was about to get the most amazing partners a teacher could ever ask for.  Every time I wrote or called and said, “I need help”. You answered, “what do you need and when you do you need it?” Because of your support and commitment to your child’s education, your children have learned so many new things and have grown into some of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

You are patient, loving and caring and your child feels it every day. Your children often share with us how much they love you and their family. I can see how much you are trying to support them in online learning, and I am so thankful for your help. You have become an IT support person, an expert in physical education and probably have some of our songs stuck in your head. For those students that are unable to communicate with words, it is obvious from the way your child looks at you that they gain comfort from your presence.

Before the pandemic came, I excitedly waited for your children’s bus to arrive every day. Every morning, your children would tell me about their events from their lives. They would tell me about their gardening and show me their new paint on their fingernails that you so lovingly helped them to do. I also loved seeing beautiful pictures of fun family times. You are truly amazing.

Thank you for taking the time to send supportive notes and emails. You do not know how touched I was that you took time out of your busy day to show your appreciation.

Three years ago, being the teacher of this class was my dream. What I did not know at the time, was that my time with your children was going to be a wonderful three years of my teaching career and how much I was going to miss all of you at the end of this time together.

It has been a profound honour to be your child’s teacher and I look forward to hearing about your child’s experience in high school.

Please keep in touch,

Mrs. Axt