LFO Literacy Network
The goal of the LFO Literacy Network is to connect educators across the province and facilitate meaningful conversations and collaborations about the pressing literacy issues of our time.
Learning Forward Ontario Literacy Network, Year 1
During the 2021-2022 school year, Learning Forward Ontario hosted the Ontario Literacy Learning Network through a series of online sessions. The need for a network came about in the context of
Emerging questions about literacy instruction, particularly those posed about early literacy learning through the Right to Read inquiry
The lack of opportunities for professional learning about literacy due to the pandemic
the perception that previous professional learning opportunities focused on literacy have been lost leaving a large group of educators without this training and support
The focus on mathematics learning and the shift in Ministry of Education priorities toward STEM
Bringing educators from across the province was a way for educators to re-engage in the literacy learning discussion, and to build a network for educators to support each other in both learning and exploring next steps related to supporting literacy learning.
Through the network discussions, there were a number of questions that were generated by the network, that is the participants who were involved in the sessions, based on the kinds of thinking that came to mind when they thought about literacy learning in Ontario. These questions included
What are the foundational aspects of literacy instruction?
How might professional learning be supported, especially in the absence of release time and structures to support professional learning (e.g., due to the pandemic and/or shifting priorities)?
How do educators ensure that a framework and strategies of literacy instruction is serving students with special needs equitably?
How do educators use the range of assessment practices to improve students’ literacy learning (e.g., especially during periods of online learning)?
How does the work of equity and anti-oppressive education merge with and alongside literacy learning?
What impact will the “science of reading” and the Right to Read inquiry have on literacy learning in Ontario?
Although all of the questions carried significance, and there was certainly overlap among the questions, the last question, in particular, seemed to preoccupy educators because it presented a number of unknowns in the literacy learning landscape. This at a time when there seemed to be little in the way of professional learning related to literacy (when more of the focus seemed to be on mathematics).
What emerged from the network discussions were some principles of what literacy means and what the work going forward.
The Literacy Network invited a number of guests to foster thinking about what it means to support literacy learning.
Kathleen Gould Lundy
Dr. Katleen Gould Lundy reminded us that educators need to center literacy in everything they do. Although there is a growing emphasis on aspects of literacy, Lundy stresses that code breaking is only one aspect, and though important, we need to find ways that allow students to connect (and see the connections) between code breaking and meaning making. Further to this, Lundy stated that engagement needs to come before comprehension, and that educators should not forget about appealing to the heart. This means finding students’ voices, listening to them and learning from them.
Jenny Kay Dupuis
In her talk, Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis described her process of creating her book, I am not a Number, as a journey as a storyteller and a journey of finding and revealing truth. Although they must be treated with care, Dupuis states that we must not shy away from difficult stories, otherwise we continue to perpetuate the silences that conceal the truth. She reminds educators that part of the work of literacy is to be trauma-infomed, and that we need to be respectful of where the stories come from, the community that holds them, and the way the should appropriately be shared.
Amy Hsiao posed an important question for educators to reflect on. “Is it possible that I am perpetrating oppressive ideologies in my practice?” For Hsiao, the work of literacy means disrupting systems and practices that do not lead to students flourishing. At the same time, borrowing from the work of Gholdy Muhammad, a rich approach to literacy provides an opportunity for our students to adopt the tools and and actions that on one hand helps them interrogate injustices and on the other help to lead social change. This means using culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy to, in part, carefully acknowledge, respect and understand difference and its complexities.
Brenda Corchis & Rabia Khokhar
The last pair of speakers for the series, Brenda Corchis and Rabia Kohkhar reminded the network that despite the changes that may be coming in terms of literacy education, educators should not lose sight of what is important when it comes to literacy learning. Despite any shifts that might need to be made, for example related to structured literacy, Corchis and Khokhar reminded the network that literacy is about honouring a variety of ways to be literate, about students finding engaging texts and making meaning with those texts, and about literacy as a means of liberation and social justice.