To Stream or not to Stream?


DISCLAIMER: Streaming and Integration both have value,  I only aim to offer a different perspective and begin a conversation about how best to meet the needs of all our students. Should we invest resources into streamed programs, as a way to more effectively target our intervention efforts?

There has been a constant be tug-a-war of opinions as to wether or not to stream students within the education system. This conversation tends to revolve around students that bring a specific, and most often, a challenging set of needs to the classroom environment. Although both streaming and integration of students comes with advantages and disadvantages, I have seen first hand the positive results of having a class tailored to target intervention toward a specific set of student needs. 

Why not stream?

There seems to be a stigma attached to the concept of streaming. People argue that streaming can be harmful to a students social well-being, as the child is ‘labeled’. People also see streaming as a form of exclusion, as students are seen as being separated, and isolated from their peer group.

As a teacher of a streamed grade 6/7 intensive literacy class I recognize that I have a bias toward having the option to stream. A program like intensive literacy offers a smaller class size where students receive regular 1 on 1, or small group support with an fully adapted/individualized program. Comments from students and parents, have indicated that the small, targeted class sizes has not only facilitated academic growth, but built confidence, and reignited a love of learning.

For students like mine, that bring a specific set of needs, a traditional 24 student classroom was not meeting their academic or the social/emotional needs – and this is not for lack of effort on the teachers part. The nature of our streamed class has allowed me, as the classroom teacher, target intervention, without removing students from the classroom community on a daily basis – instead, the intervention is embedded in whole class practice. Because my students all entered the program with similar struggles, they have grown to understand each others frustrations and stressors, and have been able support one another both academically, and emotionally.

I feel the general outlook on streaming needs to shift. It is time to remove the negative stigma, a stigma views streaming as potentially harmful to students. As a society we need to recognize, value, and accept diversity in learners and design a system that more effectively targets the needs of the students. Standardizing classrooms is not the answer.  Students are unique, as is their learning style, and set of needs. Classes need to mirror this diversity. Our system needs to offer a variety of options to better target and support intervention efforts & effectively meet the needs of our students.

What are your thoughts on streaming students to target intervention efforts?



Connect Ed Canada … 

I was surround by passionate educators,  welcoming me with open arms, into their world of learning… 

Connect Ed Canada  …  A weekend full of thought provoking conversation, collaborating, and sharing.

As a student teacher I often struggle being in a stage of transition, and if you know me at all you know how much I am revitalized by professional development and conference opportunities…. Connect Ed Canada could not have come at a better time…

I witnessed an incredible representation of student centred learning at Calgary Science School. Observing students fully engaged in learning how to learn…

I left feeling inspired & motivated after meeting and conversing with so many educators who are working so hard to change and better the education system…

But feeling slightly overwhelmed by the opportunities and potential that lie ahead…

I laughed, I sang, I learned, I networked, I collaborated, I shared… I got all fired up!

To hear more about the workshops I attended, I have blogged about two already “risk taking” And “my ah ha moment”

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Risk Taking – “the lone nut”

Blog post inspired by an amazingly mind stimulating workshop on “Leading an Innovative Culture” lead by George Couros

My thoughts…

Historically the idea of “failure” has been seen as an end, a path of no return – a black hole we feared approaching.
Today we have begun to challenge this view, recognizing the learning that comes from “failure”
As educators we encourage students to “try new things” to “challenge themselves” …to take risks, to be creative and open to share….and we work to convince them that making mistakes and taking risks opens doors for learning…

Moment of self reflection…

Are we as educators modelling this “try new things” attitude to our students? How?

Are we as educators stepping outside the bounds of our comfort zone…adjusting our own teaching practices… Trying new things… or even acknowledging our own mistakes with our students, colleagues and self? Why…why not?

When as the last time you admitted to your students you made a mistake…and then actually tried to change things?

Are we ourselves being creative and innovative in our own teaching practice? And if we are… how are we sharing and collaborating?

When do we take risks?

The willingness to take risks, to be vulnerable and be challenged is rooted in the development of a safe, supportive and trusting environment – through the creation of a learning culture that places value in being innovative, trying something new and accepts “failure” or “mistakes” as stepping stones to AMAZING!

I believe…
Making mistakes is human, it is a natural, self reflective process that encourages problem solving and collaboration.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
Vincent Van Gogh

My final thoughts…
Be “the lone nut”…. take a risk, see what happens – sharing new ideas, trying new things, being innovative and creative is how movements begin… recognizing that “failure” and “mistakes”. Model to your students what you expect from them…

I have posted this video before, but I really believe it is representative of the message I am trying to highlight …. Taking risks can lead to change and growth in self and in others.
“The Lone Nut – Starting a movement”

Garden Based Learning!

First and foremost I have a confession to make … The only plant I have ever successfully grown was basil – and that was out of a can… on the sill of my bedroom window (where it currently lives as it is only a couple months old!)

I have always had a passion for environmental protection and have worked toward advocating for local and organic eating – but until now have struggled to find my ‘inner gardener’.

Being my stubborn…independent to a fault self… I RESISTED.. even AVOIDED gardening as a teenager… as my parents (who are avid gardeners) wanted to ‘teach’ me and wanted me to “be involved”… NU UH! I wanted to learn and be interested on my own terms with my OWN garden — typical Sarah moment… (not one I am proud of!)

But alas, as I transition into a new stage of my life, as an educator…. settling into the lower mainland after my four year undergrad, my inner gardener has begun to flourish!

I have come to the realization that technology has begun to saturate all aspects of human life and that  many of my students the environment has become ‘abstract’ – a foreign unexplored idea.

I saw gardening as a way to reconnect my students with nature and shift their thinking — Nature is ‘the natural’ in a world of invasive entities 

This long winded introduction leads me now to introduce a project I have chose to taken on throughout the duration of my 10 week teaching practicum – Garden Based Learning

No garden at your school.. NO PROBLEM! … Trouble shoot!

I am using home designed PORTABLE GARDENS, that can be transferred in and out of my classroom each day by my students. My goal is to integrate multiple subject areas into the garden project – so far I have managed to integrate science, math, language arts, healthand career and a small branch of social studies – Not too bad eh!

Day 1: Prepare the gardening site – AKA… the kids get DIRTY!!

Ideally I would have LOVED to do this outside, on a gloriously sunny day.. BUT no such luck! RAIN RAIN RAIN! I forged on! ((I am on a time crunch… 10 weeks!))

In 12 tupperware bins my students will be growing 5 types of vegetables:  radishes, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and Sugar Peas (all to be fully grown between 30 and 60 days — Fingers crossed!!).

What happened next….

48 Dirt covered hands

24 Students

12 Gardening bins

10 Weeks

5 Vegetables types

1 Ms Dalzell with dirt smudges on her face… Relieved – The planters are ready!