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?


Inspiration found within the walls of your own school

Take a moment and reflect…

When was the last time you visited your neighbour? Or a classroom at the opposite end of the school?

When was the last time you asked a coworker what are they were up to with their class?

Inspiration can be found right next door…

A conversation could be had that reaffirms or redirects your way of thinking/doing…

A conversation that motivates you to alter your practice….

An alteration that could benefit the learning of you students.

During the last week of my practicum I had a chance to explore my practicum school,

It was a chance to collaborate with my neighbouring educators…

Continue reading


I am starting to breathe ….time to slow down, to breathe and to reflect.

Growth – in my students, in myself — and our plants.

I smile… those amazing ‘ah ha!’ moments, when it finally clicked – connection made! Seeing that light bulb go off, over coming an obstacle, a moment where the lessons became meaningful and the learning became real. The light at the end of a tunnel.

I take pride in lessons that made my students excited, recognizing that teaching is creating a space for curiosity and inquiry, a space where students feel empowered to take responsibility for their learning, and feel engaged.

I held close to me a piece of advise my school advisor, mentor and friend game me day on one … “build connections and the teaching will come” … it is true – know your students, where the come from and what they need. Building those connections and better understanding each student will allow you to challenge and support them as individuals. Taking the time to connect with each students builds mutual trust and respect.

Practicum has allowed me space to grow as a professional, and help me search for answers to the big question ‘what kind of teacher do I want to be’…. what I have discovered..

I want to be a teacher that my students see as being a learner alongside them, a teacher that cares… that is human and makes mistakes. A teacher that engages, challenges and supports – that helps students realize their own potential. A teacher that opens a world of opportunity and exposes my students to the world beyond the walls of the class that has yet to be discovered…

Div 11 Vegetable Garden! — harvesting next week!!

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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!


Responsive Lesson Planning

Today I had an opportunity to experience first hand the challenges of being a TOC. You are entering a class to which you have very a very limited time to create a connection and teach a lesson.

I found my “protective momma bear instinct” kicking in as my students struggled to grasp the math concept being taught by the TOC… students were all looking at me, the familiar adult in the room, to guide them in the right direction. But being a student teacher I bit my tongue not wanting to step on the toes of the TOC, instead acted as a support system by redirecting the students attention to the TOC, and then answering questions and providing guidance & reassurance during the work period.

Today was a day full of learning … tips and tricks of the trade

Lessons of the Day…

1. Leading students along a path of academic success should not be guided solely by the PLO’s of the curriculum, but instead guided by the NEEDS of the students …RESPONSIVE lesson planning.

2. Transition Periods from unstructured learning to structured learning = CHALLENGING!
How can I bridge that gap, to allow students to experience both structured & unstructured styles of learning… relaxing breathing? Chimes?

3. Assessing the needs of your students provides a base line for lesson planning
Assessment  FOR learning…Assessment OF learning… Assessment BY learning (self reflection).

Again it all links back to RESPONDING to the needs of your students… building CONNECTIONS which allow you to better observe and understand these NEEDS

4. Tap into prior knowledge… students love to share… and you will always be impressed and surprised with what they have to say

Consistently Flexible

Today was my first day as an official member of a Grade 3 class, it will be my permanent home!

I observed a conundrum of teaching…. Being consistent while simultaneously being flexible.

Consistency in language — “respect your learning”… “gathering place”. When teaching a lesson that spreads over more than one day using consistent terms will bridge the gaps.  Consistency in how you choose to get the classes attention – if your students are familiar with your tactic, they will know how to respond.

Consistency & flexibility in your day planning.

Flexibility in recognizing when your kids just need a run around the field or an impromptu recess to channel their energy. Flexibility in being OKAY if a student moves at a slower pace, rushing them or penalizing them for not keeping up is not providing a supportive environment for learning, the work will all get done in time. Encourage risk taking.

One of today’s lessons involved writing poetry. Students were asked to pick a topic and write a poem about it WITHOUT naming the topic. HOLY MOLY! I was beyond impressed with what the students were able to create. There was no specific criteria other then ‘not naming the topic’, they could rhyme.. or not….it could be 5 lines.. a paragraph… a list of words… this is true creativity – boundless.

Respect. It is earned as you make connections with students, it does not come with the title of ‘teacher’. Students respond when they feel respected, safe & supported.

Lessons of the day:

Find a balance between consistency & flexibility

Creativity comes when students are given opportunity to express themselves without boundaries or set expectation