It’s scary where a bowl of soup can lead

It’s scary where a bowl of soup can lead. In the fall of 2008 a colleague and I decided we needed a bowl of fresh-made soup at a local establishment. What started as an innocent conversation about literacy and the OSSLT (grade 10 literacy test in Ontario that is required for graduation), turned into a flurry of excitement and a stack of notes on napkins. We were discussing the amount of untapped potential in students that just isn’t activated by the literacy test. The majority of our students that do not pass the test, only miss the mark by a few points. Unfortunately, these students often do not connect the literacy test to their lives and therefore do not put in a 100% effort. If only we could tap into that potential…
We decided that we would like to create a 1-day symposium for our grade 10 students that would help them see the connection between literacy, the OSSLT and their lives. The result was the first annual reaLITy symposium hosted at PSS. Our first task was to secure our keynote speaker. I called an acquaintance from my previous life in Moosonee, Joseph Boyden. He was generous enough to agree to spend the day with us. Even with the increased demand on his time after winning the Giller Prize, he volunteered his time with us for the day.
We included breakout sessions by local radio hosts, cartoonists, bookstore owners, activists, sports analysts, journalists, blogger/wiki’ers, authors, etc. Each session involved the presenter describing their careers/experiences and how literacy is connected. A literacy test activity was connected to each one. Students chose their workshops, had name-tags and were treated like adults. It was a great day.
This year our 2nd annual reaLITy day is on Friday March 26th and we have author Ojibwe Drew Hayden Taylor as our keynote. The community has once again stepped up and running a variety of workshops for us.
Our school does the other general OSSLT prep activities like a diagnostic OSSLT in the fall for grade 9 and 10 students, prep activities in grade 10 english classes, prep activities in all grade 10 classes during the week before the test and an after-school “TIPS” prep program.
I am NOT a literacy person – meaning my background is in biomedical science. Before student success I taught bio and science. Recently though, i’ve been co-ordinating a PLC that focuses on literacy activities and am slowly learning. I’d like to know what type of creative literacy activities are done in other schools? I will not turn this into a rant about my feelings towards the OSSLT test and how it is used, but recognizing the need for students to be literate, am interested in what other types of creative activities are going on out there!
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