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G R E AT T E A C H I N G 23 March 2016 | Professionally Speaking PHOTOS: MATTHEW LITEPLO To view our Great Teaching video archive, visit oct-oeeo.ca/1KWel5r EXCLUSIVE ONLINE Extracting Excellence Tracey Tinley, OCT, helps students find their greatness by applying authentic learning from their everyday lives. BY TRISH SNYDER I t's days after the federal government's swearing in on Parliament Hill when Tracey Tinley, OCT, invites her Grade 4/5s to a less formal gathering on the carpet at Berrigan Elementary School in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. "Let's talk about swagger," says Tinley. It's a Language Arts lesson about writer's craft but she gets their attention by name-dropping Justin Bieber, who hired a "swagger coach" to learn how to "look cool." Instead of hairstyles and clothes, she wants students to find and use swagger — shiny words, powerful phrases — to analyze a non-fiction picture book called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. "I found this last night," she says, cueing YouTube. "I think you're going to find it inspiring." It's a short documentary about William, the hero of their book. When drought, hunger and poverty forced the 14-year-old to quit school in Malawi, he built a windmill that introduced electricity — including water to sustain crops and light to study after dark — to his family's home. Tinley knows it's one thing to read about a teen who overcomes adversity, but when the students see TV cameras show up at William's dirt house they get the gravity of their hero's accomplishment. "Now let's play a game: What do you see, what might it mean? " Tinley asks, holding open the book to an illustration of the village's sun-scorched landscape. The veteran teacher knows every class contains a variety of reading abilities, but every child can understand pictures: she turns this illustration study into a game to help them analyze a book's deeper meanings (recommended books for this activity on p. 25). "I'm seeing some interesting stuff in these pictures and I'm curious to know what you think." She's challenging them to next-level thinking, yet her genu- ine respect and enthusiasm draw out immediate responses. A 10 -year-old notices that the ground looks like crumpled paper: "Maybe that means nothing is going well in the village because it's so hot and dry." Another points out that the sun has a circle around it. "It looks like a light bulb. Like there's going to be a huge idea coming." Tinley is beaming at their interpretations as she asks them to spend 10 minutes writing about an illustration from the book. One girl wails when it's time to pack up: "I have so many ideas, my head's about to explode!"

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