Monday, August 10, 2015

Benefits and How this relates to Holistic Education

Here are the top 5 reasons why I believe this website is beneficial: 

  1. Provides content to engage teachers, parents, administrators and teacher educators
  2. Delivers content in a variety of ways: text, tours, videos, images
  3. Allows teachers to engage with the content when and where it is convenient for them
  4. Allows individuals to share the content easily through email or text messaging
  5. Provides teachers with concrete examples that allow them to easily implement strategies or concepts into their classroom that results in a holistic learning approach for their students (students engage with lessons through math, art, drama, technology, small group, large group, individual activities, etc.)

Here are 5 ways in which this website relates to Holistic Education: 

  1. Engages both the teacher and the students in a varied learning environment
  2. Leverages technology to ensure that the content is easily delivered, viewed and accessed
  3. Provides ideas that embed literacy in a variety of meaningful ways through a variety of curriculum strands: mathematics, drama, language, art
  4. Provides teachers with a variety of ideas to incorporate a wide breadth of strategies in their classroom that addresses a variety of learners: hands on lessons, listening lessons, movement lessons, small group instruction, large group instruction, instruction leveraging technology, instruction leveraging art, instruction leveraging individual knowledge, etc. 
  5. Both teacher and student learn new information in an engaging manner 

For these reasons, classrooms and teachers who use The Balanced Literacy Diet create environments that are impactful to student learning, address the whole student, address a variety of learners and embraces technology in our 21st century classroom. 

How To Videos

This section of the website automatically takes you to the YouTube channel for The Balanced Literacy Diet.  This is a tremendous resource for new and veteran teachers looking for examples and information regarding concepts and strategies. It provides a visual and auditory path for learners to gain their information as oppose to just reading text. The video format allows teachers, parents and administrators to watch short 2 to 3 minute videos that will help them gain information and insight into literacy and the strategies/concepts being used. 

Videos allow teachers to bookmark, email or watch the content on smartphones/laptops/tablets providing them with the freedom to engage with their personal learning where and when they like. 

Ensuring a majority of the content is available through video that show concrete examples provides teachers the opportunity to create holistic environments for their students because their learning is significantly easier when the content is easily read and/or viewed. 

Here is an example of a strategy that can be used in the classroom to engage the kinesthetic learner: 

Here is an example of a strategy that can be used in the classroom to engage the students in small group discussion and leverage a different manipulative (white board):

Virtual Tours

This portion of the website is something that really makes it stand out from other websites that offer lesson plans. Virtual Tours allows teachers to navigate and explore classrooms that are set up to provide the best learning environment for literacy. In order to properly navigate a Virtual Tour one must click on the virtual tour they would like to take, when it opens, you click on the red dots for information about that section of the classroom. 


  1. Select a grade level
  2. Click on either meet the teacher or virtual class tour
  3. Click on the red dots in the virtual class tour to gain insight into what that element of the classroom is doing/teaching
  4. Some red dots provide a link to a video with the explanation of the strategy/concept and some provide text details

I found this portion of the website immensely helpful as both a newer teacher and someone who has set up a few different classrooms in different grade levels every year. It allows the educator to see what aspects are important for literacy instruction and provides a clear picture for how to implement it within a classroom. It is very helpful for both auditory and visual learners. New teachers could work with their mentor in the first weeks of school to set up their classroom how they like while leveraging the videos and information from this website. Together the educators could view the classrooms and discuss what could work and what would not work in the space provided. It provides concrete, tangible resource for classroom set up that is often overlooked by administrators in the first weeks of school. Teachers can take their classroom set up into their own hands and make it a meaningful exercise that creates a holistic environment that addresses the student needs to access information and display their work and the teacher needs to communicate learning and information to students, parents and administrators. 

Example of a Grade 5/6 Virtual Tour can be found here.

Example of a meet teacher video in Grade 5/6:

Recipe Finder

In keeping with the food theme, The Balanced Literacy Diet website utilizes the word "recipes" as a metaphor for individual lessons. 

Within the section of "Recipe Finder" of the website an educator, parent or administrator can search lessons using a key word or can search in the drop down menu by grade level. 

This section solidifies the holistic education approach because a variety of lessons address the various needs of students for example in the Second Grade category of Recipes you can find: 

  • Mathematics and Literacy: Using Symmetry and Art to Practice Story Writing (Virtual Tour) ** Addressing the math strand of curriculum utilizing Art (creativity)**
  • Reader's Theater: Building Fluency and Expression ** Leveraging Drama to build reading fluency and expression**
  • Complete a Comic!: Promoting the Correct Use of Quotation Marks ** Leveraging technology, the SmartBoard, to create and develop comics and learn how to use quotation marks properly**

The variety of lessons within all grade levels aim to address the variety of learners that can be found in a classroom - students who learn through art, students who learn through technology, students who learn through manipulatives, etc. It is a great example of how through holistic education the classroom can be a dynamic, engaging and impactful setting for academics and personal growth. 

For educators, this section provides concrete examples and hands on learning opportunities to try out various strategies that they may have heard of but never knew how to implement. With the information being online through a website, one can email links or videos to themselves and watch before class or while they are creating and preparing materials. The website makes the information easy to access and portable - smart phones will easily allow the educator to access the information and bookmark pages they want to review or use in their classroom. Additionally, with the information online one can remove the barrier of having to ask a colleague for an example or lesson and can seek the information themselves. 

This section is also handy for parents or administrators who want to gain further knowledge of what is being taught in the classroom and who looks to further understand the strategies used to educate their children. 

Sample Video of the Lesson - Dial A Story!: 

Food Groups - not the eating kind!

On the Balanced Literacy Diet website there is a section titled "Food Groups" although it automatically makes you think of the Food Groups we should all be eating every day this section of the website focuses on the overarching concepts of literacy. Here is what the website has to say about using food terms and why it creates an impact: 

"The Balanced Literacy Diet is a framework that presents literacy concepts using the familiar terminology of a healthy diet. Everyone knows that in order to grow and develop there are certain food groups we need on a daily basis. We also know it’s important to consume foods from these groups in balance and that some foods are more important at certain stages of development. Finally, we know that flavor and presentation are what make foods appealing and therefore more likely to be consumed.

Like great cooks, teachers create nourishing and enticing literacy lessons by drawing on their knowledge of the ingredients, their knowledge of the development of reading and writing skills (that is, which processes are most needed at which stage of development), and their creativity and imagination." 

This section offers educators a chance to immerse themselves in the core concepts of literacy. More often than not, teacher's college was an overwhelming experience that left many scrambling to finish assignments and burned out. New teachers often feel overwhelmed when handed a body of students and expected to have them reading and writing (especially in the primary grades) and many concepts were not dived into deep enough throughout their training. The Food Groups section offers details of concepts as well as "recipes" lessons that can be implemented in the classroom. This section addresses holistic education because: 

  1. It educates the teacher about the theory behind the concept
  2. It provides the teacher with a lesson plan that can be executed in the classroom
  3. It can be leveraged for mentoring purposes - old and new teachers can collaborate on extending lessons, tweaking lessons to certain student bodies, etc.
  4. The section of the site provides information in a friendly tone with limited jargon making it easy to understand and easier to implement.
  5. Not only does the teacher feel equipped to use these concepts and lessons in their classroom but students in the end will receive instruction that is proven through research to make an impact and therefore set them up for success.
  6. Lessons and concepts utilize the whole brain - body, mind, hands, eyes, creativity, physicality, etc. to create engaging and memorable lessons to have an end goal of impact on student learning. 
Sample lesson to take note of: 

- This section looks at the concept of print, what is it and how to teach it.
- The page offers a quick overview of the concept and why students need to learn it.
- It offers a sample lesson for how to teach the concept of print
- Provides a brief review of how to assess knowledge of concepts of print
- Includes a variety of videos of lessons being used in a real classroom that relate to the concept of print.

Sample Video - How to use a Morning Message

What is Holistic Education?

Throughout the course many of us have been exploring the true meaning of Holistic Education. I thought I would devote a post to the idea of Holistic Education, what it is, why it is important and the research behind it. Here is a topline summary of the important facts about Holistic Education!

What is Holistic Education?

Sandra Poindexter, 2010 illustrates the need for holistic education through this one inspiring quote: 

"Effective use of teaching and learning innovations still has a long way to go. And it is far less likely that any one approach will prove better than a holistic approach that looks at teaching and learning from an integrated perspective."

Holistic education today is looking at teaching through an integrated perspective - one that values the whole student, the whole classroom, the whole brain and of course all resources available that include technology. 

Technology is key especially when working with the generation of students who have grown up with technology - keeping ourselves as educators up to date and mainstream allows us to capture the imagination, attention and connect with our students. 

Why is it important?

Poindexter, 2010 states that "adding small increments of innovation and using multiple strategies to capitalize on their synergy surely offers the greatest potential for impact." In the end, is it not the goal of all educators to make an impact? Therefore, why stick to one way when there are multiple tools, strategies and concepts that could make an impact. This impact should be felt not only at the student level, but new teachers and veteran teachers should feel the impact on their learning when they stretch and try something new. As our course has taught me branching out and learning something new - authoring a website, working collaboratively purely through a digital interface stretches my comfort level and makes me a better student and therefore a better teacher. 

Academics behind Holistic Education

Lovat, 2011 suggests that holistic education does the following: 

  1. a classroom that focuses on solely academics sees a rise in behaviour issues, and a classroom that focuses on behaviour has poor academic results. A modelling teacher that addresses both has the greatest impact
  2. values education that teaches the whole being has a large impact on education including academics
Bieler & Fink, 2013

  1. Holistic mentoring relationships can serve as a space of sustenance in which teachers can cultivate agentive visions for their work in the world-not only their own, but their colleagues' and their students' as well.
  2. Holistic mentoring practice involves reciprocal teaching and learning and emphasizes individual autonomy thus, it disrupts the banking model  as it occurs in teacher preparation programs that position student teachers primarily as receptacles for knowledge about teaching.
  3. There is an astonishing 50% drop out rate for new teachers within the first five years of teaching, but when we seek to integrate the different aspects of our identities, we strengthen our ability to be agentive as teachers and learners and a holistic mentoring practice can assist in this practice. 


Bieler, D., & Fink, L. S., R.W.T. (2013). Strengthening new teacher agency through holistic mentoring. English Journal, 102(3), 23-32. Retrieved from

Lovat, T. (2011). Values education and holistic learning: Updated research perspectives. International Journal of Educational Research, 50(3), 148-152

Poindexter, S. (2010). The Case Holistic Learning: Sandra Poindexter. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 24-30. 


Welcome to my final project for CTL1799! 

As I pondered the idea of Holistic Education and my teaching practice I realized that not only is this approach instrumental in the well being of my students in my classroom but as a relatively new teacher a holistic approach to my education is imperative. I looked for resources online - as we are immersed in a digital age - and found one that not only will better a classroom but will address the needs of both new and veteran teachers alike. 

The website I will be exploring in depth throughout these blog posts is 

The content on this website was developed through OISE and follows a simple mandate of providing content for teachers to better their literacy instruction in their classroom through research based strategies. These strategies are defined, illustrated and posted on the website through a variety of technology tools: videos, images, text and tours. The website is broken down into the following categories: 

  • Food Groups
  • Recipe Finder
  • Virtual Tours
  • How to Videos

I will dive deeper into these categories and show case some great examples in individual blog posts and how they relate to holistic education. Thank you for joining me on this journey!