Kirk Savage

Thinking About Education

Blog has moved to SavageBird

I have moved my blogging to SavageBird All the blog posts from this site have been moved over to the new site, and I am writing new posts directly from the new site as well.


Artistry with ANIE

The focus of this blog post is to highlight some of the great work done by a teacher in the Fraser Valley who is using The ANIE.

Andy Fast teaches grade 4 at Vedder Elementary School alongside his friend and colleague Paul Wojcik (who has had much press about his math success using The ANIE – see news article HERE). Andy, although not highlighted in the news story, is the other half of the dynamic teaching duo at the school. And, whereas Paul brings a certain determination to bear in the partnership, Andy compliments the team with a flair for the artistic and spontaneous.

Over the past three years, Andy has been creating personalized ANIE pages to further engage and connect students to real life math scenarios. Using his artistic abilities, Andy has created numerous “scapes” to capture the imagination of his students. A number of his creations are listed below – and available for download to assist your classes with making connections to real life math scenarios.

It is important to note that these ANIE pages are ideally used in connection with other areas of the curriculum to make cross curricular connections from Social Studies, Science, Physical Education, and so on – to Mathematics instruction.

I hope you enjoy Andy’s work as much as I do.

Quick Legend:
Today’s Question: Place math equation here (for instance 23 x 4 =n)
Estimate: Student estimates and justifies thinking
Picture: Student creates a representation of the math
Solve: Student calculates the question using one or more methods
RLQ (Real Life Question): Student creates a real life question for the math equation

Star Destroyer – ANIE Star Destroyer

Open Book – ANIE Open Book

Planet Earth – Geography ANIE

Cube – ANIE Cube

Sailing Ship – Ship ANIE

Healthy Eating? – Healthy Eating ANIE

Porche –ANIE Porshe


Student Numeracy Assessment & Practice (SNAP)

The 2015/16 was an exciting and eventful year in my role as Director of Instruction with the Chilliwack School District. There were many highlights – a new strategic plan was completed (18 months of hard work together), the roll out of new provincial curriculum, and the continued teamwork of our larger leadership team (Board, Executive, PVP, & Partner Groups) to focus on what matters most – teaching and learning.

However, the focus of this post will be math assessment. In particular, Chilliwack’s new district math assessment – The SNAP. SNAP stands for “Student Numeracy Assessment & Practice”. We are very pleased to have been able to incorporate “practice” into the name of the assessment as we believe this to be a very important piece. The idea of practice supports a spiraling approach to teaching and assessing numeracy skills. The SNAP is an assessment that can be used over and over again – to build student fluency, confidence, comprehension, and skills.

The SNAP had its philosophic underpinning based in The ANIE (by Pembroke Publishers). Our teachers were having great results with the ANIE as an assessment tool, and we wanted to make an assessment that was our own and, as per our strategic plan, was catered to our exact context.

After a year of hard work, multiple drafts, piloting and prototypes, The SNAP was born.

We believe that The SNAP will have a dramatic effect on student math achievement in Chilliwack. Next year, all of our students from grades 2-7 will be using the SNAP on an ongoing basis. With thanks to the support from our Board of Education, we have funding and staffing in place to support our teachers in using The SNAP starting in September 2016. This initiative will impact over 5,000 students and we anticipate it will significantly improve their academic trajectory. We look forward to reporting our progress in the spring of 2017.

Included in this post below is our Strategic Plan Update #1 presented to our Board in June 2016, which outlines the SNAP journey thus far in a one-page overview. It describes the alignment with the new curriculum, gives an overview of the outcomes focused upon, and recognizes the educators who teamed together to create it.

Currently, The SNAP is bundled together in a PDF Portfolio format due to the complexity and size of the document. Feel free to download a copy and try it out in your classroom, school or school district. Let us know how you make out.

The most current version (June 20th) of The SNAP can be downloaded here: SNAP Portfolio June 20

Update Feb 2017: Here is the newest version of SNAP in grade packages:


SNAP Overview for Board


Philosophical Underpinnings: From Reflection to Transformation


Here is my philosophy of education from about 6 years ago when I was the Principal of Yarrow Elementary School. I feel that it continues to fit with my current thinking – with a few adjustments. I have had the opportunity over the past 6 years to work with a wide range of very thoughtful educators who have impacted and continued to shape my thinking.

The changes that I would make today are explained at the end of the piece.

2010 Philosophy of Education
Teaching affects learning. The better we teach, the better our students will learn.
I believe providing teachers and staff with the best tools to teach is of paramount
importance if we expect our students to learn to their potential. These tools
include best teaching approaches, assessment strategies, available resources
including technology, and collaboration.

Connect, Process, Transform, & Reflect are four steps required to teach powerful
and effective lessons – to any age group, regardless of curriculum. Students
need to connect to the lesson and realize their learning goal so that they are
motivated to learn more. Secondly, they need to be taught skills and strategies to
process the information presented to them so that they can make sense of the
new material. In step three, transform, the students need an authentic
opportunity to apply what they have just learned in a new situation. Finally,
students (and teachers) need to reflect on the lesson to assess whether the
learning goals were achieved – or not.

Key to powerful teaching is authentic assessment. Formative assessment tools
must be used with students to not only figure out where to begin instruction, but
also to monitor if students are understanding the concepts and ideas being
taught. These “tools” can range from classroom observations to more formal
assignments or tests. I believe all assessment is formative – until the students
“get it” at which point it suddenly transforms to summative assessment. How else
can we ensure success for all students & teachers?

We need to discard the idea that covering curriculum is good enough. Textbooks
are not the backbone of an educational program – differentiated instruction is. In
our educational reality textbooks are only one type of resource. Progressive
teachers use a variety of resources to create appropriate and effective programs
for their students.

Technology is an important and powerful tool that we as educators need to
understand and utilize to enhance learning – not replace instruction.

These questions by Rick Dufour are starting points in learning conversations:

• What do we want our students to learn?
• How will we know if they have learned it?
• What will we do if they do – or donʼt learn it?

Educators, collaborating in the use of best teaching practices and authentic
assessment, can precipitate real change in learning; change that excites and
motivates both the learner and the educator.

2016 Enhancements:

1.     I have added a couple of questions (in bold italics) to Rick Dufour’s original. It now reads:

a.     What do we want student to learn?
b.     How will we scaffold the teaching so that students can learn?
c.     How will we keep the learning engaging and applicable?
d.     How will we know if they have learned?
e.     What are we doing for those students who did not learn?
f.      What are we doing for those who did learn?
g.     How will we do all of this in a practical and replicable fashion?

2.     I would add a piece about RTI (Response to Instruction) as a tiered approach to teach and support all students both academically and socially. We have much work to do in order to create a strong base of Tier One “High Quality Instruction” for all. The ideas and practices around Deeper Learning resonate with me and are moving our system in the right direction.

3.     Balance. I would add a piece about balance to my philosophy. I believe in a balanced approach to instruction and assessment. Simply put, there needs to be a balance between skill work, fluency, comprehension and communication in all curricular areas. (See Universal Lens Model – P.L.A.N. For Better Learning)

4.     I have adopted the term “evidence based” to replace what I use to call “best practices”.

5.     I would expand upon the importance of Performance Standard type assessments.

What have I missed? Please feel free to comment and add your thinking.









Thinking in the New BC Curriculum

Thinking in the New BC Curriculum.

I am very pleased about the renewed emphasis on thinking in the new BC curriculum. This focus will provide opportunity for teachers from diverse content areas to find common ground.

Recently, in our school district we have been working on how the curricular competences fit with thinking. To begin with, we compared the curricular competences with Performance Standards in reading and numeracy. Not surprisingly, the two lined up very well. Of course, the Performance Standards, although getting long in the tooth, are still extremely valid documents. They held up very well to the ideas around thinking in our new curriculum.

Completing this exercise was helpful in making connections to teaching and assessing thinking in Language Arts and Math, but questions arose in regards to other curricular areas.

Enter the development of a cross curricular thinking rubric. A few years ago this work was started by a number of educators in our curriculum department and a draft rubric was developed. This fall, we revisited the rubric and have been working with multiple groups of educators to update and align it with the language of the new curriculum.

We are still in the early days of our curriculum transformation, but I feel we are on the right track.


The ANIE has been published!

We can hardly believe it, but after almost a decade our unique book on math assessment is published. We were very excited to partner with Pembroke Publishers who helped make the book a reality.

The ANIE (Assessment of Numeracy in Education) represents a culmination of almost 10 years of results based research into helping students learn math better. It takes the form of a deceptively simple one-page template upon which students show their learning about a single learning outcome.  Originally we had set out to find an appropriate tool to use in our own classrooms to compliment the performance standard based assessment work we were doing in language arts, but we quickly found that numeracy assessments had not developed to the same extent as the literacy tools we were using.  A survey of numeracy assessments found that most traditional assessments fit into two categories: (1) Legitimacy by volume and (2) legitimacy by complexity.  In both cases, these assessments either asked a lot of questions (volume) or used word problems and language to differentiate student learning (complexity).  For our purposes, we were looking for an assessment that could be assessed using performance standards, but without the complexity of unnecessary language. We developed the ANIE from the ground up as a performance based approach to teaching and learning math.

In essence – if you are looking for assessments that will foster creative and critical thinking in your students – the ANIE may what you are looking for.

ANIE Book Pic

2nd Attempt

I have just happened across my blog space again. I will make an attempt to write something shortly. Currently I am reading a book – Great by Choice…by the same author as Good to Great. So far, I am really enjoying it and it has be reflecting on my current work – and how to make what I am doing better. I will share my thinking more in-depth in an upcoming post.

21st Century Learning – As An Adaptation

Last weekend I had a conversation with Kevin Bird (Principal of Muheim in SD54) about 21st Century Learning.

The conversation went something like this:

“What if we thought of 21st Century Learning as just another adaptation1 to the curriculum?”

“An adaptation? What do you mean? Are you saying that all students need help? I am not sure where you are going with this one…”

“Well, I know…but what if we considered that all students are struggling…struggling to reach their potential. Instead of only using adaptions to help a struggling students reach a minimum level – we would provide adaptations that would help everyone – not just reach a minimum level, but to reach their highest level. That level would be their potential…and “21st Century Learning” would be the adaptation. This curriculum would be adapted to help students reach their potential. This would mean that it might look different for each and every student! A grade 8 student who can’t yet read might still be working on decoding – while a student in the same grade who is excelling in drama may be working on creating their own screenplay.”

“Ok…sounds interesting, but how could you possibly make this work? It sounds completely overwhelming! Let me guess…you are going to say technology…”

“Well…not exactly. I think there is still a place for the regular non negotiable curriculum…we would still have to teach that – it is just that as we teach it, we need to be looking for the opportunities to be flexible with the how we teach it, and maybe most importantly – how the students show what they have learned.”

“Show or prove what they have learned?”

“I think I like proved better…but that is for another conversation…”


Imagine the “bar” that we want students to reach is not a static bar that all students need to get over – instead there is just one bar for every student: their potential bar. The static bar is flat and fixed on average. If we think of 21st Century Learning as the adaptation – it could be the driver used to support students to reach their full potential.

1Adaptations are usually things that we do in the school to help students who are struggling. The adaptation can range from something small, such as more time, to something more. For instance a student who has a written output disability might have a scribe to assist in writing tests.


Thinking About Education

This is my online blog for educational musings. I am curious as to how often I will use this blog to post ideas or thoughts. Time will tell. Recently I have been thinking a lot about 21st Century Learning…I think that I will have a post to share shortly.

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