Cultivating a Culture of Literacy - Cardboard Challenge

Cardboard Challenge is a non-profit organization with a mission to foster creativity.  They started after the response to Caine's Arcade.  Watch the videos below to learn more about Caine's Arcade. 

Caine's Aracade

Caine's Arcade 2: From a Movie to a Movement

Now annually there is a Cardboard Challenge held on October 7.  

You can find great ideas from including blog posts and videos on how to get started.

Embrace the Chaos

The other great part about the Cardboard Challenge is you can also incorporate books which include creativity with the use of a box.  You might want to have your Cardboard Challenge center around a certain theme, curricular outcome or just let your student's imagination sore.


Flyte, M. (2016). Box. London, UK: Nosy Crow.

Imagination Blog. (Photographer).  (2017, September 1). Embrace the chaos and 7 other tips for organizing a cardboard challenge [digital image]. Retrieved from

Imagination Foundation. (2012, September 13). Caine's arcade 2: From a movie to a movement [Video File]. Retrieved from

Janssens, A. (2012). The box. New York, NY: Clavis.

Lamug, K. K. (2011). A box story. Las Vegas, NV: Rabblebox.

Mullick, N. (2012, April 9). Caine's arcade [Video File]. Retrieved from

Portis, A. (2006). Not a box. New York, NY: HaperCollins.

Yolen, J. (2016). What to do with a box. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.

Cultivating a Culture of Literacy - Dot Day

Dot Day might be one of my favorite literacy events.  This event is a great way to build community very early in the school year as it happens on September 15th-ish.

Here is a brief history of the event: 
Dot Day is an International Event created to promote creativity and collaboration.  The first Dot Day was held on September 15th, 2009 by teacher and founder Terry Shay.  He used the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynold’s to inspire his students and encourage them to use their creativity to leave a mark on the world.  Since then Dot Day has grown into an international event with over 10 million people participating world wide.

To get started, go to the The International Dot Day Website.  Sign your class up on this website and you will receive a free educator's handbook with a variety of activities to do in the classroom. As well as a certificate you might want to print off to give each student.  

You might be interested in learning more about the author, Peter H. Reynolds.  His website includes a biography, artwork and even is blog The Stellar Cafe.

This website is filled with authors, illustrators and celebrities who have shared their Dots with the world and encourage others to 'Leave Their Mark'

A variety of Dot Day Resources and other materials created by Peter H. Reynolds and Paul Reynolds.

Of course Dot Day is not complete without The Dot Song.
and if you want you could even teach your students the actions.

There are many different activities you might be interested in trying for Dot Day.  I have included many I have tried with my students.  You might also be interested in watching this 2015 ISTE video which also shows many different ideas.

Division One Mural - Each student picked a colour in the rainbow and decorated a Dot.  

Division One Mural - Each student decorated a dot inside a picture frame. 

Collaborate.  Create dots and then share your dots with another class. 

Foster creativity by creating different dots using a variety of mediums including paper and paints. 


Welcome students on Dot Day by decorating sidewalks.  Or even have students go outside and make dots using sidewalk chalk.  

Recently Breakout EDU partnered with Peter H. Reynolds to create a Breakout game directly related to The Dot.  Breakout EDU games are a great way to build collaboration, critical thinking skills and teamwork while completing challenging puzzles.  The Dot game includes four different puzzles as well as bookmarks which can be printed off for students.

There are also many other books available with dots that you might also want to share with your students.



Some great people to follow directly related to Dot Day.  
@DotClubConnect - The official Dot Club Twitter account
@peterhreynolds - Author of The Dot
@FableLearn - Peter H. Reynolds and Paul Reynolds company that supports Dot Day
@tjshay - Teacher and founder of International Dot Day. 
Also follow the hashtags  #dotday #makeyourmark


Arrow, E. (2015, August 31). The dot song motions guide - Emily Arrow and Peter H. Reynolds [Video File] . Retrieved from

Brantz, L. (2014). Not just a dot. New York, NY: Sky Pony Press.

Clements, A. (2006). A million dots. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Crews, D. (1995). Ten black dots. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

FableVision Learning. (2017). FableVision learning. Retrieved from

FableVision. (2014, August 26). The dot song [Video File]. Retrieved from

Intriago, P. (2011). Dot. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Reynolds Center for Teaching Learning and Creativity. (n.d). International Dot Day. Retrieved from

Reynolds, P. H. (2003). The dot. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Reynolds, P. H. (2011). Peter H Reynolds. Retrieved from

Shay, T. (2015, June 21). ISTEDotDay2015 [Video File]. Retrieved from

Shay, T. J. (2017, September 15). Celebri-Dots. Retrieved from

Tullet, H. (2010). Press here. San Francisco, CA: Handprint Books.

Zuckerberg, R. (2013). Dot.. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Keep leaving a positive mark in the world. 

First Nations, Metis and Inuit Book Collection

Developing my own cannon for First Nations, Metis and Inuit books has taken on a very personal path and reflection.  For the past few years at our school we have been fortunate enough to have a lead teacher for First Nations, Metis and Inuit studies in the school.  This lead teacher would come into the classroom share information and do activities with the students. I was always present in the classroom and learned along side my students.  However, in the Spring of 2016 developing my own personal cannon was thrown into high gear as our province released a new Teaching Quality Practice Standards (TQS) draft. In Alberta, the TQS is the legal document that governs our teaching responsibilities that our employment contract is based upon. This new draft had some very specific points about First Nations, Metis and Inuit knowledge for educators.  Many points that most educators in Alberta were not familiar with.

Most specifically:

Applying Foundational Knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit 
(5) A teacher develops and applies foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit for the benefit of all students, and supports the process of reconciliation, by: 
(a) understanding the historical, social, economic and political implications of: 
• treaties and agreements with First Nations; 
• agreements with Métis; 
• the legacy of residential schools; and 
• the impacts of intergenerational trauma on learner development; 
(b) using the programs of study to provide opportunities for all students to develop a knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, the First Nations, Métis and Inuit; and 
(c) supporting the learning experiences of all students by using resources that accurately reflect and demonstrate the strength and diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit. (Teaching and Leadership Excellence, 2016, p. 6)

With this recent addition to the Teaching Quality Practice Standard, I felt it more important than ever to increase my foundational knowledge about First Nations, Metis and Inuit.  At the beginning of September, I decided to add this Teaching Quality Practice Standard to my Professional Growth Plan.

One of the first books I read was In This Together. This book was an excellent introduction and overview to those who were new to Truth and Reconciliation.  It is a collection of fifteen essays from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals that share their thoughts on Canada’s history and how we can move forward with truth and reconciliation.  Although this book is intended for adult audiences, it helps the teacher gain a greater understanding of different perspectives.  

As I have continued to grow in my foundational knowledge I decided to create a book list of children’s books I could use in my classroom or in future classrooms which will hopefully help my students develop a greater understanding and respect for First Nations, Metis and Inuit.  This list is by no means all the books available on First Nations, Metis and Inuit perspectives.  It seems more and more books are being published all the time.  I am now always on the lookout for new book releases. Initially, when I started looking for books, I felt I wanted to locate books specifically for early elementary.  However, not all the books I have curated in this bibliography are for the current grade level I teach.  Nonetheless, many can be used for my grade level and all can be used for upper elementary for sure.   Throughout the curation of this bibliography, I have been able to read many books that deal with issues of residential schools such as Fatty Legs, Shi-shi-etko, Shin-chi’s Canoe, Secret Path and I am not a number.  Ceremonial dances in books like the Jingle Dancer, Peace Dancer and The Drum Calls Softly. Traditions and important symbols such as totem poles in Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox and dream catchers in Brown Eagle, Brown Eagle, What do you see?  

With the increase of additional titles on Indigenous peoples as well as the conversations that are now happening in schools and across Canada the hope is this will increase students’ and teachers’ understanding of Truth and Reconciliation.  It also provides hope that students will think critically, see diverse backgrounds and continue on their own path of understanding.  Finally, it is hoped we will be able to portray a more accurate understanding of Canadian History to our students.

When I Was Eight

Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Art by Gabrielle Grimard

Not My Girl

Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Art by Gabrielle Grimard

Fatty Legs

Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Artwork by Liz Amini-Holmes


Nicola I. Campbell
Pictures by Kim LaFave

Shin-chi's Canoe

Nicola I. Campbell
Pictures by Kim LaFave

Secret Path

Gord Downie
Artwork by Jeff Lemire

Peace Dancer

Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd
Illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers

Brown Eagle, Brown Eagle, What Do You See?

Sandra Samatte
Illustrated by Eric Peters

Jingle Dancer

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

What's The Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?

Richard Van Camp
Pictures by George Littlechild

The Drum Calls Softly

David Bouchard and Shelley Willier
Paintings by Jim Poitras
Singing and Drumming by Northern Cree

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

Robbie Robertson
Pictures by David Shannon

I Am Not A Number

Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
Illustrated by Gillian Newland

The Raven and the Loon

Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
Illustrated by Kim Smith

Sometimes I Feel Like A Fox

Danielle Daniel


Bouchard, D., & Willier, S. (2008). The drum calls softly. Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press.

Campbell, N. I. (2005). Shi-shi-etko. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.

Campbell, N. I. (2008). Shin-chi’s canoe. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.

Daniel, D. (2015). Sometimes I feel like a fox. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.

Downie, G. (2016). Secret Path. Toronto, ON: Simon & Schuster.

Dupuis, J. K., & Kacer, K. (2016). I am not a number. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.

Jordan-Fenton, C., & Pokiak-Fenton, M. (2010). Fatty legs. Toronto, ON: Annick Press.

Jordan-Fenton, C., & Pokiak-Fenton, M. (2013). When I was eight. Toronto, ON: University      of Toronto Press.

Jordan-Fenton, C., & Pokiak-Fenton, M. (2016). Not my girl. Toronto, ON: University of
     Toronto Press.

Metcalfe-Chenail, D. (2016). In this together fifteen stories of truth and reconciliation
     Victoria, BC: Brindle and Glass.

Qitsualik-Tinsley, R., & Qitsualik-Tinsley, S. (2013). The raven and the loon. Iqualuit,
Nunavut: Inhabit Media.

Robertson, R. (2015). Hiawatha and the peacemaker. New York, NY: Abrams Books for
     Young Readers.

Samatte, S. (2009). Brown eagle, brown eagle, what do you see? Winnipeg, MB: Native

Smith, C. L. (2000). Jingle dancer. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books.

Teaching and Leadership Excellence, Alberta Education. (2016, March). Government of
     Alberta Department of Education draft teaching quality standard. Retrieved from

Van Camp, R.  (1998).  What's the most beautiful thing you know about horses?  San 
     Franciso, CA:  Children's Book Press. 

Vickers, R. H., & Budd, R. (2016). Peace dancer. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing.