Teachers and Homeschooling Parents! A Remote Storytelling Unit for grades 4-6

Dear Teachers and Homeschooling parents, We understand that emergency remote teaching and learning is a challenge.  We want to help.  My student, Sarah Freeman, and I have prepared a remote unit for you based on the Ontario curriculum expectations for Language and Drama. It features personal and traditional storytelling as a means of building community, self confidence and self expression. This 10 module unit includes 16 original videos, many hyperlinks to sites and traditional stories from around the world, and 3-4 activities for each module. You can assign the entire unit or pick and choose whichever modules you think are more suitable for your students and children.  All modules are student friendly and can be read by them independently.  The unit was designed for students in grades 4-6 but the unit is very family friendly so siblings and parents can also be involved.

We know how much you care for your students and how hard you are working. Parents, we know how hard this is for you, especially if you are also working from home while trying to cope  with disengaged children. We hope this unit relieves you of some of this enormous burden. We also sincerely hope your students and children love doing this.

Click on the Junior Storytelling Unit page at the top right to get started! (Menu top right on a smart phone). Primary unit is yet to come.

Please, stay safe. Be positive. And smile.  We are getting though this together.

Dr. Cathy Miyata and Sarah Freeman


Presenting at AERA!


I (Cathy) am delighted to be arriving in Washington D.C. this week to attend the American Educational Research Association Conference. I will be presenting a paper entitled, Examining the Influences: Literacy Teacher Educators who us a Multiliteracies Approach. This study is a subset of a larger study on which I have been a researcher. I examined 7 participants who demonstrated a proclivity toward multilitercies. As I used a grounded theory approach (which does not begin the research with a hypothesis) I was both intrigued and surprised by the findings. Hope you can join me on Monday, April 11, 11:45am to 1:15pm, at the Marriott Marquis, Level Three, Mount Vernon Square.


According to Dewey (1974) “[e]ducation, experience, and life are inextricably intertwined”. This study examined how early life experiences and other influences affected the practices of 7 literacy teacher educators (LTEs) who currently enact a multiliteracies approach. Early childhood experiences, mentors along their journey, personal and professional turning points, and developing notions of literacy were explored. Three findings (a) an innate love of language/literature, (b) inspiring mentorship, and (c) a unique set of dispositional qualities were significant contributing factors to these literacy teacher educators adopting a multiliteracies approach. The participants for this study were a subset from a large-scale study entitled, Literacy Teacher Educators: Their Backgrounds, Visions, and Practices which examines the lives of teacher educators from four countries: Canada, the USA, England and Australia.

Hope you can join me!


Finding a New Community- in Baseball!

The wild ALDS Blue Jays Game this past Wednesday,  marked my induction into a new community.   The “baseball fan” community.  This may seem strange to people who know my family well, as they see us as a baseball family.  Both of my children were catchers in elite ball.  They toured the United states, and played in several world series tourneys. They trained year round.  My husband was a coach and scout.   For twelve years, every weekend during the official season I attended a baseball tournament in some city or other.  As the dutiful and loving wife and mother, I was ever supportive: cheering in the rain, patching their injuries; cursing poor sportsmanship, and; washing smelly baseball socks in hotel laundry mats in the dead of night.  Even today, with my children well into adulthood, my son coaches a rep team; my daughter plays on several adult softball teams; my husband is a rep pitching coach;  and I still attend some games. But it has always been their passion, not mine.  I was, and am, an artsy.  To their chagrin  I still occasionally refer to their uniforms as costumes and their practices as rehearsals.

This all changed this past season and Wednesday was the culminating event.  This year, I decided to be an “insider.”  I worked hard at not watching, but belonging.  I wanted to have a team .  I learned the names of all of the Jays players and their positions.  I learned about them as people, and watched specials about their lives and how many obstacles they had to overcome to get to wear a Jays cap.   I picked a favourite player, Jose Bautista, and proudly wore his name and number on the back of my new T-shirt.  I even wore a cap. Strangely,  I felt akin to complete strangers who also wore Bautista garb.   I quickly learned that I could cheer and sing, wave towels and even dance in the street after a game in Toronto, and it was smiled upon.  (As an artsy I would have willingly  done this anytime, but my husband would not have necessarily smiled!).  I even found a vendor outside of the Rogers Center who served gluten-free wieners, and brought my own bun so I could eat hot dogs like everyone else.  I learned it is work to belong to a new community- any community- but you have to really want it.

On Wednesday I watched the game at home with my husband and found myself  on the edge of my seat.  I was so tense!  I waved a towel to support my pitchers; Stroman, Sanchez, and Osuna.  I found myself yelling in protest in the 7th inning when  Toronto catcher Russell Martin’s return throw to the mound hit Choo’s bat and Odor raced home.  I shouted and danced when my man, Bautista, hit that remarkable home run.

As I reflect on this now, I have to laugh.  I actually know these players’ names.  I am emotionally involved in people I don’t even know.  I have acquired a new language, and a different way to communicate with people .  I can and want to discuss the plays, highlights, and quirks of the game.  I was texting friends and family throughout the game- about the game.  My son was lucky enough to be at the game and I waited up for him so I could talk to him about it- actually needed to talk about it!

I feel like I am part of something. It was worth the effort.  I suspect I still may slip up and refer to practices as rehearsals, but that is okay.  My literacy research informs me we belong to many communities and foster many identities.  I am no longer just the artsy and the baseball mom and wife. I am a FAN.jays game                                      My husband and I on our way to a game with my new-found community.

Been busy…

I have been remiss about blogging on my web site.  The biggest reasons have been my preoccupation with my dissertation and being on my supervisor’s SSHRC research team.  These have kept me very  busy.  I have been blogging weekly on another site  http://literacyteaching.net/  with my research team though.  Look it up.  It’s excellent.  There are five of us (academics) that post, and occassionally there is a guest blogger, so the content is varied; always informative, often intriguing,  and sometimes funny.  I enjoy reading it.  Perhaps it’s time I shared some of my posts from that site, here.

When I look back at my earlier posts on this site, and on the other site, and review my academic writing over the past three years, I can see such changes.   My concept of literacy has changed, just as the literacy landscape has changed.  Its so broad now, and wonderfully, wildly creative.  Multimodal!  It’s exciting.  Something I love being part of.

The dissertation writing goes well.  It’s been a journey and I feel I’ve come a long way.  Attaining a doctorate has not been what I expected, but all good learning.  Several new identities and communities have emerged.  I’ve developed a deeper understanding of theory and its role in education.   I certainly have more respect and appreciation for  social science and research.  I actually love the research.  My analytical side is thriving.  Thrumming.  Working over time.

My creative side is not dormant, just not as large right now.  I feed it by decorating the house, entertaining, and baking fancy cupcakes, and that’s all right.  As long as I DO something.

Below are some of my more recent accomplishments in academia (enormous spread sheets of my data) and my recent versions of my expressing creatively!

spread sheetsBpartytable





Growing Through Research

Embedded within my passion for literacy is my love for developmental drama.  I do love theatre as well (I as a professional actress for a couple of years), but developmental drama is fundamentally different than theatre.  Theatre is about performance.  Developmental drama is about developing human potential, and that is my heart song.

I was recently asked to present a Literacy Workshop for the Royal Conservstory’s new Smart Start Programme .  This Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme uses a multiple arts approach to develop four specific cognitive skills: attention, memory, perception, cognitive flexibility.  It was my role to model and lead a group of ECE leaders through creative drama experiences so they could experience first-hand how developmental drama can and does develop cognitive skills. We explored many drama strategies in the workshop: storytelling; role play; group drama; teacher-in-role; voice over narration; hot seat; tableaux, and; story drama.  My favourite of the eight listed is story drama which uses the events and characters in a story to stimulate the drama experiences, plus, I got to use my storytelling skills.   We became the characters; good and bad.  We learned about a culture from the other side of the world.  We asked questions.  We problem solved.  We also had fun.  The participants left with many practical ideas and felt they were inspired to explore this world with the children they are responsible for.  But, in all honesty, I think I was the one who left with the most insight.

I used to present this kind of workshop regularly, but have not done one in a few years. Due to my dissertation work in multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), I discovered I was seeing the experiences through new eyes.  I was identifying modes instead of arts disciplines and using critical discernment instead of point of view.  The experience was a literacy event that we constructed within a social paradigm and the participants contributed their own knowledge and expertise in an environment that supported situated practice.  It wasn’t just a new set of vocabulary; it was a much more informed and theoretical perspective of the work.  Vygotsky, Luke, Peabody, Vasquez, Kress, Cope and Kalantzis occupied every corner of the room.  I was well supported.  I recognized a noticeable difference between my role as  intuitive drama leader and informed theoretical guide.  It was progress and it felt good.


Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (Eds.) (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of             Social Futures. New York: Routlage

Workshopping Literacy in East Germany

Last month,  I (Cathy) was invited to present a workshop on literacy and the arts in Gotha, Germany, for a group of educators.  At the beginning of the workshop, one of the teachers admitted, “I really don’t know what literacy means.” I wasn’t really surprised as interpretations of literacy are so varied. When a few others also admitted they were not sure, I invited them to find a matching-shoe partner and share with them what they thought literacy meant.

Once the discussion was opened up to the whole group, it was interesting to hear what they came up with.  They started off with the traditional reading and writing interpretation and we decided together these were forms of communication. From there, the definition really expanded. One participant suggested literacy included reality, while another suggested emotion. As we probed deeper the idea literacy was a view of the world was introduced. Eventually I asked them to look around the room at the fabulous paintings hanging on the walls. They were painted by local school children and they were emoting wonderful narratives. Yes, they decided, the paintings were also literacy. Throughout the rest of the workshop we explored ways to use storytelling and drama as literacy.

It was exciting to witness the development of a deeper understanding of an enormous concept like literacy. I like to think this encounter helped these teachers to see meaning-making in a new way. I wonder how it will affect their use of literacy in their classrooms.   On the chart we created together, it was also suggested literacy was fun.  It was.  Hope it is for their students too.

photophoto wall