Sign-up for Indspire’s Peer Support: Educator Coaching program

Hello Educators of Indigenous Students!

Are you interested in joining a collaborative mentorship program that connects you with other educators across Canada?

Sign up as an Indspire Peer Coach…if you are an enthusiastic, experienced educator who is willing to provide online support and guidance to help shape the professional growth and development of an emerging educator. Each Peer Coach will receive a remuneration of $600!

Sign up as an Indspire Mentee…if you are an emerging educator with an interest in Indigenous education and a desire to take advantage of this exciting opportunity for professional growth and development.

How to sign up or get more information?
Either contact myself- - or one of my fellow regional representatives that is helping recruit Peer Coaches and Mentees.  I can provide you with more details about how the program works.

Or fill-in the online form at:   Don’t forget to include how you heard about this opportunity.
Looking forward to hearing from you all!


How much should I be talking with my child?

“Why is it that some kids are good at learning language and others are not? And why is it that often children from low-income families fall so far behind in their language development and educational achievements? Is no one talking to them?”
Good questions from a recent blog that highlights new research around the importance of ‘talking’ to young children. The article identifies that children need to hear about 21,000 words per day to ensure their vocabulary can develop at an appropriate pace.

The research and blog supports the same type of questions educators in Saskatchewan were asking pertaining to not only First Nations and Metis children, but all children, across the province.

The solution was a new approach to assessment to measure the extent to which oral language development is supported for 3-5 yr olds.  The assessment goes beyond measuring simply ‘proficiency’ in language development, but identifies the support and opportunities for learning provided in the child’s home, school and community.

Check out what people are saying about this assessment, and how we are helping to bring the same approach to schools across Canada.

Making a River Flow Back Up a Mountain

A good (yet long) rant by Dr. Don Taylor, which is a common (yet wonderful) formula he always uses.  :)

As I continue my work in early years assessments, he reminds me (and others) to ” never forget that even though we are looking for pure data in our research, kids will always act like kids.”

Don often reminds us that survey research is about much more than the results.  It’s about participating in real change in communities.



Hi everyone.

Here’s a post from one of the teacher’s involved in the Help Me Tell My Story Assessment in Saskatchewan.  She discusses the impact Askî has had in her classroom and why the connection between her students and Askî is important to the assessment.

And of course, some great pictures!


 Aski Kitchener 3 Aski Kitchener 8 Aski Kitchener 2 Aski Kitchener 1

One day in October, my cell phone rang just as circle time began, I looked at the number and told the students , “I’d better answer this.” As it turns out, it was Askî’s mom telling me that Askî was on his way from the pond to meet us. The students were intrigued. “Who is Askî?” they began to say. We then heard some noise and soon discovered a turtle hiding in the room. The students were introduced to Askî and soon he became a regular friend in the room.

Askî joined us to sing songs and play. He was greeted by hugs and kisses daily. The students were always excited to see Askî. Askî became a character in our dramatic play. The students tucked him in when he was very tired and if you look very closely in the photo you will see someone gave him a little doll to hug. The students were excited to create their own little Askî babies and take them home.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the children had ownership of their little turtles as they were able to pick their baby turtle out of the bunch as they had carefully chosen the rock for the shell and the size and colour of eyes. As suggested by the students, he had to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for Halloween, of course, and came to school with his witch friend. It’s been months and the students still ask for and seek Askî out. Askî is everyone’s best friend. They play with him in the house centre, read with Askî, and share lots of giggles.

Aski went away a few days before our assessment day and mailed the students a letter about his special carnival and sent his favourite treat to share (Turtles, of course!) The students and parents were invited to Askî’s carnival. We had a bouncer, carnival games, face painting, balloon animals, and a pizza lunch. Younger siblings were invited to join us and parents enjoyed a half day of fun in a low stress environment while engaging with their child. Families were rotated throughout the day to complete the survey.


We are still working on getting parents more familiar with the caregiver site and are working on ideas to encourage that. Parents have been receptive to the learning ideas and like the idea. We are very interested to receive the kiosk for caregivers. Parents love the voice recording part of the child survey and that is the one area all parents want to listen to. The students enjoy Askî and the survey so much, if given an iPad to use my students will often be on the Help Me Tell My Story App.

Askî and the Help Me Tell My Story Assessment have provided my classroom with many fun opportunities that have engaged the children and put big smiles on their faces. We are currently working on ideas to use the assessment to build family engagement as it presents many opportunities. Askî will continue to be part of our classroom as no one is ready to say goodbye.

Moving Data into Action

Here’s a post by Erin Chreptyk, our Coordinator for the  Help Me Tell My Story Assessment.

A pivotal component of this holistic assessment approach is connecting results to ideas.  This linkage helps focus in on areas of improvement and provides teachers and parents with targeted activities to improve language development.



As the New Year begins, the Help Me Tell My Story assessment enters a new phase. This is what makes this assessment great. It keeps giving after the student, caregiver, teacher, and Elder have been assessed. Most assessments involve collecting information and then providing those involved in the student’s education with the results, and that is where they end.

The Help Me Tell My Story assessment goes beyond providing results. We believe that results should be immediate and should provide those involved in the student’s education with the means to take the results and produce change.

Just how do we do that?

Educator and Caregiver Portals

All educators and caregivers are given passwords that provide them with access to online portals.

The caregiver portal allows caregivers to view their child’s assessment results. The results are composed of data from the student, teacher, caregiver, and Elder surveys. The results are not simply listed as answers to the questions that were asked. Rather, the child’s results are displayed in a circle graph that illustrates the balance in the child’s learning in the home, school, and community. The caregiver can listen to an audio recording of their child telling a story. They can learn about the use of ancestral language by teachers, caregivers, and teachers in their community. Importantly, they can see how their child perceives their opportunities and access for learning in the home, school, and community.

The educator portal allows educators to view aggregate assessment data related to their classroom, school, and from all the divisions participating in the assessment. The scope of data that the educator can access ranges from what activities caregivers feel are important to do with their children, average language proficiency scores, how often children engage in specific learning activities, what learning activities children would like to do more of, and types of oral stories used by teachers in the classroom. This data is displayed in both graph and table formats. Educators can also view the caregiver portal to see individual results for students in their class.

Learning Ideas

Educators and caregivers are able to access learning ideas from their respective online portals. Learning ideas are but one of the components of this assessment that make it different and that put in place the means for the results to produce action. They are a means to further a child’s language proficiency. When a child completes a learning idea, the learning idea can be checked off, and the child’s places of learning circle graph will grow. Learning ideas are organized by activity type, place of learning, and language.

As you can see, Help Me Tell My Story is much more then an assessment. In my next blog, I will discuss another way that this assessment goes a step further to ensure that results produce change.

Much more than Just An Assessment

Hello again.

As this project as grown over the days,  months and years, it is easy to get lost in its success and its evolution towards something truly innovative and effective.

At a recent meeting, as I introduced the work and overarching concepts to a “new” member of our team, they reminded me that the Help Me Tell My Story assessment was “much more than just an assessment.”

That observation helped inspire this new video.  Enjoy!

Much more than just an assessment

Visit the project website at… 

The history and the future of the Help Me Tell My Story assessment

Happy New Year everyone,

Here’s a blog post I wrote on the project’s website.  Take some time to explore the new website.


Author: Jarrett Laughlin


This is a guest post by Jarrett Laughlin, an educational consultant and project manager who has been involved in the Help Me Tell My Story assessment from its beginning. He takes a look at the foundation of the assessment and what makes it unique, as well as the future of the assessment.

The Help Me Tell My Story assessment all started in 2010, when the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education identified the need to develop something different that will better improve our understanding of success for First Nations and Métis children.

This lead to a pilot project, developed by a team of educators, community members, school divisions, First Nation and Métis learning experts and technical teams, that created a unique way to deliver the assessments: on an iPad, with a turtle puppet as the assessor.

The innovative and holistic assessment approach was built from a First Nations and Métis learning perspective. This perspective endorses a community-based approach that includes everyone who influences a child’s early learning: educators, caregivers, Elders and the community. By including all of these perspectives in the assessment, it provides a more balanced understanding of what constitutes success. It also ensures the assessments lead to more relevant and effective interventions that support early childhood language development.

The first phase of the Early Language Learning assessment was piloted in October 2011 to over 325 kindergarten and pre-kindergarten children, within seven schools, and across four school divisions in Saskatchewan. The second phase of the assessment is currently underway, and it involves over 900 students across 19 schools, including eight First Nations schools.

Depending on the success of the second phase of the assessment, there are plans for the Help Me Tell My Story assessment to be made available to all schools in Saskatchewan for the 2013-2014 school year. This rollout would make the entire assessment available to all early learners and their communities, supporting an effective and targeted approach to early language development across the province.

To follow the progress of the assessments and the program as a whole, make sure to read the upcoming blog posts. We’ll be posting updates about the assessment process, results and the future of the program to keep everyone informed. If you’re curious about how you can bring the assessment to your school, school division or province, make sure to get in touch with the Help Me Tell My Story team.


The more the merrier

A recent post by the OECD explores how actively involving parents and students can help improve education systems by way of accountability and school achievement processes.

This notion of collaboration is a key principle when developing effective holistic assessments.  The active involvement of parents, community and children before, during and after any assessment helps reinforce a s shared responsibility in student success.

Learn how the collaborative development of the Help Me Tell My Story assessment in Saskatchewan has helped ensure this work helps effect positive change in the school, home, community and land.

Teaching Style and its importance to community-based learning

Interesting post today by the OECD identifying the important role of the teacher to the success of the child in the school.  May seem quite obvious to most of you, but something we often take for granted.

Also interesting final note that data from the 2008 Teacher and Learning International Survey ( Talis ) identifies the relationship between the way teachers teach and their view of community-based learning – an important principle of this holistic assessment approach.

“Excellent teachers view teaching as a collective responsibility within the profession, not as an individualised thing happening behind closed doors. They open the doors of their classrooms, inviting colleagues to engage in what they are doing but also disclosing what happens in classrooms to the outside world.”

Read more at:

Window into the Classroom

Moving Education Assessment Forward

The Help Me Tell My Story assessment uses a new, holistic approach to assessment that measures oral language development for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children.

Here is a short video that documents different perspectives on how this assessment approach is so unique, and why it is being described as “Moving Assessment Forward” in education.

The experts in the video discuss what makes this new, holistic assessment approach so unique and innovative, and in upcoming posts I will describe each one in more detail.  Here is a quick overview of some of the unique elements:

1. Collective Development

The assessment has been collectively developed and delivered by teachers, principals, assessment experts, education administrators, mobile technology developers and external consultants.

2. First Nation, Métis Framework

The assessment is rooted in a First Nation and Métis perspective on learning, specifically the Holistic Lifelong Learning Models developed by hundreds of First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations across Canada.

3. Holistic

The assessment uses a holistic approach that ensures a more complete measurement of oral language development and includes perspectives from many people (child, caregiver, teacher and Elder) and many places (home, school, community and land).

4. Technology

The assessment is delivered using iPads with a mobile application that uploads responses and feeds data back to parents, teachers and Elders using interactive, online portals.

5. Puppet

The assessment is delivered by Askî, a turtle puppet, who helps create a comfortable environment for the child as they demonstrate the oral language skills.

6. Context

Prior to the actual assessment, each classroom introduces Askî and a series of characters to the students, providing the necessary amount of context for the assessment.

7. Data to Action

Following the assessment, this new holistic assessment approach involves feeding back the results to parents, teachers and Elders in order to help inform their actions and learning interventions in the home, school, community, and on the land.