Teacher Inservice Information

Information about professional development presentations

I am available for professional development inservices throughout the year; however, because these are primarily scheduled for non-teaching days, please book early. Detailed information about professional development sessions is available on the professional development page. References are available upon request.

Presentation Information

Information about student writing workshops and author visits

I am available for author visits and writing workshops throughout the year. Each October, I travel with the Young Alberta Book Soceity on their Taleblazers campaign. If you are from an Alberta school, this organization can greatly assist in the expense of bringing an author to your school, so please check them out at www.yabs.ab.ca. I am also available to travel throughout Canada and into the US, if there is sufficient interest in a region.  During author presentations, I provide students with a glimpse into my books and the writing process. I use a combination of readings, stories and visuals to reveal the stories, without giving them away and like to make these presentations as interactive as possible. I am happy to speak to groups of up to 75 students, providing that the facility will accommodate everyone in a comfortable manner. Sitting on the floor is fine as long as there is room. My presentation is very portable, and all I require is a wall or whiteboard or flip chart on which I can tack up some posters and a small table or chair for a number of objects. These presentations are best scheduled for an hour block as that gives me time to tell students about the writing process and answer questions, but I can accommodate school schedules as well.

Detailed information about writing workshops can be found on the Writing Workshops page. I generally ask that these workshops be restricted to a single class, or if two small classes are combined, that the workshop be conducted in an area where all students have access to a writing surface. Students should bring along a writing notebook or paper and a pen or pencil. I typically introduce specific writing strategies I wish students to use, illustrate how these are best implemented, and then model the process and product for students, as they work alongside me. I generally work with short pieces, forcing students into great choices. Time required for these workshops depends on the grade level of students.

 

Chaos in Halifax historical info

On December 6th, 1917, just after 9 o’clock in the morning, the largest manmade explosion prior to the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II rocked the harbour and north end of Halifax. This explosion was caused by the collision of the Mont Blanc, a French steamship carrying 2400 tons of explosives, and the Imo, a Belgian steamer, slated to carry blankets and supplies to war victims. On the morning of December 6th, the Mont Blanc entered the harbour while the Imo left the harbour. As the two boats approached the narrowest part of the hour-glass shaped harbour, their pilots shifted the ships out of their lanes to avoid other vessels in the area. Although each of the pilots saw the other, neither could avoid a collision and the Imo rammed into the Mont Blanc. Barrels of benzol housed on the deck of the Mont Blanc spilled and the gasoline, ignited by a spark, turned the Mont Blanc into a blazing inferno. However, because the Mont Blanc had not raised her red flag when she entered the harbour to indicate that she had explosives onboard, only the crew of the Mont Blanc and the Harbour Master knew that the boat was a floating time bomb. The crew of the Mont Blanc abandoned the ship, which then drifted for approximately twenty minutes, ending up just off the end of the pier. By the time the ship exploded, hundreds of Haligonians had assembled at the dock. Two thousand people were killed and another nine thousand injured in Canada’s worst disaster in history.

Cathy has also written a teachers’ guide for Chaos in Halifax, which is available from Ronsdale Press. Aside from including historical information about the disaster itself, it also includes background information about the city of Halifax and Canada’s role in World War I. In addition, the guide consists of an overview of the novel and its characters, detailed chapter questions that can be used as a jeopardy game, and differentiated post-reading activities.

Additional information about the Halifax explosion can be found at:

Shadows of Disaster historical info

On April 29, 1903 at 4:10 a.m., an enormous mass of limestone broke loose from the front face of Turtle Mountain and hurled itself into the valley below where the town of Frank lay sleeping. It slid down the mountain breaking into pieces that ranged from tiny shards of rock to enormous boulders the size of a small house. The exact cause of the slide is still unknown, but scientists believe that weather, the formation of the mountain, and possibly mining activity contributed to the slide. The slide buried only a portion of the town of Frank, and despite the fact that ninety million tons of rock fell in just ninety seconds, some of the people in the path of the slide survived. This was primarily due to the fact that the houses were on the edge of the slide, and were hit by rock and mud picked up as the slide crossed the river. Not all of the buildings were entirely buried. Most of the the approximately 100 people in the path of the slide were killed. Frank Slide is Canada’s deadliest rockslide.

Cathy has also written a teacher’s guide for Shadows of Disaster, which is available from Ronsdale Press. It consists of an overview of the novel and its principal characters, chapter questions that can be used as a jeopardy game, and diverse post-reading activities. It also includes background information about the Frank Slide, the Crowsnest Pass, and the early coal mining industry.

Additional information about Frank Slide can be found at:

Stormstruck historical info

The Great Storm of November 7-10th in 1913 was a combination of storm systems that collided above Lake Huron on Sunday November 9th.Snow began falling, eventually dumping more than 30 cm in areas surrounding Lake Huron. Winds increased throughout the day, whipping the seas into massive waves in blizzard-like conditions. The storm produced hurricane-force 145 km/h (90 mph) winds, 11 metre high waves (35 feet) and whiteout snow squalls. Ship captains had to decide whether to try to run their vessels in front of the wind or try to anchor and ride out the storm. Both options were dangerous, the former necessitating turning against the wind as the vessels neared the shore, and the latter made more dangerous by extremely poor visibility.

When the storm was finally over, 244 sailors were dead, 19 ships had been sunk with all hands aboard, and 19 ships had been left stranded. Many of the sailors’ bodies washed ashore along the shore of Lake Huron between Goderich and Sarnia the next morning. This blizzard, which raged for three days, resulted in a financial loss in vessels alone of nearly $5 million American, or about $100 million in present-day adjusted dollars. The large loss of cargo included coal, iron ore, and grain. The Great Storm of 1913 is generally considered to be the worst storm to ever strike the Great Lakes, with Lake Huron experiencing the most destruction and death.

Cathy has also written a teachers’ guide for Stormstruck, which is available from Ronsdale Press. It consists of background information about the Great Storm, the shipping industry in the early 1900s, the region of Goderich, and the suffragette movement, as well as an overview of the novel and its principal characters, detailed chapter questions that may be used in a traditional manner or as a jeopardy game, differentiated post-reading activities, and additional resource information.

Additional information about the Great Storm of 1913 can be found at:

Professional Development

“Nobody ever taught me how to teach students to write!” I hear this comment again and again from teachers of all grades, and I immediately empathize with them. Nobody ever taught me how to teach writing either, especially not creative writing. In fact, it was while trying to teach my students to write and produce good narrative pieces, that I first began to dabble with words. I began to write alongside my students in an effort to gain insight into the writing process. What could be so difficult about producing good narrative pieces? Little did I know!

Not only did I discover that writing wasn’t easy – it isn’t supposed to be easy – but it was also very time consuming. However, I also learned that if you did it well, it could be incredibly rewarding. As an author, I could control my reader’s feelings, direct their emotions, make them see and experience what I wanted them to. What a power trip! And to do it with words – that was the best thing of all. I began writing more seriously and experienced an epiphany of sorts – I didin’t write the way I taught my students to write. As I became more adept as an author, I decided to approach the teaching of writing in what I saw as a more natural manner. The result was infinitely more successful than my original attempts to teach writing.

While doing writing workshops with students, I realized that I still hadn’t necessarily addressed the teaching dilemma. How does a teacher learn to teach writing? I thought that rather than reinventing the wheel, teachers might benefit from the knowledge I’d acquired through a unique combination of my teaching and writing. My professional development workshops do not present a “canned” writing program. Appreciating that many teachers are already doing things that work exceptionally well in the writing classroom, I prefer to present specific skills and strategies to facilitate writing, and practical ideas to integrate these into any classroom. Knowing also that instructional time is limited and that there is no shortcut for time in the writing process, I have developed short, fun activities that promote the development of these skills, firmly believing that writing is like basketball. You can’t play the game until you know the skills, but if you practice the specific skills, and are aware of the game as a whole, everything will come together. At the same time, I promote a literature-based writing program,so that students can become cognizant, with teachers’ help, of what good writing is. Although I have studied the theory behind teaching writing, I tend to offer teachers what I wanted most as a teacher – practical ideas that I could implement in the classroom tomorrow.

One of the most wonderful things about writing is that the skill set for any age is universal. Skills are developed and enhanced as students mature, but the foundation remains the same. Therefore, my professional development inservices are designed for all staff members – teachers of all grade levels, teacher aides, resource teachers, etc – and are easily adaptable.  For more information about professional development opportunities, please contact me directly.

Workshops:

Professional Development: Cathy is available for professional development seminars and is able to present to large or small groups. She often presents at teachers’ conventions and can utilize either a workshop or presentation mode. Cathy’s professional development inservices generally focus on methods to strengthen student writing, generate great stories or develop school-wide strategies and continuums to achieve writing goals.

Generating Authentic Writing Tasks: Drawing on her extensive development of creative writing projects and her exposure to balance inquiry-based learning, Cathy is available to help teachers facilitate and design their own writing programs based on broader questions or specific curriculum content. She works with grade teams to help teachers weave writing into their year-long plans in a meaningful and enjoyable manner.

 

Writing Workshops

Cathy in a writer's workshop

Workshops:

Cathy offers a wide range of writing workshops for students in elementary and junior high school, and strives to tailor all workshops to student needs and levels. Cathy offers both writing residencies and individual workshops to schools and is happy to explore many different forms of writing from narrative story to creative non-fiction to non-fiction. Some of her most popular workshops are described below. All workshops can be modified to any grade level. Teachers are encouraged to email her with specific requests.

Curriculum-Based Writing: Cathy greatly enjoys the challenge of weaving writing and curriculum to discover, extend or reinforce education concepts or larger inquiry-based questions. She works with teachers to plan and create authentic writing tasks that tie in to specific curriculum goals, and guides students through the process to create strong compositions that are both engaging for students and rich in writing process techniques. These “projects” may take many different forms and often include narrative or creative non-fiction writing – sales pitches, fairy tales, poetry, historical fiction, field guides, legends, contest entries, travel brochures, field guides, tweets, etc. The possibilities are endless! These workshops generally require more than a single session with students.

Strengthening Student Writing: This workshop focuses on the concept of strong writing, defined by its impact on the reader. Students are introduced to the S’s of Strong Writing, specific strategies that students can employ again and again, which are closely linked to both purpose and audience. Students participate in a variety of enjoyable activities designed to reinforce these strategies in short, manageable ways, and learn how to evaluate the strength of their writing by keeping the reader central to their purpose. With younger writers, Cathy often introduces S’s using fun, oral techniques.

Scene Writing: In this workshop, students are introduced to story writing through scene writing. Cathy guides students through various prewriting and planning strategies that enable them to create short, powerful scenes. Prewriting tools may include sensory webs, guided visualization, dramatization, questioning, popcorn, four-framing, etc as students discover the methods of idea generation that work best for their learning styles. Cathy focuses on using DATS to blend description, action, thoughts and speech and create great scenes that have the desired impact on the reader.

Story Planning: The workshop introduces students to a narrative story plan that utilizes problem and solution as its framework. This plan is Cathy’s own design and is the same one she uses when she writes short stories. This workshop looks specifically at using emotion to frame a story and engage the reader. It also introduces students to various techniques to write successful beginnings, middles and ends while guarding the shape of the story that engages the reader. With older children, Cathy focuses on guiding students to discover the criteria for solutions that truly satisfy the reader and looks at how to spin apparently “lame” and “ridiculous” ideas into satisfying solutions. With younger children, Cathy often writes class stories, where she, with the students’ input, creates the beginning and end, while each student writes a page in the middle to create a beautiful classroom book.

Character Creation: The focus of this workshop is engaging character creation. Cathy takes students through the same process she uses to create characters who tug at the reader. She touches on names, appearance, backstory, character flaws, dreams, family, friends, etc and ultimately moves into conflict, the heart of story. Characters range from realistic characters to animal characters to superheros.

Creative Currents: This workshop is all about inspiring creativity in thought and composition. Cathy asks students to examine the nature of both creative and critical thought and then encourages them to test their creativity parameters – flexibility, fluency and originality. Finally, she looks at the connection between creative and critical thought, as it pertains to life, problem solving and written composition.

Professional Development: Cathy is available for professional development seminars and is able to present to large or small groups. She often presents at teachers’ conventions and can utilize either a workshop or presentation mode. Cathy’s professional development inservices generally focus on methods to strengthen student writing, generate great stories or develop school-wide strategies and continuums to achieve writing goals.

Generating Authentic Writing Tasks: Drawing on her extensive development of creative writing projects and her exposure to balance inquiry-based learning, Cathy is available to help teachers facilitate and design their own writing programs based on broader questions or specific curriculum content. She works with grade teams to help teachers weave writing into their year-long plans in a meaningful and enjoyable manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alberta teachers may also book workshops in October through the Young Alberta Book Society.


Author Visits

Over the past decade, I have had the pleasure of speaking to students across Canada. Because my books are intended for children ages eight and up, I usually conduct book talks with grades three and up. I am available for author presentations and writing workshops throughout the year. Each October, I travel with the Young Alberta Book Society on their Taleblazers campaign. If you are from an Alberta school, this organization can greatly assist in the expense of bringing an author to your school, so please check them out.

During author presentations, I provide students with a glimpse into my books and the writing process. I use a combination of readings, stories and visuals to reveal the stories, without giving them away and like to make these presentations as interactive as possible. I am happy to speak to groups of up to 75 students, providing that the facility will accommodate everyone in a comfortable manner. Sitting on the floor is fine as long as there is room. My presentation is very portable, and all I require is a wall or whiteboard or flip chart on which I can tack up some posters and a small table or chair for a number of objects. These presentations are best scheduled for an hour block as that gives me time to tell students about the writing process and answer questions, but I can accommodate school schedules as well.

Book Information

Information about Cathy’s books for teachers

My historical fiction titles – Shadows of Disaster, Chaos in Halifax and Stormstruck – are designed for children ages eight to fourteen. Although they have become a series about Canadian catastrophes, each novel is designed to stand alone. They have been used as classroom novels from grades 3-8, primarily because the fascination about disasters is universal. They have even been used as read-alouds in nursing homes! The three novels are often used in literature circles, making for very interesting discussions afterwards as all three books share the same principal characters, but deal with different Canadian disasters. Although these books are time-travel novels, which allowed me to contrast life in the past and present, they are primarly historical fiction and the events surrounding the disasters are as historically accurate as I could possibly make them. I feel a great responsibility to represent history accurately. I have written teachers’ guides for all three titles. The guides include background information, detailed chapter questions that can also be used as a jeopardy game, and differentiated post-reading activities. These are available from Ronsdale Press. As well as dealing with actual disasters, each book is also set in a particular historical social context and deals with common issues pertinent to young readers. I have included a list below that outlines some of the educational tie-ins for each book.

Shadows of Disaster – the Frank Slide, early coal mining, pioneer life, risk taking, gender roles, legends, dementia and aging, family relationships. cross-age relationships, self esteem, natural resources, and Alberta’s geography

Chaos in Halifax – the Halifax explosion, Canada’s role in WWI, family relationship changes, effective communication, and dealing with loss and grief

Stormstruck – the Great Storm of 1913, non-traditional families, women’s right, the suffragette movement, weather and meteorology, the early shipping industry, and decision making

My contemporary, young adult novels deal with some of the contemporary issues facing adolescents today. They are designed for students aged eleven and up. A teachers’ guide for Offside is available from Thistledown Press. Although both books deal with hockey, they seem to have a great androgynous appeal as the issues addressed therein are pretty universal. A list of possible educational tie-ins is provided below.

Offside – substance abuse, sports and performance, friendships, family relationships, adolescent relationships, role models, and the mental aspect of sport

One on One – family relationships, sports and performance, the petroleum industry, loyalty and honesty, dealing with adversity, and parental pressure in sport

Books are available from local bookstores, Amazon and Chapters. Class sets and teachers’ guides can be obtained directly from the publishers, Ronsdale Press and Thistledown Press.