Ms. S. Sokugawa – Relationships are the key to learning.

As we near the end the 2023/2024 school year, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the parents of Division 14 for their support this year. It was a great year and the students have done an amazing job working hard in improving their reading, writing, and math skills. I am proud of everyone’s dedication to their learning and I hope that they will continue to work hard, remember to ask questions, and remember to ask for help when needed. I am sad that I will not see them in September, but I hope that I will see them around Burnaby.

My main goal this year was to make each student aware that they are the key to learning  and by having a growth mindset and understanding that only they have the power to do what they want. Further, I wanted them to see how everything we learn has critical connections to other things we learn and to everything around them. As lifelong learners, we need to create meaning in what we learn by finding connections to our knowledge and other things we have learned. By taking these connections one step further to the world around them, the learning gets solidified by making logical and practical sense of learned content. This helps learners develop their holistic skillsets in profound and integrated ways.

We, as a class, used the “Tribes Agreements” to guide our behaviour and in hopes of making the best choices. I hope that each student will continue to remember these agreements as they grow older. Throughout the year, we continued to use the phrase, “Make good choices”, which happens when we first stop and take a breath (or a series of breaths) so that we can think and proceed with the appropriate behaviours. It is important to be aware of what we are doing so that we can make good choices. By being aware of what our body is doing, what we are feeling, and what we are thinking, this awareness will help in guiding us towards making good decisions.

For example, when something doesn’t go in the way we had anticipated, or a situation arises, it is easy to blame someone or something for what happened. In the fall, many students would say, “My mom didn’t put my planner in my backpack,” or “My dad forgot to put my library book in my backpack.” My response was and will always be: “Whose planner is it?”, or “Who borrowed the book?” It is important to take responsibility or ownership for the choices that we make. Learning to take ownership for something negative is difficult to do. However, it takes courage to accept mistakes and negative decisions. Further, it shows a willingness to learn and  without making mistakes, we cannot grow. Most importantly it is the awareness and ownership of these mistakes that is critical and this mindset that takes time to develop with lots of encouragement.

Taking responsibility isn’t only important when owning up for our mistakes, but is also critical if we are to learn. It also takes courage to ask for help. Seeking out the strengths of others in our community and learning from them helps each one of us to become better at our own skills. It is important that being able to seek out and ask others for help strengthens our weaknesses and shows that we are becoming stronger individuals. This kind of mindset is essential if we are to grow and continue to develop to become strong individuals.

Sometimes, even though we have given our best effort, the end result is not what we may have anticipated. However, do we choose to dwell on failures and make ourselves feel miserable, or have a mindset that is more productive by asking ourselves, “Where do we go from here?”, or  “What can I do now?” Looking at what did go well is something that we can continue doing. By examining what did not go as planned, can always be reflected on and re-evaluated for next time. This mindset is taking a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. Remember that we cannot change the past, but we all have opportunities to change the future. Being aware of what we are doing and what we can do is important. As the students leave grade 2, it is my hope that they leave with a solid foundation of awareness skills based on finding critical connections.  These connections can lead to a developing sense of responsibility, a growth mindset, and self-regulation skills.

Here are titles of books that may help to give a different perspective on children. Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn is an older book, but a good read. I recently began rereading it. I have included a link if you are interest. The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson gives strategies on how to nurture the developing mind of your child. A different perspective to what we may have grown up with. How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo has some great ideas for families of how to nurture readers from pre-birth to teenagers.

I hope that you all have a great summer. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to reach out at my email address. Take care.

As we begin our final month of the 2023/2024 school year, I would like to recap a few things as we look ahead to the summer and the start of grade 3. As grade 3s, your child will be in the oldest primary grade and seen as leaders to the younger students and incoming kindergarteners.

Keeping this mind, it is important to remember that being responsible and resilient are not something that happen naturally or magically because your child reaches a certain age. They are skills that have to be practiced by experiencing life. I have mentioned previously that safety is paramount but if your child can gain an opportunity and learn a strategy that will help them, why not let them try? Adults have more experience and may have gone through similar circumstances. Although our first response is to shelter our kids from become ‘hurt’, we have to allow them to experience the challenge and learn something from that experience so they can do it differently next time. We can encourage, guide, and nurture, but we should not intervene and do it for them. How will they know what to do if they have never seen it before?

Allow your child to be more responsible by letting them do things. Do not do everything for them. Things such as clearing the table, washing the dishes, making their beds, putting away their laundry, tidying up their things or the mess they have made are ways that your child can contribute to the mundane things parents do on a day to day basis. Your child does not become a teenager or adult and miraculously become responsible. On the other side, will your continue to do all the things for them even when they become teenagers? How will your child feel?

Interacting with others also takes practice through opportunities that arise. It is important that we interact with others on a day to day basis as adults. This takes practice by learning how to navigate situations. As parents, we can not, nor should we, intervene when our child is interacting with others. Unless safety is an issue, if situations arise between your child and another, listen objectively (without judgement), and allow your child to figure out what they need to to do with your guidance and encouragement. If your child is unsure, prompt them with ideas and possible things to say and allow your child to verbalize and express themselves. If you intervene  and talk on their behalf, your child may appear weak. Give them support by standing with them, but allow your child to express their frustration.

Help your child become independent by allowing them to experience situations that will help them to grow and become resilient. As parents, unless safety is an issue, allow your child to face challenges so they can continue to grow in all ways including physically and emotionally.

Childhood and all the perks of being a child is the best part before we have to grow up and become an adult where the responsibilities become greater. It is also the time when we gain skills and knowledge not only from school, but from play that is unstructured and not on an electrical device. Many skills, that we as adult continue to use on a daily basis, are developed and strengthened through unstructured play.  A few of these skills are communication, problem solving, creative and critical thinking, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and self and body awareness through physical literacy.

As mentioned in April 2’s post, allowing your child not to be scheduled is an important way to nurture creativity and imagination. These skills have to be nurtured and encouraged by allowing your child to play freely. Unstructured activities such as Lego, playdough, colouring, or toys involving building structures not only strengthen hand muscles and help with fine motor skills and dexterity but strengthen creativity and imagination.

A couple of really good books to read are The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, and The Hurried Child by David Elkind.  I have set up a link to an article in relation to David Elkind’s book.

Another good website about the importance of play is

Finally, I have also included an article about decreasing fine motor skills that I thought was interesting:

What thoughts come to mind when we hear the words, “I’m bored”? If we look at the definition of the word ‘bored’, it means “lacking interest in one’s current activity” (Oxford Languages, 2024). Looking more closely at the word and from a different perspective, it ultimately comes down to a person’s choice of being in that particular state. This sense of ‘boredom’ often stems from a misconception that your child is not occupied with something to do. When your child’s time is habitually occupied with various activities, they have not had opportunities to use their creativity in finding things to do. Allowing your child to explore and ‘find’ things to do helps nurture their creativity and imagination. If we do not allow our children to practice these skills, how do we expect them to become better at using their creativity and imagination, which are similar to other skills such as riding a bike, swimming, or playing a musical instrument? ‘Being bored’ presents opportunities to trying new things and using their creativity and imagination by finding things to do on their own. With the ever present digital influences that have already stifled our ability to use our imagination, let’s not take away anymore of our children’s creativity and imagination by occupying every minute of their day with things to do. Allow your child some ‘free time’ so that they can practice finding things to do using their own imagination and creativity. According to writer Dorothy Parker, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

  This picture is posted on my door. It is how reading uses our imagination, but television and other technology stifles creativity and imagination where everything is presented.


As I have often mentioned on the weekly emails, it is important to have dialogues with your child about what they have been learning in class. The weekly summaries are highlights of what we have been doing at school and the terminology that I use in class to help as conversation starters between you and your child. In class, I always tell the students that everything I teach is for a reason and if they are unclear of that reason, they need to ask. My lessons are not only connected to previous lessons, but are relatable to the world around them, creating an anchor to the concepts I have been teaching. In essence, these create a foundational skillset to what I teach and to the things they will learn throughout their lives. Relating what I teach to the world around them helps them integrate their learning and propel them forward and become lifelong learners. Learning can happen anywhere and you have to be ready to embrace those opportunities. However, if you are unaware and are not open to those opportunities, that opportunity to learn something will vanish. We need to nurture that sense of curiosity and a sense of wonder by encouraging our kids to embrace them. There is no magic fairy that transforms that curiosity. Therefore, it needs to be nurtured.

In addition to helping our children become lifelong learners, there are a few other reasons conversations with your children are important. Please keep in mind that when they are talking, it is important listen to them attentively so you can ask for clarification or ask them to elaborate on their thoughts. Our brains can only do one thing well at a time. If we are doing more than one thing at a time, it means that we are not doing anything well. Please note: if you expect your child to pay attention to you, it is only fair that you reciprocate and model the behaviour your would like to see yourself.

Firstly, the conversations can help your child solidify their learning. If your child is able to talk about what they did and learned at school, this will help them to sort through the information as they explain their thinking and their learning. By being able to explain, reiterate the ideas of the lessons, and make connections to the world around them means that they have understood the concept. I have provided recaps and photos of the lessons to help give some background information.

Secondly, conversing with family helps your child develop and strengthen their oral language skills through expressing and communicating their thoughts. We have to remember that parents were the first teachers the children had and parents continue to be those teachers who are an important resource to what each child learns. When children are conversing with family, they are learning to organize their thoughts and ideas so they can articulate what they want to say.

Thirdly, having to organize their thoughts requires integrating the vocabulary and all of the knowledge they have. By articulating their thoughts, they are developing their skill of elaborating on details, incorporating parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. All of these ultimately help with the writing process, as writing is essentially putting thoughts down on paper. The better we become at articulating our thoughts, the stronger we become as writers.

Fourth, conversing with others and having to organize their thoughts before speaking helps with the writing process. When children listen to others speak, especially adults, they are usually listening to experienced oral speakers use the correct syntax and vocabulary. Hearing the correct sentence structure helps the children transfer that to their own writing and reading. The more they practice conversing with others, the better writers they will become.

This skill of communicating thoughts and ideas does not magically happen. It has to be nurtured, developed, and practiced. By instilling this at a young age, children will be able to strengthen this skill as they grow older, and as mentioned above, strengthening their writing skills. Acquiring new knowledge happens to each and every one of us. Knowledge does not happen through osmosis. As adults, we tend to engage in conversation with others by inquiring and having meaning back-and-forth dialogue about the topic. However, this skill of engaging in conversation happens naturally because it is something that we have been doing for a long time. Keeping this in mind, we need to help children do the same. Moreover, this ability to discuss thoughts and ideas helps us to apply and extend our learning to the world around us. Through dialogue, the knowledge becomes grounded by helping us to connect to the things we already know. Finding the connections and relationships between concepts and ideas help to bring a relational aspect to that knowledge. For example, multiplication is not different from addition. In fact, addition and multiplication are significantly intertwined as multiplication is ‘quick way of adding the same number’. Multiplication is a progression that is extended from addition and understanding the progressions that occur between addition and multiplication helps us to solidify that knowledge. From there, multiplication can now be recognized as the basis of many other concepts such as fractions, percentages, ratios, proportions and so on. Again, discussion helps us to integrate what we know to what we are learning. This is where reflecting and critical thinking skills are happening, expanding on the confidence and gaining a sense of wanting to learn more, which is the ultimate goal of lifelong learning.

As we begin the second half of the school year, it is great to see how the students have grown in so many ways and continue to develop. As I mentioned in the December post “Raising Children”, (Ms. S. Sokugawa – Relationships are the key to learning. ( ) being parents is one of the most difficult jobs of our lives, but also one of the most rewarding. The decisions that we make as parents are made with good intentions but have lasting implications even though we may not see them at that moment. Nurturing and instilling a sense of responsibility is one of those important characteristics that we hope our children will possess one day. After all, our children will continue to be our children no matter how old they grow. However, they will be adults for a very long time and so we must remember that the foundations we give our children must last throughout their lives. We must remember that responsibility does not  magically occur with a wave of a wand, but is something that must be developed and nurtured over time through practice and experience. We must allow our children to do things even though it may not be the way we expect it to be done. Encouraging a growth mindset, as mentioned in the January post, (Ms. S. Sokugawa – Relationships are the key to learning. ( )helps with nurturing their responsibility to learn from each experience. That is why guiding and encouraging our children is important without actually doing it for them. Without making mistakes, improvement and learning cannot follow. The role as the loving adults in the children’s lives is to guide, encourage, teach, and redirect as we see fit.  It is important to remember that if the same mistakes are made repetitively, the lesson has not been learned and we need to help them look for what went wrong and figure out how to do it differently. Making mistakes helps to strengthen our problem-solving skills and sometimes more guidance is needed. Experience is a key to building responsibility. Therefore, giving our children opportunities to build responsibility is important for their future.

Perception and perspectives are two considerations to make before change can occur. I have added a few things if you are interested in further reading.

 The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson gives strategies on how to nurture the developing mind of your child. A different perspective to what we may have grown up with.

 Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn is an older book, but a good read. Kohn looks at rewards as a punishment since “change” only comes about to gain just the reward but does not bring about real change. Change has to be intrinsic and occur because change is the goal, not gaining the reward. According to Kohn, giving rewards becomes the soul goal for the change and when the reward is no longer desirable, then behaviour goes back to what is was.

I have provided a link to Alfie Kohn’s book.

Punished by Rewards – (Book)

wall-837313_640-1The saying “Life is a journey” is often used when talking about our experiences and our learning. In order to make some understanding about this statement, we need to figure out what each word means. As I mentioned in the December 1 blog post, as parents, we have a difficult but rewarding job of nurturing our children so they will develop into responsible, contributing members of the society they will be a part of. That nurturing that takes place up to the age of 18 (when children become adults), and is crucial in helping them navigate their world in the remaining years of their lives. As our parents provided those nurturing years for us, we are now doing the same for our children.

If we are lucky, we will live to be in our 80s, 90s, or even 100s, which is a long time! Keeping in mind that throughout those 80, 90, or 100 years, we will have experienced many things. However, if we take each experience for granted, what is the point of encountering each of those experiences? This includes the people we meet along the way, the places we go, and the opportunities that arise, even if they are negative. Each moment has something to offer and if we take them for granted, we will miss out on potentially wonderful experiences. This includes how we approach learning new things.

To embrace each experience, we need to consider that learning is like a never-ending staircase. Please note that for every skill we develop we have a separate staircase for each skill. The concept of the staircase helps to visualize the individual steps, and therefore if we become good at a skill we improve and climb up the steps in the staircase. However, if we need more time and practice, we can move back a step or two to strengthen our skills. This staircase is parallel to the concept of Growth Mindset, created by Carol Dweck [Carol Dweck: A Summary of The Two Mindsets ( ]. This never-ending staircase of learning allows us to go back a step or two to retrace where we have come from, and then proceed upwards to demonstrate what we have learned.  Without making “mistakes”, we cannot learn and become better than where we were before we made our mistake.  They are the glitches that are needed for learning to occur and to improve what we are doing.  The most important part, however, is the learning we take from those glitches.  By looking more closely at where we went wrong, we can then figure out what we can do differently.  IF we do this step, it means we are truly learning, and will not repeat the same mistake over and over again.

Encouraging a growth mindset begins with how we phrase comments. When making comments to children, it is important to validate them and their efforts with comments that will encourage them to keep trying and persevering, even when things get difficult or result in unexpected ways. Comments such as ‘You’re smart’ stifle the motivation to try as the child may feel that they are already smart and do not need to go beyond what they are already doing. For further examples, you can click on the following link. Growth Mindset For Parents | Growth Mindset Parenting (

Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs, but it is also one of the most rewarding jobs of our lives. When your child is a baby, especially those difficult times when babies can be very demanding, it feels like those difficult moments may never end. However, as with most things, you overcome them, and as we overcome each challenge we build resilience.

This is the same for your child. If your child does not encounter any challenges along the way, how can we expect them to overcome any challenge, know how to deal with them, and deal with them confidently? Challenges help us grow stronger. When we take away those challenges because we don’t want our children to get upset and become emotionally upset, it is important to recognize that we may be taking away the opportunities to help them grow. Safety is always number one, but remember that your child needs challenging situations to grow stronger and gain skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.

Remember that your child is a child until they are 18 years of age, at which point they become an adult. Parenting is a lifelong endeavour and therefore, your support for your child, will continue even as though they are adults. As your child moves through to adulthood, how will they be able to handle the challenges faced in front of them? Adulthood lasts a long time. The skills that our children build during the formative years (0-5 years), childhood (5-13 years) and adolescence (13-18 years) carry them into adulthood. We, as parents, also went through the same stages. Think about your own upbringing and the challenges you faced. If our children face challenges and adversity, our role as parents can help them face those challenges by giving them tools to build their skillset to help them build resilience. If we don’t let them face these challenges and adverse situations, are we limiting their ability to maximize their potential? Challenges are extremely important and often time, parents attempt to remove those challenges with good intentions without realizing the detrimental effects on their child’s development. Consider that we are developing not only children but future adults, and it is important to consider our role in their development. Parenting is not always easy, but remember that the choices we make during the developmental years have lasting effects that lasts throughout their lives.

When we look at our lifespan, we are children from birth to 18 years of age. We are adults from 18 years to 90 or 95 years or more if we are lucky. Some people live to be over 100 years of age. That means that if we live to be 100 years of age, 18% of it is childhood and 82% is adulthood. The skills that we learn in that beginning 18% helps with the remaining 82%. As parents, our goal is to raise children who will become independent, functioning members of society who will help to contribute to the community they are a part of. We need to guide and nurture them in facing each challenge so that they can build a solid skillset that will help them be strong and resilient so that they will be ready face any challenge with humility and grace.

Having boundaries and limits in place helps to bring understanding to our children’s lives that can extend into their adult lives. Therefore, it is important to always consider the choices that we make as parents. Every choice we make as parents impacts our child’s development. This is an exciting opportunity to develop robust skillsets in our children. Final thoughts to consider: If our children do not learn boundaries when they are young, what impact does will this have on how they face opportunities that they may face in the future? Each person make their own choices and when our children are small, we can guide and teach them about the consequences (positive or negative), but as adults, those consequences may be much more severe, especially if the choices were not good choices. As your child’s teacher this year, I feel privileged to have a minor role in your child’s development.

If you are interested, I wrote an article that was published in January 2022 by the European Journal of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Please click here for the link if you are interested in reading it.

Since we began our school year, I have continually emphasized how the frequently used words (sight words) and phonemic awareness are the “secrets to reading AND writing”. Sometimes it is hard for students to see as they are learning to read and write as well as for those who can already do so. Phonological awareness is the integration of all the phonemes (sounds), vowels, digraphs, rules, syllables (closed, open, vowel team, r-controlled, dipthong) in how words are spelled. As in the message conveyed in the story, “The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants” by Priscilla Turner, stringing only consonants simply makes sounds and noises. However, consonants and vowels together create words and stringing several words together creates sentences. When we have several sentences together, we can make paragraphs. The more familiar students become with these components, the stronger they will be as they progress through the grades. These are the foundational skills needed to become not only proficient readers, but proficient writers as well.

The English we know and use is a tricky language as it is a combination of a few languages (Roman, Latin, Greek, English). Each of these languages brings their own rules and therefore, we need to navigate through them to become proficient. There are many exceptions to the rules we know in addition to many homophones. The more we read, the more vocabulary we develop, which helps to strengthen our skills. There is spell check but if we are not sure which witch to use or which there, their, or they’re to use, the spell checker will be useless. I have noticed that “your” and “you’re” are often interchanged in text messages I receive (from adults). For this reason, it is crucial to not only continue encouraging our children to read many kinds of books but also be aware of how the words are composed (which phonemes, vowels, digraph, rules, syllables (closed, open, vowel team, r-controlled, dipthong are in the words). It is important to be aware of what is happening in words and not take this skill for granted.

Another thought to consider are prefixes, suffixes, and parts of words that are found in words. For example, when we think of the word ‘phone’, we think of cell phone or ‘telephone’. However, phone is also found in words such as ‘phonetics’ or ‘phonemic’ awareness. The definition of phone is “a speech sound or the smallest segment of sound in sound in a stream of speech” (Oxford Languages, 2023). Another example are words that have ‘oct’ in the beginning of the word such as octopus, octagon, octogenarian, or October. All of these words have something to do with the number eight. Octopus is an eight-legged animal. Octagon is an eight-sided polygon and an octogenarian is a person who is in their eighties. October used to be the eighth month when the Roman calendar was used. Since changing to the present Gregorian calendar. In class, I am trying to point out these kinds of connections so that they learn to be more aware of print. Again, the more we read, the more we become familiar.

The act of reading is a very complex task, especially for the young reader. As adults, we sometimes forget all the necessary components for reading to occur. For many of us, we have been reading for a long time. Since we have been practicing it for a long time, things seem to have “happened naturally”.

However, reading is a very complex task. There are essentially two components to reading. The first component is decoding. This is where the emerging reader learns the mechanics of the reading process. The second, and more essential component, is the comprehension. Comprehension is understanding what the words are trying to convey. As emerging readers, the decoding is a crucial step, but as the reader becomes stronger, the comprehension is a key component in learning.

One component essential to the emerging reader is becoming acquainted with the “frequently used words” (sight words or common words). Unfortunately, many of the words in early readers and board books do not follow the phonemic rules. Examples of these kinds of words include: the, of, because, said, some, have. For this reason, consistent repetition of these words is an essential step in helping to build reading fluency. One way this repetition can be done is by reading the flashcards frequently and consistently. Another way is by reading and looking at books often so that when we recognize the printed words, we can better transfer that understanding contextually. Therefore, reading with parents, older siblings, and other adults helps this transformation take place.

Another component to decoding is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is knowing the individual sounds (phonemes) that a word makes to help in sounding out unfamiliar words. The phonemes can be the individual letter sounds, digraphs, vowel team syllables, or r-controlled syllables combined with an understanding of the heard vowels when saying the word (i.e.  closed syllable, open syllable, magic e). The more familiar a reader is with the phonemes the easier reading becomes.

Once a reader has an understanding of the sight words and phonemic awareness, fluency will begin to emerge. Fluency is the flow in which the words are read and this cannot occur if the reader has to stop and sound out each word. That is why recognition of the sight words are crucial to building fluency.

This phonemic awareness helps to build the vocabulary and an understanding that words follow certain rules. The sight words and an understanding of phonemic awareness is not only important in building stronger readers, but also becomes helpful during the writing process especially when it comes to homophones. The spell check function does not detect an incorrect use of there, their, or they’re even though the word is spelled correctly. Again, the more books and stories read, the greater the knowledge and spelling skills.

As readers become stronger, it is important that reading continues to be modelled so that other cues continue to be strengthened by reading aloud to them. Reading according to the punctuations are necessary so that correct meaning can be conveyed. Voice inflection and expression are also needed to gather the correct information. Further, dialogue and conversations about the materials helps to strengthen the overall understanding of what was read. Asking various questions about the story helps children to recall, reflect, and think about what was read. Although audio books and stories are good in listening to reading being modelled, the interactions with other people through the conversation that occurs about the story ultimately strengthens children’s learning.

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