Posted by: When Grief Group Isn't An Option | August 30, 2009

A Middle School Language Arts Classroom – The Six Strands


In Alberta, the Program of Studies outlines 6 “strands” of language arts: reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, representing.

At the beginning of each year I used to ask my classes if they knew what to expect from the almost 200 days that lay ahead . . . as far as the course “Language Arts” was concerned. NOBODY had ever heard of the six strands. I got in the habit of having an opening conversation about the strands, explaining them to the best of my ability with a brief overview, and then getting the classes to create large banners for each strand.

Each student was given a letter and was told what strand it came from. I would then steal an idea from the fabulous Gleddie sisters, Enid and Lucille, and give a coloring lesson. For this assignment, I used the ‘bold outline with a rubbing shading for the interior of each letter, augmented with small icons.’ If you enlarge the pictures below (from TSN – The Strand Network) you may be able to see what rough surface was used in the rubbing phase – the N is most obvious.


With the last day of the first week as a deadline, the letters were returned and then arranged onto sheets of railboard for display around and outside my classroom. The effect was like the “Listening” strand that begins this blog entry.

Particularly when we did somewhat odd, unique, out there kinds of activities that seemed unlike anything my students had experienced in previous language arts classes, and when some student would say, “Is this really language arts?”, I would be able to point to the appropriate banner and confirm, “Yes, Virginia, there really is a reason we’re making masks (or whatever). This is the “Representing” (or whatever) strand of the program.

*** I would like to be able to offer the ability to download the necessary letters so that you could use this activity yourself. At the moment, I don’t have the skill so will leave you with this ‘somewhat’ helpful information. To create your own banners for the six strands, you require the following number of enlarged bubble letters: a/2, d/1, e/7, g/7, i/9, k/1, l/1, n/8, p/2, r/4, s/3, t/3, v/1, w/2.

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