Karen Filewych

Karen has more than twenty years of educational experience as an elementary teacher and school administrator. She enjoys sharing her love of literacy with both teachers and students in her current role as language arts consultant with Edmonton Catholic Schools.

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Words Change Worlds

"When teaching grade one I noticed how language — specifically learning to read and write — empowered students. This idea has captivated me since. Join me in my quest to change the world through words."
-Karen Filewych

Check back weekly to find new book reviews and ideas for both teachers and parents.


Available Now

Freewriting
with Purpose

Simple classroom techniques to help students make connections, think critically, and construct meaning. Freewriting with Purpose provides writing ideas across the curriculum helping students make meaning in all disciplines of study.



This week on the Words Change Worlds blog

“I am John.”

One of the things on my summer to-do list was to go through the countless boxes of paper and files that I had accumulated over the years: from university courses, various classrooms, and three separate offices. I ended up with five blue bags full of shredding and many other boxes to give away or recycle.

During this process, I came upon a piece of writing from a student that I mention in my first book. ‘John’ was the self-proclaimed outcast in our classroom. It was a complicated situation rooted in years of interactions with his peers. In the book I explain how one October day freewriting enabled John to find a tentative entry point into our classroom community.

The piece of writing I came across recently echoed the same sentiments – a need for belonging and acceptance – as the freewriting I referred to in my book. This time the prompt was “I am…”

“I am ‘John’, the one who always gets bugged in our class…”

“People bug me and they never stop… if they can, that would make me surprised. But they can never do that. Don’t try to ask.”

I am not sure if I noticed it at the time, but reading it now, I notice that he begins with his name. “I am John.” Perhaps he was trying to reclaim his identity and redefine himself through his writing.

Before freewriting, John did not voice his frustration or sadness in appropriate ways but instead in ways that simply reinforced the stereotypes around him. Yelling. Teasing. Crying. Flailing his arms. Acting out. Insulting others.

As we begin the school year, I am thinking about how important it is to set the tone for the year… to help kids like John find their place… to create a safe space for students to take risks and explore their identities… to create a genuine community of learners.

I am thankful to John for the unexpected reminder.

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