[podcast_subscribe id=”7428″]

In this episode, we are sharing an update on Katie’s project with Living Hyphen; the book has been printed and officially launched, so Katie will share some further details about the project.

If you like what you hear, we would love it if you could share this episode with a colleague or friend. And make sure you subscribe so that you don’t miss out on any new content! And consider supporting the show by buying us a coffee or two!

We would love to hear from you – leave a comment on our website OR check out our FLIP!

Bitmoji of Katie and Rachel celebrating with colourful confetti in the air around them.

Show Notes

This week, we are back and following up on the book project that Katie and her team have been working on with the English language learners in the school.

They have finally printed the book, and did an official launch, which has been so exciting, stressful, busy and fun!

In case you have no idea what we are talking about, we’ll give you a quick recap, or feel free to listen to Episode 119, where Katie shares a little more about the ongoing project that has been happening in her class.

Quick Recap

Katie and her colleagues all teach ESL at her school. They decided that they wanted to approach ESL differently this year. They wanted to get students thinking more, and getting them immersed in language and how/when to use it, etc. With that in mind, we came up with a project that is more immersive in nature, and gets students to use the language in different ways that are more authentic.

The project involved creating a book that shared an aspect of their migration and/or settlement journey, challenges in learning a new language and a new place, or sharing a little bit about their own culture and language. Each entry in the book would be dual language – English, and one of the additional languages that the students speak.

They chose to bring in Living Hyphen, who did a writing workshop with the students that really got them thinking about what to write, and how to write, while embracing their additional languages. Some of their students speak 4-5 languages, so they had a wealth of languages to choose from when considering writing.

All of the students in the ESL program were divided into teams.

Event planning team

  • plan the details for the various events we ran (book launch, bake sales, etc.)

Graphic design team

  • designed what the book would look like – fonts, graphics, images, cover art for the book itself, posters, etc.

Publicity team

  • handled communication with other classes and the school community; reached out to local media to share their project

Presentation team

  • Create and present at the various events and in classes around the school to share our project

Podcasting team

  • interviewed the students about their writing piece in the form of a mini podcast

Sales team

  • Came up with events – book sales, bake sales, etc. as ways to raise money for the school community and sell the book

Production managers

  • Group of leaders that support the rest of the groups, keep them on task and support as needed


The book launch has happened! Local media came out to the book launch and wrote an article about the students’ work.

The timeline was a challenge for Katie, personally. She is typically a flexible teacher that moves based on student needs, etc. but when you have to commit to printing company deadlines, etc. flexible doesn’t work so well! In that way, it was a really good learning opportunity for her.

One of her colleagues is also a drama teacher who regularly plans productions, so she was really good at helping guide the process and keeping everyone on track.

In order to get it all done, the students would meet 2-3 times a week in their teams. The teams were spread across all three classes, which represent all of the English language learners in the ESL program. Each team had jobs laid out, with due dates, and would work towards accomplishing those tasks.

In terms of when it all happened, we opened up the semester in February informing students of what we were thinking of doing. We then had Justine in from the Living Hyphen to run the workshop on March 1. From there, we continued the work until it was all completed and sent to print on April 1. Our book launch was then April 12.

This gave us roughly a month to write, edit, design and get it all printed. The teams were determined prior to the workshop to give students an opportunity to choose a team based on their individual strengths. It also allowed them to start brainstorming together so that we could get things moving once the workshop was complete.

While it was crazy and stressful, it was totally worth it. We opted to edit for comprehension versus perfect grammar because each entry is a snapshot of where they are at in their language and settlement journey, and we didn’t want to twist or change their words. It was truly a team effort.

Book Launch

For the book launch, students reached out to classes to see if they would like to come and participate in the launch. They also reached out to teachers and Board members that they thought may want to come, such as our Welcome Centre, etc. Students even reached out to local media to see if they’d be interested in coming out.

It really was all the students though – they handled all of the communication. We helped them to understand the appropriate language to use in email communications with various parties, but they took the lead and selected the people to invite, etc.

This truly was a multifaceted project that had the students learning language based on communication needs, and had them stepping up and taking the reins.

Students brought different things to the launch as well. Some brought juice or coffee, while others baked cookies or other small snacks. They arranged to decorate the library (where the launch was held) the night before so that it was all done and ready to go.

Picture of the book "Finding Myself Far Away From Home" - 1 copy is on a book stand, 4 more are fanned out on a desk.

The presentation team had created a slide deck presentation that went over the process, explained the importance of the book to the students, and had students sharing their stories with those there for the launch.

It was so amazing to watch it all unfold in front of me. All of their hard work and planning really came to fruition. It was nice to see the local paper come out and shine a spotlight on them because they don’t always necessarily feel valued in the community.

This opportunity empowered them in so many ways, and made them realize that they can do so much.

One of the best things that Katie learned as an educator is the value and importance of setting and maintaining high expectations. The students did such an amazing job, and it was scary to give up that control and let them go with it.

It’s neat to now be able to hold the book in our hands; to know the student who created the digital art that is on the front and back covers, and to remember the students working so hard on formatting the pages, and inserting all of the page numbers, etc.

Tools used

In terms of the tools that the students ended up using, they ended up using Canva. Teachers created anonymous ESL student accounts to make this possible.

The students chose the program after trying out a few different options, and so we wanted to honour their voice since they were doing the work. The use of anonymous student accounts that don’t have student data attached made this possible.

Otherwise, it would have been extremely difficult to find a tool, as there aren’t a whole lot out there, particularly ones that are permitted for student use.

An important lesson we learned: Canva doesn’t have an insert page number feature – this meant that we had to manually create text boxes and copy/paste them onto each page. It was tedious and terrible, especially if we had to change the order of the pages.

Big wins

There are so many amazing things that came from this project, so it’s difficult to select a single thing that we are proud of or that we consider a win.

That being said, one thing that really stands out is the courage of these students.

Bitmoji of Katie and Rachel happily smiling with their eyes closed.

It takes courage to share these stories; to share about themselves and their journey, their feelings and emotions about having to move to a new place. To do that in two language, especially when it’s not always clear that we value all of these languages, and to be brave enough to share their story in their first language is such a powerful expression that takes courage.

Some of the stories aren’t happy, and this was something that our students found hard. They didn’t want to share some of the sad, angry or difficult emotions because they didn’t think people would want to hear it, but we stressed the fact that this is their journey, and their life. People don’t have to be happy to move to a new place. There are so many reasons why someone has to move, plus add in the difficulty of being a teenager at the time as well. It is difficult to leave behind friends and family. We wanted to value every story and every voice, and we encouraged our students to share whatever they felt comfortable sharing, and to embrace their feelings, and not worry about how other people may react.

Roadblocks and Challenges

One of the biggest challenges we noticed right away is that we have a lot of STEP 1 language learners; this means that these students are just starting their English language journey. Finding a space where they could still participate could be challenging at times.

If we were to do it again, we would try to make sure that there is something that they can do that is easy to access, and that still builds language without making them feel overwhelmed. Everybody was working, but it felt like we could improve in this area.

Another challenge is that newcomers don’t arrive based on the school calendar. They are constantly arriving throughout the year. This meant that we had some new students arriving midway through the project, and having to dive right in and find a space and a role.

While challenging, it still worked out well. One student ended up joining the presentation team and speaking at the launch after just a week or so of being at the school!

Advice for others

This is such an amazing and powerful project. If you are thinking of doing this with your students, here are some words of advice to consider:

  • Give yourself more time
    • You will need more time than you think you will – don’t rush the process!
  • Let students take control
    • This one is hard, but the teacher(s) need to hand the reins over and let students take control of the project
    • Students will take ownership and will go with it, but only if they have the space to do so.
  • Make the teams/roles clear
    • Make sure the roles are easy to understand
    • Give students the opportunity to self-select their team or role based on their strengths and interests

Overall, this project has been such an amazing experience for both the students and the teachers. We have learned so much, and it was awesome to see the students step up to create such a wonderful product!

If you are in the Halton area (Oakville, Burlington, Milton, etc.), and would be interested in purchasing a copy of the book, reach out to us!

The books cost $12, and proceeds go to the school’s Angel Funds, which supports students in the school community with financial need. The students and staff are the delivery crew, so it doesn’t include shipping.

Similar Posts