Monthly Archives: June 2007

Classroom Deal

Every now and then it is nice to do something together as a class that is not specifically related to the curriculum. I like to organize classroom versions of popular television game shows. I have had success with games such as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Family Feud. Yesterday, I tried a new game and was amazed at how well it turned out. We played Classroom Deal or No Deal.

It took very little preparation time. First, I went to the Deal or No Deal website and copied down all the money amounts. Second, I found a random number generator on the Internet. Then I typed in all the money amounts into the generator and it produced the list you see below. I printed off the list and put it on my clipboard. On one side of the board I put up the chart of the money amounts like you see in the show.

1. 1000
2. 100000
3. 75
4. 400
5. 1
6. 50000
7. 400000
8. 750
9. 200000
10. 10
11. 50
12. 0.1
13. 300
14. 5000
15. 750000
16. 300000
17. 10000
18. 100
19. 25000
20. 5
21. 1000000
22. 75000
23. 500
24. 500000
25. 200
26. 25

I then drew 26 rectangles on the board and labelled them from 1 – 26. I asked the class to pick a suitcase. They picked case number 10. Ironically case ten held ten dollars. I didn’t tell them this, of course. I erased rectangle number 10 from the board and wrote it beside the number chart.

I then wrote the rounds on the board. Round 1 = 6 cases, 2 = 5 cases, 3 = 4 cases, 4 = 3 cases, 5 = 2 cases, 6 = 1 case, and every other round would also be one case to open.

I counted off the first six students by going up each row of desks. This way everyone knew where we would be stopping the first round. One by one I let the students pick a case. I then erased the chosen case from the board and the dollar amount it held from the chart. After we “opened” six cases, I pretended to talk to a banker by using a calculator as a phone. It was hilarious. I really hammed it up.

Each student had a piece of paper on their desk. If anyone liked the deal, all they had to do was write their name on the paper and bring it up to the front. I would then write the dollar amount under their name and stick it on the board. The point of the game was to come out with the most money at the end.

I had some students stop at round 2, 3, and 4, where the offers were $32 000, $64 000, and $99 000. It was exciting for everyone involved. By round 5 all of the big amounts had been knocked off and the offer fell. And just like on the show, I had students play all the way to the end and come away with the ten dollar prize.

The sole winner in the class was the person who took the deal of $99 000. I had three people tie for second place because they took the $64 000 deal and two students tied for third place. I think everyone really enjoyed the afternoon’s game. I know I sure did. I was surprised at how well it actually turned out. I even gave out prizes for the winners. It was a lot of fun and definitely something I will try again next year.

Smoking Licence

I have a big problem with kids smoking. As a teacher it pains me to see kids smoking. We try to teach about it in health but the message just doesn’t get through. Last month I started a unit of health about substance abuse and had a very frank discussion with the class. I appreciated their honesty but was horrified to find out that almost the whole class had already tried smoking. They are only 10 years old! This isn’t right.

Smoking is a complete waste. I don’t understand it all. It ruins your health, costs money, and annoys people who don’t like being exposed to smoke. It doesn’t seem to have any benefit at all and yet people continue to do it.

I came up with a crazy idea that could stop this insanity. I know it is crazy, but bear with me here.

Let’s issue smoking licences. Anyone who wants to smoke and is over 18 can apply to get a licence. Tobacco retailers would only be allowed to sell cigarettes to people who have a smoking licence. This would weed out all the current smokers who want to continue to have the right to smoke. We would only let people apply for the licence for four years. After that there would be no more licences issued. This would effectively phase out smoking. I know it is a crazy idea but I think it would work.

Smokers could continue to smoke until they die. After a generation, we would have no more smokers. Kids wouldn’t be smoking anymore. Police and teachers could do something about kids smoking because it would now be illegal for them to smoke. I know this probably isn’t realistic at all. But I also know that smoking is a big problem that no one seems to be able to come up with a viable solution for. This is just one of my crazy ideas.

Murder Mystery Night

I’ve found my next writing project, or more like it found me. It is going to be a challenge but I am up for it. I have never been into the murder mystery genre but when my father said he’d been asked to write and host a murder mystery night, I was intrigued. I did not want to write it but I thought it was cool that my dad was writing something now too.

I was in the process of finishing my novel that I had been working on for some time. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write next, which felt very strange to me. I went back and did some rewrites that I was planning to do after finishing the novel.

I knew that I didn’t want to write a murder mystery but it didn’t sound like my dad knew where to start. I thought I’d help him out so I did a little search on the Internet. I found some tips for playing the game, tips for organizing it, and tips for writing it. I was just going to give this information to my dad and let him do it, but I still didn’t know what my next writing project would be. So I sat down and read all the information I had collected. I then started thinking about setting, murder, and motive. I came up with an idea that I thought would work. I called my dad and he loved it.

So I’ve started writing it. Here is how the whole event works. First, twenty people have to sign up to participate. Each person will receive an envelope with clues about their character. They will also be given instructions and scenes to play out during the night. The event will start and then everyone will remain in character. The goal of the game is to figure out who the murderer is and what the motive is.

I have never been to one of these events before or seen how one works. When I did my Internet search I found that there are so many websites that sell pre-made kits and scripts. I didn’t want to buy one of those kits. I think it will be more meaningful to the community if I can tailor it to their interests and geography. I also want it to tell a good story. This should make it easier for the participants to lose themselves in the fiction and just enjoy the night.

I still don’t know exactly what I am doing but I think with the information I have pulled off of the Internet I should be able to write a good murder mystery night game that should entertain the crowd. Wish me luck.

Wrong Profession

Sometimes I think I am in the wrong profession. It’s this time of year when it happens too because this is when we as teachers are asked to order materials for the next school year. It is mind-boggling to see the amount of teaching related material that is out there. It seems like there are millions of products to choose from.

Teachers are the only people I know that spend large amounts of their own money on work related materials. I know that I have bought lots of things after my budget has been exhausted. It seems like the producers of all this fancy educational material know it too. They target us as teachers and tempt us with all sorts of things.

It’s not only that, there are certain things that I feel that I need to purchase to deliver the program that will allow my students to learn. For example, science materials. In order to do experiments, we need to have certain materials. So I hit the dollar stores and spend a few dollars getting the things together that we need to learn a scientific concept. I normally don’t mind doing this but when you start to buy materials for an experiment here and an experiment there, throughout the entire year, it starts to add up.

Teachers also tend to acknowledge each child’s birthday. It has now become a common practice in this profession and the children have come to expect it. So I hit the dollar store again and buy blank note cards so I can give each student a birthday card. I also have a prize bucket full of trinkets where they may choose anything from it as a present. I also use the prize bucket to reward students for positive behaviour, for work well done, and for special achievements. Spending the money doesn’t bother me when I see that these things can really make a child’s day.

Teachers are also expected to take training courses and update their skills. We pay for these courses and the books ourselves. I buy games and toys to have in my class for those times when we have an indoor recess and need to entertain the children. I even buy snacks and juice for celebrations throughout the year.

I don’t think people realize how much teachers care about their profession and their classes. I put my own money into my class because I choose to and because I think it makes a difference. But I know that certain companies are taking advantage of us and making tonnes of money off of generous teachers who just want to make a difference in the classroom. That’s why I think I am in the wrong profession sometimes, just something for you to think about.

Walk of Fame

Celebrating our own is not something we as Canadians like to do. We have so much talent in this country but a lot of it goes unrecognized. We tend to consume American culture and degrade our own. I don’t know why this tends to be the case, but it does.

The 2007 Canadian Walk of Fame Ceremony was broadcast last night and I was tuning in. Katherine O’Hara is a fine actress who has starred in some great comedies. When she accepted her award she thanked the organizers of the event and then said “It all seems so unCanadian.” I know it was a joke, but as a friend once told me, there is a lot of truth in joking.

I think we need to celebrate the talent that we have here in this country. I always watch the Juno Awards to celebrate the best in Canadian music. I go to professional football games all the time and am a huge supporter of the Hamilton Tiger Cats. I buy Canadian CDs, both independent and major label releases.

I know some people that don’t like to acknowledge anything Canadian. They watch the NFL but not the CFL. They only watch American movies and support American artists and musicians. Some of these people would probably be surprised at how many big hitters in Hollywood are actually Canadian.

Some people tend to think that Canadian means “not good.” I cannot fathom where this mind frame comes from. I am glad that this show was aired last night and that the Walk of Fame exists. We have got so much talent here. It is about time that we recognize it and celebrate it.

Failure is an Option

The only way to learn is to make mistakes and not be fearful of them. Mistakes are valuable for what they give us, experience. We build on our experiences and learn. I don’t think you can learn anything without having made a number of mistakes first.

I am finding this a hard entry to write. I have made several “mistakes” already. You hopefully haven’t noticed because I have gone back, changed words, deleted entire paragraphs and written something that is at least intelligible. It reminds me that everyone has failed at writing in their lives. Think back to your childhood, who hasn’t written a “b” or a “d” backwards at least a few dozen times. As kids, we are given lots of encouragement and adults won’t let us give up. Reading and writing are too important they say. We get a million chances to make mistakes and learn in school and at home.

As time goes on, parents and teachers become a little more unforgiving when it comes to mistakes. Why does this happen? Why do we say things like “Failure is not an option,” when it really should be. It makes people afraid to try things because they think they might fail. Failure holds a lot of people back.

I think we need to embrace failures. We need to accept every failure as a learning experience. We need to fail more often, not worry about it, learn from it and move on. Let’s start a failure revolution here. I’ve been collecting tonnes of failures. Is anyone out there with me?

A Great Day!

Yesterday was such a great day! First, I got to return to my class after a couple of days off. I was surprised that I missed it so much. The supply teacher did a good job by the looks of it, but I always hate to leave my class if I don’t have to. We only have a few weeks of school left and I know that last day will be a hard one. They are a great bunch of kids overall and it will be sad to part ways.

Last week, I lent my manuscript of my verse novel After the Fact to a fellow writer and teacher in the school. I was nervous about this work and I hadn’t let anyone read it before her. I was anxiously awaiting some honest feedback and I finally got it. She told me that she loved it and that she couldn’t put it down. She said that she read it all in one sitting. She told me that I “had” to get this published someway. It felt amazing hearing her feedback. Hearing her praise just made me beam today because I knew that she would be honest with me. So I felt great after that.

We had a great day of class and I posted my blog entry after school had been let out. I got some great replies, which I always love to see.

When I got home, a friend of mine shared the news with me that Jericho, the CBS drama that had been cancelled last month, would be coming back in the fall. I couldn’t believe it. I was ecstatic and had to post the news on my blog. That is why I wrote two entries in one day.

It was a great day.

Jericho Lives! – Yes!

I am ecstatic! CBS has officially announced that it will be bringing back Jericho in the mid season next year with a seven episode order. They also have announced that if the viewership increases that they may order more episodes.

This is great news. The Jericho lives campaign was a success. It worked quickly too. There was a petition that was signed by over a hundred-thousand fans. There were thousands and thousands of letters and emails sent.

Fans showed the support for the show in a lot of creative ways. There was also the nuts campaign, in regards to a line in the last episode. In that episode, Jake recounts a story his grandfather told him about General McAuliffe during WWII. The General was asked to surrender to the Germans and he made the one word reply of “Nuts” on the radio. The reply meant that they would not surrender or give up. Fans were encouraged to send actual nuts to CBS and did so by the pound. That was very creative and it seems to have paid off.

So I feel amazing right now. It has been a great day, and then hearing this news has made it even better. I have only ever fought for a television show once before. I was unsuccessful in the fight to save My So-Called Life but I am so happy that my fight to save Jericho actually worked.

It is an amazing show. If you have not seen it, please watch it this summer as CBS promises to rerun the entire 22 episodes. It is am amazing show that kept me on the edge of my seat all season long. Read my other Jericho entries in this blog and please continue to support this show over the summer and next year in mid season. Thanks to all.

Save My Favourite Show

Breath of Fresh Air

When Nas came out with “Hip Hop is Dead” I agreed with him. It seemed like there was no music of any substance being produced anymore. The songs that were hitting on the charts were all empty, soulless songs that did not appeal to me in the least. That’s not to say that quality rap did not exist, it is just to say that the culture was not being properly represented in the mainstream. I think that Nas helped bring hip hop back to its roots. He seems to have kickstarted a revival here that we are finally starting to see the effects of.

I saw some music videos this week that were like a breath of fresh air. The first was the new video by KRS-One and Marley Marl. It celebrates hip hop in a positive way and I am really looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

Here are some other recent video examples;

Marco Polo ft. Masta Ace – Nostalgia
Common – The Game
Bone Thugs and Harmony – I Tried
Talib Kweli – Listen
Ludacris & Mary J. Blige – Runaway Love
Classified ft. Maestro – Hard to be Hip Hop

These songs are real, positive hip hop songs. Hip Hop is alive! I never thought it would die but it was looking pretty ill there for a while. It’s nice to see that hip hop is alive and well.

Peripheralizing Ourselves

The comment posted on Caught One by eastcoastdweller really got me thinking. I stared at the computer screen and totally agreed with his comment. I couldn’t think of anything to reply back to it. On my way home, I thought of a similar comment that I had read in a novel a few years back. Here it is;

We’ve reached a critical mass point where the amount of memory we have externalized in books and databases (to name but a few sources) now exceeds the amount of memory contained within our collective biological bodies. In other words, there’s more memory “out there” than exists inside “all of us.” We’ve peripheralized our essence.

That quote comes from Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. It is a really great read and if you get a chance I recommend it. There are some really interesting observations made throughout the entire novel. This passage is interesting because it implies that we aren’t as smart as we used to be.

Information is king these days. It doesn’t seem to matter if you know anything. You can Google it, you can phone and ask someone, you can find the information out there, somewhere. And if all the information you could possibly need is out there somewhere, then maybe it is not important to know anything. Maybe it is more important to know where to find the answers.

I don’t agree with this method of thinking that seems to have taken over common sense. For instance, do you need to know how to do any mathematical computations if you know how to use a calculator? Kids seem to think so these days. Even when I show them that I can do some computations quicker in my head, they shake theirs at me and then continue to punch the buttons.

So it seems that imagination and creative thinking are going by the wayside. Perhaps Coupland was right. Maybe we are pushing an essential part of ourselves to the side and forgetting about it. We are slowly losing our imagination and critical thinking skills. We depend on other people to imagine for us when we consume the arts (television, movies, music.)

We rely on fancy toys for our kids to play with so they don’t need to think. When I was a kid, the toy cars made no electronic noises but they always drove around our house noisily. I provided the noise, Vroom vroom! We played imaginative games with very little equipment.

It seems to me like critical thinking and imagination are not valued as much as they used to be. I think it is time that we stopped to think about this issue.