Monthly Archives: March 2009

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Tribes

Students need to learn how to work cooperatively, how to treat each other with respect, and how to listen attentively. These are life skills that are absolutely essential to have. Yet these skills are not addressed in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum documents.

As teachers, we are expected to teach a variety of subject areas and ensure that our students have an understanding of the topics specified for their grade. We need to teach math, science, social studies, music, visual arts, dance, drama, reading, writing, grammar, spelling, speaking skills, media skills, health, and physical education. These are the areas that are spelled out in detail for anyone to see.

The rest of the teaching is left up to us as individual teachers. I know that when I first started teaching I dived headlong into the curriculum right away on the first day of school. I assumed that my students could just do what I expected of them if I laid out those expectations on the first day. I gave a lecture of how things would be in this class and then quickly moved on to teaching lessons and giving the students seat work. I knew that I had a lot to cover with them academically and feared that I wouldn’t get through it all unless I cracked the whip, so to speak, and got them working right away.

The problem with this approach was that my students didn’t really know what I expected of them. The stern lecture wasn’t enough. Class would run smooth for a few days, or a week if I was lucky, but that was about it.

I would get upset and yell at my class because I thought they should know how to be good students. After all, I taught Grade 4 and the students had been in school for five years or more already. They should know to be good students, right?

Not exactly.

Fortunately, there is a curriculum that we can follow to teach these essential skills. It is called Tribes. They offer training for teachers and schools, but all you really need to get is this excellent book. Reaching All by Creating Tribes Learning Communities by Jeanne Gibbs. This is the most current and updated version of this book that I mentioned last week.

Here is a brief explanation from their website.

Tribes is a step-by-step process to achieve specific learning goals. Four agreements are honored:
– attentive listening
– appreciation/no put downs
– mutual respect, and
– the right to pass.

Students learn a set of collaborative skills so they can work well together in long-term groups (tribes). The focus is on how to:
– help each other work on tasks
– set goals and solve problems
– monitor and assess progress
– celebrate achievements.

I really like this program. I haven’t had the formal training that they offer but I have utilized this excellent book in shaping my classroom environment.

I realize now that I am going to need another post to share with you the excellent ideas in this book and how I have used them to build an atmosphere in my classroom that is based on respect and cooperation. I adapted the ideas from this program and melded them into my experiences as a Boy Scout to create a program that really works for me and feels natural. The students really seem to respond to it as well. I will share with you the details of how I do this in the next Teaching Tip Tuesday post. See you next week!

Lend Your Support

I was planning on writing a post this week about the possible demise of Canadian television. Several stations have already cut back on programming. Morning shows have been disappeared and some Canadian community channels have already shut their doors.

I think we need to have local broadcasters and television stations. The problem is that some people don’t really consider this to be a priority. There are so many other stations that we might not even notice or care if we lose all our Canadian ones.

We should care. We are slowly losing our unique voice. We have some amazing local television programs that I would hate to see disappear. I also like to watch a local news show in the morning. I think we need these channels and the CBC in particular.

When I opened my email this morning, I found a link to an online petition and some more information about this subject. I knew I had to share it with you. I know that many of you might not care about Canadian programming but we all should care about local programming. So if you can, please read on and lend your support.



I just signed an urgent petition to save the CBC from massive budget cuts. The email is below, here’s the link to sign the petition:

Here’s the original Email from Avaaz:

Dear friends,

Canada’s media networks have all been slammed by the recession. But the government is reportedly considering bailouts for its friends at private companies CTV and CanWest, while forcing the CBC to drastically cut 800 staff and programming.

Our CBC is a national treasure, and a pillar of public-interest journalism in a country whose media is owned by a few large firms. We won’t hear an outcry from their media outlets, and the CBC is too principled to use its megaphone to make the case for itself. We are the only voice the CBC has.

We urgently need a massive public outcry to Save the CBC, click below to sign the petition and forward this email to everyone who might care about this:

The petition will be delivered directly to the government, through Parliament, ads, and stunts such as an airplane pulling a giant Save the CBC banner over Ottawa. In each case the number of signatures on the petition will be crucial to the effectiveness of the campaign, so let’s get as many people as possible to sign.

The CBC is facing a budget shortfall that amounts to just $6 per Canadian, but its request to the government for a bridging loan to cover this was denied. The deep cuts the CBC is making will damage the organization across the board, and they will not be the last. If we don’t stand up for the CBC now, it stands to die a death by a thousand cuts. Harper’s minority government is politically vulnerable – public outrage could turn the government around on this, but it has to happen now. Let’s move quickly.

With hope,

Ricken, Lisa-Marie, Laryn and the whole Avaaz Canada team.

PS – here are some links for more info on this:

An excellent web resource for information and action on the CBC, including the government’s consideration of bailouts of CanWest and other companies:

The Star reports on how opposition parties accuse Harper of using the recession as an excuse to gut the CBC:

Union says Harper government strangling CBC:

Ian Morrison: Stephen Harper’s hidden agenda for the CBC:

A crisis of identity – A reader letter to the Globe and Mail:

Year Three of My Five-Year Mission

My five-year mission was simply to write as much as possible with the goal of being published within five years. I started this blog two years ago today with that goal in mind. It seemed achievable and I have been working towards that end since then.

This was my first-year update at the start of year-two.

This past year, I finished writing another novel. I revised and rewrote sections of my young adult novel as well. I believe that it is nearly ready to be shopped around to publishers. I really like how this story turned out.

I wrote my first short story this year. You can read it for free here.

So far I have written a screenplay, a verse novel, a young adult novel, a literary novel, a short story, and 504 blog entries. That’s a pretty good haul for two years.

I also joined the airwaves this past year and became part of the production team for Dope FM, a hip hop mix show on 93.3 CFMU here in Hamilton. The show is available as a podcast each and every week.

I have interviewed artists and really enjoyed my role as an on-air personality. This year, I will be launching a new monthly segment for the show on the history of hip-hop. I am really excited about this project.

It should be another stellar year here at Silent Cacophony. Thanks for coming along with me on this mission. I really love having this outlet and I appreciate you reading my words, commenting on posts, and following me on Twitter.

Happy Blog Birthday Silent Cacophony!

Here’s to a great Year 3!

The Internet Should Be Free

I have noticed that some places of business offer free wireless Internet. I think this is a great idea. The Internet should be free. Can’t we take this a step further?

I know that some municipalities offer free wireless Internet in the downtown core. It makes sense to do this. Downtown business areas are the heart and soul of any community. At least they used to be. I know a lot of people who never venture downtown anymore. They tell me that it is more convenient to go to the mall or shop online. They tell me that they don’t feel comfortable downtown. I don’t think free Internet is going to attract more visitors to the downtown core. Who needs to surf the web when they shop anyway?

Perhaps offering free Internet citywide would be more of an incentive to businesses that might consider setting up shop in our city. It might help attract residents to our city as well and give them something to rave about other than our downtown that they probably won’t utilize.

I support downtown businesses. I’m not trying to take anything away from them or from the people who reside in the core. All I know is that it is unfair that they get special treatment. Why are they the only ones to get free wifi?

I think the Internet is to this generation what the library and downtown core was to the previous. Times are changing. People shop and get their information in different ways now. The Internet has changed everything. It is time we embrace it and use it more productively in our city.

I Joined the Dark Side

I haven’t owned a fully functioning computer in years. When I started this blog I did all my writing on an old and outdated laptop. It wasn’t powerfully enough to do much of anything on it besides word processing but that was fine with me. I wrote all my blog posts offline and saved them to a thumb drive. I posted all my entries from the school or the public library and it was a system that worked well for me.

This summer I was lucky enough to come into possession of a laptop. I really enjoyed having the Internet available to me whenever I needed it. The laptop was just a loaner until I could get my own desktop. Well, I finally got one.

My uncle got a brand new computer and gave me his old iMac. It isn’t old and outdated at all. My uncle likes to keep up with new technology and I just happened to benefit from his upgrading. So while this computer may be old to him, it is new to me.

I never wanted to own a Mac. I know my way around a PC with ease. I have to learn how to use this new system, which isn’t a problem in itself. It has some neat features and programs that I am sure I will enjoy. But there are some things I don’t like about it.

I don’t like the mouse. It only has one button. I’m used to right-clicking to do some tasks. I also miss the scrolling wheel that I had on the PC. I used that a lot when going through blog posts on my reader or editing word documents.

I shouldn’t nitpick here. Beggars can’t be choosers. I also don’t want to sound negative. I appreciate this gift of a fully functioning computer, and I am having fun with it.

I don’t agree with a lot of Apple’s practices though. I’ve written about it here a few times over the years.


I Hate iTunes

I Joined the Digital Age

That’s why it feels as if I’ve joined the dark side. Even worse, I kind of want one of those 80 GB iPods that my girlfriend has now. It would work great with my computer.

Arghhh. I have joined the dark side.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Character Education

A huge part of teaching lies outside of the curriculum. Teachers cannot simply teach the basics; math, science, social studies, English, etc. We need to teach the students how to work together cooperatively, how to follow routines and procedures, and how to strive for their best.

Character education has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. I think people want to make sure that values are still taught. It seems that they have eroded over time. I think this may have to do with the pace and nature of society these days. I know that when I was younger I went to church and learned some of those important life lessons there. I also went with my grandma and it was a family affair.

I don’t want to focus on the erosion of value here. That could be a negative post. Teaching Tip Tuesdays is about helping other teachers and being positive. That being said, I think it is important for teachers to model good behaviour. We also should take it a step further and teach these valuable social skills. To that end, let me share with you some excellent resources on Character Education.

Growing Character by Deb Austin Brown

I can’t say enough about this book. Brown’s strategies are amazing, and the tips are invaluable to any teacher. One of the best parts of this book is that it has over 400 inspiration quotations at the back of it. It also has weekly homework sheets that help students learn social skills. I have implemented many of the ideas from this book into my daily teaching. Get this book, read it, devour it. I highly recommend it.

TRIBES: A New Way of Leaning and Being Together by Jeanne Gibbs

Another great book for instilling a sense of community. It is chopped full of activities, of theory, and easy to follow lessons. I will write in more detail about this program next week.

I hope you will find these resources as useful as I have. If you need any help with your classroom or have any questions, comments, or suggestions please reply with a comment or send me an email. I’d be glad to hear from you.

Go to Tip 8 – Tribes

Hamilton – The New Hot Spot

The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos is a great program. I like to watch this show whenever I can, but some nights I just can’t stay up that late to watch it. Fortunately they have a really good website where they archive entire shows and popular segments.

I was looking forward to March 18th’s show because Being Erica’s Erin Karpluk was going to be on. I really like that show so I was looking forward to the interview.

The Hour is always a great show to watch. I can watch the entire show regardless of the guests. And that’s what I did last night. I was surprised to see that Hamilton got some major big ups. I transcribed it for prosperity here. You can catch the video at this link if you want to see this entire segment with Don Campbell.

George: “Give me the top 5 regions that are good areas to buy (a house) in.”

Don Campbell: “We’re talking 5 to 7 years,. . .You wanna be seriously looking at Hamilton.”

George: “Hamilton, Ontario?”

Don Campbell: “Absolutely.”

George: “Steel plants closing, manufacturing town, people talking about the death of manufacturing industry in this country, why Hamilton?”

Don Campbell: “Hamilton’s got the Go-train that’s servicing it. It’s getting much more expensive to buy in Toronto so people are coming down to Hamilton. You’ve got the transition that’s going on down there, the city leadership is fantastic in the region, and it’s close to KWC, it’s close to Toronto, close in relative terms.”

George: “KWC is Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge?”

Don Campbell: “Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, sorry. Yup, I betcha it’s gonna be one of the top 3 in all of Ontario.”

George: “The entire city of Hamilton loves you.”

Don Campbell: “Yup, I just tell the facts.”

Larissa Rocks!

This is what I wrote last year on March 28th,

“I don’t remember the last time I was so excited for someone to win a game show. But I must admit that for the past six episodes I have been sitting on the edge of my seat and cheering. And all of this for a contestant on Jeopardy.”

That contestant was Larissa Kelly.

I watched and cheered as she won six matches in a row. She seemed unstoppable. I blogged about her on the day of her seventh appearance on the show. Unfortunately her reign as Jeopardy Champion ended that day. For a while I thought I jinxed her by posting up my entry that day. I sure hope I didn’t.

When all was said and done she won a total of $222,597. It was an impressive performance. Read about it in more detail here. It was sad to see her go but I knew she’d be back for the Tournament of Champions.

Last night marked her return to the show. I once again sat on the edge of my seat and cheered her on. She started out strong and quickly pulled ahead of her two competitors. It looked like she might run away with the game but then Dave Simpson went for a true daily double and got it.

Larissa managed to stay ahead of him but at Final Jeopardy it could have been anyone’s game. I sat in suspense as Dave got the final question correct. It was then all on Larissa. She looked confident. It wasn’t an act. She won with a total of $30,000. And best of all she will be back next week for the final round of the Tournament of Champions.


Running Season Starts

I love this time of year. The snow has melted and winter has retreated. The air is crisp and cool, yet quite inviting.

In fact, so far the weather has been amazing for March Break. The temperatures have been well above seasonal. It’s been really nice. It has actually beckoned to me and my running shoes. They had been hiding under my couch since November, patiently waiting for the good weather to return and running season to begin.

Saturday their patience finally paid off. Running season officially began for me.

The first run of the year is always the toughest, especially after a long winter break. I know this from past experience. That’s why I make sure to do an extensive stretch before setting out the first time. I keep a comfortable pace and only go for a short distance.

I normally like to run anywhere from 5 to 10 kilometers. When I am back in shape, it takes me about four minutes to run one km. My runs take me anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes on average.

Here are some tips for those of you starting a running routine or just getting back into it after some time off.

Get Good Shoes – Shoes really make the difference. Keep a pair of shows strictly for running and replace them every season or every 500 kilometers.

Start off Slow – Find a pace that is comfortable. You should be able to talk and not be short of breath. Keep that pace for the entire run and try not to stop and walk.

Keep it Short – If you want to run five or ten kilometers, start off trying a lot shorter of a distance. Run that shorter distance for at least a week before trying anything longer.

Make it a Routine – Run 3 or 4 times a week every week. Some days you may not feel like running and that is fine but if you take two days off, you cannot take a third. Get out there and run even if you don’t feel like it. Once you get started it will be fine and you’ll be getting back into the groove of things and running will become so much easier.

Read or Ask – I’m not an expert. I run because I enjoy it. If you are serious about running and want to know more you can find lots of professional advice online or at your local running store.

Have Fun – Do it for fun.

Well that’s it. Here’s to the start of a great running season! Hopefully I will see you on the trails or at a race.

If You Don’t Look, You Find

This is what I wrote here a few weeks ago on February 4th.

“I’m ready to move on. It’s been a long time since my heart was broken. But I don’t want to go looking for my true soul mate. I figure that if it is meant to be, we will find each other. Maybe that is naive of me.”

Now, I don’t know if I believe in the law of attraction. I believe that things happen for a reason and that overall things happen to work out. That being said, I did put the thought out there that I was ready to move on. I didn’t actively join the dating scene. I just kept up my usual routines and a special someone just happened to walk into my life a short while later later.

One of my favourite quotations from my commonplace book is the one I used for the title of this post today. It really speaks to me on a variety of levels. I think that things have a way of working out. You can check out my original commentary on this quote over at Thoughtful Cacophony.

I guess I always knew that this quote could be about love too. I just didn’t expect it to happen to me.

I don’t think either of us were looking for a relationship at this time. It just happened. And maybe that is how it supposed to happen.

I know that it is very early on in this relationship but I feel really good about it.

Don’t Play With Your Food Unless Your Teacher Tells You To

Last week I had the students work in groups to create a bridge that could span a gap at least 25 centimeters long. They had three days to work on the project and I gave them a lot of time to do so with these materials.

Yup, that is spaghetti. The only other materials they were allowed to use were tape, glue, and a cardboard base.

Apparently there are contests all over the continent where students compete to win prizes based on the stability and structure of their bridges. Most contests allow the builders to only use a certain amount of spaghetti and either hot glue or epoxy.

I started off the class assignment by giving each group one package of spaghetti, one role of tape, and a bottle of white school glue. I told them that they could have a second package of spaghetti if they needed it. The goal was to create a strong bridge that could hold some weight. At the end of the week, we would test them all out to see which group had the strongest bridge.

It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures.

These students decided to use the base as a support for their beams. Good idea!

Great team work here!

The students learned that triangles are a strong shape and a few groups applied that to their models.

This group is just about done. The model is almost ready for testing.

It just needed painting. Well, it didn’t, but this group really got into their work so when they asked for the paint, I was all for it.


All three of these held a lot of weight.  After we tested each bridge with weights and they held up, I placed a stack of five math textbooks on top of each one.  

The blue one fell over but the other two held them.  
I think the kids were just as amazed as I was.  
They did a great job.  
It was a good time of year to do this project as well. Students tend to get a bit wiry around this time of year. They all look forward to March Break and sometimes get a little carried away. This project kept them motivated for a week and it is something that I will definitely need to do again in the future.  
That being said. It is March Break. I need a break just as much as the students do. That is why there will be no Teaching Tip Tuesday entry tomorrow. I plan on using tomorrow to write and just enjoy my day.    

Animal Farm Interview Part 3

This is Part 3 of the interview I did with the phenomenal rap group, Animal Farm. Check out part 1 and part 2. Don’t forget to download the entire interview on the Dope FM podcast page. We always bring you the best of the underground, great interviews, and lots of new music. And best of all, it’s free.

We had a lot of fun on the radio and I hope you enjoy the podcast and this transcript. Without further ado, here’s part 3 of the interview.

Chase: “There’s a lot of sample based production on this album. Can I ask you about like, Gen.Erik are you a big crate digger? Where do you get your inspiration from?”

Gen.Erik: “Yeah, I got crates and crates of records. I get a lot of inspiration from soul music, jazz, a little but of old rock, but pretty much it’s vinyl. We sample vinyl and that’s where we get it from.”

“We also gotta give big ups, props out to DJ Sect, my man Mraxai coming out of Sardinia. He produced like three tracks on the album as well.”

“Sec did Last Call. DJ Sect.”

“He also produced Serge Severe’s album. We gotta get you a copy of that. Concrete Techniques. It’s Dope.”

Chase: “Definitely, alright. Ya know, we went to Youtube and were listening to Ragtime Gal on there. And I don’t know how people just throw things on there, and I don’t know if you’re cool with this, so I wanted to ask you because there’s a picture there and it says ‘download this track now.’ How do you guys feel about downloading?”

Animal Farm: “Ah, ya know, it’s kind of a double-edged sword because in the independent music industry, distribution is pretty hard to come by sometimes. And that means that a lot more people are listening to your music and spreading it around. But at the same time, it means the artist isn’t getting any dough. Ya know, it’s kind of the eternal struggle with that.”

“We’re still getting our name out. So, to me, it doesn’t bother me too much. Ya know, it’s a matter of, do we want people to hear this or don’t we? And I think the answer is pretty easy in that sense. You gotta get it out there so people can start to know who you are and at that point then I’ll probably turn around and sue Napster or something.”

“You gotta kind of fly with the times because it is going to happen regardless of whether you want it to happen or not. So the best tactic is to turn it into a weapon that you can use for yourself and advancing whatever it is you are trying to do, ya know what I mean? Instead of trying to fight it and getting our stuff off of different websites and stuff like that, ya know?”

Chase: “Yeah, that makes sense. One thing that always kills me is that you see these sites or these blogs and they’re putting up all this free hip hop that you can download, all the time, and yet they say support the artists. So I think the best way to do that is that if people are copping stuff and not giving any love to the artist, then what they need to do is make sure that when the artist comes through, that they’re at that show.”

Animal Farm: “Exactly, exactly!”

Chase: “Because that’s where, you probably make more money in your shows than you probably do off the records anyway, right?”

Animal Farm: “Yeah, pretty much. I mean, like you said, that’s where it comes full circle. If someone’s gonna go download our stuff, ya know, cool, whatever, they like it, word of mouth gets spread out, and they come to the shows. That’s really where the big pay off is.”

“Yeah, in today’s age people are quick to download your stuff for free. It’s like when you make a personal connection with them at a live show, you feel like they’ve got something invested in you. That’s when you’re more likely to sell some stuff hand to hand and then they tell their friends. Ya know, that’s kind of how we approach it.”

Chase: “We’ve been playing your music for some time on the station now and we’re getting a pretty good response for it. And we only play what we like. So we’re fans, man, big time. So it’s kind of an honour to have you on the show.”

Animal Farm: “Thank you. Much respect.”

Chase: “So we’ve talked about the throwbacks. We’ve talked about nostalgia. We talked about how you use sample-based production.”

I didn’t do it here on the show or the podcast but I’d like to play “Move It” now before we talk a bit about one of the lyrics from it. So here it is, enjoy!

Chase: “That was ‘Move It’ from the album ‘The Unknown’ by Animal Farm. I like the line where you say ‘give rap a face life back to its true roots.’ So, how ya gonna give rap a face lift?”

Animal Farm: “We give it a face lift back to when it meant something. Ya know, knock of some years past all this plastic crap that’s going on now, ya know what I’m saying? Ya know when I say back to its roots, that’s what I’m saying. Back to when people were trying to mean something with their lyrics. Nowadays you turn on most radio stations, somebody has a speech impediment sounding like mush mouth stuff with some garbage rhymes, ya know? We’re just trying to throw some heat.”

Chase: “Definitely. Ya know, I’m always battling the perception because I’m an elementary school teacher and I try to bring rap into the classroom and parents are always like, ‘Oh rap is crap. That sucks! You can’t be doing that.’ But if ya dig for it, ya know? and ya get a little bit deeper, that’s what’s needed. The hip hop that I’ve actually introduced my students to is stuff like they’ve never even heard of before. Ya know, like Blue Scholars and Animal Farm. Things like that. I mean, I tell them, they come in with their Ipod, I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to anything you got on there man. Sorry but. The kids, they almost don’t know.”

Animal Farm: “It’s just a matter of changing this industry so that there’s some marketing dollars behind acts that actually put some thought into their lyrics. I think that right now, the people running the industry don’t really have a clue of what’s going on and they feel like if they copy what’s working right now, what’s selling millions of albums, that they can keep doing that over and over. But if they’re willing to put that same kind of money into thoughtful artists, I mean, you could tell by artists like Common who’ve actually been successful at putting out quality music. And if they did that, there’s a lot of artists out there that I think could shine and sell a lot of records.”

Gamma Krush: “Yeah, no doubt. I think that’s kind of the problem with the music. Cause you guys mention the whole cookie cutter thing. I mean you go to the local towns and everything, the places where they’re not as big as hip hop but they got hip hop acts. They’ll be like, ‘Yo I wanna blow up like this dude’ and then they’ll copy them. And it’ll sound wacker and wacker. And I also try to tell people, it’s way more beyond BET and MTV. Not only do I inform people about Dope Fm but I let them know about other underground and alternative hip hop shows as well. I mean hip hop’s a lot more that than. That’s what Chase is trying to let these kids know. I mean the whole Don Imus thing. Hip hop took a lot of heat for that two years ago.”

Animal Farm: “I don’t know why hip hop would take heat for Don Imus but I think we get blamed for a lot of ills in society and they automatically say-“

Chase: (mocking) “That hip hop’s garbage, I tell ya.”

Animal Farm: “You see it on TV everyday. It’s like they need a scapegoat and considering hip hop comes from the street, it’s easy to point your finger at it. And just blame it.”

Chase: “Yup, but that’s too easy man. I mean, it’s music and it’s actually about making something from nothing. And the history that this beautiful art form’s come from and how you can actually come from nothing. Ya don’t even have to have a beat, ya don’t have to have gear, ya don’t have to have money, ya just have to have some skill. And ya gotta practise at it and do it and be true to yourself. That’s the best thing because so many pop acts and rock acts aren’t true to themselves and they end up in all this tabloid garbage nonsense.”

Animal Farm: “I think Chris Rock did a really good job in the movie CB4 when they try to get their gimmick.”

“The bagheads, the bagheads.”

“It’s kind of what I see and hear on the radio and whatever like commercials. It’s kind of like the same kind of mocking and mimicking of ignorant and dumb popular culture and trying to make a buck out of it.”

“Yup, that’s why we’re gonna start a new group called the bagheads.”

Chase: “One thing I wanted to ask you is how you go about writing your stuff?”

Animal Farm: “We get together and talk about concepts and stuff. We like to joke around obviously, a lot.”

Chase: “I didn’t notice.”

Well actually I did. You really gotta listen to this and not just read it. These guys were jokes through entire interview. That’s one of the reason I had so much fun doing this. It doesn’t exactly translate to the text on this blog entry though so go listen to it if you get the chance.

Animal Farm: “One good thing about joking around is that it keeps you on your toes. So when writing together, when one of us is saying, ‘Oh, you flip it like this, while I can flip it like that’ and we can come up with something fresh and new and dope.”

Chase: “That’s cool because I remember back in the day hip hop was about being dark and serious. And we can just see even from this interview how much fun you guys are having with it and it’s kind of contagious. I’m telling you just talking to you guys, I want to see you live. So you gotta come up to Hamilton or Southern Ontario sometime man. Toronto area,”

Animal Farm: “Let’s make it work.”

Chase: “Yeah, let’s make that happen. Definitely cause that would be good to see. First exposure to hip hop or first tape bought?”

Animal Farm: “I gotta give big ups to my big brother on that one, Nightclubberlang, representing Boom Bap Project, Rhymesayers. He kind of brought me into this whole hip hop thing. One of the earlier albums Rodney O, Joe Cooley, LA Dream Team.’

Gamma Krush: “Oh, no doubt. All the pioneer west coast cats.”

Animal Farm: “I used to live right across from this wall. This legal wall where kids would come up and piece all the time. Like ‘87 and ’88. And around the same time, some kids I was hanging out with had the new NWA tape. And I remember they made me a dub copy of Gangsta Gangsta. And from there to Ice-T and then my cousin started sending me these mix tapes. And I started writing on things that were mine. It was tonnes of fun.

“It was kind of a funky dynamic back then too. Especially we you start getting into early 90’s. It’s like I’d have in my tape case, Low End Theory and Bell Biv DeVoe, little but of Hammer.”

“My folks used to have discothèque dance parties and my cousins, a bunch of Filipino kids would start breakdancing. I tied it and realized that I was no good at that so I kind of picked up a mic and took it from there. Back then my idols were like Grand Master Flash, Run-DMC, LL, ya know all kinds of old school stuff like that and it’s always stayed in the mix.”

Chase: “Run-DMC I think is the best group ever. I love those guys. Alright, well I think we’re about ready to wrap this up. It’s been awesome having you guys on.”

Animal Farm: “Yeah, yeah, it’s been a pleasure man. Thank you guys. We’ll have to come crash on your couch sometime.”

Gamma Krush: “Oh, no doubt. I just built a new guest room too, so…”

Animal Farm: “Dope!”

Gamma Krush: “So what can we be expecting later this year?”

Animal Farm: “We’re expecting to put out the new album near the end of the year. You can pick up our album, it’s pretty much all over on the web right now.”

Gamma Krush: “Yeah, go cop that Animal Farm ‘The Unknown’ album. Once again this is Dope FM. 93.3 CFMU. Ya’ll keep it locked and Chase, what you got to say?”

Chase: “Yo, this is Chase March. The podcast and the transcript is going to be up on my blog. I just wanna say “Peace” and end this interview with the song ‘Peace,’ featuring Krs-One. This is Animal Farm, thanks a lot guys this has been awesome.

Download the podcast for free or stream it with the player below.
Music Playlist at

Animal Farm Interview Part 2

This is Part 2 of the interview I did with Portland Oregon’s rap group Animal Farm.

Read Part 1 and don’t forget to download the entire interview. We had a lot of fun on the radio and you can hear it all with the player below.

Chase: “Alright, we’re back. That was Animal Farm off their album The Unknown. “We Came to Rock.” Nice, nice track. Who did the production on that?”

Animal Farm: “This dude Gen.Erik. He does about ninety percent of the production on the album actually. He’s also an emcee in the group.”

Gen.Erik: “That’s me!”

Chase: “Is that Gen for like General? Are you the general in charge of things?”

Animal Farm: “It’s for genitals, actually”


Chase: “I don’t want to go there.”


Animal Farm: “We’ve been trying to figure out what the gen meant for a while.”

Gen.Erik: “It’s just generic. That’s all it is. Thanks for putting me on blast man.”

Chase: “So looking at your myspace page, there was a video there. Somebody said that Animal Farm was like two separate crews coming together.”

Animal Farm: “Yeah, it was.”

Chase: “So you guys were rhyming separately for a while. How’d ya come together?”

Animal Farm: “There were two crews up here for a while. One was called Money Shot and they were pretty cool. And there was this one called Sound Proof which was really tight. Nah, nah, we were all just doing the same shows, getting booked on the same bill, and we just decided, let’s just hook up. Like a conglomerate of rappers and see if we could just kill things.”

“We were all homies. We were rocking together for years and we ended up doing a lot of sets where we would trade off together. We knew each other’s material and were backing each other. It was kind of a natural thing that we just came together to merge to form Devastator.”

“It’s funny ‘cause we get asked this question a lot. I didn’t really think about it, but when me and Kwils used to be in Money Shot, we’d actually have girls dancing on stage in bikinis and making out with each other. It’s kind of like, the whole formula’s changed a little bit when we added Sound Proof.”

“And plus, like, actually Gen.Erik, he was an emcee and producer in Money Shot. He was actually the DJ for Sound Proof too, which was me and Hanif. So, it was already there. We were kind of working together, ya know?”

“We don’t really have girls dancing anymore, ‘cause girls don’t like us anymore.”

“I got my tooth knocked out and they don’t think I’m as sexy they used to. My stock got knocked down, ya know what I mean.”

Chase: “Crazy, crazy! So what are you guys bumping right now? What’s in your rides when your going around town, or what’s in your Ipods or MP3 players right now?”

Animal Farm: “Yeah, I’m feeling that Zion-I Takeover album, that’s it. That’s ridiculous hot.”

“I’m bumping Mos Def. Ya know how he was on the remix to The BushBabees, what is it, The Love Song? With De La and Mos Def.”

I didn’t play that track during the show but I’d like to drop it now. So here it is,

Chase: “Yeah, the Bush Babees, props man.”

Animal Farm: “We’re just bumping down here, Serge Severe. Big Up’s to Surge from Focused Noise and DJ Wels.”

“And we’re bumping the Haters that Hate Me, probably the best (laughs) CD I’ve ever heard (still laughing). No, I’m just playing. Really, don’t listen to that. It was pretty awful.”

“I’m not trying to call these guys out but we get a lot of CDs handed to us when we’re on the road. You should hear some of the stuff that comes out. It’s crazy, like it’s just not put together. People need to think about it before they get into this business.”

Chase: “Yeah, definitely.”

Animal Farm: “We’d really like to thank everybody who hands us a CD ‘cause sometimes they make good Frisbees.”

“Yo, on the real though. I do give those guys props, cause ya gotta get out there somehow, Like I remember back in the day Kwils was trying to pawn me off on his demo tape. Like it was four tracks on it. It wasn’t a good Frisbee but it worked as a good football.”

Chase: “That’s how Gamma Krush and I got together from a tape man. So sometimes, like good things happen from tapes. But ya gotta make sure your sharp with it right? Like don’t be handing out tapes that you only spent two seconds on. Put the effort in, right?”

Animal Farm: “Yeah ‘cause we love this man. We put a lot into it. And when we hear something that sounds like someone didn’t really put much into it, it’s just kind of like, ‘Come on, man.’”

Chase: “I think ya can tell when the heart’s there. When ya got a group that’s like real, it’s something that you can just feel. Like you know it. And Animal Farm’s definitely got that, for sure.”

Animal Farm: “Thank you.”

Chase: “Are you guys familiar with any Canadian hip-hop?”

Animal Farm: “Yup, Swollen Members. We’ve been bringing folks down since the mid 90s pretty much.

“For Canadian tours cats like Moka Only, Swollen Members, Sweatshop Union.”

Chase: “Sweatshop Union, yes! We just had them on the show recently.”

Animal Farm: “Kardinal Offishal. I recently heard that dude Shad.”

Chase: “Yeah, Shad is wicked.”

Animal Farm; “He’s ill.”

Gamma Krush: “Yeah I saw him at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. He put on a crazy show, crazy freestyle, dud plays like the acoustic guitar and everything.”

Animal Farm: “Oh really, He was dope. That Fresh Prince take off video he did was ill.”

Chase March: “Let’s drop that right now. This is ‘The Old Prince Still Lives at Home’ by Shad off his album ‘The Old Prince'”

Gamma Krush: “A lot of people are going off that Drake’s the best emcee out of Canada right now but yeah, Shad’s really killing it. No disrespect to Drake, I mean, he’s ill and I like his acting and all. I watch Degrassi: The Next Generation. But speaking of like, performances, when are y’all gonna come through to Ontario?”

Animal Farm: “We’re just waiting for that phone call, ya know with the big guarantees.”

“Yeah, we definitely would love to come up as soon as possible really. We’re trying to make some things happen for this next summer. Get some more dates around the country. Ya know, we gotta conquer these 50 first, but we’re definitely looking to come up there as soon as possible. As soon as my man Fury is legal and stuff like that, and he’s allowed back into Canada.”

“Yeah, we’ll e coming through your neighbourhood for beer tickets and gas money real soon.”

Chase: “Yup, that’s what we’re known for. Anyway, what’s one of your, ah let me just pick a guy – Fury, what’s one of your favourite songs off the album”

Fury: “The Show Must Go On. I like the beat a lot. Gen.Erik was on that for sure. I just like that song specifically because you can take about every line in that and relate it to some show that we’ve done and been through before. That’s why I like it the best. It’s one of my favourites anyways.”

Chase March: “Let’s play that right now. Here is ‘The Show Must Go On’ by Animal Farm.”

That was Part 2 of the Animal Farm interview we did for Dope FM. Stay tuned here for Part 3 tomorrow of the text version and please download the podcast of the radio show. It’s free. What do you have to lose?
Music Playlist at

Animal Farm Interview Part 1

Last week, I had the honour of interviewing Portland Oregon’s rap group Animal Farm. I have transcribed the interview for my blog but you can download the podcast for free or stream it with the player below. We had a lot of fun on the radio and I hope you will check it out.

All four members of Animal Farm were on our phone lines. I haven’t always identified the voices here in this transcript. It was an intense thing just putting this all together in text form. Perhaps, I will go back and clear it all up in the future. For now, just enjoy the interview. I know I sure did.

Gamma Krush: “Yo! What’s going on everybody? This is Gamma Krush, aka L. La R and right beside me is my man Chase March. And who do we got up on our phone lines today?”

“What’s up I’m Hanif. Animal Farm, Focused Noise. What up!”

“Kwils Rock from Animal Farm, Focused Noise.”

“Gen.Erik Animal Farm, still waiting on Fury, he’ll be here at some point.”

Kwils: “We sent him on a sandwich run he probably should be here pretty soon.”

Chase: “Alright sounds good, this is Chase March. We’ve been enjoying The Unknown, fabulous album. Definitely mad props for that. Just wanted to start off with the name. Did that come from the George Orwell novel?”

Animal Farm: “There’s a novel?


“Never heard of it.”

“That was your idea.”

Chase: “Well I was just wondering because the novel was an allegory where animals overthrow the human owners of a farm. And I thought when I first heard your name maybe you were taking it as a metaphor on how you’re overthrowing the recording industry to do your own thing.”

Gen.Erik: “Yeah, ya know, there’s a socialist worker bee kind of message there for sure.

“Yeah, I guess you pretty much hit it on the head. We’re trying to stand out in an industry that’s become pretty cookie cutter. And there’s definitely a formula there that you hear on the radio. We’re trying to do something different.

Chase: “Yeah, you have your own formula though ‘cause it almost sounds like the album is a concept album. ‘Cause all the way through it, it’s very nostalgic. There’s lots of throwback references, even your samples, ragtime kind of sounds and blues, and your references. I guess that’s deliberate on your parts, eh?”

Animal Farm: “Yeah, definitely. I mean we all come from pretty diverse backgrounds, especially musically, ya know, from what we grew up on and what our parents will play for us and stuff like that. We all kind of wanted to bring our own thing to the table and make some fresh new hip hop out of it.”

“People call what we do ‘true school hip hop’ just because we’re trying to bring it back to that old skills hip hop. You know, the golden era like the 90s stuff where everybody was really putting it in trying to push the envelope on music. So we are just trying to keep it true to the art form.”

“Yeah, I mean I don’t know if it was a concept album per se. I just think that it’s kind of our influences. But we are trying to take what we grew up with and love and move forward with it. We’re not trying to go back to the nineties or anything.”

Chase: “Yeah definitely. I just pick up the nostalgic vibe all the way through it. It’s kind of interesting all the Roaring Twenties kind of slang and references you put in “Ragtime Gal” like make whoopee and jig, and chick, and ragamuffin, and all these outdated terms but you make it sound fresh. Maybe it’s just the delivery but it has that old school vibe but still like current relevant hip hop, which is nice.

Gamma Krush: “Wait, hold on, hold on! Ragamuffin, I thought that was Jamaican, though, man, Come on now, that’s twenties?

Animal Farm: “Yo, yo! That song was actually a lot of fun. It was one of the funniest songs for us to write. We did do a little bit of research on slang from back in the day and stuff. Ya know really, it’s kind of like this eh? (draws out his voice in imitation)

Chase: “Yeah, the vibe of it is really, really cool. So I think we need to drop that right now for our listeners and play that song. So this is Ragtime Gal by Animal Farm off the album, The Unknown.”

Chase: “Okay that was Ragtime Gal by Animal Farm from the album The Unknown. We’ve been spinning them on Dope FM for a while now. So you guys have to be familiar. If you’re not, well I think there not unknown anymore ‘cause people are hearing ya, especially up here in Canada.

“I hope so. We appreciate your support too. Thanks for playing Animal Farm.”

Animal Farm: “We got another member that just came into the room. Say what’s up?”

Fury: “Yo what’s up, I’m the extra member. They call me backup talent most of the time but-”

“Sandwich guy.”

Fury: “I don’t really listen to these guys. Yeah, but my name’s F1, Animal Farm. Definitely stoked you guys are interviewing us. I hope it’s been good so far. I hope these guys didn’t really treat you bad like they usually do.”

Chase: “No, it’s been all good. So, the title The Unknown seems like a misnomer because you’ve got some known artists in your corner, and you can see that on your myspace page. But just the fact that you got KRS-1 spitting with you guys on Peace, which is a really nice track. How did that come about?

Animal Farm: “Well, throughout the years, when he’s come up here to the Northwest, we’ve been lucky enough to open up for him just about every single time that he’s been up here, since like 98 or something. He got at us through the promoter about wanting to get down after so many years. We always, of course, wanted to, ya know without a doubt and when it came in our laps we just went for it as hard as we could and it finally happened. It’s a dream come true, ya know?

“Yeah definitely. I think Kris vibed on the whole culture of the Northwest and ya know he did a couple reggae festivals out there and I think he definitely vibed on the whole community vibe that was going on out here.”

Chase: “Nice! It’s a good fit though. Just the way you guys spit and your style. It just seems natural that he’s on there. It doesn’t seem like ‘Oh, let’s get a big name guest and put him on our album like a lot of rap artists are want to do these days.’ It seems natural.

Animal Farm; “We wanted T-Pain but he asked for too much money. (laughs) So we figured, ya know, let’s go with someone we really respect-”

“We had to settle for Kris for sure.”


“Nah, what up Kris! I’m joking.”

Chase: “Awesome. Yeah, I like how you’re in touch with what we call the ‘real hip-hop’ up here on Dope FM because ya even shout out that, ‘It’s for the heads not for the fakes. For the scratches, blends, and for the breaks,’ which is definitely nice.”

Gamma Krush: “Yo, that first joint, “We Came to Rock,” that’s the one I’ve been blasting for the past year. Shout outs to Specter for hooking me up with that whole piece and what discovered me to y’all.

Animal Farm: “Yeah, yeah!”

Gamma Krush: “Yeah, “We Came to Rock,” that’s my joint right there.”

Chase: “Should we play that one?”

Gamma Krush: “Why not.”

Chase: “Alright, let’s spin that. Alright, you guys want to throw to that?”

Animal Farm: “Let’s do it.”

Chase: “Alright this is We Came to Rock by Animal Farm. We’ll be back with more from the group and the talkity talk, right here on Dope FM.”

That was Part 1 of the Animal Farm interview. Stay tuned here for Part 2 tomorrow or download the podcast of the radio show.
Music Playlist at

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Long Range Plans

My first teaching assignment was at a school that had four classes per each grade. We collaborated on our long range plans, and basically inherited the plan from the year before. When I left that school for a smaller community school, I really didn’t know what to do.

I had to write a long range plan from scratch and I wasn’t sure how to go about it. It seemed like an impossibly huge task to plan out an entire school year of learning. So I went online and tried to find a good example of a plan that I could build on.

But search as I might, I couldn’t find an easy way to write one.

A former principal of mine had a mantra that I quite like. He said, “Work smarter, not harder!”

I truly believe that long range plans should be living documents. If we update them throughout the year with what works, what doesn’t, and things we have changed, they will be ready to pass on to the next teacher of our grade.

But what if you have to start from scratch? I had to do that my first year, and here are some tips.

1) See if you can borrow someone else’s long range plan. Revise it, adapt it, and make it your own.

2) Go to the ministry of education website and open the plain text files of the curriculum document. This will allow you to cut and paste the curriculum expectations directly onto your plan.

3) Use the curriculum documents and divide each subject into strands. Decide which subjects can be integrated together. Break them into terms to get a rough idea of what you will teach each term.

4) Get a hold of the OPHEA document to plan Health and Physical Education. This is a great resource and you will not need to do much preparation for each unit. The lessons are well laid out and sequential. They are really easily to follow. Once you have decided which term you want to teach each unit. You will be set for the entire year.

5) Find a copy of the school year calendar. Divide each term into weeks and plan what you will teach each week. Don’t give much detail. Just list the subject areas. When you do this, you will see areas where subjects and strands inter-relate. This is a key. If you can design weeks where you can integrate subject areas, it lets you cover a lot of curriculum areas in a short amount of time and gives your weeks a theme that students can hang onto.

Here is the long range plan I made this year for my Grade 3/4 split class. The original is in MS Word format and has all of the curriculum expectations for every subject area that I teach.

I hope you find it useful. I have posted it here as a MS Word Document and as a PDF file. Please note that it is based on the Ontario Curriculum Expectations but could be adapted to your curriculum fairly easily. The expectation codes are now out of date, but this should be a good starting point for you. You can get the new codes from the Ontario Ministry of Education website.

I hope you enjoy this series of Teaching Tip Tuesdays and find it useful. You might also want to check out the revised New Teacher Guide post.

I am always open to comments, suggestions, questions, and resource sharing. So please leave a comment or send me an email. Teachers helping teachers is what this series is about.

Download 3/4 Long Range Plan as .doc file

Download the PDF

Go to Tip 7 – Character Education

The Occasion Called For It & You Didn’t Answer

Today we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our school opening. It should have been a big deal. I was expecting it to be. We had building towards this all year.

The students made projects about our community and they were in display in the gym yesterday for our Community Heritage Fair. Today, those projects were proudly displayed in the hallways.

We had an opening assembly this morning and then the students were split into different groups. These groups then rotated through different activities and games. It was a great morning.

We had a feast in the gym at lunch. Tables and chairs were set up so that staff, students, parents, and community members could help celebrate this milestone. It was great to see so many people out.

This was a special day and I dressed for the occasion. Although, you might not have noticed. I regularly wear a tie to school. So I ironed my shirt last night, picked out a nice tie, and went to school in my usual attire.

It seems that ties have fallen out of fashion with teachers. That is okay with me. Not everyone needs to wear a tie. What I can’t understand is how some teachers came to school today wearing jeans and a t-shirt. This was a special occasion that called for us to dress up. Yet so many of my colleagues failed to answer that call.

The principal was dressed very nicely today as she usually is, a few of the other teachers were as well, but a vast majority of them were not. I think teachers should dress for the job each and every day. This doesn’t have to mean a tie but I think jeans and t-shirts should definitely be out. Same goes for pullover sweaters or shirts with logos on them. We are supposed to be professionals. Let’s dress that way. Thank you!

Out to Save Hip Hop

I subscribe to about a dozen hip hop blogs. It’s a great way to get information about up and coming artists, producers, and albums. It is also one of the best ways to stay in touch with what is relevant in today’s hip hop world.

You can’t find good hip hop on the radio or video channels these days. It’s hiding. You need to actively search out the real music on blogs, university radio stations, and websites.

I came across this post today on Source Magazine’s blog. Anyone in the know has to be familiar with this publication. They used to be THE hip hop publication. The magazine has been referenced in countless rap songs and their record ratings are a thing of history. In fact, they were once heralded as the Bible of hip hop.

I used to buy the mag regularly. I used to wallpaper my room with posters, photographs, and album ads from the publication. Over the past several years though, they seemed to have slipped. They’ve lost some popularity and a bit of their relevance as they tried to expand with hip hop and the various genres, sounds, and styles that became popular. I can’t blame them for that at all. But the mag just isn’t for me and the underground type of music that I am a fiend for.

I was excited to read this post just now. DMC from the legendary group Run-DMC is set to jump off with a new reality show and a comic book. This show isn’t about a has-been celebrity trying to desperately crawl back into the spotlight. This show is going to be what hip hop is all about. I am really excited about the premise.

The show Kings of Rap will showcase aspiring rappers who want to get a record deal. DMC won’t let them use offensive language, degrade women, or use some of the other negative aspects of hip hop that have become cliche.

Bravo D for bringing back conscious rap. Now, if only I had cable and could catch this.

The link to the Source blog entry is here. Check it out! I’m sure it’ll be worth it.’s-image/

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Supply Plans

Welcome to Teaching Tip Tuesdays! It is my goal here to share my best practices so that other teachers can benefit from my experience. I hope that you are finding this ongoing series helpful. If you have any ideas, comments, or questions, I would love to hear from you. Please drop a comment or send me an email. I truly believe that teachers need to help teachers. After all, we are in this together.

I have written about the importance of being prepared for each and every single day in the classroom. Today I would like to expand on this.

How do you prepare for a day when you will be away from the classroom?

Most teachers I know spend quite a lot of time preparing for a day that they have to take off. They prepare worksheets and lessons that a supply teacher can easily follow. These same teachers often don’t leave detailed plans on their desk every night. They often find themselves rushing and struggling to put together a day’s worth of work at the last moment. They often don’t get it all done.

Supply teachers come into the classroom and then don’t have a solid plan to follow. It is difficult enough being a supply teacher. I don’t think we should expect them to just go with the flow. That is why I write detailed lesson plans for each and every single day. I know that if there were any sudden emergency, a supply teacher could come in and would not have to guess at what they needed to do or come up with new ideas or lessons on the spot.

I know a lot of teachers would find my day plans a little bit hard to do on a day-to-day basis. For these teachers, I suggest that they draw up one detailed lesson plan for each day of the week. I do this myself as well. For example, I have a file folder in my desk drawer labeled “Supply Plans – Monday.” I have a one-page lesson plan in the folder, along with each lesson’s worksheets already photocopied and ready to go. If there are any special resources needed, I leave a letter so the supply teacher can easily find them. I have a folder set up like this for every day of the week.

I don’t have to worry about taking a day off, either expectedly or unexpectedly. My day plans are detailed and clear. And just in case, I have back up plans for every single day of the week. It takes a bit of time to set up but it is well worth it. I draw up these plans in early October when I am familiar with my class schedule and routines. These plans then stay in the desk drawer filing cabinet all year. If they never get used, it won’t bother me. It’s always good to be prepared.

Go to Tip 6 – Long Range Plans

Check the OR

I used to watch Much Music all the time. I paid careful attention to Canadian acts because I wanted to stay in touch with our homegrown talent.

I remember catching this video from a group called Organized Rhyme. The tune was quite catchy. I liked the old school vibe and the way the two MCs flowed. I also like how funny the video was. They were goofy fellows who just seemed to be having fun with the music. That is what hip hop should be about.

You may recognize one of the members of this group. He has gone on to do a lot of things; including talk shows, movies, and albums. His name is Tom Green. This album shows that he can spit serious rhymes. He is mainly a comedian these days but in the Organized Rhyme days he was both a comedian and a rapper. It was a nice balance that really worked. I really enjoy the one and only album that they managed to put out. Check my review of the album here.

Well, enjoy this video. It really takes me back. I think they recorded it in late 1991 and it came out in 1992. It became quite the hit in 1992 and 1993.

Now check out this interview they did.

I hope you enjoyed this look back into Canadian hip-hop.