Monthly Archives: April 2009

Novel Study Takes to the Track

My all-time favourite novel is Heartbeat by Sharon Creech.

I have been sharing it with my class all week long. We’ve been listening to the audio book and following along with copies of the novel.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. It is beautiful and poetic and tells a really great story.  That is one of the reasons that I love to use it in a week long novel study every year.  
The story revolves around a 12 year old girl and her love of running. As a runner, I really identify with her and her passion for the sport. Perhaps I am a little but biased here but I don’t think you need to be a runner to appreciate where she is coming from. 
Anyway, today after our reading, I asked the students to answer some questions based on the text. One of the questions was, “If Annie was my friend, I would…”
I can’t tell you how many of my students finished that sentence by saying “I would run with her.” 
Now, I know that most of my students aren’t runners. For a few kids, this may have been a honest answer but I highly doubt it. So after seeing this response for the third time or so, I started to call the students on it. 
I said, “Really? You’d run with her? It sounds like she runs quite far and fast. You’d do that with her?”
Most of my students nodded and said that they would. 
“Okay,” I said. “Well if you’d run with her, why don’t we go out to the track at recess and run.”
Most of the kids were eager to take up my challenge so when the bell rang, we hit the track. I told them that the goal today was to run for eight minutes without stopping. It didn’t matter how many laps they ran, this was not a race. We were going to run simply for the pleasure of running just like the main character in the novel. 
I was surprised that I didn’t scare off any of the eager students with my speech but I didn’t. In fact, I even picked up a few runners from the Grade 5 class. 
We stretched together and then set off on our run. I coached everyone as we ran together that they should keep a comfortable pace. Everyone can have a different pace and it is up to you to find yours. 
I had a lot of fun running with them and I didn’t mind one bit giving up my break to do so.  It was hard to believe that our novel study took us to the track. I bet that Sharon Creech didn’t think that her words would move my class like that when she wrote this book.  

The Collective Inkwell Fiction Contest Entry

I submitted a story to The Collective Inkwell Creative Fiction Contest. 

My story is called “The Thought Alone.” I hope you will head over to http://collectiveinkwell.com/creative-fiction-contest/ read the entire story. 
The task was to build a story from one of two prompts. This was the prompt I chose 
b) How could she have known that simply crossing the street would mean so much?
Here is a brief teaser of my story. 

THE THOUGHT ALONE 

by Chase March

“You know how there are never enough hours in the day, how it seems that you need to move faster, get more done? I know you do. We’ve all felt it at one point or another. And sometimes that thought alone is enough to motivate us.”

Joe looked across the top of the podium and had to smile. He wasn’t sure that he’d be able to pull this off but so far so good. He was actually doing it. He glanced over at Jennifer, his daughter, to see if she approved of his speech so far. She smiled. That was all the fuel he needed to continue. 
. . . to be continued 

Sorry for that brief teaser but thems the contest rules. Head on over to The Collective Inkwell to read my entire submission. Please give me some feedback on either blog post to let me know what you think.

Thanks!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Be Flexible

Teachers need to be prepared. I can’t emphasize this enough. I make sure that I draw up very detailed year plans and day plans.  I am very well organized in my classroom. Unfortunately all the planning and organizing can sometimes not be enough.

Teachers need to be flexible. There will always be things that interfere with our best-laid plans. The best skill that any teacher can learn is flexibility. We need to be able to adapt to a variety of situations.

There have been quite a few times where things have not run as smoothly as I had hoped or planned. There have been times when I realized that I needed to switch gears and abandon my plan. There have been interruptions or unscheduled assemblies or meetings. The only thing you can do in these situations is to go with the flow. 

This comes with practice and experience. It’s a bit like being an improvisational comedian. We need to take whatever comes at us and make it work. 
Improv is a skill that every teacher needs to develop.  I know that some of my best lessons or examples have happened on the fly, that is that I did not plan them. 
For new teachers, this is all I can suggest,
– plan but don’t feel that you have to stick steadfast to it
– let things happen naturally
– take cues from the situation and your class
– be enthusiastic and share that enthusiasm 
and
Be Flexible

I Thought It Wasn’t For Me

It’s no secret that I don’t like social networking sites. I’ve written about this topic several times here on Silent Cacophony. That’s why you will probably be surprised that I have been won over by one of them.

That’s right, I am on Twitter and enjoying it. At first I didn’t get it and I thought about quitting the site several times but I hammered on anyway. As I did, I realized that Twitter can actually be a useful device.

Twitter is essentially a microblog reader. You post small updates that can be no longer than 140 characters. It sounds really limiting and when I first heard of Twitter, I immediately decided that it wasn’t for me. But I tried it out for a while and began to see the benefits.

So what won me over?

1) I have picked up more readers and subscribers to my blog since I have been on there.
2) It isn’t difficult to get updates. If you decide to follow someone, their posts end up on your homepage and it is quick and easy to scan them.
3) You can find out some interesting things about your favourite artists. MC Lars posts regular updates about his tour. They are cool to see.
4) It is quick and easy to post things up.

Here are the latest Tweets that I have posted there;

“I’m working on my short story for the contest that @writerdad is hosting. Entries are due Friday. Look for my story later this week.”

“I’m glad most people here write in sentences. I don’t get text message lingo. I’m too old school but not old enough for Twitter, it seems.”

“I should be writing now. I said I was. Maybe just knowing that you know I’m working on this story will get me moving & get in done in time.

“Just joined a twibe. Visit http://twibes.com/kidlitosphere to join”

“Still working on my short story. I don’t know why I always find it harder to write one of these than an entire novel.”

“Watching Sopranos Season 3 DVD. Episode 1 is amazing. I love the way it is cut and the music editing is brilliant.”

“Check out this intriguing blog post about the “Privitization of the English Language” and trademarks on @zen_habits

If you are intrigued or like what you see. Head on over to http://twitter.com/chasemarch and follow me.

It Was Bad For Me So It Will Always Be That

Okay. Let me vent for a moment here. You may have had a teacher in the past that you didn’t see eye to eye with. You may have constantly butted heads with this person and it ruined your perception of school.

Or perhaps you just weren’t a good student. You never really enjoyed school and just couldn’t wait until it was done and over with.

Perhaps you were picked on by a teacher or a student. Maybe no one seemed to care at the time or do anything about it.

Maybe you harbour resentment because of how you were treated at school.

Maybe school just isn’t important to you.

Perhaps you don’t even really think about this stuff. School was so long ago that you may have forgotten all about it. Yet, these feelings and perceptions linger and affect how you are as a parent of a school-age child.

I can also understand how these feelings can linger even if you don’t really think about them. The problem is that if you haven’t dealt with them before, you will carry them around with you forever. Your attitude will tint how your child does in school as well.

I’ve seen parents come into my class and have no idea how to relate to me on a friendly level. They act as if I am a scary or unapproachable because they see me as an authority figure. All they can see is the teacher in me and they are afraid of what I am going to say about their child. The old feelings get stirred up. I have no control over this.

All I can say is that most teachers want the best for your child. 

We want to see them succeed and we want you as a parent to be instrumental in this process.

Parents and teachers should work together – not against each other. I am not here to judge you or tell you how to parent your child. I am here to teach your child and encourage them to do their best work and realize that it is important to do so.

So I am pleading with all the parents out there. Your child’s teacher is a human being. He is there to help your child and he needs your support to do so. If you have an issue or a concern, talk your child’s teacher. You can talk to the gym teacher or any other teacher as well. We never really think that you are pestering us or wasting our time. In fact, we want to hear your concerns and we want the best for your child.

Maybe school wasn’t good for you but that doesn’t mean it will be that way for your child. Parents usually want more for their children than what they had. So if your school experience was bad, you should be working hard to make sure that it isn’t for your child. Tell them that school is important. Make sure that your child does the homework assigned. Talk to the teacher and establish a good relationship with him or her. It’ll make all the difference in the world.

Thanks!

Forest Instead of Condos

There are two small forest areas in my neighbourhood. They aren’t much to look at. But I often walk through them. It’s nice having a piece of nature within walking distance of my place.

I think these green spaces are underappreciated in a large city such as mine. Too many people would drive by this undeveloped land and see opportunity.

I walk past them and see opportunity of a different kind.

I don’t think, hmm they should throw up some townhouses here or perhaps an apartment or a condo. Quite the opposite actually. I see a place to enjoy nature. I see a place to take a walk through and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, if even for a moment.

There are a lot of great trails and places to go discover around the city. Some of the best ones are these small and often overlooked neighbourhood gems.

Let’s protect our green spaces within cities. Let’s use and enjoy these places to commune with the earth. I think this is the best way to celebrate Earth Day today. Go out and enjoy the great outdoors. That’s what I plan on doing today.

In honour of Earth Day I also plan on enjoying this song by MC Lars.

Check out the lyrics to this song on my commonplace book blog here.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Dollars Stores: Blessing or Not?

Here is one of the best teaching tips I can share with you – Use what you have!

I know that through my teaching career there have been many times when I have needed some items for a lesson that I didn’t have readily available. Sometimes these things were simple items for a science experiment that I wanted my students to do. For example, an experiment might call for straws, sand paper, balloons, string, and nails. If it was an experiment that I was sure would help the students understand the curriculum, I would often run out to the store and pick these items up.

I’ve heard it said that a teacher’s best friend is the dollar store. And why not? Dollar stores allow us to get materials for our classroom fairly easily. They are always available to us and usually have what we need for our classes. That’s why I never hesitated to pick up items for a science lesson or an art project at the dollar store.

I never minded spending a few bucks on my classroom as long as it helped me to deliver the curriculum. However, with every trip to the dollar store, I could easily spend twenty dollars. I could also find a reason to go there every month. Add this all up and I end up spending over a hundred dollars every year on classroom materials. That’s just crazy! I don’t have the money to keep shelving out for things just to help me do my job.

So now I think carefully before running out to buy things for my lessons. I collect materials whenever I can. I ask my students to bring in some materials that they should be able to get easily from home. Failing that, I find another lesson to teach that uses materials I already have in the house or the classroom. It pays to get creative and use what you have to teach science and art.

Every teacher that I know has poured money into his or her own classroom at some point. There is nothing wrong with this. Good teachers really care about their students and truly want the best for them; I know that I sure do. That is why I still spend money on my classroom whenever I need to. I just don’t need to do it as often as I used to.

I find that I have become a better teacher with this mindset. It has forced me to get creative and use what I have available. I don’t need to rush out to the dollar store to deliver my curriculum and neither do you.

Use what you have and stop buying all the little things. All those little things add up and we don’t need to flip this expense. So try it out – Deliver your curriculum and engage your students with what you have.

Use what you have! Simple as that!

Rap Group Got Me Reading a Classic

I consider myself to be an avid reader. You can always find a book or two on the nightstand beside my bed. I utilize the library frequently and read everything from fiction to non-fiction to comic books to young adult novels to magazines and newspapers.

I’m an English major and I have read a lot of classics. Sadly though, Animal Farm by George Orwell wasn’t one of them. At least not until recently. You might be surprised by what got me to pick up this book.

A rap group.

That’s right! A rap group got me reading a classic.

Who woulda thunk it?

I first heard the rap group Animal Farm on Dope FM when my good friend Gamma Krush started spinning them on the show. If it wasn’t for him I might not have gotten into this group. DJs are awesome; having a best friend who is a DJ is even better. He hooked me up with the album and the rest they say is history.

Shortly after that, I got to interview the group. We had such a great time on the radio that night that it only made me more of a fan. Their album, The Unknown has been in heavy rotation ever since. Check out the podcast of the interview here or read the transcript here.

I had read Orwell’s other seminal classic, 1984 and I really enjoyed it.

This isn’t the only time that rap has inspired me to pick up a classic. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because of all the references to it I had heard in songs. I also read Things Fall Apart because The Roots had titled one of their albums after the novel by Chinua Achebe.

I wonder if any one else has been inspired to pick up a book because of a rap artist. I wouldn’t be surprised.

What I’m Feeling Now

These are the best rappers making noise right now, in my humble opinion.

In no particular order here they are

MURS

CLASSIFIED

BLUE SCHOLARS

SWEATSHOP UNION

DEF III and FACTOR ft. MOKA ONLY

This EP is amazing. Heavy, heavy rotation. Nuff said.

If you don’t know about these artists run out and pick up their stuff.

Making Beats Again – Should It Be So Hard?

I want to get back into music production. There was a time in my life when my main focus was on producing and writing music.

Back then I used this Akai Sampling Keyboard


and I hooked it up to an Atari 1040 ST


by way of MIDI cables


and I used a program called Cubase as a sequencer.

Of course when I got all this gear, it was already outdated and past its prime. But it was amazing to have gear that actual hip-hop producers had used in the mid 1980’s.

The sampler didn’t have a lot of memory and the sample quality was quite low. But I figured out how to make it sound good and I made this gear sing. I produced some amazing tracks on this gear and I had a great time doing it.

At that time, I wanted to make a career out of hip-hop and I worked hard to try and make it happen. However, over the years, the idea of being a professional rapper and producer left me. But hip-hop never did. 
I’ve wanted to get back into music production for some time now, but I knew that I couldn’t use this old and outdated gear to do so anymore. I needed new gear. 
I’m a big proponent of using what you have. Back in the late 1990’s I had all this gear and I made it work. Now I have an iMac that was just recently given to me and I have already figured out how to make it work for making mix tapes. So I wanted to see if I could figure out how to make beats on this computer as well.

I’ve been working with Garage Band for a week or so now and I am getting really frustrated with it. It just doesn’t seem to do what I want it to do. I would really like to get a new sampler but I can’t afford to buy any new gear at this time. I hope that I will be able to figure out how to get back into music production with what I have, which is this computer. I just don’t have a lot of time to play around with stuff right now.

I just want to jump right back into making beats like I used to. I miss it. Plus, I know that I will actually be able to use this blog as an outlet to get my music heard. That is really exciting for me. Hopefully I can figure out how to get some new songs out soon for you all to hear.

If you have any good ideas on how to make beats on a Mac, please let me know.

Thanks!