Monthly Archives: September 2009

Know Your History Episode 1 – Hip Hop is a Culture

This is the transcript of my new segment for DOPEfm radio. It aired last weekend and is available for you to download as a free podcast. I hope that you enjoy this segment. I plan on producing a new episode monthly and would really like to get your feedback on it.

Know Your History – Episode 1 – Hip Hop is a Culture
“Welcome to Know Your History. This is Chase March and my goal here with you is to share some of my hip-hop knowledge so we can celebrate the rich cultural history that is hip-hop.

Of course, with any history we need to start somewhere. I wasn’t there for the start of hip-hop. I wasn’t there when it was born, when it started to develop, but I was there as soon as it got popular and it made its way to my neck of the woods, and I’ve been there ever since. I write blog posts. I write my own songs, produce my own music, tried to get a music career popping when I was younger, didn’t quite happen, and now I’m happy to be a member of DOPEfm radio crew. So this segment, I’m hoping you’ll find educational and entertaining as we will be playing some music and we’ll be discussing the rich cultural history that we all share.

So where do we start?

I think the best place to start is with some definitions. Yeah, I know, boring. Definitions. But, we need to start somewhere so let’s start with the term rap. Where did rap come from?

Well, rap originally was slang for conversation. You could sit down and chat with someone or you could sit down and rap with them. Simple as that. And when rap music first came out, people called it rap music because obviously it was a lot like conversating – people were just talking over a beat. I don’t think anyone’s actually coined the term rap music per se. We can’t just say that one person came up with that term. But that term stuck and it stuck for quite a while.

Then, a little bit later the term hip-hop came into existence, and this is the term I want to focus on because there is quite a difference between rap and hip-hop. Krs-One said it best, He said, rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live. And I live hip-hop. I think we all do here at DOPEfm and a lot of you listeners out there do as well. So we need to go back to the roots and see how the term hip-hop even evolved.

Now there’s a couple people who want to claim status for creating the term hip-hop but it’s a little bit up in the air. Some say it was Afrika Bambaataa who first used the term hip-hop and that could be. He’s definitely one of the pioneers of the form we’ll be getting to do some in-depth podcasts for him a little bit later. But there is also an interesting story that Keith Cowboy from Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five might have coined the term. The story goes, he was teasing a friend who joined the army by singing hip, hop, hip, hop – imitating the cadence of military marches. And then he worked that term and the cadence into his raps. Soon everybody did and you can actually hear it at the start of Rapper’s Delight which was one of the first rap records ever released and that was done by the Sugarhill Gang. Now at the start of that you hear, “a hip-hop, a hippy, a hippy to the hip-hip hop ya don’t stop, a rocking to the…” So that kind of sing songy style using the term hip-hop.

By 1984 the word started to appear in print. It was first used in The Village Voice by Steven Hagar in an article entitled “Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip Hop.” So, take that as you may. Africka Bambaattaa – Keith Cowboy – Who knows who created that term but the term stuck.

For a while those two terms were interchangeable. People who say rap music and hip-hop to mean the same thing, but the do not mean the same thing. Rap is the music and hip-hop is the culture. I think Krs-One said it best, rap is something that you do, hip-hop is something that you live. Of course, when the term was first created, this wasn’t really how it was. The term hip-hop and the culture has grown with that term.

Well, let’s look at the word culture because how can music be a culture? And this is what’s widely, widely misunderstood when it comes to rap and hip-hop music. So, let’s go back to culture. Culture is defined by the Webster’s Dictionary as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” So I would like to argue that hip-hop is a social group and that it is a way of life with unique rules and customs that are observed. As such, hip-hop is clearly a cultural movement.

So rap and hip-hop are not the same thing. Rap is the music. Hip-hop is the culture based and built around that music. Krs-One said it best, rap is something that you do, hip-hop is something that you live. And that is clearly the definition there. You know, at one point, Krs-One even said, “I am hip-hop,” and that statement caused a lot of controversy. Some thought he was being arrogant. Hip-hop is more than just him, who does he think he is? It’s not one person. Sure he’s a gifted artist, talented emcee but he’s not hip-hop. At least that’s what people said.

But after a while, people started to say, Wait a minute. People say that they’re Protestant or Catholic or Canadian. In fact there are countless labels we apply to ourselves and others. So if we live hip-hop culture, if we listen to the music, if we create it, if we write about it, if we dress ourselves in a style about it, if we breakdance, then why can’t we say we are hip-hop. Why not? It makes sense.

I mean sure Krs-One could’ve said, “I am a hip-hop artist” but he dropped the word artist off of there and he said, I am hip-hop. Makes sense. Just like a rock musician would call himself a rocker or a Start Trek fan would call himself a Trekkie or a Trekker. You know, I am hip-hop just sounds right. It sounds like a label that we can apply to ourselves so that people know what it means and they know where we are coming from.

So hip-hop is a culture and I think as a culture it needs to be defended, because a lot of people don’t understand different cultures unless they are actually in that culture. For instance, even thinking of different racial cultures by going back to the definition of culture, it’s either racial or religious. A lot of people don’t understand different religions or don’t understand different racial customs and beliefs. They write them off. They’ll disrespect them right away just out of that ignorance, and I mean ignorance in the fact that they don’t understand.

I come across this mindstate all the time where people do not understand what hip-hop is all about. I feel like I have to constantly defend what hip-hop is. And it feels like an attack when people start to say things bad about hip-hop because I am hip-hop. Right?

It’s like somebody dissing your family or your mama, ya know? You’re not gonna take it. You’re gonna stand up and say, “Wait a second. Hold on, hold on, hold on.” That’s what Know Your History is gonna be about. It’s about celebrating this hip-hop culture that we have, about letting us know exactly what hip-hop is all about.

So I think there is no better way to start this than to start with the first rap recorded. Now the first rap song recorded, I don’t know if you could call this song hip-hop. It’s by the Fatback Band and it’s featuring an emcee called King Tim III. Now this is clearly a funk band but the guy is rapping over it and what we can hear from the emcee is some of the old rapping style, old school as it will be called that was very popular.

Alright, so rap was making its way through the Bronx and through New York City. Rap music was done a lot in neighbourhoods and it was kind of restricted to New York and the five boroughs of New York. But one rap hit the records, and once it was out there and playable and you could ship it anywhere and people could hear it outside of New York, that’s when hip-hop really took off.

So let’s play the first two rap records ever released. The first one as I told you is the Fatback Band, a funk band featuring an emcee on this track called King Tim III. So we’re going to drop that track for you right now and we’ll be back.

Alright that was “Personality Jock” by the Fatback Band featuring King Tim III as emcee. That track was released July 25, 1979, several weeks before this more famous one that I’m sure you’ve heard before. This is “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang.

Yeah, there’s a feel good song for you. And that song there, you don’t even have to know your history for that one. That song is just well known. It’s like one of the top songs ever. It gets played in dance clubs and high school dances and pretty much everyone, even outside of hip-hop culture is familiar with that song. And for good reason, it’s a good song that captured what hip-hop was all about in those old days. It was about having fun and rapping over some music.

DJs would take turntables and they would just extend a break. So they’d take a song, a well-known song, in this case Le Chic’s “Good Times” and they would play the breakdown part of it over and over again and kind of loop it up using the two turntables. And that’s basically what this one is. If you listen to Chic’s original record and you listen to Rapper’s Delight, you don’t really hear much of a difference in the way of the music behind the rapping. It sounds exactly the same.

Another interesting thing about that record is that it went gold. It was the first commercially successful rap release ever, and it started this whole hip-hop thing that we’re proud to be a par of today. Also it was put out on 12 inch record which was kind of unusual. Before that most singles were put out on 45 or 7 inch and this one was put out on 12 inch, which coincidentally became the standard for hip-hop releases after that.

So, that’s our first look at Know Your History. We’ve covered a lot. We’ve talked about how hip-hop is a culture and how that culture needs to be respected. We’ve talked about the rich history behind all of this, and we’ve talked about how in 1979 rap started to be recorded. I hope you’re going to join us for the rest of this series because there’s a lot more history to know. We’ve only scratched the surface here with this segment. I hope you’ll be back to hear more about the birth of hip-hop culture, about how it grew and developed to become this rich, vibrant culture that we know today.

Thanks for tuning in. This is Chase March and you better Know Your History!”

Download this podcast for free. Know Your History: Episode 1 – Hip Hop is a Culture.

Where Are The Desks?

This is a picture of my classroom before the students arrived in the morning for the first day of school.

I set up mats for each student to sit down on the floor. In front of those mats, I placed a hula-hoop with a name tag, a pencil case, and the first assignment.

I instructed each student to come into the class, find their name tag and begin work right away. I have started off the first day of school like this now for the past few years.

The first assignment was a mind-map where students needed to simply list some of their favourite things. I did an example on the computer and posted it up on the Smart Board so they could all see what was expected.

Here are why I included the pictures – starting at the top centre

Books – I like to read
Computer – I like to write and blog
Drive-In Theatre – It’s a must that I go at least once a summer.
Brother Ali – is my favourite rapper right now
Pencil and paper – I like writing stories
Everwood – is my favourite TV show
Soccer – is my favourite team sport to play
DJ set- I love hip-hop music and culture.
Daredevil – my favourite superhero and comic book character
Tiger-Cats – my hometown football team
Music – I love teaching music

After that, I had the students move their hula hoops and work together to create Venn diagrams.

I like how this activity gets the students working together in groups right away. It is also tactile since they get to move hula-hoops and place pieces of paper in the correct positions to create the diagram. The first mind-map activity also served as a reference to help them do so.
I then use the hula-hoops as a discussion point about personal space and respect in the classroom. After that, I bring out the desks and the students then have their own personal space to store their belongings.
I make sure that I over-plan the first day of school so that things are always moving. I give the chance for students to win some prizes and have some fun on this first day as well.
I find that this structure for the first day of school really works for me. I’ve already shared with you my extensive day plan but I thought it would be nice to share this images with you. I hope you find my Teaching Tip Tuesday posts useful.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, or would like to write a guest post for Teaching Tip Tuesdays, please leave me a comment below, send me an email, or get at me on Twitter. Teachers helping teachers is what it is all about.

Cale Sampson Concert

I went to this show on Friday and had the opportunity to sit down with Cale Sampson for an in-depth interview. The interview will air next weekend on DOPEfm. Please stay tuned to my blog to download the podcast for free and read the transcript of that interview here next week.

In the meantime, here is a review of the concert.

The show was celebrating the release of his solo album. The album is unique in that it is a double disc. The first disc is the traditional album while the second disc features some of his older demo tracks. The demos sound just as sharp as the album and they fit together perfectly.

A steady stream up people piled into the club as Daddy J and I sat down to interview Cale Sampson. A few people were so excited to see him that they didn’t actually realize that he was being interviewed for the radio. We took it all in stride though. Cale obviously connects with his fans and the club was definitely hopping when he took to the stage.

You can see a video screen behind Cale Sampson. Just before he started rocking for the crowd, he premiered his newest video and it was quite good. Hopefully it will end up on rotation at Much Music. The song is called “Never Had a Choice” so you can go and request it to help.

The first guest of the evening was fellow Rhythmicru member More or Les. They played a few songs together and hyped up the crowd even more than it already was.

More members of Rhythmicru join him on stage. On the left is D-ray who is an amazing producer as well as an emcee. They threw down some nice songs together.

DJ Sawtay manned the ones and twos all night long. Beside him is legendary producer DJ Merciless.

It was an amazing show and it was great to see such a large crowd out to the event. Cale Sampson definitely didn’t disappoint. He put on an energetic show, captivated the crowd, and spread some love to the artists and producers who were in attendance either in person or in spirit.
Make sure you tune in DOPEfm 93.3 CFMU Hamilton next weekend to hear the in-depth interview as well of some of Cale Sampson’s songs. If you’re not able to listen to it live, I will be putting up a link here next week for you to download the podcast for free. I will also be posting a transcript of the interview. I hope you enjoy it!

We All Need Some Closure

Have you ever had a relationship that ended badly and just wished that you could have one more day to set things straight? Do you have things that you would like to say but probably won’t ever get the chance to?

I bet it’s safe to say that we’ve all been in that position at one point or another. When a relationship ends, we are hurting. We often say things that we don’t mean because secretly we want our ex-partner to feel our hurt. We want to punish them and come up with all sorts of creative ways to do so. Sometimes we don’t mean to do these things. We just don’t know what else to do. We get caught up in the heat of the moment and let it carry us away.

I think what we need to remember is that we loved this person at one point. We might have lost that feeling somewhere down the line but that feeling was there and probably still is somewhere, even if we can’t see it or feel it. We should also remember that the other person is probably already hurting.

So instead of hurting each other further, I think we need to help each other through the hurt.

Let’s face it, a break-up is a tough thing to deal with. It is much easier to get through it if you have someone to talk to. And what better person to talk to than the person you used to share so much with. If there were those strong feelings there for each other at one point, doesn’t it make sense to work through this hurt together?

Of course, this is probably easier said than done. It sounds easier to just cut all ties and have nothing further to do with this person. But your mind probably won’t let you off that easy. You will think about your ex. You will have things you wished you’d have said. You will want to have some closure to the relationship. So why not work on getting these things?

Talk with each other. Listen and don’t judge. Apologize, if you need to. Accept that things didn’t work out but try not to have any bitter feelings about it.

I wished that I had been able to do these things on more than one occasion in my life. So if you have the chance to, and you can figure out how to be friendly with your ex, please try to. You can be friendly without being friends. You can talk things out and then go your separate ways.

Sometimes things just don’t work out and it really is for the best. So get the closure that you need, move on, and be thankful for the opportunity.

Went Downtown in the Rain 9:30 on a Tuesday night*

I did something last night that I haven’t done in quite some time.

I raced to an actual record store after work to pick up an album.
New albums always come out on Tuesdays and it used to be my practice to go downtown every week and check out the new release shelf. In fact, there was a time in my life when I pretty much bought a CD or tape every single week, sometimes I would even pick up two new albums.
The last actual CD I bought, was Self-Explanatory by Classified and I picked it up at his concert. Other than that, I have bought a few albums from iTunes but I seriously can’t remember that last new release I picked up at a record store.
Well, now I can say that the latest release I bought is Us by Brother Ali.
The artwork is absolutely beautiful. It is hard to tell from this image but the black is actually raised ink and is printed a white paper case. The liner notes fold out into a poster of this image that takes it to a wider shot and includes the tag “There’s no me and you, it’s just Us.
On the flipside of the poster / liner notes, all of Brother Ali’s poetic lyrics are printed out. He also writes about the making of the album as well,
“I’ve seen life up close from a few different perspectives and my hope was to broaden my storytelling to reflect that. I wanted to open my lens and tell the stories of people I’ve loved from different walks of life. My hope was to describe these situations in a way that allowed listeners to connect with them as they did my autobiographical stories…

I made an album about Us, some of the people who made me what I am… I hope you can see yourself in a few of these stories. They’re 100% true and they’re all from the heart.”
The album sounds really good. I like the way he played with where he places his rhymes. He has great lyrics, as always, and the live instrumentation he uses really stands out to give us some stellar songs. I can’t wait to dig into this album even further and share more of it with you here at a later date.
Also, stay tuned to this blog and the podcasts for Dope FM because Brother Ali will be on the airwaves with us soon for one of our in-depth interviews. I can’t wait!
*Did you catch the reference in the title to this post? If so, please leave a comment below and you can win (respect and admiration – sorry I don’t have anything else to give right now)

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Math Drills

I think it is important for children to learn the basic number facts. In this day and age, we can get too caught up in letting technology solve all of our problems for us. It is too easy to reach for a calculator or use the one built into our computers to solve basic problems. But a majority of the time, I’d be able to beat you in a race. By the time you got a calculator out and ready, I could have the problem solved either in my head or using a piece of paper and a pencil.

I often see kids in school counting on their fingers, even in the older grades, and I wonder why they have not yet memorized the basic number facts.

I think teachers should have kids do computational math every day. That’s why I start off every math class with a timed 5-minute drill. I pass out the worksheets face down until everyone in the class is ready. I then say, “Turn your paper over. Write your name at the top. Time starts now.” I set a timer that beeps when time expires and I find that kids actually like racing against the clock to see how many questions they can complete in time.

I have then the students graph their daily progress so they can see how they are actually improving, Students are surprised to see that their scores go up and their times often go down. If gives them something to shoot for.

I cycle through a different skill every two weeks. I like to start off with addition and then move to multiplication. I use a resource called The Mad Minute because it works through the four operations in a logical sequence. But I move beyond the four basic operations to include comparing numbers, fractions, missing terms, and algebra.

You don’t need to buy a book to find good math drills. This site is excellent. I like that it has themed worksheets for Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and more. It is really worth checking out.

By doing computational math daily, kids learn their number facts so they will be able to remember that 6 = 7 always equals 13 and they will no longer need to use their fingers or a ruler to help them. This saves them time in solving more complex problems and helps them in life to add up grocery bills or anything else.

So I suggest starting off every math lesson with a timed drill. It gives the class a routine, helps them practise creating graphs, and gives them reachable goals. Go give it a try and let me know how it goes.

My Top 5 T.V. Shows (Reshuffled)

1. Everwood
2. My So-Called Life
3. Star Trek
4. M.A.S.H.
5. Jericho

Everwood has reclaimed the number one spot.

It had to.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you will have heard me sing the praises of this excellent show countless times. If not, you can go back and check out these previous posts.

Suffice it to say, Everwood has reclaimed the number one spot because of a few reasons

#1 – Rewatchability – I have watched this entire series three times now. Once during the original run on television and twice on DVD. And I know that I will be able to watch it a fourth time as well. It is that good.

#2 – Acting – How can you not love Treat Williams as Andy Brown? The ensemble cast is equally amazing as well.

#3– Writing – I really like how the series finale wrapped up elements that were first introduced in the pilot. The finale was near perfect television.

I also decided to move up My So-Called Life to the number 2 spot for pretty much the same three reasons. In the process Jericho has been knocked down to number 5. I just found that I’m not as excited about rewatching Jericho as I am for the four other shows. Of course, this doesn’t really take away any of the praise I have for it. I still love the show. Perhaps rewatchability should not be the deciding factor.

What do you think?

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Map Adventures

I found this excellent resource a few years ago that I have used countless times in the classroom. It is called Nikki’s Map Adventures.

It is a great resource to use in the first few weeks of school. There are seven lesson plans that are easy to follow and really engage students. The unit is designed around a story about a young girl Nikki who goes to a theme park with her mother.
I like to start off the year with a simple mapping unit for Social Studies because it is accessible and the students don’t feel threatened by it. I really like how this unit revolves around a story and how it progressively shows us different points of view until we end up with a typical map.
Here is a brief summary of the unit.
Nikki and her mother arrive at the front gate of a theme park and this is all they are able to see.
Using this image, the class brainstorms what things we think might be in this park from what we can see and what we have heard in part 1 of the story. The key point here is that we cannot possibly see everything from a ground view.
As the story progresses, Nikki ends up floating above the park in a hot-air balloon. We notice that she can see a lot more of the park but we can’t see as much detail about the individual objects as we could from a ground view.

Finally, Nikki comes directly over the park and we can now see a typical overhead map.

I like how these lesson introduce students to different points of view and how it gradually shows you how and why maps are used.
It’s an awesome resource that is recommended for students in K-3 but I see how it could be useful for older students as well.
The lessons are also available as PDF files and you can print out 15 pages to make a large wall map of the park as well.
I have also found that other school boards have supplemented this website with additional worksheets. There is definitely a lot of information you can find and different ways you can present this unit to your students.

Westminster Ponds Trail Run

Well it is time for another visual tour of my run. This time, I hit the trails at Westminster Ponds in London, Ontario.

The curious thing is that it is listed as an “environmentally significant area.” What a strange term to use. I wonder if they call the mall down the road a “commercially significant area.”
Anyway, it is quite nice here. I had a good run. I hope you enjoy this visual tour.

There are several trails that wind through the 300 hectares of land here. They are all marked with a yellow painted tab, which doesn’t make much sense to me. I wish they had different trail markers or at least signs pointing back to the tourist information / trail centre building.

The reason I say that is because I got lost on these trails. I ended up running some of the same areas two or three times to make it back to the parking lot. I ended up at two different entry points to the trail and had to loop around more than once.

It was a nice run though and it felt great to get away from the city. It was really quiet and peaceful.

What’s this? I had to stop here to take a closer look.

It seems that there were some early settlers on this piece of land. A cabin used to sit here. Well, back to my run.

I’m not sure but I think I may have gotten off the main trail at this point.

But I got back onto the main trail, or so I thought. It seems that every trail back here is marked with a yellow tab.

There are lots of bridges and boardwalks back here. The path can be a bitty muddy in some places. After all it is a wetland area with lots of bogs, marshes, and swamps.

Here’s a challenging hill to run up. Lots of roots to dance around.

Here are stairs to run down and then back up. But I just had to see the lookout.

This looks nice.

But enough admiring the view. I need to figure out how to get out of these trails and back to the parking lot. I’ve already been out here for over twenty minutes. That’s my usual 5 kilometers. I’m about ready to quit but I’m not quite sure how to get back.

It took me about 15 more minutes to find my way out of these woods but I did it.

This is the sign where I started my run. There is some more information about the area on the back of it.

All I know is that if I ever come back here, I think I will actually go into the trail centre and get a map. They really need to mark those trails better. I thought I’d have to run for hours to find my way back here.
All in all, I ended up running approximately 8 kilometers. My running time was just over 35 minutes. I was completely soaked with sweat by the time I was done.

So make sure you stop by this building to get a map if you decide to check out Westminster Ponds. You can also check out their website for more information.

I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of my run.

The Problem with Want

Want is never enough. I’ve come to realize that.

Want drives us to do things that don’t take us to where we need to be. Because the truth is, we always want things we don’t need. And what we do need, we rarely see.
For instance, I had a really hard time getting over my ex a few years back. I knew that we weren’t good for each other and that things weren’t working. I just wanted things to go back to how they were. It was that want that drove me for a long time. It was hard for me to actually move on because I had wanted so much more out of that relationship.
Pretty soon, all that was left was want. The love was gone. We both knew it but I still tried to make it work.
I felt comfortable with our life together. I didn’t want things to change. I thought she was the one. I had wanted her to be the one for some time and so I held on to that want, hoping it would change things.
But like I said, want is never enough.
Picture credit – Steve Lambert

Spectacular Sopranos

I have to admit that I never watched The Sopranos during its original run on television. I had heard all the hype over it but I just never got the chance to watch any episodes. That was until recently. I found that you could actually borrow entire seasons of the show from the public library. So I thought that I would give it a chance. I’m glad that I did. (Spoiler Alert)

I’ve watched the first three seasons so far. I am impressed with what I’ve seen and want to see more. I like how each season tells its own story. The first season ended perfectly with the Soprano family having dinner together. It showed how this family is just like any other family, even if the head of the family also happens to be the boss of the mob.

Tony Soprano might not be someone who I’d like to be friends with in real life but he is an interesting character. I want to see what he is up to each and every episode.

The opening episode of Season 3 was spectacular. The story was very well done and the acting was impeccable, as always. But the editing and the mixing of the music for the soundtrack blew all of that away. The feds were trying to plant a listening device into the Soprano household. They tracked everyone in the house and waited for them to leave the premises. Timing was everything for this to work. As such, “Peter Gunn” played in the background. That familiar song was then mixed into ‘Every Step You Take” by the Police.

It’s not often that a scene in television stops me in my tracks but I was in awe of this one. Too bad I couldn’t find a clip of it on YouTube to share with you. I did find the song but it doesn’t have the same magic without the drama of the visuals and the storytelling. You really need to find and watch the series to get the whole awe-inspiring sequence.

Nonetheless, here is the song mixed quite nicely.

I’ve just started watching Season 4 and am hooked. I look forward to catching all the episodes of each season. Who ever thought of bringing TV shows out on DVD needs a raise, or at least a cut of the action. Anyway, that person deserves my thanks. So here it is – Thanks!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Homework Program

Nobody likes homework. I know that I sure don’t. I try to get most of my work done at school during my planning times. It’s part of my teaching philosophy to keep it at school.

That’s why I’ve really been thinking about what I want my homework program to look like this year. I discussed my idea of not assigning regular homework with my principal, but unfortunately the school board has a policy on homework. As such, it is expected that I assign and track homework progress.

I expect my students to use their time wisely in class. If students choose not to do so and don’t complete their work to the best of their ability, then homework is warranted. I sometimes have students stay in at lunch and recess to catch up on their work. That way, I can be assured that the work actually gets done.

It has been my experience that the vast majority of homework I assign never gets completed. I have a few hard-working and loyal students every year who consistently complete their homework. I try to motivate all my students to do so but it often feels like I am running uphill during a mudslide in a thunderstorm. And it seems equally pointless to chase students around about their homework. So I either give up the practice, or end up muddy and worn out.

So what can I do?

I think my best plan is to have some suggested homework ideas. I could brainstorm ideas with my class. For example, read for twenty minutes, help mom make dinner or a recipe, add up the grocery bill, practice your timetables, study the spelling words, etc.

After we come up with an extensive list, I can send a copy of it home with the students. They could keep it in the front pouch of their agenda / planner books or even stick it on the fridge at home.

The goal would be to do twenty minutes of work each night. It wouldn’t matter what that work was either. I wouldn’t have to assess it. I could simply ask the students every morning what they did for homework the night before. I could have parents sign the agenda / planner books as well. I could keep track of what the students said they did and that would be that.

Hmm, sounds like a plan.

I could also assign extra credit projects. This way, students could read, research, and report on any subject that interests them. I could give them two or three weeks to complete each project instead of doing daily homework. All I would need to ask them is what topic they are working on in the mornings.

Let me hear from you.

What you do think about these ideas?

What do you currently do for a homework program?
Do you find that it is effective?

Everyone is a DJ

Everyone is a DJ.


Whenever you decide to change the radio station in the car, or switch a CD at home, or skip to another track on your MP3 player, you are doing exactly what a DJ does.

A disc jockey carefully selects and plays music to suit a mood, event, venue, or audience.

Sometimes that audience may be no more than oneself. Of course, we don’t traditionally think of ourselves as DJs but we perform the same duties. Some of us are better than others at mixing and presentation. But at the basic level, we all select and play music at one point or another, usually on a daily basis for most people.

I have made several different mix tapes in my life. I started off just making hip-hop tapes. There was a time in my life where I was such a snob that I didn’t even want to hear any other genre of music. Does everyone go through a phase like this? Did you?

Tim McGraw comments on how we used to have more of a mix in what we used to listen to on the radio in one of his songs. In the song “Back When, he sings,

“I had my favorite stations
The ones that played them all
Country, soul and rock-and-roll
What happened to those times?”

This is a great question.

I remember the days Tim McGraw talks about. Before I got into hip-hop music, I used to listen to some of those stations. They seem to have all faded away though. Nowadays, radio stations tend to play only one type of music. I wonder why that is.

I still make tapes that blend genres like those old stations used to do. And I think a lot of us probably have a few different genres represented in our MP3 players or iPods as well. So, Tim, I think those days are back but they are limited to our computer hard drives or portable music devices. It seems that everyone has, indeed, become a DJ (except maybe the Type 1 listener)

Don’t Stay Together for the Kids

This is an appeal to all those out there who desire to get back together with an ex.

It won’t work.
I’m sorry to sound like such a pragmatist but you can’t stay together for the kids. Kids are smart. They know when things aren’t right between their parents. So staying together for their sake isn’t going to help them out. Kids need to see healthy forms of love around them. They need to see parents who love each other and treat each other with respect.
Don’t use the children as an excuse to stay together.
Think about it.
If HE didn’t treat you well the first time around, he probably is going to be nice for while and make you feel like it could work BUT he is going to go back to his old ways.
If SHE swears she will change, she probably will for a while.
Things might feel great for a short while BUT in no time you will both back to the old, broken ways.
Just wait and see.
Ask yourself, Is this what you really want?
You need to think about your own happiness. You can’t get back together out of a misguided sense of loyalty, or if you merely think you should because it seems like the only choice. You simply could be taking the easy way out and live to regret it.
But it’s worth another shot you say.
Maybe it is.
But really think about your choice.
Has your partner proven to you that you are the most important thing in the whole world?
Has you partner made you feel that this will work and that you will be both totally committed to making it work?
That tear in your heart is real. If you can forgive your partner and move on, then so be it. But you really need to think before you act.
Take some time away from each other.
Examine your own feelings.

Do some research. (Listen to this broadcast. Please!)
And then make the best choice for you.
I just don’t think staying together is the best choice in a lot of cases. So examine your own. Stand back and really look at your life. Ask advice from people you trust.
You need to really examine whether or not staying together for the kids is the right choice for you, your partner, and your children. Sometimes it won’t be right for all three of the parties involved, and if it isn’t, please just be cordial so that both parents will have a good relationship with the kids. But you need to move on, live separately and be happy. This will be better for everyone involved.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Fairy Tales

This is an excellent unit to start off your Language Arts program. It is called “Fairy Tale Friends and Foes.” 

It was originally meant for Grade 2 classes in Catholic school but I have adapted it over the years to use in public schools for several different grades. I like how you can teach the genre of fairy tales and at the same time have some great character education lessons.

The students learn about these values while reading different fairy tales.

Respect – Goldilocks Learns Respect
Love – Cinderella Loves and is Loved
Responsibility – Hansel and Gretel Depend on Each Other
Cooperation – Three Pigs Work Together
Courage – Jack Is Brave
Honesty – A Promise is a Promise for Rumpelstiltskin
Tolerance – Beauty Accepts the Beast
Peace and Unity – Fairy Tale Friends

Here is my first lesson plan that I put together using the above unit.

– Brainstorm sentence endings to the phrase, “A good person/friend is someone who…. “
– Record these headings beside the sentence starter, “Character Trait”, “Why is this a good trait?”
– Explore positive character traits from the ideas generated by students (kind, helpful, generous, share, etc)
– Review the list of positive behavioural traits and think of the negative behavioural traits that are opposite to them
– Discus how people make choices to change and people learn to be positive when they feel good about them
– Discuss the concept of family, including adoption, foster parents, single parents, siblings, stepfamilies, etc and list examples on the board under the heading, “Many Kinds of Families.”
– As the list is being built, the class discusses the loving relationships within each example and how the children are shown love and protection
– Brainstorm and discusses fairy tale characters, and list them on the board
– Students decide if the characters on the list exhibit positive or negative behaviours.
– Discuss the possibility of a character exhibiting both types of behaviour based on their intentions, e.g., Goldilocks may not have intended to ruin the Bears’ belongings and she may have learned a good lesson
– Model this paragraph. “My cousin is very generous. When I was away at summer camp, she sent me all sorts of surprises in the mail. She sent me a birthday present as well, even though we don’t normally buy each other things for our birthdays. She also sends me emails and links to things that she knows I like. I love my cousin Stephanie.”
– Students work independently writing paragraphs about a good character trait of someone in their lives

Here is the full text of my Fairy Tale unit plan. I hope you will find it useful. Feel free to modify it so it works for you. That is what I do every time I come across a new resource. I take what I like and I make it fit with my teaching style and with the needs of my students.

This is an amazing resource that starts off the year on a positive note. The values in these fairy tales are the same ones that I try to build in my classroom. By starting off the year with this unit, we have a focus and a vocabulary that will sustain us as a group throughout the year. So try it out.

Email me or leave a comment if you have any trouble accessing the PDF file.

If you would like to contribute a guest post for Teaching Tip Tuesdays, I would love to hear from you as well. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.