Monthly Archives: November 2009

The Law of the Universe

There are some universal laws that are so simple and easy to understand that they often get lost. These laws have been written down time and time again but they have sometimes been misinterpreted.

Universal laws are broken every day and unfortunately, we often don’t see the consequences that go along with breaking them. As such, we can see people seemingly getting away with acts we know in our hearts are wrong.

Over time, the inefficient policing that we perceive coupled with the misinterpretation of the laws muddle the truths we already knew.

When I was a teenager, I thought I had this all figured out. I knew the secret of life. I know that I did. I tried to share it and to express it but I was met with criticism and skepticism. I then stopped believing what had so vividly come to me. And now I can’t even remember what it was I knew back then.

This is what I remember though,

What goes around comes around

If you do wrong, it will catch up with you. So when we see people seemingly getting away with stuff, we can rest assured that there will be consequences down the line.

You can get everything you want in this life, by helping others get what they want.

Be respectful. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Things have a tendency to work out.

If you have a good attitude and try to live a good life, good things will happen to you. Things will work out.

You Need to Be Positive

A positive attitude is contagious. It can get you far and inspire the people. If you are positive yourself, you can thus create a more positive atmosphere around you as well.

You Gotta Believe

Believe in something. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual but you can believe that you are here for a reason and that you have something to contribute to the world today.

And much more

There are more universal laws out there for sure but I think these are probably the most important ones. Either that, or they are the only ones coming to my mind right now.

Writing Helps

Writing is probably one of the most amazing tools that we have. I was reminded of this last month.

I was at a really low place in my life. I was feeling depressed and miserable. I couldn’t figure a way out of my bad mood. It seemed like I was stuck.

But then Thanksgiving came around. (To all my American readers, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving holiday today. In Canada, we celebrate ours in October.) I wanted to write a post about all the things that I was thankful for but I wasn’t inspired to do so.

I went back and read my Thanksgiving post from last year and I realized that I was happy back then. I then had an epiphany. I realized that I was focusing on my heartbreak and all the things I thought I had lost. When the truth is, I hadn’t really lost anything. Sure, things hadn’t turned out the way that I had wanted them to, but while we were together I was really happy. I was reminded of the saying that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. And I finally got it.

I wrote a thankful post and immediately felt better. It was amazing how much my writing helped me. If I hadn’t of written that post last year, if I hadn’t been able to look back at it, and if I hadn’t been inspired to write a new one, I’m not sure how long I would’ve stayed in that blah mood.

Writing helps me to figure things out. I like being able to look back at what I have written to see what I was thinking and feeling at the time. I never knew that writing could actually break me out of a really low spot in my life. That was amazing.

That is why I am thankful for writing. I love having this blog and I still write in a journal because I truly believe that writing helps. I hope you do too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Scary New Territory

I don’t know why but I find it hard to write short fiction. For me, it seems a lot easier to write a novel than a short story. So I find myself in some scary new territory as I try to take some advice that a published author gave me.

Barbara HaworthAttard did a reading and book signing at my local library last week. She told us how she first got published in a children’s magazine and how that opened up all sorts of doors for her writing career. Her first novel actually stated on the back cover that she had been published in Cricket magazine.

So this past weekend, I made a trip to the main branch of the library to pick up copies of Cricket, Spider, Owl, New Moon Girls, Chickadee, Ladybug, and Chirp magazines. I wanted to familiarize myself with what kind of stories are found within those pages. I then looked up the submission guidelines on the Internet.

I wanted to start working on a new novel this winter but I think I am going to work on some short stories for magazines instead. I kind of already started. A few weeks ago I wrote a story to share with my class and I even illustrated it using the SMARTboard in my classroom. So I have written my first digital picture book that I will be sharing that with you here next week.

I also wrote a story today but I don’t know if it is any good. I would like to post it up here to get some feedback and support but I’m not sure if magazines would like to publish something that is already available online.

So, I am entering scary new territory. I am going to write short fiction this winter and send off submissions to magazines. Wish me luck.

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Music Class

Music doesn’t need to be a scary subject to teach. You don’t have to be a musician. You don’t have to be a good singer. You don’t have to have any talent or passion to teach it to your students.

This week’s Teaching Tip Tuesday post is for all the reluctant classroom teachers who find themselves without a music teacher in their schools.
Here is what you need to design your own music program.
Put Music on Your Schedule

Half an hour a week is all you need. I teach my music on Friday afternoons.
I have seen way too many classroom schedules that don’t have weekly music classes. Music is part of the curriculum that you have a responsibility to teach. Please don’t just leave all of your music instruction to the Christmas pageant.
Learn a Song Together

Pick a song that you like and that is easy to sing. I like to start off the year with Yellow Submarine. I create a song map to help students understand that music can be written down and read. A song map is basically a simple diagram that stands in for the words of the song.
Teach basic notes

The best way to teach basic note values is to clap patterns.

I use these overheads that I inherited from a retiring teacher years ago. I scanned them into my computer so I could use them on the SMARTboard this year.
The Rhythm Pattern below is ta, ta, ta, ta (which are all single claps and are timed with a 1, 2, 3, 4) , the next measure is ta, ti-ti, ta, ta (a ti-ti is pronounced tee-tee and is two quick claps but still follows the same time of 1,2,3,4) The Z like shape is a rest and you can clap a rest by bringing your hands apart.
To start clapping this pattern in unison, count the class in.
Say, “Clapping hands ready. 1, 2, ready, go.” You can tap the beats out using a meter stick if you find it helpful.
Teach your students the hand signs.
You can now use the same overhead as above to teach your students how to sign across the top line.

If you have a keyboard, a piano, or a harmonica, you can play a C and ask the students to find their “So”

You should sign too and show them how it make take a moment to hit that note. Don’t be embarrassed. Just try to make your voice sound like the note you played.

You can then sign “So, so, mi, mi, so, la, so” (each so should sound exactly the same and the mi is pronounced “me”)

Play some music games

There are some great books and resources that you can hopefully find in your school or in the public library. I will try to post up some music games and other resources for you in a future Teaching Tip Tuesday post.
You Can Do It

I hope that you have found this post useful. I know it’s hard to teach music if you are not a musician. But trust me, you can do it.
Please remember to check the Table of Contents page for all of the tips I post here every week. They are organized by theme as well.

Any ideas or suggestions

If you have any ideas, tips, or advice that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below or email me about writing a guest post.

Doors Open

Last month, I was given the key to the city, sort of speak. It was the annual Doors Open event in London, Ontario. I was able to visit 9 different tourist attractions and sites of interest. Here are a few of the highlights.

Banting House – National Historic Site of Canada

Sir Fredrick Banting woke in the middle of the night and scribbled down an idea that lead to the discovery of insulin. The house where he made this breakthrough is an historic site. Outside, in the square, a flame of hope burns for all of those people afflicted with diabetes. It will be extinguished when a cure is finally discovered.

Inside, we can see some of his paintings and artwork, we can learn of his time in the Armed Services, and we can see where he woke and scribbled down his now famous twenty-five-word thesis.

The Secrets of Radar Museum
This quaint museum is located in a post-war cottage off of Westminster Ponds. They have some old technology there and knowledgeable staff and volunteers to guide you through the exhibits.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

There are lots of things to see and learn about the history of several wars here including the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, South Africa War, the two World Wars, Korea, and the peacekeeping missions all over the world.

The Museum of Ontario Archaeology

There was a First Nations Pow Wow going on all weekend long. I was able to try my hand at soapstone carving. It was quite interesting to see the dances and drumming. I actually spent the afternoon outside in the First Nation village and never got the chance to go inside to the museum.

All in all, it was a great event. I look forward to it every year. There are also a lot of events to take the kids to as well. I have also found out that this event is run in several different cities annually as well. Perhaps next year, I could go do some touristy stuff in a different city.

No Homework Please

This is the news article that has been the topic of much discussion today.

A family in Calgary has won the right for their children not to be assigned daily homework.
I think this is an amazing thing. I actually contemplated not assigning homework myself this year. However, I was told that my board has a policy on homework and that I had to follow the policy by assigning homework and keeping track of who has done it.
I don’t think that teachers should assign homework because of a policy. Homework for homework’s sake misses the point.
The parents in this case really do get the point and I applaud them for it. They make sure that their kids are learning at school and at home. I really like the fact the parents in question actually do work with their children and help them study for tests and further their learning at home.
That is what homework should be about.
Learning does not have to start and end at school.
Parents have a responsibility to teach their children just as much as parents do. Teachers cannot control this by assigning homework. Instead, we should suggest things that our students can work on and I do that every month with a detailed newsletter.
So perhaps it is time that we rewrote those policies that we all seem to be blindly following.
I think we should make sure that the students are accountable for doing their work at school and if they choose to waste their time, they should then be assigned that work to do at home.
And of course, students should study for tests, practise learning their math facts, and read. These things go without saying. And the family in this case seems to agree with me. What else do we need?

Meet the Author

Last night I met an author. She came to my neighbourhood library to talk about her writing and to read some excerpts of her work.

Her name is Barbara Haworth-Attard.
I love how she told us that she had always written but had never even thought that it was something you could do as a career. She said, “I thought all writers were either British or dead.”
She also told us that if you want to be a writer, you should never quit your day job because you more than likely would not write. “Writing doesn’t work like that,” she said.
I found her talk to be enlightening, entertaining, and quite funny. She had quite a few fans there. I, personally, had not read any of her work yet but I just had to go to an author reading in my neighbourhood. I’m glad that I did.
I picked up a copy of her book A is for Angst

and she signed it for me.
A lot of people there told me it was hilarious. I look forward to reading it.

If you want to find out more about here, you can check her website.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Song Maps

This is the song map that I created to teach my class the song “Yellow Submarine.”

I love using song maps because it teaches that music can be written down and read. This image is read just like you would read any text – from left to right and top to bottom.

Here is a break down of how to read this song map.

“In the town”

“where I was born”

“lived a man who sailed the sea.”

“and he told of us of his life in the land of submarines.”

“so we sailed

up to the sun,

until we saw a sea of green.”

“and we lived beneath the waves

in our yellow submarine.”

You can easily make a song map for any song that you wish to teach to your class. All you have to do is draw simple pictures to go with each phrase or lyric.

I have drawn this song map several times in my teaching career. I like to create my song maps in front of the students so they can see that music can be written down by drawing a series of pictures. I often ask for suggestions for what picture we could draw for a certain phrase. Once the students have been exposed to a few song maps, they can then begin making their own.

I like to teach students about song maps before introducing them to sheet music or the staff. I think song maps are a great first step that any student can read without difficulty. Reading sheet music is a lot more difficult and some students have a really hard time following along.

Music teachers are scarce these days. If your school does not have a music teacher, I implore you to teach your own music each and every week. Please don’t be intimidated by music or what you may feel as a lack of skill. Start off simple by singing songs together and making song maps.

And stay tuned to Teaching Tip Tuesdays for more help teaching music. If you would like to share an idea, tip, or teaching story, consider writing a guest post. Send me an email or leave a comment below. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.

An Extra U, A Weird Q, A Strange S, and a Zed

I love the colour of our currency

but sometimes I write a cheque.
I like going to the Recreation Centre
but we just call it the Rec.
I practise my strokes
and analyze my technique
to get efficient and speedy
at the 50-metre freestyle
in the olympic-sized pool,
which is spelled with a Zed.
I like the extra U
the weird ending with a Q,
the RE in place of the ER,
and the S in the verb.
So don’t miss your practice,
so you can be complete
from A to Zed.
See you at the Canadian Spell Bowl Meet.

Cale Sampson Interview and Podcast

Last month, I had the chance to interview Toronto emcee Cale Sampson.

I transcribed the interview and laced it with some YouTube videos but at the time of the posting, we had some technical difficulties getting the podcast up.
Well, I am glad to announce that the podcast is now available for free download. I hope you will go check out the interview and some great hip-hop songs from the talented emcee Cale Sampson.
You can read the transcript of the interview as well if you want here.