Monthly Archives: October 2010

Chasing Content – November 2009

Digging demo with Caterpillar 963DImage via Wikipedia

I’m hauling out the big machinery for this month’s installment of Chasing Content.

It’s time to excavate some of my past posts that would otherwise stay buried in the archives of Silent Cacophony.

So, grab a shovel and help me to unearth these gems. You can read all of the posts from last November or just these favourites. 

And while we are digging through the archives, please leave comments. I always love to hear what you have to say.


Reclaimed My Name – Silent Cacophony has a long history that predates this blog. It feels like this term should be mine and mine alone. At first, it wasn’t. But now if you Google it or my name, the first several hits are all me. I reclaimed my name and it feels great!

Take a Moment – My students got a lot out of a visit from local war veterans on Remembrance Day last year. This is a cute story and a great post to revisit at this time of year.

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Music Class – Music doesn’t need to be a scary subject to teach. You don’t have to have any talent or passion to teach it to your students. This post is for all the reluctant classroom teachers who find themselves without a music teacher in their schools.

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Song Maps – Song maps are easily to create and  a fun way to learn a song with your class. Try one out!

Writing Helps – I am so thankful to have this blog. The act of 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, which of course is another reason I do this monthly feature. I hope you enjoy it too.

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Warbler Woods Visual Tour

Are you ready for a visual tour of Warbler Woods?

Good, because I laced up my running shoes, grabbed my camera, and got out for a nice trail run.

Entrances to nature trails often have a tight fence like this one. They are meant to stop dirt bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles from tearing up the site.

It was such a beautiful autumn day in London, Ontario. I’m so glad that I could get out and enjoy it.

Here is some information about the trail. I always love to see signs like this posted along the route.

Warbler Woods, named for the uncommon Golden-winged Warbler that once nested in the area, has been a favourite birding spot over the last one hundred years. 

It covers the eastern slope of a steep hill at the western end of the Ingersoll Moraine. The moraine is a mix of silt, sand and stony soil (till) that was deposited by a melting glacier about 13,000 years ago. In places silt and clay layers from glacial Lake London cover these deposits. The hillside has been eroded by creeks and mudslides, forming steep slopes and ravines.*

This trail is definitely a challenging one. It is almost hill after hill. I so love it!

There was a slight breeze that rustled the trees every now and then. I wish I had a better camera because it was literally raining leaves. I so would have loved to catch that better on film (uh, I mean digital print)

I’m not sure why this concrete post is here in the middle of the woods. Any ideas?

I’m not much of a bird-watcher. Instead, I tear through the trails at a pace of about 1 kilometre ever four minutes.

I did hear a few woodpeckers though. As much as I tried to see them, I could not.

There aren’t too many things that are  better than a quiet trail run at this time of year. I love the changing colours of the forest, all the leaves underfoot, and the shower of leaves all around me. 

Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of my run because I enjoyed bringing it to you.

This was an amazing run!

* Information was taken from The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority website –

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Teaching Tip – Smarties Math

Photograph of Nestlé Smarties as sold in the U...Image via Wikipedia

This lesson is ALWAYS a hit with the students.

How could it not be?

Everyone loves Smarties.

The first thing you need to do is buy each student in your class a regular box of Smarties. Don’t cheap out and buy the snack size or Halloween boxes though. There just aren’t enough candies in those boxes to make this a valuable learning experience.

Before you hand out the candy boxes to the students you need to be very clear about your expectations. Let the students know that these candies are to be used for math. They are not to be eaten until the work has been completed. If they cannot handle this lesson, then you will not bring food in for lessons again. You can let them know that we will be using marshmallows for an upcoming lesson as well.

Tell the students that the first thing we will be doing is making an estimate as to how many Smarties are in the box. Hand out the boxes and tell them that they can shake them, inspect them, but they cannot open them until they make their estimate.

Hand out this worksheet –

I really like this lesson because it incorporates all areas of the math curriculum. The students need to estimate and then collect data using tallies.

The addition sentence above looks daunting at first but you can show your students how counting by fives using the tallies is a quick and effective way to find the total sum.

The students then need to use subtraction to find the difference between their estimate and the total number of candies in the package.

Now the students get practice graphing the data and experimenting with probability.

Problem solving and symmetry comes into play in the third page of this worksheet.

I designed this lesson with Grade 3 students in mind. However, it can be adapted to be used in any grade. It reinforces math concepts across the curriculum and does so in a way that is exciting to the students.

This lesson took about an hour to complete in my class last week. If you would like the MS Word version of this worksheet, please feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to share resources with you. Teachers helping teachers is what Teaching Tip Tuesday is all about.

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The Top 10 Canadian Rappers

The National Post revealed their list of The Top 10 Rappers in Canada

It was great to see such a list put together by our national newspaper. I actually have been impressed with the level of hip-hop reporting they have been doing lately. That being said, I don’t completely agree with this list.

The National Post’s words are italicized in red and my commentary is written below it.

10. Michee Mee: Still no other female Canadian MC has carried the weight of Michee.

What? Are you kidding me! What about Eternia?

When you think female rappers in Canada, these two names immediately come to mind. Michee Mee is a pioneer for sure but Eternia has been bringing fire to the microphone for over ten years. I think she is absolutely amazing and it’s a crime that she isn’t on this list.

9. D-Sisive: Started as a battler. Still battling.

I think D-sisive deserves to bit a bit higher up on this list.

8. Buck 65: He raps about baseball. Enough said.

Not mad at this entry at all.

7. Saukrates / Maestro: It’s a tie at number seven. These two are old school but Saukrates is killing it with his new song about Emily Haines. And without Maestro, there’s no list.

Okay, hold up. There wouldn’t be a Canadian hip-hop scene without Maestro. How can you possibly not give him his own ranking here?

Saukrates is a legend and I think he deserves to hold down this spot. Maestro should be higher.

6. Classified: Actually one of our truest hip-hoppers, Class has personality and rugged lyrics. If Canadian rappers were American, Classified would be from Brooklyn or the Bronx (instead of Nova Scotia)

Love Classified. Nice analogy here too.

5. K’naan: He’s colourful, charismatic, and a terrific writer blessed with a golden voice. His next move could be anything. Here’s hoping he decides to stay rap.

K’naan is incredibly hot right now and he’s got mad talent. No doubt about that.

4. Drake: Singlehandedly keeping Lil Wayne alive while he’s in prison, Drake is not only the most popular Canadian rapper of all-time, he’s also the smoothest, and nearly the best.

I hate to say it, but I think Drake is over-rated. His rhymes are quite simple (cat – hat, kind of stuff) I know that he’s got legions of fans worldwide though. I admit to enjoying some of his stuff. I just find that he can be hit and miss.

3. k-os: Gotta love his rock star approach and his lyrics. Who else drinks white wine in the morning when he must meet the press?

Loved this cat when he first came out. Love hearing him on the radio too.

2. Kardinal Offishall: The big boss of the Canadian hip-hop game, Kardi’s been number one for so long that it’s only his recent pop moves with Akon that found him losing ground to Shad. Kardinal is still a serious MC, though. There’s nothing we’d like more than rocking to him retake his crown.

Truly unique artist. Kardi deserves to be high on this list.

1. Shad: He had us convinced with his first Polaris-nominated record,The Old Prince last year, and blew us away. TSOL just dropped in the U.S., where he’s currently touring with k-os. Kanye – get ahold of this man, before you’re opening for him.

I completely agree with placing Shad at Number 1. Nice job National Post!

I’d like to rewrite this list a little. I don’t know what criteria was used for them but here is mine; lyrics, influence, and longevity.

10. K’naan
9. Buck 65
8. K-os
7. Saukrates
6. Kardinal Offishall
5. D-sisive
4. Classified
3. Eternia
2. Maestro
1. Shad

I’d love to hear your opinions,

Do you agree with The National Post’s list?

Would you rearrange the artists?

Who would you add?

Who would you leave out?

Know Your History: Episode 5 – Rap is Born (Part 2)

This is the conclusion of the transcript for Episode 5 of Know Your History. If you missed reading Part 1 you can go back and read it now. You can also download the radio show for free or stream it with the player below. 

In 1978, the term “rap music” came into existence. Most people didn’t mind the new term and actually started calling themselves “rappers.” So now, not only did we have a new term that helped shift the focus to the emcees, we also had rappers stepping up their game with the lyrical content and delivery. This kind of relegated the DJ to the back.

Also shortly around this time, rap radio was born. The first show was Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack on WHBI. This also helped signal the shift because it was no longer about a DJ heading up a party. It was now about the song and what the MC was saying.

Another interesting thing happened in 1982. There was a battle between Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee. Busy Bee was one of those old-school party rappers who didn’t really say much in his lyrics, and Kool Moe Dee was more like the Furious Five there. Kool Moe Dee’s delivery was harder and he said more things in his lyrics. Anyway, he actually crushed Busy Bee in this battle. He just knocked him right out. Since then, battling has become part of the culture as well.

I will be producing an upcoming show that focuses entirely on battles and this particular battle will definitely be highlighted in it because it is one of the most famous of all rap battles.

One year later, Run-DMC did their own take on the same issues that were reflected in “The Message” with their song “It’s Like That.” Much like Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” it talks about poverty but it’s much harder and has more of a street sound that the flashy Kurtis Blow. I would even argue that it’s a little harder than Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s take as well.

It’s even more evident on the B-side, “Sucker MCs.” which was quite literally a battle song where Run rips through any would be MC. It’s a great song with an edge to it unlike anything else at the time.

The interesting thing, too, was that Run-DMC knew that this shift was happening. You can hear it in their lyrics. They say, “All brand new. Never, ever, old school!” Run-DMC is basically saying, “Look out for us. This is brand new. We’re not doing to old stuff that you’re used to. This is for the street. This is hard. This is the voice for the people. Rap has something to offer.”

So we started with hip-hop culture just being about the DJ trying to get the crowd to dance, figuring out that the crowd like to dance to the breaks, and looping up that break part. DJs then tried to outdo themselves by using the turntable as an instrument so much so that they were too busy to get on the mic anymore to hype up the crowd. They then employed MCs to do it. The MCs hyped up the crowd and introduced the deejays. MCs quickly started to take it a little bit further and started telling stories, making their raps longer and formatting them into actual songs. This was quite a shift in hip-hop culture.

In this next episode, we will explore how rap became popular because at this point in time, rap was pretty much relegated to New York City. But with radio and video, that was all about to change.

I hope you enjoyed the program today. Remember to tune into DOPEfm each and every Saturday overnight for all the best in underground hip-hop, dope mix sets, artist interviews, and history segments. Listen live at and subscribe to the podcasts at Thanks!

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Know Your History: Episode 5 – Rap is Born

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. This is the transcript of the fifth installment of the show. If you haven’t been with us for the previous four, you can download each episode for free or stream them with the player at the bottom of the posts. You can also read the transcripts as you listen to each episode.

So, without further ado, let’s move on to the topic for today.
Today rap is born. 
Actually, it wasn’t born today. Who knows when it was born? We cannot pinpoint the date exactly and say. “This is rap. This is when it started” but we can with hip-hop. We need to remember that there is a subtle difference between rap and hip-hop. Rap is the music, hip-hop is the culture based around the music. For today, we are just going to focus on rap music.
In the mid 1970’s, deejays still owned the parties and were held in reverence. Emcees or rappers really weren’t around at this point. DJs such as Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash quickly became legends by playing street parties and getting everyone hyped up and dancing to the music they played.
The DJs were naturally competitive with each other and as such, strove to improve their deejay skills. Up until that point, it was a one-man show. The DJ ruled the party. They played the songs. They got on the mic and did what was called toasting, where they would use short, pithy rhymes to introduce themselves and hype up the crowd.
With the event of the scratch by Grand Wizard Theodore and the new techniques that allowed the turntable to be used as an instrument, the deejays really needed to focus just on the music. So they started to employ MCs. MC meaning “master of ceremonies.” Now, the master of ceremonies started adapting the toasting style made popular by Kool Herc in The Bronx. They introduced the DJs. It was still all about the DJ. The MC was only there to back up the deejay.
MCs weren’t rapping verses at that time. At this point, raps weren’t songs. They were short rhymes and that’s all. So rap wasn’t really even around in the mid 1970s. That’s one key detail we need to realize. MCs weren’t ruling; DJs were. It was all about the deejay. The emcee was secondary at this point.
The first rap song ever recorded was by a group called The Fatback Band and it featured an emcee called Kim Tim III in 1979. Shortly after that, The Sugarhill Gang released “Rappers Delight,” which really reflected the block party vibe. There wasn’t much substance to the rhymes. It was just about having fun and hyping up the crowd so people could dance. That’s the foundation of hip-hop right there.
How did rap actually become involved in the culture then? Because the culture was about playing music live, having a party, and dancing to it. It wasn’t about rhymes. Really, it wasn’t. 
I played the Sugarhill Gang song in the first episode. Once again, the rhymes were quite simple but they were basically telling a story in that song. Songwriting took a step-up in the 1980s with a kid named Kurtis Blow. In his song “The Breaks” he spoke about poverty but it still sounded like something that you would hear at a hip-hop block party. It was still about having fun at this time. As such, Kurtis Blow doesn’t really dive too deeply into the socioeconomic problems of the day. However, it is important to note that he started something there.
You gotta give it up to Kurtis Blow for stepping the game up for emcees. He tried to talk about issues affecting the poor neighbourhoods in New York where hip-hop originated from. Of course, he just has fun with it. The song is about a bunch of bummers like your woman cheating on you. So he’s having fun with it and not getting down and dirty with the issues that he touches upon. 
This next song came out two years later. It’s from Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. Notice how the deejay’s name comes first because the DJ is the centre of hip-hop culture. The DJ is what birthed hip-hop culture. Grandmaster Flash was one of the original deejays as well.
The song is called “The Message.” This song takes it to the street and really explores the socioeconomic realities of the poor, black neighbourhoods. This song actually convinced people about the power of rap and what it had to offer. So listen to the lyrics here and compare it to what you just heard.
That song touches on a lot of issues. One of the lyrics says, “living in the ghetto is like second-rate living.” It talks about jail and drugs, Another line mentions a crazy lady from the garbage can. They mention bill collectors, inflations, and strikes. The people living there have headaches, migraines, cancer, and of course, the classic line, “It’s like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder, how I keep from going under.”
There’s a section where a child is talking to his father about all the drugs the kids are doing at school, how everything is about money, and how it’s crazy after dark and he can’t go to the park. This group is exposing some real issues in this song and covering a lot of ground in their subject matter.
You can see that the art of rap got elevated there. It’s not simple party rhymes anymore. The rhymes are more intricate, they are telling a story, and dealing with some real issues of every day life.
This sparked a shift in the art form. The focus had, up to this point, been on the DJ but was now starting to move towards the MC and what he was saying.

Come back tomorrow to read the conclusion of this transcript.

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Teaching Tip – Capitalize on Those Moments

I am a very organized teacher. I have an extensive long range plan that breaks down what I am doing in the classroom term by term and week by week. I write detailed day plans for each and every single day of the year as well.

This sounds like a lot of work, but I assure you, it really isn’t. In fact, it even saves me time as I always have a road map there for me.

Of course, in teaching there is always something that pops up to derail even the best laid plans. Sometimes you just want to tear your hair out because it is almost impossible to fit everything that you would like to into your week.

That being said, some of the things that might seem like unwanted diversions can be teachable moments.

I believe that as teachers, we have a responsibility to teach more than what is laid out in the curriculum. We need to teach children about health and safety concerns, life and social skills, and cooperation strategies.

Sometimes the best way to teach these things is in moments that pop up without any warning at all.

So today’s tip is to

1) Recognize the moment.
2) Take the time to go out on a tangent.
3) And capitalize on that teachable moment.

Some of my best lessons have been the impromptu ones that I never planned. They just happened spontaneously based on a simple question a student has asked or an activity that we have been doing. These lessons are priceless and the students get a lot out of them.

I know that I have covered why we need to wear helmets and seat belts just this way. I don’t think that lesson is anywhere in the curriculum. Yet, I loved the impromptu lesson I came up with on the spot, the drawing I did on the board, and the story I told about an embarrassing skateboard wipe-out. The students got a lot out of it too. We covered science topics in this short lesson as well.

After that going off on that tangent, we got back to the actual planned lesson for the day and I think we were all better off for the detour.

Have you had any great impromptu teaching moments?

I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or write an entire post for a future installment of Teaching Tip Tuesdays. Teachers helping teachers is what it is all about.

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Meadowlilly Woods Visual Tour

Meadowlily Woods is only one of several natural jewels that exists in what is known as The Forest City, London, Ontario.

I hit the trails this past weekend for a run and took my camera along to share the beautiful views with all of you. I hope you enjoy this visual tour of my run.

The 44 ha site contains marshes and floodplain woods along the Thames River, old fields, shrub thickets and mature woodlands on higher, rolling land, and some active and retired agricultural fields.*

I started my run from the entrance point right on Meadowlilly Road. There are several different ways to access the four kilometres of trails here.

I ended up running a lot more than four kilometres. I got a little turned around on my run and needed the map to find my way back to entry point 3 where I started.

The scenery was just beautiful so I really didn’t mind getting a little lost in these woods. After all, it was a beautiful day for a run.

This is Eagle Bridge and it cuts across a steep valley.

I loved running along the trail and catching glimpses of the Thames River. I had to hike down to the bank to take this shot.

At this point in my run, I am actually outside of the trail system. I looked at the trail map and figured out that I was at access point number 4.

I love a trail that has hills sprinkled throughout it. This one had its fair share of them. I really enjoyed dipping down the trail across this bridge and then back up an incline on the other side.

This bent tree that tries to block the path was quite interesting.

All in all I think I ran six kilometres as I tried to find my way back to my starting point. It was a gorgeous run and I would recommend this trail for anyone who wants to take nice leisurely stroll or a tranquil trail run.

Here is some more information about the wildlife in the area.

Over 110 species of migratory and breeding birds have been observed in the Meadowlily Woods area. Due to its large size and location along the river, the forest supports forest interior and area sensitive species such as Pileated Woodpecker and Ovenbird. Other nesting species include Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, four species of woodpeckers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and American Goldfinch.

The animal life is typical of the London area with Raccoon, Coyote, Eastern Chipmunk, Red Fox, White-tailed Deer, Grey Squirrel, Woodchuck and Beaver.

The many wet habitats are home to Green, Wood and Leopard Frogs, Spring Peeper, Eastern Redback Salamander, Painted Turtle, and Eastern Garter and Northern Brown Snakes.

The meadows provide nectar-producing flowers for butterflies and moths. Giant and Tiger Swallowtails, Hickory Hairstreak, Clouded Sulphur and Spring Azure are among the species recorded in the area. Dragonflies, damselflies and many other species of insects can be found by the river.

*information taken from

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How could I have possibly have forgotten my lunch today?

There’s my lunch bag.

Right beside my water bottles (I never leave the house without one of them.)

Yet this morning, I somehow managed to open the fridge and grab three of my water bottles and leave my lunch behind.

I didn’t notice until I got to work. It was a good thing that I had some money in my pocket and enough time to jet to Tim Horton’s during one of the breaks or it would have been a really long day.

Language is Fascinating (and hip-hop uses it well)

My brother handed this book to me a few months back and suggested that it would be right up my alley since I am a writer, an English major, and fascinated with words and language. He was right!

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker is a great read.

For instance, did you know that “virtually every sentence that a person utters or understands is a brand-new combination of words, appearing for the first time in the history of the universe.”

Here’s another thought…

“We have all had the experience of uttering or writing a sentence, then stopping and realizing that it wasn’t exactly what we meant to say. To have that feeling, there has to be a ‘what we meant to say’ that is different from what we said.”

I’ve collected quite a few passages from this book that I will be adding to my commonplace book. Sorry that I haven’t been updating that site much lately. I plan on getting back to it real soon.

I need to add this book to my Recommended Reads list. Pinker does such a great job of explaining how language works and how it change throughout time. He believes that language is a human instinct and by the end of the book, you probably will too.

I also love how he gives credit to rappers for helping evolve language.

“When given a glimpse into one of these lexicons, no true language-lover can fail to be dazzled by the brilliant wordplay and wit: 

from medical students (Zorro-belly, crispy critter, prune) 
rappers (jaw-jacking, dissing)
college students (studmuffin, veg out, blow off)
surfers (gnarlacious, geeklifed)
and hackers (to flame, core-dump, crufty)”

He then further adds, “I don’t know how I ever did without… to dis (express disrespect for)”

A language expert that acknowledges hip-hop and its vast influence. How could I not love this book?

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