Monthly Archives: November 2010

Teaching Tip Tuesdays – Great Websites

The Book Chook – This is an amazing blog run by Susan Stephenson. She is a teacher, a writer, editor, and reviewer. She has a passion for children’s literacy and literature. You can find lots of useful posts here that can inspire you in your classroom.

Sean Banville – Search through the archives on how to bring technology into your classroom. There are lots of great ideas here.

I Learn Technology – Kelly TenKely runs a great blog to help teachers use technology to reach and inspire students. She believes technology “ignites a fire, a desire to learn, and gives them the ability to express themselves in meaningful ways.”

Here are some great people to follow on Twitter

Lesson Pathways – http://twitter.com/#!/LessonPathways

Bubba Brain – http://twitter.com/#!/bubbabrain

Your Turn

Do you have some great websites, blogs, or Twitter accounts that you find useful in your teaching?  Please share.

Teachers helping teachers is what the Internet should be about.

Why Expectations Can Ruin Christmas

Santa Claus in parade, in TorontoImage via Wikipedia

Toronto’s Santa Claus parade was on television last weekend. As part of the program, the reporters went to the sidelines and talked to some of the families taking in the festivities.

The first few interviews were sweet and innocent. They really highlighted what the Christmas season is all about.

The families were having fun and enjoying themselves. They commented on the floats, the marching bands, and the anticipation of seeing Santa. 

The reporters then talked to a young girl.

She stood proudly in front of the camera. She flashed a bright, beautiful smile and said, “I just hope Santa gets everything on my list right!”

That comment really resonated with me. It brought me back to the few times in my life where I had been expecting a specific present. I was happy to open up every present that was set in front of me. But I kept waiting for that one all-important present.

When that present didn’t come, it didn’t matter what amazing gifts were all around me. All I could focus on was that one special gift that I didn’t get. My expectations ruined what would have otherwise been a great Christmas. I’d be in a crummy mood for quite some time afterwards.

I think having our kids write wish-lists can actually be a harmful thing. It sets them up for disappointment. They will have expectations that simply cannot be met.

I think the best way to celebrate Christmas with young children is to have everything be a surprise. Let your kids know that this year you will not be writing lists.

You can pay attention to the likes and desires of your kids and buy them things that you know they will like. It is my experience that some kids don’t even know what they’ll like. They would often be happier with something they had not asked for than with the things they did.

So go out shopping without the worry of finding very specific items. Instead, buy things you know your kids will like. I guarantee you, they will not be disappointed. 

Merry Christmas!

What are your thoughts? I love to hear from you! 

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Comic Book Imagery in Harry Potter

While I wasn’t overly impressed with the latest Harry Potter movie, there were two moments in the film that were very well done. (Spoiler Alert)
In one scene, a wizarding fairy tale was retold. This sequence was beautifully illustrated in a comic book style similar in tone to what we have seen in Frank Miller’s work. 
In fact, this was not the only image the filmmakers used that sprung forth from the pages of a comic book.
In comics, we are often presented with a single image on the last page of the book. This image usually takes up the entire page. It ups the ante for the protangonist. This scene typically leaves the reader wanting more. Comic book producers have done this for years to entice the reader into buying the next issue.
The movie did this exact same thing, flawlessly. The last few moments of the film kept building and building up to that one moment.

We see the evil Voldemort get his hands on a powerful weapon. One that could turn the tides in his favour. He tests out the weapon and we see its destructive power. The elder wand lets out a spark that lights up the entire night sky.

It was a powerful image and the perfect one to end the film on. 

The final scene was one of the best parts of the entire movie. The music, imagery, and pacing of it was perfect. Even though I knew it was coming, I was fascinated to see it played out in front of me.

It seemed like the movie was just getting started when it ended here. I want to see more.

This final splash page did its job. The filmmakers did what the writers and illustrators of comic books do. They left us with one striking image that could only fuel a desire in us to see more.

I have high hopes that the next film will be a great one. The rest of the story follows through with this quicker pace. The stage has been set. The next issue (I mean film) will be a nail-biter. I can’t wait. 

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The Colourful Parking Lot

The yellow lines separate.
A red car by a school.
Black concrete,
green cars blend in to the trees
by a lonely, cold puddle.

That poem was written by my class yesterday.

I really love what we are able to accomplish in this guided writing activity.

Our goal was to write a colour poem. I started off the lesson by sharing a poem from the book Poetry Speaks to Children.

I highly recommend picking up this book for several reasons. It comes with an audio CD that features several readings. Many of these readings are done by the actual poets as well. Not only that, but the books is beautifully illustrated.

I presented “Crayons: A Rainbow poem” by Jane Yolen to my class. I pointed out how each line of the poem contains a colour word. We looked at how each line also contains details such as shapes (circles, triangles, spikes)

I then told the class that we were going to write our own colour poem. I asked them what we could write about. We needed something that had a lot of colour in it. Of course, my students mentioned markers right away. “Markers are too much like crayons,” I said. “Let’s come up with something better.”

I opened up the emergency exit door and looked out towards the parking lot. One student figured out what I was doing. A parking lot is a very colourful setting and would work great for our poem.

I asked the students what colours are in a parking lot. The first person said “yellow lines” so I started writing that on the board.

Another student mentioned a red car. Another added that it could be by a tree. So I wrote the second line of the poem on the board.

On the next line, we wanted to say “tree” again. It sounded right so I wrote that down. But now we had an image of a tree twice in the poem. So we went back to the first mention of a tree and I asked them for a different suggestion. That’s when we came up with “school.”

The next contributer to our poem wanted to add “yellow car.” I pointed out that we already included  “yellow lines” so he suggested the car to be green instead.

The last line doesn’t have any colour in it but I loved the imagery that my student suggested. It perfectly closed out the poem. We didn’t need to write anything else. It was done.

I think we were all impressed with what we came up with.

Present poems to your class regularly. Try collaborative writing. Have fun!

If you have a teaching tip you would like to share, I know we’d all love to hear from you. There are quite a few readers of this weekly feature. I thank each and every one of you for visiting. Please consider contributing either with a comment below or a guest post. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.

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Should’ve Made a Movie – It’s Already a Book

The only movie in the Harry Potter franchise that was true to the book was the very first installment. The first movie didn’t have to leave out any of the important story details. It didn’t need to trim the story down for it to fit in the theatrical format. That first movie was amazing. I really loved it!

I haven’t been impressed with the rest of the movies in the series though. I haven’t been able to put my finger on a concrete reason, other than the old standby – the movie is never as good as the book.

I was hoping this latest installment, HP7: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows would finally capture the full magic (pardon the pun) of this amazing book series.  Splitting the movie into two parts sounded like a great idea. The book was quite long and it would have been extremely difficult to tell the story well in one film.

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, not a lot happened in the first half of it. The characters spent a lot of time waiting around, hiding out, and trying to figure out what to do next. The kids needed to come into their own and it was not an easy transition for them.

This is the kind of story that simply does not translate well to film. I think that is why I left the theatre unsatisfied yesterday. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 was simply not a good film.

The funny thing is that this film did live up to the book. I thought that was what I had wanted. It turns out it wasn’t.

I really wish that the film producers had made a good movie. The script should’ve have been written to please movie-goers and not the legions of fans of the book. Major changes to the plot should have been made to make it a more exciting movie experience.

Instead, I was just bored. I only found two things in the movie that I actually enjoyed.* Those small moments were not enough to save this film.

They should have made a movie. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is already a book. It was a great book too. Too bad it made a terrible movie.

What do you think? 


Am I being too harsh? 

*future blog post to come on this topic (stay tuned)

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Inspiring Students (Video Game Analogy)

I want my students to learn, but more than that, I want to develop in them a desire to learn, a desire to be productive, to accomplish things, to do more than they ever thought they could.

That’s my goal. That is why I push my students to do their work, to use their time wisely, and to not be satisfied with their first effort.

But my students don’t know what I am thinking. They don’t know my goals. They don’t read my day book. They think I’m just bossy, a tyrant, too strict, or too tough.

So I let them know. I expect more from them because I know they can do it.

If people were satisfied with their first effort, video games would still look like this.

Screenshot of PONG from the Atari Arcade Hits ...“Pong” via Wikipedia

or this

Asteroids screenshot“Asteroids” via Wikipedia

or even this

Mario in Super Mario Bros., one of the first g...“Super Mario Bros” via Wikipedia

While each of these games is quite simple, they show improvements. Pong controllers only move up and down. The space ship on Asteroids could move in all directions across the screen. Super Mario Bros had side-scrolling so that you could travel long distances and not just have to stay on one screen. The latest video games allow movement in a virtual 3-D world.

In school work, first drafts are like Pong, which might be just fine for some occasions. But a student’s work can often be taken further.

“Super Breakout” via Wikipedia

Tell your kids to get out of the 64K work, move passed 8 Bit, and take it to the real world.

“Holodeck” via I Fight Robots
We will all be better off that way. I guarantee it!

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Kish Autograph

Kish was one of my favourite rappers back in the day. He came out with an album entitled Order from Chaos in 1991 and had quite the hit with “I Rhyme the World in 80 Days.” Unfortunately, despite a solid album, he seemed to remain a one-hit wonder.

Three years later, A Nation of Hoods came out. This album is even better than his first.

He came to a mall in Hamilton for an autograph signing. I was pretty excited to meet him. I told him that I had been waiting years for this album. As you can see, he signed it “Thanks for waiting!”

I also got an autograph from DJ Supreme as well.

I’ll leave you with a track from this album. I hope you enjoy this throwback from 1994.

Here is  “Crates to Concrete” from Kish.

Teaching Tip – Using Math Support

Did you know that most math textbooks these days come with all kinds of resources and support?

Some math textbooks come with a CD-ROM. Others allow access to a website where you can download and print off worksheets.

I like to use these resources to create new worksheets based on the lessons I have taught. This gives my students extra practice.

I noticed that my students were having a difficult time reading and working with analog clocks.

The CD-ROM had a file with a blank clock graphic. I copied it onto a word file and wrote some questions for my students to solve.

As you can see from these two pages, I personalized the questions. My students know that I love to run. And they love when I grant them the occasional long recess.

Personalizing math questions can really help to inspire the students.

The questions aren’t about some nameless person in a textbook any more. You can make them about the students in the class quite easily by just adding their names and their interests.

Try it out!

If you would like a .doc file of this resource, send me an email and I would be happy to share any of my resources with you. Teachers helping teachers is what Teaching Tip Tuesday is all about.

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Gotta Love Marching Bands

I went to the Santa Claus Parade on the weekend and was reminded of how much I love to see and hear the marching bands.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera with me. There were some great bands there that I would have loved to have shared with all of you who weren’t able to go.

The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band is, of course, a local favourite. I love the uniforms, the precision marching, and the the horns. 
The Collingwood Collegiate Marching Band travels all over the province to entertain crowds. I must say, there are always a welcome sight in any parade.

Another local favourite, The Argyle and Southern Highlanders Pipes and Drums.

And I’ll leave you with a clip from yesterday’s parade. This is the Mocha Oriental Band. There are one of the many Shriners outfits that you will always find at the parades. I’ve always loved the bizarre style, outfits and performances from these Oriental Bands.

Don’t you just love these bands?

Do you have any favourite marching bands?
Have you been to the Santa Claus parade in your area yet?
Leave a comment and let me know.

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Coldstream Conservation Area (Visual Tour)

Time for another Visual Running Tour. This time I hit up Coldstream Conservation Area in Ilderton, Ontario.

It’s always nice to see a map at the start of a trail.

I don’t understand why this is called a beach area. How can you have a beach area when there is no swimming allowed? Is it still a beach at that point?

It’s basically a pond. You can see how it stops suddenly at a dam.

Time to hit the trail now.

These grates were interesting. I think they are there to allow you to walk over mud. Fortunately, it wasn’t muddy during my run.

Don’t you just love this bridge?

I think we’ve found the “coldstream.” I didn’t jump in to see if it lives up to its name though.

This trail meanders through a cedar swamp, a very rare type of wetland for southern Ontario. A boardwalk takes you through the oldest, most mature part of the cedar swamp.*

Here’s the boardwalk. I love how it curves and darts out at different angles.

I like how the green of the trees peaks out from all around me in this shot, even though most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. Autumn seems to have come rather quickly this year.

Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this Visual Tour of My Run through Coldstream Conservation Area. It’s located just outside of London, Ontario and would make a great day trip for a picnic and a trail run.

* taken from The Ontario Trails website 
– http://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails-a-z/gravel-pit-trail-coldstream-conservation/

The Gay Insult

Describing things as gay has become the latest all-encompassing insult.

“That’s so gay!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard those words or a variation of them. Kids, in particular, are using it a lot and it is starting to cross over into regular media as well.

I read a blog post this week over at Daily Writing Tips where the author was dumbfounded by the new definition of “gay.” She did some research and presented how this word has changed meaning several times over the past 700 years. It’s a fascinating read and I had just had to share it on Twitter.

I then thought that I should probably add an explanation to that tweet so I sent this one out right after it.

I find it offensive to use gay as an insult and wanted to make my position known.

Of course, Adam One made a great point that I just had to acknowledge.

The word gay is branded now so that the past definitions really don’t even apply any more in this day and age.

It seems that a lot of people don’t think describing something in negative terms as “gay” is a problem. It reminds me of when I was a kid and we would say that things were “retarded”

After a while we woke up to that as being an offensive term. The message got through. I must say that I rarely hear people using “retarded” in that context these days.

I think we need to stand up and let people know that this is an offensive thing to do now.

It really is all about respect, isn’t it?

I love that you can have a healthy debate on Twitter. Maybe we’ve raised some awareness on this issue. Let’s stop using “gay” as an insult and if we hear it, let’s stand-up and say something about it.

Stop the hate!

Teaching Tip – Super Doors

A few years ago, when I was teaching Grade 4, I looked at my classroom door and had an epiphany. 
As I stared at the blank and boring door, I thought of a way I could spruce it up with a bit of colour and share my love of comic books at the same time. 
The Fantastic 4 were quite big at the time, with the release of the live action film. I thought that it would be really cool to flip that title a bit by painting “Fantastic Grade 4” on my door. 
This is what we came up with, 
I love the play on words here. We didn’t just paint our door with something we enjoyed, we became the Fantastic Grade 4 Class. 
The following year, I wanted to carry on the tradition, so I picked another member of the super-hero team. My class helped trace the image of The Thing from an overhead. We then painted it, this time with tempra paint instead of powdered paint and got a much sharper image. 
This year, I am teaching the Junior Mutli-Level class at my school. Since I couldn’t think of a clever super-hero tie in to my class, I thought I’d go with my favourite super-hero, Daredevil. 
I really love this one! 
You can personalize your classroom by painting whatever you like on your classroom door. 
Here’s how,
1) Cut a piece of butcher paper to fit your door. 
2) Find an image and project it onto the door. 
3) Trace the image with black marker. 
4) Paint the image.
5) Paint the background.
6) Trace over the outline of the image with permanent marker to make it stand out. 
7) Use lots of masking tape along every single edge so it can stay up all year long. 

Try it out.

Personalize your door. Let the kids do most of the work and you can even have them all sign it once it is done.

Trust me, everyone is going to love it!

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I Should Blog That!

Illustration depicting thought.Image via Wikipedia

There have been many, many occasions where I have been out and about and thought, “I should blog about that!”

Ideas float around in my head constantly. I can be inspired by something as simple as a comment or part of a conversation. Sometimes a great idea comes from something I have read or seen.

Most of the ideas that float around in my head would be great topics of discussion here at Silent Cacophony.

I’ve been blogging for a while and I am never at a loss for ideas. The thing that stops me from posting all these things is, invariably, time.

I simply don’t have the time to write everything that I want to.

That being said, I’m sorry for the ideas that have floated by and away from me. It’s too late to catch all those strays.

I still want to write…
– album reviews for projects that came up earlier this year.
– those interesting blog challenge and unity days that have long since passed
– commentaries about events that have passed.

Those strays are gone, but I do have ideas for posts and short stories that I have scribbled down that will, hopefully, see the light of day soon.

Hey, I just thought of something else – I should so blog about that.

Gotta go now. See you soon! Happy blogging!

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Visual Tour of The Dundas Valley Trail

I love exploring new places to run and bringing my camera along with me for the trek. This time I decided to go to Ancaster and run along parts of the Dundas Valley. I hope you enjoy this visual tour of my trail run. 

I started off walking. I was just getting my camera strap adjusted to my wrist. I wanted to take a picture of the trail sign. But before I got close enough to do so, five deer darted across the path.

I kicked myself for not having a better camera. I don’t have a zoom lens, and I couldn’t get a clear picture of the deer before they disappeared into the bush. However, if you look closely you can see a few of them in this shot.

There are several ways to access the abundant trails of the Dundas Valley.

This trail is really beautiful. I love how this meandering stream runs alongside the path.

I like this shot because of the different colours, the stream alongside the trail, and the leaves scattered alongside the trail.

This is one of a few bridges along the way. I had to stop here, quickly snap a picture, and resume my quick pace down the trail.

I ended up running along three different trails today. They are nicely marked with these signs.

All in all, I took about 30 photographs during my trail run through Dundas Valley. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this visual tour. For more just like it, click on the link below.

I hope you have a great weekend and get out there to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather. Oh, and don’t forget to set your clocks back tonight as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end for the season. Cheers!

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Under the Bombay Doors

This week I took my class on a field trip to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope, Ontario. It was an amazing experience for both myself and the kids.

I was fascinated to get to see the Avro Lancaster Bomber up close and personal.

As you can see in this photograph, the museum actually let the students sit right under the bombay doors to enjoy their lunch.

I never thought we’d actually be able to get this close to the planes. I was expecting them to be roped off, allowing us only slight glances from a distance.

In the top photo, you can see this bomb in front of the aircraft. It’s hard to tell the scale of it from this shot but my students stood beside it and it was taller than a few of them.

This is one of the gun turrets. The Lancaster Bomber has four of these, located at the front, top, bottom, and rear of the aircraft.

My students pointed out the clips of ammunition that they could see inside them. I explained that one man would sit inside this bubble to get a good view of what was around them. He would have to stop fighters and other jets from trying to take them down before they got to wherever they needed to drop their bombs.

As I told my students this story I was reminded of the movie Memphis Belle.

I remember this movie fondly. It’s one of my dad’s favourites. I went over there last night and borrowed his VHS copy of it. I plan on showing it to my class tomorrow. I think it will give them an understanding of what war was really like. It ties into the field trip perfectly and fits in with Remembrance Day next week as well.

The movie is rated for ages 12 + and I haven’t seen it in a while but I am sure it is appropriate for my class. After all, they were very curious about this craft and all of the guns on it.

This museum was absolutely amazing. The hanger deck was filled with airplanes. Mechanics and restoration artists were working on the planes and the students could get up close and personal to them, the staff, and lots of different exhibits.

The tour guides did a great job and there was lot of hands on activities for the students to do. I was really impressed with the entire day and highly recommend this trip to teachers.

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Teaching Tip – Elementary Origami (Guest Post)

You’ve probably heard of making paper cranes as an elementary art project, which might seem mundane and even pointless at first. But origami has many more possibilities for encouraging creativity, learning, and developing fine motor skills. As an added bonus, kids are more than happy to sit still for a few minutes while you teach them a fun new way to interact with paper and create their own art with such a simple element. To learn more about origami in the elementary classroom, check out the benefits and teaching tips compiled here.

Educational and Health Benefits of Origami

Origami is fun for kids to learn, but there so many more educational and health benefits that you might seriously consider it for your next art or geometry project.

As research has shown, doing origami can develop the muscles in the hands and improve control over hand movements, making it a good choice for physical therapy in patients with hand injuries. Of course, your kids probably haven’t had hand surgery, but developing the muscles in their hands can help improve coordination and control. These benefits could lead to increased typing proficiency or aptitude with musical instruments, and any other activity that requires fine motor skills could be better accomplished with stronger and more adroit hands. Origami can also help with conditions like ADHD, low self esteem, anxiety, depression, autism, and other psychological conditions.

Benefits that can translate to better performance in school include development of visual sequential memory, ability to follow directions (visual and auditory), spatial perception, fine motor skills, associative thinking skills, improved patience, increased concentration, and more thorough attention to detail. Because origami is both enjoyable and educational, your students will develop these skills while having a great time. They’ll be better prepared for academic success and might even find a therapeutic lifelong hobby in origami.

Teaching Tips

1.     Decide how many students you can teach at once, depending on grade level. You can teach 2-3 kindergarteners at once, 4-5 first graders, and the entire class from second grade on up. If you need to teach small groups, you’ll need to figure out an activity for the rest of the class to do while you teach origami.
2.     Get familiar with origami terms so you can use and explain them correctly.
3.     Learn the skill levels required to complete beginner, intermediate, and advanced models.
4.     Practice folding the models several times yourself before you teach them. Try to identify folds that might be difficult for your students and plan to explain in more detail or prepare more diagrams accordingly.
5.     If possible, “borrow” a friend’s child who’s in the same general age group as your students and practice teaching him or her how to fold the model.
6.     If you’re still concerned about your students’ ability to follow along, prepare a model of each step and pass it around as you teach it.
7.     For your demonstration paper, choose a large square with two distinct sides – one very light and the other very dark. Make sure it’s not too large to manipulate comfortably, but be sure that students sitting in the back row will be able to see well.
8.     When you teach, make sure that your sample model is oriented the same way as your students’ models. You may need to be prepared to fold your model upside down.
9.     Encourage your students to observe your demonstration of each step before attempting to replicate it.
10.  Don’t proceed to the next step until you’ve confirmed that each student has correctly performed the step you’ve just taught.
11.  Give individual attention to students who are struggling and encourage students to help one another by comparing models. Once you’ve all succeeded in folding your new models, celebrate by putting them on display (if you can get space in a hallway case, that’s great – otherwise, find a central location in the classroom).

Finding Diagrams

Try some of these websites to find beginner models to teach in your classroom:

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online programs and blogging about student life issues. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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