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/