Monthly Archives: February 2011

Keep Shining – Together We Are Fireworks

Commercial radio is often full of songs that don’t have much substance to them. The lyrics often seem empty or hollow. Artits are quick to make catchy sounding records that have very little to offer other than a nice beat and an infectious rhythm.

Every now and then, though, a song comes along that makes me believe in the power of popular music.

I want to highlight two songs that have inspirational and powerful lyrics. Both songs also have stunning visuals to hammer the message home even more. The best part about these songs is that they are are great songs. They aren’t simply message-oriented. They rock!

First up is “Keep Shining” by Shad.

This song, coupled with an interview I had with Eternia inspired me to put together a special edition of DOPEfm highlighting the women of hip-hop.

Our International Women’s Day Tribute Show will air on Saturday March 12th and will feature 7 hours of radio completely dedicated to the women in hip-hop. I am very excited about this show and hope you are marking your calenders now.

You are probably more familiar with the second song I want to highlight today. This song is all over the radio right now and it has even been covered on an episode of Glee.

Here is “Firework” by Katy Perry.

I decided that this was a perfect song to teach the choir at my school. Normally, I stick to the traditional choir songs that most students are generally unfamiliar with. Needless to say, they are really excited to be doing a pop song.

I got a hold of the karaoke track and we are learning to sing it on time, on beat, and on key. So far, it is going quite well.

Just as I was putting this blog post together, I heard this song that sums up pretty much everything I was trying to say about pop music.

(Warning – Explicit lyrics)

Of course, good music is out there. You just need to be more selective in what you choose to consume musically.

Let’s Keep Shining because Together We are Fireworks!

How to Find Time to Write (Guest Post)

How do fiction writers find time to write? When looking over their daily schedules, it often seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Even with a busy schedule, writers can always find small bits of time to craft that fabulous novel. Let’s take a look at some tips that should help you find some free time to write during the week.

  • Lunchtime: Instead of chatting with co-workers, dining at a four star restaurant, or wandering around Facebook, use your lunch break to write.
  • Communications: How many minutes per week do you spend reading and responding to unnecessary text messages? Surely, writing your wonderful novel is more important. And no more tweeting or Facebooking until you finish writing! Don’t let telephone conversations drag on. All this time really adds up.
  • Appointments: Appointments away from the office or home such as doctor’s appointments or a hairdresser appointments provide great opportunities to write. You don’t need to read a year old magazine while you’re waiting. Use a tech gadget (if you own one) to write, or just jot down some ideas on note cards.
  • The morning: Quit hitting the snooze alarm. Get up early and do some writing before you go to work. Also, set the alarm an hour earlier than necessary. Over the long-term, you’ll get a lot done by writing for an hour every morning.
  • Taking care of children: While they’re playing or napping, squeeze in some writing time.
  • Entertainment: Cutback on watching television by AT LEAST half. Most people stretched out on their death bed don’t say, “I wish I had spent more time watching television!”
  • Schedule time: Schedule time for writing every day. Inform family members and friends of your writing periods so they’ll leave you alone.
  • The weekend: Let the kids clean the house! Try to spend a few hours on the weekend writing. Maybe you can even send the kids to their grandparents house.
  • Simplify your life: Why are you so busy that you don’t have time to write? Perhaps you can let go of some things in order to have time to work on your writing project. Stop surfing the Web!
  • Passion: If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing, you won’t try very hard to find time to write. So find something to write about that you actually want to make time for.

For those writing a novel, there are some additional techniques you can implement to make the most of your writing time.

  • Initial synopsis: Make sure it’s detailed enough to divide into chapters when you begin writing your novel. In the synopsis, include a short description of the action for each scene or chapter. Include what is going to happen in each scene and why. If you don’t, you’ll spend a lot time trying to figure out what is supposed to be happening as you write.
  • Characters: To save time, base some of the characters on people you know really well. This approach makes it much easier to figure out what a character will do in a particular situation. You’ll spend less time pondering and contemplating. As an added bonus, your characters will also have more depth.
  • Style: Consider using a transparent writing style. A Baroque writing style, for example, is very time consuming.
  • Animate: Don’t spend time animating things that really don’t need to be animated. For example, you don’t need to spend time describing every room the characters walk into.
  • Chapter length: Write shorter chapters. Make the character with the most at stake in the scene the focal point. You can write the scene quicker with this approach because you’re involved with a character who wants something from the action.

Hopefully these tips will help you find some time to let your creative side loose!

Brian Jenkins, a writer for BrainTrack.com since 2008, contributes content about careers in journalism and other careers in the writing field.

Image from London Clock Company 

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1000th Post Celebration

I hereby declare this Silent Cacophony Day! 

Let’s observe this day as an international holiday.

Why?

Because today marks a milestone here for this blog.

This is my 1000th post.

It’s exciting to have reached this many posts in four years.

I started this blog as a vehicle to establish myself as a serious writer. I set off on a five year mission to get something published. That was my goal.

Of course, this blog became much more than I had ever expected. It became a place for me to share some of my best teaching practices. It led me to become part of a radio show and conduct several artist interviews.  That led me to create and produce a half hour radio show dedicated to the art and history of hip-hop music. 

Of course, now I realize that I am still quite a ways off from realizing my original goal. I need to start revising my writing and sending out queries. I have two works in particular that I believe will be of interest to publishers.

So far, I have enjoyed this ride immensely. I really love what I am doing and have no plans to quit.

I’d like to thank each and every visitor, reader, commenter, guest poster, and anyone who has taken the time to read my words. I could not have done this without you.

I vandalized an image from The Mega Penny Project for this post and I apologize for my blatant graffiti art. The image shows one thousand pennies formed into a cube. How could I not overlay my logo onto that for my 1000th post? I mean seriously.

Here’s to the next thousand. Thanks for being here with me.

Time to celebrate!

Teaching Tip – Get Organized

One thing I have learned from all my years of teaching is that it pays to be prepared.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always this organized.

I always made sure that I photocopied any material or worksheets I needed well ahead of time. However, on one more than one occasion, I simply could not find them when I needed them. I’d end up scrambling at the last minute to run off another set of copies.

I knew I needed an easy way to keep track of all my photocopies but it took me a while to figure out exactly how to do so.

This is my desk drawer and the perfect solution to the problem of lost worksheets.

As you can see, I have a file for every subject I teach.

These are my folders for the first block of study in my morning routine.

Monday – Spelling
Tuesday – Word Study
Wednesday – Grammar
Thursday – Spelling

I then have a folder for each day of the week to help organize any handouts I might need for my math lessons.

Here you can see a class set of worksheets. This is a quick activity I plan on doing with my class during a Language Arts period this Friday.

Your teacher desk probably has a drawer that supports hanging file folders. If not, you more than likely have a filing cabinet in your classroom. Failing that, you can pick up relatively inexpensive self-contained plastic frame.

And don’t forget to get these great tab dividers.

You don’t need fancy colour-coded ones either. I simply use the plain clear tabs and colour the paper insert with a pencil crayon before writing on them with pen.

In the above pictures, you can see that all of my Math tabs have been coloured yellow, all of my Language Arts (English) tabs are blue, my morning literacy block tabs are red, and Social Studies / Science tabs are green.

You will also note that the pink folders at the back of the drawer have several folders containing Language Arts worksheets. Behind that, there are several more folders with Word Ladders (more about those in an upcoming Teaching Tip Tuesday post.)

It is comforting to know that I have back-up lessons and materials to quickly draw upon whenever I need them.

Photocopiers break down. Stay ahead of the game.

I make sure that all of my photocopying for the upcoming week is done before I leave the school on Friday. That way, I can begin my weekend knowing that everything is set for Monday morning.

If I get to school and the photocopier is broken, if it’s going to take all week for it to be serviced, I don’t have to do any last minute tweaking of my lessons.

It pays to be prepared and organized.

I hope you have found this Teaching Tip post useful. If you have any ideas, comments, suggestions, or if you would like to write a post sharing your favourite teaching practice, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.


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Gnomeo is a Gno-gno (I mean No-no)

When I first heard about this film, I was completely repulsed by the idea.

Romeo and Juliet retold with a bunch of garden gnomes.

Wait, it’s a animated film for children?

The ending has been sanitized too?

The star-crossed lover’s don’t die?

Are you kidding me?

The film is called Gnomeo and Juliet.

Okay, I must admit that I like the title and the play on words there but everything else about this movie totally
repulses me.

I am not one of those snobbish Shakespeare fans either. I loved Baz Luhrmann‘s Romeo and Juliet.

This film adapted the play perfectly, in my humble opinion. The dialogue was all straight from the original play. The film was shot in a music video style that really gave it a fast pace. The two leads were very popular stars at the time. Swords were replaced with guns. Fast cars and cool characters peppered the screen and the movie truly did deserve to have William Shakespeare’s name above the title.

Romeo and Juliet is a classic tale that can be told well in a variety of different ways. The Claire Danes and Leonardo DeCaprio version is not the only well-made film based on the play.

When I first heard of Gnomeo and Juliet , I hoped that people wouldn’t be stupid enough to go see it.

I was wrong.

Look at that. In the opening weekend it grossed over 25 million dollars and quite possibly could have been the number one movie had it been playing in more theatres.

I just don’t understand people.

Gnomeo and Juliet is a film that should not have been made. I think the concept is insulting. I wouldn’t have had a problem with an animated movie about gnomes. I wouldn’t have a problem with it being a cute story aimed primarily at children.

I think we should all demand more of the movies that are presented to us. We don’t need to go see a film simply because it is brought to our local cineplex. There are plenty of better things to do.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I know I enjoy a good children’s film but quite frankly, I have no desire to see this. It only makes me want to present a kid friendly version of the play to my class such as this one by Lois Burdett.

Perhaps I will. I think I’ll go put on that Claire Danes DVD now.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

Please leave a comment below.

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Teaching Tip: Quieting Down a Rowdy Class (Guest Post)

Heiwa elementary school %u5E73%u548C%u5C0F%u5B...Image via Wikipedia

Elementary-aged children are easily excited and it can be difficult to quiet them down once something has really gotten them rambunctious.

Once a distraction has set in and gotten everyone giggling, it’s definitely a challenge to get the class hunkered down into a productive task again.

To help you out (and spare your voice), here are some tried-and-true tips for quieting down a rowdy class next time it starts to get a little out of hand.

1.) Freeze!

Growing up, one of my favorite game was freeze tag, where anytime you were tagged by the person who was “it,” you had to freeze in place until someone else came over to un-freeze you. This game also translates into a great tactic for getting a classroom to settle down after a recess, lunch break or any other time your class has been out and about on their feet and needs to get back to their desks and settled down.

The freeze tactic works best with a whistle. Any time your kids hear the sound of the whistle, they have to freeze in place where they are. On the third whistle, when your class is “frozen” and quiet, ask them to return to their seats and tell them it’s time to begin class once more.

2.) Lights off.

If a class has grown overly chatty to the point where you have to shout over the top of everyone, start clicking the lights off and on as a warning to your class. Another variation of this is if you turn off the lights and warn your class that anyone who’s still talking when the lights are turned back on will get their name written on the board, or whatever other type of disciplinary warning system you use.

3.) The shush signal.

This one was used effectively on me and my little friends when I was in elementary school. The teacher taught us all a hand signal (our pointer finger over our mouth in a “shush” signal with the other hand up in the air holding a peace sign). When the class got too noisy, she would look at the few students who were paying attention with the shush signal. One by one, we would all stop talking, copy her and work to get the other students’ attention to do the same. No one wanted to be caught being the last one (or two) holding up the shush signal because that meant we’d have to miss out on recess or some other kind of reward.

4.) Get them to repeat your words.

Finally, if you’re trying to give out instructions to a class that is having trouble keeping their attention fixed on you, I suggest getting them to repeat the last word of every sentence or repeat key words. For example, “Ok, I need everyone to take out their workbooks. Everybody say, ‘Workbooks!'” And the children echo you. “Everyone turn to page 27. Everybody say, ’27!'” And the children echo you. If the children know you expect them to echo you, they will have an incentive to listen to what you’re saying so they’ll know what to belt out when it’s time to echo. Believe it or not, I first witnessed this tactic from a pastor in an early morning church service as a means of keeping full-grown adults focused on the sermon!

These are just a few ways that the teachers I’ve encountered have gotten rowdy classes to settle down, quiet down or listen.

What tactics work best for you?

This guest contribution was submitted by Lauren Bailey, who specializes in writing about online colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to: blauren99 @gmail.com. 

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Recommended Reads – The Shack

Cover of "The Shack"Cover of The Shack

The Shack is the debut novel from William P. Young and the latest book to end up on My Recommended Reads list.

Like many of the books on the list, I discovered it quite randomly at the public library and was completely blown away by what I found.

The story revolves around a man who has suffered the loss of his youngest daughter. Her murder pretty much destroys him and he is merely a shell of a man when he receives a mysterious letter four years later.

The letter appears to be from God and is an invitation back to the scene of the crime. Mack isn’t sure he should go but the note assures him that God will be there.

(Spoiler alert)

When Mack arrives at “the shack,” he is greeted by an old black lady. She enthusiastically welcomes him with open arms and a warm, inviting hug. Mack feels like he should know her. She has a comforting presence but up until that very moment, he had never seen her before.

There are two other people at the shack, one of whom is an Arab-looking man, the other an Asian looking woman. At first, Mack thinks something must be wrong with his eyes as the woman appears to be a bit out of  focus.

It turns out that the old lady is God, the Arab is Jesus, and the other woman is The Holy Spirit.

I must admit that I have never understood how God could be three different entities, yet still be just “one” God.

Through the art of fiction, Young paints a great image of how the Holy Trinity works.

According to the story, Jesus is an average man. He gave up a lot to become a human being. He is not overly handsome, and he is not, by any means, perfect. In one scene, he is helping prepare dinner for the four of them and he clumsily drops the mixing bowl and creates quite a mess. Dinner goes on as planned but that one dish is absent from the menu.

God chose to appear to Mack as a woman so as not to reinforce any of the stereotypical images many people have of Him.

Mack spends a weekend with these Three People and has some heavy discussions with them. They show him some amazing things and have him do some basic tasks, in and around, the shack. In the process, Mack is finally able to move passed “the great sadness” that has been consuming him.

The dust jacket states that, “The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book.”

I must admit, that I almost didn’t sign out this book. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read some Christian propaganda disguised as fiction. I tried to put the book back on the shelf but something about it just called to me.

There is an interesting scene in the book where Mack mentions Christianity and Jesus admits that even he isn’t a Christian. That is just one of the scenes that I absolutely loved in this book.

I could write several blog posts about the themes in this book. I think I’m going to have to read it again. It was a good read and I’m sure you will enjoy it, whether you are a Christian or not.

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Teaching Tip: Multi-Syllable Rhymes

Eminem performing at the DJ hero party with D1...Image via Wikipedia

When people think of poets, they don’t often think of rappers, but Eminem gets a lot of attention for how he puts his words together. People who don’t even like rap, admire him for his skill.

I know what you are thinking

– Eminem in a Teaching Tip Tuesday post?

– Has Chase really lost it?

The answer is, “No!”

Eminem is a brilliant wordsmith and probably the best one the English language has ever seen. Many of our students listen to him and are quite familiar with his lyrics. We don’t need to play any of his songs in the classroom to illustrate our point either.

This lesson will energize our students and get them writing. They can listen to him when they go home and hopefully will do so with a new appreciation of his technique and style.

Here’s the lesson,

There are three types of rhymes,

Normal rhyme such as “cat / hat”
Multi rhyme such as my “cat / hi-hat”
and Longer Multi Rhyme such as “bit my cat / hit the hi-hat.”

Eminem rarely uses normal rhyme or multi rhyme. Instead he strings together complex syllables where each sound rhymes over and over again. He does this in a way that does not sound forced at all and has accomplished this from years and years of practice.

As a drill, Eminem breaks phrases down into syllables and then tries to find rhymes for each syllable. It doesn’t even have to make sense, this is a basic search for some complex rhymes. This is an example from his latest album, “Op-en-up-some-lanes / go-ing-through-grow-ing-pains / flow-ing-through-my-veins / go-ing-in-sane / diss-ing-Lil-Wayne.”

Here’s an example from Big Daddy Kane, “Ain’t no need for wondering who’s the man / Staying looking right always an exclusive brand

As you can see, this style of rhyming has been around in hip-hop for quite some time.

2Pac packed lots of mutli-syllable rhymes into his verses as well,

“do to me” – “community”
“concrete” – “wrong street”
“irrelevant” – “devil’s friend”

Classroom Activity 

Brainstorm some phrases with the class and write them on the board. Then choose one phrase and have each student write syllable rhymes for it. Stress that we are only looking for rhymes. Spelling and making sense doesn’t count. At the end of the time, compile all of our work into one Eminem style verse.

I tried this with my class last week. We chose the phrase “cold winter day” for this exercise.

1) First, we brainstormed word that rhymed with “cold”

cold

– old
– fold
– bold
– gold
– mold
– polled
– rolled

Then we brainstormed words that rhymed with “winter.”

winter

– sprinter
– printer
– spinster
– enter
– centre
– sinner
– winner
– Prime Minister
– sinister
– finger

As you can see, not all of our words were perfect rhymes. That is totally fine.

Lastly, we needed to list words that rhymed with “day.”

day

– bay
– say
– okay
– obey
– clay
– stay
– away
– tray
– pay
– Santa Fe

Then we tried to combine words from each list that made sense when put together. 

Cold Winter Day

– old spinsters pray
– gold winners play
– the old sinister man from the bay
– fold printer paper this way
– polled the Prime Minister today
– bold tornado lays destruction

One of my students is a bit obsessed with Hello Kitty. She brainstormed words that rhymed with that title and came up with this short poem,

Hello Kitty
wanted to go to Mellow City
so she hopped on a Yellow jet ski.

So Try it out! 

If you have any ideas, tips, or lessons you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, or you could even write a guest post for an upcoming edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about. 

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