Monthly Archives: June 2012

Recommended Read – The Book Thief

When I was getting close to the ending of The Book Thief, part of me wanted to put the book down, and not because the story didn’t hold my interest. Quite the opposite actually. I had really been enjoying the story and the great writing style. I enjoyed the first person narration from a very unlikely source. I loved the pacing of the tale and how he let it unfold. I wanted to stop reading so I could prolong my experience of this book.

Have you ever read a book that you didn’t want to end? One that, as you got closer to the last page, you were already starting to mourn that you would no longer be able to continue reading it? Well, that was my experience with this book by Markus Zusak.

The story is narrated by Death and it starts in the late 1930s in Germany. Death comes to take a young boy on a train. In the process, he is quite taken by her sister and it is her story that he slowly unfolds for us in the course of this novel.

The young girl is “The Book Thief.” She is completely captivated by words and steals her first book at the funeral for her brother. Someone had left behind “The Grave Digger’s Handbook” and the sight of the book just sitting in the snow was too compelling for her not to take it. This starts her love affair with books and the written word.

The novel deals with the Holocaust in a very real and honest way. Death lets us know that he was very busy during this time. However, he is a sympathetic character. He isn’t malicious, he doesn’t collect the dead like they were trophies or like he has an insatiable thirst for it. He goes about his business and notes the colour of the world as he scoops up and carries the souls of the dead with him.

I love how, as he narrates the story, he sometimes gives us glimpses of what is to come. It’s a very effective device that frames the chapter and scenes to come. I’m not sure how the author pulled this off so well. It is something I will have to study in further detail.

This book is amazing! I highly recommend it!

I am continuing to document every book that I read over the course of the year. You can find the complete list here, along with links to each post I have written these books.


Happy Reading!

Everything is Getting Smaller (Except the Price Tag)

I love Wagon Wheels. They make a nice snack for school since I know they are peanut free. I used to pack cookies for lunch but my favourite brands all either have nuts in them or they are processed in a plant that does.
I usually buy the family pack. It used to contain 20 individually wrapped snacks. That was perfect because if I take one in my lunch every day, the pack lasts for four weeks.
The last time I bought a package of these treats, I noticed that there are now only 18 Wagon Wheels in the pack. The price has remianed the same. The box even looks pretty much the same. The only difference is the number of the treats you get.
Shrinking the size of the product or decreasing the number of items in a package seems to be a new trend.
Remember when pop used to come in cases on 24?

Nowadays, most pop is packaged into packs of 12.

I was in the store yesterday and saw that these smaller packs were on sale. I went to pick one up and was shocked to see that there were only 10 cans in the case. I put the case back on the shelf. It was my silent protest for this lack of value. 
I am not old by any means. I find it hard to believe that the cost of a case of pop has doubled since I was a teenager less than twenty years ago. Back then, I could buy 24 cans of pop (in one case) for $4.99. Nowadays, we’re lucky to find a 12 pack selling for that price.

I don’t know why we are spending more to get less. It really frustrates me. I have started shopping smarter though. I try to anticipate my needs and only buys things when they are on sale.

Have you noticed a shrinking value to the products you buy?

What are you doing to compensate?

Leave a comment below and add to the discussion.

Word Hammers (Teaching Tip)

I found this great teaching idea on Pinterest.

It comes courtesy of Ms. Kerri and Her Krazy Kindergarten blog.

I found these hammers in the dollar section at Target because I knew I could come up with a game. So I made some cards with nails on them and different popcorn words and word family words. My kids are loving it. I started tutoring yesterday with a few kids and we played in the afternoon. I call out a word and who ever hits it first with the hammer gets to keep it. You can purchase this in my Teacher’s Notebook store. It’s the Tools for Word Work packet. You can get it for $2.50.

I thought this idea was simply brilliant and it is pretty much the reason I signed up for my own Pinterest Page.

Since then, I have seen other variations of this game. For example, the French teacher at my school writes twelve numbers on the board in a grid. She picks two students to come up to the board and she arms them with flyswatters. She then says the French word for the number and the first student to swat that number earns a point.

We could use this idea for a buzzer system in any game show we might play in the class as well. It has so  many great applications.

I really love that teachers are sharing their ideas online.

If you have a great idea that you think the readers here would be interested in, please send it my way. I’d love to hear from you and have you featured here in an upcoming Teaching Tip Tuesday post.

More Teaching Tips

Mississauga Skatepark (Iceland Arena Sports Complex)

Skateboarding is an amazing sport. I like the fact that you can skate almost anywhere as long as you have a smooth section of asphalt or concrete. However, it is especially nice to have dedicated skateparks for us to go and practise our sport in comfort.

I’ve decided to start highlighting the skateparks I frequent and the new ones I discover in my travels. I’ve been doing this with my running spots for some time and you can discover those trails in my Photographic Tours section of the blog.

Now you can look forward to some Skatepark Tours as well. Here’s the first one.

This is the Iceland Skatepark in Mississauga, Ontario. It is part of a much larger sports complex. There are soccer fields, basketball courts, a splashpad, the Iceland Arena, and much more right in this one location.

The park is well laid out and allows for several different runs. It’s 2000 sqaure metres and is so large that I couldn’t get the entire facility into one picture.

It feels great to glide over the super smooth concrete.

There are a couple sets of stairs to jump and rails to grind.

Every time I skate here, the place is always quite busy.

Not a lot of skateboarders use the bowl these days, but it’s nice to have. I prefer using a mini-ramp or halfpipe but that is one thing this park is sorely missing.

This is one of the most popular obstacles for the skaters at this park. You can regularly see people grinding across this block.

The Iceland Skatepark is a nice spot to spend an afternoon skating. It is located at 750 Matheson Blvd E and easily accessible off of Highway 401 or 403.

I hope you enjoyed this skatepark tour. If you know of a great spot I should visit and highlight or this blog, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

5 Years Ago Today (Chasing Content – June 2007)

Five years ago today, this blog was just getting off the ground. It’s interesting to look back and see how far we’ve come. To that end, let’s go chase down some of that old content in a little feature I call . . .

Chasing Content

(You just gotta love the pun)

Read all of the posts from June 2007 . . .

or just the highlights

Cool is a Very Versatile Word – The word cool has so many different meanings and applications. It has also proven to have an incredible staying power. As such, it is no longer just slang. It has become cool in and of itself.

Last Hold Out – Wow, five years ago I didn’t have a cell phone. I had an answering machine and relired on payphones when necessary. When they doubled the price of a call from a payphone, I vowed to never again to put money into a payphone. I have used prepaid phone cards ever since and have saved quite a lot of money. Although, I do now own a pay-as-you-go cell phone as well.

Classroom Deal or No Deal – Deal or No Deal is a great game to play with an entire class. I have played it with several classes over the past five years with absolutely no equipment needed other than this particular blog post, a chalkboard, and a prop phone. It is always a lot of fun.

Sometimes I Think I am in the Wrong Profession – I love teaching. I know that it is my calling, but there are times when I think I am in the wrong profession. For example, I am still paying down my student debt (yes, even now.) Nevertheless, I still buy things to help me in my career. I purchase classroom materials and items to help me instruct my students. But when I look at the sheer volumn of teaching material available, it makes me think I should just be creating and selling resources. I probably wouldn’t have to worry about money at all if I did that instead of teaching.

Failure is an Option – The only way to learn is to make mistakes and not be fearful of them. Mistakes are valuable for what they give us, experience. We build on our experiences and learn. I don’t think you can learn anything without having made a number of mistakes first.

My First Novel Done – Five years ago at this time I finished writing my very first novel. It went though two revisions over the past couple of years but I think it needs one more before I actively start trying to get it published. That is still my goal and I need to focus on that a little bit more.

Thanks for Chasing Content with me.

At the start of every month, we take a moment to look back at what was happening on Silent Cacophony last year at that time. I am currently working on writing a “Best Of” post for every single month that I have blogged. Check the archive and relive the best blogging moments here.

A Music Man’s Encore (An Interview with author Rick Niece)

Today, we continue the interview I did with author Rick D. Niece. His latest book The Band Plays On: Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore is now available at bookstores everywhere.

If you missed Part 1, you can go back and read the transcript from the very beginning.

Chase: “Your father sounds like an amazing man. I know that he was in the military, he was an educator, he painted houses in the summer, he conducted the church choir, and he even started a bowling alley because you didn’t have one in your small town.”

Rick: “My dad never liked any idle time. He decided that the town needed a bowling alley. It was called The Duck Inn. He ran that for about five or six years. It was a good experience too. We didn’t have automatic pin-setters. We teenagers would jump down in the pits and set the pins and get up out of the way after the person had bowled. My dad continues to be such an amazing role model for me.

Part of the theme too, Chase, and you probably picked this up, is the theme of echoes. The introduction talks about a specific Memorial Day when the band marched to our hometown cemetery. We always ended every concert with John Philip Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ But then, there was a point near the end of the ceremony when I would leave the ranks of the band and go over to the single hill in the cemetery. My dad would play ‘Taps’ in front of the veterans who were under a canopy tent. At the time. there were still World War I Veterans alive, Over the hill, I would play the echo.

I can remember, as a little kid, how nervous I was. I would just pace little boy circles as my dad was playing. My dad always played perfectly and the title of that chapter is called ‘Echoes can Make No Mistakes.’ That idea that I’m his echo and I can’t make any mistakes.
I think that my whole life, I have been my father’s echo, not that I can’t make mistakes, but I like being his echo because what I echo, then, are also remnants of his echo. Part of the theme of the book is generational as well and how the echoes are so important and that we need to listen to them and sponge them up. We, in time, become the echoes for the generation prior.”
Chase: “That’s really touching, but at the same time, did you ever feel that you were trapped in the shadow of this great man and it would be hard for you to live up?”
Rick: “This is something that I don’t think I’ve told many other people before, so you get a scoop on it. Two things to answer your question. Number 1, I fought going in to education because I knew I could never be as good a teacher as my dad. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year in college that I decided that I wanted to teach. The thing I haven’t told many people is that I started college as a music major.
I went to Ohio State University, tried out for the marching band there, I was an alternate and really ended up being in the Grey Band. They had a Scarlet band with people who were primarily music majors and really tough to compete with. So I wasn’t as great as I thought I was and ended up in the Grey Band. I realized then, I had the passion for music that you have, but I didn’t think I had that passion to teach it, so I ended up being an English major and teaching English.
My dad was so revered and so respected, that there was a shadow. This is in no way to sound negative. It was not negative. But I decided I could be a good teacher and really learn from my dad. If there was one lesson that I learned from my dad about teaching, and it’s the simplest lesson. You’ve been an educator for nine years, you’ll know exactly what I’m saying because I think some people forget this lesson, is that students always come first.
Students are the purpose for schools and education. Chase, I’m amazed at how many people, including teachers, forget that.”
Chase: “I understand that, but I also understand that there is a bit of a battle going on against teachers. Right now in Ontario, the government is trying to take away some of our gains.
I totally agree with you, but at the same time, teachers overall, especially elementary school teachers are kind of looked down upon, like we are not important. I think we really need to give our teachers more. We need to give them the tools to do the job and make sure that we can put them first, so in turn, we can put students first. I know that sounds complicated but it’s not.”
Rick: “I’m the president of a university. Faculty members have a great job but I think we forget that it’s not a hierarchy. It isn’t vertical with the kindergarten teacher at the bottom and a full-tenured professor is at the top. It’s not vertical. We all play our parts on a student’s education on a horizontal plane. Every one of those teachers is important, but if you don’t have the resources and build at the second or third grade, it becomes difficult as students progress.
I’m also amazed that teaching is such hard work. You’re tired at the end of the day, and then you go home and prepare for the next day, you prepare lessons, and you grade papers. I’m not complaining about it, not at all. I just don’t think people realize how difficult it is to be a teacher.
Part of what I want in this series of books, is to try to get people to understand how important our education is, that it follows us, and that teachers do amazing work.

When I was a kid, being raised in a small town in Ohio, I had four support systems that were watching out for me all the time. I had my family. I had my school. I had my church. And I had my small town community, that in a sense was like a second set of parents. Unfortunately, there are some kids today who don’t have any of those, and it becomes all the more important for us as educators to try and provide all those things for students.

And I’m guessing that’s what wears you out as well as the students come in with such a variety of needs, and sometimes the only place they get that need is in your classroom.
Chase: “That’s what’s nice about this series of books because it focuses on small town life. It’s cliche to say, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ but I think we do need strong communities of like-minded individuals and whether it’s a small town, a school, an extra-curricular activity, or whether it’s Boy Scouts or Girl Guides, the youth really need things like that. We need to create a culture where they can feel safe in our own classrooms and in our bigger circles of what we do extra-curricular as well.”
Rick: “I absolutely agree. You’ve probably got some elementary school kids that have experienced things that we never did until we reached high school or maybe even now. In terms of family situations or home situations or need situations. It’s a different time.
One of the things I tried to do is capture that, not only for people like me who lived through it but also for people who didn’t know a time like that existed.”
Chase: “Some of the stories in here people might not be able to relate to, but we can think back of how that might have been. I would have no idea what a bowling alley would be like without automatic pin-setters and having to stand back there with pins flying up, getting hit on the shins, and doing that kind of a part-time job.
You also have a nice scene about the movie theatre. . .
Today, a small box of movie popcorn costs more than it used to cost to take a date to The Roxy and buy the whole refreshment works.
Rick: “Yeah, and there’s one part about the variety store we had downtown. I was about five years old and hadn’t realized that I’d stolen this candy bar but somehow I had it and hadn’t paid for it. Those were five cent candy bars that were much bigger than the bars that cost at least a dollar now. I don’t mean to sound like an old fogey, but that was a time of innocence.
In book one, Side-Yard Superhero, I wrote about my paper route. I was speaking to a college class last February and my wife was with me and I said, ‘I was a paperboy.’ And, she seldom interrupts me but she did and said that I needed to explain to them what a paperboy was. I hadn’t thought about that, that most of them wouldn’t have the concept of someone riding a bicycle and delivering papers to houses.
Chase: “Yeah, that’s really changed. We still had paperboys when I was a kid but now older people deliver the papers because you get them really early in the morning instead of after school.”
Rick: “And I think there are a lot of kids who wouldn’t want to deliver papers. But that was one of my life’s best lessons because if you had a paper route, you had people who depended on you getting than paper to them, you had responsibility, you had fiscal responsibility because you had to collect so much money because you had to pay the paper for the newspapers for that week. Plus it really taught me how to deal with people, some who were difficult. It taught me how to treat customers and how to treat people and that has followed me into being a university president.
I have a strong belief in servant leadership and being a servant leader, which means you’re not embarrassed to be seen carrying a chair or anything like that. In our workroom here at the university we have coffee, hot chocolate and tea. Anybody can come in and get a cup of coffee for free. Students come in and it breaks down that pretense of the president’s office and students.
The kids see me making a cup of coffee for them. That’s a good thing. The idea of being a servant leader is not beneath anybody.
Chase: “I agree with that as well. I find myself agreeing with you a lot today.”
Rick: “Even though the book wasn’t quite what you though it would be, at least you agree with the author.”
Chase: “I love the concept  of it but I was expecting more than a small town story, which I think would appeal to a lot of people. You are going home for a specific purpose but as you are doing that you are remembering your childhood and sharing these stories, while at the same time, celebrating the town of DeGraff and honouring your dad. It really is a sweet story that I think a lot of people will enjoy. You don’t need to be an educator or a musician, like we both are, to appreciate that.”
Rick: “My website is RickNieceBooks.com. The books are available at any bookstores or online retailers. They are books that grandparents wouldn’t be embarrassed to give to grandchildren or vice versa. The content is something they can share and enjoy.”
Chase: “There’s a mini-photo album in the back of the book entitled ‘Captured Memories’ and they can see pictures of the high school band from back in the day, they can see you as a Cub Scout beside your dad in his Bandmaster’s uniform-“
Rick: “And I’m kind of in my dad’s shadow there to go back to what you had said earlier. It’s interesting.”
Chase: “It certainly is. We call also see the Alumni Band uniforms. You all had t-shirts that read ‘Lewie’s Alumni Band’ and on the back it had the year you graduated.”
Rick: “I still have my shirt. That’s a very valuable thing for me.”
Chase: “The book is called The Band Plays On: Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore and we’ve been talking to the author Rick D. Niece. It’s been very nice talking to you.”
Rick: “I tell you what, Chase, I’ve done a lot of interviews. I don’t know if I’ve had one that I’ve enjoyed more than this, on two levels. Number one, I really appreciate your honesty. That means a lot to me as a writer. Number two, how I know you’re continuing to have your passion for music, your passion for teaching and education. You are instilling that in your students every day. And to know what a difference you are making with your class. Some day there are going to be students talking about you saying, ‘Remember him? And remember what a difference he made in our lives?”
Chase: “Thanks a lot. That’s really nice to say.”
Rick: “It’s been such a joy talking to you. And good luck with your writing.”
Chase: “Thanks, send my love to your dad.”
Rick: “I will relay what you said about him and what a delightful time I had talking with you.”

* there are a few parts of this interview that I have not transcribed (due to some time constraints) so if you listen to the interview with the player below, you will hear bonus content. You can also download the podcast for free. I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview, my very first one with an author. * 

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

The Band Plays On (An interview with author Rick Niece)

All right everybody, this is Chase March and I have an author on the phone, Rick Niece. You can listen to the podcast of this interview with the player below, or you can download it for free to listen to at your leisure.

So, how’s it going Rick?”

Rick: “It’s going well, Chase. What a honour to be able to talk to you.”
Chase: “I first heard about your book when I was approached by your management and it seemed like it would be right up my alley. It’s called ‘The Band Plays On: Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore.’ You wrote it about your father who is the director of a marching band and how people were coming back to this small town to pay tribute to him upon his retirement.”
Rick: “Exactly. My dad was the band director, in fact, he was the whole music show in this small school in a very small town in Ohio, a town of 900. We had about 150 in the highschool and my dad taught everything, first grade through 12th grade if it had to do with music. He taught chorus, concert band, marching band, and music appreciation courses. At one point in this small school of 150 people, there were 80 people in band and 100 people in chorus. So he’s a much beloved individual.
The book starts out in the present. I got a call from one of my classmates. I had not been back to my home town in quite some time. They were trying to put together a band alumni of 16 years of classes that my dad had taught, have a parade through town, and play at half time of the football game with the current band. It was an exciting project to get us all back together and honour my father.”
Chase: “Too often, I don’t think we pay tribute to inspiring people until they are dead. That kind of thing would come afterwards. ‘Oh, he was such a great conductor. We loved him.’ That’s why it’s great to see that much love and support and an event being thrown while he is still alive and able to appreciate it.”
Rick: “It was amazing to see how many people came back and the love that they still had for my dad and the idea that there still is appreciation for music. My dad wasn’t never an elitist about music, be it chorus or instrumental. ‘Come participate.’ was his whole plan. And while we had very good choruses and very good bands, it wasn’t an elitist group. A lot of people were not only influenced by him as an individual, as a teacher, as a teacher of music, but also by his ethics and values.
A lot of the book, as well, is not particularly about the music, but it’s about my dad primarily and also, for me, the influence that a small town has on a young boy growing up there.”
Chase: “Well, that leads me in to the one criticism I do have of the book. I really wanted to experience more of your dad, the music, and the coming together of the alumni band. But it’s written more like a memoir of your days of growing up in this small town. That’s where the bulk of the book takes place.”
Rick: “I think that’s a fair criticism. You always hate to disappoint a reader who thinks they’ll be getting something else. It’s not a biography and, in fact,  it’s a term I thought I created by I didn’t, it’s an automythography, which is like a memoir or an autobiography. I think about half to sixty percent of the book deals directly with my dad, and probably thirty-five to forty percent deals with music itself, and of course the book culminates with the actual event itself. But I understand that you think it should have been more about him and about the music. That’s fair.”
Chase: “I hate to be so critical of it but once everyone got into town, I thought that was where the book should have started, but that was fairly late in the book. I thought it would have been neat to make it, not so much automythography, but maybe do a little more research and interviews with some of the other band members there past and present and tell more of a cohesive story of what your dad meant to the town and all these kids playing music and marching together.”
Rick: “I hear you. That’s a different book, and this is the second book in a series. There will be a third book. They all start in the present, going into the past, and end up back in the present. That certainly would be another book, and I think it would be a worthwhile book as well. But the story arc really is music and my dad.”
Chase: “I guess, it’s the musician in me. We’re both educators and I love music and I love being able to share that passion with my students but I teach primary school so I do it through choir and rap music. It’s amazing how well kids respond to music and how important it is. I think we really need to pay focus to that, how important the arts are in education these days.”
Rick: “I can’t argue with you. Here in the states, we continue to face some real financial issues within our public school systems. The first thing to go has anything to do with the fine arts, with music, dance, and theatre, and I think that’s tragic. Part of what I was trying to capture was how important music was to us as we were growing up. That was the catch in the book, to get me back to that hometown and talk about other things within that hometown as well. I hear what you’re saying, but that would have been a different book. I can definitely hear your passion and your love for music and getting that love across to students.”
Chase: “And like you said, the budget isn’t there all the times for the schools. That’s why it’s really nice to see that sales from this book are going to support Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.
Rick: “I really appreciate you mentioning that. Yes, one dollar from each book sold goes to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. That was by Henry Mancini’s daughter, and anybody who knows much about music certainly knows the name Henry Mancini. Felice Mancini has a foundation for schools to apply for grants who might not have enough money to buy instruments or other things that have to do with music. It’s a wonderfully terrific foundation. If nothing more, if people purchase the book knowing a dollar is going towards that foundation. I also have a Facebook page and for everyone who likes that Facebook page, I’ll donate another dollar to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. Terrifically worthy, as you well know.”
Chase: “That’s awesome. I played in band starting in middle school, Grade 7 all the way through highschool, and then I was also in a marching band in the army, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, but never once did I own my own instrument. It was always the school’s or the army’s. But, at least, if we can get kids access to instruments, even if they don’t own them. that is a great thing. I still had a great time and I wouldn’t have traded that for the world playing in any of those bands.”
Rick: “What did you play, Chase?”
Chase: “I played the French Horn.”
Rick: “Oh, I’m envious. I love the French Horn. You had to have a real good embrasure. A lot of the tones really come from the pressure you put on the mouthpiece, and it’s a small mouthpiece. I love the sound of a French Horn.”
Chase: “I love it too. You started out playing a trumpet and a trumpet is very similar to a French Horn, at least in fingering positions.”
Rick: “Yes, and because I started on the trumpet, I read Treble Clef and not Bass Clef. Did you read Treble clef for the French Horn as well?”
Chase: “It’s Treble Clef, but I read both at the same time because I also play accordion and when you play that, you are playing treble and bass at the same time.”
Rick: “How cool is that? How did you get on the accordion?”
Chase: “My parents go me into it when I was a kid, so I played it before I actually had music instruction in school. It was amazing because my music teacher also taught us theory. By the time I got to highschool and we were learning the theory there, I already knew it all. I didn’t learn a single new thing theory-wise in school because I already knew it from accordion lessons.”
Rick: “That’s very cool. I went from Trumpet to Baritone. I went from playing a lot of melodies on the trumpet to baritone where it’s lower brass and played a lot of counter-melodies. And in a lot of way, the French Horn and Baritone are similar. You had some a lot of melodies that you played as well, but you also had some good counter-melodies.”
Chase: “I want to share a passage from the book right now because you have a Baritone and in preparation for the alumni band, you had it repaired and the quote reads. . .
I choked up when I opened the case and saw my reconditioned baritone looking up at me. She was new when dad entrusted her to me as a kid, and now she looked new again.
Rick: “Well read. I get emotional even when I hear that or read about it because she had been so abused. Just to hold that baritone again, I now own it. It had been so damaged that the school didn’t feel they had the funds to repair it so they literally gave it to me. It cost a ton of money to have it fixed but I still find myself playing it. My embrasure has weakened over the years and I’m amazed at how quickly my lips get tired. But just having that baritone with me, helps me relive a whole lot of those days of being in the marching band and the concert band and how important that was to me.”
Chase: “Your dad switched you to baritone because he didn’t have enough baritones at the time.”
Rick: “That’s right. I was in fifth grade at the time and ended up being in the marching band when I was in the sixth grade. The big kids accepted me pretty well. He didn’t have any baritones and he needed a baritone. And fortunately over the years, my hat was too big and the baritone was almost as big as I was, but eventually I grew into my hat and into my baritone as well.”
Chase: ‘Very cool. Your dad’s name is-”
Rick: “Is Lewis Niece. He’ll be 89 this coming September. He has now memorized seven different piano programs of thirty-four numbers each of music from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. And since my mother has passed away, my dad’s new mission is to play at nursing homes and retirement centres to play the music he was raised on and to play the music the people of his generation love to hear.”
Chase: “He sounds like an amazing man. I know that he was in the military, he was an educator, he painted houses in the summer, he conducted the church choir, and he even started a bowling alley because you didn’t have one in your small town.”
The Band Plays On: Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore is a heartfelt tribute to small town DeGraff, Ohio, and its beloved band director, Lewis Niece. The book is written by his son and we’ve been talking with the author today in this interview and podcast.
Please come back tomorrow to read the rest of thetranscript. If you don’t want to wait until then, you can stream the entire podcast right now with the player below, or download it for free to listen o whenever you like.

Thanks for tuning in.

Read Part 2

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Teaching Tip – Technology

Welcome to Teaching Tip Tuesday!

Every week I share with you a tip that I hope you will find useful in your teaching.

You can visit the Teaching Tips Archive to see all of the tips in the order I have posted them over the years. Please check that page as I will continue to update it every week with the latest Teaching Tip.

This page is all about how you can incorporate technology into your daily instruction. It will include tips about websites, applications, and other uses of technology in the classroom.

Please bookmark this page and come back often. I will update it with any new tip I publish that has to do with technology.

You might also want to check my Pinterest page and, specifically, my Technology Board for more great ideas.

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

5 Reasons Not to Print That
A Treasure Trove of Ideas
Bitesize Science
Classroom Blog
Free Teaching Resources (Part 1)
Free Teaching Resources (Part 2)
Great Websites
How to Convert Printing to Text (Smartboard Tip)
Jigsaw Listening
Let the Smartboard be Your Artist
OK Go Primary Colours (Video)
Online Jukebox for Your Classroom
Read Everything
Twitter in the Classroom
USB Drives
Using Video in the Classroom
Worksheet for Audio / Video Responses

This Day in Herstory (A Special Birthday Mixtape)

Happy Birthday Dana!
I made you this tape just for you 
and I mixed it with love. 

But I know you won’t mind sharing the music with my blogging audience.

It’s your birthday but we can all party with these great tunes.

Download this birthday mixtape for free.

If you want to make a CD of this mix, burn it on iTunes and set your playlist to have “no gap” between the songs. This will give you an album version so each song has its own track but the music will still seamlessly mix. Here’s a tutorial on how to do it.

Enjoy!

01. This Day in History (Intro)
02. Black Eyed Peas – Joints and Jams
03. Kayne West – Stronger
04. Bloodhound Gang – The Bad Touch
05. In Fear of Olive – Peace of Mind
06. Kate Nash – Merry Happy
07. Akua Naru – The Block
08. The Book Thieves – Rappers Seeking Allowance
09. Mazaman & DJ Grouch – Just Thoughts
10. Adele – Make You Feel My Love
11. Starlight Mints – The Bandit
12. Los Campesinos – It All Started With a Mixx
13. Semi-sonic – Singing in My Sleep
14. Kenny Chesney – Come Over
15. Easton Corbin – Lovin’ You is Fun
16. Thompson Square – Glass
17. Josh Turner – Time is Love
18. Elle Varner – So Fly
19. Mel C – Think About It
20. Ben Howard – Only Love
21. The Killers – Read My Mind

Know Your History – Father’s Day Special

Welcome to this special Father’s Day edition of Know Your History. I couldn’t think of a better way to start it than with this touching tribute from a father to a son. This is Xzibit “The Foundation”

Download this podcast for free or stream it with the player below.

Stay tuned because today’s show is all about the Fathers. Happy Father’s Day!

That is a beautiful track, really inspirational. Words from a father to a son. That’s Xzibit “The Foundation” Basically giving his son words to live by and totally spoken from the heart. You can see that Xzibit is a good dad and he’s letting us know how important it is to be a father and be there for your child or your children’s life.

It wasn’t always like that. We hear lots of lyrics of father’s who aren’t there. If you play the podcast, you’ll hear few examples in which you can hear the pain in the lyrics, in the choices of word, and in the repetitive content about the absentee fathers.

Unfortunately that is a common and recurring them in hip-hop. But hip-hop has a lot of power. I said it before and I’ll say it again because one MC stood up and made a track to help father’s realize their personal responsibility.

This song made it unacceptable to be an absentee father. Edo G and Da Bulldogs “Be A Father to Your Child”

That was Edo G and Da Bulldogs “Be a Father to Your Child”

He explains how he wrote the song. . .

“At the time, I didn’t have a kid or nothing like that when I made the record. All my friends, all of us grew up without fathers in the home. I would see girls pushing carriages, all the time, no guys, just girls, girls and their friends or just girls by themselves.

It sparked in my head that you need a father figure in kids’ lives, so I just came up with it. People to this day still come up to me and say that record influenced them. I think it influenced a whole generation to become responsible men.

Before that, if you got a girl pregnant, the first thing you said was, ‘It ain’t mine.’ That was the first thing out of everybody I knew, if a girl said she was pregnant by you, ‘Oh, that ain’t my baby.’

I think it ushered in a whole new way of thinking to millions and millions of black men and inner-city men around the country and basically around the world to step up to the plate. Be a man! If you lay down, take care of it. Now you see families all the time. I think I had a vital role in the early 90s in that.”

I definitely agree. That was the first song in rap to address absentee fathers in a real, direct, open, and honest way. Now we have lots of songs on the topic that I could chose to play for the remaining twenty minutes of this special edition of Know Your History, celebrating Father’s Day.

And I’m really thankful that we have this Edo G track. It sparked a lot of conscious lyrics about fatherhood in hip-hop for years and years and years. And I like how he touches on the importance of being a step-father. Being a father is very important, it’s a huge job, and if you can’t do it, let someone else do it. His lyric in there says, “Let ’em do the job you couldn’t do” and that leads us into the next song we’re gonna play.

This is Shaquille O’Neal “Biological Didn’t Bother.”

That was Shaquille O’Neal “Biological Didn’t Bother” getting its chorus from a lyric by Pete Rock and CL Smooth, “took me from a boy to a man so I always had a father but my biological didn’t bother.” Once again, illustrating the very important role that men have in young boys’ lives.

If you are not the biological father, you can be a damn good step-father and have just as important a role. It’s really cool to see Shaq paying homage to his step-father in such a way.

Let’s continue with our tributes to fathers on today’s special of Know Your History on Father’s Day. I want to play this song by NYOIL called “Father, Father.” It really touches on some of the issues like the Edo G track did. I like how this track starts off with a very inspirational speech by President Barack Obama.

This is “Father, Father” by NYOIL.

That was NYOIL “Father, Father” and it used portions of a speech from President Barack Obama. I really like what he had to say. If you didn’t have a dad growing up, break the cycle, and make sure that you are there in your child’s life. Excellent message right there.

Some rappers have rapped about their kids and that is really cool to see, but some rappers have actually collaborated with their dads on tracks. Case in point, Nas. This is “Bridging the Gap” and it features his father. I couldn’t think of a better way to close off our show celebrating fathers today for Know Your History.

That was Nas and Olu Dara “Bridging the Gap.” Father and son on one track. Very cool.

We have a little but of time left, I want to play a clip from an interview with Method Mad so you can hear what he thinks about Father’s Day. You can listen to the clip but his basic message is that “Father’s Day sucks, we deserve way more credit” and I completely agree.

Father’s are very important and they really do deserve more credit.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

I love you and I miss you every day!

Download Know Your History: Episode 30 – Father’s Day Special

The Pines – Mountain Bike Trail (Photographic Tour)

I found myself in Woodstock last week, and being the avid runner that I am, I had to hit up one of the local trails. I’d already explored a few trails in this town, so I did a Google search to see if there was a new one I could try.

The Pines is a mountain bike trail and I knew that going in, but I was sure they could share the trail with one solitary runner.

At this point, the trail looked just like any other nature trail.

It was a beautiful spot, surrounded by water, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, and I felt at home running down the trail.

Just as the trail made its way into “The Pines,” I came across this sign. It looked liked these trails were solely for bikes, but there since there was no icon specifically banning hikers or runners, I pressed on.

The trails were very well marked by colour and these signs were at every junction.

As I got further in the woods, I noticed how narrow these trails were. In the above photo, you can see that the dirt has been groomed to allow cyclists to take this corner at a high speed by arching up the bank.

The trails really twisted and turned as well. You can see the S-shaped trail here that was pretty indicative of green route that I ran.

I didn’t bump into anyone else on my twenty-seven minute trail run, and I was glad. I was sure that I was trespassing. These trails were made specifically for mountain bikes.

I’ve seen plenty of trails groomed for mountain bikes in my other runs, but I have never come across a dedicated one like this, that is so well kept. If I was a biker, I would love to come to this spot again and again, but as a runner, I think that will be my first and only trail run here. Too bad, it was such a beautiful run too!

More tours . . . 

Shinball – An Alternative to Dodgeball (Teaching Tip)

Shinball is a variation of dodgeball and it’s one of my favourite games to play in gym.

In this game there are no teams. It is everyone versus everyone.

All you need is a soft dodgeball (or two or three depending on the needs of your group.) I always start with one ball until the students get the hang of it.

The rules are quite simple. Just like dodgeball, you want to avoid getting hit by the ball. The entire gym is the playing area so you can run around without worry of stepping on to the wrong side of the gym or outside of the boundaries.

Rules

1) If you have the ball, you can only take 5 steps with it. This stops students from running around and targetting a specific player. It also keeps the game moving faster. For older students or if you have a smaller playing area, you can modify this rule so they can only take 3 steps.

2) If you get hit with the ball, you need to sit down. The game is called Shinball because you can kneel down so that one of your shins is on the ground. You can pivot on that spot like you would in basketball but you cannot move from it.

3) Players that are down can get back up again IF they retrieve a ball AND are able to hit one of the players still up and about. They are then free and the recently hit player is now down.

4) Keep playing until there is a sole victor.

Introducing the game

It can be frustrating for students who get hit and are stuck waiting to get a ball for their chance to get back in the game. As such, once everyone has the hang of the game, I blow my whistle and reset the game, “Okay, we all know how to play now, everyone up”

I then add an extra ball or two.

I really like this variation of dodgeball and my students do as well.

Students love Dodgeball

I haven’t met a class that doesn’t like dodgeball but I think it is a much over-played game in gym class. It’s nice to play once in a while but we should make sure that we vary the games we do play and even the style of dodgeball from time to time.

Do you have any great variations you’d like to share?

Please leave a comment below.

For more Teaching Tips, please check this blog every Tuesday or check the archive for over 100 useful tips, tricks, and lessons by clicking on the tab at the top of this page.

Thanks!

Hip-Hop Pioneers – The Cold Crush Brothers (Know Your History Podcast)

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Let’s start off today’s show with a lyric from Jay-Z and then dive back in to past to look at one of the first hip-hop crews ever.

“Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over / Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up / I’m overcharging n*ggas for what they did to the Cold Crush / Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us / We can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks”

That was a short verse from “IZZO” by Jay-Z. That was a huge hit but not a lot of people understand what he was doing with that short lyric. It leaves us with a lot of questions. Who or what are the Cold Crush? What happened to them? And why does Jay-Z feel so bitter towards the entire situation?
My name is Chase March and we’ll be exploring all those questions and more as we focus the entire episode today on one of hip-hop’s first crews, The Cold Crush Brothers.
It’s important to remember that hip-hop culture predates the rap music industry. It wasn’t a business back in the early days. Grandmaster Flash was recently on BBC Radio 1 and he explained it this way . . .

“In the mid 70s, it was a street culture for a DJ to play in a small club or in the streets, and you’d have these people called emcees—not rappers, MCs. And these qualified vocalists would play with qualified deejays. And that was the way it was for about twelve-thirteen years. Then, what happened was, a lot of these small record companies started coming in to The Bronx because their children were telling them that we had these cassette tapes of these amazing DJs who had these amazing MCs. And they came into the Bronx looking for groups that did this. And that’s where some of us had gotten the pleasure of getting recording contracts, like Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, The Cold Crush Crew. There were a few of us that were to the beginning of major record distribution. Now you could get these performances on vinyl. . . Now, it’s become business.”

That’s important to remember. Hip-hop had to be experienced back in the 1970s. You either went to a show or you recorded it on cassette tape. There weren’t any rap albums at the time. And when the first commercial recordings finally did start to emerge in 1979, the original street crews kept doing their thing at clubs and block parties. Here’s an example of what the Cold Crush Crew were doing back in 1981. This was recorded live from Harlem World in 1981.
That was the Cold Crush Crew performing live at Harlem World back in 1981. The entire show was recorded on cassette tape. A lot of those old school tapes have been passed around and copied over and over again. Some of those tapes don’t sound nearly as good as this one does, which is thanks to DJ Charlie Chase. He cleaned up the tape and remastered it for us old school heads who appreciate what the Cold Crush Brothers did.
The crew originally consisted of DJ Charlie Chase, DJ Tony Tone, Easy A.D., Whipper Whip, Mr. Tee, and Dot-A-Rock. Two of the members left the group to join the Fantastic Five which makes the tape you just heard even more of a battle because The Cold Crush Four were battling against two of their old members, Whipper Whip and Dot-A-Rock that night.
One of the interesting things about the Cold Crush Brothers was the way they used harmonies and traded off vocals back and forth. They had a commanding stage presence and anyone wanting to make a name for themselves tried to do so by battling the crew.

The Cold Crush expanded their original line-up to include Grandmaster Caz aka Casanova Fly, Almighty Kay Gee, and J.D.L. Money Ray. They were hugely influential in the creation of hip-hop culture and despite releasing their own records in the 1980s, fame and fortune never did seem to smile on them like it did for some of the other crews of the day. This was the first single they released. It’s called “Weekend” and it was released as a 12 inch single on Elite Records in 1982.

That’s a fun record. “Weekend” by the Cold Crush Brothers. You can hear how accessible a sound they had. It was light-hearted, it was easy to dance to, and it reflected the sound of their commanding live performances.

The Cold Crush Brothers released several other singles but none of them were able to rise to the popularity of “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang. That record introduced a lot of people to rap music and hip-hop culture when it was released in 1979. It wasn’t the first rap record ever released, even though a lot of people think it was. But it does have a connection to the Cold Crush Brothers. Grandmaster Flash of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five describes those first two hip-hop records and sets the scene in this snippet from a special he did for BBC Radio 1.

“There was a song by King Tim III. His performance was on vinyl but he was speaking in a street-tongue that a lot of people didn’t understand. It wasn’t until we heard this voice on this other record of this guy who used to be a bodyguard and bouncer at a club. His name was Big Bank Hank. We heard this record and said, ‘Oh crap, that sounds like Hank.’ So Hank, who was a bouncer, joined two other guys, Master G, and Wonder Mike. They had this record on Sugar Hill Records. I’ll never forget when I heard this song on the radio. Sugar Hill Gang, that didn’t ring a bell, at all, with any of the group masters that was doing it in the streets…Every time. I switched the dial the song was playing. It was gigantic . . . Who are these people? Never played with them, never went to any of their shows, didn’t know anything about these three guys called the Sugar Hill Gang. But they took it from the street culture and made this thing a worldwide phenomenon, which was the genius of Sylvia Robinson. That was sort of like the slow demise of street culture MCing and DJing because there was now a new prize to look at—to get that recording contract was the goal.”

It’s really interesting to know that hip-hop culture had been building in The Bronx for years and years prior to the first recordings being released commercially. It wasn’t a music business in those early days. It was a party scene, it was something you had to experience live, it was a culture.

So why was the first record ever to achieve commercial success done by someone outside of the established crews and groups? Why hadn’t Grandmaster Flash or the other crews at the time had any inkling of who the Sugar Hill Gang were?

The story starts with the Cold Crush Brothers and in particular Grand Master Caz. Caz was not only a DJ but also an MC and he was the first person in hip-hop to hold down both duties at the same time. He was well known for his rhymes and even if you had no idea who the Cold Crush Brothers were prior to hearing this show today, I bet you can recite some of his lyrics right now.

In a bizarre twist of fate, it was his manager and bodyguard Big Hank who brought these lyrics to a much wider audience. He was working at a pizzeria and was rapping some of the great rhymes that Grand Master Caz had penned. Sylvia Robinson overheard him rapping along to one of Caz’s practice tapes and she liked what she heard. She recruited him to join two other rappers and form the Sugar Hill Gang in 1979. Hank asked Grandmaster Caz if he could use some of his rhymes for the record he had been asked to record. They were friends so Caz agreed. He thought it would be a way for him to become known and perhaps make a name for himself in the new recording industry that was starting to build. Grandmaster Caz tells the story in the Quincy Jones’ program BEEF II.

You can watch the section of Beef II here (embedding has been disabled)

So in the end, Hank used Grandmaster Caz’s rhymes in the recording. He just straight lifted the rhymes without changing a single thing. He even spells his name in the course of the rhyme as “Casonova Fly,” which of course was Caz’s nickname. There really is no dispute over who’s rhymes those were. The only problem was that Grandmaster Caz was never compensated for his work. It was the biggest hip-hop record at the time and still gets plenty of spins. He never received any royalty payments, no writing credit, and only the most educated hip-hop heads know the true story. Grandmaster Caz tried to get his story out there with the Beef DVD and with this track, “MC Delight.”

The music industry can be shady. A lot of hip-hop’s pioneers have been ripped off. They haven’t gotten the credit they deserve or the money that they actually helped generate for hip-hop labels and executives.

That is what Jay-Z was talking about on his hit IZZO. He raps, “Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over / Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up / I’m overcharging niggas for what they did to the Cold Crush / Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us / We can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks”

With that lyric, Jay-Z was helping to call attention to the fact that many of our pioneers had been exploited just in the nature of the music business. Of course, rap music didn’t start out a business. And those early pioneers had no idea how much money was to be had. The Cold Crush Brothers weren’t the only crew to be shorted. It just is a shame to see that these pioneers of the art form never did get compensated financially for what they helped develop.

When I was doing my research for this show, I found out that a lot of people don’t have any idea who the Cold Crush Brothers were. I found a few discussion boards about that Jay-Z lyric and it was sad to see that hardly anyone had done their homework to find out what that line meant.

It’s important for us to remember where we came from, to honour our pioneers, to share the rich history we have in hip-hop culture. That is what I try to do every single day. I’m a hip-hop historian and I’m glad to have this outlet to share some of these stories with you. You’ve been listening to Know Your History on DOPEfm radio and The Word is Bond.com. I’m your host Chase March and I bring this segment to you each and every month. You can check out my site for transcripts and free downloads of every episode at chasemarch.com.

This is the third season of the show and so far we have over two-dozen episodes in the archive. I hope you subscribe to the new Word is Bond podcast and the long established DOPEfm podcast as well. We continue to bring you the best in underground hip-hop each and every week on the radio and every day on the world-wide-web.

Thanks for tuning in, this is Chase March and you better Know Your History!

Tallest Silver (My Favourite Cosplay Artist)

I have seen these pictures of Power Girl several times over the last year and, I must say, she really embodies the character (pardon the pun)

I recently discovered her blog and other great cosplay pictures. I just had to share them with you. She simply is amazing. Her name is Tallest Silver and you can follow her on Tumblr.

Here she is as Bat-woman,

Lady Deadpool,

Poison Ivy,

Black Cat,

and the Scarlet Witch!

Absolutely breathtaking! Tallest Silver is officially my favourite cosplay artist.

I wish I had the talent to make costumes. I would love to go to these events as Daredevil. I think I could pull that one off. Maybe even Doctor Who. Something to think about any way.

*illustration credit – Becca

Write About Now (Free Download)

This is the first album I ever released commercially.

That actually was my skateboard at the time as well. I just put the logo sticker on it and my uncle took this shot for the CD cover.

I redid the back cover this week and changed the copyright information. I don’t mind if people download this and share it. In fact, I hope they do.

This album is almost 15 years old now. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed since I tried to get a music career started. It was a lot of fun recording and playing shows with my group, Mission 5. There are times now when I miss that life. It makes me want to get back in the studio and record something new.

We were one of the first hip-hop crews in Hamilton to release an enhanced CD. It isn’t much but you get some video clips, a photo gallery, the bio, and a few other goodies if you can actually manage to still find a physical copy of this CD.

I’m proud of this album even though it has a few flaws in it. That’s why I’ve decided to rerelease it online for free.

Enjoy!

A Treasure Trove of Teaching Ideas

I recently discovered Pinterest and at first glance, I really wasn’t that impressed. It seemed like yet another social networking site that I could live without. In fact, it seemed so similar to Tumblr that I wrote it off for several months. But I have finally come around to sing its praises.

Pinterest is basically an online pinboard. I don’t how else to describe it. It’s like a bulletin board where we can post images, videos, and text from a variety of different sources. The coolest thing about, though, is that you can organize your collection extremely well. You do this by creating specific “boards.”

I had been struggling with a way to keep track of all of my favourite teaching ideas I come across online. I use Twitter to share ideas often but the tweets end up getting buried and are difficult to find when I want to recall them weeks or months later.

With Pinterest, I’ve created a board for each and every subject area. Now when I come across a great reading or writing idea, I simply “pin” that idea or resource to my Language Arts Board (I posted about this last month.)

I’ve set up boards for every teaching area or idea I can think of. I have a board for Differentiated Instruction, one for Classroom Organization, one for Math Instruction, and so on.

Pinterest is a great bookmarking tool that you can have access to anywhere. It also lets you share ideas with other teachers. If you like something someone else has posted, you can “repin it” so it will also appear on whatever specific board you choose.

The only problem with Pinterest is that it is so visual. It relies on pictures or images to link back to the original source. It does allow you to add text but you are limited to the amount of words you use to describe a site or resource you are pinning.

That being said, I am completely sold on using Pinterest to organize and collect teaching ideas. I know people use it for a lot more but my page and all of my boards are entirely dedicated to teaching.

My Teaching Resources

5 Ways To Deliver Quality Content with Every Blog Post

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...
Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many of us, reading blogs has become as common as reading a newspaper. We expect to see certain articles or topics covered in our readers, RSS feeds, or email in-boxes every morning. It’s a comfort to have this reading material waiting for us each and every day.

For me, Google Reader has completely replaced the newspaper. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve even read the paper. I get most of my news and daily reading material through the blogs and websites I subscribe to. The best part of it is that it is completely free!

Some of my favourite bloggers post every single day, some of them will even post multiple times a day. Other bloggers will post one article a week.

We need to remember that blogging isn’t about quantity; it’s about quality. Every article you post should be something you can be proud of. It should offer the reader something, it should tell a story, or entertain.

When I started this blog, I wanted to write a post each and every weekday, and I did for quite some time. The key point is to deliver quality content on a regular basis. My posting schedule has changed several times over the years. Nowadays, I am putting up an article four times a week on average.

Here are some great ways to keep a regular blogging schedule . . .

1) Write Ahead of Time

On average I spend three hours a week working on blog content. I don’t need to worry about coming up with a post each and every day because I get ahead of myself with my blogging output.

2) Build Up A Buffer

Write when you have the time. Write when you get the inspiration to write. If you do those two simple things, soon you will have a stockpile of posts ready to go whenever you feel like publsihing them.

3) Plan out a Month in Advance

I plan out an entire month’s worth of content in advance every month. I started doing this last November because I needed to be able to focus all of my energy and attention on my novel for National Novel Writing Month. I didn’t stop with November though. I now plan out each month by the first of that month, and it feels great.

4) Go on Auto-Pilot

I basically set my blog on auto-pilot every month. I write most of my content well ahead of time, look at a calendar, and plan when is the best date and time to publish each article. This helps me spread out topics, link posts together, and create a monthly theme of teaching posts when needed.

5) Trim your Draft Folder

I picked this one up from Stephen King. He calls it, “Murder Your Darlings” and it basically means that you don’t have to use everything you write. Sometimes it is best to not publish a piece. You may want to hold on  to an idea for a while to fully flesh it out. You should be able to look at your writing with a critical eye and make sure it is up to the standard you have established with your blog.

Follow these 5 tips and your blog is guaranteed to rock.

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Latest Reads of 2012

I love to read. I always have, but this year I have decided to actually keep track of everything I read over the course of the year. So far I have read 28 titles. That includes graphic novels, memoirs, novels, and some teaching material.

It’s time to add to the list and bring the total up to 32.

Blockade Billy by Stephen King

This is a novella written by the suspense and horror master, Stephen King. The narrator of the tale actually addresses the author several times over the course of the book. He’s basically telling Stephen King about the 1957 season of the New Jersey Titans and the fictional catcher known as Blockade Billy, the first major league player to have his name erased from the history and record books.

There is a bonus story included here as well.

Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns

I really like the way the Green Lantern graphic novels are put together. So far, this is the seventh one I’ve read this year and I appreciate the way they have incorporated not only the monthly Green Lantern series but also the other monthly titles such as The Green Lantern Corps and The Emerald Warriors.

This book has some pretty shocking events in it. I didn’t think they’d be able to keep upping the momentum after the Sinestro War and The Blackest Night Saga but they actually did. Can’t wait to read what comes next.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This is a powerful story that I highly recommend. I saw the movie first and was completely blown away by it. I probably wouldn’t have picked up the book without the local librarian telling me how it was so much better than the movie.

I think both versions are worth your time. The movie did an excellent job of telling the story of the small Mississippi town in the 1960s, but the novel gets into much more depth of the racism that was common in the deep south at the time.

The tag line to the film says, “Change begins with a whisper” and if this story really is just a whisper, I hope it will spark some real discussion about these issues. We need further change even today some fifty years after this story is set.

Air by Geoff Ryman

Air, simply put, is the Internet beamed directly into people’s brains. A small village in the fictional country of Karzistan is chosen for the inital test of the service. Mae’s life and her entire village is forever changed as a result of the test.

This science fiction story has won several awards. It feels very real. The thought of the entire world being connecting thorugh a wireless Internet right in our minds is terrifying. A lot of people in the village are opposed to the entire thing, but Mae sees that it is inevitable and she does her best to prepare her village for what is to come. The year between the test taking place and the inevitable launch of Air is quite the story and Ryman weaves a compelling tale that touches on quite a few different issues. It would be a great book to study in book groups or in university.

More books

The Best of June 2011 (Chasing Content)

It’s time to scour the archive and look at what we were doing here last year at this time.

Read all of the posts from last June . . .

or just these

Exclusive Alison Myrden Interview – Alison Myrden is just a pleasure to talk to. She is involved in LEAP (Law Enforcement against Prohibition) and I has been trying to legalize and regulate all drugs for the last, probably, two decades. This is the second time I have caught up with her for a radio interview.

Marguerite Omston Trail – I laced up my running shoes and powered up my camera so you could come along on this trail run. It’s a gorgeous trail in Kitchener, Ontario and I’m sure you’ll like the tour.

Classroom Deal or No Deal – I love playing this game with my class. You don’t need any materials to play it either, just a blackboard or white board and a list of 26 numbers and their monetary values. So have fun with your class and ham it up as a game show host.

An Hour With Hip-Hop Artist, Witness – Witness and I had a lot of fun on the radio. We talk about his amazing album “The Everafter LP,” his work as an emcee and producer, and much, much, more. This show is available as a podcast and transcript as well.

A Great Resource for Teaching Vocal Music – This is one of my favourite resources. It is so easy to use. I use it for a warm-up in my music instruction. I like how the program builds up sequentially so it is easy for students to follow along with. It gets them sight reading, singing, and clapping out patterns.

Stoney Creek of the Thames Visual Tour – This is one of my most-viewed Photographic Tours. It is a very accesible trail to wlak, run, job, or rollerblade along. Enjoy!