Monthly Archives: July 2012

Teaching Tip – Music

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 music. It will include tips on how to teach music for teachers with very little musical experience. I will share some of my favourite tips and resources.

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

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

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

Music and Movement
Online Jukebox for Your Classroom
Song Maps
Teaching Music 
Teaching Vocal Music
Using Pop Music

I’ve Been Saying It Wrong All This Time

English: Humming Bird - Texas
English: Humming Bird – Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like to ponder over things, especially at stores. I examine the product carefully, turn over the package several times, ask myself whether or not I should buy it, if I’ll get good use out of it, if it is exactly what I want, if it’s worth the money, etc.

I had always thought that this process was called “humming and hawing.”

I knew what humming was, of course, and when I was carefully weighing a decision or debating with myself over a specific purchase it could very well sound like humming.

“I don’t know. Should I? Shouldn’t I? hmmmm”

Of course, I didn’t know what hawing meant or why it fit together but I’d heard the phrase so many times, that I picked it up and it became part of my regular vocabulary.

Last week, while reading a YA novel, I was stopped in my tracks when I came across the phrase actually written down in black and white. It read “hemming and hawing” not “humming and hawing.”

I took to the Internet and confirmed it. I had been saying it wrong pretty much my entire life.

This has happened before too.

I used to think “For all intense and purposes” was actually “For all intensive purposes.” I had been saying it wrong for years as well.

I wonder how many other phrases I have been saying wrong.

Do you have any similar stories you’de like to share? Anything you’ve said wrong for a period of time?

Please leave a comment below and add to the discussion!

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Scrabble Tiles, Word Games, and YA combine in "Mutiple Choice"

Multiple Choice is a novel by Janet Tashjian that I knew I just had to read. I found it in the school library and was immediately drawn to it.
It was one of those books that I just wanted to dive into and forget about everything else. Of course, I couldn’t do that. I was at school after all, so I borrowed it even though the library was technically closed at the time. It was late June and that’s the time librarians frantically try to account for every book that they started with this school year. Don’t worry I brought it back already and all is well. 
The story revolves around a fourteen year old girl who constantly obsesses over everything. 
“I wish my brain were a toaster. That way I could use it when I wanted to, and when I was done, I could pull the plug and shut it off. The reason I’m thinking about this is that I’ve just finished conducting a very important experiment. And after weeks of compiling and analyzing data, I have come to a scientific conclusion.98.762 percent of my time is spent obsessing. About what? Everything.Saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, wearing the wrong clothes. . .”
She loves to play word games and make anagrams. One day after playing a game of Scrabble, she decides to keep four letter tiles and put them in her pocket. She keeps an “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” and uses them to help her make decisions.
Her creative real-life game of “Muliple Choice” leads her to do some interesting and bizarre things, but in a way it sets her free of her constant worrying.
The book is extremely well-written and I had a hard time putting it down. That’s why I am adding it to my Recommended Reads.

Graphic Novels of 2012 (Part 3)

I am blogging everything I read over the course of this year. It’s a pretty impressive list and it is continuing to grow.

Here are the latest graphic novels that I have read this year.

Marvel 1985 by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards

This graphic novel was originally published as a six-issue series in 2008. It is set in the year 1985 and takes place in our own world, a world where super-heros and super-villains exist only in the pages of comic books. The story revolves around a young boy who discovers that the villains of the Marvel universe have somehow made their way into his world and are camped out in a old house. The story is very well done in both the art and the writing.

Foiled by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro

This book surprised me halfway through, but I won’t spoil it for you. The book revolves around a young girl who is essentially trying to find her place in the world. She is a fencer and has to deal with people who constantly don’t understand her sport. The art and story work well together. It did seem to end a bit abruptly though. It feels like it should be longer or at least part of a continuing series.

Star Trek: The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

This graphic novel takes place after the sixth film, The Undiscovered Country. Jim Kirk is near the end of his career but retirement doesn’t seem to suit him. He is a little disappointed when he isn’t appointed Commander in Chief of Starfleet and so he decides to go on one last adventure. This story was originally told in a novel but it is nice to have it as a comic as well.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps by Peter J. Tomasi and Chris Samnee

This graphic novel tells some of the side stories from the Blackest Night Saga. My favourite tells the tragic story of one of the first Blue Lanterns and shows just how powerful hope can be. In the final story of this collection, the fourth wall is broken as Superboy from Earth-Prime goes to the offices of DC comics. This collection is more of a bonus for the biggest fans and not really connected to the larger events in the saga.

More Comics from my 2012 Reads List

Teacher Tip – Planning

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 the planning we have to do as teachers. The posts here will give you tips of daily plans, long range plans, unit plans, and how to organize your instruction effectively.

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

You might also want to check my Pinterest page for more great ideas.

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

Clothespins and Binder Rings
Day Plans
File Folder Seating Plans
First Day of School (script / lesson plan)
Get Organized
Long Range Plans
Seating Plans
Student Numbers
Supply Plans
Teachable Moments
Throw Out Your Rigid Classroom Schedule and Your Students Will Work Harder
Visual Schedules

Chasing Content – July 2007

Let’s convert our keyboards into time machines and travel back to July 2007 in the bonus edition of Chasing Content.

You can read all of the posts from July 2007 . . .

or just these super-cool ones!

Heartbeat: My Favourite BookHeartbeat by Sharon Creech is my all-time favoruite book. It is poetic and sounds beautiful when read aloud. I especially enjoy the audio book production of this story. It’s about a twelve year old girl who enjoys running simply for running’s sake. It works great as a novel study for the junior classroom as well.

Research has changed Dramatically – Gone are the days of card catalogue, encyclopedias, and waiting for information. Nowadays everything is available at a moment’s notice through your computer or mobile device. But I still think libraries are vitally important.

Me vs Myself and I’m Winning – Competing with yourself is essential. It is impossible to take on the world. You can take on yourself with ease though. Runners do this all the time and even have a phrase for it, “Personal Best.” To get a Personal Best (PB) means that you have topped your old time in a race; in effect you have competed against yourself and won.

Build a Bear – Spend a Fortune – This company is really good at what it does. Now, some five years after my first exposure to them, they are still going strong. Kids love the place and the experience but parents beware. It really is expensive.

3 Takes – I wrote a trio of poems on the same theme that tell one complete narrative. I don’t know why I haven’t published a poem in a while here on this blog. I should take this as motivation to get a new one up soon.

Remember Prisoners of Gravity? – It was a show about science fiction writing and it ran for five seasons. The story was about a pirate television broadcaster by the name of Commander Rick. He built a space craft out of his Camaro Z-28 and accidentally crashed into a communication satellite. Rick was then able to beam a weekly show about science fiction, comic book, and fantasy writing back down to earth. Why don’t we have a similar show to this on television these days? It was great!

You can also check the Chasing Content Archive for the “Best of” posts for every single month I have blogged.

Thanks for Chasing Content with me! Please leave lots of comments on my posts both past and present. I’d loved to hear your thoughts, opinions, criticisms, and anything else you’d like to say!

Now’s About Write (Free Download)

This is the sophomore album from my rap group, Mission 5.

I wanted to show what Mission 5 was all about with this album cover. The headphones, DJ needle, and microphone show that we are all about hip-hop culture. The binder and pen were to show that we were writers as well. I wrote all of my rhymes on that fold down desk back then. I don’t have that binder anymore, or those old lyric sheets, but I still have the desk.

We decided that we wanted to switch up the logo with each release so we changed the colours from green and orange to blue and yellow.

The DJ of the group, Gamma Krush, came up with the amazing “Spintro” concept and title. He scratches all of our names and sound clips to describe us on the opening track. He also came up with “Radioutro,” another play on words that featured the first time we’d ever heard our songs being played on community radio. It really was amazing to hear and I’m so glad I was able to tape it that day. I didn’t know that I’d eventually end up doing a radio show at that very same station.

I am especially proud of this album because I handled all of the production on it. I made all of the beats on an Akai X7000 and then sequenced them on an Atari. That gear was top of the line in the 1980s. Of course, I was using it in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I still managed to make it sing.

I used samples a lot on this album but had to chop and replay the sounds to get the most out of the limited sound quality and sample time that this gear was capable of. It was definitely a challenge, but a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

Just like out first album, I am releasing this one as a free download.

I hope you enjoy it!

A Podcast of Inspiration and Encouragement for Writers (Barbara Abercrombie Interview)

We’re talking with Barbara Abercrombie, author of A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement.

It definitely is a great book for anyone interested in writing. I know that I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a privilege to be able to talk to her about it.


This is the second part of the transcript. If you missed Part 1, you can go back and read it now. You can also download the entire interview as a free podcast, or stream it with the player below. Enjoy!

Barbara Abercrombie teaches at the ULCA Extension Writer’s Program and we are picking up our conversation about teaching writing.

Chase: “If someone wants to write, you can’t simple say, ‘Here’s how to do it.’”

Barbara: “As a teacher, all I can do is bring in wonderful writing as examples. I always start each class with reading a poem, whether they like poetry or not. Some students just look at me cross-eyed like, ‘Oh my, what have I gotten myself into? She’s gonna stand up there reading poetry’ but I love poetry. I read them one poem at the beginning of each class. One of the most exciting things that I’ve had as feedback from students is that they’ve started reading poetry and started appreciating it. I think to write prose, studying poetry is very, very helpful and inspiring,

I don’t think there is any cut and dried way to teach writing. It’s giving people prompts, introducing the notion that there really are no mistakes in writing. You are writing your way into whatever you have to write. And like you were saying before, some people don’t necessarily want to become writers, they just want to write. And that is wonderful too. If you have a journal and you just want to keep track of your life, I think everybody should do that. There are so many other opportunities for people to write, like whatever your interest, you could create a blog and write in that every day or once a week.

There is also self publishing. It’s amazing and it has changed so much in the past ten years. You can write stories about your family, you can write your autobiography and you can publish it for your family. There are lots of new opportunities for people who want to write but nit necessarily become writers.”

Chase: “I have to find another quote. I took so many notes in this book. There it is. It’s from Day 78 – Dimes in Ivory Soap. There’s an anecdote about your family finding dimes in bars of soap. We don’t need to spoil that story for anyone listening but basically, if you don’t write down your stories, they’re gone. I think that is your point here, that we can write journals and we can write down these stories.

I’ve been reading up on Indian Residential Schools this summer. A lot of people who went through that experience didn’t want to talk about it because it was painful, but it’s starting to get written down now. There are some stories available now and I think that is very important to have those narratives out in the world so when the Elders pass away, we still have their stories behind them.

Barbara: “You can have videos and photographs and albums, but if people don’t write down the stories, they are gone. I think stories are valuable and precious. I encourage everyone to write down their stories and to keep track of their lives. It’s important.”

Chase: “Not only our own lives. In Day 306 of A Year of Writing Dangerously, you mention how we can borrow other people’s stories.”

Barbara: “Right, the stories you hear. I used to think of it as stealing but I think of it as preserving stories now. You know what, Chase? It takes energy to do it, to write down the stories. It also takes the realization of the importance of it. Going through our lives, we all tend to think as our lives are so familiar to us, we think, ‘Who would ever be interested in that, or in that detail? Why is that important?’ But if you write stuff down and go back to it, even if it’s just a year later, it’s astonishing and you do realize the value in all those details of your life.”

Chase: “I find writing helps me to remember. I don’t have such a good memory. But I write things down. I used to journal a lot more than I do now. My blog has kind of become my journal and every month, I actually look back to what I was writing last month at that time. It really is an interesting observation every time. It helps me remember some things I probably would have otherwise forgotten just because I wrote it down and I published it on a blog.”

Barbara: “Exactly. I’ve been keeping my blog, Writing Time . typepad . com for six and half years now. I go back to some of the old posts and it’s like I’m reading it for the first time.”

Chase: “That’s very cool. Nothing New Under the Sun. Day 51. This is one of the interesting things you do in the book too, you have a little anecdote or story or piece of advice. Every day takes up a page in the book. Some of them are only a paragraph and some are four or five paragraphs long. But at the end of each entry, there is a quote from another author or writer. It’s really interesting. I like to watch Book Television just to see what the authors are saying but I don’t often read a lot of writer’s quotes. It’s nice to see those in the book.

In this one, in particular, Paul Hogan says, ‘Everything has been said; but not everything has been said superbly, and even if it had been, everything must be said freshly, over and over.’”

Barbara: “Isn’t that wonderful? I love that quote too. It’s so true. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s a paradox as our stories are very similar but the details of our stories are different and new and fresh. In that section, I was quoting a student who was always emailing me. At that point, it was about Nora Ephron who just passed away a couple weeks ago, and she felt that Nora Ephron had highjacked all her material to write about.”

Chase: “You can still explore themes that have already been written about and explored. I love comic books and if you think about it, Spiderman has been out since the 1960s, but there are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of Spiderman stories but they still come out with a brand new one every week.”

Barbara: “Isn’t that amazing?”

Chase: “So, just because something has been said, it shouldn’t scare writers away from tackling that subject as well.”

Barbara: “Exactly.”

Chase: “Day 178 The Duty of Poets and Writers. I like this, ‘The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.’

That quote reminds me of Joseph Gold’s Read for Your Life: Literature as Life Support System. Are you familiar with that book?”

Barbara: “No, I’m not. I’m gonna take a note of it. I love that title!”

Chase: “It’s great. He uses books in his therapy sessions with patients and they can learn a lot through other people’s stories about their own experience. He believes that reading helps us in all aspects of our lives. Stories help us reorganize thinking, help to resolve problems by reviewing situations from a different viewpoint. Reading gives us more insight into those things.”

Barbara: “That’s fabulous. As soon as we are finished, I am going to look that up on Amazon. I believe that so strongly.”

Chase: “Yeah, it’s a great book. The same day, in your book, Day 178, the quote under that entry is, “Certaintly morality should come first for writers, critics, and everybody else. People who change tires. People in factories. They should always ask, is this moral? Not, will it sell?” and that’s from John Gardner.”

Barbara: “He was such a moral writer too. It’s so true. At the writer’s program at UCLA, I teach creative writing and most of my students are really serious about exploring their lives and putting something important down on the page. The screenwriting classes are very different, I think. And I don’t mean to make any mass generalizations here, but people are thinking more about breaks and making money, etc, etc. I don’t want to put screenwriters down because I know some very serious ones.”

Chase: “Writing novels is different from writing screenplays as well.”

Barbara: “Totally”

Chase: “I write both, but I let things develop organically. I know that there are certain beatsheets and things you can get when writing a screenplay that say, ‘This should happen on this page,’ and like you said before, some people can write with those kinds of plans but I feel it handcuffing. I also don’t think each story needs to follow that rigid path. Like you’ve mentioned it the book, there really aren’t any blueprints to writing.

But, I read a book entitled Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. He’s got a blog called Story Fix and he says that there are Six Core Competencies. He’s basically saying these six things need to be in your story and that you should block them out and you should figure out where they are. I read it, but I much prefer as a manual for writing Stephen King’s—“

Barbara: “His memoir book. It’s about his writing life and—“

Chase: “It’s called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Barbara: “That’s a terrific book. I love that!”

Chase: “It certainly is, but I’ve been wondering a lot lately about my process. I keep reading blog post after blog post where it says we should plan out our stuff or we’ll have to write draft after draft to fully flesh out material that should have been in our original plan. It’s really been conflicting me lately, like am I writing wrong?”

Barbara: “You can’t write wrong, Chase. There is now way to write wrong. I think you are going to write draft after draft no matter how you start. I’m always reading those books and those blog posts like ‘5 things your story should have’ or ‘10 elements you need to tell your story.’ And they never work for me because I have to get into the story and find that for myself. It’s not like baking a cake where you are going to have a little of this and a little of that, where you are going to preheat the oven, and sift the flower. I think writing is an incredibly messy process and you just can’t be afraid of the mess to get into it.

Here’s an example. I have a grandson named Axle and I have a photograph of him at age 2 and he’s painting. He’s doing a painting that I have hanging in my house right now. He is covered in blue paint. He has blue paint up his nose and in his ears. And he’s created this beautiful painting out of the blue paint. I think that’s how we write. We gotta get into the blue paint and eventually we’ll create something beautiful.”

Chase: “Going back to what we were talking about earlier about being moral with our writing. These blogs posts that are ‘5 Ways to Write’ and ’10 Scenes You Must Have.’ Those kinds of posts sell. I don’t know why but anything with a number in it.”

Barbara: “That’s true. When I do writing articles, I always do that. I always put numbers in and push eberything into the numbers, but then you take the numbers with a grain of salt.”

Chase: “Another thing that really annoys me about Internet copy is stuff like ‘The Batman Guide to Writing’ or “The Eminem Guide to Writing Children’s Books.’ They put stuff together that doesn’t match at all and then they take some mythology from it. People searching will stumble across it and they’ll read it because it seems weird but to me, it doesn’t seem honest.

That’s one of the reasons I like your book because you say, ‘It’s messy, get in there and do it, and don’t be afraid’ and you give us all sorts of inspiration. Morally, I think that’s the better way to go.

I am so glad I got this book.

How can people find out more about you if they want to get in touch with you?

Barbara: “I have a website barbaraabercrombie.com and I have a blog writingtime.typepad.com. They can email me through my website or make comments on the blog.”

Chase: “This is your fourteenth book and I hope writers go and pick it up. Your fifteenth book is another one that writers are going to want to get as well. It has been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks a lot.”

Barbara: “It’s been a pleasure talking to you too. And by the way, you have the coolest name, Chase March. I love it!”

That’s concludes the interview. Please download the podcast for free, stream it with the player below, and share it on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else you hang out online.

Thanks for listening! 

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

Write Dangerously with Barbara Abercrombie (Author Interview and Podcast)

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March and I have Barbara Abercrombie on the phone, author of A Year of Writing Dangerously:365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement.

Download the podcast of this interview for free, stream it with the player below, or keep reading the transcript.

I think this is a book that a lot of writers will be able to enjoy. You’ve broken it down so there is an entry for every single day of the year. They are vignettes or advice and things for writers. So how did you go about compiling this?”

Barbara: “I got the title first and I loved the title, and then I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it. A friend of mine, who is a writer, who has published a number of books said, ‘You’ve got to do it day by day. I’d buy a book that had something day by day.’

It took me a while to find the voice for it. This is my fourteenth book and every book I write, it’s always a struggle – How are you going to tell the story? What voice are you gonna write it in? And it was just fun because I’m a literary groupie really, and there are a lot of anecdotes of writers in the book. And so I just sat in my office and read memoir and read biographies of writers. Then I used a lot of my own experiences too as a writer.

Chase: “That’s pretty cool how you were talking about finding voice because there is an entry in there, # 8 The Voice that Chirps and Chips and that talks about the negative voices, and I’m sure all writers have this, and even people in their regular lives. The quote reads, ‘We’re so good with negative voices: You idiot, what kind of an idea is that? Who do you think you are to be writing a book?’ The thought goes on that you can actually not listen to those voices.

Which reminds me of another book I just read, Maestro’s Stick to Your Vision. He’s a rapper from Canada here and he talked about how you could trick your brain. Every time you have one of those negative thoughts, you can replace it with a positive though, then you are tricking your mind by deleting the negative thoughts and inserting the positive thoughts. He said that you don’t even have to believe them, just as long as you do that, you will start to believe them and ‘Boom, you’ve tricked your mind.’


Barbara: “I think that’s really true. I really do, or you just tell yourself to do the work. Do the work, don’t judge yourself, write, and once you get into the writing, that’s the way to get that voice to shut up. I think everybody has a negative voice on their shoulder that kicks in every once in a while. The trick is, of course, to shut it up and to replace it with a sweetheart voice that says, ‘Just do the work. It’s okay. Keep going.’”

Chase: “Which reminds me of Day 11 in A Year of Writing Dangerously. “… you don’t have to ‘like’ your own writing. You don’t have to be calm and self-assured. In fact, it’s better if you’re not. It keeps you honest.” I think that is what holds some people back. They’re afraid that their writing isn’t good enough, but as long as you do the work, then you can try to put that thought aside.”

Barbara: “You know, it’s impossible to judge your own work in the middle of it. Fortunately, I don’t know too many people who just love their own work. They just do it because I think they are insufferable probably. But you are struggling to create something. It’s a work in progress and it’s hard to write. You just can’t judge it.

I also say, ‘Put it away. Don’t ever throw it out! Put it away, come back to it and you’ll find something in it.’ I also tell my students, ‘Whatever you write is important because maybe it’s not what is gonna stay on the page but by going through your writing, you are getting to what you need to write and will write eventually.’’

Chase: “That’s very cool. I’m a teacher as well. I’m an elementary school teacher. You teach creative writing at UCLA.”

Barbara: “I do, and the writer’s program which is part of extension, which I love because I get all ages, people, from 18 to 90. My oldest student was 87. It’s such a variety of people. Many of them wanted to be a writer or started writing in school and whether the mechanics of life, they didn’t have time to do it, or a teacher said something snarky and they got scared and stopped. It’s exciting because everyone comes to class with a dream and I think they’re easier to teach than children, which I’ve done also.”

Chase: “I was an English major so I was dissecting books in my undergrad. I really wanted to be a writer but the fact that I was looking going through all these books and looking at such minute things such as imagery and symbolism, and I thought, ‘There’s no way I can do that!’ It scared me from actually writing for a while.”

Barbara: “I think that’s true of a lot of people. I went to one year of college and I was a drama major. And then I quit and went to New York to become an actress because I realized that I had always wanted to be a writer but I always thought it would be too hard. Acting seemed much more easy than writing, and I was right. It took me ten years to go back to it after my first career.”

Chase: “The weird thing is, I found that when I started writing, I always grow my story, kind of organically and let it see where it goes and just write, kind of without a roadmap. You talk about that with the headlight analogy a lot of writers know about in Day 254.”
Barbara: “I love your expression, ‘grow your story’ because that’s really what happens. I’ve never heard it expressed that way before. But stories grow and you don’t know where they’re going. There are some writers who block everything out and it works for them. I don’t know many writers like that.

And I don’t know where what I am writing is really going to go. Even this book, I wasn’t sure of the voice or the tone, or would it have an arc. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I never know what I’m doing when I start a book. But that’s why it’s exciting to write because you are figuring out what you really think and believe.”

Chase: ‘It’s like we are exploring the unknown and we’re actually coming into things. When I get an idea,  it takes a while before that idea sort of cooks in my brain before I’ll start writing it. And then when I do start writing it, I’ll write something weird and I won’t even know why, some little detail, and I’m just typing as fast as I can. I like to get the first draft out quickly. And then further into the story, I’m surprised to find out why I’d said that little thing in Chapter 1 and this will happen in Chapter 10 and I don’t know how this happens. Am I planning in my head? I don’t know how that works exactly?”

Barbara: “I think we just have a huge well of creativity, and knowledge, and experience, and feelings, everybody does, and when we write, we’re letting this out. And I think we don’t necessarily know it ahead of time intellectually. As a teacher, I do a lot of five minute writing exercises in my classes because people don’t have time to think.

If you throw them an idea to write about and say, ‘You have five minutes to write. You can’t stop moving your pen.’ They are always astonished at what can come out of them. They will be reading something they’ve wrote in five minutes and they will start to cry and they’ll say, ‘I don’t know where this came from’ and they are surprising themselves. I think the surprise element of writing is wonderful and exciting and it happens if people allow it to happen.”

Chase: “I definitely agree. And that is something you can do with every age group. I’ve done it with primary students just be asking them for a word. I write the words on the board and we have about four or five of them and I time it. I actually write with them and then we share all of our writing afterwards. It really is a great experience, like, you say, it unblocks some of that negative thought or ‘Oh, I don’t know what to write’ because you just have to do it. ‘Who cares, let’s just go. Start.’”

Barbara: “Exactly. My next book is called Kicking in the Wall and it’s 365 Five Minute Writing Prompts based on that theory. What happens is, that you get out of your own way when you do a five-minute exercise. If you tell someone to write about horses, you have fifteen minutes, people will start agonizing over what they know about horses, or they don’t know about horses and they’ll start thinking. The trick is with the five minute time limit, they get out of their own way and simply write. It’s very exciting to be in a classroom and see that happen.”

Chase: “I was reading Day 19 and you talk about how you were going to be interviewed and how standard practice was to give the interviewer questions to ask because most interviewers rarely read the book. I read your book cover to cover—”

Barbara: “Bless you.”

Chase: “—with a pencil in my hand, and I thought, ‘What? People don’t read the book?’ This is the second interview I’ve done for a book and I read both books cover to cover.”

Barbara: “You are rare and wonderful, Chase. It’s much appreciated too.”

Chase: “I love reading and I love writing. I’m probably doing more reading than writing right now, which is a shame.”

Barbara: “I always tell my students, ‘This is how you learn how to write’ and they take out their pencils like I am going to say something really profound.  And I say, “1, read. 2, write.’ You have to read. I think writers go through periods where they read more than write and then you write more. Reading is such an integral part. I don’t know why anyone would want to be a writer if they didn’t love reading, do you?”

Chase: “People write for different reasons. I think some people write because they have a story, some people write because they think they are going to become famous, and I think some people write just because they have good taste in stories. I think I read that in your book. I have so many notes here on it.”

Barbara: “It was Ira Glass. He says, that we get into creative work because of our good taste and one of our problems is that our own writing doesn’t live up to our good taste. I just found that quote recently when I was writing the book and I love it. It’s quite profound. The better our taste is, sometimes the harder it is to write. It never really lives up to the writers you just idolize. But, like I say in the book, if you love writers and you love to write, to just be part of literature and being part of the community of writers, I think it’s a pretty happy life to do that.” 


Please come back tomorrow to read the conclusion on this transcript. In the meantime, download the podcast for free or stream it with the player below. 

Read Part 2

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

Teaching Tip – Parents

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 the parents or guardians of our students. It will include posts that deal with home-school communication and other topics such as newsletters, getting parents involved in our instruction or programs, writing newsletters, and assigning homework.

Please bookmark this page and come back often. I will update it with any new tip I publish that has to do with the home-school connection.

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

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

Eliminate the Negative
Get Parents on Side 
Healthy Lunches Kids Will Love
Monthly Newsletter

2012 – The Year of the Book

I am continuing my mission to document every single book that I read over the course of the year. Here are the latest editions to an already large list.

Fanstatic Four by J. Michael Straczynski and Mike McKone

This is the first story arc by the new creative team behind the first family of super-heroes, The Fantastic Four. Straczynski has long been one of my favourite writers, whether it be in comics or in television, he always delivers a great story.

This trade paperback contains issues #527-532 of the on-going monthly comic book series. After that many stories having already been published, it is hard to believe that a writer could come on board and add something new and exciting to the origin story of the superhero team, but Straczynski does just that. I won’t spoil it for you here, but I will give you a little background information just in case you have only seen the films.

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and Susan Storm (Invisible Women) are now married and have children. They and the other two members of the Fantastic Four live in the open without having secret identities in the Baxter Building.

That’s all you need to know to enjoy this story, the great writing, and the amazing art. It is well worth your time. I really enjoyed reading it.

I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern

This is a memoir, of sorts, by Justic Halpern. He is the creator of Sh*t My Dad Says, which started out as a Twitter feed and quickly became a phenomenon developing into a book and a television series. While this isn’t a particularly inspiring or hilarious book, the introductory story really caught my attention. It’s mostly about his awkward teenage years that of course include the observations and witty comments of his father.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a non-fiction text about the spread of ideas, products, messages, and behaviours. Gladwell notes that these things can sometimes spread so quickly that they practically become epidemics. He explains how this has happened with examples from all sorts of realms and with the help of three specific types of people.

I must admit that I actually listened to this book instead of reading it. I love bringing an audio book along for the drive whenever I have to take a long trip somewhere. Gladwell makes some really interesting observations in this book and talks specifically about why certain things “stick” while others are simply forgotten. If I had of been reading it, I probably would have marked down all sorts of passages to share with you. That’s the only flaw of listening as opposed to reading. Perhaps I will have to revisit this book in the future for just that reason.

Happy Reading

What I Talk About When I Run

Cover of "What I Talk About When I Talk A...
Cover via Amazon

I am a middle distance runner. I normally run anywhere from 5 to 10 kilometers at a time. I keep a pretty fast pace and have a long stride. As such, I can run a kilometer in about four minutes and a mile in about six. I can maintain that pace for about forty minutes.

I have thought about running a marathon before but it always seemed a little bit insane to me. 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers would take a really long time to run. It wouldn’t be able to keep up my usual pace., I imagine that if I trained hard for it, I could probably keep a 6 minutes pace per kilometer and that would take me over four hours to run.

That seems nuts to me. I have respect for long distance runners and it was interesting to read this book. For me, running is usually fun. There are days when it is tough but typically I enjoy myself.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Haruki Murakami. I have to admit that I didn’t actually read this book. I listened to the unabridged audio recording instead. I love audio books. The only problem is that if a passage of the book really speaks to me as I am driving, I can’t just stop to take a note. I can’t bookmark a passage for later. I just need to keep driving.

In this book, Haruki Murakami relates what it is like to run a marathon. If I knew where this specific passage was in the audio book, I would transcribe it here for you. But since I don’t, I’ll just share what I remember of it. There is a point about three quarters of the way through a marathon where a runner can start to hate everything. Haruki uses language in a brilliant way to really describe his thinking process during the tough part of the run.

“Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive–or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.” 

I can’t imagine putting myself through that much pain. It was really interesting to experience a marathon form the author’s point of view. Perhaps one day I will run one. I just don’t have any desire to do so right now. I think I’ll stick to my middle distances.

Here is one of my favourite quotes from the book,

“I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”

I feel exactly the same way.

I will keep putting on the miles and keep reading.

Here’s a list of what I’ve read so far this year. 

The Carroll Trail (Coronation Park, Tillsonburg)

It’s time for another photographic tour!

This time we are going to explore The Carroll Trail in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada.

The trail starts in Coronation Park and it offers some paved sections, some gravel sections, and a few rolling hills.

I was all set to “Create My Own Adventure.” I knew I’d be running approximately 5 kilometers of trail today. The map seemed fairly straightforward and I was hoping that I wouldn’t get lost. It was a really warm day and any longer than 5 kms would have been tough.

The trail winds around and through sections of a golf course. 

I like the fact that this was a quiet course away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The trail was very well marked and easy to follow. As you can see, this section of the trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail as well.

This must be one of the reasons they call this golf course The Bridges at Tillsonburg . . .

or maybe it’s because of this one. It’s a little hard to see in this shot but there is a large majestic looking bridge running for several kilometers across the course and trail system.

I’m glad that the trail wasn’t completely flat. I like the challenge of running up hills. I also like how well marked it was and the distance seemed to be accurate as well. I was a little slower than usual for a 5 km run but I did stop and take close to 30 pictures.

I think more trails should be built around and through golf courses. What a great way to use the land for multi-purposes and to provide accessible nature trails for all.

More Running Tours

Not a Good Wedding Song (Listen to the Lyrics)

This is a cool video. It’s a marriage proposal done as a single moving camera dance and lip sync routine.

I found this on Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool and knew that I had to reblog it for a few reasons.

1) It really is a cute video.
2) It’s amazing to see how energetic and involved the whole family is.
3) This is art.

4) I love how the phrase “dancing juice” becomes “dancing Jews.” What a hilarious pun. Hope it doesn’t offend anyone.

The song choice really disturbs me though. This isn’t the only wedding I’ve heard this song played at either. It really makes me wonder whether or not people listen to song lyrics at all.

“Marry You” by Bruno Mars is not a romantic song, and it’s not really appropriate for a wedding. Don’t people listen to lyrics of songs, ever?

This song basically says that marriage doesn’t mean anything, that it’s a dumb thing to do, and you can undo the whole thing tomorrow if it doesn’t work.

Let’s look closer at the lyrics, shall we?

“It’s a beautiful night, We’re looking for something dumb to do. Hey baby, I think I want to marry you.”

In other words, “We’re bored so let’s go do something – like get married.”

“Is it the look in your eyes or is it this dancing juice. Who cares?”

Or, “You look great and we’re both drunk, so let’s get married.”

“If we wake up and you wanna break up that’s cool. No I won’t blame you. It was fun girl.”

A marriage is about commitment and not just something to be done in the spur of a moment for fun. It means something. It is special and not frivolous.

Maybe I’m just a romantic. Maybe I’m over-reacting to people who chose to use this particular song as a wedding anthem. Or maybe, just maybe I am right and people are being lazy. Find an appropriate song. Listen to what it is actually saying. There are great songs you can use to mark your special occasion.

I think Bruno Mars has a lot of talent. This post is not meant to be disrespectful to him as an artist at all. It is meant for the casual listeners and wedding planners who think every song with the word wedding in it is a wedding song. Not even close.

Go look at wedding song lists online. Some of them are quite hilarious. Trust me, and if you need advice, mixes, or even a DJ for your special day, I’d be happy to help out.

Teaching Tip – Science

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 science. It will include tips, tricks, and lessons to help you in your science curriculum, planning, and teaching.

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

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

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

Bitesize Science 
How a Glue Stick Works
Teachable Moments
Use Lego to Teach Science
Using Video in the Classroom

Totally Slept on This One

I like to look at the year-end lists many music journalists compile. This was a title that I saw on a few lists so I knew I had to check it out. The album is called “The Element of Surprise” and I must say that it really did surprise me. I’ve been meaning to write about it for months and months now, being that it is one of my most heavily spun albums this year.

This is a solid album that hearkens back to the boom-bap era of the early 1990s. It is a one producer / one emcee project along the lines of Gangstarr or Pete Rock and CL Smooth. Confidence provides the sonic landscapes for Rashad to rap over.

I love sample-based hip-hop and this record really bumps. I also like the lyrical content. All in all, it is a solid album that I am glad I discovered. I almost slept on this one and would have missed a great album.

Stop Reflecting Blame (Keep Your Dog on a Leash)

I must apologize for running this post now. My girlfriend and I broke up last week. This post had been sitting in my draft folder though, and it is a story that really should be told.

My girlfriend and I like to go hiking. We seek out new trails to explore and head back to our favourite spots often. Last month, we returned to Warbler Woods. We’d only walked there once before but I’ve gone trail running there about three times. It really is a beautiful spot to visit.

The trail takes about twenty minutes to hike. During our walk, we only came across one other group of hikers. In fact, every time, I’ve been to this trail, it has been only lightly travelled.

As we got back to the front gate of the trail, there was a dog there that was completely unattended. My girlfriend is deathly afraid of dogs. I saw the dog from about two-hundred meters away and warned her about it. The owner was still nowhere in sight.

As we approached the trailhead, it was clear to me that the dog was friendly even though it did not appear to have an owner. The dog came and circled around us nevertheless. My girlfriend was legitimately scared.

We saw the owner, still in the parking lot, and nowhere near the start of the trail. My girlfriend yelled at her to come and leash her dog. The owner didn’t even have a leash with her. She didn’t call her dog either. She really did nothing to alleviate the fear that my girlfriend was so obviously feeling.

The owner had the nerve to then berate us. She said, “You really shouldn’t come here if you are afraid of dogs. No one leashes their dog here.”

I can’t believe she just deflected all blame like that. She didn’t have any control of her dog. She let him wander around unattended for at least four minutes and then she tells us it is our fault.

We have laws in this country that say your dog needs to be on a leash when you are out in public. You can’t simply leave your dog off of the leash and expect people to be okay with it.

Some people are legitimately afraid of dogs. Some people would like to be able to go for a trail run and not have to worry about having to stop when they see a dog because they don’t know how it will react. I hate that my run often get interrupted by careless and inconsiderate dog owners. I usually just go with the flow when these things happen.

I should have told this particular dog owner that we shouldn’t have to worry about her dog when we go for a relaxing walk along the trail. I should have told her that if she wanted to have her dog off of the leash, there are several Off-Leash Dog Parks in London that she could have gone to instead of this nature trail.

I really don’t like how this dog owner took no responsibility, reflected the blame, and basically told my girlfriend that no one should be afraid of dogs. Maybe I should have done more about this at the time. I just didn’t know what to say.

What say you?

Please leave a comment below.

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Teaching Tip – Gym and Health

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 dedicated to Physical Education and Health. It will include tips that you will be able to use in your classrooms or the gymnasium.

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

You might also want to check my Pinterest page for more great ideas.

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

5 Best Brain Foods for Learning
Healthy Lunches Kids Will Love
Shinball: An Alternative to Dodgeball
Teaching Gym
Teaching Health
Teachable Moments
World Cup

Chasing Content – July 2011

Tony Hawk invert
Tony Hawk invert (Photo credit: Raka18)

It’s time for that monthly feature we call Chasing Content!

This gives us a chance to look back at all the great things that were happening on the blog last year at this time.

Come explore the archives with me and let’s relive these great moments.

You can read all of the posts from last July . . . 

or just these favs!

Karma for the Comma – Commas are very important. They can change the entire meaning of a sentence in unintended ways. Just have a look and see!

Know Your History: Episode 16 – Ladies of the 80s – I love shining a light on the women in hip-hop. This was part of our special show celebrating International Women’s Day last year.

Shredding with Tony Hawk – Okay, I didn’t actually go skating with him but the video game is really cool. The skateboard controller feels authentic and I love playing it!

It’s Uphill, Both Ways – This was a really tough run. I went back and ran it two more times because I didn’t want it to get the best of me.

Teaching Tip: Summer Holidays – I usually stop posting Teaching Tip Tuesday content over the summer. I think it is important for teachers to take this much needed break. I’ve compiled lists of my tips by theme and have scheduled them to run throughout the summer. I am still taking my break though. You should too!

Thanks for Chasing Content with me. You can check the archive for “Best of” posts for every single month I have blogged.

Have a great summer!

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