Monthly Archives: April 2013

Teaching Tip – Math

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 Math. It will include tips, tricks, and lessons you can use in your mathematics instruction.

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

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

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

Don’t Pass on the Fear
How a Glue Stick Works
Math Drills
Smarties Math 
Transformational Geometry
Using Cards in Math Class
Using Math Resources
The What-If Activity

Putting the Roof on My TARDIS

I’ve been building a TARDIS in my basement.

I started with a frame, added plastic sheeting for the walls, and then fashioned wooden trim to simulate the panelling effect of the time machine.

The next step is the roof.

I drilled a hole in the middle of a board. This is where the top lamp will be affixed.

I then notched either side of the panel so that it would sit on the top roof frame.

This roofing frame slides onto the top of the TARDIS and fits quite snugly.

I then added corrugated plastic to cover the entire roofing area.

I got this lamp from a dollar store and it sits perfectly in the hole that I drilled. I hollowed out the lamp though because it originally worked by pushing down on the top.

I wanted to be able to control the light from inside the TARDIS. I will be adding a flexible lamp so this top light will actually work.

I also plan to add another light on the inside so the translucent plastic windows will be able to glow.

The next step is painting and adding little details here and there.

It should end up looking something like this. My roof is a little bit shorter and I don’t have the footboard however.

I needed to be able to make the entire build small enough that I could store it in the basement when I am not using it outside. That extra top panel is not really needed. I’m sure the completed model will look amazing when it is painted and illuminated.

Stay tuned for one more update on my homemade TARDIS build.

Get Professional Sound on Your Recordings in Audacity

Audacity is a free audio recording and mixing program. I use it to make all of my podcasts, radio shows, and mixtapes. It’s an easy to use program and I thought I’d been getting the most out of it. I was wrong.

There are quite a few tutorial videos online from very diverse sources. I’ve watched a lot of them and even made a couple myself. But these videos, mine included, haven’t offered the best advice.

I’ve noticed that my recordings seem to be a little quiet in comparison to other files I listen to online. I didn’t know why this was happening and wasn’t sure what I could do about it.

Daddy J suggested I try using another program to hopefully get a more professional sound. I downloaded the one he suggested and I played around with it. But I didn’t like the layout of the screen and it wasn’t as intuitive as I had hoped.

The tips Daddy J gave me couldn’t be just for that harder to use program. There had to be some way for me to do what he was suggesting using the program that I already have and know how to use.

So, I once again took to YouTube and found this very helpful video from an experienced DJ.

I used his tips and my recordings sound some much better now.

Part of the problem was that when I started podcasting four years ago, our hosting service would only accept small MP3 files. Plus I just used Audacity the way it appeared when I first opened the program. As such, I wasn’t getting the most of out of program.

Here are the new tips I learned. . .

1) Float the meter toolbar and extend it. Keep it on the bottom of the screen and pay attention to it. (see above video)

2) Try to make the recording a consistent level. Use your ears when layering tracks on top of each other.

3) Export the draft version of the recording as a wave file.

4) Open a new Audacity project and import that draft wave file into it.

5) Next, play the quietest part of the recording and see where it peaks on the meter. (see above video)

6) Go to “effect,” select “hard limiter,” and set it to whatever that level was (i.e. -8.0 db)

7) Next, select the entire track. Go to “effect,” and “amplify” the track to -0.1 db

8) Now export the file as a wave for the best sound or as an MP3 to share it online.

9) Make sure you go to “options” set it to 320 kbps and set the “channel mode” to stereo. Don’t use “joint stereo” because the sound quality won’t be as good.

I never did all of the above steps before. My recordings now sound so much better. Listen to my older recordings and then listen to the stuff I released this year. Let me know if you notice a difference.

If you have any tips, tricks, or techniques you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

Batman Year One and a Fables Spin-Off

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Richmond Lewis

This is a retelling of Batman’s origin story. It was originally published in 1986, shortly after Frank Miller told the final Batman story in The Dark Knight Returns. That book is an undisputed classic. This one seems like it is chasing that but can never really catch up. That’s not to say it’s a bad read, it’s just such familiar territory.

The interesting thing here is that we also get an origin of Commissioner Gordon as well. One thing I did like about the story was that Batman has some pretty horrible failures as he starts his super-hero career. It seems quite real. It’s a dark story much like the recent Hollywood trilogy and pretty much what you’d expect from Frank Miller’s amazingly creative work.

Fairest: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Matthew Sturges, and Shawn McManus.

The Fables comics are some of the best I have ever read. I have also enjoyed the spin-off series Jack of Fables. So when I saw this newest title, I knew I had to give it at chance.

Sleeping Beauty is awoken by an unlikely suitor, Ali Baba. Unfortunately, he also managed to awaken an evil force that begins to hunt them down.

I was immediately captivated by the characters in this one. I’m not sure why. The art is amazing and the story is well told. I can see how this would make for a good series. That being said, I will keep an eye out for the second volume.

My list of 2013 Reads

Lessons We Can All Learn From Skateboarding (and how to apply it to school)

I love skateboarding and I am passionate about teaching.

As such, I found this video quite captivating.

I really agree with what Dr. Tae has to say, especially . . .


“In skateboarding, failure is normal.

Failure is expected. . .

It took me 58 tries to get that trick . . . There’s no sugar coating it. You don’t get a C+ on one of the attempts because you made it halfway.

The failure isn’t stigmatized. It’s normal. It’s expected.”


“The goal in skateboarding is to learn the trick.

The reward in skateboarding is landing the trick.

Layering grades on top of this adds nothing to the experience at all.”

I like the idea of having students learn without assigning grades. I wish school wasn’t about grades whatsoever. I’ve been saying this for some time now, but I’d have a really hard time convincing parents, administration, and the school board that my program at school will not be graded.

“When learning is the goal and learning is the reward, there is no point in cheating. This is just how it works.”


“Nobody knows ahead of time how long it takes anyone to learn anything.”

We have time constraints at school we simply have to live with. We have a certain number of math  units and topics to cover. As such, we often spend three weeks on a unit, we assess it, and then we move on.

Some students can whip through topics and gain an understanding very quickly.


“Work you ass off until you figure it out.

That’s all there is to skateboarding.

If I was only given 50 tries . . . I’m not gonna get it. I’m never gonna learn . . . That’s a shame because I might have been kind of good at it.”


Getting rid of grades would be a good start. Especially in the arts. I teach instrumental music and I think it parallels skateboarding quite well. We can hear it. We can feel the vibe.

“We get real-time meaningful feedback”

We can get rid of artificial timelines.

We can allow students to work at their own pace and let them know failure won’t be written down on a report card. That each failure can be a learning experience.

If school were truly like this, maybe students would enjoy it more too.

More Teaching Tips? 

Visit the archive for great tips, tricks, and lesson plans. And remember to come back here every week for a new edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday!

Homemade TARDIS Build – Part 3

I’ve been building a TARDIS in my spare time.

The first step was building the frame.

Doctor Who build

Then I added some detail. I used corrugated plastic for the walls. It’s a lightweight material so the completed model will be somewhat portable. I then added wood trim to create the panel effect.

Doctor Who build

The next step was creating the windows and doors.

Doctor Who build

I tried using a staple gun to attach the wooden trim to the plastic sheet but it didn’t work so well. The plastic had a bit of a bounce to it that I couldn’t seem to overcome.

Doctor Who build

It was even more problematic for the doors. The top staples would go in just fine but as I moved my way down the panel, the force of putting in new staples would bounce the others ones out.

I really struggled with this problem before coming upon a solution. I decided to “glue it and screw it.”

Doctor Who build

I used carpenter glue to affix the trim to the wall. I knew this glue wouldn’t be completely secure so I decided that I needed to screw the paneling into place as well.

The other problem was that the screws were just a tiny bit too long. I wasn’t sure what to do so I took a small piece of paneling into the hardware store along with a scrap piece of the plastic sheet. The associate suggested I use metal washers to take up some of that space. I also screwed them from the inside out so that the screws will not be seen in the completed build. It worked perfectly.

Doctor Who build

I wanted the doors to swing in just like the real TARDIS but I also knew that it might not be so practical. They might just need to swing open. So I positioned the hinges so that the doors could swing either way.

Doctor Who build

This project has been a lot of fun. There is still a little bit of work to do on it. Hopefully it will look like this soon.

Doctor Who time machine

Come back next week for another update.

Chasing Content – April 2009

It’s time for a bonus edition of Chasing Content this month as we explore the archives from four years ago.

Read all of the posts from April 2009 . . . 

or just these fantastic ones.

Novel Study Takes to the Track 

I love how this book got us running together as a class. I never would have thought the novel study on Sharon Creech’s Heartbeat would naturally take us to the track. But it did and it was an amazing day.

I Thought It Wasn’t For Me

I can’t believe that I was reluctant to join Twitter.

It is one of my favourite online tools. It is so much easier and quicker than email. It helps you build an audience. It drives traffic to your website. It helps you interact with all sorts of interesting people. It really is an amazing communication tool. And I am glad I signed on.

It Was Bad For Me, So It Always Will Be

I had to rant about this topic. Too many people try to derail what I do in the classroom before they even try to take a moment to understand it, to work with me, or to make the experience better for my students.

I understand that some people have had a negative school experience but that doesn’t mean school doesn’t have value and that it will forever be a negative experience for everyone. Let’s work together to make it the best experience it can be for your child. That’s what we both want. I can guarantee you that.

A Rap Group Got Me Reading a Classic

My best friend introduced me to a rap group by the name of Animal Farm. I had the chance to interview them for the radio show and had a lot of fun hanging out with them on the air. Afterwards, I went and read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. That’s right, a rap group got me reading a classic piece of literature.

It’s happened again since then. I read The Book Thief after discovering the excellent “In Spite of Everything” EP by The Book Thieves.

Thanks for Chasing Content with me.

Click on all the links and explore the posts of the past. No sense letting them all get buried in the archives never to be experienced again.

My List of 2013 Reads

I love reading. I always have a book or two on the go. And I love sharing great titles here on the blog.

That’s why I’ve decided to keep track of everything I read over the course of this year.

I had a lot of fun with my reading log last year. It’s definitely a tradition I want to keep up. Perhaps I can even have a friendly competition with myself. Can I read more than 65 books this year?

Without further ado, here is my reading list of 2013.

I will continue to update this post with each new title I read this year.

So here goes,


Dear Zoe
Doctor Who – Death Riders / Heart of Stone
If I Stay
Little Women and Me
Look Again
My Name is Memory
Star Trek: Gods of Night
Star Trek: Mere Mortals
Star Trek: Lost Souls
The Accideyntal Genius of Weasel High
The Gate Thief
The Great Gatsby


Animal Man– 1 title (The Hunt)
Batman – 2 title (Year One, Knightfall)
Captain America – 1 title (The Chosen)
Daredevil – 8 titles (Lady Bullseye, Return of the King, The Devil’s Hand, Shadowland Vol 1 and 2, Season One, Volume One, Reborn, End of Days)
Doctor Who / Star Trek – 2 Titles (Assimilation2 Volume 1 and 2)
Fables – 1 title (Inherit the Wind)
Fairest – 1 title (Wide Awake)
Flash – 1 title (Death of the Rogues)
Jack of Fables – 4 titles (Bad PrinceAmericana, Fulminate Blade, The End)
Jinn Warriors – 1 title (The Devil’s War)
Sandman – 1 title (Preludes and Nocturnes)
Spiderman – 1 title (Fantastic Spiderman)
Star Trek – 2 titles (Countdown, Volume 1)
Star Wars – 2 titles (Agent of the Empire, Darth Vader and The Ghost Prison)
The Unwritten – 1 title (Leviathan)
The Talisman – 1 title (The Road of Trials)
The Walking Dead – 4 titles (The Heart’s Desire, The Best Defense, This Sorrowful Life, The Calm Before)
Will and Whit – 1 title (Will and Whit)
Transformers – 2 titles (International Incident, Revenge of Decepticons)


Choir: Tears, Triumphs and Transformations
How Did I Get Here: The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO


Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives
Nurture Shock


Bully in the Mirror
Classroom Management: A Thinking & Caring Approach
Musical Futures: An Approach to Teaching and Learning
Polarity Bear Tours the Zoo
School Struggles
What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know

Running Total of Books Read This Year:  61

Teaching Tip – Games

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.

It’s handy to have some games in your teacher toolkit for those days when you have some extra time or when your students have earned a little reward.

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

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

I hope you enjoy these Teaching Tips.

Classroom Deal or No Deal
Halloween Vowel Sounds
Musical Corners
Play and Learn with Lego

Homemade TARDIS update

I’m building my own TARDIS, and it’s definitely a learning process.

Doctor Who build

I started with the frame you see above.

Doctor Who build

I then added corrugated plastic panels for the walls. I used this material because it is lightweight and I wanted to be able to easily pick up the completed TARDIS and carry it around to different locations.

Doctor Who DIY

I then added corner trim so the plastic won’t get damaged along the edges.

Doctor Who Do It Yourself

I attached a hinge near the top and the bottom of the open front. This will be for the two doors. I then lined a small portion of plastic sheet on top of it.

top part of Doctor Who frame

My next step was to use a thicker panel of wood for the top of the TARDIS. This is where the “Police Public Call Box” sign will go.

Doctor Who build

I then added trim to form the panels you see in the TARDIS.

So far this build has gone better than I could have imagined. Especially since I really don’t have any experience in wood work or building projects.

Stay tuned to this blog for further updates of this TARDIS build.

Hopefully, it will look like this soon.

Doctor Who time machine