Monthly Archives: June 2013

Don’t Let Silent Cacophony Slip Away

It really is a shame that Google Reader is shutting down on Monday. I have relied on the service to keep track of all of my favourite blogs and websites for years now. It’s the first thing I open in the morning. I love having all of my favourite sites available to read in one location.

I’ve tried a few of the replacements over the last two months since the announcement was made that Google was doing away with their reader.

The problem is that I haven’t found an alternative that I am really blown away by. I like the relative easy and the interface that Google gave us. I will continue to use it right until the moment they pull the plug.

If you read me via Google Reader you will need to find a replacement. Feedly is a good option as you can easily transfer all of your subscriptions from Google with a single click. 
Make sure you find a replacement so you won’t miss any of the great content here at Silent Cacophony. 
If you don’t use an RSS Reader, nothing will change. If you want to get content delivered to directly to you, use the buttons on the sidebar to subscribe by email or with Feedburner.
Thank you for your readership all these years. It means a lot to me. I don’t want to lose you as a reader simply because one tool will no longer be available to us next week. 

Jinn Warriors – The Devil’s War

Jinn Warriors: The Devil’s War by Marwan El Nashar

I met the author of this book at the public library and he gave me a free copy of it. It’s kind of cool connecting with self published authors.

It is set in Jannahim, the Spirit Realm that exists parallel to the Earthly Realm. There are mythical creatures in this realm as well as a few humans. The humans earned their way to the realm through selfless sacrifice. The latest human to end up in the realm by saving the life of a small child, a child who would grow up to be an important prophet.

Marwan El Nashar is telling a tale that uses historical events and characters amongst the backdrop of Islamic and Biblical faith. On the back cover he explains that the purpose is to “comprehend the nature of the devil, his minions, and plans for the demise of humanity.”

It’s an interesting tale that he has planned out over the course of eleven issues. This is the first graphic novel of the series.

In this story, we see how Adlof Hitler was influenced by the devil. We see a growing army in the spirit realm and some heroic characters including a very strong female one.

The artwork jumps off the page with precise detail and beautiful colouring and lettering. Some of the dialogue feels a little flat at times but it’s hard to write a book such as this one without getting a bit preachy or too literal at times. That being said, it’s an interesting story with a lot of potential.

You can find out more about this series at www.jinnwarriors.com 

My List of 2013 Reads

Please Help Me Find This Book – Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps

I hope you can help me out here.

I am looking for a book that is out-of-print and very hard to find.

It’s an excellent resource that I want to use next year in my teaching practice.

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps: A Method for Beginning Class or Individual Instruction by Maurice D. Taylor

I have Book One of this series and it is very well done. I find it superior to the current band method book we have at school. It is sequential, easy to follow, and highlights key skills on every page. And to think, it was published 50 years ago. (1963)

I plan on using Book One for my Grade 6 and 7 classes next year. Those books are red and I have all that I need there.

I want to use Book Two for my Grade 8 classes. The problem is that I am short a few of these green books.

I don’t have the Tuba book which will more than likely be labeled as “Basses.” I also need an “Alto Saxophone” and “Tenor Saxaphone.”

I know that this is the last week of school and things are a bit hectic right now, but if you are a teacher and a fan of my Teaching Tip Tuesday series . . .

Can you please talk to the music teacher at your school and see if he or she has these books. 

Please help me out and ask any music teacher you know if they have this book series. Pass this post on to any music teacher you know. Put up a message on your school board’s website. Ask your Twitter followers. I am sure someone we know will have a copy of these. I just need help tracking them down.

There are only 30 pages in these books. If you could photocopy them and email them to me I would really appreciate it. I know that my students will love it too.

Once again, I’m looking for . . .

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps – Book 2: Basses

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps – Book 2: Alto Sax

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps – Book 2: Tenor Sax

Thank you for your help!

Daredevil Reboots

Daredevil Season One TPB

Daredevil Season One by Anthony Johnston and Wellington Alves

I don’t know why comic book creators feel the need to constantly recreate origin stories. It’s been done for Daredevil several times and much better than this latest title as well.

Daredevil's first appearance in comics

Daredevil # 1 – 1964 by Stan Lee and Bill Everett 

That being said, I like the idea of returning to the original costume Daredevil had when he premiered back in 1964. However, it didn’t make a lot of sense for him to be adorned in yellow. It really didn’t fit with the nature of the character and as such, by issue number 8, he was wearing his traditional red costume.

It wasn’t until 38 years later that we learned why his first costume was in fact yellow. The brilliant creative team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale retold Daredevil’s origin in the absolutely fantastic series Daredevil: Yellow.

Daredevil Yellow HC


Daredevil Yellow by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

This is the definitive Daredevil origin story in my humble opinion. It is a perfect piece of comic book storytelling. The writing is clever. The artwork is beautiful. And the creative team manage to explain why Daredevil started his superhero career with a yellow costume. I won’t give anything away here because this is a MUST-READ. I am not over-exaggerating either.

There is one other Daredevil retelling that I would be remiss if I didn’t include in this post.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear by Frank Miller, John Romita Jr, All Williamson, Christie Scheele, and Joe Rosen.

Frank Miller helped to revolutionize comic book storytelling in his original run on the monthly ongoing Daredevil series.

In this six issue mini-series, he returns to retell the origin of the character. What is interesting about this series is that Matt Murdock doesn’t don a costume to become Daredevil. Instead, he covers his head with a bandana and even pulls in right over his eyes. After all he is blind and it seems like a blind person might not put much faith in the need of a costume.

My Verdict

I love Frank Miller’s storytelling and everything he has done with Daredevil. However, his retelling of the origin story just can’t compare to the iconic work of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in Daredevil: Yellow. It is a perfect book and one of my all-time favourites in any genre.

The Complete List of My 2013 Reads

Still Thinking of You – A Birthday Mixtape

It’s Dana’s birthday today and even though I haven’t talked to her in close to a year, I felt like I had to reach out over the blogosphere and let her know that I still think of her.

I wanted to give her this birthday present because it really is all that I can give at this point. I just hope she sees it and I hope she likes it.

Happy Birthday Dana!

You can stream the mix with this player

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

or download it in album format with skippable tracks.

I hope you enjoy the mix!

Reflect Now to Improve Your Teaching Next Year

The school year comes to a close next week and I am already thinking about next year.

Why?

This is the best time to reflect on our teaching practice. We can look closely at the things that went right, what went wrong, and what we can improve on for the new school year.

I had a new assignment this past year and I have to admit that I didn’t do nearly as good a job as I should have.

I bumbled through the best I could and I learned a lot along the way. It was around March Break where I finally thought, “I have this figured out now.” I tried to implement a few changes to the classroom routine at that point but many of my students had a hard time adjusting. They were set in their ways and weren’t as eager as I was to streamline and improve things.

I am returning to the same assignment next year and I know now what I need to do differently to make things run smoother. I know what changes I need to implement on Day 1 in September. And you probably do to.

1) Make Lists

If something didn’t work for you this year, make a list of things you’d like to change.

I know that I want to have my music classroom set up a little differently next year. One day a week, I am going to use centres so I can use small group instruction to differentiate learning.

I am going to make sure I set up the classroom with five rows of three on either side of the room so that there will be a middle aisle for me and the students to move around in. I will be explaining these ideas in more detail in a Teaching Tip Tuesday post about specifically about teaching music. Stay tuned for that.

2) Use Technology 

I already use a lot of technology including the Smartboard, Clickers, Finale, Audacity, and Smart Music. But next year, I plan on flipping my classroom (in a fashion.) I will be recording some video lessons this summer. This way I can work with a small group in person but also run another small group at the same time via video.

3) Create a Detailed Long Range Plan

A year plan can be a living document. You don’t have to write one and then leave it alone. You can modify it, add to it, remove things, switch things around.

First, create one by looking specifically at the curriculum expectations. Then decide the best ways you can teach those expectations and motivate students at the same time. Decide on units, themes, and the time frame you want to accomplish everything over the course of a school year.

4) Speak to Students’ Interest and Needs

Many of our students aren’t interested in big band or classical music. As such, I plan on using pop music and songs they actually know more often next year.

Don’t Stop There

I have a lot of ideas for the new school year. I am writing them down and I am starting to work on my year plan already. My program is going to be so much better next year.

That’s the mark of a good teacher. Taking the time to reflect and being motivated to improving student motivation and learning.

I won’t be taking this summer off. I will be reading, writing, planning, and playing the instruments.

Do you have any ideas or tips you’d like to share?

Please leave a comment below!

Graphic Novels from the Public Library

I love the public library. There is no way I would be able to read as wide a variety of material without this free and invaluable service.

Here are the latest comic books I have enjoyed free of charge thanks to the library.

The Unwritten Volume 4

The Unwritten: Volume 4 – Leviathan by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Vince Locke, and Al Davison

This series is absolutely amazing. The only problem with getting books from the library is that I never really know what I am going to pick up on any given visit. As such, it has been years since I read the previous volume.

I still remembered enough of what happened in the first three volumes to enjoy the story and get right back into the world created here. It revolves around a Harry Potter type story where the author named the main wizard character after his son. This someone gave the real-life person some magical abilities. These books explore the power of storytelling to shape the world for better or for evil.

I really want to own these books and read them all in a row. They are that good.

The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues by Geoff Johns, Francis Manapul, and Scott Kolins

This is the first story arc from the rebooted series of The Flash. My brother bought me the first issue as a birthday present two years ago. I really enjoyed the retelling. But since it was a single issue, I was never able to experience the entire story until now.

If I had enough money, I would collect this series as well. I have the first ten issues of the last reboot but that was quite some time ago. For now, I am just going to have to settle for getting the chance to enjoy the stories from the library.

I like that they have returned to Barry Allen as The Flash. He has always been my favourite. I also like that they don’t waste time retelling his origin. The story brings up up to speed (get it?) with where he is in life. He is a cop and it working on a murder investigation when he himself falls under suspicion for a crime he hasn’t committed yet (and one that seems impossible for him to ever have done.)

It’s a great story with nice pacing and beautiful art. I’ve always enjoyed this character.

Well, those are the latest books I have read this year. 

You can see My Entire Reading Log for 2013

and leave comments so we can discuss any of the titles you are reading too.

Legendary Writers Working With Pictures

Stephen King is an incredible writer who sees the value in working with pictures. There are so many novelists that are completely stuck on prose and see no reason or benefit in expanding their work to other mediums or genres.

Fortunately, Stephen King isn’t a print-snob and we have seen his work turned into TV mini-series and movies. Lately, he has even gotten into the medium of comics.

This retelling of The Talisman offers new scenes and expands the backstory of the original novel.

Neil Gaiman also sees the value of working with pictures. Not only has he written novels, television episodes, and graphic novels, but he has also authored a few picture books.

I found this book at the school library. We were having a staff meeting in there and this book was calling to me from the shelves. I grabbed it and took my seat as the meeting got started. I tried my best to read it without drawing attention to myself and to make it look like I was still paying attention. That was hard to do because this book was so well done.

I won’t give away what happens it in but I will say that it is humourous and I highly recommend it.

We are living more and more in a visual society. Websites and social media platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram prove this to be true. Perhaps it is time for us to blend pictures and prose together to enrich the experience of readers everywhere.

I know I enjoy a good graphic novel and am constantly reading comics. Who knew, there’d be treats and surprises in the picture book aisle as well?

Keep track of what I read this year with my complete and ever-growing list of 2013 Reads.

Exams, Grades, and Marks Miss the Point

This spoken word artist captures what is wrong with education today.

Suli Breaks really makes some great points in that piece. .

I especially like what he has to say about timelines. We have artificial deadlines in school and some students truly need more time to complete a task. I shared a video a few weeks back that dealt with that same topic in comparison to skateboarding. It’s another brilliant video on education that I highly recommend.

I also don’t put any stock into standardized one-size fits all testing. I don’t think school should be about marks at all. I think we need better ways to motivate and celebrate learning and accomplishment in school.

While I agree with most of the thins Suli Breaks has to say in this video, there are a few points I need to argue.

I really believe that mathematics teach us a lot more than equations and theories. Sure, we may never use a particular advanced math skill in our entire lives, but some of us might. You can never know for sure where life is going to take you.

That being said, I can honestly admit that most of us won’t use the math we were taught in school in any real and purposeful way. So why take it?

I actually have a good answer for you. Math teaches us to look at problems, to apply a variety of methods, to tackle something that isn’t inherently readable, to make sense of it, to explain it, and to communicate our understanding. These are skills that everyone uses everyday.

I agree that we can manifest these skills in other ways and that as educators we should strive to do so in our classrooms. But we don’t need to discard mathematics in our revised curriculums.

I think it behooves us all to learn about things we don’t like, to expand our knowledge and experience, to try new things, to fail, to make mistakes, to persevere, to muddle through, to succeed, to be rewarded, to work with others, and to value hard work and education. These are the things we should be seeing in schools on a daily basis.

Visit the Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive for great tips, lessons, commentary, links, projects, assignments, and other things you can use in your teaching practice and in your classrooms.

Running The Devil’s Creek Trail

Devil’s Creek is a short trail in Cambridge, Ontario.

The trail head starts right beside St. Augustine’s Catholic School.

and runs for 1.6 kilometers.

I took the boardwalk to the right and followed the trail all the way to the end. I then turned around and went the other way at this fork. That trail only lead me to a suburb so I turned around and headed back to the street.

On the other side of the street a paved trail lead me to this park.

“In 1971, this park was named after the wife of Gordon Stanley Rouse who was Mayor of Galt.”

By this point, I had been running for close to 20 minutes and covered approximately 5 kilometers.

This small waterfall was really nice to see.

This is the Grand River and the waterfront trail is absolutely gorgeous. I turned left and took the trail all the way to another trail head.

I wasn’t sure where I was heading but for some reason I didn’t want to turn around yet.

And then I found myself at the Walter Bean trailhead. I’ve ran this portion of the trail before. If you wanted a really long trail way or run, you can combine these two routes.

Explore More Trails

Superhero GPOY

I love how creative some bloggers can be.

Let’s take a few moments to look at some of the pieces I’ve come across on Tumblr.

Man of Steel fan art
Originally posted by Blogman

I love this GPOY (Gratuitous Picture Of Yourself) that Superman took. I mean, how else could this shot have been taken?

It looks like Superman started something here. All the superheroes are doing it now.

Dark Knight Rises fan art
Originally posted by Blogman.

I can’t believe Batman got wrapped up in this Instagram trend. In nothing sacred?

And if that weren’t enough, it looks like superheroes are even getting their own cameras now.

DC cameras

Just do your job and go save the universe already. That’s what we look to you for.

Novels Adapted to Comics

The Talisman – Volume 1: The Road of Trials by Stephen King and Peter Straub

Is this a new trend? I know that they have turned quite a few books into movies but turning prose novels into graphic novels is new, right?

I thought I’d give this one a try as I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s memoir / writing advice book On Writing.  It’s a brilliant book and I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fiction writer.

I have read a few pieces of his fiction but I wasn’t familiar with The Talisman at all.

The graphic novel is beautifully coloured and illustrated but it’s incomplete. It didn’t feel like it stood on its own. I think the best graphic novels will urge you to read more of the series but will still give you a sense of closure with the tale you just read. This one didn’t do that for me.

Ender’s Game Series by Orson Scott Card

The first time I saw this new trend of prose novel to graphic novel was with Orson Scott Card’s brilliant Ender’s Game series.

I have read the first volume of Ender’s Shadow and it captures the feel of the original novel quite well. But in my humble opinion, the audio books are the best way to explore the Enderverse. They have full cast narration, sound effects, and music. They are absolutely incredible.

Prose Novel to Graphic Novel Trend

I love graphic novels but I’m not sold on this new trend. I think audio books or the original prose novels are the best ways to experience the stories. It’s kind of like movie adaptations that way. Very few movies are able to live up to the source material.

What do you think?

Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Musical Futures – Free Teaching Resources

Musical Futures: An Approach to Teaching and Learning

I went to a training workshop about the Musical Futures program and was completely blown away. This is a program that can truly engage reluctant learners in the music classroom.

We were thrown right into the thick of things for this workshop. We were divided into small groups and given an assortment of instruments.

We had a piano, a drum kit, an electric bass, and an electric guitar. I jumped on the drums simply because it was an electronic kit and I haven’t had much chance to experiment with those.

We were instructed to bring our own instruments to the session but I ended up staying on the drums for our first exercise. In addition to the amplified instruments, we also had a trumpet and saxophone player.

We were given the choice of three songs to learn. One of them was “Price tag” by Jessie J, which really appealed to me because of the rap verse in it. The rest of the group had no objections so we did that song.

Our goal was to recreate the song using the instruments we had. We listened to the sound recording of the pop song over and over again and tried to pick it up by ear on our instruments. The instructors of the course gave us guitar tabs, piano chords, and possible drum patterns we could use but we weren’t given standard music notation or sheet music.

We had an hour to work on our version of the song before we were to perform it in front of the workshop participants.

The person who was on the piano had no musical experience whatsoever but was able to use the piano chord handout to contribute fully. She even switched over to the keyboard drums during the rap verse. I couldn’t manage to play the drums and rap at the same time. It was just too tough.

We actually pulled it off though. It was so much fun to be playing with a small group of musicians and to be recreating a recognizable pop piece.

For the most part, we were trained and experienced musicians. That is how we were able to pull off the performance in an hour. It was suggested that for the students in our classes that this process take considerably longer. The lesson plans and format are all laid out in the free teaching resource you can download.

The Musical Futures website has tons of free resources including lesson plans, a teacher guide textbook, instructional videos, audio examples, and curriculum links.

You can download this teacher guide / textbook for free.

I printed it off and then used the book binding machine at the school to create my own textbook of the program.

This program has a lot of appeal. I can see how the reluctant students who don’t care for classical music or concert band pieces could really engage in this informal learning process.

Rock musicians often play by ear and build pieces based on trial and error. This program uses those same techniques in the classroom. Of course, this approach has its limits and special needs that you need to consider before implementing it, but I am sold.

Now, I have the summer to see exactly how I will use it in the new school year.

More Teaching Tips?

Visit the Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – over 100 useful tips, tricks, and lessons

More Good Reads?

Check out My 2013 Reading Log

Who Will Be the New Doctor?

It was announced this past weekend that Matt Smith will be stepping down from his role of The Doctor on the hit science fiction television series.

Doctor 11

According to Doctor Who lore, there are only 13 different incarnations of The Doctor. There will come a time when the writers will have a hard time explaining a new actor stepping into the role. At least we won’t have to worry about that for a little while.

Matt Smith played the 11th Doctor for four seasons. I’m not sure who is going to play the 12th Doctor but I do have a few suggestions for the writers and anyone involved in casting.

1. Break from Chronology

Bring back David Tennant as The Doctor. Obviously he can’t play the 12th Doctor. That wouldn’t make any sense. But perhaps we could do something similar to what the Star Trek writers did with the new reboot. We could alter the time line so that 10 never died and have his adventures continue.

10th Doctor

I would love for this to happen. David Tennant has always been my favourite Doctor. And while I am sad to see Matt Smith leave the series, it was a much sadder day when Tennant left.

2. Change the Race

We have had black companions in this series but I think a black Doctor would be brilliant.

This article suggests 12 possible casting choices and includes 2 black actors in the list.

I agree that Idris Elba would be an inspired choice but I think it would be even more brilliant to have Mekhi Phifer take on the role. He already has Doctor Who experience (as did Karen Gillan and Freema Agyeman.

3. A Female Doctor

I’m not sure who I’d cast as this. Maybe a relative unknown?

Either way, I think a female Doctor would be cool.

Story of a Girl Tumblr

What are your thoughts on the casting of the new Doctor Who lead?

Please leave a comment below.

I’d love to hear from you.

Chasing Content – June 2012

Blog posts are like bubbles that look cool for a moment but can quickly disappear.

It’s time to go chase the bubbles and have some fun looking at the content that has gone flying by. We do this at the start of every month in a feature called “Chasing Content.”

Read all of the posts from last June

or just these shiny bubbles.

Recommended Read – The Book Thief

Last year, I decided to start blogging about every single book I read. I did it mostly to serve as a reading log and also as an experiment to see exactly how much I do read over the course of a year. Prior to this, I only blogged about books that I absolutely loved. The Book Thief definitely fits into that category and it’s why I had to bring back the feature Recommended Reads. This is an amazing book.

Everything is Getting Smaller (Except the Price Tag)

Have you noticed this? Food packaging seems to be getting smaller. Either you get less weight or volume in the packages or you don’t get as many items as you used to. Of course, the price of these items isn’t going down. This is quantity not quality, but it still bugs me.

Iceland Skatepark

Want to go skateboarding this weekend? Will you be in the Mississauga, Ontario area? Then you really need to go to the Iceland Skatepark. It is huge and definitely a great place to skate.

The Band Plays On – An Interview with Author Rick Niece

This was a fun interview with a fellow music educator and author. We talked about a lot of different things. It’s worth your time to read this post or listen to the podcast.

Happy Father’s Day – Hip-Hip Style

I looked at some important songs about fatherhood in rap music and played a few interview clips for this special edition of Know Your History. You can read the transcript, watch some embedded music videos, and download the podcast for free. I hope you enjoy the show!

Tallest Silver – My Favourite Cosplay Artist

Tallest Silver dresses up as various comic book characters and she looks good doing it. She’s definitely my favourite cosplay artist. One look at these pictures and I am sure you’ll agree with me. The cool thing is that she is shooting a web series right now with Kat Quinn. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Thanks for Chasing Content with me!