Category Archives: teach

Inspiration, resources, lessons, and ideas from my classroom to yours.

Rita – My New Favourite Show

Rita TV Series

Rita is a brilliant television series from Denmark that is now available on Netflix. It’s the first foreign language show that I have ever watched. You need to turn on the subtitles, but it is well worth the effort.

This is one of my favourite scenes from Season One. The story revolves around the school’s no sugar policy. A parent was outraged that another parent brought in treats to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. He said that the school was making sugar fun and that was the wrong message to give. So, he brought in some non-sugared treats for his son to share with the class.

At the end of that period, all of those tasteless treats were left behind. Some were even stabbed with pencils. The kid looked so embarrassed and downtrodden.

The next day Rita brought in some home-baked goodies with tons of icing sugar on them. She shared some with the staff and then made her way to the class.


Rita finds the student and gives the treats to him to distribute to the class. He felt like a million bucks and the kids all got a nice treat. It was a great scene. I love the reason she finally gave for being a teacher too!

In this next clip, a new teacher gets discouraged by an older teacher who tries to tell her that she was selfish for trying to start new programs. Her response is priceless.


I have had something close to both of these incidents in my teaching career. I could identify with the characters and story lines so much.

Season Three will be available soon. I can’t wait!

The thing about Rita is that she’s not perfect. She doesn’t have all of her life together. She might not even be the best role model, but she is a great teacher who really cares about her students.

The stories are great and so is the subject matter tackled. I love this show so much that I might just have to rework My Top 10 TV Shows of All-Time!

Happy Teaching!

Teachers and Students NEED Creativity!

We NEED CreativityI regularly think outside of the box and find ways to be creative in both my personal and professional life.

I often have co-workers comment about how creative I am. The thing often unsaid in these conversations is that they don’t see themselves as creative and they wish they could do these kind of activities in the classroom as well. But here is a very concrete truth I want to share with you and with them . . .

Everyone is Creative 

“Creativity is not the possession of some special class of artistic individuals, but is rather something that can be nurtured and developed in all of us – including your students!”

Don’t make excuses.

You can’t tell yourself that you aren’t creative.

“We all have unbelievable creative potential. It lies dormant just waiting – no begging – to be tapped.” 

Find Your Inspiration

Finding inspiration is easy. It is all around us. I often come up with great ideas for the classroom by reading something completely unrelated to the subject or topic. Or my trying something new in my personal life.

Here is a passage from Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess that explores this idea further . . .

“Becoming well-read and involved in a wide variety of interests provides us with the raw resources that we need for what I call Creative Alchemy. Too often, people believe creativity is some esoteric skill that involves coming up with completely original ideas out of the blue. That is rarely the way it works. “

Start a New Hobby

I know, there isn’t enough time to do all of the things we need  to do as a classroom teacher such as plan, photocopy, mark student work, and the hundred other things that always seem to pop up. It may seem counter-intuitive to take extra time to pursue a hobby. It is not though. I believe everyone should have a hobby or five.

“Spend more time on your passions, hobbies, and outside areas of interest and then seeks ways to incorporate them into your classroom. Cultivate new hobbies and watch new areas of your brain explode in creative output.”

I skateboard, rap, do a radio show, blog, and write fiction. All of these things I have been able to bring into the classroom in some way shape or form, and it has been amazing!

Expose Yourself to High Quality Thinking

This is a key item. Read a lot and don’t just read teaching related books.

“I believe the best books to read about teaching are rarely in the education section. . . . I consider it one of the most important part of my job to constantly expose myself to the high quality thinking of other people. It challenges me, it keeps me current, and it provides me the raw resources necessary for creative alchemy. 

Exploring the world and your passions allows you to bring a new perspective and energy into the classroom. It allows you to become a powerful role model for your students. We always say we want them to be life-long learners,  so we must show them what that looks like.”

Become a Well-Rounded Person

“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking time spent developing yourself into a well-rounded person, above and beyond your role as an educator, is wasted or something to feel guilty about. It is essential and will pay dividends in not only your life, but also in your classroom.”

I hope these tips have helped. You can be creative in your professional and personal lives and inspire your students at the same time. It is win-win!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – your weekly source for professional inspiration

Updated – Free Method Book for Beginning Band

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps: Conductor GuideMy favourite resource for teaching instrumental music is a long out-of-print book called Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps.

I absolutely love it. It is organized brilliantly, starts out students with pieces they can immediately have success on, and it introduces new notes and topics at a good pace.

I have tried out other method books and am often disappointed that they seem to rely on the same 5 notes for every song. They don’t introduce new concepts, and as such, don’t teach the kids much other than simply playing new pieces.

I digitized the individual books for each instrument about a year and a half ago. Since then, I have had people tell me how much they appreciate this resource as well. I have even had requests to add the Conductor Book to the post.

I’m sorry that it has taken this long, but I have finally digitized the Conductor Guide. You can download it for free as a PDF file, print it out. and put it in a binder to keep in your classroom.

Here are all of the resources from Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps: Book 1. You can check out the original post for some more information as well.

Book 1: Alto Saxophone
Book 1: Clarinet
Book 1: Drums
Book 1: Euphonium / Baritone
Book 1: Flute
Book 1: French Horn
Book 1: Tenor Saxophone
Book 1: Trombone
Book 1: Trumpet
Book 1: Tuba

Book 1: Conductor’s Guide

Original Silent Cacophony Post

Download, print off, and enjoy. And you might want to keep a PDF version on your computer too. This way, you can project the piece of music you are working on directly to your Smartboard. I do this all the time and find it very useful. I hope you will too.

Teaching Tip Archive – great tips, lessons, and resources every Tuesday

You Need a Good Plan, Not a Good Excuse!

No Excuses (1)I got a lot out of Barbara Coloroso’s book, Kids Are Worth It. I took pages and pages of notes when I read it. The book is now full of underlines and margin notes.

I never used to be able to write in my books. I didn’t want to mess them up. I wanted them to be in mint condition even after having read them. But having a nice looking book isn’t as important as having one that speaks to you and one you can interact with. So, I recommend making underline notes in pencil (you could always erase them later.)

Here are some of the notes I made and passages I highlighted as I read


  1. When you are upset or angry, say so in an upset or angry tone of voice
  2. Tell the other person about your feelings
  3. State your belief out loud but avoid killer statements
  4. Close the tip gap between the hurt and the expression of hurt. Give direct feedback
  5. State what you want from the other person
  6. Be open to the other person’s perspective on the situation.
  7. Negotiate an agreement you both can accept

It is important, that as teachers and parents we model working through problems the same way and take responsibility for our actions. These seven steps are quite handy and I am going to post them in my classroom.

Admit the Mistake and Take Responsibility

Coloroso uses the term “backbone parent” to show the contrast between two other parenting styles that are not effective. In the quote below she illustrates how backbone parents would handle making a mistake. It’s how I want my students to handle them to, so I altered the beginning a bit.

[A good person] admits that she made a mistake, takes full responsibility for making the mistake, avoids making excuses, figures out how to fix the problem created by making the mistake, recognizes if and how another person was affected, and figures out what to do the next time so it won’t happen again.

No Excuses

I want my children to understand that when they have a problem, what they need is a good plan, not a good excuse.

Here are another set of steps worth posting up.

6 Steps to Problem Solving

  1. Identify and define the problem
  2. List viable options for solving the problem
  3. Evaluate the options—explore the pluses and minuses for each option
  4. Choose one option
  5. Make a plan and DO IT
  6. Evaluate the problem and your solution. What brought it about? Could a similar problem be prevented in the future? How was the present problem solved?

Remember you are helping her learn how to think—not what to think.

The Game and The Sit

When two students have a problem with each other, there is no way a teacher can solve it. The problem often will spill out into the yard and become a fight or it will spark up again on the bus. Giving the students time to own the problem and figure it out is the best solution. I’ll admit that this particular method would be difficult in a classroom, but it is still worth considering.

Here are the basics (you can find out more in the book if interested)

“You both seem really angry. Come over here and sit together on the couch. You can both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up. What is it you need to do?”

Asking this question is very important and good teaching practice before sending students off on any task.

“Don’t demand an apology. “I’m sorry” has to come from the heart, not the head. If you demand an apology, you’ll probably get one of two kinds: (a) whiny or (b) “I’m sorry” followed by the apologizer slugging the other kid again

Neither can move. They both have the power over the other, but that power is connected to the other person’s power. Kids begin to see that they are not dependent or independent but truly interdependent—not controlled or controlling but rather influencing and influenced. Soon one says,

“You can get up.”
“But I’m not going to let you get up.”
“You may both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up”

Finally they get the message that together they have the power to control the situation. Notice that they haven’t been punished. The goal is not to punish them. It is to discipline them. 

I still have more notes I can share with you about this book. And I picked up another Coloroso book at a used book sale last week, so I’ll probably have even more tips from her next year in this series.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly advice and inspiration for teachers (over 200 entries so far)

It’s All About Engagement – Seamless Transitions

Seamless TransitionsFar too many times, teachers capture the attention and engagement of their class and then lose it by adding some unnecessary delay between the hook and the delivery of the content.

For example, they tell a powerful story that has the class in the palm of their hand. Then, upon finishing the story they have the students get a piece of paper out of their notebook before tying it all together with their lesson.

They knew that the piece of paper was going to be needed so they should have told the students to get it out before starting the damn story!

Be Prepared

Every time you allow or add an unnecessary delay in your presentation you create yet another time that you will have to regain the engagement and momentum you lost. Those two minutes spent putting in and cueing up the video clip matter. Something as simple as waiting for the projector to warm up can be responsible for losing a portion of your audience.

Have a Tech-Helper

There will invariable be a student in your class who is good with computers and would love the responsibility of cueing up videos, controlling the Smartboard, and making sure the projector is ready when needed.

Keep Them From Mentally Checking Out

It’s not that I’m overly concerned about lost minutes. Engagement is the real loss. Every time I lose my students’ focus to unnecessary delay is another time I must go to the hard work of hooking them yet again.

To keep your students from mentally checking out, try to get all administrative activities out of the way before beginning your presentation. If the students will need any materials (their books, paper, pens, etc.), have them get them out before you start.

Make it Seamless 

When you are forced to have a transition, try to make it as quick and seamless as possible.

Don’t ever let your lesson come to a complete halt.

When an interruption happens via the PA or a visitor, you can banter and interact in an entertaining way, or you can simply keep teaching.

Have a Runner / Messenger

I have a classroom job that I refer to as “messenger.” This is the person responsible for picking up any notices or doing office runs as need be. This is another job that students seem to enjoy doing. I rotate this responsibility often.

Hope that helps, that’s what this series is all about!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – great tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiration every week.


Alternatives to YouTube

Alterantives to YouTubeRichard Byrne runs an amazing wesbite called “Free Technology for Teachers.” I cannot say enough good things about it. The site is updated daily with all sorts of great resources that teachers can use in the classroom for free!

I love how he maintains a list of alternatives to YouTube.

There are certain school boards and districts that have blocked YouTube entirely. There are all sorts of ways around this problem, however. In the past, I’ve to downloaded videos on my home computer, saved them to a thumb drive, and then brought them to school. I have uploaded videos to my own site and accessed them that way at school too.

Having streaming alternatives to YouTube is certainly handy. I am not going to link to any of them here, Instead, I am just going to direct you to Free Technology for Teachers because it is a reliable site that is absolutely invaluable to teachers everywhere!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly inspiration and resources for classroom teachers right here!

Let Kids Make the “Cheap Mistakes”

Cheap MistakesSometimes as parents and teachers, we are afraid to let our kids make bad choices. We want to steer them in a direction that will avoid a negative consequence. So, we tell them what to do and what to think. But ultimately, this harms them in ways we probably never even considered.

Barbara Coloroso breaks if down in her book, Kids are Worth It!

Give Them Info and Let Them Go

“What kids need instead of being told what to think, is lots of information about themselves and the world around them, and the opportunity to make lots of decisions, including some less-than-wise ones. As long as their decisions are not life-threatening, morally threatening, or unhealthy, let their choices and the consequences of those choices be their own to grow with and learn from.”

Cheap Mistakes

There are mistakes that we can let our kids make that don’t cost them a lot. These mistakes may come with minor consequences, but these consequences will help them learn and prepare them for the future. We shouldn’t be afraid of these “cheap mistakes”

“I believe if you let kids make choices and mistakes when they are cheap, they rarely make the expensive one later, Kids learn from the cheap ones”

Build a Strong Sense of Self

Letting our children make the cheap mistakes gives them experience in forming their own opinions. They are not just doing what they are told. You might think that is a good thing, but at some point, kids stop listening to their parents (even if only for a little while) and that’s when trouble can arise.

The major problems arise when the teen decides he doesn’t want to please his parents anymore. . . He’s been listening to somebody else tell him what to do. He’s been doing it. He hasn’t changed. He is still listening to somebody else tell him what to do. The problem is, it isn’t you anymore, it’s his peers. The kid hasn’t learned how to think.

Lacking a strong sense of self, these teens define themselves only in relationship to whomever they have attached themselves.

Barbara Coloroso has some great advice for parent and teachers in this book. I recommend reading it if you have enjoyed this post!

Kids are Worth It

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly advice and inspiration for teachers (over 200 tips and counting)

Popcorn Math

Popcorn MathStudents should work with numbers on a regular basis. Adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, solving for x; all of these things have their place and value in education.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, mathematics pedagogy has suggested that students need not waste their time learning number facts. Teachers have been dissuaded in using any of the tried and true methods of mathematics instruction.

Gone are the so-called “drill and kill” worksheets. And I agree that simply doing a task over and over again doesn’t necessarily benefit students. But I think it is one of the best ways to learn number facts.

I want my students to know their number bonds (all of the combinations of numbers that add up to 10) their multiplication tables, and the divisibility rules. Learning these things does not take away anything from the problem-solving and collaborative learning environment that is encouraged these days. In fact, know basic number skills helps students in that arena tremendously.

So, here is a good alternative to drill worksheets. I love the randomness of it too. All you need is a popcorn box for each student and some crumpled up paper. The operations go on yellow paper and can include greater than and less than symbols.

I bet the students would like to make up the cards and then trade their popcorn boxes to solve each other’s math facts. We could make sure that the same number of cards go in each box.

I hope you find this Teaching Tip useful.

If you have anything you’d like to share in this series, please leave a comment below or contact me to write a guest post.

Artist Wanted for a Teaching Resource

Artist WantedI have a great teaching resource that I want to develop. The only problem is that I am not much of an artist.

I am looking for someone to draw 130 clip-art style images. These sketches need to be easily recognizable and in vibrant colours. They also need to be equally sized in a square shape .

If you are interested in working on this project with me, please let me know. I will send you the list of objects I need drawn and then we can work together to create this amazing classroom resource.

So far, I have been giving away all of my resources for free on this blog. This new project is going to be part of an entire program that teachers and students will find extremely useful. It is going to take some time and effort to put together. That is one of the reasons that I will be selling this resource when it is completed.

Artist Wanted!

I have big plans for this project and need your help! Please send an email to chasemarch(at)gmail(dot)com if you’d like to be part of this amazing project!

Occasional Teacher Interviews – Getting the Job You Want

1So you want to be a teacher and you don’t have any experience in the classroom outside of what you learned in teacher’s college. Don’t worry, you can still rock that first job interview.

Here are things you should think about before going to that Occasional Teacher Interview.

What would you do / have you done questions

Here is a handy mnemonic device to help you answer these questions.

S – SITUATION (tell them circumstances, what it was about)
A – ACTION (what you did, how you did it)
R – RESULTS (what the outcome was, impact, reactions)

It’s a good idea to have a story or two on hand that you have thought about or rehearsed. Think of how you handle difficult students, defiance, and what you have done when there are no plans left for you to follow.

Behaviour Management

When you enter a classroom for the first time as a supply teacher, there are already established rules in that room that you can readily use. Go to the school early and read whatever notes the teacher has left for you. If there is an incentive program in place, use it. Give points and rewards readily for any positive behaviour.

Connect with the Class

I like to share some of my interests with the class early on. I let them know that I am a rapper and can beatbox. if we have a good day together, I promise to showcase that ability for them I built up a reputation for that when i was supplying and certain classes really looked forward to it.

Be Prepared

Bring some activities that you can do in a class at a moments notice. Consider having a reading lesson or math activity for every division. I would have one that would work for Kindergarten, one for Grades 1-3, one for Grades 4-6, and one for Grades 7-8.

This is really important because there will be times when you show up for an assignment and there will be no lesson for you to deliver, no resources for you to use, and really nothing written down for you to follow.

Part of the job is being able to improvise and go with the flow.

What Would Your Class Look Like

Even for a supply teaching job, some principals will ask you specific questions about what your own classroom would look like.

Make sure you mention,  RIGS (Reading that balances Independent, Guided and Shared Reading lessons.) Don’t forget that this acronym applies to writing as well.

In Math, research the three-part problem solving lesson. Don’t mention doing drills or having students memorize number facts. Math has moved in a completely new direction that last few years and you will want to be able to speak on that.


Growing Success is the document we use in Ontario. This is the guide we use for writing report cards and gathering marks. Even if you simply mention the document, you will be ahead of some of your peers applying for the same job.

Be familiar with the terms For, Of, and As Assessment.

Don’t forget to . . . 

  • Dress Professionally – If you are male, wear a shirt and tie. It might be old-school but it pays to look smart.
  • Be Early – I always aim to be 15 minutes early. You will be calm and relaxed when you don’t have to rush.
  • Bring a Book – I read a book while I am waiting to be called in for the interview. Sometimes this becomes a great ice-breaker and leads to intelligent discussion before they ask you the tough questions.
  • Smile – You might be nervous and not naturally smile in a job interview situation. be conscious of this and do your best to smile.
  • Don’t Ramble – Keep your answers succinct. Think of the rule of three; mention three things only and wrap up your answer with confidence.
  • Sit up Straight – Posture is important in an interview
  • Don’t use Slang – Teachers need to model proper English. Make sure you do so!

I hope these tips will help you get on the Supply Teacher / Occasional Teacher list in your area. Good luck with the job hunt!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – your  weekly resource for great resources , tips, and tricks for classroom teachers!

Increase the Fun Factor at School

School Fun Factor“Sometimes it’s OK to do things in class because it increases the fun factor and fosters positive feelings about school. “

It’s Not a Waste of Time

Doing a quick game, activity, or challenge is not a waste of time. If you do such an activity, you might notice the following

– students cheering on and encouraging their peers
– students cooperating and offering great tips
– students who never interact with each other before, working together

All of that can come from a silly activity and not detract from the regular learning that happens in your room.

I love doing special activities in school and think we can find time to do them more often. We can do short challenges and tie them into the theme or context of the learning we want to see happen in that lesson.

Be Creative

In the book, Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess writes about how he sets up a hike that goes around some of the outer fields of the campus. He plans out the route and sets up all sorts of props and scenes throughout. During the class period, they go for a walk, and stop at those areas to have a lesson, lecture, or activity.

These activities can be fun, energizing, and educational! And the best part is that it gets students excited about school and breaks the monotony of the traditional school setting that inspires very few of us.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – yours source for weekly classroom inspiration

March Break – Take Time to Enjoy It

Take Time to Enjoy ItIt’s March Break and it can be quite tempting to use this time to do some planning for the rest of the school year.

I highly advocate leaving school completely behind for one week.

  • Do some reading
  • Watch movies
  • Go on vacation (if you can afford it)
  • Take a day trip (if you can’t)
  • Get outside
  • Be active
  • Spend time with your family
  • Get some things done that you’d like to
  • Focus on yourself and not your job!
  • and remember to . . .
  • Have Fun!

Our job is a very important one, here is some inspiration to carry you through this week, and the rest of the year!


Have a Safe and Happy March Break!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – every week right here on Silent Cacophony

Teach Like a Pirate – Day 3

TLAP Day 3Welcome to the third post in a series focusing on the methodology Dave Burgess lays out in his book, Teach Like a Pirate. 

Day three, according to Burgess, is absolutely critical. It is a day where you can get the reluctant learners on board. It is the day where you can sell your program and your class to the students. This is the day where you can engage students who have had a negative view towards school and their own abilities. It is a turning point.

Day three consists of a massive, high-energy, frentic sales pitch designed to convince my students that my class is completely different from anything they have experienced in school. Most importantly, I work to sell them on the fact that they can , and absolutely will, be successful. 

He doesn’t get very specific as to how he sells his program. He mentions multiple intelligences, differentiated instruction, and the importance of having a growth mindset. The rest of this day probably focuses on the specific things you want to have in your own program, your subject area, and the age group you teach.

This is something I have never done in my own teaching practice. I never felt the need to sell what happens at school. School is just something we have to do, so let’s buckle down and do it. Of course, this isn’t good enough motivation for many of our students.

I’ve actually been struggling with student motivation over the past few years. This seems like a great way to establish a positive learning environment. I can’t wait to try this three day plan next year!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – great resources for classroom teachers every week!

Great Teaching Blogs You Should Be Reading

I have an online breakfast every morning, meaning that I read all sorts of blogs while I munch away on some cereal. Here are some teaching-related blogs that I check for on a daily basis. You should too!

dangerously irrelevant

Dangerously Irrelevant – Scott McLeod’s blog is full of food for thought for teachers.


Free Technology for Teachers – Richard Byrne always shares the best of the web when it comes to websites, apps, and technology that you can use in your classroom for FREE!

iLearn Technology

iLearn Technology – Kelly Tenkely shares some of the great practices and resources that she uses in the school she started up.


Langwitches – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog is always a great read about teaching-related issues and resources.

Larry Ferlazzo

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day – I don’t know how Larry keeps on top of all this stuff. He shares dozens of resources every single week and everyone is something useful and free. It’s a must-visit for any teacher in any grade!

Speed of Creativity

Moving at the Speed of Creativity – Wesley Fryer is a STEM teacher and always shares great information about teaching science, technology, engineering, and math.


Feedly – a great place to organize and subscribe to all of these blogs so the content will come to you. This is my one-stop everyone morning for great reads!

Please Share Any of the Great Teacher Blogs You Visit on a Regular Basis below. 

Teaching Tip Tuesday – Teachers helping Teachers is what it is all about.

Let’s Influence and Empower Our Students Every Day!

Kids are Worth It

Kids Are Worth It : Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline by Barbara Coloroso

Barbara Coloroso is a renowned author of books on parenting and teaching. She offers great advice that we can all use in our daily lives. I can’t believe I hadn’t read any of her work till just now.

One of her cores beliefs is that we can . . .

Influence and Empower Children

“If we accept that we can influence and empower our children, we will no longer feel that we must control them and make them mind. We can then begin to look at empowerment tools that are alternatives to the manipulative  tools of behavior management. They are encouragement and discipline.”

Here is a great model that we can use when we need to discipline our students.

Four Steps of Discipline

  1. Show kids what they have done wrong
  2. Gives them ownership of the problem
  3. Gives them options for solving the problem
  4. Leaves their dignity in tact

We can let them experience consequences that are directly related to their actions.

Real World Consequences

“Real-world consequences either happen naturally or are reasonable consequences that are intrinsically related to the child’s actions.”

It is perfectly acceptable to let our students and children experience real-world consequences. These events can be powerful learning experiences.

While this book is aimed primarily at parents, I believe that the advice she gives is equally applicable to teachers.

Morally Threatening Consequences

I like the idea of getting our students to think before they act with this simple question, “Why Can’t I?” and then looking closely at the answer to see if this applies . . .

  1. Because it is unkind
  2. Because it is hurtful
  3. Because it is unfair
  4. Because it is dishonest

In each of these situations a parent can take the opportunity to teach the child about the virtues of kindness. Compassion, fairness, and honesty and can provide guidance and options for behaving in a virtuous way.”

Character education is a big buzz word in school these days. We can teach virtues in our daily lives by the way we act and how we treat each other. It doesn’t need to be complex and super-involved. In fact, it all boils down to this . . .

Walk Your Talk

“If you are a courageous and giving [teacher] with principles and values that you are willing to stand up for, if you ‘walk your talk,’ your [students] will have a wonderful model to learn from and emulate.

Children need [teachers] who model self-discipline rather than preach it. They learn from what parents actually do; not from what they say they do.”

This is the first in a series of monthly posts!  Stay tuned to Teaching Tip Tuesday for more!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – great tips, tricks, lessons and inspiration for classroom teachers, every week!

GPS – Free Music Method Books for Recorder

I have posted about the GPS – Grade Performance Steps for beginning band before. It is an incredible resource that students really respond well to. It gives them specific tasks, is easily trackable, and makes assessment a snap.

A colleague of mine formatted the books into individual instrument sections and you can find all of those books here. 

He just recently added Year One Recorder Books to this list. These include method books and tracking forms for both Alto and Soprano Recorders.

GPS Recorder

GPS Year One: Alto Recorder Method Book
GPS Alto Recorder Task Tracker Form

GPS Year One: Soprano Recorder Method Book
GPS Soprano Recorder Task Tracker Form

You can find the original GPS books and many other great resources at the OMEA site.

Enjoy and happy playing!

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – over 200 great resources for teachers

The Second Day of School – TLAP Style

TLAP Day 2This is the second in a series of posts on how to Teach Like a Pirate, a really cool and engaging methodology by Dave Burgess from a book of the same name.

Day two of the school year starts with my opening ritual that was a part of their “Good Morning Training” from the first day. 

I then turn off the lights, return to the front of the room , and transform myself into a airplane. 

Burgess describes in detail how he does this, how he crashes into a body of fictional water, saves fellow passengers from the plane, how they float away on a raft, and finally find safety on an island. It’s an impressive piece of pantomime that will more than likely throw students off. It’s not a typical way to start a lesson, but it is very engaging and has a purpose.

Survivor Game

A helicopter comes to rescue the survivors but there is a problem. The pilot admits that he is lost and more than likely won’t be able to find this island again.  He also only has room for 5 of the 10 survivors.

It is now up to the class to decide who will be saved and who will have to fend for themselves on the island. The students work in groups of four students to come to a consensus.

The teacher has to provide them with a list of ten characters who survived the plan crash. Each of whom have been specifically designed to spark debate and discussion.

The Goals of This Lesson

This exercise accomplishes two main goals. First, they are once again socked in the stomach with an outrageous and outside-the-box intro to the period that is not only bizarre, but highly entertaining. 

Secondly, I get the chance to discuss group dynamics, the collaborative process, and the procedures we use to get into groups, all in the context of a fun, engaging activity that does now have any particular right or wrong answers.

The answer to who is rescued and who stays on the island doesn’t matter; it is the process that is important. I emphasize that they must bot only come to a consensus, but they must be able to justify their answers. 

This is No Ordinary Class

After two days, every student has introduced themselves to the whole class and has participated in a collaborative group. In addition, they have yet to see anything resembling an ordinary class experience.

And Coming Next . . .

Dave Burgess sets up his class like a television series. He hooks students with a teaser, gets them engaged in the process, and then leaves them wanting more with a brief glimpse of what is to come.

He closes my saying that Day 3 is “the single most important day of the school year”

Teach Like a Pirate Series – Part 3 coming next month!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – archive of great tips. tricks, and lessons

First Nations Research Info for Kids

FN Info For KidsI have had a really hard time finding appropriate resources to use to for my Grade 3 Social Studies Unit.

The problem is that most of the teaching resources are written for middle or high school students. Very few texts are suitable for elementary school and our new curriculum.

I just recently discovered that my board has a First Nations, Metis, and Inuit division, and they have been extremely helpful.

Their goal is to “engage FNMI students, parents, and community members (including Elders and Cultural Teachers) in the planning and decision-making processes that affect the educational experiences of FNMI students.”

I contacted them and they were able to provide me with some great resources. One member of their staff came into my classroom and gave a great talk about her Ojibwa heritage. She brought in a hand drum and homemade moccasins. She even lent me a kit of leveled readers. It is in an invaluable resource that I am glad to have.

I wanted my students to do some research to learn more about some of the First Nations people in our community and beyond. I searched online for quite some time and finally found a worthy site.

Orrin Lewis has put together some great information about dozens First Nations groups.

He writes, “This website was written for young people seeking information for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main language and culture pages for in-depth information about specific tribes, but here are our answers to common questions asked by kids, with pictures and links suitable for all ages.”

Teaching Tip Tuesday – great tips, tricks, lessons, and resources every week.

Quitting Teaching Super Sale

Going Out of Teaching SaleI have been collecting teaching resources for the past 15 years. I have bins and bins of resources that I have grouped together by grade level. And they are ALL FOR SALE!

It’s my “Going Out of Business Teaching Sale” 

These bins are too heavy for me to ship them, so you can pick them up or I can deliver them to you. I live in London, Ontario and often visit other cities in Southern Ontario so I am sure we could work something out.

These bins have anywhere from $200 to $500 worth of great resources in them. And I am selling the bins for only $75.00 each.

Here is what you will find in each bin.

Kindergarten to Grade 2

BOOKS – Grammar Handbook 1 (Part of the Jolly Phonics Program – I love this resource) Teaching with Ezra Jack Keats Books, Crayola Imagination Book 1 and 3, Painted Words, Learn Every Day: Grammar Skills, OPHEA: Jigga Jump, Creative Reading Gr 1, Guide to Effective Instruction in Writing, Connect with Words, The Teachers Guide to Building Block, Jump Start – Outer Space Unit, Fun to Learn – Finish the Picture, The Complete Book of Science Gr 1-2, Basic Skills Helper, Brighter Child Math, Family Fun Games, Learning Land – First Words, Lightning Lessons – Graphing, Hands On Physics Experiments K – 2, Calculator Math Level A, Funtastic Frogs Measuring.

BINDERS – Come Play With Us Unit, Skills for Success for Your First Grader, NaNoWriMo – Young Writers Program, 100th Day of School, My Little Grammar Books, A Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics, Show Me – Teaching Information and Visual Texts, Art Ideas.

Grade 2

BOOKS – Grammar Handbook 2 (Part of the Jolly Phonics Program – I love this resource) Connect with Words, Method Math, The Complete Math Smart 2, Sunflowering, Math Skills, Phonics, Reading Comprehension, Science Courseware Pack, Reading Workbook, Writing Mini-Lessons, How to: Inventions, Owl: Funbook, Learning Activities, Teach Children to Read and Write, Daily Language Review 2, Creative Reading, Daily Word Ladders, Write Now, Total Basic Skills, Words Every 2nd Grader Needs to Know, How to Make Books, Teachers Guide to Shared Reading, Think on Your Feet

BINDERS – Reading Assessment, Working it Out, Read and Understand, Strategies that Work, Reading Package K – 10, Art Ideas, Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics, Apple Attitude, AND a bin of Unifix cubes

Grade 3

BOOKS – Take it to Your Seat Literacy Centres (already prepped and laminated) Method Math, Science Courseware Pack, BrainQuest 3, What the Heck is a Grape Nut? Total Reading Grade 3, Words Every 3rd Grader Needs to Know, The Inuit Thought of It, Complete MathSmart 3, Creating Reading 3, Quick and Shirt Book Reports, New Start Canada, Nurturing Growth, ArchiGames – 50 Activities to Build Creative Thinkers, Math at School 3, Basics First Vocabulary Development, Canada Curriculum Teacher Helper – Art Lessons, Year Round Activity Guide – Planting the Seeds, Home Workbook – Word Problems, Daily Language Review Grade 3, Total Basic Skills 3

BINDERS – Show Me – Teaching Information and Visual Texts, Mapping Skills, Cursive Writing, Mad Minute Math, Let’s Write, The Write Genre, Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics, Get Writing, Land and Sea Unit

Grade 4 – SOLD

BOOKS – Ontario Assessment Instrument Tool – Reading Passages for Assessing Language Arts and Reading on Assessing Language Arts (These are invaluable tools that I hesitate selling. They are so good) BananaGrams for Kids, How Do We Dream, More Picture Stories, Making Big Words, The Complete Active Minds Workbook, Just for the Pun of It, Complete MathSmart 4, Daily Language Review 4, Characteristics of Flight Gr 4 – 6, Comic Strip Grammar Gr 4 – 8, Multiple Intelligences Gr 4, Basics First – Capitalization and Punctuation, Basics First – Spelling Practice, Canada Social Studies HW, PowerThing – Cooperative Thinking Activities, Method Math – Step by Step Problem Solving, Daily Math Practice Gr 4, Canadian Problem Solvinng, Fun Projects for Kids, 50 Literacy Strategies

BINDERS – At the Watering Hole Unit,Courseware Pack: Mathematics, Rocks and Soils Unit, Mini-Lessons for Narrative / Descriptive / Expository / Persuasive Writing, Do Tell – Storytelling for You and Your Students, Incredible Quotations – 230 Thought Provoking Quotes with Prompts, Canada Stuff, Problem Solving, Computers, Cursive Writing, Language Skills for Gr 4

Grade 5 – SOLD

BOOKS – Daily Learning Drills Gr 5, Basics First – Capitalization and Punctuation, Basics First – Spelling Practice, Ontario Math Workbook 5, Summarizing – The Test Connection, The Complete Book of Science Gr 5, Total Reading Gr 5, Grade 5 Summer Activity Book, Complete MathSmart 5, Flags of the World, Clothing Language, Arts and Crafts, Looking at Pictures with  Rolf Harris, What Makes Popcorn Pop, Task Reading, Maps and Symbols of Canada, Amazing – Interviews and Convesations, Do Cats Really Have Nine Lives, Teaching Off the Wall – Interactive Bulletin Boards, Opening a Can of Words

BINDERS – A Guide to Better Writing, Show Me – Teaching Information and Visual Texts, Working It Out, The Writing Teachers Strategy Guide, Literature Circles, The Real Word Activity Card Centre

Grade 5-8 – SOLD

BOOKS – Shakespeare in the Classroom for Intermediate Grades, Basics First – Spelling Practice, Canadian Soccer Association Coaching Manual, Gr 6 Summer Activity Book, Picture Stoires, Capital Letters and Endmarks, Basic English, Language Power Book D, Genuine Articles – Authentic Reading Texts, Teaching Tools for the Information Age, Weather – Electricity Environment Investigations, Elementary Astronomy, Using Graphic Organizers, Paying Attention to Algebraic Reasoning, Quest 2000 Gr 6, Total Basic Skills Gr 6, Complete MathSmart 6, Armchair Puzzlers – Brain Teasers, Armchair Puzzlers – Word Problems, Lucky Book of Mad Libs, The Mishomis Book – The Voice of the Ojibway

BINDERS – A Teacher’s Guide to Planning and Programming, Aboriginal Units and Resources, Electricity Games Galore Unit, Daily Paragraph Editing Grade 6, Teaching Phonics and Words Study in the Intermediate Grades, Language Skills Preparation, Science and Technology Units Gr 6 and 7 (these are great) Canada and The World Unit, Great Artists

School Supplies

– 3 sets of 25 duotangs (red, yellow, grey)
– 32 page exercise book (50 blue, 50 yellow, 50 green, 25 pink)
– 150 loose-leaf paper packs (16 sets)

Craft Supplies Bin

80 foam sheets, 30 foam glider kits, 1000 craft sticks. 25 gingerbread necklace Christmas Craft Kits, 45 Reindeer Necklace Christmas Craft Kits, Assorted Christmas Craft Supplies Bin, Crayola Color Explosion 3D Kit, 3 Self Adhesive Vinyl Rolls, 16 Desk Magnet White Boards, 18 Plastic Clothespins, Artist Calendars (Monet, Van Gogh, DaVinci) Magnetic Calendar

Bulletin Board Bin

Lots of border trims of different themes and colours, letters of different sizes and colours, and magnetic border trim for the blackboard or whiteboard

Assorted Bin

Hanging Folders for your desk and filing cabinet, number line for the wall, various posters for the classroom.

Board Games Bin

Pattern Blocks Tub, Colour Tiles tub, 2 Colour Counters, Double 12 Dominoes Game, Princess Card Games, Math Board Game, Race to Read Board Game, Scrabble Junior, Parcheesi, Syl-la-bles Game, The Children’s Quiz Compendium, Early Discoveries Games

Mathematics Super-Kit

Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics by Marion Small, Intermediate Communicating Mathematics with Colour Tiles (Bin of Tiles and Book) Introduction to Problem Solving Grades 6-8, Big Ideas from Dr. Small, Wooden Pattern Blocks bin

Professional Reading Pack

The Art of Dramatic Writing, Unplugging Power Struggles, Disrupting Class, How Children Succeed, Mindsets in the Classroom, A Place for Wonder, Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Techniques for Managing a Brain-Compatible Classroom, The Reading Zone, Beyond Monet: The Artful Science of Instructional Integration, Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, How to Teach: The Book of Plenary, The Thinking Teacher, Tribes

Bundle Discounts

I will offer bundle discounts as well.

If you are interested in buying any of these bins, please contact me!

The First Day of School – TLAP Style!

TLAP sign

That is the sign that is on the door to Dave Burgess’ classroom on the very first day of school. He suggests putting this sign on your door even if you are new to the school and the students haven’t heard any stories of you yet.

“The sign’s message creates an interesting sense of anticipation. They immediately wonder, What in the world is this class all about?”

Burgess also suggests having positive, upbeat music playing as students enter the room on that very first day. He states that it is “an audible reminder that they are entering a different world . . . my world.

Next, their eyes will focus on the desks. Every desk has a paper plate with a can of Play-Doh on it. Across the board, written in giant letters, are the worlds, “Do NOT Open the Play-doh!”

Already I am trying to break their pre-conceived notions about what to expect in a typical classroom. My goal is to stand out, to be different from their other classes.”

That has always been my goal as well. I have tried several opening activities on the first day of school. This year, I even did the Play-Doh activity, although I did it a little differently. I am eager to tweak it to make it even better next year.

As Burgess states, “it is far more important to create a unique experience from them on the first day than it is to be sure they know how many bathroom passes they will have each semester and when it is OK to use the pencil sharpener!”

Of course, those administrative details are important and need to be taken care of. Then, you can officially greet the class.

Good Morning Training

Start by standing in the front of the room and getting ready to address the class. Awkwardly square up papers, adjust the table or podium, straighten up your shirt, and other such activities.

If done correctly, there should be a combination of a few giggles and many wondering what the heck is going on. I then look up and say, “Good Morning” in a loud, firm voice. I wait in silence until I hear a smattering of good mornings and then storm through the class ranting that their response is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Not one single time will I accept that from you! When I say, “good morning” to you, you say, “good morning” to me. Not only that, but however I say good morning to you is how you say good morning to me!

If I say, “Good Morning!” (said with a strange accent). . . you say “Good Morning! (said with exact same accent).”  Let’s try this again, this is your first test of the year and yes . . . I am grading!

I then return to the front, face the class, and whisper my greeting. They should respond in kind and then I say, “Welcome to class, thank you for coming. I’m Dave Burgess and I’ll be your host on this Learning Extravaganza!”

The language here is important. And it is followed up by a hand-out to the students

“Welcome to the World Famous Learning Extravaganza!
Hosted by: Dave Burgess
Now Playing in SS-9

This class isn’t taught, it is hosted. And the phrase “now playing” gives the students the impression that they have entered a show.

This is a No-Meanness Zone!!!

This is the ultimate rule in the classroom. “I let them know that I will tolerate unbelievable levels of banter, playfulness, and seemingly outrageous behavior for a classroom, but I will never tolerate meanness. All of the fun will come grinding to a stop if somebody is being mean to another student or doing something that hurts another’s feelings.

You just can’t teach with my style of openness without emphasizing this rule It is critical for creating the safe and supportive kind of environment in which creativity, learning, and fun can coexist and flourish.

As part of this rule, I also tell them they should feel free to let me know if I am making them feel uncomfortable by drawing unwanted attention to them through my banter and teasing. I want my students to feel perfectly at ease approaching me about any issue that is occurring in class. Creating a place of safety is a prerequisite for the successful implementation of my teaching style.”


After that, give the students ten minutes to create something out of Play-Doh. The goal is to make something that “is in some way representative of themselves. They can have complete creative license to make anything they want as long as it is classroom appropriate.

I explain that I will show the class their creation, ask a question or two about it, and then have them tell us their name. They will not have to come to the front of the room and the whole process will take thirty seconds or less. That simple explanation of what to expect helps lower the stress students feel about speaking in the front of the class.”

And while the students are working on their creations, you can walk around, have informal conversations, and get to learn a bit about some of the students. You can help them come up with ideas and use all of this info to help design hooks to lesson later on in the year.

Learn Names

Address the students by name as many times as possible that first day and throughout the first week. Encourage the students to learn each other’s names as well. Names are an important part of the rapport and atmosphere you are trying to create in the classroom.

Hype Tomorrow

Thank the students for coming “and then say something along the lines of. ‘You don’t want to miss tomorrow. Something wild and crazy is going to happen at the beginning of class. You can either be here and see it, or just have to hear stories about it when you come back.’

This book is an amazing read and quite inspiring. I highly recommend it!


Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess

I will be blogging about it once a month over the rest of the school year. Make sure you keep coming back here for Teaching Tip Tuesdays so you won’t miss a single post!

Teach Like a Pirate Blog Series