Tuesday, September 21, 2010


By Carla Gunn
Published by Coach House Books
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Phineas William Walsh is nine. He lives with his mom. He likes to dance to the Celtic happy music with his mom, not that it happens very often any more. Phin also seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, animals, and the natural world. He can tell you anything you want to know about frogs, dogs, whales, the endangered species list, ants, and much more. He has thousands of facts that he could recite off the top of his head and he understands the workings of nature and the planet better than most adults.

But what Phin doesn't understand is why his dad left and rarely comes home, why he isn't allowed to watch The Blue Channel, why his grandfather died, or why that waste-of-space Lyle has to pick on him every day at school.

To make all that not-understanding even worse, Phin is worried sick about the future of the planet and what humans all over the world are doing to the plants, animals, and land around them. He doesn't understand why the rest of the world isn't loosing sleep because a quarter of all of earth's animals are on the Red List of Threatened Species. To top it all off, his fourth grade teacher surprises the class with a new pet: a White's Tree Frog! So now, Phin has to worry about how to rescue and free this poor little frog that is all cooped up in a class aquarium.

This novel is gripping, extremely sad, and hilariously funny. As the story progresses, you are drawn more deeply into Phin's many turbulent worlds filled with worry, love, hatred, and good intentions. It's the story of a young boy who is trying to balance the lightness and darkness in his own world, all the while trying to save the whole world.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Arrival

The Arrival
By Shaun Tan
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Reviewed by Martha Beach and Lisa Tran

The story of immigration is one so universal that it transcends language.

Shaun Tan understands this in his unique graphic novel, The Arrival, a full story of a man who leaves behind his family in order to immigrate to a new country - all told through a series of pictures.

Follow the main character from page to page, place to place, and watch as he journeys through his new and strange world without saying a word. The detailed drawn images are realistic. They evoke a sense of loneliness, bewilderment, frustration, fear, and joy that many immigrants experience when adjusting to a new culture.

A story told without words, The Arrival will capture the imagination of all who behold its beautifully illustrated pages.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where The Streets Had a Name

Where The Streets Had a Name
By Randa Abdel-Fattah
Published by Scholastic Canada
Ages 13+
Reviewed by Martha Beach
    Hayaat and her family used to own a beautiful olive farm. Her father worked hard and loved the olive grove. She and her siblings played happily and her mother was incredibly creative.

But everything changed drastically one day when they received a demolition notice from the Israeli army. Since then, Hyaat and her family have been living in a tiny apartment in Bethlehem.
Her two little brothers, a sulking father, nagging mother, talkative grandmother, and wedding-fevered sister are all packed into a few rooms, sometimes for days at a time when a curfew is issued by the Israeli Army.

Her new home, school, and shops are situated behind a huge impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank. Unfortunately, Hayaat and her family are on the wrong side of the wall.

When Hayaat's beloved grandmother becomes ill and expresses her urge to feel the soil of her home once more before she dies, Hayaat and her friend Sammy set off on the adventure of their lives.

Battling roadblocks, dealing with gun-toting and intimidating soldiers, Hayaat and Sammy must travel only a few miles, but find themselves in an entirely different world.

Author, Randa Abdel-Fattah deals with loss, friendship, family, war, and an extremely delicate political subject with grace, humour, and truth. Readers are sure to be submersed right from the beginning of the book. They will feel sadness, happiness, and the dusty road that Hayaat and Sammy are travelling on.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Secret of Your Name (Kiimooch ka shinikashooyen)

The Secret of Your Name (Kiimooch ka shinikashooyen)
By David Bouchard
Reviewed by Martha Beach
Published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside

Through story and spectacular art and music, this book is a moving tribute to a group of people who have lost so much. The Secret of Your Name is a call to the people of Canada to remember and help others to regain a solid cultural identity.

In this beautifully illustrated book, the author explores what it means to be Métis. He tells the story of his own identity and that of many other Métis people. The book strongly stresses the need to uphold cultural traditions and takes a look at the meaning and identity of the Métis in Canada.

The book includes a double narrative- one written in English or French, and one written in Michif, the language of the Métis people. The text also comes with a CD of traditional Métis music: John Arcand's “Master of the Fiddle.”

The book may be a picture book, but it's definitely a book for all ages. It's a story for anyone who wants to learn about one of Canada's unique cultures.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1 to 19

The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1 to 19
By Jocelyn Brown
Ages 12 to 16
Published by Coach House Books
Reviewed by Martha Beach

We meet Dree while she's on her way to her dad's pancake brunch memorial, after he's had a fatal heart attack. It is also Dree's fifteenth birthday, but she's not really thinking about that little fact.

Mostly she's thinking about Edmonton's awful bus system, her ugly hand-made skirt, and the special fund her father promised her for her birthday. With that money, Dree will be out of Edmonton, on the WestJet Flight 233 to Toronto and more specifically, on her way to the upcoming Renegade Craft Fair.

Dree is not really very social and she's not very interested in Biology, or English, or Social Studies-actually she's not very interested in school at all. Dree likes to make things and she keeps a blog about how to actually do DIY crafts without spending money on fancy art supplies. The Renegade Craft Fair in Toronto is her chance to start over, away from Edmonton and the misery of high school.

But Dree comes to realize that her father may not have left her this special account. He left behind a lot of other things though-an ex-wife, two daughters, a new wife, debt, and a whole lot of open-ended questions that Dree feels the need to answer.

The answer to these questions can not be easily answered. While trying to solve the mystery surrounding her father, Dree encounters fire, family scandal, a new friend, and nineteen tiny sock-creatures named Marcel.

The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1 to 19 is a smart young-adult novel. It's a coming-of-age story about a young woman who is looking for the correct way to grieve a lost father.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Allergy-Free Cookbook

The Allergy-Free Cookbook
By Alice Sherwood
Published by DK
Reviewed by Lisa Tran

The Allergy-Free Cookbook is unique. There are no dismal, “special diet” versions of recipes. Instead there are dishes from around the world that center on ingredients other than eggs, dairy, gluten, and nuts.

It may seem like gluten-free and dairy-free diets are mere trends or the latest gimmicks for quick weight loss, but for many, these food intolerances and allergies can be life threatening. That's why Allergy-Free Cookbook is different. Sherwood is a real mom who prepares real meals for a son with real food allergies.

This cookbook has more than 100 recipes for meals, snacks, and lunchboxes as well as for suppers and birthday parties. By experimenting with polenta and potato flour, for example, Sherwood has invented a gluten-free crunchy shortcrust pastry.

With  The Allergy-Free Cookbook, everyone's invited to dinner!

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tumbleweed Skies

Tumbleweed Skies
By Valerie Sherrard
Published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Ellie never met her mother, she died when Ellie was young. Ellie's father is forced to take a job as a travelling salesman with the Marvelous Cookware Company in order to support them both.

So, while her father travels and sells in hopes of making ends meat, Ellie is forced to stay with a very bitter grandmother who doesn't want her around- or at least that's how it seems. 

Grandmother Acklebee has had a hard life, with many disappointments, but Ellie only begins to understand why that is near the end of her stay. 

The story takes place on a farm in the middle of the praries near Moose Jaw, as wide as the sea and as dusty as a desert.  Grandma Acklebees farm is dusty, faded, old and sun-baked. Ellie's grandmother makes Ellie do numerous chores, often working all morning before having a chance to sit down.

Uncle Roger is Grandma Acklebee's only son, and Ellie's only relief and her only friend, despite there being a little girl a few farms away who Ellie occasionally gets to play with.

Written from the perfect view-point of a child, with funny emotions and immature details and thoughts, this novel is bound to have kids hooked and charmed within the first chapter.

Ellie makes it through her time at the old faded farm, and while she's there, Ellie learns quite a lot about her Grandmother Acklebee and her own mother, but even more important, Grandma Acklebee learns about herself.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Published by Quirk Classics
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the original, classic text written by Jane Austen, but which a slight ghastly twist. It is certain to entice even those who never really like Jane Austen's romantic, flowery stories.

We find out right from the start that an unknown plague has befallen the small and quiet English village of Meryton. Many people die. But then they return to life!

Elizabeth Bennet, the original heroin of Pride and Prejudice, is still with us in this zombie version and is determined to wipe out all the risen-from-the-dead enemies.

But quite predictably, the dashing and arrogant Mr. Darcy quickly distracts her.

The story following their romantic encounter is of course, just as the original romance was, a delightful comedy with friendly sparring between lovers. But along with lovers' sparring, slightly more violent and gory sparring takes place as Elizabeth attempts to defeat the zombies that have taken over her town.

This text comes complete with 20 of the original illustrations by C.E. Brock, a tone classic romance, one very humorous relationships, and a good portion of blood and gore. 

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

eInstruction's 2010 Classroom Makeover Contest

Get your cameras ready because eInstruction is holding its 4th Annual Classroom Makeover Video Contest. To enter, students will create a short music video demonstrating how they would use the technology won to enhance their learning experience. They can parody an existing song or create an entirely new one. Make it fun, creative, and focused on technology in the classroom

This year, the contest is global so Canadians can enter too (excluding Quebec). The grand prize is an interactive classroom worth up to $75,000 USD. The are dozens of secondary prizes from great technology sponsors. A panel of judges will select a grand-prize winner from three categories; grades K-5 (4-10 year olds), grades 6-8 (10-14 year olds), and grades 9-12 (14-18 year olds).

Submissions will be accepted between August 23 and November 2, 2010 so start creating today! For full contest details visit the official contest page.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Off the Grid

Off the Grid: Modern Homes and Alternative Energy
By Lori Ryker
Published by Gibbs Smith
Reviewed by Martha Beach

This text looks at the ecological and cultural problems associated with modern energy usage. The author looks at comprehensive ways to have a beautiful house but use much, much less energy and power.

For houses of many different incomes and in many different places, this text gives homeowners ideas for improving their home's energy usage, having eco-friendly reconstruction projects and power-saving tips.

The author shows us how to avoid hooking up homes to city services. She includes tips and ideas on how to choose and incorporate “off the grid” technologies into your home. The book looks ideas as simple as rainwater collection to wind turbines, micro-hydro power and geo-thermal energy.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grouping by Chance

For your next session of group discussions of teamwork, try these fun methods for grouping your students by chance:

Deck of Cards
Randomly pass out playing cards or Uno cards and have students group according to number, colour, suit, or poker hand.

Photo Credit: ClipartMountain
Picture Puzzle Pieces
Cut photos or postcards into pieces and distribute. Students with the pieces from the same picture will form a group.

Appointment Book
Give students a page out of a daily planner/appointment book. Have students make and record “appointments” with their classmates. When you call out the times, students will “meet” the people for their appointment time.

Text Reconstruction
Take texts—stories, poems, diagrams, etc. and cut them into pieces before distributing them to students. Students who have pieces of the same text will form a group.

Cast of Characters
Write down the names of characters from well-known stories on individual cards and hand them out to students. Students with the same type of character (e.g. antagonist, protagonist, etc.) will group together.

Synonyms, Antonyms, Homonyms
Write down words on individual cards and hand them out to the class. Students will find a partner whose card is a synonym, antonym, or homonym, etc. of their word.

Grouping by Chance is taken from Surviving and Thinking: Making classroom management and organization work for you and your students by Maria Carty, published by Pembroke Publishers.

Four Steps to Helping Students Face Tough Social Situations

Step One: Observe

Photo Credit: Sandra Torrijos; Isis Clipart
It sounds simple, but observing is actually a complicated skill. This skill is so important that it will be used throughout all four steps.

Observe the child's behaviour before a social struggle occurs-listen to choice of words and tone of voice. This way, if something seems “off” it will be easy to see the difference between a student's normal way of speaking and the way they speak when they're distressed.

Observe if a child speaks directly to you without being asked. Notice how they speak and when they tell you what is wrong. There are times when a student will not come directly to you and you will have to take notice of changes in their behaviour.

Observing, knowing, and recognizing how a child acts if they're having a social problem will help you help them.

Step Two: Connect

Connect to the child by using active listening. Try and genuinely listen to their issue or problem, then essentially repeat back to them what they have said. But do not add judgment or guidance. Dig through the details of their story and simply repeat what you think they have said.

For example say something like, “That's a lot of information. Let me see if I understand. You are angry because your friend didn't save you a seat and you felt lonely because you sat by yourself. Is that right?”

If the child feels that you understand how they are feeling, but you are not judging them, they will be more likely to discuss their problem further and in turn, more likely to take your suggestions on ways to fix the situation.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Thief Lord

The Thief Lord
By Cornelia Funke
Ages 12+
Published by Scholastic Canada

The Thief Lord tells the tale of Prosper and Bo, two orphaned brothers who have run away from their aunt and uncle. When their mother was still alive, she often spoke of Venice as a magical city, and so the two boys decide to flee to Venice.

There, they meet the Thief Lord who runs a ring of street children who dabble in petty crimes, in the Oliver Twist style.

The two brothers become close with the Thief Lord and the other children in his colourful family, but they quickly discover that the Thief Lord has a dark secret. Soon Prosper, Bo, and the rest of the gang are thrown into circumstances beyond their control. They embark on an adventure throughout the meandering canals and narrow alleyways of Venice.

This modern classic has become one of the most popular children's novels of the past decade. It has the perfect mix of adventure, mischief, magic, and friendship, and is bound to keep your students turning pages.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Carry on the Kindness

There are times when we don't act quite as kindly as we intend to or would like to. We may experience a frustrating moment where we make a quick decision to be less kind than we could. Or, the weather is bad and we woke up late, and for the rest of the day we're a grumpier than usual.

This happens to the best of us. Snappy remarks and curt attitudes happen to students, teachers, peers, and colleagues. But, we have to keep in mind that we are always in control of our choices and we can easily choose to move forward with kindness.

To help students and teachers keep a kind frame of mind, think of three random acts of kindness to complete each day. These acts don't need public attentions. Just do them to spread good feelings and cheerfulness.

Ten Ways to Read a Poem Out Loud

1.    Introduce the Poem
Leader reads aloud without displaying the poem.
Leader reads as participants follow along with their eyes.

2.    Echo Reading
Leader reads one line: the group echoes what the leader says.

3.    Alternate-line Reading
Leader reads one line, the group reads the second line; they continue alternating lines. The activity is repeated by reversing parts.

4.    Cloze Technique
Leader reads each line, omitting the final word; group joins in to say the word and complete the line.
The activity can be repeated with the leader omitting additional words.

5.    Pitch
Read the poem in unison, starting in a whisper and gradually getting louder.
Read the poem in unison, starting in a loud voice and gradually getting softer to a whisper.

BCTC AquaVan

For teachers in British Columbia and parts of Alberta who cannot make it out to the local aquarium for a day’s field trip, try booking the BCTC AquaVan instead. The AquaVan, is a large truck carrying live aquatic creatures from the Vancouver Aquarium. The educators also on board, are ready to deliver aquatic programs, featuring live animals, props, and activities right to your school. Students will have the opportunity to touch a sea star, understand how a barnacle feeds, observe a hermit crab up close and discover the connections among animals, environments and ourselves.

Schedule for 2010-2011 School Year
September 7 – October 8: Northwestern BC, Prince Rupert to Prince George
October 25 – November 6: Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland
November 16 – December 17: Lower Mainland
January 10- February 11: Lower Mainland
February 25 - March 25: Vancouver Island
April 11 – May 6: Okanagan
May 23 – July 3: Northeastern BC and Northwestern Alberta

Mapmaker's Toolkit

Help your students develop mapping and geography skills as they construct and interpret both modern and historical maps using Mapmaker's Toolkit.

There is a wide selection of world, continent, country and state maps from which to choose. Each map has physical and political features to display. Each map has many facts and much detail, such as population density, crops, industries agriculture and much more.

While using this software, students will develop a better understanding of map symbols, grid systems, scales and legends. Plus, they can use the historical maps to help them visualize where important events took place.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lighthouses of Atlantic Canada

Lighthouses of Atlantic Canada
By David Baird
Published by Red Deer Press
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Currently, Canada's east coast has several hundred lighthouses, and this beautiful text, Lighthouses, features nearly 250 of them.

There is a huge amount of information included in this text. It is complete with full-colour photographs, historical and cultural facts, and even directions of how to reach the lighthouses that are accessible to the public. Also included are special in-depth chapters that focus of different types of lighthouses and well as how the actual lights themselves work.

And, while Lighthouses includes a lot of information and photos, it is still a good size, about the size of a textbook: big enough to have detailed pictures and a nice layout, but not as enormous as a coffee-table book.

The real treats though are the stories surrounding each of the lighthouses. The stories included by the author are accounts of personal sacrifice, heroism and ingenuity, and are as much a part of the buildings as wood it is made out of.

From the well-known Peggy's Point Cove to remote parts of Atlantic Canada, there are stories, photos and facts galore.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sushi- Taste and Technique

Sushi - Taste and Technique 
By K. Kimiko Barber
Published by DK

For those who want to try their hand at something new, this sushi cookbook is a fully-illustrated guide to making many different kinds of sushi.

Designed to be simple to follow and easy to read, Sushi-Taste and Technique shows how to prepare eggs, veggies, and rice.
For those who aren't too squeamish, there are guides on how to cut and gut fish and octopus and how to prepare them for eating.

Recipes for makizushi, hand rolls, vegetarian sushi, and much more are all included.

There are over 450 colour photographs, step-by-step recipe guides, tips on how to buy the freshest ingredients and sushi etiquette tips.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kenk: A Graphic Portrait

Kenk: A Graphic Portrait
By Richard Poplak
Published by Pop Sandbox
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Kenk is a journalistic graphic novel that details the life of Igor Kenk, who is now known as the world's most prolific bike thief.

In the summer of 2008, Kenk was arrested in Toronto when almost 3,000 bicycles were seized from him. They were all assumed to be stolen, although only a couple hundred were able to be legitimately claimed by Torontonians. It was one of the biggest news stories of the year.

The illustrations in the novel are taken from never-before-seen documentary footage of Kenk that was filmed during the year leading up to his arrest.  They are raw images of a man who was both loved and hated.

Kenk is an amusing and thought-provoking graphic portrait of a bigger-than-life character living in a changing city, both affected by the forces of economic crisis and gentrification. The Queen West neighbourhood changed drastically in the decade that Kenk lived there, but Kenk didn't change with it.

In Kenk, we see a changing Toronto through the eyes of someone who has a lot of good ideas and good intentions, but has gone about it in the worst way. After reading Kenk: A Graphic Portrait, you may understand why Igor Kenk did what he did, you may understand that he wanted to help people and benefit his city, but he simply went about it in the completely wrong way.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


By Mike Grandmaison
Published by Key Porter
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Get ready for a long-weekend of barbeques, canoeing, hiking, swimming and campfires with this gorgeous coffee-table book. It is a beautiful and stunning photographic portrait of one of Canada's vacation wonderlands.

For this book, Mike Grandmaison, an award-winning Canadian photographer, has turned his photographic eye to the summer playground of Ontario's cottage haven, Muskoka.

Muskoka means “land of the red earth” and this area of Ontario stretches from the eastern wilderness of Algonquin Park to the western shores of Georgian Bay Islands.

Featured in this text are images of forest's rugged beauty, clear, pristine lakes and settlements of the photographer's favourite cottage destinations. Each photo is crisp, clean, and contains colours and hues of all shades from the natural world, from the orange skies of a late-august sunset to the clean, blue water on a hot summer's day.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education

Paper Mate Biodegradable

The new Paper Mate Biodegradable ball-point pen and mechanical pencil can decompose within about a year in soil or home compost.

The pens and pencils are made from Mirel, a bioplastic derived from corn sugar, an annually renewable agricultural resource. Mirel has the same heat, moisture and sweat resistant properties as plastic.

This pen delivers a smooth ink flow, vivid colour, and has a comfortable grip. The pen and pencil can both be refilled, making them more environmentally friendly. When finished, simply disassemble the pens and pencils as instructed on the package and bury the biodegradable components (the majority of the pen) in soil or home compost.

MAGIX K-12 Academic Suite

Add a little MAGIX to education!

Movie Edit Pro Plus 15 is loaded with powerful editing tools, a intuitive user interface, and advanced MAGIX Pro-Audio dubbing technology, Movie Edit Pro Plus 15 will let you transform all your videos or pictures into movies. With the simple press of a button you can upload your creations to YouTube.

With, Music Maker 15 creating music is made easy. Preloaded with an extensive sound pool including some 1,500 sounds and loops and authentic virtual instruments that sound just like the real thing. Remix your favourite song, or edit an original creation, and then burn and share your projects.

MAGIX Xtreme Photo & Graphic Designer 5 combines professional image editing and intelligent graphic design for photos, bitmaps and vector graphics. It includes one-click photo optimization, sophisticated bitmap editing and intelligent vector graphics.

To purchase MAGIX's K-12 Academic Suite for the academic price, please visit JourneyEd

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 combines power and simplicity so you can easily tell compelling stories with your photos. Create unique, personalized photo books, scrapbook pages, greeting cards, slide shows, and more. Make all your photos look extraordinary with powerful yet easy-to-use editing options.

Snap one photo with flash on and one with flash off and Photomerge Exposure will combine the shots into a single, perfectly lit photo. The Auto-Analyzer automatically tags your media so you can quickly find your most interesting, highest quality photos and video footage. Find your subjects in a flash with People Recognition, which automatically identifies the people in your shots.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 is available for Windows and Mac operating systems. 
Remember to take advantage of Adobe's educational pricing.

speckFINDER HD Digital Computer Microscope

The speckFINDER HD is a digital computing microscope that offers high magnification quality. It incorporates the microscope, camera, and computer monitor into one compact piece of equipment. The unit has a Windows XP operating system built-in allowing users to work with and store images.

The speckFINDER HD offers high resolution and a full color display monitor. Its wide viewing angles allow multiple users to view at once. The flat panel is ideal for teaching and can be easily moved when not being used.

Additionally, its ergonomic design helps to reduce the stress placed upon the body as with conventional microscopes.

Epson BrightLink 450Wi

The Epson BrightLink 450Wi is an interactive projector that turns any standard whiteboard or smooth wall into an interactive learning area. This classroom tool is a cost-effective way for educators to integrate interactive capabilities without purchasing dedicated interactive whiteboards.

BrightLink allows networked presentations so educators can include several classrooms in one lesson. It is compatible with virtually any interactive software program.The project also features “USB Plug 'n Play” that projects images from a Windows PC or Mac computer via a USB connection.

Lastly, the BrightLink 450Wi has speaker and microphone input that allows teachers to use a microphone to amplify voice using the internal speaker.

Interwrite Mobi System

The Interwrite Mobi and Interwrite Mobi System is an interactive white board system tablet designed to support student-centered, collaborative learning, designed and produced by eInstruction.

The Interwrite Mobi system has wireless connectivity and works with existing computers and projectors. Each includes one tablet for instructors, two tablets for students, a charging dock and security station, and Interwrite Workspace software. The tablets are light weight in design and ergonomic and up to nine tablets can work together simultaneously. Single InterWrite Mobis can be charged by connecting to a computer using a USB cable.

The tablet features a Kwik Screen, a 2.4” color LCD display, which instantly reports student responses when used with eInstruction's Classroom Performance System.


The SAMCAM 860 is a new document camera with high-end features that is affordable.

Features of the include: optical Image with 1.4 megapixel resolution, larger aperture lens that provides a total of 48x zoom with 6x optical zoom plus 8x digital zoom, video and image recording, SD memory card - up to 32GB, built-in microphone with optional microphone jack, built-in LED lamp, microscope adapter and macro setting, can be used with virtually any whiteboard.

The SAMCAM 860 can be used as a web cam that connects directly to applications such as Windows Moviemaker, and GradeCam. SAMCAM 860 is PC and Mac compatible and comes with a remote control.

Tool Factory: Assessing for Disabilities Bundle

Tool Factory's Assessing for Disabilities Bundle includes a number of programs for students experiencing a variety of disabilities, using researched-based norms.

The bundle includes assessments in reading, math, emotions, and sensory awareness across a full range of ability levels. Educators can assess students' level of Dyscalculia, or Dyslexia

A student's range of emotional awareness can also be determined with Emotional Literacy Screener. Assess whether students understanding their own emotions, and how those emotions affect others.

Sylvan Dell eBooks

It is safe to say that in the future the grand majority of books will be eBooks.  Sylvan Dell is now offering eBook formats of all their hardcover and softcover texts.

Their eBooks are accessed online and feature: auto-flip, auto-read, 3D page flipping, and selectable English and Spanish text and audio. The eBooks can also be viewed using smartboard technology or projectors.

A one-year site license provides unlimited access to all Sylvan Dell eBooks. The license can be used on all school computers and can be shared with parents to access the eBooks at home.


Skoolee is a web-based school management systems for educators. Skoolee's management system allows you to spend less time on administrative tasks.

Some of Skoolee's features include a scheduler where users can view by teaching hours or extra-curricular activities, a lesson-planning feature that allows teachers to build and upload lesson plans for different courses and classes, and much more.

Plus, there is an "agenda" that can be accessed by all students, and in one simply click, assignments can be handed out and viewed by the students.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Field Trips: Dramatic Arts

Somewhere between education and participation, entertainment can often be a forgotten factor in coordinating a classroom field trip. An excursion for your next dramatic arts lesson is the perfect opportunity to present students with an experience that is filled with both learning and excitement. Theatres for young people are promising with its flexible academic applications and reasonable ticket prices.   

Photo: http://rangtarangini.iiita.ac.in/
Field Trips Opportunities:

Calgary Young People’s Theatre
Calgary, Alberta

Carousel Theatre
Vancouver, British Columbia

Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People                                      
Toronto, Ontario

Manitoba Theatre for Young People
Winnipeg, Manitoba                                                                                                           

Field Trips: Astronomy

Students will experience an “out of this world” adventure while visiting places dedicated to the study of the universe. Look through some of the world’s most powerful telescopes, examine the Solar System, or go beyond our own galaxy on a guided field trip to places like a planetarium or the astronomy department of a science and technology institute.

Field Trips Opportunities:

Montreal Planetarium
Montreal, Quebec

NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Centre of the Universe 
Victoria, British Columbia

Field Trips: Aboriginal Studies

Experience first hand, the many aspects of Aboriginal cultures of Canada on a guided field trip. Learn about Aboriginal language, regalia, food, games, trades, entertainment, and art among an array of other topics. This is an experience that cannot be taught from a textbook so plan your Aboriginal Studies field trip today.

Field trips opportunities

17th Annual Canadian Aboriginal Festival
Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON - November 26th-28th, 2010

Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre
Whistler, BC

Field Trips: PhysEd

A day excursion for PhysEd class is great because many of the destinations provide students with educational activities that keep them active and require teamwork while providing them with a hands-on learning experience. Activities include predator prey/survival games, snowshoeing, and orienteering.

Field Trips Opportunities:

Glacier National Park of Canada and Mount Revelstoke
Revelstoke, British Columbia

Humber Arboretum
Toronto, Ontario

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Life and Love of Trees

The Life and Love of Trees
By Lewis Blackwell
Published by Chronicle Books
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Trees are a vital part of life, just like the sun and the air.
Without trees human kind simply would not have survived. But not only are trees completely essential for shelter, construction and nutrients, they have been an inspiration for art and religion throughout history and all over the world.

The Life and Love of Trees is a beautiful and breathtaking collection of photographs that were taken during a journey from the boreal forest at the edge of the Arctic to rainforests.

The text is simple and accessible, yet written eloquently, so it is interesting yet comprehensive.
This photographic series features huge, ancient bristlecones and fresh-leaved tiny seedlings. The trees in this book are beautiful, scary, charming and rare, and your eyes are bound to widen at these gorgeous photographs of much-needed and much-loved plants: trees.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tattoos and Indigenous Peoples

Tattooing: Tattoos and Indigenous Peoples
By Judith Levin
Ages 12+
Published by Rosen Publishing Group
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Tattoos are popular among many different cultures and have many different meanings. Tattoos and Indigenous Peoples looks at the nature of indigenous and tribal peoples and their uses of tattoos. Tattoo traditions of Japan, India, the Arctic, the Americas, Polynesia and Oceania are also examined.

Ancient cultures and tribes have used tattoos to mark milestones in life. Today, tattoo artists pride themselves on being their own tribe of sorts. Modern tattoo artists have the purpose of perpetuating this old and interesting art form.

The Tattooing series studies anthropological significance of tattoos in culture, permanence of tattoo images, and the innovation of tattooing over the years.

The book is easy to understand, very clearly laid-out and includes several colour photographs. It also includes an overview of the anthropologists who studied tattoo meanings and symbols, which can have different meanings in different places of the world.

Tattooing closes with a discussion of how tattoos can now be seen as a revival or a fashion choice among modern people who can choose their style and identity more freely than could early indigenous peoples.

Learn more about this type of artistic expression and its historical roots with this book about tattoos from many cultures around the world.

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Taking Gender Differences into Account

A few differences have been noticed between the way boys and girls learn and develop certain skills.  It is important to understand the differences between their learning styles before being able to successfully engage and teach them.

Reading and comprehension is one subject in which girls excel at while boys take a little longer to learn and to grasp new concepts.

Boys, in general, take longer to learn something new, especially reading. This could be partly because boys tend to read less than girls and therefore don't get the same amount of practice.

Reading: Make it a Habit!

Cultivating a student who enjoys reading and writing can be tricky. The key is to find something that they enjoy reading and to make the act of reading more interesting and hands-on.

There are a few group and individual activities you can create to help engage students in a hands-on way.

For example, have students create a fantasy sports league. They can nominate players for a fictional team only after they have read about that athlete and can make a case for why that athlete should be included on the team.

Teaching the Language of Everyday Life

Most ESL students want to learn English for social as well as academic purposes. Starting with the basics is the best way for them to meet their goal. If they start by learning the essentials, the words and phrases that they would use in their community, at school, or while shopping, they will quickly learn the language of everyday life. By using a few simple techniques, you can help students reach their goals.

Keep the lessons simple. English-language learners can be from any age group, any grade, and any place. They're probably living in a new place, making new friends, and trying to make their way around a new society. Small amounts of information will be much easier for them to remember and much easier for them to practice.

First, teach them essential phrases that will actually help them, such as “My name is…” “I don't understand/speak English” and “Where is the bathroom?” At first, they may only understand these phrases as complete units, but soon they will understand the component words and recognize them in other sentences.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Love Struck

Love Struck
By Chantel Simmons
Published by Key Porter Books
Reviewed by Lisa Tran

Poppy Ross leads a seemingly perfect life. She's a successful career woman, working as an image consultant and is married to her devoted husband, Parker.

All of that quickly changes however, when Poppy discovers Parker is having an affair. Before she can confront him, he is conveniently struck by lightning and loses his memory. In an attempt to save her marriage, Poppy remakes herself in the mistress' image.

Poppy's question to become Parker's perfect woman has hilarious and disastrous results. Her misadventures mirror many of the inner struggles shared by women everywhere. Love Struck is a tale of love, loss, friendship, mischief, determining one's self-worth, and many “She did what?!” moments.

You will laugh and you will cry and then laugh some more.

If you enjoy the likes of Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Weiner, you will surely love Chantel Simmons' sophomore title, Love Struck.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Get them Talking: The Value of Oral Language

When students have ample opportunity to speak and communicate in English, they easily develop listening and speaking skills. They are also more able to connect with their peers and develop self-confidence, which is actually a huge part of learning a language.

To help encourage them to speak, create a supportive and accepting environment. When assigning tasks and projects, keep in mind the student's level of proficiency. Assign groups and introduce people with common interests and activities so that they have things to talk about other than school work.

 Also, establish a classroom climate in which a student's errors are accepted as a normal part of the learning process. Make sure all other students in the class are welcoming and positive, offer their help, and communicate carefully with ESL students.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stolen Child

Stolen Child
By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Published by Scholastic Canada
Ages 9-14
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Coming to Canada after spending five years in a Displaced Persons camp in Austria is a huge change for Nadia. She moves into a new house in Brantford, Ontario, which takes some getting used to. But she is now safe in Canada, away from Europe and away from the war.

But soon after she arrives, Nadia starts to have dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks of the war years in Europe. Are they simply nightmares or they memories? This is what Nadia has to find out.

While Nadia adjusts to her present and future life in Canada in a new house, a new school, new customs, new neighbours, and even new parents, she must also deal with her past. She must try and remember what happened to her in the old country before she can feel safe and comfortable in her new one.

For her first summer in Canada, Nadia spends day times with Miss MacIntosh, a neighbour on her new street who teaches her how to speak English.

But when Nadia starts school in the fall, her classmates tease her and are mean and unfriendly. simply because she isn't Canadian in their eyes. They call her the “Hitler girl” because of her blonde hair and blue eyes.

But Canada is Nadia's new home and she will have to let go of her old life and make a new one in Canada.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Seating in the Classroom

Photo Credit: Clipart Pal
There are a few different ways of setting up seating arrangements in your classroom. The physical spacing of a classroom impacts the way students learn, interact and focus.
Different desk arrangements encourage different types of interactions between teachers and students.

Start off the year wit desk arrangements that encourage individual or partner learning to help them gain focus and the ability to work by themselves.
A few weeks later, start placing the desks in small groups of three or four people, with the desks facing each other. Sitting in groups lets students develop working relationships with a few students. But, switch the groups of students every three to five weeks, so that no one gets frustrated.

For presentations or readings, make sure there is a designated seat, podium or space for the presenter. Having a designated space for presenters indicates that the presenter has the right to the class's attention and focus. Also, having a small library and reading area is a great way to encourage and interest students in independent reading.

This information about seating and set-up in the classroom is from a section of Maria Carty's text Surviving and Thriving: Making Classroom Management and Organization Work for You and Your Students, published by Pembroke Publishers.

Encouraging Early Writing

Getting small children and younger students interested in writing can be a little tricky, but, with the right activities, it can be fun.

During arts and crafts time, encourage students to experiment with pencils, pens, crayons and paper because children like to imitate adult work. They can draw flow charts, instructions or stories. Encourage them to fill in whatever words they do know under their images.

During playtime, encourage the kids to play games that involve pretend-writing, like grocery shopping lists, letters to friends and filling in applications.

You can also try having your students dictate a few sentences of a short story while you slowly write the words for them. This way, they can see the movement that your hand makes as you write the words. They can illustrate the story and, again, fill in the words they do know under their images.

Another good method for getting younger students to learn how to write letters and words is to copy out a word, lightly, in pencil. They can then trace the letters you've written and try mimicking the shapes themselves on another line.

Word searches are quiet, individual games that can be played in the classroom and also develop their word skills. They learn to find certain letters and words and can also start to learn how to pick out smaller words within larger ones.

Based on a portion of Ready to Learn by Anne Burke, published by Pembroke Publishers.

Routine in the Classroom

Establishing a regular routine right from the beginning of the school year is very important.
A routine starts the moment students walk into class, from distributing materials and creating discussions to dealing with late students and late work.

Always start the day the same way. Have regular activities that are done in the same order each day.

Walk students through your routine on the first day of class. Show them where to sit, which materials to take out and how to start the day. Most importantly, lead by example. Stick to your schedule firmly so students know that your routine is the way the classroom is run.

Photo Credit: Clipart ETC
Another important step is planning instruction and lessons. To get ideas, talk to other teachers and meet with school staff at the beginning to each school year to review plans.

Lessons should be planned carefully so that every part of your instruction has a purpose. Establishing a regular order of classes and topics helps the students be more prepared. When introducing a new topic, bring up what the students learned the week or day before so that they have something to build off of.

If students have tasks to complete during or after the lesson, post them on the board so everyone can easily keep track of what needs to be done. At the end of a lesson or activity, remember to always leave room for group or individual discussion of lingering questions.

Another great idea is to plan each lesson so there is an opportunity for students to get up and move around, shift their focus or take a brief break every 20 minutes of half-hour. Mini breaks help students stay focused while they're working or taking notes.

This information about establishing routine is from a section of Maria Carty's text Surviving and Thriving: Making Classroom Management and Organization Work for You and Your Students published by Pembroke Publishers.

Power: Ethical Debates about Resources and the Environment

Dilemmas in Modern Science- Power: Ethical Debates About Resources and the Environment
By Kate Ravilious
Ages 12+
Published by Smart Apple Media 
Reviewed by Martha Beach and Lisa Tran

You're probably spending much of your leisure time outdoors this summer. But are you really noticing the environment around you?

Read up about the natural resources we use and the debates surrounding them in this week's Book Bag selection.

Everything in our world is connected and has an effect on the natural world-from the electricity used to power your air conditioner to the gas you use to drive to the cottage.

Dilemmas in Modern Science series is eye-opening understanding of ethical issues surrounding modern science and technology. Power: Ethical Debates about Resources and the Environment focuses on controversial issue surrounding our resources.

Power presents both sides of environmental issues involving natural resources, including environmental ethics, power and energy, renewable resources, transportation, travel, wood, and water use. Each section focuses on a different issue, and, after providing students with facts about the different problems, the students are asked questions that they can debate about and attempt to answer.

The questions will get students thinking, talking and paying attention to important ethical issues about the power they use every day.

So, while you're cooking that burger on your grill, think about where the propane you're using came from and how its journey may have affected the environment around you.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bug Zoo

Bug Zoo
By Nick Baker
Ages: 8+
Published by DK
Reviewed by Martha Beach

The summer is the perfect time to get outside and explore the wildlife. Bug Zoo is perfect for kids who want to get outdoors and learn about the world around them.

This text teaches young readers how to turn backyard bugs into pets. It's a hands-on guide to nature and backyard bugs. Kids can learn to construct an ant farm or spider house, make a bee box, or wormery. This book is the perfect guide to making a zoo of insects, spiders, worms, and other common creepy-crawlies. It describes the bugs in detail and shows the correct ways to capture and care for backyard bugs.

Bug Zoo includes facts about natural history, bug biology information, inexpensive project ideas, over 150 colour photographs, diagrams, and tips on where to find bugs in the local park or in your own backyard.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Monday, July 5, 2010


By Doug TenNapel
Ages 10+
Published by Scholastic Canada
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Ghostopolis is a children's graphic novel that is sure to be a page-turner for any student.
Garth, a normal kid, likes to read and play make-believe with his toys. But Garth, as we find out in the first few pages, is terminally ill.

Garth's life is drastically altered when a washed-out agent from the Supernatural Immigration Task Force accidentally sends him to Ghostopolis - the world of the dead.

This once regular guy suddenly finds himself in a ghost's world where he has powers that even ghosts don't have. While in the world of the dead, Garth can do things that the ghosts can't; he flies, disappears, and walks through walls while the dead are bound by Ghostopolis' rules of gravity and physics. In the world of the dead, Garth can do anything he imagines.

Garth is on the adventure of his life. He has to use his new powers to fight the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, all the while he has to try and get back home.

Ghostopolis is a graphic novel jam packed with adventure, battle, and travel. Plus, during his escapade, Garth learns something very important about his life - his long, long life.

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Grill It!

Grill It
by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby
Published by DK
Reviewed by Martha Beach

Teachers, get right into summer cooking with this classic grilling book. This text has a wide range of recipe ideas, for many tastes and occasions.

Included in Grill It is a wide array of appetizers, salads, snacks and dressings, as well as serious steak-grilling recipes and a whole section devoted to grilling fish.

Recipes for grilled meats or grilled veggies are both included. For vegetarians, there is a spinach and grilled-peach salad and other grilled-veggie ideas. For meat-lovers, there are grilled lamb chops with roasted red pepper and walnut relish, plus much more.

From sweet to spicy, Grill It includes over 200 recipes for all of the grill-lovers out there. There are over 400 colour photographs to go along with the step-by-step recipes, as well as condiment and side suggestions that are included with each recipe.

So get out there this hot, summer weekend and get that barbecue going!

Remember to check out TEACH Mag for the latest in education.