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.