Your guide to recently released books, CDs and other teaching resources. For additional reviews of French-language resources, visit Lu, vu, entendu With the exception of some classroom sets, items reviewed are available on loan from the Margaret Wilson Library at the College. Contact Olivia Hamilton at 416-961-8800 (toll-free in Ontario 1-888-534-2222), ext 679, or e-mail

Books to build better readers and writers

How Bullets Saved My Life

By Judy Green

Good writers are invariably good readers – people who have a real appreciation for what makes books worth reading. This straightforward manual explores the elements and mechanics of good writing by showing young writers how they can use their favourite books as models.

The author breaks the writing process into manageable parts and directs teachers to literature that demonstrates literary qualities like voice, word choice, structure and organization. Titles selected are those that many teachers in the province are familiar with – each helping to introduce or reinforce a strategy or lesson that Green enthusiastically shares.

This is an easy-to-read and practical addendum for both elementary and secondary teachers looking to make a powerful connection between reading and writing in their literacy programs.

How Bullets Saved My Life: Fun Ways to Teach Some Serious Writing Skills, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2010, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55138-255-5, 96 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,

Michael Bellrose, OCT, is the principal of C.R. Judd PS in Capreol.

Breathe, Stretch, Write

By Sheree Fitch

What does physical fitness have to do with writing? Sheree Fitch would say everything. As a writing teacher who incorporates yoga into her courses, Fitch understands that the creative energy needed for writing begins with physical and mental well-being. For the past 20 years, she has used breathing and stretching exercises in her teaching to activate imagination. Now, in Breathe, Stretch, Write, she shows teachers how to take a whole-body approach to writing, to awaken students’ creativity and energy.

In each section, Fitch matches particular stretches and warm-ups with specific writing topics, designed to boost students’ imagination and motivation to write. By emphasizing how to make writing a joyful experience, students may then recognize their writing potential and perhaps ignite their love of writing.

With today’s emphasis on physical fitness, this book turns the sedentary activity of writing into an active and physical one. Breathe, Stretch, Write will get your students out of their chairs and stretching their bodies, minds and imaginations.

Breathe, Stretch, Write: Learning to Write with Everything You’ve Got, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55138-256-2, 112 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,

Caroline Cremer, OCT, teaches at Leslieville Junior PS in Toronto.

On a Medieval Day

By Rona Arato

By covering medieval times outside Europe, this book is a welcome addition to the wealth of books about the Middle Ages. Arato shares fictional stories about a day in the lives of nine children from around the world between 400 and 1,400 AD. Embedded in the stories are facts about medieval culture including games, clothing, family life, customs, architecture, economics and politics. The children are from Central America (Mayan), China, Baghdad, Vinland (Vikings in Newfoundland), England, Japan, Timbuktu (Mali), Venice and Toledo (Spain). Each story is followed by a non-fiction section mapping the civilization's location and describing aspects of the culture in more detail.

The pages are beautifully illustrated, making the book suitable for teachers to read aloud as part of a medieval unit. The reading level is ages nine to 13.

This is a valuable resource for opening student minds to medieval life around the world, with many opportunities for cross-curricular connections. Teacher resource guides that include research and discussion questions as well as suggestions for writing and art activities at the Grade 4–5 level are available.

On a Medieval Day: Story Voyages around the World, Owlkids Books, Toronto, 2010, softcover, ISBN 978-1-897349-95-3, 96 pages, $17.95, distributed by Raincoast Books, tel 1-800-663-5714,,

Margaret Grift is a library consultant in Brampton.

Hoping for Home

This anthology of 11 immigrant stories, written by some of children's literature's finest authors, gives a new perspective on the word "home." In these remarkable stories of tenacity, perseverance, despair and courage, Canada is portrayed as both a welcoming land of hopes and dreams and a closed-off nation, unwilling to accept diversity. It is a place where some come voluntarily while others have no choice. The common thread is the search for home and the quest for identity amidst the prairies, coastal regions and large urban centres of this vast land.

Each story is written as a series of diary entries, allowing the reader a perspective on the inner lives of the characters. In Prairie Showdown, for example, Wong Joe-on combats the prejudices of locals in rural Saskatchewan. His father's restaurant is attacked; he fights bullies at school where he is belittled. Hattie, on the other hand, in Hattie's Home, comes to Canada from Formosa with her Canadian-born parents and befriends Elsa, who helps her settle into her new home and school. Verity and Jane leave England just as war begins. When it becomes unsafe for them to return to war-torn Europe, they are taken in by friends of the family where they each deal with displacement in their own way.

This collection would be a fabulous accompaniment to the Grade 6, 7 or 8 social studies curricula, giving voice to those who come from elsewhere. It could be read independently by students but would be better served if used as a large or small group-shared reading, since the themes lend themselves to rich discussion about character and emotion and could lead into some creative writing-in-role activities.

Hoping for Home: Stories of Arrival (Dear Canada Series), Scholastic Canada, Markham, 2011, hardcover, ISBN 978-0-545-98697-7, 256 pages, $14.99, tel 1-800-268-3860,

Jennifer Wyatt, OCT, is a Grade 6 teacher presently at the Education Quality and Accountability Office, on leave from Havergal College.

Spaceheadz (Books 1 and 2)

By Jon Scieszka

Illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Arriving at a new school can be an intimidating experience, and often new students feel like outsiders until they meet that first friend. Well, fifth grader Michael K. certainly feels that way. An odd pair of kids sitting next to him, who recite slogans from TV commercials and crunch on their pencils, make fitting in even more difficult as they announce loudly to Michael that he needs to become a SPHDZ (Spaceheadz) in order to save the world. As much as Michael tries to resist this peculiar duo (trio if you include their babbling hamster), he slowly gets sucked into their schemes. Thus begin a number of adventures and the growth of SPHDZ.

The first two books are quick reads dotted with scientific-fact pages that link to the events in the story or foreshadow what is to come.

A fun, interactive read filled with web extras designed to further tell the story and educate kids about media literacy, the Spaceheadz series (a third adventure has just been published) promotes research and teaches kids how to be good readers.

Spaceheadz, Simon and Schuster, Toronto, 2010, hardcover, Spaceheadz #1 ISBN 978-1-4169-7951-7, 176 pages, Spaceheadz #2 ISBN 978-1-4169-7953-1, 240 pages, each $16.99, tel 647-427-8882 or 1-800-387-0446,

Janet Cottreau, OCT, is an occasional elementary school teacher with the Ottawa-Carlton DSB.

Who Wants Pizza?

By Jan Thornhill

From its catchy title to its colourful layout, this book tracks the production of food from prehistoric times to the present. Using one of the most common foods that kids eat as a springboard, it takes a comprehensive look at questions like why we eat what we eat, how we moved from eating raw flesh to becoming sophisticated consumers of food, how food production and tastes have changed through history, and the impact our food choices have on the future.

The book also takes a hard look at the politics of food and world hunger – that while enough food is grown in the world to feed its population, it is not distributed equitably because of the politics or economic conditions that exist in many countries. It addresses issues such as the impact of global warming on food production and how the extinction of various species affects the future. By doing so, it encourages students to take responsibility for the choices they make about what they eat and teaches them to be smart consumers, like going to a farmer's market rather than a chain grocery store to purchase local fresh produce. It also addresses the range of eating options, from vegetarianism to a fully carnivorous diet.

Who Wants Pizza? The Kids' Guide to the History, Science and Culture of Food, Owlkids, Toronto, 2010, softcover, ISBN 978-1-897349-97-7, 64 pages, $12.95, distributed by Raincoast Books, tel 1-800-663-5714,,

Elda Fredette, OCT, is a retired Special Education teacher who taught with the Halton Catholic School Board in Oakville.

Counterfeit Detection Teacher's Kit

Bank of Canada

As teachers, we sometimes forget the role we play in civic issues. With this kit, students in Grades 9 to 12 will gain a good understanding of the harmful social and economic impacts of counterfeiting. They will also learn to distinguish a counterfeit bank note from a real one and develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The kit has CD-ROMs and transparencies and can easily be integrated into high school courses. The instructional links are indicated by province, according to the curriculum for the subjects likely to be studied. The binder also has a poster for the classroom as well as a reproducible certificate for students who complete the training.

Although this kit does not cover everything, it is possible to combine several subjects in some of the lessons. For instance, I tried a lesson to establish a link with Marcel Dubé's play Zone. The lesson is called The Good, the Bad and the Fake and includes a comic strip in which two teenagers discover a bag of counterfeit notes and wonder what they should do. Adventures then ensue. Equipped with copies of the comic strip and grids to complete, the students worked as a team to establish the link with the play.

This kit is a worthwhile acquisition for all high schools, and every library should have at least one copy. Happy detecting!

Counterfeit Detection Teacher's Kit, Bank of Canada, 2008, free, tel 1-888-513-8212,;

Mélany Bouchard-MacPhail, OCT, teaches French at école secondaire catholique Franco-Cité with the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est in Ottawa.

The pedagogy of confidence

The Pedagogy of Confidence

by Yvette Jackson

This book dispels the myth that by focusing on student weaknesses, teachers can increase their achievement. The opposite, in fact, is true, according to Yvette Jackson, who bases her ideas on the theories of the great education theorist, Reuven Feuerstein. He suggests that the cognitive capacity of each person is much greater than we think and that underachievement is not determined entirely by environment or genetics. Rather, by using very particular targeted interventions, cognitive ability can be modified. This theory is based on practices developed in the teaching of gifted students where pedagogical approaches were rooted in the assumption of ability rather than the remediation of some kind of deficit.

Jackson’s book encourages teachers to believe that all students will invariably rise to meet expectations when they are greeted with the belief that they are capable of higher levels of achievement. People become what they are perceived to be, and students labelled disadvantaged or disabled will stay at that level because that is how they are seen by others and, consequently, how they see themselves. Jackson calls for a radical rethinking of student ability and potential. She says we must place our confidence in students by beginning with where they are and building on the strengths they already have. She notes that, ironically, when teachers of underachieving students list their strengths, many of the descriptors are precisely those skills, attitudes and behaviours that will help them succeed. The question is how to design student learning activities in such a way as to capitalize on these strengths.

One of the more inspiring aspects of Feuerstein’s approach is what he describes as the mediation process – a teacher and student interacting on a personal level, the student asking authentic questions, the teacher guiding instruction, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject at hand. The Pedagogy of Confidence would be an excellent book for teachers of Special Education or alternative education where one-on-one instruction is more common.

The Pedagogy of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance in Urban Schools, Teachers College Press, New York, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-0-8077-5223-1, 208 pages, $27.95, distributed by the University of Toronto Press, tel 416-667-7791 or 1-800-565-9523,

Michael Reist, OCT, is head of the English department at Robert F. Hall Catholic SS in Caledon East.

Schooling for life

Schooling for Life

by Dale E. Shuttleworth

In recent years schools have been forced to deal with such problems as violence, suicide, child poverty, racial tension, vandalism, disruption, social diversity and an economic recession. In Schooling for Life, the author draws on his experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent, policy adviser and community-development worker to discuss the role of schools and public education within the larger communities they serve, thereby offering educators a guide to meeting 21st-century challenges.

Shuttleworth contends that a child’s basic needs for shelter, food and emotional well-being must be met before that child can learn. Noting the clear correlation between struggling students, anti-social behaviour and impoverished neighbourhoods, he suggests that deeper involvement in both their school lives and the lives of their communities will foster in students a sense of self-worth and confidence. In other words, schools, when seen as extensions of the communities they serve, can become agents of change for social, economic and political renewal.

Shuttleworth proposes a variety of school-based activities to build an enterprising and entrepreneurial culture that can be plugged into the needs of the community. After-school programs, for example, must become more innovative so they can serve the immediate requirements of students and at the same time develop a pattern of lifelong learning and build links to the community. This book offers an in-depth examination of what it will take to move our schools into the pivotal role they should be playing so they can contribute to transforming the social realities around them.

Schooling for Life: Community Education and Social Enterprise, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2010, hardcover, ISBN 978-0-8020-9811-5, 336 pages, $70.00, tel 416-667-7791 or 1-800-565-9523,

Connie D’Souza, OCT, teaches at St. Bonaventure and Pauline Vanier Catholic Schools in Brampton.

Tuned Out

Tuned Out

by Karen Hume

In this well-researched book, the author quotes a Canadian study suggesting that the longer students stay in school the less likely they are to be intellectually captivated by what they are supposed to be learning. They start tuning out in Grade 6, and by Grade 12 they are well on their way to complete disengagement.

Hume argues for a radical rethinking of how we teach, advocating for inquiry-based learning that will pique students’ curiosity and harness the knowledge, experience and creativity they already have. The book is filled with concrete suggestions for specific planning designed to motivate both students and teachers. Support materials for the print book include line masters, power points, videos and a highly accessible interactive web site that is directly related to the content of each chapter. In keeping with the needs of the 21st-century learner, Hume concludes with a Twitter(!) summary of each section of the book. This is an absolute must read for anyone interested in ensuring that all students tune in and stay in.

Tuned Out: Engaging the 21st-Century Learner, Pearson School Canada, Toronto, 2010, softcover, ISBN 978-0-13-802013-2, 274 pages, $70.53 (includes web access), tel 1-800-361-6128,,

Marguerite Alfred, OCT, is a retired vice-principal with the Toronto DSB.

Wealth Ed

Wealth Ed

by John Waldron

Do you know anything about investing? What about taxes? How much insurance should you have? Wealth Ed: Money Management for Ontario Teachers starts with the basics on each of these questions and expands on them with clarity and focus. The author takes you through your own risk tolerance for investing and helps sort out your financial goals for both registered and non-registered investments. The best part is that the book is well organized and written in a clear and direct manner.

Additional topics cover retirement planning, how our pensions are calculated, when to collect CPP (Canada Pension Plan) and OAS (Old Age Security) and planning your personal needs and sources of retirement income. Estate planning tips include wills, powers of attorney, estate expenses and probate fees. For those seeking more in-depth information, Waldron offers modules that develop the topics in the book and focus on buying back pension credit, actuarial costs, X over Y leaves, borrowing to invest, RRSP contributions, reverse mortgages, setting up trusts and more.

This a very comprehensive financial planning book with three special advantages: It is Canadian, it is specific to Ontario, and it is specific to the questions and interests of teachers.

Wealth Ed: Money Management for Ontario Teachers, Carswell, Toronto, 2010, softcover, ISBN 978-0-7798-2815-9, 346 pages, $22.00, tel 1-416-609-3800 or 1-800-387-5164,

Teresa Ross, OCT, teaches technology and computer science at Lakeshore Catholic HS in Port Colborne.