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

Timely resources and inspiring tales

Nonfiction Mentor Texts

by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli

No resource could be more timely for Ontario literacy classrooms. Currently we teach elementary students how to write by guiding them through each step, from brainstorming to revision.

For example, if teaching persuasive writing to a Grade 6 class, we might begin by reading, examining and discussing letters to the editor from our local paper. Students would then create a checklist of writing features. Finally they would work through the writing process – brainstorming topics, organizing content and revising traits – through shared, guided and independent work.

This book walks teachers through the process, from establishing a topic to finding content and writing introductions and conclusions. It provides examples of persuasive, expository, narrative and descriptive types of non-fiction to use as models in the classroom. At the end of each chapter a lesson is provided to help teachers organize and integrate all the parts of a balanced literacy program.

I have used this text several times in my classes. I love how much time it saved me, and how closely it reflected my needs as an Ontario literacy specialist. I was surprised to learn that the authors are American – they could have easily been teaching in the classroom next door.

Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing through Children’s Literature, K–8, Stenhouse Publishers, Portland, ME, 2009, softcover, ISBN 978-157110-496-0, 320 pages, $31.95, distributed in Canada by Pembroke Publishers, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,

Kara Smith, OCT, teaches and develops English-language arts programs for the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor and is a language consultant with several boards of education in southwestern Ontario.

Teaching in Troubled Times

by Kathy Paterson

How should we teach in a world beset by famines, wars, economic upheaval and unprecedented change? That is the question posed by Kathy Paterson as she explores the pressures teachers face in their classrooms each day.

As educators we are expected to impart information, skills and values to our students to prepare them for a world that, in many ways, is not like the one we grew up in. Mass media have made it almost impossible for children to “escape the strong visual and auditory messages of our troubled times,” she observes. What’s more, teachers face the reality that what students learn at school is increasingly obsolete in a rapidly changing workplace and world.

The author offers a variety of strategies for supporting students and teachers as they cope with the stress of relative values that set fewer and fewer boundaries and offer more and more uncertainty. For many students and teachers, school remains one of the few havens where learning in a safe, supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere is still possible.

Paterson writes, “As teachers, we cannot change the world our students see today or will see tomorrow, but we can influence how they deal with both, with the hope that they will be smarter than we were.” Isn’t that what we have always hoped for our students?

Teaching in Troubled Times, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2010, softcover, ISBN 9781551382548, 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.

Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use

by Susan Brooks-Young

Many teachers consider their students’ preferred technologies to be at best entertainment and at worst a waste of time or a source of harm. Teachers have absorbed countless studies about the considerable hours kids are said to devote to multimedia, surfing and social networking, and stories about the myth of multi-tasking, the risks of malware, cyber bullying, sexting and predators, and an epidemic of plagiarism and cheating.

Author Susan Brooks-Young sets out to prove that rather than being banished, technology should be fully embraced and placed at the heart of education. Her book examines a wide range of digital technologies – cellphones, MP3 players, notebook computers, social networks, virtual worlds, online writing, gaming, photos and video. To start, Brooks-Young defines what student mastery of 21st-century technology means, suggesting that students need tech skills to “thrive in a continually evolving workplace and society.” She proceeds to make an argument for why these skills matter and why educators should be teaching them.

Each chapter adopts a common format, providing a description of the technology followed by four subtitled categories: common objections to the technology, changing viewpoints, strategies for classroom use and practical suggestions. Digital citizenship – the responsibilities that members of an online community owe themselves, one another and society – is also addressed, as are issues such as cyber bullying and copyright.

The book offers numerous links to freeware and software that may not be available to Ontario educators through the Ontario Software Acquisition Program. Finally, an appendix lists web sites by topic for easy lesson planning.

Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2010, softcover, ISBN 9781412972758, 152 pages, US$26.95, tel 1-800-233-9936,,

Fred DuVal, OCT, is a program officer with the accreditation unit of the College.


edited by Joan Green

Interface is a four-volume series of core English resources for students in Grades 9 and 10 (both academic and applied), offering readers a wide selection of classic and contemporary texts in a variety of genres, ranging from articles in the Globe and Mail to works by Langston Hughes and Leonardo DiCaprio. The material is designed to stimulate discussion and discovery in an inquiry-based classroom, focusing on what the editor calls 21st-century skills: problem solving, collaboration, empathy, advocacy, leadership, technology, literacy and creativity.

The series fosters a contemporary learning experience that incorporates a variety of learning strategies, both online and off. The material is intended to be a springboard for reading, writing, thinking and discussion, thereby uncovering the students’ own perspectives and understanding. Students are encouraged to view their teachers as fellow investigators and to see themselves as explorers and knowledge builders well beyond the walls of their classrooms.

The reading selections are all uniquely Canadian, and address such issues as gaps between rich and poor populations, multicultural communities, the health of the planet and what students can do to make the future safe for people and their environment. The materials are easy to navigate and the text is slick and attractive, making optimum use of excellent photographs, pictures and graphics. A detailed index helps to easily locate specific issues, topics and skills. Interface is an excellent reading series with current and thought-provoking resources suitable for a range of reading levels and abilities.

Interface, Oxford University Press Canada, Toronto, 2010, softcover, ISBN 9781554778201 (vol 1.1), ISBN 9781554778218 (vol 1.2), ISBN 9781554778225 (vol 2.1), ISBN 9781554778232 (vol 2.2), each 160 pages, each $24.95, tel 416-441-2941 or 1-800-387-8020,,

Gail Lennon is a writer and reviewer with more than 35 years of teaching experience at all levels.

Growing Greener Schools (DVD)

by PBS Educational Media

Where to begin with such a jam-packed, multimedia resource that spotlights methods for creating green schools? Featuring hands-on examples, classroom lesson modules, interactive games and links to other resources, it offers a remarkable template for implementing green education in our elementary and high schools.

One of the key messages of the video is the critical need to create fresh perspectives toward green careers in a new, more environmentally responsible economy. In other words, our students need to be ready for careers that don’t yet exist. The video offers a road map that shows us how to incorporate ecological literacy across the curriculum. It highlights eco-friendly schools that are creating green curricula, including environmental lesson plans, and encouraging students to explore new green frontiers within their communities. One featured green elementary school describes its No Child Left Inside program, where education happens outside the school walls. Children are given the freedom to explore and learn outdoors, interacting with soil, sunshine and joy.

As Ontario educators, green education is an absolutely essential component of what we teach our students. Despite the exclusively American examples, the video and its companion handbook and curriculum guide are equally applicable to the Canadian experience. This program is an educational launching pad for citizens of a new, green, global community.

Growing Greener Schools, DVD, PBS Educational Media, Arlington, VA, 2010, ISBN 9781608832057, 90 minutes, US$29.99, tel 1-800-424-7963,

Pina Zappone, OCT, is a Core French teacher for the York Catholic DSB.

Going Blue

by Cathryn Berger Kaye, Philippe Cousteau and EarthEcho International

Most of us have heard of going green, but going blue? Three-quarters of our planet is covered in water, which is, of course, blue. This book, co-written by the grandson of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, calls teens to action to save the planet’s water system. From designing posters that warn of water contamination to helping rid an area of invasive species, the authors assure us that no act is too small to make a difference.

Visually appealing, with photos, diagrams, interesting facts, sidebars and an easy-to-navigate layout, this teen guide encourages youth to pick a cause related to our water sources and make a change.

Written in child-friendly language, the text provides enough repetition to allow readers to skim examples and skip segments depending on how deeply they want to read. Step-by-step sections – investigate, prepare, act, reflect and demonstrate – help students navigate the potentially complex and overwhelming task of making a change in their world. Concrete examples of initiatives undertaken by teens around the world further help students understand what they can do, big or small, to make a difference. An afterword geared toward adults supports integration of such projects in their classrooms, after-school programs or any place where the potential for activism exists.

Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans
, Lakes, Rivers, and Wetlands, Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis, MN, 2010, softcover, ISBN 978-1-57542-348-7, 160 pages, US$14.99, tel 1-800-735-7323,

Jennifer Wyatt, OCT, is a Grade 6 teacher and divisional co-ordinator at Havergal College in Toronto.


by Susan McArthur

NounSense is a combination game and activity book developed to support the revised Grade 2 and 3 language curriculum in Ontario. The kit comes with a game board, game ideas, story cards with reusable, attachable words and an extensive activity guide with 22 lesson plans and 82 reproducible activities. We used the game with students in a Special Education behavioural class. They started playing it in the morning and wanted to continue after lunch; in other words, they found it extremely engaging and fun.

The game can invigorate a literacy program in numerous ways. It is flexible, highly motivating, extremely social, playable in half-hour blocks, supportive of ESL learners and appealing to even the most reluctant-to-read boys. Moreover, it was created by an experienced Canadian teacher who field tested the game extensively. It is also affordable. I recommend it.

NounSense, The Children’s Corner, game and activity guide, Oakville, 2010, $29.95, tel 905-825-9027,,

Cindy Matthews, OCT, is a vice-principal in the Rosemount family of schools in Kitchener.

Fatty Legs

by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

Fatty Legs is a gritty, tell-all story about one Inuit girl’s determination to maintain her dignity and spirit while achieving her quest to read. Based on real events, the book exposes injustices committed by Catholic priests and nuns in their efforts to assimilate Inuit children into the dominant culture.

Christy Jordan-Fenton and her mother-in-law, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, tell the story of Margaret’s childhood desire to learn to read English. To do so, she leaves her family home when she is eight years old and must fend for herself at school. There, students are segregated by sex, made to perform menial chores, forbidden to speak their own language and forced to conform to foreign rules and rituals. Intending to humiliate Margaret, one of the nastier nuns passes out grey stockings to all the girls – all except Margaret, who gets red ones and instantly becomes a victim of the other girls’ taunts and cruelty. After two difficult years at the school, Margaret returns home a stronger, more tenacious and literate young woman.

A perfect companion to the study of First Nations issues, this story helps readers empathize with a real person whose determination never waivers in the face of adversity. We learn about Inuit culture and ways of life. Haunting illustrations offer a springboard for rich discussion points. Sidebars offer facts and original photographs.

Geared toward late elementary readers, the book lends itself to cross-curricular applications and could be used for reading aloud, literature circle or shared reading to promote reflection, discussion and critical thinking.

Fatty Legs, Annick Press, Toronto, 2010, softcover, ISBN 9781554512461, 112 pages, $12.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

Jennifer Wyatt, OCT, is a Grade 6 teacher and divisional co-ordinator at Havergal College in Toronto.

Cry of the Giraffe

by Judie Oron

Cry of the Giraffe is the true story of Wuditu, an Ethiopian Jewish teenager who struggles to escape persecution and find her family in Jerusalem. Her tale mirrors the experiences of thousands of Ethiopian Jews who fled hatred and brutality to a new life in their spiritual homeland.

Toronto journalist Judie Oron is both the author and the faranja (foreigner) who rescues Wuditu from slavery and takes her to Israel to be reunited with her family. We meet Wuditu as a nine-year-old child in 1985, at the height of the media attention on the Ethiopian famine. When she is 13, she and her family make an arduous trek on foot to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they hope to meet emissaries who will take them to safety in Jerusalem. Soldiers brutally round up Wuditu and her younger sister Lewteh and force them back to Ethiopia. The sisters become separated, and Wuditu is trapped in slavery. For three years she faces almost unbearable humiliation and daily tests of her hope and faith.

The story, told by Wuditu, is straightforward. Teens will find it compelling and understand Wuditu’s feelings, hopes and dreams that are so similar to their own. They may be shocked by some of the realities, but they will be inspired by the courage and perseverance of Wuditu and Lewteh (who was adopted by Oron’s family) and by Oron herself. This is an important book for high-school libraries, as well as for discussion in English and history classes. It will engage students as they grapple with issues of human rights, displaced peoples, social justice and activism.

Cry of the Giraffe, Annick Press, Toronto, 2010, softcover, ISBN 9781554512713, 208 pages, $12.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

Nadira Baksh, OCT, is pursuing Additional Qualifications in library studies while on parental leave from the classroom.

The Dark Deeps

by Arthur Slade

This is the second instalment in the steampunk series, The Hunchback Assignments, which combines elements of science fiction with the setting of Victorian-era England. The story is filled with life-threatening situations, amazing mechanical inventions and complicated plot twists. Once again, two teenage British secret agents – Modo and Octavia – are sent on a mission, this time to discover the underwater mystery of Ictineo before the French do. Ironically, Modo must team up with French spy Colette Brunet to battle the Clockwork Guild, led by Miss Hakkondottir and Invisible Man the First. Slade intertwines episodes of humour, romance and suspense to tell a unique story of teen angst amid espionage and human experiments.

The author won the $25,000 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award in November 2010 for the first book in the Hunchback Assignments series.

The Dark Deeps: The Hunchback Assignments II, HarperCollins Canada, Toronto, 2010, hardcover, ISBN 9781554683567, 256 pages, $18.99, tel 416-321-2241 or 1-800-387-0117,

Maureen Doeler, OCT, is a Grade 7 and 8 teacher at Holy Cross School in Alcona.

Une épouvantable saison

by Marc Couture
illustrated by Sarah Chamaillard

Are you looking for a book to read out loud that focuses on the topic of intimidation? Do you want to hold the interest of the boys in your class? In this mini-novel, built around the theme of intimidation, Marc Couture introduces us to real characters. The story targets children in the Junior Division, with a particular focus on boys.

Bruno (the main character) stutters. One of the only times he feels comfortable is when he is playing hockey … until he meets Vincent, who harasses and makes fun of him until he no longer wants to play. Bruno becomes anxious and fearful. He tries various tactics to stop stuttering, but without success. When Bruno finally finds the strength and courage to defend himself against Vincent, the intimidator, he discovers that his enemy has fears of his own. In the end, Bruno defeats Vincent in a hockey game, during a penalty shootout.

This captivating novel allows readers to put themselves in the shoes of a victim of verbal and physical intimidation. The author demonstrates that intimidation must not be tolerated and that everyone has his own abilities and talents.

Une épouvantable saison is the first in a series of books about Bruno.

The issue of intimidation remains unresolved since the reader doesn’t find out what happens to Vincent. Nevertheless, the story is moving and offers many possibilities for discussion.

An English translation (The Worst Season Ever) is available through the publisher.

Une épouvantable saison, Éditions du Phoenix, Montréal, 2008, softcover, ISBN 978-2-923425-23-8, 90 pages, $8.95, distributed by Prologue, tel 1-800-363-2864,,

Lyanne Marion, OCT, is a French Immersion teacher for Grade 5 and 6 at St. Francis Catholic School in the Sudbury Catholic DSB.