Learning with mom and dad
A SERIES THAT EDUCATES BOTH PARENTS AND CHILDREN
What Did You Do at School Today? gives beginning students a bird’s-eye view of what they can expect on their first day of kindergarten. The book also educates parents about what their children will be learning during the year. It was distributed by the Greater Essex County DSB (where the authors are teachers) during their February orientation.
This same theme of educating parents as they share with their children is continued in a series of five slim books called Working with Families to Support Student Achievement. Each book includes word study and learning strategies. The stories are endearing with characters from many backgrounds and cultures. The series includes: A Trip to the Park, which focuses on the importance of taking turns; Helper of the Day, which teaches respect and trustworthiness; Making Connections with Rocky and Ruby, which highlights self-discipline and diligence; The Best Birthday Ever, which explores respect and fairness and Caroline is a Big Sister, emphasizing caring and responsibility. The series has won accolades and support from literacy groups, early years educators and parent groups. It has been praised for nurturing literacy, educating parents and teaching values.
Out of this World, the third in the Essex board’s resource projects, is a math adventure designed for parents to engage with fundamental math concepts with their children.
Greater Essex County District School Board Book Series:
What Did You Do At School Today?, Greater Essex County DSB, 2010, softcover, ISBN 978-0-9810440-3-3, 23 pages (by Sherry Doherty and Lisa Cranston, illustrated by Lisa Galvan)
Caroline is a Big Sister, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-0-9810440-5-7, 16 pages (by Clara Howitt, illustrated by Lisa Galvan)
The Best Birthday Ever, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-0-9810440-7-1, 18 pages (by Susan Chanko, illustrated by Lisa Galvan)
Making Connections with Rocky and Ruby, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-0-9810440-8-8, 18 pages (by Sherry Doherty, illustrated by Lisa Galvan)
Helper of the Day, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-0-9810440-4-0, 18 pages (by Lisa Cranston, illustrated by Lisa Galvan)
A Trip to the Park, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-0-9810440-6-4, 22 pages (written and illustrated by Lisa Galvan)
Out of This World, 2012, softcover, ISBN 978-0-9810440-9-5, 22 pages (by Lisa Cranston and Sherry Doherty, with Brent Walker; illustrated by Lisa Galvan)
Gail Lennon is a writer and reviewer with more than 35 years of teaching experience at all levels.
How Children Succeed
by Paul Tough
When it comes to predicting a child’s future success, the prevailing view has been that it depends on mental prowess like verbal ability, mathematical dexterity and the capacity to detect patterns — skills that lead to a hefty IQ. However, recent evidence has revealed that a child’s strength of character — including perseverance, optimism, curiosity, self-discipline and raw grit — may be even more important. In his most recent book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, writer Paul Tough explores the science behind these findings. He also tracks several alternative schools, education programs and outreach projects that have implemented these new ideas and reports, and finds some convincing results.
For example, researchers have clearly found that scores on self-discipline tests are better predictors of future college GPA scores than are IQ results. Moreover, self-discipline and conscientiousness are highly correlated with avoiding drugs or alcohol, staying on the right side of the law and maintaining healthy social relationships. Unfortunately, it is less clear on how to cultivate these character traits. What is evident is that parental or adult nurturing in response to failure or trauma helps to create strong character. While nurture is certainly the most important factor in a child’s early years, Tough argues that older children and adolescents can benefit from lessons in constructive risk-taking and overcoming failure.
Tough’s writing style is readable, honest and unpretentious, and he does an excellent job of supporting the scientific evidence. This is a strong argument in favour of paying closer attention to cultivating character in young people, both in our personal lives and in our public policy.
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2012, hardcover, ISBN 978-0-547-56465-4, 256 pages, $31.95, distributed by Thomas Allen & Son Ltd., 1-800-387-4333, thomasallen.ca
Aaron Thibeault, OCT, is an occasional teacher with the Toronto DSB. He runs a website, newbooksinbrief.com, dedicated to non-fiction books.
Flip Your Classroom
by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams
Once you flip you won’t ever want to go back — flip your classroom that is! After years of toiling in their separate chemistry classrooms, the authors of this book, two highly regarded Colorado high school teachers, discovered that by creating an online video of their lectures and assigning them for homework, they could spend all of their class time with a question-and-answer follow-up. In other words, their roles shifted from being information deliverers to becoming active learning coaches — they flipped their classrooms.
In so doing, they were able to personalize their students’ learning and offer help to each one in a way that would appeal to their diverse learning styles. For example, one of their students was always behind in his lecture notes. Using a flipped classroom meant that he was able to both keep up with his notes and get the personal attention he needed to clear up confusion about his assignments. Flipping also addresses student learning using the language of technology that they know so well. Instead of fighting digital culture, they can use it while they learn. All the logistics of a flipped classroom are addressed in this book, such as how to develop an engaging video and what to do about students who don’t have home access to a computer.
The authors acknowledge that using this new model will be a process that will not happen instantly. Flip Your Classroom is suitable for all teachers in any subject area past the primary grades. It is a must read for all administrators, policy-makers, curriculum specialists and technology co-ordinators.
Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, International Society for Technology in Education, Washington, DC, 2012, softcover, ISBN 978-1-56484-315-9, 112 pages, $24.95, distributed by Scholarly Book Services, 1-800-847-9736, sbookscan.com
Dorothea Bryant, OCT, teaches language arts to primary, junior and intermediate teacher candidates at the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Education.
The Canadian Campus Companion
by Erin Millar and Ben Coli
Who gave us advice about college and university? Is it possible that we made decisions that critically affected our future lives based on sketchy information from unreliable, uninformed or biased sources? Today the stakes are just as high as they were back then as new generations of senior high students contemplate their futures. Who are they listening to?
Millar and Coli have compiled a comprehensive volume of good advice for this generation that addresses issues common to all Canadian postsecondary students. Topics include deciding on a school and program, whether to live in residence, how to manage your time and money, how to get the most out of your classes and how to navigate new social situations. There is also advice about your rights as a tenant, living with roommates, dealing with conflict and how to react to getting bad marks. Quotes from current students in a variety of programs at different schools offer personal and wide-ranging information.
Teachers who read this book will get a refresher on campus life and perhaps be able to translate their own experiences into a context that can make sense for contemporary students. Parents whose children intend to move on to higher education should also read it if only to see what challenges lie ahead. Hopefully, students will keep the book handy throughout their postsecondary years for the times they want to seek advice from someone other than Mom and Dad.
The Canadian Campus Companion: Everything You Need to Know About Going to University and College, Thomas Allen Publishers, a division of Thomas Allen & Son Ltd., Markham, 2011, softcover, ISBN 978-0-88762-640-1, 336 pages, $22.95, 1-800-387-4333, thomasallen.ca
Note: Google Books has the first two chapters online as a preview.
Steve Kennedy, OCT, is a secondary school teacher with the Hamilton-Wentworth DSB at James Street Alternative Education Program in Hamilton.
Brave New Teachers
by R. Patrick Solomon, Jordan Singer, Arlene Campbell, and Andrew Allen with the assistance of John P. Portelli
In 2008, urban Toronto schools lost a tireless champion. When Patrick Solomon moved to Canada from Jamaica in the late 1960s, he began working for social justice with city communities, schools, teachers and parents. Solomon was dedicated to forging strong relationships between schools and students’ homes. He taught how to identify the culture of a school and how to promote it. He mentored students and helped them gain confidence and pride in themselves. All of the authors who contributed to Brave New Teachers were inspired to carry on his labour of love after he died in October 2008. Solomon and Singer fought against school standardization with Sakshi’s motto “It’s the kids we are teaching, not the curriculum.”
Brave New Teachers is educational brain food. It feeds the core impulse to stand against a misguided business model for schools and to work for and with children and their parents to offer them the kinds of education that they really need. Who is in your class? What is their history? Do you know their stories? How are the skills they are learning relevant to them and their communities? The book reminds us that we are teachers who don’t just teach. We are mentors and agents of change. Each word of Solomon’s is a seed in the field of growth.
Brave New Teachers: Doing Social Justice Work in Neo-liberal Times, Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc., Toronto, 2011, softcover, ISBN-978-1-55130397-0, 302 pages, $39.95, 1-800-463-1998, cspi.org
Kara Smith, OCT, creates English curriculum and teaches at the Faculty of Education, University of Windsor, where one of Solomon’s inspired Urban Education programs thrives today.
How? The most awesome question and answer book about nature, animals, people, places — and you!
by Catherine Ripley
illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Children come into this world curious and ready to explore. They ask a million questions and often, teachers are stuck for an answer that will satisfy their thirsty young minds. How? The most awesome question and answer book about nature, animals, people, places — and you! is a great resource where children can seek out answers to their questions about all sorts of daily experiences.
In consultation with numerous experts, the author compiled responses to 73 questions raised by children at Canadian schools. How did birthday parties get started? How does the library get its books? How do snakes eat really big stuff? How do I get sick? How does the steering wheel turn the car? How do planes take off when they weigh so much? Why are wheels round? Why does the thermometer go in my ear? The author includes both how and why questions in the book, demonstrating the importance of using both types. In response to the question “How do balloons float?” for example, the author describes how helium gas is lighter than air, which makes the balloons float, and also compares helium-filled to breath-filled balloons that do not float because we exhale mainly carbon dioxide, a gas heavier than air.
Even though the book seems to be written for younger readers, I found the selection of questions and the well-crafted responses to be useful for children of all ages. As a tool of inquiry, it teaches children how to begin to probe more deeply into the hows and whys of the world.
How? The most awesome question and answer book about nature, animals, people, places — and you! Owlkids Books, Toronto, 2012, hardcover, ISBN 978-1-926973-24-1, 192 pages, $19.95, distributed by University of Toronto Press, 1-800-565-9523, utpress.utoronto.ca
Yovita Gwekwerere is an assistant professor of science education at Laurentian University.
The Charter for Children
by Dustin Milligan
illustrations by Meredith Luce, Cory Tibbits and Jasmine Vincente
This series of six books is a wonderful way to introduce children to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Each story is set in a different province or territory and addresses a different right or freedom. The six books are filled with clever Canadian characters like Justin Beaver, Anne of Green Tomatoes and Eel Young.
The Charter for Children uses animals to teach human lessons much like Aesop’s Fables, allowing children to engage in moral dilemmas. Characters speak in repeated rhymes, lending a Dr. Seuss quality to it that compounds the message.
A distinct regional setting shapes each tale, whether it is Nunavut in The Plight Beneath the Northern Light or the French flavour of The Case of the Montreal Bagel. While exploring historical examples that have challenged our rights, the books use contemporary references and artwork. Each book exists in its own right as a wonderful story to share in a classroom, but as a series, the six books would create an excellent unit in almost any division in elementary classrooms.
At the end of each text is a brief explanation of the right or freedom examined in the story, along with some discussion questions that can be tailored to suit the audience.
The Charter for Children (Series of Six Titles), DC Canada Education Publishing, Ottawa, 2012, softcover, 27 pages each, $11.95 per volume, 1-888-565-0262, dc-canada.ca
The Case of the Missing Montreal Bagel: The Right to Privacy and Security, ISBN 978-1-926776-38-5
The Plight Beneath the Northern Light: The Right to Meet and Form Groups, ISBN 978-1-926776-36-1
Anne of Green Tomatoes: The Right to Be Safe and Secure, ISBN 978-1-926776-34-7
A Large Jaw in Moose Jaw: The Right to Participate and Be Included, ISBN 978-1-926776-33-0
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lobster: The Right to Speak, Sing and Laugh, ISBN 978-1-926776-37-8
The Golden Hook: The Right to Believe and Have Faith, ISBN 978-1-926776-35-4
Joseph Restoule General, OCT, is a district numeracy teacher with Six Nations Schools in Oshweken.