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December 1999

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wpeA.jpg (10480 bytes) The Ultimate Math Guide: Integrating resources, expectations and assessment

By Susan Lovell, Terri Howell and Mary Spring

Reviewed by Peter Saarimaki

The Ontario mathematics curriculum expects teachers to "design lessons that help students understand the basic concepts, ...encourage students to explore alternative solutions, ...and ensure that students talk about their reasoning." The Ultimate Math Guide brings together a lively collection of resources that teachers of Grades 4 – 6 will find very useful in meeting the curriculum’s learning targets.

Teachers Susan Lovell, Terri Howell and Mary Spring provide a graded collection of connections to curriculum packages and software, as well as new activities from their classroom experiences. The material is organized by math strand for ready access.

The resources include materials by authors such as Marilyn Burns and Constance Kamii, and titles such as Super Source, Family Math, Writing Math and Puddle Questions. The one Ontario reference, highly recommended, is Sandy Woodcock’s MathTotes. The authors have also included a list of concrete materials and Ministry of Education software.

Each major topic has a pre/post assessment for the student’s portfolio (forms provided). Lovell, Howell and Spring have supplied a disk to assist in overall record keeping. Files help maintain a cumulative record of each student’s accomplishments against the overall expectations within each strand.

The authors guide teachers in the use of the resources and provide many reproducible pages at each grade. Sample letters to parents abound, along with homework assignments and other aids that will help teachers maintain communications with parents.

Teachers will find a much-needed emphasis on writing in math class, with guidance, suggestions and two assessment rubrics. The authors present ideas to help teachers meet the

needs of students who require program adaptations, whether they are finding the work too little or too much of a challenge.

All in all, The Ultimate Math Guide is a highly recommended, useful resource helping to bring together many other resources. It should be part of every Junior teacher’s collection alongside ideas for integrated, themed approaches.

The Ultimate Math Guide: Integrating resources, expectations and assessment, Huntsville, 1998; ISBN: 0-9682656-6; $39.95; Ultimate Guide Press; (705) 787-1808.

Peter Saarimaki is a co-ordinator of Mathematics with the Toronto District School Board and president of the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education.

The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract

By Theodore R. Sizer and Nancy Faust Sizer

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Reviewed by Rick Chambers

As provincial policy-makers reconfigure secondary school education, Ted and Nancy Sizer’s latest book, The Students Are Watching, provides a context for the ethical dimensions of change. Theodore Sizer is one of the founders of the Coalition of Essential Schools in the United States and a leader of the school reform movement. His wife, Nancy, is a practising teacher and principal.

With chapter titles like "Watching," "Modeling," "Grappling," "Bluffing," "Sorting," "Shoving," and "Fearing," the Sizers reflect on the realities of secondary schooling today for both teachers and students, and suggest directions that it might go. "We must insist on a high school design which will help all the high school’s people to reach for the best version of themselves."

If one of the responsibilities of high school is to prepare young people to "be thoughtful citizens and decent human beings," then the adults and children who teach and learn in a secondary school must answer these questions: "What do we stand for in this place? How is that stance reflected in our routines, activities and rituals? How do we model – as instructors and as the people who work with them – that which we most value?"

Students watch the adults in the school to see how they will address the answers to those questions, and look for consistency. "Few qualities in adults annoy adolescents more than hypocrisy."

In the chapter on "Bluffing," the Sizers describe a scenario that too many of us – as both secondary school students and teachers – have experienced. The Grade 10 student hasn’t had time to do her English reading along with all of the other homework she must do, and so decides to bluff her way through class the next day.

She will ask a few questions early in the class, and then she knows that the teacher will assume she has read the material and will leave her alone. At the same time, the English teacher has given the reading assignment but hasn’t had time to prepare the lesson so she, too, will bluff her way through class the next day. She’ll ask a few keen students some questions, and hope to jog her memory enough about the book’s content to get through the first part of the class.

The Sizers describe both players sympathetically – the student is committed but overwhelmed by the amount of homework; the teacher is dedicated but overwhelmed by her responsibilities and teaching workload. The result is dishonesty.

"We do not want our surgeon to bluff. Or our carpenter. Or our bank. Or our police officer. From them, we want and expect the unvarnished truth, without any sort of cosmetic treatment. The world depends on honest answers coming from clear minds." We should expect the same in our secondary schools.

Ultimately, the Sizers ask hard questions but are short on specific answers. Do conditions in the school allow each student to be known well? What is the proper teaching load for a single teacher? Are the expectations for students and teachers clear? Is more expected of both students and teachers than it is possible for most to do well?

When adults do not address those questions squarely, they send moral signals to students. The Sizers seem to be nodding at policy-makers here, but teachers will read these as familiar problems without short-term solutions.

The Students Are Watching is not an exposť of schools and much of what is presented is not even new. However, as a snapshot of secondary school culture as it exists in many North American schools, it is descriptive and honest. By holding up the mirror to what is, the Sizers are encouraging all of us to imagine what could be.

The book is recommended as a primer for school councils, policy-makers, and trustees. As preparation for a discussion of ethical standards, especially as they are played out in secondary schools, it is a thoughtful first step.

The Students Are Watching, Boston, 1999; ISBN 0-8070-3120-8; $21 (U.S.); Beacon Press

Rick Chambers, who taught English for 27 years, is a program officer in the College’s Professional Affairs Department.


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The Superlative 21st Century Classroom

By Robert Kerr


Reviewed by Pauline Faubert-McCabe

The Superlative 21st Century Classroom provides practical guidelines for educators wishing to promote self-esteem, co-operation, personal accountability and self-
control in their classroom. It contains detailed lessons and activities
that teach students specific strategies for resolving conflict and managing negative emotions.

The first chapter provides a very good overview of the challenges facing 21st century students. It provides the perfect context for a discussion around what cutting edge classrooms and schools need to consider when re-establishing priorities for students and re-thinking the function of schools in our information society. "The information age will call on individuals to take initiative, to make decisions, to network, communicate, negotiate; to take risks, set limits, innovate; to assume personal responsibility for the team."

The book speaks to the need for young people to avoid overreacting to unfortunate events in their lives and to look at problems as a source for learning, for growth and for getting better. Using the four-step SAT plan (Sensible Acting and Thinking) students help each other solve problems, practice conflict resolution and take responsibility for their own actions.

Author Robert Kerr lives in Moffat, Ontario and writes from a Canadian perspective. He feels that students work best in an atmosphere of direction and room. His program holds high expectations that all students will learn, will stay on task, and will contribute to and co-operate with their SAT team. Students are further encouraged to make choices, to become part of the decision-making, to find solutions, and to accept consequences.

The book provides teacher friendly lesson plans that include clear objectives, experiential activities and co-operative learning exercises. This is a great resource for teachers working with their students to develop responsible decision making skills.

The Superlative 21st Century Classroom, Portland, Maine, 1997; ISBN 0-8251-3246-0; $17.95 (U.S.); J. Weston Walch; www.walch.com

Pauline Faubert-McCabe, former learning co-ordinator with the London District Catholic School Board, is program officer in the Accreditation Unit at the Ontario College of Teachers.

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No Limits: Developing Scientific Literacy Using Science Fiction

By Julie E. Czerneda

Packing Fraction & Other Tales of Science & Imagination

Edited by Julie E. Czerneda


Reviewed by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Author Jeffrey Carver says that one of science fiction’s greatest strengths is "the ability to spark creativity and awareness in the minds and hearts of young readers." Julie Czerneda’s teacher workbook and companion student anthology provide an excellent resource that will help teachers tap into several different modes of thought in science, art and literature, allowing an exciting merger of scientific literacy, critical analysis and creative thought.

No Limits is a workbook that science fiction author Czerneda created based on a series of in-class workshops. It contains detailed information to help teachers use science fiction literature to encourage students to assess scientific information.

Complete with photocopiable classroom-ready worksheets, it offers suggestions on using science fiction to encourage critical reading skills and provides fuel for classroom discussions about moral and ethical issues facing the scientific community. It includes lesson ideas, activities and extension ideas, as well as annotated versions of the stories in the companion anthology Packing Fraction. And if the teacher prefers to use other stories for a source, No Limits offers a list of recommended print materials, web sites and tips on obtaining other science fiction materials for use in the classroom.

Packing Fraction, the student anthology, is a collection of stories by such authors as Robert J. Sawyer, Charles Sheffield, Josepha Sherman and Carolyn Clink. Each story was written specifically to outline issues in Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Applied Science and Technology and contains a biographical listing for each author. The stories are accessible to most high school students, and are ideal for students who may never have encountered science fiction literature before.

No Limits: Developing Scientific Literacy Using Science Fiction; Toronto, Trifolium Books Inc, 1998; ISBN 1895579945; $24.95.

Packing Fraction & Other Tales of Science & Imagination: Toronto, Trifolium Books Inc, 1998; ISBN 1895579899; $6.95.

Both books can be ordered from General Distribution Services (416) 213-1919 or 1-800-387-0141.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre is a Hamilton writer.

More Magazines of Interest to Teachers and Others Interested in Education

By Christopher Ball

In a recent issue, we reviewed some Canadian periodicals in the education field. Here’s a look at some interesting and relevant international titles.

The Clearing House

Bimonthly, Heldref Publications, Washington, D.C., $35.00 US for individuals, call 1-800-365-9753 to subscribe.

Now at Volume 72, this journal has been covering the key developments in education for many years. What makes it especially useful for researchers and teachers taking courses is that it is well-indexed and abstracted in most of the leading services, such as ERIC and CIJE. This makes it easy to find relevant articles in your subject area.

The Clearing House is not an appealing looking publication by modern standards, but the content is broad and solid. Recent articles have included pieces on portfolios, teaching in block periods and reflective classroom cultures.

Educational Leadership

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Monthly Sept – May, except bimonthly Dec/Jan, ASCD, Alexandria, VA, $49.00 US membership, 1-800-933-2723.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development puts out three publications which are received as part of a basic membership. They include this title (eight issues), Educational Update (eight issues) and Curriculum Update (four issues).

If you are researching educational issues, or simply looking at a new subject area of interest to you, you’ll find this title coming up again and again in your search. They cover a wide range of levels and topics, and all the major indexing services pick up Educational Leadership in their coverage.

wpe12.jpg (10612 bytes)Monthly except July/August, PDK International Inc., Bloomington, IN, $39.00 US, 1-800-766-1156.

Phi Delta Kappan

Standing at Volume 81, this title is one of the elders of educational journals. If you wonder what’s brewing south of the border – and possibly coming to a school near you – Kappan covers it. It’s highly readable, well laid out and addresses the full range of issues.

Urban schools and violence, tinkering with TIMSS or exchange teaching in New Zealand – it’s all in this journal. Kappan is picked up by all the educational indexing services.


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Teaching Pre K–8

Eight issues, Early Years, Inc., Boulder. CO, $28.97 US, 1-800-678-8793.

You might remember this periodical as Early Years, its former title. This publication is a great source of ideas and inspiration for the early years teachers. Making local history come alive, motivating the unmotivated student and helping children through early adolescence are just a few of the topics tackled in a recent issue.

A really useful feature of this journal is the activities pages, now included in each issue. These are practical suggestions that you can use in your classroom tomorrow, explained by teachers who are using them today.

Teacher Development: an international journal of teachers’ professional development

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Three issues annually, Triangle Journals, Oxfordshire, UK, $55.00 US, e-mail Journals@triangle.co.uk

A new name on the scene, but a promising one with a world-wide focus on PD. Almost a book, with over 150 pages per issues, with no illustrations or advertising to speak of.

Each article is preceded by a detailed abstract, to help you in ascertaining the relevance of the article to your area of interest. Given the in-depth nature of this journal, this is a very useful feature.

The latest issue covered such topics as teacher professionalism, teacher in-volvement in school policy-making, and the importance of a general teaching council.

Christopher Ball manages the College library.