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

Stories, education, action

The Writing Circle

by Sylvia Gunnery   

A strong emphasis on teaching kids to read means that writing instruction sometimes gets left behind. As a practical guide to collaborative coaching, The Writing Circle helps adjust that imbalance.

Paralleling the more well-known literature-circle model, in writing circles students submit their written work to peers for discussion and analysis in order to improve and enhance the quality of their writing.

This excellent resource suggests how to set up writing groups and establish routines while students are working. It includes many sample writing lessons with specific learning goals and ways of embedding writing into a comprehensive literacy program.

Gunnery offers exemplary ideas on teaching students to make constructive suggestions and proposes clear guidelines for teachers to ensure that students talk in a positive and accountable way during group sessions.

In writing circles, students can connect reading to writing by being active participants in each other’s process. Teachers get the added bonus of observing and advising the groups as discussion takes place.

The Writing Circle, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2007, ISBN 978-1-55138-217-3, softcover, 96 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807 ,

Michelle Foltarz is a literacy improvement project teacher for Grades K–6 in Hamilton.

Students First

(with CD)

by Anne Arthur, Anita Campbell, Nancy Stairs and Nicole M. Watson

The students who attend our schools are highly individualistic. Inundated by new technologies, they are constantly experimenting with a multiplicity of identities (often online). At the same time they are sorting through personal-responsibility and social-justice issues in an ever-changing world. These conditions deeply affect how students learn and how much satisfaction they will derive from the learning experience.

Students First addresses the often contradictory and baffling forces at work in our classrooms today. It is organized into four main sections – classroom organization, curriculum planning, evaluation, and providing alternatives to the regular classroom program. The emphasis on critical thinking, character education and effective classrooms is evident throughout and reflects current Ministry of Education initiatives. Contemporary pedagogical approaches are also featured, such as criterion-referenced assessment and community-based learning. An edgy layout, attractive graphic design and the inclusion of a resource CD round out the package.

Students First is an ideal resource for any educator looking for both a wide-lens theoretical perspective on today’s diverse youth and practical tools for creating interactive, democratic and nurturing classrooms.

Students First: Creating Dynamic Classrooms, OSSTF/FEESO, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-0-920930-65-6, softcover with CD, 113 pages, $30 for members, tel 1-800-267-7867,

Holly Dougall is a secondary school teacher in Tecumseh.

Reading, Writing and Rhythm-e-tic

(CD and booklet)

by J. Paul Adams, Mary Lou Sicoly and George Brasovan

An impressive array of musical styles and rhythms is used in this latest CD offering from Kidz Kidding, designed to activate and enrich student learning in three key subject areas – reading, writing and mathematics.
This CD provides the  promise of a fun learning experience. Students will be hopping and bopping to the beat in no time – all the while absorbing the music’s pedagogical content.

In addition to the CD and lyrics, a teacher resource booklet with lesson-plan modules, reproducible handouts and cross-curricular links and connections is included. I highly recommend this gem as a supplementary resource for all primary classrooms.

Reading, Writing and Rhythm-e-tic, Music Machine Productions, Unionville, 2007, UPC 8-29982-09971-6, CD (78 minutes) and resource booklet (47 pages), $27.95, tel 905-477-9492,,

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

Tales from the Principal’s Office

by Marilyn Hogg and Marilyn Merler

The roles of the school principal and vice-principal are not static. These administrators are relentlessly adapting to the demands of staff, students and the parent community. At the same time, they are charged with ensuring that their schools run smoothly. These often conflicting obligations mean that they must be good decision makers as well as creative problem solvers.

Hogg and Merler clearly recognize the challenges. The format of their book is straightforward – 32 case studies whose topics range from racism to supervision are laid out for consideration. Each case study is followed by a series of probing questions aimed at promoting collegial discussion and engagement.

Focusing on a thorough and critical examination of the disparate issues presented in the case studies, the book offers a glimpse into the complexities of the administrator’s role. It also suggests practical ways to apply personal knowledge and experience by solving common problems faced by principals and vice-principals every day.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone contemplating a move to an administrative role in an elementary school. The highly relevant case studies afford opportunities to engage in discussions with colleagues. More importantly, the book reminds us that no principal or vice-principal is ever alone in the decision-making process. Help is always available in finding solutions to difficult situations.

Tales from the Principal’s Office, Pacific Educational Press, Vancouver, 2007, ISBN 978-1-89576686-8, softcover, 143 pages, $21.95, distributed by Georgetown Terminal Warehouses, tel 905-873-2750,,

Ken MacKinnon is the vice-principal at Tom Longboat Junior Public School in Toronto.

Teaching Kids with Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom

by Myles L. Cooley

This year, 500,000 children in Ontario will struggle with mental-health problems. That means that 20 per cent or one of five students in your classroom will have trouble with self-control, mood or socializing that will interfere not only with their learning but with your ability to teach them.

This book is designed to help teachers learn how to recognize, understand and help those students. In part one, Cooley, a practising psychologist, offers a wealth of practical and proven strategies for fostering social development and motivating students to learn.

Part two examines more than 20 mental-health and learning disorders, describes their symptoms and behaviours, suggests classroom strategies and interventions, and notes the professional treatments available for each. Mental-health disorders – from anxiety to obsessive-compulsive, panic and post-traumatic disorders – are analyzed as well as learning disorders in reading, math and writing and non-verbal learning disabilities. Other sections of the book look at attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, self-injury, tic and eating disorders, and there is an exhaustive list of resources, including references to the latest studies and research on these subjects.

Teaching Kids with Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom: How to Recognize, Understand, and Help Challenged (and Challenging) Students Succeed, Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57542-242-8, softcover, 224 pages, $34.95, tel 1-800-735-7323,,

Elda Fredette is a Special Education resource teacher in Oakville.

Mr. Bach Comes to Call


by Classical Kids

Mr. Bach Comes to Call opens with the launch of Voyageur II into space, all to the strains of the composer’s music. Underscoring the music’s value as the best of earth’s culture is the spaceship’s inclusion of the Golden Disk mounted on the side of the probe. The scene then shifts to a present-day child awkwardly practising her Minuet in G on the piano and Bach’s unexpected arrival at her house. The venerable composer reveals to her tidbits of his life that are likely to strike modern children as odd, like the fact that he did a stint in prison and had 20 children. He then explains his peculiarities in the context of his life and music.

The ploy of the omniscient narrator telling the ignorant innocent what she needs to know about the music is rendered tolerable by a very amiable Bach. What really takes centre stage, though, are the extensive selections of Bach’s music from the Brandenburg concertos, orchestral suites, fugues and religious works, all of which honour his diversity and genius.

The DVD has earned two Emmy award nominations and is an admirable effort at sparking children’s interest in classical music. Included with it is a teacher’s guide offering cross-curricular activities for K–8 students.

Mr. Bach Comes to Call (DVD), The Children’s Group, Pickering, 2007, 54 minutes, $21.98, tel 905-831-1995 or 1-800-757-8372,

Fred DuVal is a program officer with the Ontario College of Teachers and a former secondary school teacher.

Money, Money, Money

by Eve Drobot

This book is full of fun and interesting facts about the history of money, currency, investing and technology that can help teachers add interest to various related topics. Some of the book’s segments would be excellent jumping-off points for projects or discussion topics, while others are more instructional and informative.

The topics in the book could be applicable for students from Grades 2 to 12. My Grade 11 math students found excerpts interesting, entertaining and thought provoking. While math teachers would probably find this book most useful, it could also be a valuable resource for history, social studies and business classes.

Money, Money, Money contains a wealth of information that would be difficult to replicate through any amount of individual research. It is an excellent resource for teachers across a wide range of grades and subjects.

Money, Money, Money: Where It Comes From, How to Save It, Spend It and Make It, Maple Tree Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1-897066-11-9, softcover, 96 pages, $19.95, distributed by Raincoast Books, tel 1-800-663-5714, fax 1-800-565-3770,,

Lisa Davies is a Grades 9 to 12 mathematics teacher in Peterborough.

Our New Home

edited by Emily Hearn and Marywinn Milne

This collection of stories written by immigrant children is a window into understanding the immigrant experience from a child’s point of view. Written by children age seven to 13, the stories describe their excitement and sadness when leaving their homeland and their experience of learning a new language while adjusting to a new culture, climate and education system.

The book is divided according to the themes of the children’s writing. Each section begins with their names and countries of origin and ends with their delightful drawings. It could be used in conjunction with a variety of curriculum topics. Besides the obvious subjects of immigration and multiculturalism, it might be a catalyst for exploring the topics of feelings, bullying and racism. Many of the children write about how they were bullied because of their differences.

One small problem is that, although the spelling has been corrected, the grammar has not, and a few of the chapters may be difficult to understand. However, the messages remain loud and clear so that would not be a reason to avoid it. Highly recommended for Grades 2 to 5.

Our New Home: Immigrant Children Speak, Second Story Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1-897187-32-6, softcover, 132 pages, $13.95,,

Margaret Grift is a library consultant in Brampton.

From Boneshakers to Choppers

by Lisa Smedman

The whiff of speed, danger and excitement are all in store for the motorcycle enthusiast in From Boneshakers to Choppers. From its early beginnings in the 1800s, the motorcycle has been celebrated in books and movies and worshipped by various social groups.Chapter headings such as Bad Boys on Bikes and Going to Extremes will lure the young reader through the entire book.
Smedman explores the role of the motorcycle during World War I and the early years of the partnership between Harley and the Davidson brothers, taking readers on a ride through the rollicking history of the much-loved machine.

With a catchy title and glossy photos, the book will leap into the hands of even the most reluctant readers but is best suited to those 12 years and older. Graphic language and information concerning gang behaviour may not be suitable for a younger reader.
Outstanding photographs, old posters and advertisements lend authenticity to the longevity of the public obsession with this two-wheeled machine. Boneshakers would be an excellent resource for an individual research project or for young adult enthusiasts.

arrow From Boneshakers to Choppers: The Rip-Roaring History of Motorcycles, Annick Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1-55451-015-3, softcover, 124 pages, $14.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

Laura Barron is a teacher-librarian in Brampton.

bookIn the Land of the Jaguar

by Gena K. Gorrell
illustrated by Andrej Krystoforski

Gorrel’s stunning historical and geographical overview of South America and its people offers fascinating snippets about the politics, religion and culture of each country. For example, did you know that the city of Cayenne in the Guianas gave its name to cayenne peppers? Facts of this sort are scattered throughout.

The illustrations by Andrej Krystoforski provide an outstanding visual accompaniment to a fascinating text. This book would make a great addition to any high school world-history or geography course.

arrow In the Land of the Jaguar: South America and Its People, Tundra Books, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-0-88776-756-2, hardcover, 160 pages, $28.99, tel 416-598-1114, fax 416-598-7764,,

Pina Zappone is a Core French teacher with the York Catholic DSB.

Mirror with a Memory

by Janice Weaver

This book brings Canadian history vividly to life through photographs compiled from archives across Canada. It is organized into seven topical sections – early Canadian history, Canada in times of trouble, transportation, Canada at war, natural and man-made disasters, sports and recreation, and the development of Canada as a country.

While far from comprehensive, the book offers numerous unique and evocative glimpses into historical life in Canada.

It could be used in connection with many curriculum areas: the Canadian railway, Great Depression, Riel rebellion, war, science and technology, geography, women’s suffrage, transportation, sports, physics (check out the collapsed bridge on page 105), Québec separatism and inventions. This is the kind of book that invites leisurely browsing while offering a unique opportunity to learn more about Canada.

Mirror with a Memory: A Nation’s Story in Photography, Tundra Books, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-0-88776-747-0, hardcover, 159 pages, $29.99, tel 416-598-1114, fax 416-598-7764,,

Margaret Grift is a library consultant in Brampton.

Ballplayers and Bonesetters

by Laurie Coulter
illustrated by Martha Newbigging

This is the third book in a series that explores what people did in other places at other times. This one offers 100 jobs you might have had if you’d been an Aztec or Mayan during the centuries leading up to and beyond Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.

Ballplayers and Bonesetters, Annick Press, Toronto, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55451-140-2, softcover, 96 pages, $16.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

For past reviews, visit the archives.

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