Kids and Technology

Your guide to recently released books, CDs and other teaching resources. For additional reviews of French-language resources, click here. 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

Cultures, climates and more

Who's Who in Black Canada

Black Success and Black Excellence in Canada, a Contemporary Directory

by Dawn P. Williams
Reviewed by Brenda Dillon

Quick - what do Zanana Akande, Lincoln Alexander, Dudley Laws and Christopher Spence have in common? They're all included in Who's Who in Black Canada.

This combined directory and biographical dictionary is a valuable reference work, listing more than 700 individuals who are making a difference in communities across Canada. Biographies are arranged alphabetically and indexed by province and by primary activity (arts, business, education, for example). Each entry includes the individual's name, occupation/career, affiliations/memberships, education, heroes/role models, personal motto, honours, works and contact information. Although most entries are in English, some are in French. This 2002 edition is the first; a second is planned for 2005.

Who's Who in Black Canada represents an incredible amount of research and is a useful reference for biographical information. Teachers looking for mentors or guest speakers will find it very valuable. This book belongs in all public libraries and would be a useful addition to any school library. At the very least, teachers and teacher-librarians need to know this resource exists and where they can find it.

Who's Who in Black Canada, D.P. Williams & Associates, Toronto, 2002, ISBN 0-9731384-1-6, softcover, 421 pages, $45.98, tel 416-694-8149, fax 416-694-8920,

Brenda Dillon is the teacher-librarian at Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Practise! Practise! Practise!

A Readiness Guide to the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test

by Judith Hersh and Valerie Hume
Reviewed by David Ennis

Since the arrival of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), boards of education have been developing resources to enable teachers to prepare students for this graduation requirement. While some might raise questions about teaching "test wiseness," leaving kids "test unwise" is equally problematic.

Judith Hersh and Valerie Hume, both Masters of Education, have clearly chosen "test wiseness" as the lesser of two evils and have put together a highly analytic resource for teachers that removes any mystery about the nature and content of the OSSLT. The guide details the exact format of the OSSLT and presents sample readings, questions and strategies for each section of the test. Even the answers are provided to minimize any interpretation problems.

This is a comprehensive and thorough undertaking that would serve as a valuable resource, certainly for teachers of Grade 10 students, but also for any educator of students from Grades 7 to 12 as well as for teachers developing a program for the new Grade 12 literacy course. If there is one practical resource that can bolster a teacher's literacy program, this is it.

Could a student use this resource independently? Yes, if the student were strong and had missed instructional time because of illness or accident. Yes, if the student were highly motivated or working with a capable partner or tutor. However, the book is not a workbook for students who are at risk of failing because of a history of literacy gaps.

This book does not teach students to be motivated nor does it address the myriad social issues that have often contributed to students' literacy problems. Those challenges remain with the teacher. What teachers with compassion and concern for the dignity of students really want is a highly practical resource on which to build a meaningful literacy program. Hersh and Hume have delivered the goods.

Practise! Practise! Practise!, The Literacy Institute, Toronto, 2003, softcover, 162 pages, $24.95, tel 416-524-7807,

David Ennis is principal of John Dearness Public School in London.

Canadian Dinosaurs

by Elin Kelsey
Reviewed by Lillian Gilchrist

Dinosaur discoveries continue to fascinate people of all ages and this recent addition to the WOW Canada! series celebrates the dinosaur-rich heritage of North America.

Written with the junior-level reader in mind, the appeal of this resource lies in the intricate balance of captivating images, intriguing facts and invitations to ponder the life and times of these prehistoric creatures.

Canadian Dinosaurs is brimming with vibrant illustrations. It offers information on significant researchers in the field and explores multiple theories of extinction.

Students will learn about various past and recent discoveries under catchy content headings such as Digging It, The Dinosaur Dream Team and The Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush. There will be no shortage of fuel for the imagination.

A handy reference section lists types of dinosaurs found in Canada as well as major dinosaur and fossil destinations, a timeline of the dinosaur era, a glossary of terms and a listing of Canadian dinosaur institutions and web site contact information.

Whether as an enjoyable recreational read or source material for study projects, Canadian Dinosaurs is an excellent addition to any school or classroom library.

Canadian Dinosaurs (a WOW Canada! book), Maple Tree Press, Toronto, 2003, ISBN 1-894379-56-X, softcover, 96 pages, $19.95, tel 416-304-0702, ext. 309,

Lillian Gilchrist teaches elementary grades with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

At Geronimo's Grave

by Armand Garnet Ruffo

Bear Bones and Feathers

by Louise Bernice Halfe

Reviewed by umar umãngay

Indigenous peoples of Canada are part of our modern history and the framework of local identity. These books of poetry are a constructive resource for teachers in native studies, and for English and history classes at the senior secondary level. They may be used for reading out loud or silently, and to lead in-class discussions on healing, aesthetics and self-expression.

Duality, spirituality, the sensations of place and relations to family and nature are common themes, but each book is unique in style.

Armand Ruffo's At Geronimo's Grave works to bridge past and present. There is a historical bent to the writing. Inferences and comparisons dot the written landscape along pathways that need further exploration and reflection. The book is divided into four sections, in which several exceptional poems - Drum Song, World View and Dance to Hold On - evoke the healing power of words and the passion of aboriginal identity.

Louise Bernice Halfe's Bear Bones and Feathers provides playful rhythms, frankness and humour. There are mature themes and cadences - well suited for senior-level courses dealing with contemporary voices. Her work is powerful, inspirational and honest.

Whether for use in class or for one's own reading pleasure, these books of poetry by aboriginal authors are enlightening and thought provoking.

At Geronimo's Grave, 2001, ISBN 1-55050-176-3, softcover, 111 pages, $14.95 / Bear Bones and Feathers, 1994, ISBN 1-55050-055-4, softcover, 129 pages, $9.95, Coteau Books, Regina, tel 306-777-0170, fax 306-522-5152,

umar umãngay teaches native studies at Queen's University's faculty of education. He is also assistant professor in aboriginal education at OISE/UT.

After the Beep

A Drama about Youth Gambling (Video)

by Bridget Lamberts, Lily DeMiglio and Carla Barreiro, Mount St. Joseph College, Sault Ste. Marie
Reviewed by Brenda Dillon

Student gambling is a growing concern for teachers and school administrators. After the Beep is designed to help bring the problem into the open and promote discussion among teens.

This video version of a play written by three high school students tells the story of four first-year university students. One student on an athletic scholarship, while rooming with a heavy gambler, is drawn into gambling and finds himself losing a great deal more than money.

Students used to the production values of television might relate better to the stage production than the video. But that said, if staging After the Beep is not realistic, the video is a useful alternative.

The facilitator's guide suggests curriculum links to guidance and career programs, English, drama, mathematics, economics, business, health and physical education, history and other social sciences. Ontario high schools might want to incorporate After the Beep into the Teacher Advisor Program. The Guide includes lesson plans, teaching strategies, information about responsible and problem gambling, and information about accessing further resources and help.

After the Beep (video), Responsible Gambling Council Ontario, Toronto, 2002, 22 minutes, single copy free to every Ontario secondary school upon request, $49.95 for second copies or copies for other organizations, tel 416-499-9800, toll-free 888-391-1111, fax 416-499-8260,

Brenda Dillon is the teacher-librarian at Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Staying Alive

Real Poems for Unreal Times

Edited by Neil Astley
Reviewed by Michael Reist

Poetry can be one of the most difficult things to teach. Even though we may appreciate a good poem, we may end up dissecting it as though it were a frog - and frogs, as we all know, are meant to croak, not to be dissected.

Another problem for teachers is finding good contemporary poems. Many are undecipherable - intelligible only to a small audience of poets working in the same style.

A few years ago a collection of poetry was published in England that took that country by storm - unusual for a poetry collection. The editor, Neil Astley, had been a poetry editor for over 30 years and grew frustrated with the state of modern poetry as the reserve of a few initiates and seemingly without responsibility to its readers. He put together this collection of 500 poems from Shakespeare to contemporary poets that readers, dare I say it, can relate to. This does not mean they are easy poems; they are accessible poems. These are poems "for people who know they love poetry, and for people who think they don't." This anthology is now available in North America.

The introductory essay alone is worth the price of the book as it explains what has happened to poetry in the past 50 years. The book is divided by themes and has an excellent appendix, which includes a thoughtful essay on The Sound of Poetry and a useful glossary of terms.

This is a book to keep on your desk - to draw from for class discussion or even to lend to those aspiring poets found in every teacher's classroom.

Staying Alive, Hyperion/Miramax Books, New York, 2003, ISBN 140135926-4, softcover, 496 pages, $24.95, Canadian orders H.B. Fenn & Company, tel 905-951-6600, toll-free in Canada 800-267-3366

Michael Reist is head of the English department at Robert Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon East, Ontario.

The Best Teacher I Ever Had

by Alex C. Michalos
Reviewed by David Ennis

Membership in the Royal Society of Canada, founded in 1882, is a privilege of the most learned of Canadian scholars, artists and scientists. The mandate of the Society is to "promote learning and research, as well as to recognize remarkable contributions in the humanities and sciences." It comes as no surprise that a Fellow of the Royal Society should undertake to ask his colleagues to write briefly about "the best teacher I ever had."

Alex C. Michalos has served well as editor for the replies of 124 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada to what one might view as a simple request. Their responses, however, are frequently quite academic and factual. Only on rare occasions, does one feel the emotions of those who trace their success to another revered scholar. These are not the readable "remarkable teacher" stories found in Professionally Speaking that remind us of our purpose and potential as educators. These scholars are most certainly in a league of their own, and reading their stories is hard work.

In the introduction, Michalos identifies common attributes. Great teachers work on great principles - a deep professional knowledge, a commitment to high standards, a devotion to the wellbeing of the students, the capacity to persevere against great odds, a personal commitment to learn and model, and more. These attributes resonate with all who are committed to teaching.

This is a tough read. Consider it.

The Best Teacher I Ever Had, The Althouse Press, London, Ontario, 2003, ISBN 0-920354-53-X, softcover, 294 pages, $28.85, tel 519-661-2096, fax 519-661-3833,

David Ennis is principal of John Dearness Public School in London.

Getting Beyond "I Like the Book"

Creating Space for Critical Literacy in K-6 Classrooms

by Vivian Vasquez
Reviewed by John MacDonald

Getting Beyond "I Like the Book" shows how to use print material to facilitate higher-order thinking skills in students. Case studies provide examples of how students can be encouraged to move beyond reading comprehension and response toward reflective questioning and critique.

Texts are chosen for their functional value and not, as is so often the case, according to levelling criteria.

Vasquez recounts that some of the students in her kindergarten class felt marginalized because they did not see themselves in the school library's books. Her students wrote a letter to the librarian expressing their concern and the librarian attempted to rectify the problem.

This is an important text for the Canadian/Ontario educator and even more so since specific recommendations in the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession are reflected in the book's general spirit and specific ideologies.

Some teachers may disagree with Vasquez's proposition that students should be encouraged to think that social action naturally follows from social-policy disagreement. However, this book will be of interest because it illustrates how using analogies when exploring issues augments students' ability to construct meaning based on their own life knowledge.

Getting Beyond "I Like the Book," International Reading Association, Newark, Delaware, 2003, ISBN 0-87207-512-5, softcover, 108 pages, US$17.95, tel 302-731-1600, fax 302-731-1057,

John MacDonald teaches Grade 5 at Dallington Public School in Toronto.

Teachers as Readers

Perspectives on the Importance of Reading in Teachers' Classrooms and Lives

Edited by Michelle Commeyras, Betty Shockley Bisplingshoff and Jennifer Olson
Reviewed by Susan Elliott-Johns

This book documents the outcomes of a unique graduate seminar offered at the University of Georgia to teachers "interested in having reading lives apart from their teaching lives."

Nineteen women readers who teach met for 15 weeks and explored how their personal reading mattered to their teaching and how their teaching lives mattered to their reading.

All participants responded to the question: What is the potential of a teacher's personal reading for enhancing teaching in general and teaching reading and language arts in particular? The resulting essays make for fascinating reading. Contributors come from various teaching situations (pre-kindergarten, elementary schools, middle schools and universities) and have a range of approaches and insights.

The book culminates in 13 proposals for enhancing teaching effectiveness. These include: informing students of new vocabulary they've learned through reading, sharing how they choose their reading materials and revealing questions they had when they read.

As someone who has long been a passionate advocate for the positive effects that our own literacy can have on our students, I applaud this highly readable and motivational text. I also hope that faculties of education a little closer to home than the University of Georgia will consider offering similar courses for in-service teachers here in Ontario.

Teachers as Readers, International Reading Association, Newark, Delaware, 2003, ISBN 0-87207-006-9, softcover, 184 pages, US$20.95, tel 302-731-1600, fax 302-731-1057,

A former principal in Ontario, Susan Elliott-Johns now lives in Prince Edward Island, where she works as a teacher educator and literacy consultant.

Grey Owl

The Mystery of Archie Belaney

by Armand Garnet Ruffo
Reviewed by Laura Barron

Armand Garnet Ruffo, a poet of Ojibway heritage, blends historic fact with personal perspective to create a poetic journal in the voice of Grey Owl - one of Canada's most famous imposters.

Grey Owl - Archie Belaney - spent most of his adult life in Canada living as an aboriginal. Famous for his writings about the wilderness and a champion for wildlife conservation, Belany attempted to persuade industry and government to protect the Canadian wilderness.

Belaney's story is full of contradiction and controversy. Following his death in 1938, it was revealed that he was not in fact native.

The reader is encouraged to experience both sympathy and disdain for this elaborate fake and to question whether he was justified in his mis-representation to promote the cause for conservation.

This text would be suitable for a junior-intermediate audience, providing a good viewpoint for discussing and researching the life and causes of a Canadian icon.

Grey Owl, Coteau Books, Regina, 2003, ISBN 1-55050-109-7, softcover, 214 pages, $14.95, tel 306-777-0170, fax 306-522-5152,

Laura Barron teaches at Fernforest Public School, Peel Board of Education.

Teaching about Climate Change

Cool Schools Tackle Global Warming

Edited by Tim Grant and Gail Littlejohn
Also available in French under the title, Des idées fraîches à l'école
Reviewed by Veronica Moloney

Teaching About Climate Change provides a wealth of activities and resources and a framework for teaching fundamental concepts through concrete lessons and programs.

The core of the book is an array of activities for all ages designed to raise awareness and promote ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under five headings, 26 North American authors and organizations offer fascinating activities, supported with photos and references. This is an excellent resource for teachers and the wider school community.

Teaching About Climate Change, Green Teacher, Toronto, 2001, ISBN 086571-437-1, softcover, 73 pages, $15.95, tel 416-960-1244, fax 416-925-3474,

Veronica Moloney teaches Grades 7 and 8 for the Toronto Catholic District School Board.