In this issue

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

Disrupting Class

by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson

This insightful book challenges teachers to think about education in a radically different way so they can effect positive change within their schools. It suggests that the old paradigm of teacher-directed classrooms no longer works in this technologically advanced society and that teachers must create more student-centred learning by “disrupting” their classrooms.

The authors argue that rather than seeing technology as a threat to learning, teachers should incorporate it into classroom pedagogy. They offer many case-study examples along with data and insights on how to manage and implement disruptive innovation in our schools so that students will be able to compete in the global marketplace.

This is a challenging read but also a very important one. It offers new perspectives and opens up new possibilities. For any teacher interested in exploring contemporary theories and perspectives in education, this is a must read!

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, McGraw-Hill, Whitby, 2008, ISBN 978-0-07-1592-062, hardcover, 238 pages, $35.95,
tel 1-800-565-5758,,

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

Swahili for Beginners

by Lisa Joyal

Swahili for Beginners tells the story of 13-year-old Georgie Wilde, who dreams of great adventures and even greater social engagement with the wider world. When Georgie begins exchanging letters with Ellie, an African pen pal, she develops a powerful desire to visit her in her small Tanzanian village. Parents and circumstances conspire against her until one day, she hatches a plan.

The girls’ correspondence is fascinating and may inspire students to explore the social context of the story. The many themes – Internet safety, homelessness, eating disorders, divorce, poverty, globalization, social justice, activism and more – are given critical consideration without getting preachy about it. Even though the issues may seem overwhelming in their complexity, the material is presented in a hopeful and positive light.

Author Lisa Joyal, an assistant crown attorney in Toronto, has constructed a moving novel that could motivate journal writing, research, discussions and activism. It would make an excellent cross-curricular study for language arts, media literacy and social studies in junior grades.

Swahili for Beginners is a winner of the silver 2008 Nautilus Book Award, which recognizes books that contribute to positive social change, spiritual growth, conscious living and responsible leadership.

Swahili for Beginners, Sumach Press, Toronto, 2007, ISBN 978-1-894549-69-1, softcover, 200 pages, $10.95, tel 416 531-6250,,

Nadira Baksh is a junior-grades teacher with the Peel DSB.

The Poetry Experience

by Sheree Fitch and Larry Swartz

Childhood verse leaves a lingering imprint on us. That’s because poetry is “word music” that makes intrinsic sense to our hearts and spirits – it speaks to our deepest emotional selves. The Poetry Experience is an excellent resource designed to help both elementary and secondary school teachers convey to their students the rich textures and rhythms of poetic language and launch them on the process of expression through the writing of poetry.

The authors begin with suggestions to encourage students to think about the influence of verse on their lives. That is followed with a 10-day teaching timetable to ensure that all elements of poetry read reading and writing are covered. To foster critical and creative thinking, careful attention to personal reflection is emphasized. This, along with the assessment checklist, offers the beginning teacher a ready-to-implement language-arts unit in poetry.

The Poetry Experience: Choosing and Using Poetry in the Classroom, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55138-223-4, softcover, 32 pages, $12.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,,

Dorothea Bryant is a retired teacher who currently works as a student-teacher supervisor for the University of Windsor’s faculty of education.

No Girls Allowed

by Susan Hughes
illustrated by Willow Dawson

I am a novice at reading graphic novels. But I immediately warmed to the format once I started No Girls Allowed, a boldly illustrated book about seven women in history who dared to live life on their own terms – as men.

The book starts in the Egypt of 1,500 BC, when Hatshepsut transformed her public self into a man so that she could rule her country as pharaoh. It then moves to China where, in 600 AD, Mulan (you may recognize the story from the animated Disney movie) fought in her father’s place as a brave and distinguished warrior.

Princess Alfhild became the Viking captain of a pirate fleet in the 9th century. Esther Brandeau, a French Jew, became a chronicler on ships in New France. In 1910, Margaret Buckley changed into James Barry so she could study medicine in Great Britain. Ellen Craft, an American slave in the 19th century, disguised herself as a white man so she could flee the US with her darker slave husband (she pretended she was the master). Finally, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman joined the Union army and fought bravely, as a man, in the American Civil War.

The book reminds us that women could not vote in Canada until 1917 or get a pilot’s licence until 1928 or become a NASA astronaut until 1977. It is filled with adventure and tension and will appeal to girls in Grades 6 to 8.

No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure, Kids Can Press, Toronto, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55453-178-3, softcover, 80 pages, $8.95, tel 416-925-5437, tel 1-800-265-0884,

Elda Fredette is a Special Education resource teacher with the Halton Catholic DSB.

Yes, but … if they like it, they’ll learn it!

by Susan Church, Jane Baskwill and Margaret Swain

As teachers, we face numerous challenges in responding effectively to the needs of each and every student in our classrooms. This book creates a framework for developing a curriculum that fosters active student engagement. Furthermore, by showing students various self-assessment techniques, it teaches them to recognize their own learning styles and needs.

The authors offer valuable insights into classroom assessment practices that support student learning and growth. They describe constructive ways in which teachers can meet the needs of their students while at the same time motivating them to want to learn and grow as individuals.

The book is based on decades of work in and out of the classroom. It is an exceptional tool for any teacher who struggles with the how of creating and sustaining authentic literacy in the classroom. Each chapter is framed by real-life examples from different grade levels illustrating strategies to enhance and improve literacy instruction.

This book provides an opportunity for teachers to reflect on their teaching styles and learning outcomes. It’s a must read for any teacher wanting to implement or enhance an active-learning literacy program in the classroom.

Yes, but…if they like it, they’ll learn it!, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2007, 1SBN 978-55138-211-1, softcover, 120 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,,

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

Balanced Mathematics

Grades 2-6

by Lee Sparling

Using the model of a balanced literacy program, this resource provides a comprehensive approach to mathematics-program implementation that focuses on concepts and acquiring strategies for effective problem solving. As in balanced literacy programs, students are assigned roles and responsibilities within a collaborative group. The approach allows teachers to differentiate instruction and to promote teamwork and communication skills.

Sample problems, as well as modified versions of the problems, meet a range of student abilities. To cultivate metacognitive reflection, students are required to explain their thinking about mathematical concepts and ideas by writing in math journals. Hands-on math games are incorporated to enhance strategic thinking skills. The teaching of math facts is also encouraged to help students develop conceptual comprehension. Blackline masters are supplied and rubrics are suggested for assessment purposes. An extensive list of math-related read-aloud books and a web site offer extra support for teachers.

Balanced Mathematic, Data Based Directions, Barrie, 2007, ISBN 978-1-894369-41-1, softcover, 97 pages, $59.95 (includes photocopy rights for the whole school), tel 1-800-765-6966,,

Sarah Lynn Frost Hunter is an early literacy teacher for primary students in the Peel DSB.

The Seventh Expert

by Mark Oakley
illustrated by John Mantha

If you have ever played SimCity with your classes, you will recognize The Seventh Expert, a decision-making game designed for Grade 4 students in Ontario studying medieval times. To play, teachers will need a classroom set of books, and I imagine it would work best in groups.

The medieval village in The Seventh Expert has six experts of the era – an engineer, a homestead elder, a master carpenter, a trapper, a blacksmith and a shoemaker. The reader is the seventh expert. Each expert possesses tools and, as the narrative unfolds and various threats confront the villagers, the reader can decide to buy more tools (everything from swords to horses to spinning wheels) to ameliorate the situation.

Similar to the game of Survivor, each group decides what tools it will use to solve the problem in the chapter, and then the groups can compare their progress in points each day or week. I tested this with Grades 3 and 4 students and to make our decisions more visible, we drew out our own village and put it up on the wall. Cards displaying the catalogue items and some medieval money would also be useful. The game itself is multidisciplinary, covering history, geography, math, drama and language arts.

I highly recommend it.

The Seventh Expert: The Interactive Medieval Adventure (game), Annick Press, Toronto, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55451-065-8, softcover, 96 pages, $14.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

Kara Smith is a junior-intermediate English-language arts teacher with the faculty of education at the University of Windsor.

Monks in Space

by David Jones

Set in a medieval Copernican Abbey that is adrift in solar orbit, Jones’s novel is filled with thrills and suspense. The action-packed adventure is supported by the author’s sophisticated knowledge of space-based science, offering the reader a real opportunity to check any preconceptions of what life might look like beyond our own atmosphere. What a terrific way to enrich the Grade 9 academic science unit on space. And what a wonderful opportunity to lead students toward the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test through the introduction of a science-based literacy activity.

The novel chronicles the struggle for survival as the Spaceship Monastery moves perilously close to the sun. But another struggle is increasingly apparent as the book’s 15-year-old protagonist, Bart, challenges himself to come up with a plan to save the ship and, in the process, is forced to grow up.

Filled with zero-gravity action, memorable characters and nail-biting tension, Monks in Space offers readers – especially fans of science fiction and fantasy – an unforgettable ride.

arrow Monks in Space: Trapped in a Fatal Orbit, Annick Press, Toronto, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55451-150-1, softcover, 248 pages, $10.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

Michael Hurd is a high school teacher and program leader of religious education in Kemptville.

12 Terrific History Tasks

by Kevin Goode

This is an excellent resource for intermediate history teachers to supplement the textbook. The 12 tasks relate directly to the three history topics for Grades 7 and 8 in the Ontario curriculum – two tasks for each topic.

All involve hands-on learning opportunities such as creating maps, designing clothes, developing newscasts and many others. The intention of each project is to foster in young Canadians a strong connection to their past and a desire to apply what they have learned to their current world.

For example, in the New France portfolio project, students are asked to research one of three different lifestyles of that time period and to then create a modern-day resumé based on their research.

The tasks are creative and highly relevant for each topic. The lesson plans include student handouts, assignment rubrics, integrated cross-curricular rubrics and accommodations/modifications. Despite having a few small reservations with the consistency of the formatting in the book, I would not hesitate to recommend it.

arrow 12 Terrific History Tasks: History Lessons for Grades 7 and 8 Teachers, Wintertickle Press, Barrie, 2007, ISBN 978-1-8948-1343-3, softcover, 78 pages, $22.95, tel 705-725-2596 or 1-800-810-9845,,

Maureen Doeler is a Grade 7 teacher with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic DSB.


Reconnecting Children through Outdoor Education

by Andrea Foster and Grant Limney

In this age of media saturation (much of which happens in front of a computer screen), it is imperative to remember the fundamental role that outdoor education plays in childhood development. This slim book reinforces all the studies showing that the outdoor environment is an essential framework for relating curriculum to real-life situations. But perhaps more critically, it forges lifelong tools for physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

The book contains hard data demonstrating that not only does outdoor education make sense both personally and pedagogically, but it promotes a proactive stewardship of the natural environment. It’s a reminder that all learning does not happen within a classroom’s four walls. I would recommend it to teachers, principals, administrators or anyone else who has a stake in the future of our children.

arrow Reconnecting Children through Outdoor Education: A Research Summary, Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario, 2007, softcover, 79 pages, $15.00, tel 905-877-3732,,

Majella Atkinson is a Grade 8 teacher with the Toronto Catholic DSB.

Creatures Yesterday and Today

by Karen Patkau

Patkau transports the reader to prehistoric times when many now-extinct creatures roamed the earth. Selecting members of various animal families – insects, fish, mammals, reptiles, birds and more – Patkau highlights both living animals and their prehistoric ancestors.

Young readers encounter many ancient animals along with their descendants – diplodocus and skylark, cameroceras and blue-ringed octopus, brontoscorpio and fat-tailed scorpions – and learn what links them across the ages. Clear, fact-filled, informative text is enhanced by strikingly simple illustrations that are coloured in vibrant shades of green, blue, purple, red and yellow. Map endpapers, a glossary, a geological timeline and a chart of the history of life round out the slim volume.

All of these features combine to make Creatures Yesterday and Today a welcome addition to any home or school library. Junior scientists will be thrilled with the information that paleontologists have gleaned from fossils and budding artists will be captivated by the almost-three-dimensional illustrations!

arrow Creatures Yesterday and Today, Tundra Books, Toronto, 2008, ISBN 978-0-88776-833-0, hardcover, 32 pages $22.99, 1-888-523-9292,,

Gail Lennon works with special needs children and is currently writing a novel for adolescent readers.

Looking Closely series

by Frank Serafini

In an age when children are attracted to glitzy generic images, this series of books compels readers of all ages to take a detailed look at the environments around them. The series has four titles: Looking Closely across the Desert, Looking Closely along the Shore, Looking Closely inside the Garden and Looking Closely through the Forest.

The stunning photographs of nature are excellent springboards for science and technology’s life-systems strand and rich language-arts resources for writing and book-making activities.

Children will be pulled into the power of these images and texts, whether they examine the desert, the shore, the garden or the forest. Close-up photos present natural elements in extreme detail and readers are asked to figure out what exactly they are looking at. Then a wider perspective is provided, revealing the subject matter, along with sidebars of informative text.

This series transports students on imaginary field trips to different environments and invites them to use all their powers of observation.

arrow Looking Closely series, Kids Can Press, Toronto, 2008, hardcover, each 39 pages, $16.95, tel 416-925-5437 or 1-800-265-0884,

Jennifer Wyatt is a Grade 4 teacher at Havergal College in Toronto.

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