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

Great advice and valued resources

It’s Critical!

by David Booth

This is a must-have book for teaching literacy. It offers a new look at what it means to read different kinds of texts critically – to question deeply and analytically in order to make sense of what you read.

The reading comprehension strategies reviewed integrate read-alouds and shared reading with questioning techniques aimed at prodding students to apply, synthesize and evaluate information. Booth has compiled an extensive list of higher-order thinking questions for a wide range of texts, from fairy tales, folk tales and picture books to web pages. He includes contributions from Canadian educators on how they moved their students toward higher-order thinking using media productions, graphic novels, blogs, classroom dramatization, visual arts and mathematics.

This resource is not a light read, but it does present a wealth of teaching strategies in specific areas of literacy. If we want students to engage in higher levels of thinking, we must be asking them higher-order questions. Booth encourages us to do just that with this outstanding book.

It’s Critical! Classroom Strategies for Promoting Critical and Creative Comprehension, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2008, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55138-228-9, 160 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,

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

Teaching with Intention

by Debbie Miller

Teacher and author Debbie Miller invites us into some exceptional classrooms she has visited during the past five years and challenges us with key questions about extraordinary places to learn: How does it look and sound? What animates the children? What is the teacher’s role?

In these classrooms, deep understanding and robust conversations are frequent events. The learning is rigorous and joyful. The students are fully engaged. Miller’s express purpose is to show that an effective classroom occurs because of a teacher’s intentional practice, guided by thoughtfulness, reflection, principles and values.

To be sure, this is not easy. Even the best teachers struggle to ensure that their classrooms reflect core convictions.

The first part of the book is devoted to a year-long process in which Miller defined her own beliefs about teaching and learning and scrutinized every aspect of her classroom, looking for consistency with her core values and finding many contradictions. The rest of the book is about appropriate action. Miller considers every facet of the physical and cultural environment for ways that promote student thinking. In her capable hands there is no mystery about what to do or how to get there. This book is about showing and telling. She reveals the magic.

Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning Practice, Taking Action, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2008, softcover, ISBN 978-1-57110-387-1, 149 pages, $25.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,

Nadira Baksh, OCT, is pursuing guidance specialist studies while on parental leave from the classroom.

Guidelines for the Design and Effective Use of Teacher Codes of Conduct

by Muriel Poisson

From one of the authors of Corrupt Schools, Corrupt Universities (2007) comes a step-by-step guide to designing and assessing teacher codes of conduct, enriched by examples from around the world.

Not surprisingly, a formal commitment to leadership, ongoing professional learning and professional knowledge and practice remains constant, no matter the nationality. But the language used for each nation’s code of ethics illustrates differences in approach. South Africa’s code, for example, contains a passionate plea to “acknowledge the noble calling of our profession” and to “uphold basic human rights.” Florida’s code of ethics and principles contains numerous “thou shalt nots,” capturing the state’s emphasis on moral education. The language of the Scottish code is closest to our own in Ontario.

Poisson provides a superbly organized chart distilling the many features of ethical codes worldwide. She summarizes how a government or an institution organizes feedback, adopts a code, implements it and then reviews and evaluates its impact – all in 22 pages of stellar research and concise information. Based on the recognition that any policy is useless without integrity, accountable management practices and social controls, the guidelines offer recommendations for evaluating the code of conduct in your school district.

The guidelines were developed from a 2009 Canadian International Development Agency workshop in Montréal on equity and integrity in education relationships and systems.

Guidelines for the Design and Effective Use of Teacher Codes of Conduct, International Institute for Educational Planning, Paris, 2009, softcover, ISBN 978-92-803-1336-9, 94 pages, 12 euros,, free download at

Kara Smith, OCT, is an English education researcher with the University of Windsor’s faculty of education and a language consultant with several boards of education in southwestern Ontario.

Leading with Trust

by Susan Stephenson

This attractive and easy-to-use book has workshop-ready activities that make it a practical resource for any education professional working on trust-building activities.

Leading with Trust follows a continuum model of distrust to trust. Each chapter considers a sampling of related research to provide a backdrop for the topic being covered and the activities presented. The reproducible resources offer valuable information to anyone seeking new insights into group dynamics. References are heavily focused on those connected with the book’s publisher, Solution Tree, which is a wide-ranging professional-development organization.

Trust is a much more involved topic than a one-two-three trust book can transmit, but given that limitation, it is an interesting blend of practitioner and research material.

Leading with Trust: How to Build Strong School Teams, Solution Tree Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2009, softcover, ISBN 978-1-934009-46-8, 251 pages, $34.95, tel 1-800-733-6786,

Tory Handford, OCT, is a program officer in the Accreditation Unit of the College. On leave from her position as principal at Mary Johnston PS in Waterloo, she is completing a doctoral thesis on trust and leadership at OISE/UT.

Leading and Learning

by Fred Steven Brill

The connection between our personal stories and our identities has long been explored in literature. More recently, the personal narrative is being considered within the realm of education. According to Fred Steven Brill, storytelling can nurture a reflective teaching practice and promote professional growth among school leaders (and I would argue teachers too).

Brill uses the narratives of graduates of the Principal Leadership Institute at UC Berkeley to illustrate the power of the story. Through the narratives, the reader is offered a deeper understanding of the complexity of the school leader’s role and how reflection on our moral core can influence our decision-making process.

As in many case-study texts that promote inquiry and reflective practice, Brill analyses the stories using questions and prompts. Ideally, in a professional learning community of school leaders, one member shares a story and then responds to listeners’ questions. Through storytelling, school leaders can become more than administrators. By opening themselves to making mistakes and learning from them, they can model the kind of fallibility necessary to build stronger communities of educators in their schools and beyond.

Leading and Learning: Effective School Leadership through Reflective Storytelling and Inquiry, Stenhouse Publishers, Portland, Maine, 2008, softcover, ISBN 978-1-57110-766-4, 168 pages, $24.95, distributed in Canada by Pembroke Publishers, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,

Jennifer Wyatt, OCT, is a Grade 6 core teacher at Havergal College in Toronto.

Performance Literacy through Storytelling

by Nile Stanley and Brett Dillingham

Just as some may say, “Grey is the new black,” it seems storytelling is the new “author’s chair” for language-arts classes.

An extraordinary strategy that includes every child in your classroom, storytelling is an intuitive form of human expression and experience that belongs in the language-instruction continuum. This book is a practical manual for language-arts teachers who are looking for fun curriculum-driven activities to spice up the day. It guides teachers through the stages and structure of oral stories and their evaluation and provides 15 model lessons developed for K–8 classrooms.

The how-to of storytelling is laid out for teachers along with concrete, beginning-to-end drafts, checklists, rubrics and resources for each grade. A CD with diverse model storytellers presenting interdisciplinary stories is included, as is a series of beginner-to-advanced storytelling lessons not only for language arts but for history, math, science, music and digital storytelling as well. I love this approach to cross-curricular learning through the arts. After all, what is the life cycle or the Battle of 1812 if not our story as humans and Canadians?

Performance Literacy through Storytelling, Maupin House Publishing, Gainesville, Florida, 2009, softcover, ISBN 978-1-934338-41-4, 122 pages, US$27.95, tel 1-800-524-0634,

Kara Smith, OCT, is an English education researcher with the University of Windsor’s faculty of education and a language consultant with several boards of education in southwestern Ontario.

Math Memories You Can Count On

by Jo-Anne Lake, OCT

Here is a guide to creating clear connections between children’s literature and mathematical understanding within the five mathematics strands in Ontario’s curriculum.

Jo-Anne Lake’s book encourages teachers to use Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett to teach the concepts involved in probability. She also shows how to employ math manipulatives, like spinners or dice, to support learning. The activities help students connect mathematical ideas to their own personal experience and show that mathematics is a natural element in stories, problems and cultural events.

The book includes a math discovery hub for each of the five math strands plus reproducible graphic organizers and a variety of assessment strategies to encourage high levels of learning. A detailed appendix of suitable children’s literature is included. I highly recommend that you add a copy to your library to ensure that you too will have Math Memories You Can Count On!

Math Memories You Can Count On: A Literature-Based Approach to Teaching Mathematics in Primary Classrooms, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2009, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55138-227-2, 128 pages, $24.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807,

Dorothea Bryant, OCT, is a retired educator who teaches language arts to Junior and Intermediate teacher candidates at the University of Windsor’s faculty of education.

Psychology for Kids

by Jonni Kincher

In this set of workbooks, Jonni Kincher brings psychology to students in the Junior and Intermediate grades.

In Volume 1, students embark on an engaging adventure to find out more about their own attitudes and how they think and learn. The adventure in self-knowledge helps students be true to themselves and better understand the choices and decisions they make.

Volume 2 invites teenagers to explore what makes people do what they do with games or experiments to sharpen their skills as observers of human nature.

The author includes a CD of reproducibles and practical ideas for integrating curriculum, current events and celebrations into the activities. The possibilities for these books in classrooms and school libraries are highly relevant and valuable.

Psychology for Kids – Volume 1: 40 Fun Tests That Help You Learn About Yourself, ISBN 978-1-57542-283-1 and Volume 2: 40 Fun Experiments That Help You Learn About Others, ISBN 978-1-57542-284-8, Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2008, softcover, each 132 pages, each US$21.95, tel 1-800-735-7323,

Nadira Baksh, OCT, is pursuing guidance specialist studies while on parental leave from the classroom.

One Beetle Too Many

by Kathryn Lasky
illustrated by Matthew Trueman

This exceptional biography begins with a very young and curious Charles Darwin exploring the fields around his home. When Darwin was eight, his mother died and his conformist father sent him to boarding school to ensure his academic success. But Darwin was a singularly poor student who was more interested in the natural world than he was in books. While a theology student at Cambridge, he met botanist John Henslow who recommended him for the position of naturalist on board the Beagle, a British naval ship set to survey South America.

This legendary voyage forms the centrepiece of the book. Kathryn Lasky recounts the perplexing contradictions that Darwin found on the trip and the questions he asked. Lasky also hints at some of Darwin’s conclusions. The detailed illustrations by Matthew Trueman beautifully enhance the text.

Although One Beetle Too Many has many attributes of a book for young children, I think it would be more suitable for students in Grades 7 through 12. Because of its focus on understanding biodiversity, it is an easy fit with the Senior science curriculum. Beyond its obvious science connections, it could be used as a springboard into the evolution-versus-creationism debate that has followed the publication of Darwin’s findings for the last 150 years.

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin, Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2009, hardcover, ISBN 978-0-7636-1436-2, 38 pages, $20.00, tel 905-624-0672,

Sandra Jack-Malik, OCT, is a third-year PhD candidate in Elementary education at the University of Alberta.

Traitors’ Gate and Other Doorways to the Past

by Claire Eamer

Traitors’ Gate takes a creative look at history from the unusual perspective of the doorway. In explaining her point of view, Claire Earner evokes memories of doorways that we ourselves have passed through – entering a classroom on the first day of school, crawling through a tent flap – and the resulting encounters and experiences. Earner notes that doorways can open or close and join or separate people. They can also lead to life or death.

The reader is taken through eight historical doorways: Traitor’s Gate in the Tower of London, Ak-Khazneh in Petra, Spruce Tree House in Colorado, Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu, the Holy Antechamber in Moscow, Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and the Meridian Gate in Beijing.

This is a beautiful book with colourful architectural images and a fascinating historical narrative that is easy to read. I highly recommend it.

Traitors’ Gate and Other Doorways to the Past, Annick Press, Toronto, 2008, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55451-144-0, 160 pages, $12.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

Catherine A. Jamieson, OCT, is Vice-Principal and a resource teacher at Emily C. General School on a Six Nations reserve in Oshweken.

The Hunchback Assignments

by Arthur Slade

This book is the first in an extraordinary new series that takes its readers into a place where science fiction meets up with the historical world of 19th-century London. According to the author, it falls within the genre of “steampunk” – taking place in a world where science has stopped at the steam age and referencing elements from Victorian classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Mr. Socrates, a member of the Permanent Association, finds Modo, an orphan hunchback child who can transform his appearance. Under Socrates’ tutelage, the child becomes a secret agent who must stop the mad scientist Dr. Hyde and his despicable associates from destroying Britain. The author combines historically accurate details with vivid scientific elements to create a unique story that will appeal to students who enjoy reading about the darker side of history.

The second instalment of this series cannot come soon enough!

The Hunchback Assignments, Harper Collins, New York, 2009, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55468-354-3, 275 pages, $18.99, tel 1-800-387-0117,

Maureen Doeler, OCT, teaches Grade 8 mathematics and science at Holy Cross School in Alcona.

Greener Grass

by Caroline Pignat, OCT

It is 1847 and the great famine has hit rural Ireland. Told through the eyes of young Kathleen Byrne, Greener Grass is the story of a family’s daily struggle for survival. It is a poignant tale of suffering, desperation and faith at a time when thousands were forced to uproot their families in search of a better life.

Loosely based on accounts of famine survivors, this gripping novel illustrates the daily strife of 19th-century farmers. The strength and willingness of the characters to help each other in the face of extreme hardship is inspirational. The author’s impeccable attention to detail explicitly conveys the stench of the potato blight, the blandness of watery cabbage soup, the sobs and screams of the workhouse and the desperation of trying to feed a hungry family from the hardscrabble dirt. This eloquently written piece of historical fiction is on my list of essential reading for Intermediate history students.

Greener Grass, Red Deer Press, Markham, 2008, softcover, ISBN 978-0-88995-402-1, 278 pages, $12.95, tel 1-800-387-9776, ext 225,,

Andrea Murik, OCT, is a Special Education resource teacher at Angus Morrison Elementary School with the Simcoe County DSB.


by Duncan Thornton

First in a four-book series called Vastlands, Shadow-Town is an entrancing story loosely based on the author’s memory of Manitoba’s Carberry Hills, where he spent many of his childhood summers. He declares those summers were the happiest times of his life, but given this eerie tale, set on the prairies during the bleakest years of the Depression, one has to one wonder why!

The story begins in the hills on the edge of the desert, where farmers have only the memory of comfort. Strange creatures threaten ruin. The sleeping sickness takes away whole families. At night, the whistle of the coffin train echoes. Shadows whisper threateningly. Sent away by their grandmother who fears she is catching the sleeping sickness, Rose and her cousin Jack meet an unpleasant boy named Tamlin. The three squabbling children eventually find their way to Shadow-Town, where they begin to understand why doom has settled over the hills and resolve to improve relations between the farmers and the murky whispers and shadows that surround them.

Shadow-Town would make an excellent novel for Intermediate grades and a great read-aloud story book for Junior-grade children.

Shadow-Town (Vastlands series), Annick Press, Toronto, 2008, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55451-162-4, 196 pages, $9.95, distributed by Firefly Books, tel 416-499-8412 or 1-800-387-6192,

Gail Lennon, OCT, is a teacher with 35 years experience in JK through university settings. She presently works for a tutoring business.