Your guide to recently released books, CDs and other teaching resources.
For additional reviews of French-language resources, visit Pour Parler Profession. With the exception of some classroom sets, items reviewed are available on loan from the Margaret Wilson Library at the College. Contact us at 416-961-8800 (toll-free in Ontario 1-888-534-2222), ext 679 or email email@example.com .
By Larry Swartz
Dramathemes delivers precisely on what the book’s full title promises. Drawing from his more than 30 years of working with teachers and students, Swartz has selected current, thought-provoking themes to demonstrate in clear, concise language how teachers can use literary topics to inspire children and make learning a series of thrilling discoveries. His literary sources range widely and include poetry, novels, picture books, plays, and even photographs.
This revised 4th edition offers students opportunities to interact with the material and with one another, both in role and out of role. Reading, writing, listening and discussion activities are organized into 10 themes. The diverse thematic content, along with the many new sources and strategies that engage with it, give students a wealth of choice for interacting, through drama, with the material. For example, the theme on sustainable environments focuses on still images. The drama exploration is creating a tableau. The source used is a picture book. Assessment profiles include self-assessment of the tableaux and developing comprehension through drama. If you are eager to explore literacy using drama and drama using literacy, then Dramathemes should be your go-to resource.
Gail Lennon is a writer and retired teacher with almost 40 years of teaching experience at all levels
Dramathemes: Classroom literacy that will excite, surprise, and stimulate learning, Pembroke Publishers, Toronto, 2014, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55138-300-2, 160 pages, $24.95, pembrokepublishers.com
By Steve Dembo and Adam Bellow
In Untangling the Web, authors Dembo (a former kindergarten teacher) and Bellow (a former high school teacher) have created a compendium of Web 2.0 tools that any teacher (kindergarten to Grade 12), regardless of skill and knowledge level, can implement with ease. A Web 2.0 tool allows one to generate content online, crafting raw material into something purposeful.
Most of the tools listed in the book are either free, or free with optional upgrades available for a fee. Many teachers may recognize the well-known web tools that are listed in the book, such as Edmodo, Skype and Kidblog, but they may not be aware of lesser- known ones like symbalooEDU (for streamlining research), WeVideo (video editing and collaboration) or Poll Everywhere (for engaging students in real time via text message).
The ever-shifting technological landscape challenges us to keep pace in our classrooms. And while there are many books out there on Web 2.0 tools, not all are written by teachers, for teachers. This book is a practical, easy-to-use reference full of fun ideas for the teacher-craftsperson in you. Dembo and Bellow present their vast knowledge of the web with a simplicity that could be transformative for teaching and transferrable to any learning context.
Anjana Thom, OCT, teaches a junior communications class with the Peel District School Board
Untangling the Web: 20 Tools to Power Up Your Teaching, Corwin, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2013, softcover, ISBN 978-1-4833-3320-5, 181 pages, US$29.95, corwin.com
By Robert E. Quinn, Katherine Heynoski, Mike Thomas & Gretchen M. Spreitzer
What are the attributes of effective teachers? You know, the ones who spark a passion for learning and set their students on a path to success. The Best Teacher in You is a self-help guide for teachers who want to become that teacher, but aren’t sure how to go about it.
The authors highlight the best practices of seven inspirational teachers who base their teaching on four key components: building relationships, continuous improvement, high expectations and a stable environment. Igniting a love of learning is the driving force behind their practices. Based on many years of research, the book rests its foundation on a number of pivotal questions that the researchers posed to these teachers. The questions are listed at the end, allowing readers to assess their own teaching practices in relationship to these exemplars.
The Best Teacher in You is suitable for veteran teachers who want to transform their classrooms into places where they — and their students — are fired up about learning. While this book could serve as a guide to excellence for student teachers, it would be equally valuable for more seasoned teachers and administrators seeking to shift the framework of their teaching.
A final thought: while the book is thought-provoking and packed with practical advice, its perspective is distinctly American, so not all of the material necessarily translates into the Canadian experience.
Mary Shaughnessy, OCT, is an adjunct instructor at Queen’s University in Kingston.
The Best Teacher in You: How to Accelerate Learning and Change Lives, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc., San Francisco, 2014, softcover, ISBN: 978-1-62656-178-6, 216 pages, US$19.95, bk-life.com
By Kathy Paterson
This is one of those teacher texts that is light on exposition but packed full of classroom activities. A former teacher and drama specialist, Paterson’s motivators may be familiar to those with a drama background, but are a useful addition for teachers who need scripts or outlines to help energize and focus their students. With over 200 activities, the book is organized in a variety of ways, including suggested curricular areas, types of exercise (calming, energizing, conversational, musical) and activities that need props or advance preparation.
Upon reviewing the activities, you’ll notice that many are variations on a theme. For example, if you scan through the “At Your Desks” section, you’ll notice that even though there are 20 activities listed, many rely on envisioning scenarios to help you guide students through imagination exercises. Successful use of a particular kind of exercise can be repeated within a different but related context for use on a different day.
The activities are quick and easy enough that they can be used in a wide variety of situations. Due to their natural rooting in drama pedagogy, the motivators have the same kind of positive impact on student engagement as is found in drama learning. These include group building and cohesion, mind and body awareness, stress relief, energy boosts, and increased focus. Regardless of your teaching experience, comfort level with drama or the age group of your students, 3-Minute Motivators will have something you can use immediately in your classroom that your students will enjoy and benefit from.
Joe Restoule General, OCT, is a district numeracy teacher with Six Nations Schools in Ohsweken.
3-Minute Motivators, Revised and Expanded Edition: More than 200 simple ways to reach, teach, and achieve more than you ever imagined, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, ON, 2014, softcover, ISBN 978-1-55138-295-1, 160 pages, $24.95, pembrokepublishers.com