Professionally SpeakingThe Magazine of the Ontario College of Teachers
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Governing Ourselves


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

Reading, teaching, bugs and more

Starting with Stories

Engaging Multiple Intelligences through Children's Books

by Pam Schiller and Pat Phipps

(book cover)Through the use of stories, Pam Schiller and Pat Phipps aim to engage children of every learning style. The premise is that by connecting children's multiple intelligences through creative math, drama, music, art and language activities, teachers motivate students to explore the magic of good literature.

Backed by their extensive experience in early childhood education, the authors present more than 1,500 activities connected to such children's classics as Brown Bear, Brown Bear; Chicka Chicka Boom; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; Make Way for Ducklings; and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears.

The authors advise teachers to select a book from the list, read it with students and then, through learning centres, broaden student learning. Suggested activities involve reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, constructing, calculating and scientific investigating.

Each book selection has a paragraph explaining the thinking skills used. Each concludes with a list of additional books and a “thinking about what we learned” section.

An invaluable appendix offers suggestions for family activities: a parents' list of 100 children's books; patterns for Venn diagrams, word webs and story pyramids; action stories; rhymes; fingerplays; and cooking-centre projects.

Any creative teacher with lots of time could come up with the activities included in this book. However, the 1,500 varied activities are a treasure trove of time savers for busy educators. Starting with Stories would make an excellent gift for a new teacher or a good inclusion in a professional library.

Starting with Stories, Gryphon House, Beltsville, Maryland, 2006, ISBN 978-0-87659-297-7, softcover, 256 pages, $34.95, distributed in Canada by Monarch Books, tel 416-663-8231, fax 416-736-1702 or 1-800-404-7404,

Gail Lennon teaches distance-education online courses for adults with the Bluewater DSB.

More Primary Literacy Centers

Making Reading and Writing Stick!

by Susan Nations & Mellissa Alonso

(book cover)Whether you are a novice teacher just implementing literacy centres or a seasoned veteran using them successfully, this book has something for you.

Part One deals with the theory of setting up centres and provides tips for using them effectively in the classroom.

In Part Two, theory and practice merge. Part Two has eight sections, each focusing on a specific reading or writing strategy. Each lesson has a clear focus on one or more areas in which students seek meaning: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, fluency and comprehension. The areas are identified clearly as checked boxes at the bottom of each lesson. Also included are recording and observation sheets, graphic organizers and lesson variations, which serve the need for differentiated instruction.

Although many practical instructional and assessment strategies are outlined in this book, teachers are advised to incorporate some of their own assessment tools that have worked well with their students. As a sequel to an earlier book, Primary Literacy Centers, published in 2001, this book reinforces the idea that teachers can effectively improve student learning by giving students an opportunity to consolidate their literacy skills and strategies through engaging literacy-centre activities.

More Primary Literacy Centers, Maupin House, Gainesville, Florida, 2006, ISBN 978-0-929895-76-5, softcover, 196 pages, $30.95, distributed in Canada by Mind Resources, tel 519-895-0330, fax 519-895-0331 or 1-877-414-6463,,

Anjana Thom is an early literacy teacher with the Peel DSB.

Classroom Management

Creating a Successful Learning Community

by Paul Burden

(book cover)Paul Burden looks at classroom management as a means for creating “supportive learning communities for diverse groups of students.” He encourages readers to clarify their own philosophy of classroom management as they review descriptions of various models, which are classified according to high, medium and low levels of teacher control. This provides a guide for choosing approaches that encourage various levels of student responsibility.

Teacher planning is emphasized in chapters on working with parents, establishing standards for appropriate behaviour, understanding how cultural factors influence classroom participation, and preparing for the new school year. Burden also includes chapters on ways to improve instructional skills or respond to specific inappropriate behaviours. He achieves a close look at classroom management practices through the use of vignettes written by classroom teachers, and offers a broader perspective on “what might work when” by pointing readers in the direction of research reports.

In keeping with his goal of creating a learning community among students, Burden includes ideas for supporting a learning community among teachers. Many questions highlighted throughout the text are useful for personal reflection and professional study-group discussion. Classroom Management supports individual professional learning and a professional learning community. This is a useful resource for both novice and experienced teachers.

(Arrow graphic) Note: The review is based on the 2nd edition, now out of print. The following information is for the 3rd edition. Classroom Management: Creating a Successful K–12 Learning Community, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 2002, ISBN 978-0-471-71073-8, softcover, 304 pages, $66.95, distributed in Canada by John Wiley and Sons Canada, tel 416-236-4433 or 1-800-567-4797, fax 416-236-4447 or 1-800-565-6802,

Mary Hookey, now retired, was an associate professor at the faculty of education, Nipissing University.

Powerful Presentations

Seven Steps to Successful Speaking

by Graham Foster

(book cover)At some time in our life, we all face the challenge of delivering a presentation to an audience. Doing it successfully requires an understanding of the techniques needed to plan and deliver a presentation with efficiency and confidence.

In Powerful Presentations, Graham Foster provides a seven-step flip chart. He begins with a visual cycle that sets out the seven steps necessary to be effective before, during and after the presentation.

Rubrics to be used as evaluation tools and reproducible planning sheets for classroom use are also included. Students are encouraged to regard the content and delivery of each presentation. In the past, it was often teachers or adjudicators who evaluated student speeches. This book provides speakers with the tools to assess themselves and their peers.

All junior and intermediate classrooms would benefit from this model.

Powerful Presentations, Pembroke Publishers, Markham, 2006, ISBN 978-1-55138-205-0, softcover, 32 pages, $12.95, tel 905-477-0650 or 1-800-997-9807, fax 905-477-3691 or 1-800-339-5568,

Dorothea Bryant, a retired Windsor and Durham educator, is a student-teacher supervisor for Ontario students at Medaille College, Buffalo.

It's All in Your Head

A Guide to Your Brilliant Brain

by Sylvia Funston and Jay Ingram

(book cover)Author and television host Jay Ingram and author and founding Owl editor Sylvia Funston have created this nonfiction children's book that explores the human head. Originally published in 1994, the book was retitled and illustrated for re-release in 2005.

It's All in Your Head, with its vivid illustrations, has four sections: senses, emotions, memory and thinking. It contains both a table of contents and an index for easy reference.

Each page has interesting sidebars, with titles like Ace a Test and Dream Phantoms, and colourful illustrations of everyday people doing everyday things. Each section includes activities and brain benders that will appeal to children of all ages, for example: “An Australian aborigine can throw a boomerang so that it can return without bouncing off anything. How can you do the same with a tennis ball?” Answers are at the back of the book.

The information is current and relevant and could be used to address or complement several curriculum expectations, from the five senses in Grades 2 and 3 to other health topics in the older grades. The text is a good example of nonfiction writing.

Although the book would benefit from more photographs and fewer illustrations, it will be interesting and accessible to many age groups.

It's All in Your Head, Maple Tree Press, Toronto, 2005, ISBN 978-1-897066-44-7, softcover, 64 pages, $12.95, distributed by Raincoast Books, tel 1-800-663-5714, fax 1-800-565-3770,

Jennifer Wyatt is a Toronto DSB elementary teacher, board trainer and lead mathematics teacher.

La psychomotricité

ŕ l'école des 4 ŕ 8 ans

by Ginette Drouin-Couture and Lise Gauthier-Bastien

(book cover)In this resource, the authors show how psychomotor development can be given consideration in the primary classroom, and why it needs to be incorporated into all of the day's activities.

The book's seven parts cover body image, lateral dominance, spatial environment, temporal organization and rhythm, overall motor skills, fine motor skills and attention. Each section also includes matrices illustrating the various steps in a child's progress.

For example, a six-year-old's maximum attention span is 15 minutes, which makes one think twice about 30-minute lessons. A table on lateral dominance explains why young children get confused over b and d. Mastery of left and right begins around the age of six and a half.

The book includes a large number of classroom exercises designed to put into practice everything that has been learned about psychomotor skills. The matrices make it easier to establish links with the curriculum.

If you teach at the primary level and want more information about young people, along with a holistic pedagogical approach, this is the book for you.

La psychomotricité, Guérin éditeur ltée, Montréal, 1993, ISBN 2-7601-00324, 96 pages, $17.45, tel 514-842-3481,

Ramona Dempsey is a Grade 1 French Immersion teacher at Louis-Honoré Fréchette Public School in Thornhill.

The Land of Graws
A Fist of Bees

by Max Tell

(book cover)Robert Stelmach (aka Max Tell) has used his studies in creative writing and theatre to create two entertaining CDs, one each for primary- and junior-age children.

The Land of Graws includes poems that magnify childhood experiences. Little Calvin Ocelot “who wore a suit that cost a lot” has ongoing problems with mud. Mud Puddle Pudding deals with the same childhood delight, while Tummy Garage will be the favourite of every reluctant eater. The poems have strong rhythm and rhyme and some, like Dragon with a Flagon, have interesting but accessible vocabulary. These selections, beginning and ending with 17 seconds of Icicle, provide lovely modelling for young children who are just learning to read expressively.

A Fist of Bees is an adventure story that touches on the real life of junior-age children. It includes bee lore and handling tips but is really a classic story of bullies, with a plot revolving around the narrator's friendship with a hive of bees. It encompasses a range of emotions, including anger, shame and redemption. Children who have been plagued by bullies will recognize the tactics. They will also develop ideas about what might make a bully, and rejoice at the gesture of reconciliation in the last chapter.

Chapters are separated by guitar interludes, which make the CD ideal for listening to one section a day, although Tell does not use separate tracks, making it harder to find one's place. This CD provides good entertainment during the listening time of just under an hour. It also demonstrates that choices have consequences.

The Land of Graws and A Fist of Bees (CDs), Max Tell Productions, White Rock, British Columbia, 2003, each $15, tel 604-538-9466,

Bonnie Thomson teaches kindergarten for the Durham DSB.

The World of Insects series

by Bobbie Kalman

(CD cover)(CD cover)

If you are teaching a unit on insects, you will not want to miss this series, now expanded to 12 books. It is ideal for Grades 3 and 4, but contains useful information for higher grades as well. Material is presented on two-page spreads dominated by fabulous photographs and illustrations. The large print makes it easy for young readers to follow. At the end of each book is a glossary. The table of contents and index are also helpful for students looking for specific information.

Each book deals with a particular aspect of insects and also contains basic facts about insects. At the end of each book is a suggested activity, such as making a poster or constructing a paper hive.

This is a beautiful series of books.

The World of Insects series, Crabtree Publishing Company, 2005, softcover, each 32 pages, $8.50, tel 905-682-5221 or 1-800-387-7650, fax 905-682-7166 or 1-800-355-7166,

Margaret Grift is a library consultant at Brantford Christian School.

PickTwo Deluxe


Outset Media

(book cover) PickTwo Deluxe is a challenging, fun and rewarding crossword game that allows players to build personal crosswords. The object of the game is to use all your letters by building a crossword with the letter tiles. This may sound simple but it is rather challenging and can take quite a long time.

Players draw tiles, much like Scrabble pieces, and begin building their crosswords. When a particular player uses all her letters, she shouts “pick two” and all players, including her, must then draw two more tiles to add to their crosswords. When all the tiles have been drawn, the first one finished wins.

PickTwo Deluxe can be played with three to eight players and uses 240 letter tiles. There is no game board, so a fairly large, flat surface area is required. The game is recommended for ages eight and up. However, I found it more suitable for the intermediate/senior level and gifted students.

PickTwo Deluxe (game), Outset Media, Victoria, British Columbia, $29.99, tel 877-592-7374,

Majella Atkinson is a Grade 8 Teacher at St. Pius X School in Toronto.


For additional reviews in French, visit Lu, vu, entendu.