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September 1998

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AG00041_.gif (503 bytes) September's
Front Page
Being There – World War II Multimedia Kit Is A Powerful Resource

Canada’s Coming of Age 1939–1945

Veterans Affairs Canada & National Film Board

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Reviewed by Allan Hux

Veterans Affairs Canada and the National Film Board have combined their efforts and created a multimedia package for teachers and their students about the Second World War. Canada’s Coming of Age 1939–1945 is a retrospective look – from individuals’ points of view – at Canada’s involvement during World War II.

A teacher’s guide, videos and CD ROM give students an appreciation of what Canada was like during a war that saw over one million men and women enlist in the armed forces. In 1939, Canada’s population was just over 11 million.

Through interviews and archival footage, a story unfolds about the people whose lives were touched during the war. And the perspective from those who went into battle provides a sense of how horrifying war can be. Said one veteran, "I shouldn’t say you enjoy killing, but I think at that age you don’t realize what you’re doing."

What makes this resource so compelling is the CD ROM. It is the best educational CD on Canadian history that I have seen to date. It combines authentic visual sources with creative fictional accounts for an in depth look at Canada’s role in the Second World War.

There are three structured modes in the design – guided tours, free exploration and index.


The six guided tours on the economy, home front, air force, army, navy and the merchant marine provide teachers with solid topical organizers that will facilitate group investigation activities. The retelling of the war from the point of view of members of the fictional Bailey family – the Boileaus in the French version of the CD – personalizes the era and provides human faces, voices and feelings for these topics.

Certainly one composite, fictional family can not accurately mirror the experiences of thousands of Canadian families. The regional, ethnic, racial and linguistic differences among Canadians are not captured by this device, but the single family as a narrative vehicle does ask students to consider these six years from the viewpoints of teenagers and adults, men and women.

The free exploration mode will appeal to students and lateral thinkers of all ages, moving from the war zones to the home front and back with ease. Members of the Bailey family appear in the living room, kitchen and local recruiting office. Their voices may be followed into the services, economy or government offices for each of the six war years. The calendar and timeline features of the CD allow for rapid movement in many directions over the duration of the war.

Quiz and game features also let students check their learning at the beginner, intermediate or advanced levels with multiple choice questions and puzzles. These are not assessment tools for teachers as much as they are motivational tools for individual students or groups.


The personal project feature of the CD allows students to clip a limited number of pictures and text for use in their reports. However, satisfactory reports – especially at the secondary school level – must move beyond the editing function to the more analytical and creative performances suggested in the activity booklet that accompanies this multimedia package. The booklet provides an excellent outline of the structure and design of the CD, but is no substitute for actually spending a number of pleasant hours working with this resource.

The package is not a complete history of Canada in the Second World War. A search for names like Duplessis, Hepburn, Meighen and Noseworthy quickly reveals that this is not a political primer on the war years. Users will find the names of some government ministers of the day, such as Mackenzie King, and a number of members of the service of various ranks, but this resource is not about famous people.

If there is one serious weakness, it is the light treatment of the internment of Japanese Canadians. The same screen is used for the entries Internment Camps (1942) and Japanese Attack Vancouver Island, when the material is only appropriate for the second entry. The last sentence on this screen states, "Italian and German Canadians had also been interned at the outbreak of war in 1939." This may seriously mislead readers into thinking that the scale and motives for the public’s and government’s treatment of Japanese, Italian and German Canadians were the same.

Much of the authenticity that makes this resource valuable comes from the powerful visuals of the CD and testimony in the videos. The footage from the war years, still photographs and propaganda posters are very stimulating and far surpass what is available to students in texts and resource books.


Several omissions prompt me to recommend this multimedia package only for the intermediate years of Grades 7–10, and not for students in senior grades. The absence of primary resources, like actual news articles and newsreels, the absence of the political issues surrounding Japanese internment, and the intense French-English conflict over the conscription plebiscite and repeal of the government’s promise of no conscription for overseas services is a decided weakness.

Nevertheless, Canada’s Coming of Age 1939–1945 is one of the best tools for teachers and students to study the interplay among the home fronts and the fighting fronts.

To order Canada’s Coming of Age, contact LM Media Marketing Services Ltd., 115 Torbay Road, Unit 9, Markham L3R 2M9; phone 1-800-268-2380; fax 1-800-689-1067. Educational Kit, $49.95; CD ROM $ 18.95 available in English and French for Windows 95, 3.1 & Mac.

Allan Hux is the president of the Ontario History Consultants Association and co-ordinator of social studies for the Toronto District School Board.


Les arbres... c’est magique and La jungle... c’est magique

Albert Cantin

Collection Luciole, St. Catharines, 1997

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Reviewed by Hélène Beauchesne

As immersion teachers know, it can be difficult to find French-language learning materials that are informative and educational and, at the same time, use a language level adapted to their students’ own levels. Most of the time, teachers have to adapt, create and translate materials for their class, which calls for a great deal of work quite apart from the evaluation of the students’ performance.

Collection Luciole offers teachers an assortment of ready-made activities. Prepared by Albert Cantin, an experienced teacher, it is designed for students in the Junior and Intermediate Divisions. It consists of 20 teaching kits, each on a different theme.

The first kit I looked at explores trees; the second, the jungle. The proposed materials can be used in both French as a first language and French immersion classes.

Each kit contains a host of activities that can be done individually, in small groups or as a class. It covers four activity areas – Language; the Arts; Mathematics, Science and Technology; and Self and Society, in addition to evaluation. The kits were developed according to Ministry of Education and Training standards. The activities are intended to encourage students to use their learning skills and broaden their knowledge.

The author prepared his activities with the idea of creating materials students can work with at their own pace. In addition to summarizing concepts that have just been learned, the author proposes a number of extension activities that enhance students’ newly acquired knowledge. Each activity can be repeated if needed. In short, this is a very useful tool for teachers.

Most of the proposed activities are original, interesting and challenging for the students. The great diversity of the content and the information presented are readily apparent. The vocabulary used is occasionally too elevated for students in Junior Division immersion.

In my opinion, this collection is intended primarily for students in French as a first language program and Intermediate Division immersion. The materials would have to be adapted for use with Junior Division immersion students. There is no doubt that by the time they complete a theme, students will have enhanced their knowledge and vocabulary.

Collection Luciole provides teachers in search of new ideas and quality materials with an excellent way of rounding off the curriculum. Both students and teachers will find Les arbres... c’est magique and La jungle ... c’est magique worthwhile.

Hélène Beauchesne teaches Grade 2 French immersion at Frenchmans Bay School in Pickering.


The Child’s World of Science and Technology
A Book for Teachers

Ronald C. Weeks

Toronto, Prentice Hall, 1997

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Reviewed by Ross Haley

Wow! The colourful butterfly clinging to a bright, yellow flower on a computer chip background on the cover of this book on science education catches your attention immediately.

The book is certainly timely, coming as it does so soon after the release of the Common Framework of Science Learning Outcomes and the Ontario Science and Technology Curriculum for Grades 1–8.

Educators – from elementary pre-service teachers to experienced teachers upgrading their skills – will appreciate the clear but detailed coverage of science inquiry in the educating of our youth. Author Ron Weeks recognizes the critical importance of the teacher in the classroom.

Using simple, personal examples and reflections, Weeks outlines how children demonstrate science and technological learning. He reviews the differing, yet integrated perspectives in teaching children to think and learn science in the classroom. He deals with all aspects of enhancing yet balancing program planning, adapting student learning environments, amassing reasonable resources and assessing student learning performances in a thoughtful, realistic and stimulating manner.

After reading about some of the specific learning opportunities for the general strands of science, new and experienced teachers will be able to do something purposeful in their classrooms that will lead to improved student learning of skills and concepts in science and technology.

One emphasis in the new Ontario curriculum is the application of science to the real world. This book makes specific connections between science and technology and the importance of environmental and societal issues.

Whether you are a leader in curricula, a change agent, a participant in implementing the new curriculum, a pre-service teacher, or a citizen interested in improving science literacy, this book will be a useful tool – not a dust collector!

The Child’s World of Science and Technology will help you provide what both new documents stress – scientific literacy for the 21st century.

Ross Haley has taught for almost 30 years in primary, junior and intermediate classrooms in the Halton and Bluewater boards. He’s been involved in developing science curriculum through boards, the Science Teachers Association of Ontario, science fairs and science workshops for both students and teachers.


Pour une théorie de la pédagogie

Clermont Gauthier, Jean-François Desbiens, Annie Malo, Stéphane Martineau, and Denis Simard

Québec, Les Presses de l’Université de Laval, 1997

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Reviewed by Michelle Boucher

At a time when the field of education is teeming with questions and constantly in search of new perspectives, this book proposes some fascinating avenues of reflection and research.

The authors have attempted to answer an apparently simple question, "What do teachers need to know in order to teach?" The answer is the product of extensive reflection presented in some 300 pages.

The book’s sustained logic, rich and painstaking vocabulary and well-documented and well-written research furnish the reader with a store of information and ideas on current trends in teaching and on the body of knowledge that characterizes the profession.

This knowledge base is a fund from which teachers regularly draw as they practise their profession. Until now, it has been tucked away in the classroom. Pour une théorie de la pédagogie is part of a movement in teaching research toward articulating this knowledge base in order to arrive at a precise definition of the profession.

By knowledge base the authors mean "the knowledge, skills and attitudes that a teacher needs to do his or her job effectively in a given situation." The authors have tried to identify the components of this knowledge base, specifically the body of knowledge that makes up pedagogical practice. This body of knowledge is based on two components – subject management and class management – and reflects everything a teacher does in the performance of his or her duties.

Articulating the body of knowledge that makes up pedagogical practice means "trying to ensure that excellent teachers leave their mark not only on teaching per se, but also on their students; it also means trying to define what constitutes effective professional practice."

Teaching is not only a quantifiable science, but an art that calls for intuition, spontaneity and judgement, because human relations are the cornerstone of this occupation. The class dynamic that is the stuff of a teacher’s daily routine makes the teacher a discriminating practitioner whose many actions are more reminiscent of a judge than a technician.

There are very few formulas when it comes to deciding whether to go with what has been planned, teach the content of a lesson, meet the needs of a given student, set the pace for activities or take action concerning a disruptive child. According to Gauthier, teachers are like judges in that both must use elements of rhetoric to make the decisions that arise at every step of the way. "Teachers are discriminating in the sense that discrimination is not merely a theoretical knowledge of the right action, but perhaps predominately the ability to act appropriately."

Pour une théorie de la pédagogie is a subtle book in which, with every chapter, a blending of ideas leads to what may emerge as a pedagogical theory.

Michelle Boucher is a pedagogical consultant for the French Language Consultative Services, Central Ontario Region, CEEC-RUISSO.


Reshaping High School English

Bruce Pirie

Urbana, Illinois, National Council of Teachers of English, 1997.

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Reviewed by Rick Chambers

Bruce Pirie, an English teacher at Lorne Park Secondary School in Mississauga, says, "For most of us, our teaching has been formed by a few influential teachers from our own schooling, a handful of respected colleagues, readings from books or journals, and the push and pull of classroom realities. From all this, we assemble a practice that keeps us going, but which has not always been scrutinized for its assumptions or challenged for inconsistencies."

Working on the assumption that everything teachers do begins and ends with student learning, Pirie looks at the challenges facing high school English teachers. The book is not a rant against change. It is also not a paean to innovation. Pirie invites his readers, whom he assumes have been teaching English as thoughtfully as he has, to look critically at their practice and assess the impact of recent changes on student learning.

He says early in the book that his intention was not to write a "how-to" or "hints-for Monday-morning" type of book. "Some will say, ‘You can never get too many good lesson plans,’ but I think you can, when that stockpiling interferes with synthesizing and clarifying a larger vision." And it is the larger vision of the role of the English teacher and students in English classes that becomes the focus of Pirie’s work.

He encourages teachers to explore the links between knowledge and students’ prior learning. This is a risk-taking move that gives students’ voices centre stage in classrooms. "For as long as I have been either a student or teacher of English, I have heard teachers claim that they encourage independent, original thought. And for exactly as long, students and graduates have complained that, despite those claims, English teachers don’t really respect divergent readings and only want to hear echoes of their own thoughts."

Pirie goes on to say, "Relinquishing the job of meaning-maker and answer-provider doesn’t have to turn teachers into weaklings; it just redefines the focus of their efforts."


In the same vein, he devotes a chapter to that English-teacher stand-by, the five-paragraph essay. And although he acknowledges its limited usefulness, it would be safe to say that Pirie is not a fan of this hoary essay-writing strategy. "I’m prepared to concede that people can express original and creative ideas in the hierarchical [five paragraph] essay, but my point is that they do so despite the form: there is nothing within the form that invites divergent thinking."

In fact, he says, "the five-paragraph essay doesn’t ‘teach structure’ any more than a paint-by-numbers kit teaches design," and then suggests alternatives to the academic essay that promote active thinking, writing and learning for students.

Bruce Pirie frames his book about teaching high school English in cultural terms, both for teachers and students. Students’ learning must be connected to their lives and to the world around them. "Part of the focus has to be on students working through the complexity of their individual position(s) in the web of society and culture."

Not only do students have to be engaged in their learning, they also have to embrace the learning experience on their own terms. That is what makes teaching so challenging and rewarding.


Pirie wants English teachers to sift through the fads, adopt the meaningful changes, and engage their students in all aspects of language and learning. As he says, "I am sometimes embarrassed by the parochialism of a discipline that grandly claims to be about how humans use language to make sense of their world, but then, in practice, hurriedly shrinks its focus to something much less grand."

For experienced English teachers, as well as for new ones, Bruce Pirie’s book encapsulates much of the best practice in English teaching. He reminds us that "the ideal for which we are striving is the creation of an English classroom in which students are not parasites on the body of literature, but active participants in an unfinished culture, agents with the power and responsibility to make sense of that culture and to contribute to its ongoing construction."

Rick Chambers, who taught English for 27 years, is a program officer in the College’s Professional Affairs Department.


Including Exceptional Students:
A Practical Guide for Classroom Teachers

Marilyn Friend, William Bursuck, Nancy Hutchinson
Prentice-Hall Canada, 1998

Reviewed by Rochelle Rabinowicz

Students with special needs would benefit from this book being required reading in all faculty of education pre-service programs.

The book is well organized. Case histories and sidebars of questions, clarifications and suggestions for action focus the readers’ attention on the critical concepts under discussion. There are notes on how to use various forms of technology with exceptional students.

Including Exceptional Students provides a brief historical overview of the integration movement in Canada, followed by an outline of the entitlements and alternatives that are currently available for students with special needs. The reader must be careful in accepting everything the authors say without question.

For example, they do not distinguish between inclusion and integration, when there is a definite difference in Ontario, and they list some disabilities that are not within Ontario’s current categories of exceptionalities.

Teachers who work with exceptional students must accept the valuable contribution that can be made by other partners in education, such as school board and medical specialists, paraprofessionals, parents and community agency personnel. The authors respect the important role these people can play in a school team. They give useful pointers on how a classroom teacher can respond to the emotional turmoil of a family with an exceptional child and collaborate with them effectively.

The book presents organizational and programming ideas to help teachers who are working with exceptional students in an integrated (or inclusive) classroom. These are general suggestions and should be augmented or adapted to meet the needs of individual students. It is a valuable aid in identifying students with lower incidence conditions such as AIDS and fetal alcohol syndrome or effects.

The authors also address the need for teachers to modify programs for students who are not exceptional in the usual sense, but who are trying to cope with exceptional circumstances.

They give teachers many practical suggestions and encourage them to try creative instructional alternatives. The authors’ comprehensive sections on evaluating curriculum and instructional methods, encouraging self-advocacy and supporting students with behaviour disorders would be useful to every teacher, whether or not they are focusing on special needs students. In Ontario, the sections on reporting to parents and adapting assessment tools are particularly relevant.

In its 450 pages, this text provides a close look at the wide range of students who are often found in Ontario classrooms today. Teachers who use it to reflect on and improve their work with exceptional students will enhance the education of all students.

Rochelle Rabinowicz has worked in special education in schools and in the Ministry of Education and Training.