Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Mail

I recently ordered two patterns from Ebay. One was from a seller in Canada (BC) and the other was from the US (SC).

I paid for the patterns at the same day, at the same time.

Both shipped on the same day.

It actually cost more to ship from the Cdn seller - but the price difference was marginal. (less than $1)

Because my March Break is coming up and I plan to do a lot of sewing, I am excited to get the patterns and buy fabric. The Canada Post website says that domestic delivery standards are 4 days from urban centre to urban center outside of province.

The USPS website says the average delivery of 3 to 5 business days for express international mail. (Average number of days may vary based upon origin and destination.)

I have a bet with a friend, she thinks the US pattern will arrive first and I think the Cdn one will.

Monday, February 27, 2012

American Historical Fiction for Grades 6, 7, 8

No one does historical fiction like the Americans...


The Captain's Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe by Ronald Smith
Captain Meriwether Lewis is on a path that will make history. Lewis is setting off on his landmark search for the Northwest Passage, and he takes Seaman, his rescued dog, along.

Sarah, Plain and Tall
by Patricia MacLachlin
Their mother died the day after Caleb was born. Their house on the prairie is quiet now, and Papa doesn't sing anymore. Then Papa puts an ad in the paper, asking for a wife, and he receives a letter from one Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton, of Maine. Papa, Anna, and Caleb write back.

CAPTAIN GREY by Avi
Following the Revolution, an 11-year-old boy becomes the captive of a ruthless man who has set up his own nation supported by piracy, on a remote part of the New Jersey coast.

JOHNNY TREMAIN by Ester Forbes
After injuring his hand, a silversmith's apprentice in Boston becomes a messenger for the Sons of Liberty in the days before the American Revolution.

A BREAK WITH CHARITY: A STORY ABOUT THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS by Ann Rinaldi
While waiting for a church meeting in 1706, Susanna English, daughter of a wealthy Salem merchant, recalls the malice, fear, and accusations of witchcraft that tore her village apart in 1692.

THE APPRENTICESHIP OF LUCAS WHITAKER by Cynthia DeFelice
1850's Connecticut. After Lucas' mother dies of consumption (tuberculosis) he apprentices himself to a doctor who is very traditional.

WITNESS by Karen Hesse
A series of poems express the views of various people in a small Vermont town, including a young black girl and a young Jewish girl, during the early 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan is trying to infiltrate the town.

LUCK by Dorothy Hoobler
In 1927 the Dixons move from rural Georgia to Chicago, where Afrcian Americans have more opportunities, and there Lorraine meets a famous movie actress and her little brother Marcus finds that his artistic talents are useful.

HARLEM SUMMER by Walter Dean Myers
1925. Mark has a job in a publishing office, but all he wants to do is play his sax. When he makes a delivery for jazz musician Fats Waller, and it goes bad, he gets into trouble with a gangster.

LILY'S CROSSING by Patricia Reilly Giff
During a summer spent at Rockaway Beach in 1944, Lily's friendship with a young Hungarian refugee causes her to see the war and her own world differently.

SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER by Bette Greene
When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, 12-year-old Patty Bergen learns what it means to open her heart.

WEEDFLOWER by Cynthia Kadohata
After twelve-year-old Sumiko and her Japanese-American family are relocated to an internment camp on a Mojave Indian reservation in Arizona, she struggles to become friends with a Mohave boy and to find her place in the world.

BELLE PRATER’S BOY by Ruth White
Everyone in Coal Station, Virginia, has a theory about what happened to Belle Prater, but 12-year-old Gypsy wants the facts, and when her cousin Woodrow, Aunt Belle’s son, moves next door, she has her chance. October 1953.

NOWHERE TO CALL HOME by Cynthia DeFelice
When her father kills himself after losing his money in the stock market crash, 12-year-old Frances, now a penniless orphan, decides to hop aboard a freight train and live the life of a hobo.

ESPERANZA RISING by Pam Muanoz Ryan
Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY By Mildred Taylor
1977 Newbery Winner. The Logan family owns some land and is respected by others in the African American community but the violence that surrounds them is an ever-present threat. Cassie's innocence is shattered when she makes her first visit to town.

ALICE ROSE & SAM by Kathryn Lasky
Alice Rose, an irrepressible 12-year-old, share adventures with Mark Twain, an outlandish reporter on her father’s newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada, during the 1860’s.

SHADES OF GRAY by Carolyn Reeder
At the end of the Civil War, 12-year-old Will, having lost all his immediate family, reluctantly leaves his city home to live in the Virginia countryside with his aunt and the uncle he considers a traitor because he refused to take part in the war.

GIRL IN BLUE by Ann Rinaldi
To escape an abusive father and an arranged marriage, 14-year-old Sarah, dressed as a boy, leaves her Mighigan home to enlist in the Union Army, and beomes a soldier on the battlefields of virginia as well as a Unioon spyworking in the house of Confederate sympathizer Rose O'Neal Greenhow in Washington, D.C.
  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Canadian Historical Fiction for Grades 6, 7, 8

I love the Dear Canada series. This list includes one or two from that series. It is really for the child-history-buff. I loved historical fiction as a child (much more than I do now) and I wish I had a similar list. Thank you to everyone who comments with additions to the book lists I post, your input makes the lists more complete.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Orphan girl is sent to live with an older couple.

The Curse of the Viking Grave by Farley Mowat
Three boys stumble on Viking graves in Northern Canada. This is a sequel to Lost in the Barrens.

Secret of the Night Ponies by Joan Hiatt Harlow
Set in Newfoundland in the 1960s, this story has a lot of factual information.

The Bully Boys by Eric Walters
Boy stays at home as father is sent off to fight inthe War of 1812

The Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker
Story of slaves escaping via the underground railway to Canada.

The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn
Part of a trilogy: Shadow in Hawthorn Bay looks at the pioneer experience, and The Root Cellar, the first book in the series, explores Canada's early days as a nation, while The Hollow Tree focuses on the American Revolution and the part that war played in Canadian history.


Where the River Takes Me: The Hudson Bay Company Diary of Jenna Sinclair by Julie Lawson
Set in the Vancouver, this one is a mystery novel.

On a Canadian Day by Rona Arato
This is a compilation of nine short stories each about a child on a pivotal day in Canadian history.

Viking Quest. By Tom Henighan 
Describes the experiences of fifteen-year-old Rigg, son of Leif Eriksson, in an early eleventh century settlement in Vinland.

Isobel Gunn By Audrey Thomas
This fictional account is based on the true story of a woman who came to Canada disguised as a man, and who worked as a fur trader until giving birth.

Eyewitness By Margaret Thompson 
Six year old Peter lives in Fort St. James, New Caledonia, in the 1820s. He meets future governor of Vancouver Island and New Caledonia, James Douglas, Hudson Bay Company Governor Sir George Simpson, chief trader James McDougall, and Carrier Chief Kwah.

Whispers of War: The 1812 Diary of Susanna Merritt (Dear Canada Series) By Kit Pearson 
Describes the fictional experiences of Susanna and her family, who are living on the Niagara Peninsula. Diary is accompanied by historical notes and photographs.

Redcoat By Gregory Sass 
Working-class boy joins the British army and travels to Upper Canada to serve under General Brock.
A Question of Loyalty by Barbara Greenwood 
A family who support the government protects a young rebel in the aftermath of the 1837 Rebellion.

Spy in the Shadows by Barbara Greenwood 
Describes the Fenian raids across the Niagara River in 1866.

Moses Me & Murder by Ann Walsh 
Twelve-year-old Ted MacIntosh and his friend Moses work to solve a murder in Barkervillle at the height of the gold rush.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Do Teachers Sometimes Promote Bullying Inadvertently?




When I was in seventh grade, my teacher was new and inexperienced. And she was given a terrible class. It was actually a split grade class, having both grade 7s and 8s in the class. The 7s were well-behaved for the most part and the 8s were the trouble kids. Man, do I mean they were trouble. These kids were the rejects from years of low grades and low self-esteem - in a system where those kind of excuses weren't even considered. And they were a group, a cohesive group of rejects who had finally come into their own in eighth grade. I know those labels are problematic, but looking back that is what I remember. I am sure the labels contributed to the behaviours in the classroom.
To be blunt, the teacher couldn't control the class and so they (the bad kids) devolved into more and more outrageous antics. And the teacher would retaliate by timing the misbehaviour and adding it up over the course of the day. The entire class had to stay after school for the tallied time. Some days it was 8 minutes and other days it was 3 minutes. The stickler was that for that period of time after school we had to sit in absolute silence. All of us. Even the kids who did nothing to contribute to the punishment.
I knew, even in seventh grade, that the teacher wanted us (the rest of the class) to put a stop to the misbehaviour of the few. But we didn't. We didn't because we couldn't. The motley crew of kids in that grade 8 class were scarey. They managed to bully a teacher- how could an assembly of good kids fight them?
Eventually, the year ended and those eighth graders went on to high school and wherever else. (I'm imagining Juvie and then later, real jail...but maybe I am wrong).
My point is that the teacher by imposing punishment on the entire class everyday was really setting up a situation where the rest of the class was supposed to act as a unit for her. We were suppose to stand up to those awful kids and bully them into behaving. In a sense, she was bullying us. And she was certainly hoping that we would bully those bad kids - whom she was afraid of, in some sense of the word.
I've always wondered how many other children find themselves in similar situations?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Update on our Detective Drama Seminar






So we loosely planned for our 40 minute seminar by having 4 tasks ready that would take roughly 50 minutes. That way, if we ended up going faster than we thought, we wouldn't be standing their looking dumb. We also planned a few time wasters, such as the introductions and some 4 clue-30 second mysteries that we read aloud.

Well, it turned out that our 40 minute seminar was actually 90 minutes! We realized this just before the seminar started. But, because we have taught mysteries for years, we added in a few quick exercises. The first was to choose some volunteers and have them look at a picture and describe it for the group. The group acted as detectives hearing first-hand witness accounts but not being privy to actual photo themselves. Each volunteer described the photo as if talking to other people who had seen the photo. They included a lot of detail but glossed over the big (read obvious) picture. Neither said the picture was of people queuing up as if in a bank. But both reported the time on the wall and the clothing of the people in line. Very interesting...

The other time-filler we pulled out of thin air was a memory building activity. Detectives have to get information quickly and reliably. SO we showed them two license plates, one at a time. We then asked them to memorize the first one by repeating the letters and numbers in their heads 3 to 5 times. For the second one, we asked them to chunk the digits in groups of three to memorize them. Then we waited five minutes and asked them to write down the license plates as best they remembered. We asked the participants to talk about which memory cue worked best for them. (The class was split about 50 -50 on their preferences).

The other tasks we had planned went very well. We had  a crime scene and several witness statements that, upon scrutiny, reveal the perpetrator.

We also read aloud a court case from a book called You Be the Jury, and had participants act as a jury to solve the crime.

Finally, we had them analyze a number of substances for smell, texture, weight and appearance. Then we gave a mystery substance and asked them to identify it.

I think it went well, and I think the teachers were exposed to a number to classroom-ready activities that they could take back to their respective classrooms tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Detective Drama: A literacy and drama unit






I always teach a mystery unit in my class. I love to read who-dun-its and I try to pass that love onto my students. Read alouds are great but I've learned to cast the students as detectives in the class. It gets them up and out of their seats and it becomes a bit of a competition to see who can solve the crime. Sometimes I set up a crime scene (chairs overturned and bags strewn about) other times I just tell them about a crime.

I always have students fold paper into four to make a detective booklet. They can jot notes from each witness statement in it. I generally have to teach them what notes are because they want to write down every word said.

Then I have them work in teams to put together a timeline and to check each witness' alibi. We learn fun words like sleuth, gumshoe and alibi and red herring for this unit. The students do a lot of work and they love the unit. They even offer to come in early or do extra work at home in order to be cast as a suspect or witness in the crime.

I sometimes show this commercial and ask who is framed in it. Then I ask what does the word "frame" mean. The students can always figure it out...


Mysteries have the ability to get reluctant readers and writers enthusiastic about reading, thinking, and writing. Mysteries often contain intriguing characters and are often able to hold a student's interest with their suspenseful and dynamic plots. Mysteries are a wonderful vehicle for teaching critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills in an exciting and enjoyable way. My mystery unit is a study of the mystery genre in which students will act as detectives. They will discover the elements of a mystery including the typical characters, the common plot structure, and the vocabulary that they will likely encounter in mystery writing. They will work in small detective groups to solve cases and will even write their own mysteries.

Why am I telling you this? A colleague and I are teaching a seminar on making reading fun and we are putting together a unit for teachers. (And I am just a bit nervous...)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How I Came To Use Printable Patterns

I love the Hazel dress by Victory Patterns. I wanted to make it because I have the perfect fabric for it (muted brown linen with pale pink satin) but the pattern is the downloadable variety. Well, I decided to take the plunge and I purchased it....

Hazel Pattern Cover by Victory Patterns

I want to use the linen for the skirt and the pink for the blouse. I am really excited....


The pattern came in two pdf files - one has the instructions, the other the pattern. I printed all the pages and followed the instructions to put the pattern pieces together. Actually, you piece together a big rectangle and then cut the pattern pieces from it. I had to check the scale of the printing first - luckily that was spot on.



I had to rummage around my workplace (a school) looking for a ruler that had inches on it. All our rulers are centimeters. I happened to find one that had both centimeters and inches. (Otherwise, I would have had to do the math - which is quite simple but on the first morning back from a long weekend it seemed too much!)






Then I put the giant puzzle pieces together. It went quite quickly....

I used a lot of tape though!!!


Pros of downloadable patterns:
- you get your pattern almost immediately
-you can save it on the computer to use again
-the layout is quite easy and it goes quickly


Cons of downloadable patterns:
-tissue patterns are ready to go where as these take about 30 minutes to put together (on their website, Victory Patterns says that some copy shops will print the pattern in one piece on a larger printer)
-I'm more familiar with tissue ones


I have the fabric in a pre-wash tonight and plan to cut it tomorrow (after tracing the pattern onto butcher paper so that it is more useable on fabric). I'm tempted to skip this step but I am just too new to printable patterns to do it. So tomorrow, I will have another bit of prep, before I can go ahead and sew the pattern.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I love Craftsy!

I read on BeeBee's Vintage Dress blog that she signed up for three Craftsy courses. Well, she is ahead of me: I've signed up for two but I plan to do them all. I even like the course about drawing monster.

Right now, I'm in the Couture Dress Course






I am waiting for the pattern to be mailed to me. It actually should arrive any day because I ordered it in January. (waiting for the pattern is awful) and I've already purchased the materials. I am really excited to make this dress.


and in the Bombshell Dress course



I'm not as interested in the finished product of the second course as I am in gaining in skills. This class has a downloadable pattern, which is a bit daunting but the alternative is signing up and waiting FOREVER for the pattern to be mailed to me. I have to put some sort of straps on this dress. While I love it on other people, its a bit too revealing for me! I bought a cool thin denim for this dress.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Great Twist on Traditional Pasta

I know there are chickpea and pasta recipes out there, but this is my own take on it. Its fast, easy, cheap and nutritional. I bring it for lunch sometimes too.







 Chickpea Pasta with Red Peppers

1 c of dry spiral pasta, cooked
1 can  of chickpeas, drained
1 red pepper, diced
3 Tbsp tomato sauce
2 Tbsp water
Basil leaves (optional)

I saute the chopped red peppers and add the chickpeas, tomato sauce and water after a few minutes. I add the cooked pasta and remove from heat. I toss the torn leaves of basil and let the dish sit for a few minutes. Serve - the colours are magnificent!

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