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Blog: Teaching With Canadian Books

Coding Simplified: 7 Books to Help Your Students Learn to Code

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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With December comes one of my favourite weeks of the fall, the Hour of Code. This year it takes place during December 9–15th and provides an excellent opportunity to introduce coding skills to your students. I usually run the Hour of Code for a two-week period, when students can participate in a variety of analog and digital coding activities. Depending on experience, they may start with the basics or try to code an animation, video game, website, or app. When I started running the Hour of Code a few years ago, my knowledge of coding was minimal. By sharing this fact with my classes and learning together with them, we created a community in which we could help and support one another as we worked through the process. Kids are always excited to try Hour of Code activities and many use their new skills throughout the year. If you don’t know where to start, here is a list of books to help introduce and/or reinforce coding concepts with your students.

A good place to begin the coding conversation is with an exploration of technology. When kids understand the purpose for coding, learning to code becomes …

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Five New Picture Books to Brighten Up Your Classroom

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Just like the leaves (or snow!), new books are piling up everywhere. But there is never enough talk about the new picture books that will brighten up our classrooms! So much is offered for primary students these days and these new books don’t disappoint. They cover many diverse topics from what it’s like to be small, the importance of play and being silly, the importance of self-expression, being a good neighbour, and loving everyone. Not only do these stories speak to children’s interests but they respect our youngest readers and speak to them as intelligent, kind, and important members of our community. So just like my kids who don’t help me rake the leaves in our yard—let’s jump right into the piles of these new books and classroom discussions!

In Small in the City, author and illustrator Sydney Smith walks us through the blustery streets of a city we love from the perspective of someone small. The minimal text and gorgeous drawings illustrate how a little person can feel unseen in the bustle of city streets, the noise and chaos. I love that this story takes place in winter, when snow can …

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The Power of One Story: Using Picture Books to Teach the Lessons of the Holocaust

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Six million is a number most adults cannot comprehend. Yet, when we reduce that number to one, to one single story, we may find ourselves beginning to understand the impact of such a number and what it represents. When teaching students about significant world events with difficult subject matter, such as the Holocaust, numbers and statistics lose meaning. When we approach difficult subject matter through the lens of just one story, it is more likely that students will empathize with what they are seeing and hearing, and from there, begin to understand.

Holocaust Education Week falls during the week of November 3-10, 2019, which may be an appropriate time to incorporate some of these books into your classroom. When confronted with teaching significant world events, such as the Holocaust, the magnitude of it can be daunting and formidable. Where do I begin? How do I get students to understand that which is incomprehensible? Such questions should not deter us from educating students, even though the subject matter is difficult.

The following books offer great opportunities for reading aloud to older elementary age students, and because they are picture books, which are shorter in length, allow for rich discussion and meaningful questions to be asked and shared. The classroom connection included with each text descript …

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Building Community and Fostering Micro-Neighbourliness

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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I recently attended a fascinating conference that focused on strengthening neighbourhoods and building community. The workshops brought together many voices, all passionate about the places where they live. There were many opportunities to learn from one another about how to galvanize change in everyone’s own neighbourhood. Storytelling was at the heart of all the sessions, and what struck me the most was the importance of seemingly small individual acts that everyone can do.

Classrooms are also communities where every student is a member and can make a difference. Take a leisurely stroll through these outstanding picture books and non-fiction titles that introduce and celebrate diverse neighbourhoods, and be inspired by stories that show the magic that happens when individuals work together to create positive change and a welcoming community.

Civic Engagement

In Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Anne Villeneuve, two little boys play an impromptu tossing game with what appears to be worthless balls of dirt and unexpectedly transform a drab grey, empty lot into …

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7 Books to Promote Leadership Skills in Your Students

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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I spent some time over the summer thinking about how to improve the organization of various clubs and initiatives that take place in the library. The school year always starts with much excitement and great intentions, but midway through November I find that I’m already run off my feet. A wise principal once told me that whoever is doing the work, is doing the learning. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for students to take on some of these tasks? I’ve decided to put ownership back into the hands of the kids. By preparing my students as leaders and setting them up for success, I can start them off on an amazing learning journey. This year for example, I’m putting together a library book selection committee of students from K–8 who will discuss and implement a plan for which books belong in the library. I usually spend hours compiling lists and sourcing tiles, and I’m not even the target audience for the material. This year my library collection will be fully representative of my students.

My robotics and Minecraft clubs will also be run by expert students this year. These kids know way more about robots and Minecraft then I do anyway. As an added responsibility, they will design lunch and learns for teachers on these topics.

The question becomes, how can I make sure that my students are good leaders? Do they have …

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Own Voices: Bringing Indigenous Author Waubgeshig Rice's New Novel Into the Classroom

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Moon of the Crusted Snow is the second novel from accomplished author, journalist, and storyteller Waubgeshig Rice. Although this is a relatively short novel, it is dark and intense, powerful and gripping and best suited for grade 11 or 12 students due to the mature content in the book. I actually read this book from start to finish in a few hours because I just could not put it down. The twists and turns that this story takes are shocking and horrifying at times, and it moves at a very fast pace. It has an apocalyptic feel despite being set in a modern day society and will leave the reader thinking about the story long after it is over.

Synopsis

In a small northern Anishinaabe community, Evan Whitesky works hard to build a life for his family and support his community. With winter fast approaching, Evan tries to shore up his resources for the difficult times ahead. Things become even more difficult when, for reasons unknown, their community loses power and their ability to communicate with other communities around them. Action is swiftly taken to ration food and other resources but panic, mistrust, and …

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Celebrating & Exploring Indigenous Languages Through Literature

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Indigenous languages are an important aspect of daily life in Canada. Many provinces, town and city names, landmarks, and bodies of water are identified by words in Indigenous languages. Cities such as Toronto (Tkaronto) or Ottawa (Odawa) are named using Indigenous languages. Meaning behind these words needs to be celebrated and explored in a respectful manner. Through literature and connecting with Indigenous communities, Indigenous languages can be supported and honoured in the classroom.

The year 2019 was designated the “International Year of indigenous languages (#IYIL2019)” by the United Nations in an effort to acknowledge and raise awareness of Indigenous languages worldwide. Indigenous languages “foster and promote unique local cultures, customs, and values which have endured for thousands of years.” In addition, “Indigenous languages add to the rich tapestry of global cultural diversity. Without them, the world would be a poorer place.”

According to the United Nations statement “Celebrating IYIL2019 will help promote and protect indigenous languages and improve the lives of those who speak them.“ It will also support the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Canada adopted the declaration in 2016.

In Canada, there are over 60 different Indige …

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Sparking Conversation in the Classroom: The Big Dig by Lisa Harrington

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Reviewing The Big Dig

The Big Dig by Lisa Harrington is the perfect young adult novel to spark meaningful discussions on a variety of topics. Teachers are familiar with the difficulties that students face when they have to move and change schools. This story can help ease the transition as readers can relate to the main character, who is faced with the challenge of making new friends and adapting to a new community. Each of the three main characters is unique in their own way. Although their personalities would seem to naturally clash, they accept each other’s differences and forge a very strong friendship.

It’s 1977, and shortly after dealing with the loss of her mother, Lucy is sent by her father to live with her Great-Aunt Josie for the summer. There, she meets two friends, Colin and Kit, and they create everlasting friendships. Together, they attempt to help Lucy uncover the truth she is seeking.

Harrington does a fantastic job of bringing the reader into Lucy’s head. As the reader follows fourteen year-old Lucy to Nova Scotia for summer break, the author makes you feel as if you are with her, e …

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Books for Summer Adventures

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Summer is a time for adventures! When you’re a kid anything can be magical when school is out — whether it’s camping, trips to the mall, playing at parks and splash pads, library visits, or swimming in the lake. For some, summer is all about being in nature while others can’t imagine a day beyond their cities, riding the subway to the next exciting stop. There are no rules for what makes a summer special, as long as you spend time relaxing with the people you love.

 

Here are some primary picture books and middle school novels that show how some people spend their holidays. Hopefully they spark a memory or inspire a new tradition!

 

In Cary Fagan’s The Big Swim, Ethan has one goal: to survive summer camp. It’s his first time away from home but although he’d rather join his parents on their trip to Europe, he accepts his fate and becomes determined to make the best of things. Sometimes things are hard and parents aren’t always around to help. This novel is great at showing ways to cope with sadness and anxiety, ways to take care of ourselves, and how to know when to push beyond our comfort z …

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Books to Inspire Storytelling (With Tech Tools to Capture the Tales)

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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At the beginning of each summer, as school is winding its way to the end, I inevitably pull out my books of ghost stories. I spend some quality time with the likes of Henry James, Robertson Davies, and Shirley Jackson and think back to when I was a child, roasting marshmallows and telling spooky tales over a campfire on a warm summer night. There are so many kids I see in my library with amazing and inventive stories to tell. Unfortunately some of these stories are never told, as the writing process does not come easily for everyone. Here is a list of books to inspire the oral tradition of storytelling and some tech tools that can help to capture these magical tales from the vivid imaginations of our students.

Podcasting

Two humorous stories about Coyote make up the book Coyote Tales by Thomas King, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. In “Coyote Sings to the Moon,” Coyote causes the moon to become angry and hide at the bottom of the pond, in a tale explaining why coyotes howl at the moon. “Coyote’s New Suit” is the hilarious story of Coyote stealing the furs of animals, forcing them to steal pe …

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Leading Students on a Path of Self-Discovery: Sadia by Colleen Nelson

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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Reviewing Sadia

As a fifteen-year-old adjusting to life in high school, Sadia begins to realize that growing up in Winnipeg brings many challenges. Balancing school work, extra-curriculars, and relationships, all while trying to discover yourself is a daunting task. Sadia faces pressure from her family, peers, and herself, while trying to figure out where she fits in.

When the new school year begins, Sadia’s best friend has started de-jabbing. This poses a real dilemma for Sadia as she has difficulty understanding why her friend would all of a sudden start lying to her parents.

This novel can serve as inspiration for many of our students. Living in a multicultural society means accepting everyone for who they are. Traditional rules need to be adjusted, and Sadia’s story serves as a prime example. She loves to play basketball and is a vital member of her school team. At an annual tournament, some of the opposing teams take issue with a piece of Sadia’s clothing — her hijab. Just when she thinks there is no hope, Sadia receives inspiration from an unlikely source.

Curriculum Connections

During the sto …

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Exploration and Creative Play with Loose Parts

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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The new initiative for my school library in September is the addition of a loose parts area in the library makerspace, where students will have the opportunity to play with different materials and use them to explore literacy, numeracy, and art. One of the features I love about loose parts is that they are all reusable; the learning can be captured with a photograph or video and then the creation can be taken apart. I have already gathered some natural loose parts (shells, sticks, twine, rocks, pinecones etc.) along with buttons, beads, Lego, blocks, small electronic items like motors and a number of recycled materials. As with all the learning tools in my makerspace, I like to add picture books as prompts for exploration. Here are just a few that may inspire your students to become creators.

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Windblown by Édouard Manceau is a simple picture book featuring colourful paper shapes that are b …

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