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If there is one resource that I would recommend to English/Socials 10 -12 teachers who want to embed more aboriginal content in their courses, this would be it.  Seriously.  It’s a fantastic collection of poems, short stories, and essays from Canadian aboriginal authors.  If you would like to become more familiar with the themes and ideas found in aboriginal literature (especially important in light of the aboriginal competencies within the new curriculum), the best way to get started is to immerse yourself in it.  This resource is where I’d start.


As an English teacher, there is something about this video parody that brings me great joy.  Thanks Weird Al!


It’s amazing how much students have changed in my six years of teaching.  They are increasingly immersed in technology – all of my students have cell phones and many are avid gamers and (all?) are involved with social media in some way or another.  It’s neat to witness this transformation, but with it comes some serious questions.  How is all this technology changing who we are?  Why are we so enamored with gaming?  Is technology robbing us of important human experiences?  Should we be concerned about the rapid growth and development of technology?

To help me explore some of these questions with my students I show them a short film called “Play.”  It’s a gritty and somewhat disturbing glimpse into the future of gaming and technology.  It’s totally unpredictable.  And because of these things it is also incredibly engaging.  Watch it – you’ll enjoy it.  It’ll make you think.

If you enjoy it and want to use it with your students, there is a lesson plan that you can access here plus a bunch of other mindbending, short films that give compelling visions for the future.

Last week I had a student tell me that he hates poetry.  A number of other students expressed a similar sentiment.  “Fair enough,” I told this student, “but I don’t believe you.  I think you actually like poetry.”  Presumptuous?  Maybe.  Then I showed my class this video:

It’s rare for my class to be so completely engaged in something that everything else fades away – yet  as I watched my students watch this video they were captivated.  When the video finished, instead of the usual chatter of opinions and thoughts, there were a few seconds of complete silence.  This isn’t a normal occurrence in my class!  A student asked if I knew of any other videos like this one – when I said yes, but that I was going to share them at some other point, I nearly had a mutiny on my hands!

I still get a lump in my throat every time I watch this video.

This is a fantastic video that pokes fun at how ‘fotoshop’ can be used to give someone the appearance of beauty.  It’s a humorous and sobering look at a serious issue.  This video was created by Jesse Rosten.  Enjoy!

This past week I’ve thrown myself (and my students) into the brave new world of inquiry.  Although in many ways I feel totally unprepared this whole new way of teaching (and learning), the time was right and my students were ready, so I made the jump!  As with all new endeavors, there are the combined feelings of exhilaration and anxiety, trepidation and boldness – all jostling for top spot.  Sounds like an adventure!  After spending only two days on their inquiries, my students left for the weekend excited.  It’s their excitement, along with my beliefs about how inquiry can change the classroom environment that are driving this new teaching initiative forward.

Before I jumped into inquiry learning, I thought it might be a good idea to do some research; after all, I’m not going to jump into the pool until I know how deep it is (just so you know – it’s deep!).  Although I’ve found many articles advocating for inquiry teaching and learning, I’ve had a tough time finding information on how to actually implement an inquiry into the classroom.  Several resources that have been incredibly useful for me in this regard are linked below:

  1. “Focus on Inquiry” “A teacher’s guide to implementing inquiry based learning” developed by the ministry of education in Alberta.  Invaluable.
  2. “Inquiring Mind” is a user friendly site created by a teacher, educational consultant, and ICT facilitator in New Zealand.  This is a great place to get started thinking about how to structure inquiry learning in the classroom.
  3. “Wright’s Room” is a blog created by high school teacher Shelley Wright who is living and breathing inquiry in her classroom.  The things she’s doing with her students is inspirational and her authentic writing has helped me envision and plan out my own inquiry.

I love using youtube in my English classes – there are a TON of amazing, high quality resources that are just waiting to be used!  These videos are engaging, accessible to students of any ability level, and can be used in a variety of different ways for a variety of different purposes.  However, it can be a lengthy and frustrating process sifting through the massive number of videos out there; as such, I’ve created an annotated list of some of the best poetry and short films I’ve found.  I really like all three poetry videos and of all the short films I use “The Black Hole,” “Futurestates,” “Offside,” “Strangers,” and “Validation” the most.  If you have any other suggestions of videos to add please send them my way so I can add them to the list!  Enjoy!


 –          “Two Inches to the Right”

This is a powerful poem that I have found especially effective with boys and reluctant poets.

–          “Slip of the Tongue”

An engaging, spoken word poem that deals with issues of cultural identity, gender stereotypes, and a host of other issues.

–          “The Dead”

A simple, well animated poem that I often use to introduce students to poetry.  Billy Collins was an American poet laureate and has a great voice.  He has a number of animated poems online including “The Best Cigarette,” “Forgetfulness,” “Some Days,” “The Country,” “Now and Then,” “Man in Space,” and “Walking across the Atlantic.”

Short Films

–          Apricot   

An awkward date turns surreal as a woman finds out that the man she’s dating is her first love – definitely ‘chick flick-ish!’

–          A Thousand Words

A film about a man’s pursuit of love and the power of potential love.  No words are spoken (ironically) as the main character tries to find the owner of a camera he found on a train.

–          The Black Hole

A humorous film that looks at the dangers of greed.

–          Frankie   

A young, thuggish kid getting his head around the idea of becoming a father.  I haven’t fully digested this film yet – but I think I like it.  I think it could really resonate with many of our learning centre boys.

–          Futurestates

Futurestates is a series of eleven short films that look at what the world will look like in the future – they’re thought provoking and poignant.  These films would be great ways to get into some interesting ethical discussions about the world we live in.

–          Inside     

This film examines the reality and confusion of schizophrenia – with a very unexpected twist at the end.  Insightful and dramatic.

–          The Life and Death of a Pumpkin

An awesome video that could help students think from a different perspective (in this case, the life story of a pumpkin).  The idea is simple enough that students could attempt to film a similar idea without too much filming knowledge.

–          Offside   

This is a suspenseful film about four soldiers who encounter each other while on a routine patrol.  They are temporarily drawn together over a soccer match before one soldier accidentally fires his rifle and kills a soldier from the other side.  This is a great way to explore short story or to explore issues of war, commonality, and the power of sports (among other things)

–          On Time 

A short film on the dangers of trying to manipulate the future.  Well filmed and scripted.

–          Sacrifice 

A short film about choices and consequences, stereotyping, friendship, and empathy – great for boys.  A group of boys get caught breaking into an industrial building and one boy accidentally stabs his friend in an effort to escape from the security guard.  The story mainly takes place between the stabbed boy and the security who gradually empathizes with the young man and then sacrifices himself so the boy will go free.  The sound is quiet for this video – you’ll have to turn up the volume.

–          Signs

A short film about the importance of love and relationship in life.

–          Strangers

A brilliant short film that examines racism and the importance of looking beyond race and nationality.

–          Still Life 

A very suspenseful film with a surprise ending.  Great for looking at suspense and starts to move into the horror genre.

–          Still Life – Short Film

Another video with the same name – this one examines the story of a woman who is suffering from depression and also begins to bring in some elements of horror into the story.  It contains a unique third person narration.

–          Tarboy   

An animated, fun film – I use it more for engagement purposes than anything.  I also use it to get students to find theme (which is explicitly stated).

–          Validation

A great short film about the power of being kind to each other and the impact it can have on another person’s life.

–          Where the Hell is Matt    

I love this video (it’s powerful) and I’m not entirely sure why!  Essentially, it’s about a man who travelled all over the world and short clips were taken from each country with people dancing (yes, dancing) with him.  It shows how we are more unique than different – through dance.  You have to watch it to understand what I mean.


–          Anti-Bullying Ad 

A great anti-bullying ad that shows how the power of one person standing up against bullying can make a difference.

–          Anti-Bullying PSA: The Price of Silence

An anti-bullying at that could also be tied into other issues.

–          Words Hurt – Bullying Commercial

Another anti-bullying commercial


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