Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | March 5, 2020

Essay Writing – a test

I am working on a presentation to be viewed by authors from around the world. It is scheduled as a Zoom call and I want to share some written information. With my limited computer skills, I am trying this approach: placing the slides here so the authors can view them during a period when we ‘go dark’ and they can read and write.

  1. The Thesis Statement Alone

The introductory paragraph may consist of nothing more than a thesis statement. The “Thesis Statement Alone” opening has the advantage of brevity. Like the short, punchy sentences that get a short story off to a quick start, it has immediacy. A second advantage is clarity; there isn’t anything in the way to cause confusion or ambiguity. Like a good topic sentence, it needs oomph or pizzazz to get the reader’s attention.

Against seemingly insurmountable odds, humans have shown an amazing will to survive. Three incredible people are evidence—one the victim of a head-on crash with a semi-trailer, the second the survivor of a brain tumor, and the third the prey of a form of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (from the essay “The Human Will to Survive” by Jerry W.)

  1. Personal Comment or Anecdote

The personal comment can be an opinion or statement about something that actually happened. An anecdote or brief story about something that has happened to the writer or to someone she knows can provide an excellent hook to catch the reader’s attention. This type of opening adds authenticity and offers the opportunity for the essay writer to involve the reader.

Some people wouldn’t know an anecdote from an antidote, or perhaps an anteater, when the term is first introduced. The dictionary defines anecdote as “a short account of some interesting or amusing incident or event.”

Fast Eddie Riley did not just march to a different tune; he polkaed. I first met him in university residence. Bright but socially inept, friendly but friendless, and the unfortunate butt of jokes and pranks, I can remember clearly how much outside the norm he lived. (from the essay “Individuals Who are Outsiders” by Pieter L.)

Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | February 14, 2020

IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK – Calgary City Teachers’ Convention, Feb. 13, 2020

The Convention Association will provide their own feedback from an electronic survey but I did my own “old school” version with a 2-question survey on paper I left on a number of chairs.


Calgary City Teachers’ Convention Association

February 13, 2020

 Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. – You are a superhero!

Strengths: Very engaging, funny. Loved the message: “Know what you say and do means something & has an effect on those you touch.”

Suggestions for Improvement: Discussion of the resources mentioned and how they are applicable to now.


Strengths: Your passion and love for teaching is a reminder to me of why I got into education – Thank you!

Suggestions for Improvement:


Strengths: Funny, good story teller

Suggestions for Improvement: Maybe an activity to get moving or try out ideas/activities you did find work

Should have your own podcast – would tune in


Strengths: The “monotone” thing works for you. (***I told a story about being told as I entered the Faculty of Education that I had a “nasal, monotone” voice. If this respondent is saying that’s what I have, then OUCH. As I read the rest of the response, I thought (hoped) this might not have been what he/she meant.)

Suggestions for Improvement: Have you ever thought of doing your own podcast? If you ever do, post it in your blog, Easy to listen to, relatable and insightful.


Strengths: Humor! Incredibly easy and fun to listen to. Being a kindergarten teacher myself, this year has been extremely exhausting even after ten years . . . so I needed a lift and some inspiration of what teaching is all about . Thank you.

Suggestions for Improvement:


Strengths: Wonderful session! Very relatable and helped empower me to continue on this journey as a teacher. I teach kindergarten and was able to take ideas away. Thank you very much.

Suggestions for Improvement:




Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | February 9, 2020

Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. – Calgary City Teacher’s Convention – Feb. 13, 2020


If you are a teacher, you are a superhero to a student. Some of you will be Teacher Man or Ma’am or Ms. to many students. Simply by being “the teacher” means you have been elevated to superhero status.

On Thursday, February 13, 2020, I will be sharing what I did over 31 years in the classroom, ideas that worked for me . . . and that should work for you.

know some other superheroes will be there. We’ll be in the Glen Room 204 of the Telus Convention Centre at 9:00 a.m. See you there?

If not, have your people call my people and let’s set up a time to get together.

Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | January 18, 2020

My trophy shelf now has (wait for it) TWO trophies

Somehow, trophies have eluded me for most of my life. Maybe I’m a late bloomer. My Toastmaster of the Year trophy came as a surprise, as had its predecessor the Toastmaster of the Year certificate. Nevertheless, this latest addition is very welcome. Many thanks to those who did the paperwork which always accompanies awards. I am blessed. Toastmaster of the Year trophy IMG_9069.JPG

Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | May 29, 2019

The Middle Years Alphabet Rides Again!!!

   Ms Kenny's class -2 IMG_7886.jpegWow! What an amazing hour and a half . . . with Miss Kenny’s Grade 5 class at Annie L. Gaetz School. Now there’s a master teacher at work with a super talented group of young people.  I played the “Names, Faces and Places” game so I got to know everyone and then shared an overview of the booklet. From there, we buckled down and got to work – oops, I mean play. We did rubbings, masking, felt pen bleeding, doodling, hatching and cross-hatching and shading AND ALONG THE WAY this exceptional gang created ideas of their own.

The very last picture is a Morse code message from Amr. Too cool. I send a special message back to him and then emailed one for the whole class – a riddle. For the next week or so, I’ll send a Morse code riddle per day. Practice helps.

Rhys IMG_7875.jpeg

Sawyer IMG_7878.jpegSienna IMG_7872.jpegJock and kids with Ms. K IMG_5077.jpeg

Indy IMG_7874.jpeg

Amery IMG_7877.jpeg

Decklan IMG_7876.jpeg

Jock and Dakota IMG_5076.jpeg

xx Braille from Amr IMG_7890.jpeg

Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | May 16, 2019

District 99 Toastmasters Conference



Jock with hoops 20190503_213352.jpg

(Too busy presenting to have a picture from my session but I did learn a bit about hoop dancing at the Friday evening entertainment session)

I had the pleasure to present a session at the annual Toastmasters conference in early May. Here are the responses I  received:

District 99 Toastmasters Conference

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

May 4, 2019

Session titled “It was a dark and stormy night – an interactive session about story”

Audience evaluations

16 attendees, 13 handed in evaluation forms


Poor = 1, Fair = 2, Good = 3, Very Good = 4, Excellent = 5

The presenter delivered the material in a clear and structured manner.

3 5 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 2 5 5 5  Average 4.38

The presenter was knowledgeable about the topic and any related issues.

3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 Average 4.69

The presenter maintained my interest during the entire presentation.

4 5 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 4 Average 4.54

The presenter answered questions effectively.

4 5 4 5 5 4 5 5 5 3 5 5 3 Average 4.46

The presenter was enthusiastic about the topic.

5 5 5 4 5 5 5 5 5 2 5 5 5 Average 4.69

The presenter was organized and well prepared.

4 5 4 5 4 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 Average 4.62

The presentation was concise and informative.

4 5 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 4 Average 4.62

The presentation contained practical examples and useful techniques.

4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 Average 4.77

The visual aids were effective.

4 5 5 5 5 5 5    5 3 5 4 3 Average 4.5

Overall, I would rate this presentation/instruction as:

4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 4 Average 4.69

Would I recommend this presentation to others?

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes = 13 Average 100%


  1. Very knowledgeable on the topic & great examples

Rearrange your Powerpoint so your videos are at the end – if you won’t have enough time for them

Using your concept of ‘Picture’ – I found your concept didn’t really connect to what I think of as a picture – perhaps rework/rearrange the material to connect these concepts.

  1. Good audience participation – reading scripts

Great body language awareness

Time conscious

  1. Very enthusiastic, thank you for sharing!!

I enjoyed the structure and visuals

  1. Excellent info. Great examples! Great acronyms.

Great visual – the Picture of a story + 3I-RACER

Opportunity – Jock, opening with a personal story would show us a good example of what you’re about to teach. I love the “Hickory Daiquiri” story.

I love the familiar story you broke down, so we could see how it was built up.

  1. The presentation was a good review of some concepts of storytelling from school that I had forgotten but with an adult twist. It shows you are an educator – you have a comfortable presence, are engaging, and present in a clear and concise manner.
  2. Check out “Hero’s Journey Free Run” on YouTube. 5 minute video, pretty great.
  3. Polished presentation. I hadn’t thought a lot about storytelling in a speech and am looking forward to exploring it further. Well done, Jock!
  4. Very useful information. Will use to help write my speeches.


Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | March 18, 2019

Learning to Remember – session at Teachers’ Convention

I have recently returned to the world of professional development days and teachers’ conventions. Hmmmm – didn’t realize how much I’ve missed them. If you’re looking for some tried and true ideas, please get in touch. 

I always ask for immediate feedback at my sessions. Here’s what I received after my hour and a quarter session at the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention Association (CATCA) on March 15, 2019. 




MARCH, 2019


  1. STRENGTHS: lots of practical ideas for remembering general things, good involvement of participants

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:  Maybe some specific context-specific (subject specific) applications/examples from best practices (yours and from others)

  1. STRENGTHS: engaging, great teacher participation
  • Great demo of strategies
  • Good examples of how to use strategies

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:  Enjoyed presentation. Thank you!! I’m going to try to use your strategies. Hope they help.

3. STRENGTHS: Love that we got to do some of the things that were talked about

  • Enjoyed the humor!

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:  Open the floor for people to share acronyms or a site to share

4, STRENGTHS: very knowledgeable

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:  I was hoping for something different than what I thought I learned in school. I thought you were going to show how to reel them in to a lesson.

  1. STRENGTHS: enthusiasm

               SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:  Do more activities like “Ladies and


  1. STRENGTHS: stories, humor, presentation

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:  Maybe more practical application – exemplars etc. of lessons and things

7. STRENGTHS: Smooth, calm delivery – no false starts, etc.


  1. STRENGTHS: Humor and personal stories. Singing is good too. Fun little tips


  1. STRENGTHS: You tried to make it applicable to real life and it was fun to listen


  1. STRENGTHS: There are many ways to be sure that the things that are really important are tended to (1) long term goals (2) short term goals (3) weekly goals (4) daily to do list, in order of importance *write it down in a planner – I have way too much on my plate without writing it down

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:  strategies to list things that are really important






Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | October 15, 2018

3I-RACER – Part 2

I’ve been out of the classroom (the school classroom not the classroom of life) for 15 years. About a year and a half ago, I returned to wonderful world of Toastmasters–and was reminded on numerous occasions of the power of “story.” Sooooo, I’m dusting off some of my time-tested exercises from my days teaching Upper Elementary and Middle School Language Arts that assist in the art of weaving words into a credible tale. 

Here are the notes I used to share with my classes. ***These are the “finished product” notes. I would often provide a hand-out that was filled with blank spaces. As I explained the information, I would get the students to fill in the blanks with the pertinent terms or wording. e.g. the Initial Incident section might look like this:

Conflicts are usually one of three types:

  1. Man versus __________________ – examples: a boxing champion and a challenger, or two street gangs, or the cops and the robbers
  2. Man versus __________________ – examples: a lifeboat of survivors from a shipwreck may battle against storms, sharks, starvation, etc. or someone is lost in the desert.
  3. Man versus ___________________ – examples: a person has an inner problem to solve, whether to cheat on an exam or not, or to stand up for a belief.


The Plot Structure of a Short Story – 3I-RACER

The plot of a short story is the order or sequence in which the events occur. Most short stories follow the order that is described in the five steps of 3I–RACER.

INTRODUCTION – in the first part of the story, several things happen:

Introduction of main characters – the reader is usually told the names of the main characters, what they look like and a little bit about their personalities.

Setting – the setting is described. It is made up of three parts:

  1. Time – the reader is told or can assume that the story takes place in either the past, the present, or the future.
  2. Place – where the story takes place is also made clear. Sometimes the reader is simply told the name of the country, sometimes the city, or perhaps, just that everything happens in a specific location e.g. a person’s house or in an alley, etc.
  3. Mood or Atmosphere – as part of the setting, the author tries to put the reader in a certain mood. He attempts to involve the reader in a certain emotion or feeling. He may create a “scary” mood in a ghost story, or describe the unhappiness of being alone in the story about an orphan.

INITIAL INCIDENT– this is the “first event” in the story that tells the reader what the major problem or conflict or struggle is in the story. The reader often unconsciously will put the problem into the form of a question –e.g. Will the good guys beat the bad guys? Will the person survive being lost in the wilderness? Will the lady make the right decision?

Conflicts are usually one of three types:

  1. Man versus Man – examples: a boxing champion and a challenger, or two street gangs, or the cops and the robbers
  2. Man versus Nature – examples: a lifeboat of survivors from a shipwreck may battle against storms, sharks, starvation, etc. or someone is lost in the desert.
  3. Man versus Himself – examples: a person has an inner problem to solve, whether to cheat on an exam or not, or to stand up for a belief.

RISING ACTION– this is usually the largest part of the story.  In this portion, a series of events happen which keep the reader wondering which side will win the struggle that began in the “Initial Incident.”

In a good story, the reader is kept in suspense or doubt as to what will happen in the end. This is done by first making it look like one side will be victorious, then the other, and so on, back and forth.

CLIMAX – at this point in the story, the reader finds out who wins the struggle. The outcome of the conflict is determined. The answer to the question posed in the “Initial Incident” is answered.

examples:    the challenger defeats the boxing champion

sharks eat the survivors of the shipwreck

the person decides not to cheat

EPILOGUE OR RESOLUTION (also known as “Falling Action” or “Denouement.”) – any questions that weren’t answered by the climax are now resolved and made clear. Loose ends are tied up. This is often a very short part of the story.

examples:    the challenger went on to defend his title in a re-match with the ex-champion

the death of the survivors resulted in stricter regulations about equipment put into lifeboats

the honest person passed the exam, but his friend, who cheated, got caught and was expelled.

3I – RACER is an acronym that can be used to remember the five parts to the plot structure of a short story.

I – Introduction

II – Initial Incident

RA – Rising Action

C – Climax

ER – Epilogue or Resolution


Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | October 13, 2018

How to tell a story with 3I-RACER


Trying to get students to see things in the mind’s eye has always been one of my goals.  Visualizing allows me to better understand a concept and it provides hooks for the memory.

For the plot of a short story, I have added to the standard plot picture with several additions, additions I feel are helpful because they add important details. The pictures below are a progression from the standard plot outline familiar to most (but perhaps not all), my first adaptation (and this one may be sufficient for early grades), and then my latest version (and even this is only the very basic, no frills short story plot).

Your standard plot picture

The standard plot picture may be sufficient to explain the idea that a story has a beginning (where the reader learns where and when the story takes place, who the main characters are, if any significant events have occurred before the actual beginning of the story), it rises to a climax (a main problem exists that must be solved and in seeking that solution the events build toward the climax), a height of interest and answer to the problem is given, and then loose ends are tied up and/or unanswered questions are answered.

The standard plot picture doesn’t really say most of the specifics I’ve just mentioned but the BIG picture is given. I thought the picture needed to be more focused.

My Original Adaptation to the Standard Plot Picture





My improved and/or more detailed adaptation to the standard plot picture

My first improvement, and this is the one I used throughout most of my career, simply indicates where the Initial Incident occurs and shows it with a Q in a circle. After the information given in the introduction, the reader is met with the story’s BIG problem. I have always asked my students to note that problem as a question. When I introduce the whole notion of the simplest plot structure, I use fairy tales: What will happen to Goldilocks when the three bears return? Will Little Red Riding Hood get safely to her grandma’s house? Will the three little pigs stay safe from the big bag wolf?

The steps rising to the climax are a series of “Good” and “Bad” events – good for the protagonist’s situation or bad. We begin by playing the Good and Bad Game. Situations like this are invented: You and a friend are in a life boat in the middle of the ocean. Students then offer suggestions. Good – the boat has oars. Bad – a shark swims by and bites one of the oars in half. Good – you whack the shark over the head and he swims away. Bad – there is no food in the boat. Good – there is a first aid kit and it contains a fish hook and some line. . . and on we go. Students are quick to catch on to the idea that suspense increases through any series of events that keep the reader in doubt.

The steps are only a generalization as I am quick to point out that most stories do not follow a one good – one bad sequence. More often a number of either good or bad events occur in a row only to be interrupted by an opposite event. In Goldilocks’ case, it’s a “two bad, one good” sequence – this chair is too hard, this chair is too soft, this chair is just right.

For me, the climax has always been the answer to the BIG question, not the point of highest interest, the split second before the reader discovers what happens. In the real world a climax is a climax. I rest my case. A = answer.

The shortest part of the story seems to have been blessed with the most names: epilogue, resolution, falling action, denouement. I use Epilogue/Resolution because it fits my mnemonic. For my students, the plot of a short story is 3I-RACER. That’s 3 I’s, one for Introduction, the next two are for Initial Incident. The RA is Rising Action, C is Climax, ER is Epilogue or Resolution.

Fairy tales offer a perfect epilogue/resolution with the ubiquitous “They all lived happily ever after.”


This more detailed version of the very simple plot structure of a story is my “since I’ve been retired” version. It is not classroom tested . . . but it does appeal to my “let’s not dummy down” philosophy. It only includes a few small additions and I think it makes things a bit more clear. The jagged lines forming the introduction are a series of W’s and perhaps should be shown as such. (I added a picture below that does this.) The introduction, once again as portrayed in fairy tales, is the “Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a far away place, there lived a . . .” part. It tells when, where, who.

Another W in the Introduction could be What if one can make the leap to Antecedent Action being thought of as What important events occurred before the actual beginning of the story. The arrow below the W’s indicates the Antecedent Action.

The labeled version of the above plot picture


As promised above, the slightly altered plot picture with W’s in the Introduction.

Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | April 9, 2018

The Middle Years Alphabet

Check out this link

This page is under reconstruction but it’s a great concept. The videos still work but my email address (as noted at the end of the overview iMovie is now I’ve also designed a booklet to go along with the alphabet – always looking to make things better!

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