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International Women’s Day 2017 #BeBoldForChange Books

Women's dayToday is International Women’s Day (IWD). The UN adopted this internationally celebrated day in the late 20th century, but did you know that the historic roots of IWD can be found in Russia dating back to 1917? On March 8, 1917, a demonstration of women textile workers covered Petrograd, the capital of Russia. Eight years before that, however, on February 28, 1909, the first “National Women’s Day” observance was held to honour garment workers in New York.

In 1977 the UN “adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions” (UN Women Watch).

Today, IWD means many different things for people all over the world. Each year has a new theme. The 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange.

Throughout the history of literature, women have not only been bold and gone against the grain to write great books, but they have also written books about other bold women.

9780062363602To honour IWD 2017 #BeBoldForChange, Alpha Textbooks is featuring books that we think represent bold women writers and stories.

Our list includes (in no particular order):

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai

Persepolis & Persepolis II, by Marjane Satrapi

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank (aka Diary of Anne Frank)

Hannah’s Suitcase, by Karen Levine

What We All Long For, by Dionne Brand

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

What other great books written by women about bold women would you add to this list? Why?




Making Connections, Third Edition, shows students where geography can take them

making connections - political factorsAs students become more connected with the world around them, the need for current and relevant course material is becoming more apparent. Subjects like English, art or politics are often top of mind when it comes to contemporary material. Rarely do we think of geography as a “current” subject. Making Connections: Issues in Canadian Geography, Third Edition (Pearson) brings geography into the real world for students.


In a previous post, we touched on the difficulty that teachers encounter when it comes to keeping students’ attention in a world of smartphones and tablets. If that is true for subjects like English, it is certainly true for geography. It’s not uncommon to hear a student say, “When am I even going to use this?” Making Connections, Third Edition, overcomes this obstacle in one great way: it shows students the real-life applicability of the subject.


making connections - chart 1Many students exhibit lack of interest in school courses, because they do not immediately see the subject’s relevancy in their lives outside of getting a grade. Making Connections, Third Edition, addresses this by posing real life questions to students, such as, “Should Canada have a one child policy?” It then provides supporting points for each side of the debate, encouraging students to make their own connections and come to their own informed conclusions.


The text also explores natural resources as they are tied to the economy. Chapters on natural, renewable and non-renewable resources, as well as population, manufacturing, the service sector, and the economy, come together to provide a complete and connected picture of the relevancy of geography in our daily lives.


Why teachers will want to use it in their classrooms

This textbook includes preparatory material with OSSLTs in mind. It also provides teachers with support in the form of sample lesson plans, summaries for each unit and chapter, answer keys, assessment checklists and rubrics, modifiable line masters, lesson support, and curriculum support.


Above all, what teachers will appreciate the most is seeing their students make connections between what they are learning in the course and the world around them.


Why students will want to learn it

Making Connections - CoverThis textbook is great at making difficult information accessible. It includes interactive learning opportunities through ArcGIS, Geo Flight, and Google Maps, which speak to students through mediums they use every day and can easily navigate. It also gives students a chance to apply the theory they learn in the classroom.


The book even goes a step further by including a “Skills Tool Kit” section, which breaks down the concepts, technical terms, and skills required to use and read the graphics included in the textbook.


Essentially, Making Connections, Third Edition, provides students with all the tools they need to succeed in their Grade 9 geography course. Whether it’s a question of the Canadian economy or their future, your students will leave your classroom at the end of the year with all the skills they need to advance to their next steps.

Gaining “InCITE” on Student Imagination


“Alchemy” by Diana Salman, Hillfield Strathallan College

It’s no secret that Alpha considers literary excellence and creativity to be an important aspect of every student’s success. That’s why we were so grateful when Gregory Dominato, MacLachlan College Director of English and Chair of CITE (Conference of Independent Teachers of English), generously gave us a copy of InCITE 2015, at the Leading With Words conference in April, held at Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton. InCITE 2015 is a book of humorous short stories written by youth who attend private schools across Ontario. The collection is the product of a youth writing contest, judged by award winning Canadian author, Terry Fallis.

InCITE 2015 begins with a message from the CITE 2015 “Leading With Words” conference chair, Jeremy Johnston. Johnston notes that we don’t take comedy seriously enough. He says that humour is an essential ingredient to every story and situation. In this message, he writes, “We believe humour is as essential as tragedy in aiding our understanding of the human condition.”

The most gratifying part of reading this book is finding humour in every single story. Without turning each story into a stand-up routine, students took average, everyday situations, and developed witty, delightful narratives. There are stories that take on the theme of differences in humour across cultures, dark humour, or even the imagined humour of inanimate objects. In all stories, readers are guaranteed a smile.

Since the book is a collection of vetted contest entries, it had three winners for three categories: middle (grades 7 and 8), upper (grades 9 and 10), and senior (grades 11 and 12). However, all the stories published in InCITE 2015 are remarkable in some way, so I’m discussing a couple of “non winning” stories deserving of attention.


By Kate Jones, The Country Day School

“Four Philosophers (Or, The Perks of Suspending Disbelief)” (26), by The York School’s 11th grade Adrian Marcuzzi, begins with three of history’s greatest thinkers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The philosophers are asked to solve some of the greatest philosophical questions posed by thinkers in the future. A stone slate with “clairvoyant properties” is brought into the room, and the philosophers are told that they “are forbidden to leave until [they] come up with something deep” (26).

The three set to work, asking the slate to show them the most popular question posed by the youngest popular thinker in the future. The rest of the story narrates how Socrates, Plato and Aristotle spend their time trying to derive meaning from Jaden Smith’s tweets, beginning with, “How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren’t Real #JadenSmith,” (27). By the end of the story, with the help of the temple caretaker, Socrates realizes that perhaps the reason they can’t understand Smith’s tweets is because, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us, (28)” thus coming up with the famous philosophical statement we know today.

Marcuzzi’s story combines humour and philosophy. In his witty observations about Smith’s tweets, he manages to make some insightful statements about society, and tie in the modern day with the old. He also cleverly wrote his story in a way that managed to bring it full circle, offering readers an unanticipated ending.

Appleby College’s Sydney Kalyn is the author of “Meet the Literals” (96). The story is a perfect example of how students used this year’s prompt to display their own unique sense of humour. Kalyn’s story is about the Literal family, who take everything literally. When the Lancasters go over with their children for dinner, they begin to notice the Literals’ odd reactions to certain statements. When the Lancasters’ son, Max, tells the Literals’ daughter, Curiosity, that she’ll only catch him “[o]ver [his] dead body” (97) during a game of tag, the story takes a dark, but humorous turn that can be appreciated by readers of all ages. Kalyn’s story blends humour, horror and word play to produce a delightful rendition of the absurd.


By Yasmin Kirby, The Country Day School

 InCITE 2015 also features student paintings, drawings and photographs to accompany each story.                                 

Reading InCITE 2015 has been an inspiration and important point of reference for us at Alpha Textbooks, as we prepare for our 2nd Annual Short Story Contest. We anticipate that in it’s second year, the contest will grow, and students’ work will be just as imaginative. The new judges are going to have a great (and tough) time!

Nelson English 10 – making classrooms as contemporary and explorative as the students in them

Ground breakNelson 10 book photo - Talk About It pageing and refreshing are words usually reserved to describe contemporary literature. Rarely would you use these words to describe a textbook. In this case, we’re talking about Nelson English 10.


In a world where technology has infiltrated almost every human interaction, and school classes begin with a reminder to turn off cell phones, teachers are looking for new ways to help students stay focused and engaged. Nelson English 10 understands and addresses the changes that are occurring in the way students learn. From its design to the learning material itself, Nelson English 10 caters to students in the world that they live in.


The textbook is comprised of four different sections: conflict, innovation, humour and perspective. Each of these sections uses poetry, visual art, short stories and news articles to help students engage with the content in a way that speaks to them.


On making connections, Nelson English 10 has this to say, “In today’s world, where one text so often plays upon another, analyzing the relationships between texts has become increasingly important. For example, think of a current TV show. How much of your understanding and appreciation of that show depends on the connections you make between it and other texts or shows you have read or viewed?”


Nelson 10 book photo -- SabinaZeba

Moving from approach to content, the other refreshing aspect of this book is the material itself. Nelson English 10 tackles controversial topics that are sure to spark debate in a classroom, such as censorship, surveillance and LGBT rights. Articles and short stories written by influential figures such as Malala Yousafzai and Rick Mercer, to name a few, encourage students to think critically and develop informed opinions about world issues.


Why teachers will want to use it in their classrooms

For teachers, it includes support for the concepts covered, such as literary devices, elements of styles, and genre/text forms. The textbook also contains modifiable rubrics, comprehensive summative assessments, and of course, covers all curriculum strands. What teachers are bound to love most about the textbook is the discussion it can potentially create in classrooms.


Why students will want to learn it

Students will enjoy discussing the concepts taught in this book because it uses current events and issues to help students apply their knowledge. Each section begins with a “Talk about it” page, which prompts discussion using paintings, quotes and other visuals. What’s most important to note about Nelson English 10 is that it was written for young people and about young people. The real life applicability of the content will make concepts easier for students to grasp.


Heading into thenelsonir post-secondary years, students will be expected to apply their English skills to analyze and write about current societal issues and events. While this is not your traditional textbook, it prepares students for the type of learning they will encounter after high school at a level that is appropriate for them now. Nelson English 10 may not be for the lovers of tradition, but it is a great option for schools and teachers looking to update their course material and offer something new to students.


Review by Piya Singhal

Top 5 Mysterious Places in Canada

Halloween is almost here!  To kick off our second and final week of Alpha’s 13 Days of Halloween leading up to the big day, we bring you our top 5 mysterious places in Canada. Click on the images below to learn more about these spooky places. Let’s begin!

Alpha Staff Picks For Halloween

Get into the Halloween spirit or encounter one with Alpha’s staff picks — great reads for Halloween.

Click on the pictures below to see what our wonderful staff have to say about these spooky books!