Monthly Archives: March 2011

Another way to reach me; testing season is upon us…


Exams, essays, summatives, standardized testing, all have one thing in common,  pressure to perform in an accepted fashion.   And the students who do best on tests know the secret- preparation plus accepting the challenge-

Testing is a chance to show what you know, an opportunity to say “I have done the work, and I am prepared.”  When students leave an exam and declare it was “easy” what they are really stating is that they knew the work and understood the questioning process.  I tend to over prepare my students, and do practice timed testing.  

What happens though when a student who has prepared simply can not stomach the exam process?  Parents then need to get involved, and speak with a school guidance and or administration department and determine if there is an alternative way for the student to gain a credit.  PLAR- Prior Learning Assessment may involve having a student prepare a portfolio to demonstrate having covered all aspects of the course.   Even at University there are options, and no student should feel a single test will determine the future. 

I think all the talk about standardized tests and what they don’t measure has merit; the standardized tests do tend to evaluate only specific styles of learning as questions have to be formatted in a particular fashion. But, standardized tests do allow for insight into a learner’s knowledge base and if approached gently and seen as part of the learning process they needn’t be feared.  I know you have heard this before – but try not to cram and sleep the night before.

      For me the most important part of the lesson is when a student gives input – if I am helping a student edit work during a writing conference I am very careful to make sure that the final result remains the student’s words. 
Why? Because for me, it is about helping a student, regardless of age, recognize what is meant by                      “VOICE’.  

       People tend to believe that because they speak a language they are therefore capable of writing in it- and for most exercises this proves true. Then there are times when the more sophisticated approach to writing is called for- Academic English – and other times when the Business English approach is more welcoming…

        Today’s emails require a rather direct approach to the topic, and not the longer, winding, introduction business letters of the past (snail-mail correspondence) used. Many books still show this older style and while such texts can be used to provide a framework for a lesson I tend to encourage students to practice writing by beginning with what they want the reader to learn and bypassing the longer introduction when sending emails. We all receive so much spam, that I think it is important to alert email readers directly about the purpose of a piece.

         Enjoy the snow- mhhm- I think we in Toronto are lucky to have these seasonal reminders about change; A chance to  appreciate something real in nature to remind us that learning, like nature, follows a rhythm that can’t be forced but ought to be respected.  I think I’m going to go make some new footprints…

    best regards,

      from Ali ( Alison)  

Sharing what we know

       Teaching is all about learning, and challenging students to care. 

I know that after a week of Spring break vacation time, many students are still just beginning to register that one more academic year is slowly winding down and that these next few months demand a particular focus.  High school students in particular feel the challenge; there is a sense of urgency as April approaches, an understanding that summatives will be followed by exams and that school shows, extra curricular activities and testing all seem to happen or be due at the same time.  How to prioritize and pack in the most amount of real work to gain the maximum credit at year end?  And did you remember your volunteer hours? 

As a tutor I feel the excitement and apprehension that my grade twelve and soon to be graduating students are experiencing.  With acceptance letters coming in choices are being made and this note is a simple reminder to parents and students- take chances.  There are so many new experiences to be had, and the college/university challenge is worth all the angst and worries that have accompanied these recent past few months.  Now is the time to actually say “I’m curious, I want to learn”  and to understand that commencement really will bring a new beginning. 

With this open blog I plan on sharing – but first a Thank You to all who are making   your tutoring space,



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