Monthly Archives: November 2013


Which is heavie…

Which is heavier, a pound of gold or a pound of feathers? Did you know, feathers can be heavier if first weighed in air then weighed in a vacuum…science – keeps us thinking…and floating ūüôā

Reading Help: great selections for all ages/links/sources…

Please don’t be “a snob” about your children’s reading choices- think of Captain Underpants ( as a chance to have a child enjoy the humour a well written satire will produce, accept the comic novels and graphic stories such as “Dork Diaries” ( interactive website accompanies the series) and be pleased when you see a child reading independently and comfortably. Readers read*, almost anything and everything, and develop vocabulary, empathy, and thinking skills, while learning to appreciate different points of view; a classic today, such as Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte ( was apparently a “shocker” when first published (1847) and shipped in brown packaging – ūüôā

As promised, today’s feature will be links to other sites where annotated bibliographies allow for less random choosing of books as presents ( it IS Holiday season).  In addition to Amazon, which often offers readers a chance to peep inside with their on line click to look inside button – a very good activity to practice as an inside look will quickly show the reader the grammar and vocabulary of the book, and Oprah‘s website where detailed reviews are posted, the following also have proven helpful.

Oprah’s list is extensive and clear/ separated by age groups: Please remember to try to find out what interests the young person you are selecting for.  For example, someone might be very into a series and even if having read a library copy may wish to have one for personal use. 


For younger readers, Indigo provides: , while also offering the following with adult readers in mind: Heather’s picks is an easy go-to source before heading to the store, although I do enjoy browsing a book store and holding a copy while weighing its merit as a gift; reading is a particular habit and not everyone enjoys the same material. In fact, books, like other art forms, vary in appeal…

Ok that’s the basics, then too there are local library lists, such as this one posted on the Toronto Public Library website: with their selection for teens-

I used to ask students to browse the sites and read the descriptions, then compile a list of twenty books they would choose. This allowed me to put together a package based on my budget and the choices on the list. For younger students, the reading of excerpts on line, together with an adult, can be a pleasant reading activity. Lots of good, helpful information here, advice to parents, and a statement I agree with: “The importance of book choice is highlighted, which increases motivation to read”

The following is a book list geared to educators and organized by grade level (American). The list is extensive and comes with a disclaimer in the beginning pages, a reminder that such lists are a “work in progress” – a comment that always reminds me that so are we- as educators, constantly striving to improve…

Click to access part1b.pdf

*If you have a young student struggling with reading, do not hesitate to select text with visual appeal, and even move into readers geared to the English as a second language learner; the repetition of words and specific vocabulary choices in such readers will help increase fluency as well as offer an opportunity to read a complete passage. Please remember that there is a huge difference between someone “not liking to read” and someone having trouble reading. “Not liking to read” can be a personal choice made by many a bright, capable individual who simply prefers other activities as a means of relaxing, but who has the skills to read as needed- for academics and for other areas of life. “Not being able to read” could indicate other problems; International Dyslexia Association which is American based; the Canadian Pediatric Society has devoted a full page to links with articles and advice for new parents and parents in general:

Reading for some will rank right up there with any activity – some love music, others dance, still others hockey, football, soccer etc. Don’t forget the motivation that reading about a “hero” could provide.

Thanks for reading …

Nuts really are good for our health, ask Yale U & Harvard**

¬†¬†¬†People ask for elevator speeches- really, what they want is a nutshell encapsulation of what one could do –

to help

to fill a need

to connect

to change direction

and what one does do to:

share information

make others comfortable

improve over time

Big challenge then, to put into a few concise sentences all of the above, to add a smile, to have in place a system that is flexible enough to absorb new practices, while being routine enough to become established.

And not to sound like a sound bite ūüôā

well that’s the nuts part- now for the bolts:

Bolts: could be a lock on a door or someone bolting as in running away

Beauty of homonyms, or words that sound the same but have different meaning, is how these words can be applied-

Don’t bolt; wait¬†

When someone asks for that elevator speech, share it, smile, and listen for a response. Think of the other meaning for “bolt”, even if one’s gut reaction is butterflies, and dashing off seems simpler.¬† Wait.¬† When questions begin, and conversation enables, breathe, smile again, and now, share the process.¬† Why the lock on the door? To seal the meeting, but not too fast.¬† Usain Bolt (couldn’t resist the pun) ¬†is a lovely example of when to hold back and when to surge forward; he saves his Olympic running energy for the actual event, pacing himself during tryouts.¬†

Nuts and Bolts go together, and it IS OK to be a little bit eccentric ( polite word for nuts )

Oh and both Yale and Harvard agree on the following:

**regarding the title

  Best regards,

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Ali ¬†ūüôā

     Approach Learning Intelligently

         Achieve Learning Ideals

 Working Together  Makes  Learning  Better

     Together Academics Toronto Canada






Reflections on “Apologies”, a Mayor/ and learning moments*

Maybe it is because I grew up in the 70s, when Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw ¬†made famous the idea that “love means never having to say you are sorry” ¬†in the film¬†Love Story¬†¬†(, but having listened these past few days and once again today to Toronto’s current mayor, Rob Ford, stating “again, I apologize” (he left out the part about “drunken stupor” today, replacing it with “acting on impulse”) it seems that his declarations of “Love for the city” while apologizing for his actions, are finally wearing thin – what then is behind apologies? ¬†

First off, we teach children to “say you are sorry”, and dutifully, many will. ¬†Any parent or teacher after a period of working with others can become familiar with the difference between the apology offered up because one was caught versus the apology offered generously when the giver genuinely feels remorse at hurting someone. ¬† The first type of apology is, as stated earlier – duty bound – expected – and rarely results in an understanding between parties. ¬†The action is done, period. ¬†The second type of apology may be the result of deep communication between or among people, or it may be the result of soul searching on the part of an individual –¬†and I will digress for a moment to put in a positive word for the Arts and how they can encourage empathy; many pieces of ‘great literature’ deal with this soul searching conflict. ¬† Back to the ¬†problem that we, too often, encourage that simplistic “say you are sorry” ¬†educational construct, beginning in preschool and continuing. ¬†And the message absorbed could be, that the statement itself is enough. ¬†

Sincerity though is different from duty. ¬†Sincerity suggests that a person has some understanding of the pain caused, and in this case, Mayor Ford’s numerous apologies sound hollow. ¬†He appears sorry to have been caught. ¬†Does he appear to demonstrate understanding of how damaging the actions may have been? ¬†NO. ¬†Back to school, and places where educators have the opportunity to discuss just this difference in the meaning behind or within an apology. ¬†Mayor Ford has mentioned he has been in a “drunken stupor” as if this were an acceptable excuse. ¬†If he is encouraged to join a 12 step program he may again be told to “apologize”. ¬†As both a parent and a teacher I have seen and heard all kinds of apologies. Little is more heart wrenching than being privy to the sincerely felt sorrow of one individual or group of people who actually acknowledge where and when they acted, perhaps without thinking, or, yes, maliciously. ¬†Rarely is that genuine apology the result of sanctions or threats; it arises from something else. ¬†Sincere commitment to understand another’s feelings. ¬†As adults, parents, educators and in the case of Torontonians, voters, we are in a position to not only “practice acts of kindness” but to also demonstrate empathy. ¬†The learning experience that Mayor Ford’ s implosion offers is strong: we can show why empathy allows us to recognize each other’s emotion; we can show whether we believe the public apologies ( recall, apologies given under threat of sanctions ); and we can take it outside the Toronto arena and look at relationships between and among countries. ¬†Finally we can speak among ourselves, with our children, about the understanding that is reflected through our actions, and how saying “I’m sorry” needs to be accompanied by an action that extends beyond the words. ¬†

Back to Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw ¬†– watch the movie …. ūüôā

* learning moments are like teaching moments only even better ’cause they allow for insights on both sides.¬†