Category Archives: essays, fiction, writing help, student work, teaching, test prep

Doable; writing to express

When we teach writing skills and encourage students to blog, we also need to encourage them to try different writing styles and at times not only read but also write simply for the “fun of it.”

And as is often mentioned teachers are encouraged to model writing “off the cuff”-

This one is titled:  DOABLE

Modern multitasking: put vegetables in the oven on slow roast –suggestions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, eggplant …turn to 375 degrees as slow roasting brings out best flavour; apply hair colour; clean bathroom while waiting for hair colour to settle= food roasting will not only provide later nourishment but lovely smells; clean washroom = spa like feel when showering to remove hair colouring and refresh, and if have in suite laundry- well, then, do that too! Total time two hours from start to finish- now enjoy the roasted vegetables and walk out the door knowing home is clean and fresh upon return.

Note: buy fresh vegetables in advance and if laundry not in- suite, then while doing laundry after shower, clear emails, post correspondence, and plan week-blogging,  banking, bills, and invoicing time too!

Super woman; could even get in a pedicure and yoga meditation while waiting for nails to dry…Multitasking works!

Extra bonus points: find the literary devices inserted

Using Visuals to Enhance Writing Skills

 

Eggroll

Sometimes it is the simplicity and the symmetry that draws the eye. When students are asked to create a story, offering a picture prompt plus open brainstorming together will allow students to recognize what is meant when asking for a written “thick” description and students may create a background or plot for?

Who might be coming to dinner? Is it an ordinary occasion? Where is the setting? At home or elsewhere? Could they add a mystery/suspense to their short vignette?

Image, plot, character study, setting, use of adjectives, vocabulary enhancer- all ages/levels, writing skills

Image from La vie et Belle hollymdunning.blogspot.ca spring eggrolls, Vietnam

– Olympic participants 2014; Values and lessons

Four years ago I wrote a post sharing my love for the Olympics and the values that many of the Olympic athletes show and share(https://mytutoringspace.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/why-i-love-the-olympics/). How lucky we are, as spectators, to not only be able to watch and cheer but also to be able to learn and teach these ideals to our students. What becomes clear, time and again, is how excellence, or at least the pursuit of excellence, removes barriers and can connect across politics, across nationalities, and unites people even while the notion of competition itself suggests separation and distance among players. How sad then to read some of the tweets and posts that denigrated the players who selected to recognize the limits of their own physical prowess and who bowed out of a competition; be it an American or a Russian,(or a competitor from any other county), who did so out of a desire to stay healthy and have the option of participating again.

What then do the players teach all of us? That true sportsmanship is demonstrated on and off the field, and how “real life” is even more heart warming than all the TV commercials (though these do pull at heart-strings). I wish all the arm-chair critics who comfortably tweeted nasty comments about players, would realize that behind the choices are individuals who, by making it to the Olympics, have already proven tops in their fields, and who deserve encouragement for demonstrating that sometimes, not participating is the correct choice. Canada’s great hockey player, Sidney Crosby, and his determination to take care of himself when it was necessary ( http://proicehockey.about.com/od/nhlnewsscoresstats/a/Sidney-Crosby-Concussion-History.htm )is an excellent example for all young children learning a sport and needing to recognize the importance of pushing oneself, yes, but within limits. Cheers to both Men’s and Women’s hockey teams; thanks for making such hard work look like fun 🙂

Kudos to the female free-style skiers who honoured Sarah Burke, (http://lastwordonsports.com/2014/02/15/canada-honours-late-sarah-burke-on-flag-day/)- and demonstrated these 2014 games exemplify that individuals can and do make a difference and how individuals can change established systems.

For those of us who were kids in the 70s Sochi also represented huge Global changes. After the laughter at the toilets, and the army barrack style residences, let us recognize the enormous change that had to take place before Russia could even appear “welcoming” – – but that is also because of growing up in the 70s when all things “USSR” were simply “foreign”, and shows like “The Man from UNCLE” still popular in reruns on the TV. It was a “spy versus spy” world, not restricted to the last page of a MAD magazine; in 2014, the smiling Matrushka doll that highlights a portion of the downhill ski run is a lovely touch; and though some may see her a “folkloric”, to me, watching from home, she seemed to be pleasantly wishing all the runners well.

As a spectator, I continue to send a global “thank you” to each of the participants for giving the rest of us an opportunity to cheer. For a couple of weeks, we could believe, not only in the supposed superiority of a country based on medals won, but in the true magnificence of the ideal- competition through sport – peace through participation.

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 (http://www.amazon.com/New-Captain-Underpants-Collection-Books/dp/0439417848) 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” (http://www.dorkdiaries.com/home/ 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 (http://www.amazon.com/Wuthering-Heights-Dover-Thrift-Editions/dp/0486292568/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385496533&sr=1-1&keywords=wuthering+heights) was apparently a “shocker” when first published (1847) and shipped in brown packaging – 🙂

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 http://www.amazon.ca/Anne-Green-Gables-L-Montgomery/dp/0486283666 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.   http://www.oprah.com/taglib/index.html?type=bookmark&tag_name=kidsreadinglist&display_name=Kids%20Reading%20List

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: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/search/?keywords=younger%20readers , while also offering the following with adult readers in mind:
http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/heathers-picks/ 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: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/books-video-music/books/booklists/teen-reads.jsp 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.

http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/yrp 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…
http://www.p12.nysed.gov/guides/ela/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; http://www.interdys.org/ 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:
http://www.cps.ca/issues-questions/literacy

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 …

All About “Titles”

TITLES: we use them all the time, automatically addressing each other by first name or simply adding the title as a courtesy gesture. With Literature analysis I find so many students ignore the title of the piece of writing they have been asked to read and search, sometimes with a hint of desperation, for “clues” to the understanding of a “theme”. An Author’s choice of a Title is not only to grab readers through “curb appeal” (fancy cover, shocking picture- great title…etc.), it will also give insight into some major purpose behind the writing itself.

Take for example the Charles Dicken’s classic, “A Tale of two CIties”; the underlying comparison between the passionate French at the beginning of the French Revolution and the implied cooler British, the Lawyers and the Bankers, with the two principal characters lawyers, and a secondary character, the Banker, a Mr. Lorry, to change a system from within, without heads rolling – literally on the guillotine-

But heads do roll, as the drama unfolds. The Title takes on more meaning when the parallel legal courts try the same man- first in England then in France- for a form of treason, and the concept of identity and how it is imposed comes to the fore. With the very famous closing lines, Dickens as narrator gives to the concept of “Cities” further meaning- the city before the Revolution and the city that “hero” Carton envisions will rise up once the change is complete. Equally important is the change of name – three times for a main character, and with each name change though same person, a different obligation imposed. Titles – how someone or something is “called” – but I will save the multiple meanings in the use of the word “Calling” for another time.

Best wishes

January 2013!

 

   Yes, I have heard that there are people who find the number 13 scary- but I love the idea of the century moving into its teens- having worked with students through the middle years and been privy to the wonderful changes that occur as childhood becomes youth and movement towards independence grows – I have seen the maturing that the teen years do bring.  Also the experimenting and the challenging, that we as adults come to recognize as part of this growing.

 

In my cultural background, 13 is a lucky number.  It is a recognized time for children to begin the formal understanding of adult community and when many ceremonies publicly enhance this recognition.  Perhaps on a global level, throughout this year, 2013, we adults can extend our understanding of how little we truly know, and encourage the youths around us to continue to strive for greater knowledge, to remain curious, to not be afraid to challenge “accepted” wisdoms and to respect themselves and their dreams – especially necessary as it is a “tough world out there” and being able to – here I will defer to a well-respected former public figure for a quote: “ Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway” (Eleanor Roosevelt) can often be one of the more difficult things to accomplish.

 

  Simple wishes then for the 2013 Academic Year:  for everyone to keep growing. 

 

As always,

 

   Best regards.

 

          Alison (Ali the English Tutor)

 

 

Have your ever…?

It is such fun to present students with a topic often used as a journal writing entry and instead, open it up to discussion.  Have you ever…can become a form of “truth or dare” when students turn the question back to the teacher; whether parent or educator, “Have you Ever…?”  WILL generate story-telling.  You have been warned.  And the lovely weather means, if you are able get the students outside for this activity then do so.  

What comes next? Exams, quizzes, final Independent Study Projects, Year End wrap ups, and for some – those make-up projects to balance a less than stellar performance earlier in the term.  Much has been written and spoken about the ways in which schooling allows some to “slack off” and miss deadlines – it would be more productive of educators to note how many students each term do require the option of earning course credit through the end of year submissions- portfolios often more accurately portray a student’s ability than a single mark on a test.  It always seems contradictory for educators to rail against any form of standardized testing yet not build in the option for students to compile work that might indeed allow for personal expression.  The classroom and the curriculum is one of the last bastions of independent yet collaborative work; join with the students, try a Have You Ever…?”  in the staff room with fellow teachers, and surprise yourself – Listen, truly listen…and Enjoy!