Category Archives: good marks

Oh yes you can!


  Happy students = Happy teacher and today my name is “Happy”

Not only is it a beautiful spring morning but also this weekend I heard from parents and children- University acceptances are in, student work is showing marked improvements, adults have had business proposals accepted- deadlines are being met, and my elementary school age students are growing…I tutor English to a broad range of students, children and adults, who keep me constantly on the lookout for up to date new materials. I mix and match lesson plans as many of my students are first language English speakers in need of clear direction how best to improve in their usage (homework help, k-12), on school reports, post secondary papers.  With adults, again I tend to be eclectic and select materials for the professional business person per each student’s background and current needs- it is challenging and fun to learn about others- in addition there is the “specific to the test” prep as required.  But perhaps most importantly – I believe everyone can learn how to do it for him/her self. 

You see I was lucky- I grew up in the 70’s, a time of tremendous change, when “rail against complacency”,   “enjoy the journey”, and “challenge yourself” were buzzwords, and learning to ask “why” a mantra to be practiced.  And I do like to read, but not everyone does, which can make the school program(s) a real challenge for some. What I have found is that many students who don’t like to read don’t know How to read, and have accepted that they “can’t”.  Actually they Can, with proper instruction and guidance, master what is needed to achieve academic goals.  I don’t think everyone has to become a book lover any more than everyone has to become physicist; some people’s personalities are more inclined to grow in certain directions. But everyone can learn how to move through a school system and own their own learning style.   We just have to adopt the mantra of a little blue engine that made it up a hill and brought toys to the children on the other side- keep saying ” I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”  ask questions, take chances, and grow. 

Yes, You can.

Don’t you just hate piggy backing google spam?

Hi everyone,

   my name is Alison and this is my space.  I am a private tutor and my students tell me that this space is inundated with google spam featuring the logos and ads from major tutoring companies which means, the decades worth of graduate schooling that I have earned (my writing) is absorbed by these big companies and exploited by them- while they hire young kids to do their teaching – I am not a computer geek so don’t know how to remove the ads- in Academics this would be plagiarism – why is it OK? 

Your feed back is welcome – thank you from Alison (ALI)

Spring and the Growing Season- on a Mother’s Day morning.

   Growing is what happens when a student of any age stretches and pushes beyond their original level.  On this Mother’s Day morning my two children are still sleeping and I am still juggling the challenges that come with being a single parent, of two now nearly grown up, beautiful young adults, and developing a small business.  I love what I do, that tutoring gives me the chance to work directly with so many different people of various backgrounds and at a broad range of learning levels.  And I love being a mom and knowing that the two now deeply sleeping will soon fill this home with their energy and enthusiasm and caring.  What I try to nurture as I grow with them is their curiousity, for it is curiousity that allows for learning to take place.  Happy Mother’s Day to all celebrating today and stay curious.  

Please everyone note I can be contacted directly through email to . I am repeating the blog below because a reader mentioned that my recent blogs have been absorbed by Google ads! While this is a compliment of sorts I guess, that the big Tutoring firms have chosen to piggy back on my blog, I remain Ali (Alison) the English Tutor- one woman with twenty years of active teaching and learning here in Toronto and in Manhattan.  I am able to cull from that experience to personalize lesson plans and work together with a student and a student’s family for the strongest outcome.  Ali stands for Achieve Learning Ideals, my company is called Together Academics because nothing grows in a vacuum

 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.

Content: How do students of any age prove their knowledge?  Usually through some form of test taking.   And my role is to help improve the student’s ability to get credit for learning.  I have worked with many a student who didn’t realize how important it is to respond directly to the question.  As a tutor I value all the extra free thinking I get to hear, but I know that certain forms of testing still want very focused responses and a deliberate review of in class material. 

Words on a page form an argument, present a point of view and establish proof of accepting or rejecting the assigned materials a teacher is testing on.  For example, if a student is being asked to discuss a current event, the teacher marking the paper will be looking not only for clear grammar and punctuation, but most importantly for the discussion itself; how was the argument formulated? I’m going to try to be extra clear now- and mention that Academic argument is not the same as a “fight”.  It is closest to an examination of a point of view, a sharing of an opinion with an attempt to support that opinion through strong examples

             Think. Create. Perform. Commit to Practice. Improve.

Marriage- Science and Art together !

    May, and the British Royal Wedding providing great photos even to those not interested in the monarchy.  I think people feel good about William and Kate because they look like they will be able to meld forces while retaining individual personalities.  – Can Science and Art do the same?   They always are, as a quick trip to an Art Gallery (I suggest AGO if you haven’t been for a while) proves when one looks at materials used and the ways in which technology is incorporated within the works on display. 

The question was recently posed “how reading coaches could better work with the American focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, the Stem approach to learning”  and as a reading coach I realized that the artificial divide between the arts and the sciences is one I constantly bridge for true student literacy growth.

    As someone who has been Arts based and still has a strong desire to promote the arts in education I am constantly reminding science focused students how relevant “thinking through the arts” can be to develop the critical thinking skills that help one problem solve.  As I understand the Stem focus, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, to include not just memorization of facts but interpreting these facts to create new ideas and see a push for further encouraging the collaborative approach, and utilizing museums and other hands on out of classroom learning facilities, the trend may be to move to full holistic recognition of what Literacy means.  When I coach, I mix up and select materials from a wide base to build not only fluency with decoding but also to encourage the scaffolding students need to develop to be able to make connections for themselves.  Active reading involves comprehending and questioning material, when students are shown that new vocabulary is just a new way of expressing ideas and sometimes a shorthand for communicating, they feel empowered to use this vocabulary. The STEM focus can be a way of organizing readings so that a student is both learning how to tackle a new reading level and is having other curriculum material reviewed with the reading coach.  We already know to work in conjunction with the student’s regular teachers- certainly I find math problems in early grades often to be the function of a student’s inability to read and make sense of the word problem.  So, for example, in coaching reading with a student in grade five, I will also introduce math questions, or in working with the Engineering students now at University level but having difficulty with essay writing I will shift my teaching to focus on how the readings for a course become models for the students writing.  Yes – I just jumped to writing skills, because for me the reading and writing skills remain entwined.  I also keep handy a list of writers who have been or are science focused and share their scientific knowledge throughout a novel.   

Science and Art – made for each other.

Games, Golf and Good marks

” Know that nothing will bother or upset you on the golf course, and you will be in a great state of mind for every shot” courtesy of Bob Rotella, from The Golfer’s Mind, Play to Play Great.

Yes, and “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a Heaven for”  ( Robert Browning) “Everyone makes mistakes- don’t erase it- learn from it”- Alison  ( aka Ali the English Tutor)

We all have particular sayings that tend to just fit into a situation, and what the three above have in common for me is how practice and focus go hand in hand.  I have watched students furiously erasing words on a page, while glancing at the clock throughout a timed test.  Erasing takes time- better to draw a line through the offending section and move on. 

Back to Golf which in today’s televised sport’s world allows for instant replays – and no erasures.  And High Definition permits closeups that show the emotion of the competitors while we, watching, get to recognize their distress at missing a shot.  We also get to view the next focused shot, cleanly executed and performed as a result of practice, and understand that the players have decided to “Love the challenge of the day, whatever it may be” (Rotella).  Learn how to study, prepare, and share- and like great golfers everywhere, practice.  The good marks will come.

Talking about Why I love the Olympics!


Imagine: almost time for the Summer Olympics 2016 and this blog and its sentiments still strong- no Hockey in the Summer- let us cheer for these athletes and share the excitement they are feeling! xo from Ali 


I wrote this on February 17, 2010- since it has received many hits, I am republishing it on May 10, 2011.  I work with children and adults, and each student is encouraged to find the joy in the learning process.  How does one become an Olympic athlete? Practice, Practice. Practice.  How does one achieve learning ideals?  Question and Practice.

Why I love the Olympics!

       Now anyone who knows me well can tell you I’m a great spectator if not the most coordinated when it comes to playing sports.  That is one of the reasons it is such a treat to be able to watch beauty in motion as the top athletes from around the world gather to compete and demonstrate their passion to all.  And not everyone performs perfectly. Sometimes it is heartbreaking to think of the hours that go into preparation and how one slip can be the end of a dream- or not- watching the recent downhill mogul skiers, male and female, I was reminded again of what it takes to be a true star.  When an athlete falls off course, rights herself, pauses to recollect, and then in a burst of positive energy offers the cheering crowd a spectacular finish each of us watching can learn from the determination, commitment and honour to their supporters that those who finish in spite of the mistake show.  And so one is reminded about control and practice, commitment and passion, and doing one’s best regardless of the circumstances.  Kudos of course to the winner of the first Gold for Canada, but Kudos as well to the ones who got up and finished the course (whichever event), reminding all of us at home why we watch- to see individuals striving for perfection, coached, encouraged, and ready to share just how amazing the human spirit can be.  For me anyhow, it is a lot more than hockey, it is determination, strength and perseverance.   At least that’s what I believe…

   Alison  (ali the English tutor) at:  (direct e-mail)