Category Archives: quality time

Summer blogging…

Yeah, it is hard to resist forms of puns even in the summer time; and Grease is a movie that reminds me of what many students do experience during the summer- a total change of pace! And this is why it becomes extra important for us as educators to view the returning/incoming students with “Fresh Eyes” and not with expectations from which ever report some school official may have filed the previous year; it is also why as Educators we must view parents in the same light- a light that opens the classroom to the parent’s view, and allows for the “newness” of the new academic year.

P for personal

R for real

I  for each of us

V for value

A for action

C for care

Y for yes- the thing that each of us expects-

At one point my classroom walls had an acronym for RESPECT, then I spoke with various students over the years and uncovered that for many Respect is demonstrated when Privacy is permitted; kids do have, especially from middle school on, a desire to discover their own personalities via “trial and error” and all the potential each finds, we, as Educators, have a responsibility to encourage! In 2016 when “Grease” the movie or the musical, and the 1950s and “Summer Loving” may seem to be taking a step backward in favor of “Star Trek Beyond” or “Ghostbusters (2016)” students are still having experiences that are neither academic nor necessarily quantifiable, during their “vacations” which for more and more students are amounting to less and less “free time” and instead do involve part-time or full-time jobs, travelling, or even academic work when students feel pressure to use every moment to gain a credit or pick up a dropped course … In sum, Summer Vacations may never have actually been “carefree”  (1950s movie depiction) but they might continue to provide people with a chance to – for a little while- step out of the prescribed roles their regular academic social circle defines and allow both teachers and students to be just a little more daring, just a little more “themselves”; for teachers too tend to get typecast within the culture of a school, and today with global connections and online “PLNs” many of us as Educators are constantly happy to explore new aspects of teaching the “same curriculum even if newly labelled” via hearing how our contemporaries are sharing the knowledge and encouraging growth at their respective centers.

It is fun to – have a new positive experience, meet new people, work on a personal challenge, or even simply daydream for a lengthy while, minus the interruptions of the bell; and of course some of the summer experiences could be mis-educative, and instead of encouraging, point a person in the direction away from growth via instilling a little too much grit- sand paper wears something down if improperly applied!

So instead of the intro letter about “how I spent my summer” which used to be expected as the new litmus test to determine if students could remember how to write a paragraph or two, why not give the students a few weeks to jump right into the new classroom environment and to sign up for which ever extra curriculars the school is making possible, letting the students and the teachers reflect themselves on who they are meeting anew- that almost grown up “stranger” may actually be oneself, entering the classroom with a newer perspective as a more “open” educator- less ready to accept what the last set of teachers declared about a student and more curious to participate in the developing and refining of “this year” and who is before one- “Sandra Dee” or “John Travolta” or a variation of any character from Comic Con- real people still, and allow the students to share their feelings over the material you select for the “diverse” classrooms you will be teaching in; privacy also means that educators “Not Assume” so that when students are learning to show both empathy and understanding no one erroneously jumps in to suggest they must only have the personal at stake- more than likely they are actually showing that the learning is affecting them, allowing them to care about people beyond themselves and their narrow circle; we as Educators must remember to let kids change- isn’t this what real learning and evolving is meant to demonstrate?

In advance of 2016-2017-  or if your place has already begun or is beginning the new Academic year- GOOD LUCK! Educators could always benefit from a dose of luck and a well stocked library!

 

 

 

Joint ventures and classroom projects

Cutesy or clear? rows or seats in teacher prescribed groups? lecture format, flipped classrooms…either or/- or a little bit of “everything” to not merely allow for each “type” (are we still discussing “types”) but to put personality back into a teaching “formula” and to allow each instructor, parent, educator, to share key concepts, and to remember that be it in a one room school house ( these still do exist ) or a couple thousand strong – formal learning environment, we ARE after a similar set of goals- how to share a concept so that learners of all ages want to make it their “own”.

Working with a variety of learners has “proven” one thing to me; thinking in action, changing direction, and being able to make time for student led questions, student led “experiments” does not mean “hands-off” in terms of teaching but the opposite- clear directions for open-ended results, open ended directions for further inquiry, and the expectation of change occurring when a student begins to believe that there is a purpose to an action.  Having said that, my next comment might surprise people- for indeed sometimes the purpose is to prepare for a quiz; sometimes we practice something to make it a “habit”.

If independence of action remains a goal suggested by the “some day” to be earned diploma, then testing continues to hold value as a means of demonstrating some form of learning- we are encouraged to “test drive” a car before selecting, shouldn’t students be allowed to test themselves at higher levels of challenges?  The problem I have seen from some test results is the subsequent labellings of a student, labels that often do not take into consideration the growth that is taking place within our young, daily.  While I favour ongoing assessments, formal and informal, I have seen students respond with excitement to the idea of an examination- formal term applied.  And to the cheering that is also part of an educator’s role, when we recognize even “basic” accomplishments; learners of all ages do want to know what a test is examining, how to tackle it, and in what areas could one improve.

Classes for many resume next week 🙂 – teachers are rarely blase about the prospect knowing that introductions can set a tone; I think of how many good stories I may have not completed reading if I hadn’t encouraged myself to move past the first two chapters, and get into the true focus of the story. Realistically, characters grow on readers as we join them in their adventures- It is ok to be a bit of a character to the students as long as we remember to stay curious ourselves; then learning is not merely an adventure, but a joint venture.

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 …

March Break Ideas

http://cookit.e2bn.org/recipes/

When I find a great site I like to share it! Are you at home this week and thinking of activities to do with your children over March Break? In addition to the many great institutions that have hands-on activities for the week, cooking together at home is an opportunity to share creativity- boys and girls can enjoy selecting the food products, planning the meals and helping with the clean up.  Reading a recipe IS reading and incorporates math and science too!  Plus when you go to a website such as the one offered above, you may compare food choices from earlier times with popular foods today. 

Hope people are getting outside too and enjoying the mild Toronto weather. 

as always, best regards, from Ali the English Tutor-

ps I am here over the break and open for students daytime as well as after school and weekends.  Also now offering lessons over SKYPE  at mytutoringspace1 . 

Other activities:

http://ebw.evergreen.ca/        Evergreen Brick Works-    you can cook here too!

http://www.rom.on.ca/marchbreak/     The Rom has a sale on!

http://www.ago.net/grange-historic-kitchen-tours    Have you been to the AGO but missed the Grange?

http://www.ago.net/teenager-hamlet-screening-and-qa-with-artist-margaux-williamson     have a student in high school working on HAMLET?

http://www.ago.net/march-break-2012     Specials for the week at the Art Gallery of Ontario

http://maplesyrupfest.com/        The Maple Syrup Festival is really sweet!

http://www.hhof.com/htmlNewsPromo/newsMarchBreak.shtml      Hockey Hall of Fame- then lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory

http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/calendar/marchbreak/     March Break means SUPER DOGS at the Science Centre

Repetition and Drill: why they are still necessary tools for learning

Ever heard a young child sing the ABCs or blithely recite a nursery rhyme, or a set of multiplication tables? The child owns that knowledge, often way before knowing much more than the sounds.   And adults encourage this repetition, what ever the language in the home.  Whether at home or in a daycare setting, many pre-school activities involve this working toward mastery, from the initial push-ups a child will do to strengthen his/her arms before one day taking off in a crawl to the running back to climb up the slide – then, yet again, coasting to the bottom.  And young children enjoy hearing a story over and over again until they too have memorized and are able to “read”  it on their own.

Somewhere though, between 1st grade and graduation the possibility of “winging it” takes over and this is when the school assigned writing exercises become an activity that some students dread. True, writing can be a slow process, due to the need for reviewing and revising.  But not everything needs to be redone.  In fact, some of the most difficult writing exercises involve a form of automatic writing; most tests require this quick and clear response to some type of prompt.  

How then, to be quick and clear? No getting around it- repetition and drill of basic skills for which there are so many templates that students need not even be aware they are repeating the same exercise, although in a slightly different form.

http://prek-8.com/english/writing/index.php   a great resource – free and downloadable for classrooms or those being home schooled. 

 

What might really help?

I remember when the concept of distance education was being discussed in graduate school only from the potential to aid students in rural areas or students who might not otherwise have had access to teachers.  Many an hour was spent debating the merits of this “future form of teaching and learning” and this was only a little over a decade ago.  Today we take for granted the relative simplicity and beauty of communicating over distances thanks to personal technology. But with this growth in on-line learning has developed a new breed of student- the student who will buy a credit without doing the work. Of course, not all students who sign up for distance education plan on cheating, in fact, I think many do not even realize that this is what they are doing in asking a tutor to “just sit beside me and answer the questions when I take the test”.  Or am I still being willfully naive?

     A recent rash of requests to do just that – to either write the paper for a student, or to take the test for a student has made me wonder.  Though not yet an epidemic, is this the future of education?  And I know that there are “tutors” willing to do the full work for the student which says something else about the education system- too many underemployed.   

  Yes competition can be fierce. Today’s student is growing up tech savvy and a student’s discovering ways around a system is not something new.  What to me is new is that adults are often behind the student and encouraging the practice.  When we as tutors share knowledge in such a way that students, regardless of age or background, can feel empowered and able to use the skills and move beyond the basics to create their own set of “personal, practical knowledge”  then as tutors we will have achieved a basic goal of education: to encourage curiosity in others, to facilitate growth.  “Character education”, “problem solving skills” “lessons in empathy”, are the new buzz words and hardly a curriculum can be found that isn’t touting these phrases.  What might really help? Reading skills everyone, comprehension practice, readings from the literature of other countries/ other cultures/ other time periods.  Learning by doing happens when the words on the page have an effect on the reader and affect change.  Change is good – it is a part of growing.  I challenge you to find a classic, modern or traditional, or one of today’s “best sellers”, that doesn’t, in one way or another, through the story, further the development of all three.  Active reading is a wonderful key.

All about Libraries

  Did you know that one of the best places to find material for research projects is in a library?  Yes, because I am writing at my computer and you aren’t sitting right beside me, this becomes a rhetorical question, however, I mean it, literally.  So many students have shared with me the simple fact that “they hardly ever go” to a library anymore, and I know this affects their ability to discern useful material, select valid websites, and focus their writing within a category.  You see, with major search engines doing some of this work for the students,  many rely heavily on quick clicks and popular categories to link to fast homework help;  physically navigating a library takes time.  Getting children comfortable with the space can begin a lifelong appreciation for public spaces; particularly public spaces wherein the individual can find respite, camaraderie, knowledge, and history.

I know with March break looming many families who are not planning on leaving this city will be looking for activities that can be educational and cost efficient.  Do consider a trip to the library, and if you have not yet visited Toronto’s Research Library, located just north of Bloor on Yonge street, what a great time to go.  It is true, you will not be able to borrow books from this particular location, however the grandeur of the space makes the trip a positive experience.  http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?R=LIB018   And if you are not regularly visiting the downtown core, you now have a destination spot from where to continue, while playing tourist.

Another tip I share with students and their families is the Museum and Arts Pass available through various library branches.  This is an amazing deal http://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/new_to_canada/2010/02/take-a-break-and-visit-torontos-best-museums-for-free.html   At my local branch the evening these passes are distributed the lineup for the lottery is three persons thick! Check your local branch for dates and times.  http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/museum-arts-passes/conditions.jsp

I love hearing feedback from families who report not only did their younger children enjoy the trip to a library or attend a free feature, but that they as parents, had rekindled their interest in returning.   For junior and senior high school students libraries are great places to do volunteer work.   

http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/programs-and-classes/featured/march-break.jsp

One final tip, The Reference Library also has a mini-bookstore, staffed by volunteers.  This message today is a Thank You to the thoughtful volunteers who allowed me to quickly enter the store (they weren’t officially open for the day at that moment) and snag some great finds earlier this week.   I am always on the lookout for material I can share.  And should you have any books (in good condition) that you believe others could use, consider donating them by using the drop box near the store.  A great way to recycle while helping the Library raise funds.