Teachers on Call

Archive for January, 2014

Celebrating Family Literacy Day

Our latest Village Living Magazine article celebrates Family Literacy Day on January 27th.   Partnering with Melissa Bourdon-King from Mabel’s Fabels Bookstore, here are some great book ideas:

“The Snatchabook” by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty (ages 3-6)

“Poems to Learn by Heart” by Caroline Kennedy, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (ages 5-9)

“Legends, Icons & Rebels” by Robbie Roberston, Sebastian Robertson, Jared Levine and Jim Guerinot (ages 9+)

In celebration of Family Literacy Day, Mabel’s Fables Children’s Bookstore, along with co-sponsor HarperCollins, is also hosting a unique event and story reading on Saturday January 25th from 10:30-11:30m (ages 3+).

To learn more about these amazing books or the upcoming Mabel’s Fabels event click here

Posted in: English Tutoring, Parent Education Resources

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Have Fun Raising More Charitable Children

By: Alison Smith, ECHOage

One of the most important things we may ever do as parents is to teach our children how to treat others. Teaching children to be charitable and giving can start at a very early age. Here are simple and easy tips on how to teach even the youngest of children how to give of themselves.

1) Start Small

It’s like anything else in life – baby steps lead the way to giant strides. Ask your kids to do something small and kind hearted. Make a card for a grandparent that simply states 3 reasons why that grandparent is so special. You can even ask the child to take a picture of their grandparent’s smiling face when they read the list of loving thoughts. The joy of making someone you love smile will last a lifetime.

2) Lead By Example

Giving starts first thing in the morning. As a parent, I always feel good inside when I give what I can to help my child’s day start with a smile. A loving comment, a kiss on their toes, a special surprise at breakfast goes a long way. Giving to them, encourages giving to others.

3) Make Giving Imaginative

Kids are motivated by fun. Why not suggest that they go through their gently used clothes to share with other kids in need. Ask them to send the package with a special wish in mind for the child who will receive them. Personalizing this process may make it feel more special and have greater impact. Good feelings do travel fast!

4) Watch and Learn Together

There are so may inspiring videos about young leaders on the web. Watch them together. Ask questions. Explore the topic of giving by seeing other young leaders in action. Ask your child to image being a “giving” star in their own video and find out what they would do make the world a better place.

Posted in: Community

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Preparing for High School Course Selection

Course selection provides an opportunity for you to reflect with your daughter or son about their interests, strengths and abilities.   It is also a good time to for you and your children to discuss their future goals and aspirations.

We have included some tips that may be helpful for you and your children on selecting their courses.

Engage your Child

  • Communicate about their strengths and weaknesses and if need be follow-up with their current teacher(s) to gain additional insight
  • Discuss what s/he would like to do after high school and what courses they would need to achieve their goals
    • Create a plan/timeline with your child
  • Avoid having your child being influenced by their friend’s course selection
  • Understand whether the Academic or Applied course format better suits their learning style and future goals

Investigate Options

  • Understand the Ontario Secondary School graduate requirements
  • Review the school’s course calendar to determine what courses are offered
  • Learn which courses have prerequisites that must be previously earned
  • Review the course curriculum
  • Discuss with other parents and/or students who have taken these courses previously and are following similar career paths

Utilize Education Professionals

  • Make an appointment with the school guidance counsellor to provide information and advice
  • If applicable, inquire about special education specific course support
  • Attend high school open houses and ask questions about course options
  • Talk to soon-to-be teachers about what your son or daughter can expect in their class
  • Visit University/College websites and fairs to learn about prerequisite high school courses needed for specific programs


Posted in: Parent Education Resources

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Toronto Students Act with Stars

Naomi Zara and Mitchell Marcus

Many young people dream of performing on a professional stage in a musical, but how many of them actually have the chance to do so?

Our two companies, The Stage Door Academy (Naomi Zara, Artistic Director) and Acting Up Stage Company (Mitchell Marcus, Artistic Director) have partnered together to give a group of Toronto students an incredibly unique and exciting opportunity.

Acting Up Stage Company is Toronto’s modern musical theatre company. Each year, the company produces fantastic musical theatre productions, with casts of fully-professional, Canadian performers. The productions have been awarded with 6 Dora Awards and 8 Toronto Theatre Critics’ Awards and are always highly acclaimed. When it came time to decide on this year’s programming, Mitchell chose Once On This Island – an award-winning musical that was on Broadway in the early 1990s. With a fantastic score, a beautiful story and high-energy dancing, Once On This Island is a Caribbean retelling of the classic fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid”.

At the same time, The Stage Door Academy – a theatre school for children and teens at Yonge & Eglinton – decided to put on a full musical for the first time in their history. And what show did Naomi choose? Once On This Island.

As we are good friends, it felt too serendipitous to not find a way to link the two experiences. After brainstorming, we came up with a unique idea that is unlike any other theatre school opportunity in Toronto. The Stage Door production would “shadow” the professional Acting Up Stage production, giving the students involved the chance to work on a professional stage, and see how their experience in a youth production is mirrored by a group of professional adult artists.

Some of the performers from the Acting Up Stage Once On This Island have attended the Stage Door rehearsals to coach the young people. The Stage Door students will have a chance to attend an Acting Up Stage rehearsal to meet their adult/professional counter-part. All of the Stage Door participants will have the chance to attend the Acting Up Stage Once On This Island free of charge. And, most excitingly, the Stage Door performance will take place on the Acting Up Stage Company set, using props and lighting from the professional version.

How is it going so far? Just ask the young people involved!

“I feel this is a very awesome learning experience and I love being here,” says Alex V., Age 14. (Guard/Storyteller). Claire P., age 13 (Storyteller) says: “At my North Toronto school they are more enthusiastic about sports, which I am not passionate about.  But then I found this Musical Theatre program at Stage Door and now I look forward to rehearsals each Sunday!”

The partnership has been such a unique opportunity that we are planning on partnering together again for yet another show next season. We can’t reveal what the production will be just yet, but we promise it will be a terrific experience for all involved!

The Acting Up Stage Company production of Once On This Island runs from January 21-February 9 at the Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East). Tickets are $30-50 and can be purchased at actingupstage.com or 1-800-838-3006.

The Stage Door Academy one-night-only performance of Once On This Island takes place on February 10 at the Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East). Tickets are $21-25 and can be purchased at by visiting the thestagedooracademy.com.

For more information on this unique partnership, or to sign up for an audition for next year’s program (auditions take place in March 2014) contact Naomi Zara at (416) 803-5723 or visit thestagedooracademy.com

Posted in: Community

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Integra Foundation – Winter Workshop Schedule

We are excited to partner with the Integra Foundation to post their Winter Workshop schedule.  The Integra Foundation is dedicated to helping children and adolescents who experience social, emotional and behavioural problems related to their learning disabilities.

We would encourage parents / caregivers of LD children along with teachers, counsellors and community members to attend any of the following workshops at the North Toronto Community Centre from 7:00 to 8:30PM.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes: Language-based LDs - Thursday, January 30, 2014
This experiential workshop is designed to give participants an understanding of what it may feel like
to have a Learning Disability (LD) through engaging in a series of activities. Through these
exercises, participants will gain knowledge about current thinking in the field of LDs with a focus on
Language-based LDs and a practical understanding of how they may affect mental health and
everyday life at home and at school.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes: Visual-based LDs and NLD - Thursday, February 6, 2014
This experiential workshop will use a similar format to the above presentation and aims to give
participants an understanding of what it may feel like to have a visual-based LD or on Verbal
Learning Disability (NLD) through engaging in a series of activities. Through these exercises,
participants will gain knowledge about current thinking in the field of LDs and a practical
understanding of how they may affect mental health and everyday life at home and at school.

All About Moods: Anxiety, Depression & Learning Disabilities - Thursday, February 13, 2014
In this introductory workshop, participants will gain an understanding of anxiety and depression,
approaches to treatment, and the relationship between mood disorders and Learning Disabilities.

Executive Functioning & Learning Disabilities - Thursday, February 27, 2014
This presentation provides participants with an understanding of the nature of executive functioning
(higher order thinking skills including organization and problem solving) and difficulties children with
learning disabilities may have in regulating themselves. Suggestions on how to support kids with
executive function difficulties will be discussed.

ADHD & LDs in Teens: Supporting Self-Reliance - Thursday, March 20, 2014
This workshop will look at how ADHD may affect teens at school and at home and look at
a specific approach that will show parents and teachers how to support a teen to learn to
gradually become more independent.

Understanding Social Success in Children with LDs/ADHD - Thursday, March 27, 2014
In this workshop, participants will explore the developmental skills necessary for children
under 12 with ADHD and LDs to be socially successful and competent. Strategies on
how to understand and support your child’s needs will be offered.

To register for any of these sessions, please call Integra at 416-486-8055 or click here to register online

Posted in: Special Education Tutoring

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Coping with Stress During Exams

Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW


The return to school following winter break can bring up a mixture of emotions.  The excitement of the holidays, sleeping in and homework free days are now in the past and the anticipation of the next few months of school is looming in the imminent future.  For some children, it is a return to the familiar classroom, teachers and academic structure.  To others, more specifically high school students, the end of winter break means the beginning of the dreaded exam period.  To many of these high school students the exams can trigger feelings of stress, anxiety, worry and even panic.


To be honest, a little anxiety and stress can actually be beneficial.  It’s what helps a student stay on track with their studies, recognize when to ask for help and keep the adrenaline going on the day of the exam to keep them alert and focused.  It’s when these feelings become so overwhelming that a student’s ability to function and retain information is compromised.  This is when it is time to take a step back and look at some strategies that can help lower the emotional intensity.


Here are some strategies that can be useful for bringing the stress levels down (also good everyday life strategies too!):


Controlled Breathing

Learning how to slow down and focus on your breathing is a strategy that has been proven to bring on more relaxation and reduction of anxiety.  It is based on the observation that when people are more anxious, they are more likely to breathe more shallowly which can lead to an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body.  Controlled breathing requires a lot practice!  Once you feel more comfortable with the breathing exercise it will be helpful to use it both before and during stressful situations (for example, when studying or writing an exam).



Make sure you are in a comfortable position either sitting or lying down.  It doesn’t matter whether your eyes are open or closed.  Do what feels right for you.  Breathe in for a slow count of 4, hold for a moment (usually a count of two) then slowly exhale for a slow count of 4.  Hold again for a moment (usually for a count of two).  It doesn’t matter whether you breathe through your mouth or nose.  Whatever feels most comfortable for you.  Make sure you practice this exercise for at least 4 minutes.


Asking for Help

If you find that you are struggling keeping up with the course material it is important to be proactive before it becomes too overwhelming.  Be honest with you teachers.  I would like to think that most are available to help you to organize how to best study for your exam, offer advice on where to get help or even give you some extra time to write the exam.  Join a study group.  Being around your peers not only allows you to pool together your knowledge but can also help keep you motivated.  Accessing tutors can also be a big help.  Teachers on Call is a business specifically available to help you to succeed.


Take Breaks

There is only so much studying an individual can do before they become mentally exhausted.  Once this happens, it becomes difficult to stay focused and retain knowledge.  To be at your most productive it is imperative that you give yourself permission to take breaks.  At least once an hour you should take some time to go for a walk, watch some television, listen to music, read, call a friend or practice your breathing exercises.  What relaxes you?  What will take your mind off of your work for even 10 minutes to help you to rejuvenate?


Proper Sleep

It is known that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is important to get enough sleep every night.  Getting an adequate amount of sleep will have a positive impact on learning and memory.  It is recommended that teenagers ages 12-18 should sleep between 8.5-10 hours/night.


What has worked in the past?

It is important to ask yourself “what has worked for me in the past when I have felt anxious or stressed”?  Whether it’s getting ready for your ice hockey playoffs, going for your driver’s test or taking part in a job interview you have experience stressful events in your life before.  How did you cope with these feelings?  What did you do to help ease some of your anxiety?  What worked and what didn’t work?  These are important questions to ask yourself.  If it’s worked in the past, it is likely to help you in the future.


Good Luck!


Lindsay Ross is a clinical social worker working in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.  For more information on her services, please feel free to contact her at (647) 501-7220 or at lindsayross.msw@gmail.com

Posted in: Parent Education Resources, Special Education Tutoring, Toronto Tutoring

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Help Your Child Feel Comfortable Participating at School

Many children struggle to feel comfortable participating in class and after school activities.   As your child moves through more senior grades in Elementary School, there is an increased focus on participation.  Fortunately, Beth Howard with the help of Dr. Deborah Gilboa has provided some excellent advice on encouraging your child to get more involved in this month’s Parents Magazine.

Take a Read: Monitor your child’s involvement in extracurricular activities, but also ask them how much they participate in school. If your child struggles to provide any examples, contact the teacher or speak with them directly at Parent-Teacher interview night.

Create Opportunities: If your child is reluctant to participate, understand why that is the case.  According to Dr. Gilboa, most children are concerned that they won’t provide the correct answer or mispronounce a word.   A suggestion is to work with the teacher to ask questions to your child that are more opinion based, versus right or wrong.

Point Out the Possibilities: If your child is reluctant to sign up for an extracurricular activity, it is important that they understand the different opportunities they have.  For example, if there is a school play, your child could help with costumes, set up and props rather than playing a key role.

Use the Buddy System: Encouraging your child to sign up for activities their friends are involved in can make them feel more comfortable.  Alternatively, find something family activities where you can join in.

To read the full article, click here

Posted in: Parent Education Resources

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Students

The start of 2014 brings plenty excitement with a fresh slate to start over and is a time to reflect on the past.   Not only can adults have resolutions, but students can as well.  This is a great opportunity to make goals with your son or daughter to make them a better student.

Here are 5 of our favourite resolutions:

1) Organizational Skills: Having great organizational skills is essential for success at school.  That includes using a calendar and places to keep papers and homework.  Our partner the KAos Group has written a wonderful blog with student organizational tips.

2) Volunteer:  Whether it is neighbourhood, community or school supporting, volunteering is a great opportunity for students to develop skills outside of the classroom.    To learn more, read our blog post on Strengthening our Community.

3) Educational Technology:  Tablets and Smartphones have a ton of great English, Math, Science and French apps for children of all ages.  They are also a lot of fun to learn with!  Check out our many Educational Technology articles with some of our favourite apps for learning.

4) Learn Something New: Whether is it how science applies to real life or a word from a new language, making a goal to learn something new every day ensures we constantly have a fresh and well rounded mind.

5) Read for Fun:  Reading is an important part of a child’s development.    One of the most important keys to success is the engage your child with fun and memorable activities.   Here are some of favourite tips for your child to love reading.

What are you and your child’s New Year’s resolutions for education and how do you plan to keep them?

Posted in: Parent Education Resources

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