Teachers on Call

Archive for February, 2014

March Break Activities and Camps in Toronto

March Break is a great time for Toronto families to take a break after the winter and two months of school.   To help support parents, we have created two helpful lists. The first list has fun and educational activities that you and your kids will love over the vacation week.   The second is March Break camps for children eager to focus on full week of one type of activity or parents unable to work out childcare arrangements over March Break.


March Break Activities

Disney on Ice:  Let’s Celebrate is on tour at the Rogers Centre from March 12 – 16.  This is the first time audiences see Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen from the just-released film, Walt Disney Pictures’ The Princess and the Frog, live on ice.

Sesame Street Presents: The Body:  This interactive Ontario Science Centre exhibit all about the human body.  Children can discover everything about the human body from fingers to toes and everything in between.

TIFF:  The TIFF Lightbox theatre is an excellent of family-friendly matinees.

Toronto Public Library: Great classes and programs designed for a variety of ages that are interactive, entertaining and completely free.

Sledding:  There is nothing better than a winter day sledding with the family.  Help We’ve Got Kids has prepared an excellent list of the best Toronto hills.


March Break Camps

Avenue Road Arts School: Join ARAS for a Night at the Museum to learn about Natural History through drawing, painting and sculpting projects along with drama and music activities.  Choose from a half-day or full-day camp.

Sportplay: Sportplay Multi-sport March Break Camp offers a full-day or half day programs for children ages 3-7.  Kids will learn 8 different sports and develop their gross motor and athletic skills during their week at camp.

Art Gallery of Ontario:  Designed for children ages 6 to 13, the AGO has an innovative day camp that encourages exciting connections between art, culture, and ideas.  Taught by experienced artist-instructors, our camps are designed to develop technical skills, build confidence and nurture each child’s creative imagination.

Mad Science: Mad Science camps are fun, exciting, hands-on and entertaining for science enthusiasts.  Half-day and full-day programs are available children 4-12 in multiple Toronto locations.

ROM: Discover hidden treasures and natural wonders through exciting hands-on activities in the ROM’s galleries, studio and labs.

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Why Teach Your Children To Cook?

By: Stephanie Phillips, The Cookerydoo

We understand it may seem like more of a mess than it’s worth but there are many great reasons to introduce your children to the joys of cooking.

Cooking with your children gives you the opportunity to teach your children many valuable lessons and also hand down some great family traditions. It is also a great way to reinforce subjects being taught at school or introduce new ones.

Here are just a few of the skills cooking can help teach your children:

Math Skills – Many recipes teach fractions by measuring and adding ingredients.

Nutrition – Use your time together in the kitchen to teach your children the importance of good nutrition.  Encourage them to try new fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. This will set them up for a long time love of food.

Following Directions – Recipes need to be put together in a specific order. This can help show your children the importance of following directions, whether they are baking a cake or doing a science experiment.

Critical Thinking – Cooking can help channel your children’s natural curiosity. Why not take advantage of your children’s inquisitiveness and introduce them to the fun and pleasures of being in the kitchen? Since many foods will change dramatically in size, color, and texture during the cooking or baking process, your children will likely be fascinated as they watch these changes take place right before their eyes.

Measuring – Using measuring cups to get the appropriate amounts of ingredients teaches about the importance of careful and accurate measuring.

Sensory Awareness – Cooking and baking can expose your child to new textures, tastes, colors, odors, and more.

Language Skills – Cooking has its own language. Reading recipes can help your children improve their reading skills and learn the meanings of cooking terms.

Art/Creativity – From making a face on a pizza to decorating cookies with sprinkles and icing, cooking provides endless opportunities to express artistic expression!

Cultural Awareness – Introducing your children to ethnic dishes and food traditions will encourage them to learn more about the culture and people that inspired the dish.

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How to Help Your Child Concentrate and Stay Focused

Technology has many advantages to support learning and education.  However, with too much technology children can become distracted and have trouble sitting still and staying focused.  This may cause them to struggle with finishing their tasks (ie. homework, studying, completing a project) in a successful manner.

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies that parents can use to help their child stay focused, including with the increased use of technology.  Here are some we would recommend:


Keep Distractions to a Minimum

While limiting all distractions is impossible, try to work with your child to limit the use of key items like TV and smartphones including viewing emails and text messages.   If there is another person in the house listening to music or watching TV, make their workspace as far away from them as possible and kindly see if they can keep the volume at a lower level.


Participate in Activities and Sports

Exercise and activities have been proven to simulate the brain and increase levels of concentration and focus.   Before starting any schoolwork, we would encourage children to engage in any exercise or activities like walking home from school, participating in afterschool sports or joining a club.   Our article Sports: a Winning Formula for Kids provides great insights in this area.


Lead by Example

Children look up to parents as role models and follow what they say along their non-verbal habits.    If you are looking for your child to focus on their homework and studying, practice what you preach and avoid spending too much time personally watching TV or using your Smartphone.   Instead, make your own ‘homework’ including paying bills, catching up on work or enjoying any personal reading.


Leverage Educational Partners

Both teachers and tutors can provide helpful insights on your child and different techniques they can use to increase their concentration and focus.  They also might bring up any additional insights that you might not be aware of.  We would encourage you to continue ongoing discussion to develop any strategies or techniques for your child.


Build Strong Organizational Skills

Work with your child to build the following organizational strategies into their daily routine:

  • Using an agenda to write down homework, assignments, tests and exams
  • Set a place in your home for studying.  Keep that space tidy and organized with materials that are readily accessible and easy to find
  • Making a to do list including the expected time to complete tasks and their priorities


Adapt to Your Child’s Learning Style

Each child learns differently and has their own unique learning style.  Collaborate with your child to see what approach works best for them and their study style to stay focused on completing their tasks with success.

Posted in: Parent Education Resources, Special Education Tutoring

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Should My Child Be Assessed?

Need for Assessment

Why do parents and students decide to have a Psychoeducational assessment done? There are specific reasons for assessing a student. Some parents seek out assessment to deal with a specific issue affecting their child’s learning. This could include struggling to keep up with certain subjects such as Math and English, refusing to complete homework, or upon suggestion by the child’s teacher. Some parents view the process as a way in which they can better understand their child’s strengths and the type of educational experience which would best suit their learning style.  In other situations, the assessment may be required to determine eligibility for accommodations at the post-secondary level and/or funding for remedial services or specialized educational placement (e.g., gifted placement).


Assessment Objectives 

A Psychoeducational assessment examines how the learner’s cognitive abilities interact with their academic skill development. Psychoeducational assessments identify cognitive strengths and issues that impact learning and determine whether specific remedial intervention and or special education placement is required. Each assessment provides educational recommendations designed to enhance a student’s learning potential.



The assessment follows a standard process. The first step is to gather information about the learner’s background history based on interviews with parents and teachers, and the learner. To ensure that the assessment is comprehensive, the student’s developmental, medical, social and academic histories are analyzed to determine whether milestones have been reached at the appropriate ages and stages.

The cognitive aspect of the assessment is usually completed first as it is more ‘game-like’ and usually viewed as enjoyable by the learner. This allows the assessor and learner to develop rapport using materials that are novel. The assessor attempts to capture and map out how the student engages in problem solving in differing situations.

Following the cognitive aspect of the assessment, academic/educational testing is completed. These tests objectively measure reading, writing, math and study skills to determine the student’s grade equivalent levels. Knowing how the student’s specific cognitive skills are developed and how well the student performs on academic tasks, allows the assessor to understand how the student’s cognitive skills actually impact his/her academic skill development.



After the results are compiled, a verbal presentation is made to the parents followed by a written report. The presentation provides an overview and analysis of the student’s learning profile, including their cognitive strengths and relative weaknesses. More specifically, the learner is described in terms that are meaningful and pragmatic, and the report clearly states whether or not the student requires intervention and/or accommodations. For example, a student may have notably stronger visual than verbal abilities. This learning bias may support their math and science skill development, whereas their academic skills in the language arts may be underdeveloped.  Conversely, students with visual-perceptual challenges may struggle recognizing social cues and utilizing organizational or study skills.



Based on the patterns of strengths and weaknesses in the assessment, specific recommendations are detailed. Recommendations may include tutoring or coaching on compensatory strategies which teach students specific techniques on how to problem solve to their best potential, and/or accommodations in the classroom or at home, so students are provided with equal access to learning materials.

Students are also encouraged to understand their own learning profile and how their processing strengths can be harnessed. This is an important step in self-advocacy.  They learn that different people learn in different ways (i.e., one size does not fit all). This knowledge provides students with confidence and reassurance to work ‘smart’ using their strengths.  The ultimate goal of a Psychoeducational assessment is to provide parents with a roadmap which allows them to say: “That explains it. This is what we need to do.”


About the Author:
Dr. Bill Ford is a Toronto educational psychologist and the Director of Educational Connections. For over 35 years, Dr. Ford has specialized in the assessment of learning, recommended intervention strategies, and assisted families in their school search. Dr. Ford also works closely with students to prepare them for their post-secondary and vocational transition.

Posted in: Parent Education Resources, Special Education Tutoring

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Science and The Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics are an amazing time to step away from our day to day routine and support your country and favourite athletes.     Whether it is bobsled, skating, skiing or hockey, every sport provides a ton of excitement to watch the top athletes in the world compete.

But behind the scenes what math, physics, biology and chemistry goes into to the athlete’s success in training and excelling at their sports?

Fortunately, the Canadian and US Olympic broadcasters, CBC and NBC through their Science Says and NBC Learn programs have developed some fun and interesting videos to learn about the science of the Olympics.   We have noted our favourites below including the science topics they cover.

1) The Science of Stretching and Warming Up (Aerobic Capacity, Muscle memory, Energy)

2) Can Music Improve Athletic Performance? (Psychology, Brain functioning)

3) The Science of Skates (Friction, Heat)

4) Downhill Skiing and Gravity (Gravity, Force, Acceleration, Friction)

5) How do Competition Suits Work? (Aerodynamics, Friction, Wind resistance)

6) Science Friction: Curling (Friction, Momentum exchange)

7) Math and Sports (Motion, Velocity, Calculus, Arithmetic)

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5 Strategies for Student Time Management

Projects at the last minute, exam cramming the night before, forgetting your homework and not to mention higher stress.  We all know these symptoms of weak time management.

Time management plays a key role in a student’s success in school and in life.  Fortunately, we have put together 5 helpful tips for you and your child to improve their time management skills through prioritizing, staying organized, avoiding procrastination, staying firm and practicing time estimation.


Prioritize: Keeping a list of goals that are prioritized and the tasks required to accomplish them is critical to success.  It also allows your child to see the importance of each item and remind both of you on their broader goals.   Otherwise, they could get overburdened with conflicting priorities and lack of clarity on deadlines.


Be Organized:  Using an agenda on a constant basis and keeping your child’s workspace organized are keys to success.    That way they are able to keep track of all their various items, be aware of any key deadlines and remove any distractions.   As your child get’s new homework, assignments, deadlines or tests, encourage them to constant update them in their agenda.   A family calendar can also be helpful to write down family and social activities.


Avoid Procrastination:  Once a due date is established, work with your child to make a work back plan to establish a start date.   When setting the start date, start early to avoid the rush and stress towards the deadline. In addition, leave a buffer at the end to finish early.   If your child has trouble working through large items and staying focused, break the project or item into smaller bits to make the tasks more manageable.


Stay Firm: While it is tempting to participate in every activity and constantly see friends, it is important to carve out a portion of time in your child’s calendar for school work.  This will help your child stay focused and not feel overburdened with too many activities.


Practice Time Estimation: Understanding how long it takes students to complete various Math, Science, English and French assignments and studying is a key to success.   Make a game of how long it takes for your child to complete various simple tasks to build up their estimates of time.  Sometimes an analog clock can give students a better sense of how time passes.

Posted in: Parent Education Resources, Special Education Tutoring

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Family Day Fun in Toronto

With the winter in full swing, Family Day is a great opportunity to take a break from your ongoing routines and spend quality time in Toronto.

While the winter can feel cold and dreary, there are of fun activities to do in Toronto over the long weekend (Feb 15-17).  Working with our education and child resource partners, we have developed a great list of memorable Toronto Family Day activities that any family would enjoy.

Ontario Science Centre – Family Day Programs:  Stop by the Science Centre for tons of science fun, special programs, IMAX films and more! And don’t miss Sesame Street Presents: The Body and their new exhibition hall The AstraZeneca Human Edge.

ROM Celebrates Family Day Weekend: To celebrate Family Day Weekend the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has curated a special calendar of events to engage and delight parents, grandparents, care-givers, kids and families!  Awaken your wild side and learn about the diversity of animal life, including incredible insects, magnificent mammals and rockin’ reptiles and more.

Family Skate Day at Evergreen Brick Works: Presented by the RBC Learn to Play Project, you and your family can glide around the outdoor Skating Rink and take a guided hike through Toronto’s Don Valley.  Also enjoy wood oven pizza from Pizzeria Libretto and children’s eco-crafts and nature play activities.

Family Day on Toronto’s Waterfront: Stop by the Toronto Waterfront on Monday February 17th to watch dog sport demos, see clowns, create arts and crafts, discover Inuit art and warm up with a hot drink from local restaurants.

Family Fun Fest at Downsview Park:  Visit Downsview Park for a large Indoor Fun Zone!The event features an indoor amusement park with over 30 rides, activities and attractions including Kiddie Rides, Jumping Castles, Giant Slides, Interactive Games, Fun Foods, Arcade and Carnival Games.

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