Transitioning from Elementary to Middle School

Transitioning to middle school can be a big leap for many students and parents.  With less support and a more challenging curriculum, planning ahead to ensure a successful transition is important.

Here is a list of things to do between the end of the school year and back to school in the fall:

1) Touch base with your child’s current elementary school teacher to better understand their strengths and weaknesses heading into middle school.   Here is a list of 8 questions to ask your child’s teacher before year-end.

2) Speak with your new middle school guidance counsellor to better understand the courses for the year ahead and what is expected of your child.

3) Review the curriculum.  Here is the Ontario curriculum for Grades 6, Grade 7 and Grade 8.

4) Avoid the Summer Slide with these tips.

5) Transitioning to a locker: practice using a combination lock

6) Visit the school in advance.  Most schools will have an orientation for new students during springtime.  However, some students need extra time to get comfortable with new surroundings.   Don’t hesitate to contact your child’s new school for additional tours.

7) Be proactive and communicate:  Unlike elementary school, your child’s teacher will not communicate with you as often.  It is important as parents to be proactive and communicate with your child’s teacher and school to ensure they are on track and you have no surprises at report card time.

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How to Prepare Your Child for French Immersion

french-immersion

Starting school can be a challenging transition for any family.   For students going into French Immersion, it can be even more challenging learning a second language.

Fortunately, we asked our Toronto French tutors for their advice on strategies and tips for parents transitioning to French Immersion in September.

1) Engage Your Child: Talk with your child that they will be learning a new language and that it can be fun.  Having a positive attitude about French Immersion is critical to support your child.  If your child has any concerns, try to go through them in advance and mention that the teacher will assist them with the transition.

2) Make French Part of Everyday Life:  Incorporating French into everyday life will help smooth the transition for your child.   For example, during meal time, pick a couple of food items and learn them in French.  If there is a number, colour, letter they see, work to try to say it in French. For each morning, ask what day of the week it is in French.

3) Sing Along: Singing French at home or in the car can make it fun. Check out singers including Charlotte Diamond for great songs.  Here is an example of one to learn about pizza in French.

4) Watch French TV:  Did you know that many of your child’s favourite shows are also in French?  Try your channel guide, but also look on YouTube or the Netflix French option.  There are also tons of fun and popular shows created in French like Caillou, which your child will love.

5) Learn in Advance: There are a ton of French Apps for students to get ahead of school and learn words, counting and eventually areas like verb conjugation.

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Toronto Summer STEM Field Trips

STEM

Summer is approaching.  The holiday break and warm weather doesn’t mean that learning has to stop.

There are numerous activities and places to visit around Toronto that are fun and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning.   Here are some of our favourites for families of all ages:

Ontario Science Centre:  The Science Centre features over 500 exhibits, live demonstrations, Toronto’s only public planetarium and IMAX® films in the dome theatre. The AstraZeneca Human Edge is a new exhibition hall that explores all the wonders of the human body. Bring your little ones to KidSpark, a unique discovery playground and learning space for children age 1-8.

Canada’s Wonderland:  How does an amusement park teach us about science?  At Canada’s Wonderland with all the excitement of roller coasters, there is a ton of science behind building all of the structures.   Consider all of the measurement, motion, gravity, speed and acceleration that teaches children about science and physics.

Lego Land Discovery Centre: Looking for a STEM activity on a rainy summer day?  Look no further than the Lego Land Discovery Centre a family experience with over 3 million bricks under one roof. There are Rides, a 4D cinema, Master Model Builder workshops and more! You can also see Toronto’s iconic attractions made out of LEGO in MINILAND.

Ripley’s Aquarium: Experience  one of Toronto’s newest and most exciting attractions. Containing over 5.7 million litres of water, the 12,500 square metre (135,000 square foot) interactive aquarium immerses guests in a thrilling underwater adventure that showcases more than 16,000 marine animals

Staycation: After a busy couple of weeks, why not bring the activities home.  Click here for some fun science experiments for kids do with you at home.  These activities have a Canadian bend to it to celebrate Canada 150.

 

 

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Avoid Spring Distractions and Finish the School Year Strong

Finish the School Year Strong

Victoria Day weekend is approaching, the sun is out and the days are getting longer.   There are only weeks left of school.

However, with summer coming soon, students can often step back and lose focus.  With exams around the corner and report cards following shortly, it is important for students to finish the school year strong and avoid distractions.

With several weeks left, students have time to make improvements through end of year assignments, tests, homework and final exams to bring up their marks.

Here are some tips to stay focused and finish the school year strong:

Celebrate Success: Look back through your agenda, binders and notebooks to remind your child of all the great things they have accomplished this year.   With the opportunity to be distracted from other things, it may help renew their drive to succeed.

Set Goals: With several weeks remaining, set goals for the remainder of the school year and make a realistic plan to achieve them.  This will also encourage students to start thinking about next school year and help avoid the summer slide.

Use the Weather to Your Advantage: The nice weather can be a distraction, but there is nothing wrong with getting fresh air while continuing to study.

Ask for Help: With projects due and exams coming up, don’t be afraid to ask your teacher or a tutor for help.

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Study Skills: How to Avoid Procrastination

Girl Studying

With the summer approaching, it is easy for students to find a million other things to do besides homework, studying and exam prep.   Delaying challenging course work can feel rewarding in the short-term, but will only increase student’s stress and anxiety as they get closer to test or exam time.

Developing strong study skills might not come naturally and take work and time to develop.  Here are some ways to learn effective study habits and avoid procrastination.

Plan, Plan Plan: Make a plan for studying with the following items.

i) Calendar:  Use the calendar to mark down all the upcoming assignments, tests, exams and projects.  If you like being creative, pick a different colour for each subject to differentiate.

ii) Make a Weekly Plan: Narrow the calendar down to make a study plan for each week and ensure there is time to complete each of the key items due.   You can also create a checklist to keep track of the items outstanding and what is remaining to be completed.

Location: Work in a quiet area with limited interruptions, traffic and distractions that has good lighting.  Remove anything you don’t need to study like TV, smartphone, music, etc that could cause distractions.

Keep Materials Organized:  Make a plan to keep the study area organized with school supplies available and in one place.  Ensure you have a spot for each subject to ensure papers don’t get loose or lost.

Expectations: Having a firm grasp of expectations and what is expected is key to ensure studying and homework is done successfully and on time.  If you are unclear about any expectations, we would recommend students and parents approach teachers to understand what is expected of them and make a plan.

Be Positive:  Being in the right mindset can make a huge difference to stay on top of work and avoid procrastination.  Parents can encourage their child to stay positive heading into exams and avoid negative thinking.  Help turn negative statements into positive ones by encouraging strong study habits.

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Math Word Problems: How to Overcome Anxiety

math word problems

Students are increasingly being challenged with word-based math problems.   Focusing on teaching math with word problems, allows teachers to take the concepts learned in class and apply them to everyday life.  It also helps strengthen students’ analytical thinking skills and ability to problem solve.

However, the transition to learning math and doing homework can be challenging for students.   Here are some strategies for students and parents to overcome anxiety and succeed with math word problems.

Show How Math Relates to the Real World:   Show your children how important addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is to every day life.   Next time you go grocery shopping, add up the items before the register.   If you are going to the bank, learn about financial literacy and count your savings or withdrawals.   Cooking or baking is a great time to learn about measurement.   Any driving trip can be a lesson in distance, time and counting.

Understand Key Math Terms: Before starting problem solving it is important for any student to have a strong grasp of of key words that can show up in problems like i) greater than / less than, ii) factor of (division), iii) AND versus OR, etc.

Make a Plan:  With any math word problem, have your child read over the problem several times and ensure they understand the question and what is being asked.   There are strategies to get comfort with the problem, depending on your learning style.  For visual learners, draw a diagram or picture of the question.  For auditory learners, talk the question out loud into parts.   Next define the focus of the question and what is needed.  Also identify which information is irrelevant and can be ignored.  Finally, look for any patterns.  Once your child has a good grasp of the problem, have them work through it in a logical manner and reflect on how they got to the answer.

Check Your Work:  Nobody is perfect, so going back and checking your numbers and logic is a great habit to keep.

Practice Makes Perfect: Once your child has a good grasp and strategy to answer math word problems – practice, practice, practice.

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5 End of Year Teacher Gifts That They Will Love

End of year teacher gifts

With the end of school rapidly approaching, you may be starting to think about a gift for your child’s teacher to thank them for a wonderful year. Why not make this an educational activity and involve your little learner in the process?

We have five gift ideas that will help you and your child show your appreciation without breaking the bank.

Gift cards: You can’t go wrong with gift cards. If you are not quite sure what to choose, Indigo and Staples are always good choices, as teachers love to the chance to add more children’s books to their library or stock up on supplies. A Starbucks gift card is always popular-they can go towards a teacher’s coffee run.

Donate to a cause: Looking for inspiration for a teacher who always shows their students that kindness and caring come first? Consider pooling resources with other families and look at UNICEF Survival Gifts. They have many educational options that directly help teachers and students across the globe.

Personal item tracker: Between extracurriculars, assemblies, meetings, yard duty and the classroom, teachers are always on the go. It can be easy for them to misplace things like their classroom keys or phone. Gift your child’s teacher a techie gadget with Tile, a personal item tracker that will ensure they can find always find the most important items. Since STEM is all the rage in the education world, this cool gift might even spark an interesting class discussion.

Personalized labels: Have you ever seen your child’s classroom library? Then you’ll know that teachers have tons of precious items that are shared with many. To help them keep their books from disappearing, what better gift can there be than Adult Labels from Mabel’s Labels?

A class memory book: Collaborate with your child’s classmates to create a special book for the teacher. Each child can write one page and draw a picture of their favourite moment from the school year. Bind it together with the dedication page signed by all the students. Parents can even add in pages! This gift will be sure to have a place honour in the teacher’s life long after the students graduate.

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How to Make STEM Fun

Making STEM Fun

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are becoming increasingly important in education and ultimately the workplace.  With the majority of the fastest growing careers requiring Math and Science,  The Ontario Ministry of Education has taken notice and is evolving the curriculum to focus more in these areas.

However, for some students, STEM is not something they are enthusiastic about.   They can find it challenging or not as exciting as other activities like gym or art.   Sometimes students are not even aware of the importance STEM will have to them in the future.

Here are some ways parents can make STEM learning fun and engaging.  When utilizing any of the ideas below, it is important to first start with your child’s interests, be creative and ask lots of questions.

Highlight Visionaries:  Show the impact of people like Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg and Bill Gates have on everyday life with computers, social media and smart phones.

Play Games: There are a ton of wonderful apps to promote science and math learning that are fun.  Some of our favourites include: Basket Fall (physics / geometry), Endless Numbers (math / numeracy) and Hopscotch (to promote coding).

Hands On Projects:  There are tons of approved STEM related activities that easy to do at home.   Here is a list of 40 kid-approved activities to try.

Extracurricular Programs: There is no shortage extracurricular programs and camps in the Toronto area that make science learning fun including the Ontario Science Centre and Mad Science.  We would encourage you to do your research on the activity that best fits your child’s interest and personality.

Educational Programming: Watch the Discovery Channel or other educational programming related to science and to see how it relates to everyday life.

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Tips to End the School Year Successfully

Almost one month to go until the school year ends.   While the weather is getting warmer and summer break is just around the corner, it is important for students to not lose their momentum in the classroom.

Here are some tips to help your child and family finish the school year successfully.

Keep Up Routines:   The warmer weather, longer days and summer approaching can cause families to move off their school year routine.  It is important to enjoy the outdoors while balancing remaining school year commitments.  Similar to the beginning of the school year, we would recommend revisiting your family’s after school and evening schedule for the remaining weeks to stay on track.

Review Prior Report Cards:  Review prior report cards and chat with your child about what subjects and areas are going positively and which ones they have concerns.   This will help ensure no surprises at the end of the school year.  Also, use this opportunity to think about academic goals for next school year and opportunities to start working on them.

Anything Outstanding? Check with your child if they have anything outstanding and review their agenda.  If you have any concerns, feel free to reach out to their teacher to check in.   If you find anything overdue or requires completion soon, we would suggest working on developing strong organization and study skills.

Exam Prep:  Preparation in advance, effective study notes and focus are important to ensure exam success.  For further tips, click here.   If you find that exams can cause stress, we would also suggest reviewing our tips of coping with stress during exams.

Be Positive: After a long school year, it can be challenging to stay positive in the final stretch.  Celebrate your child’s success through the school year and look at any setbacks as learning opportunities to move forward.   Use the remaining weeks to teach responsibility and how rewarding it can be to end the school year successfully.

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How to Take Effective Study Notes

Student studying

Having effective study notes help student develop a better understanding of a topic and help remember and learn concepts.   With exams around the corner, having well organized notes by subject, will significantly reduce stress and allow students to focus on review versus learning concepts from scratch.

Developing strong note taking strategies also encourages students to better focus on the teachers’ lesson and helps connect ideas between topics.

Here are some of our favourite tips to strengthen students’ note taking:

1) Write Notes in Your Own Words: Avoid writing directly from a textbook or existing notes.  Part of the process of note taking is to encourage thinking on subjects and how different topics link together.   Writing your own notes forces students to understand the concept and verbalize it on their own.

2) Use Colour:  Make studying fun by highlighting certain words, terms or mnemonic devices by colour to reinforce ideas.

3) Diagrams:  These are a wonderful strategy to draw pictures to associate with topics.  In particular with science, using diagrams for biology, chemistry and physics can help visualize and better understand a concept.

4) Use a Notebook or Binder:  Having random sheets of paper can cause students to loose notes or cause them to fall out of order.  We recommend using a notebook or binder to ensure that papers stay together in their intended order.

5) Don’t be Afraid to Re-write Notes:  If a concept is difficult or it is sure to come up on an exam, re-writing notes can help consolidate and solidify the item.

6) Keep Notes in an Organized Manner: Use headings and subheadings helps students find the section they are looking to study for.

7) Use Technology:  Digitize your content in the cloud (ie. Google Drive) so you can access your notes on any device as you are studying.

8) Record your Notes: Use a voice recording app to read and record your notes.  Reading and then listening to your notes can be more effective than only reading.

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