By Julie Diamond, OCT
Gamification is a strategy that enhances learning through integrating elements such as points, badges, and leaderboards. It makes learning more interactive, fun and in many ways, addictive. Like the video games you continuously pry your child away from, these apps marry video game-like features with curriculum-based learning objectives to ignite excitement while providing them (and you) with real-time feedback about their progress. Thankfully the technology of gamification software makes it simple for parents and tutors to offer a game-based learning experience at home.
Below are a few gamification websites and apps that are simple-to-use tools to create a fun learning experience for your child/student:
1. Quizlet: A free tool to create your own or user-generated flashcards and play different games (gravity is a favourite of mine!) to help study or review material in an engaging way.
2. GimKit: Create your own multiple-choice questions, or use their library of curated content, to learn. This website was designed by a student and has so many different types of video games so your child/student will never be bored.
3. ST Math: This website is for preK-grade 8 and teaches the foundational concepts for math using visuals to help your child/student connect the concepts to symbols and language. This is a great tool for all math learners especially those who struggle with the language components of math.
4. TypingClub: A tool to help your child/student practice their typing skills with over 650 games and videos.
5. Prodigy: An online game to build math skills using badges and rewards to incentivize your child/student to keep learning. Free for parents – and be warned that your child will be begging you to play it!
There are so many more websites and apps so drop us a line in the comments below to share the gamification tools you use with your child/student.
By Julie Diamond, OCT
World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2 this year. Throughout the month of April, Teachers to Go will be shining a spotlight on people on the Spectrum by sharing their stories and accomplishments in the hopes of increasing the understanding and acceptance of people with Autism. What can you do as a parent or teacher to celebrate this month?
1. ‘Light it Up Blue’ or ‘Design Your Flag’: Autism Speaks started a campaign to ‘Light it Up Blue’ encouraging the international community to come together on April 2 to show their support for people with Autism. Join hundreds of thousands of people, landmarks, buildings and homes around the world by using the colour blue. Wear a blue shirt, light up your home with blue lights or make a craft with your child to hang in your window with the colour blue.
Another great organization, and one I’m happy to say I’ve been a volunteer with since 2017, is Autism Ontario. They have chosen their theme this year to be ‘Celebrate the Spectrum’ and have a contest until April 15 called ‘Design Your Flag.’ You can see the details of the contest here.
2. Spread awareness on social media or in your community: Help others understand about Autism by sharing stories others on the Spectrum have shared or share your own. You and your child/student could create a post together as a class to raise awareness in your community. Autism Speaks also discusses the options of fundraising on social media here.
3. Support businesses that are Autism-friendly and/or owned by persons on the Spectrum: The UN declared “Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World” as the theme for World Autism Awareness Day. The transition to adulthood and gaining independence can be a struggle for many young adults on the Spectrum. Check out our post on April 1 to see tagged businesses owned by persons on the Spectrum.
4. Learn more about Autism by researching about persons on the Spectrum: The saying is true that ‘once you’ve met one person on the Spectrum, you’ve met one person on the Spectrum.’ As a teacher and board member with Autism Ontario I’ve met many people on the Spectrum and no two were alike. Each were incredibly unique in their own way. Many also taught me something whether it was offering more consistency, clarity, or a different perspective.
Start learning about Autism by visiting the website of Temple Grandin here who is an American Scientist and prominent speaker on Autism and animal behaviour.
Leave a comment below with ideas of how you’ll be celebrating Autism Awareness Month with your child(ren) or student(s).
By Julie Diamond
March 8 is International Women’s Day. Today is an opportunity to reflect on women’s achievements and raise awareness against bias. It’s a day to act for equality in the hopes of a world free of bias and discrimination. Depending on your child(ren)’s age, it may be challenging to know how to teach them about today. Here are some age-appropriate ways to approach this topic that you can choose from:
Refrain From Using Gender Stereotypes
Tell your son it’s okay to show emotions. Encourage your daughter to make her own choices and give her the opportunity to express opinions. As parents we may not realize our own gender biases so take a moment to reflect and make changes. Instead of commenting on your daughter's appearance, try praising her on not giving up or finishing something challenging.
Start with a Discussion
Depending on your child’s age and/or interest level, they may have questions about International Women’s Day. You may want to focus on a particular issue such as healthcare, employment, the women’s suffrage movement, equality, or education. Start by explaining that things used to be different in Canada and women and girls still face inequality issues everyday.
A great way to introduce your child to the barriers girls face with education is the story of Malala Yousafzai. She has several children’s books available for all ages that illustrate her story about standing up for education at the risk of being shot by the Taliban. She is a children and women’s rights activist and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Or if your child is interested in learning about the women’s suffrage movement, here’s a website that gives an interactive map about the timeline of the movement across Canada.
Let their interests guide you. Or use a book or movie..
Introduce a Book or Movie
Regardless of age, I find a book or movie is the best way to introduce a topic to a child. Kids learn best from what they see so the best way to teach them is with strong and confident female characters your child can learn from. Disney’s Frozen and Mulan have become mainstream favourite movies. There’s also Anne of Green Gables, Little Women (both are also in book form for 10+) that are classics. Some fiction books I would recommend are: The Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires or Kelly for President by Kelly DiPucchio. A non-fiction book that's great for all ages is Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky.
Spend Time with the Women in Your Lives
Your child will learn by the examples set by women in their lives as well. Whether it be your female neighbour, relative or family friend, take this day to spend time with them and make it special, whether it’s in-person or video. Encourage your child to write them a letter (see our IG post last Friday as an example) or cook them a meal to show the women in their lives how they inspire them.
Help Your Daughter Find Her Voice
Encourage your daughter to build her confidence through journaling, singing, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) activity, or playing a sport. With the Paralympics on now, cheer on a female athlete either on the tv or at a local sporting event. PBS has a great article with tips on how to raise a confident girl here.
How are you celebrating the day with your child? Comment below.
By Julie Diamond, OCT
The Honourable Jean Augustine introduced a motion to make February, Black History Month in Canada in 1996. Many Black Canadians, including Augustine, have played a crucial part in shaping our country’s history while facing discrimination and racism. This month, take the time with your child to celebrate Black Canadians’ contributions and reflect on the long history of systemic racism in Canada, which is often overshadowed by American history. Not sure where to start? Here are some resources to help you get started (but by no means is this a complete list):
1. Start with a story about a woman forced into slavery, Marie-Joseph Angelique, who may or may not have set Montreal on fire in 1734. The Canadiana video is here.
2. In the early 1900s, many Black families in the mid-western U.S. wanted a new start in Canada’s western provinces. However, the Canadian government began a campaign of spreading misinformation that will serve as a good example to teach your child about how to read the media today. Here’s the Historica Canada video.
3. "To be black and female in a society which is both racist and sexist is to be in the unique position of having nowhere to go but up.” Rosemary Brown
Brown was the first Black female member of a provincial legislature in Canada. Black women have encountered discrimination in Canada throughout history and today. Click here to learn about a few of the many courageous black women in Canada who fought for equality and refused to settle for less.
4. Check out the CBC podcast The Secret Life of Canada which I highly recommend. They talk about secret things about our country that you don’t know. I learn something new every episode. This episode ‘The province of Jamaica’ talks about the early history of Caribbean migration to Canada and how Jamaica and Barbados almost became provinces of Canada. A must listen!
5. Check out Unilearnal here to watch 28 Moments of Black Canadian History where they feature a Black Canadian youth every day of February for Black History Month. The speakers talk about their experiences in Canadian society as a Black person, their passions, what they would like to change, etc. They also give a history lesson of an historical figure or moment in Black Canadian History. This YouTube page is trying to flip the script on Canadian education which has been heavily based on African American History.
6. Expand your family’s library to include Black authors. Check out our tutor, Angeline, on Instagram here for her recommendations and read alouds from a diverse range of authors. She also provides a Google document with links to the books she features to make it easy for you to find and purchase them online.
How are you commemorating Black History Month? Share with us any videos, podcasts, books or other resources you'd like to share.
By Julie Diamond
With the announcements of more COVID closures across many provinces, this new year doesn’t seem like it’ll be very different from the last two. Nevertheless, a new year can bring about excitement, opportunity, and create some much-needed positivity. Setting goals can be a great way to teach your child about persistence, self-discipline, and planning. As adults we know how rewarding it can feel to achieve a goal so it can be a fun thing to do together as a family to motivate one another. Here are some tips to keep in mind when making resolutions together:
1. Lead by Example: Your child is always watching so lead by example and create resolutions with them in mind. If you find yourself checking your phone when you’re spending time with them, consider making it a goal to turn off your phone during family time. Or create a goal with health in mind like you’ll learn a new sport or do home workouts with your family. Ask your child to remind you of these goals and you can remind them of theirs to keep each other accountable.
2. Create Individual & Family Goals: You could create resolutions as a family such as, spending one evening a week together playing board games, going on a family hike every Sunday, or not eating unhealthy food on weeknights. Discuss this past year and what each of you have learned. Maybe they learned how to ride a bicycle or play a challenging song on the piano or completed a big puzzle on their own. Maybe you made a new friend at work or tried something new. Then have everyone think about some things they’d like to be able to learn or do by the end of this year. You can suggest some but it’s best not to dictate goals for them. It’s important that they create these goals themselves so they are motivated to achieve them.
3. Different Resolutions for Different Ages: Guide your child in creating goals that are specific and tangible. Goals such as ‘I want to go to Antarctica’ or ‘I want to have a million dollars’ isn’t really feasible for a 9-year-old who doesn’t have a job or a bank account. Here are some examples of goals for different age groups:
For ages 3-7:
For ages 8-12:
3. Monthly Check ins: Don’t fixate on lapses – they will happen for you and them. To avoid nagging each other, put the resolutions up on the wall as a gentle reminder for everyone and do a monthly check in. If you or your child isn’t making progress, explain how hard it is to stick to a goal then discuss how to get motivated again. Discuss what may be standing in your or their way and adjust the goal if need be.
Did you create 2022 goals with your child? Share in the comments below.
By Julie Diamond, OCT
To piggyback on the last blog post on fluency in numeracy, this post is about building fluency in literacy. Reading fluently is when the reader is able to read with accuracy, speed and the proper expression. When readers stumble over words, or rush through the words withouttakingabreathlikethis, they aren’t able to understand the text they are reading. Building better fluency means better comprehension.
Here are some things you can do at home with your child to help:
1. Find an Easy Text: Fluency will be impossible if the text is too difficult. Your child needs to be able to read the words automatically so find a book that is easy. This will take the stress off your child to read the individual words and instead on fluency and understanding the text.
2. Reader’s Theatre: This is a great idea for all learners but especially if your child’s attention span is limited. You and your child take turns reading parts of a script to bring to life a play or movie using your expressive voices. Check out some examples of scripts here to get you started. If your child has a favourite movie or show all you’ll need to do is type a scene into speaking parts.
3. Practice Sight Words and Play: The Dolch sight word list is divided by grade to give you an idea of the sight words your child should know. Using this as a guide, you can play fun games like Snakes ‘n Ladders, Memory, Go Fish, or even Bingo. Check out this website for the Dolch list by grade and activity ideas.
4. Model Fluent Reading: A read aloud with your child should be a daily occurence in your household regardless of your child’s age. Reading and discussing books together above their reading level helps develop their vocabulary and comprehension levels.
5. Re-Read Favourite Books: Some teachers and parents discourage children from re-reading the same books over and over. However, I’m not one of them. I have found that reading new material doesn’t help reading fluency. Rather the more a child re-reads a book, the more fluent they become. Instead of focusing on reading each word, they focus on bringing the story to life with different voices and expressions only further developing their comprehension as well.
6. Do Choral Reading: This is when you read a passage aloud first then ask your child to join in and read it again together at the same pace. It’s another way to show your child what fluent reading should sound like. Choose a book at your child’s level (or better yet below) to make it easier for them to keep up with you.
As mentioned with building your child’s fluency in math, practice is key. Please comment below and let me know an activity you do with your child to build their fluency skills.
By Julie Diamond, OCT
When a child is fluent with math facts, they can efficiently and accurately recall the answers to basic math equations. With fluency, students may feel less anxious and more confident when performing more complex questions. Fluency helps students become more flexible thinkers and problem solvers. Here are some ways you can build your child/student’s fluency skills in numeracy:
1. For children in kindergarten & grade 1: Students at this age should be efficiently recalling facts within 5 (for kindergarten) and within 10 (for the end of grade 1). It is important to note that while grade 1 students are introduced to facts up to 20, and should be successful with strategies to solve them, the expectation is fluency up to 10.
While timed tests have generally been the way to test for fluency, I would suggest waiting until the end of grade 2 to use this to assess students’ fluency. Students in the early grades need time to build and practice their automaticity.
An example of an activity you could use with this age group is to use flashcards (or this fun video) to help young learners develop their subitizing skills. “Subitizing” is an important math skill which is the ability to identify the number of things in a set without counting.
2. For children in grade 2: Students at this age should know how to fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. By the end of grade 2, they should also know all sums of two one-digit numbers from memory. However, before moving on to any timed or memorization activities, students must first learn and know the strategies such as doubles & doubles +1, adding 0, making ten, adding 1 and adding 2, etc.
To practice, grab a deck of cards (take out the J, Q, K and make the Ace represent the number 1) and lay two cards down. Ask your child to add them together. If they want an extra challenge, you could expand that into a timed activity, addition/subtraction war (same as the card game War but instead it’s the first one to add or subtract the two cards first wins the round). Or you could even get your child to add three cards together. If you don't have a deck of cards, you can play this game with dice instead which will build on their subitizing skills as well.
3. For children is grade 3: At this age, multiplication and division are introduced. By the end of grade 3, your child should have their multiplication and division facts (up to 100) memorized.
Start with one multiplication number to practice (let’s say 2) and write the numbers 1 to 12 on pieces of folded paper then put them in a pile. To make it less stressful, play a song for about 45-50 seconds to give your child/student time pick up those papers at random and complete all twelve questions (1x2, 2x4, etc). When the time is up, stop the music and they put their pencil down. When they are able to complete this group of numbers with 90%+ accuracy for two days, then move on to the next number (3x tables). Do not forget to include 0x tables.
Another game you could play to practice multiplication or addition of one-digit numbers is called Drill Donuts. See the video here for details.
Practice, practice, practice. Once you start practicing, you should have an idea of which areas are stumping your child. You can then zero in on those numbers and find different activities to help them become more fluent. Make it a daily or nightly routine. Ask math questions when you’re at the grocery store, cooking at home, or playing games as a family. Most importantly, keep the conversations about math positive and fun!
Do you have a math activity for this age group? Please share with us below!
By Julie Diamond
Our Teachers to Go blog was recently voted by a group of panelists as one of the Top 30 Canadian Teacher blogs. Our blog is among some great blogs like Reading Power Gear, Musing Mathematically, and Madly Learning to name a few. Check out #24 on Feedspot here to see us featured. Thank you to all who voted for us.
New blog post to come this week!
By Julie Diamond, OCT
The summer is almost here and, with the rocky school year it’s been, many families are looking forward to a break from schoolwork. Though more and more families are signing up for tutoring. There are many benefits that tutoring can give students over the summer. Here are a few that come to mind:
1. Continue the Learning & Curb ‘Summer Learning Loss’: One of the main reasons families opt for tutoring over the summer is to keep the learning going. Students who take a break over the summer months are prone to something referred to as ‘summer learning loss.’ This is when students can lose up to two months of the progress they made through the school year. However, if students continue with learning, even setting aside one or two days a week, it helps to continue with the momentum of the school year and not skip a beat. This can be especially challenging for students who are already behind in school and/or when it comes to early literacy and numeracy learners.
2. Close Learning Gaps & Boost Confidence for Next Year: Tutoring is an effective way to build upon foundational skills and empower children to believe they can do anything they put their mind to. Academic success has been directly linked to self-esteem especially in primary learners. With the help of a tutor over the summer, who can create a tailored program incorporating the student’s interests bridging last year and next year’s curriculum, the student will be able to close learning gaps and feel confident for the next grade.
3. No Distractions: Without the distraction of schoolwork, the summer gives children time to learn about things that interest them. If a child has a love for the outdoors, get them outside learning about nature, animals or geography. If a teen is glued to their video games, challenge them to make their own video game characters and storyline. If you start with a child’s interests, approach it in a fun and casual way, you may be surprised how they embrace learning.
4. Prevent Summer Boredom: The summer can be a stressful time for parents to think of how to keep their children from getting bored especially with all the time at home in lockdown after lockdown. Tutoring has a lot of benefits and keeps children from getting bored (with the right tutor!). Tutors can assign creative activities to keep students occupied in between sessions. Here are a few ideas Teachers to Go Tutors have used:
5. Learn Important Skills: With remote school being offered again in the fall in many provinces, self-regulatory skills such as: organization, communication, self-motivation, time management, and study skills will be crucial for your child to be a successful online learner. Over the summer gives children the opportunity to learn and practice these skills in different ways. A tutor can show students how to create and manage their own schedules, create To-Do lists, and use timers to stay focused and get tasks done.
What did we miss? Comment below.
By Julie Diamond
Coming up on a year since the world changed forever, has me reflecting on the year my family has had and thinking about what it has been like, overall, for other families especially those with children. With schools closed for months, playgrounds off limits, summer camps cancelled, so many jobs lost, there were a lot of tough challenges facing families. The families I spoke to were fortunate – they were able to meet their basic needs and some worked from home. While they expressed it was one of the toughest years they had experienced, many said it was also eye-opening. They said it gave them more time with their children who actually taught them how to be better parents. Here are some things these parents learned from their kids last year:
1. Every Child Learns Differently. The sudden switch to online school last March, and for many provinces again in December/January, proved challenging for parents and children. Many students, typically high-performing pre-pandemic, struggled to transfer their learning to the virtual space and needed the interaction with their peers and teachers. While other students, typically who struggled socially or behaviourally, excelled online. There were a lot of confused and frustrated parents left to piece together the online school assignments or teach their young children. A big takeaway from parents was their sheer shock at how differently their kids learn. A parent I spoke to with eight-year-old twins was perplexed at how differently the twins approach the same question but came to the same answer. There was a newfound appreciation for teachers across the board.
2. Simplicity = Happiness: When all the extra-curricular activities and summer camps were cancelled, panic set in with one parent I spoke to. She was not sure how her kids, 10 and 8, would react. Her kids were always on the run to some enriching STEM program or playdate. They were not used to sitting at home together. Surprisingly though, her kids not only came up with so many ways to entertain themselves but, for the most part, got along with each other (she said mainly because they only had each other). From inventing new games to creating an art museum to new dance routines, they proved that all they needed was their imagination, and some sick dance moves, to have fun together.
3. Family Is Most Important. A parent I spoke to in B.C., admitted that pre-pandemic, he worked way too much. He was typically away from home on business trips during the week. He consistently missed family dinners and quality time was confined to some, but not all, Sundays. When the pandemic hit last March, and he was furloughed, he was stressed at first. But he quickly realized that he now had all the time in the world for dinners with his family, Candy Land with his 6-year-old and making forts with his 5-year-old. While he is happy to be back at work now, he said that his time with his kids last year gave him new perspective. They grew closer and taught him that family is the most important. He is planning to take less business trips and make more time for play time.
4. Kids Are Rock Stars. We took away school, their friends and all extra-curriculars with one word: COVID. Regardless of your child’s age, it is hard to understand the complexities of a global pandemic. Even we as adults struggled this past year so imagine how impossibly difficult it has been for a child to understand and accept all the changes. Another parent, who has a 15-year-old and 13-year-old, was anxious about how her children would react to the loss of their lifelines as teenagers (friends, peers, and school). She said that they not only surprised her with how resilient they are but inspired and supported her to get through the tough times too.
Here is hoping we can carry over these lessons into the post-pandemic era. What has your child (or student) taught you this past year? Comment below.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant/social media co-ordinator at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.
Fun Fact: Her and Julie (see above) are also sisters :)