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Tutor Thursday

Tutor Thursday: Paraphrasing and Math

On this week’s Tutor Thursday we’re going to discuss math, specifically word problems. As many of you know, math can be a weak point for students. Word problems can be especially tricky. Not only does the student have to read and understand what the paragraph says, but also find out what information is going to be useful to help solve this problem. In the following article, our Academic Director Sofia demonstrates how she uses the power of paraphrasing to help our students with word problems!

Using Paraphrasing as a Tool to Solve Word Problems

Another mathematical discourse tool that I used in order to help the grade six students solve word problems was the paraphrasing activity that was described by Cathy Marks Krpan in a graduate course at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Paraphrasing constitutes students explaining mathematical problems in their own words and without the use of quantities. Word-problem-paraphrasing allows students to focus on understanding the context first rather than trying to extract numbers from the question and aimlessly come up with a solution. To model the paraphrasing process I used question #10 from the students’ booklet:

A store has 11.2 kg of potatoes. Maria buys 572 g of potatoes from the store and Colin buys 1.42 kg of potatoes from the store. After these two purchases, how many grams of potatoes does the store have left? Show your work.

A student volunteered to model the process and paraphrased it as follows:

A store has potatoes. Maria and Colin come buy some. How many potatoes are left at the store?

This paraphrasing activity makes word problems look simple and easy to comprehend. Furthermore, paraphrasing can provide an opportunity to link students’ use of everyday language and mathematical terms. According to Kotsopoulos, for a lot of students the language that is used in mathematics is “like hearing a foreign language” (2007, p. 301). Findings showed that students were unable to understand mathematical terms due to teachers primarily speaking in the mathematical register, even when introducing new concepts (Kotsopoulos, 2007). Thus, these findings illustrate the importance of using paraphrasing activities in a mathematics classroom in order for all students to have access to comprehensible mathematical language, which allows them to move forward in their learning.

We hope that was helpful and we’ll be back to break down more with you on our next Tutor Thursday!

Tutor Thursday

Tutor Thursday: Inclusive Literature

On this week’s Tutor Thursday we will discuss the importance of inclusive literature. As we educate younger minds, we need to be very intentional about the resources we have in our classrooms, our libraries and our lessons.

Our communities are becoming more multicultural and it is important to include diversity within the curriculum. It allows for all members in a classroom to share a sense of belonging. It is also important for our more homogenous communities, as it allows for the individual to learn about others and develop a better understanding of our fellow human beings.

Here’s our go-to list for some awesome books you can share with your students, children, and friends.

Inclusive Literature

FamiliesTutor Thursday

Susan Kuklin

(Grades 4 – 5)

Combining interviews and engaging color photos, this book shows the diversity of families in America. Includes mixed-race, immigrant, two-dad, two-mom and single parent families and families for whom religion is a focal point.

This book includes the LGBT community, and people of different race and religion. It teaches students about the different types of families that exist.

Tutor ThursdayMuskrat Will be Swimming

Cheryl Savageau

(Grades 1 – 5)

A heartwarming tale of the lesson a girl learns from a Seneca creation story her grandfather tells her — a lesson of knowing who you are and staying strong in the face of hurtful criticism.

This book addresses issues of self-identity and native American culture. It teaches students how ancient tales of native American cultures can be utilized to help children find their way in the world.

Gracefully GraysonTutor Thursday

Ami Polonsky

(Grades 5 – 7)

Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson has the tools to let her inner light shine.

This book addresses LGBT identities. It teaches students about the power of inclusion, and acceptance.

Tutor ThursdayToday I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day

Jamie Lee Curtis

(Grades 1 – 8)

“Today I feel silly. Mom says it’s the heat.
I put rouge on the cat and gloves on my feet.
I ate noodles for breakfast and pancakes at night.
I dressed like a star and was quite a sight. Today I am sad, my mood’s heavy and gray…”A storybook that examines at the wide range of human emotions. The girl in the book describes the possible moods that everyone can experience each day.The book helps students explore, identify, and have fun with their ever-changing moods. This book can be used to help students be aware of their emotions and can lead to a self-regulation discussion.

The Diamond Willow Walking StickTutor Thursday

Leah Marie Dorion (Norman Fleury)

(Grades 3 – 6)

A young Métis boy learns from his grandparents about the importance of generosity. Their belief in the circle of life extends to sharing what you have without reservation, as your return will be fourfold. The boy learns from the example of both of his grandparents and observes the respect in which they are held in the community. Eventually he must put this belief into practice himself by giving away his most treasured possession, the diamond willow walking stick.

This book addresses topics on generosity and the Metis culture. It informs students of other cultures.

King & King 

Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland

(Grades 1 – 5)

One day, a queen decides she’s had enough of ruling, and it’s time for her son to find a suitable princess and get married. The prince agrees, though he’s never much cared for princesses… and none of the ones who show up manage to change his opinion. Then in walks the last princess, beautiful golden-haired Princess Madeleine–and her brother, Prince Lee. It’s love at first sight, and the two princes, known as King & King, live happily ever after.This book addresses gender stereotypes and teaches children to be open to everybody’s differences.

Until out next Tutor Thursday!


Tutor Thursday

Tutor Thursday: Meeting Students’ Needs

On this week’s Tutor Thursday we are going to discuss some of the methods we use to help reach primary students’ needs.

After reading Student Success, Differentiated Instruction Educators’ Package (2010), we have developed three steps that will help us increase effectiveness in meeting students’ needs.

  1. Differentiation to Help Students Demonstrate their Learning (Product)
    • We will make sure to provide a task that allows students to easily vary the complexity or the form of the task for different learners.
    • Some examples are:
      • Choice Boards
        • This structure provides students with choice but all the choices address the same learning goal and are evaluated using the same Tutor Thursdayassessment criteria.
      • Cubing
        • This structure differentiates instruction based on the students’ readiness, learning preference or interest.
      • Learning Contracts
        • This structure provides differentiation by allowing learning goals and evaluation criteria to be developed by the teacher and student.
      • Tiering
        • Creating more than one version of the task in order to provide different levels according to students’ levels of readiness.

Differentiated instructional materials allow students to demonstrate their learning to the best of their abilities, which would give me the opportunity to properly assess students’ new knowledge.

  1. Differentiation to Help Students Learn (Process)
    • In a differentiated classroom, teachers provide different instructional methods to help students learn.
      In our classroom, we make sure to constantly change up the instructional methods. Here are some examples:

      • Jigsaw activities, Think Pair Share
      • Graphic organizers
      • Checklists with clear learning goals
      • Anticipation guides, exit cards, thinking routines
      • Self and peer assessments

Differentiated teaching tools allow students to see learning from a variety of perspectives and give them the opportunity to succeed.Tutor Thursdays

  1. Differentiation to Enhance the Conditions for Learning (Environment)
    • In a differentiated classroom, students are frequently grouped and regrouped based on their readiness to learn a concept, interest in a concept, learning preferences in working with a concept, and environmental or social sensitivities.

The different group settings allow students to be in the best possible learning environment for that specific activity, which gives the students the opportunity to excel to their highest potential. We will make sure that students are given this opportunity.

(Differentiated Instruction Educator’s Package, 2010)

Thanks for reading this week’s Tutor Thursday!

Meeting Students' Needs

Tutor Thursday

Tutor Thursday: Goal Setting | Aqua Fun Academy

This Tutor Thursday we are going to discuss education and the value of teaching goal setting to students. Goal setting is a fundamental skill which is applicable to various facets of life. We touched on the use of this skill on a Swimming Fit Friday. For more on that see the link at the bottom of the article.

Tutoring ThursdaysGoal setting includes the understanding of how to plan for short and long term goals, setting tangible and realistic goals, and taking the responsibility to act and then self-evaluate the results from each goal. Unfortunately, many teachers do not emphasize the importance of goal setting in their classroom because they are simply so focused on content-knowledge of their own course.

Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The new psychology of success, presents the idea that people lead their lives with one of the two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. According to Dweck, the fixed mindset is “believing that your qualities are carved in stone,” while the growth mindset is “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” Moreover, Dweck expands on this idea and states: “the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.”

This idea of the growth mindset is the core for student success. If a student is able to have long-term goals and not give up on them (even if they fail a test in school and so on), the student will, by the end, reach his/her objective.

The key here is to incorporate goal setting and trial and error in the classroom as one of our 21st century skills as it is an essential skill for living in the world and it is omitted in most core courses (such as mathematics, science, etc). If a student is able to fail many times, but get back up and continue to search for a way of how he/she will solve the problem, then, we as teachers, have given the student the right preparation to live and work in the world today.

Now, the question is: how do we (the teachers) prepare the students to have this skill? And how will we assess that the students were able to understand and apply this skill to their lives?

Just keep reading, until next weeks’ Tutor Thursday!


In reference to the beginning of our Tutor Thursday I present to you, Goal Setting in Practice: https://www.aquafunacademy.ca/swimming-fit-friday-goal-setting/


Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.


Goal Setting

Tutor Thursday

Tutor Thursday: Universal Design for Learning

This Tutor Thursday we will break down the Five Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles.

“The aim of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is to provide access to the curriculum for all students, and to assist educators in designing products and environments to make them accessible to everyone, regardless of age, skills, or situation” –Learning for All, Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an Ontario program with universal application.

The five principles are based on the core concepts of UDL: universality and equity; flexibility and inclusiveness; an appropriately designed space; simplicity; and safety (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013).

  1. Use differentiated learning to give students the opportunity to show their understanding.
  • Meeting the needs of each student is an important part of the universal design for learning. By differentiating activities and assessments, students have the ability to show their understanding in a variety of ways. This allows students to maximize their ability to progress and reach their potential as well as it creates equity in the classroom.
  1. Be flexible and open to changing or accommodating student tasks, ongoing assessment, teaching strategies, and student materials.
  • Our students come with a variety of needs. It is important to use materials that vary in level of difficulty or form, and that are relevant for every student. Students should be provided with rich learning tasks that include problem solving, real-world applications, and social justice topics, where teachers are flexible to engage in such activities with the students.
  1. Minimize distractions, such as noise, behavioral distractions, and classroom setup.
  • It is important for teachers to be consistent with noise levels, behavior rules, and the classroom organization because it provides access to learning for all

    The five principles are based on the core concepts of UDL: universality and equity; flexibility and inclusiveness; an appropriately designed space; simplicity; and safety.

  1. Be clear when communicating expectations; ensure that all students understand.
  • In order to keep all learning styles included, instructions and expectations should be presented in a variety of ways: communicated orally, visually, and written (success criteria on the board). Learning goals should be constructed in collaboration with students and using student-friendly language. The teacher should also provide ongoing feedback throughout the assignment.
  1. Provide an inclusive and safe learning environment.
  • In order for every child to learn, they must feel safe both physically and emotionally. The classroom environment should teach students how to care for others and their belongings as well as how to respect one another. The atmosphere should be inclusive so that all students are able to learn to their full potential. Teachers should praise each student daily and issues that occur in the classroom should be addressed immediately.

Well that was the Five Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles. Until next Tutor Thursday!

Tutor Thursday

Tutor Thursday: Building Confidence

On this week’s Tutor Thursday, we’re going to discuss how tutoring helps students to build confidence specifically in regards to testing.

In our last article we spoke about customized learning and the benefits. Let’s quickly recap what those are.

Tutor Thursday

The three different learning styles.

  • Lessons geared to students’ learning styles.
  • Provides opportunities to improve other learning styles.
  • Provides students with the tools to progress in their subjects.
  • Students learn how they learn.
  • Students feel more confident throughout their performance.
  • All students learn differently.

NOTE: the big three learning styles are audible, visual, and kinesthetic (or tactile).

One of the most very basic things a tutoring environment offers is effective practice.

There is a continuous dialogue between the tutor and the student to assist the student in their understanding. Tutoring provides a setting in which there is minimal consequence for making mistakes.

Tutor ThursdayThe lessons are stylized to maximize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. The current education system is not flexible in its evaluation of their students. Often these standard tests cater to a specific learning style, leaving some students behind.

Through the form of mock testing, the tutor can introduce students to testing situations, allowing them to learn to cope with the feelings and emotions often experienced during a test. Furthermore, students get feedback right after the test is completed. This provides another opportunity for learning where the tutor can hone in on areas of difficulty and either re-frame or review. Performing well on a test is like working out a muscle: you must exercise it properly to improve!

As parents and educators we can sympathize with our students, with the understanding that standardized testing may leave students behind. It is one of goals of Aqua Fun Academy to bridge the gap so that no one gets left behind.

Until our next Tutor Thursday! Happy Learning!