Earth Hour: Why millions worldwide will switch off lights

Tomorrow, March 29, at 8.30pm millions of people are expected to switch off their lights in their offices and homes. Countries worldwide are also going to switch off the lights on famous landmarks to mark WWF’s annual Earth Hour.

The mass participation event is to show support and commitment for environmental change. The CN Tower, Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), Rogers Centre, Oxford Properties – MetroCentre, The Fairmont Royal York hotel, Air Canada Centre, Roy Thomson Hall and Bell Media’s Toronto Headquarters will turn off their lights as a symbol of their commitment to the planet.

This year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is planning to launch its latest report on Monday, a few days after Earth Hour. It will outline how global warming is going to affect food supplies, water, the weather and wildlife in the coming years. Earth Hour allows families to prepare and educate themselves not only on these foreseeable changes but how making a conscious effort in one’s daily life can help to reduce the carbon footprint.

“The significance of these two events is massive. Climate change is the biggest environmental threat facing our planet – it’s real, it’s happening right now, and we need to act fast” said Colin Butfield, director of public engagement and campaigns at WWF-UK.

There are many fun educational ways parents can approach the topic of climate change with young children and teenagers alike. Why not research the history of famous landmarks that take part in Earth Hour? Find out about endangered species and come up with innovative ways we can save energy. For ideas of things to do in the dark during Earth Hour, The Guardian has put together an interesting list of ideas

It’s important that children understand that switching off the lights for an hour isn’t going to help climate change, but the symbolism behind it will. According to WWF more than 7000 cities in 154 countries took part in Earth Hour last year, the result saw thousands of people tackle a range of issues from energy to deforestation and oil pollution. It is now the world’s biggest environmental event. Earth Hour’s CEO and co-founder, Andy Ridley, said:

“For us the symbolism or turning your lights off will always be important. But the big thing for us has always been how to push it beyond the hour. The stage we’re at now is to make it really easy for people from their handset, tablet or laptop to be able to do something pretty immediate to make a difference. That’s the holy grail for us – building a global collective movement, far beyond the event, where the event becomes a kind of inspiration but the movement is really the essence of it.”

It is essential that there is strong environmental teaching at home and in school, so we can build on past successes that WWF and other charities have created. As Nelson Mandela said: 

“Let us stand together to make of our world a sustainable source for our future as humanity on this planet.”

Source: The Guardian

Earth Hour 2012 in London UK. Photo source: The Guardian

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5 Tips to Get Better Grades, exclusively from Light in the Attic Learning!

This video will show students how they can achieve better grades with a few simple, yet essential, techniques.

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When was the last time you read a poem?

In 1999 the UN announced that March 21 would now be known as World Poetry Day. This was in an attempt to give a fresh perspective of international poetry movements with the premise “that poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings.” 

One of the main goals of the day is to “support linguistic diversity through poetic expression,” encouraging youth and adults to be heard within their communities. This can be done through the traditional poetry recitals or through more contemporary arts such as online media, dance and painting. As a tutor in Toronto, I feel that we need to show the young how fun and meaningful the art of poetry can be, so that it isn’t considered an outdated art form, but a comfortable medium where individuals can show their identities and speak about topics they are passionate about. 

A great example of this is shown through Fujiwara Dance Inventions, a group of Toronto based dancers. They have taken a traditional poem by Christian Bok and have created a dance production. In Bok’s Eunoia, each chapter is constrained to the use of a single vowel, yet he still creates the illusion of various fascinating worlds. In the dance adaptation the dances also follow these formal rules which allows them to transform the choreography. “The result is a witty and absorbing monument to human expression.”

Although it is important to show our children the modern creativity of poetry, they have to know the influences and the original work in order to fully understand the new interpretations. Here’s a list of my favourite influential poets of the Twentieth Century that everyone, not just youth, should own a copy of their works. 

  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • William Shakespeare
  • Walt
  • Whitman
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Dylan Thomas

As it is World Poetry Day why not head to a bookstore, pick up a copy, and immerse your family in the beautiful world of poetry. 

On a side note, if you want your child to become a whizz at grammar, spelling and linguistics, we offer various after school tutoring lessons in Toronto that will help your kids read complicated works like Shakespeare much easier. 

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All things Pi!

pi dayMarch 14 (that is, 3/14) is the day when teachers show and engage students in the study of mathematics through fun activities revolved around Pi. It’s the perfect time for educators to show students who don’t enjoy the subject just how fun maths can be.

Here at Light in the Attic Learning, we try and make maths as exciting and interesting as possible everyday in order to help students meet their maximum potential.

The official Pi Day website describes perfectly why Pi is extremely important and has major impact on most aspect of mathematics:

“Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi is a constant number, meaning that for all circles of any size, Pi will be the same. The diameter of a circle is the distance from edge to edge, measuring straight through the centre. The circumference of a circle is the distance around.”

Pi is the one number that captivates teachers and students alike as its digits go on infinitely without any pattern in the numbers. For example the first digits are 3.14159 and are the most commonly used digits, but on Pi Day students are inspired to memorize thousands of digits or use them to create art, music and poetry! The Guinness World Record for memorizing pi is held by a Chinese student who recited 67,890 digits correctly!!

Of course, we all need to eat at least one slice of pie to mark the occasion. In downtown Toronto Ryerson University will be giving out desserts at the Sears Atrium all day, followed by talk by math professor Pawel Pralat who will focus on the history, advancement and appearances of pi in pop culture!

If you haven’t had enough pie by this evening Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is hosting a pie showdown. They will be making special square pies, hosting pi trivia, throwing pie catapults and just in general having a fun messy evening.

Today is also Albert Einstein’s birthday, if nothing else, that’s an excuse for all the parents to have a glass of wine!

Happy Pi Day everyone!

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World Book Day 2014

World Book DayWorld Book Day is an important day in every schooling calendar as it’s a celebration of reading, authors, illustrators and, of course, books. Marked in over 100 countries, children and teachers dress up as their favourite characters from popular novels, it’s the largest celebration of its kind. Yesterday saw the 17th World Book Day, where children of all ages throughout Toronto came together to appreciate reading.

A recent report suggest that students, primarily teenagers, are reading books that are too easy. Do you feel that teachers aren’t pushing your kids to read challenging titles? The organizers of World Book Day have released a list of 50 books that could help to “shape and inspire” teenagers. The list of 50 feature books are split in to categories such as books that will “make you cry”, “help you understand you” and “teach you about love”. It’s a great list of books.

There are some books on the list that could have been left off, like Twilight, but on the whole we agree with most of the books that have been included. Out of the 50, here is our top 10 books for teenagers to read:

  1. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  3. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  4. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  5. The Shining – Stephen King
  6. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  7. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  8. 1984 – George Orwell
  9. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  10. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

If you feel that many of the books on the list may be a little too difficult for your son or daughter, we can definitely make sure their reading, grammar and spelling is up to scratch. We’re also running a promotion at the moment, 30% off 4 lessons, check out our Facebook page for more information!

Fun fact, did you know that the largest book store in the world is in Toronto? Cleverly titled World’s Largest Bookstore, it’s a 3 storey building that has over 20 kilometres of shelving! It’s on Edward Street, just north of the Eaton Centre.

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Rainy day activities!

March break is just around the corner, and with the sudden dip in weather, there’s good chance that it’s going to be super cold. Can you believe that it was minus 50 in some parts of Canada last week??! It’s best to plan ahead for these situations, so we’ve found a few activities that will keep your little ones busy indoors during the break.

1. City play mat from a shower curtain

I found this activity on My Little Gems, I like it because it’s not going to break the bank and it will help bring out young children’s creative streaks. All you need is a shower curtain from a dollar store, some permanent and fabric markers. Draw on the curtain with the permanent markers, then your kids can colour in the simple images you have drawn or add to them.

2.  Dr. Seuss day

If your children haven’t read Dr. Seuss yet, now is the time. I love that the creators of the blog All For The Boys, have found a whole afternoon’s worth of activities based on two of the Dr. Seuss books. Once you and your little ones have read One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish why not make fish origami? Next read Cat In The Hat and make pop up cats and themed muffins!

3. Board games

When I was growing up Monopoly and Scrabble were two staple board games played most weekends. Playing games with your children is a fun way to spend some quality time together whilst teaching them about following the rules, fairness, sportsmanship and much more. Sites like Amazon have a section called “educational board games” which is always a good place to start when looking for a new game.

4. Baking

One of the best things about cooking with children is when you see their excitement when the finished product comes out of the oven. Look at this amazing digger themed cake, it is really easy to make! When you cook with your children, it’s the perfect time to teach them about healthy eating.

5. Building shapes

A simple yet effective way of teaching your kids about the different types of shapes used in school. You can easily make coloured sticks out of cardboard, colour coordinate them and label them with the number of sides each shape has. The children will choose a colour and build the matching coloured shape from the sticks! Great for budding mathematicians!! Thanks for the idea A B C Preschool.

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March Break madness tutoring promotion!!

Our own version of March Break Madness – Take advantage of this great offer and help your special student get ahead over March Break.

Promotion

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Top 10 family activities to do in Toronto during the March break

March break is just around the corner, allowing families to spend some quality time together. We’ve found some activities taking place in the GTA that are educational and entertaining, activities that parents can also enjoy. They are all affordable and will keep the kids away from the television! Have fun!

1. Hands in the bowl

Join Evergreen Brickworks chef, Nyle Johnston for a cooking workshop designed for children between the ages of 4-7.

Children learn about the different tastes and textures of key ingredients used in day to day cooking. A hands-on program, it encourages participants to mix, grate and mash using only their hands.

For more information click here.

2. Where the Wild Things Are stage production

Maurice Sendak’s children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is still just as popular as it was 50 years ago. The recent movie adaptation of the novel, proved popular with adults and children alike, so why not go to the stage production version during the March break. Produced by Presentation House Theatre, it’s showing at the Young People’s Theatre on Front Street east. You never know, it may encourage your child to read the book too!

For more information click here.

3. Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament

Does your son or daughter love history? This could be a fun activity for the whole family, while fuelling your child’s love of history and all things medieval. Guests enjoy a 4 course banquet whilst watching an authentic jousting tournament. It links modern society to the past and teaches the young about valour, glory and chivalry.

For more information click here.

4. Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival

What kid doesn’t love maple syrup? Head over to this festival to learn all about the history of Canada’s world famous syrup, there will be plenty of free samples!

There are numerous maple syrup festivals happening throughout March, have a look online to see which one is closest to you.

For more information about Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival click here.

5. Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley’s Aquarium is the largest aquarium in North American, it house 15,000 animals including sharks. Walk your children through/under/above Canadian waters, the rainbow reef and the dangerous lagoon. With plenty to read, touch and see at each station, your children will become knowledgeable about all things under the sea.

For more information click here.

6. Hockey Hall of Fame

Is your son or daughter a budding sports star? Teach them the ways of sportsmanship at the Hockey Hall of Fame this March. As Canada’s national sport, looking back at the influential players could provide inspiration and determination to do well during gym class!

For more information click here.

7. Toronto Comicon

Do your children love comics, video games and fantasy television shows? This is the place to take them then. Attendees are able to participate in a Q&A session with various celebrities from hit television shows and  there will be numerous workshops and seminars. The best bit…costumes are encourage!

For more information click here.

8. Sneaking Around

The Bata Shoe Museum is holding a spy-themed event during March break. There promises to be lots of spy-themed arts, crafts and activities!

For more information click here.

9. ROM’s Dinosaur Gallery

From Jurassic Part to Ice Age, dinosaurs and mammals are used as a constant source of entertainment for families in films, so why not bring them to life at the Royal Ontario Museum. The gallery is home to 750 specimens including nearly complete dinosaur skeletons and fossil mammal skeletons.

For more information click here.

10. Toronto Zoo

Finally, if it’s a nice sunny day why not head to the zoo? There are over 5000 animals 460 species to see, all based on geographical locations.

For more information click here.

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How to improve your child’s reading abilities

So I ended the blog last week without providing any solutions to your child’s reading problems. I understand that might seem odd, but don’t freak out, because this weeks blog will focus on the best way to improve your child’s reading skills.
Yes, you read that right. I purposely used the singular “best way” in my description. I say this because I believe the best way to improve reading skills is to read more material, more often. In fact, as a parent you can take certain actions to promote your child to read more. Here are some of those actions.
1. Read to your Child
Your child may not be reading because they are struggling to read. This creates a catch 22. You can break the cycle and help build your child’s confidence by reading to them. As you read together, get them to read and sounds, then words, then full sentences, and finally whole pages. Slowly they will eventually be able to read basic words and sentences by themselves.
2. Surround Your Child with Books
In order to boost your child’s vocabulary, they need to continue to read more material.  Yes, you could buy one or two book at a time, but I recommend having a great variety of books on different subjects. The reason for this choice is because it will help ensure that your child will find a book that they deem interesting. If your child is interested in the book they will be more engaged and read more often.
3. Set up a Reading Time
If surrounding your child with a greater variety of books doesn’t spark their interest, it’s a good idea to become more active and make sure that they are reading. You can ensure that they are reading by setting aside a time in the day that they have to read. This can be whenever, but at least an hour (can be more) should be set aside for reading. If you need some help to ensure your child is reading, Light in the Attic learning has a homework hub with a licensed instructor who can do this, and also answer questions about a word’s meaning and pronunciation.
4. Reading is Just Not About Books
Reading can be done anywhere. I take this notion to heart and when my son was learning to read I took flash cards and labelled the entire house. This is a true story and just proves that your child can read anything, anywhere as long as they are reading. It is important to find something that interests them and run with it. The only thing is to make sure you can sustain your child’s interest in this type of material over time. Broadening the material your child’s reads will ensure they never run out of content.
Before I close this blog, I like to say that all of these options are not mutually exclusive and can be used together! Which way do you think is the best?
All the best,
David

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Key signs of reading problems

Girl readingAs children head back to school for the winter semester, parents want to give their children the best opportunity to succeed. Even with the best intentions, parents sometimes let one of the most glaring problems slip their attention. I’m of course referencing reading problems. Reading is an essential skill that every child must learn and falling behind in reading comprehension is a major detriment to a child’s academic and regular life.

Being such a detriment, figuring out the signs of reading problems is very important for both the parents and the students. In order to help you out, I’ve organized, by grade, some key signs that your child might be having reading problems.

1. Before School, Preschool and Kindergarden
At this time a child’s vocabulary begins to expand. They should be learning new words and sounds. If your child is struggling to understand new words and sounds, and their vocabulary seems stunted, your child might be experiencing the first signs of reading difficulty.

Here are two examples to help identify this problem. The first example is when your child is learning their ABCs. If they have trouble learning or skip certain letters your child might have trouble understanding sounds.

The second example is with nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are a great way to measure a child’s ability to understand sounds. Your child disliking nursery rhymes and/or having difficulty to understand the rhymes even after hearing the nursery multiple times might also be an indicator that they will have trouble reading in the future. Overall, these are some keys ways in which you can tell if your young child might or is developing reading problems.

2. First Grade
I believe the first grade is the quintessential grade in developing strong reading skills. The reason first grade is so important is because it is the time where students begin to learn many key words. In fact, if your child currently in first grade has not learned at least 100 words by this point (mid way point of the year) they are having trouble with their reading comprehension skills.

Another way to really tell if your first grader is reading well is to hear them read (crazy right?)  Here are some indicators that they are having trouble reading:

  1. Skip words when reading.
  2. Guesses words they don’t know.
  3. Has trouble remembering words

I like to end today’s blog by saying that these signs are not guarantees that your child is having trouble reading. So take everything in stride and if you need help identifying if there is problem, we are here to help!

Thanks and all the best,
David

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Books every child should read

booksI hope you and your child had a great day reading on Sunday’s Family Literacy Day! Did your child by chance run out of books? Or maybe you’re interested in updating your child’s reading library. Whatever the case, I got you covered with what I believe to be some “must own” books that every child should read.
For Children in Early Elementary School (Junior Kindergarden to Grade 2)
  • A Light in the Attic by ShelSilverstein: This classic collection of poems is interesting, easy to read and a really a great starting book for any child. Plus, the rhyming scheme used in the poems helps children recognize the connection between how a word is spelled and that word’s pronunciation. With so many benefits you see why Shel Silverstein’s book was the inspiration for our tutoring center!
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: Another must own classic. Where the Wild Things Are’s beautiful pictures really bring the story to life and keeps children coming back for more. I swear, when most children pick up this book they can’t put it down.
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemelans: This book maybe better for an advanced Grade 2 student, but with that in mind, if your child can handle it I say let them read it. This is a classic, more realistic story that every child should have the pleasure to read.
For Children in Late Elementary School (Grade 3 to Grade 6)
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: Another Shel Silverstein book (yes, we love him) for more advanced readers. The reason I categorized this book in the more advanced section is because it deals with many important, more mature issues, such as love, self-sacrifice and environmental conservation. A little more maturity that comes with age might be needed to fully grasp and understand this book.
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: Arguably the most classic book in all of literature, Charlotte’s Web has survived the test of time. For myself, the well mapped out characters really bring this book to life and make it a necessity for every person to read.
  • Early Harry Potter Series By J.K. Rowling (Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets): Has your child read the Harry Potter series yet? They should! They’re great books that tap and allow your child to grow their imagination. However, due to the more mature and darker content in the later books, I can only recommend the first two books in the series for younger children.
For Children in Middle School   
  • Later Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: Just like the first two books in the Harry Potter series, the final five books in the series are amazing. However, these books are more mature so it might be better for a middle schooler to read it.
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen: The ultimate survival adventure story. This book is intense, adventurous and good for any boy or girl. Hard to really describe the book without ruining it. All I can say is your child should read it!
For Children in High School
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: The Holocaust will be discussed frequently during your child’s high school education. Before beginning grade nine, I believe an introduction to the emotional and complex time period should be given. This book by Anne Frank, a young girl and victim of the Holocaust, really puts the entire situation into context. However, just a warning, expect many questions about the Holocaust after your child reads this book.
  • How To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: If there is one novel that will stay with a child for the rest of their life this is the book. The book is extremely emotional and really a good lesson on why people act in certain ways. Mature content is why I believe this book is only appropriate for students in grade 11 and 12.
  • Macbeth and/or Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: Shakespeare is hard to read. Some children might have an easier time with it, but for most of us, his style of writing is simply outdated. Even if his style of writing is outdated, his stories themes and characters are timeless. With Shakespeare’s impeccable storytelling ability, he is a must for any child to read. However, due to the difficult and vocabulary in the books I recommend buying your child a copy with some modern day of phrases translations in the footnotes.
 This is a small list of the thousands of books your child could read. What is your or your child’s favourite book to read? Tell me in the comments below!
All the best,
David

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Tips for picking your child’s next school!

Saint Michael's SchoolFor many children the second semester of school has just begun. This is beginning of the countdown until summer and the end of the school year. However, for some children this is the beginning of the end of their life at a certain school. Whether that child is beginning school, in grade 6, grade 8, or grade 12 you and your child have to make a decision on what school they will attend next year. This can become a difficult decision and I want to provide some tips in order to smooth out the process.

1.Word of Mouth
Have any friends or family who has a child who has already made this decision? Maybe their child is currently attending the school your child is looking to attend? Whatever the case, speaking to other parents about their child’s experience is a great way to get feel for the strengths and weaknesses of that school.

2. Look Into What Makes School Unique
This point is best directed to those children graduating middle or high school, but does apply to some elementary school graduates. I’m of course talking about unique programs in each school. Yes, every public school has a general curriculum that they must follow, however some schools have special and unique programs. For example, Northern Secondary School has a fantastic gifted program. Anyways, the point is, you should figure out your child’s strengths (our evaluation can help with that) and find a special program that may help utilize their strengths.

3. Read About It
There are many magazines and journals, such as Macleans, that rank schools on a variety of categories. These categories range from academics to campus life. Overall, I found these lists a helpful tools for students looking at secondary education because it is one of the easiest ways to compare almost every college and university across Canada.

4. Visit The School
Almost every university and college offers campus tours that you and your child could attend. For schools in Toronto, one day tour would be enough. As schools in other cities, I recommend choosing a weekend and going up with your child to see the school. Wherever you attend, your child should be with you. It is them attending the school and they must feel comfortable on campus.

To attend an elementary, middle, or high schools it is a little more difficult. I recommend calling the school before you attend to ask their procedural for visiting their school. Listen to what they say and don’t break the rules. Once again, it is vital for your child to be with you, because they need to feel at home in order to learn properly.

5. Where Are Their Friends Going?
You’ve done everything I’ve listed above and you’re still stuck? Well for some students, especially those going into high school, having a core of friends joining them in their journey is important to make sure they are happy. Obviously, this is different for every child, but that type o safety net really could help your child achieve a smooth transition to the new school.

That’s the list. I hope it works for you and your child finds the school that is right for them!

Cheers,
David

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Why Jump Math?

Jump MathI don’t think it’s a secret that here at Light in the Attic Learning we love and trust the JUMP math program. JUMP math was created by our hero John Migthon and brings excitement to learning mathematics. The program holds students attention by turning them into active learners seeking out how to solve problems, instead of being passive learners who are taught a method.

While the program does turn the student into an active learner, it does not bombard them with too much information. Its slow burn approach really allows them to grasp the information at their own pace. Here at Light in The Attic Learning we provide personalized tutors and programs in order to help your child learn, and not memorize the material at their own, unique pace. JUMP really facilitates this way of learning and that’s why I love it.

Another reason I love JUMP is because unlike many curriculum’ word problem approach to math (which seeks to teach key concepts through contextualized word problems), JUMP uses a building block approach, which makes sense when you acknowledge that math is a subject that builds on prior knowledge.  This building block approach to math, strips down every aspect of a math equation and teaches the basic concept in a step-by-step fashion. By providing basic concepts or the building blocks, students will always have the tools and confidence to solve any mathematical problem they face.

Also, by focusing on steps (or building blocks) our tutors can identify the specific concept that is at the source of any blockage and focus on explaining that specific step.

Overall, as an educator and parent I love to engage the people around me and help them gain the essential skills to succeed in all their endeavors. JUMP math works in coordination to this belief. That is why JUMP is effective and a staple of Light in the Attic Learning.

Do you have any questions about the JUMP Math Program? Click the email button below and send me an email! I’ll get back to you ASAP.

All the best,
David

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