tutoring highlights

I have been tutoring an awesome little guy 2 days a week this month. I am trying to do lots of fun and hands-on things that relate to real life skills. Here are a few highlights of the activities we have done together.

Vowel hunt with fridge magnets and a cookie sheet

Vowel hunt with fridge magnets and a cookie sheet

Order the alphabet correctly (can be timed to compete against last time's record)

Order the alphabet correctly (can be timed to compete against last time’s record)

Two-digit addition and subtraction with pebbles (ones) and twigs (tens) - great way to bring natural resources into math as manipulatives!

Two-digit addition and subtraction with pebbles (ones) and twigs (tens) – great way to bring natural resources into math as manipulatives!

Fractions with licorice and chocolate bars - make math yummy

Fractions with licorice and chocolate bars – make math yummy

Went to the grocery store, picked out and bought items to make smoothies! They were dee-lish!

Went to the grocery store, picked out and bought items to make smoothies! They were dee-lish!


Smoothie recipe

Smoothie recipe


Nature scavenger hunt - something fuzzy Love this activity, because it gets kids reading the clues and they are responsible for finding all of the items. You can make a list tailored specifically to things in your immediate area that kids can easily find.

Nature scavenger hunt – something fuzzy
Love this activity, because it gets kids reading the clues and they are responsible for finding all of the items. You can make a list tailored specifically to things in your immediate area that kids can easily find.

third semester eye openers

I can’t think of a better reason to stay up than to do a blog post! Here are some of the interesting tidbits that have happened in the past few weeks…

1. My Field Experiences/Practicums This Semester

I have had two sessions at Balfour Collegiate working with ESL students and have really enjoyed it! One big realization I had was a result of talking with the cooperating teacher (that is so graciously letting 30 pre-service teachers into his classroom this semester), who was in the Elementary program, like me, when he was in university. He told my two other classmates and I that you can end up getting offered a Grade 11 Chemistry job right out of university, and you take it! I always find it interesting when teachers end up in different grades and subject areas than they were trained for. While I think it is beneficial in some situations to have the flexibility of a BEd. giving you the certification to teach any grade, I also feel that I would feel uncomfortable, unconfident, and totally out of my element in a high school. I suppose sometimes that is the best way to get your foot in the door and try something new and challenging, though!

However, volunteering in a mixed Grade 9-12 ESL class has really opened my mind to the possibility of ending up working with high school students at some point in my career. I feel that if I did, by some chance, end up in a high school, I would like to teach ESL students because, like Elementary, the teacher for the tutorial sessions works with all subjects, not one specialized area.

Another thing that I’ve been pondering lately… Why are there so many different acronyms for students who speak English as an additional language? ESL, EAL, ELL, oh my! Can’t they just pick one to use? haha

2. I am part of the Ambassador program at the U of R and I just got an e-mail from the head of the Ambassador program yesterday asking if I wanted to have a Campus For All Ambassador buddy. I was so excited and honoured to be given this opportunity! As an Education student, we are always ecstatic to get the chance to work with others and add these wonderful experiences to our resume. We keep hearing that all resumes and portfolios look the same, so it is really the additional experiences you have that will make you stand out and get you a job. There are hundreds of Ambassadors at the U of R, so I was tickled pink that the coordinator thought of me as a candidate! I’m sure I will have more to tell you about this once I get to meet my buddy and do some events with him!

If you want to learn more about the Campus For All program at the U of R, check their page out here!

3. I never posted some pictures of activities I did during my final tutoring session, so here you go:


This is a reading board game I whipped up! It turned out really well and I’d love to use it again someday (sorry the image is so small. The spaces read: “Pick up a new word,” “Use your word in a sentence,” “Move ahead 3 spaces,” “Say a word that rhymes with yours,” “Read 2 new words,” “Spell your word,” “Move back 2 spaces,” “Act out your word,” “Make a new word using letters from yours,” “How many syllables in your word?,” and “How many vowels in your word?”). The only thing I would change is maybe making corresponding piles of word cards to pick from for certain spaces, because not all of the word cards I made could be easily used for all of the space tasks. For example, some of the words were very short, so you couldn’t arrange their letters to make other words; or some of the words were abstract terms that couldn’t be acted out.


This is a fun little drawing activity that I linked to the online resource Bembo’s Zoo (check it out – I LOVE it!). It is a fun way to incorporate language into art.

4. Today in my ECE (Early Childhood Education) class, the instructor was teaching us the Waldorf ECE approach by actually treating the students like we were Kindergarteners, and I absolutely LOVED it! Some students were hesitant and embarrassed to sing the songs and perform the actions, but I thought it was a nice change of pace from the normal university class. This just affirmed for me how overjoyed I am to be heading towards a career that will let me sing songs and dance and fingerpaint and tell stories every single day! I truly am blessed! My work with the ESL students has opened up my eyes to the possibility of working with teenage students, and now my ECE class has me considering all the awesome aspects of working with Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students as well. Don’t get me wrong, Grade 1 will probably always have my heart, but I am finding, more and more every day, that it isn’t about the age of the students to me, it is simply the act of teaching and fostering a love of learning that draws me to this field. It’s a nice epiphany to have and it makes it easy for me to say that I can enjoy any Grade that I may teach in the future.

This semester is shaping up to be a very busy (but wonderful!) one, so I am sure I will have more things to share soon! I hope whoever and wherever you are, you have a splendid day!

a reflection about reflections

I think a good skill for a teacher to have is the ability to think on your feet. While I am always a girl with a down-to-the-minute plan, I find myself to be pleasantly surprised when I can latch onto a lesson idea on my toes – and it actually turns out really well!

During today’s tutoring session, an idea fell into my lap and I ran with it! I was very happy to have such an instantaneous idea turn out well, especially because it was an activity that I had never even thought of bringing up.

We were doing a little activity with tear-out letter cards from a phonics workbook, and my student noticed that turning the lower-case ‘n’ upside down made a ‘u.’ Then we explored other letters that could be turned to make others. My student instantly latched on to a ‘b’ being a ‘d,’ but was a bit puzzled when turning it wouldn’t give him the desired outcome. Cue light bulb!

I told him that in order for a ‘b’ to turn into a ‘d,’ we would need to put it up to a mirror. Luckily, there was a glass-cased storage cupboard right by where we were working in the library, so I held the ‘b’ up to the mirror, and he was pretty amazed (and, at first, a little skeptical – I think he thought I was playing a trick on him at first! haha) when a ‘d’ appeared in the reflection.

Continuing to ride my brain wave, I told him I could prove it to him by letting him write a ‘b’ and a ‘d’ on paper and transforming then. That flicker of discovery that crossed his face is the moment I live for! 🙂

I continued to write his name the right way and showed him the mirror image. Then I wrote his name so that it would show up correctly in the mirror. I then let him write ‘Hi’ and got him to switch it around so that it, too, would read the right way in the mirror. It was a good moment of learning for both of us.

In future, I think I could turn this into a whole lesson about symmetry and mirror images. It could even be a hybrid Math-English lesson! And I would love to dig a little deeper into letters that would look the same in the mirror (like a capital ‘H’).

There are so many cool ideas that you could fabricate using letters, words, and a mirror! I am excited at the possibility of using this in a real classroom someday! 🙂

sound switch reading game

I was just surfing the net, collecting ideas for a tutoring lesson plan and came across this little gem… I call it “Sound Switch.”

Sound Switch game

  • Choose a simple word like ‘take’ and let child choose one sound to remove (ex. ‘k’)
  • Replace the removed sound with another to make a word (ex. ‘l’ to make tale or tail)
  • Keep going until all of the word’s sounds have been replaced
  • Good words to use: mail, fun, bump, chunk, slice, pan, gave, same, like, small

Just thought I’d share this quick little update! Tutoring is quickly coming to a close, which makes me sad because the last few sessions have been really great – probably the best yet! I have found two activities that click really well with my student.

1. We have worked on a lot of sounds over the summer, and after reflection, I realized that the last few were rushed through by me. So to really enforce the ones that hadn’t stuck as well, I made a little game. I wrote out the sounds (like ch, ow, ar, etc) on ‘flashcards’ and showed them to the student. If he verbalizes the sound correctly, he gets to keep the flashcard. If he answers incorrectly, I keep the flashcard (to review the troublesome ones later) and he has to do something for me.  I make up little tasks for him to do (like pushups, stacking chairs, walking like a seal, folding a blanket, etc. – it can be ANYTHING!). My student likes to keep his hands busy, so I have found this activity VERY helpful and beneficial for both of us – he loves the challenge and competitive-ness of getting them right (and especially loves when his stack of sounds is way larger than mine at the end of the game). This game is also really easy to mix up and make harder (for example, one time through, I gave him a 3-Mississippi time limit to come up with the answer and he enjoyed that a lot as well!).

2. I have a list of common but tricky words (where, were, their, why, who, etc…) that are written out on a piece of paper. Each day we work on them, he uses a different coloured pen (I started with red and have continued to go through the rainbow). Each time the student reads a word correctly, he underlines it in the colour of the day. This makes it really easy for not only the student, but also the instructor, to see the progress and recognize the trickiest words. I have found that this constant review of these words really helps to enforce them and he is improving every time!

I hope that these sessions will really help him when he gets back to school in a few weeks! I know it has helped me to continue to grow as a teacher! 🙂

word of the day

It’s truly amazing the times of day I get the urge to write a blog post. The idea that sparked this post came to me while I was washing my face (I always get my most brilliant ideas when doing the most mundane of tasks – showering, brushing my teeth, washing my face, laying in bed at night, etc…). In one of my previous blogs, I made a goal to expand my vocabulary and realized that I was failing miserably at carrying this goal out. So I have decided to do a test run for Word of the Day during the month of August! I will (hopefully!) be tweeting out my new finds every day, so please check it out on Twitter @kfidelack! I am a big believer in goal setting leading to goal achieving, so fingers crossed that I will follow through!

Maybe I’m crazy in saying this, but I actually feel that I am MORE busy this summer than I was during the school year. Or maybe I just forget what it felt like to be IN school, because it’s been a LONG time! It will be weird to get back in the swing of things. And I don’t think this school year is going to slow down by any means. I have signed up to be an In-School Mentor once a week through Big Brothers of Regina AND have a job as an RA (Residence Assistant) on top of being a full-time student, so I will definitely be busy! Good thing I pride myself in being an expert on time management. I can sleep when I’m dead, right? Never have I found the wish for ‘more hours in day’ as true as in my life after high school – and I was plenty busy then, too! Thankfully, I seem to thrive on keeping occupied so I think the bustling environment of an Elementary School classroom is the perfect niche for me! 🙂

Just a super quick update on tutoring:

It’s going really well – at our last session, my student absolutely nailed his Silent E words, which I have been drilling into him for a few sessions now! He is a very hard worker and I am really starting to see him warming up to me – I think it helps that I can be such a goof to ease his nerves. When we learned how ‘R’ affects vowels, I made up actions to go with them and I think he giggled at my seal noises and clapping for ‘or’!

And to finish, I thought I’d share with you the new word that I learned today: Pareidolia. It’s the ability to see faces where there isn’t one. For example, this sink:

I learned this from a YouTube video on the channel Vsauce. Go check it out! His videos are all very informational and interesting – and his enunciation is superb! (Note: it really is amazing all the educational resources you can find on YouTube – I have used a couple of videos in my tutoring already!)

Until next time, I challenge you to go out and learn something new! It’s truly a gift of life that there is so much for us to learn about this amazing world we live in!

ipads and cheerios

Just a quick little catch-up post here everyone:

1. No tutoring Tuesday or Thursday this week, BUT I have 4 sessions next week to make up for it. I am going to be a lesson planning machine this week and #1 is done! Sticking to my previous goal of adding more technology and interactive activities, I made the ENTIRE lesson with only iPad apps! I am very excited to try it out and see how it goes!

Here are the apps I am using:

Sight Words 2, Word Monsters, Dog Story, Phonics Genius

Maybe in a later post I can give my likes and dislikes about these apps and their functionality, but I am gunna take them for a real test drive first (because I don’t count my experimental playing of all these games, which I have to say, is actually a lot of fun… haha. The perks of this occupation are endless, I tell you!)

Wish me luck!

2. As an avid YouTube watcher, I spent the last day of my holiday catching up on all of the uploaded videos I had missed over the past little while. One of my favorite series is the _________ React by the Fine Brothers. There are many different groups of people who react to videos and internet sensations chosen by viewers. Teens, Elders, Kids, YouTubers all give their insight.

The newest Kids React is about an allegedly “controversial” Cheerios commercial. Why is it controversial? You’ll have to watch it and see.

I myself was waiting for something terrible to be said on the commercial. But the only reason that this commercial is turning heads is because of the mixed race parents. This seems like such a joke to me because this is an everyday, normal situation for so many people.

While the fact that Cheerios is getting heat for displaying a realistic family situation made me angry, the children’s reactions really brightened my day. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason I am ecstatic to spend my career with children. They truly give me hope for a brighter tomorrow. It reminds me a lot of my favorite quote:

See life through the eyes of a child: Everything being beautiful.

So let’s all try and adopt the view that these kids had. They didn’t see anything wrong. Because there wasn’t.

online reading resources

Here are a couple of the great sites I have found so far:

RIF Reading Planet

This site has a lot of different icons to click on its home page. I really like the Poetry Splatter game under the ‘Game Station’ icon!


Starfall is a site designed for those who are just learning to read. Under the ‘Learning to Read’ item, there are short stories that focus on many different letter sounds to reinforce a specific one!

Kindergarten Resources

This site is a hidden treasure! It is just a page FULL of links to other great games and activities! My favourite (so far – I haven’t had time to try all the links yet!) is Bembo’s Zoo. It has an animal for every letter. When you click on the letter, it says the name of the animal, and then the letters jumble up and create a picture of that animal! Very cool! It would link perfectly with a lesson idea I had for students to draw a picture with only letters (see my post ‘music as cultural integration/alphabet art’ on March 7, 2013).

ICDL (International Children’s Digital Library) 

I am IN LOVE with this site! It has thousands of books, all scanned online for you to read! The Advanced Search has helped me greatly to narrow down the vast, vast selection. It has parameters for age, language, length, even cover colour for goodness’ sake. I have no doubt that this will be a favourite of mine for a long, long time!

tutoring recap (sessions 1, 2 and 3)

I have had my first three sessions with my new ‘summer student’ and I feel like I have already learned a few good lessons – as well as accumulating a lot more questions, too!

The student is going into Grade 5 in the fall but struggles considerably with reading. Right now, he is only at a mid-Kindergarten level of reading so I am really hoping to enforce the basic rules of reading over the summer so he can continue to grow as a young reader!

He is a very shy young guy, so I feel like he is still warming up to me after 3 sessions, but I hope that he will feel more comfortable with me as we go on! His teacher mentioned to me that he really likes using technology, so I have been researching useful online resources and incorporating a ‘tech’ aspect into every session thus far. He seems to be enjoying it but I think I should be incorporating technology that isn’t just on my laptop. My goal is to download some apps for the iPad and try those as well! Goodness knows how many educational apps are at our fingertips! If you have any suggestions of great apps for inspiring or assisting young readers, please let me know!

I found our first session very helpful in planning for the following meetings because I finally had first-hand experience with how far the student was and what exactly needed to be focused on. I soon realized that the basics of reading still needed reinforcement, so have worked on ‘Silent E’ words and ‘When 2 Vowels Go Walking’ concepts since. His teacher mentioned that he would need continual repetition to solidly grasp a concept, so I hope to keep reviewing these concepts in future meetings. In true future-teacher fashion, I enjoy making up my own little, student-personalized worksheets for my tutoring students, so that has been a good exercise for me to really focus in on what the student needs.

The one thing I found slightly disheartening today was how disinterested he seemed. Granted, no one wants to have to go to ‘school’ during the summer time, but I honestly am trying to throw in as much fun and ‘gamey’ style stuff as I can! Today was a lot of working on rules and worksheets, so maybe I needed to put a few more activity-style items on the agenda! Also, his mom mentioned when she walked in that he was ‘grumpy’ today, so perhaps today was just an unlucky day to have lots of word work rather than games.

Next time, I think I should at least mix up the straight pen and paper stuff with movement or an activity or something so it isn’t a big chunk of ‘the boring.’

One thing I have noticed is that the student really likes to fidget and I made the mistake of putting all the writing utensils in front of him for his use, which just ended up in him playing with the pens and pencils instead of paying attention. Since then, I have tried to keep all the loose items on my side of the table to avoid distraction as much as possible.

Today was our only meeting this week, as I am headed off for my ONLY days off this summer on Thursday! But after my 5-day weekend, you can bet I will be right back to the grind to try and help my student as much as possible!

I realize that this particular student’s growth is very slow and takes a lot of repetition, so I have to make realistic goals and not expect him to improve drastically just from 2 hours/week of work. But I do hope that he can continue to have opportunities to read and doesn’t slip backwards over the summer – which is the sad truth for lots of kids! If I can help to improve his reading repertoire even a little bit, I will have achieved something great!

One last thought before I go…

English is such a weird language where lots of basic rules won’t apply to an unfortunately big number of words. When I think back on myself learning to read, it honestly amazes me that I did it, or that any kid does it for that matter! It is something that is really taken for granted in our society (we automatically assume that EVERYONE can read, and those who can’t are at a major disadvantage). It is really about repeating and repeating and repeating and then repeating AGAIN! Some of the most used words follow no rhyme or reason whatsoever and I think that is one of my other goals for my tutoring is to familiarize my student with these high frequency words that he will use every day!

This got me thinking though… We use the same words ALL THE TIME. And just because I know how to read now, I don’t have any need to expand my vocabulary and learn how to read new words. So I have made a bit of a personal goal to work on expanding my personal vocabulary and actively look up words I don’t know so I am always learning. After all, you can NEVER be too old to learn. And that is a pivotal idea behind being a teacher, don’t you think?

bits and bobs

Hi loyal blog readers or any newcomers who have just stopped by for the first time!

I have been saving up a list of things to chat about and finally got around to it! So brace yourself for a bunch of totally unrelated items that have crossed my mind since I last posted. Warning: LONG POST!

1. A little preamble: I am currently working at the Affinity Credit Union in my hometown this summer (more about this under item #3)- and I LOVE it! All the staff there are unbelievably friendly, welcoming, and all-around nice people! That’s what makes it so easy to go to work every day.

Anyways… One day, one of my co-workers (let’s call her Rachel) mentioned that a member (let’s call her Miranda) told her she got a job interview at a financial institution. Rachel noted what a friendly young girl Miranda is, but said she almost wanted to tell Miranda to take her lip ring out for her interview, otherwise she surely wouldn’t get it.

This encounter made me, as my ECS prof would be proud to hear, go “Hmmm…” And not in regards to what Rachel said, because I can agree that she’s right: people don’t associate piercings with professionalism. And THAT is what made me go “Hmm…” Why does society automatically look down on individuals that have rainbow-coloured hair, dark makeup or piercings (and I can’t lie, I myself do this because it is so far from my personal style, not to mention piercings make me cringe because of my intense fear of needles – haha)?

All of the labels like ’emo’ and ‘goth’ have given society as a whole a negative view on people who sport these personal style choices. When you think about it, it’s a bit silly to think of people as unsuitable for a job simply because of a nose ring or their purple hair. It’s like not hiring me because I chose to wear a necklace that day, or a green shirt.

These choices have no effect whatsoever on how hardworking, trustworthy, etc, etc, etc a potential employee is. And just because hair dye and eyebrow rings didn’t exist ‘back in the day’ we think that they are inappropriate for a job interview? That, my friends, seems just a little bit wrong. If I choose to keep my hair brown and my face unpierced, that is my choice, but it doesn’t make me better suited for a job than someone who didn’t choose the same. I wouldn’t want to get a job based on that fact. And we shouldn’t expect people to change their appearances in order to be accepted. I am not going to dye my hair blonde and start wearing lipstick to get a job. And someone with green hair and a tongue ring probably doesn’t want to have to change their appearance, either!

What do you think? Why does society have such a bad view of piercings, dyed hair, etc?

Note: I can understand having to take your piercings out when it is a safety hazard. For example, I used to work at Subway and employees couldn’t have their facial piercings in while working because they were considered ‘an open wound.’ But in a job outside of the food industry, why does it matter?

2. This item is about a comment I got on my Ten Tree Apparel post (see my last post from May 22, “ten tree gets a zero out of ten from me”) that sparked my thinking in a different way.

I won’t quote anything the commenter said but the gist was: You made a good point until the very last piece where you used the word ‘twig’ to describe the models. Derogatory terms should be eliminated for girls who are slim as well as curvy.

I had to admit, I was a bit disheartened that someone had something that wasn’t purely positive to say about my remarks, but I can also admit that this person was 100% right. While I meant the line “just because your brand is named 10 tree doesn’t mean your models all have to be twigs, because all women aren’t,” to be a play on words with the company name, it truly is derogatory towards thin girls.

It isn’t just the girls that are larger than the models in magazines that are negatively affected by the fashion industry: it is also the slim girls! They get called names like ‘anorexic’ simply for being naturally thin, and that isn’t fair anymore than a girl who can’t help being larger than celebrities on the television. I was frustrated that someone had criticism for my post, but I am glad that this person spoke out and made me realize that I was being a hypocrite in an unintentional way. I won’t turn down a chance to learn and expand my horizons! So thank you, to my critic. You have helped me grow as a person!

Just to finish off, it’s interesting to note that one of the most famous models was named “Twiggy.” It kinda makes you think what the fashion industry is all about and seeking to promote…

3. As I mentioned previously, I am working at Affinity Credit Union as a summer student. I am a Member Services Representative (MSR, or, as most people know us as, tellers) and so far, it is going really well!

And while I really like my summer job, it has also reinforced my passion for education. I can truly say that even after trying out a compelling job, I wouldn’t change my future plans for the world. A couple of people on staff have asked in passing if I will end up working at ACU forever, and I just have to smile because, while I can truly say it’s a desirable work environment in every aspect, nothing can sway me from my plans as a teacher.

It’s especially funny, too, because in the very beginning, I was worried that I would end up liking it so much that it WOULD sway me! haha That’s the honeymoon phase for you, I guess! Don’t worry, though, nothing is stopping this girl from achieving her life long dream of looking out into a crowd of 30 little glowing faces sitting in desks. 🙂

4. One of my coworkers has a young boy who has some learning challenges and struggles with reading. She mentioned one day last week that she was hoping to hire a tutor this summer and I immediately said “Pick me!” because I have tutored a boy the same age for the last two summers and loved it!

Thankfully, she agreed to entrust her son’s precious little mind to me, and I am already super excited to get started! I have been in contact with his homeroom teacher and am going to meet to chat about his needs. I always like to have a little get-together with their teacher to talk about any resources they may suggest, or get activities that the child was working on in class time and could be continued throughout the summer, as well as any general comments or suggestions.

If anyone reading this has any suggestions, I would gladly soak them up, so chime in, please! It would be greatly appreciated! I will hopefully post some of my plans/ideas later on when my schedule is a little more solid, so stay tuned!

5. As a last little, fluffy, feel-good piece, I thought I’d tell a little story of what happened to me just before I sat down to write this post…

I am staying at my grandparents’ house in Saskatoon tonight as I have a 2-day training course here for ACU. We were just coming back from supper and a girl was knocking on their door. After one glance, I realized that I recognized her from a volleyball camp we both attended 4 years ago! I didn’t want to say hi in case she didn’t recognize me (which happens A LOT to me – once I meet you once I won’t forget your face! And I creep a lot of people out because I know who they are, but they don’t know me haha). Fortunately, she recognized me right away and we had a really good chat, which totally made my day!

The whole experience just left me thinking what are the chances that… she was working for Sask party and knocking door-to-door in Saskatoon, she was at my grandparents’ house just as we got home, I just happened to be in town ONLY for tonight because I am working at Affinity and had my training in the city?

It was just one of those moments where you have to take a step back and go… ‘Wow!’ Life is truly so amazing because its twists and turns can work out in such mysterious ways. It makes me so excited to see what life has in store for me behind some crazy twists and turns!

Wishing everyone reading this a blessed day! 🙂