Listening is Good Too!


Many teachers and educators spend a lot of time focusing on reading, writing, taking notes, etc.  All of these skills are admirable focus areas, but listening seems to have been lost in the mix.

Listening is a great skill to practise for both students and teachers.

As a tutor, I need to listen to my students.  I need to truly hear (not just listen) their problems and what they feel might be solutions.  NOTE:  I don’t always have to agree, but I need to be aware and genuinely listening.

Not only does listening help me understand more about the academic (and other) issues that a particular student might be facing, but it also builds a much more solid and genuine rapport with that same student.  If students believe that you are engaged and willing to acknowledge their thoughts – take them into serious consideration – they feel valued and are far more likely to listen to you!

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Of course, students need to develop their listening skills as well.  Not everything they say is a stellar thought.  Not every story needs to be explored ad nauseam.  This, however, is simply another learning opportunity to teach students to self-regulate their comments when appropriate, weeding out the dross and getting to the essential components of what they want to say.

Often, students will tell me that they don’t understand a particular concept.  As I am explaining how to approach the task, they start talking – and often not even about the task at hand!  This is the fragmented world we seem to live in now.  It is important to get the student back on track and listening to the entire explanation.  Without focusing on the task fully and listening all the way through, he or she will be jumping into the assignment without the necessary tools.

When I redirect their attention and inform them that they must be quiet and listen to the entire explanation – first.  They usually have a sudden “A-ha!” moment.  “Now I get it!”

Surprise, surprise, when you have all the tools, things seem so much easier.

Of course, this epiphany does not necessarily mean that the student will take the time to listen fully next time, but it is a step in the right direction.

I do have students who have been with me for years, and they all have improved their listening skills – some of them to the point of being excellent listeners.  They know that their comments and questions will be received well if they have attended.

They know that I am listening.

I am writing this blog today because I am facing some listening issues with a few students.

What is the solution?  Well, we need to do some directed listening practice.  There are many ways to work on listening skills, but here is a case study as an example. (Note: No Bens were injured during this case study.  The name was chosen randomly and is not any of the real Bens that I have had over the years.)

Ben is having difficulty with a math problem from school.  I look over his work and at his textbook.

“Ben, have you read the directions and examined the examples provided?”

“No.”  (This is a very typical answer.  The other is, “Yes, but I don’t get it.”)

“Well, let’s go over the information together, Ben.  Let me hold on to your pencil for you.  I want you to listen carefully and say nothing as long as I have the pencil.  Once I return the pencil to you, you have the floor to start asking questions, suggesting solutions, or complaining about why you even need to learn math anyway.”

This “game” or physical, tactile model works well with most students.  They understand the concept easily and can manage to listen for a much longer period of time than their usual.

Now, to be fair, you have to keep your explanations and comments to a reasonable length and this will vary for different students.  You might have to stop part way through your explanation, give her/him the pencil and allow a comment or question – or ask if she/he understands so far, allowing a release valve.  If you have been listening to the student, you will know his/her limitations and requirements.

Listening is so important.  Let’s all try to practise our listening skills and help others to do the same.



YouTube channel:   Tutoring Central


Happy Halloween!

Click here for HAPPY HALLOWEEN video – and a few safety tips



All Hallows Eve

Halloween falls on October 31, which in the old Celtic calendar was the last day of the year, its night being the time when all the witches and warlocks were abroad.  On the introduction of Christianity it was taken over as the eve (even or e’en) of All Hallows or All Saints.

Brewers Dictionary of Phrase & Fable

 Of course, most young people know that the most important part is “trick or treating” – and the treats are the most important part of all!!

Have fun, enjoy, and be safe.

The Time is Now!


That’s right.

There is no time like the present to get started using good study skills.

It doesn’t matter whether you are reading this in October 2016 – or later in the year or early next year, etc., etc.

The best time to start using solid strategies to help you succeed whether in school or in the workplace is right this moment.  (Yes, I tutor adults who want to reach the next level or a totally different career as well as younger students.)

A lot of people manage to “talk themselves” out of getting started.

     “Well, I’ll start next semester because it is better to start on the first day.”

                    “I might be able to start next month once I get rid of this pimple.”

                    “I’m waiting for the winter because then I don’t want to go outside that 

much anyway, so I can study more.”

And on and on and on!

So, my recommendation is to avoid this kind of chatter and start a new one that gets you going.

                    “This morning, I am going to start taking notes.”

                     “This evening, I am going to review my notes and do a few math questions.”

                     “I am going to read my next science chapter using the SQ3R method.”

If you want more help to get started, don’t be shy in hiring a tutor – like me!

If you aren’t ready for personal coaching yet, here is a link to a wee course you can do online that might help you along the way:

Become an A+ Student!

Here are the first three tips of nine that I have posted on YouTube.  Put them into action, and you will see a vast difference.

Goal Setting


Well, it has been a while since I wrote a blog entry.  I have been focusing on getting my YouTube channel going and a new Paragraph Writing course that should soon be ready to send out to students.

I will keep you updated!

For the moment, I want to write a little bit about Goal Setting.

Goal setting is an excellent idea.

If done properly, it can be a real motivator and help you attain the things you want in school and in life.

Done improperly, goal setting can be frustrating and counter-productive.  In other words, you might be wasting your time!

Here are a few tips for setting goals:

  1.  Set realistic goals There is absolutely no sense in setting goals that are not attainable within a reasonable time frame.  You will only frustrate yourself.  Now, you can have long-term goals which are larger – and if your goal is really really big – let’s call those dreams.
  2. Write down your goals.  Keeping a written record will help you stay focused.  Keep your list of goals (short-term and long-term) in a place you can access frequently.
  3. Long-term goals should have short-term goals attached.  Maybe you want to become a famous chef with your own television show, cookbooks, and fans around the globe.  That’s fine (perhaps slightly in the “dream” category, but that’s okay), but how are you going to get there?   The short-term goals are the path to this ultimate achievement.

If you set realistic, attainable goals for the near future, you will be able to “check off” the steps you have taken to reaching those longer and larger goals.

This will make you feel empowered and ever more motivated to keep moving in the right direction.

A lot of students think they should not bother putting too much effort into their next essay or their next test because on previous occasions they haven’t achieve an A+.

Well, that is no reason not to set more realistic goals.  If your math grade last year / semester / term was a C-, then an A+ is not a reasonable goal.  I’m not saying that it is entirely unattainable; however, setting such a large goal at first will likely be a disappointment.

Set yourself a goal of getting a C+ on the next test, perhaps a slightly longer goal of getting into the B’s for the term or year (if still early in the session) and work toward that.

Once the goal is set to raise your grade – set a few goals that will help you get there.  For example, you can plan an hour each night to focus on that particular course – review notes (check) – practice a few questions (check) – look ahead to the next unit (check) – ask questions of the teacher or other students (check) – etc.

Each time you check off the steps you made each day and each week, you will feel yourself moving in the right direction and “getting somewhere.”

So, don’t give up on setting goals and making an effort to reach them, but DO be sensible in your approach.

You can set yourself up for success!

Here is a link to my YouTube video on goal setting.  Don’t forget to subscribe, like, or leave a comment if you wish.  My channel is just getting started – lot’s more to come.  (Yes, I am setting goals, too.)

YouTube Video: Goal Setting



Stop Summer Learning Loss!

stop sign

Stop Summer Learning Loss 


Don’t Stop Learning!

Studies vary concerning learning loss over the long summer holiday; however, they all do show substantial losses for those students who are struggling in the first place. Even straight “A” students tend to show some loss if not engaged over the months away from learning.

How to avoid summer learning loss: 

       Read  !
This cannot be overstated
Reading is so important.  The choice of reading material is less a factor than the act and the follow-up.
Don’t read “blindly” – engage yourself with the material by talking about what you’ve read with others, look to learn more about the topic, write about what you’ve read, comment or blog about it.  Use any method you like to make sure that you aren’t forgetting as fast as you are reading.
Also, remember the library – often free reading material of all kinds there!

       Write !
Write a journal.
Write about what you have been reading (see above).
Start a blog about your favourite topic. (Ron can set your child up on Kidblog)
Write letters (astonish your friends and the world!).
Write some poems.

Ask for opinions and comments on T.V. shows or Internet/video games, etc.
NOTE:       Be sure to ask open questions not closed questions.
An open question invites more conversation, whereas a closed question generally elicits only a  “yes” or “no” response.
      Open question –   “What did you like about the main character ?”
Closed question – “Did you like the main character?”

Don’t be too quick to judge opinions (despite the lack of logic or maturity). It is just important to keep paying attention and engaging with material.  A great deal of learning comes from talking it out and hearing one’s own ideas aloud.  Self-correction tends to happen in stages.


Of course – a couple hours of tutoring per week can also help retain past lessons and help to prepare for the next year!

Come see what a professional tutor and personalized program can do for you or your child!

Morning hours available for Summer Learning!


Phone:  519 824 0982

How can I help my child succeed in school?

  • Model
  • Environment
  • Take advantage of learning moments
  • Be positive

These points are all related, of course.

Let’s look at each one.


No, you don’t have to be beautiful (though I’m sure you are).  By modelling, I mean portraying the behaviours you want to encourage.

If you read books, magazines, blogs (you are now!) and let your children see you taking pleasure in reading, this will encourage them.

  • Read for leisure
  • Keep reading material throughout the home
  • Talk about what your read – engage your young ones
  • Make use of your local library
  • Little free libraries (many communities have these now, including several in Guelph)

Make sure you have books at home.  E-books, iPads, etc. are fine, too – but there is nothing like having some real books available.  There is a tactile benefit and more personal involvement.


Let your children see you do math.

  • converting measurements for recipes
  • balancing a savings/chequing account
  • setting up a budget for grocery shopping
  • using flyers to compare prices.

Modelling how to work with math in real-life, can really help children and teenagers understand the purpose behind mathematics.

Modelling the entire learning process is also great.

I have students who come (and this can happen at any grade) with a project or assignment on a topic I know very little about.  There is nothing wrong with letting your child (or student) recognize that you don’t know everything.

Nobody knows everything.

This is a perfect opportunity to take on the challenge and model the learning steps – research, reading, taking notes, summarizing, brainstorming, etc.

When a student realizes that everyone needs to go through the process to learn, he/she feels more empowered.

This leads next to the Environment – the right space makes all the difference!

Want to get started right away – click to receive the 32 page booklet!

Click to register for BookletStudent Survival Guide


Setting up an excellent environment for learning doesn’t have to be fancy or costly.

The essentials include:

  • Desk and firm but comfortable chair (too comfy and sleepy sleepy)
  • Good lighting (straining to read makes you tired quicker)
  • Limited distractions
    • Electronic devices are great assets and nasty distractions at the same time. Monitor children who require it to be sure they are “on task.”
    • Music – only low level, preferably without lyrics. If you are singing along, you are not fully engaged in the science text!
  • Book shelf or baskets (plastic buckets, etc.) to hold supplies and files – organization is key.

My working place

You don’t need an entire office.  It can be a quiet corner in a multipurpose room.

Having a dedicated space is the best if possible because it reduces wasted time searching for resources.

The next tip is so important because a lot of moments are lost!

Learning moments

Every day there are loads of potential learning moments.  You probably don’t think about how many activities you do automatically that could be a learning point for someone younger or less experienced.   Here are only a few examples.

The store:

Trips to the store can have many awesome learning moments.  Instead of just having the children amuse themselves, engage them in the process.

Look at prices, compare quality along with price to make decisions.  Reading, math, and decision making skills are practised within this exercise.


Lots of opportunity here, including the obvious – they learn how to cook!

Math – measuring, adjusting recipes for different amounts or numbers of people, reading temperatures.

Reading – recipes, ingredient labels.

Writing – copy out favourite recipes, write a cooking blog or little comments on your favourite social media with pictures of the outcome.


There are obvious trips that encourage learning such as the museum and the zoo.  But be sure to take advantage of these opportunities.

Read the plaques

Discuss – encouraging your child or teen to put thoughts into words and express himself/herself is unbelievably beneficial.

Yard sale:

Pricing decisions, engaging with customers, making change, organizing products.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are so many more.

The next tip is a challenge.  Are you up for it!


Be positive

First – and this is going to be a difficult one for some of you – get ready ….

Try not to be negative about your “work!” 

Many students see their learning as “work,” and they see work as all negative.

We can’t really blame them.  After all, we say things like “Go do your homework.”

Then, they connect “work” with drudgery, boring, horrible, tedious, nasty, groaning, and moaning (Have you ever heard anyone talk about work this way?)

No wonder they hate school!  Or, at least, no wonder they tend to avoid the tasks or rush through them as fast as possible.

Learning is less about “work” and more about “engaging,” “succeeding,” “benefiting,” etc.   Help them see the world in a more positive way.

Who knows, this change of thought patterns might help you, too.

Encourage and use expressions that lead to the next step.

Coaches can be incredibly valuable.  Parents, teachers, librarians, tutors, and others can all help build that true learning environment.

Well, you know tutors have to be included.  After all, I am one!

While a parent may be the ultimate guide in a lot of cases, having someone outside the family who knows and understands the learning process is incredibly valuable.

They can often see and hear things that are missed in the close family relationship.

The student, also, has another outlet to express himself/herself. Students often feel less inhibited and more willing to take risks.

Not only that, but a good tutor can really help you, the parent!

When everyone is learning together – that’s when the magic happens.

If you think you or your child would benefit from having an educational coach / tutor or just want more tips to help you along, click below and register for the free 32 page booklet:

Student Survival Guide – How to Become an A+ Student

 Click to register for BookletStudent Survival Guide

Want to get started today? 

Phone or e-mail for your free information meeting.

Stay in touch and let’s keep learning!



Skype:     tutoringcentral

Free Webinar


Don’t miss out on the free webinar this week: Essay Writing Tips!

Writing is such a challenging task for most people.

Okay, writing might not be a huge challenge, but writing “well” is.

I will be discussing beginning strategies, structures (thesis, sentences, paragraphs, etc.), matters of form (continuity, interest, technical considerations), proofreading, and more.

All the tools you need to write almost anything are the same tools needed for essay writing.

Oh, and did I mention there are prizes ?   There are!

Hope to see you there!

Also – let your friends, students, colleagues, enemies (kidding) know about this Webinar.