How to get your kid to do anything

Applied Behaviour Analysis & Kids

This past year, we've had a fellow with a degree in Applied Behaviour Analysis visit our school. This guy is a pro at shaping behaviour. Since his visits, I've been modifying entire classes' behaviours. The kids are getting ready for learning faster, focusing longer, and participating better than ever before. Kids that completely refuse to do work have been lighting up when they see my at the door and hustling over to do some reading.

The most encouraging change out of all this has been that they have been less likely to give up. How important is that? All the head honchos in education are promoting resilience as the key to success. It's pretty rewarding to see the changes happening.

Now that I've gotten really good at implementing this process in school with 5-9 year olds, I'm starting to think how I can apply this to my work with high schoolers.

The common problem I see with the high schoolers I tutor is that they aren't that great at breaking down what is necessary to complete their work, and end up doing it poorly last minute or not at all.

I'm still doing some research, but so far I'm thinking of setting up a system for them to track their work and break it down. Where the reward happens and what form it takes is still undetermined. Once I figure that out, I'll be setting up a pilot program for a couple of kids to see how it works and can be improved. I'm stoked to be getting closer to a solution to this problem. Stay tuned to find out more!

Summer Camp Week 2: "This is the best camp ever!"

It's our first year doing summer camps and I gotta say, it's been a HUGE success. Seeing genuine learning happening is cool, but hearing "I love this camp" is even more rewarding!

We're two weeks into camp with two more weeks in August (specific dates and details here), and so far camps are choc-full of playing and learning, AND we've been enjoying the many local parks for geocaching, water fights, and good ol' fashioned games of frisbee and tag. Small groups have helped in keeping things focused and very hands on with the technology, and I'm happy to see that everyone has been getting along swimmingly. 

Monday and Tuesday of this week, we constructed Lego battlebots that campers took into balloon-battle against each other. To be honest, we only planned to spend two days on this, but the campers loved it so much that we'll likely end off the week with this as well. Engagement is one of our top priorities as it turns play into learning, often without kids even realizing that that's what's happening. They learned about robot input and output commands and also applied the design process: creating plans and multiple iterations and improvements on their robots. 

Today, we've broken them into smaller groups to create various parts of a rube goldberg machine, and to practice coding with Dash and Dot. They are hyper, laughing, creating, inventing, thinking, focused, motivated... it's a beautiful sight! Very exciting stuff. 

Stay tuned for our rube goldberg progress. 


About the Author: Stephanie is a teacher by trade, and the other half of Team Thorious. When she's not working you can find her biking in the city, petting strangers' dogs, or hanging at the new YMCA. 

4 Fun Ways to Prevent "Brain Drain" this Summer

4 Fun Ways to Prevent Brain Drain this Summer:

Summer is a great break from school - but it doesn’t have to be a break from learning. In fact, a bit of summer learning can make for a great head-start in September!

Gamefied Math Practice

Gamefied Math Practice

1. Prodigy Math

A game that integrates math problems - kids LOVE it. I’ve seen a classroom of 20 student elect to play math games as their reward on the last day of school. 
Pros: Free. Extremely motivating and entertaining.


Khan Academy Screenshot

Khan Academy Screenshot

2. Khan Academy

Solve math problems correctly to win points. Use points to level up to upgrade your avatar. Kids practice math problems until they "master" them, at which point, the program offers them harder and harder problems to solve.
Pros: Free. Videos and "hints" to explain concepts to kids - for when you don't know how to help, or you are tied up with something else. 

3. DIY Projects

Give them a hands on project to do to apply their knowledge! For example, if your child studied perimeter this year, give them a glue gun, some popsicle sticks from Dollarama, and a ruler, and ask them to build a birdhouse with a specific perimeter. 
Pros: Being creative and working through mistakes builds resilience. 


4.  Look at the report card

As a teacher, I really value the sometimes neglected "Learning Skills" section of the report card. Take a look at the feedback presented in this section - your child's teacher has spent a lot of time with him/her, and there might be some worthwhile tips in there!


What are YOUR fun tips for enriching your child's summer? Leave a comment below! 

About the author: Wassim is a teacher in Toronto, and when not teaching he enjoys reading, projects, Reddit, and learning.

Can You Can Improve Your Teen's Report Card?

Report cards are less than two months away, and the answer to the question is - YES YOU CAN. Two months is just enough time to get a significant boost in math class. Help your teen follow these 5 tried-and-true tips and see results by May!

1. They've got to show the teacher that they care. 

I once got a "teacher mug" for Christmas. It said: "Teachers loving helping kids who love to learn". Cheesy, but true. Teachers want to help; your child simply needs to show that they're willing to put in the effort. The best way to do this is to tell the teacher directly that he/she wants to make a new effort and that they welcome support - that’s just music to a teacher’s ears. 
When a teacher sees that you care, things only get better. 

2. They've got to know their basics. 

We've seen all types of students improve their grades after following a couple lessons on test taking. It's often the case that they know what they're doing but unfortunately just get lost in the test. The Guide helps fix that.

What’s 7 times 6? If the answer wasn't automatic, then you've got to know this: Knowing multiplications is essential in high school math, as is being familiar with algebra. Even problems in grade 12 consist of one difficult step, followed by a bunch of algebra. If your child doesn’t know them, practice! Make flash cards (or get a pack from Dollarama) or download an app, and practice, practice, practice.

3. They've got to ask for help quickly. 

Once your child realizes that something is difficult, they should seek as much help as possible as quickly as possible. Teachers are very receptive to requests for extra help. Straighten out misunderstandings before they start to snowball.

4. They've got to do the work. 

If your child wants to succeed in math, they have to do problems - problems are where one learns. Each error must be analyzed and understood, otherwise the whole exercise was a waste of time. A journal to keep track of errors can be useful in creating the memories that make up math.

5. Seriously, they've got to do the work (and you can help!)

Whether it’s measured in time or number of questions solved, help your child master the daily schedule and make work sessions regular. Setting aside a time and place for math work and practice is extremely effective. This is the most important advice I give my students’ parents - I saved it for last to make sure you remember it!

Implementing these steps this week is sure to improve your child’s grades - just give it a consistent effort for 2 weeks and you are guaranteed to see results.

About the author: Wassim is a teacher in Toronto, and when not teaching he enjoys reading, projects, Reddit, and learning.

5 Tips to Stop Homework Battles

Is homework a nightly battle?

It doesn't have to be - These pro-tips from a real teacher will help  

Some kids have no problems completing homework without a fight. Others need help to get into the right mental space to do work. Here are some useful tips that I give students and parents all the time (and something from the list always makes a difference!).


The most basic way you can help your child is to provide a quiet work space where they can sit to do their homework or reading every day. On days they don't have homework, they can do some other educational activities to keep the routine going. We've got some examples for you below!

The best work space for concentrating is:

  1. In an area that your child already gravitates towards in the home. 
  2. Quiet and comfortable.
  3. Close to you, in case you need to remind them to get back on task.
  4. Is uniquely/mostly used just for work.
  5. Has the tools and supplies that your child needs to do his or her work.  


Instead of showing your child the steps to solving a problem, show them how to think! Leading questions are the bread and butter of a good teacher. Good leading questions include: What is the question asking? Where can we find the answer? What strategies did you use in class to solve this kind of problem?


This one is pretty obvious, but it’s harder to do in the moment when you see your child struggling. If your child can’t do the work himself, just send a note to the teacher! If work keeps coming back from home complete, your child’s teacher is going to be very confused when class work ends up in failure.


Routine is a key factor in getting things done. However, don't let the homework schedule rule you and your children's lives. Some children do best if they do their work right after they get home from school, some need that time to unwind and refresh. Others may enjoy catching up on reading and homework after dinner or bath time. Work out a schedule, and allow your child to have a say in it - that way you can eliminate any related arguments. 


Kids receive loads of tips and tricks from their teachers and parents - but don’t always use them.   Don't forget to be intentional. Trying a trick once or twice does not let it develop into a habit. I recommend consistently using a study or homework technique at least 2 weeks before deciding if it works for your child or not. 

No Homework? No problem

Some children don't get regular homework, but that doesn't mean that you must forgo a regular homework routine. Here are some educational activities that they can do at home: 

  1. Write a journal about their day. They could model it after a favourite book like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dear Dumb Diary. 
  2. Record scientific observations in a special notebook of different things: rocks, plants, animals, people. 
  3. Read a book out loud onto recording software to make their own audio book. (Or, make a book review: here!)
  4. Practice math drills and problem solving. (Khan Academy is a great resource!)

remember: don't fight it!

The best way to avoid the nightly fight, is to take a break and come back. In order to engage in learning, children need to be ready and in a good mental space to focus and put themselves to work. If things aren't working, take a break, offer a snack. Be firm with your boundaries, but - as my sister/mother of two says - do whatever keeps you sane! 

Keeping getting smarter,


About the author

Wassim is a teacher and educator in Toronto. He teaches at school by day, and teaches math, robotics, coding and other S.T.E.M at Thorious by night. When not coming up with new projects, Wassim likes to imagine the future.

Why does my child need tutoring?

As a classroom teacher, I never used to promote tutoring. 

"Why get a tutor? They are in school, learning all day. My students have math for 60 to 75 minutes every day. They have more than enough time to pick up the concepts. And what they don't get this year, they will next year." 

This is what I used to say to myself all the time when the subject of tutoring came up. Students need to play, I said. They need time after school to learn and play and to do different things. 

However, my mind changed one day when I began to understand the reality of teaching and learning. For example, all students are different learners. Of course in teachers college, they tell you this to no end. But I finally began to see it with my own eyes, and understood the reality of the situation: some students just need more TIME

I've condensed my ideas into three reasons why tutoring yields results for most students: 

  1. Most students learn better in a small group setting
    1 on 1 attention means less distractions, more motivation, and the opportunity to do some real learning. I have worked with many students that just need the presence of an adult sitting by them and encouraging them gently as they work through problems in their work. This kind of quiet attention goes a very long way in helping them to focus and to feel motivated. 
  2. When a student experiences a brain block, time and attention are needed to help them understand the concept. 
    Sitting next to a teacher also means that they are ready to jump in when necessary. Guiding questions are an essential part of my job in this moment as I point students towards a path that will help them in their thinking. Often, students are thinking about the problem in different ways, so each student requires a different type of explanation. Manipulatives and drawings are crucial tools here for many.  
  3. Most students need help patching up holes in their understanding of math concepts. 
    Finally, if the student still doesn't understand, before frustration sets in, it's important to bring them back to a simpler form of the math concept that they know, then to build from there. It's likely that students have missed a step along the way, and filling in that knowledge gap will help their future learning immeasurably. 

I wish I had more time for each of my students. But of course, tutoring gives each student more time. Just an hour or two a week, but that concentrated attention is wonderful for their growth as a learner.

This post was written by an elementary school teacher with the TDSB, and graduate from OISE.

Does tutoring have to be forever?

Signing up for a service like tutoring can be intimidating for some. I often get asked by parents: does tutoring have to be forever? 

No. Tutoring does not have to be forever. 

The vast breadth of the math curriculum in Ontario means that students almost always have some weak points in their math knowledge. So while your child might not need  help in all areas of math; they may need help with their different "weak points" before these start to interfere with other parts of their learning. For example:

  1. Ashley understands very well how to measure perimeter and area of objects, but her difficulties with decimals are hindering her ability to excel in her grade 4 math class during the measurement unit. Her confidence falls quickly and she feels like she's "bad" at perimeter. 
  2. Trevor has difficulty remembering how to "borrow" when subtracting, year after year. He struggles with subtraction because he doesn't understand how borrowing works. His computational errors cause him problems in other units and skew his test marks. 

What we like to call "Spot Treatment" is a great way for tutors to help children to brush up on their math skills in a particular topic of math. 

Spot Treatment means that we step in to hone in on the "weak point" in your child's learning. After having identified it, we can then help them understand the fundamental math concept that they are having trouble understanding, using manipulatives, drawings, and one-on-one attention. Then, your child will have time to practice and apply his or her new understanding to help them build up their confidence again. Then it's done. No hassle, no mess. Just Spot Treatment tutoring: here when you need us and gone when your child is back on track. 

No hassle, no mess. Spot Treatment tutoring: here when you need us and gone when your child is back on track. 

Try Spot Treatment. And use the other weeks for different types of learning, down time, or- most importantly - family time. <3

- Team Thorious

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