Homework Zone

An After-School Mentoring Program partnering Lester B. Pearson School Board with McGill's Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office

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New Website

Check us out at our new blog/website! The tumblr will no longer be in use!

The official launch of the new website will come August 2012, though it is consistently being updated/changed at the moment. 

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Design the HZ T-shirt

First off, a big thank you to Tanya for the inspiration for this activity!

Task: It is up to YOUR kids to “design” the next Homework Zone T-shirt! This activity gives the kids a chance to reflect on all that they’ve learned and accomplished this past year in Homework Zone and really take ownership of being a member of the club! 


  1. Use words/vocabulary to describe Homework Zone, the workshops and your mentor! (ie; interesting, exciting, fun, funny, challenging, etc)
  2. Why is HZ important? Why do you come every week? Show this using pictures or words!
  3. Write a sentence to explain why other students should come to Homework Zone (pretend like this shirt is PROMOTIONAL!)
  4. PERSONALIZE!! Add pictures, symbols, colours, stickers, textures, etc etc. Make it beautiful and awesome!
Of course, I encourage anyone to change up the guidelines depending on their kids. 

Step it up!:

To step this activity up, try adding REAL T-shirts (using markers, glitter glue and other materials) to decorate and take home! (Remember: email hz.sede@mcgill.ca with material lists and we will pick them up and bring them to the school).

Filed under homeworkzone activity

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Reflection Event - May 23, 2012

From impact to tutoring skills, our night of anecdotal fun gave us a lot to talk about. Keep reading to see what issues we discussed and the resolutions we brainstormed…

1) How do you think you students see you? What impact do you believe you have?

 Older, more experienced and good at everything - In this case, remember to have conversations with your kids to show them your fallibility. You DON’T have to be good at everything in order to be intelligent or successful. Emphasize that you are still learning, even though you’re SO OLD (haha).

McGill Student, and thus either embodiment of goals or embodiment of the unachievable -  As one of the volunteers notes, her girl thought McGill was the “Holy Grail” while the other was taught to forget about post-secondary education. Try to expand their perceptions. You don’t NEED McGill, it is just a great school that offers many things. Remind them of the various clubs in highschool they can join to learn cool, new things. Talk about how intelligence and learning isn’t restricted to the school.

Someone to talk to - Every single outburst of emotion these kids show, is a sign of how much they care about you. It is important that they have someone to let out their worries on. Do not be anxious if you feel you do not know how to deal with the situation. It is enough that you listen. Sometimes, ways to help are easy. Example: for an anxious grade sixer about to enter High School, bring in your old yearbook to show them how awesome it can be and how much they’ll grow.

Other answers: a motivator, a diverse figure, a friend and a tutor

2) How do you think your students see themselves?

Someone who won’t amount to anything - Of course, we know this isn’t true about our kids. This perception comes from a negative self-image. This can come from failure in school, mistreatment (verbal, cyber or physical bullying), media absorption, etc etc. For the school work, break things down into small (achievable!) tasks to boost their ego. For bullying, treat them with RESPECT and remind them of their potential. Talk about your goals and dreams on a simple scale. And for media absorption, have conversation with them or look to our archives for activities. It always helps, in general, to make them feel useful. Give them things to do, responsibilities. Speaking of which…

Someone who is irresponsible - Relay stories about how much you’ve grown to become responsible (after all,  I’m STILL growing!). Remind the kids that responsibility doesn’t happen over night. Maybe give him/her a small task to accomplish each week at Homework Zone (ie; hand-out snack, collect pencils at end, etc).

Someone who can’t do it alone - Sometimes, they say this simply because they want your full attention. And you know what? Give it to them! Allow them to accomplish the homework alone while providing your full attention (perhaps have them talk to you about the process while they do it). If you are juggling 3 different kids, set up smaller tasks that each of them can do while you set up the next kid. Inform each child they will need to present you with a very important progress report in order to continue.

3) As a tutor, what problems do you encounter (and what tools do you need to overcome them)?

Inability to understand - The key is to break it down into smaller, achievable steps. Not only will it boos their ego, but it will help narrow down what exactly the question is asking. For example:

  • What are the numbers? Circle them.
  • What am I doing? Division
  • What des that mean?
  • What numbers are important? Write them down. 
  •  What do need to find with them? Underline.
  • Etc.
     Keeping Focus/Attention - Use manipulatives (ie; counters) to visualize the problem. Sometimes, however, students forget the answer the moment they turn away…and then the manipulatives have been jumbled. Perhaps draw visuals. The key is to slowly reduce the use of manipulatives and visuals, moving the picture into their head. This can be accomplished by having students think out loud as they go through the process. Eventually, they’ll go through the movements without the visuals. 
     Do not rely on memorization and rote learning. Make sure students are thinking about the processes, not just the answers. 

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Does your kid know his shapes? In how many dimensions? Ever tried looking at cubes and prisms from different perspectives? How about building 3-dimensional shapes out of 2-dimensional shapes?

This math activity is an example of manipulating and testing in order to understand. Let your kid pick his/her favourite cube. Star wars? Harry Potter? Maybe a silly bumblebee or a favourite superhero? Cut out the diagram and start building!

cube craft - spongebob

For extra fun, use your characters to make a video! This week at Riverview Elementary, they’ll be using the iPads to create stop-motion film shorts. Wow, those kids must have a lot of focus and creativity…

Or maybe they can create their OWN cubecraft from scratch…
cube craft ornament 

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Drama Workshop @ Orchard Elementary (May 17, 2012)

[Thanks, Monika, for an awesome time learning that drama can help us to express ourselves!] 

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Drama Workshop @ Verdun Elementary (May 9, 2012)

[Thanks, Roslyn, for a great workshop!] 

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The Final 3: a MATH card trick

[For explanation of how the trick works, click here]

Now why would I post a card game on the blog? For this question to come out of your kid’s mouth: “Ohmygod, HOW did you DO that?”

Card games are quick - both to show and to learn. It’ll grab the attention of your kid(s) and most likely provoke them to want to learn how to do it.

What does the FINAL 3 teach exactly? That’s easy…
1. Memory and Recall - having students listen, watch and practice a card game in order to perform it later will help to improve their recall (which will aid their math and reading comprehension, too!)
2. Practicing “even” and “odd” - simple math concept that kids often confuse
3. Counting and number relations - this card trick depends on the cards being a certain distance apart, now why is that? How does counting relate to even/odd? What other relationships can we find?

This isn’t the only card trick that touches on math concepts! I encourage you all to head over to youtube to take a look.

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Grown-ups desperately need to feel safe, and then they project onto the kids. But what none of us seem to realize is how smart kids are. They don’t like what we write for them, what we dish up for them, because it’s vapid, so they’ll go for the hard words, they’ll go for the hard concepts, they’ll go for the stuff where they can learn something. Not didactic things, but passionate things.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012)

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Riverview Elementary (May 15th, 2012)

I feel like Riverview gets left out sometimes in seeing themselves on the blog, so here you are! Plus, check out the Homework Zoners playing educational apps on the iPads!

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