Our American history has endured long, arduous, sometimes, lethal changes to become a formidable power in the world today.
The eighteenth century brought our first Constitutional Congress and the formation of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the United States Constitution wherein the laws of the land are stated and enforced. We fought the American Revolutionary War and won our independence from King George III's tyrannical rule, and we formed a new nation with inalienable rights, such as freedom of the press, freedom from persecution of religion, unreasonable search and seizure, and voting rights for our citizens to elect local, county, state, and federal delegates to represent us.
The nineteenth century brought about a war of division between the states, the American Civil War, and from that war, minorities gained status as legal citizens of the United States. It was not until the twentieth century that the voting rights of minorities was enacted, and at the same century, women won the right to vote, but the nineteenth century began a series of successful attainments of equal rights under the constitution.
The twentieth century brought about two world wars in which our country reluctantly entered both world wars, and this same century also brought about the Great Depression in which millions of people lost all their monies, but with the Social Security Act of 1935, the Works Progress Act, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, among others, there was brought about a new dimension to federal governance of a country's citizens where more people had more protection to live their lives with more security than in the previous centuries.
We also forged new roles for minorities with 1954's Brown v. Board of Education. The United States Supreme Court's decision to integrate immediately began decades of battles between regions of the country. We lost great citizens who fought for equal rights under the law, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and even Malcolm X all paid the highest price for attempting to bring about justice for all.
In Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," he paraphrases St. Thomas Aquinas, Italian philosopher and theologian, in, "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral" (qtd. in Kirzner and Mandell 574). King fought to make unjust laws become just laws, and he fought to bring about a more loving understanding between the cultures and races.
The twenty-first century has, hopefully, understood King's ideas of just and unjust laws, and hopefully, our American citizens will continue to thrive, to grow, and to prosper with the cooperation of culturally diverse peoples who work toward one great nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. We have our first African-American president, our second female secretary of state, and a nation of people who want to be part of the American dream, to be able to provide for their families, to prosper, and to worship in any form they so desire.
Utilizing the CLAST (College Level Academic Skills Test) enables students nation-wide to be on the same level of expertise as other students in a particular subject. Each student has to earn a score of C of better to pass the examination. The CLAST was given by me as a part of my course requirements, and it was not part of the curriculum required by the college. I utilized the exam through my own initiative.
I believe the CLAST is a positive measurement of attainment of required skills for successful completion of communications courses.
I utilized the CLAST skills test with my English Composition I and II students as a mid-term examination and the final examination of the course in order to assess the English language skills of the students, which would reflect SAT and ACT scores of 420 -regular SA and 22 - reading portion, and 21 on English portion ACT respectively.
I utilized the CLAST to assess the students' level on the reading and verbal portion of the CLAST skills plus the essay section of the exam was given separately through an in-class writing assignment.
The writing part of the CLAST required students to complete an essay, approximately 500 words in length, or 1 and 1/2 pages on general topics related to social issues, such as the economy, homelessness, or substance abuse replete with a logical and include a complete thesis statement and a basic 5-paragraph essay for a passing grade, and the writing structure, word choices, and style needed to be proficiently demonstrated in order to pass this section of the test.
We prepared for the exam by a review of each of the areas covered in the exam. I gave pages to read and gave choices of the answers, plus we discussed each question's topic, such as clauses or phrases.
While the communications department of the college demanded a passing grade of "C" or better, my thorough reviewing of the test questions, and the CLAST aided my students toward passing the course.
English can be a daunting subject for many people, but for a large number of people, English is a fun, exciting, and rewarding experience.
Understanding the terminology and the different rhetorical strategies is important toward making English an enjoyable subject.
Being able to compose an argumentative paper is very important toward most any job, such as asking for a grant or writing a proposal, and these are management duties for most people who are looking for jobs after graduating with a degree from a university or a college. Understanding the components of a persuasion or argumentative paper are a great advantage when writing a proposal for money, or asking to begin new programs within that department, or various other job-related requests.
Understanding classification and division or cause and effect are two styles that must be utilized proficiently or the point[s] are not made clear and the subject is muddled into an array of loosely conjoined, unrelated claims that cannot be supported with any logic. The points are lost.
I teach English because being able to express one's self in any capacity, whether writing or oral, must be clear, straightforward, effective, and in logical order. Learning these strategies help anyone, especially for students, who will need these skills when they enter the work force.
I explain to students that, without the ability to utilize correct English, the recent college graduate will enter an entry-level job without the skills to grow with that company. That recent hiree will still be in lower management after five years because of his or her lack of English skills.
Today's job hunters need to understand the importance and the requirements for employees to be able to read, write, and communicate efficiently and that involves an good understanding of English. If one looks at the majority of entry-level positions for college-degreed applicants, there will be a provision requesting effective communication skills. That means you must be able to write and communicate effectively in English.
I taught English as a Second Language for three years at a local college in Florida. I utilized "Side by Side TV" learning methods, in which my students viewed a tape on a particular chapter and many of the chapters included singing a scripted lesson. Singing is one of the most significant learning tools out of a plethora of lesson plans. I utilized Federal and State testing, for which the students' improvements were most positive. I gradually implemented grammar and writing into the course, and many of those students graduated my course and went on to become college students with very good grades.
Government & Politics
For the majority of people living in the United States today, few understand the basic principles upon which our country was formed.
Politics, according to David Eastman is "authoritative allocation of values", and Harold Lasswell defines politics as "who gets what, when, and how" in a society (Schmidt et al 6). It can also be seen as a way of supporting a large group of people under one set of laws. We avoided forming a direct democracy because of its problems with governing a large group of citizens. Our republic uitlizes a chief of state we call a president who represents the executive branch.
Government is a "permanent structure (institution) composed of decision makers who make society's rules about conflict resolution and the allocation of resources, and who possess the power to enforce them" (Schmidt et al 7). Without a governing body, we would live in an anarchistic group without any legitimacy nor any power, local or federal or global. We certainly cannot say that about the United States because we have successfully governed a large group of people for well over two hundred years, and we have forged new frontiers from crossing the Rockies to landing the Curiosity Module on Mars. None of this could be accomplished without cohesion and a democratic republic which gave us the right to strive for excellence.
Our county is governed by three branches of federal government, the judiciary, the legislative, and the executive. We have a thriving nation with a free press, repulsion of a mandated religion, and the freedom to pursue the American dream of success. None of these would be available if it were not for the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or the Articles of Confederation.
We live in a country where we are secure in our houses, and we have the power to vote in our legislative and executive candidates to be assured that these governing bodies will protect our rights. Our legislature consists of 435 House of Representative delegates and 100 Senators who pass laws to more equally provide each citizen with the rights stated in the constitution, while the executive branch enforces and administers our laws, both federally through domestic policy and globally through foreign policy.
Our dreams of a sound economic policy have been successful except for a few times of economic upheaval, such as the Great Depression, but with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's government instituting the National Recovery Administration to "regulate labor and fair trade practices" (Schmidt et al 544), the Works Progress Administration, and the Social Security Act of 1935, our country recovered from a desperate economic catastrophe.
Our domestic policy endured several chaotic years but we are a rebounding nation of people imbued with tenacity, curiosity, and desire to right the wrongs of unjust laws. We settled the problem of racial inequality with the American Civil War; then 1954's Brown v Board of Education in which all public schools were to integrate immediately, and we enjoy the benefits of minorities rights, such as having elected our first black president, Barack Hussein Obama, and a female secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
Today, we are attempting to rid the world of human oppression and the Middle East is undergoing change. We watched the Arab Spring where a number of Middle Eastern countries, such as Yemen and Tunisia, fought for a more democratic form of government. Like the United States of America, this process is taking some time, but in reflection, so did we take time to form a solid government based on the principles of democratic governance, through sound, clear roles of the local, county, state, and federal governments.
Many students find grammar difficult, but it need not be such.
By a systematic approach to studying grammar, most students learn this very necessary skill.
Learning basic sentence patterns, subjects, verbs, and the different types of verbs are usually the first area to be taught.
Clauses and phrases usually scare the wits out of many of the new students, but again, through effective study habits, these problems of subordination and coordination become quite simple.
Sentence building is one of the most critical areas of learning to write, and understanding sentence fragments, one of the "seven deadly sins" of writing, may become as easy to avoid as avoiding walking through a puddle of water. Parallelism and modifiers are also easy to master if the student understands what they are.
There is no end to comma usage: most people are referred to as "comma kings and comma queens" until the student learns why and when the comma is needed. There are tricky punctuation marks to learn, such as the apostrophe, and certainly a reputable handbook for writers change rules every few years, so providing a current text is most helpful, but if the student doesn't become curious about these areas, nothing is learned, and therein lies the need for tutoring and teaching of these areas.
Subject-verb consistency is vital to a well-written essay, and also keeping the verb and subject in agreement is vital. Many English as a second language students make this mistake, but many of our native-born, native-speaking American English students make this mistake, as well. Mastery of conjugation should be one of the first tasks for a student to learn.
Spelling and capitalization can also be a little tricky if the student becomes careless when completing a writing assignment. I usually ask students to keep a good dictionary on hand, and I still use my dictionaries when I am not certain about spelling or usage of a word.
When to use the appropriate word becomes vital when the student wants to earn a passing grade, and increasing one's vocabulary is tantamount to passing most any course in which a student is enrolled.
Learning to write effective paragraphs and understanding topic sentences go hand-in-hand toward mastery, and as the student goes forward through a degree program or through basic education, the student may gain control of the principles of language by mastery of grammar, mechanics, and effective writing skills.
I first read the material straight through without stopping for any purpose. This is the survey area.
The second time I read, I question. I write on the sidebars such factors as words I don't know and their parts of speech. I also write questions I ask myself while reading. Sometimes the following text answers those questions, but I ask questions nonetheless.
The third time I read, I read, review, and recite the material. By this time, I have a a good understanding of the materials, I have answered any questions that have come up previously, and I am able to comprehend more of the material which certainly helps if taking a test.
If a student is in elementary school, the texts that should be read are age-appropriate, and, of course, as the students attains proficiency in reading on one level, the student should begin reading more difficult texts, which may be above the grade level, and this is most desired.
Finding a topic for reading is not always fun. Sometimes a child needs to read text for which that child has no curiosity. What to do! I suggest the child get help from a parent or a tutor by reading the material together, and after reading, a question-answer period follows in which the child is quizzed on comprehension. Give the child a reward after by letting that child read something for which he or she has great interest.
The most effective tool toward learning to read is to, well, read! Read for fun, read for school, read for education, read for helping others, and read just because it's there. Make time out of the day to read something.
There are certain spelling rules that each student must learn at a very early age. For instance, when first learning to spell, the young child must understand the alphabet, and that child must learn the difference between a consonant and a vowel.
Learning certain rules, such as using i before e except after c, are rules the young child learns almost immediately when learning to spell.
There are also common mistakes made by adults. Words that are similar in sound, such as accept and except, are problematic. This is usually resolved by looking the words up in the dictionary and writing the words several times in the proper context.
I ask all my students to purchase a good dictionary. For elementary school children, a good dictionary, such as the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, may be used. Some schools do not permit this level of dictionary because of the inclusion of profanity and other words many consider inappropriate, but the school will recommend an age-appropriate dictionary. I believe that when a child learns to look up words, the child's vocabulary increases exponentially, and with that is an accelerated articulation, and the spelling grades go "hand-in-hand" with increased vocabulary.
For older students, reading an edited Shakespeare text provides a link between the first common English utilized in the sixteenth century and today. When reading any text, the student's ability to spell increases, and of course, a quiz is always helpful.
A college writing handbook is probably one of the most helpful tools to help the student with spelling and, of course, grammar and mechanics.
As the student enters adolescence, new accomplishments are to be made, and the ability to spell is, again, a very important tool to help the teenager achieve success in school.
With daily reading, spelling becomes more comfortable for the reader, so I always ask my students to read daily, even if it is a newspaper or a magazine because reading helps the student understand spelling, comprehension of the material, and some times, the reader learn something new about a new topic that piques curiosity, and there, my friend, is the key to learning any subject!
To improve study skills, I have always recommended good time management skills and effective study habits.
I like to use the 3 to 1 ratio of time management skills. For every 3 hours a subject is taught in the classroom, the student should study that subject for 1 hour. I recommend the student complete assignments the day the subject is discussed in class. For younger children, working in 15 to 20 minute segments is effective. Older students also use this time schedule but can lengthen the period of time. Studying in a quiet, peaceful area is very important as well because most of us have great difficulty studying a new concept with the radio blaring or with watching a television program.
I recommend the SQ3R method for studying effectively. Depending on the subject, there are various ways to effectively study and learn the subject well enough to enjoy learning and getting those all-important good grades.
It makes no difference what grade-level the student because it is the time-management and study habits that will last a lifetime.
By utilizing a schedule, students become habituated to studying and effective studying habits, such as the SQ3R method, help the student to become a better student in any subject. Utilizing the SQ3R method (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review) is probably one of the most effective tools a student can access in order to learn the material.
When the student surveys the topic, he or she studies the material by looking at the Table of Contents or, perhaps, scanning over the chapter that is to be studied. I like to scan the chapter, and this includes looking for the topic sentences for each paragraph. That student may highlight the areas he or she believes is the topic sentence, and then that student begins a kind of outline, or a map of the material. Highlighting material makes it easier to remember than underlining.
After the student surveys the material, it's time to ask questions about the topic. I always ask my students to learn the who, what, why, when, where, and how of each subject. While this may sound daunting to the beginner, and after the consistent use of these questions, what is produced is a student who deciphers the information with more clarity, and the student is then able to read more effectively, understanding and remembering more of the topic.
The next step is to read the material. This is the time to learn the main idea, as well as the details that are central to the topic. In other words, the student is looking for the main idea and the supporting details. I might ask a student to give me a short outline of the topic in order to understand what he or she has read.
We then recite the material. This is the best time for utilizing the Socratic method. I ask the student to explain to me what they just read. Through the use of this method, the student begins to understand on a basic level the overall concepts of the subject material, enabling the student to remember more and recalling more material for writing assignments and tests. Comprehension usually improves.
We then begin the review area of this method. Simply phrased, we go over the material we just covered. We re-read the material. If there are certain areas still not understood, we go over notes taken, or questions asked during this study process. This is a means of measuring what he or she has learned from this one lesson. If the student still "doesn't get it," I like to give a small quiz where I assist in answering the questions. I have found this to be most helpful, and with time, that student begins to anticipate the review and understands the important details we had just covered during the reading section of the study session; thereby, eliminating the need for the quizzes.
In conclusion, if the student wants to learn, this method will improve the student's grade point average, will teach the student how to learn more easily, and more importantly, the student will learn to enjoy learning. It is a wonderful process that will produce a more motivated human being, a more community-minded individual, and a better parent in many cases because the parent is a model to the child resulting in his or her own child becoming a better student.
If the student does not apply good time management skills and these effective study strategies, then there may be no improvement and the child may flounder in the education system that is there to help that person become a well-adjusted, productive adult.
I ask my students to increase their vocabulary by utilizing two tools. The first tool is a good dictionary. The second tool is a good handbook for writers.
Another important factor that should be used is reading! I ask my students to read a text more than once.
The first time the student reads is to survey the text. I ask the student to read straight through without stopping and without comments or highlighting.
The second time the student reads the same text, I ask the student to begin writing questions about the materials read. This is the time for highlighting certain material the reader wants to understand. Maybe there are words he or she does not understand. Keeping a dictionary handy is one way to solve the issue and to increase vocabulary.
I write in and on my books and reading materials, and on those sidebars, the white space on the sides of the pages, I ask questions, define a word I do not know, and I also write what part of speech that word is, such as a noun or an verb.
The third reading is more for comprehension of what is written. I ask questions about what the student just read and that student's understanding of that particular text.
One wonderful book to read is the dictionary! Learning five new words a day can increase a student's vocabulary exponentially, and within one school year, that student's vocabulary has placed them in the top 5 percent of the class in most cases. Learning the meaning of the word, the part of speech of the word, and its etiology can really help a student increase a grade, no matter the subject.
Learning to write is simple.
You say, "No! Writing is horrible! I hate to write! It makes no sense, and I don't know why I need to write!"
If a student does not understand the components or order of operations for writing, then writing is horrible. In reality, writing is mathematical.
The basic writing assignment for high school level and above is a 5-paragraph essay.
"Oh no! What goes where, and I don't know what I want to say!"
The student needs to know the order of operations of a 5-paragraph essay, such as what a thesis statement is and where it is placed.
A writer must describe to the reader what the writer is going to write - simple enough? Yes, simple enough, because placing a good thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph, the introductory paragraph, starts the order.
Learning how to write a topic sentence and supporting details is essential to good writing, so a tutor and possibly a few revisions is usually quite helpful.
"Oh, I can't write about anything! I can't think of anything to write about."
Does the writer have an opinion about any topic? Usually, so the writer begins organizing information. Many students free-write. Many students talk with a friend or family member and suddenly come up with an idea. Write it down. I ask my students to carry a small notepad and pen or pencil with them in case an idea erupts from the brain in a sudden rush of inspiration! Hooray! A topic.
"How can I make sense out of this topic?"
Begin by gathering information about that subject, be it southern Italian cooking recipes or the Southern Constellation, look in the library for information or go online and search for information on the topic.
After information gathering, then the student begins writing down the information.
With three subtopics about the subject, the student has the material for the 3 main-body paragraphs with supporting details.
The concluding paragraph re-tells what the writer discussed, any resolutions on the subject, and perhaps, a good anecdote to leave the reader smiling and appreciating the attention to details and revisions the writer put into the essay.
I know this is a very short description with some areas left out, but after a few tutoring sessions on the subject of writing and a few revisions, the student will be more "composed" about "composing".