Ellen Marie’s current tutoring subjects are listed at the left. You
can read more about
Ellen Marie’s qualifications in specific subjects below.
Language is my specialty. I am a master grammarian and wordsmith with a 20-year career in writing and editing. I have also spent over 30 years instructing high intermediate and advanced ESL students in reading and listening comprehension, purposeful writing, and conversational fluency.
My expertise extends from vocabulary-building and good sentence construction, to research writing, literary analysis, and the relationship between syntax and meaning.
Obviously, the whole point of language is to convey meaning, and I'm a big fan of CHOOSING THE RIGHT WORD. But how we express our ideas is not only about vocabulary or getting the words in the right order. How you use that vocabulary in a given context--with a view to purpose and audience, an understanding of the relationship between form and function, and an appreciation for the lyrical impact of the sentence--is as important to meaning as the words themselves.
Mechanics and style go hand in hand, whether speaking or writing, and getting control over how they work together is thrilling and empowering.
For those students having difficulty in interpreting what they read, I am well-versed in literature and literary analysis, with a specialty in American Literature. Please see my subject description under LITERATURE.
I am a 30-year veteran of the Arlington and Alexandria ESL programs, and am state-certified in teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). I have taught all levels from beginning to advanced, specializing at the lower levels in what we call "survival English," and at the upper levels in speaking and writing well-formed sentences for a variety of everyday and specialty purposes.
A foundation in reading and listening comprehension is the key to language use at all levels, and therefore these should be integral aspects of all English instruction. Confidence-building is also often a key element of ESL teaching. In addition, nowadays technology offers many opportunities to reinforce a student's learning of a new language. There is a myriad of internet resources, for example, that can greatly accelerate a student's learning and help him achieve a level of independent (and accurate) language use more quickly than he can either in a classroom or with a private tutor's help.
I believe in using every available resource to assist English language learning. Once I understand what your particular objectives are, I can tailor a variety of resources to meet your needs. These resources might include technology, games and puzzles, role-playing, television commercials, news articles, sales ads, shopping lists, music lyrics, or even the items you find in your closet.
English language learning is a serious and sometimes difficult business; is often complicated; but above all it can and should be fun.
Nobody likes grammar, and why would they? Grammar means having to differentiate between nouns and verbs and modifiers, adjectives and adverbs, dependent clauses and independent ones, personal pronouns and possessive pronouns, infinitives and gerunds... the list goes on and on... YUCK!
It seems like grammar is all about labeling parts of speech/language and learning a lot of weird new terms like "clause" that mean nothing to you. It's like a science of language--remember drawing lines to show the thorax of an insect or the pistil of a flower? That's what grammar is like for most people.
I was different from most people. I loved diagramming sentences; I reveled in the science of my language; and I got solid A's throughout my school years for my impeccable grammar. Why did I understand it better than everybody else? Why did I care about it more than my fellow students? Because I was a reader and a writer.
Grammar matters in reading and writing and speaking, and it is best taught (not to mention learned) in those contexts, in a context that is meaningful to the student.
I've been lucky in my many years of teaching to witness moments when the significance of grammar would strike a student like lightning. One of my favorite examples is the ESL student who had been saying things like "Thank you for invite me" for 10 years or more. I corrected her and explained that the expression "Thank you for" needs a noun after it, and that we have a form of verb called the gerund that LOOKS LIKE a verb but FUNCTIONS as a noun. This student's speaking ability was immediately and immeasurably elevated by her understanding of this usage, and consequently being able to say for the first time, “Thank you for inviting me.”
Some students will only realize the significance of grammar when they have to put a complex idea down on paper. Some students will be affected by a passage in a novel or a line in a movie, and if they were to evaluate why they are moved, they might well discover it is the grammar that is the cause of their emotion. Many great movie lines are based on a turn of phrase.
Indisputably, grammar plays a critical role in our language, but it serves no purpose to introduce it as a bunch of labels for the parts of a sentence and ram it down students' throats. I prefer to give them a reason to sit up and take notice of it.
I specialized in Romantic literature in my undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin, and in American literature for my master's at Georgetown University. Every literature is grounded in its time and place, and grows out of a distinctive history and culture, but at the same time the different literatures share many common elements--the symbol, the archetype, the conflict, the tone, the setting, the form... and ultimately, its meaning or message. If you are lucky, one that will strike you to the depths of your soul and make you gasp in recognition.
Discovering how to find these things, where to look (as well as where not to look too deeply), and what the weight of their contribution is to the overall meaning of the piece, is the inherent challenge and excitement of interpreting a piece of literature.
My favorite poem must be John Donne's TO HIS COY MISTRESS, with its poignant lines, "But at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot hurrying near." I knew the verse and identified with it as a teenager, many years before I connected it with the title and came to understand the full meaning of the poem. Coming to that understanding was one of the greatest thrills of my life, even though I had to give up the notion that the lines had any special relevance to me and my experience.
Whether you need to compare two great heroines of European literature, write a critical analysis of Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath," or summarize in 500 words the literary devices of Pablo Neruda or Borges, essentially the same questions need to be asked, the same shrewd critical eye needs to be cast, and the same maze of possibilities needs to be taken into consideration--some to be ultimately cast aside, and some to be held fast as cherished discoveries that will become the basis of not only your thesis, but a whole new way of looking at things.
A captivating endeavor, and one that will enrich the way you think and the way you read.
A veteran writer and editor for local and Federal governments in the Washington, D.C., area for over 20 years, my primary experience is in writing information technology (IT) materials, including specification and design documents and user manuals and instructional guides.
I also have extensive experience in writing for the web and producing newsletters and promotional materials for specialized audiences.
With two degrees (B.A. and M.A.) in English, I am well trained in the elements and mechanics of style that will engage your readers and communicate your meaning clearly and concisely. I currently teach writing and grammar to advanced ESL students in the Alexandria City Public Schools Adult Education program.
Please read more about my philosophy and methodology in my subject description for ENGLISH.