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Writing Lesson: Fragments

Have you ever had your writing edited and a sentence marked “fragment”? What does that mean? How do I fix it?   To start, a sentence is made up of a subject and a predicate (sometimes called a verb phrase). Subject: the agent in the sentence. This is the word or phrase that is doing the action. Predicate: the verb phrase in the sentence. Sometimes this is just one word and sometimes it is a long phrase because it has a direct or indirect object, prepositional phrase, or other pieces of information. For example, take the sentence “Billy rides his bike.” “Billy” is the subject because he is doing the action. The phrase “rides his bike” is the predicate because it contains the verb and the direct object.   When you have a fragment there are 3 possibilities for why it is wrong:   The sentence is missing a subject. This type of fragment has a verb but does not state the subject. Often times students might... read more

Online Writing Resources

Many people, myself included, feel that for all its advantages, the internet has precipitated a steady decline in the quality of writing. Anyone can write anything anywhere, and while that gives a voice to many who otherwise might not have a public forum to share what they have to say, it also makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to uphold any sort of standards.   That said, the internet also offers plenty of resources for improving your writing. Here are a few of my favorites: Here you'll also find a thesaurus and several other reference tools. It may not be the Oxford English Dictionary, but it gives you plenty of good definitions and sometimes includes usage notes with practical implications for your writing, like differences in how similar words are typically used.   Difference Between Speaking of differences, this is a really cool... read more

Basic Postpositional Particles

Every beginning student of Japanese, myself included, has had trouble in one way or another with particles.  JOSHI, as they are called in Japanese, are "helping words" which we use to identify parts of speech, join clauses, indicate direction, mode and exclusivity.  Basically, they're the sweet little things that make Japanese cohesive rather than a jumble of words.  These JOSHI are written as hiragana, but some may have pronunciation changes.   The hiragana HA, pronounced WA, has multiple functions.  First and foremost is it's function as a TOPIC MARKER, the "what I'd like to talk about."  After the topic has been established, it can be omitted from future information until the topic changes.   Rooney-san WA Fruansugo to Eigo wo hanashimasu.  Sei ga hikakute, atama ga ii desu..  Senmon WA hikakubungaku desu. -- Ms. Rooney speaks French and English.  She is short and smart.  (Changing the... read more

Complement vs. Compliment

I frequently see students confuse these two words in their writing.  Many people do not even know that there are two separate spellings.    "To compliment" is to offer someone praise.  As in: "Karen's boyfriend complimented her new haircut."   "To complement" is to make something more complete or perfect.  As in: "Karen thinks her boyfriend really complements her life."  This word is also used in geometry to refer to two angles whose degrees add up to 90 (i.e. form a right angle). 

Less vs. Fewer

One of my personal pet peeves in both written and spoken English is the confusion of the words "less" and "fewer."  These words are not interchangeable.  While they have the same essential meaning, one must use them in different contexts.   "Less" applies to quantities that cannot be counted.  Less sugar, less air, less dirt, less dust, less light, less water.  "Fewer" applies to quantities that can be counted.  Fewer people, fewer aardvarks, fewer tissues, fewer cups.   At the same time, remember: Fewer granules of sugar, fewer molecules of air, fewer dust bunnies, fewer drops of water. 

Each is a Singular Subject

One of the most common grammatical errors I see in the writing of students of all levels is the lack of agreement of adjectives and verbs when "each" is the subject of the sentence.   For example: "Each of the cats are calico."   This sentence is incorrect because the subject is "each," not "the cats."   Therefore, the correct form of the sentence is: "Each of the cats is calico."   If you get confused, remove the words that modify "each" and read the sentence.  In this case, the sentence would read:    "Each is calico."

Consistency is King

Your writing should be internally consistent in the way in which it refers to people.    For example: "One should never leave your door unlocked when you're not at home."   This sentence is awkward to read because the pronouns are inconsistent: the author uses "one" and "you" to refer to the same abstract person.    This sentence can be revised to read one of two ways:   "One should never leave one's door unlocked when one is not at home." "You should never leave your door unlocked when you're not at home."   The sentences have slightly different meanings.  The first is abstract, while the second seems to be giving specific instructions to a person that the speaker is directly addressing.  Both are correct because both sentences consistently use the same pronouns.     

English Practice over Winter Break

For practice over the winter holidays, try the following resources: Vocabulary practice Quizlet Create your own vocabulary lists with pictures. Writing You Can't Write English Under Pressure A stressful game to check your knowledge of spelling and word order. Listening Voice of America, "Stories about People" Hundreds of MP3 files and transcripts about famous people.   Speaking / pronunciation American English Pronunciation Practice Audio files for practicing pronunciation, especially difficult word pairs.   Grammar English Video Video English lessons on assorted grammar and vocabulary topics, including English slang. For example, try this video on the English meanings of "John."   For Spanish-speakers, Aprender inglés gratis Different levels, different English topics offered in Spanish.

Favorite English Resources, Gr 8-12

Here are some of my favorite English (high school) resources. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores.     (K-12) – Click on “Parent and After School Resources,” for a great list, sorted by grade level, to help your child practice a variety of different skill sets at home (ex: giving an interview, thinking critically, writing activities, etc) (Gr 6-12) – Very thorough grammar lessons (Gr 6-12) – Short, humorous grammar lessons (Gr 6 -12) – Free video lessons on common grammar topics. *Note- some areas of this site are subscription-based. (Gr. 6-12) – Quick lessons on parts of speech, and tips on writing essays. (Gr 9-12) – Grammar lessons, tutorials on writing essays and using specific formats... read more

I am in need of some students.

Hi,   I would be honored in having the opportunity of working with students and parents. The education and success of students are very important to me and I would love to do what I can to help. I am a math and education major with an Associate's of Arts and Teaching Degree from Lee College and I am seeking a teaching career. I live in the Baytown area and I am not able to provide my own transportation due to the fact that I have a disability which prevents me from driving, so I can only rely on public transportation and I am limited to how far I can travel. Therefor, communication is much needed. I am available until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anyone needing a private tutor, please contact me. I would be happy to help you at any time.

Ho, Ho, Humbug?? - Tutoring During the Holidays

The holidays are almost upon us - school will be out soon - and parents and students are looking at a 2-4 week hiatus from the regular routine of school work.  What happens to all of the knowledge and skills learned from school and tutoring during those weeks? Well, having been a high school principal for years, as well as a classroom teacher, my experience is that students often will not read on their own, review math on their own, or if in an AP class "read ahead" on their own.  If you have tutors in the educational profession, we also have that time off and our lesson times can be flexible - so instead of all of those late afternoon, early evening, or weekend appointments, most of us can now meet with our students in the morning or afternoon. So, what would your student gain from tutoring in the winter break? 1.  Weekly reinforcement of knowledge and skills  already... read more

How to improve your grammar

Speaking or writing correct grammar can be challenging at times, since many of us interact with individuals who do not always speak correctly.  Reading every day is one way to help improve grammar.  What method do you use to improve your grammar?

Avoid a common error in your writing

Grammar is a particularly challenging aspect of language study, for several reasons.   First, English grammar is typically taught though direct instruction, where student must memorize parts of speech, and systematically follow and apply the rules pertaining to usage of these parts of speech. This is contrary to how humans naturally learn language. Young children learn how to speak through generative grammar - they learn to mimic the language use of those around them; rather quickly and without direct instruction, children internalize and solidify the "rules" of how to use spoken language, long before they learn how to read or write.   Second, English grammar consists of rules and exceptions. As with English spelling, there are nearly as many exceptions as there are rules, and many students "give up" on learning grammatically correct writing skills, because the sheer amount of memorization is daunting and intimidating.   Third,... read more

English grammar

One topic which can be transformational for students preparing for standardized testing, especially logical-mathematical students who are underperforming on the writing SAT, is formally learning English grammar.  A large proportion of writing MC questions in particular focus on the sequence of tenses, and tense sequence errors or unintentional tense shifts can greatly harm submitted writing.  The English language does not have a "past tense".  It has multiple past tenses which are non-identical and which all have their uses.  Working with a tutor on grammar can be a great help to the student who is not well served by whole-language and literature-centric approaches to English class (i.e. the students most likely to seek SAT verbal but not math tutoring in the first place).

No Pressure, But…College Admissions Essays Should Be (PRACTICALLY) PERFECT in Every Way!

Okay, guys. I hate to do this, but I need to put on my teacher hat for a moment. (I don’t think teachers actually wear hats, but I’m sure you’re picking up what I’m putting down.) Here’s the thing: YOUR GRAMMAR AND SPELLING IN YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAY MUST, MUST, MUST BE PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY! You may be rolling your eyes and saying, “What’s a little mix-up between ‘there’ and ‘their’ between friends?” While I don’t think your entire acceptance hinges on one spelling error, I do know that mistakes cast a shadow on your application. For example, if your transcript says that you’ve taken Honors English since freshman year but your essay has several grammatical errors, then an admissions officer might assume that either your grades were inflated or your mom was giving you a little too much help on those final papers. Don’t give the admissions department a single reason to doubt your school smarts. What can you do to perfect your essay? Start with... read more

Writing College Essays: What Do Professors Want?

English Composition: for many, it is a course that breeds anxiety and procrastination. Students often feel like they are at the mercy of red ink wielding professors. They squiggle notes about unity, clarity, and transitions in the margins of what you thought was a well crafted essay. You may find yourself on the receiving end of a big fat “F” even if your essay has perfect spelling and grammar. How does this happen? What mysterious criteria are at play here? What does your professor want from you anyway? Rubrics: Unlocking the Mystery Well, this might surprise you, but your professor is not assigning arbitrary letter grades based on whether or not they like you or your essay. Your professor is actually measuring your essay against a standard set by the college. This standard usually takes the form of a rubric: a tool used to assess the quality of individual components in a college essay. These components include how well you address the purpose and audience... read more

Philosophy of Education for MJ T.

Philosophy of Education for M.J. T. To me the purpose of education is threefold: (1) provide students with a basis of knowledge, (2) teach students how to reason so that they can continue their education throughout their lives, and (3) instill in them a life-long excitement about and love of learning. Students must acquire a basis of knowledge, a framework on which to sort out and understand how various aspects of information in any subject area fit together to make the whole picture of where we have been and where we are going as a civilization. Science affects philosophy which affects the arts … ad infinitum. Nothing exists in a vacuum-sealed box. All knowledge is recursive and intertwined - reaches out and affects many areas outside the discipline in which it begins. I liken this basis of knowledge to a needlepoint tapestry mesh framework. The threads of different strands of information are worked in at various points. In some way every thread touches every... read more

Tips and Tricks for Writing Papers

So as a college student, I write a lot of papers (and I mean a lot!)  I've technically been writing college papers for five years now so I've learned a few tricks and tools when I work with vocabulary that I'd like to pass along.  I've had professors give me handouts on their" do's and don'ts".  I've included the best of them.  Some of these may work for you, some of these may not.  Take or leave what you want. When I am writing a paper I always have open on my web browser Why?  Because sometimes I want to check that I am using a word correctly.  The slightest misspelling can change the meaning of a word to something totally different and you don't want to have point deducted from a paper for something that is easily corrected.  If you are even slightly unsure, check it!  You can even check on the speaker button so it says the word out loud and you can compare it to the word you are... read more

Homeschooling Your Children? Need Help? Fun Writing Lessons...

If you are homeschooling your children, as you know, this can be overwhelming sometimes. I can help design lessons in writing, English, grammar, public speaking, research and related areas. For first-time clients, I will be flexible with my rate. Review my profile at WyzAnt and let me know what questions you have - would love to help! Good teaching, Tim N.

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