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An article on math education in the NY Times (July 23, 2014) wrote this about our teacher quality and resulting education: " In addition to misunderstanding math, American students also, on average, write weakly, read poorly, think unscientifically and grasp history only superficially." I would like to focus on my area of English: writing and reading. The article discussed teacher training and techniques to improve teaching results. I would like to add that for us tutors also, techniques to present our subjects are critical to help students. Some tutors are former or current professional teachers; others may be retired people from business, housewives earning extra money, college students, or even working professionals in various fields. It's fine to teach business skills to graduate students if you are an executive, swimming to children if you are a swimming coach, or history to high schoolers if your major is history. Yet, simply tutoring in your major field... read more

Don't forget the Humanities!

I recently came across this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, urging college professors to fight grade inflation in the Humanities. As a college-level Instructional Assistant, I see this all the time. Students feel that their grade in their Anthropology course should reflect only effort and completion, not the content and understanding. This a trend that is not seen in the STEM fields as readily. As a result, professors are pressured to do just that; grade distribution in nearly all humanities classrooms do not follow a standardized bell curve as they might in a science or math classroom.    This sort of behavior not only devalues the importance of the humanities in our society, but also puts our students at a disadvantage. The humanities (Reading, Writing, and the Social Sciences) not only teaches us valuable lessons about communication, and how to connect with other human beings, but allows as a venue to contextualize the STEM fields... read more

Tackling Vocabulary Issues

In my experience tutoring students in both essay writing and test prep, one of the most difficult and tiresome challenges for both student and tutor is vocabulary improvement.  Because the ideal way to improve one's vocabulary includes reading a variety of sources over a long period of time, the optimal strategy for vocabulary improvement is often not available to students who have a very compressed schedule in which they must improve.  Many of my students have needed to show marked improvement in vocabulary within 2 weeks to a month, due to a looming deadline, so I have had to get creative to find efficient, effective techniques in vocabulary training.   One of the most important lessons when it comes to vocabulary is that multiple approaches are key.  Students should engage with the material using as many senses as possible.  This means not only reading a word and its definition silently, but also reading them aloud, hearing them read by... read more

Reading a book

Read a book with a friend and then text your friend back and forth your reaction to the book chapter by chapter

An Educational State of Mind

The pressure can be high on kids to be productive in the summer, and to make the most of their free time.  One can understand where such expectations come from -- after all, summer is also prime time for the feared "achievement gap" to sneak in between kids who do nothing academically-stimulating, and those who continue their educational pursuits.  However, you don't have to go to an exotic summer camp to learn new things; you don't even have to leave your house.   What I suggest is not limited to the simple adage that reading a book will take you to new worlds (though that is absolutely true).  Rather, I encourage kids of all ages to see learning as a state of mind:  if you are looking to learn, then you can cultivate your mind almost anywhere, doing almost anything.  Books are in fact a great place to start:  try the thirty-second exercise of thinking of something which fascinates you and doing a google search for books... read more

Technology Overload

In 2014, every child that I have taught has been familiar with using a SmartPhone, an IPad, a laptop, etc...  This is the age of technology, and for students to compete with their international peers, they will have to learn how to navigate the Internet and various functions of the new-age portable computer-like devices.     However, I have found that the increase in the use of technology has created two major learning deficiencies amongst our young people.   Firstly, I have noticed that many young people expect to get the "answer" instantly.  They often do not want to use the strategies that have been provided; not because they do not work, but because it takes them longer to "get to the answer".     For example, when teaching phonetics, I use a tap-it-out method for decoding and blending phonemes.  One of my students absolutely HATES to tap it out because he wants to say the word correctly instantly... read more

Summer Reading

Most high school students have required summer reading for their upcoming Fall English class. Sometimes, students have a particular book (or even two books) they must read, while other times they may be offered a number of books from which to choose. When the entire class must read the same book, students can usually expect to discuss the book in class the first week of school, take a quiz, and write an in-class or take-home essay. These focused assignments pose a challenge but also present a great opportunity to create a favorable impression with the teacher. First impressions are especially important in English, a subject which, even with rubrics, involves subjective grading.   I work with students on their summer reading to be sure that they begin reading a few weeks in advance of school, annotate the book thoroughly, discuss the book effectively, and write a short essay. This work prepares students to meet the actual discussion and writing assignments set... read more

"Reading Is Boring" Bookmark Turnaround

One of my tutoring students had a bookmark that said, "Reading is boring." Although M told me that wasn't REALLY what she thought, I didn't believe it. When we began tutoring together, M was not participating in class, lacked confidence in her comprehension of materials, and did not see why reading and writing mattered. As I am passionate about reading and writing, I was determined to turn this situation around.   We began with engaging with the writing viscerally as I encouraged her to experience what she was reading with her five senses. For example, if the character was eating dinner, we talked about what it would taste and look like. I find it's important to show students why reading and writing are relevant. We practiced punctuation and emphasis, and dramatized verbs with our voices. For example, what does anger sound like (louder, sharper)? Is sadness soft, halting? We talked about characters and plot lines, exploring M's opinions and overlapping... read more

Better Than SAT/ACT Test Prep

The following article takes well known anecdotal evidence and makes it much more real - as if it were a punch to the stomach or whack to the head. Do not let it intimidate you in the least. http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/why-your-sat-score-says-more-about-your-parents-than-about-you/?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost The issue is not about the money…..and this is the key point! It is not the actual tangible money - it is the BEHAVIOR of how people think and what they do which makes the largest difference. The issue is about EXPOSURE. Money can allow for wealthy families to have their children gain MORE EXPOSURE OVER LONGER PERIODS OF TIME to the material within the SAT and ACT. In reality, anyone can gain more exposure over longer periods of time. The idea of last minute test prep and cramming for these exams is where most families have it all wrong - even those with money. It is about the number of times... read more

Avoid the "Summer Slide" by Becoming an Active Participant in the Media You Consume

It is all too tempting to throw the books out the window as soon as summer vacation hits. As a student, I understand that temptation but, as a teacher, I know that you're not doing your future-self any favors. The best, and most obvious, way to keep from losing everything you've just spent a whole school year learning is to read.   When it comes to school, reading is one of the most fundamental skills to have, because you're going to be reading things in every single class, at home, hanging out with friends, and so on. You're always reading directions, messages, and interesting information, so keep practicing that skill even when you're not in school. But the real value isn't just in reading the words on a sign or a menu or a text message: the real value (and a skill that even some adults haven't developed enough) is in thinking about what you're reading.   Netflix and movie stores are full of movies based on books. One good way to practice your... read more

Experienced, Fun, and Caring Elementary School Tutor!

I am very excited about the opportunity to work with your child or children. I love to take students from where they are and bring them up from there!  I have over 10 years elementary teaching experience from prekindergarten to fifth grade!  I love working with math and reading with students. I love watching a child's eyes light up when they learn something new!  I always try to use different strategies with students to match their learning style.  I would love to add your child to my tutoring profile!  I have availability this summer and fall during the weekdays and can also on some weekends! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. 

The Importance of Developing One's Vocabulary

While in our everyday speech we may speak casually, for a student who wants to develop his intellect as much as possible, vocabulary should continually be built upon.  Any time a student encounters a word that is unfamiliar, that student should write that word down, look up its definition, and use it in a sentence.  Keeping a vocabulary notebook is a super idea for any student, even adult students.  A good way to develop one's vocabulary speedily is to read certain authors who use lesser-known words.  An example of a current author is Charles Krauthammer who recently published "Things That Matter."  Even an educated person will find words in this series of essays that can be learned.  Never underestimate the power of a strong vocabulary!

Reading Your Way to an Exceptional Vocabulary

As students prepare for standardized tests for college admission, "Vocabulary" suddenly becomes an important subject.  Both the Writing and Critical Reading sections of the SAT reward a strong vocabulary. I try to emphasize to students that having a college (adult) level vocabulary will continue to reward them far beyond a one-day test.     Studying SAT related vocabulary books is certainly worthwhile in the weeks before a test day, but I would like to reach out also to students who are still a few years away from college entrance concerns. The best way to build a rich and useful vocabulary is to read books, magazines, and newspapers that are well-written (e-books and online sources definitely count!) When you read great writing you will not only improve your vocabulary but also your writing and your critical thinking.     Your reading can and should be varied.  Admittedly, I do love literature that has been relevant to... read more

A great tan and mind: staying sharp over summer break

Once school is over, students are ready to toss away their textbooks in exchange for a swimsuit and towel. Who can blame them? The summer is a time for having fun and relaxing after a long year of hard work. However, this often means going back to school in a bit of a lazy-haze. Without five days a week of educational stimulation, it is easy to forget all the history facts, and numerical equations. So, how can we stay sharp but not miss out on all the fun?   My advice:    1. Read. Reading will always be a great way to keep your mind sharp, no matter what the book's content. Read a magazine or a book about pirates. No matter what, you are engaged and using your brain.   2. Games. There are tons of card and board games that are both fun and engaging. For example, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, and Yahtzee. Put down the remote and invite some friends over for a game.   3. Make a goal. Pick one skill or topic you want to learn more... read more

Exciting New Grammar Book

A great new grammar book, "The Essentials of English Grammar in 90 Minutes" by Prof. Robert Hollander [Dover, $4.95] bridges the gap between basic grammar books (for both children and adults) and higher-level books such as the recommended "Essential English Grammar" by Philip Gucker, also from Dover Publications. This grammar book has almost no quizzes or charts, etc. but will give you an over-all picture of not only basic, but higher level grammar. Please see my Amazon Review of this nice little addition to the grammar teacher's and learner's bookshelf.

Encourage readers by using affinities!

From an article I wrote for ' The Alternative' last year:   Have you ever considered a world where you couldn’t read? Not just books or newspapers, but menus, the labels on your medicine bottle, signs, subtitles or even the latest issue of your favourite magazine. Words permeate the world we live in. As a special educator, I started working with children who have learning difficulties in 2004 and the inaccessibility of a reluctant reader to the world of books, ideas and the company of visionary thinkers has both troubled and motivated me. As thinkers like Oprah Winfrey have shared, books can become the beacon of hope for those who live in hard, colourless and impoverished worlds. The lessons of tolerance, harmony, hope and possibilities exist within the pages of a book as do characters and settings of every hue. Books allow us to experience the catharsis and depth of our emotions through the life journeys of those we read about. Consider Rohan, a 11 year... read more

Tutoring is The Best - for Students, for Tutors!

Hi, I'm new to blogging but not new to tutoring. However, I am brand new to Wyzant. Being one-on-one with a student gives the two of us some of what just can't be accomplished in the classroom possible. A gradual understanding of the concepts and the regular opportunity to learn as is best for you. I can also tutor you without the distractions that tend to take precious time away from the enjoyment of grasping and achieving a great outcome. Contact me. I'd am ready now to work with You!!

Summer Learning: Let the Sun Shine!

Summer learning can be fun!  With my tutoring clients, we make learning fun and interesting.     First, I always have something interesting or unusual going on in my office.  I have a cat who loves to play fetch, an experiment with seedlings, and caterpillars becoming butterflies.  These unusual items often inspire writing or reading interests.     Second, we make lemonade and sit outside to do our work!  Switching up our scenery is sometimes just the trick to get learning focused and interesting.  Cool lemonade and a nice shady spot on a hot day really help reluctant learners focus.   Third, I always make the last five to ten minutes of the lesson a game or fun time.  That could mean playing a quick game of chess, or just reading a book aloud for fun.  Sometimes, we draw pictures that coincide with our writing project.     Summer learning can certainly be a fun experience.  Don't... read more

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