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Writing Rundown: Prewriting Techniques

Prewriting often gets the short end of the stick with students rushing to get that paper written before its due date. Since many teachers don't require prewriting to be turned in with the paper, many students feel that it's a corner they can cut to save time and launch straight into writing a first draft. In reality, prewriting is actually a great time-saver, particularly when you don't exactly know what you're going to talk about. It helps you to organize your thoughts, as well as make sure your points are clear and your concept isn't too broad or too narrow. Prewriting is especially helpful in situations where you're given a very broad prompt – or even no prompt at all (as was the case with my IB World History term paper, whose prompt consisted of 'Write a paper about something from 20th century world history'!) Prewriting is usually defined broadly as anything you do before writing your paper, and can take many forms. This blog post will discuss a few of the most... read more

Summer Will Be Here Soon Enough ... What Do With Your (Sometimes) Bored Teens? How About a Writing & Reading Camp?

For busy parents wondering how to best occupy their teens this summer, why not consider a weekly reading & writing group for them? As a former camp director (references available), and as a published writer and college English instructor, I can customize a reading and writing group to engage your teens. This will keep them in a safe environment and they will be learning and practicing their analytical skills.   I will design a custom plan and schedule for your needs. Why not contact another parent and see if their teens would be interested. We can select some appropriate books together, and I will design discussion questions and writing exercises for the workshop meetings. We can decide on public meeting places: libraries, coffee shops, etc.   Contact me here through WyzAnt and I will create a special package rate for my services. Please e-mail me if you have more questions or to discuss further!    - Tim 

Tutors wait! Why study skills should make up part (maybe most) of every session

(This is actually a modified version of an article I posted a while back - Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs. But I think tutors should consider this idea of study skills even more than parents should.) After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – insert subject here and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc... read more

Make 2014 Your Year to Do More!

Can you believe 2014 is already 1/4 over? Wow! Besides freezing and shoveling snow, what  have you done so far this year?   It's never too late to learn! Maybe you always wanted to blog but didn't know how ...Or buy a new computer with your tax refund ...Or finally conquer your fear of public speaking   I CAN HELP!   I have expertise in all of these areas and would be happy to help you! Make 2014 YOUR Year! Here's to 8 more months of SUCCESS!

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:   Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com 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 http://www.differencebetween.com Speaking of differences, this is a really cool... read more

Parents wait! Why a study skills tutor is what your child REALLY needs

After a dozen years as a classroom teacher and private tutor, I know the routine well. Like clockwork, October and March bring new report cards and parents start to get nervous. “An F in chemistry? I’m afraid I can’t help you there; let’s find you a good chemistry tutor.” This is the kind of dialog I imagine taking place in many households around this time. And chemistry is just an example – “insert subject here” and the reaction is the same. But that low letter grade on a report card can indicate many things – maybe the teacher is bonkers; maybe one major assignment was weighted too heavily; maybe the student can’t see the board and is afraid to say anything; maybe that particular class is a source of social anxiety; etc. And let’s be honest – in most high school classrooms, students are essentially graded on their ability to keep track of, complete, and submit paperwork (i.e. homework), instead of their mastery of the material. (Not a good state of affairs, but... 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

Help Make Your Tutor a Super-Tutor

A Tutoring Session Preparation Checklist Classroom instruction and the time you spend with your professor or teaching assistant is the best source of information and learning. However, sometimes you need a little extra one-on-one time with an experienced writing tutor who will focus attention on your particular goals, strengths, and concerns. And if you’re on a college or graduate budget, you want to get the most out of every minute you spend with your private tutor. The great news is that you can help make your tutor more effective and get more out of every minute you have with him or her by preparing before your session and engaging your tutor during the session. I always ask my students to come to a tutoring session as prepared as possible. This helps them gather their thoughts and helps me quickly start helping them as soon as we start.   Here’s a handy checklist of things to consider and have ready to help your tutor be a “super” tutor: Bring the... read more

Children with handwriting difficulties.

Handwriting difficulty can be caused by poor fine motor skills, sensory difficulty or a learning disability such as dyslexia or dysgraphia. Here are a few suggestions for helping those children. Strengthen hand muscles • Touch the thumb of each hand to each finger in turn, index finger to pinkie, and back. • Touch the tip of each finger in progression to the palm. The thumb is the easiest. • Open and close a tight fist. • Do chair hand pushups by sitting on a chair with your palms on the chair fingers forward then pushing down lifting the body slightly. • Play with clay to strengthen the hand muscles. • Punch holes with a hand held hole-puncher. Practice hand-eye coordination • Play with Lagos, fitting the blocks together. • Color inside the lines in coloring books. • Draw a line from the entrance to the center of a paper maze • Fill-in missing sections of pictures following dotted lines and later with no lines. Form letters... read more

AP Challenges During Academic Year vs. Summer Preparation

The past few years have allowed me the privilege of working with many talented students who are on a great trajectory for college through AP courses in high school. Simultaneously, I have tutored students who ended up in AP courses and were not adequately prepped and prepared for what would be expected of them during the school year. AP courses are to be enjoyed and valued as any college course. In the first instance above, my tutoring was helping students develop quality arguments surrounding history issues, exploring literary styles and analyzing the authors work and developing concise answers to biology explorations. In the second case, I actually had to help students learn to study (the 'extra' work which is not assigned homework) and develop writing which demonstrated collegiate level thinking. In order for more students  to excel in AP coursework as well as enjoying the class  during the academic year. they need to be prepared for the work load. This preparation... read more

Pretend you are Christopher Columbus...

Pretend you are Christopher Columbus, writing to the King and Queen of Spain to beg them to finance your trip to the Americas. Explain to them what you need, why it is necessary, what you hope to gain. In Spanish this requires the use of the subjunctive! I have often struggled with finding a fun activity to get students to practice writing the subjunctive in context, and came across this idea the other day. I used it this past weekend with a student who found it a fun yet challenging task.   One piece of advice I would say is to have a mini word bank of phrases that might be useful for them, as this was the only real obstacle to my student's success!

Words to Purge

Take a look at the following list of words:  is, are, was, were, be, being, been.  These words often make writing weak and confusing.  Want to create superior writing?  Get rid of them.  Now, that may sound crazy, as they stand among the most common words in the English language.  That's because they serve as hallmarks of common, average writing.  To make  your prose better than average, you should use them less frequently.

Writing Ramblings ...

“If you want to become a better reader, you need to become a better writer. If you want to become a better writer, you need to become a better reader.” Reading and writing are integral parts of one another. Ask any published author what he or she wrote about and he or she will be quick to tell you most of their ideas came from what they’ve read. Literature, in whatever form, is about life. What do writers write about? Life. They write about what they know, what they’ve experienced or what someone they know has experienced, or how they imagine something happening. Whether its fiction or non-fiction, writing is about the experiences, people, places, and events we encounter in every day life or about what we imagine the characters we create or encounter experience and their perspective of those experiences. “Life” itself is a very broad topic – overwhelming is more like it. Think about it. Over the course of 23 hours and 59 minutes and 59 seconds, what do you experience?... read more

In My Spare Time I Write. Do You?

                                                   We Have Recognized Our Salvation                                              By Carol E. December 31, 2013 Doctor, I got a miracle from you but I knew that it is Jesus, He is close to you. There is healing that the Lord does and when you learn to heal the Lord is there     with you and me too I thank you for calling the Lord to you, asking our Lord to favor me, as I need     healing I thank the Lord for... read more

Favorite Language Arts Resources, K-6

Here are some of my favorite Language Arts resources. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores.     (K-2) Starfall.com – Practice, tutorials, and assistance with students learning phonics. (K-5) Tumblebooks.com – A free, online library of e-books for students K-5; younger students can choose to have this software read to them as they read along (K-3) Storylineonline.net – Read along to your favorite children’s stories with celebrity narrators like James Earl Jones. Sorted by title, author, and narrator. (K-12) Readwritethink.org – 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 citrically, writing activities, etc) (K-5) Learninglab.org *- Provides great lessons on life skills (self-esteem, bullying,... read more

Your New Year's Besties!

Happy 2014! (it's still going on...right?)   May you be knee-deep in some exciting learning curve right now, or at least riding the waves of change as to how to tackle what curriculum at which you are staring.    Caveat: I'm stating the obvious.    Writing is a bloodletting experience. The interwebs (<poetic license) offers ZILLIONS of quotes from iconic writers attesting to the frenzied frustration, the aching brains, and the haunting blankness of ghostly-white pages.  (Ingredients for a nervous breakdown...I get it...)   Yet, WRITING RESOURCES abound thanks to technology. No longer must one wade through the pages of the OED or a lesser dictionary.      I BEG YOU: Students & Parents make THE DICTIONARY & THE THESAURUS - your NEW YEAR'S BFFs!  Webster, Roget, www.dictionary.com, www.theasurus.com...   I don't care where you seek out some alternative... read more

Remember your MEAL

My students at the University of Wisconsin told me that they found the acronym MEAL to be helpful to them when they were writing in-class essays.  MEAL is a way to remember how to structure your paragraphs if you are stuck or if the writing process does not happen organically for you.   M - Main Idea - Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence introducing what the paragraph will discuss E - Evidence - What facts, quotations, artifacts, articles, etc. do you have to support your main idea? A - Analysis - You cannot just present the evidence, you must tell the reader why your evidence supports your topic L - Link - How does this paragraph support your overall thesis?

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 Spanishdict.com, Aprender inglés gratis Different levels, different English topics offered in Spanish.

Mastering Difficult Subjects

When you start banging your head against the wall, trying to learn something new--be it art, math, foreign language, science, or that tuba you picked up at your neighbor's garage sale last weekend--can be, well, frustrating. (Not to mention headache-inducing.)  It feels like you'll never get the hang of it, even when you try over and over again to get it perfect.   Trust me, I know exactly where you're coming from.   See, when I was in high school, I struggled with English. No, really! My English literature classes felt like a complete joke. Everybody knew you just wrote a bunch of b.s. that parroted back what the teacher said, you'd get a B--an A if you could use semicolons correctly--and that was it. I couldn't even spit back what we were told in class because I thought none of it mattered, that it was all arbitrary and my teacher just enjoyed being the god of his own little kingdom, giving out Cs to students who never gave him chocolate for... read more

Staying Sharp Over Winter Break

As a student myself, winter break is a time for relaxation, and unfortunately, to let many of the skills learned through a semester of college to slip away far more quickly than they were learned. I understand personally how easy it is to let one's brain grow dull over the winter break that we all look so forward to. So what are some ways to keep your brain sharp? And more importantly, what are some fun ways to do so that won't make you feel as though you're actually working scholastically the entire break?   Pick up a fun reading book: Reading is a great way to keep the mind sharp. It's engaging, it encourages critical thinking and imagination, and it challenges the mind to stay focused and recall facts about a story (especially if you don't read the book in one sitting!) To make this a more "social" activity, try to get a group together as a reading or book club. That way, you will all benefit from talking about the book and its contents, the storyline,... read more

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