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Most would probably say the single best way to improve your writing skills is to write.  They would be wrong.  You can write until your fingers cramp, but that does not mean you will be writing properly.   The single best way to improve your writing skills is to read.  When you read a lot, you are subconsciously taking in the correct way to write.  Sentence structure and punctuation will begin to come naturally because it is something you will see regularly.   Of course, nobody is going to chose to read something they are not interested in.  So, it is equally important to chose a topic that will hold your attention.  This could be a book, a magazine, or a newspaper, so long as what is written was done so by a professional.

For those who want to know the reason for writing "reflection" papers, consider how the process is simply another way to learn   Learning is not just about acquiring and using new skills, the process also involves “thinking about your thinking.” The actual term for this action is “metacognitive behavior,” which is a means to help you organize and reflect on information and behavior. The process may sound complicated, but this is simply a form of higher order thinking that requires you to consider how or why information is valuable as well as what makes it important or necessary. Sometimes, we do this automatically. Consider a time when you’ve been in the store and have been presented with two options for purchase. First, you go through a decision-making process, then select the product, and then take it home for use. Most likely, you will then know if you made the appropriate selection. At this point, you may likely reflect on why you made the choice... read more

There are several points in grade school that involve a critical shift in the thinking that is required in the school work.  Parent's should be aware of these points as they navigate through the abyss of raising a school-aged child and supporting the child as he/she moves forward through the grades.   3rd Grade - The third grader is transitioning from whole number thinking into understanding the concepts of parts.  They are exposed to fractions, decimals and percentages.  This is a major paradigm shift.  Students are also exposed to long division at this point.  Supporting children in this phase requires an emphasis on helping the child conceptualize whole things being split into parts.  In addition to homework support, tutoring, and supplementary work, parents should introduce cooking chores to children at this time, and make them follow a recipe that has precise measurements.  Reading comprehension and writing is also an issue... read more

This is a question I find a lot of people grapple with, whether they be adults, teenagers or children. The love of reading, of transporting yourself into a different world, is a way to escape. Writing, whether it be an analytic essay or the next epic adventure, requires the ability to reach into your mind and actively confront yourself – and that is not an easy feat to manage. Part of being able to write is to have your thoughts organized in your mind. This actually may prove incredibly difficult for a reader to do. Our minds are often going all over the place at any given moment, reliving stories or day dreaming some of our own. Readers are dreamers so it makes sense that our thoughts naturally flow and are sometimes difficult to pin down. That’s okay – that’s what lists are for! In order to better organize your thoughts, start out simple. Make a list of what you really think about the subject you are about to write about. This works for anything, whether it... read more

Hi prospective student! It's important to be well-prepared for your first session.   First, let's talk on the phone to address your needs and then:   Make sure you bring your writing with you! I know that may sound silly, but sometimes we walk out of the house and forget the keys. Make sure your writing is printed on a clean copy with 1 - 1.5 inch margins, double-spaced so I can make annotations. (If it's not, don't worry, but that's ideal.) Use a serif font (i.e. Times New Roman, Georgia). If you don't know what this means, no worries; I'll explain it to you during the first lesson. If you don't have any writing yet prepared and want me to help you get started, then bring a notebook. We can brainstorm. If you do have a writing sample, bring a notebook anyway, so we can take notes. Depending on your needs, I may give you a little assignment that you can do on your own. Be prepared to turn off your phone or at the very least put it... read more

I have an old Reader's Digest book here titled How To Do Just About Anything (1986). "Writing a Paper" actually merited an entire column. It's the old gather, outline, write routine for writing. It hasn't changed much. The world sure has, and so has the brevity of explanations. We are all very busy now. The funny thing is, the column to the left is on wrinkles, and the one to the right is on yoga. 

Computerized spell-check can be a handy time-saver when writing papers, and many students swear by it. However amazing it may be, though, spell-check is still just a computer program, and as such should not be considered a substitute for proofreading with human eyes. As evidence, here are three common mistakes that spell-check won't catch. Proper Nouns Spell-check uses a dictionary to compare the words you type to existing words. Proper nouns, like names of people or places, usually won't be in the computer's dictionary, and so the spell-check will flag them as misspelled. This means that when you proofread, you'll have to ignore the wavy underline under those names. But this can also backfire – what if you happened to misspell that name? The computer will underline it same as before, but your brain is already prepared to ignore underlining on that name so you run the risk of not catching it yourself. This is one reason I advocate actually printing out a hard... read more

Transitions! They can make or break your essay. You may have some great ideas that you write down, but if you don't connect them, it's hard for your reader to follow. People forget how your ideas are interrelated, and they therefore forget your main ideas.   The point here is: DON'T try to write without transitions. Here is a list of transitions to help you keep your ideas well-organized: first next then after after that afterward finally in conclusion in summary to start with in addition additionally second third moreover furthermore    

 If you are reading this then you are not a 'child'. So I won't tell you to be prepared with the proper materials, properly up to speed with the previous year's course work in preparation for the coming one or to bring a positive attitude with you. You know all this. What I will tell you, as I have had to tell many of my students - especially the more industrious ones - is do not be lured away from the 'fundamentals' of a sound and coherent educational regimen. Don't let your 'apps' do all the work for you. With all the additional extracurricular pursuits that most of you fill your days with, often in preparation of life after school, I have noticed a profound trend amongst many of you to rely, often 'heavily', on, both, your computer applications and your..mmm..contemporary online style of research and it's companion/culprit style of composition. The result...while your general knowledge of things has, perhaps, greatly benefited from 'this' regimen, your... read more

Where are you? Bottom of a mountain? Half-way up? Probably don't need a boost or a climbing partner. What's so grand about a very large rock?   I've been there. It's pretty neat. You can see the stars through daytime blue. You can see things in colors and sizes not even the best climbers have seen yet. What's the big thing? Ice freezes your wrists and thighs, it's hard to talk to each other through the wool covering your mouth, a lot of people have died up here. Well, let me tell you... I've climbed a lot in a lot of different countries, but from this mountain, I found the sun. The sun is not round, it is a war, orange fire, flares of white yellow.   That's it, actually. Didn't really find anything else here. Chicken soup. An interesting rock. A flag bent over in a drift. But the sun at altitude bears you backwards, breathless. If from this high mountain, you could see the sun as it is, alive, piercing, shuddering with temperature, what's... read more

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

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

“Students often want to know how they'll use a subject "in the real world." Pick one of your subjects and tell us why it's important outside of the classroom.” As it happens I wrote an article on this very topic as it relates to Algebra a few months back. You can check out that article here. So since I've already answered this in relation to math, I'll discuss another of my topics today: writing. It's true that once you finish college you'll probably never need to write another term paper. Unless your career path tends towards academics (or blog posting), regular paper-writing is probably not going to show up very much. But what will show up quite frequently is the need to clearly and concisely articulate your thoughts and opinions in writing. In today's text-based world, first impressions are often written rather than spoken – whether that be a cover letter for a resume, a request for information about a position, or a proposal for a new project... read more

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

It takes practice to find your writing style, whether it be in fiction, research papers, or analytical essays. The best piece of writing is both grammatically correct and organized, but also contains the essence of the person who's writing it. When I correct students' papers, I try to avoid suggesting alternate sentences in their entirety, since a paper written by you shouldn't sound like one written by me. Even if we are answering the exact same prompt in the exact same way, the tone and character of each paper will be distinct, unique to each of us. Finding your style is a slow process, and generally comes about organically as a result of experience. Write more papers and you will begin to zero in on what makes a paper sing for you. This is not to say that there aren't tips and techniques I can give to help you find your writing style. By far one of the most useful techniques in my own experience has been working with what I call “Finding your 'however'.” The name... read more

I know how they told you to write it. Now let me tell you how it's really done. Popular misconception is that because you read a paper from start to finish, that the best way to write it is from start to finish. This is, of course, nonsense. The best way to write a thesis paper is as follows.   Write your conclusion first. That's right... the easiest way to write a 5-paragraph thesis paper is to start with your conclusions first. This is how we think, anyway. When we read about a subject,  we are thinking while we read, so that by the time we've finished reading, we already know what we think about it. Those are our conclusions about what we just read/watched/experienced. We're already there, so why not start there? When you start the conclusion you should say something specific about your topic. By then end of your conclusion, you should show how the specific nature of your topic says something large, say, about the nature of life itself. Write... read more

Greetings, reader!   I am new to Wyzant but have been a part time tutor in a variety of subjects for 6 years. One of the most common subjects I help students in is English/Writing, and it is by far the most difficult. The challenge is not knowing how to write a great essay given the prompt, but how to get the student to write the essay using his/her own voice, style and structure. I have gotten used to walking the razor's edge over the years, but the temptation to write parts of the essay for new writing tutors can be tremendous. Particularly when spending minutes on word choice and sentence order, the prospect of doing some ghost-writing is undoubtedly alluring.   So how does one persevere through those silent, deep-thinking sessions? What I find motivating is the knowledge that my role as a tutor is not to tell the student what to do, but to give him/her an alternative set of tools that he/she does not get in a classroom that will help them express... read more

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