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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

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

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

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

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 author's 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... read more

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!

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

                                                   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

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

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?

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.

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

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

It could be anything: paint, draw, even a new language. The idea that you are done learning once you reach a certain age in your life is as ridiculous as the notion that all women should be homemakers. In fact, it is never too late to learn anything! Take me, for example. I am a magazine editor who found a new life teaching about the very subjects that I learned in college and applied throughout my professional life.   My goal is to ensure that you will learn as quickly as possible any or all of the four subjects that I'm approved for in WyzAnt. Whether you want to understand the finer points of proofreading, or need to learn how to speak or write in English or in Spanish, I'll give you the tools that you'll need to become an expert in your selection from lesson one!

I have worked in graduate admissions in higher education for over 10 years, and during this time, I have read a lot of personal statements – some good and some not-so-good. So, what qualities help to make a good personal statement that will help a student gain admission into the program of his or her choice? While admissions committees do consider a variety of factors in their decisions, here are just a few tips that might help you as you prepare to write your statement of intent. 1. Know the requirements. Are you writing a statement that is 500 words or 5 pages? Different programs have different requirements, so you should contact the schools to find out what they are expecting. It will not help your application to submit a document that is 5 pages long if the committee is only going to read the first page. 2. Use formal, academic language. Your document is going to be read by faculty, so you need to impress them with your background as well as your writing... read more

I remember the moment clearly even now: Mrs S., brandishing the loose-leaf pages in front of my fourth-grade classroom, her wild-eyed look at odds with her precise hair and immaculate apple-printed skirt. I remember how I had quietly slipped the papers into tray of finished homework, how I had felt somehow embarrassed by the inked words. I remember her words: "Julie is going to be a famous writer someday!" And I remember the feeling: elation, pride, and a stark wonder that someone believed in me this much.   Now, years later--after a college degree in Creative Writing and a few published pieces in literary journals--I think back on the powerful impact that Mrs. S. had on my writing. I was an extraordinarily shy student. English had been my second language, and I had been shuffled through ESL classes all throughout my early elementary school years. But for me, English was not a hardship—it was a refuge. I lost myself in books, and found myself in paper and... read more

Working with a student taking a college level writing course, I remembered an old axiom - challenge your professor. The student, a good writer already, wanted help in direction with a persuasive paper. The topic was a current headline in science: the possible dangers of genetically altered food. She was well versed in the pros and cons of the topic, but was having difficulty choosing sides in part because her professor had expressed a definite opinion.   After discussing the parameters of the paper, she knew in a persuasive paper she had to choose a side. I challenged her to choose immediately without any more going back and forth. To my surprise, she had enough spine to go directly against her professor's stated views. We worked to make sure the position she chose had plenty of factual support and that her draft would have a good structure. Then I encouraged her to think in the extreme - what's the most dramatic outcome if you are correct?   Through... read more

As a writer, the way I embrace my audience depends on the piece I am writing. So, if I am writing non-fiction, my tone is usually serious because my readers are looking for facts. On the other hand, if I am working on a fictional story, my purpose is to entertain my readers. Audiences and readers expect to be informed or entertained. It is the task of the writer to oblige those expectations. I find that if you write with a clear purpose in mind, then it is easier to convey the theme or mood of the writing. Audiences are usually very bright and can tell if a writing has no direction. To embrace mine, I always plan out my writings, giving them definite beginnings and strong endings. Blogs are a little different. They are streams of the writer's consciousness. They may be factual or fictional, but they are usually less structured and free-flowing forms of online media content. To embrace online blog readers, one must... read more

When writing your college essay, make sure to focus on what you can contribute to your new college and not just what you want to get out of it.  Colleges, whether selecting for the freshman class or for graduate school, want to bring in students who will add value to their class, program, campus and community.  Whatever makes you your own awesome you, celebrate it in your essay and talk about how you will use your special talent or interest to enhance the educational world you want to enter.  Maybe you play guitar, or volunteer, or you spent time in the military before enrolling in college.  Did you live overseas?  Do you love to play the bag pipes? Chess? Don't judge yourself and assume that because you intend to study business your special interest in yoga will not be attractive to your future school.  Just enthuse on what you can contribute, and if you think you have nothing to contribute, get a piece of paper and a pen and start brainstorming... read more

As a writing tutor for both adults and senior high school students, I sometimes get requests or face students with expectations, that I can't meet. If you ask a tutor for this kind of service, you might get refused, for good reason. First, if you are writing on a highly technical or specialized subject, such as engineering, psychiatry, or biotechnology, and expect a tutor to help you conceive of your paper, its sources, organization, literature review or other content, I may not be able to help you, especially after an hour's meeting. At least I would need time to learn a little about your field. But in fact, this is not what a tutor can do for you. A tutor can give feedback, suggestions, or editing assistance, but the content is your own. Second, if you are a student, applying to college for example, and want a tutor to help you shape your personal essay  or cover letter to make it sound polished or "unique", you also may not get this kind of help. To represent... read more

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