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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

Have you ever wondered just who is reading that personal statement you have to submit (along with the rest of your material) when applying to a college or university. Here's a statement from one such reader (No, I didn't write it).             *             *              *            *             *               *                *                     * "The key fact to know about your audience (and yes, you are writing for a specific audience... read more

Effective tutoring for writing focuses on global issues such as organization and development, and on problem areas with clear explanations for the student. These tasks, performed correctly, will enable the student to become independent--able to proofread their work on their own more effectively each time.   As we all know, editing our own work can be the toughest part of writing; often we just don't see our mistakes. So the role of the tutor is not to "correct" the student's work and make it perfect--that is the teacher's job.   The tutor's role is to ask questions, to have the student express their thoughts orally and see how those thoughts transition to the writing, and to help the student use their resources (their notes, dictionaries and other books, online help, teachers) so that, at some point, they don't need the tutor!

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.

The human muscular system is not only complex, it intrigues by the amount of work it can perform, and sustain under the most demanding conditions. There are many viable contenders for determining the strongest muscle, included are: longevity, strength alone, load, lift, durability, response to pain, healing qualities, size, function, growth, suitability in recovery and reproducibility of destroyed or diseased cells. Within the human body, there are several muscles that may be considered such as the heart, jaw, tongue, uterus, the list can go on until you have covered most of the over 630 muscles in the human body. The strongest muscle is that muscle required to work all day, every day without tiring or failure. It could be a group of muscles or a single muscle. It is the one that responds to high demand and allows us to function almost flawlessly. It is the one that is mechanically, the most perfect muscle. The muscle that outperforms any mechanical... read more

Poetry is the absolute beauty of the human heart expressing emotion in a form that delights, and leaves the reader with a feeling of contentment in one spectrum, and a feeling of remorse in another. No other form of writing has the ability and power to inspire the emotion created through poetry. There are more than sixty different popular forms of poetry commonly used today. Many forms from the Old World, have been Americanized to suit the American style for writing. Interchanging Poetry is a narrative combining poetry with discussion, debate, dialog, or description; using the poetry to emphasize the narrative. It is a new form of poetry developing interchanging literary devices to enhance poetic discourse. Generally, writers will incorporate a poem into their article, publication, or book to make a point or site as a reference. This is common practice giving the author of the poetry proper credit. This is not a common practice with poets, who write... read more

Poetry is one of those literary genres that instill a fear in students, particularly in the middle school arena. Metaphor, sonnet, acrostic, haiku, rhyme, prose, or free verse are examples of hundreds of poetry terms and forms. Confusing for a young impressionable mind to absorb, poetry is often a subject to avoid, and if unavoidable, often solicits a desire to cheat to succeed. Throughout the internet, are sites where students ask questions soliciting someone to explain or write them poetry to complete a homework assignment. Poetry is not a written or spoken form to be feared, rather should be the educational tool that teaches reading, writing and the arts as no other single genre is capable. Writing poetry ought to be fun allowing students to express their feelings, beliefs, and experiences without the restriction of initially teaching them to write and interpret forms of poetry that are difficult for most to understand and usually result in a lifelong hatred... read more

Essay writing can be challenging for young writers.  I have written hundreds of essays.  It's always been a pleasure to receive a grade of A on an essay; however, it is even more enjoyable to receive a direct deposit for a winning scholarship essay!  Yes, it can make all the difference when funding your own education.  There are thousands of scholarship opportunities and most of them require a well written essay submission.   Have you ever been given a writing assignment that requires referencing a dozen different documents?  Are you learning to organize your writing?  Is it overwhelming when you are asked to complete a lengthy essay or report that includes more than just 5 or 6 references?  Do you want to apply for scholarships but you don't know how to write a winning essay?  To write any type of essay, my first tip is to take a step back, re-read the assignment criteria and/or rubric, and ask yourself a few questions.     1... read more

One summer I was ambitious and signed up for a condensed Anatomy & Physiology II course.  Having just completed Anatomy & Physiology I and Microbiology during the spring semester, I thought just taking one college course over the summer would be a piece of cake.  How wrong I was!  Learning the major systems of the human body in a full 16 week semester can be challenging for most students.  Fortunately, our professor believed in assigning essay styled lab reports.  Writing about new and more complex topics is challenging!   A few weeks into the condensed summer session I realized I would not achieve the A I wanted in A & P II without a full commitment to spend every waking moment studying.  My professor made it clear to the class that he was not going to grade us any easier just because we chose to take the 'short course.'  I vividly recall him announcing during lecture that the endocrine system was probably the... read more

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