Bram Stoker's Dracula is a novel told in epistolary form – meaning the story is told entirely through documents, in this case journal entries and newspaper clippings. Epistolary is a very effective technique for writing certain types of stories, and one that I feel is generally under-appreciated. In Dracula the epistolary form is used brilliantly to enhance the sense of mystery and suspense in the novel, and to add to the overall chilling effect of the story. One of the ways in which epistolary form enhances the suspense is through the use of first person narration – from multiple sources. In a traditional first-person narration the reader follows a single protagonist, knowing only what they know and seeing only what they see. This can be a welcome insight into a character's psyche, but can also be restrictive to the author since they cannot add outside information to the story. In epistolary form many characters can contribute first-person narratives to the novel... read more
What's happening in the world of private tutoring?
Literature BlogsNewest Most Active
As a literature teacher, my favorite activity ever (bonus that it's educational) is reading in a setting that lends itself well to the book you are reading. In the case of literature, the possibilities are only limited to what's available. One of my favorite memories from last summer was reading Dracula on a back lit Kindle at twilight in my front yard, while bats swooped around above me and the moon rose. Some other fantastic matches? 1. Secret Garden in a botanical garden, or sitting in the middle of your own garden at home or a friend's 2. Paradise Lost in the same setting, but maybe around eight or nine o'clock, in that last hour of readable light, when the light starts to fade and shadows grow longer and take over the landscape 3. Inferno (by Dante... read more
This past weekend I went to see the long-awaited movie adaptation of John Green's bestselling novel “The Fault in Our Stars.” I'm a big fan of alternate-medium depictions of various art forms (movies based on books, theater, or games, books that expand upon a movie or TV show, etc.) and I love to think about the ways in which a story is adapted for a new medium. Movies, TV, books, and live theater all have their own distinct methods of storytelling, and it's an enlightening exercise to think about how the source material has to change to fit the new style. The Fault in Our Stars movie is one of the most faithful, and I think successful, adaptations I've seen in a long time. I'd like to take a moment to discuss a few of the ways in which I felt they most successfully navigated the transition from book to movie. I'll refrain from spoilers in case any readers have not read the book or seen the movie yet. Visual Effects The Fault in Our Stars, in book form, contains... read more
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a novel about guilt, morality and emotion. Throughout the novel many characters espouse the idea of reason and willpower over emotion – that if you have sufficient mental faculties you can prevent emotion from getting in the way of your actions and behave truly rationally. The student Raskolnikov believes this with all his heart when he sets out to murder a pawnbroker for the good of the community. This concept is quickly proved to be fundamentally flawed, however, as his inner guilt throws him into emotional turmoil and his brain attempts to protect him from the ugly truth of his actions. Raskolnikov displays several textbook examples of psychological defense mechanisms throughout the course of the novel, proving that even the most thorough reasoning and intellect cannot prevent the emotional and psychological response to a crisis. Psychological “defense mechanisms” are the brain's way of protecting itself from full awareness... read more
Since I've been tutoring English literature students, I've noticed a pattern: every time we read a book that I remember reading in my high school classes, I enjoy it far more as an adult than I ever did as a teenager. Time and time again I pick up a book I remember hating in class, resigned to slog through it and discuss metaphor and symbolism with my student, only to find that I thoroughly enjoy it. Each time I come out of the unit with a fresh new appreciation for the work in question. As this happens more and more I've come to the conclusion that there are whole worlds of theme and subtext in many novels that are only apparent to a reader who has reached adulthood, because they require the reader to have experiences beyond those of an average high-school student. In today's Literature Spotlight I'd like to illustrate this point using a recently-transformed work for me, A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. One of the main themes in A Doll's House is the idea of Nora's reluctance... read more
Title choice is an often-overlooked aspect of literature. What the author chooses to call his or her work can serve as a window into their intentions, showing in a subtle way the aspects of the novel to which they wish to draw the reader's attention. As an example, take Emily Brontë's classic novel Wuthering Heights. According to the dictionary, “wuthering” means “blowing strongly with a roaring sound” when describing a wind, and “characterized by such a sound” when describing a place. The word also has close associations with the more common “weathering,” implying enduring harsh weather or coming through a storm. Throughout Brontë's novel are references to this idea of weathering out a storm or withstanding howling winds. Most of the major plot developments take place during thunderstorms, and the various characters are likened to different aspects of a storm. This theme comes to a head during Heathcliff's disappearance midway through the novel – not coincidentally in the... read more
Here are some of my favorite English (high school) resources. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores. (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 critically, writing activities, etc) (Gr 6-12) Englishpage.com – Very thorough grammar lessons (Gr 6-12) TheOatmeal.com/tag/grammar – Short, humorous grammar lessons (Gr 6 -12) Grammarbook.com – Free video lessons on common grammar topics. *Note- some areas of this site are subscription-based. (Gr. 6-12) Grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar – Quick lessons on parts of speech, and tips on writing essays. (Gr 9-12) Owl.English.purdue.edu/owl – Grammar lessons, tutorials on writing essays and using specific formats... read more
When students think of text in a classroom, they tend to think of pages of paper filled with words that intertwine together to make a story. Many teachers stick to the traditional way of providing students with novels to teach a unit on a particular topic and then use a film as a complimentary piece to add visualization to the text that the students already read. Instead of using it as complimentary pieces, teachers should begin using film as a non-traditional base text in the classroom. Film not only helps students focus on the writing of text, but it allows teachers to instruct students on cultural representations, visual aspects that play into a textual analysis of a film, and it allows complimentary texts that relate to the film connect to real world events. Film portrays cultural representations in many ways. It uses sounds, acting, and visual settings to show the audience time period, social... read more
Sometimes we find it hard to connect with the images that a poet creates within his or her work. I have found that one's own life experiences can help aid in finding a variety of angles to approaching and understanding poetry. This tool not only applies to poetry but to other sources of literature as well. If we can take time to indulge in our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and physical enviroments, there is a good chance that one may have a more diverse understanding of a piece of literature.
Philosophy of Education for M.J. T. To me the purpose of education is threefold: (1) provide students with a basis of knowledge, (2) teach students how to reason so that they can continue their education throughout their lives, and (3) instill in them a life-long excitement about and love of learning. Students must acquire a basis of knowledge, a framework on which to sort out and understand how various aspects of information in any subject area fit together to make the whole picture of where we have been and where we are going as a civilization. Science affects philosophy which affects the arts … ad infinitum. Nothing exists in a vacuum-sealed box. All knowledge is recursive and intertwined - reaches out and affects many areas outside the discipline in which it begins. I liken this basis of knowledge to a needlepoint tapestry mesh framework. The threads of different strands of information are worked in at various points. In some way every thread touches every... read more
For those struggling to get their kids into reading - This is a long post, but I successfully get 95% of my students to want to read non-stop within the first 2 months of school and I would like to share this with you. I kid you not, I have more of a problem with my students reading under their desks during other classes than trying to get them to read. I dunno about you, but I think that is actually a good problem to have! Parents, you can adapt what I am doing from my classroom to your home with ease. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- It's a tricky business. Kids, typically, don't like reading for pleasure. Well, not at first that is. There are a few fundamental reasons for this. 1. They are forced to read. It isn't an option "you must read for 30 minutes each night because I said so and it's good for you," etc. When kids (especially pre-teens/teenagers) are told to do something, they immediately don't want to... read more
As the school year ramps up again, I wanted to put out a modified version of a Memo of Understanding http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memo_of_understanding for parents and students. It seems each year in the rush to get through the first weeks of school parents and students forget the basic first good steps and then the spiral downwards occurs and then the need for obtaining a tutor and then the ‘wish for promises’ from a tutor. Pay attention to your child’s folder or agenda book. A student is generally not able to self regulate until well into high school. Some people never quite figure it out. Be the best person you can be by helping your child check for due dates, completeness, work turned in on time. Not only will this help your child learn to create and regulate a schedule, it prevents the following types of conversations I always disliked as a teacher ("Can you just give my child one big assignment to make up for the D/F so they can pass"; "I am going to... read more
For parents who are trying to do any of the following: 1. Engage your child in reading 2. Increase your child's reading skills (fluency, comprehension, rhythm, expression, tempo, etc.) 3. Increase your child's language acquisition, vocabulary, grammar skills, and spelling skills This blog post is for you!!! There are some really unique ways to help your child become a "reader." I myself wasn't a "reader" until about the age of 10. Up to that point, though I loved books and collected books and asked for books for birthdays/holidays, I was not a reading self-starter. However, I loved being read TO! At the age of 6, I took a great interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books. Not only, was I fascinated with the time period (late 1800's), I also found a kindred spirit of sorts in Laura. She stood up for things in which she believed strongly, she was stubborn, and she was short! I found a heroine that was very much like... read more
Spanish, French, English, Language Arts and Test Preparation Tutor. Contact me today to schedule a lesson!
Hello! Thank you for visiting my site! I have 8 years of language teaching experience. I taught for 7 years at Princeton University and 1 year at the University of Notre Dame. It is truly a joy for me to help people reach their academic and personal goals. Please contact me as soon as possible to inquire about scheduling a tutoring session with me. I specialize in language arts, particularly Spanish, French, and English. I also have experience tutoring people of all ages, and helping them prepare for standardized tests. I look forward to hearing from you soon! Best regards, Valerie
One of the more frustrating things about tutoring is when students or their parents want to treat tutoring like a quick fix. In other words, sometimes they want to meet the night before a test and cram for said test in hopes of getting a better grade. On the surface, this problem might work, but it treats the symptoms rather than the root of the problem. If you're going to take the time to invest in a tutor, then here are a couple of suggestions. First, try to catch the problem early. If you (or your child) is struggling in a subject, get help right away. Don't wait until you (or your child) feels that overwhelming feeling that comes when one is completely lost in information. The sooner a tutor can get involved, the better the tutor can help a student to stay on track. Work with your tutor to adopt a thorough approach to the subject. It is not enough to learn the facts of a subject, but also to learn the reasons behind those facts. If you want to do well in a subject,... read more
If you had asked my middle school students to describe our class routines, you might have thought I was their English teacher, not Social Studies. As a teacher and tutor, I’ve tried to pass on a legacy for the love of reading to my students. I often tell them, “If you can read, you can teach yourself anything.” In this article, I will give you some tips on how to get your children to read more, and more often. It’s Not Magic! Occasionally, parents visited my classroom to ask, “How do you do it?” They were usually referring to the success of my Friday Silent Reading routine. Each fall, I explained the importance of literacy to my students and said that practice is best way to improve reading skills. I told them that I expected them to bring a book of their choice to class every day, to read it if they finished all the day’s scheduled activities I’d given them, and that the first 20 minutes of class every Friday was reserved for sustained silent reading. Parents... read more
After an absence due to the busiest part of the academic year, I am back in search of tutoring clients for the spring/summer. Before June 17, I will have hours available after school. As of June 17, my hours are much more flexible!
Everyone knows that demonstrating the ability to think critically on tests and assignments and in writing is the way to your teacher’s or professor’s heart. But how do you do that when you don’t even know what critical thinking is? Although “critical thinking” is a much debated term, I would simply call it your ability to analyze a given issue or problem. Okay, great, you say ... so what the heck does that mean? Well ... it depends. There’s all sorts of different types of analysis. A math problem, for example, requires a different type of analysis from say the analysis of a world history essay prompt. Trying to figure out ... or analyze ... , the different reasons why your dog threw up on your favorite pair of sneakers is a bit different from trying to figure out why the author of novel chose to kill off the main character of the book you were just assigned to read. Although, I can see where my description of analysis above might frustrate those expecting a straightforward... read more
As the school year begins to wind down, I have noticed that many of the students I help have begun the journey of signing up for next years classes or, better yet, deciding where they will start the next chapter of their life in college. I began to reminisce on my Senior year of high school and how stressful that year was for me. It was so easy to become overwhelmed by all of the choices that (seemed to be) abruptly placed in front of me: what college should I go to? What should I major in? Should I choose a college close to home? Should I rush? Should I go to a college with all of my friends? Will I absolutely hate it? I ended up choosing the wrong college and transferred twice until I finally ended up a college that I love! I say all of this to jump into the idea of NOT stressing about this time of year. Yes, I did say not to stress. College is a time of change. That change, no matter how terrifying it may seem, will take you on a wonderful journey that no one can plan... read more
Hi there! This is my first blog post! I thought I would test this out before I post regularly... It comes with the tutor profile, so why not?! I just want to give my number one piece of advice which has been true for every standardized test I have come across, no matter what grade level. I wish I had known this or understood this concept when I was growing up - I was always a good student, but maybe I would've been better! Here is the scenario. You're faced with this gigantic passage and you see that it's something incredibly boring. Immediately, your brain shuts off as you attempt to crawl your way to the end of it. You also feel the pressure of the clock, so instead of reading the passage, you kind of end up skimming over it. Then there are all these questions and you have no idea where to begin because you didn't absorb a single thing you read, so in a panic, you start guessing, even if those guesses mean penalties (on certain tests). Sound like you? Here is... read more