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There are some books which just simply have to be read, and, except for perhaps a slight age restriction, are available for everyone. Frankenstein is one. No film has ever come close to its inventiveness and imagery.

No one, and I mean, no one can learn (and enjoy) words without a great dictionary. And yet, so few of the homes in which I teach have a dictionary. Now, I have the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary which takes up several feet in my library. Yes, a luxury. And yet, for a good source of knowledge about words, nothing beats a good, solid dictionary. Here's voting for a "dictionary in every house" campaign.

I was recently asked my opinion on computers and learning.   Since I don't have kids of my own, I refer them to my colleagues: the CTOs and VP of tech. from very important IT companies. Not a single one allows their kids under age 10 to use a computer. They are read to, and read books, and write with crayons and pencils.   Worried about being behind their classmates? Not at all; any advances pop up so quickly there is no problem.

Is there anything guaranteed to make one feel older (and no wiser) than to witness the joyous wedding of a young man, who, when last seen, was jumping on a trampolene and teasing his sister? 'Can't think of anything at the moment, but then, I still have confetti in my hair .....

It takes a break, even in summer, from the old tutor to get a break through. And, yes, it happened! Brilliant work done, in the back of the family car, while travelling around.

Yes, it's good advice: take a day off. No one working toward a goal succeeds without break time. So, go ahead: enjoy a sunny day, or swim at the beach, or, if all else fails, do what I do: count your toes.

Anyone who promises a perfect result on the ACT, SAT, or LSAT, is probably looking for your money. So, beware! Anxiety can cause all sorts of panic. Instead, good, old-fashioned planning can cure a lot of the anxiety. Start with the date of the test, and work backwards as to what you will study, what days off, when practice exams, etc. And treat yourself! When I had to take the Law Boards in a second state because of State Bar regulations, I wasn't very pleased. After all, I'd passed in one state, shouldn't that be enough? I didn't live near the site of the test, therefore I booked into a great hotel, so I just had to walk to the test, and could go back to my room at lunch (the LSAT's last two days). It was a great stress reliever: I actually took a bath before the afternoon session. So, treat yourself!

I've just finished working with several students on their writing, and the key for those punctuation and syntax errors seems to be: read aloud. No matter how often the page is read, reading aloud gives that little bit of distance necessary to make self-corrections. Here's to return to oration!

Trying to write a "personal statement" for a college entrance exam is difficult; and it does not get any easier as life goes on. Just look at the statements the tutors use on WyzAnt. They did not just sit down and write out a statement, willy nilly. Most of the statements are carefully crafted pieces of persuasive writing. After all, all writing is persuasive. The 'trick' is to think impersonally and to give yourself plenty of time for re-writing. Sorry, not much a 'trick' but then, good writing takes practice. And if you need it, a good tutor/editor.

It is that time of summer when, except for the sun and laziness, everything and anything 'edifying' seems far far away. And, yet, there are thousands of books waiting, in your local library, for a first read. Tired of test prep, or just anxious about it? Read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Yes, the original novel, not some pulp film. Read the first and the original. Don't feel like Frank? Read one of the first 'Gothic Novels', The Castle of Otranto, or one of the first (in English) scary, sexy books, The Monk. (The Monk is referred to in Austen's Northanger Abbey.) Classic does not have to mean boring. Just remember the water-proof cover when you take your library book to the pool.

Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess on their new, future king of England, Scotland and Northern Island! Just in case you are not 'au fait' with the laws of succession, even if the first child had been a girl, she would be the future sovereign (the law was recently changed; before, it was the first male heir, etc. etc.) It only took a thousand years for them to get it right......

I've been working with several kids now, and, may I say: I have the best students! Fun, interesting, curious people. And each, an individual with big individual talents. Also interesting to note what is 'not' taught in schools re: fundamental grammar and sentence structure. Having just moved to the U.S., I wonder if this is widespread.

Just watched Andy Murray win his quarter final, and noted that Miss Williams lost her match. Why did I put this under "test preparation"? Because if great sporting events teach us anything, it is preparation preparation preparation. Just because your competition is ranked number one in the world, does not mean you cannot win: unless you psych yourself into believing you cannot win. And it is the same for test prep. You might walk into the testing room with a perfect GPA, or something less; it doesn't matter. It's what you do on the day. Ace, game, set, match!

Having just seen the newest "Gatsby", the question of 'do-I-read-the-book-before-I-see-the-film?' pops up again. I have read "The Great Gatsby" several times, both on my own and academically; and I saw the Redford version (white, white, and more white). This film version is a work, though related by names, characters, and some plot, off to the land of color and music with no relationship with Fitzgerald. Though its worst moments look like something out of a Pepsi commercial on crack cocaine, there are moments of sheer calm and, well, yes, beauty. Would a read of the book improve your experience of the film? No. They are separate creatures. Would it give some context and understanding to the film? Probably. And, perhaps best of all, readers unfamiliar with the subtle style of Fitzgerald might read it with more thought.

Not one, not two, but three hours of piano music last night at the Snape Maltings! Brilliant (if exhausting) recital by Aldeburgh Festival artistic director Pierre Aimard. From tonal to serial to tonal to atonal to Cage (the 4 minutes and 33 seconds piece), to reductionist, and an entire survey of new polyphonic music (i.e., layers of sound, as opposed to the Baroque idea of polyphony).

Test taking, Step One: "Focus in the moment." I have taken all sorts of tests, long and short, in person and at home: the first thing to learn is to focus one's attention at the moment, on the page, and to forget all the 'stuff' of Life.... until you are finished.

Last summer, I was asked to help an 8 year old girl, who was deemed 'slow' in reading and writing comprehension. And I had 3 weeks before school commenced! My solution: let's write a book. I insisted all the ideas come from her, then we worked on spelling, punctuation (there were two creatures which talked), narrative flow, and vocabulary. When we had a few chapters, I asked her to read it to others, which she did. By the time I left, she didn't want to do anything but work on the book. I have just been emailed by her parents that she won an end-of-year prize for the book, which had taken on quite a life of its own. And she is in an accelerated writing class. I'm expecting a film deal, soon!

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