LiteratureYou might think studying literature is a waste of time. And why not? "Literature" is just the thoughts and opinions of a bunch of dead people, right? You can't, for instance, build a bridge or fix an engine with it. So why study it?
But the reason literature classes still feature so prominently in standard curricula around the world is how much more important literary studies is than most other subjects. It not only helps students master reading, it also opens them to a wealth of ideas, wisdom and knowledge so important that the greatest minds of previous generations took the time to write them down.
What’s more, picking apart, say, a short story or poem helps students practice the critical thinking skills they'll need to apply the technical knowledge they learn in other courses. After all, any monkey can turn a wrench. True masters in any field know when to use that wrench—-and when, on the other hand, to use a screwdriver.
A former executive editor who studied English literature at Oxford University, I am uniquely equipped to guide students through literary studies’ seeming minefield of esoteric terms and concepts. In these lessons, students can receive help with a literature class they are currently enrolled in; they can shore up their understanding of literature and literary criticism for the AP, SAT II or GRE literature exam; or they can tackle the topic via a ground-up approach over an extended period. As such, lesson structure and texts will vary from student to student and may include lessons on texts from the Graeco-Roman through post-modern periods. From Sophocles to Salinger, Virgil to Vonnegut, the only limit to the scope of these lessons is a student’s interest.
Along the way, students will also learn to identify and differentiate between literary devices, such as theme, plot, motif, story, character, irony, empathetic narrative, enjambment, and many others. Each session will include a discussion of a reading assignment during which the student will practice presenting arguments about what she feels the assigned reading meant. The student will also regularly submit essays and take quizzes on her reading assignments and will occasionally submit special projects, like writing an additional chapter to a novel or translating a Shakespearean sonnet into contemporary American English.
The lessons will culminate in the student’s choosing a school of literary criticism she most agrees with and writing a five-page essay in keeping with that school’s views and conventions. The essay will focus on two works of literature I feel best fit the student’s personal interests, and in it the student will develop and argue a thesis that links the works thematically. I will then score this essay according to the College Board’s standard essay matrix.
Additionally, students can also choose to structure their lessons around a specific exam, in which case the lessons will begin and end with my administering assessment tests. I will score both tests according to the conventions of the appropriate test maker (The College Board or ETS), and students may choose to continue the course after I report their performance on the second such assessment.
Again, I will cater this course to fit the needs of each individual student. Too, WyzAnt has certified me to provide courses in French, so I am more than willing to provide lessons for native French speakers with a general proficiency in English. I cannot, however, offer lessons to speakers of other languages who have not already attained a high level of proficiency in conversational English.
Finally, this course focuses on advanced reading concepts. I will therefore assume students enrolling in it have already mastered the practical and remedial skills of English reading and writing, including rhetoric, grammar and style, as well as reading and writing themselves. If they have not, I highly suggest they consider taking my English, Reading, TOEFL and/or Writing Courses instead.
For more information or to set up a curriculum for yourself or your student, please contact me via my WyzAnt email.
ProofreadingOne of those technical, jargon terms, "proofreading" can sound a lot scarier than it is. In fact, "proofing" is a task that, traditionally, printers, their apprentices and assistants performed. And this means that, until recently, it was a job for tradesmen, not college grads.
Still, many looking to land a publishing or editing job conflate "proofreading" with "copy editing." But, contrary to this assumption, proofing is merely the practice of looking over a document's final, printed draft and correcting minor punctuation errors. Should an accent mark go over the “e” in “resumé”? Should that sentence end with a period or a semi-colon? Should that comma come before or after the end-quotation marks? These are the essential questions a proofreader seeks to answer, as opposed to a copy editor's concerns with style, spelling and words' definitions and connotations. So, you see, proofreading is hardly frightening. And if you see it listed as a requisite skill for a given job, all the employer requires is you know your punctuation and accent marks.
And yet, understanding printing conventions is a lot more complicated than knowing how to use periods, question marks and exclamation points. Understanding how to properly punctuate entails knowing your colons (:), semi-colons (;), parentheses ( () ), commas (,), quotation marks (""), em-dashes (--), en-dashes (-)... and a host of other non-verbal symbols. Furthermore, punctuation conventions differ depending on which side of the Atlantic your audience lives, what publishing medium you're using and what genre you're working in. For instance, did you know that British style dictates all commas and periods appear outside quotation marks, while American convention dictates the opposite? Or did you know that including a slash mark (/) in newspaper texts is a major faux pas?
(Believe it or not, this second example is slightly absurd, even, because modern printers do have the dies to create these marks; the reason for the rule, then, is simply that many years ago this wasn't the case, so consequently, accounting for a lack of slashes became standard, formal practice in the news industry.)
Perhaps, at this point, your head’s already spinning with such contradictory conventions. But just think how much better you’ll understand all such rules with a former executive editor and Oxford student guiding you through them. Not only have I regularly proofread professionally while helping to complete both a monthly national’s and online international’s publishing cycles; as an award-nominated poet and scholar, I can instruct my students on the conventions for creative and scholarly texts, including standards like MLA and Chicago styles.
In this course, we will study the proper uses of all English punctuation marks and the spellings of some of English’s most common, accented foreign loanwords. We will also cover the differences between British and American punctuation conventions and both the print and online conventions of today’s several genres and industries. Finally, we will study the standard proofreading marks all proofreaders use to communicate with editors and printers, and we will discuss the industry outlook for proofreaders in the marketing, news and publishing industries.
Required texts for this course include copies of the Associated Press Stylebook, the Chicago and MLA style guides and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. Our first lesson will comprise my administering an assessment test to gauge the student’s pre-existing background in proofing. This test will see the student proofing a galley proof of a feature story, as they might have to if interviewing for a proofreading job with a newspaper. Based on the student’s performance, we will then shore up in subsequent lessons her understanding of those concepts she displayed a lack of background in on the assessment. Standard exercises will include proofing galley proofs from all manner of literary and journalistic genres, many of which will come directly from publishers with whose staff I have connections.
Many lessons will also include in-depth lectures on specific accent marks and their usages. And outside assignments, such as proofing published documents like newspapers for errors and reading respected publications to pick apart their conventions will figure centrally in this course as well.
Finally, this course focuses on professional-level skills. I will therefore assume students enrolling in it have already mastered the practical, remedial and advanced skills of English reading and writing, including rhetoric, grammar and style, literary interpretation, and reading and writing themselves. If they have not, I highly suggest they consider taking my English, Reading, TOEFL, Literature and/or Writing courses instead.
For more information or to set up a curriculum for yourself or your student, please contact me via my WyzAnt email.
ReadingOf the traditional "three r's" probably no skill students learn is as crucial as reading. After all, you can learn "'riting" and "'rithmetic" by simply reading a book. But, if you can't read, there's no way you can access it or any other skill without verbal explanations. And that can spell trouble for any individual. As readers, people can expand their skill sets indefinitely, entertain themselves very cheaply and remain engaged and informed citizens. Without reading, they are beholden to others for their daily keep and forced to accept whatever they're told.
Of course, reading at the adult level is far more complicated than simply recognizing words' face-value meanings. In fact, today's adult-level reading material utilizes devices like irony and implication so regularly it says as much or more in what it omits as what the words it contains actually say. But, as the saying goes, "Every journey begins with a single step." And, long before anyone can master the mental back flips required to, say, understand an industry white paper or read Tolstoy's "War and Peace," she must first begin at the beginning.
Taught by a former executive editor and Oxford University student, this course focuses on the first principles of reading. Depending on a student's age and current skill level, lessons may consist of simply reading story books, reciting classic nursery rhymes and engaging in basic phonic exercises (Ages 3-5). Or they may consist of more intensive lessons in phonics, spelling and image-text association buttressed by in-session and take-home reading practice (Ages 5-7). The purpose of either program is to instil phonemic and phonological awareness and an understanding of the Alphabetic Principle, all of which are crucial to reading English and other Western languages.
Sessions for even more advanced readers (Ages 8-12) may consist of lessons on common English morphemes and phonemes, including inflective bound morphemes and simple stems, roots, prefixes and suffixes; instruction on when to re-read a sentence; word games like rhyming exercises; and in-class and take-home reading assignments of slightly more advanced texts requiring the student engage and interpret the information presented.
Because I will shape this course around the age, interests and schedule of each student, required texts may vary. I will, however, utilize both informational and entertaining texts as available in teaching all three age groups, so as to involve as much of current reading-education theory as possible. The ultimate goal of this course is to elevate the student's reading abilities to a level commensurate with her age and grade level.
This naturally means moving students from the Non-Reader to Emerging Pre-Reader stage, from Emerging Pre-Reader to Novice Reader, or from Novice Reader to Decoding Reader. As this course is primarily intended for younger students it will not seek to move students from the Decoding stage to the Fluent stage and beyond. For help with attaining these more advanced stages, I suggest taking my Literature course.
In the service of understanding a student's current skill level, then, all coursework will begin with an introductory session comprising a simple reading test. I will select an unfamiliar text appropriate for the student's age and skill level and, with the help of a parent in the case of younger children, observe the student's reading and comprehension. Based on this assessment, I will devise a learning plan detailing which concepts a student needs to learn to progress to the next skill level. I will report this plan and my proposed methods of achieving each benchmark within 48 hours of the assessment. In subsequent sessions I will implement this plan, pacing progression through it according to the student's own comprehension speed.
Finally, I am not trained to adequately assist children with behavioral, neurological or learning disabilities. I understand the theories underpinning reading education in uninhibited children and can help such students who have fallen behind due to circumstance or a crucial misunderstanding passed over by a teacher. However, I do not have a formal understanding of special-needs learning, and I cannot, therefore, ethically accept such students into my program. For students with such needs, I highly suggest contacting my fellow WyzAnt tutor, Barbara A., instead.
Please Note: This is a general explanation of my Reading curriculum. I will, of course, modify it to meet parents' and students' expectations and needs. Also, due to the nature of early reading development, sessions MUST take place in a relatively quiet place, such as a library, and while I will give sessions via Skype for a discount, I require that a parent be present to assist the student in operating her computer. In the case of live sessions, I require they occur in a public library and that a parent be present at all times to assist me in engaging the student properly.
TOEFLFor many students around the world, studying in an English-speaking country is a major goal. After all, albeit U.S. News and World Report might be just a little culturally biased, it is the very same publication American and British business people read when helping their own children select a college or university. And, according to nearly every list the magazine has ever compiled, the U.K. and U.S. host all 10 of the world's best universities--including Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Yale, Oxford, ICL, UCL, the University of Chicago, U-Penn and Columbia.
The problem is that every single one of these magnificent, well-known institutions requires non-Anglophones prove their ability to speak, read, write and listen to English on an advanced level to gain admission. In the U.S., the standard test for this is the TOEFL, or "The Test of English as a Foreign Language."
The TOEFL tests the taker's ability to read English on the collegiate level, comprehend the advanced spoken English of an academic lecture, verbally convey thoughts and opinions on advanced topics spontaneously, and write comprehensively and intelligently on an academic topic. And, albeit students may be completely capable of such tasks in their native languages, the fact that the TOEFL requires they do so in a totally different tongue might make the test seem prohibitively daunting.
And yet, anyone with the mental wherewithal to perform excellently in one language can certainly do so in another. They key is merely practicing. And with a former executive editor, Oxford student and award-nominated, nationally published journalist and poet by your side, gaining the required mastery to ace the TOEFL will be easier than you ever imagined.
This course will focus on helping students hone their English skills with the specific goal of acing the TOEFL. As such, the first lesson will comprise the student's taking an assessment version of the TOEFL and our discussing her goals and needs so I can better cater the course to her. I will then score the student's assessment according to the standards of the TOEFL's maker, ETS, and report the student's performance as well as a learning plan based on this performance within 48 hours.
Based on this learning plan, subsequent lessons will focus on shoring up the student's weak areas. Methods of achieving this goal will include every standard TEFL, or "Teaching English as a Foreign Language," practice--such as reading and interactively responding to English-language Children's literature and advanced texts in the student's desired field of study; image-word association and task-based communicative-language exercises for both spoken and written communication; and blended-learning assignments that utilize English-language media and regular textual and verbal communication with me.
The course will culminate with the student's taking a second simulated TOEFL assessment, which I will score and report as I did with the initial exam. The student may then decide to continue working with me on correcting any remaining misunderstandings. Or, if she is satisfied with her performance on the second assessment, she may opt to discontinue our sessions.
Of course, it is important to note that this course is for students with sufficient preexisting English fluency to allow for easy verbal communication. This course's goal, after all, is to improve fluency in English to the collegiate level. Consequently, all communication between myself and a TOEFL student will take place in English, with no exceptions except those provided here.
That said, I am certified to teach French, so I may be able to assist TOEFL-taking French speakers with less-than-perfect English fluency. This is the only exception I will make to my above-noted requirements because French is the only living language I have certification and a sufficient background in to allow for communication with less-than-fluent English speakers. I, therefore, cannot conscionably continue working with any non-Francophone student who scores less than a 60 on her introductory assessment.
Please Note: The above is an overview of my standard TOEFL lesson plan. I will naturally modify it to meet the needs and expectations of each individual student. For more information, please contact me via WyzAnt email.
Writing*EDITING SERVICES: Do you have only a handful of texts than need improving? If so, contracting me via WyzAnt to edit your paper(s), grant/scholarship application(s), personal statement(s) or creative work(s) might be a great option for you. Your edited docs will be perfected by a soon-to-be MFA with over 10 years of professional editing and writing experience. And, best of all, the final text will be 100% YOUR WORK! (Please be advised, on that note, that I will not violate WyzAnt’s policies or professional ethics by researching, writing or rewriting your work for you—such requests are off-limits and will be summarily declined.) For more information on this service and my full writing courses, please reach out to me via WyzAnt’s email-relay system today!
WRITING COURSE DESCRIPTION: Often underrated as a skill, writing is integral to every profession. From lab reports to poetry, legal briefs to news stories, to even simple emails, you will have to string together a lot of words in your life, no matter who you are. Meanwhile, the ability to write well is rarer than gold, begging the question: What's the point in any human endeavor if we can't successfully communicate our knowledge to others?
In a word, then, this course is all about getting you to write on the level of a professional writer. As a five-time award-nominated poet, former executive editor and one-time Oxford University English student, I am fully equipped to teach you the skills I have used to put bread on the table for myself every day of my professional life. And I can do that whether you are just learning to construct complete sentences, need to perfect your writing to improve your academic performance, or want to communicate better with others in your profession. Heck, with enough time and interest, I can even teach you to write poetry and fiction that someone WILL publish.
The introductory session for this course features a writing-assessment test. Having learned about your field/interests, I will present you with a writing prompt specially designed for your age and knowledge base. We will then spend 30 minutes getting to know each other better. The suggested time for this session is 150 minutes.
Based on your assessment performance, I will construct a curriculum specifically for you. This can cover a wide range of topics, from first principles of vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and grammar, to advanced concepts like structure, style, plot, voice, theme and literary devices. Each session will feature a 30-minute to one-hour discussion on one or more of the concepts your assessment indicated you need to shore up.
Then, we will practice each concept with in-class exercises and out-of-class assignments. Some basic exercises include, for example, sentence mapping and vocab drills, while advanced students can enjoy workshop discussions akin to the system utilized in formal collegiate writing education. We may also discuss out-of-class reading assignments to examine how other writers use literary devices and how you can emulate these skills to kick your writing up to the journeyman or even mastery level.
Finally, those students who perform exceptionally well and evince notable talent in the creative version of this course will have the full benefit of my professional Rolodex. This can mean, for instance, my introducing a student to my circle of professional writers, publishers and literary agents at each year's biggest professional-writing shindig, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. (Please note: If I invite you to join me on such a trip, your travel, room, board and attendance fees are your own responsibility. Due to my fervid belief in your abilities in such a case, however, I do not charge a fee for my time spent with you on the trip; in other words, at that level you are a full-fledged fellow writer and my personal friend, and any time spent together will be "hanging out.")
Don't miss this chance to make your writing shine. Contact me via WyzAnt today to learn more!
Please Note: The above is an overview of my proposed curriculum. I will, of course, gladly change it according to a parent's wishes and/or student's needs. Contact me via my WyzAnt email for more details.