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Writing is a skill.  Just like with any other talents--being musical, athletic, artistic, some people are just better at writing than others.  That doesn't mean you can't develop writing skills.  It just takes more practice!   Many of my weak writers are excellent at math.  I create formulas for a thesis, topic sentence, and each paragraph.  If you can remember a formula, you can write an essay.  I encourage daily reading.  The more we read, the more vocabulary and sentence structure we are exposed to.  This works its way into the brain, and enables recall when it comes time to write.   I also encourage my students to write about what they read.  We do simple things like summarizing, list questions they may have, draw or describe the setting, predict what happens next, or even come up with an alternate title for the book.  All of these things help people to become better readers, and that makes us good writers... read more

Hello Everyone,   Many parents that come to me treat their child's disability as a disease. They feel that the right thing to do, is find a cure. They are unaware that their child's disability is a sign of great gifts and talents. It is my job as a tutor and teacher, to guide parents and students as they unlock their child's hidden gifts and talents, while helping that child discover that they also can learn. 

This afternoon, I found myself writing to one of my ESL students: ______________________ Hello, XXXXXX--- I am imagining you and your dog having a fine time at the cabin as I write this. I bet you are in the cabin as well. In the first sentence at the cabin is correct, just as you would say "I am at home" rather than in home. It would also be correct to say "I'm in the house" rather than outside in the yard. When you are at home, the yard is included. When you are in the house, the yard is excluded. With cabin, the same word is used both ways. When you are at the cabin, the exterior property is included, but when you are in the cabin, it is excluded. By the way, while you might be in your yard, you would be on your property. ______________________ Preposition problems are common to all but the most advanced English language learners, including many native speakers. After sending my student this email, I realized the word office... read more

For most fluent readers, it can be hard to imagine how the sight word "have" can be tricky for emerging readers. Yet many parents drilling the Dolch sight words find "have" is misread over and over again, made to rhyme with "gave" and "behave". The child is likely making this mistake because he or she is diligently applying the guidance that a silent final E makes the preceding vowel say its name. And for many English speakers, that's the only purpose known for a silent final E. But, that only explains half of the words with a silent final E and has nothing to do with why there is a silent final E in "have". So, why is there a silent final E in "have"? Check out rule #3 in the list posted here: https://www.logicofenglish.com/resources/spelling-rules. Rule 3 states that English words do not end in I, U, V, or J. The silent final E in "have" is there to prevent the word from ending in V, just as... read more

Years ago, there was never any dispute: when you listed a bunch of things in a sentence and finished with the word 'and ________.', there should always have been a comma before the 'and', i.e. "I have lived in France, Germany, Italy, and China." The modern grammarians (is that even a word, haha) seem to think that the final comma should be omitted because they claim it is redundant. They claim that without the comma, everything should be adequately clear, for example: "I have lived in France, Germany, Italy and China." Is that really clear? I beg to differ, and for two reasons. First, the comma's use is not just as a separator of things; it is also used as a pause device. Without the last comma, that sentence reads: "I have lived in France (pause) Germany (pause) Italy and China (said quickly together)." That's not correct at all and we all know it. It should read: "I have lived in France (pause) Germany (pause) Italy (pause)... read more

Have you ever wondered what spelling bee champs know about spelling? I have, and my research led me straight to the 31 spelling rules as taught in the Logic of English method. These simple yet powerful rules explain 98% of English words when coupled with 74 phonograms. While that may not be enough to win an elite spelling bee, its a huge step forward for everyday literacy. The 31 rules are posted here: https://www.logicofenglish.com/resources/spelling-rules. While most are remarkably simple, they are quite powerful. Consider how the very first rule explains the answers to these tricky word equations: picnic + ing = picnicking notice + able = noticeable Rule 1 states that "C always softens to /s/ when followed by E, I, or Y. Otherwise, C says /k/." Thus, picnicking gets its K because without it, the word would say /picnising/. Likewise, noticeable retains its E because without it, the word would say /notikable/. I'd love... read more

English is widely regarded as being full of exceptions, and often logical/literal learners struggle with the ways in which it is commonly taught. Fortunately, though, there is logic to our language, and methods have been developed that carefully distill it into a limited number of spelling rules and phonograms. These concepts are quite simple to learn but very powerful in application, transforming English from a confusing jumble of exceptions to a deliciously rich and robust code. An introduction to these concepts is posted at https://youtu.be/4ilthoEG39M?t=19m59s. The entire video is informative and inspirational, but if you’re pressed for time and want to sample some of the real meat of the content, jump ahead to the 20 minute mark and watch for about 8 minutes. I'd love to hear what you think. Is this content helpful? Did you learn anything new? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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 talk to... read more

EX: New Feature: Spelling /ay/ at end of word, as in play or stay.   Engaging guided discovery using magnets. Teaching spelling for a sound unit that has more than one spelling option requires imprinting with specificity. Guiding the student in a discovery experience, rather than ‘talking’ an explanation can accomplish this.   For example: There are many ways to spell the phonemic sound: long/a/. Where long/a/ comes at the end of a word like play, guided discovery technique using magnets is one recognized method for demonstrating to the student where the sound falls within the word, and on that basis, how to spell the sound when in that position.   In the word /play/, student pulls down one magnet for each phoneme (sound) heard (not the letter name). Student pulls down 3 magnets saying their individual sounds simultaneously to the movement of its corresponding magnet as follows: One magnet for /p/, one for /l/, and one for the long /a/ sound.... read more

An article on math education in the NY Times (July 23, 2014) wrote this about our teacher quality and resulting education: " In addition to misunderstanding math, American students also, on average, write weakly, read poorly, think unscientifically and grasp history only superficially." I would like to focus on my area of English: writing and reading. The article discussed teacher training and techniques to improve teaching results. I would like to add that for us tutors also, techniques to present our subjects are critical to help students. Some tutors are former or current professional teachers; others may be retired people from business, housewives earning extra money, college students, or even working professionals in various fields. It's fine to teach business skills to graduate students if you are an executive, swimming to children if you are a swimming coach, or history to high schoolers if your major is history. Yet, simply tutoring in your major field may not be... read more

Yes, there is a cure for dyslexia. However, the cure is unreachable for most students. Every child facing the dyslexia label needs an individual "toolbox" with unlimited learning supplies. Those "toolbox" supplies need to be (1) whatever teaching methods (even sometimes) make learning easier for that child, (2) unlimited access to educators whose primary concern is raising the student's self esteem, (3) a waiver from having to read aloud or do math problems in front of the entire class, (4) unlimited access to pictures, stories, and hands-on activities, (5) unlimited access to appropriate technology, (6) information broken into smaller parts and/or color-coded, (7) notes, formulas, word-banks, mnemonics, modified assignments, and (8) a total acceptance of outside the box (giving the student the benefit of the doubt) types of problem solving.   Educational challenges come in about as many shapes and sizes as there are children in schools. The "One... read more

Answer: at birth. Just last week, I met a young man in third grade at a convention where I was exhibiting. In talking with this young man’s parents they disclosed that he was not reading well and struggled quite a bit. Since Dad was a late reader, they just figured their son would bloom into a reader, eventually, also. Though alarmed, I respected the parents’ belief. I did relay some tips about reading skill development however, in hopes of enlightenment so they could guide their son’s reading success more. I offered a free modified reading assessment to provide a gauge for the parents of their son’s current grade level reading ability. A shock to all…he screened at a pre-primer reading ability level in word call. His comprehension was good but was assessed at this pre-kindergarten grade level, after all. Where should these parents start? Phoneme awareness and sight word recognition leaped out first and foremost. This young man’s ability... read more

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby presents the dark side of the American Dream and does so with unusual panache. The shimmering surface of Fitzgerald's prose style mirrors the daylight optimism of the dream, reflecting the ideal of a society wherein talent and hard work routinely get rewarded and upward mobility is based at least as much on merit as on luck or charm or who you know. Ruthlessness or deceit … but who could need such things? The narrator, Nick Carraway, likewise begins this adventure with a fair measure of this robust American optimism. He envies the high society spoons in his new top drawer of polished acquaintances, interpreting their frivolity and hedonism as an abundance of life. Yet as the narrative progresses, this bright-eyed optimism dims. Nick sees, on the one hand, heirs to inherited wealth who are arrogant, bigoted, selfish, and only superficially cultured – Tom Buchanan and his ilk. On the other hand, he sees those who are... read more

There are several points in grade school that involve a critical shift in the thinking that is required in the school work.  Parent's should be aware of these points as they navigate through the abyss of raising a school-aged child and supporting the child as he/she moves forward through the grades.   3rd Grade - The third grader is transitioning from whole number thinking into understanding the concepts of parts.  They are exposed to fractions, decimals and percentages.  This is a major paradigm shift.  Students are also exposed to long division at this point.  Supporting children in this phase requires an emphasis on helping the child conceptualize whole things being split into parts.  In addition to homework support, tutoring, and supplementary work, parents should introduce cooking chores to children at this time, and make them follow a recipe that has precise measurements.  Reading comprehension and writing is also an issue here... read more

Hello everyone! Hola a todos!   Learning a second language like  Spanish or ESOL can be boring and frustrating sometimes. You just get sick of reading your textbook or completing worksheets that your teacher gives you. But believe it or not...there are several ways to make learning a second language fun no matter what age you are! You're probably thinking right now..."how?" I'll tell you how. First, think of something that you like to do in your free time like listening to music, watching a movie or reading. Say if you really enjoy listening to music...look up one of your favorite genres and see what pops up for Spanish or English music in that genre. For example, Spanish pop/rock - the Colombian artist Juanes will pop up. Check out some of his songs on youtube. Once you find a song that you like, look up the Spanish lyrics online, print them out and then try your best at translating them into English. See if you can figure out what the song means because... read more

As you know, all teachers (and tutors!) were once students. So they know all the pitfalls that can cause a student to not get their homework done. The reason can be social - maybe the student wants to get his or her work done but the distraction of all the social media is too much to resist. The reason can also be academic - maybe the subject is difficult, such as challenging concepts or perhaps they're faced with an assignment that didn't get explained well enough to be done independently. Or sometimes it's the dreaded PROCRASTINATION. That can be the worst of all reasons to not get work done because the longer you procrastinate, the more the work piles up and then the student becomes "paralyzed", overwhelmed by the mountain of work that has accumulated. When procrastination has gotten the better of you, the important thing is to not let yourself be so overwhelmed that you don't do the work at all. Here's what you do: PRIORITIZE AND GET STARTED! It is a simple phrase... read more

The Orton-Gillingham methodology is a method of reading instruction that focuses on multi-sensory learning. The basic idea is that some students, particularly students with learning issues like dyslexia, benefit from using their senses to activate and retrain parts of the brain that are used in reading. As a result, Orton-Gillingham based instruction features a lot of interesting hands-on activities. From my own experience as a teacher and tutor, Orton-Gillingham methodologies work very well when they are used as intended and when instruction is not rushed. Reading issues often develop over years and sometimes take years to successfully address. Students must be receive systematic instruction in phonics where they do not move onto the next step until they demonstrate mastery of the current step. Some students move through the levels in days while others can take months. Some tutors will be less than forthcoming about how long reading instruction can take, but I prefer to be... read more

Reading is key to writing, thinking, and solving problems Why is everyone always bugging us to read? Because becoming a powerful reader is the best way to become a powerful writer, thinker, and problem solver. When we read, we reach into the author’s mind—not to suck out her brain like a zombie—but to learn how she thinks.     Only then can we compare her thinking to our own. Only then can we learn from it. Only then can we argue with it, be persuaded by it, and enjoy it.      So, how do we do it? How do we become powerful readers? Dig in How? When you come across a word that you don’t know, look it up. I ran into pleonasmyesterday. The point is gobble down its meaning and rush back to the text. The point is to spend time understanding the word and why it was chosen. Trace its etymology—its roots. Why? So you’ll be empowered to understand any word that shares those roots. See? Getting more powerful already after just... read more

1) THE BASE: Ask yourself where you want to start. A building is strongest and most stable at the base. So that being said, you want to build a strong and stable foundation on the subject you want to learn. Concepts, rules, understanding play a big role when learning a subject. Grasping the fundamental ideology of a subject is the beginning of formulating the bases of understanding the core concepts. So in other words get a general picture of the subject and read the history behind it.   2) START SMALL BUT BROAD: Every subject has a broad category and a specific category. The more in-depth you go, the more confusing it can become if you don't have the general knowledge or a broad understanding of that subject. For example, you're not going to understand Calculus 2 without learning Calculus. Or understand how your brain creates memories or thoughts without understanding neurons. So by researching, reading, and analyzing the broad categories of the subject you can learn... read more

1) THE BASE: Ask yourself where you want to start. A building is strongest and most stable at the base. So that being said, you want to build a strong and stable foundation on the subject you want to learn. Concepts, rules, understanding play a big role when learning a subject. Grasping the fundamental ideology of a subject is the beginning of formulating the bases of understanding the core concepts. So in other words get a general picture of the subject and read the history behind it.   2) START SMALL BUT BROAD: Every subject has a broad category and a specific category. The more in-depth you go, the more confusing it can become if you don't have the general knowledge or a broad understanding of that subject. For example, you're not going to understand Calculus 2 without learning Calculus. Or understand how your brain creates memories or thoughts without understanding neurons. So by researching, reading, and analyzing the broad categories of the subject you can learn... read more

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