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I’m not prone to exaggeration, but when it comes to the words moreover and furthermore, I can safely say that I would rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick if it meant that never again would I have to hear them misused in everyday English conversations with Russian speakers. I see why they come up so often. They both appear, on the surface, to be sweetly analogous to the often-used term ????? ???? and, to Russian speakers of English, it probably feels like it is a suitable upgrade from plain old ‘and’. The problem is that using them in everyday conversations can make you sound, at best, overblown or pretentious and, at worst, vaguely threatening. That said, as with everything, there is a time and a place for introducing these words. They carry with them, a level of accuracy in meaning which other ‘plainer terms, may not have. We just need to make sure that we understand exactly when and where to use the word; and that the right time and place is... read more

I recently reviewed a question someone had about strong verbs: is arranged a strong verb?   My answer was thus:    This is probably the wrong question to ask and strong is really a vague term in which to describe a verb - by strong, I assume you mean active. Typically we use active and passive to describe transitive and intransitive verbs. That is, verbs existing in a typical subject-verb-object relationship and that don't use auxiliary verbs as crutches. A transitive verb is one which is active. (Keep in mind, I'm simplifying that definition. There's more to a transitive verb than that). These are often stronger verbs. Many times they are violent. Active voice  has an agent, which is typically a subject, it has a "strong" verb, and it typically has an object. Here's a few sample sentences where active (transitive) verbs are used:   1. Sally hit Tom. 2. Bill shot the dog. 3. I sent a message to my grandmother. Those... 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

One of the difficulties with the English language is that there are often multiple ways to represent the same sound. For example the long a sound can be seen as <ai> as in rain or <ay> as in play. It can also be spelled as just an <a> or in the combination of <a> consonant <e>, such as lane. Then there is the allusive <eigh> as in neighbor or weigh. The process of spelling is hearing a sound, then making a choice on what graphic representation (letter, or letters) will spell that word correctly. Sometimes we choose incorrectly.    There are two methods I use that help with spelling. One is the Orton-Gillingham method. This looks at syllables to determine pronunciation. They are rules, such as <ay> is used at the end of a word, like play, way, say. The other method focuses on looking at the meaning of a word and determining the pronunciation after the meaning is gathered. This method addresses all the words we can "weird"... read more

This piece was originally written for a composition teaching journal in April 2015.    Considerable hullabaloo accompanies what some deem incorrect usage of language. Seriously, did he just write hullaballoo in an academic piece? Hopefully you see what I mean. Seriously, did he just use second person? Is he engaging in meta-discourse? Composition instructors, some of whom might have throated some deep consternation in the opening lines of this discussion, tend to face the expectation that they erect themselves on mountains among a network of so-called authorities on the English language, and from such heights, prescribe, as a doctor would medication, remedies for the “diseases” of the English language. For these administrators and “language mavens” alike, one of the principle concerns of the 21st century—the age of text messages and tweets—is the shortage of correct grammar, correct, of course, in terms of standards often set by the same group of people. This, I posit,... 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

While I, as a writer, very much enjoy the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, more likely), I understand not everyone is as inclined. In fact, writing can be a very tedious task if you're not invested in your writing, whether an inbox full of emails that need responses or a 10-page paper. But I have a few quick tips that will hopefully make writing more fun for everyone! Write to a soundtrack. Now, this tip may not be for everyone, as some people find it very hard to focus with any kind of distraction. But I find that music playing softly in the background while I type away takes some of the pressure of what I'm doing, as I'm less likely to track the minutes I spend staring at the same sentence if I have a song giving my work flow and momentum. Pick whatever music you like, but I suggest nothing too catchy that you'll be tempted to stop writing and have a karaoke break. I have a playlist of music without words, which doesn't have to be all classical... read more

A friend of mine recently posed a question to me: "What exactly IS a career student? Is that the guy that has been in his senior year of high school since 2009?" No, young grasshopper, a career student is not that guy. That guy or girl is what we call a senior-senior, and he or she is usually a pretty awesome person that just really enjoys high school. I came up with the term "career student" (peep the tagline) in an effort to describe the types of high school and college students that might be interested in my services and/or what I hope students that use my services will become. A career student is a student that treats their academic life like a professional career. I know a lot of career students, and yes, you want to be one of them.  Career students have certain qualities that they have acquired with lots of effort and support. Anyone can be a career student (even people that HATE school). A lesson I learned after high school... read more

Hi all!   If you're reading this then you probably just got the same nasty surprise as I did earlier this month.  The ACT is changing the writing prompt starting in September, and students need to shift gears, A.S.A.P.!    What changed?   Let's start with timing. Students now get 40 minutes for the Writing Test.  They'll need the extra ten minutes, because the prompt, writing task, and planning stages have all been expanded.    remember the old prompt?  Sure, you've been teaching it up until a few hours, days, or maybe weeks ago.  It included 4-5 sentences on a subject having to do with education and schooling, subjects at the forefront of high school students' minds.  The first sentence introduced a problem faced by students or schools.  The second and third sentences introduced two sides of an argument, pro- and con-, and an argument supporting each side.  Finally, the prompt ended with a... read more

College application essays are one of my favorite assignments to work on with students. They are a chance for me to get to know my students better as we brainstorm topics for their personal essays. I get to hear about childhood memories, unique family traditions, and uncommon hobbies. I love helping students find their voice and tell their unique stories to colleges. My students do not share my enthusiasm for application essays. They feel immense pressure to produce their best pieces of writing to impress colleges. They have also probably heard vague tidbits of advice on how to accomplish this: stand out, don’t be cliché, and be interesting. It’s no wonder that a lot of students have trouble finding a place to start. Here are a few tips to make college application essays less scary: 1. Reading other essays: Read other well-written college application essays. Many colleges release strong application essays from previous years. Reading an array of these essays... read more

I recently published a new book - a collection of haiku.   A Good Day to Die is a collection of haiku in traditional form, written by acclaimed author Carl Weaver. The subjects of his works are traditional – nature, seasons, animal life, other people, changing emotional state – but also include some poems of passion and romance.   This was done all in Microsoft Word - a full-length book manuscript. Easy to do if you know how. Need help putting your project together? Let me know and I can help you out.

For parents  -- and tutors looking for tips -- I am interested in speaking with you about your tutoring needs, or plans. I live conveniently, in Newton Centre, and have worked with many high school students in the greater Boston area. My students (and their parents)  are very enthusiastic about my special technique. The methods I use include some of the following: reading for speed, reading for context, skimming, customized exercises, quizzes designed by me, alternative study styles, and more.    My students have shown dramatic improvement on the SAT and ACT, as well as in English class, and in their ability to communicate well in writing. This is a skill that will carry them through many college assignments, and I teach my students to edit their own writing.   After evaluating each student's reading and writing level, I adapt my curriculum to account for their weakest areas.  The topics we may cover include analytical writing, composition,... read more

For many students, last year in school was frustrating and there were needs that perhaps were not appropriately met.  Maybe it was accommodations needed that were not in place or it was study or organizational skills that are lacking and are not being supported in school.  Or, if your child is in high school, perhaps they're struggling with writing -- research papers, essays, or preparing for the writing portion of the college admissions exams.   Summer is the time to evaluate what has happened and where things need to improve for the upcoming school year.  Every school year matters and ensuring that your child is realizing success vs. struggles can make all the difference.  A few tips include: Ensuring that your child has a quiet area for school/homework.  TV, video games, and even texting cannot and should not compete with their ability to focus; Online calendars are great, yet many students do better with an actual calendar/day... read more

As a high school English teacher I am constantly asked the same question for writing assignments, “how many paragraphs does it need to be?” I hate this question. I hate that somewhere students were taught that the number paragraphs dictates the quality of the writing. That someone has quantified how many paragraphs make a good essay. I can name names, but for anyone who knows writing instruction and the theories behind it, you know who I am referring to and probably know the disciples of her method. Perhaps you are one of them, preaching the structure of one paragraph for your introduction, complete with hook and thesis. Three paragraphs for your body, full of topic sentences and transitions. Finally the concluding paragraph, I can’t wait to hear you restate your thesis! My question is a simple one. When do we see this method at work after high school?  When in a college class would a paragraph essay be sufficient for talking about the effects of over-expansion... read more

It does happen sometimes- you've met a new student once, or twice, and they don't return. There are many possible reasons for this; it could be the tutor's approach, the student's expectations, or other external factors. This happened to me recently, despite all my tutoring experience, and I'll explain why. This college student came to me two days before an essay was due, with a poor first draft full of grammatical issues along with a poor grasp of the topic and supporting readings for it. She was desperate, and I believe expected me to just fix her paper for her. When I asked her how she deals with her second-language grammar problems, she explained that she uses an online program that supposedly corrects her grammar on her submitted draft. That is, she isn't really learning the grammar herself, but depending on a software program. In addition, she didn't grasp the admittedly-hard readings assigned in her text, and was very vague on her thesis. I reviewed the essay and suggested that... read more

You have one hour with a college prep specialist who can help make your admissions/scholarship essays award winning.  How can you maximize your time?  Here are five tips to get the most out of your time:   Come Prepared. - Bring the essay prompts from each of your colleges.  Bring a sample personal statement and resume.  Be sure to have any information necessary to complete an admissions essay, to include your GPA, test scores, and any major accomplishments. Know Thyself - Always know your stats.  During this time, knowing your GPA and SAT score is as important as knowing your name and birthdate.  Also, know (and have a list of) your interests, hobbies, favorite subjects, etc.  Have an idea of at least 3 possible majors and careers you would like to explore. Be on Time - There is a lot to cover!  The better prepared and earlier you are, the more likely we are to get a lot done. Also, I tend to take my time... read more

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