Search

Blogs Blogs

Writing Blogs

Newest Most Active

Sometimes overcoming feeling stuck on a writing assignment can be as easy as expressing your thoughts out loud.  If a good friend (or perhaps someone else from your target audience) came to you, and you decided to share on this assignment topic, what would you say?  Express this out loud, and then before you forget, write it down.    

Hey everyone, I'm Joel! I'm just crazy about language and have spent the last ten years learning dialects from the clicking Xhosa to the gaffable Yiddish. I'm excited to help you out with your writing because its is something I have been passionate about for a long time. But, at the end of the day this is something new for me and I'm looking forward to getting to know you as we begin this adventure if creativity, clarity and self-expression. Tally-ho!

Here in New Jersey, all public school students in grades 3-11 will be taking the PARCC test in March, and there is considerable anxiety about what the results of this new and very different test will be. To address this concern, I have added new tools and curriculum to my tutoring tool-box. This new material is designed to complement the PARCC prep workbooks and to encourage students to read and write about texts that are slightly more difficult than they are accustomed to. The questions I provide mirror the PARCC, focusing on literary elements, content, theme, and tone.    Students in grades 1-3 have been reading fables, trickster tales, and tall tales. They are asked to compare and contrast these stories to each other and to compose written responses that are 5-7 sentences long. This is difficult for them, especially because I stress that they can only write each idea once. Quotes do not count for length!   My fourth and fifth grade students have been... read more

I received a draft of an essay from a student last week.  She asked me to proof it and give her feedback.  The essay was for a scholarship.  In short, it was a mess.  There was no introduction, no thesis, no clear points -- in other words, it was nearly a random collection of grammatically incorrect sentences. There was really no place to start editing/proofing.   I guess I could have said lots of comforting things about how the student had tried and how the thoughts were there but the format needed work.  However, both comments would have been lies.  Now that I am retired and out of the classroom, I have become more honest.  In the college classroom, it was drilled into me as a young teaching assistant that I needed to have something positive to say on every assignment.  As a retired professor, I do not feel that need - at least not as strongly.   Tearing students down is not the right thing to do.  However, telling... read more

1. Repeating themselves.    In high school (and sometime beyond) there are unhelpful rules from teachers relating to number of paragraphs, minimum lines per paragraph, and number of quotes per paragraph. Page length, word count, and more fit under this heading as well. Too many times I've seen students try to say the same thing in a different way in order to puff up their writing to hit a word count. It's easier to just think some more about the subject matter!   2. Trying to sound academic (or something).    Many a time I'll talk to a student and ask their opinion about some topic or relevant subject. They'll explain themselves clearly and concisely, and sometimes even with some with and humor. Then, when it's time to write, they start saying things like: "This subject is truly fascinating, as I believe that it is truly relevant for children in our society to become educated about many of these diverse and sundry topics".... read more

Here are few few pieces of advice to motivate you while writing- fiction or nonfiction!   First and foremost, know your subject.  If you are writing a story, know your characters.  If you are writing an essay, research the topic.  The more information you have, the clearer your topic becomes to explain or argue.     Second, be passionate!  Whether you are writing about what on earth Heathcliffe's deal with Cathy was, the lifecycle of a frog, or why orange Starburst are better than yellow, you need to be invested in what you write. Sometimes you are given boring topics- regardless, try to put a bit of yourself in your writing.  If you are bored writing it, your audience will be bored reading it.  When all else fails, try to fall back on your personal beliefs and values for inspiration; for example, "According to three out of four students at Spring Hill Middle School, Minecraft is the best video game of this generation... read more

Hello, Peggy and Jake!   I just wanted to put in writing some of the topics that were discussed earlier today.     First and foremost, Jake should hopefully be able to locate his writing folder.     Secondly, the sources we found online for his persuasive essay are listed on the back of the note paper I gave to Jake.  One was a census pdf from 2012 listing the average American income, and the other was from CollegeBoard.org listing the average cost of various types of collges (2-year, 4-year, public, private, and so on).  This information should be used to compare the cost of tuition to the average wages earned in a family, and then further discuss how the current tuition rate isn't affordable without scholarships and/or student loans. If he hasn't mentioned it in his essay already, he should consider adding a section on how tuition isn't the only expense that a family faces at college (i.e. food, dorms, entertainment, etc... read more

       Book, books... Table, tables... Phone, phones... Day, days... So... life, lifes, right? Nope! The plural of life is lives. And, isn't the plural of sheep sheeps? Nope! The plural of sheep is sheep. It's the same word.      Have you ever wondered how to handle all of the rules and exceptions to rules in the English language? Here is an introduction (a beginning) to understanding the rules about plural nouns. Hopefully, it will make figuring out how to change that word less of a guessing game and more of a skill. '   Plurals What is a plural noun? A plural noun is a person, place, or thing of which there is more than one. Example: If there is more than one phone, they are called phones. When should I make a noun plural? Make a noun plural when there is more than one of what that noun represents How do I make a noun plural? Usually,... read more

For many (most?) high school students, compulsory writing evokes frightful visions of blue essay pamphlets, red editorial comments, and a taunting landscape of white paper refusing to be occupied. The battle between disinterest in the topic and angst towards a looming deadline is matched only by the uncertainty of having anything worth saying, fear of having the ability to say it well, or both.   Some students choose to bide their time, sure that when they leave their high school (and college) self behind they will likewise leave behind ever having to do a compulsory writing assignment again, but we live in a time, an age, and a culture that is dominated by social media, and social media is dominated by posting, blogging, emailing, texting, tweeting, retweeting… in other words, words. That means that regardless what your plans for the future are, you are going to have to write, and if you are going to have to do it anyway you might as well choose to make friends with the... read more

Most writing geeks are not fans of adverbs, and I'm no exception. If you believe you're a good writer who has mastered the basics (maybe you've received good comments from your teachers, professors, or peers), consider eliminating as many adverbs as you can from your writing and replacing them with good, strong verbs.    An example: She walked slowly into the classroom.   That's correct usage, but this is a post about writing, not grammar. And from a writing standpoint, that sentence is boring and not very informative. Is she walking slowly because she's, well, a slow walker? Or is she sad? Infirm? Afraid? A strong verb can give the reader a lot more information about what's going on.   She trudged into the classroom. (Here, I think she's sad; maybe she's bummed that she forgot her homework.) She drifted into the classroom. (I think she's daydreaming about something. Maybe her boyfriend is out in the hall.) She staggered into the... read more

Who wouldn't like to communicate clearly and persuasively to others on the first try?  After all, we have ideas and opinions that are important to us!  While many people can make compelling arguments in person, explaining these same ideas in writing can seem more challenging.  Writing well is a process that involves research, planning, and revision.  Once you have an initial draft about a topic that you have carefully considered, here are some easy editing tips that are frequently overlooked but greatly help to keep your ideas clear and well organized. Writing clear sentences is half the battle so keep these basic rules in mind . . . 1.  Capitalize new sentences.  This may seem very obvious, but people often fail to do so in their haste or due to errors while typing on assorted devices.  Every time you start a new sentence, be sure to capitalize the first letter of the first word.  Example:  Busy writers sometimes forget to... read more

I have been involved education as long as I can remember. My parents were educators. They helped start a school, were on the board of another, and were founding board members of the North Dakota Home School Association. I started teaching at the age of thirteen, as a volunteer. I have taught professionally, for over fourteen years. I have coached soccer. I co-founded a school and taught a wide array of subjects there for three years, including Latin, Rhetoric, General Science, and History. For nearly twelve years, I have been an education consultant, tutor, and mentor. I am prepared to tutor students in all subjects through high school, and I am well-versed in ACT and SAT preparation. I also do some college-level tutoring, particularly in English, Writing, Study Skills, and other humanities-related subjects. Feel free to ask for more details. I tutor adult students in a variety of subjects, and I have also had success in the past working with students who have a variety of... read more

Ernest Hemingway is one of the American writers of all time, but that did not happen overnight. Hemingway was a great writer because he accepted the fact that even great writers write terrible first drafts. The real magic happens in revision. As a writer, the most important thing to do is write. The time to be critical of your writing is when you come back to it for revision later. 

In school, teachers will tell you the exact order in which they want you to write an essay. Often times they will want you to start with an outline, develop a thesis, gather evidence, and then write your essay. However, the more essays that you write, the more that you will realize that this sequence does not work for everyone. In college, I realized that I often did not develop a good thesis until after I already finished my essay. This is just fine; you can change your thesis after you finish your essay as long as you leave yourself adequate time for revision. You have to do what works best for you.

Don't feel bad if your personal narrative uses a lot of the word "I." It's very common, and it's hard to avoid. After all, we're writing about ourselves. Ultimately, though, too much of the word "I" can weaken your essay (and even make or break your college acceptance). Basically, repetition of the word "I" makes writing boring. Not only does it keep sentence structure generic, it also makes you as the author seem self-centered. If you want your essay to stand out and capture readers' interest, it's time to do something about the "I" problem. Here's how to do it: First, you'll need to highlight or underline every instance of the word "I" in your essay. It's easiest to do this on your word processor, since editing will be easier on the computer. Now, you're going to need to get rid of some of those pesky pronouns. A good rule of thumb is five I's per essay. Ten might be OK. Any more, and we've got some work to do. Some... read more

Verbs breathe life into your writing. They're responsible for the "vivid images" that your English teacher is always raving about. But frankly, our first drafts almost never use the right verbs; too often, they're chock full of the verb "to be." "Is" and "are" make writing bland. Great writers use them sparingly, and so should we. Here are three easy ways to get rid of the verb "to be" quickly and easily. Use metaphor. "My mom was a strict woman" becomes "My mom ruled the household with an iron fist." Change nouns and adjectives into verbs. "I am a student at Wellesley College" becomes "I study at Wellesley College." "I was happy" becomes "I rejoiced." Creatively rework your sentence by changing the subject. "We were all too tired to go on" becomes "Exhaustion overwhelmed us." See how many instances of the verb "to be"...

Teaching, Poverty and Society By Ricardo Giraldo C, MA Education, MBA Business Economics                  Teaching and learning are an essential part of life; however not everyone is willing to teach sharing their knowledge. We can hear many excuses to avoid teaching to someone like "you have to love children to be a teacher, teachers are special people, to be a teacher you must have a lot of patience and motivation, too much work and low gratification, teaching someone is bringing competition into your workplace, threatens your job stability and more. The list of excuses go on and on, but at the end they are only dramatic excuses that accomplishes nothing because they do not help to reduce the gaps of poverty and the development of a society.                 Learning about life and basic education begins in the home, the schools and finished in the streets; all these experiences... read more

As a journeyman author of fiction, poetry, and general web content, it's getting harder and harder to not talk about the subject of writing. I feel as if all the writing I've done up until this point in my life was training, and the disappointment of sloppy wordsmithing over the years was just practice for even bigger disappointments. As a writer, it's important to remember you are one of many, many, many, many, many others out there trying to do the exact same thing; get published.   It's certainly hard to stay positive in world where getting a short story published is about as common as winning $100 on a scratch off. It happens, and you hear people talk about how it happened to them, but some of us just don't pick the lucky cards (or think of the lucky ideas). But every once in a while you come across an idea that is worth investing in. And you know it's probably not as original as you say it is, but the genre is unique (to you) and the plot is ripe for exploring. So... read more

Writing Blogs RSS feed