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In today's Writing Rundown, I want to leave the brainstorming process for a bit and discuss responding to a prompt. Take a look at the prompt I used for my last Literature Spotlight, “The Blanks Left Empty”: AP Literature Open-Ended Prompt, 1975, #2: Unlike the novelist, the writer of a play does not use his own voice and only rarely uses a narrator’s voice to guide the audience’s responses to character and action. Select a play you have read and write an essay in which you explain the techniques the playwright uses to guide his audience’s responses to the central characters and the action. You might consider the effect on the audience of things like setting, the use of comparable and contrasting characters, and the characters’ responses to each other. Support your argument with specific references to the play. Do not give a plot summary. Whew! That's a lot of information to sift through. Unfortunately, many high school and college-level writing prompts are as... read more

Congratulations to Alex Z., in my Critical Reading Class at Focus Education. For the past year or so Alex has been writing critical analyses of articles in TIME Magazine based on prompts I assign. While Alex is obviously super gifted, he's thrived in the class, and will be continuing even now-- despite having gotten a perfect 800 score in a test designed for kids 3 years older than he is! WOW! An eighth grader with already a 2270 on an official SAT! He could skip high school and go straight to the Ivy League (although I might suggest Williams or Amherst instead). Should I be proud or what? Congratulations also to Ryan of Santa Clarita-- who was accepted today at UC Irvine. Just the first of many "fat envelopes" I expect will be arriving (digitally) this spring. Not to mention my student in Bel Air Crest: a fourth grader who just wrote a fantastic paper on "Wuthering Heights." She's already catching onto SAT techniques, too. In a few months she'll be... read more

As I have tutored over time via instant messaging, certain problems come up again and again among the students that I have taught English writing to.   As I have corrected student essays over the past few years online, I have developed this set of advice for writers with less experience.  Much of this advice is influenced by Strunk & White's and Payne, so I don't claim much originality here.   General organizational advice for essays: 1. Don’t take the reader’s attention for granted. In the introduction, use attention-getting devices, such as a set of leading questions, interesting statistics, a famous quote from a famous person, a striking assertion or claim, etc. The following sentences in the first paragraph should narrow down the topic to the more specific point made in the thesis. 2. Always put the thesis statement, or main point to be proven or explained, at the end of the first paragraph. Aim to write it as a single sentence, not two... read more

The two rules for rounding numbers are Round your numbers only once (in one step), and Round 5's to the nearest even digit -- up or down as needed.   Below I explain why.   In school they usually teach you to round all 5's up to the next digit. For example, 1.45 is rounded to 1.5, 1.65 is rounded to 1.7, 3.225 is rounded to 3.23, etc.   This is wrong because it introduces what we call "systematic error": an error consistently wrong in one direction. In rounding all 5's up, you end up with an average that is too high. ("Random error" goes high or low of the true value randomly, so the average is close to the real value.)   The reason is that 5 is directly in the middle of the digits we round, so we must round it up half the time, and down half the time.   To make this more clear, look at the digits we round to another number: 1, 2, 3, 4 we round down. 6, 7, 8, 9 we round up. (0 we just truncate,... read more

  LeapFrog LeapFrog LeapReader System Learn to Read 10 Book Bundle   This is an excellent resource for a beginner novice reader. The systematic reading language format gives the reader a higher level of self-confidence and raises the level of reading in small increments. It keeps the student involved and encourages him or her to learn and develop successful reading strategies and techniques.   Happy Reading!!!   LeapFrog LeapReader Learn to Read, Volume 1

Typically, I don't follow a set of rules when I go to tutoring; I work based on what the students needs are.  But here are a few things that I have noticed have improved my comfort level with new students and their and heir families comfort level with me.   1.  Find out what activities your student is interested in outside of the subject you're tutoring in.  The parent may mention an activity they do or just ask; this breaks the ice and lets them see you as more than someone to help with homework.   2.  Don't be afraid to be goofy.  Most little kids love silly jokes, middle schoolers will pretend like they don't, but really they do, and high schoolers may laugh right then or giggle to themselves about it later.  Oh, and adults might be a tougher bunch, but tap into their sense of humor a bit.   3.  Make friends with their pets.  A lot of families have pets that will greet you sometime during your meeting... read more

This post is about several things that I encountered after two weeks of working with my new Wyzant students. I will start with the good then the bad... It never hurts to be prepared. Wyzant requires you to submit lessons after the lesson occurs. Submitting a lesson also requires a 25 word minimum lesson review. While that is great, why not prepare a lesson plan before hand? That is exactly what I do. This is one I submitted today: Lesson 2-Proofreading Tuesday- 10/2/12 6:00pm-7:00pm Note: Objectives Learning punctuation. Proofreading sentences Correcting DLR quiz mistakes DLR homework Checking in-Last Week in Review Go over how DLR study guide worked Go over “Homework”- “How to Write a Paragraph”, “What Does Not Belong” Activity 1 DLR 30 minutes Completion of DLR homework activities -Critical sentences on how to make sentences better and concise DLR Quiz corrections -Working on understanding that punctuation... 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

OK, so you’ve been asked to do a Pivot Table for the first time? And just like everyone else, you feel somewhat intimidated; “what’s going to happen to my data if I screw up my Pivot Table?”; “Can I undo my changes?”; “Can I delete my Pivot Table?”; “How long does it take to create a Pivot Table?”; “What is a Pivot Table in the first place?” Let’s give the short answers first: “Nothing”, “Yes”, “Yes”, “30 seconds to an hour or more”, “A summarized view of your data grouped by selected fields”.   And yes, as mentioned in other posts, most job interviews for admin, accounting or office positions where Excel is used heavily will include a question on Pivot Tables – so be prepared! The first thing you need prior to creating a Pivot Table is a data set in rows and columns, and preferably a normalized data set; by normalized, I mean a clean data set where individual records are populated in rows and unique field headers are in columns. Once you start working... read more


While in many tutorial exercises as well as in job interviews, you may be asked to create a VLOOKUP formula, in the real world you will quickly find that INDEX/MATCH is a far better solution. To understand why, let's look at the syntax of each: VLOOKUP(lookup_value, array, col-num, lookup_type) VLOOKUP(what?, where?, which column? , approximate search: yes or no?), just like HLOOKUP, refers to a specific column number (or row) starting from the first column (or row) of your index search (the “where”). Why the first column (or row)? Because this is where Excel will look for your "what" !! This means you always have to include at the very least all columns (or rows) starting from the "what" column (or row) all the way to the column_index (or row_index) number in the "where" range. For example, if a customer discount is in column P, and customer name is in column C, your VLOOKUP function will look something like... read more

If you are working in a Microsoft environment, Excel or Word and on a laptop, you may have been frustrated having to select the Fn key together with the primary F1-F12 keys to run the desired command. While the fix is easy on a Mac, it is not so on a PC. Here are the instructions on how to do this on your PC (Windows 10) 1) In your Search Windows Box, type “UEFI”; this will bring a pop-up option “Change Advanced Startup Options”. 2) Select this option, in the next window select “Advanced Startup” and click on the button “Restart Now” (this will restart your computer) 3) Upon restart select “Advanced Options / UEFI Firmware settings” 4) Click on RESTART 5) Once the computer restarts, you will find a menu with several drop-down lists; a. select “POST behavior - Fn Lock Options”. 6) The default is Lock Mode Disabled / Standard. a. Select “Lock Mode Enable / Secondary” That’s it!! Confirm and Exit and your settings are... read more

One question that inevitably crops up is what my job is. I am a full-time tutor. This is all I do. Very few tutors work full-time, and I have a feeling that many other tutors (or anyone else reading this) may have some questions about what it means to be a full-time tutor. Thus, here we are... Obviously, in order to be a full-time tutor, one must first have a love for tutoring. Tutoring is a very mentally straining job, and if you do not have a love for it, tutoring will wear you out fast. One thing that might not be so obvious is that one must also love driving. About a third of the time that I am "working", I am just driving to meet my next student. Having a good sense of direction and being able to read maps is also handy of course. Another thing that a newcomer to full-time tutoring may not realize is the high time commitment. I was an analyst before being a tutor, and in order to make what I would have been earning, I work seven days a week, each day working... read more

What is the best way to improve your SAT Reading score? I find that most students lose points on the Reading section because of the test's challenging vocabulary. As you go through the practice tests, if you find that you are not familiar with many of the words, take the time to write them out on separate flash cards. Then, look them up in the dictionary and write the definitions on the flip side. You can also buy pre-made SAT vocabulary flash cards. Whether you make them or buy them, test your memory with flash cards for about 20 minutes a day.

I understand some parents are cagy or wary of online tutoring. After all - schools teach face-to-face, don't they? But, have you noticed how online services are exploding and brick/mortar schools are slowly but steadily disappearing? The internet is no longer the future - it is here - now! Online tutoring brings multiple advantages for everybody. 1. Very, very flexible. The student can be anywhere. At school on lunch break - Overseas - Broken leg in bed - sorry. 2. Nobody needs to drive in crazy traffic and risk an accident. 3. The student has immediate access to my Mac with thousands of topics - explanations and worked solutions.  4. You get copies of the work we did together for review / better understanding. Smart phone or PC! No lost paper notes. 5. Online we share screens and audio in real-time just as if we were sitting at the same table. 6. Can cancel and reschedule at the last minute. In-person carries a 24-hour minimum. 7. Class... read more

Excel has done wonders for me lately--over the last few years and months. From allowing me to analyzing my situation to determine that I could retiring early at 55 years old; increase my savings; pay off debts; to purchase my new retirement home against the back drop of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. Excel has been my money GPS, making it pleasure to manager my money--it can be yours too. Owners, analysis and others inside large and small business everyday use Excel for tracking, forecasting and analyzing their revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities and other matter, to keep their operations running smooth and profitable. Why shouldn’t you use Excel to do the same for your home? You’ll be smiling all the way to the bank and may eventually living life grandly. I recall as a child how very poor my family was in Mississippi. So, poor that at times we had no utilities like water, electric and gas. We had to cook food over an open fire, made in the metal vegetable draw, from... read more

The New Year is just around the corner and many of us will be making pledge to do a better job of managing our money. But doing a better job goes beyond just saying it and hoping it. Sometimes you need help and the right tool to create that plan. Excel can be an excellenat tool to do just that. Contact me through WyzAnt and I will provide you the right training for using the Excel tool to accomplish your goals.     Things you can do with Excel to better manage your money: Increase your income usage efficiency Eliminate waste and make dollars by saving dollars Create a path to prosperity Spend within your means Prepare annual income/spending plan Plan your savings Plan major purchases Know how much of your money is going where Identify consequence (months later) of excessive spending now Prepare different budget for various if situations Accurately re-adjust your financial plan if circumstances change Identify... read more

Here's a method that is helping students lock in those AR, ER, and IR verbs! So, you nod your head a lot and smile while your instructor explains how to conjugate verbs but you really, really aren't getting how they work at all! Sound familiar? Although you might be puzzled, there’s actually a reason that Spanish verbs have different endings for each tense. Well, are you ready to learn? First of all, why do we even need to change the ending of the verbs in Spanish? Answer: so that people know who in the world we are talking about! In English, we have those wonderful pronouns like “I, you, he, she, it, we, and they” tell us what or who we are talking about. We pretty much use them all the time - yep, can't live without them. The good news is, we also have them in Spanish! The difference is that in Spanish we have the choice to use them or not. We have choices people, choices! When we change the ending of the verb in Spanish that's how we know who or what... read more

Prep your Homeschoolers to be Spanish Savvy! The moment has come... Your homeschool counselor has added Spanish class to your Homeschool schedule. And the only thing you remember from your highschool Spanish is 'hola' and 'adios'! Whew! Good thing I started these super savvy blogs, right?😀 Ok, no time to waste here, stick with me and launch your child into pure Spanish savvy! First step of success is to encourage your Homeschoolers to love.. Yes love.. that he gets to learn Spanish because not everyone gets this chance. Then talk about how much Spanish he,she already knows (and you too). This would be a terrific conversation while sitting at your favorite Taco shop on, of course Taco Tuesday! Words you both already know,for example, taco, burrito, tortilla- you get where I am going with this, right? Why the pre prep talk? Easy. Because in all of my 25 years of teaching and tutoring Spanish, there is one majorly savvy important fact-Attitude is everything... read more

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