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At a conference in town earlier this year, I presented several panel discussions centering around the difficulty of defining and quantifying art. Our discussions in these panels got me thinking about literature, and how one of my main points could apply equally easily to much of the literature that students read in high school. The point in question is this: one of the defining characteristics of art, in my view, is that it is something that creates an emotional response in the viewer. Experiencing it changes you in some way. This is easy to see when the emotions are ones we generally see as 'positive;' if a play makes your heart swell with hope for the future, or a ballet duet makes you flush with the excitement of new love, or an epic novel makes your heart race with anxiety over the safety of the main characters, it's easy to argue that those works are art and have changed you. But what if the emotions you experience are more negative – what if a novel bores you, frustrates... read more

To my fellow educators and students,   I know that it is very tempting to give your students answers to their questions immediately, but sometimes it's best to let a student struggle a little. Asking students why they are doing what they are doing can help students to make lasting connections that go beyond that next test or ACT exam. This approach can be frustrating for both teachers and students at times, but it is quite rewarding.   I have a student who was completely scared about sharing their opinion on an answer they gave. Throughout most of the lesson i refused to give them a yea or nay answer. I asked them to talk it out and see if they could understand why they did what they did. The student was correct, but having students explain their answer and even get frustrated with me some helped this student achieve deeper understanding of the material. 

It's fairly likely that you've heard someone talk about "mindfulness." It's less likely that you know exactly what mindfulness entails, and even less likely that you've heard of Ellen Langer, the "mother of mindfulness" in Western academia. In fact, even if you Googled mindfulness you'd find credit for its popularity in the West given to a man named Jon Kabat-Zinn. Langer's name doesn't appear anywhere on the first page of Google's results, so you probably wouldn't learn that she earned her PhD and began her line of research around the same time as Kabat-Zinn, and that the groundbreaking nature of her work led her to become the first woman tenured in the Psychology Department at Harvard in 1981. Her research has had profound effects on how we think about everything from aging and mental health to decision-making and learning. So even if you don't know her name, it is likely that in one way or another you are familiar with some of her research. The focus of this... read more

Students are often frustrated when trying to learn a foreign language because they can't organize the material like they are used to doing in other subjects.  Language is fluid and we are able to finally understand foreign words when we let go and allow the right side of our brains to take over.  Much of understanding is intuitive and contextual, so give yourself permission to guess what is being said or written.  The key is to think through the words and let them come alive in your brain, so you can use them later.  That's how you learned your native tongue.  Grammar should be a supplement to your language acquisition, not the main player.  I always recommend online courses with pictures, sound and familiar scenes between actors...like a play on stage, but in German.   You know the German word Kindergarten because you have heard it so many times in the context of your life.  That is how you can learn new German words....find a program... read more

Have you ever received a graded essay handed back with the phrase, "Needs more structure," or "structure needs work?"   Creating a structure for any written word, whether it is poem, essay, news brief, or novel, is an integral part of the message you intend to convey. Using long, convoluted sentences as means to convince the reader that your argument is very simple will usually only give the opposite impression; simple arguments are best conveyed with short, simple sentences. (For example, the opposite is true in Jonathan Swift's essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which he uses didactic and complex language in an effort to "convince" the people of England that the solution to their hunger and poverty problem is to eat their starving infant children; his complex sentences reflect the sarcastic and satiric nature of his essay, reflecting that he does not see cannibalism as a real solution.)   Structure also helps you keep... read more

From my experience, designing a lesson for one student could be challenging due to not being able to include group or pair-work, which is not only a great way for the students to apply what they have just learned with a fellow classmate allowing them to feel more comfortable to make mistakes but also gives the teacher the opportunity to walk around and listen in and find common errors that can be brought up to the class as a whole instead of singling out a single student's mistake possibly discouraging them, but also because after some time the student can easily get bored deterring them from fully learning the material the tutor is teaching. Here are five things I include in each lesson to ensure that the student is actively learning and having a fun time doing so as well.   1) Make your first lesson informal so they feel comfortable with you from the get-go. They will be hesitant until they feel it is okay to mistakes and the sooner you can get them to let their guard... read more

Steps to Developing Effective Study Skills Step 1: Assessing Your Learning Style Step 2: Knowing Your Interests Step 3: Developing Appropriate Tools to Enhance Studying Step 4: Making the Subject Work for You (even if you hate it or don’t get it) Step 5: Constructing a Learning-Style-Friendly Environment Step 6: Other Considerations in Developing Effective Study Skills When we sit down to study, most of us follow a routine. We get our books together, get comfy (at a desk, on the bed, sitting on the floor, etc.), and set to work. Some of us turn on the TV or some music; others of us make our environment as quiet as it can be. What we do to study varies, but generally we reread our notes, textbooks, or study guides, and call it a day. The day of the test, we struggle to recall what we studied. Afterwards, we admonish ourselves for not studying hard enough or long enough, and doubt our performance. Does this sound familiar? It doesn’t need to be this way. Effective... read more

Our understanding of the relationship between memory and learning continues to improve. Why not benefit from the latest research by incorporating some of these findings into your own study habits? I help my students come up with creative ways to do this all the time, and wanted to share one of the more helpful summaries I've come across about what works and what doesn't.    Here are a few highlights: Link new information to things you already know Actively participate in your own learning Create both a visual and a verbal memory for the same information Whenever possible, study in an environment that is similar to the testing environment Spread studying out over several days, rather than cramming Avoid multitasking when learning difficult or dense material Review information you're trying to memorize right before you go to sleep Quiz yourself frequently to practice retrieving these memories, making them stronger in the process   You... read more

The Economist recently published an article with some surprising research findings about stress. Contrary to popular belief, stress is not always bad, nor is it the amount of stress that matters. Rather, the key determinant of its impact on performance and health is largely psychological.    In one study, researchers divided a set of GRE test takers into two groups. Saliva samples were taken to establish baseline stress levels for all participants. Then one group was told that stress during practice exams is natural and can improve performance, while the other group just took the test. Saliva samples were taken at the end of the exam, and the results from both groups indicated similar levels of stress. BUT, the group that had learned stress can be helpful scored higher on the practice test (and, several months later, on the actual GRE) than those who just took the test.    Even more impressively, in 2012 a group of researchers scoured through... read more

Getting Started I took the exam at Irvine Valley College. Unlike most schools, whose administrators post classroom assignments on a billboard, IVC showed up around 8:15, had students stand in the quad, and verbally had students split into separate groups like cattle. Then students ended up having to walk down a confusing pathway to a classroom, where we had to have our IDs checked one-by-one. You can tell which schools have the check-in process down, and which schools need to work on it. IVC is definitely a school that can stand to be more efficient. Once in the room, the proctor had difficulty with the test set-up process. She was unaware of the fact that there were now three components that come with the exam. It used to be that there was just a test booklet and an answer sheet. Now, with the revised exam, there is an essay booklet as well. I don’t think that she was supposed to hand out the essay booklet at the beginning of the administration, especially because... read more

Right now, most students (and a good many teachers!) are counting down the days til school is over!  For those of us whose students have learning challenges, we are well aware that summer vacation means freedom from anxiety-inducing academic subjects.  However, these are the very students for whom it is essential that learning continue into the summer months.  Students who fail to continue to at least maintain the progress gained over the school year can actually lose ground over the summer - I've seen it happen.  So, if you want to keep your students' motivation alive during the warm weather months, it's vital to design summer learning that is truly unique to June, July, and August.   What is great about summer learning is that you can wrap it together with what is taking place in your students' lives - camping, being outdoors, gardening, astronomy - whatever is of interest to your student, you can turn into lessons in all subjects being taught. ... read more

When you're studying before a test, the question of how to allocate your study time inevitably arises. What should you study first? Where should you spend the most time? Janet Metcalfe and Nate Kornell designed three clever experiments to find out. In the first experiment, participants were allowed to choose how to allocate their study time. They were tasked with learning English-Spanish word pairs of varying difficulty (easy, medium, and difficult), under three different timing conditions (5s, 15s, or 60s). In each trial, one pair from each category appeared and participants could choose where to spend their study time. The most important takeaway from this experiment was that, under tight timing conditions, allocating study time to the easiest items was the most effective strategy. However, Metcalfe suspected that advantage would shift to medium items if participants were forced to spend the bulk of their study time on them. So, in Experiment 2, participants... read more

As tutors, we want our students to grasp the material, but having the student say "I get it" is not enough of an indicator. Some students are too reserved to say that they don't get it, some are too proud, and some just want to get the session over with as quickly as possible. We, as tutors, have the responsibility to test their supposed understanding by giving them practice problems to see if they're capable of solving them on their own. 

Tutoring is a two way street. Both sides of the party need to put in 110% of effort in order to see positive results.   A tutor needs to be enthusiastic about the subject. They need to be passionate about what they are teaching. Throughout my college career, I had a better experience and better results in classes where my professor was enthusiastic about the class. Adversely, teachers who don't show enthusiasm, do not connect with the students, and the students refuse to create that connection as well.    Another healthy tutoring tip is patience. Nobody likes a pushy tutor! Yes, be assertive, but being too pushy will annoy the student. Patience allows the student to digest the material and to create cognitive connections.   Positive encouragement is also a good way to make lessons fun. There are teachers who scare their students by giving them discouragement. When a teacher gives the student positive encouragement, the student feels good... read more

All cancellations must be made in writing (through WyzAnt messaging) before 36 hours of the lesson start time. If you are cancelling for a reason other than illness or emergency, you will be charged the full cancellation fee equal to the full amount of the lesson.  If you are sick, ill, or not feeling well, you are eligible to receive a discounted cancellation fee ($15-$20, up to 1/2 of the full lesson fee) only if you choose to reschedule the lesson within 1 week (otherwise you will be charged the full cancellation fee equal to the full amount of the lesson). If there is a holiday or special observance, you are eligible to receive a discounted cancellation fee ($15-$20, up to 1/2 of the full lesson fee) only if you choose to reschedule the lesson within 1 week (otherwise you will be charged the full cancellation fee equal to the full amount of the lesson). If you have an emergency, no cancellation fee will be applied only if you reschedule the lesson within 1 week... read more

In my experience with elementary level students, I am constantly amazed by these kids imagination. However when it comes to math i find myself frustrated that their minds wander so much. Sometimes i want to just be like, "Super man and unicorns are not a part of math! pay attention!!!!" Reality is, that just doesn't help. I began trying to revamp my ways of teaching so that super man could join us in our lessons. I found that using examples that incorporate the child's imagination works wonders. They being to laugh and enjoy themselves when I am tutoring them and the best part is....THEY PAY ATTENTION! The fun examples also help them to remember math concepts when they go to take their tests. It is a win win for everyone. A basic example could be "superman already saved 4 people last week but this week he saved 5 more people from a burning building! So how many people has he saved?" We have taken a basic 4+5=9 math problem and made it fun for them. Sometimes... read more

In a previous blog I talked about setting up customized payroll in QuickBooks. At that time I mentioned that in order to complete the process, it was necessary to set up the necessary Payroll Items. QuickBooks uses Items to control how transactions are recorded in the Chart of Accounts, but Payroll Items are a separate menu item under the Lists menu.   The purpose of this blog will not be to discuss the details in setting up Payroll Items. It will be to simply outline this feature of the software. Setting up a Payroll Item is a two-step process. First, the Item must be created in QuickBooks, and second, the Item must be customized so transactions using it are directed to the correct account in the Chart of Accounts. There are six types of Payroll Items using the EZ Setup feature: Compensation (such as wages, salaries, bonuses, and commissions) Insurance Benefits Deductions (such as health, dental & vision insurance, and HSA deductions) Retirement... read more

10 Tips to Advance Your Second-language Learning Process Speaking a second language is a wonderful tool to have at your disposal. Not only is it fun and cool, but it opens doors to experience another culture in new, exciting and personal ways. And if you're working on speaking a language that others speak in your community, it can also open doors for you professionally. So, if you're itching for some tips to help advance your language learning process, have no fear…I'm here to share with you 10 of my trusty tips for how I learned to speak my second language! (How well do I speak it, you ask? Well, native Spanish speakers often think I’m a native Spanish speaker, just to give you some context.) These are all things that I did myself, so I’m confident in recommending them all to you! :) Let’s get started with some specific tips, and then move on to my more “philosophical” and general advice: 1. Watch television shows, movies and videos in your target language For those working... read more

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. The Blanks Left Empty Narration is often the crux of the novelist's art. Through skillful use of narration and point of view, a novelist can make his readers acutely aware of not just the events of the novel, but the characters' opinions of those events. This makes it easy for a skilled novelist to deftly control how his... read more

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