Monthly Archives: April 2011

setting, character, plot development, story

        Add to the above, conflict, tension, and resolution- the basics to look for when deciding what to report on after a good (or not so good, read).  We tend to draw a simple cliff like diagram when doing a text analysis and draw the characters as if they were literally climbing the face of the cliff, chapter by chapter.  The tip is the turning point after which it is quite literally a downhill process- a tidying up of loose ends within the story and the conclusion.  The key to an effective analysis is recognizing the various strands, and noting the author’s signals.  The question then for students to be aware of involves the “how” as well as the “what”.  How does an author create the tension?  What literary techniques were involved?  The amount of detail that goes into the answer will depend on the level of the student responding.

 – key tip – to become comfortable using literary terms check out:

Games, Golf and Good marks

” Know that nothing will bother or upset you on the golf course, and you will be in a great state of mind for every shot” courtesy of Bob Rotella, from The Golfer’s Mind, Play to Play Great.

Yes, and “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a Heaven for”  ( Robert Browning) “Everyone makes mistakes- don’t erase it- learn from it”- Alison  ( aka Ali the English Tutor)

We all have particular sayings that tend to just fit into a situation, and what the three above have in common for me is how practice and focus go hand in hand.  I have watched students furiously erasing words on a page, while glancing at the clock throughout a timed test.  Erasing takes time- better to draw a line through the offending section and move on. 

Back to Golf which in today’s televised sport’s world allows for instant replays – and no erasures.  And High Definition permits closeups that show the emotion of the competitors while we, watching, get to recognize their distress at missing a shot.  We also get to view the next focused shot, cleanly executed and performed as a result of practice, and understand that the players have decided to “Love the challenge of the day, whatever it may be” (Rotella).  Learn how to study, prepare, and share- and like great golfers everywhere, practice.  The good marks will come.

Passover, Easter, Studies and Chocolate

What is it about candy and chocolate that holidays seem to encourage their consumption?    

My grade four teacher used to return project work with a little Hershey’s bar tucked inside, adding sweetness to the marking process.  And listening to students get excited at the prospect of chocolate covered matzoh, or chocolate Easter Eggs brought back the memory of those tiny Hershey bars, scotch taped to the top of a paper.   The atmosphere when waiting to get papers back was electric; project work completed nearly always resulted in a free 1/2 hour with students munching while this teacher read aloud from her favourite story collection.  Best of all, she was a swift marker, no lengthy weeks of waiting to receive results. And all the students were given a treat, valuing effort made.  The holiday feel in that classroom was regular (but not daily), a mini ritual, a reminder of each unit of learning completed. 

Chocolate covered matzoh and Easter bunnies tell me that not only has another winter been managed but that celebrating the return to “order” and appreciating the beauty of annual renewal can involve indulging a little bit- Enjoy!

Practice and more

What to do when sharing knowledge about a specific focus seems more natural than twittering about my day?  Take a tip from myself and start by practicing.  I am a huge believer in the fact that being able to “wing it” comes from many many “practice run throughs” until the knowledge one wishes to share truly has been understood at the personal level and will be accepted as such.

Essay Writing Explained

Essay writing explained-

  No it is not simple- in fact essay writing requires rewriting/revising at least once- groan… I can hear you, but really rewriting is as much a part of the process as is the initial brainstorming.  

A trivia point – J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings took years (15- I was told) to write his famous trilogy.  Most of us though need to begin- write- revise -and hand in- a report in much less time.  How then to use our time more efficiently all the while improving in our communication skills?  Practice.

I owe a University Professor a big Thank You for not giving me a good mark on an initial paper I submitted as an undergrad. Seventeen pages begun one evening and completed the following morning, and handed in with nary a backward glance.  Also without a strong focus, or a proper set of supporting arguments.  Imagine my chagrin at the mediocre mark.  Points for style, yes, but the lack of an academic structure meant the paper merely displayed my vocabulary.  Lesson learned and not repeated. 

Today, when I tutor I ask students to share with me their already scored papers and we together review where the writing could be improved.  For non academic work, business writing, and other professional pieces, I listen to what you as writer want expressed, and again, together, we compose the piece.

….I called my company Together Academics – because Your Input is the Key.


What I do Content

For me the most important part of the lesson is when a student gives input – if I am helping a student edit work during a writing conference, I am very careful to make sure that the final result remains the student’s words.

Content: How do students of any age prove their knowledge?  Usually through some form of test taking.   And my role is to help improve the student’s ability to get credit for learning.  I have worked with many a student who didn’t realize how important it is to respond directly to the question.  As a tutor I value all the extra free thinking I get to hear, but I know that certain forms of testing still want very focused responses and a deliberate review of in class material. 

Words on a page form an argument, present a point of view and establish proof of accepting or rejecting the assigned materials a teacher is testing on.  For example, if a student is being asked to discuss a current event, the teacher marking the paper will be looking not only for clear grammar and punctuation, but most importantly for the discussion itself; how was the argument formulated? I’m going to try to be extra clear and mention that Academic argument is not the same as a “fight”.  It is closest to an examination of a point of view, a sharing of an opinion with an attempt to support that opinion through strong examples.

April and Attitudes

     Yesterday,  I arrived to pick up a vehicle at the designated spot only to find my car rental not there!  Now I, like most people, operate with deadlines, and while I will give myself ample time and have a contingency plan, I counted on the booking.  Nearly fifty minutes late, the user of the vehicle pulled into the car rental spot with neither a sorry nor an attempt at making amends.  She exited the car and seemed to think that since she was willing to pay extra for the late return no one had been inconvenienced.  But I had an appointment for 7 o’clock and just squeaked in at 7:02.  It wasn’t the cost of the hour- it was the very real inconvenience of standing waiting for a vehicle and the knowledge that two other vehicles were on the lot- this particular car company operates on an honour system, and also states that dogs or other pets are to be kept in a container- the driver’s dog was loose in the back.  Now this is the second time I have gone to pick up a car and the vehicle has been in use- the first time I had a fifteen minute wait and that driver apologized stating traffic- understood- Yesterday however the driver’s indifference registered and I wondered if I was being foolish to be a member of a driving club where the honour system falls short- one bad apple?  maybe? or representative of how little respect people demonstrate to the idea of an honour system and a sharing system.  

     Sometimes it is not about money.  The car company did reduce the lease by the hour – I would rather have had the vehicle for the appointed time.  And it would have made a huge difference if the driver had simply apologized and hastened her exit from the car.   While I will patiently wait and watch molasses pour, waiting for someone already almost an hour late to exit a space is simply watching rudeness.  And her dog didn’t want to leave at all. 

Attitude.  One of the things students are instructed to watch for when analysing poetry or prose.  This being April and national poetry month, I offer up the following:

 A little bit of thought

Proves it was a mistake

Recognize the wrong in a simple gesture by

Initiating an apology-and…

Leave the vehicle by the roadside- not the person.

Attitude.  One of the things students are instructed to watch for.    

This being April and National Poetry Month.  Pay it forward when possible.