Category Archives: good marks

Adjusting actions; writing well

 ” When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action    steps.” Confucious

   Now how does the above quote mix with students and their goals in a class?  Thinking of Einstein and Edison, and the idea of imagination plus persistence, and trying new ways to achieve the same result- that is tackling a question from as many new ways as possible.  Science and Math, require students to recognize this, what about Language arts?  Do we also offer the student the chance to adjust the action steps?

 

Yes when we clearly understand the actions being undertaken- all too often have I heard from a student that they had studied and studied and still not achieved the hoped for results.  Then there is the concept that marking or scoring written work is subjective- up to a point- yes, however more to the point, teachers are expected to clarify in advance through sharing a rubric, sharing examples, and sharing or modeling how stronger writing may be achieved.  First strategy is to understand the question; open ended questions are rarely as “open -ended” as they may at first seem.  Anyone who has coached students for Board Exams will recognize the need to point out qualifying terms that allow for an argument to be created.  We often suggest that students turn the question into a statement –  doable for part one.  Part two requires a quick T-Bar chart for the necessary brainstorming- even gut reactions may surprisingly not result in enough points to create an essay- that is why the T-Bar allows students to quickly recognize if their point of view may be supported with  “evidence” from either the texts, or classroom discussions, or personal experience.  On to Part three- writing – as much as possible without worrying about spelling or grammar or punctuation- uh huh- writing.  Students who become increasingly comfortable expressing their own points of view, become increasingly stronger at supporting these points- again through the texts, classroom discussions, and/or experience.   Writing starts to move away from a programmed 5 paragraph response into a personalized reaction to an issue- for there is always an issue being examined.  Whether the writing is asking an elementary student to share a “favorite summer experience” or a middle school student to comment on a recent sporting event, or an IB high school senior to develop a thesis dealing with ecology and inter global business ventures, there is a specific choice that students are making; comparing activities (camp was the best) discussing a highlight of a sporting event (description and personal experience), evaluating the choices and making predictions for future expansion of business in a caring world; the process is similar:  students are being asked to take a stand and commit to a point of view for the duration of the essay.  Even Comparative writing requires this focus. 

 

Parents and educators worry about how to increase a student’s reading and writing skills.  The writing skills reflect two major things: vocabulary and ability to effectively use the vocabulary to create both an argument and an image.  Grab a paper and discuss an issue, express a point of view.  Grab a magazine and do the same thing.  Follow your child’s lead as to interests- if sports, review the sports section of a major paper; the article doesn’t even have to be “today’s” – if fashion, look at the fashion magazines and comment on a story together.  Almost anything that is read, will help grow a student’s vocabulary- and if you hear your child chuckling at a graphic novel- read it too.  The informal discussions help a student to express his/her ideas, to move beyond “I just liked it” to get to the steps above- to be able to think a bit more about what was appealing.  But please don’t turn it into an exercise that frustrates- sharing ideas in a safe way allows for ideas to be expressed.  Grammar and punctuation can be practiced and edited for.  Ideas, they are the surprise element in any essay; sometimes the best way to encourage a child  is simply to allow the student to explore, to discard, and to- yes it is a popular thing again- play!

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All About “Titles”

TITLES: we use them all the time, automatically addressing each other by first name or simply adding the title as a courtesy gesture. With Literature analysis I find so many students ignore the title of the piece of writing they have been asked to read and search, sometimes with a hint of desperation, for “clues” to the understanding of a “theme”. An Author’s choice of a Title is not only to grab readers through “curb appeal” (fancy cover, shocking picture- great title…etc.), it will also give insight into some major purpose behind the writing itself.

Take for example the Charles Dicken’s classic, “A Tale of two CIties”; the underlying comparison between the passionate French at the beginning of the French Revolution and the implied cooler British, the Lawyers and the Bankers, with the two principal characters lawyers, and a secondary character, the Banker, a Mr. Lorry, to change a system from within, without heads rolling – literally on the guillotine-

But heads do roll, as the drama unfolds. The Title takes on more meaning when the parallel legal courts try the same man- first in England then in France- for a form of treason, and the concept of identity and how it is imposed comes to the fore. With the very famous closing lines, Dickens as narrator gives to the concept of “Cities” further meaning- the city before the Revolution and the city that “hero” Carton envisions will rise up once the change is complete. Equally important is the change of name – three times for a main character, and with each name change though same person, a different obligation imposed. Titles – how someone or something is “called” – but I will save the multiple meanings in the use of the word “Calling” for another time.

Why do we care? Literary criticism as required.

      “Books, movies, songs—stories told in any artistic medium can give you an empathy workout. To grow stronger, find stories that are unfamiliar. If you read, watch, or hear only things you know well, you’re looking for validation, not an expansion of empathy. There’s nothing wrong with that, but to achieve high levels of fitness, focus once a week on the story of someone who seems utterly different from you.”
Read more: http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/Martha-Beck-Have-a-Heart#ixzz1f0bGq49h
 
  We each have our own ways of relaxing.  Now that I spend more time on the computer I take my coffee with a little bit of information- chat on LinkedIn in, browse Oprah on-line, read a blog like Yummy Mummy http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/  or Savvy Mom  http://www.savvymom.ca/( the latter two local, here in Toronto ) before returning to the lessons and focus of My Tutoring Space.  I nearly always find an unexpected gem worth sharing like the quote above.
 
      Empathy. So many times I have heard ‘why do we have to read this’ from students who have found a particular study less than enthralling.  Aside from noting that their regular school teacher assigned the work , I ask students to do the following:
   think why the author may have chosen to write from that particular point of view
    what are we as readers being asked to care about- being made aware of?
   what is it about the writing  style, writer’s diction , setting , characters, plot*   that has made the student dislike the read?     Students are often surprised to realize that the same tools used for a positive critique can be used to discuss why the text was not enjoyed.  And some are even more surprised to uncover something worth liking in the story after all.
 
Criticism becomes a way for students to more fully think about the bigger issues while engaging with details.  As students become more confident recognizing patterns in writing, archetypes in literature, and moving beyond the knee jerk reaction of like/didn’t like, so too their writing in general improves. 
   

On the need to clarify –

On the need to clarify-

I keep this page amongst other pages in a simple file folder for students and parents of students to read.

I do not know who to attribute the original work to- any ideas? thank you as always, best regards,

Please right-click on the reading to enlarge – can you relate?

fingerprints

Almost every article that I have read lately states we are supposed to be “authentic” and these readings have left me confused…are the writers suggesting that “authentic ” is a NEW concept? I tell students that as they find their voice their writing will become like a fingerprint, suggestive of who they are and what they are comfortable speaking up for.  But until they find that voice they must try on many styles, and have fun playing devil’s advocate- debating a concept on the side they might disagree with, challenging themselves to think through the opposite set of arguments and come up with support, practice writing from different perspectives, and try reading aloud, hearing the sounds of the words and listening for patterns as they speak – one of the best forms of proof reading.  Mostly though, I want each and every student to know their opinion is valued- but please, go back to the source and find the support in the reading, the research, the notes, and use the sources to back up the opinion- practice- and the writing is bound to improve.

Thoughts on a Page- Random

Rhythm- rhyme

Taken together-

A chorus Line

The moment you begin

You will be moving yourself forward

The moment you take to care

You will be improving

for all around You

The moment you stop to share

and  breathe and pause and renew

You will be giving and…

– giving is needed by all

to Begin.

– Let’s start again- Here is to September 2011

A New School Year Approaches- Are you Ready?

Keep watching as I will be posting websites, reading lists and a few templates.

As always, only best regards from ALI, your English Tutor

Summer and Volunteer hours

Often I discuss basics relating to education, and volunteering is one of the better ways to gain experiential knowledge.

I love sharing great websites- what makes a website great?

When a website does offer helpful information in an easy to apply format-

The following comes from Patricia Rossi, America’s Etiquette and Protocol Coach,who is based in Florida, and her comments relating to “Intern Success Secrets” apply to the many students here in Toronto who are gaining community service hours this summer. 

Some tips to help you get ahead:

  • Be professional. Take your responsibilities seriously and treat your internship as if it were a full-time job.
  • Dress for success. Make sure you dress appropriately by observing what your co-workers are wearing. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
  • Be punctual. Make sure you show up for work on time, including after lunch and breaks. Tardiness is not a quality potential employers are looking for. Also, do your best to avoid missing work. If you must take time off, be sure to request permission in advance.
  • Develop a good rapport with the boss. Don’t complain about the tasks you are given and even offer to do the project no one else wants to do. Don’t underestimate a menial chore, as it is just one more task that teaches you how an office works.
  • Find a balance. Be proactive by identifying office needs. This will demonstrate initiative and motivation. But, be sure to find a nice balance so you don’t appear to be a brown-nose or overly confident.
  • Approach your work with enthusiasm. Even though some projects may not appear too exciting, your eagerness may convince supervisors to give you bigger responsibilities.
    • Watch for growth and training opportunities. If there is a project that interests you, ask a supervisor if there is anything you can do to help. Let them know your interest in the project. Never stop learning!
    • Build a network. Be polite and courteous to everyone and establish valuable connections. Getting to know people in the company may lead to great opportunities. Try to set up informational interviews with various staff members. Always avoid office gossip.
    • Relax and have some fun. An internship probably won’t make you rich, but it has the potential to be very rewarding. Make the most of your experience and it will help get you started on the right career path.

    Wishing you much happiness and success!