Read Out Loud

One of the things I tell all my students to do is READ OUT LOUD. I say it every time they come in, I write it on their papers, and I try my best to implant it in their brains. Read out loud, read out loud sounds the chant, and eventually my students get a little tired of it. However, it is still the best tip I feel I could give for the burgeoning young editor.  Continue reading

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Scrabble Rules

Scrabble: It always ends in madness.

How many of you, while playing a game of Scrabble, look at the rules before playing? My guess is very few. Most people play the same way, using a nearby dictionary to check words (or the internet), no acronyms and no proper nouns, and with good faith that your teammates won’t cheat. Besides, how do you cheat in scrabble when you’re allowed to check if a word exists with no penalty? It’s simple, and it’s just good sportsmanship. At least, that’s how I always played at home.

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Comics as Reading Material

Some people will put down comics all day long saying that “they’re not art,” or “they’re not substantive” (there’s a good vocab word for you there). Regardless of what some people think, however, comics these days are getting more and more sophisticated, and can and should be considered literature. They can also be a great way to get someone in to reading who is either uninterested or has some trouble starting because of their reading level. They can also be great for international students to get a handle on colloquial language.

The images on the page tell the story as much as the word bubbles. When comics are at their best, certain images will be context clues that explain the text, or explain the story without words. One good exercise for new students is to write what they think is happening on the page, or use visual context to explain a string of dialogue. Comics are also a great mental exercise because of their dual nature as text and image. They force you to look at everything as a whole in order to try and get meaning from the pages, which may or may not require a little extra work from the reader.

Plus, the images, if drawn well, can make the text more interesting to difficult readers. Take Calvin and Hobbes for example: it’s a fantastic example of comics as literature. There is a short three panels of images, sometimes only images without dialogue. But the dialogue, when it is there, is insightful and in harmony with the images on the page. They make the reader stop and think long after they finish reading. Longer comics can do the same thing, and perhaps provoke even more thought from a well written story. Comics are great self teaching tools, if only we would cast away misconceptions and use them.

Keep reading (or drawing),


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First Book

Your first real book is always one that makes a big impression on you. Sometimes, it can be a picture book you read as a child that sets you on the path toward reading, and sometimes, it’s your first chapter book, or your first “adult” book that can really make that big difference in your life. Mine was the Hobbit– what’s yours? Was it a golden book? A pop up? A fantasy? An adventure? What places did you travel using reading? How have books changed your life throughout the years because of that first book?

The first book a person reads can have a big impact, and it can be a lifelong memory. Did you read it with your parents, or on your own, or even in a classroom? There is even a charity called “First Book” that helps kids get books so they can keep reading, learning, and growing. Check it out at, and consider donating to help kids everywhere learn to read.

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A Great Way to Improve Your English

Start reading. Right now. Pick up a book, any book, and start reading it. Okay, well, after you read this blog post.

If you’re a second language learner, one of the best ways you can try to improve your English is to read a book you think may be over your level. The only way we improve is to chart out into unknown territory and put ourselves out of our element. It’s just like working out at a gym, or practicing piano. You have to start doing things that make you feel uncomfortable in order to improve.

One of the best things you can pick up for this sort of exercise is a novel. Novels are packed with idiomatic phrasing and great descriptions that are often written in non-standard English that will stretch your brain. You’ll be forced to look up words and write them down, to stop and re-read, to ask questions of fellow readers, to try and glean meaning from context rather than strict definitions and rules. It will be hard, like anything worthwhile, but when you’re done your knowledge of language will improve drastically. This doesn’t do near as much for conversational English, but it does wonders for reading knowledge and writing knowledge.

Just like a young artist copying another artists style for practice, you will be flexing your reading muscles and using what you learn in your writing on a day to day basis.

Hope this helps!

Keep on reading,


P.S. Try keeping a reading journal or doing mini book reports when you finish a chapter. Try to imitate and understand some of the things the writer does in his story.

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The Purpose of Tutoring: What to expect at your first Appointment

When you think of tutoring, what comes to mind? For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to know what to expect on your first day of tutoring, and that can get a little nerve wracking. Here’s a short list of a few things to expect from your writing tutor.

1. Lots of Questions.

Your writing tutor is going to start out by asking you a LOT of questions about your paper or project. Be sure you know what you need help doing, what you’re working on, and what your teacher expects when you come in. It can take a lot of pressure off of you and your tutor when you come in prepared. Try getting assignment sheets, research, and anything else associated with your paper BEFORE you come in to your appointment!

2. A Little Silence. 

Whenever you come in, even if you’re well prepared, if you have actual writing to show the tutor, he/she is going to want to read over it. If it’s short, the tutor will most likely read the whole thing before they start working with you. They may, on the other end of the spectrum, ask YOU to read your paper out loud for them. Try your best, and if you’re totally uncomfortable with reading out loud in front of a tutor, they won’t make you do it. Just try to find your comfort zone with the tutor, and and have a little fun!

3. More than one Appointment.

It’s possible that you’ll have more than one session with a tutor, especially if your paper is a longer project. If something is more than about 5-10 pages, it can be hard to get through in an hour, and near impossible in 30 minutes. You may come in for help on grammar, and realize that you need help with structure or content! Expect to come in more than once for help, and come in way before the paper is due so you can get the most out of tutoring. Your paper will build in quality with each edit you implement after your session. Grammar is often the LAST thing to go over, because if you’re going to change the structure or content, what’s the point in fixing up the grammatical mistakes?

4. Guidance, not GPS.

Going to a tutoring session isn’t going to be like a GPS guide telling you exactly where to turn. Writing a paper isn’t a directed journey to one specific location. It’s more like a walkabout. Tutors will give you tips on how to proceed, they can help you brainstorm, and they’ll make suggestions, but the paper is ultimately your creation. You will be making the changes, coming up with new ideas and structures. The tutor is there to help you walk the walk.

Hope this helps!


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Word Games

So many possibilities...

Word games are a great way to increase your lexical knowledge, which basically means adding a bunch of 4 dollar words to your bag of tricks. When you start you can only play with whatever words you already know (which will, in itself, flex your mental muscles), but when you come out you have gained knowledge of the words your friends used, and may even have done a little dictionary searching to get the job done. Who thought reading the dictionary would be fun?

One of the most popular word games around is Scrabble. Sure, you could play it on a board- but what if you’re missing a board, or missing friends to play with? That’s where the internet comes in. If you’re connected to facebook, you can get in on all kinds of word game fun with their free scrabble app. Of course, you can also get this app on your iphone, but it costs a little bit of money. Just invite some of your friends and let the fun begin! However, Scrabble’s free apps are a little bit limited, and sometimes pretty buggy. What then?  Continue reading

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Talking While Writing

During the writing process, whether it is at the beginning, middle, or end, it may be helpful to talk out loud while you are writing. Talking out your ideas can help you to generate thesis statements, ideas for research papers, or rewording what you already have written down.

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Abbreviated additions, e.g., “i.e.” and “e.g.”

By I.E. we don't mean internet explorer.

Two or three little letters can give you a great opportunity to add more to your argument, or in the same breath make your writing look bad. These abbreviations for latin words are commonly used, and commonly misused. Read on after the jump to dip your toes in the mind butter. Continue reading

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Asking Questions Before Diving In

Too often I just want to help students to identify grammatical issues in their papers. During a tutoring session today when I saw unnecessary commas all over the page, I zoomed in and wanted to edit. However, I took a step back and just listened to him tell me the reasons for his punctuation and grammatical choices Understanding the moves that he made helped me to clarify what I was seeing. Listening is something I need to do more often. I need to shut up sometimes and allow the student to do the talking.

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