Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

At the beginning.

In blogs, videos, and my courses, I have often mentioned that the topic sentence of a sunrise-1756274_640paragraph should be at the beginning of the paragraph – often the first sentence.

While this is true in many cases, it does not HAVE to be the first sentence of a paragraph.  When writing essays for grade school or secondary school, teachers generally expect the topic sentence of body paragraphs to come at the beginning. The concluding paragraph has a restated or modified thesis statement at the beginning, and this serves as its topic sentence. Of course, the introductory paragraph is a bit of an exception.  It often starts with a “grabber” and/or focus statement, and the thesis statement (serving as the overarching topic sentence) comes at the end of the paragraph.

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For most stand-alone paragraph writing exercises in school, the expectation is for a topic sentence at or near the very beginning of the paragraph as well.

Whew!

Having said all that, topic sentences can come at any point within a paragraph – even in academic writing at times.

At the end.

You can place the central idea at the end after several supporting sentences that have end-812226_640made the case for your argument or point of view. This can be especially useful in argument paragraphs because it leads the reader to your conclusion drawing them in with your amazing proofs and supports.

You knew you were amazing, right?  Of course.

Placing the topic sentence at the end of your paragraph can be effective in expository paragraphs as well. Leaving the central idea until the end can have a dramatic effect that attracts the reader to keep reading.

Of course, even if your topic sentence or central idea is withheld until the end of the paragraph, you still need to ensure that you have unity and coherence.  All the supports that come before the topic sentence need to be relevant and transition from one to another in order for the whole package to have the desired impact on the reader.  Remember that you have to “lead” them to your central idea and convince them with your message.

Nowhere – and everywhere.

Even more bizarre!

Some paragraphs don’t have the central idea explicitly stated at all! nowhere

This is often the case with narrative writing (relating a sequence of events) and sometimes descriptive writing.  This is especially true in fiction writing where many academic rules are “stretched” or broken.  You can imply the central idea with descriptions, action, dialogue, and so on. This is not to say that you never use topic sentences in fiction, but one topic sentence might serve several paragraphs rather than just one.  The continuity is important and, frankly, trying to generate a new topic sentence in the midst of a “flow” of description does not always make sense.

There you have it.  Topic sentences are not as stable as you thought.  They can move around from place to place.  Sometimes there are a couple of introductory sentences before a topic sentence as well.  Generally, I wouldn’t say the topic sentence comes in the middle of a paragraph, but it can be within it.

Still, for most academic writing, I recommend sticking to having the topic sentence at the beginning of most paragraphs.  It will serve you well.

When writing fiction, you have more freedom – but keep in mind that you still need to help the reader find your central idea using whatever techniques you choose.

Do you want to write more?  Do you want to improve your writing? Contact me, and I will set up a personal program for you. reading-86070_1920

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

This week’s video: Topic Sentences

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Steps to Working Out a Math Problem – or Steps to Loving Math!

Remember that you do not need to hate math! 

Taking a proactive approach, you can conquer any math question. shield-108065_640

Below are several steps to get you on the right path. 

Steps to Working Out a Math Problem

  1.  What does the question ask me to do? 
  2. Are there any further directions for the question? (Look above, to the left, to the right)
  3. Are there any practice examples that show the steps?
  4. Do I have notes about this particular section? 
  5. What do I already know about this math section? (Take the time to re-learn the parts you have forgotten.  For example, if you need to divide fractions for part of the question, and you have forgotten how to do this, go back and re-teach yourself.) 
  6. Try different methods to solve the problem – don’t be afraid to turn the problem around and look at it from different angles. 
  7. Break the problem down into separate units. (I.e., What do I need to do first – second – etc.?) 
  8. If you are using a calculator, record the steps as you go.  (It is very frustrating to start back at step 1 when something goes wrong with step 5!) 
  9. Check to see if your answer “makes sense.” (Is the number reasonable or is it too large or too small?  Does your answer meet the requirements of the problem?) 

In step 8, I mentioned a calculator, and using one is fine (if you are permitted to), but trycalculator-2391810_640 to keep doing a few questions long-hand as well.  It uses the brain differently for basic skills.  You will gain a much stronger understanding of “how” the math works.  Of course there are complex calculations for which the calculator is required. 

Always “think” about the math.  Often people see math as strictly numbers and forget that those symbols and operations have a purpose in real life! 

You might simply need a total for a grocery list. 

You might need to calculate whether or not you can afford a new car or how long it will take to pay off the mortgage under various scenarios. 

Of course, if you are an engineer or architect – or want to be – there are all kinds of mathematical calculations that will determine outcomes for your next bridge or building. 

Math is used in so many careers and so many “real-life” situations that it should not be seen as mere numbers. 

Do not fear math any more.  Jump in, follow the steps above, and keep at it.  

I know you can master the skills you need. 

As always, if you need help, I am available. 

reading-86070_1920

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

This week’s video:  Steps to Loving Math!

Don’t Hate Math!

Many students say they hate math.

Don’t hate math!

Math can be your friend.

Really.

For one thing, math always works, if you work it well.

A.   1 + 1 always = 2

B.   5 + 8 – 3(9) – 6 x 4 always equals -38

If you “plug in” the right numbers and do the right operations, you will win!plug-1459663_640

That is a great comfort.

It means that you can get 100% on a math quiz or test.  Yes – YOU!

Try to do that on an essay.  It’s tough.

Numbers don’t lie That is why they can be your friend.  They are reliable.  (Of course, people can use numbers to help them lie.  I realize that.)

Build a foundation.

Math skills are built one upon another, so starting with a strong foundation will always help you. 

Trying to multiply fractions will give you a headache if you don’t know how to emotions-2167461_640multiply whole numbers.

Trying to complete question B above will give you grief if you did not learn about order of operations.

Yes, it does take some time to strengthen the foundation and work your way toward the more complex questions.  Unfortunately, students often find themselves in a grade that they cannot handle, and this is the frustration.  They feel like they are banging their heads against the wall, working harder and harder and falling further behind.  Until they have the opportunity to step back (perhaps more than a few steps) and establish that base, they will never truly grasp math.  Worse, they will continue to hate it for the rest of their lives perhaps!

What a shame because…

You can conquer math.  The following tips are taken from my Student Survival Guide.  This free booklet is available for registering on the website.  Just click on the title above.

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Strategies to help you get started on your LOVE of math

Read all explanations, directions, and examples carefully. 

Take a piece of scrap paper and write out a couple of the example questions, write out each step, write out the conclusion following the example in the book.  This procedure ensures that you really do know each step. 

Use scrap paper to do many rough calculations

You can always transfer your work to “show your work” once the question has been roughed out.

(If you are using a calculator, record each step on a piece of scrap as well, so you don’t lose your place within a longer question.)

Whenever possible connect new material to tasks already learned.

Monitor frequently.

Keep monitoring yourself to make sure you are understanding the passages or directions and examples you just read.

Stop, re-read, self-test – as often as necessary to grasp the concepts.

Frequent reviews, while important for all academic courses, are especially important for math.

Do not skip over entire sections you don’t understand

Mathematics tends to be cumulative (one skill built upon another), leaving out one of these building blocks will inevitably bring your entire construction down. 

In other words, you will be lost when it comes to more complex math later this term or next year. 

Get help if you need it.

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If you are unable to “work out” the math problem using your notes and textbook, ask someone, a teacher is best. 

Teachers know how they want you to approach certain tasks, so they are the best   teacher-2985521_640          resource for explaining the procedure. 

However, if the teacher is not available, a parent, another knowledgeable student, or a tutor may be able to help you. 

Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you don’t understand.

Having said this, don’t give up right away.  Make sure you have honestly tried to figure out the procedure.  The best way to truly learn mathematics is to work with it. 

Nobody simply looks at numbers and immediately grasps the concepts of algebra or geometry.  You must learn to be patient and spend time with the procedures, rules, and steps.

Many students think math is boring.  They think it is boring because they are trying to memorize everything rather than work with the numbers and concepts, understanding mathematics more holistically.

Try to get comfortable with math; bring it closer to you – it won’t bite.  Once you see how stable and reliable it is, you might find yourself falling in love with math after all. 

Next week, I will be writing Steps to Working Out a Math Problem

As always, I am here to help.  Check out the website and feel free to e-mail, ask questions, or leave a comment. 

Website:  www.tutoringcentral.comBurst_Purple_wow_left_purple

This week’s video:  Don’t Hate Math!

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Happy New Year & Making Resolutions

Happy New Year !

For many people it is the major “goal setting” time of the year – often called making resolutions.

People often see resolutions as different than goal setting, but I think they are the same in many ways.

Making New Year’s resolutions can be fun or it can be disastrous.  Many people become disheartened, discouraged, and even distraught after making and then breaking their New Year’s resolutions.

Here is how to avoid the downside of making resolutions.

  1. Make achievable goals.  Don’t simply say, “I will stop smoking on January 1st,” or “I non-smoking-2497308_640am going to drop twenty pounds,” or “I am going to get straight A’s by the end of the semester.”   Think about the steps you can take to get there, and make these separate, achievable resolutions.  There is no sense in setting yourself up for a fall.  Also, with a step-by-step plan, you have done the “legwork” necessary to get to the end. You know what you need to do.
  2. Write down your resolutions. Keep the list somewhere that you can access it frequently and check off the steps you made (note above). Writing things down seems to make them more tangible – more real.  Also, the act of writing out your goals allows you a chance to “think” about how you will make it happen.  It is easy for anyone to simply say or imagine becoming the next major movie star or adventurous astronaut, etc.  These are dreams until the plan is put into action.  Make it real!
  3. Jot down the positive aspects that you will receive when you reach your goal.  You need some motivators to keep you going.  For example, when you are not smoking – or even reducing those cigarettes, you won’t cough as much, you will have more energy and time to commit to more positive activities, etc.  When you lose the weight, you will fit into the clothes you’ve wanted to buy (or retrieve from the back of the closet), and you will feel more healthy and alive. Improved grades school-2.jpgcan get you into the advanced class, or into the college of your choice, and/or into the career you really want.
  4. Don’t let “slip ups” ruin your resolutions. Whenever you try something new, you are bound to have a few bumps in the road.  If that next test comes back with a C- on it, don’t despair, but do take steps to rectify the situation.  If you take a puff from another cigarette, or maybe a few at a party, don’t give up for another whole year! Get back on track and begin “working” your plan again.  (If you don’t have a plan, please refer back to step 1.) Recall how good it felt to make that resolution in the first place.  You can have that feeling again.  Pull out your list, see where you might have stumbled, and refresh your memory about the positive aspects you will get once you reach the ultimate goal. You will become re-energized to start again.
  5. Be positive.  Don’t keep thinking of the ways you will fail to achieve your resolutions.  Stay positive, think positively, and act in a positive direction.  Always focus on moving forward and taking the necessary steps.  If you need to revamp your plan – that’s fine.  Put in a few extra steps that will help you make those New Year’s goals a reality!

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the obvious way to avoid the downside of making New Year’s resolutions – don’t make them.  You don’t HAVE to make resolutions.  It isn’t a law or rule.  For some people, it would be best not to make them.  You decide what works best for you.  Just remember, that the points mentioned above also apply to goal setting which I think most people should do at various times throughout the year.

So – Have a Happy New Year and if you decide to make New Year’s Resolutions, do so in a responsible way.  🙂

Have a safe holiday – enjoy yourself – and look forward to all of 2018.

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

Video:  Happy New Year

You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!

You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!

Yes.

You can be both a teacher and a learner at any age, and you can do so at the same time.

What do I mean by this?

When you are trying to learn something, put yourself into the teacher’s role.  Pretend that you are teaching yourself.  Alternatively, you can pretend that you are teaching an learn-1996845_640imaginary classmate.  (Suggestion – pick someone you like!)

Use this method during your homework sessions to help you remember information.

This method is not only good for retaining information, but it will also help you learn how to explain concepts, plots for stories, themes, terms, etc.  When the test or exam, or even a pop quiz, arrives, you will have already had practice explaining in your own words – and you will remember!

Teaching others – even imaginary others – is a great gift to you.

You have probably already had this experience.

Have you ever taught a child, parent, sibling, or friend how to ride a bike, play a board game or video game, read, dance, play a sport and so on.  child-558798_640

I bet you have.

Remember that teaching (or learning) is not all about academic subjects.  In fact, you have many learning experiences long before you ever get to school.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members are your first “teachers.”  They help to get you sitting up, to turn babbling into single words, to stand, and to walk.  Many of the things you learned before you went to school were also learned – at least in part – with you being your own teacher.  Practice, practice, correction, practice, practice, tweaking a bit, practice, practice – mastery!  (Of course, the practice, corrections, and tweaking usually go on much longer.) There is a lot of trial and error learning going on right from the very beginning of your life.

You have probably taught yourself many things since then, particularly anything that you are very interested in doing.

The fact that you might not be completely enthralled with learning algebra, or history, or science, does not negate the fact that you can be your own teacher during practice sessions. Giving yourself permission to take over both roles will enhance the learning experience, make it much more interesting, help you remember, and may even make you a little more understanding and empathetic toward the classroom teacher who is trying to help you gain the knowledge.

So, give it a try during your next homework session.  Be the one to answer the questions as always, but try being the one who asks the questions as well.  Practice being the one who encourages you to learn, who directs you to the right pages, who points out the important bits, even the one who is stern when you go astray.

Wow!

I know you will be increasing your learning by a substantial amount!

If you need more encouragement or direction, I am always willing to help.julia-raasch-143428

Website:  www.tutoringcentral.com

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This weeks Video: You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student

15 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Tutor

15 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Tutor

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1.      What do you tutor?

There is no sense in having a long conversation if the tutor does not teach the subject you need.

2.    Where do you tutor?

Some tutors travel to the client’s home, some tutors meet in a neutral location, and some tutors have the client come to them.

Don’t forget online tutoring! 

Many tutors will use a combination of one of the methods above with online tutoring or do all of their teaching online.

If you have any issues with the location of the lessons, ask the tutor why he or she chooses to teach in this way.  You might be surprised that a method will work for you even though you never thought about it.

3.   How long is each tutoring session? How often do you meet with the student?eder-pozo-perez-32852

4.   What is your availability?

If the tutor does not have any spots available or nothing that will accommodate your schedule, then you can decide to continue on with the conversation or not.  It might still be a great idea to get to know the tutor for future reference.

5.   What are your qualifications, certifications or credentials?

While qualifications are important, there are a wide variety of qualifications. Is the tutor able to express himself or herself well in describing his or her strengths? It is more important that the tutor feels comfortable with the teaching process than his or her having a PhD.

6.   How long have you been tutoring?

Again, this should not be the only deciding factor.  Someone new to tutoring would not have a lot of experience, but she or he might still be an excellent tutor.  Of course, one with lots of experience has probably dealt with many different learning styles and has gone well beyond the lessons learned from textbooks or teacher’s college into the real world of teaching and learning.

7.   Can you tell me a little bit about your teaching philosophy?shield-108065_640

Get to know the tutor by discussing education overall and his or her feelings and thoughts about the importance of learning.  This gives both of you a chance to speak more freely and get to know one another.  You can often begin to get a “feel” that this is the right fit. If a tutor cannot clearly express himself or herself about teaching and students, it might be time to look a little further.

8.   Have you worked before with students who have learning challenges?

This question would not apply to everyone, but many parents are looking for a tutor to handle an identified student.  Even without a formal identification, a student might have issues with attention, dyslexia, or other learning challenges that require remediation.  A tutor who has worked with these kinds of issues will have tools and strategies to help.

9.  How do you assess students?

What kind of tools does the tutor use to discover a student’s current abilities and challenges? How will these tools be used to generate a useful program? Is the tutor willing and able to incorporate results from other assessments?

10.  How do you design the student’s program?

Will the program be flexible or static?  Will the program be homework support only, or will the program be solely based on the tutoring materials?  Of course, flexible programs might include a homework support component as well as lessons to strengthen a student’s foundation.

11 .  What kind of reporting do you provide?

You might discuss the kind and amount of contact available between reports as well.

12.   How can I help in the learning process?

Are there things that I can do at home to help improve the results?

13.  How much do you charge per session?piggy-2889042_640

Please, do not hire a tutor solely based on price!  This is such a bad idea, but something a lot of people do.  Cheap is not always the best choice – particularly when we are talking about developing someone’s brain and helping them gain the skills they will need for the rest of their lives.

14.   Are there any other additional fees for materials, phone calls, assessments, extra homework practice, etc.?

A tutor should always be up-front about the cost of tutoring.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are a lot of hidden fees.   You should be fair as well.  If a tutor is providing a lot of extra practice, she or he has to prepare the materials, read over and mark the answers, and include all of this in their reporting method.  Doing the extra work might need to be rewarded.

15.   What is the policy for cancellations and make-up sessions?

Keep in mind that pedagogically the student should be consistent and available for his or her sessions or to make them up as soon as possible.  To be fair, this also makes sense for the tutor from a business perspective.  Your goal and the tutor’s goal should be to achieve as many sessions as possible on the right day and time.

These questions will get you started.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a tutor that will work with you or your child’s particular challenges and goals in mind.  julia-raasch-143428Look for a tutor who won’t simply “plug-in” your child to a program designed for all. Learning is not the same for everyone, so the program for your child should not be identical to the one for thousands more!

Website:    www.tutoringcentral.com

This week’s video:  Questions to Ask When Looking for a Tutor

 

Tools and Platforms for Online Tutoring

Tutors, parents, and learners will all find some useful information in this one.

Today there are so many tools and platforms that tutors and students can use that geography is no longer an issue.  Missed sessions are basically no longer an issue either.  slava-bowman-161206You can’t make your in-person session?  No problem, we can do an online session!

We can teach students from anywhere in the world; and, of course, we can learn from a teacher from anywhere in the world.  (You know I believe that all learners are teachers and all teachers are learners – or should be.)

It used to be that seeing and hearing your student in real time was almost impossible.  Writing or drawing together in real time sharing – forget it!

Not any more.

Now, we can do all of this and a whole lot more.

I see you! jordan-whitfield-107094

With Skype, Zoom, and/or BitPaper (to name a few), the tutor and student can see, hear, and share real time writing, typing, drawing, videos, etc.  We can import documents to share, and we can make them editable. In other words, the student can make notes, changes, highlight, or draw something right on the same document.

But wait…there’s more!

We can save our sessions.  We can save the recordings (if recording, of course) or the altered documents – or both.

Being able to see each other means that we won’t miss facial expressions and other cues that we use when communicating in person. If you are like me, sometimes your hands are almost as important as your speech when communicating.  With the camera set properly, we can share these expressions as well.

There are other ways to share documents.  Here are a few options:

Many sites allow you to assign math problems or reading passages to students.  You can also print exercises for your “in person” clients.

If you are not “live,” you can still send audio files, video files, and – of course- text files and documents.

Some courses are asynchronous.  For these, the student completes tasks on his or her own.  These are for more independent learners or as an entry into more complex courses. I have asynchronous courses for English, math, and study skills.  Students watch videos and slideshows, read texts, complete quizzes and assignments, and receive a certificate when they complete the course.  While some asynchronous courses don’t, mine allow contact with the instructor and even feedback on some of the assignments.

Other resources (and there are thousands of them) include the following:

Trello – organize yourself and/or collaborate with teams.

Evernote – another organizer and so much more.

Eastoftheweb – short stories and word games.

Braingenie – mostly math & science (part of CK12.org).braingenie

The Math Worksheet Site – generate various math sheets.

Desmos -graphing.

Openlibrary.org – read and borrow books

Readwritethink.org – free language arts material.

Writingsparks.com – instant writing challenges.

Youtube – videos.

There are thousands of tools and platforms that tutors and learners can use.  I have mentioned some of the ones I have used – and continue to learn how to use.  All of the resources I mentioned here are free (at the time of writing this) – so there is no reason not to try them out.

In future blogs, I will explain more about the individual platforms and tools.

If you are a tutor, check out some of these and incorporate them into your toolbox.

If you are a parent, now you can see that online tutoring is a fantastic avenue for your child (or even yourself).

There are no longer any barriers to learning!

Are you interested in taking some online lessons or courses?  Get in touch, and see how great it can be. julia-raasch-143428

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

This weeks video:  Platforms and Tools online.