How Do I Make My Writing Sophisticated?

But, how do I make my writing sophisticated? 

I hear these kinds of questions, especially from high school or university students.  They feel that their writing should now “sound” more intelligent, so they add all kinds of words, clauses, and phrases that tend to do quite the opposite!

Here are better ways to improve the quality of your writing:

Make your writing clear. light-bulb-clear-bayonet-fitting-725x544

Make your writing concise.

Make your writing understandable

Provide support, detail, explanations, anecdotes, and so forth to help the reader understand your argument, point of view, or opinion. Spend time to fully understand your own thoughts and connections to the material so that you can write about the ideas intelligently.

These are far more important than complicating the issue.

When students, or any writers for that matter, force their writing – the quality becomes worse.  Making something “sound” more complicated than it really is does not help the reader (or the teacher ) in any way.

Your ideas can be original and attractive, but they don’t need to be mired in arcane language or complicated sentence structures that lead the reader nowhere.

I have read students’ essays that aim to impress, but the writing is so convoluted that the meaning is lost.  When I ask them to explain, they often say, “I’m really not sure what I meant, but doesn’t it sound good?” Their hope is that the teacher or professor will find something in that mess to admire.  This is a very poor method!Ernest Hemmingway

Some of the best writers, in fact, make a concerted effort to ensure that their writing is as uncomplicated as possible. That does not mean “dumbing-down” (as one of my students said to me recently).  It means that you are doing your job to help the reader comprehend your intentions.

It is the ideas and thoughts that are important.  You want the reader to be impressed, or at least persuaded, by your argument, opinion, or description.

If the reader does not understand your work, he or she will not be impressed.  (Although I have heard people say, “He must be a great writer, I couldn’t understand a word of it!”)

Work on sentence structure and grammar.  Make sure you follow the basic rules and conventions of writing.  Don’t think of the rules as restrictive. Recognize that they actually free the rest of your mind to be creative in thought, networking ideas, and expounding upon your take on a particular topic.

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Brush up on the basics and apply them well, and you will see higher grades.  Better yet, the quality of your writing will continue to improve.

Of course, as you become more proficient, you might notice that your sentences are longer and more “sophisticated,” but they retain the clarity of purpose as well.

Most of all – keep writing!

As with any skill, you get better with practice, especially if you pay attention to the weak spots.  Try to take on constructive advice and make the necessary adjustments to keep reading-86070_1920improving.

For more information, lessons, and programs check out the website.

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

This week’s video:  “How Do I Make My Writing Sophisticated?”

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How Can I Help My Child Succeed? The Long Haul!

Be prepared for the long haul.

Learning is a process, and children (adults, too) don’t all learn at the same rate.

In fact, children don’t even mature at the same rate or grow at the same rate physically, so why would we expect them to learn at the same rate?  Why do we think all ten year old’s are ready for the same math or language learning at exactly the same time? It does not make sense.  maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com-Four-Different-Sizes-Colour-Five-Young-Boys-Ball-1300645

Your child might excel in one area and be behind in others.

Your child might be behind in all areas.

Your child might excel in one grade and fall behind in another.

Enough of that.  You get the picture.

The point is that you love your child, and he or she needs your support at any stage and throughout any challenge.  This support needs to be unconditional love but also, at times, a tough love.  You have to be the adult in the relationship because there will be occasions when “I don’t want to” just isn’t an option. Even democracy has limits and rules!

Never give up!

I never give up on my students, so you should definitely never give up.  Oh, believe me – some of my students wish I would give up; but, over the long haul, many of them have thanked me for making them stay on track even when they fought back. 5653340435_e5b7118536_m

No doubt, you will face trying times when you have explained the same concept for the one hundredth time (more than likely what seems like…) and your child looks at you as if he or she has never heard about this concept in his or her life!

Take a deep breath (or ten) and try to think of an alternative way to explain or walk more slowly through each step.

Use the internet to help you.  For example, there are lots of videos that might have a unique way of explaining the material.  Each person has a different learning point and access doors, so alternatives can be helpful.

WARNING – Blatant plug coming here:

Hiring a tutor is a great way to help ameliorate some of these issues.  An independent tutor will often have more tools at his or her disposal. Thinking outside the box is often necessary when you tutor a wide variety of learners and you are not restricted by a bureaucracy.  You can focus on that particular student and his or her own unique learning style.

Your child might have a slow pace that keeps him or her behind others at the same age or grade level.  Don’t panic.  Take a proactive approach, and help your child take a proactive approach as well to make change.  The important point is to keep moving forward.  Despite what you might have heard, this is NOT a horse race!

On several occasions, I have seen a student suddenly blossom.

Anecdote warning!

One young student of mine did not read anything beyond his name (first name only – three letters long) and a very few memorized words until he was nearly eleven years old! The so-called “window” should have been closed; however, I am a firm believer that our brains are receiving information even when we are not always fully engaged or able.  The instruction he received must have been making connections because he suddenly started to read.  He found out that books have a lot to offer; and, before you know it, he was reading more and more – and not basic learners, but stories only a little below his age level.  Yes, he read slowly and needed lots of help at first, but he was reading!  It wasn’t long before his pace improved as well.

Other students I have seen have not made quite the same dramatic improvements, but many have suddenly boosted their performance after a long plateau.  Parents sometimes think it is a miracle.  It is not a miracle; it is staying the course and never giving up.

Cautionary note:

The plateau (or plateaus) should not be left dormant.  Keep the information coming and the practice schedule on track.  Remember that sometimes change comes suddenly in a burst, but in reality all that “drip, drip, drip” of information was working and making connections in the brain at some level all along the way.

Never give up.

What if your child is never going to be an A+ student? school-2

So what.  That is not important.  Lots of students who don’t reach the A’s or even B’s manage to do amazing things in the world and in their lives – but not if they don’t try. You should still encourage your children to do as much as possible – reach for their highest achievement.  Just because they won’t be the top student does not mean that you or they should give up or coast.  They don’t know what they can do until they try.  The don’t know how high they can get unless they reach for it.  They don’t even know for sure that the A is impossible!

Prepare yourself for the long haul with your children, and never give up.  Don’t despair.  Keep helping them work toward their goals and instill in them the desire to keep trying.

You might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome even if it isn’t exactly as you initially imagined!

I know you can do it. And I know your child can as well. If you need help, please get in touch.  Tutoring Central blog

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

Video: The Long Haul

How Can I Help My Child Succeed? Don’t Be Too Helpful!

Yes, there is such a thing as being too helpful.

Don’t be too helpful!

When you are sitting with your children and helping with homework, try to be more Socratic.philosophy-2603284_640

Ask questions.

Wait for answers.  Sometimes, you might need to wait for a long time – but that’s okay.

Lead them to the right path if possible with questions or suggestions or comments, but let them explore and discover more. Yes, you will need to watch or listen to them going in the wrong direction sometimes, but let that run itself out for a while to see if they capture some of the essence.

Of course, there are times when you need to “walk them” all the way through and maybe even show them the final answer – or an example of a suitable final answer.  Most of the time, however, you will want them to arrive at the answers through their own explorations.

Discovering how to find appropriate answers by making mistakes, falling down, getting up (metaphorically at least), and trying again helps learners remember the procedures -if for no other reason than they don’t want to have to go through all the missteps again.)

If you give them the answer all of the time or show them the steps for every question, then they will never remember for long.

Anecdote warning! stop sign

Here is an example.  Theo’s mom came to me and exclaimed that her son knew how to complete the fractions questions perfectly when doing them at home; however, he always scored terribly on the quizzes at school.  She was convinced that he had some sort of block when it came to tests or quizzes.  Now, this is a possibility, but I have found that the “block” is usually caused by a lack of knowledge.

Once I started working with Theo, it was clear that he had no idea which steps to use in each case.  At home, mom was constantly providing reminders, “Now multiply the numerator by the same number.”  “Add the numerators.”  “Oh, no, no – don’t add the denominators – only the numerators.”  Etc.

The poor boy had never managed to get all the way through one question on his own!

If your child can’t do a few questions from step 1 to step 10 on his or her own, then he or she does not know the material.  This applies to any subject.

If mom or dad or a poorly informed tutor is providing hints or answers when preparing for a science test or history exam, then the learner does not fully know the information yet.

Of course, using hints and leading questions as mentioned before can be helpful during the learning process. Just make sure that your child can complete questions independently at the end of this process. gold_question_mark

This is also a teacher’s job and a tutor’s job.  It is NOT to give answers.  It is to teach learners how to get answers!

Everyone wants to be helpful, but the truth is you are not being helpful if you don’t let your children struggle to make their own discoveries.  They need to do the work to get the best reward.

As a parent (or teacher or tutor) is it difficult to watch your children squirm and struggle?

Yes!

Parenting is a difficult task; however, by being tough and helping only when needed, you will be giving your children the very best assistance.

So, pull back once in a while.  Remember the Learning Space?  Perhaps leave that space to your child sometimes. See if Johnny or Ingrid can complete the task on his or her own.  Let them fail occasionally, and use that failure as a lesson moving forward.  What went wrong?  How can the approach be improved?  What was missing from the final answer?

We learn so much from our mistakes as long as we keep working to change the path.

I know you can do it.  I have faith in you and your children.

For more help, check out the website or sign up for some lessons. Resize of photo_50494_20110720

Website:   www.tutoringcentral.com

Video:  Don’t Be Too Helpful!

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!

Make the Most of Your Homework Time & Reduce the Pain.

I get a lot of questions from my in-person students and on Quora about how to make the most of homework time and how to reduce the pain!

Some students are interested in getting better grades and are willing to do almost anything to get them.

Others are interested in reducing the pain and want something easy to make that happen.

These two goals are not as disparate as they might seem at first glance.

If you use good study skills and develop habits that will serve you well, then the pain is mitigated and the learning can truly begin.  magic

Sometimes, students are not happy with my answers because there is no magic.  In other words, there is  not a secret “trick” that you can do that will suddenly make homework as fun as pony rides (assuming you have no morbid fear of ponies) and that will insert you with the intelligence quotient of an Einstein.

No.

The tips are basic.  Most of them have been known for thousands of years!  What!  Even when the Internet didn’t exist – or smart phones – or apps – or herbs and vitamins to boost the brain?  YES!

Simple is often still the best route.  Some of the additional benefits of technology can help (or hurt) and maybe (big maybe) some vitamins and herbs can boost your brain – but you still need the foundation.

The tips are basic.

They work!

BE QUIET!       emoticon-25532_640

Sorry, I got carried away there.  But really, find a quiet location, if possible.  It is much easier to focus when distractions are reduced.  Turn off the T.V. – no smartphone (no dumb phone either) – no music* – no internet chat – no Sloppy Joes over your textbook / keyboard –  etc. Focus on one task.

                        * Music can be used to block out other annoying sounds, but is should be at a level that does not interfere with your focus – preferably without lyrics so that you don’t start singing along!

Read.  Read, and read, and read ….  I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as much as you can, and re-read for more comprehension.  You never capture everything on the first read of a substantial text.  You need to look over it several times. Read supplemental material as well.  Go beyond the minimum!

Write.  Write out notes.  Draw diagrams, create charts, pictures, graphs – anything that will help you remember.  Write on flashcards – especially useful for terms & definitions, but they can be used for all kinds of study.  Write a journal. Really?  Yes, writing down your thoughts can help you review your day and your network of knowledge.  so keep on writing, preferably handwriting.  Writing or printing by hand engages different parts of your brain.  People – and yes even young people – retain more information when they have physically written out notes compared to typing them.

Study.  I don’t mean look over your notes once, or three times, or one-hundred times.  I mean study.  Close the book, look away from the screen, stop listening to the lecture recording, and ask yourself if you can answer questions without looking or listening.  If you don’t know the answers without reading them in front of you, then you don’t know the material!  Self-testing (or you can use a buddy) is one of the best methods (not to mention the most overlooked and underused method) to prepare yourself.  Don’t cheat yourself by thinking that you know something without ever testing this hypothesis.

Be kind to yourself.  Reward yourself when you have done a good job.  Recognize the value of working hard but also the value in working smart.  Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.cup-1010909_640  Catnaps are good, too, if they are brief.  (Catnaps might be a misnomer.  Don’t sleep like your cat for sixteen hours a day!)  Make sure you eat healthy meals – small and numerous is best to keep your body (brain is included) performing at a steady rate.  Don’t let yourself off the hook!  Wait – I thought you said to be kind to yourself?  Yes, sometimes kindness = toughness.  You need to be honest with yourself – no cheating – no lapsing on scheduled homework time – no excuses.  The reward you get later is the kindness component.

Making the most of homework time:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will retain far more information; gain more knowledge; and do better on quizzes, tests, and exams.  You will be working smart which is at least as important as working hard.

Reducing the pain:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will begin to find the material is learned faster and better.  You might even be studying for less time and getting more out of it – reducing the “pain.”   You know the value of your efforts, so the pain factor starts to become less noticeable even during the sessions.

These are very broad strokes on how to make the most of homework time AND reduce the pain.

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Of course, for a more personal touch – check out the website, and contact me.  I can set up personalized programs that will help you, or your child, reach your goals. Boy books

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Video:  Make the Most of Your Homework Time & Reduce the Pain

 

 

 

 

 

How Do I Pay Attention? Seven tips.

How do I pay attention?

A lot of students struggle with this one.

Paying attention is essential to learning from lectures and presentations, but you need an attention span to get the most out of your reading as well.

Often students will ask me, “But how do I pay attention?”

Or they will say, “I just can’t pay attention.”

If you have difficulties paying attention, don’t despair!

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There are some active steps you can take that will help you improve.  It will take some effort, I’m afraid; however, the best rewards come from some degree of effort.  If you put your mind to it and follow through, you can improve your attention span. (In other words, if you don’t apply the techniques, you won’t see any change.)

First:          Stop telling yourself that you can’t pay attention.

Second:     Make a commitment to change.

Third:       Create a list of places / times in which you need to pay better attention.

Fourth:     Use a physical reminder.

Fifth        Ask yourself questions.

Sixth:        Get interested.

Seventh:   Practise “tuning out” extraneous noises.

Here is a little more on each of the points above.

Stop telling yourself that you cannot pay attention.  Negative messages only exacerbate the situation. They don’t provide solutions.  You need to be more positive and tell yourself that you can learn to improve. Just because you have limits now does not mean you can never change! Imagine if you just gave up the first time you tried to walk or the first time you tried to talk.  You didn’t know how to say words or string them together into sentences.  Imagine that you thought to yourself at the time, “Well, I simply cannot speak, so I’ll just keep babbling and grunting.”  I know this seems like a silly analogy, but it really isn’t.  Give up the lame excuse!

Making a commitment to change will help you stay on track. Write it down somewhere that you can see it – perhaps a sticky note on your computer or iPad (there are electronic sticky notes) or on your wall or notebook.  “I will improve my attention span.”

Creating a list of times or places in which you need to boost your ability to pay attention will give you a concrete (perhaps literally) starting point. (If your list is long, you might want to chose one or two places to begin.) For example, many people have no issues paying attention to a video game for hours, so that is not the place to start! You already pay attention.  You need to think of arenas in which your attention span is weak – perhaps in chemistry class.  That is where you will begin to make change.

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Use a physical reminder to “snap” your attention back to the task at hand.  For example, place an elastic band on your wrist.  When you notice your attention beginning to waver, give your elastic a little “snap.” (If you are in class you’ll need to do this quietly.) It is not intended to hurt – just to remind you that you are off track.  Of course, then you have to consciously focus on what you are supposed to be doing. Remember that you are taking action and control.

Another method is to simply place a “tick” on the margin of your notes every time you realize that your attention is getting away from you.

Be brutal with yourself.

Well, not literally, but take a very proactive approach to developing this good habit.  It always takes more effort to develop a good habit than to fall into a bad habit; but, once ingrained, you will find yourself following through automatically.

Ask yourself questions.  When listening to a lecture, podcast, video, or when reading gold_question_marktext – ask yourself questions (remember SQ3R – check that blog/video if not).  Asking yourself questions keeps you looking for answers.  When you are looking or listening for answers, you are engaged. (Don’t worry you don’t have to buy a ring or get married!  It’s not that kind of engagement.)

Remember:  You do not need fireworks to stay involved! With a little (or a lot at first) effort, you will surprised how fulfilling having a deeper understanding can be.  You will be much more satisfied not only with your performance but also with your ability to discuss topics intelligently as you continue to expand your horizons.

We don’t know what we don’t know.  Don’t you want everything you can get out of an education or, for that matter, your life? Increasing your ability to pay attention can help you achieve and excel.

Get interested.  When the teacher is talking, force yourself (make a concerted effort) to be interested – even if you aren’t.  In other words, fake it until you make it.  By making yourself focus even when you think something might be boring, you will begin to rewire your brain.  It’s true – particularly if you are young.  With effort, you can literally change the connections (synapses) within your brain and the concurrent chemistry that helps you think and respond – or not.

Cool.

I can change my brain.  Yes, you can!

If you take the same approach with parents, friends, even random conversations at parties, and so on, you will soon begin to realize that you are hearing more, incorporating more, and learning more.  Now, some of the data might be unimportant, but that can easily be released.  (Unless it is a horrible advertising jingle, and then you are doomed for days.)

Practice “tuning out” any noises or activity around you that does not add to your learning experience.  Obviously, you will ultimately want to do this in class, but you can start at home if that’s easier.  Pick one person to talk to or one activity (dare I say homework) and do only that.  No texting, phoning, fidget spinning, singing along with beach-handstandsyour favourite tunes, or handstands – just focus.

How do I pay attention?

You pay attention.  (Are you thinking of making an excuse? Go back to step one.)

Yes, there is a wee cost, but the benefits are well worth it.  As with anything else, the more you do it the easier it becomes.

Try these suggestions, and don’t give up even if you fail a few times (or a few hundred times).  Keep resetting and genuinely giving yourself a chance to improve.

Be proud of any honest moves forward.  You will soon see that the pride of improving yourself is much more valuable than money, candy, or any other material reward.

Let me know how you do.

Tutors help.  Seek out a mentor or educational coach that can guide you.

Don’t be shy to take advantage of my free information meeting.

Get in touch, and I will set it up for you.

Website:  www.tutoringcentral.com

This week’s video: How Do I Pay Attention?

I’m Stupid. That’s Why I’m Here!

I’m stupid.  That’s why I’m here! face-40056_640

If you are a tutor, I’m sure you have heard this comment.

In over twenty years of tutoring, I have never found this comment to be true.  While it is true that many parents seek out a tutor when Sally or Johnny is having a problem at school, tutoring is not only for those with a delay or challenge.  Not only that, but the students who do have some academic difficulties are quite smart in other ways!  Now – let’s not be wearing rose-coloured glasses.  Sometimes their behaviour might bring us to that no-no word “stupid.”  (By the way, it is a good word at times.  Take note, Word Police!) The occasional stupid action or statement (I’ve made many myself.) does not make a stupid person.

Last week, another student made the claim that he is only here at tutoring because he is stupid.

Now, he likes sports and knows quite a lot about them, so I asked him if he would not bother with a coach when he is a professional ________________________.

“No!” he claimed and looked at me as if I were crazy. “Even the best players have coaches.”

“Yes, in fact the very best athletes often seek out several coaches – and the best coaches, depending on their sport,” I pointed out.

In fact, there are plenty of analogies with sport.  If the coach gets frustrated with you, do you give up the sport?

If the coach gives you some new approaches and drills to try, do you throw your hands up and quit?

How often do you do the same drill over and over and over and over….?  (Have you done the same with your algebra?)

A tutor is an educational coach.  He or she can help you reach your academic goals.

I have helped lots of students who are behind, but I have also helped many students who are straight “A” students or those who have mixed results.  In fact, most of the techniques that work for a student with issues will work just as well for an excellent student.

Taking good notes, for example, will help the “A” student stay an “A” student and it will help the “D” student improve.  (Or the IEP “B” student working three grades below age/grade level begin to catch up.)

Using a reading program rather than “blind reading” will help any student – even a PhD candidate!

Learning to listen more effectively….  Well, you get my point.

While there are strategies that are more specific to a particular problem, the common study skills are just that – common to all.

(Unfortunately, their use is not as common as they should be.)

Let me recap in a different way. mistake-2344150_640

You are not stupid!  (Although, let’s be honest – all of us do stupid things from time to time.)

You can make change – perhaps with a little help.

You can work to achieve YOUR very best results.

A tutor can help you get those results.

Calling yourself stupid is either something you’ve picked up from others, a cry for help, or a way of giving up.

Don’t give up!  I know that you can reach a lot further than even you can see at the moment.  We don’t know our strengths until we try our very best.

  • Did someone tell you that you can’t read, so you need someone to read for you?
  • Did someone tell you that you can’t write, so you need someone to write for you?
  • Did someone tell you that you will never be able to do math without a calculator?
  • Did someone tell you that you are stupid?

Well, tell them all to (careful now!) have another look at you once you have taken control of your own education.

Don’t use any of these claims as an “out” so that you don’t have to work hard.  Take up the reigns and get moving forward for yourself.  Picture 21

Website: www.tutoringcentral

This week’s video: Yes you can!

 

Read for Pleasure

Read for Pleasure

Reading for pleasure can help improve your grades but it also introduces a more positive feeling about learning.

The more you read, the more you will be able to read, and reading something you like can get you there faster.

Of course, don’t be afraid to expand your horizons as your reading skills improve.  Jump out of your comfort zone every once in a while.

Read at least twenty books this year! (Yes, you can.)all-bong-122923

Think of this, if you read at an average speed of 300 words per minute (WPM) and only 15 minutes a day, you will have read about 20 books (1 512 000 words) in one year!

There is no easier way to help build vocabulary, increase speed of reading, and improve comprehension.

Did you know that reading too slowly can hamper your understanding (comprehension) of the material just as reading too fast does?

It’s true.

However, it is also true that speed is relative to the person.  At this point you might be reading fairly slowly in order to understand – and that’s just fine as long as you make an effort to “up your game” over time.

Tips to pick up the pace

When you are reading silently, try to break yourself of the habit of moving your lips or sub-vocalizing.  Place a finger on the vocal area of your throat to see if you are doing this.  These habits really slow down your reading speed.

Use your finger, a ruler, a pen on the margin, a bookmark, etc.  to help “scan” the sentences.  Scrolling down the page with one of these devices can force you to keep moving and can help your eyes scan more effectively until they are trained.  I still do this if I’m tired or if I need to read a lot of material fairly quickly.  It just helps keep me on track.  Oh, and I have never had trouble reading (thankfully), so the method works for everyone.  (I have seen a number of professors use the same method when trying to read through a massive number of essays or reports.)

Work at expanding your vocabulary.  When you are reading and come across words you don’t know, spend a little time looking up the meaning.  Use a dictionary in book form or online.  If you are using a Kobo or Kindle, you can search the word easily on the device. You can even keep your own personal dictionary.  Do this especially with words that keep recurring.  Authors will tend to use their favourite words more than once.  Paying attention to these new words and then seeing them in various places throughout the text or novel will help you retain their meaning.

But – won’t this slow me down? kindle-785681_640

Yes, it will temporarily.  As your vocabulary increases, however, so will your reading speed for a larger variety of material over time because you will already know more and more of the vocabulary.  Just as when you began learning to read as a child, you didn’t read in “chunks” or “phrases.”  You read word  for word until things got a little more familiar.  This is the same idea. You don’t have to look up every single unfamiliar word either.  As mentioned before, focus on words that keep showing up  and words that you can’t decipher well enough from the surrounding words and sentences (context).

Talk about it! 

Try to have a conversation about your reading.  Talking about what you are reading will help you remember, but it can also aid in appreciating various interpretations.  Not everyone will see the same facts or stories in the same way.  Obviously it is fun to chat with someone who has read the book (or story or blog, etc.) but you can often have a great conversation with people who haven’t read the same information.  They will likely ask questions or have a completely different take on what you are reading and discussing, so don’t be shy.  Of course, you shouldn’t force someone to listen if he or she doesn’t want to. If you are talking to someone who is not familiar with the book or topic, it is a great time for you to work on improving your ability to consolidate information and make it presentable so that they do want to listen.  Not only will this enhance your own retention, but it will give you practice for any future written assignments or presentations. Talking about your topic so that the listener’s eyes don’t glaze over is good practice.  It will help you when you need to do presentations in the academic world.

That’s the Goaldarts-155726_640

And that’s the goal.  reading for pleasure might not have a direct effect on your school studies.  For example, the Grisham novel might not have any historical or scientific relevance, but the fact that your reading speed and your ability to understand more broadly and deeply has improved will have a positive effect. The idea that you can now discuss the themes, plot, and characters in a presentable way will bring you rewards.

Learning to have fun while improving yourself is essential.

Reading is still the best way to get you all of the benefits.

If you want more personal attention and help with reading, writing, math, and/or study skills, do not hesitate to get in touch.
I offer free information meetings online or in-person.  I would love to help you, or your child, reach your academic goals.

Website:  www.tutoringcentral.comreading-button

This week’s video:  Reading for Pleasure.

 

 

 

 

Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

Pardon, what did you say?sound-159915_640

Listening is not simply hearing.

I am sure that you have experienced many times when you “heard” something, but you did not pay attention to it and have no idea what the person said to you.

Of course, we can’t pay close attention to everything we hear each day, or we would go crazy.  We need to sort the important from the unimportant.  We need to “weed out” those bits of information that aren’t going to help us.

When you are studying, however, you can learn certain tactics to help you get into the zone so that you don’t miss the bits you really need.

You can train yourself to be a better listener.

Be Attentive

Sit up straight and look alive!  Don’t just “look” alive, but be alive.  Sometimes it takes a little effort to engage yourself in a particular topic or to listen to a speaker that does not automatically entertain, but you can train yourself to do better.

I know in today’s world that everyone wants splashes of colour, musical backgrounds, dancing ponies, and so on in order to learn; however, not only are these not necessary – they are often more distractions to learning than helpful additions.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, especially with the dancing ponies, but you get my point. Not every teacher, not every class, not every book, has to “force” you by being entertaining ad nauseam to get you to learn.  The learning is actually your job!

Oh my God!  He said it.  I have to DO something!

Yes.

Learning is up to you.

Not entirely, of course; but you are the main component.  So, here comes another horribly shocking fact.  If you don’t want to learn, you won’t.  If you find a subject boring, then that is your fault.  You need to do something about it.

Go into every class and every course with the attitude that you are going to get the most out of it.

You are going to be alive!

Make Eye Contacterik-lucatero-310633

If you are listening to a teacher, or even a student’s presentation, always try to make eye contact.  Your eyes are like a window, but they also reflect in some sense.  You probably have experienced this yourself sometimes.  You are talking to someone, and he or she keeps looking away or staring into space.  When this happens, you get the distinct feeling that they are not particularly interested in what you are saying.

What happens then?

Well, you abbreviate what you are saying, or you simply stop.  The speaker does not have any motivation or encouragement to keep going if the “listener” is not listening.

Social cues are very important.  If you are not attending to the teacher, he or she will know!  Trust me.  It doesn’t matter how large the class is either.  You might think you are “lost in the crowd,” but you are not.

Not only is it a courtesy to make eye contact and engage with the speaker, but you will learn a lot more.

Once the teacher knows you are not prepared to listen, your grade begins to fall.  The teacher might not even be conscious of this effect, but it will happen.

Not only that; but, if the classroom is filled with many non-attentive students, the teacher will not be encouraged to give as much as she or he would in front of a more positive group of actual listeners

It’s human nature!  We all need a little support to reach our best performance.

Help your teacher, and she or he will be able to help you even more!

(Note:  Don’t stare, of course – but make frequent eye contact.)

Be Open

While you listen (and make eye contact), think of possible questions rather than interrupting with your opinions (at first). You want to give the speaker – whether that is a teacher, professor, other student, etc. – a chance to present all of his or her ideas and explanations before making too many judgements.  Of course, you are always going to be thinking about what you agree with and what you don’t, and these thoughts can formulate your questions. But you want to remain open to new ideas, contradictory thoughts, opinions that you might automatically disregard under other circumstances but that could change depending on this presentation or argument.

Sit Near the Front

You will want to be able to hear the teacher / presenter.

You will have fewer heads bobbing in front of you and being distracting.  (Or entirely blocking the view.)

The instructor will notice (note above) that you have come to learn.

It will be easier to make eye contact and focus on the lecture rather than other students, movements, windows, etc.

Remember, you want to be in control.

Listen for Verbal Cues and Watch for Non-Verbal Cues

There are lots of possible verbal and non-verbal cues, but here are a few.

Repetition – If a teacher is repeating a point several times, it is likely because he or she sees this as important.  In other words, worth noting.

Slowing down – speaking very carefully.  (Don’t forget this.)

Speaking more loudly. (I’m driving this point home to you.)

Literal verbal cues such as saying, “Here is the clincher!” or “This piece is important.”

Listen for the words in the following list:

Most importantly, therefore, to summarize, as a result, on the contrary, first of all, for these reasons.

All of these (and more) are key words or phrases that should make you perk up your ears!

If your teacher is writing on the board, listen (and take notes).

If your teacher is deliberately making eye contact with several students as she or he is making a point, this is probably important.  Make sure you “zero-in” on what is being said.

If your teacher is gesturing dramatically (my grade 9 math teacher used to smash the chalk on the board whenever something very important was being delivered) – concentrate on what he or she is saying because these actions usually indicate important material.

There are always exceptions to the rule.  A teacher might become suddenly passionate about something completely unrelated to your algebra or essay writing assignment; however, if you are paying attention to these verbal and non-verbal cues, then you can sort the salient data from the chaff as you hone in on what is being said.

Avoid Classmates Who Like to Distract

It will be very difficult for you to follow all the advice given above if the classmates that are near you keep fidgeting, whispering, passing notes, texting, showing you their latest YouTube video finds or funny Facebook pictures, etc.

Get away from them during class.

Enjoy their antics, their great personalities, their humour, and their judgments and comments for the lunch hour or after school.  They could be the best friends ever outside of academics, but you need to take control when the learning is about to happen.

Remember that you have the power to take control of your learning.  Using these tips will help you become an excellent listener and get positive results.

A personal educational coach can help you or your child achieve the best results.

I would love to be your coach.Boy books

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

For more tips, check out this week’s video.

Listening Well

Book Learning / Hands-on Learning

You can be BOTH.

Yes, I have this discussion over and over with my students.

Every so often, students challenge me to explain why they should bother learning from a book (or any text information) when they are going to be working “hands-on” anyway.

There is this pervasive idea in society that if you are a “book learner” you can’t possibly fix your own car or cook a decent meal, or even build a bookcase for your own books!

Alternatively, if you are a “hands-on” learner, you can’t learn anything from books or from writing – so why bother!

I totally disagree.

Why limit yourself.

Most true “hands-on” learners have learned a lot from books or other text information.  Many of them are very good at writing down directions or explanations as well.  Also, they continue to look for new information either in books, online blogs, or other places.  Of course, they use videos, pictures, and other available resources, but they don’t completely ignore text information.

Many “book learners” are very good at repairing things or creating with their hands.  There are many artists who are voracious book readers.  They don’t limit themselves unless they, too, have bought into the myth that one can’t cross over that invisible line.

I suggest to my students to be open to all learning experiences.  You can learn how to do something directly from a person in the field.  Then, you can look for more information to confirm or find alternative ways to approach the same task, making decisions yourself about what works best.

You might even find a combination of techniques that works better not only for yourself but also for others.

Book learners, if you have been reading about a particularly interesting topic or just come across something in a novel – like making cheese, you could access a professional in that field to try doing it yourself.

I know, I know, I hear you groaning and thinking that this is not true.  We all know bookworms who seem to have difficulty doing anything with their hands other than turning pages – or clicking a mouse.   The truth is that if you never actually try anything else than you will be clumsy and awkward (and probably embarrassed) until you’ve tried it over and over and over and over…..

Here is a related statement that is going to make you yell at me:  “Children are not that great at using electronic devices.”

Well, they aren’t automatically.  Why are they so good at video games, social media, texting, etc?  Because they are constantly practising (i.e., doing), spending hours and hours trying and retrying.  If you spent the same amount of time on any exercise or task, you would become a professional as well.

You CAN be both a book learner and a hands-on learner.  You might lean one way or another.  We all have preferences, but there is no need to limit yourself.

Jump into any learning opportunity that interests you with no fear!

A small video on the same topic:  Video

Ronald J. Johnson

www.tutoringcentral.com