Writing Articles

Why Vocabulary and Facts Are So Important

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Getty Center July 17 2010 024How do you know all the words without looking at the back of the cards? 

A fifth grade student was amazed that I knew every word on the American Heritage Dictionary’s Top 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know  list. She only recognized five.

I assured her that soon she would also know these words, because we were about to begin learning them now.The authors explain why knowing these words is so important:

So I Got My Test Back; Now What?

Monday, September 1st, 2014

P9160353Dear Friends,

It’s such a shame that in our culture testing has such a bad name.

The dad of one of my students is a physician; he recalls that:

Medical school is all about being tested. We were constantly quizzing, taking tests, and flipping flash cards (each flash card is a tiny test). We were tested multiple times every day. All that testing made our minds sharp, plus it kept us aware of the areas we still needed to work on. It was a powerful way to learn.

Can Writing The College Essay Have Mental Health Benefits?

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

P8020181The new Common Application prompts were revealed on Aug 1, and forward-thinking high school seniors are already brainstorming for what to write and attempting some rough drafts.

The prompts are listed below; notice how they are all designed to get students writing about their unique identities, character strengths and core values.

  1. Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Can Limiting Choice Make Writing Flow?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Do we need other people in order to understand ourselves better?

Take just a few seconds to consider this question.

OK, now: unless you were too rushed or distracted to actually invest those few seconds, you found that your mind automatically began forming a reply.

Questions can be great for kicking the brain into a productive mode, because:

  • Questions stimulate thinking, and…
  • Questions provide focus.

Wonderful Word Problems

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

[I’m going to devote my Thursday blog posts to the topic of All Things Academic: reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and the other school subjects.]

Last week I said that I see value in having kids (and all learners) memorize a certain amount of factual information.

I also said that I’m not a fan of rote memorization of multiplication “facts.” Kids should also be learning when and how to apply all of the four operations to various situations.

Getting Back Into the Writing Groove

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Several factors have thrown me off my nice, comfortable writing routine, including some extra part-time work and then a freak snowstorm that left us without power or Internet access for a week.

I stopped blogging because my routine had been disrupted. My morning writing time was no longer available, and that’s when my head was in “writing mode.”

The Next 15 Minutes

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Do you practice mindfulness? I try to live “in the moment” as much as possible, every day. There’s something about focusing on the present that keeps me feeling stronger, more grounded, happier, more able to cope. Yet, a big part of being human involves being aware of the past with all its traumas, and the future with all its worries.

In her memoir, The Next Fifteen Minutes, Kim Kircher presents an intriguing and useful version of mindfulness. Kim is a ski area patroller and emergency medical technician. Part of her training involved learning how to cope with crises fifteen minutes at a time, which strikes me as a perfectly practical “chunk” of mindfulness.

Mental Fatigue at the End of Summer

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

-Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

This post is about projection and self-acceptance and those nagging feelings of fatigue.

In this part of the country, kids still have two or three weeks before they start back to school.

Yesterday I sat with one student, Alex, who has been respectfully and dutifully schlogging through his SAT prep work all summer. Alex understands the benefits of all this studying, but his heart’s not in it. He wishes he was doing “something else.”

Capture Summertime in A Gratitude Journal

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Summer is such a magical time, and it passes too quickly.

It’s the perfect time to start, or renew, your gratitude journal.

The concept is simple: There’s beauty and pleasure all around us, but we often don’t notice it or get enough enjoyment out of it, because we’re focused on all our pressures and problems.

Keeping a gratitude journal gets us to:

  1. Change our focus and scan our environment for pleasures, not problems.
  2. Notice and savor the good things, spend more time enjoying them.
  3. Indulge in their details by describing them in writing.
  4. Hold on to them by recording them.

I began actively retraining my focus in this manner many years ago, so that by now I automatically notice simple pleasures I dare say most people do not.

A Writer’s Mindset

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

I’ve been quiet here the past two weeks, because I’ve taken on a part-time job in addition to my usual tutoring.

So, I’m a lot busier, yes.

But what’s getting in the way of my blogging isn’t so much the scarcity of time. It’s the nature of this new job, which is a writing and editing job.



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Recent Comments
  • Dad of 5: Where you say “Nor should we expect to go to math class, listen one time, and immediately “get it.”...
  • MsJustice: what about kids/young adults that have a mental illness? Does this apply to them too? I have a son who is...
  • Joe: Is there perfect empathy? No, but this is not a binary, all-or-nothing thing. I agree it’s a definition...
  • One KP: I do agree with you Colleen, it is a definition problem we have here. Also the other challenge we are faced...
  • Bette: There are some things in life we must memorize. My concern with the Common Core principles is that the most...
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