Monday, December 19, 2016

Word of the week: Tempestuous

The answer is having violent emotions.

Teenagers are notorious for their tempestuous tendencies.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Word of the week: Suffragist

The answer is someone supporting suffrage.

Thanks to many women suffragists throughout history, the world has come a long way in creating a society of gender equality. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Word of the week: Sanguine

The answer is optimistic.

The team's sanguine attitude allowed them to push through the rough first half and eventually come back to win the game.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Good Writers Read Out Loud

We have all heard of book signings where authors read excerpts of their books. And who hasn’t happened by an open mic poetry reading at niche coffee shop? We even buy books on tape. So why don’t we encourage our students to read their own written work out loud?

Reading out loud is an excellent tool for students to learn about the flow and pacing of good writing. If reading a sentence makes him feel tongue tied or rushes by so fast that he runs out of breath, chances are that the sentence needs revision.

Good writers use their ear to HEAR mistakes even when their fine tuned brain compensates for errors that they SEE on a page.
An added bonus of learning to read out loud properly is a big boost in selfconfidence. Public speaking skills are sorely lacking in many students partly because they don’t have the opportunity to practice and get good feedback along the way.

So the next time your child hands you a draft to read, hand it right back and say, ”Let’s hear it!”

Monday, November 28, 2016

Word of the week: Recapitulate

The answer is to summarize.

"Before I recapitulate our meeting, are there any final questions?"

Monday, November 21, 2016

Word of the week: Precipitous

The answer is steep.

After almost driving my car off of the precipitous cliff, I decided to let my brother drive for the remainder of the trip.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Word of the week: Pecuniary

The answer is involving money.

No matter how smart you are, if your pecuniary judgement is poor, you will be too.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Word of the week: Omnipotent

The answer is all powerful.

Many indigenous peoples of North America believed in several omnipotent gods that blessed every aspect of their lives.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Word of the week: Obsequious

The answer is obedient.

If you're giving an apple to your teacher in an obsequious attempt to raise your grade, it will never work.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top 10 Uses for the Comma

10. Dates and Addresses: place a comma between cities and states or cities and countries; place a
                                         comma between the day and year in a date.                    

London, England                   January 12, 2016  

9. Numbers: place a comma in large numbers each three places right of the decimal.

5, 567, 543  

8. Dialogue: place a comma between the line of dialogue and the tag which tells who is speaking.

Mary said, “Pass me the sugar.”  

7. Direct Address and Interjections: place a comma after the                                                                       name that you are speaking                                                                directly to as well as after                                                                    words that indicate                                                                              exclamation or emotion.

Wow, I love chocolate!  

6. Between Adjectives: place a comma between adjectives that are                                        side by side and used to describe the same                                          noun.

                                    It is a big, blue house.   

5. Appositives: place a comma around the noun or noun phrase that renames another noun beside it.

The mosquito, an insect, leaves red bumps that itch.  

4. Conjunctive Adverbs: place a comma after a conjunctive adverb used to join two main clauses.

I love the holidays; however, I often work too hard.   

3. Introductory Elements: place a comma after introductory phrases, clauses and words that appear
                                             before the main clause of a sentence.

After breakfast, I leave for school.   

2. In Lists: place a comma between three of more items in a list.

I like pizza, pasta, and garlic bread.   

1. Compound Sentences: place a comma before the conjunction that joins two independent clauses                                              in a compound sentence.

Harry hit the ball, but John caught it. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Word of the week: Nomenclature

The answer is a system of naming.

Scientists use binomial-nomenclature to classify different species of animals.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Word of the week: Loquacious

The answer is talkative.

My loquacious sister can stay at a party and talk all night long, while I can make it only a couple of hours.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Education: The Great Equalizer

With Online Scribblers immersed in its 5th year, it is only natural to reflect upon its continued development and growth. In doing so, one question continues to present itself: What are the advantages of online learning?    

The answer appears evident. Online learning affords students a unique educational experience emphasizing superior accessibility, individualized pacing, and custom feedback.    

First, online learning allows every student access to experts in their field no matter where they live. Previously, students in metropolitan areas had greater access to higher education and renowned professional experts. Now even students in rural, less inhabited areas can learn from the best. Even more importantly, these students can collaborate and learn together. Their diversity lends a greater depth to the learning process. Online learning equalizes opportunity among all students.      

Secondly, online learning allows students to progress at their own pace and around their schedules. No longer must one student spend an hour on a lesson that made sense to them in 20 minutes. Similarly, a student who struggles with a concept has the chance to repeat and review it as many times as needed to fully grasp it.

Online learning also allows students and families to forge their own academic experience. It is flexible.

A family might travel frequently: no problem. 

A student might deal with intermittent health concerns: no problem.  

A student might be pursuing a competitive talent: no problem.  

These students don’t need to choose between their specific  interests or circumstances and a quality education. Online learning makes everything possible.    

Finally, online learning allows teachers to provide individual and customized feedback to each student. The teacher can push an excelling student a bit harder while praising and encouraging the smaller accomplishments of a struggling student to affecting greater confidence. It eliminates the competition in education and focuses on the outcome. No two students are the same and neither should be their education.

     In many ways, online learning is akin to having your own private tutor. And similar to the special relationship that develops between a student and their tutor, a unique relationship evolves between online students and their teachers. There is no hiding in the back row of the classroom or sinking low in a chair. There is no waiting for the outgoing student in the front row to answer all the questions. Online teachers get to know each student personally. Each student is held to a higher level of accountability and responsibility for their work.      

In a traditional classroom, a teacher has a finite amount of time to communicate a lesson, discipline, and develop a rapport among students. What a feat! However, online learning accelerates this one to one relationship between student and teacher. And once a level of comfort is achieved, the real nitty-gritty of learning can flourish.      

So, while knowledge is power and the road to success, online learning just might be the modern face of education in today’s world: the great equalizer.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Word of the week: Lexicon

The answer is dictionary.

There is no better place to consult when writing a term paper than a lexicon.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Word of the week: Incognito

The answer is hidden.

The agent had to remain incognito in order to recover the required intel.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top 10 Homophone Mistakes

Homophones are two or more words with the same pronunciation but different meanings. Mixing up homophones is one of the most common mistakes students make in their writing. Below are the most frequent errors that I see in student work:

10.  Tale: a story      
       Tail: the hind part of an animal

9.  Site: a place or location
     Sight: what you see

8.  Threw: having thrown something
     Through: passing or complete  

7.  New: not having been used before  
     Knew: understand (past tense)  

6.  Weather: the state of the atmosphere (rain, sunshine)
     Whether: if, depending

5.  Effect: noun—a change or consequence of an action
     Affect: verb—to make a difference

4.  Your: belonging to you  
     You’re: you are

3.  To: referring to direction or place
     Too: also, in addition, an extreme amount

2.  Their: belonging to them
     There: a place, where something is

1.  Its: belonging to it
     It’s: it is

Monday, September 26, 2016

Word of the week: Impeach

The answer is to accuse.

The newspapers all impeached the politician of bribery following the convention.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Word of the week: Hubris

The answer is arrogance.

The hubris coach needed to set his ego aside and focus on bonding with his team if he hoped to win the championship.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Scream Out Loud makes a SPLASH in San Diego!

This past February, I had the unique opportunity and privilege to take part in the San Diego Local Author’s Exhibit. Over 300 local authors were recognized at the annual event, and I was honored to be included with my recent novel, Scream Out Loud.

Aside from seeing my book showcased beside other talent in the lobby of our Central Library, perhaps the highlight of the evening was listening to the personal story of the esteemed keynote speaker, Brian Selznik. Mr. Selznik is the author of several best selling novels as well as the Oscar Award winning movie Hugo.

Excitement and thrilling milestones continued in the month of March as I visited with a local book club that had read Scream Out Loud. What a treat to be able to interact with my readers! It was a surreal to hear the many ways that my characters impacted these women and the emotion that arose as the controversial topics of abuse and suicide were discussed.

When I write, I am completely consumed by my characters and immersed in their world. But to see this fictional world come to life for readers was beyond a dream come true. Definitely a highlight of my writing career!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Word of the week: Homogeneous

The answer is identical.

When our school has spirit day, the entire student body appears to be homogeneous.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Get the "Math" Kids Writing

I can’t count the number of times parents ask for help teaching their student to write “because they are more math oriented.”

So make it more like math. Appeal to the math concepts that these students absorb easily.

Every child has a specific learning style and subjects that they like more than others. The key to teaching any subject is to find what resonates with each student and adjust your presentation. Once the student acquires the skills and concepts—and once she begins to find success and builds confidence—the rest will come more naturally.

So find the math in writing… 

Here are some ways to bring the principles of logic and organization to writing:

1. Teach the art of diagramming sentences. Sentence diagramming is geometric. Students learn to compartmentalize words into their function in a sentence. Every word has a job.  Students learn how words fit together to form grammatically correct sentences and they learn how to avoid incomplete and run on sentences. Suddenly introductory elements jump out of  sentences and punctuation becomes easier to place.

2. Use graphic organizers to teach paragraph structure and focus. These help students visualize a large piece of writing and provide a framework to begin the arduous process of paper writing.

3. Create formulas to explain concepts of writing.  Hook + Thesis + Blueprint = Introduction Paragraph Formulas provide a familiar concept that allows students to plug in parts of a whole to achieve a final outcome.  So don’t write off  “math kids”. Instead help them to be successful “writing kids” too!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Word of the week: Gauche

The answer is awkward.

The gauche child  had lived all of her life in seclusion and had never met another person before.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ten Classic Novels for Teens

Classic literature is replete with imagery of the time it was written and lessons for the 

ages. It also demonstrates the excellence of well written works where emphasis was 

on quality of words and structure rather than quantity of books published.  These are 

some of my favorite and most important works of all time!

10. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

          This is a tale of two displacd migrant workers during the depression in California.

9. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

           This is a true story of a young girl in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi   

           occupation of the Netherlands. 

8.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

          Set in the post war South, this story paints a picture of he people and places 

          along the Mississippi River. 

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

          This story follows the experiences of Jane Eyre on her journey from youth to 
          adulthood including her moral sensibilities of the times.

6. Animal Farm by George Orwell

          This is an allegory that questions the role and responsibility of government to its

          people to rebel.

5. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

          This novel courageously addresses adolescent themes of anxiety and alienation.

4.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

          This classic is a book about the strength of women and the validation of virtue

          over wealth in a family setting.

3.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

          The story follows the main character as she deals with issues of manners,

           morality, education, and marriage in high society of early 19th Century England.

2.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

          This story reveals the unprecedented economic prosperity and flagrant culture

           of the 1920's.

1.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

          A disturbing look at the racial and financial inequality of the South in the 1930's.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Word of the week: Feckless

The answer is incompetent.

"How fatuous do you have to be to think that pouring water on my computer will cool it down!"

Monday, August 15, 2016

Word of the week: Fatuous

The answer is foolish.

The fatuous man decided to pull on the tail of a horse and received a concussion as a result.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Word of the week: Evanescent

The answer is fading.

When the girl woke up, evanescent visions of her late grandmother haunted her.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Word of the week: Enfranchise

The answer is to free.

Harriet Tubman is famous for her daring attempts to enfranchise slaves in the south.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Word of the week: Deleterious

The answer is harmful.

Smoking in the car is deleterious to the health of any passengers.

Word of the week: Deciduous

The answer is shedding leaves.

After one year of raking leaves, my dad decided to never buy deciduous trees again.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Word of the week: Churlish

The answer is rude.

The boy's grandmother reprimanded him for his churlish response.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Word of the week: Chicanery

The correct answer is tricks.

The boys chicanery ended in weekly detention.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Word of the Week: Acumen

The correct answer is shrewdness.

The CEO's acumen allowed him to double his profits in just one year.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Word of the Week: Abrogate

The correct answer is to revoke.

The man had to abrogate his license upon his DUI.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Real Writers Read Out Loud

We have all heard of book signings where authors read excerpts of their books. And who hasn’t happened by an open mic poetry reading at niche coffee shop? We even buy books on tape. So why don’t we encourage our students to read their own written work out loud?

Reading out loud is an excellent tool for students to learn about the flow and pacing of good writing. 

If reading a sentence makes him feel tongue tied or rushes by so fast that he runs out of breath, chances are that the sentence needs revision.

Good writers use their ear to HEAR mistakes even when their fine tuned brain compensates for errors that they SEE on a page.

An added bonus of learning to read out loud properly is a big boost in self-confidence. Public speaking skills are sorely lacking in many students partly because they don’t have the opportunity to practice and get good feedback along the way.

So the next time your child hands you a draft to read, hand it right back and say, ”Let’s hear it!”

Monday, April 25, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: RESPITE

A respite is a brief period of rest from something exhausting or difficult. You might take a respite from a morning of hard work.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Who Benefits from Peer Assessment?

     A growing trend in the traditional classroom is peer assessment. With the growing number of students in a single classroom and fewer planning periods for overworked teachers, peer assessment makes sense — or does it?

     Peer assessment is the practice of swapping work with classmates to receive feedback and/or correction. Peer assessment is commonplace in math or spelling classes where peers are responsible for marking questions as the teacher gives correction to the class. However, the peer review of written work poses quite a dilemma for students.

     Consider the following scenario:

Student A writes an essay and gives it to student B for peer review. Student B comments and corrects punctuation, grammar, spelling, and general writing skill. Student A gets his essay back and makes revisions before submitting a final draft to the teacher.

Therein lies the problem:

Student A is a much stronger writer whose good work was wrongly corrected. Now he has made revisions which are incorrect and will be graded as such by his teacher.

So who benefits from this peer review situation running rampant in middle and high schools across our country? Clearly weaker students can benefit from the assistance of stronger students. And clearly, teachers benefit from the time saved from reviewing rough drafts. But what happens to the students receiving poor writing advice from their peers? And how is a student to know what is right and what is wrong? Where is the consistent standard?

Furthermore, in math or spelling class, the teacher demonstrates a skill to the class so that all of the students have the same opportunity to advance. But in the current state of our schools, where writing education is lacking across the board, what skills are students bringing to the table that qualify them as peer editors?

More than once, my own children have brought me peer reviewed essays so that I can “review their peer review.” On almost all occasions, correct writing was marked wrong. And on another occasion, no errors at all were found by the peer reviewer. Instead, at the end of the essay was a sprawling “Good Job!” Upon my review, however, multiple errors were found. 

Teacher groups and education facilities profess that peer review is a modern technique that benefits everyone involved because students are practicing their editing skills. As a parent and writing teacher, I disagree. Students cannot practice editing skills until they have first been taught to write properly. And under no circumstances, do I want another student “practicing” on my child.  So for the time being, my children bring me their “peer reviewed” work for a second glance.

This peer review is just one more flaw in our American writing education: we have now turned over our writing instruction to our students. It is no wonder that we are seeing college students who are not capable of expressive written thought and professionals with only basic writing skills. It’s time we insist on proper writing education.


Monday, April 18, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: TERSE

The word ternse indicates conciseness and brevity. Think of the phrase "short and sweet."  Terse can also refer to someone who speaks in an abrupt tone of voice.

So, my advice is to be terse in your writing perhaps, but don't be terse with your friends!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Writing a book is not the hardest part of being an author. Finding the agent, the publisher - the time - is so much more challenging!

One day, my son was watching me create my database for agent queries and presented me with a giant "aha moment" that remains with me even today.

Son: Mom, how many agents are there in the world? 

Me : Hundreds. Thousands. (admittedly distracted)

Son: That's great, mom!

Me: Great? How's that great? (Bear in mind, I'm in the throws of reading hundreds...thousands of agent websites...)

Son: Because you only need one to say yes!

And there it is: Aha! Never give up. It only takes one "yes" to make your dreams come true!

Monday, April 11, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: CYNICAL

The word cynical holds a negative connotation and describes a person who is distrustful or pessimistic about other people or situations.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Top 10 Literary Devices Everyone should Know and Use

10. Irony: words used that often mean something different or the
                   opposite of what they mean  

A man who is a traffic cop gets his license suspended for unpaid parking tickets.

 9. Parallelism: repetition of word or phrases to emphasize a point

My favorite foods are pizza, chocolate, steak and donuts.

8. Metaphor: compares two things where one is the other

He is the apple of my eye.

7. Simile: compares two things using like or as

He is as fast as a cheetah.

6. Oxymoron: the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated words

The paper tablecloth flapped in the wind.

5. Onomatopoeia: words that represent sounds

The floor board squeaked as I ran across it.

4. Personification: using animals or inanimate objects are given
                                   human qualities  

The clock screamed the time.

3. Alliteration: repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of

Sister Susie sat in the sun.

2. Hyperbole: an exaggeration

The dog weighed a ton.

1. Imagery: descriptive language that attempts to invoke one or
                         more of the five senses

The azure sky melted into the horizon across the tumbling waves.

Monday, April 4, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: RECUPERATE

To recuperate is to recover from an illness or to recover something that has been lost.

I drink lots of orange juice while I recuperate from the flu.
My hope is to recuperate the money that I lost during my walk through the canyon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ability Grouping?

     In recent years, it had become taboo in schools to group children according to performance and ability. There is no Minnow math group for struggling students, nor is there a Shark math group for those students light years ahead in their math skills. Grouping has become a thing of the past...and full of negative connotations to boot.

     The overwhelming view among educators is that assigning groups degrades children and prevents growth out of said group. Instead, non-grouping allows struggling students to learn from their peers.

     According to an article by Vivian Yee in the New York Times (Grouping Students by Ability Regains Favor in Classroom), teachers have begun speaking out in favor of grouping. Without establishing proper groups, teachers say, only the middle of the road students have their needs met. Essentially, teaching is aimed to the middle 1/3 of the class and leaves both the high achieving and struggling students to fend for themselves.

     It seems that grouping by ability allows teachers to address specific needs of each student and to provide positive feedback for all levels of achievement across the board. This results in increased self-esteem for all students which in turn leads to greater ambition and performance.

     Change simply for change sake is not beneficial to our students. Listening to teachers about what works and is practical in a classroom is essential and not to be overlooked in favor of educational theorists who have never taught a group of students.

     No wonder so many of our nation’s students are now being homeschooled where their individual needs can be met and the praise and positive reinforcement doled out freely and frequently!


Monday, March 28, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: OBSCURE

The word obscure used as a verb means to conceal or hide something. Used as an adjective, obscure indicates something hidden or difficult to understand or find. If you use an obscure reference in a paper about George Washington, it is a fact that few people know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Keep Calm and Study...Latin?

Veni, Vidi, Vici.

I came. I saw. I conquered.

Julius Caesar’s famous words of victory to the Roman Senate still hold meaning for many students of today.

The ancient language of the Roman Empire has long been studied by academic scholars. But in recent years, Latin is seeing a resurgence among students of all ages and walks of life—and for good reason! The study of Latin can make learning across all curriculums easier and more fluid.

1. Latin improves vocabulary and the ability to decipher words in day to day reading.

2. Latin improves grammar through understanding the way sentences are put together and subject/verb agreement.

3. Latin is understood much like a improves logic.

4. Latin provides a precursor to understanding current scientific and legal terminology for future study.

5. Latin provides a foundation for understanding history and the philosophy of government and art.

Monday, March 21, 2016

SAT Word of the Week: HERESY

The wrod heresy refers to something that is profoundly out of the ordinary or that which is acceptable by most people. Heresy is also a religious term when referring to a term at odds with a particular religious doctrine. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

End the Cycle of Reluctant Writers

We’ve all heard the old adage that “children learn what they live.” Children learn to be kind when they are shown kindness. Children learn to be honest, when people are honest with them. In the same way, children learn to read when they are read to. This is precisely why parents read to their children before bed and why preschool teachers read to their class on a daily basis. Children are read to and therefore children can read. We, as a society, don’t accept any less for our children.

Why then do we accept it when our children are less than proficient writers? Why do we not write with our children daily? Why do we not write TO them daily? Why is this not part of our family habit? If children model what their parents do, we need to show our children that writing is not painful or boring. We need to embrace writing as an opportunity for personal expression and meaningful communication.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate writing in to a nightly habit:

1. Each week write a letter or card to an elderly person or service man or woman. Once you have a pile of cards, deliver the stack of cards to a nursing home or military organization. Make it a family affair by getting out the construction paper, markers, and dictionary. Challenge each other to write the most meaningful message.

2. Write notes to each other and leave them around the house. Let your children see you leaving notes for other adults and express your own joy at receiving them.

3. Write a poem together as a family and frame it. Hang it somewhere prominent where visitors will see and enjoy it.

4. Enlist the help of your children in writing lists for you. Keep a grocery list on the fridge and encourage everyone to add to it during the week. For dad’s birthday, ask everyone to make a list of what they would like to get him and then compare notes.
It doesn’t matter what you are writing, the important thing is that children see writing as an integral part of your family life. If you break the cycle of reluctant writing and pick up a pencil, chances are they will too!