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.