Tampa Tutor Reflects on the Joy of the Well Written Article

Posted on 28th May 2009 in Tampa English Tutor

I had the special pleasure of helping one of my favorite Tampa tutoring students today. She had to read a pair of contrasting journal articles and answer a series of related questions.

The journal articles were graduate level, and the contrast between them could not have been greater. One was written by a person with a command of the English language and a simple and direct style.

The other was not.

Photo by Andrij Bulba. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Only. See more of Andri's photos.

In the second article, the sentences stretched to standard paragraph length. Three dollar words replaced the ten cent variety. I  had to consult a dictionary four or five times to find the meaning of words that were needlessly obscure.

Perhaps the funniest part of the article was how dumb the ideas were once they were translated into plain English.

The well written piece was clear and convincing and a joy to read. Learning to write well is learning to think clearly.

As part of the same research, I ended up checking out The Emperor and the Linguist from the Tampa library.

It’s the story of the Rosetta stone and the man who unlocked hieroglyphics. The book is by a writing teacher. He knows how to tell a story.

If you need help with English or history or preparing for the SAT this summer, call 813.787.8959 to reach the Tampa English Tutor.

Posted by Tampa English Tutor at 5/28/2009 12:19 AM

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Tampa English Tutor Essay Writing Hint

Posted on 19th May 2009 in Tampa English Tutor

To accomplished writers, this Tampa English Tutor tip is second nature. However, this week, I had a tutoring session with a beginning writer working on an essay written in response to a prompt.

While I don’t recall the particulars of the prompt, it had two parts and the answer to the first part was required before the second part could be answered.

Photo by Mrs. Logic of the barter bookshop in the old Alnwick rail station. See more of Mrs. Logic's photos on Flickr. Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Only license. Looks like a cozy spot to do some Tampa English tutoring!

When we sat down to review this student’s paper, she had started reasonably well, but then wandered from the first part of the prompt into a personal reaction to the story that paper was about.

In certain cases, her observations could have been used to make a point that would have answered a portion of the prompt, but she had lost sight of the key parts of the prompt she was trying to address.

Together we divided the prompt into two parts and turned each question into a statement that took a clear position based upon this student’s reading of the work. She then reviewed her essay and could see that much of the beginning of her essay applied to the second part of the question. She also recognized that a good portion of her first draft was not answering any part of the prompt.

It’s basic, but it’s well worth doing to break down a writing prompt into its parts and then start by turning the question into a strong statement of position if the prompt is a persuasive one.

She had written her draft on the eve of the due date, which did not give her the time to create a truly outstanding piece of writing, but revising it once made it much stronger and probably turned a D or an F into at least a C or a B.

By creating statements that took a clear position on both parts of the prompt, she was able to see what was relevant and what could be cut. We then discussed the evidence from the work and made revisions and additions that used her best points first and last where they would stay with the reader.
It’s easy to wander from the issue when you are writing, so always re-read your finished work and ask yourself: “Have I answered all the parts of the prompt?” Sometimes the answer will make revision of your paper much simpler.

If you are a college or high school student who would like to improve your writing, contact Tampa English Tutor Eric Anderson at 813.787.8959  for one-on-one essay writing help.

Posted by Tampa English Tutor at 5/19/2009 10:33 PM



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Tampa SAT Tutor Hints for Sentence Completion Questions

Posted on 12th May 2009 in Tampa SAT Preparation

As a Tampa SAT tutor, I can empathize with students who feel anxious about taking the SAT. With less than stellar high school grades, I was anxious about the exam when I took it back in the Mesolithic Era.

The verbal portion of the SAT still has sentence completion questions that test vocabulary and ability to decipher context clues.

If you are struggling with sentence completions, do not despair. By working on improving your vocabulary and attacking sentence completion questions on the SAT systematically, you can dramatically improve your SAT score.

To improve your vocabulary, you should study lists of high frequency SAT words that can be found in almost every SAT prep guide. If you have sufficient time before you take your SAT, you should consider getting a series of vocabulary building books and doing a few exercises every day.

Photo of the Jefferson Monument by Tony the Misfit. Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Only. See more of Tony's excellent photographs in his Flickr photostream. He has some superb Jefferson quotations that accompany this particular shot.)

series that I like is Vocabulary from Classic Roots by Nancy Fiefer. These books are very helpful because they teach words in related clusters and teach them using the Latin and Greek roots. Learning word roots can really boost your SAT because roots give you a basis for intelligently inferring word meanings.

Here is an approach to SAT sentence completion questions:

  1. Read the sentence without looking at the answer choices and fill in a word that you think may fit.
  2. Look for a word with the same or a very similar meaning from the list of choices. If you are lucky, the word you think of will be in the answer choices.
  3. Test out the words to see which ones are possible and eliminate any answers that don’t fit.
  4. If it is a double completion question, examine the connection between the blanks. Does the sentence suggest contrast? Does it use words such as although, but, or nevertheless? Does the sentence suggest that the words that fit the blanks are similar in meaning? Does it use words such as similarly, in the same way, or likewise?
  5. Look for word roots, prefixes and suffixes to get a clue as to meaning.
  6. If you can eliminate at least one answer, guess.

SAT sentence completion questions are generally arranged roughly in order of difficulty, so do not agonize over the last one or two in a set. Do the best that you can, use process of elimination, and guess from the remaining choices – so long as you can eliminate at least one choice.

For those with sufficient time before the SAT, the best preparation for sentence completions is to read widely and actively. Assignments in an IB or AP curriculum should expose you to an abundance of college level reading. If you want to succeed at sentence completions, don’t skip unfamiliar words. Look them up on Dictionary.com or in a good college dictionary.

You can pick up lots of new words from reading Joseph Conrad or Charles Dickens if you invest the time to learn the words that are unfamiliar to you when you encounter them on the page. Call Tampa English Tutor Eric Anderson at 813.787.8959 if you would like private SAT Tutoring in Tampa, FL.

Posted by Tampa English Tutor at 5/12/2009 12:25 AM


SAT Prep for Procrastinators

Posted on 5th May 2009 in Tampa SAT Preparation

Students taking the SAT on May 2 are running out of time for SAT prep. Here are just a few last minute hints:

  • Know when to guess on the SAT — You lose one fifth of a point for guessing, and there are five possible answers. In other words, Christmas tree it and you will get close to a zero. You should guess on the SAT when you can eliminate one answer. You’ll come up slightly ahead. If you can eliminate two answers, you will be way ahead if you guess.

(Hazards of cramming image taken by Jane Doan. See more of Jane's photos in UMJaneDoan's Flickr photostream. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution only.)

  • Read the directions for each section of a practice SAT test — You won’t have to waste time with the directions on test day.
  • Wear an analog watch and set it to noon at the start of each SAT section — You can easily tell how much time is left without wasting time if you set your watch for noon at the start of each section. The SAT proctors will promise you to tell you when time is running out, but they don’t always do it.
  • Bring a jacket or sweatshirt to the SAT testing site – When I took the SAT years ago, the building was an icebox. I wished I had been smart enough to bring a jacket. I wouldn’t have been distracted by being way too cold. Bring something to eat so that you can eat at the breaks. Don’t count on there being food or vending machines.
  • Don’t stay up the night before cramming for the SAT – Dude, it’s too late to do much the night before. Just get some rest and do the best you can. Taking the SAT with zero sleep is a sure way to lower your SAT score.

If you are preparing to take the SAT at one of the later test dates and live in Tampa, FL, call Eric at 813.787.8959. I will be doing lots of private SAT tutoring in Tampa, Florida for those who want to prepare for the SAT over the summer.

Posted by Tampa English Tutor at 5/1/2009 11:00 PM