Tampa English Tutor Stunned by Advice in Teacher’s Book

Posted on 24th February 2010 in Tampa English Tutor

Teaching writing is an amazingly subjective enterprise. I just finished a book about a middle school writing teacher and his students. I read it in hopes of finding some activities that I could do with my younger writing students.

As far as my goal for reading, mission accomplished. The book was well-written and contained a few good activities to teach story writing.

Naples Italy image for Tampa Tutoring blog

Photo by Nic McPhee. See more of his wonderful photos on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Only.

Nevertheless, I was horrified by the sections describing the writing conferences and by the advice that the writing teacher reports having given to parents at several points in the story. He admits to steeling a set of student tests and to advising a parent who was considering private school that his son could be just as easily corrupted by classmates at a private school as by classmates at a public school. It’s hard to imagine someone so insensitive to a father that he or she would offer up that bit of unsolicited wisdom.

Some days I feel like I am not a good writing teacher, but I know better than to do that. I guess the dozen people who gave this writing teacher’s book five star reviews weren’t bothered by either of those details.

I looked at reviews of the book on Amazon, and everyone else seemed to have enjoyed it, but I found myself rolling my eyes and feeling sorry for the kids. I’m not naming names, just venting, I guess.

The book is a good reminder of how many different approaches there are to teaching writing and to dealing with people.

Eric Anderson is a writing tutor. He lives in Wesley Chapel, Florida, and tutors students in Pasco and Hillsborough Counties. If you have a student who would like help becoming a better writer, call Eric at 813.787.8959.

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The Whole Truth: Writing Advice for Students from Writing Coach Roy Sorrels

Posted on 8th January 2010 in Tampa English Tutor

One of the e-newsletters that I read comes from writing coach Roy Sorrels. This week his newsletter had some great advice. He has been kind enough to let me share his article here:

The Whole Truth

***The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but….” If you’ve ever testified in a courtroom you’ve spoken those words, a solemn promise to tell the truth.

The problem with much of what we write is that we do indeed tell the truth, but often we don’t tell the whole truth.

Here’s what I mean: When I was teaching one of my face-to-face memoir classes, an elderly woman wrote about her wedding day. She wrote about how happy she was, how much in love she was, what a fine fellow her new husband (who was still her husband after almost 50 years) was.

And it was all, I believed, the truth.

But I suspected that it wasn’t the whole story. And I told her (gently) that I thought the whole story, the “whole truth,” would make a much more compelling piece of memoir.

The next week she brought the piece back, revised. Now it included the fact that the wedding was in the middle of the Great Depression. She was out of work, her new husband was out of work. She had holes in her shoes. Her wedding dress was borrowed and a color she hated. She’d eaten the last frankfurter in the fridge for breakfast. And she was pregnant. Yes, she loved her new husband, but she was also angry at him for his part in getting her into this pickle. And, of course, she was angry at herself. She even admitted being angry at God.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/stawarz/ / CC BY-ND 2.0
This photo created by Andrew Stawarz.

Usually, we tend to write the truth in draft #1. Then, if we’re determined to make what we’re writing as good as it can possibly be, we start as we revise trying to tell the whole truth. And, as we do, our writing becomes more interesting, more compelling, more dramatic, and often funnier.

*** Working with people who are writing about their own lives is, for me, one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of being a writing coach.

They are often in a process of self-discovery that can be very valuable for them. And they are often creating a gift for their children and grand children that, in my opinion, is the most important gift they can give.

If you are interested in learning more about Roy or any of his online writing workshops, visit him at www.RoySorrels.com.

The Benefits of Reading Fiction

Posted on 4th January 2010 in Tampa English Tutor

Daphne Gray-Grant, the author of 8.5 Steps to Writing Faster, Better, tweeted about a recent article on the benefits of reading fiction from the New Scientist. The article describes experiments done at the University of Toronto that provide some evidence of increased empathy by fiction readers.

City Lights Bookstore front

http://www.flickr.com/photos/96683394@N00/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

Makes sense. Identifying with a fictional character requires the ability to see the world from his or her point of view. I thought the design of the research was interesting.  So was the conclusion that empathy may also come from identifying with characters in movies and video games. I can’t see playing Grand Theft Auto helping a kid develop empathy, but it’s probably because I’m old.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to find evidence that reading fiction is good for you. (If you are looking for a good young adult novel to read with your 7th or 8th grader, try Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.)

Eric Anderson is a English Tutor in Tampa, Florida. Naturally, he thinks reading is good for you. If your son or daughter needs help with English, history, essay writing, English grammar, or reading, call Eric at 813.787.8959.

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Tampa, FL AP History Tutor Gives Basic Advice on Writing Better History DBQs

Posted on 26th February 2009 in Tampa English Tutor

This week I took on a new Tampa, FL AP History Tutoring client. He wanted help writing better History DBQs.

For those looking to practice DBQ writing, The College Board has been kind enough to publish a list of DBQs from recent AP European History exams.

For a student wishing to improve DBQ writing, what could be better than working actual previous AP exam DBQs?

It’s a basic tip, but worth any student’s time to examine the AP scoring rubric that is included in the PDFs on the College Board website.

Photo by William Murphy and licensed under Creative Commons attribution only. See more of William's photos in his Flickr photostream.

You ought to take a minute to review the DBQ scoring rubric if you are studying for the AP exam and can’t answer these questions:

  • What is the minimum number of documents that a student must use to get credit?
  • How many documents may a student misinterpret and still score on the basic rubric?
  • What types of bias should a DBQ writer look for in analyzing the point of view of sample documents?
  • How are the points awarded for a DBQ?
  • Must the thesis appear in the first paragraph of a DBQ?
  • Assuming a student gets all of the basic points on a DBQ, what are the requirements for earning extra points?

The DBQs from the College Board website include answers written by students. Studying the best DBQ answer essays and knowing the DBQ scoring rubric are good place to start if you want to improve your chances of writing an effective AP History DBQ. Need more help in AP European or American History? Call 813.787.8959 to reach Eric, the Tampa AP History Tutor.

Posted by Tampa English Tutor at 2/26/2009 12:50 AM


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