Posted in Child, children, classes, Courses, Education, Events, Homework Help, Individualized Tutoring, K-12 Tutoring, Learning Activties, Orange County, Orange County Events, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Private Tutoring, SAT, SAT Test Prep, student, Studying, teaching, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized

What’s Going On At Oxford Tutoring

The new school year is several weeks in and Oxford Tutoring is in full swing.  Our students are receiving help for many K-12 subjects including math, science, reading, writing, history and more.  And many of our loyal customers have returned for another school year.  We wanted to take a few moments to update everyone on some Oxford Tutoring news, discounts, and processes.

Congratulations to our SAT students!

Recently, many Oxford Tutoring students who took our summer class got their official SAT results back.  Their hard work, focus, and dedication definitely paid off because their scores significantly improved.  We even had a student improve by 230 points!  Check out the chart below for more of the results.

SAT Scores Summer 2017 Email

We are very proud of our students and happy to see that they find our classes beneficial. We are currently gathering data from the ACT official test and can’t wait to share those results with everyone too!

There will be more SAT and ACT classes starting in the New Year.  Both our ACT and SAT school year classes are 8 weeks long and meet on the weekends.  They come with 2 free private tutoring vouchers, weekly practice tests, homework, practice work, test taking tips, strategies, and content coverage.  Sign up for either of these classes 4 weeks early and you will receive 15% off the cost of the class.

Practice tests are available on the following days:

Mon-Thurs: 4pm – 6pm

Fri: 2pm-6pm

Sat & Sun: 9am – 1pm

Call in to set up an appointment for taking your practice test.

Our next SAT class begins January 6 and will last until February 8.  It will be meeting on Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM.

The next ACT class will start on February 3 and end on March 25 .  Classes will be held from 12:30PM – 3:00 PM.

Call to sign up today! (949) 681-0388.

Follow us on Facebook

Oxford Tutoring 2.jpg

We regularly post updates, news, holiday hours, discounts and more on Facebook.  Click here to follow us. 

Refer A Friend

Orange County Tutoring

As a way of saying thank you to our loyal customers, we will give you a free tutoring session for every friend you refer.  We appreciate you recommending us to your friends.

Don’t forgot to review us on Yelp.

Oxford’s Annual Savings Bundle

Oxford Tutoring Savings Bundles.jpg

Purchase a Silver or Gold Bundle and receive tutoring at a discounted rate.  With purchase of either bundle you gain access to Bundle owner benefits.  These include, a bank of sessions, a family plan, fixed savings rate for a full year, priority scheduling, 10% savings on “a la carte” services, and forgiven no shows.

Access your invoices online

Stop Sign.jpg

Your invoices and notes from your child’s tutoring sessions are now available at scanmytests.com.

To set up your account give us a call.

We look forward to seeing you around the center!

 

Oxford Tutoring Logo Blog Transluscent.png

Advertisements
Posted in Book, Child, children, Education, ELA, English Language Arts Tutoring, Parent, Reading, school, student, Studying, Uncategorized

How to Annotate – Close Reading

Is it enough for students to simply comprehend their school readings? While reading comprehension is necessary for doing well in school, in order to experience success in current and future schooling, students will be required to go beyond what they see on the surface and dig deeper into the text.

This is where the process of close reading can make all the difference.  Close reading is when we slow down and think about what we are reading.  An important step in close reading is to annotate, as this allows for greater focus and attention to detail. Keep reading to learn how to annotate when you are practicing the art of close reading.

Comprehension of Key Ideas and Details

Unfamiliar Vocabulary

To help yourself determine the meaning of the vocabulary word, find context clues.  If necessary use a dictionary.

Main Ideas

Take notes on the central themes, clues or details that back up the main idea and themes.

Confusing Parts

Find unfamiliar details that you might need to clarify through re-reading, summarizing, discussion or research.

Questions to Ask

Who are the main characters?

What is the setting?

What is the main conflict?

 

 

Analyze the Text for Craft and Structure

Repeated Themes or Ideas

Think about the genre of the work and the ideas, use of language, and any lesson or moral.

Character or Author’s Feelings

For fiction, take note of how the author uses dialogue, descriptions, things the character says, does, etc. to develop character.

When it comes to non-fiction, pay attention to how the author talks about the subject to determine his or her feelings about the topic.

Note the Narrator’s Point of View

Determine how the point of view contributes to the story.

Questions to Ask

Why do characters behave as they do?

How do their actions advance the plot?

How does the author’s word choice affect the story’s tone?

 

 

Integrate Your Knowledge

Connections

Compare and contrast this work with other works you have read, information you already know, and ways in which you can relate to the story.

Deeper Meaning

Find the important images and symbols to analyze their deeper meaning.

Effective Writing

Look for literary devices, figurative language, powerful sentences, etc.

 Questions to Ask

How has this work increased my knowledge of a subject or author?

What is surprising about the story’s outcome?

What did I appreciate about the author’s style?

 

 

Tools for Annotation

Make your annotation system your own, use colored pens, highlighters or symbols to annotate for the above list of items.

This process of annotation will help you read more closely and allow you to dig deeper to find more significance in the texts you are reading.  This will not only provide more depth to your schooling, but will also be an influence on your life. ­­­­­­

How to Annotate - Close Reading Icon.png

Posted in ACT, Education, Individualized Tutoring, SAT, SAT Test Prep, student, Studying, Uncategorized

ACT vs. SAT Reading Passages

There are many factors that can help a student determine which test they should take – the ACT or the SAT. Variables such as strengths, weaknesses, timing, or style can all play a role in making this important decision.

Perhaps you are a student who feels confident in your math skills, so you can handle whatever math questions these tests throw at you.  However, your reading is an area in which you could use some additional help.  The reading passages will be the issue that justifies your choice.

If that is the case then this post should prove beneficial.  We are going to breakdown the differences between the ACT and SAT reading passages in order to help you make the difficult decision of which test is the right test for you.

Number of Passages

The SAT has 5 reading passages while the ACT has 4 reading passages.

 

Number of Questions

Every test you take for the ACT will have a total of 40 questions with 10 questions per passage.

While overall, the SAT will always have 52 questions, the amount of questions per passage will vary.

 

Timing

How much time will you have to tackle the reading passages?

Overall, for the SAT you will have 65 minutes, which breaks down to 13 minutes per passage.

You will have 35 minutes for the ACT passage, which means 8 minutes and 24 seconds per passage.

 

Passage Types

On the ACT, the reading passages will include one of each of the following: Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science.   The Social Science and Natural Science passages tend to be more straightforward, and therefore less challenging.  While the Humanities and Prose Fiction passages require more analysis which lends towards more difficulty when reading these passages.  On occasion, one of these reading passages will be a paired passage.

On the SAT, the reading passages have one Literature passage, one History passage, one Social Studies passage (economics, Sociology, Psychology or another Social Studies passage), and two Science passages (there is a possibility that one of them will be a paired passage).  The difficulty level varies and very much depends on your familiarity with the subject and the complexity of the topic.

 

Question Types

The question types on the ACT will be the following: detail, words in context, generalization, cause and effect, inference, main idea, point of view, and except questions.

For the SAT, expect these question types: evidence, arguments, words in context, and synthesis (questions based on analyzing a graph).

 

Style

For the most part the reading passages you encounter on the ACT test are going to be more about what is actually in the passage.  However, this does mean that the reading passages in the ACT are going to be a little drier.

On the SAT test, the reading passages discuss more interesting topics.  But it will require that you dig deeper and analyze the passage for what the author is attempting to say rather than just what he is saying.

 

Challenge

The challenge with the ACT is time.  While the questions are more straightforward and the passages are more direct than the SAT test, you have significantly less time to read and answer the questions.  So if you struggle to read quickly, consider trying the SAT.

The struggle with the SAT is the level of critical thinking skills required to answer the reading passage questions.  If analysis is something that you find to be tough, try a practice ACT first to see if it fits your strengths.

 

Conclusion

Overall, both present their own unique set of challenges.  It really comes down to what type of student you are and an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.

Still not sure which test is for you?  Sign up for a diagnostic SAT and ACT test to get a breakdown of your score.  We will even set up a consultation with our SAT and ACT experts to help you figure out which test is the best fit for you.

act-vs-sat-reading-passages-iconographics

Posted in ACT, Child, children, Education, student, Uncategorized

ACT vs. SAT Math Sections

Whether you are an interested parent or prospective student, there have been many changes to the SAT and ACT tests, so it can be difficult to keep track of it all.  As the ACT and SAT Director for Oxford Tutoring, I want to break it down the differences between the ACT and SAT math sections to help you determine which test is right for you.  Without further delay, let’s begin!

 

Content

The ACT has 60 questions but the source of these questions comes from more areas of math.  Here is a chart for the ACT:

act-math-chart

The SAT has 58 questions and more than half of it is focused on algebra-based concepts.  Here is a chart of what percentage of each math subject can be found on the SAT.sat-math-chart

 Timing

The ACT has one big section with 60 questions and 60 minutes.  That means, to get it all done, on average, you only have 1 minute per question. This is quite a bit less than what you have on the SAT.

The SAT is divided into two math sections.  The first section requires you to complete 20 questions in 25 minutes, and the second section contains 38 questions to be finished in 55 minutes.  This gives you 1 minute and 15 seconds per question for the first section, and 1 minute and 30 seconds per question for the second section.

Order of Difficulty

The ACT always has the first 20 questions as easy, the next 20 are medium, and the last 20 are considered difficult.  Their questions are a lot more direct, and will look more similar to math questions seen in school.

The SAT, on the other hand, somewhat follows a pattern of difficulty with questions in the beginning generally, but not always, being easier than the questions at the end.  The majority of the questions on the SAT require strong reading and analysis skills, and then once you have figured out what the question is asking, then you can proceed to solve the problem.

Although the difficulty does not directly affect the scoring, it does help people plan on how much time to spend on a question.

Calculator Usage

For the ACT, you will be able to use your calculator for the entire math section.   So there will be some questions that require use of a calculator, but it is useful to remember that not every question will need it.

One of the reasons the SAT has two math sections is that the first one is a non-calculator section and the second one allows calculator utilization.  So, strong arithmetic and mental math skills are very helpful with this section since you cannot check your answers with a calculator.   It also requires you to manipulate formulas to make the mental math easier.

Answer Options

The ACT will always have 5 multiple choice options to choose from when answering.

The SAT has either 4 multiple choice options or free response where the student must write on the answer.

Formulas

The SAT also has few formulas given in the beginning of each math section, whereas the ACT does not provide any formulas.

Guessing Penalty

There is no guessing penalty for either test.

Final Verdict

Overall, students who are good problem solvers usually prefer the SAT compared to the ACT.  For them, it is easier to quickly solve the problem and it is less strain of a strain than the ACT.

An ideal candidate for the SAT will have covered math through Algebra 2, and likes riddles, or games like Sudoku.

Students who prefer more common math problems and have a diverse math background prefer the ACT because the questions are easier to process, and require more of the math skills than analytical skills.

An ideal candidate for the ACT will have covered math through Pre-calculus, and can recall formulas from previous math classes.

Want to make sure you find the test that is right for you?  Take a ACT or SAT diagnostic test at Oxford Tutoring.  (949) 681-0388.

Iconographic.jpg

David Lord

 

Meet the author: David Lord is the SAT and ACT Director and Math and Science Instructor at Oxford Tutoring Center in Orange County, California. He has helped hundreds of students achieve the SAT and ACT test scores they want and accepted into their desired college. He reaches his students through challenging them and asking questions to make sure they are absorbing the material they are being taught.

Posted in Child, classes, Courses, Education, Spanish, Spanish Tutoring, Uncategorized

Spotlight on Tom Beeman – Oxford Tutoring Tutor

written by Tom Beeman – Spanish tutor at Oxford Tutoring

Tutoring is a great experience for everyone involved in it.  For the student, it gives them the added help they need either to close the learning gaps or to further their knowledge outside of what is provided in the classroom.  But the positivity that comes from tutoring also applies to the tutor as well.  Having been a tutor at Oxford for almost 3 years I have experienced these joys first-hand.

As a high school teacher, I do my best to reach all my students, but with the large numbers in each class, it is difficult to meet the individual needs to each student.  However, tutoring gives me a great opportunity to spend a full hour just with one student focusing on the needs of only that student.  Tutoring Spanish gives me the opportunity not just to assist with completing any assignments the student has, but it gives me an opportunity to re-teach the material to increase long-term retention and application of the language outside the classroom.  It also allows me to provide additional resources for the student to use independently when he/she doesn’t have access to a teacher or tutor.

While I enjoy working with the student who comes in for a one-time session, my biggest satisfaction as a tutor comes from working with long-term students.  This gives me time to assess the students’ skills as well as their needs to be able to help them reach their end goal.  I’ve been fortunate to have a few students who I have been able to tutor over multiple school years.  This long-term tutoring has allowed me to get to know my students’ learning style to better cater my tutoring to meet their needs.  I have had the pleasure of seeing my students grow in their knowledge in the language and comfort level of using it as well.  It’s great when I see a student engaging in the target language without being prompted.  One example has to do with the difference between tennis vs. tennis shoes in Spanish.  The difference between the two is minimal and the first time I taught this to one of my students, it was a serious learning moment.  But over the course of time, it then became an inside joke between the two of us and one of us would bring it up any time sports-related vocabulary would appear.

But to me, being a tutor is not just about helping students with their academics.  It’s also about building a professional rapport with them to help with the whole person.  You get to know their favorite subjects, extracurricular activities they participate in at school, their college and career goals, etc.  Understanding their personalities allows me tailor how I tutor them so that they are learning in a way in which they understand best and they feel like they are being heard.  By helping them with their long-term goals, they become more enthusiastic about tutoring and are more likely to succeed.  It’s great when these students come back after they no longer need tutoring or have graduated from school and tell stories about how they were in a situation where they are able to communicate in Spanish.

For me, tutoring is a natural extension of my career as a teacher. I enjoy working with my tutoring students and seeing them grow as much as I do my classroom students.  One day, I hope they will see the value of tutoring and will become tutors themselves so that they can help others just as I have helped them.

About the Author: A credentialed teacher, Tom Beeman tutors Spanish 1 -3 and Spanish AP. He enjoys working one-on-one with his students to help them learn that it is possible to become fluent in a second language.  When he is not tutoring, he enjoys spending time with his friends and attending teacher conferences to improve his skills as a teacher and a tutor.

Posted in children, Education, K-12 Tutoring, school, student, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized

Students Ask the Darnedest Things

In the last few minutes of a session, I had a student hit me with this question, just out of the blue:

Does anyone have one googol dollars?

For those who aren’t familiar with “googol”, it’s actually not a misspelling of everyone’s favorite verbed search engine. It’s this very large number:
10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
… or, with commas:
10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
… because those commas, of course, make all the difference.

It’s probably for the better I wasn’t taking a sip of water when this question came up, since I almost did the dry version of the classic spit-take, but I caught myself in time, paused, and instead said, “… Ok, well, let’s have some fun with this.”

1-zillion-dollars
Hint? You’re going to have about as much luck cashing one of these…

The average dollar bill weighs 1 gram. For ease of transport, dollar bills come in “straps”, or bundles of 100. We’re going to do ourselves a couple favors and say (1) that we’re only going to use $100 bills, to minimize the number of dollar bills we will have to create, and (2) the paper strips holding the straps magically have no mass. Sure, this is entirely wrong, but, trust me, we’re going to need all the mass we can have available for $100 bills.

 

According to the US Federal Reserve, there were 38.1 billion currency notes in circulation in 2015. While this doesn’t just mean dollar bills (it could include other valid notes of value), this provides us our first estimate: If we convert all of these notes up to $100… we’re nowhere close. That would give us $3.81 trillion, which gets us a paltry 3.81 x 10^-88 percent of the way there. In numbers?
0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000381%

This clearly won’t do, not if we’re trying to become the richest person ever known, and quite possibly in past, present, and future, at that. So, let’s do something mathemagical here.

Our home, good old Planet Earth, has a mass of 5.972 × 10^24 kg, or in grams like our money, 5.972 × 10^27 g. I’ll spare you writing out the big number, but that number, in grams, is also exatcly how many $100 bills we could have if we could turn every single atom of the Earth into $100 bills (this is where we put the “magic” in “mathemagical” – this would take ridiculous amounts of energy that we’re going to magically ignore the need for right now). By doing so, we get a grand total of $5.972 × 10^29. We also now lack for a place to store all of these $100 bills (one of the downsides of no longer having a planet), but I’m sure we can just grab a spare black hole for a wallet. Unfortunately, we need 70-and-a-half more zeroes, so we’re going to need some more mass…

… so we’re going to use the entire Solar System!

But it turns out this doesn’t actually help too much more. The Sun, all the planets, every moon, and all sorts of other objects like asteroids and comets and other items (oh my!) comes to a collective mass of 1.991 x 10^33 grams, or $1.991 x 10^35 dollars, and we’re still just under 65 zeroes too short. Can we go bigger?

Of course! Our Solar System isn’t just floating around in space. It sits on a far arm of the Milky Way galaxy, which has a mass of 1.153 x 10^45 grams. I’m going to guess now though, my savvy reader, that you’ve caught on to the pattern – the number of dollars is two more than the number on 10^##. At $1.153 x 10^47 dollars, we’re just under half the number of digits!

And this is where we reach the point of impossibility. Best estimates state that there are on the order of 100 billion galaxies, and even if we take all of these into account, we’re going to need some of that as-yet-undiscovered dark matter to get things to work – converting every single galaxy, with generous estimates, only gets us to approximately $1.153 x 10^58 dollars. To put this titanic number into perspective, compared to our $1 googol? Halfway to $1 googol would be $5 x 10^99.

At this point, it’s safe to say we’re not going to get $1 googol. If we somehow could get this to work though, we wouldn’t have a planet to put it on. We might be able, somehow, to arrange in space, but this much money just might make for the strangest galaxy of them all…

Money Galaxy.png
Money Galaxy

 

About the Author: Jason Orens – a Math and Computer Science Instructor, has been tutoring with Oxford Tutoring for over nine years.  Utilizing the student’s existing knowledge and a touch of humor, Jason strives to remove students mental barriers between themselves and the difficult, technical materials.  He combines his years of tutoring experience and expertise in the fields of Math and Computer Science to give his students the tools they need to succeed in these challenging classes.

Posted in Book, Child, children, Education, family, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Reading, student, Uncategorized

Thank You, Jim Trelease! – The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

Picture copy.jpg
My son, Matt, reading to my four grandchildren.

Reading aloud to my four children is one of the fondest memories I have of their growing up years.  They are all adults now with their own families and busy lives, but I have wonderful memories of cuddling on the couch with them, reading stories together, watching their eyes light up as we traveled to other lands and other times through story.

As a teacher, reading to my children seemed a natural part of the parenting process.  Even when they were babies, they would sit on my lap as we enjoyed books like Pat the Bunny.  As they grew older, we graduated to story books.  Some were fairy tales, some were Bible stories, but all were chances to bond together over printed word. They had their favorites that they asked to be read to them over and over and over. We went to our local library’s story time and listened to books read aloud that we would then books that we checked out to take home to enjoy again and again.

However, it’s a common belief that when a child begins reading on his or her own, there is no longer a need for parents to read aloud to their children.  I confess that I held that same view until I met Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. He was advertised as a guest speaker at our local library.  The title of his book sounded intriguing, so I went to hear what he had to say.

I am so glad that I did.

Jim Trelease’s idea that reading aloud can and should continue long after a child is an independent reader powerfully impacted both my parenting approach to reading as well as my own teaching  philosophy.  His belief was that children will be excited about reading if we are excited about reading.  They will think it’s fun if we think it’s fun. That evening, Trelease read aloud to us, an adult audience, the Bernard Waber classic, Ira Sleeps Over. He read it with energy, enthusiasm and wonderful vocal animation.  That’s all it took.  I was hooked!

Read-alouds became a fixed part of our family routine.  We cried together through books like Where the Red Fern Grows, laughed together through books like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and experienced the  thrills and adventure of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.  I am happy to report that I have raised children who love to read.

Now, as a grandmother, I am enjoying reading some of those same familiar stories to my six grandchildren.  What is even more rewarding to me is that my children are reading to their children; the torch has been passed!

I have never forgotten the way Jim Trelease closed his evening talk, reading from a poem by Stickland Gillian, titled “The Reading Mother.”

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

About the Author: Kathy H. is a tutor at Oxford Tutoring who enjoys tutors because she can make a difference in the lives of her students.  Her goal is to make learning fun by teaching to each student’s unique method of learning.  For fun, she likes to read, binge-watch TV shows on Netflix, serve at her church, and spend time with her grandchildren.

Posted in college, College Admissions, College Planning, Education, student, Uncategorized

College Consulting and Readiness Services with Oxford Tutoring

With college applications due in November, it is important to make sure that you are presenting your best self to the college of your dreams. This where Oxford Tutoring can help!  We have helped our students get into UCLA, UCI, USC, UC Berkley, UCSD, UCB and more.  Come receive college consulting services in any of the following areas:

Planning

This is an ideal stage for 8th grade and up.  With competition for top colleges as fierce as they are, it is never too early to start planning your high school pathway.  This includes assistance in deciding which high school classes to take, what extracurricular activities to participate in, and what volunteer work to choose.

Advising

Once you are on the college-bound road, there are difficult decisions that crop up along the way.  For example, if you are struggling with an AP class and do not believe you are going to pass the test, should you drop it or stick it out?  This is where our college consulting services can help.  Receive advising for GPA management, course evaluation, and difficult decisions.

Applying

The application is your introduction, the first impression you make on your application reader.  And we all know that first impressions are hard to change, which is why it is imperative that your application makes you shine.  We can help with UC and private school applications, determine essential content that needs to be included, and address any lapses or gaps in your application.

Writing

Many tutoring centers can help you write a personal statement that is well-written and grammatically correct, but this is only part of the requirement.  The most important job of your personal statements is to make sure that your writing matches up with the self you presented in the application.  At Oxford Tutoring, our college consulting services can help you do just that with personal statement help, making sure you engage the reader, and then crafting a polished essay.

Our College Consultant

Bob Oxford PicOur college consultant, Bob Trudeau, is one of a kind, as an application reader for UCLA and UCI, he offers a vital perspective on college applications.  Furthermore, he has more than twenty-five years of teaching experience and understands how college admissions officers read and score student applications.

By applying his knowledge of the 2,000 plus applications he scores each year with his skills in writing and grammar, Bob can help each student present him or herself as vividly and professionally as possible. Additionally, he also helps mom and dad make the tough planning and advising decisions necessary to excel academically.

Having earned his Bachelor’s degree in English and with a teaching credential from UCI, Bob is also qualified to tutor all high school English courses, high school Spanish, ACT and SAT English, and high school history.

Want to Learn More?

Attend our informational sessions “Coffee, Cookies, and College.”

These sessions, led by Bob Trudeau, discuss what college admission officers are looking for and how to plan for your high school pathway.

Bob details what it takes to be a competitive college applicant and stand out from the crowd.

Sessions will be held on the following dates:

October 4th of 6th @ 7:00 pm

Novemeber 1st or 3rd @ 7:00 pm

February 7th or 9th @7:00 pm

March 7th or 9th @ 7:00 pm

Call us today to sign up for “Coffee, Cookies, and College” or receive college consulting services. (949) 681-0388.

Posted in Education, English Language Arts Tutoring, Reading, Tutoring, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Tools

How to Truly Understand a Text – The Reading Process

by Justin L. – Tutor at Oxford Tutoring

Reading is one of the most deceptively challenging skills to master. Once you’ve learned how to sound out words, it can feel like riding a bike downhill. You coast on momentum until coming to a stop at the bottom. You push your line of vision across the page until coming to a stop at the end.

Except, there’s more to riding a bike than balancing and pedaling, and there’s more to reading than sounding out words and scanning pages. You have to know your destination and how and why you made it there.

To learn how to read properly, you must understand the goal, the tools, and the process.

 

Goals

The #1 mistake people make when reading is approaching a text with the wrong mindset. They are looking to react to or critique what is presented. Reactions and critiques are valuable, but they are an entirely different process that follows reading. In fact, they are dependent on it.

To understand the goal of reading, you have to understand the goal of writing. Every writer wants to change your mind. That desire is not as nefarious or complicated as it sounds. While a lawyer, politician, or philosophy may pen a composition to change your opinions or actions, a screenwriter, playwright, or novelist crafts a story to entertain you. Still, either end requires the same means–your mind has to change. How? By communicating new information to you.

Thus, your goal as a reader is to understand what is being communicated to you. How? By knowing the tools the writer has at his disposal.

 

Tools

The basic tool of the writer is the word. However, like the process of reading, the word is not as simple as it seems. It is more than a collection of sounds. It is a symbol. What does it symbolize?

Every word represents a concept you hold in your mind (or will hold if you’ve never heard the word before). Concepts are placeholders in your mind for either concretes or abstracts. A concrete is an observable (by the five senses) thing. An abstract is an idea or emotion.

For example, the word “tree” symbolizes the large amount of observable traits of trees in the world. When you read it, you think of all the important traits of trees summed up in one image or “concept.” Additionally, the word “love” symbolizes the idea or emotion that can only be believed or experienced. When you read it, you think of all of the different ways to understand or feel love in one “concept.”

Thus, a writer uses symbols to make you think of the world in a specific way in order to show you new parts of it, or information, that will change your concepts.

 

The Process

The challenge of reading, then, is to understand all of the information being presented to you and how it is both different and the same as the information you already have. To do so, you must use a process similar to the Scientific Method.

Every writer has one Overall piece of information he is trying to communicate to you–usually called the Main Idea, Point, Argument, or Theme. Once you figure it out, it becomes your Touchstone or Key to understanding everything else the writer shows you in that same piece of writing. The challenge is that you’re shown everything else first and can’t be sure of the Overall until you’ve read it all (and sometimes even after you’ve finished).

Ask a Question

Before you even consume a word, you have to decide which of the almost-infinite amount of books to pick up. If you’re completing an assignment for school or work, that decision is made for you, but your work on this step isn’t complete. You have to understand why you are reading what you’re reading. How does the text reflect your (or your teacher’s or company’s) values, interests, beliefs, tastes, and goals? Once you understand the context of your efforts, you can open the cover.

Research

With a book or essay in front of you, it can be easy to flip to page one or find the first paragraph and start pressing forward. If you do so, however, you’ll miss out on a lot of important information. Gather all the background information you can to have an idea what the text is about.

Ask yourself: What is the title? Who is the author? When did he write the text? What content does it contain? How long is it? What type of sections and how many, if any, is the text divided into? Also, make sure you didn’t miss gathering any general information about the book’s subject when completing the previous step. (Ex: If the book is about architecture, learn about the basic purposes, principles, and people of architecture). The answer to all of these questions provide you all the information you need to complete the next step.

Hypothesize

This step is where using the scientific method to read becomes really important. Based on all of your knowledge of the book and the subject, come up with a proposed Main Idea, Point, Argument, or Theme of the text. This proposed Overall piece of information will be the umbrella you try to fit every other piece of information you learn while reading into. It is the starting point that you will slowly craft into your end point over the course of your consumption of the text.

Experiment + Analyze

In sciences, this step is divided in two. Reading, however, has a much less clearly defined line between the physical task (experimentation) and the reflection on it (analysis). In fact, that experimentation and analysis often occur at the same time is what makes reading so challenging. In a science experiment, you set up the physical process, run it, and collect the data. It is only then, when the physical process is complete, that you analyze the data to determine its significance.

When reading, you are collecting data and analyzing it at the same time. As you consume each new word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter, you try to fit it into your hypothesis. If you can explain how it fits into your hypothesis, you can move on. If not, you must change your hypothesis or create a new one. Thus, there are two important guidelines to follow for this step:

  1. Your hypothesis is always in flux until you finish the text. Until you have all the data, you can’t have a complete conclusion. However, as you read more and more of the text, your hypothesis should change less and less.
  2. Set up checkpoints for yourself to stop consuming new data and think about the data you have. Typically these checkpoints are the ends of sections or chapters, as the author included those breaks to signal the information because it is a data subset.

Basically, once you read the first word of the text, you enter into a loop of Experiment + Analysis and Hypothesis until you read the last word of the text.

Conclusion

Now that you have all the data and have finished looping, you should have a hypothesis that explains why the author included everything in the text. The key here is being able to explain the hypothesis and how it explains everything. To do so, write a one sentence summary of what you think the Main Idea, Point, Argument, or Theme is. This sentence serves as your shorthand for the text. Any time anyone brings up anything about the text, you refer back to your conclusion and use it as the foundation of any thinking you do. (Keep in mind, if anyone presents you with new information you may have missed when you read the text or a new understanding you may have not thought of, you may have to re-enter the loop.)

The End.png

Right now you may feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the challenge that reading presents. You may not want to put in so much effort every time you read, especially if it is “just for enjoyment.” It’s important to remember that just as everyone who learns how to ride a bike isn’t going to become a professional BMXer and medal in the X-Games, not everyone who learns how to read is going to become a Shakespearean scholar and earn a PhD in Literature. Still, just as riding a bike well can add to your life immensely, so can reading.

Truly understanding the Main Idea, Point, Argument, or Theme of a book can greatly increase your enjoyment of it. By knowing why everything was included, the importance of each line of dialogue and event becomes clear and impacts you more. Likewise, comprehending what the author is showing you can improve your life by helping you to consider complexities of life that you may never have before. Or, if you’re assigned the book for school or work, it can help you earn a good grade or complete your project perfectly.

Understand?


About the Author:
Our Oxford Tutoring, Justin L., tutors Middle School through High School English Language Arts, as well as SAT and ACT English.  As a published writer and former college English teacher, Justin has extensive knowledge of the reading and writing process. He uses his knowledge to challenge his students to think critically, encouraging them to go deeper with the texts they read and the essays they write.

Posted in children, Education, K-12 Tutoring, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized, website design

The Light in Their Eyes – Tutoring Stories

by Nuria T. – ELA, Graphic Design, Math, and Social Studies Tutor at Oxford Tutoring

bigstock-education-and-school-concept--90609524.jpg

At Oxford Tutoring, there are many different types of students. Some students who are advanced, some in the middle, or others who just need a helping hand. Regardless, one thing has always been the same: when students finally grasp an unknown concept, their faces light up!

This summer I began to teach website design. The subject is in my area of studies, and I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to teach it.  I spent time writing the curriculum and doing extensive research on new program updates. I was greatly looking forward to putting all of my efforts into application and having the opportunity to teach the class.

When the class started, I noticed that even though my student did not want to pursue a career in the area of website design, she was still interested in the material. She asked as many questions as she could, gobbling up the information I presented. What impressed me the most is even though there were moments where she was having a hard time, my student would often ask if she could try it out on her own before my stepping in to help.

We went over Photoshop and Dreamweaver.  To learn two programs in four weeks is not easy on any student.  The student picked up Photoshop relatively easily, but Dreamweaver proved to be more challenging for her.  This is because the program has a very different interface. She often would ask me for “hints” when attempting to work with this program. Even though she struggled in class, she never failed to turn in the homework I assigned.  Not only would she complete what I assigned, but would also work on extra work that she assigned herself. When I asked her why this was the case she simply stated, “It looks so cool when you do it! I want to try too!”  As an tutor, it’s always fantastic to see and hear your students desiring to learn more.

The last class was my proudest moment. My student admitted that she was slightly overwhelmed, but was ready to learn the final steps. For the quiz I gave her thirty minutes to design one page of her website. She sighed but she told me not to help her throughout the quiz no matter what! I knew that she would succeed and agreed to let her handle it all on her own. And she did it! Not only did she complete the quiz, but even excelled at various font changes, DIV boxes, DIV color changes, margin spacing, padding spacing, navigation, links, and creating a footer.

The student proved that although there may have been many difficult moments, it was still worth it to try. Students often think that when an instructor assigns a harder task it’s for no reason. That’s not the case; a tutor challenges a student because he or she is confident that the student can rise to meet the challenge.

At Oxford Tutoring, when a student and tutor come together striving to learn, the sky is the limit.