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

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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

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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

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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!

 

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Posted in children, Education, Parenting, Private Tutoring, Tutoring, Uncategorized

10 Reasons To Sign Up For Tutoring

Should I sign my child up for tutoring?  This is a question that many parents face at one time or another.  At Oxford Tutoring we want to help you make this decision; so, we created a list of reasons why tutoring may be right for you and your child.

To Catch Up

One of the most common reasons children receive tutoring is because they are feeling like they have fallen behind in a particular, or multiple, subjects.  By signing up for tutoring, you are giving your child the opportunity to catch up in the areas they are struggling with before they get too FAR behind.

To Get Ahead

However, it is not only about catching up, tutoring is also beneficial for those students looking to push to the next level and excel.  Tutoring can be a great option for those looking to push their education to the next level.

To Obtain Homework Help

Children are assigned a great deal of homework and it can be completely overwhelming.  Not only that, but it can also be a fight between parent and child to get it all finished.  With a tutor, your child will have a guide to support them with all the assignments they have, allowing them to breathe a little easier and to put down their boxing gloves.

To Maintain Skills

Additionally, tutoring provides the opportunity to maintain the skills that children are learning.  It can be easy to go over a concept in school and then forget how to do it.  Tutoring is helpful for those children who do not want their skills to get rusty.

To Avoid The Summer Slide

A common phenomenon that takes place over the summer is called the “summer slide”. This means that over the summer children forget a significant amount of material that they learned during the school year.  With tutoring, children can avoid the summer slide.

To Have Student Accountability

Sometimes it can be challenging to get children to finish assignments, study for tests, and complete their homework.  With tutoring though, you have someone whose priority it is to see that their children succeeds in their schooling.  As a result, a tutor is one who will keep a child accountable and make sure they are getting their work done.

To Learn Study Skills

Knowing the content is undoubtedly important.  But there is more to tutoring than just teaching the content.  Tutoring also provides the chance to teach your child how to study better.  Children can spend a great deal of time studying, but still struggle to retain the information they are learning.  This is often because they are not studying in a way that works well for their individual learning style.  Tutors can build a child’s study skills to help them study more effectively.

To Build Confidence

Many children come in and do not realize that they have the capability to conquer the more difficult subjects, like the ACT or the SAT.  But with time, practice, and a tutor to encourage them as they progress, children can gain the confidence they need to succeed in their schooling.

To Prepare for the ACT or SAT

One of the most important and challenging tests all high school students must face is either the ACT test of the SAT test.  Oftentimes, these tests differ from the tests they see in school in that they require different strategies and content not always covered in school.  Tutoring is an ideal way to not only prepare for these difficult tests, but also to conquer them.

To Receive 1-on-1 Attention

In school, though a teacher may try to give each student individual attention, with class sizes the way they are, this is rarely possible.  With tutoring, your child can get the one-on-one attention they deserve.  This also allows the opportunity for the tutor to teach to the student the way they learn.

 

These are just some of the reasons why tutoring is beneficial.  Students of all ages, struggling or maintaining even A’s, can benefit from the advantages tutoring provides.

Ready to set your child up with a tutor?  Call Oxford Tutoring at (949) 681-0388.

 

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Posted in ACT, Education, English Language Arts Tutoring, Individualized Tutoring, K-12 Tutoring, Private Tutoring, student, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized

The Power of “We” – Tutoring Stories

by Julia M. – tutor at Oxford Tutoring

She sat across from me, completely defeated.  Tears slipping through the cracks of her calm demeanor.

When I first began tutoring her, she wanted to study the writing section of the ACT, and she wanted to study it at rapid speed.  She is a visual learner, so once she viewed the standards of grammar she needed to know, it was imprinted in her memory, utilized easily when she answered questions.  We whizzed through that section, my voice relaying information at the speed of an auctioneer just to keep up with her alert, competent mind.

Approaching the reading section I anticipated more of the same.

Yet, I quickly learned that she is a perfectionist. Hard on herself in school, sports, and life.  She demands a lot of herself.  I admire her work ethic and willingness to push herself in order to complete her goals, however, in this case, her high expectations were holding her back.  She could not finish the reading section in a timely manner, while still maintaining respectable marks.  The ACT is a test that requires students to think critically, move quickly, and work efficiently. In a desire to do well right away, she overwhelmed herself, not realizing that it takes time to build up the stamina and skill necessary to complete this task well.

It was my job to show her.

I spent much of the weekend thinking of a way to reach this sweet, intelligent girl.  I wanted her to feel bolstered and help her to realize that with time, she would be able to master the reading passages.  I had tried to explain this to her on our last session, but her emotional state made it impossible for her to process any new information.  She was simply too entrenched by discouragement to hear me.

I needed to find the words to reach her.

Then, I remembered a few years back when I was going through a particularly difficult situation, disappointment encircled me in the same manner.  A friend of mine was helping me through this challenge.  I will never forget what she said to me as I sat across from her feeling defeated.  She said, “Julia, we are going to get through this together.”  We.  She said we.  That meant that I was not alone in my troubles.  I had someone supporting me and with her help I would be able to make it through to the other side.

Remembering this pivotal moment, I realized that this is exactly what my student needed.

At our next tutoring session, I hoped that these same words would bring the comfort to my student that they had brought to me.  Calling upon the student’s background as a gymnast, I asked how she knew when she was ready to attempt a new move.  She explained that her coach served as her spotter, teaching a new technique and not letting go until the coach was certain her gymnast could handle the new move on her own.

After hearing her response, I looked at her and explained that, just like in gymnastics, the ACT required time and practice in order to be able to master it.  And, I was going to be her spotter.  We were going to work on the new techniques together, and I was not going to let go of her until I was positive she could handle the ACT on her own.  I paused, trying to read her expression to see if I was getting through to her.  Her mind was busy processing; she stayed silent.

“You know,” I added, “We are going to get through this together.” She breathed.  Her shoulders relaxed.  She sighed, relieved, “Okay, good!”

Ahead we moved, student and tutor together.

Meet the author:  Julia M. is an ELA instructor at Oxford Tutoring who has been working with students for over 10 years.  She builds up her student’s confidence in the subjects they struggle with through encouragement and support.  Striving to make her students ready to tackle even the most difficult concepts as they move up in their education, she motivates her students to take their education into their own hands and thrive.

Posted in ACT, College Admissions, College Planning, Courses, Education, Homework Help, Individualized Tutoring, K-12 Tutoring, New SAT, Orange County, Private Tutoring, SAT, SAT Test Prep, student, Studying, summer, Tests, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized

Summer Courses 2016: College Prep Courses

How are your children going to be spending their summer?

Summer is a great time to get ahead for the next year’s courses or to catch up from the previous school year.  Instead of your children wasting their summer playing video games, spend the summer hours productively, building their skills and preparing for the challenges of the next year.

Find a balance between vacation and edification to truly bask in all summer has to offer!  In Oxford’s summer courses,

  • Maintain or Build your child’s skills in Math, Science, Reading or Writing;
  • Explore a new skill such as Speech and Debate, Python Programming or Web Design;
  • Discover the joy of hands-on learning with Science Explorers or Build-a-Computer courses;
  • Ensure your child completes Required Summer Reading; OR
  • Prepare for college entrance with Essay Writing, and SAT or ACT
  • And much more….

Let’s take a look at the College Prep Courses we will be offering this summer.

For a complete schedule click here.

College Prep

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Designed for students entering the course or seeking to explore the field, these courses focus on essential concepts in a hands-on, exploratory manner

High Stakes Writing (grades 10-12): In this course, students learn how to write memorable and commanding personal and timed essays.  Session 1 focuses on SAT and ACT essays, while session 2 focuses on personal statements for college applications.

PSAT (grades 8-10): Students in 8th-10th grades should begin preparing for the newly formatted SAT. The materials and pacing of instruction are designed to build on classroom studies, providing extended instruction at the SAT level.

SAT and ACT (grades 11-12): Oxford SAT and ACT courses are demanding programs for high school juniors and seniors committed to raising their scores over the summer.

The Magna course is designed for students of all levels and guarantees a significant score improvement, typically 200 points for the SAT and 4 for the ACT.  Classes are small and students are provided with 2 private tutoring vouchers for individual sessions in addition to the weekly classes and testing.  The 8-week summer schedule (below) is followed by a fall extension of weekly testing and a 6-hour Crash Course review prior to the student’s selected test date.

The Summa course is designed for highly motivated students of advanced levels and guarantees a top score, typically 1400 or more for the SAT and 30 or more for the ACT.  Classes are small and students are provided with 4 private tutoring vouchers for individual sessions in addition to the weekly classes and testing.  The 8-week summer schedule (below) is followed by a fall extension of weekly testing and a 6-hour Crash Course review prior to the student’s selected test date.

Enrolled students interested in additional sessions in a private tutoring setting may purchase sessions at a discounted rate.

Enroll for a summer course by May 15 and get 15% off!

Refer a friend and you each will receive 25% off the course fee.

Check back with us next week to learn more about our Summer Enrichment Courses!

Call us today to enroll in our summer courses! (949) 681-0388

 

Posted in Book, Child, Education, ELA, English Language Arts Tutoring, essay, Homework Help, Individualized Tutoring, K-12 Tutoring, Private Tutoring, Tutoring, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Tools

Elements of an Essay: Writing Commentary

For several weeks now, we have been identifying the essential elements of essays and learning how to incorporate these effectively and successfully. We have discussed that the thesis statement is the glue that holds the entire paper together, the body paragraphs are the meat where the majority of your argument will be found, and last week we looked at how the details are the key to unlocking your argument.  Today we are going to take a look at the other extremely important factor in writing a well-thought out essay.  It is needed for every single detail that you write.  It is the commentary.

 

Commentary Definition

When you write commentary, you are explaining to your reader how the details relate to the thesis statement. Commentary does not contain facts.  Instead, they help explain why the details are relevant to the topic.

 

Writing Commentary

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You are going to need at least two sentences of commentary for every detail sentence.  A good rule of thumb is that your commentary should be twice as long as your details.  Otherwise, your paper is just full of facts.  We want to know how YOU think these facts prove your point and what YOU think they mean.

 

Here are a few different methods for writing commentary:

1) Opinion: this is where you write your belief, subjective judgment or way of thinking about a detail .

2) Interpretation: your explanation of something that is not clear.

3) Character and Subject’s Feelings: when you describe what the character or subject of the detail is feeling (ideal for literary analysis papers)

4) Personal Reaction: your personal emotions about the detail.

5) Evaluations: your objective judgment of a detail.

 

Commentary is the Treasuretreasure

Your commentary is the treasure that makes your paper shine.  It should always strengthen and extend the details. This is your chance to show us what you’ve got.  It is where you can impress us with your analysis and interpretation skills.

 

“What and Why” Method

You may be thinking, “Analysis and interpretation skills?  What if I don’t possess those skills?”  Well breathe easy, because interpretation is really just a fancy word for “what,” while analysis simply means “why”.

So if you are struggling to write your commentary try using the “what and why” method.  First, tell the reader WHAT your detail is talking about by defining or explaining.  Next, let your reader know WHY this detail is relevant to your thesis statement.

 

Starting Commentary Sentences

If you are struggling to start your commentary, consider beginning your commentary in one of the following ways:

“This shows that…”

 “This is important because…”

Obviously, you cannot start every sentence you write like that since this would be redundant.  However, even if you do not write these phrases at the beginning of all of your sentences, it is helpful even just to think these phrases in order to guide your commentary in the right direction.

 

Applying Commentary Techniques

Now that we have discussed the different options for writing commentary, and the method for doing  so, let’s put them together and see what is looks like.

 

Commentary Type: Opinion using the “what and why” method

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Topic: education

Detail: According to the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress Reading test, 80% of students score below grade level in reading.

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my opinion?” and (2) “WHY is my opinion relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1)  A statistic like this shows the poor state of the education.  (2) If we are to help students become successful adults, we need to change the way we are educating our children.

 

Commentary Type: Interpretation using the “what and why” method

Topic: benefits of college

Detail: First of all, of 2,350,000 college students enrolling per year, only 1,750,000 will graduate.

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my interpretation?” and (2) “WHY is my interpretation relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) This shows that the high demand placed on students during their college years is too much stress for many.  (2) However rigorous it may be though, the pressure and expectations are reflective of a future career and help prepare young adults for these challenges.

 

Commentary Type: Character or Subject Feelings using the “what and why” method

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Topic: cost of higher education

Detail:  For example, Benjamin Davis, a recent college graduate with a degree in Business, struggled for many years to find a job because of the recent unemployment struggles in America

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is the subject’s feelings?” and (2) “WHY is subjects feelings relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) He, like most, experiences extreme frustration at spending a great deal of time and money obtaining his degree, but feeling like he has very little advantage over others without a degree when finding a job. (2) As a result, many who find themselves in a similar situation are left wondering if higher education is worth the high cost.

 

Commentary Type: Personal Reaction using the “what and why” method

Topic: bullying

Detail: Also,  a bully might speak cruelly in order to intimidate, steal a student’s belongings, or intentionally exclude one from a group .

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my personal reaction?” and (2) “WHY is my personal reaction relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) It is extremely upsetting to know that most children undergo this type of treatment at school. (2) It is hurtful, isolating, and can have long-lasting psychological damage on those students who experience bullying often.

 

Commentary Type: Evaluation using the “what and why” method

Topic: bears

Detail: Naturally, a bear, when threatened, will rise up from the ground, growl loudly, and begin charging at a speed of up to 35 mph.

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my evaluation?” and (2) “WHY is my evaluation relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) Although this is a frightening experience, it is not entirely the bear’s fault. (2) In fact, most of the time when a bear attacks a person, it is the result of a person not understanding that when going out into the woods, he or she is entering a bear’s environment; forgetting to be respectful and cautious can cause the bear to react thusly.

 

When To Use Commentary Types

Depending on your assignment, choose the types of commentary that best fits your argument.  Use of a variety of different types of commentary to write a well-argued paper.

 

Workshop

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Go back and look at step two of writing details from last week’s blog.  Look at the commentary you wrote and update it to fit into the “what and why” method using some of the above types of commentary.  If you did not do that step last week, go ahead and use the worksheet found here.

We hope this helped you when writing commentary.  If you still need help, call Oxford Tutoring for support or to schedule a writing tutoring session.

 

 

Posted in Education, Homework Help, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Private Tutoring, student, Studying, teacher, Tutoring Sessions

A Teacher’s Advice: Managing the Classroom from Home

A mother is late for school and work while rushing with her children for a funny stress concept on a white isolated background. There are objects flying away from them.With schools settling into a hectic hum of activity, students and parents need to guard against the complacency that can take place when students get lulled into the mundane details of school, forgetting to keep up with its demands. Deadlines slip. Important papers are left unsigned. Projects get pushed to the last minute. Days become shorter and shorter. All the while, progress reports and grades loom. As a classroom teacher for over a decade, I had to worry about managing twenty-five students making sure they had what they needed to be successful. However, a student’s academic prosperity first depends on what happens at home. So, as a guard against the overwhelming big picture students and parents have to face, I’d like to offer a teacher’s perspective on helpful practices at home that will make a student’s time in the classroom more productive.

Backpack Check

School bag with books and equipment isolated on white background

This should happen every day! I have encountered countless assignments, office paperwork, flyers, food, and assorted classroom supplies stuck at the bottom of a backpack or trapped behind some internal zipper.  Every night, the student should completely empty out their backpack and go through any materials with a parent. Don’t forget to check between book pages and through pencil pouches. The daily backpack check will then set you up for a:

Homework Check

Parent asks, “Can I see your homework?” Student says “I did it already. At school.” The parent now has no way of knowing what their child has done at school and what to anticipate in terms of upcoming tests, school activities, etc. Make it a household rule: bring all work home. Even if it’s “finished.” A perusal will tell the parent what the child needs to do, and can praise accomplishments. Now, a parent does not (and should not) have to correct the homework, especially if the parent is not comfortable with the material. However, a parent should be aware of the homework, and make sure that it’s finished. A homework check will be followed by a:

Planner Check

Most schools provide and require a “binder reminder,” daily planners for students to write down their assignments. This planner should be coming home every day, and be found during the backpack check. A parent can see in the planner if the child has what they need for homework completion, plan for future assignments and activities, and help with organizational skills. This will then lead to a final check:

Website Check

All schools have a website that is updated daily. A parent and student together can look over the site (and its calendar) to be updated on the chaotic life of school activities and stay on top of what the student needs to anticipate, and engage in conversation.

With very little practice, these daily checks will become secondhand and not take up much time at night. Anxieties will be mitigated, grades will go up, life will become less stressful at these helpful routines becomes of part of everyday life.

Happy family laying on the floor reading in the kids room

Meet the author: 

Brendan with his Masters in Education, a Math Credential, and a Bachelors in Psychology is a highly-qualified tutor at Oxford Tutoring with over a decade of teaching in the classroom.  As a curriculum and lesson planning expert who knows the Common Core State Standards inside and out, Brendan can ensures that his students understand the material they are being taught, by making certain they articulate and express their comprehension.

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© Oxford Tutoring 2015

Posted in Education, English Language Arts Tutoring, Individualized Tutoring, Private Tutoring, Reading, Studying, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Writing

Why do I Have to Learn this? English Language Arts

Confused young man sitting at the library desk with a book stack and laptop on it

In this second entry of Oxford’s “Why do I have to learn this?” series, we will explore the link between English Language Arts (ELA) and the adult life of one who is not a professional writer. 

Why do I have to learn ELA?

It is fair to assume that most of us are aware of the fact that the fundamental reason for learning the English Language Arts (ELA) concepts and skills presented between Kindergarten and Junior High is to be able to function in society.  Obviously, we need to be able to read the written portion of the DMV’s licensing exam, the menu at a restaurant, and the check-out instructions on Amazon.com.  We also need to be able to request and present information verbally such as when we want to ask our friends what they thought about the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy or The Walking Dead, or if we need to convince mom and dad to let us borrow the car for the evening.  But, if we learn how to do that by the time we get to our teenage years, why are we tortured with ELA instruction throughout high school, the first year or two of college, and by our ELA tutors?

The reason ELA instruction lasts so long after we learn to read and speak is that we also need to be able to understand how this whole language thing works.  That way, we can understand the subtleties that make the difference between the literal meaning and the author or speaker’s “real” meaning and intent.  When you listen to the weather report in the morning, you can be certain that the meteorologist is simply trying to inform you of what you will experience while you are outside today.  However, are there ever times when what someone says or how he or she says it is purposefully meant to confuse, entertain, test, trick, or mislead you?  Of course there are.  One author who is famous for inventing such scenarios in written and spoken form is the one and only William Shakespeare.  Arguably, his greatest skill was his ability to present language so cleverly that he could entertain the social elites and common rabble at the same time.  Specifically, he could write a play that entertained the rabble by making fun of the elites without the elites realizing that they had just been insulted. Then, he would turn around and do the same thing and entertain the elites at the expense of the rabble.  We study such works even to this day because we recognize the skill and power that results from mastering ELA.  It is with those scenarios in mind, that high school teachers, college professors, and ELA tutors strive to get you to learn the subtleties, nay, the artistry that lies beyond the use of language for direct information presentation and reception.

Rhetoric – Word Choice

young beautiful student girl lying on campus park grass with books on rug studying happy preparing exam in university and college education concept

Without putting too fine a point on it, the two main areas of focus when classifying one’s use of language as great or just OK are rhetoric and structure.  To paraphrase, rhetoric refers to what you choose to say and structure refers to the order in which you say it.  There are many aspects to consider when analyzing rhetoric, but the simplest way to think about it is to focus on the desired result.  Going back to our earlier discussion of the weather, we can choose to talk about the atmospheric conditions in our local neighborhood with two main goals in mind: we can focus on the scientific /factual nature of the weather or on the emotional result caused by the weather.  For example, if rain is in the day’s forecast, the meteorologist could describe the atmospheric conditions using technical terminology such as informing us that there is an eighty percent chance of precipitation due to a high or low pressure system in the region, or he or she could say that we’re probably going to get some rain today, which is great news since Southern California is always in a drought.  The difference between the two examples is that the scientific version left emotion out of the picture so that we could focus on exactly what was going to happen while the latter example encouraged us to be happy about the impending rain.  These examples show a stark contrast between the two ends of the rhetorical spectrum, but one who has great control of his or her use of language can seamlessly blend the scientific and emotional sides so that the reader or listener thinks and feels exactly as the author or speaker intends.

Structure – Organization

While rhetoric addresses the issue of the type of impact we want our words to have – emotional or intellectual, the structure of our words can help us present the information or argument in the most effective order in terms of what will make the most sense to the reader or listener.  To better understand the effect of structure, let’s compare the structure of words in a speech or written passage to the structure of music.  What makes music musical and not just a collection of random sounds is how the sounds are structured: the order in which the sounds are presented.  This is because our brains are designed to recognize patterns.  Thus, part of the pleasure of listening to music comes from identifying the musical patterns and recognizing when the patterns change.  Consider what happens when you are “rocking-out” to your favorite song.  Most likely, the two best parts of the song are when you are in sync with the melody and when you anticipate the build up to the change from the melody to the chorus and back again.  Our brains consider written and spoken words in the same way.   We’ve come to expect information to be presented in certain ways.  If the author’s purpose is to explain, we expect to be informed of the “Five Ws:” who, what, where, when, why, and how.  If the purpose is to describe, we want to know who the main characters are and what happens to them.  We generally consider the presentation of information successful or not based on whether or not our expectations have been met.  However, if a speech or passage is considered successful when all of the parts have been included, how do we decide if it is better or more impressive that one we’ve heard or seen before?

What makes a passage great?

To answer that, we have to consider the rhetoric and structure of the entire work.  A speech or passage is considered more successful if the elements were presented in a unique, interesting, and pleasing order.  If an author intended to inform an audience of people who are out of touch with pop-culture and need to learn about selfies, the text would only be considered successful if the audience was informed about all of the necessary aspects of selfie taking more effectively and interestingly than ever before?  For example, does the reader now know when it is appropriate to use a Selfie Stick, or how to ask a famous person to join them in a selfie?  Was said information presented completely, clearly, and in a unique and interesting manner?  If so, then, the author has written the best or most impressive informational passage about taking selfies ever.

We learn it because it’s Art

Language can be used to create the same or greater impact as the most famous painting, sculpture, or song.  The only difference between the audience being able to appreciate the words, melody, or image is how well the audience understands mode of artistic expression.  If you’ve learned to appreciate the technical and aesthetic components of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, it would only be possible because you’ve trained your “visual eye” to consider all of the relevant characteristics of the piece.  Similarly, if you want to learn to appreciate Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” you would need to have trained your “literary eye” to identify the skill relating to the contrast created by employing a pastoral setting; the subtleties of satire; and the challenge of creating a story within a story and seamlessly transitioning between the two, all in order to appreciate the fact that the loves, pains, and joys that comprise daily life in the middle ages closely resemble those you and I experience today.  If you can accomplish these tasks, you will likely appreciate Chaucer’s literary and cultural achievement.  In the end however, appreciation for art – in whatever form – cannot be forced upon one who does not wish to “see” it.  Therefore, schools and ELA tutors will continue to teach English Language Arts so that students will, at the very least, be able to tell the difference between someone’s thoughtless utterances and another’s words of wisdom.

Meet the Author: Alex Claude is an SAT and ACT ELA Director and an ELA tutor at Oxford Tutoring.  He takes the time to get to know his students so he can learn and apply how to best teach them.  Alex teaches his students how to effectively communicate through writing, and how to analyze informational texts and novels.

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Posted in Education, English Language Arts Tutoring, Individualized Tutoring, Private Tutoring, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Tools

Tools for Writing: How To Overcome the Blank Page

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The blank page glares at her, daring her to type just one single word.   The black blinking cursor flashes in time with her beating heart, mocking her inability to even begin writing her essay.  Why is this so difficult? she wonders.  Why can’t I put something, anything, down?  The buzz of text messages on her iPhone reminds her that she could be out with her friends.  The sooner she can just get this paper done, the sooner she can be browsing the sales rack at Nordstrom or grabbing a popcorn and Coke and taking a seat to watch the latest “Avengers” movie.  Instead, she is here.  Staring at a white screen.  Unable to begin, unable to leave until she does.

Few assignments are more intimidating than essays and few moments are more aggravating than having an essay due that a student has no idea how to write.  It can be an extremely frustrating experience, one that leaves even the most competent student feeling like a complete failure.  And, simply getting by when it comes to writing, is not an option, not for any student that wants to excel in high school or college.  Writing crops up in every class and in every field.  Writing is one of the key means of communication in education and the professional world.  As a former student and one who has received my Bachelor’s Degree in English, I have known this frustration.  However, throughout my studies, the many writing classes I have taken, and the hundreds of writing assignments I have completed, I have learned the how to overcome this struggle and the necessity of pushing past the blank page.

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Just write!

As a tutor, one of the issues I see most of my students struggle with is simply beginning their paper, putting that first word or sentence down.  A confusing phenomenon for parents, tutors, or anybody attempting to help the student overcome this difficulty.  Why is it so hard to type even just one word? Just write. It’s just a word.  Well, actually, it’s not. This one word symbolizes much more than just the object it names.  It stands for the beginning of a whole assignment.  It will be finished and turned in and graded.  And, this grade for this essay effects the entire grade of the student’s class.  Furthermore, this assignment is just one of the many assignments that need to be finished this semester.  This semester and its grades will affect his or her GPA.  That GPA will determine what college a student gets into.  And on and on the thoughts go until the single word he or she will begin this paper with is representative of an entire academic career.  It is not just a word; a word is easy.  This word, though, this word is everything.

I have seen evidence of this anxiety in a student as young as eleven. To this panic I say, stop!  Stop it right in its tracks by being present.  Do not worry about your grade for this assignment or even completing the assignment.  Just pause, take a breath, and write something down.  It does not have to represent genius; it does not have to make sense; it does not even have to be relevant to your topic.  It just has to be.  This will help overcome the anxiety of receiving a poor grade and assist a student in overcoming his or her writer’s block, opening the flood gates to the creative process.  And let’s not forget, as formulaic as we try to make writing (and there are several formulas we can use to help get us started), writing, at the end of the day is a creative process.  Creativity requires presence. So be present.  Then pause, breathe, write, repeat.

Finally got started writing but need help making your essay even better? Email us to book a session with one of our writing tutors. Or give us a call at (949) 681-0388!

Meet the author:  Julia is an ELA instructor at Oxford Tutoring who has been working with students for over 10 years.  She builds up her student’s confidence in the subjects they struggle with through encouragement and support.  Striving to make her students ready to tackle even the most difficult concepts as they move up in their education, she motivates her students to take their education into their own hands and thrive.

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Posted in Education, English Language Arts Tutoring, Individualized Tutoring, Math Tutoring, Private Tutoring, Science Tutoring, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions

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