Posted in Algebra, Child, children, classes, Courses, Parenting, STEAM, student, Studying, summer, technology, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized

Summer Courses 2017: Math Courses with Oxford Tutoring

Oxford Tutoring is offering a variety of summer courses redesigned with your schedule in mind.  Choose from math, reading & writing, enrichment courses, or ACT and SAT courses to prepare your children for the upcoming school year.

Summer Mathematics Courses

1st Grade Math

In our 1st Grade Math class, students will use addition and subtraction within 20 to solve word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions. They will put math facts to memory and extend their understanding of number sense to complete math challenges. Request more information

2nd Grade Math

In our 2nd Grade Math class, students will add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value. Students will also hone their understanding of basic word problems and how to extract the critical information for problem-solving. They will refine math facts knowledge and extend their understanding of number sense to complete math challenges. Request more information

3rd Grade Math

In our 3rd Grade Math class, students will use multiplication and division within 100 to solve word problems in situations involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities. They will commit multiplication facts to memory and develop strategies for expressing conceptual understanding. Students will not only develop the proficiency necessary for the upcoming school year, but will also be inspired to learn through interactive, exciting projects, including game theory, wherein students engage in metacognition and relate math to other areas of study. Request more information

4th Grade Math

In our 4th Grade Math class, students will find all factor pairs for a whole number in the range 1–100 and recognize that a whole number is a multiple of each of its factors. They will develop procedural understanding of the algorithms for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing multi-digit numbers and explore various ways of completing these operations. This course will prepare students for the new school year by incorporating both skill building and exciting, interactive activities designed to teach and inspire, including game theory, wherein students engage in metacognition and relate math to other areas of study. Request more information

5th Grade Math

In our 5th Grade Math class, students will add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions and decimals, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value. They will develop procedural understanding of the algorithms for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing decimals and fractions and explore various ways of completing these operations. Through this course, students will receive instruction to develop vital skills for the upcoming school year in a fun, interactive learning environment, including game theory, wherein students engage in metacognition and relate math to other areas of study. Request more information

6th Grade Math

In our 6th Grade Math class, students will understand the concept of a unit rate a/b associated with a ratio and use rate language in the context of a proportional relationship. They will review algorithms for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing decimals and fractions and set-up simple equations with a single variable. Students will build the skills necessary for their upcoming school year through fun, interactive projects designed to inspire them to learn, and be introduced to game theory, an exciting branch of mathematics that allows them to have great discussions, engage in metacognition, and relate math to other areas of study. Request more information

7th Grade Math

In our 7th Grade Math class, students will apply properties of operations as strategies to add, subtract, factor, and expand linear expressions with rational coefficients. They will integrate knowledge of whole numbers, fractions, decimals, ratios and proportions to solve two-step problems and tackle math challenges. In this course, preparation for their upcoming school will be presented in an exciting, interactive learning environment wherein they will be introduced to game theory, an exciting branch of mathematics that allows students to have great discussions, engage in metacognition, and relate math to other areas of study. Request more information

8th Grade Math

In our 8th Grade Math class, students will understand that a function is a rule that assigns to each input exactly one output and how the graph of a function is the set of ordered pairs consisting of an input and the corresponding output. They will hone procedural skills for setting-up and solving equations, graphing linear equations and inequalities, and expressing conceptual understanding. Students will also develop vital skills necessary for their upcoming school year, while learning through interactive, fun projects, including game theory, an exciting branch of mathematics that allows students to have great discussions, engage in metacognition, and relate math to other areas of study. Request more information

Integrated Math 1 (9th-11th grades)

In our Integrated Math 1 course, students learn to analyze and compare linear models, understand congruent figures and their properties, and apply both geometry and algebra concepts to multi-step problems that challenge their thinking and ensure they have a solid grasp of the first semester of Integrated Math 1 courses at local schools. Students will develop vital skills necessary for their upcoming school year while learning through a mix of lecture, interactive projects, exploration and analysis, discussions, and metacognitive activities. Request more information

Integrated Math 2 (10th-12th grades)

In our Integrated Math 2 course, students explore quadratic expressions, equations, and functions; compare quadratics to linear and exponential expressions; compare rational, real, and complex numbers; and utilize conditional probability and the counting principle to ensure they have a solid grasp of the first semester of Integrated Math 2 courses at local schools. Students will develop vital skills necessary for their upcoming school year while learning through a mix of lecture, interactive projects, exploration and analysis, discussions, and metacognitive activities. Request more information

Integrated Math 3 (10th-12th grades)

In our Integrated Math 3 course, students deepen their understanding of probability and statistics, compare rational and radical functions, break down general triangles, and learn trigonometry and preCalculus concepts to ensure they have a solid grasp of the first semester of Integrated Math 3 courses at local schools. Students will develop vital skills necessary for their upcoming school year while learning through a mix of lecture, interactive projects, exploration and analysis, discussions, and metacognitive activities. Request more information

Competitive Math (9th-10th grades)

High School Competitive Mathematics builds and develops the necessary problem-solving skills and mathematical knowledge required for math competitions such as the American Mathematics Competition 10 (AMC 10). Students will apply and expand on classroom learned skills involving algebra, basic geometry, area and volume formulas, elementary number theory, and elementary probability. Each class, students will expand their problem solving abilities and apply test taking strategies to problems from past exams. Request more information

Algebra I

Students will establish a solid basis for Algebra success in the upcoming year. Students will explore exponents, radicals, equations, inequalities, quadratics, and graphing. Particularly, the class will teach students the primary concepts presented in the first semester of Algebra and expose them to more challenging topics that they will encounter during the second semester. Request more information

Geometry

Geometry students will prepare for success in the upcoming school year by learning to reason and problem solve based upon an understanding of the theorems and postulates of geometry. Students will learn to work with angles, polygons, and circles by using logic to solve problems. Particularly, students will develop mathematical reasoning skills. Request more information

Algebra 2 with Trigonometry

Students will solve and/or graph rational functions, irrational functions, matrices, logarithms, exponential growth and decay, conics, trigonometry, and other challenging topics. This course will ensure that they are well-prepared for the school year. Request more information

Pre-Calculus

Students master trigonometric functions, the unit circle, limits, graphing, complex polynomials, logarithms, conics, and exponents. Students master the first semester of Pre-Calculus with a focus on developing problem solving skills and building confidence to tackle challenging problems. Request more information

AP Calculus

In our AP Calculus course, students learn the operations and applications of limits and derivatives, related rates and curve stretching to ensure they have a solid grasp of the first semester of the AP Calculus concepts taught at local schools. Students will develop vital skills necessary for their upcoming school year while learning through a mix of lecture, projects, exploration and analysis, discussions, and metacognitive activities. Request more information

AP Statistics

Students study the first semester of AP Statistics, specifically descriptive statistics, normal distribution, linear regression, and probability. Request more information

 

Sign up for any of our Math Courses today! (949) 681-0388.

Summer Math Courses Graphic

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Posted in Child, children, Education, K-12 Tutoring, Learning Activties, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, school, student, Studying, Tutoring, Uncategorized

10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed In School

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Education is a valuable tool that can set children up for a successful future.  As a result, children getting the best out of their education is vital.  So, how, as a parent, can you come alongside your children and support them in their education?  Here is a suggested list of ways to help your child succeed in school.

#1: Set Up a Morning Routine

Rushed mornings can carry over into your child’s day.  We all know that there are days when hurried mornings cannot be helped, but for the most part, establishing a morning routine will help your child’s day start off right.  Just like children benefit from a routine at school, so too can they benefit from a predictable morning.

#2: Get to Know Your Child’s Teacher

This may seem like an obvious step, but it can be easy to become preoccupied with other priorities.  However, taking the time to meet and get to know your child’s teacher will open up the lines of communication.   When concerns or questions arise, having already developed a rapport with your child’s teacher will make possibly difficult conversations a lot easier.

#3: Volunteer at School

Furthermore, getting involved at your child’s school can be helpful in your child’s success at school.  You will be directly engaged with your child’s education by volunteering for field trips, after school activities, or in class help. With your help, your child will benefit from a more meaningful school experience.

#4: Stay Positive about Education

School is hard work, and when your children are feeling overwhelmed they are going to feel like their school experience is a negative one.  What they need is an education advocate.  By focusing on the positives of education and continuing your education through schooling, reading, and other learning activities, you will show your children why education can help them go a long way in life.

#5: Read Together

Children need to be able to read fluently, comprehend what they are reading, and analyze the text in order to excel in school.  Reading together provides you with the opportunity to help develop these skills.  Read together and talk about what you are reading with your child in order to build these skills and aid him or her do well in school.

#6: Talk to Your Child

Talking to your children about their day and what is going on with them is an important step to helping your child succeed in school.  This way, you will know what is going on with their friends, schooling, and other activities.  Even if your child is in the stage where his or her answers to your questions are “fine” and “good”, at least they know that the lines of communication are open, and they can come to you when they are ready to talk.

#7: Provide a Study Space

It is extremely helpful for students to have a quite place to study and get their homework finished. This can be as simple as a desk with a few office supplies on it.  What this does is provide a focused learning environment that children can consistently go to to get their assignment done.

#8: Prioritize Study Time

Make sure that your children are studying and getting homework done before moving on to other activities like TV and video games.

#9: Continue Learning over the Summer

Ever heard of the summer slide?  This can really affect a child’s learning as studies show that children can lose a full month’s worth of school learning over the summer.  Combat this with continuing education over the summer through reading, classes, and tutoring.

#10: Hire a Tutor

This may be last on our list, but it most certainly should not be a last resort.  Tutoring is a great opportunity for your child to get ahead, catch up, build confidence, and even more.  Check out our latest blog to find out why tutoring can help your child.

Conclusion

These are just some of the many ways you can support your children in their school.  Can you think of any other ways to help your children with their education goals?

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Oxford Tutoring

(949) 681-0388

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.

 

10 Reasons to Sign Up For Tutoring Infographic.jpg

Posted in children, Education, K-12 Tutoring, teaching, Tutoring, Uncategorized

10 Ways to Teach to Each Learning Style

At Oxford Tutoring, our teaching method means teaching the way each individual student learns.  It is important to incorporate various teaching methods that reflect your child’s learning style.  Which is why we want to give you the tools to help reach your child based on their individual learning style – whether that he or she is a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic learner.

Here is a basic breakdown of the three learning styles:

Visual Learners – These types of learners do best when they see information.  They are adept at recalling objects, shapes, and pictures. Ways they learn are through reading, films, videos, or demonstrations.  They have the ability to see pictures in their minds.

Auditory Learners – These individuals have to hear information.  With a “good ear”, they can hear differences in tone and rhythm.  Something that will help these children is if they are read aloud to.  They are capable of remembering what they had heard in lectures.

Kinesthetic Learners – These are the children who learn best by doing.  They require hands-on, interactive learning.  They will tend to learn best when they are physically active and have strong coordination skills.

The above is a basic overview of the learning styles.  To determine the learning style of your child, administer this quiz.

Check out this list of 10 ways in which you can accommodate your child’s learning style.

 

Visual Learner Oxford Tutoring.jpg

Visual Learners

  1. Use maps, flow charts, or webs to organize materials.
  2. Have students color code books/notes to organize materials.
  3. Write out checklists of formulas, commonly misspelled words, etc.
  4. Write out and use flashcards to review.
  5. Draw pictures or cartoons of concepts.
  6. Write down material on slips of paper and move them around into proper sequence.
  7. Use a whiteboard to note important information.
  8. Highlight important key terms in different colors.
  9. Replace important words with symbols or initials.
  10. Create visual storyboards for memorization purposes.

 

Auditory Learner Oxford Tutoring.jpg

Auditory Learners

  1. Engage the child in conversations about subject matter.
  2. Question children about the material.
  3. Ask for oral summaries of the material.
  4. Have them record lectures and review them with you.
  5. Have them record themselves reviewing the material (or a summary of notes) and listen to it together.
  6. Read material aloud to them.
  7. Have them put material to a rhythm or tune and rehearse it aloud.
  8. Have students explain their notes back to you.
  9. Use repetition for memorization.
  10. Read aloud to students and have them read aloud as well.

 

Kinesthetic Leaner Oxford Tutoring.jpg

Kinesthetic Learners

  1. Write out checklists of materials to be learned or looked for.
  2. Trace words and diagrams on paper.
  3. Use textured paper and experiment with different sizes of pens, pencils, and crayons to write down information.
  4. Use role play or dramatize concepts. Students can move objects around or act out a concept themselves.
  5. Ask students to envision a scene in which the material to be learned is being used or acted our somehow. For example, imagine a student being a character in a novel.
  6. Have the student take notes while reading or listening.
  7. Use some form of body movement (snapping your finger, mouthing ideas, pacing) while reciting material to be learned.
  8. Use real life examples, applications, and case studies to summarize difficult concepts.
  9. Use pictures and photographs that illustrate your ideas.
  10. Have students draw diagrams of the information they are learning.

 

We hope that this list allows you to help your children with their schooling.  Because we incorporate these various teaching strategies into our tutoring method, you can count on Oxford Tutoring to teach the way you learn.  Call us to schedule an appointment today! (949) 681-0388.

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 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 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.)

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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

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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.

Posted in Child, children, Education, Parent and Child, Tutoring, Uncategorized

Sometimes Great Things Come in Small Packages – Tutoring Stories

by Kathy H – tutor of ELA, Math, Social Studies, History, and Speech and Debate

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His name is Emmanuel, and he is a force to be reckoned with.

He is a cherubic, bespectacled five year old darling who came to visit me in my little tutoring room this past spring.  He was just finishing his kindergarten year, but his father was told by the teacher and the school district that Emmanuel was not ready to advance to first grade.  His papa could not accept that decision. He knew his son, and he knew what I would soon come to learn.

Our little Emmanuel was not only bright, but inside that tiny frame was the bulldog determination of a never-give-up hard worker. His wise father became Emmanuel’s advocate, and convinced the district to retest his son one more time before the final decision to retain him in kindergarten. That is how Emmanuel came to work with me for several hours per week this past summer.

And work we did!  He memorized sight words, segmented phonemes, read countless nonsense words, beat me over and over at The Train Phonics Game, and learned the names of geometric shapes.  I still smile when I think of that little voice flawlessly saying difficult terms like “rectangular prism.”

When we first began working together, Emmanuel had two teeth missing.  It was a challenge getting him to be able to pronounce the “th” sound without those teeth, but he practiced and practiced until he got it right. I can still see that determined little face working to form the words.  Small but mighty, Emmanuel did anything and everything I asked him to do, without a whimper or complaint, as we vetted him for the retest mid-July.

As the day of the retest came, I prayed and waited to hear if he had passed.  When his dad arrived at our center, he was all smiles as he proudly showed me the congratulatory email on his phone.  There were high-fives all over our lobby, and we took Emmanuel’s photo, with both thumbs-up, to put on our bulletin board to celebrate his victory.

At Oxford, we are in the business of helping all of our students achieve their individual goals.  If one strolls through our center during a busy day, one might hear Shakespeare, calculus, chemistry, or physics concepts wafting through the air. We take pride in our high school students who score high on their SAT’s and go on to Ivy League schools.  But we also take every bit as much pride in the success of a kindergartener like Emmanuel.

At Oxford Tutoring Center, there are no small victories.

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 Education, ELA, English Language Arts Tutoring, essay, Homework Help, Individualized Tutoring, K-12 Tutoring, student, Studying, teacher, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Tools

Elements of an Essay: Conclusion Paragraphs

For the last several weeks, we have broken down the format of an essay into easy to understand parts.  There is a basic formula for writing a well-structured essay.  Ultimately, it is the writer’s job to plug their words into the formula effectively and correctly.

However, having the tools to put an essay together in an organized manner can go a very long way to writing a successful essay.

Structure is one of the key elements in essay writing, and with the conclusion of today’s blog, you will have all the elements needed to present a well-structured essay.

Speaking of conclusions, today we are going to look at conclusion paragraphs.  As a reminder, let’s briefly look at all the components  of an essay.

The introduction paragraph is the heart.

It is designed to catch my reader’s attention.

Next, the thesis statement is the glue.

It holds my entire paper together and is placed at the end of introduction paragraph.

The body paragraphs are the meat.

They are the largest portion of my essay.

Then, the details of my body paragraphs are the key.

They unlock my argument.

Also, the commentary is the treasure.

They make the paper shine.

Lastly, the conclusion paragraph is the bow.

It ties my whole essay together.

 

Since the conclusion paragraph wraps everything up, we need to learn how to write one well.

Let’s take a look.

Your conclusion paragraph is your chance to remind the reader of your thesis, points you made in your body paragraphs, and leave the reader with a powerful closing statement. It should be made up of three parts.

Restatement

 

Use different words to remind the reader of your thesis statement.

 

Recap

 

Remind the reader of the main points from each of the body paragraphs.

 

So What

Your last sentence of your paragraph should be powerful. It tells the reader why they should care about your essay.

How to Write a “So What” Sentence

Your “So What” sentence will change based on the type of essay you are writing.

Informative Essays

Consider writing an objective truth.

If your paper was an informative essay on the devastation of the Black Plague, your sentence could look like this:

As society continues to develop and grow, it is necessary to remember that maintaining health standards is just as important now as it was in the 14th century.

Persuasive Essays

If your essay was persuasive, try writing a call to action.

For instance, if you were writing a persuasive paper on how Peeta is better for Katniss than Gale, your last sentence could look like this.

Show your support for Peeta by liking the Facebook page “Team Peeta.”

 

Analysis Essays

Write an expression of why your analysis improves the reading the text.

For example, if you are writing about how Fitzgerald develops Daisy’s character, your last sentence could look like this:

Fitzgerald allows the reader to see different sides of Daisy in order to create sympathy for a character who might otherwise seem thoughtless and unkind.

 

Your conclusion paragraph is the last thought your reader will be left with. So, it is important to make the conclusion powerful.

Now, we suggest you put your own essay together based on the elements of an essay that we have discussed.

Then check back in with us next week for proofreading.

 

As always, give us a call if you need help with essay writing.

(949) 681-0388.