Three Ways to Build Good Vocab Habits for Standardized Tests

Posted by Abhi on 8/31/18 3:16 PM

When taking standardized tests, especially the SAT or GRE, people often struggle with memorizing enough words for the (often tricky) vocabulary sections. When it comes to vocabulary, unlike other parts of the test, you either know the word or you don’t. So how can you ensure you improve your vocabulary memory for the test? It’s all about building good habits!

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Tags: test anxiety, English, study skills

Taking Essays To The Next Level: How To Write In Your Own Voice

Posted by Zoe Balaconis on 8/24/18 4:59 PM

It’s not unusual to get an essay back from a teacher with the feedback, “write in your own voice,” scrawled across the top. But it’s easier said than done. Here you are, writing your own thoughts and your own opinions, all according to the directions of the assignment; how can it not be in your own voice? What your teacher is actually telling you is that your writing sounds too formulaic, too stilted, or too bland. Sure, you’ve learned how to write using proper grammar and you’ve learned how to formulate and format your thoughts into an essay, but now you need to take it to the next level. Don’t stick to the formula; write in your own voice. Here are a few tips for getting started.

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Tags: English, expository writing

3 Ways to Better Analyze Poetry

Posted by Tess on 8/20/18 6:23 PM

“Cikgu Tess!”
“Pagi.”
“Miss. Look lah.”
“Alyaa—why?”
“Girl’s bathroom,” she says. “Cikgu, you touch?”
Our state has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the region.
“Is it poisonous?”
I mime the action of being bitten (by my hand) and then dying.
“Mm, don’t know.”

In 2017, I taught ESL, literature, and political science at a rural secondary school in a conservative, rice-paddy-laden state in northern Malaysia. To say the least, it was a year of questions.

This extended to my methodology as a teacher. Given Malaysia’s exam-centric educational system, I sought to help students develop Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS). Over the course of my grant, I refined an arsenal of questions that enabled students to improve their analyses and become active question-askers. 

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Tags: English, creative writing

How To Strengthen Your Writing In One Easy Step

Posted by Susan on 7/9/18 5:42 PM

Very few rules of good writing are without exceptions, and this one is no exception, but I think it might be close: 

You can always — or nearly always — make your writing stronger, clearer, and sharper if you follow the word “this” with a noun.*

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Tags: English, expository writing

Improve Your Writing By Getting Back to Basics: Why Grammar Matters

Posted by Kip on 4/13/18 2:52 PM

Why Bother?

Good grammar is a lost art. Even many English teachers give it short shrift these days, and it’s possible to sail through years of schooling without addressing bad habits. But your mistakes add up. Weak writing can lead to lower grades, make a bad first impression with employers, and hold you back from being an effective communicator, in ways you might not even realize.

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Tags: English

The Power of Anecdote: Creative Strategies for Academic Writing

Posted by Sam on 3/30/18 5:56 PM

Many of the freshmen I instruct at CUNY enter the first few sessions of my Expository Writing class wearing metaphorical top hats and monocles, armed with—and comforted by—the five-paragraph essay structure and other basic compositional building blocks. College-level essay writing, in their understanding, requires a stuffy, exacting formality—a holding in of one’s breath. By sublimating their individual perspectives and voices, these writers are, in fact, setting aside their most effective argumentative tools.

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Tags: English

Speech is Silver, Silence is Golden: How Pausing in Conversation can Transform the Way you Communicate

Posted by Alison on 7/21/17 6:00 PM

Many people probably recognize the second part of that proverb as an oft-quoted adage to dictate the importance of quiet in our busy, noisy lives. The full version, as written above, originates in English thanks to Thomas Carlyle, who translated it from part of a larger German work in 1831 (which can be found on phrases.org/uk). The translated passage begins, "Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together," according to the same website.  

If we stopped to think about this, in a moment of peace and quiet, we might recognize the truth in this idea. Silence gives us the chance to pull together information or speech to which we have just been exposed but which perhaps we need more time to process. To think about what you want to say before speaking is common advice, especially to avoid realizing a different idiom, that of "I spoke too soon."

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Tags: English

A Guide to Your Teacher's Feedback: Common Abbreviations Defined

Posted by Martha C. on 6/7/17 7:59 PM

If you are a student, you have probably seen a fair share of markings on your papers to indicate errors or ideas for improvement. If you are a teacher, you have made many of these markings and know how important it is to streamline the correcting process. While individual teachers or editors may have their own systems of signaling suggestions in writing, the language of editing and proofreading comprises many abbreviations that generally convey a universal meaning.

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Tags: English

Why Does English Borrow So Many Words From Other Languages?

Posted by Alison on 5/22/17 6:30 PM

The Canadian blogger and free-lance reviewer James Nicoll created the following epigram on the English language: "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

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Tags: English

The Five Key Difference Between American and British Spelling Conventions

Posted by Alison on 5/1/17 5:57 PM

Before America became a nation, the colonists who arrived to establish the country spoke English. From England. As there was not yet an authoritative source for how to spell words correctly in English, the colonists spoke the English they were used to back home and wrote much the same way, using the way language was written in English literature as a guide, according to this brief mental floss video. The first official written authority on the English language was Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, which served as the trusted reference for English language use in the United States until Noah Webster invented one of his own. Webster reasoned that a new country should have a new language, and thus the first American dictionary was born. Webster's A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1806 partly to solidify America's cultural as well as linguistic independence from Britain.

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Tags: English