What This Week Taught Me

I am excited to share with you my findings this week on Latin and Greek roots, Big Magic, and using the human voice in our writing.


1. Roots

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So many people ask themselves whether it is worth it to learn Latin.

It is hard for me to say the truth as a Latin teacher, but…no, it is not always…

We don’t all need chemistry (I never learned it) nor do we equally all need Latin.

That said, the Latin language offers immense value.

I recently had a student ask me to help her learn Latin.

After talking with her, I quickly realized that she did not need to learn the language.

Tables of verbs and vocabulary lists were not going to get her any closer to her goals.

What do you do then?

You want the benefits of Latin, but you don’t need the language.

The answer is roots!

I am teaching her Latin (and Greek) roots systematically.

Through learning roots, young students’ English vocabulary will double!

70% of English words come from Latin and Greek.

Example:
“Hydr” is the Greek root for water. We have words in English that come from this: hydrophobia, hydraulic, hydrogen, hydroponics, hydrodynamics, hydrometer, hydrant.

Now, you cannot take the Latin out of the Latin teacher.

So, I am certainly adding in some information about how Latin works and what makes it special.

Without any memorization, the awareness of how this unique language works is beneficial enough for most students.

If you are debating learning Latin, consider roots.

Also, if you would like to learn roots with me, book a free mini-lesson today!

2. Big Magic

Big Magic sits you down with a cup of tea and talks with you about creativity — fear, trust, courage, and stamina. Click To Tweet

I am on such a big reading kick right now!

It excites me to share my discoveries with you all.

I read this book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I would definitely suggest this for a senior in High School and above.

This book sits you down with a cup of tea and talks with you about creativity — fear, trust, courage, and stamina.

So many lessons to be learned within the pages of this book!

How can I restrict myself.

Let me try here.

a. Setting the right goals.

Gilbert actually made “writing vows” when she was 16 years old.

They were sacred to her, at least.

These vows were very well formed.

Gilbert was clear and concise.

She would dedicate herself to writing, but writing would not financially support her.

Writing was the goal.

Not success and not wealth.

When we come to our task, we want it to reward us.

“If I do this, then something good will happen.”

In actuality, the task itself is its own reward.

At this point very few people read my blog, but that is ok.

I write to help people and not to gain views.

b. The process is the reward.

The writing process is the magic and the joy. Click To Tweet

Gilbert talks about a short story she wrote.

A magazine accepted it!

Then they told her to cut half of it due to size limitations.

Gilbert shortened the piece.

She took out the perfect analogies and the stunning transitions to create something that read completely differently, though still conveyed the same message.

She understood that the process was the benefit.

Her soul was not transformed by the finished product, but by the writing process.

Hammering out pieces and fighting to say things is how writers grow.

Big Magic shows that the process is the magic and the joy.

Success and appreciation are important, but they do not fill you.

The process is the true joy for the soul of a writer.

c. Create for yourself.

Through writing for yourself, you actually lose your ego. Click To Tweet

At the heart of Gilbert’s message she writes that you need to create for yourself.

I do not mean this in a selfish way; in fact, it is a very selfless message indeed.

After all the success of Eat Pray Love, she struggled to write a new book.

Why?

She was trying to write a book for millions of people.

It is impossible.

Then she regrouped. Instead of writing the next best seller, she wrote a book for her 10 closest girlfriends.

The words flowed effortlessly.

In a podcast interview with Tim Ferriss, Jim Collins shared what Bill Allen taught him.

He said that we should not aim for success, but to be useful.

Through writing for yourself, you actually lose your ego.

3. Writing like a Google Search Result

If we write just what anyone else can find through a simple search, then the writing is not meaningful or useful outside an academic setting. The beauty of writing is adding in the human touch. Click To Tweet

So often my young students write like a google search result.

By that I mean they write things that can be found in other places.

Their writing is very descriptive.

When done well and at the right time, this is wonderful and praiseworthy!

This week, though, I found the words to articulate what was missing in so many of these writings.

The human touch.

Google is very powerful.

However, if we write just what anyone else can find through a simple search, then the writing is not meaningful or useful outside an academic setting.

The beauty of writing is adding in the human touch.

We are able to infer and synthesize those facts we collect.

Example:
A computer can tell you how many people died because of smoking. Only a human, however, can tell you that you should stop smoking because it will prolong your life.

Inferences and synthesis aside, humans also provide the emotional touch.

Only humans can articulate how books connect with us emotionally.

Only people can put into words how it feels inside when you are put in front of a moving piece of art.

The human touch can best be seen in arguments.

By argument, I mean simply an opinion combined with reasons for it.

The thesis of an essay spurs on that human voice to rise above the waves of repeated information!

The thesis of an essay spurs on that human voice to rise above the waves of repeated information! Click To Tweet

For my students, I like to highlight in a different color all the sentences that reflect their own voice.

It is always surprising to see how much is in black and how little is in green.

We tell the world’s stories and facts, but forget to add our own human touch.

Next time you write or read your child’s writing, remember to put it through the google search test. 😉

Until next week! Comment whether you have read Big Magic.

What This Week Taught Me

Another week has passed. I am keeping it short this week. I will discuss rediscovering some old books, The Dana Girl Mysteries, and more on critical thinking in reading comprehension.

The Dana Girls

Mysteries are fantastic tools in developing critical thinking in children! Click To Tweet

I love a good mystery.

I’m an avid Murder She Wrote watcher and a total Psych-O (from the show Psych).

When I was a young girl, I enjoyed a book series called the Dana Girls Mysteries.

They were written by the same team of authors as the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.

The Dana Girls are now out of print and won’t make it to the silver screen anytime soon, but a worthy read nonetheless.

Written in the 1930s, they have a different style than our modern children books.

The vocabulary is better and the turn of phrase more astute. A small example:

“On the still December air floated the notes of a plaintive whistling in a minor strain. It was not the warbling of a bird, nor did it seem like that of a human being.”

In the Shadow of the Tower, p. 1

Good literature is easy to find; I am not in doubt.

These are just so accessible and short.

You get all the eloquence of a bygone era in an action-packed mystery for children.

Why am I telling you?

Well I went to a used bookstore the other day.

Whenever I go to one, I always ask if they have The Dana Girls.

This time they actually said yes. I was dumbfounded.

We bought a whole bunch. I’ve been reading through them with great pleasure.

The Dana Girls, Nancy Drew, and The Hardy Boys (original books, not modern ones) are great reads for Middle Schoolers and early High School kids.

They are very easy to read, but also introduce the student to uncommon vocabulary and an older style of talking.

Not to mention, mysteries are fantastic tools in developing critical thinking in children!

Fact vs. Opinion

This deeper thinking about how people say things and not just what they say plays a big role in comprehension. Click To Tweet

I want to continue to discuss with you my thoughts about critical thinking in reading comprehension.

Read the first part of the discussion here!

This week I turned my attention to fact versus opinion.

I am a huge fan of The Thinking Toolbox by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn

They have very fun dialogs and exercises to help you get thinking about thinking! 😉

There is not just fact and opinion but also inference.

I found this middle step was the hardest.

A statement of fact is any statement about something which can be directly observed by others or checked for accuracy.

Inferring is a logical conclusion made from verifiable fact.

Opinion is a statement of inference that is not entirely facts.

The Thinking Toolbox, Lesson 4

We went through the different exercises and examples.

I realized often it came down to the tone of the words.

Did the writer sound authoritative?

Did he add something extra, using such language as “must have,” “inevitably,” “probably?”

You can say the same thing but in completely different ways.

That colors the meaning.

This deeper thinking about how people say things and not just what they say plays a big role in comprehension.


This week’s post is shorter.

I have a secret project I am working on that I am excited to share with you soon.

Stay tuned and subscribe in order not to miss anything!

5 Ways to Spring Clean Your Child’s Writing

Spring is in the air! We all are eager to get at spring cleaning, but should our kids “spring clean” their writing? Here I mention 5 ways to clean up their writing.


Read Older Writings

Take an hour to read what your child wrote this past year. Click To Tweet

Take an hour to read what your child wrote this past year.

What patterns do you notice?

Has the writing improved?

Has the length increased?

Use these questions to guide how you will approach helping your child improve.

Suggest New Readings

If you notice some stagnation in their writing, maybe give your child some new books.

Educational books or literary ones can spark new and better writing.

After they read one of their new books, have a discussion with them.

See what observations or opinions your child has.

Maybe some of these could be written down just for fun and good practice.

Write From a Wacky Perspective

Go on a walk with your child.

Ask them what it would be like to view the world as an ant.

How would everything look different?

Would it be easy or hard?

How would the ant get food or stay safe?

Then ask them to write about this.

Some other wacky perspectives:

  • Life as a fork
  • If our fingers could talk
  • Wake up on the other side of the world
  • Life as a fish in a fish tank at the dentist’s office

No More of This For a Whole Day.

Bad little habits will subside after they intentionally try not to say it for a day. Click To Tweet

This can be done through talking or writing.

Tell your child they cannot say a certain word for the entire day, maybe “is” or “like.”

It needs to be a problem word that they overuse.

For one day they will be thinking so hard about how they talk.

Bad little habits will subside after they intentionally try not to say it for a day. Just watch!

Find a Tutor

Maybe after this process, you have realized that your child has some big issues writing.

You worry that they are not doing well enough.

Many people have been in your shoes.

Help is available!

You can find a tutor in your area or online to help your child write better.

I myself am here to help your child write better.

Send me an email today and set up a free mini-lesson to get your child the help they deserve.

I promise I will reply within 24 hours.


We all are eager to get at spring cleaning, but should our kids “spring clean” their writing? Click To Tweet

In exchange for doing any of these exercises, you can give your child a reward.

I, however, encourage you to remind your kids that good writing is its own reward.

Being able to describe the world around us and convey information is a true gift.

There is a lot of joy from working hard in school.

👇🏻Check out this video about work as its own reward. 👇🏻