What This Week Taught Me

I reflect on my week — resting, proofreading opportunities, and how to begin the research process with Wikipedia.


Rest

This week I was sick.

It was one of those colds that brewed under the surface for a year in order to give the biggest punch once it surfaced. My dramatic flare is warranted after how much it messed up my schedule.

That, however, was a blessing in disguise.

It gave me a chance to slow down and not jump the gun.

I am not the most patient of people, so it was a forced slowdown.

Proofreading

I truly believe having your work edited is the best form of writing education for anyone. Click To Tweet

I have been working on something behind the scenes, this week I was able to truly debut it.

I began to offer proofreading services.

Although I believe most students and young professionals can benefit from it, I am most eager to help non-native speakers edit their English.

I learned English grammar through having my work edited.

I truly believe it is the best form of writing education for anyone.

Wikipedia

Helping young students learn how to research is a great joy.

My background is in Medieval Studies, so plowing through bibliographies and keyword searches excites me.

We all have been warned not to cite Wikipedia as a source.

Helping young students learn how to research is a great joy. Click To Tweet

Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can write on there.

That said, I am a huge proponent of using Wikipedia at the beginning of the process. Just this week I discussed this with a student.

Wikipedia can provide you with a general overview of the topic, keywords, and helpful links.

If you know nothing about the topic, read the Wikipedia article on it. Learn the keywords attached to the topic.

Then, at the bottom, read the external links section to start out your search.

When you return to Google Search, you will be equipped with general knowledge and terminology that will speed up your search time.

Start with Wikipedia but end with reliable .edu/.org sources!

Start with Wikipedia but end with reliable .edu/.org sources! Click To Tweet

This week was a bit unusual but such a blessing.

See you next week!

What This Week Taught Me

This week (February 16 – 23, 2018) I am thinking about connecting phrases, reading in context, and passion. Join me!


I truly feel like starting this off by saying “I’m back.”

“Fell off the planet” is dramatic, but I did spend five months in Russia and focused on other projects.

Now I am back and ready to write.

I am starting a new series.

I want to take you along with me each week.

You can see what I discover and am thinking about.

If something sparks your interest, then don’t be shy!

Leave a comment or write me an email.

Here we go!

This week I thought about

1.Connecting phrases

Sometimes, we take things for granted.

Make that, we often take things for granted.

Since we tend to communicate through conversations, the essay style can be jarring.

When we talk in a conversation, the other person can follow our train of thought.

However, when my student faces the blank page, he is forced to play both sides and write understandably.

With my young students, I find they put two thoughts beside each other without any glue.

Consider, two best friends sit beside each other.

In the first scenario, they do not interact or even look at each other.

You know they are friends, but there is no visible proof.

In the second scenario, they laugh together and lean in on each other, blurring the line between them.

Which is better?

The same is true for thoughts.

We want to see their connection.

I have always known this, but I was encouraged to see the mechanics behind it this week.

Example:

I hate writing. I took a course, and I am now a writer.

Initially, I hated writing. After I took a course in it, I fell in love. Now, I am a writer.

Read about how to write descriptive scenes with your Middle Schooler here!

2. Context while reading

As a Latin teacher, I read with my students every session.

The reading always goes better the more they engage with the passage.

If they are following what Quintus is doing, then they read effortlessly.

They become superheroes and even read words they have never seen before.

How?

They read in context.

When they reach a new word, they consider everything around it.

Cheesy example in 3…2…1…

I am so [apple] to see you today.

Wait, I think I put the wrong word in, but I am sure a student of mine could correct that. 😉

My students that actively consider cognates and context always read amazingly.

Remember this, if you find yourself reading in a foreign language this week.

For more on Latin for beginners read: How to Understand Latin Through the Eyes of English Speakers

3. Passion

You will soon learn that I am a huge fan of Mel Robbins and self-improvement books.

For this last slot, I wanted to put the spotlight on passion.

We all believe that “our passion” is a thing inside of us.

It is something we can lose or gain.

We could take it on a walk even.

However, Mel Robbins shatters that.

She recasts passion as energy and excitement.

Our greatest interests give us excitement.

When I sit down to write in Russian, I am energized.

Russian is my passion, but that passion is not a thing, it’s a force.

I cannot lose it.

If I get discouraged about Russian, for example, I feel I lost my “passion.”

In actuality, I lost my energy.

Energy can be refilled or repositioned.

My power is my passion.

However, my passion is formless energy projected onto what excites us most at the moment.

I offer you all my passion.

Not because I dreamed my entire life of doing this, but because I am energized.

I am eager to bring you new strategies and tips to help you or your child succeed.

If you enjoyed this and want more, be sure to subscribe!

Perfectionism

You arrive at the airport.

Your ticket says you will take off at 3:30pm.

At the gate, you hear the announcement, “The pilot does not feel it is the absolute perfect time to fly. Since he is still waiting for the best conditions ever known to man and the perfect frame of mind, we are forced to cancel the flight.”

Now, would it not have been better for the flight to have taken off nearly perfectly rather than not at all?

Well, students find themselves in the pilot’s seat of their own life, struggling with perfection.

Here I want to discuss perfectionism and how to work past unhealthy perfectionism.

Students find themselves in the pilot’s seat of their own life, struggling with perfection. Click To Tweet

The thirst for perfection comes from a number of different causes: fear, desire for good grades, obsessiveness, and a high standard of knowledge.

There is both a good and bad side to it.

Healthy Perfectionism

On the one hand, perfectionism gives you an incentive to aim higher and work harder.

Obsessively comparing yourself to others is unhealthy, but you can always compete with who you were yesterday.

Obsessively comparing yourself to others is unhealthy, but you can always compete with who you were yesterday. Click To Tweet

Striving to get the mark closer to perfect can awaken strengths and problem solving abilities you didn’t know you had!

Furthermore, while striving to get closer to perfect, you maintain high academic standards and perform well.

“Aim for the stars and, even if you fail, you will land on the moon” rings true at this moment.

The act of earnest striving for perfectionism, can lead to achieving sufficiently high marks before the illusive 100% comes.

Unhealthy Perfectionism

On the other hand, perfectionism can be taken too far.

I have seen many of my friends and classmates lose their health and joy through uncompromising ambition towards 100%.

It is always important to keep things in perspective and see how one grade does not impact you 5 or 10 years down the line.

Unwavering ambition can lead to burnout and regret.

Jade, a recent high school graduate in England, made a controversial video about regretting her perfect exam scores. This regret does not come from ingratitude but from an awareness of the price paid for those grades.

What do you gain, if you get perfect grades, but lose your health and passion?

You can watch the whole video here:

That said, I read an interesting article recently, which discussed the perfectionism of gifted students.

If school takes no effort whatsoever for some students, then what would perfectionism for them look like?

If school takes no effort whatsoever for some students, then what would perfectionism for them look like? Click To Tweet

The writer, Paula Prober, showcases the internal struggle of a student to know “everything,” since it takes no effort to know just something.

Read the article here.

In my experience, the number one place unhealthy perfectionism rears its ugly head is in “procrastination perfectionism.”

I myself have a life sentence, unfortunately. Linda Sapadin of Reed University defines this as: “You’re overly concerned with not meeting high expectations; you work so hard you never finish (or, sometimes, never start)” (read the full article here).

While at university, I was in the Honors College. Despite being surrounded by the “best and brightest,” we all waited to start our major projects.

In my case, I needed to see how each step would go.

I wanted to mentally foresee finding the resources, having the main points of the outline, and then writing the final draft, before I began anything.

This goes back to fear or feeling unprepared.

Though for some, like our pilot in the introduction, we may hunger for that perfect state of mind without fatigue or worry. Regardless, the allure of perfectionism can stop us from even starting.

Ways to Combat It

There are many ways to work through the negative effects of perfectionism. Here I will list four:

1.Make sure you schedule your project well.

Do not write down: “write essay,” but instead breakdown the project into manageable pieces.

You can focus your perfectionism on each step, rather than being overwhelmed by the whole.

I discuss this further in 3 Do’s and Don’ts, which you can read here.

2. Zoom out in time.

Will this essay matter in three months?

Will this test haunt me in five years? Most likely it will not even be on your mind in five days; therefore, relax.

3. Focus on what you are writing and building.

Forget about the grades for a second.

If you make something wonderful, then the grade you deserve will follow.

If you make something wonderful, then the grade you deserve will follow. Click To Tweet

Aim your perfectionism into the content and not the numerical mark at the end.

4. Consider stoicism.

What grades you will get and whether it will be raining tomorrow are entirely out of your control.

Your actions and mindset are in your control.

Criticism and imperfect grades do not define you, but your attitude and performance are in your control.

Letting things go and focusing on knowledge rather than grades will endlessly help you.

Ali Abdaal, a medical school graduate, discusses his stoic outlook and how beneficial it is during school and life.

You can watch the video here (just watch from 02:55 – 11:15)

Conclusion

Perfect yourself but don’t be perfect.

Like a pearl, you can continue to improve and become more radiant, but don’t strive to be perfect.

Perfect yourself but don’t be perfect. Like a pearl, you can continue to improve and become more radiant, but don’t strive to be perfect. Click To Tweet

Teaching English in Russia

По-русски

When I was planning my trip to Russia, I knew immediately that I wanted to teach English in some way or another.

A treasure was mine to give, that is English.

Regardless of me and my background, I could correct and share.

Touching young lives through language is very rewarding.

Touching young lives through language is very rewarding. Click To Tweet

The decision was a no brainer.

Read about my journey through my difficulties and successes.

I taught English to high school students twice a week after school hours for the entire Fall semester of 2018.

I stayed in the heartwarming town Svetlograd.

My experience was wonderful.

I loved the kids and the town.

Each session was a delight.

I was humbled and privileged to be apart of their lives for one semester.

Difficulties

The difficulties I faced were those universally felt in Russia and the world at large.

Firstly, the teachers spoke too much in Russian.

The students feel they know English, but they really understand the immediate translation into Russian.

The students feel they know English, but they really understand the immediate translation into Russian. Click To Tweet

When I came, most could not follow my speech or reply back to questions.

They giggled and looked to the nearest translator — another student or Google Translate.

Even for the younger children everything is related back to Russian. This is very counterproductive.

Secondly, as is true everywhere, the students did not have enough time.

I would ask them to write something or prepare for a small quiz, but very few were ready.

They had all the desire in the world, but time was not enough.

Lastly, the number one difficulty I faced was that the students could not feel the language.

I would sternly ask them to stand up, but they would remain seated.

Dramatic displays of happiness or anger did not make sense to them, aside from my facial expressions.

In Svetlograd, I was living with relations. If she said in Russian, “The tea is very hot!” or “Come here, Masha!”

I reacted because I felt the words.

I wanted my students to also feel the words.

One day we pretended to be a train.

We all lined up.

I was the leader and said, “We are going straight… Now we are turning left… Then we cross the book… Right again…”

As I did the action, everyone followed in a snake motion. Then the next person behind me would reenact the whole thing.

This proved very effective and helped awaken them to how English felt inside the body itself.

Successes

Successes from my point of view were innumerable because I was so pleased to be with them.

Here I will note just three.

First, I had the chance to visit several English classes.

At the beginning of the year, I was invited to visit many English classes of every age.

I would tell them about myself and then take questions.

Of course, most of the questions were about life in America and everyone always asks, “Which do you like better? America or Russia?”

That said, I loved the questions from the youngest of students, such as, “Are there kittens in America too?”

So many tried to ask me in English, even employing Google Translate occasionally.

I was thrilled to hear everyone trying.

These interviews in the classroom were one of my favorite parts of my trip on the whole.

Secondly, music was the best form of communication.

When grammar explanations became overwhelming, music proved the best way to communicate with my young students.

We listened to songs and then went over the lyrics.

My favorite was when they said they understand it all, then I asked one question….well, that popped that balloon.

We chose only songs they loved so it really helped them to open up and start working to understand better.

Games helped the Russian students relax and it helped them to talk more in English. Click To Tweet

Thirdly, by far the most success…and laughter…I had came from games!

I got into the rut where I did all the talking.

Then the potato arrived, well the potato in the form of a plush pumpkin.

We all remember the game «hot potato», growing up.

Well, I played with my students.

I did it in different ways with the students.

We started off nice and slow, passing the “potato” to one another and saying in turn, “1…2…3..”

Then the number would change and then next student would have to say the next number, “23…24…87…88…”

Lastly, we tried some math, “1+1=2, 35+2=37.”

When they loosened up, I would let them use both English and Russian numbers to help the English ones feel more real.

There was always the one student that gave me: “563(Russian)-8(English)=?” It was a laugh.

After numbers we focused on names of food and animals in the same game pattern.

This helped the students relax and it helped them to talk.

Hot potato along with other games were a huge success.

We truly had fun.

I am so grateful to have met these students and to have had this opportunity to teach English in Russia.

At the end of the day, English is a living language that should be enlivened for the student.

I hope my students will love English more now and will use it from the heart and not just out of necessity.

At the end of the day, English is a living language that should be enlivened for the student. Click To Tweet

Writing a Description of the Scene for Middle Schoolers

Putting your thoughts down on paper is like catching a firefly at night.

Putting your thoughts down on paper is like catching a firefly at night. Click To Tweet

You can see it clearly, but when you reach for it…well…it does not turn out as you would have predicted.

All the more true for Middle Schoolers who are just beginning to articulate themselves fully in writing.

Here I want to explain a method to help young students write descriptions.

The secret is to use your eyes instead of your hands.

Don’t want to read the article? Watch my youtube video instead 👇🏻

First and foremost, I provide a picture of a scene.

At a young age, visualizing everything in your mind distracts from trying to write. You ask for a lot of juggling.

I like to use scenes from Disney films because they are very recognizable and the student already knows the story.

Secondly, I break down what I want to know.

Over the course of several lessons, I would devote a lesson to each of these:

Actions

The literal actions that take place in the scene.

Standing, running, holding, laughing, looking, etc.

The people themselves and their appearance
  • Woman or man?
  • Young girl or teenage boy?
  • What color is her hair?
  • What type of shirt is he wearing?
  • How big are her eyes?
Connecting everything
  • Does her red hair connect with his red hair?
  • Could they be related?
  • Why is she looking at this?
  • Does her expression explain how she feels about the painting?

Thirdly, I will ask them to make a list for each category.

I am very serious about making a list.

I do not want them to attempt to write a paragraph too soon.

When we read young people’s writing, too often it resembles: “she looks sad. she is in a dress. It is sunny. she…. it….”

This is because our brains naturally wants to just process the information.

Young students (and many adults) cannot articulate themselves at the same moment they are digesting the information. Thus, I separate the steps.

Lastly, we write the paragraph!

Since everything is processed and organized, the student writes with more confidence.

Everything has come from the student.

I have not fed them the lines.

Moreover, they have arrived to it in a way that does not overload or pressure them.

The result, the paragraph itself.

We may then talk about combining smaller pieces of information or about the order of ideas.

The main outcome is that we have something to work with.

We can keep our discussion firmly rooted in writing instead of juggling mental images and overwhelming number of ideas.

Here is an example.

description writing.005
Actions
  • An older woman stands at the door.
  • She is holding a key.
  • The young woman gasps.
  • She holds a scroll.
  • She turns around.
  • The women are looking at each other.
Appearance
  • The older woman is the stepmother. (It is not wrong to add plot points taken from the film itself because the picture is just there to help stimulate the student.)
  • She has dark hair, probably grey.
  • Her whole appearance is cast in shadow.
  • She is wearing a dark magenta dress.
  • The magenta dress is very long. It goes up to the neck and down to the wrist and ankles.
  • The other woman is younger.
  • She is Cinderella.
  • She is very pretty.
  • Her hair is strawberry blonde and short.
  • Cinderella is wearing a dress, blue and brown, and an apron, white.
  • Her eyes are very large and blue.
  • He mouth is opened very wide.
  • The room itself is hardly seen.
  • There is a door, table, and mirror.
  • The mirror is large, but slightly broken.
Connection
  • Cinderella has big eyes and an open mouth because she sees her stepmother at the door.
  • Her big eyes and opened mouth show that she is shocked.
  • The step mother is holding a key because she wants to lock the door.
  • The scroll invites Cinderella to the Ball.
Summary paragraph

Cinderella is a beautiful young girl with blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair. She is holding an invitation to the Ball. Her stepmother clutches the key ready to lock her into a room. Cinderella gasps at the sight of her stepmother because she is shocked.

No, this inevitably would not be what an 11 year old would write.

I wrote it to demonstrate the concept.

However, I have seen that with this exercise the student writes more than usual.

He feels more comfortable.

He does not feel as overwhelmed or pressured.

I have seen that with this exercise the student writes more than usual. He feels more comfortable. He does not feel as overwhelmed or pressured. Click To Tweet

With clear steps and a fixed image, the student is freer to write.

And so, I, as the teacher, can focus my time on productive comments about that writing.

3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts of Studying

Studying is overwhelming enough, but bad habits make it worse.

Studying is overwhelming enough, but bad habits make it worse. Click To Tweet

The list below focuses on reducing the feelings of being overwhelmed and increasing the manageability of your schedule and information.

Check out the Youtube video that goes with this for more details.

Contents

Do

1. Make monthly-weekly-daily Goals

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Tasks — like writing a term paper, preparing for a large exam, or learning a large concept — cannot be accomplished in one day.

Split it into small pieces and then move those tasks into a convenient time within a month, week, and day.

Split it into small pieces and then move those tasks into a convenient time within a month, week, and day. Click To Tweet

For example:

Month of January – Write a 20 page paper on the First Chinese Emperor

Weekly goals – Collect all the research • finish the first draft • finalize the paper

Daily goals – Research for 45 minutes • write the introduction • proof edit the conclusion

2. Do a little everyday

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Collect your notes or grab your book.

Marathons are more efficient than sprints.

Reread your study guide once a day.

Just read it, nothing fancy.

Or take another 10 page dent out of that book.

5-10 minutes is all.

You will be better off to study or read a little rather than a lot at one time because you will not become burnt out or overwhelmed.

Also, your mind will be open to new perspectives and soft to remembering new nuances if you reread your material regularly.

3. Write and rewrite and rewrite again

Each time you rewrite something, you will simplify it and make it more memorable.

This is particularly true with study notes.

Rewrite them after a period of time and not just all in one day.

Check the video at the bottom, which goes with this post, for more details.

Don’ts

1. Don’t list non-accomplishable tasks

Only write todo items that are achievable and measurable.

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2. Don’t use a highlighter in a textbook

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Highlighting words is a passive action.

In order to digest what you read, you need to write your own comments and not just highlight the original.

Capturing impressions and observations in your own words promotes remembering and understanding the information.

3. Don’t keep your space messy

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All of yours things randomly distributed will only clutter up your mind.

A tidy space keeps your mind tidy.

In the morning and evening review your todo list and tidy your space for optimal productivity.

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Bonus tip in my Youtube video! Watch ’til the end!

How to Understand Latin Through the Eyes of English Speakers

Latin is over two thousand years old! 

Until being displaced by French and then English, Latin held the position of being the literary language of the West.

Authors took to their pens with it to record ideas of philosophy, politics, spirituality, science, diplomacy, music, and love.

You may have heard of some of the most famous Latin authors: Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca.

The list does not end there…additionally: Augustine, Bede, Erasmus, Issac Newton, etc.

No matter what you are interested in, there is a book for you in Latin!

There is even a thrilling description of a haunted house by Pliny the Younger. What are you waiting for?

Here I want to introduce you to Latin by highlighting its differences from English.

When deciding whether to take up a language, understanding its features informs upon your decision.

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The Familiar

Cozy up with your new Latin book effortlessly with the same alphabet as ours.

It is like ours with only a few differences, for example no “j” or “w” and “v” is written as “u” and vice versa.

A full explanation on pronunciation can be found here.

The sound of Latin is very melodic with its long and short vowels. Here is a preview:

The Differences

The grape and the raisin
inflater-1

English is a very word-rich language.

Like a delicious stew, with it we combine many large and small elements to create hearty sentences.

Latin is not like this.

It uses the least words necessary to say the absolute most.

Like a raisin, it packs a punch in the smallest form possible.

And so, when translating to and from Latin, it can feel like moving between a grape and a raisin.

Imagining the water leaving the grape or putting water into the raisin creates intentionality with each word choice.

Students worry about adding too many words in English or they have trepidation over the lack of words in Latin.

Regarding the transition as a change in the fruit itself helps.

The office and the briefcase

This transformation happens because Latin is an “inflected language.”

This means “the nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs have variable endings that indicate the relationship of the words to each other in a sentence” (Wheelock’s Latin p. xxvi).

Think of it this way.

English is like an office.

Everything stands independently of everything else — the bookcase, the lamp, the laptop, and the chair.

Latin is like a briefcase. 

The laptop, books, and pens are all together within one portable object. Both are offices of sorts, but they are packaged differently.

In English word placement is very important because that conveys meaning and grammar.

However, in Latin, since the words carry their own meaning and grammar within the variable endings.

You can have fewer words and they are not in a fixed spot within the sentence.

The number one difficulty for English speakers in reading Latin, in my opinion, is word order!

This issue directly results from Latin’s inflected nature.

Though word order does exist in Latin, it is significantly more fluid than that of English.

Students hate to see the direct object first or sentences without a clearly visible pronoun subject.

Exposure to lots of Latin cures this.

That said, the student must make the conscious effort to understand that Latin operates significantly different than English.

A secondary hiccup finds itself in Latin’s lack of articles (a, an, the) and diminished use of possessive adjectives (my, your, ours, etc).

When inflating that raisin, the color of the fruit changes to green.

So too, while translating into English the color of the language changes as we add in our own vital elements.

Surveying this here is easier said than done.

Time and dedication are required to straddle the complexity of Latin’s inflected system.

Motivation sits at the root of that effort.

So why Latin?

Why Learn Latin?

1.Your vocabulary will grow.

Once you know the root of some our English words, taken from Latin originally, then you will know many more English words instantly.

Additionally, your eyes will be open to the components of words you already know.

This knowledge will carry into other languages with similar words.

  • Ira (Latin – anger) => irascible, irritated, ire.
  • Dormire (to sleep) => dormitory, to lay dormant.
  • Ducere (to lead) => induction, reduction, production, abduction
  • Exit (English) => exire (to go out) – ex = out; ire = to go
  • Casa (Latin – house) – la casa (Italian – house)
  • Dare (Latin – to give) – дать/dat’ (Russian – to give)
2. You will learn grammar. period.

The safety net of fluency is taken away when reading Latin as with any other language.

As I showed above, Latin has a sophisticated “labeling” system with its inflected nature.

Verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs look distinctly different and they are built, instead of merely placed.

Navigating this will bring to light the fundamentals of grammar:

  • What is a noun?
  • What is an adverb?
  • How do words “agree” with one another?

Moreover, a thorough understanding of Latin’s grammar specifically can provide a head start in the grammar of other languages.

For example, compare “to be” in French and Latin below.

Other highly inflected languages, such as Greek, Hungarian, or Russian, will come more easily as well.

to be
3. You will read some wonderful writings

These include such things as literature, pieces of music, engravings, etc.

As I preached in the introduction, Latin has something for everyone.

The latin library has a rich collection: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/

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Baylor University, Crouch Fine Arts Library, Waco, TX
http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/ref/collection/bu-rarebook/id/13876

Is Latin Dead?

There is a myth that Latin has taken its last bow.

Now it is true that students read classical ancient Latin literature in their classes.

However, some amazing people share some real-world Latin!

Have a look:

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Watch the video for more information and a look into Latin grammar!

*Veni Vidi Didici – I came. I saw. I learned.

*Column from Volubilis

Remember What You Read: A Technique to Learn How to Digest the Important Points of Any Reading

Reading comprehension is not automatic.

Helping students with this vital skill can only help them multifold in the future with writing and more difficult readings.

Once the student considers the information within a text to be meaningless, have them create a story connecting those facts!

Once the student considers the information within a text to be meaningless, have them create a story connecting those facts! Click To Tweet
Check out the video now

In late elementary and early middle school, students learn the skill of comprehending what they have read.

They are starting to ask themselves, “What are the main points? Which are the supporting facts versus the actual arguments?”

Reading is the gateway to writing.

Reading is the gateway to writing. Click To Tweet

While they compose their essays, they will ask themselves the same questions.

Learning reading comprehension is an important step in any child’s education.

Not every student can read well.

Some students struggle to connect the details and myriad of facts they encounter.

What do you do?

Memorizing Cards

I am mesmerized by people with an excellent memory.

One can demonstrate this asset through the memorizing of decks of cards.

I cannot do this and never will, but it got me thinking.

Cards themselves are basically meaningless pieces of information. If you can find a way to remember them, then you can carry that over onto other situations.

I gave my students random cards from a deck.

I asked them to remember those cards for 30 seconds.

They did so easily when I did not talk, but the second round I talked during those entire 30 seconds and they were unsuccessful.

Afterwards, I showed them how to make the random cards into a story.

Then, students were able to remember the cards for any length of time within the lesson.

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Here is an example:

  • Jack = The jack
  • Loves = The heart suit
  • To ace = Ace
  • Irish = The clubs suit
  • 5 = 5
  • Higher = the spades suit (it looks like an up arrow)

Honing the skill

After this, I want to hone the skill of story telling, with that story lasting only a sentence or two.

I give my students random facts and ask them to connect them into a story.

We must concentrate on this, because a story that does not connect properly will be harder to remember.

If I say, “A man runs down the street and sees a boy,” now I must remember him running and seeing the boy, which is more work.

I can tweak the story somewhat…. “A man runs and almost trips over a boy sitting in the street.”

Now I have a bond between the man and the boy.

You cannot have the man tripping without the boy in the street.

Many times I will give the students random pieces of information in order for them to practice making meaningful connections.

Many times I will give the students random pieces of information in order for them to practice making meaningful connections. Click To Tweet
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Here is an example:

I make the story and also reinforce items: an old man with an old and a $12 ring for a 12 year-old granddaughter.

Applying the skill

Lastly, we need to apply this to an actual reading assignment.

I will ask the students to read the passage to themselves and then ask me about any words they do not know.

Then we will go over it together to make sure they understand the words and passage 100%.

Now we employ the story-telling technique in order to keep track of important items.

  • the main argument
  • something in parallel or conflicting
  • one example.
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Here is an example:

A mother goes shopping with her teenage, ninja son. He says, “Mom, all my friends are wearing black! I want this shirt.” She responds, “We are just regular farmers. You should dress normally. I like this shirt more.”

Though inauthentic it captures the main points in a funny and unexpected way. (text original source here)

Stories are more potent and useful when they are weird, funny, and unexpected.

The goal of the story is to digest and install the information without making your mind work even harder to remember even more.

As you move through a reading, you can employ this technique as you go.

Instead of trying to remember what happened two paragraphs up, just review the story going on in your mind.

They are learning a skill with this, not merely a method.

They are connecting facts over and over.

With time, the inventive and strange stories slip away and what remains is the ability to keep track of and connect information within a reading.


Everyone will have different stories and they may see them as a movie in their mind or just more text.

This is adaptable to all kinds of learners because it is completely individualized.

Making the short story serves as a vehicle to remember and digest what the student has read.

Try it today!

Making the short story serves as a vehicle to remember and digest what the student has read. Click To Tweet

You teach with what? 6 Apps Vital for Teaching Online.

“Paperless” is the hot word right now.

Some want to save the planet and others want to see the bottom of their desks once in a while.

Striving for a paperless work experience came to me through a more practical route.

Thousands of miles between myself and my students necessitated finding some virtual alternatives.

Already there are amazing virtual schools with great resources to go along with them.

But what do independent online teachers do?

I have tried and tested a hoard of applications and services, and here are the ones I use daily!

This is not sponsored.

All opinions are my own.

My first draft excluded this paragraph all together because it is about something we all take for granted…technology itself.

I have a MacBook Air.

I run High Sierra macOS.

Furthermore, I use an iPad Pro 10.5” with an Apple Pencil.

I operate my computer and tablet in tandem. Like a good dance team, I cannot tell when one starts and the other ends!

Clock (Free)

Though a basic app, it is indispensable.

I keep track of different timezones.

As I travel over state lines and outside the country, it is vital to have a place I can trust for the correct time.

That way I am never late for a lesson.

At the beginning of each writing lesson, my students always write for 15 minutes, so I whip out my timer.

We all tell ourselves we can watch the clock and timers are superfluous, but the reality is that we get distracted.

I set the timer so that I can focus on teaching and not watching clocks.

Occasionally, I play games with my students. At that time, I use the stopwatch.

Skype/Google Hangouts (Free)

These services allow me to carry out the lesson as a video chat.

There are many options within this genre of app.

I prefer and primarily use Skype.

I keep my students within a contact list to find them easily.

During the call, the text chat column stays open on the right, while I converse within the video column on the left.

I primarily use “share screen” to display my virtual board.

The older version of Skype (Version 7.58) supplies all my needs; the newest update took away some key features.

Google Calendar (Free)

Not for personal use, I use this only to diligently list my lessons.

I keep each student within their own calendar.

I share them individually with my students and also with their guardians (if applicable).

What I write there is binding, and it keeps everyone accountable and on track.

BaiBoard (Free)

In short, this is my virtual whiteboard.

I utilize this as an old-fashioned board with some modern twists.

Pictures and diagrams can be dragged onto the screen directly.

I can type and write freehand.

Lines, circles, and squares are available to me.

There are good color options to choose from: black, dark blue, light blue, green, purple, red, and yellow.

BaiBoard is a white canvas for me to share and impart whatever I need.

GoodNotes ($8)

I utilize this in the same fashion as BaiBoard, only on my iPad instead of computer.

I freehand everything within this app and can draw more intricately.

Notability ($10)

My own personal folder and notebook, where I keep all my textbooks, handouts, assignments and notes.

Quick Tip – Use templates!

I learned to write in cursive in third grade.

Instead of using a ruler, my teacher had a mechanical device that held three pieces of chalk evenly spaced and perfectly straight.

She glided it across the board with the ease akin to water sliding off an umbrella.

What a time and hassle saver!

Why reinvent the wheel?

I bring this into my online teaching.

I use templates for the board layouts I regularly employ.

I use templates for the board layouts I regularly employ. Click To Tweet

This is particularly useful in Latin, though English sentence diagrams can be made into a template as well.

Don’t forget to keep these in a very easily accessible folder for quick access.

Don’t work harder, work smarter.

Technology opens the world and shrinks limitations.

Technology opens the world and shrinks limitations. Click To Tweet

I hope these apps will transform your virtual teaching experience!