A Bad Beginning Can Lead to a Good End

Dear World Traveler,

I think it is interesting that you have traveled so much. Wow,

I have only been to Russia, where I was born, and America, where I live.

My itinerate dreams are sitting on the shelf beside my stack of books “to be read.”

Your story was amazing.

How did you make it to your flight with just two minutes to spare?

Your story reminded me of that scene in the Hobbit.

Bilbo is content that the dwarves have gone off without him.

Although peeved, he set to work cleaning the kitchen.

Right before his “second breakfast” is consumed, Gandalf comes in.

Now Bilbo learns that the dwarves are actually waiting for him at the Green Dragon Inn.

He runs off and meets them there. He forgets his “hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out,” most especially his pocket-handkerchief. Huffing and puffing he meets the dwarves.

They, on the other hand, are well prepared having already packed the ponies and made a plan.

Tolkien describes Bilbo’s initiation of the journey comically:
“To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, ….and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more. …
“I’m awfully sorry,” said Bilbo, “but I have come without my hat, and I have left my pocket-handkerchief behind, and I haven’t got any money. I didn’t get your note until after 10.45 to be precise.
“Don’t be precise,” said Dwalin, “and don’t worry! You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end. As for a hat, I have got a spare hood and cloak in my luggage.”
That’s how they all came to start, jogging off from the inn one fine morning just before May, on laden ponies; and Bilbo was wearing a dark-green hood (a little weather-stained) and a dark-green cloak borrowed from Dwalin. They were too large for him, and he looked rather comic. What his father Bungo would have thought of him, I daren’t think. His only comfort was he couldn’t be mistaken for a dwarf, as he had no beard.”

(chapter 1)

Why did Tolkien write it this way?

I believe he did so to make a sharp contrast between Bilbo and the dwarves.

Bilbo is disorganized, unprepared, and reluctant; whereas, the dwarves have a clear mission, plan, having prepared everything already.

We are meant to see the contrast with a bit of humor but also sympathy for Bilbo. Click To Tweet

We are meant to see the contrast with a bit of humor but also sympathy for Bilbo, as one of my students pointed out.

I would argue there is another contrast being prepared for the reader.

Tolkien contrasts this comic scene of Bilbo being unprepared with Bilbo at the end, someone who is self-confident and changed into a real hero. Click To Tweet

Tolkien contrasts this comic scene of Bilbo being unprepared with Bilbo at the end, someone who is self-confident and changed into a real hero.

As Gandalf says: “Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were” (chapter 12).

He even ends up with a red silk handkerchief, far better than the ones he originally owned.

All of this leads me to say that you should be glad of the inauspicious start of your journey.

It very well could lead to a wonderful end…or, at least, a funny story. 😉

All of this leads me to say that you should be glad of the inauspicious start of your journey. It very well could lead to a wonderful end…or, at least, a funny story. 😉 Click To Tweet

Sincerely,

Maria

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. 👇🏻

What This Week Taught Me

Another week has passed! It is now March! Here I will discuss effective questions, importance of a schedule, and confidence.


Always Know the Answer to the Question

Recently, I have been reminded of the power of asking questions when you already know the answer. Click To Tweet

There are many kinds of questions in this world.

Some are to learn more information in the first place — Where is he?! Why did you do that?

However, others are to further your understanding — Why did you come home at 5 instead of 6?

Lastly, yet other questions are largely rhetorical and aid the speaker in discussing more about the topic — Why should we care about the pollination process?

Recently, I have been reminded of the power of asking questions when you already know the answer or, at least, half of it.

I am writing an essay with a student.

He knows a lot about the topic, but cannot seem to get it onto the page.

I remind him that he needs to use questions to pull more information out.

These particular questions are deliberate.

He needs to practice the art of question asking and expending his thoughts at the same time.

Let us use an essay on Benjamin Franklin as an example.

The student has already written down all the basic details of Benjamin Franklin’s life.

He has a basic outline, putting special attention onto Franklin’s role in the Revolutionary War.

I know my student knows more and has read more. I want to pull that out of him.

This question is not so much out of curiosity as it is pushing the writer to write more about what he already knows. Click To Tweet

Here is what I will say to him:

Benjamin Franklin convinced the French to give money and support to America.

  • How and why did this negotiation initiate?
  • Why was Franklin more effective in this negotiation than John Adams?
  • In what ways did France’s aid help win America the war?
From Benjamin Franklin Historical Society

Reaching past the one-word response, I encourage him to craft a question that will result in a short answer.

Importantly, the question itself contains details and information from his reading.

This question is not so much out of curiosity as it is pushing the writer to write more about what he already knows.

This technique has proved effective.

Scheduling

We all need a plan and a schedule.

The better your schedule, the freer you are to focus on what matters and what you have yet even to discover. Click To Tweet

For most students, this is done for them by parents and teachers.

When students reach high school, they are encouraged to begin to take that task on for themselves.

A student of mine cannot stop using the words “work” and “hassle” whenever I discuss organizing his time.

He is right.

Organization is work and is a hassle.

I have found myself spending more time talking about the long term benefits of this way of life than even about the process itself.

Sure, right now everything is manageable, but later the demands will be heavier.

At the end of the day, though, I want students to stay organized so that they can see school as more than just homework.

School is where you learn skills and find your intellectual passions.

The more you worry over how and when you will get even the minimum done, the more you cannot appreciate the task and process itself.

If you want to do more than the minimum, such as competitions, camps, extra courses, and book reading, then improving your schedule is the place to start.

The better your schedule, the freer you are to focus on what matters and what you have yet even to discover.

Confidence

What holds us back from reaching our desired heights of success is confidence. Click To Tweet

Putting words on the internet takes a lot of courage.

So does writing essays and excelling in math.

What holds us back from reaching our desired heights of success is confidence.

Even if you cannot feel the confidence running through you, you can still manufacture it in the meantime.

Project confidence. You will see how that transforms your work and your life.

I made a video on this topic, check it out.


I write these reflections so that you can take a look into my lessons.

Lessons take place every week and I learn new things from and for my students!

It is a thrill.

If you want to be a part of this process, why not book a free mini-lesson today?

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

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.

Do

1. Make monthly-weekly-daily Goals

Untitled.001

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

Untitled.002

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.

Untitled.005

2. Don’t use a highlighter in a textbook

Untitled.006

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

Untitled.007

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.

Untitled.008

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.

3bc4d5b99836acca46b9d8188d14ad6d

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/

tumblr_p3c0j8EPq21tq2owlo1_540
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:

Screenshot 2018-02-07 18.14.13
Screenshot 2018-02-08 16.47.26
IMG_0786

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.

in video slides.003

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
in video slides.005

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.
in video slides.007

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