Tag Archives: Language Arts

Better Your Writing: Step 4 – The First Draft

“Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.” – Ronnie Coleman

First Draft

With road map in hand, look through the notes you have in your journal about this topic and enter those thoughts in the box of your writing road map that makes sense. Now its time to let go. As you think more deeply on your chosen topic, let the words flow on to the paper or screen. In some ways this is the most liberating part of the writing process.

Really take a moment to explore the main point of each supporting paragraph. Write down every thought you have that relates to each main point. Feel free to look up information from credible sources and include that information into your rough draft.

You don’t need to worry about form, voice, sentence structure or any grammar in general. You only need to get your thoughts out of your head. Whether they are fully developed thoughts, half complete thoughts, just the beginning of an idea or just the end of an idea -this is the time to dignify your thought process by introducing it to the world.

The only real rule you want to adhere to is to put your thoughts in the correct boxes you created for your outline. Following this rule will save you time in the next revision phase. While this is the time to be free, be free in an organized way!

For example, if you are providing background information, or explore generally why you feel the way you do about something, most likely this information belongs in the introduction box. If you are providing evidence to support one of the claims you are basing a paragraph about, put that information in the correct paragraph block; If you are giving your final thoughts on the matter, be sure to write that information in the conclusion.

What to do if you can’t think of anything to write?

There are several techniques that people can use to get move past writers block.

First things first, be sure your environment is conducive to writing.. Make sure auditory distractions are kept to a minimum, though I do suggest soft study music if it doesn’t distract you. Be sure you are sitting comfortably at your desk or table, with the intention set in your mind that it is time to work. Have snacks and drinks available within arms reach to avoid having to leave the room to obtain nourishment. Try to make it impossible to distract yourself from the task at hand.

Before you read, take the time to read over the notes you have already taken about the topic at hand. See if any other thoughts, connections or strong feelings are evoked by reading over the material. If so, take note of it. These sentiments could lead to main topic sentences for your body paragraphs.

Another technique to employ to get through writers block , if reading your current notes isn’t helping, is to read. It seems counter intuitive, but many an author employs this technique. By filling your mind with new information, it gives you new concepts to wonder about, and connections to make, which ultimately translates into having more things to say.

If you don’t know what to say, perhaps you have questions about the topic? Write down all those questions – in the appropriate paragraph box in your outline- until you are done asking questions. Then look up the answers to those questions and write the answer – you guessed it- in the appropriate paragraph. It never hurts to let curiosity be your guide, when writing a paper at least.

Finally, you may want to keep yourself in the pre-writing session until you have something to work with. If you find you don’t have enough material, you will need to go back to your references, or find new ones, to make your point. It may be a vicious cycle. Due to this, it may make sense to schedule more than one pre-writing session until you have all the information that you want to include in your paper.

Still looking for ways to better your initial writing? Review my past posts on Journal Writing and Prewriting.

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Filed under Learning Guides, Writing, Writing Tips

Summer Reading Material – Honest History Magazine

This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase by clicking the links in this article, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you are still on the hunt for summer reading material for you child, Honest History is a great resource to consider.

This magazine is perfect for readers ages 6 -12 and each issue takes an in-depth look at the the topic depicted on the cover.

If your child is curious and enjoys reading about past events, Honest History magazine is perfect for them. The magazine was created for curious thinkers; it is designed for children whose imaginations are sparked by the the world around them and by what they read. If, when your child is done reading, they end up having more questions than answers – this magazine is for them. These magazines were designed to pique the reader’s interest and fuel their desire to learn more about the given topic.

Not only are the articles in depth, and written with the intention of keeping bias at bay, but it is impossible to not be engaged with the beautiful artwork present in each edition.

Not only do you have the ability to subscribe to the magazine to receive 4 issues over the course of the year, you can also purchase past issues.

Honest History Magazine has been kind enough to share a discount code of learningwleigh that you can enter at checkout to receive 10% off single issues.

Head on over to HonestHistorymag.com and explore the titles and content of some of the past issues, including: –

Honest History – Past Editions
  • A Portrait of India
  • An Era of Exploration
  • The Spirit of the Games
  • The Race to Space
  • The Story of an Empire
  • The War of the Currents (Edison vs. Tesla)
  • A Pirate’s Tale
  • The Swan King
  • Cookbook: History is Delicious

Each edition comes with well written articles and suggestions for DIY activities.

Whether you subscribe or just purchase one or two single past editions, your child will be well served from a language arts and history standpoint if they commit to reading these magazines over the summer.

Have you experienced “Honest History?”

Let me know your experience in the comments below.

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Filed under Favorite Reads, Language Arts, Reading, Summer Reading Reading Guides

2021 Summer Reading Club Descriptions

Read the descriptions of the clubs below and click on the links to register for the clubs.

Family Reading Club

Sundays at 1PM – July, August, September

Elementary- level books, articles and other reading material are read and afterwards either individual families, or families come together to speak to each other about the story and make connections. Literary activities are provided as an option for families who want to continue to explore the topic after the meeting has ended. Perfect for family members of all ages. Launching Week of July 1st, 2021

$20 per month,

$50 if you buy three months at a time.

Use Coupon Code: Place all three months in your cart and use: FamilyReadingClub2021

The entire household can participate for one price.


Elementary Summer Reading Club

2PM grades K-2; 3PM grades 3-5

Tuesdays and Thursdays

July – 6, 8, 12, 15, 13, 15, 20, 22, 27, 29

August – 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 24, 26, 31

Elementary level books are read out loud and then we work as a group on literary activities that help reinforce the story elements as well as reading comprehension strategies. If you miss the live read, a video will be posted of Leigh reading the book so that you can hear the story that way. By the end of the class, your student will have built a portfolio of summer reading work.

Launching the week of July 1st, 2021.

$50 for the entire summer, for each time slot.


Novel Study – Phantom Tollbooth

Wednesdays 2:00PM – 3:30PM

July 7, 14, 21, 28

August 4, 11

Grades 6-8

6 week course

Explore the world created by Norton Juster. In this story we follow the adventures of Milo, an apathetic boy who happens upon a toll booth that takes him to a different world. In this land language is figurative, so you better be sure to say what you need efficiently and correctly. Besides reading the story, we will learn about figurative language, note-taking, themes, and how to prepare your notes to write a paper.

$75 for the course


Transformation Book Club

Grades 9-12

Friday 2:00PM – 3:30PM

July 9, 16, 23, 30

August 6, 13

6 week course

This book explores the work of two NJ-based authors. The first, “Turning a Mess into a Message” by Edison Jaquez describes how the author found himself at rock bottom and how he worked to get back on top of his game. Each chapter focuses on a different area of life and provides tip on how to successfully navigate the situations we live through.

The second book is called, “I AM, I WILL” by Dr. Daniel Jean. This book is essentially a life plan to creating the life that you desire. Both books, and the activities within, can serve as a solid life plan.

$75 – includes the cost of books


COMING SOON

Active Reading Strategies

Grades 4 – 7

3 Hour Class, 2 – 1.5 hour sessions

This class introduces readers to five reading strategies including visualization, predicting, connecting, questioning and monitoring understanding. We will also go over the KWL Chart.


Grammar Boot Camp

Grades 4 -7, 3 Hour Class, 2 – 1.5 hour sessions

This class will review parts of speech, punctuation, sentence structure and the paragraph. This is the perfect class to get students ready to identify and utilize grammar in the classroom or for any written assignment.


Writing Boot Camp

Grades 4 -7

3 Hour Class, 2 – 1.5 hour sessions

This class teaches the writing process, how to write the perfectly planned paragraph and essay. This class will help students to respond properly to open ended questions in class and on essay assignments.

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Filed under Reading, Summer Writing, Writing Tips

Why You Should Expand Your Vocabulary

expand your vocabulary

Do you find yourself utilizing the same word repeatedly? Do you have a hard time expressing yourself clearly? Have you ever wanted to find a more direct way to speak or convey your thoughts to others? All of these happenings and thoughts could be clues that you desire to expand your vocabulary.

But these aren’t the only reasons people should actively work towards refining and expanding their language ability. In fact, they only scratch the surface in terms of reasons for anyone to actively seek to improve their communication skills and expand their vocabulary. From advancing your communication skills, to connecting to people, to having a deeper understanding of the world around you, there are practical and beneficial reasons for actively expanding your vocabulary.

Words Are Our Tools

“Words are instruments, they are tools that, in their different ways, are as effective as any sharp edge or violate chemical. They are, like coins, items of great value, but they represent a currency that, well spent, returns ever greater riches.”

Tim Radford, Address Book: Our Place in the Scheme of Things

Words (after individual letters) are the basic tools humans have for conveying our messages to each other. The words that we choose to use and the way we string them together make all the difference between a message being clearly received by the recipient, or not. The idea that words can be used as social tools is explored in the linked psychology paper.

Think about a time that you had to have a difficult conversation with someone – perhaps with a boss or a loved one that you were upset with but didn’t want to hurt. When it was your turn to speak, did you angrily say whatever words came to mind recklessly? Or were you careful, pausing before speaking to ensure your message was delivered gently? Believe it or not, even if on a subconscious level, you understood in these situations that your words were powerful and had the ability to either make or break the situation.

Salespeople are a group of people that are acutely aware of the power of words. They are trained, or some instinctively know, to stay away from words that sow doubt in the minds of their buyers and will tend to use words that breed positivity or make a buyer feel good about what they are buying.

In each of these instances, the respective speakers are aware of how their words can affect the outcome of the situations in which they are participating. Whether it is completing a sale or having a heart to heart with a loved one, or conducting a professional conversation at work, the words used during these conversations are important, and most people understand this – even if it isn’t something they actively think about.

Expanding your vocabulary to be able to use the precise word needed in any given situation can greatly increase your chances have having the situation work in your favor.

“Language is the key to the heart of people.”
― Ahmed Deedat

When working to connect with people, the words that we use can help bring those connections closer.

Perhaps you have heard the idiom, “you are speaking my language.” There is so much truth to that phrase and there are instances where knowing the vocabulary of the person with whom you are speaking will undoubtedly help you to connect with that person and ultimately achieve whatever objective you are seeking.

Perhaps it is simply to make new friends, court a significant other, complete a sale, or successfully deliver a persuasive message to different people, speaking the language of the people with whom you are trying to connect can lead to better results.

One of the best ways to “speak the language” of your audience is to learn the basis of their language – their vocabulary. So if that person is into music, social justice, manages a company or had a different point of view than you, you need find the way they speak or think, and cater your message to that way of thinking. That task will include needing to understand their vocabulary and the concepts to which they subscribe. But of course, their concepts might be explained using specialized jargon – jargon that you would need to know in order to connect with your audience.

If you want to connect with different people, for any reason, expanding your vocabulary to knowing and understanding theirs is the first best step.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”
― N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

As the late, great Robin William’s character Mr. Kleinbaum so eloquently proclaimed in the above quote – using less advanced vocabulary is in some ways an act of laziness. Especially given the technological advances that have flourished since that inspirational film was released.

Finding the exact word needed to properly convey one’s thoughts is easier than ever now that the internet and Google have been invented. And when it comes to wording a message in the exact way needed to meet an objective, taking a few seconds, or minutes, to search the right word is the least that could be done to get the message right.

Sometimes, crafting a message, even in everyday discussion, can be a labor of love. Adequately preparing can reap rewards ten-fold.

Do your self a favor, take the advice of Mr. Kleinbaum, and use the appropriate advanced word to further your message. Take the time to expand your vocabulary and you can’t go wrong.

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.”
― Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science

It can be argued that the more words you know, the more minutely concepts could be understood which ultimately results in a more robust knowledge base. Just like words are the basic building blocks of communication between humans, they are also the basic building blocks of our knowledge and our thoughts. The higher level verbiage we use translates into a higher level thoughts and thought processes. These higher level thought processes can lead to an expanded understanding.

One example that illustrates this point is the way most science text books are set up. At the beginning of every chapter is a list of vocabulary words that will be utilized during the chapter study. Understanding the meaning of those words and the context in which they are used will help a student to understand the material better.

While it is true that everyone has different learning strategies, I am hoping that I presented enough evidence here to support the idea that expanding your vocabulary is a beneficial activity that can help enhance your life in many ways. From creating or deepening personal relationships to achieving goals and having a deeper understanding about the world around you, expanding your vocabulary is the best first step anyone can take to increase their knowledge.

Do you agree? Do you think it is beneficial to expand your vocabulary? Why or why not?

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Filed under Language Arts, Learning Guides, Vocabulary Words