Tag Archives: literacy

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

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

“Who Decides the News?” and Why it is Important for Readers to Understand This

Tragic news about the site moderator.

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Filed under News Literacy

Meet The College Professor/ Poet/ Youth Motivator Dr. Daniel Jean

Dr. Daniel Jean

When I first asked Dr. Jean if I can interview him for my blog, I asked because, after reading the timely lyrics he posts to his Facebook page, I thought someone who uses words so powerfully and beautifully should be featured on a literacy blog.  While I wanted to highlight Dr. Jean’s literacy genesis, his talents as a poet, and as someone who promotes literacy, I discovered someone with a much more powerful message than simply, “read 20 minutes a day.”
Dr. Jean not only promotes the belief that words travel, as evidenced by the organization he founded Wordstravel, but he has experienced this belief as he has traveled around the country performing his poetry.  Most interestingly, his words have traveled all the way to Ghana, where the Ghana Knowledge Tree Leadership Academy is building a library and naming it “The Wordstravel Library” after Dr. Jean’s movement.  Finally, through Dr. Jean, I am not only providing you a profile of a successful literary professional to look up to, but also a resource.  See his response when I asked him what advice he has for struggling readers.
Please take the time to read how Dr. Daniel Jean got his literacy start and what steps you can take to become an engaged reader and writer who positively impacts the world around you:
LWL: Who introduced you to reading?
DJ: I was introduced to reading by my older siblings who would read everything from books to cereal box labels. While I didn’t read with them, I saw them reading and perceived the value.
LWL: When did you start to like to read independently?
DJ: I struggled with reading comprehension until my eighth grade teacher Mrs. Richardson worked with me to focus better, underline key concepts and learn how to make the words come to life!
LWL: Did you prefer fiction or non fiction?
DJ: I prefer to read non fiction.
LWL: What were your favorite stories?
DJ: My favorite stories are true stories of individuals overcoming adversity. Soul on Ice and the autobiography of Malcolm X. Both stories highlighted how injustices and hatred can be overcome.
LWL: Who were your favorite authors?
DJ: I have so many. Edwidge Danticat is on of my favs and many of her stories are about my Haiti, my birthplace.
LWL: Where would you go to read?
DJ: I need to read in a quiet space.
LWL: Did you go to the library a lot?
DJ: They had a mobile library called the “Book Mobile” that would share books. I also frequent the library.
LWL: Did you have a lot of friends that you liked to read with?
DJ: I’ve never read with others.
LWL: Was reading something that was promoted in your community?
DJ: Reading was promoted by my community [which I define as my siblings and a few key teachers] but I met teachers who emphasized the importance of reading.
LWL: What motivated you to continue to read on your own, outside of school assignments?
DJ: I enjoyed reading and began writing poetry at a very early age. I have authored  a play entitled “Til Death Do Us Part?” and an anthology titled, “Wordstravel”.
LWL: Who introduced you to writing?
DJ: My Siblings.
LWL:  When did you start writing?
DJ: I have written poetry since my pre-teen years. My entire movement is based on the power of the word.
LWL: How did you use writing as a tool? (Diary, write stories, etc.)
DJ: I wrote poems for all occasions, parties, female friends, to address an injustice. I live by Ephesians 4:29 [ Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. -Biblegateway.com]
LWL: Where did you used to go to write when you were a kid?
DJ: I would write anywhere and on anything.
LWL: What motivated you to continue to write on your own, outside of school assignments? Where do you go to write now?
DJ: I write to empower and express myself. I like to write on my apple products now (laughs)
LWL: What other ways do you express yourself artistically?
DJ: I make music, perform poetry, and utilize it all during my interactive empowerment. Swagger Seminars.
LWL: How, do you think, your passion for reading and writing impacted where you are today?
DJ: Effective communication is the key to personal and professional success. Reading and writing are essential to communication.
LWL: What advice would you have for a reluctant reader?
DJ: I would encourage them to read things they enjoy….also if they struggle with reading comprehension to contact me at wordstravel.org for assistance and encouragement.
LWL: What advice do you have for a struggling writer?
DJ: Wordstravel…..
LWL: How would you respond to the statement: “Books are a stupid waste of time, and so is writing about what you read in books.”
 DJ: I would love to meet the person who said that to help them fall in love with reading/writing like I have!
As you can see, Dr. Jean isn’t your ordinary literacy advocate.  He has given us his literary story, offered help for those who need it, recommended a Haitian author to look into, made a clear correlation as to why reading and writing is important and, in not so many words, showed that reading about over-coming injustice and hatred is the first step to over-coming injustice and hatred.  If you want to learn more about Dr. Jean, please visit his website www.wordstravel.org.

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