Tag Archives: Writing

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

Better Your Writing: Step 2 Build Your Vocabulary

What makes for effective writing is the combination of a well thought out point with an attention-grabbing delivery.  Sentence variety plays a major role in that and one of the many ways to create a variety of sentences is to include a broad sampling of vocabulary.  The best way to obtain the knowledge of a broad sampling of vocabulary is to make a conscience effort to learn and incorporate new words into your daily speech.  There are several strategies to go about accomplishing this:

  1. Start with what you know.   Find synonyms to replace words you already use on a daily basis.  To do this for free, simply go to thesaurus.com and search for words you use regularly. For example, I looked up the word “argue” and found this list: http://thesaurus.com/browse/argue   Now instead of saying, “Kids, don’t argue with each other.” I am going to say , “Kids don’t contend with each other.”   I feel smarter already.  For those with a little to “invest” in vocabulary expansion, there is software available and rated on toptenreviews.com: http://vocabulary-software-review.toptenreviews.com/ultimate-vocabulary-review.html
  2. Be proactive when you don’t understand. When you are reading or listening to something new and you see or hear a word you don’t understand, be sure to make a note of it in your journal or reading log.  Before looking up the word, try to figure out what the word is referring to in the way it is used in the sentence.  Once you have meditated on the possible meaning, look it up and compare how close or far off you were from figuring it out.
  3. Compare word meanings. Sometimes the same word can be used to mean different things.  Familiarize yourself with all of the definitions of a particular word and be sure to use them in speech or writing.

All of this may seem very time consuming, but the truth of the matter is activities like this shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes a day and should be incorporated into any time you set aside for yourself to read and write.

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Grammar Attitude

The key to learning and working with grammar is to have the RIGHT attitude about it.  If you look at editing for grammar as a tedious task that requires the memorization of some seemingly arbitrary rules about how to form sentences, then I can’t blame you for filing grammar under the “don’t even think about it” file in your database (your brain.)

However, if you look at grammar, and the proper use of it, as an exciting way to interject your personality into your writing as well as more effectively and more interestingly get your point across,  reaching for your writer’s guide to grammar wont be a mind numbing practice of half-reading formal sounding words with eyes glazed over, waiting for the pain to be over.  Instead, it would be more of a creative experience for you, with the question begging in your mind, how can I make this sentence REALLY speak to the reader?  How can I say this in a more interesting way?  Would a semi-colon break up the monotony of these sentences?

Below is an example of how grammar can slightly jazz up a piece of writing.

Before:

The student was late to class again.  Normally he tried to give me a half thought out excuse for the tardiness. But today was different.  He tried to invisibly slink into his back row seat.  His eyes remained on his desk top.  He was determined to not make eye contact.  He was trying to mitigate his  pain.

After:

The student was late to class –again.  Normally he tried to give me a half-thought-out excuse for his tardiness, but today was different.  He tried to invisibly slink into his back row seat; his eyes remained on the desktop, determined to not make contact with my own.  He was trying to mitigate his pain.

As you can see from the above examples, I used the same words in each draft and almost the same sentences.  I simply added the use of commas, a semi-colon and a dash to emphasize my meaning.

Do you see a difference in the two paragraphs?  Which do you like better?  Is one more fun to read than the other?  Why? Is there any change you particularly like?  Is there anything you would change back?

If you would like, take the “before” paragraph and try to edit it to make it more exciting to read.  Let me know how you do!

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Filed under Grammar Goodies