K is also for… Killers

K is for...By “killers” I mean phrases that kill your writing.
NEVER start your story with “One bright, sunny day”, because about half your class will have started in the same way and your teacher will think, “Oh no! Not another one!” Instead of “One bright, sunny day I went to the park with my friend Ali.” try, “Last Saturday was so sunny it was too hot for football, so Ali and I sat in the shade of the tallest tree in the park and chatted.”

NEVER start your story with “One dark and gloomy night”, because the other half of your class will have done that. Instead, how about, “Not even a glimmer of moonlight broke through the clouds”.

It doesn’t matter how exciting your story has been – if you end it with, “It was all a dream!” your teacher will be bored. After a couple of pages of being chased by vampires, instead of writing:
“Wake up! It’s time for breakfast,” said mom. Thank goodness – it had all been a dream.

How about
“Wake up! It’s time for breakfast,” said mom, smiling to reveal blood-stained fangs.

Dare to be different and your writing will benefit.

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I is also for… Inspiration

I is for...You never have it when you need it. You know how it is… your teacher says, “Describe it!” You think for a moment, before proudly saying, “Yellow!” and your teacher replies, “How yellow?”

You look around the classroom for something yellow and then in desperation say, “As yellow as this pencil.”

Hmmm. It’s not the best description is it? How about making an inspiration book to help? Find a notebook and write one adjective on each page, then have a look through magazines and cut out pictures for them. Try for 4 or 5 pictures for each one – but remember to ask for permission before cutting up other people’s magazines!
On my “yellow” page I have a daffodil, a canary, a newly-hatched chick, the sun, a buttercup and a banana. Now if someone asks me “how yellow?” I can tell them “buttercup yellow” or “as yellow as the sun.”

Your teacher won’t mind you using your inspirations book in the classroom as long as it is improving the quality of your writing.

Related posts: H is also for ….   J is also for ….

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

A few years ago I was engaged to tutor a Year 6 girl who was desperate to get a Level 5 in her SATs, because she really wanted to be in the top stream when she started secondary school.

Her school had said she was very behind where she should be for her age, and when I assessed her in the first session I put her at about a 2A.

Katie*  wanted a Level 5 so badly that she said she was prepared to work hard and do as much work in her own time as she could fit in. I told her I would help her improve as much as possible, but gently explained that to get from a 2A to a 5 in 2½ terms was really unrealistic.

Each week I worked with her on things that she had found difficult in school, and each week I gave her homework to practise what we had worked on. Sometimes when I leave homework for children they don’t do it. That’s OK – I know they have homework from school and that has to take priority. But Katie did her school homework AND the homework I gave her, and quite often found extra work for herself.

She worked hard for the whole year. The week of the SATs arrived. She was as prepared as I could get her in the time we’d had and we just had to wait for the results and see.

After the SATs, Katie didn’t stop working hard – she carried on with tutoring and with homework. The results of the SATs arrived: Katie had achieved a 4A.

From a 2A to a 4A in 2½ terms is a great achievement, but it wasn’t the 5 she had set her heart on. You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes, if you work hard enough, you can. Katie started secondary school in September and guess what? She got into the top set.

* not her real name

To book a private maths or English tutor in north Birmingham (Great Barr, Hamstead, Kingstanding, Pheasey, Streetly, Sutton), contact me via my website.

W is for…

W is for…Writing. There are already lots of tips in this A-Z of learning for making your writing better. Have another look at A is for…Adjectives, C is for…Connectives, O is for…Openers, Q is for…Quality and Quantity and V is for…Vocabulary.

However, the best thing you can do to become a good writer, besides practise, is to read. If you haven’t already read R is for…Reading, have a look at that now. When you read, have a notebook next to you and if you find any words or phrases that you like, write them in your notebook.  This will help you to remember them and then you can use them in your own writing. This isn’t cheating (as long as you don’t copy a whole story into your book)!  It’s called being a magpie (because magpies like to take anything they like the look of and use it themselves).  If you tell your teacher that you have started a magpie book they will know exactly what you mean and they will be impressed that you have taken a big step towards improving your writing.

Related posts:  V is for…     X is for….


I is for…

I is for…Improvement. This is what is expected of you. Nobody can be best at everything and nobody expects you to be. What your teacher wants is for you to try your hardest and for you to do a little better each time. So how can you make sure you improve?

  • listen carefully when your teacher is explaining.
  • ask questions if you don’t understand.
  • have a go in your independent working time and see how much you can do – you can’t improve if you don’t try.
  • if you get stuck, show your teacher what you have tried so that he or she can see which part you need help with. This is much better than handing in a book with no work at all in.
  • do your homework each week so that you are practising.

It might take a little while, but slowly people will start to see improvement in your work. When this happens it will make you feel proud.

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