Category Archives: Uncategorized

A focus on writing improves student writing

Source: The Atlantic, Oct 2012

explicit teaching of writing makes kids better writers … if a teacher does not show students how to construct a paragraph or a well-written argument, some will figure out it anyway, but many will not.

three classroom practices.

First, more writing. 

Second, having students write about the texts that they read: for example, close analysis and interpretation, summaries, or the answering of questions, all of which demand understanding. 

Third, explicit teaching of the skills and processes that go into creating text. If students understand the conventions of writing an effective sentence, an effective paragraph, and an effective essay, then they will better understand how authors use those conventions. For example, they will understand that the start of a new paragraph likely signals the start of a new idea.

There is a certain logic to the idea that students can become better critical thinkers by completing writing assignments. Writing forces you to organize your thoughts. Writing encourages you to try different ideas and combinations of ideas. Writing encourages you to select your words carefully. 

Writing holds the promise (and the threat) of a permanent record of your thoughts, and thus offers the motivation to order them carefully. And indeed some forms of writing–persuasive or expository essays for example — explicitly call for carefully ordering thinking.


“On Writing Well”

… the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components …

Clear thinking becomes clear writing: one can’t exist without the other. It is impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English.

The writer must therefore constantly ask himself: What am I trying to say? Surprisingly often, he doesn’t know. Then he must look at what he has written and ask: Have I said it? Is it clear to someone encountering the subject for the first time? 

Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time. or the third. Keep thinking and rewriting until you say what you want to say.


An MIT Interview

The Benefits of Taking A Gap Year

Source: Moneyland, Oct 2012

Bob Clagett, a former director of admissions at Middlebury College, says taking a gap year can help students gain a renewed focus on academics. “By stepping off the treadmill, they frequently remind themselves of what their education is all about,” he says. “They kind of reinvent themselves.”

He’s done research to back up the claim. At Middlebury, students who took gap years were found to have higher GPAs than those who didn’t, even when controlling for things like wealth and high school achievement. A study at the University of North Carolina yielded similar results.

UK Perspective on Applying to US Universities

Source: Telegraph, Oct 2011

How many Harvard students does it take to change a light bulb? One – he holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

Last Saturday, a conference on Uni Abroad, run by The Good Schools Guide, Wellington College and the Fulbright Commission, was booked up almost before the ink had dried on the flyers. The Fulbright-sponsored USA College Day in London, on the same day, was packed to the rafters. 

British would-be students are keen to know more about US universities – and not just Ivy League schools, either. But how to navigate the enormous choice, and how to deal with the sheer unfamiliarity, of the US or some other foreign system? Here, we break down some of the options – one light bulb joke at a time.

Your 11 Year-Old Child Needs to be Good in Math to Enter Ivy League Schools

Source: Telegraph, Oct 2012

What Salman Khan, the founder of the non-profit online school Khan Academy, has to say to the parent of an 11-year-old is frankly terrifying: ‘If your child is not placed in the fast track for math in sixth grade, his chances of going to Stanford are close to zero. His chances of becoming a doctor or an engineer are probably zero. And it’s decided when he’s 11 years old.’ 

What matters is the ‘student-to-valuable-human-time-with-teacher’ ratio. What his videos do, Khan says, is free teachers up for more personal interaction.

He thinks bigger classes with more teachers would provide a more creative learning ground. In his ideal classroom there would be 75-100 students of widely varying ages, with three or four teachers. Some students would be working at computers; others would be learning economics through board games; others would be building robots or designing mobile apps; others would be working on art or creative writing. All that really counts, he says, is enabling all children to learn at their own pace before moving on to the next concept. Otherwise, you end up with ‘Swiss cheese learning’ – fundamental gaps in a student’s knowledge.

Homeschooling Does Not Stifle a Child’s Social Development

Source: Washington Post, Oct 2012

Most of us public school people wonder if home-schooling stifles children’s social development. What little data is available says no. “At a minimum this concept is likely overblown and more likely is without foundation,” Murphy says.