Tutor profile: Donald C.
For many students, studying grammar is confusing and often unpleasant. Even though understanding the workings of clauses, conjunctions and antecedents is essential to writing polished essays, papers, cover letters and more, sometimes this can make the process of writing... not fun at all. What are some ways one can improve their writing without merely focusing on grammatical rules and strict assignment outlines?
Despite the extensive, often mind-numbing grammar curriculum in most schools, there are plenty of ways to improve the flow and quality of your written work without just worrying about passive voice and comma placement. Ultimately, whether it's a term paper, blog post or fiction assignment, most writing is about telling a story. Sometimes that story is about characters, but often in academia it’s about ideas and opinions! My first tip for struggling writers is to ALWAYS read or listen to your writing out loud if you are able to. I’ve been writing professionally and academically for over a decade, and I still always read my work aloud before submitting it! This is as important as running a spell check before turning in your assignments. You can read the text yourself, use a computer program, or have another person speak it to you. Questions to keep in mind when listening to your own writing are: Is it hard to say or get through certain sentences; do they sound unnatural or confusing? Are you repeating words or ideas too much? Are some sentences too long or too short? Are there some points where you wish you included more examples or information? Is there a part of your writing that you particularly like, or think you did well with? Note: Some students find recording themselves reading their writing and then watching it back is even more helpful than just speaking it. After reading through your work, go through and try to incorporate some of your observations. Experiment with different punctuation choices, and if a sentence sounds awkward, think of how you would say it naturally in conversation instead of the way you wrote it originally. A good sample exercise is to pick a sentence that’s particularly tricky, and brainstorm two or three different ways to write it.
My school assigns a lot of required reading over the summer, and I don’t have time to read books I want to. Overall, I feel discouraged from reading since I only read what I’m told to, and a lot of the assigned books are not interesting to me. What is your advice for overcoming this problem?
Especially in high school, when I was assigned books to read over summer I often automatically disliked them because I resented having to only read for homework and having no time for books I liked. But a lot of the books assigned to you (like The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye) are important to American identity and culture, even if they feel old and outdated. Accept that reading these works will help you understand important foundational concepts for English as a subject, and benefit you in the long run. Core readings help you understand references in films, TV, and other books, as well as develop the tools to confront and critique the often-problematic dominance of these works. Try to focus on one book from the list that you do like, and then look for ways to make any assignments/essays about summer reading about that book! Common summer reading books that I loved included Lord of the Flies and Their Eyes Were Watching God. It's okay and important to be critical about these summer reading lists. Even when you dislike a book, learning how to share your opinion and analyze flaws is a key element of English/Literature studies. You should feel empowered to tell your school and teachers about important titles and perspectives these reading lists leave out; historically they have favored works by white men only. You might end up getting a book you really care about included on a later list, and benefit future students.
Subject: East Asian History
Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority population in the United States today. Before the United States imposed racist laws prohibiting the entry of certain Asian immigrants in the late 1800s to mid 1900s, thousands of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people among others came to America for job opportunities. They often worked as laborers (mining for gold or building railways for example) or opened their own small businesses, like restaurants and grocery stores. In China in particular, rural families with multiple sons sent one or more to the US temporarily or permanently to secure work and send money home. Broadly, what do you think are some of the major effects migration had on the households left behind and on the members moving to the US?
Immigration is one of the most powerful human forces on the planet. The movement of people from place to place, whether between distant countries or neighboring cities, greatly impacts exchanges of culture and knowledge. Often, the effects of immigration can’t fully be seen or understood in the present, and only time can tell the extent of their influence. In China for example, the men immigrating to America in the late 1800s to mid 1900s often had never travelled more than a few towns away, and had never spent long periods of time away from home. Many had wives and children of their own, in addition to extended families they left behind. While these familial bonds were strong, and many immigrants forged meaningful connections and built families abroad, the emotional toll was great. In this sense, the immigration process inherently involved a lot of grief and trauma. Unlike today, these people couldn’t call or easily communicate with their loved ones, and were lucky to send and receive letters on occasion. However, their journey to the US often allowed their families in China to get much-needed money and survive the poverty, famine, and natural disasters plaguing mainland China during this time. Additionally, traveling expanded immigrants' understanding of the world, and allowed them to see their homeland in a new, sometimes critical perspective. On the downside, these immigrants were exposed to American racism and unfair working conditions; eventually gross and unfair immigration restrictions made it nearly impossible to enter the US for Chinese people. To cope with the animosity of their new home and their homesickness, these immigrants built home-away-from-home environments in the form of Chinatowns, which grew overtime and thrive across the country to this day! Exposure to new groups of people in the form of immigrant populations also taught Americans about other cultures and helped us become better global citizens, even if ignorance and racism unfortunately persist.
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