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Megan W.
Certified Reading and ELA teacher
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Study Skills
TutorMe
Question:

Help, I have a huge test coming up and I don't know how to study!

Megan W.
Answer:

Don't worry, we'll get through this! Follow these steps to study for your test. 1. For the week leading up to the test, bring home your class materials each night. 2. Each night that week, study for 20 minutes. 3. Take breaks if you need to, but not for longer than 5-7 minutes per break. Otherwise, you can get distracted and forget to come back to your work. 4. When the 20 minutes is up, write a brief summary of what you studied. This can be a paragraph, a bulleted list, or a drawing or a web diagram. 5. When you study next time, review the summarized info along with your regular material. The repetition will help your brain recall the information easier. 6. The day before the test, do not make strenuous plans. Have an easy night, a good dinner, and a good night's sleep. Before going to bed, review your summarized notes. In the morning, have a filling breakfast to wake up your brain and get a good start. 7. Double check that you have all materials needed for the test (pencils, pens, a ruler, extra lined paper, etc) before going into the classroom. This will help you feel more prepared and ready, and you won't get a nasty surprise in the middle when you realize you forgot something. Here are some ways to study. You can play around with these ideas and see which will work for you. Sometimes one method works for one subject but not so well for another - that's fine! It's okay to try different ideas. 1. Make flashcards of important vocabulary terms. On the flashcards, have the word, its synonyms, and antonyms, a quick drawing or the meaning, its definition, and some examples. This will help you really learn the word more than just having the definition. 2. Draw a web diagram to help your brain identify the connections between ideas and concepts. This is great for science and social studies studying because many concepts overlap. I also like to use this when starting an essay: I put the topic in the middle and branch off for each idea I think of for that topic. Then I can bullet point around the web to identify details and evidence. 3. Read your notes or books out loud to yourself in silly voices. Hearing something in a goofy voice makes it more likely to be remembered. 4. Draw a picture of the material. I like this idea for science and social studies concepts. For example, if I'm studying acids and bases, I can draw examples of them under headings. Labeling the drawings and making sure I put in a lot of detail is a very kinesthetic way of recalling information. 5. Form a study group with trustworthy friends. You can ask each other questions when stuck, quiz each other, and hold each other accountable for staying on task. 6. Teach the material to someone else. Did you know that we remember 90% of what we teach to another person? It's true! Try teaching your math equations to a friend or a family member. I tell my students to read aloud to pets if they have to because what matters is that you're practicing the skill. Bonus if the person you're teaching the material to already knows if - they can help you if you get stuck. 7. Jot important ideas on post-it notes and then sequences them in many ways. Examples: greatest to least, beginning to end, most related to least related. 8. When I was in school, I used to rewrite my notes from class. I would add color and fun handwriting styles. This was very helpful for me as I'm a hands-on learner myself, so having a manipulative activity like rewriting helped me a lot.

English
TutorMe
Question:

What is the difference between the main idea and the theme of a text?

Megan W.
Answer:

These are often confused concepts within English classes. Many state modules used in classrooms refer to the main idea as the central idea, and the theme as the central message, thereby confusing students and hindering rather than helping them. It is, in fact, easy to discern the main idea and theme of a text if you know the differences between them. The main idea of the text is what the text (fiction or nonfiction) is mostly about. It will have names, places, and specific information that is relevant to only that text. An example of the main idea for Esperanza Rising would be: "A 13-year-old Mexican girl named Esperanza Ortega was very wealthy until her life changed forever due to the cruelty of her uncles. Esperanza and her mother flee to America to find work, money, and freedom." This statement is the main idea because of the specifics contained within it. The main idea will only apply to the text from which it came, and will not accurately describe another text. It is explicitly stated within the text and can be physically found and highlighted or underlined as evidence. You can find a main idea at the paragraph, page, chapter, and whole text levels. The theme of a text is the lesson, moral, or message learned throughout a (fiction) story. it is more general and can apply to many texts. It is typically one word from which a statement is crafted. An example of a theme would be: "In Esperanza Rising, Esperanza learns how to persevere. She never had to work before but now must work every day to pay bills and help her sick mother. The theme of this novel is perseverance." The word "perseverance" can apply to many, many novels and texts, making it a thematic word. Other oft-used themes in literature are Friendship, Loyalty, Honesty, Kindness, Survival, Strength, or Acceptance. A theme can be found by examining the main character's actions and behaviors at the beginning, middle, and end of the story, and determining how the character has changed. Questions to ask yourself when determining a theme can be: What did the character learn? How did the character change? You will only be able to find the theme of a story after reading the entire text and making inferences about characters. The author will never explicitly state the theme of his or her novel; that is for the reader to decide based on inferences, connections, and lenses of personal experience.

Education
TutorMe
Question:

What can I do to become a better reader?

Megan W.
Answer:

In order to become a better reader, a student needs to have exposure to reading materials and processes. This means that students need to be reading texts as often as possible. Some ways to accomplish this are: reading independently for 20 minutes each night; having a book with them at school and at home; visiting public libraries or bookstores to check out or purchase books; and maintaining a reading log. Research indicates that time spent independently reading will lead to increased test scores and a more extensive expressive and receptive vocabulary. Students who read 20 minutes per day will be exposed to over 1.5 million words per year and will typically test in higher percentiles than students who do not read at home. Just reading a book is not the only way to become a better reader! In order to grow into a strong and capable reader, there are many processes which must be mastered. These include reading stamina, writing about reading, decoding unfamiliar multi-syllabic words, and comprehending texts that are read. While stamina is usually reinforced in school settings, it can also be strengthened at home through the use of a chart, some stickers, and children's natural competitiveness. Writing and reading are reciprocal processes, meaning that as one's reading abilities get better, so do writing skills, and vice versa. A learner cannot have only reading without writing, or only writing without reading. They are tightly interwoven skills. In order to help students boost their reading abilities, responding to text via writing is essential. This can be as simple as a few sentences of summary, or all the way up to a book report or presentation. Decoding multi-syllabic words that are unfamiliar to students is often the skill that gets forgotten as students move up through the grade levels due to its dependency on phonics skills. Chunking new words into affixes (prefixes, roots, and suffixes) can help older students decode a word. Learning morphemic analysis skills, such as analyzing affixes and referencing content materials, can also help students master decoding skills. Finally, comprehending the text is the crux of all reading; otherwise, why read a book if it is not understood? A simple comprehension strategy I use in my classroom is having students write the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When, and Why) on a post-it while they are reading. It is fast, easy, and builds up to more complex thinking skills via Blooms Taxonomy of questioning.

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