The Importance of Breath Mints

This year, I am giving Certs to all of my students.  No, my students do not have bad breath!  I am giving them breath mints to remind them that commas= breaths.  Just as you can’t talk without breathing, you can’t write without commas. Commas = Breaths use commas to separate items in lists use commas… Read more »

Troublesome Pronouns in Writing, Reading, and Test Taking

Pronouns are troublesome in our WRITING, READING, and TEST TAKING.   Reminder: Pronouns are little words that often like to be bad.  A pronoun can be like a pesky fly that ends up at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and annoys the wrong number of people. (Read pages 12 and 13 in Guide… Read more »

It’s All about Context

Question:  Why do students have trouble with vocabulary on the High School Daily Quiz and on the new 2024 SAT word-in-context questions?   Answer:  Students think vocabulary = definition.  However, students will only get the question correct if they think vocabulary = context clues.   Example:    “Nature’s imagination, as physicist Freeman Dyson likes to… Read more »

Are you a 10th Grader who took the October 2022 PSAT?

The SAT is changing….the SAT is changing….   As of March 2024 the SAT will be a very different exam.  It will contain similar content, but the structure, format, and timing will be completely different.   Goodbye: Paper 5 LONG (800-900 words) Reading passages with 10 -11 questions per passage 4 Grammar passages, each containing… Read more »

Profile of a Strategic Reader

Why are some students excellent text readers while others are not? I think the answer boils down to aggressive vs. passive reading. Far too often, I see students passively read every word within a text, underlining indiscriminately (or not at all).  When I ask these students what they have read, they often look up and… Read more »

Entice the Reader with Style

(Last Blog I wrote about Element #1: Sentence Variety) Element #2: Add Rhetorical or Thought-provoking Questions Adding a rhetorical question is a great way to add a “bang” to your introduction or body paragraphs and to push your essay to the next level.  The following essay response demonstrates how rhetorical questions can be used to… Read more »

Overuse of “THAT” within Student Writing

Students (and adults) love the relative pronoun “that ”.  Although an important little word within our writing (that = the start of an essential clause), it is overused within students’ writing.  “That” can often be eliminated from a sentence without any loss of meaning.  Students should check their overuse of the word “that” by using… Read more »

Troublesome Pronouns in Writing, Reading, and Test Taking

Pronouns are troublesome in our WRITING, READING, and TEST TAKING. This blog is a three-part series!  This week I focus on TWO types of pronoun problems within reading and test taking. The subsequent blogs focus on pesky pronouns within student writing: vague demonstrative pronouns and overuse of the relative pronoun “that.”  Reminder: Pronouns are little… Read more »

THIS and IT within Student Writing

PROOFREAD YOUR WRITING FOUR TIMES First Read:  Review essay organization and content development Second – Fourth Read: Proof GRAMMAR: Second:  Look closely at every THIS and IT within your essay (see below) Third: Check use of which and that  (discussed in the 3rd class) Fourth:  Focus on punctuation and subject/verb/pronoun agreement  (discussed in 1st and… Read more »

Text Talker (Use for All Writing)

One of the skills I focused on this month is how to pick “juicy” quotes to include within an expository essay and how to analyze these quotes. At the bottom of this blog is a handout titled, Text Talker. Some students have a difficult time not only finding supporting evidence but also organizing, analyzing, and… Read more »

The Em Dash

Often, I like to use Skill Building Sundays to teach a concept or skill that I do not have time to teach within our limited class time… This past month we have focused on punctuation – conjunction, semi-colon, colon, comma – but we have not focused on the Em Dash.  (Note the previous sentence; this… Read more »

Polysemy on the SAT


Recently, I received an email chain, containing the humorous homonyms below.  This email reminded me how the SAT rarely tests homonyms, but it often tests polysemy – the capacity of one word to have more than one meaning.  For example, here is a recent PSAT question:   One of the most exhausting of these certifications is… Read more »

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