College Prep Writing Skills Summer 2022
guided practice in core composition skills with weekly 30min one-on-one virtual consultation
Underdeveloped writing skills are a fixable problem.
Let's fix them.
How it Works
6 key writing skills
learning that will last a lifetime
George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
James Baldwin, "If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?"
William Gibson, "Disneyland with the Death Penalty"
IN ADDITION to one-on-one virtual tutoring, grammar worksheets, and semi-weekly email feedback, subscription includes access to:
Grammar & Mechanics
Many of my college students who have otherwise reasonable ideas fall short in their essay grades -- and their self-presentation in academic and professional settings -- thanks to a poor grasp of the grammar and mechanics of standard English.
Meanwhile, college composition courses are typically designed with the assumption that students will have tackled the basics of subject/verb agreement and that vs. which in their K-12 educations.
The end result is that students who enter without a mastery of standard English never really catch up to their peers, in grades or in less obvious measures of professionalism that impact who gets hired for which jobs.
Evidence & Organization
Any essay-length assignment is going to require the use of some kind of evidence. Usually the evidence is intended to improve a point –– there's a lot of persuasive, or "argumentative," writing in college –– but even a strictly informational explanatory essay needs to put evidence on the page in the form of examples in order to elucidate the content for readers. Learning to select evidence well and organize it effectively is critical to communication, from the classroom to the boardroom.
Reading for Writing
Each essay assignment begins with reading a classic essay. Students write brief reading responses in response to prompts designed to assess their comprehension level and spur them to "dig a little deeper" in their analysis of the piece. We then discuss the reading in our weekly tutoring session, addressing the writing genre, the author's use of evidence, and helpful examples of grammatical structures and uses of punctuation.
Genre & Style
Recognizing what kind of document you are being asked to write is crucial to writing it well –– and earning a correspondingly high mark on the assignment.
Recognizing "genre" in academic and professional communication is also important to understanding the degree of detail that's expected in an email response, the level of formality that's appropriate for communication in a new workplace (office culture is a real thing!), and to accurately assessing the messages others are sending with their communicative choices in style, formality, and so on.
Clarity & Concision
Maybe you have a good idea. Maybe you don't. We'll never know until you de-clutter your prose and get to the point you're trying to make.
I take George Orwell's seminal essay "Politics and the English Language" as the starting point for explaining essential concepts related to writing for clarity, rather than performance ... and then I put students through their paces over a series of exercises designed to eliminate unnecessary words, replace vague words, and find sharper imagery.
Writing & Revision
Students complete three essays over the summer, with each essay process spanning four weeks.
The process begins with the assigned reading of a classic essay, available online. Our discussion of that reading in the first weekly tutoring session of the essay cycle forms the basis for topic selection, incorporating brainstorming and free-writing activities (submitted digitally throughout the week between sessions) to generate areas of interest related to the reading. I then guide students through the process of formulating questions at issue based on the topics they have proposed.
Students complete guided grammar reviews digitally throughout over a two-week period as they work toward the first draft of their own essay, and in the second weekly session we work through the selection of evidence and devise an organizational strategy for the student's essay. We spend the last week of each cycle revising the essay, paying particular attention to the student's mastery of the writing genre and "digging in" on grammar and mechanics through reading, re-reading, and re-evaluating the student's own prose. We finish with a "hard edit" employing George Orwell's famous tips for writing well.