In my Advanced Writing Class, we read some sample descriptions of people and I asked the students to pick someone and write their own description.
We are using Writing with Skill, by Susan Wise Bauer, and on page 215 of the ebook she lists some traits one can look for and describe in a person.
Description of a Person Definition:
A description of selected physical and non-physical aspects of a person. Decide on which aspects will be included. They may include:
Sound of voice
What others think
Portrayals and portraits
Challenges and difficulties
Expressions of face and body
Talents and abilities
Economic status (wealth)
Fame, notoriety, prestige
Family traditions, tendencies
Below are two descriptions my students wrote:
Confidently dressed in red, and always dressed in red, Santa Claus is the epitome of joy in the world. Along with the everlasting smile on his face, Santa's deep, rich voice evokes a sense of wisdom and generates a sense of trust for all. Unsurprisingly, society is naturally attracted to his unique aura as a result.
His unmistakable white beard extends down to his stomach, creating a sense of wonder and provoking awe among the masses. However, it is his equipment -- gigantic goodie bag that never fails to surprise-- that steals the show. In a world where challenges are prevalent and meeting obstacles is inevitable, having a friend who rewards one for his or her efforts while never discourages is a true blessing for all.
In addition to being deeply rooted in Christianity, which promotes values of equality and reward for the faithful, Santa Claus brings yet another form of utility within the household: discipline. His presence commands children to sleep early, catch up on schoolwork, do the dishes, and much more. The possibility of being on Santa's naughty list terrifies many as their dream toy may disappear along with their wrongdoings.
Despite this potential fear factor that Santa places among the young of society, Santa maintains his annual tradition of riding his sleigh across the world and delivering presents to all the well-behaved children. This consistency has not only earned him widespread international support, but also much respect as his countenance consistently creates a calming yet inspiring mood in the world of darkness. -- Aaron, Grade 11 student, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Scott's feedback: I like how this writer, Aaron, picked Santa as his person to describe. Creative! Good hook: "Confidently dressed in red, and always in red...." Fine use of a variety of punctuation too, including dashes and a colon, keeps the flow moving. Aaron employs alliteration: "his countenance consistently creates a calming...."
Brandon Crawford, all-star shortstop for the San Francisco Giants, has been a consistent performer for the three-time World Champions since he debuted. He stands out on the field, dishing out seemingly-impossible defensive plays with his luscious locks flying out behind him. Crawford’s calm and collected demeanor lets players and fans alike feel secure when a ball is hit in his direction. Furthermore, his improving prowess at the plate has been crucial to the Giants’ success. The power that Crawford possesses makes him a luxury, as shortstops that can both hit and field are rare. His smooth swing is always a pleasure to watch.
Outside of his playing, Crawford is also a family-man, seen through his interactions with fans, his teammates, and his family. Often, he can be seen signing autographs for kids, or discussing strategies with his fellow infielders. He also runs a blog with longtime teammate Brandon Belt, showing his humorous yet self-effacing personality. As a caring, fun-loving dad of five, his social media is full of pictures of their family trips or activities as well. Because of his well-roundness and ability to please fans, players, and family on and off the field, he is someone a kid can look up to. -- Justin, Grade 12 student, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Scott's feedback: This author, Justin, loves baseball and once lived in California, so it makes sense he described a baseball star. This just goes to show: 1. writers make deliberate choices, 2. writing is an extension of you, and 3. if you write with your authentic voice, no one else can copy you! Justin has GREAT word choice: consistent, debuted, dishing out, demeanor, etc. I also like his three examples of alliteration, shown in bold underlining above.
Photo: Jack Gittoes
Recently a teacher on the DreyerCoaching.com team sent me this in an email:
"I couldn't resist sending this to you! Katie said she wrote this in 10-15 minutes! Amazing!"
Truly, this is AMAZING writing, from Katie, a middle school student in Hsinchu, Taiwan, who has taken a DreyerCoaching.com writing class for many years. Notice the great verbs: exhaled, creaking, shivered, gazed, flopped down. Notice the great adjectives: damp, shadowy, musty, creepy. Great use of thoughtshots too, set off with italics: Why had he chosen this house to live in? Why couldn't he have chosen another house, more brightly lit and modernly furnished?
Very creepy story-- just in time for Halloween. Enjoy!
He exhaled, his breath making puffs in the frigid air, the wooden floorboards creaking under his feet. Running a hand through his purple hair, he set down his knapsack in the middle of the dusty bed. He shivered, and pulled out a damp windbreaker and put it on. An owl hooted outside, and he quickly turned just in time to see a shadowy figure outlined in the window. He rubbed his eyes, and the figure disappeared, and he sighed, turning back to the bed.
He sat down on the bed, the musty smell of the feather stuffed mattress filling the air. Wrinkling his nose at the stench, he gazed into a corner of the old room. The sky outside was dark, and the moon cast creepy shadows into the room.
He flopped down onto the bed, closing his eyes briefly. Why had he chosen this house to live in? Why couldn't he have chosen another house, more brightly lit and modernly furnished?
The man stretched, and yawned. It had been a long day, but now he was unable to sleep. The whole feeling of the room was extremely off-putting. He felt like he was in a haunted house, complete with bats and four-poster beds.
He huffed out a breath and pulled out his cell phone, squinting at the brightness. In the corner of the screen in tiny letters, it said “no service”. He scrunched his nose in disgust and tossed it aside, the phone landing on the mattress with a barely audible “whoomp". He closed his eyes, and tried to fall asleep, to no avail. He sighed.
His eyes snapped open and he swung his legs over the side of the bed and got up, slowly opening the door. It creaked quietly. The man stepped out into the hallway, careful to avoid the questionable puddle of dark liquid that was too dark to see. He shrugged, and continued down the hallway, stopping at an open door. He peeked in, seeing a old painting in the corner of the room, a small lit lantern in a another.
He cocked his head at the painting, wondering where he had seen that painting before. He reached for his phone to search it up, but, he remembered that he had left his phone in the room he was sleeping in, and there was no service. He muttered something under his breath and stepped further into the room. The painting had an oak frame which was in an archaic style, in a simple red and black. The paint was chipped and cracked in multiple places. There were cobwebs hanging from every corner of the frame, and there was a large closet made of maple standing in the room.
He stopped and admired the design of the closet, the way the cuts in the wood made an intricate design. He could have sworn he heard footsteps, and he whirled around, only to see a shadowy figure drift across the doorway.
He stiffened. Was there someone else in this house? He stopped and listened. Nothing. He scratched his head, and plopped down on the floor. He sighed, suddenly tired. He leaned back on his hands, and he felt his hand touch something slimy and wet on the floor.
He picked up one hand and sniffed the liquid, the metallic smell of blood filling his nose. The lantern suddenly went out and a voice boomed throughout the room.
“Hello, it’s been awhile. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Our son David recently applied to the University of Virginia (UVA) and below is his Pesonal Statement from the Common Application. He was accepted and is a Biology major.
(word count: 355)
Transferring to a four-year university has always been my goal. Beginning when I was five, my parents invested in the [prepaid college] program to pay for a bachelor’s degree for my three older siblings and me. Every parent’s dream is to see their children succeed, and my parents did what they could to help make that happen. Even as a child, I knew I wanted to make an impact in the world. I wanted to do something that set me apart; not something just anybody could do. By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. Since then, I have narrowed my career down to becoming a dentist or an orthodontist. I have been working towards that goal for three years at Virginia Western Community College, and while my time at Western has been fruitful, it is time for me to move on and get one step closer to achieving my goal. Transferring to a four-year university is the next step. My ambition is to earn a Bachelor of Science degree and upon passing the Dental Admissions Test, to matriculate at VCU’s School of Dentistry. After that, if I decide to specialize in a particular branch of dentistry, I will go on to study that post graduate program. While every step in this journey is important, I believe that the most important step is always the one that we are facing at the moment, and in my case, that would be transferring to attain my bachelor’s degree. These next few years will be pivotal in the direction my life goes, and I want to ensure I make the right choices and meet the right people, as cliché as that sounds. I am blessed to be a world traveler; however, my whole life, I have lived in Roanoke, and this is an opportunity to expand my horizons and enrich my life by seeking new experiences and meeting new people in new places. College is the ideal place for this, and I am eager to meet other bright and ambitious students who are also working toward their goals.
He also wrote two other essays, specific for UVA. Stay tuned.
Are you an international student studying in the USA, or you want to? Check out this article with helpful ideas about how to be successful in a US university! (PS: The tips are good for American students too!)
Do you want help with English writing? See how we can help you here. Do you want help applying to a US high school or college? See what universities Scott has helped other students gain acceptance to. Scott helped them; he can help you too!
Contact Scott today to find out more.
A good friend of mine recently returned from a family trip to China, where he visited the famous Li River and Yangshuo. Small world: my wife and I had been in that same spot just a month before!
China has some truly beautiful scenic spots, and this link gives (what is in the author's opinion) the top-ten most beautiful. The author, Cindy Tang, writes well. She has a strong vocabulary and does well to explain the beauty of these spots in words.
Do you live in China or have you been there before? If so, which of these places have you visited? You can read her article here.
In addition to beautiful sights, China has delicious food too! Check out this list of some of China's top dishes!
And finally, to link food with geography, this is a map showing China's eight major culinary regions. In a land as vast as China, the regional differences in food and taste are vast. You can learn more about the individual food regions and their signature tastes and dishes here.
In an online writing class today, I asked the students to finish this sentence: It has been a/n ________ summer. This is what they wrote:
Katie: It has been a hectic summer.
Alex: It has been a humid summer.
Ian: It has been an enjoyable summer.
Me: It has been a fast summer.
Then I asked them to rewrite their sentence in as many ways as they could; it's fine if they change the shade of meaning some, but they have to keep the overall idea the same.
This is what they came up with:
Ian: It has been an enjoyable summer.
It has been an entertaining summer.
It has been an amusing summer.
It has been a delightful vacation.
It has been a pleasurable summer.
It has been a delightable summer.
It has been a congenial summer.
It has been a lovely summer.
It has been a pleasant time.
It has been a wonderful summer.
It has been a sublime summer.
It has been a magnificient break.
Katie: It has been a hectic summer.
It has been an exciting summer.
It has been a chaotic summer.
It has been a busy summer.
It has been a crazy summer.
It has been a frantic summer.
It has been a summer filled with traveling.
Alex: It has been a humid summer.
It has been a moist summer.
It has been a soggy summer.
It has been a wet summer.
It has been a sweltering summer.
It has been a steamy summer.
It has been a muggy summer.
Scott: It has been a fast summer.
The summer has sped by.
It's been an action-packed summer.
It's been a busy summer.
It's been an eventful summer.
Wow! What a full summer!
The summer break has been action-packed.
This summer has been full to the brim.
The time has flown by this summer.
This summer: where did the time go?
I can't believe how quickly this summer has flown by.
I can't believe it's late August: where did the summer go?
I can't believe there are only a few days of summer break left.
I can't believe there are only a few days of summer left.
I can't believe there are only a few days of summer vacation left.
See how it works? This is a GREAT way to push writers to think of more and different ways to express the same idea. Again, there may be some slight differences with shades of meaning, but this forces writers (or speakers) to expand their vocabulary and ways of expression. Thesaurus.com is a great tool for helping build one's vocabulary. Another way is to join a DreyerCoaching.com Advanced Vocabulary or Writing Classes!
Here are the three students' brief reports on their summer. They had to write it in class, so they said much in the short time. The topic was broad and gave them lots of latitude to work with, and I liked how all three approached the prompt differently. For example, Ian took the broadest approach: he briefly reported on the party at the bowling alley on his first day out of school, trips to Hualien and Kaohsiung in Taiwan, then he closed with his summer classes. In contrast, Alex and Katie chose to zoom in on one particular aspect of their summer. Alex focused on his family's trip to Europe, then zoomed in on Prague, specifically Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and the Old Town. Katie focused on her family's trip to the US to take her brother to tour college campuses, yet she zeroed in on the transportation aspect. That is part of the beauty of writing: the writer chooses what to focus on! Take a look!
How was your summer break? My summer is sometimes packed with classes and homework, while other times overflow with fun and entertainment. On the last day of school last June, right after we left for the summer, my classmates and I threw a party at a bowling alley. It was unbelievably exciting, so the time quickly sped past. In the blink of an eye,days were flying past. Two weeks ago my family visited relatives in Hualien, and my brothers, my younger cousin, and I had a great time. We taught our four-year-old cousin how to swim and played together at other times. One day we after we got home from east Taiwan, we drove south to Kaoshiung, where I soon found myself lolling on a cozy sofa, watching TV motionlessly. However, those trips were the calm before the storm because as soon as we returned home, I was bombarded with multiple classes and piles of homework each day. I have baking classes every morning, while English and swimming lessons in the afternoon made me so stressed I fall right asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at night. But despite all the work, this summer is amazing!
-- Ian in Hsinchu, Taiwan
My summer of 2018 has been the best in my life so far. Why? This summer, I went to three different countries in Europe-- Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic-- turning the scenic views from pictures into a reality. In my opinion, Prague was the most memorable city from the Europe Trip: we visited the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and rented an Airbnb in the iconic Old Town. First, we strolled across the Charles Bridge, inspecting the handcrafted sculptures and the amazing view of the Old Town. Luckily, we were there early in the morning, so we enjoyed the Charles Bridge mostly to ourselves. Then, we prowled around Prague Castle; since the castle has been used for centuries, display boards explained the different battle tactics and the cruel methods of how enemy soldiers and spies were tortured down through the years. Despite the incredible experience of seeing Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, the Old Town was the most memorable place in Prague, due to the red-tiled roofs, which one does not see anywhere in Taiwan. Not only has my summer been a blast, but it has also taught me that we live in a truly diverse world.
-- Alex in Hsinchu, Taiwan
My summer was filled with travel, both in cars and on airplanes. As we had been touring colleges all across the US all summer, we had to trek from campus to campus. We visited many places in the US, including many states I had never been to, for example Michigan, Texas, Ohio, and Illinois. In addition to driving and flying, we would take the subway around the city, like what we did in Boston. Because we flew so much, I noticed some differences between the airlines in Asia and in the US. For example, those in Asia always serve complimentary meals (unless the flight is only about 30 minutes), and always have an entertainment system, which contrasts to American airlines, where you have to pay to watch. Although I spent countless hours on airplanes and in cars, it was an extremely exciting summer.
-- Katie in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Do YOU want to improve your writing skills? Or those of your children? Contact me today to find out how we might be able to help you!
At DreyerCoaching.com, we are all about "celebrating success." One of our recent success stories was Aaron, a high school student in Hsinchu, Taiwan, who was chosen to attend an exclusive, prestigious summer program in Israel! What I found remarkable, is that the applicants had to write essays-- in English AND Mandarin Chinese! More than 200 young people applied, and only twenty--that's less than 10% for you non-math types out there--were chosen as finalists to go to Taipei for the face to face interviews, in English. Of those twenty, only TEN were chosen to go--and Aaron was one of the ten! It's a big deal! It's such a big deal, it scored Aaron the first spot on our DreyerCoaching.com Hall of Fame. Check it out, and see if we can help you too make YOUR dreams come true!
While discussing his entry into this program, Aaron told me his time with DreyerCoaching.com had been very helpful. He said his writing classes helped him with word choice, grammar, structure, and flow. Plus, he said the simple act of going online for his class with me each week had boosted his confidence and ability to carry on a conversation in English. So, his essay skills helped him get one of the 20 finalist spots, and his interview skills and poise landed him a spot among the final 10. What a wonderful success story!
However, for this post, I'd like to share with you his essays and some articles about the experience. Enjoy and be inspired! Don't be jealous of others! Be the best YOU that YOU can be!
Aaron's English Essay:
Dear application evaluators, my name is Aaron and I would like to apply for this year's event regarding the International Youth Leader Convention in Israel. From the very beginning, I have shown great interest in this program, but due to age restrictions, I was unable to dedicate myself in formulating such applications. However, now that I have reached 15 years of age, the urge to apply for the position has never been higher. In this self-introduction, I'd like to discuss my motivations for applying this through my interests, extracurricular activities, and overall expectations/aspirations as to what I would hope to obtain in the ten days that the event provides.
To begin with, there are numerous activities that I indulge myself in. For instance, badminton. I began my "career" with this sport from fifth grade and has enjoyed it ever since through the few times that I've been the team captain chosen to represent my school. Not only has it kept my body healthy in past years, it has also strengthened the bonds that I have with my friends, for which I'm grateful for. In addition, despite its uncommonness, attending debate competitions has recently become one of the activities that I appreciate. My friends and I recently went to NIFTy, a nationwide debate competition, and surprisingly got second place for our efforts. This sparked my love for debate, which resulted in NSDA being on my to-do list for the future.
As for extracurricular activities, Model United Nations along with Key Club scores the top spot. Starting from being an admin in 8th grade to representing Germany in this year's PASMUN conference, MUN served as a gateway to the world for me. In this rather daunting activity for first-timers, MUN allowed me to work with other delegates for hours to formulate feasible solutions to the various issues at hand. In the seven conferences that I've been to, the plight of human trafficking in the Middle East to the question of Palestine (which is surprisingly relevant to the program) has been the most interesting to me; through rich debate and discussion, I learned that every nation has different views in regards to any issue, and it is my wish that in this year's convention that I get to experience these different views first hand. Key Club has also played a big part in my school life; it has taught me valuable lessons such as responsibility and perseverance. Leading the club in beach cleanups in Nanliao and endeavoring in efforts to beautify my school has shown me that life can present many challenges, but as long as one perseveres, success will follow.
There are multiple causes that motivated me to apply for this position and also a few aspirations that I have for the program. One being the student exchange program that I attended last year: I went to Fremont High, a distinguished high school in Cupertino, California for ten days to participate and experience the excitement that American high schools bring while also demonstrating the art of calligraphy that I have learned in recent years. However, with this event, I wish to do more than to just enjoy the environment. I'd also like to share the many feats that Taiwan has achieved in regards to environmental protection while also socializing with Israelis in hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of life in the country.
To wrap up, I sincerely hope that I would be chosen for this event in order to contribute my efforts to shine light on Taiwan as a progressive and innovative nation. Thank you.
Aaron's Chinese Essay:
TRULY AMAZING: Here is Aaron's post-trip evaluation. He did fine as it is--until you keep reading and realize he did the whole thing in Chinese too! This young man is fully bilingual to basically a native speaker level in both English AND Mandarin. Wow!
International Convention for Environmental Leadership in Israel: Post Event Report
In the seven days and nights that we were in Israel to attend the International Convention for Environmental Leadership as the delegation of Taiwan, friendships were made and memories were kept. I, Aaron Chen, embarked on this journey along with my nine other delegation members and two teachers. Through hours of hard work in preparation for the conference, I am proud to say that our overall performance during the convention was applaudable. From the never-ending laughs to the sleepless nights, I'm sure that everyone had fun and would not hesitate to call each other friends in the days to come.
In addition to all the academics, participants of the entire congress also visited renowned cities such as Jerusalem and Nazareth. The following five photos will not only demonstrate the things we saw, but also the entire experience that made this trip unique.
- Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv (8.12.2017)
In less than 24 hours after we've landed in Tel-Aviv, a number of our respective host families took us to the Carmel Market, one of the most renowned tourist attractions in the area. Under the blazing yet pleasant sun, the seven of us quickly congregated, enthusiastically discussing the major differences that can be discerned upon the first few glances. What we all noticed was the unique dress code that some of the people had: there were people with small round Jewish hats on their heads and certain individuals clad in complete Jewish outfits with a black suit and a Jewish top hat. This definitely surprised us, but what topped that off was the fact that we met the Austrian delegation who've also landed just a few hours ago; they would later become one of our closest friends in the environmental leadership program. After greeting each other and asking a few opening questions, we parted from one another and officially began our travels.
Through the crowded entrance and into the bustling market, there were three elements of Israeli life that stood out to me: food, art, and patriotism. First of all, food. From the perfectly stacked spices to the all-you-can-grab sweet shops, the "souk" was interesting to say the least. As customers lined up to scoop up their desired goods with a small shovel, I was fascinated by how diverse and vibrant all the food was. There were bicolored croissants and spiked pear-like fruits, both of which lit up my eyes upon examination. Secondly, the art. Tiny ornaments and elaborate painting lined the walls of the market. Upon squeezing our way through the walkway, we saw artists utilize their craftsmanship abilities to create glass sculptures and proprietors shout their punchlines to attract customers to their funny shirts. One of the shirts said "My Mom is My Google," which cracked me up almost instantly. Finally, the patriotism. Even though traces of this element were present all throughout my sojourn, it was the clearest in the premise of the market. People were waving flags proudly, selling Jewish phone cases, bargaining for Jewish key chains, and as mentioned before, wearing small Jewish hats. Following some thought, I concluded that it was necessary for Israelis to be to some degree, overly patriotic. This was because of the multiple threats that the country faces from all sides; it prompted them to bond tightly, hold on to their core beliefs, and never let go.
For that, I have gained tremendous respect for Israelis. The picture taken upon is dedicated to them, the ones who've kept the Jewish faith alive and would continue doing so in the days to come.
- HaKfar HaYarok (8/13 – 8/18)
As the sun rose from the horizon and the roosters croaked in the distance, Maya, my host, woke me up and took me to HaKfar HaYarok, the school in which the event took place. Upon entering the village with my suitcase and overly stuffed backpack, I realized why the English translation for HaKfar HaYarok was "Green Village": it was due to the lush green trees, the strong camaraderie, and the cheerful animals that roamed about freely. For me, not only did this discovery pleasantly surprised me, the two elements showed the major contrasts between Israeli schools and Taiwanese institutions; they enabled me to gain a whole new perspective on education as a whole.
HaKfar HaYarok had plenty to offer, from endless sceneries of pure green to the never-before-seen harmony between the students, the school was more of a happy playground. This was even more evident in the program; the heated discussions during MUN and the participative audience lectures elucidates my understanding that schools are meant for both learning and enjoyment, not dead memorization. In addition to the teaching methods, the environment also played a crucial role in the difference of attitudes that the students had. Peacocks and rabbits and cats and cows dotted the campus, gracefully going about their respective daily routines of brushing their feathers or attacking others for territory. Of course, with every cute animal comes a caring soul willing to allocate time and energy to ensure the animal's survival; this natural obligation of animal protection that the students had bonded them together, which had a positive effect on the overall atmosphere during the span of four days that we marked our stay. Finally, what I would say differed the most from Taiwanese traditional schools was the spirit: the attitudes that people had towards the beginning of each day. In Taiwan, students are greeted with mock tests, weekly tests, and monotonous lectures while Israeli students begin each day with interactive lectures and outdoor activities that focus on having fun, not timed runs or class rankings seemingly engraved on the bulletin board. Overall, these dissimilarities helped me realize what I can help my classmates understand, and prompted me to live the few short days I had in Israel to the absolute fullest.
3.Shabbat Meal (8/12)
It was a sunny Friday morning; all the shops on the streets were open and ready for a big payday. Maya and I began the day by in the neighborhood mall to look around to check if it sold the cosmetics that my mom wanted to have desperately. What struck me as interesting was the difference in how people greeted each other: on normal days it was "shalom," but that turned into "Shabbat shalom" on Friday. I asked the locals about this phenomenon, knowing it had to be some kind of occasion. One bearded muscular man responded with telling me that Friday was the day in which God rested, which is why the people should also rest, stay with the family, and prepare themselves for the busy days to come. Anyways, I didn't find the cosmetics, but I wasn't devastated. We then left the mall and went to grandma's house for the Shabbat meal.
To be honest, I never expected a grandma's house to be all that elaborate, never mind a wall of wine and a giant flat screen TV. But in the moment that I stepped foot into the apartment, I saw everything that I thought was far-fetched. The room was capacious, the interior felt welcoming, the kids were enjoying rock paper scissors, and above but, everyone spoke near perfect English. After greeting one another with "Shabbat shalom," we sat on the dinner table and watched the grandpa press against the wall and opened a closet-door like door, revealing the countless bottles of wine, including beer, scotch, whiskey, etc. He cheerfully poured a bottle that he explained to be one for Shabbat meals into the adults' glasses and gave us some sprite just so we won't dehydrate. Then began the meal.
The meal was both flavorsome and eye-opening beyond belief. From the hummus to the cold fried vegetable to the delectable steak, the occasion was like no other. Inside the one-of-a-kind atmosphere between the family members, I actually felt that I was included in the conversations. This was when a revelation came to me: family is like no other; it bond people together much tighter than religion. It is the core of all human beings. And for that, I truly enjoyed the experience.
- Gala Night (8/16)
Into the third and final day of the conference, my team members and I attended the Gala night, an event in which all the delegations are required to perform something that is symbolic of their hometown, along with the delegations from five other countries. Into the venue, there weren't too many surprises for anyone except for the Israelis and guests. This was because before the event, we ran through the entire performance once and the finale twice. Either way, we were still pumped to see all the different cultures that are to come during the span of the event. Firstly, the house entertained the school orchestra, which by the way did a phenomenal job, then we had the former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) speak as well as other influential figures provide us with their inspirational words. In all honesty, we weren't the best audiences among the crowd because during that time, we were all scrambling to finish up our preparation for the play that we decided to perform. Luckily, the order of performing delegations was in alphabetical order, which meant we were the last one to perform. This gave us ample amounts of time for us to finish up while we enthusiastically watched the other delegations perform their seasonal dances, sing Ode to Joy, and enable us to have a great time. After our Taiwanese-standard acceptable performance which the previous acts ensued, all the delegations were instructed to approach the stage and sing "Imagine," which was the finale, by John Lennon, a songwriter, and singer who co-founded the Beatles. Because we were all well-rehearsed, the performance went on in harmony. With an Israeli student with a beautiful voice leading our somewhat disorganized bunch and the instructor trying his hardest to keep us in line, the finale was a great success. People laughed, people smiled, people hugged, and people cried. It was one of those moments where you don't want to let go, it was also one of those moments where you would cherish forever.
- Jerusalem (8/17)
Out of the few short-lived days in the trip, I would say the second to last day was by far the best. For the entire duration of that day, we visited Jerusalem, the city that many influential works such as the Bible and Torah mentioned many times. After a grueling 90-minute drive to the site, we began by visiting the market. While the attraction didn't seem like it was meant for tourists due to the lack of ornaments and collectibles, it provided us with the unfiltered and uncensored Israeli way of life. In addition to the three main elements that I mentioned above, another unique aspect about the place was the people. The similarities were striking; we saw customers bargaining ferociously with proprietors, kids holding food bags while parents laugh, and managers shouting at the top of their lungs to attract heads. Despite few downsides to this souk, I was able to pick up some magnets and small decorations for my friends back here in Taiwan while also trying my first shawarma, a delectable Israeli chicken sandwich topped with a salad and some fries.
Soon after our visit to the market, we continued on to one of the most sacred sites of many religions: the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though I acknowledged the holiness and importance of the premise, I didn't expect to be so surprised by the compound. Everywhere I looked, I feel like I've seen it before. Then it hit me: the pictures on my history textbooks were taken right here! This immediately boosted my energy and encouraged me to listen intently to our tour guide and make mental notes on the information that she gave.
I had a blast in the Old City. But that joy turned into deep thought when we reached the Western Wall, a site where mainly Jews go to confess their sins and formulate wishes for themselves. With tight security and military personnel guarding the area, it quickly changed our mood from a cheerful one to one of caution. As we entered, we discerned many Jewish individuals clad in either complete black suits or fitted with a round Jewish cap. Without hesitation, we decided to follow them to the Western Wall itself where many are reciting the Torah and placing little notes into the cracks between the walls.
I myself wrote a little note that said, "Don't fear what's about to come. Embrace life,"
I thought of my work as pretty inspirational, but I completely took it back when I saw four of my delegation members come out with tears dripping from their eyes. It was only hours later that I realized it was not the atmosphere that pulled their heart strings, it was they themselves who reflected upon their lives and thought of all the good and the bad. For that, I gained massive respect for everyone in my representative team; I will be proud of them forever.
- For self improvement
- Be more vocal in the chat room with my delegation members
- Way of improvement: improve my confidence through ways such as but not limited to leading clubs events or taking on roles of responsibility within the classroom
- Be more proactive instead of reactive when it comes to the conference
- Way of improvement: taking initiative in the classroom by volunteering to participate in community service activities.
- Be more conversational when awkward silences arrive during conversations
- Way of improvement: Engage in conversations with people more often to obtain more social knowledge and opinions on prominent issues today.
- Be more vocal in the chat room with my delegation members
- For the event as a whole
- Better plane schedules
- Everyone had to rush to the plane; I had to sprint just to catch the plane. To be honest, I feel like we'd all be fine if we paid a bit more money to stay one more night. We missed the Dead Sea.
- Better wifi sharing device
- Only 3-4 people could connect to it at the same time, the speed of the device was slow too.
- Better plane schedules
- Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv
- HaKfar HaYarok
在寄宿家庭2天後我搬到HaKfar HaYarok 高中學校宿舍，印入眼簾的是翠綠色的校園，溫暖熱情的各國高中生代表與自由漫遊在校園的各式動物，對我來說，這個開放包容式的校園氣氛，讓我獲得全新的教育觀。
每個星期五，是猶太人傳統的安息日。在平常的日子朋友互相問候打招呼稱作 “Shalom”，但在星期五安息日就互稱“Shabbat Shalom”。我問當地人關於安息日的由來，一位有大鬍子的男子告訴我，星期五是神休息的日子，人們也應該休息，留在家裡，為繁忙的日子做好準備。
- Gala Night
I write this blog post on October 30, and tomorrow is Halloween, when many kids go Trick or Treating. So, if I may use the Halloween metaphor, there are several writing "tricks" that, if you use them well, will "treat" your audience to a pleasurable reading experience. One of my favorite writing (and public speaking) tricks is "bouncing." "Bouncing" is simply stating a fact or principle, then giving a story, joke, or example to illustrate the principle. People usually forget the dry, abstract rule you teach...but they will remember the illustrative story or example. And if they remember the story--presto!--they will probably remember the idea behind it. (Dreyer, Scott and Liao, Posen. Write Like A Champion. Taipei, Taiwan: Jong Wen Books, 2008.) For more information about "bouncing," read more about it in our book, pages 154-155, in Step 5, "Use Some Glue."
Below are two samples of "bouncing." One is in writing, and one in public speaking. Please note that MANY of what I call "writing tips" can also be used in public speaking and presentations!
1. the dry, abstract fact I'm trying to teach, and
2. the examples of bouncing I use, to try to make the topic understandable.
(Read the text following and find the answers below.)
What is "Chinglish"?
It refers to the garbled combination of Chinese and English. In defense of Chinglish, let me say, it is a reality and easy to explain how it happens. Also, I'm not "casting stones" at Chinese speakers who struggle with English, although Chinglish is a reality for many of them. As an English-speaking American who has been learning Mandarin since 1989, I certainly have struggled with my own version of Chinglish.
One often sees Chinglish on signs, and this is one of my favorites. The sign-maker wanted to say "Handicapped Restroom," or better yet, "handicapped-accessible restroom." However, it came out as "deformed man toilet.""Deformed" means badly twisted or misshapen!
Where does Chinglish come from?
Before words can come out of your mouth, the idea has to first form in your brain. So far so good. The problem comes when you try to speak in a foreign language, especially one you are still new at. In those cases, we tend to think up an idea in our mind, in our native language, and then translate it into the foreign language. This is where problems can happen. The normal method is to learn individual words in the new language, and then try to translate them directly. However, between languages, many ideas, words or phrases do not translate directly. Let me explain with some examples. When I was in 9th grade, I had my first real experience with foreign languages, in German I. I had learned that "happy" was "froelich," and "birthday" was "Geburtstag." So, quite impressed with my new German, I wished someone "Froelich Geburtstag." That was the direct translation, yes...but I was wrong. Germans do not say it that way. In German, the actual blessing is "Alles Gute zum Geburtstag." The German phrasing translates more like, "All the best for your birthday." Fast forward about ten years, and I was then in Taiwan learning Mandarin Chinese. Same story. I had been there for a few months and had been picking up some words and phrases. A friend's birthday was approaching, and I knew the word for happy was 快樂 (kuaile) and birthday was 生日 (shengri). So, quite ready to demonstrate how much Chinese I had learned, I smiled and wished her a hearty 快樂 生日 (kuaile shengri)! But instead of the smiles I thought I was sure to get for my "good Chinese," I got wide eyes and looks of shock. "Oh no, you can't say that! It's 生日 快樂 (shengri kuaile)."
"Birthday Happy!?" For a split second I mentally protested. "'Birthday Happy' doesn't make any sense!" I thought to myself. Then I realized it. It's probably best not to argue against 5,000 years of culture and language. If it's literally Birthday Happy to the 1.4 billion Chinese speakers, then it will have to be Birthday Happy to me, and that was an important moment in my Mandarin language acquisition. Do not think too much in your mother tongue and try to translate directly word for word. Instead, try to learn actual phrases and ideas in the foreign language, and you will pick it up faster. (See the example? "Pick it up" can literally mean "to lift something with your hands," but it can also mean "to learn something new.")
(You can read the whole blog post here.)
1. Dry fact: Chinglish is a garbled combination of Chinese and English.
- As an American who has learned Mandarin since 1989, I struggle with Chinglish
- What should be called a "Handicapped Restroom" was called "Deformed Man Toilet"!
- You cannot always directly translate from one language to another. For example, with first German and later Chinese, I learned the simple "Happy Birthday" cannot be directly translated word for word. In the case of Chinese, the word order is completely reversed.
We will now shift gears and listen to a public speech by Chuck Swindoll. In fact, Swindoll is a Bible teacher, and a lesson like this that teaches Bible content is called a sermon. I realize that among my reading audience, I have people of different religions and no religion. By including a sermon I am not trying to force a religion on anyone. Still, I find this particular speaker a great communicator, and I think there are several tips we can learn from him.
This message comes in two parts, and it's titled "Making a Lasting Difference." In Part 1, you can listen to the whole message, or start at 3:15. Swindoll opens with "Most people I know do not want to drift along in mediocrity...you do not wanat to be swallowed up in anonymity or obscurity. That is something I love about Swindoll: he is a great wordsmith. Note how he uses three strong nouns ending in -y: mediocrity, anonymity, obscurity. (This is called parallel structure-- see Write Like A Champion p. 161-163 for more about this. It is also called "Rule of Three"--see p. 155-156.)
Swindoll speaks for about one minute, on how most people want to live meaningful, significant lives and make a difference for others. That is the "dry fact." Then around 4:20, he "bounces" by going back to 1914, and the Polar expedition of Ernest Shackleton. Then around 6:30 in his message, Swindoll turns to the actual Bible passage he is teaching on: 2 Timothy 3:10-14.
Swindoll has yet another helpful device. He introduces Shackelton in Part 1, as part of his introduction. Then he moves on to the "meat" of his message, the Bible scripture 2 Timothy about making a lasting difference. But in Part 2, at 17:08, he returns to Shackelton, this time as part of his conclusion. Swindoll explains how Shackleton's expedition failed to accomplish their its goal to reach the South Pole. However, his legacy for daring and curiosity lives on, inspiring others, as it inspired Sir Edmund Hillary to be the first to climb Mount Everest.
You can learn more about Shackleton's amazing voyage from this video, or this book I highly recommend, Endurance. Endurance was both the name of Shackleton's ship, as well as the virtue that kept the men alive during their two-year-long harrowing nightmare.
As we see from Swindoll's message, you do not have to "drop the whole load" at once, when you tell a story or give an illustration. You can do it that way, and that might be the clearest way. However, at times you might want to introduce a person or story early in your message, create suspese, make your main point, then return to your illustration near the end, where you share a surprise and wrap up your message. The late great radio man Paul Harvey was famous for this, with his "And that's the rest of the Story" program, which ran five days a week from World War II until 1976! He would introduce a topic or story, give lots of background information that seemed like lots of rabbit trails, then he would end by telling his audience whom he was talking about, some famous person.
For years, "What I did this summer" has been a standard back-to-school writing topic for September. With DreyerCoaching.com students, however, their responses are anything but standard! We are blessed to work with a sophisticated, well-educated, well-traveled bunch of students, many of whom visited exciting, exotic places. In one writing class alone, all three students traveled overseas from their home of Taiwan this summer.
One student, Aaron, had a particularly remarkable summer. There is a program between Taiwan and Israel, where ten outstanding youths from Taiwan can visit Israel. Other than paying for air fare, the rest of the excursion is covered! For 2017, over 200 students applied. All applicants had to write two essays, in both Mandarin Chinese and English. Aaron told me that his years with DreyerCoaching online writing classes improved his writing skills, helping him with word choice, organization, and grammar on his essay. And he must have written well in both English and Chinese, because he was among the mere twenty finalists chosen for personal interviews in Taipei. Aaron then aced the interviews, and thus became one of the ten winners to go to Israel last summer! Taiwan has 23.5 million residents, and Aaron was one of only ten to join this prestigious program. Well done, Aaron! Read Aaron's English and Chinese successful application essays, plus his post-trip evaluation and more, here.
That's what we love to do at DreyerCoaching.com. Help people improve their communication skills, so they can help make their dreams come true!
People often ask me, "How do you teach writing online?"
In this case: 1. I assignted the topic, 2. the students wrote their essay at home, 3. the student read it aloud in class the next week, 4. we discussed it in class, and 5. the student made edits in real-time, based on suggestions the other students and I made. Below you will see Aaron's first draft, while the "AFTER" essay is his final version after our class discussion and edits.
Out of the few short-lived days that stayed in Israel, I would say the second to last day was by far the best. For the entire duration of that day, we visited Jerusalem, the city that many influential works such as the Bible and Torah mentioned many times. After a gruelling 90-minute drive to the city, we began by visiting the “souk,”or the market. While the attraction didn't seem like it was meant for tourists due to the lack of ornaments and collectibles, it provided us with the unfiltered and uncensored Israeli way of life.
Soon after our visit to the market, we continued on to one of the most sacred sites of many religions: the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though I acknowledged the holiness and importance of the premise, I didn't expect to be surprised. Everywhere I looked, I feel like I've seen it before. Then it hit me: the pictures on my history textbooks were taken right here! This immediately boosted my energy and encouraged me to listen intently to our tour guide and make mental notes on the information that she gave.
I had a blast in the Old City. From the ancient bricks of the city to the fresh falafel of the restaurants, I felt a sense of pure joy that I would never forget. But that happiness turned into deep thought when we reached the Western Wall, a site where mainly Jews go to confess their sins and formulate wishes for themselves. With tight security and military personnel guarding the area, it quickly changed our mood from a cheerful one to one of caution. As we entered, we discerned many Jewish individuals clad in either complete black suits or fitted with a round Jewish cap. Without hesitation, we decided to follow them to the Western Wall itself where many are reciting the Torah and placing little notes of hopes and dreams into the cracks between the walls so God can realise them.
I myself wrote a little note that said, "Don't fear what's about to come. Embrace life,”
I learned, I felt, and I lived.
Out of the few short days that I stayed in Israel, I would say the second-to-last was by far the best. On that next to last day, we visited Jerusalem, the city that many influential works such as the Bible and Torah mention many times. After a grueling 90-minute drive to the city, we began by visiting the “souk,”or the market. While the attraction did not seem like it was meant for tourists due to the lack of ornaments and collectibles, it provided us with an unfiltered and uncensored Israeli way of life.
Soon after our visit to the market, we continued on to one of the most sacred sites of many religions: the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though I acknowledged the holiness and importance of the premise, I did not expect to be surprised. Everywhere I looked, I felt like I had seen it before. Then it hit me: the pictures in my history textbooks were taken right here! This immediately boosted my energy and encouraged me to listen intently to our tour guide and make mental notes on the information that she gave.
I had a blast in the Old City. From the ancient bricks of the city to the fresh falafel of the restaurants, I felt a sense of pure joy that I would never forget. But that happiness turned into deep thought when we reached the Western Wall, a site where mainly Jews go to confess their sins and pray. With tight security and military personnel guarding the area, it quickly changed our mood from cheerfulness to caution as we entered. Immediately, we discerned many Jewish individuals clad in either complete black suits or fitted with a round Jewish cap. Without hesitation, we decided to follow them to the Western Wall itself where many were reciting the Torah and placing little written prayers into the cracks between the bricks so God could answer them.
To fully experience the moment, most of our group members also wrote a little note to leave in the wall. I followed along, placing a little note into the cracks -- "Don't fear what's about to come. Embrace life.”
I learned, I felt, and I lived.
--Aaron in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Scott's thoughts: I like how Aaron considered his whole summer, then like a master photographer zooming in a telephoto lens, he focused in on just one day in Jerusalem. From the fresh falafel to the Wailing Wall, he paints a word picture of his next-to-last day in Israel. He ends with a bang by "channeling" Julius Caesar's "I came, I saw, I conquered."
Fencing Camp in South Korea
For the first week of my summer, our fencing coach took us to Korea to sharpen our skills. The trip turned out to be more effective than I had thought-- my skills solidified, and my tactics matured. Throughout the week we had a tight schedule-- training in the morning, lunch, training in the afternoon, dinner, and going back to our apartment. Not the most exciting schedule ever. However, this was not the most grueling part-- long lectures that our coach gave us from 9:00 to 11:00 nightly. Every time he promised it would be concise, but somehow it took over two hours almost every night. This made us sleep at midnight, while we needed to wake up early the next day. (When I came back to Taiwan, the first thing I did was take a nap.) Also, the people I went with were not the nicest people on the planet-- most were 13 or 14 years old and a few were the typical rebellious teen type. Throughout the entire trip I only chatted regularly with one or two people. Thanks to our coach, we boys basically lost all means of entertainment throughout the trip. The coach decided to take away all our phones, books, etc. without any reason except for “you will not be able to control yourselves.” The girls, on the other hand, got to keep all their electronic devices. Despite these negative factors, the training we received was fulfilling-- generally, the physical workload was not unbearable and the main Korean coach helped all of us develop effective tactics and helped with our conditioning. When I came back, I felt both relief and grief-- relief from the tiring schedules and lack of sleep, but grief knowing I will never have this wonderful experience again.
--Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Scott's thoughts: First, I loved the pun. "Our fencing coach took us to Korea to sharpen our skills." Good word choice: grueling, rebellious, concise. I liked the illustration of the coach who promised to be brief, but managed to lecture for some two hours till 11:00 p.m. nightly. Tim explains how the trip was frustrating in some ways, but rewarding in others.
Sports Business Camp at UCLA
Eating in the best rated college cafeteria? Living in a dorm with students from all over the world? Sign me up! My two-week sports business program at UCLA was probably one of the most influential and memorable camps I have ever attended. In recent years, I have discovered that my interest and patience for science was waning; therefore, I have started to explore the social studies. This landed me in this two-week camp where I learned about the ethics of business and legal issues in sports, along with listening to many guest speakers who explained their jobs involving in a range of fields: entrepreneurship to broadcasting and even “why athletes are going broke” (mainly due to a lack of financial literacy). Being able to listen to professionals preach about what they do for a living inspired me to stay on the business track (and caused me to stay in my AP Economics class). One of the speakers whom I remember the most fondly was Brad Edwards, who explained the reasons why sports content is the most valuable content on television and he also dipped into the transactions involved when selling TV programs. To make it more exciting, retired NFL receiver Terrell Owens visited and talked about entrepreneurship and the promotion of a product. Coincidentally, soccer teams Real Madrid and Manchester City were practicing on the UCLA soccer pitch and NBA players were working out in the Wooden Center, a gym on campus, to add on the the excitement. Not only did we listen to our professor talk in a classroom, we also visited the Rose Bowl, Stubhub Center, and Dodger Stadium as part of our learning experience.
Yes, going to Disneyland, hanging out on Melrose Avenue, or staying up until 2 a.m. everyday was amazing, but the sports business class itself was what impacted me the most in those two weeks. This camp allowed me to know that business is what I want to do and solves the problem of my career and academic interests. Moving away from serious topics, these two weeks were no doubt the time of my life, opening a door to a whole new scope of topics to learn about.
-Justin in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Scott's thoughts: I like the hook: Two questions followed by an enthusiastic "Sign me up!" Justin peppers his essay with specific people and places; this makes his essay more readable and engaging.
In an online writing class just now, we read our students' papers on this topic:
One of my strengths is _____________; it helps me by _____________.
Here is a paper from Ryan, a high school student in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
One of my strengths is English reading, it helps me with my school work. English is one of the most widely used languages. Most companies will require staffs to learn English. This international language could be useful when talking to any foreigners. English is also a school subject, but it is difficult for students to understand because of the different grammar rule. Because I use to live in the US, I have a great opportunity to learn English. After I left America, I still practice my English skills. So instead of focusing on basic grammar, I could have more time practicing my writing and reading skills.
One of my strengths is English reading; it helps me with my school work. English is one of the most widely-used languages. Most companies will require their staff to learn English. This international language could be useful when talking to any foreigners. English is also a school subject, but it is difficult for students to understand because of the different grammar rules. Because I used to live in the US, I have a great opportunity to learn English. After I left America, I still practiced my English. So instead of focusing on basic grammar, I could have more time practicing my reading and writing skills. I am so thankful for my English abilities.
Sometimes, some things that seem normal and simple to us might be intriguing and profound to other people. There are some reasons to explain this. For example, people have different backgrounds and come from different families. In short, everyone is an individual. Sometimes a person might not be mature enough to understand or appreciate what someone else is saying.
For example, last week I got a great surprise in my physics class from my cram school teacher. The topic of the class was about Kinematics. The physics teacher taught the lesson clearly and explained the theorem carefully. In fact, I already knew much of the lesson he taught and even felt bored, especially when it came to prove the formula "Xi=Xo+vt+1/2 at*t." Students should have learnt them during high school! Although I still transcribed the proof lines into my notebook, I almost fell asleep.
However, things became interesting when the teacher started to share his own experience about how he felt when he first learned the formula when he was in 8th grade,and this is his story:
He came from an underprivileged family. He had had bad grades all the way from 1st grade to 7th grade. And even worse: the results of the two IQ tests he took in 2nd and 5th grade were 70 and 78 respectively. We all know that a normal person's IQ falls between 90 and 110. Therefore, he was classified as "slightly retarded." For some years, he felt like he was good for nothing. Teachers neglected him, and his parents were too busy working. However, later in 8th grade, his physics teacher totally changed his life; he described the moment as his life's turning point. His teacher explained the formula to the students in a thought-provoking way. In physics, the Xi stands for the final position of an object, and the Xo stands for the original position. And then "v" is speed, "a" is acceleration, and "t" is the time that the object has moved. So an object's final position depends on its moving speed, acceleration, and the time the object has moved. What's more, we can easily observe the formula since the speed only mutiplies the time, but the acceleration mutiplies the SQUARE of time; therefore the acceleration affects the final outcome far more than speed does. But still, the original position is a factor that affects the end result. His teacher described the original position as a person's background where he comes from, what jobs his parents do, etc. He also described the speed as a person's IQ.
Finally he described acceleration as the efforts a person puts in. He was deeply touched by his teacher and broke down in tears. He knew he was unlike his classmates; he was not so clever and came from an underprivileged family, but the thing he could do was be diligent and hard-working. He later entered Jian Kuo High School, which is one of the best schools in Taiwan and the absolute hardest to test in to. He eventually studied physics at National Taiwan University, the most prestigous school in Taiwan.
Hearing his story, I knew that to be hard-working is the most significant element of success. Just think of it: this fellow was from a poor family and was labeled as retarded, but he ended up studying physics, one of the top departments at Taiwan University. I felt incredibly encouraged hearing this example. I have a great cram school teacher! --Bob
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At the suggestion of an excellent student, and friend, I recently bought the "SAT Writing Workbook" and its companion guide for math, from Kaplan. In Practice Test A on p. 187, it gives this writing prompt:
Consider carefully the following statement(s) and the assignment below it."The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves." --Sophocles
Assignment: What do you think of the view that the worst sorrows are those for which we are responsible? In an essay, support your position by discussing an example (or examples) from literature, science and technology, the arts, current events, or your own experience or observation.
Many of my online students are preparing for the SAT, and this is how one of those young scholars tackled the above question. Notice how in his essay he sets the scene, uses vivid details ("orange juice and guava juice"), and only at the END ties his story to the prompt, the idea of "I caused this problem myself." The "traditional essay" gives the thesis, or main point, right at the top, but you do not have to. In this case, the author wraps up his essay by tying in the prompt at the end. Enjoy a story that relates to everyone who was once a kid or who knows a kid (and that covers us all).
Many years ago, when I was about five, my cousins, grandparents and immediate family went to a restaurant in Taipei to celebrate New Year's. Everyone was delighted and joyful about the successful New Year that was approaching. My cousins and I set many new goals that we wished to reach before next year, and we agreed to compete against one another to see who could successfully reach their goal without making any mistakes.
During the dinner, when everyone happily drank coke, sprite, guava juice, and orange juice, my father and I decided to go to each table to give thanks and give hopes and wishes to the other members of our big family. I could not drink any alcoholic beverages of course, so I drank a mix of guava and orange juice. I gave a few speeches--the best I could as a five year old--of good luck to everyone, and that made me feel more satisfied with myself. I learned the true meaning of family during that dinner and the importance of having a family. After finishing my speeches of good will, I went back to my table and finished my dinner. My two closest cousins and my sister invited me to join their game of "you are it" while I was eating. I accepted their invitation and told them to meet me in the hallway outside of the dining room.
After five minutes, I went outside and played with them. I had so much fun playing with them that I had forgotten to go to the bathroom. I did not realize that I was in such a hurry that I peed in my pants. The pee had soaked into my underwear and pants, but luckily the pee did not reach the floor, which was marble. I was relieved that I did not wet the beautifully polished marble. My mother came up to me and said, "Why did you not go to the bathroom before you played with the others? Don't I always tell you should go to the bathroom whenever you drink lots of drinks?" My cheeks turned red hot with embarrassment when she finished her scolding. I was humiliated that I had peed in my britches and I wished I could go away to change into some new clothes. My mother had suspected that I might pee in my pants, so she had wisely brought along another set of clothes. After that experience of shame, I have learned always to go to the bathroom before doing any activity or going to another location. At the time I was humiliated, and I know I had caused this grief myself by going too heavy on the fruit juice without going to the bathroom. Now, many years after this hilarious experience, my cousins, my sister and I met together last Sunday and recalled this incident. We laughed, and people at other tables even laughed too when they overheard my childhood story. Sophocles was right: sometimes we do cause our greatest griefs ourselves.
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Looking for ways to beef up your writing? Take a good look at the VERBS you employ. Verbs are to writing what jet fuel is to airplanes. One helpful way to boost your verb power is to take words that are usually nouns, but use them as verbs.
Here are a few examples:
1. mushroom. This is normally the small thing you eat in salads or stir-fry, but as a verb it means to expand or grow quickly, just as the mushroom head expands out from the stem. Ex. After Billy dropped out of school, his problems mushroomed: he ran out of money, couldn't find a job, and had a falling-out with his parents.
2. asphalt. As a noun, this is pavement put on a road surface. As a verb, it means to cover a road or parking lot with pavement. Ex. The church asphalted their parking lot last week.
3. hammer. As a noun, this is a common tool. As a verb, though, it can mean A. to drive a nail, OR B. to emphasize or drive home a point; to criticize.
Ex. Laurence hammered nails all day till his arm felt like it was about to fall off!
Ex. Dad hammered away about how important a good GPA is when applying to college.
4. nail. The noun is what you hammer, but as a verb, it can mean to identify an issue or accuse or criticize someone.
Ex. Ken nailed the boards over the broken window.
Ex. Jason thought he could cheat on the quiz, but his teacher nailed him and gave him a zero.
5. author. As a noun, this is the person who writes a book or author. The verb is the action of doing so. Ex. I was pleased to co-author Write like a Champion with Prof. Posen Liao a few years ago.
6. belt. The noun is the leather strap that holds your pants up. As a verb, it can mean A. to sing loudly, or B. to spank a child with a belt.
Ex. The opera star belted out the last song of the evening.
Ex. Billy was afraid his dad would belt him if he caught him smoking behind the barn.
7. bolt. As a noun, this is a small item that can hold two larger items together. As a verb, though, it can mean A. to act of fastening a bolt, or B. running fast!
Ex. The security guard always bolts the gate shut before he leaves in the evening.
Ex. The dog always bolts for the door when he hears his master bring out his supper!
I hope these nouns as verbs can help you beef up your writing skills. And there we go again: "beef up": a noun working as a verb! To your success!
What's a hook? Just as a physical hook lets you catch and keep a fish, a written hook helps you catch and "keep" a reader. Research shows the average reader will read something for about 5-6 SECONDS before deciding to drop it or keep reading. So, it's essential to START STRONG with a good hook.
The Friday, March 4, 2011 Wall Street Journal had this nugget to start an article called "The Most Expensive Town in America."
"The lowest-priced single-family home on the market in Aspen is listed for US$559,000. It's located in a trailer park." (Note: for those not familiar with American towns, trailer parks usually have some of the cheaper homes--well below a half million dollars!) The author, Nancy Keates, continues: "While most housing markets in the rest of the country continue to struggle with anemic demand and foreclosures-- and sales at many other luxury ski resorts are still sluggish--Aspen has forged its own orbit." The author then goes on to tell how the average home price in Aspen, Colorado is now about $6 million, and how Aspen is booming despite the recession. In other words, the author starts with a good hook THEN gets into the details of the story. In sum, I think the author has a GREAT hook. It's short, surprising, and reels in the reader. What more can you ask for in a good hook?
A few weeks ago, a student in Taiwan emailed me to introduce herself, saying she knew a couple of my students, was impressed with their English, and wanted to study English online with me as those two friends of hers were doing.
To get started, I just asked her to write a brief self-introduction. She writes well; here are a few things to watch for in her essay:
- she uses a clear structure, in this case, chronological order
Mr. Dreyer, some things about me I would like you to know are:
First of all, as I had already mentioned, I am a student studying at the National Experimental High School (NEHS) in Hsinchu, Taiwan. As you had also stayed there for quite a period of time, I am not going to introduce my school to you, instead I would like to talk about what I had learned in the past few years.
Starting from third grade, right after I left Taiwan, I started studying in international schools. My first school there, Xiwai in Shanghai, was very different from NEHS, but it actually taught me many useful skills. There I met a teacher, Mr. McBroom from the U.S., who changed me entirely, who made me a more efficient and productive person. In his class, we did not have any textbooks. All we had were our hands and our heads, our pencils and our notebooks. Not only was his speaking speed compared to our writing speed a great problem, but the new and harsh scientific words were the ultimate killer. But after a semester, I learned to write down all my notes with points but not copying down the whole spoken sentences; I learned to memorize all the things in class and turned them into my knowledge. That semester, I learned to put my time to better use, and that, differed me from all my other classmates. Although that was a very harsh time, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed my progress and achievement.
However, as time flew by, it was time for me to leave that school and go to another school, Shanghai High School International Division (SHSID). I got nearly full marks on my written entrance examination, but I seriously did not do well in the interview. Since I answered all the questions with a yes or no, instead of complete sentences, the teacher might have thought I did not know how to speak, so I was placed into Standard English class as a result. But chances are given to prepared people. I first got champion in the English storytelling contest, then got a pretty high mark for my first monthly exam. Eventually I was given the chance to apply for Honors English, and I got in. In that school, I overcame my fear of talking to strangers and learned to share my thoughts and ideas with others. There, I became a more optimistic person, and I enjoyed being in front of people, presenting or giving speeches, anything.
Together with my parents, I came back to Taiwan and got into the International Bilingual School in the Hsinchu Science Park (IBSH). In my two years there, I discovered the joy of studying and found myself interested in reading. In seventh grade, we read Animal Farm, The Power of One, and The Road, books that have a deeper meaning beneath the literal meanings. With the teacher's explanation and discussion with groups, I figured out that literature is something fun to devour, something interesting to learn. So beyond my love of science and history, I now have a new friend, literature. However, I still do not have the ability to realize the deeper meanings hidden in sentences on my own, thus, I would like someone to help me with that.
Although I have transferred between schools much more than most other people, although I skipped many lessons that seemed to be important; in every school I learned different insights; with every transfer, I learned to adapt to the environment faster than anyone else could. I like all I have learned, I enjoy what I was given; I do not mind what I do not have or what I have lost; what I care about is what makes me better, and makes me different from others.
In this case, the student simply wrote the essay at home, read it aloud during our online class, then I gave her some feedback in real-time (add this, delete that), and she made the changes directly to her text. I then told her the saying, "this isn't rocket science." That is, just writing a story and talking about it and editing it in class is not mysterious-- in fact, it's quite simple! Want to improve YOUR writing skill? Contact us today to find out how! www.DreyerCoaching.com