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Writing (51)

Thursday, 30 May 2019 12:44

Biographical Sketch: Change of Focus

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In our Advanced Writing class, we are working on writing a biographical sketch. The textbook* gave us a list of several key events in the life of American pioneer Daniel Boone. However, writing an interesting biographical sketch is not just writing a boring "laundry list" of events. (Doing that can make it sound like you are writing an encyclopedia.) Instead, the challenge is to make the story engaging and readable, and one way to do that is to pick a FOCUS. The textbook* suggested one of these four themes to focus on:

  • Boone as a soldier
  • Boone as a hunter/explorer
  • Boone as a family man
  • Boone and the Native American tribes                                 


* Writing with Skill, Level 1, Susan Wise Bauer, p. 258.


Take a look at what this student wrote. He took the list of events from the life of Daniel Boone and wrote two sketches. Look carefully; which of the above four themes does Essay 1 focus on?  Essay 2?


Essay 1

Daniel Boone. A legendary man. A soldier and pioneer who left behind boundless legacies and served as an inspiration for many. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young boy, he was already familiar with firearms, having received his very own rifle at the mere age of 12. Time would prove how crucial his early mastery of firearms was to his later successes.

As time passed, it seemed he was born to be a soldier. As a young man, he had grown to become a man of remarkable stature-- broad chest, muscular arms, and a strong frame. He fought numerous battles and war, having actively participated in the French and Indian war and fought against the “Cherokee Uprising.” It was also during this time he married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan, and settled on the Yadkin River in North Carolina. For the young Boone, his life was full of nothing but hopes and aspirations.

However, during the aftermath of the Cherokee uprising, Boone was forced to leave North Carolina. Indeed, it was a difficult moment, leaving his house and past behind to face the daunting unknown. This turn of events, however, seemed to have presented new opportunities. In 1769, Boone decided to embark on a two-year expedition into Kentucky, which was then a land of wilderness. A true pioneer, Boone started a settlement. He was met with fierce opposition from the Shawnee tribesman, who deemed his action a transgression of the sovereignty of their land. After a lengthy conflict, Boone and his fellow colonists finally prevailed, allowing them to establish settlements for other American pioneers to reside in.

His troubles did not end after he established his colony, however, as Boone and other colonists still faced constant aggressions from the Native Americans. After the US gained its independence, the Shawnees allied with the British empire to attack Boonesborough, Kentucky, Boone’s settlement. During this fight Boone was shot in the leg, yet survived. With sheer grit and determination, the colonist once again prevailed.

Boone, in his middle age, was still keenly interested in adventure. He was promoted lieutenant in his local militia and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782, one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War. The American hero published the stories of his adventures in 1784, a culmination of his unique experiences. He later moved to Missouri, famously stating, “Too much crowded-- too much crowded-- I want more elbow room.” It was in Missouri where this legendary adventurer and brave man who seemed to defy all odds finally succumbed to father time. In 1820 he died at age 85. His legacy will live on forever.

-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan






Essay 2


When talking about legendary American adventurers, one cannot help but think of Daniel Boone. However, what most people do not know is that Boone was also a loving father and a considerate husband. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young lad, he had all kinds of dreams of exploring the unknown. Later, the determined Boone, a step at a time, fulfilled his childhood dream, traversing thousands of miles, fighting against different enemies, and most importantly, fulfilling his own destiny.

Boone was a man of remarkable appearance-- a handsome man with a muscular frame, always donning his favorite hunting attire. Despite his unprecedented achievements as a pioneer, soldier, and adventurer, surprisingly, Boone never neglected his role in his family. In 1756, Boone married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan and settled in North Carolina. He and Rebecca were eager to start a family. Not long after, they were blessed with their baby son James. Unfortunately, the eruption of the “Cherokee Uprising,” which ultimately resulted in Boone’s exile from North Carolina, signified the shattering of his dream of stable home life. However, Boone never gave up. Never did. Eager to find a new home for his family, Boone moved to Kentucky, an undeveloped land, but also, a land of infinite possibilities.

The start was difficult as Boone and his fellow explorers were met with hostilities from the Native Americans. Boone was determined to settle on the land with his family. During this period of time, Boone never faltered to care for his family and children. He, a wild spirit, “was compelled to take extended trips in his search for less-frequented places…. As early as 1764–65 Boone was in the habit of taking with him, upon these trips near home, his little son James, then seven or eight years of age. . . .Frequently they would spend several days together in the woods during the

autumn and early winter.” As a father, he was eager for James to grow to become a great man. His adventures with James culminated a powerful father-son relationship that transcends bounds.

Boone’s family was never short of challenges, but again and again, Boone seemed to defy all odds and helped his family overcome them. The single most challenging obstacle came at 1776, which is, ironically, the year that the US signed the Declaration of Independence. Native Americans, furious at the colonists’ transgression of their hunting ground, decided to kidnap children, one of which was Boone’s daughter Jemma. A man of mettle, Boone did not back down, nor did he falter. He chased the Natives relentlessly and captured the girls back, saving them from a fate that might be too horrible to describe.

Boone, the legend, the explorer, moved one last time in his exhilarating life of adventure to Missouri. It was there where he finally passed away. Beloved by his family, admired by all, Boone closed his eyelids for the last time, at age 85, knowing that his legacy would live on for eternity.


-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan




Do you see the shift of focus? Essay 1 is based on "Boone as soldier." Tim tells us that in paragraph 2 sentence 1. Essay 2 is based on "Boone as family man," as we see in paragraph 2 sentence 2. 


Do YOU want to improve your English writing skills? Learn more here or contact Scott today to find out how!

Friday, 10 May 2019 22:52

Extended Metaphor

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  • You are my sunshine.
  • He roared with laughter.
  • Variety is the spice of life.


What do these three have in common? They are METAPHORS. These, along with similes, are a great way to spice up your writing. (Actually, "spice up your writing" is a metaphor too!) A metaphor is a comparison between two people or things, without using the words "like" or "as." (In contrast, a simile uses either "like" or "as." English teachers will tell you, remember the "S" in "simile" and in "as," and that will help you remember the difference between the metaphor and simile!)


In a recent Advanced Writing class, the students and I looked as what our book called a "governing metaphor," or what some other people call an extended metaphor.  That is, instead of a single comparision, this is a metaphor that is referred to many times throughout the text. A famous example is one of the most widely-loved passages in the Bible: the 23rd Psalm, of David. Take a look: can you find the extended metaphor?


Psalm 23    New International Version (NIV)

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


(Read it in Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese)



Can you see it? The extended (governing) metaphor is that of a SHEPHERD. 


Since our writing class was held just a few days before Mother's Day, I asked the students to write something loving and respectful for their mothers, using an extended metaphor in it. One student wrote a poem while the other wrote prose, but both were excellent. These young men attend a prestigious bilingual school in the Hsinchu, Taiwan Science Park, and they have also studied writing with for many years; their hard work shows!  Take a look: can you find the extended metaphors?


Mother is a gardener, who gave us the gift of life.

A quiet and caring figure, always with a tender smile.

Humble and persistent, she always thought for us first.59791957 10218968536142321 8811906825503899648 n

She meticulously cared for our well-being and fertilized us with knowledge.

And with a caring hand, she guided us forward in life.

She gave us the ability to blossom.

She gave us the power to thrive.

Enduring many hardships, windstorms, hail, and cyclones.

Never gave up. Never did. Always there, patiently, caringly.

She pulled out the weeds and killed the pests, all to ensure

That we live a peaceful life.

Always tender and caring, her smile,

Melts the bleakest of winters.

As years flew past,

And the saplings grow into trees.

She smiles, tenderly.


-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan

 10446521 10152312865267819 2815041895792496546 n 150x150



While calm and seemingly boring on the surface, the ocean holds limitless possibilities beneath. Not only does it produce the best proteins in the world for people like me, it also provides humanity the very basic resource of water for survival. But I think the ocean is much more than that: it holds the world’s richest source of information. The ocean’s deepest parts reveal our ancient past, and its shallow shores reveal our current desires. From this viewpoint, the ocean seems to understand everything; it has existed for our entire life, it exists unconditionally, and will always be acknowledged by us — but not necessarily appreciated.

Just like how we may see our mothers, we recognize her existence, but do not always care for her. She provides unconditional love, yet we fail to reward her with reciprocal support. She holds the experience of a sage, yet we fail to seek her counsel regarding our decisions. It’s mother’s day. I love you mom!


-- Aaron in Hsinchu, Taiwan 


Do you want to know more about Mother's Day and how we celebrate it in the US? Read our blog post.  Do you want to improve your English writing or vocabulary skills? Contact Scott today to find out how! 


Thursday, 04 April 2019 00:35

Describe Classes

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Recently I taught one of our Advanced Writing classes--the students attend the prestigious middle school in the Hsinchu, Taiwan Science Park where I taught from 1992-1997. The students have been working on description essays, so as homework, I gave them this prompt: Describe what it is like to attend a writing class with


Here are their answers. Wow! I am SO thankful and impressed.



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Learning and practicing English with DreyerCoaching has significantly improved my grammar and the ability to produce more lucid, advanced writing. Through the years of taking DreyerCoaching classes, I recognize that my English skills have escalated into a much higher level. Though improving English is the main benefit of taking this class, there is much more. Being able to learn with sophisticated and qualified teachers without the need of leaving your house, being able to connect to the teachers anywhere and anytime, and being able to personally have conversation with the CEO of the online class are boons of DreyerCoaching that most other extracurricular classes do not offer. During the classes, students are free to ask questions at any time, and the classes are relaxing because the teachers are friendly and convivial. Because there is little stress when taking the class, students (for example, me) enjoy it and can learn more effectively. In conclusion, taking DreyerCoaching is the right choice and I encourage everyone who has a chance to take the class to apply for it.




Learning with DreyerCoaching is an experience like none other. Usually, to learn English in Taiwan, one would have to leave their house and drive for at least ten minutes to arrive at the designated teaching location. However, with DreyerCoaching, it is incredibly convenient; turn on your laptop, connect to the meeting, and you are all set! The learning experience is entirely different with DreyerCoaching compared to the average extracurricular class. With the advanced curriculum and knowledgeable teachers, one can learn much more effectively… at home. This is by far the best feature about DreyerCoaching that you can not get anywhere else. If you are struggling with time and scheduling issues, DreyerCoaching can help ease the problem by allowing you to connect right from your desktop, phone, or tablet, and still learn English!




Usually, when people think of English classes in Taiwan, they think of cram schools, tutoring, or other conventional methods of teaching. However, DreyerCoaching has ways of teaching English that are entirely different. Not only does it utilize the technology of the 21st century by teaching over the internet, it provides a further reach of the services it offers, and allows more diversity in students and teachers alike. Along with that, DreyerCoaching also offers interesting and engaging topics to teach the students. For example, students can write their own pourquoi stories, learn about what happens on the ocean floor, and create historical narratives. These topics allow students to engage, therefore making learning more enjoyable. During the classes, students also improve their writing by discussing sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar. Students can go over their writing in class with individualized attention, making it a wonderful learning environment for students.













Do you want to know more about our online writing classes? Click here!  Or better yet, contact Scott directly to find out how to register!






Friday, 01 February 2019 15:49

Before & After Writing

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During a Chinese New Year 1 on 1 class, our student Nicky in Hunan Province, China had this writing assignment:


If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive), who would they be and what would you ask them?


She was creative and wrote this essay below. I particularly like how she added the idiom "let the cat out of the bag," a saying that her teacher taught her. It means "to tell or reveal a secret." (To learn more English idioms, visit our blog post.)



I think they would be vampire, zombie and skeleton. Because they are not usual things. We all know vampires suck blood. But can they accept all kinds of blood? So this is a question I want to ask him. The second question is : Why are you afraid of the garlic? I think garlic is a nice food. Why vampires have to be afraid of them?

 The first question I want to ask Mr. Zombie is: What do you usually eat? I am interesting in it. And I also want to know why zombies can no bend their knees .They just jump and jump and jump. Aren’t they tired?

 I’ve always been curious about how skeletons eat and drink. This is a question that I will ask the skeleton. The second question is very interesting. Why don’t skeletons fall apart? I think everybody wants to know the answer.

 These are my thoughts. And I know the answers to these questions are secrets. I don’ know I will let the cat out of the bag or not. But I think if I can have dinner with vampire, zombie and skeleton, I will have a good time.




Nicky did a fine job with her first draft, then her teacher, Mr. Woodson, read it with her, discussed it, and gave her some suggestions to make it even better. For example, he revised the first sentence to be: a vampire, a zombie, and a skeleton.


Here is Nicky's revised essay, with smoother, more polished English:


I think they would be a vampire, a zombie and a skeleton because they are unusual things. We all know vampires suck blood, but can they accept all kinds of blood? So this is a question I want to ask him. The second question is: Why are you afraid of garlic? I think garlic is a nice food, so why do vampires have to be afraid of it?

 The first question I want to ask Mr. Zombie is: What do you usually eat? I am interested in that, and I also want to know why zombies cannot bend their knees. They just jump and jump and jump. Aren’t they tired?

 I’ve always been curious about how skeletons eat and drink. This is a question that I will ask the skeleton. My second question is also very interesting. Why don’t skeletons fall apart? I think everybody would like to know the answer.

 These are my thoughts, and I know the answers to these questions are secrets. I don’t know if I will let the cat out of the bag or not, but I think if I can have dinner with a vampire, a zombie, and a skeleton, I will have a good time.




If you read both versions of this essay, you will see how Nicky was able to improve the flow and smoothness of her essay. Do YOU want to improve your English writing? We have classes available! Contact Scott today to find out more, and read this page also. Hope to see YOU online soon!



Friday, 18 January 2019 16:46

Pourquoi Stories

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"Pourquoi" means "why?" in French. Therefore, a Pourquoi Story is a short fictional story that tries to explain why something is the way it is, especially something in nature. These legends, also called "Origin Stories" or "Creation Myths," are common in folklore.


Mrs. Armistead, an excellent teacher of a Writing Class, has been teaching this to her students, and then asked her students to write their own! They did such a fine job, here they are for you to enjoy. These are middle school students in Hsinchu, Taiwan,   


A long time ago, when human civilization began, crows were covered in feathers of snowy whiteness. Their feathers glimmered in daytime and illuminated in nighttime, but they were all greedy for food. Whenever they saw food, they tried to devour it. People got annoyed by the greedy crows that always attempted to steal their food. One day, a group of hunters gathered up and discussed about the issue. “We can bait the crows by cooking food, then burn them with fire,” one man spoke in eagerness. During the night, the group of men placed a pig on the crackling glow of red and waited for the presence of the crows. The captivating aroma of the roasted pork caught the crows and dragged them to the hunters. Just like before, the sly crows sneaked around the hunters and snatched for the food, but instead, the sound of sizzling accompanied with screams reverberated through the vast plain as their feather were charred to complete pitch-black. They flopped their burnt wings and flew away. Ever since, crows are coated with dark feathers.


-- Ian Lin



The Sun was constantly bored. As others have said, “it’s hard to entertain him and he pushes things away.” So, the Sun decided to prove others wrong. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Neptune. Neptune had the blue colors of the ocean and entertained the Sun for a very long time. However, the Sun realized that they weren’t meant to be together, they were of different colors. The Sun kept Neptune very close, to prevent judgment from others.


The Sun decided to find another form of entertainment, maybe a different color this time. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Uranus. Uranus was colored light blue, slightly different from Neptune. The Sun grew ferocious, thinking that the gods have cursed him and can only get blue kids. The Sun aligned his blue kids together and decided to try one last time of finding a non-blue kid.


The Sun, infuriated with the lack of cooperation from the spirits of the universe, decided to try one last time to find another form of entertainment. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Saturn. This time, what came to the Sun impressed him dearly. Not only was it larger than both Neptune and Uranus combined, but it’s no longer blue! Additionally, the planet also has rings around it, making it distinct from the other ones. Finally, the Sun was bored and decided to hopefully, get something special again.


The Sun called out to the universe, hoping to receive something out of the ordinary. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Jupiter. The Sun was disgusted by the huge mud and sandy ball the appeared before him. This was a deviation, sent from the gods in humiliation. The Sun grew extremely angry.


The Sun grew extremely furious, more than all of the anger combined. Then he forged his anger with his hopes. BOW! Something with fire and red came before him. It was Mars. It appeared fire red, which probably came from his anger. The Sun felt that the anger was unneeded and decided to be positive as he was the father of the planets.


The Sun, again, gathered his inner strength and concentrated into making something extremely special. BOOM! There came Earth. Earth was made up of two major colors, blue and green. Something special indeed. Despite its differences, the Sun eventually lost his interest in the new planet. He left it aside to play with in the future.


The Sun forbade himself from his failures, he just couldn’t accept it. He needed something to entertain him, fast, before he released his anger against the universe. Something just the right size, not too big, not too small. POW! There came Venus, the orange-red planet. “Boo hoo hoo,” The Sun muttered, “This was not what I wanted. Just once more, just one good planet, and I’d be done”


The Sun grew calm, called his inner soul to help him with his final mission. Please. Just. Help. Me. For. This. Once. KAPOW! There came Mercury- the one-colored bland planet. “This was exactly what I wanted. Great!” The Sun exclaimed in happiness. Just stop. It’ll be another millennium before I get this lucky again. Just stop.


-- Alex Chen 




Why are fake tears called crocodile tears?  


A long time ago, the crocodile was known as the meanest creatures you would ever see. He made baby antelopes cry, and he teased crows for their raspy voices. Along with that, he also liked to eat baby animals, and he was the most hated creature in town. He also liked to prank others, and therefore making everyone avoid him.

When he came crawling out of the swamp, birds flew away, rabbits stayed shivering in their burrows, and snakes slithered away into the tall grass. He was always on the lookout for new victims.

One day, the council of elder animals decided that they were going to trap the crocodile in a makeshift jail at the edge of the swamp, so he would not bother the new family of otters moving in the next morning.

They placed a piece of tasty food in the trap they created and waited for the crocodile to crawl in and take the bait.

The crocodile crawled in as planned, and the elders shut the door on him. The crocodile was furious, thrashing and wailing inside the trap.

“Let me out!” he cried, throwing himself at the sides of the trap.

“I’ll never eat another baby animal-I'll do everyone’s chores for them….”

The council of elders decided to leave him in there until sundown and left for their midday meal.

The otters moved in as planned, and just before sundown the little otters decided to go exploring in their new home.

“Be back before sundown!” yelled the momma otter.

The two little otters found the crocodile, trapped in the cage wailing.

He was crying. “Please let me out,” he cried. “I haven’t done anything wrong and they shut me in here. Help me!

The two little otters decided to take pity on them and they let him out, and once he was out, SNAP!

He gulped down the two little otters at once, and the tears disappeared.

They were fake tears, and the two little otters were gone. The tears were fake, but it was too late for the little otters. Now whenever someone cries fake tears, it’s known as crocodile tears. Another lesson was learned- to never trust crocodiles.


--Katie Chen

Friday, 11 January 2019 01:29

Testimonial & Advice

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A testimonial is a kind of writing where you explain something you have bought, done, believed, or somehow experienced. Businesses use them all the time; they love to quote "happy customers" who explain how the product or service is so wonderful. Check our website at and you will see some testimonials, in both English and Chinese, from satisfied parents and students. A sub-category of a testimonial is a "religious witness," where a believer explains what God has done in his or her life.


Some testimonials only explain the positive sides of an experience, but some go one step further and try to persuade, or convince, the reader to do, buy, or believe something. That is called persuasion, or advice-giving.


A student in my advanced writing class, who attends the International Bilingual School in the Hsinchu Science Park (IBSH) wrote this testimonial/persuasion piece aimed at a grade 7-10 audience:




While the bombardment of homework in school may seem endless, the truth is that it is just the beginning — the worst is yet to come. As a current junior at IBSH, I can testify that school does NOT get easier; teachers become more ruthless with homework, students become more competitive with grades, and parents become more annoyed with sub-par performances. In short, pressures mount like snow in a blizzard, you get inundated.


In response to these future struggles that you are sure to experience to a certain extent, here are a few suggestions.


Firstly, find the passion that motivates you to succeed. Sure, it may be a prestigious university that is your ultimate goal, but finding your niche in school is where one can truly blossom in cutthroat environments. For me, I followed my intuition and eventually found my second home within the realm of debating; it has taken me places I could have never imagined. Secondly, as cliche as it sounds, you NEED to recognize the importance of your school performance and strive to improve. Too many times I’ve met people who turned a blind eye to their deteriorating grades and peers who’ve already given up on their biggest and wildest dreams as a result. Grades matter as colleges and universities alike will take them into consideration when making their admission decisions, which will impact your future.


Enough of these rather disheartening pieces of advice. If you have found your passion and currently have decent marks in school, look towards other forms of entertainment, and learn to have fun! You’ll lose lots of it in the future.


--Aaron in Hsinchu, Taiwan 




“Start early, don’t wait until the last minute.”


Literally every teacher tells you this and as I got older, I valued this reminder more.


Now, I think I am credible enough to give this piece of advice to my underclassmen at school.


As the cliche goes, life only gets harder. Sadly, this is true. I remember back in the day, when I was just a freshman, testing the waters of high school. With no APs to worry about or any standardized tests, I worked hard to get everything done ahead of time since my coursework was not that rigorous.


No, who am I kidding.


Admittedly, I slacked and the results were not pretty. Over the next few years, I luckily managed to pick myself up a bit but there was only so much I could do to save my atrocious freshman grades. The importance in frontloading is well… important. In elections, candidates try to put themselves out there as early as possible and political parties hold primaries earlier so their selected candidate could have more time to establish him or herself before facing off on the national stage. I know this is true because I paid attention and worked hard in my AP Government class.


Jokes aside, whether it is a project, essay, or even an application, it is important to start things early. In freshman year, one should work to bring up their grades and confidence (very important!) in order to arm themselves for the rest of high school. Sophomores are just getting there. The adjustment from 9th to 10th grade is hard since AP tests and standardized test preparation classes come into play, lessening time for extracurriculars and study. Junior year gets tougher as one needs to not only improve or at least maintain their grades, there are SATs or ACTs to be taken and more APs to study for. Oh yeah, start looking for colleges.


The summer before senior year is crucial. Try to write as many college application supplements as possible as time to do this only decreases when the school year starts. I saw many of my peers struggling to finish their applications and schoolwork while balancing plenty of AP or honors classes. I managed to finish 9 schools for Early Action and started to get acceptances (and rejections) in December, taking off the pressure of getting into college. Since I was done applying for colleges by the end of November, I was able to work on my grades and improve my stock for my Regular Decision schools.


Whether it is an assignment or your college resume, remember to frontload as that will take a lot of weight off your shoulders in the future. There is no worse feeling than consecutive all-nighters, only getting 4 hours of sleep before school. It’s hell and please don’t do it.



-- Justin in Hsinchu, Taiwan




Around Christmas 2018, my son David posted this testimonial/persuasion piece. It is lengthy, and he had mulled and revised it in his mind for more than a month. Despite its length, it has been read much, as seen by the large number of likes and comments it scored on both facebook and instagram.




I have called myself a Christian all my life yet I was often arrogant, selfish, carnal, materialistic, impatient, and dissatisfied. I have cared too much about my image and what others think of me and not enough about what God thinks of me. I’ve never been content with what I’ve had. Despite these inner conflicts and issues that generated deep turbulence within me, I hid it well on the outside, only showing people the side of me I wanted them to see. Over the past few years, I’ve allowed myself to place entirely too much trust in my accomplishments and my relationships with others for my happiness. They always brought me some sense of satisfaction, but the effects were always temporary. (No I’m not bashing human relationships; on the contrary, I believe the right ones are absolutely essential to have in life!!)


However, in my own life, some of them produced the ugly characteristics I mentioned above. Lately, God has shown me what happens when I put all my trust in the wrong things. This semester, through what I would describe as a series of unfortunate events, He has thrown my world upside down and shaken everything I was confident in, showing me how utterly fragile and miserable life can be when you put the entire value of your existence on things that have no permanence. This was my first semester at UVA and I felt completely out of place. Everyone around me seemed so perfect at everything and I thought perhaps the Office of Admissions had made a mistake on me. I got off to an extremely shaky start in school; I actually failed my first 2 tests! That butchered my confidence. I kept on hoping things would improve and they did but then last month, something else unrelated to school happened and it hurt me deep. Then I made the mistake of trying to mend that broken situation, which, as many of you know, usually makes things worse. Mentally incapacitated, I wanted nothing more than to drop out of school (oops)...but that wouldn’t have produced anything beneficial in my life and instead, would have only sufficed as mere instant gratification. So I stayed and tried to focus on my studies although my mind was on other things, and what seemed to be my greatest nightmare has actually turned into the greatest life lesson I’ve ever been taught.


I could go on and on about everything I’ve learned, but I won’t bore you with all that and will keep this post as concise as possible. But I digress... So life was looking pretty bleak from my point of view. I was completely stunned at how quickly life tanked for me as soon as I came up to Charlottesville, and I came to the end of myself for the first time ever. I realized that if I was going to make it to the end of the semester, I needed God, because I could no longer handle things myself. He took me in at my very worst form. I was empty inside, sad, and broken, but I think that’s the point. God doesn’t need us to achieve anything in order to come to Him; we don’t need to have it all together. For people like me, I think it requires a catastrophe that completely breaks the spirit, because prideful people don’t think they need anyone else until things are beyond their control. Up until these last few months, life had been easy and I was comfortable, so I had no reason to change. God had to break me in order to make me; wound me in order to heal me, and He did just that. By shattering my world and this fallible paradox I had created, God opened my eyes and allowed me to see who I truly was for the first time. This was not pretty at all; I realized that I was a misguided, stubborn, insincere, foolish, and worst of all self absorbed young man who had been living for himself his whole life. Arrogance created in me this entitlement mentality, where the whole world owed me something and I deserved only the good that life or people had to offer. Arrogance is the reason I was so blindsided by life’s sudden ferocity. I now realize that arrogance is the worst possible character trait you can have, because it either blinds you to your own flaws or develops a complacency in you to not desire to fix them. I had the latter mindset; I was aware that I had issues, but I fixated myself on my “good traits” and ignored the bad ones, deceiving myself into thinking I was a good person. I was a brownie with a little bit of poop in it, which actually made me a disgusting brownie that nobody wants to have on their little glass dessert plate and accompany their vanilla bean ice cream after a delicious meal. Upon this realization came an understanding that there was absolutely no way that I could fix myself through my own willpower. I’ve tried before and failed, of course. So this time, all I did was press into God, pray, ask many people for prayers (thank you all), read His Word (a lot!!!), get advice from wise people, and possess a true heart of repentance. God has done all the rest in my life. He has and still is clearing out the junk; all I had to do was admit that I was insufficient, stop living for myself, and go to Him for all my answers. Still, that’s not to say this was an easy process; the result is beginning to, and will be great, but the process hurt. God forcibly removed some poisonous people out of my life whose toxicity I was blind to and who I allowed to stay in my life longer than they deserved because I was comfortable and stupid. This hurt the worst, as I was really attached to them, but I see now that it was a huge blessing for me.


In addition, I had to give up some things I enjoyed, break certain thought patterns I had developed over the years (so in essence, a complete reframing of the mind), and admit my faults and shortcomings to God. Going through what I’ve gone through last month is something I have no desire to experience ever again; it was painful and mentally taxing. Also life stops for no one, and as I was working through these personal problems I was still being bombarded with academic responsibilities, which somehow didn’t help take my mind off anything, but instead, exacerbated everything. By a miracle, God has gotten me through the worst of it. It was an absolute grind though, and I often doubted I could even make it to the end of the semester. God has carried me through the toughest days and nights. He has revealed new truths to me. He has and still is bringing immense healing to my heart and mind. His unconditional love for me is clearer than it has ever been. He brought the right people into my life when I needed them the most, and I want to thank those of you who have been there for me and lifted me up in my times of hurt; I am incredibly grateful for each one of you. Also, I want to say I am thankful that these tribulations occurred now while I am still young versus me going through the rest of life blind and naive; never learning the valuable lessons I’ve learned of late. Looking back, I can already see that every “bad thing” that transpired over this past semester, whether related to school or not, was absolutely necessary and crucial to my development as an individual, and I am thankful for all of it. I wouldn’t say I’m totally fine now, but things are finally beginning to fall into the right place. I haven’t felt like myself in a long time, but is that really a bad thing considering who I was? I am not living a lie anymore. However, I know God has not yet completed this process of refinement. I’ll never be perfect and I still have a lot to learn. But every journey must start somewhere, and I’m just excited to have finally found the right path. For the first time, I’ve surrendered every single thing in my life to Him; my heart, my thoughts, my future, my career, my all. It’s easily the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and some may call it weak, yet I know this was the best and most necessary decision I have ever made. I’ve been trying my whole life to control my future and that is an exhausting and futile task. We think we have an idea of how the future will go but this thing called life occasionally has other plans; however, we cannot let the unexpected derail us. The truth is that my happiness has always been circumstantial, and God has recently shown me how perilous that is, as circumstances often change. Putting my happiness and worth in the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, is the only way to be okay regardless of what happens around me.


If you are still reading, you’re incredible and I would like to wrap this up by saying that there is hope for everyone. That’s the whole point of this post. The point is not to brag on who I am now, because none of what has occurred in me was by my strength or will. In addition, these events that have shaped me were not by my choice, and had they been by my choice, they most likely would not have happened. The point is that I hope this can be an encouragement to anyone out there struggling. Also, learn from me as how not to do life. Don’t be arrogant. Don’t be blind. Don’t be stubborn. Don’t learn things the hard way, like I did, but if you end up doing so, fear not. If God can use the worst circumstances for my good, He can do the same for you. If God can soften the heart and work in someone as obstinate as me, He can work in anybody! God heals. Time heals. It might hurt now, but healing is inevitable if you allow it to happen. What makes you confident? Let it be that you are a unique and precious creation of God. I had my confidence and identity in the wrong things, and as a result, this semester I really struggled with insecurity and who I was. Don’t make that mistake. It’s so easy as humans to compare; we want to compare everything, but doing that will only make you either too proud or too insecure; both bring problems. Drake said: a wise man once said nothing at all. He’s right. My father is also a wise man and he said, “Comfort and growth are on opposite ends of the spectrum.” If you’re uncomfortable now, embrace it because you are growing. Be thankful for the tough times; they are trying to teach you something so pay attention and learn as much as you possibly can from them. Tough times suck but they are incredibly valuable. You learn more about yourself and about other people in hard times than you ever will when life is peachy. Thankfulness in general is a key to getting out of rough patches and is a necessary mentality to have in life always; good times or bad. Realizing that there’s always someone out there who is going through more than you can help put things into perspective. Truth is, you always have something to be thankful for so focus on those things instead of what you don’t have. Don’t collapse when life seems out to get you. True strength is measured when everything is against you. When life is easy, nobody is a quitter. Don’t be bitter; if someone wrongs you, do not allow their actions to hurt you more than they already have. Bitterness will just make you and only you hurt deeper and longer, and even if you have every reason to be upset, it is useless to hang on to what happened. Be honest always; the truth always comes out eventually and the lies you tell now will come back and smack you later. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and push you to become a better person. That doesn’t necessarily mean the people who compliment you all the time and make you feel all marvelous inside; you’ll come across plenty of those people in life. (Not saying all of those people are bad either, just want to clarify. Some are just beautiful streams of positivity and that’s wonderful.) Instead, it’s the honest ones who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth (because it really do be like that sometimes), whether you want to hear it or not, who should be treasured above anyone else. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Make sure the people around you are sharpening you; not holding you back. Whether you like it or not, you become like those you hang out with. If that thought doesn’t sit well with you, then find better people. Push yourself! Don’t settle. Don’t heavily depend on other people for your success. People won’t always be there to cheer you on and that’s okay; sometimes you have to do things on your own. Use your past mistakes to help you grow; don’t let them hold you back. Your mistakes don’t define you so don’t let them. However, don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again either, cuz then you’re just stupid, like me. Also, reach out if you’re struggling! People don’t know you are until you say something, and it’s a wonderful thing to seek guidance. After all that has happened I feel much more sensitive to the fact that people deal with their own problems every day and may just be experts at hiding them. You all who are out there living your best life should reach out and be an encouragement and a light to someone, because you might just make their day! Be there for others; the greatest gift you can give someone who is hurting is a listening ear, prayer, and your support. Finally, I leave you all with this, and it is so cliché, but so very true. It’s also easier to say, but harder to do: Just trust God. He knows what He’s doing and He has you in His hands. He had to empty me to fill me, but His plans are far greater than anything my short-sighted little mind can imagine. His timing is perfect, and He can do in anyone’s life the wonderful things He is doing in mine.





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Friday, 04 January 2019 18:49

Chinese New Year Intensive Classes

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Learning a new language takes a lot of time and practice, and students are busy. We understand. Over the years, many students ask for extra English help over the winter or summer holiday, when schools are closed and students have more time.

This Chinese New Year (2019), we welcome the Year of the Pig with special 1 on 1 classes just for you! 



1 on 1 Classes  

Dates & Times: (flexible) Between January 28 - February 8, 2019, at 8:00-8:50 pm or 9:00-9:50 pm    Screenshot 1


Goals: To help the student improve in whatever areas he or she desires to grow: writing, reading, conversation, listening, pronunciation, test preparation, etc. 


Teacher: a Team Teacher 

Maximum number of students: 1 student per class 

Levels that can join: Any 


8 Class sessions (best value!)    RMB 3,260    or     NT$ 14,400


6 Class sessions                         RMB 2,650     or     NT$ 11,700


4 Class sessions                         RMB 1,900     or      NT$ 8,400




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Tuesday, 06 November 2018 22:54

Describe a Person

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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:

Physical appearance

Sound of voice

What others think

Portrayals and portraits

Character qualities

Challenges and difficulties




Expressions of face and body

Mind/intellectual capabilities

Talents and abilities


Religious beliefs

Clothing, dress

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.  

Friday, 12 October 2018 15:58

Creepy Story!

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Photo: Jack Gittoes


Recently a teacher on the 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 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.”



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Tuesday, 09 October 2018 19:20

University of Virginia: David's Essays

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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. 

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