Back-to-School Tips from MEK English Tutors
It’s back to school season and students are gearing up for the coming school year. If you’re going into 7th or 8th grade, you may be preparing for the essay section of the BCA or other high school admissions tests. High school students will be building their vocabulary and critical reading skills for challenging English honors or AP classes. Soon-to-be high school seniors will be honing their narrative writing skills for their college applications essays.
Our expert academic counselors and team of passionate MEK teachers are here to help you start your year strong.
Here are top tips from MEK expert English tutors for students of all grades so you can improve your reading comprehension skills, ace your essays, and get top test scores:
Kathy Kim, English Teacher – Grade 4 English
1. Be open-minded to learning!
Different subjects, cultures, and genres are all around us. Having this mindset will allow us to grow and become more well-rounded and creative people.
2. Have a positive attitude in school and at home!
Making strong relationships is always beneficial for everyone’s personal, academic, and professional growth. We need to learn how to support others and be supported.
3. Always put your best effort into everything you do!
Trying to look cool is not cool and making the best use of our time is so important. We must study hard and then give ourselves the time to play even harder afterwards!
Malek Charchour, English Teacher – Grade 5 English
1. Engage with your ideas and perspective.
Pay attention to the points that interest you or stand out to you. These will be key in developing a thesis that engages both you and your reader.
2. Develop your writing voice.
Find your writing voice by exposing yourself to a variety of styles and ideas through reading, writing exercises…etc. Try to develop a personal relationship with writing through journaling or freewriting, and enjoy the freedom in expressing yourself.
3. Ask yourself questions when writing and approaching a text.
Listen to your questions as well as those of your peers and consider what a text might show or suggest about themes, events, the writer/narrator, characters, and the world. Always try to find connections.
4. Focus on developing your ideas and arguments when writing.
The most important step in essay writing is listening to your ideas and expressing them in a way that is detailed and specific. Show your readers how unique and important your perspective is. Tone and grammar will become more important as your writing develops.
5. Always listen to and engage with the questions and ideas of others.
Jose Beltre, English Teacher – Grade 6 & 7 English
1. Read as much as possible.
Reading does not just apply to books. Comics, magazines, sports articles, newspapers, and cookbooks all apply. By exposing yourself to various types of readings, you’ll be exposed to various reading conventions, vocabulary, and literary devices.
2. Annotate the text.
If you’re assigned to read a text, take notes as you read. For some, annotation might be tedious. But reading comprehension and inference skills improve if a student makes a point to highlight things that stand out or are difficult to understand.
3. Have a thesaurus/dictionary handy.
This is good for two reasons:
First, if a student comes across a word that context clues can’t help, then a dictionary will help them understand the word.
Second, by the time a student enters middle school, they have been exposed to tons of vocabulary that will help improve their essay writing. If a student is trying to say something in a different way, they can use a thesaurus as a reference to find a word that they may have forgotten. Thus, they’ll be able to use that word in writing more frequently and more comfortably.
Victoria Murano, English & History Teacher – Grade 8 English
The more you read, the more vocabulary and writing styles you’ll pick up. Reading is like exercise for your brain, and by “exercising” on a regular basis, you’ll be able to tackle the complex pieces of literature you’ll be analyzing in your English classes.
2. Participate in class!
Even if you tend to be shy (like I was in school!), making an effort to participate in class not only helps you come out of your shell, which is important in itself, but also provides you with many benefits. Active participation helps you interact with the material more and thus, you can better understand it.
3. Build a positive rapport with your teacher!
This is in line with participating in class, since this is a good way to show your teacher you care about their class. If you develop a good relationship with your teacher, they will be more willing to help you out with things like recommendation letters in the future.
4. If you need help, don’t be afraid to speak up!
Your teacher is there to help you. Meeting them for office hours or even sending them a quick email will greatly help you grasp any concepts that may be confusing you. Also, just like when you participate in class, asking for help shows your teacher you care and want to get the most out of their class.
Catherine Andreola, English Teacher & College Essay Coach – Grade 9 English
1. Take active responsibility over your education.
Ninth grade is a transitional year between middle school and high school. The next four years will serve to establish much of what you will pursue in the future. As such, it is important to complete your assignments on time and present your best work. Homework is a way for you to reinforce your skills and it will determine your success early on.
2. Establish good relationships with your teachers and classmates.
3. Pursue extracurricular activities.
Don’t be afraid to sign up for clubs or interest groups. You will find great opportunities to interact with other classmates, forge new friendships, and discover hobbies.
4. Above all, remember to also let yourself breathe once in a while.
Don’t stress unnecessarily and make sure to have ample time to learn more about yourself.
Chris Cullen, English Teacher & College Essay Coach – Grade 10 & 11 English
1. Read and write every day.
Do this for yourself, not just for your classes. Yes, you’ll have to read books and write essays for school, but discovering authors independently and finding your own unique writing voice will help you develop a more personal relationship with the written word. This way, you’ll find the very acts of reading and writing less daunting when you’re “forced” to do so.
2. Be an autodidact.
As you progress through high school, independence will be a recurring theme. So why not take ownership over what you learn? Whether it’s learning a foreign language, a musical instrument, or a new cooking skill, see where your curiosities take you and immerse yourself in the unknown. Those variegated aspects of your personality will eventually reveal themselves in the classroom and beyond.
3. Stay true to your passions.
It’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of homework, extracurriculars, and other everyday responsibilities. Still, it’s important to not lose sight of yourself and what makes you tick. So manage your time accordingly and do those things that make you smile.
Rachel Erwin, Director of Exam Prep English – AP English Literature / Language
1. Try to get the class reading list in advance.
If you have the reading list, you can not only get a jump start on the reading, but also see where you can supplement some other works that you will read independently. The more you read these types of texts throughout the year, the easier they will be able to deal with on the official test and the better you will do in the class itself.
2. Start looking into specific vocabulary you will need, especially for AP English Language.
There are a lot of rhetorical terms you should become familiar with. The earlier you start learning these, the better.
3. Form a good relationship with your teacher from day one.
AP Lit and Lang are not easy classes or tests, and you want to be very clear with your teacher what will be expected of you, especially in terms of essay writing.
Do any of these tutors resonate with you? Fall tutoring registration is open now!
Our Tutoring Programs offer one-on-one support to students looking to reach their academic or admissions goals. Expert instructors create individualized plans based on your school course materials, timelines for achievement, and milestones for success. And with School Support Tutoring, Academic Enrichment, and Private Test Prep, MEK has solutions to fit the needs of every student.
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