Like many Canadians, my family enjoys maple syrup on a variety of foods: pancakes, French toast, porridge, and even the occasional stir-fry.
Recently, I learned it takes 40 gallons of tree sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. This is because the excess water has to be boiled away to get the rich, woodsy flavor so many love.
Like syrup, writing can be condensed to its sweetest, most powerful elements. Look at the following examples to see what I mean:
“In my view, life is appearing to me like it is too short to always be spent in nursing a sense of animosity or registering a long list of wrongs that have been done.”
Like unrefined sap, this example contains excess volume, detracting from the power of the sentence. Here are some excessive elements I see:
1. Lengthy verbs “is appearing” vs. “appears”
2. Modifiers that add little meaning “always” and “a long list of”
3. An unnecessary opening “In my view”
Look at what happens when the excess is removed:
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
The final result is striking and powerful, and I can’t claim credit for it. It was written by Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre.
The great writers, like Charlotte Bronte, craft memorable sentences because they boil down words to their most powerful elements. Concise writing draws and sustains a reader’s attention.
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One of the biggest misconceptions about idioms is that they are arbitrary. In fact, idioms DO follow some general tendencies and becoming aware of these can help you learn idiomatic language more confidently. For your benefit, I have detailed these tendencies in an easy to understand infographic.
While understanding each of these tendencies will not instantly provide you with definitions when you come across a difficult to understand idiom, they can help you to identify, analyze, and use idioms more effectively.
Are you interested in learning specific idioms? Check out my A to Z idiom list.
"Said" is an important but overused word in dialogue. Use some of the following words in your writing to produce more creative and precise sentences. Each word's appropriateness will depend on the context it is needed for. This list is an excellent starting place for your writing; however, words will vary in their formality and therefore their appropriateness for respective genres. I suggest only using words that you understand. This will help you avoid using words with connotations that may not fit the genre or tone of your writing.
There are numerous ways assessments can be used. In an ESL context these include assessments for administrative, instructional, and research purposes. Examples of assessment for administrative purposes include: (1) assessing for entrance into a program or institution, such as using “gate-keeping tests” like the TOEFL, IELTS, or CAEL to determine acceptance into academic programs in English speaking universities; (2) placement, such as deciding what level of English language instruction is appropriate for a student; (3) exemption, for instance, to determine if a student can waive required instruction; (4) certification or achievement, when a test is used to determine whether or not a learner has met the requirements for a given level or the completion of a program/course; (5) promotion, such as when test scores are used to determine whether an employee will advance in a given job setting; (6) accountability, for instance, in using assessments to ensure quality in teaching.
There is some overlap between evaluation used for administrative and instructional purposes, but the latter is typically smaller in scale. A common need in classroom settings is diagnosis of a student’s language ability. Diagnostic tests look at the strengths and weaknesses in learners to understand their specific language needs within a learning context (Knoch, 2009, p. 296). Instructional assessments are also used as measurements of progress. These include achievement and proficiency tests to direct teaching according to students’ needs. Similarly, tests can be used to provide feedback to test takers in order to increase their awareness of language elements and promote improvement of their comprehension and production skills. Assessments are also commonly used for the evaluation of instruction. Proficiency tests administered at the end of a course, for instance, can be used to determine the effectiveness of the teaching style and focus, curriculum, textbook, and among other components, method of instruction.
The final purpose for which ESL assessments are commonly used involves research. Scholars may create novel evaluations (or use existing tests) in order to better understand research questions. Sometimes these take the form of small-scale qualitative studies that take an in-depth look at assessments and their interactions, while other times these involve large-scale quantitative studies that aim at collecting a broader scope of data. Areas of inquiry for researchers have included questions surrounding an assessments’ societal, institutional, or educational impact; the usefulness of a given test; or test takers’ perceptions of assessment activities.
References and further reading
Bachman, Lyle & Palmer, Adrian. (2010). Language assessment in practice. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bachman, Lyle & Palmer, Adrian. (1996). Language testing in practice: Designing and developing useful language tests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Knoch, Ute. (2009). Diagnostic assessment of writing: A comparison of two rating scales. Language Testing, 26(2), 275-304.
What are subjects?
Every sentence needs a subject, verb, and complete thought. A subject is a noun that does an action in a sentence. In the statement “My cat complains too often,” my cat is the subject because it is the one that complains. My cat is doing the action.
What are linking verbs?
Some verbs, however, are not actions. These include verbs like am, appear, are, being, been, become, and be, among others. These are called linking verbs because they connect the subject to additional information: “My cat is a cantankerous creature.” Here, the verb “is” connects “My cat” to the adjective “cantankerous,” which means that she is argumentative and bad-tempered.
Complete and Simple Subjects
The single noun that “does a verb” is referred to as the simple subject. The simple subject and all of its modifiers is called the complete subject. In the following sentence, the complete subject is underlined and the simple subject is colored blue: The hunched-over, cantankerous cat looked at me with wide-eyed disdain. We know “cat” is the subject because it is doing the verb. Who looked? The cat looked. “The,” “hunched-over,” and “cantankerous” are part of the complete subject, because they are modifying “cat.”
Subjects and verbs need to agree in number. This means that if a plural subject is used it needs to be matched to a plural verb form, and if a singular subject is used it needs to be matched to a singular verb form. Not all verbs change their form. In fact, of the twelve verb forms in table 1 below, only the six in red boxes change depending on their subject.
Note one correction below for the present simple. It should read, "Cantankerous kittens meow."
Idioms are "colorful expressions". Their definition is different than what they appear to mean. Using a few idioms in your everyday speech and informal writing can help you sound natural. Idioms are informal and are not common in most types of academic writing.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
A bitter pill (to swallow)
A blessing in disguise
A chip on your shoulder
A dime a dozen
A doubting Thomas
A drop in the bucket
A hot potato
A leopard can't change its spots
A little bird told me
A penny saved is a dollar earned
A picture paints a thousand words
A stitch in time saves nine
A taste of your own medicine
Ace in the hole
Actions speak louder than words
Actions Speak louder than words
Add fuel to the fire
Add insult to injury
After the storm blew over
Against the clock
All bark and no bite
All Greek to me
All in the same boat
An arm and a leg
An axe to grind
Apple of my eye
As all get up
At the drop of a hat
Okay, so you have to write a paper using APA and you either haven't bought the manual or it's collecting dust on your bookshelf. Now what?
Don't panic. Below are some handy resources to get you started and keep you on track.
You’ll remember APA conventions best when you start putting them to practice. I recommend running through some tutorials to practice the basics of formatting, in-text citations, and referencing. Be careful about the information you use. As with grammar, there is a lot of misinformation on the web when it comes to APA.
Both "to rise" and "to raise" mean to move upward. The biggest difference between "to raise" and "to rise" is that "raise" is a transitive verb while "rise" is intransitive. In other words, "raise" needs a direct object but rise does not.
1. Emotional Management
One of the greatest challenges to academic success relates to learners’ emotions. This is true because so much of effective learning is connected to how emotions are managed. Academic persistence, motivation, and effort are all vital to effective learning and directly linked to emotional management.
2. Academic Anxiety
Anxiety is one emotion that can wreak havoc on committed students. A meta-analysis, for instance, looked at 126 studies involving 36,000 learners and found the more likely someone was to worry, the worse their academic performance would be. This was true when researchers looked at learners’ GPA, test grades, and other indicators. In some extreme cases, anxiety lead to panic attacks that were both detrimental to learner well-being and academic success.
3. Applying Mindfulness to School
So, if emotional management is so important for learners, what can they do to be both happier and more successful in their studies? One suggestion comes from Stanford Neurosurgeon James Doty who promotes mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the art and practice of bringing attention to the present moment. An exercise might involve closing your eyes, focusing on the sensation of breathing for ten to fifteen minutes, and bringing attention back to the sensation of breath when distracting thoughts enter your mind. Mindfulness is like a workout for your brain that many say leads to higher levels of focus, contentment, and relaxation.
While more research on mindfulness may be needed to garner scientific consensus, initial findings are positive. A 2015 meta-analysis, for instance, indicated that programs teaching mindfulness meditation had a positive effect on a wide variety of mental states, including anxiety. There is also evidence that mindfulness meditation may lead to positive structural changes in the brain in regions like the amygdala, part of the brain that influences anxiety and fear.
5. Learners who Practice
The science is young, but the benefits of mindfulness meditation are extolled by many practitioners. Learners who practice mindfulness meditation may find themselves experiencing levels of focus and contentedness they didn’t think otherwise possible.
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