10 Tips to Excel in Reading and Writing from our High School English Tutors

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10 Tips to Excel in Reading and Writing from our High School English Tutors

Parents and students often seek advice from their tutors on improving their skills and knowledge in different subject areas. Our new series from Teachers on Call's in-person and online tutoring service will focus on tips from our tutors to achieve academic success. Our first blog post delves into high school English, emphasizing literacy skills with reading and writing. We've asked our team of high school English tutors (who are also secondary school English teachers) to share their best tips and tricks for students. Check out our team’s insights to help your child improve and excel with their reading and writing skills today!

Literacy skills are crucial for students throughout their entire academic careers. While parents focus on their children learning basic reading and writing skills in primary grades, it's equally important to work on developing these skills in higher grades. For example, Grade 10 students in Ontario have an EQAO evaluation with the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), which in addition to 4 credits in English is a mandatory graduation requirement. Unfortunately, many students struggle with literacy in higher grades, from reading comprehension to writing essays. That's why our team of experienced in-person and online English tutors, who are also high school teachers, are sharing practical advice to help students succeed. These recommendations have been prepared to ensure every student has the tools they need to succeed in their academic journey.

Reading Tips from our In-person and Online High School English Tutors

Many of our tutors focus on improving reading skills as a route to success in English. Yet, strong reading comprehension is also an asset in other subjects such as math. Here are 5 tips from Teachers on Call’s online and in-person reading tutors to strengthen overall reading skills.

Tip 1: Engage in daily reading.

Students would benefit from 15-30 minutes of daily reading to improve their vocabulary, comprehension, and writing.  

- David, High School English & Social Science Teacher, Toronto, Ontario

Tip 2: Read what you like and read it every day!

The more you can create meaningful connections from text to text, text to world, and text to self, the more you will be able to enhance your critical thinking skills. 

- Ezio, High School Geography & English Teacher, Etobicoke, Ontario

Tip 3: If it's a shorter text, read it more than once.

The first time, read to get a general sense of what's going on. The second time, read to analyse, using whatever framework your teacher has suggested. Most assignments and tests are concerned with the idea of significance. Why does a quotation or passage matter? What does it do to develop some part of the story? Knowing this, you can pay attention to this as you read and take note of key moments in the story.

Chris, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs High School English Teacher, Whitby, Ontario

Tip 4: Develop the "Active Reading" skill.

The best way is to actually put your book down every few chapters and really reflect on what you've just read. Ask yourself questions like: Why is the story happening this way? What do I think will happen next? Why are the characters acting like this? Are they changing? Why did the author make these decisions? Most importantly: if you aren't sure of your own answers, talk to someone else. Sharing your thoughts and opinions, and listening to those of others, might just help you make better connections with the story. 

- Erik, High School History and English teacher, Brooklin, Ontario

Tip 5: Always have a book handy.

When you are given free time, or even 20 minutes before falling asleep, try and read. It will help you out a lot in the long run with your reading comprehension and writing skills. 

- Montana, English Teacher, Kingston, Ontario

We hope these 5 reading tips are helpful whether you have a teenager or a younger child looking to get a head start. If you are looking to find engaging reading options for readers of all ages, we recommend your check out our blog post on the Forest of Reading recreational reading program. There is also an interesting Scholastic article on reading materials that aren’t books!

Writing Tips from our In-person and Online High School English Tutors

Writing skills are fundamental to success, not only in English, but in all subject areas. For example, strong and clear writing skills are needed to compose lab reports in science class. With all this in mind, these 5 tips have been prepared by Teachers on Call’s online and in-person writing tutors.

Tip 6: Go through the entire writing process.

To improve in writing, students are encouraged to go through the writing process: brainstorming, drafting, editing, and revising. Patience is key. Students who spend time developing a writing piece tend to produce the strongest papers. 

- David, High School English & Social Science Teacher, Lawrence Park, Toronto, Ontario

Tip 7: Create statements that interest you.

To be successful when writing a thesis statement, make sure that you are creating a statement that interests you. Having a natural interest in the argument you have developed will make the writing process come from a place of excitement.

- Stephanie, High School English & History Teacher, Ajax- Pickering, Ontario

Tip 8: Make an essay outline in advance.

Never underestimate the power of creating an outline for your essay before writing. Planning is the hardest part, but doing it up front makes the actual writing process smoother. Structuring your writing is the best way to ensure that your great ideas and arguments stand out.  

- Stephanie, English & History Teacher, Ajax-Pickering, Ontario

Tip 9: Use proofreading and editing tools.

Use grammar-checking tools like Grammarly to improve your writing skills. These tools provide real-time feedback on grammar, spelling, and style, helping you enhance your written communication. Don't just click yes to all the suggestions; take the time to review and understand WHY this change is being suggested. Sometimes technology isn't always right. For example, Canadian versus American spelling. Being aware of these differences, as well as why they have suggested the change, will help improve your grammar for the future, as well as for final evaluations, exams, and in class assignments that don't utilize (or limit your ability) to use technology. 

- Lynne, High School English and Geography Teacher, Ottawa, Ontario

Tip 10: Writing an essay is following a recipe.

The recipe rarely changes. Once you get good at the recipe you can play around with it, but you must get good at the basic recipe first. 

- Jennifer, High School English and Indigenous Education Teacher, Kingsway, Toronto, Ontario

You can never go wrong by looking forward.  For further enrichment and suggestions on this topic, here are recommendations from Harvard’s Writing Center: A Brief Guide to Writing the English Paper.  We hope these tips from our online and in-person English tutors are helpful to your teenager!

In our next blog on English tips, we will cover note taking, study skills and exam preparation suggestions.  Look out for it in the coming weeks! In the interim, if you are interested in learning more about how Teachers on Call’s online and in-person tutoring service can help your student, feel free to reach out to our team.

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