Revised: How does a good student write?



I was tasked with the assignment to ask 5 people how they think a “good student” writes. I asked this question outright, but each of my roommates needed some type of clarification as to what I wanted for an answer. I tried to assure them that there was no right or wrong answer, I just wanted to see what they said. I think this task is important, especially because of the way we hold ourselves back because of the way we or others label us “good” or “bad” students or writers. Here are my findings:


Sarah was washing the dishes.

“Sarah, describe how a good student writes”.

She responded that it helps to read a lot, and also practice often to get better. Good, strong vocabulary.

“Do you mean things, like, sentence structure?”


“Well, that type of thing, too”.


Maya, Maddie, Colleen

Maddie, Maya, and Colleen were huddled over their homework in a bedroom. I was going to ask them individually, but decided to just open up the question to the group as a whole. Maddie was at a blank, and needed time to think about it. Maya and Colleen both answered that a good student writes in a neat and organized way. Maya originally thought the question was aimed around note-taking. When I asked her, ‘how do you know a good paper when you see one?’ she added that it’s done thoughtful and concisely. Maddie finally responded that a good student will engage the reader in their writing.



Gill was in her room. She said factually, organized, and concise.

“I’m a bad writer, so anything I wouldn’t do.”IMG_2763.JPG

I noticed that everyone was frazzled by this question. I had to clarify or narrow the question (create a constraint, I suppose) for each person to feel comfortable to give me an answer. It seems that everyone used themselves and other students as a focus point for what makes good and bad writing. Gill, a math major, was particularly hard on herself!

I find it interesting that most of the answers have to do with form, and not content. Organized, neat, and concise.

I liked how Sarah answered the question; she told me how good students seem to become good writers. The OGFWT talks a little about this in the Common Misconceptions of Writing Instruction. Is reading and then writing about great literary works a good way to teach writing? My mom always tells me that if I want to write, I need to read first. I can understand how reading good writing by great writers can serve as an example of what to do, ourselves. Not only in form, but also in content.

I think my own answer would be somewhat like Maddie’s: To engage the reader. This is a big part of it. I also believe that a good student will answer the question in their writing, whatever that question may be, asked or not. I think clarity is important, and all my roommates said. A good student writes to answer the question, or maybe prove a point, in the most clear and concise way possible, while engaging the reade


City Year #MakeBetterHappen

As I continue to examine how community writing is supported in urban contexts, I cannot believe I didn’t think to include to City Year. City Year is a program run through AmeriCorps, which gets involved in high-poverty communities to give support in schools. I recently learned about City Year and thought it would be an interesting opportunity to look into post-graduation.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 3.58.46 PM.png

City Year recognizes the problem of a gap between what schools are designed to do and what students actually need. There are many external factors in under-privledged communities that are stopping students from reaching their full potential. While most schools in America are designed to provide extra support to only 15% of students, 50% or more students in these high-poverty communities need that much support, either academically, socially, or emotionally. This makes for HUGE dropout rates.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 4.02.11 PM.png

AmeriCorps members are placed in the classrooms of these schools that are the most at-risk, and provide help to the teachers. They also help create a positive and encouraging atmosphere within the school, as well as lead tutoring sessions and after school activities.

The positive impact is shown through the results: Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 4.05.29 PM.png

I would love to look further into specific methods for improving literacy within these classrooms. This is a perfect example of helping to improve literacy in some very at-risk, high-poverty communities. I am very interested in becoming a City Year member in my future!

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.13.58 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.14.08 PM.png


UK McDonald’s distributed books to millions

Article: UK McDonald’s Are Including Ronald Dahl Books in Happy Meals

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 7.30.17 PM.png

Last year, the National Literacy Trust ran a survey and discovered that 15.4% of children in the UK do not own a book. This is a crazy number. The Literacy Trust also reports that about only half of young people in the UK report to really enjoy reading. These statistics go hand in hand, I’m sure. The Trust decided to team up with McDonald’s to try to change those numbers.

In the fall of 2015, McDonald’s began to include books by Ronald Dahl in Happy Meals instead of a plastic toy. Millions of books were distributed to children, many of whom had never owned a book before. The initiative found Dahl, with popular titles such as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and James and the Giant Peach, a good pick because parents could bond with their children over the books they may have enjoyed as kids.
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 7.30.01 PM.png

Book Vending Machine

Article: Fullterton installs $35,000 book vending machine

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 7.11.48 PM.png

In 2013, the Fullerton Library of Orange County installed a “book vending machine” across the street from their local train station. The goal was to get commuters to grab a book for their commute, and it turned out to be very successful. The machine was the first of its kind in OC, and gave readers over 500 titles to choose from. It is also free for users!

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 7.11.57 PM.png

This connects to the initiative in Brazil, where subway cards were programmed into the back of books in hopes to encourage reading on public transport. This is an interesting way to approach the goal of improving literacy; it is a trend that we are hoping to encourage people to read during these lull periods, such as a commute. I think it is good to emphasize that while it is easy to just sit and scroll through your phone during a time such as this, it is just as convenient to read a book! I sometimes need this reminder, as well 🙂 Taking small moments out of our own busy days to read a book will be extremely rewarding.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 7.12.08 PM.png

Don’t judge a book by its cover


During my semester abroad in France, I would occasionally hang out in the English book store, Book in Bar. Whereas my ability in the dominant French language was average, it felt very comforting to be able to browse titles and back-covers in my own native language.Whereas most of the books were out of college student price-range (and I was used to getting used paperbacks on Amazon Prime), I would still grab une cafe and paw through the titles on display. I noticed one shelf where books seemed to be wrapped in brown paper bags and tied with ribbon, adorned with a few words regarding plot or genre. While I thought this way unique to this book store, I have found out that this has become a trend back in the United States as well!

“Blind Date with a Book” is sweeping libraries and bookstores all over the country.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.12.51 PM.png

Blogger Modern Miss Darcy explains how she also came upon a similar display as I had at her local bookstore in her Blog Post, here:

“While I was paying, I asked the clerk about the brown paper packages. She said they’d only started the week before, and customers and employees were both loving it. Plus, those books were selling”.

She explains how often readers will not choose a book based on an unimpressive visual or description:

“The joy of bookselling is putting great books in the hands of readers, but it’s too easy for readers to be dissuaded from buying a great book because of a lackluster cover, or weak flap copy. Some wonderful books are impossible to describe in any way that doesn’t make them sound terribly boring”.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.12.23 PM.png

Now, with the Blind Date with a Book, readers don’t have an option. It’s FUN! They get to browse the paper bags and see what peaks their interest. In most cases, all books are chosen by librarians or employees at the institution; and they aren’t just classics, but real books that these readers have enjoyed enough to recommend to others.

At Dimmick Memorial Library in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, they have taken up the same display. Library Assistant, Chris Becker, commented that, “People are creatures of habit… A lot of people pick a genre and stick with it. This is their chance to read new things and try new authors…. I think it appeals to our more adventurous readers”. (Times News Article)

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.12.32 PM.png

I think this is a very interesting way to expand literacy for readers. To think that it is so cool that one person could have a whole world opened up to them, and read a type of book they would have never picked for themselves through this idea. I also like that it encourages readers to buy a book because it is fun and is a surprise! I hope to see this at other local bookstores soon…. I’ll have to pick a book up for myself!


The Personal Finance Literacy Bus” target=”_blank”>Video: Personal Finance Literacy Bus

I came across an article about Marsha Barnes from Charlotte, North Carolina who has created a mobile hub for personal finance advice. It’s called the Finance Bar. Marsha has over 10 years of banking experience, and wanted to give direction and guidance to those on their personal finances. She wanted to serve the community and do it in a fashion where she could “help the masses”. Many in her community are unemployed and do not have transportation, making it impossible, or at least very difficult, to get services such as this. So Marsha decided to have create a nontraditional office space; she bought a school bus, and totally redecorated the interior to be comfy and practical. Now, she can go wherever the people need her. She hosts workshops, does individual consulting, and runs seminars, all on many basic financial skills, such as creating a budget and paying down debt. Members can even cheaply sign up for an app to be virtually connected to her services.

I find it very interesting all the ways that people make different types of literacy accessible to many diverse groups of people. This is such a unique and practical example in her community that needs help in this sector. Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 4.32.23 PM.png

Read more from yahoo finance here: Meet the woman who turned a school bus into a mobile financial literacy hub

Books used as Subway passes in Brazil

I recently found out about a program in Brazil called Ticket Books. One of the largest publishers in Brazil, L&PM Editores, has published a number of paperbacks with an RFID card in the back, so that it can be scanned in a turnstile when entering the subway station. Each book had 10 rides, and can be reloaded online. This program was implemented in response to the statistic that Brazilians are only reading an average of two books a year. The publisher hopes to encourage readers! Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 4.07.02 PM.png

There are currently 10 titles being published:

Peanuts, Garfield, Hundred Love Sonnets, The Great Gatsby, The Art of War, Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet, Murder Alley, Chives in Trouble!, and Quintana Pocket.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 4.06.36 PM.png

From the publishers website, here is the purpose of the project. Translated from Portuguese:

People are always running from one side to the other . It’s hard to find time to read . Unless you read on the way. So we created the Ticket Books. A collection of paperback books that come loaded with underground passages. Just touch the ratchet and ready : your input is released at the time . After you finish reading, you can recharge your Ticket Book to gift a friend and encourage reading .

This is a very cool example of literacy sponsorship!

Financial Literacy Central

I was walking through New York City this weekend and walked past a big sign in a store front:

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 9.51.59 PM.png

I have realized how much more aware of literacy programs and the wide range of industries and disciplines that literacy spans across. I looked into it, and found this site through the New York Public Library that offers all type of financial resources for regular people to educate themselves. There is also a listing for classes and events, as well as resources in the physical library.

I think this was a really great resource for New Yorkers and beyond to gain financial literacy.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 9.50.09 PM.png

“What Motivates Volunteers to Serve in a Youth Literacy Program?”

While researching for another blog post, I came across the article “What Motivates Volunteers to Serve in a Youth Literacy Program?”. The link to the article can be found here:

In 2005, a few educators and researchers from Ohio joined forces to see what it is that motivates volunteers to serve in a “one-on-one youth literacy mentoring program,” in a non-formal educational setting. They polled a number of volunteers to see what motivated them.

The article states that the majority of volunteer motivation is based on published works of Atkinson & Birch in 1978. They defined 3 sources of human motivation:

  1. Achievement : desire to perform at a high level
  2. Affiliation : desire for positive relationships
  3. Power : desire to be in control and influence others

In 1998, Clary published work that said volunteerism serves 6 functions for volunteers:

“volunteerism correlates with volunteers’ altruistic values; volunteerism correlates with volunteers’ desire for understanding and new knowledge, it serves a social function in that it involves relationships with others; it may serve a career function in that it provides training and contacts; it may have a protective function by protecting individuals from feelings of guilt from having too much; and volunteerism may have an enhancement function by improving self-esteem”.

These researchers sent out a study to a number of 4-H literacy volunteers. The results found that these dedicated volunteers were most motivated to exercise their humanitarian  and altruistic values. This is a great leap from the previous research that claimed that volunteers are mostly motivated by affiliation to be volunteers. This information is helpful in developing methods of recruitment for programs!


Citation Resources & Tools

As an English major, my friends often come to me with papers to be edited or just general questions about how to approach an essay. In high school, my best friend and I would sit side-by-side as I would generate some ideas for her poetry homework, and she would try to sort out my pre-calculus solutions. I don’t mind doing this for my friends; it’s flattering that they come to me for help because they think I have some type of expertise, and usually I can make helpful contributions.

Recently, however, I received a phone call from my friend Jamie, who is studying to become a dental hygienist at the University of New Haven. Since our childhoods, she has notoriously been great at science, and I’d been the one who excelled in English. I was used to her coming to me for some guidance. I was not prepared for this, however:

“Hey, I’m creating a diet plan for my nutrition class and need to cite using APA format. Can you tell me how to do this?”

I had only ever used MLA format, and had just learned Chicago-style in the previous semester. I was just as prepared to use APA as she was, yet I had more of the tools to research it than she did.

I told her I needed a little time to look into it, but I would get back to her.

I had lost track of my little handheld citation-booklet, which I think would be helpful to get another copy of and bring to appointments when I’m a Writing Center tutor. Instead, I sent her links to Purdue Owl and an online citation creator.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.46.59 PM.png

Purdue Online Writing Labs has been the site that’s been recommended to me since middle school for all of my citation needs. It gives breakdowns in APA, MLA, Chicago, as well as various research tips. For each style of format, there is am “Overview and Workshop” as well as “Formatting and Style Guide”. There are various sections off of each of these, with a plethora of information and examples of how to cite your work. This site is the most helpful thing ever.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.47.10 PM.png

For my own Works Cited pages, I usually use If I am having trouble finding the information to create a citation for an online source, for example, I could put the website into the generator, and it can find for example, the date published or website title which may not be quite jumping out and obvious to me. This helps fill in extra information, or at least give an example of what to base your other citations off of.

Both of these sites are good tools & resources to keep on hand as a tutor, especially as someone who does not remember all the little citation rules off the top of your head!

Real Facebook chat:Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.48.50 PM.png