How to Develop Good Reading Skills in the Internet Age

By Samantha Levine. 

It’s no laughing matter how dependent our society is on the use of technology and the Internet. The great thing about it is that we are exposed to so much information, but this can also be very overwhelming. As we learn to read from screen to screen (laptop, cell phone, tablet), we have readjusted the way we receive information, which is causing our attention span to be much shorter.

When skimming through an article, you may not realize how much information you can actually miss. A great tip to increase retention is to read the headlines of a topic and ask questions about what you think it will be about. While reading, see if you are able to answer your own questions, and then make note of it. This helps you to read quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

man on iphone

Can you read on this tiny little screen?

I’ve noticed that the faster I receive information from the web, the faster I move on to read something else; and more often than not, I’m distracted by an ad to the right and left of the story I’m reading. However, thanks to my very awesome grade school teachers who taught me to love reading, I learned a few tips that can keep you on track:

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Six Reasons Why Art is Essential to Education (Guest Post)

Vera Marie Reed is a writer who has written several articles for education and career sites. When she is not spending her day reading a new book or writing, she loves getting her creative juices flowing by trying new artistic hobbies such as photography or painting.

Recently, education has been subjected to government budget cuts.  A smaller budget leads to huge cuts within the schools, including teacher’s supplies, extra curricular activities, and classes not deemed essential. Unfortunately that means that many schools often opt to cut art education, including music, dance, and art classes. Although many school officials may not see art classes as an important part of a well-rounded education, students get significant benefits from all forms of art.

education 1

1. Students Develop New Skills

When a student wants to learn photography, painting, sculpting, or other types of art, they aren’t just learning the skills of that particular talent. Students also learn to think creatively, which is a skill that can transfer to other subjects. They become more descriptive and imaginative when writing essays. Art students also develop critical thinking skills which are important while learning math and science.

2. Motivation for Students

Getting kids to stay in school has always been an issue. They don’t feel motivated to go to class and learn things they don’t enjoy or think will be applicable to the real world. That’s why it’s important to allow them to explore subjects that are not only fun, but inclusive to all types of personalities. Students who are involved in art classes and extra curricular activities often find more drive for going to school every day.

3. Students Get An Outlet for Self-Expression

To say that young people, from elementary to high school students, have a lot of emotion would be an understatement. So many students feel the stress of needing to be successful at school, along with the pressures of fitting in with their peers. Without a proper outlet to express these feelings, they can end up feeling negatively about themselves and their school experience. However, art classes and extracurricular activities are the perfect outlet for self-expression.

4. Students Improve Test Scores

Those who are involved in art classes and extracurricular activities have been known to have higher test scores, better school attendance, and more recognition for academic achievement. According to a 2010 study, students who took art and music classes were much more likely to score high on the math, writing, and reading sections of the SAT. The better performances on the various subjects also correlated with these students attending highly rated universities.

5. Preschoolers Develop Important Skills

Preschool-aged students are essentially still learning their most basic functions. Students who take part in art and music activities from a very young age can develop spatial perception, critical thinking skills, and better communication. These are all skills that are vital for the growth of any young person. Just by allowing them time and materials for art every few days, you can ensure that these young students are gaining the skills they need in school and life.

6. Promotes Independence in Students

Art is one of the subjects that require the most independence. Through the self-expression and creativity involved in artistic endeavors, people learn to be more independent minded. There’s no homework to copy or test answers to memorize. Therefore, every piece of art they create is completely original and part of their individual growth.

Art in education is floundering due to budget cuts. However, the skills and emotional growth acquired through art is irreplaceable. For many students, the lack of art in school may mean cutting their path to success.


Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

 

Eight Rules for Writing a Great Paper (Guest Post)

Lois Weldon is a professional writer at the dissertation writing service Uk.bestdissertation.com.  She is an ESL teacher.  Her hobbies are decoupage and writing poetry.  She loves Marvel comics and homeschooling her 7-year-old son.

If you’re a college student, you’ve probably completed hundreds of writing assignments and become intimately familiar with the writing process.  But writing does not stop with graduation – you’ll have plenty of opportunities to write even after you finish school. No matter how much writing you’ve done, it never hurts to learn a few tips and tricks to facilitate the writing process.

Read these tips before writing that paper.  Photo by gudmd.haralds via Flickr.

Does this look familiar to you? Read these tips before writing that paper! Photo by gudmd.haralds via Flickr.

  1. Make an outline. The importance of having an outline can never be overstated. An outline is a blueprint for your assignment. Developing an outline will help you organize your ideas, conduct better research, and estimate the word count for every section.
  2. Take note of the structure. When doing your writing assignment, make sure it has an introduction, a body and a conclusion. An introduction should introduce your topic and provide background information, while the body of the paper should contain the supporting evidence for your paper. Lastly, provide a conclusion by summarizing your argument and putting it in context. Remember: the conclusion is your last chance to impress your readers, so make it memorable!
  3. Ensure continuity of ideas. Imagine if your paper is all over the place – that is, you discuss a certain topic in one paragraph, then introduce an entirely unrelated topic in the next paragraph. Your reader will not be pleased. It’s important to maintain continuity so your readers will be able to follow your train of thought.
  4. Keep it objective. When it comes to academic writing, what really count are facts and relevant information. While your opinion does matter, refrain from incorporating it on your writing assignment. It is imperative that you present a clear and unbiased picture based on evidence and expert studies. Unless your opinion is being asked, don’t include it in the paper.
  5. Use bullets and numbering. In some academic writing, bullet points are preferable to long-winded paragraphs. This will allow you to discuss each point in an efficient and organized manner. Plus, it’s easier on the eyes.
  6. Take note of the word count. When writing your assignment, keep in mind that too few words means you won’t be able to express your ideas effectively, while too many words can lead to superfluity or duplication of ideas. If you are given a required word count, stick to it! In your outline, indicate how many words you should allot per section.
  7. Use examples. In a writing assignment, you must show that you understand the resources and materials you gathered from research. Use concrete examples to apply what you’ve learned and support your arguments.  You should also make use of tables, statistics and figures in your paper.
  8. Cite your sources. When it comes to academic writing, citing your sources, especially when you’re borrowing an idea or theory, is a must. Plagiarism is a form of stealing and you don’t want to compromise your future just because you did not acknowledge someone else’s work.

For more tips on how to write a paper and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Summer 2013 Update

A lot of my articles have been popping up on the internet recently, and I wanted to share some of them here.

1. What Motivates Top Students? Getting Into the Heads of High Achievers, HackCollege.
What I learned about academic success, from my own experience as well as from my survey of forty-five of the best students in the country.

2. Struggling to be heard: What it’s like to be a student who stutters, USA Today College.
An account of my struggle with stuttering in high school and college, how I overcame it, and what to do if you stutter or meet a person who stutters.

3. I Got the Highest GPA at an Ivy, But Not Because I’m Smarter Than Everyone Else, Your Teen for Parents.
Some surprising facts about top students and how they got that way.

My book, The Secrets of Top Students, has also received some great reviews lately. I was especially thrilled with this one from the School Library Journal: “…the book is a must-read for students in middle school and up, teachers, parents, and guidance counselors as 21st-century students learn to excel in the new educational landscape in which they find themselves.”

On a completely separate note, a funny article I wrote a few months ago, The Top 6 Reasons You Should Date a Pilot, has been Liked over 14,000 times on Facebook!

How Stuyvesant Influenced My Writing Career

On Sunday, June 23, I was honored to participate in the “Writer’s Block” event at the Stuyvesant High School all-class reunion, along with eight other writers who are Stuy alumni: Richard (R.B.) Bernstein, Robert Timberg, Joe Dorinson, Peter Wortsman, Eugene Schlanger, Rebecca Pawel, Richard Herschlag, and Becky Cooper. They asked us to talk about things like the road to publication and the impact Stuyvesant has had on our writing careers. I thought I would include the questions that were asked, along with a summary of my answers.

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

(1) Tell us a little bit about your work (most recent or favorite) and what inspired you to write the book? Include why you choose the genre you did.

I just came out with my first book, The Secrets of Top Students. It’s an advice book for high school and college students on how to succeed in school. I was inspired to write this book because I felt like I had so much to share with other students. I’ve been a top student all my life – I was valedictorian of Stuy, class of ’99. I graduated from Columbia with the highest GPA in my class. I also have experience in a wide range of subjects – I have a B.A. in History, an M.A. in Art History, and a B.S. in Computer Science. Over the years I developed lots of techniques that helped me excel in school, and it just felt natural for me to write this book and share those techniques.

(2) What is your writing practice?

I just write whenever I can. My mind is usually the clearest in the morning, so I’m most productive then. I usually write at home, but I write outside whenever I can. I’m a pretty slow writer. I write a few pages, and then I spend a lot of time editing. Some days I’m much more productive than others.

(3) Describe the road to publication, from idea to release.

This idea started when I was getting my last degree, a B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia. I started writing down all the techniques that I was using, and all the things that my classmates were doing wrong – things like cramming for tests, not taking enough notes, not managing their time well, not asking for clarification, etc. After I graduated I wrote the first three chapters, did a lot of research, and surveyed forty-five other top students to get their insight into what it takes to be a top student. These people are Rhodes scholars, Goldwater scholars, Fulbright recipients, students at top law and medical schools, and even a National Spelling Bee winner. A few months later I got an agent, Coleen O’Shea, and she helped me find a publisher/ get a book contract. It then took me a few more months to finish the book, which came out in May. The whole process, from idea to publication, took 4 or 5 years – but the idea was gestating for a long time.

(4) Describe how you went about finding an agent and how you went about finding a publisher or decided to self-publish?

I got a book called The Writer’s Market, which has a great listing of literary agents. I sent query letters to agents who accepted non-fiction books, and luckily I got one! She helped me work on my platform and create a book proposal. Then she submitted my proposal to a couple of publishers. I had phone interviews with a few of them, and Sourcebooks gave me a contract! I was really happy because Sourcebooks has a great education division. They publish books like The Fiske Guide to Colleges and Gruber’s Test Prep series.

(5) Was there a Stuyvesant Muse? Describe whether attending Stuyvesant High School had an impact on your writing endeavors.

I wouldn’t be here today without Stuyvesant. I learned how to be a great student here. Stuyvesant has such high standards, and the student body is so talented, that I had to develop powerful techniques to succeed. I’m sure many of you will agree with me that college was relatively easy compared to Stuyvesant. And of course, being valedictorian of Stuyvesant has a certain cachet that helped me get a book contract in the first place.

I’m not sure if I would use the term muse, but I was really inspired by Dr. Nikol, who taught AP European History. He was a great story-teller and made history come alive, as they say. I remember I did pretty poorly on the first few tests in his class because they were so detailed, and I had to readjust/ refine my study habits. He was one of the most demanding teachers I had here, but I learned so much. He was a big part of the reason why I specialized in medieval European History at Columbia. I still have a love of history, and that’s why I’m writing a historical fiction novel set on Crete during the time of the Minoans, which is currently a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Contest.