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How to Write a Novel in Just One Year

How to Write a Novel

How to Write a Novel

The first of the year can be a disheartening time for writers.

The zeal brought on by ambitious resolutions has worn off, and, with each passing day that you don’t write, the sting of failure grows less acute as you sink back into your regular, creativity-free routine.

You don’t have to settle for failure. If you didn’t follow through on your writing resolutions, perhaps you simply need a new approach.

For all you aspiring authors out there, sticking to a writing schedule in the new year can help you achieve your goal to start (and even finish) that book you’ve been planning to write.

Maybe you’re the kind of author who experiences sudden bursts of inspiration, or maybe you’ve had an idea percolating for a while. Whether you’re starting from scratch or dusting off a rough draft, writing a book is hard work that requires dedication from start to finish.

Researching, writing, revising, editing, and proofreading your manuscript may sound like a daunting task, but harnessing the power of a writing schedule can help you create and achieve attainable writing goals, whether you’re starting January 1st or right now.

Prioritize Your Writing

The best way to incorporate writing into your daily schedule is to find out when you do your best writing, when you’re free to write, and how to keep yourself motivated. It’s also important to have a dedicated work environment to stay on task using methods that allow your creative juices to flow.

Every individual author has a different writing process, and understanding yours will help you write efficiently. Be sure to consider the following:

  • Time of Day: Are you a night owl who finds your sweet spot around 2 a.m.? Or do you function best early in the morning, before the kids wake up? Regardless of when you’re most loquacious, try writing at a consistent time of day. This will strengthen your writing routine.
  • Location: Do you work best in a quiet room, free of distractions? Or do you like the bustle of a coffee shop or music playing softly in the background to help you focus? Finding a compatible writing environment is essential for many authors to enhance their productivity.
  • Writing Tools: Do you type, write in cursive, or print in block letters? For some, ideas might flow more easily from rapid strokes on a keyboard than from a pad and pencil, while others prefer the feeling of a pen against paper to really get their creative juices flowing. Even famous writers use unconventional means of writing to meet their deadlines.
  • Motivation: While writing, do you respond better to positive or negative reinforcement? That is, do you stay motivated by rewarding yourself (e.g., with breaks, snacks, activities, or cute pictures of kittens) or by working under pressure? Motivating yourself with rewards or stressors can help give you that extra push to stick to your writing schedule.
  • Routines: What is your daily routine? Writing is unlikely to become your go-to activity in every spare moment unless you make the conscious decision to form a writing habit. Author Bryan Hutchinson recommends that you commit to writing “at the same time every day so that it becomes a natural, automatic part of your day, regardless of whether you feel inspired or motivated.”

With all these factors in mind, find what works best for you, and make the decision to keep working in the way that suits you best.

Set a Production Schedule

Unlocking the Art of Fiction WritingTo get an accurate idea of how long your book will take to write, you’ve got to set a total word count that’s appropriate for the scope of your project. Are you writing a 10,000-word short story or a 60,000-word novel? Knowing how long your work might be will help you create a realistic writing schedule.

Another thing you need to know is how quickly you can produce new material. How many new words can you write per hour (excluding rewriting)? This might be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words. It’s totally okay if you’re not very fast; the idea here is to recognize your typical output level and work with it.

You should also consider how much time you have available. For writers who have full-time jobs, it can be hard to commit to a solid writing schedule. You may even have to sacrifice other activities. But, only once you decide to build writing into your daily routine will you start seeing results.

What’s the formula for your daily writing schedule? Here are the two equations you’ll need to solve:

  • Your weekly productivity = the number of words you can write per hour × the number of hours you have available per week
  • The number of weeks it will take to complete a first draft = the work’s approximate number of words ÷ your weekly productivity

So if you need to write an 80,000-word manuscript, but you can only write 10 hours per week at 1,000 words per hour, it’ll take you 8 weeks of writing to complete your first draft:

80,000 ÷ (1000 × 10) = 8

Keep in mind that this is an ideal equation that does not account for interruptions, delays, cases of writer’s block, or sudden waves of inspiration that you ride for 48 hours straight to finish your manuscript.

Set Writing Targets

If you’re not a word-generating machine that can pump out words in a constant, uninterrupted flow (honestly, it would be alarming if you were), don’t worry—writing targets can be either project-based or process-based. In other words, you might set a goal for yourself to finish a chapter by the end of the week or to revise a poem or short story by the end of the day. Whether or not you find having a weekly word count goal appealing, having a daily or weekly target can help you stay on track with your writing schedule.

Set Deadlines for Your Writing Process

Now that you have an idea of what’s involved in creating a writing schedule, let’s look at the step-by-step process that serious writers follow to see their work in print.

To start meeting the demands of your writing schedule, you must have a thorough understanding of the various aspects of writing: outlining, researching, writing a rough draft, rewriting, editing, and proofreading. Every writer will find a timeline that works for him or her, but the following sections outline a writing schedule that’s roughly based on the process I used to write my master’s thesis, which was about 25,000 words. You can either expand or condense it to fit your production schedule.

Month 1: OutliningYearly Writing Schedule

Some writers come up with their best material simply through the act of writing, and not everyone follows all stages of the pre-writing process in succession. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent idea to plan your writing before you launch into writing an ambitious manuscript.

A clear outline will help you avoid wasting time writing paragraphs or chapters that you might eventually just throw out (though you might be forced to do that to some extent in the rewriting stage, anyway).

The basic idea here is to create a skeleton of the key subject matter of your book, including the major plot points of a novel, the order of events of a memoir, or the main topics of a non-fiction work (such as a biography).

Months 1–3: Researching

Once you’ve identified the key topics you want to write about, take some time to get acquainted with them.

Experience and insight are often the best teachers for believable writing (whether fiction or non-fiction), but some topics will require extra research.

However, unless you’re writing an academic research paper or a science-based, realistic portrayal of an intricate process, this prewriting stage might not necessarily involve scholarly articles and monographs.

There are alternative ways to research a topic for writing. If you’re writing a young adult novel set in 2017, you might need to understand the quirks of teenagers’ conversations, whether online or in public, to write believable dialogue. Or maybe you’re writing a memoir, and you want to recapture the sights and sounds of your old school’s playground.

Sometimes, observing phenomena or interviewing individuals from relevant demographics is the best way to incorporate realistic material into your new book. Other times, you might need to dig a little deeper and conduct research online or at the library.

The bottom line is that you’ll write with more authority and precision about topics you know and understand. You don’t want to commit a factual error like some of these famous books and movies did.

Months 4–8: Writing a Rough Draft

You’ve got your outline and the necessary background information, and you’re raring to go! Finally, here comes the fun part: writing your first draft.

There’s a lot I could say here, but the most important advice I can give is to be like Dory: “just keep writing.” Another important maxim is to stay consistent but flexible: if new ideas develop while you’re writing your rough draft, don’t feel bound to your original outline, but you can still refer to it to stay on track.

Don’t sweat the details at this stage. I know it can be tempting to be critical of your mistakes, but your rough draft doesn’t have to be perfect—it’s called rough for a reason.

Month 9–11: Rewriting and Editing

If you’ve ever written a novel or a book in a short time, you might find yourself wondering what to do next. Basically, you want to take time at this stage to step back from your work and look at it through the eyes of your reader. This will allow you to rewrite and edit appropriately.

Rewriting might involve adding, cutting, or rewording passages. Try examining your book chapter by chapter and then re-reading it as a whole. Are there any gaps in continuity? Is the tone consistent throughout? Is there any unnecessary information that could be cut? This stage could take as long (or longer) than writing the initial draft. Examine your manuscript critically in terms of structure, organization, and style.

Once you’ve revised your manuscript and edited it to improve word choice, clarity, flow, and overall readability, you’re almost ready to polish your book for publication (the ultimate goal!).

Month 12: Proofreading

This is the final stage of the writing process. It’s important not to get caught up in the mechanics of language too early, because it won’t matter how you spelled convalescent if you decide to cut the chapter on your character’s recovery from surgery.

Proofreading is meant to fix grammatical, typographical, and spelling mistakes to ensure a perfect final draft. This is especially important if you’re hoping to get your book published, so consider enlisting the help of a professional proofreading service that will review your manuscript with fresh and experienced eyes.

Conclusion

Deciding to write a book is one thing, but finishing it is another thing entirely. We’d all love it if our ideas could form themselves perfectly in our heads and immediately spill onto the page in well-ordered lines of eloquent text, but alas, that’s not how it works.

Just as bodybuilders must work out to achieve their fitness goals, so too must writers work hard. By adhering to a writing schedule, you can achieve that perfect final draft.

While reading endless advice articles from other authors and every book about writing you can get your hands on is one way to motivate yourself to succeed, the only real way to write a book is to do just that—write, write, and write some more.

Though it’s unlikely that you will write your book from start to finish without rearranging, altering, or rewriting any words, planning out a specific writing schedule will help you make writing part of your daily routine.

Don’t let this be another year of untapped ideas and empty notebooks. Make the commitment to set a writing schedule, and follow it until your ideas manifest from just a plan into writing on a page.

Image source: TRT Photo/BigStockPhoto.com

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The 11-Step Guide to Writing a Thank-You Letter

A thank-you sign.

How to Write a Thank-You Letter

For many, it’s the season of Thanksgiving—but do you ever have difficulty putting your gratitude into words? You can always send a cute thank-you video (like this one with minions) or give a public shout-out on social media, but there’s something extra special about a personally crafted written expression of appreciation.

I recently got married, so I have had lots—and lots—of practice putting my gratitude into words. Whether you’re basking in appreciation for the help or gifts you’ve received, or you simply want to recognize someone you care about by acknowledging the good work they’re doing, learning how to write a thank-you letter is an important skill. Here are some essential steps to follow while writing a thank-you letter.

1. Don’t put it off.

When writing thank-you letters, time is of the essence. For one thing, it’s courteous to send a prompt reply to acknowledge a gift, as this lets the giver know that you have, indeed, received it. You should generally respond within two weeks of receiving the gift.

Another reason to get writing is that it’s easier for you—and less stressful! Write while the memory of unwrapping the orange squeezer from Uncle Chester is fresh in your mind. But before you pick up a pen, here are a couple of things to consider.

2. Mind your Ps and Qs.

Even in the age of technology, there’s a certain degree of etiquette involved when issuing recognition for good deeds. Though the idea of “etiquette” may seem old-fashioned, it simply refers to the accepted ways to treat someone politely, making them feel that they are respected and considered.

For instance, you need to put some effort into your “thank you.” While a thank-you text message may seem convenient, a quick “Tx 4 the stuff. U R awsum” might not do justice to the time, money, and energy spent by the recipient. One reason that people write thank-you notes (often by hand) to their wedding guests is to expend personal energy in response to the generosity of others. That being said, thank-you letters don’t necessarily have to be handwritten—but they do have to be thoughtful and sincere.

3. Choose your medium.

How to Write a Formal LetterAside from the thank-you etiquette of weddings, baby showers, and other gift-amassing events that call for handwritten thank-you notes, you should also think about the options you have for sending your thanks in everyday situations.

Will you send a brief Facebook message or email to someone too busy to check their physical mailbox? How about choosing pretty, purple stationery replete with images of cats for a letter to your kind granny? You’ll want to consider the personality and lifestyle of your recipient, matching their communication preference with the format of your thank-you letter.

If you have elegant penmanship (or really clear block lettering), consider choosing material forms of communication, as this adds a personal touch. You can even type your letter and print it out. It’s especially nice for someone living abroad or for those confined to their homes to receive a handwritten thank-you letter. Once you’ve chosen your medium, you’re ready to start writing your thank-you letter!

4. Fill in the blanks (in your own unique way).

Now it’s time to start composing. Your letter should follow this basic structure:

  1. Salutation (e.g., Dear ______)
  2. Thank you (e.g., Thank you for the ______)
  3. Appreciation (e.g., It was so kind of you to ______; we appreciate your ______; we plan to use the ______ for ______)
  4. Closing (e.g., We hope to see you ______; thanks again for ______)
  5. Signature (e.g., Love, ______)

Keep in mind that this is an informal style of writing, so you should keep your tone warm and personal. Your thank-you letter should also be fairly concise and straightforward—there’s no need for over-the-top language or a parade through the streets.

5. Salute your recipient (appropriately)!

When writing your thank-you letter, the first thing you have to tackle is your salutation. You don’t have to be super formal, but you should also show respect. Suit your opening salutation to the kind of relationship you have with the recipient. For instance, you wouldn’t refer to your granny as “Mrs. Elouise Margaret Giggery” when you’re thanking her for the cookies she sent (“Dear Granny” would suffice), but you don’t want to offend your college dean with the informal salutation “Hey bud!” Only use first names, nicknames, or informal titles if you have a close relationship with the addressee.

6. Say the magic word.

And no, I don’t mean “please”! This is where you list your thank-yous, whether it’s for the recipient’s qualities, gifts given, or services rendered. Many people struggle with how to say thank you, but it’s really more important that you say it. Simplicity is often the best way to go.

For items received, one tip is to be specific with your description (e.g., the polka dot-covered orange squeezer or the chocolate chip cookies), unless you’re thanking someone for money. Some people consider it gauche to say, “Thank you for your cheque of $500 USD.” Instead of referring to money as “cash” or “moolah,” use a more polite term such as “generous gift.”

Also, keep in mind that gift-givers typically like to know how you plan to use their donation. If you’re writing to thank someone for their actions, remember that people love to be appreciated.

7. Offer your appreciation (even if you didn’t love the paperweights from Aunt Myrtle).

Ever heard the phrase “It’s the thought that counts”? Our materialistic society is sometimes more concerned with the contents of the gift received than the thoughtfulness (or attempted thoughtfulness) of the giver. It might be true that the sparkly purple paperweights from Aunt Myrtle weren’t at the top of your wish list, but she still took some trouble and expense for your benefit.

The bottom line is that you should explain why the gift is important to you—even if it’s not something you would have purchased for yourself. Showing appreciation is essential to maintaining healthy relationships—and to writing a sincere thank-you letter.

8. Add a line to stay in touch.

Aside from expressing your appreciation, take a moment to share some news or catch up with the recipient before wrapping up your note of thanks. For example, you might ask how your granny is enjoying her new oven (which produced such fantastic cookies!), or you might mention how you plan to see your Aunt Myrtle in the New Year. Your thank-you is a nice way to remind someone that you haven’t forgotten them and they’re still a part of your life.

9. Reiterate your gratitude.

This step isn’t totally necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to say “Thanks again.” It wraps up the note with a reminder of your gratitude.

10. Sign your John Hancock.

Whether you’re sending an email, a postcard, or a message by carrier pigeon, don’t forget to sign your name. If possible, use your handwritten signature. You should also add a closing line such as “Sincerely,” “Warmest regards,” or “With all my/our love”—which, again, depends on how well you know the addressee.

11. One final tip . . .

Whatever reason you’re writing a thank you, remember to be sincere. Even if you didn’t get the gift that you expected or the recipient didn’t do all you’d hoped they would, show gratitude for what they did do. It’s more important to write from the heart than to write eloquently.

Conclusion

Writing a thank-you letter is a meaningful social practice and an opportunity to show that you care. It’s nice to know that someone’s thinking of you, and that’s what thank-you letters are all about. After all, kindness never goes out of style.

Letter-Writing Resources

Still looking for inspiration on how to write a thank-you letter? You can find thank-you writing samples online to get started with the writing process, and you can take advantage of Scribendi’s letter-editing service to polish your final draft. Some other great resources on letter writing include Inklyo’s online course, How to Write a Formal Letter, and ebook, How to Write a Letter.

Image Source: Gratisography/Pexels.com

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11 Great Uses of Technology in the Classroom

Students using technology in the classroom.

Students using technology in the classroom.

Society has progressed into the digital age, and the field of education has advanced right along with it. Teachers must now reach out to a generation that is more comfortable asking questions by talking to Siri than by raising a hand in the physical classroom.

Whether you teach at a school that offers hundreds of iPads or a single dinosaur computer with dial-up (if that’s still even a thing), the following tips and tools will help you use technology in the classroom to foster learning in your tech-savvy students.

1. Bring teaching into a digital environment.

Ever wish there was “an app for that” when it came to teaching? Well, platforms such as EdmodoSchoology, and Moodle are now available to help teachers stay on top of course content, assignments, and assessments. Your students (and you) will love the ease and convenience that modern technology offers.

2. Give your students a leg up in grammar with GrammarCamp for Classrooms.

With access to a top-notch online grammar class, pesky spelling and grammar questions can finally be answered with ease! This resource allows older students to learn at home or in the classroom with interactive games and quizzes to help them retain lesson material.

3. Teach every subject, from physics to gym, using iPads.

With its internal accelerometers and balance sensors, the iPad is capable of recording the precise measurements necessary for physics experiments (e.g., with the Clinometer app). Ideal for kinesthetic learners, mobile devices can be used in gym class to assess students’ exertion and balance capabilities.

4. Liven up math, geography, and other subjects with Google Maps.

Are your students bored with English literature, math problems, or geographic measurements? No sweat! Recapture their interest with Google Maps, which has innumerable applications for education. Games such as Smarty Pins and Earth-Picker combine computer literacy with educational trivia, while My Maps lets you create your own maps and learn how to read them. With a little creativity, Google Maps is a valuable learning tool in the classroom.

5. Encourage your students to download free ebooks.

Ebooks that are in the public domain are available through Project Gutenberg, a site that offers a wide variety of classic literature for free. If you teach literature in a post-secondary school, you can provide links to electronic versions of your course texts to save your students some money (and to save paper).

6. Enhance audio learning with recording apps.

Not only can you record group discussions with a voice-recording app, but you can also use audio recordings to improve students’ ability to read aloud. Students can record their reading multiple times and listen to the audio playback. This can help students hear their levels of fluency while reading and recognize when they are speaking with expression. Though technology can have a distancing effect (e.g., paying attention to Facebook rather than the textbook), it can also help students to engage with concepts in unprecedented ways.

GrammarCamp for Classrooms7. Have fun with SMART Boards.

Kids love moving, seeing, hearing, and interacting with information in exciting ways. What better method to bring all these teaching modes together than interactive whiteboards? In addition to their uses for notetaking, brainstorming, and media presentations, you can play games with your students using SMART Boards. Download templates for games like Jeopardy!, use interactive websites such as BrainPOP, or do some research to discover other relevant whiteboard activities.

8. Roll call? Or Balloon Pop?

Given the various options for using technology in the classroom, having students shout “Here!” and raise their hands seems a bit out of date. Instead of counting those outstretched arms by hand (no pun intended), you can use an interactive whiteboard to keep track of attendance. Students can even be made responsible for their own morning check-ins by tapping virtual balloons with their names on them. This use of technology saves time and helps you keep track of your class all at once.

9. Connect students to professionals and peers with Skype.

Though students are tempted to text in class, communication applications can be channeled for educational use. Programs such as the Skype an Author Network allow you to arrange interactive Q&A sessions with authors of children’s books for free. Or, you can use Skype to interact with other classrooms, enable remote participation and collaboration, or practice speaking in another language. Make the call (okay, that was a pun) to use technology to your classroom’s advantage.

10. Promote collaborative skills using Google Docs.

The importance of collaboration in educational, professional, and business sectors cannot be taught through teacher-oriented methods of learning (e.g., “the talking head” of traditional lectures). To prepare students for the working world, use platforms such as Google Docs for group projects. One idea is to have your students write collaborative stories using different font colors to keep track of each student’s edits. This program is also handy for shared research projects.

11. Use apps to get instant feedback.

If you’re wondering how your students are responding to your use of technology in the classroom, why not have them fill out a poll to receive their feedback? Use apps and programs such as MentimeterPoll Everywhere, or Socrative to gauge students’ responses to content-related questions or teaching-related feedback in real time. For once, mobile phones in class aren’t a distraction to learning.

Remember, technology is an incredible tool that can either enhance your students’ education or detract from it. If used creatively, apps, websites, resources, and devices can prepare your students with an education that is suitable for the digital age.

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13 Ways Teachers Can Build Great Teacher–Student Relationships

Teacher-Student RelationshipsYou’ve seen them all: the cool young teacher who relates to students as a friend, the stern veteran teacher who won’t put up with any nonsense, and the professor who values students’ input as much as the knowledge being shared from the podium.

No matter what your teaching style or experience level, relating better to your students can open the door to new learning opportunities for everyone involved.

What do the experts say about building great teacher–student relationships? Sara Rimm-Kaufman and Lia Sandilos of the American Psychological Association discuss the social and academic benefits, concluding that fostering positive relationships with students at different age levels improves student motivation and peer relationships, helps to address behavioral problems, and can even complement other important relationships in students’ lives.

The good news is that there are many ways to develop and maintain meaningful teacher–student relationships in the classroom. Whether it’s your first time at the head of the classroom or you’ve been teaching for 20 years, there’s always something new to learn—starting with your students.

Build a foundation for great teacher–student relationships.

1. Get to know (and like) your students.

The first essential ingredient in any relationship is an introduction. Get to know not only your students’ names but also their strengths and weaknesses, their interests, and their personalities. To know your students better, share something meaningful about yourself, such as your own educational background, interests, or quirks; you could do this by writing a letter to your students or by introducing yourself on the first day.

Building trust involves sharing who you are and learning whom your students are. Furthermore, getting to know students who are difficult or shy is essential to building trust in the teacher–student relationship.

2. Work with your students, not against them.

Instead of reacting to behavioral problems with anger, treat them as an opportunity for engaging the student in the classroom. Respect your students’ opinions, and channel their energies into productive outlets, such as group discussions or creative projects. Rather than pestering or complaining about students, get to know them, and show that you can be trusted. A study examining adolescent behavior in high school classrooms showed that teachers can use relationship building to prevent discipline problems, as students act out less when they perceive their teacher to be trustworthy. Trust is one of the values that facilitates positive relations in any classroom.

3. Practice respectful classroom interaction.

One of the best ways to lay a foundation for good teacher–student relationships is to create a code of conduct: agree on how things will be done before the class starts. Not only will these rules help create an ethical classroom but they will also create a culture of respect. This involves stressing the importance of respect among your students as well as between learner and teacher. But remember, behavior starts with your own actions, which leads to our next step.

Model appropriate behavior.

4. Be aware of your tone, expression, and body language.

A blackboard.

A respectful, friendly, cooperative classroom is all well and good, but what if you can’t conceal your frustration at Pam’s texting, Cam’s interruptions, and Sam’s constant chatter? Rimm-Kaufman and Sandilos urge professors and teachers to be aware of the explicit and implicit messages they send to students through words, actions, and manner. They recommend making a video of one of your lessons to ascertain whether you are demonstrating interest in your students as individuals or whether you are too bored, angry, or sarcastic to provide real attention. Modifying your own behavior will set the tone for positive teacher–student relationships.

5. Stay calm and emotionally balanced.

Keeping your cool goes hand in hand with cultivating a respectful classroom climate, as showing undue or prolonged irritability or annoyance toward your students can seriously undermine your relationships with them. While learning to accept constructive criticism is an important part of the learning process, nobody wants to be publicly lambasted by an authority figure. Remember to see the good as well as the bad in your students.

6. Be helpful and fair.

From simply answering questions to going the extra mile to meet your students’ academic needs, you must offer consistent, reliable support. You must also treat all students fairly, maintaining high standards for educational outcomes and acceptable behaviors. The rules apply to each student equally, so you should avoid favoritism and promote respect. All these approaches to teaching will secure your students’ trust in you as an educator, which will encourage them to seek help when the need arises.

Provide quality, one-on-one feedback.

7. Conduct personal interviews or student–teacher consultations.

Ideally, your students will see you as approachable and come to you with questions, concerns, and feedback. Sometimes students experience personal problems that may interfere with their studies. Though you are not trained to be a counselor or a social worker, you can still point your students in the direction of relevant services on campus, at your school, or in the community. Building great teacher–student relationships means caring for your students and respecting their emotional, social, physical, and mental well-being—not just their performance in the classroom.

8. Be available for office hours.

Part of a quality teacher–student relationship is being available and responsive to students’ needs. Even if you plead with students to talk with you in your office or after class, there are sometimes barriers that often prevent students from seeking help. One such barrier is scheduling. Make sure you hold regular office hours, but remain flexible enough to meet a student by appointment at a time that works for him or her. If you can’t arrange to meet at a different time, arrange to meet right after class or correspond via email. Another barrier is lack of information. Make sure students know where your office is and how they can reach you. Include this information on the syllabus, clearly marked. Though these steps might not guarantee more one-on-one interactions, they will allow students access to your individual guidance, should they need it.

9. Use comments to provide feedback.

A message on a blackboard.

You might be thinking that there’s no way you have the time to provide one-on-one feedback to your students. But even if you can’t arrange for face-to-face interaction on an individual basis, you can still provide tailored feedback through comments on students’ work. This could be in the form of written comments on reports, essays, and presentations, or it could be provided online—a medium that offers convenience and accessibility to teachers and students alike.

Build an open-communication, multi-modal learning environment.

10. Encourage open participation.

We often hear of the benefits of classroom participation, but how does this pedagogical tool affect student-teacher relationships? For one thing, it’s hard to relate to a lecturer who never allows feedback, challenging questions, or new ideas from his or her students.

Once you establish that no question is a stupid question and that true learning doesn’t arise from passivity, you can create a positive learning climate in which students aren’t afraid to contribute their ideas. Building group activities into a lesson or adding an online participation component can help your students engage with the material and discuss ideas with each other.

11. Use online learning environments.

Maybe the constant war over students’ attention—away from their smartphones and onto the curriculum—isn’t best served by confiscating said technology and using it to make long-distance calls to Europe (as one of my previous professors threatened). A better solution to redirecting students’ technology obsession is online learning platforms.

Use online forums to open new avenues of course-related dialogue for students who are too shy to speak in class. Create questions that invite students to relate the material to their own lives and spheres of knowledge. Keep an eye on these threads to make sure the conversation stays on track, and use students’ questions and salient points as teachable moments. Your responses in these online forums can show students that you value their ideas and care about their learning outcomes.

12. Provide additional resources.

In addition to online forums, using online courses or other materials can invest in students’ knowledge and show your interest in their transferrable skills. For instance, Inklyo’s GrammarCamp for Classrooms helps teach English grammar in a way that is engaging, using interactive activities and quizzes to drive points home. Giving your students access to such online resources is a great way to supplement your curriculum and help you meet your students’ needs effectively.

And finally…

13. Make teaching and learning fun!

How you teach is, perhaps, just as important as what you teach. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, but incorporating a bit of humor, storytelling, positivity, and enthusiasm in your subject can make all the difference in establishing a positive learning environment.

Following these guidelines will help you connect with your students to create the best environment for learning. You might have all the resources available in the world, but failing to show interest in your students or behaving in an inconsistent manner may damage your chances of building positive teacher–student relationships. Enrich students’ learning by respecting their social and emotional needs, which are just as important as their intellectual ones.

Image sources: Freeimages9/Pixabay.com, Geralt/Pixabay.com

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How to Master the Cornell Note-Taking System

Cornell Note-Taking Method

Cornell Note-Taking SystemThink ahead a few months: exam season has started, and you’re thankful that you’ve attended class faithfully and taken clear, well-organized notes—or so you thought.

The incoherent jumble of words and phrases stares up at you from the page like so much tangled spaghetti, defying you to remember exactly what the professor meant or how these ideas connect. How can you study effectively when faced with such a note-taking disaster?

The solution is easy: learn the Cornell Note-Taking System and start using it before exams start.

Created by Dr. Walter Pauk from Cornell University, this note-taking system is both an efficient way to record information and an effective way to absorb it. Aside from saving you the time and angst spent cramming, Cornell notes can actually improve the quality of your learning experience, helping you make connections and get more out of each lesson.

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn the five Rs of the Cornell note-taking system, and you’ll never end up with the nightmarish problem of not understanding your own notes.

Before You Begin

The Cornell Note-Taking System organizes ideas spatially, so it’s great for visual learners. The idea is to give yourself space for copying down information (class notes), for identifying key points (study cues), and for summing up the main ideas of the lesson (summary). Remember to also record the course name, the class topic, and the date of the lesson to keep your notes orderly.

Before class, use a marker or a different color of ink to divide the page into two main columns, with a bit of space at the top and a larger section at the bottom. Notice that the thick lines make a lopsided “I” shape.

Cornell Note Template

You might want to prepare several pages in advance, or you can use a template (you can find them online or use Microsoft Word to create a digital version). Lefties can switch the cue column to the right-hand side to make things easier. The idea is to make the process as easy as possible.

Step 1: Record

This is where the fun begins. Fill the largest section with your class notes, recording relevant terminology, names, dates, formulas, statistics, and other information. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Write neatly (or at least legibly).
  • Leave a space between each line in case you need to add more information later.
  • Use shorthand, such as the ampersand (&) instead of “and,” or acronyms instead of full terms, but make sure you know what they mean.
  • Don’t use complete sentences.

If you learn better by doodling/drawing or if you make connections through tactile learning (such as something you saw, smelled, or felt during an experiment), feel free to write these down. This will help you study later.

Step 2: Reduce

Class is over, but hold it! Effective note-taking continues outside of class. It might seem like a drag, but taking a few minutes to go over your notes (and clear up any illegible handwriting) while the information is still fresh in your mind will spare you hours of pulling out your hair while cramming for an exam.

After class, take a few moments to summarize the key points inside the left-hand column (study cues), and make sure they line up with the corresponding information. One way to reduce the lecture is to put it in your own words, looking for meaning and the relationships between ideas.

When study time comes, you can find information quickly by scanning the cue column, and you’ll already have a firm grasp on what you’ll need to know for the test.

Step 3: Recite

For the oral learners out there who remember best by hearing, take a few moments to verbalize the key points in the study cues. Without looking at the detailed notes from the class, see if you can remember what you learned by looking at the cues. You can always “cheat” a little to check if you got the right answer (it’s not the real test yet!).

Spoken information—especially if it’s in your own words—can help you understand the material in a way that simply memorizing something can’t.

Step 4: Reflect/Summarize

Ask yourself: How would I explain the lesson to someone who’s never learned it before? Not only do teaching and learning go hand in hand, but reflecting on what you’ve learned is the best way to retain information.

When you write your summary section, don’t think of it as a mere repetition. Treat it as a chance to engage with the material, including your thoughts, your questions, your interpretation, and your own personal reflections. You can even relate the material to the textbook or other study materials, to your previous experiences, or to knowledge from other courses; the more connections you can make, the better.

Step 5: Review

This step can actually be done throughout the semester as a way to aid comprehension and alleviate the pressure of studying for exams. Believe it or not, taking the time to review your notes for 10 minutes each week can spare you the 10 hours of fruitless studying where you’re straining to remember what was once fresh in your mind.

Conclusion

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If that’s true, then a systematic approach to college or university note-taking is worth the effort. Don’t make your studies any more stressful than they need to be: become a master of Cornell notes instead.

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10 Ways to Use Social Media to Build Your Professional Network

A professional network.

Professional Network

Are you a budding professional? Or are you changing careers, hoping to break into that new hierarchy of skilled personnel?

Even if you’re a shy person who shudders slightly at the word networking, you have to admit it’s an essential part of our job-seeking culture. After all, it’s not what you know but who you know.

How can you enter this labyrinth of strange names and faces, trying to make connections with people you’ve admired from a distance but never had the opportunity (or courage) to meet? The answer lies in our technological society’s way of staying connected: social media.

Building a strong online presence can be just as important as interacting with people face to face, and a well-worded tweet to the right person can be just as effective as an in-person meeting.

One thing I’ve learned about networking is that it’s not about using people to fuel one’s ambitions; it’s about appreciating people through meaningful relationships. Many people have the wrong idea about how to network, believing they must hound complete strangers whom they have targeted as the most likely to give them a leg up in their career.

However, true networking is not self-interested, but community-minded. The following 10 tips will help you use social media to network effectively and in a way that benefits both you and your connections.

Networking Tips for Social Media Beginners

1. Start with your existing connections.

Most of us have accumulated phone, email, and Facebook contacts from colleagues, friends, and acquaintances we know in person. It’s a great place to start to reach out to the people you already know to make sure you have added them on other social networks, such as LinkedIn, and to make sure you have the correct information about them. These contacts form the epicenter of your network.

TIP: Import existing contacts to LinkedIn and Facebook from your online address book, or ask your friends, teachers, and colleagues for their email addresses. You can also join school groups, volunteer organizations, or associations on both these sites.

2. Reach out to your fellow social media users.

Once you feel confident with your founding network members, you can move to other applications. Reach out to people you’ve interacted with online in meaningful ways. Maybe you’re an avid reader of a blog or a dedicated follower of a fellow professional on Twitter. Look for spirited discussions on Facebook or other online forums. If you value this individual’s input or share their ideals, maybe you’ll be able to work with them or recommend a connection with another contact one day.

TIP: Start a conversation on Twitter to network with a professional. Stay polite, express genuine interest in that person, and support them before you share your personal goals.

3. Figure out where you want to be and whom you want to be like.

Sometimes learning how to network is a journey of self-discovery. But why not learn from the best? Plus, people often like to share their wisdom and help those who are just starting out. By researching people who hold interesting positions or people you admire in your field, you can start to plan the next phase of your networking—and of your own career.

TIP: Use the Company Search feature on LinkedIn to find out which companies employ the members of your network and when these companies are hiring. You can also use the Advanced Search function to find professionals and career opportunities in your field.

4. Build your online presence.

Completing your LinkedIn or Facebook profile is like wearing a complete outfit to an interview: the more coordinated and put-together you are, the better the first impression. Let your experiences, personal preferences, activities, and interests express your identity on social networks, and don’t limit yourself to just one platform. Start a blog. Write a review. Check your email (yes, and I mean frequently!). By being active on social media, you’ll give your friends and followers a better opportunity to learn about you and interact with you, allowing your network to grow in quality and in numbers.

TIP: Write an article on your blog, and include quotes from experts about a topic that interests you. In doing so, you’ll give those experts more exposure and establish a basis for building a new relationship with them. Don’t have a blog yet? Take a look at one of these popular blogging sites to get started!

5. Look for shared interests and things in common.cheese

What is your passion? Do you have a hobby, or are you part of a nerd group on Facebook? Believe it or not, your weird passion for the history of cheese making might actually pay off in your job search. Just as people converse more easily about subjects that interest them, you’ll find that your professional network will really open up when you share common interests.

TIP: Facebook Groups are a great way to network based on shared interests: you can share files, create events, and start polls about any topic you want and with whomever you want.

Social Media Tips for Networking like a Pro

If you are already familiar with networking or if you’ve already landed that dream job, there’s still more you can do to improve your professional network.

6. Join professional networks.

Once you’ve found your career niche, you can find a “version” of LinkedIn tailored to your own profession. For instance, academia.edu allows academics to share research papers with colleagues, and zerply.com connects talented film industry professionals with upcoming artistic projects. But don’t just stop at joining in—you should actively coordinate groups within your existing networks to keep your connections (old and new) alive.

TIP: Starting a LinkedIn Group is a way to form meaningful connections with smaller collections of people in common industries. They’re good places to connect with influencers in your field, allowing you to share content, ask questions, give answers, and make contacts.

7. Formality is good, but personality is better.

Remember the awkward icebreaker games they made you play on the first day of school? “Tell us your name, your favorite color, and one interesting fact about yourself!” If you were one of the outgoing ones who said, “I can do a perfect impression of a peacock!” (and then proceed to make said sound), chances are people remembered your name. Confidence always makes an impression on others, and part of that confidence involves reminding your network how they know you.

TIP: Send a friendly note reminding your colleague where you met, through whom you met, or what organization you have in common. LinkedIn prompts you to do this upon adding a connection, but make sure you take the initiative when connecting elsewhere. Sharing details about yourself can make you interesting and, above all, identifiable.

8. Practice the golden rule: help others in your network.LinkedIn

Building your professional network doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be all about you. Maybe you recently got an entry-level job in your field, and you see a position that one of your grad school friends could fill easily. Recommending that friend for the position can benefit your company, which gets a competent worker, as well as your friend, who gets a leg up in the industry—and it also helps you. Others will remember your thoughtfulness. Being part of a community means supporting others and receiving support in return.

TIP: Post job links, career fairs, and other professional events to your contacts in that field. Endorse the skills of former and current co-workers on LinkedIn, as this will provide them with value and make them more likely to reciprocate.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Reaching out to others for help might seem scary, but the worst anyone can say to you is “No.” Besides, professional development is all about cooperating with others, sharing your strengths, and allowing others to help you in your areas of weakness.

TIP: Instead of asking a complete stranger for a job straight away (why should they help?), ask for advice or request an informational interview from a fellow professional in a courteous, friendly manner. How (and when) you ask is just as important as what you ask.

10. Use online tools to build more face-to-face connections.

Remember the days when communication meant walking up to someone, writing them a letter, or dialing their phone number? (Okay, maybe you don’t.) Previous generations had to learn effective communication by non-digital means, but you still need interpersonal finesse when communicating online. For example, people in the business world don’t respond well to an email addressed “To Whom It May Concern” because it seems impersonal, communicating that you didn’t care enough to research the recipient of your message (even if your true intention is simply to be respectful).

The goal is to be both respectful and warm, and this can be done by taking the time to read about your connections and interact with them on a personal level. Once you’ve established a cordial online relationship, you can make your relationship even more personal with phone calls, notes, and even meetings.

TIP: Use meetup.com to arrange face-to-face meetings with professionals from your local area, or simply send a friendly email to an existing acquaintance in your network.

Other Great Social Media Networking Resources

  • Just starting your career search and want to make an impression? Try Inklyo’s How to Write a Resume course to learn how to create an attractive, professional resume.
  • Maybe you want to tailor your job search to a particular profession. Join beyond.com to find jobs from multiple streams.
  • Are you a local business owner? Try localsnetworking.com to meet other professionals in your area.
  • There are even sites for emerging innovators, such as angel.co and makerbase.co, which help you find the funding you need to get started in your field.

Ask Not What Your Professional Network Can Do For You…

Now you’re ready to harness the power of social media for your professional network. Remember, though, that these 10 tips are not about climbing to the top of the professional ladder at the expense of others—they are about connecting with others in a community-minded way. Whatever you do, wherever you go in life, it’s your relationships that matter, and showing consistent politeness and consideration toward others will be more important in the end than simply “getting ahead.”

Image Source: Daria Shevtsova/Unsplash.com, Jakub Rostkowski/Stocksnap.io, Freestocks.org/Stocksnap.io

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