Category Archives: > Writing Skills

Review: David Crystal’s Book on Grammar

MAKING SENSE: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, by David Crystal
281 pp. Oxford University, $24.95.
Peter Sokolowski, NY Times: “The indefatigable linguist Crystal’s latest book, “Making Sense,” is a surprisingly entertaining historical and scholarly tour of the mechanics of English.
Grammar can seem as technical and off-putting as math or physics to many people who nevertheless can speak, read and write very well, and while some books on language prey on readers’ insecurity with lists of word-choice peeves and classist language shibboleths, Crystal efficiently punctures such snobbery.
His approach is to explain the points of grammar and their natural acquisition in the order in which a toddler develops language skills, a brilliant strategy that allows him to begin with the most basic concepts and build upon them while simultaneously exemplifying the descriptive nature of his work.
He illustrates the lingering “pernicious” effects of trying to fit the square peg of English into the round hole of Latin grammar, responsible for centuries of confusing information about how English works.
Discussions of semantics (what we are trying to say) and pragmatics (how we are trying to say it) give a more concrete nature to grammar, and are used effectively here to explain away the silly admonition against the passive voice in writing.
A primer on corpus linguistics and a short explanation of how our language evolved from Old English help complete Crystal’s masterly telling of why a living language’s grammar, like its vocabulary, is not only unfinished, it is unfinishable. One could not have a more genial guide for such a tour.”
Reading/Spelling tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021, or email

+ Central Ohio Free Parent Seminar on Writing Problems

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Marburn Academy in Columbus is inviting parents to a free seminar on “Getting It Down On Paper: The Solutions to Student Writing Problems.”

  • Date: Tuesday March 6
  • Time: 7:00-9:00 pm
  • Marburn Academy: 1860 Walden Dr, Columbus OH 43229
  • Reservations required:
  • Or phone 614-433-0822

Often students with learning differences have no trouble coming up with creative ideas, but they may struggle with expressing those ideas in writing.

Parents of children who wrestle with writing will find that this seminar offers  insight into the reasons why some children learn to write easily and others don’t.  They will be hearing about practical answers for remediation.

Earl Oremus, Headmaster of Marburn Academy, is a nationally recognized speaker on education, learning and learning differences. 

Oremus will explain why some children learn differently, why it is so important for teaching methods to match each child’s learning needs, and what works best when writing is being taught.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

+ Read and Write Side by Side With Your Child

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Rebecca Alber blogs at the edutopia site, and says students need to know that we also struggle with writing. 

She is writing for teachers.  But parents should model reading and writing as well.

So — as your children work on their own reading or writing, let them see you writing — so they can see that you, too, “get tongue-tied and run out of things to say.” 

Share with them the knowledge that you repeat yourself too.  You  forget words even though we’ve used them in the past.  You change your mind halfway through  a page and want to start over with a new topic.  

Your child needs to know that writing isn’t always easy for you — just as it isn’t easy for them.

And Albers says modeling reading is just as important.  It sends this message:

I like to read.  I don’t just tell you this and [monitor] how much you read.  I read side by side with you.  You see my facial expressions as I struggle to understand something difficult and you see when I feel emotion at a sad or funny part.  I am a reader, too.

This modeling for young people of your love — and struggles — as a reader and writer can help them understand that even for an adult who reads and writes all day, these task continue to be challenging.  

But you can show them that you find reward and delight in the process.  As they will, too. 

For Alber’s post, and much more at the site, visit

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email

+ Central Ohio Dyslexia Conference March 2 in Dublin

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REGISTER EARLY for Central Ohio IDA Conference

COBIDA Annual Spring Conference
Friday March 2
OCLC Conference Center, 6600 Kilgour Place, Dublin OH 43017.

(Members $85 until February 20.) Non-members welcome. Information and registration at

PARENT TRACK: Expert Panel on Advocacy Matters: Learning How to Become Your Child’s Strongest Advocate.

PROFESSIONAL TRACK: Writing Matters: Developing Writing Skills in Students Who Struggle. William Van Cleve MA

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

+ Writing Exercise

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From The Writers Almanac, a bonus.

Favorite Writing Exercise:  “I like to read a poem to my students (one easy to take in by ear, one that I think is rich with possibility, one not too long but long enough for everyone to find a word or phrase or something that catches imagination) and I tell them to jot down something from or about the poem. After that, we write for ten minutes or so and see what happens.”

– Joyce Sutphen

tutoring in columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email

+ COBIDA Offers Webinars August 9 and 11, 2011

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Project Read Webinars – Learn at Your Computer
Written Expression (Framing Your Thoughts) – August 9, 6 – 8 PM EST
Reading Comprehension – August 11, 6 – 8 PM EST
$35 per webinar ($25 for IDA members)
Register online now at:
For more information contact:
Hope to see you on-line!
Full courses will be offered in the fall if interest dictates.
If you are interested in a full-course, please let us know after you have done this initial webinar.
tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email

+ POEM “To a Young Son”

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[I never do this, but today Writers Almanac offered a poem that made me want to keep it .] 

To a Young Son

by June Robertson Beisch

<!– (from Fatherless Woman) –>

Today I passed your room
and you were slowly quietly
combing your hair.
It was a pleasant, calm moment.
I felt the silence of the room
and could almost hear you growing.
You combed without a mirror,
your eyes distant and pale,
your head slowly nodding
like the head of a stroked animal.

Xerxes the King sent out a spy
who returned to camp, astonished to say
that the Spartans were all stripped to the waist
their bodies gleaming in the Aegean sun
and they were all carefully combing their hair.
The king was afraid then.
The Spartans were preparing to die.

I turn slowly from your doorway
and return to the linen closet where I
will fold this memory in my heart
among everything that is clean and fresh and white.

“To a Young Son” by June Beisch, from Fatherless Woman. © Cape Cod Literary Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Find Writers Almanac at

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email