Tag Archives: > High School

High School: Seven Tips to Build Organizational Skills

by Amanda Morin at Understood.org

[for info on reading tutoring in Columbus OH see below]

  1. Teach Multiple Ways to Prioritize. Goal: find organizational skills that fit your teen’s needs and skills.  Example: projects can be organized by due date — or by time needed or how hard (or easy) they are.
  2. Teach How to Divide and Conquer. Goal: keep deadlines for long-term projects from creeping up. Example: Show your teen how to break projects into smaller, more manageable pieces.  Use cue words like “first,” “next,” and “last” to categorize the tasks.
  3. Designate a Place for Study Materials. Goal: teach your child to keep the tools he needs in one place. Example: Encourage your teen to keep pens, paper, computer, calculators, dictionaries and other supplies together. No more hunting for an eraser!
  4. Model Organization Skills. Goal: Learn how to be organized by seeing the skills in action. Example: keep a family calendar and a to-do list to model planning ahead and making lists.
  5.  Use a Whiteboard. Goal: Make things easier to visualize. Example: your child can use it to make daily to-do lists, map out an assignment or just write down things to remember.
  6. Give Your Teen a Planner. Goal: encourage your child to manage his own schedule. Example: with a digital or paper planner, he can keep track of where he needs to be and when. He can practice arranging and rearranging his time.
  7. Ask About the Plan of Attack. Goal: make sure your teen knows how to prioritize the steps for getting an assignment done. Example: don’t assume your teen knows how to get an assignment done. Ask him to explain his plan. You can help him refine it, as needed.

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate and former teacher. A proud parent of kids with learning and attention issues, she is the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Source: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/teaching-organizational-skills/at-a-glance-7-ways-to-teach-your-high-schooler-organization-skills?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=understoodorg

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com 

 

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5 Tips to Get Your Dyslexic Student Through High School

by Tiffany Sunday, for Noodle

[for O-G tutoring in Columbus OH: see contact info at the end]

“Where did the week go?” This is a common question in our household.

As the parent of a dyslexic eighth grader, our weeks are busy and pass quickly. Staying organized, keeping track of assignments and upcoming projects or tests, and studying effectively are challenges many middle schoolers face — but these issues can often be more acute if you have dyslexia.

Recently, while speaking with my son’s guidance counselor, she mentioned that we needed to think about preparing him for high school. I knew, in the blink of an eye, I would be having this same discussion with his high school counselor when he prepares for college.

Learning how to Manage Dyslexia
My son is learning how to study and effectively manage his dyslexia. To help him — and because I too have dyslexia — I share strategies and organizational habits that I developed back when I was in high school. With my sights set on the future, I know he needs to develop study strategies and strong organizational habits to help him succeed in college.

In high school, I worked to improve the techniques I had begun to develop in elementary school and junior high. Learning how my dyslexic brain functioned and absorbed new information was half the battle, and these strategies and skills became the toolkit I relied on throughout my education.

Here are five effective strategies and organizational habits to add to a dyslexic high schooler’s repertoire.

1. Be the Teacher
I am a visual and verbal learner, and one of the approaches I developed was to pretend to be both teacher and student. I would stand in my bedroom and verbally review the homework or test material — actually speak it aloud — as if I was both teaching and taking the class. I posed questions to my imaginary students and would then respond as one of my classmates.

I used this strategy throughout high school, college, and graduate school. Today, my son teaches his classwork to me, and I, in turn, direct questions to him. Instructing me in the material he’s learning helps my son study for exams and gain a deeper understanding of the subject. A whiteboard is a great tool to use with this strategy since it enables your high schooler to work out math equations, science problems, and take notes.

2. Listen to Understand
In college, I recorded all of my classes and listened to the lectures over and over, often gaining new understanding that had eluded me the first or second time I played the material. The benefit of listening to a recording of a classroom discussion or a teacher’s lecture is that you can pause it, take notes, return to it for further clarification, and create a list of follow-up questions to ask the instructor. My mother, who taught high school advanced placement courses, used to tell me that if an instructor repeated a statement multiple times, you could bet that it would be on the test. Very often, dyslexic students attend to spoken repetition that they may overlook in written form.

Your high schooler can record her class notes on a mobile device and then play them back as often as she needs to prepare for quizzes and tests. And for reading assignments, check out Learning Ally’s audiobook library, which has a selection of more than 80,000 titles. The special education coordinator can also help locate these supports through the school or public library system.

3. Create Stories to Remember
Because my dyslexia prevents me from hearing the phonemes in words — that is, distinguishing a ‘p’ sound from a ‘b’ sound, for example — learning new spelling or vocabulary words has always been difficult, especially in advanced science and English classes. One of my solutions was to develop mnemonic techniques that helped me retain definitions, phrases, and formulas. These strategies might include silly songs, rhymes, or stories, such as one I created to recall the definition of “flagellum.”

This appendage is a long, whiplike structure that helps unicellular organisms move. I memorized this science vocabulary word by imagining flags whipping in the wind, bringing to mind air movement. I would, in turn, visualize flagella as tiny flags helping an organism move around. When I was taking the test, I would remember this visual aid and its association with movement to enable me to identify the correct definition of the word.

4. Organize the Workspace
Help your teen learn how to prepare her physical environment as well. Having a distinct space with few distractions and little background noise helps many dyslexic teens remain focused. For visual learners in particular, clutter may make it difficult to concentrate and stay on task, but having a specific place to post reminders, such as a whiteboard calendar installed next to a desk, can ensure that valuable information and appointments are not mixed up.

Encourage your high schooler to test different organizational systems, including digital, erasable, and paper calendars. For instance, large whiteboard schedules can help her see the big picture and allow her to plan effectively for future projects and tests. By using different colored markers for tests, quizzes, and extracurricular activities, she’ll be able to keep these responsibilities distinct from one another.

Paper clips and sticky notepads are essential in our house. Before using these supports, my son often forgot to turn in school work or ask his teacher a question. Now, though, he is learning how to keep his homework together and write reminders to himself on the sticky notes; he simply places the reminder beside a question or writes in big letters “Turn In!” on sticky notes that he affixes to his assignments.

5. Study with Buddies
Encourage your high schooler to find a study partner or form a group to prepare for tests, midterms, and finals. Throughout my education, I had classmates I could call for help or ask questions if my notes did not make sense. Most dyslexics distill verbal or visual information quickly, and indeed, I sought out classmates who could summarize class notes in a similar manner. I learned early that finding peers whose study habits were in sync with mine was more effective than trying to adapt my approach in ways that were at odds with my dyslexia.

Learning new information in school and preparing for tests requires more than studying the subject matter. Creating an organizational system that helps your high schooler keep her work together and completed on time is important. And, of course, being able to manage time effectively and submit assignments when required are essential skills for succeeding in college.

Preparing your student for college? Be sure to check out Noodle’s college search feature to find schools that your families’ needs, as well as other expert-written articles, such as, 3 Questions to Ask About College Disability Services.

https://www.noodle.com/articles/5-tips-to-get-your-dyslexic-teen-through-high-school

……………

Tiffany Sunday : Dyslexic,  Author,  Entrepreneur. Her books include “Dyslexia’s Competitive Edge” and “You Posted What!? ”  

She is passionate about entrepreneurship and inspiring the dyslexic community: see Tiffany’s TEDx Talk Dyslexia 2.0: The Gift of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Mind.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ “Gap Year” Motivates Students: Research

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An article in Education Week, by Sarah D Sparks, reports that research has found that Australian students were more likely to take a gap year if they had low academic performance in high school.

But former “gappers” reported significantly higher motivation in college — in the form of “adaptive behavior,”  for example, planning, task management, and persistence, compared with students who had not taken that year off.

 University of Sidney researcher, Andrew J Martin, says

Findings from the two studies suggest that participation in a gap year may be one means of addressing the motivational difficulties that might have been present at school.

Statistics from the US Department of Education  show that, across the United States just 7.6 percent of 2003-4 graduates delayed their entry to college for a year.  Of those, 84 percent reported working; 29 percent traveled or pursued other interests. 

Unlike the Australian study, US students who delayed entry to college were less likely to complete a degree.  Aurora D’Amico, a researcher for the American study, says, however, that this report does not formally break out results for gap-year participants.

But anecdotally, there is some evidence to suggest the idea of a gap year may be catching on in the US.  Says Reid Goldstein, who organizes panel discussions on gap-year options in Arlington Virginia,

I think more parents every year are starting to come to terms with the notion that life for themselves and their kid isn’t going to end if the kid isn’t in a college freshman class two months after high school.

The schools have figured out that the number of seniors going to college is their success metric but… they don’t follow those kids to college.  They don’t see those kids binge drinking or dropping out or doing any of those things that show they are in the wrong place at that time. 

Linda H Connelly, who counsels high-schoolers at New Trier Township High School agrees.

We found we were counseling everybody to [go to] college, and we were finding a lot of these students were just not ready to go on.  The parents wanted them out of the house, and we wanted to give students another option.

 Connelly’s department started a “gap fair” five years ago.  It began with six programs and a handful of families.  This year, 30 programs are offered to more than 400 people from across Chicago. 

The programs have proved helpful to motivate both students who aren’t yet mature enough for college — and burned-out overachievers.

The president of the Princeton, NJ Center for Interim Programs, Holly Bull, feels that taking gap time can save a lot of floundering around.  “Changing majors, changing schools… it gets very pricey to be confused in college.”

Many elite colleges, including Princeton, Harvard and Yale, encourage deferments for gap years.  Princeton has 100 students annually performing a year of service work abroad.

Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson are co-authors of the 2005 book “The Gap Year Advantage.”  They conducted a study of 280 recent gap-year alumni.

Haigler says the results echo the findings from the Australian study.  They plan to release a forthcoming book titled (tentatively) “The Gap Year, American Style.” 

Haigler and Nelson found that students reported their top two reasons for taking a gap year were burnout and wanting to “find out more about themselves.”

Nine out of 10 of those students returned to college within a year.  Sixty percent reported that the time off had either inspired or confirmed their choice of career or academic major.

sole source: article by Sarah D Sparks in Education Week, September 15, 2010.  http://www.edweek.org

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Some High Schools to Plan Graduation Two Years Early

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According to an article by Sam Dillon in the NY Times, next year  dozens of public high schools —  in eight states  —  will introduce a program allowing 10th graders to get a diploma two years early.  They will have to pass a battery of tests; and they will immediately enroll in community college.  See the article at  http://tinyurl.com/ygmrrw8

 The plan is modeled largely on systems in high performing nations — Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore.

The program of high school coursework, with accompanying board examinations, is being organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy. 

The goal is to insure that students have mastered a set of basic requirements, and to reduce the numbers of high school graduates who need remedial courses when they enroll in college.

Says Marc S. Tucker, president of the center,

That’s a central problem we’re trying to address, the enormous failure rate of these kids when they go to the open admission colleges.  We’ve looked at schools all over the world, and if you walk into a high school in the countries that use these board exams, you’ll see kids working hard, whether they want to be a carpenter or a brain surgeon.

A planning grant of $1.5 million, to help the national center work with states  and districts to get the program running, was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Tucker estimates that start-up costs for school districts would be about $500 per student.  That would buy courses and tests, as well as the training of  teachers.

In the fall of 2011 high school students in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico,  Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, will begin the new coursework.

Backers say the new system can reduce the need for community colleges to offer remedial courses, because the score for the 10th-grade tests would be set at the level necessary to succeed in first-year college courses.

That means that failure can provide an early warning system to 10th graders —  they would know which skills and what knowledge they would still need to master before applying to college. 

Kentucky’s commissioner of education, Terry Holliday, said  high school graduation requirements in that state had long been based on accumulating enough course credits.

This would reform that.  We’ve been tied to seat-time for 100 years.  This would allow an approach based on subject mastery — a system based around move-on-when-ready.

And Phil Daro, a consultant based in Berkeley California, thinks school systems like Singapore’s work well because they promise students that if they study  the syllabus material conscientiously, they will do well on their examinations. 

In the US, by contrast, all is murky.  Students do not have a clear idea of where to apply their effort, and the system makes no coherent attempt to reward learning.

This system is similar to the growing early college high school movement, according to Dillon’s article.  There, students begin taking college-level courses and earning college credit (through nearby community colleges) while they are still in high school.  

The states participating in this board examination-based pilot project will pick up to five programs of instruction, with their accompanying tests, for participating high schools to use.

Programs already approved by the national center include the College Board’s Advanced Placement, the International Baccalaureate Diploma, ACT’s QualityCore and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education programs offered by both Cambridge International and by Pearson Education’s Edexcel.

sole source: Sam Dillon’s article in the NY Times on 2/18/10.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.

+ NY School District Offers All-Girls Tech Program

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The Fairport Central School District in upstate New York has approved an aggressive approach to counteract the gender gap in technology education, according to Ernst Lamothe, Jr in the Democrat Chronicle.

The district is set to begin a two-year pilot program starting next fall, to create four all-girl technology courses (two in ninth grade and two in middle school).  Enrollment will be voluntary, in compliance with Title IX.

Dave Allyn, a special assignment administrator for the district says, “Girls sometimes won’t take technology classes because they don’t want to be the only girl in a class or in a technology club.  Job growth is happening again in engineering and some of the sciences where old stereotypes persist about those male-dominated fields, and we need to make our young women aware that there is an opportunity for them.” 

Although women make up more than half of the work force, they hold only 28 percent of technology positions (US Bureau of labor Statistics).  The number of young women studying computer science has fallen by more than 40 percent in the past two decades.

With computer support specialist, systems administrator and engineering positions expected to grow significantly by 2016, educators and employers worry that young women are failing to gain the necessary skills for those jobs.

Both the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology have less than 30 percent female enrollment in their undergraduate engineering programs.

More than 450 public schools nationwide offer single-sex academic classes, says the US Department of Education.  Research finds that female students learn differently, including preferring collaborative learning and quieter environments.

They are more concerned with complete understanding, doing quality work and helping others.  Male students tend to want to complete tasks as quickly as possible and move on.

Instead of trying to make girls fit into the existing system, school districts nationwide are changing to become more inviting for girls.  The solutions include instituting after-school technology clubs targeting young women as well as offering single-gender technology classes.

Universities also continue to push hard to attract more female engineers, since women make up less than 18 percent of six engineering fields, including single-digit percentages in civil and mechanical engineering.

Colleges and universities have started national programs such as “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” which is part of February’s Engineering Week.  The push continues in March, during Women’s History Month, when elementary and secondary schools can participate in live Web chats and teleconferences that encourage girls to consider engineering as a major.

The Rochester Institue of Technology began several initiatives six years ago.  They offer a middle school girls’ robotics program every winter, as well as an elementary design program camp.

At the Fairport schools, boys made up 90.3 percent of the enrollment in technology classes last year; this year, the proportion rose to 91.7 percent.   When the high school added a computer game design course to teach students programming skills, only three of the 115 enrollees were girls.

These single-gender classes will have the same curriculum and exams as their mixed-gender counterparts.  There will be two eighth-grade Technology for Girls classes that will last one quarter at two of the schools and a semester- or year-long course at the other two.

Fairport Middle School teachers purchased computer programming, designed by a Carnegie Mellon University professor, intended to appeal to girls.

According to Allyn, “Usually computer games are all about car crashes, armies, gunfights and sports, which boys tend to like, but not always young girls.” 

But this new system encourages people to write stories and put them into animation, which taps into the creativity and technology aspects for the female students.

The district has also added hand-drafting units for graphic arts and two environmental-related units, because women make up almost 50 percent of people in the field of environmental engineering.

Elizabeth Brown, a technology teacher at one of the schools, says schools need to follow that up by offering young girls more classes focused on green and alternative energy issues.  She has her class building solar-powered cars this year.

“If we are serious about this issue,” says Brown, “you have to make inroads with our young women now, and it must start as early as middle school.”

The school district also started a new middle school club called Cyberettes, connecting them with female computer students enrolled at RIT.  They work together on projects such as Web design, encryption, programming and video editing, giving young girls an introduction to technology careers and advice from women talking about their experience in a male-dominated culture.

Margaret Bailey, mechanical engineer professor at RIT and executive director of its Women in Engineering program, says

There are some girls who are going to do well regardless of putting them in single-gender class or not.  But for those who might not, what Fairport is doing makes sense, expecially at a young age, when you see girls losing interest in math and sciences because they are not getting much encouragement about pursuing careers in those areas.

Additional Facts:

According to the US Census Bureau, women make up a small proportion of professionals in key technology fields:

  • Physics: 21 percent
  • Computer science: 18.6 percent
  • Aerospace engineering: 11.5 percent
  • Civil Engineering: 9.5 percent
  • Mechanical engineering: 7.1 percent

sole source: article by Ernst Lamothe Jr at www.democratandchronicle.com on 11/16/09.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Latin is Back in Schools Again

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The number of students in the US taking the National Latin Exam has risen steadily to more than 134,000 students in each of the past two years.  Interestingly, large increases are even seen in remoter areas like New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont.

The number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in Latin has nearly doubled over the past ten years.  Although Spanish and French still dominate, and Chinese and Arabic are trendier, Latin is quietly flourishing.

The resurgence of a language once rejected as outdated and irrelevant is attributable to a new generation of students who seek to increase SAT scores, stand out from their friends, or simply harbor a fascination for it after reading Harry Potter’s Latin-based chanting spells, says Winnie Hu in an article in the New York Times.

Enrollment in the suburb of New Rochelle has increased to 187.  The two middle schools in town are starting an ancient-cultures club in which students will explore the lives of Romans, Greeks and other ancient people.

In New York City, Latin is thriving.  It is currently taught in three dozen schools, including Brooklyn Latin, a high school in East Williamsburg that started in 2006.  Four years of Latin are required, as well as two years of Spanish.  Latin phrases adorn the walls, and words like discipuli (students), magistri (teachers) and latrina (bathroom) are part of everyday conversation.  

“It’s the language of scholars and educated people,” says Jason Griffiths, headmaster of Brooklyn Latin.  “It’s the language of people who are successful.  I think it’s a draw, and that’s certainly what we sell.”

Adam Blistein, executive director of the American Philological Association at the University of Pennsylvania which represents more than 3,000 members including classics professors and latin teachers, says that more high schools are recognizing the benefits of Latin.  It builds vocabulary and grammar for higher SAT scoores, appeals to college admissions officers as a sign of critical-thinking skills and fosters true intellectual passion, he feels.

“Goethe is better in German, Flaubert is better in French and Virgil is better in Latin,” says Dr Blistein.  “If you stick with it, the lollipop comes at the end when you get to read the original.  In many cases, it’s what whets their apetite.”

Once upon a time, Latin was required at many public and parochial schools.  It fell into disfavor in the 1960s when students rebelled against traditional classroom teachings and even rhe Roman Catholic Church abandoned the use of Latin as the official language of the Mass.

Interest was somewhat revived in the 1970s and began picking up in the 1980s with the back-to-basics movement in many schools.  But it has really taken off in the last few years as an ivory tower secret that has infiltrated popular culture.

The Harry Potter books use Latin words for names and spells, and at least two have been translated into Latin (“Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis“), as have several by Dr Seuss (“Cattus Petasatus“).   Movies like “Gladiator” and “Troy” as well as the series “Rome” have also lent glamour to ancient subjects.

Marty Abbott, education director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, says it is possible that Latin might edge out German as the third most popular language taught in schools, behind Spanish and French. 

Abbott is a former Latin teacher, and says that today’s Latin classes appeal to more students because they have evolved from “dry grammar and tortuous translations” to livelier lessons that focus on culture, history and the daily life of the Romans.

In addition, she says, Latin teachers and students themselves have promoted the language outside the classroom through clubs, poetry competitions and mock chariot races.

In Scarsdale, NY, where Latin enrollment rose by 14 percent this year, the high school sponsors a Roman banquet on the Ides of March, during which students wear tunics and wreaths in their hair.  Seniors serve bread, olives, roasted chicken and grapes to younger students, as they all break bread with their fingers.

The Latin teacher, Marion Polsky, says she still receives postcards in Latin from former students, and that at least three have gone on to become Latin teachers.

Ciera Gardner, a sophomore at New Rochelle (and an aspiring actress), started Latin three years ago, and while two friends have dropped away she persists, because Latin will look good on her college applications and — in the meantime — it has already helped her decipher unfamiliar words in scripts.  “It’s different,” she says.  “Everyone says ‘I take Spanish’ or ‘I take Italian,’ but it’s cool to say ‘I take Latin.’ ”

And Max Gordon, also a sophomore, says he has learned more about grammar in Latin class than he ever did in English classes.  He occasionally debates the finer points of grammar with his mother, a video artist who studied Latin.

“In some ways it’s really frustrating,” he says.  “I’ll hear someone say something that isn’t grammatically correct and I’ll cringe.”

sole source: article by Winnie Hu in the NY Times on 10/7/08.  www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ How to Read a Novel: What Page One Can Tell You

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Thomas C Foster is the author of the rich and wonderful “How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form.”  The book is concerned with the “grammar” of the novel; the specific, formal elements of this most popular of literary forms.

He explores how authors’ choices (about structure, point of view, narrative voice and other aspects of a novel) create meaning using a special literary language.  Foster gives us the keys to this language.

Chapter One starts off roundly, offering the 18 (count them) things you can learn on the first page of a novel.

Foster suggests that the first page is a promissory note between the author and a prospective reader, saying, “Hey, I’ve got something good here — trust me.”  But more: the first page of a novel teaches us how to read it.

EIGHTEEN THINGS PAGE ONE CAN TELL US

1.    Style    Are sentences short or long, simple or complex, rushed or leisurely?  How many modifiers?  Hemingway, says Foster, was “badly frightened in infancy by words ending in ‘ly.’ ”  Open any American detective novel, he says, and you’ll see that the author has probably read Hemingway. 

2.    Tone    Every book has one, Foster tells us: elegiac, matter-of-fact, ironic.  Jane Austen’s masterpiece opening sentence in “Pride and Prejudice” distances the speaker from the source of that “universal truth” she mentions and gives her permission to trot out the rest of her ironic statement about men with fortunes being in need of wives.

3.    Mood    Similar to tone but not the same, says Foster.  Tone is about how the voice sounds, but “mood” is how the voice feels about the story it’s telling.  “The Great Gatsby” narrator, Nick Carraway, speaks in a reasonable sounding tone, but his mood is one of regret, guilt and even anger. What is it, we wonder, that he’s not quite saying here?

4.    Diction    What kind of words does the novel use?  Common or rare, friendly or challenging?  Are sentences whole or fractured, and if they’re fractured, is it accidental or on purpose?  Foster mentions Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange:” his character Alex uses a combination of Elizabethan elaboration, colorful curses and a kind of Slavic-based teen slang called Nadsat.

5.    Point of View    Not necessarily “who” in the story is telling the tale (see “narrative presence” below), but “who” relative to the story and its characters.  Is it a ‘he/she’ story or an ‘I’ story?  If ‘he/she,’ we can assume this is a more distant third-person narration.  If ‘I’ is the narrator, we can expect to meet a major or minor character, and our suspicions are aroused.  If the narration employs ‘you,’ says Foster, hang on to your hats: you’re likely in for some strange experiences.  Even if the author gets “tricky” with the third-person or the ‘I’ narrator, we usually get hints in the first paragraphs.

6.    Narrative Presence    Is it a disembodied voice or a person who is inside or outside the story?  One of the servants?  A victim?  A perpetrator?  Authors usually give us hints right away.  With first-person narrators, the “presence” is usually quite clear.  Third-person narrators can speak to us as genial companions (Austen), passionate participants (Dickens), or impersonal, detached and cool observers (Hemingway or Brookner).  In the 21st century, Foster reminds us, authors are less likely than their Victorian counterparts to mix it up emotionally.

7.    Narrative Attitude    How does the narrator feel about the characters and the action: amused (Austen), earnest (Dickens), or detached and impersonal as the narrator of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary.”  Flaubert, says Foster,in reacting to the overheated involvement of previous romantic era writers, created the next narrative cliche.

8.    Time Frame    Is all this contemporary or did it happen a long time ago?  How can we tell?  Does it cover a lot of time, or a little?  Check Gacia Marquez’s opening in “One Hundred Years of Solitude:” “Many years later…”   Foster feels any writer serious about the craft should be jealous of those three simple words.

9.    Time Management    Will it go fast or slow?  Is it being told in or near the “now” of the story, or long after?  Foster tell us that Nicholson Baker’s “The Mezzanine” takes place in the time it takes the narrator to ride an escalator from the first floor to the next landing — a feat that requires the elongation of time to the extreme.

10.   Place    Setting, but also more than setting, suggests Foster: a sense of things, a mode of thought, a way of seeing.  The second paragraph of TC Boyle’s “Water Music” tells us that the Niger River locale is both the setting and the story.

11.   Motif    According to Foster, motif is simply “stuff that happens again and again.”  It can be action, language pattern, image — anything that happens repeatedly.  Escapes in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”   Flowers in “Mrs. Dalloway.”  Cultural blunders leading to disasters in “Water Music.” Vonnegut’s ‘And so it goes,’ from “Slaughterhouse Five.”

12.   Theme    (Stop groaning, says Foster.  There won’t be a test.)  Theme is about “aboutness.”  Where the story is what happens, “theme” is the idea content.  Sometimes it’s simple: most mysteries carry the message that crime will be found out.  In “Mrs. Dalloway,” it is the presence of the past — and we get it right there on the first page.  It might be more subtle: a secondary theme in Agatha Christie’s novels is the decline of the aristocracy — all those inept, bumbling inhabitants of magnificent manor houses.

13.   Irony    Or not!  Some novels are in dead earnest — the entire 19th century, for example.  (Except Twain.  And Flaubert.)  But other novels are ironic on any number of levels: verbal, dramatic, comic, situational; and the irony usually shows up right away.  Robert Parker’s “A Catskill Eagle,” Foster tell us, begins “It was midnight and I was just getting home from detecting.”  Spenser (the protagonist and narrator) is in deadly earnest about what he does for a living when he’s doing it, but he knows that his chosen trade is morally dubious and he wants you to know that he’s also someone who likes wine with dinner.  Throughout, he veers between hard-charging action and ironic, distanced commentary.

14.   Rhythm    Prose rhythm shows up right away (narrative rhythm takes a while to establish) says Foster.  Prose rhythm often suggests how the larger narrative’s rhythm will work.  This rhythm is related to “diction” but with this difference: while diction has to do with the words a writer uses,  “rhythm” is how they are deployed in sentences.  Actually, they’re largely inseparable, because prose rhythm depends a good deal on the words chosen while also coloring how the words sound. (Everything in narrative is related to everything else on some level.)  Does the writer blurt out information or withhold it?  State it directly or bury it in a tangle of subordinate clauses?  Check out Barbara Kingsolver’s opening in “The Poisonwood Bible;” the rhythm is calm, measured, almost leisurely, but every detail is terrifying.

15.   Pace    How fast will we go?  Henry James opens “The Portrait of a Lady” with language that lets us know this will not be a hundred yard dash, says Foster: long, abstract words, embedded phrases.  Every sentence tells us this will be leisurely, so get used to it.  Psychological insight and interior drama can’t be rushed.

16.   Expectations    Not only of the writer — of the reader as well.  Page One, says Foster, is the most interactive of them all.  The writer gets to announce his or her expectations: one expects her reader will be patient (George Eliot); another expects readers to be hip, savvy and unafraid of the unconventional   (Thomas Pynchon); yet another wants a relaxed, jaunty companion (PG Wodehouse).  Authors do announce their expectations. But Page One is also where readers get to say whether or not  we will agree to his  terms.  Do we WANT to read it?  Do we approve of his word choice?  Are we that hip?  More?  The first page, according to Foster, is the beginning of a negotiation between writer and reader.  It’s where we have — or don’t have — a meeting of the minds.

17.   Character    You won’t always find a main character on page one, but more often than not, you will.  And it will probably be THE main character.  “Protagonist” comes from the Greek meaning “first agent,” Foster reminds us, and writers from the fifth century BCE to the 21st century usually trot them out straight away.  First-person narratives give us a character immediately: Huck Finn, Mike Hammer, Humbert Humbert.  But we find Mrs. Dalloway in the first two words of her novel; Joyce begins “Ulysses” with “stately, plump Buck Mulligan,” the protagonist’s nemesis; and in Garcia Marquez’s hundred-year saga, Aureliano Buendia faces a firing squad in the first sentence.

18.   Instructions on How to Read This Novel    The 17 previous elements instruct us how the novel wants to be read.  Every novel wants to be read in a certain way. It’s our call whether we read it that way.  It’s worth noting that we won’t get all of those features in every first page, but most of them will show up.  Even a dozen will provide a goodly assemblage of information, Foster says.  We will be well prepared to turn the page and grapple with the story.

Buy this book!

Sole source: “How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form,” by Thomas C Foster.   Cost: $13.95.  Published by Harper Collins Books, 2008.  ISBN 978-0-06-134040-6.  Foster’s previous book, “How to Read Literature Like a Professor,” is also available.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com