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How to use Google Classroom: A Quick Guide for Teachers

The paradigm shift in teaching and learning has replaced the blackboard with various learning management platforms. Google Classroom is one of the most widely used platforms for learning and teaching. Google Classroom is part of the G Suite for Education (Google for Education) package that includes Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, and other apps.

Why Google Classroom?

Compared to other LMS (Learning Management Systems) that have been popular over the past decade, Google Classroom is amazingly simple. Even though Google Classroom is more of a tool than an LMS, it is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for an organization. What’s more, it’s a free service for teachers and students. The (rather small) catch is that an individual cannot register until their school or organization signs up for the Google for Education package.

How to use Google Classroom effectively?

Online teaching has a lot to offer and one has to actually strive a bit to ace online classroom management. Teachers started with a lot of trepidation but are now getting accustomed to the usage of tools and techniques in online platforms.

However, effective management of online classrooms can only be achieved by understanding the nuances of using the particular platform. Here are a few tips to help one in this aspect. Chenda Jayachandran, Head Customer Engagement at Learning Matters has been training teachers for over two decades and swears by these tried-and-tested techniques. They may sound simple but are critical.

      1. Keep Parents in the Loop

In order to ensure smooth running of online classrooms, keeping the parents in the loop is a necessary step. Google Classroom has options for teachers to send out updates about students' classwork directly to the parents. Communication from school to home should be regular and consistent. It may consist of summaries of lessons completed, alerts or reminders for upcoming or missing submissions, and information about other class activities.

     2. Establish Effective Communication with Students

Establishing clear, direct, simple, and effective communication with students is also key to successful online teaching, Google Classroom has many in-built options to make this easy for teachers. In the “Students” tab, clicking the checkboxes above all of your students’ names highlights all the individuals. Clicking on “Actions” and “Email” helps in drawing attention to something you want to communicate to students. The “Move to top” button can be used when a student hasn’t submitted an assignment or to remind the students of the deadline for submission. Also, the “private comments” feature can be used to communicate with students to give feedback. In this way, Google Classroom simplifies communication with students.

     3. Connect with the Community

Teaching is more successful when it is collaborative. Google Classroom allows you to share your data with your school’s teaching community and collaborate with other teachers who teach the same grade level. You can invite teachers to join your class to help coordinate class activities. If you use Google Groups, you can also invite a group of co-teachers at the same time. Your G Suite administrator might only allow teachers and students from your school to join classes. Google Classroom makes it very easy for educators to collaborate in multiple ways. 

     4. Connect all your Resources with Google Classroom

To make the best use of the Google Classroom platform holistically, you can check out the supported integration of websites or apps available for Google Classroom. You can make use of several other in-built tools like Docs, Drive, and Calendar. Make effective use of Google Drive for collaborative writing, sharing, and commenting which provides students with the opportunities to receive immediate feedback on their assignments from teachers and classmates. By using the Calendar, teachers can streamline effective classroom management. For example, if you post an assignment with a due date, it's automatically added to the class calendar for your students to see. Furthermore, one can digitally organize, distribute, and collect assignments, course materials, and student work on time without any misses. 

Some apps partner with Google directly, while others create and publish their own third-party add-ons in the Chrome Store. For example, if you are looking for learning content online there are integrations with publishers such as Newsela, Khan Academy, and BrainPop. In order to make teaching effective with relevant videos and quizzes, you can check out Kengine - a video-enabled digital content and assessment platform. Kengine can be easily integrated with Google Classroom.

 

As the way students are learning is changing, a lot of other things are also constantly evolving with regard to teaching, too. Google Classroom has been introducing new features regularly to make teaching and learning easier. They take the user’s feedback very seriously. If you want to suggest a feature then go to classroom.google.com. In the bottom-left corner, click Help (?) > request feature. Enter your suggestion and then click Send.

Last but not least, learning the nuances of Google Classroom is another skill set altogether. But, it can indeed be accomplished. If you are a novice in need of extended support on the usage of this platform, sign up for our in-depth demos and walkthroughs of Google Classroom. As the sessions are handled by Google Certified Experts, get ready to be trained by professionals. Now, anyone can become a pro at using Google Classroom!

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5 strategies to increase participation in your online classroom

The pandemic-led pivot to online learning hasn’t been easy on teachers or students. While students went from sitting in classrooms to being confined at home and learning online, teachers have had to figure out how to teach remotely and get accustomed to teaching online. Even though online teaching and learning began with trepidation, the current reality has brought in distance learning as an integral part of the education system. Online learning as a modality of teaching and learning is here to stay for a while and it is constantly evolving.

Even though online teaching has certain limitations, it also has a plethora of opportunities to explore. The virtual classroom has ensured that there is no back seat in online education. In fact, when done right, online education can be surprisingly intimate! With online classrooms, every student is in the front row! Check out these 5 handy strategies to make the most of online classrooms by increasing students participation:

1. Increase Teacher Presence

The online classroom shouldn’t feel like it’s running on auto-pilot mode. The instructor should make sure that students feel connected to him or her by having one-on-one conversations in the online classroom. The online class actually embodies the instructor’s personality—a major means of connection with the audience. So, instructors should go all out to keep the class alive with their unique style, be it puns or persona.

Furthermore, the instructor should make it easy for students to get in touch with them via emails or calls (if necessary). A regularly scheduled “office hour” to address concerns encourages students to speak up if they have challenges or questions. One can also create and share a document containing recurring student queries related to the course or assessments.

2. Space Out the Content

Information overload is a real phenomenon that can confuse students as well as lead to loss of interest. Neuroscience has proven that our attention span is, at max, 10 minutes. After that, our attention starts to wane. So, spacing out content and chunking it into 10-minute segments will give students the opportunity to recall and review information, therefore committing it to their long-term memory. To keep the content engaging for all, ensure to provide information in varied formats like videos, audio, text, voice-over slides, discussions and more. Teachers should be creative and have students take turns to present or ‘teach’ as well as try debates, online quizzes, polls and so on. Digital tools like Google Classroom can be a useful teaching aid.

3. Have a Call to Action

Instructors should make students take what they've learned and use it for a real purpose, as opposed to simply writing a paper or taking a test. Each lesson should consist of a piece of information and a related, meaningful student action. It need not necessarily be an elaborate project but can be about solving a problem, writing an opinion piece, providing relevant illustrations and so on. Engage more with students by asking open-ended questions that require a higher level of reflection and thinking.

4. Provide Meaningful Feedback

Feedback is an essential part of effective learning which can foster strong relationships among a teacher and a student. However, it is essential to make the process of providing feedback a positive, or at least a neutral, learning experience for the student. Unless, there are some serious issues to address in which case it should be handled privately. Feedback helps students feel a sense of progress and rescues them from isolation. To convey a personal sense of connection, instructors can use video every now and then to deliver feedback. As feedback works both ways, don’t forget to solicit feedback from your students too. This will help ensure they are meeting the needs of their audience and improving approach.

5. Include a Community Component

Online learning should be more than sitting in front of a computer. Real engagement involves becoming a part of the larger community of learners. A teacher can create a forum to facilitate students engaging with one another. This kind of community encourages the members to probe and learn more than the assigned course pedagogy. Students will also have more opportunities to connect with instructors and fellow students, discuss coursework and most importantly, become more engaged. Teachers and students share a common responsibility for creating and conserving this learning environment. Such online learning communities can be scholastically successful as well as life-altering at a personal level when created, nurtured, and sustained by all the members of the community.

Even though online classrooms are limited in some ways, they open a virtual doorway to new learning experiences. Making online classes interesting is harder and there’s an awful lot to learn as the online learning space is constantly evolving. All it takes is a digital mindset, the right tools, a focused approach, and enthusiasm to evolve with one’s students.

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4 Easy Ways to Integrate Technology in Your Science Class

Science is an exciting subject to teach as it encompasses so many different facets of the world we live in. It also is a crucial subject to teach in school as science is the foundation of any career in engineering, medicine, life sciences, environmental sciences, and why, even in the culinary field! Teaching science, therefore, must be dynamic and without the correct resources, it is often difficult.

In order to teach science effectively and to get students genuinely interested in science, teachers must integrate any and all technology tools that are at their disposal to augment learning. A lot of teachers (incorrectly) assume that incorporating technology into their classes is expensive and difficult. This is not the case. There are many wonderful online tools available that can help teachers make the teaching of science come alive. Here are some of them, as researched by team Learning Matters.

Google Drawings

Google Drawings is a virtual board that allows users to create content by drawing, pasting images, linking videos and websites, and inserting text, shapes, tables, and other content onto a page in Google Drive. This app is free to a Google account user and doesn’t have any restrictions on the number of individuals who can use it. So, multiple people can work on the same Google drawing document at the same time from different locations. This is very helpful for team projects or to keep the class highly interactive. Students can use Google Drawings to fill in and label the parts of diagrams. For instance, the teacher could share a picture of a cell and ask students to label the parts of it. The students can circle, highlight, crop, draw arrows, and write on the image. Later, the teacher can provide comments about the work completed to each individual student. Another feature to explore in Google Drawings is Mind Mapping that uses diagrams to help you brainstorm and organize ideas visually. Furthermore, teachers can assign students to create an infographic that will demonstrate data in a better way and this will help students understand concepts better. Similarly, a teacher can also make use of concept maps and flow charts on Google Drawings to make the lesson interesting.

Watch this video tutorial to learn how Mind maps help assimilate and retain information easily.

Google Science Journal

Google Science Journal is a free app that allows you to gather data about the world around you by harnessing the sensors in your smartphone. It has more than 70 hands-on science activities and also additional experiments are available as a free download from Google partners like the Exploratorium, Science Buddies, and others.

One can simply start using the app by logging in and the sensors in a smartphone are used to measure things like sound, acceleration, and light intensity. One can also add external sensors for added functionality. This can help students conduct experiments and record their observations on multiple projects such as building a weather station or testing body conductivity. Furthermore, the platform filters the experiments conducted on the basis of grade level, features, and duration.

Watch this ToolBox activity - Fun with Friction that can be used with accelerometers in your phone to investigate motion. Experiments like these will help increase engagement among kids with science

Google Jamboard

Google Jamboard is a digital, cloud-based whiteboard product available on G-Suite. If you want to use Jamboard as a real whiteboard, you can purchase the 55 inch LCD touch tool from Google or you can also use the application from your phone or computer in the same way you would use other apps on G-Suite apps. Google enables the Jamboard service by default to all G Suite users. Jamboard allows multiple users to collaborate on the same documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, and more. Thus, it’s immensely useful in class.

Google Jamboard can be of great help in remote teaching as it works digitally as an app so it can be used on tablets, phones, and other devices. It'll even work via the web using Google Drive so it is really widely accessible. The updated Jamboard phone apps for Android and iOS allow you to draw, add notes or images, and insert content from Google Drive, among other features. Looking to get started with Google Drive? Jump straight ahead and watch this masterclass: how to use Google Drive in your classroom.

To effectively make use of the Jamboard, it is crucial to integrate important applications. To begin with, one can integrate Screencastify from the Chrome Web Store to record themselves explaining how to solve an equation. Furthermore, as Google Jamboard is part of the G Suite of apps, it integrates seamlessly with Google Classroom. Using both, one can create an assignment and attach the Jam in the ‘students can view’ option. This will let all the students have read-only access. This can then be used as notes during the lesson.

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3 Ways To Help Students Overcome Math Anxiety

Mathematics has long been the bane of many a child’s existence. It is a subject that is deemed as crucial, time and again. At the same time, a large number of students express many emotions towards it including fear, disdain, anxiety, and plain hatred. Why does math bring out such strong feelings in children? And in teachers and parents? 

Many teachers and parents, unfortunately, have the tendency to believe that students are “just not trying hard enough” in math. And sadly, many parents and teachers often fail to notice if children have actually developed anxiety towards the subject.

Math anxiety is real. It is a negative emotional reaction to mathematics that can be debilitating. This anxiety is not restricted to tests or classroom settings only but is present in real-world situations too. The worst part is, even when students know how to solve a math problem, the anxiousness can numb them. Let’s examine the different facets of math anxiety and see how we can all better support children.

Why the anxiety?

There could be several reasons for this:

  • Fear of embarrassment: Children who are scolded publicly by teachers or ridiculed by peers for being wrong, scoring less marks, or not performing well in math are prone to developing math anxiety.  

  • Parents’ predilections: As a parent, if you tell your kids, “You are not a math person”, “You are not good in math” or share your dislike towards the subject, it can influence them to not like the subject. Comments such as “I was never good in math” or “I can’t solve this”  can influence  kids to think, “If my parents aren’t/couldn’t be good in math, then how can I?”

  • Teachers’ attitudes: Teachers can make or break a child.  When pupils don’t understand certain concepts, the responsibility of the teacher is to help them learn and understand rather than assuming that the pupils have not tried hard enough or worked enough. Giving mathematics problems as punishment is the final straw!

How do you know if a child has math anxiety?

Here are some common signs of math anxiety:

    – Panicking, getting irrationally irritated, or getting teary-eyed before or during math classes, tests, and exams.

    – Constantly saying, ‘I hate math, I can’t do it’ and giving up easily.

    – Coming up with excuses to avoid doing math homework or avoid going to math classes, math tests, or quiz session days.

How to overcome math anxiety?

Anxiety impacts learning big time and children could get stuck in a vicious cycle because they are anxious. If you think your child or student shows math anxiety, the first step to take is to work on your child’s emotional intelligence. When a child considers the problem unsolvable, they engage in emotion-focused coping by working to tolerate and control distress. The child’s strategies to deal with it are a part of emotional intelligence which includes awareness, understanding, and the ability to express and manage one’s emotions. A strong emotional intelligence build-up aids in children’s coping mechanisms with regard to anxiety. 

Here are a few simple steps to aid them in overcoming this anxiety:

  • Step 1: Make the basics strong

A lot of times students try to solve math problems for the “here and now” i.e. to complete the homework or to be able to score well in one test or exam. However, skill-building in math requires a strong grasp of the foundational concepts. Adopting a gamified way of learning to ace the basic skills can help the children. Activity-based learning will go a long way towards making math fun. As an example, here is a specially-designed math activity on multiplication from Learning Matters’ grade 3 ToolBox (activity kit) called Lattice Multiplication. If you’d like to know more about the math activities in ToolBox for various grades or want to learn more about ToolBox, Contact us.

Talk to your kid’s maths teacher and work together to eradicate your kid’s stigma towards mathematics. If your kid feels suffocated working in a group due to fear of embarrassment, invest time on them, and resort to individualized learning. Set aside a little time every day to systematically review basic maths concepts. The foremost thing here is to be patient with your kid and let them advance, step by step, at their own pace. A lot of times when a kid is promoted from one standard to the other with 60%, what about the remaining 40%? Ensure the kid practices the concepts he/she is weak with even after exams and is thorough with it before starting the new grade. The basics are imprinted strongly in a kid’s mind when he/she is able to recall it. Thus, one should look at a consistent and steady schedule of practice so as not to lose touch with the basic concepts. This goes a long way towards instilling confidence.

  • Step 2: Practice amalgamation of concepts

Typically, teachers impart lesson 1 and a test on lesson 1 and then lesson 2 and a test on lesson 2. But in the semester-end or term-end exams, there might be questions which require the students to use the concepts learned in lesson 1 & 2 together. Mathematics usually has problems where one has to use various concepts together. So, once children are confident with the basics, give them exercises that combine different concepts.  When students use different concepts together, it helps them build on their retention power.

  •  Step 3: Give practice tests

At times reading and re-reading the material during the revision period prior to an exam makes one numb. Typically, we tend to forget 60% of a new concept learned within a day. 

So make your kids take random math quizzes or tests at home. This will reduce the phobia towards class surprise tests as well.  Ensure you don’t pressurize kids to perform exceptionally well in these tests. These trial drills are to be conducted only to make them confident. Avoid any kind of punishment or negative feedback that could demotivate them. These tests should aid them to build confidence and not trigger anxiety.

Taking a calm and composed approach towards your kid’s learning is highly essential. The whole idea is to normalize the concept of mathematics to children. A wise man once said, “Good mathematics is not about how many answers you know..it’s about how you behave when you don’t know”. Teach your kids to be cool-headed when they don’t know the answers. With patience and a plan, you can definitely help your child overcome math anxiety. However, if you think the anxiety is severe then do seek professional counseling.

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3 Great Ways to Power up Your Parent Communication

Even though the pandemic disrupted the education segment severely it also fast-tracked the adoption of technology in teaching and learning. Digitally-driven classrooms are gearing up for changes as schools are now gradually reopening and the need to include parents in every conversation has become more imperative now than ever.

Why Home-School Communication?

Even though schools will reopen in a phased manner with precautions, managing apprehensive parents who are dubious about sending their children to school is going to be a challenging task,among many others, for school authorities. Communication becomes the key to tackle this issue.

Effective communication between home and school is critical for student achievement. Achieving the perfect sync between communication channels and the school’s goals and values of education is the foundation of successful home-school partnership.

Here are 3 ways in which educators can ace home-school communication:

1. Establish Clear Expectations

The majority of challenges with parents can be diminished by setting up clear expectations initially. State the do’s and don’t of communication clearly - what parents can expect from you, the modes you will use to communicate with them, what you expect from them, and what you expect from the students - to avoid confusion. Stick to a schedule to send out your communications so that families know when to look out for these. Establish a process for follow-ups such as first email, then sms, then a phone call. Make it a point to be responsive, forthcoming, and prompt in your communications. Furthermore, adapt to new situations quickly to continue the effective engagement. Remember, if you are a model of prompt, clear, and good communication, the families will follow suit.

2. Simplify Communication

Parents in any given school generally tend to have various levels of education. So, schools need to ensure that the communication should be carried out in an easy-to-understand manner. And, schools also need to realise that one size may not fit all. They may need to use several different methods to reach all families. Teachers need to be observant and notice if all parents are noting and responding to the messages shared. Simplified written communication can help to avoid misunderstandings. Communication might sometimes need to be done in local vernacular languages as well to reach all parents. Check with your school management about adopting this measure.

3. Encourage Engagement of Parents

How involved do you want parents to be? This is a very debatable topic indeed. Some teachers have experienced an onslaught of helicopter parenting with the shift to online classes. Others complain that they are simply unable to catch the attention of parents, no matter what they do. While the over-involvement of parents in online classes is a real problem, there still is a need for a basic level of parental involvement for holistic learning. When evaluating parent communication strategy, teachers need to convey that parent engagement is critical to a student’s success at school and in life. Teachers can send out surveys to parents related to student’s behaviour which will help them to understand each student as a person and a learner. This is also a great way to indulge in conversation with the parents to build good relationships.

Successfully managing home-school communication is a continuous process. Schools alone cannot address all of a child's developmental needs. Thus, there is always a constant need to have a strong partnership between schools and families to educate children. In simpler times, this relationship was natural and easy to maintain. Now as there is a paradigm shift in the education sector, even simple communication requires more thought and focus as it can prove costly when not done right.

Sign up for our webinar on, ‘How to Master Home-School Communication’ to learn more strategies! You’ll be guided by an expert education professional as she takes you through the proven ways of effective communication channels that schools can utilize to create strong home-school partnerships.

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As Simple as a Simile

as simple as 

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things with one another by using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. It is crucial to use ‘like’ or ‘as’ because without these words, the comparison might actually be classified as a metaphor, or just be confusing to readers. Similes are considered to be one of the best tools for writers to create vivid mental images that spark readers’ imagination while simultaneously getting the information across.

Thus, to make the experience of reading entertaining and to captivate the reader, similes are very useful. In fact, similes should be part of your everyday speech as well as they accentuate spoken language by making it colourful and interesting.

Similes usually use hyperbole, or exaggeration, for emphasis and are found frequently in both poetry and prose. The main point to remember before creating a simile is to include a primary term - the term that conveys the literal entity to be described - and a secondary term - a term that is used figuratively to add meaning. For example, in the simile ‘The dog’s fur felt as smooth as silk’, the primary term is ‘dog’s fur’ and the secondary term is ‘silk’.

Similes are often confused with metaphors. Well, compared to metaphors similes are easy to detect as they use ‘like’ or ‘as’. While all similes are metaphors, not all metaphors are similes. Check out the following examples to understand similes better.

1. As cute as a kitten

Just picture a wide-eyed, round-bellied, soft, stumbling kitten. That adorable, helpless little thing! Kittens most certainly trigger cute reflexes among humans. Basically, when you want to call someone cute, you can compare them to someone or something that people generally consider cute.
Example: My nephew in his birthday outfit looked as cute as a kitten. Orange really is his colour!

2. As tough as nails

This means being strong, stubborn or determined. This simile can be used both positively and negatively. When used as a compliment, it means that a person can handle any problem and keep enduring. When used as an insult, it can mean that a person is unfeeling, cold, or harsh.
Example: She's as tough as nails - exactly what we need on our football team.

3. Dead as a doornail

The term ‘dead as a doornail’ was used in the 1500s by William Shakespeare, and in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843. Back in the day, doornails were hammered into a door by clenching them. When a nail has been clenched, it has been dead nailed, and is not easily resurrected to use again. So, this term is used to indicate being unquestionably or certainly dead.
Example: Times are bad; the market is dead as a doornail.

4. Smart as a whip

This simile alludes to the sharp crack of a whip which is used to indicate being bright, clever and alert. In the days of horse-drawn vehicles, one kept the horses going by flicking or cracking a whip near the animal and that resulted in a quick reflex of the horse getting alert and going faster. The expression must have arisen from this.
Example: Everybody says Tony is smart as a whip and also good with people. Those are the things that make a good manager and he is a great manager.

5. Hurts like the devil

This means pain of great intensity.
Example: Earlier I stubbed my pinky toe on the chair and man, it hurt like the devil!

6. Slept like a log

Logs are immobile and difficult to move, just like someone who is sleeping very soundly. Thus, this simile is used to indicate a good sleep. The simile ‘slept like a baby’ is also used to indicate the same. While babies don’t sleep deeply, they do sleep untroubled and peacefully, something we all wish for.
Example: After a good south Indian meal, I always sleep like a log. I think it's the rice that makes me so sleepy.

7. Happy as a clam

As open clams give the appearance of smiling, this term is used to describe happiness. The fuller version of the phrase is 'as happy as a clam at high water'. Hide tide is when clams are free from the attention of predators. Thus, the happiest time for clams is during high tide or high water. However, the expanded version of the simile is rarely used compared to the shorter version.
Example: Sharath is happy as a clam now that he has been shortlisted for the college’s cricket team.

8. Clean as a whistle

This simile has three different meanings. The meaning depends on the context in which it is used. It is used to indicate something being extremely clean (like a brand-new whistle), something that is very clear, direct and easy to understand (like the sound of a whistle), and a person who is extremely honest, ethical, or free of any guilt or wrongdoing.
Example 1: Rahul is so clean and organised. His apartment is as clean as a whistle!
Example 1: So Seema, have you understood your responsibilities in this important project? Yes, absolutely Gayatri. Your directions were as clear as a whistle.
Example 1: The new mayor is clean as a whistle, I heard. Hopefully the city will see more progress and better days under his jurisdiction.

9. Like watching paint dry

This indicates (having to do) something dull, boring or tedious. It’s not interesting at all to watch paint dry, is it?
Example: That movie was so slow and the plot so bad... It was like watching paint dry!

10. White as a ghost

This means extremely and unnaturally pale, either due to fear or illness. One can also use the similes ‘white as a sheet’ or ‘pale as a ghost’ to mean the same.
Example: My diabetic grandfather went white as a ghost when he was caught by mom in the middle of the night bingeing on laddus.

The simile is an essential literary device for writers of both poetry and prose as it can give deeper meaning that goes beyond what’s on the page. It is also a great way for writers to show their creative side. Unlike other literary devices such as onomatopoeia or homophones that our previous ‘Vocabulary Matters’ chapters elaborated on, anyone can easily make up or create their own original similes from scratch.

We are all ears, if you have any interesting and original similes to share with us. After all, each one of us is as creative as …... can you help us complete this simile? 🙂

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How can I improve my English writing skills

Importance of developing writing skill

English is the third-most spoken language in the world and has become the unofficial global language. In today’s shrinking global world, learning the language has become more important than ever in order to communicate with and work in the corporate world. It is of no doubt that if one has to survive in today’s cut-throat competition, one should have good command over the language.

Many countries including India have included English in their school syllabus and children are starting to learn English at a younger and younger age. However, the majority of the population does not have exposure to hearing English being spoken and opportunities to practice conversing in English. Listening to a language and being able to practice speaking are the two main ways by which human beings learn a language. In this scenario, many young adults despair, thinking they will never be able to gain proficiency in English. This is not true. With dedicated efforts and a commitment to learning, it is indeed possible to improve one’s English proficiency and writing skills by following these tried-and-tested tips.

Below are the top 8 tips to hone your writing skills. Begin by incorporating one tip at a time into your life and keep following them regularly to start writing like an expert.

1. Read, Read, Read!

Reading is very closely related to writing and the best way to improve writing is to read as much as you can! Reading will help improve your vocabulary and knowledge of sentence structure and grammar. If you don’t understand certain words, look them up and make a note for your own later reference. For example, reading sample resumes will help you immensely if you are writing your own resume as you will have a much better idea about the typical words and phrases to be used and how the sentences need to be framed. Reading and re-reading is the single-most powerful way to improve writing skills.

2. Make a Dictionary Your Best Friend

Be inquisitive and every time you read or hear a new word, check for the meaning in a dictionary. There are many dictionary apps too for your phone and now with several offline dictionary apps available, you don’t even have to turn your data on to google a word. The apps show you not just the meaning of words but also their antonyms (opposites), synonyms (words with similar meaning) as well as the usage of the word in a sentence. Using a dictionary is a great way to extend your vocabulary.

3. Work on Grammar

Getting the grammar correct is a fundamental step in improving writing skills. This is common advice anyone would get when it comes to mastering writing skills. Well, it might be a bit of a boring solution to open a grammar book and wonder where to start from. If you aren’t up for that then there are numerous online options that make grammar practice fun and easy. You can try Purdue University’s ‘The Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab)’ which houses writing resources and instructional materials and provides these as a free service. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects. Just google ‘The Purdue OWL’ to find it.

You can also try ‘Grammar Ninja’ which is an app where players hunt down all instances of parts of speech within sentences and race against the clock to tap the number of correct words shown at the bottom of the page. There are many other such fun apps you can explore to strengthen your vocabulary and grammar such as Duolingo, Quiz Your English by Cambridge Assessment English, British Council’s Learn English Grammar, and many more. Correct grammar comes from repeated writing and from regular reading. The more you read, the more correct grammar you will be exposed to.

4. Proofread

Poor spellings can ruin an otherwise good piece of writing. So, always double-check for spelling errors. You can also use Grammarly to correct spellings for you. You can start by installing Grammarly for free in your laptop and when you add the Grammarly extension to your browser, you’ll be able to directly access Grammarly’s writing suggestions from Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and most other sites on the web. You’ll know it’s working when you see a green G in the lower right corner of the text field you’re writing in. In order to receive premium suggestions on your writing, you have to pay and purchase for an annual subscription. A few other alternatives to Grammarly are ProWritingAid, Sapling, Ginger, WhiteSmoke, and PaperRater.

5. Play with Sentences

Learn how to expand your basic sentences into more elaborate ones. For instance, sentences with a simple ‘Subject – Verb’ structure such as “Vishal studies” or “My friend is playing” can be easily elaborated or extended into sentences such as “Vishal, my brother, studies at home” and “My childhood friend Nadira is always playing chess. Extending your sentences while writing is not difficult at all. Watch this really interesting video to learn how to stretch your sentences. You will become a pro in no time! 

6. Organise Paragraphs Properly

When you move from writing sentences to writing paragraphs, it’s crucial to begin with a well-organized layout. Start a paragraph with a topic or introductory sentence and continue with supporting sentences that support the main idea, theme, or topic of the paragraph. Make sure there is a link from one sentence to another and finish the paragraph with a strong conclusion. Also, ensure to keep the sentences small, as too long sentences might make the reader fail to understand the meaning of the text. If you have sentences longer than 25 words, try to break them up or condense them.

7. Outline your Work

Before you start to write anything - from a paragraph to an essay - do thorough research on the topic. On any given topic, there can always be several different angles and points of view. As you’re reading, take notes when you see interesting information, facts or quotes you might want to use. After you have done sufficient research, put down the objective to avoid drifting off on tangents. Then, jot down all the main points you want to cover. Once you have the outline set, kick-start your writing. Remember, the outline is only to guide you and not control you.

8. Ask Someone to Review

Writing is a skill that needs to be constantly honed as there is always room to learn more. A lot of times, it is difficult for us to see our own mistakes. Or, your brain will skim over and read what it thinks you've written, not what's actually there. So, always ask someone to review your work to get feedback. After all, knowledge shared is knowledge squared. Also, don't blindly accept all the changes or suggestions made. Take time to look at the corrections and suggestions they've made to understand what errors you are making in your writing. Make a note of your frequently misspelt words or misused phrases.

Final words

Now that we have touched upon the tips to consider to master writing, be assured that grammar and informational or persuasive essay exercises aren’t the only important exercises writers need to do to hone their skills and craft. As a writer, you always must keep reading because the process of improving your writing never ends. There’s always more to learn and get inspired from. As a writer, you have the utmost power to influence people and invoke thought processes. As William. H Gass rightly said, “A true alchemist does not change lead into gold; they change the world into words”. Believe in yourself and start working on yourself with one tip at a time to unleash your writing potential.

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Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia (on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh) refers to words that resemble or sound like the sounds they describe or, in other words, the naming of an action by a phonetic representation or imitation of the sound associated with it. Think of words such as crash, tick-tock, hiss, waa-waa, hoo-hoo, and whoosh.

Writers use onomatopoeia to stimulate the reader’s auditory sense and create rich soundscapes in writing. When you read the word splat, doesn’t it automatically invoke a mental image of something wet having hit a surface? Or, when you read the word achoo, can’t you almost hear the sneeze? Such is the power of onomatopoeia! Writers of comics especially use onomatopoeia to show sound effects.

Onomatopoeic words can be real words, made-up words, or letters representing raw sounds. For example, the letters zzzzzz mean someone is sleeping or snoring.

Onomatopoeic words can differ across cultures and languages. For example, woof is typically used to denote a dog’s bark in English. But, the onomatopoeic words for a dog’s bark changes in various languages. Check out how ‘woof’ is represented in other languages:

  • English: woof, woof; ruff, ruff; arf, arf; bow wow; yap, yap; yip, yip (for small dogs)

  • German: wuff, wuff; wau, wau

  • Spanish: guau-guau; gua, gua; jau, jau

  • Korean: meong, meong

  • Hindi: bow, bow

What is the big deal about onomatopoeia? Or... Why should I use onomatopoeia?

The use of onomatopoeia makes one’s written and spoken language more expressive, impactful, and memorable. Check out the following examples to see the impact of onomatopoeia and to learn a variety of onomatopoeic words.

Onomatopoeic words related to the sound of water

1. Dribble

Meaning: Flowing in drops; rhythmic striking of a ball against a hard surface

Example: I could hear the dribble of the basketball from court 1; Poonam was obviously practicing early.

2. Drip

Meaning: The sound of a liquid falling drop by drop

Example: All I could hear was the drip of the rain from the roof.

3. Drizzle

Meaning: Very light rain

Example: The drizzle of the rain gave a dreamy and ethereal feeling to the resort.

4. Splash

Meaning: The sound of made by something falling into or striking water

Example: Ramesh fell into the pond with a mighty splash!

5. Spray

Meaning: A dispenser that turns a liquid (such as perfume) into a fine mist

Example: You can almost hear the spray from the waterfall!

Onomatopoeic words that indicate vocal utterances

1. Ahem

Meaning: A sound made especially to attract attention or to express disapproval or embarrassment.

Example: Professor Geetha: “Shall I, ahem, leave you and the blackboard alone for a moment?”

2. Belch

Meaning: A reflex that expels wind noisily from the stomach through the mouth.

Example: Anuj must have eaten a sumptuous lunch; his belching sounds very contented!

3. Grunt

Meaning: The short low gruff noise of the kind made by hogs

Example: He gave a non-committal grunt in reply.

4. Groan

Meaning: An utterance expressing pain or disapproval

Example: Richard's jokes make you groan rather than laugh.

5. Squeal

Meaning: Utter a high-pitched cry

Example: The children squealed with delight when the pizza arrived.

Onomatopoeic words that indicate sounds made by objects

1. Bang

Meaning: A vigorous blow

Example: Residents heard an enormous bang as a safety valve on the boiler failed.

2. Clang

Meaning: A loud resonant, repeated noise

Example: Cowbells clanged across the endless green fields.

3. Clatter

Meaning: A rattling noise (often produced by rapid movement)

Example: The pans in the kitchen clattered as they crashed to the floor.

4. Ding

Meaning: A ringing sound

Example: The trolley came by, dinging noisily.

5. Crunch

Meaning: Press or grind with a crunching noise

Example: She heard the crunch of tires on the gravel driveway right before the accident.

Onomatopoeic words related to the sounds made by air

1. Swish

Meaning: A vigorous blow

Example: With a swish of the curtains, the stage was revealed.

2. Whizz

Meaning: Move along very quickly

Example: The bullet whizzed by, missing the fugitive by barely an inch.

3. Swoosh

Meaning: Move with or cause to move with a whistling or hissing sound

Example: A bullet swooshed over my head.

4. Whip

Meaning: A quick blow delivered with a whip or whiplike object and the sound made during such an action

Example: The whip whistled as it moved to strike the horse.

5. Whoosh

Meaning: The noise produced by the sudden rush of a fluid (a gas or liquid)

Example: The train sped through the station with a whoosh.

Onomatopoeic words that indicate animal sounds

1. Hee-Haw

Meaning: Braying that is characteristic of donkeys; laughing loudly or harshly

Example: While the Americans write the donkeys' braying sound as ‘hee-haw’, the British use ‘eeyore’.

2. Chortle

Meaning: A soft, partly-suppressed laugh

Example: As the teacher listened to the little boy's excuse for forgetting homework, he started to chortle in amusement.

3. Warble

Meaning: Sing by changing register; sing by yodeling

Example: Was that you I heard warbling in the bathroom this morning? You sing well!

4. Cheep

Meaning: The short weak cry of a young bird

Example: We heard the birds cheeping as their mother fed them.

5. Purr

Meaning: A low vibrating sound typical of a contented cat

Example: While purring is not always a sure-fire sign of a cheerful cat, for the most part, it can be an indication of feline contentment or even bliss.

There are many other animal-related onomatopoeic words such as neigh, oink, baa, moo, cluck, buzz, ribbit, quack, honk, hiss and gobble.

Onomatopoeia is a stylistic way to up your writing game and hook your readers. For instance, rather than saying, “I made eggs and bacon for breakfast” one could say, “The coffee machine buzzed as the coffee dripped down to the cup while I cracked open an egg, vigorously whisked it and poured it on the pan. The bacon frying in the pan hissed as I plopped the omelet onto my plate.” Which description creates a vivid mental image in your mind?

However, the right way to use onomatopoeia to make a bold point is by using it sparingly and carefully.

Now here is a task for you! Try and have fun with onomatopoeia by explaining, ‘How do you make your coffee or tea’?

Do send us your onomatopoeic stories!

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Vocabulary Matters – Chapter 11

Alliteration is a literary stylistic technique in which words that are adjacent or next to each other begin with the same sound. Thus, the words repeat the same initial consonant sound which makes them sound rhythmic and melodious. Case in point, the title of this article! The repetitive ‘ah’ sound makes the title more appealing, eye (ear?) catching, and fun!

Alliteration is focused on the sounds of letters and not on the letters themselves. That’s why, ‘Philip’s feet’ is an alliteration and ‘cheerful cop’ isn’t.

Unlike other literary devices which mostly use imagination to induce a feeling, alliteration on the other hand, relies on sound. Even though it is usually used in poetry, it is not just limited to it. Alliteration can be used in speeches and stories to emphasize on certain words and divert the reader’s attention toward specific ideas and to form an atmosphere to complement the words being read or heard.

There is no particular rule about how many words spacing there should be between the repeating sounds in an alliterative piece of text. A good rule of thumb is that when the text is read out loud, you should be able to spot a repetition of sounds.

Alliteration can be found in popular phrases in pop culture to advertisement jingles and more. Check out the following alliterations to get a better understanding of this wonderful strategy that you can adopt to easily enhance your writing. Notice how the alliteration makes all the difference and makes them memorable.

Alliterations in famous slogans

1. Chai pe Charcha

2. Maybe it’s Maybelline

3. Parle G - G for Genius

4. Amool Kool - Chill Your Dil!

Alliterations in tongue twisters

1. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

2. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

3. Betty Butter bought a bit of butter, but she said, this butter's bitter; if I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter, but a bit of better butter will make my bitter batter better.

4. ಸಂಪಂಗಪ್ಪನ ಮಗ ಮರಿಸಂಪಂಗಪ್ಪ.ಮರಿಸಂಪಂಗಪ್ಪನ ಅಪ್ಪ ಸಂಪಂಗಪ್ಪ.

5. ಬಂಕಾಪುರದ ಕಪ್ಪು ಕುಂಕುಮ.ಬಂಕಾಪುರದ ಕೆಂಪು ಕುಂಕುಮ.

6. खड़क सिंह के खड़कने से खड़कती हैं खिड़कियां, खिड़कियों के खड़कने से खड़कता है खड़क सिंह.

7. पीतल के पतीले में पपीता पीला-पीला

8. ऊंचा ऊंट, ऊंट की पीठ ऊंची, ऊंची पूंछ ऊंट की.

9. ஆடுற கிளையில ஒரு கிளை தனிக்கிளை, தனிக்கிளை தனில் வந்த கனிகளும் இனிக்கல

10. கொக்கு நெட்ட கொக்கு, நெட்ட கொக்கு இட்ட முட்ட கட்ட முட்ட

11. யாரு தைச்ச சட்டை, இது எங்க தாத்தா தைச்ச சட்டை

Alliteration in similes

1. Dead as a doornail

2. Busy as a bee

3. Right as rain

4. Red as a rose

5. Cool as a cucumber

Alliteration in movie titles

1. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham

2. Andaz Apna Apna

3. Om Shanti Om

4. Satyam Shivam Sundaram

5. John Jani Janardhan

Alliteration in brand names

1. PayPal

2. Hero Honda

3. Coca-Cola

4. Dunkin’ Donuts

5. Krispy Kreme

Famous alliterative names

1. William Wordsworth

2. Kishore Kumar

3. Sushma Swaraj

4. Gita Gopinath

5. Anil Ambani

6. Charlie Chaplin

Alliterative names of fictional characters

1. Shikari Shambhu

2. Chacha Chaudhry

3. Donald Duck

4. Spongebob Squarepants

5. Petu Pumpkin

Alliteration in poetry

One of the most famous poems to feature alliteration is Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (1845):
You can see how the author uses alliteration on just a pair of words in every sentence to create rhythm.

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before."

Alliteration may be used in many areas and is great to use in shorter pieces of writing, like poetry or flash fiction, where sound and language have an emphatic importance. In something longer, like a full novel, it might seem accidental or out-of-place. It’s important to not overuse alliteration and to also consider the tone you are trying to convey before using it. Also, the best way to add alliteration to your writing is after finishing the writing piece. It’s usually easier to edit writing to be what you’d like it to be than it is to write it that way in the first go.

So, are you ready to attack alliteration and give your wonderful writing a new exciting edge?


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