A blog for tutors to share their ideas, experiences, and insights.

Category Archives: Prompt

For those of you that could not tell, this was my first experience with blogging. In fact, until a few months ago I would have insisted that I would never have a desire or need to blog. Guess I was wrong. At first I was extremely uncomfortable with the whole blogging concept but started to get the hang of it as the semester progressed. When we began I had no idea how to blog. It turned out that it was not as difficult as I first thought. Also I feel that I gained more momentum in my blogging with the reply portion because they required my opinions and I never had a problem with giving those. The biggest challenge that I faced was using a proper voice in my posts. My writing background is primarily technical and I struggled with showing my personality and voice.  These are two items that I worked at to remove from most of my writings.

The other aspect of blogging that I was not looking forward to was the fact that I would be making personalized posts to people that I did not know. My thought was that I did not feel confident enough to display my writings with a group that consists mainly of English/writing majors. This concern turned out to be groundless because I found myself looking forward to reading everyone’s posts and replies to my posts.

All in all I found this experience to be informative and not unpleasant. Will I ever blog again? I can’t answer that question because I never intended to blog prior to this semester. But I am grateful for this experience in case I ever need to blog in the future.how-to-blog

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Comment on the experience of sharing your thoughts and ideas with a “public” audience outside of your teacher and classmates.  What did you do differently than you might have if the audience were all people you knew? How, for example, did you address the challenge of tone and voice? As time went on, in what ways did you become more comfortable with the genre of blogging and/or did a different set of challenges surface?

After creating your post, select a category or two that best represents your post including the category that represents your “group.” For example, if you are in Group “A” and your post is about the role of the tutor and the politics, you should choose the following labels: Category A, the tutor, and politics.


As we near the end of the semester, many of you are starting final research projects.  Some of you already have research questions, data, sources, and even writings about your topic. Others of you are just starting to think about what you might write about.  This week, write a post that shares with the community your research ideas and questions.

This blog is an opportunity for you get feedback from your peers on your ideas.   For example, if you already have a tentative thesis, you could include it in your post. If you need some help thinking about how to enter the conversation on your topic, this is your chance to ask for support.  This isn’t an opportunity to workshop an entire paper, so don’t a whole draft. This entry is a chance to test out some of your ideas with other writing center people.  When you post, be sure to pose one or two questions  so your readers can give you their thoughts in the comment section.

After creating your post, select a category or two that best represents your post including the category that represents your “group.” For example, if you are in Group “A” and your post is about the role of the tutor and the politics, you should choose the following labels: Category A, the tutor, and politics.


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“A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.”  ~Charles Peguy

The meaning of a sentence is dependent on the writer. As readers, we can try to extrapolate meaning; however the true meaning will always be understood by the writer. I use a few different strategies to understand and improve papers on the sentence level. The strategies I use allow participation and input from both student and tutor. Going over the assignment together helps understanding on both sides and, if the student catches their own sentence level issues, it can help the student use what they learned during this session and apply it to other writing assignments.

I am focusing on strategies to clarify meaning at the sentence level. As writers, and readers for that matter, we want sentences to have meaning and to be grammatically correct and complete. We often strive for a certain air of refinement in our writing, but at the least we want our writing understood. The strategies go as follows:

1. Have the student quickly read/skim through the paper aloud. This gives you a global understanding of the paper. Even though the session may be just about focusing on line level concerns, having a global understanding of both the text and assignment can be very helpful.

2. If, while reading, the student comes across a sentence that fouls them up or just reads awkwardly, have the student notate that sentence and move on. As the tutor, if you hear a sentence that stands out to you, feel free to make a reminder for yourself to refer back to that sentence.

3. When the writer has finished skimming, return to those sentences that sounded off to either you or the student and have the writer explain what they are trying to say in that sentence. When you know what the writer is trying to say, you might be able to pinpoint a bit easier what sort of things the writer should work on or needs help with.

4. Do your best to not try to word the sentence how you would write it. Remember, this is the writer’s paper. They have their own voice and that is the voice that should be represented. Obviously, if they have questions on syntax or vocabulary feel free to guide them to the words they want, not the words you choose. Asking questions like “do you know of another word that could be used here?” or “do you know the meaning of this word?” could be helpful in building the writers vocabulary.

This short list is most certainly not all inclusive. There are many more steps to this approach, but this represents the framework for this strategy. Aside from that, there is a multitude of ways to help writers work out sentence level issues with clarifying meaning.

After establishing some rapport and discussing what the student is looking to get out of the writing center appointment, potential dialogue with using this strategy goes as follows:

Tutor: So from what you’ve told me you are looking for some help with clarifying what you’re trying to say in certain sentences. Maybe there are some questions with flow or word choice?

Student: Exactly! I’ve read through my paper and there are just some sentences that don’t sound right. I’m not too sure what exactly needs to be fixed.

Tutor: Alright. No problem. Well because we are both already familiar with the assignment, how about you do me a favor and sort of skim through the paper aloud and you and I will both be listening to sentences that sort of stick out?

(Student reads paper)

Student: So I came across this sentence in the introduction that seemed strange. The sentence is “Based on the fact that he is pessimistic and feels life is not worth it, he is forgetting about his loved ones whom he said he did not want to hurt.”

Tutor: Okay, what didn’t you like about this sentence? Is there something that caught you off guard? Is it too wordy, too awkward?

Student: It seemed too long. I feel like it could be shortened.

Tutor: I agree with you. I think this sentence could be shortened as well. I think some clarification could help too. How would you go about doing this?

Student: Well I think I should explain who “he” is. Also, I could be a bit thriftier with my word choice. I feel like the sentence is cluttered.

Tutor: I agree. Maybe try to showcase in the sentence what was the result of “his” pessimism. What are you trying to say in this sentence?

Student: Well I’m trying to say that because of his pessimism, he ultimately ended up creating a situation he didn’t want to happen.

Tutor: Okay, good. You know what you want to say and you know why this sentence isn’t coming out the way you want. How would you revise this sentence to have it have your intended sound and meaning while keeping your writing style?

Student: Well I was thinking something along the lines of… “The author’s basic pessimism causes him to forget the very loved ones he said he didn’t want to hurt.”

Tutor: I think that sentence conveys meaning more clearly and flows a lot better than the original sentence. Great job! Let’s look at a few other sentences, shall we?

(And the session continues on.)


Share with our blog-o-sphere a strategy to improve written text at the sentence level in a writing tutoring session. Follow these three guidelines:

1) Set the scene. In other words, in what scenario would you use the strategy?

2) Describe the strategy in detail (perhaps number or bullet if appropriate).

3) Include dialogue when you can: how would you explain the strategy to the writer or how would you walk the writer through the strategy? Write specific dialogue to help others see how they can implement the strategy.

After creating your post, select a category or two that best represents your post including the category that represents your “group.” For example, if you are in Group “A” and your post is about the role of the tutor and the politics, you should choose the following labels: Category A, the tutor, and politics.


As I stated in an earlier post I am a senior in an engineering program here at PSU Berks. Even though I am still working on my degree I have been an engineer for, let’s say many years.  So even if I’m not equal in age or wisdom (but do share a preference in hairstyle) with Master Po in the 1970’s TV show “Kung Fu” as seen below, I sometimes feel like him. The old master in this show tried to pass his knowledge and experiences to a much younger student by acting as a guide throughout his lessons. I am not a teacher nor do I try to pass as one, but in many ways I have unknowingly accepted the role of cultural informant.

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I had never heard the term “cultural informant” prior to this class and had no idea that I could be considered one. Now with accepting the responsibility of tutoring this semester I realize that I am even more involved in this role. Some of the challenges that I found from serving as a cultural informant were the age and cultural differences between me and my fellow students. The cultural differences that I noticed are not mainly based on language or geography, although these did exist, but mainly on the generation gap that exists between us.

Now that I am a writing tutor and work exclusively with primarily first year engineering students I try to use these differences as an advantage by emphasizing the difference in practical experience versus the difference in age. When working one on one with a student I try very hard to not assume a role of authority. Instead I try to use my experiences and abilities to set an example for the student to want to write better reports.

The main thing that I have realized about being a cultural informant is that it is a two-way street. I like to think that I usually add something good to a tutoring session or just a discussion, but I have noticed that I always take something away with me as well.


Using the readings class discussion, or video, write a blog post that considers the challenges to a writing tutor when serving as a cultural informant.
More specifically, write about the ways the tutor/writer relationship might be shaped by power dynamics such as culture, language, race, gender, ability, sexuality, etc.

After creating your post, select a category or two that best represents your post including the category that represents your “group.” For example, if you are in Group “A” and your post is about the role of the tutor and the politics, you should choose the following labels: Category A, the tutor, and politics