Private Tuition Blog: Archive for July 2011
Posted on 28th July 2011
If you’re thinking about applying to Oxbridge this year, then it’s a good idea to, well, start thinking seriously about it as soon as possible, as the deadline will be upon us faster than you can say ‘boat race’ backwards. Once you get back to school in September you’ll no doubt be swamped with all sorts of things to do, so the more preparation you can do now, the better.
What you need to think about…
Have you decided between Oxford and Cambridge? Even though they are always being lumped together as ‘Oxbridge’, the two universities are actually really rather different in many ways. The best thing to do is to go and have a look at each, and get a feel for each university. Then do plenty of research into the different courses. The English course at Oxford for example, is very different from the one at Cambridge, so you need to work out which one appeals to you most. Moreover, both universities don’t offer exactly the same subjects, so you might find that only one has the course you want to do.
Once you’ve chosen the university, you need to pick which college to apply to. Do you want somewhere small and intimate, or large and with plenty of green space? Is it important that there’s a lacrosse team, or would you rather go to the college with its own theatre? If you’re not bothered about which college, or you can’t make up your mind, then you can always do an ‘open application’.
Now for the preparation for your personal statement… Make the most of the next few weeks. Perhaps you could do some voluntary work, or do a course to improve or gain a new skill. The admissions tutors will be looking for people with an excellent academic history, but also with personality and a range of interests. However, the main thing that you will need to prove is that you have a genuine passion for your subject. Are there any lectures or exhibitions that you can attend?
Start reading books related to your subject, which aren’t on the A Level/IB curriculum. This is absolutely vital! Talk to your teachers or get in touch with an Enjoy Education tutor who can help you to draw up a list of books to read before writing your personal statement and going to interview. Pick an area that’s challenging and really does interest you. Interviewers will not be impressed if you say that you have an interest in Shakespeare, but then you reveal that you’ve only read A Midsummer Night’s Dream because you studied it for GCSE. Although if you say you’ve got a passion for Renaissance drama and you’ve read plays by Jonson, Marlowe, Middleton, Rowley and Heywood, then they will be far happier.
The other thing to remember when you are doing your preparatory reading is to work out how you can link/compare/contrast authors/ideas/novels/texts. Interviewers will want to find candidates who can think independently and creatively,
In a few weeks I’ll do a blog full of tips for writing your personal statement, but for now, I hope you find this helpful and as ever, if you need more advice, give Enjoy Education a call!
Posted on 27th July 2011
A little while ago the Evening Standard revealed how few parents read stories to their children, and what a detrimental impact this has on children’s literacy. To encourage children to develop a love of books, it really is important to read to them from an early age. To give you some inspiration, here are some ideas for books to read to your kids/younger siblings. The books here are appropriate for children of nursery and early primary school age.
I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed by Lauren Child
I Will Never Not Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child (in fact all of Lauren Child’s books are brilliant)
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (a classic)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (another classic, and now there’s a great film too)
Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell
Nothing by Mick Inkpen
Billy Tibbles Moves Out by Jan Fearnley
Whatever Next! By Jill Murphy
Pants by Giles Andreae
Burglar Bill by Allan Ahlberg (this was my favourite as a child and it still makes me laugh!)
Dirty Bertie by David Roberts
Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Michael Rosen
The Queen’s Knickers by Nicholas Allan (I used to read this to my little sister when I was about 9 and she was 6 and we would giggle together all the way through)
Bad Habits!: Or the Taming of Lucretzia Crum by Babette Cole
Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson
I Don’t Want to Go to Bed by Tony Ross
Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (the illustrations in this book are gorgeous)
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson
Posted on 27th July 2011
Between 1590 and 1613 Shakespeare wrote 38 plays. They tend to fall into four main categories: tragedies, comedies, histories and romances (these are Shakespeare’s later plays which often include elements of fantasy and magic, not plays about love). Any that don’t easily fall into these groups are usually called ‘problem plays’. Sometime people refer to the ‘Roman’ plays. These are the ones like Julius Caesar, which are set in ancient Rome.
Here is a list of some of Shakespeare’s plays. See if you can work out which categories they fit into.
Romeo and Juliet
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Winter’s Tale
Much Ado About Nothing
Antony and Cleopatra
Some key features of Shakespeare’s plays:
A soliloquy is a speech made by a character when they are alone on stage. They can convey information to the audience about what the character is feeling and thinking.
Shakespeare uses loads of imagery in his play. As there was very little set, the words spoken by the actors needed to inform the audience of where the action took place.
Antithesis brings two opposing thoughts or ideas together for dramatic effect. There are lots of examples of antithesis in Shakespeare’s plays, the most famous being ‘to be, or not to be’.
Hyperbole is the use of exaggerated or heightened language to create a particularly great impact.
These can be found mostly in the comedies. Elizabethans loved clever word play, and Shakespeare was very good at creating humour through double meanings.
An aside is when a character talks directly to the audience, without the other characters on stage hearing what they are saying.
Most of Shakespeare’s plays are written in iambic pentameter. An ‘iamb’ is a metrical foot with is composed of one unstressed and then one stressed syllable (e.g. ‘di-dum’). Five of these make up a line of iambic pentameter. The rhythm of the line will thus be ‘di-dum, di-dum, di-dum, di-dum, di-dum’. Sometimes Shakespeare played around with the rhythm a bit, and you might find one or two extra syllables at the end of the line, or the first foot being a ‘dum-di’, rather than a ‘di-dum’.
Why not try digging out a play by Shakespeare and see if you can find some of the features listed above. Get a good edition, like the Arden series. These will have a glossary in, so you can look up any words that you don’t understand.
Posted on 26th July 2011
Reading or seeing your first play by Shakespeare can be a daunting experience. The characters talk differently to the way we speak now, they can be quite long and there are often a few subplots, which can confuse the action if you don’t know the main story. However, if you bite the bullet and start challenging yourself, you will find it enormously rewarding, as the Bard’s plays really are magnificent. The more you read/see, the easier it will get. Every year there are hundreds of opportunities to see a Shakespearean play, and the summer is the best time to book a ticket as there are lots to choose from, particularly at the Globe, and there are also often many outdoor productions around the country.
To ease you in gently, here’s a short introduction to Shakespeare and the theatre of his time. Tomorrow we will look at ways of getting into the text, but let’s just take one step at a time for now.
The Globe theatre, which currently stands on the South Bank, is a reconstruction of the original, which was opened in 1599. Shakespeare was a shareholder in the original, wood-framed, roughly circular theatre. People loved going to the theatre in the Elizabethan era and so the theatres were often large in size, to accommodate the big audiences. The Globe could hold between 2000 and 3000 people. Unfortunately theatres were (and still are a bit) dangerous places to be, and in 1613 the Globe burned down when a canon being used for a special effect set fire to the straw roof.
As you may have seen at the current Globe, there is a ‘pit’ are around the stage. In modern theatres the seats closest to the stage are usually the most expensive, however at the original Globe, this area was the cheapest. It cost a penny to stand in the pit, and these audience members were nicknamed ‘groundlings’. The seats under the covered gallery were more expensive, and the priciest tickets were for the seats furthest away from the smelly groundlings who would throw rotten fruit and vegetables at the actors if they didn’t like the play.
When we go to the theatre today we expect to see fancy sets, impressive lighting, and exciting special effects. However, in Shakespeare’s time there were very few props, no set, and the sun shining through the large hole in the roof provided the lighting. Women weren’t allowed to perform on stage then, so men played all of the parts. Teenage boys whose voices had yet to break would play the female roles. Rather like today, there were celebrity actors in the time of Shakespeare. One of the most famous was Edward Alleyn, who founded Dulwich College. The school still has a fantastic reputation for drama and has produced many successful actors.
In tomorrow’s blog post, we’ll look more closely at the plays Shakespeare wrote, but to keep you occupied before then here are a few little exercises…
Unscramble the following words to reveal the names of some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.
ORMOE DNA JULTIE
Are the following statements true or false?
1. The Globe was built in 1572.
2. The original Globe Theatre could hold between 2000 and 3000 people.
3. The cheapest seats were the ones furthest from the stage.
4. Many famous actresses starred in Shakespeare’s plays.
5. The original Globe theatre burned down when a special effect went wrong.
6. There are four witches in Macbeth.
7. Hamlet was an English prince.
8. The actors with the smallest parts were called ‘groundlings’.
9. Actors were at risk of having fruit and vegetables thrown at them.
The plays usually end with a prologue.
Posted on 25th July 2011
The summer vacation is the best time to get some serious reading done. All of those books that have spent months sitting abandoned on your bedside table now finally have a chance at getting a bit of love and attention. Some of you will have a long list of novels that you want to get through, whereas others will need some inspiration. To help give you a bit of focus next time you go to a library or bookshop, here are some books that you might like to pick up.
This list is aimed at teenagers and is composed of a mixture of classic novels, ‘must-reads’ from the 20th century, and some recently released novels. Later on in the week we will have suggestions for younger children and university applicants.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Junk by Melvin Burgess
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger
Animal Farm by George Orwell
1984 by George Orwell
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Troy by Adele Geras
Little Soldier by Bernard Ashley
The Final Journey by Gudrun Pausewang
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Ross
Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline Cooney
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Posted on 22nd July 2011
Science is a bit like Marmite; people tend to either love it or hate it. Although I wasn’t very good at science at school, I do still find it fascinating. So even if it’s not your favourite subject at school, take a look at our brief overview of some scientific advancements throughout history, as you might just find it tickles your intellectual taste buds. We’ll be posting more detailed blogs about science through the ages shortly, but for now, here’s a quick introduction…
The Egyptians were very good at astronomy, and knew a great deal about the stars and constellations. However, beyond that they tended to explain everything through connecting events to the gods. The Greeks, as you know, also had many different gods and goddesses, and they too used their complex mythology to explain how the world worked. Later Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle and Archimedes, began explaining things through the application of maths, which meant that they started to gain more accuracy. Although the Egyptians and Greeks may not have had all of the answers to scientific questions, they were very good at engineering and building things and constructed amazing temples, theatres and palaces.
For a long time people thought that the Earth was the centre of the universe and they thought that the sun travelled around the Earth, rather than the other way around. In 1514 Copernicus secretly published his idea that the Earth went around the sun. He published his thoughts secretly because he was scared that the Church might get angry. In the following century, Galileo decided that he agreed with Copernicus. The Church was outraged by Galileo’s declaration that the Earth was not the centre of the universe and they accused him of heresy and locked him up in prison.
In 1660 the Royal Society was established and this sped scientific advancements up a great deal. Lots of brilliant scientists joined and over the following years: Isaac Newton constructed his Theory of Gravity, Robert Boyle worked out the basic elements of modern chemistry and Charles Darwin published papers about evolution and natural selection.
In 1911 Ernest Rutherford composed the first ever drawing of an atom. Unfortunately, while science can be used to help people and improve lives, it can also be used as a destructive force, and a few decades after Rutherford’s drawing, scientists in Italy and Germany worked out how to split the atom and thus figured out how to make atomic bombs, which could kill thousands of people.
Although we now know an awful lot about how our world works, how the human body works, and how animals live, there are still many things that we don’t know. Today there are thousands of scientists working all over the world to try and make new discoveries. I wonder what we’ll learn in the next few years…
Posted on 22nd July 2011
I’ll never forget the summer holiday when I forgot how to spell ‘mushroom’. It was the end of August - I was about to return to school - and for some reason I had to write down the word ‘mushroom’. I wrote it down and then looked at it and thought it looked all funny. So I got out the dictionary and checked if I’d spelt it correctly. Luckily I had, but because my brain had been having a bit of a rest for eight weeks, even relatively simple words started to look a bit odd.
So that your brain doesn’t get too out of shape over the summer (like mine did), here are some tips to help keep your mind in top form:
The following games are really good at keeping your brain on its toes, so why not gather your family or a group of friends together and have a go:
Try doing the crossword in your newspaper.
Check out Enjoy Education’s word of the day on our twitter feed and make sure you learn it.
Keep following our blog and read our History of Britain and Foreign Phrases series.
Watch foreign films in the language that you are studying at school, and see if you can manage without the subtitles.
Do a little bit of creative writing every day.
Visit London’s many glorious museums.
When you’re reading a book and you come across a new word, write it down and find out what it means.
Read challenging texts, like Renaissance plays and early modern poetry.
Set up a quiz night with friends. Prepare lots of general knowledge questions, heat up some pizzas, get into teams and see who gets the most answers correct.
Learn new skills: go to Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden to attend a dance class; perfect your cookery skills; take up knitting.
Posted on 20th July 2011
It always alarms me when I am reminded of how recently women achieved the right to vote, and as we’ve reached the Victorians in our History of Britain series, it’s about time for a blog on women’s suffrage.
The Victorians believed that men and women should have very different roles in life. Unfortunately for women, men were pretty much in charge both at home and in the workplace. Women had minimal rights. They couldn’t even own a house, and when they got married, everything they owned became the property of the husband. While men were out at work, women were expected to stay at home, look after the children and keep the house neat and tidy.
Only women who were under severe economic pressures would go to work, because their families needed the extra income. However, they would be paid significantly less than men. Most women, tended to stay at home and practise their singing and needlework skills. Women weren’t even allowed to go to university because men thought that their brains were too small!
Unsurprisingly, there were many women who were fed up with being bossed around by men. Here are two women who were particularly famous for their efforts in the struggle toachieve women’s rights.
Josephine Butler (1828-1906)
Josephine was born into a wealthy family, but she cared a great deal for the welfare of poorer women. When the Contagious Diseases Acts were passed in the 1860s she was outraged that policemen were allowed to force women who they suspected of being a prostitute to undergo an invasive medical examination. She toured the country giving speeches, writing letters and distributing pamphlets. After 21 years of her valiant efforts, the Acts were eventually repealed.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)
Emmeline was completely committed to campaigning for women’s rights and she founded the Women’s Franchise League in 1889. In 1903 she set up the Women’s Social and Political Union, which had the motto “Deeds not Words”. Then in 1917 she started the Women’s Party. Emmeline would frequently attend demonstrations, where she would often get involved in violent activities. This resulted in her getting imprisoned a number of times. While she was in prison, Emmeline would often go on hunger strikes.
There were also a number of groups who campaigned for women’s suffrage. The Suffragists campaigned peacefully by writing letters, articles and journals. The Suffragettes, on the other hand, smashed windows, went on hunger strikes and broke up political meetings in order to get attention.
During the First World War women took over numerous ‘male’ jobs while the men went away to fight. Between 1914 and 1918 women proved that they were just as capable and intelligent as men.
At last, in 1918 the vote was given to women over the age of 30, who were householders, or married to householders. A decade later, they finally received the vote on equal terms to men.
So, if you are over 18, next time there’s an election, you must go and use your vote, don’t waste it! Lots of people fought very hard indeed in order to achieve suffrage.
Posted on 19th July 2011
I’d been past it on the bus hundreds of times before, but it wasn’t until last September that I first stepped into the enormous red temple of knowledge that is the British Library. Since then the British Library has become one of my favourite places in London. In fact I think it is so wonderful that I want to encourage students at any stage of their education to pop over to King’s Cross and pay the BL a visit.
I have to admit that I did find it a little bit intimidating to go in there for the first time as it is so big and full of people who all look like they know what they are doing. So I thought it might be a good idea to let you know how things work in there so that there’s no reason for you to be scared of going in.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to go to the registration office, (up the stairs and on the right after you enter) and fill in a form, prove your home address (a bank statement or an official letter will do) and have your picture taken for your membership card. Once this is all done, you’ll have to pop down into the locker rooms (down the stairs and on the right). Make sure you have a pound coin with you and put your bag in a locker. You can keep your mobile phone with you as long as it is on silent, but pens, laptop cases, bottles of water etc all needs to stay locked up. The BL very kindly provides clear plastic bags for all the bits and bobs that you can take with you. As you are likely to want to take notes from the books, it’ll be handy to have some paper, pencils (no pens allowed), or your laptop.
Once all your belongings are in a plastic bag you are now ready to go up to the reading rooms. Hurrah! My favourite is the Humanities room. When you go in you need to show the people at the desk your membership card. Then find a computer and start searching the catalogue. When you’ve found a book that you want, click on ‘add to list’. You can keep on searching and adding to your list and then when you are ready go to ‘my requests’ and request the books that you definitely want. There’s usually a little bit of a wait while some kind person goes and fetches your books for you, and as you can’t go and get books from the shelves yourself, you may want to go to the café and have a cup of tea and a slice of cake (they have very nice cakes!) while you wait.
When you are a member of the library you can save time by requesting books in advance online. Just search ‘British Library catalogue’ on Google, and that should take you to the right place. You’ll need to enter your membership number and create a password. Then you can search the catalogue and find the books you need.
To collect your books, go to the desk and show your membership card and then a lovely person will get your books for you. Don’t forget to tell them which seat number is yours, as they’ll need to make a note of this. The reading rooms do get pretty full, so it’s a good idea to arrive earlier rather than later in the day to guarantee a desk.
Now that you’ve got your books and your desk you’re good to go! The British Library has millions and millions of books so you should be able to find all the texts you need to help with your essay/revision/coursework. Have fun!
Posted on 18th July 2011
As an English tutor, I am always encouraging my students to take care over their spelling. They have to listen to me banging on about how bad spelling lets your work down, and the poor things repeatedly get tested on ‘definitely’ until they are so sure of it, they could probably write it out in their sleep. So I was interested to read an article today that discussed how many millions of pounds are lost by businesses each year as a result of bad spelling. Fantastic! Now I have solid evidence to back up my ‘good spelling is good for you’ campaign. Know your ‘practice’ from your ‘practise’ and your ‘there’ from your ‘their’ and you might just make more money!
In the article, published on the BBC news website, online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe said that an analysis of website figures revealed that even just one spelling mistake can reduce online sales by 50%. Mistakes put customers off and discourage them from purchasing products online. Internet sales make up a massive area of the economy, running at £527 million in the UK alone each week. As it is such a lucrative market, businesses do not want to risk losing income as a result of silly mistakes.
Although computers and mobile phones have been accused of ruining the written word, books and handwriting (see last week’s blog on the decline of handwriting in schools: http://www.enjoyeducation.co.uk/private-tuition-blog/article/joined-up-handwriting), sometimes we forget that the way people communicate over the internet is actually mostly thorough the written word. Making your writing accurate is crucial, particularly when it is the only means you have of communicating what you want to say.
Mr Duncombe said that he has been, “shocked at the poor quality of written English” when hiring staff, and the head of education and skills at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said that too many employers need to spend vast amounts of money each year on literacy lessons for their staff in order to improve their written English. Applicants must not use colloquial language or abbreviations such as those used in text messages, when applying for jobs, or in the workplace. Research carried out by the CBI has shown that 42% of employers are not happy with the reading and writing skills of applicants. The jobs market is particularly competitive at the moment, but you might be able to beat off competition by brushing up your spelling skills!
If you feel your reading and writing is not as good as it could be, then give us a ring; the tutors at Enjoy Education are always more than happy to help you improve your skills.