Improve Your English Grade
Not Getting The Marks You Want?
My name is Atticus Parker and I have been a teacher for a decade now and an English teacher for about 9 of those 10 years. I know what goes on in the classroom and I have seen what sets good students apart from bad.
This lens is going to give you an insider's tips on how to improve your grades in English.
I have good and bad news for you on this subject though.
The good news is that next to nobody should fail a high school English class. The only reason for you to fail is if you only started to learn English a couple of months ago as a second language or if you have been away from class for too long.
The bad news is that getting an A grade may just not be possible for some students. Some students may not have an aptitude for what is taught in an English class.
This sounds harsh but some people get a head start in life in certain areas. I can't do anything mechanical to save myself but I can write a killer essay. Each to his or her own.
Just Remember ..
This lens is written from my perspective.
A teacher's perspective. Every year I get 150 -200 new students who each want individualised, special attention. This just isn't possible.
Add to this, I have been teaching for a long time and I could quite possibly be a cranky, jaded, cynical and pessimistic teacher.
But, you can still learn from what I have written here even if you don't like my tone or teachers in general.
Please, read on.
Before You Even Start Writing ...
The single best thing that you can do to improve your skills with the English language is to read. Read everything and anything.
Reading will expand your vocabulary, your knowledge of history, help you understand the human condition (what life is all about), and show you how to write.
When you want to learn how to play golf or basketball you watch professionals do it, right? The same goes for reading. Reading shows you how professionals write. The more you read the better you will get with the English language.
Most of the sub standard work I have seen in my English class stems from a lack of planning. Students think that they can just start writing their essay from the start. Not even professional writers do this.
You have to plan your work first. A few people can do this mentally. Most do it on paper. Personally I draw diagrams and flow charts to plan. Occasionally I create lists.
Planning helps to organise your thoughts, sort your arguments or your content into the right order. Planning gives your work structure and a clear purpose. Without planning your work can appear misguided and aimless. I planned this lens on a scrap piece of paper.
Prepare your resources. Prepare your time. Don't leave your work until the last minute. Collect all the books you need. Organise the costume and the projector for your speech.
I can recognise work done the night before instantly. I can see how much or how little research you did pretty quickly too. Believe it or not preparing your assignments is just being organised. Poor organisation is like like trying to swim with all your clothes still on. It just weighs you down.
Also don't rely on the materials your teacher provides you. Go out and find more. Teacher operate on limited time and a non existent budget so if you can give yourself an advantage.
Read That Novel
A lot of English class assignments or exams are text based. That is, they are focused on a novel, play or film.
Too many of my students are just too lazy to read the novel or play in the first place. I can tell because they struggle to reach the word or time limit of the task. If you read that class set novel you should actually struggle to keep your essay length or speech time down to the requested limit.
This may be hard to believe but my good students often complain that they have gone over the word limit.
A mistake so many students make is substitute a film for their novel. Watching To Kill A Mockingbird is NOT the same as reading the novel. Squeezing a novel into a 90 min film means the Director has to leave a ton of content out of the film. Odds are that you need that content for your assignment.
Start Your Writing ..... Now!
At some point you have to start writing. You have read the novel/play/etc. You have read 'around' the text too. You have a plan and an idea of what you want to do.
So do it! Write.
So many students delay at this point. They procrastinate. They play Xbox instead! I blame complacency and perhaps ignorance for how critical the next phase of the class task is.
Let me use my golf and basketball analogy again. You can't be a good player just by watching the pros. You have to practice heaps right? Don't just write when you have to. Write all the time. Start a journal, a blog, write rap lyrics or poetry. Write a practice essay if you want to.
Just like reading, the more you write the better at English you will get.
Edit Your Work
Pitfall #6. Your first draft is not your last. Professional authors go through several drafts before their work is publish. Many drafts. When I write an exemplar (sample) for my classroom I edit my work again and again. Many many drafts is not uncommon.
What makes you think you can write your essay or speech perfectly on the first go? Odds are your first draft isn't even a pass.
So, when you write your work, edit it. Go back over it with a fine tooth comb. I have three tips for doing this too.
1. Read your work out loud. Your ear will pick up on erors you eyes may have missed. You will think you sound like an idiot. Do it anyway. I use this technique all the time.
2. Leave your work for an hour, a day, a week if you can and thencome back to it. This will let you see your work with fresh eyes. The longer you can leave it, the better.
3. Get someone else to look over your work.. A friend, sister or uncle can do this for you. By the time your work reaches your teacher to be checked it should have been seen by two people minimum and have been edited at least a couple of times.
I often get a paragraph given to me by students asking me if they are 'on the right track'. I hate this because it means they haven't listened in class and they couldn't be bothered looking at the examples I have given them. At the very least they have been too lazy to write a few more paragraphs.
This pointer is for oral presentations. They are hard! Public speaking is one of the most common phobias there is.
But, where I teach you cannot pass English without passing a majority of your English orals. You have to get over your fear or hatred of speaking in front of others. Or at least learn to cope with it.
Preparing well and drafting your speech are the really great ways to alleviate stress before doing an oral presentation.
But the best way is to practice your speech. Practice in front of the mirror, in front of your dog, your mother, a tree stump. Whatever. The more you practice the better you will get.
Teachers are human and we are fallible. We are meant to treat every student equally but the truth is we don't.
Just like you don't treat everyone equally. Exploit this.
I am not saying teachers like it when students try to 'suck up' to us. I personally dislike it. But if you put in the effort and follow class instruction and advice teachers will notice. And we will put in extra time to help you. Am I going to offer to stay back and help a student in an after-school tutorial if they waste time in class and don't put in effort. No.
But I will for a student that shows initiative and has worked hard.