SAT Tips

Here are some tips

The principal tip is "Read The Vornle Method"  <<< your goal is not a higher score on the SAT.  Your goal is "getting into a great college"  -- and you don't need a high SAT score to get into a college that will help you grow to be the person you want to become.

Some of these techniques will be used in each class 

1. ASK A QUESTION.  Preparation:  Students bring in questions.   In class:  other students demonstrate the answers. 

2. Demonstrate a word 
... Preparation:  students print a word list from or other word lists.  In class:  in front of the camera, students demonstrate a way to remember the word.  Give at least one synonym and use the word in a sentence, plus think of a way to remember how to pronounce it -- HOWEVER, the SAT is not an oral exam, so pronunciation is not important. 

3. React to an issue. Preparation: students cut out an editorial or opinion article and create a headline for the article.  Students write a REACTION piece:  see below for the questions.  IN CLASS:  turn in the article and the teacher will read it and evaluate it.  You can make an OUTLINE or you can make a full essay. 

4. Look for the structure of an essay.   Preparation:  read an article and look for the 5 parts of a typical essay.  Or look for AIDA:  Does it grab your Attention, how does it continue or sustain your Interest, How does the author inflame your Desire, and move you to take Action.  (This is the process behind most advertising campaigns.) 

5. The White Sheet. In class or Preparation:  select a topic that is really important to you.  “I believe that Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest basketball player of all time.  Kobe Bryant is a good player but there’s no way he can meet the greatness of Wilt.”  Support the idea with evidence.  You can do an outline or you can stand and speak your opinion to a camera and then later write down the structure (very effective if you don’t like writing). 

6. Interview a Mentor. Preparation:  find someone you respect and interview the person.  Ask questions that you can find on or invent your own questions.  Interview on tape or video or take really good notes.  IN CLASS:  write an opinion piece; persuade me about “why this person should be recognized as a mentor.”  Or choose your own title (“My Dad, Grandma, Uncle, Mother Teresa is My Hero because…”) 

Bring Questions  
Preparation:   Read ahead.  You are in charge of you.  You can find 20 minutes each day to identify problems that you don't "get".  You should be able to handle each math problem in less than two minutes.  If it's taking more than 90 seconds, then you need to learn the trick.  I have LOTS of tricks.  Let me show you... but you have to bring the question.

THEORY: if you have a question and I answer it, you are more likely to remember the answer... than when I lecture to you about a situation that you didn't think about before.


7. 700 Club. Preparation:  Look at EVERY last and second to last problem in the BIG SAT BOOK in math.  
8.  Find the grammar error. Create a grammar question.   Preparation:  listen carefully to people when they use “Me” and “I”.   Between you and I, John and me, John and I, I and Shirley, he hit me and John, … and bring the sentence to class.   IN CLASS:  ask other students or the teacher about the correctness of the sentence. 

8 1/2. Write an essay and bring it to me. Or send it to me. or (if it bounces back) 

9. Call Mr. Mac and demonstrate your understanding of a word. “HI, Mr. Mac, this is Shawn in your Saturday class, I want to check how I understand egregious.  I made an egregious mistake, it was obvious and big and everyone can see it.  Egregious is easy to remember because GREG makes mistakes.  Thanks.  My phone number is 954 555 5555.”   Or you can email your understanding (but talking tends to be stronger for some people.  When we talk, we can remember things better, sometimes, and it helps to reinforce with a short email message to 

But Mr. Mac, I’m not in your class.It doesn’t matter.  You can send me an email. 

Did you miss a previous class? No worries.  Call the instructor and ask to sit in on a make up class.  Be prepared to be engaged by the instructor as a class assistant.  You might be asked to demonstrate your understanding of some of the tips. 

The Reaction Paper 
Select an issue or topic that you feel strongly about.  Or look at an event that happened in the newspaper.  Or read an opinion or letter to the editor. 
“This guy is an idiot because…”  or “This person is right because…” 
What is the author’s main idea?  (or the main idea of the article if you can’t find the author’s opinion) 
What details does the author use to support that idea? 
What is my reaction to the idea? 
What additional evidence can I use to support my opinion? 

10. Give me a tip.  Preparation:  flip through the book and look for at least five tips (there are icons and logos and boldface type and you will call out what you find useful.)  Example:  “I know that the last problems are really difficult, so my tip is to skip the last two math problems and focus on checking my answers to the previous problems.  I will do this because the last problems often look easy but turn out to be complicated or difficult.” 

Another tip:  “I will read the questions before reading the passage.  Sometimes I don’t have to read the whole passage to find some answers.” 

FINALLY – this class is like a study hall.Find a buddy and study together, especially when the instructor gets boring and starts talking about essays when you really want to use the class time to practice math.  You are in control over how to use the time.  Every person in the room has a tip about how to do a math problem or how to do a reading problem, so make time to talk to other students. 

Give your email address to the instructor and make sure you write at least one email message a week to the instructor. 

Read a newspaper and find an interesting article.  “This is so rotten!”   “This is righteous!”   “I can’t believe this, can you?”  “Awesome!”    “This is too much!”    “Sweeeeeet!”   “I’m appalled.”  “There ought to be a law to prevent this from ever happening again.”  Etc.    Use those articles to write a persuasive essay.   YOU are in charge. 

Read my theories of learning at at

Specific information related to Steve's class
(Call me Mr. Mac if you want a stern authority figure or a math teacher to push you to do the work).
1.  I don't lecture (a lot). I prefer to use the theory that most of the information is in the audience.  When each of us says what we know is true, then we "perform our understanding" (Howard Gardner) and we strengthen our understanding.

2.  Help someone. When we teach, we grow stronger in our understanding.  This course is like a big study hall.  The instructor takes youthrough some tips, but it's up to you to bring questions.  If one of the other students can give you the answer or if the instructor shows the answer to the class or if one of the other students demonstrates the answer, then we have a victory.

3.  Ask for help. If you are a social learner, you need to study with a buddy, even if you just met this buddy.  If you aren't a social learner, you might become one ... Hey, you never know who will be in these classes.  You could meet your friend for life or someone who will introduce you to an important person to you.  See Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence.  (Excellent book).

4.  Each class has some verbal, some essay, some math. If you are in the class ONLY for math or ONLY for verbal or ONLY for an essay, then quietly keep working independently while the instructor is working on another topic.  

5.  Reading is best improved by improving your vocabulary. 
Each class has a "demonostration period" when you stand in front of the class or whisper to the instructor the meaning of a difficult word.

Mr. Mac's Free Videos to improve your SAT score
I ask each student to become a mentor on video and speak what you know about the SAT.  I give free SAT classes and videos to students who can't afford this course.  Youcan do service by participating.  When I pull out my digital camera and start recording you, you are helping some kids learn some words and write better and grasp complicated math concepts in a new way.  Your accent. your youth, and your energy are important for many students.  They can't hear me but they will listen to someone close to their age.  I look forware to turning you into a star.  By performing, you will improve your score.

Rubric   Checklist for Essays 
1. Do pronouns (it, they, he) point to a specific person or thing?  Is it clear? 

The dog went to into the cat’s house and ate its food.  

My dog saw the dead mouse, sat next to the paper plate and ate it. 
Strunk and White.  The little book 

2. Use appropriate examples to develop the point of view. 

3. Is there a progression of ideas? Is there enough support for these ideas? 

4. Show critical thinking. Do you show a complex argument that looks at the issue from more than one viewpoint? 

5.  Skillful use of language (it’s important to have the vision thing.)    Is the vocabulary appropriate?  (When raising the internal core temperature of the soft water-flour amalgamation, it is important to engage adequate insulation by using a ceramic device.) 

6. Is the essay coherent?   Is the essay consistent?  Is it organized and focused?  
Or is it disjointed and incoherent? 

7. Is there variety in the sentence structure?  Is the sentence structure correct? 
This situation is something up with which I will not put.  

8. The conclusion covers the entire essay .

How to improve your vocabulary:  
Teach New Words

Teachers can point out important words to study. 
We can’t always teach you a trick to remember those words .

We tend to remember stuff that is 

You are closer to the middle school students than I am.  I invite you to perform your understanding of at least one word to a young teenager.  If you perform on camera, then I will show your performance to a middle school student and they might understand it better than if I show them how to remember a word. 

Vicarious =   a vicar or a bishop who can’t enjoy a trip to Tahiti (no money) has a vicarious experience by looking at videos and by talking with someone who went there.

How can I write better? 
Read a newspaper, espeically the opinion and editorial pages.  Write a letter to the editor and practice expressing your point of view. 


Here are some sample "email messages" that I send to students...
  I made an egregious eror. 

   I spelled 
"error" incorrectly.   It's obvious...

   We are almost halfway to Saturday. Remember to plan your work and \\
   work your plan. 

   Look for an interesting word and be prepared to explain how you 
   remember it. Tell a story. 

   I remember EGREGIOUS because I have a sentence: "I made an 
   egregious error" 

   It's an obvious error, it's really bad, everyone can see it and I 
   didn't see it! Oh no! 

   Be prepared to stand up in class on Saturday and explain how you 
   remember a word. If you can't think of a word to explain, try one 
   of these words 


   natal adj. Pertaining to one's birth. 

   nebula n. A gaseous body of unorganized stellar substance. 

   necrology n. A list of persons who have died in a certain place or 

   necromancer n. One who practices the art of foretelling the 
future by 
   means of communication with the dead. 

   necropolis n. A city of the dead. 

   necrosis n. the death of part of the body. 

   nefarious adj. Wicked in the extreme. 

   negate v. To deny. 

   negligible adj. Transferable by assignment, endorsement, or 

   Nemesis n. A goddess; divinity of chastisement and vengeance. 

   neocracy n. Government administered by new or untried persons. 

   Neolithic adj. Pertaining to the later stone age. 

   neophyte adj. Having the character of a beginner. 


   nettle v. To excite sensations of uneasiness or displeasure in. 

   niggardly adj. Stingy. (no longer acceptable to use) 

   nihilist n. An advocate of the doctrine that nothing either 
exists or 
   can be known. 
   nil n. Nothing 

   noisome adj. Very offensive, particularly to the sense of smell. 

   nominal adj. Trivial. 

   nonchalance n. A state of mind indicating lack of interest. 

   nonpareil n. One who or that which is of unequaled excellence. 

   nostrum n. Any scheme or recipe of a charlatan character. 

   notorious adj. Unfavorably known to the general public. 

   novice n. A beginner in any business or occupation. 

   noxious adj. Hurtful. 

   nuance n. A slight degree of difference in anything perceptible 
to the    sense of the mind. 
   nugatory adj. Having no power or force. 
   numeration n. The act or art of reading or naming numbers. 
   nuptial adj. Of or pertaining to marriage, especially to the 
marriage    ceremony. 

   Ooh, "Plan" is spelled incorrectily. I'm an egregious typists. 
   Main Entry: 
   Part of Speech: 
   Definition:      very bad 
   arrant, atrocious, capital, deplorable, extreme, flagrant, glaring, 
   grievous, gross, heinous, infamous, insufferable, intolerable, 
   monstrous, nefarious, notorious, outrageous, outright, 
preposterous,    rank, scandalous, shocking, stark 
   Remember come to class with at least one math problem that you 
can't    do or that you want to find the quickest way to do… 
   Send me an email message if you want me to send you a reply before    Saturday. has    excellent ipods… 

Explain these words to your partner 
3/2/06   How to get a great college education    DAVID BROOKS                                

I've consulted with a bevy of sages, and I've come up with a list of core topics that every college freshman should know. If you do everything on this list, you'll get a great education, no matter what college you attend: 

Read Reinhold Niebuhr. Religion is a crucial driving force of this century, and Niebuhr is the wisest guide. As Alan Wolfe of Boston College notes, if everyone read Niebuhr, "The devout would learn that public piety corrupts private faith and that faith must play a prophetic role in society. The atheists would learn that some people who believe in God are really, really smart. All of them would learn that good and evil really do exist — and that it is never as easy as it seems to know which is which. And none of them, so long as they absorbed what they were reading, could believe that the best way to divide opinion is between liberals on the one hand and conservatives on the other." 

Read Plato's "Gorgias." As Robert George of Princeton observes, "The explicit point of the dialogue is to demonstrate the superiority of philosophy (the quest for wisdom and truth) to rhetoric (the art of persuasion in the cause of victory). At a deeper level, it teaches that the worldly honors that one may win by being a good speaker ... can all too easily erode one's devotion to truth — a devotion that is critical to our integrity as persons. So rhetorical skills are dangerous, potentially soul-imperiling, gifts." Explains everything you need to know about politics and punditry. 

Take a course on ancient Greece. For 2,500 years, educators knew that the core of their mission was to bring students into contact with heroes like Pericles, Socrates and Leonidas. "No habit is so important to acquire," Aristotle wrote, as the ability "to delight in fine characters and noble actions." Alfred North Whitehead agreed, saying, "Moral education is impossible without the habitual vision of greatness." 

That core educational principle was abandoned about a generation ago, during a spasm of radical egalitarianism. And once that principle was lost, the entire coherence of higher education was lost with it. So now you've got to find your own ways to learn about history's heroes, the figures who will serve as models to emulate and who will provide you with standards to use to measure your own conduct. Remember, as the British educator Richard Livingstone once wrote, "One is apt to think of moral failure as due to weakness of character: more often it is due to an inadequate ideal."

Learn a foreign language. The biographer Ron Chernow observes, "My impression is that many students have turned into cunning little careerists, jockeying for advancement." To counteract this, he suggests taking "wildly impractical" courses like art history and Elizabethan drama. "They should especially try to master a foreign language as a way to annex another culture and discover unseen sides to themselves. As we have evolved into a matchless global power, we have simply become provincial on an ever larger stage." 

Spend a year abroad. Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland believes that all major universities should require a year abroad: "All evidence suggests this, more than any other, is a transforming experience for students that lasts a lifetime." 

Take a course in neuroscience. In the next 50 years, half the explanations you hear for human behavior are going to involve brain structure and function. You've got to know which are serious and which are cockamamie.

Take statistics. Sorry, but you'll find later in life that it's handy to know what a standard deviation is. 

Forget about your career for once in your life. 
This was the core message from everyone I contacted. Raised to be workaholics, students today have developed a "carapace, an enveloping shell that hinders them from seeing the full, rich variety of intellectual and practical opportunities offered by the world," observes Charles Hill of Yale. You've got to burst out of that narrow careerist mentality. Of course, it will be hard when you're surrounded by so many narrow careerist professors building their little subdisciplinary empires.   But you can do it. I have faith.    -- David Brooks

Look for the main idea, the "thesis statement" and the supporting columns of evidence.
Look for the interesting SAT words and find synonyms.


Steve McCrea 
Put your ideas on DVD and video-on-CD 
Get your book in print with "print-on-demand" 
Box 30555 
Fort Lauderdale, FL  33303 

TELEPHONE  1+  954.646.8246 



Ask to become a MENTOR ON VIDEO 

The three questions 
1.  what do you remember learning in Middle School that you continue to use today?   (what continues to be relevant?) 
2.  What do you find useful that you could have learned in Middle School but didn't?  (A suggestion to middle school teachers) 
3.  What are you reading today that you find useful?  (give an example about how you are continuing to learn and take time for reading books and articles). 

Your replies to these questions will be shown to middle school and high school students.  The idea is to increase relevance and to help students see that adults can be mentors…  

Are you a mentor? 

Connect with other cultures 

Contact me 
Plant trees 
Quotes from Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind 
"A designer gives to the world something it didn't know it was missing." -- Paola Antonelli, curator of design, MOMA 

"Design is shaping our surroundings to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives." -- John Heskett, Toothpicks and Logos: design in our everyday life. 
Design is utility enhanced by meaning. 

Three forces are shaping our world: Asia, automation and abundance. 
Daniel Pink recommends that we ask three questions about our work: 
1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper? 
2. Can a computer do it faster? 
3. Does my product offer meaning to a customer in an abundant society? 

3.3 million white collar jobs in the USA will shift to low-cost countries by 2015. 
Nations like Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom will see similar job losses. -- quoted in Pink's A WHOLE NEW MIND 

From Lee Brower (  An Opportunity Filter (a series of questions to filter out opportunities from distractions) 

Is the project in line with our values? 
Will the project increase our abilities and will it use our unique talents? 
Does this project make sense financially? 
How will this project benefit society? 
Is this project a gateway opportunity or is it just a single transaction? 

From Daniel Pink (  Asia, Automation and Abundance 
Can someone overseas do it cheaper? 
Can a computer do it faster? 
AM I offering something that satisfied the nonmaterial desires of our abundant society? 


Here’s the link:  Listening to Mr. Friedman 

Some clever quotations to inspire us 
> You never grow old until you've lost all of your marvels. Merry Browne 
Don't wait for inspiration to find you -- go out and hunt it down.  Jack London 
> Dreams come a size too big so that we can grow into them.  Josie Bissett 
> Sometimes you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down.   Kobi  Yamada 
> If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space. Lou Whitaker 
> Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting. Anonymous 
Take the everyday and make it strange.  Take the strange and make it everyday.  – Steve Powers ESPO, graffiti artist 
To SUBSCRIBE visit:  I wonder what it says...  from make interesting shapes... like MC Escher.  

Some students give me the following types of emails

At some point you will decide to choose an email address that is easier to remember and an address that a 50-year-old teacher will not be embarrassed to read out loud.

My friend John Vornle adds the following message to his emails.  I like it and I've adjusted some of the wording:  This e-mail may contain confidential and/ or privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient (or received this e-mail in error) please notify the sender and delete this message. Unauthorized copying, disclosure or distribution of the material in this e-mail or its attachments is discouraged.  All original material included in this e-mail or its attachments is copyright protected. 

E-mail is unreliable.  Please assume I have not received your message or note if I have not responded within a reasonable amount of time.  Also, please remember that some servers do NOT deliver all attachments or require several steps to find the text of the main message or that your mailbox may sometimes be full and might not accept messages.  E-mail is only a convenience. My preferred hours of telephonic communication are between the hours of 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM in the New York City (a.k.a. Eastern) time zone.  Earlier times are reserved for Europeans, later times are for the West Coast.


A short course in Math

Look For Patterns 



Measure something 


F to  C  Liters to Gal lons

Km to Mi les


Decimal to Percent 

Percent to Decimal 

Fraction to Percent 

Percent to Fraction 

Fraction to Decimal 

Decimal to Fraction 

Analyze the data 
What are the chances? 
Plane vs. car 
What are the odds? 
What is the risk? 

Shapes, Area, Angle 
Fill the pool 
Steve McCrea 
Put your ideas on DVD and video-on-CD 
Get your book in print with "print-on-demand" 
Box 30555 
Fort Lauderdale, FL  33303 
TELEPHONE  1+  954.646.8246 

Ask to become a MENTOR ON VIDEO 

The three questions 

1.  what do you remember learning in Middle School that you continue to use today?   (what continues to be relevant?) 

2.  What do you find useful that you could have learned in Middle School but didn't?  (A suggestion to middle school teachers) 

3.  What are you reading today that you find useful?  (give an example about how you are continuing to learn and take time for reading books and articles).


What should be improved about this course and this web page?
What did you like about the course?
Was there enough homeowrk?  too much?
Was there enough participation by students in the class?
What should be changed?
Would you have attended this course at a different time of day or a different day of the week?
What would have been convenient for you?

Yes, I'm ready to work with you.  Even if you are not in my SAT class, your questions help me become a better teacher.  So keep asking.  How can this web page be improved?

Did you find a better way to learn new words?
What books do you recommend for studying vocabulary (there are some good ones out there with pictures!)
Do you need visual and active teaching styles?
Do you have the SAT Prep CD?  It has Mr. Mac on the video, video on CD, viewable on a computer.  Yes, watch and learn.  He gives his tips live to you with stuffed animals and waterfalls.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Well...  see what I say.... 

HOMEWORK>   yes, students, you can join me in a (virtual) WALK to support a cooler climate…   a march against global warming. 
My friend writes these four sentences… please  Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. 

Go to    
Here is a story that I received…  

Live anywhere you want. Love anyone. Please care about something (if everyone cares about something, then we can take care of this planet). Speak quietly (it’s too noisy in the city and most people shout).   steve  

Subject: Excitement on the UCLA campus yesterday! 
It’s a story about a person named Amanda……
Amanda witnessed Larry David and his wife, Laurie, give her classmate Larry's car yesterday during class.  The event was filmed and will be shown on MTV and online on May 9.  Below is an article about it. It was also in the Post today. 

Actor Larry David Gives Away Prius to a Medical Student to Highlight Global Warning 

05-04-2006 7:40 AM 
By LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer 
LOS ANGELES --  Larry David of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld" fame put his Prius where his mouth is _ giving away the hybrid car in a contest aimed at increasing awareness of global warming. 
David and his wife, Laurie, an environmental activist, surprised a class Wednesday at the University of California, Los Angeles, to award the car to medical student Erick Tarula. 

Tarula, 24, of Azusa, registered for the yearlong Virtual March to Stop Global Warming, an online petition organized by Stop Global Warming. The group was co-founded by Laurie David to spur politicians to act on the issue. 

Tarula "jumped up, he was all excited" when Larry David announced his name, Laurie David said Wednesday. The student told the class he drives a "gas-guzzling" truck and was eager to switch to the Prius, she said. 

Larry David's Toyota Prius was used in his HBO comedy series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." David co-created the NBC comedy "Seinfeld." 

The actor-writer remained true to his cantankerous "Curb Your Enthusiasm" character in reacting to the giveaway, an idea his wife said she came up with spontaneously and without consulting him. 

"I'm still waiting for the moment when I'm supposed to feel good about this," Laurie David quoted her husband as saying. 

MTV's college cable TV network, mtvU, a partner in the virtual march, filmed the couple's visit to UCLA's "Effective Methods of Social Change" class for the series "Stand In." The episode will air May 9 on both mtvU and the broadband channel mtvU Uber. 

More than 300,000 people and counting have signed up for the virtual march, said Laurie David. 
On the Net: 
Look for this message on

other stuff ...  cool readings ...  stuff that might be useful someday ...

-----Original Message----- 
From: [] 
Sent: Friday, April 07, 2006 7:11 PM 
Subject: Urban Legends Reference Pages Update #253 

Hello again from, your corner of urban legends sanity on the World Wide Web!  This e-mail gives information about new articles recently added to the Urban Legends Reference Pages 
( and provides pointers to older pieces about rumors and hoaxes still wandering into everyone's inboxes.  
Our last update mailing was 31 March 2006.  

If after this update you are left wondering about something newly arrived in your inbox, our search engine stands ready to assist you at Bookmark that URL 
-- it's a keeper! 

An RSS feed for our What's New page is available at 
And now, to the legends, the mayhem, and the misinformation! 

New Articles 
MILDLY DISTURBING IMAGE WARNING: Photographs show a U.S. soldier whose tooth saved his life when he was shot in the face in Iraq. 

DISTURBING IMAGE WARNING: Photographs show a bizarre-looking baby born in Nepal. 

E-mail quotes statements from Australian government officials about Sharia law and Muslim extremists. 

E-mail forward says a Texas city provided Hurricane Katrina evacuees with free transportation to a local job fair, but no one used the service. 

Prayer request for Sgt. Kevin Downs, a National Guardsman injured in Iraq. 

Did Paul Allen of Microsoft write a letter to a Santa Clarita newspaper in defense of Mormons? 

Worth a Second Look 
When the dead return to ride again - Declared-dead jockey comes back to stun the grandstand crowd. 

Still Haunting the Inbox 

No, the major home improvement stores are not selling garden mulch laden with termites. 

While Venezuela president Hugo Chávez did make nasty remarks about the U.S., boycotting Citgo brand gasoline is not an effective protest. 

Dialing #77 or *677 is not a surefire way of reaching the local highway patrol -- the service is in place in some regions, but not in others.  If in need of assistance, dial 911 instead for the sure thing. 

Identity thieves trick the unwary into revealing their personal details by telling them they've failed to report for jury duty and warrants for their arrest are being issued. 

The e-mail asking for help in locating 9-year-old missing Penny Brown is a hoax.  Photo of a cute redheaded kid or not, there is no such child.  This hoax has been running since 2001. 

Will pressing #-9-0 on your telephone allow scammers to make long-distance calls and charge them to your phone bill? 

There was no letter to Starbucks from coffee-seeking G.I.s serving in Iraq, so no response from the coffee retailer saying it didn't support the war and anyone in it. 

No, several major brands of lipstick do not contain dangerous levels of lead. 

There were no Arabs at a convenience store celebrating the 9/11 attacks and no Budweiser employee who upon seeing them pulled all the Budweiser product from that store. 

The FDA's phenylpropanolamine (PPA) recall alert from 2000 is back.  Though this was real five years ago, precious few products of any stripe now marketed in the U.S. contain PPA.  
Do not rely on e-mailed lists of products to tell you what's what because they're all so badly outdated as to be useless; instead read the labels of your over-the-counter medicine.

Read stuff from Cecil
From: [mailto:webmaster@
Sent: Friday, April 07, 2006 5:00 AM 
To: The Straight Dope 
Subject: The Straight Dope 04/07/2006 

The Straight Dope -- By Cecil Adams 

Dear Cecil: 

Robert Essenhigh, a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State, has written an essay disputing the idea that human activity is causing global warming. He is part of an academic group that opposes the Kyoto treaty. Although I have a PhD in physical organic chemistry and have done some work in environmental areas, I cannot dismiss his arguments out of hand. Is Professor Essenhigh right and can we all go out and buy SUVs? Or are there convincing arguments to the contrary? With the Kyoto treaty on the rocks, it'd be nice to know. --Jon Kapecki, Rochester, New York 

Cecil replies: 
I get a lot of letters like yours, Jon, basically asking me, a weekly alternative newspaper columnist, to resolve one of the great controversies of our age. No problem, that's what I do. Given an 800-word limit, however, you'll excuse my taking a few shortcuts. 

So here we go: Are greenhouse-gas emissions from our fuel-guzzling cars, power plants, etc, a significant contributor to potentially catastrophic climate change? Answer: Beats me. But you know what? It doesn't matter even if they are. 

First, Essenhigh. The professor argued in a 2001 article in Chemical Innovation that average global temperatures were rising but that, contrary to wide popular and scientific opinion, human activity wasn't the principal cause. Rather, the fluctuations we're now seeing are part of a natural cycle that's been going on for eons. Essenhigh's reasoning appealed largely to common sense: Carbon dioxide, the most widely discussed greenhouse gas, is part of earth's vast store of carbon (about 150 billion tons), which is continually being cycled through the oceans, the atmosphere, and vegetation. The human contribution to atmospheric carbon in the form of CO2 is small, less than 5 percent of the total carbon reservoir. Ergo . . . 

For more, see: 

STRAIGHT DOPE CLASSIC #2 - 06/08/1990 
Dear Cecil: 

Is man a meat-eater or a vegetarian by nature? 
According to the enclosed clipping from a vegetarian magazine, "The intestinal length of carnivores (meat-eating animals) is three times the body length to allow for quick removal of flesh wastes that putrefy in the intestines. Man's intestine length, like other herbivores, is six times his body length and is designed for digesting vegetables, grains, and fruits." I'm not a meat-eater but my girlfriend is and she is not convinced man is a natural vegetarian. We decided to leave it up to you. (Why I agreed to this I don't know, it's obvious from your aggressive tone that you like your steak rare.) Please, don't embarrass yourself by quoting that garbage from the National Beef Council that meat is our best source of protein. Even high school kids know better than that. --L. Williams, Culver City, California  

Cecil replies:  
Listen, wimp--whoops, too aggressive. Gimme some of that tofu burger. 
Ah, I can feel the testosterone receding already. Now then, let us reason like gentlemen. There are some intelligent arguments for vegetarianism, but claiming that man is "naturally" herbivorous isn't one of them. The settled judgment of science is that man is an omnivore, capable of .eating both meat and vegetables, much as certain four-year-olds might like to convince their mothers otherwise.  Like the hard-core carnivores, we have fairly simple digestive systems well suited to the consumption of animal protein, which breaks down quickly. Contrary to what your magazine article says, the human small intestine, at 23 feet, is a little under eight times body length (assuming a mouth-to-anus "body length" of three feet).
 This is about midway between cats (three times body length), dogs (3-1/2 times), and other well-known meat eaters on the one hand and plant eaters such as cattle (20 to 1) and horses (12 to 
1) on the other
. This tends to support the idea that we are omnivores. 
For more, see: 

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Five Things that Parents, Teachers, Students and Principals Probably Need to Know About the Brain 
By Pat Harris, Family Therapist and Motivational Speaker 
Steve McCrea, Tutor and DVD Producer

Five Discoveries about the Brain that could help Parents, Teachers, Students and Principals 

My name is Pat Harris.  I’m a family therapist.  I met Steve Mccrea when I volunteered at a local school.  I offered to speak for 20 minutes to a class in a middle school.  I believe in volunteering because we never know what it will lead to. 

Working with Steve is part of my journey as a therapist.  He’s taught me that it’s okay to make a recording.   He enhanced my way of thinking through technology. 

I heard from my daughter:   “You’re like a broken record… always the same message.”  Well, as a family therapist, I think I know I sound like a broken record.  My clients sometimes need five or six exposures before they really hear my message for the first time.  I think I’m a broken record, but they think (eventually), “Hey, that makes sense.” 

That’s why Steve and I are teaming up to deliver what we think is obvious.  It’s obvious to us because we made it our lives to study children and how they learn.  We want to make their learning more efficient and safer.  Steve and I both learned the lessons we needed to make it through many decades of life, but we know that there were messages along the way that we ignored or failed to hear.  

This booklet brings you summaries about recent research about the brain.  

What could happen to our schools, families, relationships, and communities if 200,000 parents were instantly up-to-date with the latest research?  How could that information be presented to these parents? 

What is the essence of the messages, so we don’t waste the time of these parents? 
That’s the reason behind this book. 

I come to this space with a focus on options…especially options against violence.  There are so many ways to resolve conflict and address bullies and “cracking” (negative so-called playful jokes that kids tell each other).. … without yelling, shouting, or exerting force. 

I hope you will tell us what we missed and suggest new topics… we’ll put them on   under the topic “Five Things for Every Parent.” 

Pat Harris 

This book will be divided into chapters that will include some interesting materials.   You are invited to read straight through or to visit pages that you find interesting. 
Go ahead, skip around. 

Five Myths or Misconceptions about “How to educate a child” That Parents Carry in their heads 
There are at least five ideas that get in the way of students and parents.   Steve and I hear these myths at least once a week while talking with parents about their children. 

#1   “
There’s only one way to learn this material – out of the textbook.  You just have to work with the teacher.  The teacher doesn’t like the book, but it’s on the curriculum.  Sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do.  School gets you ready for real life.  Everyone has to learn by taking notes and studying for the test.” 

 Academics is more important than “street smarts.”   

“Teachers are the experts.  Listen to the teacher.” 

“We should just get rid of this test!” (FCAT, SAT, other standardized tests).  
The FCAT is destroying our schools.  Teachers spend months practicing those multiple choice and short-answer problems.  We should just let teachers teach. 

# 5 
Video games are harmless, except for the really violent games. 

“My child lives for video games.  Habbo Hotel, that simulation game seires called “The Sims,” 3-D football, and others.  At least he doesn’t play Grand Theft Auto.  I make sure of that.” 

There’s something true for most parents in each of these statements.  

Each of these myths has helped us in someway get to where we are today.  By respecting our teachers, we followed the rules and got degrees. 

By respecting the educational process, many of us graduated. 
We listened to these myths and ideas … then we passed them on to our children. 
Let’s look at each of these myths and then hear about the recent research about how the brain works. 

Myth #1  “There’s only one way to learn this material – out of the textbook.  You just have to work with the teacher.  The teacher doesn’t like the book, but it’s on the curriculum.  Sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do.  School gets you ready for real life.  Everyone has to learn by taking notes and studying for the test.” 

This myth is saying, “There’s only one way to teach.” 

Huh?  There are hundreds of examples of teachers who have learned how to modify their teaching methods.  This means there are hundreds of teachers out there who could learn from the need to be flexible.  

Myth #2  Academics is more important than “street smarts.”    

“How can someone who is so smart make such a stupid decision?”  
Remedy:  Respect people where they are.  Growth is a process.  Everybody grows differently.  

I’ve seen some students who are sheltered at home.  Thye are so protected that they don’t have a chance to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  Then when they finally leave home to go to college, they have so many choices.  Should I study or party and get drunk?”  It’s shocking to some parents that their bright child can make sure unfortunate decisions.  

Myth #3 “Teachers are the experts.  Listen to the teacher.” 

Teachers are well trained, they are the experts, and other adults should stay away, since they don’t know how kids develop.  Adults and parents who visit a school should stay in a corner and be invisible because adults in general don’t know how to teach kids. 
ANSWER see the section on Mentors in this booklet.  The pentagon has it right. 

Myth #4 “We should just get rid of this test!”  (FCAT, SAT, other standardized tests).  

The FCAT is destroying our schools.  Teachers spend months practicing those multiple choice and short-answer problems.  We should just let teachers teach. 

Standardized tests have received a lot of attention since 1999, when many states began introducing written tests as a way to measure progress.   The purpose was to hold schools accountable – “There must be progress.”    

The down side is that the test appears to be the ONLY measure that many parents are looking at.  Some parents tell their children, “If you can’t match the level of other kids, then maybe you shouldn’t go to college.  You need those reading, writing and math skills.” 

Another Answer --  Is a written test the only way we have, after 5000 years of history, to decide who should go to college?  Is spelling and writing the only skill that must be demonstrated?    Huh?  Nelson Rockefeller, governor, was dyslexic and he couldn’t spell.  He could talk an inspiring speech and lead a state for several administrations. 

Why not use technology to overcome deficits? Or focus on a student’s other abilities instead of looking so strongly at “deficits” and “weaknesses”? 

This misconception believes that “we need one standard and let’s not waste time and resources developing alternatives.” 

Isn’t it more costly to have kids falling through the cracks because the testing didn’t measure or identify their skills?  And abilities? 

I used to think that kids who couldn’t spell were doomed to living without a college degree.  Then came the spellchecker.  The way we spell when we are writing an exam is not important 

Rap is indeed an annoying “art form” and “freestyling” is an excuse to not spend time crafting a song or poem.  However, some of those kids are very clever and should be recognized for their gifts.   And standardized tests often miss these talents. 

Myth #5 Video games are harmless, except for the really violent games. 

“My child lives for video games.  Habbo Hotel, that simulation game, 3-D football, and othersl.  At least he doesn’t play Grand Theft Auto.  I make sure of that.” 

This myth is stated in another way:  Kids that don’t play video games lose the skill:   what country makes the best pilots in the world?  The USA.  What did researchers find in the best pilots?  Excellent hand coordination and quick reaction time.   How did pilots gain this skill?  Many researchers believe that the use of video games over time can improve eye-to-hand coordination.   In fact, some researchers suggest that elderly people could improve their brain functioning by learning to play video games. 

This article was published in 1998 and several students have quoted it as reason for them to play video games.  See the Section on video games.

REPLY:  Video games are entertainment.  Some simulations help students learn how to place objects over other objects.  There are excellent simulations for math, chemistry, physics and biology to help students “see” in three dimensions.  And yet… some research shows that certain problems involving three dimentions are learned better with blocks and actual manipulation of real objects.  A multi-colored cube on a screen might look like a three-D object, but it’s still two dimensions in your hand.  Your eye is fooled by the image on the screenyou’re your hand does not sense a three-D object when you touch the screen.  Certain types of brain development occur when you hold an object.   Those neural connections don’t happen when you just look at the object while it spins on the screen.  

REMEDY #1:  get magnetic sticks.  Find Lego and other building Include more Three-d objects in classrooms, libraries and homes.  

REMEDY #2:  There is no “minimum daily requirement” for video game playing.  A child who doesn’t learn to play a game is not “retarded” in development.  

From a study:  Children who didn’t play a game were compared with children who had three years of experience with a game.  The study found that inexperienced children gained the same expertise and skill with the game within six months.  In other words, kids who learned a game at age 9 and played it for three years had no long-term advantage over a child who learned the game at age 12.  If you delay the use of video games in your home, you are not “holding back” a child. 

REMEDY #3:  Read with the child – everything about the game.  There are plenty of ways to teach reading!  Yes, learning how to play a game takes concentration and skill.    I used to think that video games could promote reading, since there are menus with information presented in interesting colors and designs.  Oops!  Just because there is reading material on the game’s menu, don’t assume that kids are reading.  Some kids learn to play a video game by watching friends and asking questions (and never read the instructions of the game).  

The Routine 

How do these myths remain so strongly implanted in the heads of parents?  

Why don’t parents learn about new research on the brain?  

Most of the information that appears in this booklet has appeared on popular morning TV, especially NBC’s Today Show.  Dozens of experts each year describe the recent discoveries made about the brain and human development.  

Why are parents still carrying around ideas from their childhoods? 

In a single sentence:  I was raised in a certain way and I turned out okay.  Why can’t my child be taught the same way? 

Another explanation:  The routine. 
Parents are so busy raising their children that they don’t have time to hear what could help them.  Let’s take a moment and look at the benefits of the routine. 

1.     Routines keep children safe and healthy.  By following the same procedures each day, families develop a system.  That system keeps most kids from being run over, kidnapped or drowned. 

2.     Everybody recommends routines.  Teachers, friends, other parents, the principal – everyone talks about the importance of a stable home and a dependable routine.  Parents who follow routines are rewarded by the positive feedback from other adults. 

Children thrive when they go through a similar parttern every day.  Kids complain to each other about the “same old, same old” routine after school.  Yet it feels comfortable to hear the same questions:  
What did you learn in school today? 

Did you finish your homework? 

What is happening next week in school? 

Keeping a routine brings security to children.  

However, repeating the same things can create a box.  Let’s look at what happens after school? 

Your child comes home. 

You remind the child of the limits.  The routine goes something like this: 

Play for 15 minutes. 

Do your homework. 

Dinner is at 6 p.m. 

Finish your homework after dinner. 

Take a shower. 

Get your clothes and books ready for school tomorrow. 

Five more minutes and then get off that phone. 

Get ready for bed. 

Good night. 

The routine creates a stable home.  But when do we make time for new information? 

In addition to these five myths, parents tell themselves and their children many things.  At the heart of a typical myth are several facts.  The problem comes when parents don’t have time to learn about recent developments.  

Children are sponges and will absorb almost everything we say.  “Almost” is the key word.  Parents often think they have communicated clearly 

Using Technology 
A quick look through this book might lead you to believe that Steve and I don’t like techoloyg.  “Keep video games out of your home!”  In fact, there are clever uses for technology.   Here are some suggestions. 

Technology Tip #1 
Math Games by Matti.   We recommend the web site, which has links to dozens of video simulations and interactive activities.  There are hundreds of applications that promote better understanding through a visual presentation.  If something moves, most students will be attracted to it.  If the image is connected to a keyboard and solid academic purpose, why not let the child learn by doing?  Learn by watching a simulation.  Learn by changing the conditions of a simulation.  

Technology Tip #2 
Read your child’s notes into a tape recorder or onto a video tape and then watch the results together.   Pause the device and ask your child to predict the next sentence. 

Technology Tip #3 
Schools can use technology, too.  Find out if your child’s teachers can use videos in the classroom.  If there is no video camera available, keep asking until a camera is used.   Find out 

Technology Tip #4 
Bring a video camera into your home.  Record messages.  Record special events.  Interview your parents with your children present and encourage your children to ask questions.  

Technology Tip #5 

Put cool messages on your child’s screen saver.  There’s a free software product called Parent Pest that sends messages to a screen saver on the computer.  Find out more at  

Technology Tip #6 
Put audio messages on the iPod or mp3 player. 

The five myths in this booklet are just some of the ideas that parents use to build their lives.  We welcome your suggestions on other myths or half-truths that get in the way of our understanding about HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN?  

What do you know about the development of children?  What ideas did you have to discard or change or improve in order to help a child grow? 

Please share with us by email at or by phone at 954 646 8246 

Five New Ideas 
In the first part of this book, we talked about myths. We looked at what is holding back our kids and our understanding of the brain.  Now let’s restate these ideas in a positive way.  

“Hey, you’re repeating the information.”  
Yes, many people learn when new information is given again in a different way.  The following section has more examples, often given in a story.  These ideas will help us create a positive mental attitude toward changes we can choose to make in our routines. 

Five Ideas about the Brain 
1.          Children learn differently.  Most boys learn differently from most girls. 
The brain is divided in two parts.  The connection between the two sides makes a big difference:  do you have a thick or thin connection?   Most girls and most boys really do learn differently.  Shouldn’t they be taught differently? 

For further reading, we suggest Michael Guerlain and his institute for learning differences… 

2.          Social Skills are more important than most academic skills. Emotional Intelligence is more important than academic achievement for most people.  Shouldn’t we teach social skills in school? 

REMEDY… here’s how I build emotional intelligence in myself 

a)     I listen to advice from people on tape.  Somehow it’s easier to listen to a stranger tell us advice than our parents.   To help you, I’ve created a series of audio letters for you to listen to in the car. 

b)     I practice what I learn.  I apply it.  Yes, it’s annoying and boring sometimes, but I use it.  Use it or lose it. 

c)      I look for options.   I know what I’m comfortable doing.  I look around and I look for other ways of achieving what I usually want to get done.    It’s surprising how many new people we meet when we stop doing the same thing the same way… 

d)     I learn about the fifteen styles of distorted thinking.  I love to discover a new way that I’m distorting my view of the world to suit my needs.  It’s amazing how creative I can be!   It’s great to be relieved of the job of trying to figure out everything for everyone else…. Now I just worry about me. 

We can learn from films like Stand and Deliver and Goodbye Mr. Chips and the recent dance film with Antonio Banderas (where a dance instructor teaches some impolite teenagers how to be civil, gentile, and confident).  These films show that schools can be places to learn more than academic subjects.  Social ability can be taught. 

3.          Mentors are needed in schools. The Pentagon requires parents to spend 8 hours a month in a classroom.   When was the last time you volunteered in a classroom? 

Read about the baseball coach.   

Alison Gropnik’s piece in the Ny Times, January 2005 
Her basic message is …  
How We Learn 

Published: January 16, 2005 

Here's the big question: if children who don't even go to school learn so easily, why do children who go to school seem to have such a hard time? Why can children solve problems that challenge computers but stumble on a third-grade reading test? 

When we talk about learning, we really mean two quite different things, the process of discovery and of mastering what one discovers. All children are naturally driven to create an accurate picture of the world and, with the help of adults to use that picture to make predictions, formulate explanations, imagine alternatives and design plans. Call it ''guided discovery.'' 

If this kind of learning is what we have in mind then one answer to the big question is that schools don't teach the same way children learn. As in the gear-and-switch experiments, children seem to learn best when they can explore the world and interact with expert adults. For example, Barbara Rogoff, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, studied children growing up in poor Guatemalan Indian villages. The youngsters gradually mastered complex skills like preparing tortillas from scratch, beginning with the 2-year-old mimicking the flattening of dough to the 10-year-old entrusted with the entire task. They learned by watching adults, trying themselves and receiving detailed corrective feedback about their efforts. Mothers did a careful analysis of what the child was capable of before encouraging the next step. 

This may sound like a touchy-feely progressive prescription. But a good example of such teaching in our culture is the stern but beloved baseball coach. How many school teachers are as good at essay writing, science or mathematics as the average coach is at baseball? And even when teachers are expert, how many children ever get to watch them work through writing an essay or designing a scientific experiment or solving an unfamiliar math problem? 

Imagine if baseball were taught the way science is taught in most inner-city schools. Schoolchildren would get lectures about the history of the World Series. High school students would occasionally reproduce famous plays of the past. Nobody would get in the game themselves until graduate school. 

But there is another side to the question. 

In guided discovery -- figuring out how the world works or unraveling the structure of making tortillas -- children learn to solve new problems. But what is expected in school, at least in part, involves a very different process: call it ''routinized learning.'' Something already learned is made to be second nature, so as to perform a skill effortlessly and quickly. 

The activities that promote mastery may be different from the activities that promote discovery. What makes knowledge automatic is what gets you to Carnegie Hall -- practice, practice, practice. In some settings, like the Guatemalan village, this happens naturally: make tortillas every day and you'll get good at it. In our culture, children rich and poor grow highly skilled at video games they play for hours. 

The problem for many children in elementary school may not be that they're not smart enough but that they're not stupid enough. They haven't yet been able to make reading and writing transparent and automatic. This is particularly true for children who don't have natural opportunities to practice these skills, learning in chaotic and impoverished schools and leading chaotic and impoverished lives. 

But routinized learning is not an end in itself. A good coach may well make his players throw the ball to first base 50 times or swing again and again in the batting cage. That will help, but by itself it won't make a strong player. The game itself -- reacting to different pitches, strategizing about base running -- requires thought, flexibility and inventiveness. 

Children would never tolerate baseball if all they did was practice. No coach would evaluate a child, and no society would evaluate a coach, based on performance in the batting cage. What makes for learning is the right balance of both learning processes, allowing children to retain their native brilliance as they grow up. 

Alison Gopnik is co-author of ''The Scientist in the Crib'' and professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. 
We can learn much from Dr. Gopnik’s observations.  

4.          About FCAT: 
There are at least seven ways of learning and seven ways of teaching.  Shouldn’t there be more than one way of assessing our children’s growth and understanding? 
Are there other ways to measure understanding? 
Listen to Dennis Littky. 
(We can quote from Littky’s book) 

Maybe there’s another way of organizing our schools, around individuals, not around the facilities. 

What is the best size of a school?  How big should schools be?  What governs the size of a school? 
The cafeteria? 
Or the number of parents a typical principal can remember? 

5.          Video games: There really is something about what our mothers told us.  “If you get too close to that TV, you’ll go blind.”  Something inside the head of many 12 year olds shuts down because the three-dimensions of playing with objects has been replaced by virtual worlds with simulated 3-D.  We don’t really learn more when we have a video game. 

How can we use technology better?   Instead of banning ipods, how can we train teachers to use ipods?  Many students love to listen to music and short messages can be inserted between songs. 

(pat, this section of the book will be about specifics of each area of research.   Lots of comments by you when I talk about stuff from one of the research papers…) 


Here’s what we’ve learned together 

Five Things 

1.  Girls and Boys learn differently. 

REMEDY -- use different styles of communication when talking with men and women.  There’s no simple difference, but it is often successful to get a man’s full attention before speaking because he often can focus on only one thing at a time (while a female brain can often do several things at once).   PLUS Girls and boys really do learn differently.  Shouldn’t they be taught differently? 

REMEDY    If you can teach girls and boys separately, can that arrangement be explained or supported with evidence from the class?   “I really do better when the boys aren’t around.”  That’s hard to get from teenagers, but there might be some support from students.  

2. Social Skills -- Emotional Intelligence is more important than academic achievement. 
REMEDY   make time for social skills.  Just having an A in school is not reason to say, “Oh, everything is fine.”   Dig deeper.  Set up “what ifs” -- what if Oprah stepped on an elevator with you.  What would you say?  What charity would you promote?  What would you give her? 

3.  Mentors are needed in schools.  The Pentagon requires parents to spend 8 hours a month in a classroom.   When was the last time you volunteered in a classroom? 
REMEDY   If you can’t visit a classroom, find a video camera and start talking.   Go to for guidelines.  Or contact Steve and he’ll turn you into one of his Mentors On Video. 

4.  About FCAT:  
There are at least seven ways of learning and seven ways of teaching.  Shouldn’t there be more than one way of assessing our children’s growth and understanding? 
REMEDY   Learn more about portfolios, work with your principal to set up a portfolio system and volunteer to get started and maintain it.   Learn about “performances of understanding” and about Dennis Littky’s work.  Get “the big picture.” 

5. Video games: There really is something about what our mothers told us.  “If you get too close to that TV, you’ll go blind.”  Something inside the head of many 12 year olds shuts down because the three-dimensions of playing with objects has been replaced by virtual worlds with simulated 3-D.  We don’t really learn more when we have a video game. 
REMEDY   most TV is not educational.  Most video games are not educational.  There is no minimum daily requirement for training the “game” muscles and reaction time.  Simulations can help some students prepare for flight school, bomb detonation and de-activation, and other potentially hostile situations.  But there are other skills to build and video gaming takes away from time that could be spent learning a language.   Why not visit a virtual world and learn about brot, pain, pan and pane?  

There are more topics, more research, and more items ready for selecting and highlighting.  Steve and Pat are already collecting more topics for you to hear about.  

What keeps us going?  We are here to help each other and we want to share what we’ve learned.  Yes, we appreciate new audiences, and it’s nice to be compensated for our time.  Call 954 646 8246 to find out how you can bring our workshop to your school. 


Dear Parents, 

Have you been looking for a way to judge your child’s writing?  Here’s a checklist (called a “rubric”) and we’ll see what happens….  Go ahead, try it … read one of your child’s essays and apply the checklist. 


Rubric   Checklist for Essays 

1. Do pronouns (it, they, he) point to a specific person or thing?  Is it clear? 

The dog went to into the cat’s house and ate its food.  

My dog saw the dead mouse, sat next to the paper plate and ate it. 

Strunk and White.  The little book 

2. Use appropriate examples to develop the point of view. 

3. Is there a progression of ideas?  Is there enough support for these ideas? 

4. Show critical thinking.  Do you show a complex argument that looks at the issue from more than one viewpoint? 

5.  Skillful use of language (it’s important to have the vision thing.)    Is the vocabulary appropriate?  (When raising the internal core temperature of the soft water-flour amalgamation, it is important to engage adequate insulation by using a ceramic device.) 

6. Is the essay coherent?   Is the essay consistent?  Is it organized and focused?  

Or is it disjointed and incoherent? 

7. Is there variety in the sentence structure?   Is the sentence structure correct? 

This situation is something up with which I will not put.  

8. Conclusion covers the entire essay 

Teachers can point out important words to study 

We can’t always teach you a trick to remember those words 

You are closer to the middle school students than I am.  I invite you to perform your understanding of at least one word.  If you perform on camera, then I will show your performance to a middle school student and they might understand it better than if I show them how to remember a word. 

Vicarious  =   a vicar or a bishop who can’t enjoy a trip to Tahiti (no money) has a vicarious experience by looking at videos and by talking with someone who went there. 

The Fifteen Ways that we sometimes use to Distort our Thinking… 
Fifteen Styles of Distorted Thinking 
Filtering: You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. 
Polarized Thinking: Things are black or white, good or bad. You have to be perfect or you're a failure. There is no middle ground. 
Overgeneralization: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once you expect it to happen over and over 
Mind Reading: Without their saying so you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you. 
Catastrophizing: You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start "what ifs": What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? 
Personalization: Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who's smarter, better looking, etc. 
Control Fallacies: If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. The fallacy or internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you. 
Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful because you think you know what's fair but other people won't agree with you. 
Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other tack and blame yourself for every problem or reversal. 
Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules. 
Emotional Reasoning: You believe that what you feel must be true - automatically. If you feel stupid and boring, then you must be stupid and boring. 
Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them. 
Global Labeling: You generalize one or two qualities into a negative globa1 judgment. 
Being Right: You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness. 
Heavens Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to payoff, as if there were someone keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward doesn't come. 
Resource: Morgan Edwinson, MS 

The Fifteen Distortions © Copyright 1997-2003 
Fifty Plus Fitness Association 
Box 20230 Stanford, CA 94309 
A Non profit 501 (c)(3) Corporation 


The Audio Letters 
Each of these audio letters is three or four minutes long.  Why not listen to them all and hear about the voices of each heart?  Widen your perspective… 

A letter from the heart of a teenager 

A letter from the heart of … 

A teacher 

A principal 

A bully 

A victim of a bully 

A lonely student 

A popular student 

The leader of the pack 

The nerd 

The class clown 

The school receptionist 

The school experts 

The family therapist 

A tutor 

A mentor 


An aunt 

An uncle 

A grandmother 

A grandfather 

A single mother 

A single father 

An unwed mother 

A divorced mother 

A divorced father 

An older sister 

An older brother 

A younger sister 

A younger brother 

An adult without children 

An adult with ADD 

A child with ADD 

A child who is bipolar 

An adult who is bipolar 

A child with a sibling who is disabled 

An adult with a child who is disabled 

A disabled child 

A disabled adult 

Appendix about ADD 

Steve has ADD or lives with ADD.  He calls it “Variable Attention Abiility” or VAA.  He can usually vary the amount of attention he gives to an item… 

If he’s really interested, he can focus! 

Parents can find interesting and helpful information on line.  Here’s an example of some information we found on a service that sends a free email message once a month. 

-----Original Message----- 
From: Attention Research Update [] 
Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 9:00 AM 
Subject: Recent issue on ADHD Medication Misuse/Treatment monitoring tool 

Note:  Attention Research Update is sent to over 36,000 subscribers interested in keeping informed about new research on ADHD.  It is only sent to people who have signed up to receive it. Information on changing your address, confirming your subscription, or unsubscribing can be found at the end of this message. Links below should be "clickable" - if they are not, just cut and paste the link into the window of your web browser. 


Dear Educator, 

I hope that you are doing well. Below is information on several items that may be of interest to you.  These include the following: 
-  Recent issue of Attention Research Update now on the web 
-  Newsletter Sponsors - Kurzweil Educational Systems and Shire US, Inc. 
-  ADHD Treatment Monitoring tool - A system for tracking your child's progress 
-  Aspen Education Group and Cedars Academy - Specialized programs for children and teens with ADHD 
-  National Resource Center for ADHD - An Outstanding Resource 
Please forward this message to others you know who may be interested.  If this has been forwarded to you, and you would like to receive Attention Research Update regularly, you can subscribe for free at 

* Recent Issue Posted ** 
If you missed the recent issue of Attention Research Update, it is now available on the web. This issue reviews a very interesting study that examines the misuse and abuse of stimulant medications used to treat ADHD.  

As you may be aware, this is an issue that has received widespread coverage in the popular media, and this study provides interesting and important new data on this topic. 
You can find the article at 

** Back Issues of Attention Research Update ** 
You can find a collection of all back issues at 

All back issues are archived by year with a contents page for each year.  This allows you to scroll through and locate studies you may have missed that would be of particular interest to you. 

** ADHD Monitoring System ** 
To request the ADHD Monitoring System, a simple tool that educators can use to assist parents and health professionals in tracking the ongoing effectiveness of children's treatment(s) for ADHD, please visit 
There is no charge for this tool and I believe you will find it to be very helpful. 

** The National Resource Center on AD/HD ** 
The National Resource Center on AD/HD provides science-based information on AD/HD. Services include a resource center staffed by highly trained information specialists, a Website with information and resources on AD/HD, and a library open to the public. Contact the NRC at 800-233-4050 or visit their web site at 

You can get answers to your specific questions about ADHD either on line or over the phone.  The NRC is operated by CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
The new issue of Attention Research Update should be sent to you on April 11th. Best wishes until then. 
David Rabiner, Ph.D. 
Senior Research Scientist 
Center for Child and Family Policy 
Duke University 
Durham, NC 27708 
Attention Research Update is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.  Although newsletter sponsors offer products and services that I believe will be of interest to subscribers, sponsorship of Attention Research Update does not constitute a specific endorsement or guarantee of any company's product or services. 

Forward to Friend: 

The final page of the “5 Things” book 
This is our last opportunity in this space to connect with you. 
Please contact us with your questions. 
Please give us your feedback.   Maybe we need to call it “six things” because you have an important addition to this list. 
Thank you for your time. 
Pat Harris 
Steve McCrea

Subpages (1): The Vornle Method