Saturday, October 10, 2015

Essays’ characteristics

Free structure
•Synthetic and relatively brief
•A variety of themes
•Careful and elegant style
•Diverse tones, corresponding to the way in which the author sees and interprets the world.
•The tone can be deep, poetic and didactic, satirical, etc. There’s amenity in the exposition, which stands out above its systematic rigor.

It’s classified by: Personal character essays, where the writer talks about himself and gives his opinions about events, using a light and natural style. Another, more ambitious or extensive and with formal character or closer to scientific work, but always taking interest in the author’s point of view.
True essayists have to have perfect control of the subject, and a nice dose of general culture in order expand upon an artistic subject, and they need to have musical motivation expressed through rich and varied tonal relationships. The essay is a brilliant game in the world of ideas. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Exercises for reading comprehension: three steps for 50% more efficiency in a week

In this article, I will explain what you need to do to increase your reading comprehension by 50% in just a week, so that you can study for your exams or read your books of interest taking full advantage of the time you have available.
Once and for all, you will eliminate the frustration you used to experience when the day of the exam came, and you felt that you don’t remember anything.

Scientific studies have shown that if you do something regularly, your brain will include those things in your subconscious, which will allow you to create a reading habit. By practicing things constantly, you will see that, with each passing day, you will do them better and better. This is totally true. It worked for me, and it might as well work with you.
I started by asking one of my literature teachers for a piece of advice, and here is what she told me: “If you want to learn how to study and understand what you are reading, you need to get your brain used to the process of studying”.

! Every day, you will dedicate half an hour to reading, and once you finish the daily half-hour, you will write a personal commentary, using your own words, about what you have read. Write no more than five lines. This will exercise your brain even more, and will force it to remember what you read, and then transpose in onto a sheet of paper.
! Then, formulate a conclusion based on the things you already knew about that topic and write it down. Make the connection between what you read and your personal experiences, and see how relevant the text that you read is. Write your opinion about it. This step is essential for a real understanding of the text. So far, your brain has worked three times as much as usual.
! Remember that the brain is a muscle, and like any muscle, it requires exercising to keep it from atrophying. The steps above are the ideal activities for exercising your brain and slowly acquiring a better reading comprehension.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Things to be aware of when writing an essay

• Writing essays means checking. Using this genre, the author checks what he thinks, and manifests it in an informal manner, making it almost like a written conversation between himself and the reader, with the complicity of pen and paper.
• The essay is an open construction, and it’s known for being supported by the author’s point of view; it implies a responsibility to expose their own ideas and opinions, backing them with the compromise of their personal signature.
• It’s a subjective genre, and can even be partial. Usually, the author’s purpose is to persuade the reader of his particular views.
• It’s a free form and rebels against all rules. It makes space for doubts, commentary and even anecdotes and experiences of whoever is writing it.
• In the essay, the author is not trying to exhaust the subject, but rather to expose his thoughts. It’s a reflection.
• The author writes about something familiar to him, something that’s already part of him.
• The essay encompasses all of these alternatives, but also demands rigor. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Exercise your brain by reading more

What if you take action once and for all and you decide to exercise your brain now! If you don’t do it now, you may forget about it and lose your opportunity to increase your reading comprehension by 50% in just one week.
If you really want to end your frustrations, think no more: finish reading this article and get to read what you like. Always do this from today on. These 3 steps won’t take you more than 50 minutes. I advise you to make a daily schedule that allows you to complete these steps every day in the morning, because this is the moment when the brain is more fresh and ready to receive information.

1.         Half an hour of reading.
2.         Synthesis and explanation in your own words.
3.         Conclusion.

Reading is a process that implies a series of steps

The steps are:
1.         Perception
2.         Comprehension
3.         Interpretation
4.         Reaction
5.         Integration

Perception is the first step. It involves recognizing the graphical symbols, using any technique – composition, structural analysis, background, etc. The perception must be quick, precise, extensive and rhythmic. This means that during the stage of perception, our eyes must be able to perceive a word or phrase in just a split of a second, our mind must catch its meaning, at the same time guarding the precision and security of reading, despite the speed. For this, you must take full advantage of the visual capacity of your eyes. On a single glance, you must read three or four words; this involves a focused and alert psychical activity. The activities in this stage are predominantly motor, and they mostly involve the senses.

Comprehension is the stage when you recognize the meaning that the author assigned to his text. It requires the ability to understand the message, or the ideas behind the graphic symbols, in the light of past experiences or creating a mental image according to the idea evoked by the message. According to studies made on cognitive processes, this is a very complex cognitive activity, as this stage can comprise a simple codification, up to the elaboration of a synthesis.

Interpretation: interpreting something means assigning it a meaning. During the interpretative function, the reader is introduced into another personality, taking the place of the lyrical voice. Through interpretation, we get to know the author’s thoughts and feeling, that the reader can agree with, or not. Or they can simply serve for informative purposes.

Reaction: during this stage, the reader displays an attitude of acceptance or rejection of the ideas expressed by the author. This is the result of the similarity (or contrast) between the meaning assigned by the author and the reader’s previous knowledge.

Integration: the reader decides the value of the ideas that are expressed; that is, he takes and adds them to his flow of personal experiences, if he considers they are worthy. If reading is done orally, we must add the following steps: emission of sounds, hearing and self-control in regard to the string of sounds.


  • §  Address any visual problem that might appear.
  • §  Choose a properly lit place where to read.
  • §  Sit properly but comfortably while reading.
  • §  Hold the book at around 30 to 40 cm (11 to 16 inches) from your eyes.
  • §  When reading silently, don’t move your lips and don’t repeat the words in your mind.
  • §  Don’t move your head side to side.
  • §  Don’t follow the line with your finger or another object – they won’t help, they’ll just distract you.
  • §  Move your eyes from one group of words to another, not from word to word, and don’t repeat lines.
  • §  Try to understand what you read, as this stimulates permanent learning.
  • §  Make the connection between the topic you are studying and other lessons.
  • §  Practice what you have learnt (overlearning).
  • §  Try to find applications for what you have learnt; abstract as the topic might be, it can prove useful in everyday problems.
  • §  Think about the text and ask yourself questions in regard to it; it’s unacceptable to simply agree to everything the author says.
  • §  Draw the right conclusions. 


Usually, older students don’t read a text properly, but immediately try to reproduce its form mechanically, giving the feeling that they want to finish as quickly as possible – in other words, they read for the sake of reading. Actually, reading implies concentrating your personal resources in learning and retaining data, making connections and using techniques, aiming to master new knowledge. Most teachers agree that there is a relation between the students who can’t read appropriately and those who fail; therefore, if students lack healthy reading habits, it’s important to start acquiring them.
In the following, we will present a method proven to be efficient for reading comprehension. This method was developed by Thomas Staton, who named it PQRST (preview, question, read, state and test).
1. Preview – consists in superficially glancing through the material you need to read, localizing the essential aspects or ideas of the text, taking a look at the index, the introduction, the headers, the graphics and the abstract. It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to revise a chapter. This helps you form an idea about what you are going to read.
2. Question – implies asking yourself – and answering – questions regarding the text before starting to read, so that later you can compare your answers to those offered by the author. This way, you are practicing your imagination and critical thinking. Some of these questions could be: What do the titles and headers suggest? What do I know about this topic? What am I interested in? What does the author want to say? What do I need to know after I have finished reading?
3. Read – after formulating and answering your own questions, you’ll find that the text seems more familiar and easier to understand. This is the moment when you actually start reading, always careful about the intonation, punctuation and spelling of the terms. Pay attention to the words, phrases and sentences that the author stresses out, and mark the relevant information using a yellow highlighter or by underlining it – do this after having read a paragraph, not while you are reading it. It is also advisable to write notes on the margins of the text, but only if the book is your own. If you don’t understand the meaning of a word, look it up in the dictionary. It’s good to make synoptic charts and summaries, formulate questions and conclusions.
4. State – this implies closing the book and presenting, with your own words, what the author said, so that you can see how much you understood and what you need to read again. Studies show that if you repeat a piece of information after having read it, you’re more likely to remember it, provided you clearly understood what you have read.
5. Test – consists in studying in advance, to avoid an exaggerated influx of information and the pressure of the exams. It’s useful to review the contents of the text you have studied, in order to consolidate learning and self-documentation. Also, seek to expand your knowledge.

The significance of reading and writing

It is pertinent to note, that this inquiry for the significance of reading and writing in the universities led the “National Conference on Institutional Policies for the Development of Reading and Writing in Higher Education”; they also concluded that reading and writing should be commitments backed up by precise and explicit institutional policies; that the meaning building processes have an essential role in the social and professional life of the productive sector of a country, and they also emphasized on the need for looking into new trends and theoretical approaches that are underlying the educational and curricular proposals on reading and writing on the Higher Education of the country.

These initiatives, in addition to the multiple dissertations and Master and PhD thesis, like the research conducted in the University in a study called “Teaching how to understand texts in the university”, invite us to recognize reading and writing as a process of discovery, inquiry, discussion, explanation; actions that are characteristic of research, understood as a social activity that leads to the production of knowledge. This way, research, assessment and the results, among them, the ones originated from the Quality Assessment on Higher Education, have put into evidence the existence of issues related to reading and writing that is necessary to expose and intervene.

Finally, it is worth noticing the impact that the educational and teaching national proposals on reading and writing have had. Within these, the ones proposed by the Research Group on Reading and Writing, the Linguistics, Spanish and Literature Departments and the programs of the bachelor’s degrees in Ethno-education, Primary school education with a focus on Spanish and English, Speech Therapy, among others, which, from many years, have not only explored and promoted the research on this field, but have also achieve that the students transform their practices of reading and writing and recognize these processes as needs of the contemporary human being. The results are shown in the number of academic programs that have incorporated to their curricular structure the subject of reading and writing, in some cases, many levels or classes; on the dissertations that have made on the topic students from programs related to Language Studies, in various university publications, in the existence of a Specialization program in the Pedagogy of the reading and writing, and on the results of the reading and writing tests, among others.

Reading and writing in an University level

The research, stimulation, promotion and mediation activities on reading and writing, have gained great importance in the national and international university contexts, thanks to the agreement of the academic communities about the essential role that the meaning building processes play in the development of knowledge, in academic life and in the integral formation of the students. Likewise, the constant transformation of the social and discursive practices on societies, leads the universities to face new challenges in the academic and professional life, especially in the reading and writing of diverse text types that evolve within the different fields of knowledge.

Another element relevant to this educational proposal is the inquiry within the research communities in the Colombian universities about: How to guide the reading and writing processes in the Higher Education? What should be taught? What kind of skills should be strengthened? What are the appropriate methodologies? How to offer the courses?

These questions have put into evidence the complexity and the need to start a permanent research and action process on reading and writing, from within the teaching and learning practices, which implies a laborious and committed work. It is important to note that the Universities have been aware of the questions mentioned, which don’t lead, necessarily, to unique and definitive answers.


Reading and writing have had, in the last decades, an important development on research from fields such as linguistics, semiotics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, literature, philosophy, pedagogy and education, among others. This has made possible the emergence of new theoretical and methodological perspectives that suggest the importance of effectuating changes in their understanding and practice, and in the way they are addressed in the teaching and learning processes, on the different educational levels.

In the Higher Education level, specifically, the encouragement of reading and writing skills is gaining ground due to the essential relations that these have with the academic success or failure and the connection it has with the institutional and State policies of quality assurance.

On this sense, the Linguistics, Speech Therapy, Spanish and Literature, Education and Pedagogy and Intercultural Studies Departments, present to the university community a proposal titled “GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR THE READING AND WRITING COURSE”, with the purpose of being developed within the policy framework of Integral Social and Human Training (FISH), on the line of Society, Art, Language and Culture in the various Undergraduate programs in the University of Cauca, following the institutional requirements stated on the Agreement nr. 1 on the 30th of January 2007.

The purposes behind this proposal are: to recognize reading and writing as complex processes that are essential for the university education; to transform the ideas and practices on reading and writing; to develop abilities for reading and writing in the university; to contribute to the processes and practices of research training through Reading and writing.

Choosing the subject

If the teacher asks you to write a paper on ethical values and justice, he’s asking you to research those subjects, because it’s very likely that you don’t have a solid grasp of legal matters, but if he asks you to write about children who dress like clowns and perform in the streets of many cities, in front of cars at red lights, then it’s very likely that he’s asking you to write an essay, because unfortunately, many Latin American people are familiar with these kinds of experiences. Essays require that you draw from your own experience.
When writing about these children, you might have your own opinion on their behavior. You’re free to write whether you’re for or against it, saying they’re victims of an unfair society, or you can say that they put themselves at risk if they don’t work. You might want to recount an anecdote, something that happened while they were doing their brief show; you might even want to talk about your feelings, and write that you don’t understand why, but when you see them, you get a knot in your throat, and you don’t know how you can help to solve the problem of the poor human rights in the country.
The essay can include all of these things, but above all, it demands rigor. 

Rigor in essays
1. Writing well.
2. Supporting the validity of your opinion:
– Comparing your text to other texts about the same subject.
– Providing an analysis that requires supporting a central hypothesis.
3. Whatever your opinion is, for example, regarding children working in the streets, you have to explain the objective reasons that they got to be in the streets in the first place.
– So, you have to do some research, data compilation and conjunction of opinions. 

Types of Essays

Literary essay
Some of the conditions the literary essay needs to fulfill are variety and a free selection of themes. The literary subject is more of a form problem than a depth problem.
Montaigne’s essays established the genre’s autonomy, and many times they derive from literary quotes, readings and works, but they also present many other themes motivated by the observation of customs, human behavior and vital experience. The literary essay can be defined beginning with the ideas encompassed in many disciplines like morality, science, philosophy, history and politics, which create a free and dynamic reading. In the essay, the author captures his ideas and thoughts about life; it is and should be personal, subjective: a vision from the writer’s own mind.
The essay is, by definition, a provocative concept that invites one to violate aesthetics and moral norms. Journalists say that people make essays every day as an informative note about reality. The essay is the quintessential critical product. On the other hand, philosophers defend the essay as a real form of expression of philosophical manifestations, calling it a treatise, discourse or retort. So, the essay can’t be boxed into only one concept, because the different disciplines adjust it according to their own needs, and use instruments to defend their genre.

Scientific essay
One of the frontiers between science and poetry is in the essay. It’s been known as the “literary-scientific” genre because it strays from scientific reasoning with its artistic imagination. The scientific creation has roots, like poetry, in the imaginative capacity, and it can’t be completely ignored. However, it doesn’t stray far from nature or logic. The essay shares one of its essential purposes with science: deeply exploring reality, approximating the “truth” of things. It shares originality, intensity and expressive beauty with art. 
There’s not really a defined style for essays. There are many styles, according to the author’s personality. But, there is one essential condition they must all meet: clarity of expression, the transparency that can help the reader get a better understanding of the authenticity of the thoughts captured by the essayist.   


Essay basics
The essay is a relatively modern genre, although its origins can be traced back to olden times. It’s developed importance to the modern ear. It’s possible that liberal thought and journalism have had a great influence in its development and hegemony.
Nowadays, the essay is defined as a literary genre, but the essay is actually reduced to a series of meanderings, most of the time in critical aspects where the author expresses his thoughts about determined subjects, or even without a specific subject.
What separates essays from other literary genres is a proper feature, and it’s suggested by its own name. The word essay comes from the Late Latin “exagium”, which means “act of thinking”. It’s also related to the origins of the word given to the testing of the quality of metals. Essaying is thinking, testing, recognizing and examining. So, the essay is a writing, usually brief, about diverse subjects. It’s not defined by its subject, but rather by the author’s attitude to it; deep down, it could be a hypothesis, an idea that’s being essayed. The essay is the product of long meditations and thoughts, and its sense of exploration, its audacity and originality are essential. The essay is the product of the mind’s adventures.

An essay is written in prose, it’s usually short, and expresses depth, maturity and sensitivity. It’s a personal interpretation of any subject, whether it’s philosophical, scientific, historical, literary, etc.
The way in which a subject is exposed and examined borders that of scientific work; didactic and critical. It doesn’t follow a rigorous and systematic order of exposition. The point of view taken by the author when dealing with the subject is predominant in the essay. The individual notes, the author’s feelings, tastes or aversions are what characterize an essay, coming close to lyrical poetry. What separates them is the language, which is more conceptual and expository in the essay, and more intuitive and lyrical in poetry.