You can be given responsibility, but you have to take accountability.

BEING RESPONSIBLE for decisions, and for the actions of others, can carry a significant amount of pressure. For that reason, some people would rather leave the decision-making to others. In truth, responsibility doesn’t have to be such a burden. Those who reject it could be missing the chance to progress in their career.

group hand fist bump

Being Responsible

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” ― Sigmund Freud

It is sometimes tempting to do exactly what you want, exactly when you want to do it. This is an ineffective and inconsiderate way to work because it doesn’t consider the implications for others. A responsible person will always think about the consequences of their actions before they do anything.

RESPONSIBILITY is an admirable trait and leads to further gains. Responsibility isn’t just doing your homework or feeding the dog; it is making proper choices and doing the right thing because you were asked to and you said you would. But you can’t show responsibility without having it! “When life gives you lemons…” what do you do? The answer is different for everyone, but showing and having responsibility can, and will, pay off.

Being responsible also means making decisions for the overall good of anything you’re working on. It’s about considering the benefits to long-term goals, not your own short-term gratification.

Responsibility In The Workplace

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” ― Winston S. Churchill

First you need to understand what responsibility in the workplace means. Without showing responsibility in the position you hold now, you won’t likely be granted additional responsibilities until you are able to demonstrate the ability to do so. There are basic responsibilities like:

  • showing up for work on time and putting in expected hours.
  • making appropriate choices – such as how you dress and how you interact with others.
  • being reliable – your boss, the people you work with, and clients should be able to rely on you on a daily basis, especially during peak or urgent periods.

In addition, to show you truly fulfill the responsibilities of your position you should be able to:

  • meet deadlines (or complete work prior to deadline).
  • meet or exceed each of your current job goals.
  • quantify and present your successful results.

If you regularly demonstrate success in all the responsibilities above, you can be assured that you will be a valued employee and success will definitely come your way if you plan and aim higher.

Why Is Responsibility Thought Of As A Burden?

“To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility.” ― Patrick Ness

There are a number of reasons some people avoid responsibility:

  • If you’re in a position of responsibility, you’ll make decisions –some of these may be unpopular. As a result, decision-makers often have to develop a thick skin. You should always give reasons why you’ve taken the steps you took – this is to illustrate you’ve taken them for the right reasons. Being open about everything means it will be much easier to deal with any negativity that may come your way as a result.
  • Some people just don’t like to delegate. They feel they have to trust others for things they’re responsible for, and don’t like handing over that trust. But you’re only delegating actions to others. You’re still the one who is ultimately accountable.
  • Despite the best efforts and preparation things can still go wrong, and people will look for someone to blame. Being the one who is accountable means you’re the easiest target. However, if mistakes happen the first time, they’re much less likely to occur when you try the same thing again. Lessons will be learned, and these can be put into practice in the future.

While this all sounds rather daunting, bear in mind that those who welcome responsibility find they have tremendous job satisfaction, and enjoy interesting and varied work experiences.

Also remember that you will have been given responsibility for a reason – you’ve clearly displayed the skills and attributes that mean you cope well.

pexels-photo.jpgRelish The Roles Of Responsibility

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.” ― Adrienne Rich

When next faced with responsibility for a role or task, these top tips will help you perform well and enjoy the challenges that come with it:

Identify your daily routine. Think of your day to day life, and make a list of things considered to be responsibilities. Then, write next to each item little notes such as “crucial” and “important” for tasks that must be completed, or “minor” for tasks that could be put off, if needed. Some things may be important or non-important according to your personal views, but don’t put off events you can’t escape. Making this list will help you become more organized and help you use your time wisely to get what needs to be done out of the way (thus showing more responsibility).

Work Ethic and Character. Some people could care less about their work product. However, people with solid work ethic and character take responsibility for the work they do. They demonstrate a willingness to not only ensure the job is done, but also accept responsibility for the results — good or bad. They take their assigned duties seriously and go the extra mile to make sure the work is the best that it can be. When you have character and are accountable, you recognize that the quality of your work is also a representation of you.

Plan. When you have your list made, go though all the events marked “important” and think about where they’ll fit into your day. Determine how long each task will take and what materials you may need to help complete it. Organize a chain of events in the order of importance, and go for it!

Accept! It may not always be easy to complete your goals, or turn past mistakes around. The reality that you might have to accept is that you can’t do it all alone. So find someone you trust and ask for help! Anyone who tries to hold you back or bring you down is not helping, and simply ignoring them and sticking with your goals is the most responsible thing that you could do.

Use your resources. If you don’t have the tools you need, you might not be able to reach some goals. But don’t give up right then and there; be a problem solver! Invest in certain things you want. A little brain power may save you some stress and time.

Be truthful. If you’ve made promises, keep them! Don’t make promises you know you may not be able to keep: this is very irresponsible. Even if it’s not a promise, if you said you’d do something, then just do it. That’s just being a good friend.

Is Responsibility and Accountability Part Of You?

“Eventually we all have to accept full and total responsibility for our actions, everything we have done, and have not done.” ― Hubert Selby Jr.

When you were hired for a job, you were provided with a list of your duties, also known as responsibilities. You were also made aware that it is your job to ensure the tasks on the list are completed when due. While you can be assigned a variety of responsibilities, whether or not you are accountable depends on your character. A person who demonstrates accountability takes the hit if s/he doesn’t complete the task on schedule. When you refuse to be accountable, you’ll place the blame on someone else for the project’s failure.

Always aspire to be responsible and accountable?

Lest we forget: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL


The summer holidays are within us.


These could be very long, lazy holidays which are the stuff of idyllic childhood memories. While in the past those hot summers may have been taken up climbing trees, building dams and playing in the woods, or travelling, these days children on school holidays are more likely to spend their time glued to an electronic device, be it a mobile phone or an iPad or watching television.

Experts have warned that children’s physical fitness significantly drops over the course of the school holidays. In a recent study by scientists at the UK Active health charity and the University of Essex reveals pupils return to lessons in September overweight and with significantly lower cardiorespiratory fitness.

All these could be avoided by talking and persuading Little Johnny or Miss Shona to do a little bit of exercising or engaging in activities that are productive and useful for their well-being. It could also be helpful through finding things to occupy the little ones by taking them out of their comfort zones and engaging them in other more challenging activities.

Dr Steven Mann, of UK Active and Coventry University, said:

‘There’s a growing class divide around fitness levels due to the summer holidays and the government must urgently address these Victorian-style health inequalities to give every child a fair chance of a healthy start in life.

Our research suggests deprived children are being plonked in front of screens for hours on end, while their more affluent peers are able to maintain their fitness levels through summer camps and other activities.’


  1. A family outing at the local or nearby museum. What about having a go at curating at a local gallery or offering to help. Many galleries offer teens the chance to curate or help put exhibitions together.
  2. Plan a family weekend trip somewhere far/near. Take a road trip to a nearby city. Spend the night if you can or just make it a day trip. If you have teenage children let them do the planning based on:
    • Where to go
    • How to get there
    • What to do
    • Where to stay
    • Where to eat.
  3. Record a song. This must be tuneful, lyrical and good.
  4. Find a new place to play. This may be clearing out the basement or garage or building a tree house.
  5. Read a chapter book aloud. Or even go on and read a whole series together.
  6. Listen to a classic as an audiobook. Or try any of the newer audiobooks.
  7. Teach the kids a game you haven’t played since you were a kid.
  8. Make play dough creations. Then rip them up and do it again.
  9. Make paper airplanes. See whose goes the farthest.
  10. Keep a sketch diary. Write in a journal. At the end of the summer share selections with each other about the highlights of the season.
  11. Go Fishing. Get hold of a fishing rod and head off to a local stream, river or lake for the day.
  12. Visit a local farmers market and feast on the fruits and veggies of the season. What about visiting a PYO (Pick Your Own) place near you?
  13.  Take a long walk. Walk somewhere with a group of friends for a day (bring a picnic and drinks), see how far you can go.
  14. Help on a nearby farm or stables. Get down and muck on the farm or at the stables and have a bit of fun.
  15. Use bikes as a mode of transit. Show the kids the way to the store or a friend’s. Take bike rides for fun. Either leave from your own house or cycle through biking trails.
  16. Have a garage sale. Kids can earn spending money by selling their old stuff.
  17. Provide art supplies: Art projects can be as simple as a collage made from old magazines or can involve complex crafts like sewing a new outfit.
  18. Encourage your teen to write songs, draw pictures, and create poetry.
  19. Encourage household activities: There are always things that can be done around the house. Let your teen clean out the garage. Challenge them to show you that they can be responsible.
  20. Clear out your room: Not only will you make your parents extremely happy but you will find all those lost cds/books/must have items that are buried under the heap.
  21. Redecorate your room: Try a new colour if parents will allow. If not, try a furniture rearrange and appropriate some small furnishings from elsewhere in the house.
  22. Learn to cook three new meals well.
  23. You can have a car boot sale/sale of work/garage sale to get rid of the non-essential non-teen stuff you no longer want and make yourself some cash at the same time.
  24. Go ice skating or roller skating: Skating is fun and you get to exercise at the same time without realising. If you’ve never skated before, go and learn how.
  25. Create/Put together a memory book. This could be about a special time during your life or about primary/junior school if you’re heading to high school.
  26. Make a summer playlist: create a playlist of the best ever summer songs.
  27. Create family challenges: Establish a weekly contest, such as who can build the highest card tower or the best sand castle.
  28. Enjoy some quiet time together: Go on a family picnic and spend an afternoon watching the clouds.
  29. Hold an old-fashioned family board game night at home, or play chess, trivial pursuit or monopoly.

Promote Activities That Will Keep Your Teen Physically Active


Physical activity can get you going when you are immobilized. Get action in your life, and don’t just talk about it. Get into the arena! – John Davidson

With fewer sports activities, summer vacation can lead some teens to become sedentary, which isn’t good for their health. Here’s how to prevent your teen from becoming a couch potato.

29. Encourage your teen to get active every day: If your teen doesn’t participate in organized sports during the summer months, encourage him/her to find ways to stay active. Challenge him/her to ride her bike five miles per day or to swim at the town pool several times a week.

30. Plan family activities that involve exercise: Go hiking as a family on the weekends or go for a walk every evening after dinner. Look for new activities you can try as a family, too. Whether you experiment with frisbee, golf or you take surfing lessons together, it all makes fitness fun.

31. Start a garden: Growing a garden, starting your own vegetable garden, or building a flower garden can give your child something to do all summer. From healthier eating habits, to improved psychological well-being, gardening offers children some surprise benefits.


The causes of obesity are varied and complex, but the lack of daily physical activity is an important factor – Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Encourage Activities That Will Keep Your Teen Mentally Active

Summer brain drain can be a real problem, especially if your teen spends days playing video games. Encourage him to get involved in activities that will help him keep his mind sharp. Help him discover fun activities that encourage learning.

32. Think about the future: summer is a great time to encourage your teen to focus a little on the future. Visit a college together or help arrange for your teen to job shadow someone who works in a career that interests him.

33. Encourage your teen to read: take a weekly trip to the library and challenge your teen to read a new book each week. Encourage him to explore new genres or to start a book club with friends. Reading can help keep your teen’s brain active and it can turn him into a lifelong learner.

34. Use electronics in a healthy way: rather than staring at a screen, encourage your teen to build a website or learn graphic designing.

35. Do a summer course or camp: You might like to try out a course in something you might be interested in doing in college as a taster. There are lots of engineering / IT / animation / acting / language courses for teens at very reasonable price. Wowcher is a good starting point.

36. Do a First Aid Course: This is a good one if you’re planning to do some babysitting, to be able to tell prospective parents that you know first aid. St John’s Ambulance Brigade run first aid courses as well as Red Cross and there are lots of private organisations running them as well.

37. Read a classic: From old classics to new, all of them thought provoking and inspiring. You can also write your own super short story as a challenge.

38. Volunteer: Maybe you like animals. Or you are happy helping homeless people. You can do this through a local volunteer centre or at a local event or for a local charity, they always need people to help. (PS good for the resume/CV too!)

39. Write a play: Ever fancied yourself as a playwright? Summer holidays are the perfect time to get writing and create a cast of characters and have a bit of fun as well.

40. Create a cartoon or comic strip: There are lots of free online tools for helping you to create cartoons or comic strips.

41. Make a film: Decide on your film genre, broad story and characters and make a storyboard. You could film your neighbourhood, a day in your life or get friends to be characters in a fictional film.

42. Join/Create a summer reading club at your local library.

43. Learn to type – touch typing is a great skill to learn, not only will it stand you in good stead for your own computer skills but it also means you’ll get school projects done much quicker too.

44. Learn ten phrases of a new language: Pick a new language, such as Arabic or Mandarin (current on-trend languages to learn), and master ten phrases well.

Never Give Up

By encouraging children to get up and exercise isn’t as simple as it used to be. However, research is showing that parents have a duty to persuade children to be active during the summer holidays. There is a real need for children to get off their mobile phones and venture outside – and it’s not just to prevent obesity. Scientist claim that teenagers are more likely to suffer regular bone fractures and breaks if they don’t stay active.

A Canadian study found that those who avoided the recommended daily activity had much weaker bones than their peers. Leigh Gabel, of the University of British Columbia, said: ‘We found that teens who are less active had weaker bones, and bone strength is critical for preventing fractures”.

Even if you’re ill, physical activity at a lower level will help you beat it – Jim Loehr

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.


As the academic year comes to an end, I want to spare a thought to our senior year students reflecting and mapping the way ahead.

Time To Grow UpTo My SENIOR YEAR Students,

I’m truly thankful for all your smiles and hugs. I’m also grateful for all we have shared this academic year. Thanks for opening your hearts and letting me be part of your lives, but I’d especially like to thank you for helping me become a better educator. THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME FEEL THAT MY JOB IS NOT A JOB, BUT A PASSION.

Thanks to you, I love being a teacher more and more every day. Each of you has made a difference for me and I will never forget you.

This academic year, 2018-19:

*YOU have learned to use your voices to make positive changes as well as being leaders in your own unique way. I know this because you organized and took part in the debates and discussions as well as travelling far afield on your own.

* YOU have learned to care about justice and equality and I know this because you were inspired by the injustice and inequality you saw in our literature lessons: A Man For All Seasons, Of Mice And Men; Poetry; The Yellow Wallpaper and The Lemon Orchard.

* YOU have learned that there is more to this world than what exists inside of our school. I know this because of the way you have connected with other people and participating in many events around the school; as well as asking questions with an incredibly genuine interest to learn more about other parts of the world.

* YOU have learned to speak respectfully to people in power and still ask for things to change and I know this because you have written letters and sent them to the Administration – the people in charge of your education.

* YOU have learned to love books and I know this because I heard you excitedly whispering about them. We empathized with Sir Thomas More and genuinely felt sorry for Lennie. Oh dear George – was it worth the effort to shoot your best mate?

* YOU have learned to see purpose and meaning in your writing and I know this because you asked me what we were going to do with every piece of writing for your exams. I replied to HUNDREDS of requests on different topics or needs.

* YOU have learned to be kind and I know this because you took such good care of each other. When someone was hurt, you made sure they are okay. When someone was sad, you went out of your way to make them smile. When someone was feeling excluded, you did whatever you could to let them know that they were welcome to join you.

* YOU have learned to be independent and I know this because you truly do not need me anymore.  You have so much strength, power, courage and brilliance inside of you and I know that you are more than ready to go out and change this world.

Love SignSo, while I am not nearly ready to let you go, I know that it is TIME.  I thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, for a most incredible year. I believe that I have learned more from all of you than you ever could have learned from me.

THANK YOU, CLASS OF 2019, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU, FOR BEING MY TEACHERS THIS YEAR.  You all have earned a very special place in my heart.

Please keep reading with deep thinking.  Please keep writing with passion.  And please keep living your lives with the kindness, compassion and brilliance that you have displayed throughout this entire year.

I will always consider myself to be your teacher. I hope you will stay in touch through the coming years to let me share in your success.

With fond memories of each one of you, I remain,

Gift Chimbizi

PS: Life is an adventure . . . enjoy the ride. I wish you much happiness as you travel down life’s highway and hope you have few bumps along the way, but, perhaps, some interesting detours.


red heart on a old opened book

Did you know that if you read 15 minutes a day, you will read over one million words per year?


High School scholars are exposed to a plethora of vocabulary through:

  • Using vocabulary in speaking
  • Using vocabulary words in sentences
  • Using vocabulary in context
  • Using vocabulary knowledge for effective reading
  • Using vocabulary knowledge for effective writing purposes

For those of our students taking SATs or AP English or IGCSE/GCSE exams – whatever question, a candidate chooses – vocabulary will need to be appropriate. Through using language imaginatively, so that it seems original, a student can be rewarded with high marks.

As an experienced GCSE and IGCSE Examiner at English Literature and English Language respectively, I am permitted to give full marks to written essays that meet the highest grade descriptors of the mark scheme.

Certainly, correct use of vocabulary is essential in any High School class. Whether an English Teacher uses a traditional vocabulary programme through visual techniques – flash cards, wall charts, realia, visual techniques, using illustrative situations like synonyms; or modern methods which highlight a student-centred approach focusing on individual students, group work or paired work, vocabulary remains a cog in High School English lessons. Why?

What is Research Saying About Vocabulary Acquisition?

Of particular concern to educators is the development of academic language. Although we learn oral language that enables us to speak to one another fairly easily, learning academic language is more complex because it involves abstract literacy tasks and language not customarily used in oral speech. Academic language is a second language, because all literate people must learn it to enable them to access academic content.

Direct vocabulary instruction is essential, but research indicates that students with well-developed vocabulary learn many more words indirectly through reading than from instruction (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2001). Two strategies that encourage children to read widely and deeply are to provide an array of reading materials that capitalize on their interests and to set aside time for reading during the school day and at home (Trelease, 2006). Conversations about their reading with adults and peers also strengthen students’ word learning (Biemiller & Boote, 2006).


HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS use vocabulary in a variety of ways: for writing purposes; in their everyday speech in both formal and informal situation. In all cases, students must learn to use vocabulary suited to purpose and audience. For instance, if you are writing a business letter, the language should be formal. On the other hand, a letter written to friends or relatives might be informal. In all cases, a student is never encouraged to use text language in all academic circles.

The typical 21st century high school student communicates via email and text message. Consequently, many of today’s high school students need to find ways to expand their vocabulary skills. High school students who want to learn how to improve vocabulary skills, can start by making the decision to read more. It’s best if students choose books and magazines that interest them. If the reading material interests them, they are more likely to maintain the reading habit.

blur book close up dataLANGUAGE REGISTER

It is the level and style of writing and should be appropriate for the situation one is in. The appropriate language register tends to depend mostly on the 4 W’s scenario:

  • The audience (Who?)
  • The topic (What?)
  • The purpose (Why?)
  • Location (Where?)

LANGUAGE REGISTER is the level of formality with which you speak. Different situations and people call for different registers. In short, the language register determines the vocabulary structure and some grammatical usage of any given writing task.

There are five language registers or styles we are all exposed to in our writing tasks:

  1. Formal Register: It is mainly appropriate for professional writing, as in speeches, e.g. sermons or announcements; letters to your boss or strangers.
  2. Informal Register: This is also called casual or intimate register used by peers or friends. It is conversational in nature, as in slang or colloquialisms and spoken by buddies, teammates, email chats and text messages, or letters to friends.
  3. Static Register: This type of register rarely or never changes. It is “frozen” in time and content. The common examples include the Lord’s Prayer, the laws passed by governments, bibliography/reference.
  4. Consultative Register: This is a standard form of communication where users engage in mutually formal and according to societal expectations. It uses professional discourse as in teacher and student situation; when strangers meet, or a lawyer and a client.
  5. Intimate Register: It is private in nature reserved for close family members or intimate people. The husband and wife, or parent and children conversations are good examples.


The core to earning a top grade mark involves the mastery of an array of skills, chief among which is using extensive vocabulary. This means students must never ever try to make their writing look more academic by using “clever” words for their own sake. Instead, always understand that there is a difference between a person’s passive vocabulary (the words s/he understands) and a person’s active vocabulary (the words s/he actually uses).

To overcome this dilemma, students must be encouraged to:

  • Avoid repetition and aim for variety. For example, replacing the word “serious” with “grave” or “important”. Something bad may be replaced by such words “terrible, awful, tragic, mind-numbing, shattering, and cataclysmic”.
  • Use words appropriate to the context. Unless it is necessary, using informal language like contractions (shortened words with missing letters from the original); slang words (casual word conversations); abbreviation (shortened forms of words or phrases); clichés (overused expressions or ideas); colloquialisms (words, phrases, ideas or expressions characteristics of ordinary or familiar conversations) should be avoided.
  • Being aware of commonly misused words. Some words are commonly misused thereby making the meaning the vague and ambiguous, eg: accept vs. except, affect vs. effect
  • Choose specific verbs. When analyzing or reporting information or ideas gathered from reading, it is important to use a variety of words that suit your purpose. Rather than using words such as “say”, “show” or “report” all the time, one can use more specific verbs in academic reporting, eg: denotes, alleges, challenges.
  • Increase your vocabulary by learning to use CONTEXT CLUES – hints that an author gives to help define a difficult or unusual word. The clue may appear within the same sentence as the word to which it refers, or it may follow in a preceding sentence – so that you can teach yourself new words every time you read.
  • Increase your vocabulary by learning to use WORD PARTS so that you can figure out word meaning by looking at their prefixes, siffixes and roots, eg:

Prefixes – When a group of letters having a special meaning appears at the beginning of a word, we call that group of letters a prefix. Following is a list of the most frequently used prefixes that account for 97% of prefixed words in printed English.

Prefix Meaning Example
dis- opposite defrost
in-, im-, il-, ir- not injustice, impossible
re- again return
un- not unfriendly

Roots – Word roots are the words from other languages that are the origin of many English words. About 60% of all English words have Latin or Greek origins. Roots give words their fixed meaning. Prefixes and suffixes can then be attached to the roots to form new words.

Root Meaning Example
bio life biology, biography
chron time chronology, sychronize
fer carry transfer, inference
geo earth geography, geode
nom name nominate, nomenclature
tele distant telegraph, telepathy

Suffixes – A group of letters with a special meaning appearing at the end of a word is called a suffix. Here is a list of 6 important suffixes. Following is a list of the 6 most frequently used suffixes that account for 97% of prefixed words in printed English.

Suffix Meaning Example
-ed past-tense verbs hopped
-ing verb form/present participle running
-ly characteristic of quickly
-s, -es more than one books, boxes
-able, -ible able to be manageable, defensible
-ful full of wishful
  • Choosing strong verbs. Academic writers prefer strong verbs to phrasal verbs (verb + preposition), e.g:
    • Establish instead of set up
    • Produce instead of churn out
    • Tolerate instead of put up with
    • Assemble instead of put together
  • Use appropriate transitions – Connectives or transitions are important in the development of an academic essay. They develop a sense of coherence and provide signposting for the reader to follow the writer’s thread of thought.          By using transitions to join paragraphs and ideas together, a writer can use    them to clarify ideas, eg:
    • To order ideas, e.g: Firstly, …, Finally . . . , To begin with . . .
    • To give reasons, e.g: Therefore, . . . , Consequently, . . . ; As a result . . .
    • To offer alternatives, e.g: On the other hand, . . . ,
    • To develop a train of thought, e.g: Yet, . . . , Nevertheless, . . . .
  • Avoid redundancy. Being concise is the key. To write an effective essay is never easy; it requires a lot of practice. So always aim to write precisely and concisely, using only as many words as are necessary to convey what you want to say, eg: e.g., Blatantly obvious: Things that are blatant are obvious. Close proximity: To be in proximity to something is to be close to it. Try close to or in proximity to instead.
  • Try using synonyms – a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase. You should aim to use these in your writing instead of relying on the same words all of the time, eg: Do — execute, enact, carry out, finish, conclude, effect, accomplish, achieve, attain; Decide — determine, settle, choose, resolve
  • Read widely, read a variety of things so that you will exposed to thousands of new words each month. Keep a vocabulary journal to record that interesting words you find, or make word cards so that you can see your vocabulary growing. Reading a variety of materials is a fundamental way for students to boost their vocabulary skills. For instance, reading books written in different time periods is one of the best ways to improve vocabulary. For the high school student who wants to improve vocabulary skills, he or she can begin to read the literary classics.
  • Look for word games and puzzles online, eg: Interactive Word Games:;
  • Test yourself and have fun at the same time, eg: SAT Vocabulary Tests on offers the eager student ready to learn, free vocabulary tests, which are the best way to boost your verbal skills.
  • Reading works by unfamiliar authors – A great way to gaining exposure to new words, improving vocabulary and making it a point to look up any unfamiliar words you encounter.
  • Use your new words from time to time in conversations.
  • Learn vocabulary through a specific academic subject – For instance, when I want to improve my vocabulary in the subject of history I read biographies of famous historical figures. The vocabulary words in those works can be very helpful in understanding the material in a history course. Alternatively, I can improve my vocabulary in math by reading about famous mathematicians.
  • Use the library to find other resources for building your vocabulary. The bookstores have “Word for Today” calendars, crossword puzzles, and vocabulary word card boxes.
  • You can also use Online Flash Cards (Most are free) at;;

The top tip is to practice where you feel short. That way you will see yourself getting better every day.

I wish you the best in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!



Well, the exam season is just upon us and Dear Candidate I felt you should know that . . .

There are some unusual punctuation marks which students avoid YET could be the trick to an excellent grade.

This is a FOUR part series of excellent tips on the brilliant subject: AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH@ HIGH SCHOOL.

So Dear Folks, bless yourselves for some good ideas on the subject that really matters to students and parents, as well as English Teachers at High School.

“The problem with poor punctuation is that it makes life difficult for the reader who needs to read and understand what you have written” – The Penguin Guide To Punctuation

By the time students enter High School, they will have conquered and mastered the uses of a period/full stop, the comma, various uses of the capital letters, the question mark and the apostrophe.

Many, and I mean the majority of students, would know what a colon or semi-colon looks like; ellipsis; brackets and dashes; but wouldn’t know when or how to use them. This is what I want to share with you here: where, how and when to use these punctuation marks.

The colon and semi-colon; ellipsis, brackets and dashes are important in raising a student’s grade.

Throughout my teaching career as well as being a GCSE/IGCSE and GCE Examiner, I have noticed that these unusual punctuation marks are rarely used. Yet by using

  • colons (:) and semi-colons (;)
  • the hyphen, dashes (-)
  • parenthesis/brackets ( ), [ ]
  • ellipsis (. . .)
  • using numbers in writing

enhances a student’s writing repertoire.


Punctuation is one of the most important aspects of written English desired by English Teachers. It is indeed, the feature of writing that gives meaning to the written word.

GOOD PUNCTUATION shows a lot about any particular student as it portrays the student’s good knowledge about grammatical structures. It can radically change the meaning of a text and helping readers understand what writers are trying to say. Ultimately, punctuation assist any writer in achieving clarity towards what they are trying to communicate or convey to their audience.

Thus, through GOOD PUNCTUATION, the meaning of any piece of written work, whether a sentence or a passage, becomes more clearly and easily understood. Similarly, any omission, using a different sign or failing to punctuate correctly can alter the meaning of a sentence.

Around half of all CVs received by recruitment consultants, says the Recruitment and Employment Commission (REC), contain spelling or grammatical errors, and these are most likely to be made by those aged between 21 and 25. In this age group, graduates are twice as likely to make mistakes as those who did not go on to university.

pexels-photo-279470.jpegDon’t be confused by these terms which you shall be meeting quite often:

Clause –  a group of related words that contain a subject and a verb. It is a sentence!

Independent clause  – a group of words that can stand alone as a sentence. It has both a subject and a verb and forms a complete thought.

Dependent clausea group of words with a subject and a verb. It does not express a complete thought so it is not a sentence and can’t stand alone. These clauses include adverb clauses, adjective clauses and noun clauses.

Transitional phrases – phrases or words that create better flow in your writing to form strong, logical connections, eg: In addition, for example, Although, etc.

Coordinating conjunctionthey make things go together by joining together words, phrases and independent clauses. They are seven of them – and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet. You can remember them by the acronym FANBOYS, where F= For, A=And, N=Nor, B=But, O=Or, Y=Yet and S=So.


The colon is a widely misused but very useful piece of punctuation. By using it correctly, it can add precision to your written work as well as impressing your tutors and future employers. There are not many people around who are able to use colons correctly.

The colon has a number of functions:

To introduce an idea between two independent clauses when the second explains or illustrates the first – It is used to introduce an idea that is an explanation or continuation of the one that comes before the colon. The colon can be considered as a gateway inviting the reader to go on. Have a look at these examples:

  • You are left with only one option: Press on until you have mastered it.
  • There is one thing you need to know about coleslaw: it looks and tastes like slurry.

In the above examples you have some idea of what will come after the colon. It is important to note that the clause that comes before the colon can stand alone and makes complete sense on its own.

If the initial clause cannot stand alone and makes complete sense, you should not use a colon.

To introduce a list – The second main use of the colon is to introduce a list. You need to take care that many people assume that a colon always precedes a list. This is not the case. Again it is important to remember that the clause that precedes the colon must make complete sense on its own.

  • The bookstore specializes in three subjects: art, architecture and graphic design.
  • The potion contained some exotic ingredients: snails’ eyes, bats’ tongues and garlic.

In the above sentences, the clause preceding the colon has a subject and a predicate and makes complete sense on its own.

Do not, however, use a colon when the listed items are incorporated into the flow of the sentence, eg:

  • The bookstore specializes in art, architecture, and graphic design.
  • The magic potion contained sesame seeds, bran flakes and coleslaw.

In the sentences above a colon should not be used, as the clause that would precede it would not make sense alone.

To isolate a point for emphasis –  The colon can be used to emphasize a phrase or single word at the end of a sentence, eg:

  • There’s only one word I can use to describe that: fabulous.

To introduce quoted material – It can also be used after a clause introducing quoted material. Have a look at this example.

  • The teacher often used her favourite quotation from Monty Python: ‘I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.’

If the colon precedes a quotation, you should begin the language of that quote with a capital letter.

Non-Grammatical Uses of The Colon

Time – The colon is used to separate hours from minutes, with no space before or after the colon, eg; 11:35 a.m.

Ratio – The colon is used to express a ratio of two numbers, with no space before or after the colon, eg: 1:3

Biblical references – The colon is used in biblical references to separate chapter from verse, with no space before or after the colon, eg: Genesis 1:31.

Correspondence – The colon is frequently used in business and personal correspondence, eg: cc: Tom Smith; Attention: Accounts Payable; PS: Don’t forget your swimsuit.

Other references – The colon is used to separate the volume from page numbers of a cited work, with no space before or after the colon. Punctuation Quarterly 4:86–89 (reads as “pages 86 through 89 of volume four”)


Having mastered the correct use of the colon, it is useful to make it work for you in your writing. Using a colon can add emphasis to an idea. For example, consider the following two sentences:

  • The one thing mankind cannot live without is hope.
  • There is one thing that mankind cannot live without: hope.

Both sentences are grammatically correct, but the second makes the point a little more forcefully. Now we are in the realms of style, it is important to emphasise that you, as the writer, have to decide how to make your newfound expertise with punctuation work for you. Do not be tempted to overuse colons. They are powerful but should be used with precision and care.

The most important thing to remember about colons is that you only use them after statements that are complete sentences.


The semi-colon is a hugely powerful punctuation mark. Getting it right will not only impress your teachers and future employers, it will allow you to express your ideas and opinions with more subtlety and precision than ever before.

The good news is that it is simple and easy to use and should take you no more than a few minutes to master.

A semi-colon is most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two  independent clauses that are closely related in thought.

When a semi-colon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank.

  • Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.
  • Terry always slept with the light on; he was afraid of the dark.

The two clauses here are closely connected but the link has not been made explicit. They could have been separated by a full stop, eg:

  • Some people write with a word processor. Others write with a pen or pencil.
  • Terry always slept with the light on. He was afraid of the dark.

They could have been connected by a conjunction too.

  • Terry always slept with the light on because he was afraid of the dark.
  • Terry always slept with the light on, as he was afraid of the dark.

In this instance we have changed the second clause into a dependent clause; it is directly dependent on the first clause.

Use a semicolon between two independent clauses which have closely related ideas by employing conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases.

  • But however they choose to write, people are allowed to make their own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing methods.

Use a semicolon between items in a list or series if any of the items contain commas to avoid confusion between listed items. In most lists a comma is enough to separate the items. In a complicated list, it is perfectly acceptable to use the semicolon to make the list more understandable.

  • There are basically two ways to write: with a pen or pencil, which is inexpensive and easily accessible; or by computer and printer, which is more expensive but quick and neat.

Use a semicolon between independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction if the clauses are already punctuated with commas or if the clauses are lengthy.

  • Some people write with a word processor, typewriter, or a computer; but others, for different reasons, choose to write with a pen or pencil.

If you are going to use a semicolon to connect two clauses, it is very important that the two clauses are both independent. That means that each clause has to be able to stand alone and make complete sense without the other. If either one cannot stand alone, a semi-colon cannot be used.


Avoid using a comma when a semicolon is needed

  • Incorrect: The cow is brown, it is also old.
  • Correct: The cow is brown; it is also old.

What’s going on here?  Both parts of the sentence are independent clauses, and commas should not be used to connect independent clauses if there is no coordinating conjunction. This mistake is known as a comma splice. 

  • Incorrect: I like cows, however, I hate the way they smell.
  • Correct: I like cows; however, I hate the way they smell.

What’s going on here?  The conjunctive adverb however signals a connection between two independent clauses, and commas should not be used to connect independent clauses if there is no coordinating conjunction.

  • Incorrect: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good, they give us beef, which also tastes good, and they give us leather, which is used for shoes and coats.

What’s going on here?  It’s unclear what the three listed items are, since the items are separated by commas. Now look at these corrected sentences:

  • Correct: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good; they give us beef, which also tastes good; and they give us leather, which is used for shoes and coats.
  • Correct: Cows, though their bovine majesty has been on the wane in recent millenia, are still one of the great species of this planet; domesticated, yet proud, they ruminate silently as we humans pass tumultuously by.

Avoid using a semicolon when a comma is needed:

  •  Incorrect: Because cows smell; they offend me.
  • Correct: Because cows smell, they offend me.

What’s going on here? The first part is not an  independent clause, so no semicolon is required.

Semicolons help you connect closely related ideas when a style mark stronger than a comma is needed. By using semicolons effectively, you can make your writing sound more sophisticated.

Again, Dear Reader, the use of the colon and semi-colon is not an easy concept to master if you don’t practice using them. Use them in your everyday writing so that they become second nature. When you get to the exam season, it will just be a walk in the park!

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!



This is my second post on this interesting topic about UNDERSTANDING AND ANALYSING POETRY @ High School. Please read the first post here:

Essential Words To Use When Understanding And Analysing Poetry – 1

writing-notes-idea-conference.jpgMost words convey several meanings or shades of meaning at the same time. It is the poet’s job to find words which, when used in relation to other words in the poem, will carry the precise intention of thought.


BELOW IS A LIST OF POETIC TERMS that can help you interpret, critique, and respond to a variety of different works of poetry. This list is by no means comprehensive, but instead, offers a primer to the language frequently used by students when tackling and analyzing a poem. This list and the terms included in it can help you begin to identify central concerns or elements in a poetry that might help facilitate your interpretation, argumentation and analysis

Often, some of the more significant words may carry several layers or “depths” of meaning at once. The ways in which the meanings of words are used can be identified.

ALLEGORY: It is a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning. Sometimes it can be a single word or phrase, such as the name of a character or place. Often, it is a symbolic narrative that has not only a literal meaning, but a larger one understood only after reading the entire story or poem.

ALLUSION: This is a brief reference to some person, historical event, work of art, or Biblical or mythological situation or character.

Ambiguity: It is a word or phrase that can mean more than one thing, even in its context. Poets often search out such words to add richness to their work. Often, one meaning seems quite readily apparent, but other, deeper and darker meanings, await those who contemplate the poem.

ANALOGY: It is a  comparison, usually something unfamiliar with something familiar.

APOSTROPHE: This is speaking directly to a real or imagined listener or inanimate object; addressing that person or thing by name. Example: O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done…

CLICHE: It is any figure of speech that was once clever and original but through overuse has become outdated. If you’ve heard more than two or three other people say it more than two or three times, chances are the phrase is too timeworn to be useful in your writing, eg: busy as a bee.

CONNOTATION: This is the emotional, psychological or social overtones of a word; its implications and associations apart from its literal meaning. Often, this is what distinguishes the precisely correct word from one that is merely acceptable.

CONTRAST: It is closely arranged things with strikingly different characteristics, eg: He was dark, sinister, and cruel; she was radiant, pleasant, and kind.

DENOTATION: This is the dictionary definition of a word; its literal meaning apart from any associations or connotations.

Students must exercise caution when beginning to use a THESAURUS, since often the words that are clustered together may share a denotative meaning, but not a connotative one, and the substitution of a word can sometimes destroy the mood, and even the meaning, of a poem.

EUPHEMISM: It is an understatement, used to lessen the effect of a statement; substituting something innocuous for something that might be offensive or hurtful, eg: She is at rest. (meaning, she’s dead)

HYPERBOLE: It is an outrageous exaggeration used for effect, eg: He weighs a ton.

IRONY: This is a contradictory statement or situation to reveal a reality different from what appears to be true. The three types of irony commonly used are: verbal irony; situational irony and dramatic irony.

METONYMY: This is a figure of speech in which a person, place, or thing is referred to by something closely associated with it, eg: The White House stated today that . . .

OXYMORON: It is a combination of two words that appear to contradict each other, eg: a pointless point of view; bittersweet.

PARADOX: This is a statement in which a seeming contradiction may reveal an unexpected truth. Example: The hurrier I go the behinder I get.

PUN: A word play in which words with totally different meanings have similar or identical sounds, eg: Like a firefly in the rain, I’m de-lighted.

LITOTES: It is a double negative is used for poetic effect, eg: not unlike, not displeased.

SYNECDOCHE: It indicates a person, object, etc. by letting only a certain part represent the whole, eg: All hands on deck.

REFRAIN: A line or lines repeated at intervals during a poem, usually at the end of each stanza. A refrain serves to establish meter and tone, but it often gives a hint about the poem’s message. A song’s refrain may be called the chorus.

EUPHONY: A series of musically pleasant sounds, conveying a sense of harmony and beauty to the language.

ANTITHESIS:  It is an opposition, or contrast, of ideas. Example: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

STANZA: A division of poetry named for the number of lines it contains, eg: couplet: two line stanza; triplet: three line stanza, etc, Some people call it a VERSE.

OVERSTATEMENT (or hyperbole): An extreme exaggeration used for effect; ie: I’ve told you a hundred times…; I’m starving; The suspense is killing me.

UNDERSTATEMENT:  It means saying less than what is meant, for effect. It is the opposite of an EMBELLISHMENT.

SPEAKER: This is the PERSONA the poet takes on; like the narrator in the story, the writer takes on a character to present the words on the page.

CONCEIT:  It is a fanciful and elaborate figure of speech that makes a surprising connection between two seemingly dissimilar things, eg: John Donne’s comparison of separated lovers to the legs of a compass.

ANAPHORA: It is the exact repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive lines or sentences.

HYPOPHORA: It is a figure of speech in which the speaker both asks a question and immediately answers it.

CHIASMUS: The reversal of, or reversal of the order of, certain words, concepts, sounds or syntactic structures, eg: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (JFK, 1961 Inaugural address)

APHORISM: It is a concise, pointed, epigrammatic statement that reveals a truth or principle, eg: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare).

VERSE: It is a metric line of poetry; any division or grouping of words in a poetic composition, where others referred to as a STANZA.

SATIRE: It is a form of sarcasm, irony or wit used to expose abuses or follies, ridicule.

VOLTA: It is an Italian word for “turn.” In a sonnet, the volta is the turn of thought or argument: in Petrarchan or Italian sonnets it occurs between the octave and the sestet, and in Shakespearean or English before the final couplet.

ESSENTIALLY, when analyzing a poem and then carrying out an answer to a question, you will have been tackling three key issues:

  • What purpose does this poetic/literary device serve?
  • How does the poet communicate his or her purpose through this device?
  • Why do readers have this response to the poetic device?

This is a skill you need to harness at High School. It is not easy but with practice you will get the hang of it. To do so, I have one important posts I have done to help you achieve a top grade in English Literature essays. YOU can access it here:

With a lot of practice, you will see yourself improving.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!



Dear GCSE/AP/IGCSE /SAT/IB Candidate – Just Ace That Exam . . . but how?

Just remember: Exams are important – but they are not the only key to a successful future.

The exam season is within us.

As preparations are underway, I felt going through these HIGHLY REGARDED REVISION TECHNIQUES YOU WILL NEVER FORGET, will steady the ship in the stormy waters in your quest to attaining your very best.

PLEASE . . .

  • Don’t leave revision to the last minute.
  • Don’t avoid revising subjects you don’t like or find difficult.
  • Don’t cram ALL night before an exam.
  • Don’t study when you’re really tired. It’s better to get a solid night’s sleep after a short study period, than to push on until 2am. You won’t remember much and will be less effective the next day.
  • Don’t forget that there is life beyond revision and exams.

Minimise Distractions

  • Identify what distracts you. Is it social media, television, email, phone or family?
  • Once you’ve identified distractions, take steps to consciously block them out.
  • Turn off your phone and leave it in another room, close email and social media.
  • Hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door; put on ear phones and listen to some ambient sound to shut out external noise or conversation.
  • It’s important to do this actively; distractions won’t go away, so it’s important to learn how to shut them out.
  • Reward yourself when the work is finished – but only if you’ve remained focused and used the time well. 

pexels-photo-449609.jpegLay Out The Study Plan

ONCE these are observed, it is time to:

  • Have your own revision timetable – start planning well before exams begin.
  • Start doing more revision about four weeks before your exams.
  • Make your books, notes and essays user-friendly.
  • Use headings, highlighting and revision cards, and get tips on other revision techniques from teachers and friends with experience of exams.
  • You could also consider buying revision guides. 

How & Where Can You Study?

  • ‘Chunk’ information. Don’t try to study the entire course in one sitting. Divide the subject up into topics and aim to study a ‘chunk’ at each study session.

Set Study Goals

  • Set yourself a goal for each study session to help you keep track of what you are revising.
  • Write them down as soon as you begin your study session, or set them at the end of the study session for next time:
    • I will read through and summarise chapters . . .
    • I will work through two past paper questions on . . .
    • I will learn the main concepts that were discussed in . . .

Sort Out What You Don’t Understand

  • Clarify the meaning of any words or concepts you don’t understand before trying to study them.
  • If you aren’t clear about what that information means, memorising it won’t help. Get to know it!
  • Prioritise the hardest subjects first in each study session.
  • Allocate more time to studying the subjects you find most difficult.

Believe In YourselfRewrite Your Notes

  • Rewriting your notes helps you to remember them. Don’t just copy out your original notes—you’ll end up simply memorizing the exact wording instead of the actual concepts.
  • The key is to read and think about the contents of your notes, what you noted down and why (In what way is it important?), how to express it most efficiently and memorably, and then re-write them in your own words.
  • When you finish studying a section of notes, ask yourself questions relating to the material to see if you remembered what you just read.
  • It can also help to answer your questions out loud as if you were talking to someone.
  • Take notes of the important points when revising.
  • Try to answer the questions of past exam papers.
  • Explain answers to tricky questions to someone else.

Review Past Exam Papers

  • Review any previous exam papers for your course
  • Work through past papers. Note the trend on how questions are asked.
  • Look at the wording of the questions and familiarise yourself with the clue words. I call these TARGET WORDS!
  • Practice doing the papers under exam conditions and carefully review your answers.

Help At Hand: Please ASK

  • Ask for help from your teacher/learning mentor, parent or a friend if there are things you don’t understand
  • Don’t cram the night before—it’s ineffective because you’re taking in so much information at once that it’s impossible to memorise it all. You’ll hardly retain anything and will be tired and stressed when the time comes to actually sit the exam.

Form A Study Group

  • Form a study group with other students.
  • Swap practice exams and give feedback.
  • Drill each other on study topics.

Pamper Yourself

  • Remember it’s important to eat and sleep well.
  • Put yourself first – this is an important time for you. Try to talk to your family about how:
    • they can make studying a little easier for you.
    • For example, by agreeing times when you can have your own space, when they will try to be a little quieter around the house and when you’d rather not be disturbed (except perhaps for the occasional treat, such as a drink or snack).
  • Don’t revise all the time: Make sure you give yourself time each day to relax, taking breaks to do something you enjoy – watch TV, listen to music, read a book or go out for a walk.

Ever TriedRevising To Remember: Use The SQ3R Method Of Study

It is about Surveying, Questioning, Reading, Recalling and Reviewing

SURVEY: Before you begin to study, survey the material to get a quick overview. Skim through your notes to get a picture of the main ideas. If studying from a book, look at tables of contents, possible chapter summaries, graphs and tables.

QUESTION: Your reading is more active and memorable if you look for specific answers to questions. If there are headings in the material turn the heading into a question. For example, if the heading is Organisational Theory, your questions might be: ‘What is organisational theory and where did it start?’

READ: Read through the material once, without making notes. On your second reading, make notes of the main ideas. Try to use your own words.

RECALL: Close the book/ cover your notes. Try to recall what you have read. Make notes of what you remember then check their accuracy against your study material.

REVIEW: Review all your notes at the end of the study period. This is an important part of the study process because it can really help you remember what you have studied.

  • Try summarising your notes down to key words that will act as memory triggers for related ideas.
  • Try to tackle past exam questions if they are there
  • Set review times separately from your study times.
  • Read through your review notes, cover them and then recite them.
  • Check the originals for accuracy.

Prepare For The Big Day

  • Have a good breakfast, if you can.
  • Make sure you know where the exam is being held and what time it starts. Give yourself plenty of time to get there.
  • Take all the equipment you need for each exam, including extra pens and pencils.
  • Take in a bottle of water and tissues.
  • Go to the loo beforehand!
  • If you feel really anxious, breathe slowly and deeply while waiting for the exam to start.

Pace Yourself In The Exam Hall

  • Remember to write your name on the exam paper. You would not believe how many people have forgotten to do it!
  • Read the instructions before starting the exam.
  • Ask the exam supervisor if anything is unclear.
  • Read through all the questions before starting writing, and make sure you are clear how many questions you are required to answer.
  • If there is a choice, start by answering the question you feel you can answer best.
  • If you are stuck on a question, go on to the next. You can always come back to it later. If you are really stuck, try to have an intelligent guess anyway.
  • Leave time to read through and check your answers before the exam finishes.
  • Plan how much time you’ll need for each question.

pexels-photo-764681.jpegPerform As Well As You Can

  • Knowing that you’ve done your best may help you overcome feelings of letting anyone down.
  • Don’t go through the answers afterwards with your friends if it is only going to make you more worried.
  • Try to put the last exam out of your mind and look ahead to the next one. You can’t go back and change things.

You’re you, so you can only do the best you can on the day.

Good luck in all your endeavours