January 2017

Mindfulness and self-care: Taking breaks the right way

Bruce Banner saying "That's my secret, I'm always on break"

In the whirlwind of exams, assignments, labs, and applying to jobs and graduate programs, life can get a little hectic during school. When there’s so much on your plate, it seems counterintuitive to take regular breaks and give yourself time to breathe and relax.

Writing short and long answer essay questions

Image with text "Keep calm and write the essay"

As the Fall term is nearing its end and everyone is nose deep in assignments and projects, final exams are the last thing on students’ minds. But nevertheless, these exams are coming and preparing for them sooner rather than later will reduce much unneeded stress and potential white hairs.

A Year in Writing: Piecing Together Writing, Art, Conversations, and Narratives through Quilting

Writing and Communication Centre in a quilt

Quilting, an excellent metaphor for community, assembles pieces to form a whole. Quilting is also an excellent metaphor for the recursive writing process: prewriting, drafting, editing, and publishing.

Throughout the year – September 2017 to August 2018, contribute a piece of yourself by adding to this living quilt.

The WCC's 2017 Summer Reading Campaign

book making a heart

This summer, the Writing and Communication Centre embarked on a campaign to promote reading for enjoyment. Often our lives get too busy to do things just for fun. It’s understandable. Life gets hectic and tasks pile up; however, it’s extremely important to take time for yourself just because you can. We need to make more time for enjoyment, and what’s a better time than summer? 

Lessons from being a peer tutor

helping others

Since starting at the Writing and Communication Centre in May, I have learned numerous things about myself as a teacher and a student. Despite having a background in teaching, this was an entirely new style of teaching. In the past I had been a dance teacher, crew trainer and a choreographer, and while these all entailed certain skills in patience, communication, leadership and collaboration, having the opportunity to work in this position has only furthered these skills.

Looking ahead: planning for the fall term

fall themed welcome back

September can bring many things: a new school, a new term, a new adventure or a new job. As the leaves are just starting to change, you may be too. A new school year can mean new goals, expectations, discoveries and challenges. As a student heading into my third year of studies, September represents a chance to get back on track and refocus. After a summer of working at the Writing and Communication Centre and seeing so many students achieve their own academic goals, face their own challenges and learn new things in their field, I’m excited to do the same.

Getting ready for the recruitment term

job search

As the spring term draws to a close, the fall term is drawing nearer. If you are enrolled in co-op at university,  it may be the dreaded recruitment term. On top of juggling courses, assignments, essays and exams, you have to find a job. You have to submit what seems like 200 cover letters and resumes, and attend multiple nerve-racking interviews, just with the hopes of landing a good job with decent pay, in a decent location and with decent responsibilities. Although the recruitment term is stressful and overwhelming, it is a great opportunity to refocus your goals and aspirations.

Tackling the essay exam

student sweating during exam

Essay exams often test you on the big picture concepts of a course. The idea of writing an essay in one sitting, especially without knowing the question in advance, may seem like an impossible task. Preparing for these exams may seem intimidating; however, essay exams can become a bit more bearable with some good preparation.

Overcoming public speaking

public speaker sweating

Almost everyone gets nervous before they have to speak in public. It’s natural and common, but can actually be a positive thing. Public speaking is an important part of many careers and professions, and being an effective public speaking is a huge asset to have. Whether you are speaking in front of an audience of 300 or speaking in front of a board or committee of 10 people, effective public communication skills are essential to getting ahead professionally. First and foremost, you must understand that nerves are okay; it’s your body telling you that something is at stake.

Beating Procrastination

pieces of paper saying NOW, tomorrow, later, next week etc.

“I’ll do it later” seems to be one of the most common phrases we say and it seems to be the most common phrase when it shouldn't be. Procrastination is one of those habits that the majority of us just can’t seem to beat. It hits everyone at some point, but can be much more difficult to shake for some people. Except, even our most productive students or colleagues face the same feelings of procrastination; however, they know how to beat it. Recent research regarding procrastination has shown that it is much more complex than a simple “I don't feel like it” attitude.

Staying focused in summer

man studying at desk in vacation clothes

Gone are those days when summer only consisted of swimming, friends and sleep. Suddenly it's summer, and we are all working or studying. It seems that much harder to stay focused when the sun is out and the temperature is hot. It may be much more difficult to get your work done when it seems like this is the time for late summer nights, travelling and adventure. So today, I offer you a few tips on keeping yourself focused when it seems hardest too.

Making time for journal writing

pen on a black notebook

Journal writing is one of those things that everyone seems to start, but can never maintain. Life gets in the way and we are often too busy to sit down at the end of the day and dedicate time to self-reflection.  

Delivering your speech: the power of nonverbal communication

microphone in front of audience

When I say “public speaking” what comes to mind? Dread? Nervousness? Excitement? “Public speaking” often brings uneasy feelings to first year students, as standing in front of a classroom ranging from first year to fourth years may seem a lot more intimidating than one full of your long-time high school classmates. You have a well-written and researched speech and you have already sought out a peer review from the Writing and Communication Centre, but the easy part is over.

Some newfound freedom: the shift from high school to university writing

birds flying free from cage

All throughout high school, you have learned countless techniques, rules and tricks for academic writing. In high school, there is predictability, reliability, and structure, which often carries over into the writing process. One of the biggest worries for students entering their first year of university is the transition from high school to university writing. Whether it’s assignments, papers, presentations, reports and the like, writing seems to change in university – or at least the expectations do.

Spoken word poetry

A sepia picture of an old style mic on a dark background with 3 spotlights

English is an evolving field. The mediums in which it manifests itself have grown numerously and have shown different trends of popularity. In the times of Shakespeare, older prose and plays were very modern, whereas today novels and spoken word poetry seem more prevalent. That might mostly stem from the fact that we live in the Information Age and that expression is the new frontier. Everyone has the ability to create and put their ideas out there into the world. One very modern way of doing so, which has found its way into popular media, is spoken word.

Learning lessons from children's stories

Rose inside of a glass case

“’Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.’” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Tips on how to choose an assignment topic

6 crumpled pieces of paper with one lit up like a lightbulb

When a professor announces a new assignment and tells the class that you will all have to pick a topic to write about, you might feel lost and wish they had simply given you a list to choose from. In academic settings, we’re used to structured assignments where we are told what to do, so when it’s left up to us to decide, we will often have questions like:

The extinction of textbooks

Chalkboard drawing of a textbook with a dollar sign over it

If you’ve ever been a student in your life, then you know the horrors of having to shell out several hundred dollars for one textbook that you’ll probably use once or twice and then never need again. While textbooks are usually handed out for free in high school, given that it expected of you to treat them well and return them at the end of the semester, this is somehow not a practice commonly used at university.

Succeeding with learning disabilities

Brain surrounded by electricity

In my previous three blog posts, I talked a lot about the benefits of reading and writing, as well as some of the different forms of reading and writing that are often overlooked.  However, I think it is also important to talk about some of the barriers to reading and writing.

"I hate everything I write"

girl sadly looking at her notebook

Most of us, and especially those of us who engage in creative writing, have experienced this thought before. Oftentimes when looking back at something we’ve written, we are either ashamed or embarrassed by the quality of our work. It’s a similar sensation to hearing your voice on a recording; do I really sound like that? Did I really write that? There are countless times where I have written something then later crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash. I’m sure many people are familiar with this feeling. But why do we feel it, and what can we do about it?

The art of taking negative feedback

Image of Ned Stark from the TV show "Game of Thrones" which reads: "Brace Yourselves. Constructive Criticism is Coming"

Knowing you did something wrong is tough. Being called out on it can be even harsher. As students, however, feedback is something you often get. While we usually gloss over the positive feedback, when we face negative feedback we can become pretty defensive. And that’s natural. Your writing is something special that you created and thus when you receive criticism, it can seem like an attack on you. However, while some of this criticism can come across as demeaning or confidence shattering, there are usually helpful things to be taken from the notes your marker has left for you.

Comics: turning to other forms of literature

A stack of "The Flash" comic books

When people think of writing, they often immediately think of novels or of that report that they have been meaning to write.  However, writing can be so much more than that.

With the help of visuals, comics can express so much that words often cannot.  For example, take a look at the panel below.

Building habits to be a better writer pt. 2: write daily

Spongebob struggling to think of something to write

The best way to get better at anything is through lots (and lots) of practice. If you want to improve your writing, write more! Many successful authors advocate daily writing, but how can you get into the habit of writing every day?

● Set goals

Show, don't tell

A picture of a paper octopus coming out of a book, clutching a paper ship

Descriptive writing is what can help an author flesh out the world they are creating in their books and transport readers into fictional spaces. Some authors take a rather flowery approach to this, while others give only the necessary details. Regardless, most of the famous authors adamantly believe in the concept of “showing, not telling”.

Reading and writing as an escape

Old book open with flowers on it

My favourite thing about reading and writing is the ability to get lost into a different world.  Sometimes life can get overwhelming with all the things that we have to do.  It is often hard to set aside time for reading or writing, but it can be really important to do so.  

When I say reading or writing, I don’t mean reading your textbook or writing your school paper.  I mean writing a poem, fiction story, or blog post.  I mean reading that novel you have been meaning to read, or that comic book that your friends keep mentioning.

Building habits to be a better writer: read daily

jake from adventure time reading a book

It’s no coincidence that the best writers we know are also avid readers. When we read, we unconsciously pick up on the vocabulary, phrasing, structure, and flow in what’s being read. When we read lots, we’re essentially learning a wide repertoire of writing techniques which we internalize and later use in our own writing. So, an obvious logical step towards improving one’s writing is simply to read more.

Oxford commas: what’s the whole fuss about?

The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is one of those writing conventions in English that people either love or hate. If you were one of the lucky few in high school to have an English teacher who was particularly passionate about the subject, then you probably know what I’m talking about. The most important thing to know about the Oxford comma is that it isn’t a clear cut grammar rule. In other words, it is what one could call “optional punctuation”.

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