Jane Repp, Director of Teaching and Learning

Colson Whitehead, a renowned writer whose novels offer profound and compelling explorations of slavery and its legacy of racism, will visit Kingswood Oxford on Dec. 6 and 7 as the school’s 36th Baird Symposium Writer.

His work provides a powerful opportunity for the entire Kingswood Oxford faculty and staff to examine courageously our own attitudes about racism and white privilege, and to confront the challenges of presenting and discussing the topic of race in our classrooms. This year the faculty has challenged itself with this essential question: How might we use Colson Whitehead’s visit as an opportunity to reflect on equity in our classrooms?

Looking at Ourselves

Exploring one’s own experiences and assumptions about racism is never easy, so it is important for us as a faculty to look at ourselves, just as we look at our students – with respect, understanding and compassion. The questions we’re asking include:

• How can we explore honestly our own racial experiences and environments to discover blind spots, triggers, and assumptions that might influence our work in the classroom?

• How can we help our students to be conscious of history and current events so they can move forward in a way that helps them create equity in their own lives
• How can we create a curriculum and course materials that offer varied perspectives and celebrations of different cultures?
• How do we deal with sensitive topics and language and create a culture of equity in the classroom?Taking Action

To begin to answer these questions, KO teachers have pursued a variety of workshops, discussions, conversations, and readings for the past several months.• Last summer, the entire faculty and staff read The Underground Railroad and Debby Irving’s memoir Waking Up White, which explores the hidden psychic infrastructure of white privilege that shapes attitudes about race.

• In August, before classes began, all faculty and staff members engaged in a day-long workshop conducted by the RE•Center Race and Equity in Education. Through presentations, group exercises and discussions, they examined their own personal identities and beliefs and engaged in interactive dialogue to build their capacity to understand and effectively engage students from diverse backgrounds and to support multiculturalism and equity in the classroom.
• This autumn, members of the history and English departments met to discuss how to select and present material related to race, and how to deal with sensitive topics and language in the classroom.
• In early January, all faculty and staff will re-convene for a workshop to share their perspectives on the issues raised by Whitehead’s visit and generate a collaborative approach to creating a culture of equity in the classroom.A Transformative Experience

This is challenging work, and it sometimes generates discomfort, fear, and sadness. We certainly can’t shift the attitudes and culture of our school overnight. But we hope that Colson Whitehead’s visit will begin an evolutionary process that will enable all of us to look at ourselves, our nation and the world in a different way.


Will Gilyard, Dean of Students

All adolescents face peer pressure that can lead them to engage in irresponsible and dangerous behavior. This can take the form of pressure to drink, use drugs, smoke, drive recklessly, or cheat on a test.

Several recent studies have shown that the widespread use of social media has lowered the self-esteem of many teenagers and thus increased their need to be hyper-connected to one another and has heightened their fear of missing out (FOMO) on a social activity or event. This can increase their susceptibility to making a decision that might put them at risk.

Parents can play a major role in helping their children cope with peer pressure. We all have different parenting styles, of course, but here are a few keys that may be helpful to all parents as they talk with their children.

• Give your child permission to use you as the “bad guy.”


Even though you want your child to be able to stand up for what’s right, it can be challenging for a pre-teen or teenager to respond to peer pressure with a strong “No!” So give your child permission to say, “My parents will flip out if I do that. When I got in trouble the last time, they grounded me for a month.”

• Show that you trust your child’s decision-making.


Your child wants to be able to make good decisions, and they want you to have faith that they will. So off-hand comments such as, “I don’t like X and Y because they are going to get you into trouble,” implies that your child will be led by the nose and is unable to make a positive choice.

So saying instead, “I am worried about your hanging out with X and Y because they make poor decisions, but I’m happy that they have you as a positive influence,” will convey respect for your child and will contribute to self-esteem and independence.

• Model the behavior that you want your child to exhibit.


Don’t try to be the “cool” parent who is hosting a drinking party with other people’s children. You are the adult, and although it may seem safer to have kids drinking in your house under your supervision rather than in a parking lot or car, this sends the message that it’s OK to drink at the house of other parents who may not provide the close supervision you do. And remember that it’s illegal to allow anyone under 21 to consume alcohol on your property.

• Allow your child to make mistakes and face the consequences.


When peer pressure leads your child to make a mistake, such as cheating or drinking or driving too fast, it’s wise to let them experience the consequences of the poor decision, whether it’s external punishment imposed by you, the school, or the police, or whether it’s internal, self-imposed emotions, such as guilt, shame or letting down teachers, coaches or parents.

• Put your foot down


Sometimes you simply have to tell your child that you are the adult and that what you say goes. The child might argue against your decision but nevertheless knows that there is a line that cannot be crossed and that you care enough about him or her to draw it.
For further information about helping teens deal with peer pressure, please go to https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/teen-angst/201201/arguing-mom-may-help-teens-resist-peer-pressure


Jackie Rubin, Director of Academic Skills

Summer vacation offers students a well-earned break from the academic rigors of classes, papers and tests and a chance to gain a sense of renewal through recreation, travel, and hobbies.

But summer affords many opportunities for intellectual engagement as well. From reading to writing to concerts to explorations of nature, students can find many enjoyable ways to expand their learning. Such active mental engagement keeps their intellectual gears well oiled and active, so they’re not rusty when the new school year begins in the fall.

Here are some handy tips for staying sharp this summer:

Read for pleasure

This is the time to choose your own books to read, whether they’re detective stories or poems or science fiction. If you loved reading a book in English class last year, dive into some other books by the same author. Or pick up a biography of a figure who intrigued you in your history course.

Get out

This is the time of year to expand your horizons. Visit an art museum, historical site or nature center. Attend an outdoor concert, theatrical production or poetry reading.

The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, for instance, offers four evenings of music and poetry from June 20 to August 5 at the beautiful Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington.


Keep your writing skills fluid by keeping a journal, penning a poem or short story, or jotting down your reactions to experiences. Paint a picture, draw a sketch, shape a sculpture, or take some photos. Try playing a new musical instrument, dust off your old guitar, or brush up your piano skills.

Go Native

Immerse yourself in a foreign language you’ve studied or pick up a new one. Watch TV shows, baseball games, and movies in the target language. Better yet, travel to a country, neighborhood or restaurant where the language is spoken fluently and strike up a conversation.

Take a course

Sign up for a class in anything that appeals to you. You may want to try something completely new, refresh your knowledge in a subject you’ve already taken, or explore more deeply a topic you’ve encountered in a course.

This is the perfect time to enroll in an SAT course or complete SAT practice tests, or to brush up on math or language skills, perhaps with the help of a tutor.

Many schools and colleges offer summer courses for teenagers in a wide variety of subjects. Camp KO’s curriculum, for instance, includes classes in creative writing, creative nonfiction, real science, mock trial, robotics, coding, electronic music, improvisational theater and computer programming.

Tips for Summer Reading, Papers and Math Packets


Reading – Wait until August to read your assigned books, so they will be fresh in your mind during your first classes. Taking notes or underlining as you read will prepare you for any quizzes, papers or discussions related to the books.

Papers – If the paper assignment is based on summer reading, use the notes or underlining you did to help write it. Start writing the paper at least a week before it’s due to minimize your stress as the first day of class approaches.

Math Packets – Complete these in small chunks over the course of several days in mid-August. That way, you’ll be in the habit of thinking about math on a daily basis when the school year begins.

Keep Cool AND Curious

Your summer mantra: Stay relaxed, but intellectually engaged.


Dan Bateson, Director of Technology

Many exciting technologies emerging during the next decade will expand and enrich students’ educational experiences. While the teacher will always remain the key driver of learning and the star of the classroom, these innovative technologies will play important supporting roles.

Online Classes

Within the next few years, every class will be recorded by video cameras and made available online through Google Hangouts or Youtube. Students who are unable to attend the class for any reason will be able to watch it live, and all students will have a digital version of that class.

This technology will also enable teachers to conduct classes from their homes during snow days so that students can log in and watch their classes online.


This technology allows students to share their computer screens with one another, thus enabling collaboration, group study, and peer tutoring.

While this capability is currently available through Google Docs, students will soon be able to screen share across many different platforms. Students using a Mac, for instance, will be able to screen share with classmates using Windows or a mobile device.

Digital Portfolios

Schools will provide students with G suite cloud technology that will enable them to create, compile and access a full digital portfolio of every project they’ve ever worked on, including notes, papers, study aids, assessments, and teacher feedback. This portfolio will archive their work over many years and provide a valuable backup.

Varied Platforms

Thanks to recent improvements in the accessibility and simplicity of several media platforms, students will be able to choose how best to complete projects and assignments using a variety of formats. In addition to writing traditional papers or filling in worksheets, students will now more easily be able to present their research and ideas through video, audio, visual, artistic, musical projects and presentations.

Virtual Reality

Augmented and virtual reality technologies will allow students to take virtual field trips, thus providing them with the experience of actually traveling to places such as the Great Barrier Reef, Mt. Everest, and outer space.

Art students will be able not only to virtually visit museums, such as the Louvre, where they can experience paintings and sculptures at their actual size and in three dimensions but also to sketch and draw in 3-D space themselves.

E-books and E-documents 

All learning resources will soon be available in digitized formats, so students will no longer have to lug around heavy textbooks or worry about the library being closed.


Students can wear high-tech glasses that monitor their eye movements to find out whether they’re learning or reading effectively. By monitoring where students are looking during lectures or discussions and when students pause or go back as they read, teachers gain valuable feedback on whether students are grasping the lesson or having difficulty reading.

Game-based Learning

Education-based games offer exciting possibilities for learning. Their interactivity, visual and audio elements, and opportunities for fun suit the learning styles of many students.

New programming technologies have also made it much easier for students to devise their own computer games. Designing games teaches many skills: systematic thinking, problem-solving, storytelling, language facility, and artistic sensibility.

Supporting Teachers

While these new technologies promise exhilarating possibilities for educational exploration and enrichment, they are useful only in the hands of skilled, dedicated and caring teachers who will always remain at the heart of the learning process.


Dennis Bisgaard, Former Head of School

One way in which Kingswood Oxford prepares its students for the challenges of globalization in the twenty-first century and expands their personal, social and cultural horizons is by valuing, teaching and modeling multicultural understanding. We seek not only to offer an inclusive and welcoming community that is ethnically, economically and socially diverse, but also to provide students with a rich variety of opportunities to explore different cultures, languages, and viewpoints.

A Diverse Community

During the past three decades, the KO community has become increasingly diverse, not only in the racial and ethnic backgrounds of its students, teachers, staff members, parents, and alumni, but also in the variety of socio-economic backgrounds, family structures, and gender identities represented by our constituencies.

Currently, 29 percent of KO’s students are students of color, including many children of African-American, Hispanic and East Asian heritage, as well as 17 students from China. An increasing number of our students come from multiracial or adoptive families or families with same-sex parents. KO’s scholarship and financial aid programs have helped many students who might not otherwise be able to attend the school to do so, enhancing the school’s socio-economic diversity.

This heterogeneity creates a vibrant mix of students in classes, advisee groups, teams, clubs, and musical and theater ensembles, creating meaningful interactions that forge strong friendships among students from different backgrounds. Likewise, women and people of color now hold many key leadership positions in the school’s administration, enriching and broadening our perspectives as we formulate and implement key decisions.

Supporting Our Students and Teachers

In addition to bringing together students and educators from so many different backgrounds, KO seeks to provide them with a variety of resources to support them and deepen their understanding of one another and themselves.

Student-led groups, such as United Students, the Gender Spectrum Alliance, and Orange Is the New Gray (a women’s issues group) provide opportunities to discuss equity, empowerment and social justice on both personal and global levels. A large, comfortable “Brave Space” room on campus provides a place where students are welcome to gather and honestly share their thoughts and feelings with their peers in an open and nonjudgmental setting.

Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency Joan Edwards, who helps coordinate these student resources, also guides faculty and staff members on these issues with presentations, workshops, and discussions. And through programs such as the Baird English Symposium, Stroud Science Symposium and Goodman Banks Performing Arts Series, the school has brought prominent writers, scientists, artists, professors and journalists to campus, many of whom are women or people of color, to speak at assemblies, teach classes and interact with students.

KO also expands global awareness by providing trips each June to countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, by hosting a group of Venezuelan students each year, by sponsoring a service trip for the past 20 years to Tobati, Paraguay, and by allowing students to take accredited courses through the Global Online Academy.

Beyond KO

Each June, the Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute brings more than 20 seasoned independent school educators who are people of color to campus for a week of workshops, seminars, and presentations designed to prepare them to assume leadership positions within independent schools. Since the Institute began six years ago, more than 25 percent of its participants now hold senior administrative positions in independent schools. Programs modeled on KO’s institute have been replicated in New York City, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

Embracing New Challenges


KO’s growing diversity and inclusivity brings new challenges, and we continually seek new ways to engage one another in courageous conversations as we seek to foster respect for all people and cultures and to equip our students with the open-mindedness, flexibility, confidence and cultural competency that will enrich their interactions with others and help them navigate our increasingly interconnected yet complex world.


Natalie Demers, Former Associate Head of School
Each winter, all Kingswood Oxford seniors embark on an exciting, challenging and meaningful journey – the writing a scholarly thesis. Under the guidance of an English teacher, each senior chooses a topic based on a literary work or works, explores and researches academic criticism related to those works, and then writes a 15- to 20-page paper that draws on these literary texts, academic scholarship and the student’s own insights.
Demanding both persistence and passion, the senior thesis is the culmination of each student’s academic experience at Kingswood Oxford. It allows seniors to bring together everything they’ve learned about research, organization, literary analysis, and writing to focus on an author, literary work or theme they love.
Recent thesis topics have ranged from “Shakespeare’s Manipulation of Conscience in Richard III and Macbeth” to “The Rise and Fall of Religious Fundamentalism in Gish Jen’s World and Town and Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood,” to “Comparing the Transition to Adulthood in The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
KO’s thesis program has drawn national recognition. During the past two years, Benjamin Waldman ’16 and Noah Stanton ’17 each won the top award (a $5,000 scholarship) when their senior theses were judged to be the best student research papers in the nation by the National Cum Laude Society.
Producing a senior thesis is a rigorous, three-month process that offers students the opportunity to gain and develop a variety of academic and personal skills:


Seniors are given wide latitude in selecting their topics, but with this freedom comes the challenge of choosing a writer, book or idea that engages them and then refining and shaping their subject to produce a clear and manageable area of focus.
While some seniors have known what they wanted to write about ever since they were freshmen, most students find they need to change or revise their topics several times – a necessary and instructive part of the process.


As they begin to assemble and take notes on primary and secondary sources during late January, seniors immerse themselves in the rigorous demands of scholarly research. They learn how to perform the academic spadework necessary to identify, evaluate and assemble evidence. Such preliminary work, conducted weeks before the writing process begins, requires persistence and patience.

Exposure to Literary Scholarship

For many seniors, the senior thesis provides their first opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of literary criticism. By reading books and journal articles by professors and scholars, they’re exposed to textual analysis, contrasting viewpoints, and a variety of literary theories. They gain confidence by immersing themselves in this provocative academic conversation.

Synthesizing, Writing and Revising

After formulating a thesis and constructing an outline, seniors craft a rough draft that supports their views clearly, persuasively and eloquently. They learn how to annotate their text to indicate their sources and to edit and revise their prose, not only as they compose the paper, but also as they respond the teacher’s comments and suggestions on their rough drafts.

A Sense of Accomplishment

After revising their final drafts, seniors make oral presentations of their theses to their classmates, thus sharing with their peers the intellectual stimulation they’ve derived from the entire process and their sense of accomplishments in perfecting a finished product that reflects their best work.


Debbie Fiske, Director of Athletics

During recent years, many young athletes have experienced increasing pressure to specialize in one sport and play it year round. Some of this pressure comes from well-intentioned parents and coaches who believe that the only way for a child to achieve excellence in a sport and win a college athletic scholarship is to play that sport exclusively.

But my experiences as an athlete, coach and athletics director lead me to believe that this push for athletic specialization is misguided. I’ve learned that playing multiple sports not only broadens and enriches a child’s overall athletic experience but also actually enhances the student’s success in his or her target sport.

At Kingswood Oxford, we feel that it’s especially important for young athletes to compete in a different sport in each season, even if they excel in one target sport. Here are five reasons why:

1. Cross-training prevents injuries


Athletes who play a single sport all the time are continually using the same muscle groups. This can lead not only to stress and fatigue in tissues and joints but also to break down and injury. A good example of such overuse is the deterioration of the elbow ligament in baseball pitchers’arms that necessitates “Tommy John surgery.”

2. Playing different sports builds transferable skills


Though sports differ widely, each one teaches skills that enhance an athlete’s performance in other sports. Movements, strategies and mental attributes, such as resilience and stamina, learned in one sport enhance a student’s athletic achievement in other sports. My own experiences on the varsity field hockey and track teams during high school, for instance, proved invaluable during my career on the University of Connecticut basketball team. Many of the concepts of field hockey –give and go, speeding down the sidelines, putting teammates in the right position –were readily transferable to the basketball court, while being a sprinter, hurdler and jumper on the track team increased many skills needed for basketball –speed, flexibility, jumping ability and mental concentration.

3. Variety prevents burnout


No matter how much an athlete loves a sport, doing the same warm-ups, drills, and practices without variation can become drudgery and leave the athlete feeling stale. By contrast, each season of a different sport brings different training, coaches, and goals. This novelty refreshes and energizes athletes so they can approach their target sports with even anticipation and vigor when they return to them.

4. All sports develop team-playing skills


Athletes participating in different sports often have opportunities to play different roles than they do on teams in their target sports. Because they may not be the stars or even the starting players, they learn to play supporting roles, thus gaining valuable perspectives on teamwork, sacrifice, and leadership. These experiences will serve them well when they move on to college, where they’ll likely be playing supporting roles, especially as freshmen.

5. Playing different sports sharpens critical thinking skills
The human brain loves variety and novelty. When athletes periodically confront and master a new set of skills, situations, challenges and team dynamics, they increase their sports I.Q. and develop critical thinking skills that can enhance their academic performance as well.


Ann Sciglimpaglia, Director of the Middle School
When I tell someone that I teach middle schoolers, I often hear this response: “You have my sympathies. How can you possibly deal with kids at that crazy, dreadful, hormonal age?”
I don’t feel that way. In fact, I love working with middle schoolers precisely because they’re changing so fast. Yes, they may seem to be in turmoil, but that’s because they’re beginning to think for themselves, to become more open to ideas, to explore their own identities, and to see connections between their lives and the larger world around them.

Rather than fearing this volatile phase in children’s lives, we should embrace it as an exciting time of physical, intellectual and emotional metamorphosis and growth. In fact, the same behaviors and emotions of middle schoolers that can sometimes make dealing with them so challenging, are not obstacles but opportunities. Their inherent energy, curiosity and passion can be guided and nurtured to help them become thoughtful, confident and independent young people.

As teachers and parents, we can foster this process by embracing the intrinsic attributes of middle schoolers:

Middle Schoolers love to be active. They sprint, spring, shove, jostle and lurch. Impulsive and impatient, they often can’t sit still.

Middle school teachers capitalize on this kinetic energy by devising hands-on classroom activities that provide opportunities for students to move around, construct projects, and interact with one another. This might involve building a volcano in science, creating a human timeline in history, or acting out a scene from a play in English.

Such “learning-by-doing” enterprises provide middle schoolers with more leeway, responsibility and mastery, equipping them with skills such as initiative, creativity and self-direction.

Middle schoolers want to know about everything. Physically, their bodies are growing astronomically and their brains are like sponges as they absorb new ideas. They’re fascinated by anything that’s creative and original. This continual quest for novelty is one reason they’re so likely to condemn a conventional, adult-suggested activity as “boring.”

Both parents and teachers can build on this curiosity by challenging students to explore new ideas, discover alternative ways to solve problems, or go off the beaten track to investigate a topic that fascinates them.

By pursuing new subjects and ideas, middle school students are making the natural and exciting transition from literal to abstract thinking and drawing connections between many different realms. Their minds are exploding with scintillating ideas they’ve never considered before. From this intoxicating experience, they imbibe a lifelong love of learning.

Yes, it’s true. Middle schoolers are emotional, often veering instantaneously from blissful elation to blubbering dejection. Sometimes they’re able to restrain their emotions at school, but, upon returning to the safer environment of home, they let their feelings fly as they defy, disrespect and disregard their parents.

Middle schoolers are discovering their identities and, in the process, trying out different kinds of faces to figure out which one feels right. That’s why they’re sometimes laughing themselves silly at a goofy video and the next minute having a serious conversation with you about the international refugee crisis.

This emotional volatility is completely normal, and it’s important that parents and teachers show patience and embrace the valleys as well as the peaks. These sudden mood swings are natural twists and turns on the long road to maturity.

Back to the Future
Because KO is a grade 6–12 school, I’ve been able to follow many of my former middle school students as they progress in their careers at the Upper School. It’s a moving experience to watch a student who struggled through moments of doubt, insecurity or impulsiveness at the Middle School stride across the graduation stage as a confident and capable young adult. As a Middle School teacher, I’m extremely proud to have played a part in that process.


Jane Repp, Interim Director of Teaching and Learning
The explosive growth of knowledge and technology during the 21st century requires future leaders who will be able not only to absorb new information but also to evaluate, analyze and interpret it and apply it to new situations in innovative and creative ways. They must also be able to think critically and work collaboratively with others.
How is Kingswood Oxford, a private school in Connecticut, preparing its students to meet these challenges?
Own It
As a faculty, we believe that students learn most effectively, deeply and joyfully when they take ownership of their learning.
Rather than merely memorizing information from a teacher or textbook, students should instead be learning how to use information to solve problems, to devise and assess multiple interpretations, and to create their own meaning and understanding. Students need to become skilled at actually using the material they are learning, not merely showing that they know it.
Team Up
Collaboration is a key component of this process. By working together to solve problems, students generate a much wider range of ideas than they would individually, learn to handle the give-and-take of exchanging different viewpoints, and savor the satisfaction of reaching consensus.
All these approaches make learning more personal, more enjoyable and more meaningful for students.
Take Action
With this educational model in mind, KO teachers have set a challenge for themselves this year: How can we create new learning experiences in our classrooms to raise the level of ownership for all students?
Practice What We Preach
In working together to answer this question, our teachers have themselves become vigorous learners –mirroring and modeling the same curiosity, growth, collaboration, feedback and creativity they seek to foster in their students.
During a two-day workshop before classes began last August, the KO faculty, guided by Sarah Prevette and Sandra Nagy of the innovative development program for educators Future Design School, explored the concepts and methods of student ownership of learning.
Then each teacher devised his or her own classroom activity or project designed to provide students with the opportunity to make meaning for themselves by applying their knowledge to a problem and solving it.
Finally, teachers broke into small groups where they shared their projects with one another, received feedback, and discussed modifications. As the school year began and teachers implemented their projects in the classroom, they met regularly to share their experiences and gain the perspectives of their colleagues.
Just Do It
Here is a brief sampling of some of the innovative classroom activities teachers have initiated this year:
•Seniors in Alex Kraus’s physics class launched rockets from the football field to study their trajectories.
•Sixth graders in Beth Repp’s English class drew mind maps depicting the plot, characters, settings and themes of a novel they were reading.
•Instead of taking a written exam, students in Jen Weeks’s French class delivered a presentation on how something they’d read could be applied to the KO community.
•As a summative assessment at the end of the first semester, each eighth grader in Introduction to Physical Science was presented with a substance and challenged to determine its chemical composition using the laboratory techniques they had studied.
•Students in Natalie Lynd’s calculus class engaged in a student-led Harkness discussion about problem-solving strategies.
Love Learning
Through creative projects like these, KO’s teachers are inspiring students to develop ownership of their education, to improve their collaborative skills, to apply their knowledge creatively to real-world situations, and, perhaps most important of all, to love learning.


Writing an essay or paper, no matter what its subject or required length, can be a challenging task for any student.

Here are five guidelines that can help your writing process be more productive, efficient and satisfying.

1. Read the directions for the assignment carefully. Sometimes students are in such haste to begin writing that they overlook the details of the teacher’s expectations. Ask yourself, What is my teacher looking for?”

Search for keywords in the assignment, such as analyze,” “evaluate,” “compare,” “explain,” and assess.” Sometimes assignments also include subcategories that can help you organize the paper, such as an English assignment that mentions plot, character, and setting, or a history assignment that cites economy, politics, and religion.

Pay close attention to the required or suggested length of the paper. You don’t want the paper to receive a low grade because it’s either too short or too long.

2. Think before you write. An astronaut who was asked what she would do if she were stuck in space with only ten seconds of oxygen left replied, I would think for nine seconds, and then I’d take action.”

Planning is everything. Brainstorm and write down any ideas that come to mind, no matter how far-fetched. (Some students find it helpful to use the voice-to-text function on their computers or cellphones so they can talk through their ideas as the device writes them down.)

Then distill your best ideas into a clear thesis statement that directly addresses the topic posed by the assignment. Now that youve formulated your ideas, you can organize them into an outline or graphic organizer that includes your essential points. Then make a list of key terms – characters, events, quotations, details – to use as examples or evidence in your paper.

3. Don’t write your introductory paragraph first. Many students try so hard to craft captivating and compelling introductions that they become bogged down and lose momentum.

Once you’ve generated the thesis, outline, and list of key terms, dive right into writing your first body paragraph (which will eventually become the second paragraph of your paper).

After you’ve written the body of the paper, consolidate the ideas you’ve already expressed and developed into both the introduction and conclusion.

4. Topic sentences are key. The first sentence of each body paragraph (its topic sentence) should present the key idea of the paragraph and provide a clear transition from the preceding paragraph.

This transition can be indicated with words such as in addition,” “by contrast,” “another aspect,” “also,” “nevertheless,” “a further example.”

Topic sentences are the road signs of your paper, telling the reader where you’re going, and connecting the next part of the journey with where you’ve just been.

5. Proofread. Don’t rely only on spelling or grammar checkers or on visually proofreading a hard copy of the paper to catch errors. After you’ve completed the paper, use the speak to text function on your computer to read the text aloud as you follow along on the screen. This is especially helpful in catching omitted or repeated words and detecting sentences that are clunky or awkward.

While these guidelines can be helpful in crafting a successful paper, there’s no substitute for talking with your teacher directly when you have questions either before or during the writing process. Teachers at Kingswood Oxford are always open to working with students develop their ideas and finesse their essays and papers as they empower students to own their learning.