AJ Tutoring Blog

Connecting you to news, advice and academic resources

Critical Writing and Confidence


English students in the Bay Area face many unique challenges. Not the least of which is engaging in a humanities classroom in a tech-dominated region, where the word “analysis” tends to refer first to data and computers and only later and tangentially to the interpretative process that English teachers value. The analytic essay, a rite of passage in the formal classroom for generations, can, at first blush, appear irrelevant and out of date.

One of the great successes we’ve had in the AJ Tutoring English department is to rejuvenate and reconnect students to the analytic essay. Students are much more familiar with the critical essay than they first believe. In fact, a great amount of their online reading consists of critical reviews: movie reviews, game reviews, TV criticism, and YouTube-based video essays and tutorials. The point is: students have an intuitive understanding of the structure of analytic articles and the form as such is much more familiar to them than they realize. 

By drawing this simple connection and quickly moving toward recognizing the structures, processes, and goals of these resources, English tutors can begin to build the most important skill that an English learner will use: confidence. 

It is in the domain of building confidence where the English expert at AJ Tutoring truly excels. The English tutor is a content expert: they work with students to deepen understandings of difficult texts like Shakespeare’s plays, The Great Gatsby, and esoteric poetry. We are grammar experts who can quickly assess and create a plan for improved writing and reading comprehension. 


Beyond the content expertise, however, we are skilled confidence builders in the following ways:

  • Rapport building: taking students seriously, learning about and incorporating their passions and interests, and challenging them in developmentally appropriate ways.
  • Scaffolded learning: finding patterns in writing, working on root causes that address a wide array of writing issue (for example when a teacher says writing is vague or needs to go deeper, our tutors can pinpoint structural and mechanical habits in the students writing, noting if the student s over-reliant on the passive voice, for instance). We focus on what a student is already doing well while focusing only 2 or 3 specific lessons at a time to ensure the student’s foundations are as solid as possible. If we edit an essay and produce a laundry list of issues, we are not helping a student; instead, we are reinforcing the idea that a student “is not a good writer.” Our goal, on the other hand, is to empower students to recognize and appreciate what they are already doing well and then identifying a select one or two points for continued improvement.
  • Developing a sense of autonomy and independence. The English student doesn’t always have homework on a daily basis. That does not mean they have nothing to do in a lesson. 
  • Moving from homework help toward independence and confidence. Letting the student know that he or she has control and that writing is about making observations, trusting your observations, and making choices to articulate your ideas.

If you want to learn more about how we can help students build confidence and competence with their English coursework and skills, please give us a call today!


Let's discuss your student's academic tutoring, test prep, or college counseling needs!

Our test prep, academic tutoring, and college admissions counseling professionals are here to help you navigate the test taking maze, share our experience with your local school, and inspire your student.

Talk to a Director
Peninsula Main Phone Number (650) 331-3251
Free Consultation