The L Word | W.O.R.D. Ink
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer,
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures

The L-Word

This week for our DISCOVER post, we’re pondering deep thoughts, like the power of language. Not exactly a subject to fit squarely in the span of a small blog post, but why not stop to pay homage to language’s immense versatility through the ages? Especially when these days a single word or simple catch phrase can go viral with the slap of a hashtag (#freedom; #WhatIMissMost)


The L Word Let’s expound on the L-word a moment: Language. One of the most powerful and influential tools that a person possesses. It can spark revolutions, incite wars, and inspire peace. Language’s double-edged sword can strengthen the bonds of love or fuel the fires of hate. Its potency can twist the heart and bend the mind. Language is a conduit for elevating and celebrating our interactions with others. Yes, the beauty of language lies within the versatility of its creative expression, one of the greatest responsibilities humankind possesses.

Adapt Or Die

Communication. The quest for meaning and connection. Humanity thrives on it; in fact, our very survival hinges on it. But let’s take a closer look at the written word for a moment. There’s all this hubbub these days about kids not reading books anymore, about the degradation of our children’s lexicon and linguistic dexterity, not to mention the very real threat of cyberbullying, thanks to instant social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. But wait a minute. Social. Media. In the name of all that’s sacred in a tween’s social life, the written word is practically topping the charts! (Hell hath no fury like a teen torn from her text message.) Educators (and advertisers) know this all too well. There are more professional development conferences, new school strategies, and digital citizenship and Internet safety courses for students and parents surrounding social media sent to my inbox in a single day than there are Thin Mints in a Girl Scout’s cookie box. (*32 count. And texting, tweeting, and posting are arguably more addicting.)

Making Our Writing “Mind Ready”

Recently, Annie Murphy Paul wrote an interesting post about making our day-to-day writing “mind ready.” Apparently, new research suggests that individuals remember Facebook posts about 1.5 times more than they’ll retain the memory of a sentence from a book. One possible explanation is that, with so many stimuli bombarding us, our memories favor “natural, spontaneous writing over polished, edited content.” (*woozy, fastidious word lover keels over*)

But this brings us back to how we learn to best communicate in the first place. Memory and the social world have always played crucial roles in humanity’s survival throughout history. Murphy Paul points to researcher Christine Harris, who explains, “We learn about rewards and threats from others. So it makes sense that our minds would be tuned to be particularly attentive to the activities and thoughts of people and to remember the information conveyed by them.” Especially the tweet elite of our social circles.


From Murphy Paul’s post: “Our language capacity did not evolve to process carefully edited and polished text, notes author Nicholas Christenfeld. ‘One could view the past five thousand years of painstaking, careful writing as the anomaly. Modern technologies allow written language to return more closely to the casual, personal style of pre-literate communication. And this is the style that resonates, and is remembered.’” (Hmm…must be why quiet, literary novels always take a backseat to chick lit and Captain Underpants.)

One 7th grade student of mine, an avid writer, swears she can write stories better by text on her phone than on her laptop. “They just flow in this spontaneous way that I can’t seem to capture when I’m censoring everything on a bigger screen,” she explained to me. “And, I can get instant feedback from my friends.” Which brings us back to the power of language and its immense versatility.

Fresh, instinctive, quick-witted writing, like a natural beauty, is the linguistic runway’s perennial darling. It lingers longer in the reader’s mind and gains you the greatest amount of retweets. And, al natural (whether it rolls off your tongue or percolates first) is a style with which we’re all hard-wired. Now that, dear word lover, is a worthy rediscovery.



W.O.R.D. Ink team member Jacquelyn Wood contributed to today’s post.


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