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What in Tarnation is a Pupsplanation?
Thursday, May 1, 2014

In the first volume of Satires, the poet Horace observes that “teachers often give cookies to boys about to be taught” (I.1).  Certainly much has changed in educational practices since Horace’s lifetime in Ancient Rome, but the tactic of “sweetening the deal” for students is still very much alive today.  Teachers often encourage students to focus and work patiently by offering them rewards, such as sweet treats (like the “cookies” Horace mentions) or the chance to watch a fun YouTube video when finished.

Another approach taken by many teachers is to present information sweetly.  Think of a foreign language teacher who sings the conjugation of a verb (or the declension of a pronoun--see this), or an English teacher who dresses in costume while dramatically reading the dialogue of a play.  Educational studies have shown that this sort of teaching is effective, as it helps students to associate new ideas and concepts with positive (or at least memorable) stimuli (for one example, see this). With this in mind, we launched our Pupsplanation series on Facebook back in early March.

A  "pupsplanation," as its portmanteau name suggests, is the explanation of an abstract idea by a cute, cuddly puppy.  To date, we’ve shared photos of six adorable puppies “pupsplaining” key concepts particular to a wide range of academic subjects:  the electoral college (Government), the ablative absolute (Latin), Lewis-Dot structures (chemistry), comma-splice run-ons (grammar), and, most recently, Boolean Logic (computer science).

But, in fact, the idea of the pupsplanation came about on March 6th, shortly after the College Board had announced the forthcoming changes to the SAT.  We read many different articles that detailed the changes, and we found that, in general, students were confused about it and were spreading their confusion; the fact that the new SAT would do away with arcane vocabulary words, for example, had somehow turned into a student-perpetuated rumor that the new SAT wouldn’t have any emphasis at all on vocabulary.

So to put an end to that madness, we presented our first lovely little pup, who summed up the changes to the new SAT in succinct, simple English.  Just like the teachers of Ancient Rome who gave boys cookies or the teachers of today who sing, we thought we could most effectively present the information in a sweet, fun, and light-hearted way.  And what could be sweeter than a cute little puppy?

If you’d like your very own puppy to be a part of our Pupsplanation series, send a photo to blog@tutortango.com, and be sure to check out all the latest on our Facebook page!