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As the school year ramps up again, I wanted to put out a modified version of a Memo of Understanding http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memo_of_understanding for parents and students. It seems each year in the rush to get through the first weeks of school parents and students forget the basic first good steps and then the spiral downwards occurs and then the need for obtaining a tutor and then the ‘wish for promises’ from a tutor. Pay attention to your child’s folder or agenda book. A student is generally not able to self regulate until well into high school. Some people never quite figure it out. Be the best person you can be by helping your child check for due dates, completeness, work turned in on time. Not only will this help your child learn to create and regulate a schedule, it prevents the following types of conversations I always disliked as a teacher ("Can you just give my child one big assignment to make up for the D/F so they can pass"; "I am going to talk to... read more

Be Prepared! The night before, collect: plenty of sharpened #2 pencils an eraser a small pencil sharpener (in case your pencils break during the exam) a watch (you cannot rely on the proctor and there may not be a wall clock or it may be on the wall behind your seat) your calculator your admission ticket your identification  directions to the testing center tissues medicine (if necessary) disposable earplugs (if you find the background noise of people coughing and fidgeting distracting)   (https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-test-day-checklist)   (http://www.actstudent.org/testprep/taking/) It may be helpful to collect these items in a clear plastic (Ziploc) bag that you can grab and go in the morning. If you have to search for these items in the morning, you are likely to forget something or become frazzled. Eat a substantial breakfast that will provide you with sufficient energy throughout the test... read more

As you may know, I am a big fan of the well-known author and brain specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen. He mentions in several of his books that Physical Exercise is good for the brain. I have read of research studies that showed a clear correlation between IMPROVEMENT in students' test scores in math and science, and their level of physical activity (for example, when math class followed PE class, the students had significantly higher scores). Maybe we should schedule PE before all math classes in our schools. What do you think about that idea? This morning I read an online article on the myhealthnewsdaily site, entitled "6 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain," and another article about how Physical Exercise helps maintain healthy brain in older adults too. The second article, "For a Healthy Brain, Physical Exercise Trumps Mental Workout" was found under Yahoo News. The remainder of this note is quoted from that article: Regular physical exercise appears to... read more

In my experience tutoring students in both essay writing and test prep, one of the most difficult and tiresome challenges for both student and tutor is vocabulary improvement.  Because the ideal way to improve one's vocabulary includes reading a variety of sources over a long period of time, the optimal strategy for vocabulary improvement is often not available to students who have a very compressed schedule in which they must improve.  Many of my students have needed to show marked improvement in vocabulary within 2 weeks to a month, due to a looming deadline, so I have had to get creative to find efficient, effective techniques in vocabulary training.   One of the most important lessons when it comes to vocabulary is that multiple approaches are key.  Students should engage with the material using as many senses as possible.  This means not only reading a word and its definition silently, but also reading them aloud, hearing them read by someone else,... read more

Should I get a tutor? Will it help my child? These are some of the most common questions posed to tutors by parents of students struggling in school. Tutoring can be expensive and difficult to schedule so parents must decide whether the time and money will be well spent. Instead of relying on a crystal ball, use these factors to help make the decision. 1. Does the student spend an appropriate amount of time on homework and studies? While it can help with study skills, organization, and motivation, tutoring cannot be expected to keep the student on track unless you plan on having a session every night. If you can make sure the student puts in effort outside of tutoring, she will be more likely benefit from it. 2. Does the student have difficulty learning from the textbook? If this is the case, the student will probably respond to one-on-one instruction that is more personalized. A tutor will help bring the subject to life and engage the student. A good tutor will explain... read more

Hi there! This is my first blog post! I thought I would test this out before I post regularly... It comes with the tutor profile, so why not?! I just want to give my number one piece of advice which has been true for every standardized test I have come across, no matter what grade level. I wish I had known this or understood this concept when I was growing up - I was always a good student, but maybe I would've been better! Here is the scenario. You're faced with this gigantic passage and you see that it's something incredibly boring. Immediately, your brain shuts off as you attempt to crawl your way to the end of it. You also feel the pressure of the clock, so instead of reading the passage, you kind of end up skimming over it. Then there are all these questions and you have no idea where to begin because you didn't absorb a single thing you read, so in a panic, you start guessing, even if those guesses mean penalties (on certain tests). Sound like you? Here is the strategy:... read more

This afternoon, I found myself writing to one of my ESL students: ______________________ Hello, XXXXXX--- I am imagining you and your dog having a fine time at the cabin as I write this. I bet you are in the cabin as well. In the first sentence at the cabin is correct, just as you would say "I am at home" rather than in home. It would also be correct to say "I'm in the house" rather than outside in the yard. When you are at home, the yard is included. When you are in the house, the yard is excluded. With cabin, the same word is used both ways. When you are at the cabin, the exterior property is included, but when you are in the cabin, it is excluded. By the way, while you might be in your yard, you would be on your property. ______________________ Preposition problems are common to all but the most advanced English language learners, including many native speakers. After sending my student this email, I realized the word office... read more

Almost every college or university requires students to submit an ACT or SAT score.  This score affects not only your admission application but also scholarship opportunities and which classes you will be able to enroll in.  The vast majority of students do little to no preparation work before taking these exams.  They may feel that all their hard work in high school should have prepared them already.  Although this is partially true, it is actually quite easy to raise your score a significant amount by just putting in a little bit more work.  Students can see composite ACT scores raise 5 or more points and SAT scores raise 300 or more points.  Why is this?   1)  Both the ACT and SAT test many of the same concepts repeatedly and by learning these core concepts, you will easily get a higher score.     2)  You will get more familiar with the format of the test and start to see patterns in how they ask questions.  Once... read more

Quickly after beginning work as a tutor, I came to realize that parents are the black belts of scheduling. They not only have to keep up with a number of annoying adult responsibilities, but they also have to keep up with their children's calendars. Parents' organizational skills (and possibly their sanity) are put to a very difficult test daily. So, to all my expertly organized parents out there, in this post I hope to let you in on a scheduling detail that often slips through the cracks but can make a big difference in a student's SAT or ACT scores.   One of the biggest obstacles I face when preparing a student for the SAT or ACT is the student's test schedule. Far too often, my student is signed up for two tests that are only a month apart. For example, a couple of my past students have been signed up for an SAT in May and then another in June. This short turnaround gives me very little time to receive the student's scores and prep the student in the areas he or... read more

Yesterday was a great day to be a tutor. Two of my students who were struggling in Math (one more than the other), have proved to me that with hard work and determination you can achieve. One of the students, his mom called me to say that he scored an A on his test. That was such great news as his grades were usually 60 - 70 on his quizzes and tests. I tutored both of them yesterday. I gave them a revision test just to see how much they have progressed and where they may still need more practice. I was amazed at how much better they were in comparison to six weeks ago, when I first met them. The other student, most times he would just look at the paper without knowing what to do. This time he completed the test. He still needs some more practice with fractions and probabilities, but he is doing much better now. So proud of both of them. Hopefully, we will be able to get through this quickly so we can start working on Geometry.

The ACT stands for American College Testing. It is a national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in English, Mathematics, Reading, Science and an optional Writing Test.   The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. There are several strategies you can use to help you better prepare for the ACT.   For example: Practice Pacing Yourself Become Familiar with the Test Directions for Each Test Read Each Question Carefully Answer the Easy Questions First Answer Every Question Review your Work Bubble in Groups   If you know testing is one of your weaknesses, consider getting a tutor or joining a test preparation course.  

As a special educator who has worked in the public schools and tutored privately, I've observed that all students learn best in an emotionally supportive environment. Most students with special needs have accumulated a long history of negative learning interactions over the years. They feel inferior to "better" students, they sense that teachers expect less of them, and above all, they are painfully aware of their parents' disappointment and anxiety. I have tutored students at very different grade levels and found many of them full of anxiety, to the extent that in some cases absolutely no work was accomplished due to emotional roadblocks. Why? The problem may be an emotional one to start with, or it may arise because by the time parents decide to pay for help from a professional, they have exhausted themselves trying to understand and explain why their child is blocked. An emotionally supportive environment, paradoxically, may not be the one in which they are most loved:... read more

IF I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice on how to be a better student, be more successful in school, life, etc, I would definitely tell myself that being involved in everything comes at a cost. It is better to find a few things that you like to do, do them well and often, than feeling stressed because there is so much on your plate at one time. Being a 'Jack of all Trades' it is natural for me to dip my toes in different waters- all at the same time, but that does not mean that I can give 100% to any of them at that time. While I was able to get good grades (A- average) while in school, I was impressed by how much better I did- and felt about my work- the few times that I scaled back on my activities. Another piece of advice that I wish that I could bestow upon my younger self would be to learn how to speak up in a group setting when someone is not fulfilling their part of an agreement. Now, this said, the best way to do this would be in a tactful manner-... read more

When interviewing a prospective tutor, parents should ask about the tutor's skills and experience, and find out if the tutor truly enjoys teaching. When the tutor feels enthusiastic about the subject, and communicates well, the student has an opportunity to learn to enjoy the subject too. I recommend for parents to observe the first lesson to see the tutor's skills in action, and watch/listen carefully to future lessons when possible, to make sure the tutor has an encouraging, supportive attitude at all times. (Tutors should welcome and respond positively to the child's questions, and NEVER make the child feel "stupid," no matter what.) It is most important to have a safe and quiet place for studying, without distractions. I like to find a quiet table at a library, and work with students there. I welcome suggestions from parents, and I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching skills.

Here are three books I am recommending for the 2012 ACT and their lowest prices as of January 19, 2012: 1. Kaplan ACT 2012 Premier is $17 plus $4 shipping on amazon.com. If you buy over $25 in books, media mail shipping is free. 2. Princeton Review's Cracking the ACT, 2012 Edition is $11 new on amazon plus free media mail shipping, if you buy over $25 in books. 3. Real ACT 2011, 3rd Edition with CD-ROM and online resources is $17 plus $4 shipping on half.com. My recommendations are based on student ratings, popularity, and pricing information obtained from multiple ACT-related websites, amazon.com, ebay, and half.com.

A few keys to success in school (for people with or without A.D.D.): We need to concentrate on taking notes in classes, and possibly use a digital recorder to record some classes. (That makes a tremendous difference for many of my A.D.D. students, because they can "go back and listen" to things they missed when distractions occurred.) Examples of distractions include when other students are moving or making noises, worries or concerns**, being hungry, needing to go to the restroom, looking for a pen or pencil, or needing to sharpen a pencil, etc. There are many sources of distractions. Even **fear of failure** can be a distraction! What about memory problems? Actually all of us have trouble with remembering from time to time--it's part of being human, right? Heck, even computers have memory problems occasionally, so it seems that some degree of "forgetfulness" is basically a universal condition. Some good news for A.D.D. students: If we are able... read more

Sundays are days to be lazy, to hang out with friends, to read books or swim in pools or play outside. Today is an exceptionally hot Sunday in early June. Since I got up, I've been holed up in my home office, working on tutoring. Even though I've spent the past nine or so hours (with breaks for shrimp tacos, diet Coke, and ice cream) working, I haven't actually had any students today. I realized that not many people are aware of the "behind the scenes" of tutoring (well, at least of good tutoring), and it's gotten me to think a bit about the concept of having an "hourly rate." Realizing that mine is one of the higher rates on WyzAnt, I thought I'd share a bit of the "secret life of a (good) tutor," so you might have a better idea of what you're getting for your money. Although I work very hard during our tutoring sessions to make them as productive and educational as possible, it's everything I do when you aren't around that helps me do that. Before... read more

Q. Where will we meet for tutoring? A. We will try to find a suitable place that is convenient for both of us. Though I do travel to meet you, time and distance are important factors in making this work feasible and profitable for me, so I try to find locations that minimize my travel time, while also providing convenience to you. Q. How will we decide on a time to meet? A. We will try to find a suitable time that is convenient for both of us. Q. When are you available to tutor? A. It varies from week to week, but my general availability begins at 10:00 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and ends at 9:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and at 3:00 pm Saturday. Please contact me for my current availability. Q. How long will each session be? A. The session length can vary, depending on the subject, the student, and the schedule. Unless otherwise agreed, the session times will be two (2) hours each. Q. Why do you recommend two (2) hours per session? A. Through... read more

Schedule for ACT Crash Course: Lesson 1: Test Basics, ACT Reading Strategies Lesson 2: ACT Reading Question Types Lesson 3: Difficult ACT Reading Passages Lesson 4: Punctuation and Sentence Structure Errors (Basics, Commas, Apostrophes, Run-Ons) Lesson 5: Grammar Errors (Verb, Pronoun, Modifier, Comparison, Coordination) Lesson 6: Rhetorical Skills (Strategy, Organization, Style) and Essay ACT English/Reading Basics: Scored out of 36   Reading Section: (35 minutes) 40 Questions 4 Passages Prose Natural Science Humanities Social Studies English Section: (45 Minutes) 75 Questions Usage/Mechanics Punctuation 13% Grammar/Usage 16% Sentence Structure 24% Rhetorical Skills Rhetorical Strategy 16% Rhetorical Organization 15% Rhetorical Style 16% Writing Section: (30 minutes) 1 essay prompt Scored out of 12 and combined with English score 1 point given for each... read more

School is finally over. You are looking forward to some well earned rest and relaxation. You are not focused on the fall PSAT and the spring SAT and ACT. BIG MISTAKE! The summer before your junior year is the time to start preparing for the SAT and ACT. It is important to recognize that the single greatest advantage to early preparation is the repetitive nature of SAT and ACT questioning. The greatest predictor of score improvement on the SAT and ACT is practice. While it is important to learn the most efficient techniques for attacking questions, practice will ingrain these methods and good habits in a student so he or she can develop the necessary intuition to perform well. Only sufficient time and experience will allow a student to develop this intuition to the point where it becomes second nature. By beginning your SAT and ACT preparation early, you will avoid the last minute anxiety that besets many students who are forced to take the SAT and ACT 3, 4, or 5 times... read more

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