high school

The Key to Higher Level Reading and Higher SAT and ACT Scores

ReadingHaving taught hundreds of students how to read and having worked with students up to grade 12 on reading, I have found most high school students to be breaking down on reading at the same place in the process. Background on Reading:

There are four cueing systems of reading:

  1. Graphophonic (Sound - the reader must be able to decode letter sounds)
  2. Syntactic (Structure - the reader must understand the rules of language)
  3. Semantic (Meaning - the reader must be able to relate material read to material already known)
  4. Pragmatic (Purpose -the reader must understand the culture and social purpose for which language is used)

Early in elementary school, most students reach success with the first two components of the cueing system.  When given an appropriate leveled piece to read, they can “read” it.

For higher level reading, students need to master the semantic and pragmatic cueing systems. This is where middle school and high school students often run in to trouble. These skills take time, practice and exposure to many topics and genres. The semantic cueing system requires background knowledge.  In order to find a logical place for the freshly read information in his/her brain, the reader must have a general idea about the topic being presented.  The pragmatic cueing system also requires life experience and strong mental processing. The purpose must be clear. Semantic and pragmatic cueing require higher level thinking and the ability to synthesize and evaluate material while reading. To master semantic cueing and pragmatic cueing, students need life experience, intellectual conversation and exposure to various topics.  It comes with time and practice.

The best way to become proficient with the semantic and pragmatic cueing systems and to become a better reader in general is to read often.

Middle and high school students, try these reading steps to improve your semantic and pragmatic cueing systems and get more out of your reading

  1. Understand that the book/article is assigned for a purpose.  There is something to be gained by reading it or it would not be assigned reading.  - Ask the teacher if the purpose is not clear.
  2. Look at the copyright page and read any introductory information available (back cover, front flap, introductory blurb…)
  3. Search the internet for information about the time period when the book or article was written and the time period when the story takes place.
  4. Do a quick internet search on the author.  Get a feel for where the author is coming from physically, mentally and intellectually.
  5. Download the audio version of the book if the book is a challenge to get through.  Try listening to the book while walking. (physical exercise improves brain function - and keeps you alert and awake)
  6. Pause and think about what is being read.  ask yourself… Can you relate to it?  Do you agree/disagree with concepts and characters?  Is it in line with something you read previously? Do you want to understand more about it?  Do you like the writers style?
  7. Look up unknown vocabulary words and concepts as they come up.  Just like in math, in reading missing one concept can lead to a misunderstanding of what lies ahead.

The next challenge in mastering the reading sections of standardized tests (and college level reading) is reading speed.  Again, this takes practice.  The more someone reads, the faster they get. In my next blog post, I will provide suggestions for increasing reading speed.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

Practice Test Date for ACT Added

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.03.31 PMEDNavigators will be offering a practice ACT in Malvern, PA on Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 8AM-12PM.  Test details and registration information can be found here.  

Basic overview of the ACT.

The New SAT vs the Current SAT vs the ACT -A Preliminary Look

More information on the ACT

It's Essay Season - The Three Types of Essays Required of College Applicants

overwhelmedHigh school students are asked to write three types of essaysthroughout the college application process.  Each essay type is unique and requires a unique approach.

Know the essay purpose.  Know the reader/audience.  Know the format.  Have a plan.

SAT/ACT Essays (1-3 handwritten pages written under time constraints)

The Standardized test essays are persuasive essays.  They measure:

  • how clearly a student can express and defend an opinion
  • a student’s ability to write a traditional 5-6 paragraph essay
  • grammar, usage and mechanics
  • the ability to write under time constraints

Scores are not base upon accuracy of facts. Students are not judged on their opinion, but their ability to express and defend it.

The Personal Statement Essay ("your story" usually 650 words or less)college essay rescue

  • This is, essentially, a personal story or autobiography. It is the student’s way to set himself apart from the other students who present similar transcripts and test scores.
  • It is a way for the college to get to know the student.
  • It requires the student to dig deeply inside himself and reflect upon his life, who he is, and what he values.

The Supplemental Essays ("why us?"  "tell us more" usually 250 words or less)

  • These short essays tend to be either fact based or creative.
  • The fact based prompts require the student to research and explain or defend something.  They should contain accurate information.
  • The creative prompts are ways for the admissions readers to dig deeper into who the student is.

The three essay types above are very different and need to be approached differently.

 EDNavigators offers assistance with all of these essay types.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

Related Articles:

Essential information about the SAT Writing Score and the Essay

The New SAT vs the Current SAT vs the ACT - A Preliminary Look

EDNavigators Introduces Guided Path for Comprehensive Management of the College Process

Common Application Essay Prompts for 2014-15

Attention High School Athletes: The Academic Index

Ivy League Pennants What is the Academic Index (AI)? - The Academic Index is a tool used by the Ivy League Schools to measure a high school athlete's academic performance and to determine whether or not the student has the academic credentials necessary to be admitted to the school.

Why is the Academic Index Important? - In order to be accepted by the admissions office of an Ivy League School, high school athletes who plan to play their sport in college must meet the school's Academic Index.  It has become more important to understand the AI early in high school as high school athletes are being offered early verbal commitments from coaches as early as freshman year of high school.  If a student has his/her heart set on any Ivy League school, it is essential that the student knows whether or not he/she can meet the Ivy League's AI before making a decision on the early verbal offer from another school.

Two New York Times articles by Bill Pennington are great resources on the topic of the Academic Index (AI) -

Before Recruiting in Ivy League, Applying Some Math The Graphic on the left of the article show sample calculations.

A Rare Glimpse Inside the Ivy League’s Academic Index

To Get a General Idea of your AI:

Add the results of 1, 2 and 3 below together:

1.  SAT or ACT Index Number:

  • If using SAT scores to calculate AI, add reading and math scores and divide by 20
  • If using ACT scores to calculate AI, multiply the ACT Composite Score by 2.23

2.  The GPA Index Number (this index number used to be based on class rank)

The university has a conversion table to convert grade point average to an Academic Index number. The conversion can handle any conceivable grading scale, weighted or unweighted. A couple examples:

  • 3.5 (out of 4.0) unweighted yields 73 AI points,
  • 3.7 weighted is 71 points
  • 3.3 unweighted is 70 points
  • 3.0 unweighted is worth 67 points

3.  SAT or ACT Index Number from step one or SAT II Subject Tests:  Add your 2 best SAT II subject tests together and divide that total by 20.

Another article with valuable information about affording an Ivy League education:

Financial Aid Changes Game as Ivy Sports Teams Flourish by Bill Pennington

Sandy Aprahamian, Principal- EDNavigators LLC

 

Homework, Sleep, Habits

  Ghandi - HabitsEdutopia's blog post today,  Homework, Sleep, and the Student Brain was right in line with a recent discussion I had with my students - about what homework was like “back when I was in high school”…a book, a pencil, a notebook - no phone, internet or social media distractions…It was easier to go to bed by 11PM in high school, stay healthy and earn good grades.

The distractions technology presents to students today can not be eliminated.  Students need internet access to complete school assignments.  For today's student, time management and the ability to stay on task are essential skills for success. To ignore distractions, students need a positive Mindset and powerful habits.

Books I recommend that address these topics include:

Sandy Aprahamian, Independent Educational Consultant, EDNavigators, LLC