Posted in ACT, Education, Individualized Tutoring, SAT, SAT Test Prep, student, Studying, Uncategorized

ACT vs. SAT Reading Passages

There are many factors that can help a student determine which test they should take – the ACT or the SAT. Variables such as strengths, weaknesses, timing, or style can all play a role in making this important decision.

Perhaps you are a student who feels confident in your math skills, so you can handle whatever math questions these tests throw at you.  However, your reading is an area in which you could use some additional help.  The reading passages will be the issue that justifies your choice.

If that is the case then this post should prove beneficial.  We are going to breakdown the differences between the ACT and SAT reading passages in order to help you make the difficult decision of which test is the right test for you.

Number of Passages

The SAT has 5 reading passages while the ACT has 4 reading passages.

 

Number of Questions

Every test you take for the ACT will have a total of 40 questions with 10 questions per passage.

While overall, the SAT will always have 52 questions, the amount of questions per passage will vary.

 

Timing

How much time will you have to tackle the reading passages?

Overall, for the SAT you will have 65 minutes, which breaks down to 13 minutes per passage.

You will have 35 minutes for the ACT passage, which means 8 minutes and 24 seconds per passage.

 

Passage Types

On the ACT, the reading passages will include one of each of the following: Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science.   The Social Science and Natural Science passages tend to be more straightforward, and therefore less challenging.  While the Humanities and Prose Fiction passages require more analysis which lends towards more difficulty when reading these passages.  On occasion, one of these reading passages will be a paired passage.

On the SAT, the reading passages have one Literature passage, one History passage, one Social Studies passage (economics, Sociology, Psychology or another Social Studies passage), and two Science passages (there is a possibility that one of them will be a paired passage).  The difficulty level varies and very much depends on your familiarity with the subject and the complexity of the topic.

 

Question Types

The question types on the ACT will be the following: detail, words in context, generalization, cause and effect, inference, main idea, point of view, and except questions.

For the SAT, expect these question types: evidence, arguments, words in context, and synthesis (questions based on analyzing a graph).

 

Style

For the most part the reading passages you encounter on the ACT test are going to be more about what is actually in the passage.  However, this does mean that the reading passages in the ACT are going to be a little drier.

On the SAT test, the reading passages discuss more interesting topics.  But it will require that you dig deeper and analyze the passage for what the author is attempting to say rather than just what he is saying.

 

Challenge

The challenge with the ACT is time.  While the questions are more straightforward and the passages are more direct than the SAT test, you have significantly less time to read and answer the questions.  So if you struggle to read quickly, consider trying the SAT.

The struggle with the SAT is the level of critical thinking skills required to answer the reading passage questions.  If analysis is something that you find to be tough, try a practice ACT first to see if it fits your strengths.

 

Conclusion

Overall, both present their own unique set of challenges.  It really comes down to what type of student you are and an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.

Still not sure which test is for you?  Sign up for a diagnostic SAT and ACT test to get a breakdown of your score.  We will even set up a consultation with our SAT and ACT experts to help you figure out which test is the best fit for you.

act-vs-sat-reading-passages-iconographics

Posted in ACT, Child, children, Education, student, Uncategorized

ACT vs. SAT Math Sections

Whether you are an interested parent or prospective student, there have been many changes to the SAT and ACT tests, so it can be difficult to keep track of it all.  As the ACT and SAT Director for Oxford Tutoring, I want to break it down the differences between the ACT and SAT math sections to help you determine which test is right for you.  Without further delay, let’s begin!

 

Content

The ACT has 60 questions but the source of these questions comes from more areas of math.  Here is a chart for the ACT:

act-math-chart

The SAT has 58 questions and more than half of it is focused on algebra-based concepts.  Here is a chart of what percentage of each math subject can be found on the SAT.sat-math-chart

 Timing

The ACT has one big section with 60 questions and 60 minutes.  That means, to get it all done, on average, you only have 1 minute per question. This is quite a bit less than what you have on the SAT.

The SAT is divided into two math sections.  The first section requires you to complete 20 questions in 25 minutes, and the second section contains 38 questions to be finished in 55 minutes.  This gives you 1 minute and 15 seconds per question for the first section, and 1 minute and 30 seconds per question for the second section.

Order of Difficulty

The ACT always has the first 20 questions as easy, the next 20 are medium, and the last 20 are considered difficult.  Their questions are a lot more direct, and will look more similar to math questions seen in school.

The SAT, on the other hand, somewhat follows a pattern of difficulty with questions in the beginning generally, but not always, being easier than the questions at the end.  The majority of the questions on the SAT require strong reading and analysis skills, and then once you have figured out what the question is asking, then you can proceed to solve the problem.

Although the difficulty does not directly affect the scoring, it does help people plan on how much time to spend on a question.

Calculator Usage

For the ACT, you will be able to use your calculator for the entire math section.   So there will be some questions that require use of a calculator, but it is useful to remember that not every question will need it.

One of the reasons the SAT has two math sections is that the first one is a non-calculator section and the second one allows calculator utilization.  So, strong arithmetic and mental math skills are very helpful with this section since you cannot check your answers with a calculator.   It also requires you to manipulate formulas to make the mental math easier.

Answer Options

The ACT will always have 5 multiple choice options to choose from when answering.

The SAT has either 4 multiple choice options or free response where the student must write on the answer.

Formulas

The SAT also has few formulas given in the beginning of each math section, whereas the ACT does not provide any formulas.

Guessing Penalty

There is no guessing penalty for either test.

Final Verdict

Overall, students who are good problem solvers usually prefer the SAT compared to the ACT.  For them, it is easier to quickly solve the problem and it is less strain of a strain than the ACT.

An ideal candidate for the SAT will have covered math through Algebra 2, and likes riddles, or games like Sudoku.

Students who prefer more common math problems and have a diverse math background prefer the ACT because the questions are easier to process, and require more of the math skills than analytical skills.

An ideal candidate for the ACT will have covered math through Pre-calculus, and can recall formulas from previous math classes.

Want to make sure you find the test that is right for you?  Take a ACT or SAT diagnostic test at Oxford Tutoring.  (949) 681-0388.

Iconographic.jpg

David Lord

 

Meet the author: David Lord is the SAT and ACT Director and Math and Science Instructor at Oxford Tutoring Center in Orange County, California. He has helped hundreds of students achieve the SAT and ACT test scores they want and accepted into their desired college. He reaches his students through challenging them and asking questions to make sure they are absorbing the material they are being taught.

Posted in Child, classes, Courses, Education, Spanish, Spanish Tutoring, Uncategorized

Spotlight on Tom Beeman – Oxford Tutoring Tutor

written by Tom Beeman – Spanish tutor at Oxford Tutoring

Tutoring is a great experience for everyone involved in it.  For the student, it gives them the added help they need either to close the learning gaps or to further their knowledge outside of what is provided in the classroom.  But the positivity that comes from tutoring also applies to the tutor as well.  Having been a tutor at Oxford for almost 3 years I have experienced these joys first-hand.

As a high school teacher, I do my best to reach all my students, but with the large numbers in each class, it is difficult to meet the individual needs to each student.  However, tutoring gives me a great opportunity to spend a full hour just with one student focusing on the needs of only that student.  Tutoring Spanish gives me the opportunity not just to assist with completing any assignments the student has, but it gives me an opportunity to re-teach the material to increase long-term retention and application of the language outside the classroom.  It also allows me to provide additional resources for the student to use independently when he/she doesn’t have access to a teacher or tutor.

While I enjoy working with the student who comes in for a one-time session, my biggest satisfaction as a tutor comes from working with long-term students.  This gives me time to assess the students’ skills as well as their needs to be able to help them reach their end goal.  I’ve been fortunate to have a few students who I have been able to tutor over multiple school years.  This long-term tutoring has allowed me to get to know my students’ learning style to better cater my tutoring to meet their needs.  I have had the pleasure of seeing my students grow in their knowledge in the language and comfort level of using it as well.  It’s great when I see a student engaging in the target language without being prompted.  One example has to do with the difference between tennis vs. tennis shoes in Spanish.  The difference between the two is minimal and the first time I taught this to one of my students, it was a serious learning moment.  But over the course of time, it then became an inside joke between the two of us and one of us would bring it up any time sports-related vocabulary would appear.

But to me, being a tutor is not just about helping students with their academics.  It’s also about building a professional rapport with them to help with the whole person.  You get to know their favorite subjects, extracurricular activities they participate in at school, their college and career goals, etc.  Understanding their personalities allows me tailor how I tutor them so that they are learning in a way in which they understand best and they feel like they are being heard.  By helping them with their long-term goals, they become more enthusiastic about tutoring and are more likely to succeed.  It’s great when these students come back after they no longer need tutoring or have graduated from school and tell stories about how they were in a situation where they are able to communicate in Spanish.

For me, tutoring is a natural extension of my career as a teacher. I enjoy working with my tutoring students and seeing them grow as much as I do my classroom students.  One day, I hope they will see the value of tutoring and will become tutors themselves so that they can help others just as I have helped them.

About the Author: A credentialed teacher, Tom Beeman tutors Spanish 1 -3 and Spanish AP. He enjoys working one-on-one with his students to help them learn that it is possible to become fluent in a second language.  When he is not tutoring, he enjoys spending time with his friends and attending teacher conferences to improve his skills as a teacher and a tutor.

Posted in children, Education, SAT, SAT Test Prep, student, Uncategorized

What To Do 24 Hours Before the SAT Test

You’ve spent weeks, even months reading and analyzing passages, practicing your math formulas, and writing more essays than you’ve written in your entire High School career.  The test is tomorrow morning.  Now what?  It seems like you should be doing something.  After all, this test is a factor in determining what college you are going to get into.  But what should you be doing for the last 24 hours before the SAT test?

The last 24 hours count just as much as the any of the other hours you’ve spent studying for one of the hardest tests you’ll face in high school.  So it is important to take advantage of  this last bit of time to come to the test fully rested, prepared and confident that you have done all you can to conquer the demanding SAT test.

The following checklist will help you utilize the last 24 hours efficiently and effectively.

#1 – Take a Study Break

This piece of advice usually comes as a surprise to the students who have heard “study, study, study” for the last several months.  In fact, at Oxford Tutoring, we encourage all of our students to put in outside hours of work, instead of relying solely on the time they spend preparing with us.  They need to put in the work on their own time as well.

But the day before the test is not the time to do this. The day before the test is the time to give your mind a break.  You’ve put in the work already.  Trying to cram in more information will most likely lead to anxiety, a challenge that can be extremely difficult to overcome.  So trust that you are prepared, and set the studying aside.

#2 – Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Seems like common sense, but it can be easy to make the mistake of not getting a restful night of sleep.  Maybe you think it will be more productive to study all night.  Or perhaps you just simply cannot turn that Xbox game off.  Most likely, your nerves are taking over and making it difficult to fall asleep.

If that is the case, there are a number of techniques to try and set your mind at ease.  One possibility is counting backwards from 100 by 7’s.  Or focus on the different muscles by tensing them for 10 seconds and the relaxing them.  Start with your feet and work your way up all the way to your head.  What both of these exercises do is get your mind off of your worries and onto the task at hand.  Your mind cannot focus on both.  Often times, you’ll find yourself simply drifting off to sleep because you’ve taken your mind off of the anxiety.

#3 – Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Now it’s the morning of the SAT test. Time for a healthy breakfast.  We are not talking about Fruit Loops here.  We mean something substantial – protein and fruit are always a safe option.  Whatever it is, make sure you are giving your body the energy it will need for the long test ahead.

#4 – What to Bring

Make sure you bring all of the following:

  • A calculator
  • Two #2 pencils
  • A healthy snack
  • A light sweater
  • Your ID
  • You admission ticket
  • A wristwatch
  • A water bottle

# 5 – Get to the Site Early

You do not want to arrive to the test rushed, sweaty, and stressed after sprinting to the classroom because you are running behind.  Make sure to give yourself enough time to arrive at the site at least 15 minutes early. That way you can find where you need to be, check in, and get settled.  This will promote a sense of calm that is necessary for taking the SAT test.

#6 – Take the Test with Confidence!

You have studied; you have worked hard; you know this material.  You are ready.  Trust the tools you have acquired and the information you have learned.  It’s time to conquer the SAT!

Oxford Tutoring

Want to take the test with confidence?  Check out SAT private tutoring or SAT courses with Oxford Tutoring.  We are here to help you succeed! (949) 681-0388

What to do 24 hours before the SAT Test Iconographic.png

 

Posted in children, Education, essay, student, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Tools

How to Write Stronger Essays

One of the most common struggles that most of our English Language Arts students face is writing a strong essay.  And I say strong essay, because a lot of people can write an essay.  But what about the ones that effectively communicates your argument, is in an organized fashion, and is well-written?  That is a different story, or rather a different essay.

Check out the following tips to get yourself on the right track towards writing the types of essays that will make your paper shine!


Start Early

the-scenery-679011_1920

Seems simple enough, right? However, many students tend to overlook this one relatively easy fix.  Maybe it is because they are overwhelmed with all their other school work.  Perhaps, they are intimidated by essays and put off starting as long as possible. Either way, starting early enough sets you up for many of the other steps that will support writing strong essays.  So, give yourself at least 2 weeks to work on your essay.  Your grade will thank you for it!

Write Drafts

notes-514998_1920.jpg

Don’t expect to get it all done in one draft.  Your paper will need editing, revising, and rewriting.  Even the best writer does not expect to write his masterpiece all at once.  They’ll send their original draft to friends, colleagues, and make sure to go through their writing themselves.  A well-written piece, whether it is essays, poems, or narratives, is going to need several drafts before turning in the final assignment.

Read It Aloud

microphone-1716069_1920.jpg

Speaking of editing, a great way to check for spelling errors, word choice, or confusing sentences, is to read your essay out loud.  You will hear things that your eyes will pass over while reading.  Reading your essay out loud to yourself is a great way to catch little issues you might have otherwise missed.

Take Some Time Away

favorite-place-1674986_1920

An often under-utilized tool for writing essays, is to give yourself some time away from the piece you are working on.  Sometimes, we just get too bogged down by what we are working on.  There is something we are trying to communicate, but cannot seem to get across.  Try stepping away from what you are writing for an hour, a day, or even a couple of days. It is surprising how much a little space and perspective can do for your writing.

Pay Attention to Word Choice

collaboration-1106196_1280

Many students seem to find a word to describe what they are talking about, and tend to use it over and over again.  This is a waste of the expansive English language.  There are too many ways to communicate through the written word to stick to just a few descriptive words.  So eliminate repetitive words and replace them with other words you find in the thesaurus.

Write a Clear Thesis Statement

pen-631321_1920-1

Your thesis statement is an essential component of your essay.  Think of it like a map.  It is going to not only tell your reader where you are headed, but it will give you the direction you need as a writer.

To write a well-written thesis statement, remember A + B + CA is your topic; B is your opinion on that topic; and C is your points of support.  Use this formula to write a convincing thesis, and use it as a guide from which to write your entire essay.

Read

book-863418_1280.jpg

One of the best ways to become a stronger writer is to read those who write well.  This is true for both fiction and non-fiction writing.  Go get your nose in a book, your writing will reflect what you read.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the many tools available to help your essay writing skills.  And essay writing is important to master because you will find yourself having to write many essays throughout both your high school and college career.

Call Oxford Tutoring for help applying these tools or to have one of our essay experts take a look at your essay. (949) 681-0388

Posted in children, Education, K-12 Tutoring, school, student, Tutoring, Tutoring Sessions, Uncategorized

Students Ask the Darnedest Things

In the last few minutes of a session, I had a student hit me with this question, just out of the blue:

Does anyone have one googol dollars?

For those who aren’t familiar with “googol”, it’s actually not a misspelling of everyone’s favorite verbed search engine. It’s this very large number:
10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
… or, with commas:
10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
… because those commas, of course, make all the difference.

It’s probably for the better I wasn’t taking a sip of water when this question came up, since I almost did the dry version of the classic spit-take, but I caught myself in time, paused, and instead said, “… Ok, well, let’s have some fun with this.”

1-zillion-dollars
Hint? You’re going to have about as much luck cashing one of these…

The average dollar bill weighs 1 gram. For ease of transport, dollar bills come in “straps”, or bundles of 100. We’re going to do ourselves a couple favors and say (1) that we’re only going to use $100 bills, to minimize the number of dollar bills we will have to create, and (2) the paper strips holding the straps magically have no mass. Sure, this is entirely wrong, but, trust me, we’re going to need all the mass we can have available for $100 bills.

 

According to the US Federal Reserve, there were 38.1 billion currency notes in circulation in 2015. While this doesn’t just mean dollar bills (it could include other valid notes of value), this provides us our first estimate: If we convert all of these notes up to $100… we’re nowhere close. That would give us $3.81 trillion, which gets us a paltry 3.81 x 10^-88 percent of the way there. In numbers?
0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000381%

This clearly won’t do, not if we’re trying to become the richest person ever known, and quite possibly in past, present, and future, at that. So, let’s do something mathemagical here.

Our home, good old Planet Earth, has a mass of 5.972 × 10^24 kg, or in grams like our money, 5.972 × 10^27 g. I’ll spare you writing out the big number, but that number, in grams, is also exatcly how many $100 bills we could have if we could turn every single atom of the Earth into $100 bills (this is where we put the “magic” in “mathemagical” – this would take ridiculous amounts of energy that we’re going to magically ignore the need for right now). By doing so, we get a grand total of $5.972 × 10^29. We also now lack for a place to store all of these $100 bills (one of the downsides of no longer having a planet), but I’m sure we can just grab a spare black hole for a wallet. Unfortunately, we need 70-and-a-half more zeroes, so we’re going to need some more mass…

… so we’re going to use the entire Solar System!

But it turns out this doesn’t actually help too much more. The Sun, all the planets, every moon, and all sorts of other objects like asteroids and comets and other items (oh my!) comes to a collective mass of 1.991 x 10^33 grams, or $1.991 x 10^35 dollars, and we’re still just under 65 zeroes too short. Can we go bigger?

Of course! Our Solar System isn’t just floating around in space. It sits on a far arm of the Milky Way galaxy, which has a mass of 1.153 x 10^45 grams. I’m going to guess now though, my savvy reader, that you’ve caught on to the pattern – the number of dollars is two more than the number on 10^##. At $1.153 x 10^47 dollars, we’re just under half the number of digits!

And this is where we reach the point of impossibility. Best estimates state that there are on the order of 100 billion galaxies, and even if we take all of these into account, we’re going to need some of that as-yet-undiscovered dark matter to get things to work – converting every single galaxy, with generous estimates, only gets us to approximately $1.153 x 10^58 dollars. To put this titanic number into perspective, compared to our $1 googol? Halfway to $1 googol would be $5 x 10^99.

At this point, it’s safe to say we’re not going to get $1 googol. If we somehow could get this to work though, we wouldn’t have a planet to put it on. We might be able, somehow, to arrange in space, but this much money just might make for the strangest galaxy of them all…

Money Galaxy.png
Money Galaxy

 

About the Author: Jason Orens – a Math and Computer Science Instructor, has been tutoring with Oxford Tutoring for over nine years.  Utilizing the student’s existing knowledge and a touch of humor, Jason strives to remove students mental barriers between themselves and the difficult, technical materials.  He combines his years of tutoring experience and expertise in the fields of Math and Computer Science to give his students the tools they need to succeed in these challenging classes.

Posted in Book, Child, children, Education, ELA, family, Homework Help, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Reading, Uncategorized

4 Steps to Develop Comprehension and Analysis Skills at Home

The world of education centers on using new research and experience to identify what students need to learn and how teachers can present that information better.  While this system has been trusted to help students reach their academic goals in the classroom, what are students and parents supposed to do if they feel that more can be done to enable students to reach their goals?

Many parents have come to Oxford Tutoring with that very question, and there are times when instruction with our trained and knowledgeable tutors is warranted, if not necessary, especially since the Common Core has changed the way students’ skills are evaluated.  However, when it comes to improvement in English Language Arts, there are a number of activities that are effective, free, and fun which students and parents can work on at home.

The Challenge

The most common request our English Language Arts instructors encounter from students is help with comprehending and analyzing plots and arguments.  The interesting thing about most of these requests is that the real problem is that they are simply unfamiliar with explaining what they know.

Prior to the last couple years, students were only asked to summarize, or repeat back, what they read, but the new requirements ask them to explain themselves.  So, the problem isn’t that they don’t know how to comprehend or analyze, it’s that they aren’t being taught to explain their findings.

Given this revelation, let’s give students some credit for the skills they do have and help them learn to explain their ideas effectively.

The Usual Fix

Most of the time, when a student comes to us because his or her reading and writing scores are less than impressive, we begin by asking the student to read a passage and answer specific questions about what was read.  Then, to the tutor’s surprise, the student answers most, if not all, of the questions correctly.

This is surprising to us because the student asked for help with something they already know how to do.  So, the tutor ponders the situation for a moment and realizes that the student actually needs help explaining how he or she got those answers.

Thus begins the process of guiding the student through each step of his or her internal analysis process and making it an external process with spoken and written words.  The trick is helping the student realize that once they’re finished analyzing the passage, the hard part is over.

An Alternative Fix

I must admit, I love teaching students to comprehend and analyze texts.  But I also think that students can try to develop their own strategies and processes without my help.  Such an endeavor could even be entertaining and might even begin a lifelong fondness for thinking critically.

The entertaining aspect comes from the fact that students are not limited in their choices of practice materials.  One might think that we have to use the same texts provided in English and Social Studies classrooms, but that is just not the case.  A more effective option is to use a medium that truly engages the student, and this is easily accommodated when dealing with only one student.

Therefore, the first step in the process of developing comprehension and analysis skills is getting the student to identify the material that will be most engaging.  For example, because novels can take so long to get interesting, I like to begin by discussing the student’s favorite movie.  Yes, I know our goal is to improve our skills with texts, but, in the beginning, the most important task is getting started – just finding an idea the student finds worthy of putting forth effort to figure out.  Even if the student isn’t a movie/television aficionado, the initial and most engaging themes and plots are guaranteed to already be present in the student’s everyday life.

The Actual Practice   

So, you’ve decided to conduct some at-home practice, and you know what topic(s) your child is truly interested in.  Now, let’s talk about some activities that can help him or her learn to comprehend and analyze the content and then present his or her findings in an effective way.   If I write out the process in a list, you might get intimidated and shy away from this whole process, so I’ll start by explaining the core activities and then we’ll get into the process.

 

workplace-1245776_1920Step 1: Oral Exercises

The most entertaining activities are the oral activities in which you’ll just talk to the student about one of his or her interests.  That is, you’ll strike up a conversation with him or her about the thing that he or she really wants to talk to you about.  Let’s face it; we are talking about young people here.  If you give them an excuse, they’ll talk all day and night, and you are going to give them the perfect excuse.

For example, if your student is an avid Netflix user, strike up a conversation about what he or she is currently binge-watching.  The goal of this simple sounding activity is to get the student to think critically about what they’ve experienced and decide what is important enough to be included in the explanation and what is not.  Then they will have to analyze the content in order to explain how each of those “important” scenes/episodes fits together into the overall plot of the story.

I know; just reading all of this makes it feel like a college level activity, but the student will want to do it and will enjoy it immensely.  And you the “instructor” will have to do very little to make it work; just show interest in what the student finds interesting.  The only challenging aspect of this first activity is keeping the student on track – focused on the same topic throughout the entire conversation.

 

light-bulb-1246043_1920.jpgStep 2: The Socratic Method

The next activity in the process is applying the infamous Socratic Method.  You may be familiar with this form of questioning from your own educational experiences or from modern media’s distortion of it through the angry college professor’s lecture.

However, at heart, the Socratic Method and our main goal in this second type of activity is based on trying to truly understand what the student likes about the topic he or she has chosen to discuss.  What makes him or her so passionate about it?  Why is it worth talking about?  The difference between this activity and the previous is that you are more of a participant now.  In the first activity your goal was simply to keep them talking about the same thing.  Now, you want to understand that thing, game, sport, skateboarding trick, movie, whatever.  It’s kind of like the game children like to play with adults, where they ask you a question and then keep asking “why?”  It’s hilarious and frustrating when the kids do it because there’s no point except to keep you talking.

For us though, there is a point – deep and true understanding, not only of the thing itself, but of the student’s relationship with and to it.  You will probe for more and deeper understanding through a back and forth conversation that tests and then expands your and the student’s conception of the topic.  To make this work, you’ll want to channel one part: that annoying kid who asks “why” all the time, one part: wise person who says, “hmm” and “that’s interesting,” and one part devil’s advocate who challenges what is known by pushing the idea to the extreme and taking the idea and standing it on its head.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  I thought you’d think so.

Once you’ve completed these two oral activities a few times, the student will become accustomed to thinking critically about the things he or she cares about.  Then, the student will be ready to start writing about what he or she has been thinking about.

 

coffee-1128136_1920Step 3: Written Exercises

The first stage of getting comfortable with writing about what’s on our minds is based on the tried and true method called Journaling.  The great thing about Journaling is that there are no rules, so you can’t mess up.  For this to work, the student need only put pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Ask him or her to fill a page with text about a single topic.  These pages will not be subject to reading or critiquing, just ask the student for a quick glance so you can see that writing took place.

The reason this activity is so informal is that the goal is to get the student to put more than a single thought or sentence into the writing process.  His or her teachers are expecting more than a yes or no answer and more than just a sentence or two in response.  Asking a student to fill a page with text, even if it’s not the most eloquent text, helps him or her to get comfortable with putting ideas together and building on or expounding on an idea.  Just give the student some time and a comfortable place to work and watch the ideas trickle and then flood onto the page.

Once the student is able to fill a page with text, it’s time to move on to actual essay writing practice.

Instructional/Informational Essays

Before you get too excited and feel the need to remind me that I said this would be easy and fun or that you might not be an English teacher, let me assure you that my use of the term essay in this passage is rather loose.  I, and you, don’t want your student running for the hills at the very mentioning of these activities.  Given that, let’s think of essays as writing down thoughts in an organized fashion.  Just as with the prior activities, we are focusing on helping the student think critically and fully about an idea, not on the technical correctness of their expression.

When presenting this activity, remind the student that you are not asking him or her to think up anything new.  He or she will have already informed you about the basics in the first oral activity.  You both will have thought about the ins and outs and finer points of the idea through the Socratic Method.  He or she will have already written about it in the Journaling activity.  All you’ll be asking for now is an “organized” presentation of the information.  In the Journaling activity the student was asked to fill the page, so there was no organization, just thoughts recorded as quickly as they entered the brain.

Now we want to organize those thoughts into an intelligible sequence.  If the idea the student wants to express is about explaining how to drive a car, help him or her put the steps in the proper order.  Should he or she write about the finer points of shifting the car into fifth-gear before putting on the seatbelt and starting the ignition? No.  That’s the kind of organizational awareness we are going to be looking for.  If you knew nothing about the topic, was the information presented in a way that would make it possible for you to understand what the student was trying to explain?  That’s it.

Neither you nor the student need worry about effectiveness of the hook or if the imagery was descriptive enough for you to feel like you were there in the car hammering the gas pedal while simultaneously feathering the clutch and yanking the E-brake hard enough to make the car Drift through the S-curves like Vin Diesel in a “Fast and Furious” movie.  That’s my job.  You just need to help the student present all of the really important parts and put them in order so that you can follow along.  The same goes for an essay where the student is trying to present his or her opinion about something.

In these analytical or critical essays, ask yourself if you can identify the student’s position or feelings about the issue and why he or she feels that way.  Think of it like watching a story on the news or reading an article; don’t worry about how well it was presented as long as you get the important parts.

books-1605416_1920.jpgLevel 4: It’s the same, but different

At this level the student will make the transition from working with an idea that he or she is completely familiar with to an article or novel that is new to him or her.  This is the stage where you and your child can work together through each of the first three level’s activities.  You will work together to build the student’s comprehension and analysis skills as partners.

In the previous activities, the student was teaching you something only known to him or her.  Now, you will work together to build each other’s understanding through a genuine partnership.  You will read the text at a similar pace and you will think about and discuss the text with the same level of unfamiliarity and newness.  By completing each of the first three level’s activities with a new text, you will be able to operate from the perspective of a peer rather than a know-it-all teacher.  There will be no wrong answers, no errors, just two people’s unique perspectives on a singular topic.

Keeping It Real and Really Fun

The first thing the more pragmatic of you might think about is, “How long is this going to take?”  While it is a good question, the answer depends on how motivated you and the student are.  Ideally, you could complete one activity every other day, but I know that life and complicated schedules can get in the way.  So, in the end, this can be as formal and regulated as you desire.

You can work with a set schedule so that you and the student can be fully aware and accountable for completing the activities, or you can play it a bit looser and focus on the oral and journaling activities that can be done during car rides and lazy weekends.  You know your student best, so you will likely know how best to motivate him or her to start this process as well as what it will take to get you both to stick with it and keep practicing.

My most fervent hope and strenuous recommendation is to keep it fun at all costs.  Save the “work” aspects for the classroom teachers and us here at Oxford.

 

Meet the Author: Alex Claude is an SAT and ACT ELA Director and an ELA tutor at Oxford Tutoring.  He takes the time to get to know his students so he can learn and apply how to best teach them.  Alex teaches his students how to effectively communicate through writing, and how to analyze informational texts and novels.

 

Posted in Book, Child, children, Education, family, Parent, Parent and Child, Parent Help, Parenting, Reading, student, Uncategorized

Thank You, Jim Trelease! – The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

Picture copy.jpg
My son, Matt, reading to my four grandchildren.

Reading aloud to my four children is one of the fondest memories I have of their growing up years.  They are all adults now with their own families and busy lives, but I have wonderful memories of cuddling on the couch with them, reading stories together, watching their eyes light up as we traveled to other lands and other times through story.

As a teacher, reading to my children seemed a natural part of the parenting process.  Even when they were babies, they would sit on my lap as we enjoyed books like Pat the Bunny.  As they grew older, we graduated to story books.  Some were fairy tales, some were Bible stories, but all were chances to bond together over printed word. They had their favorites that they asked to be read to them over and over and over. We went to our local library’s story time and listened to books read aloud that we would then books that we checked out to take home to enjoy again and again.

However, it’s a common belief that when a child begins reading on his or her own, there is no longer a need for parents to read aloud to their children.  I confess that I held that same view until I met Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. He was advertised as a guest speaker at our local library.  The title of his book sounded intriguing, so I went to hear what he had to say.

I am so glad that I did.

Jim Trelease’s idea that reading aloud can and should continue long after a child is an independent reader powerfully impacted both my parenting approach to reading as well as my own teaching  philosophy.  His belief was that children will be excited about reading if we are excited about reading.  They will think it’s fun if we think it’s fun. That evening, Trelease read aloud to us, an adult audience, the Bernard Waber classic, Ira Sleeps Over. He read it with energy, enthusiasm and wonderful vocal animation.  That’s all it took.  I was hooked!

Read-alouds became a fixed part of our family routine.  We cried together through books like Where the Red Fern Grows, laughed together through books like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and experienced the  thrills and adventure of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.  I am happy to report that I have raised children who love to read.

Now, as a grandmother, I am enjoying reading some of those same familiar stories to my six grandchildren.  What is even more rewarding to me is that my children are reading to their children; the torch has been passed!

I have never forgotten the way Jim Trelease closed his evening talk, reading from a poem by Stickland Gillian, titled “The Reading Mother.”

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

About the Author: Kathy H. is a tutor at Oxford Tutoring who enjoys tutors because she can make a difference in the lives of her students.  Her goal is to make learning fun by teaching to each student’s unique method of learning.  For fun, she likes to read, binge-watch TV shows on Netflix, serve at her church, and spend time with her grandchildren.

Posted in college, College Admissions, College Planning, Education, student, Uncategorized

College Consulting and Readiness Services with Oxford Tutoring

With college applications due in November, it is important to make sure that you are presenting your best self to the college of your dreams. This where Oxford Tutoring can help!  We have helped our students get into UCLA, UCI, USC, UC Berkley, UCSD, UCB and more.  Come receive college consulting services in any of the following areas:

Planning

This is an ideal stage for 8th grade and up.  With competition for top colleges as fierce as they are, it is never too early to start planning your high school pathway.  This includes assistance in deciding which high school classes to take, what extracurricular activities to participate in, and what volunteer work to choose.

Advising

Once you are on the college-bound road, there are difficult decisions that crop up along the way.  For example, if you are struggling with an AP class and do not believe you are going to pass the test, should you drop it or stick it out?  This is where our college consulting services can help.  Receive advising for GPA management, course evaluation, and difficult decisions.

Applying

The application is your introduction, the first impression you make on your application reader.  And we all know that first impressions are hard to change, which is why it is imperative that your application makes you shine.  We can help with UC and private school applications, determine essential content that needs to be included, and address any lapses or gaps in your application.

Writing

Many tutoring centers can help you write a personal statement that is well-written and grammatically correct, but this is only part of the requirement.  The most important job of your personal statements is to make sure that your writing matches up with the self you presented in the application.  At Oxford Tutoring, our college consulting services can help you do just that with personal statement help, making sure you engage the reader, and then crafting a polished essay.

Our College Consultant

Bob Oxford PicOur college consultant, Bob Trudeau, is one of a kind, as an application reader for UCLA and UCI, he offers a vital perspective on college applications.  Furthermore, he has more than twenty-five years of teaching experience and understands how college admissions officers read and score student applications.

By applying his knowledge of the 2,000 plus applications he scores each year with his skills in writing and grammar, Bob can help each student present him or herself as vividly and professionally as possible. Additionally, he also helps mom and dad make the tough planning and advising decisions necessary to excel academically.

Having earned his Bachelor’s degree in English and with a teaching credential from UCI, Bob is also qualified to tutor all high school English courses, high school Spanish, ACT and SAT English, and high school history.

Want to Learn More?

Attend our informational sessions “Coffee, Cookies, and College.”

These sessions, led by Bob Trudeau, discuss what college admission officers are looking for and how to plan for your high school pathway.

Bob details what it takes to be a competitive college applicant and stand out from the crowd.

Sessions will be held on the following dates:

October 4th of 6th @ 7:00 pm

Novemeber 1st or 3rd @ 7:00 pm

February 7th or 9th @7:00 pm

March 7th or 9th @ 7:00 pm

Call us today to sign up for “Coffee, Cookies, and College” or receive college consulting services. (949) 681-0388.