Thursday, December 16, 2010

Who is the Smartest?

Highly recommended reading: a recent article in the New York times regarding the correlation between intelligence and grades. By all means check it out.

webimageaforgood.jpgIt seems that some students are rewarded with good grades based on compliance, such as in turning work in on time, writing legibly, sitting in front of the class, etc. However, come test time, these students sometimes falter.

In contrast, students that are less compliant and perhaps only earn average grades seem to perform better on tests. Interesting stuff.

But don't take my word for it. Read it right here.

Some major questions arise as to grading procedure, student performance and the future of education in this country.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When is it Too Early to Prepare for the S.A.T.?

When is it too early to prepare for the S.A.T.? Never.

It's never too early to prepare for the S.A.T. Any preparation is better than no preparation with one significant caveat: do not create more stress.

Stress is the absolute enemy of successful S.A.T. test-taking. Stress punishes those that take just about any standardized test.

Sure, there is a small segment of the population that strives on stress. If you are one of those people then kudos to you.

For the rest of us, stress creates major mental blockages that results in poor test performance. I've seen it too often to not believe in its devastating effects.

The best way to avoid stress is to prepare in advance. The more time you have to prepare, the better you will perform. Only you know how much time you need. Some students can prepare in a week, others may need a year and yet others may need several years.

The bottom line is that it is never too early. Get going on a study guide, check out to register for the question of the day, or invest in another study tool like vocabulary flash cards or something similar.

I usually recommend at least six months of preparation. Take two or three months to prepare and take a practice test (or sit for a real test, but call it practice just to get yourself a benchmark score). After the practice test, take another two to three months to hone your skills and then take the test for real. If you're still not achieving your desired score, try again one more time but keep in mind that after the third time your score will not move very much. All things being equal, you will see the biggest increase from the first to the second time you take the test. After that, only small improvements are most common.

So it's never too early to start preparing. Just don't cram the night before. Cramming creates stress and stress will punish you.

If you want the best score possible, start early and often. Start with ten minutes a day, then increase to 30 minutes a day and soon you'll be primed for the 4 hour marathon that is the S.A.T.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

S.A.T. Boot Camp: November 20-21

Sign up today for the next S.A.T. Boot Camp scheduled for November 20-21.

Boot Camp takes place both Saturday and Sunday from 8:30am to 1:30pm on the campus of the Stevenson School.

Get a personalized S.A.T. Game Plan and Study Plan with the CROSSWALK Boot Camp.

Call or email today for more information: 831-708-8867

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits

Excellent article in the New York Times regarding study habits. Families, students and educators: read here if you haven't already.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two Secrets to a Better Essay

Back to School time means essay writing time. My guess is that most students, regardless of level, will be assigned some essay topic about your summer in the next coming weeks. For primary grades it might be a short paragraph about your summer. For secondary grades it might be about summer reading.

Regardless, start your school year with the two secrets to a better essay:

1) Make Your Point Clear: next time you are faced with an essay, think about who will read your essay. Put yourselves in their shoes and ask, "what number one point do I want the reader to understand?" Also known as your thesis, your main point should be very clear from the first sentence to the last. The worst type of essay is the one where the reader asks herself, "what did I just read?" Ouch! Ensure that your reader will walk away from your essay understanding your point very clearly. If you are writing about your summer vacation, make it clear how you spent your vacation. Was it fun? Boring? Short? Long? Whatever it was, make your point as clear as day. If you are writing on deeper subjects, like your summer reading, make sure your main point is the most obvious argument or statement in the essay. It never hurts to repeat your main point several times in a given piece.

2) Use Concrete Examples: I wrote about how a good essay is a "C" in a previous post. In this example, C was for concrete. The more concrete your essay, the more powerful the message. Trying to communicate that your summer was boring? Well, it's one thing to say it was boring. It's another thing to describe how your mind endlessly idled in a holding pattern while channel surfing through Judge Judy reruns on afternoon television programming. Or if you need to argue a point from a summer reading book, make sure you pull actual evidence from your story to paint a concrete picture of your point. For example, if you want to argue that Animal Farm is an allegory for the Russian Revolution, then use excerpts from the book to specifically connect actions and descriptions of Napoleon the pig to similar actions and descriptions of Stalin.

If you make your point clear and use concrete examples, your essay writing will drastically improve. Sure there are other things you can work on--like grammar, structure and vocabulary--but if you start with a clear point supported with concrete examples, your Back to School essays might cause your teacher to think you spent all summer studying!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Secret to Reading Comprehension

It's no wonder that so much emphasis is placed on reading comprehension in school. Comprehending a passage is crucial to academic, professional and personal success.

For this reason, standardized tests place great weight on reading comprehension. In the SAT alone, the Passage-Based Reading questions account for almost 30% of the entire test, including Math! There are 48 Passage-Based Reading questions out of 171 total SAT questions.

So, how do you improve your reading comprehension?

Two words: read actively.

Reading actively means asking yourself questions while you are reading. The most important question to ask is, what's the point? In other words, what is the primary purpose of this article/passage/book?

The more you ask yourself this question as you read the more you will force yourself to comprehend what you are reading. In doing so you should be able to determine if you are reading something informational or something persuasive or perhaps even expository.

It's not complicated. You just need to apply a little diligence to your reading by asking (and answering) some key questions.

In addition to the question about the purpose, consider answering these questions:

>> What is the tone/attitude of the author?
>> How does the author's choice of style help the article/passage/book?
>> What action, if any, does the author want the reader to take?

Another way to read actively is to underline key parts of a passage. I generally stay away from highlighters because a pen or pencil gives you much more freedom to underline, circle, write notes in the margin and more. For example, I usually draw a box around any new vocabulary words so I can look them up and write their definitions in the margin. This can be hard to do with a highlighter alone. The process takes a little extra time, but the more you do it the more words you learn and the more your comprehension will improve.

Parents, you too can help your kids read actively. Ask them the same questions as above or check their reading for good notes in the margins.

Reading comprehension is key to success on many levels. So start reading actively today!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Stay Fresh During the Summer

In 3rd Grade, I struggled with Math. I did fine in most other subjects, but for some reason my performance in Math was not up to par. So the summer before I started 4th Grade, my mother purchased some Math workbooks for me. Math workbooks soon became the dread of my summer and predictably, Math became unenjoyable.

Summer is a time to refresh the brain, get outdoors and take a break from school. However, with so much pressure to perform academically, it is a good idea to keep the brain learning. Many parents--just like my mother--want their children to keep working on their academics all summer.

The challenge is maintaining the balance between productivity and enjoyment. Force your child to do Math activities all summer and she might end up dreading Math. Forget any Math activities altogether for your child and she might not be prepared for the school year. So how do you stay fresh over the summer without overdoing it?

Try these three things:

1) Keep it Fun: whatever subject that you or your child needs to improve/maintain over the summer, make sure the activities are fun. Games can be cool regardless of the age. Help your son or daughter enjoy learning, even in difficult subject matters, with interactive play. Think your child is too old for that? Think again. Even older students enjoy a friendly competition with Flash Cards. Another good element to games: a reward system. Keep things fun with milestones and checkpoints. For example, if a student reads one book (and they can write or give you a summary), they earn 30 extra minutes for video games.

2) Expose the Real World: many students fail to recognize the real world applications of what they are learning. How many times have your kids asked you, "why do I need to study a foreign language?" Or, "who cares about graphing functions?" In this case, summer is a great time to showcase how classroom learning translates into real world experiences. Talk to your child about how you use what you learned in school. And if you aren't convincing enough, take your kids somehwere where English is not the primary language (like a restaurant) or find someone that can communicate to your child why Math is useful (An aunt that is an architect? A neighbor that charts statistical trends?).

3) Let the Child Choose: letting your child choose how to continue to study during summer is a great way to create accountability and ownership. To be most successful, a parent must establish some boundaries that they would enforce. For example, if you want to improve a child's reading comprehension, let them pick a book. You would have final say in order to avoid your kids thinking that graphic novels would improve their vocabulary, but if they choose the book then they are more likely to enjoy the reading experience.

Staying fresh over the summer is crucial to academic success, so much so that many schools are moving to year round modules. Until this change becomes universal, you are in charge of your child's learning for the summer. So keep it fun, expose the real world and let your child choose how they want to continue to learn.

Just try and avoid using force. Using force may result in the exact opposite of your intentions.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Routinely Boring = Predictable Performance

Ah, routines. Aren't they boring?

A routine might be boring but it is the path towards success.

We learn early in Kindergarten that routines are a key component to learning. A consistent time and place for each and every activity creates a predictable and stable learning environment. If Circle Time happens at 8:30 every morning on the Alphabet Rug, then students are prepared to share. If a visual schedule is hanging in the classroom, students can anticipate and prepare for the next steps. If transitions between activities are managed consistently then children will smoothly move from one endeavor to the next. It’s all about the routine!

Success after Kindergarten is no different: set a routine and you establish a predictable and stable learning environment. Create a time and place for your study activities and your performance will become predictable. Whether you are preparing for a test, a project or something else, set up a routine for success.

And don't forget, just because you set a routine doesn’t mean you cannot adjust things over time. In fact, this is the beauty of a routine. Since you establish a predictable set of activities, you can adjust the activities to achieve a desired outcome. However, if you don’t have a set schedule, then there is nothing to adjust.

So don’t be afraid to alter your routine. Just make sure you establish a routine in the first place. This may be a bit of a challenge particularly during the summer, but if you want to improve your performance in school then you need to establish a routine. Boring, but predictable.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Most Productive 3 Seconds

Here's a good test-taking tip that you can use on just about any timed test: when you are reading the question, take an extra three seconds to really understand what is being asked.

I frequently see students rush right into an answer without fully understanding the question. Not knowing what is being asked can have devastating consequences.

For multiple choice questions, if you don't spend a little extra time to confirm the question, you can easily fall into a trap.

On essays, if don't make sure you know the prompt, you might write off topic and receive a zero. Ouch!

So take just three seconds each time you have a question. Restate the question in your own words and make sure you understand what is being asked.

This strategy alone will keep you on task and you will avoid the common traps and pitfalls on both standardized and teacher-created tests. Three seconds is not much but it may be the most productive three seconds you spend on a test.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why "C" is a Great Essay

Which of the following arguments is most convincing?

A: Deception is bad.
B: Deception is bad because it is dishonest.
C: Deception is bad because when the dishonesty is revealed, real people are deeply impacted like those that lost their life savings when Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme collapsed.

Of course “C” is clearly more convincing. Why? Because “C” uses a very concrete example. “A” is too vague. “B” is better but it is still a bit abstract.

If you want to make your essays more convincing, shoot for “C” as in concrete. The number one way to make your essays more convincing is to use concrete examples. This is true on standardized test essays like the S.A.T. as well as essays for school assignments.

So for your next essay, lose the abstract and get concrete!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Last SAT Class Before June Test!

CROSSWALK is presenting one final SAT Weekend Course before the June SAT test.

Here are the details:

When?: May 15-16, 8:30am-1:30 pm
Where?: Pebble Beach (on the campus of the Stevenson School, classroom TBD)
How Much?: SAVE 50% when you reserve your spot and pay in April. Also ask about our 2-for-1 special!

For more information, call 831-70-TUTOR (831-708-8867)

If you need an introduction to the SAT, key strategies on how to take the test or a refresher course on what will boost your score, then sign up today!

Boost your score in one weekend. Set up a Study Plan and a Game Plan exclusively from CROSSWALK.

References from CROSSWALK students and parents available upon request.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Optimal Approach to Homework

Failing to plan is planning to fail, right? Well, same goes for homework. Without a solid plan to approach homework, you may as well prepare for the worst.
In a recent session with a student, we reviewed the optimal approach to homework. This particular student has 5 subjects and about 2-3 hours of homework a night. With so much to manage we discussed a three step approach that has yielded fantastic results. Here is the approach:

1) Use a Planner: the planner I recommend may be a bit old school but it is very useful. The days of the week are listed across the top with the subjects along the side in a basic table format. Students input the assignment that is due on a particular day in that particular subject. Even if nothing is due on a given day in a subject, I usually recommend putting in an “extra” task like reading ahead, doing some background research on the web or reviewing notes. This reinforces the idea that consistent activity in a subject will yield better comprehension. Note: electronic planners are fine for this as well but pen and paper has been most successful for my students.

2) Prioritize Tasks: once all tasks are outlined in the planner, I coach the student to spend the first 10 minutes of study time ranking the tasks. If a test is slated for the next day, that might get a 1. An ongoing project might get a 2 and so on. Anything “extra” would be a 5. I’ve also had students color code their planners so that red boxes are “hot” and require immediate attention, yellow boxes are “warm” and need to be done soon while green boxes are “cold” and can be postponed. This approach allows students to create a map for their study sessions.

3) Tackle Each Task at the Right Time: this step is key since productivity can vary with timing. For example, some students are very productive right after school. The juices are still flowing and comprehension is easy. Other students need some down time right after school and maybe their most productive time is in the evening. I recommend that students tackle their most important tasks at their most productive time. Tasks with less importance can be handled at less productive times.

Homework planning is not rocket science. However, a little common sense about organization and planning will go a long way.

The key is to follow a plan and adjust when necessary. Without a plan you may as well be rowing without a paddle. After all, if you fail to plan….oh, you know the rest.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Help Chile!


Fortunately Rebeca's family is okay but the devastation is tremendous. It is very hard for us to sit here in the US and know that our family and friends are struggling to recover in Chile.

CROSSWALK will do its part by donating a portion of all March sales directly to the Red Cross efforts in Chile. Help us help Chile.

Contact us today for more information.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How I Was Able to Ace Exams Without Studying

Great blog post on the zenhabits blog. Guest writer Scott Young will get you to think about study habits. Check it out here!

Friday, February 19, 2010

SAT Crash Course: Act Now for Special Deals!

Just in time for the May SAT, CROSSWALK and Brooke Higgins are putting on another SAT Crash Course April 17th and 18th from 8:30am to 1:30pm.

The workshop will take place at the Stevenson School.

Same format as the previous ones: small group with individualized instruction.

These workshops have been wildly successful so reserve your spot today.

Call 831-70-TUTOR (831-708-8867) for the latest special offers for this course. Right now, for a limited time, pay one low price for two students. This is great for students that have friends also taking the SAT. Two friends, one low price. A great way to save some money for moms and dads.

CROSSWALK is also offering a 25% discount for anyone that reserves their spot and pays before April 1st.

Call today to reserve your spot!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

SAT Boot Camp

Learn strategies that get results!

When: February 20-21, 8:30am-1:30pm

Where: The Stevenson School

Space is limited, so reserve your spot today.

Ask about our limited time 2-FOR-1 SPECIAL!

Call 831-70-TUTOR now to improve your SAT score

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

7 Ways to Help Your Child with the SAT

Love it or hate it, the SAT is part of education. While it is only one variable to measure student achievement, it carries significant weight.

With so much pressure placed on exam performance, SAT can be a tough time for students. So what can a parent do? How can mom or dad help their son or daughter tackle such a major undertaking?

If your child is faced with the prospect of taking the SAT, here are seven ways you can provide a path towards success:

1) Get Engaged: this goes without saying. Getting engaged is the first step towards successful parenting on any level. The fact that you’re reading this means you’re on the right track. Talk to your child about the test. Find out what resources are available at school and in the community. Check and get educated. And keep up the dialogue. Your teenager may not like the intrusion, but your support is absolutely crucial.

2) Find the End: the “end” of the SAT is the goal score your son or daughter needs to get into the school of their choice. Most schools publish the average SAT scores of their incoming students on their website. Pick three or four schools that interest your son or daughter and find out their average SAT score. This score is now the goal and everything you and your child do needs to be focused on that score.

3) Research the Options: you don’t need to be an expert and you don’t need to know all of the answers. In fact, it is better if you don’t have all of the answers so you can engage with your son or daughter to learn more (see #1). Part of the research is to understand what your son or daughter wants. The other part is how to get there.

4) Set Realistic Expectations: you can shoot for the moon and keep high expectations, but it’s also important to understand the reality of the SAT test. The SAT is only one, isolated measurement that does not define a person. This point is extremely important if your son or daughter is not a good test taker. Understand your options (see #3) and focus on keeping as many options open as possible.

5) Stay Positive: the SAT is such a mental test that a positive mindset, especially from mom or dad, can be the difference between success and failure. Remember, it’s never the end of the world if the performance fails to meet expectations. There are many, many alternatives and a variety of solutions to you and your child’s needs.

6) Follow the Study Plan: part of being engaged means knowing the plan. You may not remember your algebra skills and you might not have an expanded SAT vocabulary, but believe it or not, this matters little. Support is what matters. Support is one million times more important than the correct answers. Whatever study plan your child chooses, follow it. Check in with him or her. See how things are going and ask how you can support.

7) Set a Good Example: the impact of role modeling needs little explanation. Your child is your reflection, for better or worse. Set the tone for success with your actions and success will follow.

Ultimately, supporting your son or daughter on the SAT is no different that supporting him or her in whatever they do. If you are plugged into their needs, success is possible.

So get engaged. If you don’t know where to start, share this page with your son or daughter today. Better yet, do it right now. The earlier you start, the better.