Learning cursive seems like an archaic task to many, a waste of time and effort. When parents express their frustration to me about the tedium of working with their kids on cursive handwriting, I try to encourage them by saying that it can’t hurt for children to have an alternate way to express themselves. I feel that even if it is not considered the most useful medium, learning how to form letters in a different manner is just another way we can develop our brains.
What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, a recent New York Times article, speaks of the research that has been done to monitor the effects of how stepping away from a focus on handwriting and towards a focus on keyboarding could do children a great disservice. There is something about having to visualize and recreate the shape of a letter that helps a child make connections in their minds with how those letters come together to make words.
It is noted that “when children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write…By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.” Maybe the pathways our brain creates when we learn cursive are linked to developing strengths in reading or other areas that we are not aware of yet?
Experts agree that children who regularly practice their math and reading skills over the summer gain reading and math skills, while those who don’t often slide backwards. According to the authors of a report from Johns Hopkins Center for Summer Learning “A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year…. It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.”
Don’t let your child lose precious months of education – help him get ahead with weekly tutoring. Tutoring Austin offers fun activities for reading and math over the summer. Using interactive technology and Apps, we make learning rewarding and entertaining. We also offer an incredible multiplication fact program that pairs facts with images and stories. ‘Memorize in Minutes’ has proven to be a great success, especially with early learners and those students struggling with their facts.
If summer tutoring does not work well for your schedule, we highly recommend that you check out Brain Chase. It is an online summer learning program reminiscent of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. It is a scavenger hunt / summer learning loss / character-themed program that challenges kids grades 2-8 in their reading, writing, and math skills – All challenges are tailored specifically for your child’s skill level. Kids will look forward to the daily clues that could lead them to a $10,000.00 treasure. Our personal favorite part of the Brain Chase program is that each child receives a decoder ring to help with solving clues!
There are big changes ahead for the SAT, beginning in the year 2016. Those changes should mean better access to free test prep and assessment based on the skills that are actually taught in high school.
The redesign includes reverting to the 1600 point score (from the current 2400 point score), dropping the vocabulary section, and eliminating the 1/4 point deduction for each incorrect answer. The SAT also plans to make the essay optional and to extend the time limit from the current 25 minutes to 50 minutes so that students have more time to analyze a document and edit their essay.
The redesign is expected to make the SAT more competitive with the fast-rising ACT, which in recent years has skyrocketed in popularity with high school students. In contrast to the SAT, the ACT offers more time for students to respond to essay prompts, does not penalize for incorrect answers, and includes a science section.
At this time of the year, whimsical in-class writing assignments tend to be replaced with more formal five-paragraph essay tasks. Students need to know such things like what an expository essay is and how to write one for state standardized testing, and the only way to really learn that is to practice.
Here is a great list of prompts that will entertain and connect with kids of all ages:
200 Essay Prompts
These prompts span subjects like social media, sports, gender issues, and the arts. What I really like about this list is that you can click on the link and a brief resource is provided. As opposed to the SAT writing prompts that just give you a question and expect you to respond thoughtfully, these prompts offer some background.
Some of the more original and topical prompts are:
Should Schools Put Tracking Devices in Students’ ID Cards?
Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?
Can Graffiti Ever Be Considered Art?
If anything, these prompts are good conversation starters. Practicing for a test can be tedious, but these prompts can be useful in encouraging kids to discuss issues that are important to them. A conversation where we ask our children to qualify their opinions can be a positive and engaging exercise.
See KXAN January 31, 2014 interview with Beth Thornton:
KXAN interview with Beth Thornton
In a move that is already seeing a backlash from parents and educators, the Texas Board of Education has removed Algebra II as a graduation requirement. School districts that agree to remove the existing Algebra II graduation requirement must offer Statistics or Algebraic Reasoning as an alternative. Students on a vocational track are the primary beneficiaries of such a change.
Concerns are that this change is tantamount to a dumbing-down of the Texas curriculum. It removes challenges from students who may not realize they need that challenge to ultimately get into college. Students that don’t enjoy math may opt to take Statistics in lieu of Algebra II. Although Statistics is an alternative, its content will not prepare students for the upper level math questions in college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT. It is also not as impressive to see on a transcript and may decrease a student’s chances of getting into the college of their choice.
By changing this requirement, Texas is asking less of its students, thereby sending a message that complicated concepts and critical thinking are not valuable unless a student is an advanced academic.
Every Fall, kids start the new school year with optimism thinking something along the lines of, “This year, I will always be organized because I have this new binder / planner / backpack!” Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. The binder can be a great tool, but when students are three weeks into the school year and their new binder and backpack are crammed with miscellaneous papers from every class, homework assignments tend to be the fist victim, grades are the second.
One of the ways we stay organized in our house is a daily backpack / binder clean out. It is amazing how quickly paper and projects accumulate at the bottom of a bag. We also take some time for snack and running around before we get to the business of homework, about 45 minutes. We find that, although we want to put off homework until after dinner or play, our best productivity happens early. It also allows us to have the option of a bonus 15 minutes of TV or outside play as a focused work reward. We started this routine in Kindergarten in our house, but I also suggest this forming this habit to my clients of any age, even adults.
Check out this link for a few more tips on Homework Organization and how to avoid the homework rebellion.
The new Common Application, since making the decision to remove the “topic of your choice” essay prompt, has released five new essay prompts for 2013-14.
Here are the new essay prompts:
1. Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
The Common App will maximum has increased from 500 to 650 words.
Getting a copy of your actual test, as well as your answers, can be invaluable in identifying strengths and weaknesses in preparation for another SAT or ACT attempt. Here’s some more information on how to take advantage of this service.
The SAT offers two types of answer reporting, QAS (Question and Answer Service) and SAS (Student Answer Service).
– The Question and Answer Service provides not only a student’s responses, but also gives students a copy of the actual test questions and correct answers. This gives the opportunity to analyze your mistakes, just as you would when taking any other practice SAT. QAS is only offered for the October, January and May tests. You have up to five months after the test date to order it>
– The Student Answer Service provides only your answers to the test questions, not the questions themselves. Obviously this gives you much less information, but it can be helpful for determining if you have a pattern of missing easy questions or if geometry is still causing trouble. SAS is available for the November, December, March and June administrations.
The ACT offers only the TIR (Test Information Release) service. Similar to the SAT’s Question and Answer Service, TIR provides both your responses and the test questions. TIR is available for the December, April and June administrations only, and this service can be ordered up to three months after the test date.
Many of our Tutoring Austin students are studying hard with the sole purpose of being admitted to UT one day. With the most recent changes to the Top 10% rule, that just got a little harder.
Texas students in the top 10% of their graduating class are granted automatic admission to any Texas state-funded university. UT is one of the exceptions to the 10% rule, though. UT, already approved to adjust their automatic admittance rate down to the top 8%, was recently approved to adjust down again to accept only the top 7% of any Texas high school’s graduating class.
It is possible that cutting down the percentage of the automatically admitted students to UT could be a good thing for our Texas students. UT admissions will be looking more at how students fit into their holistic criteria, which may mean that a hard-working student who does not earn straight A’s now will have a better chance at gaining admission to UT. This could improve and expand the diverse environment the UT campus has to offer.
Is it possible that a ‘B’ student heavily involved in service and extracurricular activities will have more to offer to the UT community as a student and future graduate than the ‘A’ student? Possibly.
Every year, the Common Application releases it’s essay prompts on August 1st. Generally, the essay questions are similar in content from year to year, but in 2013 the Common App is making some changes.
In addition to going completely paperless, the Common App is eliminating the ‘Topic of Your Choice’ essay prompt. This prompt, which can be challenging because of its broad scope, is one of the more popular ones. Many students who are not athletic or superstars in the classroom use this prompt to share their personal experiences, experiences that often don’t fit as a response to the other prompt options.
We anticipate seeing the new prompts and if the changes are dramatic or minimal. We know a lot of students will be disappointed that they can’t get a head start on their essays this summer.