Category Archives: Reflections

10 Jun 2020

More Summer Reading Suggestions

Making the transition from reading for school to reading for pleasure can be a tricky one. Are you looking to get the most out of this unique summer by bulking up on your reading? We hope you’ve checked out our last blog post, where you’ll find our summer reading suggestions that double as SAT / ACT test prep. Maybe you’ve already exhausted that list or perhaps you’re looking for something different. In any case, we’ve pulled together some suggestions for the fiction lovers, scientists, history buffs, and future doctors out there… 

Looking to dive into some fiction?

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This bestseller is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Normal People by Sally Rooney: Set in Ireland, this novel explores the relationship between two people who meet in high school and their ensuing on-and-off romance, complicated by social and socio-economic divisions. **Note: this book includes some adult content. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This beloved 1937 classic chronicles the life and love story of Janie Crawford, a fiercely independent African American woman who discovers herself through three marriages and the hardships of poverty in the South. 

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: In this darkly satirical postmodern, sci-fi-esque novel, the narrator sets out to write a book entitled “The Day the World Ended.” On his journey, he explores a zany world of science, technology, religion, and the arms race. 

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende: In this web of magical realism, Allende weaves together the triumphs and tragedies of the Trueba family, spanning decades while exploring the personal and the political. 

How about nonfiction? 

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer: In this riveting account, Krakauer details his experience in the epic 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a storm. 

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer: In this Pulitzer Prize-winning true crime novel, Mailer depicts the short, blighted life of Gary Gilmore who became famous after he robbed two men in 1976 and killed them in cold blood.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing: In this memoir, Laing shares her experience of moving to NYC where she confronts loneliness on a daily basis and explores the city through art. (This book feels particularly poignant in this time of self-isolation.)

Thinking about a college major or looking to explore new academic subjects? Check these out as a place to start… 

Economics

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins: In this partly autobiographical book, Perkins describes how he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Using an economics lens to explore the riddles of everyday life, the authors expose the inner workings of a crack gang, the secrets of the Klu Klux Klan to crime, parenting, sports, and beyond.

History

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari: Harari offers a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond: Diamond chronicles the ways in which the modern world has been shaped by geographical and environmental factors while dismantling racially based theories of human history. 

Science / Medicine

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: Gawande, a practicing surgeon, tackles his profession’s ultimate limitation (mortality) and argues that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: In this profoundly moving memoir, a young neurosurgeon facing a terminal cancer diagnosis attempts to answer the question: What makes a life worth living?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: In this work of investigative journalism, Skloot dives into the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells — taken without her knowledge in 1951 — became one of the most important tools in medicine.

And, if your summer travel plans have been canceled, discover new places with these picks…

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton: After getting his heart broken, Knighton sets out to explore every national park in the USA. The result is this delightful sampler of the country’s most magnificent natural wonders. 

Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food by Gina Rae La Cerva: La Cerva captures the joys of both travel and food in this global culinary exploration, which traces our past and present relationships to “wild foods.”  

If you don’t see something on this list that piques your interest, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more personalized suggestions! We want to ensure that you have a productive and meaningful summer, even if that means spending more time at home with your nose in a book — which doesn’t sound so bad, right? At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

03 Jun 2020

Summer Reading for SAT & ACT Preparation

Summer Reading for SAT / ACT Prep

In many ways, the world is an unnerving place right now. If you’re having difficulty sitting down and focusing on your studies, you are not alone. Perhaps getting lost in a book sounds more appealing. For those of you looking to prepare for your upcoming SAT, ACT, or SAT II Literature exam, we have pulled together a list of suggested reading that may resemble some of the passages you will encounter on the test. These novels, short stories, and poems seem to be favorites of the folks behind the SAT and ACT. We’ve sourced this list from previously released official exams, pulling out content that has appeared multiple times or has been written by notable authors. Encountering an unfamiliar, difficult-to-understand passage on an exam can be very intimidating. By bulking up on independent reading that is in the style of typical SAT / ACT reading passages, you may feel more at ease on test day. So, if you’re looking for something to read this summer, why not kill two birds with one stone? Check out these SAT / ACT favorites and boost your confidence on test day! 

Fiction

A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell: A 1935 novel that tells the story of Dorothy Hare, a clergyman’s daughter, whose life is turned upside down when she suffers an attack of amnesia. 

Middlemarch by George Eliot: A 19th century novel in eight installments set in a fictitious English town addressing social, political, and religious issues of the time period. 

The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild, the Great by Henry Fielding: An 18th century satirical novel detailing the life of underworld boss Jonathan Wild. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Stowe: An anti-slavery novel published in 1852 addressing the injustices facing African Amercans in the U.S. during the 19th century.  

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster: A darkly satirical revenge tragedy, written as a play set in 16th century Italy.  

Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee: A novel set in the 1980s about a young Indian woman who changes her identity in order to adapt to American society. 

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid: A novel written in 1985 detailing the young life of a girl growing up in Antigua, an island in the Carribean.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens: Dickens’ last novel, published in 1865, combining satire and social analysis. 

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett: A novel published in 1908 following the lives of two very different sisters from their youth through old age. 

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan: A mother-daughter novel about love and grief set in contemporary San Francisco and a Chinese village.

Lily Nevada by Cecelia Holland: The dramatic tale of a strong-willed woman who flees her dark and violent past to make a new life and name for herself in San Francisco at the dawn of the Gilded Age. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan: The reflective story of a young English girl in 1935 who witnesses an event during her childhood that spurs unintended, catastrophic consequences over the course of her life. 

The Master by Colm Toibin: A beautifully written novel set in the 19th century about a man who leaves America to live in Europe amongst artists and writers. 

Nonfiction

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon: An autobiographical travel book about the author’s unforgettable journey through the backroads of America. 

Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature by David Quammen: A collection of essays discussing bats, octopuses, crows, dinosaurs, animal rights, hypothermia and more. 

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks: A collection of seven paradoxical tales of patients adapting to neurological conditions including autism, amnesia, the restoration of vision after congenital blindness, and more. 

Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage by Deborah Cramer: The account of a scientific voyage from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Barbados that brings the reader through the science and history of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Superforecasting: The Art & Science of Predicting by Philip E. Tetlock: Named one of the best books of the year by The Economist in 2015, this book draws upon finance, economics, psychology, and other disciplines to share how experts and lay people can make more effective and intelligent predictions. 

Short Stories

“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin: A short story about a black algebra teacher in 1950s Harlem as he reacts to his brother Sonny’s drug addiction, arrest, and recovery.

The Music School by John Updike: A collection of Updike’s short stories about people who find their ways in the modern world. 

Feel like reading some poetry? Check out these poems as a jumping off point… 

“Heart, take no pity on this house of bone” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Before the Birth of One of Her Children” by Anne Bradstreet

“Prosody 101” by Linda Pastan

“The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” by Robert Frost

“To the Memory of Mr. Oldham” by John Dryden

“The Dance” by Cornelius Eady

“In Memoriam” by Alfred Tennyson

“The Mountain” by Louise Glück

“To Marguerite: Continued” by Matthew Arnold

“The Young Author” by Samuel Johnson

Who knows? You might find yourself taking the SAT or ACT and come across a passage that you’ve already read. And if not, these reads will still add some thought-provoking variety to your literary repertoire. We hope you enjoy our suggestions! Stay tuned for next week’s blog post if you’re still eager for more book recommendations. We hope everyone is safe and able to find solace in a book, or elsewhere, during these unsettling times. As always, we are here to help.

22 May 2020

How to Have a Productive Summer 2020

This summer is going to be a bit unique between face masks, social distancing, and cancelled events. For those of you whose summer internships, courses, or other opportunities have been cancelled or gone online, we want to acknowledge how unsettling that must feel, especially if you’re working to strengthen your college application. As devastating as this disruption may be, don’t despair! We want to help you get the most out of this summer amidst COVID-19. We’ve pulled together some suggestions for how to use all of that newly-free time in a meaningful and productive way.

Test Prep

For the high schoolers out there, you may not be surprised (coming from us) that we highly recommend using this summer to strengthen your SAT / ACT portfolio. Hear us out: since most classes have gone pass / fail this past semester, Spring 2020 transcripts will not sufficiently reflect your academic strengths. When there is no distinction between an A+ and a C, it is impossible to demonstrate what subjects set you apart with a transcript alone. 

This marks a great opportunity to differentiate your transcript by loading up on SAT Subject Tests to prove that your competency far exceeds a basic “pass” grade. A “pass” on your transcript coupled with a corresponding 800 Subject Test score will paint a much clearer picture of who you are as a student. Need help figuring out which Subject Tests to take and when to take them? Don’t hesitate to reach out at info@sentiaeducation.com

Volunteer

There is so much need in the world right now. If you feel able to give back to your community in a meaningful way, go out and do it (at a safe distance while wearing a mask, of course)! Maybe you have elderly neighbors who need help grocery shopping, gardening, or running errands. Maybe you know a family with young children who could use some help with remote tutoring. Perhaps this sounds counterintuitive given the mandate to “social distance,” but this is an excellent time for community building. Take some time to reflect on how you can be of use in your community this summer. And, if possible, look for opportunities that are connected to your academic or extracurricular activities to increase the depth of your existing commitments. 

Volunteer work can be tremendously fulfilling for all parties involved. If you feel moved to scale up your community service efforts, why not put together a fundraiser to support a charitable organization? Not only will this be a rewarding experience for you and your community, but colleges look favorably upon those who seize an opportunity to make a positive impact. 

Check out VolunteerMatch, a great place to start your search for local volunteer opportunities. They even have a COVID-19 Resource Hub, where you can explore a directory of COVID-related and remote volunteer opportunities. 

Independent Projects

If you are someone with many extracurricular interests, now is a great time to dive deep into those hobbies. Give yourself permission to think creatively here! Just because your independent project is not associated with a mentor or a university (though it could be, if those connections are feasible for you or if you’d like to enlist the help of a Sentia Mentor), does not mean it is any less worthwhile. In fact, independent projects can be very valuable from an admissions standpoint because they demonstrate the ability to take initiative while highlighting your talents and passions. 

Learn a new art form, teach yourself how to play an instrument, start learning a new language or computer program… The possibilities are endless. Need more personalized ideas? We’d be happy to brainstorm with you. 

Read

Do you love reading, but haven’t found the time to read for pleasure recently? Now is the perfect time to hit the books — for fun, academic enrichment, or both! If you’re feeling (understandably) overwhelmed by the world right now, get lost in a fictional world. If you’re thinking about a college major, consider reading some material in subjects of interest. Maybe you will discover a new academic passion or learn something new about yourself as a student. 

Check out our blog next week for both classic and contemporary suggestions or contact us for some customized suggestions. It’ll come as no surprise that we’re all big readers at Sentia! 

Summer Classes

Okay, we know that this might not be the most popular option! But many selective summer programs have moved online and have reopened their application deadlines. If you act quickly, you still have time to enroll in selective programs, like Stanford’s Summer Session, NYU’s Pre College, or UPenn’s Pre-College.

There are many other options and we’re always happy to provide customized suggestions. Our advice? Prioritize university affiliated programs that offer college credit. 

This is a difficult time. Admissions committees, professors, and advisors alike know this to be true. If you are struggling, please know that we are a resource and we want to help you feel intentional about the way you’re using this time. If that means writing about your experiences with COVID-19 as a way to process: go for it. Be sure to be kind to yourself, too, and build in plenty of time for relaxation. 

As always, feel free to send any questions or concerns our way. We hope you’re all staying safe and well! 

19 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Survival Guide for Students: what to do when your school moves online, PART 2

Well, we’re back and ready to provide you with some more exciting tips on how to manage your (unexpected) transition to online learning. And, don’t forget to join us on Friday, March 20th at 1pm EST for our webinar on how to make these SAT / ACT schedule changes work to your advantage!

Here we go…

#6 Use your screens, then put them to bed

We know it might feel like your phone is your lifeline to the outside world. And we love our screens too! But as educators we recognize that there are times when screens just need to go off. Rather than play another round of Plants vs Zombies, grab the whole family and try a board game or maybe even a classic puzzle. Trust me, you won’t find a better distraction from stress than searching for that exact tiny grey piece in a 1,000 piece puzzle composed mostly of clouds and sky. (Can you tell how I’m spending my free time during this quarantine?)

And, Dr. Monica Lewin, Sentia’s Director of Learning and Teaching, reminds us all (me included!) to avoid bright artificial light before bedtime. Instead, do some journaling in an old-fashioned notebook to jumpstart your creativity, take notes or to organize your tasks for the next day, or just read a book. 

#7 Learn something new

We all have something on our list that we have been “planning” to do for ages. Mine is to learn how to brew the perfect cup of coffee. 

Listen, I know that technically your day is already spent learning, but this is your chance to learn the exact thing that you want! Fascinated by Japanese culture? Learn how to draw anime. Ready to step up your breakfast game from a hastily grabbed Cliff bar? Let Thomas Keller show you the art of cooking the perfect fried egg. Obsessed with sports? Become a master statistician and learn how to predict game outcomes

#8 Read

Remember reading for pleasure? It was that thing you did before you had to read a hundred pages a night for History and English classes. Well, now’s a great time to get a few pages in. Sure, you can work your way through some of the greatest works in the English language. But if you want to read Harry Potter for the first time (meaning: again) I won’t judge. Just pick up a book, put your phone on airplane mode, and get lost for an hour.

#9 Practice gratitude

These are challenging times and it’s normal to feel anxiety. Write in a notebook three things you feel grateful for today – maybe it’s your family, friends, health, even a beloved pet you now have a bit more time with. Whatever you choose, big or small, reflecting on what’s good in your life has the capacity to make each day a little better. 

If you need help staying on track with school assignments, getting ready for the ACT, SAT, or Subject Tests, or just learning something new, we’re here to help. Sentia’s Academic Mentorship tutoring is significantly discounted for families affected by COVID-19 school closures. Talk it over with your parents and then email or call us today to create a bespoke program tailored perfectly to your unique needs.

At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™.

17 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Survival Guide for Students: what to do when your school moves online

Ok, this isn’t what I thought my spring break was going to look like either. But now that we are all navigating some new learning environments, I wanted to share with you some of what we’ve learned over the past ten years working with homeschooled students and students who are temporarily unable to attend traditional school.

#1 Connect with your friends
It’s easy to get sucked into the TikTok spiral (we’re all guilty of it) but don’t forget that it’s important to meaningfully connect with friends, particularly in times of anxiety like these. FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype a friend from school just to say hey. PartyHub on Fortnite! Or even just pick up the phone and call. Whatever you do, make sure you take some time to be present with your friends even when you’re physically apart.

#2 Organize your time
It’s easy to end up “working from bed” when you’re not reporting to a classroom each morning. Fight the temptation to stay up late and join your class in your pajamas by keeping a schedule similar to the one you maintained at school. That means going to bed each night and getting up each morning at the same time, getting the sleep you need to function optimally (most teens need between 9 and 9½ hours – yes, really!), and making your mom proud with your showering and teeth brushing habits. And “get dressed” for school – even if that just means switching from one set of comfy lounge wear to another.

Your day at school was probably tightly scheduled, but not all schools are replicating that same structure as they move online. So it’s up to you to make a plan:

— Keep track of your day-to-day tasks with a simple planner. You could use something as straightforward as this one, an old fashioned notebook, or a digital planner.

— Maintain current organizational habits. If you have a special notebook for recording homework, keep using it.

— Be realistic. Don’t try and cram all of your schoolwork into less time than a typical school day. Create your own schedule equipped with breaks, snacks, social time and anything that normally keeps you sane during the school.

— Create goals. Maybe you have never felt like you have quite enough time to study for that AP Biology weekly quiz. Perhaps your Spanish vocab is a little too limited. Time is finally your friend – use it to your advantage to set and surpass personal academic goals to set yourself up for success when school is back to normal.

— Schedule time to meet with teachers. Online learning is new for your teachers too and it might be slightly more difficult for them to identify who needs an extra hand. Help yourself (and them!) by proactively checking in.

#3 Get a head-start on standardized test preparation
You know it’s true: test preparation is difficult enough without simultaneously balancing a heavy course load, extracurricular activities, and a busy social life. Use some of your found time to prepare for newly rescheduled ACTs (look for exams on June 13 and July 18) and SATs (likely in June and August plus one TBD in between – but only time will tell). And don’t forget about SAT Subject Tests! Literature, Math 2, and Physics are our most prepped tests here; take a practice test out of the Official Guide for all SAT Subject Tests and see how you do or contact us to get started preparing with one of our expert Sentia Tutors.

#4 Brainstorm college applications
Wait, what? Yes, I’m talking to you class of 2021. Now’s a great time to research schools, plan some enriching summer activities, and get a draft of your personal statement started. Identify some goal schools and the grades and scores you need to get in. No day but today!

#5 Don’t neglect your extracurricular activities
If you’re an athlete, being stuck at home without daily practice can be frustrating. Instead of bouncing a tennis ball off the wall on repeat (cue mom’s screaming), circuit train in the yard or an empty local park – if there’s one nearby that meets social distancing requirements – or get your sweat on at home. Am I doing that retro Cher workout my sister loves? No. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

I’m a theatre guy and love the arts. If you do too check out the newly-free opera streams at the MET (seriously, do this. It’s fancy but also fun!), take a Masterclass, watch famous live performances at OnTheBoards.TV (free with code ARTATHOME20), or practice the bassoon (N.B.: bassoon required).

Check out some more tips later this week in our Coronavirus Survival Guide for Students: what to do when your school moves online, PART 2 (catchy title, right?)

If you need help staying on track with school assignments, getting ready for the ACT, SAT, or Subject Tests, or just learning something new, we’re here to help. Sentia’s Academic Mentorship tutoring is significantly discounted for families affected by COVID-19 school closures. Talk it over with your parents and then email or call us today to create a bespoke program tailored perfectly to your unique needs.

At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™.

P.S. I’m doing a webinar on Friday March 20th at 1pm EST to learn how to use schedule changes to your advantage and get the scores you need for admission to your dream school. Join me!

17 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Survival Guide for Parents: Best Practices in the Transition to Online Schooling

If you’re reading this it’s likely that you have one (or more) kids suddenly at home all day, every day with no end date in sight. One of the comments we are hearing most frequently from the families with whom we work is the difficulty of juggling space and schedule. With so many parents working remotely and students attending school from home, the house is suddenly feeling a lot smaller.

We’ve been working with homeschooled students and those temporarily unable to attend day school for over a decade and many of the lessons we’ve learned are applicable to the unprecedented situation with which we are grappling today. Here are some suggestions:

#1 Figure out your space
If you’re working from home and the kids are too, you should spend a half hour deciding where everyone is going to work.

Particularly if your family is sharing a small space, it’s crucial to think about noise first and foremost. Are you taking work-related calls from home? Set yourself up in a space where you’re least likely to experience noise bleed, even if it’s not where you usually work from home. Issue everyone a “do not disturb” post-it – kids can use it when they’re in a tutorial session or online class and you can stick it on the door or wall when you’re on a work call.

Working from home can make it feel as if the work day never ends – and that’s true for students too. Designate a shared space in the home as a screen-free family zone to relax and unwind together at the end of the day.

#2 Plan your schedule
Stability and consistency are the key to emotional and academic growth, particularly for teenagers.

Students are reporting to us that their schools are fairly closely replicating their traditional day-to-day schedules for online learning. But where there is flexibility, decide together how you’ll use individual learning time and then allow your child the opportunity to fill those gaps with mentally stimulating work that will challenge them.

Most of our students are using some of this “found time” to get in some extra preparation for the rescheduled standardized tests that will be administered near the end of the school year. This is also a great time to practice a hobby – or even read a book simply for pleasure!

For students who need a little more structure, post each child’s daily schedule on a whiteboard or wall of a shared space and perform three check-ins each day: the first to set goals for the day, the second at the conclusion of the school day to discuss a homework plan, and the third before bedtime to strategize for the coming day. If you have multiple children, try to delegate some responsibility to your eldest child to “lead” these mini-meetings. Encourage your child to write out tasks and goals on a notebook before bed to release thoughts of nagging tasks to come and set him or her up a restful night’s sleep.

#3 Decide when screens go off
At Sentia, most of our tutoring is performed remotely; Zoom video tutorials are how our students learn from their Sentia Tutors. But as educators we recognize there are times when screens should, and must, go off. We love puzzles and board games (overcome the steep learning curve and try Settlers of Catan – it’s a Sentia favorite) or take a family stroll. And Dr. Monica Lewin, Sentia’s Director of Learning and Teaching, reminds us all (me included!) to avoid bright artificial light before bedtime. Instead, do some journaling in an old-fashioned notebook to jumpstart your creativity or take notes or to organize your tasks for the next day.

#4 Communicate with teachers
Find out how assessments will be performed: what constitutes “class participation” for a grade in an online lecture? Are “in class” exams timed and how will they be delivered? What about pop quizzes and daily homework assignments? Will slides be delivered digitally or are students expected to take free form notes? Ask your child’s teacher questions and don’t be afraid to request more frequent updates on grades than you might otherwise during the traditional school year.

#5 Help your kids communicate with teachers too!
We’ve learned that students who are temporarily unable to attend school can sometimes struggle to adjust to modified teacher relationships. With no study hall or individual meeting times, it’s harder to ask for extra help when students need it and even more difficult for teachers to identify who is struggling. Encourage your child to perform weekly check ins – by phone or email – with each of his or her teachers.

#6 Respect your tech
Manage your internet pipeline. Netflix and videogames take up a lot of bandwidth. If your whole family needs to work online, limit streaming activity to off peak hours so Zoom calls and google docs (two tools we use a lot with our students) continue to work seamlessly.

Digital natives are adept at using technology in and out of the classroom. If your daughter describes playing Fortnite as “hanging out with friends” or snapchats pictures of the floor to maintain “streaks,” ask her about it. Phones and computers are – for most teens – a central way in which they maintain friendships when separated by physical distance. That’s especially important in times of uncertainty and anxiety.

If your student needs help staying on track with school assignments, we’re here to help. Sentia’s Academic Mentorship tutoring is significantly discounted for families affected by COVID-19 school closures. Contact us today to create a bespoke program tailored perfectly to your family’s unique needs.

At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™.

P.S. Join us on Friday March 20th at 1pm EST for a webinar with Billy Wheelan to learn how to use schedule changes to your advantage and get the scores you need for admission to your dream school.

Sign up now!

02 Feb 2018

The PQRST Method of Studying

The PQRST Method of Studying

 This is a method of reading a textbook so that the information you read really does enter your long term memory. It is based on work by Thomas and H. A. Robinson, Spache and Berg and R. P .Robinson. Its sometimes cryptically known as SQ3R.

So what can it do?

The method has been shown to improve a readers understanding, and his/her ability to recall information. In other words, the reader is more likely to learn, and to learn more, of the material he/she is reading. If you use this method, reading won’t be a waste of your time.

How does it work?

In this method you follow five steps – Preview, Question, Read, Self-recite and Test (PQRST). The middle three steps apply to every section within a chapter whilst the first and last steps apply to the chapter itself. You may find that many textbooks are compiled in a way which makes this method easy to apply, using an introductory passage, and questions at the end.

The diagram below illustrates the method:

  1. PREVIEW an assignment by scanning it.  Read the chapter outline at the beginning of the chapter.  Pay attention to the headings of the sections and subsections.  Read the summary.  The point is to get an idea of the main topics and sections of the chapter.
  2. QUESTION As you read through each section, start by asking yourself “what am I supposed to learn in this section”. This helps to get your brain in to sync with the topic being discussed.
  3. READ. Next, actually read that section. Do it carefully, think about the meaning and relate this to other things you know about this and similar topics. Do some underlining or highlighting of key words. Don’t overdo it! If you want to take notes, read the whole section first, and then summarize it later.
  4. SELF-RECITATION requires that you try to remember the main points of each section and that you say them out loud (if possible) to yourself. Check back against the text, and note the things you missed out. Ensure that you didn’t miss them because you haven’t learnt them. Only then go on to the next section and Question again.
  5. TEST yourself after you have finished the entire chapter.  How many of the main ideas from the chapter can you remember? Think about the relevance of what you learnt and how it all fits together. Reread any chapter summaries. Even though you have only just read the chapter, now is the best time to test yourself.

 

12 Jan 2018

How Do YOU Learn?

 

Most of us can learn anything we put our minds to.  However, we have a preferred way of learning. Get to know your learning style and study in the ways you learn best.

Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning while others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed.

There are Seven Learning Styles

  1. Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn.

Strategies to use, depending on your preferred learning style:

Visual Learners

  • Use graphics to reinforce learning­­, films, slides, illustrations, and diagrams.
  • Color coding to organize notes and possessions.
  • Write out directions.
  • Use flow charts and diagrams for note taking.
  • Visualizing spelling of words of facts to be memorized.

 

Auditory Learners

  • Use tapes for reading and for class and lecture notes.
  • Learn by interviewing or by participating in discussions.
  • Have test questions or directions read aloud or put on tape.

 

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Experimental learning (making models, doing lab work, and role playing).
  • Take frequent breaks in study periods.
  • Trace letters and words to learn spelling and remember facts.
  • Use computer to reinforce learning through sense of touch.
  • Memorize or drill while walking or exercising.

Express abilities through dance, drama, or gymnastic

02 Jan 2018

Stress… What it is and how to make it work for you

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Any one preparing for the standardized college admissions test knows that this definition is a perfect description of the feelings and emotions created by these tests.  But did you know that stress that is managed could actually be a good thing?

A 1979 London research study recognized that stress could be beneficial. Yes, you read that correctly – beneficial! The benefits of stress can be found in two main ways; First, stress can actually enhance performance and, secondly, stress from challenges, not threats, invite physiological responses that improves thinking by making the heart beat faster, adrenaline surge, the brain sharper and the body release a different mix of stress hormones which aid in learning.

You can rethink stress by understanding that it is a normal response when we care about what’s at stake.

Since stress is unavoidable, working out how to harness it may be wiser than trying to eliminate it.

Embarking on a mindful approach to the test prep process might sound hokey, or perhaps like a way of complicating a process that is pretty straightforward: study the material, take practice tests, get results. But being mindful is a practical and subtle way of managing stress – AND it puts YOU in control.

So… How can you be “mindful”

  1. Become aware of your thoughts. There’s a little voice in your head that’s talking to you constantly. 
What is it saying? How do the thoughts make you feel?
  2. Take a breath. When you become aware of a thought (any thought, positive or negative) take a breath. Let your thoughts come and go without analyzing them. Be aware of what happens to the feelings caused by stress?

Let your breath serve as a cue for you to be fully present in this moment. On the next exhalation imagine any tension in your body flowing out through the soles of your feet into the air. Let your tension go on the exhalation and on the inhalation breathe in relaxation.

  1. Guided Imagery. Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that utilizes the power of the imagination and all of the senses – what we feel, see, hear, taste, and smell – to create a relaxing scene. Guided imagery can be used to visualize positive outcomes, especially in stressful situations. For instance, if a student is anxious about an upcoming test, she imagines going through it in a calm and relaxed manner beforehand. This is called a mental rehearsal.
  2. Positive Affirmations. Positive statements can help students feel less stressed and more in control of their emotions. Examples of positive affirmations are:
    • I feel calm
    • I am confident
    • I can do well
    • Let go of (anxiety, fear, tension, etc)
  3. Question your thoughts. If your thoughts are of self-doubt or self-criticism, replace the latter part of the “What if” proposition with a positive quality that relates to the specific situation or preceding thought. Ask yourself:
  • What if I’m good enough?
  • What if I’m smart enough?
  • What if I have what it takes?
  • What if I succeed?
  1. Be willing to see the situation differently. There are objective facts about the college admissions process. There are tests (the SAT and ACT) for which you can prepare. College admissions officers will consider your test scores when evaluating your application. How you relate
to these objective facts is up to you. When you feel stressed out, anxious, or scared, tell yourself “I am willing to see this situation differently.” Keep an open mind, and stay willing to be positive and relaxed.

Test prep is a process, but when you bring your whole self to the experience, amazing things can happen.

 

 

21 Oct 2017

Joining 25 Clubs Isn’t The Move: How To Handle Extracurriculars

So you’re in your junior year of high school, freaking out about how few extra-curricular activities you have compared with your friends, and you promptly join 25 clubs. We’re going to stop you right there.

Joining some clubs? Well, that’s a good thing. Colleges like to see that you’re interested in causes, subjects and ideas outside of the classroom. Captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team? Great! Student council member? Awesome!

But when you join 25 clubs in an effort to show colleges how involved you are in the world, their skepticism begins to grow.

Nobody, and by that we literally mean nobody, has the time, range of interest, or empathy to truly care about and be active in so many clubs. You know that. And more importantly, colleges know that.

What they do want to see is a narrative. If you’re interested in writing, college admissions officers should read your app and say:

“Oh, this kid Jimmy loves writing. He’s a contributor to the school’s literary magazine, is president of the school’s Book Club, took a creative writing class over the summer, and won a Scholastic writing award for one of his poems. He’s also on the varsity tennis team and is a Latin Affairs club member, which is awesome. But most of all, he’s a writer.”

Get the picture? Joining a reasonable number of clubs that make sense in the context of your larger interests will make your application more attractive to Admissions Officers. They want to understand who you are. Listing as many random clubs as possible won’t help them do that.

So, join clubs that align with your interests. Be an active member. And make sure the clubs you join create a plausible, compelling narrative.