Times are changing, and so are college admissions tests. Keep up-to-date with these four important changes you need to know:
What are the benefits of online testing? Online-testers can get their scores faster than paper-testers: online test scores could be released within the week. That makes looming admission deadlines a little less stressful and possibly result in better scholarship chances by applying early!
Not to be outdone, the ACT is also tweaking its questions. The ACT reading section now had a new question type, called Visual Test Questions (VTQ). VTQs look very similar to science questions and use graphs and tables in addition to passages to test students' quantitative skills. Want to prepare for the new question types? Take a look at the sample questions offered on the ACT website.
iLearn Academy can help you navigate the dynamics of college placement testing. Understanding these four changes is key to optimizing your score. Our test prep program helps students evaluate whether superscoring is right for them; whether online testing is the best option in order to submit for early admissions; and we hone your ability to identify and master new question types.
This past week, I was helping a student finish a school assignment when I noticed he was “hunting and pecking” – i.e., he would type one letter at a time using only his index fingers, always looking at the iPad keyboard, searching for the letter he wanted. I figured he typed this way because he was using a tablet, so I offered to loan him a laptop with a real, physical keyboard. To my dismay, he informed me that he always typed this way. In fact, he seemed surprised to learn there was a better way to type: touch typing.
Touch typing allows one to type using all ones’ fingers, without looking at the keyboard or even necessarily the screen. This skill increases typing speed dramatically, since one uses all ten fingers and the digits do not have to travel as far to hit the desired keys. “Hunting and pecking” usually results in less than 27 wpm (words per minute) – often much less –, while an average touch-typist produces over 50 wpm. With a little practice, most people can reach 80+ wpm. Additionally, touch typing allows students to watch their words appear on the screen, meaning they catch typos and grammar mistakes more quickly. Not having to “hunt” for keys also frees students’ minds to think more about the actual words and sentences they type.
I had expected my student to finish his assignment in about 20 minutes, but because he had to “hunt and peck” it ended up taking him over an hour! This student is talented, taking honors classes and learning Latin, but his inefficient typing style slowed him down. (I wonder if perhaps he never learned touch-typing because the schools he has attended work mostly on tablets, which usually lack proper keyboards unless one attaches an external keyboard.) I couldn’t find statistics on how many students can touch type, but – considering most young people interact with their smartphones and tablets more than with a laptop or desktop computer – I fear the problem may be widespread.
What should you do if your student appears to “hunt and peck” or takes a long time to type homework? First, do not make them feel self-conscious about it. Schools have deemphasized typing in recent years, partly for very understandable reasons (other technological skills to teach, for instance), so your student may have never had the opportunity to learn or receive enough practice to make the skill stick. Second, have them take a typing speed test. In fact, take it with them! Have a little friendly competition. (Who knows? Maybe you could work on your typing as well.) There are several customizable, free, intuitive speed tests here.
Next, encourage your student to begin learning touch typing. They may feel overwhelmed at the idea of learning a new skill, particularly if they are already struggling to keep up with homework. However, touch typing will make homework faster in the future, and their teachers are only going to assign longer papers as your student proceeds through school. “Hunting and pecking” could literally add hours to composing a 5-page paper.
I recommend using Typing Club. It’s a free, user-friendly web-based typing program that allows students to progress through incrementally more difficult exercises and games – not unlike the language learning app Duolingo. They also include colorful, friendly videos to introduce lessons and exercises. Even though the program is visually-appealing and somewhat gamified, it does not look kitschy or childish, so older students should not feel patronized or self-conscious about using it.
If you do notice that your student is taking too long to complete homework, struggling to follow the guidelines for assignments, or failing to understand or apply the materials in their classes, please reach out to us for help. We have tutors ready to help your student of any age complete homework tasks, build academic skills, and prepare for tests. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at (847) 834-0791, or fill out our online request form here.
I’ve heard it a hundred times: “I don’t like history. It was really boring in school.” As a history graduate student and professional tutor, I have worked for over a decade trying to engage students in social studies. The majority of young people had studied under over-stretched teachers (who were often primarily athletic coaches rather than history educators), and the dry focus on names and dates instilled in them a boredom with history and a belief they were "not good at it.” However, we know that studying history correctly – in addition to being inspiring and fun – gives us the tools we need to be wiser voters, consumers, and community members. So, how can we reverse the trend of disinterest in history? How can we change student's perception of history from a dry school subject to be endured for a semester and forgotten into a lifelong cultural hobby applicable to art, politics, religion, and science.
Engage the senses. Our forebears enjoyed five senses just like we do. The internet is full of old recipes and vendors who sell traditional foods; you can try hardtack while studying the American Civil War, or go out for hot dogs while discussing the Great Depression. Take a family trip to a costume store and try on historical outfits. Listen to period music when reading about events or driving to historical sites. (Period music is especially easy to find on YouTube.) Multisensory engagement is the next best thing to a time machine!
Individualized tutoring can help break through. At iLearn Academy, we have multiple historian tutors who love to help bored social studies students improve their grades while finding a new joy in studying the past. Give us a call or email if your student needs help with that social studies test or AP History exam.
I have taught K-8 math for over 20 years, and when students come in knowing basic arithmetic facts (simple addition and subtraction, multiplication tables, etc.), I can bring them up to grade level in no time. While parents may think of algebra or geometry as difficult subjects for students, the hardest instruction is always teaching basic facts to primary grade students.
I am not just talking about rote memorization or letting students rely on their fingers or count backwards for subtraction facts. Teaching basic fact skills requires careful planning, with the goal of developing automaticity through learning, repetition, and practice.
Knowledge of math basics provides a foundation for more complex computations. Understanding numbers and developing mental strategies are important factors for math fluency. If students forget an answer, they can use their basic strategies to retrieve it. Students who merely memorize cannot do this.
Mastering these basics takes time. In most K-5 classrooms, basic fact instruction is a routine part of the school day, but with in-person schooling disrupted this past year, students face reductions in teaching time. Now more than ever parents must supplement schooling with math repetition and practice at home.
Simply telling a child to “go study” is far less effective than getting involved. Play basic fact games together! You can find many teacher-made games. Traditional games, like Monopoly and Yahtzee, also involve basic arithmetic if you let your student be the “banker” or score-keeper. Use manipulatives such as beans, cups, and coins when teaching doubling, division, skip-counting, money, time, etc.
If you need more suggestions or encouragement, please feel free to ask us. Basic fact fluency is foundational for understanding higher math. Teaching students the basics takes time, but with creativity and purpose, we can make it fun and rewarding for them.
We’ve all been there. Someone makes a grammatical error, a mechanical mistake, a syntactical faux pas. Maybe they used ‘less’ when they meant ‘fewer’, or they misplaced a modifier. Perhaps they said they were doing ‘good’, and you found yourself tempted to scoffingly quote Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock: “Superman does good. You’re doing well. You need to study your grammar, son.”
I admit that, when I catch a grammar mistake, I feel a heady mixture of schadenfreude and smug superiority: not only did I witness someone make a grammar mistake, but I was “smart” enough to catch it. We may even feel entitled to call attention to the error, perhaps with an air of superiority. Hopefully we all know this response is unkind, unnecessary, and unproductive. However, depending on your linguistic perspective, it may also be – for lack of a better word – wrong.
Some English linguists, particularly those living in decades and centuries past, are prescriptivists. These scholars believe that there is one right way to speak and write English. Some even believe that an Academy of English should exist to make official rulings on the proper use of the language, much as the Académie Française in Paris does for the French language with hallowed power. (The academy’s board members are literally referred to as “The Immortals”.) While no such institution exists for English, prescriptivists will still refer to grammar rules and dictionary entries as definitive proof that Standard English exists and that other forms of English, such the rural Southern dialect or African-American Vernacular English are incorrect forms, signs of illiteracy or a lack of refinement.
However, most linguists today fall into the descriptivist camp. Unlike the prescriptivists, descriptivists do not see forms of English as right or wrong, but rather as fluid, evolving ways of communicating meaning. Descriptivism is a far less judgmental and arbitrary way of understanding language. Rather than saying how English should be used, descriptivists study how English is used. While prescriptivists may be more likely to throw the dictionary at someone for not using a word “correctly,” descriptivists put in the work to actually see how words are used so that linguists can make dictionary entries in the first place.
While descriptivism is likely the best approach to any language, it makes particular sense when applied to English, the most cobbled-together language I can think of. Stitched together over centuries, English is an exquisite corpse with Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, French, Greek, Latin, German, Arabic, and Native American parts. English takes on loan words like I collect thrift store couches: frequently and without too much thought on how they’ll mesh with the pre-existing furniture. English arguably features the most words of any language (if one doesn’t count Spanish’s grammatical inflections or German’s hyper-compound words, which are obviously cheating.) English’s flexibility has made it the unquestioned lingua franca of diplomacy and trade – “lingua franca” being the English term for a chief world language despite it literally meaning “Frankish tongue” in French. That’s how seriously English speakers “borrow” words and make them our own. English isn’t just a language. It’s a giant compressing machine. If any cypher might someday form a linguistic singularity to rival that of the Tower of Babel’s contractors, it would be English, where the rules are made up and – to circle back to the point of this essay – the points don’t matter.
Therefore, in a certain sense, no one speaks English incorrectly. No one writes English incorrectly. Every “mistake” is merely a step in English evolution. If English-speakers one day, centuries hence, find Oliver Twist or The Great Gatsby incomprehensible due to changes in the vernacular, it will be no more a sign of barbarian take-over or “dumbing down” than is our current difficulty reading Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales. To think so would be a delusion based in presentism and ahistorical egotism.
That being said, sometimes we do need to enforce the rules of Standard English. In colleges and universities, we need to be able to understand each other quickly, with a sense of clarity, conciseness, and tone that necessarily evolve a bit more slowly than, say, the minimalistic memes of Facebook or frenetic monologues on Tik-Tok. In academia, we avoid slang, not because slang is objectively incorrect, but because slang has not yet achieved the uniformity of meaning that Standard English has, and workaday uniformity allows scholars to share their work around the world and – for the most part – understand the archived knowledge of at least the past few centuries without too much trouble. I have taught Standard English as an SAT/ACT tutor and college instructor for nearly a decade, and I will continue to do so. Standard English has an elegance and clarity that facilitate academic discourse, and I insist my students understand and – in some contexts – conform to that standard. (If your student is struggling with Standard English grammar or composition, please reach out to us at iLearn Academy. We offer test preparation and skill-building sessions for all ages.) If a student wishes to earn good grades, scholarships, and academic success generally, they must master Standard English.
However, in most contexts outside academia, if you can understand someone's meaning, they are speaking English correctly. Do not judge someone or their ideas because of imperfect grammar or unorthodox syntax. This is not merely rude and prejudicial, but also ignores the inherently evolving nature of the English language - the very trait that has given it so much beauty, range, and usefulness.
Interested in Your Middle School Student Attending a Catholic Private High School? They’ll Need to Take the HSPT.
Perhaps your student has thrived at their public middle school, but you are concerned that the local high school may not challenge them enough. Maybe your student found their 7th grade experience disappointing, and you are looking for alternate schools for the next four years. Possibly you would like your child to connect more with your family’s religious culture. Whatever your reasons for considering Catholic high school for your budding scholar, they will need to take the High School Placement Test, and soon, and we at iLearn Academy are here to help. (Those whose students are going to take the ISEE should also read this article, as the two tests share many similarities.)
What is the High School Placement Test? In 1953, the Scholastic Testing Service designed the HSPT for private schools to use when evaluating eighth graders. While any private school can use the HSPT, Catholic high schools have been the primary adopters, so the test is associated with Catholic schools who use its results to inform their admissions process. Some of these institutions even include a religious knowledge subtest with the exam. (Sorry, iLearn Academy does not help with theology test prep!) Additionally, some schools add optional science and mechanical skills subtests, but the vast majority stick to the basic five subtests: verbal skills, quantitative skills, reading, mathematics, and language.
While tens of thousands of students take the test, many schools only admit those who score in the top 25%, with some schools being even more selective! In short, your student is unlikely to place well unless they prepare for the test. A long and demanding exam, the HSPT will likely challenge your student more than any evaluation they have taken in all their years of schooling. Timing presents the main challenge of the HSPT: every section allows less than a minute for students to answer each question:
We can offer good news, however: most of the questions themselves are not particularly hard, covering skills most middle schoolers have already learned. If your student possesses a good vocabulary and a fair understanding of basic math operations, essay composition, and simple grammar rules, they stand a good chance at excelling on the HSPT. Now comes the bad news: the HSPT hides all those basic skill checks under question formats your student may not have encountered before. For example, instead of just asking straightforward arithmetic questions, the HSPT presents students with quantitative comparisons and pre-algebra word problems they will need to “translate” in order to answer. I have seen many otherwise skilled students freeze while taking a practice HSPT because they did not recognize the problem types.
In addition, the HSPT demands students possess a broad and nuanced vocabulary. Students must rapid-fire answer questions involving analogies, synonyms, antonyms, and verbal logic that will prove impossible unless students prepare by broadening their vocabulary and expanding their understanding of how words communicate ideas. They will need to group terms into categories based on a range of tangible and abstract distinctions, using “one of these is not like the other” and “x is to y as a is to what?” logic. Also, given that even the most loquacious 8th grader will not possess conversational definitions of all HSPT words, students need a ready grasp of Greek/Latin verbal roots to make educated guesses at words they do not fully understand.
Similarly to the math and vocabulary sections, the language subtest – which covers grammar and composition – evaluates the student’s command of fairly basic English skills through a somewhat complicated question format. Instead of providing a sentence with a specific type of error and asking students to fix it, the HSPT gives test-takers three sentences where one may or may not contain an error. Students must then decide which sentence, if any, contains an error – and errors could include punctuation, capitalization, or word usage. Another section tests spelling in a similar way: students must decide whether one of three sentences features a misspelled word. The final section of the language subtest asks questions involving tone, clarity, syntax, and sentence order, a dizzying array of potential errors for a middle school student with only 30 seconds to answer each question.
The best HSPT preparation will include a broad review of skills, directed expansion of student vocabulary, and lots of guided, timed practice. We here at iLearn Academy have developed a twice-weekly, ten-week program to cover all the verbal, math, and grammar skills needed to build your student’s accuracy for the HSPT test.We also proctor mock exams complete with post-exam analysis to help your student develop efficiency and test-stamina. We provide all materials students need, including textbooks, class worksheets, and homework, so all you have to do is make sure your scholar shows up and remind them to complete homework assignments. We offer both private and small-group (two or three students max) tutoring as well as private online tutoring with interactive Zoom sessions and Google Classroom resources.
If you want more information, or are interested in signing up for any other test prep courses, please reach out to us at (847) 834-0791or shoot us a message here on Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you.
From Application to Acceptance: The Journey of College Admissions, Part Two
[This is part two of a two-part series on college applications.]
In the first part of this series, we discussed how you can help your student pick which colleges or universities to apply to. By now your student has considered carefully their scope of possibilities based on their grades, test scores, and field of study. They have decided between public and private universities, two- and four-year colleges, and liberal arts versus research schools. (Or they have decided to apply to a mixed group of these.) Finally, they have selected a range of about ten to twelve schools including safe options, target schools, and dream universities, and stand ready to move on to the next stage.
Part Two: Actually Apply for College
While the process of applying may resemble a Byzantine, even Kafkaesque, ordeal from time to time, one should resist the urge to feel overwhelmed by remembering that these school want – nay, need – students in order to exist. Your student can and will navigate these systems. If they struggle to complete a task related to a particular institution, do not hesitate to call the school’s admissions or bursar’s office for guidance, or seek out assistance from friends who may have completed this process recently. You can also contact us here at iLearn Academy for advice. You need not go through this process alone.
Step 3: Gather all the required information.
Armed with their list of target schools, your student should begin to gather the documents necessary. Individual schools’ application systems (as well as the Common Application) will give specific instructions, but here we highlight several common requirements.
Not all colleges will interview, and even those that do may only interview for special programs or scholarships. Find out early on if your student will need to interview for your selected colleges. If they find themselves scheduled for a meeting, have them consider these tips on how to successfully navigate these conversations.
Step 5: Scholarships
Scholarships not only help pay for tuition or living expenses, but they also reward students for effort and focus, providing motivation and a sense of accomplishment and belonging at college. Most schools offer many scholarship opportunities and the more your students applies for the more they can potentially earn. Research scholarship in two places:
However, the logic behind these tests is not arbitrary or capricious. The questions and answers on the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests favor conventions of written communication that objectively promote understanding, empathy, fair-mindedness, and discretion, characteristics sorely missing in the depths of many social media chatrooms, political cliques, and the anxiety-ridden hearts of people confused and afraid in our increasingly uncontrollable and alienating modern world. As we watch in sorrow as these fears and suspicions ignite into the violent destruction of lives, property, and democratic norms on the nightly news, I am more convinced than ever of the necessity of basic composition, logic, and reading comprehension skills covered in our nation’s standardized tests.
1. Tone. Most of the passages in the English sections of the ACT and Writing sections of the SAT favor measured language, avoiding extremism or exaggeration. I tell my students often, “If you see answers with words like ‘all’, ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘only’, ‘most’, ‘best’, or ‘worst’, you have a pretty good tip that those are wrong answer choices.” Very few things in life are absolute. (Almost) nothing is a perfect example of anything. This does not mean that one should not exhibit passion when speaking or writing. Most of the grammar test passages include varied vocabulary and demonstrate the writer’s deep interest in their subject. However, adopting a moderate tone, with allowance for exceptions and avoidance of inflammatory rhetoric, will not only improve a student’s test scores and college application essays, but it will also set them apart from a toxic political environment where many choose bombastic volume over empathy and reason and the immediate gratification of reaction over the hard, prolonged work of promoting justice.
2. The Scientific Method. I regularly advise my students – especially those fearful of the hard sciences – that the ACT Science passage and scientific passages in the PSAT and SAT mostly work as glorified reading comprehension problems. If one reads carefully for key terms, analyses graphs with care, and methodically applies logic, one can achieve a remarkably high score even without a firm grasp of the basic content knowledge of biology, chemistry, or physics (although that certainly helps!) On the first day of ACT Science instruction, I teach them the basics of the scientific method and experiment design, particularly the idea of variables, constants, and controls. By learning this, they achieve some grasp of what counts as proof and how we can actually know something. They understand the importance of repeatability, controls, and peer review. Naturally, this will serve them well going into their Freshman and Sophomore college science classes, particularly those with lab requirements. But such principles will also protect them from the junk science and poorly-sourced rumors that flood social media from all directions on a daily basis. Charlatans and alarmists sadly populate our world, seeking whom they may devour, and by teaching your student the difference between fact, fiction, opinion, and nonsense you give them the best defense possible in these troubled times – the defense of sound, stable mental processing.
3. Certainty versus Possibility. One of the thorniest types of reading problem these tests present offers an almost-correct answer choice that is just slightly too specific to be supported by the evidence provided, while the correct answer is supported by the evidence but feels too hedged or careful for a right answer, so students rarely pick it. I have to convince them that just because we know one thing is true does not automatically mean we have proven similar or related things. By studying for these tests, students learn what many adults have forgotten: we speak truly by making careful and measured – even if often less satisfying – statements rather than asserting absolute and overly-specific claims. The latter category of declaration often feels more comforting, as dogmatism offers the illusion of certainty, a tempting balm amidst the cacophony of complex discourse we face every time we check our phones, open an internet browser, or turn on the television. We must teach our students – and always remember ourselves – that true confidence comes from deliberate study and a willingness to be proven wrong if the evidence does so.
4. Empathy without Gullibility. In the reading comprehension sections, most of the informative essays use moderate tone and measured language, but some of the persuasive essays, particularly older ones, require students to analyze the negative rhetoric and charged vocabulary of people most modern readers would strongly disagree with. Sometimes these tests feature selections from 19th century writers or speakers who defended chattel slavery or opposed recognizing women’s right to vote. The test writers do not, of course, present these passages as legitimate moral views. Rather, they test whether students can understand an argument and the logic behind it (including logical flaws) without adopting the argument itself. Students, indeed everyone, must develop the capacity to understand without agreeing, empathize without conceding, and listen without blindly following. In so doing, they will build intellectual and moral armor against regressive and authoritarian ideology without discounting the humanity, however flawed, of those caught up in the traps of paranoia or hate.
During my earliest years of tutoring, much closer to the dates of my own standardized tests, I regarded standardized tests merely as a necessary evil. They seemed rarefied and almost arbitrary, useful only by gaming the process to get a score that would allow entrance – little better than a magic word – into college where the “real learning” would take place. I now see how profoundly wrong I was. I use the skills of measured language, moderate claims, and the scientific approach to knowledge every day. I also recognize the level of suffering caused by those who have forgotten – or perhaps never learned – those skills, who are led or lead others astray both morally and intellectually by choosing extremism over discretion, ideology over empathy, and false certainty over the real confidence that comes from logic, patience, and care.
[This is part one of a two part series on college applications.]
Despite the disruptions going on right now, one thing remains certain: College Applications are due soon. For all our seniors preparing to embark on this journey, and anyone else interested in higher learning, we offer the first entry in a two-part guide to applying for college. This entry focuses on how to decide where and how to apply, while the second will deal with the more practical steps of applying.
Part One: Decide Where You Want to Apply
The United States alone boasts over 4000 colleges and universities, but most students only have the time and money to apply to ten or so. Whittling down the options seems a daunting task. Luckily, many great resources can help you make an ideal list of colleges for application. We most enthusiastically recommend the website Cappex; through your free account, Cappex helps you identify realistic target schools based on your grades and scores, connect you to interested programs, and locate scholarships and other sources of funding for your academic future. We strongly suggest you sign-up for this or a similar service, but for now we will detail some of the major themes you should consider when helping your student select where to send applications.
Of course, if your student already has a firm idea of what discipline they want to study or career they wish to enter, a school's specific academic program and faculty may figure more prominently into application decisions than the type of school in question. By discussing your student's goals and applying them to the options described above, you can help your student balance financial, social, and professional considerations. For more information including lists of schools matching the different types, visit the Common App and Coalition App online.
Socializing plays an important role in healthy childhood development, but with many schools limiting or eliminating in-person instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic, students risk missing out on crucial interaction with teachers and peers. Add to this general social distancing guidelines and most kids will barely leave the house at all this fall. But never despair! You can help your kids socialize while protecting them from dangers both online and off. We present ten great ideas for your kids to socially engage while staying safe at home.
With a new season of SAT/ACT testing and college applications, we wanted to address a common question: What is Superscoring?
To answer it directly, it's when colleges allow students to average their scores from multiple test attempts. Now this doesn’t mean you can mix and match between the SAT and ACT. Instead, if you take either the ACT or SAT test multiple times, you can mix and match sections to get your best average score.
Here's a hypothetical example: A student takes the SAT and gets a sub score of 500 on the Reading/Writing and 700 on Math. Their SAT score would be 1200. Not a bad score, but one that can be improved. Now, let's assume the next time the student takes the test, they improve their Reading/Writing score. This time they get 700 on this section. But if they focused only on half the test, we assume their Math score dropped to 600. They still went up (1300), but it is a bummer that they did worse on a different section each time.
Here's where Superscoring comes into play. Colleges will look at both tests and take the best section scores of each. So, now the student has the 700 on Math from the first test, and the 700 on Reading/Writing from the second. A 1400 is better than either individual test and this can help you get into the more selective schools. This same process works for the four sections on the ACT as well (Reading, English, Math, and Science). Unfortunately, at this time you need to take the full test to be able to Superscore, however, the ACT & SAT are evaluating whether or not to allow students to take only one section of the test in the future. Check out these additional Superscore FAQs from the ACT and SAT .
Superscoring is a great feature that all students should keep in mind this fall. What’s the catch, though? Well, here are a few things to remember:
*For SAT: https://blog.prepscholar.com/which-colleges-superscore-the-sat
Should your children stay home and miss out on in-person instruction? Many parents, students, and teachers are on edge at the start of the school year amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Many fear the added exposure of mingling with dozens or potentially hundreds of students a day will not only risk their children's health, but other family members as well. Adding to the stress, parents are concerned their children's education has already suffered from the digital learning experience and they are looking for solutions. An excellent alternative is to consider a small group "learning pod". According to a recent study by the New York Times, the risks of exposure to the virus are significantly lower in a small group or "pod" while the student maintains a high quality, teacher-led education.
If you have attempted to form your own learning pod, you may find the task is overwhelming in trying to find a safe environment, research quality instructors, and gather the right mix of students in the same age group and skill sets as your own child. Learning pods, also described on Facebook as microschools, homeschool pods or pandemic pods, are a great alternative if you follow the right guidelines and have the right resources.
iLearn Academy's Learning Pod. We take the work out of finding tutors by hiring certified and highly experienced teachers, offer a very *safe and clean academic environment, and teach students with similar skills in a private or small group setting. Students can bring their laptops to our center during school hours led by an in-person teacher that will support students' learning while taking the school's online teaching so that the student remains focused and on-task. Another option is for students to come to our center afterschool and receive additional instruction or homework help in subjects such as math and English. We can also offer test prep courses such as PSAT 8/9 and ACT/SAT. Parents can bring a group of two to four students and we will differentiate our instruction based on each individual's skill. We can also offer an interactive and live online session with a more personalized lesson plan versus the school's online sessions. We will support students to master their learning with our experienced teachers and effective teaching methods.
If you decide to create your own learning pod, here are the top three crucial steps to consider:
1. Find Quality Instructors. One benefit of the at-school experience is the multitude of teachers that are available and disciplined in a specific subject, and experienced instructing at a particular grade level. Attempting to re-create the at-school experience is difficult: tutors may not have the broad skill sets to cover multiple subjects let alone follow a grade appropriate curriculum. It can also be time consuming and hard to find multiple teachers that can fit into your small group's schedule. In addition, parents often times lack the right assessment tools needed to confirm the teacher is doing a great job or meeting the minimum state standards. You might be able to follow the school's curriculum, though be cautious as the tutor has a tendency of using their own materials and will likely not have enough exposure to the school's materials to teach effectively. Nevertheless, below are a few questions you should ask the tutor in the interview process:
2. Create a Safe, Centralized Location. Some families have opted to gather at a particular home or rotate from one home to the next. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offers a helpful checklist for virtual or at home learning. This includes the usual advice on frequent hand washing, social distancing, and face masks in addition to guidelines on social-emotional wellbeing of group instruction. By keeping a centralized location, an academic environment can be created using a systematic approach to cleanliness and a consistency with group activities and exercise between lessons. Of course, someone needs to enforce each person attending the group will follow the safety guidelines.
3. Gather Similar Students. One of the bigger challenges facing small group learning pods is finding the right mix of students with the same skill sets. One of your child's peers may be very good in math but weak in English. Unless the teacher is adept at handling a wide range of skill sets, this may limit your son or daughter's ability to excel in a particular subject.
One of the most effective means of creating a learning pod is to join a local learning center that offers small group or in-person sessions. This alleviates the need to find and locate teachers as the centers have already vetted and trained the teachers.
iLearn Academy offers small group or private instruction to support the local school 's online learning and helps students improve even further so that they may learn beyond their grade level skills.
Please give us a call today at 1-847-834-0791 to get started right away: Seats are limited.
*iLearn Academy requires everyone entering the building to have a daily temperature check, wear masks or shields, and we disinfect the rooms after every lesson. We also limit the total number of staff and students to 18 people in our 2,500 square foot facility at any given time so we can maintain proper social distancing.
Several big-name universities declared that ACT/SAT college testing would now be considered optional for those applying this fall due to Covid19. You might now be wondering: Is studying for the ACT or SAT even worth it? And the answer we want to stress is YES! It is important for you to take either the ACT or SAT this year.
Every year millions of students around the world apply to American colleges. This won’t stop because of our current situation. And even if many schools decide to make ACT/SAT testing optional, we wish to emphasis the importance of continuing to prepare for the following reasons:
Finally, for all those worried about finding and taking the ACT/SAT during these uncertain times:
iLearn Academy is here to help you excel on either the ACT or SAT, Learn More Here. Let us know what you think. Please feel free to reach out to us on Facebook with your concerns surrounding the ACT/SAT. We always welcome the voices and opinions of our community.
Are you looking for some cool websites that you and your children will love? We couldn’t help but notice a decline in kids’ motivational and critical thinking skills, so we have some ideas to help. Here are four free websites we found that offer great ways to engage kids while also providing a creative and educational outlet:
(Additional games, puzzles, and resources can be found on the “At Home Activities” page at the Department of Education: https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus?src=feature Next, scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the resources).
Which of these activities or resources did you find most enjoyable? Are there other fun and educational websites you have been using and can recommend? If so, please share! We would love to hear from all our families on how they have been making the most of these uncertain times. Please leave a comment on our page. And if you have any questions feel free to reach out as well; iLearn Academy remains dedicated to serving you in a safe and effective way.
If you’ve not come into our center lately, my name is Stein, and I’ve been the Assistant Director here since September. As I begin my third month in this position, I’ve decided to reevaluate our approach to the blogs we’ve been writing. We are genuinely excited about the ways this new format will allow us to communicate. If you have an event you’d like us to include or a question you’d like us to answer in the first edition of the new format next Friday, send me a message, I’ll be happy to hear from you!
To your academic success!
Your essay is the only opportunity to speak directly to the admissions office to show how you think, what you value, and what makes you unique from the thousands of others competing for a spot at your dream school.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Start by considering specific experiences that you’ve had. If asked about how your background has shaped you as a person, ask yourself:
When reflecting, always remember that there are two sides to an argument. Your ability to recognize both the benefits and disadvantages of a situation shows college-level thinking skills.
Step 3: Get Started
The hardest part of writing any paper is getting started. This essay will take multiple drafts; the final result may look completely different than when you first started and that’s okay!
If you are interested in getting some help, iLearn Academy offers a college essay package. Our professional writing instructors help students revise their essays into stronger, more compelling pieces.
- Two, one-hour sessions with an English instructor: Review your rough drafts to determine areas for improvement.
- One full round of proofreading and edits: Get your essay proofread for content, structure, writing conventions and grammar.
Call iLearn Academy at 847-834-0791 for more information!
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now open. Here is a great article to help you maximize your college financial aid eligibility. It's also important to know that colleges and state grants have early deadlines so you don't want to miss out. Read more...
Before the Conference: Be prepared.
During the Conference: Stay positive
After the Conference: Monitor progress
If you found this article to be useful or if you have any follow-up questions, please leave a comment and we will be happy to offer our help!
The start of any school year is tough for both parents and students. Here are 5 great tips to inspire parents to give kids the support they need:
1. Be aware.
Parents who are in tune with what their children are doing, how they are feeling, and who they are with are better equipped to guide them through any academic, social, and emotional challenges. When a child is acting out or has become reserved, it is easy for parents to become frustrated. Offering a listening ear, acknowledging a child’s feelings, and guiding them in the next step are great ways to build trust.
2. Cultivate skill sets.
Like many adults, children and teens can greatly benefit from organization, time management, and self-regulation strategies. Our world has become fast-paced so it is easy to focus on getting an assignment done, rather than getting it done well.
3. Foster your child’s creativity.
Creativity carries great significance because it is an ability that teaches cognitive skills, encourages communication and problem solving, and involves imagination. People tend to be the most creative when they are doing something they enjoy. Parents can help their children develop creativity by encouraging them to experiment with hobbies and new ideas. Parents should follow their child’s interests as they change, look for opportunities that stem from these interests, and encourage free expression rather than fixed results.
4. Embrace mistakes.
When students are learning new material, they will make mistakes. It is so easy for children to become discouraged, but it is crucial to master the concepts that students are struggling with before moving on. Instead of feeling shame for mistakes, parents should remind students that the mistakes are merely showing where more practice is necessary. Students will also benefit if their parents are patient and specific about errors. It is much easier to retain information when you know why something is incorrect. By showing how every mistake can be overcome, students will develop a more constructive relationship with mistakes, and push themselves to their full potential.
5. Get help early on.
Don't wait until the first bad report card or stressful parent-teacher conference. Stay involved with your child's learning early in the school year and monitor how they are progressing in school. If you detect any signs of a struggle, a simple question of "how are you doing at school?' isn't enough. You should ask to see their assignments, check their online grades, and contact their teachers for any signs of a problem. Work with your child to help them improve or, if you are not readily available, get help from an expert such as a tutor send them to a learning center. Building a strong foundation early on is one of the keys to a successful school year.
This PSAT 8-9 is coming up in October. Is your 8th-grader ready?
Illinois schools switched to this test in 2018 to help determine students’ high school class placement. In other words, your student’s performance on this test contributes to whether she will take advanced classes or general classes in high school, namely math and English.
Preparing for this test takes time and, often, help from someone familiar with the test format and content. Help your student do his best by sitting down with him and making a study plan – no cramming, no stress.
To study, he can review class notes, browse sample questions online or work with a tutor to master test concepts and take real practice tests. We strongly recommend your student take some real PSAT 8-9 practice tests so she becomes familiar with how the test is set up, what type of questions she will see and how much time she will have on each section.
Now is the time to start studying, and test day is right around the corner. Here’s a checklist for you and your student in the days leading up to the PSAT 8-9 – and the big day itself!
☐ Review corrected tests, homework assignments and class notes from math class – including those from 7th grade. This is a great way to jog the memory and prepare for the test, as the test content is very similar to class content.
☐ Review parts of speech and grammar rules. Students likely spend most of their time in English class reading and practicing composition. This makes it easy to forget grammar and mechanics. IXL.com is a great way to review these concepts. Every iLearn Academy student has her own IXL login – ask your tutor if you don’t know the username or password!
☐ Take a full-length practice PSAT 8-9 with a timer and correct any missed questions. These tests can be hard to track down – talk to your child’s tutor if you’d like help with test prep materials.
☐ Make a test day kit or baggy with two sharpened no. 2 pencil with erasers and an approved calculator. Any standard calculator or graphing calculator will be fine. However, any calculator that accesses the Internet, makes noise, has a QWERTY keyboard, uses a stylus or contains paper tape is not allowed. (This includes laptops, cellphones and smart watches.)
☐ Make sure your student does not bring a recorder, compass, protractor, ruler, highlighter, colored pen or pencil, scratch paper, dictionary, snack or drink.
☐ Get a good night’s sleep the day before the test, eat a breakfast with protein and drink plenty of water. This helps your student’s brain stay sharp and focused.
☐ Standardized tests can be stressful, especially when the results feel important. It’s nice to remind your student that he is loved no matter what he scores – and that you have confidence in his abilities. Remember: grades and teacher recommendations also play a role in class placement, so this test is not the be-all-end-all!
iLearn Academy’s test prep program uses real test materials and expert instructors to help your student achieve her best possible score. If you’d like our help making a test prep plan, choosing the right materials and filling in any gaps in your student’s learning, call 847-834-0791 today and ask about our proven PSAT 8-9 program.
Completing homework consistently and accurately is essential to mastering important concepts and earning good grades.
Many elementary students understand new concepts in class, but quickly forget due to a lack of practice and repetition. Other students struggle to build the study skills to keep up with nightly homework assignments, especially in middle and high school.
No matter your child’s age, iLearn Academy has a fall afterschool program to ensure he gets the homework help he needs. Run errands, exercise or simply relax while your child gets expert instruction from qualified tutors.
For elementary students: Our all-inclusive afterschool program provides three hours of daily instruction in math, English and homework help. We offer quality care at a great value from 3 to 6 pm; you choose how many days a week your child attends.
For middle school students: Our Homework Help Lab helps students finish assignments and build skills in a focused environment with help from knowledgeable tutors. Students can come any weekday between 3 and 7 pm for help with math, English, or both.
For high school students: Our Test Prep Gym is designed to build test-taking skills for ongoing standardized test. Whether your student is preparing for the PSAT 8-9, PSAT/NMSQT, ACT or SAT, our program builds skills incrementally using real test materials and instructor feedback. Students can practice test-taking whenever they want from 4 to 7 pm Monday through Thursday.
Our afterschool homework help and test prep programs take the stress out of nightly assignments and standardized tests. Best of all, they help your child form healthy study habits as they prioritize their to-do lists and tackle new academic challenges.
Call 847-834-0791 today to learn more or enroll. Not sure if your child needs extra support? We’d love to sit down and review your student’s latest report card and diagnostic test results. Thank you for trusting us with your child’s academic success!