Given recent events, we at iLearn Academy hope everyone is staying home, staying healthy, and finding ways to enjoy the change of pace and extra family time that school closures have made possible. Take some time with your youngest students and read together! Among the perennials we welcome every spring at iLearn is the Common Core English and Literacy testing which is almost solely focused on Reading comprehension, and with good reason. Reading comprehension might be the most critical ability students develop. Their capacity to understand text and synthesize knowledge will help determine their scores on every test they take – from the PSAT to the ACT. It will also make them more fulfilled humans and well-informed fellow citizens. It’s easy to underestimate the value of processing text, especially in a world that seems to spend less time turning pages – as if the only thing to gain is access to all printed knowledge. Reading comprehension skills are the first great set of weights for the brain’s critical thinking muscles. Unfortunately, American schools are not effectively teaching these skills to the majority of students. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a biennial test also referred to as the Nation’s Report Card for literacy, found that only 37 percent of fourth graders read at a level the NAEP defines as “proficient.” In Illinois, that number is lower: 34 percent. For some time, the general approach has been to teach reading comprehension skills first, detached from any specific content, because you need these skills to understand the content. The problem, many experts argue, is that this approach neglects the central roles that background knowledge and vocabulary play in reading comprehension. Students start off with different levels of background knowledge and vocabulary, based on whatever they have been immersed in by their parents. This “knowledge gap” turns into an achievement gap that can actually widen through the course of their education, exacerbated by the “skills first” approach. Some argue that switching to “content-based” curricula, using content to teach skills, would improve overall learning and decrease that gap. This isn’t news to tutors, of course. Identifying and filling knowledge gaps is what tutors have been doing since way back in Ancient Greece. We know there are tried and true methods to improve a student’s reading comprehension. Yet, while we do what we can in the short time we spend with your students, they spend a great deal more time around you, their parents, getting the background knowledge – lived/learned experience and vocabulary – so critical to comprehension and intellectual development. There is no doubt about the research: in this vital area, parents have by far the greatest influence. If you want to help your children work on general reading comprehension skills, books are still your best friends. Use these proven strategies:
Make sure your kids read something every day.
Have them read aloud. It slows them down. Take turns reading at home, or have them read to you in the car instead of listening to the radio.
Ask them questions about what they’ve read. What is the book about? What do they think will happen next? What do they like about it?
Encourage them to take notes or write in the margins.
You should also enhance their comprehension by improving their general background knowledge. The key here is exposure to the world and its ideas.
Expand their vocabularies. If they come across unfamiliar words, make sure to explain both the definition and usage in context.
Broaden their perspectives. Maybe take them to a museum or a jazz concert, or whatever cultural equivalent you know will give them that similar mix of uncomfortable and curious.
Satiate their curiosity. Encourage their interests. Engage their imagination and cultivate their critical thinking.
What makes iLearn Academy’s teaching model stand out like is that, unlike the chain tutoring companies, which apply their algorithms (pre-fabricated curriculum) to data sets (students), we have the flexibility and competence to get to know each individual student. We tailor our lessons, and even our conversations, to go beyond merely raising the grade or passing the test. We teach concepts, comprehension techniques, and problem-solving tools that, even after passing the course, our students can apply throughout their academic careers and beyond. Helping students identify their individual passions for learning and empowering them with tools they will always wield is a very gratifying and validating type of work.
First, the last puzzle and answer: This puzzle is very short, but may keep you thinking for a while! One day Kerry celebrated her birthday. Two days later, her older twin brother, Terry, celebrated his birthday. How!?
At the time she went into labor, the mother of the twins was travelling by boat. The older twin, Terry, was born first early on March 1st. The boat then crossed the International Date line (or any time zone line) and Kerry, the younger twin, was born on February the 28th. In a leap year the younger twin celebrates her birthday two days before her older brother.
Now, this issue’s new puzzle: A riddle is a statement which has a secret meaning - your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to crack the puzzle and find that meaning. Don't worry, it's not mission impossible. Let's start with an easy one - answer this.
Brothers and sisters I have none, but this man's father is my father's son. Who is the man?
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