kitchen table math, the sequel: Letter from a friend

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Letter from a friend

I love this letter from Debbie Stier to a friend of hers whose daughter has "started the SAT gauntlet." (Debbie never thinks of SAT prep as a "gauntlet," by the way. Not a gauntlet: that is a first principle of doing SAT prep with your child.)

My favorite part:
Vocabulary is the biggest part of the Critical Reading. The entire reading section (passages included) is a vocabulary based reasoning test; vocab is MORE than just those fill in those blank questions. The more vocab she knows (as in the "I can use it in a sentence and define it for you and tell you the 2nd and third def's" sort of way), the better.

The New York Times is a GREAT way to learn vocab IN CONTEXT. I've been reading the newspaper every morning with Daisy and we get at least 10 words per day that she can't define. We started with a half hour every morning and her mission was to find ONE article that she wanted to read in it's entirety and tell me about it and pick out a few vocab words.

She is now up to an hour and often reads 3-4 full articles and LOVES it.

She asks me vocabulary as we go along and I define the words and she writes them down with a little memory jogger. And as I read the paper next to her and I find words, I ask her the def's and she adds them to her list if she doesn't know them.

I'd say she's up to about 100 words now just from the NY times for the last 5 months.

Then, whenever doing anything (e.g. cleaning the kitchen, driving, etc.), I have her break out "the list" (it's handwritten plus on our phones), and she uses them in sentences and I tweak them for her.

This exercise will help with the speed of the reading passages too. A large part of the challenge in that section is the sophisticated vocabulary. They are college level reading passages (i.e. not what high schoolers are used to reading).

That's why the "as long as they read it doesn't matter WHAT they read" line of thought doesn't stand up in this context.
My other favorite part, from the P.S.:
3) Don't ask her, "Are there any words you don't know?" because she will say "No. I know them all." They all do. After she tells you the 1-2 words she thinks doesn't know, look through the article yourself and ask her words. You'll add another 3-4.

People don't know what they don't know -- especially teenagers.

4) If she rejects this whole idea at fist, ignore. They ALL say they don't want to do "SAT Work" -- especially with a parent. That will change very very quickly.

These are great, too:
Book is out in February!


Anonymous said...

DO you mean "guantlet", the armor worn on the hand, or "gantlet", a form of punishment in which a person is forced to run between two lines of men facing each other and armed with clubs or whips to beat the victim?

(Both words are spelled both ways in some sources, but I prefer to keep the distinction clear.)

Anonymous said...

Typo fixes (I hit publish too soon):

Do you mean "gauntlet" …

SteveH said...

For my son, the direct vocabulary list approach worked best. Even though he reads a lot, words were not sinking in or he had the wrong spins. He went from missing many questions due to vocabulary to none when he took the SAT. On one practice test, ALL of his CR mistakes were due to vocabulary.

I prefer the direct approach to SAT preparation; study word lists and do timed Blue Book tests - with careful analysis afterwards. I think that's critical. Let the tests drive the extra learning. I did not have my son study with the Blue Book test questions. Those were all saved for timed tests. Those questions are like gold. No other prep or study guide questions can be trusted for anything other than getting close.

Debbie Stier said...

Hi Steve...what is the "direct vocabulary list approach?"

Making lists of words from the tests?

FedUpMom said...

Completely off topic -- can anyone recommend a Chemistry textbook for a soon-to-be-homeschooled high school sophomore? She's a bright kid, mostly drawn to the arts, but she also likes science. Thanks in advance!

SteveH said...

"Making lists of words from the tests?"

Yes. I like the lists that are taken right from the actual tests. Not everyone likes this sort of list approach, but he liked the fact that it was a clearly defined goal, and you don't have to provide a perfect definition for each word to do well. I worried that they would specifically use words that were NOT on previous tests, but you generally won't have a problem unless you don't know two words in the question.

For the Blue Book tests, he started out doing individual sections that take only 20 or 25 minutes. After each one, we went through all of the answers, both right and wrong. Well, we tried to do that. Later, he graduated to taking full tests. I think kids like being able to dive right in and start getting feedback on how they would do on the test.

Crimson Wife said...

My husband used the Sadlier-Oxford "Vocabulary Workshop" series in the Catholic schools he attended growing up and swears by them for SAT prep. So I've been using them in our homeschool. She won't take the SAT until next year in 7th for CTY but she has done very well on the vocab and reading sections of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Crimson Wife said...

@ Fed-Up Mom: we are not yet to high school chemistry, but there is lots of good information here:

Debbie Stier said...

@Steve H
Basically, that's what I do with the NY Times. I've taken enough SATs to remember the words they use (over and over!)

Glad to hear it made a difference for your son!

We will start taking tests soon.

Anonymous said...

Search the College Board web site for chemistry texts:

There are one-page summaries of chemistry texts for AP chem teachers.