Monthly Archives

August 2017

Books Across America

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“Books Across America”–for your reading pleasure.

Travels across America offer more riches than historic landmarks, spectacular scenery,  and famous buildings.  This wonderful compilation lists  fiction, nonfiction, and “famous option”  books for each of the 50 states.   In browsing through the list, I found many old favorites while also adding to my reading list.   Missouri’s literary choices  include George Hodgman’s Bettyville  for nonfiction and Paulette Jiles’s Enemy Women for fiction.  It’s no surprise that Mark Twain’s Huckelberry Finn  wins the “famous option” slot.  How many have you read?  Enjoy!

Check out 100 of the top rated  books in America at

Chemistry Insight

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Chemistry Insight

Written by Tom Scharenborg, B.S.

Tutoring with students one-on-one is very rewarding. Teachers are tasked with the challenge of reaching students as a group, which presents a wide-range of issues, to make concise points in the science classroom or lab. I recall working with a student to help prepare for an upcoming quiz in chemistry. During the session, we were working with unit conversions, and I quickly realized the student wasn’t aware of the specific differences and similarities between milliliters, milligrams, and cubic centimeters. I knew this would be a critical moment in our session. This topic is critical in the science lab at all levels of learning and research. Additionally, it is regularly presented on ACT college admission tests.
 Flashing back in my mind to previous experiences in the classroom as a teacher, as-well-as a student, I knew this session might go very good—or not— depending on how I presented this concept. The psychology of learning new material is not the same for every person; re-learning can be a tough road as well. Mostly I decided to go through previous homework questions, from the beginning, until I could make a “mistake” in my work on the dry-erase board intentionally. By waiting longer than usual, explaining to the student I was not sure about the work on the board, they recognized that I had made a mistake with one of the units on the cancellation bracket.
 I knew from experience that this realization would help the student make a point to focus more carefully on the units associated with numbers. My student began to express feelings of confidence! Furthermore, they realized they had made this same “mistake” on many of their homework assignments previously turned in.  Additionally, there was a policy with this student’s teacher, such that if students realized their mistakes on homework, they were given the opportunity to correct them on a separate sheet of paper and re-submit them for half-credit given back towards the final grade. Now I could see the feelings of confidence turn to excitement and motivation.  My student realized they could increase their grade substantially by correcting nine previously turned in homework assignments.
My student found the joy of learning. I am always having fun when I work with students. To help a student learn to have fun with learning is beyond value.

Why is the English ACT Test so hard?

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Why is the English ACT test so hard?

The English test on the ACT is a bit of a paradox.  Though it is undeniably the easiest test on which to make significant score gains, it is also the test that causes many students a great deal of frustration the first time they take it.  Why?

First of all, the structure of the ACT English test presents a puzzle.  Students are asked to read 5 passages that have 75 words, phrases, or even complete sentences underlined.  They must decide whether the underlined portion is correct as given, which would lead them to the first NO CHANGE answer, or whether there is a problem with grammar, punctuation, or rhetoric (word use) that needs to be corrected.

Many students take the English ACT test by just plugging in all four choices and hoping that one will “speak” to them.  The problem is that if a student has no idea what the question is asking, this strategy becomes very time consuming, not to mention totally confusing.  The test requires knowing basic rules of Standard English grammar, punctuation, and writing.  Once students learn them, they can develop a plan of action for taking the test that leads to success.

That action plan begins with recognizing that all answers on the English ACT test fall into three categories—grammar, punctuation, and rhetoric.  Once they identify what category of question they are dealing with, students can predict what the answer has to be.  We show students how to decide what the correct answer is BEFORE they look at the answer choices.  This way, students not only save time, but they are not sidetracked by incorrect choices.   This strategy has helped our students raise their English score up to 11 points.

To apply this strategy to the English ACT test, however, students MUST know the rules of punctuation and grammar. The ACT knows that many students today are totally clueless about comma rules, when to use a semicolon or colon, or what a dash is for.   Colon use is the currently a favorite on the ACT English test.   To raise their English score, students must also know correct grammar usage, including noun-pronoun and subject-verb agreement. And finally, they must be able to comprehend rhetorical questions, which can be very devious.

Once our students have acquired the background they need for the English ACT test, we give them many ACT tests (retired tests) to practice on.  The results are remarkable.  The English ACT test is by far the most predictable and thus the easiest test on which to raise scores.  A significant gain on the English ACT test raises the composite score as well.  Pay attention to this test.

Written by Dr. Ene-Kaja Chippendale