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Archive for the ‘High School’ Category

6 Ways to Make Learning a New Language Easier

Monday, February 5th, 2018

learning a foreign language

At many high schools, studying a world language for one or two years is a requirement for graduation. And often these classes can make us feel awkward or even completely lost as we struggle to roll our Spanish R’s, make a perfect French “oooh” sound or just figure out what the teacher is saying as she chatters on in a language we don’t understand.

Despite all these hurdles, there are lots of benefits to learning a new language. In fact, studies have shown that it can improve your reading and writing skills in English, boost your standardized test scores and even increase your general intelligence. Not to mention the fact that knowing another language can help you get a job and travel the globe!

Sean Francis, who tutors students in Spanish with Educational Endeavors, says learning a new language can truly open up a whole new world to you. “It’s food, it’s music, it’s literature, it’s romance,” he says. “Plus, this is the one thing you’re studying that if you take it seriously, it can guarantee you a job. What else do you learn in high school that you can say that about?”

Unfortunately, many students get discouraged when they’re studying a foreign language because they don’t get it right away. If that’s true for you, here are a few tips to make learning a new language easier:

  1. Listen to the Language Being Spoken
    A big part of learning a new language is getting used to how it’s supposed to sound. One fun way to do this is to watch TV shows or movies in another language. For Spanish, turn on Univision or tune in to a Spanish radio station like 106.7 FM. For French, Chinese or other languages, look up some videos on YouTube to get a feel for the sounds. And if you can find a native speaker to talk to, all the better!
  2. Talk to Yourself
    You might feel silly doing this, but talking to yourself in another language is a great way of getting used to its structure and sound. If you do this at home in the privacy of your own room, you can really let loose and have fun with the accent, too! Francis says to improve your speaking, you can even try saying English words in a foreign accent. “Just pretend you’re playing a Spanish-speaking person in a movie,” he says.
  3. Make Flashcards
    Memorizing vocabulary is another big part of mastering a foreign language, and one of the best ways to do that is by making flashcards. Try putting the foreign word on one side and the English word on the other side. Start by looking at the English word first and trying to come up with the foreign word, and then reverse the process. Once you’ve nailed a certain word several times, take it out of the stack so you can focus on the ones you still don’t know.
  4. Use Mnemonic Devices
    Another way to memorize new vocabulary words quickly is to use mnemonic devices. To do this, create a story in your head that connects the meaning of a word to its sound or appearance. For example, if you know the words cuchara and cuchillo mean “spoon” and “knife,” but you always forget which is which, just remember that the two L’s in cuchillo look like a pair of knives. You’ll never get those words mixed up again!
  1. Read Outside of Class
    Foreign languages are all around us, once we start paying attention. “We live in a basically bilingual society, and you can’t go anywhere without seeing Spanish,” Francis says. He suggests paying attention to the ads you see in Spanish on the train or bus and on storefronts all over town and trying to decipher their meaning. If you’re learning the past tense, reading news reports in Spanish will help as well.

    If you’re studying another language like French or German, you can look at warning labels or booklets that come with products in your house to find words translated into multiple languages. Have fun trying to figure out what they mean!

  1. Don’t Worry About Making Mistakes
    Learning a new language can be a lot of fun — if you give yourself permission to play and the freedom to make mistakes. “You can’t be self-conscious and you can’t be afraid,” Francis says. “It’s not going to come right away. You just need to jump in and give it a try.”





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SAT vs. ACT: Which one should I take?

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

When it comes to applying for college, many students want to know: Is there an advantage to taking the SAT or the ACT?

Traditionally, the SAT has been more popular among students on the East Coast and West Coast, and the ACT has been more popular in the Midwest. In Illinois, however, all public high schools now give the SAT to every junior at no cost to the student, so if you want to take the ACT, you’ll have to seek out a separate testing site and pay the registration fee.

When the tests were first introduced, the SAT was more geared toward testing a student’s IQ, while the ACT focused on testing students’ knowledge of high school curricula. Today, however, the tests have evolved so that they’re both designed to test what students learn in school.

So how do you know which one would be better for you to take? Before making that decision, consider these basic differences between the SAT and the ACT.

Q: Do colleges have a preference for either the SAT or the ACT?
A: Most colleges don’t really care which score you submit, so that doesn’t necessarily need to be a factor when deciding which test to take. They understand both scores and will almost always accept either test.

Q: What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT?
A: The SAT has one section each for reading and writing/language, as well as two math sections and an optional essay. The ACT has English, math, reading and science reasoning sections and an optional essay. So one of the biggest differences is that the ACT has an entire section devoted to science (although the SAT does ask some science-related questions in its reading section).

The ACT is also a bit shorter (about five minutes shorter without the essay and a total of 15 minutes shorter with the essay). That means the SAT offers more time per question. So if you don’t deal well under a time crunch, you may be more comfortable with the SAT.

Q: Can you use a calculator on both tests?
Not exactly. The SAT has two parts to its math section: one where you can use a calculator and one where you can’t. The ACT allows a calculator for its entire math section.

Q: How are the English (writing/language) and reading sections different on the two tests?
The reading, writing and language concepts covered on both tests are almost identical. However, the SAT has more evidenced-based reading.

Q: How are the math sections different?
A: Although the SAT math sections have some pretty challenging questions, they are mainly focused on algebra, while the ACT puts a much bigger emphasis on geometry. The ACT also includes more trigonometry questions as well as questions on matrices and logarithms. So if you’re an ace at geometry and trigonometry, the ACT might be a better choice.

The SAT does provide a list of geometric formulas at the front of the test, so you don’t have to memorize them; the ACT does not.

However (and this is a big one), on the SAT, the math section counts for half of your score, whereas on the ACT it only counts for a fourth. A big factor to consider!

Q: Do the tests cost the same?
A: The ACT costs $46 without the essay or $62.50 with the essay. The SAT costs $46 without the essay and $60 with the essay.

Q: What if I’m still not sure which test is better for me?
The best way to tell which test is better for you is to take some practice tests. There are free full-length SAT and ACT tests online, so try each one to get a sense of the differences in content and format and learn which test suits you best.

Feel like you need some help preparing for the SAT or ACT? Sign up for our SAT/ACT Test Prep Workshop starting Jan. 16.


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Helping Chicago Students Navigate the High School Application Process

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Lock and Key Educational Services

Getting into high school in Chicago is no easy task. For many parents and students who want to get into one of CPS’s 11 selective enrollment high schools, navigating the seemingly endless maze of school visits, application deadlines, standardized test deadlines and more can feel like you’re hacking your way through the jungle without a map.

And if you start considering sending your child to a Catholic school or private school, the process can become even more overwhelming.

That’s why Educational Endeavors has recently partnered with Lock & Key Educational Services to help families determine which high schools to apply to and walk them through the application maze every step of the way.

Lock and Key was founded by Chrissy Lewis and Kandyce Woods, who both previously worked with High Jump, an academic enrichment program that helped high-achieving, low-income 7th and 8th graders get into good high schools. Now, with Lock and Key, Lewis and Woods’ mission is to expose students and parents to all of the possible choices they have in high schools and help students find the right school for them.

Lewis says when she was working as a CPS guidance counselor she would ask students which high school they wanted to go to, they’d all say the same schools: Walter Payton, Jones College Prep and North Side College Prep. But many students didn’t realize how competitive it is to get into those schools.

According to an article on, about 13,000 students applied for just 3,600 spots in selective enrollment high schools in 2015. And for this school year, students from the highest income areas had an average score of 896 out of 900 possible points to get into Payton, while students from the lowest income areas had an average of 838 points.

The 900 points are based on your 7th grade grades in academic classes, your score on your NWEA MAP test (taken in the spring of 7th grade for public school students and the fall of 8th grade for private school students), as well as your score on the Selective Enrollment High School Entrance Exam (taken from October through February of 8th grade).

Students are also ranked by tiers, with preference going to students from lower income and racially diverse areas. That means students in high-income areas have to have straight As and almost perfect scores on both tests to get into the most competitive schools.

“A lot of kids don’t know how detrimental their 7th grade grades can be,” Lewis says.

At every initial consultation, Lewis and Woods sit down with the parents and the student and review their grades and test scores to determine where they have the best chance of getting in. But they also take the time to talk to the students about what they are looking for in a high school to find the best fit.

“There is no best high school,” Woods says. “There’s the best high school for you.”

Lewis says the initial consultation with families is always very laid back and relaxed, and they make sure to spend time with the students one-on-one so they are free to talk about their own wants and needs, away from their parents.

For example, some students prefer a smaller school environment, and others are looking for schools with great theater programs, basketball teams or science programs.

After the initial consultation, Woods and Lewis come back with their recommendations of the best schools to apply to, and they encourage families to consider looking at selective enrollment high schools, private schools, charter schools, parochial schools or boarding schools, too, which may be a good option for some families.

“We really want to expose families to all of the choices they have,” Lewis says.

They even walk families through the process of applying for scholarships and financial aid if needed. “Boarding schools are a very good option because a lot of times they have money to give away for scholarships,” Woods says.

Once they choose which schools they want to consider, Woods and Lewis map out a calendar, showing them when they can attend open houses, when they need to take certain standardized tests and more. They will also recommend that they take additional test prep classes or writing classes to boost their chances of getting in.

In addition, Woods and Lewis can help students prepare for interviews, which they may need to get into certain private schools and boarding schools.

“In many cases, this might be your child’s first experience with interviewing,” Woods and Lewis write on their website. “The interview preparation session… will make your child more comfortable with interviewing, giving your child the confidence that is vital in making a stellar first impression during their high school interview.”

The best advice that Lewis has for parents who are worried about where their child will go to high school is to start early. “The earlier the better,” she says. “I would love to have the initial conversation at the beginning of 7th grade.”



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