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Strategies for Paired Passages

When it comes to the SAT or ACT Reading section, one of the biggest challenges for students is the paired passage. Some students call it the dual passage. Others call it the side-by-side. The vast majority of students call it trouble! But using some good, simple strategies can make it much easier to navigate.

What is a “paired passage”?

If you’ve not yet encountered a paired passage, they’re essentially what you might expect. Two short essays, speeches, or stories are featured next to one another, and they have some sort of connection. They may be agreeing on a topic. They could feature pro and con positions on a topic. Or they could be only tangentially connected by a subject addressed in both passages. In any case, one of our jobs is to figure out this connection. But more on that later…

A paired passage on the SAT typically looks something like this.

This particular set of passages comes from a recent test, and it features speeches from Paul Robeson and Jackie Robinson. Paired passages don’t always feature historical documents, but when they do, the subject is almost always civil rights or women’s rights issues.

How do I attack a paired passage?

When most students are confronted with a dual passage, they make the mistake of plunging right in and trying to decipher it. As with any reading passage, you must have a plan! And Step 1 of that plan should be to read the “blurb” at the beginning. SAT and ACT reading passages generally give you a bit of information about the passage you’re about to tackle. Always take the time to read what they give you.

In our passage here, the blurb gives us huge (and immensely helpful!) context clues for what we’re about to read. We learn that the author of Passage 1, Paul Robeson, was an actor/singer commenting on remarks he made previously. The blurb also fills us in on the global situation at the time–namely, that the U.S. and then-communist Russia were at odds. Finally, the blurb lets us know that Jackie Robinson, the speaker in Passage 2, was called by the House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee to address Robeson’s remarks.

We haven’t even read the first word of the actual passages, and we already know what to expect! We should expect that Passage 1 (Robeson) will be speaking about the Soviet Union and the United States, and that Passage 2 (Robinson) will likely be presenting a different opinion. Any historical context you know from your own studying of the Cold War will likely make this blurb even more poignant and helpful.

Step 2: Divide and Conquer

Ok, so we’ve gotten the blurb down. Now, we’re going to divide the paired passages in half. First, we’ll read Passage 1 as we would any reading passage. Read and annotate, looking for the main idea of the paragraphs, as well as the passage as a whole.

After going through Passage 1, we’ve discovered that Robeson (probably controversially) said that he loved the Soviet Union. In 1949, that was pretty incendiary! He then put the statement in a racial/political context: he loved the Soviets because they fought for freedom for all, including for black men and women. He wanted to love America, but the racial policies and attitudes of America kept him from having the same loyalty to the United States as he felt for Russia.

Now that we’ve gotten that down, our next step will be to answer the questions related to Passage 1.

Questions 11-14 deal with Passage 1 directly, so we’ll hit those first. Once we answer those, we’ll go back and read Passage 2, looking for the main idea, but also looking for how it relates to Passage 1.

We’ll then answer the questions directly related to Passage 2. Our final step will be to answer the last few questions (17-20), since they will compare or contrast the ideas in the two passages.

Let’s Review

So to review the overall plan:

Step 1: Read the “blurb”

Step 2: Read and annotate Passage 1

Step 3: Answer the questions related to Passage 1

Step 4: Read and annotate Passage 2

Step 5: Answer the questions related to Passage 2

Final Step: Finish the questions that relate to both passages

Paired passages can be daunting. But with a little strategy and planning, you can have success!

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Why Is Spelling So Hard?

Whether we like it or not, the ability to spell words correctly is quickly becoming an art form. As literacy rates in the U.S. continue to decline, spelling skills go with them. Not to mention, literacy and its definition have gone through many changes throughout the years. As literacy used to be defined, it simply referred to reading and writing. Anymore, literacy skills encompass all forms of communication from reading, writing, speaking, and listening. 

Therefore, many educators are still catching up with the changes and focusing their literacy lessons on reading and writing skills (grammar)–which is not a bad thing. But the skill of spelling is often left behind as the focus on other aspects of literacy get the main stage. This is caused by a few different phenomena. 

Death of Drill and Kill

Direct instruction used to be the go-to method for educators to teach their students. Direct instruction means lecturing and drilling. In other words, dumping information into students’ brains without checking for true and meaningful understanding. Traditional educators give spelling tests weekly, testing students on all sorts of higher-level and lower-level words. They give out a list, tell students to study, provide a test, grade the test, and move onto a new set of words. Very little time goes into actually teaching the students how to spell these words or why they are spelled as they are. This means that students have not been taught the morphological rules that go along with the English language. Which leads to more bad spellers.  

Greek and Latin Roots

If you were in school before the 21st century, Greek and Latin roots were your bread and butter in English class. Teachers valued their role in learning how to decode and describe words. Lately, the focus on Greek and Latin roots has diminished as teachers move toward a more holistic approach to teaching vocabulary. This wouldn’t be a problem, if Greek and Latin roots didn’t play a large role in our ability to read and understand words. With a strong knowledge of these root words (which are responsible for the creation of the English language and several other romantic languages) one can read, spell, identify, and describe nearly every word in the Oxford English dictionary. That is because the knowledge of one Latin root can help you understand close to 30 or 40 words. And once you understand words, spelling them becomes second nature. 

Less Reading – Less Spelling

Reading. The enemy of the English Language Arts instructor. Getting students to read in this social climate is like pulling teeth. Students don’t want to spend their valuable time reading books when they can be reading Instagram posts. The trouble with this is those social media posts often contain slang, jargon and expletives, which serve little purpose to students developing their reading and spelling skills. If you spend less time looking at, studying, and learning new words, the likelihood of replicating those words in your spelling goes right out the window. Luckily, the prescription is simple. Read more. 

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The Day Before The Test

Tips for Preparing for the ACT and the SAT

Students preparing to take your official ACT or SAT in the coming days or months: have no fear. The day may be near, but Huntington is here to steer you clear of your woes and bring you cheer. Just a little rhyme to make you smile. I know it’s probably been a stressful time, but it’s important to maintain some level of sanity as you work through your exam prep programs and prepare for the big day of testing.

The day before your test is an important day as well. As you know, most students are in the habit of spending the day before a big test studying and cramming in any information they can. They stay up late drinking Mountain Dew and listening to heavy metal to pump them up. Or maybe that was just me. Regardless, there are some good habits (and far healthier habits) to get into the day before a crucial exam. 

To Study or Not to Study?

That is the question. Luckily it’s an easy question to answer. And the answer is definitely, absolutely, positively no. The day before your test is too late for studying. Your brain can only handle so much information in a window of time before facts and data start spewing out of your ears. For weeks you have likely been in input mode. You have been taking practice tests, reading through study guides, working with your tutors, and a number of other test preparations. Now that the test is here, it is time for output mode. You have done as much studying as you can. Put the books down and fight the urge to cram and freak out. 

The Most Important Meal of the Day

We have all been told for as long as we can remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And this is mostly true. But if you’re anything like me you might find yourself too busy in the mornings to make breakfast. And that’s okay! But the day before your test is a really important day to make the time to sit down and have a nice breakfast. The great thing about living in 2019 and having instant access to the world wide web is the delicious and healthy breakfast recipes available everywhere. My favorite place to check out great recipes if Tasty. Here are some fast and healthy recipes to browse! 

Self-Care

Last, but certainly not least, is the concept of self-care. If you take anything away from these pre-test strategies, I surely hope self-care is the one. Mental health is extremely important. Especially in the fast-paced and stressful world we live in today. And a huge aspect of mental health is self-care, something not nearly enough people value. Self-care means taking the time throughout your week to put yourself first and take care of your needs. For me, this looks like a quiet bubble bath, a sheet mask, and some lavender essential oils. For others, this might look like a long jog, a coffeehouse with live music, or a relaxing nap. Any way you look at it, self-care will go a long way the day before a test, so take advantage of it and plan some much needed you-time.

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Early Warning Signs

How to Spot When Your Child Needs One-on-One Tutoring

When your children begin the journey into schooling, a lifestyle change takes place. Kids go from playing and laughing to learning and growing. Often, this transition is met with some challenges. Especially when you come to find that your child has not reached the academic level they should be upon entering Kindergarten. Which is a very stressful event. 

Parents can often all agree that finding out your child is behind in school is one of the most difficult conversations to have about your 5 or 6 year old. They are at an age where we still view them as young, maybe even “babies” in some aspects. But, nevertheless, they are being judged and measured by adults on their reading, writing, and math skills. Much like other adults. 

If your child is behind from the get-go, starting a one-on-one tutoring program is a terrific solution. Here are some things to watch out for in your child’s early formative schooling years to ensure they are not in need of one-on-one tutoring. 

Fatigue or Lack of Endurance

Does your child seem tired or lazy during learning moments? Can they only focus for 5 or less minutes before they are giving up or throwing tantrums? These are clear indicators that parents should seek tutoring intervention. Endurance is a huge part of learning. Starting from the earliest days of Kindergarten to the tertiary years of college. If your child struggles with endurance, starting a regiment with a tutor can help build it. Your child will then get the opportunity to practice working for longer periods of time until, eventually, they become excited to sit down and read for 30 minutes. 

Indifference

Indifference is the end of creativity. Indifference leads students to Mediocre Land where they catch a bus into I Don’t Care Anymore-Ville. Indifference is a virus that can spread in schools. If your child appears indifferent about their school work, this may be a sign that they could benefit from having a one-on-one tutor. Indifference generally blossoms from a lack of motivation or interest in the subject matter – two things that one-on-one tutors can help establish. Don’t let indifference be the blockade preventing your child from a full learning experience. 

Failing Grades and/or Assignments

The early weeks of a new school year are a great time to observe your child’s schooling behavior. Watch them as they work on their homework. See what strategies they use to study or stay organized. This can clue you in to how devoted they are to their classes. Because without devotion to your school work, failing becomes a more likely possibility. Failing early assignments or tests is a big sign that your child needs to seek one-on-one tutoring. Tutors don’t just teach content, they also teach tools. And students who find themselves failing can use these tools to grow and stay ahead of their coursework. 

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Starting the Semester Off Right

The Boise School District is gearing up to begin the Fall term for the 2019-2020 school year. This means parents are scrambling to buy school supplies, school clothes, and prepare for the schedule shift. With the incoming school year about a week away, students need to start getting in the mindset of school. The right mindset for school can include a lot of different things. 

Some students will let out a big “whoo-saw” as they prepare for upcoming stress. Others will spend every moment they can with friends. And some students might spend the next week in front of the TV letting their brains chill out before getting crazy. These are all great preparation techniques, but there are some tangible things that need to be taken care of as well. 

Plan Ahead

Most schools now use some kind of internet portal to keep students, parents, and administrators in the loop regarding a student’s progress in a particular class. These online portals are likely available for your perusing now. Start the peruse! Look at your teacher’s classroom page, read their profile, learn more about them. Take a look at their classroom portal and familiarize yourself with it. This will help you get a better idea of what your semester will look like and will help you plan for the upcoming school term. 

Develop a Calendar

Calendars are hugely important, especially for high school kids. By the time most students start high school, they are involved in some kind of extracurricular. Whether that is football, chess club, theatre, or band, lots of students have things going on outside of the school day. Create a calendar that accounts for everything you are involved in. Yes. This means including your classes, practices, meetings, driver’s ed, eating, homework time, family time, and friend time. Having one place where you keep everything going on in your week will help you stay on track. 

Organize Your Supplies

School supplies are super fun to buy. I remember getting so excited to buy school supplies every year. And I won’t lie, I still get excited every time I walk into Staples or Office Max. Supplies help us stay organized and keep our chaos under control. Since your supplies do so much to keep you organized, they deserve to be organized as well. Once you have purchased the supplies you will need, organize them so they can be as effective as possible. Build your class binders, label your dividers, individualize your notebooks. Do whatever you need to to keep your supplies organized so they can help you stay organized during the school year. 

Meet Your Teachers

I know, I know. This seems a little scary at first. Many students think the best time to meet your teacher is on the first day of school. But this isn’t really true. Meeting your teachers before the school year begins is really beneficial. Meeting your teachers gives you an idea what to expect from their class so you can prepare for the nuances assigned to it. Learn about their background, talk to them about their teaching style, discover the classroom rules and guidelines. Plus, teachers love to meet their students. The better your teachers knows you, the better prepared they are to teach you in a manner that is best for you. So don’t be afraid to send them an email, drop by with a coffee, or friend them on Facebook (if they allow it!).