High school also brings with it many adjustments for students, but if you’re a parent of a highschooler, you have a lot to think about as well. There’s dating, driving, and the ever present curfew battle.
The biggest concern for many parents when it comes to their high school students is the SATs. Often times, parents find themselves wondering what they should be doing to help their kids prepare for this major life event, and more importantly when they should start SAT preparation.
Like any other big event that requires intense work, you can’t just start a training regiment right before the big game. Performing well means working out. You can help your teen work their brain out by helping them develop a few critical thinking habits right from the start of high school. You can even have a little bit of fun doing these exercises.
Critical reading skills are essential in life—not just on the SATs, which is why the test puts so much emphasis on assessing this area. There are many ways that you can help to strengthen your teens’ critical reading abilities. Together, the two of you can open your eyes to the world and popular culture through reading and movies.
First, watch movies together and talk about the different literary elements you see unfolding: foreshadowing, characterization, symbolism, etc. Don’t just ask your teens what elements they see. Ask them why the elements are important to the story and how they are shaping the movie’s plot and theme. Push their thinking. Remember it’s a workout, so the questions should always relate to what they’re learning and how the learning is unfolding for them, not what facts they can remember.
Another great way to develop critical reading skills is to join a book club. Find an online book club—one that doesn’t require a large commitment. You can read the book together, and then participate in the book club discussions. Knowing that others will be thinking and judging what both of you have to say should stimulate conversation at home as well as with the group.
Develop the Vocabulary
Your teens need to have a developed vocabulary to score well on the SATs. There are literally thousands of vocabulary games online that you could require them to use as practice. But memorizing words will be of no benefit to them on the SATs unless they can use them. Think of it like a football game, memorizing plays without the ability to run them doesn’t score touchdowns.
One way to score vocabulary touchdowns is to use a word of the day calendar. Both you and your teen will be given a new word everyday. You’ll both have to use the word a designated number of times in conversations with each other every day. A lot of research suggests that it takes 7 times seeing and/or using a word to commit it to long term memory.
There’s a catch, you have to use the word naturally in conversation—it can’t be forced. The purpose is to develop a functioning vocabulary, not just a long list of memorized words.
Learn to “Let it Go”
If your teen is one that has to get things 100% right, 100% of the time, you could have a big problem on your hands. The SATs are timed, so if your teen is one who can’t move on, you have to help him develop the skills to let it go. If that means watching Frozen every day for a week before the test, then do it!
Educated guesses are always a good option, but one of the best strategies that test takers use is skipping around. Encourage your teens to answer all the questions they are sure of first. Then, urge them to repeat the process with the questions they skipped—only this time answering the questions where they can use process of elimination. For the third round, encourage them to do the harder questions—the ones they know that they will have a hard time letting go. Talk about how this strategy will give them the opportunity to think through the hard questions without compromising time for the questions that are easy points.
Use Your Head
Math tutors and teachers require students to show work, but the SAT requires kids to fill in a bubble, and it’s timed—you do the math there. As your teens sit at the table to do their math work, sit with them, just as if you were an Axiom Learning Upper East Side Math Tutor. Challenge them to figure out the work in their head before showing the work that is required by the teacher.
You can make it a game or a race to see if they can do it faster than you. If you’re bad at math, you can have them reteach it to you. It will reinforce those concepts that are crucial to scoring well on the math portion of the test, and it’ll make it fun for the both you.