Improving Learning

A comprehensive look at the latest trends, expert advice and recent studies into improving student learning. Explore the latest studies into links between student performance, sleep and music. See why schools are opting for later start times and year round schedules.
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10 Best Ways to Prepare for the SATs
The SATs are a make or break exam for high school students. Check out the 10 best ways to prepare for the big test.
Like it or not, the SATs are a critical opportunity for students to prove themselves to college admissions committees across the country.

If you want to be at the top of your game, you need to develop an effective strategy to prepare. We spoke with some of the top experts in college admissions to find out more about the best ways to prepare for the SATs.

1. Start Reading

If you have a lot of time to prepare, the first step is get reading. Richard Bernstein, Executive Director of Huntington Learning Center (Cherry Hill, NJ and Turnersville, NJ), says this is crucial. “If you have a year to prepare, read, read, and read some more.” 

2. Create a Balanced Study Regimen

Build a study pattern that will get you ready for the test. Students can effectively study in group, one-on-one sessions, or by themselves. No matter what you do however, make sure you don’t overload and always keep a reasonable study/life balance.

Setting goals is only useful if they are realistic. The best way to be productive during crunch time is to “schedule play activities first into your calendar, then your work.” Piers Steel, a professor at the University of Calgary, says in a NerdScholar study piece. “It makes sure there is a payoff for being productive.”

A student who elects to devote an inordinate amount of time to studying for the SAT may run the risk of overloading and not retaining information. Colin Gruenwald, Director of SAT and ACT Programs at Kaplan Test Prep, recommends studying smart over the course of several months.

“Don't cram. Remember that preparing for the SAT is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes several months of comprehensive, serious study to do well on the exam, not just a couple of weeks or even days of intense studying. Familiarity builds confidence. But cramming will just stress you out.”

3. Take Practice Tests and Seek Pro Help

As part of your study process, take practice exams. Familiarity with SAT format and content is...
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Back to School Means Renewed Debate Over Later Start Times for Students
With back to school just around the corner, the debate over when to start and end school has revved up once again.
As students begin to face the realization that their days of sleeping in are nearly over, school districts continue to debate the benefits of later start times for older students. With plenty of research to back up the idea that teens sleep on a different cycle than many schools allow, districts must once again consider the theory that later start times could mean higher student performance. Would later start times really impact how well high school students learn?
Research Supports Later Start Times
As back-to-school logistics are put into place, research on the benefits of later start times come back into play. There is plenty to choose from in that category – most showing teens that head to class later tend to perform better overall. Unfortunately, coordination of school schedules doesn’t always support allowing teens the later start.
According to a recent report at Times-Union, 40 percent of high schools in the United States start prior to 8:00 a.m. A small minority, 15 percent, start after 8:30 a.m. That minority is often the result of coordination of bus schedules, which tends to favor younger students for the later start times.
Logistics aside, research certainly seems to favor allowing older students to hit the books later. Students in the teen years require just as much sleep as younger children, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That amount can range from 8 ˝ to 9 Ľ hours of sleep every night. Decades of studies support this theory, including a Stanford study in the 1970s that showed boys and girls in the teen years, required just as much sleep as younger children.
Changes to sleep patterns and hormonal changes during puberty attribute to the sleepiness in adolescents. Unfortunately, most teens do not get sufficient shut-eye during those critical years, which can lead to performance impairment during the day. Much of their sleep deprivation can be attributed to daily schedules that directly conflict with the natural circadian rhythms of the growing teen.
Minneapolis Schools Demonstrate Benefits of Later School
The website for the University of Minnesota...
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Summer Camps Keep Kids Learning
Be inspired by this list of summer camp ideas that keep kids learning all through vacation, even while they are having a warm weather blast with their friends.
If you are looking for a way to keep your kids in the learning game this summer, there are many fun options to choose from. Summer camps, whether scheduled for a day or a week, are an excellent opportunity for students to explore subjects and embark on adventure during the summer season. Camps may be held during the day, or consist of consecutive overnights to give participants a true feel for the camping experience. With subjects ranging from science to performing arts, you are sure to find a camp your child will love.
Benefits of Summer Camp
According to the Cigna website, there are many benefits children may enjoy from attending a summer camp, including:

  • Unique experience helps children broaden social skills
  • Embarking on new activities builds self esteem
  • Opportunity to form long-lasting friendships
  • Learn important skills like leadership and communication
  • Teaches children resiliency and responsibility
  • Additional physical activity provides health benefits
With many advantages to be gained from attending a camp this summer, the next question for parents becomes how to choose the best camp for their child’s needs. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help parents make the best choice for their kids.
Choosing a Summer Camp
The National Camp Association recommends beginning the selection process by asking the following questions:

  • What do you want your child to take away from the summer camp experience?
  • Does your child have any specific interests he would like to explore at camp?
  • What are you and your child’s expectations of summer camp?
  • What type of environment will be best for your child?
  • What type of social interactions will your child want and be comfortable with?
  • Does your child have any physical, emotional or mental limitations that should be considered?
  • Is your child comfortable sleeping away from home, or is a day camp a better choice?
There is a huge range of summer camp options available for kids today. Camps vary in terms of size, location, programs and activities and cost. It is important to weigh all of these factors in your final decision to ensure you choose a camp both you and your...
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10 Summer Options to Keep Students Learning
Summer loss is a real phenomenon that can be easily avoided, as long as children keep their minds sharp in the warm months. Use these 10 tips to help your student retain all they learned through the year.
Summer learning loss is a concern for parents and teachers alike, as research further documents the reality of this trend. The National Summer Learning Association cites research spanning 100 years that consistently shows students score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on those same examinations before summer break begins. Evidence also points to the fact that summer learning loss contributes significantly to the widening achievement gap between low-income and middle-income students as they progress through the school years. What can parents do to prevent this trend with their own children? Check out these 10 summer options to keep your kids learning all summer long.
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher
A report at Today advises parents to talk to their child’s teacher prior to the end of the school year, to get recommendations on material to cover over the summer. The teacher can alert you to potential gaps in your child’s learning that you can work to fill during the break. Some teachers will even have reading lists or workbook selections that would be most beneficial to your child’s summer learning program.
The Summer Reading Adventure
Local libraries are a boon to parents and kids over the summer months. Many have summer reading programs, complete with enticing prizes if kids read a certain number of books or log a particular number of reading hours over the vacation months. In addition, regular trips to the library stimulate a child’s love of reading, by showing them the many opportunities they have to indulge their love of fantasy, science fiction and non-fiction.
Check Online Options
If you have trouble tearing your child away from the computer screen during the summer months, make this passion work in your favor by giving your child online learning resources that will feel more like a game than learning time. The iLearn Project lists a number of online options on their website, including Khan Academy, iTunes U, MindSnacks and MentorMob. Some of the websites suggests by iLearn are free to use, while...
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10 Tips for Surviving Summer School
For students who must make up classes in summer school, or simply want to get ahead of the game, there are simple ways to make the class time easier to handle. Check out these survival tips if you are summer school bound.
Summer school may be a requirement if your child did not pass one of his classes during the school year. It might also be a choice for a student that wants to get ahead for the upcoming academic year. No matter what the reason might be behind the summer school choice, it can be challenging to hit the books when everyone else is enjoying vacation time. Check out these 10 tips to help your child survive and succeed in his summer school efforts.
Avoid Learning Loss
Is summer school the right choice for your child, or would a break from the stress and strain of class be more beneficial? According to a 2003 study cited at, summer learning loss can be a concern for parents of struggling students. The study found students lost up to one month of learning by the time they headed back to school in the fall. This gap may be even higher for students who traditionally struggle with academics.
Choose the Right Class
Some summer classes may be filled with remedial students or students with severe learning disabilities that do not serve to motivate your own student to success. When searching for a summer class, consider the environment your student will be working in, to ensure it will breed success. The right class will be well worth the cost if your student is able to succeed.
Online or Classroom Choice
Today’s summer student has the choice between online and in-person classes. According to the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, there are a number of advantages to online classes, including the ability to tailor the school schedule around the family’s summer activities. In addition, online classes often pave the way for more interaction between a teacher and students. However, if your child typically needs plenty of personal help, a classroom situation might be a better choice, unless you are ready to spend your summer playing tutor.
Create a Schedule
While a summer class can offer more flexibility than the rigid structure of the regular school year, a schedule is still important...
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