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Study Skills

What is the CogAT?

Jul-06, 2020

students, classroom, test, standardized test

As parents, we are always looking for ways for our children to get ahead, prepare for college, and enjoy learning as much as possible. To that end, gifted and talented programs make students feel engaged and excited at school. Because of this, there can be some very difficult competition in order to qualify for these programs. To that end, many schools have turned to an assessment called the CogAT, or Cognitive Abilities Test, to determine which students to enroll in these programs each year.

The CogAT was developed by Dr. David F. Lohman and Dr. Joni Lakin and is implemented across the country. The test itself can be administered at any grade level, K-8, with different versions of the test for different grades. Unlike a traditional standardized test, the CogAT measures reasoning, puzzle-solving, and logic. It's designed to test how a child thinks, as opposed to what a child knows. It's important to note that different states may implement the test in different ways, so it's important to communicate with your child's individual school to learn exactly what is expected of the students.

If a child is not expected to learn facts or figures, how can they prepare for a test like this? Using a CogAT preparatory program, students are introduced to the test concepts, take practice versions of the test, and learn to think more abstractly. CogAT prep courses not only help students before taking the CogAT, they also strengthen the skills the CogAT itself is testing for, which has huge benefits for your child's education in general!

Are you interested in signing your child up for CogAT test prep? Find a local center offering the program today!


Making Reading Fun

Jan-16, 2019

English Letters

Photo Credit: Jason Leung on Unsplash

We all want our children to enjoy their education. Of course, there are also lots of critical life skills we need them to learn, whether they enjoy it or not. However, nothing has to be boring. Children are wired to have fun. By approaching basic skills like reading as an opportunity to explore the world and have fun at the same time, we can invite our children to be excited about learning new things.

At its most basic, reading is just recognizing the words we see and being able to say them out loud. There are opportunities to practice this everywhere we go. A great way to make reading fun and challenge children to learn new words is to incorporate it into their favorite activities. If you think about it, you do lots of reading for your children whenever you are interacting with them. You read for them at the grocery story, when looking at the tv guide, even when picking out their clothing. These are all activities your children would love to be more involved in.

For example, if you take your child to the grocery store, you can let them help you pick out the products you need by reading the labels on the package. This doesn’t have to mean reading complicated ingredient lists. It could be as simple as “Which package of pudding is plain and which is vanilla?” Or you can make a game where your child gets to buy any one snack they want if they can read the words on the package. The idea is to teach your child that being good at reading has rewards.

Another option is to put your young reader in charge of information about her activities. When coaches and teachers send home information about games and field trips, tell your child that she needs to read it to you so that you know what it says. Chances are she will already know what it is about and be excited to share it with you. This is the perfect opportunity to motivate her to sound out words and really make an effort. She knows that when she gets the words right, you’ll sign and she can go on the field trip.

Finally, keep an open mind about the kinds of things your child enjoys reading in the beginning. Children don’t start out reading whole books. It may be street signs or cereal boxes that they get excited to sound out. Keep an eye out for what they gravitate to and encourage this behavior. When you know what piques their interest, you can provide additional opportunities for them to challenge themselves.

The key is to remember that reading doesn’t have to be a grind. Children will be excited to learn new things. If you encourage that excitement by providing fun opportunities to practice, you can raise children who see reading as a passport to new and expanding adventures, rather than a chore.

For more information on encouraging good reading habits, or for support with reading instruction, contact Best Brains at (847) 485-000 or visit www.bestbranis.com


Don’t Wait, Get Help NOW!

Jan-09, 2019

Kid Reading a book

Photo Credit: Monica H. on Flickr

If your young reader shows signs of struggling, it can be difficult to know if there is a real problem or if they are simply lagging behind a bit. Many parents notice little things about their reader that suggest there may be an issue in developing reading skills. However, rather than getting it checked out or seeking out some help immediately, they wait. But how long should you wait, if at all?

Research shows that there is a rather small window in which children develop reading skills best. This is typically between kindergarten and the end of first grade. After this, it becomes much harder for them to grasp the foundations of reading and phonemics.

In fact, over 90 percent of children who show signs of reading difficulties are brought up to grade level standards if they receive help by the first grade. For those who are age nine or above and have not received such help, studies show that about 75% will continue to struggle with reading until they graduate. This means that by grade four if they haven’t been provided reading assistance when it was needed in late kindergarten, it will take them four times as long to improve their skills and be at the correct reading levels. These facts make it imperative that help is received by struggling readers as soon as possible.

Books in a Rack

Photo Credit: my_southborough on Flickr

To help identify these reading issues, it is suggested that schools and/or teachers screen children in kindergarten through second grade several times a year. And many schools agree that once those screening results are in, the lowest scoring 20 percent of children should begin receiving extra reading help immediately. This typically happens in groups of three or fewer and is instructed by an effective and well-trained educator.

Many would say their child is simply a little too immature to handle the reading level of their grade. However, when a child cannot distinguish rhymes, confuses letters, and/or associates the wrong sound with a letter it rarely has anything to do with maturity levels.

If your child displays some of these traits, don’t automatically assume the worst. It may just mean that she was not given the proper instruction during preschool. Once she begins receiving experience with letters, sounds, and reading foundations, she will usually pick it up rather quickly. If, however, they have received proper instruction for some time and still struggle, there may be something larger going on.

In either case, it is important to get your child the help he might need as soon as possible. It is far better to be a bit over prepared than to make a child suffer in silence if there is a developmental or learning issue. Don’t be one of the many parents who find themselves regretting not getting that extra instruction for their child and causing more harm than good.


Activities for Well-Rounded Kids

Dec-17, 2018

Rounded colorful Pencils

Photo Credit : salvatore ventura on Unsplash

These days kids have access to all kinds of activities. If they wanted to, children could have a full-time job just doing all the extra-curricular activities available to them. Of course, there isn’t enough time for kids to participate in all the things they might like to do. So how do you and your kids decide which activities and clubs are best? Here are some ideas for choosing activities that will help your child develop a well-rounded personality.

Get Physical

Some children love physical activity and would love to play all the sports. Others have no interest in running or jumping. In either case, physical activity is an important part of our overall health. You should encourage a child who is looking for a new pastime to explore a sport or other physical skill. Children can play sports, do yoga, take dance lessons, or do any number of other activities to get moving and make friends. Best of all, they’ll learn valuable lessons about building a strong healthy body and the importance of taking physical care of themselves.

Be Creative

If your child is already involved in a sport and wants to be more active, you can encourage them to explore a creative outlet. Perhaps their school has an art club. Or maybe there are painting classes at the local library. In many cases, young people have creative interests that they can pursue on their own. For instance, if your son has expressed an interest in learning to sew, encourage him to check out some YouTube videos or online tutorials for beginners. If your daughter wants to learn to draw, there are lots of resources online that she can use to build her skills in her spare time. Because creative activities use different parts of the brain than typical intellectual activities, you’ll be building your children’s capacity to think in new and interesting ways.

Think Outside the Classroom

Students spend plenty of time doing science, math, and history in school. However, for students who have a special interest in these subjects, there are additional opportunities to pursue their intellectual passions. Debate club and Model U.N. are ideal activities for students who love to think and engage deeply on serious questions. Math and science clubs are great places to explore an interest in space or chemistry. Perhaps your child’s school has a robotics club where they can learn to build machines and even participate in competitions. Learning doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom.

The trick is to mix and match activities so that children are exposed to lots of different skills and possibilities. Often, young people don’t know what they’ll love until they try it. You’ll never know if your son loves painting until he picks up a paintbrush. The more you can expose young people to, the better chance they’ll have to uncover what they truly love. And along the way, they’ll learn to appreciate all the different passions they possess.


Improving Poor Grades

Dec-17, 2018

Girl Writing

Photo Credit : pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

When a student comes home with poor grades, it can be an especially stressful challenge for parents. We all have high expectations for our children’s education, and we want to see them perform well. This is even more true when a student who previously performed well starts to struggle academically. While it can be easy to panic or overreact, there are many simple reasons that a child may struggle academically. By identifying the cause and responding appropriately, you can help your child get back on track to academic success.

Learning New Material

One of the simplest reasons a child may suddenly get lower marks is that they’re encountering new material. When students learn complex concepts for the first time, they may struggle to keep up with their peers or their teacher’s expectations. Many times, this just means that a student needs more practice. For instance, if your child was good at elementary math, but struggles to learn algebra, don’t panic. Complex math involves new forms of reasoning that can take a while to learn. The important thing is to provide opportunities for students to work on the skills they need to improve. You should ask about extra practice work that the teacher may be able to provide. Also take advantage of any after-school tutoring opportunities that may exist. Another great option is to seek outside help that can be personalized for your student’s particular needs. A good tutor can identify and address your child’s challenges and design a program to get them back on track.

Distractions

When young people are at school, there are lots of forces competing for their attention. They have friends who want to talk to them and hang out with them. They have sports teams and other activities they have to plan and practice for. And they have dozens of relationships with teachers, staff, and other students to manage throughout the day. Sometimes this gets to be too much, and a student’s attention to their schoolwork can suffer. If you notice your child’s grades are falling a bit, spend some time assessing their schedule. How much time do they have to devote to schoolwork? Are they getting enough sleep? Ask them about the atmosphere in their classes. Do they feel like it’s easy to learn there? Once a distraction is identified, you can work to address or remove it.

Social Issues

A school environment is a dynamic learning space where lots of different personalities have to work together to make learning possible. Sometimes, if these social and professional relationships break down, students can suffer. This can happen where there are tensions between students in a classroom. For instance, a student may suddenly be uncomfortable speaking up or participating in front of other students. In other cases, poor relationships between student and teachers can negatively impact the learning environment. Have a talk with your child about their teachers. Ask them if they’re comfortable in their classes. Do they like their teachers’ styles? Are there any teachers they have a hard time learning from? If a student is uncomfortable working with a particular teacher, consider scheduling a parent-teacher conference to address any issues. If you need help preparing for such a meeting, have a look at some of our tips for successful conferences.

Ultimately, your student’s success depends on managing a number of complex factors. By asking the right questions, you can identify any problems that may be negatively affecting their performance, and get them back on the path to an effective education.

If you are interested in speaking to someone about educational support services for your child, you can contact Best Brains at (847) 485-0000 to speak with a representative.


Teaching Early Math Skills

Dec-10, 2018

 girl, math, preschool

Background photo created by freepik - www.freepik.com

It’s common to hear preschoolers reciting alphabet letters and even numbers. Many can even recite or “count” to 10 on their own. But is this really counting? Does it actually teach them anything about math? Recent research shows that this ability is simply memorization and doesn’t teach them to count or learn differences in amount any more than reciting the alphabet teaches phonic sounds. So, what should you teach them?

Give Real Examples

To actually learn any real math skills at a young age, a child needs to experience actual number sense. This means that instead of showing them the number, having them trace it and repeat its sound, they are given one object, like a toy car. Then give them another one and so on, counting as you add or subtract. When they begin to learn in real life situations like this, they begin equating a specific situation or setting to a specific number.

Sort

By age two, toddlers have the ability to sort or organize and even subitize. This helps to teach them comparisons and form the ideas of patterns and relationships. You will see them separate toy animals by kind, color, or size. By teaching your child to count and recognize the number of objects in those small groups and how they relate to one another, you are building their scientific inquiry skills.

Measure

This is continued even more when we draw on a child’s attraction with size. As we work with them to form relationships of bigger and smaller, we can begin to introduce the concepts of measurement, such as miles, inches, and/or pounds. This is one of the best and simplest ways to teach your child about math, as we use size constantly in every day life. And this helps to create a more compounded sense of logic and reasoning in children.

Speak of Space

Also important to early math skills is the language of space. Words like behind, over, under, in, circle, deep, next, front, triangle etc., not only allow children to understand the world around them better but also teach them spatial representation, giving them a foundation of math vocabulary terms. Make sure to point out spatial relationships when reading books, walking through the park, or even eating dinner.

Picture Patterns

patterns are largely impactful on a young child’s mathematic abilities as well. Things like dance, visual art and movement patterns such as stop, drop, and roll help children to learn about making predictions, guessing and understanding what may come next and using reasoning skills, which is the basis of multiplication.

Encourage

The most important factor for any child learning math, or any subject for that matter, is a can-do attitude. If a child is to learn and master any skill, they need to be encouraged that they have what it takes to succeed. This attitude of self-efficacy that is learned as a child will most often carry them through their entire life, no matter what situation or subject they are dealing with. Be a constant support and place of encouragement to help them along.

Give your child the skills to succeed, give them encouragement and you will constantly be surprised at the accomplishments they can make. Sometimes, it all begins with just a few math lessons taught at a young age.