Guest author Rachel Z. Baumann, the newest member of the Peak team, is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Therapist, and Executive Functioning Coach who counsels people of all ages. Her clients include young teens and adults coping with anxiety and school/career decisions, children and teens struggling with executive functioning skills, and parents trying to help their children adjust to an ADHD diagnosis. Rachel is experienced in helping clients with anxiety, ADHD, depression, friendship challenges, learning differences, self-esteem, social skills, and relationship issues. She comes to Peak having worked with children from pre-K through grade 12 across suburban and urban settings, as well as with college-aged students and young adults. She has worked with diverse populations and is conversationally fluent in Spanish. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Bates College in Maine, Rachel worked in the mental health field for six years while earning her Master’s and Sixth Year Certificate in School Psychology at Fairfield University. While becoming a psychologist, Rachel also felt a pull to branch out of the schools in order to work with students and their families in a more personalized, individualized manner. She obtained her LPCA and has worked to help families manage Executive Functioning difficulties.
As an Executive Functioning Coach, Therapist, and School Psychologist, I believe that nothing is more important to parents than the well-being of their child. It can be difficult to navigate the many social, emotional, physical, and cognitive changes that children experience. As a psychologist, I conduct comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations and design programs to help your child improve a wide range of skills. I also provide parent consultation to help parents understand their child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and become more effective advocates for their child both in and out of school.
What is Executive Functioning?
The term comes from the neuroscience literature to describe the skills our brains use to execute tasks and solve problems effectively. By the time your child is a teenager, they will need to use these skills on a daily basis in order to fully cope with everyday tasks. Research demonstrates that most individuals have executive functioning skills that are strengths as well as executive functioning skills that are weaknesses. We ALL will need these skills and if your child does not know how to organize their assignments, this will inevitably affect them later in life. It does not mean that your child is any less intelligent than the child who can organize their assignments; it simply means that your child has not yet learned an effective system that works for them.
Executive functioning coaching consists of identifying these areas of weaknesses and challenges so that we are better able to implement interventions to manage your child’s difficulties. If you are still wondering about the specifics behind all of these brain-based skills, here is a condensed overview:
• Response Inhibition: the ability to think before you act. Is your child able to resist the urge to say something, or do they interrupt? Do they often act without thinking about the consequences?
• Working Memory: the ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. Does your child have difficulty remembering where they put their belongings? Do they lose things like sports equipment, their lunch money, or their phone?
• Emotional Control: the ability to manage emotions to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control behavior. Does your child have difficulty regulating their emotions? Do they become easily frustrated when things don’t go their way?
• Flexibility: the ability to amend plans; adapting to changing conditions. Is your child able to adjust easily to a change in plans?
• Sustained attention: the ability to pay attention to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom. Do you need to consistently remind your child to finish their homework, or can they manage on their own?
• Task initiation: the ability to begin projects in a timely manner and without unnecessary procrastination. Does your child have difficulty pulling themselves away from TikTok or FaceTiming with friends? Are they able to prioritize their work properly so they have time for both work and friends?
• Planning/prioritizing: the ability to create a plan to achieve your goals/complete a task. The ability to make decisions about what is important to concentrate on. Does your child know how to take the steps necessary to save money for something they really want? Do they know how to start and follow through on a project?
• Organization: the ability to set up and stick with systems to keep track of information or materials. Does your child know how to find all of their assignments on Google Drive? Are assignments organized or are they all over their computer? Does your child have a system of organizing what to bring to school and what they need in order to get through the day?
• Time management: the ability to estimate how much time you have, how to utilize it, and how to meet deadlines. Does your child turn their assignments in on time? Do they know how to estimate how much time it will take for them to get ready for soccer or drama practice? Do you find that you are always running to the car because they said they needed 5 minutes when they really needed 20 minutes to get ready?
• Goal-directed persistence: the ability to have a goal and to follow through to achieve it. Is your child able to set things aside that they would prefer to do in order to achieve their goals?
• Metacognition: thinking about thinking. The ability to stand back and to observe how you solve problems and how you reflect on your actions and thoughts. Does your child have the self-awareness to know how others are responding to their behavior, ideas, or actions? Are they good at accepting feedback from others?
What does EF Coaching look like?
You may be thinking that if your child has EF difficulties that they have ADHD. This is not always the case! We all have strengths and weaknesses in these areas. The good news is that all of this can be worked on and improved in order for your child to meet their academic goals and to live a more organized life. It is incredible to see the change that can occur when we are taught the skills that don’t come naturally to us. EF coaching has the ability to improve both the academic and social-emotional life of your child and your family.
My aim is to help your child individually in order to meet their needs. I start by talking with the parent/guardian in order to assess the problems from the parent’s perspective. Each session is tailored and individualized to your child’s unique needs. Because we all have deeply ingrained habits surrounding EF skills, this is not a quick fix. That being said, with full and open communication, I endeavor to meet your child where they are and to develop an individualized system that will allow them to flourish.
To help you maximize your potential on the SAT and ACT exams, we encourage you to participate regularly in the proctored practice exam series that is part of your Peak Performance instructional program. To help you plan your approach to the practice testing component, I've shared some common questions and our responses below:
How Many Practice Exams Should I Take?
• Each year we offer approximately 40 proctored practice exams
• We find that students can reach their peak level of performance on the official exam by taking between 7-10 proctored practice exams (in addition to the diagnostics taken prior to beginning instruction).
• This past year, a handful of students wound up taking 12-15 practice exams. In these instances, the decision to take so many was almost always driven by the student. For students who enjoy (or aren't bothered) by taking so many, the repetition and routine can prove immensely helpful.
• For those who find the practice test component draining or less enjoyable, it's particularly important to be purposeful about which exams you take. It's crucial that when you register for a practice exam and sit down with us to take it, that you are ready to put forth your maximum effort. Performing well on a practice exam can provide a tremendous boost of confidence.
How Frequently Should I Take Exams?
• There is no exact formula, but here are some recommended approaches:
Student begins our program 4-5 months out from first official exam date
- Take initial diagnostic(s) prior to first instructional lesson
- Take 1 exam in the first month
- Take 2 exams per month for the next two to three months
- Take 1 exam in the final few weeks leading up to first official exam
- Take additional exams as needed prior to the second official exam
Student begins our program 3 months out from first official exam date
- Take initial diagnostic(s) prior to first instructional lesson
- Take 1 exam in the first month
- Take 2 exams in the second month and 3 exams in the third month
- Take additional exams as needed prior to the second official exam
What Type of Feedback Do I Get and How Should I Use It?
• We email you a detailed score report and custom item analysis. While we promise to have this to you by 11:45pm the day after the exam, you have probably realized that in almost all cases we send this to you within about 8-10 hours of your completing the exam.
• Students who benefit the most from practice exams are those who take the time to first review their results, then examine the score report and item analysis, and then take the time to work through errors and make as many self-corrections as possible
How do I Register for Each Exam?
• You'll continue to receive invitations from our director of testing, Helen Phillips, on Monday mornings prior to weekend exams. Please always use the provided link to register.
• Please register as soon as possible upon receiving the invitation and no less than 48 hours prior to the exam as the process of determining which test to give you, sending you the materials, printing, and potentially troubleshooting requires considerable time for us and for you.
Where Can I Find the Test Schedule?
• Please use these links to our SAT Testing Page and ACT Testing Page. Please note that we occasionally need to change a date and we often add dates (particularly in this given year with lots of unusual quirks in everyone's schedules).
• Note that we try to offer tests on different days of the week (i.e. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the summer and weekends and holidays during the school year).
• In the event that you ever wish to schedule a test on a date not offered, feel free to contact us about setting up a private practice exam. Note that the cost of a private proctored exam isn't covered in the unlimited package that you have.
Yesterday, the College Board announced two changes that had been on the horizon for a while. First, Subject Tests have been discontinued, effective immediately. Second, as of June 5, the optional essay portion of the exam will cease to exist.
To understand the impact of this announcement on high school students, let's consider the genesis of these changes. Subject tests, formerly known as SAT II tests, had already become far less relevant than they once were. Even prior to the pandemic, fewer colleges and universities required--or even recommended--that candidates take these one-hour exams. While Subject Tests allowed students to showcase their expertise in high-level academic disciplines like Chemistry, Biology, Math II, and a host of other subjects, they suffered from two major problems. First, they consisted solely of content-based, multiple choice questions. In an educational climate that increasingly values analytical thinking and problem solving, Subject Tests fell short when it came to assessing critical thinking skills. Second, Subject Tests were redundant. AP exams, which are typically three hours and feature a mixture of question types aimed at determining a student's understanding of robust curricula, have become the coin of the realm.
The disappearance of the optional SAT essay should help unmuddy the waters for students who in previous years would have struggled to decide whether to write the essay. Even prior to the pandemic, only a handful of colleges and universities were requiring or recommending the essay. As a result, fewer and fewer students were opting to spend an additional 50 minutes writing an essay that most admissions offices were not interested in reading. Additionally, the optional essay always carried with it another burden: it just wasn't very realistic. Few of us must produce timed, hand-written writing samples as a meaningful part of our professional lives. Many of us, however, do need to be able to brainstorm, draft an essay or memo, revise, and share the finished product. These are the skills that the college admissions essay requires. While the traditional college admissions essay and the shorter supplemental essays are not free of controversy, they offer a more "real world" way for students to demonstrate their writing skills and articulate their passions and life experiences.
Most who follow these matters closely suspect that the optional ACT essay (the "Writing" portion) will be the next to go. Like the SAT essay, it does not impact the actual test score and has not captured the hearts or minds of college admissions folks. While it is difficult to offer a blanket recommendation for all ACT students, we are going to double down on the advice we had already been giving for the past year or two: unless you have a compelling reason to write the essay, do not bother!
As students assess how to prioritize their time and energy, and as parents evaluate how to best support their children and prioritize their resources, we have a few final recommendations. First, prioritize your school work. If you take AP classes, your effort and performance on the May exams matter more than ever. Second, re-double your effort on the SAT or ACT. A leaner menu of admissions exams likely means that the SAT and ACT will take on heightened significance. Since many colleges have implemented test optional policies, a strong score has the potential to carry even more weight. Finally, continue to enrich your lives with projects, activities, jobs, sports, community service, music, and fun. If you follow your passions now, you may just enjoy the process of writing some college essays in a year or two!
As always, reach out to Peak Performance with any questions. We are here to support you!
Peak Enrichment Pods
Learn Content, Build Skills, and Enhance Confidence
As our students prepare to return to school, we are confident that most will return to teachers who are eager to tackle the challenges of our present times and schools that are increasingly prepared for the hiccups that come with delivering remote or hybrid learning on a large scale.
In order to help students bridge content and skill gaps that have arisen this past spring and will inevitably arise this fall in even the most comprehensive hybrid learning model, we are excited to announce the launch of Peak Performance Enrichment Pods.
Each of our nearly 30 Pods will be geared towards a specific high school, middle school, or elementary school course. Our teachers include Peak Associate tutors and top-performing public or private school teachers who specialize in their specific courses. Most pods will meet one hour per week and will be conducted in virtual synchronous fashion (live taught via Zoom). We also welcome requests to work with self-selected Pods, either online or in-person.
As with our other Peak offerings, Pods will be limited to a maximum of 8 students in order to promote student engagement, discussion, and interaction. Using the online teaching model that enabled more than 95% of our AP review students to achieve 4’s and 5’s on their spring 2020 exams, our teachers will help your child develop a deeper content base, more robust skill set, and enhanced sense of confidence in the learning process.
Because our Pod sizes are small and our teachers all have full-time commitments to teaching their specific courses, we anticipate that our limited spots will fill quickly. To register, please use our Peak Enrichment Pods registration link. Additional details are below:
Course Pods Currently Available for High School
• Social Studies: Global History 9, Global History 10, AP World History, United States History 11, AP United States History
• Math: Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus
• Spanish: all levels through AP
• English: AP Lang, AP Lit, Enrichment Electives including Rhetoric & Argument, Reading & Writing: Style and Argument, and Entering the Conversation: Writing with Templates
• Science: Chemistry, AP Chemistry, Living Environment, AP Biology, Physics, AP Physics 1/2
Course Pods Currently Available for Elementary and Middle School
• Reading Skills: 3rd/4th Grade Reading Workshop, 5th/6th Grade Reading Workshop, 7th/8th Grade Reading Workshop
• Math: all levels through 8th grade
• Writing Workshop: 3rd/4th Grade Writing Workshop, 5th/6th Grade Writing Workshop, 7th/8th Grade Writing Workshop
• Spanish: all levels through 8th grade
• $75 - $150 per hour depending on course, teacher, and number of students who register
• Most Pods will meet once per week for one hour.
• Initial registration commitment is for 10 weeks, spanning the first quarter of the academic year from September 8 to November 13.
• We have handpicked our most trusted and high-performing colleagues from Scarsdale, Byram Hills, Rye Country Day, Brunswick, and other local schools.
Peak Performance is back in the Bronx! Tonight, 26 high school sophomores and juniors from 11 different New York City high schools helped us kick off the second year of our College Pathways Program.
Six students who participated as sophomores in 2018-2019 return as older, wiser juniors. With well-earned confidence, these College Pathway veterans helped guide nine new juniors and 11 sophomores through their paces on opening night. Geo Benitez (Regis '21) offered some sage advice to all: "be patient, embrace the process, and expect that your hard work will pay off over time." Melanie Mena (Ursuline '21) spoke glowingly about the skills and strategies that she had learned in Year One. Referencing Peak's trademark Active Reading techniques and emphasis on question type analysis, Melanie assured her peers that "these strategies are really helpful and make you a lot better at these kind of tests."
What's in store for this group of 26 students? Foremost, the students will focus on mastering the SAT and get ready to take their first or second official SAT later this year. Over the course of the next several months, our instructors and students will meet on Wednesday evenings in Hunts Point to dissect the 'ins' and 'outs' of the SAT. Throughout the winter and spring, the group will also gather in Westchester on Saturday mornings for timed practice exams that will help monitor progress and inform instruction.
For all involved, the road ahead is an exciting one. It will certainly produce countless learning moments and memories for both teachers and students!
Please check back for updates, student accounts, and other news from the Bronx!
As many of our students and other students around the country begin to receive their PSAT scores, we have put together a Q & A to help demystify the process. If you have questions that we don’t address here, feel free to reach out to Peak Performance Prep at firstname.lastname@example.org!
1. How are the PSAT scores and National Merit Selection Index calculated?
The PSAT reports a total score that is the sum of two sections: Evidence-Based Reading & Writing (160-760) and Math (160-760). Your total PSAT score can range from 320 to 1520.
To determine your section scores, first look at your three test scores--Reading, Writing & Language, and Math. The score range for each test is 8-38. Calculate your Evidence-Based Reading & Writing section score by adding your Reading and Writing & Language test scores together and then multiplying by 10. Calculate your Math section score by multiplying your Math test score by 20.
To determine your National Merit Selection Index ("Index"), add your three test scores together and then multiply by 2. This will give you an Index score in the 48-228 range.
Here is an example...
Paolo's three test scores are as follows: Reading-30, Writing & Language-25, and Math-32. His Evidence-Based Reading & Writing section score equals (30 + 25) x 10 = 550. His Math section score equals 32 x 20 = 640. Thus, his total PSAT score equals (550 + 640) = 1190. Paolo's Index score--which will be used to consider him for National Merit status (see questions below)--is (30 + 25 + 32) x 2 = 174.
2. Is my PSAT score good enough to earn me National Merit Commended or National Merit Semifinalist status?
The benchmarks for Class of 2021 Commended and Semifinalist will not be published until September 2020, so you will need to wait until then to get an official answer. Unofficially, however, you can bank on the following estimates…
•Semifinalist status (~ top 1%) varies by state. In Connecticut, the National Merit Selection Index (“Index”) threshold has been 220, 221, 222, and 221 for the classes of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. In New York, the Index has been 219, 221, 221, and 221 over these past four years.
•Commended status (~ next 2-3% after the semifinalists) is uniform throughout the country. For the Class of 2021, the required Index will likely be 212.
3. What do my PSAT scores indicate about my potential on the SAT?
The PSAT is scored out of 1520 and the SAT is scored out of 1600. Since the SAT is slightly more difficult, the College Board believes that a perfect score on the PSAT (1520) is the equivalent of an SAT score of 1520—not 1600. There are still “80 points worth” of more difficult material that a 1520 student will need to acquire or demonstrate in order to achieve a 1600 on the SAT.
This all means that your PSAT should indicate the exact score you would have earned on the SAT had you taken it the next day. For example, a student who scored 1300 on the October PSAT would be expected to score 1300 on the October SAT. Keep in mind that by the time you received your PSAT scores in early December, you may have put forth a considerable amount of effort and improved your SAT trajectory. The PSAT is a snapshot of where you were in early October, and it is not intended to be predictive of your exact finishing point.
4. Do my PSAT scores reveal anything about my potential on the ACT?
The PSAT does not give us as much information about what your ACT performance would have been in early October. The PSAT and ACT contain different sections, are scored on different scales, and require different approaches to time management.
Nevertheless, the PSAT and ACT are both standardized tests. The skillset required to succeed on one overlaps significantly with the skillset needed to succeed on the other. At this point in the process—with much time left to address any weaknesses in your testing—we recommend taking a positive approach. Feel confident that a strong PSAT is a sign of good things to come on the ACT. And acknowledge that a “not-so-strong” PSAT does not have to mean a poor outcome on the ACT. Purposeful, consistent preparation can help you achieve your peak.
5. If I did really well on the PSAT and may be in line to be a National Merit Semifinalist, do I need to take the SAT rather than the ACT in order to potentially qualify as a National Merit Finalist?
No, not anymore. In the past, the answer would have been ‘yes.’ Prior to last year, students who achieved Semifinalist status needed to take the SAT in order to “qualify” as finalists. But students now have the option to take either the SAT or ACT as their qualifying exam. This is good news. If you have performed in the top 1% on the PSAT but have been preparing for the ACT these past few months, you no longer need to take the SAT simply for the sake of trying to become a National Merit Finalist.
More than seven months into Year 1 of our Hunt’s Point College Pathways Program at St. Ignatius School, we are thrilled by the dedication and growth of our students. With 17 classes and four practice exams under their belts, the students have enhanced their skills, grown more comfortable with the exam, and raised their baseline scores by an average of more than 140 points. Below, we hear from Genesis Rodriguez, a sophomore at Cristo Rey NY High School in East Harlem...
It’s not always easy having to commit to things. At about this time last year, students from the Bronx, who attended middle school at St. Ignatius School in Hunts Point, were offered the opportunity to take SAT classes before they take the SAT exam during our junior year of high school. As high school students, we get carried away with the things we can do. After a long day of work or a long day of school we sometimes just want to go home. We want to go home and go straight to bed! But we know we must be responsible young adults who do things that benefit us in the future. Things that can help us be the greatest versions of ourselves.
Coming from the Bronx, we’ve seen that the type of education some students get is not so great. If we can make a change in our families by going to school, thriving in school, and aiming to go to college, we are making a difference right there. We want to be sons and daughters who can provide for our families in the future. From Hispanic descent, we understand that not all our parents were able to finish high school or even afford to go to college. So, with this being said, I can say that we are very grateful to have the opportunity to enhance our SAT skills. Even if it means taking a 7am train tomorrow morning (on a Saturday!) to get to our next practice exam.
Peak Performance Prep is excited to announce the launch of our College Pathways Program. Earlier this week, Peak co-founder Jared Small met with Mr. Luis Paez (far left in photo) of St. Ignatius School and seven high school sophomores, each a graduate of St. Ignatius who now attends high school in the New York City area. The purpose of this meeting was for Jared and the students to get to know each other before diving into the SAT prep course that will start after Thanksgiving. Gathered in a St. Ignatius classroom after school, the group projected a mixture of excitement and first-day butterflies as students embark on a multi-year program designed to prepare them for all facets of the college admissions process. While Peak has done a considerable amount of outreach with local communities in the past, this newest pro bono venture introduces at least two new concepts to the Peak approach: 1) a holistic program that will unfold across multiple years; and 2) a partnership with an already-proven team of committed educators and administrators from the St. Ignatius School.
During the course of this preliminary meeting, Jared and the students introduced themselves and asked each other questions. Some were playful--"what’s your favorite comic book?"--and others more serious--"why did we each opt into this extensive and demanding program?" Members of the group discussed their impressions of higher education and the motivations underlying their desire to eventually attend college, which for some students in the room would mark the first time someone in their families would have the opportunity to do so.
As sophomores, these students realize that college is still a bit far off. But nearly all acknowledged that starting the college prep process early will help them feel more confident and prepared. Additionally, the early start to this process allows Peak to extend the program over a three-year period and dissect the steps into discrete, manageable parts. During Year One, the students will focus on mastering the SAT and will get ready to take their first actual SAT in Summer 2019. Year Two will maintain the focus on test prep, while also incorporating resume building, application tips, and college visits. Year Three will mark the culmination of the program, and will hopefully see Peak--in partnership with Mr. Paez in his role as director of the St. Ignatius alumni education program--guide each of the seven students through the remaining portions of the college application process.
Over the course of the next several months, Jared and the students will meet on Wednesday evenings in Hunts Point to dissect the 'ins' and 'outs' of the SAT. Throughout the winter and spring, the group will also gather in Westchester on Saturday mornings for timed practice exams that will help monitor progress. For all involved, the road ahead is an exciting one. It will certainly produce countless learning moments and memories for both teacher and students alike!
Be sure to check back with this blog frequently for updates and student profiles from our College Pathways Program!
Alumni Profile Series: Casi Lumbra
As she sips a cup of tea in the magnificent amphitheater at the Chao Center on the campus of Harvard Business School (HBS), Casi Lumbra reflects on the path she has traveled and the journey she is just embarking upon. A first-year student at HBS, Casi has a plan. It’s a plan born out of hard work, intellectual curiosity, and a penchant for traveling the world in the company of her friends and colleagues.
After spending three years climbing the ladder as a consultant at Bain & Company in San Francisco, Casi is nearly halfway through a two-year hiatus from the job she loves to
re-immerse herself in the world of academia. She spends her mornings acing cold-calls from the world’s most renowned business professors, afternoons preparing for the next day’s cases, and evenings socializing with the next generation of corporate leaders and entrepreneurs.
But for Casi, the business school experience is about much more than what she experiences on campus. Two weeks ago, Casi trekked with 200 of her classmates to Colombia to dine with President Juan Manuel Santos. Over the next two months, Casi will spend a fortnight in South Africa working with a growing ed tech company, visit the “world’s most beautiful beach” in Mozambique upon the invitation of a classmate, and make her first trip to Israel alongside dozens of other HBS students. And she’s got a pretty cool summer internship in the works that can’t yet be broadcasted publicly!
Long before her days studying mechanical engineering at Stanford or managing her HBS section’s budget as elected treasurer, Casi was a member of the Peak Performance Class of 2009. She set a high standard for her test preparation by attending nearly every practice exam we offered and rigorously studying vocabulary words in an era when esoteric words were often the bane of a high school student’s existence. The master of her own schedule, Casi arranged all of her lessons directly with her tutors. By taking ownership of the process, she set a remarkably high bar for herself. Not surprisingly, she achieved perfection on the exam. But Casi’s Peak Performance experience did not end when she attained a 2400. For the next two years, she worked at Peak as a data analyst, exam proctor, and associate tutor.
Once Casi takes her final sip of tea, it’s back to study mode. Energized by the animated conversations and discourse that surround her, she decides to make the amphitheater her “study home” for the next two or three hours. Anyone who has known Casi since her high school days—which included a stint as an advisory board member for MTV’s ‘A Thin Line’ campaign to help teens stop the spread of digital abuse—knows that Casi is on a journey towards something special.
When asked about the most important factors that allowed her to embark on a career path she loves, Casi doesn’t hesitate to mention Peak Performance and the skills she learned as a student and colleague. “So much of what I need to be successful today, I started learning in high school,” she says. “Quick, logical thinking is helping me navigate the HBS curriculum. Concise, persuasive communication helps make me an effective consultant.”
Masters of the Sentence
Jared Small, Co-Founder and Director of Programming
Common Core Standards encourage educators to help their students become more effective writers across a variety of disciplines. This is a worthy and important aspiration. But few of us would expect a student to conceptualize advanced algebra before he can add. And few would ask a student to speak fluent Spanish before she acquired a certain base vocabulary. By this same logic, we do our students a disservice when we assign them to master the art of composition before we have taught them to master the art of composing a sentence.
At Peak, we specialize in teaching our students to become masters of the sentence. Our LAP Method (Learn-Apply-Practice) serves as a pedagogical bridge between the uniform expectations adopted by the Common Core, SAT, and ACT, and the less consistent commitment to teaching the fundamentals of grammar in many 21st century American classrooms. LAP encapsulates a three-phased approach to teaching grammar that enables students to become significantly more fluent writers and editors.
Learn. Both the SAT and ACT test well-defined rules of grammar that have existed for decades, even centuries. We teach our students to identify subjects, verbs, and adjectives; to recognize fundamental parts of sentences; and to understand the difference between a colon and a semi-colon, a dependent clause and an independent clause. Before our students hone in on the questions that are specific to the SAT or ACT, they learn to speak and understand the language of grammar.
Apply. Once a student acquires the requisite grammar base, she is ready to begin applying this content to exam-specific questions. Rather than following her hunch or letting her ear guide her, she reaches into her newly acquired rule-bank. Glancing at a clause that reads, “Each of the doctors have their own talents,” she is now able to recognize that the singular antecedent Each requires a singular possessive pronoun (his, her, or his or her) rather than the plural possessive pronoun their. Confronted with a clause that he may very well have heard countless times in his life—“I don’t like you talking to me like that”—he now applies the rule that the possessive form of you must precede the gerund talking. Thus, the sentence properly reads, “I don’t like your talking to me like that.” Our Director of Grammar Instruction, Terry McKeown, presents students with purposefully designed practice sets that allow students to apply these rules.
Practice. Once our students learn the rules of grammar and begin to apply these rules to SAT- or ACT-specific questions, they then have ample opportunity to practice. By completing weekly practice sets and participating in our proctored practice exam series, our students continue their journey towards becoming masters of the sentence. At the same time, they become much better equipped to engage in higher-level writing and editing.
To be clear, the Learn-Apply-Practice method is not a linear process. It is a continuous loop that requires both a diligent student and, in our case, a team of dedicated tutors. If, for example, a practice exam reveals that a student is not yet able to operationalize the rules he has learned about Subject-Verb agreement, we return to the ‘Learn’ phase to clarify the rule and to the ‘Apply’ phase to allow that rule to crystallize in the student’s mind. Once we circle back to the ‘Practice’ phase, we can again assess whether the student has mastered Subject-Verb agreement.
Ultimately, all educators want their students to read, write, and think at the highest levels. At Peak, we use the LAP method to bridge the gap between the current state of grammar education and the aspirations for literacy that we have for all our students. Not only does this methodology equip our students to ace the grammar portions of their college entrance exams, but also it gives them the confidence and skill-set to undertake more ambitious academic endeavors. As masters of the sentence, Peak students score higher and climb farther.