"Today's tutorial was focused on preliminary reading comprehension and essay writing skills. We began the tutorial with the student articulating his process for reading SSAT passages. He talked about the word types, messages, character attributes, and imagery that stand out to him naturally as he reads. Also, he talked about how he transitions from the initial passage reading to answering the questions. Through this discussion, we brainstormed several important tips for approaching reading effectively.
Also, we have devised an active reading strategy for him to use when he encounters reading passages that he considers "boring" and possibly "not well written." On the initial reading, he will try reading only the first and last sentences of each paragraph. Then, he will use the questions to dictate specific parts of the passage to go back and read. This will cut down on how much of the undesirable passages he has to read, saving him enough energy to invest in the ones he likes, ensuring his answers are correct for the undesirable passage, and eliminating the need to just skip all questions corresponding to undesirable passages.
He showed a strong handle on the reading comprehension portion of today's tutorial, missing only two of the 15 questions he was asked to answer.
Following this, we started working on essay writing skills. He was given the following parameters for a creative writing piece:
- use a somber tone
- include three characters: antagonist, protagonist, and foil
- communicate that you possess qualities indicative of a good student leader
- start the passage with your favorite movie line
- write about one page (2 pages maximum)
He was given time to ask questions. In this time, he discovered that some of the parameters made it difficult for him to conceive of a coherent story line. So, we worked together to adjust the parameters to something that reflects his point of view and still constitutes a strong SSAT essay. These revised parameters included:
- using a witty tone
- combining the antagonist and foil character into one person
- communicating some positive personal quality that would be appealing to a school
From these adjustments, he was able to compose a fantastic 1.5-page scene that followed the parameters nicely, demonstrated a great deal of his personality, and followed English conventions and mechanics. After reading, we workshopped the piece. Separately, he was asked to play the role of a student reading his passage for the SSAT and an admission counselor reading this essay to make an admission decision. As these two different people, he was asked to pose lingering questions. These questions pointed out necessary edits that he was able to make easily and devise strategy for incorporating in the future.
This week, he will have an SSAT reading section proctored for him. This is just a preliminary assessment to see how well he applies the skills introduced today to a real, timed SSAT exam."