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How to Learn SAT® Vocabulary

SAT-takers generally find the critical reading sections challenging because both the sentence completion and passage-based reading sections are so vocabulary dependent. You may not have a huge academic vocabulary, but some concentrated study and knowing the following strategies can make a significant difference in your scores on the critical reading and multiple-choice writing sections.

Sentence Completion Strategies

Vocabulary recognition is critically important for both the Passage-based Reading and Sentence Completion Questions found in the Critical Reading section. The publisher of the SAT claims that these subtests measure “verbal reasoning abilities.” Hogwash! Much of the Sentence Completions and even the Passage-based Reading subsections only measure vocabulary. Not only do these subsections simply measure vocabulary; they also frequently test this vocabulary out of context. In other words, much of the SAT vocabulary is either already known or not known.

Some SAT preparation workbooks and classes (or perhaps a friendly English teacher you might know) will suggest that you memorize huge SAT vocabulary lists of hundreds of words. This approach runs contrary to both good reading research and just plain common sense. The publisher has a word bank of over 30,000 words. Even if you retained the meanings of every single word on a twenty-word weekly vocabulary test, you would only have learned 600 or so words by the end of one school year. Chances are that you would forget many of these anyway. Time invested in memorizing huge vocabulary lists would be better spent reading a good book.

In fact, for long term SAT vocabulary acquisition, reading is the best way to grow a huge vocabulary. As you read books at your reading level (word recognition of 95%), you will learn many of those unknown 5% words though effective use of context clues. Keep track of these words on a daily basis on 3 x 5 cards or on your computer, and you will be well on your way to developing the kind of SAT vocabulary that will score you the points you need.

But, for those of you non-readers who are taking the SAT in a few short weeks, there is still hope to improve your score on both the Critical Reading and Writing sections. Fortunately, the multiple-choice design of the SAT requires vocabulary only word recognition, rather than vocabulary word knowledge. For example, you may not be able to define, or even give an example of an “octogenarian.” However, you might be able to recognize that the “oct” part of the word means “eight” because you have prior knowledge that an “octopus” has eight tentacles.

Two effective short cuts toward better recognizing SAT vocabulary include these two strategies:

  1. learning the most common Greek and Latin affixes/roots and
  2. learning how to figure out the clues to meaning of unknown words through context clues.

Both of these strategies will help your short-term goal of dealing with the SAT vocabulary. The web provides wonderful resources for frequently-used word parts to print into SAT vocabulary study game cards and context clue exercises designed for SAT-takers.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

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How to Avoid Procrastination

The Procrastination Prevention Plan

Procrastination Prevention Plan

To avoid procrastination, learn how to develop a Procrastination Prevention Plan.

Remember what your father used to say? Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could be doing today.

He was right. But did he give you the tools to develop a plan that will help replace bad habits with good ones? Following is a workable plan with the tools to help you learn how to avoid procrastination. That’s right; it’s a skill that has to be learned and practiced. It’s not common sense or a matter of maturity. Plenty of adults struggle with procrastination as well. It’s also not simply a problem of organization.

According to De Paul University Professor of Psychology, Joseph Ferrari,

It really has nothing to do with time-management,” he says. “As I tell people, to tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up (https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination).

Before we dive in on the Procrastination Prevention Plan, it will be helpful to take a moment and explore why we procrastinate. The psychologists are right. Knowing the underlying causes can give input into the solutions. People usually procrastinate for one of these reasons:

  1. “I don’t want to do it.” The goal may be difficult and take significant effort or time. Or you might be just plain rebellious or lazy.
  2. “It’s not worth it.” The pay-off for achieving the goal may not be considered worth the effort.
  3. “It just doesn’t feel right.” You might think that it isn’t the right time or set of circumstances to begin. You might be waiting for the magic fairy to make you want to get started.
  4. “I might fail or succeed.” You might be reminded of a past failure or even a past success at which there is a high level you are expected to achieve.
  5. “It’s someone else’s responsibility or fault.” Playing the blame game can certainly prevent you from taking personal responsibility and action.

Step outside of yourself and honestly respond to your own reasons as to why you are procrastinating. Now, practice some tough self-talk. Tell yourself that “Excuses are unacceptable and must be ignored to achieve results.”

The Procrastination Prevention Plan

  1. To avoid procrastination, first set a well-defined goal that is realistic. Begin practice by starting small. Limit your goal to one task that is achievable. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to implement any plan and achieve success. For example, if you were earning a “D” grade after nine weeks in a math class, if would probably not be realistic to expect that grade to rise to an “A” within the next two weeks, no matter the extent of your efforts. A much more realistic goal would be to raise that grade to a “C” within that time period. It takes a while to dig yourself out of a ditch that you’ve taken nine weeks to dig.
  2. Next, make your goal specific and measurable. Write down your goal. General goals rarely effect change. Instead of “My goal is to do better in math,” try “My goal is to get a “B” or better on my math test in two weeks.”
  3. Share your goal with people that will pester you about your progress toward achieving that goal. Ask for their support. For example, tell your math teacher, your best friend, and your parents about the “B” you plan to achieve.
  4. The next step is to find the expert help to develop a strategy for achieving your realistic and specific goal. The expert help might be your math teacher in the above example, or a tutor, or a parent, or a friend. Show your written goal to the expert and ask for specific help about what to do first, next, and thereafter. Arrange a time to check-in with the expert soon after you start your plan to evaluate your progress and to ensure that your plan makes sense.
  5. After getting expert advice as to how to achieve your goal, set rewards before you begin to practice. Everyone works better toward a goal when rewards have been clearly defined. For example, set aside money to purchase a new video game once you have earned that “B.” Also establish mini-rewards to motivate practice in achieving that goal. For example, set aside a favorite snack to munch on after you have completed the daily practice toward your goal.
  6. Get started. The longest journey begins with a single step, but you have to take that step. An object at rest, tends to stay at rest. However, an object in motion, tends to stay in motion. You will start today.
  7.  Be flexible and willing to adjust your goal or how you are practicing to achieve that goal. Talk to your expert again, if you do not see the progress that you had planned. Sometimes a small tweak in a plan can make all the difference. Thomas Edison failed a thousand times before he was successful the one time that he invented the incandescent light bulb.
  8. Evaluate once your goal has been reached or not. Celebrate and take your reward, if you achieved your goal. If you did not achieve your goal, go back to your expert and brainstorm what went wrong. Set a new goal and begin immediately.
Essential Study Skills Program

Essential Study Skills

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The 56 lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed.

Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, and Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

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