Finding academic success in a cardboard box
Daniel Blank of Highland Park, owner of the T-H-E Center in Highland Park, shows (from left) Jackson Berner, 7, of Glenview, Josh Peterman, 6, of Deerfield and Rachel Peterman, 11, of Deerfield how to play chess. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Play games for a good cause
On Saturday, Oct. 20, join game lovers from around the world as they participate in the “Extra Life” game marathon.
The event is dedicated to raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which includes the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Originated by a group of video gamers, the “Extra Life” marathon now includes tabletop, board games and/or outdoor games.
So get your game on and visit extra-life.org to learn more.
Updated: October 12, 2012 1:44PM
How can a box help improve ACT scores? It’s a question I’ve been thinking about lately as I watch high school students start the arduous task of preparing for college admissions.
When I was growing up, it was all about the SATs but since then things have changed, as more schools have adopted the ACT exam. Unlike the SAT, the ACT measures aptitude as well as understanding of basic high school concepts. Like the SAT, the exam invokes a sense of dread as many students see their academic future riding on this high stakes test.
Daniel Blank understands this issue. The former second grade teacher and founder of T-H-E Center in Highland Park, is dedicated to helping students of all ages work up to their potential.
In addition to ACT test prep, T-H-E Center offers homework help, one-on-one tutoring and classes for children of all ages. It also includes a special drop-in area for students who need a quiet place to study. Blank believes in engaging kids early in the learning process, making sure they master basic concepts before moving on to more challenging subjects. I recently had a chance to chat with Blank about ways parents can help their kids achieve greater success in school.
Start with games
Get out the Monopoly box because board games are a great way to reinforce academic skills. Whether it’s learning how to handle money (Monopoly), think strategically (Risk), or use deductive reasoning (Clue), board games require kids to incorporate fundamental skills to solve higher order problems. Blank also advocates teaching kids chess as it promotes spatial awareness, high-level reasoning and analytic skills.
Learn the language of math
Pardon the pun, but math can be a huge problem for many students. Many of the concepts are abstract, which can be challenging for concrete learners, and since math problems tend to build upon each other, kids can easily get lost.
Blank suggests looking at math as a language. Just as students must first master basic nouns and verbs when learning a new language, students must first master math basics before moving on to more complex problems. Seeing math as a language will also help ground the problems in reality, shedding new light on what is actually being asked.
“It’s amazing how much easier math is when students see the problem as something more than just a set of numbers,” said Blank.
Write it down
Blank advocates getting kids to write again.
In the early grades (such as first and second grade) kids are often encouraged to dream up stories during writer’s workshops and creative writing activities. However, as kids get older, there are fewer opportunities to write creatively in school.
To keep kids writing, give them journals. Have them write for 15 minutes every day. Keep the topics open-ended and encourage your kids to write about anything they wish as long as they put pen to paper.
“Something magical happens when kids write,” says Blank. “They start to think about ideas and stories they never imagined.”
Blank also says this practice will help them later when applying to college, since writing college essays is a big hurdle for many applicants.
For more information on Daniel Blank and T-H-E Center, visit www.t-h-e-center.com.