Our January Tutor of the Month is…

When it comes to helping students with college entrance exams, organizing homework folders and binders, or studying for Algebra II, Nana Abrefah can do it all. Since October 2016, Nana has worked with students prepare for their upcoming ACT and SAT exams, improve grades in Algebra II and Pre-Calculus, and helped younger students straighten up backpacks and binders. With all his success, Nana is our January Tutor of the Month!

We spoke with Nana to see how he manages his time with students and helps motivate them to complete difficult homework tasks and problems.

What’s the #1 way you engage your students?

The best way I have found to engage students is incorporating their interests—both immediate and long-term—into our sessions. To me, an immediate interest is something like a favorite sport or favorite band. Long-term interests can be goals, like matriculating at a very selective college. For instance, one of my students likes hockey. Thus, to work on English skills (reading comprehension, argument building and analysis, diction and structure), I have him work with newspaper articles on hockey that should be at or above his reading level. He practices active reading and must effectively explain the content and structure of these articles. I have found this method keeps him engaged even on days when he does not have much schoolwork for us to work on together.

This approach can apply to any student; even the most motivated students sometimes benefit from remembering that what they are learning does not exist in a vacuum and probably relates to many things they already like or would like to achieve for themselves. For test prep students who put so much time into studying for one test, it cannot hurt to remind them of all the doors they are opening for themselves!


What is one thing you tell students who are preparing for the SAT or ACT?

As cliché as it may sound, be confident! These tests are not measures of how smart or worthy you are. They examine specific skills that colleges believe are central to successfully taking on a college curriculum. Even better, these are skills you have been exercising throughout your academic career! You have all the tools to do well; excelling is not an impossible task.  Especially working together with a tutor, you can improve content areas and timing issues if you take the time. It is only natural to feel nervous about the ACT or SAT (top test takers feel this way, too). However, never forget that you are capable and that you have put in the work to succeed! Less time spent worrying also means more time to check your work.


What’s the number one study strategy you use in your sessions?

I think my favorite study strategy is the “Tolerable 10” because it is so broadly applicable. The Tolerable 10 is ten undisturbed minutes of work followed by a short break or debrief. For students who have a harder time focusing, it provides a sustained work period and time to decompress. It gives the lesson a little more rhythm. For test prep students, it also works very naturally to improve timing on different sections, and afterward, we can open a dialogue about the work they just completed.


How do you inspire confidence in your students, especially if one of them is feeling deflated?

To keep my students confident, I try to remind them of precisely why I am there—to help them understand the material regardless of how many methods it takes! Schools obviously must operate on some timeline; I think a common source of failing confidence among students is a feeling of being behind. But when we as tutors are working with students, they have no reason to feel this way! I try to establish this with each of my students. There is nothing wrong with being confused and there is no need to stay quiet or apologize for not understanding something. We are working together to learn and apply that knowledge.

To work with a great tutor like Nana, give us a call today at 703-934-8282!

The Five Most Popular Questions When It Comes to Reading

3 kids - featheredLet’s face it, getting our kids to do things they don’t want to do is tiresome. It can end up in a handful of ways: tears, arguments, or yelling. We often just throw our hands up and admit defeat. Although this can happen with just about any academic subject, we see it frequently with reading and refusing to pick up books. Kids would rather play on their phone or watch TV than grab a novel and settle down to read.

If this sounds like your household, don’t worry, because you’re not alone. But before you hand back the iPad or tablet, read these five questions from parents about kids being reluctant to read and advice on how to tackle the issue.


How do I get my child to read on a nightly basis?

This is perhaps the question on every parent’s mind, especially given that 20-30 minutes of reading each night is often required for elementary school kids.

Avoid frustration and resentment towards reading and don’t make it part of the homework time. This only adds to the homework burden.

Instead, make reading a part of the evening routine. Schedule it after dinner and before bed, when your child is winding down for the night. When kids can equate reading to relaxation, it makes it all that easier.

Be careful to avoid saying, “Okay, it’s time to get ready for bed, go up in your room and read,” because it may not go well. Reluctant readers often have a hard time getting started independently. Instead, consider paired reading – you read a page, your child reads a page, or for a very reluctant reader – you read two pages, he reads one page. This actually takes two thirds of the burden of reading away from your child, and often when things seem easier to kids, they’re more likely to do it.


When we read together, how much should I correct?

As you read with your child, you may find that it’s your natural tendency to correct her mistakes, but this creates frustration.

If she skips over a word, or replaces a small word that doesn’t affect the meaning, leave it alone. Don’t correct her. However, if she replaces a word like, “grill” for “girl”, and it impacts the entire meaning of the sentence, you should probably draw attention to that.

But, before you shout, “That’s wrong!”, correct them sparingly. Your goal as a parent is just simply to be there to read with your child, not to make corrections. When kids are corrected too much they feel judged, and that’s when they avoid certain tasks like reading.


How can I get my kid to read independently?

Research shows when kids listen to an audio book and read along in the book at the same time, their reading skills soar.

What does this mean? Get your child an audio version of the book they’re reading and have him follow along in the book while he listens. It doesn’t mean that your child’s just staring off into space and listening halfheartedly.

If your child’s listening and following along, studies show that their reading fluency and comprehension improves so much faster than if they read independently. This can happen when kids pick books that are a little out of their reading level. Kids don’t get enjoyment from the book because it’s too difficult for them!  A simple solution is having them follow along to an audio version. They’ll benefit from both listening to fluent reading and meaning, thereby improving their own fluency and comprehension.


My son will only read graphic novels. How can I get him to move to another book? Do I force him to read something that has more content?

I get this question a lot from moms of boys. The answer is no. Kids will gravitate to other books on their own time. In fact, when teachers assign books for reading, they’re not usually assigning graphic novels. Instead, they’re assigning books that probably don’t have too many pictures. If we remember that reading should equate with relaxation, allow your child to continue reading graphic novels. At least he’s reading and finding pleasure from it.

Sometimes parents will ask about E-Readers. Are they good, or are they bad? Is this some new-age technology we know nothing about?! Parents will often report that their kids had really good intentions about reading a book on their Kindle Fire, but when parents go check on them, four different internet browsers are open and the book is nowhere on the screen.

Do you take the Kindle away? Do you make them read it in front of you?

What I can tell you is this: while Kindle Fires seem like the cool gadget to be seen with, it also has internet access. And having internet access means the reading comes second. Kids just become too distracted and they can’t control their own impulses to go online. A Kindle Paper White could be a better option. The Paper White has very limited internet options, and your kid can only go on Wikipedia and Amazon to buy books. With the Paper White, there are a lot fewer distractions during reading time.


What about online versus print reading, is there a difference?

Surprisingly, there is a large difference between online and print reading. A study of high school students found that when kids read a novel online vs. in print, they actually had better comprehension when sequencing events when reading in print.  Grasping the book in their hand made a huge difference over holding a square tablet.

When the book has lots of events, you are able to know “At this point in the book they were getting on a raft. That was about two thirds of the way through the book. I know that was kind of near the height of the story.” When you hold a book in your hand you have a sense of where you are in the book, where you are in the sequence of events. Although there’s not a huge difference in the impact of comprehension with online versus print reading, it does seem to be most effective when reading novels and sequencing events.


Remember, the most important thing you can do to help your child read is to encourage them and celebrate when they pick up a book! Hopefully, these questions help solve your child’s hesitancy to read, but if they haven’t, give us a call. A reading tutor may be what’s best for them.

Organization Rescue Kit

Back to school means scrambling to get things organized and ready for the first day of school. Before you stress about which school supplies to buy, watch our Tutor Coach, Jan Rowe, explain which binders are the best for organization and how to organize them.

Spending 3 minutes watching these videos now might just save you and your children headaches later and give you the boost towards perfect organization this year!

Organizing a binder


The best binders to choose from




Katie Lauer is our July Tutor of the Month!

Congratulations to Katie Lauer for being selected as our July Tutor of the Month! We are so excited to work with her!

Katie’s Bio:Katie Lauer

Katie Lauer began tutoring with Educational Connections in May 2016 and works with elementary school students on reading and writing.
Katie graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education and has a Master of Science degree in Special Education from George Mason University. She is a kindergarten teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools and will begin her 6th year of teaching this fall.

Tutoring Strategies and Tips:

Katie says, “My favorite part about being a tutor is seeing that moment when a student who has been struggling with something for awhile finally gets it! I see this a lot in my Wilson reading students when they are looking at a passage that they thought was going to be hard and then they breeze through it without any prompting or support. The look that comes over their face puts the biggest smile on my face!”
Her tip for tutoring over the summer? “Make tutoring fun and get students moving. Instead of just practicing math facts, have them play a memory math game or do a fun activity that is focused on math, but that is all about them! Have them write important numbers (age, number of people in their family, activities, etc.) using number sentences.”

The College Application Essay: Better to Start Now Rather than Later

EiStock_000015974259Largeven though it’s summer, instead of spending your days watching Netflix and lounging by the pool, your time would be best spent by taking some time to prepare for upcoming college application essays.

Don’t wait until September or October when you are stressed out with homework, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. Now is the time to write your essays so you have more time to think of topics and important achievements, edit and proofread your drafts, work with a mentor on writing, and get all your ideas out on paper. The common application essay questions are already available on admissions websites, which means you have more time to draft an essay.

Here’s how to take advantage of this and make your summer really count:

Create your list of schools & find out their essay requirements

Before you start your essay, create a list of the schools to which you want to apply. Not every school has the common application essay prompt, so be sure to separate the ones that don’t have it on your list – you don’t want to do the wrong essay!

Jot down your accomplishments & achievements

Write a list of your biggest accomplishments and achievements. This is your time to brag so don’t be shy!

Did you win the state championship this year? Did you get a perfect score on your hardest test? Did you solve a problem that had been bothering you for quite some time? Finding out what you’re most proud of can be helpful when figuring out which prompt to write about.

Determine what best topics might be

Have your surroundings or situation at home strongly influenced your beliefs or a path you have taken? Each of us has our own unique set of circumstances and surroundings that often have a profound influence in shaping our lives. Determine what is important to you, share a failure, or talk about a time you challenged an idea. Find more topics on our “The College Admissions Essay: Coming Up With a Topic” blog post.

Find a mentor to guide you through the revising & editing process

Ask someone to proofread your essay and work with you on revising your essay. Some teachers may be available in the summer to help out.

Tutors are also available to help you organize your thoughts into a clear and cohesive essay. If Educational Connections can be of assistance in this process, give us a call today and we can work on finding the right tutor match for you.


Check out these resources on writing your best essay:

How to Write the Best College Essay in 6 Easy Steps