Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paying for College

Paying for college can be complicated. A lot of students will end up using a combination of scholarships, loans, and earnings from part-time and summer jobs.

To get an overview of the financial aid world, see Financial Aid Opportunity Pathways, from the Washington Student Achievement Council. And see Searching for Scholarships on the same site. helps Washington students find scholarships they might qualify for. Each student registers and sets up a profile, then the system searches for scholarships that match that profile. The profiles can be very detailed—for instance, including SAT scores, advanced placement courses, clubs, race and ethnicity, and so on.

If you're a tutor or a center supervisor, can you see how the system works? Yes: there's an option when registering to say you're a teacher, parent, counselor, or mentor, and then you can fill out a profile. Of course, only students can go all the way and apply for scholarships, but it's handy to look around and see what students will do when they register.

Want to Go to College Someday? Know How 2 GO!

Know How 2 GO ( a great place for students to start making plans for college. There are pages with concrete advice for students in middle school, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, and 12th grade.
(Middle school? Yes, middle school! Students can start thinking about college and preparing themselves even in middle school. In fact, if they just drift along until 11th or 12th grade, assuming that all the pieces will fall into place, they will find that they've missed out on some good opportunities.)
Here are the four basic steps, for all students:
Step 1 - Be a Pain!
    Let everyone know that you're going to college and need their help.
Steps 2 - Push Yourself!
    Working a little harder today will make getting into college even easier.
Step 3 - Find the Right Fit!
    Find out what kind of school is the best match for you and your career goals.
Step 4 - Put Your Hands on Some Cash!
    If you think you can't afford college, think again. There's lots of aid out there.
Know How 2 GO is a project of the American Council on Education, the Lumina Foundation for Education, and the Ad Council. Since it's from the American Council on Education, the information is solid. And since the Ad Council is involved, there are some slick public service announcements (PSAs) to help get the messages across. Students might enjoy these ads—designed for TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, and billboards.

If you're the tutor of a teenager, take a few minutes some evening to look at the site with your student. If you're a student, go ahead: explore the site yourself—you don't have to wait for anyone to show it to you!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

PBS Kids

PBS Kids has lots of games and videos for kids.

Some games are aimed at very young kids—e.g., in Bubble Pop the child clicks on bubbles that rise out of Curious George's bathtub and counts them, 1, 2, 3, . . ., while Curious George giggles. Others for little kids help teach colors, shapes, etc.

Some games are aimed at older kids. For example, Cyberchase games are designed for students who are 8-12 years old.

How do you find an appropriate game for the skills your student is working on? Take a look at PBS Teachers. A navigation bar lets you choose a grade level (Pre-K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). Then you can choose a subject (The Arts, Health & Fitness, Math, Reading & Language Arts, etc.). The result is a long list of videos, interactive games, and offline activities. You can search within the list.

If you're looking for math games, go to the Parent & Teachers page for Cyberchase. And for a variety of science, technology, and math lesson plans and resources, for K-12, see the STEM Education Resource Center A lot of the games require Flash, so will have to be played on a computer.

If a tutor likes to let a student play a game on an iPhone or other mobile device, use the mobile version of PBS Kids (

The PBS sites for parents and teachers have some ads (the ones I saw were for the Seattle Aquarium and Applegate Organic & Natural Meat). The PBSKids site is free of ads—something I look for in sites for students. Kids are exposed to plenty of advertising as it is. Why distract them with ads for, say, KeyBank, Target, Amazon, and Marriott (the ads I saw on Learning Games for when I visited it just now)? I make an exception for Free because the sponsors are supporting world hunger relief. This isn't to say I'd never recommend Learning Games for—or other sites with ads. I just prefer not to have ads.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Biomedical Research Story

Maybe a teen is more interested in medicine than rocket science. Try reading  this recent article about research at the UW: UW researchers see work as step toward regenerating human heart, Seattle Times, Aug. 7, 2012.

Want to work on some of the hard words? Try this vocabulary list on

Rocket Science Story

Here's another fairly short story that might interest some older students who are thinking about careers and college—or loud, exciting rockets that go fast: Student-built rocket with experimental motor blasts to 1st-place finish, UW Today, Aug. 10, 2011.

There's a cool video showing the rocket taking off. It went over 5 miles high!

The team of students worked on the project for a year and a half. That's a lot of work—but designing a new rocket motor is a big deal!

Of course to talk about rocket science, you need some vocabulary, like "propulsion" and "design." A vocabulary list based on the article is here. As with other lists on, it gives you practice with new words (along with points and "badges" when you get them right).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

President Obama's Speech to Students

During President Obama's first year in office, he gave a speech to students at a high school that was televised to schools around the country. You can read the speech and watch a video of it here. (Some students might find it helpful to be able to listen to Pres. Obama speaking as they read the trasncript.) Are some words hard? Check out the vocabulary list at
[T]oday I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education—and do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending some time each day reading a book. Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all young people deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you'll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. . . .
But whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes you get that sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work—that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star. Chances are you're not going to be any of those things.
The truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject that you study. You won't click with every teacher that you have. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right at this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
Most students like President Obama: maybe that would help make this a good, short reading exercise—and, of course, an opportunity to talk about starting the new school year with a commitment to engaging with the work.

Hangman from Oxford

Oxford Dictionaries Online includes a free Hangman game. Most of the words are too hard for young students, but it should be a good challenge for teens. Some words should be within any teen's vocabulary ("consumer," for instance). With other words, a student might say that he or she has never heard of it—but even the harder words ("aqueous" or "gorgon," for instance) should be within reach (and are the sort of words that might be on the SAT). If a student is curious, there's a link to the definition.

Saturday, August 4, 2012 is a terrific site. It has a very fast dictionary and lots of tools for helping you learn words. AND it has NO ADS!

 To use the vocabulary lists (and create your own), you need to register (free). You have to be at least 13 years old to register. Once you register, you can keep track of the words you're learning. And the system keeps track of what you've already done so it can help you practice and improve.

There are lots of lists of words that are already put together, at different levels of difficulty. For example, if you like The Hunger Games but you stumble over some of the words, you might decide that it would be helpful to use "The Hunger Games" Vocabulary from Chapter 1.

You can look over the list of words ("canvas," "cocoon," "insist," "scrawny," etc.). Or you can look at a list with definitions. Or a list with definitions and notes, including the sentences from the book where the words are used. Want more? Click and you can read notes about any word. For example, for "venture":
As either a noun or verb, venture implies risk. Your family won't like it if you leave school to go on an artistic venture. Those who chose to venture off school grounds were never seen again.
You've probably noticed that venture is a shortened form of adventure. This happened sometime between 1100 AD and 1400 AD during the time that Middle English was spoken. While the two words are similar in meaning, when you subtract the "ad," you lose a teaspoon or two of fun, and add a heaping tablespoon of risk.
The same page offers more detailed definitions. On the right side, you can click to see the word used in different sentences from the news, sports, business, science, and so on.

You can try out your vocabulary by clicking on "Learn this List."  You get a series of multiple-choice questions about the words in the list. If you guess right, you get a cheery message ("Nice work!"). If you don't, you get another chance, and another. You can also ask for hints—either having the program eliminate two wrong answers or give you a sample sentence. When you don't get a word on the first try, the system remembers it, so you'll get a review later.

After 10 questions, you get a score. You see your best streak (e.g., 6 in a row), and you get a bonus if you got all 10 right.  Then you can keep going to the next round. Getting the scores so often makes it into a game. It's fun to try to get a long streak going or to get a bonus for a perfect round.

After you feel pretty good about the vocabulary from chapter 1, then you can move on to the list for chapter 2, and then chapter 3.

There are lists for famous speeches (e.g., Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech, a speech by Nelson Mandela) and lists for literature (e.g., Walden, The Great Gatsby).

And there are lists designed to help students prepare for standardized tests, like the SAT. is produced by Thinkmap. Thinkmap has other products that require a subscription, but is free. Here is Thinkmap's press release from when it launched  (April 2011).  

In 2012, was an Official Honoree in the Education category of the Webby Awards
The more I use this site, the more I like it.

UW Summer Programs for Minority Teens

Here's an article about summer programs at the UW:
Summer programs aim to encourage and prepare minorities to attend college, UW Today, Aug. 3, 2012.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More U.S. Geography

screen shot

State Facts for Students from the United States Census Bureau offers interesting statistics about each state — not just overall population, but how many 8-year-olds, how many boys, how many girls, how many zoos, how many dentists.

screen shot is a website from the U.S. Department of the Interior with hundreds of maps that you can print. You can choose the whole country or just one state, and choose different features to include (transportation, geology, environment, agriculture, cities, etc.).

There are also articles about American geography, including topics as diverse as the creation of the interstate highway system, the Civil War, congressional apportionment, and hurricanes. For a local story, see Mount Rainier: Learning to Live with Volcanic Risk.

This site has material for science, economics, history, and government—i.e., pages that would be fun to browse or that could help with a term paper. (Some students who don't want to read books might like looking at pictures and maps.)