This winter, Granite Education set out to bring mindfulness-based ACT prep to seniors at KIPP: Nashville Collegiate High School.
In the rigorous, college-preparatory academic environment of KIPP, students are encouraged and supported as they “reach for the stars” of higher education. To support this mission, Granite educators created a week-long ACT “crash-course” for a group of 12 KIPP seniors. The class consisted of students who had already scored in the 18-20 range and were hoping to bring their score up to at least a 21. The number 21 is a hugely significant score in the world of Tennessee ACT prep, as this is the score required to receive eligibility for the TN Hope Scholarship. Students who receive the Hope Scholarship can receive up to $2250 per semester toward a 4-year degree. Always conscious of the importance of financials to college success, Granite educators resolved themselves to provide these 12 seniors with the tools they needed for ACT success.
The ACT class met after school for 90 minutes for five consecutive days. The following is a basic outline of the course’s structure:
Day 1: ACT Tips and Tricks
Day 2: ACT English
Day 3: ACT Math
Day 4: ACT Reading/Science
Day 5: Mixed Review
Though somewhat limited in depth by the brief nature of this “crash course,” the intention with this structure was to provide students an overview of the ACT’s sections. Special emphasis was placed on understanding timing and pacing strategies. Educators used Granite interactive platforms, to create games for ACT Math and English. Through the use of these engaging activities, students were able to review some of the most fundamental conceptual topics for the ACT such as comma usage and mathematical order of operations. On the Reading/Science day, students completed multiple timed drills from each test section. A good control of pacing is critical to success on these sections, and drills are the best way to train this skill.
At Granite, mindfulness is at the heart of everything we do. Our educators recognize that sometimes a review of concepts is insufficient in improving student performance. This is due to a number of factors which we call “test-taking intangibles.” Confidence on test day is perhaps the most consequential intangible factor facing every test-taker, on the ACT and beyond.
From the start of the course, it was clear that confidence was a major barrier for some students. On our first day, students relayed stories from their peers of “crazy math problems” and unintelligible “old-timey” reading passages. To address this, Granite’s mindfulness-based educators taught breathing exercises to help ground those test-day “butterflies.” Educators also lead call and response affirmations to remind students that, “we can succeed on the ACT.”
KIPP encouraged student attendance by holding raffles after each class session. Motivated by the potential of fun prizes, many students attended the course in its entirety.