Monday, September 29, 2008

New AVID Students and Parents Welcomed

A standing-room-only crowd of AVID students, parents, family members, faculty, and administration filled the meeting room above Applebee's on September 23 for the first AVID Family Workshop of the schoolyear at Sigonella Middle/High School. Over twenty new students and their parents were the stars of the show as they signed their AVID contracts.

The evening began with Emcees Chynnah Tomlin and Sarah Jones welcoming the large crowd of attendees. Principal Sonny Bertschinger addressed the group next with remarks about the AVID program and student successes. He was followed by AVID seniors Tim F. and Jen P., who showed off their
online projects consisting of calendars they had developed for the application process and their "short lists" of schools. Ms. Pienta then led the parents through a Cornell note-taking session based on "The Top Ten Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in AVID." Students helped their parents develop questions afterwards, which were shared with the group.

Finally, the highlight of the evening came with the contract signing. Junior AVID student Aica D. read the Student Commitment and commented on her own experiences and successes in AVID over the past three years. She was followed by two-time AVID parent Susan Jones, who read the Parent Commitment and added her remarks and observations. Finally, AVID middle school teacher Ms. Jan Sibayan read the School Commitment and told parents how honored she felt to be part of the program and teacher of these students. Then, all new AVID students and parents were called forward by grade to sign the AVID contract and be recognized. Ms. Novak closed the program with remarks and the awarding of the doorprize (which was won by Ruben S.). Cookies and soft drinks were served afterwards.

Thank you to all who made this first workshop such a huge success! All the volunteers and contributors (students, parents, teachers, and admin) are greatly appreciated! The next Family Workshop is scheduled for November 18. See you there!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How to Improve Your Note-Taking Skills

Sometimes students, especially AVID students, think that we "invented" Cornell notes as a special method of torture. But, Cornell notes have been around a long time, and they are very often recommended and taught at the college level. In this article on, the Online Library of Books and Journals, the authors explain and recommend Cornell notes and then also refer to a Washington Times article which does the same:

"Struggling to record everything you hear during a lecture is a sure-fire way to miss important points and give yourself a bad case of writers' cramp. A far better approach focuses on capturing essential material and working with it to strengthen understanding and memory.

"Based on a technique developed by Cornell University professor Walter Pauk,
The Cornell Note-taking System begins with the notepaper you use. Set up a note-taking column about 6 inches wide, and create a cue column about 2 ½ inches wide running down the left side of the page with a margin 2 inches deep across the bottom for your summary.

"Use the large note-taking column to record 'telegraphic sentences' from the lecture. ASAP after class, jot questions based on the lecture notes plus key words or phrases in the cue column. 'Writing questions,' says Cornell, 'helps to clarify meanings, reveal relationships, establish continuity, and strengthen memory.' Later, to review your notes or study for an exam, look at the cue column (cover up the note-taking column) and recite answers to questions or cue-words relating to facts or ideas. 'Reflect on the material by asking yourself…'What's the significance of these facts? What principle are they based on? How can I apply them? How do they fit in with what I already know?'' Setting aside at least 10 minutes weekly to review your notes will boost retention. And use the space at the bottom of the paper to write a summary of the notes on that page.

"Note-taking, says Christian Toto in The Washington Times article '
Taking Note of This,' should be 'marked by intense listening and occasional writing.' He cites American University's Kathy Schwartz, who recommends inspecting notes shortly after class to fill in the blanks or clean up handwriting because 'Our memories start to fade within two hours of learning new information.'"

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Monday, September 15, 2008

AVID Athletes Well-Represented

More than 2/3 of the high school AVID students are involved in fall sports at Sigonella High School. They and their teammates were recognized at a pep rally on Thursday, September 11. Here are some of those AVID athletes from the B-day AVID class (plus Markus J from A-day)!

Highlights from the first weekend's competition included a touchdown by AVID junior Ryan L and a 2nd place finish in X-country by senior Jennifer P! Way to go!

Community Colleges at the Crossroad

USA Today featured community colleges in a very large article this summer entitled "U.S. community colleges at a 'turning point'."

"Community colleges train 80% of the country's police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians and more than half of its new nurses and health care workers. They are the go-to destinations for displaced workers and immigrants seeking language and cultural skills. Community colleges are where people most often go when they need to brush up on math or English before pursuing a college degree. And they have become increasingly attractive to families who can't afford to send their kids to a four-year school."

Unfortunately, they face their problems. Although "community colleges enroll 6.5 million degree-seeking students, or nearly half (47%) of all college undergraduates" and "for the last decade, enrollments have been increasing faster at two-year schools than four-year schools," "In 2000-2001, . . . the nation spent $140 billion on four-year public universities and just under $30 billion for public two-year colleges."

While there are countless success stories of community college students, including the famous author Amy Tan, the overall success rate is still grim: " . . . many of those who attend community college are far less successful. In the first six years after enrolling in a community college, only 36% of students earn a certificate or an associate's or bachelor's degree . . . And just 51% of freshmen attending two-year institutions return for sophomore year, compared with a 69% national average for all public and private higher education institutions."

To read the entire article and linked stories click on the live link above.

College Freshmen Not Prepared

"It's a tough lesson for millions of students just now arriving on campus: even if you have a high school diploma, you may not be ready for college. . . In fact, a new study calculates, one-third of American college students have to enroll in remedial classes."

This is the the start of an article entitled "
Colleges spend billions to prep freshmen" which was written by AP's Justin Pope appeared on Earthlink on September 15, 2008.

The article goes on to describe why this is so, concluding that (1) students don't take challenging enough curriculum in high school, and (2) students can't adjust to the "rhythm and structure of college-level work." Time management is one big problem, as are good old study skills. (Note: AVID addresses and specifically teaches all of these things.)

The article states: "Analyzing federal data, the report estimates 43 percent of community college students require remediation, as do 29 percent of students at public four-year universities, with higher numbers in some places. For instance, four in five Oklahoma community college students need remedial coursework, and three in five in the giant California State university system need help in English, math or both."

Read the entire article by clicking on the live link above. Thank you to Jennifer O'Connor for sending us the story.

Bigger and Better AVID

Welcome back to school and to the biggest and best AVID program at Sigonella MS/HS ever! There are currently 55 students in grades 6-12 enrolled in AVID, which is 21% of the school population. The senior group of six students is the largest ever.

Three teachers, Ms. Sibayan, Ms. Novak, and me (Ms. Pienta) are teaching a total of four sections of AVID, two for middle and two for high school. We are pleased to welcome back Ms. Kathy Vary as our head AVID tutor and to welcome on board Mr. George Riddle as a new tutor. Senior AVID students will also be helping to lead and mentor by assuming some duties as tutors and group leaders as appropriate.

The first AVID Family Workshop and contract signing ceremony will take place on Tuesday, September 23 at 17:00 above Applebee's. It will be one hour long. New AVID students and their parents will sign the AVID contract. Current students will conduct the program. Parents will also be briefed on Cornell notetaking, the AVID binder, planner pages,and plans for the year. Light refreshments will be served.

The AVID Demonstration School banner has been hung in the rotunda of the new school, and we're very proud of it. Thank you to Mr. Bertschinger, Ms. Spardo, and Mr. Bruno for their efforts. It looks great!

We look forward to seeing all of you there to kick off the AVID year!

Monday, September 01, 2008

AVID Teacher-Tutor Reunion in Virginia Beach

This past July, Ms. Pienta had the good fortune to visit with two former Sigonella AVID tutors, Mrs. Deal and Mrs. O'Connor. It just so happens, they both live near Virginia Beach and both work with AVID there! Notice that Mrs. Deal is still holding onto her AVID binder!!

Free PSAT Prep on College Board

It's that time again! The PSAT will be given on Wednesday, October 18. All AVID 8th-11th graders will be taking this important Preliminary SAT test and preparing for that event in the AVID classroom.

According to College Board, who administers this test, "Spending your school years taking challenging academic courses and reading widely is the best way to get ready for the PSAT/NMSQT." That's why enrollment in rigorous college prep courses is so important.

For additional practice on all types of PSAT questions, go
THIS PAGE to find the links.

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