Search Term Tricks​

Learning how to use Google and library databases well takes some time. The words students enter into Google or a database make a difference. Here are some tips to help make their searches more fruitful. 1. Have them think about the main idea or key concepts in their research project. Are they going to write about British imperialism in India or the impact of zebra mussels on shipping? Finding a solid thesis statement or inquiry question before beginning research is helpful to ensure the topic is not too broad. 2. Build a list of terms that are related to the topic. Using the zebra mussels example above, this might include shipping, lakes, rivers, invasive species, Great Lakes, Hudson River, population decline, pipe damage, ship damage. A straight list or a mind map could work for brainstorming. 3. Take those terms and plug them into a search engine or database. Here are some search tricks students might not know about: use quotations marks for phrases so the search keeps them together. Example: "zebra mussel" use an asterisk to locate word variations and synonyms. Example: invasive* use and, or, or not to combine terms. Example: "Great Lakes" AND "zebra mussels" 4. Ask for help. School and public librarians are masters at keyword searches and can help students build their skills. Classroom teachers are another good resource. Especially when they are first learning this skill, it is vital that students get help from someone who is well-versed in research. Learning how to craft excellent search terms takes time. The important pieces to remember are being specific with keywords and trying different combinations of phrases and words to come up with the best results. ​

New Math Tutor

I'm thrilled to announce that I've hired a fantastic tutor who can help students with upper level math!Her name is Danielle Drogalis, and she's a rock star. What I appreciate about her is her friendly and empathetic teaching style and her emphasis on helping build students' confidence with math. She has 16 years of teaching experience and can help students with the following classes and math topics: ·  Algebra I and II·  Trigonometry·  Geometry·  Precalculus concepts·  Middle School math concepts·  SAT/PSAT math test prep·  ACT math test prep·  First instruction, remediation, and redefining identity as a math learner Danielle lives in Vermont and will mainly work online with students. For those in the Burlington, VT metro area, she can do in-person sessions depending on your location and the day of the week. Weekday evenings will be remote and weekends can be either remote or in-person. If your child is struggling with middle or high school math, please get in touch!​

What are Credible Sources?

Through helping several middle and high school students with research this semester, I have noticed two trends...

College Guidance Recommendatio​n

This week I have interviewed a colleague of mine, Alice Lissarrague. Alice is a certified educational planner, and she helps students and parents navigate the college admissions process.  While she lives in Shelburne, VT, she works with clients in other states and even other countries thanks to the magic of the internet. She’s been doing college guidance within a high school since 2011, and she is currently the college guidance counselor at Lake Champlain Waldorf High School in Shelburne.  You can visit her website,, to read testimonials and detailed information about each of her college guidance packages.  Katrina: You just received certification as an educational planner. This is a big deal; tell us why. Alice: Quite a few people bill themselves as college consultants, but I wanted to set myself apart. The average college consultant who is not in the school system does not get this certification. I’m always educating myself, and I wanted to achieve the highest level of professional achievement that I could.  Katrina: There are not many certified educational consultants in the country, correct? Alice: There are only 250 in the country. In Vermont, there are only five. Katrina: What were the requirements? Alice: You have to have a master’s degree, recommendations from admission professionals, have visited a particular number of college campuses and have worked at least five years in the field. I also took a four-hour exam. Katrina: What kinds of students do you work with? Alice: I work with a wide range of students; performing artists, athletes, National Merit Scholars . .  I have a specialty designation for working with students with learning differences. I have also worked with a number of first-generation students.  Katrina: What age do you typically start working with students? Alice: I mainly work with sophomores and juniors. Depending upon my availability I will take on a few seniors. I also work with college students who want to transfer. Katrina: What is your package for sophomores?  Alice: I offer them a two-session package. We talk about the courses for the upcoming semester, what extra-curriculars to take, and we also talk about summer. I can help them put a resume together. It’s proven to be a nice segway into the program for juniors. Katrina: Many of the students you work with are juniors. Alice: Yes. I love getting students in junior year because we have the advantage of time in front of us.  One package for juniors helps them create a list of schools so that by the end of junior year they have a really good list of 10 to 15 schools that they will apply to in the fall. They should enter their senior year with a strong list of schools and feel confident about that. We create a list based on their strengths, interests and often financial need.  The second package is 10 sessions. We will do interview prep, create a resume for a summer job or internship, and research ideas for the summer of junior year. I provide tutor recommendations and test prep ideas, and help them figure out which teachers they will ask for recommendations. I give them total support during the application process, including the essay, the Common App, supplements and applying for financial aid. I coach them on how to talk to the admissions person at the college or university. This package actually sees them through first semester of college.  Katrina: What about last-minute seniors? Alice: Senior packages include creating a basic list of colleges and support for the student through the application process.  Katrina: Financial aid can be one of the scary parts for the parents. How do you assist them with that piece? Alice: When I create lists for students, I take their financial situation into account. For those who don’t qualify for financial aid I will look at where they may be most likely to get a merit award.  Katrina: You do a lot of campus visits and I know you feel it’s an important part of your job. Alice: I’m able to take the time to visit the schools when classes are in session, which is a huge help in getting a true sense of a college. I’ve visited about 110 campuses in the US, and most of these are in-depth visits. Katrina: What else sets you apart? Alice: I am a trained teacher and I have worked with teens for many years. I am used to working with teens in a school setting, and I appreciate how important it is to create an environment that strives to alleviate the anxiety inherent in this process. I help kids find their inner strengths and appreciate themselves for who they are.  If you have a student on their way toward the last few years of high school, and you'd like some help with the college application process, Alice is a wonderful resource, as you can see. If you connect with her, please let her know you heard about her excellent work in this newsletter! ​

A Writing Adventure​

Did you ever read Choose Your Own Adventure stories when you were a kid? They were small paperbacks with titles like You Are a Shark, Ghost Hunter, and Underground Kingdom. The reader reads the first chapter, and at the end of the chapter, they get to make a choice. The choice affects the outcome of the story. As readers move through the book, they keep making choices and eventually reach an ending. Then, if the reader starts over and makes difference choices, the story has different twists and endings. I loved reading these stories when I was young, and I have created a writing exercise for my students inspired by these books. I ask them to come up with a character and a setting, and I set them loose to create a story for this character. Once they come to a part where they could write an obvious choice for the character, they write two scenarios, and tell the reader which page to turn to (eg. "You decide to drink the water and eat the fish. Turn to page 3.). Then they write two choices at the end of those two scenarios. And so on, until several endings are written. My students always write a rough draft. Then we edit and revise the story together. Next I type up the story and print it, formatted with page numbers so the student can cut the pages into smaller ones that can be stapled together into a book. The photo above shows the cover for a Choose Your Own Adventure story one of my fourth-grade students finished recently. I loved his title! This would be a fun summer project, or a good activity for students to do during school breaks when they claim they are bored and have nothing to do. Or, if you have a writer in the house, you can suggest this style of writing to them and let them run with it.​


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