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The ABCs of ACTs

This blog was actually posted last year in www.jewishinstlouis.org, but didn’t get in my website, so it’s worth repeating, even though my son is now a senior and the ACT is OVER!

In an effort to help my son achieve academic success (get into a decent college), I’ve decided to do my part without being overly involved. I know, it’s a tightrope act moms try to balance everyday with teenagers. As a parent of a high school junior, I feel overwhelmed just thinking about the near future. Somehow, Jack has to maintain a high GPA, stay involved in his activities, get a job, study for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, schedule campus tours, fill out school applications, and, most importantly, learn how to operate a washing machine so that when he leaves home next year he doesn’t have to wear the same smelly t-shirt everyday and offend his roommate and accounting professor.

We all know the correlation between good grades and a peaceful home environment, right? But since that’s not going to happen, I’ve decided to do something more tangible to help Jack prepare for the road ahead. The first step is for him to sharpen his pencils and his mind for the upcoming ACTs. Since I’m not an algebra or chemistry wiz, I’m on a mission to expand his vocabulary. In fact, I collect ACT words nowadays in the same way I used to scavenge for seashells on Siesta Beach when he was a little kid.

To illustrate my point, I’ve begun to print out high-frequency academic vocabulary words, from “acute” to “disparage,” on separate pieces of paper and arrange them alphabetically, of course, in a three prong, two-pocket folder. Each word is bold-faced with a definition and example sentence to further his understanding. I even labeled the blue plastic cover “ACT 2012” with a thick, black Sharpie. When I eagerly showed Jack the project that I diligently worked on during the two-hour season premier of American Idol, he didn’t seem impressed or appreciative. In fact, his exact words, “You’re wasting your time,” kind of hurt my feelings. Nevertheless, I’m determined to do my job as a good mom.

Fortunately, Jack is enrolled at the “ACT School of Missouri,” at least that’s what the principal calls it, and the teachers are required to bombard students with new words every day to increase their test scores. Words like “apocryphal” and “circumspect” are posted throughout the school hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, website, intercom announcements, and probably the bathrooms, although I’m afraid to go in there and check.
In the school newsletter, it says, “Research shows that the size of a student’s vocabulary is one of the most important language-related factors for achievement in education; therefore, our goal for this semester is to introduce students to 20 new words each month.”

Well, then, the least I can do is spread the word by sneaking them into our daily family conversations. For example:

  • “I’m not sure what to make for dinner tonight, since I’m an “abstract thinker.”
  • “Don’t hurt your sister’s feelings with your caustic remarks about her homework.”
  • “There seems to be a dearth of food in the refrigerator so I’d better go to the grocery store.”
  • “Watch your mouth young man. You should strongly censure your cursing.”
  • “Your father is meshugge for bowling 10 games in a row.” (Can’t hurt to throw in a little Yiddish vocabulary as well).

You get the idea.

Another option to get smart is to dress smart. Go to www.missamykr.spreadshirt.com, and you’ll find the one-and-only “ACTee,” a 100 percent cotton, pre shrunk black t-shirt that lists more than 350 ACT words on the front and back. At $19.95, it’s described as “playful and smirky, but also super practical. And that guy sitting behind you in class will certainly thank you.”

Actually, my real goal is for my teenage son to talk to me, never mind expanding his vocabulary.