‘A rude awakening’

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Friday Feb. 29

Today was another boring day full of testing.

We had to take two practice tests today for the PSAE (Prairie State Achievement Exams) or Work Keys. The state of Illinois requires that every ChicagoPublic School take a practice ACT and PSAE test. One teacher told us that our goal should be to get a four or five on this practice test, so a good way of taking the test would be to try to get the first 20 questions correct. That way, we would automatically score a 4 or 5 without having to answer the rest of the questions.

The first part of the test was science. Another strategy would be not to read the instructions in the beginning of the test because we should know they pretty much say the same thing. The only difference is a different subject in each instruction.

I felt much unprepared for the science part of the test because I barely knew anything in that booklet. Our teacher did not prepare us at all. Taking that test was a rude awakening.

The second part of the test was one of my favorite subjects—math. I know I passed that portion with flying colors. The third and final part of the test was reading. I don’t like reading that much, but I did it anyway and it seemed pretty easy to me. My teacher told us that Work Keys is basically to make sure that we know to read and follow instructions.

We started testing at 8 a.m. and were finished by 11 a.m.

When it was over, we went to lunch and then to the auditorium for a black history assembly. It was a pretty good show.

Tuesday March 4

Today in first period British literature, we are reading a play called Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Instead of watching a movie on it, we are listening to a cassette tape, which is very boring. At the end of class, the teacher told us we have to write a college essay to prepare us for the essay on the ACT. He gave us a rubric and an example to follow.

In my second period economics class, we just finished taking the practice ACT test last week. Now, we are taking a break from ACT work and going back to doing work on the government.

My last class, chemistry, is the worst class of them all. I leave that class everyday not learning anything. And it just so happened today that we come to class and there was a gas leak. The teacher didn’t even tell us about it. We had to find out was going on. Once we found out, I went with a couple other students to the main office and complained about it. They put us in another classroom for right now.

Thursday, March 6

Today, they announced a new program. They have assigned a certain number of juniors to a teacher. In these groups, we prepare for the ACT test coming up in April. Whichever team scores the highest on the ACT gets a day at Dave & Busters.

Friday, March 7

Today in chemistry we talked about how important it is to pass the ACT test in order to go to college.

Friday, March 14

Today was the last day before we go on spring break. Some teachers gave us a lot of work for the vacation.

In first period, our teacher gave us three poems to read. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou and Harlem and Ballad of the Gypsy by Langston Hughes. We have to do a report on the poems. This exercise is to help us to read over break so we can stay focused and be prepared for all the reading on the ACT coming up in April. We have to read each of the poems at least three times. We also have to read an autobiography on Langston Hughes and do a report on it. We have to answer questions like listing three significant facts about Langston Hughes. The teacher also wants us to go to a website and tell in 250 words or more which poem is our favorite and why.

In second period we have a packet that is preparing us for the constitution test at the end of the year. He told us as soon as we get back we are going to start back practicing for the ACT test.

All of the juniors had a 10 minute meeting or so with the counselor to let us know whether we were on the right track to graduate next year. My counselor told me that I was on track. I was happy when I heard the news. She gave us a website to go to for different scholarships or if we wanted to take college courses for college credits while we are juniors.

Monday March 24

Today in first period (British lit), we didn’t have anything to do because our teacher wasn’t there and he didn’t leave any type of work for us to do.

In second period (economics and government) we had another substitute teacher. Our regular teacher had given us homework over the spring break, but I don’t trust the sub with my homework that is worth a lot of points.

In geometry, we went over different kinds of triangles. We discussed that no matter what kind of triangle it is, all of the angles have to equal to 180. We also learn that congruent means the same.

In chemistry, our teacher gave us an assignment to do but about 10 minutes after she gave us the assignment the fire alarm went off. So I went to my locker and grabbed my coat. By then the staff was directing us outside. I don’t know if a real fire happened, if somebody pulled the alarm, or if it was just a fire drill.

Since they had us standing outside in the snow so long, I went to the bus stop and went home.

Tuesday March 25

Today in second period, our teacher gave us a little strategy guide to help us out on the reading part of the ACT test. The strategy guide basically tells us to not read the whole passage because it will waste too much time. It also said that we should read the questions first so we would know what we are looking for and then only to read about the first or second sentence in each paragraph because it basically sums up what the paragraph is talking about almost like an introduction to an essay. It also says avoid extreme answers such as always, never, all, and none, because most of the times those answer are wrong.

The teacher also gave us homework in our ACT practice book. All we have to do is tell what type of question the question is. It could be a line reference question, vocabulary in context, paragraph reference, or lead word question.

  • Line reference question – a question that asks you to look at a specific line
  • Vocabulary  in context question – a question that asks you the meaning of a word in the passage.
  • Paragraph reference question – a question that asks you to look at an entire paragraph.
  • Lead word question – a question that does not contain a line reference, but will contain an important word or phrase that will lead you to the right part of the passage.

Sixth period was lunch and division. While we were in division, the teacher told us that they will be having workshops after school to help us prepare for the ACT. She also said that even though they have split us up into ACT groups, we still can attend another group’s workshop.

Thursday March 27

Today in second period [government], our teacher assigned us a question in our ACT practice book and told us to identify what kind of question it was. My question was a general question. A general question is a question talking about the whole passage that you have to read. The clue I used to help me come up with my answer is the word overall, because it asked me a question about the overall development of the passage and overall in this case means the whole passage. So I chose general question.

In third period [computer], we didn’t have to do any work because we had a speaker from the Northwestern BusinessCollege. She talked to us the whole class period. She gave out pens and an informational book about their school. We also did an activity on the word “leader.” For each letter in the word, you have to write a word that starts with that letter and has something to do with being a good leader.

I put for L – loyalty; e – enthusiastic, eager; a- achiever, admirable, attitude; d – desire, destiny, determined, dashing; r- responsible, readiness.

In chemistry, we did nothing but balance an equation. Since most of the juniors complained, saying that our chemistry teacher can’t teach and we won’t know anything for science on the ACT, they put our biology teacher from sophomore year in charge of preparing us for science on the ACT.

Tuesday April 1

Today in first period we went over a worksheet with some words that we are expected to know on the ACT test.

In government, we took another break from ACT work and worked in our government books today.

In geometry, I asked for our homework from yesterday because I didn’t receive it. It took me half of the class period to get a response from my teacher. And then, once I got a response from her, I still didn’t get the homework assignment because she told me that she had to go and make copies for me and some other classmates. But by the time class ended she had a meeting to go to and didn’t even make copies. This is slowing me down because teachers turn in their grades next week and I am trying to make sure I am not missing any assignments.

In chemistry, we listened to the Temptations while we worked on balancing equations.

Tuesday April 8

In geometry, we did some practice math problems in the ACT book. We had 10 math problems to answer in 10 minutes because our goal is to spend no more than one minute on each problem.

Wednesday April 9

In geometry we did more ACT problems but this time we had 20 minutes to answer 20 questions. On the ACT in the math section, we will only have 60 minutes for 60 questions.

Thursday April 10

In chemistry we didn’t do any kind of work for some odd reason. We moved from the new classroom back to the old classroom and just sat there the whole class period.

Tuesday April 15

Today in [Brit lit], our teacher had us fill out some brackets for the ACT test. It asked for our address, phone number, social security, and school id number. It also asked us what colleges we wanted our scores to get sent to.

In geometry we did some math problems out of a practice ACT book. This time, the teacher assigned a problem to every two people and they had to go up to the board and explain. She didn’t get a chance to get around to me.

In chemistry, we did some science problems reading graphs out of the practice ACT book.

Friday April 18

Today we continued to fill out the ACT information packet. We had 72 questions to answer about things that we like or dislike and our top two career choices.

In second period, we did some science questions out of the practice ACT book. Our teacher told us that it was basically just graphs and charts. I don’t if this is true or not. Some people say the ACT is basically all the things that we have learned until now. But if that is the case, how come people say there is no way you can study for the ACT?

In Spanish, we had a substitute. When we walked in, she told us that the teacher left us some work on the board. I was probably the only student to do the assignment. Sometimes when the teacher leaves work for us to do, it is worth two test grades.

In geometry, we went to the computer lab and did nothing but get on the computer.

In chemistry, we did some work out of our old biology books from last year.

Monday April  21

In first period we finished the packages for the ACT.

In second period, we did some more problems from the ACT book, and we went over more strategies for the ACT.

Instead of going to Spanish fourth period, the principal had us taking yoga to calm us down for the test. I have to admit yoga is one of the best stress relievers on earth. At first, I didn’t think it would do anything, but once I did it, it actually helped. The only thing that is bad about yoga is some of the positions. Those positions are very painful to me.

In geometry, we went to a website (http://keytrain.cps.k12.il.us/) that can prep you for the ACT. But the only way you can access the website is if you are connected to a Chicago Public Schools network. It basically helps you with reading, math and science.

In seventh period, we went on the website again. While we were in there, I did some math.

In chemistry we didn’t do anything because the teacher didn’t leave us any work.

After school, I talked to some of my classmates and they also thought that yoga was a good experience. Everyone I knew felt calm after we finished doing yoga. The principal even joined us.

Monday April 28

The first day of the ACT  (April 23) was the hardest test I ever took in my life. The only thing that can compete with it is the test you have to take to get into schools like Whitney Young.

My teacher was right. There is no way you can study for the ACT because all the work that you did in school is not even close to what is on that ACT. The only thing on the ACT that was fairly easy was the English and Writing. Math was in the middle until the end. They had a problem that I didn’t know how to set up the formula for.

Science was the hardest. If your teachers tell you that science is nothing but reading charts and graphs, then I say don’t believe them at all. If you do, you are in for a rude awakening. The ACT will have problems that you never saw in your life. Some of the problems are long and seem impossible, but if you work the problem out you will be able to answer it.

A tip before taking the test is to put your cell phone, keys, mp3 players, CD players or anything that will make noise in your locker because if they hear or see it during the test then you will automatically have to take the ACT over. Another thing is you only have one 15 minute break, so use it wisely.

Day two was Work Keys.  It’s really easy compared to the ACT. WorK Keys consists of three subject tests: math, reading and science. It starts off with questions or problems that you should have learned in 3rd grade, but, it gets a little tough at the end.

The only real hard part on the math is trying to stay focused while answering a very long problem. The reading wasn’t tricky. All you had to do was read the question and answer section, and then look for it in the passage. The science was just reading graphs and charts.

I think the teachers had the ACT and the Work Keys all backwards.