Middle School English A and Introduction to Creative Writing – Two New AIM Courses with a New Teacher!

emily mulvihillI am honored to join the AIM Academy team this year as a new teacher instructing Introduction to Creative Writing and Middle School English A. Although this is my first year at AIM, I am not new to online learning or teaching, as I am a certified educator, former brick and mortar classroom teacher, and I have taught and developed writing curriculum for online students in grades 6-12 for the past year.

Introduction to Creative Writing is a year-long or semester long course for 8-10th grade students and can be viewed as an elective, as well as a pre-AP level full year high school English credit. The course is comprehensive and covers literary analysis, composition, vocabulary, grammar, and the curriculum content topics found in an 8-10th grade course. Writing assignments and the course will be divided into four units, two each semester, which will address the writer’s toolbox, fiction short stories, poetry, and finally, non-fiction. Students will study short pieces by authors such as Flannery O’Connor, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack London, Isaac Asimov, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain and others. At the end of the year, students will compile their work to build a writing portfolio that they can use to submit to a variety of writing contests, college admissions or other fellowship programs. This class gives students the opportunity to develop skills that will help them succeed in both AP English Language and AP English Literature.

Middle School English A is a course designed for 7-9th graders who are seeking a year-long comprehensive study of literature and writing through online learning. Middle School English A is fun but challenging and will ask students to focus on themed novel and non-fiction studies in a variety of genres, read and analyze short stories and poems, engage in friendly, active discussions, and refine their grammar and vocabulary skills. Students will read a variety of literature throughout the year including Treasure Island, Where the Red Fern Grows, Number the Stars, The Secret Garden, The Westing Game, Holes, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and Bridge to Terabithia among others. Creative writing is a fun component to this class, and students will be asked to explore their creative side! Students will be introduced to the narrative, compare/contrast and argumentative essay, and they will also complete a research paper. Each major learning unit will include a project or concluding assessment, so students can demonstrate their proficiency and understanding.

The writing process is a main focus of all of my courses. Students will draft essays and papers before turning in their final product. Instruction and feedback is of paramount importance, in my view, as students prepare for high school and college level coursework.

Are you new to online learning? Not a problem! I have students from a variety of technology experience backgrounds. In fact, many of my students are first time online learners. These students often jump in with both feet and find that they adjust quickly with my help and they soar to new heights in their learning! I strive to provide a safe, comfortable and highly interactive environment where students are discussing, debating and commenting on course materials, discussion questions, and the text. The majority of the coursework is asynchronous throughout the week. However, I have a constant presence on the class website and provide extensive feedback and instruction throughout the week via our discussion boards, announcements, and through any specific questions students have.

Although the course occurs in an online format, it often does not feel like that. Of course, students are coming and going and completing coursework by each weekly deadline according to their family and academic schedule, but there is also a weekly optional live class which reinforces curriculum topics and content and pushes students to think critically. It is also a chance for students to ask questions about upcoming assignments, interact with their peers, and delve more deeply into literature or curriculum.

I put a great deal of thought and time into constructing courses that are engaging, challenging, and well-organized.  I also care a great deal about humanizing the online experience, and you will see that priority woven into many aspects of my course.  I look forward to a wonderful 2014-2015 school year. I welcome questions and contact form prospective students and parents and would love to hear from you!

 

Emily.mulvihill@gmail.com

http://teacherweb.com/TX/EmilyMulvihill/EmilyMulvihill/

Emily holds a B.A. in psychology and education and is a certified teacher K-6 and 7-12 in English, Language and Composition.  Emily is offering the following classes for Aim Academy:

Middle   School English A  (7th-9th) Emily Mulvihill Mon 10-11 AM Register
Intro   to Creative Writing(8th-10th) Emily Mulvihill Mon 11-12 PM Register

 

 

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Aim Academy 2014-2015 Is Now Open

Aim Academy online classes will open March 10th. Full course descriptions, tuition rates, and final schedule for 2014-2015 will be published then.

In the meantime, you can find out more information by contacting our teachers directly here. Our classes are unique in that they are aligned with the SAT subject area tests and CLEP and AP exams. This means that starting in middle school, our classes cover the content and develop the skills necessary to pass these exams by the end of high school.

Students who pass CLEP and AP exams can earn college credit or be exempt from required courses at most universities in the U.S. at no extra cost. Aim Academy teachers are qualified and experienced in their subject area, and also knowledgeable about these exams. Considering the cost of college credit today, our courses can potentially save you thousands of dollars in future tuition fees. Teachers offer regularly scheduled live classes several times a month (2-4 times depending upon the course). These are also recorded. Student attendance at the live webinars is optional.

For more information, visit the Aim Academy section of our website.

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5 Ways Advanced Placement (AP) Exams Can Cut College Costs

I-Love-APThe Advanced Placement (AP) program, offered by the College Board, allows ambitious high school students to take college-level exams each May that potentially qualify them for college credit at the college of their choice. Each college lists the AP exams and credit they will award for a passing score on their website. Just search for “AP credit” or “equivalency exam credit” on the college’s site.

Our daughter, Kayte, took 5 AP exams during high school and earned high marks on each. The University of Pittsburgh awarded her 24 credits for her efforts at no cost. Here is the break down of what she did:

Exam Grade Score* Credits   Awarded by Pitt No. of   classes eliminated
AP U.S.   History  10th

5

6

2

AP   European History 11th

5

6

2

AP   Psychology 12th

5

3

1

AP   French 12th

4

3

1

AP   English Literature 12th

5

6

2

*5 is the highest score possible.

Here are five ways the time she invested in preparing for those exams during high school reduced her college costs:

1. The value of those 24 credits at the University of Pittsburgh saved her at least 2/3rd of a year in tuition costs (approx. $12,000 at the time) and all the costs of the required texts for those courses.

2. The 24 credits eliminated almost a full year of the time necessary to complete her degree — time she could then use to earn an income.

3. The credits awarded gave her “sophomore” standing in mathematics (one of her majors) and “junior” standing in French (her other major). This meant she got to register for her classes much earlier than other freshman. This meant she ALWAYS got the required courses she needed the very first semester she was eligible to register for them. (A big reason most students today need 5 years to complete a 4-year degree is they cannot get into required courses when they need them.)

4. Kayte’s high performance on these AP exams qualified her for the honors college at the University of Pittsburgh. This then included many free perks, including preferential housing close to campus. (Safe, affordable housing is in short supply at Pitt.)

5. Finally, Kayte’s high performance and evidence of a willingness to academically challenge herself with the most rigorous coursework available in high school earned her a full tuition, 5-year scholarship worth approximately $75,000 at the time. (She double majored and finished in 4 years anyway.) High AP scores are often the most decisive factor in a college’s decision to offer merit scholarships to homeschooled students. AP scores are viewed as an objective measure of a student’s achievement, ambition and readiness for college-level rigor.

Kayte used the AP classes offered by Pennsylvania Homeschoolers  to prepare for these exams. The cost of those classes was money well spent when you think about how much time and money Kayte saved.

Taking AP classes is not required. Anyone can sit for the AP exams in May — students just have to sign up with a local test center (usually a local private or public high school) and pay the fees. But research shows that taking classes aligned with the AP exams substantially improves a student’s success on these exams.

Based on my daughter’s experience, I started Aim Academy. We offer coursework beginning in 7th grade that is aligned with AP exams. My rationale is students who have been gradually preparing for these rigorous exams over their entire middle school and high school years will be much better prepared to earn the highest scores possible when they take an AP exam. So far, that rationale appears to be working for the many parents and students who report better than expected success on the exams they have taken. And Kayte — now Kathryn Gomes — is offering her own college-prep coursework in mathematics through AIM to help the next generation of homeschooled students realize the time and savings she did.

P.S. I should mention the #1 advantage to all the hard work Kayte put in during high school, according to Kayte: She was able to study abroad for three semesters and one summer at a reasonable cost, and still graduate on time. (Pitt allows students to apply their scholarship monies to these ventures.) Kayte studied in Provence, France; Cairo, Egypt; and sailed around the world with Semester-At-Sea, docking in 10 different countries along the way.

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Heidi St. John: The Busy Mom

tbm-logo-tallI have a guest post up at Heidi’s newly designed site. Check it out, and while you are there take a look around. Heidi is one of my favorite speakers (and one of my favorite people to hang out with). Thanks, Heidi, for letting me help you decorate your revamped site!

http://heidistjohn.com/tbmb/trending-now-21st-century-homeschooling/

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How to Help Your Teen Succeed on the SAT Math Exam

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

 

By Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

As a senior in high school I was guaranteed a full-tuition scholarship to Eastern University before I even officially applied.  It wasn’t because of my rigorous course load, well-written application essay, or volunteer service.  The scholarship was based solely on my SAT scores.

You might disagree with this snapshot approach to accepting and awarding students, but it should convince your high schooler to study.

The SATs are challenging, but it is realistic to think students can dramatically improve their scores.  Here are the three main reasons a student doesn’t score well and all of these can be addressed:

1)     They forget. The math on the SAT is not that broad, it only includes the most essential concepts of Algebra I, geometry, and Algebra II.  But most students have moved well beyond these courses and need to brush up on the basics before the test.

2)     They don’t prioritize preparing for the test.  Both the SATs and PSATs are normally taken in the fall.  Classes have just started and there are always countless assignments to be completed.  How do you balance AP courses, volleyball tournaments, and that hefty Gruber’s SAT Guide?  It’s difficult but in the long run earning a better math score might be more important than an “A” on that next English exam. (My mom found a way to count my SAT prep work towards my math or English credits for the year.)

3)     They don’t learn time-saving strategies.  Many of the most difficult SAT problems can be answered quickly if students know certain tricks.  The questions are designed to be solved in a minute or less. Students who use an elaborate formula or work through 15 different steps have missed an easier method.  However, many popular math programs homeschoolers use do not take time to teach these strategies.

I treated test prep as a part time job in high school. I took the SATs/PSATs a total of 5 times. (A bit obsessive?  Perhaps.) But considering the scholarship money my SAT scores earned me it was definitely a “well-paying” part time job.

Kathryn Gomes teaches SAT math prep online for Aim Academy. She is in her seventh year as a high school math teacher outside of Philadelphia. She was a presidential scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, where she was awarded 36 credits for her AP and SAT exam scores earned during high school.

 

 

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College Prep Science @ Home? Here’s What We Did.

Vicki-Dincher-300x160My kids love to needle me by telling me the best teacher they had in high school was Vicki Dincher. She was also the coolest (she played bass guitar). Her science classes at our high school co-op were always the most popular — and they still are.

Well, I know how to capitalize on a good thing when I see it: I convinced Vicki to join me in teaching online after we both finished homeschooling. And didn’t she just go and beat me at that game, too! I’ve never seen anyone master technology faster than Vick. Her lectures are punctuated with illustrations, video clips, live demonstrations, PowerPoint presentations with animation and, starting this year, a state-of-the-art microscope that she and all her students can look through simultaneously — no matter where they are in the world! Wow, I never thought teaching online could compete with a live classroom, but technology allows a teacher to do some things you just can’t do in person — and in some ways online instruction can be a better context for learning. For one thing, Vicki records all her classes and stores them in the cloud where her students can watch them repeatedly as they prepare for SAT, AP or CLEP exams.

Vicki has been hard at work building a website to better explain her classes — I took a look around this morning and decided it was time to invite my readers to take a peek, too: Vicki’s website.

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Creative Writing: Interactive and Aware

by Lilianna Serbicki, Aim Academy English Teacher

While there are a myriad of writing guidelines and “best practices”, creative writing in particular has a very intuitive element. A delicate balance between discipline and individual expression is required. This is why detailed critiques – from both myself and student peers – are such a vital portion of my Creative Writing course. My students’ imaginations are given free rein and then continually “pared down”, with elegant and succinct writing as our goal.

My creative writing class has a three-pronged focus: literary analysis, student writing, and peer critiques. Each section of the course focuses on a different element or genre: Character, Dialogue, Setting, Tone, Conflict, Point of View, Plot, Science Fiction, Realism, Poetry, Drama, etc. As we explore each topic, we analyze a work that highlights the appropriate element, complete a creative piece, and participate in peer critiques. We study short pieces by authors such as Flannery O’Connor, Stephen Crane, Jack London, Katherine Mansfield, James Thurber, Tennessee Williams, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and others.

The goal of isolating literary elements is to help students write with a greater awareness. All of my recent students were bright, enthusiastic, eager readers. However, even a well-read high-schooler who is working independently may not consider how individual elements such as tone, point of view, and dialogue enrich a piece of fiction. A writer must deliberately use each of these elements to tell their story in the best way using the best choice of words; last year we often worked through several drafts of a single short story to experience how writing evolves. As we added new elements to our repertoire, students were able to “build upon” the skills learned in each project.

I am immensely proud of my creative writing classes the past few years. My students were able to build a full writing portfolio for use in their homeschool portfolio, contests applications, literary magazines, and other venues. Several students have won  Scholastic Art and Writing Awards; others have won college scholarships for their writing.

I look forward to a wonderful 2013-2014 year! I will close with a few words from Creative Writing student Carmen Paddock. Carmen’s sympathetic analysis of human nature and keen ear for dialogue made her pieces uniquely poignant!

“Mrs. Serbicki’s Creative Writing class is a must not only for those students interested in fiction and poetry, but for any student wanting to expand their writing horizons beyond the research paper (and have a great time while doing so)…Covering both the elements and forms of fiction made it unique and well-rounded among the other online creative writing classes that I’ve seen.

While there was some variation in the structure, we read and discussed a famous piece of fiction one week and then worked on a related fiction project the next; while prompts were (thankfully) often provided, there was a lot of leeway to pursue our own ideas and plot lines!  We also had weekly Skype chats which were wonderful for that jolt of inspiration – chatting with Mrs. Serbicki and classmates was a great way to free writer’s block!  Over the course of the year my favorite projects were the character study, the dialogue study, the speculative fiction assignment, and the poetry weeks…I feel that Mrs. Serbicki’s instruction helped me get past my fear of writing fiction – under her guidance I actually finished stories – and fine-tuned my narration and plot development, steering me away from melodrama into honest, engaging tales.  I highly, highly recommend this class to any high school student interested in honing storytelling skills or just looking for a fun alternative to traditional English courses.”

 

 

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Second Semester English Classes Begin Jan 7

Hi folks,

Just a quick reminder that Aim Academy has a line up of terrific English classes that start second semester. Our courses are all designed to make sure your students are college-ready by the end of high school. They are also aligned with CLEP and AP exams, so students who take Aim courses are gradually preparing for these exams during their later high school years. We teach the content and skills measured on these exams embedded in high-interest courses with plenty of teacher interaction and feedback.

You can find the list of courses here.

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Second Semester Middle School English Classes

We are still taking enrollment for Aim Academy second semester English classes. Our classes anticipate CLEP and AP testing at the end of high school. I started Aim to better prepare students over the course of their middle school and high school years to be college-ready in 11th and 12th grades. Then they can take AP classes (such as my AP English Language or AP English Literature) or CLEP out of college coursework those final two years.

We have two popular foundational courses for 6th-8th graders I’d like to ask you to seriously consider. Beginning with a few online classes in middle school is a great way to help students start to develop the study skills and academic background they need for college-ready coursework during high school. Our two middle school teachers, Joanna Breault and Lauren Bailes, are very experienced in working with this age group, and they provide a lot of personal feedback in both of their courses:

Together these two courses are designed to prepare students for our Introduction to Academic Writing and Literature in 9th grade.

Middle School Tools for English Excellence- a writing course for 6th-8th graders that lays a foundation for academic writing in high school. Assignments include descriptive, narrative, expository and persuasive essays. Young writers also learn to write “hooks” that create interest for readers and work on varying their sentence structure. Joanna also provided targeted feedback highlighting the student’s strengths and ways to take a student’s writing to the next level. Joanna has been a professional writer and writing coach to homeschooled students for many years. Register for Joanna’s second semester course here.

Middle School Tools-Reading Comprehension- students will read high interest literature and non-fiction while learning to read for inference and comprehension. As I recently explained to my own AP students, critical reading is not a skill you can develop overnight. Students who score high on the SAT verbal section or the multiple-choice questions on any AP exam have been reading broadly and analytically for many years. They have a rich vocabulary and they know how to read for inference. To really reap the benefits by the end of high school, students need to start in middle school practicing this skill consistently.  Lauren Bailes is a gifted teacher on loan to us while she completes her Ph.D. — take advantage of her experience and love for teaching while we have her! Sign up for Lauren’s class here.

Classes run for 15 weeks and start January 7th.

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Aim Academy Second Semester English Classes

Registration is now open for second semester English classes beginning January 7, 2013.  This is an economical way to test drive our college prep classes aligned with CLEP and AP equivalency exams. You can find out more about our classes here.

6th-8th

Middle School Tools for English Excellence: Writing (Joanna Breault) no live class

Middle School Tools : Reading Comprehension (Lauren Bailes) -Friday class from 11-12 AM EST

8th-10th

Introduction to Literature and Academic Writing (Colette Bailes) – Thurs. Class 6-7 PM EST

9th-12th

American Literature from 1865 (Lisa Hawkins) – Tues. 12:45-1:45 PM EST

Creative Writing (Lili Serbicki) – Wed. 7-8 PM EST

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