We embrace the idea that the best way to cultivate lifelong skills is to spend a lot of time practicing with the right kind of guidance and coaching. To that end, we developed the High Intensity Practice (HIP) program for students in the Upper Division. The program, which we call HIP Thinking, encompasses both math and writing skills. In writing sessions, students are given 20 minutes to write, uninterrupted and in silence, on a variety of prompts. In math sessions, students spend the same amount of time solving problems in small groups. The prompts and problems are designed to provoke bold responses and encourage students to take inventive risks. In these short bursts of creative and analytical freedom, students cultivate essential cognitive skills – mental agility, empathy, extended concentration and stamina – through persistent practice. From 6th to 11th grade, all students take HIP Thinking classes every other day, alternating between math and writing.
Some examples of HIP writing prompts include:
In addition to developing better writers and more nimble problem solvers, the HIP Thinking program allows students to regularly engage in a deeper kind of thinking than that normally demanded in other classroom settings. By practicing often and over a number of years, students develop a set of thinking skills related to the brain’s key executive functions: working memory, cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control (executive function is often likened to the air traffic control system of the brain). HIP may also improve the ability to think abstractly, reason and discern patterns – markers of what psychologists refer to as fluid intelligence. Executive function is strongly associated with long-term academic achievement across disciplines and success in life, more so than even IQ.
A typical HIP Thinking session includes the following steps:
The long-term benefits of HIP are the subject of ongoing research at Avenues, but an initial yearlong study in the 2016-17 school year provided empirical evidence of strong growth in thinking skills. As a regular part of the Upper Division schedule, HIP Thinking builds the intellectual “muscle memory” that will enable students to unleash their creativity while staying focused – in college and beyond.
January 5, 2018
This year we are introducing a new math tool to be used in our kindergarten and 1st grade curriculum—rekenreks. Rekenreks are used for students to understand numbers in a multi-sensory way.
January 3, 2018
At the end of the school day, I change from my work clothes into stretchy pants and a t-shirt, and make the transformation from Chinese teacher back to the fire-and-brimstone martial arts instructor I once was. Students come into my class with varied motivation; some come to become physically fit, some to learn to defend themselves and some to connect themselves to an unbroken line of an old tradition
December 21, 2017
During a child’s development it is essential to build and maintain routines. Having consistent routines and knowing what to expect creates a predictable and safe environment for children. One of the first goals for children when starting pre-school is to internalize the daily routine.
December 20, 2017
This year, our middle grades students set a new record in our young history. Seventy-four students from grades 6 through 8 participated in one of the most prestigious math contests in the world, American Mathematics Competition 8.
December 18, 2017
This fall, 5th graders from Avenues traveled about two hours out of the city to Black Rock Forest for an educational and recreational day trip. The Black Rock Forest Consortium is a “living laboratory for field-based research and education, encompassing native terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that are increasingly rare in the region.”