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.
Our viewbook provides a comprehensive summary of an Avenues education.
October 11, 2018
Last spring, the entire 8th grade participated in an interdisciplinary project called the Big App: Here is New York. Through this project, each student created and published an app that highlighted communities in New York City.
October 5, 2018
Learning to ask and answer directional questions is viewed by some as the most important skill needed to survive abroad. If you lose your way, you need to understand someone when they give you an answer more complex than a finger pointing in a general direction. If applied in context, learning these skills can prove to be quite fun.
October 3, 2018
This fall, the 2nd graders in the Jellyfish and Manta Ray classes are building the classroom of their dreams.
September 28, 2018
This past spring, nine students, including a visitor from our new campus in São Paulo, Brazil, signed up to spend a month learning about game design. This course was part of Fifth Term, a period of four weeks during which upper grades students complete group and individual projects on subjects that spark their passion.
September 20, 2018
At Avenues, we have a tendency to think of high-intensity practice as belonging solely to the HIP Thinking program. However, shifting from HIP Thinking to Face Your Fears made it clear to me how essential the methods we’ve developed in the HIP program can be to helping students quickly develop competency in discipline-based skills as well.