Are You Prepared?

Academic Writing:You have essays due for English and History class. Even your science teacher assigned a graded response essay. Who knew writing was so important to your GPA!

You spent so much extra time trying to write a “correct” essay, you fell behind in your other classes.

Your teacher said the ideas in your essay were unorganized. He also warned you to cite sources properly next time, to avoid getting an F for plagiarism.

Posted in Scenario of the Week

So Much to Do, So Little Time: Developing Time-Management Strategies to Improve Homework

by Caroline Grinnell

Time flies(1).  Against the clock(2).  In the nick of time(3).  Are any of these English idioms about time familiar to you and the way you feel about your homework?

If you are like many students in secondary schools, you probably have had more than a few long nights when you didn’t get all of your homework done.  Or, perhaps you have felt so overwhelmed that you didn’t even try to finish your homework!  This is easy to understand when many teachers assign 45-50 minutes of homework a day, and you’re probably taking at least five courses.  How can you get it all done and still have time to spare(4)?

There is an answer to this dilemma!  Developing good time management strategies will help you complete your homework assignments and hand them in when they’re due.

What is time management and how can it help you?

Overall, time management is the ability to plan your time, so you are able to get everything done on time(5)!  Three important elements of time management are the ability to organize, prioritize, and estimate.

Organization: This means making sure you have everything you need before you start!

Whether you write all your class assignments in an agenda book or input them in an electronic device, you should record all homework assignments in the same place.  You will always save time(6) if you can see everything that needs to be done in one central place.

Another important part of being organized is to be sure you have all the materials you will need.  If your homework includes a math worksheet, a chapter to read in your American history book, and an essay draft to write, make sure you have the textbook, notebooks, and worksheets with you.  Don’t leave some of your materials in your locker!

Prioritizing:  This means deciding what is most important and starting with that!

After you have organized your materials, it’s time to prioritize.  This means deciding which homework to do first.  How should you decide what to do first?  There are several things to consider:

  • What type of homework is it?  In other words, is it reading, writing a paper, doing a worksheet, studying for a test, or working on a big project
  • When is it due?  Tomorrow, next week, at the end of the month?
  • Is it difficult or easy for you?

Basically, there are two different time-management strategies to use with homework depending on when it is due.  Let’s first look at the type of homework that is due soon, perhaps tomorrow or the next day!

Type 1: It’s due SOON!

Much of the homework you receive is due the next day or by the end of the week.  In this case, look over your assignments and decide which homework to do first based on your own personal work style.

  • For instance, do you prefer doing the most difficult homework done first? Then put that homework at the top of your list and do that first!
  • If you would rather do the easy work first, so you have more time left to focus on the tough stuff, put the easy homework at the top of your list and do that first.


Type 2: It’s due LATER!

Assigning big projects has become very popular in many American secondary schools.  Teachers like these projects because they give students plenty of time to study, research, and demonstrate learning.  However, many students wait until the last minute to start these types of projects.  Has this ever happened to you?  You need to use time-management skills to know how and what parts of a project to work on over three to four weeks.  Here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • Write the project due date in your agenda.
  • Make a list of all the things you need to do before the due date.  For example, you may need to find a topic, find some resources, write an outline, interview some experts, write a 1st draft, revise and edit the 1st draft, create a visual, practice an oral presentation, find more resources to support your topic, write a 2nd draft, print the final draft and present the project on the due date.  WOW – that’s a lot to do!
  • Now, go back to your agenda and count how many days you really have to do the project.
  • Use math skills and divide all the things you need to do for the project into how many days you have between now and the due date.
  • Based on the answer to the point above, you probably need to work on your project every two days in order to get it all done in time!
  • Write “project work” in your agenda on each day that you need to work.  After you have completed each part of the project, make a big “check mark” next to it!  Hooray – the end of the project is getting closer!

Big projects are an excellent way to learn outside the classroom and discover more about a topic that interests you.  Nonetheless, be careful to use planning and prioritizing strategies to manage your time.

Finally, the last element of time management, but perhaps the most important one, is time estimation!

Estimating:  How long will it take?

The answer to the above question depends on what the homework assignment is.  However, if you get good at estimating time, you should be able to complete more work on time.  Here is a suggestion for testing your current estimation skills and what to do next:

  • Choose any two places at school and estimate how long it will take you to walk from one place to another.  Then, set a timer, walk from one place to the other, and see how close you are to your estimate.  Once you see your results, try this again with another two locations.  How are our time estimation skills?  At first, most people’s estimates are not very accurate.
  • Next, estimate how long you think it will take you to complete a homework assignment.  Do the homework and check your time.  How close were you?

How much time will you actually need to complete your other real homework assignments and get to your classes on time?  Apply what you learned from your estimation exercises and your timing will become more accurate.

Even though time is short(7) for most students, knowing how to organize your materials, prioritize assignments, and estimate how long it will all take will certainly improve the way you spend your free time(8).

Good luck!

(1) Time goes really fast.
(2) Working right up until something is due.
(3) Finishing something just before it is due.
(4) Having extra time.
(5) When it is due.
(6) Using less time.
(7) There is not a lot of time.
(8) Time when you can do what you want.

Caroline Grinnell, M.Ed., CTEFL

Ms. Grinnell has over 15 years experience teaching French and ESL as well as literacy skills in primary and secondary school classrooms. Ms. Grinnell spent nine years teaching grades 9th through 12th at a New England boarding school and is currently a literacy specialist at the International School of Boston, an independent K-12 French-English bilingual school in Cambridge, MA.

Any views or opinions presented in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International School of Boston, which is neither affiliated to nor endorses New England Boarding School Advantage.
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Posted in Academics, Boarding School

American Classroom Culture

If you are applying to or have already been accepted to an independent school in the US, congratulations!  Studying in a new country can be exciting and rewarding. However, your success in your new American school may depend as much on your understanding of American classroom culture as on your academic abilities.

What is American classroom culture?  American classroom culture includes the way teachers and students interact in the classroom, the way they expect each other to behave, and the actual structure and content of the class.

To start, let’s look at teacher and student roles and participation expectations. As a student, you may think you know what you’re supposed to do, right?  Arrive at class on time, complete all assignments, and show respect.  Although these are all expected in American classrooms, there is much more! 

Participation!  Probably the most misunderstood aspect of the American classroom, participation is more than raising your hand to give an answer to a homework question. Teachers expect students to participate in an active way. “Active” in American classroom culture means that you volunteer to speak in class and add to the learning that is going on.  Here are some types and tips for participation:

  • Basic 1: You wait for the teacher to call on you, and you give a brief answer to her question.  This is not really considered participation.
  • Basic 2: You raise your hand to volunteer and only repeat something that the teacher has said. Although this is participation, teachers do not need (or want) to hear their own ideas repeated back to them, they want to hear your ideas too.
  • Active 1: You raise your hand and ask the teacher a question that shows you are listening and thinking about what’s going on in the class.  Yes, this is a good start!
  • Active 2: You raise your hand and make a comment about what is being said, how it connects to the work the class is studying and/or something you have already learned in or out of the classroom. Yes, this is quite good!
  •  Active 3: You listen carefully to other students participate and then either ask them a question or add a comment to their ideas. Yes, this is quite good!
  • Great = A combination of Active 1-3! Yes, this is active and strong participation!


Why is participation so important?  Teachers want to hear your own ideas and learn about the way you think!  Teachers expect you, the student, to add to the learning going on in class.  Here are some questions and answers to help you understand this part of American classroom culture.

What if you don’t understand what’s going on?  For the most part, teachers expect that you don’t know or understand 100% of what’s going on, that is why you’re a student.  You need to participate to show what you understand, so teachers know how best to teach you!

How can you, the student, add to the learning? When you ask a question or add a comment during a class discussion, you are adding to everyone’s learning, the teacher’s included.

Why should I listen to other students?  They are not the teacher!  It is equally important to listen when other students speak as their questions and comments also add to the learning going on.  Many teachers expect (and even require and grade) students to question each other or add comments during class time. 

Isn’t it the teacher’s job to decide what is being taught and the students’ job to learn it?  Yes and no!  Teachers can learn a lot from their students. For instance, based on student comments, a teacher may decide to spend more time on a certain topic so that there is better understanding of the topic.  If students don’t actively participate, teachers have no way of knowing until poor tests and weak writing assignments are handed in. When you, the student, participate teachers learn more about you and the way you think!

There is certainly more to learn about American classroom culture, but participation is clearly the best place to start!  Take advantage of your role as a student and participate as much as possible.  The more you practice the easier it will be and the more you will learn!


Caroline Grinnell, M.Ed., CTEFL

Ms. Grinnell has over 15 years experience teaching French and ESL as well as literacy skills in primary and secondary school classrooms.  Ms. Grinnell spent nine years teaching grades 9th through 12th  at a New England boarding school and is currently a literacy specialist at the International School of Boston, an independent K-12 French-English bilingual school in Cambridge, MA.

Any views or opinions presented in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International School of Boston, which is neither affiliated to nor endorses New England Boarding School Advantage.
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Posted in Academics, Boarding School

Free Book Giveaway Contest: Fortunate Sons – Register Now!

After reading the New York Times review about Liel Leibovitz’s new book Fortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization, it was quickly added to our summer reading list.

Fortunate Sons is a fascinating book and great for anyone interested in learning about one of the first groups of international students to come from China to study in U.S. boarding schools.  In 1872, during the Qing era, the Chinese government sent 120 boys to study in some of New England’s most prestigious schools. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out if your school may have been one of them?

To share this discovery with our blog readers, we are are announcing a Free Book Giveaway Contest!

Register and you could win one of two copies of the book, autographed by the author Liel Leibovitz. In order to register for the free giveaway, please do one of the following:

  1. Register here by downloading a copy of our free e-book “Improving Boarding School Performance for International Students”;
  2. “Like” our Facebook group (or click the “Like” button at bottom of this page); or
  3. Email your Name, Country and e-mail to

We will announce the two winners on September 12, 2011. Winners will be notified via email at the address registered.

You can also visit our bookstore (under “Literature – Advanced”) to find our book review and order your own copy of Fortunate Sons.

New England Boarding School Advantage extends a special thanks to W.W. Norton & Company and Leil Leibovitz for making this contest possible by providing the books.

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Posted in Boarding School, New England

Thinking Right: Coaching a Wave of Chinese Students for College in America

A fascinating article on the opportunities and challenges for Chinese students studying in the U.S., from The Chronicle of Higher Education, written by Mr. Jiang Xueqin, deputy principal of Peking University High School and director of its international division.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is the No. 1 source of news for college and university faculty members and administrators.  Based in Washington, D.C., The Chronicle has more than 70 writers, editors, and international correspondents.

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Posted in Academics, Admissions, American Culture

New England Boarding School Advantage Featured on VincentCurtis Educational Register

We are pleased to announce the New England Boarding School Advantage summer program has been featured at the VincentCurtis Educational Register – the oldest free guide to private independent school, summer schools and summer camps.

You can visit our listing on the Educational Register by clicking here.

The Educational Register has been published by VincentCurtis since 1941 as a guide for parents and students to a select few private schools and summer programs, and as a source of free information and advice about independent education.  The Educational Register also features articles by heads of independent schools and summer study programs to introduce visitors to a wide variety of subjects related to independent education.  The Educational Register is also a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA).

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Posted in Admissions, Boarding School, Uncategorized

We have joined QQ!

New England Boarding School Advantage is now available through QQ, China’s largest and most popular instant messaging and video chat service.

If you are interested in the New England Boarding School Advantage program, please feel free to contact us through QQ – our username is 2218640638.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Our Teaching Team in Shanghai


In July 2011, during the Shanghai summer program, our teaching team was pleased to meet with former students, families and top-tier educational consultants.

Below Assistant Recuitment Manager, Mr. Kevin Wu, from the Study Group, takes a photo with New England Boarding School Advantage teachers, Mrs. Karen Bowley and Ms. Bei Zhang.


Mr. Wu is an educational consultant and advises students from Shanghai and Central China who are interested in studying in boarding schools in the United States and Canada.

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Posted in Academics, Admissions, Boarding School

Karen Bowley presents at NEASC / ISANNE Conference: “Serving the International Student Successfully”


On May 11, 2011, the New England Association of Schools and Colleagues (NEASC) and the Independent Schools Association of Northern New England (ISANNE) co-sponsored a conference entitled “Serving the International Student Successfully”, attended by independent school educators, administrators and educational consultants.

Karen Bowley, Director of New England Boarding School Advantage, was invited to present on how to structure and implement a successful ESL program:

A copy of her presentation, “English as a Second Language: Planting the Seed for a Successful Program” can be downloaded here.

Karen Bowley had this to say about the conference: “It was an honor to present at a conference sponsored by two highly respected educational organizations.  It was very interesting to discuss with colleagues their views on the opportunities and challenges of building a successful ESL program, as a key component in any international student program initiative.”

NEASC was founded in 1885, as a self-regulatory membership organization of educational institutions. NEASC serves the public and educational community by developing and applying standards, assessing the educational effectiveness of pre-school, elementary, middle, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions. Processes of self-evaluation and peer review utilizing the Association’s goals assure and improve the quality of institutions, which seek and hold NEASC accreditation. It also endeavors to inform public discourse about educational improvement. NEASC is headquartered in Bedford, Massachussetts.

ISANNE is a membership organization of independent schools in northern New England. ISANNE’s primary objectives are to provide professional services and support to school heads and leadership. The organization fosters collaboration promoting innovative and vibrant solutions in the world of education. ISANNE is headquartered in Bowerbank, Maine.


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Posted in Boarding School, New England, Teachers

Summer 2011 Program: Location / Schedule Update

The Shanghai course will be offered from July 10 – 29. The program will be held in the Longyu Tower Building (1036 Pudong South Road; 浦东南路1036号隆宇大厦), located in the Pudong district, (easily accessible from subway stations商城路 on the 9 line or东昌路 station on the 2 line).

Click here for a map.

The Taipei course will be offered from August 1 – 19.  The program in classrooms in the Taipei Medical University, located in the Sinyi district, (located near the Taipei 101 building).

Click here for a map.

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Posted in Academics, Boarding School