Noodle Pros – Gifted and Talented Test Prep
Admissions to the Gifted and Talented (G&T) programs in NYC requires a minimum score of 90 for district-wide programs and 97 for citywide programs. The elusive test is important because it provides a shot at a high-quality alternative to the often unimpressive public school default. And the stakes are high because for many parents, private schools (which can run up to 50k a year depending on which private school you choose in NYC) are oftentimes not an option. Not only that but admittance into a citywide G&T score also means getting to skip the dreaded middle school admission process and scoring a guaranteed G&T seat through 12th grade which is like GOLD here in New York! No wonder the pressure is ON. It’s also especially intense here in New York because even if your genius child scores 99% or better on this test which is graded on a curve, there still is no guarantee of admission for the only 400 available citywide G&T seats. (Only 1 in 4 99th percentile scoring kids get one of the coveted citywide G& T school spots!) So the competition is fierce and the lottery system is real. But how does one prep a 4 year old for a 1-2 hour exam where a stranger is allowed only to state a question once and never repeat the instruction?
Kids who are extremely intelligent may still stumble on concepts when a strange test proctor questions them with an unfamiliar format. The only way to set your child up for success is to make sure your child understands the basic premises behind what the test covers and to actually practice the types of questions he/she will encounter on test day. I’ve never gone into a test without preparation and expected to do well so I would never expect a 4 year old to do so either. I strongly believe that there are test-taking skills that will improve any child’s performance – and they CAN be learned! Just take the component of stamina for instance. What 4 year old child, naturally is gifted at focusing for an hour or more on answering boring test questions? They can however learn to exercise their concentration and listening skills beforehand so that they are able to remain more focused for a prolonged period. So when Noodle Pros contacted me about participating in a trial tutoring period in exchange for a review, I jumped at the opportunity and was curious as to how their service worked.
Noodle Pros is an exclusive group of experienced, professional tutors who work in all tests and subjects, from Pre-K to Graduate School. We were so happy with our assigned teacher, Kalen who had a decade of experience tutoring and an expertise in the kindergarten G&T exam. As a fellow Ivy League graduate, I felt comforted and confident in the fact that she valued educational achievement in the same way that I did. She is so invested in children’s development and learning that she even helped design, market and create content for Scene App for Kids on the side. I found also that she was able to quickly establish a connection with Juliet who warmed up to her and broke out of her shyness easily with fun tasks like finding matching mermaids and coloring them for their initial project together. Juliet liked this task so much that when Kalen promised she would keep that mermaid page for her to continue working on next time, Juliet remembered two weeks later, and looked forward to her specially saved page. I appreciated how Kalen innately understood how to peek the interest of my 4 year-old girly girl.
The hour-long session involves teaching and/or reviewing concepts that the test would cover including visual discrimination, following aural directions, recognizing sequences and predicting patterns. This is done through colorful manipulatives that involve plastic figurines (“let’s see how you would group these objects”), to identifying opposites with puzzle pieces (see above), to pattern completion challenges on the ipad or dry-erase board.
Together they aptly incorporated and discussed handy test-taking vocabulary such as “right, left, single, identical, diagonal, column, row, beneath, outline…” all words that kids at age 4 might not be required to know at school yet but would need to know in order to answer the test questions. Basic arithmetic vocabulary was introduced as well. “Let’s organize by land or sea creatures… If we take away 1 then how many do we have left? That’s an equal number of land and sea creatures!” I make sure to incorporate addition and subtraction concepts regularly in life so Juliet already knows how to count and subtract anything by 1 and loved that this was reinforced here. I was also happy to observe that Juliet enjoyed all the “brain games” but was not surprised given the girl has in the past sat through 18 worksheet pages at a time totally determined to try and finish her workbook in record time. (Is there a class for us parents to train our own stamina so that we can keep up with our own children’s love of learning?? Cuz I was ready to quit after page 10!) Even Kalen who just met her, noticed and reported how “engaged and eager to do well” she was. She isn’t a robot though. And as nerdy as she may naturally be, she is still a 4 – year old. During the hour when Kalen noticed Juliet was getting a little restless, they got up for a quick game of silly Simon says (and I spy out the window during the 2nd day of tutoring). This enabled them to take a much-needed break, shake their sillies out and re-focus with even more energy. And Juliet continued the laughter throughout the rest of her sessions.
It filled me with joy to see her enjoy her Noodle Pros session. The varied tasks and visuals really helped to make the learnings fun and playful. What child doesn’t love a game or puzzle?
What I also found to be a major benefit of this one-on-one tutoring besides the customizable program, designed to fit your little one’s specific strengths and weaknesses was the post-session report. Below are excerpts from our first two sessions’ reports so that you can understand the level of detail you may expect.
“…She is a lot of fun and really enjoys these brain games and challenges. As I mentioned, I’m impressed with her ability to focus with you in the room. …. I asked her to identify which item in each row was different. She enjoyed this and had no trouble finding the different shell in each row. Next, we did a variety of games with manipulatives to help prepare her for the language in the three OLSAT subtests: aural reasoning, following directions, and arithmetic reasoning. When asked to sort the manipulatives into groups she was unsure of what to do. However, as soon as I specified what group: by color or by a particular type (fruit, sea creatures, etc) she was able to follow my instruction. She demonstrated strong foundational skills with math concepts seeing that she was able to count quantities accurately and understood one-to-one correspondence. We did some pattern completion practice using a Bright Kids NNAT app. I also demonstrated figural analogies in the form of matrix reasoning on a drawing app and with the SET cards. Throughout the course of the session I used the following vocabulary with Juliet: row, identical, most different, outline, solid, second to last, bottom, equal.
Each tutor comes at a differing hourly cost and each teacher comes with their own curriculum, materials and philosophy. So it’s important to read up on their profiles, and find your best match. They are not cheap. You will pay upwards of $200/hour for these premium tutors but if you compare that investment to the cost of 1 year (or 12 years of private school tuition) hoping your child will get into a citywide G&T program, there really is no comparison. And even if your child doesn’t get in, the investment is not wasted because the skills and concepts learned will help them with logic, reasoning, analysis and focus down the line anyways. For those of you considering having your child take this all-important 1-2hour test, this one-on-one test prep is worth it. And with the next round of testing coming up in January, there is still time to book your private tutor through Noodle Pros.
DISCLAIMER. All opinions expressed are my own. This service was provided in exchange for an honest review.