Monday, December 20, 2010

This week's Points of Pride:

A SpiderShout to L. on her first wave of acceptances, Purdue among them! Congratulations to K. for her unbelievable acting award! And a big hug to N. for working hard to make it to the next reading level! We're so proud of you, students!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Education Quote of the Week:

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called "truth." ~Dan Rather

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thanks to Ms. Sufiya for sharing this fabulous link! She's always thinking of you, kids!! Aims for Young Readers and Writers, created by former staff members of The New Yorker, gives teenagers a chance to show what they’re reading and writing.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Student Quote of the Week:

"Know what my favorite thing about SpiderSmart is? Peace and QUIET!" We're so glad you can concentrate in our learning environment, Soph! We do our very best to create the perfect atmosphere for all of our students.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Congratulations to all of our test takers and their vastly improved scores!!

Academic shouts to JW for achieving her TOEFL goal, to K for 700 and 720 on her subject tests, and to C for his amazing increase in Critical Reading!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Parent Quote of the Week:

"My daughter was failing math badly, had terrible organizational skills, and was unable to focus. I sent her to Spidersmart. My daughter went from failing math to getting two A's on her last two tests (first A's in her HS career in a core subject) and helping to tutor someone else in the class. I highly recommend. All programs are customized to the child."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

SATs Round 2 done and DONE!!

Most of you are officially FINISHED!! We are so very proud of all your hard work!!

Friday, October 29, 2010


We are SO EXCITED about your SAT scores, students!!!!! Way to go!!!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Education Quote of the Week:

Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A warm, warm welcome to our newest Reading & Writing teacher, Miss Becky Robertson!!

We are so lucky to have her working with our students. Miss Becky comes to us as an English Sterling Scholar, with a degree in English/Secondary Education. One of her most notable educational achievements was to remodel the entire reading program at her most recent school, improving school-wide reading comprehension by an average of more than 10%. In Miss Becky's words, “I love reading, writing, and teaching. I bring this love and energy into my interactions with students every day.” We're so thankful to have you here with us, Becky!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

To all our parents and students: We enthusiastically welcome to the world Ms. Sufiya's baby boy, Samaadi Cabral Scott!!

He will surely be an avid reader and writer, just like his mother and father, both of whom are unforgettable teachers!! Congratulations, Ms. Sufiya. We all can't wait to meet him!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Good luck with all those applications, everyone!!

Another great way to learn all there is to know about the colleges of your choice:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A warm welcome!!

Five new students this week!! We're so happy to have all of you!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hey science lovers!

A fabulous website for all of you:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Remember, teachers...

"A good teacher is a master of simplification and an enemy of simplism." ~Louis A. Berman

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer reading all finished? What about those college essays?

Devote that time now so you can focus on your studies once school begins!! We're here to help, students. Don't wait until the last minute!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

An inspiring quote for teachers from Muriel Spark:

"To me, education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Word of the Day: Erudite. Learned. Scholarly.

The erudite scholar could join any philosophical debate, as he was able to substantiate his opinions with memorized excerpts from the works of Hegel, Foucault, and Socrates.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Last Week To Register for Summer Camp!!

Don't miss out on three weeks of mind-bending fun!! A wide, rousing array of activities every day of the week from 9-12!! Classes will include games, puzzles, and workshops in Logic & Reasoning, Creative Writing, Vocabulary Building, Math Mania, and Grammar Guzzling!!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Saturday, June 19, at our Tysons Corner location!! Come out for food and fun!! Registration open until 5:00--don't miss out!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Can't wait to hear about those ACTs today, students!!

We were sending you waves of SpiderSupport all morning!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

You're Almost There!!!

All right, students!! Gear up for those final exams!! Study hard!! Just about one more week left!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Big Day Has Arrived!

Best of luck to all our students on the SATs tomorrow!! You've worked so hard to prepare for this day and we are so very proud of you!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

SpiderSmart Celebrates our NEW CENTER!!!!!

A big shout-out to Esther, Jeannie, and our beautiful new center in Tysons Corner!!!!! Congratulations, everyone!!!!!

Favorite Quotes from the week:

1) from one of our proud pre-K students graduating to Kindergarten: "I'm so excited I can't even CONCENTRATE!" There are no words to convey the sheer enthusiasm of this particular student. He's so full of joy and insatiable curiosity!

2) from one of our high school students, lamenting his end-of-year workload: "I'm always the most tired when I have the most work." Isn't that the truth??

Friday, May 21, 2010

Our Beloved Ms. Sufiya

"You know, J. has trouble doing his homework for anyone else. I always have to remind him. But for Ms. Sufiya, I don't even have to ask! When I go to look and see if he's ready for his Reading & Writing session every week, he's already done. He LOVES to work for her. He's always so excited to come see her and have his lesson every Thursday."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We're enrolling more young creative writers than ever before!

Poets and fiction writers alike. It's so exciting to see young authors in the making...One of our first graders is just discovering Dr. Seuss for the first time!

Here's a great site for all of you young poets out there:

Monday, May 10, 2010

From another excited parent this weekend:

"Please convey to Ms. Sufiya how much J. loved her session on Saturday. She has been on cloud 9 ever since!"

J. has joined SpiderSmart to hone her creative writing and storytelling skills. At the very young age of 5 1/2, she's already a prolific writer and comes to us to workshop her poems and stories!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Parent Quote of The Week:

"My son used to hate reading and writing--always complaining about it. Now he loves coming here to share his work with your teachers. He just told me today that he wants to read more poetry!"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Worst Similes Ever Written in a High School Essay Contest, Installment #2:

"From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30." (Roy Ashley, DC)

P.S. Who thinks this one is actually an analogy?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Parent Post this week:

"My daughter was so proud of the paper she wrote at SpiderSmart that she read it out loud to me in the car on the way home. WOW! What an interesting paper!"

Another Parent Post this week:

"My daughter loves going to SpiderSmart because you have made it a very special and safe place for her to study. I never have to fight with her to go...which is unusual seeing as it is all about doing school work. :)"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Speaking of high school essay contests...

One of our students just won one!! Thanks, 826DC--you're doing great work with students everywhere!! We're so proud of you, Chris!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Worst Similes Ever Written in a High-School Essay Contest, Installment #1:

"Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze." Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, VA

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hey kids! Show off those reading and writing skills!

Check out RIF's latest contests:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

According to College Board, "The best way to get ready for the SAT is to take challenging courses, study hard, and READ AND WRITE IN AND OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM."

Here at SpiderSmart, we want you to become lifelong readers and writers! Without out-of-school reading to cultivate your comprehension skills, your verbal ability will also remain underdeveloped. We're here to offer you stimulating academic dialogue every week: an extension of the reading and writing conversation you gain in class!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This is where plagiarism will get you, dear students:

Use all the resources available to you. Teachers are here to help you avoid plagiarism! We want YOUR original ideas, not someone else’s! And to Mr. Pangilinan, we commend you for your admittance and wish you all the best!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SpiderSmart just LOVES PS22 Chorus!!

yet ANOTHER unforgettable song!! EVERY single one of their performances gives us chills!! Check out ALL of 'em!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Writing: The Final Frontier


TOPIC: Writing: The Final Frontier

WHEN: 4/15

6:30-7:30 PM Your Turn to Speak - Advocacy and Open Discussion
7:30 - 9:00 PM Speaker Presentation

LDAMC, CHADD, and the GT/LD Network are pleased to jointly present this program on the challenges of writing for students with learning or attentional issues. Why is writing so difficult? The act of getting thoughts on paper is the culmination of a set of difficult skills: planning, organizing, researching, drafting, revising, and editing. Students with ADHD, dyslexia, executive function difficulties and written expression disorder frequently find parts or all of this process difficult. While the "writing across the curriculum" trend gains momentum, these students fall farther behind. Come hear Jilly Darefsky and Jessica Roake from The Siena School present ways to help students with learning disabilities write more easily and effectively. Come early for the discussion hour (6:30 - 7:30) to hear Janelle Ellis of Integrated Assistive Technology describe and demonstrate a variety of tech tools to help students with written expression difficulties.

LOCATION: Walter Johnson High School, 6400 Rock Spring Drive, Bethesda, MD -
conveniently located just two minutes off I-270 Old Georgetown Road
or Democracy Blvd exits


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mesmeric March!!!

This has been our best month yet! A warm, light-filled thank you to all of our amazing families and students, who have made this month our most successful one thus far...

To love and learning!!

Securing the Peace in Liberia

Women of the United Nations police and peacekeeping forces that entered Liberia after the civil war have inspired a new generation of Liberian women to don uniforms.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: two SpiderSmart students place first and third in regional Odyssey of the Mind!!!

Odyssey of the Mind has crowned two of our students queens of genius and creativity: CONGRATULATIONS to our super smart sisters--Natalia and Carolina!!!

Check out this amazing, challenging competition:

meet gina turrini, tutor extraordinaire!

Gina is a mathematics and test prep tutor at SpiderSmart Learning Center of Bethesda. Gina began teaching when she worked as a private mathematics tutor for four years and as a teaching assistant for two years at Amherst College. In 2008, Gina graduated with degrees in Mathematics and Political Science from Amherst College. After graduation, Gina worked for a year as an English Communication Skills Instructor in Ankara, Turkey for students and staff at Bilkent University. Gina came to SpiderSmart Learning Center of Bethesda after moving back to the country in August. Gina also interns at the Council on Foreign Relations and is hoping to go to graduate school for a Master's in Public Policy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

meet elliot rozenberg, one of our star teachers!

Elliot Rozenberg instructs his students at SpiderSmart Bethesda, bringing with him over six years of tutoring and teaching experience.  Elliot has taught students ages 4-45 in a wide area of subject matter including math, reading, and writing.  He also specializes in teaching standardized tests including the SATs, SSATs, ACTs, and the Praxis exam.  Elliot has received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from The George Washington University and attended the Bronx High School of Science in New York.  While he admits that the material that he has to teach is not always exciting, Elliot always attempts to make his students enjoy learning as much as he enjoys teaching. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

why spidersmart?

Connection, Community, Expansion, and Strength.

Spiders are very independent in their work (like SpiderSmart students learn to be with mentorship.) They take pride in what they've created (the web), like our students take pride in their work. They work diligently and carefully, paying attention to every detail of the web (like our kids pay attention to every detail in carefully crafting an essay.)  Lastly, a web has SO MANY parts -- it's such a complex creation -- and that's how we feel about our SpiderSmart learning philosophies and practices.  Our approaches to every student (who we believe to also be complex and intricately developed as a learner) are vast and varied.  There's a precision to our "building" of each and every one of our students.  Our educational ethos is based on that precision -- that individualized curricula, that close, focused attention to every student -- and the appreciation that every single student is different and deserves a myriad of approaches.

Monday, February 22, 2010

sharpening your writing: lazy sentence beginnings.

Avoid starting your sentences with “It” and “There”:

It is…

It was…

There is…

There are…

There was…

There were…

These are all lazy ways to start an idea. Why? You make your reader guess what you mean by using “It”.  It what?  What is it?

Using “There” is also rather useless. Think about it. What is the difference in these two ides?

There were ten men standing in line.
Ten men were standing in line.

Answer: Nothing—except the first one has the useless “There were” at the beginning.

All “There is/are/was/were” does is point to something.  It is almost like walking up to someone and saying, “I am going to talk to you now,” instead of just talking to the person!

There is always a better way to begin a sentence.


A better way to start a sentence always exists.

That’s better! You have to practice to see the different ways, though, so let’s look at some examples and then do a few exercises. The first sentence has a lazy beginning, but the second one corrects this by making a more direct sentence.

It is necessary to study.
Studying is necessary.

It was a rainy day, so we could not have recess.
We could not have recess because it was a rainy day. 

There was nothing to stop me from getting an “A” on the test.
Nothing could stop me from getting an “A” on the test. 

There are too many cars on this narrow road!
Too many cars are on this narrow road! 

There is a lot of sugar in this candy.
A lot of sugar is in this candy. 

Do you get the idea now? You need to take away the lazy part and rearrange the sentence. Sometimes, you can even find a whole new way to express the idea. 

There is a lot of sugar in this candy.
This candy is loaded with sugar! 

It does not take much to avoid these awkward sentence beginnings once you know a few helpful tricks.

Friday, February 19, 2010

meet jason ellison.

Jason Ellison earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from George Mason University in 1994. He taught undergraduate courses in English composition, literature, and creative writing at both Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University for 12 years while working for SpiderSmart as an essay evaluator and center teacher. For four years he created the writing curricula for the Washington Leadership Program, which allowed students from Sookmyung University of Seoul, South Korea to attend a variety of seminars and events in Washington, DC each July. Now that he is able to work full-time for SpiderSmart, he develops website and printed material, creates study guides, oversees online students, and generally handles whatever else needs to be done. When he’s not working, he writes fragments of a novel, tries to organize his thousands of photographs, and attempts to train his family’s new kitten to stay off his keyboard.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

spidersmart online: an in-house private tutor.

Welcome! Let me tell you about SpiderSmart’s Online Reading & Writing Program. We’ve been helping students become active readers and stronger writers for nearly 20 years, and we’ve been doing it online since 2003. With our program, students have access to a virtual library of over 1,500 real books that range from mysteries to fantasies to biographies to Newbery Award winners. With each book read, the student completes an online assignment designed specifically for that book that includes sections focused on vocabulary building, reading comprehension skills, and essay writing. A real teacher provides feedback consisting of explanations, examples, discussion, and methods of improvement for every assignment. We provide a teacher-mentor to work directly with every student, so the focus is on the student and feedback is consistently building crucial skills needed to strengthen reading and writing abilities. It truly is like having a private tutor in your home.

The online program is available for grades 2 to 12, and we even have SAT prep courses. We also adjust skill levels so students needing more help or requiring more challenging material are never overwhelmed or bored. Please visit our website to learn more!

As told by Jason Ellison.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the evolution of spidersmart.

Upon meeting Jeannie Jung for the first time, I was struck by her warmth. I found it hard not to smile. She had me completely at ease within minutes. “People often say, you seem like a happy person. And it’s because of this job!” she exclaimed, her face alight. “I get excited just about buying and assembling furniture for the center! Even taking out the trash!”

Jeannie moved to America in her mid-teens and struggled with the English written language. “I used to dread writing papers. I could never express my thoughts exactly in writing...In graduate school, I realized that I could only improve writing through practice. It was like learning to play a musical instrument. The more you practice, the better you become.” And practice she did -- eventually earning her Masters in English from Texas A&M.

Nearly fifteen years after her move to America, Jeannie relocated to Washington, DC with her husband and two young children. As her children entered school, Jeannie devised a schedule to encourage her son and daughter to practice writing. She took them to the library at least three times a week and began reading the same books as her oldest child -- Jane, then 8. Jeannie developed writing assignments for her daughter and began creating a curriculum for her son’s future. For 6 months, she produced essay questions, vocabulary work, and comprehension questions -- creating over 50 assignments. They practiced writing on a regular basis, and her daughter advanced quickly.

Why not have other kids do the same thing? Jeannie strongly believed reading and writing was the foundation for all learning -- and necessary for every child’s success -- especially ESL students.

She began with eight students, 500 used books, and very little money. Her pastor allowed her to use two empty rooms in the church for free. After a mere month, her student base doubled. The work was exhausting, but Jeannie quickly realized she had found her calling.

Her mother immediately cashed in her insurance policy and lent Jeannie $2000 to obtain a permanent tutoring space. With this money, and a loan, Jeannie started the Reading & Writing Center of Annandale in 1989.

In three months, she had nearly 50 students. The Reading & Writing Center soon morphed into the SpiderSmart Learning Center and grew substantially. Even with her incredible success, Jeannie remains grounded; “I feel so lucky to have come this far because of the people who worked for me.”

Not only is she intelligent and driven, but she truly cares for her students; “I don’t like vacations. I just cannot wait till I get back! I miss the kids too much. The Annandale kids are like my own. Some have been coming for eight years!” Her genuine affection for her students transforms her center into a place where children can be themselves, learn without embarrassment, and improve beyond what they thought possible.

As told by Amber Byrne.

Monday, February 15, 2010

meet mary koles.

Mary serves as academic coordinator for SpiderSmart Learning Center of Bethesda, where she feels lucky to do everything she loves—teach, plan curricula, and see all of her amazing students and parents every week! She is finishing her Masters of Fine Arts in fiction and poetry at American University, where incredible mentorship led her to win the Gerald Stern Poetry Prize. With a dual degree in English and Secondary Education from Vanderbilt University, she taught Junior Honors English at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, where she also served as ESL director for grades 9-12 and freshman basketball coach. After moving to Philadelphia and becoming the grateful recipient of a UPENN Fellowship for ESL Educators, she taught Freshman and Sophomore English at Franklin Learning Center, a blue ribbon public high school. After teaching abroad in Seoul, Mary returned to the DC area to collaborate with owner Jeannie Jung to create what is now the Bethesda center. Mary can think of nothing more inspiring than SpiderSmart’s educational ethos and any time spent with her inimitable friends and family.

Friday, February 12, 2010

meet sufiya abdur-rahman.

Sufiya Abdur-Rahman comes to SpiderSmart Learning Center of Bethesda with more than five years of experience as a reading and writing instructor. Over the past four years, she’s helped hundreds of students—from pre-K through college—become better readers and writers. She’s also taught journalism and creative writing to youngsters at Summer at WES, in Bethesda, and to pre-teens and teenagers in the Liberty Partnerships Program, in New York City. Sufiya has a background in journalism and has had articles published in daily newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, as well as national magazines including The Source and Black Enterprise. She believes that careful and insightful reading, coupled with thoughtful and eloquent writing will put any student on the path to success.

Friday, February 5, 2010

real people. real stories.

"At SpiderSmart I was taught to read, analyze questions and write about books effectively. With the help of my teachers, I dramatically improved my English grades. When the time came for college applications and essays, I had mastered writing techniques and was ready to stand out from the crowd."

Youlim Y.
Wellesley College

"When my daughter started at SpiderSmart, she was a reluctant reader. Through this program, she has become a book lover. She is such an avid reader that sometimes it is difficult to make her stop reading!"

Erica C's Mom
Dumfries, VA