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Archive for January, 2009

The i before e Spelling Rule

The i before e Spelling Rule

Check out the song! The i before e Spelling Rule

Usually spell i before e (believe), but spell e before i after a c (receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor).

Exceptions to the rule: beige, caffeine, codeine, conscience, deify, deity, either, feign, feint, foreign, forfeit, freight, heifer, height, heinous, heir, heist, neither, protein, rein, science, seismic, seize, sheik, veil, vein, weird

i before e Song

(to the tune of “Rig ‘a Jig Jig”)

Spell i before e ‘cause that’s the rule

Rig-a-jig-jig and away we go,

That we learned back in school.

Away we go, away we go!

But e before i comes after c,

Rig-a-jig-jig and away we go,

and when you hear long /a/. Hey!

Hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho.

The author of this song, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons. (Check out a seventh grade teacher teaching the direct instruction and practice components of these lessons on YouTube.) The complete lessons also include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , ,

Why Johnny Can’t Write

“Johnny is a creative story-writer, but he can’t write an essay to save his life.” Does this ring true for your child or student?

Johnny has had some good writing instruction. He can recite the steps of The Writing Process from the posters he has seen in every classroom throughout his elementary school years. He knows all about Writers Workshop. He would know what to expect if the teacher had written “Writers Conferences” or “Response Groups” on the white board as parts of her daily lesson plans. Johnny’s writing portfolio is chalk full of fanciful stories and writing pieces in the sensory/descriptive or imaginative/narrative writing domains. He has been encouraged to unleash his creative mind-although that story that he wrote last year about the student boycott of the cafeteria may have been a bit too creative for the principal’s tastes.

However, if you give Johnny a writing prompt, asking him to “Compare and contrast the cultural roles of women in Athens and Sparta,” sixth grade writing paralysis would surely set in. Or worse yet, Johnny might begin his essay with “Once upon a time in a far-away land called Greece, two young women from Athens and Sparta…” His difficulties would, no doubt, increase if this were a timed assessment.

Unfortunately, most of the writing that Johnny will need to complete throughout his academic and work careers will not take advantage of his story-writing experience. Instead, most of what Johnny will be required to compose will be some form of writing that informs or convinces his reader. Additionally, most of his writing will be subject to some kind of time constraint. Johnny has just not had the instruction and practice in this kind of writing. His college professors probably will not hand him a “blue book,” tell him to write a story of his own choice, and then turn it in after multiple revisions when his final draft has been published and properly illustrated.

Students need to learn how to write structured essays designed to inform and convince their teachers and professors. But how do you transform a creative, non-linear thinker like Johnny into an organized and persuasive writer? Take the mystery out of essays by replacing the confusing terminology of thesis statements, topic sentences, concrete details, and commentary with simple numerical values that reflect the hierarchy of effective essay structure. For example, assign a “1” to introductory strategies, a “2” to the thesis statement, a “3” to the topic sentence, a “4” to the concrete detail, a “5” to the commentary, and a “6” to the conclusion strategies. Telling a student that a “5” is needed to support a “4,” which supports a “3” is much more intuitive-and students get it! Teach structural variety by having students write 3-4-5-4-5 paragraphs and revise with 3-4-5-5-4-5-5 paragraphs. Have students analyze text structure by numerically coding their science book or a newspaper editorial. Use this approach to develop sequenced writing skills, incorporating different grammatical structures and sentence structure.

Find 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in Teaching Essay Strategies. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

 

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Why Johnny Can’t Use Good Grammar

Some years back, the principal walked into my room while my student teacher was delivering a lesson. After a few minutes, the principal signaled me to step outside. “I would never hire Johnny to work at my school,” he said. Shocked, I asked him why. “On the board, he has a misplaced comma, and he ended a sentence with a preposition.” Sounds quite harsh, doesn’t it? That principal certainly had high expectations of his teachers.

Not every educated adult places the same level of importance regarding the proper use of grammar and mechanics as does that principal. However, many do. Proper grammar is a critically important tool for success in school, work, and life. We are judged, sometimes quite severely, by the words we use and the way we use them in both our speaking and writing. Misused grammar betrays us. The way we talk and write reflects our background, education, and ability to communicate. So what are the myths and realities of grammar instruction and most importantly, how can we improve student grammar?

The Five Myths of Grammar Instruction

1. Grammar is acquired naturally; it does not need to be taught. Oral language is not always an efficient teacher. In fact, it can be quite a mixed bag. For every proper modeling of the pronoun in the sentence: It is I, students hear at least five models of the incorrect: It is me. Grammar as it is caught must be complemented by a grammar that is taught.

2. Grammar is a meaningless collection of rules-most of which don’t work half the time. This myth may have developed from mindless “drill and kill” grammatical exercises with no application to real writing. Actually, our English grammar is remarkably flexible and consistent.

3. Grammar cannot be learned by students with some learning styles or disabilities. While it may be true that students learn language differently, at different rates, and vary in proficiency, there has been no research to show that some students cannot learn grammar.

4. English grammar cannot be learned by second language learners. Some teachers think that students who speak other languages get confused between the primary language and English grammars. The research proves otherwise. Intuitively, many of us have significantly increased our own knowledge of English grammar by taking a foreign language.

5. Reading and writing a lot will improve grammar. Reading grammatically rich literature is wonderful, but learning is not passive and does not come by osmosis. Writing poorly may, indeed, reinforce poor grammatical usage.

How should we teach grammar to Johnny?  Don’t waste time teaching Johnny what he already knows. Find out what he does not know and target these areas of grammatical deficits. Use a good diagnostic assessment. Have Johnny practice those weaknesses with specific skill worksheets.

Teach the language of grammar and recognition of the common grammatical structures. Johnny has to know what a prepositional phrase is and how to know one when he sees one. In fact, over 30% of academic writing is composed of this grammatical form. Maybe learning “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function” on Sesame Street® was not such a bad idea after all. Teach grammar in the context of writing. Using the common grammatical structures, have Johnny begin half of his written sentences with different sentence openers. This practice serves two purposes: It teaches recognition and manipulation of grammatical structures and it improves sentence variety.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics , , , , , , , ,

Why Johnny Can’t Spell

“Johnny could be a great writer, but his terrible spelling just gets in the way. He just can’t get down on paper what he wants to say. Johnny repeats the same spelling mistakes over and over in his writing, now matter how many times I red-mark them. I’ve had him write out a spelling word fifty times and still misspell that same word on his next assignment. It drives me crazy.”

Know a student like Johnny? Everyone does. Is there something neurologically mis-wired or does he have dyslexia? Probably not. Yet, year after year, Johnny lags further and further behind his classmates in his spelling proficiency. Can we blame the English sound-spelling system? Only about half of our spellings exactly match their sounds. Or how about blaming the “whole language” instructional fad in which teachers threw out their spelling workbooks and the traditional weekly spelling test? Or how about blaming Dad or Mom?

With more brain research, we may find a genetic predisposition to poor spelling. It may be unfair, but society judges poor spellers quite harshly. Misspelling words on a job application won’t land Johnny a job. And “spell check” and dictionaries are not complete fixes. After all, you have to be able to recognize a correct spelling or know how to spell a word to use these resources. Frankly, we do a disservice to Johnny when we excuse his deficiency with a comment such as “Spelling doesn’t matter. Albert Einstein was a poor speller, too.”

So what can we do that really works to improve Johnny’s spelling? First, find out what exactly Johnny knows and does not know. Use an effective diagnostic test that pinpoints his spelling weaknesses. Target those weaknesses with specific skill worksheets, word sorts, and game card practice. Find these resources at your local bookstore or on the web. Next, teach the rules of syllabication and have Johnny practice sight syllable spellings with oral drills. Spelling is an auditory process-it is not a visual process. Encoding a word involves connecting letter relationships to the sounds that make up that word. Students need to develop automaticity with the most common sight syllables. Finally, connect spelling instruction to vocabulary instruction. Over 50% of our academic language is built on ancient Greek and Latin word parts. Spelling and vocabulary have a reciprocal relationship-spelling influences vocabulary and, conversely, vocabulary influences spelling. Have Johnny practice the spellings and definitions of the most common Greek and Latin roots and affixes.

Next, teach the rules of syllabication and have Johnny practice sight syllable spellings with oral drills. Spelling is an auditory process-it is not a visual process. Encoding a word involves connecting letter relationships to the sounds that make up that word. Finally, connect spelling instruction to vocabulary instruction. Over 50% of our academic words are built on ancient Greek and Latin word parts. Spelling and vocabulary have a reciprocal relationship-spelling influences vocabulary and, conversely, vocabulary influences spelling. Have Johnny practice the spellings and definitions of the most common Greek and Latin roots and affixes. Use the highest utility word parts, game cards, worksheets, and fun games to aid effective practice.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , ,

Why Johnny Still Can’t Read

Meet Johnny. Although… you probably already know him. In fact, you probably have a Johnny in your class right now. It may also be possible that you also have a few Johnnys that you don’t know about yet. Johnny has reading problems.

Johnny didn’t quite catch on to reading in kindergarten and first grade. His second and third grade teachers did spend a few minutes each day with Johnny, along with a few other students, and he did make some progress. However, by the time Johnny was handed his fourth grade social studies and science textbooks, he was not at all prepared for the multi-syllabic decoding, academic vocabulary, and expository text structure of these books. Apparently, other students had reading problems, because the teacher rarely used the textbooks. Instead, she taught the “power standards” to prepare her students for the standardized tests in both subject areas. His upper elementary and middle school teachers focused on the short stories in the literature anthology and on the assigned “core novels.” The teacher read the stories out loud or had the students take turns reading in “popcorn” style. Sometimes the teachers played the CD recordings. Of course, Johnny’s teachers wisely learned to avoid calling on him to read to protect his self-esteem. Clearly, Johnny’s reading deficits continued to compound.

In middle school, Johnny was placed in an intervention class for language arts. The focus of the class was to teach grade-level language arts standards at a slower pace. Addressing individual reading problems was not the primary focus of class, although the composition of the class was loosely based upon the reading scores of last year’s standards-based test. Johnny scored “Far Below Basic” because he was able to read only parts of the passages. Undoubtedly, a few students were placed in the class because they randomly marked answers on the test. Most of the students in this intervention class did have significant reading problems. However, they did not all have the same reading problems. Some students, such as Johnny, lacked phonemic awareness and could not decode. Other students had poor comprehension or low fluency scores. Still others were English language-learners. A few students were simply placed in the class due to behavioral problems.

Visit most public schools today and you will be able to spot more than a few Johnnys. Unfortunately, the Matthew Effect (Stanovich) is alive and well in our schools today. The rich do, indeed, get richer and the Johnnys get poorer. Students who learn to read well in their primary school years tend to continue this success because they use their reading skills to learn content and vocabulary in their intermediate elementary and middle school years. Students who do not learn to read well in their primary school years fall even further behind in school and the gap between good and poor readers widens. While the statistics indicate that only one in six remedial readers ever close this gap, Johnny can be that one. With the right diagnostic tools and instructional materials, caring teachers can better the odds for their students with reading problems.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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The Ten Parts of Speech with Clear Examples

Imagine trying to use the common tools in a toolbox without knowing their respective names or functions. A master carpenter would certainly do a disservice to an apprentice by avoiding such instruction.

“Take out that silver thing; no, not that one… the other one. Figure out on your own how to use it to cut these moldings.” How inefficient. How silly. How dangerous.

True, we could probably design research studies which show no statistically significant differences in terms of the quality of a finished good produced by some trained and untrained apprentices; however, most of us would acknowledge that the process does matter in producing such a good. An ignorant apprentice who uses the wrong tools, takes too much time, or cuts herself yet achieves the same quality of finished moldings is certainly not as preferable as the trained apprentice who uses each tool correctly, works efficiently, and bleeds less. Which one would you hire to do your moldings at your house?

Similarly, we English-language arts teachers need to equip our students with the tools of effective speaking and writing. One important set of tools is the parts of speech. And yes, we need to teach the names and functions of each tool.

Knowing the parts of speech helps students not only “talk the talk,” but also “walk the walk” in terms of coherent and effective speaking and writing. Scaling the language barrier is important for students (and teachers) so that matters of grammar, usage, sentence structure, sentence variety, mood, tone, and emphasis can be discussed intelligently.

“Take a subject case pronoun out of your toolbox to substitute for the repetitive use of that proper noun.” How efficient. How transferable. How effective.

Now, it should go without saying, but an apprentice carpenter would not learn her trade by memorizing the name and function of the tools in isolation. She would also need to put her knowledge into practice under the guidance and modeling of the master carpenter. Yes, there would be mistakes: error analysis is important. However, also seeing things done correctly with guided practice will produce the intended results.

1. A common noun is a person, place, idea, or thing. It is capitalized only at the start of a sentence. It can be a single word, a group of words, or a hyphenated word.

Examples:

The girl was learning to drive

-person (girl)

next to the ocean;

-place (ocean)

It takes self-control

-idea (self-control)

to earn a driver’s license.

-thing (license)

2. A proper noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. It is always capitalized. It may be a single word, a group of words (with or without abbreviations), or a hyphenated word.

Examples:

Josh was honored

-person (Josh)

at U.S. Memorial Auditorium

-place (U.S. Memorial Auditorium)

with the Smith-Lee Award.

-thing (Smith-Lee Award)

3. A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun(s). It can be in the subject case, acting as a “do-er” of the action in the subject case, or acting as a “receiver” of the action in the object case. Pronouns can also serve as singular or plural possessives to show ownership.

Examples:

She walked to town.

-subject case (She)

I gave her a basket.

-object case (her)

It was his wallet.

-possessive (his)

4. An adjective describes a proper noun, a common noun, or a pronoun by describing how many, what kind, or which one.

Examples:

The five teammates

-How Many? (five)

took the tiring trip

-What Kind? (tiring)

to that arena across town.

-Which One? (that)

5. A verb shows a physical or mental action or it describes a state of being.

Examples:

She works long hours,

-physical action (works)

but knows that

-mental action (knows)

there is more to life than work.

-state of being (is)

6. An adverb describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb by describing how, when, where, or what degree.

Examples:

Trey walked slowly

-How? (slowly)

because he had arrived early

-When? (early)

to the place where

-Where? (where)

he knew very well.

-What Degree? (very well)

7. A preposition is a word that has a relationship with a common noun, a proper noun, or a pronoun. The preposition is always part of a phrase comes and comes before its object. The preposition asks “What?” and the object provides the answer.

Examples:

The politician voted against the law

-(against) what?…the law

through the secret ballot.

-(through) what?…the secret ballot

8. A conjunction joins words, phrases, or clauses together. There are three kinds:

-Coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases, or clauses used in the same way.

Example:

The student tries, but does not always succeed.

-(but)

-Correlative conjunctions are paired conjunctions that connect words, phrases, or clauses used in the same way.

Example:

Either you must tell the police, or I will.

-(either, or)

-Subordinating conjunctions come at the beginning of adverb clauses. These clauses restrict the meaning of the rest of the sentence.

Example:

Although he is often late, Ryan shows up to work every day.

-(Although)

9. An article determines number or identification of a noun and always precedes a noun. The “a” article signals a singular noun beginning with a consonant. The “an” article signals a plural noun beginning with a vowel.

Examples:

A lion and an elephant are considered the “kings of the jungle.”

-(a, an, the)

10. An interjection is a word or phrase that shows surprise or emotion. It is usually followed by an exclamation point.

Example:

Hey! Stop that.

-(Hey!)

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , ,

The Most Useful Punctuation and Capitalization Rules

We’ve all had a chuckle or two when students or others have misused punctuation.

Of course the famous “Let’s eat grandma” would rank close to the top. Others include “I always have enjoyed cooking my friends, neighbors, and most of all my family” or the neighborhood sign, “SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY.”

My favorite would have to be this one:

“A woman, without her man, is nothing.” Let’s revise as the following: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

Wish I knew whom to credit for this one:

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, and thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours?

Gloria

Now let’s see the difference just by moving around the punctuation:

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, and thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Gloria

Knowing how to properly punctuate and capitalize will help readers better understand what one intends. Additionally, readers judge misuse quite harshly. Following are punctuation with examples and capitalization with examples:

Punctuation/Examples

Commas 

-Use commas before or after speaker tags.

She said, “Call me at home.”

-Use commas to set apart appositives.

That man, the one with the hat, left.

-Use commas after each item in lists (except the last).

John, Jane, and Jose left early.

-Use commas after introductory words or phrases.

First of all, you should listen to me.

-Use commas between number dates and years.

It all happened on May 3, 1999.

-Use commas between geographical places.

She lived in Tampa, Florida.

-Use commas after greetings/closings in personal letters.

Dear Ralph, … Sincerely, …

-Use commas after nouns of direct address.

Kristin, leave some for your sister.

-Use commas before conjunctions to join two independent clauses.

I liked her, and she liked me.

Exclamation Points    

-Use exclamation points for surprise or strong emotions.

The decision really shocked me!

Quotation Marks

-Use quotation marks before and after direct quotations.

Sue said, “I’m going to bed.”

-Use quotation marks before and after songs, poems, document titles, book chapters, magazine articles, and short story titles.

Whenever I hear “Clementine,” it reminds me of “Leaves of Grass” and “The Gettysburg Address.”

Colons               

-Use colons after business letter greetings.

Dear Sirs:

-Use colons to introduce lists.

The following: shoes, pants, and…

-Use colons between numbers in relationship.

8:52 P.M.

Semicolons    

-Use semicolons to join independent clauses without conjunctions.

Jamal went to school; Larry met him.

Underlining     

-Underline movie, television show, book, magazine, and work of art titles.

I saw the wonderful Fiddler on the Roof last night.

Apostrophes    

-Use apostrophes for contractions.

I can’t see what they’re doing.

-Use apostrophes for singular and plural possessives.

Tom’s and the girls’ coats were red.

Parentheses

-Use parentheses to explain or define.

The hombre (man) rode off alone.

Capitalization      

-Capitalize proper nouns (a name that is given to special persons, places, or things).

Ryan visited Los Angeles to visit the Holocaust Museum.

-Capitalize holidays, dates, groups, organizations, and businesses.

Last Easter on March 24, 2002 the P.T.A. and McDonald’s helped out.

-Capitalize the first, last, and any important words in titles.

Prince Charles’s favorite book was Islands of Adventure.

-Capitalize the names of languages and peoples.

He spoke Spanish to the Indians.

-Capitalize special events and historical periods.

The New Year’s Day Parade celebrates the Year of the Dog.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , ,

The Four Myths of Grammar Instruction

In the 1980s, a multi-dimensional educational philosophy captured the minds and hearts of American educators. This philosophy developed into the whole language movement. Although widely discredited today, the philosophical rationale has many lingering effects regarding how  students are taught to read, spell, speak, and write. In a nutshell, those adhering to this philosophy found learning to be both constructive and developmental. In other words, students will learn the “parts,” i.e. discreet skills when they deem them to be relevant to their immediate needs to help in their learning of the “whole.”

For the purposes of this article, whole language “taught” that direct grammatical instruction should be avoided as it interferes with priority of meaning-making in writing. In the classroom, grammar books collected dust and grammar was relegated to the editing stage (the last stage) of the writing process. That is, if and when it received attention at all.

The grammar myths that have held over from the whole language movement are summarized, followed by their long overdue “de-bunkings.”

1. Grammar is acquired naturally; it does not need to be taught. There is certainly a strong correlation between oral language skills and written grammar skills. However, oral learning is not always an efficient teacher. In fact, it can be quite a mixed bag. For every proper modeling of the pronoun in the sentence It is I, students hear at least five models of the incorrect It is me. Grammar as it is caught must be complemented by a grammar that is taught.

2. Grammar is a meaningless collection of rules—most of which don’t work half the time. This myth may have developed from mindless “drill and kill” grammatical exercises with no application to student writing. Actually, our English grammar is remarkably flexible and consistent.

3. Grammar cannot be learned by students with some learning styles or disabilities. While it may be true that students learn language differently, at different rates, and vary in proficiency, there has been no research to show that some students cannot learn grammar.

4. English grammar cannot be learned by second language learners. Some teachers think that students who speak other languages get confused between the primary language and English grammars. The research proves otherwise. Intuitively, many of us have significantly increased our own knowledge of English grammar by taking a foreign language.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics , , , , , , ,

The Sweet Sixteen Strategies for SAT® Success

These sixteen general strategies will make a significant difference on both the SAT® and ACT® test. Practice these on school tests and with SAT® and ACT® practice questions to score more points on the exams.

1. Be familiar with directions for each type of SAT® and ACT® question. Don’t waste precious time reading the directions.

2. Don’t waste too much time on any one test problem. The test problems are all roughly worth the same amount of points. Calculate how much time you will have at the beginning of each section of test problems. Then write down the projected ending time in the test margins. Use a digital watch to gauge your testing pace.

3. Don’t rush through the test problems. These reading sections are not light reading. Be careful not to read into the test problem more than what is really there. Accuracy is more important than speed.

4. Read each question stem (not the answer choices) twice before looking at the answers. It is easy to miss a key word if you only read the test problem stem only once.

5. Read all answer choices before selecting one. The first answer may look right, but another may be better. The questions can be intentionally very tricky in this regard.

6. Review only those answers of which you were unsure when first working through the questions. Don’t change already marked answers. More often than not, your first selection was best.

7. Look for the wrong answers first, not the right one. Use the process of elimination. It is easier to make a decision among fewer choices than many. Your guessing odds are substantially bettered with each wrong answer eliminated. Cross out all eliminated answers as you go.

8. Make sure to guess. Even if you have no idea how to answer a test problem, and even though you are penalized a slight amount (one-fourth-point deduction for a five-choice question and one-third point deduction for a four-choice question), it is best to not leave the answer blank. Of course, don’t guess on math grid-in questions.

9. Remember that each group of test problems generally begins with the easiest and ends with the most difficult. Be careful… the easiest may take more time than the harder ones, especially in the math sections. Since each test problem is worth the same amount of points, it makes sense to invest your time and effort on the questions that will be both easier and quicker to answer.

10. The test is designed so that most everyone gets THE EASY THIRD, some get THE MEDIUM THIRD, and few get THE HARD THIRD questions correct. Take advantage of this design with strategic guessing. If you must guess, select a simple answer for THE EASY THIRD and a difficult answer for THE HARD THIRD. The wrong answer choices are more obvious and less tricky with THE EASY THIRD and less obvious and trickier with THE HARD THIRD.

11. If the answer choice looks too good to be true, it just may be. Watch out for the tricks of the SAT, especially in THE MEDIUM THIRD and THE HARD THIRD sections.

12. Write in your test booklet. Write your answer choices next to the test problem numbers. Cross out eliminated answer choices and circle the numbers of the test problems that you want to review before answering. Circle important words in the reading and writing sections. In the math sections, make drawings to help you figure out word problems. Add information to graphs, drawings, and diagrams as you figure.

13. In the reading and writing test problems, match negative to negative or positive to positive regarding tone or vocabulary.

14. Transfer all of your answers when finished with each test sub-section. In other words, don’t go back and forth from the test booklet to the answer sheet, marking one at a time. This strategy will save you time and help you avoid mis-marking answer choices.

15. Absolute words, such as always or never, are usually part of incorrect answer choices. Exception words, such as frequently or mostly, are usually part of correct answer choices.

16. Think positively, stay focused on the test problem at hand, avoid distractions, and keep things in perspective. Remember that you can take the exams again.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the forty lessons in Essential Study Skills (eBook) will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Often, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because they don’t try hard enough, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable.

Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, advocacy/advisory, opportunity program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

Study Skills , , , , , ,

Five Tips To Increase Silent Reading Speed and Improve Reading Comprehension

Many people do not read well because of poor silent reading habits. Correcting these poor reading practices and replacing them with good reading practices will improve both reading speed and reading comprehension. You can become a better reader by practicing these tips.

1. Improve reading posture and attitude. Reading is not a passive activity. Your body position has much to do with your level of engagement with the text. Reading in bed is wonderful for putting you to sleep, but the prone position is not conducive to engaging your mind with a textbook or article. Sit up straight in a straight-backed chair at a desk or table with good lighting and keep your feet flat on the floor. Place two hands on the reading. Not perfectly comfortable? Good! Reading is not supposed to be relaxing; it is supposed to be stimulating. Establish a purpose for your reading, and be realistic and honest with yourself. Not everything should be read with the same reading mindset. Are you reading the article just to tell yourself or others that you did so? Are you reading it to pass a test, to be able to talk at a surface level about the subject, or for in-depth understanding?

2. Improve concentration. First of all, turn of the iPod® and find a quiet room. Anything competing with full concentration reduces reading speed and reading comprehension. Consciously divest yourself from the thousand other things that you need to or would rather be doing. Good reading does not involve multi-tasking. Stop taking mental vacations during your reading. For example, never allow yourself a pause at the end of a page or chapter—read on! Minimize daydreaming by keeping personal connections to the text centered on the content. Cue yourself you quickly return to the text when your mind first begins wandering. Begin with short, uninterrupted reading sessions with 100% concentration and gradually increase the length of your sessions until you can read for, say 30 minutes. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your reading attention span will take time to improve. Take a short, pre-planned break away from your reading area after a reading session. Don’t read something else during your break.

3. Improve reading rhythm. The reading pace should be hurried, but consistent. This does not preclude the need to vary your reading speed, according to the demands of the text, or the need to re-read certain sections. But, do not read in a herky-jerky fashion. Use your dominant hand to pace your reading. Keep three fingers together and pace your reading underneath each line. Move your hand at a consistent, but hurried rate. Intentionally, but only briefly, slow down when reading comprehension decreases. Using the hand prevents re-reading or skipping lines and also improves comprehension. Shortening the stroke of the hand across the page, after practice, will also help expand peripheral vision and improve eye movement.

4. Improve eye movement. Reading research tells us that good readers have fewer eye fixations per line. When the eyes move from fixation to fixation, there is little reading comprehension. So, focus on the center of the page and use your peripheral vision to view words to the left and right when you are reading columnar text, such as newspapers, articles, etc. Focus one-third of the way into the text line, then two-thirds of the way, for book text. Again, you may need to work up to these guidelines by adding on an additional fixation point, until you can read comfortably.

5. Improve interactivity. Good silent reading comprehension is always a two-way conversation between author and reader. The text was written by a person—so personalize your reading by treating the reading as a dialogue. This mental conversation improves concentration and comprehension. Prompt yourself to converse by challenging the author with How? and Why? questions. Ask What Do You Mean? Make predictions as to where the plot (if narrative), or argument (if persuasive), or sequence (if expository) will lead. Make connections to other parts of the text or outside of the text.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , , , , ,

Four Critical Components to Successful Reading Intervention

What are the key ingredients of a successful reading intervention program? Various reading intervention models have been implemented in different educational settings to address the needs of remedial readers. Although the variables of budget, teacher expertise, staffing, room, and age of learner impact the design of a reading intervention program, the following generalizations may assist in decision-making.

1. Successful remedial programs begin with well-supported and highly-valued teachers with excellent classroom management skills, who have a passion for remedial students and are committed to diagnostically-based instruction. Teachers are assisted by instructional assistants, volunteer tutors, or parents. Administrators/counselors consider reading intervention as high priority and assist teachers with parental support, behavioral issues, and paperwork. There is school-wide support for the reading intervention program and a team approach that ignores territorialism. Students are placed and receive quality instruction according to assessed needs, not labels. Special education, English-language learner, and Title I program teachers are willing to place their students according to the same diagnostically assessed needs in the reading intervention program.

2. Class composition and placement are carefully considered. Students are placed in reading intervention classes by assessed needs, not labels such as age, special education or language status. Placement is based upon diagnostically-based reading assessments and not just standardized tests. Normed and criterion-referenced tests, as well as language placement tests, can serve as “first cut” sorting instruments, but need to be confirmed by reliable reading diagnostic assessments. Using “teachable” reading assessments will best match the assessments to the curriculum. Additionally, student and parent buy-in are critically important components. Conferences and carefully crafted contracts are necessary, though time-consuming, pre-requisites for successful remediation. Both students and parents need to see positive pay-offs, such as credits and privileges to motivate successful participation. The reading intervention program is not a dumping ground for behavioral problems. Students with behavioral challenges and reading deficits need to be placed in classes with both of these instructional needs determining placement.

3. Sufficient time needs to be allotted for remedial reading intervention. A minimum of 60 minutes per day, throughout the school year (and preferably during summer sessions) is necessary for most remedial students to make significant progress. Some students will need to be on a multi-year plan; however, significant inroads on life-long remedial readers can be achieved with effective reading intervention instruction and good student participation. Administrators and/or counselors must be willing to adjust school and individual student schedules to optimize reading intervention. The schedule and school-wide personnel must be committed to flexibility. Students will progress at different rates and class assignment needs to reflect this. Students will arrive mid-year and will need placement.

4. A research-validated curriculum with thorough assessment and progress monitoring components is essential. Curricula that are easily manipulated and can be supplemented by informed teacher judgment will serve the interests of remedial reading students. The curricula should never supplant the expertise and informed judgment of the teacher. Instructional materials should be both teacher and student-centered. The instructional strategies should be able to be quickly mastered by teachers with little advance preparation. Diagnostic and formative assessments that don’t consume valuable instructional time are essential to inform instruction and to monitor student progress. Targeted practice activities that directly address the diagnosed reading deficits and teach to mastery are needed. Short, high-interest, leveled reading passages that don’t dumb-down content, nor make remedial readers feel like juveniles, are essential to motivate these students in a successful reading intervention program.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading , , , , , ,

Top Ten Reasons to Teach Phonics

Teachers and parents often ask me if children learn to read in different ways. The short answer is, of course, they do. Some children have learned to read through explicit and systematic phonics; others have learned to read in a sight word-based “look-say” approach; some have learned to read via memorization of onsets and rimes; still others have learned to read via osmosis, i.e. they just seemed to “catch on.” However, I usually re-phrase their question as “Should children learn to read in different ways?” At that point my answer will change.

Our reading and spelling system is based upon the alphabetic code. It certainly makes sense to teach children to read how our system has been designed. If the student experiences difficulties, we have back-up strategies to reach the end-goal of literacy.

Top Ten Reasons to Teach Phonics

1. Phonics is an efficient way to teach reading.

There are only 43 common speech sounds (phonemes) in English and these are represented by about 89 common spellings. Learning the phonics code produces the biggest learning bang for the smallest instructional buck.

2. Phonics works.

The swing away from “whole language” to phonics-based instruction over the last 35 years has vastly improved reading test scores on nationally normed tests.

3. Phonics is the fastest way to learn how to read.

Reading is not a developmentally acquired skill that naturally derives over time from lots of reading (Adams, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Foorman, Francis, Novy, & Liberman 1991). Learning the code is the quickest way to learn how to read accurately and independently. Non-readers can independently read simple decodable text after minimal instruction.

4. Phonics makes students better spellers.

Because explicit phonics instruction teaches recognition, pronunciation, and blending of the sound-spelling patterns, students are better equipped to apply those same patterns to spellings.

5. Phonics requires less rote memorization.

The “Dick and Jane” reading method requires memorization of hundreds of words. Phonics makes use of prior knowledge (the sound-spelling relationships) to apply to new learning.

6. Phonics works better for students with learning disabilities.

Students with auditory and visual processing challenges learn best from the structure of explicit phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.

7. Phonics works better for English-language learners.

Phonics instruction relies on phonemic awareness and the connection of speech sounds to spellings. Phonics builds upon and adjusts that connection, rather than abandoning reading instruction already gained in the primary language.

8. Phonics works better for remedial readers.

Effective diagnostic assessments can easily determine which phonics skills have been mastered and which have not. Gap-filling simply makes sense. Remedial readers have strengths to build upon—they don’t need to start from scratch.

9. Phonics makes students smarter.

Interesting research shows that phonics-based instruction can actually change brain activity, resulting in significant improvements in reading (Flowers, 2004). Shankweiler, Lundquist, Dreyer, and Dickinson (1996) noted that differences in comprehension for upper elementary students largely reflected levels of decoding skill.

10. Phonics learning builds self-esteem and gets results.

Because progress is so measurable, students can quickly see their improvement in assessment data, and more importantly, in reading.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube , 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

“A very thorough phonics program. I believe it can also be used based on students’ ability levels. If you are looking for a supplementary resource, or a primary resource, this is the one! Thank you!” Sarah Hasbrook

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , ,

Should We Teach Phonics to Remedial Readers?

Many teachers were trained in the notion that phonics skills are best learned implicitly in the context of authentic literature. Although many students can probably learn essential decoding skills in this manner, it is also true that explicit phonics training is a more efficient method of instruction. More importantly, it has become increasingly sure in a unified body of research that a certain percentage of students do not learn to read through implicit phonics training. So, yes we should teach phonics to remedial readers.

Phonics involves pronouncing and blending the speech sounds (phonemes) when they are represented by the alphabetic symbols (spellings). Phonics instruction means to teach how to pronounce sounds and words from their spellings. There are about 43 common speech sounds (phonemes) in English and these are represented by about 89 common spellings.

Phonics is not phonemic awareness, which involves the ability to identify and manipulate the speech sounds. It is not spelling, because it does not apply the sounds to the alphabetic symbols.

Why is phonics instruction important and can remedial readers learn phonics?

Reading is not a developmentally acquired skill that naturally derives from phonics. Phonics instruction, using the most common sound-spelling relationships, is the most efficient and effective approach for many children (Adams, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Foorman, Francis, Novy, & Liberman 1991). New research shows that phonics-based instruction can actually change brain activity in adults with dyslexia, resulting in significant improvements in reading (Flowers, 2004).

Which method of phonics instruction works best?

Research-based explicit, systematic phonics instruction works quickly and efficiently to “fill in the gaps” as determined by diagnostic phonics assessments. Reliable whole-class assessments have recently been developed to enable remedial reading teachers to isolate the phonetic elements that individual students need to master. Based upon this data, teachers can form small groups to remediate each phonetic element.

What about English-language Learners?

Specific speech sounds differ among languages, making phonics and phonics acquisition more challenging for English-language Learners (ELLs). ELL research findings are consistent with primary language research findings in that both phonics and phonics instruction clearly benefit ELL reading development. Furthermore, there is no evidence that phonics and phonics instruction in English needs to be delayed until a certain level of English oral language proficiency is achieved.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,

Should We Teach Phonemic Awareness to Remedial Readers?

The question of teaching phonemic awareness to remedial readers has often been framed as a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986 as well as Yopp, 1985 concluded that phonemic awareness is a prerequisite of learning to read, while Ehri, 1979; Read, Yun-Fei, Hong-Yin, & Bao-Qing, 1986 found that phonemic awareness is a consequence of learning to read. The question is relevant, because if reading brings about phonemic awareness, then remedial reading programs should focus on listening comprehension and fluency practice rather than upon explicit phonics and phonemic awareness instruction.

What it is… Phonemic awareness is the basic understanding that spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds called phonemes. There are about 40 common phonemes in English.

What it is not…Phonemic awareness is not exactly phonological awareness (a broader term). It is not simply auditory discrimination, which differentiates between sounds. It is not phonics because it is not applied to letters.

Why don’t some students learn this skill in their early years?

Somewhere between 20 and 40% of the population does not naturally develop phonemic awareness. Current research seems to indicate that there are medical and genetic factors that contribute to this inability (Grossen, 1997).

Can remedial readers learn phonemic awareness?

If no explicit instructional strategies could be found to help students learn phonemic awareness, the implicit “teach reading first” approach would be warranted. However, an important study by Bhat, Griffin, and Sindelar (2003) found that middle school remedial readers do benefit from phonemic awareness training, although not as much as do younger learners. The implication of this important research is that if this skill can be learned through explicit instruction, then it would make sense to teach it in remedial reading instruction.

Additionally, because speech sounds differ among languages, phonemic awareness and phonics acquisition are more challenging for English-language Learners (ELLs).* However, research has shown that ELLs are able to transfer phonological awareness skills from their primary language to English, and positively benefit from phonemic awareness training (Quiroga, Lernos-Britton, Mostafapour, Abbot, and Berninger, 2002). Depending upon the primary language, many phonemes may match those in English. For example, Spanish and English share more phonemes than not.

So, should we teach phonemic awareness to remedial readers? Absolutely. The web and your bookstore have appropriate diagnostic assessments and instructional activities to teach this essential skill.

Are there reliable and valid phonemic assessments?

The author of this article has developed a set of phonemic awareness and alphabetic awareness assessments. These unique assessments are given “whole class” and the author has corresponding activities to teach to the assessment-data.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , ,

How to Use Context Clues to Improve Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary

Learning how to use context clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words is an essential reading strategy and vocabulary-builder. Identifying context clues in reading is made easier by looking for the key context clue categories within the context of an effective step-by-step strategy. So, here’s the strategy:

When you come to an unknown word, apply the steps of the FP’S BAG SALE strategy in the following order until you get a good clue about the meaning of an unknown word.

Finish the sentence.

See how the word fits into the whole sentence.

Pronounce the word out loud.

Sometimes hearing the word will give you a clue to meaning.

Syllables–Examine each word part.

Word parts can be helpful clues to meaning.

Before–Read the sentence before the unknown word.

The sentence before can hint at what the word means.

After–Read the sentence after the unknown word.

The sentence after can define, explain, or provide an example of the word.

Grammar–Determine the part of speech.

Pay attention to where the word is placed in the sentence, the ending of the word, and its grammatical relationship to other known words for clues to meaning.

The context clue categories:

Synonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of a synonym.

Synonyms appear in apposition, in which case commas, dashes, or parentheses are used.

The wardrobe, or closet, opened the door to a brand new world.

Antonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of an antonym.

Antonym clues will often use Signal Words e.g., however, not, but, in contrast

Example: He signaled a looey, not a right turn.

Logic–Your own knowledge about the content and text structure may provide clues to meaning.

Logic clues can lead to a logical guess as to the meaning of an unknown word.

Example: He petted the canine, and then made her sit up and beg for a bone.

Example–When part of a list of examples or if the unknown word itself provides an example,

either provides good clues to meaning. Example clues will often use transition words e.g., such as, for example, like

Example: Adventurous, rowdy, and crazy pioneers all found their way out West.

Download this strategy and two accompanying worksheets with answers.

Get the Context Clues Worksheets FREE Resource:

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , ,

How to Teach Sight Words

Some teachers have been led to believe that teaching sight words is antithetical to explicit systematic phonics instruction. I would argue that a reasonable approach to reading instruction would focus on phonics and supplement with sight words and rimes instruction.

Why Teach Sight Words?

Sight word instruction involves rote memorization of non-decodable high frequency words (outlaw words), word families (rimes), and common Greek, Latin, and English affixes (sight syllables). Although most of the rimes and sight syllables are decodable, their high frequency in text makes rote memorization desirable. The goal is reading automaticity.

Sight word instruction is not a substitute for explicit, systematic phoneme awareness and phonics instruction. The “Look-Say” reading method is not an efficient nor effective reading methodology.

Why is sight word instruction important?

Because older students generally have a more advanced vocabulary and bank of sight words than do younger students, it is important to draw upon these strengths to improve reading ability. It would not be wise to “start from scratch” with remedial readers. Teachers shouldn’t narrow instruction to solely remediate phonemic awareness and phonics deficits. Remedial students should quickly “fill in the gaps” as indicated by sight word diagnostic assessments through concentrated practice. The teacher should teach to these deficits concurrently with other program components.

Why don’t some students know the sight words and how does this affect their reading?

Some students have auditory processing, visual processing, or language processing problems which interfere with rote memorization of sight words. Inability to discriminate between speech sounds (phonemes) may have prevented fully developed phonemic awareness. Students may have difficulty in identifying the symbols or with the spatial arrangement of letters in words. Others may have problems connecting the alphabetic symbols to meaning.

Since phonemic awareness is a prerequisite to effective reading, students who lack this ability will have severe problems learning how to pronounce words sound by sound (decoding) and spell words (encoding). Inability to automatically process non-decodable outlaw words and non-decodable sight syllables retards reading fluency. Students spend time trying to pronounce words and syllables that are impossible to decode. Inability to rapidly recognize the analogous relationships of the rimes also retards reading fluency.

Can remedial readers with learning disabilities learn sight words?

Yes. The phonemic awareness and phonics instructional strategies will help students build on their strengths to ameliorate their relative weaknesses. A multi-sensory instructional approach will be particularly beneficial. Individual sight word study cards with large print can assist remedial reading students.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,

The Top Ten Syllable Rules

Things come and go in reading instruction. One “old school” instructional reading tool making its way back into the classroom is syllabication. As a quick lesson opener, having students clap and snap to the syllables in words selected to teach the syllabic generalizations makes plenty of sense. The “clap” is for the primary accent and the “snap” is for the unaccented syllable(s).

Knowing the Top Ten Syllable Rules can help improve reading, pronunciation, spelling, and vocabulary.

1. Every syllable has only one vowel sound. Some syllables have just one vowel; others have two. But even when there are two vowels, there can be only one vowel sound in each syllable, so the two vowels say one sound.

For example, out-side.

2. When the vowel’s at the end of a syllable, it has a long sound. Reading specialists call the Consonant-Vowel (CV) pattern an open syllable.

For example, be-low.

3. When the vowel is not at the end of a syllable, it has a short sound. Reading specialists call the Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) pattern a closed syllable.

For example, bas-ket.

4. Divide syllables between doubled consonants, unless the doubled consonant is part of a syllable that is a base word.

For example, din-ner and tell-er.

5. Usually keep vowel teams together in the same syllable.

For example, boat-ing.

6. Keep the silent final “e” and the vowel before in the same syllable. The silent final “e” makes the vowel before a long sound if there is only one consonant in between the vowel and the “e”.

For example, basement.

7. Keep the r-controlled vowels (ar, er, ir, or, and ur) in the same syllable.

For example, or-al-ly.

8. Keep the consonant-“le” sounds (ble, cle, dle, fle, gle, and ple) in the same syllable. These syllables have the schwa sound between the consonant and the “le”. The schwa sound sounds like a nasal short u.

For example, cra-dle.

9. All words have one syllable that has a primary accent. The vowel in the accented syllable receives the stress. Words may also have secondary accents. The primary accent is usually found on the vowel in the root, not the prefix or suffix. Also, the syllable before a double consonant is usually accented.

For example, slów-ly and swím-ming.

10. Unaccented vowel sounds frequently have the schwa sound, especially when there is only one letter in the syllable. All vowels can have the schwa sound.

For example, a-boút.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,

How to Improve Reading Comprehension Using the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies

Readers fail to understand text because they lack cueing strategies to prompt effective interaction with what the text says. Reading research is clear that readers who internally monitor their own reading with self-questioning strategies understand and retain textual information far better than readers who simply passively read text. These cueing strategies to increase reading comprehension are more efficiently “taught,” rather than just “caught.”

The five SCRIP reading comprehension strategies teach readers how to independently interact with and understand both narrative and expository text to improve reading comprehension. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here are the SCRIP Bookmarks for you to download.

Take the time to explicitly teach and model the five strategies. Emphasize one strategy at a time on a given text. Use both narrative and expository texts to demonstrate how the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies can be applied to any reading. Have students practice verbalizing and writing down the SCRIP strategy responses. Post a SCRIP chart and use the SCRIP bookmarks for student reference.

Summarize means to put together the main ideas and important details of a reading into a short-version of what the author has said. A summary can be of an entire reading, but it is more useful to summarize more than once at key transition points in the author’s train of thought. It frequently requires the reader to skim that part of the reading once more. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Summarize Comprehension Strategy, using The Boy Who Cried Wolf fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should summarize sections of the reading as they read to monitor and build comprehension.

Connect means to notice the relationship between one part of the text with another part of the text. The parts may compare (be similar) or contrast (be different). The parts may be a sequence (an order) of events or ideas. The parts may respond to other parts of the text, such as to provide reasons for or effects of what came before in the reading. Next, Connect also means to examine the relationship between one part of the text with something outside of the text. It could be something from another book, movie, television show, or historical event. Finally, Connect also means to see the relationship between one part of the text with your own personal experience. You may have had a similar experience in your own life to that described in the text. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Connect Comprehension Strategy, using Hansel and Gretel fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should connect sections of the reading within or outside of the text as they read to monitor and build comprehension.

Re-think means to re-read the text when you are confused or have lost the author’s train of thought. Reviewing what has just been read will improve understanding. You may even understand what the author has said in a different way than how you understood that section the first time reading it. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Re-think Comprehension Strategy, using Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should re-think sections of the reading as they read to monitor and build comprehension.

Interpret means to focus on what the author means. Authors may directly say what they mean right in the lines of the text. They also may suggest what they mean with hints to allow readers to draw their own conclusions. These hints can be found in the tone (feeling/attitude) of the writing, the word choice, or in other parts of the writing that may be more directly stated. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Interpret Comprehension Strategy, using Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should re-think sections of the reading as they read to monitor and build comprehension.

Predict means to make an educated guess about what will happen or be said next in the text. A good prediction uses the clues presented in the reading to make a logical guess that makes sense. Good readers check their predictions with what actually happens or is said next. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Predict Comprehension Strategy, using The Three Little Pigs fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should predict sections of the reading and check the accuracy of their predictions as they read to monitor and build comprehension.

Using the SCRIP reading comprehension strategies will make a difference in the reading abilities of your students. Here’s a great set of SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks to print for your students to help them self-cue as they read and discuss text.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games. Also check out the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , , ,

How to Use Think-Alouds to Teach Reading Comprehension

Teaching students to carry on an internal dialogue with the author and text as they read is vitally important. “Talking to the text” significantly increases reader comprehension and promotes retention as well. However, this is not a skill acquired by osmosis. It requires effective modeling using the Think-Aloud strategy.

Good readers are adept at practicing many metacognitive strategies. That’s a big word that means “thinking about thinking.” Research shows that 50% of reading comprehension is based on what the reader brings to the text by way of prior knowledge and internal dialogue. Students who practice the self-monitoring strategies modeled by teachers using Think-Alouds have better reading comprehension than those who do not.

Here’s how to set-up an effective Think-Aloud with your students:

1. Select a short reading with a beginning, middle, and an end.

2. Tell students that they are about to enter a strange new world, that is the world of your thoughts as a reader. Tell them that your thoughts will not be the same thoughts as theirs.

3. Tell them that reading is not just pronouncing words; it is making meaning out of what the author has written. Tell them that they can improve their reading comprehension.

4. Begin reading the text for a few lines and then alter your voice (raise the pitch, lower the volume, or use an accent) to model what you are thinking. Stop and explain what the voice altering meant and keep this voice altering consistent throughout the Think-Aloud.

5. Keep your thoughts concise and on the focus of the reading. Don’t ramble on with personal anecdotes. Comment much more on the text than on your personal connection with the text.

6. Don’t over-do the amount of your Think-Aloud thoughts. Once every paragraph or two is about right. Don’t interrupt the flow of the reading and lose sight of the textual meaning.

7. Talk to the text and to the author.

8. Ask students if they think they understood the text better because of your verbalized thoughts than just by passively reading without active thoughts. Their answer will be “Yes,” if you have done an effective Think-Aloud.

9. Have students practice their own Think-Alouds in pairs.

10. Repeat Think-Alouds often with both narrative and expository texts.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading , , , , , ,

The Top Ten Inference Tips

Often, an author intentionally leaves parts of the text unclear. This is done to allow the reader to construct meaning as the reader discovers clues in the plot of a story or in the line of argument in an article or essay. At other times, the author suggests (implies) the meaning without directly stating it. In these cases, the author expects the reader to guess or draw conclusions (infer) the meaning from other textual clues. In poetry, the poet uses poetic devices, such as metaphors, to compare unlike objects and require the reader to make those connections. Some authors use allegories, such as C.S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia series.

Why don’t authors just come out and say what they mean? They have their reasons. A good deal of learning involves the process of how something is learned. When the reader discovers the meaning of the text, the reader understands and appreciates the text and ideas much more than if the meaning is spoon-fed. For example, we all enjoy a good mystery best when the clues of the text interact with our prior knowledge to help us guess “Who done it.” This is the essence of how to inference. Inferencing involves interpreting, making connections, and drawing conclusions.

Although good detective work in searching for textual clues and prior experience  both help readers inference, teachers can also help students become more adept at the process by teaching reading schema. Reading schema involves knowing how a story, essay, poem, or article are structured, the characteristics of each genre, and the writing style and interests of a particular author. For example, knowing that Arthur Conan Doyle likes to use Dr. Watson as Holmes’ foil, knowing that mysteries set up the obvious suspects but use twists and obfuscation to intentionally throw the reader off track, and knowing a bit about British dry wit will help the reader better inference throughout any Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Additionally, having some familiarity with and practice in applying the common categories of thought that authors use to develop their clues can provide an organizational schema to improve inference accuracy and efficiency. Here are ten such common inference categories (with examples) that are frequently used to help readers to inference.

Here are ten inference categories (with examples) that are frequently used to help readers to discover meaning on their own. Re-read the section before and after the unclear section with these categories in mind. Select the category that best fits to help you interpret difficult reading text.

The Top Ten Inference Tips

1. Location: While we roared down the tracks, we could feel the bounce and sway.

What Can Be Inferred? They are riding a train.

2. Agent (Occupation or Hobby): With clippers in one hand and scissors in the other, Chris was ready to begin the task.

What Can Be Inferred? He was giving a haircut.

3. Time: When the porch light burned out, the darkness was total.

What Can Be Inferred? It is late at night.

4. Action: Carol dribbled down the court and then passed the ball to Ann.

What Can Be Inferred? They are playing basketball.

5. Instrument (tool or device): With a steady hand, she put the buzzing device on the tooth.

What Can Be Inferred? The dentist is drilling out a cavity.

6. Cause and Effect: In the morning, we noticed that the trees were uprooted and homes were missing their roof shingles.

What Can Be Inferred? There had been a tornado or hurricane.

7. Object: The broad wings were swept back into a “V” and the two powerful engines roared to life.

What Can Be Inferred? A jet plane is preparing to take off.

8. Groups (kinds or types): The Toyota and Honda were in the garage and the Chevy was out in the front.

What Can Be Inferred? These are all automobiles.

9. Problem-Solution: The side of his face was swollen and his tooth was loose.

What Can Be Inferred? He got hit in the face.

1o. Feeling-Attitude: While I marched past, in the middle school band, my Dad’s eyes were filled with tears.

What Can Be Inferred? The child’s father was proud of his or her involvement in the band.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading , , , , ,

How to Read Textbooks with PQ RAR

Many of us remember the old stand-by: the SQ3R reading-study method. Designed to improve reading comprehension of textbooks, the SQ3R method did help the reader to read expository text differently than narrative text. However, this method sorely needs an update to connect with recent reading research regarding what techniques best improve comprehension and retention of expository-based textbooks.

Try the PQ RAR reading-study method as you read or teach your next textbook chapter.

P-First of all, preview the reading selection. Try to limit the reading selection to a manageable size. Overly long chapters, say over six pages for elementary students, eight for middle school students, twelve for high school students, and sixteen for college students should be “chunked” into manageable reading sections.

1. Preview the first and last paragraphs of the chapter and the chapter review, if one is provided.

2. Preview all subtitles and any book study helps at the beginning of the chapter.

3. Preview all graphics such as photographs, charts, maps, etc. and their captions.

QSecondly, make use of text-based questions to read textbooks effectively.  Good questions produce good answers and significantly increase expository comprehension. Determining questions before reading provides a purpose for reading, that is-to find the answers as you read.

1. Develop questions from the subtitles and write these down on binder paper or on your computer, skipping lines between each question. Try “What,” “How,” and “Why” question-starters. Avoid the “Who” and “When” questions, as these tend to focus attention on the minor details of expository text.

2. Write down any chapter review questions not covered by your subtitle questions, skipping lines between each question.

RRead the chapter and “talk to the text” by taking notes in the textbook margins. Use yellow stickies and paste them in the textbook margins, if you can’t write in the textbook. Write down comments, questions, predictions, and connections to other parts of the reading and your own life experiences. List examples, key details, and important terms with their definitions. Internal monitoring of the author’s train of thought and the connection to your own knowledge and experience increases comprehension as you read textbooks.

AAnswer both the subtitle questions and the book questions as you read. Write down your answers underneath your questions. Don’t be concerned if the textbook did not answer some of your reader-generated questions.

RReview the questions and answers within the next 24 hours to minimize the effects of the “forgetting cycle.” Generate possible test questions and develop memory tricks for key concepts and details.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

 

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , ,

How to Teach the Alphabet

The old “Alphabet Song” has proved to be a remarkable tool to assist learning the pronunciation and sequence of the English alphabet. The melody, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, has certainly stood the test of time. As the classic introduction to phonemic awareness, most beginning readers usually “catch on” to the concept that distinct sounds correspond to graphic representations known as letters. However, a small percentage of chidren does not grasp this relationship and so the children develop a shaky foundation for the alphabetic system. This poor foundation of “shaky sand” frequently washes away when the teacher attaches sounds to these alphabetic symbols.

Additionally, the alphabetic system can present problems for many English language-learners. Many of these students may have been very good readers in their primary languages. However, their written language may not have been based on the alphabetic system. For example, the Chinese connect vocabulary to symbols in a logographic system of writing, while Ethiopians use symbols for syllables. Thus, the alphabetic code may be quite different from the way some of your students began reading and writing.

With the following instructional adjustments, those who have never fully understood and those who have never learned the sound-letter connection will grasp this concept. First, do teach the “Alphabet Song.” For middle school and high school students, use a less melodic rap tone, but still hit the key notes of the Mozart melody to access prior knowledge and improve memorization. The rap version will be perceived as less juvenile and will meet with less resistance from these learners. Always point to the lower-case alphabetic letters as you lead the singing or rapping. An overhead transparency of the lower case alphabet game cards or the sound-spelling cards, arranged alphabetically, will work nicely.

One fault of the traditional “Alphabet Song” has been the common practice of slurring together the letter sounds in legato style. Because mastery of distinct letter names and letter sequence are the instructional goals, make sure to enunciate each letter and provide space between each letter as you lead the singing or rapping. Additionally, reading specialists recommend avoiding the “l-m-n-o-p” slurring syndrome by reassigning some of the letters to different parts of the melody. To demonstrate, the “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” song, which uses the same Mozart melody, has also been revised alongside the “New Alphabet Song.”

“Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” / “New Alphabet Song”

Download “The New Alphabet Song”

Twinkle twinkle, little star,

a b c d e f g

How I wonder what you are.

h i j k l m n

Up above

o p q

Earth so high,

r s t

shining bright

u v w

in the sky.

x y z

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,

How to Skim for Main Ideas

Skimming is a speed reading strategy used as either a pre-reading technique to familiarize yourself with expository reading text before you read in depth or as an end in itself to quickly comprehend the essentials of a reading passage.

As a pre-reading technique, skimming helps to connect the text with any prior knowledge of the reader. Skimming also helps the reader to access the story schema so as to provide a referential context for the reading. In other words, skimming helps the reader to learn in advance what the gist of the reading passage is, while reminding the reader of any background information and knowledge of how the writing is organized that will assist the reader in understanding the text. Used as a pre-reading technique, skimming helps prepare the reader for scanning (reading at 50% comprehension) or further in-depth reading.

As an end in itself, skimming is a very practical and useful skill. As a speed reading technique, it saves time and allows the reader to get the flavor of a reading passage without all of the details. Skimming also permits broader reading, if time is a factor. For example, a reader can certainly skim many articles in the daily newspaper in the time that it might take to fully read a few. Many books can be skimmed for enjoyment or information now and then read later at a more leisurely rate.

To skim, readers should first search for the expository text clues and signposts for key ideas of the reading passage. Textbooks usually provide important study helps that can build comprehension. The unit and chapter titles give information as to the overall focus of the reading passage. Many times, key chapter ideas are listed in bulleted form or as key questions.In social studies texts, timelines are often helpful.

Next, read the first paragraph of the text. The first paragraph  frequently provide an introduction of the chapter main ideas.

Then, read the subtitles and bold print of key terms throughout the reading selection. These act as newspaper headlines to tell the “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” and “Why” of the reading. Graphics, such as pictures, photographs, charts and drawings are particularly important to examine. Indeed, “a picture can be worth a thousand words.”

Finally, read the concluding paragraph(s) or summary. This paragraph(s) will emphasize the key concepts.

Use these expository text clues or signposts for effective skimming. This speed reading technique is well worth practicing to perfection.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Scan for Main Ideas

Scanning is an important speed reading technique that all good readers should have in their reading repertoire and works with all modes of writing. Scanning is used to locate specific information for a clearly defined purpose. For example, if a reader needs to know the performance of a particular baseball player in the World Series, it is not necessary to read an entire book on that World Series to find out everything that the one player did in that series. The reader could simply look for the player’s name and read the surrounding sentences or paragraphs that pertain to that player.

Although this sounds like “common sense,” it is actually a learned reading skill. Effective teaching can significantly improve scanning accuracy. Print awareness, knowledge of expository structure, and directed eye movement are the keys to this instruction.

First, readers need to select the key word(s) and possible synonyms to search before they begin to scan. Next, readers must carefully examine what these search items look like. Are they long or short words? Is there a capital? Are there quotation marks or hyphens? Are there noticeable prefixes or suffixes? Readers should then impress the key word(s) into their memories by tracing the letters with their fingers or writing them down. After this, readers should close their eyes and visualize the word(s).

Second, readers should examine the mode of writing and adjust their key word(s) search according to the particular organization of that writing mode. Is it narrative? If so, the organization of the reading passage will normally be chronological and will follow story schema. Chapter titles can also be useful. Is it expository? If so, the organization of the reading passage might be by concept, comparison, cause-effect, or order of importance. The graphics of the text such as subtitles, charts and pictures can narrow the search. Book study helps, including the index, study questions, and the summary, can help pinpoint where information is developed.

Third, readers should run their index finger down the center of each page, using their peripheral vision to search for key word(s) on the left and right sides of each page. How comprehensive the search must be will determine how fast the finger moves. Readers should read the sentence in which the key word(s) appears.

The quality and effectiveness of scanning can be improved with the appropriate use of this speed reading strategy and a good amount of practice. Combined with skimming, scanning can reduce a heavy reading load and still help the reader achieve about 50% reading comprehension.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Take Notes

Taking effective notes can certainly improve comprehension of the information presented in class or found in textbooks. Note-taking can also help organize for test study. However, many students have never learned how to take notes effectively. Indeed, many teachers seem to think that note-taking is a skill learned only by osmosis, and not by direct instruction. A few effective note-taking strategies will help remedy this misconception and enable teachers to teach how to take notes to their students.

Notes are summaries of the main ideas and key details that the teacher wants you to understand and remember. Effective note-taking organizes these summaries so that they can easily be reviewed and practiced. Here are a few key ingredients to effective note-taking:

1. Listen to or read the complete thought. Don’t write something down until you understand it.

2. Learn the signals that your teacher and textbook use to stress main ideas and key details. Some of these signals may be the following:

  • repeating key points
  • raising the voice to emphasize key points
  • spelling key terms
  • speaking slowly
  • writing key points down
  • using phrases such as “key to” “most importantly” “main idea” “in conclusion”
  • using transition words such as “first” “next” “finally”

3. Don’t write down everything that the teacher or textbook says. Be selective. If you already know it, don’t write it down.

4. Use your own “shorthand” symbols and abbreviations. Think text messaging!

5. Ask questions about main ideas and key details that you don’t understand.

6. Use a note-taking organizational pattern that fits with the information being presented. A one-size-fits-all note-taking format is not the best approach. Use different formats for different organizational patterns and purposes.

Note-taking Formats

All note-taking formats order information summaries into main ideas, major details, and support details. Each format has advantages and disadvantages depending upon its application and organizational pattern. It is important to know how to use all three of the formats and when each is appropriate. The three most common note-taking formats include formal outline, webbing, and Cornell notes.

Formal Outline notes use Roman numerals for main ideas, capital letters for major details, Arabic numerals (1,2,3) for minor details, and even lower case letters for examples. This style of note-taking is well-organized for test study and works well with linear organizational patterns such as chronological, cause-effect, and reasons-for presentations. This style does not fit spatial organizational patterns such as comparison-contrast, relational hierarchies, or recursive (cyclical) patterns.

Webbing is a note-taking style that uses labeled geometric shapes to show relationships between main ideas, major details, and minor details. Usually, the main idea begins the webbing process as a geometric shape in the middle of the notepaper and webs off into different directions for different ideas. Different ideas in outlying webs can be connected to other webs to show relationships. This style of note-taking is not conducive to study because it is messy. However, it does show spatial relationships such as comparison-contrast, relational hierarchies, or recursive (cyclical) patterns that the Formal Outline method can not. Webbing is a wonderful form of brainstorming for essays and narratives.

Cornell Notes is a linear note-taking style that avoids some of the hierarchical organization of the Formal Outline method. It does not use the symbols, but relies on categorization to organize main ideas and supporting details. The notepaper is divided into two columns. The left side serves to list main ideas or ask questions. The right side provides the support details or answers to the questions posed. At the bottom of the notepaper is a horizontal row reserved for personal comments, questions, and analysis.

For more practical teaching strategy tips and free teaching resources, please visit penningtonpublishing.com.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

Reading, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , ,

Characteristics of Pre-Teen Learners

Pre-teen learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. Teachers and parents can significantly enhance the learning of students this age by understanding the cognitive and social characteristics of pre-teen learners. Using the right instructional strategies to maximize the learning advantages and address the learning challenges of pre-teen learners can make all the difference in their success.

Pre-Teen Cognitive Development

By ages 9, 10, and 11, most students are able to analytically process information and think for themselves. Piaget classified students of these ages as being in the “concrete operational stage.” Thinking in concrete terms, these students have difficulty with abstract concepts. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Willing to try new things
  2. Curious and willing to explore new ideas
  3. Want immediate gratification
  4. Desire recognition and praise for achievement
  5. Like hands-on learn-by-doing activities
  6. Perform well with many brief learning experiences
  7. Have quickly changing interests

Pre-Teen Social Development

At these ages, most students are rapidly developing a social awareness and are exploring how they fit into relationships. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Prefer interacting with members of own sex
  2. Feel comfortable in a structured learning environment
  3. Seek role models in older children or in media idols
  4. Demand a system of fairness in the home, in games, and in the classroom
  5. Want to be liked by friends
  6. Desire increasing independence–but want and need adult help

Pre-Teen Instructional Strategies

Although less concerned than older students about the labeling that takes place, when a pre-teen is identified as a remedial reader, the teacher still needs to be mindful of student self-perceptions and those of their peers. A few talking points to address with these young learners may prove helpful:

  • “All students need help in some areas.”
  • “Some students are good at ___________, while others are good at ___________.”
  • “This class is not for dumb kids; it’s for kids who just missed out on some reading skills.”
  • “You aren’t in this class forever. As soon as you master your missing skills, you are out.”
  • “You will learn in this class. I promise.”

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.TRS

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , , , , ,

Characteristics of Middle School Learners

Middle school learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. Teachers and parents can significantly enhance the learning of students this age by understanding the cognitive and social characteristics of middle school learners. Using the right instructional strategies to maximize the learning advantages and address the learning challenges of middle school learners can make all the difference in their success.

Middle School Cognitive Development

By ages 12, 13, and 14, most students have begun developing the ability to understand symbolic ideas and abstract concepts. According to Piaget’s classifications, students will range in development from the concrete operational stage of development to the ability to the formal operational stage. In fact, studies show that brain growth slows down during these years, so cognitive skills of learners may expand at a slower rate; however, refinement of these skills can certainly be reinforced. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Curious and willing to learn things they consider useful
  2. Enjoy solving “real-life” problems
  3. Focused on themselves and how they are perceived by their peers
  4. Resists adult authority and asserts independence
  5. Beginning to think critically

Middle School Social Development

Most middle schoolers experience conflicting values due to their changing roles within their family structure and the increasing influence of peers. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Need to feel part of a peer group, consisting of boys and girls, and are influenced by peer pressure and conformity to their group
  2. Prefer active over passive learning activities that involve working with their peers
  3. Need frequent physical activity and movement
  4. Need adult support, guidance, and calm direction

Middle School Instructional Strategies

Middle school students are very concerned about the labeling that takes place, when one is identified as a remedial reader. Labels and stereotypes are both externally imposed (by other students and, sometimes their parents) and internally imposed (by the students themselves). Lack of reading ability causes more self-defeating damage to students’ self-esteem as students grow older and the academic gap between themselves and good readers widens. Middle school teachers need to be extremely mindful of student self-perceptions and those of their peers. A few talking points to address with middle schoolers may prove helpful:

  • “All students need help in some areas.”
  • “This class is not for dumb students; it’s for students who just missed out on some reading skills.”
  • “Unfortunately, some of your past reading instruction was poor; it’s not your fault that you have some skills to work on.” a.k.a. “blame someone else”
  • “You will learn in this class. If you come to class willing to try everyday, you will significantly improve your reading, I promise.”
  • “You will be able to chart your own progress and see what you are learning in this class.”
  • “You aren’t in this class forever. As soon as you master your missing skills, you are out.”

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.TRS

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten Memory Tips

Memorization is a powerful learning aid. Despite our focus on higher order thinking skills, much of important learning is simply rote memorization. Foundational skills and content are important to build upon, but lack of long-term memory can provide a shaky foundation. As in much in life, practice makes perfect; however, effective and efficient practice certainly makes even more sense.

Not everyone has a photographic memory. However, everyone can improve his or her memory by using these tips gained from years of memory research.

1. People start forgetting immediately after learning. Tip: Practice what you’ve learned within the first 24 hours, before the forgetting cycle begins to take hold.

2. People remember events or information learned recently better than events or information learned long ago. Tip: Study what you need to remember right before you need to retrieve the memory.

3. People remember information best when that information is organized in a structured manner. Tip: Organize what you want to memorize into distinctly memorable patterns.

4. Different memory techniques are more useful for different items of information. Tip: Be flexible in practicing memorization techniques—not every technique works with every subject to be memorized.

5. People remember information spoken out loud, written down, or connected to visual imagery. Tip: Practice these!

6. People remember events and information that are made exciting, interesting, or even embarrassing. Tip: Personalize what you are trying to remember to keep things more memorable.

7. The better the information is originally learned, the greater degree will the information be retained. Tip: Make every attempt to learn things right the first time.

8. Key words prompt recall of larger amounts of information. Substituting concrete nouns that are similar to key words are effective in prompting memory. Tip: A good key word unlocks memories. Use concrete words or substitute visual objects for abstract ones.

9. Frequent recitation improves retention. Tip: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Practice. Practice. Practice. Then repeat.

10. Short study periods and small amounts of information divided by periods of rest produces better retention than cramming. Tip: Practice memorization a bit each day.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

Study Skills , , , , ,

Five Objective Test Tips

Answering objective test problems isn’t simply a matter of knowing the answers. Although knowing the answers certainly does help! Establishing an approach to answering objective test problems will help the test-taker best problem-solve and access information reviewed during test study. Having such an approach to every test problem will reduce test anxiety and will also assist in effective time management while completing the exam.

Here is the best approach to answering objective test problems:

1. Read each question or test problem twice before looking at the answers. However, only re-read the question stem, not the answer choices. The question stem is bolded or separated from the answer responses in a multiple-choice or matching section. It is easy to miss a key word if you only read the question or test problem just once.

2. Be alert for certain key words in the test problem and circle these, if permitted. Key words include “absolute words” such as the following:

-not, never, always, completely

and “exception words” such as the following:

-frequently, sometimes, mostly, often, almost, may, can.

3. Try to predict the correct answer before you look at the choices offered. This will provide a mind-set for evaluating the answer choices before you begin to answer. This process also helps to unlock your prior knowledge about the subject gained from test study and life experience.

4. Read all answer choices before selecting an answer. Test-takers frequently say that this strategy helps eliminate rushing though a test and answering impulsively. If failing to read all of the answer choices is a compulsive problem, try reading the answer choices in reverse. Reading bottom to top does not take any more time.

5. Look for the wrong answers first, not the right ones. Using the process of elimination will help you narrow down the answer choices. Your guessing odds are much better with each wrong answer eliminated. Also, it is easier to make a decision between fewer choices than many. After all, isn’t it easier to choose among three ice-cream flavors rather than among thirty-one flavors? Finally, make sure to guess, if not sure of your answer choice.

Check out these five FREE test prep resources from the author’s Essential Study Skills curriculum:

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

 

Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Take Tests

Taking tests can be very stressful experiences. The key to reducing stress and ensuring test success is to develop and follow a test-taking plan. Following a well-designed plan will relax the test-taker, manage time appropriately, and maximize the overall test score.

Let’s walk through how to make that test plan. When your teacher passes out the test, first write down your full name and any additional information required by the teacher. Do not postpone these tasks until later when time constraints may make you forget. Then, take a deep breath and slowly exhale while you practice a little positive “self-talk.” Remind yourself that you have prepared for the exam as much as was possible and that you are excited about the challenge of showing off your knowledge and test study.

Then, skim though the entire test. Read each set of directions, noting what kinds of questions are asked and where. Note how many points can be earned for each section. Divide up the amount of time that you have been allotted for the whole test among the different test sections, based upon how many points each section is worth. For example, don’t spend half of your valuable test-taking time on an essay, if the essay is worth only ten percent of the total points. Write down these allocated time amounts next to the directions for each section in the margins and use these to pace yourself on the test.

Next, write down any memory tricks or essay pre-writes developed from test study in the margins or on scratch paper, if the teacher permits. Get all of the memorized information down on paper in concise form before you begin the test. This will free up your mind to focus on each test problem without thinking about what needs to remembered later on the test.

Decide the order in which you want to complete the test. Usually, it is better to begin an essay after completing the rest of the test. Start with the test sections that will produce the most amount of points. Save the sections that produce fewer points until later.

Test study certainly is vitally important to achieve good test results. However, developing a test plan once the test is passed out is a frequently over-looked component of test success. After all, the best laid plans produce the best results.

Check out these five FREE test prep resources from the author’s Essential Study Skills curriculum:

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

Study Skills , , , , , , , , ,