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Archive for August, 2009

Why Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) Doesn’t Work

Most teachers are familiar with Daily Oral Language, abbreviated as D.O.L. or under the guise of similar acronyms. Teachers like the canned program because it requires no teacher preparation, it provides “bell ringer” busy work so teachers can take attendance, and it seemingly “covers” the subjects of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. D.O.L. is probably the most popular  instructional technique used to teach grammar. The second most often used technique would be the “teach no grammar-nor-mechanics technique” as is frequently employed by writing process purists who save this “instruction” until the last step of a process piece, if they ever get to it at all. However, the subject of this blog is the former technique, and why D.O.L. does not work.

1. D.O.L. is proofreading, not sentence construction. As such, D.O.L. is error-correction, not meaning-making. Jeff Anderson, author of Everyday Editing, calls such activities “error-filled fix-a-thons.”

2. D.O.L. has no scope and sequence. It is random, repetitive, and hodgepodge. Many D.O.L. programs claim to offer grade level editions. Who determined that parentheses are at third grade instructional level and semi-colons are at the fourth grade instructional level? Check out the author’s Common Core aligned grammar and mechanics scope and sequence for one that does makes sense.

3. D.O.L. is implicit, part to whole instruction, divorced from any meaningful writing context. Correction is not teaching, and no D.O.L. program that I know of has effective teacher prompts to teach the grammatical concepts.

4. D.O.L. aims to teach writing without writing. Would a seamstress teach sewing by having her students spend all their time analyzing stitching errors? No. To sew, you have to practice sewing. To write, you have to practice writing.

5. D.O.L. involves little critical thinking. Writing involves decision-making about why and how sentences should be constructed for different rhetorical purposes. “Grammar is something to be explored, not just edited (Jeff Anderson).”

6. D.O.L. is not diagnostic. D.O.L. has too much repetition of what students already know, and not enough practice in what students do not know. Teachers need to use diagnostic assessments to determine individual student strengths and weaknesses in grammar and mechanics and then use instructional materials to effectively differentiate instruction.

7. D.O.L. rehearses errors and imprints them in the long term memories of students. The more visual and auditory imprints of errors, the more they will be repeated in future student writing.

8. D.O.L. correction does not transfer to student writing. Students fed a steady diet of D.O.L. throughout elementary, middle, and high school repeat the same old comma errors in the university setting. D.O.L. simply does not teach “deep learning.”

9. D.O.L. is bad test prep. Although teachers often advocate use of D.O.L. for this purpose, the multiple choice format of standardized tests is dissimilar. Tests generally ask “which is right?” not “which is wrong?” Check out the PAARC and SBAC tests for more.

10. D.O.L. uses bad writing models to teach good writing. It teaches what is wrong, not what is right. Although some error analysis can certainly be beneficial, at least as much time should be spent analyzing what makes good writing so good. Good “mentor texts” (Jeff Anderson) from both professional authors and student authors can teach what students should aspire to and emulate.

11. D.O.L. teaches from ignorance. “If they don’t become familiar with the concepts they are asked to edit for BEFORE they are asked to edit, of course they won’t do it well. How could they? How can you tell if something like a mark is missing if you don’t know where it is supposed to be in the first place?” and “But do we start history class with all the wrong dates and names on the board and ask kids to fix them? What about learning the concepts first (Jeff Anderson)?” Students cannot show what they do not know.

12. D.O.L. doesn’t teach the whys and hows of grammar and mechanics. Math teachers do not just teach the process of long division; they also teach the concepts behind the process, using examples, manipulatives, etc. to provide the “deep thinking” that students need. Students need to know why commas set apart appositives, for example. Students need to know how position of word choice affects meaning, for example.

13. D.O.L. isolates writing instruction from student writing. Students are invested in their own writing, not in that of pre-packaged print shown on the LCD projector, or SMART board®. Relevance and personal connection motivates student buy-in. “If the students care about their writing, are writing for a specific audience, and understand that “the importance of editing (and spelling conventionally) is to make their message clear and easy to read for their audience – or reader, they take this job seriously and work hard at making their writing clear (Regie Routman).”

14. D.O.L. does not provide enough practice. One isolated error correction does not teach to mastery. Good teaching involves instruction and immediate guided practice, followed by independent practice with teacher feedback. D.O.L. is throw-it-all-against-the-wall-and-hope-some-of-it-sticks instruction, not the targeted practice that students need to learn and retain the grammatical and mechanical concepts.

15. D.O.L. is boring. Ask students. They almost universally characterize D.O.L. as “repetitive, irrelevant, unhelpful, and a waste of time.”

16. D.O.L. has little research base to indicate that it works. Why use what does not work, when workable, effective alternatives are available for effective instruction in grammar and mechanics?

Here is the most effective alternative…

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 lessons.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.

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

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

Independent Reading: The Meeting of the Minds

Years ago, Steve Allen hosted and moderated a terrific television show titled Meeting of Minds. Steve resurrected some of the greatest thinkers from different eras to discuss a wide range of ideas and issues. I thought I’d use this format to respond to recent posts on the subject of independent reading in the classroom. I’m sure I’ve managed to set up a few straw men, but here goes…

Steve: The subject of independent reading in the classroom certainly provokes passionate advocates, as well as assorted debunkers.

Plato: Yes, we can’t really see the subject as it is, but we can see it as a reflection of educators’ presuppositions regarding the purpose of education.

Yoda: Right you are. Many are they who assume that teachers should be inculcators of knowledge and skills. Others are they who assume that teachers should be provokers of unfettered thought.

Kerouac: It’s time to get out of your cave and off your planet. It’s the how, not the why that’s important.

Steve: Okay, Jack. Let’s discuss the how. Some teachers assign novels for independent reading; others insist upon free choice of reading materials. Some teachers assign written response and/or assign grades; others do not.

Sartre: Yes, only in the act of freely choosing is one’s humanness truly affirmed. Any procedure designed to produce accountability, such as response journals or grades are counterproductive and coercive.

Tom Cruise: Scientology is the answer.

Plato: Um, okay… We are talking about empty vessels here. Students do not know what they do not know. It is the teacher’s job to manipulate what and how students should read. For example, The Republic stimulates the mind far better than that trashy Twilight or that manga pulp. Most of our students are not philosopher-kings. They will simply stare at pages and live within their dreams, if the teacher does not demand accountability and guide them in their choices.

Dr. Phil: Accountability in class takes time away from exploration. If independent reading is the purpose, what better method is there than free-choice reading itself?

Yoda: Balance is the answer. Of the force, two sides there are. Freedom and responsibility students must learn. Happy and motivated must they be.

Kerouac: It’s the have-to that turns students off to reading. If teachers were really being consistent in their educational philosophies, they would let students choose to read or choose not to read.

Plato: That would be anarchy-mob rule. We need good readers to maintain freedom and democracy. Force-feeding serves a utilitarian purpose. We are a connected community, not individual islands. If students practice reading the classics, they will learn to appreciate their value and be motivated to become life-long readers. Reading has intrinsic worth and attractiveness.

Sartre: Certainly true from the perspective of an English teacher. However, many children and adults are happy without reading.

Tom Cruise: I’m happy without reading. Happiness is Scientology.

Dr. Phil: Happiness is highly overrated. Who has a better life perspective, here—the teacher or the student? Even though most children hate vegetables, they should still eat them. Vegetables are important for future development. Students don’t have to like books to benefit from them. It’s the doing that is important. The present attitudes of children are largely irrelevant in the developmental scheme of things. Most children choose to eat the same vegetables as adults that they were forced to eat as children. Attitudes can and do change; impoverished reading skills rarely do so. Only one in six below-grade-level readers in middle school ever catch up to grade-level reading.

Yoda: Books they don’t like and books they do like, students must read. Very important is teacher judgment, I see.

Sartre: So, less than complete freedom now could produce more freedom later. The more reading skills that are mastered now, even at the expense of student choice, the more options will be available to free-choosing adults.

Steve: What about the issue of teacher modeling? If the teacher spends class time doing independent reading, some would argue that this time commitment teaches students that reading is a priority. Also, some would insist that teachers must read along with their students for proper modeling.

Yoda: A master a servant must have. A model a painter must have. A—

Kerouac: Stop with the direct objects you post-pubescent puppet! Why is conformity so highly prized in our schools? Modeling is overrated. Students will not develop reading skills or learn to love reading because the teacher stops grading papers and reads silently for fifteen minutes a day. There is no causal connection. In fact, rebellious teenagers may be more turned off to reading because they will never identify with some old guy sitting at his desk reading On the Road. Worse yet, some adult reading one of their teenage books… Bob Dylan said, “Don’t follow leaders; watch your parking meters.”

Sartre: And no student would ever think or say, “Ms. Jones, I would really enjoy reading more and realize its true value, if you stopped emailing during SSR.”

Plato: If amount of class time signals educational priorities, why wouldn’t a teacher spend fifteen minutes a day, three times a week, on say morals and ethics? Surely developing kindness and compassion should be equally as important for the good of our society as developing life-long readers. And if teachers must do as the students, to show that they truly value the activity, then why stop at reading along with the students? Should we not study vocabulary when students study vocabulary, do grammar worksheets when students do grammar worksheets, practice our own sentence combining when students do sentence combining, take the standardized test when students are forced to do so, eat a nutritious meal in the cafeteria alongside students?

Tom Cruise: I feel like jumping on your couch, Steve.

Steve: Try to refrain, Tom. I’d like to bring up one more issue for debate: why not read independently at home and save class time for other instructional priorities? After all, students cannot learn how to write an essay at home, but they can read at home.

Tom Cruise: No problem, Steve. I get so excited when Katie lets me out on my own.

Dr. Phil: It seems to me that although students may spend their independent reading time in school just staring at pages, with or without accountability, it is more likely that more students will actually read in school then at home. Countless studies have shown that students, by and large, read very little at home. They are conditioned to read in the school environment. You don’t need Doctor Oz to help you figure that one out.

Sartre: Ah, a logical fallacy. Teachers frequently assume to be true what has not yet been proven to be true. Just because most students do not now read at home, does not mean that they can’t read at home. Those studies that you refer to reflect how things are, not how things could be.

Yoda: Wise you are my philosopher friend. But, all is not light in our homes. Much darkness I see: few books at home, single parents with no time to read to children, illiterate parents, language issues.

Plato: This is especially true with the brass and iron of our state; these students just don’t have the home support that the gold and silver of our state enjoy. Schools have to accept this reality.

Dr. Phil: Yes. The Matthew Effect… Good readers from literate homes tend to become better readers, while poor readers from less literate environments tend to improve less. Teachers want to be released from guilt by blaming illiteracy on parents and the culture.

Yoda: Blame they may be misplacing, I feel.

Sartre: Teachers can become the radical change-agents, not the reinforcers of the status quo. Teachers give up on students and parents too easily. Instead of micro-managing, teachers should be macro-managing. Teachers could be creating literate families. What has happened to Family Literacy Nights? Home visits? Book Give-Aways? Family Reading Incentives? Parent Reading Seminars?

Kerouac: It seems to me that independent reading at home would go further in creating life-long readers than reading that is solely dependent upon teacher control within the class. Since when has dependence ever fostered more independence? If we are, indeed, talking about creating the habit of independent life-long reading, we need to encourage students to read on their own, apart from the teacher’s watchful eyes.

Yoda: Truly. A wise master a servant must become.

Sartre: And the master must become the wise servant. Teachers have an important role in teaching reading skills. Students don’t learn these skills exclusively through independent reading.

Plato: More reading skill instruction in the classroom and required independent reading at home = more reading practice. A perfect tautology.

Yoda: Integral to reading success are both sides of the force.

Tom Cruise: Scientology has all the answers. Trust me on this one.

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 , , , , , , , ,

English Homographs

English is a fascinating language. George Bernard Shaw once said, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” How true. If you sit on your bonnet in England, you happen to be sitting on the hood of your car, not your Easter hat. If an American asks a Brit if he has an antenna, he will certainly get a strange look. The British save antenna for insects and, instead, use aerial for their radios and televisions. Often, our words don’t seem to make much sense. George Carlin asked, “Why do we park in the driveway and drive on the parkway?” Or why do we recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

Some of the most commonly confused words, especially for English language learners are homographs. The word part homo means same and graphs means writing, so a homograph is a word that is spelled just like another word, but it means something quite different. Some of the homographs can make very strange bedfellows.

Crazy Homographs

The buck certainly does like does. Funny: By the way, why are five female pigs and five male deer quite wealthy? They are ten sows n’ bucks.

Wind can wind up being too strong for sailors to wind their sails.

Did you intimate anything about our little secret to my intimate friend?

The garbage collector (sanitation engineer) had to refuse more refuse.

She took the lead in removing the lead poisoning from the building.

I painted a picture of a bass on the head of the big bass drum.

I object to that object being used as evidence.

The bandage was tightly wound around the wound.

Never subject the subject of your ridicule to total embarrassment.

She wanted to present the present in the present, not in the future.

The statue is located close by the door I want you to close.

The dove dove through the clouds.

I shed a tear when I saw the tear in my shirt.

The Polish like to polish their furniture.

For a minute, I forgot the minute differences between us.

Soldiers never desert in the desert. Funny: Why can’t you starve in the desert? Because of all the sand which is there.

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.

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).

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

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , ,

Effective Spelling Practice

My last post discussed the role of the diagnostic pre-test as part of a balanced spelling program. I provided links for spelling word lists, including Vowel Sound-Spelling Patterns (for primary or remedial spellers), Outlaw Words (non-phonetic words), Dolch High Frequency Words, Commonly Confused Words, and the Eight Conventional Spelling Rules . I suggested that summer would be the best time to assess the spelling of your children to prepare for fall instruction and offered an essential resource: the comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment.

As I previously mentioned, each of the six posts will begin with a brief reflection about the instructional spelling component, follow with a rationale for teaching that component, and finish with some free instructional spelling resources. The components of each of the six posts are as follows:

1. Diagnostic Assessment 2. Sound-Spellings 3. Spelling Rules
4. Spelling Lists and Tests 5. Spelling Practice 6. Integrated Spelling and Vocabulary.

This week we explore how to use appropriate spelling practice as part of a balanced spelling program.

Reflection

□ I provide opportunities for students to practice words missed on the diagnostic pre-test.

□ I provide both memorization and writing practice for spelling words.

□ I connect spelling practice to structural analysis of the words.

□ I integrate spelling and vocabulary instruction in our practice.

Rationale

Effective spelling practice is not exclusively memorization. Good spelling practice connects to language development, vocabulary, structural analysis, auditory processing, and writing.

Language Development

The ways that words are spelled are determined by etymological influences. For example, the British spell the /er/ as “re” in theatre, while Americans spell the /er/ as “er” in theater. The ways that words are spelled are also determined by derivational influences. For example, the “ch” spelling in Greek has a hard /k/ sound, so the word chorus is spelled accordingly.

Vocabulary

The ways that words are spelled are often determined by the morphemes (words parts with meaning). For example, we spell emigrate because the prefix e means “out of,” while we spell immigrate because the prefix means “in or into.”

Structural Analysis

The ways that words are spelled are further determined by structural issues. For example, we spell begin with one n, but beginning with two n’s because of the consonant doubling rule. We pronounce unaccented vowels with the schwa sound in multi-syllabic words.

Auditory Processing

Spelling is an auditory skill, not a visual one. We “encode” the sounds we hear into the written alphabetic code. Good spelling practice involves syllabication rules, oral blending, and word fluency.

Writing

We spell in order to write coherently. Students need to practice effectively proofreading to catch inadvertent spelling errors.

Spelling Resources

Language Development

http://www.etymonline.com/ and http://www.yourdictionary.com/

Vocabulary

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-we-learn-vocabulary-from-word-parts-part-iv/

Structural Analysis

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/tag/syllable-division/

Auditory Processing

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-do-sound-by-sound-spelling-blending/

Writing

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/8-proofreading-tips-and-techniques/

In next week’s How to Teach Spelling Part VI, we’ll deal with the fifth P-Post-test and have more resources to integrate spelling and vocabulary instruction.

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.

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).

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

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

What Reading Intervention Teachers Want (A Manifesto)

Reading intervention reading (reading intervention) teachers of upper elementary, middle school, high school, and adult students all share the same instructional goal: help their students become fluent readers who understand what they read. Teachers want to achieve this goal in the shortest amount of instructional time. The longer poor readers have to wait to “catch up” to grade level reading, the further they fall behind in their overall education. Research shows that the older the poor reader gets, the less likely is that reader to catch up to reading at grade level. For example, only one-in-six middle school readers who are two grades behind in their reading ever catch up to grade level reading.

Teachers all understand that remedial reading students may all be in the same boat, in terms of their inability to read well, but that they are each in that boat for different reasons. If teachers treat the students as if they all are in the boat for the same reasons, both teacher and students will fail to achieve their goals. So, the instructional design and resources of a successful remedial reading program must allow teachers to differentiate instruction for the diverse needs of their students. Teachers know that a one-size-fits all program will not work for these learners. In fact, a canned program can be counterproductive.

Education is always reductive. If we do one thing, we can’t do another. Resources (both monetary and human), time, structural considerations, and commitment are all scarcities. If a remedial reader does not directly benefit from a program that specifically addresses why he or she is in the boat, it would be better to stay out of the boat and benefit from other resources. For example, a seventh grade student who is removed from an English-language arts class for remedial reading will probably lose the content of reading two novels, learning grade level grammar and vocabulary, missing the speech and poetry units… you get the idea. Not to mention, the possibility of losing social science or science instruction if placed in a remedial reading class… Both content and reading strategies are critical for reading development.

So, let’s get specific about how teachers want to teach a remedial reading program with a What Reading Intervention Teachers Want (A Manifesto).

1. Teachers want diagnostic assessments that will pinpoint individual reading strengths and deficiencies. But, they don’t want assessments that will eat up excessive amounts of instructional time or cause mounds of paperwork.

2. Teachers want teaching resources that specifically target the reading deficits indicated by the diagnostic assessments. Teachers don’t want to waste time by starting each learner from “scratch” with hours of repetitive practice. Teachers don’t want to teach what students already know.

3. Teachers want program resources that will enable them to establish a clear game plan, but also ones which will allow them to deviate from that plan, according to the needs of their students. Teachers want to be able to integrate writing, grammar, and spelling instruction and include real reading in their remedial reading programs.

4. Teachers want resources that won’t assume that they are reading specialists. However, they don’t want resources that treat them like script-reading robots. Teachers are fast learners.

5. Teachers want resources that they can grab and use, not resources that require lots of advance preparation. Teachers want to do a great job with their students and still maintain their own sanity.

6. Teachers want reasonable class sizes that are conducive to effective remedial instruction.

7. Teachers understand that remedial readers frequently have behavioral problems; however, their behaviors can’t interfere with other students’ rights to learn. Administrators have to buy-in to this condition and support teacher judgment.

To summarize, teachers want to be free to teach their students, not a program, per se. Teachers want their students to see direct benefit and pay-off in each lesson and learn quickly in what social psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, termed their “zone of proximal development.”  If teachers get what they want in this Remedial Reading Teacher’s Manifesto, they will achieve their goal to help their students become fluent readers who understand what they read.

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 Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

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

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

Spelling Lists and Tests

My last post, “Spelling Rules,” discussed why teachers should teach the eight conventional spelling rules as part of a balanced spelling program. I provided links for each of the eight free downloadable spelling rules with accompanying MP3 files of raps and songs to help your students memorize each of these rules. I also offered an essential resource: the comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment.

As I previously mentioned, each of the six posts will begin with a brief reflection about the instructional spelling component, follow with a rationale for teaching that component, and finish with some free instructional spelling resources. The components of each of the six posts are as follows:

1. Diagnostic Assessment 2. Sound-Spellings 3. Spelling Rules
4. Spelling Lists and Tests 5. Spelling Practice 6. Integrated Spelling and Vocabulary.

This week we explore how to use spelling lists and tests as part of a balanced spelling program.

Reflection

□ I use developmentally appropriate word lists as my spelling pre-tests.

□ I use the spelling pre-test as a diagnostic tool and adjust student practice according to the results of the assessment.

□ I have supplemental spelling word lists that are developmentally appropriate and I use these to differentiate spelling instruction.

□ I don’t use the exact same spelling test for my pre and post-tests because the spelling post-tests vary from student to student.

Rationale

Developing a weekly spelling-vocabulary plan that differentiates instruction for all of your students is a challenging task for even the best veteran teacher. Teachers truly want to individualize spelling instruction, but the materials, testing, instruction, and management can prove overwhelming to even the most conscientious professional. After years of experimentation and teacher trial and error, this plan has earned a track record of proven success in combining spelling individualization and vocabulary word study with sensible amounts of teacher preparation and class time.

Spelling Resources

Five Steps to Differentiating Spelling-Vocabulary Instruction: The Five Ps

1. Prepare

Select twenty spelling pattern words from your grade-level spelling workbook. If you don’t have a spelling workbook, check out Grade Level Spelling Lists.

2. Pretest

Dictate the twenty words grade-level spelling pattern words in the traditional word-sentence-word format to all of your students. After the dictations, have students self-correct from teacher dictation of the letters in syllable chunks. Tell students to mark dots below the correct letters, but mark an “X” through the numbers of any spelling errors. Of course, double check the corrections of any students who have difficulty following directions or listening.

3. Personalize

To effectively differentiate instruction, students personalize their own spelling word lists for study and for their post-tests. Assign 15-20 words for practice and testing per week. Students complete their own Personal Spelling Lists with the 15-20 words in this priority order:

  • Pretest Errors: Have the students copy up to ten of their pretest spelling errors onto their Personal Spelling-Vocabulary List. Students will need to refer to the spelling workbook or your own spelling list to correctly spell these words. Ten words are certainly enough to practice the grade-level spelling pattern. Tell students to pick spelling errors from both the top and the bottom of their pretest to ensure that all spelling patterns are practiced because many workbooks teach two patterns per week.
  • Posttest Errors: Have students add on up to five spelling errors from last week’s spelling posttest.
  • Writing Errors: Have students add on up to five teacher-corrected spelling errors found in student writing. Oops…this commits you to mark strategic spelling errors in your students’ writing-an essential component of improving student spelling.
  • Supplemental Spelling Lists: Students select and use words from the following resources  to complete their list:

Vowel Sound-Spelling Patterns (for primary or remedial spellers), Outlaw Words (non-phonetic words), Dolch High Frequency Words, Commonly Confused Words, and the Eight Conventional Spelling Rules.

But, how do the students select the right words from the supplemental lists?

Parents can be integral partners in helping their children select appropriate words for the Personal Spelling List. After completing the weekly Personal Spelling List, the student must secure a parent signature on the list to verify that each of the selected words is an unknown spelling for the student. This is to prevent students from writing down words already part of the student’s conventional spelling word bank.

Early in the school year, send home a parent letter explaining the role of the parent in individualizing spelling instruction. Parents can pretest their son or daughter on the words from the appendices a little at a time to determine which words are un-mastered and need to be included as part of the weekly Personal Spelling List. For those parents who will not complete the pre-assessments, the teacher can have a parent, instructional aide, or another student complete the pretests.

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.

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).

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

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How to Select Books for Independent Reading

Teachers, students, and parents recognize the importance of independent reading. No thinking activity better builds content knowledge, improves vocabulary, or exposes the learner to the world and its ideas. The practical question is which reading materials most efficiently help readers access this world of knowledge? Because reading is an interactive process, the abilities and interests of the readers must also be considered to maximize the learning process.

A variety of readability measurements and comprehension assessments have been developed over the years to help match the reading level of texts to the reading level of readers. The Fry’s Readability Graph, Reading Recovery® Levels, Lexile® Levels, and the Fleish-Kincaid Reading Ease® (popularized in Microsoft Word® are just some of readability measurements. These measure all use formula based upon word frequency, syllable counts, and lengths of sentences (among other factors) to determine a numerical reading level equivalent. Reading comprehension assessments include normed tests, such as the Stanford Achievement Test, the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests, the Metropolitan Achievement Test, and the SAT I. Criterion referenced tests, such as the plethora of “state standards” reading tests and the DRA generally produce a spectrum of reading achievement relative to the tested standards. Finally, individual reading inventories, such as the John’s Basic Reading Inventory and the Qualitative Reading Inventory are leveled assessments that measure inter-related reading skills and establish reading grade levels.

However, each assessment has its limitations. The variables of reading texts and readers preclude hard and fast diagnoses and limit the practical application of the data. Additionally, the assessments are time-consuming and hard teachers, students, and parents to properly interpret. In fact, trained reading specialists have difficulty making appropriate use of the data.

What reading specialists do know, however, is that word recognition is a quick, easy, and painless way to determine approximate reading level. Word recognition is not to be confused with word identification, which involves phonemic awareness and decoding (phonics). The Slosson Oral Reading Test and the San Diego Quick Assessment have been used for years to match students to grade-level reading through word recognition levels. In these assessments, a reading grade level is assigned, according to the number of correctly read single and multi-syllabic words, i.e., words read with automaticity. However, these assessments still require the other side of the coin, i.e., the reading level of the text, to match texts to readers.

A much more direct approach that applies word recognition to the specific text to determine if the text-reader match is appropriate for the individual learner’s optimal “zone of proximal development” follows. It’s reader-centered and easy to train teachers, students, and parents to use.

How to Select Books that Have the Appropriate Reading Levels

The goal is to match individual readers to text that has about 5% unknown words. A much higher percentage is too hard for the reader; a much lower percentage is too easy for the reader.

How can you pick a book to read that has 5% unknown words? Choose a book of any genre and count the number of words on any complete page found near the beginning of the book and multiply that number by 3. Read a page toward the beginning of the book, counting the number of unknown words. A good guideline would be “if you can’t define it with a synonym, antonym, or example,” it is unknown. Then, read a page near the middle of the book and continue the count. Finally, read a page near the end of the book and finish the count. Divide the total number of unknown words by the total number of words found on the three pages. The result will be the percentage of unknown words. Anything within the 4-6% range is acceptable. For example, a reader counts the number of words on a page and arrives at 225. 225 x 3 = 750. After reading the three pages, the amount of unknown words totals 30. 30.00 divided by 750 = .05, or 5%.

A word about reading content and genre… Reading to learn suggests that reading in the school context should help improve a student’s independent access to and ability to understand text. Reading to learn also suggests that the reader should be exposed to a variety of reading genre. These being said, motivation is also a key factor in reading to learn. Reader interest plays an important role in increasing reading comprehension. Providing a balance between assigned texts and “reader’s choice” makes sense.

Additionally, practice does make perfect when the practice is done correctly. Besides appropriately matching the text to the reader, teachers and parents can students become better independent readers by teaching good silent reading habits, self-questioning reading strategies, context clue strategies, vocabulary, inference strategies, etc. Furthermore, discussion of the reading is essential to reading comprehension. See Reading Homework for an easy-to-follow independent reading program.

How Much Independent Reading is Appropriate?

The English-Language Arts Content Standards for K-12 Public Schools has established the standards of 500,000 words for primary students, 1,000,000 words for middle school students, and 2,000,000 words to be read annually by high school students in order to ensure grade to grade reading growth. This breaks down to 2,400 words per day for primary students, 4,800 words per day for middle school students, and 9,600 words per day for high school students (reading year-round, four days per week, assuming that only a minimal amount of reading is accomplished in school, which unfortunately is the norm). With the average page in a middle school novel consisting of 30 lines of 8 words per line, this means that reading only 20 pages of 240 words per page would meet that standard.

Because each student reads at different reading speeds, each child must be assessed to determine the number of words per minute that the child does read. Like oral fluency timings, silent reading speed is measured as follows.

Determining Individual Silent Reading Speed

  1. Have the students count the number of words on three consecutive full lines of print, for example, 24 words on 3 lines.
  2. Divide this amount (24) by 3, to give average words per line (8).
  3. Have the student read, beginning at the top of page of the text for one minute.
  4. Have the student count the number of lines (not sentences) read during that timing. Tell the student not to count any lines with 3 words or less. Say the student read 25 lines.
  5. Have the student multiply the number of lines read (25) x the number of words per line (8).
  6. The product (200) is the number of words that the student has read in one minute.
  7. Repeat the entire process once more and average the final total to determine the student’s silent reading fluency number.

How Many Minutes Do Students Need to Read Each Day? Or?

If the student reads at a rate of 200 words per minute, as in our example, the student would need to read for 24 minutes to achieve the goal of 4800 daily words (4 days per week, year round) for middle school students. This amount of time assumes a summer reading program or a daily commitment to independent reading during the school day.

However, because students have an amazing ability to daydream or stare at the same page in a text for minutes on end… a better approach is to require pages read per day. Based upon the number of words per page of the text and the student’s reading speed, it would be simple to require our example student to read 24 pages per day. Teachers can thus differentiate instruction and have students read a different amount of pages per day, based upon their silent fluency numbers. Of course, frequent assessment is suggested to adjust to different texts and student improvement.

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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Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves

Grammar is an essential 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 our speaking and writing. Our spoken and written words can betray us. They reflect our background, education, and ability to communicate. For example, many years ago, 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 will never hire that young man,” he said.

Shocked, I asked him why.

“On the board, he has a dangling modifier and he ended a sentence with a preposition.”

Sounds quite harsh, doesn’t it?  Not every educated adult attaches the same level of importance regarding the proper use of grammar as does that principal. However, many do. Following are the Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves that irritate most Americans with tips to help you avoid these common grammatical errors. Also, make sure to check out the Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves and the Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves. Find out everything you mispronounce and the words you misuse before “You-Know-Who” points them out to you.

1. Dangling Modifiers

Incorrect-Tossed high into the sky, the dog caught the Frisbee.

Correct-The dog caught the Frisbee, which had been tossed high into the sky.

Tip: Keep modifiers close to the words that they describe to avoid dangling modifiers.

2. Modals

Incorrect-I should of known that they could of gone yesterday.

Correct-I should have known that they could have gone yesterday.

Tip: The modals would, could, should, must, might, may are never combined with of.

3. Modifiers

Incorrect-That student is not feeling good.

Correct-That student is not feeling well.

Tip: Don’t use adjectives, e.g., good, in place of adverbs, e.g., well. Usually follow “_ing” with well, not good.

4. Comparative Modifiers (one or two syllables)

Incorrect-I picked the smallest piece of the two to be graciouser and because it was more easy to reach.

Correct- I picked the smaller piece of the two to be more gracious and because it was easier to reach.

Tip: Use “_er” for one or two syllable modifiers or more for two syllable modifiers, if more sounds better.

5. Comparative Modifiers (three or more syllables)

Incorrect-Each new song was wonderfuller than the old ones.

Correct-Each new song was more wonderful than the old ones.

Tip: Use more (less) for a three-syllable or longer modifier to compare two things.

6. Superlative Modifiers

Incorrect-Oswald is the more hyperactive of the three boys, but runs least quicker.

Correct-Oswald is the most hyperactive of the three boys, but runs least quickly.

Tip: Use most (least) for a three-syllable or longer modifier to compare three or more things. Always use most or least for adverbs ending in “_ly.”

7. Subjunctive cases (moods)

Incorrect-If I was a rich man, I could buy what I need.

Correct-If I were a rich man, I could buy what I need.

Tip: Use the subjunctive to communicate a doubt, a wish, or a guess.

8. Padding

Incorrect-Also, never, never repeat words or phrases, and avoid using very interesting, super nice words that contribute little to a sentence.

Correct-Never repeat words or phrases, and avoid using words that contribute little to a sentence.

Tip: Focus on brevity in writing. When in doubt, leave it out.

9. Preposition Placement

Incorrect-Prepositions are not good to end sentences with.

Correct-Do not end sentences with prepositions.

Tip: A preposition is a word that shows some relationship or position between a common noun, a proper noun, or a pronoun and its object. The preposition is always part of a phrase and comes before its object. The preposition asks “What?” and the object provides the answer. Ending sentences with prepositions eliminates their objects, so avoid these constructions whenever possible.

10. Parallel Structure

Incorrect-Swimming, to play tennis, and basketball are popular sports at the high school.

Correct-Swimming, tennis, and basketball are popular sports at the high school.

Tip: The term parallelism refers to a repeated grammatical construction of a word, a phrase, or a clause. Especially keep verb forms parallel within the same sentence.

11. Split Infinitives

Incorrect-It is a mistake to ever split an infinitive.

Correct-It is always a mistake to split an infinitive.

Tip: An infinitive has a to + the base form of a verb. Placing a word between the to and the base form of the verb can create confusion. If tempted to split the infinitive, brainstorm for better verbs.

12. Double Negatives

Incorrect-Never use no double negatives.

Correct-Don’t use double negatives.

Tip: A double negative can cancel each other out and create an unintended positive. For example, “I don’t really not like you” may prolong, rather than end, a relationship.

13. Noun-Verb Agreements (numbers)

Incorrect-The calculations indicates that there will be an economic downturn soon.

Correct-The calculations indicate that there will be an economic downturn soon.

Tip: If the noun is plural (ends in an s, the verb that acts upon that noun usually does not end in an s.

14. Verbing Nouns

Incorrect-Grammar is negatively impacting my ability to write.

Correct-Grammar has a negative impact on my ability to write.

Tip: Don’t make nouns into verbs. Also, avoid stringing nouns together, such as in “Top Grammar Pet Peeves.” However, no one would search for “Top Grammatical Pet Peeves.”

Pronoun Pests

15. Subject Case Pronouns (used as appositives)

Incorrect-Everyone came earlier than her.

Correct-Everyone came earlier than she.

Tip: Use the subject case pronoun if the pronoun is part of an appositive, such as after than or as. An appositive is a noun or pronoun placed next to another noun or pronoun to identify or explain it. Re-order the sentence to check if the pronoun sounds right, e.g., “She came earlier than everyone.”

16. Subject Case Pronouns (compound subjects)

Incorrect-Her and Muffy play video games.

Correct-She and Muffy play video games.

Tip: Drop other nouns or pronouns when there is a compound subject (two or more subjects), and check if the remaining pronoun sounds right, e.g., “Her plays video games” sounds bad while “She plays video games” sounds good.

17. Subject Case Pronouns (pronoun order)

Incorrect-I and Zelda enjoy the beach.

Correct-Zelda and I enjoy the beach.

Tip: Remember that English is a polite language; the first person pronouns (I, me, ours, mine) are always placed last when combined with other nouns or pronouns.

18. Subject Case Pronouns (serving as predicate nominatives)

Incorrect-The students who got into trouble are them.

Correct- The students who got into trouble are they.

Tip: A predicate nominative follows a “to be” verb (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been) and identifies or refers to the subject. Re-order the sentence to check if the pronoun sounds right, e.g., “They are the students who got into trouble.”

19. Object Case Pronouns (serving as objects of prepositions)

Incorrect-The fly buzzed between you and I.

Correct- The fly buzzed between you and me.

Tip: Use the object case pronoun if the pronoun is an object of a preposition. A preposition shows some relationship or position between the preposition and  its object (a proper noun, a common noun, or a pronoun). The preposition asks “What?” and the object provides the answer.

20. Object Case Pronouns (serving as direct objects)

Incorrect- The challenge excited we.

Correct-The challenge excited us.

Tip: Use the object case pronoun if the pronoun is the direct object. The direct object receives the action of the verb and answers “What?” or “Who?”

21. Object Case Pronouns (serving as indirect objects)

Incorrect- Robert gave they a king-size candy bar.

Correct- Robert gave them a king-size candy bar.

Tip: Use the object case pronoun if the pronoun is an indirect object of a verb. The indirect object is placed between a verb and its direct object. It answers “To What?” “To Whom,” ” For What?” or “For Whom?”

22. Object Case Pronouns (serving as appositives)

Incorrect-The teacher yelled at two students, Zippy and I.

Correct-The teacher yelled at two students, Zippy and me.

Tip: Use the object case pronoun if the direct object is described by an appositive phrase (a phrase that identifies or explains another noun or pronoun placed next to it).

23. Object Case Pronouns (connected to infinitives)

Incorrect-I want we to give the speech.

Correct-I want us to give the speech.

Tip: Use the object case pronoun if the pronoun is connected to an infinitive. An infinitive has a to + the base form of a verb.

24. Gender Pronouns

Incorrect-Everyone has their own problems or Everyone has his/her own problems.

Correct-Everyone has his own problems (Yes, English is a masculine-based language) or better… All people have their own problems.

Tip: To be inclusive (and politically correct), make pronoun references plural. Avoid the wordy and confusing “his or hers for him and her.”

25. Reflexive Pronouns

Incorrect-The party was for Bob and myself, and I allowed me the privilege of attending the celebration.

Correct-The party was for Bob and me, and I allowed myself the privilege of attending the celebration.

Tip: Don’t use reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself(ves), himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves) in place of object case pronouns. Reflexives refer to the subject. An intensive pronoun intensifies an action, e.g., “I want to do it myself.”

26. Pronoun Antecedents (referring to ambiguous references)

Incorrect-When Bobby asked for help, they asked why.

Problem—Who are the they?

Correct-When Bobby asked for help, his friends asked why.

Tip: An antecedent is the word, phrase, or clause to which a pronoun refers. Make sure antecedents are specific. Otherwise, the pronoun reference may be confusing.

27. Pronoun Antecedents (referring to the objects of prepositions)

Incorrect-In Twain’s The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County, he uses political humor.

Problem—Who, or what, is he?

Correct-In Twain’s The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County, the author uses political humor.

Tip: Don’t have a pronoun refer to the object of a prepositional phrase, e.g., “of Calaveras County.”

28. Pronoun Antecedents (referring to this, that, these, those, it, its)

Incorrect-He made an egg, put the dog food in its bowl, and put this on his toast to eat.

Problem—What is this? Whose is his?

Correct-He made an egg and put it on his toast. Then, he put the dog food in its bowl.

Tip: Make sure that the singular pronouns this and that and the plural pronouns these and those specifically refer to what is intended. Keep these pronouns close to their references.

29. Pronoun Antecedents (referring to possessives)

Incorrect-In San Diego’s famous zoo, they treat their zoo-keepers well.

Problem—Who are the they and their?

Correct- In San Diego’s famous zoo, the animals treat their zoo-keepers well.

Tip: Don’t have a pronoun refer to a possessive antecedent. A possessive is a common noun, proper noun, or pronoun that shows ownership.

30. The This, That, These, Those Pronouns (serving as demonstrative adjectives)

Incorrect-I like these over there.

Correct-I like those over there.

Tip: Use this and these for objects within reach; use that and those for objects not within reach.

31. The Who Pronoun

Incorrect-Whom did it, and why?

Correct-Who did it, and why?

Tip: The pronoun who is in the subject (nominative) case. The who takes the role of the subject. Try substituting he for who and rephrase, if necessary. If it sounds right, use the who, e.g. “Him did it” sounds bad while “He did it” sounds good.

32. The Whom Pronoun

Incorrect-I like who you gave the award, but to who does this letter concern?

Correct-I like whom you gave the award, but to whom does this letter concern?

Tip: The pronoun whom is in the objective case. In other words, it is takes the place of the direct object, the indirect object of the verb, or the object of the preposition. Try substituting him for whom and rephrase, if necessary. If it sounds right, use whom. “I like he” and “to he does this letter concern” sound bad while “I like him” and “to him does this letter concern” sound good.

33. The Who Pronoun (serving at the start of relative clauses)

Incorrect-The man which showed me the car was friendly.

Correct-The man who showed me the car was friendly.

Tip: When beginning a relative clause, use who to refer to specific people.

34. The That Pronoun (serving at the start of relative clauses)

Incorrect-The movie which we watched was entertaining.

Correct-The movie that we watched was entertaining.

Tip: The pronoun that can refer to unspecific, or general, people or things. Use the pronoun that when the clause is needed to understand or restrict the meaning of the rest of the sentence.

35. The Which Pronoun (serving at the start of relative clauses)

Incorrect-A dog, which is compliant, is easy to train.

Correct-A Golden Retriever, which is compliant, is easy to train.

Tip: The pronoun which can only refer to specific things. Use the pronoun which in clauses that provide additional, but not necessary information to the rest of the sentence.

36. Indefinite Pronouns (general singular)

Incorrect-Everyone are ready for lunch.

Correct-Everyone is ready for lunch.

Tip: An indefinite singular pronoun does not refer to a definite noun. The following indefinite pronouns are singular: anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, nothing, no one, one, somebody, someone, and something. Look at the second  part of the compound word, e.g. something, to determine singular or plural for many of these indefinite pronouns.

37. Indefinite Pronouns (general plural)

Incorrect-Several gives him advice.

Correct-Several give him advice.

Tip: An indefinite plural pronoun does not refer to  definite nouns. The following indefinite pronouns are plural: both, few, many, and several. Indefinite plural pronouns are usually not compound words.

38. Indefinite Pronouns (singular determining quantity or measurement)

Incorrect-More of the food were given to the homeless.

The word clue is food.

Correct-More of the food was given to the homeless.

Tip: Indefinite pronouns that express quantity or measurement may be singular or plural depending upon the surrounding word clues. Pay special attention to the object of a preposition word clue connecting to these pronouns. Singular Indefinite Pronouns: all the food, any of this, half of it, more of that, most of it, none of that, other one, some child

39. Indefinite Pronouns (plural determining quantity or measurement)

Incorrect-More boys seems to be playing sports these days.

The word clue is boys.

Correct-More boys seem to be playing sports these days.

Tip: Indefinite pronouns that express quantity or measurement may be singular or plural depending upon the surrounding word clues. Pay special attention to the object of a preposition word clue connecting to these pronouns. Plural Indefinite Pronouns: all girls, any of these, half of those, more boys, most friends, none of those, other friends, some of them

40. Possessive Pronouns

Incorrect-Bilbo’s faking won’t help his success as much as him planning.

Correct-Bilbo’s faking won’t help his success as much as his planning.

Tip: A possessive pronoun (my, your, his, her, its, their, our), not  a subject or object case pronoun, must be connected to a gerund. A gerund is the “_ing” form of a noun.

Resource: Teaching Grammar and Mechanics ©2003 Pennington Publishing.

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.

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).

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

 

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , ,

Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves

Everyone misuses a word now and then. Correct word choice is determined not only by denotation (Websters says…), but also by connotation. Connotation refers to common usage which influences degree, slant, or feeling of a word. For example, the words march and amble each denotatively mean “to walk.” However, most of us would agree that marching down a road would be less enjoyable than ambling down that same road.

Many times we get close to using the right word, verbally or in print, but not close enough. Words with similar sounds are often confused. For example, affect and effect sound similar and even have related meanings. Affect means to influence; while effect is to produce as a result.

Of course, in addition to misused vocabulary words, there are also grammatical abuses, such as nouns used as verbs, e.g., loan instead of lend [Will you loan me some money?] We also use redundancies, such as irregardless or ATM machine. We misapply expressions, such as for all intensive purposes or idioms, such as waiting on. We create our own words, such as flusticated or conversate. We also change the meaning of words through common consensus. Who would have thought that bad can now mean something good?

Although Americans tolerate some vocabulary abuse, they are righteously indignant about the misuse of other words. Here, in no particular order, are the Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves that surely constitute the greatest pet peeves among American wordsmiths. Also, make sure to check out the Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves and the Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves. Find out everything you mispronounce and your grammatical mistakes before “You-Know-Who” points them out to you.

  1. Anxious means to worry, not to be eager. [So, you probably are not anxious to go on vacation.]
  2. Exaggerate means to magnify, not to go beyond. [So, you can’t exaggerate how little your pay is.]
  3. Imply means to suggest, not to conclude as with infer. [So, you don’t imply what the author says.]
  4. Between means in the place separating two objects, not three or more objects as with among. [So, you won’t choose between oranges, apples, and watermelons.]
  5. Unique means being the only one of its kind, not something that is special. [So, you don’t describe the sunset as unique.]
  6. Relevant means pertinent, not popular. [So, a movie is not relevant and fun.]
  7. Allot means to distribute, not a lot of something. [So, you don’t eat allot of ice cream, but you could allot me a scoop or two.]
  8. Literally means exactly what the word means or how the author intends; it does not mean truthfully. [So, your mother-in-law is probably not literally crazy.]
  9. Unbelievable means something that cannot be trusted, not something that is amazing. [So, the unbelievable savings really should be believable, if you intend to buy.]
  10. Awesome means something that is revered or dreaded, not something that is good. [So, the pumpkin pie really isn’t awesome, unless you worship Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin.]
  11. Reticent means silent or reserved, not unwilling. [So, you probably are not reticent to go out to dinner with a client.]
  12. Accept means to receive willingly, not except, which means to exclude. [So, you wouldn’t say “I would like him, accept for his body odor.]
  13. Already means having done before; it does not mean all ready. [So, your friends could be already all ready to leave.]
  14. Capitol means the legislative building, not an upper case letter or an amount of money to invest. [So, you don’t declare your capitol gains.]
  15. Complement means something that completes, not something that goes along with or provides praise. [So, your striped shirt does not complement your polka dotted pants.]
  16. Principal means the highest rank, not principle, which means a rule or standard. [So, you want the principal of your child’s school to hold to the highest principles.]
  17. Stationary means fixed in position, not stationery, which means writing supplies. [So, you won’t write a letter on your new stationary.]
  18. Than means compared to, not then [So, you don’t go to dinner than a show.]
  19. Whether means if it is so, not because of or anything having to do with the weather. [So, you might like the weather, whether it snows or rains.]
  20. Occur means an action taking place that is accidental or unforeseen, at least from the point of view of the observers; it does not mean something that is expected to happen. [So, you wouldn’t say that noon occurs at 12:00 p.m. every day.]
  21. Illicit means illegal, not elicit, which means to draw forth. [So, you wouldn’t illicit information from a police officer.]
  22. Possible means something capable of happening or being true, not something that is according to chance. [So, anything is not really possible.]
  23. Irony means an unexpected contrast between apparent and intended meanings or events, not a coincidence. [So, it isn’t ironic that you and your boyfriend both like oatmeal cookies.]
  24. Anniversary means the celebration of a year, not just any period of time. [So, you don’t celebrate your two-month anniversary of a relationship.]
  25. Foundered means to struggle, not floundered which means to sink. [So, your cruise ship did not founder to the depths of the Caribbean Sea.]
  26. Flout means to openly disregard laws or the way things are done, not flaunt which means to display something ostentatiously. [So, you wouldn’t flout your four carat diamond ring in front of your girlfriends.]
  27. i.e. means that is, or the same as, not for example. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like vacations, i.e., backpacking, going to the beach, and sightseeing.]
  28. e.g. means for example, not the same as, or in place of. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like vacations, e.g., time off work.”]
  29. et al means with all others, not and so forth. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like tropical islands, ski resorts, the high desert, et al.
  30. Et cetera (etc.) means and so forth within the same class; it does not mean and all others. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, etc.”]
  31. Eminent means prominent, not imminent which means something expected to happen soon. [So, your graduation next week is not eminent.]
  32. Proverbial means according to a wise saying, not something that is well known. [So, you wouldn’t refer to the proverbial hatred of paying taxes.]
  33. Oxymoron means when two objects are joined that do not fit, not something that is an opposite. [So, it’s not an oxymoron to like both sugar and bitters.]
  34. Contact means to communicate through touch, not to simply respond. [So, you probably don’t mean “Contact me at your earliest convenience.”]
  35. Enormity means something grotesquely beyond its intended boundaries, not something that is very large. [So, you don’t refer to the enormity of the hot fudge sundae.]
  36. Travesty means to ridicule by imitation, not tragedy which means a disastrous event. [So, the sinking of the ship was not a travesty.]
  37. Decimate means to ruin or reduce by tenths, not to gain victory. [So, you probably don’t really hope to decimate your fellow poker players in the game tonight.]
  38. Random means to have no causal relationship; it is not something that is unexpected. [So, a joke that is unexpected is not a random one.]
  39. Allude means to refer to indirectly, not elude which means to escape from. [So, you don’t allude your boss by hiding behind the file cabinet.]
  40. Attain means to reach or achieve, not obtain, which means to possess or acquire. [So, you won’t attain a collection of baseball cards from the neighborhood garage sale.]

Definitions adapted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 4th ed. 2008.

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 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).

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

Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves

President George Bush, well known for his pronunciation gaffes, once said, “I have been known to mangle a syllable or two myself.” Despite laughing at the plethora of Bushisms over the last eight years, even the best American wordsmiths do mispronounce their fair share of words.

Americans are somewhat tolerant regarding pronunciation errors when the mistakes involve infrequently used foreign phrases, place names, technical terms, dialectical differences, or idiomatic expressions. However, for various reasons, we do demand uniform pronunciation of some words. Following are our Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves in no particular order. Also, make sure to check out the Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves and the Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves. Find out all of your grammatical mistakes and the words you misuse before “You-Know-Who” points them out to you.

  1. Library is pronounced “lie-brair-ee,” not “lie-bear-ee.” [No, it’s not libarian either]
  2. Nuclear is pronounced “nook-lee-er,” not “nUke-U-ler.” [Ode to Bush]
  3. February is pronounced “Feb-roo-air-ee,” not “Feb-U-aire-ee.” [Frequently misspelled, as well]
  4. Orange is pronounced “or-anj,” not “are-anj.” [Orange you glad you know this?]
  5. Prostate is pronounced “praw-state,” not “praw-straight.” [Unless you are lying down]
  6. Height is pronounced “hite,” not “hite with a ‘th’.” [That “e-i” or “width” must confuse us]
  7. Probably is pronounced “praw-bab-lee,” not “prob-lee.” [Or some say “praw-lee”]
  8. Ask is pronounced “ask,” not ” ax.” [Please tell me before you ax me.]
  9. Pronunciation is pronounced “pro-nun-see-a-tion,” not ” pro-noun-see-a-tion.” [But pronounce]
  10. Athlete is pronounced “ath-lete,” not “ath-ah-leet.” [Despite the ath-ah-leets foot commercials]
  11. Strategy is pronounced “strat-uh-gee,” not “stra-ji-dee.” [Though we never say “stra-ji-jick”]
  12. Aluminum is pronounced “uh-loo-mi-num,” not “al-U-min-um.” [Brits have their own version]
  13. Et cetera (etc.) is pronounced “et-set-er-ah,” not “ek- set-er-ah.” [Not “ek-spe-shul-lee” either]
  14. Supposedly is pronounced “suh-po-zed-lee,” not “su-pose-ub-lee.” [Or “su-pose-eh-blee”]
  15. Difference is pronounced “di-fer-ence,” not “dif-rence.” [Often misspelled due to this error]
  16. Mischievous is pronounced “mis-chuh-vus,” not “mis-chee-vee-us.” [You’ll look this one up]
  17. Mayonnaise is pronounced “may-un-naze,” not “man-aise.” [“Ketchup-catsup” is another matter]
  18. Miniature is pronounced “mi-ne-uh-ture,” not “min-ah-ture.” [Who drives an Austin “min-uh”?]
  19. Definite is pronounced “de-fuh-nit,” not ” def-ah-nut.” [For define, it’s “di-fine” not “dah-fine”]
  20. Often is pronounced “off-ten,” not “off-en.” [Probably just sloppy pronunciation]
  21. Internet is pronounced “In-ter-net,” not “In-nur-net.” [Not “in-ner-rest-ing either]
  22. Groceries is pronounced “grow-sir-ees,” not “grow-sure-ees.” [It’s not “grow-sure” either]
  23. Similar is pronounced “sim-ah-ler,” not “sim-U-lar.” [But Websters says “sim-ler” is fine]
  24. Escape is pronounced “es-cape,” not “ex-cape.” [It’s not “ex-pres-so” either]
  25. Lose is pronounced “luze,” not “loose.” [Think “choose,” not “moose”]
  26. Temperature is pronounced “tem-per-ah-ture,” not “tem-prah-chur.” [Cute when kids say it]
  27. Jewelry is pronounced “jewl-ree” or “jew-ul-ree,” not “jew-ler-ree.” [More syllables won’t get you more carats]
  28. Sandwich is pronounced “sand-which,” not “sam-which.” [Or “sam-mitch” either]
  29. Realtor is pronounced “real-tor,” not “real-ah-tor.” [Similarly, it’s “di-late,” not “di-ah-late”]
  30. Asterisk is pronounced “ass-tur-risk,” not “ass-trik.” [It’s not called a star, by the way]
  31. Federal is pronounced “fed-ur-ul,” not “fed-rul.” [Use all syllables to ensure all federal holidays]
  32. Candidate is pronounced “can-di-date,” not “can-uh-date.” [It’s not “can-nuh-date” or “can-di-dit”]
  33. Hierarchy is pronounced “hi-ur-ar-kee,” not “hi-ar-kee.” [It’s not “arch-type”; it’s “ar-ki-type”]
  34. Niche is pronounced “nich” or “neesh,” not “neech.” [This one drives some people crazy]
  35. Sherbet is pronounced “sher-bet,” not “sher-bert.” [I’m sure, Burt]
  36. Prescription is pronounced “pre-scrip-tion,” not “per-scrip-tion.” [and prerogative, not “per”]
  37. Arctic is pronounced “ark-tik,” not “ar-tik.” [Not “ant-ar-tik-ah either]
  38. Cabinet is pronounced “cab-uh-net,” not “cab-net.” [Likewise, it’s “cor-uh-net,” not “cor-net”]
  39. Triathlon is pronounced “tri-ath-lon,” not “tri-ath-uh-lon.” [Not “bi-ath-uh-lon” either]
  40. Forte is pronounced “fort,” not “for-tay.” [But Porsche does have a slight “uh” at the end]

And for the culinary snobs among us… It’s “bru-chet-tah” or “bru-sket-tah,” but definitely not “bru-shet-tah.” And it’s “hear-row,” not “gear-row” or “ji-roh.” If you’re eager for more of the same, check out the 20 Embarrassing Mispronunciations that I have been guilty of over the years.

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 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).

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