Archive for February, 2013

Common Core Spelling Standards

Common Core Spelling Standards


The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts provide instructional challenges for all conscientious upper elementary and middle school teachers. In addition to the Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening Strands, teachers are expected to teach the grammar, mechanics, language application, spelling, and vocabulary Standards of the CCSS Language Strand (Standards L. 1-6). When establishing instructional priorities to address these Standards, many teachers have placed spelling (Standard L. 2) on the back-burner.

It’s not that teachers devalue spelling instruction. Instructional time and the diverse instructional needs of our students are the key instructional concerns. Teaching is reductive-spending time on this takes away from that. Instructional decision-making is largely about establishing priorities. So, curricular materials must afford teachers the choices to reflect those priorities.

Recently I attended an all-day introduction to the Common Core State Standards sponsored by my school district. As expected, the changes in the reading standards assumed the vast amount of instructional attention. Writing standards were allotted an hour and listening and speaking standards a mere ten minutes. A passing reference was given to the language standards of grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary. However, spelling (Language Standard 2.0) was not mentioned.

Perhaps our trainers were taking their cues from the minimal references to spelling in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards. Following are the spelling standards from Grades 4−8:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.2e Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2e Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.2b Spell correctly.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.7.2b Spell correctly.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.2b Spell correctly.

Hardly the specificity or attention that most parents, teachers, and administrators would desire, especially given the heavy focus on phonics, syllabication, and word analysis in the primary grades and the sound-spelling emphases of CCSS contributors to the appendices.

Indeed, those same authors would readily acknowledge that teaching explicit spelling patterns in conjunction with reading has a solid research base. The spelling-reading (encoding-decoding) connection is well-established at every stage of word study—from sound-spelling relationships in the primary grades to derivational and etymological influences from elementary through high school.

Perhaps their assumption is that all students have mastered the sound-spelling relationships, derivational, and etymological underpinnings of our language by the end of third grade. Our new standards are rigorous, but even so…

So what about students who clearly have not mastered the basic sound-spellings by, say, eighth grade? The Common Core State Standards shy away from this all-too-often reality in many schools. Here is the advice:

“The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations.”

My take is that teachers are going to have to flesh out meaningful spelling instruction beyond the third grade level to benefit our students. Additionally, students who have not mastered those primary grade sound-spelling patterns and sight words deserve our addition in the upper elementary, middle school, high school, and community college settings. We can help students “keep up” with grade-level instruction and “catch up” on spelling pattern deficits.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the
Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction. Mark has also written five separate slices of the program: the grades 4-8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction programs.

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Teaching Your Child to Read Well

One of the true joys and responsibilities of parenthood is teaching your child to read. But wait… isn’t that the teacher’s job? Of course it is, but the best approach is always an effective and complementary home-school partnership. As a parent of three boys, an MA Reading Specialist, and an author of numerous reading textbooks, I have a few practical tips to help you teach your child to read and read well. And the tips work equally well with four-year-old and fourteen-year-old readers.

Developing a Literate Home Environment

Plenty of research studies demonstrate a positive correlation between skilled readers and their literate home environments. Having books and other print media visible and readily accessible in the home fosters a certain reading atmosphere. Discussing books while driving to school or waiting in the doctor’s office builds comprehension and vocabulary. Modeling reading in the home shows the value you place on literacy. Reading a newspaper after dinner, rather than watching a re-run of The Big Bang Theory, says something to your child.

Reading to Your Child

Reading to your child, regardless of age or reading level, certainly makes a difference. Reading out loud helps model expression and attention to punctuation. Reading out loud also provides an opportunity to model “talking to the text.” Practicing reading as a reader-author dialogue will help your child understand and retain textual information far better than readers who simply passively read the printed words.

Try modeling my SCRIP Comprehension Strategies to teach this interactive reading: Summarize means to put together the main ideas and important details of a reading into a short-version of what the author has said. Connect means to notice the relationship between one part of the text with another part of the text. Re-think means to re-read the text when you are confused or have lost the author’s train of thought. Interpret means to focus on what the author means. Frequently authors suggest what they mean and require readers to draw their own conclusions. Predict means to make an educated guess about what will happen or be said next in the text. Good readers check their predictions with what actually happens or is said next.

Getting Your Child to Read on Their Own

Although watching and listening to an expert about how to use a tool has some value, learning to use that tool on our own is the goal. Teaching your child to be an effective independent reader requires consistent and sufficient practice, but also a bit of teaching know-how.

First, let’s address the reluctant reader problem. Waiting for your child to want to read will produce a long wait for many parents. Although you would love your child to be avid reader, few children fit into that category. None of my three boys liked to read, but all did. They were required to read throughout the year (summers and vacations too), sometimes by their teachers and sometimes by me for thirty minutes reading, five days per week. Over the years all three boys read an amazing amount of books. Sometimes we permitted comic books, magazines, and newspapers, but mostly books. And our boys read both expository and narrative texts. We did offer some free choice, but not always, and independent reading requirement continued until they got their drivers’ licenses. All three boys are now avid readers as adults.

Next, let’s discuss how to select books for independent reading. As I mentioned, we did offer some free choice, but within certain parameters. Knowing that independent reading is the most efficient means of vocabulary acquisition, I suggest that parents should strive to help their children select books at close to the 5% unknown word level. In other words, a child should know and be able to define or explain the meaning of most all, but not all words on a given page. The 5% unknown word recognition level provides enough unknown vocabulary words to enable reader acquisition through context clues, but not too many unknown words to interfere with comprehension. Some dictionary use makes sense, but a readily parent can help with essential words as well.

Lastly, let’s get real. Without accountability your child will not read or will not read well. Teaching your child to read at home does require some monitoring. A daily discussion of the reading during dinner or on the way to the soccer game, using the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies as discussion prompts, will ensure careful reading and promote comprehension development as well. And what better way to keep the lines of communication open with your child than to discuss the world of ideas within the pages of a book? Teaching reading to your child may be an important parental responsibility, but it is also a true joy that will turn your child into a lifelong reader.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned 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 instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students 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.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.


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The “able” Spelling Rule

“able” Spellings


Common Core Language Standard: L.8.2c*

Pre-teaching: The “able” and “ible” suffixes are frequently confused by spellers. Both suffixes generally sound the same with the vowel taking the nasal short /ŭ/ schwa sound.

Definitions and Examples: End a word with “able” if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (despicable, navigable), after a complete root word (teachable), or after a silent e (likeable).

Of course… What would a spelling rule be without a few exceptions?

collapsible, contemptible, irresistible, memorable, portable, probable, capable

Spelling Rule Song: (to the tune of “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”)

Base words add “able” to the end,

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,

As do word parts,

That’s my name, too.

That end in silent e

Whenever we go out-

Or with hard c or g

The people always shout,

But for all others add “i-b-l-e”.

Saying, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.”

Check out the spelling song: The “able” or “ible” Spelling Rule

Practice: What’s right and what’s wrong according to the rule? Every applicable rule has been applied to eligable and agreeable citizens. The changable nature of our laws can be frustrating.

Formative Assessment Dictation: His likeable and huggable granddaughter felt comfortable in his home and invincible on the volleyball court.

Related Language Standards: The Vulgar “a” Spelling

*Suggested Grade Level

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the
Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

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The Vulgar “a” Spelling

Vulgar “a” Spellings


Common Core Language Standard: L.8.2*

Pre-teaching: Spelling and vocabulary are closely linked. Spelling is often influenced by vocabulary.

Also, remember that words have both denotative and connotative meanings and that the meaning of a word often influences the spelling of that word.

Definitions and Examples: The word vulgar simply means “common.” This definition is its denotation, or exact meaning. However, vulgar is also means “negative or evil.” This definition is its connotation, or commonly associated meaning. The vulgar “_ar,” “_al,” and “_an” spellings often appear in roots and suffixes. Examples: beggar, dismal, pagan.

Writing Style Hints: Knowing the connotative meaning of a word can help you choose when to use these vulgar spelling words with precision. Using words with a specific connotation can help you establish the mood or tone of your writing.

Practice: The Secretary of Labor’s resistance to any internal investigation made his repeated denials of wrongdoing seem like he had something to hide.

Formative Assessment Dictation: The scandal produced the usual denials and resistance to come clean with the truth.

Writing Application: Write an opening sentence to set the tone of a murder mystery using at least two forms of these vulgar a words: buzzard, blizzard, abnormal, veteran.

Related Language Standards: Ten English Accent Rules

*Suggested Grade Level

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the
Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

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