Archive for September, 2016

The Ideal Vocabulary Worksheets

If you were to create the ideal vocabulary worksheets for your 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grade students, what would you include?

No doubt, the worksheets would be perfectly aligned to the Common Core Language Strand 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0 Standards (whether your state and district are Common Core or not…) These Standards make sense to any teacher. The activities would be concise and be able to be completed independently in no more than ten minutes. You do have other subjects to teach.

The worksheets would be grade-level specific and would not repeat previous grade-level vocabulary instruction. Check out this grades 4−8 vocabulary scope and sequence at the end of the document.

If you were including each Common Core Standard, you would include homonyms: both homophones (sound alike, but spelled differently) and homographs (spelled alike, but sound differently).

You would have to include Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes. To maximize memory you would cleverly pair these word parts, e.g., pre (before) + view (to see). Students would use the definitions of the word parts to guess the meaning of the connected word, i.e., preview and would check their own definition with that of the dictionary. Of course, your students would have to divide the word into syllables, i.e., pre/view, place the primary accent (essential for spelling rules), i.e., pré/view, and write out the primary dictionary definition.

Knowing the importance of learning the different types of figures of speech, you would teach the grade-level Standards, e.g., idioms, metaphors, symbolism, adages, iron, puns, etc. Students would have to explain or interpret the use of these language tools in given sentences.

On the back of the worksheet, you would teach students the different forms of word relationships: synonyms, antonyms, part to whole, cause to effect, etc. by requiring students to show the meanings of two related words in context clue sentence.

You would include a semantic spectrum to teach connotative relationships, e.g. frigid, cold, temperate, warm.

Lastly, you would follow the advice of Common Core vocabulary scholars Beck, McKowen, and Kukan by teaching cross-curricular Tier II words to build your students’ academic vocabulary, but which words would you use? The research-based Academic Word List with the four square vocabulary method, i.e., 1. Word and definition (in kid-friendly language) 2. Synonym 3.Antonym 4. Example, characteristic, or picture just makes sense.

If you agree that these components would be included in your ideal vocabulary worksheets, you might wish to check out these FREE resources:

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

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

Or if you don’t want to re-invent the wheel… Why not order the full year Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit for your grade level with a special 10% discount when you enter coupon code 3716 at check out? If you want the

Pennington Publishing's Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit

comprehensive Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program with accompanying student workbooks, we invite you to read these product descriptions.

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How to Teach Test Prep

This year I’m teaching two classes of seventh grade honors English-language arts. I usually teach the reading intervention classes and the remedial English class to help “catch students up while they keep up” with grade-level instruction. It’s been awhile since I’ve taught such precocious twelve-year-olds as these honors students.

After our first unit test, the honor students were shocked at the results. Some 20% of the students failed their first grammar, vocabulary, spelling, reading strategies, and elements of plot exam. Of course I produced a nice study guide and plenty of review and I told the students that those who study will get A’s and B’s and those who don’t will get D’s and F’s. I also emailed parents to suggest that they help their gifted sons and daughters study. Yes, after the test I got quite a few parent emails asking if they should transfer their child out of such a “challenging” class.

You see these honors students have never had to study in their elementary classes. In fact, many of my honors students don’t know how to study. We so often assume that test study is just “doing it.” However, thinking a bit about it… we realize that there are quite a few tips about how to study for tests.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

I added on a quick set of “how to study for and take tests” lessons to prepare my students for the second unit test. Yes, they did much better.

These lessons are part of my Essential Study Skills curriculum. Check out these FREE LESSONS here.

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

I developed 40 lessons like these for regular classes, study skills electives, advocacy classes, advisory periods, opportunity classes, substitutes, and rainy day activities. You get the idea. Each of the 40 lessons has a focused goal-setting activity, a great one page teacher-directed lesson, and a personal reflection page.

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Teaching Reading Comprehension

As more teachers are teaching reading strategies (all helpful) to help students access, understand, and analyze text independently, let’s not overlook the obvious: How to Improve Reading Comprehension.

As a reading specialist, I am constantly surprised by teachers who tell me that they have never learned how to teach reading comprehension or think that reading strategies alone will do the job. If you’ve never learned how to teach reading comprehension, the following advice and FREE Resources are just what the doctor ordered.

Despite what many believe, reading is not a natural process; it needs to be taught, and not just caught.

A reader’s comprehension of any text (narrative or expository) depends upon the quality of the internal dialogue between the reader and author. “Talking to the text” significantly increases reader comprehension and promotes retention as well. Tons of reading research on this. Check out my Pennington Publishing Blog for dozens of articles on this. However, reader-author dialogue is not a skill acquired by osmosis. It requires instruction and practice. Doesn’t everything?

The most effective approach to helping students learn to interact with the text is to teach students how to begin and carry on the conversation with the author. Specific cueing strategies prompt the reader to talk to the text and the author. These cueing strategies assign readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain interactive dialogue with the text.

I’ve developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with narrative and expository text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Teaching students to question the text they read by prompting themselves with the SCRIP strategies will help them understand and better remember what they read. Click here to get three great resources absolutely FREE: 1. SCRIP classroom posters 2. Five one-page fairy tales to teach each of the SCRIP strategies 3. SCRIP bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Here’s how to use those resources: Do a Think-Aloud to teach students how you carry on the conversation with an author. Start with the each of the five fairy tales to focus on one SCRIP strategy per lesson.

  1. Tell students that you are going to demonstrate what good readers do as they silently read.

    1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets for Grades 4-8 Teachers

    Every teacher needs back-up!

  2. Read a few lines out loud and then alter your voice (raise the pitch, lower the volume, or use an accent) to model what you are thinking. Stop and explain what the voice altering meant and keep this voice altering consistent throughout the Think-Aloud.
  3. Prompt your dialogue with the focus SCRIP strategy. Use this specific language of instruction.
  4. Don’t over-do the amount of your Think-Aloud thoughts. Once or twice per every paragraph is about right. Don’t interrupt the flow of the reading.
  5. Have students read the same fairy tale as a “pair share.” One student reads a paragraph out loud and does a Think-Aloud, referencing their SCRIP bookmark to prompt their dialogue with the author. Then the next reads a paragraph, etc.
  6. De-brief. Ask students if they think they understood the text better because of your verbalized thoughts (and theirs) rather than just by passively reading without talking to the text.
  7. Select your own reading and do a Think-Aloud, using all five of the SCRIP strategies

Mark Pennington provides teacher-created and kid-tested assessment-based curriculum to help students “catch up while they keep up” with grade level instruction.

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Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

The Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4−8 programs will help your students master each of the Common Core grade-level grammar and mechanics Standards. This rigorous, fun, and easy-to-teach interactive notebook is neither a fact-filled collection of boring lecture notes, nor a time-wasting portfolio of art projects.

Check out the features of Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs here.

  • Grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs aligned to the Common Core (alignment documents included). This grade-level specific program is NOT a one volume grades 4-8 collection too rigorous for fourth graders but too juvenile for eighth graders.
  • Lessons designed in the interactive Cornell Notes format with plenty of online links to help students practice. Students are provided the full note-taking text and write only the examples from the teacher display. LESS time copying and MORE time learning.
  • Each of the 64 lessons focuses on one grammar and one mechanics concept or skill. Lessons take 30−40 minutes, twice per week.
  • Lessons 1−8 review the eight conventional spelling rules appropriate for the grade level program and the eight parts of speech.
  • In lessons 9−64, students practice both grammar and mechanics with sentence revisions. Check out the example at the end of the download. Students self-correct from answers on the display. Plenty of practice in this program.
  • In lessons 9−64, students complete brief grammar and mechanics sentence dictations to formatively assess whether they have achieved mastery.
  • Students read, laugh, and respond to 64 color grammar cartoons by master cartoonist, David Rickert. That’s teaching grammar in the reading context.
  • Students complete a brief writing application of the grammar skill or rule. No learning grammar in isolation.
  • Students use their grammar and mechanics notes to label, color, cut, and glue 3d graphic organizers from the creative Tangstar templates. These foldables are perfect for review or use as a resource on tests.
  • A color photo of the finished 3d graphic organizers for each lesson includes step-by-step directions to help students follow the model and work independently. No need to create a teacher INB; it’s done for you and for absent student make-up work.
  • Minimal preparation and correction. Just copy off two or three student pages and set out the materials. Students self-correct throughout every INB lesson and with the remedial worksheets to learn from their mistakes and save you time.
  • Biweekly unit tests with answers assess definition, identification, and application of the grammar and mechanics concepts and skills.
  • Whole class diagnostic mechanics, grammar, and spelling rule assessments test previous grade-level Standards. Progress monitoring matrices included.
  • 97 total targeted remedial worksheets (in the full year program) correspond to every test item in the diagnostic assessments to help your students “catch up while they keep up” with grade-level instruction. Students complete the worksheet practice, self-correct and edit from the answer booklets, take a brief formative assessment, and mini-conference with you to assess whether students have mastered the Standard.

We still offer our one volume traditional Teaching Grammar and Mechanics program. Take a look if the interactive notebook is just not for you.

Check out my blog article here on Ten Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks. And please follow me for product updates.

Interactive Notebook Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook


Interactive notebooks are not for everyone. For a more systematic and comprehensive language curriculum, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage,

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

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

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.

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