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Close Reading Narrative Worksheet

Close Reading? A helpful, time-tested reading strategy, which was brought back to life in 2009 with the advent of the Common Core State Standards and the evangelical zeal of Common Core lead authors of the English-language Arts Standards, David Coleman and Susan Pimental. For those still getting re-acquainted with close reading, this definition should suffice from noted U.C. Berkeley reading-rearcher David Pearson (now a constructive critic of how the close reading strategy is currently being implemented) and co-author Margaret Gallagher:

Close Reading of text involves an investigation of a short piece of text, with multiple readings done over multiple instructional lessons. Through text-based questions and discussion, students are guided to deeply analyze and appreciate various aspects of the text, such as key vocabulary and how its meaning is shaped by context; attention to form, tone, imagery and/or rhetorical devices; the significance of word choice and syntax; and the discovery of different levels of meaning as passages are read multiple times. The teacher’s goal in the use of Close Reading is to gradually release responsibility to students—moving from an environment where the teacher models for students the strategies to one where students employ the strategies on their own when they read independently

P. David Pearson and Margaret C. Gallagher, “The Instruction of Reading Comprehension,” Contemporary Educational Psychology 8, no. 3 (July 1983) 317-344.

Specifically, the first and last C.C.S.S. Reading Anchor Standards address the importance of close reading:

1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions
drawn from the text.

10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently

As Pearson now notes, “We need a mid-course correction with close reading.”

CLOSE Reading Narrative Template

CLOSE Reading Narrative Worksheet

My criticism of the how a good reading strategy (close reading) needs revision is three-fold:

  1. Pre-reading strategies and pre-teaching are frowned upon in the new permutation of close reading. With our diverse student population, beginning a cold read or rigorous text borders on educational malpractice. Reading comprehension builds upon reading comprehension. The into reading step has a solid research base and can be teacher-led or student-researched. Now I’m not advocating a return to the counter-productive “Give students the Cliff’s Notes version of the reading prior to the first read” practice of the 1980s. We do want to promote Reading Anchor Standard 10 and its focus on developing reader independence.
  2. I do applaud the focus on text-dependent questions to analyze expository and narrative text (Who wants to return to the beyond reading focus of constructing one’s own meaning from the author’s words?); however, in addition to some teacher or publisher questions, we need to return to the emphasis of interactive reading based upon reader (self)-generated question strategies. We need to bring back talking to the text to improve reading comprehension and to develop independence. Even the best teacher-generated questions lead students to a skim to find the answers approach to reading.
  3. Again, I’m thrilled that the Common Core has renewed our focus on expository text. But, narrative has a place, too. And short selections of novels, as well as short stories, can serve as rigorous close readings. Close readings are not confined to articles. At the end of this article, I provide a FREE resource download of a Close Reading Narrative Worksheet.

Will These Mid-course Corrections Be Adopted?

Revision tends to take more time than wholesale change. Whether teachers will gradually buy into some of these mid-course corrections remains to be seen. We teachers can be an impatient bunch, and we often jump onto the bandwagon of new and improved education approaches which are neither new nor improved.

Most teachers have been in professional development settings in which the speaker advocated the necessity of gradual course changes. The speaker may even have trotted out the example of how long it takes an aircraft carrier (or a cruise ship) to turn around in the middle of the ocean. I looked up this metaphor and found an interesting response from a naval seaman assigned to the carrier, George W. Bush.  This quote bears reading closely. He responds to the question of how long it takes a carrier to make a 180 degree turn (emphasis mine):

Few people will notice 1 degree per second which is easy to do at 30 kts, so 180 degrees would take about 3 minutes and operations could continue. This is a very realistic answer as the carrier must counter sea currents which may need 1 degree/sec of rudder. If nothing is loose on deck, MUCH more agressive [sic]turns can be taken as the deck will tilt 30 degrees into the turn. Anything not tied down will roll off into the ocean, i.e. equipment, airplanes, people, etc, and no planes could land or take off with such a turn in progress. These turns are done on first sea trials to prove that the rudder can handle the stress of a tight turn at max speed. Here I would estimate a full U turn (180 degrees) in well under 60 seconds, probably 30 seconds, but you’d want to hold onto something.

Now that we’ve finished our first close read, most of us found the main ideas and key details and were able to answer the BIG question: How long does it take an aircraft carrier to turn around? 

Let’s do our second close read, looking for craft and structure…

The naval seaman crafts his answer beginning with the usual and moving to the extraordinary. He moves from the impersonal “Few” in the first sentence to the personal “you’d” in the last. He uses two cause and effect structures: the first being the slow turn and its results; the second being the fast turn and its results.

Let’s do our third close read and mark up the text with marginal annotations, preparing to apply, discuss, and properly cite the information…

KEY RESULTS OF FAST TURN “Anything not tied down 1. will roll off into the ocean, i.e. equipment, airplanes, people, etc, and 1. no planes could land or take off with such a turn in progress” (Jones).

My take regarding the mid-course corrections of the close reading strategy is that a slow turn will produce greater long-term effects than a fast turn and will produce fewer casualties. We’ve made some significant progress in improving reading instruction during the last decade. Far fewer elementary and secondary teachers are solely teaching novels. Less class time is now devoted to unguided, free choice independent reading. More time is now spent on expository reading and research. Less whole language strategies, a.k.a. reader response, which focus on filtering and applying the ideas of text through the lense of personal reader experiences, are being taught, such as with dialectical journals. I’d hate to see close reading change into a passing fad (as it has before in the 1960s).

Teachers do need to pre-teach (the “into step” of reading) and/or have students pre-research the topic (if an expository close reading) or the author, context and/or genre (if a narrative close reading), especially with rigorous reading-level close readings. Having students access prior knowledge and gap-filling with our diverse learners via pre-teaching strategies (Marzano) improves comprehension and does not turn our students into teacher-dependent learners. Indeed, comprehension builds upon comprehension and enables students to independently access text. The reading research of the last sixty years is quite extensive regarding the positive impact of pre-reading strategies.

Close Reading

Close Reading: Don’t Read Too Closely

Check out my SCRIP comprehension strategies HERE, which prompt self-generated questions. This FREE resource download includes posters for each of the five comprehension strategies, SCRIP comprehension bookmarks, and five lessons to teach these strategies. Also, get the Close Reading Expository Worksheet FREE resource download HERE. But first, download your Close Reading Narrative Worksheet below. So many free ready-to-use resources, news, and product discounts available only in the Pennington Publishing Newsletter.

Get the Close Reading Narrative Worksheet FREE Resource:

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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,

Decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books

Sam and Friends Take-home Phonics Books

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

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

 

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , ,

Close Reading Expository Worksheet

CLOSE Reading Expository Template

CLOSE Reading Expository Worksheet

At the end of this article, I provide a Close Reading Expository Worksheet for you to freely download and use with the next close reading of an expository article, document, selection from a textbook, etc. You will see a few revisions to what many publishers are selling as the close reading strategy. Even a good thing can use a little tweak here or there.

As of this writing, close reading is the primary reading strategy I now see used in schools across America. Having taught for awhile as an elementary reading specialist, middle school, high school, and community college ELA teacher, I’ve seen quite a few new and improved instructional reading strategies come and go. Close reading is an old reading strategy which was re-popularized with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards back in 2009. Among other reforms, the authors argued for a move to more rigorous expository texts and less narrative texts in both elementary and secondary classrooms. The authors championed the close reading strategy as a means to help students access the meaning of text as independent readers. Additionally, the authors stressed the need for text-dependent questions to improve reading comprehension.

As is often the case when we teachers throw out the old and take on the new, we wind up impulsively replacing what has a solid research-base and worked for students with a brand new shiny wrapped package may or may not have a solid research-base and may or may not work for students.

My take is that close reading does have the solid research-base and can work for our students. However, instead of a this or that mentality, we do need to hang onto some of the old research-based strategies. What we need a mid-course correction with the close reading strategy. I’m not alone in this assessment. Noted reading researchers David Pearson (who coined the term mid-course correction for close reading), Isabel Beck, Tim Shanahan, and others such as Grant Wiggins (Understanding by Design) agree that close reading is helpful, but needs fixin’. The Close Reading Expository Worksheet which follows keeps everything good about the close reading strategy while revising what is not so good.

Now mid-course corrections can be tough to pull-off in education. I think back to the early 2000 at the heyday of the differentiated instruction (DI) movement-think conferences with 20,000 attendees, best-selling books, rock star authors, etc. As a reading specialist, I bought into so much of the DI mission, especially teaching according to individual needs. However, so much of the DI focus on multiple intelligences, learning styles, etc. was simply philosophical and certainly not research-based. I tried to re-define DI for my own teaching and books and nudge DI adherents toward assessment-based individualized instruction, keeping the wheat and discarding the chaff. Not much success with my efforts, I’m afraid to say.

Whether teachers will adopt the necessary tweaks to the close reading strategy which will prevent it from becoming just another passing fad, only time will tell. Download the Close Reading Expository Worksheet to see if this mid-course correction makes sense to you and your students.

What Needs to Change

In a related article I provide details about two necessary revisions to the close reading strategy: 1. Eliminating the prohibition on pre-reading strategies which close reading purists claim stifles reader independence. 2. Reducing the dependence on teacher-constructed, text-dependent questions to help students dig deeply into the text.

A New and Improved Close Reading Strategy (The Close Reading Expository Worksheet)

Let’s keep the three separate readings used in the close reading strategy: 1. Key Ideas and Details 2. Craft and Structure and 3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. Let’s keep the Think-Pair-Share, Small Group Share, and Whole Group Discussion. Let’s keep the focus on text-dependent (not unhelpful beyond-the-text personal application) questions. Let’s keep on identifying the BIG IDEA before the first read.

In addition to these strategies, let’s go back to using pre-reading activities and pre-teaching (Marzano) to improve comprehension. No educator should believe that a tabular raza (empty slate) reader is preferable to an informed reader. Comprehension builds from comprehension.  Building prior knowledge can be teacher or student-driven. A brief lecture on the subject or student research before the first reading can make all the difference in comprehension. This revision to close reading is especially important with our diverse student populations.

Let’s go back to encouraging students to develop their own text-dependent questions as they read. The reading-research actually indicates that reader self-generated questions produces greater comprehension than teacher (or publisher)-generated questions. Download my SCRIP Comprehension Strategies with posters, bookmarks, and five introductory lessons at the end of this article.

Let’s go back to a balance between reading both expository and narrative reading genre. Close readings can be highly effective in texts other than articles.

So let’s revise a good thing make it close reading a better reading strategy to develop independent readers. Interested in resources to help you do just that? Check out  the Close Reading Narrative Worksheet FREE resource download HERE. But first, download your Close Reading Narrative Worksheet below. So many free ready-to-use resources, news, and product discounts available only in the Pennington Publishing Newsletter. But first let’s download the Close Reading Expository Worksheet.

Get the Close Reading Expository Worksheet FREE Resource:

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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 close reading expository 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,

Decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books

Sam and Friends Take-home Phonics Books

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

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

 

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

Independent Close Reading

I hesitate to criticize a good thing too harshly. We teachers tend all-too-often to abandon something that works for the new latest and greatest educational fad.  This is certainly not my intention in criticizing aspects of the close reading strategy and suggesting revisions.

By way of reminder, close reading is a multi-level strategy to encourage readers to access meaning independently.  Close reading advocates achieve this end by avoiding pre-reading strategies and using text-dependent questions to complete three reading tasks: during the first read, students focus on gleaning key ideas and details. In the second read, students focus on how the author has designed the text (craft and structure). In the third reading, students focus on the integration of knowledge and ideas, such as preparing to use the text in discussion, writing, and comparisons with other texts. Close reading is certainly nothing new and is only one means of helping students become more analytical readers, as I describe in a related article., “Close Reading: Don’t Read Too Closely.”

Close Reading

Close Reading: Don’t Read Too Closely

Since the advent of the Common Core Standards and the concurrent re-popularization of the close reading strategy by the Common Core authors, teachers have been teaching more rigorous, expository text (a good thing). Teachers are training students to dig deeply into text and read for meaning (a great thing). Teachers have abandoned pure reader response, a.k.a. whole language, activities which focus more on what the reader brings to and gets out of the text rather than what the author has to say (a radical paradigm shift). Wahoo!

However, as noted U.C. Berkeley reading researcher, David Pearson, comments about close reading : “We need a mid-course correction, not a pendulum swing… but with BALANCE in mind… (making) sure that it applies to several purposes for reading (and will) encompass literal, interpretive, and critical reading tasks” (Pearson).

Mid-course Corrections: Two Proposals

1. Close reading advocates are wrong about avoiding pre-teaching. Cold reads in-them-of-themselves do not develop independent readers. Teachers do need to pre-teach (the “into step” of reading) and/or have students pre-research the topic (if an expository close reading) or the author, context and/or genre (if a narrative close reading), especially with rigorous reading-level close readings. Having students access prior knowledge and gap-filling with our diverse learners via pre-teaching strategies (Marzano) improves comprehension and does not turn our students into teacher-dependent learners. Indeed, comprehension builds upon comprehension and enables students to independently access text. The reading research of the last sixty years is quite extensive regarding the positive impact of pre-reading strategies.

2. Close reading advocates over-emphasize the value of text-dependent questions. Now, I certainly agree that we don’t want to return to non-dependent text questions, such as “How does this make you feel?” “How does this apply to your life?” How does your life apply to what the author says?” Aargh! My point is that text-dependent questions foster teacher-dependence during the reading process itself. The goal of reading becomes answering the teacher’s questions. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t add insight and provoke relevant reader response with some of our teacher questions. However, if we are to create truly independent readers, we need students to develop self-generated question strategies. This interactive talking to the text has a solid research base and is key to improving reading comprehension.

So let’s tweak a good thing (close reading) and make it a better reading strategy that truly helps teachers develop independent readers. Let’s use Independent Close Reading to accomplish that end. Interested in resources to help you do just that? Check out the Close Reading Expository Worksheet FREE resource download HERE and the Close Reading Narrative Worksheet FREE resource download HERE. But first, download your Close Reading Narrative Worksheet below. So many free ready-to-use resources, news, and product discounts available only in the Pennington Publishing Newsletter.

The SCRIP Comprehension Strategies resource includes posters for each of the five comprehension strategies to prompt self-generated questions, SCRIP comprehension bookmarks, and five lessons to teach these strategies.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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 close reading expository 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,

Decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books

Sam and Friends Take-home Phonics Books

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

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

 

Reading , , , , , , , ,

W Vowels and Y, L, H, M, R, and N While We’re At It

The W is a Vowel Sometimes

Save the W!

Save the w! (As a vowel, that is)

 
Wow, it’s rare for me to disagree with Grammar Girl… As a reading specialist, we love rules. If a word doesn’t fit, we figure a way to make it do so:) My speech therapist colleagues will back me up on this generalization.
 
In a related article, Grammar Girl reminds us that a vowel is a sound, not a letter. Nicely done! We form these sounds into two ways. 1. Some vowel sounds are made with the mouth in one position and with one sound. These vowel sounds are called monophthongs. Examples: got, go, know 2. Other vowel sounds start with the mouth in one formation as one vowel sound and slide into another formation as two vowel sounds. These vowel sounds are called diphthongs. Examples: coin, joy, out, and cow.
 
Grammar Girl states that “you could argue that W does indeed represent a vowel.” She cites the diphthong /ow/ as her example. But then she continues, “maybe to you the word ‘cow’ sounds like it ends with the consonant ‘wuh’ instead of the vowel ‘oo.’” Just as with the diphthong ‘oy,’ phoneticians disagree.”
 
Yikes! Houston, we’ve got a problem. In fact, we have a few. To be picky, it’s not the consonant, “wuh.” All consonants have clipped sounds. When we teach students, we blend /w/ /e/ /s/ /t/ (four sounds), not “wuh” est. Also, the vowel “oo” does not have the /ow/ sound, it has the /oo/ as in rooster or /oo/ as in foot sound.
 
Now the to meat of the matter regarding the w vowel sound. Okay, vegetables for my vegan friends.
 
To say that “…phoneticians disagree that the w is not a vowel, but may indeed be a consonant” is news to me. If so, these phoneticians are certainly making exceptions to our cherished rules. In fact, they have now added a new sound-spelling for the /ow/ sound: the _o or o_ as in /c/ /o/ /w/. They also have violated our CVC syllable rule, because their new /o/ is certainly not a short vowel sound.
 
Furthermore, Grammar Girls offers this solution to the problem of identifying a w as a vowel at the end of the diphthong: “So my recommendation is just to say that the combination O-W represents the diphthong “ow,” and stop there, just like we did for the O-Y and the diphthong ‘oy.’”
 
This solution seems an “easy out” to the argument as to whether or not the w can serve as a vowel, but in the real world of teaching students to read, this solution is counterproductive.
 
Somehow, Grammar Girl took us back to letters, not sounds, for vowels. Grammar Girl recommends saying, “The O-W represents the dipthong ‘ow’ …the O-Y… the diphthong ‘oy.'” No. We’ve already established that vowels are sounds and that the diphthong /ow/ has two distinct sounds. It really does matter that the w is a vowel.
 
Practically speaking, beginning readers, remedial readers, students with auditory processing challenges, and ESL, EL, and ELD students need to learn not only the a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y monophthongs, but also the diphthongs as well. Again, a vowel sound may actually have two sounds and students have to practice their mouth formations, sounds, and the sound-spelling options.
 
When students read cow, we want to hear three separate sounds: one consonant /c/ and two vowel sounds distinctly pronounced as /ow/. Without all the mumbo-jumbo, we teach students that cow has two vowel sounds spelled as a vowel team.
 
Now that we’ve saved the w as a vowel sound, let’s stir stir up the pot a bit more. Other letters (in addition to our cherished w) may also serve as vowels. Examples: h and y as in rhy/thm, l as in bu/gle, r as in mur/der, ar/mor, mir/ror, m as in bottom, and n as in mutton.
Linda Farrell has a nice article on the difference between digraphs and diphthongs with plenty of examples HERE.
 *****

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the Teaching Reading Strategies intervention program and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

Get the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records FREE Resource:

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

 

 

 

 

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

How to Use Running Records with Decodable Text

Running Records with Decodables

Running Records with Decodable Text

Running records provide an effective means of reading assessment. Using running records helps teachers determine the strengths and challenges of individual readers. From these periodic  observations of the reading process, teachers can make informed choices as to how to help students improve their reading. Running records also help teachers select which books and reading resources will provide optimal instructional and independent reading levels within as Vigotsky termed the individual’s zone of proximal development.

The MSV (meaning, structure, and visual) cueing strategies readers use to make meaning of text provide the teacher a window into the complex process of reading. Good readers apply a balance of semantic, syntactic, and graphophonic skills to interact with the author and comprehend narrative and expository text.

Frequently, the visual (or graphophonic) cueing skills require remediation with below grade level readers. A multitude of reasons contributes to these reading deficits, including but not limited to a lack of phonemic

Remediate reading

Catch up and keep up!

awareness, the lack of explicit and systematic phonics instruction in kindergarten-second grade, ear infections, little literacy support at home, school attendance, transiency, poverty, etc. However, the good news is that sound-spelling deficiencies can be effectively remediated to enable students to develop the automaticity necessary to fluently attend to the meaning of the text.

All too often teachers and parents assume that if children are reading and spelling (decoding and encoding) below grade level after the primary grades, these students will be doomed to remedial reader status for the rest of their lives. This is not the case if prescriptive diagnostic assessments determine individual strengths and weaknesses, and caring and informed teachers and parents provided the appropriate assessment-based instruction to address to build on the strengths and teach to the deficiencies. Indeed, students can catch up, while they keep up with grade-level instruction. Running records can be helpful formative assessments to monitor the effectiveness of interventions and to adjust resources and instruction to best meet the needs of the individual student. Running records can be particularly helpful to monitor phonics and sight words acquisition.

First of all, before we get into the how-to section about using running records, let’s first agree that no one teacher, reading guru, or reading program has cornered the market on what must constitute running records, how to use running records with or without guided reading, and how often teachers should do running records with their students. Running records are simply one helpful instructional tool to improve reading; there are other ways to do so without using running records. Now that these caveats are out of the way, following are a few tips to make the most of running records with your students. Following these tips, I’ll provide a nice running record form that works especially well with decodable text. The form certainly is great for leveled books, as well. Plus, since our focus in this article is on decodable text, I’ll provide three FREE Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books for you to use with your new running record form. See the end of the article.

How to Use Running Records with Decodable Text

1. Determine which students need decodable text and specific instruction in the alphabetic code. In other words, which of your kids do have not yet mastered their phonics? You could certainly use running records for a month or two to determine which sound-spellings each child knows and does not know. However, a diagnostic assessment gets those results quicker and more efficiently. Remember, that running records are primarily formative assessments, not diagnostic. I strongly consider giving a test that is comprehensive, not random samples. A random sample phonics inventory or spelling inventory which indicates problem areas necessitates further, more refined assessment to pinpoint teachable sound-spellings. Why not give comprehensive, teachable assessments up front to any of your students whom you suspect may need visual (graphophonics) instruction. Good assessments will indicate which levels of decodable books will be appropriate and not appropriate for your individual students. You don’t want to force Johnny to read short vowel books if he only needs help with his diphthongs. Teachers can assign these books and teach individually, or teachers can group students with the same instructional needs and teach them the un-mastered sound-spellings in guided reading groups, perhaps in rotating literacy centers, early-late reading sections, reading intervention pull-outs, etc.

The author recommends two diagnostic placement assessments to place your students in the right decodable texts with the reading resources that will improve your students’ reading in the shortest amount of time: The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment and The Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment. Go ahead! Download both of these assessments (each even has an audio file including test directions and the assessment itself to make life easier) to ensure that you are placing your students in the right books.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment

Use this comprehensive 52 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of short vowels, long vowels, silent final e, vowel digraphs, vowel diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any vowel sound phonics deficits. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment (10:42) *

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment

Use this comprehensive 50 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of consonant digraphs, beginning consonant blends, and ending consonant blends. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any consonant sound phonics deficits. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment (12:07) *

2. Decide why you want to use running records with decodable texts. If your purpose is to measure progress, assign an unpracticed decodable story which introduces a specific sound-say the /ow/ as in cow sound and complete a running record. After teaching the book or books which focus on the different /ow/ sound-spellings, post-test on the introductory story to measure progress. However, if your purpose is to monitor progress, use practiced decodable stories to determine what has been learned to mastery and what requires still more practice.

3. Decide how often you wish to complete running records and with which students. A few guidelines will be helpful: If a student has severe phonics deficits and is working on short-vowel and consonants/consonant blends mastery, running records should be performed more often than if the student has mastered all short vowels and consonants, consonant blends, long vowels and vowel teams, diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels, but is still working on derivational language sound-spelling patterns, such as the schwa. Keep in mind that assessing with running records is instruction, but you do have other subjects to teach! Once per week for more needy students and once at the end of a phonics collection-say, diphthongs, for less needy students makes sense.

Logistics

4. Where you do running records matters and deserves some planning. Ideally,  a quiet corner of the classroom or a table and chairs outside the classroom, if weather and classroom supervision so permit, make sense. Running records takes concerted concentration for both student and teacher. By the way, assessing with running records is not rocket science. A well-trained instructional aide or parent can be a life-saver in helping you with running records. Of course, you the teacher need to analyze the results and adapt instruction accordingly.

5. Find the decodable texts that will match both your students’ instructional needs and level of maturity. Please don’t use primary stories with primary characters and illustrations for older readers. Yes, these older students may need work on the short vowel /a/, but every effort must be made to provide dignity to struggling readers if we want to keep them motivated to learn and become life-long readers. Additionally, find running records which include the text of the student’s story or scan, paste, and copy the story to a blank running record or form. Ideally, use running record forms which include word counts. I personally don’t believe that a student needs to read the entire story to give the teacher the necessary data for a running record. Most teachers have students read from 150-250 words during a running record reading to ensure an adequate sample size. I use exactly 200 words for each running record in my Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books to avoid word counting and minimize calculations. (KISS) Keep it simple, stupid, always works for me.

6. The teacher writes the student’s name, date, and teacher’s name on the running record form and instructs the student to concentrate on reading the story for meaning. Help the student relax and enjoy the one-on-one time.

7. Say, “Ready, begin.” The student begins to read the story and the teacher uses coded responses to assess the student’s reading performance. Please note that the teacher may choose to use some or all of the marks for different running records.

Key Running Record Marks

  • E = Error
  • SC = Self-Correction
  • M = Meaning (Semantic Miscue)
  • S = Structure (Syntactic Miscue)… sentence structure and grammar issues V = Visual (graphophonic)… phonics, onsets and rimes, and sight word problems

The student reads the story until the 200th word has been read, or teachers can allow the student to finish the story if time permits. At this point the teacher may choose to ask the student to do a re-tell if the entire story has been read or not.

Analysis

8. The teacher uses tally marks in the columns to the right of the story text to tally the errors, self-corrections, and categorize the types of errors (Meaning, Structure, or Visual) and types of self-corrections (Meaning, Structure, or Visual).

  • E Rate = How many errors out of the words read
  • A Rate = Accuracy Rate… Words read, e.g. 200 – (errors ÷ 2) = % of accuracy
  • A Rate is used to adjust reading levels for leveled books
  • SC Rate is the self-corrections + errors % self-corrections to develop a ration of 1: ____
  • Word fluency is the # of words read correctly, including self-corrections, but excluding teacher-prompted words

9. The teacher then determines the error rate, accuracy rate, and self-corrections rate, using the formulae on the running records form. Teachers familiar with running records will especially appreciate the design of the FREE running record provided at the end of the article. Each running records assessment has exactly 200 words. No counting is necessary! The first 200 words of each story constitute the running record. And it’s all on one page!

Reader Observation Remarks

10. Make additional pertinent comments on your running record observations. Because running records affords teachers with such an intimate look at the student’s reading process, it would be a shame to ignore this qualitative data and solely concentrate on the quantitative data. For example, the graphophonic data themselves include both decoding and sight words. Making note of these different error miscues certainly makes sense. The fluency, inflection, attention to punctuation, concentration, posture, eye movement and other factors may be important to note, remediate, and monitor. My running record form includes these components as check boxes to serve as reminders and to save the time it takes to write out comments.

11. Have the student complete a re-tell of the story or section of the story read. Make comments on the students’ knowledge or story structure, sequencing, and comprehension.

12. Ask both recall and inferential questions about the text and make comments on the students’ answers. Stay text-dependent; don’t wander away from the text with application questions on how the story relates to another story or the student’s life. Of course, these are interesting questions and may build comprehension, but the purpose of running records with decodable text is to assess a particular reading and the sound-spelling skills taught in the text. Note that the FREE decodable books at the end of the article each have five embedded comprehension questions, one for each of the SCRIP comprehension strategies (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict).

13. The teacher may write evaluative notes and recommendations for interventions and/or resources in the Comments/Interventions/Resources section at the bottom of the running records form. Remember that assessment without assessment-based instruction is simply paper-pushing. Make use of your running records to refine instruction for each student.

Note that the last step when using running records for leveled readers is to determine whether the level of text is too easy, too hard, or just right for instructional guided reading and/or independent reading. The teacher move students up a level if the student has read at an independent level or down a level if the student has read at a frustration level. However, because  decodable readers are not leveled readers (determined by vocabulary, sentence length, etc.), level re-assessment is not needed.

Good decodable books have a sound-spellings and sight words instructional sequence in which successive books build upon and review the sound-spellings and sight words in the previous books. Each book is a link in the chain which should build a solid reading foundation in the visual (graphophonic) cueing strategy for your students. Many teachers who use guided reading instruction choose to allot two days per week to decodable texts and two days per week to controlled vocabulary leveled books.

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the Teaching Reading Strategies intervention program and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

 

Get the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records FREE Resource:

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

 

 

 

 

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The Serial (Oxford) Comma | For the Want of a Nail

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,

For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,

For the want of a horse the rider was lost,

For the want of a rider the battle was lost,

For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

–Benjamin Franklin

Okay, let’s keep things in perspective, shall we? Comma rules are not the most important components of human communication, right? However, the simple comma does impact the specific meaning of a sentence, as well as how the sentence is interpreted.

For the want of a comma…

Comma Rules

22 Comma Rules

–A man’s civil rights were lost. The Louisiana Supreme ruled that accused and self-confessed rapist, Warren Demesme, was not asserting his right to counsel when he stated, “This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.”

The Orleans Parish district attorneys argued that the lack of the comma between “lawyer” and “dog” meant that the accused was asking for a “lawyer dog,” not a “lawyer, dawg.” Now, no one would defend the self-confessed actions of the accused, but Americans do uphold the Constitutional right of the accused to an attorney and the right “to remain silent.” The comma (or lack thereof) certainly has significance in this case.

For the want of a comma…

–Your grandfather was cannibalized. “Let’s eat Grandpa.” The comma (or lack thereof) would certainly matter to your grandfather.

Now to be clear, the above examples are issues of commas placed before nouns of direct address. No one argues that this comma rule is superfluous. However, Americans are divided in their views on the serial comma rule (also known as the Oxford or Harvard comma rule). For a refresher, the serial comma is a comma placed before the coordinating conjunctions and or or when listing three or more items. The use, misuse, or non-use of the serial comma has its own consequences:

For the want of a serial comma…

–$10,000,000 was lost in a Maine court judgment. In a class action lawsuit against a dairy company regarding overtime pay for its truck drivers, the workers prevailed because the state laws on overtime regulations did not include a serial comma. (See Daniel Victor’s March 16, 2017 article in the Washington Post for the details.)

In sum, punctuation, including the serial comma, does affect meaning. 

To include or not include the serial comma…

Now, I’m sure that most of you already have made up your minds regarding whether we should or should not use the serial comma. Those who don’t care have stopped reading by now or never looked at this article.

My take is that your views have been chiefly influenced by one or both of two factors: 1. What you read 2. Your most influential English teacher

  1. If you read online news, blogs, posts, texts, and emails as your primary daily reading, you are exposed to a high percentage of text without the serial comma. If you read novels or technical materials, manuals, and reports as your primary daily reading, you are exposed to a high percentage of text with the serial comma. English teachers used to characterize these distinctions as informal and formal reading, but these lines have become blurred in the digital age.
  2. We tend to dig in and defend what we have been taught. Our English teachers taught us one way and marked us wrong if we used the other way. As an English teacher at the middle school, high school, and college levels and author of numerous grammar books and a writing style manual, I’ll let you in on a little secret: We English teachers don’t know the comma rules better than the average educated American. We never had a graduate level class on writing mechanics. 

My take? I value the use of the serial comma for three reasons: clarity, consistency, and conformity. However, its usage should be dictated by the writing genre.

How to Use Serial Commas

Serial Commas

Clarity

Garner’s Modern American Usage (Oxford, 2009) nicely clarifies the issue of clarity with or without the serial comma:

“Whether to include the serial comma has sparked many arguments. But it’s easily answered in favor of inclusion because omitting the final comma may cause ambiguities whereas including it never will” (Garner 676).

A few specific examples demonstrate why the serial comma provides clarity and avoids ambiguity.

The serial comma permits the use of compound subjects or objects in lists. (Remember, compound means two or more.)

Example without the Serial Comma: For lunch I enjoy hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly and fish. In this example, “peanut butter and jelly” is a compound object. A serial comma following would add clarity and prevent a truly gross sandwich.

Additionally, I’m not comma crazy, but I would also use a comma when listing only two items in a list if the and or or coordinating conjunction joins a compound subject or object. Example without the Serial Comma: On our summer trip to Britain, we want to visit the Fox and Hound and Stratford upon Avon. Most would agree that a comma following “Hound” would clear things up quite a bit for the reader.

Failing to use the serial comma can produce problems with appositives. Remember that an appositive identifies, describes, defines, or explains what comes before or after a part of speech (usually a noun or a pronoun). Most of the funny examples that you see posted to argue in favor of the serial comma involve confusing appositives.

Example without the Serial Comma: I just finished mailing letters to my children, Santa Claus and Jimmy Fallon; At the banquet we dined with good old friends, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; At the Halloween party I danced with Mrs. Peabody’s two ex-husbands, Wonder Woman and Cleopatra.

Notice that in the above examples, appositives become confusing when the first item listed in a series is a common noun (an uncapitalized idea, person, place, or thing), followed by two or more proper nouns (a capitalized person, place, or thing).

Now, articles which purport to be objective regarding the serial comma usually trot out confusing appositives to argue why serial commas can be just as ambiguous as the lack thereof.

Example with the Serial Comma: We ate dinner with Kim Kardashian, the reality television star, and the delightful Taylor Swift.

Those using this sentence example (serial killers? No, too harsh) suggest that three women may be inferred here. However, their argument sets up a straw dog to prove their point. The sentence is not an example of an ambiguous serial comma at all; it is a mistake in syntax (the order of words in a sentence). A good English teacher would suggest either of these two revisions: 1. We ate dinner with Kim Kardashian (the reality television star) and the delightful Taylor Swift. 2. We ate dinner with Kim Kardashian, who is a reality television star, and the delightful Taylor Swift. The first sentence uses a parenthetical insertion and the second uses a non-restrictive relative clause.

Consistency

In addition to providing clarity, the serial comma rule is also consistent with other Standard American English punctuation. Specifically, the serial comma rule is consistent with other punctuation rules regarding the separation of items in a list.

For example, semicolons may be used to separate long phrases or clauses in a list. No anti-serial comma journalist would ever abandon the last semicolon in the following list:

Semicolon Example: The Martin landed on Earth; the Venetian attempted to communicate; and the Air Force Captain asserted her belief that extraterrestrials did, indeed, exist.

Moreover, the use of the serial comma appeals to our sense of parallelism. Parallel ideas, grammatical structures, and punctuation are characteristics of consistent, predictable, memorable, reader-friendly writing. As Mary Norris, writing in The New Yorker, states, “If a sentence were a picket fence, the serial commas would be posts at regular intervals.”

Example: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Lincoln’s example shows the impact of parallel ideas, grammatical structures, and punctuation. Without the serial comma in the sentence above, the cadence of the writing and speech would be altered and inconsistent with the other parallel forms in The Gettysburg Address.

Those proposing the elimination of the serial comma always seem to add the following caveat to their position: Drop the serial comma unless its elimination would be confusing to the reader. Inconsistency is built into their rule; such is not the case for the serial comma rule. Such is the stated position of the only major style guide which supports the elimination of the serial comma.

Conformity

Only the Associated Press (AP) stylebook supports dropping the serial comma “unless deemed absolutely necessary.” Admittedly, the AP position has wielded tremendous influence. Following AP style, newspapers uniformly omit the serial comma. Both prestigious papers, such as The New York Times and tabloids, such as The National Enquirer, avoid the comma. Some magazines, such as People and Variety, do so as well. Furthermore, the lack of the serial comma is also firmly entrenched in digital media, largely due to the AP influence. Because of the pervasiveness of such digital news, the serial comma’s days may be numbered.

However, the use of the serial comma is supported in the overwhelming majority of academic style guides: Chicago, Turabian, Modern Language Association, American Psychological Association, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and the U.S. Government Publishing Office Style Manual 8.27, 8.28. Also, contrary to much of what you may have heard, the serial comma has not been abandoned in all periodicals. For example,  The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Harper’s Magazine adhere to its usage.

Additionally, the respected Online Writing Lab of Purdue University (a favorite go-to guide for teachers and students) supports the serial comma rule.

Clearly we have a divergence of authoritative opinion and common usage regarding the serial comma. Despite the clear advantages of the serial comma in terms of clarity and consistency, conformity to the dictates of the writing genre (and the editor or teacher’s demands) makes the most practical sense. I’ll close with a few pragmatic applications:

  1. When writing a newspaper article, omit the serial comma.
  2. When writing an article for a blog or magazine, ask the editor whether or not to use the serial comma. Conform to whomever is paying the bills.
  3. When writing informally on the web, in letters, cards, emails, texts, posts,flyers, bulletins, etc., pick your poison, but be consistent as possible. Try not to judge others’ usage too harshly in this transitional “no-man’s land.”
  4. When writing reports, essays, narratives, novels, and documents, use the serial comma.
  5. Teachers should teach the serial comma and expect its usage in formal academic writing. However, the discussion of its use in different writing genre and in the evolution of our language is also productive. Using the serial comma to explain the purpose of punctuation and how it affects meaning is valuable.

I’m Mark Pennington, English-language arts teacher and reading specialist. More to the point, I am the author of the comprehensive grades 4–high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs and the Pennington Manual of Style, a useful reference and teaching tool. Click HERE for a complete list of the 22 comma rules with clear examples.

The Pennington Manual of Style

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

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Literacy Center Resources Grades 4-8

Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLES

Academic Literacy Centers Grades 4-8 BUNDLES

Upper elementary and middle school literacy centers are qualitatively different than primary literacy centers. Recognizing this fact can mean the difference between

Using Remedial Literacy Centers

Remedial Literacy Centers

success and failure of your literacy centers. Since literacy centers have long been the staples of self-contained primary classrooms, much of the available curriculum, articles, videos, and pins focuses on what works for a cute group of teacher-pleasing, eager-to-learn, well-behaved second graders. Those are not your kids, right? If you are a grades 4-8 teacher and you are interested in starting, adding to, or revising literacy centers in your classroom, this growing list of articles and resources is just for you.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding why to use and how to set up literacy centers from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Literacy Center Rotations

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/uncategorized/literacy-center-rotations/

Following are rotation limitations, rotation options, and rotation transitions to make your literacy center planning easier. Of course, these are not the only options, but others can certainly be modified from the ones I will provide. Plus, clink on each link to find colorful visuals for each rotation option.

How to Start Literacy Centers | Upper Elementary and Middle School

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-essay-strategies/

A quick overview of relevant definitions and research regarding literacy centers and  12 solid tips about setting up or revising your grades 4-8 literacy centers to make them achieve your instructional goals.

Literacy Center Teacher Roles

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/literacy-center-teacher-roles/  

To provide options and some flexibility to teacher roles during literacy centers, I’ve categorized these roles for the purposes of discussion. Broadly speaking, a teacher may serve as a supervisor, mini-conferencer, or a specific literacy center facilitator. Of course a combination of roles is certainly another option.

Literacy Center Groupings

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/uncategorized/literacy-center-groupings/

Check out the advantages and disadvantages of homogeneous and heterogeneous groupings and learn how to form effective groups for literacy centers.

Literacy Center Research: 5 Reasons to Use Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/literacy-center-research-5-reasons-to-use-literacy-centers/

5 Reasons to Use Literacy Centers: 1. Rigor 2. Assessment-based individualized instruction 3. Function over fun or cute 4. Coaching 5. Independence

10 Reasons Not to Use Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/10-reasons-not-to-use-literacy-centers/

I do love literacy centers, but not the ill-conceived and poorly implemented literacy centers I see in so many elementary and middle school classrooms. Check out the legitimate reasons not to use literacy centers and some possible work-a-rounds to solve these problems.

Academic Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/academic-literacy-centers/

I’m Mark Pennington, the author of Academic Literacy Centers, a decidedly different approach to grades 4-8 literacy centers. Academic Literacy Centers are designed to teach the grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core English Language Arts and Reading Standards with these six rigorous and well-planned 20-minute centers for grades : 1. Reading fluency and comprehension (includes YouTube modeled readings 2. Writing sentence revisions and literary response 3. Language Conventions grammar and mechanics lessons 4. Vocabulary 5. Spelling and syllabication 6. Study skills. This user-friendly program bundle includes lessons and activities designed for independent, collaborative centers with minimal prep and correction. Plus, biweekly unit tests and all literacy center signs and rotation options are provided.

Remedial |Differentiated Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/remedial-differentiated-literacy-centers/

Many teachers begin using literacy centers (stations) to give their students something meaningful to do while the teacher leads a guided reading group. For most teachers, their only differentiated or individualized instruction takes place in the guided reading group. While an excellent start to differentiating or individualizing instruction, reading isn’t the only subject area in which your students have a range of abilities and deficits.

While differentiated or individualized instruction is certainly a worthy goal, how that goal is accomplished does matter. My take is that a mixture of homogeneous ability-level groups and heterogeneous mixed-level groups makes the most sense, rather than the multiple-level lessons and activities in each literacy center approach. Check out Remedial Literacy Centers. Designed for grades 4-8 students with below grade-level literacy skills, these four literacy centers work nicely with my own grade-level Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE or mix and match with your own. Get all the signs, answers, lessons, task cards, posters, rotation charts, and diagnostic assessments… everything you need to properly place students and run effective 20-minute remedial centers. Differentiate and individualize instruction with our assessment-based Phonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and Guided Reading Literacy Center with 54 illustrated take-home phonics books, designed for older readers.

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Remedial | Differentiated Instruction Literacy Centers

Individualized Assessment-based Instruction

Assessment-based Instruction

Many teachers begin using literacy centers (stations) to give their students something meaningful to do while the teacher leads a guided reading group. For most teachers, their only differentiated or individualized instruction takes place in the guided reading group. While an excellent start to differentiating or individualizing instruction, reading isn’t the only subject area in which your students have a range of abilities and deficits.

While differentiated or individualized instruction is certainly a worthy goal, how that goal is accomplished does matter. My take is that a mixture of homogeneous ability-level groups and heterogeneous mixed-level groups makes the most sense, rather than the multiple-level lessons and activities in each literacy center approach.

Problems with Multiple-level Lessons and Activities in Literacy Centers

When teachers try to create multiple-level learning activities in their other literacy centers, they typically find significant challenges and drawbacks to this approach. Most abandon the multiple-level lessons and activities approach soon after implementation and often (unfortunately) abandon differentiated or individualized instruction, other than guided reading, as a result. Here’s a list of why this is often the case:

  • Multiple-level centers are all the rage in literacy center books and from the lips of university professors. It’s nice to have an idealistic goal, but more effective to have a realistic approach that will work in your classroom.
  • Creating remedial, grade-level, and accelerated Standards-based lessons or activities for every literacy station that will work for your students is a guarantee for teacher burn-out. At some point, we all need to expend our available work-related energies in what will give our students the best bang for our buck. Plus, we do/should have lives outside of our classrooms.
  • Literacy centers are designed as primarily independent work stations. The more activities and more sets of directions, the more teacher interruptions. It’s a proven corollary.
  • Multiple-level stations are simply too complicated to design and run KISS (Keep it simple, stupid). Plus, they confuse your students.
  • Literacy centers are designed as collaborative, social instructional experiences. Kids can’t work together toward a common objective if they are completing different lessons or activities. Plus, the benefits of peer tutoring are short-circuited.
  • Multiple-level centers are a teacher-correction nightmare.
  • All the multiple-level lesson materials create an organizational challenge for the students and teacher.

A Workable Alternative: Grade-Level and Remedial Literacy Centers 

Rather than abandoning the goal of differentiated or individualized instruction, try a mix of these two student groupings: #1 Grade-level and accelerated Standards-based centers with heterogeneously grouped students and #2 Remedial centers with  homogeneously grouped students. The advantages?

  • Grade-level content or process literacy centers are relatively easy to create and can accommodate open-ended, free or guided choice alternatives for accelerated learners.
  • Remedial content or process literacy centers can be designed according to assessment-based data and students grouped accordingly in ability groups.
  • Remedial centers are task-oriented, fluid, and flexible. When a student has masted the center content or skills, that student transitions out of the remedial center. Remedial centers are flexibly established to meet students’ needs, not as permanent classroom centers.
  • Students, parents, and administrators can see measurable progress in the specific areas of literacy deficits.
  • Remedial literacy centers permit teacher-led centers. Just as with guided reading, teachers can rotate through a variety of remedial groups, teaching the whole time or splitting time between groups (a very effective approach) in which the teacher gets a group started with brief instruction, then rotates to another group to do the same.
  • Rather than students working at the remedial lessons or activities in a multiple-level literacy center individually, students work with their peers cooperatively, and not have to rely on a high-low peer tutoring approach in which the advanced student does the work for the student requiring remediation.
  • Remedial literacy centers can reduce behavioral problems. Rather than assigning Johnny, who reads at the first grade level, to a multiple-level literacy group to supposedly work on his own, and instead create havoc because he can’t read the directions and is bored, eliminate the issue by providing appropriate ability-level work and give him a chance to learn. Veteran teachers recognize that behavioral problems are usually learning problems. Plus, strategically it is much easier to manage a group of behaviorally-challenged students than when they are dispersed at every corner of a literacy center classroom. Let’s face it, the teacher cannot be everywhere at once.
  • Specifically-designed remedial literacy centers are available for purchase… no need to invent the wheel. Of course these are harder to create than your own grade-level centers.

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Academic Literacy Centers and four grades 4-8 Remedial Literacy Centers.

In a nutshell, the four Remedial Literacy Centers have been designed with assessment-based lessons and activities to help your students catch up while they keep up with grade-level instruction. Each comprehensive year-long (if needed) center will minimize preparation, correction, behavioral problems, and clean-up time and to maximize flexible, on-task learning. These are the four Remedial Literacy Centers, designed specifically for your grades 4-8 students to teach them what they missed in the shortest possible timePhonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and Guided Reading Literacy Center with 54 illustrated take-home phonics books, designed for older readers. Make sure to click PREVIEW THIS BOOK to get a nice sample of the contents, diagnostic assessments, literacy lessons and activities, and supplies for each literacy center. Not sure if your students need any or all of these Remedial Literacy Centers? Why not give the whole-class Diagnostic Grammar Assessment, Diagnostic Mechanics Assessment, Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment, and Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment to let the data drive your decision-making. Click HERE to get these assessments absolutely FREE. 

FAQs

  • Are there diagnostic assessments for proper group placement? Absolutely. Plus, recording matrices are provided for quick and easy progress monitoring.
  • Are there directions for each lesson and activity? There are longer teacher directions and shorter student directions on the literacy center task card (provided in both color and black and white).
  • Who corrects the work? Your students will do all the correcting of the practice exercises in their literacy group. Answers are provided with each task. Students learn from their own mistakes. The teacher grades only the short formative assessment during mini-conferences with individual students.
  • Will these remedial literacy centers work with the six grade-level (4, 5, 6, 7, 8) Academic Literacy Centers? Yes, they fit nicely into rotations with these grade-level centers, your own centers, and/or guided reading.
  • Do students complete all of the center activities? No, these are flexible ability groups. Students complete only the center activities they need, according the results of the diagnostic assessments. Student will move in and out of these Remedial Literacy Centers per individual need.
  • Can I set up, tear down, and move these centers quickly? Set up and tear down only take a few minutes. Perfect if you share a classroom or move to another classroom.
  • What supplies do I need to provide? Only the paper copies. These are not art centers.
  • Are the usual literacy kit supplies included in each program? Yes. The program provides group norms, leadership roles, seven  possible group rotations, task card directions, and answer sheets for each lesson or activity and both pocket chart and larger center signs. Each Remedial Literacy Center, as well as the grade-level Academic Literacy Center BUNDLE is complete and ready to use.
Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLES

Academic Literacy Centers Grades 4-8 BUNDLES

I’m Mark Pennington, the author of Academic Literacy Centers, a decidedly different approach to grades 4-8 literacy centersAcademic Literacy Centers are designed to teach the grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core English Language Arts and Reading Standards with these six rigorous and well-planned 20-minute centers for grades : 1. Reading fluency and comprehension (includes YouTube modeled readings 2. Writing sentence revisions and literary response 3. Language Conventions grammar and mechanics lessons 4. Vocabulary 5. Spelling and syllabication 6. Study skills. This user-friendly program bundle includes lessons and activities designed for independent, collaborative centers with minimal prep and correction. Plus, biweekly unit tests and all literacy center signs and rotation options are provided.

Also check out our remedial literacy centers: Phonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

Grades 4-8 Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center for Remediation

Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center

Literacy Center for Phonics

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mix and match with your own centers.

Grammar/Mechanics, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,