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Archive for April, 2018

Reading Assessment | Don’t Test What You Can’t Teach

Don't Test Reading Comprehension

Don’t Test What You Can’t Teach

Teachers got into this business to teach, not to test. However, teachers do see instruction as a product of good assessments. Check out my criteria for good reading assessments in this article: RtI Reading Tests and Resources.

Assessment-based instruction certainly makes sense in reading intervention and in ESL/ELD classes. But which tests don’t make sense?

The tests that don’t assess what is teachable.

As an M.A. reading specialist and educational author, I get reading assessments questions quite frequently. Believe me, regarding reading assessments, I’ve been there and done that—from the old tried and true up to and including the latest and greatest. I, like most teachers, want to apply science to the art of teaching. Assessments can be useful tools of the trade. But, not all assessments.

Just received this email from an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher:

Dear and Highly Respected Sir/Madam,

Hope you will be in the best status of health and peace; both mental and physical. I m quite curious regarding teaching reading and reading assessment K -5. Here, in my country, things for teachers are not innovative, interactive and communicative. 

As I am teacher of English and working on reading assessment during these years, I really need some material, I will be very thankful and obliged if you provide me some material regarding reading assessment.

  1. School wide Reading Assessment Plan (it should include action plan for all formative and summative terminal and annual plan that can be applied to a country having English as a second language)
  2. Model Formative k – 5 reading assessment sheets (which can be used during formative and summative assessment of reading
  3. Modal Summative K-5 reading assessment sheets (which can be used on the occasion of annual assessment)
  4. Literature regarding one – on – one oral and written K-5 reading assessment
  5. Literature regarding the whole class K – 5 reading assessment

This will be a great service to humanity from your side.

Following is my response:

Greetings,

I offer free diagnostic reading assessments for children ages 8-18: four of which should be used as schoolwide placement assessments. They are asterisked (*). Download at http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/pennington-publishing-elareading-assessments/

Recording matrices and audio files are included. The diagnostic assessments are perfectly appropriate to be used as summative assessments, as well.

The formative assessments are included in my comprehensive https://penningtonpublishing.com/collections/reading/products/teaching-reading-strategies-sam-and-friends-phonics-books-bundle Perfect for English as a second language.

Regarding assessment articles: Some included in http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/free-response-to-intervention-rti-resources/

Overall, my advice is the following:

  1. Screen all grades 3-5 readers with the asterisked assessments.
  2. Administer the rest of the whole-class assessments to the struggling readers identified in the screening (program placement) assessments.
  3. Avoid time-consuming individual assessments, except the individual reading fluency assessment.

I would express a few caveats to this last recommendation:

  • If the teacher notices repeated word reversals, repeated line-skipping, or herky-jerky eye movements during the reading fluency assessment, I would recommend referral to a certificated vision therapy optometrist or ophthalmologist. Poor tracking can be re-trained.
  • If the teacher notices hearing impairment or speech impediments or reads about chronic ear inflections in the student’s cumulative file, I would recommend referral to a physician and speech therapist. If the teacher notices any cognitive challenges, such as inability to follow simple directions or lack of short term memory, I would refer to a special education teacher for testing.
  • If a teacher notices significant discrepancies among the diagnostic results, such as the inability to blend and segment (in the phonemic awareness assessments), but mastery of the sight word and sight syllable assessments, I would recommend additional assessments to confirm a reading diagnosis: in this case probably no understanding of the alphabetic principle, but exclusive “look-say” sight word learning.

One further note: I do not recommend individual reading comprehension testing. Check out my article titled “Don’t Teach Reading Comprehension.” Having administered many of these tests over the years, I have yet to see the value of such tests. The tests, which can indicate approximate grade or Lexile levels can only do just that. Using running records or simple word recognition counts can provide the same data and determine which book levels are appropriate for instructional and independent reading. Read my article on “How to Determine Reading Levels.

Additionally, reading comprehension test questions cannot isolate the variables to the degree necessary to remediate with specific strategies. For example, a test item following a reading passage which states, “In lines 32 and 33 the author suggests that…” none of the multiple-choice answers, nor any reader response, can differentiate among these reading skills: main idea, inference, or drawing a conclusion.

According to Daniel Willingham, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Virginia, such reading strategies as “tricks,” and “short-cuts” to comprehension. Check out his Washington Post article. I would agree to some extent and suggest that testing for mastery of these discrete reading strategies is inadvisable—we can’t pinpoint exactly which reading skill is being tested by reading comprehension questions. Thus, the instructional utility of the reading comprehension assessments is quite limited. My suggestion? If you can’t teach to it; don’t test to it.

This is not to say that teachers should not be teaching reading comprehension strategies—they should. Even if they are “tricks” to

Test Only What You Can Teach

Only Assess What is Teachable

understanding as Willingham argues; however, these strategies are qualitatively different than other reading skills. Reading skills, such as phonics, are instructional necessities. Reading comprehension is what reading is all about. However, given the always present challenges of time and expense, focus on using the assessments that are teachable.

In short, my advice is twofold: Only Assess What is Teachable and Don’t Test What You Can’t Teach.


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.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

I just visited your website and, oh my, I actually felt my heart leap with joy! I am working with one class of ESL students and two classes of Read 180 students with behavior issues and have been struggling to find methods to address their specific areas of weakness. I am also teaching three senior level English classes and have found them to have serious deficits in many critical areas that may impact their success if they are attending college level courses in a year’s time. I have been trying to find a way to help all of them in specific and measurable ways – and I found you! I just wanted to thank you for creating these explicit and extensive resources for students in need. Thank you!

Cathy Ford

By the way, I got Sam and Friends a few weeks ago, and I love it. I teach ESL in S Korea. Phonics is poorly taught here, so teaching phonics means going back to square one. Fortunately, Sam and Friends does that and speeds up pretty quickly. I also like that I can send it home and not charge the parents – we all love that.  I like it a lot! It’s also not about something stupid, like cats and dogs. 

Joseph Curd

I work with a large ELL population at my school.Through my research in best practices, I know that spelling patterns and word study are so important. However, I just couldn’t find anything out there that combines the two. The grade level spelling program and remediation are perfect for my students. 

Heidi

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

RtI Reading Tests and Resources

Response to Intervention Reading Assessments

FREE Response to Intervention Reading Assessments

Teachers like to teach, not test. After years of required testing, many teachers develop a healthy dose of test aversion. This condition exists because teachers perceive that testing takes away time from teaching, which is their first priority and first love. I’ve yet to meet a teacher when asked, “Why did you get into teaching?” who answered, “Because I love testing.”

Test aversion is accentuated by assessments which provide no teachable data. Of course, the PARCC and SBAC tests come to mind; however, many other assessments, such as random sample normed assessments, contribute to this progressive disease. This is particularly the case within programs designed to meet individual student needs, such as reading intervention. Response to Intervention (RtI) reading assessments are widely perceived as top-down requirements which are time-consuming exercises in test administration, grading, recording, and monitoring: all of which take away teaching time, add countless hours of paperwork, and subject teachers to unfair administrative or peer scrutiny. Think awkward group meetings.

In fact, RtI reading tests can be counterproductive. Years ago I served as a site-level reading specialist at an elementary school. The principal had reached out to district program specialists to develop an RtI-style assessment package for administration to second and third-graders, as well as to fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade students who scored poorly on the standardized tests. Part of the assessment package was the SORT (Slosson Oral Reading Test). The SORT is an individually administered assessment, which takes from 2-4 minutes to administer and score. Merits of this test aside (I’ve always found the test useful as a predictor of reading comprehension grade level), the principal and teachers decided to teach-to-the-test. Teachers, instructional aids, and parents spent countless hours quizzing students with Slosson word flashcards memorizing this random sample test. Time is reductive. Teaching to this test was counterproductive.

So, does assessment have its place? Will teachers buy-in to the value of RtI reading tests? Absolutely. The cure to test aversion? Assessment-based instruction. Following are the criteria for assessment-based instruction:

Seven Assessment-based Criteria

  1. Comprehensive: Each assessment is comprehensive, not a normed random sample. For example, teachers don’t want a 20-question qualitative spelling inventory indicating that students haven’t mastered some or all of their short and long vowels. Teachers want to know exactly which short and long vowels have and have not been mastered. Hence the 102 item Diagnostic Spelling Assessment.
  2. Accurate (internally valid) and Reliable (externally valid)
  3. Quick and Easy Administration: All but one assessment (fluency) are whole class assessments.
  4. Easy to Grade and Record:  have audio files for easy test administration.
  5. Easy-to-Monitor
  6. Teachable: teach to the results of each test item.
  7. Designed for Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention Reading Tests

So which RtI reading tests meet those criteria? The comprehensive alphabetic, phonological (phonemic awareness), phonics, sight words, sight syllables, reading fluency, and spelling assessments for site-level Response to Intervention teams and individual teachers help teachers quickly and accurately diagnose what students know and what they do not know. Each assessment has been developed by Mark Pennington, M.A. Reading Specialist, and revised from extensive teacher feedback. The assessments are offered absolutely FREE for classroom use. Why FREE?

As the author of these assessments, I care about creating assessments that teachers value as reliable diagnostic tools for their students. I also know that once teachers determine what students know and don’t know, they will want the corresponding resources to teach to the diagnosed reading deficits. Of course, teachers can use their own resources, but I hope that they’ll purchase mine. Each program resource corresponds to the FREE reading assessments, test item by test item.

The author’s assessment-based phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency and comprehension, syllabication, vocabulary, and spelling programs provide the resources for assessment-based whole class and individualized instruction. Click on the blue hyperlinks for the FREE reading assessments and the maroon hyperlinks to check out the corresponding curricular resources.

Phonemic Awareness and Alphabetic Awareness (Paper Copies) 

Use these five phonemic awareness (syllable awareness, syllable rhyming, phonemic isolation, phonemic blending, phonemic segmenting) and two alphabetic awareness assessments (upper and lower case identification and application) to determine reading readiness. Each of the seven assessments is administered whole class. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding phonemic awareness and alphabetic awareness activities to remediate all deficits indicated by the assessments.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment (Paper Copy) *

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.

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment (Paper Copy) *

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.

Sight Words (Outlaw Words) Assessment (Paper Copy)

Use this 99 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common non-phonetic English words. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this 15-minute assessment. The program includes an Outlaw Words fluency article which uses all assessment sight words. The program also provides sight word game card masters and individual sets of business card size Reading and Spelling Game Cards.

Rimes (Word Families) Assessment (Paper Copy) 

Use this comprehensive 79 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common English rimes. Memorization and practice of these word families such as ack, eck, ick, ock, and uck can supplement an explicit and systematic phonics program, such as found in the author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program. Experienced reading teachers know that different students respond differently to reading instruction and some remedial students especially benefit from learning onsets (such as consonant blends) and rimes. The program includes small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this 15-minute assessment. The program also provides rimes game card masters and individual sets of business card size game cards in the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards.

Sight Syllables Assessment (Paper Copy)

Use this 49 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes. Memorization and practice of these high utility affixes will assist with syllabication, spelling, and vocabulary development. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program provides Greek and Latin prefix and suffix game card masters and individual sets of business card size game cards in the accompanying reading and spelling game cards.

The Pets Fluency Assessment (Paper Copy) *

The “Pets” expository fluency passage is leveled in a unique pyramid design: the first paragraph is at the first grade (Fleish-Kincaid) reading level; the second paragraph is at the second grade level; the third paragraph is at the third grade level; the fourth paragraph is at the fourth grade level; the fifth paragraph is at the fifth grade level; the sixth paragraph is at the sixth grade level; and the seventh paragraph is at the seventh grade level. Thus, the reader begins practice at an easier level to build confidence and then moves to more difficult academic language. As the student reads the fluency passage, the teacher will be able to note the reading levels at which the student has a high degree of accuracy and automaticity. Automaticity refers to the ability of the reader to read effortlessly without stumbling or sounding-out words. The 383 word passage permits the teacher to assess two-minute reading fluencies (a much better measurement than a one-minute timing).

The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes 43 expository animal fluency articles, each marked with words per line and timing charts to help students monitor their own fluency progress. Plus, each of the 43 fluency articles has been recorded at three different reading speeds to provide the appropriate challenge level for each of your students. This toolkit provides the YouTube links to these 129 modeled readings.

Each of the 43 articles is composed in a leveled format: the first two paragraphs are at third grade reading level, the next two are at the fifth grade reading level, and the last two are at the seventh grade reading level. Slower readers get practice on controlled vocabulary and are pushed to read at the higher reading levels, once the contextual content has been established. Faster readers are challenged by the increasingly difficult multi-syllabic vocabulary.

Teaching Reading Strategies also provides 43 corresponding animal comprehension worksheets with content-specific comprehension questions listed in the margins next to the relevant text. These low-higher order thinking questions ask readers to summarize, connect, re-think, interpret, and predict (the SCRIP comprehension strategy) to promote reader dialog with the text. Students practice self-monitoring their own reading comprehension as they read. This “talking to the text” transfers to better independent reading comprehension and retention.

Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (Paper Copy) *

Use this comprehensive diagnostic assessment to pinpoint all sound-spelling patterns learned from kindergarten through eighth grade. This 102 item eighth grade test pinpoints spelling deficits and allow the teacher to individualize instruction according to the assessment-data. The author’s Grades 4-8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction programs and the comprehensive Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs provide the appropriate test items according to grade level and targeted worksheets to remediate each unknown assessment sound-spelling. Each worksheet includes a spelling sort and formative assessment.

* Placement Assessments

Spelling Patterns Assessment Matrix

Reading Assessments Recording Matrix


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.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

I just visited your website and, oh my, I actually felt my heart leap with joy! I am working with one class of ESL students and two classes of Read 180 students with behavior issues and have been struggling to find methods to address their specific areas of weakness. I am also teaching three senior level English classes and have found them to have serious deficits in many critical areas that may impact their success if they are attending college level courses in a year’s time. I have been trying to find a way to help all of them in specific and measurable ways – and I found you! I just wanted to thank you for creating these explicit and extensive resources for students in need. Thank you!

Cathy Ford

By the way, I got Sam and Friends a few weeks ago, and I love it. I teach ESL in S Korea. Phonics is poorly taught here, so teaching phonics means going back to square one. Fortunately, Sam and Friends does that and speeds up pretty quickly. I also like that I can send it home and not charge the parents – we all love that.  I like it a lot! It’s also not about something stupid, like cats and dogs. 

Joseph Curd

I work with a large ELL population at my school.Through my research in best practices, I know that spelling patterns and word study are so important. However, I just couldn’t find anything out there that combines the two. The grade level spelling program and remediation are perfect for my students. 

Heidi

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , , , ,

ESL Reading Assessments

ELL Reading Assessments

ESL Reading Assessments

Let’s get the alphabet soup out of the way up front. By ESL (English as a Second Language), I’m lumping in ELL (English Language-Learners),  ELD (English Language Development), SDAIE (Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English), and EFL (English as  a Foreign Language) programs. If you want 5 more acronyms, check out my favorite ESL forum: Matt Errey’s English Club.

Now, I’m not saying that these categorizations are irrelevant, nor am I claiming that all instructional strategies and resources are appropriate for each group of learners. Nevertheless, I am advocating one common approach.

Yes, I have my California CLAD (Crosscultural Language and Academic Development) credential, but I am also an M.A. reading specialist in a very diverse school district with over 50 spoken languages. Many of these kids wind up in my seventh grade reading intervention classes or in the grades 4, 5, and 6 classes which I used to serve as a district elementary reading specialist. Crazy, fun, and challenging!

The common approach to teach each of these learning groups? Assessment-based instruction.

As everyone knows, ESL students are diverse learners, just as are all students. For example, from a reading perspective a P1 Spanish-speaker from Mexico may have a solid phonics background while a P1 Mandarin-speaker from China may not because of the logographic (non-alphabetic) writing system. As is the case where I teach (Elk Grove, CA), these two kids (plus plenty of others) wind up in the same reading intervention class.

My point is that the best ESL resources are ones which are assessment-based, not program-based. Clearly, one-size-fits-all ESL resources would not work equally as well for the two aforementioned students. Catering resources to the needs of the learner makes sense and reliable assessments can pinpoint relative strengths and specific deficits. With targeted assessments, If they know it, they will show it; if they don’t, they won’t. I think I made that up years ago. If I didn’t, please correct me 🙂

My Pennington Publishing store provides both the diagnostic assessments (in reading, spelling, grammar, and mechanics) and the corresponding resources to teach to assessed individual needs.

However, these are compensatory resources, i.e. they are designed to help students catch up while they keep up with grade-level instruction. I think that one’s mine as well, but I’ve said it so often over the years that, again, I might be wrong. Hopefully I won’t start claiming “To be or not to be; that is the question” as I start aging.

In other words, my resources include both remedial and grade-level, CCSS-aligned lessons. To this end, all my resources include classroom management tips to help teachers manage the diverse needs in their classrooms. Teaching to heterogeneous groups is definitely more challenging than teaching to homogeneous (if there is such a thing) classes.

The best ESL resources both remediate (according to assessed needs) and challenge with rigorous grade-level Standards. Ah, but I’m probably “preaching to the choir” in this post.

Over the years I’ve developed and field-tested these comprehensive phonemic awareness, phonics, rimes, spelling, and sight words assessments. Most of the assessments have audio files for easy whole-class (or small group) administration. Recording matrices are included.


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.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

I just visited your website and, oh my, I actually felt my heart leap with joy! I am working with one class of ESL students and two classes of Read 180 students with behavior issues and have been struggling to find methods to address their specific areas of weakness. I am also teaching three senior level English classes and have found them to have serious deficits in many critical areas that may impact their success if they are attending college level courses in a year’s time. I have been trying to find a way to help all of them in specific and measurable ways – and I found you! I just wanted to thank you for creating these explicit and extensive resources for students in need. Thank you!

Cathy Ford

By the way, I got Sam and Friends a few weeks ago, and I love it. I teach ESL in S Korea. Phonics is poorly taught here, so teaching phonics means going back to square one. Fortunately, Sam and Friends does that and speeds up pretty quickly. I also like that I can send it home and not charge the parents – we all love that.  I like it a lot! It’s also not about something stupid, like cats and dogs. 

Joseph Curd

I work with a large ELL population at my school.Through my research in best practices, I know that spelling patterns and word study are so important. However, I just couldn’t find anything out there that combines the two. The grade level spelling program and remediation are perfect for my students. 

Heidi

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Literacy Centers for Grammar and Mechanics

The Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center

The Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center Grades 4–8 (eBook) program provides 56 grammar and mechanics lessons, designed to teach the first three Language Standards (the L.1, 2, and 3 alignment documents for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 follow the lessons). Each Grammar and Mechanics lesson consists of four pages and takes 20 minutes to complete collaboratively within the literacy center.

You and your students will love these rigorous, interactive lessons. This is a full year, twice-per-week program that will produce measurable results. You, your students, their parents, and administrators will see these results on the biweekly unit tests in which students are required to define, identify, and apply the grammar and mechanics rules, concepts, and skills they have learned in the Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center.

The first lesson page is in the interactive Cornell Notes format and provides the content and skills in the Mechanics Notes and Grammar and Usage Notes sections. The Links and Response sections provide online resources for additional grade-level practice. Space is provided in this section for students to list key ideas, comment, make connections, and write questions. Additional space is provided at the bottom of the lesson for students to summarize the key mechanics and grammar content or skills.

The second lesson page duplicates the lesson text of the first page, but adds examples for the students to copy in the spaces provided on the first page. The Links and Resources sections provide online resources for extended learning (acceleration) and additional practice (remediation). If your students have access to phones, tablets, or computers, they will love the links to songs, videos, chants, and you will love the extra practice resources (over 100 resources).

The third lesson page provides students with practice for both the mechanics and grammar content and skills. Students individually apply the lessons with identification, error analysis, sentence revisions, and sentence combining in the writing context.

The fourth lesson page consists of the practice answers. Students self-correct as a group to learn from their mistakes.

All the literacy center support materials are included: Group Norms Poster, Leadership Roles Poster, Literacy Center Signs, Literacy Center Task Cards, and 10 Rotation Options. Plus, easy-to-follow directions to ensure your success.

You and your students will see measurable progress in their speaking and writing as you use these well-crafted lessons.

TO PREVIEW THIS BOOK, CLICK HERE.

WANT TO TRY BEFORE YOU BUY? Download and teach the first 8 Language Conventions Academic Literacy

Grammar and Mechanics Academic Literacy Center

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center

Center lessons . Click the link following the product description HERE.

We are confident that once you preview or test-drive this quality program, you’re going to buy the full-year Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center.

Add this literacy center to your own rotation of literacy centers or combine with my full-year, 20-minute, twice-per-week, Standards-based grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Academic Literacy Centers, which include 1. Reading: Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension 2. Writing: Sentence Revision and Literary Response 3. Language Conventions: Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics 4. Vocabulary: Vocabulary Worksheets and Vocabulary Study Games 5. Spelling and Syllabication: Conventional Spelling Rule Spelling Sorts and Syllable Practice 6. Study Skills: Goal-Setting, Essential Study Skills, and Reflection/Application. Make sure to check out the value-priced Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLES for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Also take a look at my four Remedial Literacy Centers for grades 4-8 intervention. Each center provides comprehensive diagnostic and formative assessments with corresponding literacy center lessons. These full-year, 20-minute, twice-per-week remedial centers fit perfectly within the group rotations provided with the Academic Literacy Centers: 1. Remedial Spelling Literacy Center 2. Remedial Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Literacy Center 3. Phonics Literacy Center 4. Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. Make sure to check out the value-priced Remedial Literacy Centers BUNDLE. Help your students catch up while they keep up with grade-level instruction.

You and your students will love these literacy centers!

Prefer more traditional grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 grammar programs with mentor texts, simple sentence diagrams, formative assessments, plus diagnostic assessments and over 100 corresponding remedial worksheets? Check out our grade-level specific series:Teaching Grammar and Mechanics.

Or are you into interactive grammar notebooks? You’ve got to check out our grades 4-8 Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook with Cornell Notes, grammar cartoons, online resources, writing application, and fantastic 3D graphic organizers for each of the 56 lessons.

Grammar/Mechanics , , , ,

Common Core Literalism

Beware Common Core Literalism

Common Core Literalism

In Psalm 62 Verse 2, David talks about God saying, “Truly he is my rock...” (NIV)

Now, no one I know would interpret this verse as claiming that God is igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. This “anyone” would also include children. After all metaphor is a grade 4 Standard: “Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors in context. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.5.b.

Obviously, David did not mean that God is literally a rock. However, this is not quite the meaning of literally. Technically speaking, we should take what David wrote literally because literally means “as it is written.” An easier way to understand the word, literally, would be “as it is intended.” In other words, David intended to use a metaphor to describe the character of God; that is how it is written

However, many educators are taking the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in a wooden literal sense: not at all in the ways that the Common Core authors intended the Standards to be used. The point I’m getting at is that the CCSS authors intended the Standards to provide a common ground for grade-level teaching, not an all-inclusive, detailed instructional scope and sequence. Last I checked, the 10 Common Core Standards were not written on two stone tablets!

Additionally, when educators look at the CCSS appendices, is is clear that the authors trust administrators, teachers, and publishers to exercise some judgment regarding the implementation of the Standards. This is especially true with necessary prerequisite skills and with remediation.

As an educational publisher I am constantly placed into “no-win” situations in which some school districts are demanding the citation of the specific CCSS Standard on every activity, lesson, worksheet, etc. I could comply with their demands and fudge some of the Standards (as is the usual practice of most educational publishers, use the more generic Anchor Standards, or choose to lose the sale. I choose to lose the sale in these cases, but I always try to explain why I won’t fudge the Standards citations.

To illustrate the problem, here’s a recent exchange from a preschool/transitional-K/kindergarten classroom teacher, who happens to sell her curricula on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Teacher: I’m trying to add the Common Core Standards to my Alphabetical Order resources. I can’t find anything anywhere! Am I missing it? I know other teachers besides myself teach it, as the resources are selling. Or is it one of those things like Patterning where it is still taught by some just not emphasized?

Other Teacher: I’ve looked, too. It’s not a Standard.

Pennington Publishing: This raises an important point. As a reading specialist, I would certainly argue that knowing alphabetic order, as well as recognition, matching, and replication of upper and lower-case letters are critically important prerequisites for reading.

Yet, as others have said, these are not detailed-out in the CCSS.

I recently lost a potential school-wide sale via my Pennington Publishing store because I answered a principal’s question honestly.

She was asked by her reading intervention teachers to purchase my Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLES. She asked me, “Are your assessments and teaching resources Standards-based? Are they specifically aligned to the Common Core State Standards?”

I answered, “Yes, my assessments and corresponding teaching resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards as detailed in Appendix A. Because the assessments and resources are remedial-based, they encompass multiple grade-level Standards and the prerequisite skills articulated by the Common Core authors that are necessary to scaffold these Standards.”

The principal couldn’t buy my programs because I could not place a specific Common Core Standard on each and every activity, worksheet, story, etc.

Now, I do develop curriculum to specifically address the CCSS and I provide alignment documents in each of my ELA and reading intervention programs. However, we’ve got to give the Common Core authors some credit. We can’t make the Standards “walk on all fours.” Some Standards are stated generally; others with specificity. Some Standards list examples; some do not. I know some teachers who will only teach the examples given in the Standards and none others. That’s crazy. The Common Core authors expect that teachers will need to fill-in-the-blanks. The Standards were not intended as educational straight-jackets.

Teacher: Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sad that you lost a sale, but it’s good to know that there are others who share my belief that prerequisite concepts are missing at certain levels of Common Core.

We all had to learn to crawl before we could walk. So, when my students are ready, I will continue to teach those missing prerequisite materials. It can only help them when they move on to the next grade level.

I’m glad that this teacher is exercising such good judgment. She is teaching the CCSS literally–as the authors wrote them and intended the Standards to be applied in classrooms throughout the United States. She is teaching the Standards with fidelity. I would argue that teachers who are teaching grade-level Standards in a wooden literal sense are not teaching really teaching the Standards.

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , ,

RtI Reading Assessments

FREE RtI Reading Assessments

RtI Reading Assessments

From time to time I get questions from potential customers or competitors regarding Response to Intervention reading assessments. Customers ask me about the assessments included in my Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program and accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. (Don’t worry… the usual book advertisement will follow the article :).) Competitors (fellow teacher-authors and educational publishers who are developing their own Response to Intervention resources ask as well. Two such questions came my way recently, so I thought I’d answer each in this article to save myself from similar future responses. Bear with a few technical definitions, a bit of historical educational context, and some personal experience and I’ll reward you with a set of useful phonemic awareness and reading assessments for your tiered RtI classes, early-late reading programs, individual tutoring, and literacy centers. Of course ESL, ELD, and special education teachers are critically important in this discussion as well. Gone (or at least going) are the “protect your own program castle” mentalities which separated these teachers from whole-school Response to Intervention.

Here are the two questions regarding my reading intervention program:

Q. Are your assessments and teaching resources Standards-based? Are they specifically aligned to the Common Core State Standards? (from an elementary principal)

A. Yes, my assessments and corresponding teaching resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards as detailed in Appendix A. Because the assessments and resources are remedial-based, they encompass multiple grade-level Standards and the prerequisite skills articulated by the Common Core authors that are necessary to scaffold these Standards.

No, I didn’t get an order from that principal.

Q. What types of assessments should I create for my reading programs? (from a teacher-author on the Teachers Pay Teachers site).

A. It depends upon what teaching resources you are creating for your curriculum. My teaching resources are assessment-based, so I developed criterion-referenced, comprehensive diagnostic assessments for discrete, teachable pre-reading and reading strategies, such as phonemic awareness, phonics, sight words, syllabication, spelling, and reading fluency in my Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program with formative assessments for each lesson. I provide teacher-observation assessment in my accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. In these 54 booklets (includes teenage characters with mature plot themes), teachers assess and teach understanding with 5 comprehension questions; teachers assess phonics and sight words acquisition via 30-second word fluencies; and teachers use custom running records for each story.

How I developed the pre-reading and reading assessments:

Years ago I served as an elementary reading specialist in a large California school district following the demise of the “whole language” method of reading instruction and the resurgence of phonics (at least in the South and West) after the National Reading Panel 2000 report. As our district made the move away from whole language to the K-3 phonics-based Open Court curriculum (with intense professional development), our primary reading scores quickly moved from the 45th to 75th percentiles on our normed state assessments.

Grades 4 to adult teachers, exposed to the same reading professional development, wanted help, as well, for their struggling readers. Our existing diagnostic assessments: the Names Test, Basic Phonics Skills Test, the Slosson Oral Word Recognition Test, etc. were normed tests and indicated which students had phonics deficits. The 15-word Qualitative Spelling Inventory (think Words Their Way) indicated which student had spelling deficits. Older struggling readers were not hard to identify and most all had significant phonemic awareness and/or phonics/spelling deficits. As a site reading specialist, I trained teachers to administer and analyze all of these assessments (and more). One teacher expressed what they all were thinking.

Why should I have to give and grade all these normed tests when I already know which kids need help in their reading? The tests don’t tell me what exactly I need to teach. Give me an assessment that is teachable and I’ll give it, grade it, and teach to it… but I want the instructional resources to do so.

She was exactly right, and her request was reasonable.

Over the next five years, I developed and field-tested these comprehensive phonemic awareness, phonics, rimes, spelling, and sight words assessments. Most of the assessments have audio files for easy whole-class (or small group) administration. Recording matrices are included.

And, yes, I developed the assessment-based instructional resources to teach to each assessment.


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.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

“This is just what I need! I have been searching for a resource to help my middle school SPED kiddos catch up to their peers and I can’t wait to implement this incredible product in my classroom!!!” Rating: 4.0

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Re-teach the Standards

Re-teach the Standards

Finish Strong!

After Spring Break both students and teachers are like stable horses. Let me explain. Growing up near the equestrian center adjacent to Griffith Park in Los Angeles, my cousin and I would rent our favorite horses, Cupid and Angel, for a one-hour ride. For the first 45 minutes, our well-trained mounts would obey our every request including riding down into the concrete L.A. river. However, like-clockwork, during the last 15 minutes of our ride these stable horse pointed their noses back to the stable and no amount of cajoling would turn them away from their mutual goal.

In traditional calendar schools across the U.S. and Canada, spring-itis is now setting in. The weather is changing. The clock has sprung forward. The standardized tests are over. Only Open House remains and the summer countdown begins.

I have a cure for stable horses and spring-itis: re-teach the Standards.

Not a repetitive re-hash of what has already been mastered, but an assessment-based, targeted triage of what was taught, not not caught.

Good teachers are all about what has been learned, not about what has been taught. It’s all about what kids have mastered, not about what their teacher has covered.

Teacher Unknown

Here’s your motivation to finish strong. Here’s your opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism to your students, parents, administrators, colleagues, and most importantly… yourself.

As an aside, I love having my eighth-grade ELA colleagues tell their students, “I know you learned this last year, because you had Mr. Pennington last year in seventh-grade.” Not that I’m a great teacher, but my colleagues have my year-end ELA and recording matrices which document exactly what students have mastered on these comprehensive assessments.

Check out the following FREE Common Core-aligned diagnostic ELA and reading assessments. Don’t use them as summative assessments; give them now to gap-fill the Standards that your students have not-yet-mastered and in the fall to differentiate/individualize and plan your year-long instruction. Select the assessments that fit your grade level. Of course, Pennington Publishing provides all of the corresponding worksheets and activities to specifically remediate each and every Standard and skill measured by these assessments.

Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:

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