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Counterclaim and Refutation Sentence Frames

I teach a seventh grade ELA class and we’ve just finished reading Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. In fact, we’ve already written our argumentative essays on “whether Phoebe was a good friend to Sal.” Of course the writing prompt is a bit more complex. It’s my students first attempt at writing the argumentative essay. They are struggling with the counterclaim (counterargument) and refutation (rebuttal) as these are new Standards for seventh graders. The Common Core State Standards  for grades 7-12 include the counterclaim in the argumentative essay (W. 1.0).

Although writers use plenty of other options, I’m teaching the counterclaim and refutation in the final body paragraph.

The following sentence frames helped out my students considerably:

First Contrasting Transition + Name the Opposition + Strong Verb + Opposing Point of View + Evidence + Analysis + Second Contrasting Transition + Reference the Opposing Point of View + Turn

First Contrasting Transition +

However, But, Admittedly, Although, Alternatively

Name the Opposition +

others, some

Strong Verbs + Denial/Assertion or Assertion

Denial: reject, oppose,  disagree, question, doubt this view and Assertion: argue that, reason that, claim that, support, conclude that

Opposing Point of View +

State the opposing point of view.

Evidence +

Pick the best evidence to support the opposing point of view. Don’t pick a “straw man.” In other words, don’t pick a weak opposing argument that is too easy to refute.

Analysis +

Explanation, insight, example, logic to support the counterclaim evidence

Second Contrasting Transition +

Still, However, But, Nevertheless, Yet, Despite, Although, Even though

Reference the Opposing Point of View +

this argument, this position, this reasoning, this evidence, this view

Turn

Now you turn the opposing point of view, evidence, and analysis back to support your thesis statement. Various options can be effective:

1. Accept the criticism of the counterclaim. Tell why all or part of the opposing point of view may be reasonable, plausible, or valid, but minimize the opposing position. For example, This evidence may be true; however, the objection does not change the fact that…

2. Reject the counterclaim. For example, This view ignores the conclusive evidence that… This position is mistaken because…

3. Criticize the evidence and analysis of the counterclaim as being unimportant, irrelevant, or a misinterpretation. For example, this argument misses the key point that…

4. Criticize the reasoning of the counterclaim as being flawed, illogical, or biased. 

Some of the above points adapted from the Harvard Writing Center. In addition to using Counterclaim and Refutation Sentence Frames, writing teachers may also be interested in these related articles: Why Use an Essay Counterclaim?Where to Put the Essay Counterclaim, and What is the Essay Counterclaim?

Purchase the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies to get 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions. 

“Great step by step worksheets that help students build or reinforce essay writing skills.”

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

Michelle Hunter

“A thoroughly comprehensive format to teach writing. Just what I needed.”

Tim Walker

Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Use an Essay Counterclaim?

Why use an essay counterclaim? Aren’t we always taught never to argue against our own thesis? Why give the enemy (the opposite point of view) ammunition (acknowledgement and evidence)?

The counterclaim can be defined as the opposing point of view to one’s thesis. It is also commonly known as the counterargument. A counterclaim is always followed by a refutation, which is often referred to as a rebuttal. The Common Core State Standards  for grades 7-12 include the counterclaim in the argumentative essay (W. 1.0).

It’s all about scholarship and tactics: intellectual honesty and manipulation.

In argumentative essays the writer must prove his or her thesis according to the rules of the game, but the writer needs to know the rules so thoroughly that these rules can be used to work in the writer’s favor. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was a senior at the University of Southern California (Go Trojans!).

As a senior I took a seminar on independent research. At the suggestion of a professor, I dug into the Halévy Thesis: the thesis that the rise of religious revivals in Eighteenth Century England helped prevent a French-style revolution. I know. Pretty obscure. But for some reason the project really got me going: The thrill of academic discovery, the smell of the musty old book stacks, the cute library helper, etc.

Anyways, I became convinced that the Halévy Thesis was true. As a twenty-one year old I had discovered absolute truth. Not only did religious revival prevent violent revolution in England, it could also save our society today, cure the common cold, and solve the Middle East problem.

An effective counterclaim can…

  1. show how a different conclusion can be drawn from facts.
  2. show how an assumption many be unwarranted.
  3. show how a key term has been misused.
  4. show how evidence has been ignored or downplayed.
  5. show how an alternative explanation might make more sense.
  6. test your argument.
  7. anticipate objections to your thesis.
  8. help the writer weigh alternatives.
  9. show how informed you the writer are about opposing arguments.
  10. make the writer’s argument stronger.
  11. show that the writer is reasonable and respectful of opposing views.

Some of the above points adapted from the Harvard Writing Center. In addition to Why Use an Essay Counterclaim, writing teachers may also be interested in these related articles: Counterclaim and Refutation Sentence Frames, Where to Put the Essay Counterclaim, and What is the Essay Counterclaim?

Purchase the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies to get 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions. 

“Great step by step worksheets that help students build or reinforce essay writing skills.”

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

Michelle Hunter

“A thoroughly comprehensive format to teach writing. Just what I needed.”

Tim Walker

Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where to Put the Essay Counterclaim

Where is the best place to put the essay counterclaim? The short and sweet answer? David Oldham, professor at Shoreline Community College, states, “The short answer is a counter-argument (counterclaim) can go anywhere except the conclusion. This is because there has to be a rebuttal paragraph after the counter-argument, so if the counter-argument is in the conclusion, something has been left out.”

The counterclaim is the opposing point of view to one’s thesis and is also known as the counterargument. The counterclaim is always accompanied by a refutation, sometimes referred to as a rebuttal. The Common Core State Standards include the counterclaim in Writing Standards 1.0 for grades 7-12. These Standards reference the organization of the counterclaim in terms of clear relationships and logical sequencing. See the boldface phrases in the following grades 7-12 Standards.

Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards

 

Seventh Grade: Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

Eighth Grade: Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

Ninth and Tenth Grade: Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Eleventh and Twelfth Grade: Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Placement Options

1. Writers can place a separate counterclaim paragraph with refutation as the last body paragraph prior to the conclusion paragraph.

Separate Paragraph Example #1 

COUNTERCLAIM Opponents argue that after school sports can increase the likelihood of sports-related injuries. Specifically, health professionals suggest that life-threatening concussions occur at frightening rates for student athletes participating in such popular after school sports as football, soccer, basketball, and wrestling (Bancroft 22, 23). Even minor injuries sustained from participation in after school sports increase absent rates and the expense of creating injury reports for students (Sizemore 3). REFUTATION Although students do suffer both serious and minor injuries in after school sports, these injuries are quite rare. The organization, supervision, and safety measures of school-sponsored sports are superior to those of alternative fee-based community-sponsored recreational leagues or even privately sponsored sports organizations (Kinney 2). Additionally, without free after school sports programs, many students would still play sports without adult supervision and even more injuries would result.

2. Writers can place a separate counterclaim paragraph without refutation as the first body paragraph following the thesis statement to anticipate objections prior to providing evidence to prove the claim of the thesis statement.

Separate Paragraph Example #2 

COUNTERCLAIM Those who favor eliminating after school sports argue that after school sports can increase the likelihood of sports-related injuries. Specifically, health professionals suggest that life-threatening concussions occur at frightening rates for student athletes participating in such popular after school sports as football, soccer, basketball, and wrestling (Bancroft 22, 23). Even minor injuries sustained from participation in after school sports increase absent rates and the expense of creating injury reports for students (Sizemore 3). Additionally, youth and adolescents are not developmentally ready to play contact sports. Key components of the brain and skeletal structure have not yet formed (Mays 14), and injuries can have lasting damage to young people.

3. Writers can embed a counterclaim and refutation within a body paragraph.

Embedded within Paragraph Example

After school sports provide safe and free programs for students who might otherwise not be able to participate in individual or team sports. The organization, supervision, and safety measures of school-sponsored sports are superior to those of alternative fee-based community-sponsored recreational leagues or even privately sponsored sports organizations (Kinney 2). Additionally, without free after school sports programs, many students would still play sports without adult supervision and even more injuries would result. COUNTERCLAIM However, some people would argue that after school sports can increase the likelihood of sports-related injuries and resulting absences with the added expenses of creating injury reports for students (Sizemore 3). REFUTATION Although students do suffer both serious and minor injuries in after school sports and there are resulting absences and injury reports, without school-sponsored sports the likelihood of more injuries from less supervised recreational leagues or privately sponsored leagues with fewer safety regulations would, no doubt, be much worse.

4. Writers can embed a counterclaim and refutation within a sentence or sentences found in a body paragraph.

Embedded within Sentences Example

After school sports provide safe and free programs for students who might otherwise not be able to participate in individual or team sports. COUNTERCLAIM Even so, some would question the safety of these programs, citing the numbers of life-threatening concussions from after school sports such as football, REFUTATION but these statistics are misleading. According to the highly respected Youth in Sports report, fewer serious injuries occur to students playing after school sports as compared to students not playing after school sports (Green 22).

5. Writers can embed a counterclaim within the introductory paragraph and use the thesis statement as refutation.

Introductory Paragraph Example

After school sports are extra-curricular activities included in most elementary, middle school, and high schools throughout the world. COUNTERCLAIM Some would argue that schools can no longer afford these programs and the expenses of lawsuits resulting from sports-related injuries. REFUTATION AS THESIS STATEMENT On the contrary, schools can and should invest in well-supervised after school sports to promote health and minimize sports-related injuries.

Each of these counterclaim placements has merit, depending upon the nature of the argumentative essay. Help students develop the writing flexibility and dexterity they need by applying each of these strategies in the draft and revision stages. As always, show models of counterclaims and refutations, teach a variety of types of evidence, and help students avoid the pitfalls of fallacious reasoning.

In addition to Where to Put the Essay Counterclaim, writing teachers may also be interested in these related articles: Counterclaim and Refutation Sentence Frames, What is the Essay Counterclaim?, and Why Use an Essay Counterclaim?

Purchase the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies to get 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions. 

“Great step by step worksheets that help students build or reinforce essay writing skills.”

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

Michelle Hunter

“A thoroughly comprehensive format to teach writing. Just what I needed.”

Tim Walker

Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the Essay Counterclaim?

As is often the case, instructional writing terminology can be confusing and there is no consensus as to a common language of instruction. Regarding the essay counterclaim, which words mean exactly what?

Synonyms for the Counterclaim (with or without hyphens): Counterargument, Opposing Claims, Alternate Claims

Synonyms for the Refutation: Rebuttal, Turn

Whichever words are used, most writing teachers would agree that the opposing point of view should be somehow acknowledged and responded to in an argumentative essay.

But here again the academic community is divided: Just what constitutes an essay?

Some writing teachers see all writing as argumentative including essays, research papers, lab reports, you name it. After all, even the most objective evidence must be evaluated through the lenses of inherently biased writers who attempts to inform, impact, or convince their audiences.

The highly regarded Writing Center resources developed by professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seem to adopt this position: What is an argument? In academic writing, an argument is usually a main idea, often called a “claim” or “thesis statement,” backed up with evidence that supports the idea” http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/argument/.

Another group of resources often used by writing teachers includes The Online Writing Center (OWL) at Purdue University. These professors differentiate argumentative essays from expository essays, but only in terms of the scope of research. Following is their explanation: “Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved” https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/685/05/.

Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards

However, the writers of the Common Core State Standards do see a division in purpose and point of view for the purposes of essay instruction and so have separate Standards for the argumentative essay (W. 1.0) and the informational-explanatory essay (W. 2.0). Whether the separate Standards were created as practical measures to reflect the maturity of Kꟷ12 students or as a position on the rules and roles of different rhetorical types I do not know.

Following are the Common Core State Writing Standards for the argumentative essay counterclaim:

No counterclaim is included until seventh grade. Additions to the seventh grade and subsequent Standards have been boldfaced by this author.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1.A
Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.A
Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1.A
Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1.A
Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Some of the above points adapted from the Harvard Writing Center. In addition to What is the Essay Counterclaim, writing teachers may also be interested in these related articles: Counterclaim and Refutation Sentence Frames, Where to Put the Essay Counterclaim, and Why Use an Essay Counterclaim?

Purchase the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies to get 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions. 

“Great step by step worksheets that help students build or reinforce essay writing skills.”

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

Michelle Hunter

“A thoroughly comprehensive format to teach writing. Just what I needed.”

Tim Walker

Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pennington Publishing Pinterest Boards

Check out my ELA and reading intervention Pinterest boards with tons of free resources:

Syllable Worksheets: https://www.pinterest.com/mpenning3716/syllable-worksheets/
How to Grade Essays: https://www.pinterest.com/mpenning3716/how-to-grade-essays/

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Reading Comprehension Strategies

SCRIP Comprehension Strategies

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Teaching the Class and Individuals

Perhaps the greatest guilt-inducers for any veteran teacher are these two questions:

1. Do you know the individual needs of your students? 2. Are you teaching to the individual needs of your students?

For those of you still reading, let’s provide a bit of context to those questions:

Teaching the class is important and takes an enormous amount of energy and skill. Doing it well takes years of trial and error, professional development, and probably some natural ability that just can’t be learned or taught. It’s both an art and a science.

By and large, teachers do a great job at whole class direct instruction. Teachers know their subject areas. They know how to plan instructional units, how to prepare standards-based lessons, how to teach comprehensible lessons, how to provide their students with appropriate practice, and how to assess whether their students have mastered the unit and lesson objectives. Teachers have also learned the classroom management skills to enable most students to make significant academic progress. They know how to teach the class.

However, teaching the individual is quite another skill set.

Teaching the individual student is far more challenging and satisfying than teaching the class as a whole.

When people asked me what a do for a living, I tell them I’m a seventh grade teacher. Of course they ask, “What class do you teach?”

I repeat, “Seventh graders.”

Now, I realize they want to know that I teach English-language arts and reading intervention classes, so I’ll stop being snotty and tell them what they want to hear to satisfy their curiosity. However, I try and get across the message that I’m really teaching students, not a particular class. You elementary teachers have it easier… people don’t expect you to be subject-specific.

Now I like English-language arts as a subject area: the reading, writing, speaking, and listening. And I do enjoy planning instruction for my classes. But I like the seventh graders much more, because they are far more interesting to me than my teaching Walk Two Moons or The Giver for the thirtieth time. Seventh graders are more interesting because they are all individuals.

If you’re ready to take the step to individualize instruction, check out these resources: FREE ELA and Reading Diagnostic Assessments and the 1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets. The free assessments provide the data you need to know the individual reading, spelling, grammar, and mechanics needs of your students. The worksheets include the skills, practice, and formative assessments you need to teach to the individual needs of your students.

Here’s what you get in the 1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets…

1000 ELA/Reading Worksheets

1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets

• 77 Grammar and Mechanics Worksheets (L. 1, 2)
• 145 Language Application Worksheets (L. 3)
• 21 Phonics Worksheets (R.F.S.S. 3)
• 14 Syllabication Worksheets (R.F.S.S. 3)
• 43 Comprehension Worksheets (R.I.T.S. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8)
• 73 Spelling Sort Worksheets (L. 2)
• 102 Spelling Pattern Worksheets (L. 2) All K−8 sound-spelling patterns
• 56 Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets (L. 4, 5, 6) Complete grade level program
• 56 Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets (L. 4, 5, 6) Complete grade level program
• 56 Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets (L. 4, 5, 6) Complete grade level program
• 56 Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets (L. 4, 5, 6) Complete grade level program
• 56 Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets (L. 4, 5, 6) Complete grade level program
• 64 Rhetorical Stance Quick Write Worksheets (W. 1, 2, 3, 4, 9)
• 42 Essay Strategy Worksheets (W. 1, 2, 4, 9)
• 35 Writing Skill Worksheets (W. 1, 2, 3, 4, 9)
• 40 Study Skills Worksheets
• 64 Critical Thinking Worksheets
• Answer Booklet
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How to Teach Test Prep

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

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

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

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

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

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

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

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

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Critical Thinking Bell Ringers

Get your students thinking. We teach in a product-driven age of Standards, behavioral objectives, and progress monitoring. As we head back to school, why not achieve some sort of balance with a 10-minute process-driven bell ringer twice per week? Just display this warm-up activity while taking roll and listen to the happy sounds of brains engaging with some of the greatest brains of human history: from Plato to Shakespeare to Franklin to Rowling.

A brief literary quotation to drive the conversation; a specific directive for observation; a guide to interpretation; a prompt to application in the reading, writing, listening, or speaking context; and a revision task to think out of the box or from a different point of view. Wrap things up in 10 minutes, even though often you’ll hear the “We’re not dones.” Leave them thinking; yes, they are not done.

As much as we try to embed critical thinking, depth of knowledge, Costa’s levels of thinking, or Bloom’s taxonomy into our daily lessons, a specific allocation of time and a concise curricular resource moves us from well-intentioned to committed implementation. If we put it in our planners and don’t have to re-invent the wheel, we’ll get it done. Plus, your students will pester you. They like having their brains stretched. Here’s a sample of a Critical Thinking Bell Ringer that my students love to discuss:

Literary Quotation

“I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.”

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)

Definition/Explanation/Reflection: Good friendships take time and effort.

Observation: What do you see? What do you feel? What seem to be the key words?

Interpretation: How would you put this into your own words? What does this mean? What doesn’t this mean? What does this suggest? Why does the author say this?

Application: How can this be used? How could this thought affect something else? What conclusions can be drawn from this? Do you agree with this? How does this apply to you?

Revision: How else could this have been written? Revise this to reflect your point of view or ideas. Create something new to say about this subject.

Student Response:

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10 Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks

Interactive notebooks (INBs) have become increasingly popular in all subject areas: reading, science, math, history/social studies, language arts, art, and foreign language study. Homeschooling advocates have long favored learning portfolios and have been particularly engaged in the INB movement. Additionally, the exponential influence and use of Pinterest in education has propelled publication of many INBs on sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers. Whether you are an INB inquirer or practitioner, it’s it’s useful to analyze the pros and cons as to whether INBs should be used in your home or classroom. To provide fodder for a balanced discussion, I have written 10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks.

My own experience with INBs? I used INBs in middle school ELA for years before developing and using a more traditional grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling and vocabulary program (See product promotion at end of article). I also taught with the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI) Interactive Student Notebooks in their History Alive! series. Moreover, I just completed a Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook series. Click HERE to check it out. If you do, I’m sure you will see why this classroom-tested INB is the best one available for your students.

Although teachers have valid reasons not to use INBs (1. Excessive class time 2. Too much prep 3. Too much correcting 4. Too messy 5. Not enough rigor and little critical thinking 6. Too teacher-centered and little focus on individual student needs 7. Not assessment-based instruction 8. Too supplemental and reductive (little focus on reading and writing) 9. Not real-world, career-based instruction  10. Some students dislike INBs), many teachers do see value in using interactive notebooks. To get past my own biases, I studied dozens of INBs and INB templates (most INBs use 3D graphic organizers such as pop-outs, flip pages, and foldables) in quite a few subject areas. I examined individual lessons found on Pinterest, teacher blogs, and Facebook. I also looked at partial and full-year published INB programs. In fact, I purchased the two best-selling INB programs: Erin Cobb’s Interactive Grammar Notebook for Common Core Grades 4-8 (over 30,000 sold with over 6,000 product reviews) and Nicole Shelby’s grades 2-5 Interactive Language Notebooks (14,531 product reviews at the time of this writing). Of course, it’s always good for writers to check out the best of the competition when developing their own alternative products 🙂 Both are great programs and certainly worth every penny.Product Review Quotes 1A

So, here’s the list of reasons to consider using INBs. But don’t take my word on it, check out the teacher comments as well.

10 Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks

1. Interactive notebooks personalize learning. Teachers know that relevance matters. When students perceive content and skills as important to their “now and then” (immediate and future needs), they are more willing and capable of engaging in learning new content and skills. Education is a two-way process. Certainly students need input, but they also filter that input through prior knowledge and experiences and make personal meaning out of that input. INBs provide students with the connections they need between the outer world of ideas and their inner worlds of how they make sense of those ideas. When students own their interactive notebook lessons with learning goals, “I Can” statements, comments, opinions, and questions, they learn content and skills at a deeper level and retain more knowledge.

2. Interactive notebooks balance input, processing, and output. Teachers know the importance of direct instruction. Whether teachers initiate the learning as in a traditional classroom, or guide the learning as in a flipped classroom, we do serve as the “keepers of the keys” to learning. We know the Standards; we know what students know and don’t yet know; we know how students learn best. However, we don’t always provide the time or teach the process of learning. INBs provide the mechanisms teachers and students need to process new content and skills. To borrow Stephen Krashen’s expression: comprehensible input. After all, it’s all about learning, not teaching. When students add to or highlight key ideas in lecture notes, take marginal annotations on short INB articles, and summarize learning in 3D graphic organizers, they are processing information. We all know how much learning is lost when it is not immediately reinforced. Practice using the content and skills in the INB immediately after the lecture provides that reinforcement. The INBs stop the forgetting cycle and imprint learning into long-term memories.

3. Interactive notebooks help students learn and study at the same time. One real benefit of the INB is the focus on “killing two birds with one stone.” A key feature of INBs is test preparation. When a student cuts out a matchbook style foldable of M. A.I.N. (the main causes of World War I–Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism), they are not only synthesizing information from lecture notes; they are also creating a study guide or essay pre-write for the upcoming unit test. Many teachers permit students to use their INBs on quizzes and tests to motivate proper notebook preparation and completion. Other teachers value the INB as a learning end in of itself as a performance-based assessment.

4. Interactive notebooks are a cross-curricular approach to instruction and learning. More and more schools have adopted INBs as the learning approach in all content-based and skill-based subject areas or classes: reading, science, math, history/social studies, language arts, art, and foreign language study. The authors of the Common Core emphasize the important of cross-curricular, interdependent instruction in the College and Career Readiness and Anchor Standards. Secondary schools in particular have embraced schoolwide AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) strategies such as Cornell Notes in their INB classrooms. INBs truly can serve the purpose of providing a similar user-friendly language of instruction, organization, and philosophy of learning. BTW, my recently completed INB provides both student and teacher lessons in Cornell Notes format.

Product Review Quotes 2A5. Interactive notebooks make sense of lecture and note-taking. The Common Core State Standards are indeed rigorous and require more, not less, input. The world knowledge base is compounding. Well-planned lectures still are viable and significant means of instructional delivery for both elementary and secondary classrooms. Rather than slowing the pace of instruction and causing day-dream boredom with elongated “interactive lectures,” INBs provide the interactivity within the notebooks themselves. Gone are the days of fifty minute didactic lecture-speeches with only a few question-answer interruptions. Teachers find that shorter 20 minute lectures with connected INB activities for the remaining 30 minutes get better results.

6. Interactive notebooks de-emphasize isolated practice. All too often in many classrooms, practice has been unrelated to instruction or student needs. INB teachers find that connected practice in the notebook serves students better than isolated drill and kill worksheets. Of course, targeted worksheets tied to an INB lecture or activity can certainly be added into the notebook itself. Glue is not for foldables alone.

7. Interactive notebooks provide “published” learning portfolios. In many respects, INBs have mimicked the writing process. Years ago, teachers began seeing the value of a step-by-step writing process in which the ultimate goal of publication for an authentic audience (not just the teacher-grader) was the end goal. Publication increases motivation and accountability, as well as the quality of work. In the case of the INB, the publication includes peer and parent review or presentation in class, parent-student-teacher-counselor conferences, and at Open House. Many teachers pass along INBs to the next grade level teacher as portfolios of student work for review or to continue the notebook. Publication provides concrete evidence of students’ learning. If they know it, they will show it becomes the mantra of an INB instructional approach.

8. Interactive notebooks teach the values of organization, neatness, and pride of work. “Since when did neatness and coloring become Standards?” complains one teacher. It’s true that some teachers go over the top in terms of time expended upon or concentration on neatness and appearance of the notebooks. Most INB teachers strike a workable balance between achievement and effort. Rafael will never produce the same level of artistic accomplishment as Janie. His lack of fine motor skills and her cool sets of high quality pastels and colored markers ensure their respective outcomes. However, it is certainly reasonable to expect Rafael to adhere to the organizational demands of the notebook and use the color coding to properly categorize the kingdoms and phyla for his science INB. Plus, his table of contents, numbered pages, and right-left orientation have to be accurate. Additionally, Janie’s INB has to have accurate content, insightful reflection, and properly annotated margin notes on her close readings and not just a Da Vinci quality INB. A little bit of peer pressure certainly does not hurt, nor does teacher affirmation of everyone showing pride of work and doing the best they can.Product Review Quotes 3A

9. Interactive notebooks provide a classroom management system for effective learning. One of the tenets of P.B.S. (Positive Behavior Support) is that an active and productive class setting with clear behavioral and academic expectations helps behaviorally challenged students stay engaged in the learning activities. Students are far less likely to cause class disruptions when they are invested in “hands-on” doing-style learning. Additionally, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Bored students create problems. The INB keeps students focused on the learning task, even when a social environment is permitted.

10. Many students love interactive notebooks. Students prefer INB over tradition instruction because the notebooks are personalized and interactive. Students enjoy the social nature of the INB process. The learn by doing philosophy has been a particularly American approach to learning ever since John Dewey advocated this practice over a century ago. Students rarely describe INB classes as “boring.” And let’s face it; almost everyone loves to color:)

Grammar Interactive Notebook

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

Interested in checking out the author’s Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook? Check it out HERE.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

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

Or check out the traditional style Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

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

10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks

Interactive notebooks are riding a crest of popularity in both elementary and secondary schools. A brief Google search finds 6,850,000 results for “interactive notebooks” (INBs) in all subject areas: math, science, reading, language arts, social studies/history, foreign language study, and art. Some schools are now completely cross-curricular INB instruction in all subject areas and homeschool education has especially latched onto this educational approach. Whether you are an INB aficionado or skeptic, veteran or noob, it’s helpful to take a step back to analyze the pros and cons as to whether INBs should have a place in your classroom. Let’s start with the cons and examine 10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks. My article, 10 Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks, will strike the pro and con balance. I’ve also compiled a helpful checklist of essential selection criteria for teachers and schools considering purchase of INB programs.

I certainly have no ax to grind regarding INBs. I sell my own Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 6, 7, 8  HERE. I also sell a more traditional grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling and vocabulary program (See product information at end of article). So, I am well-acquainted with the pros and cons of INBs in the ELA subject area. I have also used the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI) Interactive Student Notebooks to teach history/social studies and loved this instructional approach. However, INBs are not for everyone.

To get beyond my own biases, I checked out dozens of INBs and INB templates (most INBs use foldable, pop-out, 3D graphic organizers) in all subject areas: both products for sale and sharable lessons found on teacher blogs, Pinterest, and Facebook. I focused on reader comments to produce the following 10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks list. On Teachers Pay Teachers I read over 5,000 individual comments on the INB products and purchased the two most popular (and wonderful) products for thorough review: Erin Cobb’s Interactive Grammar Notebook for Common Core Grades 4-8 (over 30,000 sold with more than 6,000 product reviews at the time of this writing) and Nicole Shelby’s grades 2-5 Interactive Language Notebooks (14,531 product reviews). About 98% of the product reviews for these two products were positive; however, because Teachers Pay Teachers offers incentives for reviews, the vast majority of the reviews are completed upon first glance at the materials and not after using the materials in the classroom. Most reviews are extremely brief, such as “Great!” “Thanks for sharing,” etc. For the following list of 10 con reasons, I’ve included actual comments from all INB product reviews, staff room, conference workshops/webinars, and a few of my own. I’ve intentionally decided not to cite names or products referred to in the reviews. My goal is not to offend, but to inform.

After posting this article last year, I’ve updated it (in blue text) to show how I addressed the following concerns as I field-tested my new Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4, 5, 6.

10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive NotebooksInteractive Notebooks

1. Interactive notebooks waste too much class time. Because INBs involve copying, coloring, writing, cutting and pasting graphic organizers (plus many other activities), many teachers find that this instructional approach takes up too many classroom minutes. Plus, some students just take much more time than others. INBs may be more conducive to elementary teachers or secondary teachers on a block schedule, rather than to secondary teachers on a traditional five or six period per day schedule. BTW… through field-testing in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes, I was able to get my INB lessons down to 40 minutes per lesson, twice a week… primarily by cutting out wasted student copying time and printing the front side text of the graphic organizers. Students focus on writing the examples, annotating the Cornell Notes lesson text, and writing on the back of their 3D graphic organizers. More time learning and less wasted class time. I also designed the lessons so that teachers can choose to teach all or part of the lesson and use all, some, or none of the online links and resources and still cover the focus standards and allow students to succeed on the biweekly unit tests.

2. Interactive notebooks require too much prep time. Creating both teacher input and student response activities is extremely time-consuming. Many teachers have purchased published INBs to save time, only to find that the advanced preparation required to complete complicated INB activities is much more than expected. Most INBs require voluminous copying (and copy expense), pre-cutting (to save paper costs), sorting, and distribution of the copies, markers, glue, scissors, and the notebooks themselves. Plus, most INB publisher programs require teachers to create their own notebooks as models and as reference for absent student make-ups. For my INB, I opted to create a completely no-prep design to enable teachers to “teach on the fly.” Perfect for new teachers, veteran grammarians, and even substitutes! I created the teacher pages to provide a completed INB with all examples, answers, and notes so that absent students will be able to use these resources to catch up upon their return to class. Simple, but effective.

3. Interactive notebooks require too much correcting time. Every Friday afternoon, I help one of my favorite seventh grade history teachers out to the parking lot with her two folding crate carts full of 115 INBs. She actually has 230 students, so she staggers the bi-weekly grading (She sees each class every other day). Yes, she uses peer grading, some self-grading, and only grades selective work, but even with these work smarter, not harder techniques, it takes her all Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I experimented for an entire year on this. I found that students can accurately self-correct and self-edit the practice exercises, sentence dictation formative assessments, grammar cartoon responses, and writing applications from the display of the teacher pages. Students earn a maximum of 10 points per lesson (6 for the practice exercise; 2 for the sentence dictations; 1 for the grammar cartoon response; and 1 for the writing application (plus 1 point if the student shares his or her writing application with the class). Students learn best from correcting their own mistakes. I collect the INBs after 8 lessons (monthly) and skim grade for completeness, grading accuracy, and neatness. It takes about a minute per student and I award 50 points. Problem solved! Spend more time teaching and less time correcting.

4. Interactive notebooks are a mess. It doesn’t take a neat freak to abandon the INB instructional approach. You may be a great housekeeper at home and in your classroom, but even well-trained students do no always share your values. Despite the best classroom management skills, glue spills, tiny paper scraps, ruined INB covers (or lost INBs) will be headaches for any teacher using INBs and for every custodian. At my school custodians vacuum only once per week. The last period of the day gets clean-up duty, but it’s not perfect. Plus, INB clean-up takes up more class and prep time. I’m not going to lie; even my INB can be messy; however, I learned from field testing with the more artsy, complicated foldables in the two products mentioned above, that students prefer simpler 3D graphic organizers with less complicated cutting, coloring, and folding. They use the 3D graphic organizer templates from Tangstar (the best on the web) much more as study aids than the other art project foldables. The also focus more on the classification and matching by color that make the graphic organizers essential components of the INB. You can overdo a good thing. Many teachers give up on the INB because of the wasted class time and mess. Less complicated graphic organizers with fewer intricate cuts, folds, and gluing means the same consistent directions each time. So less confusion, less problems for students with poor hand-eye coordination, less tears, and less wasted class time. You can still be cute and stylish without being a complete mess.

5. Interactive notebooks can dumb-down content instruction. The Common Core State Standards have “upped the rigor” for most Interactive Notebookssubject areas. The high stakes PAARC and Smarter Balanced tests do not assess the way that most INB programs approach teaching and learning. The simple fact is that many times content and practice is limited to what will fit in the “cool flower petal” foldable. The graphics lend themselves to Depth of Knowledge, or Costa’s Levels, or Bloom’s Taxonomy lowest levels. The “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” (math order of operations), “King Henry Doesn’t Usually Drink Chocolate Milk (science metric units), or F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. (ELA coordinating conjunctions) work great for 3D graphics, but not so great for higher level thinking skills. I chose to include analytical and inferential responses to the grammar cartoons and provide a writing application for each grammar lesson. Nothing is wrong with defining and identifying; however, higher order application is also important. Each unit test requires these skills for every lesson component.

6. Interactive notebooks focus on teacher-centered instruction. The design of INBs is centered on teacher input (traditionally the right side of the page, but others go left) and student response (on the opposite page). The rudder steers the boat; the boat does not steer the rudder. Although some teachers in flipped or inquiry-based classrooms still use INBs, this is uncommon. Yes, students can personalize their responses and extend their learning with INBs, but time and resources are limitations. Additionally, INBs focus on grade-level instruction; the focus is on the content or skills (the Standards), not the individual student’s needs. None of the INBs I have seen do a decent job of individualizing instruction or helping students (remedial, EL, special ed) catch up while they keep up with grade level instruction. However, my INB is different. I’ve included over 100 online resources, including remedial worksheets for dozens of key spelling, mechanics, and grammar content and skills. Each has a formative assessment to determine student mastery. Teachers can individualize instruction without tearing their hair out. These printable resources are perfect for learning centers, writers workshop mini-lessons, homework, or classwork.

7. Interactive notebooks do a poor job of assessment-based instruction or learning. Rarely do INBs include formative assessments of the focus Standards or teacher’s behavioral objectives. Some would argue that INBs use embedded assessments in the application and response to teacher input found on the foldables; however, most of this is copying or done in pairs or small groups. Students get no immediate feedback and teachers don’t usually adjust instruction or re-teach according to the student work. I have not seen formative assessments incorporated into INB programs. Therefore, individualized or differentiated instruction is precluded without access to student performance data. Most teachers do allow students to use INBs on unit tests. The latter is a good idea. My INB has one mechanics and one grammar sentence dictation for each lesson. Students use the lesson content to write or revise a sentence dictated by their teacher.

Mechanics Dictation Example: “John and Carla loaded green beans, salad, and fruit on their plates.” Serial Comma Standard

Grammar Dictation Example: Revise the following sentence, placing the adverbial clause at the beginning of the sentence– “The girl stops playing, whenever I ask her, and listens to me. Answer for Students to Self-Correct and Self-edit: “Whenever I ask her, the girl stops playing and listens to me.” Adverbial (Subordinating) Clause Standard

The teacher uses the sense of the class to formatively assess whether additional individualized practice is needed (see #6 above for resources) or re-teaching. Learning is the goal in my INB, not teaching.

8. Interactive notebooks instruction is supplemental and reductive. Most teachers and publishers use INBs as supplemental anchor Standards instruction. This is particularly true with Standards-based INB programs. For example, many of the ELA language (grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary) programs restrict instruction to the listed Language Standards, ignoring the grade to grade Progressive Skills Review and other key content and skills in the subject matter which is foundational for instruction (and assumed by the Common Core authors). Any supplemental (or core) program is reductive. Time and energy focused on one instructional or learning task takes away time from another. (As an author aside, for years I have railed against spending valuable class time babysitting students while they do sustained-silent reading for this very reason. Click to read). As an example of the reductive nature of INBs, the inordinate amount of time and energy expended with these notebooks on some Standards takes away from the purported purpose of the INBs: to prepare students for reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Plenty of preparation, but little practice. It’s like appetizers without the main course. Teachers certainly do modify INB instruction by picking and choosing which lessons to do or not do, but this tends to foster hodgepodge instruction with little fidelity to a published program. My INB is designed for core content instruction. The twice-per-week lessons take 40 minutes per. I do offer separate grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 spelling and vocabulary programs. Each is designed to not take up excessive class time.

Interactive Notebooks

What Teachers Have to Say About Interactive Notebooks

9. Interactive notebooks are not “real world” instruction. Most of our students will not attend universities in which professors will use INB instruction. Most of our students will not wind up in workplaces in which they create learning or product portfolios (Certainly there will be exceptions). Additionally, though some teachers and publishers have integrated online resources into INB instruction, the focus is paper. I am intrigued with notion of a digital INB and am in the process of integrating that learning platform into the traditional INB I am working on… you can cut, past, color, and copy on computers 🙂 Over 100 links and resources, including the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) resources are a click away in my INB. And all have express permission from the publishers, unlike many other INBs with unauthorized YouTube videos or songs.

10. Many students hate interactive notebooks. My mom worked as a “soda jerk” during her high school years in a small Texas town drugstore. After her shift she was allowed to make herself one treat. Her favorite treat was a pineapple sundae. After two weeks of pineapple sundaes, my mom never ate one again. Due to the trending popularity of INBs, your students have “been there and done that.” They are tired of the same pineapple sundae, even if you are not. It is certainly not true that every upper elementary, and especially every middle school student, loves to copy, color, cut, and paste. Some students, like my youngest son, are not artsy fartsy, even if their teacher spends hours on Pinterest daily. Instead of building a medieval castle, we begged his seventh grade teacher to let him write a report of medieval castles. Instead of coloring everything in the INB, we begged his eighth grade teacher to let him produce a collage of computer images. Some students just learn differently and prefer other means of acquiring and processing knowledge. The most useful revisions in terms of format, style, grading, and lesson components for my INB came from students in the classroom. They are ruthless editors and demanding consumers, but they are our learners. The success of my INB will largely be credited to kids from my classrooms and from those of my colleagues. Thank you.

Grammar Interactive Notebook

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

To order my Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 6, 7, 8, click HERE and enter discount code 3716 to receive 10% off the lowest price on the web.

Interactive notebooks are not for everyone. For a more systematic and comprehensive language curriculum, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

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

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

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New Teacher Resources: 1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets

Veteran ELA and reading teachers learn to expect the unexpected. After all, things don’t always go as planned in the classroom. But, if you’re new to the profession, it may be helpful to remember the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”

For example, a seventh grade ELA colleague ran into our staff workroom a few months back, screaming “Oh s___! They’re done.” Believe me. It will happen to you.

Students do finish early or take more time than planned. Sometimes students need more practice, while others do not.

Also, stuff happens. The projector bulb burned out and no one ordered any. It wasn’t supposed to rain today. I just can’t teach with this headache, and there’s no one to cover for me. “Ring, ring. Sorry to interrupt, but Johnny’s mother called and he will be on vacation for two weeks. She wants to pick up his work in an hour.” “Yvette needs more challenging work. Do you have something we could do to support her at home?”

All teachers need back-up. Wouldn’t it be great to have something ready to go just in case? And something good−not drill and kill like “Circle the 400 nouns in this story”; not lame busy work like a word search or crossword.

1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets for Grades 4-8 Teachers

Every teacher needs back-up!

How about 1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets? Independent content and skill worksheets for grades 4−8 with easy to follow directions, clear definitions and examples, concise practice sections, writing applications, and answers for students to self-correct. Plus a short formative assessment for you to evaluate whether the student has mastered the content or skill in a mini-conference when things get back to normal. Standards-based, quality instruction in grammar, usage, mechanics, reading skills, spelling patterns, writing skills, study skills, and critical thinking. No prep and no correction. Perfect for both veteran and new teachers. Use the free assessments on our website and assign these worksheets to individualize assessment-based instruction.

Also, new teachers need answers to their questions. And you will have questions! However, at this point, you may not know what you don’t know. Student teaching helps, but every class and teaching situation is new. Talk to any veteran teacher. We all have butterflies about the first day of school. Many of us have a few nightmares as well. Here are a few things you might think of… Don’t get overwhelmed, but it’s good to know new teachers and veteran teachers are in the same boat. Just don’t be up a creek without a paddle. Get those worksheetsJ.

Matt Davis has put together a great set of new teacher resources on Edutopia:
New (Middle School) Teacher 911 From MiddleWeb
: Great for middle school teachers. I’m one of them!
National Education Association’s New Teacher Resources: Great collection from our collective teacher voice.
Scholastic’s New Teacher Survival Guides: Something new teachers need for every month of your first year, Check outand the The New Teacher’s Guide to Creating Lesson Plans.
Teaching Channel’s New Teacher Survival Guide: Plenty of advice and discussion here for new teachers.

What makes these 1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets so special? Each worksheet has been designed for individualized instruction with formative assessments and most include answers for students to self-correct in order to learn from their own mistakes. Each worksheet has been field-tested in grades 4−8 teacher classrooms as part of the author’s comprehensive programs: Teaching the Language Strand, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Reading Strategies, Essential Study Skills, and Critical Thinking Openers Toolkit. But don’t my word for it. Check out the previews for yourself and what other teachers have to say.

Written by a teacher for teachers and their students. It shows. You write like I teach.

Jeanne Alread

The most comprehensive and easy to teach grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary program. The worksheets are fantastic. I’m teaching each Standard in the Language Strand and remediating previous grade level Standards.

Julie Villenueve

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How to Individualize Instruction

Chances are that you are the type of ELA or reading teacher who wants to get better at what you do.

Good teachers refine their units and lesson plans to provide quality direct instruction to the whole class. Great teachers, and frankly some never take this step, figure out how to address the individual learning needs of their students.

Now I’m not talking about revamping your class(es) into some crazy differentiated instruction-learning centers-reading writing workshop-personalized learning circus in which you create individual lessons for every student every day. Some teachers try that… for a year or two. What I am talking about is a sensible, few minutes each day plan to help your students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level instruction. I call this Assessment-Based Instruction (ABI).  Simply defined, Assessment-Based Instruction (ABI) is a commitment to students to help them catch up, while they keep up with grade-level instruction.

Here’s how to implement ABI: In the first two weeks of school, administer  some of these free whole class diagnostic assessments: Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Syllable Awareness, Syllable Rhyming, Phonemic Isolation, Phonemic Blending, Phonemic Segmenting, Alphabetic Upper and Lower Case Letter Match and Alphabetic Sequencing, Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment, Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment, Outlaw Words Assessment, Rimes Assessment, Sight Syllables Assessment, Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, and an Individual Fluency Assessment. Each assessment includes recording matrices for progress monitoring. Plus, most include audio files for easy administration and make-ups.

Next, find targeted worksheets and activities which perfectly correspond to each item in the diagnostic assessments you choose to administer. You could create these resources, but why reinvent the wheel?

For a few minutes each day (as classwork or homework), students complete the worksheets and activities for each item missed on their diagnostic assessments. After completing an assignment, students self-correct and edit from answer booklets to learn from their own mistakes. Print up several booklets so that more than one student can correct at the same time. Finally, students complete a short formative assessment and mini-conference with the teacher to determine if mastery has been achieved. No extra prep, no extra correcting, no classroom circus. You may wish to check out my related articles: 8 Keys to Classroom Management with Assessment-Based Instruction and Using Student Data to Inform Instruction for detailed instructions.

That’s assessment-based learning which targets the individual needs of your students. That’s what great teachers do.

The author of this article includes targeted worksheets and activities with formative assessments in each of his ELA and reading intervention programs to help students “catch up” to grade-level instruction. Each Pennington Publishing program provides Standards-based whole class and individualized instruction.

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

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

Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Teaching Reading Strategies Intervention Program

Teaching Reading Strategies Intervention Program

Also, check out the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesGet diagnostic and formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, SCRIP comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the program.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page take-home readers are decodables and are designed for guided reading practice. Each book includes sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. The cartoons, characters, and plots are specifically designed to be appreciated byboth older readers. The teenage chpositive values and character development. Teachers print their own copies 🙂

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

Using Student Data to Inform Instruction

In my last article, Assessment-Based Instruction, I discussed the importance of whole class diagnostic assessments for ELA and reading intervention teachers. I also provided a link to free diagnostic assessments (including answers and recording matrices).

ABI is a commitment to students to help them catch up, while they keep up with grade-level instruction. The dual focus is important. Direct whole class instruction is an essential means of delivering Standards-based grade-level instruction; however, the diversity of our learners demands that we concurrently teach to the needs of individual students.

In this article I will provide the research base (from the federal government What Works Clearinghouse) and practical tips regarding the use of formative assessments for ELA and reading intervention teachers. Specifically, we will discuss how quick formative assessments can be used on targeted worksheets and activities to address diagnostically assess determined ELA and reading skill deficits to help students “catch up” to grade level instruction. In other words, this article will not discuss how the teacher can use formative assessments, such as “thumbs up, show me your answer” techniques or embedded assessments, in whole class direct instruction to help students “keep up” with grade level Standards.

The What Works Clearinghouse report, “Using Student Data to Inform Instruction,” applies the most relevant educational research on both uses of formative assessments. Regarding the use of formative assessments to cater instruction to the demonstrated needs of individual students, the report concludes:

“Armed with data and the means to harness the information data can provide, educators can make instructional changes aimed at improving student achievement, such as: prioritizing instructional time; targeting additional individual instruction for students who are struggling with particular topics; more easily identifying individual students’ strengths and instructional interventions that can help students continue to progress…”

The report has recommendations for both teachers and students:

  1. “Make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. Collect and prepare a variety of data about student learning. Interpret data and develop hypotheses about how to improve student learning.
  2. Teach students to examine their own data and set learning goals. Teachers should provide students with explicit instruction on using achievement data regularly to monitor their own performance and establish their own goals for learning. This data analysis process—similar to the data use cycle for teachers described in recommendation 1—can motivate both elementary and secondary students by mapping out accomplishments that are attainable, revealing actual achievement gains and providing students with a sense of control over their own outcomes. Teachers can then use these goals to better understand factors that may motivate student performance and adjust their instructional practices accordingly. Students are best prepared to learn from their own achievement data when they understand the learning objectives and when they receive data in a user-friendly format.”

Here’s how to follow these What Works Clearinghouse recommendations:

1. After administering content and skill-based ELA and reading assessments, teachers chart the student results data as relative strengths and weaknesses on progress monitoring matrices.

2. Teachers share this data with students and explain how to interpret the information on the matrices. I suggest a simple system of a numbered list of boxes, corresponding to the diagnostic assessments, in which a blank box indicates mastery of the skill or content and a slash (“/”) indicates a skill or content that needs to be mastered.

3. The teacher helps students and their parents set individual goals to “catch up” to grade level instruction by mastering each deficit.

4. Teachers purchase or create diagnostically-based ELA and reading worksheets and activities to address each numbered skill or content focus.

In a 2016 article titled “Practice for Knowledge Acquisition (Not Drill and Kill)” for the American Psychological Association, researchers recommend the following guidelines for deliberate practice (re-ordered and edited). My comments follow. These are necessary components for well-designed targeted worksheets or activities:

  • “Provide clear instructions on performance expectations and criteria. Directions must facilitate independent practice and be consistent across all worksheets and activities. If a teacher is assigning different learning activities to different students, students must be able to work on their own to free teachers up to monitor the class as a whole.
  • Provide students with fully completed sample problems as well as partially completed sample problems before asking them to apply new problem-solving strategies on their own. Students need both clear definitions and specific examples to learn unmastered content and skills.
  • Guide students through sample practice problems by using prompts that help them reflect on problem-solving strategies. Students need just enough, but not too much practice on any content or skill. Additionally, students need immediate feedback on their practice. Rather than having students turn work for teacher grading, I suggest providing answer booklets to permit students to grade and self-edit their own work. Students learn best when correcting their own errors. The teacher requires student to use different color pens or pencils for corrections and assures student that they will not be penalized for wrong answers to discourage cheating. This process affords the students with immediate feedback and re-teaching.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for students to practice applying problem-solving skills before you test them on their ability to use those skills. After self-correcting their practice, students complete a quick formative assessment to master the content or skill. I recommend a writing application.

Following are examples of quick writing application formative assessments for remedial ELA and reading worksheets:

  • Spelling−Write an original sentence including each example of the i before e spelling rule, not using any examples found on this worksheet.
  • Grammar−Write an original sentence including the past progressive verb tense, not using any examples found on this worksheet.
  • Mechanics−Write an original sentence including proper use of commas with three items in a list, not using any examples found on this worksheet.
  • Writing−Write an original paragraph without using any “to be” verbs. Don’t use any examples found on this worksheet.
  • Reading−Write an original sentence in which you infer what the author means in this sentence.
  • Vocabulary−Write an original sentence, using context clues to show the meaning of hyperbole.

5. After completing the formative assessment, a student brings the self-graded worksheet or activity up to the teacher for review in a mini-conference. The teacher discusses the writing application with the student and determines whether mastery has or has not been achieved. If mastered, the student is instructed to change the slash (/) into an “X” on the recording matrix. I recommend posting the class matrices on the wall with either student names or i.d. numbers; however, other teachers have students keep their own writing folders with individual matrices. If the formative assessment has not been mastered, the teacher may elect to have students re-do the sentence or complete additional remedial work on the content or skill with formative assessment.

The author of this article includes targeted worksheets and formative assessments in each of his ELA and reading intervention programs to help students “catch up” to grade-level instruction. Mark Pennington’s programs also provide Standards-based instruction, which use formative assessments to inform teacher instruction of the grade-level Standards.

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

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

Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Teaching Reading Strategies Intervention Program

Teaching Reading Strategies Intervention Program

Also, check out the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesGet diagnostic and formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, SCRIP comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the program.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page take-home readers are decodables and are designed for guided reading practice. Each book includes sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. The cartoons, characters, and plots are specifically designed to be appreciated by both older readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Teachers print their own copies :).

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

Drill and Kill Worksheets

Teachers are no different than most people. They say one thing, but often do another. Most teachers (I certainly will include myself) have at one point in their teaching careers derided the use of drill and kill worksheets as a waste of valuable instructional time. We have slandered rote memorization and isolated skills instruction. We have rolled our eyes and whispered derogatory comments in the staff room about lazy and uncreative Mr. Worksheet. Isn’t it time for him to retire?

However, if you google “grammar worksheets,” you get 2,970,000 hits; if you google “vocabulary worksheets,” you get 8,250,000. Clearly more teachers other than Mr. Worksheet like their worksheets and see the value of deliberate, targeted, independent practice. Thought I’d dig into the educational research a bit to see whether what teachers say or what teachers do makes more sense.

In a 2016 article titled “Practice for Knowledge Acquisition (Not Drill and Kill)” for the American Psychological Association, researchers present the case for deliberate practice: “It doesn’t matter what subject you teach, differences in students performance are affected by how much they engage in deliberate practice… Deliberate practice is not the same as rote repetition. Rote repetition — simply repeating a task — will not by itself improve performance. Deliberate practice involves attention, rehearsal and repetition and leads to new knowledge or skills that can later be developed into more complex knowledge and skills. Although other factors such as intelligence and motivation affect performance, practice is necessary if not sufficient for acquiring expertise (Campitelli & Gobet, 2011).”

Although deliberate practice is not solely reserved for worksheets, it would certainly seem that targeted, independent worksheets can certainly provide deliberate practice that involves “attention, rehearsal, and repetition” and need not succumb to rote repetition. Worksheets can also introduce and help students practice “new knowledge or skills that can later be developed into more complex knowledge and skills.”

Math teacher, Robert Evan Foster, discusses the difference between deliberate practice and rote repetition on math worksheets in an interesting article: “There is a paradoxical problem in teaching math. Students need to know certain mundane facts so they can move on to problem solving. A student who has to look up every multiplication fact on a cheat sheet lengthens their homework algebraically. On one hand, a teacher needs to make sure the students know their math facts. On the other hand, the teacher risks mind numbing boredom on the part of the students doing the homework.”

“I think that the root of the dilemma is found in the length of the worksheets. I was asked the question, ‘If a student can demonstrate that they know how to divide a three-digit number, by a two-digit number 100% of the time with five problems, why do they have to do an additional 45?’ Teachers don’t have to assign more problems than necessary for the student to demonstrate mastery of the math skill. Five problems will do just as well as 50. You have students who are learning their basic math facts. In turn, they aren’t wilting in the field out of boredom doing the last 45 problems.”

So, besides deliberate, targeted practice (avoiding rote memorization) of new knowledge or skills, what do the American Psychological Association researchers suggest? I’ve weeded out a few of their suggestions and focused in these key ones. See the article for the entire list.

Research (Anderson, 2008; Campitelli & Gobet, 2011; Ericsson, Krampe, & Clemens, 1993) suggests several conditions that must be in place in order for practice activities to be most effective in moving students closer to skillful performance. Each of these conditions can be met with carefully designed instruction:

  • Teachers should design practice tasks with students existing knowledge in mind. When students succeed at practice problems, the benefits of practice are maximized. But when students become frustrated with unrealistic or poorly designed practice problems, they often lose motivation, will not receive the full benefits of the practice they have done, and will be less motivated to attempt future practice problems.
  • Students receive the greatest benefits from practice when teachers provide them with timely and descriptive feedback.
  • Students should have repeated opportunities to practice a task through practicing other tasks like it.
  • Distribute practice over extended periods of time.
  • Provide clear instructions on performance expectations and criteria.
  • Break complex problems into their constituent elements, and have students practice on these smaller elements before asking them to solve complex problems independently.
  • Guide students through sample practice problems by using prompts that help them reflect on problem-solving strategies.
  • Provide students with fully completed sample problems as well as partially completed sample problems before asking them to apply new problem-solving strategies on their own.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for students to practice applying problem-solving skills before you test them on their ability to use those skills.

Considering these research suggestions, it certainly seems to me that targeted, independent worksheets can provide effective practice if they are “carefully designed” to apply the educational researchSo maybe what teachers do for their students (using worksheets) actually does make sense.

The author of this article has written English-language arts and reading programs for grades 4-8 teachers and their students which include assessment-based worksheets, designed according to the above research-based suggestions. For examples of worksheets providing deliberate practice according to research suggestions, check out Research-Based Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Worksheets, as well as Check out the Research-Based Spelling Patterns Worksheets and the Research-Based Vocabulary Worksheets for examples. Visit the author’s website for product information.

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

ELA/Reading Articles and Resources

English-Language Arts and Reading Intervention Articles and Resources 

Bookmark and check back often for new articles and free ELA/reading resources from Pennington Publishing.

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Mark Pennington is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesMark also is the featured author of Teaching Essay Strategies and the Grades 4-8 Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary programs. Check out the QUICK LINKS at the bottom of the Pennington Publishing homepage for free ELA/reading diagnostic assessments and recording matrices.

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

Essential Study Skills

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills (eBook) will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Often, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because they don’t try hard enough, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable.

Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, advocacy/advisory, opportunity program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice.

Reading Study Skills

  1. Choosing and Reading the Right Books
  2. Reading Habits-The Bad and the Good
  3. Silent Reading Fluency and Speed Reading
  4. Interactive Reading
  5. Building Comprehension-The SCRIP Comprehension Strategies
  6. Inferences-Reading Between the Lines
  7. Marginal Annotations
  8. Reading Non-Fiction Strategies
  9. Skimming and Scanning

Writing Study Skills

  1. Parts of Speech
  2. Grammatical Sentence Openers
  3. Spelling Rules
  4. Punctuation Rules
  5. Writing Complex Sentences
  6. Writing Style Errors
  7. Essay Writing Rules
  8. Introductory Paragraphs
  9. Body Paragraphs
  10. Concluding Paragraphs

Listening/ Note-taking/Test-taking

  1. Active Listening with ED IS PC
  2. Note-taking
  3. Test Preparation
  4. Objective Test-taking Strategies
  5. Matching Test-taking Strategies
  6. Fill-in-the-Blank Test-taking Strategies
  7. Multiple Choice Test-taking Strategies

How to Get Organized and Study Effectively

  1. Study Environment and Time Management
  2. The Daily Review
  3. Grouping Memorization Technique
  4. Association Memorization Technique
  5. Linking Memorization Technique
  6. Catch Words Memorization Technique
  7. Catch Sentences Memorization Technique

Vocabulary Development

  1. Syllabication Rules 35. Greek and Latin Word Parts
  2. Context Clues

Motivation/ Goal-Setting/Attitude

  1. How to Get Motivated 38. How to Avoid Procrastination
  2. How to Set Goals
  3. Positive Mental Attitude

Essential Study Skills Preview

Critical Thinking Openers Toolkit Preview

Your students will greatly benefit from the 40 lessons in Essential Study Skills. 128 pages

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Re-think to Increase Comprehension

Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets to kill off reading comprehension problems. Poor comprehension tends to be self-perpetuating because a reader’s approach to acquiring meaning from text is habitual. Bad reading habits are reinforced each time a reader reads an online post, book, or magazine unless unless those bad reading habits are replaced with good  reading habits. Good reading habits can be taught and reinforced with specific cueing strategies. The cueing strategies provide readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain active dialogue with what the author says and means.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks for you to download, print, and distribute to your students.

To improve reading comprehension, both good and struggling readers can practice these cueing strategies. Reading is not a natural process; it needs to be taught, not just caught. Developing readers do not have a priori understanding about how to understand and remember what they read. Thus, teachers and parents play a crucial role in helping to develop good readers.

Teaching students to carry on an internal dialog while they read is vitally important. Cueing strategies prompt the reader to dialog with the text and the author. Check out how to get developing readers to carry on this conversation here.

Re-Think to Improve Comprehension

The third cueing strategy in the SCRIP comprehension strategies is Re-Think. Re-Think means to look at a section of reading text (narrative or expository) from a different point of view to see if a different meaning is intended by the author, other than the one intitially understood by the reader. It requires and re-thinking.

People who play board games are accustomed to looking at things from different perspectives. In Boggle®, Risk®, Settlers of Catan®, or Scrabble®, players know that seeing things from the opposite side of the game really changes how the player understands or plays the game.

Unlike the summary and connect cueing strategies, in which the reader needs to divide a reading into meaningful sections for the reader to pause to summarize and make connections, the Re-think strategy has the reader pause when the text following the section is confusing or seems inconsistent with the previous section.

Since teaching the Re-think cueing strategy is the focus of this article, let’s work through a teaching script to teach this Re-think cueing strategy.

Old Woman Young Woman perspective

Re-think means to re-read a section of the text to look at things from a different point of view. When you start reading text which seems different than what you have been reading or if you get confused, don’t keep on reading in the hope that you will catch on to what was meant. The author may actually be saying something different than what you first thought. Or first impressions aren’t always accurate. When we look from another point of view, we oftentimes find a different truth.”

“When you reach that point in a reading text, go back to re-read the last part of the section that you completely understood and then read into the confusing section. Ask how the author may mean something different than what you first thought. In other words, re-trace your steps. Your mom helps you do this when you lose something. She asks, ‘When was the last time you remember having it? What did you do next?’ Do the same in your reading when you get lost; go back to the point where you weren’t lost and then re-read the confusing text.”

“Also, when you re-read be especially alert to overlooked transition change words, such as although, but, and however or negative words or prefixes, such as not or un. These words or word parts can be extremely important to a correct understanding of what the author intends to mean.”

“Let’s take a look at a fairy tale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to re-think some confusing passages.”

Here is a one-page version of “Little Red Riding Hood” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read, break the reading into sections, and complete the summaries and connections in their heads. Direct students to answer the Re-think questions. Share out the summaries, connections, and Re-Think answers. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Re-think Comprehension Strategy, using Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should re-think sections of the reading as they read to monitor and build comprehension.

If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Interpret,” and the resources to teach this cueing strategy.

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.kids

 

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Connect to Increase Comprehension

Reading research has shown a statistically significant correlation between high levels of reading comprehension and high levels of active engagement with text. Conversely, low comprehension has been correlated with low engagement. We call this engagement internal monitoring. One important way that readers monitor what they read is to make connections as they read. Specifically, good readers tend to connect the text to themselves, the text to other parts of the text, and text to other text or outside information.

Making these connections is better “taught,” rather than “caught.” Readers can be taught to make connections while reading by learning and practicing cueing strategies. Cueing strategies are thinking prompts to focus the reader on the active and analytical tasks of reading. “Teaching children which thinking strategies are used by proficient readers and helping them use those strategies independently creates the core of teaching reading” (Keene and Zimmerman, 1997).

Poor readers tend to view reading as a passive activity. The cueing strategies provide readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain active dialogue with what the author says and means. The author of this article has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks for you to download, print, and distribute to your students.

Since Connect is the focus of this article, let’s begin with a teaching script to teach this strategy.

Connect to Increase Comprehension

“Today we are going to learn why it is important to pause your reading at certain places and make connections between what you have just read and your own experience, another part of reading text, and sources from the outside world.”

“Connect means to think about the relationship between what you are reading and your own experience. The experience could be information about the reading subject or something similar that has taken place in your own life. The parts may compare (be similar) or contrast (be different). The parts may be a sequence (an order) of events or ideas. Make sure to keep the connections centered on the reading and not on your personal experience. You are using your experience to better understand the text.”

“Connect also means to notice the relationship of one part of the reading to another part of the reading. For example, in a story you might connect how a character has changed from the first part of the book to the end. Or in an article or textbook ou might connect a cause to an effect.”

“Connect also means to discover how something in the reading relates to something else in another reading text, a movie, or a real life event.”

“Just as we did with the Summary Comprehension Strategy, good readers intentionally pause at points in the reading to make these connections. Dividing your reading into sections will help you focus on understanding and remembering smaller chunks of reading, one at a time.”

“Don’t worry about slowing down your reading speed or losing concentration. Unless you are taking notes on the reading, making mental summaries and connections are quick thoughts. In fact, the more readers ‘talk to the text,’ the quicker they actually read and with better concentration as well.”

How to Divide Reading into Sections

“When reading articles or textbooks, think about how the writing is organized.  Paragraphs are written around the main idea known as the topic sentence. Most of the time (about 80%) the topic sentence is the first sentence of the paragraph.”

“In stories, authors start new paragraphs to signal something different in setting, plot, description, or dialog.”

“Paragraphs connect to each other to continue a certain idea or plot event. When a major change takes place, the author frequently uses transition words to tell the reader that something new is being introduced. Textbooks often use boldfaced subtitles to signal new sections.”

Use These Cues to Connect to Your Reading

“Use ‘This reminds me of,’ ‘This is just like,’ ‘This is different than,’ ‘This answers the part when,’ ‘This happened (or is) because of’ as question-starters to make connections.”

“So here’s the big idea about how to improve your reading comprehension: When the reading begins a new section, pause to summarize what you just read in the last chunk of reading and make connections with your own experience, other parts of the text, and outside sources.”

“Let’s take a look at a fairy tale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to divide a reading up into sections and connect as we read.”

Here is a one-page version of “Hansel and Gretel” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read each section and complete the connections. Then discuss why the section was a good chunk after which to pause and connect and have students read their summaries. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Connect Comprehension Strategy, using Hansel and Gretel fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should connect sections of the reading within or outside of the text as they read to monitor and build comprehension. If you have introduced the Summary reading comprehension strategy, ask students to summarize the sections as well.

If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Re-think,” and the resources to teach this strategy.

Sam and Friends Phonics Books hi-lo readers

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.

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Summarize to Increase Comprehension

Often teachers assume that summarizing is the same for both writing and reading. However, the purpose and task of summarizing is considerably different for these literary activities. Whereas the purpose of a writing summary is to identify the main or controlling idea or argument with supporting major details to put the thrust of exposition into a nutshell, the purpose of a reading summary is to build comprehension. This article focuses on reader-generated summarizing as a means of building reading comprehension.

Now to make sure we are on the same page, we are not discussing reading a summary or abstract prior to reading a textbook chapter or article. This is an important means of building prior knowledge and a critical component of any good read-study method. My own PQ RAR read-study method emphasizes the importance of reading any available summaries prior to reading the text.

Instead, we are discussing why summarizing while reading is important and how to teach your students to do so.

First, the why. Reading research has consistently shown a statistically significant correlation between high levels of reading comprehension and high levels of active engagement with text and, conversely, low comprehension with low engagement. We call this engagement internal monitoring. Numerous studies have confirmed that “retrieving relevant knowledge during reading is essential for monitoring” (Otero & Kintsch, 1992; Vosniadou, Pearson, & Rogers, 1988). One important component of monitoring is summarizing.

A great way to demonstrate this internal monitoring is with a reader-author dialog. Try this think-aloud with your students to model what goes on inside a good reader’s head as the reader monitors text.

But what about summarizing, specifically?

“Summarizing and reviewing integrate and reinforce the learning of major points…these structuring elements not only facilitate memory for the information but allow for its apprehension as an integrative whole with recognition of the relationships between parts” (J. E. Brophy and T. L. Good, 1986).

“In a synthesis of the research on summarizing, Rosenshine and his colleagues found that strategies that emphasize the analytic aspect of summarizing have a powerful effect on how well students summarize” (1996).

Next, the how. Internal monitoring is more efficiently “taught,” rather than just “caught.” Readers can be taught to summarize while reading by learning and practicing  cueing strategies. Cueing strategies are simply prompts to focus the reader on the active and analytical tasks of reading.

Poor readers tend to view reading as a passive activity. The cueing strategies provide readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain active dialogue with what the author says and means. The author of this article has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks for you to download, print, and distribute to your students.

Take the time to explicitly teach and model each of the five strategies. Emphasize one strategy at a time on a given text. Since Summarize is the focus of this article, let’s begin with a teaching script to teach this strategy.

Summarize to Increase Comprehension

“Summarize means to put together the main ideas and important details of a reading into a short-version of what the author has said. A summary can be of an entire reading, but it is more useful to divide your reading up into sections and summarize each section as you read.”

“Today we are going to learn why it is important to pause your reading at certain places and summarize sections of what you have just read and then we will learn how to do this.”

“First, the why. I know that pausing to summarize in the middle of your reading takes a bit more time than just reading without pausing, not too much. You also might be worried that you might lose your concentration if you pause, but actually pausing to summarize will help you concentrate even more. Dividing your reading into sections will help you focus on understanding and remembering smaller chunks of reading, one at a time. You will also be able to remember each chunk of reading and apply your memory to the next reading section. It’s like playing a leveled video game: First, you master one level and the game pauses before you move on to the next level with new graphics, characters, or problems to solve. You use your summarized knowledge of how to beat the first level to help you master each following level, one at a time. After time you will be able to master most or all of the game. In the same way reading in sections and then summarizing will build your undertanding of the whole reading.”

“Next, the how. As you know already, authors use paragraphs in articles or textbooks built upon the main idea known as the topic sentence. Most, but not all of the time, the topic sentence is the first sentence of the paragraph. In stories, authors start new paragraphs to signal something different in setting, plot, description, or dialog.”

“Paragraphs connect to each other to continue a certain idea or plot event. When a major change takes place, the author frequently uses transition words to tell the reader that something new is being introduced. Textbooks often use boldfaced subtitles to signal new sections. When the reading begins a new section, pause to summarize what you just read in the last chunk of reading.”

“For articles or textbooks use What, How, and Why as question-starters to help you put into your own words a short version of what you just read. For stories use Who, What, Where, When, and Why question-starters to help you do the same.

“Let’s take a look at a fairytale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to divide a reading up into sections and summarize as we read.”

Here is a one-page version of “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read each section and complete the summary. Then discuss why the section was a good chunk after which to pause and summarize and have students read their summaries. Coach as to what to and what not to include in reading summaries from your student examples. Check out a YouTube video demonstration of the Summarize Comprehension Strategy, using The Boy Who Cried Wolf fairy tale to illustrate this strategy. The storyteller first reads the fairy tale without comment. Next,  the story is read once again as a think-aloud with interruptions to show how readers should summarize sections of the reading as they read to monitor and build comprehension.

If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Connect,” and the resources to teach this cueing strategy.

Sam and Friends Phonics Books Teaching Reading Strategies Intervention Program

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.

Reading, Study Skills , , , , ,

Making Sense of Community College and Trade School Instruction

As an educational publisher, I receive many emails asking for assistance with products and/or instruction in a variety of settings. Although most of my business is in the K-12 market, I do get plenty of response from community college and trade school professors. Having taught three years (part time) in that setting, I do understand the challenges and rewards of working with adult learners. Those of us in the K-12 community who complain about how tough it is working with our diverse learners should walk two moons in the moccasins of our colleagues at the community colleges and trade schools before we cry “Woe is me.”

Here’s the email (used with the author’s permission).

Wondering what products you might suggest to me as an adult instructor of students 18 -70+ years old enrolled in a jobs training program.  My adult learners in general do well being highly motivated with strong self-initiative.  However, they have problems taking tests written for the specific class subject matter.  My feeling is that some of the lower achievers bring along a suitcase (even a trunk load) of bad study habits; unresolved conceptual learning issues; and other bad life experiences preventing their higher achievement.  Simple things like reading comprehension of test questions; basic math concepts and practical usage, etc. 

The program consists of technical classes such as 40-hour Hazwoper; Confined Space Entry; Stormwater Managment; Chemical Safety Awareness; Underground Storage Tanks; Mold Inspection & Remediation; Alternate Remediation Technologies.  These classes follow federal and state guidelines thus requiring success at 80% levels.

I work to help each student, but it is difficult to first analyze what is wrong (carrying the ones instead of tens in whole number addition) and then figuring out why they are doing what they are.  In the end we work to try to find solutions which they use to see better results on exams, exercises, etc.

Thank you for your help,

Chris Goodman Lead Instructor

Making Sense of Community College and Trade School Instruction

Chris,

Your email is quite similar to many I’ve received, asking for targeted resources for adult learners. You have a tough, but rewarding job. I’ve been there and done that! I taught part time in a community college setting for three years with a student population quite similar to yours. Entering and re-entering the work force at any age can be difficult. I’ve decided to respond at length to your thoughtful email to both commiserate and offer some solutions to your challenging instructional needs based upon my own experience.

At the community college I taught lecture classes and also served in the Learning Resource Center. In this large complex, professors staffed the Reading Center, Writing Center, and Math Center from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily.

The instructional design of each of the Learning Resource Centers had some significant strengths:

  • Diagnostic reading, writing, and math exams were administered and scored in the Counseling Center. “Cut-off” scores were established and students who scored below were assigned to the relevant center for tutorial instruction while concurrently taking required classes in their selected instructional programs. Completion of the tutorial instruction served as prerequisites to certain core classes.
  • Learning was self-paced with the Learning Resource Center open twelve hours a day for student drop-in. So important for working adults.
  • Students completed  individualized learning plans and set their own learning goals.
  • Content professors “bought into” the instructional design and referred students for tutorial assistance.
  • We professors wrote, purchased, or “borrowed” curriculum catered to both student interest and need.
  • Credit was variable and flexible: Students worked on short-term specific learning modules in reading, writing, and math with check-in and review by the professors. Most modules were designed to be completed within 7.5 hours for the average student, and students earned .5 units. Some comprehensive modules were designed to be completed within 45 hours with students earning 3.0 units. Other modules ranged in between these extremes. Many of the learning modules permitted students to work together to complete the learning tasks. This “learning community” was nurtured by caring professors.
  • Much of the generic study skills curriculum was excellent and appropriate for most all students in each of the three centers.

The instructional design of each of the Learning Resource Centers had some significant weaknesses:

As you mentioned in your email, “… it is difficult to first analyze what is wrong.”

Despite the appropriate entry-level reading, writing, and math assessments, no further specific diagnostic assessments were given within the respective centers. Thus, professors knew that the student “had a problem” in reading, writing, or math; however, trial and error via student feedback and completed work was the only means of more refined assessment of student need. Highly inefficient. Plus many students failed in their first learning modules until their completed work was analyzed by a professor; others students completed work on content and skills already mastered.

With no specific diagnostic assessments, the curriculum did not match the diagnosed learning deficits of the individual student. Furthermore, few formative assessments were built into the instructional design of the individual modules. Although student did complete the modules, professors had no vehicle to assess whether the content or skills had been mastered as a whole and no item analysis to be able to refine and assign remedial learning tasks to help students achieve mastery.

In subsequent years I’ve written English-language arts curriculum to address these weaknesses. My credo has been “Help students catch up, while they keep up with age or grade-level

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

instruction.” Resources include the specific diagnostic resources (simple, short, and comprehensive and administered “whole class,” … not individually) with self-paced curriculum designed to address each diagnostic need. Each targeted worksheet includes definitions, examples, practice, application, and a quick formative assessment. Supplementary resources provide additional practice with unmastered content and skills. Recording matrices help teachers and students track individual progress.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. 

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

Are You Ready for RtI?

Are you ready for RtI? Response to Intervention is the collaborative model of decision-making and curricular intervention regarding students with special instructional needs. Although RtI sprang from Special Education in the early 2000s as an alternative screening and delivery mechanism to the then-predominant “discrepancy between ability and achievement” model, the approach gained legitimacy after the revisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 2004. Since then, the RtI model has gained buy-in from influential educational authors and general education stakeholders as a comprehensive approach to identify students needing intervention via research-based diagnostic assessments, to provide flexibly tiered instruction to meet their instructional needs, and to monitor their progress. Students who do not show a positive response to such interventions are tested to determine if they qualify for special education services.

Of course, the RtI model presupposes collaboration from all stakeholders in a school and/or district. All-too-often, this presupposition has doomed RtI at some school sites and in some districts from the get-go. Jumping into RtI and the three-tier instructional delivery model without first addressing legitimate concerns and before gaining stakeholder consensus has given a black-eye to a promising means of delivering a truly first-class education to all children. A related article, Ten Reasons Teachers Avoid RtI Collaboration, details the most common concerns regarding RtI and its collaborative model. Following is an anonymous survey, using these ten reasons, to be administered at the opening exploration of RtI implementation to gauge RtI readiness of a teaching staff and its administration.

How Would You Rate Your Educational Modus Operandi (M.O.) on this 1-5 Likert Scale?

  1. Autonomous (I basically do my own thing)-Collaborative (I plan and implement instruction according to grade-level team or department consensus)
  2. Not Confident of Abilities (I either don’t have the requisite skills set or knowledge that my colleagues seem to have)-Confident of Abilities (I more than hold my own compared to my colleagues)
  3. Job Insecurity (I am often worried about retaining my job)-Job Security (I never worry about retaining my job)
  4. Castle-keeper (I am very protective about maintaining my program)-Open House (I am open to changing my program or courses I teach)
  5. Content focused (I exclusively teach grade-level standards and content)-Process/Skills focused (I focus instruction on process objectives and skills acquisition)
  6. Concerned about Standardized Test Results (I am often worried about the results of my students’ standardized test scores)-Unconcerned about Standardized Test Results (I am never worried about the results of my students’ standardized test scores)
  7. Lazy, Burned-out, or Checked-out (I often feel this way)-Motivated (I am extremely motivated to improve the quality of my instruction)
  8. Anti-Change (I am resistant to trying new instructional approaches)-Pro Change (I am ready to try new instructional approaches)
  9. Adverse to Differentiated Instruction (I do not differentiate, adjust, or individualize instruction)-In favor of Differentiated Instruction (I want to differentiate, adjust, or individualize instruction)
  10. Has No Support or Curricular Resources to Differentiate Instruction (I do not have the support, time, or curricular resources to modify instruction)-Has Support and Curricular Resources to Differentiate Instruction (I do have the support, time, or curricular resources to modify instruction)
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, spelling pattern worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games. Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies.

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, Writing , , , , , , , , ,

Ten Reasons Teachers Avoid RtI Collaboration

If your school and/or district is moving toward a Response to Intervention (RtI) model, knowing the ten reasons why some teachers and administrators avoid RtI collaboration will help those committed to the RtI process make fewer mistakes and get more buy-in from stakeholders.

Teachers and administrators tend to be individualists, and school structures tend to reinforce this personality trait. Collaboration is simply easier for some and harder for others. Knowing why collaboration is difficult or downright threatening for individual staff members will help an RtI team address the individual concerns of its stakeholders. Dealing head-on with these stumbling blocks in the beginning stages of the RtI process will get everything “on the table” and prevent future problems during implementation.

RtI teams that avoid this necessary step and rush into structural and curricular decision-making for the sake of efficiency or meeting imposed timetables will deal with these individual concerns down the road anyway. Once the RtI model has been implemented, it is much more difficult and less efficient to backtrack and address individual concerns. Those RtI teams which take the time to address stakeholder concerns tend to have a much better track record in moving a staff toward the collaborative culture so necessary to effectively implement RtI.

Ten Reasons Teachers Avoid RtI Collaboration

  1. Autonomy-Teachers and administrators choose education as a career because they crave some measure of control over decision-making. Educators develop their own teaching/leadership styles and philosophies to reflect their personal values. As a result, educators tend to actively or passively resist outside imposition or control. RtI collaboration certainly threatens this autonomy.
  2. Fear-All teachers and administrators share one trait in common. They know their own limitations. The fear is that others will discover these limitations and not accept them as valued professionals. No teacher or administrator wants to be recognized as incompetent. The fear is that RtI collaboration will expose individual limitations.
  3. Job Security-Finding out limitations can be perceived as potential “dings” on performance evaluations for both teachers and administrators. Additionally, the RtI model may expose overlap or redundancy and this may threaten jobs. Because sharing resources is a key ingredient in the RtI recipe, RtI collaboration may identify underutilized resource personnel.
  4. Castles-Individual fiefdoms protect job security. Our individual educational castles, created to address and protect student needs, tend to make collaboration challenging or even undesirable. Those who keep the keys of their respective castles may be loath to give these up. Sharing isn’t just a problem in kindergarten. Each school and district has its own fiefdoms and the RtI collaboration model requires open castles and transparency.
  5. Content Queens and Kings-Many teachers, especially at the secondary level, entered the teaching professional because of their genuine love of their respective disciplines. Any moves away from content-centered instruction toward process or skill-centered instruction threaten their roles. Those content-centric teachers and administrators focus on content standards, but may ignore the balanced approach of the new Common Core State Standards. Sharing responsibility for teaching content with others or taking on process or skill instruction may be their concerns regarding the RtI collaboration model.
  6. Test Madness-A disease endemic to many educators, but frankly more to administrators than teachers. And with good reason. Administrators are directly judged by standardized test results. And now, several states have made the move toward evaluating teachers by the test results of their students. Of course, those supporting such evaluations tend to beg at least two questions relevant to the RtI process: 1. Are standardized tests capable of accurately measuring RtI student achievement? and 2. Will teachers teach all non-tested content and process standards and continue to teach to diagnostic student needs when their jobs and salaries may be affected by the test results? Test-crazed-cultures may encourage educators to take short-cuts and teach to results, not to student needs. This is not to say that an effective RtI model and optimal standardized test results are necessarily mutually exclusive. However, test madness remains a reason why some avoid RtI collaboration.
  7. Lazy, Burned-out, or Checked-out Teachers and Administrators-Let’s face it. Most sites have their share, but not as many as the public may perceive. All educators go through professional cycles of interest and lack thereof. Some will own up to their feelings; others will not. Psychologists remind us that motivation is a cyclical process. Effective practice with expert coaching leads to achieving personal goals. Achieving personal goals leads to self-satisfaction. Self-satisfaction leads back around to a positive association with practice. Teacher and administrator interest can be re-kindled with the right practice, but RtI collaboration does push to the initial practice step and those lazy, burned-out, or checked-out teachers and administrators will resist until they begin the cycle.
  8. Anti-Change Agents-Many teachers and administrators gravitate toward the status-quo. “I’ve/We’ve always done it this way” or “This is how I was taught and it worked for me” or “I tried that, but it didn’t work for me/us” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or “What goes around, comes around” or “This too shall pass” guide a tremendous amount of educational decision-making. We are all products of our own experiences, and change challenges our established comfort zones. Anti-change agents can be particularly adverse to RtI collaboration.
  9. Fear of DifferentiationAdjusting instruction to student needs provokes resistance. No teacher feels under-worked. Adding on the task of changing instructional delivery to meet the diagnostically-determined needs of students is overwhelming to most. No wonder that tracking and pull-out programs are key features of most educational institutions. However, ask any teacher whether it would be ideal to teach to each student as his or her levels of need and you would receive a universal Yes. Dealing with the Myths of Differentiating Instruction can be helpful, but there is just no doubt that those who avoid differentiated instruction are reticent to support RtI collaboration.
  10. No Support or Curricular ResourcesTeachers and Administrators are all-too-often expected to do “more with less.” No wonder that the RtI model, which demands resources of time and student-centered curriculum leads to frustration and an unwillingness to whole-heartedly support RtI collaboration.

    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, spelling pattern worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games. Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies.

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, Writing , , , , , , , , , ,

Community College Remedial Reading Costs

Much has been said about the burden that our community college system has shouldered due to the economic downturn. Unemployment certainly has led to increased enrollment in our nation’s community colleges. Some have registered for course work to improve job skills, some to earn Associates of Arts degrees or certificates, some to transfer to universities, some to meet welfare to work mandates, some to avoid unaffordable university tuition, and some because they simply have nowhere else to go. Increased enrollment in our community colleges has created an economic double-whammy for both hard-pressed state budgets and for community colleges themselves. An increasingly key factor in this double-whammy has been the cost to remediate the skill set of these new students, especially in reading.

Remedial Reading Costs: Whammy #1 On State Budgets

…..

The financial burden of increased community college enrollment has severely impacted already-strained state budgets and much can be attributed to the cost of remedial programs. For example…

  • Community colleges are the most heavily subsidized educational institutions. In California, a similar undergraduate course in English 101 runs $108 at community college, $649 for the California State University, and $1320 for the University of California.
  • Significant numbers of these new community college students are receiving state-funded financial aid.
  • Most of the new community students double-dip by taking remedial course work, especially in reading, which repeats previously funded coursework in the K-12 system.
  • Community college remediation represents a considerable financial and opportunity cost. Recent estimates suggest a $3.7 billion annual price tag just for the remediation of recent high school graduates who attend community colleges. http://all4ed.org/files/remediation.pdf.
  • Most remedial students drop-out. Only 17% of students who enroll in a remedial reading course at a community college receive a bachelor’s degree within eight years, compared to 58% of students who take no remedial education courses. http://www.communitycollegecentral.org/Downloads/Developmental_Education_TOOLKIT.pdf The cost per community college dropout is $17,700 in federal and state financial aid and in city and state funding for the community college system. (Community College Spotlight, The Hechinger Report)

Remedial Reading Costs: Whammy #2 On Community Colleges

…..

Additional financial burdens due to the new wave of community college students have been placed upon the community colleges themselves. And much has been due to the remedial needs of these new students. For example…

  • States have resisted increasing student fees during the economic downturn due to public pressure and the enrollment boom has exacerbated the budgetary shortfalls of community colleges.
  • Community colleges have had to cut full-time staff and non-mandated coursework.
  • The most expensive programs happen to be the mandated remedial programs, especially remedial reading courses, which the majority of the new students must take to prepare for transfer courses, certificate program courses, or Associates of Arts courses. A few facts will suffice: Virtually all community colleges offer remedial or developmental education. Almost 60% of community college students require at least one year of developmental coursework. http://www.communitycollegecentral.org/Downloads/Developmental_Education_TOOLKIT.pdf

Remediation, especially reading remediation, has always been a tough issue for state legislators and community colleges. Some have been reluctant to accept the reality that so many of our high school graduates or drop-outs still cannot read at the levels they need to function in society. Others recognize the problem, but play the blame game by pointing fingers at the failures of K-12 education. While the costs of providing remedial reading education are high to both state and community college budgets, the costs of not providing the resources are incalculable.

This is especially true in our economic downturn. According to the Sacramento Bee, “Unemployment for 21-25 year-olds without a college degree hovers at 25%, while those with college degrees are at 8% (December 11, 2011).” Although not the job-guarantee as in years past, community colleges and university training certainly remain gateways to economic opportunities. For students seeking accelerated degree programs, there are many options beyond the traditional community college-state university route. For example, check out Averett College for great degree programs!

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, spelling pattern worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games. Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies.

Reading, Study Skills , , , , , , ,

Debunking Speed Reading Myths – Is Speed Reading for Real?

I don’t normally post articles by other authors. However, this informative article on speed reading is well-worth reading. And it comes with a powerful resource that teachers will want to test-pilot to measure their students’ silent reading fluency.

Primary and intermediate elementary teachers do a great job of assessing oral reading fluency and helping students improve their fluency rates and accuracy. We all know that fluency is highly correlated with reading comprehension. However, upper elementary and secondary teachers usually assume that the rate and accuracy of their students’ silent reading fluency is static. Not so. Using simple speed reading techniques, as well as other self-monitoring reading strategies, can improve both rate and comprehension. Speed reading is not hocus-pocus. Here’s some background on speed reading and the facts that will help debunk a number of speed reading myths.

Bob Watson first learned speed reading about five years ago for the purpose of teaching it to a young, eager group of sixth graders in a summer school study skills course.  He read a few books on the subject, took a weekend long seminar course, and significantly increased his reading speed.  He taught what he had learned to my students, and almost all of them saw some major improvement in their reading skills, both speed and comprehension.

Doing more and more research on this subject, however, led Bob to a skeptics website claiming that speed reading was a farce. After reading what this site, and many others like it, had to say on the subject, Bob started to see where they were coming from.

You see, speed reading is still a fairly new concept.  The first person to use the term was Evelyn Woods in the 1960s, an Australian teacher who identified a number of bad reading habits and eventually started teaching correspondence courses and holding seminars where she taught her techniques, most of which are still well accepted and taught today. However, many scam artists jumped on the speed reading bandwagon.

In the 1990 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, Howard Stephen Berg was listed as the fastest reader in the world. Berg claimed to be able to read over 80 pages of text in one minute, a reading speed of about 25,000 words per minute.  But, once you start to look into the record, you’ll see that the officials at Guinness, at the time, weren’t well known for verifying the records they posted, and this was, in fact, not a record that they checked.  They took Berg at his word, and it seems that he completely invented the number.  On a number of television programs Berg demonstrates near perfect recall and excellent reading.  In 1998, he had a lawsuit filed against him for deceptive advertising.

The lesson here is really quite simple: there is, in fact, a great deal of deception in the field of speed reading.  Also, as you might have guessed, faster isn’t always better.

So, is it really possible to increase your reading speed?  Yes. For most people, it is not outside the limits of possibility to increase their reading speed past 600 words per minute, which is more than double than what the average American can read.

Does speed reading affect comprehension?  It certainly does.  “Reading” at an outrageous pace certainly decreases understanding of the text.  However, if the techniques of speed reading are applied at a manageable speed, readers can improve their reading comprehension.  The reason is simple – they’re not only learning to read faster, but they’re also learning how to read much better.  Reading faster ties together the details of the text much better into comprehensible input, than reading slowly.

So, who is Bob? Bob Watson is a teacher who works primarily with high school and middle school students with emotional disabilities. He has written a number of well-crafted articles on speed reading. Bob also created a free speed reading test that teachers will find very useful to measure their students’ silent reading rates.

I say you’ve got to check out this computer-based test. Five short passages are provided to test silent reading fluency. I had my students take one of these tests as a diagnostic assessment in the computer lab. Took just a few minutes and the students loved it.

I will teach some of Bob’s speed reading techniques and re-test periodically with the rest of the passages to chart progress. Give it a try. You can help students improve both their silent reading speed and comprehension.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

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

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

Reading, Study Skills , , ,

How to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

Every teacher knows that word parts are the building blocks of words. Most teachers know that learning individual word parts and how they fit together to form multi-syllabic words is the most efficient method of vocabulary acquisition, second only to that of widespread reading at the student’s independent reading level. These word parts that are, indeed, the keys to academic vocabulary—the types of words that students especially need to succeed in school. However, most teachers do not know the best instructional methods to teach these important word parts.

How Most Teachers Teach Prefixes

The Test Method: “Here is your list of ten prefixes with game cards to memorize this week. Test on Friday.” No instruction + no practice = no success.

The Literature-based Method: “Notice the prefix pre in the author’s word preamble? That means before. Let’s look for other ones.

The Word Sort Method: “Here is a list of 20 big words. Sort all of the words that start with pre in the first box.”

The Intensive Vocabulary Study Methods: “Let’s use our Four Square vocabulary chart to study the prefix pre. Who knows an antonym? Who knows an example word? Who knows a synonym? Who knows an inflection that can be added to the word? Who knows…? Spend at least 15 minutes “studying” this one prefix.” How inefficient can you get?

The Modality Methods (VAK): “Let’s draw the prefix pre in the word preamble. Then draw a symbol of the word that will help you remember the word. Use at least three colors. If you prefer, design a Lego® model of the prefix.” Check out this relevant article on Don’t Teach to Learning Styles or Multiple Intelligences.

Better Ways to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

Choose the Right Word Parts

Teaching the high utility Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes is a very efficient tool to acquire academic vocabulary. These morphological (meaning-based) word parts that form the basis of English academic vocabulary are primarily Greek and Latinates. Prefixes and roots carry the bulk of important word meanings; however, some key suffixes are important, as well. Over 50% of multi-syllabic words beyond the most frequently used 10,000 words contain a Greek or Latin word part. Since Greek and Latinates are so common in our academic language, it makes sense to memorize the highest frequency word parts. See the attached list of High Frequency Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots for reference.

Teach by Analogy

Word part clues are highly memorable because readers have frequent exposure to and practice with the high frequency word parts. Additionally, they are memorable because the simple to understand use of the word part can be applied to more complex usages. For example, bi means two in bicycle, just as it means two in bicameral or biped. Analogy is a powerful learning aid and its application in academic vocabulary is of paramount importance.

One of the most effective strategies for learning and practicing word parts by analogy is to have students build upon their previous knowledge of words that use the targeted word parts. Building student vocabularies based upon their own prior knowledge ensures that your example words will more likely be within their grade-level experience, rather than arbitrarily providing examples beyond their reading and listening experience.

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions (I suggest a combination of prefixes, roots, and suffixes), ask students to brainstorm words that they already know that use each of the word parts. Give students two minutes to quick-write all the words that they know that use the selected prefix, root, or suffix. Then, ask students to share their words in class discussion. Quickly write down and define each word that clearly uses the definition that you have provided. Ignore those words that use the word part, but do not clearly exemplify the definition that you have provided. Require students to write down each word that you have written in their Vocabulary Journals. Award points for all student contributions.

Teach through Word Play

Effective vocabulary study involves practice. One of the best ways to practice prefixes is through vocabulary games. A terrific list of word play games with clear instructions is found in Vocabulary Review Games.

Teach through Association

Memorization through association places learning into the long-term memory. Connection to other word parts helps students memorize important prefixes, roots, and suffixes.

Fifteen Power Words

These fifteen words have prefixes or roots that are part of over 15,000 words. That is as many words as most student dictionaries! Memorize these words and the meanings of their prefixes and roots and you have significantly improved your vocabulary.

1. inaudible     (not, hear)

2. dismiss        (away from, send)

3. transport      (across, carry)

4. unsubscribe (not, under, write)

5. predict         (before, say)

6. remit            (again, send)

7. encounter    (in, against)

8. offer              (against, carry)

9. inspect         (in, see)

10. epilogue     (upon, word)

11. antigen      (against, people)

12. empathy    (in, feeling)

13. intermediate (between, middle)

14. destruction    (apart from, build)

15. superimpose (over, in, put)

Put-Togethers

Have students spread out vocabulary word part cards into prefix, root, and suffix groups on their desks. Business card size works best. The object of the game is to put together these word parts into real words within a given time period. Students can use connecting vowels. Students are awarded points as follows:

1 point for each prefix—root combination

1 point for each root—suffix combination

2 points for a prefix—root combination that no one else in the group has

2 points for a root—suffix combination that no one else in the group has

3 points for each prefix—root—suffix combination

5 points for a prefix—root—suffix combination that no one else has.

Game can be played timed or untimed.

Teach through Syllabication

Teaching basic syllabication skills helps students understand and apply how syllable patterns fit in with decodable word parts. The Transformers activity teaches the basic syllables skills through inductive examples.

In addition to the basics, the Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules provide the guidelines for correct pronunciation and writing.

Teaching the Ten Accent Rules, including the schwa, will assist students in accurate pronunciation and spelling.

Teach through Spelling

Using a comprehensive spelling pattern spelling program will teach how prefixes absorb and assimilate with connected roots, how roots change spellings to accommodate pronunciation and suffix spelling, and how suffixes determine the grammar, verb tense, and limit the meaning of preceding prefixes and roots. Beyond primary sound-spellings, spelling and vocabulary have an important relationship in the structure of academic vocabulary. Only recently has spelling been relegated to the elementary classroom. Check out Differentiated Spelling Instruction to see how a grade-level spelling program can effectively incorporate advanced vocabulary development.

Context Clues Reading

Even knowing just one word part will provide a clue to meaning of an unknown word. For example, a reader may not understand the meaning of the word bicameral. However, knowing that the prefix bi means two certainly helps the reader gain a sense of the word, especially when combined with other context clues such as synonyms, antonyms, logic-based, and example clues. For example, let’s look at the following sentence:

The bicameral legislative system of the House and Senate provide important checks and balances.

Identifying the context example clues, “House and Senate” and “checks and balances,” combines with the reader’s knowledge of the word part, bi and help the reader problem-solve the meaning of the unknown word: bicameral.

Context Clues Writing

Similarly, having students develop their own context clue sentences, in which they suggest the meaning of the word parts and words with surrounding synonyms, antonyms, logic-based, and example clues is excellent practice.

Inventive Writing

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions (I suggest two prefixes, three roots, and two suffixes per week), ask students to invent words that use each word part in a sentence, that uses context clues to show the meaning of each nonsense word. Encourage students to use “real” word parts to combine with each targeted word part to form multi-syllabic words. Award extra points for words used from prior week’s words.

Don’t want to reinvent the wheel? Find every resource you need to teach vocabulary in Pennington Publishing’s newly released Grades 4-8 Teaching the Language Strand. This comprehensive program is designed to help students catch up and keep up with grade-level Standards in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary. The vocabulary worksheets are designed to teach every grade level Common Core Standard. Check out the YouTube introductory video for a concise overview of the program.

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

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

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

How to Teach Main Idea

Finding the main idea is a basic reading comprehension skill. However, basic does not mean easy. Main idea questions are found on every normed reading comprehension assessment and are the most frequently asked types of questions on the passage-based reading questions of the SAT®. Following are a workable definition, some important disclaimers, and a few critical strategies which will make sense out of this sometimes challenging task for readers of all ages.

Definition: In Googling the meaning of main idea, these two useful entries pop up:

  • The gist of a passage; central thought; the chief topic of a passage expressed or implied in a word or phrase; the topic sentence of a paragraph; a statement that gives the explicit or implied major topic of a passage and the specific way in which the passage is limited in content or reference.
    csmpx.ucop.edu/crlp/resources/glossary.html
  • The main idea of an essay, or other written discourse, is the point that the author is trying to make. It is the most important thing that he wants you to understand about the topic. It is most often stated explicitly, although in narrative essays or in fiction it may be implicit. …
    www.moonstar.com/~acpjr/Blackboard/Common/Glossary/GlossTwo.html

Disclaimers: What main idea is not…

  • Main idea is not the same as the topic.
  • Main idea is not necessarily the thesis statement.
  • Main idea is not necessarily the topic sentence(s).
  • Main idea is not found within the narrative domain of writing, unless tagged on by the author to comment on the story such as with a moral at the end of a fairy tale.
  • Main idea is not limited to one per reading selection.
  • Main idea is not a generalization or something necessarily broad in scope.
  • Main idea is not the minor detail of a reading selection.

Finding Main Idea: Strategies that Readers Can Use

Organization: Access the Writing Connection

Knowing the structure of expository writing (informational, explanatory, analytical, and persuasive) can help readers identify main idea(s) in a reading selection. Reading and writing instruction mirror one another. The reading-writing connection is well-established in research.

  • The thesis statement tells the purpose or point of view of the exposition. Finding the thesis statement will help the reader learn the parameters of the main ideas. Muchlike an umbrella, the thesis statement is designed to cover the main idea(s) of a reading/writing selection. As a starting point, research demonstrates that about 50% of expository writing includes the thesis statement in the last sentence of the introduction.
  • The topic sentences can serve as main ideas in a reading/writing selection. Major details and minor details pertain to, provide support to, and are limited to the topic sentence in any essay body paragraph.
  • The main idea(s) can be repeated in expository writing—frequently in the conclusion.

Language of Instruction

Often the language of the reading text itself or the language of test problems can help readers identify main ideas. In addition to using the phase, main idea, the following references are used in expository text and on standardized tests:

  • “best”                                                  Another answer may be acceptable, but this one most closely fits.
  • “mainly”                                              Not completely, but most importantly.
  • “chiefly”                                              Compared to the others, this is above the rest.
  • “primarily”                                          This means mainly or the chief one, before all others.
  • “most likely”                                       A logical prediction or conclusion.
  • “most directly”                                   Most specifically.

Process of Elimination: Goldilocks and Wanted Posters

Much like Goldilocks eliminates the porridge, chairs, and beds of Papa Bear and Momma Bear from consideration in favor of those of Baby Bear’s, the careful reader can eliminate what is too general and what is too detailed to identify the “just right” the main idea(s).

  • If the material lacks specificity and so is hard to identify as the author’s central point(s), then it is too general to be the main idea(s). Imagine a wanted poster that does not focus in on the specific recognizable physical traits that would help an observer identify the accused criminal in person, but instead affords only hints of the accused’s characteristics with a general description, association, or category.
  • If the material is too specific and so is difficult to identify as the author’s central point(s), then it is probably a major or minor detail that supports the main idea(s). Picture a wanted poster that focuses in on only a part of the whole. Even if that part is the most recognizable physical trait, the accused criminal will not be identifiable unless there is adequate perspective and context.

The “just right” balance of specificity, perspective and context on a wanted poster will enable the observer to identify the accused criminal. Similarly, that same balance will help readers identify the main idea(s) in a reading selection.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

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

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

TOO GENERAL/TOO SPECIFIC/ MAIN IDEA (Jesse James Wanted Posters)


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

Don’t Teach to Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

Most teachers believe in some form of learning styles or multiple intelligences theories. The notion that each child learns differently, so we should adjust instruction accordingly (learning styles) just seems like such good old-fashion common sense. The theory that each child has different innate abilities (multiple intelligences) just seems to be confirmed by common experience. But common sense and experience are untrustworthy and unreliable guides to good teaching. Despite what the snake oil learning styles and multiple intelligences folk tell us, they are simply wrong. Here are five reasons why.

1. We don’t know enough about how the brain works to change the way we teach. What we do know about the brain suggests that catering instruction to specific modalities can be counter-productive. Knowledge is stored in the form of memories and only 10% of those memories are visual and auditory representations. Meaning-based memories make up the 90% (Willingham on Learning Styles Don’t Exist–TeacherTube). Those impressive-looking illustrations of the brain on the Universal Design for Learning site and interesting graphic organizers on the multiple intelligences sites hopelessly simplify what we know is a far more complex subject. Daniel T. Willingham, cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Virginia advises districts, schools, and teachers to “save your money” on any brain-based instructional in-services or instructional resources. See Willingham’s excellent YouTube on the fallacy of brain-based instruction.

2. Research does not support adjusting instruction according to learning styles or multiple intelligences theories. To sum up his extensive meta-analysis of modality research, Willingham states “…we can say that the possible effects of matching instructional modality to a student’s modality strength have been extensively studied and have yielded no positive evidence. If there was an effect of any consequence, it is extremely likely that we would know it by now (American Educator 1995).” With respect to research on multiple intelligences, “The fundamental criticism of MI theory is the belief by scholars that each of the seven multiple intelligences is in fact a cognitive style rather than a stand-alone construct (Morgan, 1996). Morgan, (1996) refers to Gardner’s approach of describing the nature of each intelligence with terms such as abilities, sensitivities, skills and abilities as evidence of the fact that the “theory” is really a matter of semantics rather than new thinking on multiple constructs of intelligence (http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/mitheory.shtml),” Frankly, the essential variables of motivation, preference, teacher perception, and the learning tasks themselves probably cannot ever be isolated in an experimental design, thus prohibiting statistically significant conclusions regarding how students learn best and how teachers should teach.

3. Learning styles and multiple intelligences theories beg the question about how students learn. The assumption is that students learn best by receiving instruction in their strongest modality or intelligence. This may make sense for designated hitters in the American League. Allow me to explain. In the American League, pitchers rarely bat; instead, designated hitters bat for them. The designated hitter does not play in the field. It would make sense for the designated hitter to practice according to his modality strength. Developing kinesthetic expertise in slugging home runs will earn him his multi-millions. But exclusive kinesthetic batting practice will not help him become a better fielder. There is no learning transfer. We certainly don’t want designated hitters in our classrooms. We want students to be complete ballplayers. In fact, it makes more sense to practice our relative weaknesses. Why should kinesthetically adept Johnny continue to make project after project rather than practicing in his areas of relative weakness: oral (auditory, aural) and written (visual) communication?

4. By emphasizing the how of instruction, learning styles and multiple intelligences practitioners lose sight of the what of instruction and tend to force square blocks into round holes. For teaching input to be processed and stored in the memory, that input has to match how the information will be stored. Little of what we teach will be stored as visual or auditory representations. This does not mean that good teaching won’t use the visual or auditory domains, but the focus of most all of our instruction is meaning-based. We want our students to know stuff. We have to match the how of instruction to the what of instruction, not the reverse. “All students learn more when content drives the choice of modality (Willingham in American Educator 1995).” It should go without saying that if a child has, for example, an auditory processing disability, the how of instruction should be limited in that modality. Similarly, adapting learning tasks to perceived student intelligences is impractical for the vast majority of our teaching standards. A student with musical intelligence still needs meaning-based practice to understand the roles of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

5. Although learning Styles and multiple intelligences theories seem individual-centered and egalitarian on the surface, the converse is more likely true. The practical applications of these theories tend to pigeon-hole students and assume that nature plays a greater role in learning than does nurture. For example, teachers disproportionately tend to label African-American children, especially boys, as kinesthetic learners and Asian kids are more often classified as visual learners. Being labeled limits options and dissuades effort and exploration. Learning styles and multiple intelligences assessments particularly have this egregious effect. Our students are not stupid. Labeling them as “good at” and “has strengths in” also labels them as “bad at” and “has weaknesses in.” Students “shut down” to learning or “self-limit” their achievement with such labels. If limited to what the students know and don’t yet know, assessments data can be productive. If extended to how students learn, data can be debilitating. Additionally, who is to say that how a student learns remains a constant? Teachers certainly have an important role in nurturing motivation, risk-taking, and exploration. Teachers should be about opening doors, not closing doors.

Unfortunately, the differentiated instruction movement has largely adopted learning style and multiple intelligence theories. Check out why differentiated instruction should be more about the what and less about the how in 23 Myths of Differentiated Instruction. As we move ahead in the Response to Interventionprocess, this subject of how to best serve students with learning challenges is especially relevant. Readers may also wish to check out the author’s introductory article: Learning Styles Teaching Lacks Common Sense.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

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

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

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

Learning Styles Teaching Lacks Common Sense

Different strokes for different folks. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for me. These sayings appeal to our American ideals of individualism and equality, don’t they? And they certainly seem to apply to how we think we should teach. Our assumption is that we all learn differently so good teachers should adjust instruction to how students learn. Specifically, we assume that some students are better auditory (or aural) learners, some are better visual learners, and some are better kinesthetic learners. Or add additional modalities or intelligences to the list, if you wish. All we need to do to maximize learning is to adjust instruction to fit the modality that best matches the students’ learning styles or intelligences. It just seems like good old-fashioned common sense.

However, common sense is not always a trustworthy or reliable guide. Galileo once challenged Aristotle’s wisdom and the popular consensus of two millennia that objects fall at different rates, depending upon their bulk. Galileo climbed to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa and dropped a tiny musket ball and a huge canon ball at the same time. Defying common sense, those objects reached ground at the same time. Even today, ask most people whether a nickel or computer would hit the ground first. Most would still pick the computer.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Teachers encounter counter-intuitive examples in teaching all the time: a not-so-bright student whose parents both have master’s degrees, a student with high fluency but low comprehension, an administrator who has never taught in a classroom. These anomalies just don’t make sense, but they happen quite frequently. In fact, before recent IDEA legislation, students with demonstrated learning problems could not qualify for special education unless there was an established discrepancy between ability and performance. In other words, unless the student’s learning disability challenged our notions of common sense, the student could not qualify for special education services.

Most teachers will say that they believe in some form of learning style or multiple intelligences theory. Most will say that they attempt to adjust instruction to some degree to how they perceive students learn best. Many use modality assessments to guide their instructional decision-making. This is particularly true within the special education community. Although there probably has been some change, Arter and Jenkins (1979) found that more than 90% of special education teachers believe in modality theory. These assumptions are especially relevant as special education teachers assume lead roles in the expanded Response to Intervention models, especially with respect to the three-tiered instructional model.

But these common sense assumptions are simply wrong for the most part. To understand why, we need to define our terms a bit. When we talk about how our students learn we need to consider three components of the learning process. First, the learner accesses input, that is teaching, through sensory experiences. Next, the learner makes meaning of and connects that new input to existing knowledge and experience. Finally, that learner stores this input into the short and long term memories.

Now, this learning process is not the same as knowledge. Learning (the verb) leads to knowledge (the noun). And knowledge is not how students learn. Knowledge is what students learn. Knowledge is stored in the memory. Knowledge = memory. Memory includes everything and excludes nothing. It even includes learning how to learn. We have no separate data bases.

So how is knowledge (memory) stored in the brain? According to cognitive scientists, 90% of the memory is meaning-based. Only 10% of the memory consists of visual or auditory representations (Willingham 2009). These percentages do reflect what we teach. Most everything we teach is meaning-based. So, shouldn’t we focus our teaching energies on matching how we teach to how the knowledge is stored?

Auditory Memory

Let’s start with the 10%. If knowledge will be stored as an auditory memory, teaching should emphasize this modality. For example, if band students are learning how to tune their instruments, they need to listen to and practice hearing the sound waves, not necessarily see a spectrograph or understand the complexities of how sound is produced. Or if students are learning to read with inflection, they need to hear good models of inflection and mimic those models. Both sound waves and reading inflection knowledge are stored primarily as auditory memories. To tune their instruments, band students will access their auditory memories of wave sounds and apply this knowledge to raising or lowering the pitch of their instruments. To read with inflection, students will recall the rhythm, emphasis, and altered voices of modeled readings and apply this knowledge to reading in front of the class.

Visual Memory

And now the balance of the 10%. If knowledge will be stored as a visual memory, teaching should emphasize this modality. For example, if art students are learning the color spectrum, they need to see and practice the colors with their various hues, not just memorize ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). Or if students are memorizing the locations of the states, they will need to see and practice their shapes, sizes, and relationships to other states on political and/or physical maps. Both colors and the locations of states are stored primarily as visual memories. To draw an apple from memory, art students will access their visually stored memories of various hues of red and/or other colors and apply this knowledge to their watercolor. To pass the map test, students will recall the images of the political and/or physical maps and correctly label the states.

Meaning-Based Memory

And finally to the 90%. These meaning-based memories are stored independent of any modality-“not in terms of whether you saw, heard, or physically interacted with the information.” (Willingham 2009). If knowledge will be stored in the memory as meaning, teaching should be designed to emphasize this outcome. For example, if history students are learning the three branches of the federal government and the system of checks and balances, they need to understand the meanings of the terms: legislative, executive, and judicial as well as the specific limitations of and checks on powers that the framers of the Constitution designed to ensure balance and prevent abuse. Good teaching would emphasize both rehearsal and application of this information to ensure understanding. This would, of course, necessitate using the auditory (or aural) modality. It would also certainly be appropriate to use the visual modality by drawing the three-branch tree with each branch representing the divisions of government. However, most of the learning process will necessitate memorizing how, what, where, when, and why facts through meaning-storage strategies and techniques (such as repetition), establishing cognitive connections to prior knowledge and experiences with plenty of appropriate examples, and practicing trial and error feedback through class discussion, reading, and writing. Whew! Complex, meaning-based stuff. On the test, students will not access memories of the teacher’s lecture voice or the teacher’s tree drawing to answer the multiple-choice questions. Students will recall meaning-based memories derived from teaching that appropriately matches the content to be learned. If 90% of what our students learn is meaning-based, why waste limited planning and instructional time fixating on the 10%? Now that’s good old-fashioned common sense.

Check out Dr. Daniel Willingham’s YouTube on this subject.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

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

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

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

Free Structural Analysis, Syllabication & Oral Language Resources

Word study is crucial to effective reading and spelling instruction. Knowing the structural components of words, including roots, affixes, and grammatical inflections will help your students read with greater understanding and less fear of multi-syllabic words. Studying how words are put together will help your students properly pronounce words. Learning the parts of words will help your student improve their vocabulary. Practicing the rules and patterns of word formation will help your students become better spellers. Oh yes… using the skills of word analysis will also help your students perform better on standardized English-language arts and reading tests.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding structural analysis, syllabication, and oral language development from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Structural Analysis, Syllabication, and Oral Language

Ten English Accent Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/ten-english-accent-rules/

The Ten English Accent Rules are important to understand and apply to be able to correctly pronounce and spell English words.

How to Teach English Accent Rules

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/how-to-teach-english-accent-rules/

Teaching students the syllable and accent rules through effective practice will noticeably improve their word attack and spelling skills. The accent rules and teaching procedure work well for both primary English speakers and English language-learners at all grade levels.

The Top Ten Syllable Rules

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

The Top Ten Syllable Rules will help students improve reading, pronunciation, and spelling accuracy. Applying these basic syllabication rules will also help readers identify prefixes, roots, and affixes, which improves word identification. Clear examples follow each syllable rule.

How to Teach Syllabication: The Syllable Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-syllabication-the-syllable-rules/

How to Teach Syllabication: The Syllable Rules is a three-minute whole-class instructional strategy that teaches students to properly pronounce and spell all of the phonetic sound-spelling and syllable patterns.

Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/twenty-advanced-syllable-rules/

The Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules are critical to accurate pronunciation, decoding, and spelling. Knowing the patterns of affixes and roots will also facilitate vocabulary acquisition.

20 Embarrassing Mispronunciations

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/20-embarrassing-mispronunciations/

Educated Americans often look down their long noses at those who mispronounce common words. However, even these literary illuminati have their fair share of embarrassing pronunciation gaffes.

Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/top-40-pronunciation-pet-peeves/

Here is the definitive list of the Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves that drive Americans crazy. Read, laugh, and cringe over mistakes that you or your friends make when saying these words.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

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Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

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

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

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

Free Independent Reading Resources

As an MA reading specialist and English-language Arts teacher, I know the value of independent reading. Despite our wonderful instruction in Greek and Latinates, context clues, and vocabulary in literature, students make their greatest vocabulary gains through independent reading at their instructional levels. Not to mention gains in reading comprehension. Teachers are understandably reluctant to allocate much class time to independent reading. Teachers are also unconvinced that their students really will read independently for homework.

However, learning how to teach students to select readings at their instructional level and providing accountability within the home and class community can improve students’ success rates and achieve our goals of turning teacher-dependent readers into truly independent readers. We might just even create a few life-long readers in the process.

Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to develop an effective independent reading program from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Independent Reading

Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/why-sustained-silent-reading-ssr-doesn%E2%80%99t-work/

O.K. So my title is a good hook. I’m an ELA teacher, so you’d expect no less. However, I’m also an MA reading specialist, so you’d expect me to be passionate about getting students to read and read well. I do believe that independent reading is vital to reading improvement. So why am I writing an article titled Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work? SSR just is not an effective use of class time. Why so? Here are 8 reasons Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work.

Straight Talk with Stephen Krashen on SSR

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/straight-talk-with-stephen-krashen-on-ssr/

In response to my article titled “Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work,”Dr. Stephen Krashen responded numerous times. Given the richness of Dr. Krashen’s gracious responses to my persistent challenges and questions, I felt it would be helpful to post the unedited exchange.

Independent Reading Homework

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/independent-reading-homework/

I developed an independent reading program based upon “reading discussions.” Students read at home and lead a literary discussion with their parent for three-minutes per day, four days per week to offer flexibility to families. I devolved the accountability for these assignments to the student-parent partnership. In other words, parents grade their children on the quality of the discussion and I count the points.

How to Select Books for Independent Reading

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-select-books-for-independent-reading/

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

The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/the-18-reasons-not-to-use-accelerated-reader/

Accelerated Reader (AR) is a simple software concept that was at the right time (late 1980s) and right place (public schools during a transition from whole language to phonics instruction) that has simply grown into an educational monolith. Following are short summaries of the most common arguments made by researchers, teachers, parents, and students as to why using AR is counterproductive. Hence, The 20 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader.

Schoolwide Independent Reading Program

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/schoolwide-independent-reading-program/

I take a balanced approach and recommend such in the development of a schoolwide Independent Reading Program (IRP). On the one hand, we want our students to become lifelong readers. We want them to intrinsically enjoy reading and choose to read on their own. However, I do see the value in some marketing and promotion of a schoolwide Independent Reading Program (IRP). Students work well when pursuing goals and everyone likes rewards. No, I’m certainly not advocating the AR program: See my The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader article.

High Fluency Low Reading Comprehension

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/high-fluency-low-reading-comprehension/

What can we, as parents and teachers, do for children with high fluency, but low reading comprehension? Check out the six actions steps designed to address this problem and download the helpful instructional strategies and free resources.

Independent Reading: The Meeting of the Minds

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/independent-reading-the-meeting-of-the-minds/

Using the format of  the old television show, Meeting of Minds, some of the greatest thinkers from different eras to discuss the subject of independent reading in the classroom.

How to Determine Reading Levels

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-determine-reading-levels/

Learn how to use word recognition and motivation to determine reading levels for your students or for your own children.

How to Get Students to Read at Home

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-get-students-to-read-at-home/

Teachers and parents recognize the important role of independent reading in developing reading comprehension, vocabulary, and a lifelong love of books. Learn how to promote independent reading at home and help students achieve these desired benchmarks.

Free Whole Class Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments

http://penningtonpublishing.com/

Download free phonemic awareness, vowel sound phonics, consonant sound phonics, sight word, rimes, sight syllables, fluency, grammar, mechanics, and spelling assessments. All with answers and recording matrices. A true gold mine for the teacher committed to differentiated instruction!

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

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Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

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

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

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