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Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Two Week Test Drives

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Reading Program Placement

Far too often grades 4-12 students are placed in reading intervention classes where they don’t belong. Far too often students are not placed in reading intervention programs where they do belong. In the following article I will discuss a common sense criteria for reading program placement and a few pitfalls to avoid. I will also provide three complete reading program placement assessments with audio files and recording matrices.

First of all, a caveat. No criteria for reading program placement are perfect. Students meeting reading program placement criteria will be placed in reading intervention classes only to be filtered out, once subsequent diagnostic assessments have been evaluated. Some students may miraculously master reading program placement tests who do need to be placed into reading assessment classes upon further observation by classroom teachers or specialists. We are dealing with human beings here, and although our assessments may be reliable, kids most certainly are not.

Secondly, a disclaimer. I am the publisher of Teaching Reading Strategies, a reading intervention program which I will promote at the end of the article.

Common Sense Criteria and Pitfalls to Avoid with Reading Program Placement

  1. The program placement criteria must match the class. A reading intervention class with curriculum and delivery designed to teach explicit and systematic phonics, structural analysis, and fluency to increase vocabulary, improve reading comprehension, and improve spelling must have placement assessments which match what the program teaches. Using PAARC or SBAC “Standard Not Met” overall English-language arts/literacy scores to place students into reading intervention programs makes zero sense. Using a qualitative spelling inventory because “poor spellers tend to be poor readers” when spelling is not a key instructional component makes less than zero sense.
  2. Use teachable tests. Assessments take time to administer and correct. If instructional time is allocated to assessment, the assessments need to provide data that teachers will be able to use. A common sense guideline should be “If you can’t teach to it, don’t test it.” For students who do qualify for reading program placement, the program placement assessments should provide comprehensive data that teachers can “teach to.” What use is a random sample test or spelling/phonics inventory that cannot be used beyond program placement? Far too often, expensive reading intervention programs use separate random sample tests for program placement and then require more instructional time for additional diagnostic tests (and correction/recording/analysis) once program placement is made. For students who do not qualify for reading program placement, the program placement assessments should still provide teachable data to help teachers differentiate instruction. For example, if a student demonstrates mastery of all phonics elements other than the and w-controlled vowels, is at or above grade level fluency norms but fails to pause at commas, and has mastered 90% of spelling patterns, that student will not meet criteria for reading program placement; however, the regular classroom teacher will still derive teachable data from each of those three assessments.
  3. (Most) All students need to be assessed. Using teacher recommendations, past grades, past program placements, and cum file reviews are notoriously unreliable program placement indicators. Teachers and schools have divergent views as to what does and does not constitute reading proficiency. If the program placement assessments provide usable data for all students, using a “first-sort” or “multi-tiered” batch of assessments (which all too often weed out students who need to be placed in reading intervention) is unnecessary. Now let’s use some common sense here. Gifted and talented students, honor course students, etc. can “take a pass”; however, having taught at elementary, middle, high school, and community college levels I have often found interesting anomalies. When in doubt, always assess.
  4. Use common sense data analysis. Students are snowflakes. Each reading intervention candidate will have certain strengths and weaknesses, and as a side note: the reading intervention program can’t be a cookie-cutter, lock-step, A-Z curriculum which treats all students the same. Most reading specialists recommend 80% mastery criteria on multiple measure assessments. Using the three reading program placement assessments which I recommend (and are provided below), two of the three assessments not mastered at the 80% criteria would place a student in a Tier II instructional setting; all three of the assessments not mastered at that level would place a student in a Tier I instructional setting. As another aside, the Teaching Reading Strategies program incorporates both Tier I and II instructional delivery within the same reading intervention class.
  5. Include behavioral criteria for reading program placement. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) need to be in place alongside of Response to Intervention (RtI) to form a cohesive (MTSS) Multi-Tiered System of Supports for these students. Once reading program placements have been administered and a student meets the criteria for reading intervention placement, site level decision-making regarding proper placement is key. One or two behaviorally-challenged students can disrupt the instructional delivery and prevent success in any reading intervention class.

Three Effective Reading Program Placement Assessments (for a reading intervention class with curriculum and delivery designed to teach explicit and systematic phonics, structural analysis, and fluency to increase vocabulary, improve reading comprehension, and improve spelling)

  1. Phonics Assessments (vowels: 10:42 audio file, print copy and consonants: 12:07 audio fileprint copy)
  2. Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (22.38 audio file, print copy)
  3. Individual Fluency Assessment (2 minute individual assessment print copy).

Note that these placement tests provide assessment-based instructional data to inform the teacher’s selection of Tier 2 (small group of 5−8 students) and Tier 3 (individualized) instruction for each student. A built-in management system provides the instructional resources which allow the teacher to simultaneously supervise small group and individualized instruction. Nine additional diagnostic assessments (audio files) are administered during the first two weeks of instruction: syllable awareness, syllable rhyming, phonemic isolation, phonemic isolation, phonemic blending, phonemic segmenting, outlaw words, rimes, and sight syllables. Flexible Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction is assigned according to the assessment data. All reading diagnostic data are recorded on a one page recording matrix. All spelling patterns diagnostic data are recorded on a multi-page recording matrix. The matrix facilitates assignment of small group workshops and individualized worksheets. The matrix also serves as the progress monitoring source.

Why not check out the author’s Teaching Reading Strategies Introductory Video (15:08)?

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesIn addition

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

to the diagnostic and formative assessments, the program offers blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, SCRIP comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games. Teachers access five online training videos to learn how to teach each instructional component.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page Sam and Friends Phonics Books take-home readers are decodables and 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.

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1000 ELA and Reading Worksheets

Pennington Publishing Educational Sales Representatives

Thank you for your interest in Pennington Publishing’s assessment-based ELA/Literacy instructional resources. Following are the educational sales representatives for your state with contact emails. Each representative is dedicated to providing the support teachers need to make informed choices regarding matching curriculum to the needs of their students.

Pennington Publishing Educational Sales Representatives


Alabama  Please contact Mark Pennington at mark@penningtonpublishing.com

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Preview the Reading and Spelling Game Cards

Animal and Consonant Blends Front 2 White

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Teacher Professional Organizations

Teachers have an opportunity to join key professional organizations to collaborate, advocate, and increase their levels of professional expertise.

Professional Organizations for Teachers

Founded in 1977, the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) is a professional organization of scholars who are interested in and actively contribute to the multi-disciplinary field of applied linguistics. AAAL members promote principled approaches to language-related concerns, including language education, acquisition and loss, bilingualism, discourse analysis, literacy, rhetoric and stylistics, language for special purposes, psycholinguistics, second and foreign language pedagogy, language assessment, and language policy and planning.

ACT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides more than a hundred assessment, research, information, and program management services in the broad areas of education and workforce development.

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is concerned with improving the educational process by encouraging scholarly inquiry related to education and by promoting the dissemination and practical application of research results. Its 20,000 members are educators; administrators; directors of research, testing or evaluation in federal, state and local agencies; counselors; evaluators; graduate students; and behavioral scientists.

The American Evaluation Association (AEA) is an international professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of program evaluation, personnel evaluation, technology, and many other forms of evaluation. Evaluation involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, products, and organizations to improve their effectiveness.

The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 64,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information. ALA offers professional services and publications to members and nonmembers, including online news stories.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for over 110,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. ASHA’s mission is to ensure that all people with speech, language, and hearing disorders have access to quality services to help them communicate more effectively.

The mission of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) is to promote excellence in research, teaching, and service for library and information science education.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is an international, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that represents 160,000 educators from more than 135 countries and 66 affiliates. Our members span the entire profession of educators—superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. We address all aspects of effective teaching and learning—such as professional development, educational leadership, and capacity building. ASCD offers broad, multiple perspectives—across all education professions—in reporting key policies and practices.

The California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (CATESOL) mission is to promote excellence in education for English language learners and a high quality professional environment for their teachers. CATESOL represents teachers of English language learners throughout California and Nevada, at all levels and in all learning environments. CATESOL strives to: improve teacher preparation and provide opportunities which further professional expertise, promote sound, research-based education policy and practices, increase awareness of the strengths and needs of English language learners, and promote appreciation of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

The California League of High Schools (CLHS) supports delivering relevant, standards-based instruction, meeting rigorous testing goals and proving once again that our high schools are exceptional places for students to learn and prepare for college and careers.

The California League of Middle Schools (CLMS) is committed to supporting middle grades educators and their students. A non-profit membership association, CLMS is dedicated to improving the professional knowledge of middle level educators so that early adolescents may experience academic success and personal well-being.

The California Library Association (CLA) provides leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services, librarianship, and the library community. We help members excel in a fast-changing job market. We’re a resource for learning about new ideas and technology, and we actively work to influence legislation affecting libraries and librarians.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with dyslexia, their families and the communities that support them. IDA is the oldest learning disabilities organization in the nation.

The International Reading Association (IRA) is a professional membership organization dedicated to promoting high levels of literacy for all by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading, and encouraging the lifetime reading habit. Our members include classroom teachers, reading specialists, consultants, administrators, supervisors, university faculty, researchers, psychologists, librarians, media specialists, and parents. With members and affiliates in 99 countries, our network extends to more than 300,000 people worldwide.

California Reading Association The professional membership organization of California reading and content teachers. Dedicated to improving literacy in California, this organization sponsors a wonderful annual conference.

The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) works on behalf of linguists and the discipline of linguistics, often cooperating with other scholarly societies and alerting members to issues that may concern them in their own universities or other workplaces. At the same time, LSA also addresses a wider public, offering news on linguistic findings, answering queries about language, and supporting different efforts to disseminate linguistic perspectives on language issues.

Promoting educational excellence and equity through bilingual education, the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) is the only national organization exclusively concerned with the education of language-minority students in American schools.

(CABE) The wonderful California membership organization for bilingual education.

The National Council for the Teachers of English (NCTE) works to advance teaching, research, and student achievement in English language arts at all scholastic levels.

(CATE)

The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) has approximately 14,000 members in over 120 countries, and is recognized as a non-governmental organization (NGO) of the United Nations Department of Public Information. Its mission is to ensure excellence in English language teaching to speakers of other languages. TESOL values professionalism in language education; individual language rights; accessible, high quality education; collaboration in a global community; interaction of research and reflective practice for educational improvement; and respect for diversity and multiculturalism.

The College Board is a national nonprofit membership association whose mission is to prepare, inspire, and connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the association is composed of more than 4,500 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. Among its best-known programs are the SAT®, the PSAT/NMSQT®, and the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®). The College Board is committed to the principles of excellence and equity, and that commitment is embodied in all of its programs, services, activities, and concerns.

The writer of this blog, Mark Pennington, is an educational author of teaching resources to differentiate instruction in the fields of reading and English-language arts. His comprehensive curricula: Teaching Grammar and MechanicsTeaching Essay Strategies, and Teaching Reading Strategies help teachers differentiate instruction with little additional teacher prep and/or training.

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