Forget Sans Forgetica

Sans Forgetica

Sans Forgetica: The Font Which Improves Reading Comprehension?

As I copy and pasted the title of this article into the title frame of my wordpress blog, I was curious about how my computer would process this new font (typeface), developed by psychology and design researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne. As used in the Pinterest pin in the margin of this article, the letters are slanted and gapped. As you can see, the computer unslanted the letters and filled in the gaps to create the easily readable title, “Forget Sans Forgetica.”

Two Fill-In-The-Gap Theories

The computer did what psychologists have been telling us for years. The theory of “closure,” first popularized by Gestalt researchers at the University of Berlin in the early Twentieth Century, suggested that “the whole is something else than the sum of its parts.” In other words, our brain tends to create whole forms from partial visual input in a fill-in-the-blanks process. In fact, recent research seems to suggest that our brains not only process, but also actively create whole images and much more. We’ve all seen illustrations of this theory in optical illusions and fill-in-the-blank numbers.

braiden.com

A second related theory is that of “desirable difficulty.” The term was coined by Dr. Robert Bjork, professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. In a Jeff Bye’s article in Psychology Today, the author sums up the theory of “desirable difficulty” as  “introducing certain difficulties into the learning process can greatly improve long-term retention of the learned material. In psychology [sic] studies thus far, these difficulties have generally been modifications to commonly used methods that add some sort of additional hurdle during the learning or studying process.”

Whenever I read of new research in a field outside of education, which has possible relevance to my own teaching and writing (I’m a reading specialist and author), my interest is piqued. When I read that researchers suggest application of their research findings to teaching reading comprehension, my reading antennae begin to rise out of my head and my crap detector alarm goes off.

As a reading specialist, teaching in public schools for 36 years, I’ve seen quite a bit of application and misapplication of theory to practice. I’ve been there and done that through numerous latest and greatest reading innovations, including specific instructional practices related to both the psychological theories of “closure” and “desirable difficulty” detailed above.

The most recent misapplication of theory to practice to my mind involves the development of the Sans Forgetica font by a group of Australian researchers. I found out about it in Taylor Telford’s October 5, 2018 article in the business section of the Washington Post, titled “Researchers create new font designed to boost your memory.”

Telford concisely sums up the theory guiding this new reading intervention:

Psychology and design researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne created a font called Sans Forgetica, which was designed to boost information retention for readers. It’s based on a theory called “desirable difficulty,” which suggests that people remember things better when their brains have to overcome minor obstacles while processing information. Sans Forgetica is sleek and back-slanted with intermittent gaps in each letter, which serve as a “simple puzzle” for the reader, according to Stephen Banham, a designer and RMIT lecturer who helped create the font.

Professors in the RMIT’s Behavioural Business Lab conducted a research study with their own students in which students read texts in a variety of fonts and took assessments to determine the impact of the different fonts upon reading comprehension. According to researchers on the RMIT site, “the research group performed ‘far better on assignments.’” That research group being those students using the Sans Forgetica font.

In Post article, one of RMIT’s principal researchers, Dr. Blijlevens commented, “We believe it is best used to emphasize key sections, like a definition, in texts rather than converting entire texts or books”and …”the benefits of using Sans Forgetica will be lost if the font is used too often, because readers’ brains will become accustomed to reading the font as they would other common fonts.”

In a video on the RMIT’s Behavioural Business Lab webpage, another researcher from the study suggests that the Sans Forgetica font can be used “to aid all students in their study during the leadup to the stressful exam period.” The font is included in the suggested “study hacks” on the same web page.

My take? “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” Although the theories of “closure” and “desirable difficulty” certainly make sense and are generally applicable to many teaching strategies, this Sans Forgetica strategy to improve reading comprehension is nothing more than a gimmick, at best, to get readers to pay better attention to text. As noted above by one of the researchers, the pay-off of using this font is reduced “if used too often.”

I could suggest standing on one’s head, using colored transparencies layered over text, or reading to stuffed animals as similar gimmicks to trick readers into better concentrating on and engaging with text, but thankfully, these have all been tried and cast off onto the dustbin of misapplied reading instructional practices.

I have no doubt that the research group performed better in the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab’s study. However, researchers claim that it’s the “sweet spot” of this particular font as compared to other fonts which produced the statistically positive correlation to better comprehension. I disagree. I say that it’s the reader engagement with the text, not the font, which produces increased comprehension. The researchers should have included another control group in which their subjects would have received prior instruction and practice in any one of many reader engagement strategies, which use external stimuli to promote internal monitoring of text.

Bottom Line? Teachers and their students don’t need more reading fads. Instead of gimmicks to increase reader interaction with text, shouldn’t we look to external prompts which move readers to greater self-monitoring of text? For example, self-questioning strategies. See my FREE download of the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies self-questioning prompts below. The research is long-standing and clear that these reader-reminders can have significant and permanent impacts on improving reading comprehension by engaging the author-reader relationship.

Sans Forgetica? Fuh-get-about-it!

Focus practice more on the internal monitoring of text, such as with my five SCRIP reading comprehension strategies that teach readers how to independently interact with and understand both narrative and expository text to improve reading comprehension. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:


Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

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

Cathy Ford

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

Joseph Curd

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

Heidi

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Greek and Latin Vocabulary Research

Despite universal consensus among reading-researchers regarding the effectiveness of teaching and learning Greek and Latin affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots, some of the existing research regarding which to teach and which not to teach has never trickled down into the classroom. The following article will explore why this may be the case and will remedy this deficit with two resources: 1. The latest and greatest Greek and Latin word parts lists 2. My carefully crafted 25 Greek and Latin Power Words, which include the 60 highest frequency Greek and Latin word parts according to these research-based lists.

Of course, this is only one example of the disconnect between academia and teachers in terms of educational research; however, by taking a look at the one, perhaps the many can also be addressed. My take is that both institutional and cultural norms and biases share equal responsibility for this failure.

Why Relevant Educational Research Does Not Show up in the Classroom: Who’s to Blame?

Google

A quick Google search for “Greek and Latin word lists” brings 18,700,000 search results. Each list varies greatly and, because the Internet remains the Wild, Wild, West, no quality control in the search rankings differentiates among Ms. Peabody’s favorite word parts list, a paid ad for a list used to promote a commercial product, and a research-based list. It’s overly simplistic to expect teachers to have the crap detector expertise and time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Here, the Google algorithms fail us. Older, established websites and articles with popularity come up higher in the search rankings. Newer articles, such as this one, will be fortunate to crack the Google Top 50. Even diligent educators will wind up with commercially purposed Greek and Latin word part lists or sources based upon old research, for example Thorndike’s 1941 suffix word list.

Teachers and School Districts

Teachers and their school districts share some of the blame as well. Although the former are generally exposed to some educational research in teacher credential programs, little decision-making in the classroom is based upon objective research studies. Teachers are busy, generally adverse to change, and peer-pressured. If they have a hard copy class set list of Greek and Latin word parts or a PDF of such in their vocabulary folder, it would take a rare teacher to take the time to get to search ranking #65 to find the best resource for her students. Additionally, teachers all succumb to a herd mentality. If their grade-level or department colleagues agreed to each a certain vocabulary list years ago, it would take an act of God to change that same list. Greek and Latin word lists. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the widely-accepted teacher mantra. Strike out on your own and you might receive the death penalty label: “She’s not a team player.”

School district leaders crave uniformity and exert various degrees of control over curriculum. Many Google searches with “district” added into the search bar, provide consensus lists of Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes, all neatly divided into grade level expectations. I’ve yet to find any district lists which are based upon the best and most recent research on Greek and Latin word part utility and frequency.

Publishers

I must start with the disclaimer. I am one: a teacher-publisher. Publishers and their authors have diverse motivations for what they produce. Despite many good intentions, both are limited by one factor: their paying audiences. Supply is driven by demand and not the converse. The status quo, if it is profitable, is the decision-making benchmark.

Fortunately, the nature of publishing is changing to a degree. When I published hardcover teacher manuals and softcover student workbooks for my grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary series, some of the research-basis for my curriculum in both orthography and morphology was out of date by the time the books came off the printers. However, with the digital versions of these same resources, I was able to change the curriculum to remain current.

While completing this article, I am writing a new curriculum: How to Improve Your Reading Curriculum. With new research on Greek and Latin word parts (listed at the end of this article), many of my best resources from previous programs will have to be changed to reflect better research-based practice. Traditional print-only publishers do not have the adaptive capabilities, nor the financial incentives to implement newer educational research.

University Professors

In the educational hierarchy, university professors are perceived to have the expertise and access to the latest and greatest educational research. They should know better, but often choose not to know. Unlike teachers and school district leaders, ignorance is not a valid excuse for these folks.

Why do American university professors tend to cherry pick certain Greek and Latin morphological research studies and avoid others? I won’t pretend to provide a comprehensive answer, and many professors will not fit the following generalization. However, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it just might be…

Ethnocentrism

Why don’t American teachers get the latest and greatest research to guide their instruction? I fear that ethnocentrism rears its ugly head. I will cite three examples in the field of vocabulary research.

Dr. Averil Coxhead, senior lecturer at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies developed and evaluated The Academic Word List (AWL) for her MA thesis. The list has 570 word families (roots) which were selected according to an exacting research criteria. Her thesis was published in 2000, but is just now gaining acceptance and traction among English-language arts and reading intervention teachers interested in teaching Tier 2 academic words. My take? Her study has taken so long to get into the hands of teachers because Dr. Coxhead teaches in an Australian University. By the way, I’ll put on my publisher’s hat for a moment. If you want Dr. Coxhead’s word families list of academic words, divided into grade levels by frequency, read Common Core Academic Language Words and download these grade level lists for free. Yes, they are included in my Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits.

As a second example, Dr. Zheng Wei (Yes, she’s Chinese) contributed her carefully designed and implemented study on the efficacy of teaching and learning Greek and Latin word parts, including a useful high utility and high frequency roots list, for her 2012 doctoral thesis at the same University of Wellington as Dr. Coxhead. A Chinese professor publishing her groundbreaking work at an Australian university? The odds are stacked against this research filtering its way down to teachers.

My last example includes the 2015 research study regarding knowledge of prefixes and suffixes. “The Word Part Levels Test (WPLT) was developed to measure three aspects of affix knowledge: form (recognition of written affix forms), meaning (knowledge of affix meanings), and use (knowledge of the syntactic properties of affixes)” as cited in the 2017 SAGE Journals Language Teaching Research abstract. You guessed it: Researchers Dr. Yosuke Sasao of Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan and Dr. Stuart Webb of the University of Western Ontario, Canada contributed this study with the British corpus used as the source for their affixes.

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Now that I’ve wagged my finger across the educational spectrum, it’s time to share what I perceive to be the most useful educational research in providing the resources teachers need to teach Greek and Latin word parts to their students.

25 Greek and Latin Power Words by Pennington Publishing

25 Greek and Latin Power Words © 2018 Pennington Publishing

If you are still teaching from the same old Greek and Latin word part list, it’s time to update your instruction with the latest computer-generated word lists aggregated from the most recent and highest regarded Greek and Latin word part studies. Download the FREE 25 Greek and Latin Power Words list and forward this article to your colleagues.

If you are interested in comprehensive grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core-aligned vocabulary programs with a strong emphasis on these Greek and Latin word parts, check out Pennington Publishing’s Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits , the Vocabulary Academic Literacy Centers, and our Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Here’s what teachers are saying about these vocabulary programs:

This is a great resource for core curriculum vocabulary development!

Sharon W.

This vocabulary toolkit has been extremely helpful in teaching vocabulary to our low performing students.

Ashley Evans

Perfect for common core and academic vocabulary!

Marsha Cuttill Price

Get the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words FREE Resource:

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25 Greek and Latin Power Words

15 Power Words to Teach Greek and Latin Word Parts

15 Power Words

A number of years ago, I developed a list of 15 Power Words to Teach Greek and Latin Prefixes and Roots, which combined many of the most commonly used prefixes and roots. I estimated that these word parts were found in at least 15,000 words in our unabridged English dictionaries. Elementary teachers found this list to be a helpful resource to narrow down which word parts to teach, and which ones not to teach. I included the 15 Power Words in my popular grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits and featured this list in numerous articles on this Pennington Publishing Blog. Yes, you are welcome to download the 15 Power Words for free. I would especially recommend the words on this list and the 32 high frequency prefixes and roots found within the 15 Power Words for grades 2–5 students.

Research Background

As I began research on reading comprehension for my upcoming 2019 book, How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension, I found an additional research study [Wei, Z., 2011] on high frequency productive Greek and Latin roots, which narrowed down previous research-based lists. Plus, Wei’s dual approach to both utility and frequency was useful for my target audience: English-language arts and reading intervention teachers and their students.

Rationale and Purpose

Teachers and students are all about pragmatic tools. High utility and high frequency vocabulary words give them the most bang for the buck. Teachers want to teach both the high utility Tier 2 academic vocabulary and the the high frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes. My 25 Greek and Latin Power Words provide both. I decided to update and expand my 15 Power Words model to include both the highest utility and the highest frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes for not only elementary, but also middle school, high school, college, and post-college students of our English language. I wound up with the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words.

Methodology

I compared the results from the most recent and well-regarded vocabulary research studies on high frequency Greek and Latin word parts, including the additional study by Dr. Zheng Wei, mentioned above. From the five best Greek and Latin word lists cited in these studies, I chose the 60 highest frequency prefixes, roots, and suffixes. I then spent far too many hours trying to replicate my original 15 Power Words model, which has 32 high frequency prefixes and roots, with my now expanded list of 60 word parts. The chunking of two or three word parts into one academic language word applies time-tested association memory research. We simply remember linked items better than we remember items in isolation.

25 Greek and Latin Power Words by Pennington Publishing

25 Greek and Latin Power Words © 2018 Pennington Publishing

Results: The 25 Greek and Latin Power Words

At last, the list of 25 Greek and Latin Power Words (including all 60 highest frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and meaning-based suffixes) came together. I used the More Words site to check the number of words in which each of these 60 word parts appear in the English language. The results were staggering: The 60 word parts are found in over 60,000 words, including their inflections (a conservative total). With our English lexicon of about 600,000 words, these 60 word parts constitute 10% of the words in our language. With a middle school student’s average vocabulary of 25,000 words and a college-educated adult’s average vocabulary of 60,000 words, the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words can have a significant impact on improving reading vocabulary for all ages.

Format

  • Here’s the format of the one-page 25 Greek and Latin Power Words:
  • 25 Tier 2 Academic Language Power Words Divided by Morphemes (meaning-based word parts)
  • Two or Three Word Parts for Each Word with Concise Definitions
  • Word Counts for Each Word Part
  • Research Studies
25 Greek and Latin Power Words with 60 Word Parts

25 Greek and Latin Power Words © 2018 Pennington Publishing

I list the five research studies, from which the 60 Greek and Latin word parts were compiled at the bottom of the word list:

Call to Action

If you are still teaching from the same old Greek and Latin word part list, it’s time to update your instruction with the latest computer-generated word lists aggregated from the most recent and highest regarded Greek and Latin word part studies. Download the FREE 25 Greek and Latin Power Words list and forward this article to your colleagues. If you are interested in comprehensive grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core-aligned vocabulary programs with a strong emphasis on these Greek and Latin word parts, check out Pennington Publishing’s Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits , the Vocabulary Academic Literacy Centers, and our Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Get the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words FREE Resource:

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Why Study Greek and Latin

“Aargh! I can’t make sense of what this author is saying. Her vocabulary is out of control! To understand this, I’d have to look up every other word in the dictionary. Do you follow what she’s saying?”

Αυτά μου φαίνονται Ελληνικά”

“So what does that mean?”

“It means, ‘It’s all Greek to me’ in Greek.”

We’ve used that expression in English for centuries to describe something we hear or read that we don’t understand. Even Shakespeare referenced the saying in Act 1 Scene 2 of his Tragedy of Julius Caesar.

Of course, the Greeks would never say “It’s all Greek to me.” After all, it is their language. But they do use a similar figure of speech. A Greek would say, “Αυτά μου φαίνονται κινέζικα,” or “This seems Chinese to me.”

When you sit down to read an article, a technical document, or a book, does the language the author uses seem “All Greek (or Latin) to you”? If so, you’re not alone, and you’re not illiterate. Often, reading English text does seem like reading a foreign language. And this makes perfect sense, because so much of English does derive from other languages.

Greek and Latin Word Parts

Why Study Greek and Latin

Why Should We Study Greek and Latin?

Before I answer this question, let me answer a few challenges to my argument.

Challenge: Aren’t both Latin and Classical Greek dead languages? Latin is not spoken or written language today. Additionally, the Greek that you suggest we learn is also somewhat of a dead language in that the classic Greek which English borrows from is not the same as the modern Greek written and spoken today.

Answer: Both Latin and Classical Greek remain alive today in the sense of their relevance and connection to vocabulary, grammar, and literature.

Challenge: Why waste time studying Greek and Latin when we could be memorizing more English words?

Answer: Those wishing to improve their vocabularies don’t have to enroll in a Rosetta Stone course on conversational Greek or taking a two-year online course on Latin. Learning high frequency and high utility Greek and Latin word parts is the most efficient way to quickly increase one’s advanced English vocabulary. Plus, you already know quite a lot of the meanings of these word parts through a lifetime of listening and reading experience. Building on a foundation is so much easier than starting from scratch.

Challenge: I’ve heard that the Greek and Latin word parts aren’t reliable clues to meaning. What meant one thing 2,000 years ago does not always mean the same to us in the Twenty-First Century.

Answer: You are correct that some Greek and Latin word parts can lead you astray. Not every Greek and Latin word part meaning is a reliable clue to meaning. Some word parts have multiple-meanings. For example, in can serve as a positive prefix, meaning in or into, as in inviting or invaluable. However, in can also serve as a negative prefix, meaning not as in invisible or incoherent. In other cases, a Greek word part which sounds and is spelled exactly like a Latin word part will mean something quite different. Additionally, besides their denotative (or dictionary) meanings, Greek and Latin word parts have their nuances and connotations.

But these drawbacks are the same for every language, including English. Understanding what authors mean in their word choices is sometimes as much art as it is science. Good reading comprehension always involves problem-solving. The bottom line is that learning the high frequency and high efficiency Greek and Latin word parts will make a significant improvement in your vocabulary.

Now that I’ve addressed some of the common complaints and reservations about studying Greek and Latin to improve one’s English vocabulary, let’s provide the justification for Why Should We Study Greek and Latin?

1. Sheer Numbers

Greek and Latin have added more affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots than all other languages combined. In fact, over 50% of the words in college level English dictionaries have a least one Greek or Latin prefix, root, or suffix. If half of our 800,000-word lexicon, in other words, our total English vocabulary is Greek or Latin-based, it certainly makes sense to pay some attention to these languages.

2. Accuracy and Reliability

Because both ancient Greek and Latin are so well-preserved in literature, the meanings of most words and word parts remain remarkably consistent as they are used as part of the English language. Even the spellings of these prefixes, roots, and suffixes are consistent and predictable (Rasinski & Padak, 2001; Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston, 2000).

3. Applicability

According to one study, “Knowing Greek and Latin word parts helps students recognize and gain clues to understanding of other words that use known affixes and roots” (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

In this same study, the authors found that learning Greek and Latin roots gives students the ability to learn many new words independently by helping them make connections among words and word families that are semantically related (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

4. Efficiency

“One Latin or Greek root or affix (word pattern) aids understanding (as well as decoding and encoding) of 20 or more English words” (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

High frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots provide useful short-cuts to enhancing one’s speaking and reading vocabulary in English. For example, knowing the word parts in just 15 words will unlock clues to meaning for thousands of words. The list is in your FREE download at the end of this article.

Knowing even one Greek or Latin word part in an unknown word can help a reader problem-solve not only the word in which it appears, but also other words in the same sentence.

For example, if you know that contra means against, you can probably guess what contradictory means and what yontuke means in this sentence:

The defendant provided contradictory testimony in which he first claimed that his stolen painting was worth a fortune, but later referred to that same painting as a yontuke copy.

Yes, yontuke means cheap; I know, because I made up the word. But you know its meaning, too, because knowing the meaning of the one word part, contra, not only helped you understand the meaning of contradictory, but also clued you into the meaning of another unknown word in the sentence, yontuke. Knowing some Greek and Latin word parts can make all the difference in improving your reading comprehension.

5. Cultural Impact

Another reason why we should study Greek and Latin is because of their cultural influence. The impact of Greek and Roman philosophy, literature, and science on Western Civilization has been profound. Language is part of culture. We can’t divorce our words from our culture.

For example, to understand these words: bees knees, speakeasy, and flappers we would have to know a bit about the Roaring 20’s Jazz Age. To understand dope, homies, and skrrt, we would have to know a bit about hip hop culture. To understand this dialogue, you’d have to know a bit about the cultural language patterns of Jeff Foxworthy’s Rednecks:

If’n y’all don’t stop fat’n I’m comin’ down there to school you young’uns.

Dun’t need no hep. Pap dun got hisself a gubmint job.

Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! He getn’ too big for his own britches.

Ah, I ain’t unnerstand nuthin’ you sed…must be some farn talk. I best skedaddle.

(Adapted from YourDictionary definitions and usage example. Copyright © 2018 by LoveToKnow Corp)

6. Studying Greek and Latin Makes You Smarter

Take any college-admission test preparation class for the SAT, ACT, LSAT, MedCaT, etc. and the instructor will stress the memorization of Greek and Latin word parts. IQ tests are rarely administered these days, but they are largely divided into language and reasoning. You guessed it… the language consists of academic words. And Greek and Latin are the primary source of academic language.

The research-based Academic Word List is chiefly based upon Greek and Latin word parts. This list of generalizable Tier 2 words is not domain or content-specific. These words appear most frequently in challenging text, including textbooks, articles, bucket list novels, and technical documents. The authors of the Common Core State Standards recommend studying these Tier 2 words. Studying a bit of Greek and Latin will give you access to the world of ideas and enhance both your reading comprehension. Additionally, the words you speak will gain the precision of meaning necessary for academic discussion.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the Greek and Latin instructional resources to learn and teach these vocabulary short-cuts?

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Pennington Publishing’s Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits include 56 worksheets, along with vocabulary study guides, and biweekly unit tests to help your students collaboratively practice and master these Common Core Standards:

    • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
    • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
    • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
    • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
    • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
    • Connotations (L.5.c.)
    • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Years ago I created a list of 15 Power Words with these types of associations for the most common Greek and Latin affixes and roots. The word parts associated in this list comprise word parts found in over 15,000 words. Well worth teaching your students, I would say.

Get the 15 Power Words FREE Resource:

My Grades 4−8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits pair prefixes, roots, and suffixes to maximize learning. Each grade-level curriculum includes some great interactive games. Enter discount code 3716 and get 10% off your purchase price.

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English Language History

Brief History of the English Language

Brief English Language History

Why should students know a bit about the history of the English language?

Knowing the origin and development of the English language helps students understand the dynamic nature of language. The English language has evolved over two millenium and continues to change. Each year thousands of new words are added to the English lexicon (the complete vocabulary).

By studying the etymologies (the origins) of words and how figures of speech (non-literal expressions, such as the rule of thumb) developed into what they now mean, students gain better command of word choice in their speech and writing.

Plus, students learn about word derivations (how prefixes and suffixes have been added to roots) to form new words.

Students also learn how English syntax (the order of words) and its grammar have been structured. They see why grammar rules do and do not make sense and what constitutes Standard and Non-Standard English.

Furthermore, students learn how foreign language influences have shaped Modern English and why it makes sense to study these languages to improve one’s vocabulary. Indeed, sometimes reading English text does seem like reading a foreign language. And this does make sense, because so much of English derives from other languages.

Brief History of the English Language

Welsh Village

1. The islands of Britain and Ireland, as well as the northwestern region of France, known as Brittany, once shared the same Celtic language. We still have remnants of this language in the Gaelic of Ireland and Scotland, the Welsh of Wales, and the Breton of Brittany. Check out the name of this town in Wales→

2. The Celtic language was gradually displaced from what became the country of England, beginning with Julius Caesar’s occupation in 56 B.C.E. The Romans introduced the scholarly languages of Greek and Latin, but these were not used by the English commoners.

Brief History of the English Language

Brief English Language History

3. The origins of the English language began at the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. Over the next few centuries, three Germanic tribes: the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes repeatedly invaded Britain and introduced the language we know as Old English. Today, we still use a few of these Germanic words, such as and, dream, and god.

4. From 700–900, multiple Viking invasions added over 2,000 Norse words to the language of Old English, such as give, knife, and cake.

5. In 1066, Norman invaders from Northern France occupied England and chipped in a whole slew of fancy French words, such as commence, continue, and engage. Many of these French words derived from Latin, which itself derived from Greek. These new words help transition the common language from Old English to Middle English.

6. After England defeated the French in the Hundred Years War (1337–1453), the English lexicon expanded exponentially over the next few centuries with contributions from English scientists, philosophers, novelists, and playwrights. William Shakespeare, alone, invented at least 1,700 words during his short life (1564–1616), including dwindle, bandit, and fashionable. During this cultural Renaissance, many Greek and Latin words became more commonly used and their word parts, such as prefixes, were added on to common English roots. The invention of the printing press and the publication of the English Bible and the dictionary helped standardize most of the Modern English we are speaking, writing, and reading today.

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Check out Pennington Publishing’s CCSS-aligned vocabulary programs from the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits.

 

Here are FREE samples of vocabulary worksheets from this comprehensive program–ready to teach in your class today. Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

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



Prescriptivism and Descriptivism

Grammar Descriptivism and Prescriptivism

Descriptivism and Prescriptivism

As an English teacher, one of my go-to resources has always been Richard Nordquist’s prolific posts on the ThoughtCo site. As I write articles to explore my understanding of our language and how to teach the grammar, usage, and mechanics thereof, I can’t tell you how many times I dig into writing on a subject only to find that Nordquist has already done so. The same has been the case regarding the topics of this article; however, I do bring some originality to the discussion of prescriptivism and descriptivism. And, of course, I have ulterior motives (Don’t we all?) to promote my grammar, usage, and mechanics programs for grades 4–high school ELA teachers. Disclaimer up-front.

Let’s start with the definitions of prescriptivism and descriptivism, so I can stop using the italics thereafter. This is the best summary of each approach I’ve found from Stan Carey:

Prescriptivism and descriptivism are contrasting approaches to grammar and usage, particularly to how they are taught. Both are concerned with the state of a language — descriptivism with how it’s used, prescriptivism with how it should be used.

For English teachers, who teach with a prescriptive approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics, the notion of right and wrong guide their instruction. They believe in the difference between Standard and Non-Standard English. They reference style manuals and consult authorities, such as the Purdue Online Writing Lab. They favor direction instruction and practice of the rules of the language. These language traditionalists would teach a lesson on pronoun antecedents, one on avoiding double negatives, and one on the proper use of the semicolon and expect to see the fruits of their labor on the next assigned essay. They are inductive (part to whole) practitioners and use explicit instructional techniques.

For English teachers, who teach with a descriptive approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics, they focus more on the use of the language as it is and as it is evolving. They make fewer judgments upon correctness and emphasize communicative clarity over conformity to an arbitrary set of rules. They favor instruction in the tools of language on an ad hoc basis, such as a mini-lesson on mixing verb tense, prepositional idiomatic expressions, or comma usage on an as needed basis in the context of authentic writing or speaking. They are deductive (whole to part) practitioners and prefer to teach implicitly from reading and writing, rather than explicitly through contrived, outside sources.

What does the research say about these approaches? Having served as a teacher when both prescriptivism and descriptivism were en vogue, and research studies purported to advocate what was in and debunk what was out, I would simply say that any quick survey of this field of educational research would lead most teachers to voice, “Yeah, but…” for each and every study. With respect to grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction, the variables of instructional approaches, prior knowledge, language ability, etc. preclude any hard and fast This is the right way to teach conclusions. It’s easy to knock one approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction by examining null hypotheses which have been confirmed; for example, “These studies indicate no statistically significant difference between direct instruction of capitalization rules and no such instruction”; however, where does that get us? No closer to guidance on how to teach capitalization. And most all, except the most ardent and consistent descriptivists, would rail against presidential Tweets in which every other word was capitalized. See my Word Crimes (Revisited) video, for a laugh.

So, where has the pendulum swung between these two instructional philosophies?

At this point in time, it appears that die-hard descriptivists have been benched. Prescriptivism is the predominant influence upon English teachers in most American classes. Teachers who never taught a lick of grammar ten years ago, or those who relegated grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction to writing openers, a la Daily Oral Language, are busting our Cornell Note lectures and assigning worksheets again. ESL and ELD teachers have been key advocates of this approach to language-learning.

Much credit for this pendulum swing to traditional grammar instruction must be assigned to the authors of the Common Core State Standards, especially with respect to the Language Strand.

These authors note:

To build a foundation for college and career readiness in language, students must gain control over many conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics as well as learn other ways to use language to convey meaning effectively… The inclusion of Language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, effective language use, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts (http://www.corestandards.org).

Teachers reading the introduction to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies,
Science, and Technical Subjects will note the oft-repeated “correct,” “correctness,” and “standard” references and these words are used throughout the Language Strand as well. A few examples from the Common Core Language Strand will suffice:

Examples of Language Standards Emphasizing Correctness

  • Ensure that pronouns are in the proper case (subjective, objective, possessive). L.6.1.
  • Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives (e.g., It was a fascinating, enjoyable movie but not He wore an old[,] green shirt). L.7.2.
  • Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood. L.8.

*****

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics for Grades 4-High School

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School Programs

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, and the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

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

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Programs

Or why not get the value-priced Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLES? These grade-level programs include both teacher’s guide and student workbooks and are designed to help you teach all the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language. In addition to the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics program, each BUNDLE provides 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 the grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary components.

The program 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.

Check out the brief introductory video and enter DISCOUNT CODE 3716 at check-out for 10% off this value-priced program. We do sell print versions of the teacher’s guide and student workbooks. Yes, we accept purchase orders. Contact mark@penningtonpublishing.com for pricing. Read what teachers are saying about this comprehensive program:

The most comprehensive and easy to teach grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary program. I’m teaching all of the grade-level standards and remediating previous grade-level standards. The no-prep and minimal correction design of this program really respects a teacher’s time. At last, I’m teaching an integrated program–not a hodge-podge collection of DOL grammar, spelling and vocabulary lists, and assorted worksheets. I see measurable progress with both my grade-level and intervention students. BTW… I love the scripted lessons!

─Julie Villenueve

Get the Diagnostic Grammar and Usage Assessment with Recording Matrix FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic Mechanics Assessment with Recording Matrix FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,



The Reader, The Text, The Poem

Louise Rosenblatt developed the Reader-Response Theory, which posits that the reader’s personal feelings, knowledge, and experience contributes to the author’s text to create the meaning for the individual reader. Dr. Rosenblatt termed this creation of meaning “the poem.”

As theorists continued to work with her theory, they added the influence of the reader’s environment and social community as contributor’s to meaning.

In the New Criticism Movement of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, critics of Rosenblatt asserted the independence of the text as the source of meaning. They argued that only the text should be the arbiter of itself. According to these critics and their cousins, the Formalists, devolving meaning-making to the reader was akin to admitting that the meaning of the text is anything that the reader makes of it.

I, personally, see a melding of the opposing theories as an important impetus to improving reading comprehension. If reading comprehension is the understanding and retention of text, then both the author’s text and the reader have shared responsibility for meaning-making. That meaning-making is not in the exclusive control of the text. After all, there is an author behind the text. It is also not in the exclusive control of the individual reader. The reader is part of a larger community.

To better explain the relationship of the author’s text and the reader in the creation of meaning, this illustration may be helpful.

Reader-Response Theory

Reader-Response

Imagine sitting in your living room, looking at a garden through a window.

In our illustration, the garden is the author’s text; you, in the living room, are the reader; and the window is the meaning of the reading text. If the garden is closer to the window than you are, the author’s text has more control of or influence upon the meaning. If you are closer in the living room to the window than is the garden, you, the reader, have more control of or influence upon the meaning.

With author-centered texts, designed to inform, explain, and analyze, such as news articles, non-fiction, technical writing, legal text, and instruction manuals, the window is closer to the garden, because the reader’s comprehension is primarily text-dependent.

For example, with respect to the news article on the school shooting, we rely upon the expertise and accuracy of the news reporter to help us understand what happened. To put together a toy on Christmas Eve, we depend upon concise, step-by-step directions and a good picture on the box.

With reader-centered texts, designed to describe, entertain, or persuade, such as fiction, poems, editorials, social media posts, and songs, the window is closer to you, the reader in your living room. The input and filter of your personal feelings, knowledge, and experience are significant contributions to understanding the text.

For example, if you are listening to and reading the lyrics of Lennon and McCartney’s “With a Little Help from My Friends,” you, the audience, are intended to contribute meaning to the song. Some of the lyrics are intentionally ambiguous.

As the official Beatle biographer, Hunter Davies, explains, Lennon and McCartney struggled to come up with a lyric to answer their question: “What do you see when you turn out the light?” Lennon suggested “I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.” It fit the required number of syllables and rhyme scheme, and McCartney loved it because it could mean different things to different people.

So the type of text and the author’s purpose should have considerable impact upon how readers should understand and interpret the text. Good readers are flexible readers. They monitor their levels of comprehension while reading, according to their own purposes and the dictates of the text. When crucial facts or plot events are being delivered, they move the window close to the author; when less important description or tone are being read to evoke a certain mood, they move the window closer to themselves as readers.

And one last comment about applying the author-reader relationship theories: For those of you accustomed to reading on automatic pilot, you may be looking at the garden for far too long without thinking of the window. For many of you, the window is in fine shape, but it may need a bit of Windex to make the garden more visible. We often become accustomed to dirty windows and don’t notice until someone scribbles “Wash me!” However, our attention needs to be drawn to the window before we can notice. How do we start paying attention? Check out Talking with the Author.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

*****

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

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

Cathy Ford

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

Joseph Curd

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

Heidi

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , ,



Talking with the Author

Have you ever noticed how your English teachers and professors insist on discussing a novel or an article and its author in the present tense? For example, when analyzing Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, your teacher might say, “In Chapter 7, Hemingway builds suspense in the conversation between Pilar and Robert Jordan. The two walk into the cave and discover that one packet of explosives is missing.”

And most of you remember that we also write a literary analysis in the present tense, unless you want a considerable number of red ink written on your essay.

Now, last I checked, Ernest Hemingway died in 1961. But we still discuss him and his writing as if he were alive, because the author and his ideas remain relevant.

Not only should we discuss authors and text as if they are alive, we should also read as if the author and text are alive. It does take a bit of imagination, but if we treat the author and story as living, it’s much easier to have a conversational rapport with the writer and characters within the story.

You see, reading to a corpse would be a one-way conversation, unless zombies come into play. Reading with living, breathing authors and their characters can become engaging two-way conversations.

The point is… if you tend to understand reading as a one-way street in which you passively retrieve meaning from the text, this two-way street in which you, the reader, are actively interacting with the author, is quite different. To demonstrate this difference, let’s read a passage together from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities as passive readers. Since Dickens was, or… is British, I’ll try to read with an English accent. I know… it’s horrible, but it will serve a purpose:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever.

Reader Response

Talking to the Author

Talking with the Author

Now, let’s read the same passage, and I will model how an active reader carries on a conversation with the author in red.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, Dickens clearly means to describe a universal theme with this general language. So often we tend to see good times as being the norm. Other times we look back at some eras as “the good old days” when they really weren’t that good. Hindsight is never 20-20 vision.

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, I see Dicken’s paradoxical patterns of the good to its bad opposite, but his extremes make me think that he is writing somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Nothing is life is that clear, especially when we are in the midst of experiencing it. His parallel structures of “It was the” use the absolute factual use of the “to be” verb and the definite article, “the,” to describe a time of no gray areas. It was one way or the other.

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, I know that some of the setting of this novel takes place during the French Revolution and that the two cities are Paris and London. My guess is that Dickens, an Englishman, is going to favor the ideals of his own London, and disparage those of Paris. The traditions of the Church were being challenged by the thinking of the Enlightenment. Faith versus reason. Dickens unfairly places the Enlightenment thinkers in the evil position. I, personally don’t see faith and reason as a necessary paradox, either.

it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, These polar opposites have everything to do with one’s perspective. For some the changes during this period of history were positive and the outlook was bright; for others, the events challenged everything they had ever known to be true and good. I would wager that for a whole lot of people, what was taking place was a mixed bag of good and bad.

Why doesn’t Dickens include the haves and have nots in his opening? If class differences are a key part of the historical setting as in the musical, Les Miserables, why did the author leave out these paired extremes?

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, Not sure what this means, unless Dicken’s is commenting on “hope” and “despair.”

we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—Think this was meant to be humorous. Interesting how Hell is an unmentionable. Perhaps a curse word.

in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. The language is tough to dissect here. “… the period was so far like the present period…” The “so far” could mean that it closely resembled the time of Dicken’s writing. The “noisiest authorities” might be the most popular voices of those times. This paragraph is all one long sentence. It seems that these contradictions of the past went on forever without resolution. What is Dickens up to here? Is he using this novel to criticize the present state of affairs in England?

There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In other words, there wasn’t much difference between rulers. Perhaps due to intermarriage, or more likely in their beliefs about the divine right to rule. Some things never seem to change. I notice Dickens doesn’t allude to the present queen at the current time, Queen Victoria.

In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever. The loaves and fishes allusion of miraculously making something great out of very little, such as the expansion of citizens’ freedoms and rights or democracy were not realistic, nor likely during those times. Is Dickens saying the same about his current times and knocking the English monarchy?

If the reader-response strategy, which I call Talking with the Author, worked as planned, you would notice that your understanding and retention of the reading passage were significantly better with the second reading, as compared to the first reading. Notice that the window of meaning seemed to shift more toward the reader because of the universal themes and application to present times.

You may have noticed that my comments in the conversation were of different types. I focused on what the author said and how the author said it; I also commented on what the author did not say and what the author may have meant. Additionally, I criticized and questioned. I repeated the author’s words and re-read in order to clarify. I speculated about the author’s motive and where he was coming from. I also through in my own two cents as I might in a real one-on-one conversation. However, I tried to focus on the author’s meaning and ideas, and not only my personal experience.

Now, the Talking with the Author strategy takes practice to perfect. You can use this strategy with every genre and amount of reading. Practice doing so with texts and Facebook posts, emails, novels, articles, and technical documents.

Of course you noticed that I was making my comments out loud. My suggestion is to read the author’s text silently, but to subvocalize your comments as you begin to use this Talking with the Author strategy. I describe subvocalization as using a six-inch voice to talk to the author. Don’t worry, your author isn’t hard of hearing.

Some of you may have reservations about implementing this strategy. Interrupting the flow of your reading by talking to the author may seem stilted or unnatural. I certainly make used more reader-response in my example than I normally would to demonstrate the different types and breadth of comments. Not every sentence requires a comment. Instead of chunking the text into interrupted parts, you will begin to see a greater flow of ideas and you insert your comments.

At first, you may find it difficult to keep up your share of the author-reader conversation. This new way of reading, in which you, the reader, have a role in the conversation takes some getting used to. Make sure to develop a balance in the types of comments you make, so that you aren’t solely making comments, say, about word usage.

Using the Talking with the Author  will also temporarily slow down your reading. You may be tempted to use the strategy only with text which isn’t required and undesirable reading, perhaps for school or work. Resist this temptation and allot a bit more time for the subvocalizations for a while. If you practice reading the old way for some things and the new way for others, you will never develop the automaticity that is necessary for effective reading-response.

I do want to assure you that your decreased reading speed will only be a temporary issue. As the reader-response becomes second nature to you, you will naturally begin to replace the oral comments with silent ones. Gradually, the fully developed comments will become thought snippets. Much like milli-second dreams, these snippets can contain significant data. Our brains are simply amazing!

To doubters, I will add that I’ve replicated an informal reading-research study countless times which consistently demonstrates that readers using the Talking with the Author strategy not only score higher on reading comprehension tests, but also on reading speed. The better we process information, the faster we do so.

I would like to close our lecture with a reminder of the “no pain, no gain” truism. Replacing old habits with new habits is always challenging, especially when you have been practicing the old habit for years. Yes, young and old, alike, we all get set in our ways. However, be encouraged that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The rewards of better comprehension and more enjoyment of what you read will outweigh the discomfort of replacing an old habit with a new habit.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

*****

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

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

Cathy Ford

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

Joseph Curd

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

Heidi

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , ,