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Vocabulary Scope and Sequence

According the the authors of the Common Core State Standards…

“The importance of students acquiring a rich and varied vocabulary cannot be overstated. Vocabulary has been empirically connected to reading comprehension since at least 1925 (Whipple, 1925) and had its importance to comprehension confirmed in recent years (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000). It is widely accepted among researchers that the difference in students’ vocabulary levels is a key factor in disparities in academic achievement (Baumann & Kameenui, 1991; Becker, 1977; Stanovich, 1986) but that vocabulary instruction has been neither frequent nor systematic in most schools (Biemiller, 2001; Durkin, 1978; Lesaux, Kieffer, Faller, & Kelley, 2010; Scott & Nagy, 1997).” Common Core State Standards Appendix A 

Words are important. Of course, every teacher would agree. But which words should we teach? And in what instructional order?

Here’s what the authors have to say about which words

Tier Two words (what the Standards refer to as general academic words) are far more likely to appear in written texts than in speech. They appear in all sorts of texts: informational texts (words such as relative, vary, formulate, specificity, and accumulate), technical texts (calibrate, itemize, periphery), and literary texts (misfortune, dignified, faltered, unabashedly). Tier Two words often represent subtle or precise ways to say relatively simple things—saunter instead of walk, for example. Because Tier Two words are found across many types of texts, they are highly generalizable. Common Core State Standards Appendix A 

Tier Three words (what the Standards refer to as domain-specific words) are specific to a domain or field of study (lava, carburetor, legislature, circumference, aorta) and key to understanding a new concept within a text. Because of their specificity and close ties to content knowledge, Tier Three words are far more common in informational texts than in literature. Recognized as new and “hard” words for most readers (particularly student readers), they are often explicitly defined by the author of a text, repeatedly used, and otherwise heavily scaffolded (e.g., made a part of a glossary). Common Core State Standards Appendix A 

So, every teacher should be focusing on Tier Two words because they are generalizable and they are most frequently used in complex text. For example, the following Standards would be applicable for teaching Tier Two words in ELA classes:

The Language Strand: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use (Standards 4, 5, and 6) 

The Standards focus on these kinds of words: multiple meaning words (L.4.a.), words with Greek and Latin roots and affixes (L.4.a.), figures of speech (L.5.a.), words with special relationships (L.5.b.), words with connotative meanings (L.5.c.), and academic language words (L.6.0). CCSS Language Strand

Tier Three words should be introduced in the context of content study. For example, the following Standard would be applicable for teaching Tier Three words in ELA classes:

The Reading Strand: Literature (Standard 4) Craft and Structure

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama. CCSS Reading: Literature Strand
 *****
Is there any research about the instructional order of Tier Two words

Yes. 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 which were selected according to certain criteria:

  • The word families must occur in over half of the 28 academic subject areas. “Just over 94% of the words in the AWL occur in 20 or more subject areas. This principle ensures that the words in the AWL are useful for all learners, no matter what their area of study or what combination of subjects they take at tertiary level.”
  • “The AWL families had to occur over 100 times in the 3,500,000 word Academic Corpus in order to be considered for inclusion in the list. This principle ensures that the words will be met a reasonable number of times in academic texts.” The academic corpus refers to a computer-generated list of most-frequently occurring academic words.
  • “The AWL families had to occur a minimum of 10 times in each faculty of the Academic Corpus to be considered for inclusion in the list. This principle ensures that the vocabulary is useful for all learners.”

Words Excluded From the Academic Word List

  • “Words occurring in the first 2,000 words of English.”
  • “Narrow range words. Words which occurred in fewer than 4 faculty sections of the Academic Corpus or which occurred in fewer than 15 of the 28 subject areas of the Academic Corpus were excluded because they had narrow range. Technical or specialist words often have narrow range and were excluded on this basis.”
  • “Proper nouns. The names of places, people, countries, for example, New Zealand, Jim Bolger and Wellington were excluded from the list.”
  • “Latin forms. Some of the most common Latin forms in the Academic Corpus were et al, etc, ie, and ibid.” http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist/information

Furthermore, computer generated word frequencies have determined the frequency of Greek and Latin word parts. 

  • Over 60% of the words students will encounter in school textbooks have recognizable word parts; and many of these Latin and Greek roots (Nagy, Anderson,Schommer, Scott, & Stallman, 1989).
  • Latin and Greek prefixes, roots, and suffixes have predictable spelling patterns.(Rasinski & Padak, 2001; Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston, 2000).
  • Content area vocabulary is largely Greek and Latin-based and research supports this instruction, especially for struggling readers (Harmon, Hedrick & Wood, 2005).
  • Many words from Greek and Latin word parts are included in “Tier Two” and “Tier Three” words that Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002) have found to be essential to vocabulary word 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).
  • “One Latin or Greek root or affix (word pattern) aids understanding (as well as decoding and encoding) of 20 or more English words.” 
  • “Since Spanish is also a Latin-based language, Latin (and Greek) can be used as a bridge to help Spanish speaking students use knowledge of their native language to learn English.” 

A Model Grades 4-8 Vocabulary Scope and Sequence

Preview the Grades 4-8 Vocabulary Scope and Sequence tied to the author’s comprehensive grades 4-8 Language Strand programs. The instructional scope and sequence includes grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary. The grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 vocabulary instructional scope and sequence appears at the end of the document and include multiple meaning words (L.4.a.), words with Greek and Latin roots and affixes (L.4.a.), figures of speech (L.5.a.), words with special relationships (L.5.b.), words with connotative meanings (L.5.c.), and academic language words (L.6.0). Teachers and district personnel are authorized to print and share this planning tool, with proper credit and/or citation. Why reinvent the wheel? Also check out my articles on Grammar Scope and Sequence, Mechanics Scope and Sequence, and Spelling Scope and Sequence.

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

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based grades 4-8 Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  programs to teach the Common Core Language Strand Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheets and includes 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.

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. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the author’s program.


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:

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Spelling Scope and Sequence

For many teachers, spelling instruction has taken a back seat to other instruction, especially in the ELA middle and high school classrooms. Perhaps this has been the case because of so many years in which spelling was relegated to an editing-only issue at the tail end of the writing process. Or perhaps this has been the case because of so many years in which spelling was considered as part to whole instruction rather than in the predominant whole to part instruction of whole language reading and constructivism. Or perhaps this has been the case because of so many years in which spelling was considered as the stepchild of vocabulary. Spelling workbooks, once a staple in both the elementary and secondary classrooms, were removed from supplemental program lists at district and state levels. However, things are changing. Educators who once thought that spelling word check would solve students’ spelling and writing issues are squarely facing the fact that they do have a responsibility to teach spelling patterns.

In fact, most all teachers support teaching some form of simple to complex instructional order in teaching spelling. For example, students need to be able to spell plurals for singular nouns with an ending prior to learning that nouns ending in /ch/, /sh/, /x/, /s/, or are spelled with “es” prior to learning nouns ending in /f/ are spelling with “ves” prior to learning about irregular plurals such as children and deer prior to learning about Latin plural spellings such as “” and “ae.” In other words, the simple academic language and grammatical instruction should precede the more complex. We have supportive (and recent–as of January 2016) educational research to validate this instructional order:

Here’s the research to support simple to complex instructional order…

In a January 2016 article, the American Psychological Association published a helpful article titled Practice for Knowledge Acquisition (Not Drill and Kill) in which researchers summarize how instructional practice should be ordered: “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… (Campitelli & Gobet, 2011).”

Of course, spelling instruction (like grammar and usage instruction) is certainly recursive. Once the simple is taught to “mastery” and the complex is introduced, the simple is always re-taught and practiced in other instructional contexts. For example, teachers will need to teach and re-teach the before spelling rule yearly from third grade through high school.

The Common Core Standards present a simple to complex instructional scope and sequence in the Language Strand Standards… albeit less so in the spelling Standards.

However, grade-level Language Strand Standards do not include a comprehensive spelling scope and sequence. A few examples from the L.2 Standards prove this out. Again, check out the simple to complex instructional order for the capitalization Standards.

The Conventions of Standard English (Standard 2) requires students to “Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.”

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2.D  Spell simple words phonetically, drawing on knowledge of sound-letter relationships.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.2.D  Use conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns and for frequently occurring irregular words.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.2.E  Spell untaught words phonetically, drawing on phonemic awareness and spelling conventions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.2.2.C  Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.2.2.D  Generalize learned spelling patterns when writing words (e.g., cage → badge; boy → boil).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.3.2.E  Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.3.2.F  Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.
  •  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.4.2.D and 5.2.D  Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.2.B, etc.  Spell correctly.
 After grade 3 the Common Core State Standards provide no specific spelling pattern Standards.

So, to summarize… Both educational research and the authors of the Common Core State Standards validate a simple to more complex mechanics sequence of instruction.

How Should This Affect My Spelling Instruction?

The simple to complex instructional order is clearly conducive to spelling patterns instruction. Students need to master the basic sound-spellings and sight words before moving on to more complex spelling patterns influenced by derivational affixes and roots. 

A spelling program with a comprehensive instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Common Core Language Standards, College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards, and/or State Standards provides a well-defined instructional order.

Site levels (and districts) need to plan a comprehensive year-to-year scope and sequence for spelling instruction. The Common Core State Standards provide bare bones exemplars or benchmarks, but educators need to fill in the blanks. Students will not improve spelling by reading and writing alone. Students need more spelling instruction than a weekly pre and post test, a personal spelling errors notebook, or simply being required to spelling content vocabulary words correctly. Spelling instruction is sequential.

A Model Grades 4-8 Spelling Scope and Sequence

Preview the Grades 4-8 Spelling Scope and Sequence tied to the author’s comprehensive grades 4-8 Language Strand programs. The instructional scope and sequence includes grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary. Teachers and district personnel are authorized to print and share this planning tool, with proper credit and/or citation. Why reinvent the wheel? Also check out my articles on Grammar Scope and Sequence, Mechanics Scope and Sequence, and Vocabulary Scope and Sequence.

Also check out the diagnostic spelling assessment and recording matrices on the Pennington Publishing website.

 

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

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based grades 4-8 Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  programs to teach the Common Core Language Strand Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheets and includes 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.

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. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the author’s program.

[pdf-embedder url=”http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/TLS-Instructional-Scope-and-Sequence-Grades-4-8.pdf”]

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Mechanics Scope and Sequence

We may not all agree on using the Oxford (serial) comma. Some favor oranges, apples, and peaches. Others favor oranges, apples and peaches. English teachers tend to prefer the former, but journalists seem hooked on the latter. We also may not agree on the place of mechanics* instruction within ELA instruction. Some favor direct instruction of these skills. Others favor editing groups and mini lessons to handle the instructional chore. I personally lean toward the former with additional “catch up” individualization through research-based worksheets targeted to diagnostic assessments. Of course, I do use peer editing before turning in published works.

*When most teachers refer to mechanics we mean the technical components of composition: punctuation, capitalization, and abbreviations. Some will also include spelling, usage, and organization in this terminology. The Common Core authors use the umbrella term language conventions.

However, most all teachers support teaching some form of simple to complex instructional order in teaching mechanics. For example, students need to be able to define, identify, and apply simple abbreviations (Mr.) before learning acronyms (UNICEF) and initialisms (FBI). In other words, the simple academic language and mechanics instruction should precede the more complex. We have supportive (and recent–as of January 2016) educational research to validate this instructional order:

Here’s the research to support simple to complex instructional order…

In a January 2016 article, the American Psychological Association published a helpful article titled Practice for Knowledge Acquisition (Not Drill and Kill) in which researchers summarize how instructional practice should be ordered: “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… (Campitelli & Gobet, 2011).”

Of course, mechanics instruction (like grammar and usage instruction) is certainly recursive. Once the simple is taught to “mastery” and the complex is introduced, the simple is always re-taught and practiced in other instructional contexts. For example, proper noun capitalization will be re-introduced in every grade, every year. Sigh… The Common Core authors agree.

The Common Core Standards present a simple to complex instructional scope and sequence in the Language Strand Standards

However, grade-level Language Strand Standards do not include a comprehensive mechanics scope and sequence. A few examples from the L.2 Standards prove this out. Again, check out the simple to complex instructional order for the capitalization Standards.

The Conventions of Standard English (Standard 2) requires students to “Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.”

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2.A
Capitalize the first word in a sentence and the pronoun I

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.2.A
Capitalize dates and names of people.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.2.2.A
Capitalize holidays, product names, and geographic names.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.3.2.A
Capitalize appropriate words in titles.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.4.2.A
Use correct capitalization.

The Language Strand Standards provide no capitalization Standards beyond grade 4. Again, the Common Core authors certainly advocate review.

So, to summarize… Both educational research and the authors of the Common Core State Standards validate a simple to more complex mechanics sequence of instruction.

How Should This Affect My Mechanics Instruction?

  1. The simple to complex instructional order is clearly not conducive to the more eclectic and hodgepodge DOL or DLR (Daily Oral Language or Daily Language Review) instruction without major revamping of either program. 
  2. A grammar, usage, and mechanics program with a comprehensive instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Common Core Language Standards, College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards, and/or State Standards provides a well-defined instructional order.
  3. Site levels (and districts) need to plan a comprehensive year-to-year scope and sequence for mechanics instruction. The Common Core State Standards provide bare bones exemplars or benchmarks, but educators need to fill in the blanks. Just because acronyms are not mentioned in the Standards doesn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to teach them.

A Model Grades 4-8 Mechanics Scope and Sequence

Preview the Grades 4-8 Mechanics Scope and Sequence tied to the author’s comprehensive grades 4-8 Language Strand programs. The instructional scope and sequence includes grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary. Teachers and district personnel are authorized to print and share this planning tool, with proper credit and/or citation. Why reinvent the wheel? Also check out my articles on Grammar Scope and Sequence, Spelling Scope and Sequence, and Vocabulary Scope and Sequence.

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

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based grades 4-8 Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  programs to teach the Common Core Language Strand Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheets and includes 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.

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. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the author’s program.

[pdf-embedder url=”http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/TLS-Instructional-Scope-and-Sequence-Grades-4-8.pdf”]

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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.

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Progressive Skills Review

Although English-Language Arts teachers have rightly focused on the Reading Standards for Literature, the Reading Standards for Informational Text, and the Writing Standards Strands of the Common Core State Standards, other Strands now deserve our focus as well.

The Language Strand has been one of the more controversial components of the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & LITERACY IN HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES, SCIENCE, AND TECHNICAL SUBJECTS. The Language Strand includes the following Standards for each grade level: Conventions of Standard English (Standards 1 & 2), Knowledge and Use (Standard 3), and Vocabulary Acquisition and Use (Standards 4, 5, & 6).

Whole language (whole to part) writing and literature-based devotees have been chagrined at the inclusion of Language as a separate Common Core Strand. Anticipating this reaction, the Common Core writers went out of their way to placate the purists who believe that grammar, usage, and conventions (mechanics and spelling) taught in isolation from writing instruction and vocabulary taught in isolation from reading instruction are mortal sins.

“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 (51).” http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf

Less controversial, but still noteworthy, has been the inclusion of specific grammar, usage, and mechanics skills that need to be reinforced throughout the Grades 3‒12 Standards. These Language Progressive Skills found at the end of both the K-5 and 6-12 Language Standards include this subheading: “The following skills, marked with an asterisk (*) in Language standards 1–3, are particularly likely to require continued attention in higher grades as they are applied to increasingly sophisticated writing and speaking.”

The tacit admission that some skills-based instruction in language conventions is, indeed, desirable, and is, in fact, necessary to acquiring advanced literacy has been a tough pill for some purists to swallow. National Writing Project, Writers Workshop, and Writing Process fellows have been loath to accept this distinction between skills and craft. Grammar rules are back in style.

However, most teachers have welcomed the emphases of these language skills across the grade levels. In fact, the repetition of the skills in the Common Core document validates what teachers have long been saying: Language acquisition and mastery is a cyclical and developmental process and not the introduction-reinforcement-mastery model that direct instruction gurus have long advocated. In other words, “No wonder we have to teach the same stuff year-to-year and over and over again before it starts to sink in. Maybe last year’s teacher really did teach this stuff after all.”

Let’s take a quick look at these 18 Language Progressive Skills:

CCSS Language Progressive Skills Standards

…..

  1. 3.1f. Ensure subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement.
  2. 3.a. Choose words and phrases for effect.
  3. 3.3a. Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
  4. 4.1g. Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to/too/two; there/their).
  5. 4.3a. Choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely.
  6. 4.3b. Choose punctuation for effect.
  7. 5.1d. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.
  8. 5.2a. Use punctuation to separate items in a series.†
  9. 6.1c. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun number and person.
  10. 6.1d. Recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).
  11. 6.1e. Recognize variations from standard English in their own and others’ writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language.
  12. 6.2a. Use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements.
  13. 6.3a. Vary sentence patterns for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style.‡
  14. 6.3b. Maintain consistency in style and tone.
  15. 7.1c. Place phrases and clauses within a sentence, recognizing and correcting misplaced and dangling modifiers.
  16. 7.3a. Choose language that expresses ideas precisely and concisely, recognizing and eliminating wordiness and redundancy.
  17. 8.1d. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood.
  18. 910.1a. Use parallel structure.

Of course these Language Progressive Skills Standards beg these two fundamental instructional questions: How do we teach these skills? How do students best learn these skills?

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

Increasingly, teachers are answering this question with assessment-based instruction. Check out the helpful free diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring matrices for grammar, usage, and mechanics in the upper right dropdown menu of the author’s website.

The author of this article, 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 grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

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Exclamation Points

Exclamation Points                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 2

The exclamation point is one of the most misused and overused punctuation marks. Too often students add them when they are unnecessary to try and add excitement or surprise to dull writing. You probably could avoid using exclamation points for the rest of your life, if you chose exciting and specific nouns with surprising and vivid verbs. Oh… and another misuse: Don’t use more than one exclamation point. Using three exclamation points does not make a sentence three times as exciting or surprising. Despite what the authors of comic books do, we don’t use more than one punctuation mark when just one will do nicely.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Use one exclamation point to show surprise or strong emotion in an exclamatory sentence or following an interjection. An interjection is a short sentence fragment used to show extreme emotion and is often used within dialogue. Examples: That is amazing!

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: Wow! Oh my gosh! I can’t believe she said that! That whole scene was disturbing!

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

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Mechanics Practice Answers: Wow! Oh my gosh! I can’t believe she said that! That whole scene was disturbing.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write a sentence using an exclamation point.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Progressive Verb Tense

Progressive Verb Tense                                                     

Common Core Language Standard 1

As with the perfect verb tense, the progressive verb tense shows a different sense of time and condition. Many events or situations in life don’t just happen once at one time, but happen over a period of time. The English language allows us to communicate this ongoing action quite easily.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

The past progressive verb tense shows an action that took place over a period of time in the past or a past action which was happening when another action took place. The past progressive uses was + the base form of the verb + “__ing” and were + the base form of the verb + “__ing.” Examples: I was waiting for him at home. John and Rob were eating lunch when Lee arrived.

The present progressive verb tense shows an action that takes place over a period of time in the present or an action taking place at the same time the statement is written. The present progressive uses I am + the base form of the verb + “__ing,” is + the base form of the verb + “__ing” and are + the base form of the verb + “__ing.” Examples: I am walking to school each day. Sara and Rosalyn are talking about the new girl at school.

The future progressive verb tense shows an ongoing action that will be completed over a period of time or a continuous action that will be repeated and not completed. The future progressive uses will be + the base form of the verb + “__ing.” Examples: We will be going on the field trip tomorrow. Patrick and I will be spending lots of time together.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

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

Practice: He is thinking that Ben will been asking, but he was hoped that Ben won’t.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: He is thinking that Ben will be asking, but he was hoping that Ben won’t.

Now let’s apply what we have learned

Writing Application: Write three of your own sentences using the same base form of the verb: the first one as a past progressive, the second one as a present progressive, and the third one as a future progressive.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Question Marks with Quotations

Question Marks with Quotations                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 2

The question mark usually is one of the easiest punctuation marks to use properly–unless the question mark is used with quotations. Then, things get a bit trickier. Do we place the question mark inside or outside of the quotation marks?

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Place a question mark inside (to the left of) ending quotation marks (?”) when you, the writer, are quoting a question that was asked. Example: He asked, “Are you going, too?”

Place a question mark outside (to the right of) ending quotation marks (”?) when you, the writer, ask a question about a quotation. Example: Why did he say, “That’s not funny”?

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: Did she say, “I didn’t do it”? Or did she ask “Who did it”?

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

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Mechanics Practice Answers: Did she say, “I didn’t do it”? Or did she ask “Who did it?”

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write two or your own sentences: the first one with a quote of a make-believe question that was asked and the second one with a question that you ask about a make-believe quotation.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Plural Subject-Verb Agreement

Plural Subject-Verb Agreement                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 1

We all know that verbs have to match their subjects. One way that they have to match is in number. Singular has to match singular and plural must match plural. What gets confusing is when other words seem to be subjects, but are not. Knowing how to identify sentence subjects is essential.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on plural subject-verb agreement. A plural subject agrees with (matches) a plural verb and involves more than one person, place, or thing. In present tense the plural nouns do not end in s. For example, we say “Birds chirp,” not “Birds chirps.”

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

Following are the key rules of plural subject-verb agreement:

  • Some words seem to be singular, but are actually plural because they each have two parts: scissors, tweezers, pants, and shears. Example: Those scissors are sharp.
  • Sports teams not ending in s are plural and require plural verbs. Example: The Orlando Magic have been looking for a point guard.
  • A compound subject joined by and is plural and takes a plural verb. Example: Bob and Pam are friends.
  • These indefinite pronouns take plural verbs: both, few, many, others, and several. Example: Both seem wonderful.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

Practice: We have plenty of supplies for the project. Scissors are required to cut out the sports pictures from magazines. The Miami Heat is the students’ favorite team. There is plenty of their pictures. Most of the students finish quickly, but a few needs more time. Bob and Joe always ask for more time.

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

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: We have plenty of supplies for the project. Scissors are required to cut out the sports pictures from magazines. The Miami Heat is the students’ favorite team. There are plenty of their pictures. Most of the students finish quickly, but a few need more time. Bob and Joe always ask for more time.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write two of your own sentences: the first with a compound subject and the second with an indefinite plural pronoun subject.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Punctuation of Article Titles

Punctuation of Article Titles                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 2

Articles appear in many forms of media. Blogs, magazines (both print and online), encyclopedias, newspapers, and journals all have articles.

Today’s mechanics lesson is on how to punctuate article titles. Remember that we underline or italicize the titles of newspapers, magazines, and website titles.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Place quotation marks before and after the titles of articles. Articles are parts of whole things, small things, or things that can’t be picked up from a table. An article is a short written work such as a newspaper article, magazine article, or blog article that is part of the larger publication. Example: “The President’s Greatest Challenge”

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: She went to the store to buy the Popstar! magazine, so she could read the article titled “Don’t Marry in Hollywood.

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

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Mechanics Practice Answers: She went to the store to buy the Popstar! magazine, so she could read the article titled “Don’t Marry in Hollywood.”

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using the title of a newspaper and a newspaper article.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs.Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Long Comparative Modifiers

Long Comparative Modifiers                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 1

Since comparative modifier involves just two comparisons, we never use most or least as part of the modifier. With long comparative modifiers many writers make this mistake and write something like “Between the red and green salsas the red is the most delicious.” So let’s avoid this common error and learn why we would need to write “Between the red and green salsas the red is the more delicious.”

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on long comparative modifiers. Remember a modifier is an adjective or adverb that limits the meaning of a word or words. Use the suffix “_er” for a one-syllable modifier to compare two things. Use “_er” or more (less) for a two-syllable modifier to compare two things.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

A long comparative modifier uses more or less for three-syllable (or longer) adjective modifiers and for all adverbs ending in “__ly” to compare two things. Example: more humorous, less surprisingly

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

Practice: Maggie was more attractiver than Frances, but Maggie was less interesting.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: Maggie was more attractive than Frances, but Maggie was less interesting.

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a long comparative modifier.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Punctuation of Book Chapter Titles

Punctuation of Book Chapter Titles                                                        

Common Core Language Standard 2

Authors use book chapter titles for a variety of purposes. In a textbook the chapter title usually deals with the main topic of that chapter. In a story the book chapter title may be descriptive about what will take place in that chapter, such as with J. K. Rowling’s “The Goblin’s Revenge” from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or something that makes you want to keep reading, such as with “A Surprising Ghost” in Lynne Reid Banks’ The Key to the Indian.

Today’s mechanics lesson is on how to punctuate book chapter titles. Remember that we underline or italicize the titles of books.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Place quotation marks before and after the titles of book chapters. Book chapter titles are parts of whole things, small things, or things that can’t be picked up from a table. Example: “Last Time”

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: I just read the last chapter in the book titled “A Fitting End.” The first chapter was titled A Fitting Beginning.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Mechanics Practice Answers: I just read the last chapter in the book titled “A Fitting End.” The first chapter was titled “A Fitting Beginning.”

Now let’s apply what we’ve learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a book title and a book chapter title.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Punctuation of Plays and Work of Art Titles

Punctuation of Plays and Work of Art Titles                                                    

Common Core Language Standard 2

Plays would include dramas, comedies, and musicals. Works of art would include most every other creative visual or auditory form of expression.

Today’s mechanics lesson is on how to punctuate plays and work of art titles. Works of art include paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Underline or italicize the titles of plays, musicals, and works of art. Plays and works of art are whole things, big things, or things that can be picked up from a tableExamples: Hamlet, Carousel, Pieta

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: I read about that book, titled The Lincoln Conspiracy. The article appeared in both Seventeen and “The Los Angeles Times.”

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Mechanics Practice Answers: I read about that book, titled The Lincoln Conspiracy. The article appeared in both Seventeen and The Los Angeles Times.

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using the title of a play or painting.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vague Pronoun References

Vague Pronoun References                                                        

Common Core Language Standard 1

Different parts of sentences have to relate to each other to make sense. When it’s unclear how one part of the sentence relates to another, the reader has difficulty understanding what is being said.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on vague pronoun references. Remember that a pronoun takes the place of a noun and identifies its antecedent. An antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the pronoun refers to or re-names.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

Three vague pronoun references have pronouns which do not clearly identify their antecedents:

1. Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, or those) are used on their own. Revise by adding a noun following the pronoun. Example: That is beautiful. That painting is beautiful.

2. Plural antecedents match one pronoun. Revise by repeating the noun. Example: He did have pens but we didn’t need any right now. He did have pens but we didn’t need any right now.

3. The antecedent is an adjective. Revise by changing the pronoun reference from an adjective to a noun. Example: I called Jesse’s work Jesse at his work, but he never answered.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

Practice: Get some paper from your binder and write on it. I like Amy’s friend, but Amy doesn’t.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: Get some paper from your binder and write on the paper. I like Amy’s friend, but Amy doesn’t.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a pronoun antecedent which clearly and specifically matches its antecedent.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Punctuation of Movie and Television Show Titles

Punctuation of Movie and Television Show Titles                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 1

Both movie and television show titles are punctuated the same. 

Today’s mechanics lesson is on how to punctuate movie and television show titles. Remember that we underline when writing, but italicize when word processing.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Underline or italicize the titles of movies and television shows. Movies and television shows are whole things, big things, or things that can be picked up from a table such as a DVD.The titles of television episodes are placed within quotation marks. Examples: Avatar, “The Nightmare” is the third episode of Lost in Time.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: The movie titled Back Once Again appeared as the television show titled “Back Home Again” in the 1970s.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Mechanics Practice Answers: The movie titled Back Once Again appeared as the television show titled Back Home Again in the 1970s.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a movie title.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pronoun Number and Person Shifts

Pronoun Number and Person Shifts                                                      

Common Core Language Standard 1

Writers often confuse their readers by changing the number of pronouns. In other words the writers confuse singular and plural forms. Additionally, writers frequently make the mistake of changing the person. In other words the writers change first person, second person, or third person pronouns within the same paragraphs.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on vague pronoun references. Remember that a pronoun takes the place of a noun and identifies its antecedent. An antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the pronoun refers to or re-names.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

A personal pronoun must match singular pronouns to singular nouns or pronouns and plural pronouns to plural nouns or pronouns. Example: Julie has their her own style.

Often number errors are made with gender-specific pronouns. Revise by making the antecedent nouns plural. Example: The student students ate their lunch lunches.Or revise the sentence without the pronouns. Example: The student ate their lunch.

A personal pronoun must also be in the same person as its antecedent. Pronouns are in the first, second, or third person. Revise pronoun person problems by matching the pronoun person to its antecedent. Example: Julie has your her own style.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

Practice: Tommy and Ashley like his or her school a lot. Both say you have to try their best.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers:

Tommy and Ashley their school a lot. Both say you have to try your best.

or

Tommy and Ashley their school a lot. Both say theyhave to try theirbest.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a pronoun antecedent which correctly matches the number of its antecedent.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Punctuation of Direct Quotations

Punctuation of Direct Quotations                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 2

Punctuating direct quotations is not that difficult, until you have to use a quotation or quoted title within a quotation. Punctuation can also get tricky when you don’t want to use all of the quote. Using citations properly can also be a bit of a challenge, but you have to tell the writer where you got the words and/or ideas you are borrowing.

Today’s mechanics lesson is on how to punctuate quoted references within direct quotations. Remember that a direct quotation includes the spoken or written words.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

When quotations or quoted titles are placed within quoted speech, use single quotation marks (‘__’) at the beginning and end of the inside quotations. Use double quotation marks (“__”) at the beginning and end of the entire quotation. Example: Beth said, “Do you agree with Beth’s statement that ‘the case is closed?’”

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: “Just 22% of adults drink milk (Dent 8).” Another author believes it’s 28% (Lind 42).

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Mechanics Practice Answers: “Just 22% of adults drink milk”(Dent 8).Another author believes it’s 28% (Lind 42).

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence with a make-believe quoted reference within a direct quotation.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pronoun Antecedents

Pronoun Antecedents                                                        

Common Core Language Standard 1

One of the problems that a developing writer faces when learning to write longer and more complicated sentences is the misuse of pronoun antecedents. Pronouns can be wonderful parts of speech in the hands of a skillful writer. Pronouns can produce variety and reduce repetitiveness, but they shouldn’t be used when they confuse the reader. Learning how to avoid the common pronoun antecedent problems is helpful. Learning how to write clear and specific pronoun antecedent relationships is essential.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on pronoun antecedents. Remember that a pronoun takes the place of a noun and identifies its antecedent. An antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the pronoun refers to or re-names.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

A pronoun must clearly and specifically refer to just one noun or pronoun (the antecedent). Generally, the pronoun refers to the noun or pronoun immediately before the pronoun.

To avoid pronoun antecedent problems:

1. Keep pronouns close to their references or use synonyms.

2. Don’t have a pronoun refer to the object of a prepositional phrase. Example: The box of pencils was found in their place. Revision: The box of pencils was found in its place.

3. Don’t have a pronoun refer to a possessive antecedent. Example: Are theirs the best cookies? They certainly are. Revision: Are their cookies the best? They certainly are.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

Practice: The dog’s dry food was in the bag. It was expensive. The food was also smelly.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: The dog’s dry food was in the bag. The foodwas expensive. The food was also smelly.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a clear and specific pronoun antecedent.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Punctuation of Indirect Quotations

Punctuation of Indirect Quotations                                                       

Common Core Language Standard 2

When students begin writing reports of information or summaries in elementary school, the often used teacher direction is “Put it in your own words.” Now paraphrasing and summarizing are useful skills; however, putting someone else’s idea into your own words does not make it your own idea. The writer must faithfully represent what the idea actually is and then credit the originator of the idea with a proper citation.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

An indirect quotation reports someone else’s words without quoting each word. Indirect quotations still require proper citations, but not quotation marks. A citation is the name of the source (the author’s last name or title, if no author is listed) and the page number of the print material where the author’s words are found. Example: Cheetahs are the fastest animals (Lee 5).

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: Tommy asked, “May I have some?” “Did he have to ask that question?” “Wow!”

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Mechanics Practice Answers: Tommy asked, “May I have some?” “Did he have to ask that question”?“Wow!”

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using an indirect quotation.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reciprocal Pronouns

Reciprocal Pronouns                                                     

Common Core Language Standard 1

The good thing about reciprocal pronouns is that we only have two of them: each other and one another. The usage rule works most of the time, but is often ignored by many professional writers. Your English-language arts teacher will probably suggest that you should stick to the rules, until you are making money as a professional writer and choose to break those rules.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on reciprocal pronouns. Remember that a pronoun takes the place of a noun and may be in the subject, object, or possessive case.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

The two reciprocal pronouns, each other and one another, are used to describe the same action shared by two or more things or people. Usually, each other is used to refer to two people; one another is used to refer to more than two people. Examples: Jenna, Rosie, and Tanya love another other. Leo and Viktor irritate each other.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

Practice: The teammates gave one another praise for their victory. They had to depend upon each other to pull out the win.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: The teammates gave one another praise for their victory. They had to depend upon one another to pull out the win.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a reciprocal pronoun.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Punctuation of Direct Quotations

Punctuation of Direct Quotations                                                        

Common Core Language Standard 2

Most of us have heard often how we need to faithfully quote the words of an author when using them in our own writing. However, few of us have heard that it’s not just the words which must be faithfully quoted; it’s also the punctuation. If we fail to use proper punctuation in this quotation, the whole meaning changes: “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma” (Author unknown) are certainly different meanings entirely.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on pronoun antecedents. Remember that a pronoun takes the place of a noun and identifies its antecedent. An antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the pronoun refers to or re-names.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Direct quotations must include original capitalization and punctuation. Periods and commas go inside the closing quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks, if part of the quoted sentence, but outside, if not. Colons and semicolons go outside the closing quotation marks. Example: Beth said, “The case is closed. Isn’t it?”

Both parts of a divided quotation are enclosed in quotation marks. The first word of the

second part is not capitalized unless it begins a new sentence. Example: “This book,” my mother said, “is wonderful.” When quoting an author or speaker, the first word of a complete sentence must be capitalized, even if it is in the middle of a sentence. Example: Ray did say, “We saw it.”

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: My coach whispered, “This game is over.” He continued, “Before it has even started.”

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Mechanics Practice Answers: My coach whispered, “This game is over.” He continued, “before it has even started.”

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write two of your own direct quotation sentences: one ending in a period and one ending in a question mark.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Restrictive Clauses

Restrictive Clauses                                                      

Common Core Language Standard 1

To understand restrictive clauses, we have to understand what restrict means and why a restrictive clause can only be a dependent clause. To restrict means to keep within certain limits or to not allow beyond a certain area. In grammar we mean that the words and meaning are limited within the clause. In other words no other additional words or meaning beyond the basic meaning of that clause are permitted. Because the clause is restrictive, it needs something to restrict. It needs to connect to an independent clause (a noun and a connected verb expressing a complete thought). The restrictive clause is dependent upon that independent clause, so it is a dependent clause.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on restrictive clauses. Remember that a nonrestrictive clause begins with the relative pronouns who, whom, whose,and which, but not that.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson and study the examples.

Restrictive relative clauses serve as adjectives following a noun to limit, restrict, or define the meaning of that noun. The clause could not be removed without affecting the basic meaning of the sentence. A restrictive relative clause begins with the relative pronouns who, whom, whose,and that, but not which. The who refers to a specific person or group of people. The that refers to things or people in general. Restrictive relative clauses are not set off by commas. Example: The boy who gave me water left the book that I needed for class.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to grammar and usage lesson.

Practice: The man which is working outside keeps a garden, that feeds the entire neighborhood.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: The man who is working outside keeps a garden that feeds the entire neighborhood.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a restrictive relative clause at the end of the sentence.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs. Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Punctuation of Restrictive Clauses

Punctuation of Restrictive Clauses                                              

Common Core Language Standard 2

The tough “fifty-cent” words we use to describe the academic language of grammar, usage, and mechanics restricts our understanding. To restrict means to keep within certain limits or to not allow beyond a certain area. In grammar we mean that the words and meaning are limited within the clause. In other words no other additional words or meaning beyond the basic meaning of that clause are permitted. Because the clause is restrictive, it needs something to restrict. It needs to connect to an independent clause (a noun and a connected verb expressing a complete thought). The restrictive clause is dependent upon that independent clause, so it is a dependent clause.

Today’s mechanics lesson is on how to punctuate restrictive clauses. Let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson and study the examples.

The relative pronouns who, whom, whose,and that, but not which introduce restrictive clauses. Do not use commas, dashes, or parentheses between nouns and relative pronouns.

Examples: The girl who lives here is kind. The boy whom I just met and whose food we are eating is extremely generous.

Now circle or highlight what is right and revise what is wrong according to mechanics lesson.

Practice: He made me an offer, that I can’t refuse. My friend, whose name is Art, is crazy.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Mechanics Practice Answers: He made me an offer that I can’t refuse. My friend, whose name is Art, is crazy.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a restrictive relative clause in the middle of the sentence.

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs.  Complete descriptions, instructional scopes and sequences, introductory video, previews, and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available here.

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Grammar Research and Balanced Instruction

Okay. I may have crossed over to the dark side of The Force. For years, I smirked at the grammar fanatics who taught and had students practice the explicit grammatical components of the sentence. I insisted, along with my National Writing Project friends, that any grammar instruction outside of the authentic writing context was at best useless, and at its worst counter-productive. But now the Common Core State Standards have shifted my thinking. The separate Language Strand makes sense to me.

This balanced approach best makes sense of the grammar research. An approach that involves direct grammatical instruction in partnership with plenty of connected reading (sentence modeling) and writing (sentence manipulation). It’s working well with my students.

Here’s a quick summary of the two prominent theories of language acquisition and why I’ve “crossed over” to a balanced approach with grammar instruction.

My university professors taught me that all humans are born with an instinctive language acquisition device (LAD). Noam Chomsky’s “little black box,” tucked away in some corner of our brains, gives us the essential grammar rules and language organization that helps us master our native language. Cool. So all we teachers need to do is provide a literate environment, extensive modeling, and plenty of oral language practice for our students to effortlessly learn to speak and write “conventional” and “correct” English. Since the LAD is a universal grammar, the same instructional methods would work for English-language learners. Simple. Grammar that is caught is better than grammar that is taught.

Much better than the older B.F. Skinner approach that humans acquire language through the environmental interplay of stimulus and response, reward and punishment. With this behavioral model, teaching “conventional” and “correct” English would require learning good language habits. That would mean lots of direct grammar instruction, drill and kill exercises, and extensive teacher feedback (think boxes of red pens for error correction). Lots of work. Have to learn what a predicate adjective is… Grammar that is taught is better than grammar that is caught.

An eclectic approach to language acquisition theory that has gained traction in recent years has encouraged me to meld the above theories in my instructional practice. This interactionist approach posits the idea that “language develops as a result of the complex interplay between the uniquely human characteristics of the child and the environment in which the child develops” (Lightbown and Spada, 1999). In other words, a sort of umbrella approach encompassing Chomsky’s LAD and Skinner’s behaviorism. Now, this makes both instructional and practical sense to me.

In my class, I teach one mechanics and one grammar rule/skill. Students tell “what’s right” and “what’s wrong” in an interactive discussion, while they jot down the rules/skills with examples. They analyze how the grammar rule/skill is applied in a model literary sentence and in a student model sentence that I select and display (reading connection). Students complete a simple sentence diagram to see the function of the grammar within the sentence. Students read and analyze a mentor text, which uses the grammar, usage, or mechanics instructional focus. Then students apply what they’ve learned in their own short writing sample. I give dictation sentences that require students to apply the rules/skills and/or manipulate the sentence structure as a formative assessment. Students self-edit and self-correct from my display (writing connection). I often review the grammatical component with a humorous cartoon that focuses on the grammatical skill/rule. It’s working. This instruction takes 25 minutes per session and I teach this strategy twice per week. Much better than D.O.L. or D.L.R. because I have a planned, standards-based instructional scope and sequence. I’m not just “reviewing” what previous teachers purportedly have “taught.”

Oh, I also use a whole-class diagnostic grammar and mechanics assessment and differentiate instruction according to the diagnostic data through targeted worksheets. Shhh! Don’t tell my Writing Project purist friends. But, the extra practice along with my quick writers conferences to review each worksheet’s formative assessment is helping students to finally master (a split infinitive) what teachers have “taught” year after year. And it’s transferring to their writing. I give the students about 15 minutes, twice per week, to work on their worksheets and complete their writers conferences. Students see their own progress on the skills they need.

The author of this article, 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

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

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.

 

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Standards and Accountability

A recent discussion on my favorite site, the English Companion Ning, made me take a critical look at just what has engendered the recent demands for increased accountability in our public schools. Both Democrats and Republicans are playing the blame game and teachers are the easiest targets. As a public school teacher, my initial response has been defensive; however, upon a bit of reflection I’m thinking that teachers may well largely be to blame–not for the “sorry state of public education” as our critics claim, but for the very accountability movement that is being used to attack us. We teachers are often our own worst enemies.

A bit of history helps put things in perspective. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s teachers felt that our norm-referenced testing, such as the ITBS, SAT, CTBS, MAT, provided data that did not measure what we are teaching. We used sophisticated psychometric criticisms such as sampling and measurement error and socio-political criticisms such as bias to largely rid ourselves from the nuisances of these exams. We teachers went wild. Authentic assessments, multiple-measure assessments, and no assessments ruled the educational landscape. I once taught a sophomore world history class for an entire year without giving any traditional tests.

However, with teacher-created assessments, testing manufacturers lost money. Educational Testing Services and others do not like to lose money. So, the test manufacturers changed tactics. They asked for and gave teachers what teachers said they wanted–tests that purport to test what we teach. In other words, criterion-referenced standards tests. And the standards-based movement was born.

Teachers were even asked to develop their own subject area standards. A seemingly bottom-up initiative. How inclusive! Each state department of education, county office of education, and most school districts funded the creation of these subject area content standards documents. I joined other colleagues in spending countless hours developing the English-language Arts Standards for my own school district.

Now the test-makers were happy. They had the basis of a new revenue stream. And, now because the tests ostensibly test what teachers teach, administrators, politicians, and even billionaire do-gooders can hold us accountable and measure teacher/school/district/state performance. The zenith? Our Common Core National Standards.

Teachers helped create this mess. We enabled the accountability movement that is choking teacher creativity, teacher autonomy, and teacher initiative. And our students are the ones who are paying the greatest price. In replacing normed-reference testing with criterion-reference testing, we replaced something bad with something worse. “Meet the new boss.” Not the same as the old boss. Apologies to Pete Townshend.

And now the standards-based movement is so endemic that any challenges to teaching to the test or resisting accountability standards are viewed with wonderment by many in our profession. The standards-based movement with its frame of accountability is fully entrenched. Newer teachers have known nothing else. With the new PAARC and Smarter Balanced Common Core assessments, the tail is wagging the dog once again. Teachers are spending valuable class time test prepping and changing instruction to be more test-friendly. The tests themselves take an inordinate amount of class time. Last year at my middle school, we English-language arts teachers had the task of testing all subject area. It took two weeks out of our teaching schedule to administer all of the tests.

Sigh. More on Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post site.

Response from Maja Wilson, author of Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment (Heinemann, 2006) and the recent article, “First blame the teachers then the parents”  in the Washington Post.

Mark,

This is why I argue that trying to get and maintain a “seat at the table” is ultimately counterproductive. The meal served at the table of power is unhealthy, the conversation is stilted (actually, there isn’t much conversation–lots of orders given and followed) and those who partake leave with indigestion. That’s what happened when teachers created standards–following orders at the table–that were then used against them as the basis first for high-stakes standardized tests, and then as a springboard for national standards created by a corporation created by governors and business interests (Achieve Inc).

Instead, we should create, set, and decorate another table, then serve a tasty and healthy meal there. We could invite as many people to join as possible, and then enjoy a rich conversation and lots of laughter together as we dine.

Michael (another poster to Maja’s initial post) may be right that the problem is that we can’t agree on what to serve at that table. But hey, even a potluck would be tastier, healthier, and more socially edifying than the cardboard and nails currently on the Department of Education’s menu.

The author of this article, 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

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

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.

 

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Free Grammar and Mechanics Resources

How do most teachers teach grammar and mechanics? Frankly, many of us just are not teaching these subjects, except as a few weeks of drill and kill worksheets prior to the standardized test. Teachers either perceive grammar and mechanics instruction as too boring or as too difficult to teach, so they avoid it like the plague. Some teachers may rationalize why they don’t teach these subjects. You’ve heard the comments: “I didn’t learn grammar and mechanics, and I turned out all right” or “I teach grammar and mechanics through the Writing Process” or “The students should already know these skills—these are not my grade level standards” or “I once that grammar is acquired naturally through oral language development.”

Well-meaning teachers borrowed a well-used copy of Daily Oral Language activities from another teacher years ago and have faithfully used the same lessons as “openers” ever since. The advantage of such “programs” is that they require no teacher preparation. Unfortunately, these collections of grammar and mechanics mistakes provide no diagnostic information, have few teaching resources, and fail to establish a sensible instructional scope and sequence. Students simply rehearse errors. This ineffective practice rarely translates to mastery learning. Learning grammar and mechanics out of the context of meaningful writing may help students get a few questions correct on the standardized test, but this knowledge just won’t transfer to their writing.

Instead, let’s make sense out of teaching grammar, usage, and mechanics. Start with the free 112 writing opener lessons from the comprehensive Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) (of the Common Core Standards) Grades 4-8 The text or these lessons with accompanying PowerPoint slides are listed below. Just click on the links for each of the 112 writing openers. Or, if you prefer, get the YouTube videos of these same lessons. Also make sure to look through the other free grammar, usage, and mechanics diagnostic assessments, articles, resources, and teaching tips on how to teach grammar, usage, and mechanics in the context of writing. Finally, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Grammar and Mechanics

Why Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) Doesn’t Work

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/why-daily-oral-language-d-o-l-doesnt-work/

Most teachers are familiar with Daily Oral Language, abbreviated as D.O.L. or under the guise of similar acronyms. Teachers like the canned program because it requires no teacher preparation, it provides “bell ringer” busy work so teachers can take attendance, and it seemingly “covers” the subjects of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. D.O.L. is probably the most popular  instructional technique used to teach grammar. The second most often used technique would be the “teach no grammar-nor-mechanics technique” as is frequently employed by writing process purists who save this “instruction” until the last step of a process piece, if they ever get to it at all. However, the subject of this article is the latter technique, and why D.O.L. does not work.

Drill and Kill Worksheets

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/drill-and-kill-worksheets/

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.

Research-Based Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Worksheets

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/research-based-grammar-usage-and-mechanics-worksheets/

Not all worksheets are created alike. Worksheets need not “drill and kill” students to boredom or busy-work. Good teachers can spot a good worksheet when they see one. The educational research provides insight as to what makes a grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheet an effective instructional strategy for knowledge and/or skills acquisition. Check out the research-based grammar worksheets in this article.

Mechanics Scope and Sequence

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/mechanics-scope-and-sequence/

However, most all teachers support teaching some form of simple to complex instructional order in teaching mechanics. For example, students need to be able to define, identify, and apply simple abbreviations (Mr.) before learning acronyms (UNICEF) and initialisms (FBI). In other words, the simple academic language and mechanics instruction should precede the more complex. We have supportive (and recent–as of January 2016) educational research to validate this instructional order. Check out the grades 4-8 mechanics instructional sequence aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Grammar Scope and Sequence 

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/grammar-scope-and-sequence/ 

Although the grammar debate* continues between 1.Those who favor part to whole (indirect, implicit, inductive) instruction and 2. Those who prefer whole to part (direct, explicit, deductive) instruction, both sides would generally agree that students should be able to define, identify, and use some things before other things. In other words, the simple academic language and grammatical instruction should precede the more complex. We have solid (and recent–January 2016) educational research to support this instructional sequence of instruction

112 Writing Opener Lessons

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/112-writing-openers/

These 112 Writing Openers are from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4−8 Language Convention lessons. Completely aligned to the Common Core State Standards, these simple and quick writing openers are suitable for upper elementary and middle school. Following are the lesson subjects and links for text-based lessons and editable PowerPoint attachments for the 56 grammar and usage lessons and the 56 mechanics lessons.  Or subscribe to my YouTube Channel and get the same lessons in video format. Bookmark this site for quality writing openers with a well-defined instructional scope and sequence.

Grammar Diagnostic Assessment and Recording Matrix

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/pennington-publishing-elareading-assessments/

http://penningtonpublishing.com/assessments/Grammar%20Assessment%20Matrix.pdf

The TGM Grammar Diagnostic Assessment tests all of the basic grammar, parts of speech, and usage skills in an efficient multiple choice format. Students complete the assessment in 15-20 minutes. Record the data on the TGM Grammar Mastery Matrix and differentiate instruction according to student needs. Note: the Teaching Grammar and Mechanicscurriculum provides worksheets with formative assessments that correspond with each item on this assessment.

Mechanics Diagnostic Assessment and Recording Matrix

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/pennington-publishing-elareading-assessments/

The TGM Mechanics Diagnostic Assessment is a whole class assessment that tests all of the basic punctuation and capitalization skills. Students complete the assessment in 10-15 minutes. Record the data on the TGM Mechanics Mastery Matrix and differentiate instruction according to student needs. Note: the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics curriculum provides worksheets with formative assessments that correspond with each item on this assessment.

Conjunction Junction

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/conjunction-junction/

The old Schoolhouse Rock song poses the question: “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” A clever rhyme, but the rest of the lyric provides little help to answer the question. Here’s the answer with some memory tricks to help your students remember and use the three types of conjunctions to add sentence variety to their writing.

How to Teach Grammar to Primary Students

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/how-to-teach-grammar-to-primary-students/

For those of you primary teachers wondering how to teach the rigorous grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards… you are not alone. Check out how the sentence building exercises using sentence diagramming can make a difference for primary students.

How to Teach Writing Mechanics

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-writing-mechanics/

“How to Teach Writing Mechanics” asks and provides possible answers to the What is (and isn’t) Writing Mechanics, Why Teach Writing Mechanics? When Should We Teach Writing Mechanics? What Writing Mechanics Should We Teach? How Should We Teach Writing Mechanics? How Much Class Time for Writing Mechanics? questions related to teaching the nuts and bolts of punctuation, capitalization, formatting, citations, quotations, etc. Check out and download the entire grades 4-8 mechanics instructional scope and sequence (completely aligned to the Common Core Language Strand Standards.

How to Teach English Grammar

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-english-grammar/

“How to Teach English Grammar” asks and provides possible answers to the most pressing When, Why, How, What, and Whom questions related to teaching grammar. Check out and download the entire grades 4-8 grammar instructional scope and sequence (completely aligned to the Common Core Language Strand Standards.

Grammar Programs

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/grammar-programs/

Teachers frequently ask which Pennington Publishing grammar program will best meet the needs of their students. Of course most of us use grammar as a catch all term to mean parts of speech, syntax, usage, sentence structure, subjects and predicates, punctuation, quotation marks, and capitalization. For those teachers using the Common Core Standards, they are looking for materials to teach the Language Strand 1, 2, and 3 Standards.

How to Eliminate “To-Be” Verbs in Writing

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-eliminate-to-be-verbs-in-writing/

Every English teacher has a sure-fire revision tip that makes developing writers dig down deep and revise initial drafts. One of my favorites involves eliminating the “to-be-verbs”: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been. Learn the four strategies to revise these “writing crutches.”

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

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/teaching-the-language-strand/

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) is part of a comprehensive Grades 4-12 language program, designed to address each Standard in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards in 60-90 weekly instructional minutes. This full-year curriculum provides interactive grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling lessons, a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary instruction. The program has all the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Progress monitoring matrices allow teachers to track student progress. Each instructional resource is carefully designed to minimize teacher preparation, correction, and paperwork. Appendices have extensive instructional resources, including the Pennington Manual of Style and downloadable essay-comments. A student workbook accompanies this program.

Overview of the Common Core Language Strand

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/overview-of-the-common-core-language-strand/

English-language arts teachers have long been accustomed to the four-fold division of our “content” area into Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. These divisions have been widely accepted and promoted by the NCTE, publishers, and other organizations. In a nod to the fearsome foursome, the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts maintains these divisions (now called strands)with two notable revisions: Speaking and Listening are combined and Language now has its own seat at the table. So who exactly is this new dinner guest? For those just beginning to explore the CCSS Language Strand, an overview may be helpful.

Common Core Grammar Standards

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/common-core-grammar-standards/

The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts are divided into Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language strands. The Common Core Grammar Standards are detailed in the Language Strand. It is notable that grammar and mechanics have their own strand, unlike the organization of many of the old state standards, which placed grammar and mechanics instruction solely within the confines of writing or speaking standards.

Of course, the writers of the Common Core use the ambiguous label, Language, to refer to what teachers and parents casually label as grammar and mechanics or conventions. To analyze content and educational philosophy of  the Common Core State Standards Language Strand, it may be helpful to examine What’s Good about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? as well as What’s Bad about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? chiefly from the words of the document itself.

CCSS Language Progressive Skills

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The Language Strand has been one of the most controversial components of the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & LITERACY IN HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES, SCIENCE, AND TECHNICAL SUBJECTS. One of these components stirring up heated debate has been the Language Progressive Skills document.

How to Teach Helping Verbs

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English teachers learn early in their careers that strong nouns and “show-me” verbs are the keys to good writing. Of these two keys, verbs give developing writers the most “bang for their buck” in terms of writing revision. As a plus, revising weak and imprecise verbs, such as helping verbs (also known as auxiliary verbs), with active “show-me verbs” is quite teachable and less vocabulary-dependent than working with nouns. Learn when to use and when not to use helping verbs and how to eliminate them to improve writing.

 

Why D.O.L. Does Not Transfer to Writing

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Psychologists and educational theorists have developed learning theories to explain how new learning and skills are most efficiently mastered and best transfer to other academic activities. Let’s examine the most influential of these learning theories to explain why D.O.L. does not transfer to writing.

Problems with Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.)

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Daily Oral Language is built upon oral review. Lack of instructional depth and the methodology of oral practice are key reasons why teachers complain that students do not retain the skills reviewed in Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.). After all, the reason we bother teaching mechanics, spelling, and grammar is to help students improve their writing.

Common Core Grammar Standards

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/common-core-grammar-standards/

The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts are divided into Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language strands. The Common Core Grammar Standards are detailed in the Language Strand. It is notable that grammar and mechanics have their own strand, unlike the organization of many of the old state standards, which placed grammar and mechanics instruction solely within the confines of writing or speaking standards.

Of course, the writers of the Common Core use the ambiguous label, Language, to refer to what teachers and parents casually label as grammar and mechanics or conventions. To analyze content and educational philosophy of  the Common Core State Standards Language Strand, it may be helpful to examine What’s Good about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? as well as What’s Bad about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? chiefly from the words of the document itself.

Grammar Research and Balanced Instruction

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A balanced approach to grammatical instruction just makes the best sense of the grammar research. An approach that involves direct grammatical instruction in partnership with plenty of connected reading (sentence modeling) and writing (sentence manipulation). Here’s the summary of grammar research and practical instructional implications for teachers committed to differentiated instruction.

Why We Don’t Teach Grammar

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Teachers de-emphasize grammar instruction for six key reasons. Learn these reasons and re-prioritize your instruction to include teaching grammar in the context of meaningful writing.

How to Teach Grammar

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Within the field of English-language arts, there is probably no more contentious curricular issue than that of how to teach grammar. The “Reading Wars” and “Writing Wars” get all the press, but teachers are much more unified in their teaching philosophy and instructional practice in those areas than they are with grammar. Here are 21 assumptions about grammatical instruction and four simple steps to teach grammar, mechanics, and spelling to your students.

The Great Grammar Debate

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The Great Grammar Debate between those favoring part to whole and those favoring whole to part grammar instruction is still relevant.

How to Integrate Grammar and Writing Instruction

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Balanced grammar instruction includes four components: 1. Differentiated instruction based upon diagnostic assessments 2. Direct instruction in grammar and mechanics 3. Writing strategies practice and 4. Writing process revision and editing.

How to Identify Subjects and Predicates

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The complete sentence is, undoubtedly, the most important benchmark of conventional writing. Subjects and predicates are the best identifiers of the complete sentence and the best checks to identify sentence fragments and run-ons. This article helps students to identify sentence subjects and predicates with clear definitions and examples.

How to Fix Sentence Fragments

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Writing in complete sentences is the essential writing skill. Even sophisticated writers sometimes struggle with sentence fragments. Learn how to identify sentence fragments in your own writing and, more importantly, fix these to create mature and complete sentences.

How to Fix Run-On Sentences

Writing in complete sentences is the essential writing skill. Even sophisticated writers sometimes struggle with run-on sentences. Learn how to identify run-ons in your own writing and, more importantly, fix these to create mature and complete sentences.

Grammar Instruction: Establishing Common Ground

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Perhaps no instructional issue in English-language arts produces more contentious debate than the issue of how best to teach grammar. All too often we bog down in our discussion over the issue of instructional strategies. Perhaps a more useful starting point for our discussion would be to come to consensus about what we expect students to know and when. Establishing a common ground on this issue can help us determine what to diagnostically assess in order to determine our students’ relative strengths and weaknesses.

Sentence Lifting: D.O.L. That Makes Sense

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Unlike traditional Daily Oral Language (DOL), Sentence Lifting uses both sentence modeling and error analysis to teach grammar and mechanics. Using exemplary literature, teacher, and student writing, students will practice emulating these texts and also practice editing sentence errors. Using current writing samples from both literary and student work teaches grammar and mechanics in the context of authentic writing.

Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves

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Here is the list of the Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves that irritate most Americans. Learn what’s wrong, what’s write, and the tips to avoid these common grammatical mistakes.

The Parts of Speech Song

Parts of Speech Song

Students love to rap with the parts of speech. The key definitions are included in concise form. An MP3 file makes it easy to teach and learn.

The Ten Parts of Speech with Clear Examples

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Knowing the parts of speech is key to the grammatical language of instruction. Writers need to be able to accurately identify and apply each of these ten parts of speech. This concise reference clearly defines all ten parts of speech and provides clear examples of each.

The Most Useful Punctuation and Capitalization Rules

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Proper punctuation and capitalization are marks of an educated and careful writer. Here is everything you need to know about proper punctuation and capitalization in one concise reference. Clear examples make this tool a must for every writer.

How to Teach Verbs

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Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches adverbs in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching verbs that makes sense. Get all the definitions, examples, and writing style resources for how to teach verbs in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool verbs cartoon.

How and When to Teach Adjectives

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Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches adjectives in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching adjectives from primary elementary to high school. Get all the definitions, examples, and writing style resources re: how to teach adjectives in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool adjectives cartoon.

How and When to Teach Pronouns

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Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches pronouns in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching pronouns from primary elementary to high school. Get all the pronoun definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool pronouns cartoon.

How and When to Teach Nouns

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Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches nouns in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching nouns from primary elementary to high school. Get all the noun definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool nouns cartoon.

How and When to Teach Adverbs

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Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches adverbs in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching adverbs from primary elementary to high school. Most importantly, get adverbial definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool adverbs cartoon.

How to Teach Conjunctions

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“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches conjunctions in the context of writing and reading. Get all the conjunction definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool conjunctions cartoon.

How to Teach Prepositional Phrases

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Wouldn’t it make sense to spend instructional time on the part of speech that constitutes 30% of all writing? Prepositional phrases are used that much. Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches prepositional phrases in the context of writing and reading. Get all the preposition definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool prepositions cartoon.

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

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The author of this article, 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.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

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

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Why and How to Teach Complex Text

A growing body of research presents a challenge to current K-12 reading/English-language Arts instruction. In essence, we need to “up” the level of text complexity and provide greater opportunities for independent reading. The Common Core State English-language Arts Standards provides a convincing three-reason argument in support of these changes in instructional practice. Following this rationale, I will share ten instructional implications and address a few possible objections.

1. Text complexity is the most important variable in reading comprehension. The level of difficulty is a more important variable in reading comprehension than is a reader’s degree of mastery of inferential reading strategies or critical thinking skills. In other words, what you read is more of an issue than how you read. Now applying reading strategies and critical thinking skills can certainly scaffold a reader’s ability to comprehend difficult text, but vocabulary, text organization, and sentence length seem to be more crucial variables.

From the Common Core State English-language Arts Standards Appendix A…

In 2006, ACT, Inc., released a report called Reading Between the Lines that showed which skills differentiated those students who equaled or exceeded the benchmark score (21 out of 36) in the reading section of the ACT college admissions test from those who did not. Prior ACT research had shown that students achieving the benchmark score or better in reading—which only about half (51 percent) of the roughly half million test takers in the 2004–2005 academic year had done—had a high probability (75 percent chance) of earning a C or better in an introductory, credit-bearing course in U.S. history or psychology (two common reading-intensive courses taken by first-year college students) and a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better in such a course.

Surprisingly, what chiefly distinguished the performance of those students who had earned the benchmark score or better from those who had not was not their relative ability in making inferences while reading or answering questions related to particular cognitive processes, such as determining main ideas or determining the meaning of words and phrases in context. Instead, the clearest differentiator was students’ ability to answer questions associated with complex texts. Students scoring below benchmark performed no better than chance (25 percent correct) on four-option multiple-choice questions pertaining to passages rated as “complex” on a three-point qualitative rubric described in the report. These findings held for male and female students, students from all racial/ethnic groups, and students from families with widely varying incomes.

2. Post K-12 text complexity in college, the workplace, and in popular media has remained constant or increased in terms of levels of difficulty over the last fifty years.

From the Common Core State English-language Arts Standards Appendix A…

Research indicates that the demands that college, careers, and citizenship place on readers have either held steady or increased over roughly the last fifty years. The difficulty of college textbooks, as measured by Lexile scores, has not decreased in any block of time since 1962; it has, in fact, increased over that period (Stenner, Koons, & Swartz, in press). The word difficulty of every scientific journal and magazine from 1930 to 1990 examined by Hayes and Ward (1992) had actually increased, which is important in part because, as a 2005 College Board study (Milewski, Johnson, Glazer, & Kubota, 2005) found, college professors assign more readings from periodicals than do high school teachers. Workplace reading, measured in Lexiles, exceeds grade 12 complexity significantly, although there is considerable variation (Stenner, Koons, & Swartz, in press). The vocabulary difficulty of newspapers remained stable over the 1963–1991 period Hayes and his colleagues (Hayes, Wolfer, & Wolfe, 1996) studied.

3. K-12 text complexity has declined over the last fifty years.

From the Common Core State English-language Arts Standards Appendix A…

Despite steady or growing reading demands from various sources, K–12 reading texts have actually trended downward in difficulty in the last half century. Jeanne Chall and her colleagues (Chall, Conard, & Harris, 1977) found a thirteen year decrease from 1963 to 1975 in the difficulty of grade 1, grade 6, and (especially) grade 11 texts. Extending the period to 1991, Hayes, Wolfer, and Wolfe (1996) found precipitous declines (relative to the period from 1946 to 1962) in average sentence length and vocabulary level in reading textbooks for a variety of grades… Carrying the research closer to the present day, Gary L. Williamson (2006) found a 350L (Lexile) gap between the difficulty of end-of-high school and college texts—a gap equivalent to 1.5 standard deviations and more than the Lexile difference between grade 4 and grade 8 texts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

http://www.corestandards.org/

Ten Implications for K-12 Instruction

1. Higher Expectations

Clearly, we teachers need to “up” the level of difficulty of text and provide the scaffolds students need to understand that text. We need to challenge our students to struggle a bit. We can’t focus all of our instruction on the lowest common denominators.

2. Vocabulary

We need to use a systematic approach to vocabulary instruction including teaching structural analysis, context clues, and rote memorization and practice in what Isabel Beck calls “Tier Two” words that have high utility and applicability in academic language. Our students have got to master frequently used Greek and Latin affixes and roots.

3. Sentence and Text Structure

We need to not only analyze sentence and text structure, but also practice variations and complexities in our students’ writing. Good writers are better equipped to understand the complexities of how ideas are presented in academic text. The reading-writing connection is teachable.

4. Content

We need to teach the prior knowledge that students need to access difficult text independently. And we need to share and coordinate the load with our colleagues. For example, are our novels, poetry, and writing assignments aligned with what our students are learning in their history classes? We need to work smarter, not harder.

5. Reading Strategies

We need to be both content and process-driven. If we do not provide the tools and practice for our students, “reading to learn” will never work. Our elementary colleagues have largely handled the “learning to read,” but we need to apply the basic to the complex.

6. Critical Thinking

We need to teach the elements of logic and higher order thinking are prerequisites to understanding difficult reading text. Recognizing both solid and fallacious reasoning is an essential reading skill.

7. Expository Text

We need to put aside our exclusive love of literature and poetry for the sake of our students. College, workplace, and popular media texts are overwhelmingly expository in nature. We can do both.

8. Novel Selection

We may need to let go of traditional novels. Let’s take a hard look at what we are teaching to maximize content and process instruction. For example, Reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry may cover the content and standards nicely for an eighth grade ELA class, but the largely fifth grade reading level does not provide the text complexity that our students need. Additionally, shorter novels, selections, poems, articles, etc. will do the job more efficiently and with greater variety.

9. Differentiated Instruction

We need to recognize that all of students simply do not read at the same levels. Students have  different reading issues that inhibit their abilities to comprehend challenging text. We have to find out who has what issues and adjust our instruction accordingly. It does no good to play the “blame game” on previous teachers. We teach standards, but we also teach students. Diagnostic reading assessment has got to be a given for the conscientious reading/ELA teacher.

10. Independent Reading

We need to stop being co-dependents. The Common Core emphasis on CLOSE READING STRATEGIES can can be overdone. We do have to transfer the demands of accessing text over to students at some point. Plus, we need to fight the hard fight and require students to read at home. The amount of independent reading needed to increase even one grade level in terms of reading comprehension and vocabulary development necessitates reading at home.

Possible Objections and Howevers

We can certainly question the adequacy and accuracy of the tools used to measure text complexity. However, we all know that our students’ biology textbooks are more difficult than the Manga and Twilight that are students are reading.

What about the joy of reading? We want to create lifelong readers, not factory-trained automatons for the needs of academia, the workplace, and popular media. Reading trash can be entertaining. However, text complexity does not preclude reading for fun. The ability to read and understand more complex text should expand and enhance that experience.

What we teach in K-12 is in-it-of-itself valuable and relevant to the needs of our students. It may also be foundational in terms of content and process for greater text complexity. We are not just training students for future college, careers, and citizenship; we are teaching students now. However, can’t we have our cake and eat it, too? If our students need to know about chimpanzee behavior, can’t we replace Curious George with a scientific journal?

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.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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Teaching ELA/Reading: 10 Impediments and Solutions

None of us gets into the teaching profession with the hopes of being mediocre. All ELA/reading teachers want to do their best for their students. But how can we give our best when so many impediments stand in our way? I’m not talking about the usual ones we discuss in the staff room: discipline problems, overbearing administrators, bothersome parents, lack of materials. I’m talking about the all of the stuff that reductively minimizes our opportunity to be our best. In other words, if we could just rid ourselves (and our students) of… XXXX, we could truly be the teachers we want to be. So, let’s explore the impediments many ELA/reading teachers that keep us from teaching how and what we need to teach, the solutions as to how to reduce or get rid of these in our teaching repertoire, and most importantly what to teach now that the impediments have been removed.

10 Impediments and Solutions

1. Standards

Impediments: Although most teachers support the notion of an instructional scope and sequence, district-state-national standards were not delivered at Mt. Sinai. Some ELA/reading standards are more important than others and we ultimately and practically teach our students, not the standards. Our students are an unruly lot, refusing to progress at exactly the same rates and generally making a mess of our year-to-year academic standards.

Solutions: Establish priorities in terms of instructional time. Does anyone think that an identifying author’s purpose standard merits the same amount of attention as a reading comprehension standard? Develop a balance between teaching grade-level and review standards, according to the needs of your students indicated by diagnostic data.

2. School Culture and Interruptions

Impediments: At the middle or high school level, the ELA classes check out all books in the library, get student identification pictures, get picture re-takes, listen to counselor career presentations, and attend discipline assemblies. Daily announcements, spirit assemblies, guest speakers, phone calls interrupt all teachers. Not to mention the usual bathroom/counselor/nurse passes.

Solutions: Be assertive and learn to say “No.” Get other colleagues on board, work through the appropriate channels, and be willing to compromise; but guard “time on task” and re-visit these impediments regularly—they have a habit of sneaking back in.

3. Traditions

Impediments: 3rd grade silkworms and the reading incentive program, 4th grade dioramas and animal reports, 5th grade sugar cube castles and state reports, 6th grade science projects and PowerPoint® presentations, 7th grade African masks and oral reports, Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest and 8th grade U.S. Constitution graduation requirement. You get the idea.

Solutions: Develop the mindset that any instructional activity that can achieve the same objectives in a more efficient manner than another instructional activity should be the one you choose. Don’t confuse content and process objectives.

4. Colleagues

Impediments: “We all teach XXXX. It’s a team decision—there is no I in team.” Disagreement is perceived as personal attack. Gossip, friendship, even romance. And colleagues tend to prey upon our good natures to get us to follow their agendas.

Solutions: Affirm your colleagues’ agendas, but don’t get sucked in. Always run a cost-benefit analysis when changing instruction. Being a team player doesn’t mean sacrificing your autonomy. Do what makes sense for you and your students.

5. Scheduling

Impediments: Advanced band is only offered this period, the special education pull-out study skills program, the reading intervention program, the remedial-basic-advanced-honors ELA classes, and the computer lab. And others.

Solutions: The needs of the students should dictate schedules; however, well-intended interventions, pull-out programs, and tracking can reduce the amount of core instructional time each student receives and/or change a teacher’s instructional plans. Insist upon differentiating instruction within the scope of the core ELA curricula and the confines of the regular classroom to address student needs.

6. Pigeonholing

Impediments: Shouldn’t the ELA teachers teach XXXX? Reading (literature and reading skills and SSR), writing, listening, speaking. Note-taking. Critical thinking. Problem-solving skills. Study skills. Career exploration. And let’s add on basic parenting.

Solutions: Preach “all teachers are teachers of reading, writing, and thinking.” Get to know the process-oriented standards of your math, social studies, arts, foreign language, physical education, and science teachers for ammunition and encourage everyone to share the load.

7. Educational Fads

Impediments: Learning styles, rigor and relevance, multiple intelligences, small learning communities, tribes, Cornell notes, reading fads, levels of questioning. And a few hundred more.

Solutions: Before jumping onto bandwagons, talk to veteran teachers for their “what comes around, goes around” perspectives, search the Internet for the real research on any educational fad, and take all professors’ and presenters’ information with grains of salt. Stick to the basics when in doubt.

8. Bureaucracy and Paperwork

Impediments: Progress monitoring charts, skills documentation, reading logs, independent learning goals, student evaluations. Staff meetings. Department meetings. Grade-level team meetings. Cross-disciplinary meetings. Vertical articulation. The mind boggles.

Solutions: Veteran teachers know how to cut corners when they need cutting. Ask them. Insist upon written agendas with time allocations and a time-keeper for meetings. Push to get everything in writing that can be written on an agenda and e-mailed in advance. Hold colleagues accountable for “birdwalking.” Keep business meetings all-business, and schedule personal hang-out/discussion time prior to or after meetings.

9. Testing

Impediments: State testing, district testing, diagnostic assessments, formative assessments, summative assessments. Standardized test preparation. Unit test review.

Solutions: Select colleagues committed to protecting teacher instructional time as district representatives on testing committees. Minimize isolated test preparation. The best test preparation is good teaching in the core ELA instructional components.

10. Ourselves

Impediments: I love to share my personal life with my students. My students love my stories. My students love my jokes. I just enjoy talking with students. I go with the “teachable moments.” I teach more of this because I like it better. I hate teaching, never liked, or I’m bad at XXXX… so I don’t teach it.

Solutions: We are often our own worst enemies. Ask a trusted colleague to observe you, your personal idiosyncrasies, and how you waste instructional time. Video-tape yourself. Don’t confuse your own teaching style with poor time management. Teach all the core curricular components and work on those in which you are weak.

Instructional Priorities

There are curricular priorities that most ELA teachers would agree to teach “if only they had the time.” To be practical as possible, here are the specific “Big Six” ELA instructional components with percentages of instructional time that make sense to allocate to each. Having taught at the upper elementary, middle school, high school, and community college levels, I believe that the core instructional components and allocations of instructional time should remain constant across those levels. Take stock of what you teach and how much time you allocate to each instructional component. And feel free to disagree.

The Big Six

1. Word Study (Vocabulary, Spelling, Syllabication) 16%

2. Grammar and Mechanics 16%

3. Reading Strategies 16%

4. Literary Analysis 16%

5, Writing Strategies 16%

6. Writing Process Papers 16%

That leaves 4% for the impediments that you cannot remove. Such is life.

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.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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

How to Evaluate Spelling Programs

Properly evaluating spelling programs can save future headaches and money. One good guideline is to check whether spelling (encoding) is part of the screening and placement assessment for any reading intervention program. I take a look at the two most popular reading intervention programs with this in mind at Comparing READ 180 and Language! Live. Adopting spelling programs that teachers will not use simply makes no sense. With increasing attention on following Response to Intervention (RTI) guidelines, it makes sense to follow the criteria that orthographic research has established for quality spelling programs. Much of the following summarizes research study conclusions from the What Works Clearinghouse.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM use “themed” spelling word lists, grouping words by such themes as animals, months, or colors. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM uses developmental spelling patterns for its word lists, providing sequential, research-based orthographic instruction.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM use practice worksheets that focus on rote memorization, such as word searches, fill-in-the-blanks, or crossword puzzles. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM provides spelling sorts/word parts worksheets to help students practice recognition and application of the spelling patterns.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM de-emphasize structural analysis. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM emphasizes word study: syllables, accents, morphemes, inflections, spelling rules, pronunciation, and derivational influences.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM do not integrate vocabulary instruction. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM integrates homonyms, common Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes, and other linguistic influences.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM minimize the reading-spelling connection. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM reinforces the decoding-encoding connection with an instructional scope and sequence aligned with systematic phonics instruction. The A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM program includes five years of seamless spelling instruction (Levels A, B, C, D, E)—perfect for grade-level classes, combination classes, and flexible homeschool instruction.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM ignore spelling irregularities. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM includes “rule-breakers” throughout the program, providing problem-solving strategies that build student (and teacher) confidence in the English orthographic spelling system.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM use spelling tests solely as summative assessments. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM uses spelling tests as diagnostic and formative instruments to help teachers differentiate instruction. Recording matrices enable teachers to keep track of mastered and un-mastered spelling patterns for each student—simple record-keeping and minimal paperwork.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM provide one-size fits all instruction. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM provides the resources for true differentiated instruction from remedial to grade-level to accelerated spellers.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM use visual-only spelling strategies. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM uses multi-sensory instructional practice, including songs, raps, games and phonological awareness activities—perfect for students with auditory processing deficits and a “must” for effective Response to Intervention (RTI) instruction.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM have no writing-spelling connection. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM requires students to develop weekly Personal Spelling Lists that include commonly misspelled words from their own writing.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM provide no review activities for unit spelling tests. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM provides ample review activities, including Word Jumbles for each sound-spelling pattern, web-based songs and raps, and entertaining games.
  • A BAD SPELLING PROGRAM take either inordinate teacher preparation or require too much class time. A GOOD SPELLING PROGRAM is “teacher-friendly” and requires only minimal prep time. These flexible resources will not eat up instructional minutes.

The author of this article, 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 lessons. (Check out a seventh grade teacher teaching the direct instruction and practice components of these lessons on YouTube.) The complete lessons also 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 PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4-8

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

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

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

Grammar Instruction: Establishing Common Ground

Perhaps no instructional issue in English-language arts produces more contentious debate than the issue of how best to teach grammar. When most of us refer to grammar we mean the structure of the sentence, the components of the sentence, word choice, the order of words, style, and usage. Some will also include punctuation, capitalization and even, perhaps spelling in the grammar stew.

All too often we bog down in our discussion over the issue of instructional strategies. Should we teach these skills explicitly through direct instruction? Should we teach these skills implicitly at the point of student need? Should we teach these skills in isolation? Should we teach these skills in the context of writing? What are the most efficient and effective means of instruction? Which instructional strategies produce the most retention? How can we differentiate instruction?

It may be that we begin, but quickly end the discussion of how to teach grammar because in posing these questions we are placing the “cart before the horse.” Perhaps a more useful starting point for our discussion would be to come to consensus about what we expect students to know and when. Establishing a common ground on this issue can help us determine what to diagnostically assess in order to determine our students’ relative strengths and weaknesses. Only at this point does it make sense to discuss the instructional strategies that will address the needs of our students.

This goal of consensus can be easier said than done. Teachers are inherently protective of their own instructional sovereignty. We all enter teaching to be “queens and kings of our own castles.” We are, by nature, independent thinkers. Collaboration requires some levels of releasing that sovereignty and replacing some of that independence with dependence. Additionally, we are all afraid of exposing our deficiencies. Many of us have received little grammar instruction and less training in how to teach the skills outlined above. Colleagues can be intimidating. It’s hard to admit our weaknesses. Much easier to keep our ostrich heads in the sand regarding grammar and focus our efforts on what we do know.

However, for the sake of our students we need to acknowledge our “elephants” in the room and begin to trust our colleagues. A climate of collaboration can be nurtured among teaching professionals. This risk-taking climate takes time and requires sensitive leadership. Group norms need to be established and practiced to ensure success. But, the results will be worth the efforts.

What Should Students Know and When?

At first blush, teachers will latch onto to Common Core Language Strand Standards. Fine as a starting point and undoubtedly more rigorous than previous state standards which tended to emphasize grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction only in the writing context; however, standards only offer a basic blueprint for grammatical instruction. The devil is in the details. Defining these issues in meaningful ways that will impact both instruction and learning necessitates detailed conversations. We need to get specific.

It makes sense to establish a set of skills and expectations to be mastered at each grade level. Defining a specific year-to-year instructional scope and sequence (the Common Core Standards are far too generic) with colleagues provides a game plan and also defines the content for assessment. See the following author tag for a comprehensive instructional scope and sequence for Grades 4-8. These skills and expectations need to be hammered out in the context of vertical teaming and articulation. The complexity of English grammar and the recursive nature of grammatical instruction necessitate grade-to-grade level discussion and consensus-building.

At my middle school, we began the conversation with seventh and eighth grade teams. We then got release time to meet with our elementary and high school colleagues. We began the process of building a scope and sequence to help us move students from Point A to Point B to Point C. Our goals were to adopt a common academic language, establish grade-level expectations, and build in review to address the recursive nature of grammatical instruction. We found much more common ground on these goals than many of us had expected, especially because we have not addressed instructional strategies at this point of the conversation.

How Do We Know What They Know and Do Not Know?

Having agreed to 72 skills and expectations for our middle schoolers in our comprehensive instructional scope and sequence, we then began designing diagnostic assessments to inform our grammatical instruction. Our criteria for the diagnostic assessments included the following: The assessments must specifically focus on the 72 “common ground” components of our instructional scope and sequence. The assessments must be whole-class, easy-to-administer, easy-to-grade, and easy-to-record. The assessment components should be “teachable.” One such set of diagnostic assessments, based upon 72 “common ground issues” that we are using as starting points are my own multiple-choice Grammar and Mechanics Assessments.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Having established what students need to know and when, and having developed diagnostic assessments to determine what students do and do not know, the real fun begins. At this point, we are beginning the process of sharing the instructional strategies that seem to best meet the needs of our students. Explicit or implicit instructional strategies? How can we establish benchmarks to formatively assess skill acquisition?  How can we differentiate instruction, according to the results of our assessments?

The author of this article, 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.

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

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,