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How to Teach Reading Intervention

Teaching reading intervention is qualitatively different from teaching beginning reading. By definition, the initial reading instruction did not “take” to a sufficient degree, so things must be done differently this time around to improve chances for success. According to reading research, these chances are not good betting odds. Only one out of six middle schoolers who are below grade level in reading will ever catch up to grade level.

I have written elsewhere regarding the characteristics of remedial readers. Sufficed to say, knowing their developmental characteristics is just as important as knowing their specific reading deficiencies. Effective reading intervention instruction depends on addressing both components.

But, knowing the specific reading deficiencies is crucial. Using prescriptive diagnostic assessments that will produce the data needed to inform instruction is the one non-negotiable prerequisite. Teachers need to know exactly where their students are to take them to where they want them to be. Once administered, the reading intervention teacher is confronted with the “snowflake phenomena.” No two remedial readers are exactly alike. One has no phonemic awareness; one does not know phonics; one does not know how to blend; one lacks fluency; one is vocabulary deficient; one has poor reading comprehension; and one has poor reading retention.

Of necessity, an effective reading intervention program must be based upon differentiated instruction. A cookie-cutter program starting all students at the same level or having all students use the same workbooks or receive the same direct instruction will address some needs of some students, but not all the needs of all students. Anything less than the latter is nothing less than professional malpractice. Would a medical patient who sets a doctor’s appointment to treat a variety of maladies be satisfied with receiving the same course of treatment as every patient—ignoring some issues and being treated for issues that do not require treatment? Even the staunchest advocates of the current health care system would find this brand of medical practice unacceptable.

Regarding student placement in reading intervention, a number of factors must be considered. Chief of these must be the reductive consideration. First, if the student is placed in a special intervention class, what class is replaced? Removing a child from a literature class seems much like “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Poor readers require compensatory instruction, not just different instruction. Second, multiple measures are needed to ensure that a student needs reading intervention and that the student has a reasonable chance of success in the reading intervention class. Standardized tests can provide an initial sort; however, the student history in the cumulative records and the diagnostic assessments detailed above must be analyzed to refine the sort. Behavioral considerations are legitimate concerns; many students who read poorly tend to compensate with inattentive and disruptive behavior. These students need an intervention with a behavioral specialist that will also teach to their reading deficiencies. These students do not need another platform in a typical reading intervention class to prevent the learning of their peers.

The two most popular reading programs, READ 180 The Next Generation and Language! Live use sampling for their screening and placement assessments. Check out my article

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

comparing these two programs to my own Teaching Reading Strategies.

The greatest variable that will determine the success of a reading intervention class is the teacher. A well-trained teacher with superior management skills, sufficient reading training, and a commitment to diagnostic and formative assessments to inform differentiated instruction are the keys to success. The teacher must be the “best and brightest” on campus, not the new teacher fresh out of the teacher credential program. Reading intervention is the hardest subject to teach and requires a special teacher. The students for whom our educational system has most failed deserve no less.

So, what to teach? The task is daunting. Remedial reading is not just skills instruction or extra reading practice. Effective reading intervention involves both content and process. Reading is both the what and the how. The short answer is that the students themselves determine the what via their diagnostic assessments. The teacher decides the how through differentiated instruction. Beyond this cryptic, albeit accurate, response, certain components will no doubt require attention in a reading intervention class for any age student. Following is an instructional template that will provide a proper balance between the what and how with a brief description of the instructional component and a percentage of the class that the component will necessitate:

  • Small ability group fluency practice (emphasizing repeated readings within the group’s zone of proximal development (15%)
  • Small ability group phonemic awareness practice (10%)
  • Small ability group phonics practice (10%)
  • Individual sight word and syllabication practice (10%)
  • Guided reading, using self-questioning comprehension strategies (15%)
  • Direct instruction and whole group vocabulary development (10%)
  • Small ability group spelling practice (10%)
  • Small ability group blending practice (10%)
  • Independent reading at the individual student’s instructional reading level (10%) and for homework

Every component described above is needed to ensure a successful reading intervention program for students of all ages. All of these instructional components with support resources can be found in these two comprehensive curricula:

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

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

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

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

Visual Spelling Strategies

Spelling is primarily an auditory, not a visual skill. Visual cues should never be applied to phonetically regular words. Spelling strategies such as tracing letter shapes in sand or outlining the letters in a spelling word have long been discredited. Although visualization strategies such as picturing the spelling word and spelling it backwards may have some short term benefit, there is no transfer to other spellings. Indeed, relying on visual memorization of each individual spelling word is highly inefficient.

For example, written languages such as those used in Asia take much longer to learn. Elementary age students spend enormous amounts of time memorizing and practicing the logographic symbols/pictographs that will enable them to write their own language. In contrast, using the English sound-spelling system (the alphabetic code) which relies upon only 45 speech sounds is highly efficient. About half of English spellings exactly match their sounds.

At this point, many will be thinking “Yes, but half of English spellings do not match their sounds. True enough, but abandoning the half that works is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Instead of bemoaning the English sound-spelling irregularities and jumping ship to ill-advised spelling strategies which rely upon purely visual strategies, we need to build upon the solid foundation of the English sound-spelling system. To mix metaphors, I like to think of spelling in terms of how a batter should face his or her opponent—the pitcher. Good batters train themselves to look for the fast ball, then adjust for the curve. Good English spellers do likewise; they look to use the sound-spelling system and syllabication skills to problem-solve spellings and then adjust, as needed, to other strategies.

About 30 % of the phonetically irregular words can be taught by combining and applying the eight conventional spelling rules with the ten syllable rules. The conventional spelling rules, such as the i before e rule cover a huge amount of ground. Syllabication skills that apply the  common English, Greek, and Latin morphemes (meaning-based syllables) with grammatical inflections, such _ing cover still more ground.

The remaining 20% require rote memorization. Unfortunately for beginning spellers, many of the most common words in the top 100 most frequently used words are derived from Old and Middle-English spellings. These spellings do not match their sounds and are often referred to as Outlaw Words. Although the term conjures up images of bad guys in black hats, the term is quite accurate. These irregular spellings live outside the law of the sound-spelling system. Some of these words are pure Outlaw Words, such as once, which derives from Old and Middle-English. Other words incorporate foreign word parts that may be phonetically regular in another language, but not in English.

Common single-syllable Outlaw Words, such as once, should generally be memorized by repetitive practice. Old school game cards do the trick as do drill and kill software programs. Careful diagnosis makes sense. A good Outlaw Words Spelling Assessment is just as important to use as is an Outlaw Words Reading Assessment. After all, students should be learning what they do not know, not rehearsing what they do know.

When Visual Spelling Strategies Do Make Sense

However, troublesome multi-syllabic words that are used less frequently, such as colonel, need special treatment. Of course, many of these words are essential components to an academic vocabulary. With these words, visual spelling strategies do make sense. After all, Confucius did say a picture is worth a 1000 words.

When using a visual strategy with an unknown multi-syllabic word, the speller needs to focus on the troublesome part of the spelling. For example, with the French word colonel, the letter “c” and the ending “nel” are not the spelling difficulties. The “c” is phonetically regular, i.e., the spelling exactly matches the sound and it follows the conventional spelling rule that the initial /k/ sound followed by an “o” is spelled with a “c.” The “nel” is a common suffix covered by the syllabication rules and is also phonetically regular. Thus, the speller should build upon the known and adjust to the unknown “olo.” It is important to boost the confidence of  struggling spellers y reminding them that they know most of the word and that there is just a small bit that needs to be memorized.

Applying a colorful picture to the unknown portion of a multi-syllabic word can aid the long-term spelling memory. When associated with the vocabulary (meaning of the word), a picture can be especially memorable. For example, to memorize the “olo” in colonel, the speller could draw a head on top of the “l” with a plumed helmet and a uniform onto the “o’s,” which serve as epaulets (the colorful shoulder decorations designating military rank). Introduce this “picture spelling” with simple multi-syllabic words such as principal, in which the “pal” is incorporated into a friendly principal’s face or dessert, in which the “ss” is incorporated into a lighted birthday cake with the “s’s” serving as candles.

When used as an appropriate instructional component of a comprehensive spelling program, visual spelling strategies, such as these “picture spellings” do make sense. For example, a weekly Personal Spelling List of unknown words, derived from an effective spelling pre-test, could have a Memory Key column that requires the speller to make note of the spelling rule, syllabication rule, or “picture spelling” that will help best in word study.

Students enjoy creating these memorable Memory Keys, including the “picture spellings.” Of course, students will find the troublesome “pp” spelling in disappointment and go wild with the picture, but what is memorable for a student is not always memorable for a teacher :).

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).

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

Spelling Rules

Teachers should teach the sound-spelling system as part of a balanced spelling program. To determine the individual needs of your students, teachers need the comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment to diagnose students and plan effective instruction.

As I previously mentioned, each of the six posts will begin with a brief reflection about the instructional spelling component, follow with a rationale for teaching that component, and finish with some free instructional spelling resources. The components of each of the six posts are as follows:
1. Diagnostic Assessment 2. Sound-Spellings 3. Spelling Rules
4. Spelling Lists and Tests 5. Spelling Practice 6. Integrated Spelling and Vocabulary.

This week we explore how to teach the spelling rules.

Reflection

□ I know the key eight conventional spelling rules that work most all of the times.

□ I have an instructional plan in place to teach these spelling rules.

□ I have formative assessments in place to analyze their progress.

Rationale

Just because the English sound-spelling system works in only about 50% of spellings does not mean that there are not predictable spelling patterns to increase that percentage of spelling predictability and accuracy. Although the sound-spelling patterns are the first line of defense, the conventional spelling rules that work most all of the time are a necessary back-up.

Spelling Resources

Here are the Eight Great Spelling Rules with links to memorable MP3 songs and raps to help your students (and you) remember them.

1. The i before e Rule

Usually spell i before e (believe), but spell e before i after a c (receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor).

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/the-i-before-e-spelling-rule/

2. The Final y Rule

Keep the y when adding an ending if the word ends in a vowel, then a y (delay-delayed), or if the ending begins with an i (copy-copying). Change the y to i when adding an ending if the word ends in a consonant, then a y (pretty-prettiest).

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-final-y-spelling-rule/“>

3. The Silent e Rule

Drop the e (have-having) at the end of a syllable if the ending begins with a vowel. Keep the e (close-closely) when the ending begins with a consonant, has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, then an “ous” or “able” (peaceable, gorgeous), or if it ends in “ee”, “oe”, or “ye” (freedom, shoeing, eyeing).

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-silent-e-spelling-rule/

4. The Double the Consonant Rule

Double the last consonant, when adding on an ending (permitted), if all three of these conditions are met: 1. the last syllable has the accent (per / mit)  2. the last syllable ends in a vowel, then a consonant (permit). 3. the ending you add begins with a vowel (ed).

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-double-the-consonant-spelling-rule/

5. The Ending “an” or “en” Rule

End a word with “ance”, “ancy”, or “ant”  if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (vacancy, arrogance) or if the root ends with “ear” or “ure” (clearance, insurance). End a word with “ence”, “ency”, or “ent” if the root before has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (magnificent, emergency), after “id” (residence), or if the root ends with “ere” (reverence).

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-ending-“an”-or-“en”-spelling-rule/

6. The “able” or “ible” Rule

End a word with “able” if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (despicable, navigable), after a complete root word (teachable), or after a silent e (likeable). End a word with “ible” if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (reducible, legible), after an “ss” (admissible), or after an incomplete root word (audible).

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-“able”-or-“ible”-spelling-rule/

7. The Ending “ion” Rule

Spell “sion” for the final zyun sound (illusion) or the final shun sound (expulsion, compassion) if after an l or s. Spell “cian” (musician) for a person and “tion” (condition) in most all other cases.

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-ending-“ion”-spelling-rule/

8. The Plurals Rule

Spell plural nouns with an s (dog-dogs), even those that end in y (day-days) or those that end in a vowel, then an o (stereo-stereos). Spell “es” after the sounds of /s/, /x/, /z/, /ch/, or /sh/ (box-boxes) or after a consonant, then an o (potato-potatoes). Change the y to i and add “es” when the word ends in a consonant, then a y (ferry-ferries). Change the “fe” or “lf” ending to “ves” (knife-knives, shelf-shelves).

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-plurals-spelling-rule/

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

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

English Sound-Spellings

 

The English sound-spelling system is a reliable system for writing the sounds of the English language. True, there are plenty of exceptions, but applying the rules and adjusting for exceptions is certainly better than memorizing every word as a unique entity. Imagine having to memorize each of the Chinese characters to be able to write simple communications and most will agree that the alphabetic system serves us well.

 

Rationale

The English sound-spelling system works in about 50% of spellings. You can be a pessimist and see the glass as being half-empty or an optimist and see the glass as being half-full. I prefer the latter. The basic problem-solving strategy in spelling should not be memorizing the spellings of all words. Instead, the speller should first attempt the spellings that match the sounds of the word. After all, spelling is an auditory, not a visual process. If there is not a sound-spelling match, knowledge of spelling rules and mastery of sight-spellings should be secondary strategies.

Spelling Resources

The common sound-spellings are listed on colorful animal cards and may be downloaded free at Animal Sound-Spelling Cards.  Have your students memorize and practice the spellings on those animal cards that the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment indicates as diagnostic deficits. Check out Spelling Games for some terrific activities to practice these spellings.

 

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 (Check these fluency passages out!), 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

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

Ten Components of a Successful Spelling Program

Developing a weekly spelling-vocabulary plan that differentiates instruction for all of your students is a challenging task for even the best veteran teacher. Teachers truly want to differentiate spelling instruction, but the materials, testing, instruction, and management can prove overwhelming to even the most conscientious professional. Using this Spelling Program Checklist can help teachers re-focus  to improve their spelling instruction.

Spelling Program Checklist

1. Instructional Challenge-Diagnostic Spelling Assessments

“Each year it’s always the same. I have good spellers and bad spellers. It takes a few weeks to find out who they are. Sometimes students will get 100%s on their Friday spelling tests, but they can’t spell anything in their writing. Unlike some of my colleagues, I do teach spelling, but I just use word lists I borrowed from a few old spelling workbooks, the Rebecca Sitton ‘No-Excuse Words,’ and words from our grade level spelling bee that we have to do in the spring. I assign spelling homework, because for some reason, spelling is about the only curricular area that parents ever ask about.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I administer, score, analyze, and differentiate spelling instruction according to a comprehensive assessment which diagnoses sound-spelling strengths and weaknesses.

□ I administer, score, analyze, and differentiate spelling instruction according to a comprehensive assessment which diagnoses sight-syllable strengths and weaknesses.

□ I administer, score, analyze, and differentiate spelling instruction according to a comprehensive assessment which diagnoses non-phonetic “outlaw word” strengths and weaknesses.

□ I administer, score, analyze, and differentiate spelling instruction according to a comprehensive assessment which diagnoses high frequency words strengths and weaknesses.

2. Instructional Challenge-Remedial Spelling Students

“Rafael is one of my brightest students, but poor spelling inhibits his writing. He just can’t get down on paper what he wants to say. Rafael continually makes the same spelling mistakes in his writing, now matter how many times I red-mark them. Memorizing the list of weekly spelling words has never helped Rafael improve his spelling; year after year, he has lagged further and further behind his classmates.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I know exactly what Rafael’s spelling deficits are, according to diagnostic data.

□ I have an instructional plan in place to remediate Rafael’s deficits.

□ I pull aside groups of remedial spellers that share a common spelling deficit for practice and spelling dictations regarding that spelling deficit at least twice per week.

□ I have formative assessments in place to analyze Rafael’s progress.

3. Instructional Challenge-Accelerated Spelling Students

“Kenny is a precocious student who clearly has a knack for spelling. On his Monday pretest, Kenny rarely misses any words. I give him the challenge words from the spelling workbook, but Kenny usually knows how to spell these too. Kenny rarely makes spelling mistakes in his writing because he selectively avoids using difficult spelling words.”

Instructional Strategies

□ Beyond the grade level spelling curricula, I know exactly what Kenny’s spelling deficits are, according to diagnostic data.

□ I have an instructional plan in place to remediate Kenny’s deficits.

□ I assign advanced spelling practice for accelerated spellers like Kenny.

□ I have formative assessments in place to analyze Kenny’s progress.

4. Instructional Challenge-Spelling Tests

“On Monday’s spelling pretest, one-third of my students get most all of the words right; one-third of my students get most all of the words wrong; and one-third of my students get about half of the words correct. I give the same test on Friday. Those who study, get an easy A; those who don’t wind up getting about the same score as on their pretest.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I use the spelling pretest as a diagnostic test and differentiate instruction from that data.

□ My spelling pretest has clear sound-spelling or syllable-spelling patterns and I analyze diagnostic data according to these patterns.

□ My spelling posttests are all individualized because they are designed according to the diagnostic data of the spelling pretest and other diagnostic assessments.

□ My spelling posttest includes words that students have misspelled in their own writing.

□ My spelling posttest includes words that student have misspelled on their last spelling posttest.

□ My spelling posttest includes non-phonetic “outlaw words” that are unknown to the students according to diagnostic data.

□ My spelling posttest includes conventional spelling rules.

5. Instructional Challenge-Spelling Practice

“I use a few workbook pages that I’ve found that go with the word lists. Sometimes I use “Puzzlemaker” to create a word search. Sometimes I have the students quiz each other on their word lists. I’ve tried spelling sorts, but they don’t work with the random word lists that I use. I assign spelling practice for homework because the parents like it, and because I can save time in class for other instructional activities.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I give my students different spelling practice, according to their diagnostic strengths and deficits.

□ I teach parents (elementary school) how to help their students practice their spelling.

□ I have students practice their spelling deficits in the context of real writing.

□ I teach students how to memorize spelling words for the spelling posttest.

□ I teach students how to use mnemonic devices to memorize difficult spelling words.

6. Instructional Challenge-Spelling Rules

“The only spelling rule my students know is the ‘i before e’ rule and the one about ‘change the y to i and add “es”,’ although they get the rules mixed up a bit. Oh, and they also know some of the plural spelling rules. Frankly, I’m not sure I could name any others. I don’t know which ones are worth teaching and which ones are not.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I teach students the most-useful eight conventional spelling rules.

□ I have students memorize the most-useful eight conventional spelling rules.

□ I have students practice the most-useful eight conventional spelling rules.

□ I hold students accountable for correctly spelling words in their own writing that follow already-introduced spelling rules.

7. Instructional Challenge-Writing

“I was taught not to red-mark any spelling mistakes because this would irreparably damage a student’s self-esteem. I’ve also heard that spelling is just an editing skill that should be reserved until the last step of the Writing Process, if there’s time. Sometimes, I do make the students write out their spelling words in complete sentences. I’ve also make them write out each word twenty times. Practice does make perfect.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I have a plan in place to hold students accountable for correctly spelling already tested words in their daily writing.

□ I mark spelling errors in student writing, according to the abilities of the individual student and hold students accountable for correcting, practicing, and applying words that I mark.

□ Students keep track of unknown or challenging spelling words that they use in their writing.

□ I teach spelling editing skills in the context of authentic writing tasks.

8. Instructional Challenge-Integrated Spelling and Vocabulary

“I usually have students define their spelling words or put the vocabulary words that I pre-teach before each short story on their weekly spelling test. Sometimes I use “Puzzlemaker” to create a crossword puzzle.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I integrate spelling and vocabulary by using derivational spellings.

□ I integrate spelling and vocabulary by using etymological spellings.

□ I integrate spelling and vocabulary by using homophone (sounds the same, but spelled differently) spellings.

□ I integrate spelling and vocabulary by using homograph (spelled the same, but sounded differently) spellings.

□ I integrate spelling and vocabulary by using Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots.

9. Instructional Challenge-Integrated Spelling and Reading

“Most of my good readers are good spellers, but this isn’t always so. Some of my students say that they learned to read with phonics instruction; some of them say that they just memorized a lot of the words; others can’t remember how they learned to read. Maybe by being exposed to lot of correctly spelled words in reading, students will pick up spelling skills by this modeling.”

Instructional Strategies

□ I show how the phonics rules and help inform spelling decisions.

□ I teach students that spelling is an auditory skill, and not a visual one.

□ I teach phonics rules to those who demonstrate diagnostic deficits.

□ I teach structural analysis skills, including syllable rules and accent placement.

10. Instructional Challenge-Instructional Time

Elementary: “My administrator says we all have to teach spelling, but we have to have two hours of reading, one hour of math, one hour of social studies and science, and a few minutes of physical education. There just isn’t room for spelling-not to mention art, music, or critical thinking skills.”

Secondary: “My administrator says that spelling is a state and district standard and so we all have to teach it in our ELA classes to prepare for the high school exit exams. I didn’t become an English teacher just to teach spelling. There’s not enough time for novels as it is. Something just has to go and, frequently, it’s spelling. ”

Instructional Strategies

□ I spend at least one hour on spelling-vocabulary word study per week, in addition to vocabulary-in-context reading activities.

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

How to be an Effective Reading Specialist

As an elementary reading specialist and staff developer for five years in the Elk Grove Unified School District in Northern California, I learned from lots of my mistakes.  In the hope that prospective reading specialists, coaches, and staff developers might learn from someone else’s mistakes, I’ve jotted down a few tips. Administrators might learn a few things about professional development and site support, as well.

1. Get to know the teachers that you are working with outside of their classrooms. The staff room should be your starting point for building relationships. Your first contact should never be a classroom observation with your clipboard in hand and the principal in tow. Also, hang out with teachers while they are doing duties. Offer to take a duty assignment at random.

2. Build trust. Although your boss may be the principal or district supervisor, remind teachers that you really work for them and that what they say/share will remain in strict confidentiality (no snitchin’ to the principal). Never say a negative word about a teacher. For example, “Mr. Brown has no classroom management skills and does not teach to the standards” can be better said as “Mr. Brown really cares about improving his teaching craft, as we all do, and is working on classroom management and teaching to the standards.”

3. Be a classroom helper. Offer to help do short workshops with below level readers IN THE ROOM, so that the teacher can keep an eye on you. All teachers want help with their kids. Do individual reading screenings. Offer to help the teacher complete individual diagnostic and formative assessments. You need to earn the right to be heard.

4. Remind teachers that you are there to help and not to evaluate. Remind teachers that you work for them and that what they say/share will remain in strict confidentiality (no snitchin’ to the principal).

5. Offer to take the teacher’s class, so that the teacher can do a peer observation. Teachers rarely have a chance to see each other in action.

6. Offer to do a demonstration lesson and ask for the teacher’s critique of your own teaching and what you share. Ask for criticism and let the teacher see your vulnerabilities and weaknesses as a fellow teacher. All teachers have insecurities.  By showing that you are not perfect, you will open up the channels of communication and trust. Teachers will ask for your feedback and input on their own teaching, if they see you as an equal with the time and resources to help them.

7. Keep staff presentations short and sweet. Don’t be a know-it-all. When at all possible, enable another teacher to become the staff presentation star. Be a coach and let the players take all the credit.

8. Compliment a teacher’s teaching frequently and direct those compliments to that teacher’s colleagues and to administrators. Make teachers feel good about themselves because of you. A brief note is better than a verbal compliment. Every teacher is concerned about his or her reputation among colleagues. Build up; never tear down.

9. Run a school-wide reading incentive program and build relationships with kids. The more the kids like you, the more they will ask their teachers to have you visit their classrooms. Pop into classrooms weekly with cool reading bookmarks and rewards certificates. Eat lunch with the kids and hang out with them on the playground.

10. Find out who the most influential colleague is and start building relationships there.

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

Reading , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Spelling Is So Difficult

President Andrew Jackson once remarked, “It’s a d____ poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word!” Many Americans would readily agree. In fact, the English language is notorious for its spelling irregularities. Looking at the glass as being half-empty, it is true that only about half of our spellings exactly match their sounds.

What a crazy system, in which the word fish could be spelled as “ghoti.” That’s /f/ spelled “gh” as in rough, /i/ spelled “o” as in women, and /sh/ spelled /ti/ as in nation. Or how about the fact that the “ur” sound /ur/ can be spelled differently five times in one sentence? Her nurse first works early. Or how about the fact that the “sh” sound /sh/ can be spelled in 14 different ways? shine, sugar, ocean, tissue, ration, fuchsia, shist, pshaw, spacious, nauseous, anxious, conscious, chaperone, mansion.

However, looking at the glass as being half-full, the fact that 50% of the spellings exactly match their sounds certainly provides a helpful foundation upon which to build good spelling. We don’t have to memorize every word individually. Upon this 50% foundation, an additional 30% of spellings which conform to about eight of the most useful spelling rules can be added. This leaves about 20% of the words that must be memorized. We call these “Outlaw Words” for good reason. Jessie James couldn’t even spell his own name!

Additionally, our vocabulary is an amalgam of linguistic and historical influences. Over 50% of our academic words are built on ancient Greek and Latin word parts. French and Spanish add to our spelling lexicon as well. So, by studying languages we also improve our English spelling. If fact, spelling and vocabulary have a reciprocal relationship-spelling influences vocabulary and, conversely, vocabulary influences spelling.

So, given that our English spelling system is not simplistic, what should we do?

1.      Master the 50% foundation. The common sound spellings are very consistent. A wonderful multiple choice assessment of these patterns can be downloaded free at .

2.      Learn the eight conventional spelling rules that will add on another 30% of the spelling words that would be otherwise irregular.

3.      Memorize the common Outlaw Words. Many of these are our most frequently used words.  Make up memory tricks such as “you would rather have more dessert than a desert” or the “principal is my pal” for difficult words that do not follow the spelling patterns or conventional spelling rules.

4.      Memorize the most frequently misspelled words and commonly confused words.

5.      Memorize homophones: words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.

6.      Study the etymological (how the word was formed in its historical context) connections from Old and Middle English.

7.      Study the derivational spellings from other languages. Example: colonel from the French

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).

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

Why Teachers Have Failed Their Students in Spelling

During the 1975 to 1995 “whole language” era, teachers complied with conventional wisdom and threw out their spelling workbooks, the traditional weekly spelling and/or vocabulary test, and direct vocabulary instruction. Spelling was relegated to the role of an editing skill to be incidentally “caught, but not taught” through peer editing or, perhaps, the scientific process of osmosis. Since editing was the second-to-last chart on the teacher’s writing process bulletin board, the spelling “mini-lessons” were frequently omitted because the picture re-takes or sugar cube missions ate up all available class time. Similarly, direct vocabulary instruction was considered “rote learning” and was usually limited to pre-teaching a few, usually obscure, words before launching into the next piece of literature. Most vocabulary instruction was left, exclusively to the individually-played, implicit game of context clues “hunt and peck.” Teachers hoped that teacher read-alouds, pajama-reading-days, and the Scholastic® Book Faire would naturally develop student vocabularies.

The results of this grand experiment have clearly been disastrous in the areas of spelling and vocabulary development. Standardized spelling and vocabulary test scores are down. A significant number of students are now graduating high school and college without having mastered conventional spelling. College professors complain about having to “dumb-down” instruction to be able to communicate with a new generation of rap-talking, IM (Instant Messaging), mono-syllabic freshmen. It may be unfair, but society judges poor spellers and wordsmiths quite harshly, and we have not done a service to our students by shortchanging effective spelling and vocabulary instruction.

How Teachers Teach Remedial Spellers

Rafael is one of my brightest and more creative eighth grade students, but poor spelling inhibits his writing. He just can’t get down on paper what he wants to say. Rafael continually makes the same spelling mistakes in his writing, now matter how many times I red-mark them. Memorizing the list of weekly spelling words has never helped Rafael improve his spelling; year after year, he has lagged further and further behind his classmates.”

How Teachers Should Teach Remedial Spellers

Clearly, students like Rafael are not receiving any real spelling  instruction. Teachers should assess their students, using an effective diagnostic spelling inventory. Then, teachers need to use worksheets, word lists, word sorts, and small group instruction to teach to these diagnostic deficits in the “Within Word” consonant and vowel sound spelling stages.

How Teachers Teach Accelerated Spellers

“Kenny is a precocious fifth grade student of mine who clearly has a knack for spelling. On his Monday pretest, Kenny rarely misses any words. I give him the challenge words from the spelling workbook, but Kenny usually knows how to spell these too. If I give him the sixth grade spelling workbook, next year’s teacher won’t have anything for him at all. Kenny rarely makes spelling mistakes in his writing because he selectively avoids using difficult spelling words.”

How Teachers Should Teach Accelerated Spellers

Clearly, students like Kenny are not receiving any real spelling-vocabulary instruction. Kenny and your other grade-level or accelerated spellers need to be challenged at the “Syllable-Juncture” and “Derivational Constancy” stages of spelling-vocabulary development. These are the stages in which spelling instruction should become spelling-vocabulary word study.

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, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , ,

The Silent e Spelling Rule

The Silent e Spelling Rule

Check out the rap! The Silent e Spelling Rule

Drop the e (have-having) at the end of a syllable if the ending begins with a vowel. Keep the e (close-closely) when the ending begins with a consonant, has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, then an “able” or “ous” (peaceable, courageous), or if it ends in “ee”, “oe”, or “ye” (freedom, canoeing, eyeing).

Exceptions to the rule: acknowledgment, acreage, argument, awful, duly, judgment, mileage, ninth, noticeable, outrageous, simply, truly, wholly, wisdom

Final e Memory Rap

Drop the final e

When adding on an ending

If it starts with a vowel up front.

Keep the final e

When adding on an ending

If it starts with a consonant.

Also keep the e

When you hear soft c or g

Before “able” or “o-u-s”

Mostly keep the e

When the ending is “y-e”,

“e-e”, or even “o-e”. YEO!

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, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,

The i before e Spelling Rule

The i before e Spelling Rule

Check out the song! The i before e Spelling Rule

Usually spell i before e (believe), but spell e before i after a c (receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor).

Exceptions to the rule: beige, caffeine, codeine, conscience, deify, deity, either, feign, feint, foreign, forfeit, freight, heifer, height, heinous, heir, heist, neither, protein, rein, science, seismic, seize, sheik, veil, vein, weird

i before e Song

(to the tune of “Rig ‘a Jig Jig”)

Spell i before e ‘cause that’s the rule

Rig-a-jig-jig and away we go,

That we learned back in school.

Away we go, away we go!

But e before i comes after c,

Rig-a-jig-jig and away we go,

and when you hear long /a/. Hey!

Hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho.

The author of this song, 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.

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, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , ,

How to Teach the Alphabet

The old “Alphabet Song” has proved to be a remarkable tool to assist learning the pronunciation and sequence of the English alphabet. The melody, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, has certainly stood the test of time. As the classic introduction to phonemic awareness, most beginning readers usually “catch on” to the concept that distinct sounds correspond to graphic representations known as letters. However, a small percentage of chidren does not grasp this relationship and so the children develop a shaky foundation for the alphabetic system. This poor foundation of “shaky sand” frequently washes away when the teacher attaches sounds to these alphabetic symbols.

Additionally, the alphabetic system can present problems for many English language-learners. Many of these students may have been very good readers in their primary languages. However, their written language may not have been based on the alphabetic system. For example, the Chinese connect vocabulary to symbols in a logographic system of writing, while Ethiopians use symbols for syllables. Thus, the alphabetic code may be quite different from the way some of your students began reading and writing.

With the following instructional adjustments, those who have never fully understood and those who have never learned the sound-letter connection will grasp this concept. First, do teach the “Alphabet Song.” For middle school and high school students, use a less melodic rap tone, but still hit the key notes of the Mozart melody to access prior knowledge and improve memorization. The rap version will be perceived as less juvenile and will meet with less resistance from these learners. Always point to the lower-case alphabetic letters as you lead the singing or rapping. An overhead transparency of the lower case alphabet game cards or the sound-spelling cards, arranged alphabetically, will work nicely.

One fault of the traditional “Alphabet Song” has been the common practice of slurring together the letter sounds in legato style. Because mastery of distinct letter names and letter sequence are the instructional goals, make sure to enunciate each letter and provide space between each letter as you lead the singing or rapping. Additionally, reading specialists recommend avoiding the “l-m-n-o-p” slurring syndrome by reassigning some of the letters to different parts of the melody. To demonstrate, the “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” song, which uses the same Mozart melody, has also been revised alongside the “New Alphabet Song.”

“Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” / “New Alphabet Song”

Download “The New Alphabet Song”

Twinkle twinkle, little star,

a b c d e f g

How I wonder what you are.

h i j k l m n

Up above

o p q

Earth so high,

r s t

shining bright

u v w

in the sky.

x y z

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

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,

How and When to Teach Phonemic Awareness

Why is phonemic awareness important?

If children cannot hear and manipulate the sounds (phonemes) in spoken words, they will have a very difficult time in learning how to attach these sounds to letters and letter combinations.  The lack of phonemic awareness is the most important causal factor contributing to children with reading disabilities.  (Adams, 1990)

Phomemic awareness is the most powerful predictor of reading success.  It is more highly correlated with reading success than socio-economic status, general intelligence, or listening comprehension. (Stanovich, 1986, 1994; Goldstein, 1976; Zifcak, 1977)

How is phonemic awareness related to learning to read, and can it be taught with measurable success?

Phoneme awareness is related to reading in two ways: (1) phonemic awareness is prerequisite of learning to read (Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986; Yopp, 1985), and (2) phonemic awareness is a consequence of learning to read. (Ehri, 1979; Read, Yun-Fei, Hong-Yin, & Bao-Qing, 1986)

Several studies have demonstrated that children can be successfully trained in phonemic awareness. (Cunningham, 1990; Ball & Blachman, 1991; Yopp & Troyer, 1992)

Phonemic awareness training was shown to positively affect both reading and spelling achievement in kindergarten and first grade children. (Lundberg, 1988; Bradley & Bryant, 1983)

Who needs phonemic awareness training?

Percentages of children requiring specific training in phonemic awareness vary slightly according to different research studies, but the amount is still a significant percentage of early readers.  Ehri (1984) found 20% lacked requisite phonological awareness, Lyon (1996) cited a figure of 17%, and Adams (1990) concluded that 25% of middle class kindergartners lacked this ability.

Fletcher et al., (1994) found that poor readers most always had poor phonemic awareness.  The National Institute of Child, Health, and Human Development (NICHD) longitudinal studies support this conclusion, stating that the major problem predisposing children to having reading disabilities is lack of phonological processing ability. (Lyon, 1997)

When should phonemic awareness training take place, and how should it be introduced?

Children should be diagnosed by mid-kindergarten to see if they are able to identify and manipulate phonemes.  If early learners do not have this ability, they should be given more intensive phonemic awareness training (Ehri, 1984)

Research shows that if schools delay intervention until age seven for children experiencing reading difficulty, 75% will continue having difficulties.  If caught in first or second grade, reading difficulties may be remediated 82% of the time.  Those caught in third to fifth grades may be improved 46% of the time, while those identified later may only be treated successfully 10-15% of the time. (Foorman, 1996)

There appears to be a consensus in the research that a specific sequence of instruction in phonemic awareness is most effective for early learners.  Treiman (1992) found that children learned to be consciously aware of and were able to manipulate onsets and rimes more easily than individual phonemes.

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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