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Posts Tagged ‘teaching strategies’

Ten Start-up Tips for New Teachers

New teachers can “make or break” their school year in the very first days and weeks. Here are 10 start-up tips for new teachers that will ensure success and prevent costly mistakes. And check out the wonderful links following the 10 tips: Free Teaching Resources and Blogs, Professional Journals and Magazines, and Professional Organizations for Teachers.

1. Learn names quickly. You’ve got three days to know every student’s name and how to pronounce each correctly. This task is essential for establishing relationships and for classroom management. Try name games, such as “Let’s Go on a Cruise.”

The teacher says her first and last name and what item she plans on taking on a pretend class cruise. The teacher’s item should begin with the starting sound of her first name. The teacher calls on students to say both their first and last names and the item they wish to bring along on the cruise. If a student correctly selects an item that matches his name, he “can go.” If not, he must wait until the other students try and his “turn” comes again. After one round, or the next day, the teacher can select an item that matches her last name.

2. Get student information on an Excel® spreadsheet or on index cards. Parent names, parent signatures, all telephone numbers, all email contacts, learning challenges, student birthday, student hobbies/interests, and enough room to enter any future parent contacts with dates and brief summaries will build effective relationships and serve as you “go to” files. Make it your goal to get all important information in one place for “one-stop” shopping. Relying on multiple file sources is unmanageable. A little organization time now will save a lot of time later.

3. Make your first parent contact a positive one. Find something worthwhile to say about each of your potential “problem” students as soon as possible. The second phone call about “Tommy’s ongoing behavioral issue” will find a much more supportive parent after an initial “praise call.” Ask parents for tips as to how you can best address any of their potential concerns.

4. Desk arrangement should reflect your level of comfort and expertise in class management. Although your desk arrangement certainly will impact instructional strategies, such as cooperative groups or Socratic Seminars, your first priority is classroom management. Students can’t learn if they can’t listen, see, and participate appropriately. Individual seating placement is crucial. Never be afraid to change a student’s seat to improve behavior. Common strategies include the following: isolation from friends, placement next to quiet students, moving next to the teacher’s desk. Other more extreme placements can work, such as partial cubicle/corral seating, with parental support.

5. Diagnose only what you plan to directly address or what is essential to your initial instruction. Not all diagnostic information needs to be gathered at the beginning of the year. For example, elementary, middle, and high school teachers need to know whether their students can read the instructional materials. A simple one-minute fluency assessment in the grade-level textbook can give a social studies, science, or English teacher essential knowledge about which students will struggle with that text. Even new English teachers may wish to hold off on diagnostic phonics, reading comprehension, and spelling assessments until they are equipped and prepared to differentiate instruction according to the diagnostic data of these tests. Add on expertise one layer at a time. Teaching something thoroughly well is much better than teaching many things poorly. After all, what counts is student learning, not what looks good on a diagnostic matrix.

6. Ask to observe your teaching colleagues in their classrooms. Let it be known that you “have a lot to learn’ and that you want to improve your teaching craft. Praise fellow teachers every chance you get. Develop relationships with your colleagues on both the personal and professional sides, but have sensible limits on the former. Pay special attention to your relationship with the school secretary, office staff, and custodian. Practice random acts of kindness at every opportunity. Attend, but guard your behavior at the Holiday Party and bring something decent to staff potlucks.

7. Dress for success. New Teachers need every psychological bit of leverage available with students, parents, and administrators. Veteran teachers may snicker in their sweats or tennis shoes, but just smile and continue to dress above the level of the norm.

8. Avoid gossip and gossipers in the teacher staff room. Comments will always come back to you. Stay unerringly positive and avoid teacher cynicism.

9. Arrive early for everything and stay late, when you can. Show your work ethic, but guard your off-time and family to avoid burn-out. Ask colleagues to share strategies that lessen their work load, such as grading some, but not all, of student work.

10. Join and be actively involved in teacher professional organizations, such as the teacher union and associations relevant to your subject area. Attend workshops and move up the salary schedule with post-graduate work as soon as possible. However, consider focusing your studies to gain specific credentials, rather than just taking any course that looks fun, easy, and is inexpensive. You never know where your educational career will take you, but an administrative credential will always serve you better than a range of basket-weaving courses.

Free Teaching Resources and Blogs

Library of Congress – Resources organized for teachers. It’s all here. Warning! You can spend hours here and just begin to appreciate what is here. Our national repository of knowledge.

First Year Teacher Program – The Reading Rockets First Year Teaching Program is a free online course for new K-3 teachers. The self-paced course includes ten modules that cover effective strategies and techniques for the classroom.

English Companion – This year’s EduBlog Award Winner. Talk with the experts in the field of secondary ELA.

New Teacher Survival Guide – Scholastic provides a New Teacher Survival Guide to novice teachers who are looking for resources, tools, and tips for the classroom. The guide also offers a newsletter and a new teacher helpline.

ED.gov Survival Guide – The Department of Education Survival Guide for New Teachers offers tips on communicating and working with veteran teachers, parents, principals, and teacher educators. The guide also links to helpful resources around the web.

Classroom 2.0 – Great articles, not limited to, but focusing on technology in the classroom.

New Teacher Center – This national organization is dedicated to supporting new teachers and improving student learning. Site offering include news, stories, and information about upcoming education events.

Teachers Network – The Teachers Network site offers a special section just for new teachers. The section includes lesson plans, new teacher how-to’s, and web mentors who can offer more help.

Pennington Publishing Blog – 200+ grammar, reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, study skills articles from a reading specialist. Great free ELA/reading assessments. Even spelling songs! One of the best sites on the Web.

The Teacher’s Corner – The Teacher’s Corner is a good place for new teachers to find lesson plans, worksheets, teaching tips, and other teaching resources. The site also provides a forum to connect with other educators and a job board.

The Educator’s Reference Desk – The Educator’s Reference Desk offers a wide range of dependable resources, including 2,000+ lesson plans and 3,000+ links to educational information around the web.

Education World – Education World provides lesson plans, practical information for new teachers, regular columns, employment listings, principal profiles, a search engine for educational sites, and many other useful resources.

Lesson Plans and Teaching Strategies – Created by California State University-Northridge, this web page links to hundreds of tested lesson plans and articles on teaching strategies and classroom management.

Teachers.net – Teachers.net is a comprehensive teacher’s resource. Site includes teacher chat boards and mail rings, lesson plans, classroom project ideas, articles from teachers around the world, and a job board.

TeacherTube – TeacherTube was created so that educators would have a place to share teacher videos, lesson plan videos, and other instructional materials. The site is a good place for new teachers to find teaching tips, classroom management strategies, and curriculum guidance.

Teacher Lingo – Teacher Lingo is an online community for educators who want to connect over the web. Community resources include lesson plans, a message board, and a place for teachers to share and publish blogs.

TeachAde – TeachAde provides free articles, videos, lesson plans, and other teaching resources. The site also serves as a space for teachers to meet and network online.

Teachers First – The Teachers First site provides a long list of education-related professional associations and organizations that provide teacher resources and support.

Meet Me at the Corner – Virtual Field Trips for Kids – New Kid-friendly episodes every two weeks. Links to fun websites and a Learning Corner of questions and extended activities about each show.

New Teacher Resource Center – Wonderful freebies and sound advice for new teachers.

Professional Journals and Magazines

Educational LeadershipWebsite: http://www.ascd.org/frameedlead.html
Description: Educational Leadership discusses issues of literacy from the administrative perspective. All teachers should be more familiar with how educational administrators view issues and trends in teaching language arts.Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Website: http://www.reading.org/publications/jaal/
Description: This International Reading Association journal concentrates primarily on the literacy of adolescents and adults. Articles on reading and writing research are combined with practical teaching strategies for the classroom teacher. Book reviews, too.Language Arts
Website: http://www.ncte.org/
Description: This journal is published by the National Council of Teachers of English. It deals with language arts issues for teachers of preschool to middle school age students. It has both theoretical and practical articles.Phi Delta Kappan
Website: http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kappan.htm
Description: Phi Delta Kappan publishes articles on educational research and leadership. Current issues and trends in education are thoroughly discussed.

The Reading Teacher
Website: http://www.reading.org/publications/rt/
Description: This International Reading Association journal deals with reading and language literacy at all levels. It has articles on recent literacy research and practical applications for the classroom.

Reading Online
Website: http://www.readingonline.org/
Description: An online journal of theory and practice sponsored by the International Reading Association. This is a user-friendly journal with terrific Web resources.

Teacher Magazine
Website: http://www.edweek.org/tm/
Description: Teacher Magazine discuses issues affecting schools today. It also has plenty of helpful articles on teaching strategies.Online Journals

Education Week
Website: http://www.edweek.org/
Description: Current issue plus archives. You can register for e-mail updates. Also contains a link to Teacher Magazine.

Teaching K-8
Website: http://www.teachingk-8.com/
Description: Intended to supplement the print magazine, not duplicate it. Contains teaching ideas, loads of links.

Professional Organizations for Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The California Literacy Inc. is the nation’s oldest and largest statewide adult volunteer literacy organization. Its purpose is to establish literacy programs and to support them through tutor training, consulting, and ongoing education.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(CATE)

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

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

The 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

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

Five Tips To Increase Silent Reading Speed and Improve Reading Comprehension

Many people do not read well because of poor silent reading habits. Correcting these poor reading practices and replacing them with good reading practices will improve both reading speed and reading comprehension. You can become a better reader by practicing these tips.

1. Improve reading posture and attitude. Reading is not a passive activity. Your body position has much to do with your level of engagement with the text. Reading in bed is wonderful for putting you to sleep, but the prone position is not conducive to engaging your mind with a textbook or article. Sit up straight in a straight-backed chair at a desk or table with good lighting and keep your feet flat on the floor. Place two hands on the reading. Not perfectly comfortable? Good! Reading is not supposed to be relaxing; it is supposed to be stimulating. Establish a purpose for your reading, and be realistic and honest with yourself. Not everything should be read with the same reading mindset. Are you reading the article just to tell yourself or others that you did so? Are you reading it to pass a test, to be able to talk at a surface level about the subject, or for in-depth understanding?

2. Improve concentration. First of all, turn of the iPod® and find a quiet room. Anything competing with full concentration reduces reading speed and reading comprehension. Consciously divest yourself from the thousand other things that you need to or would rather be doing. Good reading does not involve multi-tasking. Stop taking mental vacations during your reading. For example, never allow yourself a pause at the end of a page or chapter—read on! Minimize daydreaming by keeping personal connections to the text centered on the content. Cue yourself you quickly return to the text when your mind first begins wandering. Begin with short, uninterrupted reading sessions with 100% concentration and gradually increase the length of your sessions until you can read for, say 30 minutes. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your reading attention span will take time to improve. Take a short, pre-planned break away from your reading area after a reading session. Don’t read something else during your break.

3. Improve reading rhythm. The reading pace should be hurried, but consistent. This does not preclude the need to vary your reading speed, according to the demands of the text, or the need to re-read certain sections. But, do not read in a herky-jerky fashion. Use your dominant hand to pace your reading. Keep three fingers together and pace your reading underneath each line. Move your hand at a consistent, but hurried rate. Intentionally, but only briefly, slow down when reading comprehension decreases. Using the hand prevents re-reading or skipping lines and also improves comprehension. Shortening the stroke of the hand across the page, after practice, will also help expand peripheral vision and improve eye movement.

4. Improve eye movement. Reading research tells us that good readers have fewer eye fixations per line. When the eyes move from fixation to fixation, there is little reading comprehension. So, focus on the center of the page and use your peripheral vision to view words to the left and right when you are reading columnar text, such as newspapers, articles, etc. Focus one-third of the way into the text line, then two-thirds of the way, for book text. Again, you may need to work up to these guidelines by adding on an additional fixation point, until you can read comfortably.

5. Improve interactivity. Good silent reading comprehension is always a two-way conversation between author and reader. The text was written by a person—so personalize your reading by treating the reading as a dialogue. This mental conversation improves concentration and comprehension. Prompt yourself to converse by challenging the author with How? and Why? questions. Ask What Do You Mean? Make predictions as to where the plot (if narrative), or argument (if persuasive), or sequence (if expository) will lead. Make connections to other parts of the text or outside of the text.

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

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

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

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

Four Critical Components to Successful Reading Intervention

What are the key ingredients of a successful reading intervention program? Various reading intervention models have been implemented in different educational settings to address the needs of remedial readers. Although the variables of budget, teacher expertise, staffing, room, and age of learner impact the design of a reading intervention program, the following generalizations may assist in decision-making.

1. Successful remedial programs begin with well-supported and highly-valued teachers with excellent classroom management skills, who have a passion for remedial students and are committed to diagnostically-based instruction. Teachers are assisted by instructional assistants, volunteer tutors, or parents. Administrators/counselors consider reading intervention as high priority and assist teachers with parental support, behavioral issues, and paperwork. There is school-wide support for the reading intervention program and a team approach that ignores territorialism. Students are placed and receive quality instruction according to assessed needs, not labels. Special education, English-language learner, and Title I program teachers are willing to place their students according to the same diagnostically assessed needs in the reading intervention program.

2. Class composition and placement are carefully considered. Students are placed in reading intervention classes by assessed needs, not labels such as age, special education or language status. Placement is based upon diagnostically-based reading assessments and not just standardized tests. Normed and criterion-referenced tests, as well as language placement tests, can serve as “first cut” sorting instruments, but need to be confirmed by reliable reading diagnostic assessments. Using “teachable” reading assessments will best match the assessments to the curriculum. Additionally, student and parent buy-in are critically important components. Conferences and carefully crafted contracts are necessary, though time-consuming, pre-requisites for successful remediation. Both students and parents need to see positive pay-offs, such as credits and privileges to motivate successful participation. The reading intervention program is not a dumping ground for behavioral problems. Students with behavioral challenges and reading deficits need to be placed in classes with both of these instructional needs determining placement.

3. Sufficient time needs to be allotted for remedial reading intervention. A minimum of 60 minutes per day, throughout the school year (and preferably during summer sessions) is necessary for most remedial students to make significant progress. Some students will need to be on a multi-year plan; however, significant inroads on life-long remedial readers can be achieved with effective reading intervention instruction and good student participation. Administrators and/or counselors must be willing to adjust school and individual student schedules to optimize reading intervention. The schedule and school-wide personnel must be committed to flexibility. Students will progress at different rates and class assignment needs to reflect this. Students will arrive mid-year and will need placement.

4. A research-validated curriculum with thorough assessment and progress monitoring components is essential. Curricula that are easily manipulated and can be supplemented by informed teacher judgment will serve the interests of remedial reading students. The curricula should never supplant the expertise and informed judgment of the teacher. Instructional materials should be both teacher and student-centered. The instructional strategies should be able to be quickly mastered by teachers with little advance preparation. Diagnostic and formative assessments that don’t consume valuable instructional time are essential to inform instruction and to monitor student progress. Targeted practice activities that directly address the diagnosed reading deficits and teach to mastery are needed. Short, high-interest, leveled reading passages that don’t dumb-down content, nor make remedial readers feel like juveniles, are essential to motivate these students in a successful reading intervention program.

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 , , , , , ,

Top Ten Reasons to Teach Phonics

Teachers and parents often ask me if children learn to read in different ways. The short answer is, of course, they do. Some children have learned to read through explicit and systematic phonics; others have learned to read in a sight word-based “look-say” approach; some have learned to read via memorization of onsets and rimes; still others have learned to read via osmosis, i.e. they just seemed to “catch on.” However, I usually re-phrase their question as “Should children learn to read in different ways?” At that point my answer will change.

Our reading and spelling system is based upon the alphabetic code. It certainly makes sense to teach children to read how our system has been designed. If the student experiences difficulties, we have back-up strategies to reach the end-goal of literacy.

Top Ten Reasons to Teach Phonics

1. Phonics is an efficient way to teach reading.

There are only 43 common speech sounds (phonemes) in English and these are represented by about 89 common spellings. Learning the phonics code produces the biggest learning bang for the smallest instructional buck.

2. Phonics works.

The swing away from “whole language” to phonics-based instruction over the last 35 years has vastly improved reading test scores on nationally normed tests.

3. Phonics is the fastest way to learn how to read.

Reading is not a developmentally acquired skill that naturally derives over time from lots of reading (Adams, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Foorman, Francis, Novy, & Liberman 1991). Learning the code is the quickest way to learn how to read accurately and independently. Non-readers can independently read simple decodable text after minimal instruction.

4. Phonics makes students better spellers.

Because explicit phonics instruction teaches recognition, pronunciation, and blending of the sound-spelling patterns, students are better equipped to apply those same patterns to spellings.

5. Phonics requires less rote memorization.

The “Dick and Jane” reading method requires memorization of hundreds of words. Phonics makes use of prior knowledge (the sound-spelling relationships) to apply to new learning.

6. Phonics works better for students with learning disabilities.

Students with auditory and visual processing challenges learn best from the structure of explicit phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.

7. Phonics works better for English-language learners.

Phonics instruction relies on phonemic awareness and the connection of speech sounds to spellings. Phonics builds upon and adjusts that connection, rather than abandoning reading instruction already gained in the primary language.

8. Phonics works better for remedial readers.

Effective diagnostic assessments can easily determine which phonics skills have been mastered and which have not. Gap-filling simply makes sense. Remedial readers have strengths to build upon—they don’t need to start from scratch.

9. Phonics makes students smarter.

Interesting research shows that phonics-based instruction can actually change brain activity, resulting in significant improvements in reading (Flowers, 2004). Shankweiler, Lundquist, Dreyer, and Dickinson (1996) noted that differences in comprehension for upper elementary students largely reflected levels of decoding skill.

10. Phonics learning builds self-esteem and gets results.

Because progress is so measurable, students can quickly see their improvement in assessment data, and more importantly, in reading.

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.

“A very thorough phonics program. I believe it can also be used based on students’ ability levels. If you are looking for a supplementary resource, or a primary resource, this is the one! Thank you!” Sarah Hasbrook

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 , , , , ,

Should We Teach Phonemic Awareness to Remedial Readers?

The question of teaching phonemic awareness to remedial readers has often been framed as a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986 as well as Yopp, 1985 concluded that phonemic awareness is a prerequisite of learning to read, while Ehri, 1979; Read, Yun-Fei, Hong-Yin, & Bao-Qing, 1986 found that phonemic awareness is a consequence of learning to read. The question is relevant, because if reading brings about phonemic awareness, then remedial reading programs should focus on listening comprehension and fluency practice rather than upon explicit phonics and phonemic awareness instruction.

What it is… Phonemic awareness is the basic understanding that spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds called phonemes. There are about 40 common phonemes in English.

What it is not…Phonemic awareness is not exactly phonological awareness (a broader term). It is not simply auditory discrimination, which differentiates between sounds. It is not phonics because it is not applied to letters.

Why don’t some students learn this skill in their early years?

Somewhere between 20 and 40% of the population does not naturally develop phonemic awareness. Current research seems to indicate that there are medical and genetic factors that contribute to this inability (Grossen, 1997).

Can remedial readers learn phonemic awareness?

If no explicit instructional strategies could be found to help students learn phonemic awareness, the implicit “teach reading first” approach would be warranted. However, an important study by Bhat, Griffin, and Sindelar (2003) found that middle school remedial readers do benefit from phonemic awareness training, although not as much as do younger learners. The implication of this important research is that if this skill can be learned through explicit instruction, then it would make sense to teach it in remedial reading instruction.

Additionally, because speech sounds differ among languages, phonemic awareness and phonics acquisition are more challenging for English-language Learners (ELLs).* However, research has shown that ELLs are able to transfer phonological awareness skills from their primary language to English, and positively benefit from phonemic awareness training (Quiroga, Lernos-Britton, Mostafapour, Abbot, and Berninger, 2002). Depending upon the primary language, many phonemes may match those in English. For example, Spanish and English share more phonemes than not.

So, should we teach phonemic awareness to remedial readers? Absolutely. The web and your bookstore have appropriate diagnostic assessments and instructional activities to teach this essential skill.

Are there reliable and valid phonemic assessments?

The author of this article has developed a set of phonemic awareness and alphabetic awareness assessments. These unique assessments are given “whole class” and the author has corresponding activities to teach to the assessment-data.

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 to Use Context Clues to Improve Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary

Learning how to use context clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words is an essential reading strategy and vocabulary-builder. Identifying context clues in reading is made easier by looking for the key context clue categories within the context of an effective step-by-step strategy. So, here’s the strategy:

When you come to an unknown word, apply the steps of the FP’S BAG SALE strategy in the following order until you get a good clue about the meaning of an unknown word.

Finish the sentence.

See how the word fits into the whole sentence.

Pronounce the word out loud.

Sometimes hearing the word will give you a clue to meaning.

Syllables–Examine each word part.

Word parts can be helpful clues to meaning.

Before–Read the sentence before the unknown word.

The sentence before can hint at what the word means.

After–Read the sentence after the unknown word.

The sentence after can define, explain, or provide an example of the word.

Grammar–Determine the part of speech.

Pay attention to where the word is placed in the sentence, the ending of the word, and its grammatical relationship to other known words for clues to meaning.

The context clue categories:

Synonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of a synonym.

Synonyms appear in apposition, in which case commas, dashes, or parentheses are used.

The wardrobe, or closet, opened the door to a brand new world.

Antonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of an antonym.

Antonym clues will often use Signal Words e.g., however, not, but, in contrast

Example: He signaled a looey, not a right turn.

Logic–Your own knowledge about the content and text structure may provide clues to meaning.

Logic clues can lead to a logical guess as to the meaning of an unknown word.

Example: He petted the canine, and then made her sit up and beg for a bone.

Example–When part of a list of examples or if the unknown word itself provides an example,

either provides good clues to meaning. Example clues will often use transition words e.g., such as, for example, like

Example: Adventurous, rowdy, and crazy pioneers all found their way out West.

Download this strategy and two accompanying worksheets with answers.

Get the Context Clues Worksheets FREE Resource:

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, Writing , , , , , ,

How to Teach Sight Words

Some teachers have been led to believe that teaching sight words is antithetical to explicit systematic phonics instruction. I would argue that a reasonable approach to reading instruction would focus on phonics and supplement with sight words and rimes instruction.

Why Teach Sight Words?

Sight word instruction involves rote memorization of non-decodable high frequency words (outlaw words), word families (rimes), and common Greek, Latin, and English affixes (sight syllables). Although most of the rimes and sight syllables are decodable, their high frequency in text makes rote memorization desirable. The goal is reading automaticity.

Sight word instruction is not a substitute for explicit, systematic phoneme awareness and phonics instruction. The “Look-Say” reading method is not an efficient nor effective reading methodology.

Why is sight word instruction important?

Because older students generally have a more advanced vocabulary and bank of sight words than do younger students, it is important to draw upon these strengths to improve reading ability. It would not be wise to “start from scratch” with remedial readers. Teachers shouldn’t narrow instruction to solely remediate phonemic awareness and phonics deficits. Remedial students should quickly “fill in the gaps” as indicated by sight word diagnostic assessments through concentrated practice. The teacher should teach to these deficits concurrently with other program components.

Why don’t some students know the sight words and how does this affect their reading?

Some students have auditory processing, visual processing, or language processing problems which interfere with rote memorization of sight words. Inability to discriminate between speech sounds (phonemes) may have prevented fully developed phonemic awareness. Students may have difficulty in identifying the symbols or with the spatial arrangement of letters in words. Others may have problems connecting the alphabetic symbols to meaning.

Since phonemic awareness is a prerequisite to effective reading, students who lack this ability will have severe problems learning how to pronounce words sound by sound (decoding) and spell words (encoding). Inability to automatically process non-decodable outlaw words and non-decodable sight syllables retards reading fluency. Students spend time trying to pronounce words and syllables that are impossible to decode. Inability to rapidly recognize the analogous relationships of the rimes also retards reading fluency.

Can remedial readers with learning disabilities learn sight words?

Yes. The phonemic awareness and phonics instructional strategies will help students build on their strengths to ameliorate their relative weaknesses. A multi-sensory instructional approach will be particularly beneficial. Individual sight word study cards with large print can assist remedial reading students.

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 , , , , , ,

Characteristics of Pre-Teen Learners

Pre-teen learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. Teachers and parents can significantly enhance the learning of students this age by understanding the cognitive and social characteristics of pre-teen learners. Using the right instructional strategies to maximize the learning advantages and address the learning challenges of pre-teen learners can make all the difference in their success.

Pre-Teen Cognitive Development

By ages 9, 10, and 11, most students are able to analytically process information and think for themselves. Piaget classified students of these ages as being in the “concrete operational stage.” Thinking in concrete terms, these students have difficulty with abstract concepts. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Willing to try new things
  2. Curious and willing to explore new ideas
  3. Want immediate gratification
  4. Desire recognition and praise for achievement
  5. Like hands-on learn-by-doing activities
  6. Perform well with many brief learning experiences
  7. Have quickly changing interests

Pre-Teen Social Development

At these ages, most students are rapidly developing a social awareness and are exploring how they fit into relationships. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Prefer interacting with members of own sex
  2. Feel comfortable in a structured learning environment
  3. Seek role models in older children or in media idols
  4. Demand a system of fairness in the home, in games, and in the classroom
  5. Want to be liked by friends
  6. Desire increasing independence–but want and need adult help

Pre-Teen Instructional Strategies

Although less concerned than older students about the labeling that takes place, when a pre-teen is identified as a remedial reader, the teacher still needs to be mindful of student self-perceptions and those of their peers. A few talking points to address with these young learners may prove helpful:

  • “All students need help in some areas.”
  • “Some students are good at ___________, while others are good at ___________.”
  • “This class is not for dumb kids; it’s for kids who just missed out on some reading skills.”
  • “You aren’t in this class forever. As soon as you master your missing skills, you are out.”
  • “You will learn in this class. I promise.”

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.TRS

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

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

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

Characteristics of Middle School Learners

Middle school learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. Teachers and parents can significantly enhance the learning of students this age by understanding the cognitive and social characteristics of middle school learners. Using the right instructional strategies to maximize the learning advantages and address the learning challenges of middle school learners can make all the difference in their success.

Middle School Cognitive Development

By ages 12, 13, and 14, most students have begun developing the ability to understand symbolic ideas and abstract concepts. According to Piaget’s classifications, students will range in development from the concrete operational stage of development to the ability to the formal operational stage. In fact, studies show that brain growth slows down during these years, so cognitive skills of learners may expand at a slower rate; however, refinement of these skills can certainly be reinforced. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Curious and willing to learn things they consider useful
  2. Enjoy solving “real-life” problems
  3. Focused on themselves and how they are perceived by their peers
  4. Resists adult authority and asserts independence
  5. Beginning to think critically

Middle School Social Development

Most middle schoolers experience conflicting values due to their changing roles within their family structure and the increasing influence of peers. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Need to feel part of a peer group, consisting of boys and girls, and are influenced by peer pressure and conformity to their group
  2. Prefer active over passive learning activities that involve working with their peers
  3. Need frequent physical activity and movement
  4. Need adult support, guidance, and calm direction

Middle School Instructional Strategies

Middle school students are very concerned about the labeling that takes place, when one is identified as a remedial reader. Labels and stereotypes are both externally imposed (by other students and, sometimes their parents) and internally imposed (by the students themselves). Lack of reading ability causes more self-defeating damage to students’ self-esteem as students grow older and the academic gap between themselves and good readers widens. Middle school teachers need to be extremely mindful of student self-perceptions and those of their peers. A few talking points to address with middle schoolers may prove helpful:

  • “All students need help in some areas.”
  • “This class is not for dumb students; it’s for students who just missed out on some reading skills.”
  • “Unfortunately, some of your past reading instruction was poor; it’s not your fault that you have some skills to work on.” a.k.a. “blame someone else”
  • “You will learn in this class. If you come to class willing to try everyday, you will significantly improve your reading, I promise.”
  • “You will be able to chart your own progress and see what you are learning in this class.”
  • “You aren’t in this class forever. As soon as you master your missing skills, you are out.”

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.TRS

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

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

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

How to Lead Effective Group Discussions

Knowing how to lead effective group discussions is a vitally important skill for both the classroom teacher and the corporate executive. Knowing some tricks of the trade will increase student/audience participation and prevent avoidable boredom from rearing its ugly head.

Transitions and Pacing

Transitions between questions are important in leading group discussions. A good group discussion leader builds upon what the audience says of importance and maintains a rhythm and flow to the discussion. A skilled discussion leader knows when to pepper the discussion with brief commentary and when to allow the audience to control the transitions. Audience members can be taught to respond to the previous answer and then move on.  They can also be taught to disagree agreeably and avoid an ad homonym argument. Paraphrasing is an important skill that can be practiced in group discussions.  Ending the discussion while there is still interest (and hands raised) can be done by announcing, “We can take three more comments.” If the discussion is bombing, end it quickly. There is no use in kicking a dead horse.

Discussion Management

Physical positioning is important when eliciting audience answers. Make sure that responses can be heard by every group member by moving to the opposite side of the room or cupping your hand to your ear or by asking “Can you hear him or her?” to distant audience members. Participants need to know that they are not just addressing the leader, but that they are also speaking to the entire group. Reinforce this by occasionally asking for another audience member to paraphrase someone else’s response.  Don’t, however, use this as a weapon to catch those “napping.”  Ask, “What do you think about that?” or “Who disagrees with that statement and why?” or “Can someone add to that?”

Frequently, good group discussions can sometimes break into parts, with smaller groups discussing the subject such as in dinner conversation.  If planned, or controlled, a “Pair-Share” can be effective; however, if prolonged, audience members will tend to wander into off-topic conversations or distracting behaviors. Usually, the movement of the leader to the location of the conversationalists will frequently extinguish the behavior without interrupting the flow of discussion. Proximity controls behavior.

In a discussion, it is sometimes helpful to alternate between sexes, between those of differing perceived abilities or job functions, or even among different ethnic groups to ensure that all are receive fair hearings. Picking labeled 3 x 5 cards or popsicle sticks (in the school setting) will ensure equitability. Audience members should be forewarned that they might be called upon even though their hands are not raised, so they should practice good listening strategies. Sometimes it is effective to begin a discussion without raising hands with the leader calling upon the audience members. Explain calling on participants without raising hands allows for the leader to fairly choose among all, and that it provides “wait time” so that those who do not think as quickly on a particular question can have enough time to develop their thoughts.

Dealing with over-zealous audience members can present a problem, especially during “wait times.” Interrupt interrupters with comments such as “Let’s give everyone a chance to reflect on this point.” In the school setting, forewarn students that you never pick those who shout “Oooh, ooh, ooh,” “Pick me, pick me!” or wave hands. Students who raise their hand too often can be assigned a limited number of “discussion star” moments per discussion to prevent their monopolization of the discussion.

Modeling Appropriate Discussion

Body language is extremely important in a discussion leader. Communicate openness and good listening skills by making eye contact, not turning your back on the speaker, and listening to the entire train of thought.  Interrupt only if the speaker is off target or goes on a tangent. Avoid folding your arms or putting your hands in your pockets. By not repeating student answers, we stress the importance of a student-centered discussion. This also forces students to listen to each other. Occasionally it will be important to translate or even paraphrase a particularly long student response, but do so sparingly. Ask others to do this, if necessary. Encourage participants to make eye contact with each other by reminding audience members to “talk to them, not just me.”

Praising and Correcting

Praising should be catered to the response, rather than to the individual. Specific praise that teaches is better than a general blessing. For example, “I like how you compared such and such to the idea in the last chapter” is better than “Super, duper, most excellent answer!”

Incorrect responses need to be dealt with honestly, clearly and quickly. Group discussion leaders who strive to maintain the self-esteem of the individual by praising or validating incorrect responses run the risk of confusing the participant and the rest of the learners and disrupting the scaffolded nature of a well-planned group discussion. It is better to say a simple “No,” than “Not quite,” “Good try,” or “Can someone add to that?”

Getting the Whole Group to Participate

It is important to develop a consistent “wait time” to allow and encourage the whole group to think through an answer after each question.  Easier questions need less wait time than harder ones.  This models careful, considered thought, rather than, as many group discussions are all too often a race of the quick wits. Allow silence to be understood as a normal course of events in a discussion.  Fill the silence only to clarify a question, if you believe that it was not understood, or to encourage more participation.  How long of a “wait time” is a matter of teacher judgment.  As a rule of thumb, if at least half of the hands are not raised in the group, then there is a problem in the question sequencing, question wording, or the perceived pay-off is not worth the effort.

Regarding pay-off, audience members need to know that their participation in class discussion is an important part of their overall grade* or evaluation. Otherwise, many audience members will avoid participation or perceive the group discussion as being of minimal importance. In the school setting, rewards such as grades, extra credit, treats, stickers, privileges are all weapons which the creative teacher can employ to motivate class participation in discussions. In the business setting, clever discussion leaders can also provide rewards. Short term, explicit rewards tend to work better than long term ones.

*In the classroom, one pay-off method that words well is to have a graded discussion in which the teacher selects a student recorder to score the points earned. This frees the teacher up to lead the discussion without worrying about properly crediting responses. After a correct student response, the teacher signals the recorder with the forefinger and the recorder places a tally mark next to the name of the student.  If the response is particularly insightful or directly responds to the response of another student, the teacher may signal two fingers, for two tally marks. The latter must, of course, be accompanied by a resonating class “oooh!”  A good feature of this technique is that it tracks student responses.  During class discussion, the teacher can survey the hash marks to determine who is failing to contribute or contributing excessively.  It is also a very objective means of grading such a subjective student performance area.  Students tend to perceive this graded discussion as being quite fair.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

Study Skills , , , , ,

How to Teach the Essay Introduction

Although the three components of the essay introduction (introducing the topic, engaging the audience, and transitioning to the thesis statement) would seem to suggest a three-sentence paragraph, this application may work nicely with some essays, but not with all. The problem with teaching formulaic introductory paragraphs for argumentative (CCSS W 1.0) and informational-explanatory (CCSS W 2.0) essays is that the square peg does not always fit the round hole.

Teaching students how to write an essay introduction is challenging work. The thesis statement is not usually the issue; most teachers do a fine job of teaching the most important sentence of the essay. More often, teachers need help teaching their students how to introduce the topic and engage the audience. Some teachers refer to these introduction strategies as the hooklead-in, or transition. The instructional challenge is that some introduction strategies work for some writing tasks and some work for others. Students need to learn a variety of introduction strategies to begin their essays and transition into their thesis statements. The following introduction strategies and examples will equip teachers with a flexible, not formulaic approach to teaching How to Write an Essay Introduction.

Introduction Strategies: DQ REPS BC

1. Definition: Explains the meaning of an unfamiliar term or makes a general essay topic more specific.

Examples: Prior to the Civil War, the term popular sovereignty referred to the policy of allowing the voters of individual states to determine whether slavery should be legal or not. The issue of sports-related concussions requires special consideration with youth contact sports.

2. Question: Asks your audience to think about why the essay topic is important or relevant.

Example: Why has the President issued the executive order at this point of his administration?

3. Reference to Common Knowledge: States an idea or fact that is known and accepted by your audience in order to build consensus.

Example: Most Americans favor some form of tax reform.

4. Expert Quotation: Provides an insightful comment about the essay topic from a well-known authority.

Example: Former Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, called youth e-cigarette smoking “a major public health concern.”

5. Preview of Topic Sentences: Lists the main point from each topic sentence before or within the thesis statement.

Example: Both positive consequences and negative effects of the new law require close examination.

6. Surprise: States an unexpected fact or idea, one that is unknown to your audience, or one that provokes curiosity about the essay topic.

Examples: Women live longer than men. Few Americans know that the number of Supreme Court Justices has changed throughout history. The report offers new clues about how to improve memory.

7. Background: Describes the relevant problem, historical circumstances, or literary context of the essay topic.

Examples: Gang-related murders have increased dramatically over the last decade. Over the past 100 years the average increase of Arctic temperatures has nearly doubled that of the rest of the world. In Sharon Creech’s novel, Walk Two Moons, the main character, Salamanca, learns to cope with the unexpected death of her mother. 

8. Controversy: Sparks interest because many might disagree with what is being said.

Example: However, freedom of speech extends to the rights of speakers as well as to the rights of protesters.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Essay Introductions

Do…

  • Use the DQ REPS BC strategies which best match the topic and tone of your essay. For example, the Expert Quotation and Controversy introduction strategies might serve as perfect lead-ins to this thesis statement: State and local governments should pass legislation banning the use of plastic grocery bags. However, the same two introduction strategies would probably not be used as lead-ins to this thesis statement: Americans have changed taste preferences for their favorite ice cream flavors.
  • Use the DQ REPS BC strategies which best match the purpose and scope of the writing task. For example, a five paragraph argumentative essay would not include references to the argumentative strategy of the writer, but a half-hour argumentative speech certainly should. A five paragraph informational-explanatory essay would not include a separate introductory paragraph on the research methodology, but a five page research paper might necessitate such an explanation.
  • Use the DQ REPS BC strategies which best match your audience. For example, the Background introduction strategy may be essential if writing a response to literature essay to an audience unfamiliar with the novel; however, identifying the main characters and setting may be unnecessary or even condescending to an audience of students and teacher who have already read the novel. Furthermore, the Reference to Common Knowledge introduction strategy might be necessary for an audience of fourth graders, but not for eighth graders.
  • Place the thesis statement last in short essays. The audience (your reader) expects the purpose or point of view of the essay to be in this position. Don’t disappoint your audience unless you have a specific reason for placing the thesis statement elsewhere.

Don’t…

  • Make unreasonable statements. For example, absolute words such as neveronly, and always and causal connection words such as becauseresults, the reason for, caused, created, changed, led to are rarely accurate and often suggest a lack of objectivity in the writer.
  • Pad the introductory paragraph with overly general statements or say what does not need to be said. For example, The fact of the matter is that Americans have differences of opinions on this issue. Of course, Americans believe in freedom and justice.
  • Be uncertain or apologetic. For example, saying “it may or may not be true” or “more research needs to be done to reach a firm conclusion” does not build confidence in your audience that your essay will be convincing or informative.
  • Use anecdotes for short essays. For example, take this often-used anecdote: “When Abraham Lincoln was working as a clerk in a store, he once overcharged a customer by 6 1/4 cents. Upon discovering his mistake, he walked three miles to return the woman’s money.”  This anecdote might work nicely for a long essay or speech on the subject of honesty, but not in an introductory paragraph for a short five paragraph essay. The anecdote might serve better as evidence in a body paragraph. Plus, confusing narrative elements with exposition when establishing the voice of the essay in the introduction can be confusing to the audience.

The Big Picture

Think of writing an essay introduction much as how a prosecuting attorney might design an opening statement. The attorney would take time to consider which introduction strategies would best fit the nature of the case, the character of the defendant, and those listening and deliberating in the courtroom. The attorney begins by explaining the crime. (The crime is the topic.) Next, the attorney connects that crime to the defendant and engages the jury. (The defendant and jury are the audience.) Finally, the attorney states the assertion (or claim) that the defendant is guilty of the crime. (The assertion or claim of “guilty” is the attorney’s thesis statement.) Now that you have mastered How to Teach the Essay Introduction, your students will need the evidence strategies to convince their juries. Check out the FE SCALE CC to learn how to teach these types of evidence strategies.

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Get this resource plus 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in Teaching Essay Strategies. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions (works great with Microsoft Word and Google Docs).

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How to Teach the Essay Conclusion

Few teachers feel comfortable teaching students how to write a conclusion paragraph for an essay. Simply re-stating the thesis and summarizing the main points of an essay make a rather weak conclusion. In a related article on How to Teach the Essay Introduction, I compare the essay introduction to a prosecuting attorney’s opening statements. Using the same courtroom scene, the essay conclusion can be compared to the attorney’s closing arguments.

If the prosecuting attorney followed his high school English teacher’s advice to “give a finished feel to the essay” by adding a conclusion paragraph that re-states the thesis and summarizes the main points, the closing arguments would be as follows:

“As I said in my opening statement, the defendant is guilty of grand theft auto. The fingerprints on the stolen car, the DNA evidence on the driver’s seat, and the two eyewitnesses conclusively prove the defendant to be guilty.”

Most defense attorneys would relish following such a weak closing argument with their own more effective closing arguments.

It’s not that re-stating the thesis and providing a summary of main points are poor conclusion strategies… The point is that by themselves, they do not accomplish the purpose of an essay conclusion paragraph: to analytically comment, synthesize, and make judgments about the evidence presented in the body paragraphs.

Plus, the conclusion strategies which work for some essays will not work for all essays. Teachers need to teach a variety of conclusion strategies, so that student writers can match the appropriate strategies to the essay topic and evidence presented. Formulaic conclusions often wind up trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

The following conclusion strategies will help you learn how to teach the essay conclusion strategies which are appropriate to the writing task.

Conclusion Strategies GQ SALE SC

Generalization-Broadens a specific point of the essay into a more general focus.

Example: The issue of state lawmakers refusing to vote on controversial issues by encouraging statewide votes brings up the question as to whether our system of representative democracy still serves a purpose.

Question for Further Study-Asks about a related topic or question that is relevant, but beyond the focus of the essay.

Example: If concussions present such a danger to professional football players, why do schools and communities continue to support youth football?

Statement of Significance-States why the proven thesis statement is important or relevant.

Example: With the extinction of one species, the web of nature may be disrupted in unexpected ways.

Application-Applies the proven thesis statement to another idea or issue.

Example: If celebrities and politicians are excused from the consequences of lying to authorities, students may assume that lying to their parents or teacher should be excused as well.

Argument Limitations-Explains how or why your conclusions are limited.

Example: Although the evidence clearly suggests that the student cheated on this test, it does not prove that the student  cheated on previous tests.

Emphasis of Key Point-Repeats specific evidence and explains why it is the most convincing or important evidence.

Example: Most importantly, slavery caused the Civil War because it was the one division between the North and the South which could no longer be compromised.

Summary Statement-Lists the main points of the essay.

Example: Her natural talent, work ethic, and luck contributed to her surprising success.

Call to Action- Challenges the reader to take a stand, make a difference, or get involved.

Example: The evidence suggests that public protest may stop this abuse of the mayor’s power. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Essay Conclusions

Do…

  • Re-state the thesis as the first sentence in your conclusion paragraph. Although redundant and unnecessary in a short argumentative or informational-explanatory essay, the audience (the reader) expects to be reminded of the thesis and the re-statement signals the concluding paragraph.
  • Use the GQ SALE SC strategies which best match the purpose and scope of the writing task. For example, a five paragraph informational-explanatory essay on trending ice cream flavors would not include a Statement of Significance or Call to Action; however, an argumentative essay on changing the electoral college system of electing the President certainly could use these strategies.
  • Comment on and evaluate evidence. For example, not all evidence is equally convincing. Commenting on the quality of evidence and prioritizing evidence is a mark of good scholarship and writing.
  • Synthesize and apply evidence. For example, “The combination of unseasonably warm storms and lack of levee maintenance contributed to the flooding.” The sum of the evidence parts can be greater than the whole.

Don’t…

  • Make unreasonable statements. For example, absolute words such as neveronly, and always and causal connection words such as becauseresults, the reason for, caused, created, changed, led to are rarely accurate and often suggest a lack of objectivity in the writer. Instead, use qualified modifiers such as maymightprobably, most likely, generally, etc.
  • Simply repeat. A cleverly worded thesis re-statement will transition to the analysis, insights, and judgments of an effective conclusion paragraph. Even the Summary Statement should be selective, not repetitive.
  • Add new evidence. For example, the conclusion paragraph is not the place to add on “forgot to mention” or “Additionally” or “one more” statements.
  • Begin the conclusion paragraph with unnecessary transitions. Avoid phrases like “in conclusion,” “to conclude,” “in summary,” and “to sum up.” These phrases can be useful–even welcome–in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You’ll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious (Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University).

The Big Picture

Think of an essay conclusion as a vital part of demonstrating how you have proven your point of view in an argumentative essay or achieved the purpose of your essay in an informational-essay.

Want to post eight colorful classroom posters of the Essay Conclusion Strategies in your classroom?

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Get this resource plus 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in Teaching Essay Strategies. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions (works great with Microsoft Word and Google Docs).

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How to Use Numerical Values to Write Essays

Using numerical values to identify and apply expository writing structure has proved an effective tool in identifying expository text structure and helping writers organize essays. The numerical values eliminate the writing jargon that varies from teacher to teacher and curriculum to curriculum. Instead, writers simply apply the implicit hierarchy of the number system to that of reading and writing. Writers just seem to intuitively “get” the idea of a number system applied to their expository writing in essays.

The Teaching Essay Strategies curriculum uses following number system:

(1) for the introductory strategies of an essay introduction—for example, a definition or a preview of the topic sentences.

(2) for the thesis statement that “talks about” the introduction strategies.

(3) for the topic sentences that “talk about” the thesis statement.

(4) for the major details that “talk about” the topic sentence.

(5) for the support details that “talk about” the major details.

(6) for the conclusion strategies—for example, a thesis re-statement or summary.

For Developing Recognition of Text Structure

Try analyzing expository reading by numbering the sentences. Critique the writing by analyzing the structure and whether there is sufficient evidence, e.g. enough (5s) to back the (4s).

For Essay Writing

Using your own writing prompts, practice varying sentence order within the numerical hierarchy to help students develop a flexible writing style to address the demands of the writing prompt and improve the quality of your essays. Try the following paragraph organizations and watch your students improve their writing structure and recognition of text structure at the same time.

1. (3)-(4)-(4)

2. (3)-(4)-(4)-(4)

3. (3)-(4)-(5)-(4)-(5)

4. (4)-(5)-(3)-(4)-(5)

5. (4)-(5)-(4)-(5)-(3)

6. (4)-(5)-(4)-(5)

7. (3)-(4)-(5)-(4)-(5)-(4)-(5)

8. (3)-(4)-(4)-(4)-(5)

9. (3)-(4)-(4)-(5)-(4)-(5)

10. (3)-(4)-(5)-(4)-(5)-(5)

11. (Transition Statement)-(3)-(4)-(5)-(4)-(5)

12. (3)-(4)-(5)-(4)-(5)-(Concluding Statement)

13. (1)-(1)-(2) added to any two of the above body paragraphs

14. (6)-(6)-(6) added to any two of the above body paragraphs

15. (1)-(1)-(2) added to any two of the above body paragraphs (6)-(6)-(6)

Teachers may also be interested in these articles by Mark Pennington: How to Write an IntroductionHow to Write a Conclusion, and How to Use Writing Evidence.

Check out this complete writing process essay to see a sample of the resources provided in Teaching Essay StrategiesThe download includes writing prompt, paired reading resource, brainstorm activity, prewriting graphic organizer, rough draft directions, response-editing activity, and analytical rubric.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision and rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies

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

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How to Write Body Paragraphs

A fourth grade teacher wisely discourages her students from beginning sentences with Because because sentence fragments will result. Example: Because I am learning to write. An eighth grade teacher wisely encourages his students to begin sentences with Because because sophisticated complex sentences will result. Example: Because I am learning to write, the teacher should have different instructional approaches to adjust to the maturity of the student. Both teachers know how to teach to the developmental levels of their student writers. When an eighth grade student complains about the fourth grade teacher teaching something wrong, I smile and ask if that teenager would answer the following question the same way to a fourth and eighth grader: Where do babies come from? Obviously it makes sense to teach on a needs to know basis.

Teachers certainly need to consider the age of the student writer when teaching the structure and components of the multi-paragraph argumentative (CCSS W 1.0) and informational-explanatory (CCSS W 2.0) essays. This is particularly important when teaching How to Write an Essay Introduction. The following introduction strategies will equip teachers to have a flexible approach to teaching students How to Write an Essay Introduction.

Many writers have not learned how to write body paragraphs for an essay, article, formal research paper, or business letter. All too often, students only received this limited instruction about how to write body paragraphs: “Write a topic sentence; write major detail sentences; then, support the major detail sentences with minor detail sentences.” Not much help with that limited instruction…

The following strategies will help you write learn how to write body paragraphs that will be appropriate to the writing task, provide pertinent evidence to prove your thesis, and also show off your writing skills. The CeF SCALE memory trick will help remind you of the evidence strategies you need to use on timed writing tasks. Not every evidence strategy fits the purpose of every writing task, so learn and practice these options to increase your writing skill-set.

CeF SCALE Evidence Strategies (Think Centigrade Fahrenheit) 

  1. A comparison means to show how the subject is like something else in a meaningful way. (C)
  2. An experience used as evidence may be a commonly known event or an event of which there is limited knowledge. (e)
  3. A fact means something actually said or done. Use quotes for direct or indirect quotations. (F)
  4. A statistic is a numerical figure that represents evidence gained from scientific research. (S)
  5. A counterpoint states an argument against your thesis statement and then provides evidence against that argument. (C)
  6. An appeal to authority is a reference from an authority on a certain subject. (A)
  7. Logic means to use deductive (general to specific) or inductive (specific to general) reasoning to prove a point. (L)
  8. An example is a subset typical of a category or group. (E)

Body paragraphs are organized around the topic sentence, which is the main point, reason, or argument to prove the thesis statement. Always place your topic sentence at the beginning of each body paragraph. Writing research indicates that the topic sentence is placed at the beginning of the body paragraph 80% of the time in published works, so don’t re-invent the wheel. Write in the way your reader expects to read.

Then, use the CeF SCALE evidence strategies to provide the evidence you need to support your topic sentence. Think of writing body paragraphs much as a prosecuting attorney uses evidence to convince a jury that the defendant is guilty of the crime. Connect your body paragraph evidence strategies with effective transition words to maintain coherence. The body paragraph should flow together as one whole. Every word should move the reader toward the demanded verdict, which is your thesis statement.

Use a variety of evidence to support your topic sentence in each paragraph. I suggest that two or three types of evidence per body paragraph is most effective. A good attorney uses a wide variety of evidence. Limiting evidence to one form will weaken your overall argument and not win your conviction. Think of the O.J. Simpson’s “Trial of the Century.” The prosecution overly relied on DNA evidence and failed to convince its jury. All it took was “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” to provide enough doubt to the jury to acquit the defendant.

After composing the topic sentence, flesh out each evidence strategy in a compound-complex sentence or two separate sentences. Then, analyze the evidence in another sentence. Of course, sometimes it is also appropriate to do the reverse: state a major detail that addresses the topic sentence and then provide the evidence strategy to support that detail.

A good body paragraph might be structured in this way:

  • Topic Sentence
  • Evidence Strategy #1 Sentence
  • Analysis Sentence
  • Evidence Strategy #2 Sentence
  • Analysis Sentence
  • Major Detail
  • Evidence Strategy #3 Sentence

Generally, avoid concluding statements in short essays. Concluding statements are helpful when used in longer research papers, following several paragraphs organized by one umbrella topic sentence.

I suggest that you take the time to pre-write before drafting any writing task. Compose your thesis statement first; then, brainstorm the body paragraphs. Next, draft the body paragraphs, skipping space to later write your introductory paragraph. Then, write the introduction. Finish the writing with your conclusion paragraph.

Now you have the right strategies to make your case, using a variety of effective evidence. Using the CeF SCALE evidence strategies will help you convince your jury.

Check out this complete writing process essay to see a sample of the resources provided in Teaching Essay StrategiesThe download includes writing prompt, paired reading resource, brainstorm activity, prewriting graphic organizer, rough draft directions, response-editing activity, and analytical rubric.

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Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision and rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies
Find 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets and quickly move students from simple three-word paragraphs to complex multi-paragraph essays. With 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources, the teacher can differentiate instruction with no additional prep with Teaching Essay Strategies.

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Eight Great Tips for Teaching Writing Fluency

With the inclusion of essays on high-stakes tests such as the SAT® and ACT®, as well as many state standards tests and high-school exit exams, the need to improve writing fluency has recently surfaced as a desired goal. Which approaches to writing fluency work best?

1. Teach students to read a variety of writing prompts. Expose students to different content area and writing domain prompts. For example, using social science, literature, and science content with informational, expository, analytical, and persuasive domains. Teach students to read the writing prompt twice—the first time for understanding and the second time to circle the subject and highlight key words.

2. Give students ample practice in turning writing prompts into effective essay topic sentences. “Thesis Turn-Arounds” can be a productive “opener” to any lesson in any subject area. For example, if the prompt reads “Analyze the causes of the Civil War,” students could begin their theses with “Many causes contributed to the Civil War.”

3. Give students practice in developing quick pre-writes to organize a multi-paragraph writing response. Teach a variety of graphic organizers and review how each is appropriate to different writing prompts.

4. Give students practice in writing introductory paragraphs after pre-writing. Give students practice in writing just one timed body paragraph to address one aspect of the essay after pre-writing.

5. Provide immediate individual feedback to students with brief writers conferences.

6. Use the overhead projector to use critique real student samples. Write along with students and have them critique your writing samples.

7. Teach how to pace various allotted essay times. For example, the SAT® essay is only 25 minutes. The Smarter Balance and PAARC tests provide unlimited writing time. Brainstorm and allocate times before a full essay writing fluency for the following: analysis of the writing prompt, pre-write, draft, revisions, editing.

8. If a brief reading passage is part of the background for the writing task, teach students to annotate the passage with margin notes as they read.

Teachers may also be interested in these articles by Mark Pennington: How to Write an IntroductionHow to Write a Conclusion, and How to Use Writing Evidence.

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

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How to Improve Writing Parallelism

Writing parallelism refers to the repeated usage of words and grammatical structures in a well-designed pattern. Parallel structures assist the comprehension of the reader and provide a memorable rhythm to the writing.

Most all writing is structured and writing parallelism improves writing structure. The structure changes according to the domain of the writing, but when an author consistently follows a plan, the reader can clearly follow what the author intends to share or to prove.

Hints to Improve Writing Parallelism

  1. Repeat key words throughout an essay to help the reader maintain focus.
  2. Use the same grammatical structures for phrases within lists, for example, verb endings.
  3. Repeated transitions can also produce interesting writing parallelism.

One of the greatest examples of writing parallelism in American literature is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

-Carefully read the address and then examine the phrases listed below to identify the writing parallelism Review the text to see how the parallel structures are repeated.

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground.

a new nation

conceived in liberty

we are engaged

so conceived

that nation

we can not dedicate

-Now, pick out the writing parallelism in the remainder of the text on your own.

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.

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

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How to Identify Subjects and Predicates

English-language arts teachers do spend a lot of time getting students to identify and use subjects and predicates properly. These are the two major parts of the sentence. In fact, every complete sentence must have a subject and predicate.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on subjects and predicates. Remember that every sentence must have a subject and predicate. It’s important to know how to identify subjects and predicates. Learning how to identify subjects and predicates will help students and employees comprehend sentences and avoid sentence fragments and run-ons in their writing. Knowing how to identify subjects and predicates will also allow students to manipulate sentences for greater sentence variety. For example, good writers strive to write 50% of their sentences without sentence subject openers. There are other ways to construct a sentence other than SUBJECT-PREDICATE-OBJECT.

Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson (Common Core Language Standard 1.0) and study the examples.

The subject is the “do-er” of the sentence. It tells whom or what the sentence is about. The simple subject is the noun or pronoun that the verb acts upon. The complete subject includes additional words that describe the simple subject. The compound subject describes a subject with two or more nouns or pronouns. Examples: women, the older women, she and the older women

The predicate does the work of the “do-er” of the sentence. The predicate shows a physical or mental action or it describes a state of being. The simple predicate is the verb that acts upon the subject of the sentence. The complete predicate includes additional words that modify the predicate. The compound predicate describes a predicate with two or more verbs.

Examples: danced, had danced skillfully, danced and sang

How to Identify Subjects

The simple subject is usually found at the start of a declarative sentence. To find the subject of the sentence, first identify any prepositional phrases and eliminate the nouns and pronouns found in these phrases from consideration. The subject of the sentence is not part of a prepositional phrase. Frequently, in imperative sentences, the simple subject, “you,” is implied (suggested, not stated).

How to Identify Predicates

To find the predicate, first identify the subject and ask “What?” The answer to this question should be the predicate. The predicate usually follows the subject in a sentence. However, it can be placed before the subject in a question (Was it your mother’s purse?), in an implied (suggested, not stated) sentence (Look out!), or in a phrase or clause at the beginning of a sentence to add special emphasis (Even more interesting was the fact that she knew it would probably rain).

Practice the advice about with the following examples:

Simple Predicates

He thought of an idea. (thought)

She was a nice lady. (was)

An angry man tried to run me off the road. (tried)

Complete Predicate

He always thought of an idea. (always thought of an idea)

She was a nice lady. (was a nice lady)

An angry man tried to run me off the road. (tried to run me off the road)

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a complete subject and a complete predicate.

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).

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How to Avoid Procrastination

To avoid procrastination, learn how to develop a Procrastination Prevention Plan. Remember what your father used to say? Procrastination means to put off until tomorrow what you could be doing today. He was right. But did he give you the tools to develop a plan that will help replace bad habits with good ones? Here is a workable plan with the tools to help you learn how to avoid procrastination.

But first, take a moment to figure out why you are procrastinating. People usually procrastinate for one of these reasons:

  1. “I don’t want to do it.” The goal may be difficult and take significant effort or time. Or you might be just plain rebellious or lazy.
  2. “It’s not worth it.” The pay-off for achieving the goal may not be considered worth the effort.
  3. “It just doesn’t feel right.” You might think that it isn’t the right time or set of circumstances to begin. You might be waiting for the magic fairy to make you want to get started.
  4. “I might fail or succeed.” You might be reminded of a past failure or even a past success at which there is a high level you are expected to achieve.
  5. “It’s someone else’s responsibility or fault.” Playing the blame game can certainly prevent you from taking personal responsibility and action.

Step outside of yourself and honestly respond to your own reasons as to why you are procrastinating. Now, practice some tough self-talk. Tell yourself that “Excuses are unacceptable and must be ignored to achieve results.”

The Procrastination Prevention Plan

  1. To avoid procrastination, first set a well-defined goal that is realistic. Begin practice by starting small. Limit your goal to one task that is achievable. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to implement any plan and achieve success. For example, if you were earning a “D” grade after nine weeks in a math class, if would probably not be realistic to expect that grade to rise to an “A” within the next two weeks, no matter the extent of your efforts. A much more realistic goal would be to raise that grade to a “C” within that time period. It takes a while to dig yourself out of a ditch that you’ve taken nine weeks to dig.
  2. Next, make your goal specific and measurable. Write down your goal. General goals rarely effect change. Instead of “My goal is to do better in math,” try “My goal is to get a “B” or better on my math test in two weeks.”
  3. Share your goal with people that will pester you about your progress toward achieving that goal. Ask for their support. For example, tell your math teacher, your best friend, and your parents about the “B” you plan to achieve.
  4. The next step is to find the expert help to develop a strategy for achieving your realistic and specific goal. The expert help might be your math teacher in the above example, or a tutor, or a parent, or a friend. Show your written goal to the expert and ask for specific help about what to do first, next, and thereafter. Arrange a time to check-in with the expert soon after you start your plan to evaluate your progress and to ensure that your plan makes sense.
  5. After getting expert advice as to how to achieve your goal, set rewards before you begin to practice. Everyone works better toward a goal when rewards have been clearly defined. For example, set aside money to purchase a new video game once you have earned that “B.” Also establish mini-rewards to motivate practice in achieving that goal. For example, set aside a favorite snack to munch on after you have completed the daily practice toward your goal.
  6. Get started. The longest journey begins with a single step, but you have to take that step. An object at rest, tends to stay at rest. However, an object in motion, tends to stay in motion. You will start today.
  7.  Be flexible and willing to adjust your goal or how you are practicing to achieve that goal. Talk to your expert again, if you do not see the progress that you had planned. Sometimes a small tweak in a plan can make all the difference. Thomas Edison failed a thousand times before he was successful the one time that he invented the incandescent light bulb.
  8. Evaluate once your goal has been reached or not. Celebrate and take your reward, if you achieved your goal. If you did not achieve your goal, go back to your expert and brainstorm what went wrong. Set a new goal and begin immediately.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

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Characteristics of High School Learners

High school learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. You certainly can “teach an old dog new tricks” by understanding the cognitive and social characteristics of high school learners. Using the right instructional strategies to maximize the learning advantages and address the learning challenges of high school learners can make all the difference in their success.

High School Cognitive Development

Most high school students have achieved the formal operational stage, as described by Piaget. These students can think abstractly and need fewer concrete examples to understand complex thought patterns. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Need to understand the purpose and relevance of instructional activities
  2. Are both internally and externally motivated
  3. Have self-imposed cognitive barriers due to years of academic failure and lack self-confidence
  4. May have “shut down” in certain cognitive areas and will need to learn how to learn and overcome these barriers to learning
  5. Want to establish immediate and long-term personal goals
  6. Want to assume individual responsibility for learning and progress toward goals

High School Social Development

High school students are experimenting with adult-like relationships. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:

  1. Interested in co-educational activities
  2. Desire adult leadership roles and autonomy in planning
  3. Want adults to assume a chiefly support role in their education
  4. Developing a community consciousness
  5. Need opportunities for self-expression

High School Instructional Strategies

High school students are still concerned about the labeling that takes place, when one is identified as a remedial reader. Labels and stereotypes are both externally imposed (by other students and, sometimes their parents), but are primarily internally imposed (by the students themselves). Years of academic failure, due to lack of reading proficiency, have damaged students’ self-esteem. Many students have lost confidence in their ability to learn. Students have developed coping mechanisms, such as reading survival skills e.g., audio books or peer/parent readers, or behavioral problems, or the “Whatever… I don’t care attitudes” to avoid the tough work of learning how to read well. High school teachers need to be extremely mindful of student self-perceptions. A few talking points with remedial high school students may prove helpful:

“Unfortunately, some of your past reading instruction was poor; it’s not your fault that you have some skills to work on.” a.k.a. “blame someone else”

“You can learn in this class. If you come to class willing to try everyday, you will significantly improve your reading, I promise.”

“I know you have tried before, but this time is different.”

“You will be able to chart your own progress and see what you are learning in this class.”

“Some of my past students were like some of you. For example, ___________ and he passed the high school exit exam after finishing this class. For example, ___________ got caught up to grade level reading and is college right now.” Personal anecdotes provide role models and hope for high school remedial readers. Any former students who have been successful will provide “street credibility” to the teacher and the class.

“You aren’t in this class forever. As soon as you master your missing skills, you are out.”

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered 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.TRS

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.

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Characteristics of Adult Learners

Adult learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. You certainly can “teach an old dog new tricks” by understanding the cognitive and social characteristics of adult learners. Using the right instructional strategies to maximize the learning advantages and address the learning challenges of adult learners can make all the difference in their success. This is particularly true with respect to remedial reading programs.

Reading intervention programs designed to differentiate intruction by building on the adult’s prior knowledge and allowing adult learners to move at their own pace have been found to be much more successful than one-size-fits-all canned programs.

Adult Learner Cognitive Characteristics

  1. Generally speaking, most adult learners share the following characteristics:
  2. Tend to be self-directed and want control over their own learning
  3. Have self-imposed cognitive barriers due to years of academic failure and lack self-confidence
  4. Can be resistant to new ideas or approaches–are less open-minded than youth
  5. Under-estimate their ability to learn
  6. Desire pragmatic and relevant instruction that they perceive as valuable
  7. Are intrinsically motivated
  8. Interpret new learning in the context of old learning
  9. Learn at a slower pace than that of youth
  10. Are very concerned about the effective use of their time

Adult Learner Social Characteristics

  1. Generally speaking, most adult learners share the following characteristics:
  2. Can be resistant to group work
  3. See teachers as peer partners in the learning process
  4. Demand teacher availability and easy access
  5. Want flexibility and see learning as secondary to other pre-occupations in their lives

Adult Learner Instructional Strategies

  1. Adult learners need to be actively included in their own evaluation of assessment data. Students set personal goals and use learning activities that directly address assessment deficits and demonstrate incremental progress toward their short-term and long-term goals. Reading workshops can easily be individualized to allow adult learners to work at their own pace.
  2. A few talking points may be helpful to bolster the confidence of adult learners and to provide the motivation needed for their success:

“Unfortunately, some of your past reading instruction was poor; it’s not your fault that you have some skills to work on.” a.k.a. “blame someone else”
“You can learn in this class. If you come to class willing to try, you will significantly improve your reading, I promise.” I will be flexible and work around your schedule.
“I know you have tried before, but this time is different.”
“You will be able to chart your own progress and see what you are learning in this class.”
“Don’t give up. Adult learners can learn. Although they sometimes learn a bit more slowly than children, they learn at a deeper and more memorable level. The pay-off will be huge for you when you complete this class.”

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered 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.TRS

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.

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