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Grammar | Teaching in the Social Context

Language Conventions Literacy Centers

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers

If we consider the traditional four communicative contexts of English-language arts (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and add on a fifth, the visual context, thanks to the interesting research of Kress and van Leeuwen, we find that language never takes place in isolation. Even when my wife talks to herself, she does have an audience (and I’m rarely included).

A few examples (with good instructional links and the related Common Core Standards) will remind us of how we teach the language interactively:

We teach students to actively listen to a speaker by asking relevant questions.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1.C
“Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.”

We teach students to speak to their audience, using specific techniques to interest our listeners.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.4
“Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.”

We teach students to engage their audience in writing assignments.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.3.A
Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

We teach students to maintain a dialog with the author when reading.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.5.4.A
Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.

We teach students to analyze media and consider the choices in terms of content, editing, and production made by, say, a filmmaker, videographer, or graphic artist.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.7
Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).

So, why are teachers so reticent to abandon teaching grammar in isolation?

Now, most of you are thinking that I’m referring to teaching grammar in isolation via drill and kill worksheets, divorced from listening, speaking, writing, and reading. I’m not. As an aside, while I certainly try to apply my grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction to the instructional subject, I (like all teachers I work with at my school) find that some grammatical instruction is most efficiently accomplished in isolation. For example, when I teach sentence variety through modeled grammatical sentence openers in the context of revising process paper drafts, I always find that some re-teaching is necessary for some students. If half of my students still don’t know the definition of an adverb, its function, proper adverbial order, and some examples, they won’t be able to use a few of my grammatical sentence openers revisions to improve their process papers.  I see no reason not to bust out a down and dirty adverbs worksheet for those seventh grade students who need it.

What I mean by teaching grammar in isolation is didactic direct instruction (teacher talks to the class) or individual students complete a grammar worksheet and turn it in to the teacher to grade instruction.

Instead of those types of isolated learning experiences, I contend that grammar is best learned, interactively, in a social context.

Not to get to hung up on definitions, but let’s cite one:

“A grammar is the rules and constraints on what can be represented. A grammar is a social resource of a particular group” (Kress and van Leeuwen).

If grammar provides the tools (“the rules and constraints”) for communication, it makes sense that these tools would best be defined, identified, practiced, and applied in the context of collaborative communication (the “social resource of a particular group”). The classroom teacher certainly provides one important source of communication, but students themselves are often an untapped source of learning. Students can learn grammar from each other.

Academic Literacy Centers for Grammar and Mechanics

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers

Literacy centers provide an ideal social context for cooperative learning about grammar: parts of speech, syntax and sentence structure, standard and non-standard usage, word choice, dialect, punctuation, capitalization, etc. Now, of course your students need the right tools. We can’t have the blind leading the blind.

How about a few interactive grammar lessons to test-drive with your students in a cooperative group or literacy center? Your download includes four grammar and mechanics lessons, the unit test (with answers), directions, and literacy center leadership roles.

Get the Four Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center Lessons and Test FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Interactive Grammar

If I’m going to entice you to read this article by offering some how-to’s and free resources to teach grammar interactively, we had best get on the same page about what we both mean by grammar.

I like to think of grammar as a community’s language tools.

The tools of grammar are usually known as language conventions. A convention means “a general agreement about basic principles or procedures; also : a principle or procedure accepted as true or correct by convention the conventions of grammar” (Merriam-Webster). The Common Core authors use “Conventions of Language” for the first two Language Strand Standards:

L.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

L.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Two other points will keep us on that same page:

  1. Teachers usually separate usage from grammar as in standard and non-standard usage, or word choice, or figures of speech, etc.
  2. Teachers usually separate mechanics from grammar and usage. By mechanics, teachers mean punctuation and capitalization. Some would also throw in spelling under this category.

Since our language conventions tools are always applied in a social context, it makes sense to teach and learn grammar how we use grammar: in the social context. Specifically, I find literacy centers to be ideal collaborative settings in which students will actually use their language skills to learn what the tool is and its purpose, be able to identify it, know how to use it, and use it a bit to see its value and, hopefully, remember it.

Academic Literacy Centers for Grammar and Mechanics

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers

For grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, I’ve developed twice-per-week, twenty-minute Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers to teach the Common Core language conventions standards

Instructional Format for Interactive Learning: The How To’s

The Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center provides 56 lessons. Grades 4–8 alignment documents follow the lessons. Each Language Conventions lesson consists of four pages and takes 20 minutes to complete. Students work collaboratively to learn two tools per twenty-minute lesson: a mechanics skill and a grammar or usage concept, rule, or skill.

The first page is in Cornell Notes format and provides the content and skills in the Mechanics Notes and Grammar and Usage Notes sections. The Links and Response sections provide online resources for additional grade-level practice. Space is provided in this section for students to list key ideas, comment, make connections, and write questions. Additional space is provided at the bottom of the lesson for students to summarize the key mechanics and grammar content or skills.

The second page duplicates the lesson text of the first page, but adds examples for the students to copy in the spaces provided on the first page. The Links and Resources sections provide online resources for extended learning (acceleration) and additional practice (remediation).

The third page provides students with practice for both the mechanics and grammar content and skills. Students individually apply the lessons with identification, error analysis, sentence revisions, and sentence combining in the writing context.

The fourth page consists of the practice answers. Students self-correct as a group to learn from their mistakes.

The program provides biweekly unit tests in which students must define, identify, and apply the tools they have learned. Students use their lessons on the test. Teachers may elect to have students take the test individually or as a group.

The FREE Resources

How about a few interactive grammar lessons to test-drive with your students? Your download includes four grammar and mechanics lessons, the unit test (with answers), directions, and literacy center leadership roles.

Get the Four Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center Lessons and Test FREE Resource:

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Writing Literacy Centers

Writing Literacy Centers

Writing Academic Literacy Centers

As most teachers have now adjusted their writing instruction and practice into the narrowed focus of the Common Core State Standards (more research and essays and less stories and creative writing), I see a renewed interest in developing the skill sets of student writers.

Teachers have, understandably, focused on the first three Common Core Writing Standards: 1. The argumentative (essay) 2. The informational/explanatory (essay or report) 3. The narrative (story). Most teachers have had professional development in these three genre and teach all three at some time within each school year.

Additionally, most teachers are now implementing Writing Standards W.6, 7, 8, and 9 by using technology for short or extended research writing projects.

However, teachers are less familiar with the other three writing standards and few are well-acquainted with the relevant language standard. Teachers usually refer to these standards as writing skills or strategies. Typically, teachers have taught these tools in isolation as writing openers/worksheets or in the writing context as mini-lessons/editing. These skills or strategies are ideally suited to literacy center (station) lessons.

Following are the often-neglected writing and language standards:

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Language

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Teachers have used three research-based strategies to teach these writing skills or strategies: 1. Frequent, short, and focused writing practice 2. Sentence revisions 3. Literary response

How to Teach to These Standards

Fortunately, #s 2 and 3 are best accomplished by #1.

Sentence Revision (called by many other names) includes quick, focused instruction and repetitive practice in precise word choice, sentence structure (grammar, usage, and syntax), and sentence variety (varied grammatical forms, sentence combining, sentence length, parallelism, etc.)

Literary Response includes learning from accomplished writers. Teachers have used both expository and narrative mentor texts for years to model how writers communicate artfully and memorably. Typically, students respond to mentor texts in different rhetorical modes (rhetorical stance: voice, audience, purpose, and form) to develop their own writing style.

If you glance back at the often-neglected writing and language standards above, you’ll see how sentence revision and literary response activities address the components of these standards and can be taught and practiced in frequent, short, and focused writing practice.

One great way to teach sentence revision and literary response writing skills is in literacy centers (stations). The social nature of collaborative writing is especially conducive to literacy centers.

 

The author of this post, Mark Pennington, provides grades 4-8 teachers with grade-level sentence revision resources and literary response resources in two instructional formats: twice-per-week writing openers (or writers workshop mini-lessons) and literacy centers.

Both sentence revision and literary response lessons are provided in Teaching Essay Strategies, the Writing Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8and in the Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLE.

Get the Writing Academic Literacy Center Sample Lessons FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Writing Skills

Writing is Taught and Caught

Writing Skills: Taught and Caught

Now that teachers have had plenty of professional development in how to write arguments (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1) and informative/explanatory texts (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2), teachers are looking at their students’ essays or narratives (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3) with a collective sigh. Students just cannot write.

Students seem to understand the content, they know the demands and constraints of the writing genre, they can dissect a writing prompt, they know the writing process… but the words they use, the sentences they construct, and the intangible feeling our student writers convey simply do not engage their readers (teachers especially).

The Problem

Many teachers are not equipping their students with the tools they need in their tool belts. Or, just as bad, teachers introduce the tools, but don’t provide the practice students need to master the tools.

The Solution

Two time-proven solutions to these problems take little time, but do necessitate some instruction and practice: sentence revisions and literary response. Writing teachers (and writing research) have found these tools to be especially helpful for developing writers.

By sentence revision, I mean the word choice and structure of our language (the grammar, usage, and syntax). It’s the how something is written (and re-written). Think sentence variety, sentence combining, grammar and proper usage in the writing context. The skills of sentence revision are primarily taught.

By literary response, I mean writing style: primarily the style of literary mentors, who not only have something to say, but know how to say it in both expository and narrative writing. Think mentor texts and rhetorical stance (voice, audience, purpose, and form). The skills of writing style are primarily caught.

Fortunately, the Common Core authors do acknowledge the importance of teaching both sentence revisions and literary response in both the Anchor Standards for Writing and the Anchor Standards for Language (highlighting my own):

Writing Anchor Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Language Anchor Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Suggestions

Keep your focus on both the content and process of writing. Maintain a balance of extended writing process assignments (especially essays and stories) and short, say twice-per-week writing skill development, especially using sentence revisions and literary response activities.

The author of this post, Mark Pennington, provides grades 4-8 teachers with grade-level sentence revision resources and literary response resources in two instructional formats: twice-per-week writing openers (or writers workshop mini-lessons) and literacy centers.

Both sentence revision and literary response lessons are provided in Teaching Essay Strategies, the Writing Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and in the Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLE.

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Writing Openers

These 112 Writing Openers are quick YouTube videos culled from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4−8 Language Convention lessons. Completely aligned to the Common Core State Standards, these simple and quick writing openers are suitable for upper elementary and middle school. Following is an overview of the 56 grammar and usage lessons and the 56 mechanics lessons.

Each of the 112 Writing Openers follows the same instructional sequence:

  • The teacher reads a brief introduction to introduce the grammar and usage or mechanics lesson focus (the lessons alternate) and the Language Strand Standard. The introduction connects to prior learning and/or defines key terms.
  • The teacher and students read the targeted grammar and usage or mechanics lesson with examples. The teacher explains and clarifies, as needed, while the students summarize the key points in composition books or on binder paper.
  • Students copy the practice sentence(s) and apply the content and skills learned in the lesson to highlight or circle what is correct and revise what is wrong.
  • Students review the practice answers, self-correct, and self-edit their work.
  • The teacher reads the writing application task and students compose a sentence or two to apply the lesson content or skill.

What’s in the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) language conventions lessons that are not provided in these 112 Writing Openers?

  1. Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) consists of five Grades 4−8 programs. Check out the comprehensive instructional scopes and sequences.
  2. Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) includes completely scripted teacher’s guide with accompanying PDF files for interactive display.
  3. The accompanying student workbooks provide the full text of each lesson to highlight and annotate. Workbooks also have the practice sentences and simple sentence diagrams for each lesson.
  4. Each lesson has exemplary mentor texts which apply the focus of each grammar and usage lesson. Students apply the grammar and usage lesson to respond to these texts.
  5. Each lesson has a grammar/usage and a mechanics formative assessment to ensure mastery of the lesson components. Students self-correct these sentence dictations.
  6. Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) has a comprehensive assessment plan including bi-weekly unit assessments in which students define, identify, and apply each grammar, usage, and mechanics lesson content or skill.

Plus, the grade-level Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) programs also include the following instructional resources in both the teacher’s guide and student workbook to ensure that your students master each of the Common Core Language Standards:

  1. Diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics assessments with recording matrices and corresponding worksheets to remediate previous grade-level (L.1, 2) grammar, usage, and mechanics Standards. Each worksheet has definitions, examples, practice, and a formative assessment.  Students self-correct the practice sections and mini-conference with the teacher to review the formative assessments.
  2. A complete spelling patterns program with weekly word lists, spelling sorts, and syllable worksheets. Plus, a comprehensive diagnostic spelling patterns assessment with recording matrices and corresponding worksheets to remediate previous grade-level (L.2) spelling Standards. Students self-correct the practice sections and mini-conference with the teacher to review the formative assessments.
  3. Twice-per-week Language Application Openers to teach and practice the (L.3) Knowledge of Use Standards.
  4. A complete vocabulary program with weekly word lists based upon the grade-level Academic Word List, multiple meaning words, context clues practice, idioms, semantic spectrums, Greek and Latin word parts, dictionary and thesaurus skills with game cards and bi-weekly unit tests.
  5. Answers to all worksheets and tests.
  6. Training videos. Check out the introductory training video.

    Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

    Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Program.

Want to purchase access to these 112 writing opener videos. Visit TeachersPayTeachers here.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language

Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach theCommon Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

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Latin Abbreviations for Time

How to Teach the Latin Abbreviations for Time

Latin Abbreviations for Time

Latin Abbreviations for Time

Play the quick video lesson HERE and click the upper left back arrow to return to this lesson.

Common Core Language Standard 2

We all know that a.m. and p.m. are used to show time. But what do these abbreviations stand for and why do we use them? Before we get to our lesson and answer the question, it’s helpful to understand a bit about how time works. Since the earth is a sphere, it has 360 degrees. In our 24 hour clock each hour would be 15 degrees. The math is simple: 360 divided by 24 = 15. The imaginary longitude lines that go from the North to the South pole are called meridians when we talk about time. Each meridian has 15 degrees, or 1 hour of the 24 hours. Since the earth spins on its axis, but the sun does not, time changes as we go from morning (before noon meridian) to evening (after noon meridian).

Today’s mechanics lesson is on using Latin abbreviations for time. Remember that periods end declarative statements, such as “That is my pen” and imperative commands, such as “Give me my pen.”Periods are also used to abbreviate words and phrases.

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

Use periods to abbreviate the Latin expressions we use to indicate before noon and after noon. Antemeridian is the time from midnight until noon and is abbreviated as “a.m.” Postmeridian is the time from noon until midnight and is abbreviated as “p.m.” Examples: 7:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m.

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

Practice: I woke up this morning at 7:30 AM. because I fell asleep last night at 10:00 p.m.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Mechanics Practice Answers: I woke up this morning at 7:30 a.m. because I fell asleep last night at 10:00 p.m.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write a sentence or two, using both an antemeridian and a postmeridian time. 

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

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Proper Nouns

HOw to Teach Proper Nouns

Proper Nouns

Proper Nouns             

Play the quick video lesson HERE and click the upper left back arrow to return to this lesson.                                   

Common Core Language Standard 1

Everyone knows that a noun is a person, place, or thing. But, of course, there are different kinds of people, places, and things.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on proper nouns. Remember that there are two kinds of nouns: proper nouns and common nouns.

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

A proper noun is the name of a person, place, or thing and must be capitalized. A proper noun may be a single word, a group of words (with or without abbreviations), or a hyphenated word.

Examples: John, President of the U.S., African-American

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

Practice: At the ceremony held in the State Rotunda, principal Taylor accepted the Blue Ribbon award on behalf of his students, parents, and teachers at Pinewood Middle School.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: At the ceremony held in the State Rotunda, Principal Taylor accepted the Blue Ribbon Award on behalf of his students, parents, and teachers at Pinewood Middle School.

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using both an abbreviated and hyphenated proper noun.

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

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Common Nouns

How to Teach Common Nouns

Common Nouns

Common Nouns                                                      

Play the quick video lesson HERE and click the upper left back arrow to return to this lesson.

Common Core Language Standard 1

Common nouns have two functions different than proper nouns: They are un-named and they include ideas. Because they are un-named, common nouns are more general than specific proper nouns. Common nouns include people, places, and things just like proper nouns, but they also add ideas. Think about it. Without common nouns we would have no freedom, liberty, justice, peace, or love. Maybe common nouns are the most important part of speech after all.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on common nouns. Remember that there are two kinds of nouns: proper nouns and common nouns. A proper noun names a person, place, or thing and is capitalized. A common noun is a bit different.

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

A common noun is an idea, person, place, or thing. It can act or be acted upon and is capitalized only at the start of a sentence. A common noun can be a single word, a group of words, or a hyphenated word. Use common nouns to generalize ideas, persons, places, or things.    Examples: liberty (idea), human (person), capital (place), eye-opener (thing)

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

Practice: We Americans sometimes forget that peace has been achieved by brave men and women who left their Country to fight in distant Lands.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: We Americans sometimes forget that peace has been achieved by brave men and women who left their country to fight in distant lands.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a common noun idea.

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

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