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Should We Teach High Frequency Words?

Should We Teach High Frequency Words?

High Frequency Words?

As a teacher-publisher, I am a member of quite a few Facebook groups, Pinterest groups, etc. I sell my ELA and reading intervention curriculum on my Pennington Publishing site as well on the monolith: Teachers Pay Teachers. The latter provides a Seller’s Forum, which I infrequently visit.

A seller recently posted this topic:

Sight words – Fry or Dolch? 

I have always used the Dolch list, but notice many people using the Fry list in their products.  Does your school mandate a certain one?  Do you have a preference when looking for sight word materials?

This brings up an important topic. Both the Fry and Dolch lists are high frequency word lists. Each list was developed pre-computer age by groups of grad students counting the number of recurring words in basal readers.

Speaking of the English, teachers in the United Kingdom and many in international schools refer to the high frequency words as “tricky words.” American teachers have generally coined the term “sight words” to refer to high frequency words. This term has some important instructional implications.

Should We Teach Students Sight Words to Improve Reading and Spelling?

My take is that teaching (or more likely practicing and testing) long lists of high frequency reading words (the sight words or tricky words depending upon one’s side of the Atlantic) or using them in spelling instruction is counterproductive. Apologies to Rebecca Sitton, whose list of “No Excuse Spelling Words” still graces the classroom walls of thousands of American teachers’ classrooms. Why is it counterproductive? We need to teach students to rely on the code for reading and spelling. Just as in baseball, we need to teach students to “look for the fastball, but adjust for the curve.” In other words, apply the rule, but adjust for exceptions.

Memorizing lists of 200, 300, 400, 500 high frequency “sight words” treats language acquisition as a process of rote learning and viewing each and every word in isolation. This approach falsely teaches students that every reading and spelling word is an exception. The old Dick and Jane look-say method of reading and spelling instruction has been properly relegated to the instructional dumpster; however, high frequency instruction remains a hold-out to some degree. Why is this so? My take is because “Let’s teach the words students will read and write most often” seems intuitively correct. However, intuition is not science and should not guide our instructional decisions.

But What about Non-phonetic Sight Words?

Included within the lists of high frequency words are a subset of non-phonetic words. I call the 108 (plus or minus depending on list and how one counts inflections) non-phonetic words “outlaw words”; others refer to them as “rule-breakers.” Of the 100 highest frequency English words, many are non-phonetic because they derive from Old English.

Most reading specialists would agree that the “outlaw words” should be introduced concurrently with explicit, systematic phonics instruction. For example, I introduce the 108 highest frequency “outlaw words” two at a time in my 54 Sam & Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

However, teaching these “outlaw words” alongside of phonetically regular high frequency words confuses beginning and older vulnerable readers. When we teach these “rule breakers,” we need to make clear distinctions between these words which should not be sounded-out and those which should.

*Sight words assessments (also referred to as word recognition, e.g. The Slosson Oral Reading Test) shouldn’t be confused with instruction.

Before I end, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. A few important caveats! I so see value in practicing sight recognition of sight syllables (such as Greek and Latinates, which of course do not all conform to English phonetic rules). Additionally, the approach in my programs such as Teaching Reading Strategies and Differentiated Spelling Instruction includes other non-phonetic approaches, such as rimes (word families) memorization for kids who struggle with the code and high frequency spelling patterns, conventional spelling rules, and derivational influences.

*****

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive assessment-based reading intervention curriculum, the Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLEIdeal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program. Phonological awareness, phonics, syllabication, sight words, fluency (with 128 YouTube modeled readings), spelling, vocabulary and comprehension. The 54 accompanying guided reading phonics books each have comprehension questions, a focus sound-spelling pattern, controlled sight words, a 30-second word fluency, a running record, and cleverly illustrated cartoons by David Rickert to match each entertaining story. These resources provide the best reading intervention program at a price every teacher can afford.

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

Interested in seeing how I introduce the non-phonetic “outlaw words” and my phonics instructional sequence in my reading intervention program? Want the example words to blend for each of the sound-spellings? You’ll love this FREE download:

Get the Instructional Phonics Sequence FREE Resource:

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Vague Pronoun References

Revising Vague Pronoun References

Vague Pronoun References

“They didn’t take the donuts,” Rhett told his teacher.

“To whom are you referring? the teacher asked.

“Those kids who make us get into trouble with their friends like they do all the time. You should punish them.”

“That’s horrible,” the teacher responded. “But it’s hard to punish vague pronoun references.”

Definition and Examples

A vague pronoun does not clearly identify its antecedent. An antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the pronoun refers to or re-names. Vague pronouns usually consist of four types:

  1. More than one antecedent could match the pronoun. Revise by repeating the noun. Example: Dishes were on the tables, but we didn’t need them. Dishes were on the tables, but we didn’t need the dishes.
  2. Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, or those) are used on their own. Revise by adding a noun following the pronoun. Example: That is beautiful. That painting is beautiful.
  3. The antecedent is an adjective. Revise by changing the pronoun reference from an adjective to a noun. Example: I called Jesse’s work Jesse at his work, but he never answered.
  4. The pronoun has no antecedent. Revise by adding the antecedent. Example: Although he was extremely rich, he didn’t spend it. Although he had money, he didn’t spend it.

Read the rule.

Pronouns must clearly identify their antecedents. Keep pronoun references close to their antecedents to avoid confusion.

Re-write these sentences and [bracket] the vague pronouns and antecedents.

  1. I love art galleries, especially paintings. These seems to be from the Italian artists.
  2. The books were already on the students’ desks, but we didn’t need them.
  3. I asked to speak to Maribel’s father, but she would not talk to me.
  4. Please get your paper out of your backpack and pass it forward.
  5. His math teachers taught him, but he didn’t use it in his job.

Revise the vague pronoun to clearly identify its antecedent.

Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear.

Answers

  1. I love art [galleries], especially paintings. [These] seems to be from the Italian artists.
  2. The [books] were already on the students’ [desks], but we didn’t need [them].
  3. I asked to speak to [Maribel’s father], but [she] would not talk to me.
  4. Please get your [paper] out of your [backpack] and pass [it] forward.
  5. His [math teachers] taught him, but he didn’t use [it] in his job.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Double Negatives

Using Double Negatives

Double Negatives

“I’ve never been no snitch!” Wallace said.

“So you’re saying that you have been a snitch. You used a double negative. Didn’t you learn in math that a double negative is a positive?” asked Tess.

“Math don’t teach us nothing about English, Tess.”

“I’d have to agree with you, Wallace.”

Definition and Examples

Non-standard English often differs from Standard English because of regional or cultural dialects. One form of Non-standard English is the double negative. In Non-standard English the double negative is used to emphasize the negative; however, in Standard English the double negatives can cancel each other out and form a positive. Example: I do not have no excuses. Standard English Revision: I do not have any excuses.

Read the rule.

Don’t use double negatives in essays or reports.

Re-write the sentence and [bracket] the double negatives.

  1. Don’t tell me nothing about that situation. I don’t want to know anything.
  2. Never tell nobody about your plans, so you won’t disappoint anyone.
  3. Well, I don’t want not to come visit you.
  4. I misplaced my phone. I can’t find it nowhere.
  5. She is not unhelpful, but she doesn’t have a choice not to help when asked.

Revise the double negatives.

Never write no double negatives.

Answers

  1. [Don’t] tell me [nothing] about that situation. I don’t want to know anything.
  2. [Never] tell [nobody] about your plans, so you won’t disappoint anyone.
  3. Well, I [don’t] want [not] to come visit you.
  4. I misplaced my phone. I [can’t] find it [nowhere].
  5. She is [not] [unhelpful], but she [doesn’t] have a choice [not] to help when asked.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

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

Formulaic Phrases

Formulaic Expressions

Formulaic Phrases

“That was quite the party last night!” Bebe said.

“Yes, a good time was had by all,” Sergio said. “But it was over before it really began.”

“You love your formulaic phrases, Sergio.”

“Once I find something that works, it’s all good.”

Definition and Examples

A formulaic phrase is a commonly used expression. Example: In this day and age, most people know that you can’t be too careful. The formulaic phrase is closely related to an idiom (or idiomatic expression). Example: She walked through the door. Both are considered to be figures of speech.

In both formulaic phrases and idioms, the individual words may not mean exactly what they say. Both types of expressions often suggest, but do not state, certain attitudes. The differences are that the formulaic phrase is considered over-used, but an idiom is not, and the formulaic phrase may shift its wording to suit its purposes, but an idiom does not change.

Read the rule.

Don’t use idiomatic expressions or idioms in essays or reports.

Re-write these sentences and [bracket] the formulaic phrases.

  1. No one would support that idea. You know what I mean?
  2. I know what he meant, but these days, you just can’t say that.
  3. I’ll reconsider what you say, but at the end of the day I’ll have to make my decision.
  4. We all know what that sort of thing can lead to, don’t we?
  5. It’s this, that, or the other, don’t you think?

Revise the sentence to eliminate the formulaic phrase.

It goes without saying to avoid using formulaic phrases.

Answers

  1. No one would support that idea. [You know what I mean]?
  2. I know what he meant, but [these days], you just can’t say that.
  3. I’ll reconsider what you say, [but at the end of the day] I’ll have to make my decision.
  4. We all know [what that sort of thing] can lead to, don’t we?
  5. [It’s this, that, or the other], don’t you think?

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meaningless Sentence Starters

Avoid There and Here

There and Here

“Why do we have to avoid using too many There and Here words at the beginning of sentences?” Peja asked.

There are reasons for that. Here they are,” Chiang said.

“I’m waiting. What’s the problem with using those sentence starters?”

“Avoid using meaningless words as sentence starters.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“I did. I told you why and showed you how.”

Definition and Examples

Using There or Here + a “helping verb” (has been, had been, will be, shall be, should be, would be, can be, could be, may be, might be, must be) or a “linking verb” (is, are, was, were) is rarely necessary and provides no additional meaning to a sentence. Example: There are the three students waiting over there. This sentence can be changed to… The three students wait over there. Example: Here is the blue pen to use to write your grandmother. This sentence can be changed to… Use the blue pen to write your grandmother.

Read the rule.

Avoid beginning sentences with There or Here + a “helping verb” or a “linking verb.” Revise to eliminate these words. To delete the unnecessary There or Here word, place the subject of the sentence at the beginning with or without its article (a, an, or the) and change the verb form as needed.

Re-write these sentences and [bracket] the meaningless words used as sentence starters.

  1. Here are plenty of samples to try.
  2. There is evidence to suggest that the owner knew that the painting was worthless.
  3. There were reasons for his actions, but we were never told what they were.
  4. Here is the envelope you were looking for in my desk.
  5. There will be consequences to your failures to act on his advice.

Eliminate the meaningless sentence starter in this sentence.

There are good reasons to avoid starting sentences with There and Here.

Answers

  1. [Here are] plenty of samples to try.
  2. [There is] evidence to suggest that the owner knew that the painting was worthless.
  3. [There were] reasons for his actions, but we were never told what they were.
  4. [Here is] the envelope you were looking for in my desk.
  5. [There will be] consequences to your failures to act on his advice.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,