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Grammar/Mechanics

Individualized Spelling Patterns Instruction

In this article, teachers will learn how to how to diagnose and remediate the spelling pattern deficits of their individual students to help them “catch up while they keep up” with grade-level spelling instruction. To read my article about how to differentiate and individualize grade-level spelling instruction, click How to Teach Spelling. First, let’s forget what we have heard about older students who are poor spellers:

“Once a bad speller, always a bad speller”; “You can’t teach an old dog new spelling tricks”; “Einstein was a horrible speller”; “Spelling is only an editing skill”; “Now that we have spellcheck, spelling doesn’t matter.”

Reading research demonstrates that your students can learn what they’ve missed while they learn grade-level spelling rules and patterns. But, first you need to determine specifically what your students do and don’t know and how to fill any gaps in their spelling knowledge. Let’s not waste valuable instructional time re-teaching what they already know. Instead, use the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment to pinpoint exactly what they need to learn. I’ll provide a FREE download at the end of the article.

Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

FREE Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

But, wait. Most of the teachers in my school use the Elementary Spelling Inventory found in Words Their Way. Isn’t that just as good?

In a word, “No.” The Elementary Spelling Inventory includes 25 words. The test is designed to indicate which developmental spelling stage each of your students has and has not yet mastered. Laying aside the theory of developmental spelling for our purposes (many notable spelling researchers including Louisa Moats and Richard Gentry dispute this theory), the individual test results only narrow down the spelling deficits to general stages. Knowing a student’s developmental spelling stage does not tell the teacher what to teach and what not to teach within that spelling stage.

In contrast, the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment provides that specificity. Reference the graphic to see examples of how much more teachable data is provided by the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment than that provided by the Elementary Spelling Inventory.

Yes, the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment takes a bit longer to administer and correct, because it tests all of the common spelling patterns. However, the included audio file makes administration simple. Total test administration time is less than 25 minutes.

  • Grade 8 students complete words #s 1–102 to assess all kindergarten–seventh grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 7 students complete words #s 1–98 to assess all kindergarten–sixth grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 6 students complete words #s 1–89 to assess all kindergarten–fifth grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 5 students complete words #s 1–79 to assess all kindergarten–fourth grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 4 students complete words #s 1–64 to assess all kindergarten–third grade common spelling patterns. 

The Diagnostic Spelling Assessment uses multisyllabic words to isolate the variable of sight word knowledge. The test is ordered according to the research-based instructional phonics sequences of instruction. After all, encoding (spelling) is the opposite side of the same coin as decoding (reading). Spelling and reading are mutually dependent and research is clear that good spellers and good readers tend to be good writers (Adams, 2011; Gentry & Graham, 2010; Moats, 2005; Reed, 2012).

How to Administer the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

Preparation

Pass out binder paper and pencils. Model how to number the test items on the board and tell students to number accordingly.

Administration

I recommend using the audio file, which includes the test directions, spelling words, and example sentences. The test pacing is exactly timed to ensure proper and controlled testing. Additionally, make-up tests for absent or newly enrolled students is a simple task with the audio file.

However, some teachers prefer to read the directions and dictate the words and example sentences themselves.

Introduce the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment to students. Say—

“This is a test to see if you can accurately spell the words I say out loud. I will first say the spelling word; then repeat it; then use it in a sentence; and then repeat the spelling word once more. Listen carefully because I won’t repeat the words after the test is finished. Please print the spelling words.”

Don’t elongate the vowel or consonant sounds to emphasize spellings. Keep a consistent pace of about seven seconds per test item. Any longer and students will lose their place or begin daydreaming. Since this is a long test, teachers may elect to take a short stretch break in the middle of the test administration.

Grading

Grade the assessment, marking only the specified sound-spelling pattern for each word.  In other words don’t mark the word wrong because of other spelling errors in the word. For example, if the sound-spelling pattern is Long /a/ “__ay” and the word is “payment,” the student spelling of “paiment” would be wrong, but “paymunt” would be right. This selective grading isolates the sound-spelling pattern problem areas for each student. I’ve found that instructional aides and parents are quite capable of accurately grading and recording the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with minimal training.

Recording

The teacher, instructional aide, or parent charts the individual skills that your students have not yet mastered on the mastery matrices. Yes, these recording matrices are provided in your FREE download. Record a slash (/) for un-mastered skills, and leave the box blank for mastered skills. Make two copies of the matrices: one for student reference and one for teacher reference.

Post one set of the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrices on a wall at the rear of the classroom for student reference. Note that teachers may choose to list students by identification number rather than by name on these matrices. Keep the teacher copy in a binder at your desk.

How to Remediate Spelling Pattern Deficits through Individualized Instruction

Each of the spelling test words corresponds to the Spelling Patterns Worksheets. Count and total the slashes (/) for each of the spelling patterns on the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrices to determine how many of each Spelling Pattern Worksheets you will need to copy. Copy these worksheets and group them in separate numbered  file folders.

The Spelling Pattern Worksheets are designed to help students master the previous grade-level Common Core Language Spelling Standards. Each worksheet lists the sound-spelling pattern focus, example words, a spelling sort, a rhyme or word search activity, word jumbles, a short writing application, and a sentence dictation formative assessment. Students progress at their own rates to master previous grade-level spelling patterns. Yes, sample Spelling Pattern Worksheets are included in your FREE download.

Let’s look at the individual instructional components. The format of the Spelling Patterns Worksheets is intentionally similar to promote independent student work. The spelling pattern  is listed first and connects the sound to the spelling. For example, Spelling Pattern Worksheet #47 (numbers vary per program) lists: oo Sound as in woodpecker “_u_” and provides the FOCUS: The oo sound heard in woodpecker can b spelled “_u_” as in put. Notice that blanks are included in the spelling pattern. Each represents a missing sound-spelling. In this case, the “_u_” spelling is missing both beginning and ending consonant sounds. No syllable can be written as a consonant–u (oo sound). No syllable can be written as a u (oo sound)–consonant. Both consonants must be included to write a syllable. For example, put could be written as put to show the spelling pattern.

The next instructional component is the SORT section. Students use pronunciation, analogous spelling patterns, and the spelling marks and blanks to categorize the spelling pattern words. Notice how the Spelling Pattern Worksheet #47 sort provides the key components of the /ion/ spelling rule. Students are told the rule up front and apply the rule with the spelling variations. Unlike “other discovery sorts” in which the spelling rule must be learned inductively, don’t leave your students guessing! Teach and apply the explicit rule. Here a teacher might opt to have the student(s) listen to, practice, and memorize the /ion/ spelling rule with a little help from the “Ending /ion/ Rule” spelling song. The author’s grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction programs include conventional spelling rule songs and raps.

Students also complete a RHYME or BOOK SEARCH activity. For spelling patterns conducive to rhyming, such as the “aw” spelling pattern, four rhyming words which apply the /aw/ spelling are provided. For other non-rhyming spelling patterns, students use their sustained silent reading book or a class novel to write example words which use the focus spelling pattern with their corresponding page numbers.

Additionally, students complete four JUMBLE words, which include the focus spelling patterns. Students quickly discover that using the spelling pattern clues helps them unravel the jumbled words A multisyllabic Bonus JUMBLE is included. For example, in Spelling Worksheet #48, knowing the “al” spelling pattern helps students identify also; the “awl” spelling patterns helps identify drawl; the “aw” helps with pawn; and also helps with the Bonus jawbone.

Finally, the WRITE section requires students to apply the spelling patterns to additional words, not listed on the Spelling Pattern Worksheet. This spelling pattern application serves as the formative assessment to determine whether students have or have not yet mastered the individual spelling pattern.

Correction and Formative Assessment

After completing a Spelling Pattern Worksheet, the student self-corrects and self-edits with a different color pen or pencil from one of the Spelling Patterns Worksheets Answer Binders. I suggest making several of these binders and storing them in different parts of the classroom for student access. Tell students that they receive the same credit for completing a worksheet with errors and different color revisions with the correct answers as they do for completing a worksheet without errors. It’s the practice that’s important. This procedure eliminates the incentive to cheat. Note that no answers are provided for the WRITE formative assessment.

When finished correcting the worksheet, the student comes up to the teacher’s desk to mini-conference. If the student has self-corrected and self-edited the practice section and “passed” the WRITE formative assessment, change the slash (/) into an “X” for mastery on the appropriate box on the mastery matrix and record an A on the student’s worksheet. Convert the A to points, if you use a point system for grading. For example, 10 points for an A. Note that the teacher determines the level of mastery for each WRITE formative assessment.

If the student has not yet mastered the spelling pattern or patterns, you have two instructional options:

1. If the student understands the spelling pattern after the mini-conference, direct the student to re-do the WRITE formative assessment and return for re-correction.

2. Record a a instead of an A and direct the student to move on to the next worksheet. The student will have the chance to re-do the worksheet after completing the rest of their assigned worksheets. Award half-credit, say 5 points, for a .

Here are a few Helpful Hints to ensure instructional success. 

Tell students to begin with the lower numbered Spelling Pattern Worksheets and to complete only those worksheets indicated by slashes (/). Tell them that they won’t receive credit for completing worksheets without slashes because they have already mastered those spelling patterns.

After a student has mastered a Spelling Pattern Worksheet, direct him or her to change the slash (/) into an X for mastery on the appropriate box on the matrix. Using pencil of course. Filling in the X gives students a sense of accomplishment and motivates students to complete additional work. Don’t forget to mark the X in your teacher binder, as well.

Set an expectation as to how many Spelling Pattern Worksheets must be completed per week. Teachers may choose to have students and/or parents set specific goals. Monitor student progress and adjust expectations as needed. Worksheets may be completed in class or for homework.

Maintain a productive work environment by managing time. Limit the mini-conference to no more than 30 seconds. The focus should be on the WRITE formative assessment, not the rest of the worksheet. Also, manage crowd control by limiting the length of your mini-conference line to three students. Waiting students can sign up for their places in line on the board and then work on their next worksheet until their turn arrives to conference. Finally, establish group norms regarding talking, helping peers, and work ethic.

Want to see how to use the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and Spelling Pattern Worksheets? Check out this four-minute video!

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Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Grades 4-8 Spelling Programs

Differentiated Spelling Instruction is a complete grade level spelling program built upon conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. Five programs are available: Grade 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. This digital download (eBook) program includes all resources teachers need to individualize instruction. Developing a weekly spelling plan that differentiates instruction for all of your students is a challenging task for even the best veteran teacher, but help has arrived! There is no better spelling program for your grade level students, GATE students, special ed, ESL/ELD, and below grade level students. Perfect for RtI.

Plus, get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and the targeted spelling pattern worksheets you need to remediate previous grade level spelling deficits for all your students. Now that’s effective differentiated and individualized instruction! Your students can catch up, while they keep up with grade level spelling instruction. You’ll also appreciate the helpful resources in the appendix, including how to study spelling tips, spelling proofreading, word lists, spelling rule memory songs (Mp3s), and spelling review games.

The program is easy to teach. We even provide two quick YouTube training videos to ensure your success!

Get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, Mastery Matrix, and Sample Lessons FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Spelling

Whether using a spelling program or a collection of spelling resources, most teachers apply this traditional method of spelling instruction:

How to Teach Spelling

  1. Pretest a list of 15−20 themed words on Monday. Students pass in their tests for correction. The themes might be holidays, months of the year, animals, plural words, words with prefixes, words ending in “tion,” the vocabulary words from social studies or a reading selection, etc.
  2. Assign some form of spelling practice using the pretest words: a crossword puzzle, a word search, write each word ten times, partner quizzing, use each word in a sentence, etc.
  3. Ask parents to practice the words with their children.
  4. Posttest on the same list of words on Friday.

How’s that working for your students? Are you seeing tangible evidence of spelling improvement in their writing?

My guess is “No, you aren’t.”  After all, you’re reading an article titled, “How to Teach Spelling.” 

Fair to say that the traditional instructional plan makes no use of the teacher as an informed practitioner. The first task of an informed teacher is to determine what students already know and don’t know. The second task of an informed teacher is to make use of the diagnostic data to differentiate and individualize instruction.

So, how can an informed teacher make sense of the Monday spelling pretest to differentiate and individualize spelling grade-level instruction? Simply follow these four steps:

1. Pretest 

Dictate 15—20 words in the traditional word-sentence-word format to all of your students on Monday.

Of course, the words do matter. Rather than selecting unrelated theme words such as described above choose a spelling program or do the Google work to create weekly word lists designed to teach the English-American orthographic system. In other words, the conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. Check out the spelling sequence of instruction I use in my Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 spelling programs. Unlike the themed word lists (including the all-too-common teacher practice of combining vocabulary word memorization (a good practice) with spelling (a bad practice), teaching these spelling rules and patterns will improve your students’ spelling ability.

Display the spelling pretest words with the spelling patterns identified in boldface. Teach students to self-correct their own pretests by circling any misspelled spelling patterns.

2. Personalize 

Now, use the diagnostic data your students have provided by personalizing the weekly spelling list. Tell your students to copy up to 10 of their pretest spelling errors to begin a 15−20 word personal spelling list. For younger students, the personal spelling list can be kept in a spelling notebook or word study notebook. For older students, the personal spelling list can be placed following a binder divider labeled “Spelling.”

Students supplement their pretest errors to complete their 15−20 word personal spelling list with the following resources:

  • Writing errors: Have students add up to 3 spelling errors marked in student writing.
  • Last week’s posttest errors: Have students add up to 3 spelling errors from last week’s spelling posttest.
  • Supplemental spelling word lists: outlaw (non-phonetic) words, most often misspelled words, commonly confused words, and the 450 highest frequency words. However, not the words which students already know how to spell. Parents should dictate these word lists and create an unknown words list for their child. Student pairs can also produce this diagnostic data.

If created from these resources, the weekly 15−20 word personal spelling list will be a list of 100% unknown words for each student.

Spelling Pattern Sorts

3. Practice

Have students practice weekly focus spelling pattern by completing a spelling sort of the spelling patterns within the conventions spelling rule. For example, in the chart to the right, four spelling patterns comprise the .ion/ spelling rule. No crossword puzzles, word searches, write each word ten times, partner quizzing, use each word in a sentence, etc.

Do teach your students and their parents how to study. Circle problem spelling patterns. For non-phonetic spelling words, teach students to create their own picture spelling words. For example, for the irregular schwa ending syllable in principal, circle the “pal” spelling and use the circle as your friendly principal’s face. Or  for the commonly confused words: desert-dessert, circle the one “s” in desert and attach palm branches on top; circle the “ss” in dessert and attach two lighted candles on top to create a birthday cake.

4. Posttest 

On Friday (or why not test every two weeks for older students?) tell students to take out a piece of binder paper and find a partner to exchange dictation of their personal spelling list words. Now, this makes instructional sense—actually using the posttest to measure what students have learned! But, you may be thinking… what if they cheat? For the few who cheat…It would be a shame to not differentiate instruction for the many to cater to a few. Truly, they are only cheating themselves. Have the partners correct the posttest and do so yourself.

See it in action! Check out this four-minute video to review the Pennington Publishing 1. Pretest 2. Personalize 3. Practice and 4. Posttest plan to differentiate and individualize grade-level spelling instruction.

Now that you know how to differentiate and individualize grade-level spelling instruction, HOW WILL YOU HELP REMEDIATE PREVIOUS GRADE LEVEL SPELLING PATTERN DEFICITS FOR YOUR STUDENTS? Read the next article, INDIVIDUALIZED SPELLING PATTERNS INSTRUCTION, to learn how to use the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (a FREE comprehensive spelling patterns assessment audio file) to determine individual spelling pattern deficits. Students complete targeted worksheets corresponding to the spelling patterns they missed on the diagnostic assessment.

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Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Grades 4-8 Spelling Programs

Differentiated Spelling Instruction is a complete grade level spelling program built upon conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. Five programs are available: Grade 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. This digital download (eBook) program includes all resources teachers need to individualize instruction. Developing a weekly spelling plan that differentiates instruction for all of your students is a challenging task for even the best veteran teacher, but help has arrived! There is no better spelling program for your grade level students, GATE students, special ed, ESL/ELD, and below grade level students. Perfect for RtI.

Plus, get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and the targeted spelling pattern worksheets you need to remediate previous grade level spelling deficits for all your students. Now that’s effective differentiated and individualized instruction! Your students can catch up, while they keep up with grade level spelling instruction. You’ll also appreciate the helpful resources in the appendix, including how to study spelling tips, spelling proofreading, word lists, spelling rule memory songs (Mp3s), and spelling review games.

The program is easy to teach. We even provide two quick YouTube training videos to ensure your success!

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Distance Learning: FREE Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit

Teaching Colleagues!

Want to do my part to help teachers transitioning to distance learning. Am making my popular Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit my primary FREE product during this stressful time: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Pennington-Publishing

If you are teaching grades 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8, you will love this FREE resource. Want to see lesson samples? Preview This Book. How does online learning work with this product?

  1. Students take a cold timing on one of 43 expository articles. Students practice repeated readings of the level (A, B, or C) which you assign, based upon the free fluency assessment.
  2. Students take a hot timing. and share the timing sheet with their teacher.
  3. Students complete the comprehension questions on the same article.
  4. Students share their comprehension worksheet answers with you. Easy and effective distance learning!

Fluency and Comprehension

Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit provides 43 expository animal fluency articles and 43 corresponding animal comprehension worksheets, along with CORRESPONDING YOUTUBE VIDEOS WITH ALL 43 FLUENCIES RECORDED AT 3 DIFFERENT READING SPEEDS–129 IN ALL. PERFECT FOR MODELED READINGS.

Each fluency article is marked with words per line to help students monitor their own fluency progress. At last! Quality fluency practice in the expository (not narrative) genre. Yes, fluency charts are provided.

Each of the 43 articles is composed in a leveled format–the first two paragraphs are at third grade reading level, the next two are at the fifth grade reading level, and the last two are at the seventh grade reading level. Slower readers get practice on controlled vocabulary and are pushed to read at the higher reading levels, once the contextual content has been established. Faster readers are challenged by the increasingly difficult multi-syllabic vocabulary. This format is perfect for differentiated fluency instruction.

This toolkit also has 43 corresponding animal comprehension worksheets with content-specific comprehension questions listed in the margins next to the relevant text. These low-higher order thinking questions ask readers to summarize, connect, re-think, interpret, and predict (the SCRIP comprehension strategy) to promote reader dialog with the text. Students practice self-monitoring their own reading comprehension as they read. This “talking to the text” transfers to better independent reading comprehension and retention. Answers provided, of course.

The animal fluency and comprehension articles each describe the physical characteristics of the animal, paragraphs detailing each animal’s habitat, what the animal eats, the animal’s family, interesting facts, and the status of the species (endangered or not). The writing is engaging and students will enjoy learning about both common and uncommon animals.

Download FREE

FREE Download

Also included is an individual fluency assessment to help you place students in level A, B, or C modeled readings. Parents can assess fluency at home and share results or you can place based upon your knowledge of student reading ability.

Instructional materials in the Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit have been selected from the comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies program, which includes the contents of Reading Fluency and Comprehension Toolkit as well as the direct instructional components to teach a half-year intensive or full-year reading intervention program.

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Roman Numerals Lesson

Hint: V Means 5

Teachers are well acquainted with different note-taking structures: outline, Cornell, boxing, charting, and mapping. Each has pros and cons for students taking notes from lectures or texts. However, the most commonly used structure for published materials is the alphanumeric outline. Students need to understand the hierarchy of the letter and number symbols to properly read and interpret these structured summaries. Plus, students need to know the Roman numerals.

Alphanumeric Outlines and Using Roman Numerals

Common Core Language Standard 2                            

Learning how to take notes from reading and lectures is essential to your success as a student. Notes are summaries of the key ideas and include main points, major details, and minor details. We often use symbols to represent these levels of organization.

Today’s mechanics lesson is on using Roman numerals in alphanumeric outlines to indicate levels of ideas.

Now let’s read the mechanics lesson, study the examples. and complete the practice exercises.

Alphanumeric Outlines use numbers, letters, and periods to organize information. The first letter of the word, group of words, or sentence that follows each symbol is capitalized.

  • Main ideas are listed as Roman numerals on the left margin and are followed by periods. Each Roman numeral can be repeated up to three times in a row. Examples: For 1–10 I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X.
  • Major details are listed as capital letters and are indented on the lines below the main ideas. Major details modify the main ideas. Modify means to describe, change, or limit. The Arabic numerals are capitalized and are followed by periods. Examples: A., B., C.
  • The first minor detail modifies the major detail and is double indented on the next line. It begins with the Arabic numeral 1 followed by a period.
  • The second minor detail is double indented on the next line and listed as 2.

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

Practice: The sixth main idea is IV; the fourth major detail is d; and the third minor detail is 3.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Mechanics Practice Answers: The sixth main idea is VI; the fourth major detail is D; and the third minor detail is 3.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own alphanumeric outline to describe your favorite ice cream flavors.

Lesson Extension

By tradition, movies include Roman numerals to indicate the year in which the movie was released. To determine the year, you’ve got to know a few more symbols. M = 1,000; D = 500; C = 100; and L = 50. 

Example: MDCDLXXXVI = MD (1,000 + 500 = 1,500); CD (500 – 100 = 400); LXXX (50 + 30 = 80); VI = 6 or 1986.

Practice: Write the year of release for these Academy Award winning movies in Arabic numerals:

  1. Gone with the Wind: MCMXLI
  2. Citizen Kane: MCMXLI
  3. Titanic: MCMXCVII
  4. Little Women: MMXIX

Bonus

What is the longest Roman numeral between 0 B.C.E. and this year?

This writing opener is part of a comprehensive language conventions lesson from the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  Grades 4‒8 programs.

Practice Answers:

  1. Gone with the Wind: 1939
  2. Citizen Kane: 1941
  3. Titanic: 1997
  4. Little Women: 2019

Bonus: MDCCCLXXXVIII (1888)

Check out this great Roman numerals converter: https://www.rapidtables.com/convert/number/roman-numerals-converter.html 

*****

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics for Grades 4-High School

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School Programs

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, and the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Read what teachers are saying about this comprehensive program:

The most comprehensive and easy to teach grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary program. I’m teaching all of the grade-level standards and remediating previous grade-level standards. The no-prep and minimal correction design of this program really respects a teacher’s time. At last, I’m teaching an integrated program–not a hodge-podge collection of DOL grammar, spelling and vocabulary lists, and assorted worksheets. I see measurable progress with both my grade-level and intervention students. BTW… I love the scripted lessons!

─Julie Villenueve

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Making Sense of Guided Reading

Guided Reading

Making Cents

The key idea of guided reading: to make sure kids are being taught from books that are not too far beyond their skills certainly makes sense. According to Vygotsky, students learn best when they are provided strong instructional support to extend themselves by reading texts that are on the edge of their learning—not too easy but not too hard*. And guided reading publishers attempt to do just that by putting reading level theory into practice. Most teachers have bought into guided reading hook, line, and sinker.

Most elementary teachers in the United States use one form of guided reading or another. In fact, the two most popular reading programs (Fountas & Pinnell and Teacher’s College Readers Workshop) which account for more than 60% of reading program sales in the United States use leveled books as the core component of their curricula.

However, you can take even a good idea too far in terms of adherence to a theoretic framework and implementation in the classroom.

First, in terms of a theoretic framework, the simple fact is that the science behind reading levels theory is quite a squishy notion. Specifically, we have mistakenly assumed that independent, instructional, and frustration reading levels are research-based and quantifiable constructs.

(https://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/supportingmaterials/fountaspinnell_revdreadingteacherarticle12_2012.pdf)

Dr. Tim Shanahan took a look at the original research regarding reading levels theory:

Made famous in Emmett Betts’s influential, now-little-remembered 1946 textbook Foundations of Reading Instruction, leveled reading theory actually emerged from a more obscure study conducted by one of Betts’s doctoral students. “I tracked down that dissertation and to my dismay it was evident that they had just made up those designations without any empirical evidence,” Shanahan wrote. When the study—which had in effect never been conducted—was “replicated,” it yielded wildly different results. In other words, there was no study, and later research failed to show the benefits of leveling. “Basically we have put way too much confidence in an unproven theory,” Shanahan concluded (https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/leveled-reading-making-literacy-myth).

Second, in terms of leveled reading instruction, implementation of the reading levels theory via guided reading is challenging, time-consuming, expensive, and provides less student-teacher reading time because of the narrowly focused guided reading groups.

Rube Goldberg (1931)

In fact, the commonly-accepted notion about reading levels has produced a Rube Goldberg machine in reading instruction. A Rube Goldberg machine, named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg_machine).

The Fountas &Pinnell A to Z readers are such a machine. The differences among the levels are virtually indistinguishable, but the levels are goldmines for the publishers. More levels = more profit. As Tim Shanahan remarks,

“Teachers sacrifice way too much instructional time trying to provide kids teaching at their exact level. So, you’ll see teachers spending 15-20 minutes each with groups at level “L” and “M” that frankly aren’t different. In such cases, the teacher would be better off spending 30-40 minutes with the two combined groups (https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/the-problem-with-guided-reading).

My suggestions to make sense of guided reading:

  1. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m not suggesting, as many in the science of reading group advocate, getting rid of guided reading. The structural and instructional components of flexible ability grouping, meaningful busy work for rest of kids, reading with the teacher on a daily basis, and authentic assessment via running records are effective instructional strategies; however a few tweaks are in order.
  2. Rather than trying to fine tune your guided reading groups by adding more discrete reading level groups, think of combining groups to maximize instructional minutes, minimize independent work, and improve behavior management. Especially consider doubling the size of the teacher-led guided reading group and reducing the number of total groups. Check out these group rotation ideas.
  3. Look to other means of assessment to determine reading needs and group placements, in addition to running records. Teachers don’t like to hear this, but we are not completely objective evaluators. According to Dr. Louisa Moats, “The reliability of oral reading tests and running records is lower than the reliability of more structured, specific measures of component reading skills. Teacher judgment of the cause of specific oral reading errors (e.g., miscue analysis) tends to be much less reliable” (https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/reading_rocketscience_2004.pdf) Louisa
  4. In addition to leveled reading groups, use these alternative assessment data to drive instruction within your guided reading group stations. Flexible groupings can teach r-controlled vowels to a group, or the soft /c/ spellings, or non-decodable sight words, etc. to needs-based groups, formed according to diagnostic assessments.

The benefits of these guided reading tweaks…

  1. Fewer groups means less prep for guided reading groups and other independent learning stations.
  2. Less wasted instruction. When teachers notice reading errors during guided reading or running records which they wish to address via mini-lessons, some, but not all students will benefit.
  3. Targeted needs-based instruction is more efficient than mini-lessons.
  4. Students will progress quicker with the addition of assessment-based instruction.
  5. Less $
  6. Less tracking. Traditional guided reading groups stay quite similar from the start to end of the school year, with notable exceptions.
  7. Better behavior management. With fewer groups, fewer transitions are necessary. With more students in the teacher’s group, less idle hands are making mischief.
  8. More teacher-student time.

*****

Check out the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books in the author’s program below to add an assessment-based phonics practice component to your guided reading.

Get the Diagnostic Reading  and Spelling Assessments FREE Resource:

I’m Mark Pennington, author of  the Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program). This program provides all the resources teachers need for flexible, student-centered reading instruction. The program is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. Your students 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. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Reasons Middle School Teachers Should Teach Spelling

Teach Spelling to Middle School

Middle School Spelling

As an MA reading specialist and ELA teacher, I spent the last dozen of my 36 years teaching ELA to seventh and eighth graders. At my last middle school, I taught with 14 highly skilled ELA teachers. None of them taught spelling. Some years ago I mentioned in a department meeting that I still taught spelling and my colleagues were curious as to why. I told them that my kids needed it and asked them if their kids needed spelling instruction. They stumbled around a bit, blamed elementary teachers for not doing so, provided anecdotes about Einstein being a poor speller, and finally settled on “We don’t know.”

Seeing the opening, I volunteered to email them the audio file of my diagnostic spelling tests and told them I would correct the tests and show them what their students know and don’t know. They readily agreed. A week later I placed the mastery matrices of the spelling assessments in their teacher boxes. The results clearly indicated that most had a few areas of spelling deficits in terms of spelling patterns. However, some of their students showed many areas of spelling pattern deficits. I suggested to our department chair that we might dedicate a portion of our next department meeting to brainstorming how we might address those deficits. That brainstorming session never took place. I did brainstorm why with some of my reading specialist buddies. They provided reasons why middle school teachers were not interested in teaching spelling (mainly because they did not know how), but also why they should be teaching spelling to their students.

10 Reasons Middle School Teachers Should Teach Spelling

1. Intermediate, upper elementary, and middle school teachers are not doing their jobs teaching spelling. Take a look at the yellow chart. Clearly, beginning readers in grades 1 and 2 tend to score similarly on reading comprehension and spelling. However, as intermediate teachers (grades 3 and 4) tend to assume that all necessary phonics skills have been mastered, they also tend to stop teaching the other side of the decoding coin: encoding (spelling). The results for middle school spellers are undocumented by research; however, teachers would certainly agree that middle schoolers do not reverse the trend.

Mehta et al. (2005)

2. Spelling is not acquired naturally through wide reading It’s not caught; it must be taught.

3. Spelling is not a primary skill; it is a literacy skill for all ages.

4. Spelling is not a genetic predisposition. Once a bad speller, not always a bad speller.

5. You can teach middle schoolers spelling. Spelling is more predictable than many middle school teachers think. Spelling expert, Dr. Louisa Moats, estimates that 84% of English words either directly correspond to their sound-spellings or do so with an additional spelling rule (https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Moats.pdf.) Plus, middle school students can catch up while they keep up with grade-level spelling. Remedial spelling skills are teachable.

6. Spelling helps with reading. According to Catherine Snow, the real importance of spelling for reading as follows: “Spelling and reading build and rely on the same mental representation of a word. Knowing the spelling of a word makes the representation of it sturdy and accessible for fluent reading” (https://www.readingrockets.org/article/how-spelling-supports-reading).

7. Spelling aids vocabulary development. This is especially true with respect to Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots: the meat of middle school orthography.

8. Spelling helps with writing. Teachers often underestimate the amount of mental muscle expended by poor spellers attempting to select words which they can substitute for difficult spellings. Dictionaries take too much time, including online ones. Spell check is less than 80% accurate.

9. Teaching spelling (both grade level and remedial) does not take much instructional time and produces immediate pay-off for students.

10. Spelling matters. Poor spellers are brutally bullied and suffer considerable discrimination. A misspelled word on an employment application almost always dooms an applicant. Want to be the subject of a meme? Misspell a word. Think about how many puzzles and games require good spelling. Poor spelling is equated with lack of intelligence by a majority of Americans.

*****

My take? Synthetic phonics is the most efficient means of teaching the alphabetic code and should be taught systematically as part of any beginning reading program or reading intervention program. However, good reading and spelling programs provide additional analytic phonics activities, such as syllabication and spelling pattern word sorts. Plus, while most students learn with a synthetic approach, others respond best with an analytic approach. Good teachers also use incidental embedded phonics instruction as teachable moments to study words in depth as they use shared and guided reading. The best means of determining whether any method of reading instruction is working? Assessment. Flexible teachers use data to inform instruction and the instructional approach to meet the needs of individual students.

Get the Diagnostic Reading  and Spelling Assessments FREE Resource:

The author’s Differentiated Spelling Instruction provides quality spelling programs for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Following are the program components:

Pennington Publishing's Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

  • Diagnostic Spelling Assessment: a comprehensive test of each previous grade level spelling pattern to determine what students know and what they don’t know with Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrix
  • 102 Remedial Sound-Spelling Worksheets Corresponding to the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (Grade 8… other grade levels have fewer to correspond with grade-level spellings. All grade levels use the same diagnostic assessment.)
  • Weekly Diagnostic Spelling Tests
  • Weekly Spelling Sort Worksheets for Each Spelling Pattern (with answers) formatted for classroom display. Students self-correct to learn from their own mistakes.
  • Syllable Transformers and Syllable Blending formatted for classroom display and interactive instruction
  • Syllable Worksheets (with answers) formatted for classroom display
  • Four Formative Assessments (given after 7 weeks of instruction)
  • Summative Assessment
  • Spelling Teaching Resources: How to Study Spelling Words, Spelling Proofreading Strategies for Stories and Essays, Syllable and Accent Rules, Outlaw Words, 450 Most Frequently Used Words, 100 Most Often Misspelled Words, 70 Most Commonly Confused Words, Eight Great Spelling Rules, Memory Songs and Raps (with Mp3 links), and Spelling Review Games

Read one of our customer testimonials: “I work with a large ELL population at my school and was not happy with the weekly spelling tests, etc. Through my research in best practices, I know that spelling patterns and word study are so important at this age group. However, I just couldn’t find anything out there that combines the two. We have just adopted RtI at my school and your spelling matrix is a great tool for documentation. The grade level spelling program and remediation are perfect for my students.”

Heidi

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