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Essay Rules | Word Choice

Word Choices for Essays

Essay Word Choice

“Why are you using that thesaurus?” asks Lance.

“I need bigger words, so that everyone will see how smart I am,” replies Dawn.

“You are so pretentious,” says Lance.

“Is that a criticism or a compliment?” asks Dawn.

Definition and Examples

Precision (exactness) of meaning, the tone of the writing, and the audience should guide your selection of word choices in an essay. Using a word which doesn’t match what you mean to say or how you want to say it creates confusion for your readers.

Example: The comprehensive solution regarding cake and ice cream for the class party failed to address many of the students’ concerns.

Comprehensive means “thorough and complete” and suggests that nothing else is needed. A solution which failed to “address many of the students’ concerns” would not be comprehensive, so the word choice is imprecise. Also, the word choices, comprehensive, address, and concerns are formal and serious and don’t match the tone of the rest of the sentence with words such as “cake and ice cream” and “class party” and the audience of students preparing for a class party.

Read the rule.

If a simple word means exactly what you want to say and it fits the tone of your writing and your audience, use it. If a technical term or unfamiliar word must be used, define it or build writing context so that it is easily understood.

Practice

Write the following sentences and [bracket] the poor word choices.

  1. She planned to enhance her drawing in the coloring book with a few stickers.
  2. Frances exaggerated how badly she did on the math quiz.
  3. The author suggested adding a mysterious villain and a clown to the children’s cartoon.
  4. The cafeteria lunch included a burrito, fruit, and milk. The fruit was a tragic choice.
  5. The witness statements, DNA, police report, and the defendant’s opinion were convincing.

Revise the poor word choices. Use a dictionary if necessary.

Avoid big words when more utilitarian words would suffice.

Answers

  1. She planned to [enhance] her drawing in the coloring book with a few stickers.
  2. Frances [exaggerated] how badly she did on the math quiz.
  3. The author suggested adding a [mysterious villain] and a clown to the children’s cartoon.
  4. The cafeteria lunch included a burrito, fruit, and milk. The fruit was a [tragic] choice.
  5. The witness statements, DNA, police report, and the defendant’s [opinion] were convincing.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

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, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Essay Rules | Intentional Fragments

How to Avoid Intentional Fragments in Essays

Avoid Intentional Fragments in Essays

“Wow! Look at all those FRAG comments Ms. Johnson wrote on your essay. You sure do love your fragments! Maybe consider writing a complete sentence once in a while,” suggested John.

“Ah… life’s too short to have to write all those words,” complained Lara. “I could type an entire essay in emojis.”

Definition and Examples

An intentional fragment is simply an incomplete sentence. It is intentional because the author chooses to use a fragment instead of a complete sentence. Writers use intentional fragments as substitutes for any of the four types of sentences: declarative (statement), imperative (command), or exclamatory (surprise or strong emotion) in narratives (story), poetry, texting, notes, and other forms of informal writing to reflect the authentic language used in everyday speech.

Examples: How dumb. Time to run. That’s amazing! Really?

Read the rule.

Write in complete sentences for all formal writing, including essays and reports, and do not use intentional fragments. A complete sentence expresses a complete thought and includes both a subject and predicate. The voice drops down at the end of a declarative (statement), imperative (command), and exclamatory (surprise or strong emotion) sentence and rises at the end of an interrogative (question) sentence.

Practice

Write the following sentences and [bracket] the intentional fragments.

  1. How very strange. They would have expected him to put up less of a fight. Go figure!
  2. Seriously? The author questions whether freedom of assembly should be a right. What a joke!
  3. Ah, to be young and foolish once again. Who knows if they will return home.
  4. Visiting the National Parks is amazing. Such beauty and wildlife! All in our protected parks.
  5. She left her phone at the beach. So sad. No doubt the tide has come in by now. What a loss!

Revise the intentional fragment.

Avoid intentional fragments. Right?

Answers

  1. [How very strange.] They would have expected him to put up less of a fight. [Go figure!]
  2. [Seriously?] The author questions whether freedom of assembly should be a right. [What a joke!]
  3. [Ah, to be young and foolish once again.] Who knows if they will return home.
  4. Visiting the National Parks is amazing. [Such beauty and wildlife!] [All in our protected parks.]
  5. She left her phone at the beach. [So sad.] No doubt the tide has come in by now. [What a loss!]

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

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, Literacy Centers, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , ,

How to Develop Thesis Statements from the Writing Prompt

Dissect a Writing Prompt

How to Dissect an Essay Writing Prompt

Students often struggle with writing effective thesis statements. Often, their difficulties result from failing to know how to dissect the essay writing prompt and formulate their purpose (for informational/explanatory) or point of view (for argumentative) thesis statements from the writing task itself. Following are a few teaching tips and a FREE Download to help your students practice.

First, Dissect the Writing Prompt

1. WHO: Underline any words which identify the audience or the role of the writer.

2. WHAT: Circle any words which identify the topic, context, or purpose of the writing task.

3. HOW: Bracket any words which identify the writing format or the resources to use.

4. DO: Box any words which identify key writing direction words.

Need more details on the WHO, WHAT, HOW, DO strategy. Check out this article.

Next, Write a One-Sentence Thesis Statement

1. It will leave room for the WHO and HOW introduction strategies to flow into the thesis statement as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. An essay introduction doesn’t use a hook or lead, as does a narrative introduction. An essay introduction builds reader interest and understanding of the thesis statement, but keeps a formal essay tone. So, avoid “It was a dark and stormy night.” Need help on teaching essay introduction strategies?

Get the Essay Introduction Strategies FREE Resource:

2. Include the key word from the WHAT of the writing prompt in a declarative statement about that WHAT. In essay that requires the writer to inform the reader, the thesis statement should state your specific purpose for writing. The thesis statement serves as the controlling idea throughout the essay. In an essay that requires the writer to convince the reader, the thesis statement should state your point of view. The thesis statement serves as the argument or claim to be proved throughout the essay.

3. It will directly respond to all components of the specific writing task and nothing beyond that task.

Following are the typical response comments I use to respond to student thesis statements. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. I use the alphanumeric codes to simplify comment insertions.

  • e7 Thesis Statement does not respond to writing prompt. Re-read the writing prompt and dissect according to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word).
  • e8 Thesis Statement does not state the purpose of the essay. Dissect the writing prompt, focusing on the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the   resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word) to specifically state the purpose of your essay.
  • e9 Thesis Statement does not state the point of view of the essay. Dissect the writing prompt, focusing on to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word) to clearly state your specific point of view.
  • e10 Thesis Statement is too general. Get more specific in your thesis statement. Example: There were lots of causes to the Civil War. Revision: Although many issues contributed to problems between the North and the South, the main cause of the Civil War was slavery.
  • e11 Thesis Statement is too specific. Your thesis statement needs to be a bit broader to be able to respond to the demands of the writing prompt. A good thesis statement is like an umbrella-it must cover the whole subject to be effective. Save the specificity for the body paragraphs.
  • e12 Thesis Statement is inconsequential. The thesis statement must state a purpose or point of view that can be meaningfully developed in the essay.
  • Example: People in France really enjoy their cheese. Revision: The French especially enjoy four types of cheeses.
  • e13 Thesis Statement cannot be argued. An essay designed to convince a reader of the author’s specific point of view must provide a thesis statement that is arguable.      Example: Blue is the best color. Revision: Blue is the best color to complement a bright white background.
  • e14 Split Thesis Statement Don’t write a split (divided) thesis. A split thesis includes two purposes or two points of view. Focus on only one purpose of point of view       throughout the essay. It may be necessary to reference or refute another purpose or point of view in the body paragraphs or conclusion.
  • e15 Thesis Statement responds to only part of the writing prompt. Dissect the writing prompt according to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word) and include each part.

Interested in more of these Essay e-Comments? Check out this video to get all 438 comments.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

For more thesis statement and essay 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, 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), 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, writing posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum.

Check out the FREE Download teaching summary of the WHO, WHAT, HOW, and DO strategy for dissecting writing prompts for display and practice.

Get the Dissecting a Writing Prompt Practice FREE Resource:

 

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How to Use Essay Evidence

Evidence for Essays

Types of Evidence

Whether writing an informational/explanatory or argumentative essay, knowing which evidence appropriately supports the topic sentence of each body paragraph is essential. Teach your students to follow the CARVO guidelines in selecting and using essay evidence.

  • The evidence needs to be Consistent with other evidence within the same source. Evidence needs to have internal validity. In other words, the evidence must fit other evidence presented within the same source.
  • The evidence must be Accurate and unquestionable. Use other sources to double check accuracy. Not all sources are reliable.
  • The evidence has be Relevant. Appropriate evidence must directly relate to the topic. It may only be used when the context of your source matches the context of how you use the evidence in your writing.
  • The evidence has to be Varied and balanced to convince your audience. Provide both quantitative and qualitative data. Use both primary and secondary sources.
  • The evidence has to be Objective and fairly presented. Never use slanted or biased evidence to prove your point. Save the argument or interpretation of the evidence for your analysis of that evidence.

Teaching your students how to select and use evidence is a process. Student writers often fail to consider the importance of their audience in deciding what and how to support their body paragraph topic sentences. You might try this story to help them make the connection:

A friend of yours went on a backpack and saw a UFO hovering over a valley. The spacecraft landed and the aliens came out to greet the earthlings. 

To convince your peers about what your friend experienced, what evidence would they require?

Check out three types of evidence worksheets with answers and a nice wall poster!

Get the Types of Essay Evidence FREE Resource:

Get the Types of Evidence Writing Posters FREE Resource:

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

“Great step by step worksheets that help students build or reinforce essay writing skills.”

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

Michelle Hunter

“A thoroughly comprehensive format to teach writing. Just what I needed.”

Tim Walker

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2018 Top 10 Quotes

Top 10 Quotes 2018

2018 Top 10 Quotes

Teachers… How well do you and your students know American culture? Current events? It’s quiz time!

For the last 13 years, Yale Law School librarian Shapiro adds 10 of the most popular and influential American quotes of the year to his collection of more than 12,000 well-known quotations by famous personalities, living or dead featured in his  2006 book, “The Yale Book of Quotations,” a collection of more than 12,000 well-known quotations by famous personalities, living or dead.

Let’s play a simple match game. I’ll provide the quote and the matching options. Now, not all matches will be quote to quoter; some of the matches will match quote to quotee, because some of the 2018 Top Quotes are about someone. You’ll understand as you make your guesses. Answers at bottom, so don’t scroll too far.

I read the Washington Post article, written by Kristine Phillips, who details the complete list, as published Tuesday by the Associated Press:

  1. “Truth isn’t truth.”
  2. “I liked beer. I still like beer.”
  3. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” — Sanofi drug company, in a tweet responding to this celeb’s blaming its product Ambien in a tweet.
  4. “We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.”
  5. “We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.”
  6. ”[I am] not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!”
  7. “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.”
  8. “Our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything, based on information from media sources that will say anything.”
  9. “I have just signed your death warrant.”
  10. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Elise Viebeck contributed to this article.

BONUS: Who said last year’s top quote: “alternative facts”?

NEED SOME HINTS?

TOP ROW: John McCain, Donald Trump, Larry Nassar, Brett Kavanaugh, David Hogg

BOTTOM ROW: Rudy Giuliani, Kanye West, Roseanne Barr, James Comey, Maxine Waters

*****

ANSWERS

  1. “Truth isn’t truth.” — Rudolph W. Giuliani, interview on “Meet the Press,” Aug. 19.
  2. “I liked beer. I still like beer.” — Brett M. Kavanaugh, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on his Supreme Court nomination, Sept. 27.
  3. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” — Sanofi drug company, in a tweet responding to Roseanne Barr’s blaming of its product Ambien in explaining a tweet that led ABC to cancel her show, May 30.
  4. “We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.” — Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain in a eulogy for her father, Sept. 1.
  5. “We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.” — David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, in a CNN interview, Feb. 15.
  6. ”[I am] not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!” — President Trump, in a tweet, Jan. 6.
  7. “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.” — Kanye West, in a tweet, April 25.
  8. “Our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything, based on information from media sources that will say anything.” — Former FBI director James B. Comey, in a tweet, May 23.
  9. “I have just signed your death warrant.” — Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, addressing former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar upon sentencing him to up to 175 years in prison for sexual assault, Jan. 24.
  10. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” — Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), in remarks at a rally in Los Angeles, June 23.

BONUS: Kellyanne Conway

*****

The Pennington Publishing Blog is authored by Mark Pennington, English-language arts teacher and reading specialist. Mark’s assessment-based curriculum is featured at https://penningtonpublishing.com/. Each informative article (over 700) includes links and a teaching freebie. Here are three to choose from. Happy New Year! Let’s hope next year’s quotes are more hopeful and positive.

Get the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words FREE Resource:

Get the Simple Sentence Diagramming FREE Resource:

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

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

Simple Sentence Diagramming

Sentence diagramming can be a useful tool to make the abstract components of English grammar more concrete. Most students find that the visual image helps them better understand and remember grammatical terms, the parts of a sentence, and the basic rules of grammar. With practice, writers can use diagramming to diagnose their own grammatical errors and fix them.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

My Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School programs include a simple sentence diagram for each lesson (plus a mentor text, error analysis, practice in the writing context, and a formative assessment). The sentence diagrams are “simple,” because instead of requiring students to construct the entire diagram of a given sentence from scratch (takes too much class time), the simple sentence diagrams provide the drawing (the lines) and the words of the sentence that are not the focus of the grammar lesson.

Check out how much students can learn about grammar with these two simple sentence diagrams from my programs. Both examples focus on adverbs.

Simple Sentence Diagram Examples

Easy

Lesson Focus: An adverb can modify a verb and answer How? An adverb may be placed before or after the verb that it modifies. Modifies means to identify, define, describe, or limit. Examples: Carefully she answered. He walked slowly.

Complete the sentence diagram for this sentence: They happily played video games.

 

 

Compare your diagram to that on the display. Use a different color pen or pencil to place a √ above each correctly placed answer and change any errors.

Answer

 

 

Happily, they played video games. They happily played video games. They played video games happily.

Challenging

Lesson Focus: Today we are studying adverb order. Remember that an adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb and can be a word or a phrase. When using more than one adverb to modify the same part of speech, usually place adverbs in this functional order: 1. What degree 2. How 3. Where 4. When. Example: She sings more enthusiastically on the stage each night.

Revise and complete the sentence diagram for this mixed-up sentence: “The track star runs quickly now less.”

 

 

Compare your diagram to that on the display. Use a different color pen or pencil to place a check mark √ above each correctly placed answer and revise any errors.

Answer

 

 

The track star runs less quickly now.

Whether you choose to include simple sentence diagramming as one instructional component of teaching grammar and usage in the reading and writing contexts, the following three 10-minute lessons will help your students better understand how sentences are structured.

Get the Simple Sentence Diagramming FREE Resource:

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Level Books with Word Recognition

Match Books to Readers

How to Select Books

As a teacher-publisher, I write articles such as this to inform, advocate, cajole, and sell my English-language arts and reading intervention programs to teachers. I’ve been doing so for quite awhile and have written over 700 articles. Of these articles, one is near the top in popularity and is certainly the most controversial: The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader. When I wrote the article, I had recently transitioned back into the classroom (middle school ELA) from my position as a district reading specialist.

The site level reading specialist provided a pre-service day staff development in which she mentioned AR as our schoolwide reading program. She stressed the importance of using leveled books to match the reading levels of our students. She demonstrated how the AR program did just that. I chose to ignore the remark and put off scheduling my classes for their AR testing in the computer lab. When I got the final “you have to” mandate, I decided to provide a list of reasons why I would not be using Accelerated Reader as my reading program. So much for being a team-player. To her credit, the site level reading specialist did not snitch on me to the principal, or if she did I never knew it.

I decided to post what I had written on my blog.

Wow. The reader response was immediate and contentious. Teachers, parents, and students contributed to the discussion. Parents and students provided cogent comments and examples of “AR abuse” from their own experiences. But, it has been the teacher-response that has both baffled and informed my subsequent writing.

As a publisher, my audience is primarily teachers. Parents and students are not huge markets for my Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program 🙂 Teachers have taken this article criticizing AR quite personally. Although many have been supportive of the points I made in the article; other teachers have perceived my comments as being negative judgments upon their professional expertise. The only comments I have trashed have been those filled with expletives or those which would embarrass teachers the next day after posting a response following one too many glasses of wine.

One such response came this morning regarding book levels. The teacher claimed that in my article I advocate dumping all means of matching the levels of books to the reading levels of students. What? 

In re-reading my article, I don’t see that at all. Secondly, I want to be clear that I do support a common sense approach to leveling books to match the reading levels of readers.

Two approaches to how to level books and match them to readers are in general practice today:

  1. Quantitative Measures: Lexiles, the DRA, F&P/GRL, and even the ATOS (AR testing). My Take? The quantitative measurements are cumbersome to apply to books and developing readers. So many factors go into the levels of books. Although authors certainly consider these factors (their publishers require them to do so) in writing and editing their books, the variables are endless: subject matter, prior knowledge, cultural context, etc. Additionally, the reader’s Lexile range (or other measures) is quite a limited measure (syllables, sentence length, syntax, etc.) and does not factor in maturity, prior knowledge, motivation, etc.
  2. Qualitative Measures: On the other side of the reading philosophical spectrum, I would argue that a Lucy Calkin or guided reading re-tell is subject to just as many arbitrary judgments as the quantitative measures and is time-consuming, to say the least.

The first problem with both approaches is that they are teacher-dependent. They essentially leave parents and the readers themselves (the students) out of the book selection process. The second problem is that both methods over-reach. Selecting a book to match the reading level of a reader is just as much art as it is science. And, it’s not that big of a deal which level a reader reads (with some common sense limitations). Thirdly, the pre-determined levels of books should not be straitjackets for readers.

A Quick and Simple Approach to Book Selection

Much better to affirm parental judgment in terms of which books are challenging for their own children. Even much better to equip students with self-selection of books with simple word recognition techniques. As a reading specialist, I still buy in to the useful categorizations of independent (98%), instructional (90–97%), and frustrational (less than 90%) levels of word recognition. Call me simplistic, but it’s the words they know and the ones they don’t which should be the primary means of book selection.

The old “five finger” for primary and intermediate elementary and “ten finger” for upper elementary and secondary readers works much better and is far more simple to use as a book selection guide than the tests and re-tells levels. Each finger represents a word on the page which the student could not adequately define by meaning, example, etc. Too few fingers, too easy; too many fingers, too hard. Simple, but effective. Parents can easily assess and train their children to apply the same guidelines to selecting their own books. My own experience using this technique is that the finger counting is equivalent to about 5% unknown words. Perfect for independent reading with just a bit of instructional level vocabulary thrown in to help grow a reader’s word knowledge. Additionally, I’ve found that this method highly correlates with the quantitative level assessments and weeds out some of the inaccuracies of those tests. The difference in terms of selecting books is minimal.

Plus, let’s not forget a dose of good old-fashioned common sense and the role of motivation for a developing reader. If the kid is interested (as long as the book has some challenging vocabulary), even though a random page is 17 fingers for the reader, let the child select it. A personal anecdote may help: My slightly above grade-level fourth grader, Kenny, was dying to read the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when it first came out. Clearly, the quantitative measures ATOS 6.9 (34 AR points), Lexile 880, DRA, F&P/GRL Z, GLE 7.4 should have prevented his MA reading specialist father (me) from purchasing this “frustration level” book. However, I ignored the quantitative data and waited in line for the midnight release of this treasured book. Kenny plowed through the book and enjoyed it immensely. By the end of fourth grade, Kenny was significantly above grade level and a confident reader. Thanks to his teacher and J.K. Rowling. Conversely, if the book is only five fingers for a middle school student, let her read it if she wants to, with a promise to read a more challenging book the next time. The easier word recognition book will provide its own benefits.

*****

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention 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

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

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Diagnostic Reading and Spelling Assessments

Diagnostic Literacy Assessments

Diagnostic Reading and Spelling Assessments

Elementary, secondary, and adult English language-arts and reading intervention teachers need comprehensive literacy assessments to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses for individual students and their classes. Following are reliable and valid reading and spelling assessments which perform the dual function of placement and diagnosis.

The diagnostic design of the assessments does not simply indicate that a student has reading problems. Instead, the test items are specific and teachable. Additionally, the assessments are not mere random samples, but are comprehensive. For example, rather than using simply one long /a/ item to determine whether the student has mastered vowel sound phonics and the spelling pattern, all long /a/ sound-spelling patterns are assessed. Thus, the teacher can target instruction to what the student needs and eliminate instruction for that which the student has already mastered.

The assessments may be administered individually or whole class. Two recording matrices are included: one for reading and one for spelling. The recording matrices provide the teacher with simple one-look progress monitoring.

Most of the assessments also include an audio file to standardize test administration and to permit the teacher to monitor students during the assessment session. The audio flies are helpful to assess new students and for make-ups due to student absences.

The author, Mark Pennington, is a MA reading specialist, author, and publisher. His Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE include instructional resources targeted to each assessment item. Perfect for assessment-based learning. Note that the author also provides the same resources keyed to the literacy assessments in the literacy centers (stations) instructional design. See product description below and also download the FREE instructional resource from the program.

Phonemic Awareness and Alphabetic Awareness 

Use these five phonemic awareness (syllable awareness, syllable rhyming, phonemic isolation, phonemic blending, phonemic segmenting) and two awareness assessments (upper and lower case identification and application) to determine reading readiness. Each of the seven assessments is administered whole class. The author’s reading intervention program includes corresponding phonemic awareness and alphabetic awareness activities to remediate all deficits indicated by the assessments.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment *

Use this comprehensive 52 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of short vowels, long vowels, silent final e, vowel digraphs, vowel diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common vowel sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any vowel sound phonics deficits. The author’s reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment *

Use this comprehensive 50 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of consonant digraphs, beginning consonant blends, and ending consonant blends. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any consonant sound phonics deficits. The author’s reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Sight Words (Outlaw Words) Assessment 

Use this 99 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common non-phonetic English words. The author’s The author’s reading intervention program includes small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this 15-minute assessment. The program includes an Outlaw Words fluency article which uses all assessment sight words. The program also provides sight word game card masters and individual sets of business card size game cards in the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards.

Rimes (Word Families) Assessment 

Use this comprehensive 79 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common English rimes. Memorization and practice of these word families such as ack, eck, ick, ock, and uck can supplement an explicit and systematic phonics program, such as found in the author’s reading intervention program. Experienced reading teachers know that different students respond differently to reading instruction and some remedial students especially benefit from learning onsets (such as consonant blends) and rimes. The program includes small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this 15-minute assessment. The program also provides rimes game card masters and individual sets of business card size game cards in the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards.

Sight Syllables Assessment 

Use this 49 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of the most common Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes. Memorization and practice of these high utility affixes will assist with syllabication, spelling, and vocabulary development. The author’s reading intervention program provides Greek and Latin prefix and suffix game card masters and individual sets of business card size game cards in the accompanying Reading and Spelling Game Cards.

The Pets Fluency Assessment *

The “Pets” expository fluency passage is leveled in a unique pyramid design: the first paragraph is at the first grade (Fleish-Kincaid) reading level; the second paragraph is at the second grade level; the third paragraph is at the third grade level; the fourth paragraph is at the fourth grade level; the fifth paragraph is at the fifth grade level; the sixth paragraph is at the sixth grade level; and the seventh paragraph is at the seventh grade level. Thus, the reader begins practice at an easier level to build confidence and then moves to more difficult academic language. As the student reads the fluency passage, the teacher will be able to note the reading levels at which the student has a high degree of accuracy and automaticity. Automaticity refers to the ability of the reader to read effortlessly without stumbling or sounding-out words. The 383 word passage permits the teacher to assess two-minute reading fluencies (a much better measurement than a one-minute timing). The author’s reading intervention program provides 43 expository animal fluency articles and 43 corresponding animal comprehension worksheets tiered st the third, fifth, and seventh grade reading levels along with links to YouTube modeled readings, recorded at three different reading speeds.

Reading Assessments Recording Matrix

Diagnostic Spelling Assessment *

Use this comprehensive diagnostic assessment to pinpoint all sound-spelling patterns learned from kindergarten through eighth grade. This 102 item eighth grade test pinpoints spelling deficits and equips the teacher to individualize instruction according to the assessment-data. The author’s program provides 102 targeted worksheets to remediate each unknown assessment sound-spelling. Each worksheet includes a spelling sort and formative assessment.

* Placement Assessments


Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE.

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

The accompanying 54 decodable Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. 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.

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