Hyperbole

“My teacher wrote, ‘Hyperbole’ in the margin of my essay. I’m not sure what she meant,” said Marci.

Tom asked, “Are you referring to your one-of-a-kind, magnificent essay, which was vastly superior to that of every other student in this class?”

“That’s the hardest question anyone has ever had to answer!” exclaimed Marci. “Hmm… Maybe I do tend to make things bigger than they need to be.”

Tom smiled and said, “That is not an overstatement.”

Avoid Hyperbole

Hyperbole

Definition and Examples

Hyperbole is an intended or unintended exaggeration used to make a point. It is not a literal statement, nor a slight exaggeration; it is an over-exaggeration. In fact, hyper is a Greek root, meaning over. Example: In sunny California, it rains only once in a million years.

Read the rule.

While hyperbole is used often in everyday speech, in literary dialogue and description, and in poems and songs, it may not be used in formal essays or reports.

Formal essays and reports depend upon objectivity and evidence. If a writer stretches some facts or makes unwarranted generalizations with hyperbole, the reader may question other facts or analysis which are presented as is, without exaggeration. Additionally, when a writer uses hyperbole, the reader may doubt whether the author is being fair and even-handed. Or the reader may assume that the writer is being manipulative.

Write the following sentences and [bracket] the hyperbole.

  1. That Mr. Hodgkins thinks his is the only class at this school. He gives a ton of homework.
  2. I’m dying to get into that university. There’s no place I’d rather be.
  3. That complete snob expects everyone to worship at his feet!
  4. I’d walk a thousand miles to see that once-in-a-lifetime lunar eclipse.
  5. The world champion Golden State Warriors seemed to have unlimited talent.

Re-write the following sentence, eliminating the hyperbole.

Avoid exaggeration; it only works once in a million years.

Answers

  1. That Mr. Hodgkins thinks his is [the only class] at this school. He gives [a ton] of homework.
  2. [I’m dying] to get into that university. There’s [no place] I’d rather be.
  3. That [complete] snob expects [everyone] [to worship] at his feet!
  4. I’d walk [a thousand miles] to see that [once-in-a-lifetime] lunar eclipse.
  5. The [world champion] Golden State Warriors seemed to have [unlimited] talent.

*****

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:

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



Syllable Transformers

Every teacher and parent has heard about transformers: the movies, the action characters, etc. If you’re a parent of a younger child, you know all about Bumblebee.

Since the dawn of the Transformers in 1984, the spunky little Autobot called Bumblebee has been a fan favorite. Why? He was the underdog. He was small, and he was one of the weaker Transformers, but his heart was huge and he showed great bravery on the battlefield. As a result, he was an admired and gentle friend not only to humans, but to his peers as well. And it didn’t hurt that his alternate mode was a cute little yellow Volkswagen Beetle. He now has at least six other transformations! https://screenrant.com/bumblebee-transformers-last-knight-solo-trivia-facts/

What if we could apply that same transformer concept to beginning reading and reading intervention? We can with Syllable Transformers.

FREE Unit on Syllable Transformers

Syllable Transformers

As a reading specialist working with struggling older readers in the 1990s, I had the pleasure of learning from the late Dr. John Sheffelbine from California State University at Sacramento. John was a self-described “phonicator” and created the BPST (Basic Phonics Skills Test) in its various iterations and the Scholastic Phonics Readers. One powerful set of lessons that John developed dealt with open and closed syllables. An open syllable is one which ends in a long vowel e.g. bay; a closed syllable ends in a consonant and the vowel is short e.g. bat.

John hypothesized that the best way to learn these open and closed syllable rules was to practice them together: to see how the vowel sound transforms from one syllable pattern to another. Additionally, because educators were transitioning from the whole language philosophy to a phonics-based approach, many students over-relied on sight words and syllables, rather than upon applying sound-symbol correspondences. The instructional implications were clear that practice in real syllable patterns would not solve the problem for these “look and say” syllable guessers. The answer was to use nonsense syllables. Brilliant!

I tried John’s “Syllable Transformations” and they worked wonders. However, I could see the power of expanding John’s idea to other syllable patterns. I also tweaked his approach to make the methodology a bit more “user-friendly” and “technologically-savvy” (I typed them up and displayed them on a machine we used to call the overhead projector.)

Years later I developed my own comprehensive reading intervention program (promo below), and I included Syllable Transformers as part of the weeks 9–13 instruction in both the half-year intensive and full-year program implementation. Teachers and students love this fast-paced whole-class response activity. I’m sending all of these lessons to your email inbox with the FREE download at the end of this article.

Week 9: Open and Closed Syllables

A vowel at the end of a syllable (CV) usually has a long vowel sound. This pattern is called an open syllable. The syllable following begins with a consonant. Example: below.

A vowel before a syllable-ending consonant (VC) is usually short. This pattern is called a closed syllable. The syllable following begins with a consonant. Example: bas-ket.

Weeks 10–11: Silent Final e Syllable Rule

The silent final e makes the vowel before a long sound, if only one consonant sound is between the two (VCe). For example, lately.

Weeks 12–13: Vowel Teams Syllable Rule

Usually keep vowel teams together in the same syllable. For example, beau-ty.

Syllable Worksheets and Derivative Worksheets: Following the Syllable Transformers, we continue learning the more complicated syllable patterns with real word blending.

Check out this quick video on how to teach Syllable Transformers: Syllable Transformers

*****

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

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Get the Vowel Transformers FREE Resource:

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



Rhetorical Questions in Essays

Essay Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical Questions

“Mr. Smith says that I shouldn’t use thought-provoking questions in my thesis statements,” said Issa. “May I read you my thesis?”

“Sure. Let’s hear it,” responds Mandy.

“My thesis is ‘Do people really want to be successful and happy?’”

“Well, it is called a thesis statement, not a thesis question, ” Mandy replied. “Plus, doesn’t the  answer appear in the question itself?”

“Oh, I get it. It’s one of those rhetorical questions,” says Issa.

“But, do you really get it?” asks Mandy.

“Ah… A rhetorical question. Very funny.”

“Apparently not so funny to Mr. Smith,” says Mandy.

Definition and Examples

A rhetorical question is a statement formed as a question. Rhetorical questions can be manipulative because they are designed to appear objective and open-ended, but may actually lead the reader to a foregone conclusion.

The rhetorical question takes several forms:

  • It may answer itself and require no response. Example: Do people want to be successful?
  • It may be used to provoke thought. Example: What if this generation could solve hunger?
  • It may be used to state the obvious. Example: Can students try a bit harder next time?
  • It may have no possible answer. Example: What if there is no answer to this problem?

Read the rules.

Don’t use rhetorical questions as thesis statements. Conclusion paragraphs may include rhetorical questions to provide questions for further study beyond the essay itself.

In the following sentences, [bracket] the rhetorical questions.

  1. How could they know? Why are the couples traveling to Europe for business?
  2. Without the tools the project was impossible to complete. Why bother? Does this project have a purpose?
  3. What is the message within that painting? What if all works of art meant something?
  4. If love is the answer, what is the question? Why do people fall in love? Does everyone do so?
  5. What happens when dreams are delayed? Can dreams be real? Or are dreams simply dreams?

Revise the rhetorical question into a statement.

Of what use are rhetorical questions?

Answers

  1. [How could they know?] Why are the couples traveling to Europe for business?
  2. Without the tools the project was impossible to complete. [Why bother?] [Does this project have a purpose?]
  3. What is the message within that painting? [What if all works of art meant something?]
  4. [If love is the answer, what is the question?] [Why do people fall in love?] [Does everyone do so?]
  5. [What happens when dreams are delayed?] [Can dreams be real?] [Or are dreams simply dreams?]

*****

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:

Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



How to Eliminate Passive Voice

How to Eliminate Passive Voice

Eliminate Passive Voice

“What does Ms. Stark’s comment mean here on my essay?” asked Bella. “It says, ‘Make  your subjects do something.’”

“She’s telling you to use the active voice in your essays,” I explained.

“Can’t my subjects take a rest and let the verbs do something for them once in a while?”

“Very funny, but I’d take her advice.”

Definition and Examples

Verbs have two voices: active and passive:

  • In the active voice the subject of the sentence acts upon the verb. For example, in “The students noticed her mistake,” the “students” (the subject) acts upon the verb, “noticed.”
  • In the passive voice the subject of the sentence is acted upon by the verb. For example, in “Her mistake was noticed by the students,” the “students” (the subject) receive the action of the verb.

Read the rule and revision strategies.

Use verbs in the active voice to emphasize the importance of the action, rather than that of the subject, or when the passive voice is required to show scientific objectivity. To change the passive voice into active voice, try these 3 strategies:

  • Place the subject of the sentence before its predicate (unless the sentence is a question).
  • Eliminate the helping verbs and change the verb form if necessary.
  • Eliminate the prepositional phrase beginning with the by

Write these sentences and [bracket] the passive voice verbs.

  1. I’m afraid that your phone has been damaged by that spilled drink.
  2. Ms. Slavin’s test was failed by the majority of the students who failed to study.
  3. The purpose of the assembly is still being evaluated by Student Council, but most students support anything that will get them out of class.
  4. By the time they arrive, the choices will already have been made.
  5. If the decision is left to her, she will choose what has been done countless times before.

Change the passive voice verb to active voice.

The passive voice is to be avoided by you if it can be helped.

*****

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Reading Counts! Claims and Counterclaims

Accelerated Reader or Reading Counts!

AR or RC?

The purpose of this article on Reading Counts! is threefold: 1. To briefly summarize the basics of the Reading Counts! (RC) independent reading management program 2. To analyze three key claims made by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMS) regarding the efficacy of the RC (formerly Scholastic Reading Counts!) program and provide counterclaims by reading researchers, librarians, students, teachers, and Yours Truly. 3. To promote my own reading intervention program at the end of the article with free teaching resources 🙂

Background

I previously ventured into the deep waters of independent reading management programs a number of years ago with my article, The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader. Accelerated Reader™ is the most popular independent reading management program with 180,000 book titles (January 2019) assigned a Reading Practice Quiz. RC is the second place challenger with 45,000. Teacher comments on my article tend to focus more on the abuses of the program, and less so on the program itself. Many teachers are quite defensive about their use of the AR program. Understandably so. We teachers view our instructional choices as reflections of our professionalism. Curriculum is personal. In anticipation of similar comments to this article on Reading Counts!, I would like to preemptively respond by saying, “I’m sure that you are doing your part to adapt the Reading Counts! program to the needs of your kids, and I respect your professional judgment that you know your students best.” Please don’t shoot the messenger! However, as I re-read “The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader” in preparation for this article, I would have to say that most of the problems in the AR program are applicable to the RC program, as well. I won’t cover the same ground in this article. However, I will analyze three of the claims made in the RC program, which I see as being more exclusive to this program. But first, a brief overview of how the RC program works.

How Reading Counts! Works

  • A school or district pays a school start-up fee of $375.00 and is assigned a sales representative. The RC software management program is licensed for an annual fee of $4.00 per student (a lower price for 2019). The reading placement and monitoring assessment, recently re-named the Reading Inventory (RI), costs an additional $4.00 per student. So, if my math is correct, that’s $4,000.00 for a 500 student elementary school every year. Plus, more money…
  • The school and/or district re-allocate portions of their budgets to purchase books included within the RC program. Currently, RC has about 45,000 titles, but unlike the books in the AR program, the company makes money from each sale, because HMH publishes them! These purchases will necessarily become an every-year budget item. 
  • The HMS sales representative in-services school librarians, teachers, and administrators (lots of online help, as well) on how to implement the RC program. Suggestions as to how to inform and work with parents and corresponding resources are provided. The program resources are relatively easy to use, but time-consuming.
  • The classroom teacher or librarian administers the computer-adaptive Reading Inventory (RI) as a reading placement test to all students participating in the RC program. This test provides a Personal Lexile® score for each student.
  • Teachers use the Student Achievement Manager (SAM) data and management system to generate student and class reports. The reports list the results of the RI as a Personal Lexile® number (level or measure) for each student and a class Lexile average. A higher Lexile number indicates a higher reading level ability.
  • The reports also list the students’ optimal Lexile text readability levels (a numerical range). A text’s Lexile level is determined by its semantic and syntactic degree of difficulty and sentence length. Once students know their reading levels, they can select books from the Search Book Expert Online ,within these reading levels. Although the RC is a Lexile-based program, it also includes grade-level equivalency and guided reading levels in this search engine. Additional filters include grade-level interest (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, high school, and high interest/intervention), fiction and non-fiction, subject areas, genre, and curriculum-integrated books. Note that the HMS reading intervention programs, READ 180 Next Generation® and System 44® include some RC titles for their independent reading rotations.
  • Teachers and students set reading goals in terms of a point system. Each book is assigned a specific point value based upon its length and text complexity. Many teachers establish a monthly points requirement.
  • Once students have finished their books, they take a corresponding quiz on the computer, or the teacher may choose to print the quiz. Although the test bank for each quiz includes 30 items, the default number of questions is 10. The RC authors and sales representatives make much ado about the larger quiz bank of questions compared to that of the AR program. They claim that is less easy for students to cheat due to the randomized 10 question default when students are sitting side-by-side. This may be true; however, a quick search indicated plenty of RC quiz “cheat sites,” as are found with the AR program. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Students are allowed to examine their incorrect responses, but there is no pay-off for doing so if the quiz re-takes use different questions. 
  • If the students achieve a predetermined score (mastery criteria set by the teacher), they receive a “congratulations screen” and an opportunity to rate the book they read on the “Read-o-Meter.” Students can also check their own RC Student Progress Report. Points are awarded based upon the percentage of quiz questions answered correctly. If the students do not achieve mastery, the teacher may require them to read the book again and retest or re-visit the students’ RI Lexile level range and the level and content of the book. Students are able to take the 10-question quiz 3 times, because there are 30 questions.
  • Teachers generate reports on students’ quiz scores and track the amount of reading and student test scores. They can also receive alerts when a student has not taken a quiz within a given period.
  • Once individual student point goals (usually set monthly) have been mastered, the student receives a certificate of achievement.
  • The Reading Counts! Educator’s Guide provides plenty of reproducibles to supplement the quizzes, such as reading logs, story charts, book reports, parent letters (in several languages), and guides for teachers to write their own quizzes (if the school library does not have the RC book).

Claims and Counterclaims

Claim 1: Students improve their reading more when the complexity of the text they read matches their reading ability. The best test to measure that optimal match or zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978)? The HMH Reading Inventory. Why? The RI is a criterion (compared to a fixed goal, such as a Common Core Standard) and norm-referenced (compared to other students) test. This is important because the test design allows teachers to administer the RI twice more within the school year to monitor progress. The Lexiles, which RI uses, have improved readability assessments (standard errors of measurement have been minimized and the amount of comprehension variance that can be explained by text difficulty has been improved. Accelerated Reader’s STAR test doesn’t have those advantages.

Counterclaim: Given that the RI is state of the art, in terms of Lexile levels and matching students to texts, and given that the ability to administer the test three times per year does provide a valid measure to monitor progress. But, the entire design of the RC programs begs the question. It assumes what has yet to be proven. As noted reading researcher, Dr. Tim Shanahan asserts,

…Lexiles have greatly improved readability assessment … and yet we are in no better shape than before since there are no studies indicating that if you teach students at particular Lexile levels more learning will accrue. http://www.readingrockets.org/blogs/shanahan-on-literacy/teaching-books-students-reading-levels

…we have put way too much confidence in an unproven theory. The model of learning underlying that theory is too simplistic. Learning to read is an interaction between a learner, a text, and a teacher. Instructional level theory posits that the text difficulty level relative to the student reading level is the important factor in learning. But that ignores the guidance, support, and scaffolding provided by the teacher. [In doing so, educators] have striven to get kids to levels where they will likely learn best with minimal teacher support. https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/rejecting-instructional-level-theory

Matching the right books to readers is simply more complex than the quantitative Lexile approach RC uses. Content, theme, and sophistication of thought matter, as well as the age and maturity of the reader are critically important factors to consider when students select books for independent reading. Most would find the following strictly quantitative Lexile measurements, listed in parentheses, to be inappropriate criteria for these grade levels.

  • 2nd Grade: Night – Wiesel (570)
  • 3rd Grade: The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway (610); Twisted – Anderson (680); Incarceron – Fisher (600)
  • 4th Grade: Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck (680); The Color Purple – Walker (670)
  • 5th Grade: For Whom the Bell Tolls – Hemingway (840); Kite Runner – Hosseini (840); A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway (730); Cat’s Cradle – Vonnegut (790)
  • 6th Grade: As I Lay Dying – Faulkner (870); The Sound and the Fury – Faulkner (870); To Kill a Mockingbird – Lee (870); Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury (890)

http://www.unleashingreaders.com/?p=8891

Additionally, the authors of the Common Core State Standards, with their emphases on text complexity, specifically challenge the notion that reading instruction should focus solely on texts at student ability levels. The authors cite research suggesting that with such scaffolds as close reading, even struggling readers can access significantly more complex text than that to which they have been traditionally given access. https://achievethecore.org/content/upload/Implementation%20-%20Issues%20With%20a%20Leveled-Only%20Text%20Approach[1].pdf

“Below are bibliographic citations for the 26 studies referenced in Shanahan (2014) regarding students making gains with more complex text when given appropriate scaffolding. In addition abstracts and full-text PDF’s of all studies are available as well. These references were provided by Shanahan in “Building Up To FrustrationLevel Text” in Reading Today Online available here:”

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2014/09/02/building-up-to-frustration-level-text

Furthermore, reading research has repeatedly demonstrated the important variable of prior knowledge with respect to reading comprehension. When readers have significant prior knowledge on a topic, familiarity with the genre, or experience with the author’s writing style, even high Lexile level texts can be accessible. Prior knowledge and scaffolding relevant content and context can often trump the quantitative challenges of complex semantic and syntactic text for students.

Motivation is another significant variable in matching readers to text that can override the limitations of the RC Lexile levels. My youngest son was in 4th grade when the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, came out. Clearly, the quantitative Lexile level of 880 should have prevented his MA reading specialist father (me) from purchasing this “frustration level” book. Instead, I dutifully ignored the quantitative data and waited in line with my fourth grader for the midnight release of this treasured book. My son plowed through the book with a high level of comprehension. By the end of fourth grade, my son was reading significantly above grade level. Thanks to motivational influence of J.K. Rowling and the dozens of peers who were concurrently reading and discussion that book during recess.

Others would agree that reader motivation is far more important than instructional reading levels in book selection. From Ricki Ginsberg’s article, “This is my Anti-Lexile, Anti-Reading Level Post” (Ginsberg is Assistant Professor of English Education at Colorado State University):

I’m a 6th grader and when I took a Lexile test for my grade, I got stuck with books I hate so much. We had to search for books in my Lexile. I am so bored of those books. I want to read whatever I want to.

I took my grandson (a few years ago) to his book fair to purchase some books with him. He chose a few, and then we went back to his classroom to get his things, where I met his teacher. She took a look at the books he had chosen, and was excited about, and said, “Oh, I think these are too hard for you. You need to choose ones more at your level.” She didn’t know that I was a teacher, and I didn’t tell her. I almost hit her, but I didn’t do that either. She was the one who pretty much stopped his excitement about reading…

As a librarian, I have fought for years against leveling books. I was supported my district years ago against AR, but my job as a librarian was shifted to support classroom curriculum instead of supporting reading enjoyment, reference process, and library skills. Now a new deputy superintendent, whose old District used a Lexile based reading program, is spending money on a program that is Lexile leveled. While library books are hardly given any budget money, tens of thousands are being spent… The skills that teachers built by learning how to “fit” a book to a student and teaching students to self-select challenging and interesting reading material is being prostituted to paying publishers for poorly written formulaic books dressed up with attractive level numbers. It is a disservice to our students that ultimately destroys their confidence in becoming independent readers.

Unshelved

Used with permission www.unshelved.com

Claim 2: RC provides the accountability to ensure that students are reading independently.

At the heart of this powerful program is the practice provided by its quizzes. Unlike other reading assessment programs, no two quizzes in Reading Counts! are the same, struggling readers have the opportunity to retake quizzes, and quiz settings can be customized based on individual students’ needs for extra support or challenge. This quiz quality leads to more accurate and actionable data to keep students on track for success.

[Reading Counts!] automatically generates a quiz that meets each student’s reading needs. Because every quiz provides a true formative, curriculum-based assessment, As a computer-based program, RC provides immediate feedback and unique opportunities for mastery. Students can review questions that were incorrectly answered. Because each quiz is drawn from a database of up to 30 questions, students not showing an expected level of mastery can retake quizzes with a different set of questions. Research shows that when students are provided with immediate feedback, they are able to self-correct and make academic progress (Branford, Goldman & Vye 1991). https://www.hmhco.com/programs/reading-counts

Counterclaim: While the reading research is clear that students who read independently are significantly more likely to outperform peers who do not read on their own (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding 1998), and those who read more independently score higher on reading tests compared to those who read less (Juel, 1988; Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986; Stanovich, 1986), the research does not support the claim of the RC authors and editorial board that the type of accountability that the program uses (quizzes) is necessary to achieve optimal reading gains.

Each of the 45,000 RC quizzes includes a test bank of 30 questions. They are primarily recall questions with some vocabulary and a minimum number of inferential questions. Few of the questions are relevant to the big ideas or themes of the corresponding books. In essence, the quizzes are designed to hold students accountable for reading their books.

Some researchers such as Dr. Stephen Krashen, argue that free voluntary reading, without accountability, produces greater reading gains than independent reading programs with accountability, as with the quizzes in the RC program. You may wish to check out my dialogue with Dr. Krashen on in-class independent reading and accountability. I disagree with Dr. Krashen and support independent reading with accountability.

My take is that we teachers have much better methods to hold students accountable for independent reading that also reinforce effective reading practice. For example, as a middle school teacher, I use online peer book clubs and student-parent discussions for my middle school students. I’ve also taught high school ELA and supervised elementary teachers doing the same. Plenty of accountability and practice, using the motivating social nature of reading. And no in-class independent reading. It’s all homework. I’m no guru, but I’m persistent, and I get between 80–90% participation (more the first semester than the last).

I teach students and their parents how to self-select reading, informed, but not limited by word recognition measures. However, challenging books need not be the only books students read. Reading at multiple levels has clear advantages and reflects real-world reading. I also train students how to discuss their reading in their online book clubs with their peers (one daily post and two comments required using the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks… download follows… to prompt), and I pop in to add my 2 cents. At Back-to-School Night (I require at least one family member to attend, and arrange infinite make-up sessions until I meet with every parent or guardian), I train adults how to hold 3-minute student-led reading discussions and parents assign points for their kid’s 5-days-per-week independent reading and discussion. I’m in a lower, poverty-challenged school with 75% free and reduced lunch, multi-ethnic, multi-languages, etc. If you have tricks up your sleeves to hold students accountable for reading that don’t require additional teacher correction or huge amounts of time, please add to the comments section of this post. At the end of this article, I link to a nicely organized list of articles and free resources for ELA and reading intervention teachers with quite a few more ideas on independent reading.

In the RC program, the SAM management system tracks individual and class quiz scores and also the number of words students have read in each book. If a student doesn’t pass the quiz after three attempts, she or he loses credit for having read the book. This means that the number of words the student has read is not tallied, and the student doesn’t receive a reward certificate as quickly. If it’s the independent reading that reinforces comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, and fluency, why doesn’t the student receive credit for doing so? The bottom line is that students receive positive reinforcement for mastering quizzes, not for reading. Reading is not rewarded; passing the quizzes is.

Claim 3: RC EMPOWERS educators with reports and actionable data at the student, school and district level. As a supplementary reading program, RC REINFORCES comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency skills. 

Counterclaims: The reports do provide information to the teacher regarding who read what, at what Lexile levels, how many pages read, what quiz scores were achieved, who hasn’t taken a quiz for awhile (alerts), and more. Plenty of information about what your students are and are not doing with respect to their independent reading. All interesting information, but information which takes time to input, analyze, and report (whoever says that technology is a time-saver is crazy); and information which RI administrators (like your principal) can access and compare to that of your colleagues. Although not advocated by the authors of the RC program, most teachers do use this data in various ways to provide incentives for participation in terms of rewards and/or grades. Of course, the incentives can become problematic. See my article, The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader for examples. In short, the SAM reports do provide data collection and management functions (ones which could be done by paper and pencil or a simple Excel® spreadsheet in less time at no cost); however, none of these data informs reading instruction.

Next, let’s take a look at the claim about empowering educators with actionable data. Remember, the two assessments of the RC program are the three-times per year, Lexile-based HMH Reading Inventory (used for initial placement and subsequent progress monitoring) and the 45,000 quizzes. To my mind, actionable data should mean teachable data derived from prescriptive assessments that are reliable and valid. Let’s examine whether these two assessments provide information which is teachable.

For example, let’s say the students in your class take the RI during the first week of school. One of your bright students, Amanda, scores an above grade-level Personal Lexile score of 700, while  your class average is 550. With the SAM management software, you are able to use that data to match readers to books. However, other than that use (which we’ve already shown to be of questionable value), those initial RI Lexile scores provide no data to inform our reading instruction. On the RI given 3 months later, Amanda improves to a 750 and her average quiz scores from 80–90%, but your class averages the same 550 Lexile level and has not improved its 70% quiz average.

What does that data indicate? Something appears to be helping Amanda improve her reading, but we have no idea what it is. It could be the RC program; it could be the independent reading, itself; it could be the reading instruction you are doing in class, though you may not know exactly what instruction is helping; it could be what her parents are doing at home. Regarding your class, average Lexile and quiz scores, something appears not to be working. But what is the something so we can do something about it? We don’t know. You could look at subgroups and find out that your girls have improved more than your boys, or one ethnic group over the other, etc. But how does the Lexile and quiz data inform our instruction? The short answer? It doesn’t. The RI and quizzes provide no information about which reading skills have not yet been mastered and which have been mastered by Amanda or class as a whole. Neither assessment offers the teacher any specific data regarding what to teach and what not to teachSo why test if it does not provide actionable data?

A good question. Of course, teachers have been creating diagnostic and formative assessments for years that do inform their reading instruction in specific sub-skills. Good teachers are more than willing to test when the data pinpoints what needs to be taught and practiced and what does not require repeated instruction. Like many teachers, I’ve developed my own assessments to inform my instruction. I’ve written and field tested 13 diagnostic reading assessments with recording matrices and audio files, which provide teachable data. I provide them free of charge to help your students, and because some teachers would prefer not to re-invent the wheel by creating their teaching resources to correspond to each assessment item. Yes, you can buy those instructional resources from Pennington Publishing. Simply click the link and look in the header to download and print the free assessments. Additionally, skim the Articles and Resources to find over 700 articles of interest to the ELA and reading teacher, including a slew of articles on how to create your own no-cost independent reading program that I think does a better job for students than either the Accelerated Reader™ and Reading Counts! programs.

Both the Accelerated Reader™ and Reading Counts! program authors are careful to label their independent reading management programs as supplementary programs, as they should. However, as every teacher knows, instructional time is reductive: if you add on this, you have to take away that. Because both programs are designed for in-class and home practice, AR and RC supplant other instruction, most always reading instruction. Accepting at face value the RC claim that RC REINFORCES comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency skills, my question to teachers would be… Which would help your students improve their reading more? REINFORCING or TEACHING? Feel free to download my SCRIP Comprehension Strategies TEACHING resource at the end of this article as a reward for slogging through this rather long diatribe. I look forward to your comments.

*****

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

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Check out the quality of these programs with a resource which works for both grade-level and struggling readers to improve internal monitoring of reading: 

These five FREE lessons will help you teach the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies for both grade-level and struggling readers. This FREE download is sent safe and secure to your email, and includes a set of SCRIP Posters and Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

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ELA Language Anchor Standards | Curriculum Maps

Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards

If you and your grade-level team and/or department are committed to teaching the ELA Language Anchor Standards (the CCSS Anchor Standards for Language), these resources are for you!

Download these FREE full-year detailed grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 curriculum maps to break down the grade-level CCSS Language Strand Standards into a specific instructional scope and sequence that is realistic and do-able for the entire school year. The 28 instructional weeks provide a rigorous pacing guide with additional time for beginning of the year diagnostic assessments, midterm and final exams, and standardized testing blocks.

These maps indicate which grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons to teach in the order that most teachers agree makes sense. The spelling components are organized by conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. The vocabulary section lists includes the following: Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.); Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.); Language Resources (L.4.c.d.); Figures of Speech (L.5.a.); Word Relationships (L.5.b.); Connotations (L.5.c.); and Academic Language Words (L.6.0) derived from the research-based Academic Words List.

This FREE download includes all grade-level L. 1,2 grammar, usage, mechanics (language conventions), L. 2 spelling, L. 3 knowledge of language, and L. 4, 5, 6 vocabulary Common Core State Standards.

The curriculum maps are included in the author, Mark Pennington’s standards and assessment-based programs. These programs help you teach each of the Language Anchor Standards with diagnostic, formative, and summative (unit) assessments to ensure that your students have mastered the standards. Plus, remedial worksheets provide the extra practice some of your students need to catch up while they keep up with grade-level standards. Read through the product descriptions before downloading your grade-level ELA Language Anchor Standards Curriculum Map at the end of the article.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics (L.1,2)

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

Pennington Publishing provides traditional grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and high school programs, including interactive instruction, practice, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts, writing application, formative assessments, and biweekly unit tests. Diagnostic assessments help pinpoint remedial CCSS Standards deficits, and students are assigned targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment, correspond to all test items.

Additionally, Pennington Publishing sells grade-level and remedial grammar, usage, and mechanics literacy centers (stations) and multi-level grades 4−8 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics notebooks.

Spelling Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Spelling (L.2)

The Differentiated Spelling Instruction grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs offer grade-level spelling instruction built upon the conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. Each lesson includes a 20-word spelling test and spelling patterns sort (all word provided). After 7 weeks of instruction, students take a summative assessment. The diagnostic spelling assessment includes all previous grade-level spelling patterns, and corresponding worksheets (each with a formative assessment) target each test item.

Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking (L.3)

Teaching Grammar through Writing

Writing Openers Language Application

The Writing Application Openers grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs provide 56 whole-class, twice-per-week “quick writes,” designed to help students learn, practice, and apply grade-level grammar, usage, mechanics, sentence structure, and sentence variety standards. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics High School includes these openers, as well.

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4-8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use (L.4,5,6)

The Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs include 56 vocabulary worksheets to help students master each standard: multiple meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, language resources (dictionary/thesaurus), figures of speech, word relationships, connotations, and academic language words (chosen from the research-based Academic Words List. Each lesson has vocabulary study cards and review games. Biweekly tests require students to define and apply the words in the writing context. Syllable and context clues vocabulary worksheets add depth to these grade-level programs.

BUNDLES

Pennington Publishing offers comprehensive grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES to teach each of the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language.

Get the Grade 4 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Don’t Use Metaphors in Essays

Essays May Not Include Metaphors

Don’t Use Metaphors in Essays

“My life is a tree. It has deep roots, but it needs to be watered so that it can branch out and touch the sky,” Pablo wrote in his essay introduction.

“Wow! That tree needs to be pruned a bit; I would leaf the extended metaphors to your poetry,” I suggested.

“Oh, I get it. Only formal, literal writing for essays,” sighs Pablo.

Definitions and Examples

A metaphor is an implied (suggested) comparison of two unlike things. Example: Love is a rose

An extended metaphor continues the comparison through several sentences in a story or through several lines in a poem. Example: “Love is a rose, but you better not pick it. It only grows when it’s on the vine. A handful of thorns and you’ll know you’ve missed it. You lose your love when you say the word mine.” (Neil Young)

Read the rule.

Don’t use metaphors or other figures of speech in essays.

Practice

Write the sentences and [bracket] the metaphors.

  1. My heart is broken. I feel so blue, but I know that time will heal all wounds.
  2. That student is always fishing for compliments. She has absolutely no self-confidence.
  3. Life is a journey, but the first step is often the scariest.
  4. Working with her study group was worse than swimming in a sea of sharks.
  5. She is walking a tightrope with her boss on making a profit and cutting costs.

Revise the sentence by eliminating the metaphors.

Even if a metaphor hits a home run, it can be over-played.

Answers

  1. My [heart is broken]. I [feel so blue], but I know that [time will heal all wounds].
  2. That student is always [fishing for compliments]. She has absolutely no self-confidence.
  3. [Life is a journey], but the [first step] is often the scariest.
  4. Working with her study group was worse than [swimming in a sea of sharks].
  5. She is [walking a tightrope] with her boss on making a profit and cutting costs.

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:

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Avoiding Repetitious Writing

How to Avoid Repetitious Writing

Repetitious Writing

“All students should always include citations for their textual evidence, and every pupil must always include whom and where the fact or idea was found, and everyone in our editing group ought to do that as well,” advised Melanie. “Each writer need to always include these proper credits in their essays,” she advised.

“Good reminders, Melanie, but we students will have to always exclude you from our peer editing group unless you get rid of your repetitious writing.”

Definition and Examples

Repetitious writing involves repeating the same ideas, words or synonyms of those words, and sentence structure. Refer to the dialogue above for the following examples:

  • Ideas‒Examples: “citations for their textual evidence,” “whom and where the fact or idea was found,” “proper credits”
  • Words or Phrases‒Examples: “always include”
  • Subjects‒Examples: “students,” “pupil,” “our editing group,” and “writer”
  • Predicates and Verb Forms‒Examples: “should,” “must,” “ought to,” need to”, “have to”
  • Modifiers‒Examples: “All,” “every,” “everyone,” “each”

Read the rules.

  • Don’t repeat ideas.
  • Don’t overuse the same or synonymous words and phrases.
  • Vary sentence structure in terms of subject-verb-object pattern; types of sentences (simple, complex, compound, compound-complex) or (declarative, imperative, interrogative, exclamatory); and sentence length.

Practice

Write the sentences and [bracket] the repetitious writing.

  1. I like that idea because the concept is a brilliant thought.
  2. None of the athletes were ready, and not one of them had prepared.
  3. That’s a crazy thing to say, and that certainly requires an apology.
  4. I went shopping. I left. I came home. It had been an exhausting day.
  5. Don’t go there. Leave her alone, and stop pestering her. She will come back when she can.

Revise the repetitious writing in this sentence.

Every student should always avoid repetitious writing and each pupil must refrain in all cases.

Answers

  1. I like that [idea] because the [concept] is a brilliant [thought].
  2. [None] of the athletes were [ready], and [not one] of them had [prepared].
  3. [That’s] a crazy thing to say, and [that] certainly requires an apology.
  4. [I went shopping.] [I left.] [I came home.] It had been an exhausting day.
  5. [Don’t go there.] [Leave her alone,] and [stop pestering her.] She will come back when she can.

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:

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