Common Core Test Results

As teachers have focused on the reading and writing strands of the Common Core State Standards the past three years, the Language Strand Standards have been given short shrift. As the testing data from the 2015 SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), the PAARC (Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), and other state tests have been released, teachers and district personnel are identifying the instructional gaps and rediscovering why a balanced literacy program, including explicit instruction in grammar, usage, spelling, and vocabulary is so essential.

A Brief Case Study

In Elk Grove Unified School District, the fifth largest school district in California, teachers have received extensive training, including over a week of all day sessions at the district office in the Reading (Literature and Informational) and Writing Strands. Teachers have learned and practiced Close Reading strategies, text dependent questions, and analyzed district-created writing rubrics in the narrative, argumentative, and informational/explanatory Writing Standards. A passing nod has been given to the Speaking/Listening Strand, but only minimal professional development has been delivered in the Language Strand. Until now.

Elk Grove Unified and all districts in California have now received the assessment results for the CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress) mix of online and paper-pencil assessments, including the online SBAC English language arts/literacy (ELA) tests. The district results? Not nearly as good as expected for this high performing school district. The current mantra? “It’s just a baseline year for us.” The game plan to improve overall and sub-group scores? Focus on the Language Strand.

The Big Picture

It’s the Language Strand that provides the tools of language, that is the grammar, usage, spelling, and vocabulary that makes reading and writing intelligible. Now as teachers and district personnel, such as in Elk Grove Unified, have begun to deconstruct what the Common Core tests actually assess, it is evident that the whole is made up of many parts. Part to whole instruction is making a comeback.

In the words of the Common Core authors:

To build a foundation for college and career readiness in language, students must gain control over many conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics as well as learn other ways to use language to convey meaning effectively. They must also be able to determine or clarify the meaning of grade-appropriate words encountered through listening, reading, and media use; come to appreciate that words have nonliteral meanings, shadings of meaning, and relationships to other words; and expand their vocabulary in the course of studying content. The inclusion of Language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, effective language use, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts. http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/L/

When most teachers and district personnel think grammar, usage, spelling, and vocabulary, they think about writing. The performance-based writing assessments evaluate students’ abilities to 1. Develop ideas 2. Organize their writing and 3. Craft their grammar and language usage to narrate, argue, or inform. Teachers have done a wonderful job on 1 and 2. Students now understand the difference between the writing domains (genre). However, as the 2015 SBAC and PAARC assessment results show so clearly, it’s the ability to use the tools of language that our students lack.

But these relative weaknesses are not solely found in the performance-based writing components. The language tools are critically important in every testing component. Let’s take a look at some of the actual multiple-choice assessment reading components from both the SBAC and PAARC tests to see how integral the grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary of the Language Strand is to success on the Common Core tests:

Common Core Test Items–Vocabulary

Common Core Test Items–Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, and Spelling

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

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Pennington Publishing Educational Sales Representatives

Thank you for your interest in Pennington Publishing’s assessment-based ELA/Literacy instructional resources. Following are the educational sales representatives for your state with contact emails. Each representative is dedicated to providing the support teachers need to make informed choices regarding matching curriculum to the needs of their students.

Pennington Publishing Educational Sales Representatives


Alabama  Please contact Mark Pennington at mark@penningtonpublishing.com

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Common Core Diagnostic ELA Assessments

As a teacher-publisher, I get quite a few questions about my products. It is heart-warming to see the recent re-kindled interest in assessment-based learning. Specifically, teachers want diagnostic assessments to determine which of the Common Core ELA/Literacy Standards their students do and do not know to be able to plan effective direct instruction and remediation in prior grade-level Standards. Teachers are particularly interested in diagnostic assessments for the grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards found in the Common Core Language Strand because of the level of instructional rigor required in these Standards. Here’s a set of questions from a potential customer on Teachers Pay Teachers re: my Common Core diagnostic ELA assessments. My answers should provide interested readers with the assessment-based resources they want to meet the needs of their students.

QUESTION: I notice that Pennington Publishing offers comprehensive whole-class diagnostic assessments with corresponding progress-monitoring matrices in grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. How many questions are on the tests, and how long do the tests take to administer? I teach sixth grade in a K−8 school. Are the diagnostic assessments different for each grade level? Also, if you don’t mind my asking… Why are you offering all of these assessments for only $3.00 if they are as good as you describe?

ANSWER: I’m happy to answer your questions. Even the last one. The grade 6 diagnostic grammar and usage assessment consists of 44 multiple choice questions and takes students about 25 minutes to complete.

The sixth grade mechanics assessment has 8 sentence answers with 32 discreet mechanics skills measured. (Students rewrite unpunctuated sentences.) The test takes about 15 minutes to complete.

The spelling assessment is comprehensive, not random samples as found in qualitative spelling inventories. It covers each of the sound-spellings students should know up to sixth grade. The assessment has 89 words to be dictated in the word, word-sentence-word format. I just gave the eighth grade spelling assessment to my own class. It has 102 words and it took 26 minutes to administer. We took a short stretch break half-way through. *Suggestion: Record the test on your phone and upload to your desktop, so you won’t have to re-dictate for test make-ups, new students, etc.

Yes, the grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 diagnostic assessments are different for each grade level in that they build upon each other. The assessments are based upon the Common Core grade level Standards and the recommendations of the Common Core authors in Appendix A of the English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. As you know, Appendix A includes the research base supporting the key elements of the Standards. So, the grade 8 assessment will have more assessment items than the grade 4 assessment.

Of course, teachers often ask why Pennington Publishing offers these extensive diagnostic assessments with corresponding matrices for only $3.00. There is a method behind this madness.

Once teachers diagnose the specific deficits, e.g. you as a sixth grade teacher find out precisely which K-5 grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling skills your students know and do not yet know, you and other teachers will want your students to master each of the relative deficits. Although veteran teachers will have some of the resources to remediate these deficits, most will not want to reinvent the wheel. So…

Pennington Publishing’s Teaching the Language Strand grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs have corresponding worksheets for each of the assessment items. The worksheets are fantastic with clear definitions, examples, practice, and a short formative assessment in which students apply what they have learned. Notice that these are not “drill and kill” worksheets teaching skills in isolation from the writing context. Answers included, of course. Plus, the Teaching the Language Strand programs all provide direct instruction lessons for each of the grade-level grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, vocabulary, and knowledge of language Common Core State Standards lessons with both print and digital teacher’s edition and accompanying consumable student workbooks. With the Teaching the Language Strand program, students “catch up” while they “keep up” with the rigorous grade-level Common Core Standards.

So now I may have talked you out of the $3.00 purchase because the aforementioned programs also include the assessments. What a sneaky upsell! I do guarantee that these assessment-based worksheets will provide ALL the tools you need to teach ALL of your students with diverse needs. For example, the remedial worksheets have been carefully written with your special education and English-language learners in mind with concise and concrete instructional language and practice.

These worksheets have been written by a teacher for teachers and their students with a built-in management system to keep students productive and to minimize teacher preparation and correction. Different students will be working on different worksheets to practice the concepts and skills each needs to remediate. The students self-correct their own worksheets from the answer booklets to be able to learn from their mistakes (and save the teacher time). Then students complete the WRITE formative assessment in which students are required to apply what they have learned re: the focused concept or skill in a sentence or two.

Once completed, the student visits the teacher for a 20-30-second mini-conference. The teacher skims the practice and corrections and reads the formative assessment. If mastered, the teacher (or student) marks that mastery on the progress monitoring matrices. Teachers, students, parents, (and, yes, principals) love to see that measurable progress on the matrices. It’s simple and effective individualized instruction with a built-in management system to maintain a productive and orderly learning experience.

Oh, by the way, teachers are licensed to place the worksheets on their class websites for parents and their children to access at home.

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

I do hope this long answer addressed each of your questions. Why not check out the instructional scope and sequence and two week test drive found at the end of the grade level product details to see if the Teaching the Language Strand would be a good fit for you and your grades 4−8 teachers? Also, check out the brief introductory video. Have more questions or wish to place an order? Please contact your educational sales representative for Pennington Publishing.

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22 MLA Citation Formats

Most mechanics manuals have either too few or too many of the MLA Citation Formats to be of real use to the student, author, or blogger. This one is just right with the most common 22 MLA citation formats. For the few sources that would not be well-suited to these 22, I recommend Purdue Writing Lab’s OWL and Son of Citation Machine. Of course, MLA (the Modern Language Association) is not the only citation format. Two others, APA (American Psychological Association) and CMS (Chicago Manual of Style), are preferred by most social science professors. Here’s a great side by side comparison of all three.

Most would agree that mechanics and grammar rules do serve a purpose. All academicians would agree that proper research citations do serve a purpose. Here’s the 22 MLA Citation Formats from The Pennington Mechanics Manual to help you proper cite the most common sources in your Works Cited at the end of a research paper or article and in-text citations and the end of individual direct or indirect quotations. Want the whole manual including 22 comma rules, 22 capitalization rules, 22 other punctuation rules, 22 quotation marks, italics and underlines, and 22 Modern Language Association (MLA) citation formats? Get The Pennington Mechanics Manual PDF here. The author (authority) of these mechanics rules is Mark Pennington, publisher of Teaching Essay Strategies designed to teach students the Common Core W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational explanatory essays with downloadable e-comments, and the newly released Grades 4-8 Teaching the Language Strand, designed to help students catch up and keep up with grade-level Standards in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary.

Teaching Essay Strategies program

Teaching Essay Strategies

The Pennington Mechanics Manual: 22 MLA Citation Formats

1 MLA Works Cited (Print Book) Pennington, Mark. Teaching Essay Strategies. El Dorado Hills, CA:   Pennington Publishing, 2010. 212-213. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

2 MLA Works Cited (Print Encyclopedia) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Encyclopedia of Writing. 1st ed. 1. El Dorado Hills, CA: Pennington Publishing, 2010. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

3 MLA Works Cited (Print Journal) Pennington, M. “Works Cited.” Teaching Essay Strategies. 1.1 (2010): 212-213. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

4 MLA Works Cited (Print Magazine) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Teaching Essay Strategies. 2010: 212-213. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

5 MLA Works Cited (Print Newspaper) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” London Bee 5 May 2011: B5. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington B5)

6 MLA Works Cited (Print Textbook or Anthology) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Teaching Essay Strategies. Ed. Jane Doe. El Dorado Hills: Pennington Publishing, 2010. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

7 MLA Works Cited (Print Letter) Pennington, Mark. “To Jane Doe.” 5 May 2011. El Dorado Hills, CA: 2011. Print. Letter. In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

8 MLA Works Cited (Print Document) Pennington, Mark. United States. Civil Air Patrol. District of Colombia: Department of Defense, 2011. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

9 MLA Works Cited (e-Book) Pennington, Mark. Teaching Essay Strategies. El Dorado Hills, CA: Pennington Publishing, 2010. 212-213. e-Book. < http://www.penningtonpublishing.com >. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

10 MLA Works Cited (Online Journal) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Writing Journal 3.2 (2011): 1-3. Web. 26 Mar 2011.               < http://www.penningtonpublishing.com >. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 1-3)

11 MLA Works Cited (Online Magazine) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Teaching Essay Strategies 5 May 2011: 22-26. Web. 26 Mar 2011. < http://www.penningtonpublishing.com >. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 22-26)

12 MLA Works Cited (Online Encyclopedia) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Encyclopedia of Writing. 2. 3. El Dorado Hills, CA: Pennington Publishing, 2011. Web. < http://www.penningtonpublishing.com >. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 111-113)

13 MLA Works Cited (Web Document) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Teaching Essay Strategies. Pennington Publishing, 5 May 2011. Web. 26 Mar 2011. < http://www.penningtonpublishing.com >. In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

14 MLA Works Cited (Web-based Videos or Images) “Sunset in Cancun.” Tropical Paradises. Web. 26 Mar 2011. <http://www.penningtonpublishing.com >. In-Text Citation: (“Sunset in Cancun”)

15 MLA Works Cited (Blog) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Pennington Publishing. Pennington Publishing, 5 May 2011. Web. 26 Mar 2011. <http://www.penningtonpublishing.com/blog>. In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

16 MLA Works Cited (Podcast) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Writing Podcasts. Pennington Publishing, 5 May 2011. Web. 26 Mar 2011. <http://www.penningtonpublishing.com>. In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

17 MLA Works Cited (E-Mail) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Message to Jane Doe. 5 May 2011. E-mail.  In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

18 MLA Works Cited (Online Forum) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” 5 May 2011. Online Posting to Writing Forum. Web. 26 Mar 2011. In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

19 MLA Works Cited (Online Government Document) Pennington, Mark. United States. Civil Air Patrol. District of Colombia: Department of Defense, 2011. Web. 26 Mar 2011. <http://www.departmentofdefense.gov>. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 22-26)

20 MLA Works Cited (Radio, Television, Film, or Recording) “Magical Kingdoms.” Behind the Scenes with the Mouse. Pennington Broadcasting Company: KTES, El Dorado Hills, 5 May 2015. Radio. 26 Mar 2011. In-Text Citation: (“Magical Kingdoms”)

21 MLA Works Cited (Online Interview) Pennington, Mark. Writing Works. Interview by Oprah Walters. 5 May 2011. Web. 26 Mar 2011. <http://www.penningtonpublishing.com/blog>. In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

22 MLA Works Cited (Lecture) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” English-language Arts Class. El Dorado Hills Unified School District. El Dorado High School, El Dorado Hills. 5 May 2011. Lecture. In-Text Citation: (Pennington)

Information taken from MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed., 2009, sections 6.4.8, 7.7.1, and 5.6.2.

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22 Quotation Mark Rules

The most misused and confused punctuation marks? Quotation marks have my vote. I have two theories as to why. 

The first is academic; the second is more a matter of mental illness.

First, Americans have the Brits to blame for our confusion (and they have the former colonists for theirs). The British use single quotation marks, when Americans use double quotation marks and we each reverse when using quotes within quotes. The Brits are also consistent in their placement of punctuation, while Americans are not. For example, the Brits place periods to the left of the citation, while we opt for the right. Example: Americans = “Over 22% were sterile” (Hampton 34).  British = “Over 22% were sterile.” (Hampton 34) For more of American-British differences, check here.

Secondly, educated students and adults have access to a vast amount of correct and incorrect use of mechanics and grammar rules. With the Internet our publishing standards have declined as most of us do not hire copy editors, or God forbid use Spell Check and/or Grammar Review to publish on the Web. As is often the case, professionals such as teachers and editors are exposed to so many repeated mistakes that they truly begin to question what is right and what is wrong. As a teacher of 30-something years and author of numerous spelling and grammar, usage, and mechanics books, I would hazard to guess that I’ve seen as many mistakes using quotation marks as I’ve seen correct usage. I truly begin to doubt myself sometimes.

I distinctly remember a late afternoon, sitting alone in my classroom in Sutter Creek, California. I was teaching eighth grade English and I had one more essay to grade before hopping on my motorcycle to head home. The student spelled thier in his first sentence. I had a brief panic attack, thinking that the student must be right and that I had just red-circled at least thirty thiers on other student papers. I actually had to look it up in a dictionary. The older we get, the more mental illness of this sort sets in. We get confused about quotation marks because we so often see them abused. Check out this their, there, they’re cartoon to help you remember correct usage and spelling.

For additional use of quotation marks in academic research, I highly recommend Purdue Writing Lab’s The Owl.

Here’s the 22 quotation marks rules from The Pennington Mechanics Manual to give you the help you need. Want the whole manual including 22 comma rules, 22 capitalization rules, 22 other punctuation rules, 22 quotation marks, italics and underlines, and 22 Modern Language Association (MLA) citation formats? Get The Pennington Mechanics Manual PDF here. The author (authority) of these mechanics rules is Mark Pennington, publisher of Teaching Essay Strategies designed to teach students the Common Core W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational explanatory essays with downloadable e-comments, and the newly released Grades 4-8 Teaching the Language Strand, designed to help students catch up and keep up with grade-level Standards in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary.

Teaching Essay Strategies program

Teaching Essay Strategies

The Pennington Mechanics Manual: 22 Quotation Mark Rules 

1 Double Quotation Marks Use double quotation marks to title parts of whole things, short things, or things which can’t be picked up from a table. Specifically, enclose titles of book chapters, articles, songs, videos, short poems, documents, reports, and short stories within double quotation marks. Example: The best chapter is titled “Mad Men.”

2 Double Quotation Marks for Special Use Words or Phrases Use double quotation marks to enclose words or phrases used in a different way than the norm. Example: With “friends” like that, who needs enemies? Use double quotation marks for technical terms. Example: The politician argued against “pork belly politics.”

3 Double Quotation Marks for Translation Double quotation marks or parentheses are used to enclose a translation. Example: The work was muy duro “very hard.”

4 Double Quotation Marks for Nicknames When used in the middle of someone’s full name, a nickname is enclosed in double quotation marks. Example: George Herman “Babe” Ruth

5 Single and Double Quotation Marks for Numbers When numbers are used for measurement, single and double quotation marks are used to show differences in number sets. Examples: The young woman stood 5’9” tall.

6 Double Quotation Marks in Dialogue Use quotation marks before and after dialogue with commas placed to the left of the quotation marks. Ending punctuation goes inside (to the left) of the closing double quotation marks. Begin a new paragraph for each new speaker. Examples:

———She said, “Call me.”

———“If I call,” he said, “it’ll be too late!”

———“So text me,” she replied.

7 Multiple Dialogue Sentences Separate speaker tags from multiple sentences used in a dialogue. Examples: “Call him tomorrow,” John urged. “Then text me what he says.” “Call him tomorrow. Then text me what he says,” urged John. 

8 Dialogue Ending a Paragraph Writers may choose to add dialogue to the end of a paragraph if the paragraph specifically relates to the speaker of the dialogue or the subject to which the dialogue refers. Example: Tom is so unpredictable. You never know how he will react. First, he said that he would not visit. Later, he texted me to call him that night, but I don’t think I will. “I’ll call him tomorrow, instead,” I said out loud.

9 No Punctuation before Dialogue or Direct Quotations If the quoted words flows directly without a pause from the first part of the sentence, no punctuation should be used. Examples: We asked him and he said “okay.” The author thought that “the evidence was quite clear” (Levy 76).

10 Period Placement with Uncited Direct Quotations Periods are placed inside (to the left) of ending double quotation marks for figures of speech and informal quotations. This is the rule even when ending the sentence with a quoted title. Examples: Everyone knows that “the apple does not fall far from the tree.” The music critic “loved everything the band performed.” She especially enjoyed “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree.”

11 Period Placement with Cited Direct Quotations Periods are placed outside (to the right) of the parenthetical citation following a direct quotation. Examples: According to the author, “Few remained to help” (Zaner 45). Ezekiel saw “what seemed to be four living creatures,” each with faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezek. 1.5-10).

12 Question Marks and Exclamation Points with Cited Direct Quotations Question marks and exclamation points go inside (to the left) of the double quotation marks, if part of the quoted sentence, but outside (to the right) of, if not. Example: “Why should we care?” the author asked (Peavy 22). When asking a question about a quotation, remove the ending punctuation, add an ending quotation mark, and then follow with the question mark. Example: In The Declaration of Independence, did Jefferson say “…all men are created equal”?

13 Semicolons with Cited Direct Quotations Semicolons go outside (to the right) of the closing quotation marks. Example: George exclaimed, “I made twenty sales today”; however, George said he had only twelve.

14 Colons with Cited Direct Quotations Colons replace commas following beginning speaker tags to introduce long sentences or passages. Example: The researcher explained:  “No one knew whether the emergency doctor knew how to handle the medical crisis or not.” Colons go outside the closing quotation marks. Example: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”: these words were President John F. Kennedy’s most memorable. 

15 Removing Words from Direct Quotations When removing words from a direct quotation, use the ellipsis (…) inside the double quotation marks. Only remove information that is irrelevant to the quotation. Example: Did Madison say “…in order to form a more perfect union…”?

16 Long Quotations longer than three lines (not three sentences) should be indented one tab space as a block text. Block quotations are not enclosed with double quotation marks. The citation is placed following all ending punctuation, even periods.

Example:        

———No one knows me

———and no one seems to understand

———the things that I feel

———and the things that I don’t. (Pennington 43)

17 Indirect Quotations Indirect quotations do not need quotation marks because the ideas are paraphrased. Only indirect quotations of a general nature may be used without citations. Example: She told me everything about college life. Indirect quotations of any online or printed sources must be cited in the same manner as direct quotations, but do not need quotation marks. Indirect quotations still require citations. Example: Most credited General Washington’s inspiring leadership (Adams 34).

18 Single Quotations within Double Quotations Use single quotation marks before and after a title that is punctuated by quotation marks or before and after a quotation that appears within the double quotation marks enclosing dialog or a direct quotation. Examples: He asked, “What did Dr. King mean in the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by the phrase ‘free at last’?”

19 Italicizing and Underlining Titles Italicizing and underlining are used for the same purposes. Italics are used in word processing; underlines are used in handwriting. Use italics or underlines to title whole things, long things, or things which can be picked up from a table. Specifically, italicize or underline titles of books (except religious books such as the Koran, albums/CDs, movies, television shows, games, magazines, newspapers, plays, blogs, and works of art. Example: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the last book in the series.

20 Italicizing and Underlining Uncommon Words and Phrases Use italics or underlines to refer to an uncommon word or phrase. The scientist warned of the dangers of frackingthe process of injecting liquid at high pressure beneath the earth’s surface to force open existing fissures to be able to extract oil or gas.

21 Italicizing and Underlining References to Words Use italics or underlines to refer to words within a sentence. Examples: By manage, she really meant control. 

22 Italicizing and Underlining Foreign Words and Phrases Use italics or underlines to refer to a word or for an uncommon foreign words or phrases; use italics or underline instead. Examples: By manage, she really meant control. She certainly did not practice laissez-faire management.

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22 Punctuation Rules

Most of us got plenty of practice in elementary and middle school with commas and capitalization. We thought we were on secure footing until freshman English. At some point during that year, our English teacher tossed out a copy of E.B. White poetry and everything we learned about punctuation went out the door. Besides, we started reading articles and plenty of other expository text with weird things like  semicolons, colons, acronyms, and plural possessives with strange apostrophe placements. Who thought there were actual rules about dashes, brackets, parentheses, and such? And don’t get me started on parentheses. All we knew was that our frosh English teacher loved to use that red pen for the “other punctuation” and grammar rules. We needed, and most of us still need, a bit of help.

Here’s the 22 other punctuation rules from The Pennington Mechanics Manual to give you the help you need. Want the whole manual including 22 comma rules, 22 capitalization rules, 22 other punctuation rules, 22 quotation marks, italics and underlines, and 22 Modern Language Association (MLA) citation formats? Get The Pennington Mechanics Manual PDF here. The author (authority) of these mechanics rules is Mark Pennington, publisher of Teaching Essay Strategies designed to teach students the Common Core W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational explanatory essays with downloadable e-comments, and the newly released Grades 4-8 Teaching the Language Strand, designed to help students catch up and keep up with grade-level Standards in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary.

Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

The Pennington Mechanics Manual: 22 Other Punctuation Rules 

1 Singular Possessive A possessive is a noun or pronoun that serves as an adjective to show ownership. For a singular possessive, place an apostrophe at the end of the noun and add an s. Example: His mom’s cookies are the best. Don’t use an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun (yours, his, hers, ours, yours, its, theirs). Examples: That plate is your’s. Revision: That plate is yours.

2 Singular Possessive Ending in s or /z/ When ending in an s having a /z/ sound, place an apostrophe, then an s, or simply end with an apostrophe. Examples: Charles’s friend or Charles’ friend is fun.

3 Singular Possessive Gerunds A singular possessive noun can connect to gerunds (verb forms ending in “ing” that serve as sentence subjects). Example: Joe’s cooking is not the best.

4 Singular Possessive Indefinite Pronouns Place the apostrophe before the s for singular indefinite pronouns. Examples: Now it is anybody’s, everybody’s, somebody’s, somebody else’s, either’s ballgame.

5 Plural Possessive without s Ending For a plural possessive of a singular word that doesn’t end in s, place the apostrophe after the s. If the singular and plural forms are spelled     differently, place the apostrophe before the s. Examples: The girls’ team is good, but the women’s team isn’t.

6 Plural Possessive with s Ending For a plural possessive of a singular word that does end in s, add “es” and then the apostrophe. Example: Our stove worked better than the Thomases’ stove.

7 Plural Possessive Joint Ownership When two or more words share joint ownership, the possessive form is used only for the last word. Example: Matt and Suzanne’s wedding was the social event of the season.

8 Plural Possessive Individual Ownership When two or more words are combined to show individual ownership of something, the possessive form is used for each of the words. Examples: Linda’s, Christie’s, and Wendy’s dresses were each individually designed. 

9 Period after Initials and Abbreviations When ending declarative and imperative  sentences with initials and abbreviations, use one period. When ending interrogative and exclamatory sentences, keep the period and add the question mark or exclamation point.  Examples: Is he John, Jr.? Viva U.S.A.!

10 Acronyms An acronym is any abbreviation formed from the first letters of each word in a phrase. Most frequently used acronyms do not require periods. Example: HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language).

11 Contractions A contraction is a shortened form of one or two words (one of which is usually a verb). An apostrophe takes the place of a missing letter(s) at the      beginning, middle, or end of the word. Examples: ‘Tis almost Halloween, but don’t light the jack-o’-lantern yet.

12 Semicolons Use semicolons to join independent clauses with or without conjunctions. Semicolons combine related phrases or dependent clauses. Example: Anna showed up late; Louise didn’t at all.

13 Colons with Ratios Use colons to show a relationship between numbers. Example: At 8:02 p.m. the ratio of girls to boys at the dance was 3:1.

14 Colons within Titles Use colons to show a relationship within titles. Example: Many people are familiar with “Psalm 23: 1” and refer to it as “The Lord is My Shepherd: Psalm 23.”

15 Colons in Business Letters Use colons after business letter salutations. Example: To Whom It May Concern: Thank you for your employment application.

16 Colons with Independent Clauses Use colons at the end of an independent clause to introduce information to explain the clause. Example: This is the most important rule: Keep your hands to yourself.

17 Exclamation Points Use one exclamation point at the end of a word, phrase, or complete sentence to show strong emotion or surprise. Phrases or clauses beginning with What and How that don’t ask questions should end with exclamation points. Examples: Wow! How amazing! The decision really shocked me!

18 Parentheses as Appositives Use parentheses following words as appositives to identify, explain, or define. Dashes or commas can serve the same function. Examples: That shade of lipstick (the red) goes perfectly with her hair color. The new schedule (which begins next year) seems confusing. The protocol (rules to be followed) was to ask questions after the presentation. 

19 Parentheses with Ending Punctuation Ending punctuation never is placed inside of parentheses, even when the parenthetical remark stands on its own as a complete sentence. Examples: I want that Popsicle® (the orange one). He was crazy. (He didn’t even know what day it was).

20 Dashes Use dashes, not hyphens, before and after appositives. Dashes are longer than hyphens and are found in INSERT > SYMBOL in Microsoft Word®. Appositives identify, explain, or define. Example: The best-loved movies−those with memorable plots−are worth repeated viewings. Also use dashes to indicate a numerical range. Example: Pages 4−29

21 Brackets Use brackets before and after words or ideas to make them more clear. Brackets add explanation or necessary background knowledge for the reader. Examples: George Washington [1732-1799] was gracious to Lord Cornwallis [the British general who surrendered at Yorktown].

22 Hyphens Use hyphens to divided words at syllables when more space is required at the end of a line. Also use hyphens to join words that are necessarily related, but are not compound words. Don’t capitalize the letter following the hyphen. Example: We read a spine-tingling story in English-language Arts.

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22 Capitalization Rules

When should you capitalize and when do you not? Contrary to popular belief, capitalization does not add importance, prestige, or respect. If you want to get real controversial, try taking a stance on capitalizing pronouns referring to God. Do you refer to He, Him, His or he, him, or his? Let’s not even go to the gender issue. Check out the controversy if you wish, but for the rest of us, what about those capitalization rules?

Sometimes these mechanics and grammar rules do serve a purpose. Here’s the 22 capitalization rules from The Pennington Mechanics Manual to answer your capitalization questions. Want the whole manual including 22 comma rules, 22 capitalization rules, 22 other punctuation rules, 22 quotation marks, italics and underlines, and 22 Modern Language Association (MLA) citation formats? Get The Pennington Mechanics Manual PDF here. The author (authority) of these mechanics rules is Mark Pennington, publisher of Teaching Essay Strategies designed to teach students the Common Core W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational explanatory essays with downloadable e-comments, and the newly released Grades 4-8 Teaching the Language Strand, designed to help students catch up and keep up with grade-level Standards in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary.

Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

The Pennington Mechanics Manual: 22 Capitalization Rules 

1 People and Character Names Capitalize people’s and characters’ names. Also, capitalize people’s titles, such as The President f the United States or Alexander the Great. Do not capitalize an article (a, an, the) that it part of the title, unless it begins the title. Example: President James Earl Carter worked to provide housing for the poor.

2 Place Names Capitalize place names. Do not capitalize a preposition that is part of a title, unless it begins the title. Examples: Stratford upon Avon or Cardiff by the Sea.      Examples: Ryan visited Los Angeles to see the Holocaust Museum.

3 Names of Things Capitalize named things. Do not capitalize a conjunction that is part of a title, unless it begins the title. Example: President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home is a national monument in Washington D.C. Example: The Old North Church and Fenway Park are in Boston.

4 Names of Holidays Capitalize holidays. Normally, it is proper form to spell out numbers from one through ten in writing. However, when used as a date name, the numerical number is used. Example: They celebrate the 4th of July, but not Easter.

5 Dates and Seasons Names Capitalize dates, but do not capitalize seasons. Example: The winter months consist of December, January, February, and March.

6 Titles of Things Capitalize the words in titles. Don’t capitalize articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and), or prepositions (with), unless these words begin or end the title. Examples: My favorite Jim Morrison song is “The End.” I like the movie Gone with the Wind.

7 Titles of Courses or Classes Capitalize the titles of specific academic course or classes, including any  connected letters. Example: Next spring Jake has to take Math Analysis 2C in order to stay on track for early graduation.

8 Hyphenated Titles Capitalize the first and second parts of hyphenated titles if they are nouns or adjectives that have equal importance. Example: The Twentieth-Century was haunted by two world wars. Don’t capitalize a word following a hyphen if both words make up a single word or if the second word is a participle modifying the first word. Examples: Top Twenty Large-sized Models and English-language Arts

9 Organization Names Capitalize the names of  organizations and the letters of acronyms that represent  organizations. More commonly now, writers drop the       periods in well-known acronyms. Examples: M.A.D.D. has both parents and teachers as members, as does the PTA.

10 Letter Salutations and Closings Capitalize the salutations and closings in both friendly and business letters, excluding articles, conjunctions, and prepositions that don’t begin or end the salutations or closings. Examples: Dear Son, … Love, Dad

11 Business Names Capitalize the names of businesses and the letters of acronyms that represent organizations and businesses. More commonly now, writers drop the periods in well-known acronyms. Examples: McDonald’s provided money for our school uniforms, as did IBM.

12 Language and Dialect Names Capitalize the names of languages and dialects. Examples: He spoke Spanish with a Castilian dialect.

13 People Groups Capitalize the names of people groups, including nationalities, races, and ethnic groups. However, do not capitalize colors, such as black or white, when referring to race. Examples: Both Aztecs and Mexicans share a common heritage.

14 Event Names Capitalize the names of special events. Examples: The New Year’s Day Parade was fun, but the Mardi Gras was even better.

15 Historical Period Names Capitalize named historical periods. Leave articles, conjunctions, and prepositions in lower case, unless they begin or end the historical period. Examples: My favorite period of history to study has to be the Middle Ages or the Age of Reason.

16 Time Period Names Capitalize the names of special periods of time. Use lower case and periods for “a.m.” and “p.m.” Leave articles, conjunctions, and prepositions in lower case, unless they begin or end the time period. Example: Next year we celebrate the Year of the Dog.

17 Quotation Capitalization Capitalize the first word in a quoted sentence. Don’t capitalize the first word of a continuing quote that was interrupted by a speaker tag. Examples: She said, “You are crazy. However,” she paused, “it is crazy to be in love with you.” Don’t use a capital letter when the quoted material is only part of the original  complete sentence.

18 Capitalization Following Colons Capitalize the first word following a colon if it begins a series of sentences. Example: Good writing rules should include the following: Neatness counts. Indent each paragraph one inch. Proofread before publishing.

19 Lower Case Following Colons Don’t capitalize the first word (or any word) in a list following a colon if the first word of the list is a common noun. Example: Bring home these items: tortillas, sugar, and milk. Don’t capitalize the first word following a colon that begins an independent clause. Example: I just re-read Lincoln’s best speech: his Second Inaugural Address is brilliant.

20 Titles of People Capitalize the title of a person when it precedes the name. Don’t capitalize the title if it does not precede the name. Examples: I heard the senator ask Mayor Johnson a question. Capitalize the title of a person when it follows someone’s name-then a comma-in  correspondence. Example: The letter was signed as follows: John Pearson, Chairperson. Capitalize the title of a person when the title is used as a noun of direct address. Example: I do plead guilty, Your Honor.

21 Locational Names Capitalize the locational names on a compass when they refer to specific places. Leave directions in lower case. Examples: Ivan grew up here on the Lower Eastside of New York City, but I am from the South.  Ivan knew that we should head south for two blocks.

22 Titles of Agencies Capitalize the titles of  governmental agencies, including these words when connected to the agency titles: City, County, Commonwealth, State, and Federal. Example: The Federal Bureau of Investigation had targeted his operation.

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22 Comma Rules

When should you use a comma and when should not? It could be a life or death matter. After all, “Let’s eat Grandma” is considerably different than “Let’s eat, Grandma.” Sometimes these mechanics and grammar rules do serve a purpose.

Here’s the 22 comma rules from The Pennington Mechanics Manual to answer all of your comma questions. Want the whole manual including 22 comma rules, 22 capitalization rules, 22 other punctuation rules, 22 quotation marks, italics and underlines, and 22 Modern Language Association (MLA) citation formats? Get The Pennington Mechanics Manual PDF here. The author (authority) of these mechanics rules is Mark Pennington, publisher of Teaching Essay Strategies designed to teach students the Common Core W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational explanatory essays with downloadable e-comments, and the newly released Grades 4-8 Teaching the Language Strand, designed to help students catch up and keep up with grade-level Standards in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary.

Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

The Pennington Mechanics Manual: 22 Comma Rules 

1 Speaker Tag In dialogue sentences, place commas after a beginning speaker tag to the left of the quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points can also separate speaker tags from dialogue. Example: He said, “I shouldn’t listen to what you say.”

2 Speaker Tag In dialogue sentences, place commas before and after a middle speaker tag to the left of both  quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points can also separate speaker tags from dialogue. Example: “But if you don’t,” he shouted “you will never win.”

3 Speaker Tag In dialogue sentences, place commas before an ending speaker tag to the left of the quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points can also separate speaker tags from dialogue. Example: “Okay. I will give you another chance,” he responded.

4 Appositive Use commas to set apart appositives. An appositive is a noun or pronoun placed next to another noun or pronoun to identify, define, or describe it. The     appositive can be a word, phrase, or clause. Example: That man, the one with the hat, left town quickly.

5 Commas in Series Use commas after each item in lists (except the last). Use commas after each item in lists, except the last one. Example: John, Jane, and Jose left early.

6 Introductory Word Use commas only after introductory words which receive special emphasis. Examples: Conversely, you could listen. Then I went home.

7 Introductory Phrase Use commas after introductory phrases when followed by a modifying noun or pronoun . Example: Bold and beautiful, the statue was popular. Don’t use commas if the phrase modifies the following noun or pronoun or if another part of speech follows the phrase. Examples: A bold and beautiful statue was popular. Bold and beautiful was the popular statue.

* Exception: Avoid using commas after short (four words or less) introductory prepositional phrases. Examples: Under the tree he hid. Under the shady oak tree, he hid.

8 Introductory Dependent Clauses A dependent clause includes a noun or pronoun and connected verb, but does not express a complete thought. Place a comma following introductory dependent clauses. Examples: Even though I listened, I didn’t understand.

9 Ending Dependent Clause A dependent clause includes a noun or pronoun and connected verb, but does not express a complete thought. Don’t  place a comma before an ending dependent clause. Example: I never got her letter although she did write.

10 Geography Place commas between related geographical place names and after the last place name,  unless it appears the end of a sentence. When the place name is a possessive, this rule does not apply. Examples: She lived in Rome, Italy, for a year. Rome, Italy’s traffic is congested.

11 Dates Use commas to separate number dates and years. Don’t place a comma following the year. Example: It all happened on May 3, 1999. On May 4, 1999 we went back home.

12 Beginning Direct Address Use commas to separate nouns of direct address. The noun can be a word, phrase, or clause. If at the beginning of the sentence, one comma follows. Examples: Kristen, leave some for your sister. Officer Daniels, I need your help. Whoever you are, stop talking.

13 Middle Direct Address Use commas to separate nouns of direct address. The noun can be a word, phrase, or clause. If in the middle of the sentence, one comma goes before and one follows. Examples: If you insist, Dad, I will. If you insist, Your Honor, I will.

14 Ending Direct Address Use commas to separate nouns of direct address. The noun can be a word, phrase, or clause. If at the end of the sentence, one comma goes before the noun. Examples: Just leave a little bit, honey. Just leave a little bit, best girlfriend.

15 Compound Sentence Use commas before coordinating conjunctions to join two independent clauses if one or more of the sentences is long. Example: I liked her, and she definitely said that she liked me.

16 Commas to Enclose Parenthetical Expressions Use commas before and after words that interrupt the flow of the sentence. If the interruption is minimal, you may leave out the commas. Example: The best way to see the game, if you can afford it, is in person.

17 Commas to Set Off Non-restrictive Clauses A nonrestrictive clause can be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. The relative pronouns who, whom, whose, and which, but not that, begin nonrestrictive relative clauses. Use commas to set off nonrestrictive relative clauses from the noun or pronoun before the clause. Example: The girl, who sits in the corner, is sleepy.

18 Commas and Restrictive Clauses A restrictive clause can’t be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. A restrictive clause limits the meaning of the independent clause to which it is attached. Don’t use commas before and after restrictive clauses. Example: The student who wins the most votes will be elected Student Council President.

19 Comma and Abbreviations These abbreviations: Sr. (senior), Jr. (junior), and etc. (et cetera) are always preceded by a comma. Don’t place commas after these abbreviations. Examples: Howard, Sr. had Howard, Jr., take out the trash, water the lawn, pull weeds, etc.

20 Comma and Duplicate Words Place commas between repeated words when needed to improve clarity. Examples: Tommy and Pam moved in, in May.

21 Comma to Replace Missing Words Use commas to replace omitted words, especially the word that. Examples: I am a vegetarian; my wife, a meat-eater. Win some, lose some. What I mean is, she hasn’t changed her diet and followed mine.

22 Comma in Parenthetical Citations Place a comma after each author’s name, except the last in a multiple author citation. Don’t use a comma between the author(s) and the page number(s). Example: (Peabody, Jones, and Smith 14) Don’t place a comma between different authors or resource titles citing information; use a semicolon.

Examples: (Peabody 16; Jimenez 55) (The Nature of Change; Wrong Policy)

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Predict to Increase Comprehension

Readers can develop good reading habits by integrating specific cueing strategies into their reading. These cueing strategies serve as a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain concentration and determine the meaning of text.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks to download, print, and distribute to your students.

Both good and struggling readers can practice these cueing strategies to improve comprehension. Despite what many teachers have learned, reading is not a natural process; it needs to be taught, and not just caught. Teaching students to interact with the text. the SCRIP strategies will help them better understand and better remember what they read.

Good readers learn how to carry on an internal dialog while they read. Many readers consider reading to be a passive activity in which the author talks to the attentive listener. Reading research supports the notion that reading should be active with an ongoing dialogue between reader and author. Up to 50% of comprehension is what the reader brings to the text in terms of prior knowledge. Follow this link here to learn how to teach developing readers to carry on this conversation.

Predict to Increase Comprehension

The fifth cueing strategy in the SCRIP comprehension strategies is Predict. Predict means “to think about what they are going to read based on clues from the reading. It is an ongoing process that actively engages the reader in two ways: The reader’s mind is a jump ahead, trying to figure out what is coming next (making new predictions), while at the same time the reader is revising and refining the old predictions” (Guisinger).

Types of Clues that Inform Prediction for Narrative and Expository Text

Text Structure and Genre

Knowing the structure of a story can help readers make informed predictions. With narrative text, knowledge of the elements of plot: basic situation, problem-conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution will inform predictions. With informational/explanatory or argumentative text, knowledge of paragraph structure: topic sentence/claims, evidence/reasons, analysis/commentary and/or counterargument/refutations will help the reader more accurately predict the writer’s train of thought or line of argument.

Vocabulary

Paying close attention to transition words and phrases will help the reader make specific predictions. Transitions signal the development of ideas including the following purposes: definition, example, explanation, analysis, comparison, contrast, cause-effect, conclusion, addition, numerical, sequence.

Literary Devices

Recognizing literary devices such as foreshadowing, tone, and mood can assist the reader in making accurate predictions. The writer’s style gives important clues to what will happen next.

Check out the other SCRIP Comprehension Strategies: summaryconnect , re-think, and interpret.

Because teaching the Interpret cueing strategy is the focus of this article, let’s work through a teaching script to teach this Predict cueing strategy.

Predict means to make an educated guess about what will happen or be said next in the text. A good prediction uses the clues presented in a story, article, or textbook to make a logical guess that makes sense. Good readers check their predictions with what actually happens or is said next.”

“When you reach a part of a story, article, or textbook in which a clue to understanding what will happen next appears, pause to predict what will happen as a result of that clue. Your prediction might be what happens immediately after the clue, later in the reading, or at the end of the reading.”

“Continue to read with your prediction at the back of your mind. If additional, related clues appear, adjust your prediction to reflect these clues. Aim at a specific prediction, not a general one.”

“For example, you would probably not be surprised by a fortune in a fortune cookie which reads ‘Your life will have many ups and downs’ because the prediction is so general and could probably apply to everyone who gets that same fortune. However, if you open a fortune cookie to read ‘Tomorrow at 3:10 p.m. you will get a call from someone you haven’t heard from in a long time’ you would be very interested in checking to see it the prediction comes true because of how specific the fortune reads.”

“Let’s take a look at a fairy tale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to make and check on predictions.”

Sam and Friends Phonics Books Hi-Lo Readers

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

Here is a one-page version of “The Three Little Pigs” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read, break the reading into sections, and complete the summaries, connections, re-thinks, and interprets in their heads. Direct students to answer the Interpret questions. Share out the student answers.

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Flashcards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.

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Interpret to Increase Comprehension

Good reading habits can be developed by using specific cueing strategies. These cueing strategies assign readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain interactive dialogue with the text.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks to download, print, and distribute to your students.

Both good and struggling readers can practice these cueing strategies to improve comprehension. Despite what many believe, reading is not a natural process; it needs to be taught, and not just caught. Teaching students to question the text they read by prompting themselves with the SCRIP strategies will help them understand and better remember what they read.

Teaching students to carry on an internal dialog while they read is critically important. Cueing strategies prompt the reader to talk to the text and the author. Check out how to get developing readers to carry on this conversation here.

Interpret to Increase Comprehension

The fourth cueing strategy in the SCRIP comprehension strategies is Interpret. Interpret means to determine what an author means in a section of narrative or expository reading text. The meaning may be implied, not stated.

Reading researchers have generally described two skills of interpretation or inference: Cromley and Azevedo (2007) discuss text-to-text and background-to-text interpretations. Others label the two reading skills as coherence or text-connecting and elaborative or gap-filling.

Text-to-Text

The meaning may necessitate synthesizing two or more reading sections to arrive at what the author means. Or the meaning may be derived from breaking up what the author says and examining each part independently as in analysis.

Background-to-Text

The meaning may necessitate filling in the gaps between what the author says and what the author expects that the reader already knows. Correct interpretation can depend on the readers prior knowledge. Pre-teaching necessary prior knowledge may be necessary if the author assumes a certain vault of knowledge or experience to be able to correctly parse what the author adds to, comments upon, or argues against.

Make sure to stress that interpretations are not simply the reader’s opinions. Good interpretations derive from the textual evidence and arrive at what the author means. Interpretations can be right and also wrong.

Unlike the summaryconnect , and re-think cueing strategies, in which the reader needs to divide a reading into meaningful sections for the reader to pause to summarize and make connections, the re-think and interpret strategies are applied when the reader pauses following a section which is confusing or seems inconsistent with the previous section.

Because teaching the Interpret cueing strategy is the focus of this article, let’s work through a teaching script to teach this Interpret cueing strategy.

Interpret means to focus on what the author means. Authors may directly say what they mean right in the lines of the text. They also may suggest what they mean with hints to allow readers to draw their own conclusions. These hints can be found in the tone (feeling/attitude) of the writing, the word choice, or in other parts of the writing that may be more directly stated.”

“When you reach a confusing part of a story, an article, a poem, or your textbook, go back to re-read the last part of the section that you understood completely and then read into the confusing section. Ask yourself what the author means in the confusing section. Often what the author means is not exactly stated. The author may choose to hint at the meaning and require the reader to figure out what is really meant.”

“Additionally, an author might require the reader to figure out the meaning by putting together what is said in one portion of the reading with another. It’s just like explaining a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to someone who has never eaten one. You’ve got to explain what peanut butter is and what jelly is first. Then you can tell how the combination of the two creates a salty and sweet flavor experience.”

“Let’s take a look at a fairy tale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to interpret some confusing passages.”

Here is a one-page version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read, break the reading into sections, and complete the summaries, connections, and re-thinks in their heads. Direct students to answer the Interpret questions. Share out the student answers.

If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Predict,” and the resources.

Sam and Friends Phonics Books Hi-Lo Readers

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Flashcards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.

Reading , , , ,



Re-think to Increase Comprehension

Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets to kill off reading comprehension problems. Poor comprehension tends to be self-perpetuating because a reader’s approach to acquiring meaning from text is habitual. Bad reading habits are reinforced each time a reader reads an online post, book, or magazine unless unless those bad reading habits are replaced with good  reading habits. Good reading habits can be taught and reinforced with specific cueing strategies. The cueing strategies provide readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain active dialogue with what the author says and means.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks for you to download, print, and distribute to your students.

To improve reading comprehension, both good and struggling readers can practice these cueing strategies. Reading is not a natural process; it needs to be taught, not just caught. Developing readers do not have a priori understanding about how to understand and remember what they read. Thus, teachers and parents play a crucial role in helping to develop good readers.

Teaching students to carry on an internal dialog while they read is vitally important. Cueing strategies prompt the reader to dialog with the text and the author. Check out how to get developing readers to carry on this conversation here.

Re-Think to Improve Comprehension

The third cueing strategy in the SCRIP comprehension strategies is Re-Think. Re-Think means to look at a section of reading text (narrative or expository) from a different point of view to see if a different meaning is intended by the author, other than the one intitially understood by the reader. It requires and re-thinking.

People who play board games are accustomed to looking at things from different perspectives. In Boggle®, Risk®, Settlers of Catan®, or Scrabble®, players know that seeing things from the opposite side of the game really changes how the player understands or plays the game.

Unlike the summary and connect cueing strategies, in which the reader needs to divide a reading into meaningful sections for the reader to pause to summarize and make connections, the Re-think strategy has the reader pause when the text following the section is confusing or seems inconsistent with the previous section.

Since teaching the Re-think cueing strategy is the focus of this article, let’s work through a teaching script to teach this Re-think cueing strategy.

Old Woman Young Woman perspective

Old Woman Young Woman perspective

Re-think means to re-read a section of the text to look at things from a different point of view. When you start reading text which seems different than what you have been reading or if you get confused, don’t keep on reading in the hope that you will catch on to what was meant. The author may actually be saying something different than what you first thought. Or first impressions aren’t always accurate. When we look from another point of view, we oftentimes find a different truth.”

“When you reach that point in a reading text, go back to re-read the last part of the section that you completely understood and then read into the confusing section. Ask how the author may mean something different than what you first thought. In other words, re-trace your steps. Your mom helps you do this when you lose something. She asks, ‘When was the last time you remember having it? What did you do next?’ Do the same in your reading when you get lost; go back to the point where you weren’t lost and then re-read the confusing text.”

“Also, when you re-read be especially alert to overlooked transition change words, such as although, but, and however or negative words or prefixes, such as not or un. These words or word parts can be extremely important to a correct understanding of what the author intends to mean.”

“Let’s take a look at a fairy tale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to re-think some confusing passages.”

Here is a one-page version of “Little Red Riding Hood” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read, break the reading into sections, and complete the summaries and connections in their heads. Direct students to answer the Re-think questions. Share out the summaries, connections, and Re-Think answers.

If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Interpret,” and the resources to teach this cueing strategy.

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Flashcards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.kids

 

Reading, Study Skills , , , ,



Connect to Increase Comprehension

Reading research has shown a statistically significant correlation between high levels of reading comprehension and high levels of active engagement with text. Conversely, low comprehension has been correlated with low engagement. We call this engagement internal monitoring. One important way that readers monitor what they read is to make connections as they read. Specifically, good readers tend to connect the text to themselves, the text to other parts of the text, and text to other text or outside information.

Making these connections is better “taught,” rather than “caught.” Readers can be taught to make connections while reading by learning and practicing cueing strategies. Cueing strategies are thinking prompts to focus the reader on the active and analytical tasks of reading. “Teaching children which thinking strategies are used by proficient readers and helping them use those strategies independently creates the core of teaching reading” (Keene and Zimmerman, 1997).

Poor readers tend to view reading as a passive activity. The cueing strategies provide readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain active dialogue with what the author says and means. The author of this article has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks for you to download, print, and distribute to your students.

Since Connect is the focus of this article, let’s begin with a teaching script to teach this strategy.

Connect to Increase Comprehension

“Today we are going to learn why it is important to pause your reading at certain places and make connections between what you have just read and your own experience, another part of reading text, and sources from the outside world.”

“Connect means to think about the relationship between what you are reading and your own experience. The experience could be information about the reading subject or something similar that has taken place in your own life. The parts may compare (be similar) or contrast (be different). The parts may be a sequence (an order) of events or ideas. Make sure to keep the connections centered on the reading and not on your personal experience. You are using your experience to better understand the text.”

“Connect also means to notice the relationship of one part of the reading to another part of the reading. For example, in a story you might connect how a character has changed from the first part of the book to the end. Or in an article or textbook ou might connect a cause to an effect.”

“Connect also means to discover how something in the reading relates to something else in another reading text, a movie, or a real life event.”

“Just as we did with the Summary Comprehension Strategy, good readers intentionally pause at points in the reading to make these connections. Dividing your reading into sections will help you focus on understanding and remembering smaller chunks of reading, one at a time.”

“Don’t worry about slowing down your reading speed or losing concentration. Unless you are taking notes on the reading, making mental summaries and connections are quick thoughts. In fact, the more readers ‘talk to the text,’ the quicker they actually read and with better concentration as well.”

How to Divide Reading into Sections

“When reading articles or textbooks, think about how the writing is organized.  Paragraphs are written around the main idea known as the topic sentence. Most of the time (about 80%) the topic sentence is the first sentence of the paragraph.”

“In stories, authors start new paragraphs to signal something different in setting, plot, description, or dialog.”

“Paragraphs connect to each other to continue a certain idea or plot event. When a major change takes place, the author frequently uses transition words to tell the reader that something new is being introduced. Textbooks often use boldfaced subtitles to signal new sections.”

Use These Cues to Connect to Your Reading

“Use ‘This reminds me of,’ ‘This is just like,’ ‘This is different than,’ ‘This answers the part when,’ ‘This happened (or is) because of’ as question-starters to make connections.”

“So here’s the big idea about how to improve your reading comprehension: When the reading begins a new section, pause to summarize what you just read in the last chunk of reading and make connections with your own experience, other parts of the text, and outside sources.”

“Let’s take a look at a fairy tale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to divide a reading up into sections and connect as we read.”

Here is a one-page version of “Hansel and Gretel” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read each section and complete the connections. Then discuss why the section was a good chunk after which to pause and connect and have students read their summaries. If you have introduced the Summary reading comprehension strategy, ask students to summarize the sections as well.

If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Re-think,” and the resources to teach this strategy.

Sam and Friends Phonics Books hi-lo readers

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Flashcards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.

Reading, Study Skills , , , ,



Summarize to Increase Comprehension

Often teachers assume that summarizing is the same for both writing and reading. However, the purpose and task of summarizing is considerably different for these literary activities. Whereas the purpose of a writing summary is to identify the main or controlling idea or argument with supporting major details to put the thrust of exposition into a nutshell, the purpose of a reading summary is to build comprehension. This article focuses on reader-generated summarizing as a means of building reading comprehension.

Now to make sure we are on the same page, we are not discussing reading a summary or abstract prior to reading a textbook chapter or article. This is an important means of building prior knowledge and a critical component of any good read-study method. My own PQ RAR read-study method emphasizes the importance of reading any available summaries prior to reading the text.

Instead, we are discussing why summarizing while reading is important and how to teach your students to do so.

First, the why. Reading research has consistently shown a statistically significant correlation between high levels of reading comprehension and high levels of active engagement with text and, conversely, low comprehension with low engagement. We call this engagement internal monitoring. Numerous studies have confirmed that “retrieving relevant knowledge during reading is essential for monitoring” (Otero & Kintsch, 1992; Vosniadou, Pearson, & Rogers, 1988). One important component of monitoring is summarizing.

A great way to demonstrate this internal monitoring is with a reader-author dialog. Try this think-aloud with your students to model what goes on inside a good reader’s head as the reader monitors text.

But what about summarizing, specifically?

“Summarizing and reviewing integrate and reinforce the learning of major points…these structuring elements not only facilitate memory for the information but allow for its apprehension as an integrative whole with recognition of the relationships between parts” (J. E. Brophy and T. L. Good, 1986).

“In a synthesis of the research on summarizing, Rosenshine and his colleagues found that strategies that emphasize the analytic aspect of summarizing have a powerful effect on how well students summarize” (1996).

Next, the how. Internal monitoring is more efficiently “taught,” rather than just “caught.” Readers can be taught to summarize while reading by learning and practicing  cueing strategies. Cueing strategies are simply prompts to focus the reader on the active and analytical tasks of reading.

Poor readers tend to view reading as a passive activity. The cueing strategies provide readers a set of tasks to perform while reading to maintain active dialogue with what the author says and means. The author of this article has developed five cueing strategies, using the SCRIP acronym, which work equally well with expository and narrative text. The SCRIP acronym stands for Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. Here is a nice set of SCRIP Bookmarks for you to download, print, and distribute to your students.

Take the time to explicitly teach and model each of the five strategies. Emphasize one strategy at a time on a given text. Since Summarize is the focus of this article, let’s begin with a teaching script to teach this strategy.

Summarize to Increase Comprehension

“Summarize means to put together the main ideas and important details of a reading into a short-version of what the author has said. A summary can be of an entire reading, but it is more useful to divide your reading up into sections and summarize each section as you read.”

“Today we are going to learn why it is important to pause your reading at certain places and summarize sections of what you have just read and then we will learn how to do this.”

“First, the why. I know that pausing to summarize in the middle of your reading takes a bit more time than just reading without pausing, not too much. You also might be worried that you might lose your concentration if you pause, but actually pausing to summarize will help you concentrate even more. Dividing your reading into sections will help you focus on understanding and remembering smaller chunks of reading, one at a time. You will also be able to remember each chunk of reading and apply your memory to the next reading section. It’s like playing a leveled video game: First, you master one level and the game pauses before you move on to the next level with new graphics, characters, or problems to solve. You use your summarized knowledge of how to beat the first level to help you master each following level, one at a time. After time you will be able to master most or all of the game. In the same way reading in sections and then summarizing will build your undertanding of the whole reading.”

“Next, the how. As you know already, authors use paragraphs in articles or textbooks built upon the main idea known as the topic sentence. Most, but not all of the time, the topic sentence is the first sentence of the paragraph. In stories, authors start new paragraphs to signal something different in setting, plot, description, or dialog.”

“Paragraphs connect to each other to continue a certain idea or plot event. When a major change takes place, the author frequently uses transition words to tell the reader that something new is being introduced. Textbooks often use boldfaced subtitles to signal new sections. When the reading begins a new section, pause to summarize what you just read in the last chunk of reading.”

“For articles or textbooks use What, How, and Why as question-starters to help you put into your own words a short version of what you just read. For stories use Who, What, Where, When, and Why question-starters to help you do the same.

“Let’s take a look at a fairytale that many of you will have read or heard about and practice how to divide a reading up into sections and summarize as we read.”

Here is a one-page version of “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf” for you to download, print, and distribute to your students. Have students read each section and complete the summary. Then discuss why the section was a good chunk after which to pause and summarize and have students read their summaries. Coach as to what to and what not to include in reading summaries from your student examples.

If you have found this article to be helpful, check out the next comprehension strategy, “Connect,” and the resources to teach this cueing strategy.

Sam and Friends Phonics Books hi-lo readers

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

The author, Mark Pennington, has written the comprehensive reading intervention program, Teaching Reading Strategies, the accompanying Reading and Spelling Flashcards, and the accompanying 54 take home decodable Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These books include teenage characters and themes and are perfect for older readers.

Reading, Study Skills , , , ,



How to Teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards

Academic language must be taught, not just caught.

According to the authors of the Common Core State Standards, “New words and phrases are acquired not only through reading and being read to but also through direct vocabulary instruction… Research suggests that if students are going to grasp and retain words and comprehend text, they need incremental, repeated exposure in a variety of contexts to the words they are trying to learn” (Appendix A).

Teaching the Language Strand provides that incremental, repeated exposure in a variety of contexts: The program includes 56 vocabulary worksheets in the student workbook including context clues practice with word relationships, multiple meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, connotations, and denotations/dictionary skills. Vocabulary Study Cards are provided for each lesson.

Appendix A details the categories of academic language to be taught within the Vocabulary Standards. The authors cite the research of Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan (2002, 2008) in which these authors describe “three levels, or tiers, of words in terms of the words’ commonality (more to less frequently occurring) and applicability (broader to narrower).

  • Tier One words are the words of everyday speech usually learned in the early grades.
  • Tier Two words (what the Standards refer to as general academic words) are far more likely to appear in written texts than in speech… Because Tier Two words are found across many types of texts, they are highly generalizable.
  • Tier Three words (what the Standards refer to as domain-specific words) are specific to a domain or field of study (lava, carburetor, legislature, circumference, aorta) and key to understanding a new concept within a text. Because of their specificity and close ties to content knowledge, Tier Three words are far more common in informational texts than in literature” (Appendix A).

Teaching the Language Strand includes Tier Two academic vocabulary words from the research-based Academic Word List (Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. In TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 34) and requires students to practice these words in depth by producing synonyms, antonyms, characteristics, examples, and pictures or symbols‒exactly as detailed by the Common Core authors.

Teaching the Language Strand

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

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How to Teach the Common Core Spelling Standards

What do the Common Core authors have to say about spelling instruction?

The spelling Standards for Grades 4‒8 are as follows:

“Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.” (L.4.2e, L.5.2e)

“Spell correctly.” (L.6.2b, L.7.2b, L.8.2b)

Although lacking specificity in the Language Strand, the Common Core approach to spelling instruction is detailed in the Orthography section of Appendix A. This section includes examples of the sound-spelling patterns, syllable rules, and derivational suffixes (20‒22). Additionally, the K‒5 Reading: Foundational Skills Standards all require direct instruction of the phoneme-grapheme (spelling) correspondences (Reading: Foundational Skills) In other words, phonics and spelling.

The focus on spelling patterns draws heavily from the research of Dr. Louis Cook Moats, such as in Moats, L. C. (2008). Spellography for teachers: How English spelling works. (LETRS Module 3). Longmont, CO: Sopris West.

How to Teach the Common Core Spelling Standards

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Each Teaching the Language Strand program includes a grade-level spelling patterns program with weekly spelling tests and spelling sorts. Students review previous grade-level spelling patterns and are introduced to new grade-level spelling patterns (including derivational and etymological influences) throughout the weekly lessons. Students create Personal Spelling Lists from those words missed on the weekly diagnostic spelling tests, from words misspelled in their own writing, and from the spelling resources provided in the program Appendix. The program also provides a complete syllabication program with syllable and derivatives worksheets.

Additionally, the program provides a comprehensive remedial spelling program tied to the TLS Diagnostic Spelling Assessment. Each grade-level diagnostic assessment varies in complexity to test all previous grade-level spelling patterns and takes about 20 minutes to administer.

Students complete remedial Spelling Pattern Worksheets for each unmastered spelling pattern as indicated by the test. Worksheets include the focus spelling pattern or spelling rule with examples, a spelling sort, word jumbles, and rhymes or book searches for the focus spelling pattern. Students self-correct and self-edit their answers from answer sheets to learn from their own mistakes. Finally, students complete a quick formative assessment labeled “Write” at the bottom of the worksheet to see if they can apply the focus spelling pattern within their own writing. Students mini-conference with the teacher and the teacher reviews the formative “Write” assessment. If mastered, the students record that mastery on the class recording matrix as detailed in the Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics section above. If not yet mastered, the teacher briefly re-teaches the spelling pattern and students try the formative assessment until mastery has been demonstrated.

Teaching the Language Strand helps students learn the grade-level spelling patterns, the syllable rules, and the derivational spelling influences of our English orthography. The program also has the resources teachers need to individualize remedial spelling patterns‒exactly as described by the Common Core authors.

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,



How to Teach the Common Core Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Standards

In the “Language Overview” of the Common Core State Standards Appendix A, the authors explain how the Language Standards are woven into the Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language Strands.  “The Standards take a hybrid approach to matters of conventions, knowledge or language, and vocabulary” (28).

The authors share examples of how the Language Strand Standards are incorporated into the other instructional strands and stress the importance of direct instruction within all of the communicative contexts: “The inclusion of Language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, knowledge of language, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts” (28).

This approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics instructions draws from the research of a variety of disciplines and authors (39, 40) including Dr. Mina Shaughnessy, such as in Shaughnessy, M. P. (1979). Errors and expectations: A guide for the teacher of basic writing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

How to Teach the Common Core Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Standards (L.1, 2)

The instructional resources of Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) reflect this hybrid instructional approach. Content and skills are introduced, practiced, applied, and assessed for mastery within the reading, writing, speaking, and listening contexts.

For example, each Language Conventions lesson requires students to listen to the scripted review and lesson context. Students read the lesson, take notes, and annotate the lesson text in their student workbooks. Next, students complete the practice section and the teacher leads a brief discussion about “what is right” and “what is wrong” according to the lesson content or skill. Then, students complete a sentence diagram and read a mentor text based upon the lesson. The teacher and students discuss the mentor text and students write a response to the author’s statement, applying the lesson content or skill. Lastly, the teacher dictates two sentences and students apply the mechanics and grammar/usage lessons to write the sentences correctly. The teacher reviews the sentence dictations and students self-correct and self-edit. Teachers use direct instruction to teach the grammar, usage, and mechanics Standards reading, writing, speaking, and listening‒exactly as prescribed by the Common Core authors.

In the “Development of Grammatical Knowledge” section of Appendix A, the authors explain that “The Standards account for the recursive, ongoing nature of grammatical knowledge in two ways. First, the Standards return to certain important language topics in higher grades at greater levels of sophistication” (28).

Teaching the Language Strand includes an extensive instructional scope and sequence which revisits and builds upon K‒3 grammar, usage, and mechanics content and skills with increasingly greater levels of sophistication throughout grades 4‒8. For example, let’s take a look at this instructional progression with verb tenses.

*In grade 4 students review the basic past, present, and future verb tenses in Language Conventions Lessons 29‒31 and are introduced to the progressive tenses in Lessons 39‒41.

*In grade 5 students review past, present, future, and progressive verb tenses and are introduced to verb tense and time, sequence, state of being, condition, shifts in verb tense, and perfect verb tenses in Lessons 31‒35 and 44‒46.

*In grade 6 students review all aforementioned verb tenses and are introduced to these non-standard English verb tense usages: continuous forms, was and were-leveling, misuse of third person subject-verb agreements, deletions, substitutions, additions, and the misuse of the past participle and past progressive in Lessons 48‒56.

*In grade 7 students review all verb tense usages including those in non-standard English. Students learn more sophisticated usages of verb tenses within phrases and clauses and advanced rules of noun‒verb and pronoun‒verb agreement.

*In grade 8 students review the above verb tenses and usage and are introduced to infinitives in Lesson 44 and the use of verb tense with mood and condition: the indicative, imperative, interrogative, conditional, subjunctive, and voice in Lessons 45‒50.

In addition to building upon levels of sophistication in knowledge and use of grammar and mechanics, the authors detail the second way in which the Standards account for the recursive, ongoing nature of grammatical knowledge: “…the Standards identify with an asterisk (*) certain skills and understandings that students are to be introduced to in basic ways at lower grades but that are likely in need of being retaught and relearned in subsequent grades as students’ writing and speaking matures and grows more complex” (28). These key skills and understandings are included in the Grades 3‒10 document titled “Language Progressive Skills” at the end of the grade-level Common Core Language Strands and on page 31 of Appendix A.

Each of the previous grade-level Language Progressive Skills Standards are reviewed within the Language Conventions lessons and Language Application writing openers. Additionally, the Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4‒8 programs include the TLS Diagnostic Grammar and Usage Assessment and the TLS Mechanics Assessment. These whole class diagnostic assessments vary in complexity to test all previous grade-level Standards and each takes less than 25 minutes to administer. Teachers grade and record the results of these assessments on recording matrices with a slash (/) for each error.

Students complete remedial Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics worksheets for each unmastered content or skill as indicated by the tests. Worksheets include definitions, examples, and explanation of how the grammar, usage, or mechanics content or skill applies to writing. Students complete a short practice section and self-correct and self-edit their answers from answer sheets to learn from their own mistakes. Finally, students complete a quick formative assessment labeled “Write” at the bottom of the worksheet to see if they can apply the content or skill within their own writing. Students mini-conference with the teacher and the teacher reviews the formative “Write” assessment. If the content or skill has been mastered, the student changes the slash (/) into an “X” on the class recording matrix. If not yet mastered, the teacher briefly re-teaches the content or skill and students try the formative assessment once again or the teacher may elect to assigned additional Language Worksheets provided in the program.

In summary, Teaching the Language Strand provides the specific resources teachers need to teach the grammar, usage, and mechanics review Standards through both direct and individualized instruction‒exactly as is suggested by the Common Core authors.

Note that the Common Core authors validate teacher autonomy as to how the Language Standards are to be met:

“Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms” (Myths vs. Facts).

Furthermore, the authors address how teachers and schools share the responsibilities of remediating and differentiating instruction for students performing below grade level, English language learners, and students with special needs:

“The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations. No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom. However, the Standards do provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students.

It is also beyond the scope of the Standards to define the full range of supports appropriate for English language learners and for students with special needs. At the same time, all students must have the opportunity to learn and meet the same high standards if they are to access the knowledge and skills necessary in their post–high school lives” (English Language Arts Standards Key Design Considerations).

Teaching the Language Strand is the only Language Strand program designed to equip teachers with the diagnostic assessments and corresponding resources to remediate and differentiate instruction to intervention students, ELL students, and Special Education students‒exactly as discussed by the Common Core authors.

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

Grammar/Mechanics , , , , , , , ,



Preview the Reading and Spelling Flashcards

The Parts of an Essay

To be able to teach our students how to write effective essays, we first have to identify the underlying problem.

I think we are the problem. We confuse students. We don’t mean to do so, but we do. The problem is compounded by the fact that students are exposed to many different teachers, each with a different knowledge base, a different set of teaching experiences, and a different language of instruction.

This article will pose questions and only hint at a possible solution. If all your questions about essay terminology have been answered, read no further.

The Parts of an Essay

……

Let’s begin with the thesis statement. We all have different expectations as to what is and what is not a thesis statement. The Common Core writers compound the problem by using confusing terminology and reducing all exposition to Writing Standards 1 and 2.

To pose a few questions: Is a thesis the same as a claim? or include a claim? Does a thesis apply to both argumentative and informational writing? Is a thesis the main idea/purpose of the writing? Does a thesis always state a point of view? Is a literary thesis different than one in science, or one in the humanities, or one in social science/history? Can a thesis pose a question to be explored? Does the thesis always have to be arguable?  Does a thesis statement have to be placed in an introductory paragraph? Does a thesis statement have to be placed last in the introduction? Does a thesis statement have to include the topics/claims/main points of each of the body paragraphs? Is a split (divided) thesis permissible? How general or how specific should a thesis statement be? Should a thesis statement use as many of the words from the writing prompt as possible? Is it realistic/possible to apply a generic definition for a thesis statement to all genre/domains of exposition? For example, a pro-con, cause-effect, compare-contrast, personal essay?

Then to muddy the water a bit: What is the purpose of the introductory paragraph(s) with respect to the thesis statement? Do non-narrative essays have “hooks?” Must introductions be ordered from general to specific (a.k.a. funnel paragraphs)? Are rhetorical questions permissible? Is background/context/a brief summary required? Are there different introduction strategies for different genre/domains of writing?

Then… to muddy the water even more: What about the purpose and terminology of body paragraphs? Is it a topic/ or topic sentence, claim, or reason? Does evidence always precede analysis? Is a concluding statement ever/always included? Are counterclaims and refutations best included as separate body paragraphs or as embedded within body paragraphs. Is a variety of evidence preferred? Are direct quotes preferred over indirect quotes when textual evidence is cited? When is textual evidence needed and when is it not?

Of course this leads to conclusions. The Common Core writers seem to discount conclusions. Are concluding paragraphs necessary? Is a thesis restatement necessary in a brief five paragraph essay? Does a conclusion always include a summary? Does a conclusion always include a “call to action?” What is the purpose of a conclusion? What does “give a finished feel to the essay” mean?

We all know that “cookie-cutter” approaches to complex tasks, e.g. writing, are rarely effective; however, I’m still interested in them. Some are clearly more useful than others.

The most useful set of terminologies I’ve found to be effective with students is a numerical hierarchy. An argumentative or informational explanatory essay might look like the following:

Introduction

(1) (1) (2)  

Body Paragraphs

(3) (4) (5) (5) (4) (5) (5) – (4) (5) (5) (4) (5) (5) (3) – (4) (5) (3) (4) (5) (5) (5)

Conclusion

(2) (6) (6)

Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

The numbers take away (or at least limit the damage of) years of confusing languages of writing instruction. Placing prior learning in context makes instructional sense. To be able to say, “You know how Ms. Johnson called ‘this’ a thesis statement last year; how Mr. Poindexter refers to ‘this’ as a claim in history; while Dr. Sterling labels ‘this’ as an hypothesis in science? These are all good terms, but we’ll just call ‘this’ a (2) this year. So simple.”

The author’s Teaching Essay Strategies uses this numerical hierarchy to teach the parts of and structure of the essay. This full-year curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets,  8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory) with complementary reading resources, 128 writing openers, 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, writing posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum.

Writing , , , ,



How to Write a Good Thesis Statement

The Common Core State Standards Writing Strand includes the argumentative essay (W.1) and the informational/explanatory essay (W.2). Each genre requires a different form for its thesis statement. 

Of course, the thesis statement is dictated by the demands of the writing prompt. The writing prompt tells you what to write about and how to do so. A good thesis statement directly responds to the writing prompt. For an argumentative essay, the thesis statement states the claim(s) of the essay. For an informational/explanatory essay, the thesis statement states the specific purpose of the essay.

How to Write a Good (2) Thesis Statement

To make sure that you directly respond to the writing prompt, include the writing topic and key words of that writing prompt in your (2) Thesis Statement. Usually place the (2) Thesis Statement at the end of the introductory paragraph. The (2) Thesis Statement should be as specific as possible, but general enough to permit more than one (3) Topic Sentence to support the purpose or point of view.

Mistakes to Avoid in a (2) Thesis Statement

The (2) Thesis Statement does not state your specific purpose for informational/explanatory essay.

The (2) Thesis Statement does not state your specific point of view for an argumentative essay.

(2) Thesis Statement introduces evidence (4) or (5).

(2) Thesis Statement refers to only part of the task of the writing prompt.

(2) Thesis Statement refers to the essay and to the writer.

(2) Thesis Statement includes a split (divided) focus which either argues against itself or introduces more than one focus of the essay.

(2) Thesis Statement confuses the writing genre. For example, the writer states a point of view for an informational/explanatory writing prompt.

(2) Thesis Statement is too specific and does not allow the writer to address the broader demands of the writing prompt.

Practice #1

Directions: Carefully read the Writing Direction Word and Writing Prompt. Study the Bad (2) Thesis Statement and the Explanation. Then revise into a Good (2) Thesis Statement.

Writing Direction Word: Analyze means to break apart the subject and explain each part.

Writing Prompt: Service to one’s country is true patriotism. President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to “…ask not what your country can do for you−ask what you can do for your country.” Analyze what President Kennedy meant by this statement in his Inaugural Address from January 20, 1961 to share during class discussion.

Bad (2): President Kennedy meant Americans should not view their country as existing for their benefit when he said “…ask not what your country can do for you…”

Explanation: This (2) Thesis Statement refers to only part of the task of the writing prompt.

Good (2): _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Practice #2

Directions: Carefully read the Writing Direction Word and Writing Prompt. Study the Bad (2) Thesis Statement (Claim) and the Explanation. Then revise into a Good (2) Thesis Statement.

Writing Direction Word: Persuade means to convince the reader of your argument or claim.

Writing Prompt: The editorial from the Reno Times includes research studies and statistical data to demonstrate the benefits of regular exercise. The editor claims that elementary school students do not get enough exercise. Write a letter to the editor to persuade the editor and readers that elementary schools need more money to buy playground equipment.

Bad (2): Every elementary school must have a jungle gym, ten swings, and four seesaws.

Explanation: This (2) Thesis Statement is too specific does not address the broader demands of the writing prompt.

Good (2): _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

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, 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.

Writing , , ,



Reading Intervention Whys, Whats, and Hows

As reading intervention and special education teachers already know, a cookie-cutter approach to remedial reading instruction will quickly prove ineffective. Struggling readers are snowflakes. Each is different and has a different set of reasons as to why reading is so challenging.

Assessment and Instruction: The Problem of Whys, Whats, and Hows

Learning the unique characteristics for each snowflake requires comprehensive assessment. All too often, assessment is limited to establishing the whys. The whys can certainly serve as placement criteria and will indicate general problem areas, such as decoding, or a learning disability, such as auditory processing challenges. The Wechler, Stanford-Binet, DAS, Peabody, Woodcock-Johnson, etc. do serve a purpose. However, these assessments just do not indicate specific reading deficits (the whats), nor do they inform instruction (the hows).

Students deserve specific and comprehensive assessment to accurately determine the whats. Assessment based upon samples, such as the San Diego Quick Assessment®, Slosson Oral Reading Test®, the Names Test®, the Basic Phonics Skills Test®, and the Qualitative Spelling Inventory® fail to pinpoint specific deficits. Plus, because of their sampling, these tests leave out sight words or sound-spelling patterns. The teacher diagnostician is forced to make generalizations and use informed guessing to determine the content for reading remediation.

If teachers do not know the whats for each of their students, they will be forced to use an inefficient scatter gun approach to instruction. The hows become a teach-everything-to-everyone approach to cover bases. All too often teachers will resort to a reading program with lockstep procedures. Students learn over and over again what they already know and/or fail to adequately practice what they actually need to improve.

The Assessment-based Instructional Alternative

Teachers need comprehensive assessments to accurately pinpoint each what of instruction in these areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, vowel sound phonics, consonant sound phonics, spelling patterns, outlaw (non-phonetic) words, rimes, sight syllables (the high frequency syllable components), and fluency. Get these assessments and recording matrices in one location here. Every reading intervention teacher needs these comprehensive reading and spelling assessments.

Once teachers know the specific reading deficits, teachers can formulate individual reading plans for each child. Each reading plan requires the right resources (the hows) for assessment-based instruction.

Resources which provide teachers the instructional tools and flexibility to match the hows to the whats (instruction to assessment) will allow the teacher to truly individualize instruction in a Tier I or Tier II reading intervention program.

Teaching Reading Strategies

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. 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 instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies.

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , ,



Common Core Vocabulary: 12 Program Assessment Questions

Although much of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects affirm what elementary and secondary ELA/reading teachers have always been doing, the breadth, complexity, and depth of instruction in vocabulary may be a noteworthy exception.

The writers of the Common Core State Standards include vocabulary development among a variety of instructional Strands across the curriculum and grade levels. Additionally, the appendices add significant discussion on vocabulary acquisition. Perhaps a brief self-assessment of 12 basic questions may be in order.

Common Core Vocabulary: 12 Program Assessment Questions

  1. Outside of independent reading, would you say that the bulk of your vocabulary instruction is planned and purposeful or incidental and “as the need arises?”
  2. Do you teach vocabulary across the curriculum? Using the same strategies?
  3. How do you teach Tier II and Tier III academic language words? Which words do you teach and how were they determined?
  4. Do you and your colleagues teach a purposeful scope and sequence of vocabulary instruction across the grade levels?
  5. Do you teach the connection between vocabulary and spelling/syllabication?
  6. Do you teach grade level multiple meaning words? How were these words chosen? Which words do your colleagues teach?
  7. Do you teach specific context clues strategies?
  8. Do you teach Greek and Latin word parts? Which do you teach? Which do your colleagues teach?
  9. Do you teach dictionary and thesaurus research skills?
  10. Do you teach word figures of speech? How were these words chosen? Which words do your colleagues teach?
  11. Do you teach word relationships? How were these words chosen? Which words do your colleagues teach?
  12. Do you teach word connotations?

In a nutshell the Common Core Vocabulary Standards do establish the instructional expectations included in the above questions:

The Reading Strand in both Literature and Informational Text includes the same Standard (8.4): Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

and

The Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects Standards include Vocabulary Standard RST 8.4: Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6–8 texts and topics.

and

The Language Strand devotes three separate Standards: L.4, 5, 6 to vocabulary acquisition.

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)

    Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

    Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

  • 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.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons. The complete lessons also include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6).

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , ,



Selective Implementation of the Common Core

Cherry Picking Which Common Core Standards to Teach

Cherry Picking Which Common Core Standards to Teach

In a related article I focused on the “cherry picking” of certain Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Standards by district curriculum specialists and teachers. I said that cherry picking can mean picking the easiest fruit on the tree, picking the best fruit on the tree, or picking just the fruit on the tree that we want and ignoring the rest. Straight off wikipedia, so you know that it’s the truth.

I suggested that the latter use of “cherry picking” would seem to apply to many districts and teachers as they have begun implementing the Common Core ELA/Reading Standards. Of course we all tend to teach what we know, but we also teach what we want to believe. The former I could classify as unconscious cherry picking. The latter is conscious cherry picking and has a hidden agenda.

We Tend to Teach What We Know: Unconscious Cherry Picking

Elementary and middle-high school English-language Arts teachers are generally well-trained and/or interested in teaching reading and writing—less so in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, vocabulary acquisition, listening, and speaking content and skills. After all, how many grammar classes are required for teachers earning their elementary or secondary English credentials? 0. Thus, when districts and teachers began implementing the Common Core State Standards in 2011 and 2012, district curriculum specialists and teachers initially gravitated toward the known and put the unknown on the backburner. In my school district we’ve had plenty of Common Core reading and writing trainings, but not one moment of training dedicated to the Language, Speaking, or Listening Standards. Conscious cherry picking—but perhaps a reasonable approach, given the paramount importance of reading and writing to literacy.

However, having acclimated themselves and their students to the Common Core Reading: Literature, Reading: Informational Text, and Writing Strands over the last four years, many teachers are now ready to teach the well-balanced approach intended by the Common Core writers—including all of the Strands.

Indeed, these other Strands are trending. As an educational publisher I use my blog to promote my books. I have to keep track of search results and key search terms to drive traffic to my blog. My blog drives traffic to my website and sells my books. As states “raced to the top” to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2011, googling “Common Core Reading Standards” and “Common Core Writing Standards” got the most search results in the field of English-language Arts/Reading. Googling “Common Core Language Standards” and “Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards” got negligible amounts of search results.

I just googled the same search terms and found 42,500,000 search results for “Common Core Reading Standards” and 27,200,00 for “Common Core Writing Standards.” However, I was shocked to see the increase in search results for “Common Core Language Standards.” 40,600,000 results! Teachers may have initially gravitated toward what they know, but now they are shifting focus to what they want to know.

So why aren’t district trainings responding to this need? Why aren’t many district curricular specialists and university professors promoting the Language, Speaking, and Listening Strands? Why aren’t budgetary allocations being funneled into all of the Common Core ELA/Reading Strands?

We Also Teach What We Want to Believe: Conscious Cherry Picking

Many state, county, and district curriculum specialists, as well as university professors don’t want teachers to implement all of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.

Specifically, many of these “movers and shakers” were inculcated in the 1980s whole language philosophy of implicit whole to part learning. Age is a factor in educational decision-making. The educational “movers and shakers” are now in their 50s or 60s. And all of us, to a certain extent, are products of our times. These educational decision-makers were taught that explicit part to whole language instruction was useless or even counter-productive. Educational research studies which confirmed this philosophy were trumpeted; studies which pointed in the other direction were brushed aside. Unlike the unconscious cherry picking, this was conscious cherry picking.

Choosing to make selective choices among competing evidence, so as to emphasize those results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it, is a practice known as “cherry picking” and is a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.

— Richard Somerville, Testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, March 8, 2011.

In terms of instructional approaches to literacy, this meant that explicit part to whole phonics, spelling patterns and rules, structured approaches to writing, explicit vocabulary strategies, grammar, usage, and mechanics practice were disparaged and even forbidden in some states.

At the height of the whole language movement fanaticism in California, principals were even instructed to confiscate spelling workbooks from their teachers.

By the late 1990s most school districts and teachers had abandoned the whole language philosophy in reading. Failing test scores demanded the switch to explicit phonics and spelling instruction. However, because standardized tests emphasized reading and math, the whole language philosophy maintained its influence on grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, vocabulary acquisition, speaking, and listening content and skill development.

For many educational “movers and shakers,” this hidden agenda remains.

Many district curriculum specialists are simply not providing training and budget allocations for the other Language Strand and Speaking and Listening Strand precisely because they don’t want to emphasize the explicit part to whole instruction called for in the Common Core State ELA/Reading Standards. To fail to choose is a choice.

Additionally, neither the PARCC and Smarter Balanced Common Core assessments focus on grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, vocabulary, speaking, or listening Standards. So even for the less philosophically-driven and more pragmatic teach-to-the-test district decision-makers, it’s reading and writing that remains the focus.

However, younger teachers are beginning to experience some instructional cognitive dissonance. Although still force-fed much of the whole language philosophy at district level trainings and in university coursework, they see things differently in their classrooms. They don’t believe that their students will “catch on” to grammar or spelling by just writing a lot or through the editing process or via simplistic mini lessons or via writing “warm ups” such as Daily Oral Language. They don’t believe that students will acquire necessary academic vocabulary solely through reading. In other words, younger teachers tend to believe in explicit, not implicit, instruction. What is “taught” works better than what is “caught.” And retired teachers who gutted out the whole language movement of the 1980s and kept passing out their phonics, grammar, spelling, and mechanics “drill and kill” worksheets are smiling. And so are many of their former students.

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary , , ,



Cherry Picking the Common Core

One of our more flexible idiomatic expressions in English is “cherry picking.” Cherry picking can mean picking the easiest fruit on the tree,

Cherry Picking the Common Core to emphasize certain Standards

Cherry Picking the Common Core

picking the best fruit on the tree, or picking just the fruit on the tree that we want and ignoring the rest.

The latter use of “cherry picking” would seem to apply to many districts and teachers as they have begun implementing the Common Core Standards. To get a bit technical, many have bought into the fallacy of selective attention, known as confirmation bias.

As elementary and middle-high school English-language Arts teachers began unraveling the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects in 2011, they tended to gravitate to the Reading: Literature, Reading: Informational Text, and Writing Strands.
Although some decried the “loss” of literature with the new focus on expository reading text, most began interpreting the Standards as “basically teaching what they already teach” with a few added tweaks. In my school district the mantra at all district Common Core trainings has been “Common Core-ize it!” In other words, keep on doing what we have been doing, but add on a few close reading strategies and some expository text and “You’re good to go!”

It’s human nature. We interpret new sensory input in light of previously acquired sensory input. Cherry picking.

Now, some of this Standards-cherry-picking does make sense. Now let me mix my food metaphors a bit. Obviously, reading (the meat) and writing (the potatoes) remain the cornerstones of literacy and should be instructional priorities. Additionally, there is some practical rationale to not introducing everything at once, so stair-stepping in the Standards would seem to be a prudent approach. However, we are in year four of implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The full dinner includes more than just meat and potatoes.

The cherries many have been avoiding would include the Language Strand and Speaking and Listening Strand. Scant attention has been paid to either of these Strands. I’ve asked countless district curriculum specialists and teachers whether they have read either of the Strands, and if they have, could they name one of the Standards in that Strand, and if they can, have they implemented any of the Standards in their district trainings or in their classrooms. You know their answers.

It’s time to set the table with a well-balanced meal.

Teachers are ready. Teachers can chew gum and walk at the same time. Teachers can implement the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects as they are designed–each part working to better the whole. I just googled “Common Core Reading Standards” and got 42,500,000 (not surprising) search results. “Common Core Writing Standards” got 27,200,00 (not surprising) search results. But these search results did surprise me: “Common Core Language Standards” got 40,600,000 results. Obviously there is significant interest in moving beyond the implementation of just the reading and writing Standards.

Now of course I am biased as well. As an educational publisher, I’m selling curriculum to address these up to this point ignored Standards. So, you would expect my own cherry picking. But I also feel that our students deserve a well-balanced diet. They need the full meal–not just the meat and potatoes. My take is that a diet of meat and potatoes can only take our students so far. Students also need the grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, vocabulary, speaking, and listening knowledge and skills to inform and equip them in their reading and writing.

And how about cherries jubilee for dessert?

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons. (Check out a seventh grade teacher teaching the direct instruction and practice components of these lessons on YouTube.) The complete lessons also include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Teaching the Language Strand “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , ,



Progressive Skills Review

Although English-Language Arts teachers have rightly focused on the Reading Standards for Literature, the Reading Standards for Informational Text, and the Writing Standards Strands of the Common Core State Standards, other Strands now deserve our focus as well.

The Language Strand has been one of the more controversial components of the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & LITERACY IN HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES, SCIENCE, AND TECHNICAL SUBJECTS. The Language Strand includes the following Standards for each grade level: Conventions of Standard English (Standards 1 & 2), Knowledge and Use (Standard 3), and Vocabulary Acquisition and Use (Standards 4, 5, & 6).

Whole language (whole to part) writing and literature-based devotees have been chagrined at the inclusion of Language as a separate Common Core Strand. Anticipating this reaction, the Common Core writers went out of their way to placate the purists who believe that grammar, usage, and conventions (mechanics and spelling) taught in isolation from writing instruction and vocabulary taught in isolation from reading instruction are mortal sins.

“The inclusion of Language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, effective language use, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts (51).” http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf

Less controversial, but still noteworthy, has been the inclusion of specific grammar, usage, and mechanics skills that need to be reinforced throughout the Grades 3‒12 Standards. These Language Progressive Skills found at the end of both the K-5 and 6-12 Language Standards include this subheading: “The following skills, marked with an asterisk (*) in Language standards 1–3, are particularly likely to require continued attention in higher grades as they are applied to increasingly sophisticated writing and speaking.”

The tacit admission that some skills-based instruction in language conventions is, indeed, desirable, and is, in fact, necessary to acquiring advanced literacy has been a tough pill for some purists to swallow. National Writing Project, Writers Workshop, and Writing Process fellows have been loath to accept this distinction between skills and craft. Grammar rules are back in style.

However, most teachers have welcomed the emphases of these language skills across the grade levels. In fact, the repetition of the skills in the Common Core document validates what teachers have long been saying: Language acquisition and mastery is a cyclical and developmental process and not the introduction-reinforcement-mastery model that direct instruction gurus have long advocated. In other words, “No wonder we have to teach the same stuff year-to-year and over and over again before it starts to sink in. Maybe last year’s teacher really did teach this stuff after all.”

Let’s take a quick look at these 18 Language Progressive Skills:

CCSS Language Progressive Skills Standards

…..

  1. 3.1f. Ensure subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement.
  2. 3.a. Choose words and phrases for effect.
  3. 3.3a. Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
  4. 4.1g. Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to/too/two; there/their).
  5. 4.3a. Choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely.
  6. 4.3b. Choose punctuation for effect.
  7. 5.1d. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.
  8. 5.2a. Use punctuation to separate items in a series.†
  9. 6.1c. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun number and person.
  10. 6.1d. Recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).
  11. 6.1e. Recognize variations from standard English in their own and others’ writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language.
  12. 6.2a. Use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements.
  13. 6.3a. Vary sentence patterns for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style.‡
  14. 6.3b. Maintain consistency in style and tone.
  15. 7.1c. Place phrases and clauses within a sentence, recognizing and correcting misplaced and dangling modifiers.
  16. 7.3a. Choose language that expresses ideas precisely and concisely, recognizing and eliminating wordiness and redundancy.
  17. 8.1d. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood.
  18. 910.1a. Use parallel structure.

Of course these Language Progressive Skills Standards beg these two fundamental instructional questions: How do we teach these skills? How do students best learn these skills?

Increasingly, teachers are answering this question with assessment-based instruction. Check out the helpful free diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring matrices for grammar, usage, and mechanics in the upper right dropdown menu of the author’s website.

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the
Common Core grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards. Diagnostic assessments and targeted worksheets help your students catch up while they keep up with rigorous grade-level direct instruction.

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , ,



Expository Fluency Practice for Reading Intervention

Much of the reading wars dust has settled in the last decade. By now we have some consensus about what makes a good reader and some levels of understanding about what limitations or deficits a struggling reader does face. One of these areas of consensus involves reading fluency. Reading fluency includes rate, accuracy, and prosody (the music of oral language; the expression of voice; the attention to syntax and punctuation). The reading research conclusion that improving reading fluency is highly correlated with higher reading comprehension (Benson, 2008; Flood, Lapp, & Fisher, 2005; Klauda & Guthrie, 2008; M. R. Kuhn et al., 2006; Rasinski et al., 2009) is now largely uncontested.

Several reading strategies have been found to be effective in improving reading fluency in the past decade. Modeled and repeated readings have proven helpful for many primary and intermediate readers—especially when these strategies have been coupled with systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling. But these same strategies seem to have fallen short for older remedial readers. Still, only one in six remedial readers reading two or more grade levels below their age ever catch up to grade level reading.

Why is reading so difficult to remediate in older, struggling readers?

“One of the consistent findings in our remedial research for children who begin the intervention with moderate or serious impairments in word reading ability is that the interventions have not been sufficient to close the gap in reading fluency. Although the students increase in fluency in an absolute sense (they become more fluent within passages of the same level of difficulty), the interventions do not bring the students to average levels of fluency for students their age, nor are students’ percentile or standard scores for fluency nearly as high as they are for accuracy.”

So the rich get richer and the poor get richer, but at nowhere near the same relative rates or levels.

“…Thus, it is not easy for these students to become “fluent readers” if the standard of
reading fluency is based on the ability to fluently identify almost all of the words in text
appropriate for their age.”

from Joseph K. Torgesen and Roxanne F. Hudson, Florida Center for Reading Research at
Florida State University http://learningovations.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Fluency_chapter-TorgesenHudson.pdf

So, Torgesen and Hudson are arguing that increasing reading fluency remains a key to reading remediation, but only when coupled with the ability to access complex text.

When we talk about more difficult text, we are not only talking about lexile reading levels. We are also talking about types of text and levels of text complexity. Most would agree that expository text is qualitatively more difficult to read than narrative (with the possible exception of our favorite Russian authors).

The Shift from Narrative to Expository Text

In the introductory pages of the Common Core State Standards, the authors cite the Distribution of Literary and Informational Passages by Grade in the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress NAEP framework to set the following distributions of text: 50% literary/50% information (4th grade); 45% literary/55% information (8th grade); 30% literary/70% information (12th grade).

With the shift from narrative to expository reading in the Common Core State Standards, it would certainly seem to make sense that we abandon past reading intervention practice of using primarily narrative passages to help students practice reading fluency. This would especially be true for upper elementary, middle, and high school remedial readers. It would also make sense that practice with expository passages would particularly benefit these students as they read social studies and science texts while concurrently taking a remedial reading course or English class with an RtI tiered intervention model.

The problem has been finding short expository passages that will help students push through their current reading levels to higher reading levels. Too often with leveled reading passages, students are assigned texts at their lexile levels and continue to practice at these levels. This does makes sense if our purpose is to help students independently access content at that level of text complexity; however, if our goal is to improve reading ability, then reading exclusively at the same diagnostic level will not produce growth in reading fluency, nor the ability to comprehend more complex text.

It’s a bit like getting into shape. If you pay your dues to join the local fitness club with the expectation that you will improve both cardiovascular ability (reading fluency) and strength (academic language and more complex syntactical structures), your personal trainer will probably suggest a weightlifting component to your personal fitness plan.

The trainer may diagnostically assess your ability to complete a certain number of reps on 20 pound free weights in a minute and determine that you can complete 15 curls.

If the trainer establishes a personal goal for you to improve to 20 reps per minute on the same 20 pound weights after a month of practice and you meet your goal, you will have achieved some cardiovascular benefit. However, you will not have measurably increased your strength.

To increase strength, your trainer would need to increase the weight, to say 25 pound free weights, then 30 pound weights, etc. If you just increased weight without increasing reps per minute you would not improve cardiovascular ability.

Of course, you need both increased reps plus progressively heavier free weights to accomplish both of your personal fitness goals. Likewise, struggling remedial readers need both practice in reading fluency and practice in reading increasingly difficult text. Older readers need to both “catch up” and “keep up” with grade level text.

Teaching Reading Strategies Provides Expository Fluency Practice for Reading Intervention

Teaching Reading Strategies Intervention Program

Teaching Reading Strategies Intervention Program

*****

Teaching Reading Strategies is 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 instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies.

Reading , , , , ,



Decodable Take Home Books for Older Readers

Let’s face it. We just have not figured out how to “fix” every kid. The research confirms this sad state of affairs. So few of our students who fall behind are ever able to “catch up” to grade level. Especially in reading. Only one in six students reading two or more grade levels behind by sixth grade ever catches up to reading at grade level.

Yes, we teachers aren’t the only ones to blame. However, we do have the tools to fix reading deficits for most of our older children, teenagers, and adults. Yes, reading is a complicated process, but it’s not rocket science. So why aren’t we doing a better job of reading remediation?

Much of what we do is based upon what we think we can do.

I teach a seventh grade reading intervention class. My principal calls it ELA Support; however, we all know why students are in this class: they just don’t read or read well. Our district continues to promote a myriad of tracked classes and pull-out programs. At our site we have eight different ELA classes with fancy labels. Needless to say, we have not exactly bought in to the Response to Intervention model. Believe me, I’ve tried, but our district and site have not yet adopted my Reading Manifesto.

Last night at Back to School Night, a parent who has a child in this class, lingered after my presentation to express concerns about his child.

Having completed an initial round of diagnostic assessments just to determine whether or not my students should remain in this remedial class, I assured the parent that I knew some of his child’s reading issues and that we would make significant progress this year.

The parent checked my response with his previous experience.

“In fifth grade, his teacher told me that he would never be able to read well. He was tested for special education and qualified for the program. The resource teacher confirmed his fifth grade teacher’s diagnosis and tagged him with auditory and visual processing disorders. The resource teacher said that we should concentrate on developing ‘reading survival skills.’”

As my blood began to boil, I assured the parent that we were not going to band-aid his child. We would go in for surgery and fix the reading issues. I told him I believe in student-centered, assessment-based instruction and that I would individualize instruction for his son. The parent was admittedly skeptical but held onto a glimmer of hope.

He responded, “Well, we’ve tried for so many years. My son just does not believe he will ever be ‘normal’ and read like his peers. His self-concept is at an all-time low, especially after two years of using reading materials that make him feel like an idiot. But, to be fair, he is reading at that level. It’s just that he’s big for his age. I guess he and I just have to be realistic.”

So to summarize: The child, parent, and teachers all have set limits as to what they think the child can do. The child’s educational experience has set those expectations in stone.

I refuse to buy-in to this thinking. I want to make a difference for this student. I want to be an informed realist. It’s going to take work, and it’s going to take the right materials to make it work.

One of the parent’s comments stood out to me: “His self-concept is at an all-time low, especially after two years of using reading materials that make him feel like an idiot.”

That we can fix. According to my initial assessments, this child has severe decoding issues. I’ve developed a series of 44 decodable texts, along with my illustrator, David Rickert. These take home books are decidedly not juvenile. Think the old “Archie and Friends” comic books. Stories about teenagers. Stories with humor. Stories with some depth. But much more…

Here’s a description of these take home books. If you teach non-primary remedial reading, you’ve got to get these 44 economical blackline master take home books for your students. For less than a buck a book, you can provide targeted practice in what your students need without treating them like “idiots.”

Decodable Take Home Books for Older Readers kids

*****

The 54 Sam and Friends Take Home Phonics Books have been designed to supplement a systematic and explicit phonics program for remedial readers. Each illustrated eight-page book focuses on one sound with the most common sound-spelling patterns and two high-utility sight words. The sound-spellings are the same as those used in the Open Court reading program. Pennington Publishing’s remedial reading curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies uses the same research-based instructional scope and sequence.

The books are illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons are designed to be appreciated by older remedial readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) 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.

Additionally, each take home book includes five SCRIP comprehension questions (Summary, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, Predict) to promote internal monitoring of text. The comprehension questions are ideal for teacher and/or parent guided reading instruction, readers’ workshop, literacy centers, and literature circles.

Plus, each take home book includes a 30 second word fluency practice on the focus sound-spellings and sight words with a systematic review of previously introduced sound-spellings and sight words.

Teachers are licensed to copy and distribute all 44 of these economical blackline master take home books for their own students. Each book has eight pages in 5.5 x 8.5 inch booklet form. Books are formatted to be copied back to back on two separate 8.5 x 11 pages for easy copying and collation. Just one fold creates the take home books. No stapling is needed.

Design and Instructional Components

* The Sam and Friends Take Home Phonics Books have been organized into five collections:

Collection A: Short Vowels and Consonants Books 1-8
Collection B: Consonant Blends and Digraphs (Part 1) Books 9-16
Collection C: Consonant Blends and Digraphs (Part 2) Books 17-24
Collection D: Long Vowels and Silent Final e Books 25-34
Collection E: r-controlled Vowels and Diphthongs Books 35-44

Collection F: Syllable Juncture and Derivational Influences Books 45-54

* The books are designed with highly decodable text to help readers learn, practice, and develop reliance upon the alphabetic code. Decodable means that a high percentage of words are phonetically regular. Perfect for Tier I and Tier II RtI, special education, ELD and SDAIE classes, and traditional reading intervention classes.

* The SCRIP comprehension strategies (Summary, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, Predict) are embedded within the text pages, not placed at the end of the book.

* The stories use non-predictable, non-repetitious, and non-patterned language to minimize over-reliance upon context clues and knowledge of text structure. The texts limit idiomatic expressions (ideal for English-language learners). Students will learn the alphabetic code with these books.

* The back page of each book introduces the focus sound-spellings and sight words and also includes a 30 second word fluency practice with phonics and sight words review.

* The books do not require a separate teacher’s guide. All instructional activities are included in the books themselves.

* These books are fun to read and fun to teach!

But wait… There’s more! As seen on T.V.

Your purchase of the Sam and Friends Take Home Phonics Books also includes these resources:

* Quick and Simple Instructions

* Color Animal Sound-Spelling Cards designed for your display projector to help your students master each of the sound-spelling patterns. Teachers are also licensed to copy on cardstock, cut, and laminate the cards for each of their students. The animal names of the Animal Sound-Spelling Cards clearly connect to each of the English phonemes (speech sounds) unlike those of other reading programs. The cards feature animal photographs, not illustrations, and are color coded according to their sound-spellings: consonants (black cards), short vowels (green cards), long vowels (red cards), and vowel teams (violet cards). The link also includes Consonant Blend Cards.

* Link to the Names, Sounds, and Spelling Rap to help students master the instructional components of the Animal Sound-Spelling Cards. Help your students develop automaticity in the sound-spellings. Turn it up! Your students will love to chant along.

* Link to the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies Bookmarks to download and print. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes both comprehension and fluency expository articles at Grades 3-7th reading levels.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. 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 instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games.

 

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Writing Openers

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

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

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

What’s in the Teaching the Language Strand language conventions lessons that are not provided in these 112 Writing Openers?

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

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

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

    Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

    Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

 

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

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

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Latin Abbreviations for Time

Latin Abbreviations for Time                                                        

Common Core Language Standard 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

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

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

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

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , ,



Proper Nouns

Proper Nouns                                                        

Common Core Language Standard 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

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

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 Programs

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

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , ,



Abbreviations and Acronyms

Abbreviations and Acronyms                                                      

Common Core Language Standard 2

Like many languages, English has many forms of written communication. English uses abbreviations and acronyms to shorten words. Actually, even with today’s instant messaging and texting, English and American writers used to use far more shortened forms of writing than today.

Today’s mechanics lesson is on when and when not to use periods in abbreviations and acronyms. Remember to use periods after abbreviated words and after beginning and ending titles of proper nouns, such as “Mr.” and “Sr.”

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

Use periods following the first letter of each key word in an abbreviated title or expression, and pronounce each of these letters when saying the abbreviation. Examples: U.S.A., a.m., p.m.

But, don’t use periods or pronounce the letters in an acronym. Acronyms are special abbreviated titles or expressions that are pronounced as words. Most all acronyms are capitalized. Example: NATO

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

Practice: David has worked outside of the U.S. in many foreign countries, but he now works for N.A.S.A.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Mechanics Practice Answers: David has worked outside of the U.S. in many foreign countries, but he now works for NASA.

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using an abbreviated title and an acronym.

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

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