Making Sense of Community College and Trade School Instruction

As an educational publisher, I receive many emails asking for assistance with products and/or instruction in a variety of settings. Although most of my business is in the K-12 market, I do get plenty of response from community college and trade school professors. Having taught three years (part time) in that setting, I do understand the challenges and rewards of working with adult learners. Those of us in the K-12 community who complain about how tough it is working with our diverse learners should walk two moons in the moccasins of our colleagues at the community colleges and trade schools before we cry “Woe is me.”

Here’s the email (used with the author’s permission).

Wondering what products you might suggest to me as an adult instructor of students 18 -70+ years old enrolled in a jobs training program.  My adult learners in general do well being highly motivated with strong self-initiative.  However, they have problems taking tests written for the specific class subject matter.  My feeling is that some of the lower achievers bring along a suitcase (even a trunk load) of bad study habits; unresolved conceptual learning issues; and other bad life experiences preventing their higher achievement.  Simple things like reading comprehension of test questions; basic math concepts and practical usage, etc. 

The program consists of technical classes such as 40-hour Hazwoper; Confined Space Entry; Stormwater Managment; Chemical Safety Awareness; Underground Storage Tanks; Mold Inspection & Remediation; Alternate Remediation Technologies.  These classes follow federal and state guidelines thus requiring success at 80% levels.

I work to help each student, but it is difficult to first analyze what is wrong (carrying the ones instead of tens in whole number addition) and then figuring out why they are doing what they are.  In the end we work to try to find solutions which they use to see better results on exams, exercises, etc.

Thank you for your help,

Chris Goodman Lead Instructor

 Making Sense of Community College and Trade School Instruction

 

Chris,

Your email is quite similar to many I’ve received, asking for targeted resources for adult learners. You have a tough, but rewarding job. I’ve been there and done that! I taught part time in a community college setting for three years with a student population quite similar to yours. Entering and re-entering the work force at any age can be difficult. I’ve decided to respond at length to your thoughtful email to both commiserate and offer some solutions to your challenging instructional needs based upon my own experience.

At the community college I taught lecture classes and also served in the Learning Resource Center. In this large complex, professors staffed the Reading Center, Writing Center, and Math Center from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily.

The instructional design of each of the Learning Resource Centers had some significant strengths:

  • Diagnostic reading, writing, and math exams were administered and scored in the Counseling Center. “Cut-off” scores were established and students who scored below were assigned to the relevant center for tutorial instruction while concurrently taking required classes in their selected instructional programs. Completion of the tutorial instruction served as prerequisites to certain core classes.
  • Learning was self-paced with the Learning Resource Center open twelve hours a day for student drop-in. So important for working adults.
  • Students completed  individualized learning plans and set their own learning goals.
  • Content professors “bought into” the instructional design and referred students for tutorial assistance.
  • We professors wrote, purchased, or “borrowed” curriculum catered to both student interest and need.
  • Credit was variable and flexible: Students worked on short-term specific learning modules in reading, writing, and math with check-in and review by the professors. Most modules were designed to be completed within 7.5 hours for the average student, and students earned .5 units. Some comprehensive modules were designed to be completed within 45 hours with students earning 3.0 units. Other modules ranged in between these extremes. Many of the learning modules permitted students to work together to complete the learning tasks. This “learning community” was nurtured by caring professors.
  • Much of the generic study skills curriculum was excellent and appropriate for most all students in each of the three centers.

The instructional design of each of the Learning Resource Centers had some significant weaknesses:

As you mentioned in your email, “… it is difficult to first analyze what is wrong.”

Despite the appropriate entry-level reading, writing, and math assessments, no further specific diagnostic assessments were given within the respective centers. Thus, professors knew that the student “had a problem” in reading, writing, or math; however, trial and error via student feedback and completed work was the only means of more refined assessment of student need. Highly inefficient. Plus many students failed in their first learning modules until their completed work was analyzed by a professor; others students completed work on content and skills already mastered.

With no specific diagnostic assessments, the curriculum did not match the diagnosed learning deficits of the individual student. Furthermore, few formative assessments were built into the instructional design of the individual modules. Although student did complete the modules, professors had no vehicle to assess whether the content or skills had been mastered as a whole and no item analysis to be able to refine and assign remedial learning tasks to help students achieve mastery.

In subsequent years I’ve written English-language arts curriculum to address these weaknesses. Some of the following resources I will recommend are direct instruction; however, most of the resources are individualized instruction. My credo has been “Help students catch up, while they keep up with age or grade-level instruction.” Resources include the specific diagnostic resources (simple, short, and comprehensive and administered “whole class,” … not individually) with self-paced curriculum designed to address each diagnostic need. Each targeted worksheet includes definitions, examples, practice, application, and a quick formative assessment. Supplementary resources provide additional practice with un-mastered content and skills. Recording matrices help teachers and students track individual progress. Each curriculum is offered in both print and digital formats*

For reading: Teaching Reading Strategies provides whole-class diagnostic reading assessments (multiple choice), enabling reading intervention teachers to differentiate remedial instruction for students ages eight-Adult. Blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, and multi-level expository fluency passages highlight this user-friendly three-ring binder book. Fluencies are each leveled at third grade, fifth grade, and seventh grade reading to challenge readers of varying abilities. 390 flashcards, posters, games, and more! Everything you need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for EL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/audio processing challenges. An ideal choice for Tier I and II Response to Intervention. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance. The matched activities and worksheets to the thirteen diagnostic assessments will ensure that each of your diverse learners will receive the targeted instruction and practice they need. This flexible curriculum and its resources is not a canned program. Teachers use what their students need.

For writing: Teaching Essay Strategies is a comprehensive essay curriculum designed to teach the essay strand of the Common Core State Standards. This step-by-step program provides all of the resources teachers to differentiate essay instruction with 8 writing process essays, 42 essay strategy lessons, over 150 interactive writing openers, and over 50 remedial and advanced mini-lessons with accompanying worksheets. Chris, the downloadable essay e-comments bank of 438 writing response comments will cut your essay response and grading time in half.

For grammar, usage, and mechanics: Teaching Grammar and Mechanics or the comprehensive Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 These curricula are specifically aligned to the Common Core State Standards Language Strand (L.1, L.2). The user-friendly programs provide the full spectrum of basic to advanced skills to teach 4th-12th grade grammar, mechanics, and spelling standards in both reading and writing contexts. Get 64 interactive lessons, each with rules, examples, literary sentence modeling, error analysis, sentence manipulation, simple sentence diagramming, dictation practice, and engaging grammar cartoons. These scripted lessons are formatted for LCD/overhead projection and require no teacher prep or correction. Also get whole-class diagnostic assessments to differentiate instruction with 72 remedial worksheets. Chris, your students would certainly benefit from the targeted worksheets matched to their specific needs as indicated by the diagnostic assessments. A great resource for your English-language learners as well.

For study skills: Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in school. Often, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. The affordable site licenses are ideal for an instructional setting such as you describe.

Best of luck working on your instructional delivery model and I hope these products will benefit your students. Wish I had them when I was teaching in that setting.

Mark Pennington

 

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



How to Use the Spelling Pretest

The Monday spelling pretest: it’s as American as apple pie. Each of my three sons routinely scored 20/20 on the Monday spelling pretest. They were required to “study” and “practice” these words with an obligatory worksheet, crossword puzzle, or write-the-word-ten-times assignment. They were then tested on these same words on Friday. They learned zilch about spelling from this instructional practice.

The first task of an informed teacher is to determine what students already know and don’t know. The second task of an informed teacher is to make use of the diagnostic data to differentiate and individualize instruction. tls-thumbDSI-C

Here’s how to make sense of the spelling pretest and teach according to the results: Simply follow these five steps:

How to Use the Spelling Pretest

1. Prepare
Create Supplemental Spelling Lists for each student.
A. First, administer a comprehensive diagnostic spelling assessment to determine individual mastery and gaps. (Avoid qualitative inventories which do not clearly identify spelling patterns.) Grade the assessment and print grade-level resource words for each of the spelling pattern gaps.
B. Second, find and print these resources: For remedial spellers−Outlaw Words, Most Often Misspelled Words, Commonly Confused Words. And these: For grade level and accelerated spellers−Greek and Latinate spellings, Tier 2 words used in your current instructional unit.
C. Third, have your students set up spelling notebooks to record the spelling words which they, their parents, or you have corrected in their daily writing.
Now you’re ready to teach.

2. Pretest
Dictate the 15—20 words in the traditional word-sentence-word format to all of your students on Monday. Of course, the words do matter. Rather than selecting unrelated theme words such as colors, holidays, or the like, choose a spelling program which organizes instruction by specific spelling patterns. Have students self-correct from teacher dictation of letters in syllable chunks, marking dots below the correct letters, and marking an “X” through the numbers of any spelling errors. This is an instructional activity that can be performed by second graders. Don’t rob your students of this learning activity by correcting the pretest yourself.

3. Personalize
Students complete their own 15−20 word Personal Spelling List in the following order of priority:
• Pretest Errors: Have the students copy up to ten of their pretest spelling errors onto a Personal Spelling List. Ten words are certainly enough to practice the grade-level spelling pattern.
• Last Week’s Posttest Errors: Have students add up to three spelling errors from last week’s spelling posttest.
• Writing Errors: Have students add up to three student, parent, or teacher-corrected spelling errors found in student writing.
• Spelling Pattern Errors: Have students add on up to three words from one spelling pattern deficit as indicated by the comprehensive diagnostic spelling assessment.
• Supplemental Spelling Lists: Students select words from these resources to complete the list.

4. Practice
Have students practice their own Personal Spelling Words list.
A. Use direct instruction and example words to demonstrate the weekly spelling pattern.
B. Have students create their own spelling sorts from their Personal Spelling List.
C. Provide class time for paired practice. Spelling is primarily an auditory process.

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

Sounds great, but you don’t want to re-invent the wheel? Visit Pennington Publishing for research-based spelling curriculum, aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

 

Spelling/Vocabulary , ,



How to Teach Nonrestrictive Relative Clauses

Teaching the Language Strand ©2014 Pennington Publishing
Common Core Language Standard 1
How to Teach Nonrestrictive Relative Clauses: Grammar and Usage Lesson 30

How to Teach Nonrestrictive Relative Clauses                                                    Common Core

Sometimes the terms we use to label grammatical structures seem just crazy. However, the wording of grammatical terms is important. Using precise, or exact, academic language helps us compare, contrast, and categorize. These grammatical terms allow to say exactly what we mean and have meaningful conversations about how to improve our writing.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on nonrestrictive relative clauses. Remember to use commas to set off nonrestrictive relative clauses from the noun or pronoun before the clause. Display PowerPoint Instructional Slides

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

Nonrestrictive relative clauses serve as adjectives to modify the preceding noun or pronoun, but they do not limit, restrict, or define the meaning of that noun or pronoun. The clause could be removed without changing the basic meaning of the sentence.

The relative pronouns who, whom, whose,and which, but not that, begin nonrestrictive relative clauses. The who refers to people and which refers to specific things. Example: The man, whose watch is gold, asked me for help.

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

Practice: The woman which never told the truth claimed to have seen a spaceship, which no one else happened to see.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: The woman, who never told the truth, claimed to have seen a spaceship, which no one else happened to see.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a nonrestrictive relative clause at the end of the sentence.

Check out the Pennington Publishing Blog for a full-year of grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons and our YouTube Pennington Publishing Channel for video versions of the same lessons.

This grammar and usage writing opener is part of a comprehensive lesson from the Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) Grades 4‒8 programs. Teaching the Language Strand includes grade-level interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons with simple sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and formative assessments woven into each lesson. Each full-year curriculum provides a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary worksheets‒all with a comprehensive assessment plan. Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Previews and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available at www.penningtonpublishing.com.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , ,



How to Teach Compound-Complex Sentences

Teaching the Language Strand ©2014 Pennington Publishing
Common Core Language Standard 1
How to Teach Compound-Complex Sentences: Grammar and Usage Lesson 21

How to Teach Compound-Complex Sentences                                                     Common Core

Good writers focus on their readers. Readers understand more of what is written when there is some sentence variety. If every sentence is a short, simple sentence, the reader will be bored quickly. The same is true if every sentence is long.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on compound-complex sentences. Remember that a simple sentence has one independent clause and no dependent clause. A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses, but no dependent clauses. A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. Display PowerPoint Instructional Slides

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

A compound-complex sentence has two or more independent clauses and a dependent clause. Example: I like him and he likes me, even if we don’t see each other very much.

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

Practice: I let them talk since I had already spent time with her and I loaded the car.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: Since I had already spent time with her, I let them talk and I loaded the car.

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using a compound-complex sentence.

Check out the Pennington Publishing Blog for a full-year of grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons and our YouTube Pennington Publishing Channel for video versions of the same lessons.

This grammar and mechanics writing opener is part of a comprehensive lesson from the Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) Grades 4‒8 programs. Teaching the Language Strand includes grade-level interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons with simple sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and formative assessments woven into each lesson. Each full-year curriculum provides a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary worksheets‒all with a comprehensive assessment plan. Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Previews and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available at www.penningtonpublishing.com.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , ,



How to Teach Possessive Pronouns

Teaching the Language Strand ©2014 Pennington Publishing
Common Core Language Standard 1
How to Teach Possessive Pronouns: Grammar and Mechanics Lesson 7

How to Teach Possessive Pronouns                                                Common Core

To possess means to own or control something. We might say that you possess a smart phone or you possess the ability to learn. Both nouns and pronouns can be in the possessive case because they can own or control something.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on possessive pronouns. Remember that a pronoun takes the place of a noun. A pronoun may also modify a noun. Display PowerPoint Instructional Slides

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

Possessive pronouns show ownership and may be used before a noun or without a noun.

Before a noun—my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their

When a possessive pronoun is used before a noun, it modifies the noun. The verb matches the noun, not the pronoun. Example: Our house seems small.

Without a noun—mine, yours, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs

When a possessive pronoun is used without a noun, the verb must match the noun which the pronoun represents. Example: Mary said that my jacket is nice, but hers is nicer.

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

Practice: We took our donations to the shelter. Their clothes were brand new, but my were used.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Grammar and Mechanics Practice Answers: We took our donations to the shelter. Their clothes were brand new, but mine were used.

Now let’s apply what we have learned.

Writing Application: Write your own sentences using a possessive pronoun before a noun and a possessive pronoun without a noun.

Check out the Pennington Publishing Blog for a full-year of grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons and our YouTube Pennington Publishing Channel for video versions of the same lessons.

This grammar and usage writing opener is part of a comprehensive lesson from the Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) Grades 4‒8 programs. Teaching the Language Strand includes grade-level interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons with simple sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and formative assessments woven into each lesson. Each full-year curriculum provides a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary worksheets‒all with a comprehensive assessment plan. Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Previews and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available at www.penningtonpublishing.com.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , ,



How to Teach Subject Cast Pronouns

Teaching the Language Strand ©2014 Pennington Publishing
Common Core Language Standard 1
How to Teach Subject Cast Pronouns: Grammar and Usage Lesson 5

How to Teach Subject Cast Pronouns                                                        Common Core

Just like nouns, English has different types of pronouns for different purposes. To know when to use a “she,” “her,” and “hers” requires a bit of practice.

Today’s grammar and usage lesson is on subject case pronouns. Remember that a pronoun takes the place of a noun. Using subject case pronouns avoids repetitious nouns, especially in dialogue. Display PowerPoint Instructional Slides

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

Writers use pronouns to take the place of nouns. One type of pronoun is called a subject case pronoun because it acts as the subject of a sentence. The subject is the “do-er” of the sentence.

These are the subject case pronouns:

Singular—I, you, he, she, it, who        Plural—we, you, they, who

Example: They brought a basket of flowers.

Also use subject case pronouns following “to be” verbs (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been) to identify or refer to the subject as predicate nominatives. Example: It is I.

Place the first person singular pronoun (I) last in compound subjects. Example: Paul and I left. If unsure whether a pronoun should be in the subject case, rephrase the sentence with the pronoun at the start of the sentence. Example: The winner was me. Rephrase: I was the winner.

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

Practice: Pedro and I just want to know if the burglar really was him or his friend.

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

Grammar and Usage Practice Answers: Pedro and I just want to know if the burglar really was he or his friend.

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own sentence using singular and plural subject case pronouns.

Check out the Pennington Publishing Blog for a full-year of grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons and our YouTube Pennington Publishing Channel for video versions of the same lessons.

This grammar and usage writing opener is part of a comprehensive lesson from the Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) Grades 4‒8 programs. Teaching the Language Strand includes grade-level interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons with simple sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and formative assessments woven into each lesson. Each full-year curriculum provides a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary worksheets‒all with a comprehensive assessment plan. Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Previews and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available at www.penningtonpublishing.com.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , ,



How to Teach Alphanumeric Outlines

Teaching the Language Strand ©2014 Pennington Publishing
Common Core Language Standard 2
How to Teach Alphanumeric Outlines: Mechanics Lesson 4

How to Teach Alphanumeric Outlines                                                    Common Core

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

Today’s mechanics lesson is on using periods in alphanumeric outlines to indicate levels of ideas. Display PowerPoint Instructional Slides

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s check the Practice Answers.

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

Now let’s apply what we have learned. 

Writing Application: Write your own alphanumeric outline to describe your ideal birthday dinner.

Check out the Pennington Publishing Blog for a full-year of grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons and our YouTube Pennington Publishing Channel for video versions of the same lessons.

This mechanics writing opener is part of a comprehensive lesson from the Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) Grades 4‒8 programs. Teaching the Language Strand includes grade-level interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons with simple sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and formative assessments woven into each lesson. Each full-year curriculum provides a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary worksheets‒all with a comprehensive assessment plan. Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Previews and two-week test drives of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available at www.penningtonpublishing.com.

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , ,