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Don’t Teach to Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

Most teachers believe in some form of learning styles or multiple intelligences theories. The notion that each child learns differently, so we should adjust instruction accordingly (learning styles) just seems like such good old-fashion common sense. The theory that each child has different innate abilities (multiple intelligences) just seems to be confirmed by common experience. But common sense and experience are untrustworthy and unreliable guides to good teaching. Despite what the snake oil learning styles and multiple intelligences folk tell us, they are simply wrong. Here are five reasons why.

1. We don’t know enough about how the brain works to change the way we teach. What we do know about the brain suggests that catering instruction to specific modalities can be counter-productive. Knowledge is stored in the form of memories and only 10% of those memories are visual and auditory representations. Meaning-based memories make up the 90% (Willingham on Learning Styles Don’t Exist–TeacherTube). Those impressive-looking illustrations of the brain on the Universal Design for Learning site and interesting graphic organizers on the multiple intelligences sites hopelessly simplify what we know is a far more complex subject. Daniel T. Willingham, cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Virginia advises districts, schools, and teachers to “save your money” on any brain-based instructional in-services or instructional resources. See Willingham’s excellent YouTube on the fallacy of brain-based instruction.

2. Research does not support adjusting instruction according to learning styles or multiple intelligences theories. To sum up his extensive meta-analysis of modality research, Willingham states “…we can say that the possible effects of matching instructional modality to a student’s modality strength have been extensively studied and have yielded no positive evidence. If there was an effect of any consequence, it is extremely likely that we would know it by now (American Educator 1995).” With respect to research on multiple intelligences, “The fundamental criticism of MI theory is the belief by scholars that each of the seven multiple intelligences is in fact a cognitive style rather than a stand-alone construct (Morgan, 1996). Morgan, (1996) refers to Gardner’s approach of describing the nature of each intelligence with terms such as abilities, sensitivities, skills and abilities as evidence of the fact that the “theory” is really a matter of semantics rather than new thinking on multiple constructs of intelligence (http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/mitheory.shtml),” Frankly, the essential variables of motivation, preference, teacher perception, and the learning tasks themselves probably cannot ever be isolated in an experimental design, thus prohibiting statistically significant conclusions regarding how students learn best and how teachers should teach.

3. Learning styles and multiple intelligences theories beg the question about how students learn. The assumption is that students learn best by receiving instruction in their strongest modality or intelligence. This may make sense for designated hitters in the American League. Allow me to explain. In the American League, pitchers rarely bat; instead, designated hitters bat for them. The designated hitter does not play in the field. It would make sense for the designated hitter to practice according to his modality strength. Developing kinesthetic expertise in slugging home runs will earn him his multi-millions. But exclusive kinesthetic batting practice will not help him become a better fielder. There is no learning transfer. We certainly don’t want designated hitters in our classrooms. We want students to be complete ballplayers. In fact, it makes more sense to practice our relative weaknesses. Why should kinesthetically adept Johnny continue to make project after project rather than practicing in his areas of relative weakness: oral (auditory, aural) and written (visual) communication?

4. By emphasizing the how of instruction, learning styles and multiple intelligences practitioners lose sight of the what of instruction and tend to force square blocks into round holes. For teaching input to be processed and stored in the memory, that input has to match how the information will be stored. Little of what we teach will be stored as visual or auditory representations. This does not mean that good teaching won’t use the visual or auditory domains, but the focus of most all of our instruction is meaning-based. We want our students to know stuff. We have to match the how of instruction to the what of instruction, not the reverse. “All students learn more when content drives the choice of modality (Willingham in American Educator 1995).” It should go without saying that if a child has, for example, an auditory processing disability, the how of instruction should be limited in that modality. Similarly, adapting learning tasks to perceived student intelligences is impractical for the vast majority of our teaching standards. A student with musical intelligence still needs meaning-based practice to understand the roles of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

5. Although learning Styles and multiple intelligences theories seem individual-centered and egalitarian on the surface, the converse is more likely true. The practical applications of these theories tend to pigeon-hole students and assume that nature plays a greater role in learning than does nurture. For example, teachers disproportionately tend to label African-American children, especially boys, as kinesthetic learners and Asian kids are more often classified as visual learners. Being labeled limits options and dissuades effort and exploration. Learning styles and multiple intelligences assessments particularly have this egregious effect. Our students are not stupid. Labeling them as “good at” and “has strengths in” also labels them as “bad at” and “has weaknesses in.” Students “shut down” to learning or “self-limit” their achievement with such labels. If limited to what the students know and don’t yet know, assessments data can be productive. If extended to how students learn, data can be debilitating. Additionally, who is to say that how a student learns remains a constant? Teachers certainly have an important role in nurturing motivation, risk-taking, and exploration. Teachers should be about opening doors, not closing doors.

Unfortunately, the differentiated instruction movement has largely adopted learning style and multiple intelligence theories. Check out why differentiated instruction should be more about the what and less about the how in 23 Myths of Differentiated Instruction. As we move ahead in the Response to Interventionprocess, this subject of how to best serve students with learning challenges is especially relevant. Readers may also wish to check out the author’s introductory article: Learning Styles Teaching Lacks Common Sense.

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, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges. 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. 364 pages

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Learning Styles Teaching Lacks Common Sense

Different strokes for different folks. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for me. These sayings appeal to our American ideals of individualism and equality, don’t they? And they certainly seem to apply to how we think we should teach. Our assumption is that we all learn differently so good teachers should adjust instruction to how students learn. Specifically, we assume that some students are better auditory (or aural) learners, some are better visual learners, and some are better kinesthetic learners. Or add additional modalities or intelligences to the list, if you wish. All we need to do to maximize learning is to adjust instruction to fit the modality that best matches the students’ learning styles or intelligences. It just seems like good old-fashioned common sense.

However, common sense is not always a trustworthy or reliable guide. Galileo once challenged Aristotle’s wisdom and the popular consensus of two millennia that objects fall at different rates, depending upon their bulk. Galileo climbed to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa and dropped a tiny musket ball and a huge canon ball at the same time. Defying common sense, those objects reached ground at the same time. Even today, ask most people whether a nickel or computer would hit the ground first. Most would still pick the computer.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Teachers encounter counter-intuitive examples in teaching all the time: a not-so-bright student whose parents both have master’s degrees, a student with high fluency but low comprehension, an administrator who has never taught in a classroom. These anomalies just don’t make sense, but they happen quite frequently. In fact, before recent IDEA legislation, students with demonstrated learning problems could not qualify for special education unless there was an established discrepancy between ability and performance. In other words, unless the student’s learning disability challenged our notions of common sense, the student could not qualify for special education services.

Most teachers will say that they believe in some form of learning style or multiple intelligences theory. Most will say that they attempt to adjust instruction to some degree to how they perceive students learn best. Many use modality assessments to guide their instructional decision-making. This is particularly true within the special education community. Although there probably has been some change, Arter and Jenkins (1979) found that more than 90% of special education teachers believe in modality theory. These assumptions are especially relevant as special education teachers assume lead roles in the expanded Response to Intervention models, especially with respect to the three-tiered instructional model.

But these common sense assumptions are simply wrong for the most part. To understand why, we need to define our terms a bit. When we talk about how our students learn we need to consider three components of the learning process. First, the learner accesses input, that is teaching, through sensory experiences. Next, the learner makes meaning of and connects that new input to existing knowledge and experience. Finally, that learner stores this input into the short and long term memories.

Now, this learning process is not the same as knowledge. Learning (the verb) leads to knowledge (the noun). And knowledge is not how students learn. Knowledge is what students learn. Knowledge is stored in the memory. Knowledge = memory. Memory includes everything and excludes nothing. It even includes learning how to learn. We have no separate data bases.

So how is knowledge (memory) stored in the brain? According to cognitive scientists, 90% of the memory is meaning-based. Only 10% of the memory consists of visual or auditory representations (Willingham 2009). These percentages do reflect what we teach. Most everything we teach is meaning-based. So, shouldn’t we focus our teaching energies on matching how we teach to how the knowledge is stored?

Auditory Memory

Let’s start with the 10%. If knowledge will be stored as an auditory memory, teaching should emphasize this modality. For example, if band students are learning how to tune their instruments, they need to listen to and practice hearing the sound waves, not necessarily see a spectrograph or understand the complexities of how sound is produced. Or if students are learning to read with inflection, they need to hear good models of inflection and mimic those models. Both sound waves and reading inflection knowledge are stored primarily as auditory memories. To tune their instruments, band students will access their auditory memories of wave sounds and apply this knowledge to raising or lowering the pitch of their instruments. To read with inflection, students will recall the rhythm, emphasis, and altered voices of modeled readings and apply this knowledge to reading in front of the class.

Visual Memory

And now the balance of the 10%. If knowledge will be stored as a visual memory, teaching should emphasize this modality. For example, if art students are learning the color spectrum, they need to see and practice the colors with their various hues, not just memorize ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). Or if students are memorizing the locations of the states, they will need to see and practice their shapes, sizes, and relationships to other states on political and/or physical maps. Both colors and the locations of states are stored primarily as visual memories. To draw an apple from memory, art students will access their visually stored memories of various hues of red and/or other colors and apply this knowledge to their watercolor. To pass the map test, students will recall the images of the political and/or physical maps and correctly label the states.

Meaning-Based Memory

And finally to the 90%. These meaning-based memories are stored independent of any modality-“not in terms of whether you saw, heard, or physically interacted with the information.” (Willingham 2009). If knowledge will be stored in the memory as meaning, teaching should be designed to emphasize this outcome. For example, if history students are learning the three branches of the federal government and the system of checks and balances, they need to understand the meanings of the terms: legislative, executive, and judicial as well as the specific limitations of and checks on powers that the framers of the Constitution designed to ensure balance and prevent abuse. Good teaching would emphasize both rehearsal and application of this information to ensure understanding. This would, of course, necessitate using the auditory (or aural) modality. It would also certainly be appropriate to use the visual modality by drawing the three-branch tree with each branch representing the divisions of government. However, most of the learning process will necessitate memorizing how, what, where, when, and why facts through meaning-storage strategies and techniques (such as repetition), establishing cognitive connections to prior knowledge and experiences with plenty of appropriate examples, and practicing trial and error feedback through class discussion, reading, and writing. Whew! Complex, meaning-based stuff. On the test, students will not access memories of the teacher’s lecture voice or the teacher’s tree drawing to answer the multiple-choice questions. Students will recall meaning-based memories derived from teaching that appropriately matches the content to be learned. If 90% of what our students learn is meaning-based, why waste limited planning and instructional time fixating on the 10%? Now that’s good old-fashioned common sense.

Check out Dr. Daniel Willingham’s YouTube on this subject.

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, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges. 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. 364 pages

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Free Structural Analysis, Syllabication & Oral Language Resources

Word study is crucial to effective reading and spelling instruction. Knowing the structural components of words, including roots, affixes, and grammatical inflections will help your students read with greater understanding and less fear of multi-syllabic words. Studying how words are put together will help your students properly pronounce words. Learning the parts of words will help your student improve their vocabulary. Practicing the rules and patterns of word formation will help your students become better spellers. Oh yes… using the skills of word analysis will also help your students perform better on standardized English-language arts and reading tests.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding structural analysis, syllabication, and oral language development from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Oh, and don’t forget to copy down the 10% discount code found only on this blog to purchase the quality curricula and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Structural Analysis, Syllabication, and Oral Language

Ten English Accent Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/ten-english-accent-rules/

The Ten English Accent Rules are important to understand and apply to be able to correctly pronounce and spell English words.

The Top Ten Syllable Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/tag/syllable-division/

The Top Ten Syllable Rules will help students improve reading, pronunciation, and spelling accuracy. Applying these basic syllabication rules will also help readers identify prefixes, roots, and affixes, which improves word identification. Clear examples follow each syllable rule.

How to Teach Syllabication: The Syllable Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-syllabication-the-syllable-rules/

How to Teach Syllabication: The Syllable Rules is a three-minute whole-class instructional strategy that teaches students to properly pronounce and spell all of the phonetic sound-spelling and syllable patterns.

Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/twenty-advanced-syllable-rules/

The Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules are critical to accurate pronunciation, decoding, and spelling. Knowing the patterns of affixes and roots will also facilitate vocabulary acquisition.

20 Embarrassing Mispronunciations

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/20-embarrassing-mispronunciations/

Educated Americans often look down their long noses at those who mispronounce common words. However, even these literary illuminati have their fair share of embarrassing pronunciation gaffes.

Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/top-40-pronunciation-pet-peeves/

Here is the definitive list of the Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves that drive Americans crazy. Read, laugh, and cringe over mistakes that you or your friends make when saying these words.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

  • English-language Arts Standards
  • English-language Arts Instruction
  • Essay Strategies
  • The Writing Process/Writers Workshop
  • Writing Style
  • Grammar and Mechanics
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Structural Analysis/Syllabication/Oral Language
  • Teaching Reading in the ELA Classroom
  • ELA/Reading Assessments
  • Reading Intervention
  • Independent Reading
  • Response to Intervention
  • EL/ESL
  • Differentiated Instruction (RtI)
  • Critical Thinking
  • Study Skills
  • Test Preparation
  • Educational Issues and Teaching Trends
  • Developmental Characteristics
  • Professional Development
  • ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    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, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for Response to Intervention (RtI). ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges will particularly benefit. 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. 364 pages

    Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Free Reading Intervention Resources

    Teaching remedial reading is one of the most challenging yet enriching tasks. Reading is the key to learning. With the evolving Response to Intervention (RtI) process, special education and classroom teachers are scurrying to find appropriate resources to differentiate reading instruction. What these teachers are finding is that one-size-fits-all canned reading programs are not matching the needs of all of their students. Additionally, many intervention teachers are feeling that scripted programs are ignoring teacher experience, judgment, and expertise. What is needed are resources that will allow trained professionals to differentiate reading instruction within flexible learning structures. The three-tiered RtI model looks good on paper, but quality resources are essential in these delivery models.

    Most special education and classroom teachers are quite prepared to teach the reading and writing content of their courses. Their undergraduate and graduate courses reflect this preparation. However, most are less prepared to teach reading intervention. Most credential programs require only one or two reading strategy courses. Expertise is critical because the research shows that only one-in-six students reading two or more grade levels behind by middle school will ever catch up to grade level reading.

    Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to teach remedial readers and reading intervention from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Oh, and don’t forget to copy down the 10% discount code found only on this blog to purchase the quality curricula and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

    Reading Intervention

    Free Whole Class Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/

    Download free phonemic awareness, vowel sound phonics, consonant sound phonics, sight word, rimes, sight syllables, fluency, grammar, mechanics, and spelling assessments. All with answers and recording matrices. A true gold mine for the teacher committed to differentiated instruction!

    How to Teach Reading Intervention

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-reading-intervention/

    Teaching reading intervention is qualitatively different from teaching beginning reading. By definition, the initial reading instruction did not “take” to a sufficient degree, so things must be done differently this time around to improve chances for success. This article defines the key ingredients for a successful reading intervention program and provides an instructional template.

    Backwards Reading Intervention

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/backwards-reading-intervention/

    How strange that a student-centered approach to learning, as advocated by many teachers and authors, does not extend to a student-centered approach to instruction. To cut to the chase, why are many reading intervention teachers so reluctant to differentiate reading instruction according to the diagnostic needs of individual students?

    Reading Intervention Programs

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/reading-intervention-programs/

    So… you’re adopting a reading intervention program for your district or school. What questions should you be asking? Your needs (and those of your students) are only half of the equation. The other half of the equation is the needs of the program publisher. Read this article before you invest time and resources in a reading intervention program.

    Remedial Reading Intervention Placement: What Does Not and What Does Make Sense

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/remedial-reading-intervention-placement-what-does-and-does-not-make-sense/

    Placing students in remedial reading intervention classes is certainly a challenge. By understanding what does and does not make sense in the selection process, educators will be able to avoid many of the usual pitfalls of these types of programs and have a greater chance at success.

    Secondary Reading Program Placement

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/secondary-reading-program-placement/

    No matter which school-wide model of reading intervention is used at the middle or high school levels, the problem of proper reading placement is common to all. Here are some helpful suggestions as to how to place students in reading intervention classes. Placement and monitoring are the keys to successful Tier I, II, and III Response to Intervention.

    The Problem with Dialectical Journals

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/the-problem-with-dialectical-journals/

    Dialectical journals have been teacher favorites since literature-based reading pedagogy was popularized in the 1980s. However, this reader-centered instruction creates more problems than it solves. In lieu of dialectical journals, teachers should help students learn and apply the five types of independent reading strategies that promote internal monitoring of the text.

    Community College Remedial Reading Costs

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/community-college-remedial-reading-costs/

    Increased enrollment in our community colleges has created an economic double-whammy for both hard-pressed state budgets and for community colleges themselves. An increasingly key factor in this double-whammy has been the cost to remediate the skill set of these new students, especially in reading. Remediation, especially reading remediation, has always been a tough issue for state legislators and community colleges. Some have been reluctant to accept the reality that so many of our high school graduates or drop-outs still cannot read at the levels they need to function in society. Others recognize the problem, but play the blame game by pointing fingers at the failures of K-12 education. While the costs of providing remedial reading education are high to both state and community college budgets, the costs of not providing the resources are incalculable.

    Top Ten Reasons to Teach Phonics

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/top-ten-reasons-to-teach-phonics/

    Reading is not a developmentally acquired skill. In other words, children and adults do not learn to read by simply being read to or exposed to a literate environment. Learning the sound-spelling system and applying the alphabetic code is what we call phonics instruction. Acquiring this skill will allow readers to attend to the real purpose of reading—understanding what the author says.

    Phonics Games

    Plenty of phonics-based programs do a fine job of providing that systematic instruction. However, some do the basic job, but will bore both students and teachers to tears. Learning to read is hard work, but it should also be fun. These phonics flashcards, phonics games, and Mp3 phonics songs/raps work with any phonics-based program and are divided into Easy, Medium, and Difficult levels to allow teachers to effectively differentiate instruction.

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/phonics-games/

    Should We Teach Phonics to Remedial Readers?

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/should-we-teach-phonics-to-remedial-readers/

    Although most students learn to read in their early years of school, some students experience significant reading problems. Almost always, the cause is the same. Struggling readers have not learned the sound-spelling system we call phonics. With the right diagnostic assessments and instruction, remedial readers can make significant gains.

    Good Reading Fluency, but Poor Reading Comprehension

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/why-vocabulary-word-lists-don%E2%80%99t-work/

    Teachers and parents see it more and more: good reading fluency, but poor reading comprehension. Repeated reading practice to build fluency needs to be balanced with meaningful oral expression and internal self-monitoring comprehension strategies.

    Teach Your Child to Read

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/teach-your-child-to-read/

    One of the true joys and responsibilities of parenthood is teaching your child to read. But wait… isn’t that the teacher’s job? Of course it is, but the best approach is always an effective and complementary home-school partnership. Whether your child is in pre-school, kindergarten, or first grade he or she can and will learn to read with your help. As an MA Reading Specialist and educational author, I’ve done all of the “prep” work necessary for parents to hold up their end of the home-school partnership in these Teach Your Child to Read tools and resources. You don’t have to be a reading expert; you’ve got back-up :)

    Should We Teach Phonemic Awareness to Remedial Readers?

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/should-we-teach-phonemic-awareness-to-remedial-readers/

    Phonemic awareness is the key predictor of reading success. Many students with reading problems have not acquired this ability. This article suggests that phonemic awareness should be taught, not just caught, and provides the how’s and when’s to inform remedial reading instruction.

    How and When to Teach Phonemic Awareness

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-and-when-to-teach-phonemic-awareness/

    Phonemic awareness is the key predictor of reading success. However, is it a pre-requisite skill or a by-product of reading? This article suggests that phonemic awareness should be taught, not caught, and provides the how’s and when’s to inform instruction.

    How to Teach Sight Words

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-sight-words/

    Although not a substitute for systematic phonics instruction, memorizing key sight words does makes sense to promote reading automaticity. In fact, many of the high frequency words are not phonetically decodable and must be memorized as sight words. This article details who should learn sight words and how to best teach them.

    How to Teach the Alphabet

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-the-alphabet/

    The alphabet is the key to reading. These twenty-six symbols combine to form a rich lexicon of 800,000 English words. The key to learning the alphabet has been the traditional “Alphabet Song.” However beneficial, this song has created significant problems for young readers and English-language learners. A few twists eliminates these issues.

    How to Do Sound-by-Sound Spelling Blending

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-do-sound-by-sound-spelling-blending/

    Help your students to read in the most efficient way possible. This article gives the reading teacher or parent the exact sequence of sounds to introduce to help students learn to read. A step-by-step blending model is demonstrated with clear examples.

    Reading Intervention: How to Beat the Odds

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/reading-intervention-how-to-beat-the-odds/

    To beat the odds indicating that only one-in-six remedial readers will ever “catch up” to grade level, we need to analyze what has not worked and what will work. As we move in the direction of affirming teacher professionalism with the evolving RtI process, we emphasize a collaborative approach to determine how to best meet student needs. Here’s hoping that we reduce the odds of failure and increase the odds of success.

    Four Critical Components to Successful Reading Intervention

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/four-critical-components-to-successful-reading-intervention/

    According to research, only one of six remedial reading students will ever progress to grade-level reading ability. However, the odds can increase dramatically when the critical components for a successful literacy intervention are addressed. How schools plan reading intervention programs is just as important as what program they use.

    What Remedial Reading Teachers Want (A Manifesto)

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/what-remedial-reading-teachers-want-a-manifesto/

    Remedial reading (reading intervention) teachers of upper elementary, middle school, high school, and adult students all share the same instructional goal: help their students become fluent readers who understand what they read. Teachers want to achieve this goal in the shortest amount of instructional time. A Remedial Reading Teacher’s Manifesto will help teachers teach students, as opposed to teaching a “canned program.”

    Reading Readiness

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/reading-readiness/

    The following big picture advice on getting students ready to read applies equally to teachers of four-year-olds, fourteen-year-olds, and forty-year-olds. Of course, there are differences that need to be considered for each age group. Preschool/kinder/first grade teachers, intermediate and middle school reading intervention (RtI) teachers, and adult education teachers know how to teach to their clients’ developmental learning characteristics. Similarly, English-language development teachers and special education teachers know their student populations and are adept at how to differentiate instruction accordingly. But, my point is that the what of reading readiness instruction is much the same across the age and experience spectrum.

    How to Teach the Voiced and Unvoiced “th”

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-the-voiced-and-unvoiced-th/

    Teaching the voiced and unvoiced consonant digraphs in the context of beginning and remedial reading instruction can be tricky. Speech therapists and ESL teachers insist that the differences are critically important; reading specialists and special education teachers tend to ignore these as “distinctions without differences.” As a reading specialist, I usually stay on the practical “whatever works” side of the ledger. However, with respect to this one issue, I think my speech therapist and ESL friends have won me over. Without getting over-technical (Please… if I see one more diagram of the vocal cords or hear the word fricative, I will not be held responsible for my actions), here are a few instructional tools that will help us all teach the voiced and unvoiced “th” consonant digraph.

    More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for Response to Intervention (RtI). ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges will particularly benefit. 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. 364 pages

    Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Free Independent Reading Resources

    As an MA reading specialist and English-language Arts teacher, I know the value of independent reading. Despite our wonderful instruction in Greek and Latinates, context clues, and vocabulary in literature, students make their greatest vocabulary gains through independent reading at their instructional levels. Not to mention gains in reading comprehension. Teachers are understandably reluctant to allocate much class time to independent reading. Teachers are also unconvinced that their students really will read independently for homework.

    However, learning how to teach students to select readings at their instructional level and providing accountability within the home and class community can improve students’ success rates and achieve our goals of turning teacher-dependent readers into truly independent readers. We might just even create a few life-long readers in the process.

    Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to develop an effective independent reading program from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Oh, and don’t forget to copy down the 10% discount code found only on this blog to purchase the quality curricula and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

    Independent Reading

    Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/why-sustained-silent-reading-ssr-doesn%E2%80%99t-work/

    O.K. So my title is a good hook. I’m an ELA teacher, so you’d expect no less. However, I’m also an MA reading specialist, so you’d expect me to be passionate about getting students to read and read well. I do believe that independent reading is vital to reading improvement. So why am I writing an article titled Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work? SSR just is not an effective use of class time. Why so? Here are 8 reasons Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work.

    Straight Talk with Stephen Krashen on SSR

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/straight-talk-with-stephen-krashen-on-ssr/

    In response to my article titled “Why Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Doesn’t Work,”Dr. Stephen Krashen responded numerous times. Given the richness of Dr. Krashen’s gracious responses to my persistent challenges and questions, I felt it would be helpful to post the unedited exchange.

    Independent Reading Homework

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/independent-reading-homework/

    I developed an independent reading program based upon “reading discussions.” Students read at home and lead a literary discussion with their parent for three-minutes per day, four days per week to offer flexibility to families. I devolved the accountability for these assignments to the student-parent partnership. In other words, parents grade their children on the quality of the discussion and I count the points.

    How to Select Books for Independent Reading

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-select-books-for-independent-reading/

    Teachers, students, and parents recognize the importance of independent reading. No thinking activity better builds content knowledge, improves vocabulary, or exposes the learner to the world and its ideas. The practical question is which reading materials most efficiently help readers access this world of knowledge? Because reading is an interactive process, the abilities and interests of the readers must also be considered to maximize the learning process.

    The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/the-18-reasons-not-to-use-accelerated-reader/

    Accelerated Reader (AR) is a simple software concept that was at the right time (late 1980s) and right place (public schools during a transition from whole language to phonics instruction) that has simply grown into an educational monolith. Following are short summaries of the most common arguments made by researchers, teachers, parents, and students as to why using AR is counterproductive. Hence, The 20 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader.

    Independent Reading: The Meeting of the Minds

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/independent-reading-the-meeting-of-the-minds/

    Using the format of  the old television show, Meeting of Minds, some of the greatest thinkers from different eras to discuss the subject of independent reading in the classroom.

    How to Determine Reading Levels

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-determine-reading-levels/

    Learn how to use word recognition and motivation to determine reading levels for your students or for your own children.

    How to Get Students to Read at Home

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-get-students-to-read-at-home/

    Teachers and parents recognize the important role of independent reading in developing reading comprehension, vocabulary, and a lifelong love of books. Learn how to promote independent reading at home and help students achieve these desired benchmarks.

    Free Whole Class Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/

    Download free phonemic awareness, vowel sound phonics, consonant sound phonics, sight word, rimes, sight syllables, fluency, grammar, mechanics, and spelling assessments. All with answers and recording matrices. A true gold mine for the teacher committed to differentiated instruction!

    More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    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, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for Response to Intervention (RtI). ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges will particularly benefit. 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. 364 pages

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

    Free Response to Intervention (RtI) Resources

    As the mandates of the Response to Intervention (RtI) process continue to transfer to public schools, special education and classroom teachers are hurrying to find appropriate resources to differentiate literacy instruction for their students. What these teachers find is that one-size-fits-all canned reading, writing, and math programs simply do not match the needs of all of their students. Additionally, many intervention teachers find that scripted programs tend to ignore teacher experience, judgment, and expertise. Instead, RtI teachers need the resources that will allow them  to differentiate literacy instruction without becoming robots. The three-tiered RtI model looks good in the triangle diagram, but quality resources are essential to make these delivery models address the needs of their students.

    Most special education and classroom teachers are very prepared to teach the reading and writing content of their courses. They know how to teach. Their undergraduate and graduate courses have adequately prepared them for these tasks. However, most teachers are less prepared to teach reading, writing, and math intervention classes. For example, most credential programs require only one or two reading strategy courses. So, choosing appropriate instructional resources that will facilitate differentiated instruction, according to diagnostic and formative data are critically important.

    Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to teach reading and writing intervention within the RtI process from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Oh, and don’t forget to copy down the 10% discount code found only on this blog to purchase the quality curricula and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

    Response to Intervention

    Free Whole Class Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/

    Download free phonemic awareness, vowel sound phonics, consonant sound phonics, sight word, rimes, sight syllables, fluency, grammar, mechanics, and spelling assessments. All with answers and recording matrices. A true gold mine for the teacher committed to differentiated instruction!

    Ten Reasons Teachers Avoid RtI Collaboration

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/ten-reasons-teachers-avoid-rti-collaboration/

    If your school and/or district is moving toward a Response to Intervention (RtI) model, knowing the ten reasons why some teachers and administrators avoid RtI collaboration will help those committed to the RtI process make fewer mistakes and get more buy-in from stakeholders.

    Are You Ready for RtI?

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/are-you-ready-for-rti/

    The RtI model presupposes collaboration from all stakeholders in a school and/or district. All-too-often, this presupposition has doomed RtI at some school sites and in some districts from the get-go. Jumping into RtI and the three-tier instructional delivery model without first addressing legitimate concerns and before gaining stakeholder consensus has given a black-eye to a promising means of delivering a truly first-class education to all children.

    Word Families (Rimes) Activities

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/rimes-word-families-activities/

    Learning the common word families (rimes) can help beginning or remedial readers recognize common chunks of letters within words. For example, if students learn to recognize the “ack” rime, they will be able to use that chunk to learn words with different single consonant onsets, to form “back,” “hack,” “jack,” “lack,” “rack,” “sack,” “tack,” as well as words with different consonant blend onsets, such as “black,” “crack,” and “stack.” Check out the most common rimes and some fun rimes activities to use at home or in the classroom.

    Sight Word Activities

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/sight-word-activities/

    Most every reading teacher places some value on sight words instruction; however, just what teachers mean by sight words varies more than the flavors at the local ice cream parlor. Reading specialists describe two methods of “word attack”: word identification and word recognition. Sight words are the word recognition side of the coin. These words break the law, that is they break the rules of the alphabet code and are non-phonetic. Words such as the and love are Outlaw Words because readers can’t sound them out. Unfortunately, many of our high frequency and high utility words happen to be non-decodable, so they need to be memorized. Here is a list of the essential Outlaw Words with some fun practice activities and an Outlaw Words reading fluency to assess mastery in the reading context.

    Phonemic Awareness Activities

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/phonemic-awareness-activities/

    Phonemic awareness is the basic understanding that spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds. We call these speech sounds phonemes. Both beginning and remedial readers may need to learn these phonemic awareness skills: rhyme, alphabet, syllable, phonemic isolation, blending, and segmenting. Check out the list of phonemes, six whole-class phonemic awareness assessments, and six corresponding activities to teach phonemic awareness in the home or in the classroom.

    How to Teach Phonics

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-phonics/

    Teaching phonics is an essential ingredient to effective reading instruction. Learning the phonetic code teaches the beginning or remedial reader to make efficient and automatic judgments about how words are constructed. Mastery of the basic sound-spelling correspondences will also pay significant dividends once the student begins reading multisyllabic expository text. Check out the colorful Animal Sound-Spelling Cards, the Names, Sounds, and Spelling Rap (Mp3 file), the Consonant Blend Cards, whole-class phonemic awareness and phonics diagnostic assessments, the Sound by Sound Spelling Blending Instructional Sequence with accompanying teaching script, and some great phonics games ALL FREE in this article.

    What Effective and Ineffective RtI Look Like

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/what-effective-and-ineffective-rti-look-like/

    Response to Intervention (RtI) is a K-12 site-level decision-making process designed to facilitate and coordinate early and flexible responses to student’s learning and behavioral difficulties. RtI promotes data-based decision-making with respect to service placement and on-going progress monitoring. Following are a few indicators of what effective and ineffective RtI can look like.

    Eight RtI-Reading Intervention Models

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/eight-rti-reading-intervention-models/

    As administrators, special education teachers, EL coordinators, reading specialists, and teachers are scrambling to see how new Response to Intervention (RtI) guidelines will work with resources, personnel, schedules, and student populations, it may be helpful to examine eight of the many intervention models with proven track records. After all, why re-invent the wheel? Each of the following models is described and analyzed in pro-con format.

    Response to Intervention: What Just Won’t Work

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/response-to-intervention-what-just-wont-work/

    With the newly released RtI document and as states and districts scramble to conform to Race to the Top carrots and sticks, voices of experience need to begin shouting quickly and boldly to be heard. Although I commend the International Reading Association (IRA) for assigning reading assessment a prominent role in their Response to Intervention (RtI) document, the language of the document betrays certain pedagogical presuppositions and is, at points, flat unrealistic.

    More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    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, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for Response to Intervention (RtI). ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges will particularly benefit. 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. 364 pages

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

    Free Differentiated Instruction (DI) Resources

    Let’s face it. Many teacher are afraid of differentiated instruction. We may have tried DI once or twice, at the behest of a supervising teacher or evaluator, but found the preparation, class management, and correcting to be overwhelming. It’s not that we teachers don’t buy in the the validity of differentiating instruction according to the needs of their students. After all, any teacher knows that a class full of cookie-cutter students is rare or non-existent. It’s just that we learn how to balance life inside of the classroom with life outside of the classroom. It’s a matter of survival. Plain and simple. So we set our defense mechanisms firmly in place. We track students. We shove the load of remediation on special education teachers or newbies. We tell gifted students to read an extra book or sent them off on field trips. We make excuses, blaming students, parents, class sizes, etc. We frankly give up and focus on doing what we can do-teach to the middle of the class.

    But what if there were efficient resources and instructional practices that made adjusting instruction to the level of each student quite do-able without tearing our hair out or turning to Prosac®?

    Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to differentiate instruction from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Oh, and don’t forget to copy down the 10% discount code found only on this blog to purchase the quality curricula and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

    Differentiated Instruction

    Free Whole Class Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/

    Download free phonemic awareness, vowel sound phonics, consonant sound phonics, sight word, rimes, sight syllables, fluency, grammar, mechanics, and spelling assessments. All with answers and recording matrices. A true gold mine for the teacher committed to differentiated instruction!

    Navigating Differentiated Instruction

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/navigating-differentiated-instruction/

    A quality English-language arts curriculum designed to differentiate instruction is like a good nav system. Teachers committed to differentiated instruction need to invest in curricular resources with good nav systems rather than band-aiding outdated road maps.

    Common Core DI, RTI, and ELL

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/common-core-di-rti-and-ell/

    DI (Differentiated Instruction), RTI (Response to Intervention), and ELL (English Language Learners) instructional strategies are all validated in the new Common Core State Standards. Common Core writers have clearly gone out of their way to assure educators that the Standards establish the what, but not the how of instruction.

    Don’t Teach to the LCD

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/dont-teach-to-the-lcd/

    Our penchant for helping individuals can work cross-purpose to our overall mission of helping all students. In fact, we often wind up teaching to the LCD (the Lowest Common Denominator). Instead, we need to differentiate instruction to all of our students.

    Differentiated Reading Instruction for Gifted Students

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/differentiated-reading-instruction-for-gifted-students/

    It’s time to differentiate reading instruction for all students, including our gifted ones. An entirely different curriculum is not the answer, but gifted students do need to be taught differently to maximize their progress and love of learning. Here are three tips that will make a difference for your gifted students.

    The Dos and Don’ts of Differentiated Instruction

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/the-dos-and-donts-of-differentiated-instruction/

    With the Response to Intervention (RTI) model now being incorporated into many school districts today, it has become increasingly important to help frame the differentiated instruction (DI) discussion in an objective manner that won’t promote narrow agendas and will encourage teachers to experiment with DI in their own classrooms. At its core, differentiated instruction is simply good, sound teaching. Directly addressing the individual learning needs of our students, rather than teaching a class as though all individuals in it were basically alike, offers our best chance of success for all.

    Differentiated Instruction: The What and the How

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/differentiated-instruction-the-what-and-the-how/

    Our understanding of the characteristics and proclivities of our students should inform both the what and the how of instruction. Consider this: students don’t know what they don’t know. To devolve the what of instruction to student choice is to abrogate our responsibilities as the informed, objective decision-makers.  Teaching professionals know what our students do and don’t know. Furthermore, to delegate the how of learning to students seems akin to educational malpractice.

    23 Myths of Differentiated Instruction

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/23-myths-of-differentiated-instruction/

    Differentiated instruction “is simply a teacher attending to the learning needs of a particular student or small groups of students, rather than teaching a class as though all individuals in it were basically alike (Carol Ann Tomlinson)” However, 23 myths of differentiated instruction continue to dissuade teachers and administrators from embracing this instructional concept.

    12 Reasons Why Teachers Resist Differentiated Instruction

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/10-reasons-why-teachers-resist-differentiated-instruction/

    Teachers resist differentiating instruction within their classroom for both internal and external reasons. Knowing why teachers prefer whole group instruction, rather than differentiated instruction can help break down barriers to change and help teachers focus on the individual needs of their students.

    Don’t Teach to Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/don%E2%80%99t-teach-to-learning-styles-and-multiple-intelligences/

    Most teachers believe in some form of learning styles or multiple intelligences theories. The notion that each child learns differently, so we should adjust instruction accordingly (learning styles) justseems like such good old-fashion common sense. The theory that each child has different innate abilities (multiple intelligences) just seems to be confirmed by common experience. But common sense and experience are untrustworthy and unreliable guides to good teaching. Despite what the snake oil learning styles and multiple intelligences folk tell us, they are simply wrong. Here are five reasons why.

    Learning Styles Teaching Lacks Common Sense

    http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/learning-styles-teaching-lacks-common-sense/

    Different strokes for different folks.  Our assumption is that we all learn differently so good teachers should adjust instruction to how students learn. Specifically, we assume that some students are better auditory (or aural) learners, some are better visual learners, and some are better kinesthetic learners. Or add additional modalities or intelligences to the list, if you wish. All we need to do to maximize learning is to adjust instruction to fit the modality that best matches the students’ learning styles or intelligences. It just seems like good old-fashioned common sense. However, common sense is not always a trustworthy or reliable guide.

    More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    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, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for Response to Intervention (RtI). ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges will particularly benefit. 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. 364 pages

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