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Posts Tagged ‘vocabulary’

The Difference Between It’s and Its, and There, Their, and They’re

itsthere

 

Some of the most common grammar mistakes concern it’s and its and there, their, and they’re. It may not be fair, but when these mistakes appear in your writing it will indicate either a lack of grammar knowledge or sloppiness in proofreading. Not to mention that there is always a question about each on the ACT, so it’s best to go in to that test with them committed to memory or you will lose easy points.

There really isn’t a good mnemonic device to know the difference. so you’ll have to commit them to memory.

It’s vs. its

It’s = it is. Its is a contraction.

Its is possessive.

The confusion is understandable. It’s looks like a possessive, but it is actually a contraction. Therefore, the dog wags its tail while it’s waiting for dinner.

There, their, and they’re

There is an adverb indicating a place.

Their is possessive.

They’re = they are.

The most common mistake with these three is to use there for all three: They checked there books out of the library. Now there going to read them. However, their is the possessive (their books) and they’re is a contraction.

Happy writing!

For more comics to use as overheads and handouts, check out Grammar Comics: Sentence Problems.

The author of this article is David Rickert, who has never mixed up these five words his entire life. When not creating comics out of thin air, David actively teaches high school English Language Arts in Columbus, Ohio. His witty and engaging cartoons turn abstract and complicated concepts into concrete and concise images to embed content into our long term memories. Let’s face it: he makes boring topics entertaining. Check out his Grammar Comics and more resources to bring life to your ELA instruction: Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics.

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Why Vocabulary Word Lists Don’t Work

Most of us would agree with reading researchers that vocabulary development is critically important to improving reading comprehension (e.g., Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Baumann, Kame‘enui, & Ash, 2003). However, not all vocabulary instruction is effective or efficient.

The Weekly Vocabulary Word List

In many classrooms the predominant means of vocabulary instruction is weekly vocabulary word list. Pass it out on Monday; have students look up and write down definitions, make flashcards, do a crossword puzzle, do a word sort, write context clue sentences, etc. Then test on Friday. The problem is that this approach does not work. It’s ineffective and inefficient.

It’s ineffective.

Students memorize the list for the Friday test and forget half of them by the next week. “Rote memorization of words and definitions is the least effective instructional method resulting in little long-term effect (Kameenui, Dixon, Carine 1987).”

It’s inefficient.

Even if students were to remember all of the, say 20 words, on the weekly vocabulary word list for the entire school year, they would only have mastered 600 words. But, the American lexicon is over 800,000 words. The SAT® word bank is over 30,000. 600 words won’t make a dent in those numbers.

According to reading research, students need to learn 3,000 new words per year just to make year-to-year grade level progress (Honig 1983). So learning only 600 words is a very small drop in a very big bucket. But it is a bucket we desperately need to fill-especially for educationally disadvantaged students, whose “word poverty” (Louisa C. Moats) dooms them to the “Matthew Effect” (Keith Stanovich) in which the poorer tend to get poorer.

To teach students 3,000 words a year, students would have to learn 17 words each school day (3,000 words over 178 school days). However, classroom intervention studies suggest that only 8 to 10 words can be retained through direct instruction in one week (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986). That works out to about 300 words per year-hardly enough.

So, if vocabulary word lists are ineffective and inefficient. What does work to teach those 3,000 words per year?

Three Effective and Efficient Methods of Vocabulary Instruction

1. Independent Reading

Let’s use Luis as our example. Reading 30 minutes per day for homework at a rate of 200 words per minute, for a total of 132 days (4 days per week in a typical school year), means that Luis would be exposed to 792,000 words (30 x 200 x 132). If Luis reads text at the recommended 5% unknown words* level of word recognition recommended by reading researchers (Stahl, 1999), this means that he would be exposed to 39,600 unfamiliar words per year (792,000 x .05). Because students learn between 5 and 10 percent of previously unknown words in a single reading (Stahl, 1999), Luis will have learned between 1,980 and 3,960 new words at home! Not to mention reading in class.

*That 5% unknown words level is critically important. If students read texts below their current reading levels, even lots of reading won’t result in measurable vocabulary growth (Carver, 1994).

2. Greek and Latin Word Parts

Reading researchers suggest that learning Greek and Latin word parts is an effective and efficient method for acquiring vocabulary (e.g., Anglin, 1993; Biemiller & Slonim, 2001). Over 50% of all academic vocabulary contains one or more Greek or Latin prefix, root, or suffix. Unlike memorizing vocabulary word lists, memorizing word parts produces enormous pay-offs because one prefix, root, or suffix may be a component of hundreds of words. Learning these word families provides significant utility for the reader, especially those word parts with the highest utility.

Just 9 prefixes constitute 75% of words with prefixes (White, Sowell, & Yanigihara, 1989). Comprehensive frequency studies have not been completed on roots; however, there is general consensus as to utility of a few hundred roots. There is less agreement on the value of teaching suffixes. Suffixes can often have vague meanings such as “the state of”; suffixes are often merely inflectional forms; they also tend to vary spellings. However, some study of suffixes that have specific meanings is certainly warranted. Check out a great list of Greek and Latin word parts for instruction here.

3. Tier One, Two, and Three Words (Beck et al., 2002)

Some words do not need to be taught. Tier One Words are high utility words that will become part of a student’s lexicon incidentally through oral language or reading. Tier Two Words are common words used in cross-curricular academic discussions and reading. Tier Three Words are the specific-to-the-subject words that can sometimes be learned through effective application of context clues, but more often than not require vocabulary instruction in depth.

For example, examine this sentence: The happy child was fortunate to have such a sunny disposition.

Tier One Words: happy, child, sunny

Tier Two Word: fortunate

Tier Three Word: disposition

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

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How to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

Every teacher knows that word parts are the building blocks of words. Most teachers know that learning individual word parts and how they fit together to form multi-syllabic words is the most efficient method of vocabulary acquisition, second only to that of widespread reading at the student’s independent reading level. These word parts that are, indeed, the keys to academic vocabulary—the types of words that students especially need to succeed in school. However, most teachers do not know the best instructional methods to teach these important word parts.

How Most Teachers Teach Prefixes

The Test Method: “Here is your list of ten prefixes with flashcards to memorize this week. Test on Friday.” No instruction + no practice = no success.

The Literature-based Method: “Notice the prefix pre in the author’s word preamble? That means before. Let’s look for other ones.

The Word Sort Method: “Here is a list of 20 big words. Sort all of the words that start with pre in the first box.”

The Intensive Vocabulary Study Methods: “Let’s use our Four Square vocabulary chart to study the prefix pre. Who knows an antonym? Who knows an example word? Who knows a synonym? Who knows an inflection that can be added to the word? Who knows…? Spend at least 15 minutes “studying” this one prefix.” How inefficient can you get?

The Modality Methods (VAK): “Let’s draw the prefix pre in the word preamble. Then draw a symbol of the word that will help you remember the word. Use at least three colors. If you prefer, design a Lego® model of the prefix.” Check out this relevant article on Don’t Teach to Learning Styles or Multiple Intelligences.

Better Ways to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

Choose the Right Word Parts

Teaching the high utility Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes is a very efficient tool to acquire academic vocabulary. These morphological (meaning-based) word parts that form the basis of English academic vocabulary are primarily Greek and Latinates. Prefixes and roots carry the bulk of important word meanings; however, some key suffixes are important, as well. Over 50% of multi-syllabic words beyond the most frequently used 10,000 words contain a Greek or Latin word part. Since Greek and Latinates are so common in our academic language, it makes sense to memorize the highest frequency word parts. See the attached list of High Frequency Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots for reference.

Teach by Analogy

Word part clues are highly memorable because readers have frequent exposure to and practice with the high frequency word parts. Additionally, they are memorable because the simple to understand use of the word part can be applied to more complex usages. For example, bi means two in bicycle, just as it means two in bicameral or biped. Analogy is a powerful learning aid and its application in academic vocabulary is of paramount importance.

One of the most effective strategies for learning and practicing word parts by analogy is to have students build upon their previous knowledge of words that use the targeted word parts. Building student vocabularies based upon their own prior knowledge ensures that your example words will more likely be within their grade-level experience, rather than arbitrarily providing examples beyond their reading and listening experience.

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions (I suggest a combination of prefixes, roots, and suffixes), ask students to brainstorm words that they already know that use each of the word parts. Give students two minutes to quick-write all the words that they know that use the selected prefix, root, or suffix. Then, ask students to share their words in class discussion. Quickly write down and define each word that clearly uses the definition that you have provided. Ignore those words that use the word part, but do not clearly exemplify the definition that you have provided. Require students to write down each word that you have written in their Vocabulary Journals. Award points for all student contributions.

Teach through Word Play

Effective vocabulary study involves practice. One of the best ways to practice prefixes is through vocabulary games. A terrific list of word play games with clear instructions is found in Vocabulary Review Games.

Teach through Association

Memorization through association places learning into the long-term memory. Connection to other word parts helps students memorize important prefixes, roots, and suffixes.

Fifteen Power Words

These fifteen words have prefixes or roots that are part of over 15,000 words. That is as many words as most student dictionaries! Memorize these words and the meanings of their prefixes and roots and you have significantly improved your vocabulary.

1. inaudible     (not, hear)

2. dismiss        (away from, send)

3. transport      (across, carry)

4. unsubscribe (not, under, write)

5. predict         (before, say)

6. remit            (again, send)

7. encounter    (in, against)

8. offer              (against, carry)

9. inspect         (in, see)

10. epilogue     (upon, word)

11. antigen      (against, people

12. empathy    (in, feeling)

13. intermediate (between, middle)

14. destruction    (apart from, build)

15. superimpose (over, in, put)

Put-Togethers

Have students spread out vocabulary word part cards into prefix, root, and suffix groups on their desks. Business card size works best. The object of the game is to put together these word parts into real words within a given time period. Students can use connecting vowels. Students are awarded points as follows:

1 point for each prefix—root combination

1 point for each root—suffix combination

2 points for a prefix—root combination that no one else in the group has

2 points for a root—suffix combination that no one else in the group has

3 points for each prefix—root—suffix combination

5 points for a prefix—root—suffix combination that no one else has.

Game can be played timed or untimed.

Teach through Syllabication

Teaching basic syllabication skills helps students understand and apply how syllable patterns fit in with decodable word parts. The Transformers activity teaches the basic syllables skills through inductive examples.

In addition to the basics, the Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules provide the guidelines for correct pronunciation and writing.

Teaching the Ten Accent Rules, including the schwa, will assist students in accurate pronunciation and spelling.

Teach through Spelling

Using a comprehensive spelling pattern spelling program will teach how prefixes absorb and assimilate with connected roots, how roots change spellings to accommodate pronunciation and suffix spelling, and how suffixes determine the grammar, verb tense, and limit the meaning of preceding prefixes and roots. Beyond primary sound-spellings, spelling and vocabulary have an important relationship in the structure of academic vocabulary. Only recently has spelling been relegated to the elementary classroom. Check out Differentiated Spelling Instruction to see how a grade-level spelling program can effectively incorporate advanced vocabulary development.

Context Clues Reading

Even knowing just one word part will provide a clue to meaning of an unknown word. For example, a reader may not understand the meaning of the word bicameral. However, knowing that the prefix bi means two certainly helps the reader gain a sense of the word, especially when combined with other context clues such as synonyms, antonyms, logic-based, and example clues. For example, let’s look at the following sentence:

The bicameral legislative system of the House and Senate provide important checks and balances.

Identifying the context example clues, “House and Senate” and “checks and balances,” combines with the reader’s knowledge of the word part, bi and help the reader problem-solve the meaning of the unknown word: bicameral.

Context Clues Writing

Similarly, having students develop their own context clue sentences, in which they suggest the meaning of the word parts and words with surrounding synonyms, antonyms, logic-based, and example clues is excellent practice.

Inventive Writing

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions (I suggest two prefixes, three roots, and two suffixes per week), ask students to invent words that use each word part in a sentence, that uses context clues to show the meaning of each nonsense word. Encourage students to use “real” word parts to combine with each targeted word part to form multi-syllabic words. Award extra points for words used from prior week’s words.

Don’t want to reinvent the wheel? Find every resource you need to teach vocabulary in Pennington Publishing’s newly released Grades 4-8 Teaching the Language Strand. This comprehensive program is designed to help students catch up and keep up with grade-level Standards in grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary. The vocabulary worksheets are designed to teach every grade level Common Core Standard.

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Free Instructional Vocabulary Resources

Vocabulary instruction is vitally important to advanced reading comprehension and writing. Words are the foundations of our language. Students learn the words they need to converse, read, and write in three key ways. First, students learn academic vocabulary through wide reading in a variety of genre at their instructional level. Simply lots of reading does not improve vocabulary. What is read determines what is learned. It may be that most teachers need to increase the textual complexity of class novels and assigned independent reading to maximize vocabulary growth. Second, students improve their vocabulary from becoming more efficient in recognizing context clues and applying the context clue categories to making educated guesses as to the meanings of unknown words. Looking up every word in the dictionary is not advisable. Third, learning high frequency Greek and Latin roots/affixes builds academic vocabulary. Greek and Latinates are found in 50% of all English dictionary entries.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding how to teach vocabulary in the intermediate, middle, and high school grades from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Vocabulary

Common Core Academic Language Words

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/common-core-academic-language-words/

Yes, the Common Core authors view literacy development as a mutual responsibility of all educational stakeholders. Yes, history, science, and technology teachers need to teach domain-specific academic vocabulary. However, there is a difference between academic language and academic vocabulary. The latter is subject/content specific; the former is not. Reading more challenging expository novels, articles, documents, reports, etc. will certainly help students implicitly learn much academic language; however, academic language word lists coupled with meaningful instruction do have their place. So, which word lists make sense?

Common Core Greek and Latinates

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/common-core-greek-and-latinates/

The bulk of Vocabulary Standards are now included in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Greek and Latin affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots are key components of five of the grade level Standards: Grades 4-8. Which Greek and Latin affixes and roots should we teach? How many should we teach? How should we teach them?

Teaching the Language Strand

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/teaching-the-language-strand/

Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) is part of a comprehensive Grades 4-8 language program, designed to address each Standard in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards in 60-90 weekly instructional minutes. This full-year curriculum provides interactive grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling lessons, a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary instruction. The program has all 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. Progress monitoring matrices allow teachers to track student progress. Each instructional resource is carefully designed to minimize teacher preparation, correction, and paperwork. Appendices have extensive instructional resources.

Overview of the Common Core Language Strand

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/overview-of-the-common-core-language-strand/

English-language arts teachers have long been accustomed to the four-fold division of our “content” area into Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. These divisions have been widely accepted and promoted by the NCTE, publishers, and other organizations. In a nod to the fearsome foursome, the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts maintains these divisions (now called strands)with two notable revisions: Speaking and Listening are combined and Language now has its own seat at the table. So who exactly is this new dinner guest? For those just beginning to explore the CCSS Language Strand, an overview may be helpful.

How to Teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-the-common-core-vocabulary-standards/

What most teachers notice after careful reading of the Common Core Vocabulary Standards is the expected breadth, complexity, and depth of instruction across the grade levels. These vocabulary words require direct, deep-level instruction and practice in a variety of contexts to transfer to our students’ long-term memories. So which instructional strategies make sense to teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards? And what is the right amount of direct, deep-level vocabulary instruction that will faithfully teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards without consuming inordinate amounts of class time? Following is a weekly instructional plan to teach the L.4, 5, and 6 Vocabulary Standards.

Why Vocabulary Lists Don’t Work

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

Teaching vocabulary word lists does not work. The strategy of giving twenty words on Monday and testing on Friday is both inefficient and ineffective. However, three instructional strategies do make sense to help students improve their vocabularies.

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-improve-your-vocabulary/

Knowing common Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes will significantly improve one’s vocabulary. In fact, over half of the words in any dictionary contain a Greek or Latin word part. Academic language especially relies on Greek and Latin. This article gives the high frequency word parts to improve anyone’s vocabulary.

How to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-prefixes-roots-and-suffixes/

Prefixes, roots, and suffixes: These word parts that are, indeed, the keys to academic vocabulary—the types of words that students especially need to succeed in school. However, most teachers do not know the best instructional methods to teach these important word parts. Learn the techniques that work best.

Context Clues Vocabulary Review Game

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/context-clues-categories/

This context clues vocabulary review game helps students apply the five major context clues categories to informed word guessing. Using the Pictionary® game, students drawing context clues according to the five categories.

Vocabulary Word Part Games

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/vocabulary-word-part-games/

Students are more likely to use study and practice procedures that are “game-like” and less boring than simple rote memorization. Here are some fun and effective vocabulary word part review games.

Vocabulary Review Games

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/vocabulary-review-games/

Students are more likely to use study and practice procedures that are “game-like” and less boring than simple rote memorization. Here are some fun and effective vocabulary review games.

Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves

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

Here is the list of the Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves that make Americans see read. Read, laugh, and cringe over mistakes that you or your friends make when abusing these words.

How to Memorize Vocabulary

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/practical-tips-to-memorize-vocabulary/

Many people want to improve their vocabularies, but memorization and retention are the key roadblocks. Not everyone has a natural ability to memorize. However, memorization is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with commitment and practice.

How to Teach and Learn Precise Vocabulary

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/why-precise-vocabulary-memorization-is-important-and-how-to-teach-it/

Memorizing words with precise denotative and connotative definitions is important. Sloppy use of our language inhibits effective communication and leads to misunderstandings. Learn the techniques to teach vocabulary with precise meanings.

The Problem with Most Vocabulary Instruction Part I

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/the-problem-with-most-vocabulary-instruction-part-1/

Most teachers teach vocabulary inefficiently. Learn the common mistakes that teachers make in vocabulary instruction and how to re-orient vocabulary instruction to help students make real gains in vocabulary acquisition.

How We Learn Vocabulary from Reading Part II

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-we-learn-vocabulary-from-reading-part-ii/

Most vocabulary beyond the first ten thousand words comes from independent reading. Wide reading of challenging academic text produces the greatest net vocabulary gain.

How to Double Vocabulary Acquisition from Reading Part III

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-double-vocabulary-acquisition-from-reading-part-iii/

Refining the skills of context clues strategies will help readers increase vocabulary. Wide reading of challenging academic text is the most efficient method of vocabulary acquisition.

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

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

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

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. According to reading research, these chances are not good betting odds. Only one out of six middle schoolers who are below grade level in reading will ever catch up to grade level.

I have written elsewhere regarding the characteristics of remedial readers. Sufficed to say, knowing their developmental characteristics is just as important as knowing their specific reading deficiencies. Effective reading intervention instruction depends on addressing both components.

But, knowing the specific reading deficiencies is crucial. Using prescriptive diagnostic assessments that will produce the data needed to inform instruction is the one non-negotiable prerequisite. Teachers need to know exactly where their students are to take them to where they want them to be. Once administered, the reading intervention teacher is confronted with the “snowflake phenomena.” No two remedial readers are exactly alike. One has no phonemic awareness; one does not know phonics; one does not know how to blend; one lacks fluency; one is vocabulary deficient; one has poor reading comprehension; and one has poor reading retention.

Of necessity, an effective reading intervention program must be based upon differentiated instruction. A cookie-cutter program starting all students at the same level or having all students use the same workbooks or receive the same direct instruction will address some needs of some students, but not all the needs of all students. Anything less than the latter is nothing less than professional malpractice. Would a medical patient who sets a doctor’s appointment to treat a variety of maladies be satisfied with receiving the same course of treatment as every patient—ignoring some issues and being treated for issues that do not require treatment? Even the staunchest advocates of the current health care system would find this brand of medical practice unacceptable.

Regarding student placement in reading intervention, a number of factors must be considered. Chief of these must be the reductive consideration. First, if the student is placed in a special intervention class, what class is replaced? Removing a child from a literature class seems much like “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Poor readers require compensatory instruction, not just different instruction. Second, multiple measures are needed to ensure that a student needs reading intervention and that the student has a reasonable chance of success in the reading intervention class. Standardized tests can provide an initial sort; however, the student history in the cumulative records and the diagnostic assessments detailed above must be analyzed to refine the sort. Behavioral considerations are legitimate concerns; many students who read poorly tend to compensate with inattentive and disruptive behavior. These students need an intervention with a behavioral specialist that will also teach to their reading deficiencies. These students do not need another platform in a typical reading intervention class to prevent the learning of their peers.

The greatest variable that will determine the success of a reading intervention class is the teacher. A well-trained teacher with superior management skills, sufficient reading training, and a commitment to diagnostic and formative assessments to inform differentiated instruction are the keys to success. The teacher must be the “best and brightest” on campus, not the new teacher fresh out of the teacher credential program. Reading intervention is the hardest subject to teach and requires a special teacher. The students for whom our educational system has most failed deserve no less.

So, what to teach? The task is daunting. Remedial reading is not just skills instruction or extra reading practice. Effective reading intervention involves both content and process. Reading is both the what and the how. The short answer is that the students themselves determine the what via their diagnostic assessments. The teacher decides the how through differentiated instruction. Beyond this cryptic, albeit accurate, response, certain components will no doubt require attention in a reading intervention class for any age student. Following is an instructional template that will provide a proper balance between the what and how with a brief description of the instructional component and a percentage of the class that the component will necessitate:

  • Small ability group fluency practice (emphasizing repeated readings within the group’s zone of proximal development (15%)
  • Small ability group phonemic awareness practice (10%)
  • Small ability group phonics practice (10%)
  • Individual sight word and syllabication practice (10%)
  • Guided reading, using self-questioning comprehension strategies (15%)
  • Direct instruction and whole group vocabulary development (10%)
  • Small ability group spelling practice (10%)
  • Small ability group blending practice (10%)
  • Independent reading at the individual student’s instructional reading level (10%) and for homework

Every component described above is needed to ensure a successful reading intervention program for students of all ages. All of these instructional components with support resources can be found in these two comprehensive curricula:

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

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 students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. 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.

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Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves

Everyone misuses a word now and then. Correct word choice is determined not only by denotation (Websters says…), but also by connotation. Connotation refers to common usage which influences degree, slant, or feeling of a word. For example, the words march and amble each denotatively mean “to walk.” However, most of us would agree that marching down a road would be less enjoyable than ambling down that same road.

Many times we get close to using the right word, verbally or in print, but not close enough. Words with similar sounds are often confused. For example, affect and effect sound similar and even have related meanings. Affect means to influence; while effect is to produce as a result.

Of course, in addition to misused vocabulary words, there are also grammatical abuses, such as nouns used as verbs, e.g., loan instead of lend [Will you loan me some money?] We also use redundancies, such as irregardless or ATM machine. We misapply expressions, such as for all intensive purposes or idioms, such as waiting on. We create our own words, such as flusticated or conversate. We also change the meaning of words through common consensus. Who would have thought that bad can now mean something good?

Although Americans tolerate some vocabulary abuse, they are righteously indignant about the misuse of other words. Here, in no particular order, are the Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves that surely constitute the greatest pet peeves among American wordsmiths. Also, make sure to check out the Top 40 Pronunciation Pet Peeves and the Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves. Find out everything you mispronounce and your grammatical mistakes before “You-Know-Who” points them out to you.

  1. Anxious means to worry, not to be eager. [So, you probably are not anxious to go on vacation.]
  2. Exaggerate means to magnify, not to go beyond. [So, you can’t exaggerate how little your pay is.]
  3. Imply means to suggest, not to conclude as with infer. [So, you don’t imply what the author says.]
  4. Between means in the place separating two objects, not three or more objects as with among. [So, you won’t choose between oranges, apples, and watermelons.]
  5. Unique means being the only one of its kind, not something that is special. [So, you don’t describe the sunset as unique.]
  6. Relevant means pertinent, not popular. [So, a movie is not relevant and fun.]
  7. Allot means to distribute, not a lot of something. [So, you don’t eat allot of ice cream, but you could allot me a scoop or two.]
  8. Literally means exactly what the word means or how the author intends; it does not mean truthfully. [So, your mother-in-law is probably not literally crazy.]
  9. Unbelievable means something that cannot be trusted, not something that is amazing. [So, the unbelievable savings really should be believable, if you intend to buy.]
  10. Awesome means something that is revered or dreaded, not something that is good. [So, the pumpkin pie really isn’t awesome, unless you worship Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin.]
  11. Reticent means silent or reserved, not unwilling. [So, you probably are not reticent to go out to dinner with a client.]
  12. Accept means to receive willingly, not except, which means to exclude. [So, you wouldn’t say “I would like him, accept for his body odor.]
  13. Already means having done before; it does not mean all ready. [So, your friends could be already all ready to leave.]
  14. Capitol means the legislative building, not an upper case letter or an amount of money to invest. [So, you don’t declare your capitol gains.]
  15. Complement means something that completes, not something that goes along with or provides praise. [So, your striped shirt does not complement your polka dotted pants.]
  16. Principal means the highest rank, not principle, which means a rule or standard. [So, you want the principal of your child’s school to hold to the highest principles.]
  17. Stationary means fixed in position, not stationery, which means writing supplies. [So, you won’t write a letter on your new stationary.]
  18. Than means compared to, not then [So, you don’t go to dinner than a show.]
  19. Whether means if it is so, not because of or anything having to do with the weather. [So, you might like the weather, whether it snows or rains.]
  20. Occur means an action taking place that is accidental or unforeseen, at least from the point of view of the observers; it does not mean something that is expected to happen. [So, you wouldn’t say that noon occurs at 12:00 p.m. every day.]
  21. Illicit means illegal, not elicit, which means to draw forth. [So, you wouldn’t illicit information from a police officer.]
  22. Possible means something capable of happening or being true, not something that is according to chance. [So, anything is not really possible.]
  23. Irony means an unexpected contrast between apparent and intended meanings or events, not a coincidence. [So, it isn’t ironic that you and your boyfriend both like oatmeal cookies.]
  24. Anniversary means the celebration of a year, not just any period of time. [So, you don’t celebrate your two-month anniversary of a relationship.]
  25. Foundered means to struggle, not floundered which means to sink. [So, your cruise ship did not founder to the depths of the Caribbean Sea.]
  26. Flout means to openly disregard laws or the way things are done, not flaunt which means to display something ostentatiously. [So, you wouldn’t flout your four carat diamond ring in front of your girlfriends.]
  27. i.e. means that is, or the same as, not for example. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like vacations, i.e., backpacking, going to the beach, and sightseeing.]
  28. e.g. means for example, not the same as, or in place of. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like vacations, e.g., time off work.”]
  29. et al means with all others, not and so forth. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like tropical islands, ski resorts, the high desert, et al.
  30. Et cetera (etc.) means and so forth within the same class; it does not mean and all others. [So, you wouldn’t say “I like Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, etc.”]
  31. Eminent means prominent, not imminent which means something expected to happen soon. [So, your graduation next week is not eminent.]
  32. Proverbial means according to a wise saying, not something that is well known. [So, you wouldn’t refer to the proverbial hatred of paying taxes.]
  33. Oxymoron means when two objects are joined that do not fit, not something that is an opposite. [So, it’s not an oxymoron to like both sugar and bitters.]
  34. Contact means to communicate through touch, not to simply respond. [So, you probably don’t mean “Contact me at your earliest convenience.”]
  35. Enormity means something grotesquely beyond its intended boundaries, not something that is very large. [So, you don’t refer to the enormity of the hot fudge sundae.]
  36. Travesty means to ridicule by imitation, not tragedy which means a disastrous event. [So, the sinking of the ship was not a travesty.]
  37. Decimate means to ruin or reduce by tenths, not to gain victory. [So, you probably don’t really hope to decimate your fellow poker players in the game tonight.]
  38. Random means to have no causal relationship; it is not something that is unexpected. [So, a joke that is unexpected is not a random one.]
  39. Allude means to refer to indirectly, not elude which means to escape from. [So, you don’t allude your boss by hiding behind the file cabinet.]
  40. Attain means to reach or achieve, not obtain, which means to possess or acquire. [So, you won’t attain a collection of baseball cards from the neighborhood garage sale.]

Definitions adapted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 4th ed. 2008.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , ,

How to Memorize Vocabulary

There is just no doubt about it. Society judges us by the words we use. Vocabulary is the key linguistic measure of intelligence on IQ tests. It is the most statistically significant correlation on the SAT 1 sentence completions and passage-based reading components. It identifies a well-educated man or woman perhaps more that any other characteristic.

Many people want to improve their vocabularies, but memorization and retention are the key roadblocks. Not everyone has a natural ability to memorize. However, memorization is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with commitment and practice.

Let’s begin by understanding how we learn vocabulary. We learn most of our first 10,000 survival words through oral language. Beyond this number, most words are learned through reading, by using surrounding context clues to figure out the meanings of unknown words. Readers who read challenging text with academic language and unfamiliar words learn much more vocabulary than readers who stick with the T.V. Guide and People magazines. Good readers have good vocabularies. It’s as simple as that.

We also learn vocabulary through the structural components of our words. Many teachers do a wonderful job of teaching the building bocks of our academic words. Memorizing the common Greek and Latin word parts significantly increases word recognition.

Finally, we do learn vocabulary by making a conscious effort to learn and retain the meanings of new words. Becoming a word sleuth works. However, detectives have to investigate; they can’t just wait for the evidence to show up on their doorsteps. Those who want to learn new vocabulary have to intentionally expose themselves to new words. How? Read more challenging text, improve your ability to use context clues, learn the common Greek and Latinates, and use resources to practice “word play,” such as crosswords.

Practical Tips to Memorize Vocabulary

1. People start forgetting immediately after learning, so make a conscious effort to practice new words when you are exposed to them. Don’t wait. Information that is practiced immediately is retained. After the first few hours, the “forgetting cycle” kicks in.
2. People remember events or information that is rehearsed frequently. Frequent recitation improves retention. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Practice. Practice. Practice. Then repeat. Short study periods and small amounts of information divided by periods of rest produces better retention than cramming. Periodic practice of new vocabulary will keep the words stored in the long term memory. Use the words in your everyday speech. Talk to yourself and you won’t sound pretentious.
3. People remember information best when that information is organized in a structured manner.
Key a simple vocabulary journal or use index cards to keep track of new words. Write down the word, the definition (in your own words), and a context clue sentence that shows the meaning of the word.
4. People remember information that has clear multi-sensory connections. Practice new words out loud and in writing. Make a conscious effort to visualize a connection between new words and their meanings through concrete images. For example, precocious means someone who is ahead of his or her time. Picture a toddler you know, dressing up in a tuxedo, saying “I am precocious.”
5. Use vivid imagery. Make the effort to associate a new word with something else that produces memorable imagery. For example, a stunning rainbow connected with the new word spectrum is much more memorable than a simple definition. Use brief illustrations in your vocabulary journal or on your index cards to reinforce the images.
6. Connect what we naturally remember to newly acquired vocabulary. People remember events and information that are made exciting, interesting, or even embarrassing. Connect the discovery of a piece of spinach between your teeth to a new word, such as mortifying.
7. People remember information best that is personalized. Place yourself front and center into your memory association to better retain word meanings.
8. Learn it right the first time. The better a word is originally learned, the better is the retention. Define new words with precision. If possible, write down antonyms and synonyms in your vocabulary journal or on your index cards.
9. Key words prompt recall of larger amounts of information. Learn the base words well and commonly added inflections will be simple to add to your memory bank. For example, the base word parse (to figure out or analyze), if learned well, leads to understanding a whole host of related words, such as parsing or parsimonious.
10. Practice your vocabulary by visualizing the word, looking up and left. Hemispheric brain research has led to some interesting correlations. Good memorizers tend to recall images by shifting their eyes up and left. Poor memorizers tend to recall images by shifting their eyes downward.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

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

How to Teach and Learn Precise Vocabulary

Despite all of our educational focus these days on higher order critical thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Bloom, Costa, etc.), the bulk of our teaching and learning at all levels of education remains at the lower levels of factual acquisition, comprehension, and application. We need this pool of knowledge to be able to accurately and efficiently inform our thinking and decision-making.

Since reading remains the chief vehicle that we use to access this knowledge, we had better get good at it. Knowing vocabulary is, of course, one of the keys to reading. The precise definitions of vocabulary words are the lower level gatekeepers  that allow readers access to the higher level thinking skills.

But, some may be thinking… aren’t all words subject to individual interpretation? To some degree, yes. However, words do have a collective consciousness of meaning. They do connect to objective realities. In other words, words are not totally subjective. Words must be denotatively internalized and connotatively applied with a good deal of accuracy and skill to properly access information the way the author intends. Only when the reader understands the author’s intentions can higher order thinking skills be then applied to the text.

Although that author-reader connection is a two-way street, the relationship should be weighted heavily on the side of the author. It is the author’s thoughts that we are trying to interpret, not ours per se. An author chooses words carefully because of their precise meanings and the connotations/feelings that the collective readers commonly will understand.

So, memorizing words with precise denotative and connotative definitions is important. Sloppy use of our language inhibits effective communication and leads to misunderstandings. So, what’s the bottom line here? What’s the application for teacher and learner? It is better to teach and learn fewer words with greater precision, than many words with less precision. Two vocabulary strategies assist in this effort: The Vocabulary Ladder and Semantic Spectrums.

The Vocabulary Ladder

Students draw a graphic representation of a ladder with five rungs. They take notes in between the rungs from each of the guiding prompts (in boldface). Begin with a clear, simple, and concise dictionary definition and work students up the ladder via class and teacher brainstorming and reference to appropriate text.

Example Vocabulary Word: democracy

Full Understanding

-It’s important because… it’s the foundation of our government.

-It’s different than… a republic because… a republic has a Constitution.

-It’s the same as… a republic because… both have citizens who are allowed to vote.

-Specific examples of it would be… direct democracy like a club, representative democracy like our Student Council.

-It’s an example of the following… ways decisions are made in governments and organizations.

-The definition is… rule by the people.

Basic Understanding

Semantic Spectrums

Students draw a number line with one end labeled Extreme and the other end labeled Opposite  Extreme. The object is to list words in their connotative order along the spectrum of meaning. Select two vocabulary words for this activity that students fully understand that are antonyms. For example, hot and cold. Have students brainstorm synonyms to each word at the ends of the spectrum and problem-solve via consensus as to where to list each new word by degree of meaning. Select one or two unknown vocabulary words that will fit along this spectrum and read a clear, simple, and concise dictionary definition of each. Assist the students’ decision-making as to where to place these new words. Have the students write down their definitions below the spectrum.

Example Vocabulary Words: even-tempered and vicious

Extreme kind-hearted/nice/warm/even-tempered/cool/mean/cruel/vicious/hateful Opposite Extreme

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vocabulary Review Games

Memorizing vocabulary words can present a problem for many students. Spending class time practicing vocabulary memorization may seem, on the surface, a waste of valuable time. After all, doesn’t memorization all come down to study and practice? True, but  most of us did not leap out of the womb already knowing how to study and practice. In fact, many students have never learned how to study effectively, and many do not have home environments that are conducive to sufficient practice.

Good teachers know that we have to teach both content and process. The goal may be to get students to learn their vocabulary words (the content), but teaching a variety of study techniques to learn those vocabulary words helps students learn valuable critical thinking skills (the process). As a bonus, taking the time to model practice routines in the classroom will help instill habits that will carry over to homework.

Students are more likely to use study and practice procedures that are “game-like” and less boring than simple rote memorization. Here are some fun and effective vocabulary review games for groups and individuals in and out of the classroom. Check out Vocabulary Word Part Games for more.

Group Review Games

The Quick Picks Game

Divide your students into two groups and select one student as the host. Give the list of vocabulary words and definitions to the host for reference. Then, tell your students to take out their Vocabulary Study Cards for study and practice. Have the students spread out their cards on their desks word side up. The host announces the definition of one of the words and the students race to pick up the word that matches that definition. It is certainly fair for group members to help each other out. The first group with all students holding up the correct word part wins a point. Tell students to place each card word side down after it has been announced.. Once all words have been announced, reverse the procedure and announce definitions and students pick up the definition side up cards.

Vocabulary Millionaire

Divide your students into two groups and select one student as the host. Give the list of vocabulary words and definitions to the host for reference. Then, tell your students to take out their Vocabulary Study Cards for study and practice. Students stand next to their desks. The host flips a coin to determine which group goes first. The host announces a vocabulary word and the first student in the row must provide the definition. If the student is unsure of the definition, he or she may use a “lifeline” to ask another group member for assistance, but only once per game. If the student gets the definition correct, he or she remains standing; if incorrect, the student takes a seat and the next word goes to the opposing team. The team with the last student standing wins.

Concentration

Divide your students into groups of four and tell students to select two students whose printed Vocabulary Study Cards look very different from each other, so they can be easily separated. Have one of these students lay out the cards vocabulary word side up and the other student lay out the cards definition side up. Students choose cards to pair the vocabulary word with its definition. If a student selects a correct match, that student chooses again; if not, the next student selects, etc. The winner has the most matches.

Baseball

The teacher needs to assign each vocabulary word according to difficulty, from easy to hard, as a single, double, triple, or home run. Hint: Have many more singles cards than the others. Divide your students into two teams and establish four bases. When in the field, students sit in seats; when “up,” the students stand in line waiting their turn to bat. Teacher selects a single, double, triple, or home run card. Then, the teacher announces the vocabulary word and the batter must give the definition within five seconds or the batter is out. Mix it up by giving definitions and having students come up with the matching vocabulary words. Three outs per each team per inning. Select a student to serve as scorekeeper, and have that student keep the team scores on the board.

Individual Review Games

Knock-Out

Have all students stand and quiz each student with a vocabulary word or definition. If the student gets it right within five seconds, the student remains standing; if not, the student sits. Last one standing wins the game.

Vocabulary Puzzles

Pass out light color construction paper, rulers, and scissors to each student. Tell your students that they will use their Vocabulary Study Cards to make a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces matching words with their definitions. Depending upon the shape of the jigsaw puzzle piece, that piece may have multiple words and/or definitions.

Directions

1. Draw jigsaw puzzle lines on one side of light color construction paper so that you can fit the word parts and their definitions. Avoid small puzzle pieces.

2. Print the word part in dark pen or pencil at the edge of one puzzle piece and its matching definition at the edge of another puzzle piece that touches it, just like the model shows. Finish labeling the puzzle.

3. Cut out the puzzle pieces and place the word parts and their matching definitions face down on your desk. Put together the puzzle.

4. Label other  word parts and their definitions on the blank side of the puzzle. You now have created two separate Vocabulary Puzzles.

5. Have students place their puzzles in zip-lock baggies to store. The baggies can be hole-punched to place in three-ring binders.

To Play

Have students race along with the clock to set their own world puzzle completion records. Students can also exchange puzzles and race each other.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

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

Vocabulary Word Part Games

Memorizing vocabulary word parts are essential to academic vocabulary acquisition. However, memorization can present a problem for many students. Spending class time practicing vocabulary memorization may seem, on the surface, a waste of valuable time. After all, doesn’t memorization all come down to study and practice? True, but  most of us were not born already  knowing how to study and practice. In fact, many students have never learned how to study effectively, and many do not have home environments that are conducive to sufficient practice.

Good teachers know that we have to teach both content and process. The goal may be to get students to learn their vocabulary word parts (the content), but teaching a variety of study techniques to learn those word parts helps students learn valuable critical thinking skills (the process). As a bonus, taking the time to model practice routines in the classroom will help instill habits that will carry over to homework.

Students are more likely to use study and practice procedures that are “game-like” and less boring than simple rote memorization. Here are some fun and effective vocabulary word part review games. Also, check out Vocabulary Review Games for more.

Word Part Brainstorming

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions, ask students to brainstorm words that they already know that use each of the word parts. Give students two minutes to quick-write all of these words that use the selected prefix, root, or suffix. Then, ask students to share their words in class discussion. On the board or overhead projector, write down student examples that clearly use the definition that you have provided. Require students to write down each word that you have written in a vocabulary journal. Award points for all student contributions.

Inventive Vocabulary Writing

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions, ask students to invent words that use each word part in a sentence that uses context clues to show the meaning of each nonsense word. Encourage students to use “real” word parts to combine with each targeted word part to form multi-syllabic words. Award extra points for words used from prior week’s words.

For variety, require students to write in different genre. Examples: brief narratives, classified ads, game directions, how-to paragraphs, dialogs, journals, advice columns.

Put-Togethers

This game can be played once the teacher has introduced a sufficient number of word parts and the students have created Vocabulary Study Cards. Students spread out their cards into prefix, root, and suffix groups. The object of the game is to put together these word parts into real words within a given time period. Students can use connecting vowels. Students are awarded points as follows:

1 point for each prefix—root combination

1 point for each root—suffix combination

2 points for a prefix—root combination that no one else in the group has

2 points for a root—suffix combination that no one else in the group has

3 points for each prefix—root—suffix combination

5 points for a prefix—root—suffix combination that no one else has.

Word Part Monsters

This three-day activity works well before Halloween or Open House to get student art work up on the board—oh, and it also is a fun word part review activity. Tell your students that they will create their own Word Part Monsters from their Vocabulary Study Cards. Make a transparency copy of the following directions and models.

Directions

Day 1

1. Quick draw, in pencil, two rough-draft monsters, using at least three prefixes, roots, or suffixes from your Vocabulary Study Cards.

2. Write the name of your monsters, using the word parts, at the bottom of each drawing. Feel free to use connecting vowels to tie together the word parts.

Day 2

3. Choose one of your quick-draw monsters and neatly draw and color it on construction paper.

4. Write the monsters’ name on the back, using the word parts. Turn in your monster to the teacher. Don’t turn into a monster for your teacher.

Day 3

5. The teacher has numbered all of the monsters and posted them around the room. Number a sheet of binder paper and write down all of the monster’s names next to the correct number.

Option A (challenging)—Choose from the monster names that the teacher has written on the board.

Option B (very challenging)— Choose from the monster names that the teacher has written on the board and use the definitions to write a sentence, describing what the monster is like.

Option C (very, very challenging)—The teacher does not write down the monster names on the board. You have to figure them out based upon the drawings alone.

6. The winner(s) are the students who identify the most monsters correctly.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

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

How to Teach Reading to Children, Youth, and Adults

Teaching children and adults how to read is one of the most rewarding life experiences. Reading is the gateway to knowledge and success. By teaching someone how to read, you are literally changing someone’s life. But, do you use the same strategies to teach readers or pre-readers at every age level? Yes and no.

How to Teach Reading to Children, Youth, and Adults: What’s the Same?

1. You’re going to need effective diagnostic assessments that are quick, efficient, reliable, and easy-to-use to determine what is already known. My free multiple choice diagnostic assessments
and recording matrices will serve this purpose (See Free ELA Reading Assessments).

2. You’re going to need to teach these curricular components: spellingsyllabication, phonics, fluency, sight words, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension.

3. You’re going to need a balanced instructional approach, but one targeted to the diagnostic needs of individual students. Each reader or pre-reader is a unique snowflake. Each has existing strengths and weaknesses in phonemic awareness, auditory and visual processing, cognitive ability, life experience, language experience, self-concept, and learning attitude/motivation.

4. You’re going to need lots of books, appropriate to the interest and reading levels of the reader.

5. You’re going to need to be patient.

How to Teach Reading to Children, Youth, and Adults: What’s Different?

1. Reader and pre-reader age levels will determine how you teach reading: See articles under Study Skills for age level learning characteristics.

2. Youth and adults will usually have significantly better oral language skills, so vocabulary instruction may be less of a focus for these readers.

3. Children lack print awareness; whereas youth and adults generally do not. Children need to be taught how to hold a book and the left to right spelling and word patterns.

4. Adults probably have phonemic awareness and alphabetic awareness’ skills; whereas most children do not.

5. Children need reading from scratch instruction; while most youth and adults will progress nicely with targeted, gap-filling reading instruction.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube (Check these fluency passages out!), 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

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 students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. 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.

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Essential Study Skills

From a child’s point of view, there are advantages and disadvantages to having a teacher as a parent. The time off over holidays and summer vacations certainly provides plenty of options for family activities. However, that additional time at home also means plenty of opportunities for learning and character development.

In our household, Dad was the teacher, and he had three sons. So this meant plenty of sports and outdoor adventures. This also meant that we were given a choice every summer: 4 hours of summer school each day at the nearby public school or 90 minutes of daily supervised instruction at home. It was not much of a choice. Each summer we chose the option that Dad affectionately labeled as Essential Study Skills.

Despite our relief at finally graduating from Essential Study Skills once we got summer jobs or took community college classes during our high school years, we have to admit that we learned quite a few useful skills each summer. The study skills were especially helpful, and to this day, we don’t understand why these skills are not taught and re-taught to mastery during the regular school year by “regular” teachers.

Maybe these study skills are not introduced because teachers assume that most are simply common sense and do not require  instruction. Or, maybe each teacher thinks that “some other teacher” should or has already taught them. From our personal experiences, study skills need to be taught, not just caught.

In 90 minutes a day, you can cover the study skills lessons designed to teach your child everything that his or her regular teachers “did not have the time” to teach during the school year. Here’s how to develop your own 90 minutes of Essential Study Skills.

-Find out what your child’s relative weaknesses are by giving a brief diagnostic test: Pennington Publishing offers free diagnostic tests in phonics, spelling, grammar, and mechanics, just to name a few. Design short lessons to address those weaknesses.

-Have your child read for 30 minutes a day in a book at his or her challenge level. Not sure how to help your child pick a book that will best develop the vocabulary and comprehension skills that your child needs to achieve optimal growth? Check out these helpful articles: How We Learn Vocabulary from Reading Part II and Interactive Reading: Making a Movie in Your Head.

-Have your child study Greek and Latin vocabulary flashcards. Which word parts should they memorize? Check out this article with the most common prefixes, roots, and suffixes titled How We Learn Vocabulary from Word Parts Part IV.

-Have your child develop his or her writing style and build writing fluency by spending 30 minutes a day writing journals, thank-you notes, blogs, emails, stories, or essays, while using the techniques taught in this article: How to Improve Your Writing Style with Grammatical Sentence Openers.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of Essential Study Skills. He is also 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 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. Perfect 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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Why Spelling Is So Difficult

President Andrew Jackson once remarked, “It’s a d____ poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word!” Many Americans would readily agree. In fact, the English language is notorious for its spelling irregularities. Looking at the glass as being half-empty, it is true that only about half of our spellings exactly match their sounds.

What a crazy system, in which the word fish could be spelled as “ghoti.” That’s /f/ spelled “gh” as in rough, /i/ spelled “o” as in women, and /sh/ spelled /ti/ as in nation. Or how about the fact that the “ur” sound /ur/ can be spelled differently five times in one sentence? Her nurse first works early. Or how about the fact that the “sh” sound /sh/ can be spelled in 14 different ways? shine, sugar, ocean, tissue, ration, fuchsia, shist, pshaw, spacious, nauseous, anxious, conscious, chaperone, mansion.

However, looking at the glass as being half-full, the fact that 50% of the spellings exactly match their sounds certainly provides a helpful foundation upon which to build good spelling. We don’t have to memorize every word individually. Upon this 50% foundation, an additional 30% of spellings which conform to about eight of the most useful spelling rules can be added. This leaves about 20% of the words that must be memorized. We call these “Outlaw Words” for good reason. Jessie James couldn’t even spell his own name!

Additionally, our vocabulary is an amalgam of linguistic and historical influences. Over 50% of our academic words are built on ancient Greek and Latin word parts. French and Spanish add to our spelling lexicon as well. So, by studying languages we also improve our English spelling. If fact, spelling and vocabulary have a reciprocal relationship-spelling influences vocabulary and, conversely, vocabulary influences spelling.

So, given that our English spelling system is not simplistic, what should we do?

1.      Master the 50% foundation. The common sound spellings are very consistent. A wonderful multiple choice assessment of these patterns can be downloaded free at .

2.      Learn the eight conventional spelling rules that will add on another 30% of the spelling words that would be otherwise irregular.

3.      Memorize the common Outlaw Words. Many of these are our most frequently used words.  Make up memory tricks such as “you would rather have more dessert than a desert” or the “principal is my pal” for difficult words that do not follow the spelling patterns or conventional spelling rules.

4.      Memorize the most frequently misspelled words and commonly confused words.

5.      Memorize homophones: words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.

6.      Study the etymological (how the word was formed in its historical context) connections from Old and Middle English.

7.      Study the derivational spellings from other languages. Example: colonel from the French

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

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How to Double Vocabulary Acquisition from Reading Part III

In “The Problem with Most Vocabulary Instruction Part I,” I debunked the inefficient word list method of vocabulary instruction. In “How We Learn Vocabulary from Reading Part II,” I showed how reading is a much more efficient means to increase vocabulary. I explained how reading challenging text at the 5% unknown word level provides optimal exposure to and practice of words beyond those gained through oral acquisition during the first five years of life. I also detailed how to select books at this specific reading level. Finally, I cited reading specialists who claim that teaching specific context clue strategies can help readers double their vocabulary acquisition. I saved the “how-to’s” for this article.

But why learn and practice context clue strategies to problem-solve the meanings of unknown words? Wouldn’t it be more precise to use the dictionary? No. The dictionary is a fine tool and should be used to look up words that are critical to the comprehension of any reading. However, the dictionary is not a practical tool for reading at the 5% unknown words reading level. Often, the definition frequently does not fit the connotative meaning of the word as used in the reading passage. Additionally, there are often multiple definitions—which one fits? Context always determines meaning. Also, looking up one in every twenty words adversely affects comprehension. Time spent looking up words is reductive. The few minutes it takes to look up and internalize the definition could be better spent reading more text, because the more words read provides more exposure and practice—the keys to efficient vocabulary acquisition.

So, learning and practicing context clue strategies makes sense. Context clue strategies can be internalized with sufficient practice and can be flexibly applied by skillful readers to figure out the meaning of many unknown words without adversely impacting comprehension. The best way to apply context clue strategies is to learn the problem-solving strategies detailed in FP’S BAG SALE. When readers come to an unknown word, they apply the relevant steps of the FP’S BAG SALE strategy to get a good clue about the meaning of an unknown word.

Flexibility is key to using context clue strategies. Multiple strategies provide multiple ways of problem-solving. Good readers learn to quickly sort through the options and select the strategy or strategies that works best. They also accept the fact that context clue strategies don’t always work and that understanding every single word is not necessary for the purpose of reading—effective meaning-making.

Initially, readers should follow the steps of the FP’S BAG SALE context clues approach in order to problem-solve the meanings of unknown words. Then, through teacher modeling and guided practice, students should learn to efficiently “hunt and peck” for clues to meaning by applying the individual steps.

FP’S BAG SALE

Finish the sentence. See how the word fits into the whole sentence.

Pronounce the word out loud. Sometimes hearing the word will give you a clue to meaning.

Syllables–Examine each word part. Word parts can be helpful clues to meaning.

Before–Read the sentence before the unknown word. The sentence before can hint at what the word means.

After–Read the sentence after the unknown word. The sentence after can define, explain, or provide an example of the word.

Grammar–Determine the part of speech. Pay attention to where the word is placed in the sentence, the ending of the word, and its grammatical relationship to other known words for clues to meaning.

Synonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of a synonym. Synonyms appear in apposition, in which case commas, dashes, or parentheses are used. Example: The wardrobe, or closet, opened the door to a brand new world.

Antonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of an antonym. Antonym clues will often use Signal Words such as however, not, but, in contrast Example: He signaled a looey, not a right turn.

Logic–Your own knowledge about the content and text structure may provide clues to meaning. Logic clues can lead to a logical guess as to the meaning of an unknown word. Example: He petted the canine, and then made her sit up and beg for a bone.

Example–When part of a list of examples or if the unknown word itself provides an example, either provides good clues to meaning. Example clues will often use Signal Words such as for example, like, such as Example: Adventurous, rowdy, and crazy pioneers all found their way out West.

How to Practice Context Clue Strategies

Select passages from the textbook or literature that contain unknown words. Demonstrate how to problem-solve the meaning of the unknown words by doing a “Think-Aloud” of the FP’S BAG SALE strategies. Select words that can be specifically determined by each step of the process. Also, select words that have no helpful context clues to show how the process is not fool-proof.

Select passages from the textbook or literature, scan into a word processor and delete every twentieth word, skipping articles, conjunctions, and prepositions. This is known as a CLOZE passage. Then have the reader use the FP’S BAG SALE strategies to guess the meaning of the deleted words. Compare reader answers with the original words and award points for correct answers. Of course, synonyms are fine and will promote rich denotative and connotative word discussions.

Select unknown words that contain high frequency word parts as described in the next article titled “How We Learn Vocabulary from Word Parts Part IV.” Use sentences and three-sentence paragraphs that include these words as class openers. Good readers make use of structural analysis to problem-solve the meaning of unknown words. Although not technically context clues, word parts—both morphological (meaning-based) and grammatical (for example, parts of speech and inflections)—are essential components to vocabulary acquisition.

So, I’ve covered the first key to efficient vocabulary acquisition in Parts II and III: wide reading with effective context clue strategies. This is the key to help readers thrive. The next article in this series, “How Wise Learn Vocabulary from Word Parts Part IV,” will explain the need for the second key to efficient vocabulary acquisition: structural analysis and academic language, and will detail the words necessary for skillful readers to thrive in the world of academic reading.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , ,

How We Learn Vocabulary from Reading Part II

In Part I, I debunked the word list method of vocabulary instruction. The give-them-twenty-words-on-Monday-and-test-on-Friday approach is as American as apple pie, but is also highly inefficient. The English lexicon of over 800,000 words is just too vast to rely on rote memory of individual words. I suggested that the two most efficient methods of vocabulary instruction consist of 1. wide reading with refined context clues strategies and 2. word part memorization. This article will discuss how we learn vocabulary from reading, Part III in the series will explain how to refine the use of context clues to double the rate of word acquisition from reading, Part IV will examine how we learn vocabulary from word parts, and Part V will share how to teach and learn the essential word parts in the most efficient manner.

To understand how we learn vocabulary, it is helpful to examine how children build their bank of words through oral vocabulary acquisition. By age five, children have gained up to a 10,000 word vocabulary including common inflections such as suffixes. How did children who may only have one year of pre-school and one year of kindergarten gain such an extensive vocabulary? Exposure and practice. Children are bombarded with oral language from parent “oohs and ahs” to simple conversations to the background noises and words of daily life. In homes that are rich in communication, children before the age of four have heard 45 million words. In contrast, in homes that do not provide rich communication, children before the age of four have heard only 13 million words (Hart and Risley 1996).

Noam Chomsky’s theory of an innate universal grammar explains how children are able to apply words into meaningful phrases and sentence structures in an efficient manner. Children fit new words into the morphological (meaning) and syntactical (grammatical) context of old words and so language acquisition compounds. New words are not learned in isolation, but in the context of what has been previously mastered and practiced. But why do children learn words so quickly while adolescents and children learn words at such a slower rate? Is it because “you can’t teach a dog new tricks” or a change in brain development? No. Primarily the reasons are exposure and practice.

After the first 10,000 words, the rest are rare words, and these play a critical role in academic reading. The utility of our academic vocabulary is determined not by the first 10,000 words, but by how many of the rare words we understand (Hart and Risley 1996). The next 20,000 words learned by most college-educated adults takes about twenty years to acquire. Exposure to and practice of more sophisticated words is much less frequent than the “meat and potatoes” words of childhood. A brief example may be helpful. A child learns the word hungry at a very early age. The word has two syllables and is phonetically regular. A late teen or early adult may learn the word famished. The word has two syllables and is phonetically regular. The difference in word acquisition between hungry and famished is influenced by exposure. A child first hears the word hungry early in life and most every day thereafter from parents or from television. An adult may hear or read the word famished once every few months. The difference in word acquisition between hungry and famished is also influenced by practice. The word hungry is a high utility word. Both children and adults say this word often in all of its inflected forms. The word famished is just not said as often.

So, beyond the first 10,000 words of life, do we continue to learn most of our vocabulary through skillful listening? No. A few interesting facts will prove this point. The first 1,000 words acquired by children constitute the vast majority of words used by and heard by even the most educated adults on a daily basis. Watching and listening to thirty minutes of Sesame Street exposes the viewer to an average of only one word beyond the highest frequency 1,000 words. Watching and listening to the nightly news for the same amount of time exposes to viewer to only nineteen of these key words (adapted from Hayes and Athens 1988).

However, in contrast, reading provides a much higher exposure to words beyond the most frequently used 1,000 words. For example, reading a challenging comic book for thirty minutes exposes the reader to fifty-three of these words. Reading a challenging book for the same amount of time exposes a reader to seventy-five. So, reading challenging text certainly provides a greater opportunity to expand one’s vocabulary through exposure and practice than does listening alone.

Now, how can we make wide reading of challenging text more efficient for vocabulary acquisition? First of all, because exposure to the right words is so critical, it is essential to carefully choose reading text for optimal practice. According to reading specialists, reading text that has 5% unknown words should be our target reading text to maximize vocabulary acquisition. Readers can maintain good comprehension while exposing themselves to 300 unknown words in thirty minutes of reading. This assumes an average reading rate of 200 words per minute with 6,000 words read in thirty minutes, of which 5% unknown words would be 300. Assuming that a reader would “naturally” acquire 5% of these unknown words via unrefined use of context clues, the reader would have a net gain of 15 new words from the reading session. Thus, four days of thirty minutes (two hours) reading practice would better a reader’s vocabulary by 60 words—substantially better than acquiring 20 new words each week by memorizing a list of words. Also, the prospect of additional practice of these words is much higher than that of the random word list memorized for the Friday test.

How can you pick a book to read that has 5% unknown words? Choose a book of any genre and count the number of words on any complete page found near the beginning of the book and multiply that number by 3. Read a page toward the beginning of the book, counting the number of unknown words. A good guideline would be “if you can’t define it with a synonym, antonym, or example,” it is unknown. Then, read a page near the middle of the book and continue the count. Finally, read a page near the end of the book and finish the count. Divide the total number of unknown words by the total number of words found on the three pages. The result will be the percentage of unknown words. Anything within the 4-6% range is acceptable. For example, a reader counts the number of words on a page and arrives at 225. 225 x 3 = 750. After reading the three pages, the amount of unknown words totals 30. 30.00 divided by 750 = .05, or 5%.

Additionally, reading specialists would argue that the 5% retention rate can be doubled to 10% by applying refined context clue strategies. Doubling the number of words acquired from thirty minutes reading each day would produce a net gain of 30 new words from each reading session or 120 words each week, considering four such sessions. 120 words per week, multiplied by 33 weeks in a school year produces 3960 new words in a school year—surpassing the target for the 3,000 new words that reading specialists suggest are necessary to make grade level growth in vocabulary development.

In order to refine context clue strategies, readers need to learn the types of context clues that work most often to help readers figure out unknown words. By examining surrounding sentence and word clues according to these context clue categories, more unknown words can be figured out. So, grab a second cup of coffee for the next article, Part III, and learn how to teach the refined context clue strategies that will double the amount of words that readers acquire through reading challenging text.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , ,

The Problem with Most Vocabulary Instruction Part I

Don’t read this article if you susceptible to thin-skin teacher disease. The typical vocabulary instruction in many classrooms includes passing out a “big words” list of 20 vocabulary terms on Monday and quizzing on this list on Friday. Starting to cringe? And now the “buts” start to formulate. Some of the “buts” will focus on the content of the list: “But half of those words are from the literature selections this week” or “But half of those words are SAT® words” or “But half of those words are grade-level words that my students should know.” Other “buts” will focus on the learning process: “But I make them write out each word ten times” or “But I make them create flashcards for each word” or “But I have them underline the prefixes and suffixes and circle the roots.” The last “but” is all-too pervasive, if some of us are truly honest about why we really teach what and how we teach: “But that’s what and how I learned, and I turned out okay.”

The problem with the typical vocabulary instructional practice described above is not necessarily the content, nor the teaching approach. Indeed, the problem is one of effectiveness. According to research, “Rote memorization of words and definitions is the least effective instructional method resulting in little long-term effect (Kameenui, Dixon, Carine 1987).”

If students remember all 20 words, each week for the entire school year, they will have mastered 600 words. Now, realistically, if teachers got students to remember half of those words by the end of the year (think standardized test), most would be pleased. That leaves 300 words mastered per school year.

But, the American lexicon is over 800,000 words, and the SAT® word bank is over 30,000 words. Students need to learn 3,000 new words per year just to make one grade level progress (Honig 1983). Learning 300 words per year is a very small drop in a very big bucket. So, not only is rote word memorization ineffective, it is also inefficient.

Additionally, teaching vocabulary isolated from reading and spelling instruction ignores the structural components of words: phonics (decoding) and spelling (encoding), as well as the meaning-making purpose of words: understanding (comprehension) and communication (syntax, tone, clarity, etc).

At this point, frustration sets in… Even the most dedicated teachers might be thinking “Why teach vocabulary at all, then? Maybe students will just learn it on their own” or “I can’t spend any more time, teaching more words, than I already do. After all, I have reading skills, literary analysis, spelling, grammar, writing etc. to teach, as well” or “If I ignore it, it just might go away.”

For thick-skinned teachers who have made it to this point in the article, there is hope. Students can master the 3,000 new words this year that reading experts agree are necessary to achieve two-year-growth in reading levels. Your teaching can impact these levels of vocabulary acquisition. And you don’t have to spend much more class time to teach vocabulary efficiently. So what are the most efficient strategies? I call the two most efficient strategies to vocabulary acquisition 1. Efficient Reading and 2. Efficient Word Study.

Briefly defined, Efficient Reading involves re-orienting your homework assignments to focus on independent level reading with targeted context clues practice. The downsides? This approach requires some additional class time allocated to context clues instruction, additional record-keeping/accountability, and elimination of most other written homework assignments by default. The upsides? Increased vocabulary and comprehension, as well as a high likelihood of creating life-long readers.

Briefly defined, Efficient Word Study involves teaching the survive words: the academic language, literary terms, and those words essential to the understanding of literature selections and the thrive words: the morphological prefixes, roots, and suffixes. The downsides? You will have to spend a bit more class time teaching “deep-level” vocabulary techniques for the survive words. You will also have to spend a bit more class time on Greek and Latinates/word analysis for the thrive words. The upsides? Increased vocabulary and word recognition skills that complement context clue skills.

In the next four articles in this series on vocabulary development I offer the rationale and specific teaching strategies and resources for efficient reading and efficient word study. “How to Teach Efficient Reading Part II,” “How to Double Vocabulary Acquisition Part III,” “How We Learn Vocabulary from Word Parts Part IV,” and How to Teach the Most Efficient Word Parts Part V” will give every teacher the tools to enrich their students’ vocabularies.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Teachers Have Failed Their Students in Spelling

During the 1975 to 1995 “whole language” era, teachers complied with conventional wisdom and threw out their spelling workbooks, the traditional weekly spelling and/or vocabulary test, and direct vocabulary instruction. Spelling was relegated to the role of an editing skill to be incidentally “caught, but not taught” through peer editing or, perhaps, the scientific process of osmosis. Since editing was the second-to-last chart on the teacher’s writing process bulletin board, the spelling “mini-lessons” were frequently omitted because the picture re-takes or sugar cube missions ate up all available class time. Similarly, direct vocabulary instruction was considered “rote learning” and was usually limited to pre-teaching a few, usually obscure, words before launching into the next piece of literature. Most vocabulary instruction was left, exclusively to the individually-played, implicit game of context clues “hunt and peck.” Teachers hoped that teacher read-alouds, pajama-reading-days, and the Scholastic® Book Faire would naturally develop student vocabularies.

The results of this grand experiment have clearly been disastrous in the areas of spelling and vocabulary development. Standardized spelling and vocabulary test scores are down. A significant number of students are now graduating high school and college without having mastered conventional spelling. College professors complain about having to “dumb-down” instruction to be able to communicate with a new generation of rap-talking, IM (Instant Messaging), mono-syllabic freshmen. It may be unfair, but society judges poor spellers and wordsmiths quite harshly, and we have not done a service to our students by shortchanging effective spelling and vocabulary instruction.

How Teachers Teach Remedial Spellers

Rafael is one of my brightest and more creative eighth grade students, but poor spelling inhibits his writing. He just can’t get down on paper what he wants to say. Rafael continually makes the same spelling mistakes in his writing, now matter how many times I red-mark them. Memorizing the list of weekly spelling words has never helped Rafael improve his spelling; year after year, he has lagged further and further behind his classmates.”

How Teachers Should Teach Remedial Spellers

Clearly, students like Rafael are not receiving any real spelling-vocabulary instruction. Teachers should assess their students, using an effective diagnostic spelling inventory. Then, teachers need to use worksheets, word lists, word sorts, and small group instruction to teach to these diagnostic deficits in the “Within Word” consonant and vowel sound spelling stages.

How Teachers Teach Accelerated Spellers

“Kenny is a precocious fifth grade student of mine who clearly has a knack for spelling. On his Monday pretest, Kenny rarely misses any words. I give him the challenge words from the spelling workbook, but Kenny usually knows how to spell these too. If I give him the sixth grade spelling workbook, next year’s teacher won’t have anything for him at all. Kenny rarely makes spelling mistakes in his writing because he selectively avoids using difficult spelling words.”

How Teachers Should Teach Accelerated Spellers

Clearly, students like Kenny are not receiving any real spelling-vocabulary instruction. Kenny and your other grade-level or accelerated spellers need to be challenged at the “Syllable-Juncture” and “Derivational Constancy” stages of spelling-vocabulary development. These are the stages in which spelling instruction should become spelling-vocabulary word study.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

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

How to Use Context Clues to Improve Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary

Learning how to use context clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words is an essential reading strategy and vocabulary-builder. Identifying context clues in reading is made easier by looking for the key context clue categories within the context of an effective step-by-step strategy. So, here’s the strategy:

When you come to an unknown word, apply the steps of the FP’S BAG SALE strategy in the following order until you get a good clue about the meaning of an unknown word.

Finish the sentence.

See how the word fits into the whole sentence.

Pronounce the word out loud.

Sometimes hearing the word will give you a clue to meaning.

Syllables–Examine each word part.

Word parts can be helpful clues to meaning.

Before–Read the sentence before the unknown word.

The sentence before can hint at what the word means.

After–Read the sentence after the unknown word.

The sentence after can define, explain, or provide an example of the word.

Grammar–Determine the part of speech.

Pay attention to where the word is placed in the sentence, the ending of the word, and its grammatical relationship to other known words for clues to meaning.

The context clue categories:

Synonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of a synonym.

Synonyms appear in apposition, in which case commas, dashes, or parentheses are used.

The wardrobe, or closet, opened the door to a brand new world.

Antonym–Sometimes an unknown word is defined by the use of an antonym.

Antonym clues will often use Signal Words e.g., however, not, but, in contrast

Example: He signaled a looey, not a right turn.

Logic–Your own knowledge about the content and text structure may provide clues to meaning.

Logic clues can lead to a logical guess as to the meaning of an unknown word.

Example: He petted the canine, and then made her sit up and beg for a bone.

Example–When part of a list of examples or if the unknown word itself provides an example,

either provides good clues to meaning. Example clues will often use transition words e.g., such as, for example, like

Example: Adventurous, rowdy, and crazy pioneers all found their way out West.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube (Check these fluency passages out!), 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

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 students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. 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.

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , ,

The Top Ten Syllable Rules

Knowing the Top Ten Syllable Rules can help improve reading, pronunciation, and spelling.

1. Every syllable has only one vowel sound. Some syllables have just one vowel; others have two. But even when there are two vowels, there can be only one vowel sound in each syllable, so the two vowels say one sound.

For example, out-side.

2. When the vowel’s at the end of a syllable, it has a long sound. Reading specialists call the Consonant-Vowel (CV) pattern an open syllable.

For example, be-low.

3. When the vowel is not at the end of a syllable, it has a short sound. Reading specialists call the Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) pattern a closed syllable.

For example, bas-ket.

4. Divide syllables between doubled consonants, unless the doubled consonant is part of a syllable that is a base word.

For example, din-ner and tell-er.

5. Usually keep vowel teams together in the same syllable.

For example, boat-ing.

6. Keep the silent final “e” and the vowel before in the same syllable. The silent final “e” makes the vowel before a long sound if there is only one consonant in between the vowel and the “e”.

For example, basement.

7. Keep the r-controlled vowels (ar, er, ir, or, and ur) in the same syllable.

For example, or-al-ly.

8. Keep the consonant-“le” sounds (ble, cle, dle, fle, gle, and ple) in the same syllable. These syllables have the schwa sound between the consonant and the “le”. The schwa sound sounds like a nasal short u.

For example, cra-dle.

9. All words have one syllable that has a primary accent. The vowel in the accented syllable receives the stress. Words may also have secondary accents. The primary accent is usually found on the vowel in the root, not the prefix or suffix. Also, the syllable before a double consonant is usually accented.

For example, slów-ly and swím-ming.

10. Unaccented vowel sounds frequently have the schwa sound, especially when there is only one letter in the syllable. All vowels can have the schwa sound.

For example, a-boút.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube (Check these fluency passages out!), 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

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 students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. 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.

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , ,

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

Memorizing the definitions of the most common Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes will exponentially expand your reading vocabulary. Academic reading, especially in the social sciences and natural sciences are filled with words with Greek and Latin word parts. The verbal section of the SAT I is largely comprised of academic words having these word parts. Knowing even one word part of an unknown word greatly enhances the reader’s ability to accurately and efficiently use surrounding context clues to figure out the meanings of these words. You will also increase your spoken and written proficiency by using Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes. But, outside of becoming fluent in Greek and Latin, which Greek and Latin word parts have the highest frequency?

Most Commonly-Used Prefixes

This list, compiled by White, Sowell, and Yanagihara (The Reading Teacher, 42, p. 306), has the twenty most frequently-used prefixes. In fact these largely Greek and Latin prefixes make up 97% of all prefixed words. Prefixes listed are in frequency order.

1. un-not

2. re-again

3. in, im, il, ir-not

4. dis-away from

5. en, em-in

6. non-not

7. in, im-in

8. over-above

9. mis-not

10. sub-under

11. pre-before

12. inter-between

13. fore-in front

14.de-apart from

15. trans-across

16. super-above

17. semi-half

18. anti-against

19. mid-middle

20. under-too little

Frequently-Used Greek and Latin Roots

Following are the roots, meanings, origins, and example words. The roots are not in order of frequency.

1. struct-build, form-Latin-instruct

2. aud-hear-Latin-auditorium

3. mis-send-Latin-mission

4. astro-star-Greek-astrology

5. ped-foot-Latin-pedal

6. bio-life-Greek-biology

7. phon-sound-Greek-telephone

8. dict-say-Latin-predict

9. port-carry-Latin-import

10. geo-earth-Greek-geography

11. scrib-write-Latin-scribble

12. meter-measure-Greek-thermometer

13. scrip-write-Latin-scripture

14. min-little-small-Latin-minimum

15. spect-see-Latin-inspect

16. mit-send-Latin-transmit

Adapted from Stahl, S.A. and Shiel, T.G., Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Disabilities, 8, 223-241

Fifteen Power Greek and Latin Words

These fifteen words have prefixes or roots that are part of over 15,000 words. That is as many words as most student dictionaries! Memorize these words and the meanings of their prefixes and roots and you have significantly improved your vocabulary.

1. inaudible (not, hear)

2. dismiss (away from, send)

3. transport (across, carry)

4. unsubscribe (not, under, write)

5. predict (before, say)

6. remit (again, send)

7. encounter (in, against)

8. offer(against, carry)

9. inspect (in, see)

10. epilogue (upon, word)

11. antigen (against, people)

12. empathy (in, feeling)

13. intermediate (between, middle)

14. destruction(apart from, build)

15. superimpose (over, in, put)

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Learn SAT® Vocabulary

SAT-takers generally find the critical reading sections challenging because both the sentence completion and passage-based reading sections are so vocabulary dependent. You may not have a huge academic vocabulary, but some concentrated study and knowing the following strategies can make a significant difference in your scores on the critical reading and multiple-choice writing sections.

Sentence Completion Strategies

Vocabulary recognition is critically important for both the Passage-based Reading and Sentence Completion Questions found in the Critical Reading section. The publisher of the SAT claims that these subtests measure “verbal reasoning abilities.” Hogwash! Much of the Sentence Completions and even the Passage-based Reading subsections only measure vocabulary. Not only do these subsections simply measure vocabulary; they also frequently test this vocabulary out of context. In other words, much of the SAT vocabulary is either already known or not known.

Some SAT preparation workbooks and classes (or perhaps a friendly English teacher you might know) will suggest that you memorize huge SAT vocabulary lists of hundreds of words. This approach runs contrary to both good reading research and just plain common sense. The publisher has a word bank of over 30,000 words. Even if you retained the meanings of every single word on a twenty-word weekly vocabulary test, you would only have learned 600 or so words by the end of one school year. Chances are that you would forget many of these anyway. Time invested in memorizing huge vocabulary lists would be better spent reading a good book.

In fact, for long term SAT vocabulary acquisition, reading is the best way to grow a huge vocabulary. As you read books at your reading level (word recognition of 95%), you will learn many of those unknown 5% words though effective use of context clues. Keep track of these words on a daily basis on 3 x 5 cards or on your computer, and you will be well on your way to developing the kind of SAT vocabulary that will score you the points you need.

But, for those of you non-readers who are taking the SAT in a few short weeks, there is still hope to improve your score on both the Critical Reading and Writing sections. Fortunately, the multiple-choice design of the SAT requires vocabulary only word recognition, rather than vocabulary word knowledge. For example, you may not be able to define, or even give an example of an “octogenarian.” However, you might be able to recognize that the “oct” part of the word means “eight” because you have prior knowledge that an “octopus” has eight tentacles.

Two effective short cuts toward better recognizing SAT vocabulary include these two strategies:

  1. learning the most common Greek and Latin affixes/roots and
  2. learning how to figure out the clues to meaning of unknown words through context clues.

Both of these strategies will help your short-term goal of dealing with the SAT vocabulary. The web provides wonderful resources for frequently-used word parts to print into SAT vocabulary study flashcards and context clue exercises designed for SAT-takers.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, 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. em>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. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses. 128 pages

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How to Differentiate Spelling and Vocabulary Instruction

Two of the most common instructional practices in American schools make me cringe. In spite of pedagological common sense, teachers throughout America, from primary grades to high school, continue to pass out the list of 15-20 spelling words and the list of 15-20 vocabulary words on Monday. Students “study” these lists, and perhaps complete an obligatory worksheet, crossword puzzle, or write-the-word-ten-times assignment, and then they are tested on these same words on Friday. It’s tradition. It’s as American as apple-pie. Parents care more about these language-arts activities than any others.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? The weekly spelling and vocabulary test procedures, as described above, make no use of the teacher as an informed practitioner. The first task of an informed teacher is to determine what students already know and don’t know. But, hold on just a minute! Most teachers (at least in the elementary grades) do give a spelling pretest on Monday. True. However, the second task of an informed teacher is to make use of the diagnostic data to differentiate instruction. Oh…well that is different.

The second problem with this picture is one of categorization. Isolating spelling from vocabulary instruction rarely makes sense. The spelling-vocabulary connection is well-established at every stage of word study—from sound-spelling relationships in the primary grades to derivational and etymological influences from intermediate elementary through high school.

So, how can an informed teacher (that is you) differentiate instruction in an efficient manner? Simply follow these five steps:

1. Prepare Give a qualitative spelling inventory (search this phrase on the web, if you don’t have one) to determine where your students have mastery and where they don’t.  Find the resources you need that truly integrate spelling and vocabulary instruction. Your educational bookstore and online resources will assist—there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Select twenty spelling pattern words that the spelling inventory indicates as problematic for most of your students. Select words that also teach vocabulary.

2. Pretest Dictate the 15—20 words in the traditional word-sentence-word format to all of your students. 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 Personal Spelling-Vocabulary 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 on up to five spelling errors from last week’s spelling posttest.
  • Writing Errors: Have students add on up to five teacher-corrected spelling errors found in student writing. Oops…this commits you to mark strategic spelling errors in your students’ writing to effectively differentiate instruction.
  • Supplemental Spelling Lists: Students select and use words from the following resources to complete their list (Again, these resources are minutes away at your local educational bookstore on on the web):

For remedial spellers-
Outlaw Words
High Frequency Words
Most Often Misspelled Words
Commonly Confused Words
For grade level and accelerated spellers
Greek and Latinate spellings
Content vocabulary—only terms that are commonly used

4. Practice Use direct instruction to demonstrate the spelling pattern. Find word sort resources that apply this pattern with words that emphasize vocabulary development. Additionally, have your students practice their weekly spelling words on their Personal Spelling List by writing context-clue sentences in which the spelling word is defined in the context of the other words and structure of their sentence. This spelling-vocabulary application is an important reading and writing skill and needs plenty of instruction and practice. Use the SALES strategies: synonyms, antonyms, logic, examples, and syllables to teach your students how to surround their spelling words with context clues.

5. Posttest Students 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! Have one student complete the entire dictation of the list prior to having the other student dictate. 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.

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

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components. Check out the entire instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Grades 4-8 Common Core Standards.

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

Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , ,