Language Arts

Vocabulary and Differentiation: Larry Says, “Just Deal with It…”

Two weeks ago, we published an article about learning vocabulary words (available here). It was my answer to a question from Jean, a concerned parent whose son was struggling with an on-going vocabulary testing situation.

Immediately after we published that article, we received a response from Larry M.  Here’s what Larry had to say:

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How to Learn Vocabulary Words

We received an e-mail from our client Jean:

I’m wondering if you can help with a recurring problem.  My son, Daniel, gets 20-25 vocab words every couple of weeks for his Language Arts class.  For the test, he has to pull the words out of his head, spell them correctly and write the correct definition.  In other words, the test is not matching or multiple choice.  The teacher is very kind and wants the students to retake the test if they score below a certain percentage, but then Dan has several lists of words to study.  Anyway, Dan’s been having trouble passing the tests the first time.   I’ve encouraged him to write sentences using the words so that he can relate the word to something meaningful in his life.  I’m wondering if you have any other suggestions.

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Can Phonics Improve Student Motivation? Tips for 6-12 Interventions

Two-thirds of students entering high school are not proficient readers! This is a crisis, but there is a simple piece of the puzzle to fix this problem.  It would dramatically improve student performance! However, most of us don’t know anything about it.

The problem is that we do not teach a COMPLETE set of English rules. In last week’s article, I shared information about a fabulous book called, Uncovering the Logic of English.  The author, Denise Elde, clearly explains how much we are missing in our traditional reading instruction.

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Learning Disability or Instructional Deficiency?

The more I learn about learning disabilities, the more I see that the “best practices” for educating students with learning disabilities are actually considered “best practices” for all learners. For example, math and reading interventions focus heavily on “hands-on” and “experiential” learning activities.

Isn’t it well known that all students learn best when they can get actively involved in new learning topics? Why do we need special “intervention” programs to deliver this great instruction to struggling learners?  Why not teach everyone this way?

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“The Cue to Reading” Series (Article 10): Creating Effective Lessons for a LD Student

When my son was a few months old and I was a new mom, I had no idea how or when to introduce him to solid foods. I fell asleep one night in the midst of reading an article about the topic. The article explained that solid foods should be introduced in very small bites, over the course of several days. “Let the baby test a bite or two at each meal. Don’t expect him to get nutrition from the food, at first. Just let him get used to the texture and slowly figure out what to do with it.” The last thing I read before drifting off to sleep was a warning not to overstuff the child. “If you push too much, the baby will just spit it all back up!”

The next morning, I went to a reading conference and sat with several teachers from a different school district. They told me about an exciting new reading program they had organized to build fluency scores. It was a systematic, five-minute routine built into the first few minutes of the day. As the students entered the classroom, they met with a pre-assigned partner. Each student read for one minute from specific reading passages, while the partner kept time with a timer. Then, the partners switched. After reading, each student counted the number of words he/she read and recorded the total on a graph. The objective was to beat their best pace. They were competing against themselves and they loved it!

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“The Cue to Reading” Series (Article 9): Strategies for the Three Cueing Systems – Part II

As promised last week, I will share effective strategies for the remaining two cueing systems today. However, I’d like to begin with a story about a powerful way to support struggling readers…that I discovered by accident.

Several years ago, I had a third-grade student, Emilia (name changed) who had very few reading skills. She could identify letters, but not words. When looking at a sentence, she could not tell where the individual words began and ended.

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“The Cue to Reading” Series (Article 7): Journey of a Reading Teacher

It was my husband who first suggested I go for a reading degree when I entered grad school.

“Are you kidding?” I replied.  “I HATE teaching reading!” (more…)

“The Cue to Reading” Series (Article 6): Why Reading Level Is Overrated

One year, when teaching third-grade, I had a half-dozen students enter my class with a “documented” reading level of 7th grade or higher. These reading levels were determined by their second-grade teacher, after she completed her end-of-year testing.

Naturally, these parents wanted to be sure their children would continue to be challenged. Several of them visited me before school started, requesting that every book I assigned be no lower than their child’s reading level.

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“The Cue to Reading” Series (Article 5): What Do I Do? Where Do I Go?

A subscriber from St. Louis emailed me a couple weeks ago. She feels her son had a reading disability and was wondering what she should do next. Should she seek a tutor? If so, where could she find one? How could she get a diagnosis?

Her questions address the next logical topic to discuss in this series…How do you know if you need help? What do you do? Where do you go?

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“The Cue to Reading” Series (Article 4): “He’s Just Not Tryin'”

We all have our little nuances and idiosyncrasies. One of mine is my “Rule of Three.” That is, when something comes to my attention three times in a relatively short span of time, I take notice and wonder if the world is trying to tell me something. The Rule of Three has helped me navigate everything from simple observations to major decisions in life. This weekend, The Rule of Three struck again.

Oddly enough, I had the first encounter while tooling down the expressway, blasting an old Neil Diamond CD. (Say what you want about my eclectic collection of music, but with songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Cracklin’ Rosie,” you’d be hard-pressed to find a better sing-along CD for a sunny day.)

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