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Articles: Language Arts

Curriculum Associates

Improving the writing skills of all 6,500 students emerged as a top priority for the administrators of Mississippi’s Gulfport School District beginning in fall 2014. “We needed a resource that addressed the rigorous writing requirements of the Common Core, as well as one that would allow educators to teach writing in a systematic way,” says Patty Cooper, ELA Curriculum Specialist for Gulfport.

Students at Cherokee County School District use Pearson’s WriteToLearn to help them become better writers.

As Common Core standards require students to write extensively across the curriculum, more districts are using automated assessment tools to save teachers time and give students immediate analysis.

Giving students a chance to practice academic English can be a part of any subject lesson, she says. And that’s where ESL instructors can play an important role by becoming peer coaches for classroom teachers, says John Segota, TESOL’s associate executive director for public policy.

The biggest changes in reading instruction center on embedding literacy across all subjects. Engineering concepts, for example, can be used to break down the plots of stories and analyze characters. And ESL specialists should collaborate with subject teachers to align instruction so students are learning the same words and concepts.

A living, breathing teacher is the best tool to assess a written essay.

However, DA found a few tools that can do almost the same job, pointing out narrative, organization and purpose of an essay. We used an authentic essay that a fifth-grade girl in Connecticut wrote about her very big mastiff dog named Bam Bam.

And two tools, PEG Writing and ETS’ E-Rater, were able to assess the same essay separately.

Here is the original essay:

BamBam by Tess A.

Once upon a time their was a little dog. His name was BamBam.

Birmingham Public Schools use ETS’ Criterion as a learning and teaching tool. Students get immediate feedback on grammar and mechanics, as well as links to exemplary writing with detailed techniques to improve.

Some vendors have developed tech tools that will solve the challenges of teaching and assessing student writing effectively. We asked several experts to share their thoughts about writing assessment concerns and how administrators can address those issues. Here’s what they had to say:

Laura Dinehart is an associate professor of early childhood education at Florida International University.

Relegating handwriting to the back burner of early childhood education ignores the close relationship between fine motor skill development and early success in math and reading.

Technology isn’t the enemy, but jumping to keyboards and calculators before mastering pencil and paper may not be developmentally appropriate for young learners.

From videos to games, tools to help students learn to read are all about fun.

Programs that are compatible with mobile devices allow students to improve reading and literacy skills in and outside the classroom. On the educator side, many new products track students’ progress and offer assessment tools.

Vocabulary.com

Vocabulary.com

Close reading is a popular term today in elementary literacy classrooms and a requirement in the Common Core ELA standards in order to ensure students are college- and career- ready. It enables students to independently comprehend increasingly challenging texts. Students need to develop the habits of mind and the skills necessary to unpack the deep, embedded meanings found in complex, challenging texts on their own.

Last year, while administrators at Branford Public Schools in Connecticut were thinking of ways to encourage their students to read more, Superintendent Hamlet Hernandez came across the perfect solution. While attending a District Administration Leadership Institute Superintendents Summit, Hernandez watched a presentation about a reading platform called myON and its success in another district. myON is a literacy solution that provides anytime, anywhere access to thousands of award-winning digital books.

As the author of more than 100 journal articles and multiple books, neuroscientist Martha S. Burns is a leading expert on how children learn.

While home environment, access to books, and social and economic factors all play a part in children’s literacy development, brain differences also play a crucial role.

Students today are innately comfortable with digital tools, and one way to enable personalized literacy instruction is through these tools. Close-reading techniques, student-submitted writing responses to book-specific prompts and other practices are made possible through a new digital platform. This web seminar, originally broadcast on May 28, 2014, featured an innovative superintendent who implemented this platform in her district to foster a more personalized learning environment, as well as the president of myON, who described the solution in more detail.

Scott Drossos

An increasing number of educators are understanding that to implement a successful digital conversion, rather than focusing solely on providing access to technology, administrators must focus instead on creating personalized learning outcomes that are the result of more effective digital teaching strategies.

A student reads a book through the Booktrack website, while hearing music, ambient noise and sound effects that match the action of the story.

A platform that pairs e-books with movie-style soundtracks is gaining attention in the K12 realm for boosting reading engagement and comprehension. But some researchers remain skeptical of its claim of increasing achievement without additional instruction.

Administrators and teachers at Deer Park Middle School in the Deer Park (Wash.) School District have been challenged in the past by the school’s multiple feeder elementary schools. “We have a lot of students coming from these very small schools with a low level of reading proficiency,” says Cassandra Kauppi, the learning assistance program teacher at Deer Park Middle School. Many were scoring below grade level on both state and district assessments. “Our school needed to find a solution to address that,” Kauppi says.

High schools will soon have access to a free curriculum based on the Academy Award-winning film and memoir 12 Years a Slave.

The National School Boards Associaton is partnering with New Regency entertainment, Penguin Books and the filmmakers to give public high schools copies of the 2014 Best Picture winner, the book it’s based on and a study guide. Talk-show host Montel Williams is coordinating the distribution of the movie.

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