Friday, September 27, 2013

Three Common Grammar Errors

Since common core requires testing written work, I'll go over the three most common errors in grammar, mechanics or style that I have found in students' essays:

1.  One of the most common errors I note in students' composition papers is that students confuse a plural (which refers to more than one) with a possessive (which means ownership).
For example: consider the errors in this sentence: The course's that I have taken at Ashford have been challenging, yet rewarding. Note that the word courses indicates more than one class so you don't need the apostrophe. The sentence should be: The courses I have taken at Ashford have been challenging, yet rewarding.

Now if you wanted to write about a characteristic of a class (something the course takes ownership of), you could write a sentence like this: The course's textbooks are brilliantly written. Course's here can be rewritten as textbook of the course. If this sentence were written with the apostrophe after the s in the word courses the word would become courses', which means you are talking about possession dealing with more than one class. For example, to indicate the meaning of the word courses' you can write textbooks of the courses (more than one course).

Now the distinction between plurals using courses as an example and then using course's as another example makes more sense.

Again, a plural means more than one and doesn't need an apostrophe either before or after the s, and a possessive means ownership, which is indicated in two ways, a required apostrophe either before or after the s (course's textbooks means one course, and courses' textbook means more than one course).

2. The second error I frequently encounter when I read students' essays deals with capitalization. This one is straight-forward. You capitalize the names of people, places and/or things (proper nouns). For example: The students graduated from high school two years early because they were considered gifted by their teachers. Here the words high school are not capitalized because it is not the name of a specific high school. Now take a look at this sentence: The students graduated from Coral Gables High School two years early because they were considered gifted by their teachers. Note that the first letter in every word of  the name of the institution is capitalized.

Here are some other examples of nouns vs. proper nouns

city and state/Coral Gables, Florida
elementary school/Sunset Elementary School
name of building/Empire State Building
street/Butternut Street
president/ President Barack Obama
lake/Lake Okeechobee or The Big O (casually speaking)

3. The third error I want to write about deals with punctuation, specifically the comma, the bane of the beginning writer. Here you need to know about dependent and independent clauses. A dependent clause is a phrase. If it's written by itself as a sentence,  it's an error called a fragment. An example of a fragment would be: When the television went on the blink. An independent clause is a complete idea with subject and verb: When the television went on the blink, I brought it to the repair shop near my house.
Commas are often missed being placed before an introductory clause: Even though my mother is older, she remains beautiful.
Extra commas are often added to dependent clauses placed after the dependent clause: My mother is pretty, even though she is older. This is incorrect. It should be: My mother is pretty even though she is older.

Finally, there is the comma splice error. This is simply using a comma between two independent clauses that are not joined with a conjunction: The girls and boys in the Mrs. Gorden's class came into the classroom unprepared for the day's activities, a few of the math activities were expected to be challenging not only for the students to learn, but also for the teachers to teach.
The first comma should be changed to a period and the first letter of the next word needs a capital because these are two independent clauses (complete sentences) connected with a comma.
The sentence should be: The girls and boys in the Mrs. Gorden's came into the classroom unprepared for the day's activities. A few of the math activities were expected to be challenging not only for the students to learn, but also for the teachers to teach.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review Recipes

Here's the case where the comment for a link is better than the link itself, which was a blog post for the Common Core standards.

Note the cleverness of this comment, added to a blog post by a teacher:

These sound like fun activities that kids can connect to their daily lives. I love teaching writing, and my students also have enjoyed writing book review "recipes" as an adjective/parts of speech writing exercise. Take "George's Marvelous Medicine" for example:

2 c. Magic
1 c. Wicked
1/2 c. Humor
2 tbs. Suspense
1 tbs. Revenge
1 tsp. Greediness
Directions: Pour the magic, wicked, & humor into a large bowl and mix well! Slowly sprinkle in the tablespoons of suspense, revenge, and greediness one at a time. Stir them all together for one delicious story!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ten Vowel Sound Lesson Plan Links for First Grade

Nowhere can you see Common Core in actions than in a basic vowel lesson. The Core doesn't have first grade teachers teaching long vowels and short vowels as isolated subjects, but instead addresses them together:

English Language Arts Standards>Reading>Foundational Skills>Grade 1>Phonological Awareness

                        Distinguish long from short vowel sounds in spoken single-syllable words.

 Here are some lessons that involve this standard with the topic of this standard covered:

1. short a 
2. short vowels
3. long vowels
4. short vowels
5. short vowels
6. short vowels
7. long or short vowels
8. long a
9. long and short vowels
10. long and short vowels

The first eight are lesson plans. The last two are multimedia practice

Friday, June 21, 2013

Common Core--Shared Responsibility of Every Teacher

Common Core emphasizes that literacy is the shared responsibility of every teacher.

In this video teacher Sarah Wessling shares her thoughts about thinking aloud when teaching and the difference between teaching English and teaching literacy as per the Common Core.

When a teacher thinks aloud, he/she describes the strategies for answering a question or for solveing a problem out loud. From grade to grade, school to school and state to state teaching students how to think, or metacognition is universal.

A good example of a teacher thinking aloud is when a he/she models pre-reading. SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review) is one guide teachers can use for modeling. Here's how a teacher may talk to the students, sharing what's going on in his/her head:

Now I'm going to read the first chapter in my social studies book: The American Revolution.

First, I'm going to look at the headings, subheadings, words in bold print, captions, charts and graphs.

After I'm finished, I want to look at the headings and subheading, making questions that I can answer when I'm reading. 

Now I'm going to read...

After each subheading I want to recall  what I've read so I'll recite some of it silently (or out loud if no one is around).

Finally, my last step! I'm going to look at the headings and subheadings to see if I can answer the questions I made from them. If I can't I'll skim the section again to find the answers.

The Video, Think Alouds Unpacking the Standards

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Assessment--Take the Common Core Test

Assessments for the Common Core don't begin until the 2014-15 school year, which is about a year away. It seems like a long time away, but remember many school districts will be implementing Common Core this coming school year.

Palm Springs (California) Unified School District begins implementing Common Core fully in grades K-2 and partially through grade 5 at the elementary level, though no testing on the standards occurs until the next school year.

What do the assessments look like? Not anything like a standardized test has looked before. For one, tests are computerized, meaning no paper or number 2 pencils. The prompts at the third grade level in Language Arts might be research related, that is they have students read articles (referred to as sources), comparing and contrasting what they've researched.

The tests also not only require the filling in of bubbles with a mouse click to answer questions , but also typing in short answers into an input box.  Novel indeed.  Finally, you can expect students to explain their answers and/or give examples, both difficult challenges for any student no matter what grade they are in.

The link to the sample test is at Expect to "thumb" through many webpages to get to the beginning of the test. Don't get discouraged by the third click and change of webpage because you're nearing the beginning of the test. Keep clicking when prompted.

The test is a bit tricky in terms of moving from window to window because the Next option is at the top right of the screen, not at the bottom after the last question as you might expect.

Go ahead and take the practice test. When you're "thumbing" through the webpages, one of the prompts asks you for a grade level. Type in the grade level you teach, want to teach, and/or is the one that your child is attending, then click to the beginning of the test to get started.

Friday, June 14, 2013

New York Times Article Reveals Common Core's Short History

The New York Times reports that all was relatively quiet as the Common Core standards took effect. That's in contrast to the noisy headlines of Hillary Clinton's Bengazi debacle, which has been in and out of the public's eye for the past year. Why hasn't the public been informed of one of the biggest changes in education in our nation's history?

Some of the thinking about the standards reveals that they are a leftest indoctrination; other thinking is that it will add to the continued separation of political will among the electorate and Congress.

Whatever is thought, the fact is the testing is the key to Common Core and that's how educators and others will judge its effects. The most important point about the tests is that they're the greatest challenge students have had in filling in bubbles on a computerized form ever (there are also short essays required of students taking the test). The test is hard, really hard.

Finally, other than the tests, there is little physical evidence in the classroom that the curriculum has changed--books are the same, students are the same, as are teachers and administrators. Perhaps, the only change that can be detected is on the Internet which now has a national clearing house of tasks students should be able to perform in order to grab that good job or snatch a place in a good college.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Vary Learning Experiences for ELLs to Pass English Language Proficiency Test

What kind of information should you know to become adept at administering Common Core to your students?

A good place to start is with ELLs (English Language Learners). Consider the example of the group of students who aren't acquiring the language quickly enough (be aware, though, that it takes about seven years to become FEP, or Fluent English Proficient).

The Common Core Modules, which train California educators in using Common Core states that in order for students to pass the CELDT (an English language proficiency test in California)  in greater numbers, they must be exposed to "literacy rich school environments where students are offered a variety of language experiences."

How is an educator going to provide these experiences?

Check out these lesson plan suggestions from Sacramento State University Education Lesson Plans for K-12 Teachers.

The activities are varied, offering a variety of language experiences for all students.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Common Core Nonfiction--Hurricanes, Tornados and Tropical Storms

As you might have heard the emphasis of common core is nonfiction, that is the standards address the fact that students will be reading more nonfiction titles than fiction ones.

A popular and relevant nonfiction topic would be hurricanes and tornadoes--popular because the topic is one that generates a high interest level among students and relevant because of the increased activity of these storms in the United States. The conversation is bound to come up whether you are covering them in the curriculum or not. A lesson about these storms is a must.

The first consideration you will want to keep in mind is why these two types of storms are paired together. When students learn about hurricanes and tornadoes at the same time, they get the opportunity to compare and contrast these two types of tumultuous weather events that subtly contrast each other at the same time as having many characteristics in common.

From there, students will have the opportunity to write a compare/contrast essay, an essential skill they'll need when they graduate from high school, and that's what the Common Core are all about--preparing students for the future whether it be a career or college.

When students finish reading a selection about this topic, say, for instance, Tornados and Hurricanes (Cy Armour, 2011, Time for Kids) they can complete a double bubble thinking map (Venn diagram) as the first step of the writing process. Three more lessons can follow: writing an outline, writing the rough draft from an outline, revising and editing.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Free Common Core Standards App

Technology is now a part of the Common Core. An app has just been released that let's you search for standards by keywords you type into a search box.

The Common Core Standards app is free from the iTunes store- a must-have for teachers, students and parents.

The app also searches for standards in Spanish and other languages.