ELA Success: Patience is key!

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Most of my blog content comes from questions I’ve answered at one time or another from teachers and administrators who use Shurley English.  I often hear the urgency in their voices, and they seem to be looking for a quick fix to the problems their students are experiencing. Sure, we all want quick results, but usually by the time you manage to find just the right curriculum or just the right supplement to your teaching, the students have moved on.  Then, you get a new batch of students with similar but unique struggles, and you’re back at it again, trying to find what works and what works fast.

Even though we, as a society, rely on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  Honestly, we all know there are NO quick fixes that produce the quality results we’re seeking, not in life or in curriculum.

In a previous blog, I broached the topic of having patience and of trusting the process. This is true of any quality curriculum, but especially so with Shurley English. You have to tap into your reservoir of patience—patience with yourself, patience with students, and patience with the curriculum.  Academic growth will manifest quickly in your students’ grammar and writing, but only after you have invested the upfront time needed to lock in the foundational patterns and strategies.

Note to Kindergarten – 3rd Grade Teachers:  Patience may be harder to come by for the lower level teacher of Shurley English because classroom management issues often chew up instructional time.  So, be patient out there, all you Kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers! Remember, you are the heroes who lay the grammar and writing foundations on which the later teachers can build upon.

Yes, Shurley English sometimes requires you to teach concepts that you may not have had to handle until a much later grade in your own schooling.  Just because you didn’t have the opportunity to learn in such a dynamic way personally, you need to know that you are exposing your young learners to concepts they will master in time, not necessarily with you.  You may not get to see the beautifully written masterpiece that the upper grade level teachers will see, but the foundational concepts you teach are vital.  

Note to 4th – 8th Grade Teachers: Middle elementary teachers, dig deeper into your reservoir of patience. Your kiddos are still trying to figure out this organized writing thing, and you are helping them to understand the connection between grammar and writing. Middle school teachers-have patience when trying to fill in the gaps, and smile when you’re the one that gets to submit their 5-Paragraph Essay to the writing contest! 

Society often relies on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, but the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  It’s all about patience! Shurley English sets you and your students up for success, but you must be patient.  If you want quality-you’re in the right textbook!  If you want a confident, competent writer-be more patient. Remember…

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

-David G. Allen

Help Your Students Improve Their Revision Skills

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How many times have you asked your students to revise their work, only to have all of the papers returned to the hand-in basket within a few minutes with little to no changes at all?  The problem is that many students lack the necessary grammar skills required to revise. 

Simply writing a comment on a student’s paper to suggest a revision isn’t enough.  These comments are usually unclear and unhelpful to them—i.e. ‘too vague, too wordy, repetitive, etc.’ Students need more support and instruction than this; they need someone to show them how to make these types of revisions if they are to learn how to revise their content and achieve optimum results.

Students need a well-rounded grammar foundation to write with competence, and that foundation should include learning very specific revision skills.  It doesn’t have to be a painstaking task, but it is a process that must be taught.

First, students must understand that revising means to find ways to improve word choices and sentences in their rough draft.  They must also understand that revising requires them to read their rough draft critically several times to make sure they’ve said what they intended to say in the way they intended to say it.  They must read it aloud to themselves, and it helps to read it aloud to others to help find the “rough spots” that could use improvement.

A checklist to revise and improve the rough draft can be extremely beneficial.  The following example will help students focus their attention on five of the traits of effective writing, including:  (1.) ideas, (2.) organization, (3.) word choice, (4.) voice, and (5.) sentence fluency.  Try it out in your classroom today to help your students improve their revision skills!

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The Playbook of Literary Success: Grammar

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Let’s get back into the language arts huddle to go over some key plays that will help your students win-the-game!  If you missed Part I of the Playbook of Literacy Success, you might want to go back to the starting line to capture the necessity of a strong vocabulary.  As for today, we’re going to focus on Part II: Grammar.  We’ll begin with some calisthenics we call Shurley English Jingles, and then we’ll move right into our version of the wishbone formation! We call this feature the Question and Answer Flow

Remember, English is like a competitive sport, and every K-8 teacher is part of the coaching staff charged with developing players’ language arts knowledge and skills.  The playbook contains plays designed to help each team member achieve literacy success, which is the ultimate goal of the game, and the action plan involves the following equation:

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When it comes to teaching grammar, Shurley English uniquely teaches and reinforces the eight parts of speech and other important language arts concepts, using Jingles.  For clarification purposes, Jingles contain the important pieces of information of each definition, stated in a catchy, rhythmic way.  Each time a Jingle is recited, the brain goes through the motions of reigniting the learning path that was formed previously.  The more the brain repeats information via the learning path, the more likely that information will be retained in the long-term memory.  

Note:  Jingles are like calisthenics for the brain, and Jingle practice has been distributed appropriately throughout the Teacher’s Manual. And of course, as a reflective practitioner who must hold both your students and yourself accountable for the knowledge gained, the daily rehearsal of the jingles becomes an out-loud-and-in-your-face measurable way to determine how well students are retaining the new knowledge.

 

Shurley English Jingles

  • incorporate rhythm, rhyme, and movement.

  • provide domain-specific language.

  • allow for critical reading during sentence analysis.

Checklist for Shurley English Jingles:

  • Teacher models jingles or uses the Interactive I feature of the digital materials.

  • Students recite the jingles in unison at a brisk pace.

  • Students enjoy Jingle Time.

As grammar instruction continues, Shurley English teaches students how the eight parts of speech are organized to form sentences correctly, using a process called the Question and Answer Flow.  The Q & A Flow teaches students how to analyze the role of each word in a sentence. Learning to identify and label the parts of a sentence leads to understanding sentence structure, and as students' understanding of sentence structure grows, they learn to apply this knowledge to write better sentences, paragraphs, and essays.  Think about it this way: Just as a coach choreographs the plays he or she wants the team to master, so, too, grammar is the choreographer of our language.  Therefore, it is essential for students to have a firm foundation of knowledge about the parts of speech and the role they play in written language. The Q & A Flow makes the practice of the parts of speech logical and systematic.

Shurley English Q&A Flows

  • include brain-compatible strategies.

  • make English grammar logical and systematic.

  • serve as a formative assessment.

As you reflect upon your teaching of these important skills, consider the following Checklist for Grammar Instruction and the Question and Answer Flow. Ask yourself, have I…

  • conducted the grammar lesson as directed in the manual?

  • involved students in the oral questioning process?

  • related the new skill to a previously taught skill?

  • taught the students to read the sentences to be classified fluently and in unison?

  • encouraged a steady and natural pace as sentences are read aloud?

  • pointed to words and sentences for younger students as sentences are read?

  • taught students to use the same sequence/order of the Questions and Answers in the Q &A Flow, according to the manual?

  • conducted the Q & A Flow at an appropriate rate and volume?

  • waited until each answer is recited before labeling?

  • monitored constantly the students’ engagement and participation?

  • kept the students involved and on task?

 

By keeping yourself mindful of not only the quality of the content you teach, but also the technique and delivery of the content, you will add yet another game-saving skill to your students’ overall literacy achievement.  In upcoming posts, you will learn even more “plays” you can add to your literacy “playbook.” Don’t miss it!