Resources

The resources on UThink are available for teachers participating in the UThink programs as well as individuals involved in the education of students. Resources may be used for personal or classroom use only. Permission for use does not apply to general distribution or for creating new works or for resale.

Comprehension Strategies


Comprehension strategies teach students the thinking processes that are crucial to learning. Research identifies four strategy components that are linked to improved thinking and learning: background knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension and application/extension. Although strategies in each component can be used separately, the combined use of strategies from each component is very powerful for students at all grade levels. Click on the links to access strategy explanations and fillable graphics for narrative and expository (informational) text.

Narrative Text
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Narrative Text

Research identifies four strategy components that are linked to improved thinking and learning: background knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension and application/extension. Although strategies in each component can be used separately, the combined use of strategies from each component is very powerful for students at all grade levels.

  1. Comprehension and Application Extension Strategies are leveled according to difficulty and the amount of instructional support provided through the strategy.
  2. Strategies recommended for home use are marked with an asterisk *
  3. Some strategies can be used with expository text. Many of the strategies have a writing component.

Background Knowledge

Vocabulary

Comprehension

LEVEL 1:

LEVEL 2:

LEVEL 3:

Application/Extension

LEVEL 1:

LEVEL 2:

LEVEL 3:

Expository Text
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Expository Text

Research identifies four strategy components that are linked to improved thinking and learning: background knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension and application/extension. Although strategies in each component can be used separately, the combined use of strategies from each component is very powerful for students at all grade levels.

  1. Comprehension and Application Extension Strategies are leveled according to difficulty and the amount of instructional support provided through the strategy.
  2. Strategies recommended for home use are marked with an asterisk *
  3. Some strategies can be used with expository text. Many of the strategies have a writing component.

Background Knowledge

Vocabulary

Comprehension

LEVEL 1:

LEVEL 2:

LEVEL 3:

Application/Extension

LEVEL 1:

LEVEL 2:

LEVEL 3:

Interactive Comprehension Lessons


Click on the links to access interactive lessons which help children develop their reading comprehension, writing and critical thinking abilities.

Toledo Zoo Interactive Comprehension Lessons
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Toledo Zoo Interactive Comprehension Lessons

To become advanced thinkers, students must use an array of strategies to interpret, evaluate, synthesize and apply information. Click on the link to access interactive lessons which help children develop their reading comprehension, writing, and critical thinking abilities. Each lesson provides a choice in strategy selection but we encourage children to do all four activities in each lesson. Each activity engages students in different types of thinking and language processing and is an essential component of the learning process. The assortment of strategies provides challenges for students of different ages and abilities. Each lesson also includes an alignment of the lessons to State and National Standards.Everyone enjoys a visit to the zoo. It is interesting and educational to observe the variety of animals in one location. The Toledo Zoo is one of the leading zoos in the country, and unexcelled for its size. The Toledo Zoo’s Education Department, in conjunction with Thinking Works, designer and implementer of strategies and programs to enhance children’s reading skills, has created several informative lessons and activities that educators and parents can use while at the Zoo, in classrooms, and at home. These materials are available for general use.

GENERAL LESSONS

AFRICAN SAVANNA

AMPHIBIANS

BIRDS

CATS

FISH

PLANTS

WOLVES

Harry Potter Interactive Comprehension Lessons
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Harry Potter Interactive Comprehension Lessons

Readers enjoy the Harry Potter series whether they read the literature independently or listen to the stories read by their parents, teachers or caregivers. For readers to make the most of their reading experiences, we suggest that you use the lessons that are contained in the links for each book in the series. The lessons, based on the Thinking Works framework, help develop children’s reading comprehension, writing, and critical thinking abilities.Alignment of Lessons to Common Core Standards

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS

Superstar Thinking - Summary
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Superstar Thinking – Summary

What do Charles Darwin, Francis Collins, YoYo Mah and Derek Jeter have in common? If your response has anything to do with all of them being famous, you’re on the right track. Darwin, Collins, Mah, and Jeter are famous for their expertise in their fields of biology, genetics, music, and sports. They are Superstars!Did you know that some researchers suggest that it could require 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a field….to become a superstar scholar, researcher, doctor, musician and athlete such as the superstars mentioned? While different skills are needed to achieve expertise in different fields, one skill that is necessary for all fields is knowledge of how to think as an expert. Experts need to engage in superstar thinking every day. They need to acquire knowledge about their content, and they need to be able to apply that knowledge in their daily performances.

Our culture recognizes and respects the importance of practice for achieving expertise in athletics or the arts, but does not seem to transfer that recognition and respect to academic achievement. It is generally believed that schools should take care of academic achievement, and that belief would be justified if time spent in school equated to producing expert scholars. However, the problem lies with the amount of time our children spend in schools: It’s just not enough to produce expert thinkers, the kind of expertise we want our children to possess.

So, if we, as parents and caregivers, want our children to become expert thinkers – and we cannot rely solely on the school to make that happen – what should we do? We don’t have to be tiger moms or dads to help our children attain that status, but we must assume some responsibility for achieving the goal by presenting them with opportunities to develop and practice the skills they need in order to become expert thinkers. The Superstar Thinking lessons provides you with these opportunities.

We want to welcome you to Superstar Thinking. Superstar Thinking consists of online learning resources for helping students develop and practice thinking and literacy skills. These lessons offer you research-based strategies that you can use to help your child develop thinking skills in all academic areas and at all grade levels. You can use these strategies to either enhance your child’s learning or provide intervention as needed. The strategies are self-sustaining, accessible and easy to use and are contained within a three-part lesson plan to help your child learn, practice, and use skills that are necessary in order to achieve competence and become an expert in that area.

Our goal is to show you how to use these strategies to help your child develop the expertise and academic skills to become excellent thinkers, learners, and performers in the classroom and beyond.

Eileen Carr, Ph.D.
Judythe Patberg, Ph.D.
UThink

Expand the sections below to access the Superstar Thinking strategies and resources.

Superstar Thinking - Writing
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Superstar Thinking – Writing

At some point in every child’s academic career, he is assigned the task of writing an essay. Depending on the age of your child, he may have already reached that point, or he may still be young enough to be engaged mostly in creative writing, descriptive paragraph writing, and journal writing – all of which provide valuable experience leading up to the writing of an essay. Regardless of the age of your child, he most likely could benefit from some help in learning how to write or from practice in writing. This lesson plan provides steps in the process of writing at every stage – from writing a paragraph to writing three paragraphs to writing an ·essay. You can either take your child through all of the stages, or you can focus on one particular stage where your child needs the most help.

Learn


The best way for your child to be successful in writing a paragraph is by using a strategy that provides a structure for writing. It’s called the About Point Writing Response. With this strategy, your child uses the process of identifying what he wants to write about (About) and determining the point (Point) he wants to make. In using this process, he is able to construct the main idea of his own writing in response to a text. (NOTE: While generally a student completes this strategy in response to something he’s read, your child can also use the strategy to write a paragraph about something that’s in his head). Before you begin, click on the link below to access the About Point Writing Response Planning Guide template. Make a copy of the template. Then, help your child complete the Planning Guide for a paragraph on a topic of his choice by following these steps. You can use the example on immigrants for each step as a kind of model response. (You should explain to your child that, since he doesn’t have a text to read, he will be using the information he already knows about his topic. If he knows nothing, or very little, you can discuss the topic with him before he writes.)

First, your child asks himself: What do I want to write about? (About). Have him write down his response on the Outline portion of the About Point Writing Response Planning Guide. Then, he asks himself: What point do I want to make? (Point) and writes down his response on the Planning Guide.

Example

  • About: Immigrants
  • Point: came to America from all over the world

He then writes down on the Planning Guide three details that support his About Point.

Next, he completes the Outline portion by writing a sentence for the closing of his summary paragraph (a paraphrase of the About Point).

Example

  • Details: They came in large numbers between 1900 and 1920.
  • Most immigrants came to America from Europe.
  • Immigrants brought with them their own culture and customs.

Next, he completes the Outline portion by writing a sentence for the closing of his summary paragraph (a paraphrase of the About Point).

Example

  • Closing: Immigrants, including my grandparents , came to America from all over the world.

Finally, he uses the Outline as a guide to write his paragraph on the Summary portion of the Guide.

Example

  • Immigrants came to America from all over the world. They came in large numbers between 1900 and 1920. Most of them came to America from Europe. They brought with them their own culture and customs. Immigrants, including my grandparents, came to America from all over the world.

Now, click on the second link below to see a completed Planning Guide and a one-paragraph summary on grizzly bears as another example.

Practice


When your child has learned how to write a single paragraph (which may require practice with the About Point Writing Response Planning Guide for different topics), she is ready to proceed to the next stage of writing: writing two or more paragraphs in response to a piece of text or an idea in her head. A strategy that lends itself easily to the task of writing three paragraphs is the Compare/Contrast Venn Diagram, which describes the similarities and differences of two characters, concepts or ideas. Your child will write a paragraph for each of the three sections of the Venn Diagram, using the About Point Writing Response Planning Guide.

Before you begin, click on the link below to access the Compare/Contrast Venn Diagram template. Make a copy of the template. Then, click on the second link to access a completed Compare/Contrast Venn Diagram on grizzly bears and polar bears, which you can use as a model for helping your child complete the strategy. Now you are ready to help your child complete the strategy and write three paragraphs by following these steps:

  • Ask your child if she can think of two characters in a story or two things that she would like to look at in terms of ways in which they are the same and different. If she can’t think of anything, you can ask her if she would like to compare and contrast grizzly bears and polar bears.
  • Tell your child to list characteristics of one of the characters or things being compared inside the first circle of the Venn Diagram. Then, she lists the characteristics of the other character or thing inside the second circle. Finally, she lists the properties that are common to both in the place where the circle intersectsYou can guide your child in doing this by asking questions about the elements being compared, e.g., “What do you know about grizzly bears?”
  • Together look at the example of the completed Venn Diagram on grizzly bears and polar bears.
  • Now, your child is ready to transfer the information on the Venn Diagram to the About Point Writing Response Planning Guide. Have him complete a Planning Guide for each of the sections on the Venn Diagram. For example, your child will complete the Outline and write a Summary for grizzly bears’ characteristics. That will be her first paragraph. The second paragraph will be about the characteristics of polar bears in the second circle. The third paragraph will be about how the two bears are the same. You can click on the link below to access examples of three completed About Point Writing Response Planning Guides for bears.
  • Your child has now written three cohesive, unified paragraphs – one for each of the three sections on the Venn Diagram, using the About Point Writing Response format.

Use


Your child is now ready to write an essay which consists of several paragraphs, including an introduction and a conclusion. In this part of the lesson plan, we present step-by-step procedures for planning the three parts of an essay: introduction, body, and conclusion. We will then show you a completed Planning Guide and an example of an essay, based on information about bears.

Before you begin, you will need to download the following documents:

Look at the Planning Guide for an Essay with your child. Say, “You’ll notice that an essay is similar to a summary. It has a beginning, which states the main idea of the reading. It has a middle, which provides key details from the reading. And it has an end, a conclusion. While you can do all this in one paragraph for summaries, for essays, we break each part into paragraphs. Now the introduction becomes its own paragraph. Each main supporting idea becomes its own paragraph. And the conclusion becomes its own paragraph. Let’s go over each part of an essay more closely.”

Steps For Writing The Introduction Of An Essay

  • Have your child look at the Planning Guide for an Essay: Introduction Template. Explain that the introduction to an essay has three purposes: 1) to get the attention of the reader; 2) to provide information that leads up to the thesis statement (the About Point for the whole essay); and 3) to state the thesis.
  • Have your child write down the About Point for his essay on the Planning Guide template by asking himself what his essay will be about and what point he wants to make. Later, he will be using the About Point to create his thesis statement. You can use the completed Planning Guide for an Essay: Introduction on bears that you downloaded as an example of a model response.
  • Encourage your student to think of an interesting way to begin his essay. He can ask a question, quote an expert, tell a brief story, or write an amazing fact about the topic. He should write down his attention- getter on his Planning Guide. You can show him how to do this with the Model Response.
  • Now have him write down on his Planning Guide a transition sentence that connects his attention- getter with his thesis statement (the About Point). This sentence should form a transition and lead up to the thesis statement. You can show him the transition sentence on the Model Response.
  • Finally, have your child write down his Thesis Statement on the Planning Guide. This is simply a repeat of the About Point. You can show him the thesis opening statement on the Model Response.
  • Your child should combine the attention-getter, the transition sentence and the thesis statement to write the introduction for his essay.

Steps For Writing The Body Of An Essay

  • Click on the link below to access the Planning Guide for an Essay: Body template. Make three copies of this template. Tell your child that the body of an essay consists of two or more paragraphs that provide information to support the thesis statement. Each paragraph will have three parts: 1) a topic sentence (About Point), 2) supporting details, and 3) a closing statement.
  • Help your child determine how many paragraphs will make up the body of his essay. The easiest way to determine the number of paragraphs in an essay is to assign paragraphs on the basis of categories of information included in the graphic organizer students complete in preparation for the writing, such as the Venn Diagram. Have your child select two or three categories for his essay and write a paragraph for each. You can click on the link below to access a completed Venn Diagram for an essay on bears and use this to model how you determine the number of paragraphs and the topic for each one.
  • Demonstrate how to write an About Point for the first paragraph of his essay. Then, show your child how to turn it into a topic sentence. Have him write both the About Point and the topic sentence for his essay on the Planning Guide.
  • Show your child how to come up with pieces of information about his topic to support his topic sentence. These are called supporting details. Have him write three or four sentences that contain supporting ideas on the Planning Guide.
  • Have your child write on his Planning Guide a closing statement that repeats the idea expressed in his topic sentence. The closing statement should use different words and should summarize the supporting details.
  • Instruct your child to repeat the last three steps for each paragraph in the body of his essay.
  • Click on the links below to access the completed Planning Guides for three paragraphs in the body of an essay on bears. You can use these paragraphs as an example for writing the body of an essay.

Steps For Writing The Conclusion Of An Essay

  • Have your child look at the Planning Guide for an Essay: Conclusion template. Explain that a conclusion for an essay should 1) refer to the thesis statement; 2) summarize the information; and 3) end the essay.
  • Instruct your child to write on his Planning Guide template a statement that repeats the idea in his thesis statement but uses different words. Model this step with the example for an essay on bears shown on the completed Planning Guide.
  • Have your child summarize the information by writing down a restatement of each of the topic sentences on the Planning Guide. Model this with the example on the completed Planning Guide.
  • Tell your child she needs to write on her Planning Guide an ending sent ence that refers to her attent ion-getter. Model this with the example on the completed Planning guide.
  • Click on the link to access a completed essay on Bears, using information from the Compare/Contrast Venn Diagram.

In this lesson plan, we have demonstrated the steps in helping your student write an essay with the use of a strategy called About Point Writing Response and a graphic aid called Compare/Contrast Venn Diagram. A number of strategies and graphic aids can be used to help students write summaries or essays, and the steps for writing are always the same. For example, the steps in writing an introduction, body and conclusion are basically the same for a descriptive essay as they are for a compare/contrast essay, such as the one you helped your child write.

Superstar Thinking - Vocabulary
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Superstar Thinking – Vocabulary

Think back to your school days when the teacher would begin the day on Monday by calling your attention to a list of words on the board. She would tell you to look the words up in the dictionary and write a sentence for each one. Then, on Friday you would be given a vocabulary test. If you were adept at memorizing definitions, and you were motivated by good grades, you did well on the test. Two weeks later, however, a delayed post-test would have provided evidence that you couldn’t remember the definitions. Furthermore, if memorization wasn’t your strength, you didn’t do well on Friday’s test and had almost no chance of retaining the meanings of the words.In both instances, the reason a student would have difficulty understanding and retaining the meanings of the words is because they were presented in isolation, without any context, and there was no mechanism for remembering the meanings. The student thinks, “But I had to use the words in a sentence. Shouldn’t that be an indication that I knew what they meant?” Not necessarily, since an acceptable sentence can be structurally correct and still provide no context that would lead the teacher to believe that the student understood the word’s meaning. An example is the following sentence: We waited for the itinerant man to begin his talk. What this sentence tells the teacher is the student knows the part of speech of “itinerant” but that is all. There is no context to indicate that he knows the meaning of the word. Contrast that sentence with the following: We couldn’t wait for the itinerant man to talk about his travels around the world. It’s clear that the student who wrote this sentence understands the meaning of “peripatetic” because of the context he provided for the word.

Some of the most interesting brain research shows that the brain engages in a “pruning” process when it considers incoming information. If there is nothing to which the new information can be linked (background knowledge) and there is no strategy for making a connection to previous information, the brain discards it. This discovery about the brain has implications for teaching vocabulary in isolation as opposed to providing context and a strategy for linking the new information to old information so that a student can remember the meanings.

If your child has problems comprehending what he reads, you will want to determine if a lack of vocabulary knowledge is the reason. Knowing the meanings of words is critical to comprehension; if students do not know key vocabulary in a text, they will have difficulty understanding new information. Readers improve their comprehension when they improve their vocabulary. Vocabulary improvement takes place when students learn to use strategies that help them to determine the meanings of words they don’t know by elaborating on definitions (providing more context for the word) and by relating the definitions to their personal experience (linking new information to background knowledge). As students learn to use these strategies, they become good readers and independent learners.

This lesson plan provides step-by-step instruction on how to successfully use three strategies for helping your student understand and retain new vocabulary: Personal Clues, Vocabulary Bank, and Vocabulary Overview Guide. Each strategy by itself is designed to improve vocabulary knowledge, and, in doing so, improve comprehension. The strategies also build on each other, creating a powerful vocabulary package.

Learn


The basis for the three strategies is Personal Clues, which is a vocabulary strategy that helps students understand and retain new vocabulary by linking word meanings to their own background knowledge. It is a powerful strategy because it helps students learn and remember new vocabulary words in the text they are reading, thereby increasing their comprehension of the material.

The student selects unfamiliar words from his reading that he has to know in order to comprehend the text. He defines each word, using the context given in the text. If the context isn’t helpful in terms of providing clues to the meaning of the word, he should use another source, e.g., the dictionary, and select a definition for the word that makes sense in the text.

Once the student understands a definition, he can then link the meaning to a personal experience or clue that helps him remember it. A student’s clue for extraordinary, for example, might be “Superman” or “Michael Jordon.” It is important that the student understands the nature of a personal clue: While the clue must be meaningfully linked to the definition, it is an individual choice, a word or phrase that would have meaning only for him. As he encounters difficult words in his reading, he will remember the meanings of the words and comprehension will not be interrupted.

Click on the following link to access a Personal Clues template. Then ask your child to select a piece of text that he has to read for a school assignment or would like to read for enjoyment. Before you begin working on the strategy, click on the second and third links to access a text, “Spiders,” and a completed Personal Clue strategy for that text. You can use the completed strategy as a model for helping your child complete the strategy on his own. Also, if your child can’t think of a piece of text to use for this activity, you can allow him to use the spider text.

Now, help your child use the Personal Clues strategy by following these steps.

  • Have your child skim the text and select an unfamiliar word that is important for him to know in order to comprehend the text. He should write the word on the first line (Word) on the Personal Clues template.
  • Show him how to determine the meaning of the word from the context. If there are clues to its meaning, ask him what the clues say about the word. After working with the text, if the child still doesn’t know the definition of the word, have him contact another source for help, e.g., the dictionary or Wikipedia, or you can provide the definition. Once he has the definition, he should insert it into the text to see if it makes sense. He should then write down the definition on the third line (Definition) on the Personal Clues template.
  • Tell your child to think of a word or a phrase that he associates with the vocabulary word and that will help him remember the word. (NOTE: Clues can be in the native language of nonnative learners or they can be drawings.) Have him write his personal clue on the second line (Clue) beneath the vocabulary word.
  • Have him repeat this procedure for all of the unfamiliar words he’s identified as being important for comprehending the text he is reading. When he has completed the Personal Clues strategy, give him the opportunity to study all of the words by covering the clue and the definition (lines two and three). If he cannot recall the definition by looking at the word, have him uncover the personal clue. Most of the time the clue will help him remember the meaning of the word. If he still cannot recall the meaning, have him uncover the definition.

If your child has trouble coming up with personal clues that will help him remember the words, model the process for him. Begin by saying, “If I want to think of something that will truly help me to remember the meaning of this vocabulary words, I ask myself what I immediately associate the word with, what first comes to mind when I hear the word…” You can use the personal clues for the spider text as an example for modeling the process.

Practice


When your child has accumulated many words and continues to learn new ones, you can help him make a Vocabulary Bank to “hold” his words . He will need a set of 3XS notecards and a box-like container to hold the cards. A recipe card holder works well, but any kind of box will do. Insert two dividers into the box of cards, one with the heading, “Words I am Learning,” and the other with the heading, “Words I Know.” Alternatively, words can be kept on a ring. After your child has worked with the meaning of a word using the Personal Clues strategy, he can use the following steps to study the word so that he will not forget it:
  • Write the word and the clue on the front of a card and the definition on the back of the card.
  • Place the card in the Words I am Learning” section of the box.
  • Study the vocabulary word by seeing if you can recite the definition for the word by looking at the word and the clue on the front of the card. If the definition eludes you, turn the card over to see the definition.
  • At the point that you can produce the definition for a word by looking at only the word itself (covering the clue) five times, you can transfer the notecard to the “Words I Know” section.
Your child will enjoy watching the “Words I Know” section increase in size. As this section of the box increases in size, so does your child’s vocabulary. Click on the link below to access an example of a Vocabulary Bank card.

Use


The Personal Clues strategy helps your child learn and retain the meanings of new words he encounters in text that he is reading. The Vocabulary Bank helps your child study the words and store them in a meaningful way. The next strategy, called the Vocabulary Overview Guide, helps your child form connections among words to increase his understanding and retention of vocabulary. It is based on the Personal Clues strategy, but it goes one step further in helping students categorize the words they are learning, thereby creating an understanding of the relationship among the words. A solid understanding of the relationship among words in a text results in vocabulary retention and comprehension.

Click on the link below to access a Vocabulary Overview Guide template. Then, using the piece of text that your child used for the Personal Clues strategy, help him complete the Vocabulary Overview Guide by following these steps. If the Vocabulary Overview Guide is his first vocabulary strategy in this lesson plan – and he has not completed the Personal Clues strategy – he should select a text that he has to read for school or one that he would like to read. A third option is to use a text called “Spiders” that you can access by clicking on the second link below. You can click on the third link to access a completed Vocabulary Overview Guide for “Spiders,” which you can use as a model for helping your child complete the strategy on his own. (NOTE: If your child has completed the Personal Clues strategy, you can skip the first part. If he has not completed Personal Clues, start with Step 1.)

DEFINING THE VOCABULARY WORDS

  1. Have your child look over the material he is reading and underline (or write down) vocabu lary words that are unfamiliar to him.
  2. He should try to figure out the meanings of the words by using the context of the sentences around the word. He can use the dictionary to either confirm the meaning derived through context or define the word if there is no revealing context. Or, you can provide the definition.
  3. Have him write the definitions for the words in the text or on paper so that they will be available when he reads the text. He should then read the text with the defined vocabulary to make sure that he comprehends.

COMPLETING THE VOCABULARY OVERVIEW GUIDE

  1. Help your child complete the Vocabulary Overview Guide by writing down the title of the text he is using (Title).
  2. He should then write down the categories he needs by asking himself the topics the vocabulary described or discussed (Category).
  3. Have him write down the word (Word) and the definition underneath the vocabulary word (Definition).
  4. Finally, he should write down a clue (Personal Clue) that will help him connect the meaning to something he knows or has experienced.
  5. Have him repeat steps six and seven for each of the words he underlined or wrote while surveying the text.
  6. You can help him study the words by covering the clue and definition for each word and asking him what the word means. If he can’t remember, uncover the personal clue. Most of the time, the clue will trigger the meaning of the word. If that doesn’t work, allow him to uncover the definition.
Superstar Thinking - Study Skills
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Superstar Thinking – Study Skills

“I don’t know why I didn’t do well on this test. I studied hard for it, but I must have studied the wrong things.”Have you heard your child say this? If you haven’t yet, chances are that you will someday. While your child’s teacher may spend some class time teaching study skills, it most likely is not enough to help many students acquire, organize, synthesize, remember and use information. All of these are skills that your child may not have developed yet but needs in order to do well on academic tasks, including taking a test, and in order to succeed in school and life. Research unequivocally shows that study skills are related to academic performance. Equally as strong is the research evidence indicating that these skills can be learned. It may be hard to identify which specific strategies are the best in terms of optimizing students’ learning and maximizing their retention of the material. However, we know that whatever strategies your child uses, they must be designed to help him cut large amounts of material down to a manageable size in order for him to understand and remember the main ideas in all of his subject matter material, as well as integrate information into an understandable whole. If he learns strategies that will help him understand, integrate and remember information, he will do well with academic tasks in all of his subjects, including his performance on tests

This lesson plan provides step-by-step instruction on how to successfully use three strategies that have been proven to help students understand, integrate and retain the main ideas in material they’re reading. In addition, the strategies prepare students for taking tests.

Learn


Step one in the process of teaching students study skills involves a strategy for helping them select important information for constructing a main idea and then summarizing the main ideas of text. With the About Point strategy, students examine each paragraph and identify the topic or the “About.” They then decide what “Point” the author is making in the paragraph. Combining the “About” and the “Point” is a simple way for students to identify the main idea in a section or a paragraph of text. They can then turn their “About Point” for each paragraph into a statement that can be the basis for a summary.

Click on the following link to access an About Point template. Then ask your child to select a piece of non-fiction text that he has to read for a school assignment or would like to read for enjoyment. Before you begin working on the strategy, click on the second and third links to access a text, “The Deadly Cobra,” and a completed About Point template for that text. You can use the completed strategy as a model for helping your child complete the strategy on his own. Also, if your child can’t think of a piece of text to use for this activity, you can allow him to use the cobra text.

Now, help him examine each paragraph in his own text, or “The Deadly Cobra” text, and write down on the template the “About” and the “Point” and a statement that can be made from each “About Point.”

Practice


Step Two in the process of teaching students study skills involves a strategy called About Point Notetaking, which is an extension of About Point and is used to help students study. The strategy provides students with a simple structure for taking notes on a piece of text by identifying the main ideas in each section of the text and then selecting the important supporting details. When students finish taking notes on the assignment, they can use the structure or template for studying by folding over the right side of the pager and covering everything except the Abouts (topics). They test themselves by seeing if they can remember the Point and the details for each About.

Click on the link below to access the About Point Notetaking template. In order to practice this strategy, your child can either use the text that she chose for the previous step (About Point), or she can select another text. A third option is to use “The Deadly Cobra” text which you can access by clicking on the second link. In any case, you will help your child take notes on the reading assignment by writing down the About, the Point, and supporting details for each paragraph or section. You can click on the third link to access a completed About Point Notetaking template for “The Deadly Cobra.” As was the case with the previous step, you can use the completed template to model the use of the strategy for your child.

When your child has completed the About Point Notetaking strategy for a text, help her to use the structure for studying. Cover everything except the About for each section and see if your child can tell you the Point and the details. If she is having difficulty doing that, uncover the Point for each section and test her on the details.

Use


Step Three in the process of teaching students study skills involves the use of a strategy that provides a “big picture” of the concepts or ideas being studied and their relationships to one another. The Structured Overview (SO) is a pictorial/visual representation that presents a hierarchical outline of the information being studied with the most inclusive, or superordinate, concepts subsuming subordinate ones. Relationships among concepts are shown by connecting lines.

If a student can construct a Structured Overview for the material that he is studying, it means that he has processed the information deeply so that he can see the connections and synthesize the information, thereby allowing for full comprehension of the text. After constructing the overview, he can use it for review.

You will help your child construct a Structured Overview for the text that he used in applying the About Point Notetaking strategy. But, before your child constructs his own SO, click on the link below to access a Structured Overview for the text, “The Deadly Cobra.” Look at this example together and go over the process of constructing a visual representation for material. The cobra SO shows the three ways in which cobras are deadly. The type of animal under study – Cobras – is listed at the top (superordinate concept) with the ways in which it is deadly – venom, mobility, and prey – branching out beneath it (subordinate concepts). Finally, examples are listed underneath each form of deadliness.

Through a discussion of this process, your child will come to see that a visual representation of material, such as this SO, will help him to understand and remember why the cobra is considered to be deadly.

After you and your child have examined the cobra Structured Overview and discussed the process of constructing a SO, your child is ready to practice making a Structured Overview for his own text that she can then use to review and study for a test.

Superstar Thinking - Word Recognition for Grades 1 and 2
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Superstar Thinking – Word Recognition for Grades 1 and 2

LegendIt is important for early readers to know letter/sound associations within words and know how to manipulate them to recognize new words. With a phonics activity such as Make a Word (Cunningham, 1991), children use known letter/sound associations to build a variety of new words by manipulating letters. By doing sorting activities with these words, children learn to recognize frequently used letter/sound patterns in our language. Children can write the words that they build thereby strengthening the connections between letters and sounds. Consonant blends and digraphs and variant vowel patterns are introduced over time.There are four categories of activities to help your child learn advanced letter/sound associations:

  • Phonics activities that encourage children to isolate sounds and link letters and sounds together (Isolate), practice letter/sound associations (Practice); and sounding out words as they spell them ( Write).
  • Reading in context activities that encourage children to read words in simple, decodable books.
  • Sight word activities that help children learn words that occur frequently in print so they can recognize them instantly.
  • Fluency activities that encourage children to read words in text immediately and smoothly.

The activities included help children deepen their understanding and their ability to recognize the targeted spelling patterns that they are learning. You will want to teach (in the listed sequence) six strategies daily, one from each section described.

Note: Primary strategies should be completed with children daily. Alternative strategies can be substituted occasionally for Primary strategies for a change of pace.

Phonics

ISOLATE

PRACTICE

WRITE

Reading Words In Context

Sight Words

Fluency

Superstar Thinking - Word Recognition for Grades 3 and Above
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Superstar Thinking – Word Recognition for Grades 3 and Above

For students in grades 3 and above, especially those who need support with word recognition, an alternative approach should be used. Instead of focusing on individual letter/sound associations, the focus of instruction should be on helping students recognize chunks of words. There are several benefits to this approach, including:

  • Readers look for chunks of words whose sounds remain fairly secure.
  • Readers learn to segment words by recognizing common spelling patterns.
  • Identification of multisyllabic words becomes easier as readers recognize various spelling patterns within words.
  • A major instructional strategy at this level is Glass Analysis (Glass,1971). This strategy provides a list of phonograms, or spelling patterns, that students use when decoding words.
  • There are four categories of activities to help your child learn advanced letter/sound associations:
  • Phonics activities that encourage children to isolate sounds and link letters and sounds together (Isolate), practice letter/sound associations (Practice); and sounding out words as they spell them (Write).
  • Reading in context activities that encourage children to read words in simple, decodable books.
  • Sight word activities that help children learn words that occur frequently in print so they can recognize them instantly.
  • Fluency activities that encourage children to read words in text immediately and smoothly.
  • The activities included help children deepen their understanding and their ability to recognize the targeted spelling patterns that they are learning. You will want to teach (in the listed sequence) six strategies daily, one from each section described.

Note: All Primary Strategies should be completed with children daily and in sequence. The strategies build upon and reinforce each other. Alternative strategies can be substituted occasionally for Primary Strategies for a change of pace.

Phonics

ISOLATE

PRACTICE

WRITE

Reading Words In Context

Sight Words

Fluency

Word Recognition and Fluency Strategies


Word recognition and fluency are essential to understanding and using information flexibly. Click on the buttons to access strategy explanations at four age and grade levels, readings about word recognition and fluency development and informal assessments.

STRATEGY EXPLANATIONS AND MATERIALS BY GRADE LEVEL

Pre-Kindergarten
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Strategy Explanations and Materials by Grade Level: Pre-Kindergarten

LegendDuring this developmental period, children should also participate in activities to develop phoneme awareness which is the ability to think about the possible sounds in words. Phoneme Awareness is essential to learning to read and write because the ability to identify sounds and their sequence in spoken words leads to the skills necessary to decode words.Use the strategies provided below to help your child develop an understanding of the functions and conventions of print and phoneme awareness.

Functions And Conventions Of Print Activities

Note: Primary strategies should be completed with children daily. Alternative strategies can be substituted occasionally for Primary strategies for a change of pace.

FUNCTIONS OF PRINT

CONVENTIONS OF PRINT – PRINT TO SPEECH DIRECTIONALITY

CONVENTIONS OF PRINT – CONCEPT OF A WORD

Phonemic Awareness Activities

Note: Primary strategies should be completed with children daily. Alternative strategies can be substituted occasionally for Primary strategies for a change of pace.

RHYMING

SOUND MATCHING

SOUND ISOLATION

SEGMENTATION

BLENDING

SOUND MANIPULATION

Kindergarten
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Strategy Explanations and Materials by Grade Level: Kindergarten

LegendBy kindergarten, children should be learning individual letter/sound associations so that they will be prepared to do more advanced phonics and word study essential to reading.

There are four categories of activities to help your child learn letter/sound associations:

  • Phonics activities that encourage children to isolate sounds and link letters and sounds together (Isolate), practice letter/sound associations (Practice); and sound out words using temporary spelling with sounds they know (Write).
  • Reading in context activities that encourage children to look for words in books and their environment that include the letter/ sound associations that they are learning;
  • Sight word activities that help children learn some words that occur frequently in print so they can recognize them instantly;
  • Fluency activities that encourage children to read words in a simple text immediately and smoothly.

The activities included reflect the components necessary for learning letter/sound association. You will want to teach (in the listed sequence) six strategies daily, one from each section described.

Note: All Primary Strategies should be completed with children daily and in sequence. The strategies build upon and reinforce each other. Alternative strategies can be substituted occasionally for Primary Strategies for a change of pace.

Phonics

ISOLATE

PRACTICE

WRITE

Reading Words In Context

Sight Words

Fluency

1st and 2nd Grade
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Strategy Explanations and Materials by Grade Level: 1st and 2nd Grade

LegendIt is important for early readers to know letter/sound associations within words and know how to manipulate them to recognize new words. With a phonics activity such as Make a Word (Cunningham, 1991), children use known letter/sound associations to build a variety of new words by manipulating letters. By doing sorting activities with these words, children learn to recognize frequently used letter/sound patterns in our language. Children can write the words that they build thereby strengthening the connections between letters and sounds. Consonant blends and digraphs and variant vowel patterns are introduced over time.

There are four categories of activities to help your child learn advanced letter/sound associations:

  • Phonics activities that encourage children to isolate sounds and link letters and sounds together (Isolate), practice letter/sound associations (Practice); and sounding out words as they spell them ( Write).
  • Reading in context activities that encourage children to read words in simple, decodable books.
  • Sight word activities that help children learn words that occur frequently in print so they can recognize them instantly.
  • Fluency activities that encourage children to read words in text immediately and smoothly.

The activities included help children deepen their understanding and their ability to recognize the targeted spelling patterns that they are learning. You will want to teach (in the listed sequence) six strategies daily, one from each section described.

Note: Primary strategies should be completed with children daily. Alternative strategies can be substituted occasionally for Primary strategies for a change of pace.

Phonics

ISOLATE

PRACTICE

WRITE

Reading Words In Context

Sight Words

Fluency

3rd Grade and Above
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Strategy Explanations and Materials by Grade Level: 3rd Grade and Above

LegendFor students in grades 3 and above, especially those who need support with word recognition, an alternative approach should be used. Instead of focusing on individual letter/sound associations, the focus of instruction should be on helping students recognize chunks of words. There are several benefits to this approach, including:

  • Readers look for chunks of words whose sounds remain fairly secure.
  • Readers learn to segment words by recognizing common spelling patterns.
  • Identification of multisyllabic words becomes easier as readers recognize various spelling patterns within words.
  • A major instructional strategy at this level is Glass Analysis (Glass,1971). This strategy provides a list of phonograms, or spelling patterns, that students use when decoding words.
  • There are four categories of activities to help your child learn advanced letter/sound associations:
  • Phonics activities that encourage children to isolate sounds and link letters and sounds together (Isolate), practice letter/sound associations (Practice); and sounding out words as they spell them (Write).
  • Reading in context activities that encourage children to read words in simple, decodable books.
  • Sight word activities that help children learn words that occur frequently in print so they can recognize them instantly.
  • Fluency activities that encourage children to read words in text immediately and smoothly.
  • The activities included help children deepen their understanding and their ability to recognize the targeted spelling patterns that they are learning. You will want to teach (in the listed sequence) six strategies daily, one from each section described.

Note: All Primary Strategies should be completed with children daily and in sequence. The strategies build upon and reinforce each other. Alternative strategies can be substituted occasionally for Primary Strategies for a change of pace.

Phonics

ISOLATE

PRACTICE

WRITE

Reading Words In Context

Sight Words

Fluency

OTHER MATERIALS

Word Lists and Stories - Summary
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Word Lists and Stories – Summary

There are three effective strategies that will help your student or child become proficient in decoding “targeted” spelling patterns and reading fluently: Glass Analysis, Word Master, and Structured Language Experience Stories. Glass Analysis word lists provide a series of words containing a specific spelling pattern for a child to decode (details). Word Master lists contain more challenging words with the same spelling pattern and provide children with additional opportunities for practice (details). Structured Language Experience Stories are brief stories containing specific spelling patterns and sight words that children are learning (details).By selecting a vowel or the consonants option, you generate Glass Analysis word lists, Word Master lists, and Structured Language Experience Stories for spelling patterns beginning with the specified vowel or with a consonant. Note that most patterns have two options. Option 1 is less difficult than Option 2. You select one or the other (or both) according to the needs of your child.

Word Lists and Stories - Sound Combinations Beginning with U
Word Lists and Stories - Sound Combinations Beginning with Consonants
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Word Lists and Stories – Sound Combinations Beginning with Consonants

Glass Analysis Word Lists

Word Master List

Structured Language Experience Stories

Intervention/Tutoring Lessons


Click on the buttons below to access tutoring strategies and materials for classroom and in-home use. Presentations can be found in English, Spanish and Arabic.

FOR GRADES 1 & 2

Lessons and Videos
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Intervention/Tutoring Lessons: Grades 1 and 2 – Lessons and Videos

Note: All strategies should be completed with children daily and in sequence. The strategies build upon and reinforce each other. Strategy explanations and materials are provided below. Video demonstrations of the strategies are available in English. Additionally, Power Point strategy explanations and oral descriptions of the lesson strategies are available in English, Spanish, and Arabic for parent use and tutoring.

Phonics

MAKE A WORD

WORD SORT

PICK-UP

WRITING FOR SOUNDS

Reading Words In Context

STRUCTURED LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE STORY

AUTOGRAPH READING

Sight Words

WORD BANKS

Fluency

TALKING DICTIONARY

Comprehension

PLOT RELATIONSHIP CHART

Vocabulary

PERSONAL CLUES

FOR GRADES 3 & UP

Lessons and Videos
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Intervention/Tutoring Lessons: Grades 3 and Up – Lessons and Videos

All strategies should be completed with children daily and in sequence. The strategies build upon and reinforce each other. Strategy explanations and materials are provided. Video demonstrations of the strategies are available in English. Additionally, Power Point strategy explanations and oral descriptions of the lesson strategies are available in English, Spanish, and Arabic for parent use and tutoring.

Phonics

GLASS ANALYSIS

WORD MASTER

WRITING FOR SOUNDS

Reading Words In Context

STRUCTURED LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE STORY

AUTOGRAPH READING

Sight Words

WORD BANKS

Fluency

TALKING DICTIONARY

Comprehension

ABOUT POINT NOTETAKING

Vocabulary

PERSONAL CLUES