Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why is Shakespeare Important to Geek Culture? That is the Question | Kiri Callaghan

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Why is Shakespeare still relevant? Here's a fun video to share with your classes that shows how pop culture has been influenced by the Bard.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How important is it to teach students to read informational texts?

We all know there are still questions and some confusion about teaching students to read informational texts. The true, clear definition of "informational text" isn't ultimately defined, and teachers still have questions about what the goals of this shift and how to make changes in their classroom . This article from Educational Leadership ultimately comes to the conclusion that regardless of whether you are teaching informational texts or classic literature, the ultimate goal is getting the students to read both and find a balance to better educate students for college.

"But there has been one kind of criticism leveled against the new mandates—and it targets informational text. The new standards have asked for big increases in rigor and the level of instruction in reading, added prominence to a literary canon, proposed a shift from an emphasis on personal writing to one on academic writing, expanded literacy teaching into the disciplines of history and science, promoted deeper analysis of the ideas and arguments in texts, and placed a new emphasis on inquiry and 21st century research tools (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices [NGA] & Council of Chief State Schools Officers [CCSSO], 2010). Despite all those momentous changes, the major grumbles have been aimed at the fact that the standards encourage more reading of informational text at school."

In trying to encourage this shift, the CCSS committees have suggested that you pay attention to quantitative measures of complexity like Lexile® Measures and Flesch-Kincaid and qualitative measures that are difficult to define, and balance those with tasks considerations that emphasize rigor and require students to include textual justification for their analysis. To help you manage this shift, Prestwick House has developed Reading Informational Texts for grades 7-12 with a close eye on the guidelines and requirements of the Common Core State Standards.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Going Beyond Conventional Teacher Wisdom for High School Writing Programs

Getting your students back on solid ground with the writing skills needed to succeed in college and career can, at times, take some creative, out-of-the box thinking. In a recent article on The Atlantic website by John Maguire, a writer and editor who authored the Newsweek College Writing Guide and who also teaches college writing courses in the Boston area, addresses this and other issues regarding college career readiness.
"As a college writing instructor, I have seen many students show up in a freshman comp class believing they can't write, and their opinion is valid. They don't realize that it's because they lack certain skills that were common among college freshmen 40 years ago." – John Maguire

"In her article "The Writing Revolution," Peg Tyre shows the teachers at New Dorp High School beginning to ask the question too few writing teachers ask: What skills do these students lack? She quotes Nell Scharff, an instructional expert brought in by the school, as saying, "How did the kids in our target group go wrong? What skills were missing?"

You can read the full article here:

If your students are lost and confused by a piecemeal approach to writing while you and your colleagues struggle to retrofit an unworkable program to meet the new expectations of the common core. Consider our own College and Career Readiness: Writing – a comprehensive 9-12th grade writing program that provides students with consistent expectations from teacher to teacher and year to year and gives teachers a clear, methodical program that fits into their curriculums.

Take a look at some sample pages here and request your free sample today. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Inspiring Teachers: Sarah Brown Wessling

Sarah Brown Wessling was selected as National Teacher of the Year in 2010 because of her ability to breathe life into literature and keep students at the center of the classroom. I recently came across this great interview with her on Education World.

"I work alongside them to explore the essential questions that guide our thematic units. I cant wait to introduce them to characters in literature and rediscover those literary figures through their experiences. I model what it means to construct your own meaning, and then support them as they learn to take intellectual risks. In short, I am transparent about my passion and invite them to join the club...

We need to not only construct learner-centered classrooms where disciplines collapse, where ideas flourish, where learning becomes relevant to students; we also need to be prepared to re-envision what a learner-centered classroom can look like in the 21st century. We must create the kinds of worthy learning experiences that drive students to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and innovators. We must create environments where the consumers of our curriculums become the designers of their own learning."

Click here to read more.

What activities do you do in your literature classes to bring the text to life?

Prestwick House Activity Packs are loaded with our favorite activities personalized for each book. Talking it over with our editors, our favorites are creating found poems, working in small groups to compare multiple authors' styles, creating a fictional newspaper, and creating scenes in comic strip format.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Literature and the Common Core

The Common Core standards’ emphasis on informational text has left many ELA instructors concerned that they will have to eliminate many fiction classics from their curriculums. A recent article in the Huffington Post  illustrates the confusion and concern many English teachers have expressed. As lovers of literature, you want to ensure that your students are exposed to a broad range of great literature, but you're ultimately bound to the standards imposed by your districts. Despite assurances that other subject area teachers will be responsible for incorporating informational text to allow English teachers more time for literature, many English teachers feel the responsibility for meeting reading standards will ultimately fall on them.

Reading Literature, a new series from Prestwick House, was created to help teachers simplify the transition to Common Core. By providing a dozen poems and short stories along with questions that address specific Common Core standards, Prestwick House is helping English teachers continue offering a range of great literature in the time they have allotted. In the time it would take to read a single novel, students can be exposed to the works of a dozen authors. The pointed questions, which reference the particular standard being addressed, assist busy teachers with lesson planning during this confusing period.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What is effective vocabulary instruction?

There are so many different vocabulary instruction strategies out there, it’s hard to find the perfect one for your students. This article from Joan Sedita discusses the research as to what methods are the most effective.

“In its analysis of the research on vocabulary instruction, the National Reading Panel (2000) found that there is no one best method for vocabulary instruction, and that vocabulary should be taught both directly and indirectly. Direct instruction means teaching specific words… It is estimated that students can be taught explicitly some 400 words per year in school (Beck, McKeown, and Kucan, 202) Another example of direct instruction involves the analysis of word roots and affixes (suffixes and prefixes)….

‘The studies reviewed suggest that vocabulary instruction does lead to gains in comprehension, but that the methods must be appropriate to the age of the reader…’

Root-based vocabulary instruction has been the domain of middle and high schools for a long time, but it’s been hard to find appropriate instruction for grades 4-6. Growing Your Vocabulary: Learning from Latin and Greek Roots makes it not only possible, but fun. Find out more at

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Open your students' minds to the wonders of literary nonfiction

The English Language Arts game has changed with the new CCSS’s and left many struggling with what texts to use and how to teach them. While the standards set grade-specific goals, they’re not exactly clear about how they should be taught or which materials should be used. This video from the Hun Institute discusses what literary nonfiction is and how the CCSS expect you to address nonfiction.

If you're looking for a  single comprehensive book that makes teaching informational texts easy, Reading Informational Texts is your one-stop source for teaching literary nonfiction.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Leading by example- a method of teaching Writing for the Common Core State Standards

Almost seven years ago, the NCTE published a guideline for writing that still rings true today in the world of Common Core. The  NCTE's Beliefs About The Teaching of Writing, is inspiring and interesting reading that should guide all writing teachers as they work to make a cohesive writing program.

“Students should become comfortable with pre-writing techniques, multiple strategies for developing and organizing a message, a variety of strategies for revising and editing, and strategies for preparing products for public audiences and for deadlines. In explaining assignments, teachers should provide guidance and options for ways of going about it. Sometimes, evaluating the processes students follow -- the decisions they make, the attempts along the way -- can be as important as evaluating the final product.”

If you're looking for a writing program that provides students with well-defined expectations as they move from year to year, gives teachers a clear, methodical course that will integrate seamlessly into their curriculums, and takes the mystery out of the Common Core's expectations without losing the true focus why writing is so important, check ouCollege and Career Readiness: Writing Sample Paget College and Career Readiness: Writing. 
Take a look at some sample pages here and request your free sample today.

Image courtesy of [stockimages] /

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Challenges of Lesson Planning

Adding a new book to your curriculum can be an exciting but daunting task. I found a recent survey that asked teachers to list their biggest challenges when creating lesson plans. It’s no surprise that over half of the teachers surveyed said the most significant obstacle is time.

“Overwhelmingly, teachers said they do not have enough time during the day to prepare for lessons and often work in the evening and on weekends to get ready. As one teacher put it, ‘With more demands from state and district assessments and increased testing (hence grading), there never seems to be enough time to focus on planning and preparation.’ "

Although time is a huge factor, teachers listed several other considerable challenges to lesson planning. Check out the full survey at

Then, check out our CompleteTeacher's Kits for the most comprehensive collections of ready-to-use teaching resources available anywhere. They will help you overcome the many challenges of lesson planning, and most importantly, they will give you the time to do the things you love about being a teacher.