Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What are Teacher Reviewers Saying About Vocabulary Power Plus for the ACT?

Recently, we received feedback on Vocabulary Power Plus for the ACT from teachers on the Prestwick House National Curriculum Advisory Board.

Prepare your students for peak performance on the ACT exam with Vocabulary Power Plus for the ACT — our newest program that uses all of the proven techniques that have made Vocabulary Power Plus for the New SAT our best-selling program since 2004, with over 740,000 copies sold!

Try this easy-to-use program risk free and find out easy it is to provide critical vocabulary practice to ensure that your students will do well on the exam.

The words are defined, organized, used in context with multiple practices, and even gives the opportunity to practice new roots and prefixes. I also find the practice English sentences to be incredibly useful.

All students, whether taking the ACT or not, need to improve vocabulary skills. They also need to be able to read for errors. Learning root words and prefixes is an easy and organized way of improving vocabulary skills as well. This product does meet a demand!

Leticia C. Geldart

"The product gives excellent practice in the skills need for the college exam, including English grammar and writing."

- Karen Dennis

"There is an increased emphasis on vocabulary in state and national standards. This guide will not only prepare students for the ACT, but will also increase their comprehension in all disciplines."

- Sara Zeek

"Standardized testing is common today, and vocabulary is an integral element, necessary for success on these tests. Students need introduction to words that are more advanced than the language they use when communicating with their friends. Packaging everything necessary for a complete word study in one volume is an efficient method for improving word recognition, understanding, and retention."
"A well-educated student must have an extensive vocabulary that is often not well-developed without formal vocabulary study. The ability to read and comprehend what is read is important both to success in the classroom and success in life.The variety of exercises included ensure that students do not simply memorize a word for a test and then forget it. They get a sense of when and how to use the word which makes it more likely that they will remember and use newly acquired vocabulary."
"I am impressed with the variety of exercises for each lesson and the use of review lessons to aid retention. These review lessons introduce additional exercises such as crosswords. While primarily designed for the ACT, the vocabulary and exercises reflect the vocabulary and skills required to be successful on other standardized tests."
- Cynthia Byers

"Perhaps one of the hardest things to help students with is giving them a depth of vocabulary that will aid them not only on the ACT but also in college. This is a helpful approach with extremely accessible exercises.
The set of lessons would provide my students with words and exercises to help them incorporate these words into their academic vocabulary. The roots exercises are especially useful for my classroom."

- Janice Mullan

"As an AP teacher, I teach my students the value of diction and syntax - this book will definitely help identifying new words that will help them in their AP exams."
- Luis Garza

"Good organization; well-aligned with what the ACT expects students to know and be able to do (writing and critical reading especially, as there are fewer materials available that focus on these along with vocabulary instruction); periodic reviews after each set of seven chapters; rubrics for evaluating writing; state standards listed (an excellent item to include!)"

- Sharon King-Hanley

Friday, February 24, 2012

What are Teacher Reviewers Saying About Our Bloom's Taxonomy Teaching Guides?

Recently, we received feedback on Levels of Understanding: Macbeth from teachers on the Prestwick House National Curriculum Advisory Board.

Instead of teaching your students how to answer questions about a particular text, these title-specific literature guides will help them develop the skills to critically evaluate literature and develop the knowledge and habits required by the Common Core State Standards.

Each Prestwick House Levels of Understanding Guide allows you to take Bloom’s taxonomy out of the theoretical realm and put it into full practice in your classroom, as well as guaranteeing that each and every title you teach will get your students another step closer to their goal of college and career readiness.

"The presentation of historical information appears at the beginning and increases the likelihood that students will grasp elements of the play more easily and make historical and cultural connections that will allow student ownership of the material."
"The variety and complexity of questions will allow students a more complete exposure and knowledge of the play. They will be forced to think to answer the questions. Collaboration will prevent frustration at dealing with the more difficult concepts. I like the presentation of the historical information and the use of the comparison chart. Information in the chart is more easily accessible than the same information in paragraph form."
- Cynthia Byers

"The set up using background to the play first is both informative and interesting. The layout of the study guides for each act progresses clearly through the levels of understanding and I see this as being very helpful as I work to differentiate for all levels of students. The study guides are also comprehensive in coverage of the plot, character, and literary elements. "
- Cam Matthews

"The book begins with an introduction to Bloom's Taxonomy and then procedes to give instructions on how to use the book. The background information on Macbeth is invaluable which is followed by the teacher's guide and student worksheets. It could not be more user-friendly."
"The use of Bloom's Taxonomy and the provision of quality text-specific questions is of inestimable worth to the busy classroom teacher today."
- Karen F. Jones

"There are tons of teaching materials on the market for Shakespeare. What this publication does, however, is allow for differentiated instruction in the classroom. A teacher can reserve the synthesis and evaluation items to challenge students while relying on reader response for students who may not have the critical thinking skills of other students."
"I really like this product. It ranks up there with the Multiple Critical Perspectives Guides which I have used in my advanced classes. Most teachers are anxious to move their students beyond basic comprehension (and should!) and this publication would allow them to do that, as long as their knowledge of the work was sufficient."
- Michelle Peeling

"As a teacher of Macbeth, I find the levels of questions most helpful. This is a product that would be wonderful for both the beginning and the veteran teacher.
I am impressed with the depth of analysis required in these study questions - they definitely go beyond plot. Sometimes these questions are the most difficult to create, so this resource will gift teachers with the most precious resource -- time."
"I'm sold with the levels of questions. Often, things claim to be "higher-level," but they're in reality lower-level questions disguised with words like "evaluate." These questions are truly what they claim to be. They add depth to the unit."

- Elizabeth Miley

"Having taught Macbeth in an English class of students with low motivation and weak reading skills, there is so much in here that can be extracted and used for the lower level student. However, it also provides a great deal for those students who need to be challenged. I also feel that it provides a great deal of helpful information for the teacher--novice or experienced."
"I believe that the alignment to Bloom's Taxonomy is an excellent feature. Many states that are working to realign their standards to a Common Core would see this as a valuable piece. Also, many teachers struggle with understanding Shakespeare themselves and have a difficult time knowing how to properly present the material to their students. This would be a marvelous resource; it is so comprehensive."
- Bernadine M. Srocki

"Wonderful! Because the materials provide the full range of questioning -- from comprehension through evaluation -- a teacher really has the opportunity to tailor the questioning for each class. It is a true time saver!"

- Leticia Geldart

"I can see using the comprehension questions and reader's response questions for individual work, and many of the higher level questions would be great for small group discussions."

- Mellissa McCreary

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What are Teacher Reviewers Saying About Reading Informational Texts?

Recently, we received feedback on Reading Informational Texts: Non-Fiction Passages and Exercises Based on the Common Core State Standards from teachers on the Prestwick House National Curriculum Advisory Board.

Instead of you spending hours doing research to find the perfect non-fiction passages, Reading Informational Texts provides you with exactly what Common Core State Standards (CCSS) require — challenging selections to give your students vital practice with non-fiction works.

Each student workbook provides rigorous, direct student instruction and contains an anthology of 12 passages chosen using the CCSS designated methods - including difficult-to-find and well known historical, legal, and scientific works. To help your students get the most out of what they are reading, passages are outfitted with helpful margin notes, a defined vocabulary list, and short background materials.

Using Reading Informational Texts, you will guide your students through a close reading of each work, challenge them with short answer and essay questions, and ultimately help them gain the skills necessary to read and understand any work of nonfiction.

Read quotations from teachers below, check out a free lesson, or find out more at PrestwickHouse.com!

"The text is excellent at naming its terms and defining those terms. The authors have done well at anticipating what a teacher may be thinking while reading and answer it. For example, the part about 'this may be at a higher level than students are used to reading' is quite appropriate."

- Nancy Stansberry

"The information provided explaining the rationale for the included texts is lucid and well-organized. I particularly liked the questions and suggested answers as laid out in the teacher's guide itself. Sophisticated analysis coupled with a way to approach such complex texts with students. Traditional literature text books do not generally include these types of pieces (from court cases on to Patrick Henry). A real need to expose students to such rich, historical texts exists. Students need to read challenging texts! It's also essential for them to read essential historical texts. I so enjoyed reading them!"

- Leticia C. Geldart

"The included Lexile Measure and Flesch-Kincaid ratings are fantastic resources for the logical order as well as differentiation."

- Chris Mikulskis

"The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are in the forefront of educational discussions right now. Educators in many if not all states, mine included, are in the process of deciding how to implement the CCSS. For English teachers like myself and schools like mine, it is a matter or incorporating more informational texts into our curriculum, which is now fiction-heavy."

"This is a timely book with a wealth of information on choosing appropriate informational texts, the standards that each reading selestion covers, and both the qualitative and quantitative applications for each text. Resources such as these are exactly what teachers need in order to provide the kinds of experiences with informational text that the Common Core State Standards require."

"I would certainly use the 11-12 grade level book in my AP English class and recommend it to the AP History teacher in my school. In adddition, I would recommend it to all English teachers for use at the appropriate grade level. The text demands that students read carefully and with conviction, analyzing rhetorical techniques (ex. tone, form, author's purpose)as well as content. These are the highest level skills, required of AP-level students and required of successful students in colleges and universities."

- Sharon King-Hanley

"I would use this product. The excerpts are challenging, but as it states in the introduction (which I loved!), 'there has been a downward trend in the complexity of the texts students have been required to read in school.' These pieces certainly raise the bar and require students to utilize various levels of thinking."

"The text is extremely well organized. The annotations are fabulous! The chosen pieces of informational text are varied and interesting. The scaffolding offers teachers opportunities to guide their students through the material in a way that is less daunting. All components tie directly to the Common Core Standards, which is excellent."

- Julie Petitbon

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Prestwick House Top Secrets Revealed! (Part 2: YOU can teach your students literary theory ... yes YOU can!)

by Douglas Grudzina

If you’re like many English teachers, you have (a) degree(s) in education with a minor or a concentration in English or communications or something like that.

If you’re like most English teachers, your state’s certification requirements don’t include all that many credits or course hours in actual content.

If you’re like many English teachers, you spend a good deal of your prep time, not pondering how to teach, but agonizing over what to teach. You’ve got the pedagogy down pat.

The content ... not so much.

Now, I’m not bashing pedagogy. After all, if we’ve made it into the classroom as a teacher, we ourselves have suffered through many a course taught by the brilliant whatever-ist who hadn’t the faintest idea how to teach.

Pedagogy is important.

But that still leaves the problem of the teacher tasked with preparing his/her students to attain some level of “College and Career Readiness” (the stated goal of the Common Core State Standards).

Are you really supposed to be physically present in your classroom face-to-face with recalcitrant students for some 35 hours a week and then spend an additional 30 – 40 hours grading papers, and then devote your “free time” to learning the stuff no one told you you were going to need to know and then planning lessons—including creating usable materials—to fill your 35 hours of class time?

I doubt that’s even humanly possible ... and that’s why Prestwick House is here.

So you already know that, given a piece of literature (fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry, it doesn’t matter), you can guide your kids through a literal reading and a search for “theme.” You can march them up Freytag’s rising action and slide them down the other side of the climax.

For fun, you can have them underline all the similes and circle the metaphors. Scan the lines and point out every variation from the iambic pentameter.

Plot the rhyme scheme.

In a recent episode of a popular television show, a student (obviously smitten with her dashing substitute English teacher) complained, “Scansion is mathematics. It destroys the romance.” I have to say that I agree with her.

I suspect a good many of our students do too, and that is why they don’t bother doing the reading, and they sit in our rooms bored and sullen, wondering “when am I ever going to use this?” 

But if we abandon the things we know, we’re faced with that not-humanly-possible work week. So, what do we do?

Well, at the risk of sounding immodest, I’ll repeat: That’s why Prestwick House is here.

Last week, we shared with you one of Prestwick House’s best-kept secrets: the Levels of Understanding units that allow you to guide every student through every level of thought for every title you teach (well, as long as we have a unit for it ...).

This week, it is our extreme honor to introduce you to ...Multiple Critical Perspectives guides!

Multiple Critical Perspectives guides are reproducible units that help you introduce your students to literary theory, exposing them to the Feminist, Freudian, Archetypal, Marxist, Formalist, and New Historicist approaches. Each unit introduces three approaches and provides two to three activities to examine the work you are studying from each perspective.

The activities are designed to be completed in a single class period (two at the most) and to require NO ADDITIONAL PREPARATION ON YOUR PART—you might have to copy a few handouts, but that’s it. Seriously, these activities are so easy to implement even a Cave-substitute could do them.
Each Multiple Critical Perspective guide also includes discussion questions and writing prompts for each of the approaches covered in the unit.

Here’s one of the Marxist Approach writing assignments for the Animal Farm Multiple Critical Perspectives guide:
Analyze the trade relationships Napoleon enters into with his neighbors Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick as the foundation of a capitalistic economy. Consider the characteristics of such an economic system by describing what makes this system work and what jeopardizes it.
And here’s a Formalist prompt from the Life of Pi Multiple Critical Perspectives guide:
Throughout the novel, Martel uses a number of forms and narrative techniques (italics, plain text, the special font for Okamoto and Chiba’s side comments, bulleted and numbered lists, unnarrated dialogue, sound effects, etc.). Write an essay in which you analyze the use of these techniques and evaluate their effectiveness.
The Life of Pi Multiple Critical Perspectives guide also includes the Mythological/Archetypal approach. One of the activities invites the students to examine the carnivorous island as a “Perversion of the Garden of Eden.” After the students examine the pertinent chapters and sections of the included notes on archetypes in literature, the activity culminates in a discussion:
With the full class, discuss the possibility of this Island’s representing the opposite of Paradise. Consider the significance of the following from this viewpoint:
  • Pi’s bath in the freshwater pool
  • the meerkats’ lack of fear, and unawareness of predators
  • the location of the one “fruit-bearing” tree
  • the nature of the “fruit”
  • Pi’s decision and actions upon his discovery of the “fruit
One of the To Kill a Mockingbird Multiple Critical Perspectives guide's Psychoanalytic activities invites students to apply Atticus Finch’s definition of a hero to several characters in the novel:
  1. Have the students read (or reread) Chapter 11, focusing on Atticus’ definition of a true hero. Divide the class into small groups and assign each group one of the following characters:
    • Aunt Alexandra
    • Tom Robinson
    • Mr. Underwood
    • Calpurnia
    • Judge Taylor
    • Boo Radley
    • Scout
    • Jem
  2. Then have each group develop a thesis that states whether or not its character meets Atticus’ definition of a hero. Have the groups peruse the book for specific incidents to support their theses.
  3. Reconvene the class and have each group report. Where two or more groups working with the same character disagree, have the full class examine the evidence and discuss.
Because they deal with literary theory and multiple ways of viewing the same text, Multiple Critical Perspectives guides do not have an answer key, and many of the activity discussions come with the caveat:
NOTE: For such a discussion, the class does not need to come to agreement or consensus. It is important only to express a view and to be able to support that view with an accurate and complete reading of the text.
While Multiple Critical Perspectives guides are intended to supplement, not replace, the core instruction of, say, a Levels of Understanding or an Advanced Placement Teaching Unit, some of the cool things customers report is that they (the Multiple Critical Perspectives guides) prove that “literature has something for everyone” as we keep promising our students. Students might be bored to death after years and years of “the theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is racism. The theme of Animal Farm is the fraudulence of Communism in Russia” and so on. They might be “What-is-the-conflict-“ ed to death, and we know they’re frustrated beyond words trying to figure out how to figure out the “right answer.”

Studying the same text from ... uh ... Multiple Critical Perspectives ... opens up the field for your kids so that they might actually begin to find their connection to the literature we love and teach, that longed-for relevance.

Multiple Critical Perspectives guides are really cool units, and we have them for dozens of titles. They’re one of Prestwick House’s best-kept secrets.