Friday, May 30, 2014

Have a sunny weekend!

...and if you are ever in Smyrna Delaware be sure to drop by.

MYTH: Teachers have summers off.

 FACT: Students have summers off. Teachers spend summers working second jobs, teaching summer school, and taking classes for certification renewal or to advance their careers.

  • Most full-time employees in the private sector receive training on company time at company expense, while many teachers spend the eight weeks of summer break earning college hours, at their own expense.
  • School begins in late August or early September, but teachers are back before the start of school and are busy stocking supplies, setting up their classrooms, and preparing for the year's curriculum.
From the NEA's "Facts and Myths About Teacher's Pay"

For great resources that will get you up to speed for summer school, be sure to check out  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou Dies at age 86

RIP Maya Angelou. Your beautiful words will live on forever.

Prestwick House to Host Delaware Teacher Center "Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance" Workshop

All 6th - 12th grade English Language Arts & Drama Teachers are welcome this August 7th from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Linda Emerick, NBCT, Retired teacher of English Language Arts & Shakespearean Studies & Stephanie Sullivan, Teacher High School Theatre will be presenting.
Have you noticed the frequency of the mention of Shakespeare's works embedded in the Common Core State Standards? Would you like to brush up your Shakespeare before the school year begins? Then this participatory workshop may be your cup of tea. The objectives of this workshop are: to introduce participants to the Folger Shakespeare Library's method of Teaching Shakespeare through Performance with attention paid to reading comprehension strategies and the use of a Festival as a focal point and to provide direct practice in some classroom-ready activities that support his method. Participants should come prepared to learn, have fun, and enjoy a very early in-the-day tea.
Prestwick House is located at 58 Artisan Drive Smyrna, Delaware CREDIT: 3 Clock Hours

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Who turned you into an English Major?

When interviewing interns, I ask them what book or author turned them into a real reader? For me it was (the lately much maligned) 'The Catcher in the Rye' that started me off, but Vonnegut really turned me into a reader.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Are you teaching 'The Kite Runner' ?

Over at Prestwick we've recently posted a teacher's guide to Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner.  

Justification for teaching: The Kite Runner presents students in the United States with a different perspective on Afghanistan than that developed in the media over the last decade-plus. This book can be used to build empathy for people from other cultures. It's also fantastic for cross-curricular studies in history/social studies....

As in all of our teacher's guides, in addition to justification for teaching, we've delved into: Key Literary Elements & Techniques, Themes and Motifs, Key Facts, Awards, Movies, and "Your students will love..."

  • The book's universal themes — Hosseini has written a very accessible story, one that resonates regardless of the reader's cultural background.
  • The valuable look into Afghanistan's past
  • The narrative arc of the book, which is a logical, symmetrical progression from shame and guilt to love and redemption
Click here and scroll down for a complete list of Prestwick House teaching materials available for The Kite Runner.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

“Quick chat” = 48 minutes

McSweeny’s Internet Tendency  (salty language warning) has published a list of expressions people in the corporate world use to express units of time. Some of these will probably resonate with teachers...
  • “Just a sec” = 5 minutes
  • “Just a minute” = 10 minutes
  • “Pick your brain” = 17 minutes or, in rare cases, 90 seconds
  • “Quick chat” = 48 minutes
  • “No more than five minutes” = 1 hour
  • “Let’s revisit this later” = never shall we speak of this again
If you are up against the clock getting ready for "common core," here is a link to our very popular Reading Informational Texts series.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Literary Touchstone Classics Game

Literary Touchstones Classics Game
In honor of the redesign of our Literary Touchstone Classics, I'm happy to present to you 2048 Literary Touchstone Classics Edition -- a literary themed edition of the obnoxiously addictive game that is sweeping the nation.

Simply use the arrow keys to slide all of the tiles in one direction to match up book covers from titles like Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter, and Romeo and Juliet. When two book covers match,  they'll combine and "upgrade" to a new book cover. You get an increasing number of points for the higher level book covers. Can you figure out which book covers are coming up next?

I'll start you off with the first couple of levels and I'll update this post as you unlock new levels. Just leave a reply in the comments when you figure them out.

Level 1: Frankenstein
Level 2: Romeo and Juliet
Level 3: The Scarlet Letter
Level 4: ?

Literary Touchstone Classics are complete, unabridged original text books designed exclusively for schools. Each book includes reading pointers, a glossary and vocabulary, and notes and, best of all, with school discounts of 50% or more, the prices start at $0.99 per book!

Play the game here!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Common Core State Standards Puts a Focus on Latin and Greek Roots

A great deal has been written about how the CCSS encourages “rigor” in terms of having students confront challenging texts.   But how are students to unpack the meaning of challenging texts if they haven’t acquired the tools necessary to unpack the meaning of the words that make up the text? 

In this International Reading Association Paper,    ‘Getting to the Root of Word Study:Teaching Latin and Greek Word Roots in Elementary and Middle Grades’  by Nancy Padak, Evangeline Newton, Timothy Rasinski, and Rick M. Newton the authors make a strong case for building the vocabulary of elementary students through the study of the Latin and Greek root words that students will encounter throughout their academic career.

The case is based the fact that Latin and Greek root words are overrepresented in the dense non-fiction that students will encounter, and that Latin and Greek root words give students a greater precision as they progress from communicating by speaking to communicating by writing. 

Academic texts in general have a disproportionate number of words from Latin and Greek roots because words associated with scholarly, scientific, and technical advances are most often of Greek or Latin origin.  Consequently, as students progress through school, they encounter more and more words of classical, rather than Anglo-Saxon, origin. Moreover new technologies have brought us new words that expand the presence of Greek and Latin roots in the English lexicon (e.g., Internet, megabyte). The context in which words are used provides another layer of complexity in “school” literacy.

We use oral vocabulary to listen and speak, print vocabulary to read and write. Speech is contextualized language; “precision of word choice is seldom crucial in everyday conversation” (Nagy & Scott, 2000, p. 279). Written texts, on the other hand, tend to be decontextualized, so precision of word choice “is the primary communicative tool of the writer” (p. 279). Decontextualized language contains “richer vocabulary” (p. 279) and more unfamiliar words than spoken language (Cunningham, 2005). In school, most of the new vocabulary words children meet will be in decontextualized written texts, much of it in content area textbooks” 

If you'd like to bring Latin and Greek vocabulary study to your 4th-6th graders but don't know where to start, check our Growing Your Vocabulary: Learning from Latin and Greek Roots. We developed Growing Your Vocabulary to help bring the methods, which have proved to be so popular in our high school program Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots, to students in upper elementary grades. Click here to learn more about Growing Your Vocabulary.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's not the standards. It's what you do with them.

It seems like the debate over the Common Core State Standards is never ending. Are the standards good? Are they effective? Will they adequately prepare students for the rigors of college and the "real world?"

This great post by Jared Heath on the School Improvement Network gets to the heart of what will make or break the standards. The actions of dedicated professionals.

 "We cannot forget that our goal in education has ever been the same: to prepare children for the future. Our methods must necessarily change to meet the demands of our present and future conditions, but the goal remains the same. Standards and legislation, then, have a similar goal, which is to help teachers help students."

"Standards will never change students. Standards cannot change education. Changing students and education is the province solely of teachers—what, then, will we teachers do with the tools given us?"

I was discussing this with staff author Doug Grudzina the other day, and he mentioned something interesting. Whether you agree or disagree with the implementation, the organization, or the effectiveness of the standards, when you read the text of the standards, it's hard to disagree with the individual end goals of the standards-- no one would disagree that students  should:

"Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach."  (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5)


"Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content." (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2)

It's the implementation of the standards on the ground level -- in your classroom -- that's important. To help you with the process of implementing the writing standards, Doug has developed College and Career Readiness: Writing with the true end goal of the standards at heart. It's not about being able to check off a list of accomplishments to meet a minimum or pass a test, but truly using the framework of the standards to improve the process of teaching and learning writing. The 10th and 11th grade books are available now, and the 9th and 12th grade books are in layout right now and will be available this summer. To learn more and to get a free sample of College and Career Readiness: Writing, click here.

College and Career Readiness: Writing

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Separating Fact from Fiction Under the Common Core State Standards.

How much fiction and non-fiction are high school students expected to read under the new Common Care State Standards?

A recent article in the Washington Post by Carol Jago, a past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, separates the fact from fiction on this much discussed topic. 

“The claim that the Common Core State Standards have abolished the teaching of literature makes for a great headline.  Who wouldn’t get hot and bothered over the idea that high school students will no longer be reading “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Crucible,” and “Invisible Man?” I would be up in arms, too. Fortunately, nothing in the standards supports this claim.”

Carol goes on to add.
“It may be the case that in some schools high school English teachers are being told to cut back on the poetry and teach more informational text. I’m hoping this mistaken directive can soon be reversed. English teachers need to teach more poetry, more fiction, more drama, and more literary nonfiction.”

Read the full article here:

For more on teaching Literature under the Common Core State Standards check out our newest series available this summer: Reading Literature: Fiction, Poetry,and Exercises Based on the Common Core State Standards. 

Be sure to request a free sample!

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Vocabulary Quiz for the Best of Us

At Prestwick House, we generally fancy ourselves as vocabulary experts-- after all, Vocabulary Power Plus has sold more than a million copies and Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots is right on its heels. When someone mentions that they're going on a quick peregrination over lunch break or says they can't make a meeting because they're assiduously working, we don't bat an eye.

But when our Senior Editor sent this vocab quiz from Slate Magazine around earlier this week, we were embarrassed. I only got 12/18 right, our senior editor got one more than me, and our new product creation specialist tied him! Sure, Free Rice is a fun game, but if you really want to put yourself to the test, try out the article and game from Slate.
Vocabulary Resources from Prestwick House:

Vocabulary Power Plus for the SAT and ACT
Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots
Growing Your Vocabulary: Learning from Latin and Greek Roots

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What preparation do students need to read informational texts?

By this point, we all know that most students need special preparation if they're to read and understand complex informational texts.

But what sorts of tasks should you undertake to make sure this preparation is done right?

Dr. Kate Kinsella has some answers in this wonderful article originally published in Language Magazine. Here's a great quotation:

"Preparing students for the reading demands of high school and college curricula involves a reality check about the time and process involved in maturely engaging with a text as an accomplished scholar would in any discipline. Modeling the process of previewing an entire text to gauge text complexity then breaking it down into manageable segments for detailed reading and study is essential support for developing readers.

[. . .]

Without explicit, interactive in-class guidance, ill-equipped readers plow into a research article as if they were approaching a short story, starting on page one, with no sense of the text length, focus, structure, or more essential sections, and rarely make it beyond the introductory matter."

Students do need specific instruction concerning how to read and analyze nonfiction, and Dr. Kinsella does a lovely job of enumerating the reasons this specific instruction is important.

Prestwick House's Reading Informational Texts series of books hits many of Dr. Kinsella's points — the Teacher's Editions contain qualitative and quantitative measures of text complexity and explain how those evaluations were formed, so you can take that information to your students.

Thanks for reading!