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March 2008 Discussion

As had been stated earlier, this discussion page is an evolving process.  Besides responses to the initial question, several questions/comments have been posted in relation to many of the professional development activities that have recently occurred for Montana ABLE.  The goal is to make this page more user friendly.  Therefore, you will see a chart (below) at the top of each of the main postings for the month.  All you need to do is click on the topic you would like to read more about.  Then just scroll up to read the postings in sequential order on that topic. 

Reading Connections:  April

Activities Immigration Material Request Research Visual/Auditory Learning Websites

Activities in Great Falls

Understanding Purpose


Civics and Citizen Toolkit

Material List from Missoula ABE Program

More Book Lists:  Picture Books



Story Structure

The Joy of Reading




Ferlazzo's Best Websites

  • Math

  • Science

  • Social Studies

  • Vocabulary

The Hidden World of Dyslexia



Civics and Citizenship Toolkit

Greetings!  Just got back from MPAEA where I attended a sectional by Barbara Melton of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Have you received your free toolkit? 

"The collection comprises immigration and civics publications, handbooks, multimedia tools, and a quick start guide with ideas for use."  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Go to to register your school for the kit.

You might also want to check out

NP =)

4/22/08 Website

I had heard of the freerice site for vocabulary before, but totally forgot about it.  It's great for our college prep students! (

P.S.  I couldn't stop myself once I logged onto it until I reached 2000 grains!

Melinda Lynnes
MCC Center for Academic Success


Auditory - Sound Learning

Looking for ways to ensure your students are doing quality research from credible sources?

Sound Learning is a launching point to Minnesota Public Radio's content on the Web. This site is designed exclusively for teachers to access timely text and audio clips for use in the classroom. It's your entry into the quality and reliability you have come to expect from MPR.

An integral part of this site are the instructional strategies in English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Music, and Family and Consumer Science. Browse these subject areas for tips and techniques for bringing MPR into your classroom. You're welcome to download and reproduce the ideas that fit the needs of your students.

Taken from MPR website

Click here to access Literacy and Sound Learning:  Strategies for Thoughtful Learning


Digital Video

Visual Learning:  How the Rise of Digital Video is Transforming Education

Taken from eSchool News

“The curriculum is the key—not the media. We’ve fallen into this trap of considering that the use of technology is going to be an automatic silver bullet that’s going to make kids learn more, be more motivated.  But we forget that it’s not the technology, not the media. It’s the content, and it’s the way those media are used. In other words, it’s the pedagogy, it’s the message, it’s the design—it’s the approach—that is the critical element.”

—Michael Simonson, Professor, Instructional Technology and Distance Education, Nova Southeastern University

Click here to go to the article on eSchoolNews.  Then go to p. 25.


Visual Resource III - Hotchalk

NBC News offers teachers access to video archives online

… teachers have free online access to a video vault featuring more than 60 years of historic news and information, thanks to a partnership between NBC News and HotChalk, an online learning management system for K-12 education. To provide primary-source multimedia content that far exceeds what is available in traditional textbooks, NBC News has made available more than 5,000 video resources that can be used to supplement instruction in a wide range of courses. History students can watch the civil-rights movement as it happened and view interviews with key players; science students can see recreated footage of the Ice Age or watch today’s arctic shelves disintegrate into the ocean; and government classes can have access to the latest news on immigration, the presidential race, or international relations …

Taken from eSchool News


Visual Resource II - Graphic Organizers

... Teaching story structure using graphic “maps” is one of the research-supported comprehension strategies (in the Report of the National Reading Panel). Graphic organizers (in general) are also one of the categories of research-based comprehension strategies. You might create a map to make the structure/organization of expository text more “visible.”

Susan McShane (as posted on NIFL's Family Literacy Discussion List)

Here are a couple of websites with  free graphic organizers.




Visual Resource I - Another Adaptation

Google Earth Lessons

"Google Earth Lessons" is a free public resource created by teachers, for teachers, to give educators tools and ideas for using the free Google Earth software in their classrooms. Using the ideas and resources found on this site, teachers of all subjects and grade levels can incorporate Google Earth into their curriculum.

eSchool News

Click here for free lesson plans:  cross-curricular, social studies, math, science, and language arts.


Visual, Auditory, and Blending:  The Three Drills

My experience as a certified O-G tutor and trainer from the Michigan Dyslexia Institute (1990) is that persons with reading difficulties who are able to learn the sound/symbol correspondences have the biggest problem with blending them together.  For those with
dyslexia, that is often where the language processing and decoding breaks down.

The Three Drills (visual, auditory, and blending), have worked well for me in addressing both these areas.  They need to be used at every lesson, adding new phonemes/phonograms to the drills as they are introduced to the student. I have the instructions for doing these drills if anyone is interested.

Betsy S. Gauss 
(as posted on NIFL's Learning Disabilities Discussion List)
Lake Wales Literacy Council Tutor Trainer
Lake Wales, FL 33853

Click here to access a copy of the Three Drills activity.


Story Structure/Story Grammar

I think story grammar is often used to refer to narrative story structure—those elements a reader can expect to find in a story. Narrative story structure would include many types of stories, i.e., fiction, fairy tales, mysteries, plays, and real life adventures.

The following explanation of story grammar comes from an ERIC Digest article, “Strategic Processing of Text: Improving Reading Comprehension of Students with Learning Disabilities,” by Joanna P. Williams.

“Probably the most effective of strategies has been teaching story grammar to use as an organizational guide when reading. Story grammar refers to the principal components of a story: main character, action, and outcome. This technique has been applied by using story maps and by asking generic questions based on story grammar. It has also been used to move beyond the plot level of stories to teach students with disabilities to identify story themes, a more abstract comprehension level than is typically taught to students with learning disabilities.” 

You can access the article at

Expository structure has to do more with informational texts, such as content area material, i.e., science and social studies. It would involve how the text is organized to help readers identify key ideas and make connections between ideas. This is where using skills, such as reading headings and subheadings, reading graphic information, and understanding sequence, comparing and contrasting and classification would come in handy.

The idea is that understanding the structure of stories or expository text increases comprehension ...

Gail J. Price,Multimedia Specialist, National Center for Family Literacy

National Center for Family Literacy


Inside the Hidden World of Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder

Click here to check out this incredible video!  Many of these students attend Montana ABLE programs.


Activities in Great Falls

This year Jackie is using the local newspaper to a greater extent.  She cuts out the political cartoon and we (individually or in group) discuss it.  She uses the cartoon strips to show real life vocabulary connections. She also uses the paper  to get graphs that are printed and incorporates  vocabulary from suggested articles. There has been a great deal of reading and discussion connected to the elections.

Science and social text, as well as fiction and nonfiction, are used.

Steve has used math vocabulary to embellish fun math games we have done in our group, as well as reading strategies for math story problems.

For recreational reading ideas, we occasionally will take a portion from a book and read it in the group activity time.  We welcome others to discuss some of the things they have enjoyed reading. We hope to get the students interested in some of the books. We also keep an abundance of different kinds of magazines on hand for students to read.

In English, students read short stories and then summarize the key concepts or rewrite portions of the story line. Unfamiliar vocabulary in the GED book is identified in order to define.

Vicki Mattingly, Great Falls


Understanding Purpose Activity

I was wondering how I can access the paragraph that goes with the purpose for reading (activity in 4/6 email) or is it copyrighted?

Mellinda Lynnes, Miles City

Response to Understanding Purpose Activity

Melissa, thanks for the great question!  In the 4/6 RIB email, the following information about an activity was given:

Worksheet:  Understanding Purpose crosses over into all content areas.  Click here to download an idea taken from Cris Tovani's book, I Read It But I Don't Get It.

The technique refers to a paragraph and asks a reader to circle what he/she thinks is important.  Then the reader is asked to reread and identify what may be important to a robber.  And finally the reader is asked to reread and identify what is important to a home buyer.  The point is to show the reader that he/she probably had more trouble the first time - without the purpose for reading being expressed.

Actually, any paragraph will work, but you will need to adjust the reader, i.e. robber and home buyer, to make sense with the paragraph. 

For example, I have used an article, "Woman Surrenders Alligator", from the Billings Gazette at

Then I did the following:

  • Read the article.

  • Circle what you think is important.

  • With another color, circle what you think might be important for a law officer to know.

  • With yet another color, circle what you think might be important for someone from the SPCA to know.

If someone has other ideas, please send them on!  NP =)


Ferlazzo's Recommendations for Best Websites

The following information was taken from Larry Ferlazzo's posts on NIFL's Technology Discussion List.


The Joy of Reading

Roger Sutton of Read Roger talks about the reward of reading.  Do Montana ABLE students ever feel this reward? 

Young readers are put in this position all the time, meeting words, sentence structures, and extra-textual references for the first time. It's salutary for those of us concerned with their reading to put ourselves in their shoes, a circumstance more likely to occur for us in reading books for adults. Hard books, the definition of which being completely self-determined. When we hit a patch of French in a novel, we--at least those of us not educated to the standard Eliot expected of her readers--can look it up or shine it on, but either way we're challenged by a text that doesn't give itself up easily. That choice comes more easily to the veteran reader than to the neophyte who's still underlining each word with a finger. Learning how to skip is just as important to reading as learning how to persevere.

But reading difficult books is not just a reminder of how hard it is to learn to read. The sentences in Middemarch are often enormous but also enormously dense--Eliot uses an awful lot of words but few seem extraneous. You really have to pay attention, especially with the audiobook--let your mind stray for a few seconds and you're lost.
But the reward of such required concentration is absorption, a rare and welcome state in a clamoring world.

By Roger Sutton of Read Roger at


Book Titles for Adult Literacy - Picture Books

Just saw another resource for book lists!  This one provides some great titles of picture books.  NP =)

Literacy Connections provides a wealth of information on reading, teaching and tutoring techniques, ESL literacy, and adult literacy. We recommend resources that are useful for teachers, volunteers, and directors of literacy programs. Topics include the language experience approach, phonics, word study, and the best in children's literature.

Click here to connect to Literacy Connections.


Material List

Here is our list of materials for Language Arts ...  I am willing to share materials which I have made up. 

Cathy Smyers, Missoula

Click here for the list of materials.