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Our Newsletter: "Food for Thought"

Our Newsletter: "Food for Thought"

Food for Thought is the newsletter that Stevenson Learning Skills publishes twice a year. Below you will find the major articles from some of our recent issues. Click on any article to view it. There are a few small items from the newsletters that we do not include here on the web site. Click Links below for information or mail coupon, call, fax or e-mail info@stevensonlearning.com for the information.

Articles from "Food for Thought":

Common Core Standards and the Struggling Reader

In the Spring of 2013, we wrote an article about some of the teaching issues that arise when struggling readers encounter the Common Core Standards.  Of course, we are not the only ones to have concerns in this area, and this topic is undoubtedly going to be an ongoing subject of discussion.  Education Week recently published a multi-part report entitled,  "Diverse Learners and the Common Core."  You might be interested in the whole report, but we particularly liked the piece called "Common Core's Promise Collides with IEP Realities."  In the article many educators seemed worried about cognitively impaired pupils in particular.  However, some degree of conflict exists between the standards and the needs of any atypical learner.  Consider dyslexic students, children with ADHD and pupils with auditory processing issues.  They all require some amount of special instruction.  We are not suggesting that high standards be abandoned, only that the standard bearers need to consider the needs of all learners.  If you would like to check out the Education Week article, click here.

New Assessment Tool for Overlapping Strategy Now On Web Site

We recently posted a new, simple assessment tool that you can use with students who are following the Overlapping Strategy.  This startegy is an approach to starting the Stevenson Program.  It covers key information from the first level of the program and teaches it concurrently with the second level (thus "overlapping" the content of the two levels).  The Overlapping Strategy is usually used with struggling readers at the upper elementary or middle/high school level - students who don't need to repeat letter level phonics, and who have at least a small amount of reading skill already.  The assessments are simply a few word lists used to help you determine which phonics elements are most problematic for the student.  Along with the lists and directions, you will find some suggestions for varying the pace and emphasis of your instruction as you move through the materials.  This new teaching tool can be found under the "Teaching Resources" section of this website (fourth item), or you can simply click here and print it.           

Common Core State Standards and the Stevenson Program

April-May-June, 2013

A national movement has been underway for several years now with a with a perfectly reasonable goal: to develop common core educational standards that will apply nationally, rather than have fifty different sets of standards from each state to which educators and publishers must adjust. These are intended to be minimum standards, not complete specifications for all curricula at all levels. They are also not intended to preclude local decision making.

All good intentions aside, however, the Common Core State Standards create some thorny issues. We won’t try to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of the CCSS in this article. However, we thought we would make a few points that might help teachers who are using, or want to start using, the

Free Support Always Available

A new school year is well underway, and if you work with struggling readers, there are bound to be new challenges. Perhaps you have different students than you expected, new records to keep, or a new schedule. If any of your problems involve implementing the Stevenson Reading Program in one way or another, do not forget that free consultation is available at 1-800-343-1211. Our office hours are M-F, 9-5 Eastern Time, and we are often in the office late. If a consultant is not available the moment you call, the office will make arrangements for a phone appointment. We are happy to help however we can.

Dive In and Have Fun

If the Stevenson program is new to you, you are probably taking it in small doses to get used to it, particularly since it is early in the school year. While this is a normal human reaction, we encourage you to dive in. We are always here to help (800-343-1211), and your struggling readers definitely need something that will work. While you don't want to pressure students who have learning issues, both you and your students will learn a great deal about Stevenson from just doing it. Follow the directions but have fun. If you or your students feel confused, one of two things should happen: you can call us, even with the smallest question, and we will clear things up; or you will find that something that seems confusing one day becomes clear the next.

Dangerous Rumor About Phonics

At two different workshops last spring, we heard a teacher say that research has shown that if a child does not learn to read using phonics by the end of third grade, they won't be able to learn by phonics. We do not believe this is true, and it could be a dangerous idea if many teachers begin to believe it.

It is almost impossible to keep up to date on all of the research in the field of reading, even if you are a specialist. However, we are not aware of any research that supports this idea about the ineffectiveness of

New Free Introductory Workshop Policy

We have developed a new policy for offering free introductory workshops in order to make it easier for more people to learn about the Stevenson Program in depth. For many years we have gone to certain areas and offered a two-and-a-half hour workshop for free. These sessions are more than slide shows. They serve two essential purposes.

First, the introductory workshops thoroughly describe the methods that the Stevenson Program uses: why we choose these methods, how they address specific learning issues and how they differ from other programs.

Struggling Readers and Multisyllable Words

April-May-June, 2013
In phonics instruction, students progress from combining a few letters into a few words to combining more letters into more words. Along the way a simple, but very challenging thing happens. Groups of letters that make up one-syllable words are joined by groups of letters that have two or more syllables.

While this change can seem small to those of us who may have learned to read easily, for struggling readers it can present a major challenge. In some cases, you will see students whose reading problems previously seemed minor begin to struggle and fail. So the transition from single syllable to multisyllable words needs to be made carefully.

Huge Issues, Strange Logic and Common Sense - an editorial

April-May-June, 2013
As usual, educational policy makers are hard at work trying to solve our biggest educational problems with big concepts. In recent years we have all heard phrases like “No Child Left Behind,” “Race to the Top,” “Research-based Reading Instruction,” “Common Core Standards,” and many more. Every one of these phrases is associated with one big idea everyone certainly agrees on: Let’s provide effective education for all students so that they can graduate ready to succeed in the world. But having the right big idea, or having enough big ideas, isn’t our problem. It is all the complicated realities that come between the big ideas and the actual teaching of actual human beings that seem to confound us.

Let us examine some of the assumptions behind some of these policies, and the consequences that follow. One assumption behind No Child Left Behind was that many educators just weren’t being held accountable. Another

The Third Grade Reading Guarantee - A Few Suggestions

April-May-June, 2013
Ohio will institute a policy for the 2013-2014 school year that requires third grade students to be reading at a predetermined level on the Ohio Achievement Assessments in order to be promoted. There are exceptions and options, but the idea is fairly straightforward. There is a large body of evidence that children who are not reading at or very near grade level in third grade, struggle with most other subjects in subsequent years. This finding is logical since most curricula shift from a “learning to read” focus to a “reading to learn” emphasis at this point.

The Ohio Third Grade Reading Guarantee is not a new idea. Other places, notably Florida, have encouraged similar policies, and, so far, the indications are positive. Those students who have been retained and received extra help are having greater success in later grades than similar students have in the past. Of course, as with most large policy initiatives, there are both positives and negatives, and the results are not conclusive. Without trying to analyze


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