About St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA

a professional organization of educators and individuals actively engaged
in the development of literacy throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.

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Voices from the Library: Nov. 2014



Lucy Crown

Title: The Ugly Pumpkin

Author/Illustrator: Dave Horowitz

Publisher: Penguin Group: Copyright: 2005: ISBN: 978-0-14-241145-2

Reading Level: K-2

With fall in the air, recently I was searching for books about pumpkins so that I could order some new ones for my library. I came across this book called The Ugly Pumpkin and decided to take a look at it. I researched the reviews about it from other people and librarians. It sounded like a good purchase and it surely was. The cover will draw you in which features this sad looking character whom you think is a pumpkin. As you read along with the rhyming text, you find out that he is in distress because he doesn’t think he fits in with the other pumpkins because he is tall and skinny in the middle. Other pumpkins are being picked for Halloween but he is being overlooked. Then the month changes from October to November. In his continued sadness, he stumbles into a garden growing squash. He realizes that the reason he looks different from the other pumpkins is because he is really a squash! He finally finds his place where he fits in as the story ends with Happy Thanksgiving. This book is a fun twist on The Ugly Duckling and would lend itself well to a lesson comparing/contrasting the two stories and characters. The illustrations are interesting, fun and colorful and are done with cut paper, charcoal and colored pencils.

Missouri Early Learning Conference 2014


Missouri Early Learning Conference

November 20-21, 2014

Mollie Bolton

 Be sure to save the date for the Missouri Early Learning conference. Keynote speakers include: Greg Tang, author of Grapes of Math; Valerie Ellery, author of Creating Strategic Readers: Techniques for Supporting Rigorous Instruction; Susan Kempton, author of Let’s Find Out!: Building Content Knowledge with Young Children and more! Topics include teaching math, reading, writing, incorporating science and inquiry learning into the curriculum and behavior management techniques. Check out their website at http://muconf.missouri.edu/moearlylearning/ for more information. Hope to see you there!

Literacy for All Conference 2014


2014 Literacy for All Conference

Dr. Betty Porter Walls


It began with music and a big ball moving around the auditorium.  Author Lester Laminack was the star at our “2014 Literacy for All Conference: The Community Reads” on Saturday, October 11.  As the keynote speaker for the annual conference, sponsored by Harris-Stowe State University College of Education and the St. Louis Suburban Council of the International Reading Association, Mr. Laminack used a unique analogy to stress how when reading a book a book we can be tourists or residents.  As residents, we become the book; we own it; we understand it; it is a part of us.  While as tourists with a book, we pass through on a visit, not internalizing those facets and qualities which make it special, only seeing the highlights, the attractions.  As he spoke, I heard one young teacher say, “Wow, now I get it.  To be good readers, children have to love where they live, they have to own the book and see the full picture.  We have to teach them how to read for the deepest meaning that makes a book “special.”   This teacher was in an audience of more than a hundred educators, PK-12 and university level  who were treated to a day of professional development with sessions on a variety of topics , visits with local authors, introduction to and examination of the latest materials from numerous publishers/vendors, and literacy service providers in our community.

Thanks to the support of several co-sponsors, all conferees left with bags of literacy goodies to use in classrooms, books, a lanyard and flash drive with presentation material from speakers.  Local and national speakers shared information on such topics as interactive technology, mentor texts, literacy and personal finance, writing instruction, standards and assessment.  Melia Franklin from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shared the latest Common Core related news for our state.  Several of our IRA council members presented – Sam Bommarito on guided reading, Susan Heins on rigorous writing instruction, Tammy Rhomberg on differentiated nonfiction to build comprehension, and Betty Porter Walls on using mentor texts for writing.  The Missouri Reader newsletter was featured by the Missouri State Council IRA, as was literacy programming from National Geographic and the Federal Reserve Bank.  Scholastic and Classroom Library Company shared books written by Lester Laminack.  There was so much more; the evaluations for the event were extremely positive.  The conference was a professional development success. It ended on a positive note,  just as it began.

A video of the literacy conference can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDgw7-ZZbQ or on the Harris-Stowe State University‘s ‘hssu tv.’


Legislative Update: November 2014


Legislative Update

Mary Eileen Rufkahr

 The Missouri State Legislature is adjourned until January 2015. As in past years, education issues and the accompanying state funding promise to be topics of interest and debate for the upcoming session.  Mark your calendars for these future dates of interest: Legislative brunches and dinners provide the opportunity to meet with political leaders and discuss policy.

St. Louis Area Brunch: January 31, 2015

  • Contact: Grace Garland (314) 432-2425 or (888) 968-4820

St. Charles Area Dinner: March 26, 2015

  • Contact: Sharon Fortner (636) 970-3111 or (800) 404-9365


Community Service Projects 2014-2015




Sandy Kettlekamp

 Your involvement is needed! St. Louis Suburban Council participates in the following  global/community service projects:

  • Penny-A-Page
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Global Literacy
  • Can Tabs

For information about each of these projects, go to


Encourage your school to be involved in the Penny-A-Page Project.  Continue to save children and adult books and bring them to our meetings. You can even call and deliver to Sandy Kettelkamp (314.638.3214) directly.

Donate to the Philippines Project when the cup is passed. Every dollar counts. Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, too.

Collect can tabs at your buildings, your friends, families and neighbors. Bring them to the meetings!


Membership Report Nov. 2014



Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director

 St. Louis Suburban Council of International Reading Association is a true Professional Learning Community with 192 members as of November 2014. Congratulations to our membership for recognizing the benefits of our collegial and professional organization.

 Congratulations to all our members who have reached out to encourage new memberships.

 For 2014-2015, the largest Literacy Teams so far are NESI with 38 Archdiocese memberships and FOX SCHOOL DISTRICT with 26 memberships. This October, Bowles Elementary and Babler Elementary in the Rockwood School District sent in 14 memberships.

If you have not yet, please send your membership form ASAP to Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director, TODAY!

St. Louis Executive Board will be participating in the planning and organizing for the 60th Anniversary IRA 2015 Conference in St. Louis on July 17-20, 2015. If you are interested in participating, please let Jody Rozbicki know by emailing her at (jrozbicki@ladueschools.net). Throughout the year we will have organizing and planning subcommittees that we will ask our council membership to participate in. Dr. Betty Porter Walls, Executive Board member and MSC/IRA treasurer, will be the St. Louis, Local Committee Chairperson, along with co-chairs Jody Rozbicki, St. Louis Suburban Membership Chair, and Glenda Nugent, MSC/IRA Board Member. The chairs are busy spreading the word about the conference from traveling to out-of-state conferences , to organizing press releases, to helping with the conferences video. Join St. Louis Suburban Council and participate in the excitement of hosting a national conference for International Reading Association.

  • Members represent more than twenty-five public school districts, many archdiocesan and other parochial and private schools, seven universities, and representatives of textbook and trade book publishers/ distributers.
  • Members include administrators, classroom teachers, librarians, reading specialists, literacy coaches, special education teachers, ESOL teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, and university faculty.
  • Educators and administrators who work with students from Kindergarten through university levels are represented.
  • With nearly 200 members, this is one of the largest local councils of the International Reading Association of Missouri.
  • Our council has won awards at state and national levels for the quality of our programs and the service we provide to our members and community.
  • We provide material to support family literacy, both locally and internationally.
  • We support international efforts to improve literacy across cultures.
  • We offer a mini-grant of $250-$500 for a member to implement a literacy-focused project in the classroom.
  • We provide networking opportunities for educators throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.
  • St. Louis Suburban Council is hosting the July 2015, International Reading Association, National Conference.

Top 5 Benefits of IRA Membership

  • Practical teaching tools you can use in the classroom
  • Access to top-rated journals, innovative research, and best practices
  • Being part of a community of reading professionals
  • Discounts on IRA publications and other professional development resources
  • Reduced conference registration rates

Information on IRA membership (http://www.reading.org


Writing With Skill and Imagination Workshop November 8


Join us at this free workshop to engage in writing strategies that really work. Learn to motivate and energize your students to use imagination and enhanced skills during the composing process. Our own faculty, Marlene Birkman, Ph.D., author and winner of the Kemper Teaching Award along with George Shea, Ph.D., author and presenter, will also share ideas and insights from our writing program.

Saturday, November 8, 2014 • 8:30-11:45 a.m.

Download the flyer and registration form

Webster SOE Workshop Flier_nc-4-1



The Magnitude of Exit Standards: A Practical Approach by Cellie Scoggin


Our Guest Speaker for the Fall 2014 Council Meeting was Cellie Scoggin on the topic “The Magnitude of Exit Standards: A Practical Approach”.

We’ve included the presentation materials for download:

Crosswalk of Common Core Instructional Shifts: ELA/Literacy

ELA Curriculum Unit Template

53 Ways to Check for Understanding

St. Louis The Magnitude of Exit Standards  A Practical Approach  CScoggin 9-16-2014

Cellie Scoggin (M.Ed., Bailey Education Group) is a former elementary and middle school teacher. She served as an elementary principal prior to working with the Bailey Educational Group team Where She is Currently Director of Educational Services. Cellie co~authored the Online CCSS courses for The Master Teacher and Works with distrieîs in Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Missouri to effectively implement the standards. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Cellie’s interactive session will help administrators and teachers deepen their understanding of the rigorous learning progressions to ensure mastery of the Common Core exit standards. Participants will build upon their content knowledge and learn to implement pedagogical best practices While understanding how instructional rigor in the standards isn’t about more; rather it is about the integration of complex thinking skills.

Blueprint of Interventions for an At-Risk Urban Elementary School


A Blueprint of Interventions for an At-Risk Urban School

by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Fall 2014

The past few years I’ve written the back to school article for our suburban IRA newsletter. The article has usually been on a single topic that would help teachers get off to a good start the new school year. I’m going to expand the scope of this year’s article considerably. I’m going to write on the topic of interventions that would help a low scoring urban school improve improve the ability of their students to read and write. The audience for this piece will not just include suburban IRA members. It will also include the staff and administration at my new building, which is an urban school with a large number of students scoring very low on reading achievement tests. As the reading specialist for the building, I will have a major role in implementing the building’s literacy project. Comment and insight from all readers about this blueprint would be appreciated. This is meant to be a working document subject to revision in order to create a possible school literacy program this year. I hope my IRA readers will be able to glean a number of good ideas to use in order to get off to another good start this year. I hope the teachers in my building will see a big picture emerge as to why we will be doing the in-service work we will be doing. I also hope they will make suggestions as to what other things we should be doing.

My Background. To give you a little background about myself, I have been teaching since 1970 and have been teaching reading since 1977. This includes university teaching and teaching as a reading specialist in some very successful title one programs. I also had the good fortune to also get trained in reading recovery and to take part in several years of training in reading and writing workshop designed by Lucy Calkins (Teachers College Columbia). Some of the trainers included Isoke Nia and Katie Wood Ray.

My Philosophy. My philosophy about how to teach reading was deeply influenced by a group of studies known as the first grade studies (Readence & Barone, 1998). This landmark study was a meta-analysis of research about various ways to teach beginning reading. The study had several important conclusions. The study found that no one approach worked best. Every approach worked better when a phonics supplement was used. Overall, teachers accounted for more of the variance in student achievement scores than any particular approach. Simply put, good teachers tended to get good results regardless of which method they used. In designing my interventions, I looked for things that allow me to help teachers differentiate instruction. I looked for things that allow me to empower teachers. I looked for things that will allow me to help my teachers differentiate reading instruction ( i.e. ,find the particular methods that work for particular children). Most importantly I look for ways of organizing instruction that provide teachers a reasonable chance to provide such differentiation.

 The Interventions:

Intervention One: Reading and Writing workshop including a strong component of student conferencing within the workshop structures.

Intervention Two: Teaching students strategies for both comprehension and word recognition. The focus is teaching students how to think (process) rather than what to think (specific content).

Intervention Three: Word Work designed to teach sound symbol relationships both inductively and deductively. Part of this word work includes how to teach sight vocabulary through the use of predictable text. Overall the emphasis is on teaching sound symbol relationships in context rather than isolation.

Intervention Four: Wide reading: Students do recreational reading in texts that are both interesting to them and at their instructional level.

Intervention Five: Data driven instruction. Sources of data include data from district tests, data from the Raz- Kids program and informal data collected by teachers.

I will now talk about each of these interventions including materials and methods I will use in order to help the teachers in my building implement the intervention.

Intervention One: Reading and Writing workshop, including a strong component of student conferencing within the workshop structures.

Reading workshop should use guided reading as its fundamental structure. Fountas and Pinnell have two excellent texts that serve as important references for implementing reading workshop. The older of the two is Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996). The newer one is Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency: Thinking, Talking, and Writing About Reading, K-8 Fountas & Pinnell, 2006).  I believe the second book reflects a more workshop like approach to guided reading. I did my summer Institute with Calkins after Pinnell visited Teachers College Columbia. As I look over the newer book, which was written after that visit, conferencing takes on a more important role than it did in the earlier version. Listening to Pinnell speak at workshops since her visit to Teachers College, it was apparent to me she was genuinely concerned about using good literature within the structure of guided reading.

Three highlights for beginning the implementation of guided reading is as follows:

  1. The first is to assure that literacy centers are established. These centers should be differentiated when appropriate and should include authentic literacy tasks related to strategies being learned within that week’s reading. Books I will use assist teachers in creating and managing centers are Literacy Centers in Photographs: A Step-by-Step Guide in Photos That Shows How to Organize Literacy Centers, Establish Routines, and Manage Center-Based Learning All Year Long (Campo, 2008) and Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work (Diller, 2003). These books together should help teachers learn how to create and manage literacy centers and also help them with the notion of why such centers are important.
  2. There are a number of well known books about how to carry out writing workshop, Calkins (1994), Fletcher & Portalupi, 2001, Ray & Laminick (2001).   However the ones I’ll be using with the staff are Living and Teaching the Writing Workshop (Painter, 2006), and Launching the Writing Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide in Photographs (Leograndis, 2008).  I choose the former because its author was in charge of one of the Title 1 programs I worked in and as Ralph Fletcher indicates in her forward, she is easily understood and conversational in her writing style. I choose the later because it gives many practical ideas about workshop and does so through the use of very effective pictures.
  3. Finally, How’s it Going (Anderson, 2000) will provide the vehicle by which I will teach my staff about conferencing. Two notions that I hope to include is that conferencing can be an important teaching tool and can be used to inform future lesson plans. These are two points that were consistently made by Calkin’s cadre during my workshop training.

I will consider the next two interventions concurrently:

Intervention two: Teaching students strategies for both comprehension and word recognition. The focus is teaching students how to think (process) rather than what to think (specific content).

Intervention three: Word Work designed to teach sound symbol relationships both inductively and deductively. Part of this word work will be to teach sight vocabulary through the use of predictable text. Overall the emphasis will be teaching sound symbol relationships in context rather than isolation.

There are two landmark articles that have greatly influenced my teaching of reading. The first of these is by Goodman'(1967). His article, Reading a Psycholinguistic Guessing Game was based in part, on the notion that there are three cueing systems used by readers to decode text. He called them semantics, grapho-phonemic and syntax . At a mid-Missouri tall conference Goodman’s wife Yetta indicated that Marie Clay came to similar conclusions about the existence of three cueing systems. Her name for them was meaning, visual, and structure. Our district uses Clay’s terms.

While recognizing this notion about cueing systems has some critics, I’ve found teaching in a way that promotes the use of all three cueing systems and that encourages readers to cross check those cues does remarkably improve students reading ability. Fountas & Pinnell (1996) p.161, list the basic prompts used to encourage students to use all three cueing systems. These prompts include “ does it look right, does it sounds right, and does it makes sense.” It is important that such prompts be done near point of error, not at point of error. Doing it this way gives the student the opportunity to figure out what cueing system to use and to try it out. Near point of error prompting provides the ultimate in teachable moments. My building is small enough that I will have time to push in to each teacher’s classroom for about 40 minutes each day. I will be modeling this form of prompting for staff. I will use the “gradual release of responsibility” framework: first showing them, then working with them and eventually turning things over for them to do on their own.

A concern that is often raised by classroom teachers when I talk about prompting near point of error is that they can never have the time to listen to students one-on-one. However, there is a teaching method that lets teacher complete their small group reading while at the same time getting in those needed individual reading times. This method was part of my training by the Missouri Reading Initiative. I call it “a staggered start.” It is most often used at the very beginning levels (A-F) and goes as follows.

o   First do a picture walk. Then let the students know each is going to read the entire passage.

o   Each student starts reading orally  at a different time. Eventually everyone  is reading orally.

o   Some students will finish before others. All students are instructed that when they finish they should start over and read it again (and again, and again).

o   Obviously you train the students to read softly. Now you see why I call it a staggered start.

Everyone’s is now reading the story and remember they are each in a different spot in the story. During this time, the teacher can lean in and listen to one or two students. This gives the teacher a real chance to do prompting near point of error, or running records. or simply observing the child in their reading habits. The teacher should not stop the reading until each child has read through the text at least once. They can then stop the students at whatever place they are in the story. On some days teachers might let all the children read through more than once so they can work with individual children.

Once the read aloud part is over, the rest of the lesson goes as normal. I do not recommend staggered starts for every read. However using staggered starts some of the time does give teachers the option to do some actual prompting near point of error while at the same time getting their small group reading completed.

I often use Fountas and Pinnell “keep books” for the very beginning lessons. They are very low cost (as little as 25 cents a book). They are available from Ohio State University. The url information on buying “keep books” is available from Ohio State University. The url is http://www.keepbooks.org/catalog1.html. They are written for levels 1-16. At the lowest levels they have clear picture clues built around predictable text. Using them makes it really easy to teach cross-checking (pictures and letters together!) It is important that teachers learn that with the exception of phonetically irregular words, they should give the students a chance to work their own words out. Also, if students are missing more than one out of every 10 words (i.e. less than 90% accuracy) they are likely in text that is too hard for them to decode. Levels should be adjusted accordingly. On the other side of the spectrum, when students start missing only one in 20 words, it is likely time to bump them up a level IF comprehension is acceptable. In a very real way, using “keep books” in a staggered start gives an ongoing assessment of whether or not the students are reading a book at a level where they can decode.

By using “keep books,” which are low-cost and plentiful, it is possible to let the students keep the books they’ve completed in a bag rereading both individually and with a partner. Wide reading of such predictable text is in my opinion the very best way to quickly develop a large sight vocabulary. I hold the point of view that learning words in the context of a real story results in retention rates of 70% or more. By contrast, teaching words with flashcards usually results in a retention rate of 5%.

Word workstations are used along with “keep books,” the use of onset rhyme making and breaking, and word ladders. The book of lists provides a good list of the most used rhymes. Dr. Tim Rasinski, a Hall of Fame reading professor and former IRA president, has an excellent website with many free materials. Among them are word ladders that teachers can download for free; the link is http://timrasinski.com/?page=presentations. The word ladders pdf is the last one on the page.

After pushing in to my assigned grades I will have to do pull out of selected individual/groups. One of the things I will use with older readers with exceptionally weak decoding skills is Retrospective Miscue Analysis. This method was developed by Yetta Goodman who along with her husband Ken did the foundational work in miscue analysis (Brown, Goodman and Marek, 1996). Her work has greatly influenced educators using miscue analysis. This includes the work of Marie Clay, who created the MSV analysis used in our district. I’ve found that retrospective miscue analysis can often reach older readers for whom no other interventions have worked. The book I will be using to guide me is The Essential RMA (Goodman, Martens & Flurkey, 2014).

Intervention two (cont): Comprehension strategies

The other article that has influenced my teaching was written by P David Pearson. It was another landmark article. Several important ideas came from it. First the idea that comprehension can and should be taught. Durkin’s studies at the time showed that it was not being taught. He argued that comprehension strategies can be taught. Again this fits in with the idea of teaching students how to think (process), rather than what to think (product/content). Pearson identified several key strategies that should be taught.

It is important that teachers understand that their job as a reading teacher is to demonstrate and model effective strategies(I do), then give the students a chance to use  strategies with help (we do), and finally help the students reached the stage where they can use those strategies on their own (you do). Pearson’s name for this was the “gradual release of responsibility.” Gradual release of responsibility is the cornerstone of what is often called “scaffolding.

One of the questions the cadre from Lucy Calkens often asked us as they trained us in workshop was what work are you leaving for the student and why? That question is useful whether teaching a comprehension strategy, a word recognition strategy, or a writing strategy. In all cases the teaching process is very similar. The teacher at some point does a clear concise lesson explaining the strategy (I do). Then the teacher provides opportunities for the student to try out the strategy with assistance from the teacher (we do). Finally the students reaches the stage where they can use the strategy on their own (you do).

In order to help teachers see that the key focus of many workshop lessons centers around particular strategies, I’m going to encourage the use of anchor charts at the time of instruction.  But these are also important for students to use when they are doing their work with help or independently.

We will use both the Pinnell’s guided reading books as a source for comprehension strategies and we will also use the book Strategies That Work: 2nd edition (Harvey & Goudvis ,2007).

Intervention four: Wide reading, Students will do recreational reading in texts that are both interesting to them and at their instructional level.

In my years of working with students and at-risk buildings one of the things I’ve observed most often is that the students who need wide reading the most are the ones most likely to be doing it. It is essential that students recreational reading be done using material that is both very interesting and at a level they can decode independently. Often times, putting them in material that they can actually decode leads to older students being in material that is not just uninteresting but sometimes simply inappropriate because it is too juvenile. One resource we will use is the Raz Kids program. Raz Kids is an online reading program includes more than 1000 leveled books in multiple genres and formats. There is a good balance between fiction and nonfiction books and there are books at the lowest levels that are content appropriate for older readers.

I alluded earlier to the fact that Pinnell and many many other educators have begun to see the importance of using really good children’s literature. During an in-service, Katie Wood Ray told us that as a writer you are what you read. The intent to use Raz Kids is not as a replacement for reading good literature but rather as a vehicle to get the amount of wide reading needed to develop extensive sight vocabulary students need to handle some of the more complex text. I’m also taking care to get easier to read authors into the upper grade classroom libraries so that there are additional options for students to do wide reading

Intervention five: Data driven instruction. Sources of data include data from district test, data from the Raz- Kids program and informal data collected by teachers.

I am one of those educators who believes that we currently over testing and under teaching. I do recognize the importance of collecting data that demonstrates students are achieving. However it is important limit the time spent in such endeavors to a more reasonable amount. It is also important that the instruments used to test, measure what they say they are measuring.

One of the ways I try to avoid at least some of the over testing is to do as much of the ongoing assessment as possible as a natural part of the instruction rather than eating into instruction time with unnecessary tests. I’ve developed a simple seating chart form that allows my teachers take informal notes while they are teaching (the link to the folder with that chart is https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B4ZI3GjZTMN4UGFIY2VTWk81eWs&usp=sharing).  Part of what I will be doing as I do demonstration lessons during my daily teaching with them will be to show them the kind of reading behaviors ( both comprehension behaviors and word recognition behaviors) that it pays jot down. For instance if a student is consistently guessing at words from text based on only the first letter, that is important information. It also suggests possible prompts or other teachings that can encourage them use all parts of word before they decide on what word is. In addition to these ongoing notes, Raz Kids provides extensive information on the kind of reading comprehension skills students have or have not mastered. This information is collected automatically by the Raz Kids program. That means it is part of an ongoing assessment that does not detract or take away from teaching time.

Of course the district mandates periodic testing. These tests can be used to inform placement in the reading groups. But such results can and should be tempered by the ongoing data collected by the teacher.

I hope some of the specific materials and some of the methodologies talked about in this article will help you as you start out the new year. Thank you for taking the time to read over these ideas. As I said at the outset I would welcome input on additions or changes that you think might also help to improve our students reading and writing. Please respond on the St. Louis Suburban IRA website or write me directly at sam.bommarito.2@gmail.com. Be sure to include the words IRA article in the subject of your e-mail.

An annotated bibliography of the articles and books referenced in this article can be found in a folder at the following link


Web Wonders: September 2014


WEB WONDERS: Back from the Summer Slide

Mary-Eileen Rufkahr

The summer slide is not the latest ride at the local amusement park, but a brain lull students often fall into during summer vacation. As the students march back into the classrooms, perk up their brains with a review that is sure to keep them interested and engaged. For a review of ABC order, go to Tugboat Alphabet on PrimaryGames.com. Students can earn the power to tug a boat by selecting the letter that comes first in the alphabet. http://www.primarygames.com/langarts/tugboatalphabet/.

Sheppard Software’s Comma Chameleon boasts eyepopping graphics as it assists older elementary level students with correct punctuation usage. From periods to semi-colons, students are given a chance to insert the correct mark at the proper place in the sentence. After each sentence, a quick review of punctuation usage is presented. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/grammar/punctuation.html.

Students (recommended ages 7 through 13) and teachers can sign up to belong to the free Dr. Goodword’s Word Wizard Club. Once you are part of the club you will have access to the reference shelf, Miss Spelling’s Center, the game closet and puzzle challenges which review basic phonics concepts. http://www.alphadictionary.com/ww/.

Upper elementary and high school level students will find the content on Grammar Monster very helpful. Punctuation (apostrophes, colons, commas, dashes, hyphens, parentheses, speech marks), the eight parts of speech, common mistakes and the daily grammar tip are a few of the features on this site.http://www.grammar-monster.com/.

The old saying you can disagree with someone without being disagreeable comes to life for students in the Debate Game for Kids. Students “face off” with their computer opponent on a variety of issues relevant to them: summer vacation, school uniforms, eating potato chips for dinner. The student is given a selection of alternative viewpoints from what their opponent has stated. The student then picks the best counter-point to their computer opponent. Judges vote on who had the most persuasive argument. http://www.funenglishgames.com/writinggames/debate.html