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The Mashburn Institute aids teachers at University of Central Arkansas

Ohanian Comment: The absence of an author's name on this piece is a clue to the fact that it's just a barely warmed-over press release from the Mashburn Institute. Curious as to what they mean by "research-based instructional strategy," I looked up one such strategy that they're peddling. Below this article you'll find Writing Strategy Revised. Ask yourself whose "research" this is, whose "science."

With the implementation of the No Child Left Behind reform in schools, it is imperative that teachers themselves keep up as much as possible. The Mashburn Institute, held annually at the University of Central Arkansas since 1991, is helping area educators do just that.

The yearly event, which will be held July 25-29, exists to provide classroom teachers and administrators with research-based instructional strategies and teaching methods for use with students at risk to fail or fall behind.

The Institute stresses instructional practices developed by the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, keeping in line with the mandate in No Child Left Behind that teachers use "scientifically-based instructional practices."

The Kansas research team has developed a model called Strategic Instruction Model (SIM), which is taught to educators at the Mashburn Institute.

"There are so many methodologies being used all over the country and teachers face changes right and left," said Institute director Mark Cooper. "It's critical with No Child Left Behind that methodologies used are scientific based. In our opinion, the SIM -- which is used at the Mashburn Institute -- is probably one of the most effective scientifically-proven methodologies with adolescents who are struggling."

This year a record 41 first-timers are enrolled for the program, with teachers and administrators from Conway, Cabot, Little Rock, Mayflower, Pulaski County Special School District and Quitman scheduled to attend. There will also be 11 graduates from the 2004 Institute who will spend the week receiving additional training plus providing training for the new participants.

"This is a real unique part of what we're trying to do now," Cooper said. "We're in the process of, in essence, developing professional developers in the state of Arkansas. We want people to become certified in methodologies taught at the Mashburn Institute so in years to come they can become the anchor for helping other teachers across Arkansas."

Patty Kohler-Evans, assistant professor of Early Childhood and Special Education at UCA, will attend a week-long institute at KU and become the first certified professional developer in SIM in Arkansas.

"It's the first step in trying to create a cadre of professional developers," Cooper said. "It's much more effective to try to build a foundation if you have people within your own state positioned to nurture the development among teachers."

Cabot Middle School Principal Renee Calhoon, and Pulaski County educators Debbie Chapman, Bill Dennis, Janie Naylor and Sandy Stevens are also close to joining Kohler-Evans as SIM professional developers in Arkansas.

"You can see there is this growth among people who are saying 'I want to position myself to be a developer of teachers,'" Cooper said. "Once that's in place you have people housed within schools who can become trainers of teachers in the specific scientific-based methodologies."

With both the popularity of the Institute and the number of developers within the state growing, Cooper and those with the Institute hope to soon see the SIM adopted statewide.

"There are many states using this as a statewide initiative," Cooper said. "This is not the case for Arkansas at this time. What we're trying to do is speak to particular people at the state department level and hope they find a way to infuse what we're prescribing with methods they are using to create a more comprehensive and hopefully more effective intervention."

And Cooper feels that the institution that claims itself "The Center of Learning" is as good a place as any to get the movement started.

"UCA is considered a very dynamic institution for teacher preparation," he said. "We have a president who is just extremely committed to education. The fact we have his support means as much as anything. And, the reputation UCA has and being centrally located makes it perfectly placed to be a conduit for educating teachers. Our hope is in the future we're in position to use the Mashburn Institute to continue cultivating the learning of these methodologies to educators from all over the state."

Sentence Writing Strategy revised

The author: Jean Schumaker is Associate Director of the Center for Research on Learning. This article originally appeared in the July 1999 issue of Strategram, a newsletter for SIM teachers.

What's new under the SIM sun is a two-level Sentence Writing Strategy program! Over the years, many teachers provided feedback that their students just were not prepared to begin instruction in the Sentence Writing Strategy. They said that their students did not know how to find subjects and verbs in sentences, were identifying the verb within an infinitive as the verb of the sentence, and were identifying the noun in a prepositional phrase as the subject of the sentence. They pleaded for a program that would give their students these prerequisite skills. Elementary teachers also asked for a program they could use that would be less complex but that would teach younger students how to write simple sentences.

The first level of the two-level Sentence Writing Strategy program, called Fundamentals in the Sentence Writing Strategy, does just that. It can be used at the elementary, secondary, or post-secondary level to teach students the basic concepts, vocabulary, and skills involved in sentence writing. In a nutshell, through this program, students learn how to identify subjects and verbs and other parts of speech, the steps of the Sentence Writing Strategy (PENS), and how to write simple sentences. Once students learn these skills, they are prepared to enter the second level of the program, called Proficiency in the Sentence Writing Strategy, in the compound sentences section. Teachers who use the two-level program in this way find that students learn the skills quickly and easily, they make a smooth transition into learning the more complicated types of sentences, and they become fluent writers with less stress.

The two-level program can be used in other ways as well. Older students who have a basic grasp of the concepts of subjects and verbs might begin instruction in the Proficiency program in the simple sentences part. Then, when they have difficulties, selected lessons from the Fundamentals program can be used. For example, if the student has difficulties identifying helping verbs, the lesson on helping verbs in the Fundamentals program can be used. If the student identifies the verb within an infinitive as the verb of the sentence, the lesson on infinitives in the Fundamentals program can be used.

Another way the two-level program is being used involves sequencing the instruction in the Sentence Writing Strategy across the grades in general education language arts classes. In some schools, children in the second and third grades are learning to write sentences using the Fundamentals program, and children in the fourth and fifth grades are learning to write compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences in the Proficiency program. Other creative writing activities can be woven into language arts instruction to provide a rounded writing program. Students with disabilities receive additional instruction in their special education class so that they can keep up with their general education class. Thus, the two-level program can be used as a developmental curriculum at the elementary level.

The Fundamentals program is different from the Proficiency program in several ways. First, and most importantly, the instructor's manual has a new format. The manual is divided into lessons (Lesson 1, Lesson 2, Lesson 3, etc.) instead of instructional stages (Stage 1: Pretest, Stage 2: Describe, Stage 3: Model, etc.). Each lesson focuses on a major concept; for example, Lesson 1 focuses on the five requirements of a complete sentence, and Lesson 2 focuses on the "PENS" Steps.

Each lesson is short, but it contains a review of mastered concepts, an advance organizer for the lesson, a description of the new concept, models, verbal practice, guided practice, and independent practice. Associated with each lesson are several worksheets. Students work through the worksheets in a way similar to the way they work through the worksheets in the Proficiency program. That is, they advance to the next level of difficulty if they have reached mastery, or they continue on the same level of difficulty if they have not reached mastery. The worksheets are short, too; they require students to work with or write only five sentences.

Another way in which the Fundamentals program is different from the Proficiency program is that it contains a substrategy called "MARK." This substrategy is used during the new "S" step in "PENS," called "Search and Check." Students learn the "MARK" substrategy as they work through the different lessons so that they can search through each sentence to check it for completeness.

The Proficiency program is made up of the old Sentence Writing Strategy program, which has been extensively revised to correspond to the new Fundamentals program so that students' transitions from one program to the other will be seamless and smooth. Revisions have been made to both the instructor's manual and the student lessons manual for this purpose. Additionally, the new Proficiency instructor's manual now corresponds to the "stages" of acquisition and generalization instead of the old "steps."

Anyone who has received professional development instruction in the Sentence Writing Strategy is eligible to purchase the new programs. The instructor's manuals are available through the Center for Research on Learning, and the student lessons manuals are available through Edge Enterprises.


— no author
The Daily Citizen


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