The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt®Collections program for Grades 6 through 12 is a comprehensive English language arts program. The program is anchored on a set of rich, engaging, and complex literary and informational texts, and is designed to develop students’ abilities to analyze complex texts, cite from sources, reason, and communicate orally and in writing. Developed around rigorous state standards and expectations, the program challenges and supports all students to become critical and close readers. The program develops students’ writing across varied genres with models of effective texts and ample opportunities for writing about texts. With a blend of print and digital resources and online tools, the program delivers 21st-century learning.
The purpose of this document is to demonstrate clearly and explicitly the current and confirmed scientific research base for Collections © 2017. The program is built around what we know about effective instruction in the English classroom—how to support students in reading complex texts and writing effectively across genres—and what we know about how best to meet the needs of all learners through differentiation, ongoing assessment, and 21st-century technological tools. The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Collections program integrates each of these research strands into a program that research suggests will support students as they encounter and produce increasingly complex texts.
To help readers of this document make the connections between the research strands and the Collections program, each strand includes the following sections:
The combination of the major research recommendations and the related features of the Collections program will help readers better understand how the program incorporates research into its instructional design.
A reference list of works cited is provided at the end of this document.
For hundreds of years the primary vehicle for instruction has been words, such as lectures or textbooks. Advances in computer and communication technologies now allow instructors to supplement verbal modes of instruction with visual modes of instruction, including dazzling graphics that students can interact with. Research on multimedia learning provides encouraging evidence that under appropriate circumstances, students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone…—Mayer, 2013, p. 396
The 21st century is a period of dramatic change in defining literacy. Contemporary students use both traditional text and digital media to communicate and locate information for both in-school and out-of-school purposes. This period of change has required researchers, educators, and students themselves to redefine and expand their concept of literacy.—Rhodes & Robnolt, 2009, p. 153
Numerous studies have attested to the effectiveness of technology to facilitate student learning and increase achievement in the classroom (see syntheses and meta-analyses conducted by Cheung & Slavin, 2012a, 2012b; Goldberg, Russell & Cook, 2003; Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia & Jones, 2010; Waxman, Lin & Michko, 2003; Tamim, Bernard, Borokhosvski, Abrami & Schmid, 2011; and Teh & Fraser, 1994).
By using technology in and out of the classroom for content learning, teachers meet students where they are, using a medium that engages them. Students ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 1 ½ hours on the computer each day (Rideout, Foehr & Roberts, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010). Nearly all high school students surveyed said that they use technology to study or complete school assignments for homework (CDW, 2011). These students have grown up with technology, leading to Prensky (2001) to use the term “digital natives” to describe them.
While studies attest to the positive impact of technology in the classroom, technology alone does not improve student learning. Technology must be used for specific purposes to support content-learning and skill acquisition and must meet design requirements, such as those specified by Mayer in his research (2001, 2005, 2013).
In the Collections program, technology is used purposefully to facilitate instruction and learning. Interactive tools for close reading, annotating, and writing, and resources for additional learning, engage students in learning, skill building, and practice. A blended digital and print approach, with interactive and collaborative digital tools, means that all learners are supported in developing the skills needed for college and career success.
Technology and Multimedia Learning
The phrase “digital natives” has become ubiquitous, used to describe today’s technologically-savvy students. The phrase, which originated with Prensky’s seminal 2001 work, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” describes the fact that today’s students are among the first to grow up with new technologies, such as computers, digital music players, cell phones, and other mobile devices, and to have these technologies serve as integral parts of their lives. Prensky makes the argument that, as a result, students’ brains and their methods of processing information are fundamentally different than the brains of older, “digital immigrants.”
While there is some debate about whether the digital divide falls on generational lines, or if proficiency in technology varies more widely among young people (Bennett, Maton & Kervin, 2008) and is more closely related to factors such as gender, economics, or educational levels (Helsper & Eynon, 2010), what is not debatable is the high level of computer and media exposure and use of today’s youth. Today’s students use these technologies daily (Rideout, Foehr & Roberts, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010), and nearly all use technology to complete school assignments or homework (CDW, 2011). And students want more technology in school rather than less; in a survey of 400 high school students, only 39% indicated that their schools are meeting their technology expectations (CDW, 2011).
Technology is effective in the classroom not only because it engages students through a medium with which they have interest and familiarity. In addition, technology is effective as a means for improving content learning and skill acquisition—particularly when it is used to support instruction and offer practice. To reach their students’ full potential for learning, educators must know how best to integrate technology into the classroom—to use technology not for the sake of technology but for the purpose of facilitating increased learning and achievement.
Numerous studies and meta-analyses support the use of computers in the classroom to improve student learning (see Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia & Jones, 2010; Waxman, Lin & Michko, 2003; Teh & Fraser, 1994). Mayer (2001, 2005), a leading researcher in the field of multimedia learning, argues that student learning is increased in multimedia environments because information can be presented in multiple formats—including words, audio, and pictures. Students are able to learn more and retain information when they can access information using these different pathways.
Tamim and colleagues (2011) conducted a secondary meta-analysis, to aggregate the findings of 25 meta-analyses completed over the past 40 years which attempted to answer the question of whether students in classrooms in which computers are used outperform students who do not use computers in the classroom. They found that technology showed benefits to student learning, finding that the “average student in a classroom where technology is used will perform 12 percentile points higher than the average student in the traditional setting that does not use technology to enhance the learning process” (p. 17). The impact of technology was seen particularly when technology was used “in support students’ efforts to achieve rather than acting as a tool for delivering content” (p. 17).
In examining research in the field of technology-supported learning, Reimann and Aditomo (2013) concluded that “the key pedagogical message resulting from the research reviewed is that CT use in classrooms will more likely be supporting learning if it is employed for the purpose of students interacting with content and interacting with peers rather than solely distributing and presenting content. There are quantitative variations across different content areas, with the effects on writing seemingly the strongest” (p. 401).
Technology is important in the English language arts classroom both because new technologies are redefining literacy, with new forms of information and new ways to interact with that information (International Reading Association, 2009), and because technology has been shown to be particularly effective in English language arts classrooms, in the development of reading comprehension and writing.
Goldberg, Russell, and Cook (2003) conducted a meta-analysis of 26 studies which examined the performance of K–12 students who were taught writing with computers compared with those taught in paper-and-pencil conditions. The “results of the meta-analysis suggest that on average students who use computers when learning to write are not only more engaged and motivated in their writing, but they produce written work that is of greater length and higher quality.”
In two separate syntheses on the research evidence to support technology applications for teaching reading, Cheung and Slavin (2012a, 2012b) reviewed over 100 studies and concluded that technology use in the reading classroom, as compared to traditional instruction, produced a positive effect on the skills of all students in Grades K through 12, and of struggling readers particularly.
In a study of the use of technology to improve students’ ability to use source information, Britt and Aglinskas (2002) found that students who used the computer-based tutorial referenced more text-based evidence than did the group who engaged in more regular classroom activity.
Peterson-Karlan (2011) concluded the following when looking at the benefits of digital tools for writing instruction:
Technology-supported writing can advance all phases of writing—planning, transcribing, and editing and revising using tools. But technology also enables writing in new ways. Technology provides new sources for and means of obtaining information (e.g., the Internet, search engines) and enables sharing, editing, and collaboration among writers, teachers, and peers. The ability to work from remote locations permits students to gauge the quality of their writing and their level of skill against those of peers elsewhere (p. 41).
The findings of the 2011 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress support the idea that computer-based learning develops students’ skills in literacy and language arts. Students in Grade 8 “whose teachers more frequently asked them to use the computer to draft and revise their writing scored higher than those whose teachers did so less frequently. Students whose teachers never asked them to draft and revise their writing on a computer scored the lowest.” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012b, p. 17) In addition, as stated previously, one of the benefits of a technology-based instructional program is that scaffolds and tools can be embedded at the point of use. Interestingly, in the 2011 computer-based administration of the NAEP writing assessment, students in both Grades 8 and 12 “who used the [online] thesaurus [tool] scored higher, on average, than students who did not use it, and students who used it two or more times scored higher than students who used it only once…” (p. 18). Similarly, the highest performers also used the backspace key and the spell-check tool more frequently than the lowest performers.
Technology also supports educators in meeting the needs of all students. Research has shown specific benefits to English learners using technology in the classroom (Lopez, 2010). For those with disabilities, technology can allow for greater access. For advanced learners, technology offers the opportunity to increase the pace of learning, to access additional resources and information, and to collaborate with others.
Schools and teachers are using technology in innovative ways. One model is the blended classroom, in which teachers employ various instructional mediums, combining face-to-face instruction with online or technology-based instruction. Tucker (2012) a classroom teacher who adopted a blended learning model, found that it engaged students as active participants, helped them to develop communication and collaboration skills, and offered more flexibility for students and teachers. Another way of incorporating technology into the classroom is the flipped classroom which “uses technology—most commonly teacher-created videos—to leverage learning in a classroom so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing” (Overmyer, 2012, p. 46). Although the practice lacks a scientific research base, “preliminary nonscientific data suggest that flipping the classroom may produce benefits” (p. 78) because of teachers’ ability to interact with students, provide feedback, engage students with online information, and enable students to pace their own learning (Goodwin & Miller, 2013).
Finally, technology shows specific benefits for assessment. As Darling-Hammond (2010) states:
Technology can be used to enhance …assessments in three ways: by delivering the assessments; in online tasks of higher order abilities, allowing students to search for information or manipulate variables and tracking information about the students’ problem-solving processes; and in some cases, scoring the results or delivering the responses to trained scorers/teachers to access from an electronic platform. (p. 11)
Computer-enhanced assessment allows for the rapid and accurate analysis of performance and immediate delivery of feedback, making technology a requirement for an effective assessment system. Because of the benefits technology offers for assessment, students and educators can expect assessments increasingly to be delivered online, including the computer-based assessment systems being developed by the multistate Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC®). (More information on assessment is provided in the final strand of this report.)
Technology and Multimedia Learning in Collections
In Collections © 2017, technology is used to meet the needs of 21st-century learners and teachers.
The program’s digital elements are integrated thoughtfully to support the goals of the program and to engage learners with digital tools, whenever they want to access content. The program’s Integrated eBook—the Student Edition, Close Reader, and Teacher’s Edition—offers an entryway to a full complement of digital resources, and a place where students can read, annotate, write, collaborate, get extra help, assess, and get feedback. Through student and teacher dashboards, all eBooks and additional resources are easily accessible and from multiple points of entry.
In keeping with the program’s focus on high-quality texts at the center of instruction, the digital resources and tools in Collections © 2017 are designed to support students in grappling with complex texts and formulating interpretations from textual evidence.
With the Collections program’s driving goal of supporting student’s analysis and repeated readings of complex texts, perhaps the first tools students will use are the annotation tools with each selection that allow students to mark, highlight, or underline specific textual evidence in a selection, write an additional note of interpretation, tag that note for later reference, and store it in folders in their personalized digital notebook, myNotebook. These notes can then be later accessed through the Notebook or used in performance tasks or other writing and speaking tasks. Annotation tools facilitate the making and saving of notes in a format that today’s students find natural and engaging. Also embedded in each anchor text, the Close Read Screencasts provide unique modeled lessons of critical analysis and close reading.
The For Your Information (fyi) site (hmhfyi.com) provides monthly digital texts, informative in nature and related to Collections topics.
Also unique to Collections is the partnership with HISTORY®, A&E®, and Bio® that provide media assets linked directly to selections in the eBook. Collections also features media text that students study as text with all of the accompanying support structure as any other text within the Table of Contents.
Another focus point for digital resources is the Collection Opener which sets the topic of the collection, introducing it with a quotation and visual. Digital resources, such as a link to the Stream to Start® Videos which provide background and engagement and the Channel One News® Videos which link the collection topic to current news articles, build content knowledge for the reader. Individual selections also have these links as relevant to the specific text. These resources can also be accessed through Teacher and Student Resources on the dashboard.
The program’s multimedia elements foster student engagement. The Xplor eMagazines, the Channel One Connections, the Stream to Start Videos, and the Text in Focus Videos provide animated to support for all anchor texts at Grades 6 through 8, all offering opportunities for students’ visual and auditory engagement.
In Collections © 2017, digital connections are made at the point of use, and from multiple entry points, so that students and teachers move seamlessly between print and digital environments.
For example, as students work through the Collection Performance Tasks, digital connections are made throughout, where they will most benefit students. As students engage in the steps of the writing process, additional digital tools, lessons, and opportunities for collaboration and support are provided along the way.
To improve their drafts, students can have a partner or group of peers review their drafts in myWriteSmart. To support students in the revising process, Collections provides additional Interactive Lessons, on topics such as Precise Language and Vocabulary and Formal Style.
Additional resources such as the program’s HMH® Close Reads App help ensure that students build their abilities to grapple with complex texts in a format that today’s digital natives can use on the go and on demand.
Through the HMH Player® App, teachers and students can download content to their devices so that they can access content whenever they want to—including when the device does not have an active Internet connection. The Player allows for true blended learning. As teachers and learners work using the Player, if they are offline, their work is saved and pushed back and synchronized when Internet connection is restored. Through the Player, teachers can plan lessons, customize content, present instruction, make assignments, and review student progress. Students can access program materials and the rewards system, import open source content, and collaborate with their peers. For teachers, the new interface is highly visual and intuitive. Teachers can save and assign directly. Online and offline access via iOS® and Google Chrome™ provides continual access to learning and instruction.
The program’s multimedia elements foster student engagement. The Xplor eMagazines, Channel One News, Stream to Start Videos, and the Text in Focus Videos (which are animated to support all anchor texts at Grades 6 through 8) all offer opportunities for students’ visual and auditory engagement. The program’s digital tools and resources support teachers in learning, planning, delivering instruction, differentiating, and assessing.
The digital resources and tools in Collections offer specific supports for teachers, from additional suggestions for supporting English learners and less-proficient readers and writers to the ability to bring in grade open-source resources and integrate these smoothly into program-based instruction.
The mySmartPlanner tool provides a space for teachers to create lesson plans and access resources online. Professional Development Podcasts offer professional learning opportunities for teachers at point of use in the Teacher eBook as well as in the Professional Development Website for Literacy available from the Teacher Dashboard.
For assessment, new technologies allow for tech-enhanced items. New platforms, such as Learnosity, allow for these tech-enhanced items to be practiced before students encounter items like them on the SBAC tests.
Collections is a 21st-century program, in which students engage in authentic practice of 21st-century skills. Students have ample opportunities to evaluate real websites, engage in digital collaboration, conduct web research, critique student discussions, and make digital connections at the point of use.
Today’s classrooms are filled with diverse learners who differ not only culturally and linguistically, but also in their cognitive abilities, background knowledge, and learning preferences. Faced with such diversity, many schools are implementing differentiated instruction in an effort to effectively address all students’ learning needs.—Huebner, 2010, p. 79
A growing body of research shows that effective teachers make meaningful differences in students’ lives. The job of teachers is important. As Hougen and Smartt (2012) put it: “Our students do not have time to waste. You should feel a sense of urgency when you are teaching, making the best use of every minute” (p. 6).
How do the most effective teachers use their instructional time? One way is by using effective instructional techniques to support all students in learning. Studies show that classroom teachers’ instructional strategies have a direct impact on students’ reading proficiency (Pennington Whitaker, Gambrell & Morrow, 2004). Providing instructional supports, such as through scaffolded instruction, or differentiating reading instruction, to better align task, expectations, and pacing to students’ current level, are ways that teachers can meet individual student needs.
Groups of students, including struggling readers and English learners, have specific needs. When teachers are aware of these needs, and tailor instruction accordingly, teachers can better help these students reach higher levels of achievement.
The Collections program supports teachers and meets the needs of all students by providing specific suggestions for scaffolding and differentiation and for meeting the needs of specific populations, such as struggling readers and English learners.
Scaffolding is an instructional technique that involves providing support to students as they learn and reach competence and gradually decreasing the amount of support provided until students are able to work independently. According to Vygotsky, scaffolding can be defined as the “role of teachers and others in supporting the learner’s development and providing support structures to get to that next stage or level” (Raymond, 2000, p. 176). Providing embedded scaffolds is an essential part of transitioning students to independence and “has repeatedly been identified as one of the most effective instructional techniques available” (Graves & Avery, 1997, p. 138). Numerous studies have shown that scaffolding can lead to improved student outcomes—including enhanced inquiry and higher achievement (White & Kim, 2008; Simons & Klein, 2007; Fretz, Wu, Zhang, Davis, Krajcik & Soloway, 2002; Rosenshine & Meister, 1992) and improved reading comprehension (Clark & Graves, 2008; Lutz, Guthrie & Davis, 2006).
Scaffolding students’ reading can “make the difference between a frustrating reading experience and one that is meaningful to students” (Graves & Avery, 1997, p. 138). White and Kim (2008) found that merely giving students books to read had no positive effects; however, with scaffolding, in the form of oral reading practice and comprehension strategies instruction, students demonstrated increased achievement. In their study of an instructional model for writing (planning, using strategies, and focusing on text structures), De La Paz and Graham (2002) supported students with scaffolding in the form of cue card reminders. The experimental group students significantly outperformed control group students—with longer, more complete, and better-written texts. Anderson, Mitchell, Thompson, and Trefz (2014) found that digital technologies and tools for teaching writing (including online instructional presentations for use as needed, model texts, and links to academic vocabulary) helped to scaffold student learning.
Instruction that scaffolds students’ learning includes these elements: a logical structure, carefully sequenced models and examples that reveal essential characteristics, progression from easier to more difficult content and from easier to more difficult tasks, additional information/elaboration as needed, peer-mediated instruction, and materials the guide students, such as key words, think sheets, and graphic organizers (Hillocks, 1993). The final element of scaffolding is independent work—scaffolding is removed and students apply what they have learned to new situations.
Scaffolding encompasses many different instructional strategies. Varying scaffolds can be used; what is important is that they consistently provide adequate support as needed. Knowledgeable adults can act as scaffolds in supporting young writers in developing their skills (Santrock, 1996). Research (Schunk, Pintrich & Meece, 2008; Stone, 1998) suggests that scaffolds such as the following will support student independence: activating prior knowledge, reviewing previously learned material, modeling and thinking aloud, providing models and different representations, questioning, using cues or tools, and providing useful feedback. Even well-timed questions can serve as scaffolds.
Differentiated instruction rests on the assumptions that students differ and that these differences are important to how students will best learn. Teachers who can identify and build on individual student’s strengths and weaknesses will ensure that all students can learn (Tomlinson, 2006).
A typical classroom includes students with widely different backgrounds, experiences, skills, and instructional needs (Darling-Hammond, Wise & Klein, 1995). To meet the needs of all students, effective teachers match learning activities to student readiness, interests, and learning preferences (Jackson & Davis, 2000; Tomlinson & Allan, 2000; McLaughlin & Talbert, 1993; Stronge, 2002). To meet the varied needs of each student, teachers can differentiate multiple elements of the curriculum, including content, process, and/or products (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000). “Differentiation seems a common-sense approach to addressing the needs of a wide variety of learners, promoting equity and excellence and focusing on best-practice instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. This makes more sense than the timeworn method of aiming for students in the middle and hoping for the best for those on the upper and lower extremes” (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 5).
Students learn in different ways; effective instruction recognizes these modes of learning, and incorporates multiple modes. When instruction is differentiated to match students’ modes of learning and learning preferences, their achievement increases (Brimijoin, 2001; Cotton, 1995; Dunn, Beaudry & Klavas, 1989; Joyce, Weil & Calhoun, 2000; Kellough & Kellough, 2003; Sternberg, 1997; Tieso, 2002). Effective differentiation can decrease the achievement gaps in classrooms, as shown in Beecher and Sweeny’s 2008 study in which achievement gains were seen across all groups—and achievement gaps reduced—when differentiation was applied in math, reading, and writing instruction. In a multiyear study in elementary and high school, Tomlinson, Brimijoin, and Narvaez (2008) found that differentiated instruction led to lasting gains in achievement for students across student groups, grade levels, and subject areas.
In the classroom, teachers can differentiate instruction in multiple ways. Teachers can adjust the content of the curriculum (what students are learning), they can differentiate the process of how students learn (providing support for the strategies students use to make sense of content), and they can adjust the expected products or demonstrations of learning [assessment] (Tomlinson, 2001). Specific strategies have been proven effective for meeting diverse learners’ needs:
(Tomlinson, 2004; Klingner & Vaughn, 2004)
Gardner’s seminal work (1993) emphasized the need to access and integrate multiple modes to meet students’ learning styles and varied intelligences. Learning style is used to describe the ways that students best focus on learning and process new information. Because students’ preferred learning styles vary, “the same instructional environment, methods, and resources will be effective for some learners and ineffective for others” (Burke & Dunn, 1998, p. 104). Aligning classroom conditions to students’ preferred learning style can improve learning (Grigorenko, 1997). By supporting linguistic and nonlinguistic (visual, sensory, and so on) means of acquiring information, teachers support increased reflection and recall and maximize learning (Kapusnik & Hauslein, 2001; Marzano, Pickering & Pollock, 2001).
Meeting the Needs of English Learners
English learners (ELs) are one of the fastest-growing groups of students in the United States (Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer & Rivera, 2006b); therefore, it is imperative that teachers meet the specific needs of this population.
English learners, like all students, benefit from effective instruction. Generally speaking, the principles of sound instruction for native English speakers hold true for ELLs (Fitzgerald, 1995a). English learners, however, have some specific needs that should influence instructional decision making.
One primary need of ELs is to master academic language. While the development of conversational English may take place naturally, through social interactions, explicit instruction in academic language may be necessary for students to gain the vocabulary needed to succeed in school (Fitzgerald, 1995b). Academic vocabulary is like a “third” language that takes students much more time to master than social English (DeLuca, 2010). According to Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, and Rivera (2006b), “mastery of academic language is arguably the single most important determinant of academic success for individual students” (p. 5).
His synthesis of EL research led Fitzgerald (1995b) to conclude that other specific supports for ELs include explicit instruction on informational text structures to facilitate content-area learning and instruction focused on helping students to develop metacognitive strategies.
Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, and Rivera (2006b) conducted a synthesis of research on the specific needs of English learners and concluded that effective instruction for ELs must include these six elements:
Finally, technology as a mode of delivery for instruction for ELLs can have particular benefits. Silver and Repa (1993) conducted a thirteen-week study of 66 urban ELL students. Using a pre/post study design, researchers found that experimental-group students who wrote using a word processor significantly outperformed pen-and-paper, control-group students on the quality of their writing. Lopez (2010) found that the use of interactive whiteboard technology in the classroom helped to close the achievement gap between English learners and native speakers.
Meeting the Needs of Struggling Readers
There is help for students who struggle. Edmonds and colleagues (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of 13 intervention studies with struggling readers in Grades 6 through 12 and found that students in treatment conditions showed meaningful increases in their comprehension abilities over students in control groups. For at-risk students, Cunningham and Allington (2007) conclude that “consistently high-quality classroom instruction” has an “enormous impact.”
How can teachers best help these students and support them in learning? Students who struggle in the classroom need the same high-quality instruction that all students need, supplemented with intensive instruction on specific skills (Au, 2002). Often, struggling learners are viewed as needing slowed-down instruction. As Allington and Walmsley (1995) point out, however, slowing down instruction ensures that delayed readers will remain behind their peers.
As Common Core State Standards’ authors David Coleman and Susan Pimentel (2012) warn:
Far too often, students who have fallen behind are only given less complex texts rather than the support they need to read texts as the appropriate level of complexity. Complex text is a rich repository of ideas, information, and experience which all readers should learn how to access, although some students will need more scaffolding to do so….
Curriculum materials should provide extensive opportunities for all students in a classroom to engage with complex text, although students whose reading ability is developing at a slower rate also will need supplementary opportunities to read text they can comprehend successfully without extensive supports. (p. 3)
What does high-quality instruction for struggling readers include? From their review of the research literature, Almasi and Palmer (2013) concluded that “reading comprehension programs are most successful when they teach children to be active, engaged readers who are able to monitor their comprehension and self-regulate their reading” (p. 344). Authentic purposes for reading and writing, reading and writing across the curriculum, varied literacy experiences, graphic organizers, and guided reading and writing have all been shown effective for struggling readers (Cunningham & Allington, 2007). Explicit vocabulary instruction also supports struggling readers in making larger and faster literacy gains (Sedita, 2005).
Strategy instruction is particularly effective with struggling students (Cunningham & Allington, 2007; Pressley, Gaskins & Fingeret, 2006). “The research on comprehension strategy instruction provides powerful evidence that most struggling readers (and many not so struggling readers) benefit enormously when we can construct lessons that help make the comprehension processes visible” (Allington, 2001, p. 98). In their meta-analysis, Edmonds and colleagues (2009) found that interventions which taught students multiple comprehension strategies were most effective for struggling readers. In a study of comprehension strategy instruction with students with reading difficulties in Grades 6–11, Anderson (1992) found multiple benefits to strategy instruction—including greater comprehension gains, increased motivation, and greater willingness to engage with classmates in discussion. Additionally, Graham (2006) found that writing strategy instruction particularly benefited lower performers across the studies included in his meta-analysis.
According to Collins (1998), specific textual aids (such as color coding, graphics, discrete chunks of text) support struggling students, as do specific instructional decisions (such as clearly defining tasks, thoughtfully sequencing tasks, integrating skills into process learning, and providing opportunities to reflect).
Technology, too, has been shown to be effective with struggling students. Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) found that online learning approaches were effective across types of learners—from lower-achieving students to above average. One reason for this may be because multimedia learning environments are able to reach students who learn in different ways—visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners. Another reason may be the power of technology to embed scaffolds at the point of use.
Finally, increasing motivation for struggling students is critical. They are often negatively affected “by the grading and grouping practices prevalent in middle and high schools” (National Institute for Literacy, 2007, p. 34). To increase the motivation and self-efficacy of these students, teachers can set clear goals and expectations for student performance (Wigfield, 2004) and provide opportunities for students to interact and discuss the content being learned (Strickland & Alvermann, 2004; Wigfield, 2004).
Scaffolding in Collections
To help all students reach independence and gain mastery of skills and content, the Collections © 2017 program offers multiple, varied scaffolds as supports for student learning and mastery.
The program follows a Topical Organization. Each collection reflects an engaging topic that connects selections for discussion and analysis, so students can explore several dimensions of the topic—building knowledge through reading. The Close Reader provides additional and new selections related to the collection topic for additional practice and application of close reading skills and annotation strategies.
In Collections © 2017, scaffolding begins with the Collection Opener. In this section, students’ prior knowledge and schema are activated through a Stream to Start Video, which offers an engaging, one-minute introduction for each collection. Students are given a preview of the Performance Task so that they are clear on their focus and goals as they work through the collection. And, relevant Academic Vocabulary terms are introduced, so that students are exposed to words essential to their work in the collection.
Another strong digital tool for scaffolding the process of close reading in rigorous texts is the Close Read Screencasts. Appearing in particularly challenging passages within anchor texts in the eBook, these visual and auditory examples model a literate conversation about text. Two individuals grapple with the text and produce meaning. Both students and teachers can apply this model. Students can be given an accompanying Close Read Application to practice the process with a peer using a different passage in the anchor text. The Close Read Screencasts scaffold learning effectively and uniquely in complex texts.
Scaffolding continues through the Collection Performance Tasks, when students are provided with a Mentor Text that models effective writing. Detailed suggestions help students through the steps of completing the Performance Task.
In Collections, instruction through print and online resources follows the same steps—Teach and Practice and Apply, Assess, Extend, and Reteach. Throughout each lesson plan, the subhead “Close Read” reminds the teacher that a primary driver in the instruction is learning and applying the art of close reading.
Available in the eBook, the Collections Interactive Lessons teach students using an approach that guides them step-by-step through the stages of effective communication, in such area as:
Differentiation in Collections
The Collections © 2017 program offers teachers flexible options for instruction and support in effectively differentiating instruction to meet the needs of each student in the classroom.
The Collections program’s rich suite of assessments provides needed information to teachers at every stage of learning, with diagnostic/screening assessments, progress monitoring tests, benchmark assessments, and end-of-year assessments. Armed with detailed information about student performance, teachers can then adjust instruction accordingly.
Throughout the Teacher’s Edition, specific suggestions are provided for English Language Support, for Students with Disabilities, for When Students Struggle…, and To Challenge Students.
At Grades 6 through 8, the program's Xplor eMagazine offers additional materials for differentiation. With three levels of reading difficulty, all organized by the thematic collections, students can build critical background information to better understand content-based complex texts.
Meeting the Needs of English Learners in Collections
The Collections program offers supports and instructional suggestions throughout to ensure that teachers meet the needs of English learners. The design and content of the program supports ELs through the focus on:
At the opening of each collection, the Teacher’s Edition offers specific suggestions for English Language Support. Suggestions for how to help students Engage with the Collection Topic and the use of specific strategies for differentiation are highlighted. Digital resources for scaffolding English learners are also featured to guide teachers’ use of them. Within the Teacher’s Edition, and at point of use throughout the instruction, annotations labeled English Language Support provide directions and suggestions targeting the differentiated strategies for English learners.
In the Teacher’s Edition, Text X-Ray pages preceding each selection target specific areas for integrating instruction for English learners. For each qualitative measure of text difficulty (Levels of Meaning/Purpose, Structure, Language Conventionality and Clarity, Knowledge Demands, and Suggested Read/Task Consideration) the Text X-Ray provides suggestions for what teachers might Zoom In On in order to help English learners by, for example:
Additional digital-based tools and resources offer support for English learners for all anchor texts. The program’s Text in Focus Videos support all Grades 6 through 8 anchor texts with a two-minute video with targeted language support, background information, or skill instruction, at the point of use in the eBook, so that English learners have accessible, engaging support to overcome potential stumbling blocks to comprehension.
In Collections, the Teacher’s Edition offers specific suggestions for Scaffolding for EL Students. For examples of this feature, see the pages listed in the table.
Meeting the Needs of Struggling Readers in Collections
Students who struggle with reading, and those who teach these students, will find ample support throughout the Collections © 2017 program.
Rather than slowing down instruction for struggling readers, who would then fall farther behind, the Collections program offers additional supports for students to ensure that they gain the skills and strategies they need for success—and that they are supported in reading the same complex texts as their peers.
In Collections, the Teacher’s Edition offers specific suggestions for "When Students Struggle…" For examples of this feature, see the pages listed in the table.
In the Collections program, instructional strategies for helping students develop specific reading skills are offered. For example, in fluency, the Collections program makes connections between the Common Core State Standards Speaking and Listening expectations and Reading expectations in order to provide opportunities for students to build skills in fluency. When students working through the Collections program perform a read-aloud of a written piece this helps to promote their reading fluency.
In addition, in Collections, to support the needs of struggling writers, every collection in the teacher eBook includes specific support for less-proficient writers.
Interactive Graphic Organizers support students who can benefit from visual depictions of concepts.
Digital-based tools and resources offer additional support for readers. The Collections Text in Focus Videos support all anchor texts at Grades 6 through 8 with a two-minute video with targeted language support, background information, or skill instruction, at the point of use in the eBook. Designed with English learners in mind, these videos accelerate participation and target any problem areas in the selection that would negatively impact comprehension, such as cultural differences in background knowledge and experience and unfamiliarity of English language structures.
The clearest differentiator in reading between students who are college ready and students who are not is the ability to comprehend complex texts.—ACT, 2006, Executive Summary, p. 2
What is reading? As Fox and Alexander (2011) state, “reading is the complex communicative behavior of deriving meaning from presented text.” They continue: “learning to read is becoming able to participate in the behavior of reading in ways that support one’s purposes and satisfy one’s needs” (p. 7). Effective middle- and high-school teachers create opportunities for students to become better readers. To do so, students must encounter a wide range of texts; read for enjoyment and information; and analyze, interpret, synthesize, and critique what they have read.
As students progress, the texts they encounter become increasingly complex, as do the meanings they gain from those texts. By the time students complete high school, they must be “able to read and comprehend independently and proficiently the kinds of complex texts commonly found in college and careers” (NGA and CCSSO, Appendix A, 2010b, p. 2). When ACT® analyzed students’ patterns of performance relative to the ACT College Readiness Benchmark, they found that “performance on complex texts is the clearest differentiator in reading between students who are likely to be ready for college and those who are not. And this is true for both genders, all racial/ethnic groups, and all family income levels” (ACT, 2006, pp. 16–17). Clearly, an important job for educators K–12 is to prepare students to be able to work with these kinds of complex texts. But how best to accomplish this goal? According to Adams (2010–2011), the careful sequence of texts on given topics, both in terms of the reading level and the key words and concepts, and the explicit teaching of key words and concepts, can scaffold students’ readiness for texts of increasingly greater depth and complexity.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Collections engages students with thought-provoking, high-quality, complex texts. Each of the six collections per grade level features one or more anchor text that reflects the theme or topic of the collection and serves as a model of rigor and complexity, bearing the multiple readings that are characteristic of a close-reading protocol. Each selection in the collection reflects the topic and provides the resources for standards instruction, discussion, and written and oral response. Questions and tasks are text-dependent; discussion and writing activities require students to cite specific textual evidence and make connections across texts. By incorporating multi-genre texts, selected because of their quality and content, the program ensures that students have the skills to independently comprehend increasingly complex and content-rich informational and literary texts.
Students read and write in English classes at every grade level—what changes is the complexity of the texts that they encounter and produce. With the creation of the Common Core State Standards and state adoption of increasingly rigorous expectations in English language arts, the discussion of text complexity has been at the forefront in recent years. Text complexity is central to the construct of the Common Core and many sets of rigorous state standards which “hinge on students encountering appropriately complex texts at each grade level to develop the mature language skills and the conceptual knowledge they need for success in school and life” (Coleman & Pimentel, 2012, p. 3).
Text complexity can be measured in different ways—by a quantitative calculation of the length of words or the complexity of sentences or by a qualitative analysis of the content and levels of meaning of the text. In an attempt to integrate these different text elements, the creators of the Common Core (NGA and CCSSO, 2010a) identified three factors involved in measuring a text’s complexity:
In its research on reading and college readiness, ACT (2006) identified the following elements as making texts complex:
Complexity matters. Increasing the complexity of texts used for instruction across grade levels is essential to adequately prepare students for 21st-century school and work. In 2006, ACT, Inc. analyzed test data and concluded that the primary difference between those students who reached the benchmark score level and those who did not was the ability to answer questions based on complex texts. This data relates to a worrisome problem: while the level of texts that students will encounter in school and in the workplace has increased, few students are adequately prepared to comprehend these complex texts (ACT, 2009). And high-level reading will be essential for the success of today’s students. “Today’s economy demands a universally higher level of literacy than at any time in history, and it is reasonable to expect that the demand for a literate workforce will only increase in the future” (ACT, 2006, p. 27).
Simply because a text is of appropriate complexity does not mean that the text is worth teaching. The texts used in the classroom must meet the criteria for quality. The texts that students read must be worth the kind of attention afforded by close reading. In their qualitative study which examined the implementation of close reading instruction at the elementary level, Fisher and Frey (2012) found that the quality of texts mattered; teachers agreed that not all texts were worthy of a close reading.
Among these elements of text quality are those delineated by the Common Core State Standards in the discussion of the analysis of texts. When texts are considered qualitatively, teachers look at the levels of meaning in the text, the structure, the language, and the content, as well as the interaction of the reader with the text. A number of elements work together to create a high-quality text.
One element in text quality is whether the content of the text is relevant—and will help to build students’ content and background knowledge. Numerous studies have shown that deepening students’ knowledge of the topic improves their comprehension (Graves, Cooke & LaBerge, 1983; McKeown, Beck & Blake, 2009). As Stotsky (2010) suggests, based on a national survey of literary study in Grades 9, 10, and 11, “…there is no substitute for a coherent curriculum that addresses culturally and historically significant authors, literary periods, and movements in our own or other civic cultures, or careful analysis of assigned texts” (p. 24).
Another element is the length of the text. Teachers are misguided when they assume that students will benefit from reading simplified versions of classic texts. In fact, students benefit from encountering complex texts in their entirety. While at first glance, one might assume that a shorter passage would be “easier” for students to comprehend, research supports the notion that an extended passage—with its elaboration of ideas and greater use of contextual clues—actually supports readers, with research findings showing that more readers demonstrated a failure to accurately monitor their comprehension with short excerpts than with full versions of text (Commander & Stanwyck, 1997).
Yet another element of text quality is whether the text is of interest to students. Texts used in the classroom should engage students’ interest and motivate them to continue reading. Studies have shown a high correlation between personal interest and text learning—and these findings hold up “for both short and long text, narratives and expository text, younger and older students, and students with high or low reading ability” (Schiefele, 1999, p. 265). Students who are interested in what they are reading are mentally engaged (Hidi & Boscolo, 2006); in their study, Guthrie, Hoa, Wigfield, Tonks, Humenick, and Littles (2007) found that “interest and positive affect for reading invariably were associated with high cognitive recall and comprehension of text” (p. 306). The use of interesting texts has been shown to increase students’ generalized motivation for learning (Guthrie, Hoa, Wigfield, Tonks & Perencevich, 2006). Research across grade levels from elementary through high school has shown that students who are interested in a text persist with reading and completing tasks related to the reading (Ainley, 2012). Well-written nonfiction texts on topics of interest and fiction with interesting characters, exciting plots, and familiar themes will engage readers. Other properties of texts that have been shown to increase student interest include interesting topics (Schiefele, 1999; Fountas & Pinnell, 1996, 2001, 2006), appealing format (Schraw, Bruning & Svobada, 1995), relevance (Schraw & Dennison, 1994), and appropriate language and complexity (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996, 2001, 2006).
When selecting texts for high student interest, teachers must also consider the use of media in the classroom. Media is increasingly relevant and engaging in the lives of students who are “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001); as a result, we should broaden our understandings of what constitutes literacy, and focus on developing multiliterate students, argues Alvermann (2007). Varied media should also be considered texts—and students should engage in activities to build their critical comprehension of varied media “texts.”
Finally, high-quality literature should not be made available for only certain populations of students. In their study on discussion-based approaches in middle and high school English classrooms, Applebee, Langer, Nystrand, and Gamoran (2003) found that “upper-track classes read more traditional literature and essays; lower-track classes read more young adult literature and poetry” (p. 714). These kinds of differences put students on a permanent track, with struggling learners never having the exposure to foundational texts that they need.
The Centrality of Text in Instruction
In order to become more adept at reading the kinds of texts that they will encounter in future school and work, students need rich experiences working with these texts. A greater focus on texts in instruction, and increased instruction on how to read texts closely, is needed to help students build their skills and stamina in working with increasingly challenging texts.
In their revised criteria for publishers of Common Core-aligned materials (2012), Common Core State Standards’ authors Coleman and Pimentel state that:
At the heart of these criteria are instructions for shifting the focus of literacy instruction to center on careful examination of the text itself. In aligned materials, work in reading and writing (as well as speaking and listening) must center on the text under consideration. The standards focus on students reading closely to draw evidence and knowledge from the text and require students to read texts of adequate range and complexity. (p. 1)
A close reading approach in which students and teachers work closely with the text is one approach which is thought to be effective in helping students comprehend and analyze complex texts (Coleman & Pimentel, 2012). According to Cummins (2013), close reading is:
…when the reader analyzes any given text at the word or phrase level and also at the paragraph and section levels. As the reader analyzes the text, he or she determines which details are most important and how these fit together logically to convey the author’s central idea(s) or theme(s). As a result of close reading, the reader begins to critically evaluate these ideas or themes. (p. 1)
In a qualitative study in which researchers looked at close reading instruction at the elementary level, Fisher and Frey (2012) found that students were able to approach complex texts with greater skill when they engaged in rereading and close reading procedures.
In their study of what they term a “content” approach for reading comprehension instruction—in which the teacher’s attention was focused on directing students toward the content of the text and working closely through the text together—McKeown, Beck, and Blake (2009) found that the content approach engaged “students in the process of attending to text ideas and building a mental representation of those ideas” (p. 219).
To support students in reading high-quality, rich, complex texts, teachers can provide scaffolds, such as focused, text-dependent questions; multiple texts sequenced to build students’ content knowledge; opportunities for rereading; and instruction on related skills, such as annotation. Practice and exposure to extended texts, too, help students to comprehend and work with complex texts—and build the reading stamina they need.
Appropriately complex texts demand multiple readings for students to comprehend and analyze texts at the deeper levels required for college and workplace preparedness. “With appropriate instructional supports, texts can be reread and analyzed to unearth complex structures, themes, and insights. Revisiting a text offers the possibility that all readers will be challenged to think more deeply about texts that they are already able to comfortably and fluently decode and understand at a surface level. The emphasis can then be on close reading even after automaticity has been achieved” (Fisher, Frey & Lapp, 2012, p. 16).
Annotation is one strategy closely related to close reading. When students annotate a text while reading, they add notes, highlight or underline to identify important ideas, mark examples, or call attention to specific words, lines, or passages. “Annotation is the written result of the mental process of comprehension that occurs as the reader absorbs the material on the page” (Spatt, 1983, p.163). Kennedy (1985) conducted a study of college students in which students were assigned the task of reading a set of articles and writing about them. In her study, “truly fluent readers did much more source rereading and notetaking at the postreading/prewriting phase than at the writing phase” (p. 443). Good readers annotated as they read—and referred to these notes when they wrote about what they read—suggesting that some readers may need support in learning to annotate and use these notes to think about the text.
A Multi-Genre Approach
While literature remains the primary focus of the English language arts classroom, increasingly, educators and administrators are recognizing the need for a balanced, multi-genre approach.
Reflective of this multi-genre approach, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) includes literary texts (fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry) and informational texts (exposition, argumentation and persuasive texts, procedural text, and documents). In NAEP, passages are distributed differently by grade level, with a heavier weight on informational texts as students progress.
The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects also strongly emphasize a multi-genre approach. The “Range of Text Types for 6–12” (NGA and CCSSO, 2010a, p. 57) include the larger text types of stories, drama, poetry, and literary nonfiction—and detail genres within each of these larger text-type categories. The Standards also stress the importance of content-area instruction in reading, and advocate for “balancing the reading of literature with the reading of informational texts, including texts in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects” (NGA and CCSSO, 2010a, p. 5).
In addition to expanding students’ familiarity with different genres and their structures, teaching with texts of varied genres in the English classroom builds students’ background knowledge. Jago (2004) states it plainly: “reading is the best way to build background knowledge” (p. 11–12). Informational texts may be particularly helpful in increasing students’ knowledge base. In a study which compared students’ content knowledge after reading a narrative text compared to an informational text on the same science topic, researchers found that students answered more questions correctly and recalled more key concepts in response to the informational text (Cervetti, Bravo, Hiebert, Pearson & Jaynes, 2009). The relationship between reading informational texts and building content knowledge is reciprocal; reading more builds content knowledge, and greater content knowledge supports comprehension. In a study with students in Grade 3, Best, Floyd, and McNamara (2008) found that students’ comprehension of narrative text was most influenced by reading decoding skills, while their comprehension of expository texts was most influenced by their knowledge base. From their research, “we can conclude that children with less prior knowledge will struggle to form a coherent situation model when reading expository texts because they are not able to generate the necessary inferences” (p. 153).
Informational texts, too, are important for preparing students for success in school and work. Most of the reading students will encounter in school, in work, on the Internet and elsewhere is informational. As Duke (2004) asserts: “We are surrounded by text whose primary purpose is to convey information about the natural or social world. Success in schooling, the workplace, and society depends on our ability to comprehend this material” (p. 40). Informational texts are those that are written to convey information to readers about the natural or social world, and are one way that most of us come to understand the world around us. In an effective literacy program, students need exposure to high-quality literary and informational texts.
Informational texts can also serve as motivational tools in the classroom—particularly for those students who prefer to read nonfiction or who are interested in the topics of the texts (Caswell & Duke, 1998; Jobe & Dayton-Sakari, 2002).
So, how best to integrate literary and informational texts into the classroom?
Research suggests that the approaches students take to reading and comprehending fiction and informational texts differ (Klingner, Vaughn & Boardman, 2007), and that students need experiences with and instruction in reading both kinds of texts; “…students need to be supported in learning how to read across multiple texts” (Ogle & Blachowicz, 2002, p. 270). Readers need specific, advanced skills to comprehend content-area texts (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008).
Arguments should also be a focus in a multi-genre approach to the English language arts classroom, and are particularly appropriate for older students. Research suggests that students’ skill with the recognizing and analyzing the structure of arguments develops over time and with experience (Chambliss & Murphy, 2002). But even with younger students, instruction in argument is beneficial. As part of a research study on teaching argument to young children, Riley and Reedy (2005) found that instruction in argument led to improved critical thinking.
Strategies instruction has been shown to be effective for content-area readers (see Cantrell, Almasi, Carter, Rintamaa & Madden, 2010; Duke, 2004; National Institute for Literacy, 2007; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000; Hollingsworth & Woodward, 1993; Nokes & Dole, 2004; Snow, 2002; Underwood and Pearson, 2004). To develop content-area literacy, students need instruction and practice—in the form of high-quality content-area texts, teacher modeling, explicit strategy instruction, scaffolding.
Williams (2005) conducted a series of studies and found that at-risk students were able to transfer what they learned to new texts when they were given explicit instruction with a focus on text structure.
Research has long documented the connection between vocabulary and comprehension (see Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986; the National Reading Panel Report (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), 2000; and the more recent results of the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments, which found that “at all three grades, students who scored higher on vocabulary questions also scored higher in reading comprehension” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012a).
Because of the documented connection between vocabulary and comprehension, building students’ vocabularies is an important instructional goal. As Marzano and Pickering (2005) state, “given the importance of academic background knowledge and the fact that vocabulary is such an essential part of it, one of the most crucial services that teachers can provide, particularly for students who do not come from academically advantaged backgrounds, is systematic instruction in important academic terms” (p. 3). Furthermore, many adolescent readers with difficulties struggle with content-area vocabulary (Carnegie Council of Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010). Stahl and Nagy (2006) estimate that the vocabulary-knowledge gap between successful readers and struggling adolescent readers may be in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, of words.
One way to think about vocabulary, and which words are important for instruction and learning, is to consider words in three tiers: Tier 1 includes basic, everyday vocabulary; Tier 2 includes high-frequency vocabulary that is important for reading comprehension and useful across many domains; and Tier 3 includes words that are specific to certain contexts and content areas. Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002, 2008) outline this useful model, which describes categories of words with which students may need support. (Note that while the tiers are numbered in the order of the most frequently occurring to the least, all tiers are essential for comprehension and vocabulary growth.) Research on adolescent vocabulary learning often also makes a distinction between academic and content-area vocabulary. Baumann and Graves (2010) distinguish general academic vocabulary from domain-specific academic vocabulary in this way. General academic vocabulary includes those words that appear across content areas, but that are less common in literary texts. Domain-specific words are those words that appear in content-area texts and that are specific to the domain. As Nagy and Townsend (2012) put it, “words are tools; academic words are tools for communicating and thinking about disciplinary content.”
What kind of instruction is most effective for building students’ Tier II and Tier III, their academic and their content-area vocabularies? Instruction is most effective when vocabulary instruction takes place in context—using words to learn and communicate about content. The findings of Stahl and Fairbanks’ 1986 meta-analysis suggest that the most effective vocabulary instruction includes definitions and context, involving students in deeper processing and providing multiple exposures to the words.
Explicit instruction is important (Kamil, Borman, Dole, Kral, Salinger & Torgesen, 2008; McKeown & Beck, 1988; National Reading Panel, 2000). Another finding that is consistent across research on vocabulary teaching and learning is the need for multiple exposures. Words must be encountered a number of times before learning occurs (Baumann & Kame’enui, 1991; Beck, McKeown & Kucan, 2002; Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Blachowicz & Fisher, 2000; Dixon-Krauss, 2001; Graves, 2006; Kolich, 1988; National Reading Panel, 2000; Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986). Providing multiple exposures allows for a deeper understanding of words—their multiple meanings, uses, and connotations (McKeown & Beck, 1988). The research of Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002, 2008) supports these findings; “students who received rich, frequent instruction did better on a variety of measures” (pp. 77–78).
Instruction in word morphology can also be effective. Teaching students about words (Nagy, 2007) provides them with a framework for learning other new words. When learners understand words’ structures, they have a powerful tool for vocabulary growth (Templeton, Bear, Invernizzi & Johnston, 2010). Flanigan, Templeton, and Hayes (2012) suggest that generative vocabulary instruction, which focuses on word roots and affixes, can help students to use their current vocabulary base to build a more extensive vocabulary. The researchers suggest that this kind of word analysis is particularly helpful for learning academic and content vocabulary because most of these words contain Greek or Latin roots and affixes. Because the majority of unfamiliar words students encounter are morphological derivatives of familiar words (Aronoff, 1994), students with morphological analysis skills can more successfully broaden their academic vocabulary and comprehend new texts (Carlisle, 2010; Kieffer & Lesaux, 2007). Goodwin and Ahn’s 2010 meta-analysis supported this, finding that morphological skill instruction improves students’ literacy achievement and was “particularly effective for children with reading, learning, or speech and language disabilities, English learners, and struggling readers” (p. 183).
Human learning occurs within a social context (Vygotsky, 1962), and communication and collaboration are skills identified as essential for the 21st century (see the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). Teaching practices that develop students’ interpersonal competencies and encourage small-group discussions and collaboration have been shown to support deeper learning—and are key to developing students’ 21st-century skills (National Research Council, 2012).
Classroom discussion differs from simple participation because it involves the sharing and generating of ideas, and the need to question and clarify, rather than simply the seeking of correct answers; “Discussion can be defined…as the open-ended collaborative exchange of ideas among a teacher and students or among students for the purpose of furthering students’ thinking, understanding, learning,or appreciation of text” (Wilkinson & Nelson, 2013, p. 299).
Classroom discussions have been shown by research to be effective in engaging students and building their comprehension and analysis of complex texts. In identifying the top recommended instructional practices for improving adolescent literacy, Kamil and colleagues (2008) targeted opportunities for extended discussion of text and textual analysis as one of five research-based, best practices. Langer (1995, 2000, 2001), too, has identified discussion—when used to develop students’ understandings rather than as an assessment of recall—as a particularly important element of effective English language arts classrooms.
In their examination of discussion-based approaches in middle and high school English classrooms, Applebee, Langer, Nystrand, and Gamoran (2003) found that discussion-based approaches enhanced students’ understanding of complex texts, and were effective for low-and high-achieving students: “…high academic demands and discussion-based approaches were significantly related to spring performance…[and] these approaches were effective across a range of situations, for students of varying levels of academic ability…” (p. 719). Their findings suggest that an emphasis on discussion helps students to “internalize the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in challenging literacy tasks on their own” (p. 685). In part this may be because of the “spontaneous scaffolding or support for developing ideas” (p. 722) that is possible in an open discussion.
In his review of the history of comprehension and discourse in American classrooms, and research on the use of discussion, Nystrand (2006) found that “A number of studies show that reading comprehension is enhanced by the classroom interaction of students with their teachers and peers, including both small-group work and whole-class discussion” (p. 398). Murphy and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 42 studies on the effects of classroom discussion and concluded that “many of the approaches were highly effective at promoting students’ literal and inferential comprehension” (Murphy, Wilkinson, Soter, Hennessey & Alexander, 2009, p. 759).
What makes for a quality classroom discussion? In their review of research on discussion, Wilkinson and Nelson (2013) found that the most effective discussions include these elements:
Reznitskaya and colleagues concluded that when discussions encourage students to consider other’s perspectives and argue (through explanation, elaboration, support) about texts, students think more critically about the text in question—and come away able to apply this thinking to other texts (Reznitskaya, Anderson, Dong, Li, Kim & Kim, 2008). The quality and complexity of the text is an additional element central to the effectiveness of class discussion; Van den Branden (2000), in his research on whole-class discussion, “found that discussion promotes reading comprehension when problematic and difficult passages are the focus of sustained interaction” (in Nystrand, 2006, p. 399).
Finally, classroom discussions promote speaking and listening—skills which are often underemphasized in the educational setting, but which play a crucial role in students’ experiences in their personal and working lives outside of school (Palmer, 2011) With instruction and practice, students can learn to carefully choose their words, organize their ideas, employ effective gestures, pace speech for emphasis, and captivate audiences (Palmer, 2011).
Connecting Reading and Writing
Reading and writing are connected. They develop together naturally (Calkins, 1994; Sulzby & Teale, 1991). We can see connections between reading and writing at the word level (word recognition, spelling) and at the text level (comprehension, composition) (Berninger, Abbott, Abbott, Graham & Richards, 2002). And, they require similar strategies (Lewin, 1992). Both require setting a purpose, activating relevant prior knowledge, constructing meaning, and revising hypotheses or understandings during meaning making (Pearson & Tierney, 1984). In their effort to describe the relationship between reading and writing, Fitzgerald and Shanahan (2000) identified four types of knowledge essential to success in both reading and writing: (1) Metaknowledge about the processes involved in reading and writing; (2) Domain knowledge, or prior knowledge of a topic and vocabulary; (3) Knowledge of text attributes, from the word level to the larger genre or format level; and (4) Procedural knowledge and skill to negotiate reading and writing, or the ability to apply knowledge to practice.
Because of these connections, it makes sense that improving students’ knowledge and skill in one area will improve their knowledge and skill in the other. Reading and writing share a reciprocal relationship. Just as research shows that writing is a tool that can increase reading achievement and critical thinking (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; Connor-Greene, 2000; Graham & Hebert, 2010; Tierney & Shanahan, 1991), research shows that reading (as a model or as a source for content information) can improve writing (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991; Tierney, Soter, O’Flahavan & McGinley, 1989). When they read and write, students become better at both (Shanahan, 2006).
Reading and writing together improves achievement, enhances communication skills, and builds critical-thinking ability (Cooper, 2000). Connecting writing with reading helps students to process new information and comprehend complex ideas (Knipper & Duggan, 2006). Tierney and Shanahan’s research (1991) showed that engaging students in writing activities improves reading ability. Research shows that the many specific benefits of integrating reading and writing include: increased word learning (Baker, Simmons & Kame’enui, 1995b; Klesius & Searls, 1991), increased retention of reading content (Santa, Havens & Harrison, 1989), improved revision skills (MacArthur, 2007), higher-quality independent student writing (Corden, 2007), and support of ELL students (Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer & Rivera, 2006a).
In 2010, Graham and Hebert published a report for the Carnegie Corporation entitled, Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. For this report, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of research on the connection between writing and reading. “The evidence,” they concluded, “is clear: writing can be a vehicle for improving reading. In particular, having students write about a text they are reading enhances how well they comprehend it” (p. 6). In the studies they reviewed, “writing about a text proved to be better than just reading it, reading and rereading it, reading and studying it, reading and discussing it, and receiving reading instruction” (p. 22).
Tierney, Soter, O’Flahavan, and McGinley (1989) compared the performance of undergraduates in different conditions—combinations of reading only, writing only, reading and writing in conjunction—and found that students who both read and wrote significantly outperformed those in all other groups. Their conclusion was that “the present data support the view that reading and writing in combination have the potential to contribute in powerful ways to thinking” (p. 166).
Text Complexity in Collections
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Collections © 2017 includes appropriately complex texts, with rich themes, distinctive language, and effective stylistic elements that provide rich opportunities to respond to texts verbally, through collaborative discussion, and in writing. The varied text genres and carefully chosen content challenge students to grow as readers and thinkers and extend their knowledge base.
The program offers texts, including extended texts, across the grade levels that are appropriately complex, as based on:
For an analysis of text complexity for each selection in the Student Edition, teachers can look at the Text X-Ray pages in the Teacher’s Edition to see a Text Complexity Rubric for each text. This Text Complexity Rubric includes both a quantitative measure of the text (as shown by the Lexile® level of the text) and a qualitative measure of text complexity (across such features as Levels of Meaning/Purpose, Structure, Language Conventionality and Clarity, and Knowledge Demands). In addition, the rubric offers additional commentary on Reader/Task Considerations.
The Text X-Ray feature continues, providing an in-depth overview of the text’s complexity, with specific instructional suggestions, resources, supports, and scaffolds identified to help guide teachers in meeting the needs of English learners and students with different proficiencies and skill levels.
Since complex text is the foundation on which Collections is built, the anchor texts in each grade level and in each collection feature a unique digital feature that provides a model of two students grappling with complex texts. The Close Read Screencasts appear at various points in an anchor text, with particularly complex and challenging passages. With audio and images, the screencasts capture the literate conversation about text that must take place. This model provides both teachers and students examples of how students use the clues in the text to decipher its purpose, meaning, and craft. A student application of this process with another passage is provided so that students can practice and then complete their own with a partner.
Text Quality in Collections
High-quality literature and informational texts—worthy of close reading and text-based analysis—are at the center of the Collections © 2017 program.
Among many other rich selections, the program includes:
In the Teacher’s Edition, each text is introduced with a feature entitled Why This Text? which provides a rationale for the text, highlighting its strengths and the features which make it effective for instructional use.
Independent reading of complex texts is also encouraged in Collections © 2017. An entire page of suggestions for students and teachers is included with each collection. Additionally, teachers have digital access for NovelWise and CliffsNotes® resources for extended readings.
Each text in the series is enhanced with an audio version of the complete text, often rendered by the original author or speaker, or a professional reader to maintain the high quality of the text.
The Centrality of Text in Instruction in Collections
The Collections program keeps complex text at the center of every lesson. Anchor Texts are at the core of each collection. Complex and challenging, the Anchor Texts provide a cornerstone for exploring the collection topic and are integral to the Collection Performance Task.
Anchor Texts focus students on specific topics for text-based study. Through focused questioning and scaffolding, students are engaged in close reading with these Anchor Texts. They analyze the author’s language and content and annotate them while they read using the digital tools in the eBook. During and after reading, students respond to text-dependent questions and make connections. Close Read Screencasts appear in the anchor texts, providing models of literate conversations that find meaning.
In addition to the anchor texts, each selection in the Table of Contents is rigorous and engaging. Students can apply a close reading protocol of multiple readings on every text.
The Close Reader includes different yet related texts to the themes, topics, and standards instruction in the Student Edition. Using either the eBook version or the consumable edition of the Close Reader, students can annotate the selections and write responses and summaries as they proceed through each text. These two major student pieces of the Collections program work in tandem with students applying new learning in the Close Reader.
The program’s HMH Close Reads app guides students through close reading of a variety of complex texts with a Guided Close Read that includes a protocol for close reading followed by one or more Independent Close Reads with scored practice. The HMH Close Reads app is available for grade levels 6, 7, 8, 9–10, and 11–12. Each offers students protocols of effective close reading, practice answering text-dependent questions, and a focus on varied genres.
Annotation tools in students’ eBooks help students take notes as they read and identify and store relevant evidence in the myNotebook tool that they can use as they later complete the Collections Performance Tasks.
The program’s For Your Information (fyi) feature, at hmhfyi.com, provides a resource where students can further explore text-related topics and enhance their research. Providing curated informational texts related to each collection’s topic and updated monthly, this open source link adds ease of use to the goal of having students read widely from current and informative texts on contemporary topics, building background and content knowledge. Students can easily access this resource from the eBook Dashboard or at point-of-use in the eBook. Selections are archived and available across grade levels.
Currently for Grades 6 through 8, the program’s Xplor eMagazine offers students additional, contemporary texts, organized by the same themes as the collections. These additional selections help students build critical background information for deeper comprehension, and practice fluency and comprehension.
In Collections, students build their content knowledge by reading and discussing varied literary and informational texts. The program’s topical organization supports this increased content knowledge, as do the program’s varied resources (such as the fyi site, the varied video resources, and the Content Area Connections annotations, which link instruction to social studies and science content).
Across all of these texts, Collections © 2017 maintains its focus on requiring students to employ specific textual evidence as they write and speak about texts, responding to text-dependent questions and drawing inference and conclusions about text content.
A Multi-Genre Approach in Collections
The varied genres included in the Collections © 2017 program ensure that students will develop skills and strategies for independently and proficiently reading literary and informational texts and media. In addition, these texts serve as models for students as they write in varied genres.
To help teachers with an at-a-glance overview, introductory pages for each collection clearly label the genre of each selection.
Digital tools support the program’s multi-genre approach to reading. Informational Text on fyi (hmhfyi.com) is linked to each collection topic and is curated and updated monthly.
Media texts prompt students to read news reports, literary adaptations, ads, and websites as complex texts. Lessons based on media text offer the same opportunities for students to apply analysis and techniques of close reading as to other kinds of texts.
In addition, to enrich students’ perspectives, both the Student Edition and Close Reader include selections by writers from diverse cultures.
To align with the Common Core focus on argument, throughout Collections, argumentative and persuasive texts build students’ abilities at analyzing the arguments in texts. Through the range of informational texts—including speeches, commentaries, and essays—students analyze claims and supporting evidence.
The Collections Xplor eMagazine for Grades 6 through 8 offers 108 additional text selections for students, with 36 for each grade level. Organized by the thematic collections, the magazine, available in Student Resources, offers additional practice with and exposure to varied text genres, including well-reasoned arguments, poetry with imagery and sound devices, informational texts, powerful media messages, and tables, charts, and graphs.
Vocabulary in Collections
Vocabulary acquisition is a focus of the Collections program. As they continue through Collections, students build the academic vocabulary and content-specific vocabulary they need to successfully comprehend and communicate.
Throughout the program, students acquire facility with new vocabulary through frequent, repeated exposure as they analyze and discuss the selections in the collection. Identified as Critical Vocabulary and defined in context in each selection, the word study is a vital part of the analysis of each complex text, emphasizing the importance of the author’s choice of language to convey purpose.
Before reading, each collection opener identified the Academic Vocabulary to be highlighted in each collection. Students are provided a list of words, along with their definitions and related forms, which they can preview before encountering them in the texts and using them in their text-based discussion and written work, including the Collection Performance Tasks.
To ensure that students experience frequent, repeated exposure to the words, teachers encourage students to use the words during Collaborative Discussion, Analyzing the Text questions, Selection-Level Performance Task, and the End-of-Collection Performance Task.
During reading, the Student Edition defines bolded words from the text in the sidebar. Students have the definition where they need it—at the point at which they encounter the word in the text. In the eBook, the definitions are pronounced in English and in Spanish. The Teacher’s Edition offers suggestions for teaching and discussing these words—along with definitions and suggested questions to engage students in thinking about and applying knowledge of the words.
After reading, students have the opportunity to practice and apply their understanding of new words and vocabulary skills through the Critical Vocabulary and Vocabulary Strategy (with such topics as Latin Roots, Noun Suffixes, or Connotations and Denotations) activities.
To see some specific examples of vocabulary instruction in Collections, see these pages in the program’s Student Edition and Teacher’s Edition (noted in bold font).
In the Student Resources, the Glossaries provide definitions for selection, academic, and domain-specific vocabulary, conveniently compiled in a single location. Vocabulary supports in the Student Resources also include the following:
Throughout the Collections program, students have the opportunity to engage in rich, collaborative, academic discussions of the texts they are reading.
This collaboration is emphasized from the opening of each text lesson, with digital connections to encourage social collaboration, to the Performance Tasks, which encourage peer-to-peer editing, revision, and feedback.
At the conclusion of every selection in the Student Edition, students are given a compelling prompt entitled Collaborative Discussion in order to discuss the selection and related ideas before the answering of questions and direct instruction begins. In the Close Reader, students are also asked to discuss with peers throughout their reading.
To enrich the analysis and discussion of each text, students compare and contrast selections, exploring elements such as author’s choices, themes, and the structure of arguments.
Following readings in each collection, students engage in Collaborative Discussion using the prompts offered in both the Student Edition.
In addition, the digital elements of the program allow for increased opportunities for students’ social collaboration. Through the Interactive Lessons in the eBook which provide visual and oral models, rubrics and ongoing feedback, students learn the criteria of effective communication and participate in it often. The Interactive Lessons, provide direct and interactive instruction in speaking and listening standards, allowing students to learn more about the specific skills involved in effective collaborative discussion.
Connecting Reading and Writing in Collections
Connections between reading and writing are made throughout the Collections program.
Both the Student Edition and the Close Reader include text-dependent questions that require students to re-enter the text and cite specific textual evidence to support their claims.
The Collections Performance Tasks require students to write about what they have read, deepening their understanding of the text and their skills in writing at the same time. In addition, in Collections © 2017, the Collection Performance Tasks feature Mentor Texts that further emphasize the connections between reading and writing for students.
As students read, they are prompted to cite text evidence to support their responses to prompts that encourage them to summarize, analyze, infer, and think critically about the text.
As shown in the Integrated Program Contents page, the Student Edition, along with the Close Reader, explores each collection topic—wrapping up each collection with the Collection Performance Tasks, which offer the chance for students to integrate what they have learned in their varied readings into a performance, which might result in an Argumentative Essay, an Informative Essay, a Memoir, a Poetry Analysis, or some other Common Core aligned performance. With these cumulative tasks, students draw on their reading and analysis of the collection’s selections, as well as on additional research.
Writing well is not just an option for young people—it is a necessity. Along with reading comprehension, writing skill is a predictor of academic success and a basic requirement for participation in civic life and in the global economy.—Graham & Perin, 2007, p. 3
Along with teaching students to effectively comprehend complex texts and gain familiarity with a rich body of literary and informational texts, developing students’ writing abilities is another important goal of the English classroom. The ability to write well is crucial for students’ social, academic, and professional advancement, and is essential for 21st-century learning and success in today’s economy (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). As Graham and Perin concluded after large-scale research into research on effective writing instruction, helping students “to write clearly, logically, and coherently about ideas, knowledge, and views will expand their access to higher education, give them an edge for advancement in the workforce, and increase the likelihood that they will actively participate as citizens of a literate society” (p. 28).
How best can teachers support students in developing their writing skills? One element in effective writing instruction is the inclusion of varied genres. The National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) refers to varied communicative purposes. The Common Core State Standards focus on producing varied text types and purposes. Whatever these different writing products and forms are called, to be prepared for college and work students need to be exposed to multiple genres in their reading and expected to produce varied genres in their writing. Students must be able to inform, persuade, and narrate events. Another element of effective writing instruction is writing to sources. Students need practice using evidence and writing to sources, so that their writing is grounded in evidence. Finally, students must be taught to use standard English in the context of writing instruction and be given opportunities for practice.
Throughout the Collections program, students write in varied genres and develop their skills as writers. The program integrates reading and writing, placing an emphasis on the development of effective skills in both.
A Multi-Genre Approach
As students learn to write, and continue to write increasingly complex texts, they move from writing simple narratives and explanations to writing more in-depth informative essays and arguments. How do they develop skills with these various purposes for writing and their associated genres, forms, and structures?
“Genre knowledge develops, in part, from experience with text structures…” (De La Paz & McCutchen, 2011, p. 45) and, as such, exposing students to varied genres is important. Research findings suggest that rereading a book supports students use of similar genre features in their own writing (for example, see Pappas, 1991) and that greater exposure to reading from a specific genre will lead to greater ability with those elements of writing (Duke & Kays, 1998 in Donovan & Smolkin, 2006).
Students need to have experience with the kinds of purposes for which they will write in typical workplace, school, and real-life situations. One way of thinking about these different genres and purposes is to look at the NAEP framework. In the 2011 NAEP writing framework, students are assessed on three communicative purposes:
Because younger children are naturally exposed to more narratives, they have an awareness of narrative structures first, which is then typically followed by the development of expository genre knowledge and finally control over the argumentative text structure (De La Paz & McCutchen, 2011). In order to match these progressive “levels of student development and instructional focus” (Salahu-Din, Persky & Miller, 2008, p. 5), the twelfth-grade NAEP writing assessment includes a greater proportion of persuasive and explanatory writing tasks.
The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects also emphasize the need for students to develop experience writing a range of text types and purposes.
For students, writing is a key means of asserting and defending claims, showing what they know about a subject, and conveying what they have experienced, imagined, thought, and felt. To be college- and career-ready writers, students…need to know how to combine elements of different kinds of writing—for example, to use narrative strategies within argument and explanation within narrative—to produce complex and nuanced writing. (NGA and CCSSO, 2010a, p. 41)
To this end, the standards specify expectations for arguments, informative/explanatory texts, and narratives. “Argument literacy” specifically has been shown to be essential to success in higher education (ACT, 2009). Research suggests that instruction and practice in writing arguments develops students’ critical thinking skills (Riley & Reedy, 2005). In their research on deeper learning and 21st-century competencies, Pellegrino, Hilton, and colleagues on the committee found substantial support for the importance of students’ “ability to construct and evaluate arguments in relation to evidence” (National Research Council, 2012, p. 139).
As they gain experience with varied genres, students benefit from ongoing instruction. In Writing Next, Graham and Perin (2007) conducted a meta-analysis of research on the impact of specific types of writing instruction. Their findings led them to recommend the use of models of varied genres; “The study of models provides adolescents with good models for each type of writing that is the focus of instruction” (p. 20). By analyzing these models, students can identify, and mirror in their own writing, the essential elements, organizing structures, and forms.
In particular, data suggest that students struggle with argument writing; “Persuasive writing is a challenging form of communication even for typically developing writers” and requires “sophisticated uses of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics…” (Nippold, Ward-Lonergan & Fanning, 2005, pp. 126, 125). For those essays written to influence or persuade, only 26% of twelfth graders performed at the skillful level or above, meaning that they “wrote well-organized essays in which they took clear positions and supported those positions in much of the response” (p. 45). Ferretti, Andrews-Weckerly, and Lewis (2007) discuss this lack of skill in students’ capacities to communicate about controversial issues, consider alternative viewpoints, and develop supporting arguments. To counter these challenges, Ferretti and colleagues recommend an approach to teaching arguments which both takes into account the importance of context and content for argumentation as well as provides critical standards and questions to help guide students in structuring their arguments.
An earlier section of this report presented research on the benefits of explicitly teaching varied genre characteristics for improving students’ reading comprehension and recall. Similarly, engaging in reading study in which students are taught, and practice, a strategy focusing on analyzing the text structure has been shown to positively affect students’ writing. In their 1984 study, Taylor and Beach compared the performance of an experimental group, who received instruction and practice in analyzing text structure, with the performance of a conventional group (who answered and discussed questions after reading) and a control group (who received no special instruction). Their findings? Students who examined text structure produced higher-quality expository writing than students in the other groups. Similarly, Crowhurst (1991) looked at where instruction in persuasive writing and reading persuasive texts would improve students’ writing of persuasive texts. To do so, she compared four treatment groups—one group was taught a model for persuasive writing and given practice writing, the second was taught the model and given persuasive texts for reading, the third read novels and wrote book reports and received a single lesson on the model, while the fourth read novels and wrote book reports without receiving any instruction on the model (control group). The results indicated support for the positive effect of reading on writing; students who read persuasive texts outperformed others on the organization of their compositions, their elaborations of support, and their conclusions. These studies, and others like them, support the notion that students learn to write effectively in part based on their exposure to and analysis of high-quality genre-specific texts.
Finally, teaching students specific strategies and structures in writing in multiple genres supports their skill in producing varied genres (see Graham, 2006).
Writing to Sources
An earlier section of this report discussed the connections between reading and writing—in terms of the processes involved and the development of skills. Research shows that students who write about texts they have read show more evidence of critical thinking and improved composition (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006).
In addition, reading and writing are connected because when students write, they write about something—an experience, research findings, a piece of information or, increasingly as they progress across grade levels, a text. In the middle- and high-school grades, students take the information that they have gained from doing their own scholarly reading of texts and employ that information towards the production of their own informational or argumentative texts. Teachers assign writing tasks in the context of a text about which students must write with knowledge, analysis, and cited references. As Segev-Miller (2004) describes it, this process of writing from sources is a complex and cognitively demanding activity, in which students must “select, organize, and connect content from source texts as they compose their own new text” (p. 5).
In their study on students composing from sources, Spivey and King (1989) examined students in Grades 6, 8, and 10 as they wrote informational reports from source texts. They found that “general reading ability and success at synthesizing overlap to a great extent” (p. 7) and that students’ success at the task was closely related to their comprehension and understanding of text structures.
The Common Core puts a great emphasis on students writing to sources. According to the authors of the Common Core:
While the link between comprehension and knowledge in science and history texts is clear, the same principle applies to all reading. The criteria make plain that developing students’ prowess at drawing knowledge from the text itself is the point of reading; reading well means gaining the maximum insight or knowledge possible from each source. Student knowledge drawn from the text is demonstrated when the student uses evidence from the text to support a claim about the text. Hence evidence and knowledge link directly to the text. (Coleman & Pimental, 2012, p. 1)
…The Common Core State Standards require students to become more adept at drawing evidence from the text and explaining that evidence orally and in writing. (p. 7)
…The Common Core State Standards require students not only to show that they can analyze and synthesize sources but also present careful analysis, well-defended claims, and clear information through their writing. (p. 11)
For their Carnegie report entitled Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading, Graham and Hebert (2010) conducted a meta-analysis of existing research on the relationship between writing and reading and concluded that teachers should “have students write about the texts they read.” Research support for this is clear; “Students’ comprehension of science, social studies, and language arts texts is improved when they write about what they read, specifically when they respond to a text in writing…, write summaries of a text, write notes about a text, [and] answer questions about a text in writing or create and answer written questions about a text” (p. 5).
In Writing Next, Graham and Perin (2007) conducted a meta-analysis of research on the impact of specific types of writing instruction which resulted in the identification of 11 elements of effective writing instruction for adolescents. Among their findings? Adolescents benefit from “opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing” and from the use of “writing as a tool for learning content material” (p. 5).
In looking at how students respond to texts and which ways are more effective in producing real learning, Langer and Applebee (1987) concluded that there is greater value when students respond in extended ways to texts, and when they engage in analysis, interpretation, or personalization. In her study which looked at how college students wrote from sources, Kennedy (1985) found that more fluent readers engaged in more rereading, notetaking, and planning prior to writing than did less-fluent readers—who planned mostly at the sentence level and referred back to the text during writing. Her research suggests that less-fluent students can benefit from instruction in how to think about and extract information from texts. Segev-Miller’s 2004 study findings suggest that students can be taught to more effectively write from sources; “…according to the subjects’ self-assessments, explicit instruction of the performance of the discourse synthesis task had a significant effect both on their processes and on their products” (p. 25).
Finally, the ability to write to sources and support ideas with specific textual evidence is key in the preparation of effective arguments. Evidence is essential to an argument, which involves a claim, based on evidence, with a warrant that connects the evidence to the claim, backing that supports the warrant, and rebuttals that address counter arguments and competing claims (Hillocks, 2010a; Toulmin, Rieke & Janik, 1979).
Grammar and Language Skills
Grammar is the structure of language and the rules for making meaning in a language. Students who understand grammar understand the varied ways that they can combine words to make meaningful, effective sentences. Grammar is important. When they follow conventions and rules of language and mechanics, writers “ensure understanding and avoid distractions…allowing the reader to focus on the writer’s thoughts and ideas” (ACT, 2007, pp. 46–47).
Grammar instruction is most beneficial and effective when it is presented in the context of writing assignments and activities that are meaningful for students (Fearn & Farnan, 2005; Hillocks, 1986; Polette, 2008; Weaver, 1997). Students who are taught grammar when working on a specific piece of writing show a greater application than do those students taught grammar as a separate activity (Calkins, 1994; Spandel, 2001).
In their meta-analysis looking at the elements of effective writing instruction, Graham and Perin (2007) found sentence combining to be an effective way of enhancing the quality and complexity of students’ writing. This type of instruction “involves teaching students to construct more complex and sophisticated sentences through exercises in which two or more basic sentences are combined into a single sentence” (p. 18). The sentence-combining approach has been shown to be effective with elementary school students (Saddler & Graham, 2005), English learners (Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer & Rivera, 2006b), and across student populations (see Hillocks’ 1986 meta-analysis and the significant, homogenous effect size found for sentence combining).
Several studies have found that grammar instruction is less effective in improving writing than other writing interventions (see, for example, Graham, McKeown, Kiuhara & Harris, 2012). Graham and Perin (2007) found that explicit and systematic instruction in parts of speech and sentence structure did not improve the quality of students’ writing. Fearn and Farnan (2007), however, found that grammar instruction can positively impact students’ writing “if the grammar is functional and used for writing purposes” (p. 63). When they compared the impact of grammar instruction in writing with grammar instruction for writing, they found that “students in the treatment groups demonstrated enhanced writing performance” (p. 72).
In addition to the effectiveness for all students of teaching grammar in context and through applied strategies such as sentence combining, research also suggests that some explicit grammar instruction can be effective particularly for language learners. While grammar correction seems to be ineffective in improving ELL’s writing as it is with native speakers, grammar is an important understructure for competent writing. As a result, sentence building and combining are recommended strategies, according to Sjolie (2006). In addition, grammar study seems to improve students’ reading comprehension, particularly among English learners (Achugar, Schleppegrell & Oteiza, 2007).
A Multi-Genre Approach in Collections
In Collections © 2017, students learn to write for varied purposes and in varied writing forms.
Twelve Interactive Lessons in the Student’s eBook provide thorough and interactive instruction in all of the Writing and Speaking and Listening Standards in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy.
The Interactive Lessons teach students the communication skills students need for successfully:
Although primarily intended for individual student use, the Interactive Lessons also offer opportunities for whole-class and small-group instruction and practice. These multi-part lessons provide direct instruction with specific criteria, models, rubrics and use the interactive design fund in the SBAC national assessment.
In addition to the direct instruction, carefully selected models provide exemplars for students, so that they can focus on the specific elements that help to make writing effective in specific genres. Mentor Texts in the Collection Performance Tasks help to make writing instruction, and the goals for writing, more concrete and clear for students. Indeed, the program consultants for Collections structured the series with such high-quality literary and informational selections that each text can be analyzed as a mentor text for writing.
Every collection includes lessons, opportunities to Teach, Practice, and Apply, and ideas for how to Assess students. Collection Performance Tasks include varied genres and performances, such as:
The Student Resources section at the end of each print and digital edition includes tools and resources for students to use when writing in varied genres, such as in the Grade 7 Performance Task Reference Guide, which includes resources for Writing an Argument, Writing an Informative Essay, Writing a Narrative, Conducting Research, Participating in a Collaborative Discussion, and Debating an Issue.
Writing to Sources in Collections
Students gain skill and practice in using textual evidence to support their ideas in writing through the Collections program. The program includes texts that are rich and complex enough to support the kinds of evidence-based analysis expected by students.
Both the Student Edition and the Close Reader include text-dependent questions that require students to re-enter the text and cite evidence to support their claims. Line numbers on all selections in the program facilitate the identification and citations for specific textual evidence.
Regular program features support students in close reading and evidence tracking, including the Strategies for Annotation feature which supports students in analyzing and evaluating texts.
Among many others, specific Strategies for Annotation include:
Digital tools support students’ annotations, allowing them to annotate critical passages for discussion and writing, by using highlighting, underlining, and notetaking. Students who take notes while reading their books digitally can then store their annotations and notes using the myNotebook feature—to save them for use in Performance Tasks. In myWriteSmart students can use the annotations they have gathered and tools for writing and collaboration to complete writing tasks.
In addition, in the eBook, the Interactive Lessons teach students specific skills needed to write to sources, such as:
Using Textual Evidence
Grammar and Language Skills in Collections
Developing students’ grammar and language skills in the meaningful context of their own writing is a focus of the Collections © 2017 program.
The program also integrates direct instruction on Language and Style in Grades 9–12 and Language Conventions in Grades 6–8. After reading, students complete an instructional application activity, on such topics as Sentence Structure, Commas and Coordinate Adjectives, or Subordinate Clauses, among others.
In addition, when students have questions, they can turn to Student Resources for answers. This section includes information about grammar, usage, and mechanics, including:
The individualized rubrics provided with each Collection Performance Task provide clear guidance and expectations for students’ grammar and language usage.
Teachers also have access to GrammarNotes through their Teacher Resources for additional PowerPoint® instruction in grammar, mechanics and usage.
Effective instruction depends on sound instructional decision-making, which, in turn, depends on reliable data regarding students’ strengths, weaknesses, and progress in learning content and developing literacy.—Afflerbach, 2004, in National Institute for Literacy, 2007
Research shows that students’ achievement improves when they receive frequent, consistent, and specific feedback on their progress—and when their teachers use assessment information to drive instruction. Research suggests that there is a powerful testing effect in which student performance is improved through frequent testing even without feedback (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006), perhaps because students study more and are more continuously engaged and motivated.
When regular feedback is included, ongoing assessment can be even more powerful a tool. Black and Wiliam (1998a) describe formative assessments as “encompassing all those activities undertaken by teachers, and/or by their students, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged” (pp. 7–8). Formative assessments provide teachers with the information on student progress and performance that they need to make daily instructional decisions. In an ideal system, assessments drive instruction—by giving teachers clear information about where students are and what they need to meet the objectives and standards for learning. Research supports the effective use of assessment as a powerful instructional tool. The use of formative assessments—those ongoing, routine assessments designed to drive instruction—has been shown to have a significantly positive effect on learning (Black & Wiliam, 1998b; Wiliam, Lee, Harrison & Black, 2004).
For assessments to be effective, they do not need to be standardized, formal assessments. Informal assessments in the classroom provide much-needed information for the teacher. Varied assessment types help students to show what they know and can do. Performance tasks help to assess higher-level skills in a real-world, authentic manner.
The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Collections program provides effective assessment resources to support teaching and learning. The program includes ongoing formative assessments, performance tasks, and varied assessment approaches designed to meet the needs of teachers practicing data-based instruction.
Assessing complex skills and depth of knowledge requires a different form of assessment than a simple fill-in-the-blank, matching, or multiple-choice response. Rather, for students to show the full range of what they know and can do in terms of textual analysis, written responses, and so on, a performance assessment, in which students create an answer or product in response to a task or prompt, is needed.
Discussion among educational researchers about performance tasks for assessment is not new; this conversation has been going on for over 20 years. Marzano, Pickering, and McTighe (1993) suggested that performance assessments offer educators the opportunity to assess students across multiple dimensions for learning. Recently, Schneider, Egan, and Julian (2013) concluded that “the value of high quality performance tasks should not be diminished and should be encouraged as an important tool in CA [classroom assessment]” (p. 66).
In defining the elements of an effective student assessment system, Darling-Hammond (2010) said that such a system must “address the depth and breadth of standards as well as all areas of the curriculum, not just those that are easy to measure” (p. 1). This calls for performance on challenging tasks. Darling-Hammond (2010) identifies the characteristics of assessment systems in high-performing nations and finds that “they emphasize deep knowledge of core concepts within and across the disciplines, problem solving, collaboration, analysis, synthesis, and critical thinking. As a large and increasing part of their examination systems, high-achieving nations use open-ended performance tasks …to give students opportunities to develop and demonstrate higher order thinking skills…” (p. 3).
Performance tasks offer numerous benefits.
The American assessment landscape has shifted toward greater focus on performance tasks. The SAT®, which had been multiple-choice, added a writing section in March 2005, allowing students “to show another aspect of their knowledge, skills, and abilities…” (Shaw, Mattern & Patterson, 2011). Assessments based on the Common Core State Standards need to measure higher-level thinking skills through performance tasks and, “with large-scale tests soon aligned with the standards,” these assessments “will have significant influences on assessment done in the classroom.” (McMillan, 2013, p. 10)
When the Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills sought to identify the central instructional approaches needed to ensure that students achieve 21st-century competencies, the group identified formative assessment as one of these key elements (National Research Council, 2012). Curriculum designed and developed for 21st-century learning should use formative assessment to “(a) make learning goals clear to students; (b) continuously monitor, provide feedback, and respond to students’ learning progress; and (c) involve students in self- and peer assessment” (National Research Council, 2012, p. 182). Formative assessment moves testing from the end of instruction into the middle, to guide teaching and learning as it occurs; “In order for assessment to play a more useful role in helping students learn it should be moved into the middle of the teaching and learning process instead of being postponed as only the end-point of instruction” (Shepard, 2000, p. 10).
According to Graves, Juel, and Graves (2004), “The purpose of formative assessment is to guide instruction…” (p. 544). Teachers need a large amount of information in current time as they deliver instruction in order to determine how to continue at each point of each lesson; “As instruction is occurring, teachers need information to evaluate whether their teaching strategies are working. They also need information about the current understanding of individual students and groups of students so they can identify the most appropriate next steps for instruction. Moreover, students need feedback to monitor their own success in learning and to know how to improve” (Pellegrino, Chudowsky & Glaser, 2001, pp. 225–266). As Wiggins points out, when formative assessment is used effectively, it becomes completely integrated with effective instruction; “The assessment process is often so unobtrusive to students and teaching, so seamless with teaching and learning, that it is visually indistinguishable from what takes place during good instruction” (Wiggins, 1998, p. 3).
The phrase formative assessment refers not to the type of items included or to the specific assessment instrument, but to its use in the classroom. As Christenson, Ysseldyke, and Thurlow (1989) point out, “more important than any specific approach, is the degree to which monitoring is systematically implemented and is both active and frequent.” Whatever the format of ongoing assessment, providing regular and detailed feedback is an important element. Feedback is essential so that students know how to monitor their own performance and know which steps to take to improve (Pellegrino, Chudowsky & Glaser, 2001). To acquire a new skill, learners must have “knowledge of results. Individuals acquire a skill much more rapidly if they receive feedback about the correctness of what they have done…. It was demonstrated long ago that practice without feedback produces little learning” (National Research Council, 2012, p. 80).
Research suggests that the systematic use of formative assessment informs teaching—and increases achievement. Research shows that providing feedback to students on their performance is a highly effective tool for teachers to produce significant—and often substantial gains in student learning and performance (Black & Wiliam, 1998a, 1998b; Hattie, 1992). Tracking student progress and using a scoring scale, or guide, was found by Marzano and colleagues to result in an average gain of 17 percentile points over the expected normal gain (Marzano Research Laboratory, 2009).
Furthermore, effective use of formative approaches to assessment has been shown to be particularly helpful to lower-performing students. In a study by Fuchs and Fuchs (1986), formative assessment practices that were systematically implemented into classroom instruction were seen to significantly improve the performance of mildly learning disabled students. In their review of the body of research available on strategies most effective with students with mild learning disabilities, Christenson, Ysseldyke and Thurlow (1989) found that regular formative assessment was a common element across effective interventions. Because of the particular benefits for lower-performing students, use of formative assessments minimizes achievement gaps, while raising overall achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998b).
Varied Assessment Approaches
In defining the critical elements, Darling-Hammond (2010) concluded that an effective student assessment system and one that aligns with the characteristics of high-achieving countries must “employ a variety of appropriate measures, instruments, and processes…[that] include multiple forms of assessment and incorporate formative as well as summative measures” (p. 1).
By using multiple and varied approaches to assessment, teachers can get the valid information needed to guide instructional decision-making. “It is increasingly recognized that no one method can uncover the full range of students’ knowledge and that different students may need to show their knowledge in different ways…Thus, in a standards-based system, multiple methods of assessment are used at different times to determine students’ levels of knowledge and skill…” (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning, 2000, pp. 22–23). Using a combination of assessment approaches, including selected response and constructed response, also help to counterbalance any interaction effects, with gender or other student characteristics (Hogan, 2013).
Several reviews of instructional practices used by effective teachers have revealed that effective teachers use formal (such as quizzes or homework assignments) and informal tools (such as discussion and observation) to regularly monitor student learning and check student progress (Cotton, 1995; Christenson, Ysseldyke & Thurlow, 1989). Questioning is one effective assessment approach regularly used informally by classroom teachers (National Institute for Literacy, 2007). Even for related processes—such as reading and writing—research suggests that a single assessment would not provide the same data as multiple assessments, which “provide unique and relevant information about students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities” (Shaw, Mattern & Patterson, 2011, p. 161). In addition, varied assessment approaches help to ensure that students are prepared for larger-scale assessments.
When planning varied assessment approaches, one consideration is how to ensure that the assessments measure the full range of expected knowledge and skill and are varied in terms of the level of knowledge and skill needed for success. Webb’s Depth of Knowledge levels offer one way to think about the rigor of student activities and the cognitive demand of assessments and performance tasks. The four Depth of Knowledge levels describe the complexity of knowledge required by, for example, an assessment item or task. The four levels include:
Level 1 (recall): Level 1 includes recalling information such as a fact, definition, term, or a simple procedure.
Level 2 (skill/concept): Level 2 includes the engagement of some mental processing beyond a habitual response. Key words…include classify, organize, estimate, make observations, collect and display data, and compare…
Level 3 (strategic thinking): Level 3 requires reasoning, planning, using evidence, and a higher level of thinking.
Level 4 (extended thinking): Level 4 requires complex reasoning, planning, developing, and thinking most likely over an extended period of time. (Webb, 2007)
Asking questions at Level 1, in which students recall specific facts from a text, for example, is a worthwhile classroom activity to ensure that students understand the facts of a text, but teachers need to also ensure that they ask students to respond to tasks at higher levels so that they can assess the full range of student performance.
Finally, technology is an important tool in classroom assessment. Technology for assessment has many benefits; “Technology can also analyze and provide immediate feedback on performance, and can suggest modifications in instruction where necessary to improve student achievement.” (CEO Forum on Education & Technology, 2001). Computer-based assessments can support teachers and students with frequent, consistent, timely, diplomatic, and evaluative feedback (Bischoff, 2000). In addition, technology is important in classroom assessment in order to prepare students for the next-generation assessments they will encounter as they continue through school. Two consortiums developing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, Smarter Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) are developing next-generation assessments that will be computer-based in order to provide information quickly so that educators can determine whether students are on a pathway to graduate from high school college and career ready (PARCC, 2012).
Performance Tasks in Collections
Performance Tasks in Collections © 2017 ensure that students have ample opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through writing, speaking, and listening. Each selection in the series is concluded with a Selection Performance Task, and each collection is followed by a Collection Performance Task. Both categories are digitally linked to myNotebook, myWriteSmart and the Interactive Lessons, making the performance tasks a seamless cumulative tool reflecting the same focus on analyzing complex text, synthesis of ideas and writing to sources that are seen in the program. Students can use their notes and specific text evidence stored in myNotebook, write their performance task in myWriteSmart using the collaborative tools and the anti-plagiarism resource, Turnitin, and consult and review related Interactive Lessons, and submit for digital and teacher scoring. Students can then choose their best performance task products for storing in myPortfolio. The Portfolio moves with the student from year to year in order to exhibit products and demonstrate growth and mastery.
The Collection Performance Tasks provide writing and communication opportunities to students, across genres and types of performance. Each Performance Task in the program creates an opportunity for students to respond analytically and creatively to a complex text or multiple texts. The Collection Performance Tasks are directly tied to the number of anchor texts per collection, as well as being directly linked to the digital Interactive Lessons that teach writing, speaking, and listening in the eBook.
In each Collection Opener, students are offered a preview of the Collection Performance Task. As students progress through each collection, they can gather specific evidence and form a thesis relevant to the task. They then collect specific textual evidence, storing it in myNotebook.
Not only do the Collection Performance Tasks offer an opportunity for student performance and assessment, they also provide further instruction for students and opportunities for self-evaluation. The Collection Performance Tasks require students to develop a variety of writing and speaking products, working through the process of planning, producing, revising, and presenting for each task.
Within each Collection Performance Task, students are guided through stages of writing and presenting, supporting them as they:
The Mentor Text from the anchor selection serves as a model for the student’s own writing.
The Revision Chart emphasizes the importance of collaboration and review, and scaffolds steps for revision. A customized Rubric provides information for guidance and evaluation tailored specifically to the task; each Collection Performance Task includes a specific rubric.
With the Collection Performance Tasks, students have the opportunity to work together to refine their work. The myWriteSmart feature provides a collaborative tool to revise and edit Performance Tasks with peers and teachers. In Collections © 2017, connections to myNotebook and myWriteSmart are provided exactly at the point of use where students need them, with the collaborative opportunities emphasized, so that students can integrate print and digital resources seamlessly and benefit from the opportunities provided by each mode of instructional delivery.
In this sample from a Grade 9 Collection Performance Task, the Interactive Lessons and the myWriteSmart icons appear at the point-of-use, actively linking in the eBook. The Language and Style links to grammar and usage, and the Exchange Essays feature encourages collaborative learning.
The Collection Performance Assessment resource for Grades 6 through 12 offers scaffolding, instruction and practice with performance task assessments. Using a three-part instructional model, this resource prepares students for state or national assessments with guided and scaffolded instruction, models, rubrics and then practice assessments. This resource is also available online in Teacher and Student Resources.
Formative Assessment in Collections
The Collections © 2017 program offers multiple formative assessment tools to support increased student learning and data-based instruction. Tools include both formal assessment instruments, as well as more informal methods for regularly assessing student understanding and skill development.
End-of-selection questions in the Analyzing the Text section and responses to the Performance Task provide teachers with valuable information about student understandings.
Teachers can test students’ mastery of the standards covered in each Interactive Lesson by assigning the accompanying assessment in myWriteSmart.
The program’s Performance Tasks offer a key element of formative assessment, by closely linking instruction with assessment. As students demonstrate what they know and can do, they are building additional writing skills and knowledge of elements specific to the performance at hand.
As students work through each selection in Collections, they engage in a Close Read, in which they respond to prompts, answer questions, and Cite Text Evidence to support their responses. Sidenotes in the Teacher’s Edition offer suggestions for questions teachers can ask to see if students understand the Critical Vocabulary. Through these types of during-reading activities, teachers can check in regularly to monitor student comprehension and development.
Every unit in Collections provides useful tools and tasks for student assessment. Regular program assessment tools include:
At the end of each selection, with the regular Assess It! Feature, teachers can access the Online Selection Test and can download an editable ExamView® bank of questions related to the selection. Teachers can assign and manage the formative assessment test that they create online. Additional digital tools support ongoing assessment in the classroom.
Collection tests are linked through a digital resource for remediation. Teachers can set a performance standard and then automatically assign student to LevelUp Interactive Tutorials which provide fresh new digital instruction for the particular standard in need of remediation. Students’ scores are reported, and instruction and assessment continue.
The HMH Close Reads app provides instant feedback for close reading practice with appeal for today’s students.
Varied Assessment Approaches in Collections
A single approach to assessment cannot provide a true picture of student performance. For this reason, the Collections program offers varied approaches to assessment, ensuring that students can show what they know and teachers can accurately assess student performance and plan instruction accordingly.
Varied assessments ensure that teachers get information about how students are performing at varied levels of cognitive complexity. In Collections, teachers can get data on students’ knowledge of basic skills, through quick multiple-choice assessments like those in the Xplor eMagazine, as well as students’ ability and performance in response to more cognitively complex and challenging tasks, such as through the students’ performance on the Performance Tasks.
In addition to providing rich, varied, and targeted data on student performance, the varied assessment approaches in Collections © 2017 also provide students and teachers with test formats that prepare students for the demands of large-scale assessments of students’ content mastery or aptitude and readiness.
Formats in Collections reflect the latest consortia requirements proposed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Model practice tests offer students additional support and readiness for these formats, with each grade level of Collections including two practice tests in two formats—SBAC and PARCC. New digital platforms, such as Learnosity, allow for tech-enhanced items that can be practiced before students encounter them on PARCC and SBAC tests. Formats that reflect the latest consortia requirements include such items as two-part multiple choice or drag-and-drop functionality. In addition, in Grades 11 and 12 Collections, the program offers digital links to CliffsNotes Verbal Review for Standardized Tests, 2nd edition.
In addition, teachers and students benefit from technology-based assessment tools that offer opportunities for more immediate feedback. Continuum Assessments® is an adaptive assessment resource that provides scientifically valid and reliable measures of student growth. With this tool, items mirror the formats found on national assessments and item difficulty adapts to each student’s response.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Collections is a comprehensive program designed to help all students reach the high expectations and rigorous standards for English language arts and literacy in the 21st century. The esteemed panel of advising authors and consultants have created an instructional design of complex and rigorous texts supported by scaffolding and modeling of close reading, analysis, synthesis, and citing of specific textual evidence. Writing instruction is integrated into the program around anchor texts and performance tasks. Language skills and vocabulary strategies necessary for reading and writing complex texts are integrated throughout this comprehensive, research-based program. Digital elements and features offer teachers and students additional, integrated, point-of-use resources and tools.
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