High Interest Science for Struggling Readers

May 27, 2009

It’s been a busy spring for everyone and I know the lOllie On Coverast thing you have time for is answering calls from pesky salespeople. So I like to use this blog as a way to highlight materials and programs that have drawn a lot of interest in my area. It’s a great way to give you the information you need at a time that’s convenient for you.

One of these is the new Hot Topics programs from Evan-Moor, publisher of the very popular Daily Practice Series that teachers have been using for years.

To keep this short I’ll focus on Hot Topics Science, since science is, well a hot subject right now. You’ve probably noticed that there’s very little good nonfiction science supplemental materials available. Which is particularly exasperating because so many students are struggling with science on 5th grade OAT.

We’ve been representing Evan-Moor since early this year and I must say I am very impressed with everything they do. Our customers who have seen the Hot Topics series, particularly Hot Topics Science have been impressed as well.

Hot Topics is high-interest reading for struggling readers grades 4+. As you know proficient readers use a variety or comprehension strategies that struggling readers lack. Hot Topics Science helps them to become more active readers by using direct instruction of strategies and using very engaging and motivating texts.

Grade-Level Readability is 2.5-3.5, Lexile Score 400-600 and the Guided Leading levels are J-P. As you would expect all selections are nonfiction.

I looked through all of the selections and found them quite engaging. The topics are very appropriate for this age level with photography and graphics that not only support the text but generate interest. I am very impressed that Evan-Moor has provided online samples of all selections for you to review. Here’s a link to view Ollie On!, one of the selections in Hot Topics Science. Check it out, their online book viewer is very cool.

The beauty of the program is it’s simplicity and flexibility. Each selection teaches a different reading strategy through a specific science topic. Teachers have the option to choose selections 1) based upon the reading strategies students need most, 2) based upon selections aligned with their science curriculum, 3) move through the selections sequentially beginning with the lowest to monitor progress or 4) allow students to choose selections that appeal to them.

The teacher’s guide provides a handy Overview of Selections and Strategies to guide their planning. It also include a list of opportunities to teach additional strategies.

Evan Moor Hot Topics science TESelection overview

The teacher’s edition is very clean and simple to use but also quite thorough. It provides a nice walk through at the beginning to familiarize the user with the format. The format of each lesson is consistent throughout for every selection.

The three-part lessons are titled Before You Read, While You read and After You Read. All reproducible student materials are right there at the point-of-use so there’s no flipping back and forth to find things.

The lessons themselves are well thought out in a clear step-by-step format. Here’s an online sample teacher’s edition to see for yourself. For more detailed samples and information about Hot Topics and other Evan-Moor materials visit our Resources page and scroll down to the Evan-Moor section. We have included links to many downloadable samples, catalogs, price sheets and white papers for your convenience.

Hot Topics Science StuffEach Classroom Kit includes 6 copies of 20 reading selections, Teacher’s Guide with units for each selection, a 2-disc audio CD with license to make additional copies and a very nice storage box with 20 tabbed dividers.

Evan-Moor has a lot of experience dealing directly with classroom teachers and it really shows with the managability of the materials. They really know how to make a teacher’s life easier.

You can buy any of the Hot Topics programs three different ways. The Classroom Kit which includes the items listed above is $229.99. You can also buy just a Starter Kit which contains all of the items above with only 1 copy of each selection for $74.99. There’s also an Add-On Pack with 1 copy of each of the 20 reading selections.

As always if you would like more detailed information or hard-copy samples please don’t hesitate to call me at (440) 230-9810 or drop me an e-mail anytime.


Social Studies is Boring…NOT!

May 5, 2009

“SocialIMG 4328-Edit studies is boring”; how many times have you heard this? Not so. That’s because social studies is essentially about people and people are anything but boring. Witness the ratings of reality television. And look at the popularity of HBO’s John Adams, Rome and the fictional Sopranos.

I thought for sure John Adams was going to be a yawner, but I was dead wrong. It had me hooked from the beginning, because it focused on the people while history went on around them. Stories about people, whether real or imagined, past or present are always compelling when well told.

Put Abraham Lincoln, Julius Caesar, Martin Luther and Sojourner Truth together on a desert island and you’ve got a winner. Think of the stores they would tell as they struggle to make and break alliances. Students will know everything about them in a matter of weeks. Maybe I have something here.

As you’ve no doubt seen there’s a real dearth of good nonfiction leveled books in the content areas for grades 4 and beyond. Look around, there’s not much out there. That’s why I was so impressed by two different content literacy programs from National Geographic School Publishers, Content Literacy Theme Sets and Reading Expeditions.

NGSP’s Content Literacy Theme Sets are quite unique. The program is designed to provide differentiated instruction to develop literacy while reading and writing nonfiction. I started this talking about social studies, but this program also includes sets in science. There are 12 different themes for each social studies and science. Each theme contains 8 copies of four leveled titles.

Theme Set SS




Each of the four books in a theme is written at a different reading level. However all students (from struggling to fluent readers) work with the same key concepts, key vocabulary and literacy skills at the same time at their own reading level. As the books progress their vocabulary, text load and complexity increase.

The books themselves are stunning. Not surprising for National Geographic they’re full of really cool images that tie directly to the text. But then I’m also a photographer so I’m a sucker for great photos.

Don’t believe me, here’s a link to a short video demonstration on National Geographic’s web site. See for yourself. If you want to see some of these books just drop me an e-mail at bob@edpubohio.com, tell me which subject area you want to see and I’ll have sample copies shipped to you right away.

I’m about out of time for now. I’ll give you details about National Geographic’s Reading Expeditions, nonfiction readers for grades 4 through 8+, in my next post.

Ron Larson Introduces New Focal Points Curriculum

April 24, 2009

I was thrilled earlier this year when we were asked to be the Ohio representatives for Ron Larson’s new Focal Points curriculum for middle BIM Overview Smallschool. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, Dr. Ron Larson is a rock star in the math education world. Introduce him to a math geek and they will be as gaga as the uninitiated would be when meeting Lebron James, Tiger Woods or Simon Cowell. And deservedly so, Ron Larson is the real deal. He’s a professor at Penn State University in Erie and author of numerous math textbooks published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Ron has teamed with his long time writing partner Laurie Boswell, to publish their own series, Big Ideas Math for middle school. Laurie is also the real deal. She’s a mathematics teacher at Riverside School in Vermont and is a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematic Teaching. Additionally Laurie was a Tandy Technology Scholar and recently served on the NCTM Board.

Together Larson and Boswell have created Big Ideas Learning which is an answer to every educator’s complaint about the current “mile wide and inch deep” nature of today’s mathematics curriculum. Big Ideas supports the new world-class NCTM Focal Points.¬† The middle school program focuses on fewer topics at each grade level to provide a narrower and deeper course of study so that students can master each benchmark as they move forward.

Focal Points were developed over a period of two years. Part of the research included an examination of state standards and curriculum that was published as A View from the Nation . The analysis included a study of curriculum frameworks in 49 states plus high-achieving countries like Japan, Singapore, Finland, China and Korea. For more information click HERE to visit the NCTM web site Focal Points page.

Although Larson and Boswell are math people, they’re far from dry. Their approach is challenging, exciting and fun. For example Larson created a Cartoon 1pair of cartoon characters, Newton and Descartes, to help middle schoolers grasp many of the abstract concepts of math. Ron wrote the cartoons himself and they were drawn by his nephew, a cartoonist. These cartoons are more than fun, they help students make the connection between abstracts concepts and the concrete. Real middle school students participating in focus groups loved the characters.

The Big Ideas program is rich and deep in resources. The hard bound student books, one each for sixth, seventh and eighth grades appear small…no more than 500 pages. But the entire book is taught. When you look at the table of contents you are also looking at the pacing guide. There is ample time for every concept. The student book is available in print, as an interactive online book or in digital format as a PDF. This is music to many educators’ ears.

In their wisdom, Larson has made a PDF of each text available to view online. I think it’s great that they have made it so easy for potential¬† customers to evaluate the product.¬† However the site is password protected so please e-mail me at bob@edpubohio.com if you would like one issued to your district. Just include your name, school and/or district and I’ll send it back as soon as it’s issued.

In addition to the student books the program includes a Teacher Edition, Record and Practice Journal (available in print or online), Assessment Book (also available in print or online) and Resources by Chapter.

Big Ideas Math is also rich in technology. They have teamed with ExamView to utilize their assessment suite specifically created for this program. It also includes their LessonView, PuzzleVie and QuizShow.

For more detailed information visit the Big Idea Learning web site or e-mail me for an online text review password.

Dealing with the people at Big Ideas Learning is like a breath of fresh air. Everyone is totally dedicated to this program and their enthusiasm is infectious. Even if you’re not studying math for a few years I highly recommend you take a look at this program and get to meet the people. You’ll be a Larson groupie in no time.