Instructional Materials

New Product Review: ECS Learning Systems STAAR Master Math and STAAR Master Reading

ECS Learning Systems’ STAAR Master Math and STAAR Master Reading are test preparation products designed to prepare Texas students in grades 1-8 for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) mathematics and reading exams. Content is available in print format. Instruction focuses on problem sets (math) and questions (reading) that address specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Problems and questions are formatted to reflect what students will see on the STAAR exam. Learning List recently reviewed “Student Practice Book” resources for grades 3-5.

Student Practice Books in math are organized in four sections that address each of the TEKS Reporting Categories for mathematics (e.g., Geometry and Measurement, Data Analysis and Personal Financial Literacy). Each section begins with the full text of the TEKS for the Category and whether the standard is a Readiness or Supporting Standard. Subsequent content is made up of practice exercises formatted to reflect what students will see on the STAAR exam (i.e., multiple-choice responses).  Each exercise includes the text of the TEKS addressed by the problem set and each problem in the set references the specific TEKS it addresses. [Read more…]

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New Product Review: EMC Mirrors & Windows: Connecting with Literature

New Product Review: EMC Mirrors & Windows: Connecting with Literature

EMC’s Mirrors & Windows: Connecting with Literature is a comprehensive resource to support English language arts instruction in grades 6-12. The program includes print and web-based resources. In the middle school grades (grades 6-8), instruction uses the theme of “mirrors and windows” to help students use literature to reflect on their own lives and to connect with people from different cultures and times.

Across middle school grades, Mirrors & Windows units are organized in terms of a theme linked to a literary genre. For example, a grade 6 unit that introduces poetry is centered on the theme of “Expressing Yourself.” Each unit is made up of a set of reading selections related to the theme. [Read more…]

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New Product Review: Teacher Created Materials TIME for Kids: Exploring Nonfiction

New Product Review: Teacher Created Materials TIME for Kids: Exploring Nonfiction

Teacher Created Materials’ TIME for Kids: Exploring Nonfiction is a supplemental product that supports reading instruction in grades K-5. Content is available in print format. Instruction focuses on developing students’ reading comprehension skills using short, Informational texts that address a variety of content areas and student interests. Learning List recently reviewed resources for grade 4.

Exploring Nonfiction’s grade 4 resources are contained in a classroom kit that includes sets of nonfiction text cards addressing topics in math, social studies, science, and language arts. Cards are numbered and color coded by subject area (e.g., green = science). The front of each text card presents a short nonfiction piece, such as an article or letter. The back of each card contains “Comprehension Connection” and “Skill Focus” features, a list of key vocabulary, and a “Writing Extension” task. [Read more…]

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New Product Review: Sharon Wells Mathematics Program

New Product Review: Sharon Wells Mathematics Program

Sharon Wells Mathematics Program is a comprehensive product that supports mathematics instruction and preparation for Texas STAAR exams in grades 2-5. Content is available in print format. Instruction is tailored to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) at each grade level and emphasizes preparation for standardized tests. Learning List recently reviewed resources for grade 4.

The Sharon Wells Mathematics Program is organized in six 6-week units. Daily resources support 90 minutes of math instruction and are made up primarily of black and white problem-solving worksheets. At grade 4, instruction is organized in four core components: (1) Problem Solving/Process TEKS, (2) Basic Facts, (3) Skills, and (4) Concepts. Each component begins with a list of the TEKS covered by instruction and includes open-ended and multiple-choice practice problems. Multiple-choice problems are formatted to reflect STAAR exams. [Read more…]

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New Product Review: ExploreLearning Gizmos

New Product Review: ExploreLearning Gizmos

Learning List recently reviewed ExploreLearning’s Gizmos. This supplemental, web-based product supports math and science instruction across grades 3-12. Instruction is inquiry-based. Gizmos are content-specific simulations and virtual manipulatives that provide students with dynamic, hands-on opportunities to explore math and science concepts in fun and meaningful ways.

Across grades, Gizmos are housed in searchable libraries for math and science. Libraries are structured by grade band (e.g. 3-5) and topic. The math library is broadly organized in topics that include: numbers and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability. Each topic includes sub-topics with one or more content-specific simulations (e.g., estimation using a number line). Each sub-topic Gizmo has a short overview of the simulation, learning objectives, a list of new vocabulary, and feedback from the Gizmos’ user community. [Read more…]

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Defining Roles: Standards vs. Curricula vs. Instructional Materials

FocusEducators and publishers often use the terms “standards,” “curriculum” and/or “instructional materials” interchangeably. Moreover, many educators consider their instructional materials to be their curriculum. However, each of these terms represents a distinct component of an educational program. In the sections that follow, we provide explanations of each of these terms to differentiate their meanings in the context of PreK-12 education.

Standards set out what students are expected to know and be able to do at the end of each school year. Standards are generally established at the state level. In fact, ESSA requires that each state create learning standards for public schools in three subjects—English language arts/reading, mathematics, and science—and many states go beyond ESSA’s minimum to set standards in social studies, career and technical education, languages other than English, and other subjects.

In contrast, the curriculum is developed at the district level, the product of local policy making. While the standards tell you what is expected, the curriculum provides the road map to get there. Often described in documents such as “scope and sequence” and “units of instruction,” a curriculum includes goals, instructional practices and pedagogical guidance, suggested resources and instructional materials, and methods of measuring student progress. [Read more…]

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